Nine is kind of a strange number, isn’t it? What can you do with a nine? It’s not quite a ten, tough luck, and ninth parts are usually … well, for one thing very rare and usually not that good. Star Trek IX – Insurrection? Terrible! James Bond 9 – The Man with the Golden Gun? 70s kitsch extreme! And let’s not even mention the ninth parts of other movie series that made it this far (Godzilla, Hellraiser, Friday the 13th). So the fact of the matter is: A nine behind the title isn’t usually a sign that you can expect something extraordinary.
On October 8 the ninth annual CONS took place, for the ninth year in a row we had a German Transformers Fan Convention and … eh… ninth times the charm? No, let’s try that again. We … eh … nine time World Heavyweight Champions? Wooo!? No, doesn’t really fit, either. Damn, there are no good wordplays with nine. And not even our attendance number was willing to lend a hand here. We had 648 visitors. Okay, it’s a new record, again, but is there a nine in there? No, there isn’t! There’s nothing you can with a nine!
Okay, let’s stop it with the nines, let’s look at the convention. It was great! One might be tempted to say, we took it to the nines. Hey, there is a wordplay with nine in it right there. But back to the convention. We were in Viersen once again, just like last year, and for the fourth time in a row (sadly not the ninth time) we had CONS veteran John-Paul Bove as a special guest. He had brought along his colleague Jack Lawrence, artist on the current IDW Lost Light comic book. John and Jack gave us insights into the world of comic book publishers, such as the fact that James Roberts is, in fact, pure evil. Oh, and Raymond-T, who has been a Transformers fan for so long his beard has grown past his knees, was incapable of recognizing a drawing of Rodimus. Well, we all have our Achilles heels, I guess.
We also had a live review on stage, this time with German video reviewer Reyjin along with Yours Truly. Reyjin did the actual reviewing of the Last Knight figure Nitro (with our without Zeus behind it, that’s between you and your god), while I did a superb job of doing simultaneous translating into English. Well, almost simultaneously and superbly. Very nearly so. Oh well, at least our English-speaking guests did learn that Nitro has WHEEEEEELS in jet mode, which is something at least. And, of course, that he is a pretty cool figure, which was sadly already sold out at all vendors present. But at least there was still one in the raffle.
Speaking of the raffle: last year Sideswipe managed to score top place as unnervingly overrepresented character in the raffle, but this year multiple-time champion Bumblebee was back in first place and took on all comers. At least ninety-nine Bumblebees were given away (hey, I have to take my nines where I can get them!), quite a few of them to vendor Teletoys (who bought a lot of tickets, though, so it’s fair) and NTF member Tobimus Prime. The latter also managed to score our grand prize, a Maketoys Devil Stinger. Tobi, we are still waiting on that picture of the unboxed Devil Stinger! Get to it!
A few people might remember my report from last year where I was telling people to bring some guts this year and participate in the live quiz on stage. Well, that worked really well and by really well I mean: not at all! It took multiple encouragements bordering on public shaming to get two challengers up on stage to face the only person who had the guts to go up there by himself. But fair is fair, once we started the Transformers trivia came hard and fast.
What else is there to report? Well, apart from the usual organizational hurdles up front and a few additional obstacles, courtesy of German bureaucracy at its finest, we sadly had to do without Hasbro’s presence this year. Originally it was planned for them to have their own booth at our convention, but unfortunately it all came to naught. But again, this was just the ninth part. Next year for our tenth anniversary we’ll give it another go. Keep your fingers crossed!
Which takes us directly to our glimpse into the future: next year we will hold CONS for the tenth time (no more stupid nines!). For the tenth time Lucy and Alex, along with a small group of dedicated people with questionable sanity, will do their utmost to present German Transformers fans with a unique experience. Lots of thanks once again to Lucy and Alex, as well as all members of the team. What? Yeah, that includes me, so what? Yeah, self-praise stinks to the nines! Hey, another nine right there!
We hope you all had fun at CONS number nine and will all be back in even greater number for next year’s anniversary CONS. As we saw this year, it is well worth the price of admission. Not just because of the money to be earned and/or spent, not just because of the many Transformers figures that changed hands, but first and foremost because it was a day of great fun, just like always. And be honest: how many other ninth parts do you know that were fun?
