All in the Minds!

Highbrow is ambushed by Scorponok and the Decepticon Headmasters, who want to use him as a weapon against the Autobots.

If you go down to the woods, you’re sure of a big surprise… in this case a nightmarish Scorponok, his powerful pinchers reducing a tree to wood filings as he rampages through a forest in pursuit of Highbrow.

This is the dramatic opening to All in the Minds, an 11-page Simon Furman tale, illustrated by Dan Reed, in the 1988 Transformers annual.

The story has a very simple premise: Highbrow, the Autobot Headmaster, has been lured into a trap by humans under the psychic control of Mindwipe. He’s been ambushed by Decepticon leader Scorponok and will be deployed as a weapon against the Autobots unless he can escape.

If the story feels familiar it’s probably because the 1987 story Worlds Apart also featured a duel between this middle ranking Autobot and the larger more powerful Scorponok (depicted by Reed with monstrous fangs).

It might be that Scorponok has developed an unhealthy fixation on Highbrow after that earlier incident, perhaps as a revenge for his defeat at that earlier encounter. Or maybe Highbrow was just unlucky enough to fall into the trap.

The action is pretty much constant. I like the panel where Scorponok punches the gun from Highbrow’s hand, causing major damage to the weapon. He then pummels Highbrow’s face, which you would think would cause serious injury to Gort (the Nebulan who becomes Highbrow’s head).

Scorponok is wearing his shield, which is rare in the comic, but familiar to kids who owned the Scorponok toy. In fact, I still have mine today, although it’s a little worse for wear having been passed down through the family.

Highbrow thinks fast, jamming Scorponok’s pincher with a log – a short distraction. And then finding his damaged gun, he sets it to overload and magnetically attaches it to Scorponok’s chest where upon it explodes spectacularly.

As Scorponok sinks to his knees cursing, Highbrow comes under attack from the air by the Horrorcons (Apeface and Snapdragon) in the aircraft modes. He transforms into a helicopter and does some fancy flying through the woods causing the less accomplished Apeface to collide with trees. Snapdragon, transforming into dragon mode, starts tearing up trees looking for his quarry.

Highbrow doesn’t get far as he runs into an airborne Mindwipe (in bat mode) who unleashes his hypnotic scare. This is an ability which is rarely seen in other TF stories but showcased quite nicely here. It reveals Mindwipe to be a powerful adversary.

Scorponok tears off Highbrow’s Autobot insignia and as he wakes up the two Decepticons try to convince him they are all comrades. The plan seems to work, until the pair transform their heads into Lord Zarak and Vorath, and Gort emerges from Highbrow. Gort as we know, never properly integrated his mind with Highbrow, and in this case has escaped Mindwipe hypnosis.

He attacks Vorath but Zarak is able to recombine with Scorponok. Gort’s only chance is to reunite with Highbrow and risk falling under the Decepticon spell once more.

Readers assume this is what has happened, until Highbrow reveals his compliance is an act (Gort was able to take control after all) and he rips Scorponok’s head from his shoulders, rendering both body and head comatose.

It’s the result of the head detaching without the proper mental commands apparently. I thought that was quite a neat way to exploit a Headmaster’s weakness, even one as powerful as Scorponok.

The story ends with Highbrow trudging off into the sunset carrying Scorponok’s head as a spoil of war. We would find out what happens next in the second part of 1989’s year opener, Time Wars.

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