A little while back, we looked at some Diaclone prototypes that varied quite a bit from the toys we came to know as the first waves of Transformers in the 1980s.
It all started after @hausofsega replied to a post of mine on Twitter. They dropped a mention of a vintage 1983 Japanese book which featured numerous photos of the prototypes, many of which differed significantly from their final retail counterparts.
To say I was intrigued would be an understatement. I had to know more, and fortunately, they were only too happy (and generous) to oblige, confirming the identity of the book in question and even providing some incredible scans of the contents!
Well, now we’re looking at some more, all of which are Decepticon-themed this time, including some Micro Change offerings! Big thanks to @hausofsega for helping with this.
#7-9: Micro Change MC-01 Micross, MC-02 Jaguar & MC-03 Condor
These three are now far better known as the Decepticon minions for Soundwave. However, back in the pre-Transformers days of the early 1980s, they were simply the transformable microcassettes Micross, Jaguar and Condor. Given Micro Change’s signature 1:1 scale and its ambition to portray robot toys as everyday household objects, this is a salient reminder that their shared alternate form is not a regular cassette at all, as has so often been portrayed in media over the decades since they were incorporated into Transformers. Regardless, these three are all but identical to the toys that would hit retail shelves, whether as individual releases or as a three-pack giftset. There’s a case for saying that some of Jaguar’s decal detailing looks slightly different from what we eventually receive, but only a little.
#6: Micro Change MC-05 Camera Robo Microx
Reflector is undoubtedly one of the more notable oddities of the early Transformers line. Firstly, three robots form one alternate mode and are portrayed as one character in the corresponding cartoon. Secondly, despite being a prominent feature in said cartoon’s early output, the toy was delayed from its initial 1984 release under Hasbro and subsequently would not see the light of day until two years later when it was a relatively obscure mail-away item (despite getting a retail release proper by Takara in 1985). Thirdly, the toy looks nothing like the cartoon character, and this prototype version arguably even less so! True, it’s not that different from what we saw hitting shelves during Micro Change, but still, there are some variances to the final version. The most notable of these are on the middle component that we would come to know as Viewfinder, which here features a different head design and some extra detailing to the chest decal (including the presence of the Microman name, of which Micro Change was part). The colour is jet black instead of blue here, and the knee decals are slightly different. Spectro & Spyglass vary a little less, although again, both of their heads were remoulded for the final release, along with some other noticeable moulding variances once you look at them alongside the retail versions.
#5: Micro Change MC-07 Gun Robo Browning M1910
The familiar amongst you will clock that this isn’t a weird Megatron prototype but an early version of Browning, another Micro Change gun robo that would eventually find life in Transformers under Takara’s Masterforce line. As such, this doesn’t vary quite as wildly as you may imagine, but still, there are variances, including a very different head design, as with Reflector. Additionally, the chest detail is not the same, implying the decals weren’t yet finalised at the time of this image. Finally, it’s interesting to note the barrel makes up the toy’s left arm in this case, whereas it’s on the right for the finalised version, although I suppose this was maybe just a case of a flipped image being used.
#4: Diaclone Insecter Robo Kabutron
Moving back to Diaclone here, you may vaguely recognise this as the toy that would become G1 Bombshell! However, it’s hard to understate the differences seen on this prototype, as it clearly went through numerous changes before finally hitting shelves. All three Insecticons represented bad guy robots in Diaclone lore, as they were the bug-themed piloted mechs used by the evil Waruders. The retail versions also had a distinct colour scheme with lots of red, silver, black and occasional touches of yellow, which you see represented on this prototype too. Still, none of the tooling present here appears to have been carried over to the retail release, with the head especially looking like an entirely different toy.
#3: Diaclone Insecter Robo Battas
If you thought Bombshell looked different in prototype form, how about Kickback? Even more uniformly green than the original Diaclone toy was at retail, the grasshopper vibes are all the more obvious as a result, whilst the lack of chrome and this prototype’s unique moulding also set it far apart from the version of the toy we’re more familiar with. However, the robot mode is truly noteworthy in this case, as although the broad strokes are the same, so many of the details look nothing like the figure that would eventually become an Insecticon. For starters, the signature translucent plastic chest is nowhere to be found, and the head resembles an old-fashioned motorcycle helmet of sorts!
#2: Diaclone Insecter Robo Kuwagatorer
Rounding off our pre-production Insecticon trio is the prototype version of Shrapnel, although you’d be hard-pressed to recognise it based on these images alone! So much is different about this figure to the final release that it’s almost quicker to talk about what’s the same, with only the broad shape and the position of familiar elements such as the mandibles and insect legs being the obvious cues. It’s clearly a very early design for the toy that would go through numerous alterations and refinements throughout production, giving us a fascinating peak behind the curtain of this early part of Transformers (and pre-Transformers) history.
#1: Diaclone Jetrobo F-15 Hi-Speed Fighter
Last but certainly not least is another Diaclone effort, and no doubt you will immediately recognise this as the one and only air commander Starscream! However, this pre-production figure looks notably different to the vintage toy we know and love, despite the overall shape and layout being basically the same. For one thing, it’s a lot curvier than the final mould, resulting in a noticeably more cohesive plane mode. If it looks like a non-transformable model here, that’s likely because it is, which explains how they could make it without the seams and gaps present on the toy. The robot mode is also markedly different, with a significantly smoother look and noticeable moulding differences all over. What’s most strange of all is the face here, which is a world away from the eventual toy release and bizarrely looks closer to its cartoon persona as a result. Weird how that works out.
So that’s our list! Thanks again to @hausofsega for sharing the pictures. Which of these prototypes has caught your eye the most?