Roll for It

vintage optimus prime

On this day in 1986, The Transformers: The Movie was released in theaters. I was lucky enough to see the film during its first run and, once it was out on video and we got our first VCR, it easily ranked as my most-rented title. More recently, on September 27, 2018, I was lucky enough to see the film again on the big screen thanks to a Fathom Events showing.

For a few years in the 1980s, Transformers was easily the biggest fandom in my life, but its role has been sporadic since. However, that changed with the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020.

Cablepunk Refreshed

Regardless of the pandemic, something was scheduled to be done with this website, Cablepunk.com, over the summer. Previously, this address functioned as a personal site for my photography and gaming — either as a redirect or as a dedicated domain — and even briefly as an advertisement for Cinderella Cablepunk upon the novel’s initial release. Unfortunately, Cablepunk.com has never really been it’s own thing, and this past July, I decided to build it around collecting Transformers action figures.

The idea was that while I took Cablepunk as an online alias over a decade ago, I’ve never really developed the alias as a persona in pursuit of something physical. Too often the word has been an adjective and an abstraction with the most real it’s gotten as the name of my character in an MMORPG or as part of the title in a book. I needed the term to be a bit more tangible.

The Covid-19 pandemic brought the real world rushing back to my senses. Suddenly and at length, meatspace wasn’t just a place I occupied in-between the long moments my mind was fixated on one screen or another. The real world was real again because it was dangerous. And George Floyd’s death was a wake-up call for privileged people like me who had, until that point, had the luxury of being blind to grim reality. Now we could see it, and there was no going back.

Naturally, I needed to cope, and Transformers fulfilled so many needs. Simple put, they are just so damn cool. I mean, think about it. They are toys, and toys from my childhood, so there’s that. A Transformer was the first toy I ever purchased (as opposed to was given) as a child. But it doesn’t stop there. Many of them are cool cars. But they’re also robots, and robots are cool. And they transform, so you got the puzzle thing going. What’s more, some of them are monsters and shit. I mean, right now I’m looking at Hot Rod and Repugnus on my desk. So, there’s variety. Then, some of them can combine. Or triple-change. Or turn into fucking guns or heads or fucking cassette tapes. Are you with me? There is so much going on with these things. And they’re real. Like, they’re plastic and sometimes metal and you transform them with your hands in the really real world. What’s more, thanks to all the shows and comics and whatnot that have been going for over thirty-five years, there is a ton of lore associated with these things. So, one minute I can be fascinated by the engineering and the reuse and retooling of certain molds, and another minute I can be thinking about the character of Bumblebee across different media and eras.

In short, there’s enough to occupy me here with those toys.

I mean, as Elias says in Clerks II, “Since God created Man, and Man created the Transformers, the Transformers are like a gift from God.”

Half the Battle

However, as is my nature, that focus didn’t last long. Now, don’t get me wrong: Transformers are still “like a gift from God.” But, after Transformers were the biggest fandom in my life, G.I. Joe was the biggest fandom in my life. And, in case you missed it, we’ve got the G.I. Joe Classified Series going, the Retro Series coming, and a Snake Eyes movie patiently awaiting release in 2021.

So, a lot is happening with G.I. Joe right now, and that’s exciting.

Furthermore, as I spent more time thinking on Transformers, I started to mentally move away from the new and awesome Cyberverse and War for Cybertron toys, and back to the vintage toys. While the new toys are neat, the old toys matter more to me. They are artifacts of a bygone era. The fact that there’s a Transformers Vintage G1 line running right now strengthened my interest in the value of these old molds. As I turned all this over in my mind, a different focus took shape: collecting vintage Transformers and G.I. Joes, and their reissues and re-imaginings. This would hopefully give me focus and keep costs down.

The Vintage Collection

However, once I had the word “vintage” floating around in my mind, I couldn’t help but constantly think of the currently running Star Wars: The Vintage Collection line. Star Wars has been the only constant fandom in my life, and before Transformers was the biggest fandom in my life, Star Wars was the biggest fandom in life. The first fandom. The fandom from which all other fandoms spring, or something.

So, yeah, I started thinking about adding vintage — or vintage-inspired by this point — Star Wars figures to this whole thing. Clearly, it had all gotten out of control by now. The expenses would be too great, and who has time anyway?

Blinking Red Light

Cablepunk is about connectivity, and despite some attempts here and there to collect NES cartridges, I haven’t really collected anything and been part of any community like that in twenty years. The genesis of cablepunk has its roots in video games, but there was always this weird disconnect in what I was doing. Cablepunk as a noun has basically up until this point been a gamertag, but the retro games which something that is cablepunk longs for don’t require gamertags. Cablepunk is if the NES had Xbox Live. Playing retro games on Steam or Switch doesn’t cut it for me. There’s something about those damn bulky cartridges that is required for the experience.

Anyway, I’ve never been good at adopting personas. I’m always just Stephen Oravec. Consequently, I haven’t been good at adopting Cablepunk as my online alias because of that, but also because cablepunk is meant to be so much more than me. This blog was originally going to be some attempt to reconcile Cablepunk as a proper noun, but also an abstract noun, as well as an adjective. At some point during this fucking pandemic I got fixated on Transformers being able to do that. But then I added G.I. Joe to that, then threw Star Wars into the mix, and then I got all excited about video games again thanks to the imminent preorders of the Analogue Pocket which, if you missed it, that’s okay because it was a clusterfuck.

However, the damage was done because my mind was back on link cables. The thought of linking an Analogue Pocket to a Game Boy Advance is so fucking cablepunk I’m just not not going to do that someday. And, damn, I really want to get back into collecting NES and SNES cartridges. And, let’s be honest, the original PlayStation is the best video game console of all time as much as I say it’s the SNES and want it to be the NES.

So, once I got the concept of vintage into my mind, a lot of possibilities sprang up, and the fact that I haven’t brought Masters of the Universe or LEGO into this yet is some exercise in self-restraint. Anyway, “vintage toy collector” sounds good to me, and I think I’ll just roll with that.

Let’s Roll

The plan is to photograph and write about vintage and vintage-inspired action figures and video games on this site with my online alias of Cablepunk. If this doesn’t work, I’ll just do what I always do and chuck all this material onto StephenOravec.com. But I’m really hoping to develop my toy photography skills here, and I’d like to build a focused website that is fun and useful to some fandoms while still being one person’s blog. I don’t have the time, money, or ambition to collect everything, but there are certain sublines and subgroups I’m interested in. For example, with NES games, it’s the black box cartridges I’d like to collect. Collecting things is fun, but it’s also expensive. Regardless, I’d like what I do here to serve some sort of historical, psychological, and archaeological purpose, at least at the layperson’s level. I mean, why collect anything? This connection to things is what I want to explore.

Now, the next order of business is to get a little light box and plan out some posts. Progress here will be slow as my financial situation is definitely going to place some limits on timely posts, but I have enough vintage toys lying around to rediscover and photograph.