Report on TFcon

TFcon (July 27-July 29) 2012 marked the tenth anniversary of Canada’s Transformers convention. This was also their second year in the Delta Meadowvale Hotel in Mississauga, but as somebody who has traveled to Dallas, Texas for a Transformers convention, there was no way I was going to miss one the next town over. TFcon is the second biggest Transformers convention in North America, and it’s the one with the most street cred.

Each year, TFcon’s gender divide fees more balanced – it seems more females are seeing the appeal of the universeand characters of Transformers, interpreting characters for cosplay, buying fan-made plush robots, and talking endlessly about Transformers fan-fiction. But they’re welcome to the convention hall as anybody else since they spend just as much on the toys are male collectors. And nothing brings fangirls to a convention like Scott McNeil.

Other guests at the convention included Neil Ross and Wally Burr from the original Transformers show. Following Simon Furman’s appearance last year was Bob Budiansky the first writer to have a sizable run on the Generation 1 comic. Budiansky seemed much happier to be at TFcon 2012 than he did at Botcon 2010. For fans of more recent Transformers material the convention featured the return of Transformers: Animated mastermind Derrick J Wyatt, who is looking much better bearded than with just a moustache. One planned guest ended up missing the convention, but that’s not tragic since he’s a bonus instead of a draw.

Transformers’ parent company Hasbro was represented by a single table with a few upcoming products on display. While they do everything they can to support the official convention, Botcon, their support means that Botcon can’t feature vendors selling controversial “3rd party” figures. TFcon, on the other hand, welcomes 3rd party materials with open arms,  and that’s a pretty big market. Borderline copyright-violating products like Warbot Defender were all over the dealer room and even had their own panel.

Aside from the standard T-shirt, the convention’s exclusives were:

  • Shafter, a recolour of a 3rd party figure modeled after the Huffer character. Shafter’s colours come from the Erector character, who many fans love because they have dirty minds. Looks just like a genuine Transformer.
  • Shadowblade, a robotic bat which can turn into a gun or combine with a very cool sword piece to form a large lance. Unfortunately, Shafter’s hands are too small to hold it,
  • Garrison (not shown), a pair of replacement heads for figures that turn into smaller robots.
  • Also worth mentioning are the free “headbands” for figures given out by the fan EmeraldBeacon. These freebies were a kind of subversion of the plastic headbands sold at this year’s Botcon for $5 each. As it happens, they don’t really fit around the head of the Shafter figure, but hey, they were free.

Once attendees registered and maybe pick up some of the limited-run exclusives (all of which sold out eventually) they could enter the dealer’s room, a massive arena of sales and vending that forms the axis around which the rest of the convention turns. Inside there were thousands of Transformers for sale. Some were available at a great discount, some at a huge mark-up,  although still cheaper than buying online and paying for shipping. The hallway around the dealer’s room had numerous exhibitors including the aforementioned Hasbro booth, with Toronto convention scene regular Matt Moylan and Andrew Griffith where I would usually expect to find Alex Milne.

There were the usual trivia contests, but the biggest surprise of the convention was the “Challenge of Convoy” – an event hosted by Daniel Arseneault on friday night. Everybody lined up and got three lives to try and make it as far as possible in the Transformers NES (Famicom) game. Since the game has major issues with play control and is extremely unforgiving, the audience would laugh as players frequently walked to their deaths. If a skilled player was up the audience would cheer as they watched Ultra Magnus guided past Decepticons, then laugh as he walked to his death. After the event, the bar was open and serving tasty Transformers-themed drinks to help wash the game’s music out of mind.

Cosplaying at TFcon is fun and baggage-free. Since it takes more than a little ambition to make a Transformers cosplay, the crowds at TFcon are more welcoming of liberal interpretations of characters. There was even a Hulk, since Hulk is also a Transformer now. All these pictures and more are available on TdotComic’s Facebook gallery, so you can tag yourself and your friends if you see them in these photos.

   

After a full uninterrupted decade, Colin Douglas and his guild of fans have gotten the convention experience down. They know their audience and the biggest disappointment of the convention was that there weren’t any exciting problem for everyone to spread rumors about. Having attended most of the TFcons, many of the staff and regular attendees have become as much a part of the brand to me as the robots are. Nobody leaves TFcon without having a laugh with Guber.

If you like Transformers and you’re in the GTA, there are very few excuses not to go. Every aspect of the brand is highlighted, and there are plenty of opportunities for fans to have a rare experience meeting a creator, buy a rare toy, or just freak out with their friends. If you’re not into Transformers, then at least the spectacle of unmoderated fandom should amuse you. It’s not an anime convention, though. To a lot of regulars, it’s actually more like a family reunion.

• Later in August, Toronto becomes ground zero of FanExpo.For more events in the GTA, check our event calendar. If you know of any events we aren’t listing, please leave a comment below or e-mail us.

-Michael S Ryan, July 31st, 2012 

And then on Saturday I bailed on TFcon to spend far too long on mass transit so I could get to ConBravo! in time for the dance. Report on that coming soon.

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