Using My Illusion, Too: UnM.A.S.K.ing an Ultimate Weapon of My Childhood
Time has a way of pulling a veil over our eyes, especially the eyes we once looked through as children.
Growing up in the 1980s, one of my favorite cartoons to watch before Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had hit the streets of NYC in 1987 has always been M.A.S.K., an acronym for the Mobile Armored Strike Kommand. Now, while I can’t recall what channel it aired on (I believe it was Fox –– channel 5, where I hailed from), I do remember that I not only watched the series quite zealously, but I also owned a fair amount of the original Kenner toy line the TV show was inspired by and created to sell more toys. In fact, one of the first jobs I ever had as a seven-year old moving from allowance money to earned money was bagging groceries behind my sister’s register at the PathMark (now ACME) right next to our apartment. With the $15 I earned in a week’s worth of work, I proudly purchased Firefly, a dune buggy that transformed into a rocket glider with lasers and even a little bomb that dropped out of the bottom of its chassis at the push of a button. (But of course, that was the first thing I lost the first time I launched it.)
See, the concept behind M.A.S.K. for those of you who’ve never heard of the series before is a special task force of mask-wearing heroes with vehicles that transform into super-vehicles with laser-beam weaponry protect the world against the Vicious Evil Network Of Mayhem, or V.E.N.O.M., for short. At the time, Kenner was trying to create something that could see the same success as Transformers and G.I. Joe franchises, which both had amazing toy lines that inspired memorable TV shows. M.A.S.K. was a fine fusion of the two.
Honestly, I haven’t thought about M.A.S.K. for at least a decade. It was one of my favorites, for sure, but at the time it didn’t compete with He-Man and the Masters of the Universe or ThunderCats, and it ran on a par with SilverHawks (another series that I think about often enough these days –– I seem to have a thing for all things cult, or as I call them, b-sides), but I have always enjoyed the characters and vehicles on both the M.A.S.K. and V.E.N.O.M. sides. Recently, I read that Hasbro, which owns the license for all things M.A.S.K., was teaming up with Paramount Pictures to create a cinematic universe consisting of 1980s properties like ROM, Micronauts, Visionaries, and M.A.S.K.
Of course, I immediately thought to myself man, this is such a terrible idea! Ever since Michael Bay irreparably maimed many of our fondest childhood memories by taking our beloved ’80s cartoons Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and turning them into ridiculous (though albeit fun) movies that prove unfaithful to the source material that true fans would want revered and represented properly. And the G.I. Joe movies, which are also a part of this Allspark Pictures cinematic universe (alongside Transformers, if the name of Hasbro’s film arm didn’t give that away, but not TMNT –– thankfully, I think they’re still owned by Playmates) proved a far cry from the TV series it takes its name from.
This news led me to dig deep into the M.A.S.K. mythos, which helped me unearth a few websites dedicated to the cult cartoon franchise like Agents of M.A.S.K., Matt-Trakker.com, and Boulder-Hill.net, as well as Albert Pinello’s website, which is a veritable library of all things M.A.S.K.. Through these sites, I discovered that IDW Publishing is about to reboot the series in comic book form; aside from the mini comics that Kenner included with their toys, DC Comics put out a four-issue M.A.S.K. miniseries, and an ongoing series that lasted around nine issues total. This, in part, sparked professional wrestler and author Mike Quackenbush to create a #MASKCrusade on Twitter to get IDW’s attention. See, Mike has a pretty nifty idea of how this rebooted comic book should be told, and it wouldn’t be as a reboot. Even Jason and Wyatt, the guys who started Agents of M.A.S.K., have a feature-length screenplay for a live-action M.A.S.K. film they’ve been working on that they’re sure fans would rally behind. And based on what I’ve heard about it, they’re right!
Now, if only Hasbro would see it that way, too.
Peering more deeply into the world behind M.A.S.K. (and there’s so much more that I’m filtering my way through in the spectrum of free time I’ve allotted myself), I’ve become so inspired that I spent an entire week between finishing my galley proofreading for my upcoming crowdfunding book and polishing the script for the second issue of my comic book series and wrote up a proposal for a coffee table-style book all about the original franchise, covering everything from the original toy line to spinoff shows like A.T.O.M. all the way up until today. With the help of some swell folks I met when I used to write for Broken Frontier, I’m currently pitching to some well-known comic and book publishers, simply to see if there’s interest for a book about M.A.S.K.. Based on what I’ve seen so far, there is a fan base, and an ardent one at that; and within the next year and a half or so, and especially when the film releases, I predict that this fan base to grow in its ranks, with fans of the film first experiencing M.A.S.K. for the very first time will want to find out more about where this series plants its roots.
And when they do, I’d like to be there with Agents of M.A.S.K., Matt Trakker, and the rest, as a repository of knowledge for a series that gave me much joy that I remember clearly now. And how can you forget that opening theme song?!
Who else reading this remembers M.A.S.K.? What’s your favorite vehicle? (I mentioned Firefly was my first purchase, but my favorite is Rhino which I’m hoping to acquire from a seller on Facebook, as long as the price is right, of course.) This is seconded only by Condor, ’cause motorcycles are cool, but motorcycles that turn into helicopters? And a mask called Hocus-Pocus? The epitome of awesome.
Write some comments! Share your experience. And remember: “Illusion is the Ultimate Weapon” and always will be!