Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

A comic you should own — well, if you don’t mind the story will never finish: MICRA

The indie B&W boom of the 1980s generated lots of horrible comics, like the several zillion TMNT knockoffs. It also generated some good stuff. MICRA, by Lamar Waldron and Ted Boonthanakit, was good stuff, but not successful stuff. The creators conceived it as a 12-issue limited series, but it only ran seven issues. I suspect I’m one of the few people who have all of them.

I reread all seven a few years ago (this is a recycled and re-edited version of my post about MICRA on my own blog) after reading the first volume of Greg Rucka’s Lazarus, as MICRA has a similar near-future class-warfare premise. Chemical and radioactive pollution have rendered most of America unlivable (today they’d use global warming for the same effect) but the 1 percent live comfortably inside domed, pollution-free cities. The poor either struggle in the barren hellscape outside, enter the cities as servants or find some degree of comfort as sex workers in “Ecstasites.” The cities could hold more people, but the rich enjoy their space.

Unsurprisingly, the poor are pissed. Armed uprisings have led to martial law, which in turn has led to more terrorism. The vice president (the only black face in the cast) is pushing for nonviolent reform but without much success.

The protagonist, Angela, is a college-age child of priviolege paralyzed by a terrorist attack. This makes her the perfect test for the government’s special project, MICRA, a Mind Controlled Remote Automaton. As Angela has no sense of her body to distract her, she can transfer her mind into MICRA and control it without distraction. What Angela doesn’t know is that this seemingly humanitarian experiment is a military project; the android has a built-in arsenal and if it proves an effective weapon, the government will make more and annilate the resistance. Being disabled proves a growth experience for Angela (an annoying disability cliche). She starts to realize how privileged she’s been and how unfair the system is. She also falls in love with one of the techs on the project, even though he’s a poor kid recruited for his brains. Angela also learns her parents adopted her from outside, and that she has a sister, Rita, still out there. Using MICRA test flights as cover, she begins hunting Rita, unaware her sister is now a terrorist leader out to smash the system that stole Angela away. Angela’s also unaware that MICRA’s weapons systems are automatic: in the right conditions, MICRA will attack and kill regardless of any qualms its operator has.

By the end of #7, Rita was dead (it was a big-explosion death, though, and we know how those usually turn out) and Angela had joined forces with the reform movement. When the military learn this, they decide to kill Angela and the research team before the vice president exposes the unsanctioned MICRA project. As the last issue ends, Angela thinks she’s getting a surgical treatment to restore her mobility; in reality, she’s going to die on the operating table …

Well, obviously not. My guess is that she even without the tech plugging her into MICRA, Angela manages to place her mind in the automaton and save her friends. Possibly her real body dies and she winds up in MICRA permanently. But I’ll never know if I’m right.

#SFWApro. Cover images by Boonthanakit.


    1. A common enough experience for comics readers, of course. Even if books keep going, a change of writers can deep-six or hopelessly mangle long-term plotlines. It makes me appreciate why some writers don’t worry about having an endgame in mind when they start the story.
      I never heard of Ismet — no surprise, as that would have been before my area got any shops that carried indie stuff. Looks good though.

  1. Jeff Nettleton

    Never read MICRA; but, I believe I have it in a digital collection of some indie titles, along with X-Thieves, another Comics Interview book. However, as I read quite a few indie series, once I started to get bored with the mainstream, I have a few that never finished, There was Deluxe Comics’ unlicensed Wally Wood’s THUNDER Agents, which ceased publication after lawsuits, from Joe Carbonaro. TA left me hanging a few times, between Carbonaro’s own comics, the Deluxe ones, and the Omni Comix story (with Paul Gulacy art). I was reading and enjoying a series, from Slave Labor’s Amaze Ink imprint, called Scarlet Thunder, about a pair of speedsters, in WW2. It disappeared after 4 issues.

    Miracleman has left me hanging for nearly 30 years (Yo, Neil, what up wit dat?).

    Scout has hope, with the kickstarter for Scout: Marauder. There was supposed to be another volume after that.

    I was lucky that a local comic shop, where I was stationed, seemed to champion the indies; so, I could always find odd little series there. I probably had more Malibu comics than your average fanboy, before the Ultraverse launch. It was one of the few places you would see something like Kelvin Mace, from Vortex, the Fantagraphics Prince Valiant collections, the European GNs from Catalan and NBM and the Wild Cards mosaic books. It was known as The Green Dragon, in Charleston, SC. They had comics, role playing sourcebooks and accessories, sci-fi & New Age books, fantasy sculptures, martial arts gear and loads of graphic novels. Their store hours sign said “From Moon Day to Satyr Day” and one of the owners had a bumper sticker that said “Smile, Cthulhu loathes you!” Great shop; still around, last I heard.

    1. My first comic shop closed when the owners realized they made more money with less overhead hitting the convention circuit. The second one had a good variety of indie stuff; hopefully it’s still afloat despite the pandemic.
      We have several comics shops here in Durham, but I’ve never thought of them as “mine” the same way. Between them they have an impressive assortment of stuff, making me wish I bought more than I do.

  2. I have a few of these issues, but I don’t think I have quite all of them. I remember a feature about this series in either X-Thieves, like Jeff mentioned above, or Southern Knights, or maybe just Comics Interview, where they talked some more in depth about the series. As I recall, the artist was from South Africa, I think. Weird the little things you remember.

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