Starcom – An Often-Overlooked Animation Classic. Part one: Overview

Ok, I should start by giving it its full name, Starcom: The US Space Force.
When I speak to people about Starcom, I generally get one of two responses; 1) “I loved Starcom” or 2) “I’m not familiar with Starcom”.
Love them or hate them, there are many 80’s cartoons and toy lines that almost everyone has heard of. But Starcom is something that seems to have escaped many people, yet the people who have seen it tend to love it-me included.

Like many 80’s cartoons, it was essentially a 20 minute toy advert. But it was a toy advert that was beautifully animated, with exciting storylines and some awesome tech-toys that were well worth advertising! It had the classic good vs evil storyline, with the heroes of Starcom defending space from the Evil Shadow Force, but there was more to it than that. Like any good sci-fi, there were themes of exploration and protecting those who cannot protect themselves.
In one episode for example, a research ship has found that there may be life on Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons. In another, a city on mars has been unearthed, a city which seems to have been abandoned long ago…….or has it? These storylines could be just as relevant now as scientists are looking for signs of life and potentially former life in our solar system.
So who are the main characters? Well, Starcom is split into three divisions, which each have a commanding officer, who report to an admiral. The show focuses on these three division commanders. They are:

Starwing-Col. James “Dash” Derringer
Starbase Command-Col. John “Slim” Griffin
Astro Marines-Col. Paul “Crowbar” Corbin.

Dash, Slim, and Crowbar are all very likeable characters, not without their flaws, but good hearted, dedicated, and skilled.

On the Shadow Force side, Emperor Dark is the overruling villain, he plays a similar role to Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars. He’s not often featured, but when he is, his authority is clear. The Shadow Force army is split into a mix of humans and robot drones. The robot drones are commanded by General Torvek-he’s extremely loyal to Emperor Dark and strives to help him take down Starcom so he can further his goals. The humans in the Shadow Force often seem to be there begrudgingly, like they don’t love what they do, but the pay and benefits are good, so they hang around for the ride and do as they’re told!

So how about that cool tech I mentioned earlier? Starcom’s main purpose as a show and a toy line was to get young people more interested in becoming astronauts. So, the Starcom flying vehicles feature clean, white colour schemes akin to a space shuttle from NASA. That’s where any similarity ends though as they are heavily armed and packed with cool features. The main flagship is the Starmax Bomber. It serves to transport people and vehicles to where they are needed. As well as a main cockpit section for the pilot, the mid-section of the ship has a two-seater area for the navigator and gunner-the toy of this opens with a very cool spring-loaded canopy. The ship also has a rear cargo bay, which can be used to carry up to four people. The seating compartment is removable to allow the transport of vehicles instead, such as the Starwolf. The Starwolf is a micro fighter, which can fold up to be transported within the Starmax, or it can lock on to the rear top of the ship via its “Magnalock” feature (more on this later). The Starmax bomber and Starwolf in both animated and toy form are things of beauty, stunningly designed, functional, and very good fun.

Starcom also has land-based vehicles too, which they use to get about when exploring alien terrain. There are a bunch of them, but the most heavily featured in the show is the Laser R.A.T. Think of the R.A.T as a heavily armoured, futuristic dune buggy. Like all of the smaller vehicles Starcom uses, it can fold up for transport in the Starmax Bomber, and uses its “power deploy” mechanism to unfurl to its transport/battle mode. All Starcom Vehicles have some sort of Power Deploy feature. On the Starmax Bomber for example, it’s the motorised opening of the rear cargo bay, on the Starwolf, it’s the unfolding of the wings and nosecone to go into attack mode. These features needed no batteries in the toys, and collectors love the sound that they make-that is of course if they’ve managed to get hold of one that still works!

The Shadow Force, like Starcom, also have ground-based vehicles, but the Shadowbat and Shadow Parasite spaceships are the machines seen and used most often. The Shadowbat is the main transport ship, and it can carry two Parasites on each of its wing sections, as well as another vehicle, or a group of robot drone troops in its lower cargo bay. The Shadowbat features back to back cockpit areas for the pilot and gunner, and a host of weapons including spring-loaded side guns. The Parasites are small fighters, which expand their wings and weapons when not being carried by the shadow bat. The Shadow Force ships and logos feature a triangular design which give them sleek lines.

“Magna Lock On!” Is a phrase which is heard often throughout the show. This can be when a smaller ship is magnetising itself to a larger one, or when a character is magnetising themselves to a ship or object using their boots. In the toys, this manifests as metal panels on the ships, which other ships or characters can attach to. The Starwolf for example, has a magnet on the bottom of it which allows it to attach to the metal panel on the rear of the Starmax Bomber. All Starcom figures come with magnets in their feet, which allow them to attach to various parts of the vehicles, just like they would in the show.

There are many more vehicles and playsets that I could discuss, but if you’re new to Starcom, I’d like to leave you with things to explore and find out for yourself.

Thanks so much for reading this part one. If you are already a fan of Starcom, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this and it’s amped up your enthusiasm for it. If you’ve never heard of Starcom, I hope I’ve inspired you to check it out.
In part 2, I’ll give an overview of the thirteen episodes of Starcom, so do keep an eye out for it, and please do let me know your thoughts about Starcom in the comments!

About Steve Shreeve 13 Articles
I love sci-fi, retro cartoons and retro toys, and I'm passionate about nature and the environment. I'm an experienced Personal Trainer and help people tone up, gain energy and feel better anywhere using my Online Personal Training service, feel free to check out my website if you'd like to know more about what I do.

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