Pretenders is a subline within the Transformers toy line, introduced in 1988. The concept behind the toy was that the Transformers were capable of disguising their robotic forms through the use of synthetic organic outer shells.
- 1 Transformers: Generation 1
- 1.1 Standard Pretenders (1988)
- 1.2 Pretender beasts (1988)
- 1.3 Pretender vehicles
- 1.4 Standard Pretenders (1989)
- 1.5 Pretender Classics (1989)
- 1.6 Mega Pretenders (1989)
- 1.7 Ultra Pretenders (1989)
- 1.8 Decepticon Monster Pretenders (1989)
- 1.9 Marvel Comics
- 1.10 Dreamwave Productions
- 1.11 IDW Publishing
- 1.12 Devil's Due Publishing
- 2 Pretenders in Japan
- 3 Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
- 4 Transformers: Timelines
- 5 References
Transformers: Generation 1
Standard Pretenders (1988)
While the Autobots' outer shells all resemble human beings clad in armor, the Decepticons' shells are all in the form of monstrous animalistic creatures. The robot figure is contained entirely within the shell, invisible to the outsider observer. After the shell splits apart to release it, the shell can be recombined for a second figure. Although the first set of Pretenders was released early in 1988, a second set of 6, exclusive to North America, was also sold. Metalhawk, named so because his inner robot was constructed partially of die-cast metal (a rarity in 1988), was only sold in Japan.
- Cloudburst (spacecraft) (in Japan released as Phoenix)
- Groundbreaker (rocket car; exclusive to North America)
- Landmine (mining vehicle) (in Japan released as Lander)
- Metalhawk (jet; exclusive to Japan)
- Sky High (helicopter; exclusive to North America)
- Splashdown (hovercraft; exclusive to North America)
- Waverider (bathyscaphe) (in Japan released as Diver)
- Bomb-Burst is Decepticon Pretender, released as a toy in 1988. His tech-spec profile describes him as a vampire who swoops down on his enemies and uses his serrated metallic fangs to drain their fuel. His Pretender shell has a special texture that causes a rust rash on contact. The shell is the form of a humanoid vampire bat, which can be blinded by bright sunlight and is armed with a corrosive slime shooter and armor-piercing battle axe. The inner robot transforms into a vertical take-off and landing hover jet with dual lasers. He is considered the closest thing Transformers have to vampire.
- Generation 1 Pretender Bomb-Burst (1988)
- This Decepticon Pretender came with a shell shaped like a vampire bat humanoid. This toy is identical to the toy released as Blood in Japan.
- Bugly (jet; exclusive to North America)
- Finback (hovercraft; exclusive to North America)
- Iguanus (motorcycle; exclusive to North America)
- Skullgrin Like several other Pretenders, Skullgrin's personality changed somewhat when he received his Pretender shell. Normally a cool, calculating combatant, inside the shell he becomes a rampaging engine of destruction that tries to destroy everything in his path, never retreating. It has been speculated that the shell has a personality of its own. However, the egotistical Skullgrin has a surprising personality quirk — he loves Earth and is fascinated by it. Making him very different from other Decepticons. In his affair with Circuit-Breaker, he actually bargained for fuel instead of fighting to avoid any casualties. Skullgrin's Pretender shell is easily distinguishable by having the skull of a bovine animal for a head. The shell's dark gray color, multiple spikes, and skull ornaments on its belt give it a menacing appearance, similar to Judge Death. The inner Skullgrin robot transforms into a Cybertronian tank.
- Generation 1 Pretender Skullgrin (1988)
- This toy is identical to the toy sold in Japan as Dauros.
- Submarauder As silent and mysterious as the ocean depths. Sly and sinister. Roams the sea in solitary contentment. Angers easily, exploding into a furious frenzy. Serrated claws can shred a battleship like paper. Transforms into deep sea attack submarine, armed with proton cannon. Inside shell, wields torpedo rifle and unbreakable, organic-steel sword that eats metal on contact.
- Generation 1 Pretender Submarauder (1988)
- This toy is identical to the Gilmer toy released in Japan.
Pretender beasts (1988)
The exterior shells of these figures were organic representations of the mechanised animals the interior robots transformed into, also equipped with armor and mounted weapons.
- Chainclaw (bear) Chainclaw was named the 7th oddest thing that G1 Transformers transform into by Topless Robot.
- Catilla (sabre-toothed tiger)
The interior robots of the Pretender vehicles were contained within large armored-vehicle style shells. When the interior robot was removed, the shell could be reconfigured into a battle vehicle for them to pilot.
