Powermasters were a sub-group within the Transformers toyline in 1988. They were defined by the inclusion of a miniature figure which "unlocked the secret of the transformation"—in other words, the toy could not transform from vehicle mode to robot mode unless the figure was transformed into engine mode and connected to the larger figure.
The following Powermaster toys were released in the United States and Canada:
- Optimus Prime: He transforms into a tractor-trailer with Hi-Q.
- Getaway: He transforms into a Mazda RX-7 racing car with Rev.
- Joyride: He transforms into a dune buggy with Hotwire.
- Slapdash: He transforms into a Formula One racing car with Lube.
- Darkwing: He transforms into a Tornado jet with Throttle, and merges with Dreadwind to form Dreadwing.
- Dreadwind: He transforms into a F-16 Fighting Falcon with Hi-Test, and merges with Darkwing to form Dreadwing.
- Doubledealer: He transforms into a missile carrier truck with Knok and Skar. Although he is not truly a Decepticon, he was marketed as such. He can transform into both an Autobot and Decepticon form - Knok unlocks his Autobot robot mode and Skar unlocks his Decepticon falcon mode.
Powermasters in Marvel Comics
With the American Transformers animated series having come to an end the previous year, it fell to the Marvel Comics series to provide the accompanying fiction for the Powermasters sub-group. Here, as detailed in the "Tech Spec" biographies accompanying the toys, the larger Transformers were partnered with humanoid aliens from the planet Nebulos.
Transformers had previously visited Nebulos and bonded with its inhabitants during the creation of the Headmasters and Targetmasters, caused severe devastation to the world and the loss of two of its most noted political leaders. To ensure that the planet would never come under threat from Transformers again, Nebulan scientist Hi-Q detonated a bomb that filled the planet's atmosphere with radiation that posed no threat to indigenous Nebulan life, but which "poisoned" Nebulan fuel supplies, making it harmful to Transformers. Not long after, the Decepticons Dreadwind and Darkwing arrived on the planet looking for the absent Scorponok, and, despite warnings, consumed Nebulan fuel. Their bodies wasted and they were rendered immobile, becoming something of a tourist attraction over time.
Hi-Q's jealous ex-partner, Hi-Test, sought to discredit his former colleague, and teamed up with a Nebulan criminal named Throttle, who stole data on Hi-Q's latest fuel conversion theories, which he had dubbed the "Powermaster Process". Using the data, Hi-Test bio-mechanically engineered his and Throttle's bodies, allowing them to transform into engines and connect to Dreadwind and Darkwing, supplying them energy directly from their own bodies. As a result, Hi-Test and Throttle regularly had to eat massive quantities of food in order to meet their partners' energy requirements.
As the Decepticon Powermasters ran roughshod over the planet, the Autobot Goldbug arrived from Earth with Getaway, Joyride and Slapdash, hoping that Nebulan science could build a new body to house the mind of Optimus Prime. When the Autobots refused to leave the planet even after being warned about the poisoned fuel, Hi-Q agreed to construct Prime's new body, while the Autobots drained their energy fending off an attack by the Decepticons. Prime's mind was placed within his new body, but he immediately began to die due to the Nebulan fuel that powered it. Realising the nobility and humanity of the Autobots, Hi-Q agreed to save Prime's life by merging with him as a Powermaster, while his assistants, Rev, Hotwire and Lube bonded to Getaway, Joyride and Slapdash to save them. Dreadwind and Darkwing were defeated by the new Powermasters and exiled from Nebulos, while the Autobots left to rejoin their fellows on Earth.
The ultimate, unintended extension of the Powermaster process later became apparent when Optimus Prime began to suffer seizures and bursts of pain. During the climactic battle with Unicron, he separated from Hi-Q and sacrificed himself to destroy the Chaos-Bringer, but Hi-Q soon realised that the seizures had been the forerunner of an incredible metamorphosis - the complete bonding, both mental and physical, of himself and Optimus Prime into a singular being. With Prime's body destroyed, this merging finished itself solely within Hi-Q's body, accelerated to completion by his exposure to Nucleon. The singular intellect within Hi-Q's body considered itself to be Optimus Prime, and he led the Neo-Knights on a mission to the depths of Cybertron to locate the Last Autobot, who disassembled and reconfigured Hi-Q's body into a new form for Optimus Prime.
Powermasters in The Transformers (TV series)
While The Transformers TV series had no new complete episodes after 1987's last three-part fourth season story, there was a short-lived fifth season of the series that featured older episodes being introduced by the then-new Powermaster Optimus Prime. The context was that the new Powermaster Prime was retelling some of the Transformers' adventures to the young Tommy Kennedy. These sequences were done with a stop-motion version of the Powermaster Prime figure, and a live-action Tommy. These sequences were made primarily to give the much-hyped Powermaster Prime figure as much additional focus as possible, given that no new full-length episodes were in production.
