Volume 1, chapter 1…”and lo, a beginning!”

Random information dump:  an in-depth look at a subject that no one has asked for.

This article’s subject is… Mechs.

Mechs!  Or Mechas.  Shortened abbreviated term for mechanical devices, armor, suits or vehicles.  As usual, all of these facts have been verified via 2 sources. We’ve not only researched each of these items but we’ve also double checked them using Wikipedia so you know it’s true.  Also I’ve listed the mechs here by name in BOLD so if you’re curious what they look like, you can use your friend the Internet to find them.  Let’s get cracking.

Definitely a Definitive Definition

Mecha is a science fiction genre that focuses on larger machines, devices or robots (especially giant ones) that are run by a controller, pilot, crew, preset orders or a little kid with a wristwatch like the show Johnny Sokko & Giant Robot.  While originally including any & all mechanical beings as mechs like the following…

  • Replicants from Blade Runner
  • Data from Star Trek
  • T-800 from the Terminator films
  • Bishop from Aliens

…the term has changed over the years to usually mean larger or more self-containing technologies.  Now, the robots that are alive such as Optimus Prime & the Transformers family, the Iron Giant, Johnny 5 & Go-bots shouldn’t really be included with this since their form is part of their living bodies whereas the mechs being discussed here are augmentations of those, unless of course these giant, oversized robots would put on an armored battle suit.  But what are the odds for that happening? Oh, Go-Bots actually had battle suits the robots could put on?  Huh. Well, at least they don’t take that armor & form another giant robot with it.  

They did?  Seriously?  

Mechas also tend to look more organic in function, with some having arms, legs, hands, a head, a face, I could go on…with some having none of these or multiple features.  For mechs, the sky’s the limit. Unless they can’t fly but that goes without saying.  

______________________________________________________________________________

Types of Mechs (or mechs n’ match).  These are the most common of mechs.

______________________________________________________________________________

Distance-controlled robot (or I’ll just be over here):  Hey, did you ever want to blow up a city but don’t want to do it yourself?  Sure! We all do! Well, you should get one of these babies!

Gigantor/Tetsujin 28        MechaGodzilla

Giant Robot (from Johnny Sokko), MechaGodzilla, Tetsujin 28/Gigantor; just get any of these guys, just tell them what to blow up & they’ll do it.  No complaining, work orders or Union meetings needed. If only my girlfriend was 

ENTIRE SECTION MISSING

…& that’s why I can’t eat Pringles™ anymore.  Anyway, back to the subject.

______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

Self-Contained Self-Ordered Robot-(or Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto):  this is a robot or machine that has enough compartmentalized info to adapt to differing situations but not a large enough one to go outside its parameters.  Confused? Yeah, me too! Howzabout this? You know the Sentinels from the Matrix films, the ones that looked like big metal octopi?  

http://www.feoamante.com/Movies/M/Matrix/sentinel.jpg

They can figure out 18 different ways to kill a person with a micro-laser but it can’t make you feel better when your girlfriend dumps you.  You know how some robots can know why you cry but it is something that it can never do? These guys can’t even do that.  Emotionless as a shop teacher & almost as dangerous, these machines are the best they are at what they do…& that’s it.  Another difference again between this & a plain old killer robot is either the size, complexity of the device &/or its relationship with others of its type.  Marvel Comics Sentinels, you know, the big pesky pink & purple mutant killers from the X-Men books?  Total mechs.

   Sentinel Mark 12              ED 209

Others would be Omnidroid from the Incredibles, Ed-209 from Robocop, Gort from the Day the Earth Stood Still & Megas XLR.  And in no way am I going to even mention the one mech that shamed us all.

Jet Jaguar from Godzilla v Megalon (on the left)

I’ve always wondered why they made him look like Jack Nicholson…

______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

Crew-ran or Piloted Robot/Vehicle-(or who’s going to drive you home tonight?)  A huge monster has arrived in the city to just mess up everything.  Can Voltron save the day?

YES!!

