Monday, January 9, 2012

Under the Man-croscope: Mad About Balls.

Tremble before The Man-croscope! A highly calibrated scientific device that closely examines that which you treasured as a child, with the uncaring, cynical gaze of a belligerent adult. What will its long, phallic lens fall upon this time?

I hate balls. Not my own - they're reliable enough - I mean sports balls. I'm afraid of them. I lived in fear as a child that someone would throw a ball at or near me and that I would have to catch it or throw it back. Sports are my Kryptonite and balls are the evil, spherical harbingers of uncoordinated humiliation.

But we males are shallow, easily manipulated fellows. As men all you need to do to appeal to us is add boobs, meat, beer, fire, or a leather seat. And as young boys all we needed to cause longing were monsters, exposed brains, snot, blood, and stitches. Would hideous additions like these be enough to make me purchase an accursed ball?

Why yes, Dear Reader. I am, of course, talking about Mad Balls, the pungent foam fad that every child in the eighties was excited about. Check them out...
Image from the very awesome Branded in the 80's which has a wonderful collection of vintage stickers such as these. Go there now even. You have nothing to lose! Trust me, I've read the rest of this article.
 And join me after the jump and I'll tell you which ones I had and what it was all about!

But first, as I am want to do, let's have a look at how these monstrosities were marketed to us as kids. Here's the commercial that got us all riled:

If you can get past the fact that the song is sung by Michael J. Fox after being kicked in the nuts, then don't you just love the indication that adults will totally freak the fuck out about these things. What kid didn't want to  shock, offend and astound their disbelieving and disgusted teachers and parents by showing them small rubber balls with grotesque faces? Of course we wanted to buy these! We envisioned anarchy and chaos! I'm an adult now and just looking at pictures of these things makes me seethe with queasy outrage. HOW DARE YOU, MADBALLS?! HOW DARE YOU!?

The first Madball I ever got was Aargh who looked a lot like this:

He's far from the best and I honestly can't recall what drew me to this one. He kind of looks like the view through the security peephole in your door after a suspicious knock at midnight. But he had scars, stitches,and he looked like shit, so I had to have him. I also later ended up with the ambitiously named Skull Face, Dust Brain, and Horn Head. 

So did they solve my crippling hand-eye coordination issues? Hell no, because these were valued collectibles so I wasn't about to take them outside and throw them at anyone. They were purely to admire and knead anxiously. To be honest, their play potential was rather limited, so imagine my delight when these were released:

Check out Weirdo Toys where I lifted this image from!
Did you guys even know these existed? The Madballs Headpoppers were action figures with buttons on their backs that launched their heads into the air. This also meant that you could switch their heads around too, for all sorts of not-really-that-wacky-or-hilarious combinations. I never saw these in wide release, although oddly the tiny Newsagency near my grandparents' house used to have these in stock so I ended up with a few of them. I had Dust Brain, Oculous Orbus ( I like how they improvised and gave him a skinned body), Lock Lips, and my favourite: Wolf Breath. I don't know what happened to them, and they're not something that I've ever really seen again, but I far prefer to them the regular balls because the format really gave them character.

Speaking of character, did you know that there were incredibly shitty Madballs cartoons which were poorly drawn to the point of barely being recognisable. And they didn't use the full-body versions either, just the stupid bouncing heads! See if you can watch the opening of the animated Madballs special Escape From Orb without wretching, and puzzle as to how they got the rights to Great Balls of Fire:

Seriously though, don't watch that. It's actually quite upsetting. And they retconned Dust Brain into a woman! Why does that make me feel funny?

Watch this instead, because it's much better (by much I mean 4 - 7%). It's Madballs Gross Jokes and it has a variety of animation styles, some of which look like a lazy Terry Gilliam. And half the characters sound like Bobcat Goldthwaite and are half as funny:

Dust Brain looks even sexier in that one. LAUGH TRACK.

So what was your Madballs experience? Which ones did you have and what did you do with them? And what can you do with them now? Tell me all about it in the poorly attended comments section!

1 comment:

  1. Madballs are one of my favorite things ever. I have a ton, and I have a bunch of the Headpoppers too.