Once again, DrSpengler (who's help was needed a LOT more this time around!) and I present the guide to Transformers manga from Japan's TV Magazine, picking up where we left off with Headmasters. - - - THE HEADMASTERS Published from 1987 to 1988, with an extra-long special included early in the series, The Headmasters is something of an oddity when compared to all the other Transformers manga. Where Super Robot Life, The Transformer and Big War were all designed as supplements to their respective existing animated series, and the later manga, Masterforce and Victory, were completely alternate versions of their series, telling their own version of the story, Headmasters does not fit neatly into either camp. Of its eight issues, seven of them are stories in the vein of the earlier manga, which are intended to take place “off screen” within the continuity of the animated series (with the first and last chapters specifically referencing events from the show). Issue #4, however, tells the story of how Daniel and Sixshot became friends in a completely different way to the animated series, supplanting the episode which did the same, and issue #7 contains some notable continuity conflicts. Ultimately, it seems that the best way to describe how the Headmasters manga relates to the anime would be the same way that the Marvel UK comics relate to the Marvel US comics – an alternate universe, which is primarily the same but where more stories and some differences occur. Also, bizarrely, although Fortress and his battleship, Maximus, appear on occasion, neither Fortress Maximus nor Scorponok ever appear in the manga. ISSUE #1 As the Autobots and the recently-arrived Autobot Headmasters ruminate on the current state of play – the death of Optimus Prime, their base on the planet Athenia, the power of the Headmasters – Galvatron leads the Decepticon Headmasters in a plot to destroy Battleship Maximus. Alerted to the Decepticons’ approach, the Headmasters take off in Maximus and meet their foes in space – as Mindwipe prepares to hurl the bomb that will finish the craft off, the Headmasters burst out in vehicle mode. Chromedome leaps out of his Transtector and grabs the bomb from Mindwipe, reconnecting with his Transtector and saving Maximus. Notes - This issue takes place somewhere between episodes 3 and 9 of the Headmasters anime. THE GREAT DECISIVE BATTLE OF THE BEAST LIFEFORMS Having received an SOS from the Battle Beasts on Planet Beast, the Autobot Headmasters head to the planet on Battleship Maximus. As Fortress reports to Rodimus Prime, the other four Headmasters head out to investigate, and Brainstorm and Highbrow discover Predaking and a couple of Sharkticons under the command of the Decepticon Battle Beast commander, Alligatron, attacking some of the planet’s heroic warriors. The two transform to robot mode but are immediately shot down and captured by Predaking, and Hardhead and Chromedome are unable to come to their aid as their Transtectors have been entwined by living vines that are draining their energy. When Hardheard climbs out of his Transtector in an attempt to reprogram its power meter, he becomes entangled as well – but just then, a young boy clad in armour comes leaping down from the trees with a team of Battle Beasts behind him, and severs the vines, freeing the two Autobots. The boy is introduced as Cain, who has joined the heroic Battle Beasts since the Decepticons killed his parents. Elsewhere, as the Decepticons cackle at the prospect of what they will do to the captive Brainstorm and Highbrow, their Battle Beast allies are concerned at the prospect of interference from the Autobot Battle Beasts under the command of White Leo. They are right to be concerned, though, as Chromedome, Hardhead, Cain and the Autobot Battle Beasts watch from the jungle, and Cain then jumps into action, bouncing off the Decepticon Headmasters’ heads to draw their attention. As they transform and chase after him, Brainstorm and Highbrow break their bonds, and the Decepticon Battle Beasts charge them, only to be caught in a hail of arrows launched by the newly-arrived White Leo and the other Autobot Battle Beasts. As they tear into their foes, another team of new arrivals shows up – the Trainbots, who merge into Raiden and lay Preadking out with their “JR Kick.” Cain, meanwhile, is having trouble outpacing his Headmaster pursuers, and when he eventually trips, Mindwipe is almost upon him when a sudden blast knocks him out of the sky. The four Autobot Headmasters have come to Cain’s aid, and combine their weapons in the “Headmaster Grand Laser,” which soundly defeats Weirdwolf and Skullcruncher. His forces bested, Galvatron orders the Decepticons to flee, and the united forces of the Autobots and the Battle Beasts celebrate. Notes - This special issue takes place somewhere after episode 5 of the Headmasters anime, “Rebellion on Planet Beast,” as the Autobots are clearly already acquainted with the Battle Beasts. Presumably, as Galvatron leads the Decepticons, the issue occurs before episode 9, though it could conceivably occur after Galvatron’s later return to leadership, during the period in the series when the Decepticons are travelling from planet to planet. - The katakana for the name of the boy in this story reads “KE-I-N.” I’ve chosen to romanise this as “Cain.” - I’ve referred to them by their Japanese names here, but White Leo and Alligatron are known as “Pirate Lion” and “Gruesome Gator” in the Battle Beasts toyline. ISSUE #2 The Autobot Headmasters clash with the Decepticon Headmasters at an Alaskan energy facility, but when the Autobots try to transform, the Decepticons