thrift store finds: sectaurs – warriors of symbion #1 (marvel comics)

Today we’re looking at Sectaurs: Warriors of Symbion #1, published by Marvel Comics in 1985.

I paid like a quarter for this comic.

Through Netflix and some of the Masters of the Universe Classics action figures, my sons have become interested in He-Man in the last few months. He-Man was a legitimate phenomenom in boys’ toys. Like any phenomenon, there were legions of imitators looking to cash in on the market Mattel had created with their toys. Some were every bit as successful; Thundercats comes to mind as a property which was probably a bit better than He-Man in concept and execution.

Others were not.

Sectaurs was an action figure line released by Coleco in 1985. Coleco was better known for their forays into home video game consoles than action figures, but the company had some limited success with their Star Com and Rambo figures in the Eighties. Sectaurs was a rather big gambit for Coleco; besides the action figures, there was an five episode animated mini-series

…and this Marvel Comics series.

Sectaurs: Warriors of Symbion #1 is written by Bill Mantlo, Marvel’s go-to scribe for the majority of the publishers’ licensed output in the 1970’s and ’80’s. Mantlo had long, award-winning runs both on toy property comics such as Micronauts and ROM: Space Knight. Indeed, Mantlo’s work was so engaging on those titles that the comics often outlasted the toys on which they were based! Art chores on this issue are taken care of by Mark Texeira, with inks from Joe Del Beato and Art Nichols.

The comic opens on Sectaur Pinsor visiting his brother’s village. I’m guessing the food on the table is some sort of bug? It’s got six legs…

The village is attacked and enslaved by the even General Spidrax, which immediately leads into the introduction of Dargon, the hero character for the Sectaurs line.

After much battling between the two sides, it is revealed that Dargon is a prince of the Shining Realm and keeper of Symator, the legendary sword of the Sectaurs

…which sets up the power dynamic for the rest of the series, presumably. For those keeping track, included in this book are a He-Man clone, a Man-at-Arms clone (complete with mustache) a power sword clone, and a Skeletor-like figure.

If you can overlook the similarities, as first issues go this book is solid as hell. Mantlo manages the story and introduces all the characters admirably. He’s keen on making sure they call each other by name so it’s easy to follow who’s who. The story includes enough action to hook even the most uninterested reader and I’m completely impressed by Mantlo’s command of dialogue. Look at this panel with General Spidrax talking like someone out of a BBC period miniseries!

Texeira’s pencils are way better than I would expect on a project like this as well, full of sketch details brought depth by his inkers. Today Texeira is best known for his work on Wolverine and Ghost Rider, often bringing a painterly touch to his pencils. The artist’s work on Sectaurs is one of his earlier efforts and it shows in some places; two major characters look almost EXACTLY alike save for the presence of a sort of metal beanie on one of the heads.

He handles the monsters and creatures pretty well though- I thought this panel was interesting.

It’s a shame a lot of the characters and ideas for Sectaurs are lifted almost straight from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, because looking at this comic, it’s clear a LOT of work went into the design of the world of Symbion. The comic ends with a map of the known areas of the planet and the Symbion alphabet.

(Just try unloading your beachfront condo when it’s situated on THE LAKE OF BLOOD. No easy task, let me tell you!)

Mantlo takes advantage of the Alphabet in several different places throughout the comic to a nice effect.

As a young reader, a secret alphabet is the kind of thing I would have gone gonzo over… if I had been a fan of Sectaurs.

…and therein lies the problem. I don’t think there WERE any fans of Sectaurs. The toys were just creepy looking. I think giving all the characters these bug-like segmented eyes was a tragically awful design choice. All the heroes looked like villains, and the villains looked like nightmare fodder.

It didn’t help that the Sectaurs were not compatible with already existing toylines… Prince Dargon TOWERED over He-Man and Lion-O. The gimmick of the Sectaurs line (the characters’ steeds were articulated hand puppets worn by kids) was not enough to get boys interested.

I owned one of these and hated it. It was fodder for the bottom of the toy box almost the minute I took it out of the box.

It’s a shame then, that the Sectaurs comic was actually… kind of decent. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not an undiscovered gem of licensed comics of the 1980’s. It’s just a serviceable comic book.

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