Headmaster (Transformers)

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Headmasters are a sub-group of characters from the Transformers meta-series, distinguished by their ability to detach their heads when transforming into their alternate modes, with the heads then transforming themselves into a humanoid form. However, this concept was taken in several different directions across the different Transformers universes.

Transformers: Generation 1[edit]

The American toyline established that the Headmasters were Autobots and Decepticons who had been partnered and bonded with members of a race of organic beings named Nebulons. The toys included:

1987 Autobots
Image of the Fortress Maximus toy patent.
Headmaster Spike Witwicky in Dreamwave comics.
1987 Decepticons
1988 Autobots
1988 Decepticons

Binary-bonding[edit]

Krunk from Dreamwave comics.

The details of the binary-bonding process have never been fully explained. As the end result, though, the human or Nebulan is able to wear a special armor, which gives him/her a telepathic link with the Transformer, and also allows him/her to transform into a mechanical object that can be used by the Transformer. In the latest IDW Publishing version, the transforming technology is built into the Nebulans themselves.

When connected with each other, the human or Nebulan and the Transformer essentially share a single mind and can work together seamlessly, but when separated from each other, both retain their individual minds and bodies. This allows for greater cooperation, and with twice the experience, a better understanding of possible combat or other dangerous situations. The binary-bonding process does not damage the body of either party, and both parties are able to carry on with their normal lives, but it does generate a permanent, irreversible bond between their minds. However, the Headmaster component can find themselves with increased strength.

The process does have a few weaknesses. Some partnerships on both sides suffer from issues partners have with one another. For example, Vorath is a scientist while his Decepticon partner, Mindwipe is a believer in the supernatural, leading the two to bicker over conflicting ideologies. Also, headless Transformers can be stuck in vehicle mode when the Headmaster component is separated.

Most of the organic creatures that underwent the binary-bonding process in the Transformers TV series and comic were Nebulans. The most notable exception is the human Spike Witwicky, who is binary-bonded to Cerebros, who is in turn part of Fortress Maximus. In the TV show, Spike's son Daniel was also binary-bonded to the female Autobot Arcee, but neither Daniel nor Arcee ever appeared in the American comic. (In the American Transformers: Headmasters mini-series, an Autobot resembling Arcee in convertible mode was shown in an Autobot convoy, but never identified as her.)

Animated series[edit]

The Rebirth[edit]

In America, the introduction of the Headmasters took place in a three-part episode titled The Rebirth, which comprised the entirety of the show's fourth and final season. Here, in the battle to obtain the key to the Plasma Energy Chamber, two groups of Autobots and Decepticons wound up on the alien world of Nebulos. Nebulos was ruled by a dictatorship named the Hive, consisting of ten Nebulans and their leader, Lord Zarak, who held the planet under their sway with mighty war machines that they could control with their thoughts, even as their disused bodies withered away. Fearful and distrustful of machines as a result, a group of Nebulon rebels led by Gort immediately captured the Autobots upon their arrival and almost executed them, until an attack by the Decepticons proved that they were on the same side. Consequently, the group decided to utilize a theory previously developed by Brainstorm - the partnership of Transformers, with their size and power, with the minds of the Nebulons. Chromedome, Brainstorm, Hardhead and Highbrow disconnected their heads, and Spike Witwicky used Brainstorm's designs to modify them into exosuits which the rebel officers then donned, becoming Headmasters. Additionally, in order to save the life of Spike's son, Daniel, who had been mortally wounded by Snapdragon, Arcee too underwent the process, becoming bonded to the boy.

With the battle superiority of the Autobot Headmasters evident, the Decepticons were forced to flee during the next battle. The Hive, however, had been observing events, and used their machines to bring the Decepticons to them, where they struck the same deal. The heads of the animal Transformers were offered up to the Hive who turned them into exosuits once again giving themselves strong bodies. Lord Zarak, meanwhile, used the process to modify the Hive's entire subterranean city to a colossal super robot that he dubbed Scorponok. With Scorponok's power, the Decepticons obtained the Plasma Energy Chamber key and returned to Cybertron.

Spike, meanwhile, had concocted a plan to counter Scorponok's power. The remaining Autobot, Cerebros - a pacifist who refused to undergo the Headmaster process - had located the city that had formerly belonged to the Hive, before they developed their mental powers and went underground. Using the Hive's machines, Spike reconstructed the city, Cerebros, and himself into another new super robot - the mighty Fortress Maximus. Spike became Cerebros's Headmaster partner, and Cerebros in turn then transformed into Maximus's head. Arriving on Cybertron, Maximus and Scorponok battled as the Plasma Energy Chamber threatened to overload Earth's sun. Spike and the Nebulans were able to save the planet, however, by draining off the excess solar energy and re-energising Cybertron, restoring its golden age.