- Gunrunner (jet)
- Roadgrabber (jet)
Standard Pretenders (1989)
Stranglehold is a metal rhino. He is "The Muscle Monster". He will do anything to win. Stranglehold is an Intergalactic Cybertronic Wrestling Federation Champion. Stranglehold loves kicking, gouging, punching, and curling cars to be in good shape and to have revenge. Stranglehold has a small gun and a huge gun. He is equipped with a concussion blaster in robot mode. He also has a backpack. Stranglehold is all brawn - no brain. He has a brawn blaster that can drain down his enemies' power. Octopunch, Starscream and Bludgeon are alike Stranglehold.
Pretender Classics (1989)
Four classic characters, re-imagined as Pretenders. All four have humanoid shells. The inner robots were also sold without their shells as part of the K-Mart exclusive "K-Mart Legends" line.
- Starscream (F-15 "Eagle")
Mega Pretenders (1989)
The Mega Pretenders kicked the Pretender concept up a notch, giving both the interior robot and the shell the ability to transform and combine to form a larger vehicle.
Crossblades and Thunderwing were retooled and recolored in Japan and were sold as Blue Bacchus and Black Shadow respectively.
- Vroom (car, motorbike w/sidecar)  Vroom was named the 21st top unfortunately named Transformer by Topless Robots.
- Crossblades (jet/dragster, helicopter)
- Thunderwing (small jet, large jet/spacecraft)
Ultra Pretenders (1989)
Taking the Pretender concept to the extreme, the Ultra Pretenders featured two shells — a large exterior vehicle shell, which then contained a secondary humanoid shell (which could also transform), and within that, finally, the diminutive interior robot. Roadblock is a notable sufferer of "gold plastic syndrome" — gold plastic is known for deteriorating faster than other colors, and the inner robot is made mostly of this material, making it is hard to find an intact Roadblock.
- Skyhammer (VTOL jet/jet/funny car)
- Roadblock (tank/jet/half track tank)
Decepticon Monster Pretenders (1989)
These six figures were unique among the Pretenders — small robots with monster alternate modes, housed within shells made from soft rubber. Together, the six interior robots could combine into Monstructor. This set was sold in Japan as the Dinoforce, where the inner robots were recolored and had soft rubber dinosaur shells instead of monster shells.
- Icepick (monster; exclusive to North America)
- Birdbrain (monster; exclusive to North America)
- Bristleback (monster; exclusive to North America)
- Slog (monster; exclusive to North America)
- Scowl (monster; exclusive to North America)
- Wildfly (monster; exclusive to North America)
With the North American Transformers cartoon having come to a conclusion the previous year, it fell to Marvel Comics to provide the supporting fiction for Pretenders in the West.
Attempting to maximize his warriors' power of disguise and surprise, the Decepticon commander Scorponok conceived a method of merging "sythoplasm" — a synthetic organic substitute — with six of his warriors, creating the Decepticon Pretenders. A computerized version of Optimus Prime had spied on the process, however, allowing the Autobots to duplicate it in time to meet the Decepticon attack with their own Pretenders. But while the Autobots were well aware of the true nature of their opponents, the dim-witted Decepticons at first thought they were merely fighting particularly tall humans, giving the Autobots the element of surprise when they split from their shells and forced the Decepticons back. Both factions used their shells and inner forms simultaneously and separately in combat, splitting their concentration to double their effective fighting force. This tactic was seen again and again in subsequent stories involving the Pretenders.
When Starscream attained the power of the Underbase, the Pretenders were among the Transformers able to survive his onslaught due to their organic components. Seeking to bolster his forces, Scorponok contacted Carnivac, Catilla and Snarler — three Decepticons left on Earth after the reality-shredding Time Wars — and gave them Pretender shells in exchange for their attacking Fortress Maximus. Although they failed, they were allowed to keep their shells, and subsequently encountered Springer and the other Autobot Time Wars survivors. Catilla joined the Autobots outright, while Carnivac sided with them but remained a Decepticon in name, leaving Snarler disgusted and vowing to make them pay. Snarler assembled a new Mayhem Attack Squad — including the Pretenders Bludgeon, Stranglehold and Octopunch — and attacked the "survivors" in a battle that saw Bludgeon kill Catilla.
