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They Came From Innerspace!
The Micronauts originated as a line of Action Figures from Mego (actually a rebranding of Japan's Microman series of toys) in the late 70's and early 80's. 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 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 Rann, the leader; Marionnette, his lover; the insect-like warrior Bug; the hulking warrior Acroyear; and the robot Biotron.
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. On the toy side of things, with Mego going bankrupt, and the toyline originating on Takara, that means Micronauts is now a Hasbro toyline.
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 Jack and even Harlan Ellison (creator of the above-mentioned Jarella) had done "subatomic world" stories years ago, but The Micronauts finally named 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".
In 2016, the property was unexpectedly given a second life in the pages of IDW's short-lived Hasbro Comic Universe, ultimately proving the best selling of its non-Transformers books, before Hasbro announced a new animated series, titled Micronauts, set for release sometime in 2021.
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
- Bill Mantlo
- Brass Balls: The Micronaut once stated that it has literal brass balls.
- Captain Ersatz: Karza, for Darth Vader. See Darth Vader Clone below.
- Cerebus Syndrome: As with ROM Spaceknight, the series took a much darker tone later on.
- Constructed World: An impressive combination of Science Fiction and Fantasy; like Star Wars, only more so.
- Crossover: Many, but the one with the X-Men is probably the most memorable.
- Darth Vader Clone: Baron Karza.
- Doomed Hometown
- Energy Beings: The Time Travelers.
- Executive Meddling: Mantlo never wanted to do the goofy stories where the Micronauts wind up on Earth and are three inches tall (the size of their toys, get it?), but his bosses insisted.
- Exiled From Continuity: Actually, a simple change of clothes has been sufficient to keep most of the characters in continuity. But don't expect to see Biotron or Microtron again any time soon, or for Karza to be identified by name.
- Growing the Beard: Arcturus Rann, literally
- 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 on the aristocratic rung. 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
- Marvel Universe
- Merchandise-Driven: At first anyway. Like ROM, it eventually outlived the toys and became just another comic book.
- 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.
- Robot Buddy: Biotron and Microtron
- Russian Doll World
- 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.
- Space Opera
- 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.
- World Shapes: The planets in the Microverse resemble molecules.
The toy line provides examples of:
- Chrome Champion: All of the "human" figures still had shiny metal faces.
- Easily-Detachable Robot Parts: The toys' main selling point was their modular parts. It was "The interchangeable world of the Micronauts!"
- Mechanical Monster