Monday, March 7, 2016

1979 - Looking back at Micronauts #1

Micronauts #1 - "Homeworld!"
January 1979
Cover by Dave Cockrum and Al Milgrom
Written by Bill Mantlo
Art by Michael Golden and Joe Rubinstein

With IDW’s upcoming reboots of Micronauts and ROM, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at these series. I’ll admit up front, that I never collected the Micronauts. I had a handful of issues, mostly from the first 12 issues, and picked up the title every once and a while, particularly when there were crossovers.

In the mid-1970s, MEGO licensed the rights for the Microman line of action figures from the Japanese toy manufacturer Takara and rebranded it as the Micronauts.

“My son [Adam] got a few of the MEGO Micronaut toys from Christmas in 1977,” recalled creator/writer  Bill Mantlo in Mantlo – A Life in Comics. “I thought they had great potential and wrote a proposal, detailing the directions I foresaw for these tiny aliens from a sub-atomic Microverse, and handed it to [Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief] Jim Shooter.”
”A month later,” Mantlo further explained in Amazing Heroes #7, “we had preliminary photographs of the entire Micronauts line. I was, to say the least floored. I had already begun extrapolating, based on just the four original figurines, a whole series of concepts. Now here, in front of me, were literally hundreds of additional figures, thousands of new suggested concepts… in effect, a whole world in need of a rationale for being.
Original Micronauts Concept Art by Bob Hall

“Space Glider seemed to suggest a Reed Richards nobility, an aspect of command, of dignity. Acroyear, faceless, his armor gleaming, a fantastic sword clenched in his coldly metallic hand, seemed to hearken back to a warrior Mr. Spock. For some reason Galactic Warrior seemed insect-like – I could almost hear clicks and whistles and strange scraping noises interjected into his speech.
“But Time Traveller… there was mystery there, glimmerings of cosmic vastness, intimations of knowledge and space and time all having been broken down and reassembled to produce something entirely new… unexplainable… different.”

And the rest as they say, is Marvel Comics history.

With an eye-catching cover by Dave Cockrum and Al Milgrom, the Micronauts hit the newsstands in early 1979. 

This micro-cosmic new series was the first Marvel Comics full-time outing for penciler Michael Golden. His art was impressive with creative and dynamic panel arrangements and solid inks by Joe Rubinstein.

It’s not hard to see the influence that Star Wars had on the series with its rebellion against a tyrannical foe, the black armoured Baron Karza (Darth Vader archetype). Other similarities included the Enigma Force / The Force, Dog Soldiers / Stormtroopers, Biotron and Microtron / R2D2 and C3P0. 

Mantlo adeptly introduced quite a lot in this issue, from a civil war, rebellion, and a micro-galactic empire.  I really liked the neat twist with Rann and Biotron returning home 1,000 years after they took off on their exploratory journey across the Microverse to discover their world had radically changed under the tyrannical rule of Baron Karza. Although Rann’s over-the-top chauvinism could have been left in the 1950s.

The world-building was impressive and I was a bit disappointed that they had left the Microverse at the end of the issue. But, at the same time, I can see the reasoning behind having the Micronauts visit the Earth, to ground them in the real world and get involved in the Marvel Universe.

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