Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Genealogy of Transformers and GI Joe Toys

This is an email I sent to someone after seeing Rahsan Ekedal's very awesome drawing of Baron Karza from the Micronauts comic/toyline (Below)


I just love the relationship between Japanese and American toys, especially during the 70's and 80's:

"Ready for a toy history lesson?
Okay, GI Joe started off in the 60's with the 12 inch tall, and later 8 inch tall, figures. In the 70's a Japanese company licensed the molds for the Joe figures, and created their own toyline called Henshin Cyborg, it was moderately successful, but a big stumbling block was that making vehicles and playsets for those size figures wasn't feasible at a decent pricepoint. At this point, they decided to try and make a smaller figure, and created the Microman line, these figures were 3.75 inches tall. The story behind these toys, was that the Microman were tiny aliens, and they landed on Earth and hid amongst us, also in the toyline were robots that turned into Microrecorders, tapes, microscopes, and guns. The line was successful enough that Hasbro took notice, and decided to make Joe's in the 3.75 inch scale, which is how we get to the GI Joe toys that you and I remember from our youth. The cultural exchange comes full circle.
Bear with me, I'm going somewhere with this.
All of the Microman specific molds were licensed by a US company called Mego, who released them over here as the Micronauts, the Japanese line didn't have much in the way of villain figures though (cultural thing as I understand) so they created new alien villains, the leader of which was... Baron Karza. Mego went bankrupt in '82, and the toyline disappeared, but the tie in comic was apparently very successful and managed to live on a bit longer.
I'm going to keep going with this, it's fun!
Takara, happy with the success of the Microman, then decided to take the concept a step further, and create a toyline, called Diaclone, full of transforming vehicles that were piloted by tiny drivers, call inchmen. In 1984, Hasbro snatched up every transforming robot toy they could get the rights for, and started up a new toyline called Transformers. All but a very small handful of the original Transformers were from either the Microman or Diaclone. Megatron, Soundwave, Blaster, and Perceptor are all from the Microman line. Optimus Prime, just about all of the cars, the Dinobots, Devastator, and the Insecticons are all from the Diaclone line."

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