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Transformers Headmasters

| #1 | #2 | #3 | #4 |

#1 - "Ring of Hate!"

Cover: Bob Budiansky
Cover Date: July 1987

Script: Bob Budiansky
Pencils: Frank Springer
Inks: Ian Akin & Brian Garvey
Letters: Diana Albers
Colours: Nel Yomtov

Later Reprinted In: Transformers #130 -133 [UK], Transformers - Trial by Fire [Worldwide].

Synopsis: On Cybertron, the war wages on, and Fortress Maximus, leader of a group of Autobots, is tired of the war. He proposes leaving it behind, and settling on the planet of Nebulos. Fortress Maximus gathers the Autobots tired of the war, and they set out for Nebulos. On arrival, Highbrow scouts out the local area, but accidentally hurts a Nebulan native named Gort. In the Nebulan capital of Koraja, a politician named Zarak lobbies for the mobilisation of Nebulos' armed forces to stop the robots, but Galen disagrees. He lobbies for peace, but Zarak plots with those loyal to him, and when Blurr arrives in the city as the Autobot envoy, Zarak sets him up to look violent, triggering a riot. Galen then agrees the robots are dangerous, and unlocks Nebulos' locked weapon dumps, attacking the Autobots. The Autobots retreat rather than fight the Nebulans, and discuss their next move in a swamp. Fortress Maximus then leads a small force to the Nebulan capital, where he, Highbrow, Brainstorm, Chromedome and Hardhead remove their heads in a gesture of peace. It is enough for Galen, who orders the city's defences to stand down.

Notes: The Autobots believe Optimus Prime is dead, and therefore the story starts before #17, with the war having raged for around 4,150,000 thousand years [50,000 Vorns is the figure given]. It must be presumed it takes a while for Fortress Maximus' crew to travel to Nebulos. Among Maximus' expeditionary force are Highbrow, Brainstorm, Chromedome, Hardhead, Kup, Blurr, Hot Rod, Pointblank, Sureshot, Crosshairs, Doublecross, Repugnus, Grotusque , Scattershot, Lightspeed, Afterburner, Strafe, Nosecone, Cerebros, Landmine, Cloudburst, Waverider, Splashdown, Sky High, Groundbreaker, Getaway, Slapdash and Joyride, though not all will be revealed just yet. The number of casualties suffered by the Autobots during this arc hints at a much larger number, as do the scenes where they hand on the planet [there are at least 8 "jet" Autobots]. More of this when we get there, though. Cybertron is still spinning through space [which probably explains why there are no attempts to conventionally fly from there to Earth]. Duros is head of the Council Guard, while Krunk leads Zarak's personal militia. The Nebulons have been at peace for years, but have stockpiled all their weapons in the Arvassian Range.

Errors: First of all, I don't buy this rubbish along the lines of "Why's Afterburner seeking peace? His tech-spec says he's a maniac". Broadly, in any Transformers continuity, a character is as they're portrayed by the writer, not from what a card on the back of a toy says. Sure, it's nice when someone alludes to something mentioned in their tech-spec profile, but the things have never been rigidly adhered to - Blaster is nothing like his, neither [thankfully] is Broadside, or Ratchet, and there are scores which are totally ignored. It's like criticising "SOS Dinobots" for having Grimlock act out of character as he's nothing like his tech-spec, when [sadly], the idiotic lame comedy relief persona is the way he is in that medium. All-in-all what I'm saying is how can someone like Afterburner be acting out of character when it's all we know about their character in this medium?

Throughout the mini, Frank Springer's character models, and Capability Yomtov's colouring of them, is a bit random, to put it mildly. To add to this, in various stages there are unnamed generic Transformers on both sides, making errors and appearances a nightmare to spot. As long as someone's not explicitly referred to, or must be a certain character, I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt as Transformers who just look like whoever [e.g. the Highbrow, Brainstorm and Pointblank lookalikes on the first page]. Scorponok's alt mode is probably just about far enough from a scorpion to not be classed as an error. On page 4, Max is replaced surreptitiously by the model for the Spike Headmaster figure. At the bottom-right of the same page, there's a blatant Earth truck in the background. Scattershot has too much blue on him. Grotusque is named "Grotesque" - the only other strip he's named in, in #3, uses the former, as does his Transformers Universe profile. Wouldn't magnetising Blurr's arm just mash up half the circuitry inside? On page 16, Maximus refers to Highbrow as Brainstorm. Kup really shouldn't have been on the mission, as he's spoiling for a fight. Snap decision maybe? In Nebulos' arsenal, there's a Vought F4U Corsair WWII fighter-plane. In the middle-top frame of page 19, there's a very faulted Autobot behind Maximus, to our left. Hmm, Kup looks like the sort that's after a peaceful life...

