I've talked about the M.U.S.C.L.E. line of little pink wrasslin' supervixens before on X-E, but I didn't particularly like the article. To the most diligent go the spoils - check through the archives for more MUSCLE action. But I'm starting to realize what my dark lord meant when he compared Lays Potato Chips to articles about MUSCLE figures. You can't have just one! So all you fans of the coolest figures out there under 2" -- stand up, band together, and let your voice be heard. Today is our day.
I was trying to recall how Mattel played up these little pink guys to the buying public, but wouldn't you know it...there's no sort of tributes or histograms dedicated to MUSCLE merchandising. I'm pretty surprised considering that I've been able to find the theme song from the Ropers and a clip of Ed McMahon cameo starring on Who's The Boss on the web. We've got a nightmarish encyclopedia of crap available to us, unfortunately lacking in the MUSCLE department. So I fix the X-E Multimedia section up as best I could with my novice abilities, and lo and behold - Rocket had stuck the original commercial in there!
Now, Mattel had a real challenge on their hands. MUSCLE figures really don't do much. They're little pink monsters, sure. But they don't have action figures, articulated arms, or any known voices for little idiot kid actors to imitate. (ie - An old Star Wars toy commercial for the Wampa action figure comes complete with some 8 year old screaming 'WOMPAH WOMPAH'. Not exactly true to form, but it got the job done) After some debate the board decided to make the toys wrestle, much better than their second choice of having kids make the figures discuss their stance on abortion.
An ominous hand looks towards the ring as the MUSCLEs prepare to battle. We get to meet the referee - the smug referee who's somehow also the MUSCLE World Champion. Those of you who don't recognize that belt - its the MUSCLE Battlin' Belt. A gaudy gold plastic mess that let kids carry their figures wherever they went...and as we touched on before, that'll lead to a whole new can of trouble. Then again, its not like they could market action vehicles and clothing assortments for the figures, so they had to do something.
And you wondered why the ref looked so smug and confident. The pinnacle of fashion and intrigue and it draws attention to the crotch? This kid must've got all the girls. As you can see, the front chamber holds just one MUSCLE, so you were forced to go against your paternal instincts and literally annoint one of your children as 'the favorite'. Not that there weren't plenty of options...here's some of my own favorites from the MUSCLEs I've still got laying around...
Pictured Left: Spray-Man! Spray-Man's assault consisted of, well, spraying other MUSCLE wrestlers in the face. If he runs out of deadly spray, his opponents meet defeat by laughing themselves unconscious upon realizing that their opponent is an aerosol can with legs.
Pictured Right: Handicapped Turtle-Guy! A few years after the MUSCLE line went under, the world would realize the power of the turtle. Especially turtles of the mutant ninja variety. Back then though, turtles weren't smiled upon. Especially turtles who had their forearms and hands amputated. While this guy sucked in battle, I always felt kinda sorry for him. Its bad enough he's an inch tall...they could've at least graced him with fingers. But look at him - still has a smile on his face. Its this kind of sportsmanship that got him the King Spot on the Battlin' Belt a few times.
Pictured Left: Cup Brothers of Doom! Sometimes Mattel's mass production facilities over in the Orient got a little too creative. I've seen MUSCLEs fashioned after buildings, snakes, cowboys, even steamrollers. But they don't come close to the Cup Brothers. 'Pour you a cup of BLOOD, we will!' One of them had six faces, giving him a suspect advantage over his brother. Luckily, cups don't share the same sibling rivalry as humans, so they often fought together in my MUSCLE battles to overcome the likes of Guy With The Ball For A Face and Cheating MUSCLE: Man With Two Swords.
Pictured Right: ROSIE!! Holy shit! Rosie from The Jetsons has been immortalized as a MUSCLE figure! I'm as shocked as you are. Rosie was always so subdued and mundane on the show. If George or Elroy ever suggested an idea that put the family at any kind of risk, Rosie was the first one to shoot it down. I guess she got tired of playing the angel's advocate, since she's letting her mean streak come out in a big way by getting involved with some of the toughest pink bastards acid-induced toy creators have ever dreamt up.
Now, its time for the MUSCLEs to prove their worth...in battle!
Notice the look of sheer determination on the kid's face. Also notice that he's the same kid from above - the referee. That's a blatant conflict of interest, no? I mean, say his team loses. You're telling me he won't find some loophole in the rulebook to throw the match out? I'm not really sure how the MUSCLE fights actually worked though...all I really did was trade 'em. Back when I was a kid, my faux cousin, his friends, and myself all used to trade MUSCLEs and Garbage Pail Kids under his back deck. This kid's father was a friend of my uncle's, someone who may or may not have had mafia ties. I'd say he didn't have them for the sake of being safe...but the fact that he got shot six or seven times, and had a wife named Filameena (yes, spelled like that) who'd get nervous if you asked her where the friggin forks were...well the evidence was surely stacked against him. Anyway, we'd trade MUSCLEs under the deck, all five of us trying to seal the deal for this one kid's ultra-cool figure in the shape of a hand. After a lot of wheeling and dealing, my faux cousin layed it all out on the line - two dollars cash for the Hand MUSCLE. Obviously, its previous owner took him up on the deal. If he didn't, 2 to 1 he'd lose the two dollars and end up with a piano wire around his throat. These mighty maulers really brought out the worst in people.
While I was more of a trader, the commercial suggests sheer brutality and fighting. The two guys shown above are the respective leaders of the two teams - Muscleman and Terri-Bull. After this hardfought battle, Muscleman came out on top, paving the way to the unfortunate side of this whole fiasco. The MUSCLEs were not willing parties in our wages of war. They were slaves, forced to do our brutal bidding with no pay or respect. If they won, we treated them...fairly. But if they lost? Well, take a look...
MUSCLE Imprisonment! Look at poor Terri-Bull, forced into the Chamber of Isolation™ by his evil master, and told to stay there until he learned how to be effective in battle. No food, no water, no love. Testosterone often takes the blame for the male dominance in the violence field, but really, just take a look at what we were brought up on. If the evil MUSCLE master/referee was giving nice Ken dolls and play kitchens to pretend with, he probably would've kept himself out of prison.
All the action took place in the MUSCLE Wrestling Ring, where you and a friend worked your magic with the levers in the hopes to knock the other one's figure out of the ring. This was sort of like Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Robots, only with a little more emphasis on the rocking side of things. Course, this toy was only good with some of the MUSCLEs, while others were just too bulky and heavy to fit. I doubt any kid considered that nightmare possibility when begging his parents for one, though. Buy first, talk the particulars out later. For its short run, this was an immensely popular line, one that's been copied and all-but duplicated throughout the years. The MUSCLE line was the innovator, but it didn't end there: Battle Beasts, Army Ants, and Monster in my Pocket all became famous by being small enough for a kid's pocket.
The referee, an anti-commercialist at heart, turns around long enough for Mattel to sneak on their company logo. Between my endless stream of nephews and total ignorance of my own age, I've basically seen every toyline that's been thrown out there since 1980. This one still tops my charts as one of the best. I've always been a WWF fan no matter how much I tried not to be, so its really no surprise I like these guys. After all, as the box clearly states...they're weird, wild wrestlers!
Click here to see the old giant M.U.S.C.L.E. poster!
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