…well…

…no.

Not if those pesky kids aren’t there to pilot the thing.  Voltron Lion, Voltron Ships, the Cyber King & the Daleks from Dr. Who, the Jaegers from Pacific Rim are some prime examples of these.  On a side note, I was upset that the Jaegers from Pacific Rim didn’t use a Jaeger Bomb; a weapon that can cripple anything near it.  The robots from Robot-Jox, later versions of MechaGodzilla & (my personal fave) the Shogun Warriors are among these listed.  

Voltron I            Daleks (new models)

______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

Big Suit-(or aren’t you overcompensating just a tad?): easy definition on this is this. Who here has seen Iron Man?  Iron Man’s armor?  Not so much. Obadiah Stane’s big-ass Iron Monger armor?  

Oh yes.  This technology would grossly amplify the physical characteristics of a person or animals traits rather than just cover or preserve its user.  Mech suits would include Superman’s Kryptonian Battle Suit, Iron Man’s Hulkbuster suit, Mobile Suit Gundam, Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 vehicles, Ripley’s Loader from Aliens, the APU from the 3rd Matrix film and the battle armor from District 9.  

______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

Dual-function Craft– (or this vehicle goes both ways):  Take a regular vehicle or craft & graft onto it something that would help it adapt it to a different environment better.  No show did this better at the time than Robotech, with its transforming jets that were sooooo cool, the Transformers flat out stole one of them (the VF-1 Valkyrie) & made one into a character called Jetfire/Skyfire.  

 VF-1 Valkyrie & not-a VF-1-Valkyrie

Anyway, nothing adds better to an awesome jet than arms & legs.  IT JUST MAKES SENSE. Whereas treads or wheels might do the job better, it certainly doesn’t look as cool.  Various Robotech vehicles (especially from the Macross saga for you sticklers out there), the Imperial AT-ATs & Walkers, Invader Zim’s MEGADOOMER with its chicken legs, the AMPs from Avatar & the Bunny Mech from Sucker Punch (awful movie but really cool scene) make up some of these.  

______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

All-encompassing Machinery– (or all hail heavy metal!):  these could also be called cyborgs in the strictest sense but the percentage of the organic or original host is miniscule to the new body.  Still different from living robots mentioned earlier (Go-Bots, Johnny 5), these mechs are almost a “scaled down” version of the crew-ran robot/vehicle, except that the pilot is just your head or brain.  And again, in this case as it is in so many others, size does matter. For an example, let’s say you’re a police officer who was trying to arrest 5 convicted cop killers by yourself in Old Detroit & you were shot about a hundred times in the process or while trying to kill your best friend with a lightsaber, you attempt to jump over him when he clearly he has the high ground.  

https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQrCGFZ3Abdy_W2fxi7X3_-dquNSidiCO8poIi1Bn8hf_7A2XX-
http://images4.fanpop.com/image/photos/17100000/Anakin-Skywalker-anakin-skywalker-17186923-1024-768.jpg

Either way, it turns out poorly with the only thing left of you being half a torso, a head & some neck.  Are you out of options?  

Heck no!  You can have a perfectly normal life as a Darth Vader or a Robocop or as an augmented cyborg. 

“Hooray for science!”

Now, if the only thing left of you is a skull & brain &/or an eye, you’ve really become much more machine than person so I say welcome to the wonderful world of being a mech.  Robocop 2, the Cyber Men, Battlestar Gallactica Cylons (original series) & Inspector Gadget (yeah, I said it!) would be some examples of these.

______________________________________________________________________________

And now, let us venture into…THE PAST!!

______________________________________________________________________________

The Beginnings (or don’t know much about history?)

The history of Mechs is almost Steampunkian in its infancy.  I know what you’re thinking &, yes indeed dammit, Steampunkian most certainly IS a word.  Jules Verne’s THE STEAM HOUSE, written in 1880 & available online, had one of Mechs first examples, with a steampowered colossal metal & copper elephant.  

