The convention itself ran really well, possibly the best it has. There were no delays to events, no technical issues, no problems to speak of at all. Which was very satisfying, as I think it’s safe to say that the work those of us on the committee put in through the year leading up had at times gotten incredibly frustrating. So it was very validating to see the end results go so swimmingly.
This was the first Auto Assembly I’d been to without my brother since we started attending in 2008, which felt very strange at times. Mostly I was too busy to think about it, but in the quiet moments early in the morning, late at night, or when wondering what to do about food it was quite unsettling. And we’ve made all the same friends at this thing too, so I was often asked about him.
I was once again working this year, in a live sketching/print selling capacity. For the first time the convention added an Artists Ally, where comic guests of previous years were invited to come and do what they do, but not in an actual “guest” capacity. However, I was among the guests. During the opening ceremony I opted to not be included in those who were introduced and asked to the stage, because I didn’t feel right about doing so with the Artist Ally guys not doing it. after all, they had all actually worked on the franchise and I’m just the convention’s art guy. If any of you were wondering about it, that’s why. A matter of respect.
Speaking of the guests, this year we had a terrific line-up. On the publishing side we saw the return of the majority of the Regeneration One crew: Simon Furman„ Andrew Wildman, Stephen Baskerville, and my buddy John-Paul Bove (cover colourist Jason Cardy was also present, in the Artist Ally). The guys took the stage for one final retrospective on the Regen series, but alas, as with pretty much every panel and Q&A, I couldn’t really hear much of it. Which was a shame, because I think that particular panel was my idea; that now the series was over they could be a bit more candid about it in hindsight, or not have to worry about not revealing a future plot point.
We also saw the return of regulars James Roberts, Nick Roche, and Jim Sorenson, and those guys are always a pleasure (when the fangirls give you the chance to have a chat with them ).
Alex Milne and Livio Ramondelli both made their second appearances this year as well, and I got to spend a little bit more time with them this year than the first time I met them. Livio is a real charmer, who seems to simply be infused with positive energy. And this time Alex seemed to be much more comfortable with my being around. See, Alex and I are both very good friends with John-Paul Bove so we both tend to orbit his vicinity, and I think last year Alex was taking my measure and this year had decided that I was okay.
Joining us for the first time this year we had Joana Lafuente and Casey Coller. These two are traditionally a paired creative team on the books. If Casey had drawn it then you could be sure Joana had coloured it. It’s not so much the case any more, which is cool because it’s more opportunities for both of them, but when they made their debuts it was definitely the case. Joana I didn’t get to chat with quite as much as I’d have liked, but she, and her partner, were both really fun and funny people. I hope to get a better opportunity to enjoy their company in the future, and I hope that she marks the start of more colourists being invited from overseas. Casey, like Milne, is someone who had already established a firm friendship with John-Paul, so I got to hang out with he and his wife more than I did any of the other guests. It was great to finally meet, we’d chatted a little online and even done an art trade last year I think it was. And more than anyone else Casey was the guy that I had been fighting in the corner of having as a guest since I first joined the committee. And, y’know, he (and his bride) didn’t seem to mind having me around at all, so win.
And last but not least we had the voice actor guests of honour. David Sobolov and Mike McConnohie I didn’t get too much time with, but both seemed to be true gents. David was very generous with both time and with giving out signed items, and apparently did a certain reading of a particular series of books in the voice of Shockwave in the wee hours of a morning that sounded like it was incredible in both awesome and horrifying ways. And Mike McConnohie I got the impression enjoyed goofing around almost constantly. I particularly enjoyed the T-shirt he wore which read something along the lines of “Save our Earth - It’s where we get our beer”.
Peter Spellos, I think everyone was in agreement, was the stand out of our new guests. Almost constantly present, completely welcoming, and genuinely humble and open. There wasn’t much that you got the impression he wouldn’t do for his fans and the convention, so grateful was he to be here. And I’ve heard from a LOT of people over the course of the convention that he was both supportive and inspirational on a very personal basis. I think he will always be spoken of by our attendees with much the same level of admiration and fondness that Gregg Berger generally gets. For my part, he seemed genuinely touched by the Sky-Byte artwork I produced. I was selling it as prints, but I made certain that he not only got a copy, but also got the original line-drawing as well (I actually did this for all our GOH’s, but Peter was the most blown away by the tribute). I had no interest in buying the new Sky-Byte toy, but then I met him and that was that.
And then we had the return of Townsend Coleman. There’s not much I can say about Towny that I haven’t said a hundred times. A terrific guy, that I hope it isn’t out of place for me to say is also a true friend. I was thrilled that he came back this year and for me, personally, I think it was his presence which really placed this convention as a cut above. Very small gestures can mean so much to people, and that’s something that I want to try and remember and incorporate into my own life more.
