(Shout! Factory)

Every so often, a DVD collection comes out that has fanboys and fangirls turn into craven, drooling children.

Their inner 10-year old comes screaming to the surface to the shock and horror of their significant others. It makes their closest friends hang their heads in shame (unless they too are of a similar bend). Their kids will temporarily disown them, at least until its allowance time. Even hated enemies will look the other way.

The kicker, of course, is the crazed fan doesn’t give a damn. It’s just an unconscious response that will sooner or later end, especially if the fanboy of fangirl manages to beg, borrow or steal the revenues needed to get said collection.

Then here comes Shout! Factory, who have not released just one such set, but two. To top it, someone got it into his/her sadistic little heart to release this pair of absolute must-have collections at the same time.

The good news is Transformers: The Matrix of Leadership and GI Joe: Real American Hero—Complete Collectors Set sets are truly worth every penny you’ll end up paying for them; even if the complete price tag can exceed $300, depending on the state you live in (Florida, California, a couple more add state tax).

The Joe set comes with all 95 episodes of the TV series, as well as their one movie, divided among 17 DVDs, which in turn are collected into two book-like binders (Season One & Season Two). Extra content includes interviews with the guy who conceived the RAH Joes to begin with, Larry Hama; the man who wrote the first scripts, Ron Friedman; and a great round table featuring a number of the surviving voice artists. Other interesting extras include just about every Joe PSA that apparently existed, some action figure commercials, a documentary on the dolls themselves and a printable script.

Pushing things to the heights of the nearly ludicrous, the extras also includes a fanflick called “Search for the Serpent Stone.”

The outside packaging includes some amazing items in their own right. The most enjoyable is a separate flash drive, in the form of a dog tag, that includes not one, but two, complete color comic books. The temporary tattoos included are cute in a geeky kind of way, but the real treasure is the accompanying 60 page book filled with all kinds of episode and character trivia. From there, everything is collected in a solid, miniature foot locker that should win its share of packaging awards.

Of course, the biggest draw is the actual episodes. Properly sequenced, the collection covers the story of Hawk, Duke, Flint, Jaye, Scarlett, Shipwreck, Snake Eyes, etc. as they take on original adversaries Cobra Commander, Destro, the Baroness and then on through Zantar, Serpentor and the Twins. Yep, the stories may have lacked a tad in the logic department, but the high spirits and even higher torque action more than made up for it. If there’s anything found missing, it’s the original live action intros Sgt. Slaughter once used to do for the series. Now those would have been a nice touch.

In all, if you are a fan of the original “Real American Hero,” you’d be one sorry meatbag if you don’t have this collection.

While the Transformers box may not have the same level of tschotkas the Joe box does, this does not mean the content also isn’t worthy.

This time one gets all 98 episodes in 16 disks, again collected in two binders, one binder for each season. The animation covers everything from the introductory miniseries through the “death” of Optimus Prime, the rebirth of the Big Bot, and the introduction of the Headmasters. At that point, the American production of the original Robots in Disguise shut down, although more material was produced in Japan. So, what this box contains is all of the original domestic series.

Again, the tchotkas are impressive, even if they aren’t quite as impressive as the Joe box. They include another 60-page booklet covering every episode and major character in the original series and two magnets made to look like the Autobot and Decepticon logos. The booklet is well worth it.

More impressive is the extra content. It includes an in depth interview with primary TF creator Bob Budiansky, the real origin story of the Robots in Disguise from toys to animated show (including Jim Shooter and Budiansky’s original treatment), a reunion of many of the surviving voice cast members, although Peter Cullen (Optimus) is notably absent. If that isn’t enough, there are a number of original toy commercials, PSA’s and a few other bits of video trivia well worth having as part of the history.

Still, while the extras may not quite come up to the level of the Joes set, even the slide-open box feels a little cheap for the money, it’s the stories inside that makes having this an incredible must have. Personally, the Transformers story just felt more involving and cohesive than the more rowdy and sometimes just plain goofy Joe episodes. It’s not that the ‘Bots didn’t have their stinkers, overall just less of them.

What really matters these days is the fans of Transformers have proven themselves to be truly legion. As of this writing, the second of the Michael Bay-directed films has garnered nearly $750 million; not quite Dark Knight numbers, but you don’t hear producer Dreamworks complaining. The possible gate for the upcoming Joe film could be equally as staggering.

Yet when it all gets down to brass tacks, these are the two series that made it all happen. Comprehensive collections of them have been long out of print, if available at all. Yes, you are going to have to pay through the nose to get just one of these collections, but Shout! Factory does a noble job of giving fans their money’s worth.

Besides, imagine the pleasure you would have actually showing off the footlocker or TF box set to those who don’t have one. Make them grovel a little bit. Feel totally superior over your colleagues for those few precious moments. If you get these sets, in the end you’ll feel you’ve earned the right.

NOTE: Both sets are only available through mail order through the internet, and such special events like the San Diego Comic Con. For more information, check out: and

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