As this marked the end of the American Transformers series, the 1988 characters never appeared in animated form in the U.S. except in toy commercials.

Transformers: The Headmasters[edit]

In Japan, however, the concept of Headmasters was taken in a different direction. With America's mere three episode fourth season (The Rebirth) months away, Takara decided to continue the Transformers series on their own with the 35-episode anime, Transformers: The Headmasters.

In this version of events, there are no Nebulans involved. Millions of years ago, during the wars on Cybertron, many Autobots fled the planet to escape the conflict. One such group was a collection of diminutive Transformers, led by the robot called Fortress (the Japanese equivalent of Cerebros), who eventually settled on the planet Master. However, Master proved to be a world of harsh environment, and so, in order to survive, the small Transformers constructed larger, lifeless bodies called Transtectors, and modified their forms so that they could transform into heads, in order to attach to and control the Transtectors. Chromedome, Brainstorm, Hardhead, Highbrow, Weirdwolf, Mindwipe, and Skullcruncher underwent this process, but soon the latter three turned to the side of evil under the leadership of Scorponok (Lord Zarak), who made contact with Galvatron, and joined with him in his renewed attack on Cybertron in 2011.

Using the power of the mighty weapon, the Master Sword, Fortress is able to combine with the Headmasters' battle ship, Maximus, to form Fortress Maximus. Scorponok also had a massive Transtector constructed for himself, dubbed Mega Zarak (Scorponok), harnessing the plasma energy released from the destruction of Cybertron he had engineered to power it.

With a cry of "Head On!", the Headmasters attach to their Transtectors, meters in their chest displaying their energy readings. They possess incredible amounts of energy within their bodies, which can be used in various ways - by swapping from Transtector to Transtector with their fellows, in a process called "Cross Head On!" they can summon up this energy to recharge themselves, and by linking hands in a ring, their energies can be united together into one mighty force and unleashed in numerous ways, such as force bolts, recharging beams, or as an aura that surrounds them, allowing them to spin in a destructive circle.

Prior to 2005, Headmasters was only available in its original format in the East, with Laserdisc and DVD releases. Most fans who had seen the series did so through the infamous "Singapore dubs" - an atrociously bad English-dubbed version of the show from Hong Kong, found airing in Asia in the early 1990s. It was bootlegged many times over to be spread around. In a world first, UK-based DVD company, Metrodome Distribution Ltd released the entire series on DVD on 26 September 2005, in a dual-language format, featuring the original Japanese audio with new English subtitles, and the "Singapore dub", complete with commentary on the opening trilogy by longtime fan and TF authority Chris McFeely (fan commentaries having become an easy and fairly informative pastime of recent region 2 cartoon box set releases). The DVD disks were also formatted in region 0, allowing more people the possibility of owning the series for the first time. It was also recently announced that the series will be released on DVD in North America by Shout Factory on July 5, 2011.

Super God Masterforce[edit]

The Japanese did not stop with Headmasters, and introduced their versions of the 1988 Headmasters in the following series, Transformers: Super God Masterforce. However, these proved to be even more different from their American counterparts than the previous year's characters.

In Masterforce, the Headmasters are not small robots, but actually human beings who don a suit of armour and combine with a Transtector, given the new title of "Headmaster Jr."'s. Consequently, as they do not represent their American counterparts, they are known by completely different names - Nightbeat is Minerva, Siren is Go Shooter, Hosehead is Cab, Fangry is Wilder, Horri-Bull is Bullhorn and Squeezeplay is Cancer, each of them a human teenager recruited by the Autobots or Decepticons in the battle. Additionally, Fortress Maximus's younger brother, Grand Maximus (exclusive to Japan) makes an appearance in the series, with his Headmaster component, Grand, possessing a Pretender shell. Also appearing is another Japanese exclusive, Black Zarak - a brainwashed Zarak with a rebuilt Transtector.

Marvel Comics[edit]

In this incarnation of the Headmasters story, the Autobot Headmasters were originally part of a group led by Fortress Maximus, who had grown tired of the civil war and chose to abandon Cybertron. The Autobots travelled to the peaceful world of Nebulos, a pacifistic paradise where war and weapons were obsolete. However, the sudden arrival of the Autobots and the Nebulans' fears about their goals and the danger they posed threw Nebulos's society into chaos. Nebulan leader Galen Kord was willing to give the Autobots a chance to present their case, but his fellow council member, Lord Zarak, was not, and engineered events to make it appear as though Blurr had attacked the Nebulans. Reactivating some of the planets' ancient weapons of war, Galen attacked the Autobots, but Fortress Maximus refused to fight back. The disarmament of the Autobots proved insufficient to prove their intentions, and so, in a (somewhat grotesque) show of good faith, Fortress Maximus gave the Nebulans the most he had to give - his own head, which he tore from his shoulders and threw to the ground. Following his lead, Chromedome, Brainstorm, Hardhead and Highbrow did the same - and won Galen over.

