Vintage Vault: M.A.S.K. Rhino with Matt Trakker and Bruce Sato by Kenner

Here we go, the final regular MASK edition of Vintage Vault, and I saved the biggest MASK toy in my collection for last. Its the Rhino, a big extended semi cab that converts into a mobile command post, missile base and recon vehicle. This is one really cool and really fun toy and it took me a little while to get mine complete again. As always, let’s start with the figures…

The Rhino comes with not one, but two figures, Bruce Sato and an alternate version of Matt Trakker. While most kids probably preferred the Thunderhawk version of Matt over this one, the Rhino was the only way to get the Bruce Sato figure. And Bruce was pretty prominent on the cartoon, so he was an important figure to have in any collection. He’s a fairly solid looking figure, with a jumpsuit, sculpted boots and a black, detailed vest. He does suffer from the blank face syndrome that many MASK figures do, as there are no paint apps on his face to really accentuate the sculpt.
Sato’s mask is called Lifter. Its power is basically a combination forcefield and tractor beam. The mask is a decent enough design that actually looks more like a hood, but its the same color as the mask that comes with Matt, so the two are a little too similar for my taste.
As for Matt, this is certainly the less iconic version of MASK’s leader, as he isn’t wearing his grey flight suit, but rather a brown jumpsuit and orange vest. The sculpting is mostly in the vest, and there’s some decent paintwork on the silver accents. The head sculpt appears to be identical to the version that comes with the Thunderhawk.
Matt comes with the Ultra Flash mask. Again, its certainly less iconic than Spectrum, (which is ironic since this is the one depicted in the MASK logo!) but I really dig the design. It looks really robotic and the orange matches up with his vest pretty well. As the name suggests, Ultra Flash’s power is blinding enemies. I used to use this Matt Trakker figure as another character.

As always, both figures feature seven points of articulation. The heads turn, the arms rotate at the shoulders, the legs move forward at the hips, and the knees are hinged. This pair are solid enough figures, but ultimately I think their color schemes are a bit too alike to make them really stand out.
And then there’s the main attraction… Rhino is a big honkin semi cab with an extended front. It looks absolutely fantastic, with its mix of burgundy red body and silver, chromed out parts. There’s lots of detail in the mold and the sides are adorned with sticker stripes to give it a little character. Even though its scaled for the smallish MASK figures, its still a sizeable and impressive toy, rolling along on twelve real rubber tires. All the windows are transparent, the doors open and the detailed cab interior comfortably seats two figures. What makes Rhino really impressive in this mode is that there’s really no way to tell it changes into anything. It just looks like a really cool toy truck.
Rhino features a ton of different hidden features, some of which can be used while the thing is in vehicle mode, and some are intended for when its deployed as a missile command post. In vehicle mode, the smokestacks can angle forward to become machine guns, the front grill shoots out to become a battering ram, and the passenger side seat can eject a figure out through the door. Ok, that last feature never really made sense to me. Is it supposed to be tossing out unwanted passengers? I never really got it. Either way, the Rhino can convert to a formidable attack vehicle while its powering down the highway. I used to love making this thing ram Jackhammer.
For something a little more stationary, the back of the cab pulls back to open it up and reveal the little missile command post. A ramp drops down to give the figures access. The launching missile itself looks like its big enough to take out a small city, and there are computer banks and terminals inside and a radar dish on the top. While in this command post mode, the back of the cab can detach to form its own cool little off-road vehicle and the smokestacks can still angle forward into machine guns to help defend the position.
The designers threw a lot of stuff into Rhino and the result is just an amazingly fun toy. Its a bit unlike a lot of MASK vehicles, where it doesn’t so much have a single conversion mode, but just a lots of gimmicks and gadgets to play around with. Its not the only big truck in the MASK line, but it is the first, and in my opinion the best. Next to the Boulder Hill playset, this was probably the one Series 1 toy kids nagged their parents over.
Rhino is a tough MASK vehicle to get complete and in good condition. There’s a lot to go wrong with this thing. The chrome pieces often wear down and often snap off, particularly the mirrors. The windows scratch up easily and the various springs and retaining tabs wear and break over time. And don’t even get me started on the stickers. There’s lots of them and they peel and chip, and as you can see in the photos, the interior stickers love to curl up. My Rhino has its share of blemishes, but its at least complete and in honest, good working condition. Complete versions even in rough shape can often get close to $100 on the secondary market, and if you’re looking for a showpiece, $150 is probably closer to the mark.
And that wraps up all the MASK features that I had planned when I started doing these about seven weeks back. It was a fun ride through what is still one of the underdog toylines of the 80’s. We’ll definitely be coming back back to other MASK toys in the future (and there are plenty more to look at!) as it will work its way into the rotation of Vintage Vault in the coming weeks.

Vintage Vault: M.A.S.K. Piranha with Sly Rax by Kenner

Ok, so its Wednesday, but let’s all humor me and call it Monday, because we’re doing the delayed MASK thang today. This is the penultimate edition of MASK Vintage Vault, and today we’ll be covering what was one of my favorite MASK toys as a kid and also one of the ones that did not survive so well up until today. Probably because I beat the shit out of it. Its Sly Rax and his motorcycle, Piranha, which happens to double as a one-man submarine… sort of.

