Thursday, 17 September 2015

Masterforce Interview: Maz

Masterforce owner, Morgan, had a chance to catch up with Maz recently and below is the resulting interview.

Maz is someone I've known now for about 15 years, meeting him as he started collecting again as an adult and currently I count him amongst my closest friends. Since we first met he has gone on to become known as an expert on Diaclones, Joustra Diaclones, Minibot variations, MB variations, non-English language variations, Transformers Animated and pretty much anything you can care to name. Having written some of the fandom's most comprehensive documents and regular articles, he can regularly be found on the TFW2005 boards answering the harder questions fans post...but just don't ask him about Swerve...

My intent was a 1,000 word interview but in all honesty, how do you cram so much into so few words? There are more famous names in the fandom but what isn't often appreciated is that before writing their books that then appear on Amazon, those more famous names have enlisted Maz's help for fact checking, filling in blanks or use of materials. Interviewing someone with encyclopaedic knowledge who has contributed so much to Transformers history in just 1,000 words is a bit of an insult. I also feel that splitting the interview into multiple parts would spoil the flow of it so grab your drink of choice and get comfortable.

Q. Thanks for doing the interview, please tell readers unfamiliar with you a bit about yourself.

A. My name is Maz, I'm 35 and I'm a UK Transformers collector and fan. I've been a member of the Transformers fan community since 1998 and soon after that started to contribute properly as a writer of articles and reviews online. I have written for a number of toy collecting websites and blogs in that time such as Masterforce and TFSource Blog, as well as for my own TF-1 site and Transformers Square One blog. I've also contributed photos of toys and artwork scans to a handful of official Transformers publications. 

Q. How did you first become aware of Transformers and what was your first toy?

A. I first encountered Transformers via the 3-part pilot cartoon episode Arrival From Cybertron VHS (More Than Meets The Eye in the US) and the bit-part episodes we got on UK terrestrial TV. 

On a trip to a large London Toys 'R' Us in what must have been 1986, I was staring at Teddy Ruxpin dolls when my mum told me that my brother had already found The Transformers. I saw the wall of Generation 1 toys, nothing was ever the same after that! The first Transformer bought for me that day was Starscream.

You even got Robot Points for the videos

Q. Unlike a lot of Transformers fans in the UK you never read the UK comic, did it not appeal to you?

A. For the most part I didn't even know it existed! I would see the odd cartoon and that was it. This was part of the reason VHS episodes in the UK were such gold dust in the 90s for me, they were a gateway to new unseen Transformers fiction. Downloading all the G1 episodes online in 1999/2000 was amazing. But back to Marvel UK, I just wasn't aware, and the few Marvel US issues I had bought in the 90s in and amongst my superhero comic titles did not inspire me to investigate further. The only UK comic I've ever owned as a child was the Headmasters era story I bought at the same time as my Headmaster Apeface. I was confused as to where all the cartoon characters I knew and loved had gone, I didn't recognise anyone. Never pursued it any further after that.

Most of us in the UK were traumatised by this in 1988. Maz experienced it in 2002.

Q. Did you stop collecting at any point or did your interest carry on into adulthood?

A. I stopped being interested in Transformers right around the start of Micromasters. I believe the last Transformers toy I received was Micromaster Skystalker. I didn't buy another Transformer again until 1998 and a boxed Mexican Snarl. 

Q. Were you ever interested in Beast Wars or the lines following on from G1 and G2?
A. I never did take an interest in Beast Wars (do remember being amused by the TV adverts and the names, and what Transformers had morphed into), 1990s G1 or G2. It's only in the last year or so that I've started to go back and discover everything I'd missed, things like the incredibly nice Turbomaster Rotorstorm. 

Q. So when you started collecting again as an adult what were your immediate goals?

A. Same as most collectors, get the significant G1 Transformers characters and toys I never managed to convince my parents to buy me as a child. The first goal was to pick up G1 Ramjet, the only seeker neither me nor my cousin had as a child. A collector's store in South London, and later Offworld and my first exposure to regular Internet in late 1998/99 really opened my eyes to what I could have. Toys like Devastator, Shockwave, Megatron, Swoop, all the Dinobots, stuff I had never seen as a child.

Maz would eventually own a production sample Ramjet.

