Western Animation: M.A.S.K.
was an animated television series directed by three Japanese studios - KK C&D Asia
, Studio World, and Ashi Production
; with Korean studio Hanho Heung-Upnote
and produced by the French-American DIC Entertainment
(Jean Chalopin & Andy Heyward). It was based on the toyline of the same name sold by Kenner
A total of 75 episodes were broadcast from 1985 to 1986 in syndication. One of many cartoons produced during the 1980s as a vehicle for toys, M.A.S.K. (which is an acronym for the Mobile Armored Strike Kommand
), was essentially a mashup of G.I. Joe
(with the whole "opposing factions of terrorist and peacekeepers" thing) and Transformers
(with the vehicles that changed into objects; no transforming robots here, though). It featured a special task force featuring an array of characters, led by Matt Trakker, with transforming vehicles engaged in an ongoing battle against the criminal organization V.E.N.O.M. (an acronym for the Vicious Evil Network of Mayhem), with an emphasis on super-powered helmets called "Masks" worn by the characters.
The series, like with these types of shows, focused mainly on the vehicles and characters from the toy line. More characters were introduced as the line expanded. There is a storyline difference in the mini comic books which came with each toy. In the comics, Miles Mayhem knew the identity of Matt Trakker and had originally helped start the M.A.S.K. team but betrayed him later by killing Matt's younger brother Andy
Besides the cartoon and toys, there were also various merchandising products like sticker books and comics to capitalize on the success of the show, as well as a DC Comics
In that series the M.A.S.K. team is sponsored by an organization called the Peaceful Nations Alliance
, with a guy named Duane Kennedy as their rep. Their exact relationship wasn't explained. Duane and the P.N.A. did appear in the cartoon, although in a smaller role. Similarly, V.E.N.O.M. didn't exactly have a clear goal as to what they did. They weren't
the typical villains who sought global dominance, and their schemes mostly revolved around illegal activities and the like. The comics tried to give them a more believable background, where they were the apparent main force of an even higher evil group called Contraworld
. Like M.A.S.K. and the P.N.A., their relationship wasn't explained, nor were Contraworld's larger goals.
- Matt "Hunter" Trakker: The Leader of M.A.S.K. as well as a multi-millionaire philanthropist.
- Scott Trakker: The adopted son of Matt Trakker, who raised him alone. He has great mechanical skills and is always upgrading his robot sidekick T-Bob with some new function.
- T-Bob: The cowardly robot sidekick of Scott Trakker, who can convert into a scooter. He was built by Scott. He likes making bad jokes and is easily frightened.
- Bruce "Magic" Sato: Mechanical engineer and design specialist, and Matt Trakker's de facto second-in-command. Is of Japanese origin. Occupation: toy designer. He often talks in Confucian riddles that only Matt and Alex seems to understand.
- Alex "Megabyte" Sector: Computer and communications expert and Zoology specialist. Hails from Britain. Occupation: veterinarian and exotic pet shop owner. As an action figure, Sector originally came with the Boulder Hill playset.
- Dusty "Powderkeg" Hayes: Auto and marine stunt driver, all-terrain specialist and tracking and demolition expert. Occupation: pizza cook.
- Gloria Baker: A champion race car driver and black-belt in kung fu. Occupation: racer/sensei.
- Brad "Chopper" Turner: Expert hill climber, rock musician, motorcycle and helicopter pilot.
- Hondo "Striker" McLean: Weapons specialist and tactical strategist. Occupation: history teacher.
- Buddie "Clutch" Hawks: A master of disguise and intelligence expert. Occupation: mechanic.
- Calhoun "Stonewall" Burns: A construction and demolition specialist. He works as an architect and enjoys raising horses.
- Jacques "Trailblazer" LeFleur: A natural disaster specialist and martial arts master. Occupation: lumberjack. Hails from Québec, Canada.
- Julio "Doc" Lopez: Expert in languages and cryptography. He is of Latino descent. Occupation: doctor.
- Ace "Falcon" Riker : Former NASA test pilot. Works at a hardware store.
- Boris "The Czar" Bushkin: A big, burly, bald, bearded Russian who was a former VENOM agent who defected to MASK.
- "Chief" Nevada Rushmore: An American Indian and Matt Trakker's childhood friend.
- Ali "Lightning" Bombay: An immigrant from Kandukar, India.
- Miles "Wolf" Mayhem: The Big Bad. The leader of V.E.N.O.M. In the comics, he betrayed the original M.A.S.K. team by killing Andy Trakker, and stealing half of the masks for evil purposes. In the cartoon, the origin of V.E.N.O.M. is a lot less clear, though Mayhem's connections to M.A.S.K. remain the same as the comics, and that he co-created the organisation. Mayhem's catchphrase is "I oughta buy you a new face".