Sly Rax was without a doubt my favorite character on the cartoon. If they did a live-action MASK movie back in the 80’s, the great special effects gore-wizard and sometimes actor, Tom Savini could have just stepped right into the role. Even the action figure looks like he’d be right at home romping though a shopping mall chopping up zombies with a machete. With his blue jeans, leather jacket, sunglasses, and wicked mustache, he had the whole biker look down to a tee, even if what he drove was more preppy than gangish. And thanks to those shades, mustache and goatee, Sly has a lot more paint apps on his face than most MASK figures, making him stand out all that much more.
As usual, Sly Rax features seven points of articulation. You get a head that turns, rotating shoulders, legs that move forward at the hips, and hinged knees.
Sly’s mask is called Stiletto and its also one of my favorites. Its colored the same as Sly’s jacket so it really meshes well with his outfit and looks great on the figure. The silver trim is nice, although most of the trim on my figure’s mask is sadly worn off. If memory serves, Stiletto shot tiny energy knives at people.
In its regular mode, Piranha is a pretty normal looking purple motorcycle with a somewhat suspicious looking sidecar. Sadly, mine isn’t the best example of what this toy looked like brand new, as its missing all of the stickers from the front windshield piece, but the rest is all there. The sculpting on the bike is pretty solid and Rax can sit on top of it pretty well, although with his mask on it looks a little undersized for him. The translucent purple windshield piece is removable if you want, and there’s some nice chromed out details on the wheels and the engine. The sidecar fits a figure in the seat.
In its covert mode, Piranha doesn’t really convert into anything, but rather just shoots its sidecar, which converts into a one-man submarine. The sub itself is pretty cool, as the windshield slides up to enclose the capsule, fins pop out of the sides, and two guns appear in the front. I also really dig the chrome engine on the back. Its also worth noting that it shoots pretty far when you launch it. In execution, its a pretty cool little toy, but in concept? Even as a kid there were some things that bothered me about this design.
First and foremost, how many times is a motorcycle that shoots out a submarine really going to come in handy? A bike that turns into a helicopter? Sure. A bike that partly turns into a submarine? Mmm… not so much. Secondly, unless Rax has someone sitting in the sidecar, he actually needs to jump off the bike, and into the sidecar in order to make use of the sub. Lastly, the bulk of the motorcycle is left behind, so either VENOM has a whole garage full of Piranha bikes, or Rax always has to drive the sub back to the place he launched from, drag it onto land, and reattach it before he can take the whole thing back to base. I’m guessing MASK could just put an agent by the bike and capture him when he comes back. Yeah, I’m over analyzing the toy, but this is what I do.
Quibbles aside, Pirhana really is a cool little toy and I absolutely loved it when I was a kid. Its odd how two of my favorites were both motorcycles, and yet I’m pretty sure Condor and Piranha got a huge amount of attention. I’ll confess that when I was a kid, I probably used the sidecar as much as a jet as I did a submarine. While its a pretty simple toy, it tends to be tough to find in really good condition, mainly due to sticker wear on the front windshield, and the fact that the front windshield tabs break really easily. Every now and then I poke around on Ebay and try to find a new windshield with the stickers still there to improve mine, but the stickers are usually either mussed up or the tab that holds the whole piece is broken.
[And so next Monday will be the last of the MASK for a little while, and I saved one of the biggest pieces for last. We’ll be checking out the Rhino in all its glory. For now, I’m just glad I was actually able to get an update posted without the roof falling on me or my computer catching fire, since that seems to be the case lately. I’m going to try my best to be back tomorrow with the second update of the week so that I can cruise into Vintage Vault on Friday with a look at everyone’s favorite AD&D badass: Warduke! -FF]

Vintage Vault: M.A.S.K. Raven with Calhoun Burns by Kenner

As I hinted at in this weekend’s update, the MASK editions of Vintage Vault are headed into the home stretch. I planned this as a limited series, and while I will eventually  come back to it, we’re down to the last three installments of the initial planned run. In the last installment, we looked at Thunderhawk, today we’re going to look at one of the other flying sportscars in the series, and one which I think is overall a much better toy. Let’s check out The Raven and its driver, Calhoun Burns. And as always, we’ll start with the figure.

