The Past and Future of the Zeroids

What is a Zeroid? First introduced by Ideal in 1967, The Zeroids came to earth and you became their master.. Ideal has become somewhat familiar in our recent articles; still, we have yet to dive into the history of the Zeroids themselves. I had wanted to write about them sooner, but I was waiting for my interview with the creator of their giant doppelgangers, Andy Shaw. Within our interview, Andy explained that he thought of these robots as our future. Within the context of how these robots were first released.

It makes complete sense that he would think of the Zeroids in that way, because they were advertised as robots where you are the master and they – your servants. Each robot had a different function that could be performed. There were three robots in this series, all three of them named with Z names. Zerak, Zobor and Zintar. What made them unique was their capsules. The containers they’d be stored inside of could be transformed into different tools. Zobor’s capsule could be transformed into a transporter that could carry lightweight objects. Zintar’s capsule could become a lunar sled.

Zerak was the leader. And blue. And had an interchangeable throwing hand cup which could throw objects. He also had a magnet hand. Zogg would take his place in 1969. Zogg had a laser beam feature, which was a light bulb inside of him that could shine through a part that he would hold in his hands.

The other thing that made them unique were the internal gears that could be switched out for different movements and patterns that were programed for the robots to follow. Powered by a not-so-unique power source. “Ideal Motorific” DC electric motors. Previously used for things like slot cars.

And besides all of this there was even an exclusive figure made for the UK. This figure took bits and pieces of all the Zeroids and combined it into one. Zemo; a Kind of mish-mash hodgepodge of a character.

There was a Zeroid Alien (shown above) in the year of 1970 that was completely different from the initial 3-4 robots. This one made very little sense to me, as I believed that all of the original robots were aliens. The commercial itself said they were from the Planet Zero.. And so, I find it to be nothing more than a cash grab, yet interesting in design. As it seems they were aiming to create something that looks bio-mechanical. The alien was marketed separately from the Zeroids, but was given the same basic ability to change how it moved and operated. It had four functions listed on its packaging: Search (zig zagging), Patrol (moving in a square shaped rotation), Sentry (moving in an oval rotation) and Self-destruct (obviously its head and limbs would detach.

Zerak coming out of the donut shop by: Eric Joyner

These robots, though not lasting very long have become iconic and very rare. Collectible is an understatement. When they came on the tube back in the sixties, it was like something from another world. And they never actually died out back in the late sixties, they just keep coming back.

In 1978 there was a revival of Zeroids which tried to cash in on the success of Star Wars, with some reskins and a new foe named “The Knight of Darkness” clearly mimicking Darth Vader. This line was called STAR Team. I find this one the most unoriginal, though that is my opinion, I’m sure you’d agree.

This re-release took place just after 1977 when Star Wars was first released, literally the year after. Ideal Toys even rebranded the Zeroids as a companion option to the alien of the story. The oddest part I find in the Star Team’s history is that the two figures, Knight of Darkness and the alien Zem both appear very much like dolls or figures rather than hard poseable plastic.

Included with this series was a 16 page promotional comic book, published with Marvel. This included a backstory completely different to the original Zeroids that came from Planet Zero. This Star Team was sent to defend earth from the Knight of Darkness. According to the catalog, this Zem-20 couldn’t actually think for himself all that much – requiring a Zeroid companNotably, there was much done in order to profit off of the success that was Star Wars, including making the Zeroids into rip offs of R2-D2 and making ZEM-20 with a body built similar to C3PO.

There was a genuine lawsuit between Ideal and Kenner for the toys being so closely comparable with Star Wars. Ideal got out of that situation by the skin of their teeth; being allowed to continue to produce the figures because (and I quote) “no objective evidence has been presented that the Ideal toys have weakened or will weaken the market for the ‘Star Wars’ movie or product derived therefrom.”

With these spin offs and one-shots and very short lived time out in stores, of course these robots would wind up being rare and collectible. If only the toy company Ideal could’ve had that kind of interest in Zeroids when they were first released. Now, in 2010 they did get some comic book action, but that’s a sensitive topic so please only look into it with discretion. I can assure you it isn’t kid-focused material. Of course, the current day collector of Zeroids is much older than he used to be when these toys were entirely brand-new.

What’s become of these robots now? Well, back in 2013 they were reacquired by Toyfinity. Same as Robo Force. Together they’re slowly resurfacing to the world, and while maybe not the hottest selling toy of 2019, they’re still coming back to the collectors who remember their existence. What would you have done differently with the Zeroids? What if someone in that time had given you the keys to drive the proverbial space craft leading their charge into the toy stores everywhere? All I can say for sure is, we’re glad their memory isn’t forgotten and that their future is in good hands.

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