8 Awesome Transformers Sub-Groups
Ben's Top Eight Transformers Sub-Groups
Once upon a time, Transformers were simply robots that turned from one thing to another. As the line expanded however, new and innovative ways to play with the robots in disguise were developed, leading to the development of "Sub-Groups" and "special teams". This article celebrates those innovations by listing my personal favorite "top eight" groups in the Transformers universe.
God Ginrai Artwork
At first the concept sounds a bit dorky right? A guy becomes the engine of a Transformer? And then spends half the battle sucking in exhaust fumes? Not very noble or cool sounding. However, I specify the "Godmasters", the Japanese equivalent of the Western "Powermasters" concept because in reality it was very different than the Powermasters marketed outside of Japan. In Japan, the Godmasters were Transformers had two parts, the "Transector", the "robot body"/vehicle and then the human who could actually "activate" the Transector. When the two combined, there was no merging of personalities. Instead, the likes of Ginrai and Road King were the Transformers. Even cooler? They combined Cybertronian and human energies to become beings that were capable of taking an amazingly large amount of damage while also using almost magical abilities like manipulating lightning to fight. All that and frankly, yelling "God on!" to combine is just kind of funny and cool all at the same time.
- "Godmasters" were referred to as "Powermasters" outside of Japan.
- While he looks like Optimus Prime, the Godmaster Ginrai is a completely different character. The physical resemblance is explained by his Transector having been originally intended for Optimus Prime/Convoy.
- Omni Productions, a Hong Kong based company translated episodes of "Masterforce" into english, but misnamed several characters turning Ginrai into "Optimus Prime" (as he appeared in the U.S.).
Silverbolt as he appeared in the "Beast Wars Transformers" television series
Given my history with the Transformers toy line, it should surprise no one that I would list a sub-group from the Beast Wars Transformers line here. While the Transmetals were awesome for their triple changing, vacuum metallized fun, the Fuzors represented something very different than your typical Transformer, Beast Wars or otherwise. First of course, the action figures themselves were daring. The designs were not always perfect, but more often than not the sculpting and designs were strong (if not the execution). For me the huge charm in Fuzor figures were the almost "mythological" nature of their designs. These were not common, every day creatures but rather combinations of creatures that could easily have led to stories being told generations later by the protohumans seein the series, leading to legends that would influence culture to this day. The thought of say, the winged statues of ancient Egypt being partly influenced by a robot in disguise with a funky animal form is super cool.
- Three of the Fuzors (Injector, Torca and Sky Shadow) were given new decos and new names and re-released in Japan as Unicron's servants in the "Beast Wars Neo" series.
- Injector was originally going to be called "Aquasting" and was even called that in his toy commercial.
- The term "Fuzors" was later used when Hasbro released the popular "Zoids" figures in the U.S.
#6. Real Gear Robots
Real Gear Robots product picture (High Score 100)
"Real Gear Robots" may seem like an odd group of Transformers to put on this list, but there's a twofold purpose here. First, this line pays wonderful homage to several of the original Transformers such as Soundwave and Perceptor. Those characters all transformed into every day objects instead of vehicles or weaponry. These are items you can imagine just lying around the house and having them potentially be robots in disguise fuels the imagination. Second, the "Real Gear Robots" gets extra credit for taking what was meant to be a somewhat dramatic but mostly humorous sequence in the 2007 live action film and finds a home for several figures that may not have seen released otherwise. Representing objects from cell phones to video games to cameras, I think this line really embraces the "robots in disguise" concept very well while producing some fun toys to boot.
- The "Real Gear Robots" action figures were actually developed for a previous line of "Transformers" and then shelved. The 2007 live action movie gave them an avenue to be released as it featured the AllSpark bringing life to many Earth based devices such as a Mountain Dew machine and a steering wheel in a car.
- "Real Gear Robots" as portrayed in the 2007 "Transformers" movie appeared to be wild and feral upon "birth".
- The "Real Gear Robot" figure "Meantime" is sculpted to appear to be wearing a small version of his own "watch mode" on his wrist!
Targetmaster Hot Rod packaging art
Introduced in 1987, the Targetmasters were Transformers who had smaller partners that transformed from a figure to a weapon. Depending on what fiction you go with, they either replaced a hand or were hand held or just floated in mid-air as weapons themselves. No matter which way you look at it, having an extra little accessory figure along with your Transformer was a cool idea, and having them become weapons was even better. This concept endures to this day. Many of the Mini-Con figures starting in the Armada era have Targetmaster like features, transforming into weaponry that can attach to or be held by a larger Transformer. In the "Universe 2.0" toy line, Cyclonus was given a new toy with his G1 Targetmaster partner Nightstick and several of the Power Core Combiners include Mini-Cons that act as "Targetmaster type" weapons. This is one Transformers concept that definitely continues to endure.
- An alternate name for Hot Rod's Targetmaster partner "Firebolt" in the Marvel Comic Book was "Sparks".
- In Japan's "Headmasters" series, Targetmasters were not biomechanical beings but rather smaller robots that replaced the hand of a Transformer in weapon mode.
- Japanese company Tomy recently released a limited edition run of Mini-Cons given new paint schemes to resemble Generation One Targetmasters including their names such as Recoil, Spoilsport and Caliburst.
