Even though the resurgence seems to be slowing a bit, the massive influx of 80’s retro mania is, at the very least, slightly annoying. Retro things are very hit or miss for me. Sometimes, I truly am happy to see something from my childhood back, to rekindle good memories and all those positive things. At the same time, most of this retro-reminiscing (is that redundant?) tends to aggravate me.
This is because I am incredibly selfish. I grew up playing with He-Man (until my mom threw them all out because they were satanic) and GI Joe, watching Saturday morning cartoons, and doing all sorts of archetype 80’s child related things. I also like to be happily ignorant to the fact that millions of other people did as well. I don’t want to have to share memories with other people, they’re mine. So when the 80’s came back, it bugged me.
Don’t worry, that’s about it for the bitterness.
One 80’s toy that is coming back, and that I am fine with sharing with everyone, is Madballs. I don’t mind sharing them because while I enjoyed them as a kid, I wasn’t too emotionally attached to them. Considering my bizarre upbringing, I’m surprised I was even allowed to own one, yet I did. Madballs were such an amazing product because they had so little going for them to justify their existence. At the same time, they seemed proud of what they were: ugly, stupid toys short on entertainment value and long on shock value.
Madballs eventually spread out to include ugly sports-related balls, a cartoon, and a comic book. Not too surprisingly, Madballs never became a license that dominated the gross niche of children’s products in the same way Garbage Pail Kids did. An offensive foam head is certainly cool, but at a certain point, what else good is it? At least with Garbage Pail Kids you got a bunch of cards in a pack. Also, it took you a fairly long time before you realized that by the 2nd or 3rd series, they had pretty much run out of ideas and weren’t funny anymore.
Garbage Pail Kids also offered a two-for-one special on being a horrible child. Instead of getting in trouble for putting stickers in places they didn’t belong, now you could get in trouble for putting disgusting stickers in places they didn’t belong.
So, despite Madballs’ valiant efforts by introducing many new characters and other extensions of the brand, they faded out pretty quickly.
One of the good parts of my job is that I get to talk about toys for part of my day. When the vendor for Madballs suggested we sell them in our stores, I immediately took up the flag for this noble cause. Madballs transcends 80’s mania because like I said, they weren’t that important back then. It’s not like they will be important now either, but they will represent a return to a more simple, more repulsive time.
Madballs have also put me on the corporate fast track to success. Now at work instead of being the person who never talks to anyone, I have improved to the person who never talks to anyone except to discuss Madballs. I can see that corner office now.
As for the product itself, it certainly does a good job of being eye-catching. It also gives handy instructions of “Toss ‘Em! Bounce ‘Em! Catch ‘Em!’, in case you were unsure of what you are supposed to do with a ball. The back of the package has a couple more notable features. The product description beckons you to “Collect every single one!” Products with a tagline similar to that are nothing new. Most popular of all is Pokemon’s tagline of “Gotta Catch ‘Em All”. However, there’s just something about using the phrase “every single one” that turns it from a tagline into an order.
In very fine print on the bottom is the phrase “Please retain these details for future reference.” I don’t really have much of a comment for that; I just find it such a strange suggestion to have printed on a Madballs package. I think it’s safe to assume once I take my novelty toy with no moving parts out of its package, I’m done with it. I’m not going into the filing cabinet to seek information on the Madball I purchased last year. I only go in my filing cabinet to reference receipts listed under “D”. For doughnut.
Finally, and arguably the best part of the package is the age specification. Look how sad that child is because it isn’t old enough to play with Madballs. :'(
This assortment of Madballs is Series 1, which implies that there are more to come. This would be good because some of the 80’s Madballs that haven’t yet been remade are awesome, like the mummy, the pig guy, and the eyeball. The Series 1 assortment breaks down very much like a high school class. You have some really popular ones, some losers, and a cool outsider.
While being as ugly and disgusting as possible is usually a sure fire way to not be popular in school, these traits shoot you to the top of the Madballs class. You will now be introduced to the Cool Kids that Kix sang about.
