With our Round One semi-finalists chosen, it’s time to kick off Round Two! This round will introduce twelve nominees that will then face your votes this August. We again want to thank everyone who has submitted nominees for this feature and voted in the polls. This column wouldn’t be possible without all of you and we appreciate your participation!
For our first Round Two nominee, we took a long, hard look at our new Nomination Thread and selected the first suggestion, Micronauts! There was just one problem though; I’ve never had a Micronaut. I’ve never even played with a Micronaut. So, to do this right, I needed to go back to school. I turned to an expert on all things Micronaut, HeyGoFigure’s Tekwych!
Tekwych Teaches: Micronauts
Micronauts, Mego: 1976-1980
Takara created the first 3.75″ articulated figure in 1973 placing Microman on the Japanese market. A company called Cal R&D had gathered many samples of this and other Takara lines and started to show them around to North American toy companies in 1975. Marty Abrams of Mego saw the figures and immediately bought up the rights to as many as he could. Mego placed the interchangeability of parts at the forefront and marketed the line as Micronauts in North America in 1976.
Because interchangeability was to be the line’s big theme, Mego chose those Microman items that included a Port and Post system. Almost all parts and figures had a 5mm Port, a round hole about .25″ deep or a 5mm Post, a cylinder that protruded from the item a little less than 0.25″. Parts from any one item could be disconnected and then reconnected to any other, creating your own designs. There were always enough parts in the sets to allow the child to create several different combinations and once you had two or more sets the combinations just took off. Bright colors, aliens, robots, motorized components, and space themes all brought this line to the forefront of toys in 1976 and made Micronauts the number one selling toy for boys that year.
The line’s second year brought us die-cast vehicles more figures and Magnemo Figures. Magnemos are, again, a Takara design but from a different toy line, Mighty Geeg. With these figures the interchangeability was produced through Magnets instead of the Port and Post system. A large, powerful magnet was placed inside the figures torso and 11mm steel balls caped off the arms, legs, and head of the figures. Accessories included both Port and Post and 11mm ‘Magnemo’ connectors. While the figure design and most of its tooling were exact copies of Takara product, Mego did sculpt new heads for their Baran Karza and Force Commander. Of course, in the summer of 1977 a little movie called Star Wars came out and every child wanted space toys. Kenner, having bought the rights to Star Wars, hadn’t even started mock ups of any toys while waiting to see how well the film performed. Micronauts cashed in as the space toys that were on the shelves while Kenner sold the infamous “empty box” for Christmas.
By 1978, Mego had created their own tooling for all the Micronauts items and Kenner had brought their Star Wars line up to speed. Action figures were actually giving dolls a run for their shelf space that year. Mego would add one more 3.75″ figure along with a new vehicle. Mego then took several of the old ‘Trons’ and gave them new accessories and colors to create new characters. They also released the first Micropolis City sets, a construction building set that used the 5mm post and Port system to stay on the interchangeability theme. The main building blocks were designed by Takara, but the overall system was finished off by Mego and offered a new level of play. You could now create entire buildings that could incorporate parts from any of the other sets in the line.
In 1979, Mego truly stepped out on their own. Star Wars was taking its toll on most other space toys but Micronauts held onto a distant second. While the Time Traveler returned with a new solid color look almost everything else offered this year was designed by Mego and Cal R&D. It was this year that the Micronauts Aliens joined the line: three figures with exposed, glow-in-the-dark brains and Post and Port wrists that allowed for numerous weapons to be placed on their arms. The Aliens got their own vehicles and fans saw the release of The Rocket Tubes, a transport system that used a vacuum to move characters through a series of tubes.
Also in 1979, Mego cut a deal with comic book publisher Marvel to add the characters to its line of books. Bill Mantlo saw his son’s toys and wanted to write adventures based on them. Marvel bought the rights and Mego gave copies of every toy to Michael Golden who would draw them faithfully in the books. Two series and just under 100 issues followed in the next seven years. The Micronauts went on to be one of the more successful books of the early 80s and many of the characters from that title still appear in Marvel’s books today.
