Qonto and Tonto and Moebius

Not long ago, during a busy work day, I posted this picture:

I wanted to say more about it then, but I just didn’t have time. I’ll tell you about it now.

It’s a little (about 2″ tall) robot toy I bought when I was a kid. It’s die-cast except for the head and arms, and it has little wheels on the bottom. The head and arms are articulated. I got it at Barker’s, which was a department store on Jefferson Highway at Folse street, and is now a Winn-Dixie. It was called “Qonto” and I knew nothing about it other than it looked cool. They had a bigger one with all sorts of features which I coveted but never got. I’ve lost or gotten rid of a lot of toys over the years, but I still have Qonto. It wasn’t until a while back that I decided to look up what the heck he was.

Here’s what I’ve found out. In 1978 Japan answered the call of Star Wars with its own space opera, Message From Space (the cast includes Sonny Chiba, Vic Morrow, and, according to IMDB, Chris Isaak.) I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it, though it did get a US release. It was spun off into a Japanese TV series called Message from Space: Galactic Wars. It’s there that the robot “Tonto” makes its appearance. Bandai created toys and brought the robot to the US, renaming him “Qonto” for obvious reasons.

Qonto featured heavily into my playtime once I got him. He’s scaled pretty well with Kenner Star Wars figures and became a sidekick to my Doctor Who analogue character.

For some reason I thought about him the other day, excavated him from a box of old toys, and took the above photo. Didn’t think much more about it and then bam, the other night, there he is again.

I’ve been reading The Incal by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Jean “Moebius” Girard, and there in “The Black Incal” is this:

That’s [Q|T]onto, even called Tonto. He’s The Metabaron’s robot pal, and will go on to be a major character in the Metabarons saga, though he gets a slightly less exactly-like-the-Japanese-one look:

I can’t tell you how he ends up there, other than either Jodorowsky or Moebius just plain yoinking him from the series. The interesting thing is, according to French Wikipedia, it was broadcast in France (where Jodorowsky and Moebius lived) in 1979 under the name San Ku Kaï, and was also released as a French comic. However, there the robot’s name was “Sidero”. Black Incal came out in 1981, and this was the first appearance of The Metabaron/Tonto. So why did either the writer or artist go with something from another property that was, I guess, somewhat established? I’m not accusing anyone of anything, I just flat out don’t know. I can’t find anything else anywhere talking about it.

It was a weird bit of synchronicity to see the little robot I knew as Qonto suddenly pop up on a French comic book the other night. Had I not been laying down at the time, I probably would have flown backwards with my shoes in the air, like comic strip people do.

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