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Blondie-Wan

LEGO's narratives and characters

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I'm curious about LEGO's various original stories and characters. Obviously it's easy these days to go to LEGO's online product pages for various sets, and find things like the bios for the collectible minifigures, but this hasn't always been an option. I also know things like Bionicle are supported by their own comic books, DVD movies, etc., but it still seems like there's a lot of information about the worlds portrayed in LEGO's official sets that other fans sometimes seem to somehow just sort of know without ever having specifically learned it, if you get my meaning, and I find it fascinating and mysterious.

For something like, say, the earlier Adventurers sets, just how did people learn all the character names and relationships - Dr. Kilroy, Lord Sinister, and so on? Was all this stuff in older LEGO Club magazines? The sets themselves usually don't have a ton of information, and while I know some set boxes and instructions have directed kids and other fans online to learn more about these LEGO worlds since at least as early as the early 2000s (IIRC, Alpha Team sets are some of the first I can remember seeing this sort of thing for, and more recent sci-fi action themes like Exo-Force seem to use it extensively), I didn't think it was done much in the '90s, when most of the Adventurers stuff was done. Am I wrong? And what are some of the other LEGO themes / subthemes with their own fairly richly developed internal mythologies, and how have these narratives been imparted to LEGO's core customers (i.e., children) over the years?

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Sometimes you did, sometimes you didn't. The club magazine would have information, sometimes there were adverts in kids comics. For Adventurers my sister and myself named the characters "Sam Grant" (I am sure that was Johnny's name first) Lara (um duh, wonder where that came from!), Dr. Carter (huge egyptology nerd as a child) "Evil Eyes" and "Baron Sinister". The wordless comics of the instruction manuals provided a story.

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I haven't noticed this phenomenon very often. I do see what you mean though. Regarding Adventurers, there was an audiobook cassette which came with one of the smaller sets and told the story of Adventurers. The same goes for TimeCruisers which had a different story associated with each set/time machine. This was in Germany, so I don't know about the rest of the world. I'm kinda kicking myself now that I sold those cassettes.

The one theme that has always been a mystery to me while others seem to be experts in it is Lego Space. I had no clue there was such an inter-connected story between all those factions and I still wonder where that story came from.

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The catalogs were indeed the main source of any story associated with themes. This includes the mini-catalogs in sets (which sometimes had different information in different countries), the larger S@H catalogs and the club magazines. The larger boxes with flaps also contained short blurbs on the themes.

As you said, Alpha Team is the first theme I remember with distinct and well-developed characters (by Lego standards, anyway).

The one theme that has always been a mystery to me while others seem to be experts in it is Lego Space. I had no clue there was such an inter-connected story between all those factions and I still wonder where that story came from.

Actually, there wasn't much of a story with those. You can pick up bits and pieces of it from the above sources, but TLG mostly left it to your imagination. SP3's universe is a lot more developed than any of the old Space themes.

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I've been subscribed to the Lego magazine since the mid 90s. Back then, each issue was dedicated much more to a particular theme that was released that year. There was often a couple pages showing off the sets, including a set up story for the theme (when applicable), character bios, set functions, and other trivia. Then there was often a comic which showed off the sets in action. These magazines, up until sometime around 2002 or 2003, were only around a dozen pages long. The 'upgraded' magazines around 2003 were around 30 pages long, and since then each issue length has varied. I personally find the old issues (mid 90s to early 2000s) more informative and entertaining than current stuff, but I'm not going to get into that discussion.

Another way to find out about the sets and themes were from catalogues and tv commercials. Finally, boxes for medium - large sized sets often had a lift up panel with a paragraph or two about the set or theme.

I think the official Lego site went live around 1996 or so, and it has been much easier to find information regarding products since then.

Note: I'll see about scanning a couple pages from some of my magazine issues as soon as possible and posting them here.

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This is a fun topic!

The way I learned the stories and character names was from the catalogs mostly, not the magazines. Quite often in the later '90s, there would be a blurb explaining what was going on in the line, and also there would be little pictures of the figures with their names. This was true for Adventurers, Res-Q, X-Treme team, and others.

I for one did like to follow LEGO's own stories, even if sometimes the continuity was not too great. For example, in the desert Adventurers line had the guy in the top hat named Sam Sinister and the guy with the monocle named Baron von Baron. Then for the Orient Expedition wave, they gave the guy with the monocle a top hat and called him Doctor Sinister. It made me confused.

For earlier Castle themes, like Black Knights, Dragon Masters, etc. there were blurbs on the poster advertisements explaining the factions (sort of). Those I never found to be too well-developed though, which was ok, since there aren't too many unique stories for knights anyway.

I only cared for LEGO's given stories and names for some themes, though. For Ninja, LEGO's own story was much too confusing and muddled for me to bother with, so I split the different figures into the factions that I wanted and made up the story my own way. I called one black horse Soot, and the other one Shang, after Disney's Mulan.

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I'll fully admit that I was too lazy to get out my scanner, but I did take some quick pics of one of my magazines from 1998. Why 1998? - There has been some talk about the Adventurers theme, and this is of course when the Desert subtheme was released. Here are a couple of pics from the Jan/Feb issue. The rest of the magazine, along with larger photos can be found here. (Note: sorry about the blurriness of many of the images)

The front cover:

mag1.jpg

Character bios:

mag3.jpg

Random page:

mag2.jpg

Random page from the comic:

mag8.jpg

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I have another loosely related question, about the characters in the 6000 Idea Book. You know, these guys:

4528979558_a687d65e16_m.jpg

On Bricklink I learned that their (English) names are Bill and Mary, but where does that info comes from? My edition of 6000 has very little text and none of it relates to the characters by name. Were the names mentioned in another edition of the same book?

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I don't know, Fugazi, but that's another interesting question.

Everyone, thanks for your posts (and in particular, ZO6, thanks for those scans!). I'd like to return to this topic sometime...

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