tackle them, preventing their heads from connecting with their bodies. Now decidedly disabled, the small Headmasters are chased by the Decepticons and cornered, but as Weirdwolf pounces, they perform the “Southern Cross Jump,” bounding over their foes’ heads and reconnecting with their Transtectors. As the Decepticons open their cockpits to look around and see what has happened, the Autobots attack, blasting their Transtectors. Notes -“Southern Cross Jump” appears to come from Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, one of three anime series, along with Super Dimenson Fortress Macross and Genesis Climber Mospeada, combined together to form the animated series, Robotech. ISSUE #3 In an effort to prevent the Decepticons from accessing the plentiful energy dwelling beneath the ocean near the Earth’s crust, the Headmasters and Daniel head underwater aboard the Trainbots. But, lurking in the watery depths are a team of aquatic Decepticons – Skullcruncher, Rippersnapper, a team of Sharkticons… and a giant robot squid under their control, which seizes the Trainbots! Daniel suits up in his exo-suit as he and the Headmasters disembark the Trainbots – with Chromedome slamming into the back of Skullcruncher’s head on the way – allowing the team to separate and escape the clutches of the squid. The Headmasters transform and the Trainbots form Raiden as the group breaks the surface of the ocean, and the Headmasters seize the squid, tangling it up in its own tentacles, then tossing it to Raiden, who spins it to clobber the other Decepticons. ISSUE #4 The Autobot Headmasters and Daniel engage Sixshot in battle in space to prevent him from making off with a capsule of emergency food rations. Seized by a “Headmaster Tackle,” Sixshot has his head pounded on by an exo-suited Daniel, and then escapes with a bit of trademark ninja trickery, disappearing in a burst of smoke. Sixshot sets down on a nearby planet to recuperate, where he finds himself surrounded by lots of cute animals…and Daniel, who has hitched a lift on his back! Having observed Sixshot’s gentleness with the animals, Daniel suggests that he join the Autobots, but Sixshot is having none of it. The debate is then interrupted by the arrival of the “Universal Hunters,” a team of heavily armed humanoids who have been on Sixshot’s tail. Shielding Daniel from their blasts – although one clips his arm – Sixshot assumes his jet, pistol, car, tank and wolf modes in sequence, decimating the hunters’ ranks, the finally transforming into his seventh, secret “Wingwolf” mode to finish off the last of them, forcing the hunters to flee. Sixshot bandages Daniel’s wound as he makes his suggestion again, but, although he has taught Daniel something about being strong, and Daniel has taught him the importance of being gentle, he is loyal to the Decepticons, and cannot leave them… yet. ISSUE #5 At the shore of a storm-whipped sea, the Horrorcons, Apeface and Snapdragon, watch as Chromedome and Daniel scale a spiralling tower rising from the sea – the Omega Tower, atop which rests the legendary Charge Arrow, a one-shot weapon that possesses the accumulated power of every possible energy resource. Chromedome – in his small Headmaster form - has previously acquired the key to the tower and unlocks the arrow, as the Horrorcons transform to their jet modes and fly to the top of the tower, assuming their monster forms to attack. Chromedome connects with his body and draws the arrow’s bow, aiming it at the Horrorcons, who do not believe he will use the weapon on them, and attack, knocking him to the ground. As Chromedome begins to pass out, he hears his own Transtector speaking to him, telling him that he is a hero and worthy to wield the arrow. As the Horrorcons loom over him and Daniel, Chromedome springs back into action to protect Daniel, shooting the arrow which imbeds in Apeface’s head and channels the power of thunder and lightning, devastating the Horrorcons and blasting their charred chassis off the tower and into the ocean below. Daniel laments the loss of the arrow, but Chromedome tells him that he now knows that a true hero becomes one through action and experience, not some quick-solution super-weapon. Notes - The setting of this issue is not given; it could be on Earth or another planet. Given the presence of the Horrorcons, who debuted one episode prior to the Decepticons’ trip through space going from planet to planet, the latter option is not unlikely. ISSUE #6 It’s Christmas, and the Autobot Headmasters are doing their part for the season by giving out presents to patients from a children's hospital. As a doctor explains, though, there’s a boy who is not there – Masato, who is currently in the hospital, having undergone surgery following some kind of accident. The surgery was successful, but Masato is too depressed to begin walking again - he is an orphan, and has no family to spend Christmas with. Highbrow volunteers to go and get him, transforming to helicopter mode and flying off, but no sooner has he departed than the Decepticon Headmasters show up to wreck the party! Meanwhile, Highbrow puts a bad-tempered Masato into his helicopter and heads back. On the way, they pass by a window through which Masato sees a family celebrating Christmas together, and goes quiet. Highbrow soothes him, explaining that robots don’t have biological families either, and that your family is not necessarily the people you are born to. Then, they arrive back at the party, where they find the Decepticons tearing the place up – Highbrow transforms to robot mode and is about to set Masato down when he is blasted by Mindwipe and drops