Calhoun’s outfit is a bit like a traditional flight suit, but the colors are totally off the wall. The bulk of his jumpsuit is dark blue with some lighter blue detailing and neon orange pads. The coloring here reminds me more of a 90’s GI JOE than a mid-80’s MASK figure. The sculpt is pretty good for a figure of this size, especially his head sculpt. Some of the MASK figures have some pretty soft face sculpts, but Calhoun’s is clear and well defined. As usual, the only paint apps on the figure’s head is the hair. His mask is called Gulliver and has the questionable power to make things appear really big or small. Ummmm… ok. Gulliver is bright orange with a blue visor and some black paint apps on the gizmos on the back. Its a cool looking mask, but it sits a bit awkwardly high on the figure’s head.
Like all the MASK figures, Calhoun features seven points of articulation. His head turns 360-degrees, his arms and legs rotate at the shoulders and hips. His legs have hinged knees.
In its civilian mode, Raven is a black Chevy Corvette. This time, there are no actual trademarks or insignias on the car, but its pretty clear from the mold that its a Corvette. The car’s body is molded entirely in black plastic with tampo’ed red, yellow, and white scrollwork on the hood, sides and spoiler. The wheels feature real rubber tires with the Good Year trademarks on them. The windshield is clear plastic, but the rear window and the side windows are all opaque black plastic.
Like Thunderhawk, Raven’s doors open as part of the car’s transformation gimmick. In this case they’re sort of reverse gull-wing doors that open down and allow you to put the Calhoun figure inside. The door design is obviously not accurate to the car model, but it works. The interior of the doors have stickers with the MASK logo and various instruments. Raven’s interior is orange with a nicely detailed cockpit and dashboard. The vehicle seats two figures, and have seatbelts to keep the figure’s in place during those rough battles.
Raven’s combat mode is a flying boat, which gives it some serious versatility over air, sea and land. The conversion is in three parts. Push the button just in front of the passenger side door and the front of the car flips upside down. You can then flip the tires up, revealing a total of four guns on the front. Next, you flip the doors down to make the wings. Lastly, you press in the rear license plate, which causes the chromed out rear engines to spring up, and then you fold in the back wheels. The result is a really cool looking jet that works a lot better for me than Matt Trakker’s Thunderhawk. There’s even a disc launcher as a hidden gimmick in the front bumper.
In case you haven’t guessed, I absolutely love this vehicle. It even has an unofficial hovercraft mode where you can fold the wheels up under it like the DeLorean’s hover-mode in Back to the Future. Raven looks great in its car mode, its fun to convert, and the attack mode really looks cool. If I were Matt Trakker, I’d give up Thunderhawk in a second and adopt Raven as my vehicle of choice.
Raven is a pretty well constructed toy and is surprisingly easy to find in good condition. Apart from scratches to the plastic, Raven doesn’t usually show a lot of wear. The tampo designs stay in place and apart from the interior doors, there aren’t a lot of exposed stickers to wear out and deface the toy. While Raven does use springs as part of its conversion, they tend to hold pretty well. I was able to pick up a complete and nice example of Raven for about $25 and while its probably one of the more unsung cars in MASK’s arsenal, I highly recommend it for any MASK collection. I’d even suggest picking it up over Thunderhawk. It may not be as iconic, but it is a much cooler toy.

Vintage Vault: M.A.S.K. Thunderhawk with Matt Trakker by Kenner

I suppose I couldn’t go much longer looking at MASK without checking out one of the lead vehicles, so today we’re checking out what is without a doubt the most iconic vehicle of the line. Its none other then Matt Trakker’s flying Chevy Camero, Thunderhawk. Now, this may be blasphemy to some of you MASK fans out there, but as both a toy and a concept, Thunderhawk hasn’t aged well for me. Don’t get me wrong, I was in love with this toy as a kid, but while I still have an undying love for many of these clever toy designs, Thunderhawk just doesn’t impress me much anymore. Let’s see why…

