M.A.S.K.Original Medium: Action figures
Produced by: Kenner Toys
First Appeared: 1985
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M.A.S.K., a syndicated TV cartoon produced by DiC Entertainment (Rainbow Brite, Get Along Gang), was very much a product of the 1980s — or should that be "product
line"? Like Jem, Strawberry Shortcake, He-Man and many other '80s toons, it was part of an organized merchandising campaign that also included toys, books, clothing and whatever else could be marketed to kids.
In this case, what came first (in 1985) was the toy, or "action figure" as it was known to those who played with it. The main M.A.S.K. vehicle was a car that could fly by means of improbable-looking fold-out wings — or at least, it could when powered by the hand of the player. There were others in the line (the whole thrust of which was wheels), but that one was most memorable. The manufacturer was Kenner (Fluppy Dogs, Real Ghostbusters), which, following a series of mergers, is now owned by former rival Hasbro (My Little Pony, Monopoly). The toy was followed on September 16 of the same year by the weekday half-hour syndicated cartoon, which depicted the user of the vehicle (Matt Trakker) and others of his agency in battle with the agents of V.E.N.O.M., an international criminal organization.
M.A.S.K. (no relation) stood for Mobile Armored Strike Kommand, which made a little more sense than what S.H.I.E.L.D. and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. stood for but had the additional deficit of requiring a misspelling to make the acronym work. Not so with V.E.N.O.M., the Vicious Evil Network Of Mayhem, tho it did contain one minor ambiguity. The last word could be either the common noun "mayhem" or a reference to its head honcho, Miles Mayhem. What it definitely wasn't, was the show's level of violence, which, as in most '80s TV cartoons, tended to be low. But there were lots of car chases and a reasonable amount of crashing.
The only M.A.S.K. agent to appear in all 65 of the first season's episodes was Matt himself, which wasn't surprising since he drove the coolest vehicle. His voice was done by Doug Stone (aka Gully Jimson, aka David Orozco), whose other credits include English dubbings of various anime such as Captain Harlock and Cowboy Bebop. Other frequently-seen agents were Bruce Sato, Alex Sector, Gloria Baker, Buddy Hawkes and more. Most of their voices were done by actors who had few other credits in this field. Miles Mayhem was voiced by Brendan McKane, whose next-most prominent voice work was in Jin Jin, a 1992 obscuro.
Shortly after the cartoon started airing, DC Comics put out a four-issue M.A.S.K. mini-series. It was followed in 1987 by an ongoing series, but that one ran only nine issues.
The second season of the show was radically different. Instead of a deadly struggle of Good versus Evil, it was about racing, like Wacky Races or Motormouse & Autocat. Matt Trakker and Miles Mayhem stayed in background as mere team leaders, while the real stars were the hitherto-unseen Boris Bushkin and Lester Sludge. Many viewers thought it a tepid parody of what had gone before. It lasted only ten episodes.
The cartoons were rerun for a little while, but eventually the franchise ran out of gas. It hasn't been seen in years.