Lord Zarak, however, was not. In an attempt to have the Autobots removed from the planet, his forces contacted Cybertron, calling to Nebulos a contingent of Decepticons led by Scorponok. Galen's group attempted to remote-control the decapitated Autobot bodies themselves, but when that met with failure, Arcana and Fortress Maximus worked together to create a process called "Binary-bonding" - the engineering of the Nebulan's bodies into transforming cybernetic forms, allowing them to transform into heads and become masters of the Autobots' bodies. Thus, the Headmasters were born, and they defeated Scorponok's Decepticons soundly, forcing them into an alliance with Lord Zarak and his forces, becoming Headmasters themselves. The Autobot Headmasters were defeated and captured, but Lord Zarak slowly began to feel the malicious, robotic emotions of Scorponok overtaking his mind, worsening with each combination. In a final attempt to save his planet before the inhumanity overcame him, he freed Galen and the other Nebulans, who then followed a distress signal emanating from the Autobots on Earth. The Decepticons pursued them, leaving Nebulos, as Zarak had wished.

In transit to Earth aboard their starship, the Steelhaven, Brainstorm, Chromedome and Galen disassembled and reconstructed Fortress Maximus to increase his fighting power. Now, an additional Autobot drone, Cerebros, had been incorporated into his design - rather than directly forming Maximus's head, as he had done before, Galen became Cerebros's head, and Cerebros formed that of Maximus. However, soon after their arrival on Earth, the Headmasters were pulled into another battle with the Decepticons inside Mount Saint Hillary, the volcano that had formerly housed the Ark, where Galen was killed by an avalanche while saving the life of Spike Witwicky. Using Galen's helmet, Spike took control of Fortress Maximus and routed the Decepticons, after which he accepted the other Headmasters' offer to binary bond him to Fortress Maximus, taking Galen's place in the combination, in order to save his brother, Buster, who had been captured by the Decepticons.

While Fortress Maximus's team joined with the other Earthbound Autobots, Zarak bolstered his forces with the addition of Fangry, Squeezeplay and Horri-Bull, although it was never clearly established where these Decepticons or Nebulans came from. It would be some time before the Autobot counterparts to this trio were introduced, and even when they were, no indication was given that they had undergone the Headmasters process. In the UK comics, however, they were indeed shown to be Headmasters.

Fortress Maximus eventually succeeded in saving Buster during the battle for the power of the Underbase, and Spike chose to give up the role, returning his armour and helmet to Optimus Prime and leaving Maximus's body stored on the Ark. However, when he came under attack from the Decepticon Pretender Beasts, Snarler and Carnivac, it became apparent that he and Maximus had bonded more deeply than anyone had realised, as his body arrived to combine with Spike and fend off the Pretenders. Despite this, Spike chose to return Maximus's body to the Ark, where it remained until the craft was crashed in 1991 by the Autobot medic, Ratchet, during the clash between Megatron and Galvatron. Spike was drawn to the crash site by Fortress Maximus's mental urging, and recombined with him once again to battle the deranged Galvatron, eventually defeating him by burying him in ice.

Evolution of the Headmaster Concept[edit]

The Headmaster concept underwent a substantial evolution as the Marvel Comics progressed. As originally presented, the Autobots' minds were almost entirely supplanted - it was solely the Nebulans who possessed control of the Autobots' bodies, with the only notable difference being that they referred to each other by their Autobot names when combined. It is even implied that the original Autobot heads are not involved in the Bindary-bonding process, possessing only radio contact with their bodies while the Nebulans controlled them. This idea was not brought up again, however, though it was apparent that in the case of Lord Zarak, the process had affected his mind, as Scorponok's personality began to affect his own.

Later, when Spike had his revelation, the more familiar Headmaster concept came into play - the idea of two minds inhabiting one body, as Fortress Maximus's voice spoke within Spike's head and could urge him into actions. Although this was utilized by Bob Budiansky at the end of his run, it was in fact consistently how Simon Furman had portrayed the Headmasters in the UK comics, and carried the idea over into the US comics when he began to write them. Furman's first Headmasters story, "Worlds Apart", even seemed to reconcile the two contradictory ideas - that the process was intended to create a singular mind, but had malfunctioned, leaving two minds in one body with the Nebulan in ultimate control.

