Tuesday, September 14, 2010

They Came From Inner Space

Spurred by my discussion of ‘80s toylines as gaming inspiration, Scott mentioned the Micronauts as another possibility, and set off a chain of enthusiastic agreement from just about everyone else. For me, the Micronauts of the Marvel comic are what I remember most fondly rather than the Mego toys than spawned it.

The cover to Micronauts # 1 (January 1979) shows the influence of Star Wars as much as the toyline. Particularly note black armored Darth--uh, Baron--Karza menacing the heroes. The similarities don’t end there. There are two droids (Biotron and Microtron), a princess (Marionette), and a hero who taps into an enigmatic, quasi-mystical force (The Enigma Force).

Despite those similarities, Micronauts has a lot of interesting ideas of its own, though the basic set-up is pure space opera: Commander Rann returns from a 1000 year (mostly suspended animation) exploration of molecular-model resembling worlds of the Microverse (a “sub-atomic” universe), to find his old teacher (Karza) has led an insurrection and become dictator of Homeworld. Rann teams up with the overthrown royals, Princess Mari (Marionette of the Farah Fawcett hair), and Acroyear (armored warrior of Spartak), and Bug, insectoid wisecracker.

A simple story, sure, but it's the details that really make it work. Baron Karza’s coup was supported by much of populace because he promised them immortality through the use of his DNA-altering Body Banks, which he also uses to make inhuman soldiers from political enemies. The Acroyear people of Spartak are the obligatory warrior race, and are never seen outside of their cool armor. They've also got slightly oversized mediveal weaponry sorrounded by energy and Kirby dots.  Unlike Darth Vader, Karza has a white armor-clad opposite number in the person of Prince Argon.

Micronauts had 57 issues of its original run. That was followed by a crossover limited series with the X-Men. The final series, Micronauts: The New Voyages, had writer Peter Gillis and artist Kelley Jones taking the team out of their familiar haunts and into unexplored regions of the Microverse. It’s a well written series, though strikes a different chord than the space operatic original, and serves to “finish” the Micronauts story.

So fan of the toys or no, those with an interest in, or looking for inspiration for, classic seventies cinematic space opera, ought to give Micronauts a look.


Al said...

Love the Micronauts! :)

James Maliszewski said...

One of my favorite comics. I still have a complete run of both series tucked away at my parents' house somewhere.

Jay said...

Any post that mentions Kirby Dots/Kirby Krackle gets automatic +1!

Do we know if they ever collected Micronauts into an anthology edition (trade paperback)?

bliss_infinte said...

Huge fan of both the toys and the comics! Very fond memories of hours spent playing with the Battlecrusier.

I'm gonna have to pull these comics out!

James said...

But father bought me the whole line for Christmas, when they first came out. I have no idea what happened to them.:(

Trey said...

@Jay - I don't think there has ever been a collection of the Marvel Micronauts, unfortunately.

Brutorz Bill said...

I have most of the entire run.
One of my favorite comic series!
They haven't been able to do an anthology due to licensing reasons is what I hears.

Chris Creel said...

I have all the issues of Vol. 1 as well and often consider mining them for rpg plot ideas.