"They Came From Inner Space!"
The Micronauts originated as a line of action figures from Mego, actually a rebranding of Japan's Microman series of toys, which lasted from 1976 to 1980. The toys were popular, but the Marvel Comics
comic book series based on them, written by Bill Mantlo
, outlasted the toyline by many years. The original series lasted for 59 regular issues (January, 1979- August, 1984), plus 2 annuals. They had a mini-series crossover with the X-Men
which lasted for 4 issues (January-April, 1984). Then their title was relaunched as Micronauts:The New Voyages
, lasting for 20 issues (October, 1984-May, 1986).
The comic told the story of the Micronauts, part of a resistance force that opposed an evil empire in a Subatomic Universe.
Team members included Commander Arcturus Rann, the leader; Marionnette, his lover; the insect-like
warrior Bug; the hulking warrior
Acroyear; and the robots
Biotron and Microtron. They are later joined by the shape-shifter
The series begins with the Micronauts (and their enemy, Baron Karza) accidentally transported to Earth (where they are only as big as action figures) where a young boy is involved in their battle. However the characters soon returned to the Microverse and stayed there for most of the series, as the writer developed its impressive backstory. Eventually they kill Karza (twice) but suffer devastating loses in the process, and some team members died.
Marvel no longer owns the license to the Micronauts, but can still use all elements of the comic series that they invented themselves. That is, Arcturus Rann can still appear, as long as he doesn't call himself Space Glider or wear his Space Glider uniform; Bug can still appear as long as he doesn't call himself Galactic Warrior, etc. Bug is an interesting case, since he bears so little resemblance to his toy
that Marvel can apparently use him with complete impunity. Marionette (Princess Mari) is a completely original character created by Bill Mantlo for the comic book series.
Probably the series' most lasting impact on the wider Marvel Universe
was the introduction (or at least the naming) of the Microverse, an Alternate Universe
that one enters if shrunk down past subatomic size. It was eventually established that the Microverse is
a complete separate universe, and does not literally
exist within some particular single atom somewhere; but shrinking down is the standard means of crossing into it. In the Marvel Universe in general, anyone who shrinks below a certain limit (apparantly somewhere between cellular size and molecular size) shifts into a "microverse" - the theory is that a shrinking person is actually displacing their mass extradimensionally, and when 99.99999999999999% is over there, the rest (and consciousness) follows. Among the notable inhabitants of microverses are Fantastic Four
enemy Psycho Man, Jarella (a lover of the Hulk
for a while), and the Micronauts. To be fair, Stan
and even Harlan Ellison
(creator of the above-mentioned Jarella) had done "subatomic world" stories years ago, but The Micronauts
the place, and standardized the rules for how it worked.
The team was last seen doing cameos in a couple of Marvel comics under the new alias of "The Microns". Bug has also been a sometime member of the new Guardians of the Galaxy
The comic book series provides examples of:
- Action Girl: Marionette
- Adaptation Distillation: The toy line initially had no associated plot. When Mantlo gave his son a set as a Christmas present, he was inspired to create a story to go with them, and convinced Jim Shooter to get the license.
- Alternate Universe
- Big Bad: Baron Karza
- Brass Balls: The Micronaut once stated that it has literal brass balls.
- Captain Ersatz: Baron Zebek for Baron Karza.
- Karza himself is kind of an example; thanks to toy recycling, he's effectively a black evil Jeeg. See here◊.
- Cerebus Syndrome: As with Rom Space Knight, the series took a much darker tone later on.
- Comic Book Limbo: This is where the Micronauts spend 99.99% of their time.
- Constructed World: An impressive combination of Science Fiction and Fantasy; like Star Wars, only more so.
- Continuity Snarl: In relating a deed from his past that has come back to haunt him, Rann claims to have visited Jarella's world K'ai prior to his 1,000 year voyage through the Microverse. K'ai was originally in a separate microverse from the one occupied by Rann and his people. His visitation would have predated the merging of the microverses, which is a fairly recent event. Since this merging occured in an unpublishable story, one can pretend that there was always ever only one microverse and that these were simply different regions. However, the backup article in the trade paperback for Realm of Kings: Enigma Force clearly states that the different microverses were merged recently due to Thanos' battle with a certain Homeworld despot.
- Cross Over: Many, but the ones with the Man-Thing and X-Men are probably the most memorable.
