Please note: The original article was posted on Digital Monkey Box.com. I’ve reposted and revised this version here with my permission.
I’m about to dive into nerdery that will be so extreme, it may not be for the faint of heart. It may induce sickness if you watch football or kill things for sport. I’d like to take a few minutes to tell you about what could be the most unappreciated of toys in the history of mankind. I speak of Starcom: The U.S. Space Force. If you are familiar with these toys, it’s probably from seeing them on clearance racks when they died in he 80s. If you actually owned some of this stuff its a fond memory. The story behind Starcom is fairly simple. The U.S. Space Force is responsible for keeping Earth safe from the evil Shadow Force. Take note: it wasn’t the Russian Space Force, the Chinese Space Force, or even the Liberian Space Force, it was up to the good old U.S. to save our collective bacon. God bless America.
Who is the Shadow Force? It is an empire ruled by a evil guy with a hair cut like Guile’s from Street Fighter only nine times as evil and gay. His army was made up of various low-lifes, but his main forces are one of humanities biggest foes of all:
That’s right. We’ve been fighting robots since the days of the caveman, so as a species we have a nearly instinctual hatred for evil robots in space. They’re the Nazi’s of the sci-fi world, unless we’re talking about space Nazis. Don’t steal that, I’m going to write a book about Space Nazi’s now.
Starcom has to be on top of its game if it hopes it can save humanity. That’s why only the best and the brightest were brought together to save the day, making Starcom the most elite space fighting force of all time. Stacom is so awesome that NASA guys crap their pants in the mere presence of a U.S. Space Force member. As they should.
Perhaps you won’t be surprised then to find out that I’m actually a member of the U.S. Space Force. Time and time again, I have proven that I’m made from the “right stuff” and I’m “wicked cool.” I’ve got a certificate with my name on it to prove it. Check this shit out:
I had to blur out some important info, due to U.S. space law (see section 8.4553.211 Badass Space Agency Handbook), but I’m sure this will be good enough to verify my awesomeness.
Anyway, like practically all 80s toys, Starcom had its own short lived cartoon show. It was okay, but I never seemed to catch that many of them before the show fell into the black oblivion of cancellation. The toys were where it was at, anyway. By god, Starcom toys were and are cool. Why? One word: Magnets. Magnets are cool on their own, hell they are a toy in and of themselves. What kid hasn’t been mesmerized by the magical properties of magnets? Well, only kids in magnet deprived countries like Peru and that’s more of a cultural values thing anyway. However, in most of the rest of the civilized world, when you combine magnets with action figures and vehicles, you’ve got yourself a recipe for something completely bitching. The two inch tall Starcom figures all had magnets on their boots that allowed you to clamp them on various vehicles and refrigerators. The magnets were also used to activate different mechanized parts like a moving elevator on their space station.
If you’re not impressed by magnets, then go to Hell. Starcom is still great for you naysayers too, because of all the nifty vehicles. Sure, there are plenty of lame ones, but when Coleco got one right they really nailed it. What follows are my takes on some of the best items the toy series had to offer.
My favorite Starcom vehicle is the Starmax bomber. I loved it because it looked like it could exist in real life if Congress actually put money towards kicking ass in space instead of into useless educational programs.
It’s got guns all over the place including a big cannon on top, two smaller cannons on the side, and two hidden guns that pop out near the cockpit allowing a Starcom member to say, “Oh you thought I’d kick your ass with a moderate amount of laser cannons? Here’s two MORE laser cannons your Space Robot, Bastards!”
This thing is called a bomber, so where are the bombs you ask? The rear of the ship holds for bombs that can be dropped via a rotating piece that is similar to a Gatling gun. This is one of the best/worst features of this toy. Once you’ve bombed some enemies, say, “Goodbye bombs”, because these things have got to be the most easily lost toy accessory ever. On the plus size, the top of the bombs are metal, so they easily incorporate into the magnetic world of Starcom.
On the top of the Starmax Bomber there is a little spot that could hold one of the cool little Star Wolf fighter craft. This would only be topped by the Shadow Force Shadowbat, but more on that later. And just to add a practically pointless option, the main wings fold up, for better storage I suppose.
Lastly, one of the Starmax bomber’s greatest assets for any super nerdy child is its CARGO BAY. That’s right; this thing has a cargo bay that pops out the back with a press of a button, courtesy of a little motor. The zzzzzz noise still gets me hot after all these years. The cargo bay could fit in almost every one of the smaller vehicles when you folded them up. It also could carry a little seating area for four figures, turning the Starmax bomber into a sort of space mini-van. Even better, the cargo area could hold an actual cargo container (There were even vehicles that acted as cargo lifts). Usually, my Starmax bomber would end up carrying rations of candy or Barbie heads, widely known as two of the most important commodities in the galaxy. There were also plenty of other container shaped things that could fit in the bay, like a laser artillery piece, a medial bay, the aforementioned cargo shuttles, and even an enemy ship that looked like a cargo container. That’s how much thought went into this line. The god damned enemies could disguise their ships as cargo containers. Slick.