Q. What led to your interest in Diaclone?

A. Actually Morg I think you are directly responsible for this one! You introduced me to the Yahoo Diaclone Group about 14/15 years ago after I met you through (archived at for some trades, and I was immediately drawn to the rainbow colours of the pre-G1 Autobot cars, the Diaclone Car Robots. Seeing my favourites in 'new' colours caused me to abandon my aim of completing the G1 cast and focus on variants and pre-TFs, directly influenced by what the people on that group were buying and talking about. Their websites, which were very popular at the time, very much decided my direction. 

Q. How did becoming aware of the world of Diaclone, Microman, Microchange and international variants change your collecting habits and interest in the hobby?

A. It caused me to completely abandon my hunt for the standard G1 cast. As a result I have owned many rare variants and discovered never before seen international versions of Diaclones, MC toys, TFs etc but it also means I have never owned bread and butter TFs like Blaster, Octane, Sandstorm, Trypticon, Fort Max, Sludge, Abominus, Menasor, Superion, Deluxe Insecticons, Whirl, Roadbuster, Doubledealer etc

I wouldn't change it though as it allowed me to see a part of the hobby many collectors will never experience, allowed me to have some degree of identity in the online community, helped by the writing I have done in the Pre-TF field for years. 

Q. When we set up Autocon would it be safe to say that being away from the hostility of ATT gave you an opportunity to share your opinions and started you down the road to writing?

A. Yes, that's a very fair assessment. It also allowed you and I to try and recreate the feel of the Yahoo Diaclone group and avoid the animosity that was starting to build up there. Being the group co-founder allowed me the confidence to start as many conversations, discussions and polls as I wanted and this led to getting to know a lot of good people well. We did some great work in Autocon, work that we felt nobody outside the group really cared about at the time, but we all shared a mutual interest in. We busted that ring of fake reissue lucky draw Black God Ginrai sellers too. 

(Masterforce note: ATT - - a now defunct newsgroup which was, for a long time, the only way to communicate with other Transformers fans on a large scale. Forums didn't always exist kids!)

The love of racing is apparent

Q. You set up your website in 2005, was the name inspired by your not so secret love of Forumla 1 racing?

A. That was more of a happy coincidence! What was even more coincidental was the background colour for the website had the code F1F1F1! It was more a reference to being at square one, the first place, due to so much of my writing being pre-Transformers related, and could also be seen as a new start for me where I was completely in control of how my work was presented and catalogued. 

Q. What led to you drifting away from Transformers?

A. In 2003 I took a year away, although it was meant to be a permanent departure. I had grown very disillusioned with the people on our group and I found myself becoming more and more disenchanted with the direction the hobby was going, or rather my corner of it. The new toys weren't appealing to me and that combined with real life drama in personal relationships and work meant it was hard for me to sustain interest in the hobby. I sold off many many nice things, keeping only a reissue Tigertrack and White Astrotrain as souvenirs. I came back in 2004 thanks to you discovering that the legendary black Tracks was from Finland, this led to the creation of TF-1 and a rebirth of my collecting and involvement. After 2 BotCons, the first live movie and meeting my wife to be I drifted away again in 2008, selling much less this time, keeping my Ceji Joustra Diaclone which was rapidly becoming my signature interest and collection. Another Diaclone Tracks (Ceji Joustra) brought me back in 2011. 

Q. In the interim years you were one of the best competitive Gran Turismo players and started professionally writing about motor racing, how did that come about?

A. I've always loved Gran Turismo, since its inception in 1997, and since I was so active online after Transformers I was able to discover the GT community. I felt compelled to compete and compare myself to all the other players online (we all believed growing up we were the best GT player as we whipped  all our mates regularly) and I realised how far off the best I was. Gran Turismo 5 Prologue was the catalyst for my deep involvement in the GT community and competitions, racing online against other people for the first time. I bought a simulation driving wheel and pedal set as well as a stand, learned how to do what the best were doing and started to compete properly. Making the second UK GT Academy finals was a major achievement for me and having the odd world record lap time was enormously satisfying. My time in GT Academy led me to work with the organisers in being a link to the community, writing articles and interviews for GTPlanet initially and then officially for Sony and GT in a very small capacity. I also helped structure the national finals a number of times and was staff at the events, eventually supervising the running of the gaming part of the UK finals and other related events. 

