FLASHBACKS Vol. 1: MASK Toys From My Childhood
This is a segment I plan on doing as often as I can, but not necessarily as often as the usual topics I write about. I have so many fond memories from my early childhood. They’re spotty but just like people are taken back every time they hear their first girlfriend’s favorite song or they smell that autumn air that reminds them of their college days, I’m instantly transported back to the 1980s every time I catch a reference to things like He-Man, snap bracelets, or Crossfire (Crossfiya!). I think these articles will be a fun trip down memory lane and even if you didn’t watch the shows I talk about or play with the same toys you’ll still be reminded of the fun stuff that you were into as a kid. On to the article…….
If you don’t remember MASK it was one of many popular cartoons in the ’80s that kids like me never missed an episode of every Saturday morning and filled their Christmas lists every year with the toys spawned by the series. Everyone had their favorite shows and MASK was definitely one of mine. Probably an attempt to cash in on the Transformers/Voltron craze where every toy changed into something else, MASK was also curiously similar to GI Joe. You had a bunch of military types divided into “good guys” (the Mobile Armored Strike Kommand) and a bunch of bad guys trying to take over the world in V.E.N.O.M. (the Vicious Evil Network of Mayhem LOL). Each character had some kind of vehicle they used in battle all the time and all of them changed from a pedestrian-looking vehicle into a more military style one and in some cases……just another kind of vehicle.
Regardless of all of the “been there, done that” characteristics of the show MASK did fill a certain demographic at least within the demographic of kids age 4-12. There were all kind of robots that changed into vehicles or what not, but there wasn’t a human element involved. Like I said, it was Transformers crossed with GI Joe. At a time where it was apparent that robots and soldiers were big with kids it fit right in.
At this point I’m just going to go through the MASK toys I remember having as a kid in no particular order. I’ll let you in on what made each one so cool at the time and include any personal memories attached to them. You’ll notice each toy is labelled “Virtual Toy Chest,” which is a great site I was able to obtain all the images from. When you’re done reading if you want to check out anything else from this collection head on over to the site.
I guess it would be fitting to start with the leader of MASK, Matt Trakker and his sweet ride, the Thunderhawk. When you first start collecting toys from a boys cartoon you obviously need to get the leader of the good guys first! Well that’s exactly how it went for me. I’m not sure you’re much of a leader if your main ability is to turn your car into a plane with no weapons. Sounds more like you’re planning on ditching your boys when the going gets tough. Anyway you can’t start playing until you have the leader of the group so I was glad to land this toy as my first. The only thing about it was that the ridiculous purple stylings on the car were stickers you had to put on yourself. The one on the rear spoiler is the biggest pain in the ass since it’s exactly the same size as the spoiler itself so there was no room for error. I remember being upset at the time because I messed up and tried to peel the sticker back off and it ripped leaving half of it behind. I don’t think I was ever 100% happy with the toy after that!
I always liked the Gator a lot. I think everyone has that one toy in a series that all their friends thought was stupid but you liked it anyways. The Gator was that toy for me. It’s like “Hey I’m just driving along in my Jeep NO I’M NOT NOW I’M CRUISING AROUND ON THE LAKE!” Okay that’s pretty ridiculous but I just thought it was neat how the gimmick was pretty simple and the two options were so different. I remember in the cartoon Dusty Hayes transforming the Jeep and shooting out of the chassis on the boat like a bat out of hell. To this day I still can’t figure out what the silver keg-looking thingy was for and I think I just got rid of it because all it did was keep falling off. More pics here if you’re that curious as to what I’m referring to.
Okay so the Condor is pretty lame. The funny part is I remember thinking the same thing as a 5 year old. A street bike that changed into a helicopter just by raising a very simplistic looking propeller, this has to be the laziest vehicle to be developed when they were brainstorming for the show. The crappy part is the propeller was made of really cheap plastic and I’m not sure but I might have even broken it soon after opening it. I even remember taking it to my dad and showing it to him and asking “Is that all it does?” It’s funny to look back on conversations like that now and thinking about what it must have been like for my dad. Was he annoyed? I mean after all I was the one that asked for the toy and my parents gladly obliged. Maybe he felt bad because I was unhappy? It’s interesting to think about from a parent’s perspective.
