Showing posts with label micronauts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label micronauts. Show all posts

Saturday, 6 July 2019

First step into a larger world with Star Wars Weekly

For many UK Star Wars fans (myself included) the gateway into George Lucas' space opera was via Marvel's weekly comic strip adaptation and making-of magazine. One of my earliest memories was starting at a new primary school, wheelchair-bound in the wake of a life-changing trauma, and making a new friend, Jeremy, who enthusiastically showed me his copy of Star Wars Weekly prior to seeing the movie in early 1978.

Nick Smith, our resident US-based roving reporter, goes on a galactic odyssey in the pages of a revived Marvel Star Wars. Is the Force still strong over 40 years later?

Guest post by Nick Smith

In February 1978 Star Wars was everywhere. In movie theatres. In toy stores. And in a five-year-old’s bedroom in the city of Bristol, England.

The bedroom belonged to my neighbour and best friend Stuart Barrett, who proudly showed me the first issue of a brand-new large-format comic called Star Wars Weekly. Stuart always had cool toys to show me like his Six Million Dollar Man figure [Steve Austin stood sentry whilst I was in children's hospital - Ed] and his inflatable light-up lightsaber [I had one of those too - Ed] but this was something different and within my boyhood budget. It didn’t matter that the comic’s cover had a blue-green Death Star, or that the innards were black and white. We were two little kids who loved the movie and this comic book introduced us to a brash new form of storytelling.

Being an impressionable lad, I went looking for my own copy. #1 was sold out but on my sixth birthday I was able to find #2 with a bright yellow cover depicting a “sand creature.” I was mesmerized by Roy Thomas’ dramatic prose and Howard Chaykin’s intentionally scribbled space art [Dark Horse printed my admiration for those fine folks in Classic Star Wars whilst we were at university together in the mid-nineties - Ed].

The flimsy periodical sparked a lifelong love of comics. Instead of an allowance, I asked my folks for Star Wars Weekly once a week. It was something I could count on in an uncertain world of house moves (we switched homes every year or two), fairweather friendships and school burdens. For three years, apart from a few novels, it was my go-to for original Star Wars material. My young brain was imprinted with themes of loyalty, compassion and determination against great galactic odds.

I wasn’t alone, of course. Stuart picked up the occasional issue and thanks to CYRIL (the fictional editor droid of the weekly) and the letters he printed, I got my first sense of a nationwide community – a group of people who shared my passion for Star Wars and sci-fi. I was part of something bigger than my own little world. Thousands of kids, adults, families were enjoying the same adventures as me, reading the same behind-the-scenes articles and discovering more of the Marvel universe through an eclectic mix of back-up strips.

Beyond its vivid covers and new Star Wars content (“At last! Beyond the movie! Beyond the galaxy!”) I was introduced to great stories and characters in the back-ups. Since the source comic was monthly, the main stories had to be spread across four or five weeks. That meant my heroes would spend a seeming eternity on Drexel the water world or the gambling-addled Death Wheel. The rest of the weekly was filled with science fiction of all stripes.

In the rear of the mag, I met the Guardians of the Galaxy, the original Star-Lord, the fatal femme Gamora and Rocket Racoon with an upper-crust British accent. I had my little mind blown by Jim Starlin’s mythical Warlock; was entertained by the big bald baby head of the Watcher, who introduced older Marvel cautionary tales; avidly read the shrinky dink adventures of Micronauts [a treasured toy line - Ed] and the Dirty Harry tactics of Deathlok the Demolisher. Deathlok and some of the one-off stories showed me that comics weren’t just for six-year-olds, that they could explore dark and mature themes. They could be gritty as a carbon-scored vaporator.

To create my own collection, I cut out the main story pages, taped them together and made a new cover. Without knowing it, I’d created my own omnibus many years before Dark Horse and Marvel published their own. When I proudly showed my Uncle Alan, he gave me that disparaging look non-fans give you when they don’t understand why you’re getting so passionate about pop culture. After that, reading the comic was never quite the same.