But before we get to Thunderhawk, let’s check out MASK’s intrepid leader and single dad, Matt Trakker. If he looks a little familar, it might be because Hasbro gave him the action figure treatment just a few years ago as part of the GI JOE 25th Anniversary Collection. And yes, having a 3 3/4″ Matt Trakker figure on a GI JOE card almost blew my brain out the side of my head from sheer awesome and is a figure I seriously need to look at here later on in the week. It also gave me false hopes that we might see a resurgence in MASK toys and figures, but we all know how that went. Anyway, the original Matt is a fairly simple figure. He comes in a grey flight jumpsuit with a sculpted five-point harness and red armbands, gloves and knee pads. As usual for MASK figures, his hair is painted, but none of the features on his face are, making it a bit difficult to pick out the detail in the head sculpt. Matt Trakker features the same seven points of articulation as all MASK figures: A rotating neck, arms that rotate at the shoulders, legs that rotate at the hips, and hinged knees.
Matt Trakker’s mask is called Spectrum and if I remember correctly it launched some kind of sonic attack that temporarily disorientated enemies. Spectrum is one of my favorite mask designs in the whole line. Its red and silver deco goes well with Matt’s jumpsuit and the fact that it actually looks a bit like a flight mask made it look right very appropriate while Matt was flyng the Thunderhawk, especially since the cockpit was open to the air. That wind sheer had to be killer!
And so that brings us to Thunderhawk. In its covert mode, Thunderhawk is a red Chevy Camero, and I’ve got very little to complain about when it comes to this mode. The car looks fantastic, and as I’ve said before, I loved the fact that so many MASK toys actually used licensed vehicles, complete with trademarks and all. As usual, you even get real rubber tires complete with the Good Year logos. The interior of the car is very nicely detailed, complete with sculpted seats, a dashboard sticker, and seatbelts that hold the figures in place. Yes sir, the Thunderhawk is a very nice recreation of the Camero, with only one exception and that’s the gull-wing doors, which aren’t accurate, but obviously needed for the toy’s conversion gimmick.
The bulk of the car’s body is molded in red plastic and the undercarriage is in grey. The headlights are chromed silver, as are the running boards under the doors. Thunderhawk makes use of some very prominant and very large stickers, which make the toy look great, so long as they aren’t tattered and peeling. These stickers are one of the things that makes getting a really good second-hand Thunderhawk particularly difficult, but more on that later.
So far its all been gushing, so what’s the problem? The problem is in Thunderhawk’s conversion to its jet mode. Its just way too simple. You push the button on the top, the gullwing doors open to form wings and the spoiler and rear bumper lift up to reveal the thrusters. All that’s left is to pull out the wing guns, and that’s it. If you look underneath, there’s two hatches where Thunderhawk can drop its stun bombs. Yeah, one of mine is missing. I had plenty of fun with this thing as a kid, but looking back on it now, it’s just not very clever or convincing when it comes to designs.
The other problem with Thunderhawk is that it can be damn expensive to get a really good one. It is the most iconic vehicle in the line, and so that makes it one of the most desireable. There are plenty out there to be had, but getting one in really good condition is the tricky thing. I’ve already mentioned the stickers. There are two huge stickers on the hood, one on each door, three on the roof, and one that covers the entire spoiler. Years and rough play take their tole on these things, and when they’re mussed up, it really hurts the look of the toy. The other problem is in the springs. Thunderhawk’s conversion is done almost completely by the single press of a button and the catches wear over time. It takes several tries before the doors on mine will lock down, and eventually they just won’t anymore. The rear bumper won’t stay down all the way, leaving the rear jet engines peaking out all the time. I often think about getting another one in better shape, but then I reallize I’ll be spending around sixty bucks, and quite frankly there are other MASK toys that I don’t have, that I’d much rather sink that money into.
Don’t think I’m hating on Thunderhawk. Its still a cool toy, but it just isn’t one of my favorites in the line. Afterall, half of its conversion just entails opening its doors. I’m all for suspending belief at the fact that this thing doesn’t look like it could ever fly in a million years, but when you look at some of the clever designs of the other MASK vehicles, you’d think the leader could get something better. In fact, there were several flying sportscars in the MASK line, and almost all of them were better looking and more clever than poor old Thunderhawk. Next Monday, we’ll take a look at one of those.

Vintage Vault: M.A.S.K. Condor with Brad Turner by Kenner

[Hey, folks. I’m still recovering from the weekend. Indian food and lots of alcohol is not necessarily a good combination. Nonetheless, I didn’t want to miss what’s become M.A.S.K. Monday around here, so I’m checking in with something of a quickie today. -FF]

I’m sure I mentioned in a past entry that either in 1985 or 1986, I got some of the 1st Series MASK toys for my birthday and the rest for Christmas. My parents bought them all at once, and they picked them up about a month before my birthday, so I went crazy knowing that they were all hidden in the house somewhere and that I had a month to wait for some of them and another four months for the rest. I must have managed to be enough of a pain in the ass that they relented and agreed to give me one early, and that one was Condor with Brad Turner. As a result this simplest of MASK vehicles has always had a special place near and dear to my heart. Besides it being the only one I had to play with for a whole month, I just thought the idea of a motorcycle turning into a helicopter was unbelievably cool. Here we are 25 some years later and those blasted scientists still haven’t come up with these yet.
Naturally Brad Turner was my favorite (and only) MASK figure for quite a while. He was a cool character on the show, and I like his bright yellow jumpsuit and bright red (or mauve?) accents. His outfit is as gaudy as they come, but it seems to fit a flashy dude riding a racing bike. Turner is certainly not one of the most detailed MASK figures in the line, but I still love him, right down to his cool shades. As is standard for the line, Brad features seven points of articulation. His head rotates, his arms rotate at the shoulders, his legs rotate at the hips, and his knees are hinged.
Brad Turner’s mask is Hocus Pocus. Its also bright yellow and it really accessorizes well with his whole blinding yellow ensemble. As the name suggests, the mask is designed to project holograms to deceive his enemies. It always seemed appropriate that the MASK guys had more strategic and less violent powers for their masks. You just can’t have good guys shooting people in the face with ball bearings.
And then there’s Condor. Condor is probably the simplest MASK vehicle there is, and yet its still one of my favorites. In its standard street mode, its a green sports motorcycle with some black accents. There aren’t a lot of stickers or even sculpted detail. Nonetheless, it still looks good, although there’s definitely something a little suspicious about this bike, particularly with that black bar wrapping around the back of it. The bike will stand on its own, with just a slight lean and rolls along great.
Condor is one of the few MASK toys that doesn’t rely on complex mechanisms or any automatic conversion. I was actually surprised to see that there’s even a spring in this thing. You simply lift up the black bar on the back, which causes the landing skids to simultaneously fold down. Then you just unclip each of the rotor blades, fold them out, and then swing the back wheel out. The nose gun pokes out of the front just a little bit further, and the skids reveal two more guns sculpted to them. Its simple, but effective. The helicopter mode works really well, so long as Brad doesn’t adjust his seat and pop his head up too high. From a safety standpoint, this thing is a deathtrap, but who wouldn’t want to run a motorcycle speeding off a cliff and have it turn into a helicopter?
With no complex mechanisms and not a lot of stickers, Condor is a pretty easy toy to find in good looking and good working order. About the only issue here is the stress put on the plastic of the rotor blades at the point where they flip up. Flip them up enough times and they will eventually fall off. Apart from that, Condor is a good and inexpensive way to start a new MASK collection or rekindle your lost love for this line.

