Palisades Micronauts Baron Karza with Andromeda Palisades, 2002
Day #698: July 8, 2013
Baron Karza with Andromeda Series 1 - Black
Micronauts Deluxe Set
Item No.: ??? Manufacturer:Palisades Includes:Rocket launchers, horse, wheels, firing fists Action Feature:Removable parts are swappable between horse and figure, firing rockets, lots of articulation Retail:$24.99 Availability: 2002 Other: One of several variants
I couldn't help but jump on Baron Karza with Andromeda when I saw the reissue at the late Suncoast Motion Picture Company store at the mall in 2002. I know there are many people who have a strong lust for Micronauts, but this was a line that was pretty dead at the time I started getting action figures in 1981 or 1982. (In 1979 and 1980 I spent much of the time soiling myself and not yet forming words. It's possible you had a cousin who was a roadie that had a similar experience for entirely different reasons.) I didn't pick this item up for nostalgia's sake or for the line's admittedly strong reputation, but because Space Horse. I saw Andromeda the horse (well, its Italian redeco Megas) in Tomart's Action Figure Digest and the image struck me as a stunning piece of what space is all about. It somehow synchronized with an image of the Horsehead Nebula I saw in a National Geographic, and that's why I bought it. And I don't think I touched it in almost a decade.
For the kids, here's the rundown on Micronauts. Mego imported this 3 3/4-inch toy line from Japan called Microman, and then modified it and expanded on it until its demise in 1980. There was a popular comic book and the toys were even referenced on Freaks & Geeks. Some Japanese toys from this line were later adapted to the first generation of Transformers in 1984, which is where you get your early tapes, Soundwave, and Blaster. In 2002 a drama-filled reissue came from Palisades Toys with numerous repaints (shades of modern Outer Space Men) and tons of production issues leading to questionable quality control and a rerelease with improved molding, with a promise of additional figures that never materialized. Palisades went under a few years later, at which time SOTA Toys grabbed the license and solicited new large figures at about a 6-7-inch scale. They later said they were going to downsize these to 3 3/4-inches. This never happened. The last buzz surrounding Micronauts was that the logo was on display at Hasbro's Toy Fair showroom in (if memory serves) 2009, and there was buzz of a new movie with J.J. Abrams attached to produce around that time (and as of March 2013, this was still go.) Hasbro apparently still has the trademarks, so you won't be seeing anything new until they do something or let the trademark lapse, which is why no new Micronauts toys have been around for the last decade and probably won't be any more for another few years. Japanese fans had a couple of revivals, including a wonderful late-1990s line with magnets that were meant as toys and not collectibles. It's worth looking up.
So as someone who never had anyone shoving me into Micronauts at a young age, the Japanese Microman figures (ca. 1999) and this set was my first real hands-on with the line and it was pretty spiffy. Baron Karza is a towering 6 3/4-inch robot monster, a bizarre hybrid of Super Shogun, a Black Knight, and numerous armored sci-fi villains. It's obvious this came from the era before gimmicks were sucked out of toys because of the Battlestar Galactica Recall of 1979. He has tons of small, firing parts including launching fists and a belly rocket so small that they wouldn't pass modern toy test standards. A plaything for children in 1977 had been upgraded to a collectible for adults, which is just as well because this thing is actually pretty cool.
The joints are metal, with the neck, shoulders, and hips being magnetic ball joints. Each fist is a firing rocket. He has two giant rockets on his back which can be substituted for his arms, and you can pop off his legs and combine him with his horse to make a large robot centaur. This toy is really impressive, although being part of the early batch of reissues it feels a little brittle and the parts don't fit together perfectly. (It's still pretty good.)
Sculpting and deco is about on par for the 1970s, replicating the Mego originals. The only paint on the figure is on his red eyes, everything else is black or red plastic... or the magnets. His body sculpt is largely unremarkable other than its similarity to Darth Vader, which seems to have some debate between fans regarding which came first. (Well, not Star Wars fans, they don't know or care about Baron Karza.) The head is particularly similar to the Dark Lord of the Sith, with a similar mouth grill and general form. The back of the head has some faux chain mail, and the red eyes aren't too dissimilar to the bulk of Takara's robot toys from that era. Aside from the hair triggers, it's a nice looking figure with lots of parts you can easily lose. I personally don't think Karza is as insanely impressive as some, but it does look pretty cool and is a startling example of how we lawyered ourselves out of some fairly creative toys since 1980.
The reason I jumped at this set was Andomeda, an impressively futuristic space beast. This robo horse had a chrome tail, neck, and hooves plus connection points to add weapons. His head is particularly stiff on this release, but you can remove it from its chrome seat to cram in Baron Karza's torso to make a centaur. (My sample doesn't fit well.) All four legs are removable and can be swapped with rolling wheels (included) for reasons unknown, but it is colored differently from the original toy from 1977. The 2002 Andromeda has a red mane and vac-metal silver which, if you ask me, look several times better.
Each leg has 2 joints, plus the tail and neck move for a total of 10 points of articulation. Since Karza can't really ride the horse, it's more of an accessory than a vehicle. It's hollow and light, and I don't think I'd have cared for it as a toy quite so much. It's gorgeous, and that's why I like it. It doesn't do a heck of a lot on its own, but if you want a horse with optional wheels for feet you'll not find a better one.
I don't think I got $25 of fun out of this set, but there's no arguing that it was neat and that Micronauts were fairly ahead of their time, with a level of articulation rivaling most figures for years to come. (They also had little or no paint and a lot of shared tooling to keep costs down.) I can see how this line inspired so many kids who grew up with it, but it's one of those things that probably appeals mostly to people who enjoyed them the first time around. I'd be curious to see how Hasbro handles any new toys, but to be honest I'd much rather have someone like Onell Design handle a reissue with its Glyos system. I'd much rather seen new toys rather than collectible figures, which we almost saw from SOTA toys a few years ago too.
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