Friday, September 25, 2009

Weekly Transformers Feature: Quake

The Targetmasters of 1987 proved popular enough for Hasbro to continue the concept into 1988.  But rather than just create more robots with weapons that also turned into robots, they decided to offer a new twist: Double Targetmasters!  Although these toys were actually smaller than the original Targetmasters (and were even sold on cards instead of boxed, as the original Targetmasters were), they boasted two "Nebulan" figures that would become weapons for the larger robot.  Quake is an example of such a "Double Targetmaster."

Like all Targetmasters, there is a sense in which Quake is, by himself, a normal Transformer.  If one were to lose his weapons, he'd still be a complete Transformer by himself.  You wouldn't be missing some vital body part or huge piece of his alt mode if the weapon were never recovered.  He'd just be weaponless.  This is in stark contrast to, say, the Headmasters, who kind of need their heads to be full-fledged robots.

Indeed, since Quake turns into a tank, one could argue that he has (or, better yet, is) a weapon even without his Nebulan partners.  Of course, it bears mentioning that the turret itself is a removable piece, and although it could easily be replaced with one of the Nebulan weapons (as seen here), if the turret were lost, this mode really would seem incomplete.

Pictured here (left to right) are the Nebulans, Heater and Tiptop.  In keeping with the smaller size of the toy they are packaged with, these two are completely immobile in humanoid mode, and don't even fold in half to transform like the Nebulan partners created for Targetmaster toys of the previous year (such as Stepper).  These guys "transform" simply by swinging a gun barrel down from behind.  Indeed, unlike most (but not all) Nebulans of the previous year, the "humanoid" forms of these toys don't even make any effort to hide the handles sticking right out of their chests!

Like his larger forebears, Quake's Nebulans become weapons that he can use in either robot or vehicle mode.  However, for the Double Targetmasters, each of the weapons is designed so that one weapon can fit over the other weapon to create a "double-weapon," able to be used either on the vehicle mode (as seen here) or in robot mode.  You can put whichever Nebulan weapon you like on top of the other.  It works either way.

Quake's tank turret is removable, as I mentioned earlier, and has a peg of the same size as the handles of the Nebulan weapons, meaning that Quake has the feature (unique among Double Targetmasters) of adding a third weapon to the combined weapon mode.

A minor footnote.  From time to time, I make note of a toy that was exclusive to Japan, and not sold in the United States (at least, not during Generation One.  Many did eventually find their way to America some 20 years later).  Perhaps surprisingly, there are actually more molds that were sold in the United States, but never in Japan!  Quake is just one example of such an American-exclusive Transformer which has still never been sold in Japan (not even as a repaint)!  Fred's Workshop provides a list (apparently complied by someone else, but I don't know who "Greg" is).


  1. You make a good point about the small Targetmasters being essentially normal Transformers with gimmicks tacked on as an afterthought. I feel a lot like the Hasbro designers were phoning it in with the deluxe and smaller figures in the 88 line but could never quite pinpoint why until you did.

    At first the smaller Targetmasters seem like they've got incredible gimmicks-"double Targetmaster" sounds great. But then the robot modes are big disappointments and the transforming weapons are terrible looking in both modes. I have the purple/grey jet (Needlenose?) and the brown/cream dump truck guy and they're part of the reason I fell out of love with the line.

    I think Fred was referring to Greg "M Sipher" Sepelak.

  2. Thanks for commenting. Actually, I was never able to get past the statue-esque (and not in a good way!) Nebulans with the handle-chests when these toys first came out. Interest in these figures definitely only came much later for me.

    Thanks also for the tip re: the identity of "Greg." That makes a lot of sense (although I'm so not used to hearing him referenced by only his first name!).

  3. You're welcome for the commenting! I usually feel like there's nothing I could possibly write or think up about any Transformer that hasn't already been opined on some board (and I know you read the boards). So I usually pass on the commenting because of my own fear of repeating someone else's thought that was expressed a million times already (and probably more eloquently).

    I sometimes feel bad for critiquing late 80s Hasbro's design and marketing. It's real easy to tear 'em down now and ask "What were they thinking?" in hindsight but I'd still be interesting in finding out what prompted the idea behind downsized classes of Target- and Headmasters for '88. I felt the reduction in size really hurt the design of the little partners. It made them not as fun or interesting to play with. How did they think that was a good idea? I wish I would have thought up that question in '04 at the Botcon marketers panel. Something tells me they probably wouldn't have remembered anyway.

  4. Yeah, it's hard to imagine they'd have remembered... And although I do think that 80's-era toys shouldn't be faulted for not having 21st century technology, of course it's reasonable to criticize them for failings that they actually could have been better about.


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