Remember M.A.S.K.? It was a cartoon from the ’80s that sort of crossed G.I. Joe with Transformers: heroes wearing masks with special powers fought criminals while driving transforming vehicles with hidden weapons. I remember watching it with my brother, and we even had a few of the smaller toys (we coveted Rhino, the semi that came with two action figures, the Optimus Prime of the M.A.S.K. world).
In case you need a refresher, here’s the blurb:
Led by multimillionaire Matt Trakker, the Mobile Armored Strike Kommand — better known simply as M.A.S.K. — defends the world against Miles Mayhem and his nefarious international criminal organization V.E.N.O.M., the very same group responsible for the death of Trakker’s teenage brother. With his own son, Scott, and a secret strike force including his friends — engineer Bruce Sato, courageous historian Hondo MacLean, mechanic Buddy Hawks, rocker Brad Turner, computer expert Alex Sector, stunt driver Dusty Hayes and beautiful martial artist Gloria Baker — it’s up to Trakker, equipped with special power-granting masks and a garage of special militarized vehicles, to keep the world safe from Mayhem and the villainy of V.E.N.O.M (Vicious Evil Network of Mayhem).
On August 9, you’ll get the chance to share this segment of your life with your own kids, when M.A.S.K.: The Complete Series is released on DVD. I got a sneak peek at the set, and played through several of the episodes while I packed up my board games for my move. (Yes, it was a sad day.)
It’s funny how much I had forgotten, but it all came back pretty quickly: the goofy humor, the awesome transforming vehicles, the super-powered masks. I remember even as a kid feeling it was unfair that Matt Trakker’s Spectrum mask could pretty much do anything, as opposed to everyone else’s one-trick masks. Oh, and the recurring montage when all the M.A.S.K. agents get called in from their day jobs for a secret mission — that was classic. What’s great about it is that you can see that all these masked crime fighters have varied interests. One is a toy designer, one is a veterinarian, one makes pizza … but they’re all part of this team.
Of course, there are some cringe-worthy aspects, too, as you would expect from watching almost any old cartoon. Bruce Sato, the token Asian on the team, speaks almost exclusively in cryptic fortune-cookie aphorisms which nobody but Matt can understand. The bad guys are only a step above the bumbling M.A.D. agents from “Inspector Gadget” and it’s a wonder how they manage to get away time after time.
One thing that really stood out to me, though, was Scott Trakker, Matt’s young son. So far, in the episodes I’ve watched, there isn’t a Mrs. Trakker, and I can’t recall seeing one when I was a kid. None of the other agents seem to have families, either. But whatever the mom situation is, Matt is definitely a geek dad. He’s surrounded by cool gadgets, and his son has a trusty robot sidekick, T-bob. Scott is clearly knowledgeable about M.A.S.K. despite its secrecy, and is always asking his dad if he can tag along on missions (or sometimes just stowing away regardless).
Matt is a caring, devoted father; if you couldn’t tell from the episodes, you get an additional glimpse in the little PSA segments at the end of each show, where Matt teaches Scott things like not to run into traffic or to check the depth of the water before diving in.
But Matt’s job frequently puts Scott in danger, and I don’t mean things like letting him ride the New York subway alone. Just in the first few episodes, Scott has been thrown from a pickup into the path of an oncoming vehicle, hypnotized by a mysterious book which leads him into a booby-trapped temple, and kidnapped by V.E.N.O.M. Oh, and did I mention he gets killed? Well, sort of: he is saved from certain death, no thanks to Matt and his team.
I’m really looking forward to watching the rest of the set — with 12 discs adding up to nearly 24 hours of content, there’s plenty to enjoy — and I’ll be watching to see what sort of a dad Matt Trakker really is: geek dad extraordinaire or Worst Dad Ever.
In the meantime, keep an eye out for the DVD set, which will retail for $99.99 in a couple of weeks, or preorder it from Amazon now!
[This article, by Jonathan Liu, was originally published on Thursday. Please leave any comments you may have on the original.]