Monday, July 3, 2017


Micronauts vol.1 Annual No.2 (1980)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Rich Buckler / Steve Ditko
Letterer: Rogan
Colorist: Gaff
Editor: Al Milgrom
EIC: Jim Shooter

Mantlo gets another chance to work with Steve Ditko on a Micronauts adventure, which I can't tell if Ditko enjoys or not. I can't tell if Ditko has ever enjoyed anything he's ever worked on. He seems to have high standards.

One time I dreamt I was making eggs
for the Apollo 11 astronauts. Is
it more sensational than that?
Among his high standards is that he apparently brooks no interference from a penciller. The recently-deceased Rich Buckler pencils the first seven pages of the annual, and Ditko inks them with such a heavy, signature style that they just seem like slightly substandard Ditko panels. I'd love to know the story behind those seven pages...

Anyway, if I considered last year's annual to effectively be the Christmas episode of the Micronauts first season, then the second annual DEFINITELY is the Christmas special. It even has the appropriate setting: Inside a department store's toy section, where familiar figures abound.

The Micronauts are still slumming around New York, flying into Manhattan from their previous point of origin in surprisingly-supervillain-stuffed Saugerties. They barely have time to recognize and repeatedly comment on the city's distinctive scent before being distracted by a sudden burning migraine which incapacitates Acroyear.

The migraine ties into a weird phenomenon occurring in Macy's Department Store -- complete with logo! I don't know how Mantlo is clearing these brand-name product placements, because I doubt an editor would let them fly unless there was an actual deal worked out somewhere. Still, we end up in Macy's toy department where a big shelf of Micronaut toys is on display, which is confusing as hell at first, but stick with it.

Well then you're not mature enough to
start having sex, young lady.
The toys come to life -- causing terrible pain to their living equivalents -- at the behest of a purple-cowled figure lurking in a vent or something, I couldn't be sure. This is "The Terrible Toymaster," and readers are encouraged to spend the length of the story deciphering his identity. Let me help you out: He has to be a bad guy whom the Micronauts have previously met, and there has to be a reason he has his face hidden, and lastly he can't be any big-time villain because those are all currently active in the book. Figured it out? Yes, it's me. Surprise!

As is the wont of annuals, the adventure is largely self-supporting and unconnected to the larger narrative, although it seems like a safe time to bring back De.Phillip Prometheus, the half-cyborg H.E.L.L. scientist who'd lost his mind when traversing the force wall separating the Microverse from Florida. It seems that, following his retrieval and incarceration in a mental hospital, Prometheus turned his talents to designing action figures. In the Marvel continuity, the inventor of the Micronauts toy line is the man who once wanted to capture, kill and dissect them. Uh, transference much?

Prometheus installed the action figures -- all of them, across the board -- with the devices which allowed them to come to life at the cost of the well-being of the source material. There's also a scene which "explains" why there are no figures of Marionette or Bug; the toy company didn't think they were worth producing. You always hear that with the female figures...

"...I can savagely burn you with unkind truths!"

Anyway, the Micronauts obviously win, and Prometheus falls down an elevator shaft, the end.

There's no lettercol or Tales of the Microverse, but Ditko provides several pinups of the assorted characters from the series, which is an impressive roster given the series' relative youth. It's delightful, though, that they apparently needed one more guy to fit into the villains' section and they went with the guy who tried to rob the McDonalds a few issues ago. He's this book's Doctor Doom.

1 comment:

Jonathan Hendry said...

"scientist who'd lost his mind when traversing the force wall separating the Microverse from Florida"

Or possibly just traversing Florida.

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