There were some pretty cool toys around when I was a kid (this would be in the early/mid-1970s). Erector Sets were really neat, as were giant Tinker Toys. Mattel had licensed a bunch of metal robots, calling them Shogun Warriors. And there was always The Six Million Dollar Man action figure (with a see-through bionic eye) to play with when bored.
But, in my mind, nothing ever came close to Mego's line of little action figures-The Micronauts.
He's saying "Yay!!!!!"
My initial exposure to them as a child was... well, what generally happens to a kid. You're in a toy store and you see something that you think is cool.
Tell me you wouldn't want to drive something like this... It looks like it would go 800 miles-per-hour!!!
You freak out enough that your parent (in this case, my Mom) buys it for you. Then you see that there are even more "characters" and that the "universe" of this little toy that you've just received is... well, huge. And you want all of it.
In this case, all of it was actually pretty damn cool. See, the Micronaut toys all interconnected with each other, so you could make your own toys. Even the little character's wrists came off. And the characters were insanely jointed, able to bend at the wrists, elbows, waist, hips, knees... even the ankles. These things were the plastic equivalent of a yogi.
And some had wings, some had battle armor, some were made purely of metal, some were magnetically jointed (cool!), some had removable chest plates... it goes on and on.
This guy was my favorite. Almost all metal with a spring loaded jetpack...
The comic books changed the story--for the better. Gimme a sec to get to that...
Don't get me started on the way variety of vehicles... Well, okay... get me started.
The Micronauts had everything from giant space stations to bulldozers. The Hydrocopter (see the video below) was really fun. The Astro Station with the rubber tipped darts ruled. They even had a race-car. Yep. I said it. A race-car. And it was red and came with stickers so you could customize it.
The only thing I never saw associated with Micronauts was a toilet. But I'm sure there was one. There had to be. They had everything else... They were like the toy equivalent of space-faring millionaires.
In stumbling around the Internet, I found The Mego Museum-and with it, the history of this rockin' toy line.
Initially developed by Toymake Takara, a Japanese toy company, these little three-inch figures were originally named Microman. The back-story involves the Micromen travelling to Earth where some of them mutate into the evil Acroyears. You get the whole good-versus-evil stuff that comes with any epic battle scenario that little kids love.
And you can't deny the cheezy coolness of this ad:
Yay!!!!!! Tell me that wasn't just plain funny... And you know you want the toys....
Microman became a huge success for Toymake Takara-but was expensive to produce. When Mego came on-board they netted roughly one-third of their profit through what became known in the United States as Micronauts. The toy was a phenomenal success and led to licensing deals to other companies for products such as puzzles:
A Baron Karza Puzzle... Tiny pieces of evil for you to assemble...
And comic books:
I have... I dunno... Ten of issue One... Maybe more...
Initially following the wave of success generated by Star Wars, the Marvel Comics Group initiated a story involving a somewhat clueless hero and a deposed princess. Embedded in the Marvel Universe (you know-the place where Spider-Man and the X-Men live), The Micronauts comic became quite a success (running under two different titles from 1979 to 1986), telling a tale of retribution, love, and the exploration of other dimensions.
To say that I loved the comic would be a massive understatement. It was really good, and well worth reading to anyone. Hey... a good story is a good story.
Other comic book companies tackled The Micronauts with less success-but it is still considered a viable literary property. And yes-many comic books are literature. Just look at The Sandman, From Hell, or Watchmen.
The toy line eventually petered out around 1981, but has been reincarnated a few times under different names. And... in the circle of marketing life, they are back to being The Micronauts again.
I'm not sure I like the new direction these toys have taken...
The new incarnation is more Power Rangers-like than what I had when I was a kid. But you have to give this toy credit. Like Barbie or G.I. Joe, it has staying power.
I still have most of mine... heh... Yes, I'm a geek. And proud of it.
You can get the new Micronauts toys at Amazon.
SOURCES: The Mego Museum, Marvel Comics