See you again next year!
Yours Truly, Philister!
Do you know how hard this is? No, I’m not talking about organizing a Transformers Fan Convention in Germany. We’ve done that eight times, we know how it works by now. No, I’m talking about writing a report about the CONS for the eight time. Here I am, sitting in front of a blank piece of paper (digitally speaking) and need to find a way to compress a day full of fun, excitement, and passion into a few paragraphs and all without repeating myself. This is starting to become a real challenge, people! But I accept it. Have a Sideswipe!
Eight long years! Eight years ago it was unthinkable that Germany could host its own Transformers Fan Convention. Only a small group of strange fans in a small online forum were deluded enough to think it might be possible. And now here we are eight years later and the CONS is a fixture of Transformers fandom. More than that, after suffering the seven year itch last year, this year saw us firing on all cylinders again. The previous attendance record from 2014 (538 attendees) was pulverized as no less than 602 fans turned up for CONS. A new European attendance record for a Transformers Fan Convention. Have another Sideswipe!
A lot of things were improved this year. The attendance numbers rose. The location was new and bigger (just like the serving of French Fries, tasty!). Your humble moderator managed to avoid his traditional pre-CONS-cold (and threw his back out instead, but you can’t have everything). And finally, after eight years and a few failed starts, we finally got a representative of Hasbro Germany to attend. Mr. Lohmeier, newly responsible for fan relations for the Transformers brand, dared to mingle with the fans. He weathered the bombardment of critique and questions from fans of all ages (“Why do the Transformers have so little color?”) and even though he couldn’t answer all of them to our satisfaction – what with Hasbro Germany being solely about distribution, something we were told at least four times, I think – he did a pretty good job overall. We didn’t quite manage to make him cry, but one does need to set goals for next year after all. By the way, Mr. Lohmeier agreed to a permanent discussion thread at NTF-Archive.de where he will collect questions and suggestions for Hasbro on a permanent basis. Have another Sideswipe!
Another first this year: our live quiz up on stage. Here, though, one must say with reservation: shame on you, adult Transformers fans. None of you had the guts to step up on stage and have your Transformers knowledge tested. It fell to two very young fans to dazzle us with their broad knowledge and wild enthusiasm. So much so, in fact, that we saw no alternative to awarding them both a prize. Nicely done, boys, and everyone else: shame on you! Bring some guts for next year if you please! Otherwise people might get the idea that Transformers are actually meant just for kids. Have another Sideswipe!
And while we’re on the topic of quizzes, I fear I must apologize. Apparently this year’s quiz sheet was far, far too easy. No less than five people managed to answer all questions correctly and it was then up to John-Paul Bove, who attended CONS for the third year in a row, to draw the winner of our sole prize for this contest. Congratulations to everyone, especially the four people who answered everything correctly and sadly lacked that tiny little bit of luck to be drawn as the winner. I hereby solemnly swear to make it much, much harder for next year. Many thanks to John-Paul Bove here as well. Not only did he come for the third time, as I said, he also did a live presentation of what it is a colorist actually does for a comic and showed us how much work it really is. Nicely done, John-Paul, and we promise that, should you grace us with your presence again next year, we’ll find a better projector, too. Have another Sideswipe!
And thus we come to the big thank yous. Thank you Lucy & Alex for pulling it off for the eight time. Thank you to all our great attendees, not only for showing up in such large numbers, but also for making it such a fun and exciting day for us all. Thanks to Mr. Lohmeier, who admitted that even Hasbro employees sometimes earn Third Party figures and also for being the numbers girl at the raffle, drawing the winning number for our third party grand prize (not that often that Hasbro brings us luck, right?). Also, a very, very big thank you to everyone who participated in the raffle, your combined feat of strength did the impossible: that huge, huge box filled with Panini comics (each of them with a tiny little Sideswipe) was actually empty at the end. Every single Sideswipe found a new home, none were left to wallow in that big box. So please clap your own shoulder here and have a final, well-deserved Sideswipe!
