I didn’t get to do the Finally Watched…again…because I was finishing the BW Panelling. I did however watch a biography on Andre The Giant I picked up from HBO during a recent preview weekend. It was quite fascinating but not really worth of a Finally Watched article. So…next week? Hopefully?
During the height of popularity of Transformers and GoBots in the 1980s other companies have sought to cash in. And fast food restaurants are no exception if they offered any kind of kids meal. For example Wendy’s offered their own GoBots, which were later also available by mailaway offer if you collected enough Kool-Aid points. Kool-Aid doesn’t do that anymore. Kids are getting ripped off because parents think their kids are dumb. McDonald’s is no stranger to this either. During the Beast Wars line they partnered with Hasbro to release a set of figures from the regular and Transmetal periods of the Beast Wars toyline as well as Beast Machines and a few other lines since.
Before then, however, McDonald’s released their own transforming toys for their Happy Meals. The more famous one is the robots that turned into the various Happy Meal offerings–shakes, fries, and hamburger transforming robots were actually made. Not as well-known according to what I’ve seen on the internet were the Commandrons, a line of toys with an interesting backstory. They were created by Tomy but only his stores in Canada as far as North America is concerned, under the name Super Alternators. They also got the Happy Meal release but the US got something Canada didn’t: minicomics!
DC Comics/McDonalds (1985)
Oddly there are no credits for the creative team. I guess this is one they didn’t want to be known for. And I couldn’t find any information on the sites I thought to look on. Minicomics aren’t as well documented unless they’re part of a big fanbase like Masters Of The Universe so if anyone knows who worked on these, please let us know. I also don’t know for sure that this is the first issue but I’ll just pretend it is.
Four in all were produced but thus far the only one I’ve found a scan of online is the article I found out about it from, Battlegrip.com. Oddly the comic also included an ad and mailaway offer for another Tomy line, Robo Strux, which was a rebrand of the Zoids. The minicomics were made by DC Comics, who are showing off more often in this series than I expected. Super Powers Collection, MASK, Masters Of The Universe, Atari Force, Commandrons–what mini-comic will the DC logo appear on next? So click that first link in this paragraph and read along as we follow the adventure of four heroic robots and their pre-teen human pilots. Wait, what?
We’re told from the start that our adventure takes place on the planet Havron, so maybe kids on that planet are smarter than ours. Or the multiverse is just strange. If you can let ten-year-olds travel alone to find wild animals to train to playfully box each other with deadly superpowers nothing is unlikely I guess. Right now the Commandrons and their human allies are busy goofing off or something. The robots just seem to be standing there. One human seems to be using a sonic screwdriver on one of them, a second is reading with his Commandron partner reading over his shoulder, one is hanging out in his partner’s cockpit head, and I think the last one is cleaning his. The indicia gives the names of the robots because apparently McDonald’s copyrighted those but the humans we’ll have to wait on outside of the old man scientist (so we know this isn’t Miri’s world) named Doctor Wu. He gives the kids their helmets with amazing built-in radios (even in 1985 I doubt Earth kids were impressed) which also protects their identities from…we don’t know because the alarm sounds. Explaining things isn’t this comic’s strong suit right now, is it?
This is when we get our first good look at everyone. Mike (seriously?) has created a device to listen in for emergency reports. For the record our team consists of (l-r robots) Motron, beats me, Commander Magna (the possible leader has the worst head), and no clue. Okay, I looked them up because I like to be thorough and the other two are Solardyn and Velocitor. Magna is the focus character (similar to Super Powers and Sectaurs) and the only one who transforms in the story. He’s a jet. Velocitor is a drill, Motron is a car, and Solardyn is a flying saucer. I’m guessing drills and flying saucers are popular on Havron. The humans are Mike (of course), Jax, Deb, and Denys, the obligatory black person. So we have three white kids, the token girl, and the token black kid, plus of course the Asian scientist. I remind you this is an alien world that somehow still have a China and Africa counterpart. Heck, make them all blue for all I care or make dark brown the average color for some reason if you really want. But on an alien planet we still have token black kid? And token girl?
The distress call is from an airliner…sorry, Aeroglider, I nearly forgot this is an alien world, right Mike? Their robo-stewards have gone on a rampage because they want to be called robo-attendants (okay, not really) and have smashed the controls. The quartet fly out to save the day because I know I want a robot who turns into a car to be part of stopping my plane from crashing. I’ll just jump ahead and tell you that these guys are basically Havron’s version of International Rescue from Thunderbirds. And we’ll see that more closely at the end.
Because Magna is our focus robot he comes up with a plan for the four Commandrons to guide the ship while Mike, Solardyn’s partner, gets into the plan with his “synthi-wand”, which can drain energy from the emergency hatch and the robo-stewards. How? It’s alien technology. We don’t have to explain it. But it wouldn’t be space International Rescue if they didn’t pile on the problems, would it? A dense fog rolls in, but Magma has a plan to burn it off. Or Jax does, it’s hard to tell from the word balloons since humans and robots have the same balloon and I don’t know who it’s pointing to. When Deb asks what it is she uses both names just to make sure we really can’t tell.
The next panel has Jax answer (with a strange look on his face I’ll spare you until you read the comic) so let’s assume it’s his plan, and that plan is to use his “turbo burners” (or jet thrusters to you Earthlings) to both burn off the fog and create a fire tornado that sends the fog into the air to dissipate. I question the science but maybe science is different on Havron? I’m still trying to remember not to write “Haydron” every time and I’m not sure if my brain is referencing another sci-fi planet or the Hadron Collider but sticking a “y” in there. At least it works, and the crowd cheer. Denys wants to celebrate being a hero but the white kids remind him that they’re space International Rescue and need to keep their identities a secret (despite openly calling him and Deb by their first names in public) because bad people may want to steal their technology to do bad people things. And because they ARE space International Rescue they need their own version of The Hood. And here he is!
Sylvester Slag. Not only does he also get an Earth name but his last name is a naughty word in the UK. Not that anybody in the US knew that in the 1980s mind you. Just ask the Dinobots. The teaser for the next issue (and I don’t know which one this is) teases the “copy bots”. I wonder if they have better fashion sense?
So that’s Commandrons, and boy is it underwhelming. It’s not bad, it’s just…average. It doesn’t introduce all the heroes well. I had to look up the robots’ names on another site and hunt this comic for the humans. Denys isn’t even named until almost the last panel and I had to guess which was him via process of elimination. We knew who Mike was, we’re assuming Deb is the girl, and Jax doesn’t wear glasses (we can’t see their skin color, especially on Mike, whose face we can’t really see). Mike is the only one with anything close to a character and that’s just “junior science geek”. We don’t know where the Commandrons came from or if Wu built them or not. The villain is already lame right out of the box and looks like he’s had a few too many Happy Meals. It’s not bad but it doesn’t really stand up to other comics we’ve reviewed in this series.
When will the Commandrons return to this series? When I find one of the other three issues. This is the only one Battlegrip has and I was lucky to find that. So what will be doing next time? It’s back to Etheria for Princess Of Power. Who will be turned into a butterfly this time and what “crime” will She-Ra accuse her victim of this time? Also, it involved a jewel because past issues have shown us mini-comic She-Ra is the girliest version of Dexter ever. And I don’t mean that kid with the laboratory.