- Sly "Wrecker" Rax: A Con Artist. In the comics, he has ambitions of replacing Miles as V.E.N.O.M. leader.
- Cliff "Blaster" Dagger: Demolitions expert and strongman.
- Vanessa Warfield: V.E.N.O.M.'s espionage and intelligence agent. Becomes the unofficial leader of the team by the beginning of the second season, and is one of few agents besides Mayhem to pilot Switchblade regularly when he is incapable of doing so as well as occasionally riding shotgun with Dagger in Jackhammer. Falls for Brad Turner in series finale "Cliff Hanger". Came THIS close to stealing a space shuttle in "The Everglades Oddity".
- Bruno "Mad Dog" Sheppard: A kidnapping specialist and another strongman.
- Nash "Goon" Gorey: Overeager and boot-licking henchman. In the comics, Gorey was initially a new recruit for M.A.S.K., but was revealed to be a mole working for V.E.N.O.M.
- Lester "The Lizard" Sludge: A smarmy henchman with an annoying signature laugh. Almost succeeds in murdering Matt Trakker in "When Eagles Dare".
- Floyd "Birdman" Malloy: Biker gangman and expert forger.
- Maximus Mayhem: Weak-Willed twin brother of Miles Mayhem.
Twenty-five years after MASK
left the airwaves, the line was "adopted" by G.I. Joe
when a new Matt Trakker action figure was released as part of the Joe figure line under the name "Specialist Trakker", with a character bio explaining MASK and VENOM as special ops units of the Joe Team and COBRA.
In 2011, Hasbro
released a re-imagined version of MASK
at NYCC, under the "UNIT: E" umbrella, which includes Hasbro's more famous lines such as G.I. Joe
, and other, not-so-famous (or even out-of-left-field) properties like Micronauts
, Action Man
, Stretch Armstrong
, and even Candy Land
, it seemed to have been roughly merged
with another Hasbro property, COPS
; it takes place in a futuristic Detroit, where the government seems to have given up completely; an ancient workshop belonging to the "League of Ancient Wheelmen" was found and used by Trakker (now a police officer) and a new team of public service people, who use the tech they found to help Detroit's citizenry, as M.A.S.K.
Not to be confused with The Mask
, or the docudrama Mask
starring Cher (it doesn't help that the latter film came out the same year).
M.A.S.K. contains the following tropes:
- Animesque: The cartoon was a Japanese-American co-production, which was common in the 1980's.
- Avengers Assemble: Just about every episode, Matt Trakker has his computer "scan personel files for the M.A.S.K. agents best suited for this mission." The computer names the agents it selects, followed by their special skills and the vehicle they drive or co-pilot. After each is named, a little vignette shows the agent being alerted, dropping whatever he is doing, and running off.
- Which, given "whatever he is doing" is usually a day job like pizzeria cook, opens up a bit of Fridge Logic, all on its own...
- Big Badass Rig: Rhino, Outlaw, Goliath, Bulldog.
- Big Bad: Miles Mayhem
- Calling Your Attacks: Most of the time—not always—characters using their mask's powers would call out something like "Lifter, on!" or "Whip, on!" depending on the name of their mask. The series was inconsistent about this, though, and sometimes just seemed to be an excuse for the target of a destructive power to get out of the way.
- Card-Carrying Villain: You don't call yourself "vicious evil" for no reason.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Bruce Sato, Hondo MacLean, Julio Lopez, and Cliff Dagger were all absent from the show during the second season.
- Cool Car: Several that were based on Real Life cars would have been cool all by themselves. The fact they transformed just made them cooler.
- Cool Old Guy: Alex Sector.
- Cool Shades: Brad Turner, Sly Rax, and Lester Sludge.
- Dumb Muscle: Cliff Dagger and Bruno Sheppard.
- Early Installment Weirdness: In the early episodes, V.E.N.O.M. has generic Mooks at their disposal.
- Everybody Laughs Ending: Fairly often.
- Expository Theme Tune
- Eye Beams: Most of the masks emit their special powers from the mask's eyes. Matt Trakker's Spectrum/Ultra Flash, Bruce Sato's Lifter, Dusty Hayes' Blacklash, Hondo McLean's Blaster I, Gloria Baker's Aura.
- Most frequently (but not always) in the heros' masks; the villain masks usually had their emitters in the forehead or shoulder pads.
- Flight: Granted to Alex Sector by his mask and Matt Trakker Spectrum mask.
- Fun with Acronyms: M.A.S.K. stands for Mobile Armoured Strike Kommand and V.E.N.O.M. stands for Vicious Evil Network Of Mayhem.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Buddie Hawks' mask is called Penetrator. It allows him to pass through solid objects by vibrating. Its alternate name, Vibrator, is not much better.