Transformers featured [in rough order of appearance]: Triggerhappy [first appearance], Scorponok [first appearance], Misfire [first appearance], Slugslinger [first appearance], Skullcruncher [first appearance], Fortress Maximus [first appearance], Blurr, Hardhead [first appearance], Brainstorm [first appearance], Lightspeed [first appearance], Chromedome [first appearance], Snapdragon [first appearance], Apeface [first appearance], Blot [first appearance], Kup, Hot Rod, Optimus Prime [flashback], Highbrow [first appearance], Crosshairs [first appearance], Nosecone [first appearance], Afterburner [first appearance], Scattershot [first appearance], Repugnus [first appearance], Grotesque [first appearance], Doublecross [first appearance], Sureshot [first appearance], Pointblank [first appearance], Cerebros [first appearance].

Notable Others: Gort [first appearance], Marika [first appearance], Zarak [first appearance], Galen [first appearance], Krunk [first appearance], Duros [first appearance].

Production Notes: Each issue of this four-part limited series was priced at $1.00.

Review: Well, that's certainly a novel way of proving peaceful intentions... Still, it maintains the interest, although it's odd how quickly Galen changes his mind. That said, this is a great start to a very interesting story. There's some pathos as Maximus sadly leaves Cybertron, and the handling of the first meeting is fairly well handled - Highbrow seems as freaked out as Gort. Springer's art is actually great, and Budiansky seems to be benefiting from a fresh start. The undoing of Blurr seems a bit, well, convenient, especially with Zarak having easy access to a magnetic gun [though he does look a bit like Magneto].


#2 - "Broken Glass!"

Cover: Frank Springer
Cover Date: August 1987

Script: Bob Budiansky
Pencils: Frank Springer
Inks: Ian Akin & Brian Garvey
Letters: Diana Albers
Colours: Nel Yomtov

Later Reprinted In: Transformers #134 -137 [UK], Transformers - Trial by Fire [Worldwide].

Synopsis: Civil unrest grips Nebulos over what to do with the Autobots. Galen talks to Fortress Maximus' head, and learns of the war on Cybertron, then wonders what to do next. Gort speaks to the Nebulan council, explaining the alleged attack from Highbrow was an accident. The council agrees to upholding the pact with the Autobots, and a delegation goes to meet the rest of their forces. Meanwhile, Zarak's group contact the Decepticons. However, once Scorponok arrives, he immediately plans attacking the Nebulan capital to kill Fortress Maximus. The Decepticons attack the city, and after an attempt to radio control the Autobots' bodies fails, Galen agrees to Arcana making them armour to binary-bond them to each Transformer as both heads and secondary operators, and they set out to meet the Decepticons. The Autobot Headmasters easily push back the Decepticon forces. However, Llyra is angry with Galen, and walks away.

Notes: Llyra is Zarak's daughter. It would seem a controlled head removal does no damage to Transformers whatsoever. There's no solid evidence to show that the five Autobots can't control their bodies, a la Optimus Prime in #12, or Scorponok in #70, they just probably don't to prove they're peaceful. Unless there's no-one around and one of them has an itchy nose or something, anyway. Transformer computers have universal translators. Galen bonds to Fortress Maximus, Duros to Hardhead, Gort to Highbrow, "society dandy" Stylor to Chromedome, and Doctor of Bioengineering Arcana to Brainstorm. Marika's recovered from the injuries suffered last issue.

Errors: Chromedome's body is holding his gun wrong... In the third frame of page 7, Kup's hideously miscoloured. Mindwipe's character model is pretty messed up - at possibly the one for Vorath was used? Slugslinger's also replaced by a Nebulan Headmaster on page 12. There's another odd bit on the last page, as a guy who looks like Misfire but is coloured like Mindwipe, and gives his name as such, then transforms into Misfire's jet mode [it's also worth noting the jet just lies there]. Which is the error? Well, both characters appear elsewhere in the issue, so I don't care ^_^. Cyclonus' character model is actually a miscoloured Nightstick. On page 16, Stylor's armour has Chromedome's head. On page 17, Fortress Maximus has Cerebros' head. On page 20, it really looks like Scorponok has a hybrid mode. The next frame, as the Decepticons leg it, Misfire's coloured like Triggerhappy. Poor chap still hasn't been coloured right by Nel's Crayolas... Between Scorponok and Snapdragon in the same frame is Skullcruncher, coloured wrong. Why don't Misfire and Snapdragon fly away? On page 21, Highbrow is holding Cerebros' head, which then reverts to being Maximus' head on page 22. To be fair to Frank, the model sheet probably gave the full three-stage Galen/Spike > Cerebros > Fortress Maximus sequence rather than the current one, used for scripting purposes by Bob. When the Nebulans revert to humanoid modes, they all switch places. Marika becomes "Marita".

