Nucleon (Transformers)

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Nucleon is a power source in the fictional Transformers universe. It was introduced during the beginning of the Action Masters toy line in 1990. The Action Masters were composed of small-scale 3¾" Transformers, a mixture of pre-existing characters, who were designed to closely resemble their animated counterparts from the original Transformers animated series, and original creations. None of the figures were capable of transforming, so they were supplied with transformable weapons and vehicles to compensate. Nucleon was used in the toy line's back story to explain the drastic change in the figures.

Original concept

The original concept of nucleon was conceived under the title Transformers: New Generation by Bob Budiansky, the original author of Marvel Comics' Transformers series. The original story line for Nucleon was this:

A group of Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, left Cybertron to search for new sources of energy, as energon reserves were being drained. This group eventually came across a form of energy that had been compressed into chunks of matter after going through a black hole: Nucleon. A single piece of it could power a Transformer for an entire year.

Desperate for a new energy source to avoid total deactivation, the Autobots immediately consumed the Nucleon. This resulted in a complete power surge, although consuming the fuel had also brought several side effects: the Autobots' delicate transformation circuitry fused together, storing the Nucleon itself while leaving the Autobots unable to transform at all.

Optimus Prime, unable to accept the loss of the Autobots' transformation capabilities, arranged for the construction of transforming droids and vehicles for the Autobots, some of which could be piloted and some of which were sentient. The Decepticons were easily defeated by the enhanced Autobots, forcing the Decepticons, led by Megatron, to raid a Nucleon storage facility and ingest the fuel themselves, repeating the current events and resulting in the construction of vehicles and droids for the Decepticons as well.

Marvel Comics

While writing the Transformers comic in 1991, Simon Furman took the nucleon concept in a radically different direction. Following the assault by the Underbase-powered Starscream, a vast number of Autobot troops were left deactivated, stored in the Ark's stasis pods until Grimlock, dissatisfied with Optimus Prime's leadership after the Matrix Quest, went on an unauthorized quest of his own to revive his fallen Dinobot comrades.

Having already heard of the fabled fuel nucleon, Grimlock headed to the planet Hydrus 4, a rough hostile robotic jungle planet where he encountered strange zombie-like robotic life forms capable only of feeling instant rage and hatred towards anyone who came to seek the power source from them. The zombie robots attacked Grimlock on sight, shouting "None must feed! Defend the well!", but Grimlock was easily able to fend them off.

One small robot remained but rather than attack Grimlock, it warned him: the robots he had fought were not seeking to keep Nucleon to themselves; they were attempting to prevent anyone else from risking exposure to it. Nucleon, the robot warned, affects no two life forms the same way and sometimes the results were horrific. Grimlock, unwilling to expose his Dinobots to any risk he would not take himself, exposed himself to the Nucleon and immediately felt its restorative effects. Undaunted, he soon had the Dinobots re-energized with the miracle fuel and pumped it into the Ark's stasis pods, reviving all the deactivated Autobots.

Grimlock began to fear that he had been too hasty when, over the next few days, his joints periodically began to lock up, rendering him immobile. Immediately following the conflict with Unicron, Grimlock and the Dinobots were attacked by subterranean Cybertronian life forms and, during the battle, the entirety of Grimlock's body locked up, completely paralyzing him.

Only Hi-Q, the Powermaster partner of Optimus Prime, could see the true meaning of the process: Grimlock was not simply immobilized, he had entered a chrysalis stage, the second stage of an incredible transformation. Tapping into the process and accelerating it with his Powermaster abilities, Hi-Q set Grimlock free. Truly transformed, Grimlock burst free of his old body in a new, more powerful, one and was able to save his comrades. However, the price he had paid was immediately clear: he could no longer transform.

No further Transformers were shown to transform into Action Masters in the comic book, but several characters such as Krok and Rollout, who only existed in the Action Masters toy line, did put in appearances. In issue #80, the final issue, Optimus Prime returned in a body based on his Action Master toy, although writer Simon Furman attests that Prime wouldn't have actually been an Action Master in execution had the comic continued.

Later, a text-only story included in the final UK Transformers Annual told of a near future in which all exposed to Nucleon had surrendered to that fate, waiting only for a means to reverse the process to be created.

Unused ideas

Simon Furman has spoken of the direction in which he wished to take the Nucleon idea, had the comic carried on any further. Of the Dinobots, only Snarl would have actually become a non-transforming Action Master, as he was the only other Dinobot released in the toy line besides Grimlock. Working out of the concept that Nucleon did not affect all mechanoids the same way, Furman had assorted undivulged fates planned for various other Transformers that were not rendered as Action Masters in the toy line, including something particularly gruesome for Slag.

European exclusives

Several new figures in the Action Masters sub line were released exclusively to Europe in 1991. Some were entirely new figures while others were repaints of existing characters. However, four "Action Master Elite" figures were released, all of them inspired by pre-existing characters. These figures were able to transform into vehicles: Doublepunch (an homage to Black Zarak) could transform into a scorpion, Omega Spreem (a homage to Omega Supreme) transformed into a tank, Turbo Master (a homage to Bruticus) transformed into a helicopter, and Windmill also could transform into a helicopter.

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