The classic pre-Star Wars science fiction action figures that gave birth to the Micronauts.
Back in a pre-Star Wars mid-1970s, there were a handful of science fiction toys on the market, and the most exciting was the duo of Cyborg and Muton. A pair of futuristic adversaries, these eight-inch dolls (technically they were nine inches, but very much in the eight-inch world of Mego and others) were the coolest looking action figures on the market, and also a bit more expensive than rival dolls.
Veteran toy manufacturers Denys Fisher (owned by Mr Fisher, inventor of the Spirograph) produced the figures, based on the Japanese Shonen Cyborg toys – themselves a smaller variant of the Henshin Cyborg action figures and both precursors of the Micronauts range – and they were wonders to behold, with hard, multi-part transparent plastic bodies that allowed you to see the workings within (about which more in a moment), the figures came with interchangeable attachments – just take off the hand and add on a weapon. Both figures also had additional extras that you could buy – Cyborg had assorted fancy weapons and vehicles, while Muton (what a name!) had his own vehicle and three costumes that could be used to change him into new characters – a new action figure at a budget price if you like. The Torg, the Amaluk and X-Akron (actually based on a heroic Japanese character called Red Baron) were all pretty impressive characters.
The boxes that the figures came in were works of art in themselves, with comic strip stories on the back explaining the origins of the characters and why they were mortal enemies – essentially, intergalactic warlord Muton had attacked the Earth, Cyborg had been created by the last survivors to save humanity from the Mutonic threat. I’m not sure kids needed a back story to complement their games, but it was a nice touch and helps the characters hold up now.
As mentioned earlier, both Cyborg and Muton were transparent, and you could pull off their rubbery heads to reveal what lay underneath. Cyborg was, as you might expect, a robotic character with a mechanical brain, but Muton had a weird, worryingly organic brain beneath his head and gloopy-looking internal organs. He also had fangs, demonic eyes and a funky haircut. Unsurprisingly, I had no interest in Cyborg whatsoever as a child, but Muton was one of my most beloved toys.
Then came Android. A 1977 addition to the line, Android was a much more robotic figure than Cyborg (who had a humanoid appearance and trendy hairstyle) and came with missiles that would fire from his chest. Android too had optional extras including new legs and heads. Hailing from the planet of Veganon, he was another enemy for the already busy Cyborg to deal with. He didn’t seem to have any connection to Muton, but you can bet that many a child teamed them up to kick the living crap out of Cyborg and rule the universe. Or perhaps that was just me.
The Cyborg-Muton-Android series was pretty popular for a while, but even by the time that Android joined the team, the writing was on the wall, not just for this intrepid trio but for all eight-inch action figures. The relentless march of Star Wars and the new, smaller action figures (designed cynically to help sell more spaceship merchandise that would have been prohibitively large and expensive for the bigger dolls) soon overtook all that had gone before, and these figures were replaced by the Micronauts that they had spawned in Japan. There’s nothing as fickle as kids, and these once-beloved toys were quickly forgotten. By the end of the decade, they were gone.
The removable parts, breakable bodies and fragile packaging of these toys means that today, they are highly collectable and sought after in good condition. Of course, as one of those fickle children, I finally sacrificed my Muton to a fiery death (he did melt in a very impressive way, so that’s something) and my Android was doubtless swept up in an “I’m too old for this stuff now, let’s get rid of it” purge. A sad loss.
You can see more Cyborg, Muton and Android imagery at Plaid Stallions.
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