Not long after, Landmine and Cloudburst were sent on a mission to acquire new parts to repair the fallen Autobots, only to run afoul of the dealers of said parts, the robot-eating Mecannibals. Chosen by the Mecannibals to be their next meal, Cloudburst stayed their consumption by convincing the Mecannibals to allow them to acquire an additional ingredient that would make them tastier to eat, retrieving it from the nearby planet of Femax. There, Cloudburst so impressed the female warrior chieftain that she sought to make him her mate, only to decapitate him in rage upon discovering that he was a robot within his shell. Landmine was able to placate her, and Cloudburst was repaired; as they left the planet, they discovered that the Decepticons Dreadwind and Darkwing had been responsible for the Mecannibals discovering their true nature, and were able to escape the monsters' clutches while they set off to make their robot-spotters the Mecannibals next meal.
Escaping the Mecannibals for a brief time, Dreadwind and Darkwing were sent on a mission by Megatron to recover Starscream's corpse. Megatron then captured Ratchet, teleporting him — and, accidentally, the deactivated bodies of Grimlock, Jazz and Bumblebee — to Cybertron, where he forced him to rebuild Starscream as a Pretender, who he then unleashed on the Autobots and Decepticons on Earth. Ratchet was able to use the discard prototype Pretender shells to revive Grimlock, Jazz and Bumblebee, and defeated Megatron's plan. While Starscream got to grips with his new situation — feeling that the Decepticons considered him a walking joke, when in actuality, they were terrified of him — the Mayhem Attack Squad Pretenders were sent to attack Grimlock and co. on the orders of the Decepticons' new Cybertronian commander, Thunderwing, a Pretender himself. Four UK strips showed how Thunderwing became commander; but no explanation was given for where Thunderwing acquired his Pretender shell, and he was only shown without it in one panel in "The Big Shutdown". This would confuse the issue of the origin of the Pretender shells further, as illustrations for the text story, "The Magnificent Six", would show Thunderwing with his shell as a lieutenant of Megadeath before the Ark crashed on Earth.
When the quest to recover the Autobots' lost Creation Matrix began, Autobot Pretenders Longtooth, Pincher and Doubleheader tracked a lead to the planet of Pequod, discovering that the last of an extinct race of sea-mammals named the klud had been revived by Matrix energy. Longtooth was attacked by the creature, and then, his injuries addling his mind, set out to kill it in an Ahab-like quest, only to be stopped by his allies. The "Pretender Classics" then located the Matrix on a moon of the planet Cameroon, but Thunderwing stole it and was possessed by it, attacking the Autobots until he was defeated by being jettisoned into space. It was here for the first time that a liability inherent in using a Pretender outer shell separately in combat was shown; Thunderwing blew a large hole straight through Bumblebee's Pretender shell, and, though nowhere near the blast, Bumblebee's inner form was crippled by the feedback.
Thunderwing later returned during Unicron's attack on Cybertron, but was destroyed by the Chaos-Bringer, allowing Optimus Prime to use the Matrix to save the day, at the cost of his own life. Grimlock was appointed new Autobot leader, and lost his Pretender abilities when exposure to Nucleon robbed him of being able to transform, turning him into an Action Master.
Octopunch would appear among the troops of Bludgeon attacking the planet Klo in issue #80, "The End of the Road!" Although they were winning against the Autobots, the arrival of Optimus Prime and The Last Autobot turned the tide and the Decepticons retreated.
Bludgeon, meanwhile, became new Decepticon leader for several years, until Megatron returned and battled him, decapitating his outer shell and then destroying his interior robot (as seen in Transformers: Generation 2).
Pincher and Doubleheader appeared in Marvel U.K. Transformers #251 "The Void!" where they were among the Autobot crew of a ship commanded by Rodimus Prime which was retreating from Cybertron.
While the Pretenders received profiles in Dreamwave Productions' More Than Meets the Eye series, only a few Pretenders were actually featured in any Dreamwave stories. Bludgeon and Bugly were both part of the Chaos Trinity, along with Mindwipe, and helped procure subjects for The Fallen's plans in the second volume of Transformers: The War Within, known as The Dark Ages. They were eventually defeated by a combined force of Autobots and Decepticons.
Alternate universe versions of Bludgeon and Thunderwing, as well as Scourge, Dirge and Galvatron were among the Heralds of Unicron in the final story arc of Dreamwave's Transformers: Armada series, sent to soften the Armada universe for Unicron's arrival. However, Armada Megatron defeated Galvatron with the help of the Star Saber and the others were blown up by the Autobots.
The Dreamwave Transfomers Universe book also gave the first ever information/description on Monstructor, the combine form of the Pretenders Monsters. Monstuctor is described as an Lovecraftian-type abomination that was divided into five separate, and weaker, robots to stop its quest to destroy all life within universe by unknown forces.
