Blast from the Past: The Micronauts
In 1976, just in time for the science fiction craze which would be kicked off by Star Wars, the Mego toy company released the Micronauts line of action figures. Based upon Japan’s Microman toys, the Micronauts proved successful until they ceased to be manufactured in 1980. So successful were the Micronauts that from 1979 until 1986, Marvel Comics came out with not one, but two series of Micronauts comic books, and later Image Comics and Devil’s Due Publishing each had their own limited series of the Micronauts with IDW Publishing announcing in 2015 that they would be bringing the Micronauts back for yet another comic series.
What were the Micronauts? From a storytelling perspective, it depends upon whom you ask. The Marvel Comics version and the other comics had their own characters and stories, but the official toy line left more to the imagination, providing little information about the figures other than some cool names and basic facts such as who was a good guy and who was bad, though there were a few hints of various powers and abilities.
The original centerpiece of the Micronauts collection were 3.75-inch-tall plastic action figures with names like Time Traveler, Space Glider, Galactic Warrior and Acroyear. The first three looked somewhat alike with silver human-like heads and colorful bodies, though Acroyear was noticeably different with a helmet-like head, which made sense since he was a villain.
Other action figures were to follow, including several who stood 6.5 inches in height, as well as vehicles, robot figures, and various sets, some of which were whole cities. One of the intriguing things about this series of toys, especially for the time, was that many of them had interchangeable parts; thus you could take Baron Karza’s torso and head, for instance, and plop them down on the horse-like Andromeda to create a centaur of sorts. Even the cities were made sort of like simplistic Erecto Sets so that you could build them into whatever configuration you wanted.
I was never fortunate enough to have every single Micronauts toy, but that would have been nearly impossible for almost everyone as there were so many different toys in the line. Besides, I was between six and ten years old when I was into Micronauts, and my allowance of $2 a week didn’t exactly lend itself to buying much, even if comics were still only 35 cents back then.
Still, I managed to gather a number of Micronauts over the years.
Like many fans of the series, my favorite has to be the villainous Baron Karza. Standing a full 6.5 inches tall with black armor and red eyes, Baron Karza sported a jet pack and launched a scarlet missile from the center of his chest. Better yet, he could fire both of his fists out as missiles. His figure was one of those that was interchangeable, the arms and head and legs connecting to the main body with magnets, so parts of him could be combined in all kinds of weird ways or exchanged with other, similar figures in the series to create some truly unique monstrosities. Baron Karza has also tended to be the main villain in the various comic book versions of the Micronauts, and that has always felt right to me.
Other Micronauts I had were Space Glider, with his helmet and jet pack with wings that opened up; Galactic Warrior, with his gun that launched soft-tipped missiles; Pharoid with golden wings at his sides and a time machine that looked like an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus; and then Acroyear, another villain.
Acroyear was a favorite. I guess I have a thing for villains. Not only did he look as if he wore armor, but he carried a short sword and an odd-looking jet pack that sprouted two large spinning wheels. His parts were also interchangeable, so you could build him into different forms.
There were plenty of others Micronauts, but those above were the ones I owned as a kid. Yes, I wish I’d managed to pick up the others, but I have fond memories of what I did have.
The Later Years
Unfortunately by 1980 the Micronauts were on their way out. They seemed as popular as ever, evidenced by Marvel Comics’ continual run of their title until 1986, but the Mego toy company ran into financial troubles in the early 1980s and filed for bankruptcy in 1982, finally no longer existing by 1983.
Still, the Micronauts lived on.
In Italy the iMicronauti line of toys came into being about the same time as the Micronauts in the U.S. and continued for a short while.
In Japan the original Microman series continued until 1984, then sprang up once more from 1998 to 2007.
In 1985 a series of toys called The Inter-changeables appeared in a few stores. Supposedly made by a company known as HourToy, it was obvious The Inter-changeables were just the Micronauts under a different name. Unfortunately, though made from the same molds as the Micronauts, The Inter-changeables were of inferior quality, made almost wholly of cheap plastics that cracked and broke easily. In 1986 The Inter-changeables continued on under a company called M&D Toys, but it was not to last. The Inter-changeables disappeared from toys soon thereafter.
Then the Palisades toy company decided in 2002 to come out with the Micronaut Retro Series. Apparently there were a lot of difficulties in the manufacture and distribution of these new Micronauts, so the series never had a chance to take off, though a few were sold.
Rumors have sprang up over the years about one company or another coming out with another line of Micronauts, and there has even been talk of a Micronauts movie or another Micronauts comic book, so die-hard fans always have something to hold onto. Apparently Hasbro now owns the Micronauts, and maybe they will do something with the franchise.
Also, the Micronauts in all their forms have become collectors’ items for many fans, and often the action figures and other paraphernalia can be found for sale at various online or auction sites.
So, Micronauts fans never give up. Maybe there’s hope.
As always, Stay Nerdy!