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The Man in the Machine!

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I'm starting with the man in the machine. I'm asking him to change his ways.

Marvel U.S. > Issue #51
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Marvel UK > Issue #211–212
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New age pop psychology successfully saves another human-robot partnership.


Spike Witwicky is dreaming. He dreams of mechanical assailants, and a bottomless maw that he is barely able to escape by grasping a lifeline... before suddenly waking up in his bed at home, in Oregon.

The next morning, Spike says good morning to his father and brother as he's setting off for a ski vacation. He's also planning on getting rid of his Headmaster control helmet once and for all. Through flashback, Spike relates the end of his experience with the Autobots after the Underbase Saga. With his brother Buster finally recovered from the Decepticons, Spike is eager to get back to his own life. Optimus Prime reluctantly lets him go, but makes Spike promise to keep his control helmet in case he ever needs to call on Fortress Maximus again. But now, Spike's sure the helmet is partly the cause of his strange nightmares, and is ready to divest himself of it. On the way to San Francisco to pick up his skiing buddy, Cliff, Spike stops off at a junkyard and tosses the helmet into the refuse.

Not long after Spike departs, though, a pair of Decepticon Pretender trackers known as Carnivac and Snarler arrive at the junkyard, seeking their prey, Fortress Maximus. Scorponok has declared that Max's human component should die, and the Pretenders are able to use the spoor left on the helmet to begin tracking Spike anew.

Back in the car ride to the mountains, Spike has fallen asleep listening to Cliff, and drops back into his reoccurring nightmare. This time, his lifeline changes into a robotic serpent before he can climb it, but he rips out its circuitry and begins climbing the dead thing anyway... only to wake up in the car with Cliff giving him a weird look for all that screaming.

Once they hit the slops of the Sierra Nevadas the next day, Spike and Cliff are soon confronted by the Pretender Beasts, who have finally caught up with Spike's trail. Briefly losing them in the trees, Spike throws his jacket into a ravine and has Cliff do the same, hoping to confuse their scents and throw the Decepticons off their trail. The ruse is successful, as Carnivac and Snarler leap down the ravine only to find themselves alone and temporarily trapped until they can climb out.

Seeking refuge in a small cave, Spike unburdens his secrets to Cliff, whose recent stint of self-esteem therapy comes in handy here, as he points out correctly that Spike's dreams are about him running from his "other self": the face of Fortress Maximus. Deliberately falling asleep again, Spike refuses to grab the lifeline as he's falling into the pit, and finds himself face-to-face with Fort Max himself. This renews their psychic link, and enables Spike to call down Fortress Maximus from his storage place aboard the Ark.

Of more immediate concern, however, is that the Decepticons have found them. After they run out of trees to hinder the Pretenders' path, Spike leads them off a cliff and into Fortress Maximus's waiting hands. Spike tries to guide the Autobot remotely in battle with the Decepticons, but signal lag is putting Maximus at a distinctive disadvantage. Things only get worse when the Beasts split from their shells and start hitting Fortress Maximus from four sides, AND collapse a chair-lift to keep him busy.

Spike manages to reclaim his control helmet, and commands Max to release his full Headmaster armor, which assembles around him. After combining with Cerebros, Spike joins with Fortress Maximus and give the Decepticons his full attention. With a few well placed blasts from several dozen artillery ports, Maximus sends the Decepticons scurrying for cover.


Script: Bob Budiansky
Art: Jose Delbo
Inks: Dave Hunt
Colors: Nelson Yomtov
Lettering: Bill Oakley
Editor: Don Daley
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

  • Originally published: April, 1989

Featured characters

(Numbers indicate order of appearance.)

Autobots Decepticons Humans


  • Carnivac and Snarler are both miscolored in this issue when compared to their toys and UK appearances. Still, from a U.S. perspective, this is their only appearance and may not technically be considered an error. Just ask Megatron's black helmet and gold shirt.
  • When Maximus sends the Decepticons packing, Carnivac's shell lets out a couple of yips...

Items of note

  • Issue #51 is the first U.S. issue to feature the new Transformers logo, introduced with the 1989 line of toys.
  • During Spike's flashback to leaving the Ark, Seaspray can be seen in the background pushing a deceased Blaster on a stretcher. While not an outright error, as he was never seen destroyed "on-screen", given that future issues will imply that only organically-enhanced Transformers survived Starscream's rampage, it does seem strange to see him here.
  • Carnivac references being called over from Cybertron by way of the space bridge in order to carry out this mission. In UK continuity, though, Carnivac's story unfolded a bit differently. Carnivac is one of two survivors of the Mayhem Attack Squad who were decimated by Galvatron. Snarler had not previously been seen, though was a comrade of Carnivac from Cybertron. Their assassination attempt in this issue was done for Scorponok in exchange for a refueling and their new Pretender shells. The second surviving Mayhem, Catilla, does not appear in this issue but is said to have been "hanging back on surveillance" during the attack on Spike and Fortress Maximus.
  • Despite coming to terms with Fortress Maximus in this issue, Spike once again abandons the Autobot until he's basically forced to bond with him again in U.S. issue #79.


  • Buster Witwicky was kidnapped by the Decepticons back in U.S. #37, and Spike became bonded with Fortress Maximus to rescue him in #38. Buster was finally rescued, and the Autobot forces crippled, in the climactic battle with Starscream at the end of the Underbase Saga, in #50.

UK printing

  • UK issue 211 includes a Transformers A to Z entry for Metroplex.
  • In Dread Tidings for issue #211, Hi-Test happily responds to two letters addressed to him, while Dreadwind explains how binary bonding allows Nebulans and humans to transform without compound fractures and if he was Decepticon leader, he'd declare a public holiday.
  • UK issue 212 includes another Classic Cover Calendar, this time of issue #152 drawn by Lee Sullivan. While the line art is the same, the new coloring job is much more flat, unlike on the original cover.
  • In Dread Tidings for issue 212, Dreadwind blames the after-effects of Time Wars for people being alive when they should be dead, and that he's very fair in that he hates Darkwing and Hi-Test equally.


Let's see what you can see...

This article is in need of images.

Specifics: UK covers
  • U.S. cover: Fort Max on the slopes, attacked by Carnivac by Jose Delbo
  • UK issue 211 cover: Carnivac and Snarler by Andrew Wildman
  • UK issue 212 cover: Fort Max loses his head by John Stokes


  • None yet identified.

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