Transformers Legacy: The Art of Transformers Packaging, by Jim Sorenson and Bill Forster is the newest entry in the realm of Transformers art books, and the latest offering from the team that brought us The Ark and The Allspark Almanac. But Transformers Legacy goes in a different direction from prior art books which focused on the art of a particular video game or TV show. You may think you've already seen it all when it comes to G1 and G2 box art, but you've never seen it like this. And I believe most everyone will find at least a few things within that they've never seen before!
Boasting several hundred individual pieces of art contained in just under 300 pages, this book is anything but small. Collecting together packaging art from the run of Generations 1 and 2, you'll find much of what's offered here familiar. And that is the main reason for this to exist. The packaging itself holds a kind of fame with people who remember Transformers from when they were young, and the book gives you a one-stop resource to visit the most distinctive element of that. When Jim Sorenson and Bill Forster originally presented this concept, I found it exciting and incredibly interesting, and the final product lives up to that quite handily just in representing the familiar. That alone would make Transformers Legacy interesting and very valuable. After all, the only other way to possess print copies of this art is to own the original packaging it was produced for. But this book isn't simply interesting - it's amazing.
Beyond simply the familiar, it's whole pieces of art. Clean, with no edges cut or bent around panels, no overlays or obstructions. It's art you know in its original state, or as close to it as is possible to obtain. While the authors acknowledge a handful of art pieces could not be found for inclusion in this book, the hundreds of pieces that are present give a hint at the treasure of the art within, some of which having never been seen before in such a complete form. And it's still more amazing than that. The book does not just include US Transformers art, but also art from Japan's unique toys and other releases with distinct art differences, and likewise for European releases. The most remarkable accomplishment in completing this project was the wealth of art that I've personally never seen before in any capacity, and some online image searching could not return any matching results. This book will give you page after page of art that you know, but all through the book you'll find amazing pieces of art that will be completely new to you, despite having been created decades ago. Promotional display art, rare catalog illustrations, and draft versions fall throughout the book, but along with them are early concept illustrations, control art, and more "production side" pieces that will really grab the attention of people with an eye to the technical side of packaging design. I spent an hour on my first browsing of Legacy, and was surprised again and again by the amazing things I found contained within. Whatever expectations I had for this were completely surpassed by the final product.
Transformers Legacy is broken down in to a number of sections covering major milestones. For instance, the first section covers 1984-1986, noting that the consistent gimmick of this phase was nothing more than the act of changing from one thing to another. Subsequent sections group together the later US years by virtue of each year having a feature play pattern, Japanese toys, Generation 2, and more. Each section is then broken down in to distinct chapters focusing one one specific area, such as Pretenders, representing a year's lineup. Within each chapter you get package art split by faction. In some cases it becomes very interesting to see where two same-mold characters have their art on page together and look very distinctly different thanks to not sharing the same artist. For the most part this organizational structure is logical and works well for delivery of the content. Every section of the book has a page explaining the background of what's covered, while every chapter features battle scene art of one sort or another as an eye-catching header as well as a quick summary of things included in that product line, which I found to be a fantastic way to lead in to each year's worth of toys.
The final two chapters may be the most interesting in that they probably contain the greatest amount of content that even dedicated fans may not have seen before. These chapters are simply titled "Unused" and "Oddities". Oddities features a lot of pre-Transformers art that inspired the style of Transformers packaging art. In addition to things like G2 seeker Sandstorm which have turned up in the fandom consciousness in the last few years, the "Unused" chapter contains a number of abandoned G2 variants and other unreleased goods that I've never even heard of in passing before this book. It was a great moment of surprise and excitement to see a piece of what could have been that hasn't already filtered out and become known in the fan community. I can expect that people for whom Transformers is a bit more of a casual interest, most things in this part of the book will be interesting and surprising. And probably a little puzzling!
At a cover price of $49.99, you get a lot of material for your money. Amazon lists the shipping weight of this book at over three pounds, and according to the introduction to Part One, the book has around 750 individual images. Art books aren't entirely uncommon - we've had a few centered around video games and recent TV series already. But this one I feel is among the more unique in this area of effort. And effort is exactly the right word. It's taken a long while for the contents of this book to be collected, and it's thanks to the collected efforts of a number of people who had the art to contribute. Yes, Transformers has had other art books, but this one represents more than just requesting material from a publishing company. Jim and Bill are fans, and they called upon other fans who contributed what they had and helped find what they didn't have so that everyone would have a chance to enjoy this art. This was a labor of love, and the product of a lot of time and hard work. I think in this way it stands alone. It's a unique book in its nature and how it was accomplished, and for anyone who's ever looked at classic packaging art and thought "that's pretty cool", there is something here for you.
|Date||October 6th 2014|
|Score||(10 out of 10)|