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The Rebirth of M.A.S.K. and the Nostalgia Struggle


One of my favorite animated shows and toy lines as an '80s kid was M.A.S.K. aka Mobile Armored Strike Kommand. It was a fun mix of elements from Transformers and G.I. Joe developed by Kenner and released in 1985. Beyond the transforming toy vehicles and mask-wearing action figures, M.A.S.K. was a fully licensed property appearing on everything from bed sheets to birthday plates to comic books.


I've been a huge fan of M.A.S.K. since it's debut. I remember having several of the small vehicle toys including the Hurricane '57 Chevy which was a birthday present from my Aunt. Sometime in the late '80s, I specifically remember begging my mother to buy me the Boulder Hill playset I found on clearance at a local department store. M.A.S.K. is my most revered cartoon and toy line to this day and I have the fansite to prove it.

Unfortunately, M.A.S.K. has pretty much lied dormant for 25+ years. Kenner was bought out by Tonka which was bought out by HASBRO which has left it to collect dust save for one crossover Matt Trakker figure in its 25th anniversary G.I. Joe toy line. The fans have been the ones to keep it alive in the internet age until just this year when news developed from Hasbro that it had licensed IDW to print a new M.A.S.K. comic book series. They also announced the team would also be included in a new cinematic universe of HASBRO properties.

On Nov 30, the first issue of new M.A.S.K. comic series was released, born from a crossover event titled Revolution. The new team is young, diverse, and inspired by franchises like Fast and the Furious. Familiar names and modernized vehicles fill the pages of this fast-paced new book, leaving much of the original story in the past. Writer Brandon Easton has made it known from the beginning that his reboot of the franchise would be primed for a modern audience of adults and so far, has done nothing but satisfy.


But for those who have waited for so long to witness the rebirth of M.A.S.K., has it been worth it? Coming from obscurity to the comic book limelight has been difficult for most diehard fans. The M.A.S.K. fan community is small and while the new books obviously give nods to the 1985 version with its covers and familiar names, the 2016 version has a new and very different path from the original. As much as I've enjoyed reading about the new team, I find myself struggling to turn off my nostalgia to enjoy it which I've even heard the writer recommended us doing.

It's hard to close a chapter of a book you've read for 25 years when the author finally does write that next chapter. It's a lot easier to critique new material based on 30 year-old properties when there is a new iteration every couple years like Transformers. But when something is so ingrained into your nostalgia alone, how can you simply turn your brain off from it? It's a struggle that I think most companies and publishers don't realize when trying to create a new story. 

If I put on my 1985 glasses when I read the new M.A.S.K. book, I see a vast difference from what I know. But when I wear my 2016 glasses, I see a fresh action-packed story. As with all companies, each new endeavor needs to be profitable. But at what point does profit trump our nostalgia? I'm not sure I know the answer to that question but it seems to be one I struggle with now more that ever.
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Trigonis Posted on Jan 05, 2017 at 02:49 AM

This article raises an important topic: "...at what point does profit trump our nostalgia?" I don't know the answer either, but I think there are two sides here: The ones wearing the 1985 goggles (to borrow the author's terms) who are so sucked into the nostalgia of their youth that they are petrified with fear of change to set that aside and see the new M.A.S.K. for what it is. A good story (but that REVOLUTION storyline with the Joes and Transformers, that was utter trash, sorry to say –– best thing about it was M.A.S.K.) –– that aims to "neutralize" past aspects of the original and beloved '85 series, namely the premise of transforming vehicles with superpowered masks, which I think is sufficient for the nostalgia factor, with a more innovative and sharper edge that's much more relevant for today's audiences. I highly doubt IDW, Brandon, Tony, and Tommy are swimming Scrooge McDuck-style in gold coins with this series, so I don't think it's a question of profit trumping nostalgia, it's about us trumping our own nostalgia and enjoying a good story. And this is coming from someone who also has fond memories of sitting around with my M.A.S.K. toys as a kid at Christmas. But that was in 1985. The only reason I'm enjoying the new M.A.S.K. is because IDW and the creators are not trying to smack me with nostalgia in anything except the covers; instead, they've given us something completely new, and I for one appreciate them not messing with my childhood too much.

