When fans are rabid for an aged property it’s sometimes hard to decipher if they’re interested in quality or nostalgia. Have you gone back to watch many of your favorite cartoons from when you were a kid? At least half of them won’t hold up.
I think The Micronauts falls on the side of “quality,” and not just because of its Bill Mantlo pedigree. There’s hardly any residual fondness from sources other than the comic, since the toys were only a minor hit and there was not an ongoing cartoon or film for these characters.
I’m not saying it’s Watchmen, but as comics about toys go, people aren’t voting for Micronauts just for nostalgic purposes.
The Micronauts, Vol. 1 is the #35 Most-Wanted Marvel Omnibus of 2017 on Tigereyes’s Secret Ballot. Visit the Marvel Masterworks Message Board to view the original posting of results by Tigereyes.
Probable Contents: The Micronauts (1979) #1 to 30, 35, 37, 44, or 46 & Annuals 1-2, plus bonus materials from reprint series The Micronauts: Special Edition (1983) #1-5.
Then, a second volume would include the remainder of this series (through #59), The X-Men and The Micronauts (1984) #1-4 (after 57), and Micronauts: The New Voyages (1984) #1-20, written by Peter Gillis.
Creators: Bill Mantlo writes this entire run – and, in fact, this entire series, save for the final issue.
Issues #1-12 were drawn by Michael Golden with inkers Joe Rubinstein, Bob McLeod, & Al Milgrom, and colorists Carl Gafford, Doc Martin, & Roger Slifer.
Afterwards, it’s line art primarily by Howard Chaykin and then Pat Broderick, inks by Al Milgrom, Armando Gil, Danny Bulanadi, & Doc Martin, and colors by Bob Sharen, Roger Slifer, & Barry Grossan.
Can you read it right now? Sadly, you’ll need to hunt down some floppies to read this series.
The Micronauts were one of many licensed properties that Marvel developed into ongoing comics in the 1970s. The comics were based on a line of Mego toys that were first released in 1976, which in turn were based on designs and concepts from Microman, a line of Japanese toys.
If you’re a child of the 80s like me, you’re used to most major toy lines coming with a Saturday morning cartoon that was a combined story bible and toy commercial. Micronauts didn’t have that built-in media tie-in – the comics were it! That meant that writer Bill Mantlo was creating the Micronaut’s world and story from whole cloth with each issue – unlike Star Wars or Conan, which adapted other existing and implied stories.
That makes Micronauts a lot like Master of Kung Fu and ROM in Marvel’s licensed character pantheon, in that many of the characters and concepts in the comic belong to Marvel rather than Mego.
The series began in Marvel’s Microverse, which has persisted across many books and has been used as recently as in Marvel Now by Brian Bendis and Cullen Bunn. Main character Arcturus Rann was based on an unnamed “Space Glider” toy and sidekick Bug on the “Galactic Warrior” figure (although Marvel uses him to this day).
There were a fair amount of remarkably imaginative, space-faring, pulp adventure American comics in the early 80s, but since they were not Big Two comics many of them have been forgotten for decades before recently seeing reprint – like Elaine Lee’s Starstruck and Mike Grell’s Starslayer. Mainstream American fans don’t even know the Pierre Christin French classic Valerian all too well, which saw it’s first English printing in 1981 (and a movie out this summer).
Launched in 1979, Mantlo’s Micronauts stories have the epic world building of those tales, with the added bonus of being able to interact with the existing Marvel Universe.
The story begins with a core gang of Micronauts fleeing the despotic 1,ooo-year rule of Baron Karza, a thoroughly evil Royal Chief Scientist with more than a passing resemblance to Darth Vader (though the toy was released in 1976 – ahead of A New Hope).
The ragtag band of heroes were lead by Arcturus Rann – a former assistant to Karza sent away on a mission before his takeover – and his robot assistant Biotron. The team include Princess Mari, a Princess Leia like figure deposed from ruling and on the run from Karza, and Acroyear and Bug, warriors who join Rann’s cause to overthrow Karza’s despotic rule. They had a mysterious patron in the form of Time Traveller.
In their collective hurry to escape the Karza’s forces in the Microverse, the team burst through the barrier between their tiny world and Marvel’s Earth, winding up in a back yard in Florida where they are super-sized to the height of G.I. Joes. Luckily, the child who lives there is able to defeat their pursuers by whacking their ship with a rake.
The first year of Micronauts is incredibly focused on the team’s struggles against Baron Karza. However, with that plot seemingly resolved, the team began to branch out – interacting with the Fantastic Four, Hydra, and S.H.I.E.L.D. during their second year of stories, before a third turned the book’s attention back to the Microverse.
Will we see this omnibus in 2018? Well, we’re never going to see it from Marvel, who no longer holds the reprint rights to these characters.
The rights are presently with IDW, which is currently publishing a new Micronauts series scripted by Cullen Bunn (with many different characters, since some of the familiar ones are owned by Marvel).
Will IDW reprint this material, just as Dark Horse reprinted Marvel’s Star Wars comics for decades while they held the reprint license? There’s certainly a demand for it, but IDW would need to resolve the ability to reprint various characters and concepts from the Marvel Universe that appeared alongside the Micronauts.
IDW does have an existing relationship with Marvel on both their Artist Editions and a new run of Star Wars books for kids, so it’s not the most far-fetched idea in the world … but, I think if IDW had a chance to pilot such a thing, they’d start with the more-popular ROM.
Would I recommend buying it? While I wouldn’t necessarily push this upon the general Marvel fan, if you like pulpy aspect of Marvel’s 70s and 80s Star Wars comics but wish they included a handful of superheroes (or, love Mantlo from his Rocket Raccoon stories) then this might be for you.
The 2017 Most-Wanted Marvel Omnibus Secret Ballot Results
- #60 – What If? Classic Omnibus, Vol. 1
- #59 – House of M Omnibus
- #58 – Captain Marvel by Peter David, Vol. 1
- #57 – X-Force by Kyle & Yost
- #56 – Namor, The Sub-Mariner, Vol. 1
- #55 – X-Force, Vol. 3 AKA Cable & X-Force, Vol. 1
- #54 – Conan The Barbarian, Vol. 1
- #53 – Thor: God of Thunder by Jason Aaron
- #52 – Incredible Hercules by Pak & Van Lente
- #51 – Amazing Spider-Man: Brand New Day, Vol. 1
- #50 – Ghost Rider: Danny Ketch, Vol. 1
- #49 – Captain America (Silver Age), Vol. 3
- #48 – Doctor Strange by Roger Stern
- #47 – Marvel Horror of the 1970s
- #46 – Killraven
- #45 – Captain America by Mark Gruenwald, Vol. 1
- #44 – Runways by Brian K. Vaughan
- #43 – Superior Spider-Man
- #42 – The Punisher by Rucka & Checchetto
- #41 – Black Panther by Christopher Priest, Vol. 1
- #40 – Avengers West Coast by Roy Thomas
- #39 – Amazing Spider-Man by JMS
- #38 – TIE:
- #37 – X-Factor by David & DeMatteis
- #36 – Generation X, Vol. 1
- #35 – The Micronauts, Vol. 1
- #34 – Alpha Flight, Vol. 2