Marvel Comics is known for its own universe of heroes and villains, but there are several comics from the publisher based on outside properties. These were franchises that Marvel temporarily gained the publication rights to, with many of them being published during the 1980s. This era also saw the brief existence of a similar – yet distinctly different – type of tie-in comic book.
The Saga from Crystar was a fantasy-based toyline, with a corresponding comic book releasing in 1983. Despite a similar conception to the Transformers and G.I. Joe comics of the same period, it ultimately had a much different fate. Thankfully, the ownership of the property means that Marvel is finally looking back and polishing up Crystar for a new toyline.
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The Saga of Crystar Was One of Marvel Comics’ First ’80s Toy Tie-Ins
Releasing in 1983, The Saga of Crystar was a contemporary of G.I. Joe: A Real America Hero, a predecessor of Transformers, and a few years removed from Marvel Comics’ adaptation of Micronauts. Like other franchises from the time such as Conan the Barbarian (which Marvel published the comics for), He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, and the similar Thundarr the Barbarian, it was a sword and sorcery epic fantasy series in the vein of Frank Frazetta’s iconic artwork. The protagonist even looked like He-Man, albeit with one major, crystalline exception.
The story of The Saga of Crystar was set in Crystalium, a fantasy world ruled by the forces of Chaos and Order. Two wizards offered the brothers Crystar and Moltar a chance to decide the fate of Crystalium and which side it would follow. While Crystar chose Order, his jealous brother Moltar chose Chaos and struck against their uncle Feldspar. Joining the dark wizard Zardeth, Moltar and his forces become physically imbued with magma. Conversely, the wizard Ogeode united Crystar with the mystical Prisma-Crystal, turning him into a humanoid crystal. Together with his allies, he fought to keep his world from being reduced into chaotic disorder.
Crystar was a Tie-In to a Forgotten Toyline
The Saga of Crystar was preceded by a 1982 toyline from a company called Remco that was known for its various licensed toys, having produced figures for various Marvel and DC characters. These included Batman, the Incredible Hulk, Conan the Barbarian and DC’s sword and sorcery hero Warlord. Like the Masters of the Universe and G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero lines, Remco’s Crystar franchise was bolstered with cool vehicles. Crystal Castle, Crystal Dragon and Magic of Crystal playset were just a few of the options available for purchase, showcasing how fully-fledged (and marketed) lines were a necessity to compete in the toy aisles.
The heroic characters all had weapons as crystalline as themselves, highlighting the gimmick that made them more than just generic fantasy toys. Unfortunately, the line released just as some of the biggest behemoths in ’80s toys, comics and cartoons were coming out. Thus, the Crystar toyline lasted only about 2 years, ceasing production in 1982. Marvel’s The Saga of Crystar didn’t fare any better, with the book essentially being a maxi-series and lasting for only 11 issues. Given how close together they released, many fans retroactively see The Saga of Crystar in the same light as Marvel’s comic book tie-ins to various Hasbro properties. That’s not exactly the truth, however, which is why more Crystar products may finally be on the horizon.
Crystar Is the Only ’80s Toy Comic Book That Marvel Owns
As mentioned, Micronauts was one of the toys that received a Marvel Comics adaptation. The series launched in 1979, three years after Mego’s toyline came out (itself based on the Microman/Micro Change toys that were also used to create Hasbro’s classic Transformers toyline). The 1980s iteration of G.I. Joe and new series Transformers received the same treatment, with the latter initially set in some version of Marvel’s mainstream comic book universe. Micronauts was a firm part of said universe, however, with characters such as the X-Men even crossing over with them.
Of course, those sorts of stories ended when Marvel lost the license to Micronauts. Even though the publisher has recently regained them, it’s unknown if this will manifest in anything beyond the original comics being collected in omnibus form. Conversely, the publication rights to G.I. Joe and Transformers have changed hands numerous times, with their current home being the Image Comics imprint Skybound. Compared to those franchises, however, The Saga of Crystar has only had and will likely only ever have one publication destination.
Although Remco made the toys, the Crystar property is completely owned by Marvel. The intention behind the comic book was always to sell toys, with Marvel merely taking advantage of the fact Remco had produced action figures for so many other similar brands. Unfortunately, this has engendered the crystal warrior to much in the way of success over the past decades since his creation. His biggest “pushes” in recent years have been a comedic cameo in the Marvel Zombies series, as well as a brief appearance in the 2015 version of Secret Wars. Again, this is all possible because Marvel didn’t have to worry about rights and trademarks from another company.
The 2023 San Diego Comic-Con panel for Hasbro’s Marvel Legends line shocked several fans when it was revealed that the next wave includes a new figure for Cystar. Design manager Dwight Stall noted in an interview that the new toy is an attempt to expand the scope of the Marvel Legends line, which largely covers fairly evergreen and popular characters. The idea is that the other characters from the Saga of Crystar comic books may get a similar treatment if this new toy sells well enough. The other members of the upcoming wave include the X-Men ally Bishop and a new take on Iron Man’s Mk 1 armor. Next to these stalwart heroes, Crystar’s sparkling form is definitely a gem.
Since he’s completely owned by the publisher, there’s definitely a chance that he shows up in more comics or toylines. This just might save Crystar from remaining completely obscure, as the lack of comic book reprints and modern tie-ins doomed Rom to such a fate. The same goes for Turok, Magnus and Solar, who have never been as big as they were when published by Valiant Comics in the ’90s. Crystar becoming a modern-day hit all depends on his new toy actually selling, but it seems that at least Hasbro sees the character as a true diamond in the rough.
The Saga of Crystar was one of Marvel’s ’80s toy tie-in comics, and was, oddly enough, the most successful of them all. Read More