Friday, December 7, 2012


G.I. Joe.  The Transformers.  Voltron.  Thundercats.  The Masters of the Universe.  They’re all great ‘Eighties toys, TV shows, and comic books.  But there are a few franchises that seem to have been forgotten by everyone.  In fact, I question a lot of my friends on this topic, and there seem to be three that NO ONE remembers:  Centurions, Dino-Riders, and Sectaurs.

At this time, there is only one other person I know who remembers Sectaurs, so I thought I’d take a look at a great forgotten franchise by examining the 8 issues Marvel put out between 1985-86.

All right, all right, I’ll admit, the execution is shit.  Holy fuck, does it suck.  But the idea is so awesome that I think it outweighs the awful storytelling.  Get a load of this:

Somewhere in another galaxy is a planet named Symbion, where insects instead of monkeys evolved.  They have a hexagonal map of their world (not round), and they even have their own language and alphabet (as depicted on the last page of issue one).  A long time ago, the Ancients ruled the planet, but there was a horrible storm that completely destroyed the world, including the Ancients.  As their last act on the planet, they created several Hyves to store all the knowledge they’ve acquired over the centuries.

Millions of years passed, and insects evolved into humanoid creatures called Sectaurs.  They’re broken down into two lands:  the Dark Domain and the Shining Realm.  The former is ruled by Devora, and as you can probably tell, they’re the Decepticons of our story.  The latter, our Autobots, are ruled by Regent Galken in the absence of the real commander, who vanished a long time ago in an attempt to find the mythical Hyves and therefore win knowledge of everything.

For the longest time, these two factions have lived in peace thanks to a treaty devised by Devora and Galken, but naturally, Devora has other plans.  She sends some of her soldiers into a borderland town to raid in the name of weeding out heretics (who are the only ones who understand anything about the Hyves).  As it turns out, there actually is a heretic in this town, and he accidentally finds a hidden Hyve.  The unfortunate result:  a poisonous gas shoots out into the atmosphere, and it’s capable of eating the flesh off the bones of any Sectaur on contact.

Now that everyone knows the Hyves really do exist, both sides find themselves in a struggle to be the first to discover the rest of them.  On the side of good, we have Dargon (the son of the rightful ruler of the Shining Realm), Mantys (later, Mantor, Dargon’s mentor and secret heretic), Zak (former head of the royal guard and best friend of Dargon), Pinsor (a local farmer who did good and became a renowned warrior), and Stellara (one of the only female Sectaurs; she used to be a great warrior until she lost her insectoid).

[One quick note:  all important Sectaurs are telepathically connected to an insectoid.  The more important you are, the bigger your insectoid.  For example, Dargon and Pinsor get to ride on their insectoids while the others hop along behind them, almost like pets.  However, the bond is so strong that if one feels pain or pleasure, the other one does, too.  If one of them dies, it’s a pretty good chance that the other will, too.  Stellara is rare in that she survived such an instance.]

On the side of evil, we have General Spidrax (the big bad with ambitions to surpass even Devora), Commander Waspax (bloodthirsty swine), Skulk (stepson to Devora and loyal to the cause), and Squito (a swamp rat with a penchant for being in the right place at the right time).

Since Devora didn’t technically break their peace treaty, Galken can’t exactly attack her and still keep the high road.  The solution:  Dargon and his friends will pretend to be traitors and leave the Shining Realm in search of the Hyves before Devora’s troops can find them.  The unfortunate thing is, Dargon has a lot of friends in the Shining Realm, and many of them think Galken is just a doddering old fool.  They’re starting to think of revolution . . . .

Pretty kick-ass, huh?  Sadly, writer Bill Mantlo falls prey to the way that every single fucking comic book was written back then.  He feels the need to explain everything.  How many times are we treated to the beginning of this story?  At least once an issue, and even then, we still get reminders from the editor as to what happened in the previous issues scattered about the body of the story.

Plus, you have to struggle through a lot of self-important dialogue to get to the good stuff.  Imagine the most stereotypical sword-and-sorcery kind of interactions and ratchet them up to a thousand, and you’ll get an idea as to how the Sectaurs talk to each other.  But it is worth it, just to see the strange idea playing around on the page.

But there really are great moments, like the time when Stellara finds herself in a position to telepathically connect with another insectoid.  It’s a pretty trippy scene, almost (not quite) worthy of early Vertigo books.

And there is a pretty big payoff in the final two issues, when Dargon finally finds another Hyve and actually gains access to it.  He connects with the Ancients’ technology (because, you know, the Sectaurs’ idea of magic is the Ancients’ idea of science) and finds himself in complete control of Symbion.  Immediately, he feels overwhelmed by absolute power, and he has to cut himself off from it before it corrupts him absolutely.  Zak, on the other hand, doesn’t think that he can be corruptible, not understanding what it means to CONTROL AN ENTIRE PLANET.

Of course, they certainly didn’t mean this story to last a mere 8 issues.  They leave enough loose ends to give a new creative team a pickup point, should Marvel ever decide to fund it.  But no, it was never meant to be.  Perhaps they just didn’t have the numbers of a G.I. Joe or Transformers, who were the big Marvel toy properties of the time.  It’s a shame.  It would be very interesting to see if Dargon ever finds another Hyve, and if he ever finds his questing, long-lost father.  Also, even though the last Hyve they found had its power source destroyed, Mantor seems to have kept a bit of power in his staff.  What exactly does he have in mind for that?

We’ll never find out.  Chances are, Mantlo doesn’t even remember now, if he’s even still alive.  [I'll save you the work.  He is still alive, but he was in an accident in the early 'Nineties that left him in a coma, so chances are, he really doesn't remember his plans for SECTAURS.]  However, Sectaurs will remain a hell of an ambitious project, maybe the most ever undertaken by a toy company.  Could you imagine the acid freak who came up with this idea?  I guarantee, though, you will never find a book that quite looks like this one did on the comic racks back in the day.  It’s one of the great disappointments of the ‘Eighties.

So really . . . tell me I’m not the only one who remembers these guys.

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