The M.A.S.K. Logo
Genre Animated television series Voices of Brendan McKane
Country of origin France
Language(s) English No. of seasons 2 No. of episodes 75 (list of episodes) Production Producer(s) DIC Enterprises, Inc Running time 22 mins Broadcast Original channel USA Network Original run September 16, 1985 – November 28, 1986
M.A.S.K. (Mobile Armored Strike Kommand) is an animated television series directed by several uncredited Japanese studios, KK C&D Asia, Studio Juno, Studio World, Ashi Production (now called Production Reed), and produced by the French-American DIC Enterprises, Inc (Jean Chalopin & Andy Heyward) and also the toyline of the same name sold by Kenner.
A total of 75 syndicated episodes of M.A.S.K. were broadcast from 1985 to 1986. One of many cartoons produced during the 1980s as a vehicle for toy merchandising, M.A.S.K. (which is an acronym for the Mobile Armored Strike Kommand), was a hybrid of popular era cartoons G.I. Joe and The Transformers.
M.A.S.K. and V.E.N.O.M.
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 on the show.
In the DC Comics series, the M.A.S.K. team is sponsored by an organization called the Peaceful Nations Alliance (PNA). Their exact relationship is never explained. The liaison between the P.N.A. and M.A.S.K. is Duane Kennedy. Duane and the P.N.A. did appear in the cartoon, although in a much more limited role in such episodes as "The Roteks" and "Assault On Liberty".
It is never made clear what sort of criminal organization V.E.N.O.M. is, exactly. They were not the typical world-conquering villains and their schemes mostly revolve around profiting from illegal activities and doing mercenary services. The comics tried to give them a more believable background. They appear to be the foot soldiers of an even higher evil organization called Contraworld. Like M.A.S.K. and P.N.A., their relationship is not explained, nor are Contraworld's larger goals.
The original series focused mainly on the vehicles and characters from the original 1985 toy line. More characters were introduced as the line expanded with a second wave in 1986. The format for the last season of the show featured a racing theme to correspond with the theme of the third wave M.A.S.K. toys. A major difference from the first season is by the second, V.E.N.O.M. agents knew the personal identities of the M.A.S.K. team, whereas V.E.N.O.M. did not know their identities during the first season. The second season lasted for only ten episodes. 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. This was very similar to the second series of the cartoon.
Due to the short-lived nature and new format of the racing series, many characters from the first season were given reduced roles to establish the new cast members and their vehicles, or to reintroduce older characters with new masks and vehicles. Buddy Hawks began using the name "Clutch" and gained a more prominent role with a double-act partnership with agent Boris "The Tzar" Bushkin. Matt Trakker and Miles Mayhem's rivalry remained strong, but the two usually only appeared in their own focus episodes. Other V.E.N.O.M. operations against M.A.S.K. agents were now exclusively handled by Vanessa Warfield.
The toyline's fourth and final wave went to one other variation, "Split Seconds", in which the vehicles sold under the line would split from one whole into two different vehicles for a M.A.S.K. pilot and a "clone" holographic partner (a transparent version of the same figure carried with the vehicle), but the cartoon was not renewed for the fourth wave. Besides the cartoon and toys, there were also various merchandising products like sticker books and comics to capitalize on the success of the show.
In 2008, twenty-two years after M.A.S.K.'s cancellation, a Matt Trakker figure was released as part of the G.I. Joe toyline, with the codename "Specialist Trakker". His filecard states that V.E.N.O.M. was created by Cobra instead of the comic series' Contraworld. The release of "Specialist Trakker" has caused speculation of a M.A.S.K. revival.
In 2010/2011, Hasbro also released a subline of Transformers called Stealth force featuring vehicles that have the ability to pop out weapons as a homage to the MASK concept.
Beginning in 1987, British software house Gremlin Graphics released a trilogy of computer games based on the M.A.S.K. franchise for various 8-bit computer formats.
The first game, "MASK I", was a vertically-viewed 2D game in which the player controls the Thunderhawk vehicle. The premise of the game is that VENOM have propelled Boulder Hill into a time vortex, and the player must rescue the other members of the MASK team by collecting and re-assembling parts of a scan key which then directs the player to the location of the missing personnel. The game received mostly favorable reviews in the computer game press of the time, although it was noted by some that the tie-in to the franchise was quite tenuous and only the graphics, rather than the storyline and gameplay, connected it to the M.A.S.K. franchise.
The second game, "MASK II", also released in 1987, was a 2D horizontal scrolling shoot-em-up. The game featured many more of the MASK vehicles, and included a selection process in which the player must choose which vehicles to use before the game begins. Only one vehicle could be controlled at a time but these could be quickly interchanged. Again, the game was received favorably in the press, noting that it was a better tie-in to the franchise than the first because it featured more of the vehicles.
The final game in the trilogy "MASK III – Venom Strikes Back" was released in 1988 and was a 2D horizontal shoot-em-up. The premise of the game is that VENOM have kidnapped Scott Trakker and are holding him on the moon. The player controls Matt Trakker (unrecognizable in a space suit with helmet) through a series of static screen featuring platform puzzles and obstacles which must be overcome using the powers of the various masks. The player can hold up to four masks at a time, but can only use the power of one at a time. The masks can also be exchanged at certain points in the game. This game received the best reviews of the trilogy, despite the deviation from the franchise's storyline and style.