Transformers featured [in rough order of appearance]: Brainstorm, Highbrow, Hardhead, Chromedome, Fortress Maximus, Kup, Pointblank, Sureshot, Blurr, Hot Rod, Triggerhappy, Slugslinger, Scorponok, Mindwipe, Snapdragon, Cyclonus, Misfire, Apeface, Battletrap [first appearance], Skullcruncher, Blot, Triggerhappy.

Notable Others: Spasma [first appearance], Galen, Duros, Zarak, Krunk, Llyra [first appearance], Grax [first appearance], Vorath [first appearance], Arcana [first appearance], Stylor [first appearance], Marika.

Review: The series is developing into quite a fine light-politics story, superbly written by Budiansky, and well rendered by Springer, who shows what he can do when character models aren't changed every few pages. Maximus offering his life to preserve Nebulan peace is a great scene. That said, it seems a little odd that Zarak would call in another army of robots he can't control when he's not doing too bad manipulating Galen as it is. It ends with a fair fight scene, enlivened slightly by Llyra's dismissal of Galen at the end.


#3 - "Love and Steel!"

Cover: Frank Springer
Cover Date: September 1987

Script: Bob Budiansky
Pencils: Frank Springer
Inks: Ian Akin & Brian Garvey
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Colours: Nel Yomtov

Later Reprinted In: Transformers #138 -141 [UK], Transformers - Trial by Fire [Worldwide].

Synopsis: The Horrorcons and Terrorcons attack the Nebulan city of Splendora, until the Technobots, Hardhead and Brainstorm arrive. The Terrorcons form Abominus, but are defeated by the Technobots as Computron. Meanwhile, the Decepticons hold Zarak's sect, planning to run tests on them. Scorponok learns of the defeat, and Zarak tries to bargain with him. Meanwhile, Soriza insists a delegation of Nebulans accompany all Autobot missions. Zarak and his minions have undergone the Headmaster process, and lure the Autobots into a trap, unaware that Llyra will accompany them. Both sets of Headmasters fight as the council delegation looks on. Both sides fight, before Mindwipe hypnotises the delegation. The Autobots leave themselves wide open saving them, and are defeated by the Decepticons, with Llyra believing Zarak to be her saviour.

Notes: Zarak bonds to Scorponok, Vorath to Mindwipe, Grax to Skullcruncher, Monzo to Weirdwolf, Krunk to Snapdragon and Spasma to Apeface.

Errors: On page 2, there's too much white on Lightspeed. On the same page, Rippersnapper's missing his guns as he runs off. Why does Rippersnapper give the combining order? As the Decepticons retreat, Triggerhappy and Slugslinger have appeared out of nowhere, Blot's blue and purple are the wrong way round, and Nel isn't even that close for Sinnertwin. On page 10, Gort and Stylor say each other's lines. Why is Scorponok bothering with the polymer machine? Why not just kill the Nebulans? On page 14, Apeface and Weirdwolf are miscoloured. The following page, as the Nebulans transform, they switch places. In the bottom frame, Apeface is coloured like Mindwipe. As Fortress Maximus catches Llyra, he has Cerebros' head.

Transformers featured [in rough order of appearance]: Apeface, Cutthroat [first appearance], Snapdragon, Rippersnapper [first appearance], Hun-Grr [first appearance], Blot, Nosecone, Lightspeed, Hardhead, Brainstorm, Scattershot, Abominus [first appearance], Computron [first appearance], Scorponok, Mindwipe, Skullcruncher, Weirdwolf , Highbrow, Chromedome, Fortress Maximus, Brainstorm .

Notable Others: Duros, Arcana, Soriza [first appearance], Zarak, Krunk, Vorath, Grax, Spasma, Monzo [first appearance], Gort, Stylor, Galen, Llyra.

Review: Some fine dialogue and a nice realistic approach to the impact of the Transformers on a bureaucratic society. It's a bit plodding, and something of a means to an end, with Zarak's character tending to bend to the needs of the greater narrative, but at least the arrival of the Decepticon Headmasters is out of the way now. Overall a middling instalment, with the good bit being Scorponok's waxing control, and the bad bit being Llyra's selective amnesia, which feels a bit too convenient.


#4 - "Brothers in Armor!"

Cover: Frank Springer
Cover Date: October 1987

Script: Bob Budiansky
Pencils: Frank Springer
Inks: Ian Akin & Brian Garvey
Letters: Jack Morelli
Colours: Nel Yomtov

Later Reprinted In: Transformers #142 -145 [UK], Transformers - Trial by Fire [Worldwide].