Now we’re getting into some of the bad guys. Just like you gotta have the main good guy you gotta have the main bad guy, otherwise what’s the point? Miles Mayhem (scary I know) was the leader of VENOM who was a shameless Cobra Commander rip off and this was his ride. To be honest they probably could have done something a little more bad ass for the main villain. You’re riding in a helicopter, but then you’re riding in a plane. Put some gatling guns on that baby, something ANYthing. For some reason I remember being oddly fascinated by the cool red see-through cockpit. The decals on this one impressed me just because there were a few stickers to show the instrumentation inside the cockpit.
The Jackhammer was driven by Cliff Dagger. ”Cliff Hanger?”……*sigh* “No, DAGGER.” I wonder if he constantly had to correct people like that. Anywho, Cliff Dagger was a grizzled war vet. We know this because he sports an eye patch and a beret. He probably told annoying stories and was ridiculed, the way we ridicule crazy Vietnam vets when we know we shouldn’t. Regardless I always thought of him as the Destro of the group and it’s fitting and sort of comical he drove an old man truck with a cap on it (check out the sweet artwork on the windows of said cap). Pissing him off probably isn’t advised though, since there looks to be a couple 9mm machine guns and some sort of missile rig waiting in the wings. As a kid I gave it points for the chrome grill that was actually shiny not gray and the VENOM sticker that appeared when the front guns were exposed.
A motorcycle with a side car that turns into a one-man submarine vessel? Not bad. The ’80s certainly had worse concepts for toys, but upon further inspection the Pirahna is much goofier than it initially seems. The side car is obscenely large, I mean if it really can be manned underwater it’d be a helluva task for that motorcycle to pull it alongside itself what with all the machinery and inner-workings. It’s just funny when you take two seconds to think about it. What the hell do I know, maybe it was light in order to avoid it sinking like a rock. Makes sense. The owner/pilot was Sly Rax (whatever) and he has that leather jacket and chains look that is not so intimidating these days. Thankfully he’s wearing plenty of layers and material in order to prevent confusion over his sexuality. This toy pissed me off because Sly Rax doesn’t fit in the god damn cockpit no matter how hard you try. His head always sticks out and if you just try to jam the hatch down on top of him it just breaks off, and no I don’t care if the pictures show him in there!
“The base.” That was what you told your friends when you finally got a crown jewel like this to add to your toy collection. ”Whoa, you got the base!?” If you were the first one to get it you were the man because all play dates were automatically at your house. It was like a few years later if you were the only kid with a pool, and as an adult when you’re the only guy with a pool TABLE. Boulder Hill probably left a little to be desired in the wow factor department because it more or less was a big rock with a gas station in front of it that turned into a metal turtle shell to protect everyone inside, but there still some things to gawk over. I always loved the fact that the gas pumps turned into turrets and the sign doesn’t look like it’s about to let anyone blow it the hell up either. You could also plop a guy onto the top of the boulder where another turret resided. There wasn’t much to do with it in normal mode aside from pretend the good guys were planning stuff inside or some shit, but it came with Alex Sector who I think was the brains behind the whole operation. At least he could wax tactical to the other guys and give them something to do. I’m sure he was also relieved his parents didn’t name him “Alek” because everyone would just say “Alex” anyways. Cliff Dagger is the beginning and end of name confusion in this universe and that’s the way it should be dammit.
Well, I’ve written way more than I thought I would and there’s still a bunch of toys to go! I think this is a good place to stop and I also think my next entry will deal with a different toy line or a different show. For anyone out there that enjoys MASK, check back in the meantime to see some other stuff you probably remember from back in the day and eventually: more MASK!