Under the Microscope: Micronauts #1

Acroyears... puls-cannons... strata-stations... roboids... insectivorids... To the casual reader, nonsense words. To the geek, they're the lexicon of the Micronauts, a japanese toyline (by Mego) that, like Rom, became the basis of a Bill Mantlo comic book series. The story goes that as Mantlo's young son Adam opened a present containing some Micronauts, Bill was struck by inspiration and bugged Marvel's editor-in-chief, Jim Shooter, to aquire the rights and put him to work. Whoops! I'm supposed to format this like I would have if Micronauts had won the "Spaceknight Saturdays is over so suck it" contest (it got 25% of the vote), so here goes: Unlike Rom, I actually HAD Micronauts as a kid. Not many, just the Mobile Exploration Lab, which came with a couple of these guys, dubbed "time travelers", to drive it: They were just the ordinary "crew" characters, with no real identity, but I liked how the Lab could be turned into component vehicles and the little guys' metal heads and clear bodies. "Named" characters like the evil Baron Karza of course eluded me. Bill Mantlo imagines a world that is part of Marvel's already famous Microverse, self-contained, but able to cross over with the Marvel Universe easily enough (as of the second issue, in fact). It's a world that features a classic 1977 struggle between an evil authority and a good rebellion. Stop me if you've heard it. Though some of the characters are pulled from the toyline, Mantlo also creates some original cast members (see below). One thing I find REALLY interesting re: the toys, is that Karza has been ruling for 1000 years thanks to the promise of immortality. When dissidents die, they are recycled into bodies for others to prolong their lives. This isn't unlike how the toys can be disassembled and put back together. (By the way, Karza is a centaur in that sequence, a possible reference to the toyline's "Magno-Horses" and again to Lego-like disassembly.) In this world, flesh and technology are interchangeable, and consequently, most machines have biological components and vice-versa. In our story, Karza (toy) is using a flying army of Acroyears (toys) to keep the rebels down, including the princess Mari AKA Marionette (original) and her servant robot Microtron (toy). Out of the blue, Commander Arctus Rann (original) and his trusty cyborg sidekick Biotron (toy) arrive from a millenia-long expedition to find new life and new civilizations... I'd say something about the ship looking like another (cough cough), but I can't bitch about Michael Golden's gorgeous art. Anyway, he took off before Karza came to power and is still alive because of relativity. He's kind of sore that 1) his planet has gone all fascist and stuff, and 2) they since discovered warp drive and everyone knows there are aliens etc. As soon as he arrives, he's thrown in a cell with other rebels, a good plan on the part of Karza that just makes them get together and flee. The team includes the aforementioned characters and Acroyear, the only one of his race not to turn traitor (toy species), and the insectivorid Bug (original). He's cool. Oh and there's a mysterious guy who calls himself the Time Traveler, so my old toys are covered. How did Mantlo manage to turn the disparate elements of the toyline into a cohesive mythology? And if you've seen some of the original characters hanging around lately, how did they grow and evolve? That's a tale for another time, for when I dust off the old microscope again. 'Til then!


Anonymous said...

I'm still marveled nobody calls the Baron "trainjaw"!

This villain has some modesty, still: he is the absolute ruler, but calls himself baron, and not king...

Siskoid said...

Ambitious men have to have something to look forward to.

microbry said...

Actually yes, the original Baron Karza and Force Commander toys could form centaurs when combined with their steeds Andromeda (never appears in the comic) and Oberon (actually named in the first issue--foreshadowing for what will become of Prince Argon later...). See the bottom of these two pages for reference:


The toy designs for both actually were originally created as a Japanese superhero robot, Koutetsu Jeeg (which had a different head and was more brightly multi-colored and his horse was called "Panzeroid"), produced by the famous manga artist Go Nagai.


The magnetic toy design it was based around was invented by the same fellow (Iwakichi Ogawa) who invented the original Japanese version of the Micronauts (Microman) so it was included in the licensing deal with Mego, the US distributor of Micronauts toys.

Good review!

SFF said...

Keep that microscope handy brotha! The evolution of the Micronauts is a fascinating journey. I think the worlds are filled with detail and colors and creatures that made the series a feast for its entire run. Jackson Guice and Gil Kane and the list just goes on. Who knew what Mego would create? Who knew Bill Mantlo would take things to a whole other level.

Some of your insights were knew to me and informative. Thanks.

Oh and I owned that Astro lab as a kid and many ocean waves flooded it and it's amazing character line within the confines of my tub. Those were the days.

Siskoid said...

Thanks micro. Yours wss one of the sites I consulted in my research, and the best looking by far. Great info there.

AFF: Always happy to oblige with the nostalgia!

Anonymous said...

Actually, Commander Rann was supposed to be Space Glider (a toy).

Look it up.

BTW, Micronauts rule. So thanks for the pit stop at Homeworld.

ShadowWing Tronix said...

Micronauts (the toy) came from the Japanese "Microman" line, which is also the birthplace of many of the original Transformers (along with Diaclone and a few others Hasbro grabbed when they had the chance).

Just in case anybody didn't know, now you do. I actually saw a fan-sub of a recent remake of "Microman". It was a cool concept.

SFF said...

Space Glider. Right. He had the cool removable helmet. Loved those jet packs too. Yes, the commander was Space Glider.

Shlomo Ben Hungstien said...

Along with ROM i liked the Micronauts too. Mike Golden who did the art for Micronauts 1 - 12 did several early ROM covers as well.


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