Best Point: There’s nothing cooler than a killer space shuttle ready to blow away robots.
Worst Point: Bombs get lost in a matter of seconds, guns on side fall off and disappear, white plastic yellows over time.
Star Wolf Starfighter
Because of the size restrictions on Starcom smaller vehicles, the two main fighters basically resemble cockpits with wings. That’s okay though, because Starcom the U.S. Space Force gives their fighter the ultra cool name of the Star Wolf. The best part of the Star Wolf is that it can be folded up for storage or what have you. There’s a little button on the back that activates the motor inside to unfold the ship for you. It also fits right snug on top of the Starmax bomber. To emphasize the attention to detail with Starcom toys, there’s two tiny landing gear that pop out for almost no reason whatsoever.
Best Point: Kick ass name, folds up for easy storage, looks cool.
Worst Point: The wing tips will fall off and disappear and you’ll be pissed about it forever.
While not as insanely cool as the Starmax bomber, the Shadowbat Battlecruiser holds its own in style. The baddies in Starcom were obsessed with triangles, because triangles are inherently evil with their multiple pointy ends that could poke out a child’s eyes if not handled correctly. The Shadow Force took their love of dangerous geometrical forms and created several ship types that look like them.
Sure, the Starmax Bomber can have a smaller ship sit on the top, but the Shadowbat took that idea and really ran with it. On the two wings of the craft are two where the even more triangular smaller fighter craft, the Shadow Parasite, fit perfectly almost guaranteeing children to desperately beg their parents for at least two of the fighters to match the ship. I never got a second one and that’s why I’m emotionally troubled, in case you’re wondering.
Not to be outdone by “good guys” of Starcom, the Shadow Forces have a cargo bay in their ship as well. Unfortunately, its not as cool as the one on the Starmax Bomber. The main difference between the two is that the cargo area for the Shadowbat is located on the bottom and its focus seemed more on unleashing a deadly vehicle than carrying a precious load of candy or doll heads. Still, it fits their evil on the go and killing lifestyle. On the plus side, there’s at least one small wheeled vehicle that can be quickly launched out of this cargo bay upon landing.
When it comes to weapons, the Shadow Forces liked to keep it a little lower key than their good guy counterparts. There’s two puny guns on the top to fool you into thinking you were facing some crappy oversized target, but then there are two hidden cannons that pop out in the front and one rear facing cannon for the co-pilot to waste you if you tried taking them from behind. It’s a handy thing to have in any part of the galaxy.
Best Point: Evil triangular style, black coloring to let you know they are evil. Two spots on the wings perfectly designed for the Parasite fighters. Pop out rear facing cannon.
Worst Point: Not as detailed as the Starmax Bomber. Cargo bay has a been there, done that feeling.
This is an instance where the name really fits these small fighters. As mentioned above they sit on the wings of the Shadowmax bomber. The Parasite is also the height of triangular design, in that it’s just a black triangle with a cockpit. Again fitting in with the mode of hiding their weapons, the Parasite will transform via its inner motor giving it two little wings and its guns.
Best Point: Looks super evil, pop out wings and guns.
Worst Point: You need at least two.
Let’s not kid around, Starcom was really all about the vehicles. The action figures were more like window dressing for this toy line. Aside from the magnets in their boots, they also all had backpacks that connected to their guns via little rubber hoses for extra style. What I didn’t really care about was who they were, since they were so small. Sergeant Whatever Face or Corporal Something Such really didn’t have a story to me. They usually ended up just being cannon fodder for the much cooler Shadow Force robots.
Best Point: Lots of robots. Magnet feet. Nice articulation for such a small figure.
Worst Point: There’s a sliding scale for losing toy accessories based on the size of the toy. You’re going to lose the helmet visors and weapons instantaneously according to Einstein’s Theory of Tiny Plastic Guns. Hey, at least you learn your first physics lesson.
That about wraps up my small glimpse into the awesome world of Starcom, and I haven’t even scratched the surface! I have to give a big thanks to the guys at The U.S. Space Force Resource Guide and Museum for the pics of the figures and the evil robot. They also have a lot of handy info if you’re interested in Starcom. If you liked this article, be sure to buy me lots of Starcom toys on eBay so I can do a part two. Please?