So what remains to be said? The eight CONS has left us with a feeling of optimism. Not only due to the many attendees, not only due to Hasbro finally attending, but mainly because, for the eight time in a row, it was a great, fun day for everyone involved. Attendees, vendors, the team, everyone had a good time. To everyone who thought we’d be slowing down with old age: you couldn’t have been more wrong. Full steam ahead, the tenth anniversary isn’t that far anymore. Can’t have another Sideswipe for that, none are left, but I’m sure we’ll find a Bumblebee somewhere to celebrate.
Signing off until next year,
Yours Truly, Philister
According to popular psychology the seventh year is something like the make-it or break-it point of a marriage or relationship. The year in which a couple have either adapted to each other so well they can go the distance, or separate because they can no longer stand each other. Whether or not this phenomenon can easily be adapted to the organizing of a Transformers Fan Convention has yet to be scientifically researched, I believe, but there are some indicators that the convention business might show certain similarities here.
The greatest danger to be faced in that damn seventh year is that things tend to become routine. The big romance is gone, because we have very much proven that it is indeed possible to put on a German Transformers Fan Convention. The passion lessens, as quite a few people who poured their heart and soul into this event have since moved on or been removed from the organizing team.
The big challenge is, of course, to deal with this routine and to make sure that one keeps doing a good job on things one has been doing a good job on quite a few times before. Organize special guests? No problem, Jean-Paul Bove from England and Frederic Pham Chuong from France got here in one piece and had lots of fun. Organize the various contests? Piece of cake, and even if that important piece of paper with the names of the winners is a bit overdue, the experienced host can easily overplay that with charm and humor. Transformers quiz? Easy as pie, even though some of the people present considered it to be too easy this year. Get vendors from all over Europe in one room and organize table space? We can do that in our sleep by now.
The trick is to keep doing a good job and not get dulled by the routine. Taking myself as an example, I once again came down with what appears to be a traditional cold one week before the event and had no voice. So what? Been there, done that! I recovered in time, mostly, as did my beloved wife, thank God. And so what if the flow of speech was occasionally interrupted by some coughing? I doubt anyone remembers that thanks to the very, very loud feedback noise from the speakers and the optional tinnitus. And occasionally Lady Luck is on our side as well, seeing as the wedding reception originally scheduled for the same location just one day prior to the CONS was cancelled last minute, so that we had the full Saturday for relaxed preparation instead of having to cram in everything on Sunday morning. Oh, and the ugly rumor that Alex aka Skywarp summoned some dark powers in order to sabotage said wedding are just that, nothing more, and there is no way you can prove otherwise!
Sadly we could not entirely evade the seven year itch, no matter how hard we tried. Sadly our attendance number has, for the first time, lessened somewhat. 489 people attended this year, about the same number as 2012. But that is no reason to despair, as it is still a sizeable number. Besides, it’s not like it’s our fault that Volkswagen did such damage to the “Made in Germany” brand that so many overseas attendees stayed away out of fear of toxic Diesel fumes. Send your complaint letters to Wolfsburg, please, and remember to book the hybrid early for next year.
Thankfully, though, not everything has become stale routine. There were new things to be learned this year once again. Like NTF reviewer Ian proving once and for all that, yes, all G1 figures lose accessories sooner or later, that is just inevitable. And sometimes it happens right in the middle of a live review of Fortress Maximus on stage, when the little gun of Cerebros goes flying off the table in a beautiful arc. And like TF-veteran Raymond-T proving that Globalization is a good thing after all by having a Dutch guy interview an English guy and a French guy with Asian roots on German soil with a half-Austrian thrown in for good measure.
Most of all, though, this seventh year has shown us that we are fully capable of going the distance. It showed us who can be relied on and who cannot. It proved that even seven years running one can still look forward to seeing familiar faces again, even if the names might sometimes still elude one. One realizes that one’s wallet is never, ever big enough to satisfy every last Transformers-related itch (especially that damn third party stuff, a curse upon their houses!). And most of all, it showed us that Lucy and Alex could pull it off once again. Which is routine, of course, and fully expected, but still a great feat that deserves a ton of thanks and credit.
So my personal conclusion for this event: we beat the seven year itch, people! Now full speed ahead to year number eight!