Q. Is that still something you write about or would be interested in pursuing?

A. I would but I'm well out of touch. The racing gear has been sold as after having our daughter the time for gaming vanished. I don't think I've played any games regularly since 2012. I haven't bought a game since 2011. I briefly tried the 2013/14 academy and was so off the pace it was funny. Ultimately the work was amazing fun and the events I had the privilege to take part in, including a brilliant Red Bull and Mercedes event in Austria, were valuable but I've not been able to connect the dots and have it positively affect the direction of my career in that field. Motorsport journalism ended up being savagely difficult to break into even with the very best recommendations from people on the inside. 

(Note from Masterforce: Maz's published work was unavailble at this time but his old blog about Formula 1 can be read here)

GT-R Megatron

Q. Did you ever consider making the switch from video games to actual racing? Do you think it's something you could have been succesful at?

A. No haha, as much as I'd love to think I could have, at my age even in 2008 I was well past it. I've never been an athlete and despite the many many hundreds and thousands of hours I put into becoming one of the top gamers, I could always tell there were others with a natural ability that set them apart. Maybe if I'd started much younger and started driving earlier. 

Q. While Transformers were on the backburner, you still had a special relationship with Transformers because it ties into meeting your wife?

A. The 2007 movie was initially responsible for me meeting my wife in a way, as the premiere of that film at BotCon 2007 meant Paul Hitchens (The Spacebridge) and I decided to be at BotCon that year and then to NYC afterwards for a few days. That's where I met my wife. I remember watching Animated on the plane to and from Iceland a lot when I was not yet living with my wife-to-be and I did buy the odd thing in Icelandic stores. The first present I ever gave her was a Slumblebee that first time we met as she came to say bye when we were leaving NYC.

Maz's daughter: making the internet collectively 'awwwwww'.

Q. What brought you back to Transformers collecting?

A. In 2004 it was an email from you which went something along the lines of "Oi c*ntface, check this out" and it was evidence of the Diaclone Black Tracks being from Finland, and in 2011 it was Argus or Martin Lund showing me that someone had found a boxed Ceji Joustra Diaclone Red Tracks. 

Q. At what point did you start writing again?

A. TFSource approached me around April 2011, a month after I came back, and asked me if I'd be interested in doing weekly articles for their soon to launch TFSource Blog. I had a choice of what I wanted to write about initially and it seemed a good way to get involved in the hobby and get my work out there again. There was decent reward in it too, so win win! I think by September 2011 everything was in place and the Source Blog went weekly. 

Q. Was the fandom a different place when you came back to it?

A. Yes, very much so. Dishearteningly so, at first. I didn't know any of the Diaclone or variant big hitters any more and was out of touch with the budget required to be a part of the hobby. So much had happened in the community and the TF industry since I'd been away and a lot of my old mates had since left the hobby. Ironically my articles were better known than ever and this had the effect of getting more people interested in what I was writing about years ago, meaning competition for toys was higher than ever. I couldn't compete and initially had difficulty accepting that the toys I loved the most were the ones I could least afford. A lot of people had more impressive collections than I did which was fine as I was happy to rebuild, but availability and inflated prices soon instilled in me a sense of reality. I'd never be able to achieve my pre-TF goals. So it was a case of expanding my interests or being satisfied with what I had. It was also strange that the flavour of the month was not something I had any knowledge of or connection to.

A real Corvette Stingray would cost less than these two.

Q. You were known as the main source of information on variations, specifically Minibots. Have you ever been met with the same hostility about variants like Daniel Vink was?

A. I was never met with hostility as by the time I started to document and research variants and TF history, people like Daniel and yourself had laid foundations. The worst thing I had to contend with was apathy. Apathy towards my writing and my areas of interest. 

(Note from Masterforce: Daniel Vink was a Dutch collector known online as Devvi who discovered and publicised the first known examples of Marlboor Wheeljack, the MB red Tracks, Joustra Diaclones and many Minibot variants. Unfortunately he was met with vast amounts of hostility from mainly US collectors who felt that The Netherlands couldn't possibly have so many Transformer variants as the US was the 'home' of Transformers. Vink was regularly accused of bootlegging Transformers or trying to pass customs off as authentic but absolutely everything he ever found and documented is now accepted as legitimate. Sadly he stopped collecting around 2001, left the fandom and has never seen his work recognised for how essential it was.)
The Seaspray at the top was thought to be a prototype until Maz found the rest of the set pictured.