Which segues quite efficiently into my next thought. That this convention in particular has been a very humbling event, full of being surprised by the kindness of people that really have no reason to be. Superficial case in point: a few weeks ago I made a joke status on Facebook that and Action Master donations would be appreciated, not expecting anything of it, and I have walked away this year with a small army of them. The bulk of which were donated by Temple, so he gets a big shout out for that. Another example is that after reading that I was a fan of DC’s Captain Marvel, Ian Pyett gave me a couple of figures depicting the golden age version of the character. Sprite created an absolutely jaw-dropping water colour painting of Godzilla for me. I was given little stickers. But the thing that touched me the most was this:
For this years AA exclusive comic I called in a lot of people to help create it. It spanned the entirety of TF’s televisual history to date, and every couple of pages were created by a different artistic team, but book-ended by myself to give it more of a feeling of being a whole. One of these teams asked for assistance in finding an inker, as there was a worry about deadlines. I put out the call, and the only response I received was from a young woman called Vanessa Sutherland. we brought her on board and she helped us to finish in plenty of time. Basically she pulled our butts out of the fire. At AA she approached me, introduced herself, and then gave me a thank you card with a touching message inside for allowing her to work on the comic. That gesture made me want to melt, because for one it was unexpected and kind, and for another that it had never occurred to me that it would mean so much to her. I had looked at it like she was doing me a favour, not the other way around. Vanessa, if you read this, you’re a beautiful human being.
And it made me try to emphasise to folks when we had the chance to talk, that I’m just a schmuck who got lucky. I was described more than once this year as “the fan favourite artist”, people coming up to me were nervous, but I’m in the place I am right now for exactly one reason: I produced a fan work at just the right time. At then end of the day, I’m a fan artist like anyone else, and if AA hadn’t offered to publish my comic one year I’d be as anonymous as you can get in the fan art community. I’m not a professional, just very very lucky, and very very humbled. For one weekend a year you guys make me feel like I matter, so if anything I should be the one honouring you. And that was my intention behind the fan comic this year with it’s multiple collaborators, and also the idea behind the AA “birthday images” that you all chipped in for and that the convention displayed around the bar areas. For Transformers, possibly more than any other franchise in history, it’s the fans and their works and their sense of community that defines it and sustains it. And we wanted to honour that for you and with you. Sure, there are jerks out there that seem to want to spoil it for everyone, but at AA we have none of that. Our attendees remind us every year that our community is overwhelmingly one of mutual support and respect. And we thank you deeply for that.
But I digress.
Another reason that I found this to be a very humbling year is that the other guests just accept my being there (because I have low esteem and confidence issues, I tend to genuinely feel like I’m pretty much slapping them in the face for being counted among them). I had some of them telling me that ‘This was going to be my year’ or that I conduct myself with more respect and professionalism than some so-called professionals they met. And the number of times that one of them came over to me for a simple casual chat, like you would any co-worker in any form of employment. At the time it was the most normal feeling thing, but when I got to thinking about it later it kinda blew my mind.
Oh! The Saturday night!
In the evening programme, we had the Cosplay Parade and the Script Reading. The Cosplay seems to get more crazy impressive each year. This time we saw the full-scale return of human-formers, including a bizarre movie Sentinel Prime that looked like Santa Claus had robbed Sentinel’s corpse. But the winners; a Spark-Eater, A Brainstorm with a briefcase full of Perceptor erotica and glowing eyes, and a Ravage with auto-targeting missiles, were well deserved winners.
The script reading seemed to go down much better this year than last. I was reluctant before, but I’m now happy to reveal that I wrote a great deal of that. In particular I was responsible for like 90% of the Tracks material, and I was the one who came up with the idea of him meeting and falling for his Animated counterpart. I hope you all got some laughs from it.
Okay, I’m kinda running on empty in regards to my thoughts, and I’m not sure much of what I’ve been typing makes much sense right now, so I’ll wrap it up.
I want to give massive thanks to everyone who bought any of my work of me this weekend, and everybody who made a pre-order and collected it at the event. I want to apologise to those that I didn’t have time to do at the end of it all. I want to assure those of you who asked me to finish at home and send it on that I will be doing so over the next few days.
Likewise I want to thank anyone who asked for me to sign something.
I hope you all enjoyed the comic and lithograph this year, as I really don’t tend to get much feedback on those things traditionally. If you can be bothered, let me know what you thought of them, and I’ll try and use that to get better in the future.
And finally I want to send my love to my convention family, who are the ones that *really* make me feel like three days is nowhere near enough.
J-P, Jess, Temple, Sprite, Andy, Kris, Billy, Tori, and Isa. I want to say how amazing it was to meet Casey, Joana, Grace, Peter, Mike, and David. How happy I was to get to see Townsend and Alex again. And how sadly missed Ben was.
Peace and respect to you all.