Wednesday, 14 October 2009

10 Toy Tie-Ins

Having looked yesterday at Rom, a toy robot licenced to Marvel in 1979, why not join me as we take a glance at some of Marvel's other licenced publications over the years? Whilst Rom, the comic, as introduced by Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema, outlived the toy which spawned it, other books, as we'll see, were not quite so successful...

Micronauts (1979) was, like Rom, written by Bill Mantlo, and illustrated, at first, by Michael Golden. Introduced into America in 1976, and vanished from toy shops by the 1980s, the Micronauts comic, telling the tales of a team of outlaws living in the Microverse, lasted until 1986, with the Marvel-owned members of the team appearing in other books ever since.

Shogun Warriors (also 1979) was based on a line of toys from Mattel, for fans of giant robots armed with spring-loaded missiles. Cool. The comics, by Doug Moench and Herb Trimpe, lasted 2 years, by which time most people had lost their plastic battleaxes under the sofa.

G.I Joe (1982), by Larry Hama, was by far the most long-lasting of Marvel's licensed books. Hasbro had brought out G.I Joe in the early 60s, but it took until the 80s for them to really start capitalising on the popularity of the Real American Hero. They've got the hang of it now, with one or other comics firm producing tie-in books pretty much constantly since 1982. But it was Marvel's book which showed the potential appeal of Joe and his pals to the comics reading fraternity.

Transformers (1984) was another Bill Mantlo creation, at least for its first issue, before it was taken over by Bud Budiansky. Another Hasbro toy, Transformers, like G.I Joe, had a good run, lasting well into the 90s, under the stewardship of Marvel UK's Simon Furman. And like G.I Joe, Transformers has had a new lease of life, via the world of cinema. Not bad for giant robots who, for no very good reason, can disguise themselves as cars and trucks.

Sectaurs (1985) was, you guessed it, another book from Bill Mantlo. Based on a toy line from Coleco, the people who had brought us Cabbage Patch Dolls, Sectaurs told tales of a planet of super-evolved insects. Like the toys, the comic book vanished off the face of the Earth about a year after it was launched.

Care Bears (1985) was a title based on a range of sickeningly cute stuffed teddy bears from Kenner. Sadly, I've never had the pleasure of reading the book, produced by old-timer writer / artist, Howard Post, so I can only imagine how sickly sweet it must have been.

Zoids (1985) was a back-up strip featured in a couple of Marvel UK titles, the first one reprinting Secret Wars, and the later one printing issues of Amazing Spider-Man. The Zoids were giant robots dinosaurs waging an eternal war, with the Marvel tales featuring a group of humans stuck in the middle. Later featuring the work of a very young Grant Morrison, even his presence wasn't enough to save the Zoids from cancelation.

Masters of the Universe (1986) had been around since 1981, when Marvel began publishing stories based on the adventures of He-Man and his pals, under their Star Comics brand, and featured some of the first comics work from Mike Carlin, who would later make more of a name for himself at DC Comics. The book only lasted 13 issues, but for my generation, the scars remain fresh: "By the power of Grayyyyyyskulllll!"

Mega Morphs (2005) were produced by Marvel's own Toy Biz, and were robots who were patterned after superheroes like Wolverine and the Hulk. The books, featuring the robots as being the work of Tony Stark, were written by Sean McKeever, who's a talented writer and who really should have known better.

And, to get right up to date, Marvel Super Hero Squad is a comic based on a line of Hasbro toys, featuring cute little action figures, which are themselves based on Marvel's own characters. That sound you can hear is that of a snake eating its own tail...

So there you have it. 10 of the best toy based comics out there. Well, ok, maybe 8 of the best. Seven? Surely five, at least....

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