It’s time to return to the McDonalds transforming Happy Meal toys nobody remembers, or rather their DC Comic minicomic pack-ins. For those of you new to the Commandrons, they were a quartet of toys created by Tomy. In the US McDonalds snagged these would-be Transformer rip-offs for their Happy Meals, though elsewhere they were released on store shelves without the minicomics and would also be added to the Canadian “Super Alternators” line. Here’s a more detailed history, which has two commercials they found online. For some reason they involve adults instead of kids. One is just a regular promo….
…and the other more silly. Listen very closely to the background effects, though.
Is it just me or did they use the classic Transformers sound effect for the Commandrons’ transformations!!!! The “communication beam” is another Sunbow sound effect but unless they were purposely trying to scuttle this non competition (or trying to prove to me that Floro Dery was right to ignore the actual toy designs as much as he did) I don’t think they were involved. Also, the “forces of darkness” according to the minicomics is some jerk businessman (back when that could be two separate things in fiction–occasionally) upset that the four rescue worker robots were joining four kids to save people for free rather than make him money. Well it looks like he’s going to try to make his own. Let’s see how that works out for him.
McDonalds/DC Comics (1985)
No credits given because the creators didn’t want to be seen working on a kids promo comic. Too good for it, I guess, but that’s why I do Free Comic Inside, to show that these can be good stories as well, even if it is a cheap pack-in to a toy. Respect your work if not the product. Then again not respecting the product leads to modern “adaptations”, doesn’t it?
The story begins with the spaceship Commandron Solardyn and his kid partner Mike (I had to look that up from a previous review because we don’t see the one kid on Havon with an Earth name) rescuing an astronaut whose line has snapped. (One of the astronauts is named “D’oug”. Close but Mike is still on his own namewise.) With the day saved they head back to base for an important meeting they’re late for.
It’s due to a message by Sylvester Slag, the aforementioned evil rich guy and the only other Earth name on this not-Earth colony planet. He wants to thank the mystery robots (the Commandrons have more secrecy than the Thunderbirds) for stopping his crazed robot in last week’s issue. Yeah, they got a new comic each week. That’s how McDonald’s Happy Meal toys worked, a new toy each week so the kids kept dragging the parents back to get one and hopefully see Ronald McDonald. The Commandrons don’t care about a reward and their creator, Doctor Wu, doesn’t trust Slag, but the Velocitor thinks it could be fun and the kids are kids so they accept his offer to visit his castle. I see this ending badly.
The next day our heroes arrive Castle Slagskull or whatever this mudpile is called. Seriously, look at this thing. You’d think a rich villain would have a cooler looking castle. He’s not even creepy, just a jerk in a suit with delusions of world domination. Doctor Doom is laughing at this guy. They leave their helmets on because the press is there and for some odd reason learning the pilots of robots constantly going into dangerous situations are kids might not go over. I’m guessing this isn’t the Pokémon world.
Not surprising this is all a diversion, Slag trying to convince the Commandrons that humanity would turn on them but he’s their only real friend (there’s some political commentary I could do here)…while sending duplicates controlled by Slag’s assistant Brinsley to attack a space station. Wu manages to warn the Commandrons and they head out to stop their evil twins, because you can’t have a sci-fi series without an evil twin story. They teach you that in Science Fiction Academy. Brinsley tries to send the Copy-bots against their counterparts but Velocitor and Denys (I think…it’s hard to tell who is who because these are so obscure) stayed behind to shut his control down. The kids learn their good works are the only reward they need and Sylvester shows the readers his little box that will be the end of the Commandrons. How? You’ll have to buy another Happy Meal next week to find out.
Given the size of the comic involved this is a pretty good story. Plus we avoid the cliché of the heroes having to prove they were framed by just showing up during the first frame-up to clear their names immediately. Also…didn’t the press see the Commandrons at the castle? Did they suddenly leave long enough ago for them to be fooled by these cheap knockoffs? This is a DC comics, not a Marvel comic. It usually takes mind control for the press at large to turn on the heroes this early. Otherwise it’s a good tale for a minicomic.
We have one more to go but according to my current schedule we’re returning to Etheria to see what our favorite murder-happy girly-girl version of She-Ra has in store next. I predict butterflies of death.