In 1977, my dad bought my brother and me two of the new magno-powered Micronauts action figures. Jeff received Baron Karza, leader of the evil Micronauts, a black, plastic menace with a bucket-shaped head. Mine was Force Commander, who was in charge of the good Micronauts, and had a helmet like a gas mask. They were rad. Really rad. Armored cavaliers of the microscopic realm. They had magnetic appendages you could remove and switch. The legs could be the arms. An arm could be the head. They had their own horses, too: Andromeda for Karza, Oberon for Force Commander. Because of the magic of magnetism, you could combine rider and steed, and make Micronaut centaurs. Alas, they were sold separately, and we never saved our allowances to buy them.
The micro-knights had a spring-loaded missile launcher in the chest, and spring-loaded fists at the end of each arm. Both had rocket packs, with red cones that could be used as even more powerful missiles launched from the forearms and chests.
January 11, 1979, the U.S. Consumer Safety Product Commission sent out press release #79-001. It announced that Mattel, Inc., was voluntarily recalling and replacing all of its missile-launching Battlestar Galactica toys with versions that did not project tiny, red pieces of plastic, because, "there have been instances of accidental swallowing or aspiration of a missile." And, yes, this included, "one reported death of a four-year-old child." Mattel even bought kids off by sending free Hot Wheels cars to "compensate for any loss of play value."
Within a couple of days, my mother had, or had made my father (Iím still not sure which) remove the springs from our Colonial Viper (Product No. 2531) and Cylon Raider (Product No. 2532). Sure enough, they had also been removed from the Micronauts.
Back then, I liked to take that huge twine cone my father had, and make a giant web in the basement. I hung all my Micronauts, Star Wars action figures and, later G.I. Joes on it, and pretend they lived in an enormous alien forest, miles above the planetís surface. Baron Karza and Force Commander ruled over dueling tribes of tree-dwelling warriors, bent on the destruction of their rivals. They fought on ziplines and in roosts. My father would come downstairs and see that his workbench was inaccessible, and yell, "Youíre wasting that string! Youíre wasting it!"
I have been home recently. The string cone is exactly as I left it, 20 years ago. But I digress.
Coming home to find that my tribal chieftains had been robbed of the ability to make war from a distance was heartbreaking. The forearm launches now simply fell out when the lever was pressed. The button in Baron Karzaís back no longer fired screaming death at his enemies. Leaders of men they may have been, but in one-on-one combat, they had been rendered impotent. It was, looking back, totally bogue.
I asked my mother what had happened and she said sheíd heard that kids were choking or getting eye injuries from spring-loaded toys. So, for my safety, she took them out.
"Ralph Nader told me to," she said. Ralph Nader told me to. Iíve never forgotten that. I realize, now, that itís technically not true. Ralph didnít write that press release. He didnít call my mother. But, itís there, immovable. Stuck. Burned in to my brain. As far as Iím concerned, Ralph Nader forced my mother to deactivate my Micronauts, and I canít get over it.
We lost our Lawn Jarts a few years later.
Again, Ralph Nader told me to. Whenever fun was ruined, Ralph Nader was there.
Ralph Nader was always fucking with my play value, and he never sent a Hot Wheels car to make up for it.
Screw you, Ralph. You ruined my childhood and Iíll never vote for you.
Mr. Simmons co-edits this.
[Forever after at http://eyeshot.net/nadersimmons.html]
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