The only thing that could kill it?  Robot Poachers! (Hello?!?  Is this mike working?)  Going on, just a decade later, another writer named HG Wells was all “Screw that.  I can do better.” So his story The War of the Worlds had its infamous Martian Tri-pods which included tentacles, long legs & advanced weaponry.  Let’s leap ahead past giant robots in Saturday matinee serials & Superman villains to the first popular giant robot named Tetsujin-28 or Gigantor as they called it in America, appearing in 1956 in Manga form & 1963 in anime.  

http://www.anime.com/Gigantor/images/circle-01.jpg

His first appearance in Manga form recently sold for several thousand dollars at an auction.  The man who bought it brought it home & later his mom threw it away. Not actually true but I can see that happening sooooo easily.  Next up, Mazinger-Z, called Tranzor-Z in the US, appeared manga-style in 72 & anime in 73.  

http://mipropioinfierno.files.wordpress.com/2006/02/Mazinger29.jpg

This was really the landmark one as it ushered in the 70s explosion for mecha-anime & it set the standard for the genre.  A giant robot controlled by a much-younger-than-they-should-allow pilot, mad scientists, weird villains, goofy henchmen, awesome monsters, comic-relief characters, & AWESOME, AWESOME WEAPONS round out the show.  Missiles, giant swords, shooting fists, SHOOTING FISTS SHOOTING FISTS!!!!, lasers, MOTHER OF GOD. Mazinger-Z is also noted to be one of the first combiner-style mechs, as its brain is actually a human-piloted hovercraft that must land in the head to run the robot.  It’s not a combiner in the way that Go-Lion or Voltron is but it is a combiner in that it needs the vehicle to operate. As a side note, the first combiner robot was named King Joe from the Ultra 7 series.  

http://ts3.mm.bing.net/th?id=HN.608034418645795697&pid=1.7

Yeah, combiners have come a long way from then as he looked lame as hell but hey, you probably didn’t look too cool in high school either.  By the way, the Shogun Warrior toy line had Great Mazinga in its group.  

The next important mech is Getter Robo, with both the anime & manga hitting on the same day; April 74.  The series was about three young pilots (a martial artist, a psychopath & a fat guy) that piloted 3 different combat aircraft that could come together in 3 separate ways to make three separate giant robots specified for certain environments.  

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-OklkiX4ql_4/USotzJbnDsI/AAAAAAAABi0/31joVZJLnEw/s1600/getter+01.jpg

Getter-3 or Poseidon on the right was strong & made for water/marine combat.  Getter-2 or Liger on the left was speedy & made for ground control.  Getter-1 or Dragon in the middle was capable of extended & agile flight & was the more balanced ability-wise of the 3 robots. Getter-1 also was one of the first large scale Shogun Warriors under the name Dragun.  The other robots were also made into the Shogun Warrior line-up but as smaller, die-cast toys.  

Next mech of interest is Brave Raideen, as it rounds out the list for important mechs for a couple of reasons.  

First being that this robot’s origins were mystical rather than scientific or technologically made as he was created to be a protector against ancient evil.  Raideen is actually a sentient robot, more alive than not, but still needing a moral person-pilot to bond with to operate. The other reason why Brave Raideen is important is that this was the first fully transforming robot &, more importantly, the first transforming functional toy, going from a giant robot to an Eagle-like jet.  The first transforming robot…kind of…is Goldarr from Ambassador Magma, a gold giant standing 50 ft tall that could turn into a gold jet.  

The original Japanese version had him not as a robot but a living being made entirely from gold through mystical means.  His wife & son could also transform into jets but this was also done through magical ability & not a technological one. Now, when this show was brought to the states, it was renamed the Space Giants & they…simplified…the plot more.  Made-out-of-gold-through-magic was now just giant robot.  So, yes, technically Goldarr is the first transformer but the first REAL one is still Brave Raideen.  

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

GAMES-(without frontiers)

There is such a giant history on mechs in games that it would just be stupid to try & describe it all (deep breath) so here goes. Tabletop games include Battletech & Warhammer 40000…

 which were so addictive that 4 things immediately happened.  

