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Specifics: Screen captures from TV commercial (muscle guys) and Super-God Masterforce (daily clothes)
"Pretenders hide the Transformers inside!!"

Disguise has always been a key component of Transformer operations on other worlds. Pretenders attempt to take this concept to the next level. They are a new breed of Transformer fitted with special external armor shells that can disguise their very nature as Transformers, lightyears ahead of vehicle mode. Rather than hiding themselves as the machinery or vehicles of a world, Pretender Shells can allow a robot to take on the appearance of a native lifeform itself.

On top of their exploration and infiltration uses the shells can also function as powerful battle armor, aid in self-repairs, and even function independently of their robot as a second combatant mentally controlled by their "wearer" as their reinforcement. The major drawback of the technology is that the core robot will feel whatever pain is inflicted on the shell, sometimes even more strongly than pain inflicted on the robot itself. Shells are not interchangeable; they are tailor made to fit and respond to the mental commands of their owners.[1]

Pretenders are the ultimate when it comes to taking on an organic disguise; they are by far the only Transformers to display the willingness needed to hide themselves in organic structures.

The most common style of Pretender is an inner robot with a single humanoid shell (usually resembling a monster for Decepticons or a human in battle armor for Autobots, but otherwise, all Pretender shells have their own weapon, which means either the shell or the inner robot can use both their own weapon and that of the other at once).


Marvel Generation One comics


What a pervert.

Note: The disguise aspect of Pretender shells emphasized by the toy promotion was established in the comic book, but as the Pretenders in this continuity remained giant-sized in these shells they were odd and rather dubious disguises at best and only really functioned well in that aspect in one story involving Femax. When Simon Furman took over the book he instead emphasized the shell's capabilities as advanced super power-boosting armor.

Pretender technology was created by Lord Zarak to help his troops operate quasi-anonymously on an Earth that had become (partially due to his influence with the Z Foundation) openly and publicly hostile towards giant alien robot beings from other worlds. The idea was that giant organic-looking alien monsters would somehow attract less attention. He was right.

Note: Despite Scorponok and Zarak's claims, subsequent stories showed that Longtooth and (possibly) Thunderwing used Pretender technology long ago in Cybertron's past. This, however, was later acknowledged as an error. While the error was in place, some fandom sources thought that Pretender technology was abandoned during those days and had been revived in the present.[August, 2009]

This technology was stolen by Optimus Prime (at the time reduced to a computerized personality) and was replicated by the Autobots, who fashioned their shells after humans by way of their association with humanity, with the stated rationalization that the Decepticons were rather unobservant and wouldn't notice that these humans were many stories tall. He was right.

Six from both allegiances were reborn as Pretenders, but it was a matter of risk; only those who were willing underwent the transformation as part of the unnamed "Project: Pretender" proceedure. Known members who became the first six on either side were:


  • Landmine
  • Cloudburst
  • Waverider
  • Groundbreaker
  • Sky High
  • Splashdown


  • Skullgrin
  • Bomb-Burst
  • Submarauder
  • Iguanus
  • Bugly
  • Finback

Japanese The Transformers cartoon continuity

Super-God Masterforce

8000 years ago, a starship crewed by the Autobot Pretenders Metalhawk, Lander, Diver and Phoenix pursued the Decepticon Pretenders Blood, Dauros and Gilmer to neolithic-era Earth, where they crashed. Using their Pretender abilities, the Autobots adopted the form of humans. They transformed the very structure of their bodies into an organic equivalent, miniaturizing down to normal human size to hide in plain sight amongst burgeoning humanity.

The Decepticon Pretenders, on the other hand, adopted the forms of monstrous creatures, becoming feared as demons by early man. After many battles, the Autobots succeeded in defeating their enemies and sealing them away:

  • Blood in the pyramids of Egypt,
  • Gilmer in the ruins of Atlantis,
  • and Dauros beneath the Nazca Lines in Peru

for thousands of years.

Liberated in the near future by the mysterious Decepticon "god" Devil Z, the three Pretenders entered his service, and immediately began to draw the Autobot Pretenders out of hiding, before they turned their combined attention to a series of plans to acquire energy and to disrupt one of the three Chokon Powers on Earth. After a string of failures, Devil Z supplanted them with his more powerful Godmaster minions, and although they would often participate in missions, their standing was downgraded and their regularity of appearance on the battlefield diminished. Eventually, they generally only served to supply comic relief, and departed Earth with the other surviving Decepticons when Devil Z was destroyed.

Along the way, the Autobots had been joined by Grand Maximus, who was not only a Pretender but a Headmaster.


Pretender technology had advanced to the point that the shells gained sentience, as seen with the shells of the Dinoforce, and could be employed simultaneously with the Transformers' robot modes.

Post-Marvel Generation One comics


Pretender technology was originally developed as a form of additional body armor. Pretender shells can enhance their wearer’s physical strength and resistance to damage. More advanced shell designs could shrink down to human size and enable their wearer to blend into Earth society unnoticed.

It is possible that the Pretender technology was later adapted to develop the Maximal and Predacon beast modes.

Note: Pretenders were only mentioned in the Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye handbooks for Dreamwave, and did not appear in the actual continuity.


