Monday, February 21, 2011

VINTAGE VIEW: Micronauts Baron Karza and Andromeda

From Mego's 1977 wave comes the Micronauts' mortal enemy, the despotic Baron Karza and his hell-horse, Andromeda!

Kotetsu Jeeg!
Like most of the Micronauts toys, Baron Karza began life as part of another toy-line, in this case, the Kotetsu Jeeg (''Steel Jeeg'') magnetic toy line. Jeeg was the star of his own TV show in 1975 and appeared in a number of other media, including manga (comicbooks.) 

When Mego were licensing Takara's Microman toys, somebody must have also spotted their Jeeg toy and decided with a little retooling it could be used within the Micronauts line, despite being a 6'' figure. Never ones to pass-up an opportunity (or a good design idea), Mego's redesigned Jeeg and Panzeroid (his faithful robohorse) were unleashed upon the world as the evil Baron Karza and Andromeda.

Baron Karza - Despot, Tyrant and... Toy Manufacturer?
Yes, that's right. Well, sort of...

At the height of Mego's popularity, it was quite common to see other companies producing toys clearly ''inspired'' by their ranges. One such company was Azrak Hamway International, or AHI, who perhaps were one of the most well-known ''followers'' of Mego's trends. Where Mego had their Action Jackson, AHI had the surprisingly-similar ''Adventure Man.'' When Mego released their licensed Planet of the Apes dolls, AHI answered with the ''Action Apemen.''

So when it came to naming the nemesis of the Micronauts, Mego didn't have to look very far for somebody that was constantly a thorn in their side. And thus was born Baron Karza - which is, of course, Azrak spelled backward...

Baron Karza and Andromeda

Constructed with magnetic joints and standing at 6'', Baron Karza was very different to the previously-released Micronauts. Not that it mattered. Although as kids we wouldn't usually mix different-sized figures (unless one was a giant monster), Baron Karza came in a box that said ''Micronauts'' upon it and so he was legit.

Similarly, his sidekick/mount Andromeda was an unusual piece of design that initially seemed a little out of place among the clear plastic, chrome-headed Time Travelers and their vehicles. Andromeda's articulation was quite limited, with the four legs only moving at the body and knee (and even then only in a restricted manner) and a neck/head that could tilt forward or backward. Of the two, Baron Karza was definitely the real star. However, that's not to say Andromeda didn't have its uses, as you'll see below...

Extras and Features
Like all Micronauts toys, Baron Karza and Andromeda were designed to be pulled-apart, rebuilt and combined with other Micronauts toys. Thankfully as well as using magnetic joints (more on that below) they also featured the Micronauts' 5mm port and peg system..

For a child, Baron Karza was one of those must-have toys. OK, so he wasn't very poseable and his parts - although Micronaut-compatible - were a little too specific in their design. But that didn't matter. You see, not only did he look cool, with a styling and combination of black and red that evoked images of everything from Darth Vader to Count Dracula, but he did cool things, too. For starters, his fists were also spring-loaded weapons that could be unleashed at the press of a button. He also had a chest cannon that could launch missiles and his hands could be replaced with spikes that, again, could be fired at the eyes of your friends Micronauts.

Then there was the magnetic joint system.

Both Andromeda and Baron Karza's bodies were built around fairly powerful magnets.  In the Baron's case, each of his limbs used a metal ball-joint, which would snap into the magnetised socket when the two were introduced. (Andromeda's limbs used the 5mm port and peg system, but he(?) did feature two magnetic side-ports into which weapons or Baron Karza's limbs could be popped.)

Not only was this magnetic joint system - dubbed the Magnemo system -  very cool (I think most people find magnetic attraction interesting) and a great joint-system (the magnet is strong enough to hold a posed limb) but it also opened-up a lot of combination possibilities, much more than the simple 5mm ports the toys also used.

The result was that Baron Karza and Andromeda could be combined to produce a terrifying mash-up of man and mount.

But it didn't end there. Baron Karza and Andromeda also came with magnetic ''adaptors,'' magnetic pieces that included a 5mm port at the other end, meaning any Micronaut part could be inserted into the adaptor and then used with the Magnemo joints. As you can see in the above image, Baron Karza's arms have been replaced with rocket launchers and his arms grafted onto Andromeda's flanks.

And of course, Mego's other Magnemo toys - including the Baron's good counterpart, Force Commander and the later releases of the Emperor, Red Falcon and their contemporaries - could all be combined...

And if all that wasn't enough, Baron Karza's packaging included an extra set of hands, two red conical missiles, three chest missiles, two ''adaptors'' and a three-piece backpack. A fully-equipped Andromeda included two ''adaptors'', four wheels, four hub-caps/spikes and four missiles.

My Baron Karza and Andromeda
Sadly the examples from my collection are incomplete: Baron Karza is missing one of his red conical missiles and all of the chest-sized missiles. Andromeda meanwhile is missing his(?) wheels and missiles from the side-mounted weapons pods. And the transfers may be a little worn, but that's only because I played with this toy so much...

But it's a testament to the production standards of Mego that the magnetic joints in both toys are still as powerful as they were when I got the two. The Magnemo-jointed pieces snap into place in a manner that puts to shame more modern magnetic toys like the MagnaMan range and are more than capable of holding the a pose, even after all these years.

