Before we begin, let me welcome all of you to TFWe Volume 2.0! After absolutely exhausting ourselves with 6 issues in 6 months, we took a much needed break as life in general became hectic for many of us over the holidays. But we're back, we're refreshed, and we're ready to throw you even more written articles about anything and everything Transformers, from the minds of myself, Sol Fury, Secretcode, Protoman, Shin Densetsu, and more! So sit back and enjoy ... and we can't wait to show you what we have in store for our first Volume 2.0 Issue! Hasbro, Fun Pub, and BotCon oh my! written by Kickback To say that 2012 has been a tough year for Fun Publications would be a bit of an understatement. For starters, dealer registration was set back with a strangely worded clause regarding third party products, to which Fun Publications and Hasbro stated that the selling of (and possibly even having in your possession) any third party products would result in the product being seized by Hasbro and/or Fun Publications, and by signing the dealer agreement, you give them the authority to do so with any or no reason required. While the outrage on this matter was slim, a lot of fans felt like Hasbro was over-stepping a bit, though in all reality, Hasbro has every right to do this as the third party market has exploded in the last 18 months. Regardless of your feelings on the quality of the toys being put out by companies like FansProject or iGear, the reality is in fact that these companies are profiting off Hasbro’s Intellectual Property (though my thoughts are that it is more aimed at what iGear has been doing than anything FansProject has done). I don’t know how many of you remember from years ago one of the more horrid (there’s plenty of people who purchased and would agree with that opinion) attempts at a third party product … the “A.R.C.” toy by A Rabid Squirrel? It was an Arcee toy (looked like Arcee, colored like Arcee, even had a headmaster portion like in the Rebirth series from the G1 cartoon). It was a total garage-kit type of toy, with each toy having varying amounts of quality issues different from the one someone else received. Aside from the typical Chinese knock-off toys found in your Easter baskets, that was the first real “third party” toy that I can remember coming out. The thing that was probably the saving grace on that “toy” was the fact it wasn’t mass-produced or offered through any online retailers. But the game changed when FansProject released City Commander. The popularity and after-market price on that item spawned all these different third party companies that this writer can’t even keep track of them all anymore. It went from “accessory” kits like what City Commander was to full-fledged figures like the Not-Insecticons and the Hercules figures. And while they are ‘different’ than their Hasbro iterations to a degree, they are still milking off Hasbro’s Intellectual Property by the similarities because let’s face it … Hercules is Devastator, and anyone responsible for the creation of those toys is lying through their teeth if they claim otherwise. So Hasbro and BotCon disallowing any third party items makes total sense, and in reality, we should have all seen it coming. TakaraTomy already threatened some Japanese online retailers with cancelling their accounts with them for selling third party products on their store websites (pretty sure it was over some of iGear’s products, possibly their MP Coneheads), and I wonder how long until Hasbro follows suit with online retailers like BigBadToyStore and TFSource. I imagine it’s a much steeper slope to climb to get that to happen because of so many different laws and regulations, but if there’s a way I cannot put it past Hasbro’s legal team to figure out how to make it happen. So after the whole dealer debacle with third party items, Fun Publications then has the nightmare scenario happen – their online credit card processor was hacked, possibly as far as a year ago, and the “seed” finally sprouted and collected hundreds (possibly a thousand, depends on the number of active memberships which is not publically shared) of member’s credit cards, E-mail addresses, passwords, home addresses … basically anything you’ve ever entered in their website in an order was obtained by online thieves. The sticky part is Fun Publication’s response to the whole thing, which was slow and uninformed (and at one point, came across as shifting blame to their members as opposed to themselves) but what people fail to realize is the second they realized they were hacked and data was stolen, it became a criminal (and possibly) federal offense. We have no idea what they were advised to say or not say, we have no idea if Hasbro was involved in any way, shape, or form, for all we know this may have caused a huge financial blow to the company, of which may affect future conventions, toys, and so forth. A special nod here to Pete Sinclair of Fun Publications – that man took a real beating by fans for having the guts to come out and at least communicate with everyone what was happening and tried to help. He inadvertently becomes the face of the company in a mess like that, and he stood his ground and tried to communicate what he knew when he knew it. Pete, don’t know if you read these or not, but thank you – you have a thankless job where you take more abuse than praise, just know this writer appreciates what you did and tried to do during that whole nightmare. Companies need more individuals like you – not people that talk to the fans of their stuff, but people that CARE about the fans and what is happening. In every case I’ve seen with identity theft from companies, everyone is on “silent” mode and generic E-mails are sent out. You tried to be proactive and I think you need to know that it did not go unnoticed. But the final part of this article, and the real reason why I chose to write it, is the revelation this week that Hasbro will not allow fan artists to sell any of their work (unless it’s deemed a parody). If you’re an aspiring artist and people love your work, you are not allowed to draw anything Transformers related for commission. If you’ve drawn your own fan-comic with fan-created characters, sweet – but if there’s anything Transformers related, even as small as a faction symbol, Hasbro can shut you down. The number of artists cancelling their tables in “Artist Alley” is pretty high from what I’m reading and hearing from various artists, and a lot of people are rubbed the wrong way about this whole thing. Let me state though that I understand WHY it’s happening – it’s part of the “third party” clause in which case Hasbro has to protect themselves by disallowing ALL unofficial works (whether it be toy, or art) if they want to stop even just one portion of it. I don’t believe Hasbro hates fan artists, and I don’t believe Hasbro is going to start stalking artists on Deviant Art and issuing cease and desists for drawing Optimus Prime and Megatron making out (okay, maybe on that one they should). They simply want to stop all third party related things from happening, and it makes sense to stop it at their convention. I get that. It just sucks for those who make some amazing drawings, paintings, or shoot, even plush Transformers … some of those people I know personally, and none of them are ever in it to profit, they do it because they love being a part of Transformers, they love leaving their own mark in their own way, and they love interacting with other fans. It just feels unfair that they are the ones being punished and having their convention experience mudded by a company like Hasbro who is really doing the only thing they can do to try and stop the third party explosion. My sincere hope is that for next year’s convention Hasbro’s legal team and Fun Publications can come to some sort of compromise and make an exception or Artist Alley and those who want to sell their own work that just happens to have Transformers in it. Anytime you start to take the fan out of the convention, you end up with less and less of a convention, and more like a corporate shareholder meeting (I’m looking at you, Hall of Fame 2011!). BotCon has a rich and admired history since 1994 … I truly hope that these changes brought on do not tarnish the reputation of one of the most looked-forward-to events for Transformers fans. -Kickback TFWe Editor in Chief TFW2005.COM Administrator Follow me on Twitter @rankal and always follow @tfw2005 for all your Transformers news!