Bug Week, Part Two: The Sectaurs?
So yes…it IS Bug Week. Which is harder than you might think to have content for. Still, this has been kicking around in the back of my brain for a couple of weeks. By “this”, I mean a post about the Sectaurs.
Sectaurs: Warriors of Symbion was a line of action figures released by Coleco in 1985. Like many action figure lines of the time, it had a serious multimedia ad campaign, featuring a Marvel comic and a Cartoon. Neither of those, like the toy line itself, was very successful.
Sectaurs was released by Coleco in 1985 (not 1984, as the stamp on the figures would suggest). Figures and insect companions were packaged together in a window box with weapons, a mini comic book and instructions. Some of these companions were large enough for the Sectaurs to ride, and were actually “puppet like”…you could place your hand inside a glove that made up the lower body of the beast to manipulate the legs and an “action feature.” A second series of figures were designed and pictured in dealers’ catalogs, but never produced due to the line’s cancellation. The toy line did not do well partly because of the intimidating appearances of even the heroes and their companion beasts (they were bug men who rode disturbing looking bugs!), and partially due to price points well above other action figure lines in stores at the same time.
What was the premise? Glad you asked. It is covered pretty well in the five part animated cartoon. “Somewhere in space, somewhere in time,” exists a planet called Symbion, where a genetic experiment failed. Frightening changes took place that could not be stopped. The result? A world where insects and arachnids grow to Frightening Proportions. A world where the people have taken on the characteristics of insects and arachnids as well.
In this context you get Prince Dargon, ruler of the peaceful Shining Realm of Prosperon, and his allies are in conflict with the forces of Empress Devora, ruler of the Dark Domain of Synax, and her henchmen, for possession of the Hyves, fortresses of an ancient civilization holding the key to ultimate power. Each character was “tele-bonded” with intelligent, non-anthropomorphic insect creatures called Insectoids that had a special ability, and shared each other’s “pleasure and pain.”
I made none of that up. But yes, it reads like I’m trying to be sarcastic, I know.
Although, in the background, toward the upper right, you can see the dude that the protagonist and Pony are throwing down with in today’s art. The composition of the art was pretty tough, for two reasons. One…there isn’t a whole lot of reference for people jousting on giant @#$%ing insects. Two…insects and spiders creep me the hell out, so ant real world references are things that I am reluctant to consult.
Which is responsible for the toy line’s failure, really. I quoted “intimidating appearances” of the figures and beasts…but they are bug-men who are pretty @#$% scary looking, often with straight up bug heads, who ride surprisingly realistic looking, hairy giant bugs. I can see parents saying, “Nope. Not letting that in my house. Pick a different toy. Isn’t He-Man around here somewhere?”
That being said…the Sectaurs were ahead of their time in design, sculpture, and articulation. The figures towered over most other hero toys of their era, had unbelievably detailed accessories, and the innovation called “Hands-In-Action” for the ride-on creatures was nothing short of genius. It makes a hand puppet…really a glove, if you will, straight up terrifying.
Seriously…let’s check this guy out. I found some great photos of the figure, and pasted them into a composite that highlights the workmanship and detail. I also specifically chose images that leave out his scary as @#$% giant flying spider. Very artsy treatment of the Sectaur, though…
Two things…first, the detail on that figure is pretty incredible, especially by the toy standards of the 80’s. Second…he is scary as @#$%, which is pretty much why Moms the nation wide didn’t want him and his huge crazy spider thing in the house. Go figure.
I mentioned that the series of figures was cancelled before the second wave of figures could be released. That wave would have had Stellara, the love interest of Prince Dargon. It’s an interesting call, that figure…in the 80’s the female action figures didn’t do well. Further, you were directly marketing to boys who liked bugs….not really that big an overlap between interest in girls and interest in bugs. If there is, please DON’T write in to tell me…I will throw up, I think.
The Stellara figure was actually key to the comic (written by Bill Mantlo, creator of Rocket Raccoon) and the five part animated miniseries, so I suppose she did need to have a figure. Promotional materials advertising the figure were released, so we have a pretty solid view of the Prince’s love interest.
Although, her color scheme is similar to Dargon’s, clearly connecting the two visually. Love interests wear matching clothing, right? At least on bug planets they do. Those issues aside, the craftsmanship is pretty obvious. Coleco may have had that as their central problem…producing too much detail and quality, and pricing themselves out of the market. The image from Sectaurs.com is the only one that I could find with her companion bug, which by the standards of the toy line, is startlingly non creepy.
I didn’t intend for such a huge post about the Sectaurs, but once you start researching and obscure comic and toy line, often you find yourself drawn into a web of useless information, that despite the lack of applicability, is intriguing. I guess that’s very appropriate, for Bug Week.
Next Issue: More Bug Week!