Tuesday, June 27, 2006

RETRO TOY FLASHBACK # 42: The Interchangeable World of the Micronauts



Okay. This is a post I have wanted to write since I first began blogging in the Spring of '05. As you know, I possess an office filled with a plethora of sci-fi toys (primarily from the 1970s and 1980s), but one toy line which has fascinated me since childhood has not yet been featured here: Mego Corp's incredible "Micronauts" (or more accurately "The Interchangeable World of the Micronauts").

Why haven't I featured the Micronauts before? Well, quite frankly, of all my toys, very few Micronauts survived my long (and continuing...) journey to adulthood. Until this past weekend, I owned the Hornetroid spaceship (which is cool beyond reckoning), a Baron Karza action figure I got for Christmas in 1980, and a Space Glider figure I picked up at a flea market about five years ago. I also have a relatively complete line of Marvel Micronaut comic books, but they aren't toys...

However, when I went over to my parents' house for dinner this Saturday night, I discovered they had made a yard sale plunder. They had bought for me a mint-in-box Micronauts Giant Acroyear and a complete-in-box (but not mint box...) Micronauts Mobile Exploration Lab. The total price tag? Five frickin' dollars! My parents occasionally do something like this...they find me a treasure that just blows my mind. (Last year they found me a dinky die-cast metal SHADO 2 tank from the Gerry Anderson TV series UFO...which they picked up for two dollars...).

But back to the Micronauts. You see, I had kept an eye on E-Bay for toys like these...but they are always out of my financial reach. So I elected to keep my collecting attention on collections I already had a lot of: Space:1999, Star Trek, Planet of the Apes and Star Wars. The Micronauts, I feared, were simply out of reach.

And then this! So yes, I'm a happy man today.

Who are the Micronauts? Well, it was before Star Wars, I believe (the copyright is 1976...) that Mego bgan developing this amazing and highly-detailed line of futuristic action figures, vehicles and machines. The line came to include whole cities (A megapolis, I think it was called), a functional tube subway system (which I got for one birthday from my aunt...), missile-firing ships, robots, helicopters, starcruisers (my favorite toy...) and more. As the toys were laid out (though I think it was different in the comics...) the Acroyears were the robotic bad guys (they looked kind of like space vikings) and the good guys had names like Time Traveler, Space Glider and the like.

I don't know what the exact "toy story" was, only that as a youth I created my own world with these Micronauts. Baron Karza -- a Darth Vader knock-off whose limbs were attached to his torso by magnets -- was the amazing villain who would launch his evil Acroyear warriors (and later, mutants...) against my peaceful and advanced Micronaut City. Which was defended by the likes of a weird helicopter ship, the multi-part starcruiser, and more. Meanwhile, the Micronauts expanded their territory with exploratory vehicles like the mobile laboratory. They also had guardian robots at their side, like the giant Biotron (I think that is what he was called...)

The Micronaut universe came to be huge (and I remember at one point even owning a Micronaut laser pistol with interchangeable muzzles...), a galaxy unto itself, and I honestly think the line was one of the best toys ever released during my childhood. I love the Kenner action figures for Star Wars, but in some sense, when playing with them, you're buying into a universe someone else has created. The Micronauts, being interchangeable and with no overall story (outside Marvel's), were toys that you could shape and mold to your ideas and imagination. You could build the cities the way you wanted; you could configure the vehicles as you saw fit. You could always combine and create something new and cool. One toy could be five or six different ships. Anyway, the Micronauts were amazingly cool.

There are many, many dozens of Micronauts toys, and my newly expanded collection barely scratches the surface of this remarkable Mego product. But who knows when I'll find more...so I wanted to feature them here. I know there was a re-release a few years back (of at a least a few Micronauts), but as you can tell from my blog, I'm an Old School kind of guy. It's the originals for me...

So, did you own any Micronauts? Which ones were your favorites? There was one figure called Galactic Defender that I really liked (he had a space helmet and a laser sword, I think...) , and also one who came in a sarcophagus...maybe called Phobos...

And there was a good guy to battle Baron Karza called Force Commander, right? I never actually had him...

4 comments:

  1. John, my brother and I had a few Micronauts each. In fact, somewhere in the basement our parents' house is his Hydrocopter, Giant Acroyear, and the mobile lab (I can't remember the name of it, but I remember it contained a cannon and a "hybernation couch" as the Marvel comics called it), as well as various figures including a few Time Travellers, Antron, Galactic Defender, Acroyear 1 and 2, and Pharoid (the one with the sarcophagus). Being a bit older, I only had a few of them, and was more interested in the metal figures, Space Glider, Galactic Warrior (who had one of those cannons that fired rubber-tipped projectiles and evolved into Marvel's "Bug"), and, yes, Force Commander, the white-armored counterpart to Baron Karza.

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  2. Anonymous11:57 AM

    Uh.... check your facts...
    =)

    Baron Karza pre-dates Darth Vader by a year. The figure was introduced at the New York Toy Fare in 1976. Vader showed up a year later. Mego was unaware of Vader, as Lucas was presumably unaware of Karza. No knock-offs here.

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  3. Thanks for the info anonymous. I stand corrected.

    Regards,
    John

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  4. Great article, John. BTW, the Micronauts are an American version of a Japanese toy by Takara (now called TOMY-Takara) called Microman. The rights to the toy line were brought by Mego, who then brought it to North America as Micronauts. Amazingly enough, the Microman toys are still being made, and are being exported to North American-check out this website:

    http://www.takaratomy.co.jp/products/microman/

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