BONUS BOOK – M.A.S.K. (September, 1985)
“Assault on Mount Mayhem”
Writer – Michael Fleisher
Pencils – Mike Chen
Inks – Joe Delbeato
Colors – Gene D’Angelo
Letters – Tim Harkins
Edits – Andrew Helfer
I’m sure everyone’s heard the saying “Saving the best for last”, right? Well… that’s not really the case here… instead, we “saved the last for last”, as in, this was the final Insert Prevue… ending the five-year not-so-regular program which launched dozen
s of new properties and titles for DC Comics.
Ya know, that might just be why I’ve got such a soft-spot for this sort of initiative. These Insert Prevues feel very much like the evolution of perennial Chris is on Infinite Earths favorite, 1st Issue Special. They are very similar in scope… only the Insert Prevues (well, the DC-owned ones) all went on to have more-or-less successful series’!
I suppose I could start this piece by going into my own personal history with M.A.S.K.? Well, ya see… I don’t have one. Growing up, M.A.S.K. was kind of like the “Sega Master System” of action figures. While most of the kids on my block would be playing with Star Wars, G.I. Joe, and Transformers toys… there’d only be like that one kid who collected M.A.S.K. While the toys all looked neat, and I remember thinking the commercials for them were cool… I never owned a single one of ’em! I do remember the kickin’ power ballad theme song for the cartoon though! Sorry about dropping this earworm on ya, but, if you’ve never heard this… ya need to:
So, later today when you’ve got “Mask crew-sayyy-ders…” and “Seee-cret Rayyyy-ders” stuck in your head… remember to think of your ol’ pal Chris!
This Insert appears in a whole lotta DC Comics, dated on-or-around September, 1985:
- Batman #387
- Batman and the Outsiders #27
- Blue Devil #16
- Green Lantern #192
- Justice League of America #242
- Superman #411
- Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes #327
- World’s Finest Comics #319
Let’s do it!
We open at Archer Glen Speedway… where racing all-star, Matt Trakker has just both won a race… and shattered a whole slew of records. If ya believe it, he wins the thing by two and a half laps. Something tells me there might be some special stuff under this dude’s hood… because, c’mon. He’s called over for his trophy ceremony and photo-op, however, before he makes his way over to the press-area, he gets a call from Duane Kennedy of the P.N.A. (that’s the Peaceful Nations Alliance, donchaknow) and learns that he’s needed elsewhere.
Matt takes off in his magic rig while he gets the info via his video-car-phone. Turns out the forces of Venom (they’re Contra-World’s Mercenery Arm, by the way… they’re the bad guys, that’s all we gotta know) have stolen a prototype Molecular-Disassembler from the P.N.A. Labs. Now… this doohickey is purported as being able to “destabilize and obliterate” any object it’s aimed at. Why the Peaceful Nations Alliance is working on such a thing, I dunno. Anyhoo, the baddies have snagged the thing, and a single charge with it… so, if they’re not stopped, they get to “destabilize and obliterate” one object of their choosing.
Trakker flies his gimmicked car right off the side of a cliff… lucky for him, he’s got those Delorean-esque “wing” doors, which allow his car to soar across the skies. Hmm… it’s almost like they’re trying to sell us on the idea that this vehicle would make a good toy! Ahem… Matt calls the rest of his M.A.S.K. team to let them know what’s going on.
First call: Dusty Hayes, sortuva bumpkin-type who works in a pizza parlor. He’s not terribly interesting…
Next: Brad “Chopper” Turner, musician and all-around bad-ass… I think. He’s chatting with a couple of fans, including one dude with a soul-patch, which I didn’t think had come into style back in the mid-80’s!
Third, and final call we’re privy to: Bruce Sato, Toymaker and philosophy waxer-extraordinaire. “The Mongoose is summoned forth to battle the wily Cobra”. C’mon… did this line accidentally slip out of that Arak feature we looked at yesterday?
We jump ahead to M.A.S.K.’s secret gas station base… which, hmm… looks like it might make a pretty sweet playset! The fellas, now including Hondo MacLean, Alex Sector, and Buddy Hawkes, chat for a bit before deciding to “energize their masks”. Now, what does that mean? If we turn the page we find out… it means exactly what it sounds like. They literally energize their masks. We also learn their code-names… however, we don’t learn who each code name actually belongs to!
They next head for toward the garage to reveal all of the awesome vehicles you’re going to find on the shelves at your local Toys “Я” Us.
