Author: Ross Liversidge
Ross founded the UK Anime Network back in 1995, and following Andy Hanley's retirement has returned to the post of Editor-in-Chief in 2017. What an old man!
TF Nation - the event
TF Nation is an annual convention held at the Birmingham NEC Hilton hotel. It takes up approximately half of the hotel event space and is a gateway to international guests, a dealers room, panels, cosplay and a general love of all things Transformers. For a kid who still remembers sneaking into his parents bedroom in 1984 to open his Christmas Optimus Prime toy, this is mecca.
I have to confess that conventions, whether in the UK or abroad (mostly Japan of course) are now work outings for me. I'm either working at or writing about them, and I suppose with this article TFN has entered that bracket a little. Generally I keep my love of Takara's transforming plastic to myself, but I wanted to share my experience as a general low-key con-goer whose only interest is having a good time, rather than taking notes and reporting on announcements. As such this will be a little more rambly than normal.
To start, Fridays at TFN are a chilled affair. I go early so as to secure a parking spot near the hotel, and to beat the traffic. This year we arrived at around 2pm and headed for the bar to spot guests and doodle while we waited for our room to become available.
I took this time to teach Sophie about Death's Head, the freelance peacekeeping agent who premiered in Transformers UK before moving on into the larger Marvel universe. Little did I know that the following day I'd be laying down £100 to get an original by character designer Geoff Senior, co-signed by character creator Simon Furman. For a convention memento, this ranked very highly.
We caught the Friday panel by Youtube beardy bloke with a cult-like following Thew Adams. His panel was in a small room that, it turned out, was unable to cater for the mass of bodies trying to enter, and subsequently the panel was scheduled for a repeat performance on the Saturday, much to the mighty Thew's charming embarrassment. I have a lot of time for this particular reviewer, having caught his channel early when his hair was in full flow and videos were grainier. He's been a gateway personality for various girlfriends over the years to showcase the sort of lovable loony that embraces our robot overlord's, and through his quirky charm has made the hobby far more acceptable to the fairer sex. Basically the guy eschews robo-love so hard he makes me seem normal, so thanks matey, much obliged!
From champion of the people to utter legend, Marvel editor Bob Budiansky, Godfather of all things Transformers, was also in attendance. Over the weekend he provided a series of talks showcasing just how he came up with the character names, backstories and tech-specs for each robot, creating a legacy that has lasted over 30 years and counting. I was thrilled to get my favourite US comic cover signed by Mr Budiansky, who was extremely charming and easy going. It was his first trip to the UK, I sincerely hope it won't be his last.
The guest list continued with voice actors Venus Terzo (Black Arachnia, Beast Wars), Hal Rayle (G1 Snarl among others), Maggie Roswell (Maude Flanders, Helen Lovehoy and many more, The Simpsons) and Mark Ryan (various Michael Bay Transformer characters including Age of Extinction's Lockdown), all of whom entertained the crowds with stories of behind-the-scenes antics on their productions. Always nice to get some industry insight from the creative forces that make our favourite hobby possible!