With transforming toys becoming a hit in the 80s, Kenner joined the fray with their toy line, M.A.S.K. (Mobile Armored Strike Kommand). These toys aimed to offer two forms of fun. First, the drivers had the classic fun of an action figure, like Star Wars and G.I. Joe. Meanwhile, the vehicles could become war machines with their transforming action. Unlike their competitors, Kenner opted to create vehicles that converted into other vehicles rather than robots.
Kenner employed several designers to create the vehicles for the M.A.S.K. toy line. One of the designers was Bill Kraimer, who designed the RV that hid a jet inside, Slingshot, and other vehicles for the line. There was also Alton Takeyasu who designed many of the concepts for M.A.S.K.’s vehicles. He specifically had a hand in designing Outlaw, which he originally named “Snake Oil Tanker”. When it became time to design the boxes and logos, Kenner outsourced the work to other companies where artists like Lance Anderson worked on them.
Kenner knew that they would not be able to successfully launch a new toy line without a cartoon series to help advertise it. Thus, they got in touch with DIC Entertainment to produce this new cartoon. While Kenner came to them with the designs for the vehicles and the drivers, it was up to DIC to create the world and story. In the end, the cartoon series spanned 75 episodes over two seasons. As with most children’s entertainment of the era, it included short Safety Tips PSAs that taught life lessons.
To help promote the new toy line, Kenner made certain to include a comic mini-series in the first season’s toys in 1985. After the toy line was successfully launched, DC signed in to produce even more comics for the brand. Most of these comics were special inserts. However, DC also produced a four-issue miniseries from 1985 to 1986. Finally, the brand received a proper series of comic books that ran for 9 issues in 1987.
When the toys officially launched in 1985, the first series included multiple members of M.A.S.K. and their adversaries, V.E.N.O.M. (Vicious Evil Network of Mayhem). For the M.A.S.K. team, there were Condor with Brad “Chopper” Turner, Firecracker with Hono “Striker” MacLean, Gator with Dusty “Powederkeg” Hayes, Rhino with Matt “Hunter” Trakker and Bruce “Magic” Sato, and Thunderhawk with Matt “Hunter” Trakker. Meanwhile, several toys represented the V.E.N.O.M. side including Jackhammer with Cliff “Blaster” Dagger, Piranha with Sly “Wrecker” Rax, and Switchblade with Miles “Wolf” Mayhem. This season also included the Boulder Hill playset, a staple part of the toy line.
The toy line lasted for four official seasons, finally ending its run in 1988. It even included a special run of Adventure Packs, single figures with accessories, in 1986. While the 2nd series simply increased the roster, series 3 took the toy line in a new direction with the Racing Series. Finally, the fourth series introduced the Split Seconds, vehicles that could split in two.
At the height of M.A.S.K.’s popularity, it made its way to multiple international regions. For instance, Play Ful created these toys for Argentina. There was also Auriken that provided the toys for Mexico. There was also a company called Prospectus that created the toys in Europe. China even produced a series of knock-off toys through Mesk.
After years of dormancy, Hasbro momentarily revived the M.A.S.K. brand in 2011. In that year’s New York Comic-Con, Hasbro released a special comic book titled Unit-E. This comic combined many of Hasbro’s properties, including The Action Man, Candyland, M.A.S.K., Stretch Armstrong, and more. Unfortunately, this stand-alone comic never led to any further content.
However, M.A.S.K. received another chance to shine in the spotlight. In 2016, IDW introduced readers to the M.A.S.K. team with their Revolution series. This comic led to a brand new series of comics that ran for 10 issues. Even though the official series concluded in 2017, the characters from the series made yet another appearance in the First Strike crossover comics. Thus, there were seven more issues for the M.A.S.K. team to appear in.
Despite the small revival thanks to IDW and a brief hope of a movie from Paramount, Hasbro has not officially revived this toy line. So, collectors can only look back at the toys from the 1980s.
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How to use the Identification Tool to find your action figures and toy lines
Do you have an old-school G1 Transformers toy you are trying to identify? Don’t know the name? No problem! I’ll help you use this identification tool. For example, just type in “jet” in the figure name field and hit search. You’ll see all the Transformers G1 Toys that are jets. Maybe try “car” and select the color “blue” and a list of Transformers matching those results will appear. Maybe you don’t know what the finished vehicle will make, so try searching by “red” only. Did you forget to remove “car”? Now search just the color “red”. Perhaps you know the name, but can’t spell it try “Wheljck” instead of “Wheeljack” and all the Wheeljack characters are listed for you.
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