  1. You have a lot of fun  
  2. You spend all of your free time on this  
  3. You spend all of your free money on this   
  4. Repeat      

You’ve been warned.  Now, video games have tons of mechs so I’ll just go over some of the biggees.  The one that everyone lost their minds over was…wait for it…STEEL BATTALION from 2002…mostly due to the fact that the controller for the game was HUGE.  

http://ts2.mm.bing.net/th?id=HN.608023380577356582&pid=1.7

Just look at that mutha!  Yeah, mech fans are insane.  Retailed for $200 for the original X-Box, it’s still hard to find.  Terra Nova, Armored Core, Chromehounds, Metal Gears, Command & Conquer 2 & 3 & Heavy Gear 2 are a few more that mech fans know & love.  

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________       

Toys in the Attic- (or where does he get such wonderful ones?)

Toys were rather simple for children back in the day.  As hard as it is to believe, kids used to actually play with toys like marbles, jump ropes, paddleballs, jacks & cap guns.  Yeah, back then these were just a jump rope, marbles, jacks, paddle & a fake gun…

…but nowadays these would be considered a strangling device, ball bearings, tire puncturers, a “naughty” paddle & a real enough gun to get you shot by the police.  Yeah, these were doubly horrifying since for most of these you had to go outside. In the Sun! This was way before Pokemon Go so no; you people playing that game didn’t invent going outside.  But with the Mego & GI Joe line of large scale action figures (not dolls), toy companies realized that the market was there for a different audience.  It also helped that the usually 30 minute in length cartoons/animes were still playing on TV, not only showing kids the types of adventures these people & mechs went on but also double-billing as a 22 minute long commercial for the toys of said character.  How many times did you see a GI Joe episode featuring a new villain that you need right now? NOW, MOM, NOW!! The 70s especially were a boom period for the mech invasion, with these toy lines leading the way.

http://gobacktothepast.com/wpsys/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Micronaut-toys.jpg

Micronauts– Brought over from Japan by Mego, the Microman Toyline from Takara underwent a name change from Microman to Micronauts.  Running from 1976 to 1980 in the states, the toyline’s storyline focused on a microscopic universe where atoms are the size of planets & entire galactic systems are held together via giant molecular chains.  The opposing forces were easy to tell apart with the good guys usually having lighter, brighter colors & the bad guys looking menacing & wearing all dark colors. They didn’t have a cartoon to really push this toyline along & the only thing that really sold it was word of mouth & when I say word of mouth, I mean the excited gasps of joy from kids when they saw pictures of these things in the JC Penny catalog.  You know, the catalogs you showed to your parents for Christmas, Chanukah, birthdays or whatever.  

The line did get a boost when a particular little film came out in 1977 that featured a War in the Stars but I can’t remember the title…? (…coughcoughSTARWARS)  This toy line was miles ahead of almost everything out there as they had figures made out of clear plastic, battery-powered robots & ships, vehicles made specifically for water & interlocking pieces that you could switch with other characters or vehicles.  

Plus, some of the main characters had magnets for the ball joints of their arms, legs, etc. So you could either switch out with other pieces, make the main bad guy a Battle Centaur or just pretend to blow them up real good.  “I can’t find my arm, man!!”  Funny enough, the main bad guy, Baron Karza, was dismissed by some as a Darth Vader rip-off, when that is completely wrong. No, he was ripped off but it was from a giant robot named Steel Jeeg & not Darth Vader.

