In those heady days of the mid 80s there was no internet. That’s right kids: NO INTERNET. Wrap your heads around that nightmarish Dickensian scenario for just one minute. Scary, hey? Amazing really, that we actually still found stuff to do. And because there was no internet, no chat rooms, Twitter or Instagram, the only way you knew about a new toyline was when you walked into your local toyshop and BAM! you were smacked in the eyeballs with shelves and pegs full of this new, brightly coloured, awesomely packaged stuff that you’d never seen before and your 12 year old self was drawn toward it like a crippled starship into a black hole.
Such was the case with MASK. Inevitably, a brand new cartoon would then roll out on the TV and within moments you were hooked: the toys were your drug, and the TV your pusher. This shit was hardcore and MASK was presented to kids in an irresistable fashion: fantastic box art, great TV show with a pumping soundtrack and brilliant toys that turned the imagination up to 11.
Although me and my bro were heavy into our Transformers phase at this point, the one show we always made a point of watching was MASK. That opening title sequence was the shit and MASK became a staple of my mid 80s viewing habits. These guys really were working overtime fighting crime.
Toy company, Kenner created MASK in direct response to the Transformers craze. MASK vehicles looked like normal cars, planes, boats and trucks which transformed into lethal killing machines covered with weapons and instruments of carnage. Cool concept. Kenner were riding high with the success of Star Wars, Super Powers and the soon-to-be Centurions. They were at their prime and MASK was a continuation of that gold run.
Now I must confess, I sold off my MASK collection a few years ago to free up some space. Gone are my PIRAHNA, VAMPIRE, FIRECRACKER, JACKHAMMER and RAVEN (Letting go of Raven hurt. I still miss you, buddy) But the one bit of MASK that was going nowhere was RHINO. Why? Well just look at it: 1. Its a purple fuck-off Big Rig covered with vac-metal chrome. And 2. Its a purple fuck-off Big Rig covered with vac-metal chrome which transforms into a missle-launching battle-station death chariot. What’s not to love?
RHINO sported real rubber tyres, vac-metalised parts and an array of action features: press a button on the trailer hitch to activate the ejector seat and send some poor VENOM bastard flying. Press another and the front grille and bumper-bar becomes a battering ram turning the enemies of MASK into human pulp.
In battle-station mode, the sleeper compartment of the rig slid back to open up the missile bay. The rear of the rig would detach to become an armored scout buggy. Fold down the exhaust stacks and BOOM, you got a pair of high calibur blinged-out cannons that’d be sure to send Cliff Dagger reaching for a new pair of evil underwear.
RHINO was and continues to be a fun toy. My kids really dig it when I take it off the shelf and we all have a little play. That ejector seat is still a lotta fun. I mean what kid is not going to be drawn toward a beautiful purple truck with weapons and an ejector seat? Only a poorly raised one.
Whilst short lived as a toyline, MASK continues to enjoy a solid fanbase among adult collectors. MASK toys are reasonably priced on the collector market and worth picking up if in good condition. Some MASK toys could be a bit delicate so if you’re on the lookout, ensure all parts are working and the toy is complete.
If you’re fortunate to still have some MASK laying around, pull it out and have a play. Be sure to see the laser rays fire away!
Note: as Hasbro now owns all the Kenner IP, MASK has been incorporated into their GI Joe mythology. They even released a Matt Trakker GI Joe figure as part of the Joe 30th anniversary. He now heads up a division within the Joe’s called Mobile Armored Strike Kommand. Rumor has it that the 3rd GI Joe movie will incorporate MASK in some capacity. Let’s wait and see…