Back in the days we had a lot of wack toys...we had even more wack cartoons that were sometimes based on toys. The natural progression would lead to comic books being made about these same wack toys and wack cartoons. Here’s the thing...sometimes the comic books were better than the toys deserved or they eclipsed the cartoon. Usually, they just sucked. Here’s a collection of some forgotten comic books for some forgotten old school toys and cartoons. It starts like this son!:
The Shogun Warriors were based mostly on the Bandai Corporation/Popy Toy’s huge robots that they commissioned Toei Studios to crank out cartoon series’ for each toy line. In the late 70’s they partnered with Jim Terry Studios and released some of these cartoons in America as the series Force Five, at the same time they began ship a shitload of these Shogun Warriors toys to the US in hopes of creating a sensation. It worked as these huge robots became the hottest toys on the market. Where I lived, Force Five would be on and during it these commercials for a toy store called Mr. Big’s Toyland out on Moody Street in Waltham, MA used to come on at least 5 times and episode. It would scroll throughout the store and there was nothing but these giant robots, every kid I knew wanted to make the trek out there but none of us ever did. The comic book was made by Marvel in 1978, they introduced 3 of the Shogun Warriors, Raydeen (which wasn’t in the Force Five series), Combatra (which wasn’t in the Force Five series, either) and Danguard Ace (the least popular one with the most boring show on Force Five) and gave them all new pilots, one White dude, one Black dude (African, actually) and one Asian chick (Japanese, to be exact). They concocted some horrible storyline that assured the shit would be canceled in just more than a year. After issue #16 and the thousandth little kid caught a flying missile and/or die cast metal spring loaded robo fist in the eye, the series was a wrap and the hype died down. Here are some sites for more info on the Shogun Warriors and Force Five .
The U.S. 1 toy was originally a magnetized playset that you used with an 18 wheeler. You could haul stuff, dump it off and then reload it with a tiny shovel. Marvel Comics decided to turn it into a comic book series based around the crazy adventures of a legendary truck driver (you’re fuckin’ kidding, right?). The storylines from this comic book are so off the wall you’ll be convinced that cocaine, marijuana and/or some hallucinogenics were used by the staff behind this books creation. After slightly more than a year this comic book series was over as was the toy. What the hell were they thinking over at Marvel?
Marvel Comics came up with an idea for a toy and comic book combo revolving around two twin princes, one made of crystal and the other made of molten rock that lived in a land called Crystallium with their uncle and advisor Feldspar (are you laughing yet?). A civil war breaks out and both brothers now fight each other for control of the land on the sides of Chaos and Order (how about now?). Marvel made the comic book and licensed the toy making to Remco, the comic book was actually pretty well thought out and well written...however, the toys didn’t catch on and Remco had distribution problems to some parts of the country. After a full year and 12 issues, Marvel cut their losses and stopped production of both the comic book and the toy.
Once again Marvel Comics decided to bring a toy to America, license it and cake off of it. This time they got in bed with successful Japanese toy manufacturers Tomy to bring some of their super popular Zoids line to the US. They decided to call them Starriors and featured them in a 4 issue mini series in hopes of creating a buzz with young kids. The Starriors failed to make an impression in the market, instead getting crushed by the Transformers and Go Bots craze that was sweeping the States at the time. Marvel just went back to the drawing board and looked for a way to either have a successful toy line or help promote one.
Coleco came up with a bugged out (pun!) idea back in 1984. Imagine a planet where insects evolved instead of men and they had their own advanced civilization and society with colonies and hives all over the place. They made toys and called them Sectaurs. Coleco didn’t want to produce a cartoon so instead they made a deal with Marvel Comics to produce an 8 issue mini series to promote their toys. The Marvel staff actually did a damn good job on this series and the Sectaurs were pretty cool toys...however, they got a foot in the ass from Star Wars (who were still cranking out Return Of The Jedi toys) and Hasbro’s G.I. Joe toys became the new hot must have toys after their cartoon hit the airwaves. That didn’t discourage the heads at Marvel Comics, though! I guess they should've gone with the cartoon series, huh?