Interestingly, however, Furman would also take Scorponok and Lord Zarak in a different direction. Where with other Transformers, he clearly kept the Nebulan and Transformer minds distinct, in the case of Scorponok, Lord Zarak's personality appeared to eventually completely supplant Scorponok's own - although he would refer to himself as Scorponok, in his private thoughts, he considered himself only to be Zarak. This led to the fears and doubts which eventually resulted in his alliance with Optimus Prime, and, in his attempt at redemption, he attacked Unicron with his bare hands and was melted by the chaos-bringer's fire breath.

Books[edit]

Skullcruncher appeared in the 1988 Ladybird Books story Decepticons at the Pole by John Grant.[3]

Hosehead was among the Autobots featured in the 1988 book and audio adventure Autobot Hostage by Ladybird books.[4]

IDW Publishing[edit]

When the Transformers licence passed to IDW Publishing, they would give another version of the origin of the Headmaster process. Here, it was begun by the renegade Decepticon Scorponok and his unscrupulous Nebulan industrialist ally Mo Zarak. Here the Headmaster technology was actually built into the Nebulan bodies, allowing them to combine with the Transformers. However, the plot was stopped by Autobot law enforcement officer Ultra Magnus. A blast from Scorponok's scorpion mode destroyed much of the facility and badly injured Zarak (who seemed to have undergone the procedure himself). Scorponok was then shot in the head by Magnus but managed to flee.

During the main G1 series The Transformers: Escalation hints appeared that the shadowy organisation called the Machination were not all they appeared. During the series, they captured Sunstreaker and the human Hunter, completing some sort of surgery on them. It was revealed near the end of the series that not only was a mysterious, badly-damaged Decepticon behind it all, but that they had made numerous headless copies of Sunstreaker's body. In issue #2 of The Transformers: Devastation the extent of their plan was revealed, as an army of Sunstreaker clones pursued Wheeljack and Hot Rod. These clones displayed the ability to remove their own heads - who then transformed into humans. These Headmasters are more like piloted drones, controlled by their human "heads" and guided by the memories of the real Sunstreaker, rather than the fully bonded Headmasters in other continuities. When Sunstreaker helps Hunter turn into a real Headmaster after his surgery, it is accomplished via an iron maiden like chamber. The extent to which Hunter is altered is unclear, but he displays vastly improved strength, easily able to smash an adult human through a door and into the wall behind with one punch. It was also revealed that Scorponok, now reduced to a damaged head, has been guiding the Machination. In doing so, he has turned Abraham Dante, one of the human leaders of the Machination, into a Headmaster version of himself, combining with a recreated version of Scorponok's own body.

Transformers: Robots in Disguise[edit]

In the 2000 Japanese line, Transformers: Car Robots, Fortress Maximus's toy was repainted and released as a new character named Brave Maximus (with the Headmaster components, Brave and Plasma), and was the main focus of the final arc of the animated series. When the series was then imported to the US as Transformers: Robots in Disguise, safety regulations meant that the toy could not be released, but his involvement in the animated series remained, where his name was changed to that of his predecessor, Fortress Maximus (with the Headmaster components, The Emissary and Cerebros). The term "Headmaster" was even used in the show.

Transformers: Armada[edit]

In the 2002/2003 toyline, Transformers: Armada the figure known as Overload was identified as a Headmaster, whose head was formed by the Mini-Con, Roll-Out. However, although Overload is featured briefly in the animated series, this aspect of the character was not touched upon. He did appear more prominently in the Dreamwave comic book series.

Similarly, the Armada toy Sideways featured two Mini-Cons, Rook and Crosswise which could each transform into heads (however, Sideways had a standard head, thus he was not a true Headmaster).

Transformers: Energon[edit]

Armada Overload was also repainted and renamed as Ultra Magnus with Knock-Out, and re-released in the 2004/2005 toyline, Transformers: Energon. Although he did not feature in the animated series, the second Headmaster-style toy of the line did - Omega Supreme (although Omega Supreme, like Sideways, has a permanent head).

