Sunday, 26 March 2017

Comics: Machine Men Mini-Comics

In Australia the Machine Robo line was imported as Machine Men, distributed by Bandai Australia. Like the European version and unlike the American Machine Men line the toys sold well enough that Bandai opted to keep the original branding, even after Gobots took off. Indeed, uniquely the cartoon was even retitled Challenge of the Machine Men to fit in with the toys. To help promote the figures, Bandai Australia did provide catalogues that included short comic strips.

Four of these were made, as Jordan Morris tells me. The first was printed in black on yellow paper (and presumably called "Space Wars"), while the following three were all in colour. Thanks to Jordan and Matt Roberts for the scans of the second issue and to Jhiaxus for scans of the last two issues. All of these are basically glorified toy adverts but have some interest.


The second starts with the evil Super Gobots (which include Staks; not sure if that's an error or if he came out as a bad guy in Australia) escaping from a prison on Robotron with the aid of Zod and heading towards Earth where the Friendly Machine Men (these seem to be faction names as per the early days of the American and European names). The first presumably saw their imprisonment maybe. An interesting quirk is the distinct gold tinge given to Baron Von Joy, such a variant being on offer as a promotional figure at the time.


The third follows the same format, a brief fight scene with heavy name-dropping; I'm not sure if this is meant to follow on directly from the second issue or not and I'm not entirely sure if it matters. Here the surprising focus is on Rest-Q rather than the deadly blow apparently dealt to Leader One by Cy-Kill in the first frame as the Friendly Robot medic resists the urge to smash Fitor in half long enough to save a mother and child from the Enemy jet and Tux. Most interesting is the last-page appearance of the Battle Base (actually released as an Enemy Robot playset in Australia because the country was jammy), with Helicopter Wincher (another bad guy) and Winch Truck (a good guy) making their first ever fictional appearances. Richard Rae provides the fun cartoony art; his resume also includes trying to organaise a huge comic convention in Australia during the eighties before adjusting his sights and becoming a minor hate figure in the world of original comic art sale for a variety of wheezes ranging from selling misleading pieces to mail fraud. Allegedly.


The final one of these mini-comics, again at least drawn by Rae and probably written by him as well is a free-for-all following directly on from the last, though there's still time for Helicopter Wincher to change his colour scheme (the figure was initially blue in Japan so it's possible this version or both came out in Australia), Cy-Kill to jump up and down on Leader One like something out of Asterix the Gaul (presumably the inspiration for E J Su bringing such hilarious fight dynamics to Escalation), Spy-Eye to make his one and only fictional appearance, an Aussie general the size of Throttle to announce he'll help the Friendly Machine Men by nuking everywhere, Ace to change sides and help blow up Hans-Cuff and Turbo, the nuke to wake up both factions of Rock Lords and the Narlies to turn up in a last frame teaser every bit the equal of that seen in Miracleman #24. It's actually really good fun with some hilarious dialogue.

Sadly that was all she wrote for the comic adventures of the amazing Machine Men. Maybe one day the authorities will track Rae down and force him to write a conclusion as part of a plea bargain; we can only hope.

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