As strong as a Diamond, as fast as a Cyclone; Diaclone!
Seems everyone is going Diaclone mad with the release of the Diaclone V2 series. Good! About time.
The earliest releases of Diaclone were quite different to the later Car Robots series that we know and love from their eventual licensing agreement and development with Hasbro, they were of a more science fiction bent, featuring the good Diaclone drivers and their (seemingly occasionally sentient) vehicles and armour, fighting the Evil Waruder Empire, some of whom later became the Insecticons (a name later used in Transformers for the Botcon 2015 Waruder set of Waspinator repaints).
We all know how early Diaclone and Micro-change figures were re-packaged, re-imagined and re-branded and released as Transformers in 1984 (if you’re unsure as to the who and the what, click here), what is perhaps less known is how some of the early non-TF molds of Diaclone were released in the West, fully licensed by Takara and put out by Hayes Ltd in 1981 as part of the Grandstand Converters line, which contained a mash-up of various toys from a multitude of different lines.
The most common of these is the Diaclone Gats Blocker which was released in the Grandstand line as Alphatron, but other releases included a Microman vehicle which was included as Deltrian Tracker, one of the Waruders which was released as Siclonoid, and some of the more savvy of you may have noticed Omega Supreme in different colour scheme parading around as Omegatron, this was duel-licensed from Tomy / Toybox for UK release in Converters, and may have been the reason that Omega Supreme did not get a UK release. Over time, we’ll take a look at all these guys, but today we’re taking a look at a latter-day Grandstand Converters figure from the second range; Zetanoid.
Zetanoid / Dia-Attacker
Any of the green packaged Converters range are from the second range which was made in much smaller numbers, and it is speculated that it may be harder to find than the original Diaclone Dia-Attacker release. Released in 1985, the packaging only features a date-stamp for 1981, but this is referring to Takara’s original copyright date for the mold. The packaging is pretty disappointing, with the same image on the back and front of the packaging which really wastes the potential of showing exactly what the toy can do, and a generic throwaway story and profile on the side of packaging that offers less insight and character into the Converters background than the (uniquely British) little comics on the back of Space Raiders crisps.
The differences between Zetanoid and Dia-Attacker are minor, heck, even the inner styrofoam containers are identical. The most glaring omission from the Zetanoid set are the Diaclone drivers, these were absent from most of the Diaclone re-releases (including the Transformers range). The missiles are included (although long since lost in my version), and a running change seems to be that the head-crest that comes with Zetanoid is now yellow, rather than the original Diaclone chrome plated, though I have seen evidence of both releases with the Gig and Takara releases. The chrome on the toy often wears, and reveals all the molded plastic underneath to be the same yellow as the head-crest, so whether some of the head-crests just escaped the chroming process by design or accident is unknown. Another common defect is the chest stickers, which are prone to wear and cracking on the flexible plastic material.
The toy interacts well with the Diaclone drivers as seen above, and you can swap the (slightly too large) fists out with the little vehicle pods for extra playability, although sadly the vehicle pods and fists don’t seem to store well in the missile holes. You can also rotate the fists and seat a Diaclone driver in the back of them, which looks a bit odd, but explains the slight over-sized-ness of them.
The head sculpt is awesome, channeling more than a little bit of KISS’s Peter Criss. It’s one of the most distinct faces in a line note-worthy for it’s awesome head designs. Purely subjective, but I’ve always felt Takara’s robot faces are what gave Transformers the edge over Go-Bots in making us invest in these characters for 30 plus years, and these same faces are evident all the way back to early Diaclone, all the way up to latter-day Brave toys.
This is one of the examples of early Diaclone which actually transforms, rather than pulling apart into separate components like Gats-blocker, Dia-Battle, or even Robot Fortress X. The transformation is basic, fold the arms under, put the cod-piece / cockpit forward, rotate the head back section forward into the chest section, and swing the legs backwards rotating the wings in the process. Ta-da!
You can also choose to store the fists in the arms whilst in vehicle mode, it does limit the playability of the vehicle pods which can also plug in under there. As well as the two smaller pods, the larger vehicle which sits on top of the vehicle mode and stores on the back of the robot mode is detachable (although sliding a vehicle on top of 30 years old mint chrome is never fun and always a risk), and this gives an extra dimension of playability.
It’s a fun toy, although I feel the lack of Diaclone Drivers hurts the release, in a same way that as a kid I always felt there was something missing for the driver seats and cockpits of the early G1 toys.
It seems a collectors work is never done; whilst researching this article I have seen photos and evidence of a black and purple knock off of this mold, which I now really need. Sigh.
Thanks for reading, and if you want to get onboard with the new Diaclone V2, keep an eye on the Kapow! website for those, and the unofficial Perfect Effect offerings.