Q. Do you find it frustrating that by writing about these rare variations you inspired others to collect them and created competitors for rare pieces you still need?

A. The enlightened answer would be no, it's great that people are more educated and aware now, it's created a much more knowledgeable community that appreciates what you and I have contributed and we are getting far far more homages and nods to things like minibot variants and pre-Transformers in official lines than ever before. More discoveries are made because there are more eyes out there knowing what to look for. The history of the Transformers is now a much clearer image than it was a decade ago thanks to the work of collectors who did their homework and contributed their talent to the community.

The selfish answer is yes, get off my damn property! 

Of course folks were collecting Ceji Joustra and Japanese Diaclone before me, and I expect they won't thank me for shining a spotlight on it.

The most complete Joustra Diaclone collection in the world.

Q. With the exception of your Joustra collection, would it be fair to call you a collection rotator? What other lines have you collected since coming back?

A. Yes my collection does get rotated but it has never been intentional. If I had my way I would have kept every single thing I'd ever bought. I know how that dream collection would look today as well because I see it in the collections of my friends who I sold toys to or who never stopped buying what we were all interested in from back in the late 90s/early 00s. As it is though, various priorities and changes therein have meant I have always kept a very trim collection, and whenever I've gone off on a new tangent it's been selling of toys that has funded it so I'm not surprised that's how it looks! 

Just recently though as I've been buying cheaper and more accessible lines, my collection has ballooned. The sell off has started again, though, as I'm back buying G1 so I hope to return to a more skinny and focused collection again. 

Q. Most collectors probably know you now from your work for TFSource, how did that come about?

A. I first met the gentleman in charge of TFSource over a decade ago on the forums, he was a Japanese and U.S. Transformers collector so we spoke a lot about toys and collecting. I was just starting to write for others at the time that he started the store so eventually I submitted articles to him for the old incarnation of the site and it blossomed from there. 

Q. Your earlier articles focused on Diaclones and G1 but over the last year or so you've been doing more reviews, which do you prefer?

A. I love that I am exploring new lines and I love the feeling that my reviews are current, a bit more finger on the pulse and less archaic history that interests some and not others, but for sure an article on vintage Transformers and pre-Transformers flows out much more naturally for me. I've absolutely adored writing about the 1987 Headmasters (Decepticons and Autobots) and Targetmasters recently. 

The reviews I feel obligated to write honestly and so I feel a responsibility to fellow collectors along with a natural responsibility to those sending the samples to give every review item a fair whack. Everyone who sends me toys currently to review knows full well I review honestly, and the companies who were not comfortable with that I guess will not send me more samples. All of this is added responsibility for my writing, which makes it feel more like work than a vintage G1 article.

Q. Which of your articles has been best received and which, if any attracted the most criticism?

A. Well received is a tough one, because going by views and shares it would be "All Our Toys" which discussed what would happen to our toys when we die, and yet there were not many pages of online discussion about it on forums. Others do well on forums but the share numbers are lower. Also it varies over time, it used to be that any Masterpiece article automatically went stratospheric, before that the G1 articles would do well but that's changed a bit recently and I almost cannot predict what will do well and what will flop. I expected a lot more success for a couple of recent 3rd party reviews but they have not performed as expected in terms of shares. 

As for the most criticised, that depends on where I post the articles. Some forums are more harsh than others. For example on TFW the collector interviews are very well received, but on another forum they are met with apathy and ignored, and in one other place they are just flat out criticised. I found also if I did a list of what I thought were the standout releases of a particular year, I'd get a lot of stick for leaving out people's favourites. That's always going to happen for a topic where it's purely opinion based. 

Q. There's been a fair bit of backlash recently against certain reviewers who get testshots, positively review them and then the end product is dire. You've experienced a difference between test shots and final products haven't you?

A. Yes that's correct, on two occasions I have given a clean bill of health for the quality control on certain test shots only for production ones to have major issues. When the finger was being pointed at reviewers for under-reporting issues and worrying too much about what the company sending them free samples would think, I wasn't concerned because people realised I wasn't going the same way. However when I legitimately said a figure was top quality and issue free, then the final production version caused so much grief, that's out of my hands and yes I did find that frustrating. I have a habit of taking the samples to UK pub meets and shows though so there are plenty of witnesses to good quality samples that I have endorsed!