GI JOE Rise of Cobra: Steel Crusher APV by Hasbro

Earlier this week on Vintage Vault, we checked out Jackhammer, that black SUV of death from the MASK toy line. At the time, I tossed out a comment about how Hasbro paid homage to it in the Rise of Cobra line with the Steel Crusher. I was all ready to drop in a link when I was horrified and amazed to realize that I hadn’t featured the Steel Crusher here on FigureFan before. So today I’m remedying that oversight. Not only is it a cool, albeit subtle, nod back to the MASK toy, but its also one of the few truly shining moments of what is otherwise the mostly forgetable pile of schlock that made up the Rise of Cobra vehicles.

No package shot, but Steel Crusher comes in a fairly standard box with some angled corners and a little window to show the driver figure that is included. Apart from the weird penchant for green, I had no problem with the Rise of Cobra packaging. It was more functional than attractive, but at least it stored well. The front shows off some artwork of the vehicle in action and the back panel shows an actual photo of the toy.
Let’s get the figure out of the way first: He’s the Nano-Viper. I hated this guy when I first got him and quickly swapped him out with one of my many 25th Anniversary Stinger Drivers. In retrospect, he isn’t a bad figure, but I don’t think he really fits the bill as a vehicle driver. He looks like a cross between an urban combat soldier and a fighter pilot. I guess it makes sense, since the Steel Crusher is basically an urban assault vehicle, but the figure just seems kind of bland and forgettable. It also didn’t help that within just a few moments of playing around with him, his visor shot off his helmet and disappeared into the great beyond. Its probably in my cat’s secret stash by now.  Anyway, he’s grown on me a bit since I first got him, but I still prefer to have a Stinger Driver at the seat of this marvelous vehicle.
The Steel Crusher is based off the vehicle seen during the “Paris Pursuit” sequence of the Rise of Cobra movie. As such, it isn’t exactly your traditional Cobra vehicle, and therein lies the MASK homage. Its a black SUV that converts, similarly to the Jackhammer, into an armored, rolling death machine. But we’ll get to that in a minute. In its covert mode, it is a really great looking toy. The detail in the front grill, bumper and ramming bar is very impressive. Both side doors open up and you can fit figures into the roomy seats. The interior is amazingly detailed, right down to the sculpted stitching in the seats and the shifter on the console. This baby even has real rubber tires! There are a bunch of stickers to apply, most notably the Cobra emblems, which don’t make a lot of sense if you want to use it as a covert vehicle, but I think they go a long way to making it look more like an official Cobra vehicle.
To convert the vehicle for action, you slide the roof piece forward, which causes the missile launcher to pop up out of the back. You can then flip down the armor shield that covers the windshield, and you can flip open the two side-mounted rocket launchers. The end result is pretty similar to the overal concept of VENOM’s Jackhammer. Steel Crusher even has compartments to store the three missiles, similarly to how the Jackhammer houses the attachable machine gun. The vehicle looks really awesome with the armored windshield and the side rockets deployed.
You may not like the Rise of Cobra movie, lord knows I don’t. And you may not really dig the idea of a covert Cobra vehicle. But I’d challenge anyone to deny that this is a really well made, great looking, and ultimately fun toy. The fact that all the Cobra emblems are optional stickers, really give it a lot of possibilities for using it with other 3 3/4″ lines, but I personally think it looks great with the Cobra insignia. I’d go out on a limb here and say this is probably one of my favorite toys released in 2009 and certainly a pleasant surprise from the otherwise forgettable Rise of Cobra toy line. I passed on this thing for a long time, because I thought the $25 price tag was kind of high for a vehicle in this class assortment, but when I finally relented and bought it, I had no regrets about the pricetag. Its just a great all around toy.

Vintage Vault: M.A.S.K. Jackhammer with Cliff Dagger by Kenner

I was going to do something other than MASK for Vintage Vault this week, but since I got desperate and tacked on a second edition last week with some variety, I thought I’d keep on trucking with those crazy secret raiders who will neutralize, as soon as they arrive. Today we’re sticking with the bad guys, though, and checking out one of the more iconic of VENOM’s vehicles and drivers. Its Cliff Dagger and his killer SUV war machine, Jackhammer. This vehicle and figure was part of Series 1 and its the first MASK toy we’re looking at that I actually owned as a kid. Will it live up to my nostalgia? Let’s find out…

