'The Secret Force: Mystery Robots with Secret Compartments'
Robots disguised as geometric shapes sounds lame and yet, they're strangely, dare I say, mysterious.
At least, as a kid in 1984 their doesn't change into yet another car or jet designs were intriguing. That and these were robots, straight out of classic science fiction and not vaguely humanoid people that look roboty.
Mysterians had an interesting and convoluted beginning and this version you're reading has the benefit of some insider information. 'Mysterians' is the name of a failed to launch product line by now Hasbro owned Knickerbocker Toy Company. Had it launched, the West would have received its first glimpse of what we know now as Transformers G1 Brawn, Gears, Huffer and Windcharger; named Jeepar, Blazar, Truckar and Speedar respectively. They were to be know as the, 'Mobile Force'. Knickerbocker were in talks with first DC then Marvel Comics to create a supporting comic book but the company's acquisition by Hasbro in 1983 scuttled release. This also means it's possible the 'M' sculpted into Brawn, Gears and Huffer* stands for Mysterians. Along with the four vehicles were six, seemingly unrelated geometric shape robots, some would argue owe some design heritage to the Bandai Lightan line. They were to be called the 'Hidden Force' and split into two warring factions. The Golden Guardians comprised of Goldar the Golden Commander, Seekar the Scout and Tinkar the Mechanic while The Evil Warbots consisted of Vengor the Warbot Commander, Blastor the Bomber and Destructor the Tank.
* see the excellent article on Transformers Wiki about the Mysterians
The-Liberator specific details - in 2016 I was fortunate to acquire three Mysterians prototypes from and talk with a person of importance (name and position withheld) who worked for Kidco between 1982 and '83. Kidco was the United States arm of the Hong Kong based company Universal Toys tasked with developing products aimed at the American market. Universal Toys supplied Kidco with the prototypes for what we now know as the Marchon Mysterians - The Secret Force. Each has obvious difference of not yet including the corrugated sculpting to the outer shells, different colours along with other minor variations. Interestingly, the prototype for Enforcer is gold and this is the figure that Knickerbocker had planned to call Goldar the Golden Commander.
Kidco parted ways with Universal Toys on negative terms, was subsequently closed down and merged with Matchbox. A number of ex-Kidco employees struck out on their own and most relevant was Marvin Smoller who founded Marchon Inc. How both Kidco and Knickerbocker received the same sample products to develop at the same time is still a mystery. It was certainly not unheard of for a Chinese toy developing company to peddle their designs to more than one rep hoping to have it accepted. Language barriers and less instantaneous communication methods may have played a part.
Observations and Speculation The Bandai Lightan series correlation (Mysterian Major Repair for example is clearly based on Mechanic Lightan) isn't surprising as the Japanese Lightan cartoon series was very popular in Hong Kong at the time. Another interesting, possibly coincidental observation is that the unrelated 1957 Japanese live acted Toho alien monster movie, also called The Mysterians features a giant robotic monster called Moguera that's covered in not dissimilar, corrugated, boxy outer body panels.
Banned in Australia! I wanted these things so bad as a kid after seeing them in Kmart. Not long after, completely by chance I saw on the front page of the daily newspaper that there was an outcry and they'd been banned. To set the scene, this was towards the end of the Cold War when most people were living under the 'is this it? are they really going to drop the bombs?' impending doom cloud. The rear of the Mysterians Bomber's card mentions twice that the character is armed with nuclear bombs and I'm guessing a pressure group thought it was a little on the nose. This saw them removed from shelves and I definitely haven't held a grudge ever since.