Yup.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_VbON4KTtT8k/TIlI31sPrpI/AAAAAAAACFA/5hx27UgXs0Y/s1600/shogunwarriors.jpg

Shogun Warriors– Mother of God!  The end-all, be-all of giant robots.  Made by Japanese toy company Popy Toy in the early 70s, this line called Jumbo Machinders included the Super Hero or Giant Robot line of toys from both manga & anime as well picking up different licenses for each which were controlled/owned by several different companies.  To put that in perspective, that would be like a toy company now making an action team of James Bond, the Mountain from Game of Thrones, Black Dynamite, Dr. Who, Kylo Ren, Captain America, Hannibal Lector & that big oozy critter from Stranger Things.  You know that nowadays, with licensing rights the way that they are, there couldn’t be anything even close to this happening today (Legos anyone?).  These toys certainly caught the attention of American toy distributors & in 1979, Mattel brought over the first line of them with 3 robots (Raideen, Dragun, which was Getter Robo-1 & Mazinga) & joined them with Godzilla, who also was changed quite a bit for his American debut.  

Quite the iconic selection of toys.  But besides being the best of the best of Japanese mech culture & the King of the Monsters, that wasn’t quite enough.  Here’s why this line was the best.

  1. These toys were huge.  24 inches tall & a hefty 4-5 lbs each.  These toys towered over all others (literally!)
  2. They were each differently sculpted.  It was common back in the day to make a toy line with the same bodies & just different heads.  Every bit of these were different except for some of the forearms.
  3. They were dangerous.  Fists that shot off with surprising force, missiles that would shoot, hell, one of them threw an axe.  These examples plus the fact that some of the weapons were just the right size to be swallowed were some of the reasons that this line was cited by the government as dangerous.  New restrictions came down due to this line, so anything cool, er, I mean hazardous was no longer allowed in toy lines aimed at a young audience. Do you remember the back of your Star Wars & Empire Strikes Back toys & seeing an offer for a mail-away Boba Fett?  Do you remember how he had a launching missile? When you got the Boba Fett, did it have a launching missile? This is why.  The American versions of these all had different firing fists (either the entire thing or missiles) but in Japan, these had to be purchased separately.  There were 20 + different styles of fist weapons made & some were…odd. One actually had a little car garage on it. No, seriously! And another was just a watch.  Apparently, most of these were made for the Great Mazinger, as a regular episode of his anime went something like this. Great Mazinger shows up to fight a monster.  That monster whoops his butt. Great Mazinger’s scientists make something to beat the monster. Great Mazinger uses the weapon. Everyone celebrates because the monster is dead (except for the monster’s spouse & children, who try to go on without him but still miss him every day).
  4. Not really a valid reason but, like I said, they had some heft to them, so if your brother or a bully was bothering you in your yard, it was rare but not unheard of for someone to chase someone brandishing a Shogun Warrior as a sort of mid-evil weapon.  I’ve seen it happen twice & was the victim of it once.

The next line released were reissues of the first four but now included 2 other robots, Gaiking (with nipple rockets!) & Damos, along with another monster, Rodan, which was not referred to as a Shogun Warrior on the box but as one of the “World’s Greatest Monsters”.  Also of interest was the fact that Rodan, the winged monster from the Toho family of monsters that included Godzilla, was only available in the USA.  Yeah! USA! USA! USA! Finally, we got the cool toy first! Well, not so fast. A real kick in the junk later on was that there was one robot, Goldorak (known as Grendizer in Japan) that was only released in France.  France, dammit!!  

Rodan (left)                                                               Grendizer (right)

This still bothers me. Anyway, each robot went through changes, minimalizing the look & weaponry. But the giant toys were only part of this line.  Smaller 5 ½ inch toys called 2-in-ones let the robots join with ships, transform into jets, turn into battering rams, etc.  

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-TrxBp_jeitM/Uq4Hu_zrUTI/AAAAAAAAGNQ/RA69v0FtqvM/s1600/Shogun-Warriors_Robots2.jpg

And simplified die-cast action figures (still with shooting fists!) were released, making parents poorer all the more.  Finally, a line of 3 inch figures were released, all with the same attention to detail that made the bigger line so popular.  

