Boyhood passion morphs into new identity Transformers fan who took his hero's name is prime example of appeal By Kim Hone-McMahan Beacon Journal staff writer Optimus Prime of Cuyahoga Falls holds a comic book artist's rendering of himself and the Transformer character of the same name. Phil Masturzo / Akron Beacon Journal Optimus Prime of Cuyahoga Falls holds a comic book artist's rendering of himself and the Transformer character of the same name.
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Optimus Prime is the leader of the good Autobots Transformers. He's big and strong and can metamorphose into a truck.
Optimus Prime is also from Cuyahoga Falls.
It all started in the '80s, when Scott Edward Nall was just a little tyke and loved playing with Transformers toys. Of course, Optimus Prime was among his favorites. So, for his 30th birthday, Nall decided to transform a bit of himself, legally changing his name to match the action figure.
A couple of years before he left for Iraq in 2003, with Ohio's 5694th National Guard Unit from Mansfield, he made the switch. While serving the country, he bore his new name proudly on the chest of his uniform.
``I just wanted to do something outlandish for my birthday,'' said Prime, who now works as an Army contractor with Slayer, Fire, Rescue in Baghdad.
So, do people rib him about being named after a Transformer?
``Not in a serious way,'' he said, sporting a smirk. ``People are afraid to tease others who do something like this because they figure they must be crazy to begin with... so why push it?''
The father of a 9-year-old son, Sean, is among a large faction of avid Transformers fans. Some of these guys, who used to curl up on the living-room floor and play with the engineering masterpieces when they were kids, are now recapturing their childhood with the help of the recently released Transformers movie.
Dan Hare, who owns the Toys Time Forgot in Canal Fulton, said there's been a steady stream of Transfans in his store for the past six months in anticipation of the movie. The place is packed with all kinds of toys, from newer items to the old and unusual.
Among the customers are guys who sold their Transformers years ago to buy things like college books. Now they have jobs and are interested in buying the toys back. Sometimes they bring their kids. While Dad looks for the toys of yesteryear, the youngsters are interested in starting collections of their own -- beginning with the new stuff.
Store employee Fred Collington is a Transformer expert. A few months ago, a guy came in asking whether the store would be interested in buying a Fortress Maximus, still in the box. It's considered, if complete, the Holy Grail of Transformers, worth $600-$1,500 depending on its condition.
Collington said the man mentioned having some more Transformers and that he would return with them.
``He came back with a truckload,'' Collington said.
Though it's mostly a guy thing, Transformers are appealing to some women. Truth is, sometimes they like the toys simply because they hold special memories for the men in their lives. A 20-something Transfan, for example, was longing for Scorponok and Predaking, but hesitated spending money on the toys. Realizing it was the perfect birthday gift for her husband, the man's bride bought it as a surprise.
``Where else can you buy a piece of someone's childhood?'' Hare noted.
Last week, Prime returned from Iraq so he and his son could attend BotCon 2007, a four-day convention for Transfans held in Providence, R.I. One of the highlights was an appearance by Peter Cullen, the voice of Optimus Prime -- a character who uses all of his talents to make the world a better place. Prime had a chance to speak privately with Cullen.
``He told me that I was his hero, the real Optimus Prime, and that we were bonded now.''
The guys working at the Toys Time Forgot, which Prime calls the best toy store in the world, have seen the new Transformers movie and claim it's one of the greatest shows they've seen in their lives.
As the superhero would say: ``That's just Prime.''