In the IDW Publishing miniseries The Transformers: Stormbringer, the Pretender process, called "bio-cybernetic grafting", was invented by Thunderwing in his attempts to allow Transformers to survive Cybertron's deterioration. Pretender shells are made from "bodily tissue culled from living beings", which led Megatron to decry the process as an abomination and decommission it which was a surprising act for Megatron, who was known to take virtually any advantage he could get in the war with the Autobots, causing Thunderwing to go rogue to prove it worked. The process inadvertently turns the subject into a supremely powerful maniac, more force of nature than sentient being, and Thunderwing's initial rampage made Cybertron uninhabitable. A cult of Decepticons under Bludgeon, comprising Bomb-Burst, Skullgrin, Finback and Iguanus, brought Thunderwing back online in 2006, in an attempt to rejuvenate Cybertron by the sacrifice of inhabited planets. They were intending to undergo the grafting process themselves, but the Wreckers terminated most of the group before this could happen; Bludgeon underwent the process too soon and it went wrong, destroying his mind in a psychic backlash.
The robot forms of Bludgeon's group are drawn substantially different from the robot forms of their toys, and resemble the designs of their Pretender shells. Bludgeon's Pretender shell was redesigned to be that of a transformable Mega-Pretender. Also, Thunderwing was given a secondary attack mode where his jet wings folded in and his body extended, making him a giant among the other Transformers.
Monstructor made his debut in The Transformers: Spotlight issue on Optimus Prime, however his components were neither Pretenders nor Decepticons, as they were imprisoned before factions or the Pretender process existed.
Devil's Due Publishing
The concept of Pretender shells was given another new origin in Devil's Due Publishing's fourth G.I. Joe vs the Transformers series. Here, Bludgeon and the future Pretender Monsters came to Earth to exploit it, but were shot down. To survive, they made a deal with the serpent cult Cobra-La to work for them. However, Cobra-La's aversion to mechanical technology would mean that they took organic shells out of necessity, being "adjusted" for Cobra-La's purposes. Unlike IDW's re-imagining of Pretenders, the Pretenders seen here resemble the traditional look of their Pretender toys.
Pretenders in Japan
Not all of the Pretender toys released in the West reached Japan, and several of those that did were either renamed or remolded in some way.
In addition to the Pretenders released elsewhere, one entirely new Autobot Pretender figure was created for this year — Metalhawk, so named for the large amount of die-cast metal in his interior robot, which transformed into a jet.
Also, this year saw the release of a recolored version of the original Fortress Maximus toy named Grand Maximus. His Headmaster component, Grand, was outfitted with a newly created Pretender shell. Grand is a recolored version of Fortress Maximus's component, Cerebros.
- Lander (Landmine)
- Phoenix (Cloudburst)
- Diver (Waverider)
- Blood (Bomb-Burst)
- Dauros (Skullgrin)
- Gilmer (Submarauder)
Pretenders not sold in Japan
Japan did not receive the following Pretenders:
- Sky High
This year saw only Decepticon Pretenders released, all sufficiently colored differently from their American cousins.
The Japanese version of America's Pretender Monsters, these toys were colored in creams, blacks and greens, and were given entirely different shells in the images of cyborg dinosaurs. Their combined form is Dinoking. They included:
- Goryu (redeco of Icepick; T. rex)
- Gairyu (redeco of Bristleback; Ankylosaurus)
- Doryu (redeco of Scowl; Stegosaurus)
- Kakuryu (redeco of Slog; Triceratops)
- Yokuryu (redeco of Wildfly; Pteranodon)
- Rairyu (redeco of Birdbrain; Apatosaurus)
The Crossformers are versions of America's Mega Pretenders that have names based on their base colors, and shells that appear to be remolded variants of the American Mega Pretender shells. It is possible they may have been released earlier than the Mega Pretenders (1989) because while both share the same decals as the American versions, the frames of each label matches the color of the place it sat on each Crossformer. (For example, while Thunderwing has lavender wings and Black Shadow has red ones, the edges of the labels are red.)
Super God Masterforce
The cancellation of the American Transformers cartoon series had not deterred Japan — in 1987, they produced their first exclusive Transformers series, Transformers: The Headmasters, and did the same in 1988 with Transformers: Super-God Masterforce, starring the Pretenders.