Marvel decided to devote a whole division of their company to the production of cartoon and toy based comics and comic books fro younger readers, they called it Star Comics. Hasbro decided that they’d make another toy in the scale of G.I. Joe’s and produce another cartoon to catch the kids that weren’t into the military theme of G.I. Joe, but more into fantasy and magic. They created a world where technology had advanced so far that it just shut down completely and an age of magic took over the entire world. The Visionaries toys were well made, the comic book was well written, and the cartoon was also surprisingly good...so why did it fail so miserably? Easy. The premise of Visionaries was that everyone had these shields and staffs with magical creatures that sprang to life from them and fought on behalf of it’s wielder...you had to IMAGINE it all happening. In turn the kid playing against you had to IMAGINE that a huge purple gorilla is whooping his ass and in turn IMAGINE siccing a huge green eagle after it. Then both kids had to sit there and IMAGINE the invisible animals fighting (without the aid of drugs). Why would they do that when they could actually watch it happen for real on the cartoon or see it happen in the comic book? The Visionaries line of toys/vehicles/products were completely forgotten about in less than two years.
Another Marvel/Star Comics series was based on the short lived toy called Air Raiders. Everything happened in the sky..all of the fighting, all of the chases, everything. This premise alone made kids sick of running around while holding up these big ass ships and pretending to fly around all the goddamn time. At the same time another company made a toy called Sky Commanders with everything happening on rigged zip wires from one location to another so all the fighting and action occurred between action figures dangling from strings...needless to say kids (and parents) quickly grew tired of these toys and they ended up in Child World discount bins where they could easily be boosted by crackheads and young future criminals (Child World didn’t have very good security..that’s why they’re no longer in business).
Defenders Of The Earth
King Features Syndicate, the famous company that owns the licenses to Flash Gordon, The Phantom, and Mandrake The Magician decided to make toys and a cartoon in which the characters fight Miing The Merciless in hopes of preventing him from taking over/destroying the Earth. In this cartoon, they decided to give Lothar, once Mandrake The Magician’s mute servant equal billing as a hero in his own right. Instead of him being an African prince like in the comic strip (like Black Panther) they gave him a son named LJ (Lothar Jr.) and made them both Haitians. Flash Gordon’s son, Mandrake’s adopted son, and the Phantom’s daughter (who will continue the legendary line of Phantoms then?) all aid in fighting Ming alongside their legendary parents. The toys couldn’t be found anywhere and the cartoon only ran in syndication for about 3 years at odd times in the morning. Marvel/Star Comics produced this series and it didn’t make much headway at all.
Not to be outdone, DC Comics decided to produce some comic books for failed toys and cartoon series as well. Difference was that M.A.S.K. started out hot, but then got squished by Transformers and G.I. Joe after Transformers: The Movie premiered and G.I. Joe introduced a successful new generation of figures and vehicles. The first generation of M.A.S.K. figures sold well and the cartoon had excellent ratings in it’s first season. The next season it’s popularity took a significant nose dive. The toys, comic book and cartoon all stopped production shortly afterwards.
This cartoon was pretty cornball. The toys were clunky and wack. The comic book was SLIGHTY better. DC Comics produced C.O.P.S., a mechanically augmented police team headed by the cyborg S Curl sportin’ H.N.I.C. B.P. Vess (get it? he’s bulletproof!). The C.O.P.S. toy line failed to catch on withthe kids and the cartoon fell out of the afternoon slots in favor of more violent Japanese imports from Harmony Gold (Robotech) and World Events (Saber Rider & The Star Sherrifs, Voltron, etc.)