Running Scoria at a pub meet

Q. Were you worried that you'd get the same backlash of being accused of deliberately glossing over problems and have you had any?

A. Only my association with TFSource has caused people (some of whom didn't think I'd read their comments) to assume I wrote biased reviews to sell TFsource products, but on many occasions I had reviewed things that TFSource did not stock, were sold out of or were not going to have again soon. I think I'm lucky I've been writing for so long because I've established some integrity and a reputation for honesty, I'm hoping I have, and that will always help in such situations. I'm far too concerned about what people think of me to jeopardise what good credit I have. 

Q. Do you feel that there is some dishonesty when it comes to some of the reviews we see out there?

A. I'd be lying if I said I could answer this comprehensively as many of the reviews I just haven't seen in full. I could probably recall occasions where the community has singled out gloss-overs or - conversely - unfair criticism of a review sample/3rd party product. It'd be naive to say there wasn't some agenda involved somewhere, but I couldn't tell you who and where. 

Maz's test shot reviews gave us the running pose which is now copied by 3P companies and other reviewers

Q. Out of the third party companies you've interacted with, which ones do you find the most professional and which one's products do you enjoy the most?

A. In terms of toys that I collect myself, MMC, FansToys and more recently Unique Toys/DX9 have impressed me. I've just got myself Utopia, Visualizers, Axle and Cupola from MakeToys and frankly they are brilliant, so they're a new favourite. I've enjoyed BadCube products too but tended not to keep them for various reasons. I like everything I've seen from Mech iDeas and although production didn't match my test shot, I thought that test shot Guttur from GigaPower was pretty good for a first figure. 

MMC are the most pleasant for me to deal with on all fronts, FansToys always get back to me quickly and have supported my work from the first email I sent them, with MakeToys I just realised recently one of their contacts I've known for years and they are communicating with me well just now as a reviewer and also separately as a customer. 

Q. Are there any companies out there that you think are underrated by the Transformers community?

A. Mech iDeas for a start. Any toy of theirs I've experienced has been very nice. DX9 are doing some exceptionally nice things and because they're not precisely ticking every single official Masterpiece box, I think beautiful toys like Invisible, Chigurh and Carry are not rated as universally highly as they should be. I can't comment on Toyworld as I've never experienced one of their products.

DX9's Invisible with Masterpiece Wheeljack

Q. Have you had any opportunities to work with Hasbro or Takara on reviews or other projects?

A. Not on reviews, no opportunities, but I have contributed to a number of IDW projects and publications which has been very enjoyable and satisfying. 

Q. Do you have a goal for your writing and reviewing? Have you ever considered having a You Tube channel?

A. My dream would be to be able to write, review, do books and reference material for a living. If I could earn enough to support my family comfortably on reviewing toys, writing paid articles regularly, producing books and published material, doing video reviews etc full time I think I would. Maybe I haven't pursued it seriously enough with proper ambition beyond social media because I don't have the courage or faith to believe the brand popularity would sustain a long term income for me doing that. 

I have considered a YouTube channel and video reviews primarily because they seem to be much more popular, more viewed, more talked about and more suited to today's online culture than my written and photographic material, regardless of which stands the test of time better or has better content. I'm more naturally drawn to writing and photography because I just think it's more beautiful, more accessible over a long period of time and a better format of reference material. It's not disposable (I don't mean physically). I wouldn't consider video reviews if they weren't so hot right now and gaining so much exposure and recognition for those responsible compared to written reviews and articles. In short, I'd rather not, but I will if I have to. 

Q. You're a big fan of IDW's More Than Meets the Eye series, who is your favourite character and why do you hate Swerve so much?

A. I was late to the series but once I got into it in August 2013 I found myself drawn to Rodimus and Drift the most. I think these days I enjoy the stories that involve the season 1 cast prominently, especially Ratchet, Brainstorm and Chromedome. Anything that takes place pre-war is wonderful. 

Swerve, jeez, can't stand the bugger. Attention-seeking trouble-making selfish little...I think Cyclonus's speech about why he was not popular said it all in issue 43.