As always, let’s start with the figure. Cliff Dagger is your classic thug through and through. He’s just the kind of guy you would hire as muscle to come along on a cash-grab bank job. Besides being none too bright, he’s a big, burly bald guy with an eye pactch and wool skull cap, and if there’s one thing we all learned from Saturday morning cartoons its eye patch wearing bald guys spell trouble. He was prominantly featured in the 80’s cartoon as one of VENOM’s number one henchmen.
Unlike so many of the MASK figures, which feature complex flight suits and such, Dagger is just a dude in his civies. He’s a decent looking little figure, and since he didn’t have any hair to paint, Kenner splurged to paint his hat and eye patch. He’s sporting a manly purple shirt with a sculpted shoulder holster and automatic pistol.
Cliff Dagger’s mask is called Torch, and its one of my favorites both in form and function. With its slits for the eyes and mouth, it looks like some kind of robot out of Doctor Who. Its simple and looks really low-tech. As its name implies its basically a flame thrower, which just defies all reason and yet is just amazingly cool. What I wouldn’t give to be able to shoot flames out of my head.
And then there’s Jackhammer. Its regular mode is your standard black utility vehicle. A lot of MASK’s cars are actually licensed vehicles, but apart from the real rubber Goodyear tires, there’s no identifying marks on Jackhammer. I’d say its like a cross between a Ford Bronco and a Chevy Blazer.  There are huge stickers on the sides to simulate relective surfaces. The vac metal wheels and front grill really contrast nicely with the black body. The driver area is pretty detailed both in terms of sculpt and stickers, both doors open, and it can seat two figures. Jackhammer is a great looking vehicle that really doesn’t betray its alt mode much at all.
Like Hurricane, Jackhammer doesn’t so much change from one vehicle to another, but rather transforms into a battle machine. Slide the hood back and it angles up and forms an armored shield over the windshield, while the front bumper simultaneously drops down to reveal a pair of laser guns. Press the rear bumper and the top of Jackhammer’s backhalf pops up into a rotating gun turret. There’s an additional gun hidden inside, which can be taken out and plugged into the turret. Roll the Jackhammer along and the front guns recoil as if they’re firing. In battle mode, the turret offers an additional seat, allowing the vehicle to seat a total of three figures.
I really loved this toy as a kid and none of that adoration has been tarnished with the passing of time. Jackhammer may not be one of the highest concept vehicles in the MASK toyline, but its a lot more feasible and practical than many of the vehicle designs. So much so that it practically made a cameo in the GI Joe: Rise of Cobra movie and toyline. Don’t believe me? Well, I’d direct you to my look at the Steel Crusher toy, but I just realized I never did one. Looks like I’ll have to add it to the list for next week.
Due to its high profile in the cartoon, Jackhammer tends to go for a bit more money than a lot of the Series 2 toys.  Wear and curling to the prominant stickers on the sides and on the hood are sometimes an issue. There aren’t a lot of pieces to lose, although the detachable gun for the turret is often missing. I seem to recall paying around $30 for mine and its and its a really nice and fresh example of a toy that belongs in every MASK collection.

Vintage Vault: M.A.S.K. Vampire with Floyd Malloy by Kenner

This week’s Vintage Vault contains more of Kenner’s MASK goodness. Last week we looked at one of the good guys, this time we’ll flip over to the baddies and take a look at one of VENOM’s vehicles and drivers. Here’s another Series 2 toy, hence one that I never owned as a kid. Its the Vampire with biker gang-member and expert forger, Floyd Malloy and his mask, Buckshot. Vampire is one of the smallest of the MASK toy assortments, but that doesn’t make it any less cool. Let’s start with the figure…

As usual, these MASK figures are only about half the size of your average 3 3/4″ figure (you do the math, I’ve been drinking!), but they still have a respectable amount of sculpted detail and articulation. Malloy has the usual lack of paintwork on the head, with just the fleshtone and the yellow tuft of hair, but if you look close enough, you see a lot of personality in that f’ugly mug. Yes, Floyd Malloy is not only a bad guy, but he looks like he has some deeper genetic issues. Holy hell! It may be hard to tell because of the lack of paint apps on the head, but Malloy has a face that would scare werewolves.
Malloy’s outfit makes him one of my favorite VENOM figures. The black, red, and silver deco looks outstanding and the design has a definite Mad Max meets posh quality that works well for a biker terrorist. I can’t get over how much sculpted detail Kenner worked into this little guy, but suffice it to say its pretty amazing. I have no idea what that little thing jutting up on his right shoulder is, but I’m betting its some kind of weapon.
Buckshot is a somewhat unique as it doesn’t cover the figure’s whole head, but rather has a hole int he top for his tuft of yellow hair to stick out. A lot of the masks used by MASK and VENOM have some pretty sophisticated weapons and devices. Malloy’s on the other hand is basically just a shotgun. Once again, its a remarkably detailed sculpt and the deco matches the same color scheme as Malloy’s outfit.
Malloy’s vehicle, the Vampire, is a red sports motorcycle. It doesn’t look like the kind of bike a dirtbag like this guy would be caught dead on, but than again it ain’t your average motorcycle. The sculpt is relatively simple, and the toy relies on stickers, particularly on the saddlebags, and some nice vac metal on the engine, exhaust and wheels to spruce it up. Unlike most vehicles in this toyline, Vampire isn’t quite as good at hiding its alt form. You can definitely tell there’s something going on under those saddlebags, but it is a small toy, so I’m willing to give it a pass. It can be tricky to get Malloy to sit correctly on the bike, but with a little patience, he can do it.
Vampire converts into a cool little one-man attack jet. Remember that whole concept versus execution thing I talked about last week? Well, Vampire hits both points dead on. The conversion is easy enough, as all you have to do is push the button on the back and then fold down the two wings. The button moves the sheels backwards, drops the front of the bike down to reveal a rotating gun, the stabilizer wings spring up in the back and the engine-slash-missile launchers are revealed in the back. The result is a very cool little jet with a pair of missile launchers. Malloy does have to be repositioned a bit when the bike converts, so it isn’t as fluid as most of the other MASK and VENOM vehicles, but the concept still works well.
One of the really cool things about the MASK line is that the smaller toys can be just as fun as the bigger ones, and Vampire here is a perfect example of that. I love the idea of having a motorcycle that turns into a jet and the transformation is both simple and cool. Toss in the fact that the Malloy figure is one of my favorites and you’ve got a great little set here. I was lucky enough to pick up this little guy, complete, but no box, for just under $20. Sure, its a bit steep for a little toy, but it was well worth it for such a nice example of this cool toy.

