I am old, which is not a shocking revelation to regular readers of this blog. (Oh, while I’m thinking about it, let me give a quick shout out to all the Romanian spammers that have been visiting the comments pages! What up, ya’ll? Ever notice that your clever spam never actually makes it through? Here’s a hint, if it’s written in Romanian (or maybe it’s just WingDings?), I will probably catch on that it’s Viagra spam, not a laudatory comment on the sharp content provided here free of charge. I do enjoy cleaning up the 25 times per day you drop those love notes. Thanks!) Anyhoo, back to my being old – most of the CGI-laden nostalgia-fests of recent vintage have been outside my wheelhouse.
I was about 27 when Transformers and GI Joe were popular toys (actually there were some sweet two foot tall GI Joes in the early 70s with sideburns and dog tags that were fantasmal) and cartoons, and thus to me Transformers and GI Joe were just opportunities to see computer images and explosions (and Megan Fox). No thanks (unless I’m stuck on a plane). But this is real news to someone of my era: JJ Abrams (Star Trek, a very shitty Superman script) is planning a Micronauts movie. That is fucking awesome! Well, actually it would be extremely awesome if it was a Micronauts movie. Will it be based on the sweet-assed late 1970s toys, or the sweet-assed late 1970s Marvel comics? And, if you are less than half an octagenarian, what the hell are Micronauts/Micronauts anyways?
They were some sweet-assed Japanese toys called Micromen that were relaunched in the US in 1977 under the more sophisticated Micronauts label. While most dolls – ahem, action figures – of the time were articulated only by having a head that could swivel a full 12 degrees in either direction, Micronauts had bendable arms, legs and a cadre of weapons that could choke a three year old (unfortunately). They had little guys (Time Traveler, Space Glider, Acroyear) that were far superior to their Star Wars counterparts to come. Then there were bigger figures that had magnetic interchangeable parts (the dastardly Baron Karza, his white good guy counterpart Force Commander) – these fuckers could become centaurs if you bought their steeds too! (The seeds of A-Rod’s centaur fixation?) There were also assorted robots of sizes large and small (Biotron, Microtron), spaceships that could be reconfigured into about 30 other kinds of spaceships (Battle Cruiser – I had this, it was fucking retarded awesome), and an large tube transportation system that promised to turn your living room into a bank deposit window (Rocket Tubes – sadly I got this tremendous gift for X-Mas 1978 and could never get the fucking things to work! That is right up there with Roger Craig’s fumble in the 1991 NFC Championship Game on my “biggest disappointments” list).
Back in 1979, before all this interweb hype and just before the era of “cartoons-as-discrete-infomercials” the best way for a toy to get some word-of-mouth was by introducing a comic book to provide a lush backstory (just in case kids’ imaginations were too Charlies Angels-addled to come up with their own). As with ROM: Spaceknight (a lame toy paired with a pretty lame comic), Marvel comics was there to provide service, and the seminal original Micronauts storyline was born. Issues #1-12 told the basic story of how the good guy prince was exiled and returned to find the old chief scientist had become a universe-conquering psychopath who had killed his parents and essentially society However, paired with a rag-tag band of misfit robots, centaurs, body banks, hot chicks, bugs, cocker spaniels, Enigma Forces, Captain Universes, etc. the rebel group was able to….you get the picture. Sure, it sounds a little derivative, and the bad guys have some similarities, but Micronauts actually pre-date Star Wars. Not the Micronauts comics, of course, they may have borrowed from the somewhat-successful SW canon a tiny bit.
Baron Karza, the bad guy, was pretty fucking bad. He really had no soft edges; he wanted to be immortal and didn’t see any real problem in using poor people to provide body parts to prolong the life of non-poor people. He also wanted to control the Microverse (see what they did there?) and kill all the Micronauts. He wasn’t pleasant, had poor hygiene, and rocked a goatee. Fucking hated that guy.
Later artists decided Karza’s image needed a little softening….
….did I mention he could become a centaur at a whim?
Even the toy version of Karza had some real gravitas.
After working with this level of carnage creating deathbots, please excuse me for not getting misty-eyed recalling a Transformer that could turn into a fucking tape recorder. (Sweet, a tape recorder. The other one can become a semi, but this one can become a tape recorder? That’s killer.) Fuck all those Transformers, I will take some Micronauts – just look at the fucking heat Karza is packing up there! Big rockets on back? Check. Rocket in your gut? Check? Fists that double as rockets and you can shoot off? Check. Ability to trade your lower body with that of a horse? Check.
The fucking Micronauts were a little ahead of their time and kids from my era were maybe a little too stupid to fully appreciate their awesomeness. (Like choking to death on the missiles – that nipped that pretty much in the bud. Later versions included non-shooting missiles. Not cool, dude.) Toys that wasted potential, perhaps? And the one saving grace for Transformers, the hotness of Megan Fox? The Marvel comics guys weren’t stupid, they went outside the toy line to create the female lead, Marionette (Princess Mari, had to secretly be a Princess, of course).
Will I go see this Micronauts movie if it actually gets made? Yes, yes I will. (Particularly if Marisa Miller plays Marionette.) One huuuuuuuuuuuuggggggggggggggeeeeeee potential downside? Apparently Marvel Comics retains the rights to some of the characters (like Mari) that were created just for the books. If they can get those licensing rights, and essentially just tell the story from issues 1-12, the movie will be unreal. It is the best comic arc that I can recall ever reading and will translate well to the big screen. Fingers crossed.
(Disclaimer: I read that stuff over thirty years ago; I recently tried to read some of the original Iron Man comics in Tales of Suspense reprints, and they were unimaginably horrid. So maybe my tastes have changed in thirty years. I hope not, cause that shit was the coolest way back when.)
They Came From Inner Space,