I cancelled the weekly when I heard a new Empire Strikes Back version was coming in 1980, only to find that it was a continuation of the same comic, missing an exceptional issue with Michael Golden art. I caught up with the series when it went monthly, with photo covers, and as US exports became more prevalent, I was able to collect the real deal – Marvel’s American edition of Star Wars [US imports were rarer than hen's teeth in my part of the UK. However, there was a gas station, near to where my Canadian grandmother lived, that had Marvel and DC Comics on the newsstand - Ed].

So why this uninvited trip down Nick’s nostalgia lane?

Last time I popped into TBS Comics, my local comic book store, I saw a little Star Wars Legends book with a Carmine Infantino-style cover. I thought it was yet another reprint and passed it by. Then I realized the truth.

As part of its 80th-anniversary hullabaloo, Marvel has published a continuation of its US comic, cancelled in 1986 when the publisher felt the proverbial fat lady had sung her last space opera. I was not happy at the time [I openly cried when it ended - Ed]! Little did I know that a staggering 33 years later, the next issue would come out. If fandom has taught me one thing, it’s patience.

#108’s “Forever Crimson” is an exercise in reminiscence, a sequel to the US #50 epic “The Crimson Forever.” That story featured killer crystals that turn Luke Skywalker red. The follow-up is fun to read, full of nods to the old comics, retaining the continuity of US #107’s “All Together Now.” Jaxxon the giant green rabbit and Amaiza from Marvel’s first original story cycle bump into Han Solo, following their own mercenary agenda. Domina Tagge, matriarch of the evil House Tagge, has a taste in jewels that tends towards the deadly.

The main character of this story – and a big draw for me – is Valance the Hunter, a cyborg who has spent years hating droids because he’s lost his own humanity, thought lost in an epic battle with Darth Vader over the ruby flame lava of Centares. Not only is Valance short some skin and bone, but he’s also missing some marbles. His character development is what really makes this book worth reading. In an earlier, classic issue, C-3PO risked sacrificing his existence to save Luke and this informs the former droid-hater’s actions. His moral choices are an echo of the original comic’s most powerful stories, wrapped up in an issue that child-me would have loved.

As an adult, I’m delighted by the cameos and the way that “Forever Crimson” works as a respectful continuation, rather than a clueless rip-off of those Star Wars Weekly stories. The comic has multiple writers and artists, including Cam Smith, Luke Ross and Leonard Kirk but the whole shebang flows well. Different covers are available from the likes of Infantino, Walter Simonson and Michael Golden and there are two short, tight articles, “Celebrating Marvel’s First Star Wars Comics” by Senior Editor Mark Paniccia and “The Stars of Marvel’s Original Star Wars,” featuring interviews with some of the key creators.

The legend of Valance the Hunter lives on. To a long-time fan like me, he is a bona fide part of the Star Wars universe, as much as C-3PO and R2-D2, Thomas’ Jaxxon, David Michelinie’s Shira Brie or Jo Duffy’s Plif the hoojib. #108 does justice to the characters who brightened my mind in the halcyon black and white days of the late ‘70s when paper-thin space tales opened the door to a world of imaginative possibilities... Beyond the movie. Beyond the galaxy. [Amen - Ed]

What are your memories of reading Star Wars comics? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 22 January 2018

ROM: Spaceknight and M.A.S.K. movies shelved?

Hasbro's ambition for its cinematic universe is being scaled back.

A few years ago Paramount announced an extension to the Transformers universe with the addition of G.I. Joe, M.A.S.K., Visionaries, ROM: Spaceknight and the Micronauts. At the time, fans (myself included) of the vintage toy lines thought ROM would appear in Transformers: The Last Knight.

John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, who are directing The Flash movie for Warner Bros., talked to IGN about what happened and shed light on the fates of ROM and M.A.S.K.:

“Those are probably not likely to see the light of day, unless they’re moving on separate from us. It’s a funny thing. We spent three weeks in a room with a lot of talented writers. We broke eleven or so movies and, I don’t know. It just kind of went into the vortex. There’s been some leadership changes at Paramount, so it’s hard to say. Nobody’s contacted us about those.