Sixshot reissue product photo
A Transformer that can change from robot to vehicle and back is really neat. A Transformer that can change from robot to vehicle to another vehicle (and then maybe an animal too) is really neat. In Generation One, many Transformers were introduced with more than two modes. Among the most famous were the "Triple Changers", Autobots and Decepticons that could convert into three forms. Later there would be Sixchangers who could transform into six (and seven in Sixshot's case) forms. Part of the appeal of these figures is their complexity, but another part is how difficult they are to design. When you get any Transformers with so many modes, you have to admire what thought (and how much coffee drinking) went into its design. Though somewhat simple by today's standards, Generation One's multi-formers continue to spread their influence today. In 2008 Tankor (a.k.a. Octane) was released as a revamped version of that character and more recently the Decepticon Mixmaster from "Revenge of the Fallen" was created as a triple changer (and portrayed as such in the movie). My personal hope is that as time goes alone, more multi-changing Transformers will be released utilizing the best of today's toy design technology.
- Aside from his six "standard" modes, Sixshot was given a seventh "Winged Wolf" mode in the Japanese "Headmasters" cartoon.
- The toy commercial for the Autobot Six-Changer "Quickswitch" indicated he was the "son" of Sixshot.
- A prototype for an unreleased Transformer in Generation One triple-changer was a robot who transformed from a robot to a jet to a horse! This character was later shown in comic books with the name "Dropshot".
#3. Micro Transformers
"Micromaster Zone" screen capture
In the late 1980's, the Transformers were reaching out for new concepts to embrace, and one of them involved competing with Galoob's "Micro Machines" line of tiny vehicles. What's cooler than a small vehicle? How about an army of them that transform into robots? That's what started "Micro Transformers", or as they would become known "Micromasters". Part of the appeal of Micromasters was the ability to have a lot of these little guys at a relatively small cost. Another bonus? Some included bases and vehicles, allowing you to create a small Transformers "world" for your heroes and villains to inhabit. This "micro" concept would later inspire the Mini-Cons, who themselves would have even more uses including acting as body armor and weaponry for larger Transformers. Due to their small size (and relatively low production cost), Micro Transformers can sometimes take on unconventional forms that wouldn't be risked on larger figures such as a taxi cab. Even the "base" concept is returning, with the ability of the "Cyberverse" bases to connect to each other in the "Dark of the Moon" toy line.
- The original name for the Micromasters were the "Micro Transformers", this was dropped after the first wave in the United States.
- In the Marvel Comic book series, the Autobot Micromaster Roadhandler temporarily became a professional wrestler!
- In the current IDW Publishing Transformers continuity, Micromasters are not Autobot or Decepticon allied but rather their own unique sub-group of Transformers.
Power Core Combiners Dinobots
Combiners are one of those types of Transformers fans are always asking for. At their best, Combiners are generally a group of Transformers, each with its own unique transformations that can then come together to form a larger Transformer. Taking the "more is better" philosophy and really running with it, Combiners allow for a fun and additional play pattern to your Transformers figure. They also add to the thrill of collecting if you have to find all the pieces or if you just buy a cool looking boxed set. Combiners are also special thanks in part to the larger than average production costs associated with them. Combiners aren't cheap to make, so when there is one made fans take notice. The recent use of Combiner technology as part of the "Revenge of the Fallen" movie and the recent Power Core combiners line demonstrate the continued appeal of Combiners that I suspect will never wane so long as the Transformers line continues.
- The Japanese stand-alone Transformers cartoon episode "Scramble City" focused on the introduction of Combiners such as Superion and Menasor. This was never aired in the United States.
- Long before the Power Core Combiner Dinobot set pictured above was created, a dinosaur combiner was planned for Generation One but never came to fruition.
- Several of the "Scramble City" style Combiner figures such as the Aerialbots and Stunticons were designed to be able to connect to the "city" Transformers released at the time: Metroplex and Trypticon.
#1. Cities/Battle Stations
IDW "Metroplex" Spotlight Image
I debated making "cities" or "Combiners" number one, but I think out of all types of Transformers sub-groups, the "City-formers" such as Metroplex and Scorponok are among the most distinctive, earning their spot at number one. There have been very few Transformers who have any type of base mode associated with them over the years, and considering the cost of making them, that's not surprising. A battle station or city transforming into a gigantic robot that dwarfs even the likes of Devastator is an incredible thought. The sheer power such a Transformer represents is incredible. The other element that makes City-formers awesome is their alternative play pattern as a playset. Kids love playsets, whether it's a firehouse, the Batcave or a construction site. This just takes that concept and elevates it to a very high degree. Like the Combiners, City-formers are among the groups that fans remember fondly and are always clamoring to see return.
- Metroplex was originally named "Fortress Maximus" in the Marvel Comic book adaptation of the 1986 "Transformers: The Movie" theatrical film. The name would later be used for the Headmaster Autobot City.
- Until 2013, the Fortress Maximus action figure is the largest Transformer ever made for retail toy sales, measuring twenty two inches tall (almost two feet). The 2013 "Titan Class" Metroplex then made the two feet mark.
- Sizes of the city Transformers changed depending on the needs of the story and media. In the cartoon programs, they were always shown as gigantic robots, bigger than all those around them. However, in the comic characters such as Trypticon and Scorponok were not shown as significantly larger than your average Transformer.