Friends, it was around 1985 or possibly 1986 that a new toy line was released by Mattel that made me sit up and take notice, it’s 2 inch tall collectible figures tied into the WWF wrestling craze of the day and was named M.U.S.C.L.E. (Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere). These hard rubber intergalactic wrestlers quickly became a favorite of mine, even to the point it overtook my love of G.I. Joe. Better yet with Mattel offering the collectible figures in 4 packs, the 10 pack that resembled a plastic garbage can, and even a 28 pack – there was the very real possibility when visiting the local Walmart that I could bring home a couple of new wrestlers thanks to their low price tag. I never came close to collecting all 236 figures although I believe I topped over 50 when all was said and done.
I think it is a safe bet to say that most kids during the mid-80s had no clue that Muscle Man, the brave leader of the Thug Busters – or Terri-Bull of the villainous Cosmic Crunchers – were actually Kinnikuman toys from Japan. In fact the Kinnikuman series of collectibles that we knew as M.U.S.C.L.E.’s came about thanks to the popularity of a manga series that began in 1979. I do not believe I was aware of the true origin of Mattel’s M.U.S.C.L.E. line of collectibles until I found about it thanks to a Wizard magazine or possibly an issue of ToyFare. I will say though I was quite the fan of the 2003 anime series that was shown on Fox Kids – originally released overseas as Kinnikuman: Second Generation – here in the States we knew it as Ultimate Muscle: The Kinnikuman Legacy!
M.U.S.C.L.E. was not the only small collectible figure to hit the market back in the day – while my favorite when all was said and done was Matchbox’s Monster in My Pocket series – Mattel would in ’86 also release GUTS! With their military setting the GUTS figures obviously came with specialized weapons – all based on which 2 pack you were managing to pick up. The Akido Force collectible figures featured weapons such as samurai swords, shurikens, pole weapons, and more. The other forces you could pick up to bolster your GUTS! army included Green Berets, Laser Fighters, Underwater Demolition Team, Ground Troops, and last but not least were the Jungle Fighters!
It seemed to me with their paint schemes that the GUTS! figures were a little more detailed – not to mention that they had names, perhaps Mattel was taking a page from the Hasbro G.I. Joe handbook? With the likes of Hot Flash (armed with a quad rocket launcher), Mike Nebula (laser pistol), Dart (shurikens), and Slugs Magee (machine gun) – you felt like your armies were being populated with some interesting characters. Each of the individual forces were made up of 10 collectible figures and in addition Mattel would end up producing two vehicles for GUTS! The hard part for myself was trying to find the toy line, the only place I recall ever seeing them was in the discount aisle of the local Kmart store.
What about you though, do you remember Mattel’s GUTS! figures – did you manage to collect a mighty army of your own?