I personally find Slobulus to be the perfect Madball. He is disgusting for many, many reasons, so much more than any other character. His skin is an offensive shade of green, his eye is hanging way out of its socket, he’s licking his own snot, and he also has the snot leaking out from all the stitches in his head. Slobulus is the prom king of Madballs. While he most likely will go nowhere in life, he is living the dream, at least temporarily. Just like a real prom king.
Slobulus is clearly the most disgusting of the Madballs. All of the other Madballs, save for Bash Brain, aren’t even that gross. Ugly, yes, but not gross. Slobulus, on the other hand, looks like the little brother of the Toxic Avenger.
Bash Brain is the other Madball that really goes for the gross achievement award. However, even though his head is cracked open leaving a large portion of his brain exposed, it’s done in a classy way. He’s got red skin, yellow eyes like Farkus from A Christmas Story, and very British teeth.
In every class, there’s going to be at least one rebel: the James Deans, the Luke Perrys, the Judd Nelsons and so on. In the Madballs class, this cool rebel is:
Horn Head is the Madball that I had as a kid. He is awesome for so many reasons. He has a horn, he is a Cyclops, he’s purple, he has fangs and a green tongue, and has a chain going from his nose to his ear like that 80’s female singer whose name I can not remember for the life of me.
While he isn’t nearly as gross as Slobulus and Bash Brain, he doesn’t need to be. He’s cool and he’s tough. He will kick your ass even while lacking arms, legs, a torso, and many of the other body parts that normally are required for giving even a competent beating.
We now come to the kids that were just normal. They weren’t popular, they weren’t nerds, they just went about their day to day routines, unnoticed.
You would think Skull Face, given that he is a skull, would be considered much cooler. Normally, that would be correct. In almost any situation, it doesn’t get much cooler than a skull. Unless it’s a child’s skull. That’s pretty sad, actually.
Unfortunately, being a skull isn’t enough to hang with the cool Madballs. Skull Face does make valiant efforts: he has a black tongue like a giraffe (which I learned, as everyone else did, from Salute Your Shorts), he either has a spider living on his tongue or is eating one, and he’s got a metal plate bolted on.
Skull Face is the guy who used to be the coolest kid in class when he lived in Wyoming. Then he moved to New York and no one really cared about him.
Repvile is probably Slobulus’s cousin. They both have mucus problems, they both have one bulging eye, and they both are, uh, round. I didn’t really have a third comparison; it just felt awkward to end at two.
Repvile does have some cool features. He’s blue (literally, not emotionally). Although he could be sad as well, I don’t know; who am I to claim to understand a Madball’s emotions? He also has bones protruding all over him like Doomsday. Finally, his teeth look like Gary Busey’s.
Like Skull Face, there isn’t anything inherently wrong with Repvile. He is the only brand new Madball, created especially for this re-release collection. He is a pretty interesting character; but again, there are way more interesting Madballs than him.
Finally, we come to that kid in school that everyone hated. Everyone knew about this kid, he didn’t blend into the shadows. However, everyone knew this kid solely because of how much he was hated. This Madball is:
Everything about Screaming Meemie sucks. He’s a baseball, which isn’t bad, it’s just dumb. When you’re buying a gross toy, who wants a baseball? His eyes are stupid, his nose is stupid, his tongue is stupid, and his name is very stupid. I hate Screamin’ Meemie.
For some reason, this was the character you always saw on Madball ads. You’d see Horn Head as well, and the other guys would make an appearance. But Screamin’ Meemie was almost always front and center. No wonder Madballs didn’t succeed. People avoided them because the first thing they saw was this idiot, and immediately thought the whole line was as terrible as he was.
Now that you are all more familiar with Madballs, I urge everyone to buy as many as possible. They will be going on sale in January, at a store that deals primarily in beds, baths, and other things. Buy one for every upcoming birthday, buy one for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and put one in everyone’s Easter basket. And I guess buy Screamin’ Meemie too… although I won’t blame you if you don’t.