Starriors: Robots in the Stars!

STARRIORS #1-4, Marvel Comics, November 1984 to February 1985
Starriors was a comic tie-in for a toy line. It's not really surprising that there would be a comic like this, but it's perhaps more surprising that I actually collected all four issues... and enjoyed them! Well, who can resist those Bill Sienkiewicz covers? He's friggin' brilliant. The story was by an actual writer too, Power Pack creator Louise Simonson, and the interior art by Mike Chen who does a good job throughout, adding some dynamic touches like rainfall and good use of zip-a-tone.

Now if you don't remember the Starriors as toys, I don't blame you. (THIS GUY does, evidently. Check out the wind-up action as the Starriors go up against a giant cat!) There were two opposing factions of robots, the Protectors and Destroyers, just as with the Transformers and Go-Bots, but without all that transforming action, so they never caught on. To be fair, they had some transforming features, like interchangeable body parts (like Mr. Potato Head) as well as wind-up chest action (like Shakira).

The comic series starts off in a postapocalyptic desert where the Destroyers have enslaved the Protectors. The good Protector robots break the bonds of slavery and go on a quest to find mythical Man, their long-lost creator. Of course, the Destroyers will come after them. Surprisingly, it's not a black and white struggle between good and evil. There are sympathizers/traitors on both sides (though no real mystery as to the identity of each). And before it's all over, some Starriors will actually be destroyed (no doubt driving their sales way down). The robots all have distinct personalities, though some are rather bizarre. For example, there's a giant Destroyer that looks like a T-Rex and is described as a blind "killer with the soul of a poet". Do you think kids made him talk like William Blake or just go "RRRRRR!!!". I'll let you make the call.

There are some other bizarre touches where it looks like Simonson tried to shoehorn the toy elements into a story that wasn't readymade for them, like the magic rings that can restore robots to health (did each toy come with a plastic ring with a Starrior head on it for kids to wear?). Another such element is that the Starrior's circuits are "made in man's image":
The robots' heads look like cockpits, but I don't know if they had little human figures in them. It might have disappointed kids when the Starriors didn't turn out to be vehicles.

What makes the series work, though, is that the robots are really rather sweet. There's not much that comes out of the "robot love" subplots, so it's a little silly, but there's real pathos when a Starrior is destroyed. On either side. I'd recommend these bargain binners as good all-ages material. I mean, where else can you find giant spiders that live in lava and freaky snakes that can apparently turn themselves into bacon?
So what say you, Doctor?


Bill D. said...

I seem to remember Starriors having the same little gold dudes in their cockpits that the Zoids had. Come to think of it, Starrior cockpit/heads basically looked the same as Zoid cockpit/heads. Since I think Tomy made 'em both, maybe they were all one toy line released separately over here?

googum said...

Love those covers. I've been casually searching for a Starrior or two the last month or so, and no dice on the eBay front. Reckon they weren't everywhere like Transformers or G.I. Joes, or the moms selling them don't know what they're called.

Siskoid said...

Zoids DO look similar, though Wiki informs me they were only published in comics form in the UK (including work by Grant Morrison - wow). Also technically not toys, but model kits.

20 years later, it became an anime franchise. But yeah, you're right, Zoids and Starriors were both by Tomy, but marketed as two different things (in the US too). Explains their modularity.

Anonymous said...

Im waiting for the Essential Marvel Limited Series to come out (seems like a no-brainer, I'd buy it), but I doubt these short-lived licensed properties would be included.

Wiki had more information about the Starriors than I ever wanted to know.

Siskoid said...

If we can't get Rom, we can't get Starriors. Rights belonging to bygone franchises from Japan seem to be a mess.


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