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Non-affiliated, Non-lengthy, Non-articles about Transformers

Sunday, 22 September 2019

Hasbro G1 Cyclonus - Figure & Sticker History


As far as Generation 1 Transformers and their global or historic variants go, 1986's Decepticon Saboteur "Cyclonus" has never had a particularly complicated or long story. He's popular, extremely well known and widely owned as a toy, but not complicated. He's a toy of three real major variations across his vintage lifespan - an early blue-eared release from 1986, a later release without the blue colouring from 1986, and a final Targetmaster re-release from 1987 - and he has a mere 10 stickers whose intended locations are clearly and consistently defined on his instructions across all releases. Or so I thought.




Cyclonus box art - courtesy of Botchthecrab.com

The commonly-held belief is that G1 Cyclonus was first released with blue coloured 'ears' and a blue-coloured waist section, and his box artwork and stock photography contain handmade unfinished stickers that did not make it to the final production figure. That's all correct and not something I'm going to dispute in this article.


Toy Fair scans courtesy of Paul Hitchens (The Spacebridge)

Looking at the mock-up of G1 Cyclonus from a 1986 Toy Fair magazine, you can see his blue ear and waist paint very clearly, as well as the hand-cut and hand-painted shoulder, shin, chest, wing and jet-mode stickers. Everything on him, basically. Those gloriously hot pink stickers were present on the mock-up from which the artwork was produced, but the production toy featured more detailed dark purple stickers with shapes on them as we know.


And there is the G1 packaging stock photo of Cyclonus, a little different to the Toy Fair one but generally the same thing in terms of colours and stickers. There were probably a few of these mock-up prototypes hanging around at the time, although I'd wager this one is a smidge earlier than the Toy Fair specimen.

However, I used to own something from a little further back than that, too...

Original unpainted Cyclonus test shot

What you see here is an unpainted G1 Cyclonus test shot, missing an arm. It does not yet have red paint on the eyes or blue paint on his ears and waist. It's from a time just before the box photo mock-up and the Toy Fair mock-up. The wonderful thing with this specimen is that it still had the hand-coloured and hand-cut hot pink shoulder and shin stickers. I cannot tell you what a privilege it was to see those historically significant Cyclonus labels in hand. Generally, any time spent in the presence of pre-production G1 material is an honour.

To understand what the purpose of this article is, though, we need to look at this test shot in jet mode.

Original unpainted Cyclonus test shot

Mad to see a hugely recognisable G1 Transformer like Cyclonus completely unpainted, isn't it? No orange cockpit, no silver sections on the ears...but what about those two trapezoidal stickers just above his cockpit windows? We can see they are hand-coloured and nowhere near final, but their orientation is interesting. It's not just a case of a single test shot with odd sticker placement or orientation, either. Let's look at the jet mode on the Cyclonus box:


This mock-up is now painted, and the trapezoidal stickers behind the orange cockpit windows are in exactly the same orientation as my old unpainted test shot. You may also notice, like the test shot above (and the mock-up in Toy Fair), it has very visible screws either side of the cockpit windows. The final production version does not have those.

Cyclonus instructions - courtesy of Botchthecrab.com

Now, Cyclonus' instruction sheet (also with the visible screws represented!), shows the 'official' orientation of those trapezoidal stickers, labelled #1 and #2. With none of the mock-ups in Toy Fair nor on the box photography (or my unpainted test shot) showing sticker set #5, but them appearing on this sticker application map, one can assume that this map was created when the stickers were closer to final production version but not yet in time for the final toy moulding. That could be why sticker orientation and content are updated, but not the screw positions in the diagram.

But is the sticker application map, updated or not, actually wrong?

Silver head Cyclonus mock-up from UK catalogue

In order to find out, I looked at some other early Cyclonus mock-ups. Above you can see the famous all-silver-headed Cyclonus from the 1986 UK Transformers pack-in catalogue. He also has the visible screws and hand-made hot pink stickers, as well as that crazy all-silver head and face which incidentally is how Cyclonus is represented in the UK Ladybird story books, too. Guess we know where this mock-up was sent afterwards! Anyway, look at those trapezoidal stickers after his cockpit windows again...the orientation matches the unpainted G1 test shot, the Toy Fair mock-up and also the stock photo mock-up, NOT the 'official' orientation advised in the G1 instructions.