- Happily Adopted: Scott Trakker.
- Hard Light: The explanation for the holographic pilots in the Split Seconds vehicles.
- Heel-Face Turn: Part of Boris' Back Story.
- Husky Russkie: Boris Bushkin.
- I Lied: In "Assault on Liberty", V.E.N.O.M. threatens to destroy the Statue of Liberty unless it's paid a huge ransom. Near the end, Mayhem smugly says "I would have blown the statue up anyhow, just so they would know who they're dealing with." This is immediately followed by M.A.S.K. pulling a Big Damn Heroes moment.
- Initialism Title
- Intangible Man: Buddy Hawks when he uses his Penetrator mask.
- Invisibility: Jacques LaFleur when he uses his Maraj mask.
- It's Always Mardi Gras in New Orleans: The setting of "Mardi Gras Mystery".
- Kid-Appeal Character: T-Bob.
- Mask Power: This show runs on it.
- Master of Illusion: Brad Turner when he uses his "Hocus-Pocus" mask. And possibly the vehicles' engineers.
- Mind over Matter: Granted to Bruce Sato by his Lifter mask.
- Nerd Glasses: Nash Gorey.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: Trakker's Spectrum Mask.
- Nice Hat: Buddy Hawks and Cliff Dagger.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Sly Rax sounds like Jack Nicholson. Ace Riker sounds like John Wayne.
- No One Could Survive That: Uttered in the first two minutes of the pilot episode, "The Death Stone".
- Official Couple: Matt Tracker and Gloria Baker. Most obvious in "The Counter-Clockwise Caper".
- Playing with Fire: Cliff Dagger when he uses his Torch mask.
- Poison-and-Cure Gambit: VENOM attempts this in "Cold Fever".
- Product Promotion Parade: Matt's Avengers Assemble sequence invariably was one of these.
- Reset Button: In "Eyes of the Skull", Mayhem acquires a magical Crystal Skull that gives him X-Ray Vision, which he uses to find out the identity of M.A.S.K. members. Since this knowledge would have changed the status quo of the series, when the skull is destroyed he forgets everything he learned through it.
- Ridiculously Human Robot: T-Bob sometimes displays emotions, complains of being tired, and engages in other un-robotlike behavior.
- Robot Buddy:
- The second season introduced one for V.E.N.O.M., the drone pilot for the Buzzard's core fighter that was shown out of the vehicle in the series.
- The Smurfette Principle: Only one woman in each faction, and Vanessa and her vehicle never got a toy till the last two waves. At least Gloria technically got two rides (however, there was never a Shark toy; there was a Gloria figure made for the Split Seconds series, though).
- Southern-Fried Private: Dusty comes close; he's got the voice and the mannerisms, but not the mistrust of others.
- The Starscream: Sly Rax in the comics.
- Super Senses: Matt Trakker's Spectrum mask grants him super vision. The theme song even says so.
- Super Strength: Granted to Nash Gorey by his Powerhouse mask.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Maximus Mayhem.
- Toyless Toyline Character: The Shark, Gloria's vehicle. Gloria was the very last figure, but did not come with a vehicle.
- Transforming Vehicle: The basic premise.
- Tsundere: Vanessa Warfield towards Brad Turner in the second season.
- Twenty Minutes into the Future: Which almost justifies all the Family-Friendly Firearms; the directed-energy weapons.
- The Un Favourite: Nash Gorey by all the other V.E.N.O.M. agents.
- Vocal Evolution: In a couple of early episodes, T-Bob sounds somewhat like Kermit the Frog and doesn't stutter.
- We Will Meet Again: Miles Mayhem often says something like this when M.A.S.K. defeats him.
- Whip It Good: Vanessa Warfield when she uses her Whip mask.
- Wrecked Weapon: The heroes' transforming vehicles were occasionally damaged or shot up, but never really destroyed. But in one memorable episode the Big Bad gets his hands on an experimental melting-ray and dissolves Hondo's truck, Firecracker, into a puddle of goo. He's naturally dejected at the loss, but at the end of the episode, he gets a brand new transforming '57 Chevy to replace it. By contrast, later seasons simply gave the characters a second vehicle with no real fanfare.
- Writer on Board: Scientologist writer Jeffrey Scott's episode "The Star Chariot" involves an ancient spacecraft left behind by Ancient Astronauts. The ending has Scott and T-Bob apparently killed, then beamed away to an alien world, resurrected by aliens, and beamed back offscreen. All in two or three minutes.
- Xtreme Kool Letterz: In this series, Command begins with a k.
- The Yoda: Bruce Sato.