Then, we finally learn what all the hub-bub’s about. Mr. Kennedy calls in over the video phone to give them the skinny, however, his communication is cut off by… *gasp* Miles Mayhem!!! This is, uh, the bad guy. Well, the main bad guy. He’s kinda Brimley-esque… maybe a dash of Thunderbolt Ross. Anyhoo, he fills the M.A.S.K. team in on Venom’s diabolical plan. Ya know what? I wonder if we could get away with calling this issue the “first appearance of Venom”? We wouldn’t exactly be lying, right? Anyhoo, again… he’s got the destabilizer gimmick pointed right at Mount Rushmore… and has promised to obliterate the whole thing (including dozens of tourist-hostages) if Matt Trakker and Company don’t surrender to him within three hours. Oh yeah, and one of those hostages just so happens to be… Scott Trakker, Matt’s (adopted) son! Without seeing a better option, Matt agrees to the terms.
Before we know it, we’re at Mount Rushmore… and Mayhem has one of his sleazy compatriots keep his scope on the M.A.S.K. team. Off to the side, we meet Scott Trakker, and… his robot? Ya kidding me? The kid’s got a friggin’ robot? A cowardly robot at that! Step aside, Orko, there’s a new crappy character in town!
Matt exits his vehicle and surrenders… which prompts Mayhem to reveal that after he kills the M.A.S.K. men… he’s going to atomize Rushmore just for the heck of it anyway! Then, that sleazy guy puts on this wacky helmet… which fires, get this, “stiletto darts”! Ya kidding me?
Then, the cool guy… Chopper whatshisface… swoops in on his, well, cute li’l chopper gimmick, and starts blasting the bad guys. Well, he starts blasting anyway… it’s not entirely clear who or what he’s actually aiming at.
Mayhem rushes back into his jet… and takes off, but not before doing what he came here to do, atomizing Mount Rushmore!!! Holy Cow, he actually did it! He blasts the mountain to powder… and escapes into the horizon.
Or does he? Well, it turns out that Brad’s Mask Power “Hocus Pocus”, only made it looks like Mayhem was blasting Mount Rushmore. Like, as a projection. So, the real monument is still safe and sound. Sure, the bad guy got away… and will likely return to raise hell sooner than later, but… the good guys still technically win this skirmish.
Hoo… not great.
Like a few of the features we’ve looked at over the past few weeks (Flash Force 2000 especially), this one’s kind of difficult to really “analyze”. This is promotion to sell toys more than it is an actual attempt at telling a story. While it might be (arguably) a failure in one regard… it could still be a home run in another.
Let’s first look at this as a story.
Well, it establishes the characters… we don’t really learn much about them, outside of some superficial stuff… which is okay. We meet the villain… we get to see some of the characters’ vehicles and gimmicks. The threat the good guys face here is pretty high stakes, with some personal investment for our main man, Matt… and the way they “diffuse” the situation was clever, in as far as using one of their M.A.S.K.-mask powers. So, not much to complain about from a “nuts and bolts” perspective… I, personally, just didn’t really enjoy it.
Some of my problems with the story include the Peaceful Nations Alliance working on a device that could, if put in the wrong hands, destroy everything on the planet. Not sure if this was some “biting” Cold War commentary… or, just something we’re not supposed to think about. I am known for my over-thinking.
I thought the Mask-Energizing scene could have been done better. All we get are the masks and code-names… without finding out who each code-name belongs to. Spent the rest of the story not knowing who was doing what… really pulled me out of it. Also, what’s even the point of having code names when your main villain, Miles Mayhem already knows your secret identity?! Yeah, yeah… I’m thinking too hard.
Now, let’s judge this as an advertisement:
A home run. The vehicles are cool… the characters look cool… the masks look cool. This story really puts the “product” at the forefront, and shows off all of the possibilities. I couldn’t imagine reading this back in 1985 and not being jazzed about collecting the toys. Hell, reading this in 2020, I’m feeling nostalgic for a childhood I never had! These look like they’d be a lot of fun!
I’ve mentioned before that I could never get into Transformers… because, to me, the idea that a robot can “die” is silly. There are no stakes there. If a robot breaks, you rebuild the damn robot. Here, however, the vehicles are sort of an extension of the characters. If Matt Trakker’s car explodes, that’s going to affect Matt Trakker (especially if he’s in the thing when it happens!). This is a great blending of man and machine… which keeps the stakes high, and the threats urgent.
So, while the story wasn’t exactly my cup of tea… and, to be honest, kind of a slog… this was still a successful outing. While I’m not psyched to read any further adventures of the Mobile Armored Strike Kommand, I’d love to get my hands on some of the action figures!
While on the subject of “further adventures”, word has it that there was actually another M.A.S.K. “Bonus Book” a year later where you could win a Camaro or something… and, hey… waitaminute… what’s that below? Could it be… Could it be that this Bonus Book post has… a Bonus Book?! Oh my goodness… it does!
“Bonus” BONUS BOOK – M.A.S.K. (June, 1986)
“Secret of the Temple”
Story – Joe Orlando
Script & Edits – Joey Cavalieri
Pencils – Jose Delbo
Inks – Pablo Marcos
Letters – Agusting Mas
Colors – Shelley Eiber
Not sure how many books this little ditty ran in… but, I found it in Tales of the Teen Titans #66 (June, 1986)… so, chances are it’s in at least a few DC Comics with that same cover-date!