him… only for everyone to gasp in shock when Masato strains and stands up! As the boy walks slowly to safety, Chromedome blasts the approaching Mindwipe out the air, and the Headmasters unite in their powerful Head Formation, generating a spinning vortex which finishes the off the Decepticons. As they retreat, Chromedome wishes the readers a Merry Christmas. ISSUE #7 Chromedome and Daniel are joined by the Targetmasters Stepper and Artfire in dealing with a fire in a city block, with Artifre immediately transforming to fire engine mode and extending his ladder to allow his Targetmaster partner, Nightstick, to transport people trapped inside the building to safety. Meanwhile, Stepper also transforms, and his partner Nebulon, Daniel and Chromedome (in his small form) leap atop him, angling Artfire’s water hoses at the blaze. Just then, the culprits behind the fire arrive – the Decepticon Targetmasters, Slugslinger, Misfire and Triggerhappy, who “Target On” with their partners and open fire on the Autobots. Fortunately for our heroes, Battleship Maximus then appears overhead, dumping a massive tank of water over the building and extinguishing the fire, allowing the Autobots to turn their attention to their opponents. Stepper and Artfire “Target On,” and they and Chromedome open fire on the Decepticons, who flee with Daniel’s shouts in their audio receptors. Notes - No origin is offered for Stepper and Artfire in the manga, but it is hard to reconcile them with the Targetmaster origin given in the anime, in which small Cybertronians from planet Master are fused to the arms of the Pointblank, Sureshot, Crosshairs, Slugslinger, Misfire and Triggerhappy in a one-time plasma energy explosion. - Additionally, is hard to chronologically place this issue – immediately after the creation of the Targetmasters in the anime, the Autobots and Decepticons headed to Master, and there is no time for this issue to occur after their return to Earth. Logically, it must operate outside of the established continuity of the anime. - Stepper and Artfire’s Targetmaster partners are those which formerly belonged to the Targetmaster versions of Cyclonus and Scourge (who were not released as Targetmasters in Japan) with their names reversed. The Fracas toy, partnered with Artfire, is now “Nightstick,” although the Nightstick toy, partnered with Stepper, is now named “Nebulon.” This likely stems from the fact that in Scourge’s Tech Spec, Fracas is never referred to by name, only as “the Nebulon,” so presumably, when translating, Takara simply assumed that “Nebulon” was his name. - Notably, although in the anime the Master robots cannot speak, communicating only in electronic gibberish and beeps, Nebulon and Nightstick talk up a storm in the manga. ISSUE #8 (EPILOGUE) The Decepticons have finally been defeated and are withdrawing from Earth, and the Autobots make preparations to pursue them. As Chromedome, Wheelie, Daniel, Spike and Carly ruminate, Soundblaster appears to make it clear that he will be staying on Earth to record information for the Decepticons. Soundblaster ejects Slugfest and Overkill, who target the humans, and Spike blocks Slugfest’s charge at Daniel, but Daniel jumps into action, clambering onto Slugfest’s back and covering his eyes, making him stagger blindly into Overkill. With the situation turned around, Chromedome strikes back at Soundblaster and seizes him in his “Master Chrome Hurricane” throw, hurling him over the horizon. Then, a voice congratulates them on their victory – Rodimus Prime has returned to Earth! Having survived many challenges in his travels through space, Rodimus has learned the value of Earth and humanity, considering the beautiful planet something that even Transformers must strive to become. Robots, Rodimus says, must live and work together with Earthlings in order to evolve – but for now, the Autobots must return to space and pursue the Decepticons, and Wheelie and Daniel say their goodbyes. Meanwhile, elsewhere, Soundblaster recovers from his crash-landing to be greeted by the sight of Sixshot, who has abandoned the Decepticons, and now plans to travel from planet to planet, learning new transformation skills... starting by making Earth his priority and learning to transform into a human, a concept which baffles Soundblaster. Two months later, the last of the Decepticons have finally been driven off Earth, and the Autobots, too, have departed... but Earth will not go unguarded... and the story of the Transformers... as always... it never ends! Notes - This issue takes place within the final minutes of the last episode of the Headmasters anime, after the destruction of Scorponok’s Transtector, but before the Autobots leave Earth. The manga inserts a much longer time span between the two moments than the anime itself shows. - Rodimus Prime departed for space in episode 10 of the Headmasters anime, “Planet Cybertron is in Grave Danger,” Part 2, searching for a new world for the Transformers to live on after the decimation of Cybertron. It is never stated if he accomplished this goal, but fans speculate that the Transformers may have settled on Planet V from Transformers: Victory, or, given Rodimus’s later return as a Micromaster in Battlestars: Return of Convoy, Planet Micro, home of the diminuitive robots. - Rodimus’s talk of humans and Transformers working together and evolving, the suggestion that humans can be Transformers, Sixshot’s desire to transform into a human and the narrative’s promise that Earth will not go unguarded all appear to foreshadow the next series, Super-God Masterforce. - - - Next time... like it says... Super-God Masterforce!