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Action Figure Comics Review: Battle Beasts

Welcome to the 3rd installment of the Action Figure Comic Review, where we explore comic book adaptations of 80’s toy lines. If you haven’t already read Part 1 featuring Visionaries or Part 2 focusing on Sectaurs, go back and read them for a time travel experience through illustrated adventure. Now onto this week’s subject, Battle Beasts.

You may recall the Battle Beasts from Hasbro as that “tiny action figure line with all those robot animals”. Smaller than He-Man, but larger than M.U.S.C.L.E.S. these cyborg critters were a real treat for 3rd grade boys nationwide in 1987. They had just enough articulation to stage violent action on our bedroom floors, while maintaining wide legged, tough guy stances when we set them on the breakfast table to scarf down bowls of Golden Grahams.

There was no official solo cartoon series for Battle Beasts, but they did appear on later seasons of the Japanese Transformers cartoon Headmasters, which is the universe these creatures actually belong to. Pretty, crazy, huh? They were originally called BeastFormers and why Hasbro decided to keep them separate from their hugely popular line of sentient transforming vehicles, I do not know. So while there was no cartoon on Saturday Mornings, there was an American comic book.

You know how they say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover?”, well take that to heart with Battle Beasts #1 and the colorful images on display here. Put out into the marketplace by the little known Blackthorne Publishing, this comic is a black and white low budget affair. The simple drawings and large panels really make it look like a coloring book that someone wrote a few lines of dialogue into. That being said, it’s probably got the most charisma of any comic reviewed in this series so far.

It opens with a sprawling 2 page splash of action featuring nearly 20 of the titular beasts in epic combat and then we quickly jump to a flashback explaining how the battle erupted. We meet 3 of the warriors who are on their way to be flag bearers for a ceremony at a nearby temple that keeps the peace on their planet. Gorilla is a noble citizen, Owl is an excitable wisecracker and Toad is the most eloquent of the three.

Lurking in the shadows is Chameleon, who has devious plans to interrupt the ceremony and get the power for himself. He has convinced Rhino, Bat and Cuttlefish (how can you be evil with a name like that?) to creep along with him and they follow the heroic characters to the gates of the temple.

As you may recall, each of the toys had a heat sensitive decal on the front of their armor that revealed their Earth element allegiance to Fire, Water or Wood. Personally, I always thought they should have made the 3rd choice Wind or Air, because wood is not an element. In the comic, these symbols are what is keeping the universe in balance and as the elected elemental representatives our trio of heroes begin their duty of pledging their allegiance to peace before the The Soul Spirit.

Just as they are about to complete transfer of power to their weapons , the evil beasts attack and the scuffle throws the elemental powers out of balance causing the natural violent tendencies of all the animals to erupt across the planet.

The Soul Spirit scolds them for fighting and the heroes plead for a chance to set things right. They are imbued with power and told they must find "The Star Burst Warrior" who can bring peace back to the land. The trio shouts their excitement at completing this mission with weapons raised high in the final panel and we’re left wondering what the next issue will bring.

While the story of mystic powers imbued to warriors of a semi-medieval land appears to be the common thread between all these series, I think Battle Beasts has a leg up based solely on character design. I can identify every hero or villain easily because they are each a different and distinct kind of animal, as opposed to fairly similar humanoid characters with varying color schemes. Also I think the simplicity of the story, which ditches the lengthy political history of the planet, instead focusing on a single quest goes a long way in making this an enjoyable read.

The ads in this particular comic are scarce and in fact are only promoting a varied collection of licensed comics from Blackthorne Publishing. This tells me that not very many companies had faith in Battle Beasts to bring in more sales of their acne pads or colorful candies. Everything has a gimmick here with 3-D adventures of cartoon stars like Bravestarr, The Flintstones, and a Richie Rich/Casper, The Friendly Ghost crossover. You could even get Drawing Guides for characters from Transformers and G.I. Joe to sneak into your social studies class.

So there you have it, Battle Beasts #1 in all its glory. Who was your favorite Battle Beast character? Were you loyal to Water, Fire or (ugh) Wood warriors?

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Hoju Koolander Posted on Apr 30, 2016 at 04:41 PM

@Vaporman87 I'm not say wood isn't useful, just that it's not technically an element. I made some awesome Pinewood Derbyshire cars back in my cub scout days.

@Rick Ace Rhodes You forgot the obvious conclusion to your story, "Then I bought them all and it made my life complete." I feel like Battle Beasts are timeless. Any generation can enjoy warrior animals big enough to hide in your desk at school or office cubicle.

Rick Ace Rhodes Posted on Apr 28, 2016 at 01:53 AM

I never had these given I was born sometime after them. However, a few years ago I found one while I was in High School. Around the holidays my school would organize this gift fair where people could buy gifts for their family and find free items as well. One of the things on a table was a container with a couple of Battle Beasts figures inside. I was shocked to see that there were figures of these still around.

Vaporman87 Posted on Apr 27, 2016 at 10:32 PM

Battle Beasts! Believe or not I was loyal to Wood. Sorry man. You can make stuff out of wood. Fire... water... not so much. I didn't have too many of the figures. Just a few. The comic would have been an instant turn off for me, with no color. I had to have color in my comics or I simply wasn't interested. That's why I missed out on the Turtles in the comics, and some other cult favorites. Ah well.

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