But wait, there's more.

Pre-production blue-eared G1 Cyclonus

Pre-production blue-eared G1 Cyclonus

What you see here is a blue-eared G1 Cyclonus production sample from 1986, almost 100% ready for production release and almost indistinguishable from a regular retail blue-eared Cyclonus. It doesn't even have the visible screws that the mock-ups and test shots had on either side of the cockpit windows, this is the final updated mould ready for release. So at this point, Cyclonus is basically finalised and ready to ship...so why are his trapezoidal stickers just above his cockpit windows showing the same orientation as the mock-ups and stock pics again instead of the 'official' orientation from the instructions?

Pre-production blue Cyc (left) and unpainted test shot (right)

This pic is figuratively huge, it says a lot about Cyclonus' sticker history. On the right you have the early unpainted test shot with mostly handmade stickers, but on the left is this blue-eared retail-ready pre-production Cyclonus sample with final sticker quality labels. Once again, he has this weird orientation for the trapezoidal labels above the cockpit. He has the final production factory stickers on the wings...which you may notice have basically the same design as the trapezoidal ones. He's missing the big Decepticon factory stickers on the arms, of course, but he does have this oddity...

Purple-background pre-production sticker

Production version (left) versus pre-production sticker (right)

Compared to a retail Cyclonus, that sticker obviously has a purple background when the final one had a black background. So the stickers on this retail-ready blue ears pre-production sample Cyclonus are not quiiiite there yet. This is almost definitely the final stage of the toy before release. I knew this already of course as I had written a review of this Cyclonus pre-production sample some time ago. What I hadn't realised was that he shared the same weird sticker orientation for Cyclonus labels #1 and #2 with the mock-ups and stock pics.


I still wasn't entirely certain if this was just a series of unfamiliar photographers putting the stickers on incorrectly, or whether the instructions just got it wrong. I turned my focus to the 1987 Targetmaster Cyclonus - who incidentally still has the same box artwork with the hot pink shoulder and shin stickers of the mock-ups, as well as the blue ears long after they were phased out of the production toys.

1986 Cyclonus box (left) vs 1987 Targetmaster Cyclonus box (right)

Typical G1 stock photos, more questions than answers! We can clear one thing up at least, the trapezoidal stickers on Targetmaster Cyclonus' stock pics are now facing the other way, completely in line with the 'official' orientation previously seen only in the 1986 instructions. Is that a confirmation that they should always have been this way up? It's a compelling argument, especially as he has all the other stickers you'd expect of the production toy, like the final details on the shin and shoulder stickers, as well as the thigh stickers.

However, we should not forget the lesson of G1 Soundwave's 'speaker' stickers that were always intended to be his battery stickers. Even today with the Walmart reissues of 2019, the instructions and stock photos show them as speakers, despite all original sources from Takara and Japan showing they were meant to be battery detail on Soundwave's weapons!


Hanging around just a little bit longer on Targetmaster Cyclonus' stock photography, do you notice anything else? In robot mode, his arms are a very different purple to his torso. That colour difference is inverted in jet mode! It appears that the photographer, or Hasbro themselves, had the wrong arms on the wrong body in both cases, so neither look completely coherent. However, mad as it may seem, this might have been intentional. I had not noticed this for over 30 years, but if the whole jet had been a different purple to the whole robot, that may have been more immediately noticeable to all when looking at his packaging.

The main takeaway here remains the fact that the sticker orientation on Targetmaster Cyclonus' stock photography - with a year having passed since the character's first release - is updated to match the instructions.

So where does that leave us with regards to those mock-ups and the originally-intended orientation of trapezoidal stickers #1 and #2?




At TFNation 2019 last month, I purchased a UK-bought G1 Cyclonus, but it was the first release blue-eared variety. The stickers were a little bit worn and incorrectly placed (although the purple ones on the shoulder could easily have been an attempt to mimic the hot pink mock-up stickers of the boxart). The price was insanely good and I figured I could source a Cyclonus stickersheet to make him look perfect again. It was this toy's box that made me realise the difference in orientation between early mock-up Cyclonus' stickers and the instructions, initially. 

The more I think about it, the more one could perceive the evidence to suggest that the instructions are correct and there was one last iteration of his stickers before release, changing the purple background of sticker set #6 to black as well as the orientation of stickers #1 and #2, the trapezoids. So in order to present my new blue-eared Cyclonus 100% as the designer intended, I should follow the instructions and ignore the mock-ups, right?


