Dave Johnson’s designs from unproduced Micronauts cartoon
Loath as I am to go back to the well that is Dave Johnson’s social-media output so soon again after last week, he’s been celebrating reaching 10,000 followers on Twitter by sharing art from an undeveloped Micronauts animated television series, and it’s pretty special work.
Of course, anyone producing any sort of Micronauts license these days does so without the characters originated for the 1979 Marvel comic, which is why that line-up above doesn’t feature Bug or Marionette. The Bug role went to a new character called Dit-Dat (third from left, the most Ben 10-ish looking design there). The solution to losing Princess Mari was to make the Time Traveler female.
Johnson explained the project’s demise on Facebook as “Here’s the Micronauts pitch that ALMOST made it to TV. But then Hasbro bought the rights and basically killed the show. It was gonna be sooooo sweet. The story was great, and it would have been a childhood dream come true. Oh well.” The “childhood dream come true” aspect included the intention of hiring Micronauts co-creator Michael Golden to work on the series as a designer.
I’ve a certain nostalgia for these characters myself: When I was a kid, Marvel UK ran the Bill Mantlo/Golden issues alongside Roger Mackenzie and Walter Simonson’s Battlestar Galactica in the Star Heroes digests. I’ve long been of an opinion that that first dozen or so issues of Micronauts represent the high-water mark for Mantlo’s writing. He brought the toys to Marvel’s then-Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter in 1977 and campaigned for them to go after the license. Once obtained, he fashioned a rich sub-space opera around the often-primitive toy designs that was easily the equal of any of Marvel’s other more lauded “cosmic” sagas of previous years. It’s a shame that rights issues and corporate politics mean these comics will probably never receive a fittingly deluxe archival edition.
Last I heard, Hasbro had sold J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot the rights to develop a Micronauts movie. Perhaps if that goes ahead at some point, there might be more incentive or momentum for all involved to figure out a way to make reprinting that classic run possible.