|Specifics: Japanese Targetmasters in "handgun" mode|
- Targetmasters are one of several specialized Transformer warriors that were developed during the war on Nebulos. See also Headmaster and Powermaster
Targetmaster is a term first used to describe any of the Autobots or Decepticons who were involved in the war on Nebulos and had their sidearms or other primary weapons binary-bonded to a Nebulan humanoid. Created shortly after their more drastic Headmaster cousins, the Targetmasters benefit from being able to take two minds into battle without ever losing their heads. The term Targetmaster was later expanded to include any Transformer bonded to another being (be they Nebulan or fellow Cybertronian) that becomes their weapon.
A Targetmaster, unlike a normal Transformer, possesses a living weapon, one that is capable of making its own tactical decisions and target priorities. The advantage is similar to that of having a dedicated gunner aboard an aircraft. As most Targetmasters follow the practice of carrying an extra "backup" weapon in addition to their Targetmaster partner, this allows them the luxury of having a gun that they command as well as one they can leave to its own devices: the ultimate "fire and forget" weapon.
The benefit to the Nebulans who participate in this bonding is fairly obvious: they gain the power to transform themselves into a gun, and if that was good enough for Megatron, then who are they to argue with the results? Targetmaster partners tend to be more aggressive and warlike than their fellow Headmasters and Powermasters, which tends to come with the territory when someone volunteers to be a walking cannon.
Historically, in most continuities, the Targetmaster process came shortly after the Headmaster process was developed. At various points in their careers, such stalwart warriors as Hot Rod, Kup, and Blurr have been counted amongst the Autobot Targetmasters, while notable Decepticons like Cyclonus and Scourge also accepted the process in order to reap the benefits of such added power.
In conversation, both the primary Transformer and their Nebulan partner are referred to by the title "Targetmaster". Unlike other factions of the Autobot/Decepticon war, like the Dinobots or the Constructicons, Targetmasters are generally not considered to form their own unit: Targetmasters can regularly deploy alone or with other, non-bonded Transformers.
The term "Targetmaster" is a description for the unique bonding shared between Transformer and Nebulan. If an Autobot or Decepticon loses their Nebulan partner (such as was the case with Hot Rod, when his partner Firebolt died), then they cease to be referred to as a Targetmaster. Unlike their fellow bonded Transformers, it is possible for a Targetmaster to leave, abandon, or otherwise separate from his partner with no ill effects — a Headmaster who splits up his binary bond will have a hard time getting much done without his head, and a Powermaster does not last long without his engine, but a Targetmaster can always pick up a new gun. However, there can be complications to this, as Targetmasters, accustomed to their weapon taking care of itself, often find themselves unused to dealing with the unforgiving nature of a standard hand weapon.
Where this is opportunity for confusion, this article refers to the smaller transforming partner as a Targetmaster partner.
Not all Transformers that turn into guns are Targetmasters. Megatron, Shockwave, and Browning change into powerful weapons, but they are not bonded to a specific partner or share any of the traits usually associated with the "Targetmaster" title. The smaller members of the Seacons, however, are Targetmasters, each member having the ability to become either a limb for, OR a gun for their combined form.
In Japanese continuities, Targetmaster partners hail from the planet Master, but unlike the Headmasters they are partnered with a regular Transformer as opposed to a Transtector. This fusion came about in a blast which binary-bonded a group of refugees from Master to the arms of the new Autobot recruits, as well as the Decepticon marauders, who were terrorizing the refugees in the first place. Unlike in the US continuity and toys, when the Masters transform into gun mode, they take the place of their larger partner's entire hand instead of being held by it. When this happens, the larger robot shouts "Target On!", a nod to their being "masters" just as much as the Headmasters or even the later Godmasters. Universe and Henkei Nightstick is the only figure to truly be able to demonstrate this, fitting into the wrist of Cyclonus' unflipped out wrist.
It is unknown at this time why Ricochet, Artfire, Hot Rod, and Kup have Targetmasters, as they were not present for the explosion. It is also unknown why the Japanese Targetmasters speak in a series of electronic beeps (like the Mini-Cons) that only their bonded partner can understand, instead of speaking normally like their Headmaster brethren.
Targetmasters are binary bonded to a specific Targetmaster partner or partners. Unlike non-Targetmaster gun-Transformers, their systems interface, resulting in vastly increased accuracy while leaving the larger Transformer's attention free for other tasks.
In order to be considered a Targetmaster, a Transformer must have a specifically chosen partner. Most examples are Nebulans, but this is not necessarily required. The partner wears a specially designed exoskeleton (not unlike the exo-suit worn by Daniel and Spike Witwicky) that allows him to change himself into a weapon. In Marvel comic continuity bio-mechanical surgery was also necessary, transforming the partner into a cyborg. Both of the partners also undergo a procedure known as "Binary Bonding". Although each of the pair is still an individual being (unlike the gestalts formed when some Transformers combine), they will be able to share thoughts and sensations, not unlike a psychic connection. One of the many advantages to this is that a Targetmaster can send commands to his weapon without needing to actually touch it, or even be in the same room.
In vehicle mode, the Transformer usually has some kind of port or area where his partner can rest in weapon mode, functioning as a sort of self-guided turret and protecting their larger comrade while he focuses on other tasks. Since the partner is the one who controls their weapon mode, they are self-aiming and capable of tracking their own targets independent of any other weapon systems that the Transformer may have available.
It should be noted that in some rare cases Autobots or Decepticons have been known to bond themselves to multiple Targetmaster partners. Double Targetmaster Transformers are bonded with two smaller partners which, in addition to forming weapons the Transformer can wield, are capable of combining with one another and forming a 'double weapon,' with the power of whichever weapon forms the 'barrel' boosted by the other.
None of the Double Targetmaster toys were released in Japan, nor did they feature in the Japanese anime.
Action Master partners
Having given up the power of transformation, a number of Action Masters make up for the loss of their race's signature ability by having someone else transform for them.