Eight thousand years ago, a starship containing the Autobot Pretenders Metalhawk, Lander, Diver and Phoenix pursued the Decepticon Pretenders Blood, Dauros and Gilmer to Neolithic-era Earth, where they crashed. Using their Pretender abilities, the Autobots adopted the form of humans - not using simple external shells like in the American fiction, but actually transforming the very structure of their bodies into an organic equivalent, shrinking down to normal human size to hide in plain sight among burgeoning humanity. The Decepticon Pretenders, on the other hand, adopted the forms of monstrous creatures, becoming feared as demons by early man. After many battles, the Autobots succeeded in defeating their enemies and sealing them away for thousands of years — Blood in the pyramids of Egypt, Gilmer in the ruins of Atlantis, and Dauros beneath the Nazca Lines in Peru.
Liberated in the near future by the mysterious Decepticon god, Devil Z, the three Pretenders entered his service, and immediately began to draw the Autobot Pretenders out of hiding, before turning their attention to a series of plans of acquiring energy and disrupting one of the three Chokoon Powers on Earth. After a string of failures, Devil Z supplanted them with his more powerful Godmaster minions, and although they would often participate in missions, their standing was downgraded and their regularity of appearance on the battlefield diminished. Eventually, they generally only served to supply comic relief, and departed Earth with the other surviving Decepticons when Devil Z was destroyed.
The Pretenders made a return of sorts in Transformers: Victory, with the Decepticon DinoForce, a group of Pretenders with outer shells resembling dinosaurs. they were used by Deszaras primarily for their ability to combine into Dinoking. Oddly, the shells were shown to be sentient, able to act and think for themselves when their hosts weren't around. Also, the shells were fully transformable even though the Dinoforce themselves were never shown to transform.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Unlike most Transformers who adopt obviously mechanical alternate forms for disguise, Alice takes the form of an animatronic figure of Alice from Alice in Wonderland from an amusement park, and therefore is able to pass as human in the comic adaption. In the film, she appears to be a duplicate of an unknown organic human as opposed to an animatronic. This interpretation of Pretenders is closer to the Japanese Pretenders from Transformers: Generation 1, such as in the Masterforce anime, who actually turned into humans instead of wearing organic-looking shells over robot bodies, as was their depiction in the U.S.
One of the earliest scenes caught on camera during the production of Revenge of the Fallen was a puppet of Alice in robot mode attacking the car as Mikaela, Sam and Leo made their escape. Initial fan reactions lead many to think this was Frenzy from the last film returning.
Alice was voted one of the All-Time Hottest Robots by Techland in April 2010.
Isabel Lucas was recognized for her breakout performance as Alice at Spike TV's Scream 2009 awards, which was reported by the Associated Press.
Alice was picked as the 73rd "Coolest Movie Robot" by Matt Patches of UGO.com.
In the comic adaption of Revenge of the Fallen, it is mentioned that Alice took her form and name by scanning an animatronic Alice in Wonderland from an amusement park.
Alice appears in Transformers: Nefarious #1, set months after the events of the 2009 film. She steals an RV in Seattle and is chased by Skids and Mudflap, who keep her occupied until Sideswipe arrives and defeats her. She is taken to NEST headquarters on Diego Garcia to be examined by Ratchet. Sideswipe is disgusted by her decision to disguise herself as a human.
The novel adaption of Revenge of the Fallen has an identical origin to the comic.
Posing as a college student to track Sam down and keep an eye on him, Alice overtly and promiscuously flirts with him at a party and later in his room after he has been revealed as able to write symbols in Cybertronian. Later on, she is revealed to be a Decepticon with a whip-like tongue, razor tail and hands that morph into pulse blasters. She chases Sam, Mikaela and Leo, but is killed when Mikaela crushes her against a light pole with a car and then runs over her to finish the job.
In a story from the Transformers Collectors Club for 2013, several Autobots land on Shattered Glass prehistoric Earth. In order to survive the Energon radiation, Prowl combines Pretender and Headmaster technology in order to create animal-based alternate modes for himself, Ironhide, Silverbolt, Grimlock, and Ultra Magnus, making them into a team similar to the Maximals of Beast Wars.
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- http://www.vizworld.com/2009/07/digital-domain-turns-alice-into-a-decepticon/ Digital Domain turns Alice into a Decepticon
- http://techland.com/2010/04/20/sci-fi-sexy-time-all-time-hottest-robots/ Sci-Fi Sexy Time: All-Time Hottest Robots By Allie Townsend on April 20, 2010
- http://www.usatoday.com/life/television/news/2009-10-18-scream-2009_N.htm Depp, Richards light up Spike TV's 'Scream 2009', By Sandy Cohen, Associated Press
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- BotCon - 2012 Souvenir Figure Sets