Thursday, October 13, 2011

VINTAGE VIEW: Denys Fisher Toys' Android

As a child I had two favourite toy lines: Micronauts and three 8'' tall figures that never actually had a collective name but individually were Cyborg, Muton and Android. It was only many years later I discovered the link between the two which, with the benefit of hindsight (plus an adult brain) is quite clear.

But for those unfamiliar with these toys, here's a closer look at the Denys Fisher Toys figure, Android.

Where It All Began: Henshin Cyborg
Japanese toy manufacturer Takara had been producing a licensed version of the 12'' GI Joe figure for their home market under the guise of Combat Joe for some time before one of their designers struck upon the idea of producing a figure using clear plastic with visible, mechanical innards. Thus Henshin Cyborg was born.

Although a hit with kids, the 12'' figure was prohibitively expensive to produce, so a ''junior'' version of Henshin Cyborg was created in the form of his teenage sidekick, Shonen Cyborg. Again, Shonen Cyborg proved to be a popular figure but Takara felt they could go further and so introduced a third generation of Henshin Cyborg-toys in the form of Microman, a line of toys released in the West as The Micronauts.

But before that, one UK-based toy company would beat Mego to the punch...

Denys Fisher Toys
Denys Fisher Toys was a company set-up by their namesake and creator of the mechanical doodling toy, The Spirograph. Although predominantly a developer of board games, Denys Fisher Toys was also fairly savvy when it came to the development of action figures - or rather, the licensing and re-branding of other toys. Not only did Denys Fisher license Kenner's Six Million Dollar Man line to the UK but they also preempted Mego's Microman/Micronauts re-branding deal by introducing us to a line of 8'' sci-fi action figures licensed from the East.

Based upon the aforementioned Shonen Cyborg and his nemesis, King Walder Jr dolls, Cyborg was the heroic man-machine who defended the Earth from the threat of the evil shape-shifting alien, Muton. Although the interchangeable arms/accessories gimmick of the original line was picked-up for the UK release, the transforming/costume-donning aspect of Shonen Cyborg was left solely to Muton, who could - thanks to the Each Sold Separately costume packs - shift into a variety of subforms (as seen above.)

Enter... Android
Originally a two-horse race, things became tougher for our cybernetic hero when Denys Fisher introduced a new bad guy in the form of Android.

Based upon Takara's Android A character Android was - unlike his Japanese counterpart - introduced as a bad guy. Presumably Denys Fisher Toys felt having two good guys versus a single bad guy simply wasn't good sport...

Android was a more sleeker, cooler-looking figure than Cyborg. Not only did he sport a very sexy black/smoke colourway but he also had a pop-open chest panel that featured a working missile launcher. Add to this the new articulation rig, which did away with the rubber bands system in favour of rotating joints, and you'll see why Android was such a hit. At least in my house.

It's also interesting to note how closely he resembles the Takara T40X Type Titans and Microman M10X Type, the latter of which Mego released as the Micronauts Time Traveler.

Like Cyborg, Android had a number of additional accessories that could be combined with the base figure to provide new offensive capabilities. In these images, my Android (and yes, this is the same figure I owned as a child) is shown with one of his Annihilator weapons in place of his right arm (which is sadly missing all the pieces required to complete it.) The Annihilator packs also included spare heads and one set even included replacement (and very shiny) robot legs. (You can see a gallery of the Annihilator accessory packs at Plaid Stallions.)

For a kid obsessed with sci-fi and action figures, Android was a very cool toy indeed.

The Missing Link
Although released in the UK as a separate range, Cyborg, Muton and Android still have their own special place in Micronaut history but they're a toy line that's often forgotten about or overlooked by collectors. It's understandable given that for many they're simply part of the Henshin Cyborg line but for UK collectors of a certain age, they're their own line of figures with their own unique background and story.

Sadly, given their limited market and their interchangeable parts gimmick, it's rare to find figures from the line in their complete form and, should you be fortunate enough to do so, you'll find their prices can be prohibitively high. Which is a shame, as they're a lot of fun to own. 

Here's hoping that if we ever get to see the much-delayed Micronauts movie and it's a hit, somebody somewhere will start looking back through Hasbro's catalogue of properties they've acquired over the years and come across this obscure, but very cool, toy line... Until that happens, here's a few shots of my Android in action.

Image Gallery

Further Reading
Plaid Stallions has a great write-up featuring each figure's box art and biographies, along with galleries of their accessories and more.

Microman Forever has some information and images of Cyborg's ''big brother,'' Henshin Cyborg.

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