- Darth Vader Clone: Baron Karza.
- Doomed Hometown
- Emperor Scientist: Karza, who was originally Homeworld's Chief Scientist.
- Energy Beings: The Time Travelers.
- Everything's Better with Princesses: Princess Mari of Homeworld, a.k.a. Marionette.
- Exiled from Continuity: Don't expect to see Acroyear, Biotron or Microtron again any time soon, or for Karza to be shown or identified by name. Time Travellers are now simply referred to as the "Enigma Force", a Mantlo created name.
- Great Offscreen War: Whatever it was that occured to merge all of the microverses into one. Rumor has it that it's from a story that was completed but cannot be published due to licensing restrictions.
- Heroic Sacrifice: In the Grand Finale of Micronauts: The New Voyages, The Micronauts all sacrifice themselves so that their destroyed Homeworld may be reborn anew. The later cameos of Rann, Bug, and Mari contradict this or just don't bother to explain why they are still around..
- Earlier, Microtron and Nanotron sacrifice their lives, and Arcturus sacrifices part of his unnatural youth, to resurrect Biotron as Bioship.
- Human Popsicle: Arcturus on his thousand year voyage
- Humongous Mecha: Bioship
- Incredible Shrinking Man
- Insistent Terminology: Since he becomes absolute ruler of the Microverse, Baron Karza should probably be Emperor Karza. "Baron" is actually the lowest rung on the aristocratic ladder. Mantlo probably knew this but was following the wishes of the licensor Mego.
- Interspecies Romance: Bug is very much a ladies' man, regardless of species.
- La Résistance
- Living Ship: Bioship
- A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far Far Away...
- Mooks: The Psycho-Man's Antrons, among others.
- Mouse World
- Nice Hat: Acroyear's helmet. Bug's helmet is just as iconic, if not quite as cool. Arcturus starts out with a helmet too, but he eventually stops wearing it.
- Physical God: The Time Traveller(s) are pretty much this.
- Proud Warrior Race: The Acroyears
- Pyrrhic Victory: Karza is defeated but Homeworld is destroyed.
- Rememberthe New Guy: In Realm of Kings: Son of Hulk, a wacky robot named "Carl" is hanging out with Rann and Mari.
- Robot Buddy: Biotron and Microtron
- Russian Doll World: The Marvel Universe's Trope Codifier.
- Sapient Ship: Biotron was at one point rebuilt into a Living Ship-slash-Humongous Mecha called Bioship. Bioship was a cyborg, utilizing Organic Technology in his workings.
- Shout-Out: The story featuring Man-Thing is named "Adventure into Fear", after the magazine where he made most of his early appearances before getting his own book.
- Space Opera
- For issues 1-58 (Mantlo's tenure), the format was clearly inspired by Star Wars.
- The the immediate followup series, Micronauts: The New Voyages (Written by Peter B. Gillis), the mood shifted and more closely resembled 2001: A Space Odyssey. Due to the absence of a villain character, the stories became more cerebral, focusing on introspection, metaphysics and cosmic themes.
- Turbine Blender: Attracted by Steve's courage, Man-Thing's threat to the cast ends when he steps in the blades of a swamp buggy and his muck-encrusted form splatters around the swamp.
- Transhuman Aliens: The many races of Marvel Comics' Microverse are all descended from a future humanity which fled through time, space and dimensions to escape a genocidal war.
- Unexplained Recovery: See the note on Heroic Sacrifice Since no one has bothered to Hand Wave it yet, at this point, it could be assumed that They Just Didn't Care.
- World Shapes: The planets in the Microverse resemble molecules.
- Writing Around Trademarks: "We're the Microns."
The toy line provides examples of:
- Chrome Champion: All of the "human" figures still had shiny metal faces.
- When the toyline was briefly revived in the mid-2000's, a special edition of the original Space Glider figure was produced, colored to match his comic book counterpart — with a blue jumpsuit and yellow stripes, and a flesh-colored head with brown hair.
- Easily Detachable Robot Parts: The toys' main selling point was their modular parts. It was "The interchangeable world of the Micronauts!"
- Mechanical Monster
- Spiritual Successor: In the form of Revell's Robolinks, which was an export of Japan's Blockman toyline. Like the Microman toyline that Micronauts is based off of, Blockman was also produced by Takara.