The 5 Best and Worst Comics Blatantly Designed to Sell Toys

By Rob Bricken in Comics, Daily Lists
Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 5:06 am

The 5 Best Toy Tie-In Comics

5) Captain Action
Captain Action was a sad-faced late '60s action figure whose main power was having an extensive wardrobe, which included costumes of better, more powerful heroes like Superman, Spider-Man or Steve Canyon (no Mary Worth, sorry). Comic legends Wally Wood and Gil Kane put out a five-issue series of stories based on the doll but removing the quick-change element. The duo pushed the envelope in terms of artwork and over the top drama as the Captain and his lamentably named son Action Boy, battled against Grandpa, a pre-Mike Meyers Dr. Evil. The last issues of Captain Action’s run read as if everyone involved knew they were being canceled, so let the psychedelic imagery flow.

4) Transformers
In the '70s, Marvel took on the Japanese robot toy line Shogun Warriors as a comic and had mild success; it was only logical they’d be on board for another comic based on another toy line cobbled together from Japanese robots. The Transformers comic started as a four-issue miniseries, but lasted another 76 as fans ate up the heroic Autobots' crusade against the Decepticons. The only drawback of this well-written, incredibly drawn series is the readers have to provide their own transforming sound effect, which requires a lot of phlegm.

3) Rom: Space Knight
Parker Brothers made a cool but somewhat nondescript electronic action figure in 1979, and Marvel Comics was there to fill in the much needed back-story. Rom was a Space Knight from the planet Galador who arrived on Earth to stop an invasion by the shape changing Dire Wraiths. The toy was a flop, lasting only one year, but the comic written by Bill Mantlo was a surprise hit and continued on for the next seven.

2) Micronauts
Bill Mantlo had another success for Marvel (which makes us forget Air Raiders) in the Micronauts, based on the Mego toy line. The original figures were released intentionally without a back-story; Mantlo and artist Mike Golden fashioned the Microverse, a tiny pocket of the Marvel Universe that was under siege by the evil Baron Karza. Space Glider Commander Raan and his ragtag crew worked against the body-part-stealing madman in their ancient space cruiser, the Endeavor.

The Mego toy line fizzled in 1980, but might have survived longer if they had released figures based on this enormously popular comic. The Micronauts have been revived several times since then but none have the magic of the original five-year run.

1) G.I. Joe
When Hasbro brought G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero out in 1982, they did it with a TV advertisement for a comic, which had never been done before. It was a clever way to skirt toy industry advertising regulations, but kids who bought that first issue got treated to a great read. The first G.I. Joe comic is a template that a dozen other toy manufacturers have tried to emulate ever since. Larry Hama crafted a believable set of characters and put them in compelling paramilitary adventures. It made you forgive the laser guns and Cobra-La action of the subsequent cartoon series. The goodness of this comic will be the reason so many fan boys go postal when the movie arrives.

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