Revisions and Re-Releases
Mego (and to a greater extent, Italian distributor GiG) released a number of Magnemo-based figures following the introduction of Baron Karza and Andromeda. 

A slightly recoloured ''Count Magno'' and ''Magna Steed'' were released as part of the Hourtoys/M&D Toys Inter-Changeables line.

When Palisades resurrected the Micronauts line in 2002, Baron Karza and Andromeda were the first figures to get their own Deluxe Set, which featured both toys in a single pack. As well as releasing the ''classic'' red and black colourway, they also added clear red and clear white variants.

UPDATE: Bryan ''Microbry'' Wilkinson informed me that the Palisades Deluxe sets ''don't form the centaur mode properly without modifications and even then not so great.'' He also advised that any potential buyers be aware that the figures suffer from joint-cracking problems.

(It's also worth noting that Wave 2 included a replica of the ultra-rare Red Falcon, which was released predominantly in Italy through GiG. This replica Red Falcon is also used in the above photographs.)

Further Reading
Dave W's Inner Space Online features more photographs and additional details on the Inter-Changeables and Palisades re-issues.

Megolike has a great article on Azrak Hamway International.

Great Minds, Huh?
Toy blog fans may have noticed that Brian at the excellent Yesterville Toy Room has already posted a retro-piece on  Baron Karza. In one of those weird moments of synchronicity, Brian's article appeared the very day I was planning the posting this Vintage View. As I didn't want to appear to be plagiarising his article, I commented on this and he in return asked that I continue with my planned post and expressed an interest in seeing more of Andromeda... So here it is! I hope you enjoyed the photos, Brian!


  1. I got to quit reading your review Iok it makes me want these figures again more and more everyday lol.

  2. If you're picky and shop-smart, it's possible to pick-up these pieces pretty easily. And if not, there are a lot of replica re-issues that are pretty close to the originals, too.

  3. Another awesome post, Iok! He looks incredible combined with Andromeda. I've learned quite a bit in last 24 hours about the Micronauts that I didn't know before... like the Azrak Hamway connection. That's hilarious. I also didn't realize that Mego grabbed the Baron from a different non-Microman toy line. That makes sense. I've always wondered why he was so different in scale. ...and I didn't realize you could pull apart the non-jointed arms and make a 90 degree angle joint in them. I was wondering what use those extra arms had. LOL.

  4. Thanks Brian. I'm assuming you're a regular at Inner Space Online and Microman Forever? Both are excellent sites for fans of the Micro lines.

    I'm not sure what you mean about pulling apart the non-jointed arms. Do you mean the ''adaptor'' pieces that fit into the backpack? I hope I haven't just encouraged you to do damage to your Baron Karza!

  5. Iok where would you recommend me to go to find good deals on Micronaughts/Micromen?

  6. Firstly, identify which series you want. The Collector's Guide to Microman and Micronauts I posted a few weeks ago is a good place to start:

    Depending which you're looking for, I'd say to try Ebay (lot of vintage stuff), Amazon, Small Joes, Toy Tokyo and Big Bad Toy Store (mostly newer stuff). Just compare prices across the board and avoid the ''super rare'' claims of some sellers. Obviously, if you're happy to spend $50 on a figure, that's cool but personally I rarely spend over $20 on a Microman, as that seems to be about the going rate.

    Good luck!

  7. Thanks i plan on at lest picking up a Time Traveler after i get my taxes back. : )

  8. An original or a Palisades repro?

    You can get the originals for around $10-30 on Ebay, but you'll probably be in a bidding war with other would-be buyers.

    The Palisades ones can be found but be warned, the prices on them will be higher than those of the original releases (due to them being MOC and in better condition.) Shop around and you can find some of them cheaper but don't fall for the $60 price tags!

    Don't rule out the M10X Micromen Replicas. Although not identical to the Time Traveler, they're close enough (the feet are the only real difference) and they turn-up at much more reasonable prices than the Palisades toys.

    It's also worth noting that although not identical to the Time Travelers, the Master Force series from 2003-4-ish are very much homages to the earlier figures and their prices are pretty reasonable.

  9. Iok, I'm talking about Karza's "arms" in your first photo of him combined with Andromeda. I didn't realize that the small ball-joint section could be moved to the side of the arm to make a 90 degree angle joint. Anyway, nope, didn't break anything. :)

  10. Oh I see - yeah, I called them ''adapters'' in my post, as they're used to adapt/convert the regular 5mm connecting-pieces to the magnetic sockets.

    Sorry, when I read your comment about pulling the arms apart, I panicked, as I thought I'd implied you could pull his ''regular'' arms into pieces!

  11. Wow, for years I had fond memories of a 'white knight' with magnetic arms my grandparents bought me. To this day, I had never heard of Micronauts, until I just decided to use google to figure out what toy I had. I may have to get this toy 'back'!

    Thanks for the great article!

    1. You're welcome! I found myself in a similar position a few years back when I spent my work lunch hour looking for images of the Micronauts I used to have as a kid, only to stumble upon a much bigger world...


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