Before the marketing geniuses at Kenner got hold of the Star Wars franchise and issued action figures for all characters, major and minor, there was a time when toys weren't spin-offs. Okay, I'll admit that's a lie. Since time immemorial there always have been spin-off toys. Whether you were talking about Buck Rogers or Roy Rogers somebody somewhere was making cheap knockoff guns, space ships, and the equivalent of action figures for the prepubescent consumer. In 1976 the toy-de-jour took the form of Micronauts.
Micronauts was the American name for the metal and plastic miniature action figures produced by the Japanese company, Takara. They were space men, or cyborgs, or time travelers, or I'm really not sure what. To be honest, their back story never was clear to me. I just knew that they were cool and I wanted them all. What did I like about them? Well, they were heavy. Yeah, that is a weird reason, but I was nine. If you look at the picture to the left, everything that's silver is made of metal. The plastic bodies were of a fairly heavy gauge too, making each tiny figure hefty and remarkably durable for a children's toy. My brother and I used to set them up on our dresser, creating a kind of shooting gallery. We'd use rubber bands to pick the little guys off, something my parents who paid for our targets never really appreciated. But, that's the purpose of being a child, isn't it? Gradually edging your parents toward the precipice of insanity and then giving them that last shove?
Looking back, I realize the reason for their frustration. Due to their construction techniques and the fact they were imports from Japan, Micronauts were expensive, and my father was paying for them out of a less than ample salary. The cost (and the fact we used them for target practice) meant that my brother and I never had more than two or three Micronauts compared to the hundreds of Star Wars figures that littered the width and breadth of our childhood. Now, forty years later, I find myself longing for the days of these little guys. They're a bridge back to another time and Christmas mornings gone by.