(Masterforce note: Cyclonus' speech was:

"Your humor is cruel and usually at other people's expense. You're a passive-aggressive rumormonger who avoids meaningful work, and your "pranks" are foolish and often dangerous
and yet you clearly have something going for you, because here we are, we came looking for you.
No. You don't realize what I'm saying. Everyone came looking for you. All of us. Everyone on the (sic) board the Lost Light. Ultra Magnus...Chromedome...Rewind...and two hundred more. Even though it hurts them to project this far - even though it means putting their lives at ricks...they're all out there, spread out across the city, across the world, desperate to find you.")



Q. Come on, he's not that bad.

A. You, sir, are a baboon. 

Q. Have you ever considered writing Transformers fan fiction much like More Than Meets the Eye writer Justin Roberts did?

A. Not at all, I can't write fiction. Plus I prefer being told the story and enjoying the ride that someone has crafted, I'd not want to influence what in my mind is a beautiful created tapestry that's being revealed one issue at a time. 

Q. In your years of collecting what are the rarest or most unusual items you have found?

A. Rarest items would have to be the wave 2 1985 Ceji Joustra Diaclones of which less than 5 of each figure have ever been found, in some cases none have been found. Finnish Diaclone and Micro Change Series toys are extremely rare, we are talking single figure finds in decades. Oddities that really got my attention were the mad variety of Minibots and although I've become immune to the vast array of variants now, and they don't excite me as much, seeing carded Optimus vs Malignus minibots from Brazil always blows my mind. The Panasonic Ă…ngrom Micro Change pre-Frenzy is crazy rare too and quite a mystery still. In Transformers, things like the GiG Predaking giftset and GiG Star Saber remain mythical and I've yet to see pictures. Also Milton Bradley Starscream boxes with Thundercrackers inside are enormously rare and bizarre. 

Beyond production stuff, just about every early stage G1 prototype has wowed me, especially when you see concepts that didn't quite make it to the production stage. 

About as common as rocking horse manure

Q. The community, like any cross section of society, has good and bad to it. Can you share some of your best and worst experiences and some of the best and worst things you've heard of?

A. Best experiences include going to conventions and seeing people in real life that I've spent a decade or more speaking to online, actually making genuinely good friends who have been there for me at tough times or just people I can now call close mates - all from this shared interest of Transformers. Most recently, we have formed a lovely group of UK based collectors and enthusiasts who meet up in London at pubs - with the occasional TF celebrity attending - that has completely reaffirmed my faith and enjoyment in the hobby and community. The amount of knowledge, wisdom and kindness of the people in this group never fails to surprise me. I consider these guys very good friends, and because the topic of conversation is rarely only Transformers, it's become a legitimate circle of friends that I look forward to spending time with regularly. 

I'm lucky in that I haven't had any seriously negative experiences, but I do hate it when I find out attendees have stolen toys from dealer tables at shows (I've had stuff nicked as well). It's also a little sad when at a convention you do see people sitting by themselves, I heard someone say in the bar at Auto Assembly "If only he had a shared interest with the people around him..", and while that was a joke, it does highlight the fact that there can still be highly cliquey exclusive pockets of a relatively local community that do not welcome people. General bickering and taking opinions of others to be declarations of war on the Internet does grow tiresome. Seeing how many people in the community happily accept deliberate counterfeits of official product over the real thing bothers me endlessly. It may be fundamentally hypocritical to support 3rd party products and then condemn counterfeits, but you know what you are getting with 3P, it's not trying to fool people into buying something they think is official. 

Q. You recently wrote an article on grail pieces, other than the Joustra items and Finnish Diaclones listed on your website wants list do you have any other grail pieces?

A. In the last few years I've had the pleasure of speaking with the Ceji Joustra Diaclone artists responsible for the comic and box artwork for that series, so a major treasure for me would be the original artwork for issue 1 of the Joustra "War on Diaclona" comic as it would feature the Ceji Joustra Diaclone Mirage box artwork. I would also love to get my hands on the Takara C-325 Greatshot box artwork. I know where both these pieces of artwork are, but the 4 figure sums required to purchase them are prohibitive. I have also just added a UK boxed G1 Fortress Maximus to my wants list. 

When the day comes that I can spend with abandon and have nothing left to discover, I'd very much love to re-buy my childhood G1 in sealed condition, starting with Starscream, Hubcap and Smokescreen. UK price tags on boxes would be necessary!