This section covers fiction that is ongoing. It will be added to as the story progresses. If it isn't current, you can help by updating it.
Thunderwing stormbringer

It's just not natural I tell you!

The technology was the invention of Thunderwing, and used living tissue that had been painfully culled from live (quite possibly unwilling) subjects to create a powerful symbiotic, living carapace. The goal of this technology was to allow Transformers to survive an impending environmental collapse on their home planet, Cybertron. Even Megatron rejected the concept as unnatural and repulsive. Both cases where the technology was implemented ended in disaster as the melding of the robot's mind with the shell was improperly aligned or hastily executed. Subject one, the technology's inventor himself, became unfathomably powerful but totally insane and destructive. Subject two, Bludgeon, tried to rush the process and ended up comatose inside his new shell. It is unknown if research will continue further (but it seems rather unlikely given the moral issues and planetary-level threat posed by Thunderwing). Stormbringer

Spoiler jazz

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details for Spotlight: Hardhead follow.

Of course, Jetfire of all bots decided that they needed the technology to penetrate the portal at the Benzuli Expanse. Optimus Prime was a little hesitant on the subject, but Jetfire managed to convince the Autobot leader. The Autobots selected for the process were Cloudburst, Landmine, Groundbreaker, and Waverider.

Note: The term "Pretender" is not used at all during the Stormbringer series. Instead the term "polydermal grafting" is used to further illustrate how repulsive, grotesque and dangerous the process appears to be.

Shattered Expectations

Goldbug, Grimlock, and Jazz sneak into a Pretender laboratory. There are at least six Pretender shells, including four Classic Pretender Shells and two Double Pretender Shells.

Also, Dirge appears as a Pretender. Shattered Expectations

Revenge of the Fallen

A Pretender known as Alice infiltrates Sam's college. In the novelization of Revenge of the Fallen, it reveals she transcanned an Alice in Wonderland animatronic robot. She is killed by Mikaela Banes after rampaging through Sam's college in search of him and causing massive damage.

Note: Alice is not a traditional Pretender — she transformed into an "organic" humanoid instead of having an outer shell. The confirmation of her as a Pretender came from an interview with Roberto Orci.[2]

Known Pretender types


The basics are the default: a single Autobot/Decepticon with a single humanoid shell. Both the inner robot and the shell are armed with a weapon each, allowing possibilities such as either the shell or the inner robot wielding both weapons at once or exchanging weapons with each other.


These are some of the finest faces, like Bumblebee, we know back from the past, in style. The inner robots were also released without their shells as Kmart exclusive Legends. Starscream's shell, like Stranglehold's, is a humanoid shell.


They are Pretenders born with the ferocity of the beasts in mind. The theme of their shells, as you can guess, is obvious: bestial Earth animals.


The Pretender Vehicles are Pretenders whose shells are vehicles that transform into combat decks for their inner robots.


The shell can transform into an alternate mode of its own and can combine with its wearer's own alternate mode to form a combination formation.


The Ultra Pretenders are the ultimate: Pretenders whose outermost shell is a large vehicle that can transform into a combat deck for their inner robots. This outermost shell contains another secondary humanoid Pretender shell that is itself able to transform into a vehicle, and that can be piloted by its inner robot. Also, the first shell can be manned at its battle station overhead by the inner robot.

Pretender Monsters

Pretender phonomenons with appropriately-themed rubbery shells so bizarre, you should have them in your possession. The only known Pretenders in this subgroup, when united as one, are the monstrous destroyer himself: Monstructor! Autobots and humans alike beware! Fear these Pretenders, for they are even more of an ordeal than even the Predacons and Predaking!


The Crossformers are the Takara counterpart to the Hasbro Mega Pretenders, the shells were remolded to be less organic.


The Dinoforce possess cyborg dinosaur and can combine to form Dinoking. When the Dinoforce's individual names are translated, you get the dinosaur that they transform into, which their shell also is.

Double Pretenders (unreleased)


... Tarantulas? Optimus Primal?

Prototypes for "Double" Pretenders, two inner robots sharing one shell, that splits into top and bottom at the waist, were designed but never put in production.

  • Unnamed ape duo.
  • Unnamed spider-bandito duo.

Proceed on your way to oblivion.
This item has been canceled, with no current plans for release.


Humanoid Pretenders' outer shells can be classified into three types at least. Human shells with thermostatic plating such as Cloudburst's are Space-Defense Pretender Shells. Monstrous humanoid shells like Bomb-Burst's are called Predator-Class Pretender Shells. While shells like Bludgeon's are Warrior-Grade Pretender Shells.[3]

Any Pretender Shell can be classified as a (possible) type other than the three mentioned above; for example, the Beasts' are of the bestial-type, the Monsters' are of the monstrous-type, and the Vehicles' are transportation-type. The Megas and Ultras, however, have several (possible) classifications that can be allocated other than having the advance-type classification by possible default, such as dual transformation-type and Mega-type (Mega) and triple attack-type, ultimate-type and Ultra-type (Ultra) respectively


  1. Letter page for Marvel UK #265, Once Upon a Time...
  2. Transformers 2 Rumor Confirmed
  3. Transformers: The Ultimate Guide

External links

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