Thunderhawk with Matt Trakker
If you’re a modern era GI Joe collector, you know that MASK leader Matt Trakker is now connected to GI Joe thanks to a 2008 25th anniversary figure. I thought the idea of bringing the two properties together was pretty brilliant, and was disappointed that the concept stopped with Matt. So why am I covering the original figure and his Thunderhawk vehicle? Because today is MASK Day, a new tradition in the online MASK community and a celebration of the beginning of the cartoon and toyline that captivated many an 80s kid with its “Illusion is the Ultimate Weapon” concept.
September 16, 1985 marked the premiere of the first cartoon episode, The Deathstone. I still remember watching that first episode, and being excited to check out the toys. I bugged my parents enough to buy Condor with Brad Turner, since it was the least expensive set. I later picked up Gator, Piranha, Thunderhawk and others. The toys got heavy use during that year, and GI Joe even took a little backseat for a bit (gasp!). The MASK ‘toon became a regular on my watch list, and I even stuck around to catch the second season’s “racing” episodes.
MASK was an effective marriage of action figure and vehicle interaction, and though the individual figures weren’t marketed separately in the same way as GI Joe’s Real American Hero line, the characters are no less exciting. Each one, with its distinctive uniform and mask, was colorful and distinguishable, be it in toy or cartoon form. The smaller size allowed for the vehicles to be produced in close approximate scale to one another, something not often possible with 3 & 3/4 inch lines like Star Wars and GI Joe. It would be great to see Hasbro return to this property, be it in the original small scale (which they’ve recently aped with their Guardians of the Galaxy figures and ships) or in the larger GI Joe style.
Thunderhawk is one of the iconic “leader” vehicles of the 1980s. The Chevrolet Camaro was a perfect choice to bring into a toyline, since it was a familiar ride on the streets, sporty yet attainable as an everyman car. The gull wing doors (used here as literal wings) added a touch of the exotic. I always worried that poor Matt would fall right out, but wait–there’s a set belt. You see, kids, toys can teach us valuable lessons. Buckle up–especially if you plan on taking to the air in your bitchin’ Camaro.
If you’d like to delve deeper into the fandom and the world of MASK, check out the following sites:
One more thing–and it’s something that’s always bugged me about the MASK cartoon. At some point during each episode, Matt would summon his team members to MASK HQ, and a cutaway shot would show each one doing his or her regular job, only to be interrupted by their flashing MASK wrist signal. Each team member seemed to have a legitimate job, such as a teacher, veterinarian, pizza chef, and even a musician. The exception was Buddy Hawks. Instead of maintaining a low profile cover, Buddy was relegated to working at the phoney-baloney Boulder Hill gas station, the false front of MASK HQ. His real job wasn’t even real! Poor Buddy.