Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What "Galaxy"? Fantasy vs. Science-Fantasy

[If you are not very familiar with the Galaxy Warriors, then it might be best to start with What are the Galaxy Warriors? before coming back here to discuss their "genre affiliation".]

The most apparent influence for Sungold's Galaxy Warriors is the Masters of the Universe (MOTU) toy-line produced by Mattel. MOTU was the influence for the name "Galaxy Warriors", which is a rephrasing of the MOTU name, and it was also the economic inspiration that made Sungold actually produce an action figure line. Sungold wanted to "cash-in" on MOTU's huge profits by making similar muscular figures with the same scale and look of He-man and other MOTU figures. Sungold hoped that by copying the appearance of MOTU figures, consumers would purchase and use Galaxy Warriors alongside their "real" MOTU figures. However, despite their obvious similarities, Galaxy Warriors differentiates itself from its MOTU "roots" through its design influences and through the fact that Galaxy Warriors creates a fantasy atmosphere that, in its simplicity, is more barbaric and violent than the vastly detailed world of the Masters of the Universe.
      MOTU characters inhabit a world that is a wonderful mix of sword-wielding fantasy and science-fiction elements like lasers, hovercraft, and cyborgs. The MOTU world can be accurately described as a world of science-fantasy, and it should be considered one of the premiere examples of this genre found in all of popular culture. In comparison, the world presented to us by the Galaxy Warriors (GW) toys lacks the technology and science found in the MOTU world, which actually removes GW from the realms of science-fiction and science-fantasy, and places it squarely in the realm of sword and sorcery or "sword-and-sandals."            
For details on this book, see Amazon.

       The sword and sorcery genre was started by Robert E. Howard with his gripping stories of Conan and Kull. Similar to Conan, the Galaxy Warriors are presented as physically foreboding barbarians that fight with axes, swords, and no body armor except for a shield. Conan is also the inspiration for MOTU's great hero, He-Man. 
       In essence, the Galaxy Warriors' name was meant to mimic Masters of the Universe, but the actual design of the figures themselves effectively renders the "Galaxy" portion of the name null-and-void. Thus, the only science-fiction element in the Galaxy Warriors line is the name Galaxy Warriors.
       Maybe the lack of science fiction elements in the GW line was due to budget restrictions, but I believe there is a good chance that Sungold made a conscious decision to not include sci-fi elements. After all, Sungold drew a lot of design inspiration from the fantasy paintings of Frank Frazetta, and none of the paintings we can directly trace back to the GW line include any sci-fi elements. For details about the Frazetta influence please see, The Frazetta Connection
      The budget restriction theory only goes so far when we consider that Sungold sculpted twelve unique and detailed heads and four large beasts for the line. It would have been simple for them to make one head a cyborg or robot. Also, it would have been easy to make one of the accessories a gun, or one of the beasts into a small flying machine or vehicle.
      Producing muscular action figures was definitely a by-product of the success Mattel was having with MOTU. And even though they were creating cheap "knock-off" toys that mimicked the scale and musculature of He-Man, Sungold still managed to place their figures into a primitive sword & sorcery world that is very different than the science-fantasy world of He-Man and MOTU.

Were other "knock-off" lines fantasy or science-fantasy?

1. Galaxy Fighters (Sewco):
The Galaxy Fighters, which drew their inspiration mostly from Galaxy Warriors actually steps into the science-fantasy realm because their line included a vehicle with guns called the Demon Fighter (below).

The Demon Fighter is the only element in the Galaxy Fighters line that can be considered science-fantasy. To read about the strange connections between the Galaxy Warriors and the Galaxy Fighters, go HERE

2. Defenders of the Planets (Sparkle):

The Defenders of the Planets (DoP) was a MOTU knock-off line that mimicked MOTU more closely than Galaxy Warriors did. Produced in 1985, DoP had only 6 figures, most of which were derived from He-Man character types. 

The DoP line has some cool beasts and Canis Major and Weaponsmaster are pretty cool looking figures. This line is mostly fantasy based, but the figure Strongarm, who is a knock-off of MOTU's Trap Jaw, is an obvious cyborg. The inclusion of that one cyborg makes this small line a science-fantasy line. The DoP are rare and hard to find, especially the beasts.

Left to Right: Canis Major, Orion, Strongarm the cyborg, and Weaponsmaster.
3. Fantasy World (Soma):

Produced in 1983, Fantasy World included eight figures and one beast, and all fit purely in the fantasy genre. This line included no guns or machines or cyborgs, and the figures themselves were not the standard hunched muscleman body type used for MOTU, Galaxy Warriors, and the Defenders of the Planets.

Art work from the back of a Fantasy World blister card.

No comments:

Post a Comment