Back in the late 1970s the best toy line in the world was Mattel's SHOGUN WARRIORS. These were amazing Japanese robot toys imported for America's children, who knew nothing of Great Mazinger or Gaiking or even of Danguard Ace, and yet they knew instinctively that giant warrior robots were the entertainment motif of the future. Especially the ones with spring-loaded fists. Quick to hop on the toy licencing bandwagon, Marvel Comics immediately secured the comic book rights and amassed a vast library of reference material in order to ensure their comic was true to the original source material.
Just kidding. Actually they got some robot toys and told artist Herb "Hulk" Trimpe to go wild! The robots themselves are faithful-looking, but everything else is pure Trimpe. Since he's great at Kirby-esque machinery and monsters, this is actually a good thing.
Here we have our crack team of ethnically diverse robot pilot heroes, kidnaped by a secret science research facility that needs them to use the super robots to battle, say it with me, monsters from the depths of the Earth, who came originally from space. Which is a plot point near and dear to most all of the Toei robot cartoons from the '70s. Too bad our heroes seem to have been worked over with a belt sander or something. I'm almost positive they used to have noses.
They're thrown into goofy uniforms, given Akira's helmet from the RAIDEEN TV show, and find themselves in "Raydeen" battling a magma monster. And talking, talking, talking. I think writers at Marvel get paid by the word.
Just when you think things can't get any better, they roll out two more super robots! Too bad the issue is over. Also too bad is the fact that Mattel never released the giant two-foot versions of Combattler V ("Combatra") and Danguard Ace. America's kids had to make do with a dinky yet diecast Danguard, and it would be the 1980s before we got the Godaikin Combattler V! On the other hand, the really cool-looking robots from Mattel's giant Shogun Warrior line were all Go Nagai creations like Getta Dragon and Great Mazinger, and it's a good bet he wasn't letting anybody else make Mazinger comics.
In case you're wondering what actual Japanese super robot comics look like, here's a bit of COMBATTLER V manga:
Next week: DC enters the toy robot licensed comic race - as usual, years later!
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