Godmasters - Transformers: Super-God Masterforce
The previous year, the Japanese had reworked the Headmaster concept to eliminate Nebulans - the heads were small robots, who could transform and connect to lifeless bodies called "Transtectors", which they controlled. A similar alteration was made for Powermasters - now, the engines were human beings imbued with the "Masterforce", which transformed their bodies, allowing them to combine with Transtectors, becoming Transformers themselves, capable of wielding the immeasurable energy of "Chokon Power". Sufficiently different from the American Powermasters, in Japan, the characters are known as Godmasters, and each have different names (the same name being used for both the human and Transtector), and sometimes color schemes to differentiate themselves from their American progenitors. These characters were featured in the 1988 Transformers series: Transformers: Super-God Masterforce
- Ginrai (retooling of Powermaster Optimus Prime) - a 19-year-old Japanese immigrant in America. When the truck's cab is combined with its trailer, he becomes Super Ginrai. A drone named Godbomber (later released in North America in 2003 as Apex Bomber and forming Powermaster Prime's Apex Armor to become Apex Prime) is later built, and transforms into a tandem trailer. When Super Ginrai combines with Godbomber, the end result is God Ginrai. He commands the power of fire, exemplified through his assorted "Fire Guts" attacks.
- Lightfoot (recolor of Getaway) - son of the head of British Motors, a Canadian-based auto company. He is able to control the flow of water.
- Ranger (recolor of Joyride) - a Canadian park ranger.
- Road King (recolor of Slapdash) - a European race-car champion.
- Doubleclouder (recolor of Doubledealer) - Clouder is an average "nerd" who stumbles across his Transtector. Able to assume two forms, he initially joins the Decepticons, and sabotages their base, but defects to the Autobots when he is left for dead.
- Buster (minor recoloring of Dreadwind) - elder brother to Hydra, Buster became notorious in America's criminal underworld as an assassin. Arrogant and aloof, he can manipulate electricity. Combines with Hydra to form Dreadwing. (Parts originally molded in light blue for the American Dreadwind are molded in red for Buster.)
- Hydra (minor recoloring of Darkwing) - younger brother to Buster, Hydra is more gentle than his sibling. He loves birds and owns some, an aerial attraction mirrored by his ability to control the wind. Combines with Buster to form Dreadwing. (Parts originally molded in light blue for the American Darkwing are molded in red for Hydra.)
- Overlord (exclusive to Japan, later released in Europe in 1991) - was composed of two vehicles—a tank (the Giga Tank) and jet (the Mega Jet)—piloted by the husband and wife team of Lord Giga and Lady Mega, respectively - which can combine together to form either a giant robot or an advance base.
Years before the beginning of the series, the evil alien energy entity and self-styled "Decepticon God", Devil Z, stole the eight Transtectors from the sector of space known as the G Nebula, rich in Tenchokon (the power of the Heavens) and sent them to Earth, intending for them to lay in hiding on the planet, gradually soaking up Chichokon (the power of the Earth). The final stage of his plan was to revive the Transtectors as a new breed of lifeform by merging them with human beings, thereby adding Jinchokon (the power of Man) to the equation, giving the resultant "Godmasters" the power to manipulate the three primal energies of the universe. As they plummeted towards the planet, the seven smaller fragments broke off from the largest body and crashed in various places across the world, while the largest body buried itself in an underwater trench.
Some of the Transtectors adopted vehicular disguises to hide in plain sight - such, at least, was the case with the one which was intended to be used as a body for Optimus Prime, which, through coincidence or design, became a tractor-trailer. At least two of the Transtectors did not adopt forms, remaining shapeless lumps of black matter, buried in the Canadian Rocky Mountains - one of them was mined as ore and used in the construction of British Motors' signature car, while the other was eventually found by Ranger and kept by him for simple artistic appreciation. The largest of the Transtectors was uncovered by Giga and Mega, who came to serve Devil Z and located two further Transtectors for Buster and Hydra.
When a young truck driver named Ginrai rented the Transtector truck from the garage owner who possessed it, he discovered a set of Master-Braces - the metallic bracelets which endow humans with the Masterforce - within it, merging with the Transtector to become the first Autobot Godmaster. His Transtector later activated on its own, locating its secondary portion buried beneath a mountain in Japan, which took the form of a trailer to go along with the cab, allowing Ginrai to merge the two sections to become Super Ginrai.
Subsequently, the race began to locate the remaining Godmasters, which Ginrai kicked off by appearing on television to appeal to individuals for a lead. When Lightfoot contacted him, Ginrai soon helped his discover that British Motors' signature car, which his father had constructed and gifted to him, was his Transtector. Investigating the Rockies at Lightfoot's suggestion, the Autobots met with Ranger; when he was given Master-Braces, his Transtector took the form of a dune buggy. The fourth Autobot Godmaster was racing champ, Road King, whose race car was his Transtector, which had been given to him by his mentor. The final Godmaster, Doubleclouder, did not appear for some time afterward, but no explanation for how he discovered the final Transtector was offered.
At the conclusion of the series, Buster and Hydra, seeking to discard the humanity that they believe makes them weak, are permanently fused with their Transtectors, becoming wholly robotic beings. Giga, Mega and Clouder are forcibly separated from their Transtectors by Devil Z, who brings the Transtectors to life himself. When Devil Z is successfully destroyed by God Ginrai, the Autobots Godmasters are all also separated from their Transtectors, who have, through their partnership with their human components, evolved into full-fledged Transformer lifeforms, and depart Earth to join the greater battle in space.
- FILM REVIEW: Boyhood dreams come true with Transformers, University Wire, July 6, 2007, by Jesse Johnson
- https://www.usatoday.com/life/movies/news/2007-06-28-transformers-side_N.htm Evolution of the shape-changers, from Japanese toy to big screen, 6/29/2007, by Anthony Breznican, USA TODAY