Baron Karza

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The Micronauts vol. 1 #1 © 1979 Marvel Comics. COVER ART BY DAVE COCKRUM AND AL MILGROM.

Baron Karza

(pop culture)
“Bring on the deathtank! Let the games begin!” This heinous command was barked by the insidious autocrat Baron Karza in Marvel Comics' Micronauts vol. 1 #1 (1979), based upon a popular Mego toy line (originating in 1976 as “Micromen” from Japanese manufacturer Takara) of interchangeable, miniature warriors that dominated toy shelves from 1976 through 1980. Mego's Micronauts figures generated over $300 million in sales during its run, making it second only to Kenner's Star Wars line during the late 1970s. Baron Karza, the toy, was unmistakably evil, molded in black “armor” with red highlights and outfitted with (rubber-tipped) chest missiles and firing fists. Some fans familiar with Karza only through the Marvel comic have assumed that his resemblance to Darth Vader was an attempt to cash in on the Star Wars phenomenon, but Karza predated Vader, and reportedly was inspired by a character in the Japanese anime Kotetsu jeeg (1975–1976). The Baron's name was coined as the result of an in-joke at Mego, “Karza” being the surname of an employee, Azrak, spelled backwards. In Marvel's Micronauts, writer Bill Mantlo and artist Michael Golden built upon the encapsulated backstory provided on toy packaging and made Karza utterly diabolical. Originally a human scientist, power-hungry Karza melded with his armor via sorcery and technology, allowing him to transform at will into a centaur (achieved in the toy world by interlocking Karza's torso with the equestrian body of the Andromeda figure). Karza proffered immortality to the people of Homeworld, existing within the subatomic Microverse, in exchange for their subservience—with “an otherwise inevitable death” being the price for their refusal. Aided by the loyal soldier Prince Shaitan and attack robots, Baron Karza ruled Homeworld with an iron fist and performed acts of “perverted science” in his Body Banks, challenged only by the Micronauts' Royal Family led by Commander Arcturus Rann. This premise compelled Marvel's series for 59 issues (1979–1984) and a 20-issue second volume (1984–1986), and was successful enough to warrant a 4-issue crossover miniseries, X-Men and the Micronauts (1984), in which Baron Karza was forced to ally with his Micronaut nemeses to fight a common foe, the Entity. Baron Karza and the Micronauts have found new life in the 2000s, stimulated by adult visionaries who grew up on the Mego toys of the 1970s. Palisades Toys reissued the Micronauts in 2002, and both Image Comics and Devil's Due Publishing released new Micronauts comic books, including Image's four-issue Micronauts: Karza (2003), starring the villain. Emmett/Furla Films announced in 2004 their development of a Micronauts feature film, and in July 2005 Eagle One Media repackaged artwork from the Devil's Due comics series as Micronauts: Revolution, a DVD digital comic.
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