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Muscle Men

by yo go re

Mattel? Homaging their old properties in the Imaginext line? Who ever could have conceived such a crazy idea!

Series 10 of the Imaginext blind bags featured an update based on the old Adventure People, but Series 11 brings in some things we actually remember existing. For instance, the bag stamped with a "55" along the top edge features this pair of pink homunculi clearly based on the old MUSCLE toys.

M.U.S.C.L.E. was the American import name for Japan's Kinkeshi line, small PVC figurines based on the Kinnikuman anime and manga. Kinnikuman (and thus MUSCLE) was based on professional wrestling, so just having one figure wouldn't be enough. And that's why this one pack contains both the main characters from MUSCLE, Muscleman and Terri-Bull.

Now, technically these "aren't" Muscleman and Terri-Bull, because while Mattel may own the "MUSCLE" brand name, the designs were licensed from Japan - that's why we can have Street Fighter and Alien and Masters of the Universe MUSCLEs, but it doesn't mean Mattel can just start pumping out Kinnikuman characters at a whim. So this character has to be a STBLDF version.

Since Kinnikuman was the star of the line, there were lots of versions of him - think Wolverine or Batman. The one that seems to have inspired this toy was included with the MUSCLE Hard Knockin' Rockin' Ring Wrestling Arena playset. He was wearing boots, short trunks, wristbands, a mask with a fin on top, and a shirt with ridges on the shoulders and a pattern of eight blocks on the chest. The Imaginext figure has a smooth chest, but the rest of the details carry over. They even faked the fin on the mask by having a little bit of hair poke through in a Captain Marvel-style mohawk. The expression on his face is painted, but it matches the look that was molded into the old toy: round eyes and an open, frowning mouth.

The other figure included with the MUSCLE ring was a unique version of Terri-Bull (known as Buffaloman in the original series), similar to one in the normal line, but with raised fists instead of open hands. The figure was bare-chested, wearing just trunks, boots, and wristbands. On that toy, the bands were wooly (like a buffalo hide), while here they're simple and plain. Additionally, his horns seem to be part of the mask he's wearing, rather than something organic, and instead of a full head of curly hair, there's just a little bit peeking out from the bottom of his mask. His eyes get outlines painted around the solid dots, and he has a slight smile.

Most Imaginext figures move at the hips, wrists, shoulders, and neck, but these figures do not. They're each a single solid chunk of rubber, softer and more flexible than real MUSCLE figures were, but that means no traditional articulation. It's okay, they're still fun to play with. They're molded in light pink plastic, a bit brighter perhaps than the toys from the '80s, but still recognizable as a source. The only paint on them are their facial expressions (a slightly darker pink) and the blue and yellow Imaginext logo tampographed on the left heel. Since they're both wearing belts with the same logo in the center, you could pretend they're a tag team!

Poseable figures might have been a better choice, or at least one more welcome to Imaginext fans, but the rubber bodies are true to their roots, and you get two figures for the price of one! How can you not like that?

-- 12/26/18

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