I like the general idea of Pretenders. However, just like Hasbro’s version of the Headmasters, their execution of the Pretenders was odd to say the least. Once again, it is Takara’s version that managed to make sense of the technology, or at least half make sense. In Super-God Masterforce the Cybertron Pretenders, lead by Metalhawk, had shells that were able to shrink to the size and appearance of actual humans.
Transformers pretending to be human. Makes sense, right?
In the Marvel comics version, there was no shrinking down, the Autobots were simply really large humanoids.
Unfathomably ridiculous implementation. This and the fact that I didn’t get to see Super-God Masterforce until many years later was the reason I never liked the Autobot Pretenders. The Decepticon Pretenders were another matter. Oh, they did still suffer the same ridiculousness at the hands of the Marvel comics,
“Sheathed in their synthoplasmic outer shells, these six warriors bear no resemblance to Decepticons. The Autobots will never suspect their true identities until it is too late!”
Yes, Scorponok, there’s no way the Autobots are going to suspect that these giant, hideous monsters with a tendency to destroy things are bad guys at all. Why should they? Also, once again, isn’t that a lot of effort for a “surprise” that can only be pulled off once? After the first time you pop out of your shell and yell, “Boo! Ha! Got ya!”, you’re pretty much done with that gag. This aside, the bad guy Pretenders still have one distinct advantage, whereas until later in the Pretenders line the good guys basically look like chubby-faced white dudes in awkwardly bulky spacesuits with spindly robots hiding inside that had weak alt modes, the first set of Decepticon Pretenders were cool looking kaiju-like monsters… with spindly robots hiding inside that had weak alt modes. Of the six original Decepticons, my favourite are the three that also appeared in Super-God Masterforce Blood (Bomb-Burst), Dauros (Skullgrin), and this guy, Gilmer or Submarauder.
I think this is Submarauder, but because the Takara and Hasbro releases were apparently identical, this could be either so I usually call him Gilmer. This aquatic monster also has a “torpedo rifle” I haven’t got my hands on yet. Though notably lacking articulation, his shell has a lot of detail to it and a good amount of contrasting paint applications. His robot mode, well it is what it is.
Not the greatest robot mode, but honestly out of G1 has come far, far worse robot modes than that. The place that the Pretenders catch the most amount of flak, and rightly so, is in their alt modes. This, for example, is a submarine.
To reiterate: I am willing to set all of that aside just for the great shells. Almost all of the Decepticons as well as the later, smaller Autobots have some wonderfully bizarre and well sculpted shells. I’m still waiting for an updated toy that will do them proud. There’s been some great updates to the characters themselves minus their Pretender gimmick, like Bludgeon, Thunderwing, and the upcoming Botcon exclusive of Metalhawk (we shall see what’s up with him, considering he has his human face), but so far neither Hasbro nor Takara has managed to update the Pretender toy concept itself.
I keep hoping though. At the very least, it would be great to see the original Pretenders pulled into a Godzilla crossover of some kind.