A couple of days ago, this thread appeared at TFW2005, showing a picture of what is assumed to be an exclusive toy available at BotCon next month: Tigatron. This has reignited a surprisingly large amount of debate.
For the uninitiated, here's a brief primer: Tigatron was one of the first characters introduced after the beginning of the Beast Wars cartoon about a decade ago. It is strongly implied in the cartoon that "new" characters (with one or two explicit exceptions) were actually born during the events of the series, and therefore did not exist prior to it. Since the toys at BotCon this year are meant to establish "pre-Beast Wars" versions of Beast Wars characters, a BotCon Tigatron would appear to contradict established continuity.
The "real world" reasons why Fun Publications would want to produce a Tigatron toy are obvious. Cheetor is already established as a toy in the exclusive box set, and FP has spent a considerable amount of money giving this toy a new head (as opposed to the one molded into the Clocker toy that Cheetor is based on). Since the original Tigatron is a straight repaint of the original Cheetor toy, it makes economical sense for FP to get another recolor out of their new Cheetor head by making a Tigatron exclusive, as well.
Now, I'm already on record on several of the message boards as saying that it's not a big deal to establish a "pre-Beast Wars" form for Tigatron, and an explanation could easily be written that would not violate the established continuity of the cartoon. This has not placated many fans, some of whom contend that an essential part of Tigatron's character (indeed, the essential part, to hear some tell it) is his origins on Earth, and that Tigatron therefore feels more comfortable in natural surroundings than among the technology in his friends' home base. But surely there are many people who grew up in the "big city" who today feel more comfortable in "natural" surroundings, even here on Earth, where I expect we can safely assume that we share a common planet of birth. Even more to the point, although it is well-established that Tigatron has no memory of the Transformers' home planet, this could simply be the result of amnesia (it is also established that there were problems with Tigatron's "datatracks" during his "birth"), which would of course make it natural for Tigatron to prefer whatever settings he finds familiar, which in this case would be the natural environment that is the first thing he remembers.
It is certainly the case that Pete Sinclair, one of the most respected Transformers fans behind BotCon, has assured fans that many of the writers behind the series have given their okay to the story we'll be getting, and that nothing in the BotCon toys and story will contradict the cartoon. But whether or not an explanation can be made is, perhaps, beside the point. I would certainly agree that the intention of the writers 10 years ago was that Tigatron (and most other "new" characters established during the course of the series) be considered "newborns," despite some of the logistical and moral implications of such a position (for example, is it ethical to populate an exploratory vessel with innocent lives, before they've had any opportunity to choose for themselves what kind of life they desire?). If the people behind BotCon care as much about the established Transformers myth as they claim to (and I've no doubt they do), then arguably they should have respected the apparent intention of the original stories, even if it is possible to "explain" a "pre-Beast Wars" Tigatron.
I expect that this argument will continue for quite some time. For me, I have no problem with "pre-Beast Tigatron." The toy looks cool, it makes good economic sense for FP to make it, and I look forward to adding it to my collection and seeing what explanation the writers of the convention comic will provide for the character's existence.