It was fun. It was a fun challenge to take these properties that were so barebones in any kind of a narrative and create a movie around them. You know, these little cheap, plastic things, and to give them a backstory was an exciting challenge.”

The Micronauts will appear in a new animated series to be streamed in 2019 and Transformers spin-off Bumblebee is in cinemas this December.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Micronauts animated series from Hasbro Studios

40 years ago this January I saw Star Wars for the first time and George Lucas' space opera captured my childhood imagination. As such, I devoured everything related. From Kenner action figures to Marvel comics. It was in the pages of Marvel's making of Star Wars magazine that I saw an advertisement for a new toy line distributed by Airfix.

The Micronauts.

The Micronauts was a storied interchangeable toy line from Takara who would go on to create the Transformers. Marvel released a tie-in comic following the adventures of Commander Rann and his battle with the evil Baron Karza. The latter would be a holiday gift in 1978.

Hasbro has announced a new half-hour animated series going into production for 2019. Here's the official synopsis taken from Hasbro's sales guide (via Bleeding Cool):

"When fate brings an unlikely team of alien space explorers to earth in pursuit of the evil Baron Karza, they make a shocking discovery—on our world they are the size of action figures! The Micronauts are small heroes in a big world but the stakes are higher than ever as their miniaturized size presents dangerous obstacles at every turn. Fortunately, they forge an alliance with teenager Cameron Ruck, who will join them in their pursuit of justice. Although the Micronauts are small in stature, their bravery and adventurous spirits remain larger than life."

Whilst no streaming platform has been announced, Hasbro has a longstanding distribution deal with the Discovery network.

The upcoming Micronauts movie, produced by JJ Abrams, will form part of Hasbro's cinematic universe (including Transformers, G.I. Joe, M.A.S.K. and ROM: Spaceknight) in 2020.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Hasbro's toys combine in IDW's Revolution

A generation grew up playing with Action Man, Rom, G.I. Joe, Micronauts, M.A.S.K. and Transformers toys. Now IDW combines Hasbro's beloved toy and animated properties into a comic book universe beginning this September.

Here's the official IDW press release:

IDW Publishing has unveiled its most ambitious comic book publishing venture in its history revolving around its fan-favorite titles based on Hasbro properties.

The “Revolution” event marks the birth of a comic book crossover that will be comprised of not only the TRANSFORMERS and G.I. JOE properties, but also all-new properties MICRONAUTS, ROM, and ACTION MAN, as well as the launch of a long-awaited M.A.S.K.: Mobile Armored Strike Kommand series.

This is not a reboot—rather, the Revolution series takes many of the building blocks of what has come before from IDW and builds on them anew, bringing all these elements together in an epic event that results in an all-new status quo for all involved. Everything fans have enjoyed up to this point remains intact as part of this ongoing continuity. The ramifications of Revolution will extend well beyond the event, as all of these iconic characters will henceforth exist in the same universe, altering the scope of IDW editorial in all the Hasbro series from this moment onward.

Revolution, the bi-weekly five-issue event series that launches this initiative, will be co-written by Cullen Bunn (MICRONAUTS) and John Barber (TRANSFORMERS) with art by Fico Ossio (MICRONAUTS). The event kicks off with a world-shaking threat that brings all opposing factions together in a storyline that just might see the destruction of the universe before it can truly begin!

“The Revolution series builds out of a detail that was introduced in IDW’s first-ever issue of TRANSFORMERS in 2005,” said IDW’s Chief Creative Officer, Chris Ryall. “So to finally be able to build upon the various story elements we’ve seeded over the years, and which come into play in a big way starting with July’s ROM #1 even before the launch of Revolution, is a blast. We’ve been working toward a full-fledged universe for some time and it’s great fun to be able to finally bring it to vivid life, especially since it allows us to give the world new titles like the very-requested M.A.S.K., as well as some exciting new books still to be announced.”