Q. A few weeks ago Hasbro rolled out a survey for it's UK buyers which got a huge amount of coverage in TF circles. What were your thoughts on the survey, how detailed it was and what do you read into it?

A. I enjoyed it very much as it showed me someone with community and hobby knowledge had been hired to produce the survey for them. The questions were limited in some sections and required some serious thought from me in others. I doubt anyone's answers to annual spend made for particularly comfortable reading!

I did feel some concern about divulging my interests in unofficial products and some of my answers would give away my identity to anyone who's ever known me, but there's far more valuable things Hasbro could do with that info than victimise people for their spending preferences.  

Q. Do you think we'll see a Hasbro clamp down on third party products and are 3P starting to burn out anyway?

A. I do hear from sources - and have done for over 2 years - that there will be a massive clamp down and that the 3P scene will eat itself. While I'm not convinced this will happen overnight in a show of fireworks, I can see that retailers are seeing less and less profit on items from particular companies, especially when said companies want retailers to drop their retail prices below what they've bought the stock in at originally.  I also see how much the companies are placing themselves in direct competition with each other - and occasionally HasTak - to win over what they believe to be the most lucrative slice of collector interest. That's ultimately going to cost some companies dear. I've never been someone who was good at seeing the big picture, so I will undoubtedly be surprised by the outcome of this whole situation.

Q. Where do you see Transformers going in future?

A. More movies, more current lines that collectors enjoy being put on hold or dropped in favour or associated movie toys, more focus on Generation 1 in various media, peripherals, toy inspiration (but maybe not for the movies) - which is all fine by me, but as long as there's still room for new initiatives that take the brand to new places I'm happy with that. I did enjoy the movies and subsequent toys, I loved Animated and I really like RID2015, so I'm all for new characters and imaginings of Transformers. 

I'm hoping that Masterpiece continues and picks up speed, and that they don't irritate us all with another reboot that renders our current MPs no longer compatible with a new direction, I hope we continue to get reissues, well written and drawn comics, movies and collector-focused products. I do genuinely believe we have it very bloody good at the moment. 

Q. If you were put in charge of the Transformers brand, including all media, what would you do?

A. I have no idea. I'd probably have all these expansive plans to bring back more history into the toyline and do a lot of collector centric stuff while at the same time get in as much top talent to design toys and write more comic titles, write more cartoons, continue Animated, do more reference books and art books, take full control of the conventions, make sure the movies are handled expertly by the right people, have more new characters and put a bigger budget on the mainstream lines to make sure we don't forget about the kids...and then be made aware of the budget and time constraints and end up making the same decisions that Hasbro do now. 

Q. So what's next for you?

A. I'd love to find a way to make my writing, photography and involvement in the hobby and brand become a full time paid endeavour, whether it's through ads, YouTube channels, books, monetised articles, being employed in some capacity... I don't know how to join the dots or if there are indeed any to join, but that would be my dream as far as what I'd like to do in the hobby. It's never just been a hobby to me. 

As far as collecting goes, at the moment I'm still chasing those last 9 Ceji Joustra Diaclones, I'd love to have a set of 1987 Transformers in UK boxes where possible and then explore 1988 and so on, basically all the vintage years I neglected when I set off down the Pre-TF path. 

Q. Thank you for your time, anything you'd like to say in closing?

A. Thank you for taking an interest in what I have to say and what I've spent a significant portion of my life enjoying, sharing and contributing to. Thank you also for the major positive part you've played in it personally, I'll never forget it or you.

L-R: Morgan, Argus and Maz.

A huge thanks to Maz for taking the time for a longer-than-intended interview.

For regular pictorals and short reviews, check out Maz's TF-Square One blog.

More in depth articles and reviews by Maz can be found on the TFSource Blog.

If you want to read Maz's much more detailed articles about Transformers history then have a look at TF-1. The most comprehensive document on Joustra Diaclone is on the site and can be read here. It's long but is a serious part of Transformers history.

TF-Square One is also on Facebook.

For more of Maz's stunning photography there's the TF-Square One Instagram.

Feel free to stalk follow Maz on Twitter as well.

Another important work by Maz can be found on this blog, it is his review of the pre-production Megatron's Master Plan script.