Vintage Vault: M.A.S.K. Hurricane with Hondo MacLean by Kenner

Here we go, FigureFan’s first forray into Kenner’s line of loveable Masked Crusaders who were fond of working overtime fighting crime… fighting crime!  I was tempted to start small and work my way up, but obviously a lot of the MASK toys I’m going to look at don’t have their packaging anymore, so I wanted to start off with one of my packaged MASK toys just to convey how these things looked on the shelves. And so let’s kick it off with one of the mid-sized MASK vehicles: Hurricane and its driver, Hondo MacLean. Hurricane is a 57 Chevy that converts into what’s called a “Field Command Post.” Let’s look at the package and see what this thing is all about.

Hurricane is a Series 2 toy, and like most MASK toys, the vehicle and figure come in a simple box with the MASK logo and a red and yellow deco. You get some nice artwork on the front showing the vehicle in its combat mode, and every other panel of the box is loaded with big photos of the toy and all its features. The front panel also has a photo of the Hondo figure and his mask, Blaster II. The photo of the figure is very close to actual size, so you have a good idea what you’re getting. In fact, even though there’s no window to see the actual toy, the MASK boxes really do a great job conveying everything there is to know about the toy inside. Besides the vehicle and figure, the box contains a folded set of instructions, a sticker sheet, and a poster.
Let’s go ahead and start with the figure. Unlike GI JOE, MASK was always a bit more about the vehicles than the figures. That’s not to knock the figures, though. Sure, they only come up to the waist of your average 3 3/4″ figure, but they’re still plenty cool. The Hurricane actually features the second version of Hondo MacLean, as he was originally bundled as the driver of the Series 1 vehicle, Firecracker.
This version of Hondo is an all new figure, and while the original version came with the Blaster mask, this one comes with the newly designed Blaster II.  The sculpt and paintwork is pretty good for such a little figure. In fact, the only real stumbling point with these guys tends to be the lack of paint apps on the faces. Kenner probably guessed kids would have the masks on them most of the time, so why bother. Hondo’s wearing a pretty hi-tech looking pilot suit in yellow and purple with some blue sculpted instruments on his chest and right leg. Yeah, the deco is a little garish, but it was the 80’s after all. The Blaster II mask is not one of my favorite mask designs and its red and aqua green deco doesn’t do much to subdue the figure’s color scheme. Then again, it shoots “supersonic laser rays” so who cares what color it is, eh? MASK figures all have the same standard seven points of articulation, which ain’t too shabby for a figure this small from 1986. The head turns, the arms rotate at the shoulders, the legs rotate at the hips, and the knees are hinged.
Moving on to the main attraction, its the Hurricane! Straight away, I’ve got to say how awesome it is that Kenner was able to use proper licensed vehicles for many of their toys. Nowadays this would probably have been a generic vintage car, but in this case, the Hurricane is a bonafide 57 Chevy, complete with the appropriate logos, and if you still doubt me, it even says it on the package. Hell, even the real rubber tires say Goodyear on them. I love it!
In its regular vehicle mode, Hurricane is an awesome looking toy. Its mostly molded in greenish blue plastic, with vac metal bumpers, wheels, and accents and topped off with some bitching flame tampos. The windows and windshield are painted black. The toy rolls along great and has only a few subtle hints that it is in fact more than meets the eye. Oh, wait… wrong toy line. The only real downside of Hurricane is that you can’t really put Hondo into it in its regular car mode without revealing its secrets. While they definitely look like they open, the doors on the sides are only sculpted to appear that way. Hondo gets into the vehicle from the opening roof hatch and once you open the roof hatch, you’re starting the conversion to battle mode. So, let’s convert it and take a look at the features!
Officially, Hurricane’s alt mode is called a “Field Command Post” but I prefer the name “Wagon of Rolling Death.” because this thing is armed to the teeth. Turning the roof causes the car to raise up on its hydraulics and reveal a third set of wheels in the center, probably to stabilize it while firing its howitzer. Yes, howitzer! Opening the roof hatch causes a howitzer (I’m sorry, make that “Gale Force” howitzer) to deploy from the front windshield and a pair of cutting lasers flip up over the top of what is now an armored shield. What is now the turret can rotate 360-degrees to dish out death to VENOM fools from every angle.
Hondo can sit inside the Command Box in the turret or he can peg in behind the armor plate to man the cutting lasers. The inside of the turret is decked out with stickers, and yes, you can keep the figure in there when you convert Hurricane back to its regular street mode.
Hurricane’s front bumper lifts up to reveal a Night Vision scanner and the two headlights pull out to serve as Infrared Blasters. Lest, you think Hurricane is all business up front and party in the back, let’s check out the caboose!
Reach under the rear bumper and give a tug and you reveal the circular sawblade. Push down on the rear bumper and you launch the spare tire, which becomes the “Terror Spare” Landmine!

