The first Targetmasters assortment, released in 1987, included six new characters, and five existing ones from the 1986 line, whose toys were slightly remolded with larger peg holes to hold their new weapons, as well as an additional peg hole for each remold to mount its weapon in vehicle mode. In 2003, one of the two Japanese-exclusive Targetmasters from 1987 was added to the Autobot ranks. Unfortunately, the Targetmaster weapon he shares with Decepticon Cyclonus, also share names. To further add to the confusion, the printed names of Stepper and Artfire's weapon/partners in Japan are swapped. Cyclonus's partner Nightstick is called Nebulon (the name Fracas is erroneously given on Scourge's box) and paired with Stepper. Scourge's partner Fracas is called Nightstick and paired with Artfire.
The smaller Targetmaster partners were easily lost making them highly collectable and demand high prices on the secondary market.
- Blurr (futuristic car) with Haywire
- Crosshairs (4x4) with Pinpointer
- Hot Rod (hot rod) with Firebolt
- Kup (pickup truck) with Recoil
- Pointblank (car) with Peacemaker
- Sureshot (dune buggy) with Spoilsport
- Stepper (Porsche 935 Turbo) with Nebulon
- Ricochet (Porsche 935 Turbo) with Nightstick
- Ricochet is the official American name for the Japanese character Stepper.
- Nightstick is the original American name for his partner, originally paired in the West with Cyclonus.
- Artfire (Mitsubishi-Fuso fire engine) with "Nightstick"
- Artfire's weapon/partner was paired in America with Scourge and called Fracas.
- Cyclonus (spaceship) with Nightstick
- Misfire (jet) with Aimless
- Scourge (hovercraft) with Fracas
- Slugslinger (twin-nosed jet) with Caliburst
- Triggerhappy (jet) with Blowpipe
The Targetmasters were introduced in "The Rebirth", the three-part fourth-season finale to the original Transformers animated series.
When the Decepticons attempted to seize the power of the Plasma Energy Chamber in 2007, a group of Autobots were blasted across the galaxy to the planet Nebulos by the ancient foundry's energies, where they took up with a group of rebel Nebulons. To fight the Hive, the evil rulers of Nebulos, some of the Autobots and Nebulons bonded their bodies and minds together, becoming Headmasters, serving up a definitive defeat to the Decepticons pursuing them. This group of Decepticons was then approached by the Hive, who sought to replicate the Headmaster process with them, but Cyclonus was able to bargain them to down to taking only half the Decepticons' heads, offering up the weapons of the others as alternatives. Using Nebulan technology, the guns were engineered into transforming exo-suits which were donned by five members of the Hive, creating the Targetmasters, giving their Transformer wielders ten times the accuracy and firepower. However, some partnerships did not work out as planned. The Decepticon Misfire was already a poor marksman and the fact his new Targetmaster partner Aimless was an underachieving rookie only made things worse. Also, Fracas was more loyal to Zarak than Scourge, even going so far as to point himself at Scourge and demand they fall back from battle because Zarak told them to.
The Decepticon Targetmasters overcame the Autobots and reclaimed the key to the Plasma Energy Chamber, but in the struggle, the Autobot Brainstorm was able to scan Cyclonus's partner, Nightstick, and that data was used to duplicate the Targetmaster process with the remaining Autobots and Nebulan rebels, creating the Autobot Targetmasters. Their power, however, was nothing in the face of the Decepticons' newest weapon, the super robot, Scorponok, who transported the Decepticon forces back to Cybertron, where their plans were foiled by Spike Witwicky and Fortress Maximus.
Although "The Rebirth" marked the end of the Transformers cartoon in the United States, in Japan, a different direction was taken - ignoring the events of "The Rebirth", a brand new, exclusive 35-episode series, Transformers: Headmasters, was produced to take its place, which introduced the Targetmasters towards its conclusion. Notably, in Japan, the 1986 characters were not re-released as Targetmasters - only the six new characters featured in Headmasters.
In the world of Transformers: Headmasters, there are no Nebulons - the Headmasters themselves are simply small Transformers, who, having settled on the planet Master, learned to transform into heads and connect to lifeless larger bodies named Transtectors. It was to Master that the Decepticon forces returned after the Autobots forced them to flee Earth, and consequently, a ship was dispatched by the planet's inhabitants to alert the Earth-bound Autobots to the Decepticon invasion. At the same time, the youthful Autobot, Wheelie, had summoned three of his old superior officers - Pointblank (Blanker in Japan), Sureshot and Crosshairs - to Earth to aid in the clean-up operation currently going on, when Autobot Headmaster Chromedome accidentally activated one of the plasma bombs the Decepticons had left behind. Heading out into space so that the bomb might harmlessly explode out in the void, the Autobots then crossed paths with the approaching Master ship, which was being pursued by the Decepticon Sixshot and three new troops - Slugslinger, Misfire and Triggerhappy. As Pointblank and his men tangled with the Decepticons, the Master refugees offered their help by transporting away the plasma bombs, only to have the bombs detonate in the middle of the battlefield.
Recovering from the explosion, Pointblank, Crosshairs and Sureshot discovered that three of the six Master refugees had been fused to their arms. Although Fortress was able to surgically remove them, a bond now existed between the larger Transformers and the Master refugees, who could now freely attach and detach to their wrists as guns. Unfortunately for these new Targetmasters, the same had happened to Slugslinger and his fellows. The Targetmasters joined up with Fortress's crew on the mission to Master, but quickly clashed with the Headmasters - Pointblank and his men were hard, experienced warriors who thought little of the Headmasters, and Pointblank spent a good deal of time attempting to soothe Chromedome's fiery temper to improve his battle ability. In Japan Spoilsport was called Spoil.