“We’ve done plenty of crossovers in the past,” said Michael Kelly, Head of Global Publishing at Hasbro, “but nothing near this scope or scale. Our heroes, whether they are from Earth or from distant reaches of the galaxy, all have one thing in common: their powers and abilities are based primarily on technology. We have been able to use this fact to build a natural and believable link between all of these disparate characters. The result is a complex and dynamic world where all manner of conflicts and team-ups can and will exist. If you are a fan of Hasbro’s brands, your time is now.”

Are you excited for IDW's crossover? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Hasbro and JJ Abrams risk Micronauts reboot!

In the week that Sony Pictures Entertainment acquired the rights to the Risk board game from Hasbro. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Hasbro is rebooting the Micronauts and JJ Abrams is at the helm of a new film franchise.

During Hasbro’s 2009 Fall Investor Day Event held today at their headquarters in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, the company announced the re-introduction of the classic toy line Micronauts originally created by Japanese company Takara, in 1974, under the name Microman. Microman evolved out of Hasbro's G.I. Joe and would later morph into one of the most successful toy lines ever. The Transformers.

Microman was rebranded as the Micronauts and launched in 1977 by, the now defunct, Mego in the United States and Airfix in the UK. Ironically, Mego passed on Star Wars and would compete for shelf space that Christmas.

Backed by a Marvel comic series, in 1979, the Micronauts were a short-lived phenomenon, that attained a cult following and resurrected, briefly, by Palisades Toys, in 2002.

Abrams told the Wall Street Journal that those who doubt whether a board game or science fiction toy should be accorded star status will be proved wrong.

"Sometimes, when someone is not a celebrity and you are casting them in a role, everyone who is in a seat of authority voices questions about that actor's talent, sex appeal, looks, ability -- their everything," he says. "But then they get the role, and suddenly they are on the cover of every magazine, and nobody questions those things again. In retrospect, everyone says, 'Of course that person is a star.'"

Cherished childhood memories mean I can't wait to see the adventures of Acroyear and Baron Karza on the big screen! However, is it a toy tie-in too far? Is Hollywood so starved of story ideas, and risk-averse, that it's now looking to the aisles of Toys "R" Us? What do you think?

Monday, 3 April 2006

Teen Titans

Back when I started College (1988) I had aspirations of becoming a graphic designer, and a few friends made the grade! Life has taken many twists and turns, but that ambition has not soured.

Here's a magazine mock-up, featuring Charmed's Rose McGowan, that also appears on my portfolio site. Come on Titan Magazines! You know you want me!

Over on Cloister Bell you can read my Mego Micronauts post! The Micronauts were the highly imaginative forerunners of The Transformers. Ah, the adventures of Commander Rann, Acroyear and Bug!

Saturday, 8 January 2005

Attic Attack

In our attic I discovered (in a scene reminiscent of The Goonies) my Mattel Battlestar Galactica Space Alert LCD game! This novelty dates from 1978 and is, in actuality, a repackaged Missile Command. Mattel earnestly needed to maximize its investment in the license (arch-rival Kenner had Star Wars) and slapped BG branding on existing lines alongside action figures. Out of curiosity I inserted a single 9-volt battery and, hey presto, Cylon carnage.

The toy and game odyssey didn't end there! Milton Bradley's StarBird, StarBird Intruder and Command Base still reside in a darkened corner. The Command Base often served as an Imperial outpost (for my Star Wars figures) and Intruder, with its small footprint, acted as a Martian flying machine!

Boxed M.A.S.K. (Rhino was the signature toy of Kenner's The Transformers/G.I. Joe hybrid), Masters of the Universe, Micronauts*, Action Force/G.I. Joe, Star Wars, Transformers, Zoids and a walking Twiki (from Buck Rogers) occupy the remaining attic space reserved for bygone boyhood adventures.

Perhaps I should consider opening a Generation X museum?

[*Micronauts was the international name for Takara's Microman. Palisades Toys expended quite considerable energy on reviving the Micronaut brand between 2002 - 2003. Due to poor production values and market conditions, only two (three if you include the 1.5 set, which I own) collections were released in very limited quantities. Incidentally, the most famous incarnation of Microman are the Transformers (Hasbro licensed Diaclone and Micro Change toys).]