One thing you’ll see in all my MASK features is a question of concept versus execution. From a concept angle, Hurricane isn’t as simple as some of the Series 1 toys, like a car turning into a jet or a motorcycle into a helicopter. Nope, the designers just said let’s take a vintage car and see how many weapons we can pile onto it. In execution, it works great. The decision to go with a vintage car gave the vehicle enough bulk to conceal all its deadly goodies and what you get is a really fun toy with lots of cool surprises. If this were a Series 1 toy, the designers probably would have been happy with just the hydraulics and the turret, but the addition of the headlight blasters, infrared shield, buzzsaw and spare tire bombs give it a neat James Bond kind of feel. In fact, Hurricane can make use of a lot of these gadgets without even fully converting.
Hurricane is a fairly common find at a lot of the regular vintage toy haunts. Its a toy that doesn’t tend to break easy and except for the spare tire and flip up cutting lasers, there really aren’t any parts to lose. The stickers are almost all located inside the cockpit, so sticker wear isn’t as big an issue with this vehicle as it is with some other MASK toys and the flame deco tampos tend to survive fairly well. The chrome wear is probably Hurricane’s biggest enemy as well as the usual cracking that can occur with the rubber tires and the possibility of the spring mechanisms wearing out. I seem to recall paying around $35 for my Hurricane, complete with instructions and a pretty worn box and it was worth every penny.

Vintage Vault Returns Tomorrow With M.A.S.K.

Phew… its been a long week and since I doubled up on content yesterday, I’m making the unorthodox decision to take a Monday off.

So no new feature, but as today’s title proclaims, I’ll be back tomorrow with FigureFan’s first look at Kenner’s wonderful 80’s toy line: MASK. Last year I dabbled with featuring some vintage toys here on FigureFan and this year I’m going to try to do a little more of that. There were only a total of five Vintage Vault features throughout 2011: Two were for Toy Island’s Robocop figures and the other three were for Coleco’s Sectaurs. While I plan on revisiting Sectaurs in the very near future, I’ve decided to spread some loving to MASK.

For the uninitiated, MASK (Mobile Armored Strike Kommand) was the story of a secret organization of peacekeepers (and by peacekeepers I mean people who engaged in furious deadly and highly irresponsible combat on the roadways) called MASK and their never ending battle with the terrorist group VENOM. Besides being a poorly spelled acronym, the name MASK was something of a double entendre, as not only did all the characters wear masks (ok, more like helmets) with some kind of high-tech weapon or gizmo, but all the vehicles transformed from everyday vehicles into fighting machines. It was a world where illusion was the ultimate weapon… well, illusion and a Chevy Camero that could turn into an attack jet and drop bombs on people.

The MASK toys hold a place near and dear to my heart. You see, it was the last toy line that I got as a kid to actually play with (as opposed to as the toys I collect now as a middle-aged functional alcoholic). I can remember getting half of the Series 1 toys for my birthday and the rest for Christmas (except for Boulder Hill… never had that one!) and I was pretty smitten with these things. Series 1 came out in 1985 and the figures and transforming vehicles struck an obvious chord in the GI JOE and Transformer lover in me. I never did get any of the toys past Series 1, as I was gradually gravitating away from toys and onto other pursuits (i.e. girls).

Naturally, I watched the cartoon religiously, and while I still think it has one of the best opening sequences of all the 80’s cartoons, sadly I don’t think the episodes themselves have held up all that well. I can still gleen enjoyment out of watching Transformers or GI JOE or even Thundercats, but I can’t say as I enjoy watching MASK all that much anymore. Maybe I just need to try a little harder.

As for the rest of the week… It’ll be back to business as usual. In other words a hodge-podge of goodies. I will be dropping my bucket in the Marvel Universe at least one more time… sorry… and I hope to finish up a two-part piece on a Transformers toy I’ve been meaning to get to since… well, since I started doing this nonsense. Also, hopefully by next weekend, I should be able to get back to finish up DC Universe Classics Wave 20 with the last two packaged figures and the C&C Nekron.

And I’ve gotten rather long winded for a day off, so I’m going to cut myself off there. Until tomorrow…