Following the success of the M.A.S.K. property, DC Comics picked up the rights and produced a special insert which appeared in several comic books cover dated September 1985. A four issue miniseries was begun in December 1985. This was soon followed by a regular series of comics that lasted nine issues. Two M.A.S.K. Annual comics were produced as well, one in 1986 and one in 1987.
These DC Comics were reprinted in the UK in Fleetway's M.A.S.K. weekly comic magazine, which later included brand new adventures produced by British writers and artists. This weekly title lasted 80 issues before merging with the second incarnation of Eagle, with the M.A.S.K. strip carrying over into its new home.
M.A.S.K. was named the 99th best animated series by IGN. They called it one of the most popular cartoon/toy marketing franchises of the eighties, and that it took many of the strengths of G.I. Joe and Transformers while taking few of their flaws.
Several episodes of the series were released under Karl-Lorimar's "Kideo Video" branding on VHS in the 1980s, with two episodes per tape. The "racing season" of the series would be distributed by Tempest Video. Several episodes were also released under the label M.A.S.K The Movie, and M.A.S.K The Movie II. No true direct-to-video or theatrical M.A.S.K movie was ever made.
M.A.S.K. episodes have been released on DVD in three languages.
- English (U.S.): Shout! Factory and FremantleMedia North America acquired the Region 1 DVD rights to the first season of the original series (65 episodes) of the series in 2011. A release date has been announced, it will be released on August 9, 2011. The second season, which consists of 10 episodes, are owned by Cookie Jar Entertainment and are not part of the acquisition. This also officially marks the first time that a DIC Entertainment/LBS Communications co-production will be owned by LBS Communications succeder FremantleMedia.
- English (UK): Collection 1 was released in the UK in November 2007 by Jetix Films - Maximum Entertainment, containing the same amount of episodes as the Australian set. Collection 1 was re-released on the 31st August 2009, and Collection 2 was finally released on the 28th September 2009. Both sets (The re-issue Collection 1 and Collection 2) are distributed through Lace DVD, replacing Maximum Entertainment, and both sets are in Region 2 PAL format.
- English (Australia/New Zealand): Madman Entertainment released the complete series over two DVD collections for the first time in Australia and New Zealand. Collection 1 was released in November 2006 and contains episodes 1 - 38, Collection 2 was released in March 2007 and contains episodes 39 - 75 which includes the season 2 episodes.
- French: The entire series has been released, divided across 24 DVDs and grouped into four box sets.
- German: Three box sets have been released. The first two consist of 24 episodes each. Due to copyright problems the third box set consists of only 23 episodes (bringing the total to 71 episodes). The episodes left out are "The Star Chariot", "Bad Vibrations", "Vanishing Point", and "Riddle of the Raven Master".
UK/Ireland: Video Collection International/Kideo Video, Multiple Sound Distributors/Tempo 'DiC' Video, Golden Books Home Video (VHS)
Maximum Entertainment, Lace DVD (for Jetix UK) (DVD)
In popular culture
- The Robot Chicken episode "Rabbits on a Roller Coaster" had a sketch in which, after grounding his son Scott for holding a wild party at Boulder Hill, Matt Trakker developed an internet relationship with an overweight woman named Darlene. On their wedding day, Matt is shocked to discover that Darlene is actually Miles Mayhem in disguise, so he could know all of M.A.S.K.'s secrets and gain legal ownership of half of the M.A.S.K. organization. The sketch ends by honoring the homoerotic undertones in Trakker and Mayhem's relationship. Robot Chicken has done multiple parodies of the show since then.
- List of M.A.S.K. toys & characters
- List of M.A.S.K. episodes
- Vor-Tech, an animated series with a similar premise to M.A.S.K., aired in the mid-1990s.
- A.T.O.M., an animated series and Hasbro toyline with a similar premise to M.A.S.K., premiered in 2005 on Jetix.
- ^ "Battle of the Fun Factories". Time. 1985-12-16. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,960379-2,00.html. Retrieved 2010-03-03.
- ^ Engelhardt, Tom (1986). "Children's Television: The Shortcake Strategy". In Gitlin, Todd. Watching Television: A Pantheon Guide to Popular Culture. Pantheon Books (Random House). p. 94. ISBN 0-394-74651-1.
- ^ OAFE - GI Joe: Specialist Matt Trakker review
- ^ M.A.S.K. Returns: Specialist Matt Trakker G.I. Joe Figure - GI Joe News
- ^ List of DC Comics containing the Mask insert at the Grand Comics Database
- ^ Mask at the Grand Comics Database
- ^ "M.A.S.K". Internationalhero.co.uk. 1985-09-30. http://www.internationalhero.co.uk/m/masktv.htm. Retrieved 2009-03-21.
- ^ "99, M.A.S.K.". IGN. 2009-01-23. http://tv.ign.com/top-100-animated-tv-series/99.html. Retrieved 2009-01-23.
- ^ M.A.S.K. DVD news: DVD Plans for M.A.S.K.
- ^ M.A.S.K. Collection 2 (Mask)
- M.A.S.K. at the Internet Movie Database
- M.A.S.K. at TV.com
- Albert Penello's MASK Page — M.A.S.K. toy information and database
- Matt-Trakker.com — M.A.S.K. info website
- boulder-hill.net — M.A.S.K. toy and merchandise information
- M.A.S.K. at the rWc Virtual Toy Museum
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