Mel Birnkrant presents:
Last week was an exception; I was seeking something I misplaced, many years ago.  I failed to find what I was looking for, but instead, I did discover two ancient concepts that have been hibernating there, under the floor for at least twenty-five years, or more.  The first of these, was called, “THE MICRO MECHANIX AND THE MAN MACHINES!”
          Beneath the floor behind my desk, there is a secret hiding place.  It is just one of many such treasure troves, tucked here and there, throughout our home.  Together, they constitute a time capsule, pockets of frozen memories, in which my entire toy inventing history is waiting to someday be seen, by eyes most likely, other than my own.  Here, hundreds of white banker’s boxes are stacked haphazardly, extending from the floor up to three-foot ceiling in arbitrary aisles that form a kind of maze.  To access these claustrophobic caves, one must crawl on their hands and knees, therefore, I rarely enter them, these days. 
         Seeing this early effort through the camera’s lens, was something of a revelation to me.  I suddenly realized how much the look of MAN MACHINES harkens back to the beginning.  Clearly, the concept bears a close resemblance to Gamma X, a figure from the never produced Second Series of The Outer Space Men, circa 1968.  Gamma X was from the Fourth Dimension.  He could travel through Time and Space, and crop up anywhere.  So, here he was again, twenty years later, reappearing as a MAN MACHINE!
          This concept combined one inch tall MICRO MECHANIX and seven inch tall articulated action figures, known as The MAN MACHINES.  Each MAN MACHINE had a battery operated motor and a system of multiple rubber band activated pulleys.  A variety of action accessories could snap into place on the arms, legs, hips, etc. of the MAN MACHINES, and were brought into full action by the rubber band pulley system.  The tools, weapons, vehicles ,as well as the MAN MACHINES, themselves, had passenger compartments to carry the MICRO MECHANIX.
         I would play with lighting effects, again, while designing new figures for the Four Horsemen recreations of The Outer Space Men.  The origin of the complex backlit transformations of figures like Ohpromatem, can be traced back to the MAN MACHINES, some twenty-eight years before them.
          This curious concept, not only echoed the past; it also provided a glimpse into the future.  Here, for the first time, I attempted to incorporate a tricky lighting effect into an action figure.  Setting up the photography, I discovered a red lens in the top of the figures head.  This enabled his eyes to illuminate dramatically.  The top of his head opened to carry one of the MICRO MECHANIX inside.
          In 1988, I was still working in anonymity.  Therefore, the drawings you will see below bear the name of KISCOM only.  My, then, two business partners, Andy and Adam Kislevitz, were trying to maintain the illusion that they had a vast studio of in-house talent at their disposal.  God forbid, the world should know that their entire creative staff consisted only of yours truly!

       
I discovered these idea sketches, a few days later in another place.  I could see that these were the very prints that went with the original presentation.  This was apparent, because the rubber bands were colored in.  The fact that some of these drawing incorporate ideas that I doubt I would come up with today, are a large part of the reason I decided to post this concept on the internet.
        Along with the drawings, was the original typed presentation that accompanied the prototype.  On the second page, the copy reads, “The first true boys action figure where action is more than just pretend!” Wow!  Perhaps that was, in fact, the case.  Like so many of the projects that we undertook, we were simply too early.  On considerably fewer occasions, we were just a little bit too late.
          And last of all, here is the video tape; one of the first I ever made.  The edits were awkward, but not all that bad, considering they were done mechanically on two VCRs.  Nonetheless, I cringe when I look at this thing.  Therefore, I added a music track, hoping that the “Concerto for Orchestra” by Bela Bartok can cover up a multitude of sins, and save the day.
         So, here they are, the MICRO MECHANIX AND THE MAN MACHINES, as they exist today!  They lie in their own custom-made velvet lined case, where they will, no doubt, remain, from now, until eternity.
Return to MelBirnkrant.com
MAN MACHINES are TM and Copyright BIRNKRANT, KISCOM.  Photos and Text are Copyright MelBirnkrant.com