|The name or term "Micronauts" refers to more than one character or idea. For a list of other meanings, see Micronauts (disambiguation).|
Micronauts is a toy franchise created by the Mego Corporation and currently owned by Hasbro. Licensed from Takara’s Microman series, the Micronauts line was comprised of repackaged Microman figures, and later original Mego creations (though still using modified Takara parts.) The series followed a vague sci-fi premise about the “Interchangeable World of the Micronauts.” Since 2016, the characters have been appearing in comics by IDW Publishing.
Micronauts originated as a 1977 toyline from Mego, licensing Takara’s popular Microman figures. Microman was a smaller version of Takara’s Henshin Cyborg line, reduced from the 12-inch G.I. Joe scale it was based on to 3.75 inches. This smaller scale would influence the engineering of Hasbro’s eventual revival of G.I. Joe in the A Real American Hero line. Microman was notable for its 5-mm peg-and-port system, which allowed parts of the toys to be swapped and connected between others.
Microman had an even greater influence on American toys outside of Micronauts and G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. A few years into its life, Microman introduced the Micro Change subline, featuring small objects that would change into humanoid figures. These toys, along with Takara’s Diaclone, would be imported by Hasbro to become The Transformers.
Micronauts, Mego, and Marvel
Having found success with licensed toys based on numerous film, TV, and comic book properties, Micronauts was to be Mego’s first original toy series since the company started in 1971. It proved to be needed too, as Mego had just rejected a licensing deal for a then-upcoming science fiction film called Star Wars, causing the license to go to Kenner. While the original Micronauts figures were simply repackaged Microman toys, later waves would see Mego use modified parts from a number of Takara releases to create their own characters; eventually, wholly original toys were created with the "Alien" figures. Mego pushed the interchangeability of the toys as the core play pattern, encouraging kids to build their own toys using the Micronauts pieces. This meant that kids (or rather, their parents) had to buy more sets and figures to build bigger and better creations. Micronauts ran successfully until around 1980, when Mego began to lose sales and ultimately shut down in 1983.
Like many toy properties of the 70s and 80s, Micronauts received a comic book from Marvel Comics, written by Bill Mantlo (who would later write the popular ROM: Spaceknight series). The Micronauts ran for a total of 61 issues from 1979 to 1984, even after the toyline’s cancellation, and later gained a sequel series called The Micronauts: The New Voyages from 1984 to 1986. Unlike other toy-based Marvel series like Transformers and G.I. Joe, Micronauts was fully integrated into the mainstream Marvel Universe, with Mantlo introducing new original characters in addition to the toy-based ones. This, coupled with the terms of the license allowed for several Micronauts characters to continue being published in Marvel stories even after Marvel lost the license.
However, even after the end of Mego Corp and the Marvel series, Micronauts didn’t completely die. Fans kept the series alive in their hearts, while other toy companies picked up the series. After Mego was shut down, the Micronauts molds were sold off to other companies which produced their own toylines, such as Hour Toys/M&D Toys' Interchangeables or PAC Toys' Lords of Light. Italian licensor/distributor Gig continued to sell existing Micronauts stock as i Micronauti, along with importing new Microman toys from Takara. The Micronauts brand itself, meanwhile, was absorbed by Abrams Gentile Entertainment, a company founded by then-Mego President Martin Abrams to retain and manage Mego's licensing deals. AGE tried to revive Micronauts as an animated series on the Sci-Fi Channel in 1998, and though concept art for the series was produced, it never materialized.
In 2002, Micronauts came back in full force with a new toyline from Palisades Toys and a comic book series through Image Comics and Devil's Due Publishing. Palisades acquired the rights to the create a new series of Micronauts toys from AGE, but faced numerous production problems. Due to not having the original steel molds, they were forced to use original Micronauts toys to create new ones. They were also plagued by factory errors in the production process, which led to customers receiving figures that were broken upon being taken out of their packaging. At the same time, Image Comics studio Devil's Due Publishing got the Micronauts comic license, producing an 11 issue series, as well as a 4 issue limited series about Baron Karza under the Image banner. After splitting off to form their own company, Devil's Due launched a follow-up series in 2004, but it only lasted for 3 issues.
In 2005, State of the Art Toys announced plans for a new line of larger-scaled, redesigned figures called Micronauts: Evolution. Painted prototypes of Space Glider, Baron Karza, and Lobros were displayed at Toy Fair 2005. However, reportedly due to the poor reception of Palisades by retailers, there was never enough interest to get it off the ground.
Hasbro and IDW
By 2009, Hasbro had acquired Micronauts and announced that they were planning a revival, with a new toyline and film series. Nothing new came of it until 2011, when the Micronauts characters were used as the key players in Hasbro’s Unit:E crossover, which sought to merge a number of Hasbro properties into a shared universe. Unfortunately, for reasons likely involving the change of direction with the Transformers: Prime cartoon, Unit:E was never followed up on. However, during Hasbro's 2015 Investor Day event, the company unveiled Transformers: Micronauts under their "New Brands" slides, along with a mysterious figure that appeared to be a new toy of Micronauts character Biotron. As of right now, no new information has been revealed. Hasbro also announced plans for a Micronauts film as part of their shared cinematic universe with G.I. Joe, ROM, M.A.S.K., and Visionaries.
In 2015, IDW Publishing announced plans for a new Micronauts series, which debuted in March 2016; IDW later revealed that Micronauts would be folded into their new shared Hasbro Universe as part of the Revolution event, along with titles like The Transformers, G.I. Joe, and ROM. To tie-in with the release of the new comic, Hasbro released a special "Micronauts Classic Collection" set at San Diego Comic Con 2016, featuring reproductions of the classic Pharoid, Galactic Warrior, and Galactic Defender (renamed "Orbital Defender" presumably for trademark reasons) figures; and at SDCC 2017 the next year, Hasbro released a "Revolution" pack of G.I. Joe-scaled toys, including minifigures of several of the original Micronauts characters (Baron Karza, Acroyear, Biotron, the Space Glider Phenolo-Phi, an Antron named Xant, and a Time Traveller named Quin-Tillius) and a few new ones (a unicyclic humanoid named Oberon and robots partnered with Baron Karza named Gammatron and Betatron).
IDW Micronauts Series
- Unlike the Transformers license, which gave Hasbro ownership of any characters that debuted in the comic, the Micronauts and ROM: Spaceknight licenses gave the rights to any characters originating in the comics to Marvel.