The main premise revolved around the fight between an underground task force called M.A.S.K. (Mobile Armored Strike Kommand) against a criminal organization called V.E.N.O.M. (Vicious Evil Network of Mayhem). After its initial launch in 1985, the franchise spawned a variety of products, including four series of action figures, an animated television series, video games and comics.
M.A.S.K. was developed by Kenner in 1985, along with an animated television series to help with toy merchandising. The animated series debuted the same year and ran for two seasons (1985 to 1986). It focused mostly on toys released during the first two series of the toyline.
From 1987 to 1988, Kenner released two additional series of toys. However, these last two series strayed from the original theme of the series of crime-fighting and terrorism, focusing instead on a racing theme.
Action figures (1985-1988)
The M.A.S.K. toyline ran from 1985 to 1988, releasing four official series through those years. Each series featured a group of common vehicles with the ability to transform into combat, armored vehicles. Most vehicles came with one or two drivers, and each character had a mask with a certain ability.
The first two series focused on a premise of crime-fighting between the M.A.S.K. team and the V.E.N.O.M. criminal organization. The last two series changed the premise to a racing-oriented theme, albeit still with the two teams competing against each other.
All series were produced and distributed by Kenner.
Cartoon series (1985-1986)
Debuting in 1985, the M.A.S.K. animated series followed the original premise where M.A.S.K., a law enforcement task force led by Matt Trakker, fought against V.E.N.O.M., a criminal organization led by Miles Mayhem. The series ran for two seasons (from 1985 to 1986) with a total of 75 episodes aired. It was produced by DIC Enterprises, Inc.
The first M.A.S.K. comics were three mini-comics produced by Kenner that were packaged with the vehicles from the first series of toys in 1985. After the success of the franchise, DC Comics picked up the rights and produced a special insert which appeared in several comic books 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 (1986 and 1987).
A selection of the DC strips were reprinted in the UK, by Grandreams in Christmas Annuals, which also featured original text stories. Fleetway's M.A.S.K. comic magazine, initially published fortnightly before moving to a weekly pattern, featured entirely new plots produced by British writers and artists, in the standard mostly black and white short strip format of British comics. The stories were in their own continuity, not connected to either the cartoon series or DC/Grandreams comics. There was a notable difference in the comics in that Venom knew the identities of M.A.S.K. agents, whereas in the first cartoon series they didn't. This weekly title lasted 80 issues before merging with the second incarnation of Eagle.
In 2011, a re-imagined M.A.S.K. version was presented at the New York Comic Con by Hasbro Toys. This new version still featured Matt Trakker as the leader of the team. However, M.A.S.K. is presented as a rogue quasi-law enforcement agency battling corruption in Detroit, instead of fighting against V.E.N.O.M. Trakker himself is a police officer instead of a wealthy philanthropist. The rest of the team was different as well. This new version was written by former IDW comics senior editor and current Hasbro in-house writer, Andy Schmidt.
Beginning in 1987, British software house Gremlin Graphics released a trilogy of computer games based on the M.A.S.K. franchise for various eight-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 V.E.N.O.M. have propelled Boulder Hill into a time vortex, and the player must rescue the other members of the M.A.S.K. 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 at 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 M.A.S.K. vehicles, and included a selection process in which the player chose which vehicles to use before the game began. Only one vehicle could be controlled at a time but these could be quickly interchanged. Again, the game was received favorably in the press, where it was noted 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 V.E.N.O.M. 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 screens 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.
The character of Matt Trakker will be appearing in the third G. I. Joe film.
- List of M.A.S.K. episodes
- List of M.A.S.K. toys & characters
- A.T.O.M., an animated series and Hasbro toyline with a similar premise to M.A.S.K., premiered in 2005 on Jetix.
- The MASK Page by Albert Penello
- MASK on Internet Movie Database
- MASK on Lemon Retro Store
- MASK on C64Endings
- MASK II on Lemon Retro Store
- MASK III on Lemon Retro Store
- MASK III on Generation-MSX
- Madison, Charles (February 5, 2015). "Third GI Joe movie looking to add MASK character, twin villains". Film Divder.