Monday, March 12, 2012

1979 - Micronauts #8

Micronauts #8
“Earth Wars”
August 1979
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artists: Michael Golden/Bob McLeod

Prompted by his son’s latest action figures, the Micronauts (released by Mego Toys in 1976), writer Bill Mantlo lobbied Marvel Comics to chase down the rights for a comic book series based on those toys. When they did, a new problem presented itself: the toys had no existing backstory. So Mantlo went to work and not only created that backstory, but created a universe, or as he would call it, The Microverse, and a grand conflict to plunged these action figures into.

It’s easy to see the immediate similarities with Star Wars (for example, the big bad villain in black or the underdog rag-tag group of rebels with robot companions) and you can’t argue those, but it didn’t take long for Mantlo to put his unique stamp on these characters.

An interesting side note was the apparent fans outcry against artist Michael Golden’s work, criticized for being too simple and cartoonish. Marvel employed several inkers during Golden’s Micronauts run, like Joe Rubinstein and Al Milgrom, who were coached on how to help his art look less cartoony and more Kirby-ish.

Micronauts #8 was one of those comic books that I read over and over again as a kid. Re-reading it now, I felt the same way about it: Wow. They just don’t make comics like this anymore.

Let’s start with the cover. Not bad, not necessarily Michael Golden’s best, but still a great attention grabber. Moving onto the dramatic splash page: Wow. You can’t ask for anything more than that. Explosions everywhere. The story’s title “Earth Wars” is crammed into the corner because there’s so much action packed into the one panel page.

This story is introduced from the point of view of a young boy, Steve Coffin, who discovered the Micronauts as they fled from their Microverse pursued by the forces of the evil Baron Karza. Now, Baron Karza has found a way into our world and maintained his size and powers. Despite the best efforts of the military forces stationed at NASA and the Micronauts, Karza is wining.

Fortunately, the being known as the Time Traveler intercedes and empowers Steve Coffin’s dad with the Uni-Power, transforming him into Captain Universe. Now imagine that you’re reading this as a kid and have magically transported yourself into Steve’s place. You’re caught in the middle of this nightmare confrontation and then suddenly your dad is given cosmic powers! Seriously, could you ask for anything more as a reader? Writer Bill Mantlo did a wonderful job creating that bond between the reader and Steve Coffin, with its seeds going back to Micronauts #2.

A cataclysmic battle ensues between Captain Universe and Baron Karza which climaxes in Karza’s defeat and withdrawal from our world. Ray Coffin, with the Uni-Power returned to the Time Traveler, is reunited with his son while our heroes also return to the Microverse to face a new series of challenges over the next few issues.

Micronauts #8 is a unique self-contained comic book that told a great story tailor-made for its audience and served as a compelling springboard into the next story arc.


  1. Great post Jason - Micronauts was simply a superb underrated series (and probably never to be collected sadly). Bill Mantlo alwys kept the stories fresh and interesting and the artist rosta was good. It completely outstripped its "toy" origins - credit to all the creators but Bill especially.

    AS an aside - when I sold my collection ( to move to archives / masterworks etc)some years ago - I kept this as I feared it would never be collected. One of a very few titles I still hold.

  2. Thanks Chris. I was thinking of tracking down the Special Edition version of the Micronauts as I believe they were recoloured, or at least printed on better paper.

  3. Great post. MICRONAUTS hit the newsstand when it was easy for a young teen to purchase most of the Marvel line on a weekly allowance (try doing that now!). I had no idea who Michael Golden or Bill Mantlo were, but the cover of the first issue (by the late, great Dave Cockrum) caught my attention, and the interior story and art had me hooked. For a time, each issue was better than the last. After Golden left the series, I continued to read it, though the Chaykin/Milgrom pairing was horrific. Broderick brought some much-needed detail back to the book and Bill's writing was pure fun.

    Similar to Chris, I also held onto my Micronauts collection when I sold off my comic book collection. I also decided to keep my entire ROM run (75 issues + 4 annuals), because like Micronauts, I doubt we will see a collected version of that series any time soon either, and it had some amazing highlights throughout its 6+ years on the market.

    You are absolutely right...they don't make comics like this anymore.



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