For the centerpiece of their BotCon 2014 box set, Fun Publications managed something rather amazing; a new triple-changer Headmaster, Timelines Scorponok, using a slightly remolded Energon Scorponok topped with a remold of G1 Spike. Easily a must-buy, I splurged on the non-attendee package — I missed BotCon 2014, due to a dislike of the location — and he certainly didn’t disappoint. As the announcements for BotCon 2015 started rolling out, Fun Publications stated that what they had cooked up this year would “blow Scorponok away”. Especially considering my love of the Headmasters and a particular like for Scorponok, there was nothing I could imagine they could do to manage that. Then the reveal happened.
Flashback to BotCon 1996 (no, I wasn’t actually there, my first BotCon was Fort Wayne in 2002) but way back in 1996 amidst the displays in the art room was a table full of prototypes for unreleased toys. Among those were two animal-themed Pretender shells.
Roughly the same size as the smaller 1989 Pretenders like Octopunch and Longtooth (some of my favourite Transformers oddities), these guys were rumored to be “Double Pretenders”. This new concept would be a Pretender shell that housed two different robots that could then combine to form another robot. Another set of differently painted prototypes for these guys showed up, a brown version of the Spider monster (or “Spider Bandito” as the fandom calls him due to his double ammo bandelier) as well as a version of the gorilla mold with black armor and dark brown fur.
Ultimately nothing came of the concept, which was a pity because both molds are pretty awesome.
Fast forward to 2008 and the two make a background cameo in the silly April Fool’s day joke comic called “Shattered Expectations”.
Then radio silence until 2013 and the E-Hobby tie-in comic, Badlands, that came with their updated release of Magnificus. The comic itself is a pretty good read, albeit short. It takes place in Iron Town, if you remember back six posts that’s where Star Saber first showed up in Victory.
Against this old west background, the gorilla shell unexpectedly moves from background cameo to named antagonist. Now called Oilmaster, he is a bounty hunter looking to score on the bounty that exists on Magnificus’ head.
Along with his new name comes the ability to extrude an acidic oil and he gets in some good hits. Magnficus is no slouch in the power department and manages to return the favor with interest, damaging Oilmaster’s shell.
While the “Double Pretender” concept isn’t apparent in the comic at all, just his random appearance in this comic was enough to rekindle interest in this obscure toy now given life with a character. It was at least enough interest to warrant Oilmaster making another appearance in comic book form. This time in Fub Publications’ Timelines issue 9. Picking up where BotCon 2013’s Termination left off, the battle for Cybertron is on. As part of the Decepticon forces defending the planet from Jhiaxus and his clones, Magnificus uses his “macroscope” to enlarge Oilmaster. A King Kong-sized Oilmaster then rips into some Skywarp clones.
So there he was, from a canceled prototype he became a realized fictional character. Oilmaster had become something pretty cool, one of those obscure periphery creations destined to live in the margins of “what if?”
Then the reveal happened.
It took a moment to process what the internet was trying to communicate to me. We went from a slight remold resulting in an amazing new headmaster to getting the first brand new Pretender since 1989. While the ‘bots inside were repaints, the shell was a brand new creation made by Boss Fight Studio. He has the standard articulation of rotating arms, but adds neck articulation.
Clearly based on the prototype with black armor and dark brown fur, the sculpt is wonderfully textured and detailed.
He’s definitely not the size of the original prototype. While that one was a little over 5 and a 1/2 inches, roughly the average for the smaller Pretenders, this updated version is larger and bulkier than most of the larger 1988 Pretenders.
His weapons go so well with him, I initially hadn’t realized that they were actually Construct-Bot weapons. Like the original prototype and a mainstay of the Pretender line, he has storage for his weapons on his Pretender shell. Unlike most of the Pretender shells, his inner robots are stashed in a hinged backpack rather than having the shell break in half.
Being repaints of Generations Legends class Swerve and Flanker, while the “two ‘bots in one shell” part of the Double Pretender concept remains intact, the “two small ‘bots combining into one outside the shell” did not.
However, this is quickly forgiven when you realize that while using these two molds may take him out of the Combiner Wars, it actually turns him into a Targetmaster.
Given Oilmaster’s rather manic disposition in all his appearances, the crazy smirk Oilmaster’s land vehicle robot inherited from Swerve is perfect.
With no prototype to reference for Oilmaster’s inner robots, Fun Pub chose to use Oilmaster’s inner robot’s appearance in Badlands as the template for this one. The shell’s weapons are a bit big on the inner robot, but with the crazy face, he pulls it off.
I’m not sure if there is a source for the paint scheme on the air robot, but I like it.
There were rumors that the inner robots of the G1 Double Pretender Gorilla would have transformed into an air vehicle and a ground vehicle, so they manage that as well.
Of course, you can weaponize the ground unit’s alt mode, which doesn’t seem to out-of-character for Oilmaster.
Or you can add the aerial unit as a jetpack for the ground unit’s robot. All kinds of options for these two! There aren’t separate names for these inner robots, so Aerial Unit and Ground Unit seem to suffice. Whatever you call them, they are a heck of a team.
One thing I definitely recognize about this piece is that your mileage may vary wildly. Some accuse the Pretenders of being harbingers of the end of G1. For me, they were a welcome infusion of different and Oilmaster hits all the right levels of weird while representing a piece of obscure Transformers history.