email thomas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW:
PALISADES MICRONAUTS CENTAURUS
By Thomas Wheeler



In the 1970's, a toy company called Mego had the license to -- well, pretty much the known universe. After producing an in-house 8" action figure called "Action Jackson", Mego went out and got hold of just about everything -- DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, Wizard of Oz, KISS -- even some lighter stuff such as CHiPS, Starsky & Hutch, and a few things one wouldn't normally expect to see in the action figure world, like The Waltons. I mean -- The Waltons!?

They also brought over a toy line from Japan that was outside their normal realm of 8" action figures. After missing out on Star Wars (the reasons why differ, although there's a good first person account of the History of Mego that ran for multiple issues in Tomart's Action Figure Digest, interviewing the former head of Mego, Marty Abrams), Mego contracted with Japanese toy company Takara to bring their popular Microman toy line over to the United States, under the name MICRONAUTS. It was an incredible hit, ran for several years, and for some of those years, was second only to Star Wars as far as toy sales.

A few years ago, a company called Palisades decided to reissue some of the classic Micronauts. Takara had changed the format of the Microman figures in Japan, and anyway, they weren't marketing them in the United States in any case, so Palisades made arrangements with both Takara and Abrams Gentile Entertainment, the company established by Marty Abrams after the fall of Mego, to bring back some of the better-known and more popular Micronauts.

Alas, from the start, there were problems. The original molds to many of the figures, especially the bizarre aliens, which Palisades was especially interested in doing, no longer existed. Palisades wanted to be as precise as possible, so they tracked down existing figures from collectors, and used these as the basis to cast new molds. Unfortunately, for reasons unknown, the first run of figures didn't work too well. Something, somewhere, went wrong in the manufacture. The figures broke apart so easily that they resulted in an interesting if unfortunate phenomenon -- action figures that self-destructed right in their packages on the store shelves.

To their credit, Palisades did turn out a second series of Micronauts figures, with the problems corrected. Unfortunately, the old axiom, "You only get one chance to make a first impression" came into play, and Micronauts fans were highly reluctant to purchase figures that, even if they looked more stable than the first batch, still might turn into a pile of broken plastic further down the line. The new Micronauts, also somewhat hindered, perhaps, by only being marketed to specialty stores, thus never finding their way into Wal-Mart or Toys "R" Us, were finished almost before they began.

It was a real shame, because Palisades put a lot of effort into making the toys. Clearly the company had no shortage of Micronauts fans. It just wasn't quite enough.

Now, we need to discuss a few things about the Micronauts, as they appeared in the United States. Mego and Takara were certainly not above releasing the same figure multiple times in different color combinations, especially the early, more human heroes such as Space Glider, Time Traveler, Galactic Defender, Pharoid, and others. The bizarre aliens that came along later, such as Phobos, Repto, Membros, and others, tended to stick with one color scheme. Palisades bent those rules when they brought back some of the aliens, and offered them in different color schemes.

Here's the other thing we need to mention -- the basic structure of the original Micronauts is almost identical to that of 3-3/4" G.I. Joes. As I said, in the past couple of years, Takara redesigned their Microman line, so that those resemblances no longer exist, but back in the 70's and 80's, they were nearly identical. And in fact -- the Micronauts came first. G.I. Joe had a little more meat on his bones, and in subsequent years added "Swivel-Arm Battle Grip", something the Micronauts didn't have, but the basic structure was still the same, right down to the rubbery O-Ring.

Now here's where CENTAURUS gets interesting. With only two exceptions, the aliens in the Micronauts line, however weird they were otherwise, were still basically humanoid. They still followed the same construction format. One of the exceptions, who I really wish I still had in my collection, was Antron, a strange alien with four arms. But this wasn't all that big of a variance. All Mego had to do was design a figure with two extra holes in his torso, and mold two additional arms. Even Hasbro did a four-armed figure for G.I. Joe, the Lunartix Alien named Predacon.