The Shogun Warriors brand by Mattel lasted three years total for stateside; not bad for a foreign toy line with little fanfare.  Some contributing factors for the death of the line include high costs, with the large ones costing $13.88-$22 dollars. That doesn’t sound like too much today but back in the 70s, you could buy a house for $500 dollars.  A nice one! That, plus the before-mentioned danger factor led to lower sales & then it was over. But even though the line was ended, it set the bar much higher for future toys to match. On a side note, this is the toy line that can’t seem to end, especially with the availability & affordability of 3D printers, these are some examples of some Shogun Warrior-styled toys that people are making now.  

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

http://geekhardshow.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/robotech1.jpg

In 1985, Matchbox toys premiered the Robotech action figure line, which was comprised of 15 3 ¾ characters, several 8 inch figures, 1 playset & 15 various types of mechs.  

This toy line was reissued by toy company Harmony Gold in 1992 during an anime resurgence.  It was then picked up by Playmates (not the Playboy ones) in 1993, who were also making…

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_xFCcotkVHe8/S5bvpB0fRRI/AAAAAAAAAbc/rRPjZUbtUQU/s320/ExoSquad+Title+Card

Exo-Squad– this cartoon & toy line was seen as an answer to the flood of awesome anime that was hitting the states. Playmates acquired the rights for this & its already existing Robotech line, enough so that they produced both toy lines under the same label, causing many to pray for a crossover, but unlike most prayers this sadly didn’t happen.  No less than 50 different toys plus 3 sets were made from 93 to 96, all in varying degrees ranging from not-so-bad to Hey! Look at That!.  

http://www.parrygamepreserve.com/images/exoSquad/exoSquad_L.jpg
http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/736x/b1/02/d0/b102d0f13e3744c27d80707db3a83b1e.jpg

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

And now, a slightly sore discussion for some but a favorite for others.  Do you love your family, faults & all? Has your mom ever talked about your rash in front of your friends?  Or has your dad ever tried to rap? Embarrassing, sure, but you still love them. That level of embarrassment is felt by most when I mention a show called the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.  

http://ts1.mm.bing.net/th?id=HN.608018686180592399&w=237&h=176&c=7&rs=1&pid=1.7

In 1993, this series began, using 16 plus years of stock footage from Bandai Visual & Toei Company’s Super Sentai franchise.  The Americanized version premiered in August 1993 & kids here lost their minds over the adventures of good looking, perfect teenagers who were given superpowers & access to giant weapons of mass destruction, all to stop malevolent alien invaders who were as goofy as they were evil.  The mechs on this show were called Zords & they ran the gamut of single mechs, 2-in-one mechs, combiner mechs, combiner + another combiner, they just went absolutely nuts on the battle robots on this & the following series.  

It would be hard to argue that there were probably enough mechs on this show for every teenage boy & girl on the planet going by this show’s standards but you had to face facts: there were mechs here to be found, good or bad & this show kept the faith.  Trivia: there were 2 villains, Twinman & Snizzard, voiced by the same actor. Anyone want to guess who voiced them?

I’ll give you a hint…

Bryan Muthaluvin’ Cranston.  

Seriously.  

On a side note, I’ve always thought that was one of the reasons that he helped with the reboot 2017 film.  Except now he’s pulling in that fat Breaking Bad cash instead of that sad paying-your-dues check from the early 90s.   

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Deceptimechs-(or fake authenticity).  And now we’re going to talk about the dirty little secret in toys that people love to make fun of but it was a great equalizer in the world of fun.  Generic toys or knock-offs were all over the place & they were big especially at Woolworths, Woolco, Hecks, Hills, & other dead chains; not that the bigger ones didn’t carry them.  It was just that the more respectable & established stores always featured the major companies lines more prominently in the main aisles while the knockoffs were cheaper so they were just thrown wherever.  Some of these were incredibly sad looking & very much lacking in sculpting, coloring & even the English language, while some were just as good, if not better, as the original line. There were advantages to these toys that the others didn’t have.  