Transformers Animated[edit]

Headmaster
Headmaster-animated.jpg
Headmaster in Transformers Animated, using Starscream's body
Human
Information
Partner Henry Masterson
Motto "Total Ownage Noobs!"
Series Transformers Animated

In the series Transformers Animated, the Headmaster unit is a piloted mecha shaped like a giant robot head. It was developed by Sumdac Industries employee Henry Masterson for military purposes (which is against CEO Prof. Isaac Sumdac's company principles). The unit's main purpose is to commandeer a warbot during battle by severing the head and attaching itself to the warbot's body. It is also equipped with grenade, missile, and laser attacks, and features a transformation to physical body mode, or what is called its own backup system.[5]

Animated series[edit]

His first appearance is in the episode "Headmaster", wherein Masterson's demonstration of his technology, using it to take over a warbot, results in a missile being accidentally fired at Detroit. Prof. Isaac Sumdac, irate at the near-disaster, and insisting that his company does not manufacture weapons, fires Masterson on the spot. In retaliation, Masterson decides to form his own company to manufacture the Headmasters. Masterson steals Bulkhead's body, using it to attempt to set off a nuclear meltdown at the city's power plant for the purpose of extorting $700 billion from the city. Masterson was going to set it off either way, destroying Sumdac Systems and using the threat of a future disaster to convince the government to buy his Headmaster units to prevent. The meltdown is stopped, and Bulkhead's body is retrieved, but Masterson escapes.

Headmaster next appears in "Return of the Headmaster", where he steals Sentinel Prime's body. He is defeated by Optimus Prime, but his employer, Porter C. Powell (who controlled Sumdac Industries in Prof. Sumdac's absence), manages to keep him out of prison.

In "A Bridge Too Close", a stolen Headmaster unit is used by Megatron to threaten Bulkhead into helping the Decepticons construct their Space Bridge. The unit is later used by Prof. Sumdac to take control of Starscream's body in order to destroy Megatron and his space bridge. (Ironically, he does this just as Starscream was about to do the same thing!) Not knowing how to control the Decepticon, Sumdac abandons both Starscream's body and the Headmaster unit.

In the season 3 "Transwarped" special, Prof. Sumdac regains control of his company and immediately fires Masterson. In retaliation, Masterson finds his Headmaster unit attached to Starscream's body and attacks Prof. Sumdac. Optimus Prime stops him by tricking him into transforming Starscream's body. The transformation causes the Headmaster unit to pop off of the body, and Masterson is finally taken in by the police.

In "Three's A Crowd", the recovered unit is exposed to an Allspark fragment that fuses it with a forklift, creating Dirt Boss.

Toys[edit]

  • Animated Leader Class Bulkhead with Headmaster (2009)
The Animated Leader Class Bulkhead toy comes with a hollow, non-transforming Headmaster unit. This unit fits on top of Bulkhead and all of Bulkhead's normally orange lights turn red, and an "Ownage! Total ownage!" sound effect plays. The unit also fits on all Leader class Animated toys: Megatron, Ultra Magnus and their redecos, but does not activate any additional features.

Transformers: Disney-Pixar Label[edit]

In 2010, Takara Tomy incorporated the Headmaster concept into a transforming Buzz Lightyear figure in their Transformers: Disney-Pixar Label line. The figure's alternate mode is a spaceship designed similarly to the original Buzz Lightyear toy packaging seen in Toy Story. A miniature Buzz Lightyear pilot figure forms the head. During transformation, once the head is attached, the lower torso and wings extend while the Space Ranger badge on the chest pops up.[6]

Toys[edit]

  • Disney-Pixar Label Buzz Lightyear (2010)
A Deluxe-sized figure of Buzz Lightyear that transforms into his spaceship, with his head becoming a small pilot figure.
  • Disney-Pixar Label Buzz Lightyear (Cosmic Black Version) (2010)
A black and silver redeco of the Buzz Lightyear figure.[7]

Transformers Timelines[edit]

The Botcon storyline "Pirates vs. Space Knights" introduced a new Headmaster toy based on G1 Scorponok, but piloted now by Olin, son of Zarak. This toy was remolded from Energon Scorponok.

References[edit]

  • Furman, Simon (2004). Transformers: The Ultimate Guide. DK Publishing Inc. p. 42. ISBN 1-4053-0461-8. 
  1. ^ Transformers Generation One Profiles, Toy Review magazine issue #213, Fall 2010, page 83
  2. ^ Boys will be boys: breaking the link between masculinity and violence, By Myriam Miedzian, page 276
  3. ^ John Grant (1988). Decepticons at the Pole. Ladybird Books. ISBN 0-7214-1068-5. 
  4. ^ http://www.green-ranger.com/stuff/ladybird/09-hostage/
  5. ^ Jim Sorenson & Bill Forster (August 15, 2009). Transformers Animated: The Allspark Almanac. Idea & Design Works Llc. pp. 98–99. ISBN 978-1-60010-487-9. 
  6. ^ TFW2005.com - Disney Pixar Label Buzz Lightyear
  7. ^ TFW2005.com - Disney Pixar Label Buzz Lightyear (Cosmic Black Version)

External links[edit]