Shogun Warriors (toys)
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The Shogun Warriors were the central characters of a line of toys licensed by Mattel Inc. during the late 1970s that consisted of a series of imported Japanese robots based on anime and tokusatsu shows featuring giant robots. Originally manufactured in three sizes: the 24-inch (610 mm) plastic versions, the 3.5-inch (89 mm) die-cast metal versions, and the slightly taller but much more detailed 5-inch (127 mm) die-cast versions. Several vehicles were also offered, as well as a set that could be put together to form the super robot Combattra. Toward the end of production, Mattel proposed the inclusion of some original plastic vehicles exclusive to the U.S. for the 3.5" figures to ride in, however, these toys were not released for purchase.
These toys featured spring-loaded launcher weapons such as missiles, shuriken and battle axes. Some were able to launch their fists while the later die-cast versions also had the ability to transform into different shapes. Raydeen, for example, could become a birdlike spaceship. These "convertible" editions were the precursors to the Transformers line of toy robots, but unlike the later products, it was not unusual for minor disassembling to be required to achieve the secondary form. There was even a robot named Megatron in issue #18 of the comic, a name subsequently used multiple times for the leader of the evil Decepticons from Transformers. The second form of the toy was not always functional, one example being Gaiking's "giant skull," which was the head for Daiku Maryu, a space dragon toy not released in the U.S.
Several of the anime-based toys from this line were seen in the 1980s as part of Jim Terry's Force Five series. A single movie version was edited from each series and sold on Home Video. These features aired on the cable network Showtime in 1981 under the name "Shogun Warriors".
The Shogun Warriors name was revived by Toynami in 2010 as an all-new toy line.
Giant robot characters that featured in the original toy line were:
- 17 Robot
- Daimos (Called "Dynamo" in the US version of the anime entitled 'Starbirds'.)
- Dangard Ace
- Grendizer (Also called Grandizer.)
- Great Mazinger (Called "Great Mazinga" or simply "Mazinga" on some of the packaging.)
- Raiden (Called "Arrow" in the Force Five TV series.)
- Voltes V
- Raider (Sold only as a plastic model kit.)
In addition, two giant movie monsters from Toho were added to the line:
Like certain other toy lines of the 1970s, the Shogun Warriors came under pressure over safety concerns regarding their spring-loaded weapons. It was feared that children might launch the weapons and hit other children or pets in the eye. There was also a risk that children might swallow the small plastic missiles and other parts. Toy manufacturers then faced new regulations due to reported injuries received as a result of playing with these toys. Consequently, many toy companies were forced to remodel existing toy lines with child-safe variations such as spring-loaded "action" missiles that would remain attached to the toy. For this reason, as well as declining sales, the Shogun Warrior line had disappeared by 1980.
Shogun Warriors were licensed by Marvel Comics for a comic book series written by Doug Moench and drawn by Herb Trimpe. It had 20 issues published from February 1979 to September 1980. In the comic book, the Shogun Warriors were created by a mysterious group called the Followers of the Light. Human operators were chosen from all around the world to operate the massive robots in order to battle evil.
Marvel only licensed three Shogun Warriors for the comic book series:
- Raydeen, piloted by Richard Carson, an American stuntman.
- Combatra, piloted by Genji Odashu, a Japanese test pilot.
- Dangard Ace, piloted by Ilongo Savage, an oceanographer from Madagascar.
The series was firmly rooted in the Marvel Universe, as evidenced by their interactions with the Fantastic Four in the last two issues. Issue #15 (April 1980) was a fill-in written by Steven Grant with art by Mike Vosburg. The series took a dramatic turn with issue #16 (May 1980), as the Shogun Warriors' mentors were destroyed by the Primal One and his followers. This alien force decided that Earth's technology had outpaced its morality, and so it was their duty to destroy the Shogun Warriors as well as other powerful humans, including Reed Richards and Tony Stark. Declining sales as well as Moench's commitment to writing the Moon Knight series led Marvel to cancel the Shogun Warriors title. After Marvel lost the rights to the characters, they had a giant robot named The Samurai Destroyer destroy the three robots offscreen before encountering the Fantastic Four and robot pilots Richard, Genji, and Ilongo.
Between February 1979 and July 1979, Marvel had the comic book rights to both Godzilla and the Shogun Warriors. While the characters never crossed paths in their respective comics, artist Herb Trimpe (who did the artwork for both of the series) drew a variation of Godzilla and Rodan alongside Daimos, Great Mazinger, Raydeen, and Gaiking on the top page of a comic book ad soliciting the Shogun Warrior toys. Mattel, which had the license to the Shogun Warriors, also had the licence to produce toys based on Godzilla and Rodan at this time. Though he never appeared in the comic series, Red Ronin, a robot created for Marvel's Godzilla comic book series, was mentioned occasionally and was frequently written about in the letters pages.
In 2010, Toynami revived the Shogun Warriors name with a new toy line, consisting of 24-inch (610 mm) Jumbo Machinder toys. The first two robots in this line are GoLion and Dairugger XV, both of which were adapted in the Western world as Voltron.
- Cassell, Dewey; Sultan, Aaron (2015). "Spotlight on Shogun Warriors". The Incredible Herb Trimpe. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing. p. 117. ISBN 978-1605490625.
- Moench, Doug (w), Trimpe, Herb (p), Esposito, Mike (i). "The Chaos Wars" Shogun Warriors 18 (July 1980)
- "Varitank". Collectiondx.com. August 14, 2013. Archived from the original on July 8, 2014.
- Sanderson, Peter; Gilbert, Laura, ed. (2008). "1970s". Marvel Chronicle A Year by Year History. London, United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 188. ISBN 978-0756641238.
Writer Doug Moench and artist Herb Trimpe created Shogun Warriors, a Marvel comics series based on a line of Japanese toys imported by Mattel.
- Shogun Warriors at the Grand Comics Database
- Smith, Andy (May 2014). "Shogun Warriors The Sky-High Rise and Abrupt Fall of Three Giant Robots in Comics". Back Issue!. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing (72): 56–57.
Even maintaining the same spelling of the robots' names between the toys and the comics didn't seem to be a top priority. Fans will find multiple versions of the word 'Combatra', sometimes as 'Combattra' and 'Raydeen', at times as 'Raideen', adorning the boxes of some of the figures.
- Moench, Doug (w), Trimpe, Herb (p). "Death of Innocence" Shogun Warriors 16 (May 1980)
- Smith, p. 60: "The letters section of issue #20 gave fans a practical reason for the ending of the series, attributing it to 'the precarious economics of profit and loss.' The note also added another contributing factor to the end of Shogun Warriors - the company wanted to make way for Moon Knight, Moench's new project with artist Bill Sienkiewicz."
- Moench, Doug (w), Sienkiewicz, Bill (p), Marcos, Pablo; Patterson, Bruce (i). "The Samurai Destroyer" Fantastic Four 226 (January 1981)
- "Shogun Warriors". TinyPic.
- "Mattel No. 2440 Godzilla!". WildToys.com. Archived from the original on March 22, 2012.
- "Rodan!". WildToys.com. Archived from the original on March 22, 2012.
- "NYTF 2010: Toynami". Collectiondx.com. February 17, 2010. Archived from the original on June 15, 2012.