Trigonis Posted on Jan 05, 2017 at 02:48 AM

This article raises an important topic: "...at what point does profit trump our nostalgia?" I don't know the answer either, but I think there are two sides here: The ones wearing the 1985 goggles (to borrow the author's terms) who are so sucked into the nostalgia of their youth that they are petrified with fear of change to set that aside and see the new M.A.S.K. for what it is. A good story (but that REVOLUTION storyline with the Joes and Transformers, that was utter trash, sorry to say –– best thing about it was M.A.S.K.) –– that aims to "neutralize" past aspects of the original and beloved '85 series, namely the premise of transforming vehicles with superpowered masks, which I think is sufficient for the nostalgia factor, with a more innovative and sharper edge that's much more relevant for today's audiences. I highly doubt IDW, Brandon, Tony, and Tommy are swimming Scrooge McDuck-style in gold coins with this series, so I don't think it's a question of profit trumping nostalgia, it's about us trumping our own nostalgia and enjoying a good story. And this is coming from someone who also has fond memories of sitting around with my M.A.S.K. toys as a kid at Christmas. But that was in 1985. The only reason I'm enjoying the new M.A.S.K. is because IDW and the creators are not trying to smack me with nostalgia in anything except the covers; instead, they've given us something completely new, and I for one appreciate them not messing with my childhood too much.

SockofFleagulls Posted on Jan 04, 2017 at 08:24 PM

@Vaporman I've wanted M.A.S.K. back for so long that I couldn't simply ignore the new comic for the changes. It kills me we haven't got more merchandise for us collectors like Funko figures or really anything! I'm adding these comic to my collection because there is literally nothing else to collect! Having said that, I've been entertained with the new book as much as my 1985 brain will allow.
@NLogan It's crazy how we hope they will eventually get one of these reboots "right". I can say I've enjoyed a few but its really a rare occasion.
@jaktz You really have to look at it with 2016 glasses to enjoy and so far I have. Some changes are interesting while others are head scratchers. I'm committed to giving Easton the first 5-issue story arc the benefit of the doubt before giving a blanket assessment.

jkatz Posted on Dec 31, 2016 at 05:25 PM

So, pointless diversity casting aside, how is the new comic? I think I have an issue or two of the original 80s series lying around somewhere...let's just say it wouldn't be very difficult to beat them.

Rick Ace Rhodes Posted on Dec 31, 2016 at 05:24 PM

I've tried getting into M.A.S.K. since I was a fan of it's sequel Vor-Tech. But I just couldn't do it. It seemed just far too cheesy in some regards compared to other 80's cartoons. I never really got that feeling when I used to watch old episodes of things like the original Transformers series or GI Joe series on YouTube. It also seemed kind of bland in some regards.

NLogan Posted on Dec 31, 2016 at 12:51 PM

Somehow M.A.S.K. was one of the only properties in the 80s that I wasn't fully immersed in. The only possible explanation is that some other show that I was more interested in was on in the same time slot. I was aware of it and may have even watched a few episodes, but only dimly remember it. As for the toy line I had 1.5 pieces. I remember looking at the toys in the toy aisle but never purchased or asked for any. I had a Hocus Pocus yellow little man with a small mask that I found on the playground once. Because he was tiny compared with my He-Man, Star Wars, and GI*JOE figures he was rarely played with. As an adult I bought an Indiana Jones Lost Temple of Akator playset for my sons. Wanting, hoping for the new film to be as good as the originals and getting some Indy figures for my boys where I as a child missed out on the Kenner figures and had none. I am not sure how or where I became aware that it was in fact the Kenner M.A.S.K. Boulder Hill playset re-purposed by Hasbro who would also use it again for their Star Wars property as a Mustafar final battle playset on the lava world of the prequels.

The thing that resonates, I suppose, with me about this article is the feeling of wanting, hoping. That while in the present they are strip mining our childhood cartoons and toy lines for current marketable properties, that they stay faithful, close to the originals. There is always a spark of nostalgia when I see something I am familiar with come up again, a feeling of dread when I know they will probably mess it up by not coming close to the originals, and the let down and disappointment of being proven right as beloved characters are drastically changed.

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 31, 2016 at 11:33 AM

Before the disastrous server screw up with KnownHost, there was a forum thread in which I ranted about the new comic. I too am a big M.A.S.K. fan (probably my favorite toy line/cartoon of the past, second only to Masters of the Universe.

I was anticipating a revival of everything familiar, only to see that a lot of things had been changed. I think the straw that broke the camel's back for me was changing Matt Trakker into an African-American. If the writers wanted to make the property more diverse, more power to them. But do it with a NEW character! Don't go making major changes to the old ones. Make your new leader a disciple of the original Matt Trakker, or a friend... or anything but the actual Matt Trakker!

Understand that my sense of aversion to these types of changes are heightened because of the world we live in now, with it's precious snowflake infested safe spacer political correctness running amok. Not to mention I found this out around the same time I was finding out that Iron Man was now a young woman of color. What?!

So yeah, the changes that were made to the characters and their stories/motivations were too great for me to overcome, and in my view totally unnecessary (kinda like an all female Ghostbusters movie).

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