|Take a pound of G.I. Joe, add a little Mission: Impossible, throw in a dash of Transformers-inspired vehicles and you’ve got MASK, a popular weekday cartoon co-produced by Kenner toys.
Stalwart hero Matt Trakker led the Mobile Armored Strke Kommand ("A" for heroism, "F" for spelling) against the ruthless forces of VENOM, the Vicious Evil Network Of Mayhem. Like any good supersecret crimefighting team, the MASK members represented a cross-section of cultures and special abilities: master of disguise Buddy Hawkes, off-road expert Dusty Hayes, marial artist Gloria Baker, danger seeker Brad Turner, computer genius Alex Sector, gadget guru Bruce Sato and weapons man Hondo McLean. Matt’s son Scott was always willing to lend a hand (and/or get himself captured), along with his robot pal/scooter, T-Bob.
But the real draw of MASK (both in the cartoon and at the toy counters) was the array of ultra-cool vehicles and masks that aided the fight between good and evil. Each member of MASK and VENOM rode into battle on one or more transforming vehicles (Trakker's Thunderhawk converted from sports car to jet car, arch-nemesis Miles Mayhem piloted the helicopter-to-jet-and-back Switchblade, and so on). The masks themselves were souped-up gadgets that gave the wearer superhuman powers (Sato's "Lifter" allowed him to levitate objects, Sly Rax's "Stiletto" fired stilletos, etc.) In each episode Trakker received a mission assignment and assembled a suitable team at his secret Boulder Hill hideout. Once convened, the group was mechanically fitted with the coveted masks.
With its eye-popping, action-packed animation, MASK was a big draw in syndication. Sure it was designed to sell toys, but is there really anything wrong with giving the kids what they want? The kids clearly wanted MASK, as the program ran for a healthy seventy episodes. Toy sales were also brisk, with dozens of new vehicles and masks rolling off the lines during the cartoon's mid-80's heyday. And the MASK team always did its citizenly duty, doling out an important safety tip for young viewers at the end of every episode.
But let's not kid ourselves. This was a show about slam-bang action, and on that all-important level, MASK delivered.