Since 1984, Transformers has taken the world by storm. Whether it be a toy franchise, animated series, comic or even a motion picture, the Robots in Disguise have remained vast, colourful and larger than life.
Even though Hasbro has reinvented their franchise time and again, generation after generation, the history of Transformers has always remained the same at heart; cool and exciting, fresh and innovative, deep and captivating, and armed with the most memorable characters in all of fiction. The premise has remained virtually the same; warring factions of robots (mostly the Heroic Autobots against the Evil Decepticons), able to transform their bodies into all manner of disguises, devices, vehicles, beasts, forms and weapons. Yet each incarnation - Generations 1 and 2, Beast Wars/Machines, Robots in Disguise, the Unicron Trilogy, the live-action movies, Animated and (most recently) Prime - introduced new and original concepts, which has allowed both franchise and fan base to grow and evolve in awe-inspiring ways.
Marvel Comics and DC Comics have both been subjected to the `Vault' Treatment; a great big book summing up the history of a fictional universe, from original ideas, to text accounts, to concept sketches, promo arts, reproductions of memorabilia, stills from animated shows and the movies etc. For fans, it was a godsend, a thing of perfection that not only provided a new learning experience, but also a PIECE of the entire scope, making readers truly realise the sheer effort of what went in to establishing decades of history.
Transformers is a natural fit for this kind of presentation, and immediately I must say that Hasbro, Abrams Publishing and the author Pablo Hidalgo have done sterling work in making this Vault edition an outstanding masterpiece. The pictures herein are beautiful and fascinating to look out, everything from cartoon shows, movie captures, panels from the comics, toy photos/designs, character sketches/concepts, wax sculptures of toy prototypes, promotional material, box art, computer games, t-shirts, general merchandise etc. It's such a rich tapestry and beautifully laid out, and Pablo's writing helps explain it all even more.
Throughout the book, Hidalgo writes with such professionalism. He avoids going into "fanboy" mode, and narrates the whole history clearly and concisely, never understating or overstating anything. The author points out the successes and failures of the franchise's aspects/renditions with an impartial view, chronicling reactions from fans, children, parents and critics, factoids about the toy-line and its ongoing creation, the legacy of certain writers, animators and film-makers etc, the emotional impact of famous characters, the cultural influences of Europe, America and Japan...and condensing the whole 27-year-spectrum of Transformers' generations, spin-off materials, contributions and impacts with exactly the right amount of pacing and necessary detail.
I've been a fan of the Robots in Disguise for as long as I can remember, and I can safely say that purchase of this book was an essential experience. Learning of the toyline's Diaclone origins, the evolutions and ongoing innovation of the toys, the captivating story concepts from all the comics and animated shows, the unique ways of storytelling from G1, Beast Wars and Animated, the sheer artistry of advertising and character design, the critical and financial success of the franchise; all made for worthwhile reading. And the hardcover book itself is a thing of beauty, with its bold and striking slipcase, and the covers of the actual book, featuring multiple incarnations of opposing leaders Optimus Prime and Megatron (the most famous Transformers of all time).
And of course, I haven't mentioned all the delightful goodies inside, namely the reproductions of things like rare fold-out G1 toy catalogues, actual tech specs from the original 1984 toys (complete with Red acetate decoder!), a removable piece of concept art by Casey Coller, an ANIMATION CEL from the original Generation 1 cartoon(!), rare artwork to promote Transformers: The Movie in Japan, a character sheet for the film and a rare premiere ticket for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen!! A delightful foreword from the one-and-only Peter Cullen (THE voice of Optimus Prime) is the icing on the cake, and the afterword which emphasises how important the legacy of Transformers truly is. As Simon Furman once said, "It never ends!"
In closing, Transformers: Vault is THE book to get for all fans: old and new, adult and child. Not only does it do the impossible task of summing up the entirety of Hasbro's greatest franchise in a nutshell, but it also makes you prouder than ever to be a fan. It even manages to surpass Dorling Kingsley's classic Ultimate Guide. WORTH - EVERY - SINGLE - PENNY.
What are you waiting for? Transform and roll out!