Transformers changed everything. This summer, we got a Transformers sequel and a live-action G.I. Joe. Someone is trying to get a Voltron movie off the ground. Tobey Maguire wants to produce Robotech. A fan-made trailer for a Thundercats film (starring Brad Pitt as Lion-O!) made people swoon with possibilities. Producers are even talking about giving He-Man and the Masters of the Universe another try at becoming a blockbuster.
Meanwhile, no one but me seems to care about M.A.S.K., Mobile Armored Strike Kommand. Well, no one but me and Albert Penello.
He runs "The M.A.S.K. Page", so he definitely knows what I'm talking about. M.A.S.K. was a 1985 toyline from Kenner featuring vehicles that transformed into...DIFFERENT VEHICLES! A car becomes a plane! A motorcycle takes to the air as a helicopter! A helicopter becomes a jet! But, wait! There's more! Each vehicle came with an action figure featuring a removable futuristic mask!
Never heard of it? This was a toy line that was so popular at one time, they even based other toys on the toys. There are M.A.S.K. board games, slot racers, Commodore 64 games, Play-Doh sets, and fingerprint kits (!?) featured on Penello's exhaustive M.A.S.K. fan site. The only thing missing from Panello's site are full episodes of the M.A.S.K. cartoon, but that's what this link is for ("M.A.S.K. crusaders, working overtime, fighting crime...fighting crime!"),
The international M.A.S.K. team, led by devoted single dad Matt Trakker, defended the world with his tricked-out vehicles and super-powered helmets from the forces of V.E.N.O.M. (Vicious Evil Network of Mayhem), a terrorist group who just also happened to have tricked-out vehicles and super-powered helmets of their own. The animated series from DIC produced a healthy seventy-five episodes, and I remember catching the shows on a syndicated station while I was completing high school, well past the demise of the toyline in 1988.
As a kid, I saw the TV ads for the M.A.S.K. toys for a while before I ever saw them on the shelf. When I finally did meet a boy who owned V.E.N.O.M.'s "Jackhammer" (the first M.A.S.K. toy I ever saw), I was shocked at how tiny the figures were, and the ability to transform a Ford Bronco into an assault tank dazzled the ten-year old me. Later, I lived vicariously through my friend Steven's massive collection. He had no other toys but M.A.S.K., obsessively ignoring all other action figure lines until he owned every single M.A.S.K. vehicle and playset. My brother and I had a fair number of the toys (and Boulder Hill), but Steven's comprehensive collection put everyone to shame.
I'm not sure why M.A.S.K. doesn't seem to inspire the nostalgia that so many other cartoon/toy tie-ins do. I have no idea if the toys sold well for Kenner, and I don't have any ratings numbers to see if kids actually watched the show, but, for me, M.A.S.K. is just as cool as any of the big names in the 1980's toy box. If they ever get around to making a live-action film, I'm so there.