1980 saw Mego having issues. Micronauts was still doing well and actually picked up with some new aliens, but other lines by Mego were faltering and the company would go out of business before the end of the year. Three new aliens were released along with the continued sales of almost every other item in the line up to that point. Unfortunately, Mego’s problems meant that they were unable to meet the purchasing demands of retailers and many orders for the line were cancelled. Three new Magnemo figures and several new vehicles were produced in limited numbers or only released in Europe.
Mego may have fallen but the Micronauts did not. Micronauts is one of the better known lines in North America and is part of the continuous loop from the 12″ GI Joe of the 1960s through Microman, Transformers and even back to the new 3.75″ version of GI Joe.
And after all that, NoisyDvL5 was born! No, I’m not the herald of Micronauts doom, but I apparently missed out on some cool 70s toys. I had a lot of hand-me-downs from my uncles when I was a kid, but in looking through photos, I’m positive I never had a single Micronaut. It’s too bad, because I’m sure many of my figures died simply because they didn’t have the Hornetroid to ride around in and fight off their enemies.
Looking at them now, I’m particularly impressed by the old vehicles and play sets. The aforementioned Hornetroid is pretty cool and the Astro Station is a play set that consists of a bunch of computer terminals. It may sound silly, but thinking back to the Joe Headquarters, the Mobile Command Center, and the Hall of Justice, it turns out that computer bank playsets were an important part of my childhood. Not everybody can be in the field, somebody has to be support.
Micronauts hasn’t been lingering unused since Mego died. A couple companies have come by to dust it off now and again. As Tek mentioned, the Micronauts comic continued for years past the toy’s line death and the characters continue to appear in Marvel continuity. This year’s Realm of Kings: Son of Hulk mini-series featured characters Arcturus Rann and Marionette.
The toys also made a comeback via Palisades Toys in 2002, though the line seemed to be cursed by toy catastrophes. Reading about it, I’m surprised a typhoon didn’t sink the boat they were on. Palisades would release two waves of retro Micronauts, but bad factories and dock strikes helped weigh the line down and a third wave was shelved. Palisades would declare bankruptcy a few years later.
Late last year, Hasbro’s Brian Chapman announced that Hasbro would be bringing back Micronauts. Any toy fan knows of Hasbro’s long relationship with Takara, the original creators of Micronauts, but little to nothing is known beyond the intention other than a possible film tie-in involving J.J. Abrams. For now, a Micronaut revival is out there in the ether. Sounds like it’s the right time for some Most Requested support, doesn’t it?
Finally, I’d like to again thank Tekwych for his schooling me on this great line from before my time. And Tek’s not done with my history lesson. He’ll be going into even more detail on the history of Micronauts in our Green Room. There, you’ll be able to read up on more Micronaut history and hangout with the friends and staff of IAT!
30 thoughts on “Most Requested
Thanks Noisy, I have continued the class with coverage of 1976 in the IAT forums:
One of my favorite figures of all time is a Microman: MAGNEACROYEAR PHOBOS. He’s taken many titles in the stories I create in my mind, from the First Decepticon to the ultimate Cobra BAT.
My only complaint? The magnets used to hold him together make me terrified to let him get too close to my laptop, so I can’t fiddle with him whenever I want.
I have several stuck to the side of my ext. Hard drives. There should be no issues at all. I have even placed a Force Commander figure on my Computer.
Huh. Yeah, I always wondered if the magnet was even strong enough to jack up computer hardware, but I wasn’t going to risk it. Maybe I’ll be a little braver now.
Nice article, Tek.
I think you may be wrong regarding the Magnemo figures, in particular, the 11mm balls.
As I understand it, Magnemo 11 and Magnemo 21 figures were so designated based on the figures’ height, not the size of the balls.