This toy suffered from one fatal flaw. You had to repeatedly plug in equipment into holes on the chests of the toys in order to have weapons to fight with and eventually a piece of the plug in piece would break off inside of the toy’s holes. The toy would then become absolutely useless because you couldn’t plug in the weapons on the exosuit anymore. The company that produced the toy didn’t seem to think much about it...The cartoon was pretty good and DC did a good job on the comic. After a little more than a year, Centurions figures and the add on weapons sales suddenly plummeted and no one knew why. Why didn’t they ask any of the thousands of kids with Centurion figures that had broken off bits in their chests and backs?
Filmation, the studio that brought you Fat Albert, Blackstar, He Man & The Masters Of The Universe, She Ra, Princess Of Power and some other classic joints presented Bravestarr to the public (their final project). He was a Native American hero on another planet called New Texas (of course!). He was a Marshall with spirit animals that gave him super powers when he called on them (Eyes Of The Hawk, Ears Of The Wolf, Strength Of The Bear, and The Speed Of A Puma) and he had a humanoid horse with a big ass gun named 30/30 as a partner. The toy did not sell very well at all and the cartoon didn’t last longer than a year... Damn the man! Can't we have just one Native American hero ANYWHERE?
These toys were terrible. The cartoon that was produced for them was even more terrible. This comic book sucked almost as bad as the toy but not as bad as the cartoon. I bet you forgot any of them ever even existed, huh? Sorry I reminded you.
The Silver Hawks were a rehash of the Thundercats if the Thundercats were cyborg half human/half hawks that flew around patrolling space as a police force (cocaine is one hell of a drug). This cartoon was pureed ass and the toys sucked almost as bad. The comic book sucked because it followed the cartoon’s storyline pretty closely. I didn’t like the Silver Hawks back when it was on TV and when I caught on epsode online last year I remembered just how bad it was. Remember the end of every episode with Bluegrass asking the Copper Kid astrology questions and the Copper Kid’s voice was a vocoder? Damn that was some corny shit!
They were essentially toys that represented Wood, Water and Fire. The toy company mass produced them thinking that kids would build armies of them and battle their friends...one problem. If Wood always beats Water, Fire always beats Wood and Water always beats Fire and so on then what’s the point in them all fighting in the first place? Why NO ONE had the wherewithal to bring that up in the initial pitch meetings I have no idea. The toys flopped miserably, no surprise.
Adventures Of The Galaxy Rangers
Yeah...this was one of the first cartoons to utilize computer graphics and animation regularly. It was easily one of the best cartoons of the era as well, featuring some great characters (including Doc, the Lando Calrissian/Peter Parker hybrid that serve as another genius black character a la IQ One from the Bionic Six) and inventive writing. The comic book was hard to get a hold of, but it was really good. As far as the toy went? You couldn’t find them ANYWHERE. The internet didn’t exist and the only way you could get them were catalogs (and they always sold out). The toys failed miserably but the series is still being sold as VCD’s online (you didn’t hear that from me).
Captain Power and The Soldiers Of The Future
This was the dumbest toy idea in a long ass time...You bought a toy ship/gun that you held onto until the Captain Power TV show came on (where I lived it came on Saturday and Sunday morning at 6AM and 7:30 AM...same episode, different channels). You then pointed your gun at the screen for the full episode and shot at the chest of the enemies on the screen for the full 25-30 minutes of the episode. Sounds stupid, huh? Wait, it gets worse. When you get shot, the ship/gun you hold in your hand has a man in the cockpit that ejects out and you have to keep putting him back in again and again throughout the episode (it’s not like you can see the shots coming or dodge, either). If you didn’t have cable, the reception sucked and there was no signal. Plus, who’d be dumb enough to stand in front of the TV for 30 minutes shooting at a TV while invisible beams shot back at them? It was like the ActionMax but only 20 times dumber (yes, I had one..my brother bought it for $10 from a booster who just came back from a mission to Child World whom we later suspected was a crackhead).
Hope you enjoyed that walk through memory lane with me. Next time on my special comic book nerd edition, I’ll post up my 10 favorite slept on old school comic book titles. One.