01 September 2022
Epic robot battles? Secret alter-egos? Hidden animations? Retro-1980s images? The Royal Mail’s set of Transformers stamps is enough to bring out the Serious Big Kid in any stamp collector.
Perhaps the best thing about Royal Mail’s Transformers stamps is that you can’t take them at face value! Based on the wildly popular 1980s comics and animated TV series, there’s more to the 13-stamp set of Special Stamps than meets the eye.
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The main set consists of eight stamps, produced in pairs. They show original illustrations of the Autobots and Decepticons in battle and feature Transformers:
- Optimus Prime
The ‘hidden’ feature is that the stamps are printed with UV ink. When the stamps are shone under a UV light, the stamps are transformed so that hidden details are revealed.
Not only that, but if the stamps are scanned on the Royal Mail App (choose Scan A Stamp), they’re brought to life with unique Augmented Reality animation that includes a clip from the original Transformers TV series.
Illustrated in retro Generation One-style, the stamp images were created for Royal Mail by British comic-book artists Andrew Wildman (pencils), Stephen Baskerville (inks) and John Paul Bove (colours).
All three artists have contributed to the Transformers comic series. Five further stamps, presented in a miniature sheet, feature the Dinobots; Grimlock, Snarl, Slug, Sludge and Swoop.
The presentation pack, which contains the eight stamps in the main set and the Dinobots Miniature Sheet, has been written by Transformers comic book writer James Roberts.
It provides a detailed look at the background to the story series, and the attributes of each character featured in the collection, as well as information about TFUK, the Transformers comic books first published in the UK in 1984.
Transformers not just in name
The Royal Mail’s Transformers stamps set is entirely in the tradition of the franchise, which has seen many evolutions in its nearly 40-year history, when it began as a mecha toy line from US company Hasbro and Japanese company Takara Tomy – mecha usually refers to giant robots with humanoid or biomorphic characteristics.
The original Transformers were robotic life forms that displayed human behaviour.
‘Generation One’ of the Transformers franchise included the US animated TV series that aired between 1984 and 1987, and the 80-issue Marvel comic series that ran between 984 and 1991.
‘Generation Two’ featured a new toy line, a 12-issue Marvel comic series and a TV series called Beast Wars, which led to a second series, Beast Machines, and more and varied Transformer incarnations.
The first animated sci-fic action Transformers film, Transformers: The Movie, was released in 1986, causing deep distress amongst young fans as starring characters, in particular Autobot leader Optimus Prime, were slaughtered – in 2019 Den of Geek immortalised it as ‘the Great Toy Massacre of 1986.’
Although the initial reviews were largely negative, the film is now seen as a milestone in animation history – yet another transformation associated with the franchise!
Although the Transformers mythos has evolved continuously throughout its long history, there is a core premise – that the metal planet of Cybertron is engulfed by a brutal civil war. The Autobots are the good guys and the Decepticons are the villains.
Early Transformers were seen as standard yet sophisticated robots – once constructed, they came to life as a fully existing individual. Later, the idea developed of the Transformers as fully conscious living entities – the Spark Infusion injected life into a Transformer. From here, various processes evolved for reproducing new forms of Transformer, so that Autobots and Decepticons were referred to as ‘The Ancestor’.
The constant evolution of new varieties of Transformers is an inevitable aspect of the brand. The various parts of the Transformers franchise – comics, TV series, films, computer games – were all part of a media brand that was designed to sell toys. Transformers figures weren’t the first ‘super robot’ figures to be sold in the western world, but they became the most recognisable, and with each new iteration of the Transformers, more and more collectable figures could be introduced.
Manufacturer Hasbro became the world’s most valuable toymaker on the back of sale of Transformers figures, and Transformers has been credited with altering the relationship between the Hollywood movie industry and the toy industry, particularly following 2007’s blockbuster Transformers, directed by Michael Bay.