If I’m wrong, blame Ray 😉
Ray is right as well. The Geeg series did use figure hight but Microman Timanic referred to the smaller Magnemos as 8mm and the larger as 11mm (the size of the steel bering. Since Micronauts itself goes back to Microman and Timanic was part of that line I have converted the scales. As referance I’ll point you to Microman Forever’s Timanic section.
Aside from the chest magnet to attach the armor, I don’t recall Timanic using the Magnemo system. I’m a little confused by what you’re saying. I get what you are saying in reference to the different ball sizes, but I don’t understand what the connection to Timanic is.
Like Microman to Henshin Cyborg, I’d say that Timanic is strongly related to Microman, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it is part of the Microman line.
I think I figured it out. I think you’re referring to the Titans, not Timanic, yeah?
Yes, Titans not Timanic. To much typing, not enough Dr. Pepper and Ho-Ho’s
I loved the Micronauts comic, but only had a couple of figures as a kid…and slowly lost them a piece at a time. There’s a lot more history to them than I knew, though!
My son got into my box of reissue Micronauts and was fiddling with them yesterday. I just wish there was a set of Marvel’s Micronauts: Rann, Marionette, Acroyear, Bug, and Huntarr. With maybe a Biotron and Microtron to boot!
An Acroyear figure in Marvel comics color scheme was released by Palisades as part of their wave 1.5 of Micronauts. The Devil’s Due comic color scheme was an exclusive mail away figure from Devil’s Due as part of wave 1.
Takara’s continued to innovate with their Microman line, so if Hasbro wanted to do a revival, there are plenty of cool molds to recycle. I was a big fan of the Magnepowers years.
I’m covering Micronauts only and therefore Mego. in this class. If there is enough call for it I will continue this lecture series with other line. I would love to offer up Microman and more to truly complete the history of not just these toys but a large part of the toy industry.
Nice rundown, Noisy, but how could you leave out SOTA’s incredibly awesome, but sadly aborted attempt to bring them back in 6″ scale in 2005? http://toynewsi.com/news.php?catid=8&itemid=6149
And sorry, I should have said Tekwych, not Noisy.
I’d sugest were the same for this article but that would distress Sil. 😛 For the sake of the intro I stopped at 1980 and the demise of Mego. The final line of the article had read:
The true mystery of the Micronauts line actually begins here as the legal web forms and cast a dark shadow over many companies and generations of action figures. We’ll cover that part of the story later.
Read the Forum to see that the Mego version of the Micronauts is just the beginning…
You were right the first time, Poe! I might need to make my blockquote color darker to help differentiate the two sections.
I picked up a bit from Tek’s stopping point for that very brief overview to bring us up to today. As for SOTA, I simply forgot. Thanks for pointing it out!
noisy my friend, let me say, if you can track down a horetroid, DO IT!! you will simulataneously fall in love w/ toys all over again while at the same time, wanting to spit on every modern toy offering on the pegs. it is 1000% cooler than it looks.
I don’t disagree, but I wouldn’t underestimate my love for modern toys.
Of course, my love for the Hornetroid would be “new”. 😛
Hornetroids pop up every now and then on ebay UK at pretty cheap prices.
I had some of the Palisades ones a few years back. I didn’t totally get what the hubbub was about, but they were neat little toys.
I had some handed down Micronauts. They were cool enough. I’d be interested in an updated line more than retro versions though.
And 64 variations of one figure? That would drive collectors insane today!
One of the reasons I pointed it out. That same figure will get re-reeased in 4 new colors a few years later. Good thing MOC collectors didn’t exist at the time. Carded Time Travelers are somewhat rare these days.
Marionette is HOT!
This is very interesting, I’ve never heard of these before.
The Microman line is also pretty cool. I have a “Playstation” playset (basically a Sony Playstation looking alt form that transforms into a battle station).
That is from the Japanese Microman line in 1989. They did a Gameboy as well and both are somewhat rare
Bring back the Micronauts!!
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