Idle Time is celebrating fifteen years and, to honor this crystal anniversary, we’re gifting our readers with some pop culture sparkle!
Years before Chris Claremont and Jim Lee set sales records with the X-Men franchise, and decades before Marvel Studios turned The Avengers into a household name, Marvel Comics was filling the 7-11 spinracks with four-color fun based on licensed action figure properties. The two most famous of those toy lines, G.I. Joe and Transformers, have continued to enjoy multimedia success, including comic book adventures with their new publisher IDW. Three other cult classic toy lines, Rom and The Micronauts, each with its own popular Marvel series tie-ins during the 80’s, as well as MASK, which had a short-lived life as a DC comic, have also recently joined IDW’s comicverse.
Some comic series, like Rom, ended up being more popular than the toy line they were designed to support. Other series, like Sectaurs and Shogun Warriors, died off quickly, right along with their die-cast and resin-molded counterparts. And then there was The Saga of Crystar: Crystal Warrior.
Instead of being produced to help market an existing property, Marvel’s creative council of Jim Shooter, Ralph Macchio, and Mark Gruenwald developed Crystar with the intention of then licensing the character and concept to a toy company. In Shooter’s own words, from the book’s introduction: “the friendly people at Azrak-Hamway, a.k.a. Remco Toys, might be interested in producing a toy line based upon our fantasy creation…” And the friendly people did just that. Before the first issue of Mary Jo Duffy and Bret Blevins’s series even hit newsstands, Remco was rolling out production on a slate of wizards, warriors, and snazzy prismatic dragons.
That oversized first issue – a “Feature Length Fantasy in the Marvel Manner” – introduces us to the the world of Crystallium, and the sibling princes Moltar and Crystar, preparing to jointly rule the realm in the wake of their father’s recent death. But when Moltar quickly makes with back-to-back blunders, first killing their dwarfish uncle Feldspar, and then doing the same to his brother, all hell breaks loose.
The good wizard Ogeode (that’s “Oh-gee-oh-dee,” as you know, after watching the YouTube clip) uses his fading power to resurrect Prince Crystar, along with some of his compatriots, including the crossbow-wielding Warbow. They return as crystalline warriors, “as mighty as the rock this city of Galax is built upon!” And it’s not a moment too soon, either, because Ogeode’s evil counterpart, Zardeth, had already convinced Moltar and his minions to embrace the Hand of Chaos and be likewise transformed, into melty magma monsters imbued with underworld anarchy.
Joining Moltar is the traitorous Lavour, the former betrothed of Crystar. She switches sides immediately after the blond-haired prince’s death, and hitches her wagon to Moltar’s magma dragon. The inevitable showdown gets ramped up with a spectacular splash page that made at least one little kid drop everything and beg his grandfather to take him to Toys R Us. Moltar’s exclamation in this scene, “Men of crystal riding wondrous beasts!” is ready-made for packaging. In fact, I think it was inscribed right there on the side of the playset I never got.
The series only lasted eleven issues, despite sales-boosting efforts by B-list guest stars like Doctor Strange and Nightcrawler, and the toy line died within that same year. But, being as this was a Marvel property licensed to a toy company, and not the other way around, Marvel was able to bring these characters back and re-introduce them to the Marvel universe.
More than twenty years after the final issue of Crystar, Jason Aaron and Mike Del Mundo, wizards in their own right, brought Weirdworld to life. Weirdworld, named after a late 70’s Marvel fantasy comic, was one of the “battlezones” occupying the Secret Wars patchwork planet that would later give rise to the All New All Different Marvel Universe. And it figured to be a perfect home for lost toys, as it were.
Jason Aaron dropped the first hint in an interview with Comic Book Resources in 2015: “The solicits mention the phrase ‘Crystal Warriors,’ so that ought to give you a tease if you’re about my age and you remember some obscure Marvel comics from the ’80s.” Sure enough, at the center of Arkon’s quest for Polemachus and the struggle against the wicked forces of Morgan le Fay, is faithful one-eyed Warbow. He’s doing some questing of his own.
But that’s more than just a bag of rocks that Warbow is shimmering over (the one in his hands, that is), and before long Crystar, Moltar, and all of the native inhabitants of Jim Shooter’s proud fantasy creation are reborn for a new era of comic book continuity.
An ongoing Weirdworld series by Sam Humphries and Del Mundo debuted to start the All New All Different era (and, in fact, it ranked just outside our top ten among all the ANAD books) but, alas, it only lasted six issues, canceled at the conclusion of its first arc. Clearly it could have used more Crystar.
But the warriors of Crystallium are now a bonafide, interactive part of the Marvel universe, and in an era in which that company’s characters and concepts are more popular than ever, that means something. Just recently, as the Squadron Supreme are dicking around in Weirdworld, they run into Crystar and his pals, who have been mind-controlled by Doctor Druid of all people. This B-list bonanza culminates with the new Doctor Spectrum blasting Ogeode’s subverted Prisma-Crystal and restoring what passes for normalcy in this batshit corner of the Marvel U.
We’re entering a bit of a nostalgic action figure tie-in renaissance, both in the comic book shop and in the movie theater. IDW’s aforementioned titles are doing well, and DC’s license for Masters of the Universe has endured far longer than I would have expected. At the box office, the Transformers franchise has raked in billions worldwide, and the two G.I. Joe movies have totaled almost a billion dollars themselves. And now that Paramount has established a stellar writers room for the development of a “Hasbro Cinematic Universe” that will include ROM and The Micronauts, among others, movies based on toys are about to kick the crap out of movies based on DC superheroes. Seriously.
But despite all the excitement generated by Hollywood trailers and subscription variant covers, there will always be a soft spot in my heart for goofy comics based on even goofier toys. And, of course, the other way around. Long live Crystar.
To celebrate both the return of Crystar AND Idle Time’s 15th Anniversary, we’re running an Amazon Giveaway for Aaron and Del Mundo’s Weirdworld Vol. 0: Warzones! Two lucky Twitter followers will win a copy of this gorgeous trade paperback. See the Tweet below for details, and enter for a chance to win!
— InstituteOfIdleTime (@IdleInstitute) August 14, 2016
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Ends the earlier of 8/21/16 11:59PM PDT, or when all prizes are claimed. See Official Rules. The official rules for Amazon Giveaway can be found here.