We open on a camp-out. Matt and Scott Trakker are chilling in Monteverde with Bruce Sato. Li’l Trakker is arguing with his pop about staying up a bit later… even though it looks like it’s the middle of the day. Matt informs him that they’re going to have a busy day, and it’s best for him to get some z’s. Scott decides to say “screw it” and starts hiking on his own anyway. This, as you might imagine, doesn’t go well. Wait a second… this kid’s got that dumb robot! What happened to the dumb robot?!
Scott hears a chopper… and decides to investigate. What he finds is… heyyy, lookit that, it’s our pal Miles Mayhem! He’s directing some dude with an eyepatch to steal an ancient stone with some ancient text scrawled on it. Ya see, this stone can predict the weather… and with it, Mayhem and Venom can control… something? Okay then. This might be an even dumber plan than his earlier “atomize Mount Rushmore for fun and profit”.
Scott Trakker falls into a Venom-trap… and is discovered by Mayhem and his man. Miles immediately recognizes the whelp as Matt Trakker’s son. Meanwhile, the M.A.S.K. duo realize the kid’s gone missing. They immediately jump into action… I mean, the good guys and bad guys must’ve been like ten feet apart the whole time.
Bruce Sato uses his “Lifter” powers to… well, lift the eyepatch guy, and all of those ancient bricks… depositing both into a nearby pyramid.
Matt hops in his winged-auto, and shoots Miles Mayhem’s jet… like once before letting him get away? Really, that’s your move, Trakker? Just give him a warning shot and let him escape? You’re 0 for 2 today, man!
We wrap up with Matt finding his boy… and giving him the big thumbs up for being smart enough to use a kite as a “rescue signal”. Wait, what? Did he do that? I didn’t see that… did you? Ya mean that kite that we saw like one panel ago… when Matt and Bruce were already within arm’s reach of the kid? That kite? C’maaaaaahn. Anyhoo, Matt tells Scott that, one day, he’ll make a fine M.A.S.K. team member… before sending us to commercial (see below).
Yee-ikes, but this was rough. Heck, it makes the first story look like Watchmen! Okay, maybe not… but, this one was a real stinker.
Just like with the first story, it’s almost impossible to analyze this as a “story”. Because, it’s not… it’s just a commercial. Of this 12-page insert, only like three and a half have actual comics on ’em. This is really just here to promote product and give a little play to their Camaro sweepstakes (rules below if you wanna play along at home!).
Not sure where to start. Hmm… what happened to Scott’s bot? While I thought the thing was really dumb, I’m still a sucker for continuity and lore… so, where’s the damned robot? Why did Matt Trakker let Miles Mayhem go… again?! Is this like a Tom and Jerry thing, where these two just taunt one another for years and years. Is it a Batman and Joker thing, where without one, the other couldn’t exist? Wha-at’s the deal?!
There was a bit of good here… we actually learned that Bruce Sato’s code-name is “Lifter”! So, that’s something! Also, the spectacular “M.A.S.K. World of Products” pages. Those might just be worth the price of admission. Let’s take a look:
“Make tracks in Suave Shoes”. I mean, c’mon… they bolded the word “suave”… they gotta just be screwing with us at this point!
Also: I’m not sure I’d ever want to touch, let alone purchase “Peter’s Bag”.
This page features the first backwards word you need to win that Camaro for your folks! Can uoy find it?
Probably the most normal/least cringy pages of this catalog… just some toys and whatnot. Also: Scott Trakker’s bad-ass kite!
These pages include the second backwards word… nac you see it?
Here’s your entry form… remember to get ’em in by Halloween… 1986!
One last thing before we call it a day… I try and make things as “complete” as possible here at the Infinite Earths, and figured I should include at the very least, a shout-out to the Insert Prevue that never was!
Slated to appear as an Insert Prevue in Saga of the Swamp Thing #5 (September, 1982) before… I dunno, life got in the way or something… Len Wein and Ross Andru’s: Pandora Pann!
Not a whole lot is known about this character… and, outside of an interview by Andy Mengels in TwoMorrow’s Back Issue! Magazine #46, I couldn’t find a whole lot. It sounds as though it was going to be somewhat based on the Greek Myth of Pandora (more on that in the article). Allegedly, Ross Andru even drew the fifteen-page story! Too bad it’s never seen the light of day, hopefully someday it will!
Here is a link to the “Answer Man” Bob Rozakis discussing it in his old Silver Bullet Comics column (Archived):
Below, I’ve included the Mangels piece from Back Issue! for your reading pleasure:
And that’s that… all of the “Insert Prevue” freebies covered! Tomorrow, we’ll jump into the post-Crisis, and take a look at the actual “Bonus Book” era… starting with one from the brief team-up era of Action Comics!
Zeet, zeet, zeet…