One of the funniest things about Transformers fans is how many of them hatehateHATE “gimmicks,” even though the whole line is based around gimmicks. Even if you ignore transformation in and of itself, it wasn’t very long in the original line before you had combiners, triple changers, targetmasters, and… headmasters.
Headmasters popped up in 1987, just in time to be featured in the series finale of the Transformers cartoon (“Rebirth”). They later got a TV series in Japan all to themselves (a continuation of the US cartoon), and the gimmick showed up here and there in future sets, even retooled into “brainmasters” at one point. Essentially, it worked like this – a headmaster was a transformer whose head detached and unfolded into another tiny character. Yes, that’s it. It’s a cool little way to get a bonus figure, and you could swap their heads around. And now it’s back! The current non-movie non-animated Transformers line, Titans Return, is all about “titan masters,” i.e. headmasters. You can swap regular figure heads, and they’ve even released mini-transformers who are basically just shells to hold the heads. And of course, there you go. Today, we are going to look at four mini titan masters, plus one regular transformer. The regular figure exists to show off the “weapon modes” of each titan master, plus their heads – you’ll see him at the end. For now, though, let’s look at these little guys! They’re clever remakes of classic (and often never seen since the original) figures!
Repugnus is my favorite out of the group – remember that scene in Big where Tom Hanks asked why he couldn’t have a robot that turned into a giant bug monster? Well, there you go. Repugnus is a Monsterbot, one of a select group of Autobots who are like, THIS close to being Decepticons. Classic Repugnus looked almost exactly like this albeit with more paint apps and no wings. He’s been kindasorta remade a couple of times, but this is the first straight-up new version of his vintage design. The headmaster plugs into the torso of the bug monster, filling it out.
Here’s the headmaster, designed after the vintage figure and his appearance in the (japanese) cartoon. The only real difference between this and the vintage figure is the size of the eyes – bigger in the cartoon than on the figure.
Once unfolded, this tiny little figure actually looks like Repugnus – note the detailing on the head or the legs. Headmasters are small and simple, but still recognizable.
Here’s his “Chariot” transformation, which… to be honest, is one of those “Because I said so” forms. Like, sure, you can sorta believe it’s a vehicle… with feet sticking up. Anyway, the little Repugnus headmaster’s feet plug into some tiny posts to help him sit securely (there are also extra posts he can’t use).
Repugnus’s weapon form is also in the “because I said so” category – when viewed from the front, you might miss those eyes, and then the blades sort of make it look right. But let’s be honest, this figure is all about his monsterbot form.
You can easily pop off the wings and put them back on, which makes Repugnus an exact remake of the vintage figure (it didn’t have wings). I love how Transformers are designed to come apart rather than break, and you can do this without trouble.
And now for… an undocumented transformation! The chariot, when upside-down, makes Repugnus even more buglike!
And if you feel like it, you can pull his head out, and then flip down the gun handle to give him a beard.
What’s also fairly unique to this figure is how you can flip up his head and, thanks to the positioning of the headmaster, kindasorta give him a normal “robot” mode. Repugnus has a surprising amount of bonus play value.
On the side of the Decepticons, we’ve got Fangry. Much like Repugnus, this “robot in disguise” disguises himself as an unrealistic monster. Fangry is a wolf-headed bat, which admittedly is pretty cool. His headmaster plugs into his chest, though you insert it in the back.
Fangry has his classic head, even including the green that shows up nowhere else on his figure. Ever notice how many Transformers wear sunglasses? Interesting, that.
Seeing as how Fangry was actually a headmaster back in the day, his figure unfolds into Brisko, his classic headmaster.
Fangry’s “Chariot” mode is actually a dragon! It’s not based on anything the original figure did, it’s just a cool little bonus. And it’s coherent!
Though his weapon form is very much “Because I said so,” even though it has a gun barrel. It’s those limbs and wings.
Sawback is based on Liones, a classic Autobot (an animal-based headmaster). And as you can see, he’s a robotic winged lion. The headmaster plugs into the back of his head.
The headmaster is based on the head he used to turn into – amusing, since his format is kind of different this time (the original figure was a lion that turned into a head).
The Headmaster has a lion face, homaging that fact!
Sawback’s chariot mode
Instead of a weapon, Sawback turns into a shielf – and for once, it works! The face seem slike the kind of thing you’d see on a shield, and those limbs fold away nicely.
Overboard’s original name was Overkill, and although this figure has been done twice before (once as Crashbash and once as a Grimlock pastiche), it’s still fairly fresh. The headmaster plugs into his chest, stretched out so its legs for his lower aw and its arms form his arms.
The head is a repaint of Crashbash’s, as classic Overkill never had an ordinary robot mode.
As a headmaster, he looks somewhat different than the Crashbash head, though matches reasonably well.
Overboard’s chariot form is a dragon! And although it kind of looks a lot like a turkey, it’s a pretty good figure on its own terms. The headmaster can plug its feet into some tiny pegs and stand on the tail.
His weapon mode is, again, clearly holding a dinosaur and pointing its butt at people, though it’s almost sorta not really believable. These seem to generally be the weakest transformations.
And the Transformer who has been standing in for those pictures if Skullsmasher, originally named Skullcruncher. A classic Decepticon headmaster, his head is a separate character named Grox. He has a fair amount of kibble, including turning his alligator tail into a shield/gun/thing.
Grox looks just the same as before, making up Skullsmasher’s head.
The headmaster looks just like Grox always did.
His alt form is an alligator, and it comes together fairly well.
There’s a fold-out panel in his beast form’s back where Grox can fit, giving the headmaster a place in both modes! In fact, you can even turn Skullsmasher’s tail/shield/whatever piece into a vehicle. It’s a nice little touch, though odd how it doesn’t work with either form.
Well, there you go. The headmasters have returned after all these years, with tons of references and remakes from the old days! It’s really nice to see charcaters like Repugnus gain, though one hopes that they’ll receive full-sized figures in the future, too.