Synopsis: The Decepticons attack the Mercury Gardens of Melanossus, driving back the Autobot defenders. Meanwhile, a team of Nebulons branded rebels by Zarak meet up with the Autobots, and are given armour that turns into weaponry. They receive a distress call from another Autobot, but resolve to rescue their friends before leaving the planet. The distress call is also intercepted by Vorath, who tells Zarak. Galen pleads with Zarak and Llyra, but then they hear of an Autobot sighting, and Zarak takes Scorponok and the Terrorcons to face them. There they ambush the seemingly unarmed Autobots. The Autobots reveal their Targetmaster abilities, but withdraw to protect the nursery. Zarak then realises he's destroying what he wanted to protect. Back at Zarak's HQ, Vorath has perfected Targetmasters for the Decepticons. Wracked by guilt and schizophrenia brought on by Scorponok, Zarak musters enough of himself to free Galen and the others, and the Autobot Headmasters break free. The Autobot Headmasters break past the Decepticon Targetmasters and head out into their base in the swamp. Zarak, struggling with Scorponok, lets them go, planning to follow them to Earth to quench the Decepticon's warlike desires while saving Nebulos. Llyra, seeing the truth, meets Galen, but he tells her she was right so she'll let him go. The Autobots then leave Nebulos, swiftly followed by the Decepticons.

Notes: The distress call was sent in #37, by Goldbug. Ho-hum. Monzo is an ex-wrestler, and Grax a businessman. The names for the Nebulan rebels are codenames only. Peacemaker partners Pointblank, Pinpointer partners Crosshairs, Spoilsport partners Sureshot, Firebolt partners Hot Rod, Recoil partners Kup and Haywire partners Blurr. For the Decepticon Targetmasters, Aimless partners Misfire, Blowpipe partners Triggerhappy, Caliburst partners Slugslinger, Nightstick partners Cyclonus and Fracas partners Scourge. Hun-Grr can swallow and redirect projectiles.

Errors: As the three Decepticons reach robot mode on page 2, Snapdragon and Mindwipe swap schemes. On page 3, Weirdwolf's coloured wrong. Hot Rod is spelt "Hot-Rod" on page 6. When the Targetmaster companions appear, Spoilsport and Recoil are coloured wrong. Zarak's helmet switches from teal to purple. On page 13, in the first frame featuring Hun-Grr, Fortress Maximus' base/tank mode replaces Scorponok. When the Targetmasters retreat, Crosshairs is coloured like Pointblank, and Sureshot appears twice in the same frame - one time all in yellow, and one time with his detail in the wrong place - replacing Hot Rod. Krunk's armour is the wrong colour. As Zarak frees them, the captions for Gort and Stylor are the wrong way round [it's not the art, as they both clearly have the correct faces/hair to match their armour]. As they return to their robot bodies, Fortress Maximus is drawn too small, and Highbrow's too large and miscoloured. In the first frame of page 17, Blurr is fleeing with the Autobot Headmasters. In the next frame, Fortress Maximus once again has Cerebros' head. On page 20, Hot Rod and Kup are too small - the Nebulans would come up to their waist if they were standing, and Arcana's switched to civvies. In the next frame, Pointblank's head is AWOL. On page 21, Triggerhappy, Slugslinger and Misfire are shown leaving with the Autobots.

Transformers featured [in rough order of appearance]: Mindwipe, Doublecross, Weirdwolf, Grotusque, Snapdragon, Repugnus, Scorponok, Skullcruncher, Crosshairs, Kup, Hot Rod, Blurr, Pointblank, Sureshot, Blot, Cutthroat, Sinnertwin, Hun-Grr, Rippersnapper, Slugslinger, Triggerhappy, Scourge, Misfire, Cyclonus, Fortress Maximus, Brainstorm, Hardhead, Highbrow, Chromedome, Doublecross.

Notable Others: Zarak, Vorath, Grax, Monzo, Krunk, Spasma, Peacemaker [first appearance], Pinpointer [first appearance], Firebolt [first appearance], Recoil [first appearance], Haywire [first appearance], Spoilsport [first appearance] , Galen, Llyra, Duros, Stylor, Arcana, Vorath, Blowpipe [first appearance], Caliburst [first appearance], Fracas [first appearance], Aimless [first appearance], Nightstick [first appearance].

Review: A rather rushed conclusion embellished by some wonderful character-work for Zarak and Galen - his rejection of Llyra is a splendid scene. Zarak's meandering character, and the smart explanation for it, lifts the end of the series, and the conclusion to his interview with the Nebulan TV crew is actually rather chilling. However, the rapid introduction of the Targetmasters isn't too impressive - their battle is rather limp also. Considering the amount of ground needed to be covered, it's fantastic the amount of background and intrigue Budiansky adds, and it's far better than the work he was turning out on the regular series at the time.



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