Centaurus has an upper torso held together by a screw in his back. This upper torso keeps the head and arms in place, and provides a "peg" for the O-Ring to wrap around. This O-ring goes through the lower torso and connects to a metal "T-hook" on which the legs, in this case the front legs, are attached. However, that still leaves the rest of the horse section to figure out.

Here's where Centaurus deviates from any of the other Micronauts, and certainly from any G.I. Joe. The rear side of the lower torso, which on anyone else would end with -- well -- the rear end, extends back into a second O-ring and T-hook structure. There's a screw in the "upper back" of the horse section, which is holding the second O-ring in place, which extends back to a second T-hook, to which the rear legs are attached.

Result? One centaur-like alien!

Centaurus is an impressive figure, but any comparisons, detail-wise, to a G.I. Joe really aren't fair. The Micronauts were not quite as heavily- detailed with uniform wrinkles and the like as the Micronauts were. So in that respect, Centarus looks a little plain. But he's still cool, and certainly impressive within the world of the Micronauts.

Some of the aliens looked faintly robotic, and Centaurus is no exception. Unlike a "typical" centaur, which would be expected to have a human-like head atop a humanoid torso, with only the lower half being horse-like, Centaurus actually has a rather horse-like head. It is his most robotic-looking detail, as the design of the head has a lot of angular aspects to it, including what appear to be a row of three sharp teeth up front. Typical for the Micronauts aliens, Centaurus has a glow-in-the-dark brain, although in his case, it combined with his mane, so I guess you'd call it a glow-in-the-dark brain-mane. And Palisades did maintain the glow-in-the-dark aspect of it.

Most of the Micronauts aliens didn't have actual hands. They had posts on their lower wrists, into which an assortment of weapons could be attached. Joe fans should think "Battle Android Trooper" here, probably. Centaurus is no exception to this, and he comes with not only classic weaponry, but new weaponry designed by a fan.

The original Micronauts packaging didn't go into any extensive character detail. "File cards" didn't come along until G.I. Joe, as commonplace as they tend to be today. Palisades' Micronauts did go into some detail, mostly about the toy line and the toy background of the figure, though. Still, the information is worth reporting.

On the Micronauts line as a whole, the packaging states: MICRONAUTS - They came from innerspace! In the 1970's, the world was first introduced to the startling and amazing new world of the Micronauts. These highly detailed, super-playable figures were originally brought to the United States by the legendary toy company Mego, and continue to be highly sought after by collectors and kids of all ages. Palisades is extremely proud to present these reproductions of the classic toys. With a painstaking attention to detail and a few extra surprises, these new and updated reproductions will pave the way for awesome all-new Micronauts toys to be released in 2003!

Yeah, a shame one of those "extra surprises" wasn't something Palisades counted on, or maybe the line would've lasted a good bit longer. As for Centaurus, the package reads:

CENTAURUS: This "Conquering Gladiator from the Remote Planet of Equestris" has been one of the rarest parts of the vintage Micronauts series, featuring a unique alien design even by today's standards! Centaurus saw only a limited release in 1980, and now returns in new colors with additional accessories designed by Micronaut collector Bryan Wilkinson.

Microbyte: The classic Micronaut Aliens followed a series of simple physical archetypes: insect and reptile, soft-skinned or armored- skinned, multi-armed or - in this case - multi-legged!

I honestly didn't know until reading this that Centaurus had been so scarce. I do remember having him in my original Micronauts collection.

It's honestly a shame that this line didn't work out. And I'm not saying that it's even still available. Still, if I can find a Centaurus or two a couple of years after the line's cancellation, in what amounts to Tucson's second-largest mall -- and the only one worth anything on that side of town -- then who known what might still be out there? And the second series was a lot more structurally sound than the first. Centaurus seems just fine. So you might want to check some of the specialty stores in your area, and see what's left. You might just find a cool "blast from the past" with a MICRONAUTS toy or two!