Two additional Targetmaster toys were available exclusively in Japan - Stepper, a recolor on the 1984 toy, Jazz, and Artfire, a recolor of 1985's Inferno. These two were armed with Nightstick and Fracas, respectively, although the guns wore their opposite's names—the American Nightstick called Nebulon (the name incorrectly printed on Scourge's file card), the American Fracas called Nightstick. The characters themselves did not appear in the Headmasters animated series, featuring only in the official manga of the series. Rare and much-sought-after for some time, Stepper was eventually reissued in 2003, and even made it to the US in their Commemorative Series reissue line, now with the name Ricochet.
With the Autobot Headmasters captured by their Decepticon counterparts, the Decepticons ran rampant over the planet Nebulos, a group of the remaining Autobots on the planet joined with a group of Nebulons branded as criminals by Nebulon's political leader, Lord Zarak - partner of the Decepticon, Scorponok - in order to protect the Nursery, Nebulos's primary agricultural research facility, against Decepticon attack. Through bio-mechanical engineering, the Nebulons were given the ability to transform into the guns of the Autobots, and, as Targetmasters, they fended the Decepticons off. Within several days, the Decepticons had duplicated the process with five of their own troops. Then, realising how much damage his actions were causing Nebulos, Zarak freed the Autobot Headmasters, who fled the planet, and were pursued by the Decepticons, leaving Nebulos to recover from the brief war. The Autobots, including the Targetmasters, then traveled to Earth, where they became part of the main Autobot force.
The 1988 Transformers, consisting of entirely new characters, were Double Targetmasters, equipped with two Nebulons who would each transform into a gun, and could combine together into one singular weapon.
- Landfill (dump truck) with Flintlock and Silencer
- Quickmix (concrete mixer) with Ricochet and Boomer
- Scoop (payloader) with Tracer and Holepunch
- Needlenose (F-16XL fighter jet) with Zigzag and Sunbeam
- Quake (Leopard 2 tank) with Tiptop and Heater
- Spinister (AH-64 Apache helicopter) with Singe and Hairsplitter
Additionally, the combining sub-group, the Seacons, were sold under the Targetmasters banner, due to their ability to become weapons that could be wielded by their combined form, Piranacon. For information on those characters, see their own article.
With the American animated series having concluded the previous year, it fell to Marvel Comics to provide fiction for the 1988 Targetmaster characters in the West—anywhere, in fact, as the Double Targetmasters did not even feature in the Japanese-exclusive series for that year, Super-God Masterforce.
The Autobot Double Targetmasters' roles were brief ones—they were seen participating in a raid on Cybertron led by Jazz, Grimlock and Bumblebee. The three also served as Emirate Xaaron's support crew when Galvatron (acting as Unicron's herald) attacked. The Decepticons, on the other hand, played more prominent parts as troops under the command of Thunderwing who served him during his quest for the lost Creation Matrix - Spinister, in particular, came to doubt Thunderwing's sanity as his commands became more and more unhinged. Needlenose, though seen often during the Matrix Quest, seems to be unnerved by Thunderwing's later erratic behavior, but not to the point of complaining. Quake, in turn, is noted for his durability, having taken fatal damage from Unicron during the Chaos-Bringer's attack on Cybertron and lived to tell the tale.
Also, across the Atlantic in the UK's exclusive Transformers title, the Decepticon Double Targetmasters became a part of the new Mayhem Attack Squad, charged with hunting down and killing the renegade Decepticons, Catilla and Carnivac. The cowardly Needlenose was given leeway by Spinister and allowed onto the mission, but after the successful murder of Catilla, his nervousness consumed him. Fearing retribution from Carnivac, he subjected his fellow troops to unregistered timing exercises, earning him nothing but their ire and a lack of credibility—something that came back to haunt him when he was attacked and killed by a vengeful Carnivac, and his fellow Decepticons refused to heed his calls for help.
Action Master Targetmasters
Dreamwave comics profiles for the Generation One character expanded the term Targetmaster to include the many Action Masters who carried weapons which turned into sidekicks. These Transformers would then include:
- Banzai-Tron (with Razor-Sharp)
- Charger (with Firebeast)
- Devastator (with Scorpulator)
- Jackpot (with Sights)
- Krok (with Gatoraider)
- Mainframe (with Push-Button)
- Rad (with Lionizer)
- Rollout (with Glitch)
- Shockwave (with Fistfight)
- Skyfall (with Top-Heavy)
- Snarl (with Tyrannitron)
- Soundwave (with Wingthing)
- Treadshot (with Catgut)
Beast Wars Neo
The Maximal character Break had a Targetmaster like gun mode.
In the Transformers: Armada line, a good number of Mini-Cons converted into hand-held and port-mounted weapons, which would technically name them Targetmaster partners to larger Transformers who wielded them.
- Mark Bellomo (2007). Transformers: Identification and Price Guide. Krause Publications. p. 196. ISBN 978-0-89689-445-7.
- Alvarez, J.E. (2001). The Unofficial Guide to Japanese and International Transformers. Schiffer Publishing Ltd. p. 30. ISBN 0-7643-1282-0.
- Jim Sorenson & Bill Forster (July 22, 2008). Transformers: The Ark II. IDW Publishing. pp. 24–25. ISBN 978-1-60010-180-9.
- Lee's Guide to Loose 1988 Transformers: The Autobots. Lee's Toy Review magazine, issue #207, February 2010