As with previous Comic-Cons, I frequently find myself looking around the Web after the event is over to see what kinds of products that toy and collectibles companies are planning to release for geek-a-holics like me in the weeks and months to come. While I was surfing through one Comic-Con '15 photo set, I saw a product on display that I haven't seen in years: Madballs.
Mondo's Madballs on display at Comic-Con 2015.
A collectibles company named Mondo is planning to release new versions of the original Madballs toys that were first released in 1985 by AmToy, a subsidiary company of American Greetings. Madballs were intended to capitalize on the "gross out" humor that was popular in the mid-80s with trading cards such as Garbage Pail Kids, toys such as the Mad Scientist Monster Lab, and movies such as Gremlins. As such, Madballs were a hit, with the line expanding to offer action figures, comic books, animated home videos, and a video game.
Even though Madballs are often associated with the '80s, their emphasis on the grotesque and malformed places them in the long tradition of monstrous merchandise aimed at kids, a tradition that includes the horror comics of the '50s, the Mars Attacks! trading cards of the '60s, and Aurora Movie Monster model kits of the '70s. It should also be noted that this isn't the first time that Madballs have been revived for new generations of fans. Basic Fun, Inc. released a selection of Madballs back in 2007, and American Greetings still runs an official Madballs website that features video games and downloads.
I'm not sure how the previous revival of Madballs went, although I suspect that the first one went well enough that American Greetings is trying again. Perhaps this time the revival will expand to include new versions of the "head popping" Madballs action figures, figures with heads that popped off when a trigger is pulled on their backs. Looking back, these figures bore a strong similarity to the more deranged Sofubi figures that have been released in Japan. With the right glossy metallic paint job, the Madball figures would be virtually indistinguishable from their Sofubi counterparts.
A selection of Madballs action figures (photo courtesy of Weirdo Toys).