Not a chance. Why? Because I'm not convinced the instructions did get it right, not fully convinced anyway. There's enough doubt in my mind for me to enjoy my Cyclonus done up this way. It's not just about an aesthetic preference either, I do believe there's some logic to this being the intended setup. Let's take a close look at this Cyclonus and those stickers:


For a start, those trapezoidal stickers share the same pattern as the factory wing stickers. There are orange 'spikes' against a purple background. They almost look like speed lines, or a trailing wake. By orienting the stickers like this, as the mock-ups did, those orange spikes/speed lines now face the same direction as we see on his wings. It's more consistent, and there has to be a reason why ALL those mock-ups - the stock pics on the box, the Toy Fair specimens, my unpainted test shot, my pre-production sample, the UK silver-headed mock-up - had the trapezoids this way up.


When viewed from certain angles like the one above, orienting the stickers this way makes Cyclonus look more coherent and streamlined because of the shared direction of the trapezoidal stickers and the factory wing labels. It even looks like the orange cockpit windows continue onto the stickers! It just makes more sense to me this way, even if it is entirely possible this was just an ongoing error transferred from one mock-up to another until corrected in the instructions.

Production blue-eared Cyclonus I stickered vs Targetmaster Cyclonus

Production blue-eared Cyclonus I stickered vs Targetmaster Cyclonus

And there's nothing to say that the instructions were not originally mistaken, then leading to that same 'official' error being repeated for the Targetmaster Cyclonus photography and instruction map. There are aspects of the timeline that don't add up, like how the UK catalogue Cyclonus with the all-silver head has black background stickers for sticker set #6 when it was clearly an earlier mock-up compared to the pre-production sample I had with the purple-background stickers...and yet both had the same trapezoidal sticker orientation.




Considering the lengths I had to go to in order to decide how to sticker up this Cyclonus, and the decision I made to copy the mock-ups for those trapezoidal stickers above the cockpit windows, I think it's kinda funny how I ended up not doing the shin stickers 100% correctly compared to ANY representation of him! They should actually start as high up as his knee joint, but I opted to put them a bit lower to reduce the chance of edge wear. My goodness, G1 Transformers sparkle like nothing else when they have a perfect set of vintage labels on them.


I do want to say one more thing about the earliest Cyclonus toys that also came as news to me when putting this article together. Above you can see the wing joint assembly for the unpainted test shot Cyclonus with the hot pink handmade stickers. Can you see the black plastic spacers either side of the metal connector where it attaches to the purple shoulder? Previously I thought these black spacers were exclusive features seen on the mock-ups, test shots and even my pre-production sample only. It was not thought to have made it to final production Cyclonus toys.


Apparently they did! This glorious and now freshly-stickered blue-eared production Cyclonus I picked up at TFN has the same black spacers on the wing joints. I guess it was just one of the running changes that were made when production was moved from Japan (blue ears first release) to Taiwan (regular purple ears Cyclonus). For the sake of completeness, the Targetmaster is Macau-manufactured. 


So, to summarise, early mock-ups and pre-production specimens of G1 Cyclonus had mostly handmade stickers and a certain orientation of trapezoidal stickers #1 and #2 off the stickersheet that remained consistent across the box stock photography, catalogues, Toy Fair literature and even the mock-ups and samples themselves. Final stage pre-production samples with almost-final stickers and moulding still shared the same trapezoidal sticker orientation as the earlier mock-ups. For production and retail release, most stickers were updated to feature more distinct detail, but not #1 and #2, they stayed the same as seen in the earliest mock-ups. The instructions, however, now showed a different orientation for stickers #1 and #2 that was then carried forward to the Targetmaster stock photography the following year. 


When stickering up my new blue ears G1 Cyclonus, I decided there was enough evidence to support the first orientation shown, and therefore I didn't follow the 'official' instructions for their placement. In doing so I have a wonderful memento of the pre-release mock-ups and samples of Cyclonus that I used to own and the magical mock-ups seen on the boxes and in catalogues, while at the same time having one utterly scintillating and beautiful vintage display specimen.

You gotta love Generation 1 Transformers. What other hobby can offer a collector this much from just a single figure?


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All the best
Maz






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