Transformers newspaper ads that have line drawings instead of photographs of the toys are my favorite kind, and line art of the earliest released Transformers is my favoritest kind. Among my favoritest favoritest kind are line arts of the deluxe Autobot cars from 1984.
JC Penny 11/18/84Not all stores used the same Autobot art in their ads-different stores tended to use different figure art. So I've had to journey to different libraries across the US to try to find ads so I could "catch 'em all" and get a complete set of line art for every deluxe Autobot car from 1984. So far I'm just missing ads with the line art for Hound, Sunstreaker and Skids. I've found some Autobots got featured more often than others-Trailbreaker comes to mind as one line art that Toys R Us and other retailers loved using commonly. I got lucky during Vintage Space Toast Tour Alaska when I found one JC Penny ad that had a couple of Autobots I'd never seen in line art before like Bluestreak and Ratchet. Unfortunately the ad was rather small and crammed so not much detail of the individual robots could be made out, but I thought nothing of it at the time. I should have looked closer!
WHAT'S BLACK AND BLUE AND READ ALL OVER?
Clark Drug 11/21/85During Vintage Space Toast Tour Pasadena I came across an ad that really tripped me out. It was from Clark Drug and it ran November 21 1985. It featured Bluestreak but the shading looked all wrong. It looked like Bluestreak but the hood was darker than the rest of the car. Now we've all seen the 1984 catalog that came with boxed Transformers and shows the infamous 'blue' Bluestreak. That toy has dark sides and a light hood, but this line art Bluestreak was the chromatic reverse-a dark hooded Datsun with light sides. Was this some sort of loony line art mixup-a printing error of sorts? Or was the toy this line art was based off the often overlooked and lesser known black hooded Diaclone Fairlady Z? How would that even be possible? Why were his arms drawn all stupid? Where did this drawing come from? WHOSE LINE ART IS THIS ANYWAYS?
GHOSTS OF THE MACHINES
Seemingly miscolored or strangely rendered line art is not uncommon. It's just the nature of the newsprint process coupled with the added image modification necessary to preserve the images on microfilm in black and white. Some weird looking renderings are just par for the course, like when I came across a Toys R Us ad seemingly featuring a 'white' Ironhide. Of course since this ad was in the main body of the newspaper where there is no color it is much easier to just go with stark black and white lines, just like how every other line art rendition is done. Even the line arts that originated from color newsprint don't necessarily prove the existence of strangely colored Transformers. Once I found an ad from a store in Alaska featuring a Sideswipe with what appeared to be a dark hood. Without the original color newsprint in front of me it is impossible to tell what that Sideswipe actually looked like or what colors it was, but I'm sure it wasn't meant to portray an actual black hooded white Sideswipe.
EVERY DESERT DOG HAS HIS DAY
What haunted me about the Bluestreak was that there was precedent for that color variation but I'd never seen official Hasbro Transformer materials, promotional or otherwise, that used the black hooded Fairlady-Z. (Except of course for how he was portrayed in the cartoon.) I also noticed something else about the line art for all the different figures-no matter how they were colored the toys were always in the same poses! It never changed from store to store and chain to chain-everybody was using the same line arts all over the country. I don't know how line art was made but this all points to the existence of some central source for these images. There had to be some master diagram or picture reference from which these newspaper ad drawings were made. Once I found that I would know for sure if it was indeed a black hooded Bluestreak depicted in that ad. But what were the chances that a total nobody like me with no connections to anyone in the toy industry would ever come across official, behind-the-scenes Hasbro documents from over 25 years ago like the basis of the advertisement line art drawings? WELL ACTUALLY PRETTY GOOD THANKS TO EBAY.
Man if you thought pages 64 and 65 of the 1984 Hasbro toy catalog were cool, imagine my surprise when I turned the page and there were all the answers I'd been searching for all laid out in a two page spread. Every Autobot car from the initial assortment in '84 were all there in the same poses I'd seen countless times before in newsprint ads. And there amongst them was the black hooded Bluestreak in that same awkward pose with his arms all stupid. I am hesitant to state that this is the only instance of the black hooded Fairlady in Hasbro literature because a) I'm sure there's one guy somewhere who would point out that it got used all the time in catalogs from New Caledonia and b) I am dumb about Transformers as evidenced by this whole episode.
THE MORE THE ADS TRANSFORMED THE MORE THEY STAYED THE SAME
Although I still don't know anything about how the 1984 Transformer line art was made, I'm pretty sure all those drawings came from these pictures. I think what happened was Hasbro generated the black and white line art and product descriptions and sent copies to all the toy shops and retail stores that sold Transformers back in the day. Then the individual stores would pick and choose which figure illustrations and text they wanted to use in their ads. Some stores might only use one robot drawing with a large description while other stores would use multiple robot drawings and no description but everybody was picking from the same set of drawings and descriptions originated from Hasbro. This two page spread from the '84 toy catalog was the genesis of all those deluxe Autobot ads. Actually I think all of the Transformers pictured in the '84 catalog are the basis for their line art counterparts. Mysteries solved! Or are there now more questions?
I think what we're mostly seeing here are toys from Takara's Diaclone line dressed up as Transformers. That's why black hooded Bluestreak is included. But there are still other little idiosyncrasies about these Autobots that are harder for me to explain. Like why does Sunstreaker have red shoulder missiles and why does Ratchet have a chubby little cross? The Japanese Diaclone versions of those two figures don't match up exactly and neither do the later US releases, either. I try not to think too much about this stuff because a total nobody like me with no connections to anyone in the toy industry would ever come across official, behind-the-scenes Hasbro documents from over 25 years ago that could explain it all. But you never know.
I LEAVE YOU NOW WITH TRANSCRIBED POETRY FROM THE BOTTOM OF PAGE 66
5750 The Transformers Autobot Cars
Cool, sleek cars that transform into robots! They're powerful, fast, and smart. Pull out the wheels, open the trunk, swing out the doors and they become mighty warriors!
Each Autobot comes with attachable weapons, bio card, Tech Specs chart and decoder. Assortment includes two of Mirage Autobot, and one each of the 10 other cars.
8 1/2 x 2 3/8 x 7 1/4"
WT: 8.6 lbs.
CU. FT. : .75