  1. No preset history- these guys weren’t bogged down with any story other than what you thought for them.
  2. Acceptable losses- not a premiere toy so if one had to be dropped off a 15 ft slide, thrown into the kiddie pool, buried in the litter box or painted on, it was this guy.   
  3. Cheap- this allowed you to grow your vast army with little damage to your parent’s wallet.  “Hey, mom! Can I have this $29.99 toy?” What’s the answer to that going to be? But, if you ask for a $7.99 one, the odds are much better of you getting it.  

The best knock-off didn’t concern a mech but a Transformer.  Anyone remember the Transformer-copy that you could buy at RadioShack?  

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_W2kDUOORbWY/Sb2PWP9DlDI/AAAAAAAACWM/k0C5pZI1_8U/s400/P1011065.JPG

Yes, Robot Pistol, or as we called him Shockwave, was the exact same mold & toy; just a different color; grey instead of purple. Anyway here’s to you, generic knock-offs.  You were dirty, abused & wrongly named, but you were ours & we loved you.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Model Kits (or Here’s the very model of a modern major model maker)

While the mech toy line was always appreciated by kids, some of the older fans wanted some more distinguished fare.  Your office wouldn’t look cool with a plastic toy stuck on the filing cabinet. But a sharply put-together A-1 collector grade, airbrushed & weathered model kit would look awesome.  Revell, Bandai, Monogram & Airfix had various mech model-lines that people spent ridiculous amounts of monies on.  Another item of note is that garage kits or unlicensed kits based on mechs actually inspired some toy & model lines, since they could A)- gauge the public’s interest in a character or item & B)- make money off of it, as the person who made the unlicensed product can’t sue because they had made an unlicensed product.  Sometimes your own sword can cut you.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

(Dare you try…the Comic Sutra?) or Comics

Yes, you heard correctly. Comics.  Not manga. While the mecha-revolution was going strong in manga overseas, in the US, it was all meh, with little to show.  Again, showing how the Shogun Warrior line was expecting to go big, Marvel gained the rights to do a comic on the series.  

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_VbON4KTtT8k/TIlI31sPrpI/AAAAAAAACFA/5hx27UgXs0Y/s1600/shogunwarriors.jpg

Focusing on three mechs, Raideen, Combattra & Danguard Ace, their adventures followed fairly regular manga mech-stories.  Big enemy appears, team gets together, fight, lose, then come back & win Rocky-style. Their adventures took place squarely in the Marvel Universe with the Fantastic Four & Iron Man even getting involved, but when doesn’t Reed Richards stick his nose in where it doesn’t belong?  It lasted 20 issues & sadly enough, during the 20th issue where Marvel lost the rights to the franchise, all three Shogun Warriors were destroyed off-panel by a generic bad guy named the Samurai Destroyer.  You deserved better, fellas.  

Marvel at the time also had the rights to Toho’s Godzilla for a 24 issue run going on at the same time, which led many to believe that there would be an awesome crossover…which there wasn’t.  Sigh. Both series were drawn by Herb Trimpe who really captured the Kirby pop-art feel of action.  

http://ts1.mm.bing.net/th?id=HN.608053118935239241&pid=1.7
http://ts2.mm.bing.net/th?id=HN.607997159809287688&pid=1.7

Marvel also had the rights to Micronauts from 79 to 84, well past the cancellation of the actual toy line.  And the talent involved with this book include Michael Golden, Howard Chaykin, Gil Kane, Butch Guice, Kelly Jones & others.  Written almost all by Bill Mantlo, this series was conceived by Bill himself on Christmas of 77, when his son opened some Micronauts toys. He was inspired enough by the way they looked to contact Marvel’s Editor in Chief at the time, Jim Shooter, & pitched it. They received the rights & history was made.  The Micronauts universe also took place in the Marvel universe so there were many guest appearances, with Man Thing (which was one of the coolest covers ever), Dr. Doom, the Fantastic Four &, of course, a mandatory crossover mini-series with the X-Men.  As a side note, Bill Mantlo is the co-creator of Rocket Raccoon. Perhaps you’ve heard of this character lately?

