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Wolf Breath

Madballs
by yo go re

Kids have always loved gross stuff - whether it's passing around grapes and spaghetti in the dark at Halloween or singing about great green gobs of greasy, grimy gopher guts. It was in the '80s, though, that companies began to merchandise these impulses. Nickelodeon built its empire with orange lettering and green slime, Topps sold the Garbage Pail Kids, and American Greetings released Madballs.

They're Madballs, the rude, repulsive and really revolting characters that you can bounce, catch and hurl! Freak out your friends and frighten the fam with this crew of mutant misfits. Go crazy! Go mad! Collect every single one!

The original Madballs came out in 1987, and lasted for all of two series before disappearing again (but to be fair, in that time they had a 10-issue comic from Marvel and two of the worst episodes of animated tv ever made [at least until Adventure Time was accidentally allowed on the air]). Then, in 2007, Art Asylum teamed with a company that had the thrilling, attention-grabbing name of "Basic Fun Inc."

He's a snarling hairball who's never seen a toothbrushh. So what if oral hygiene isn't Wolf Breath's strong point. You gonna tell him?

BFI had plans for four series, but only two made it to production. Each series had six... well, not "figures," since we're just talking about what is essentially just a foam ball, but definitely "characters." Each series had six characters, mixing five from the original line with one new creation. Wolf Breath was one of the updates, and a lot has changed.

The original Wolf Breath was very colorful: he had brown fur, orange skin, and patches of purple around his eyes and mouth. He had a red nose and lips, and yellow fangs with blood on them. His eyes were yellow and orange, and outlined in blue. Now, to be fair, he looked less like a werewolf and more like the spherical love-child of an ogre and a hobo clown, but at least he stood out.

If you just saw the prototype figure ball, you'd think modern Wolf Breath looked awesome! His fur was sort of a ruddy brick red, his skin was a heavy tan, and there were pink bags under his eyes that matched his nose. There was a black wash over the whole thing that grabbed all the sculpted details and brought them to life, adding thickness to his fur, depth to his eyes and dirt to the folds of his face. What an amazing piece!

Yeah, the final product is basically just red.

Red fur, red eyelids, red nose... it all comes off very flat. Now, granted, there are some other colors, too: clearly the skin is meant to be pink, because we can see it around the muzzle and on the back of the head where there's a shaved patch around a hastily stitched scar. The red on his nose is slightly different than the red on the fur (unless that's just an effect of the black wash). The fluids leaking out of his head are a paler bluish green on the final toy than on the proto, so that's at least one area that comes out better for the conversion.

The sculpt really is excellent. Comparing this Wolf Breath to the vintage version is like comparing the Four Horsemen's "Mo2K" He-Man figure to the 1980s originals: the designs are the same, in broad strokes, but everything is much more detailed now. On Wolf Breath, that means his fur is wilder, his eyes are exaggerated and his proportions are overall more realistic. Even the scar on the back of his head is an update of a feature seen on the original! What's up with that, anyway? Is it supposed to be where his neck used to be attached?

I never had any Madballs as a kid, but I was still entranced by them - I can remember drawing (okay, tracing) Crack Head (later renamed to "Bash Brain" for obvious reasons) a bunch of times, and of course I wanted Wolf Breath because werewolf. These updated Madballs allegedly went to retail, but I certainly never saw them. It was only when they showed up at Five Below that I finally got a Wolf Breath of my own. I have no idea what the SRP on these was, but for $2 at a discount store? Wolf Breath is neat!

-- 10/13/12


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