The M.A.S.K. Logo
|Genre||Animated television series|
|Voices of||Brendan McKane
|Country of origin||United States
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||75 (list of episodes)|
|Producer(s)||DIC Enterprises, Inc|
|Running time||22 mins|
|Original channel||USA Network|
|Original run||September 16, 1985 – November 28, 1986|
M.A.S.K. (Mobile Armored Strike Kommand) was an animated television series directed by several uncredited Japanese studios, KK C&D Asia, Studio Juno, Studio World, Ashi Production (now called Production Reed), and produced by the French-American DIC Enterprises, Inc (Jean Chalopin & Andy Heyward) and also the toyline of the same name sold by Kenner.
A total of 75 syndicated episodes of M.A.S.K. were broadcast from 1985 to 1986. One of many cartoons produced during the 1980s as a vehicle for toy merchandising, M.A.S.K. (which is an acronym for the Mobile Armored Strike Kommand), was a hybrid of popular era cartoons G.I. Joe and The Transformers. It featured a special task force featuring an array of characters, led by Matt Trakker, with transforming vehicles engaged in an ongoing battle against the criminal organization V.E.N.O.M. (an acronym for the Vicious Evil Network of Mayhem), with an emphasis on super-powered helmets called masks worn by the characters on the show.
The original series focused mainly on the vehicles and characters from the original 1985 toy line. More characters were introduced as the line expanded with a second wave in 1986. The format for the last season of the show featured a racing theme to correspond with the theme of the third wave M.A.S.K. toys. A major difference from the first season is by the second, V.E.N.O.M. agents knew the personal identities of the M.A.S.K. team, whereas V.E.N.O.M. did not know their identities during the first season. The second season lasted for only ten episodes. There is a storyline difference in the mini comic books which came with each toy. In the comics, Miles Mayhem knew the identity of Matt Trakker and had originally helped start the M.A.S.K. team but betrayed him later. This was very similar to the second series of the cartoon.
Due to the short-lived nature and new format of the racing series, many characters from the first season were given reduced roles to establish the new cast members and their vehicles, or to reintroduce older characters with new masks and vehicles. Buddy Hawks began using the name "Clutch" and gained a more prominent role with a double-act partnership with agent Boris "The Tzar" Bushkin. Matt Trakker and Miles Mayhem's rivalry remained strong, but the two usually only appeared in their own focus episodes. Other V.E.N.O.M. operations against M.A.S.K. agents were now exclusively handled by Vanessa Warfield.
The toyline's fourth and final wave went to one other variation, "Split Seconds", in which the vehicles sold under the line would split from one whole into two different vehicles for a M.A.S.K. pilot and a "clone" holographic partner (a transparent version of the same figure carried with the vehicle), but the cartoon was not renewed for the fourth wave. Besides the cartoon and toys, there were also various merchandising products like sticker books and comics to capitalize on the success of the show.
In the DC Comics series, the M.A.S.K. team is sponsored by an organization called the Peaceful Nations Alliance (PNA). Their exact relationship is never explained. The liaison between the P.N.A. and M.A.S.K. is Duane Kennedy. Duane and the P.N.A. did appear in the cartoon, although in a much more limited role in such episodes as "The Roteks" and "Assault On Liberty".
It is never made clear what sort of criminal organization V.E.N.O.M. is, exactly. They were not the typical world-conquering villains and their schemes mostly revolve around profiting from illegal activities and doing mercenary services. The comics tried to give them a more believable background. They appear to be the foot soldiers of an even higher evil organization called Contraworld. Like M.A.S.K. and P.N.A., their relationship is not explained, nor are Contraworld's larger goals.
In 2008, twenty-two years after M.A.S.K.'s cancellation, a Matt Trakker figure was released as part of the G.I. Joe toyline, with the codename "Specialist Trakker". His filecard states that V.E.N.O.M. was created by Cobra instead of the comic series' Contraworld. The release of "Specialist Trakker" has caused speculation of a M.A.S.K. revival.
Beginning in 1987, British software house Gremlin Graphics released a trilogy of computer games based on the M.A.S.K. franchise for various 8-bit computer formats.
The first game, "MASK I", was a vertically-viewed 2D game in which the player controls the Thunderhawk vehicle. The premise of the game is that VENOM have propelled Boulder Hill into a time vortex, and the player must rescue the other members of the MASK team by collecting and re-assembling parts of a scan key which then directs the player to the location of the missing personnel. The game received mostly favorable reviews in the computer game press of the time, although it was noted by some that the tie-in to the franchise was quite tenuous and only the graphics, rather than the storyline and gameplay, connected it to the M.A.S.K. franchise.
The second game, "MASK II", also released in 1987, was a 2D horizontal scrolling shoot-em-up. The game featured many more of the MASK vehicles, and included a selection process in which the player must choose which vehicles to use before the game begins. Only one vehicle could be controlled at a time but these could be quickly interchanged. Again, the game was received favorably in the press, noting that it was a better tie-in to the franchise than the first because it featured more of the vehicles.
The final game in the trilogy "MASK III - Venom Strikes Back" was released in 1988 and was a 2D horizontal shoot-em-up. The premise of the game is that VENOM have kidnapped Scott Trakker and are holding him on the moon. The player controls Matt Trakker (unrecognizable in a space suit with helmet) through a series of static screen featuring platform puzzles and obstacles which must be overcome using the powers of the various masks. The player can hold up to four masks at a time, but can only use the power of one at a time. The masks can also be exchanged at certain points in the game. This game received the best reviews of the trilogy, despite the deviation from the franchise's storyline and style.
Following the success of the M.A.S.K. property, DC Comics picked up the rights and produced a 4-part mini series of comics in 1986-87. This was soon followed by a regular series of comics that lasted nine issues. Two M.A.S.K. Annual comics were produced as well, one in 1986 and one in 1987.
These DC Comics were reprinted in the UK in Fleetway's M.A.S.K. weekly comic magazine, which later included brand new adventures produced by British writers and artists. This weekly title lasted 80 issues before merging with the second incarnation of Eagle, with the M.A.S.K. strip carrying over into its new home.
M.A.S.K. was named the 99th best animated series by IGN. They called it one of the most popular cartoon/toy marketing franchises of the eighties, and that it took many of the strengths of GI Joe and Transformers while taking few of its flaws.
Several episodes of the series were released by Kideo Video on VHS in the 1980s, with two episodes per tape. The "racing season" of the series would be distributed by Tempest Video. Several episodes were also released under the label M.A.S.K The Movie, and M.A.S.K The Movie II. No true direct-to-video or theatrical M.A.S.K movie was ever made.
M.A.S.K. episodes have been released on DVD in three languages.