DC comics have never really had a go-to figure for mechs except for Stars & STRIPE but Superman’s Kryptonian battle armor & Lex Luthor’s battle suit should surely count for something.  Eternity Comics had three gems of mecha, with the comic books War of the Worlds, Robotech, & Triple Action, featuring Gigantor in its pages.  The one company that took mecha & ran with it? Dark Horse comics, with the books Ghost in the Shell, Big Guy & Rusty, the boy robot, Hard Boiled, Robocop, Mayhem (a triple story book with a mech story called…wait for it…Mecha, but also featuring the Mask), & others.  

Image Comics had NYC Mecha, that was popular enough for Image to spawn (no joke meant) a sequel.  Valiant comics had tons of mechs in Magnus: Robot Fighter but every time you saw a really cool one, he’d run over & just Karate-chop the bejeezus out of it.  

And, as usual, the British just couldn’t leave well enough alone, so they had the ABC Warriors in the 2000 AD series.  Atomic, Bacterial & Chemical warfare (ABC, get it?), these battle mechs have distinctive personalities programmed into them, but aren’t considered alive.  Still act like jerks, though. 

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Cartoons, sucka!

The ones listed have already been discussed specifically but a special notice should be on a syndicated show called Force Five. Produced by Jim Terry & his company American Way, this was a collected adaption of 5 different anime shows; Getter Robo, Danguard Ace, Gaiking, Grendizer & Spaceketeers which unlike the others wasn’t a mech showcase.  An attempt was made to get Mazinger-Z for this anime/cartoon spotlight but they couldn’t secure the rights, so in stepped Spaceketeers which, to be honest, wasn’t a bad show.  Force Five played Monday to Friday, with a different series every day. Monday was Danguard Ace. Tuesdays was Getter Robo. And so on. Force Five was mostly shown in the northeast; Virginia, Pennsylvania & New England but it did pop up shortly in some places.  I thought it was funny that one of the flagships for syndicated mecha anime was from a company called American Way. In 1981, each series was edited into a 2 hr movie & was shown on Showtime under the banner Shogun Warriors. And you thought Beastmaster & the early seasons of Dexter were the only reasons to like Showtime…

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

In closing, the universe of mechs is only as big as those who are reading & imagining it, but what is really exciting is the transforming of science fiction into science fact, with scientists & mechanics now working on things that we only could read in comics books as kids.  

All are still in the experimental stage but walking vehicles, vehicles that will cover treacherous terrain, have already gotten specific government classifications.  Scientists in Boston have created a standing robot that can withstand multiple impact strikes & return standing. How did the Boston scientists prove this? By getting Hockey sticks & running into the multi-million dollar robot as hard as they could, which, to be honest, is the most Boston thing that they could have done. 

Pretty sure this is how SKYNET got started.  Anyhoo, Mechs have had their own reality competition show a few years back with Syfy’s Robot Combat League.  So think about that.  With drones, advancements in remote controls & the sophistication of programing & artificial intelligence, the far off future is getting a little closer every day.  And with hard work, a steady stream of ideas & a little luck, we’re that much closer to seeing a giant robot tear up New York City.  

http://rookery.s3.amazonaws.com/892500/892737_0645_625x1000.jpg

God willing, we’ll see it in our lifetime.

Cover image credit to 2006Slick on Deviantart.com

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

SHARE
Previous article‘Dauntless’ Adding Pirates and Competitive Monster Hunting Arena
Next articleMarilyn Manson Joins “The Stand” on CBS
Uncle Jason is a big fat loudmouth who’s also known by his alter ego Jason Lane. He’s written for several magazines mostly dealing with horror & exploitation cinema & has hosted panels at several conventions. He’s a huge fan of film, comics, comic art, MMA, wrestling & kaiju to the point where it’s embarrassing. He’s also done commentary for IWA: East Coast Championship Wrestling & if you want to know how good he is at it, he’s sitting at home now, isn’t he? You should always remember two things when dealing with him. 1. He appreciates each & every person who reads his articles 2. No refunds