GeekDad Retro Toy: Mighty Men & Monster Maker

Reading Time: 5 minutes

New Monster

I wrote a few days back about finding an old RPG game (Cyberpunk, along with some sourcebooks) tucked into a box in the basement. This box was packed by my mom well over 20 years ago, back after I’d left home and gone off to college. That box along with about five others sat for many more years in storage until she delivered them to me after I got married. Those boxes went into storage once again, waiting for a day when I’d have the time and interest to go digging into them to see what they contained.

I dug out a couple of boxes a few months back and wrote about one of the findsIlluminati (plus two expansions). And this last weekend, I finally went through the remaining two boxes. I’m anxious to share with you some of the other interesting finds — one in particular is going to take me more than a few days to document completely, so in the meantime I wanted to share quickly one of the other items that was tucked into a box. It’s called Mighty Men & Monster Maker, and I distinctly remember receiving it for my 9th birthday.

Empty Trays

Tomy’s Mighty Men & Monster Maker consists of 18 tiles with raised lines on them — 6 heads, 6 upper torso, and 6 lower body. Most of the tiles are double-sided, so you’ll find a vampire’s head on one side, for example, and on the flipside a reptilian, Gorn-like monster head. Torsos include a superhero body breaking chains and a four-armed alien torso among others. Lower body examples include a pair of mummy-wrapped legs all the way to an upright-walking, pants-wearing pair of ape legs. A few of the torso and lower body tiles also have textures on a flipside that include scales, fur, and a few other weird ones.

Basically you place a head, torso, and lower body tile from the right-side holders into the left-side of the portable carrier. Place a piece of thin paper over the tiles, close the lid to hold the paper in place, and then use a crayon to rub over the tiles and watch a strange superhero or monster appear.

Loaded Creature

The kit came with a special crayon holder (mine got lost at some point) and a special crayon that was slightly harder than a regular crayon. It produced sharper tracings than when using a standard crayon, but I’ve since figured out that the real secret was having a flat spot on the crayon — I’m experimenting now with actually rubbing a crayon over a piece of fine sandpaper to get that flat edge that will produce better tracings. I’m also going to try and recreate that special holder and print it with my 3D printer — it was a half tube that the crayon would snap into and there was a flat rectangular piece (like a fin) running along the top of the tube that you held with your fingers. It really did make it easier to create the rubbings.

While I do have all 18 tiles, sadly my kit is missing the original box — a pair of monster hands on the cover was really cool to 9-year-old me. Oh, and the image of the lizard superhero on the box cover was totally doctored (as were all the monster samples on the back of the box), because underneath the legs on the tile used for that creature is an alien landscape complete with a crater, but you can see in the box image below that the crater and alien landscape is missing from the colored in creature!

Front of Box

NOTE: Read the box cover carefully and you’ll see that it claims users can create “hundreds, thousands, even millions of outrageous combinations.” I’m no math expert, but with only three positions (Head, Torso, Legs) and six two-sided plates for each position, that would mean a maximum of 12 heads x 12 torsos x 12 legs …or 1728 total monsters. (Actually fewer than that, given that some of the torso tiles and leg tiles weren’t two-sided and contained textures.) I’m betting they were hoping parents and kids wouldn’t do the actual math back in 1978.

Lost holder and no box, my two boys don’t seem to care. Once I introduced them to how it works, off they went… it’s funny to watch my oldest consider each and every tile, trying to find the strangest combination. I remember doing the exact same thing, and I know I spent hours and hours creating various combinations. I wish a few of my 3D experiments had survived; as I got more into creating my monsters, I’d create two of each rubbing. One I would color in the monster and then cut out completely. The other I would color in just the monster with a black magic marker and then I’d color the background objects (such as the mad scientist collection of flasks and such behind the leg tile, for example). I’d then cut four or five thin strips of posterboard, fold them four times and make little squares, and then use these squares to glue the cut-out creation over the blackened shape. It created this three-dimensional figure that looked really cool from the front — I remember making some birthday cards for friends and gluing these 3D creations on front. I was such a geek.

Kids

Tomy and Takara, two Japanese toy companies, merged in 2006 according to Wikipedia. I don’t know if the Mighty Men & Monster Maker toy molds are still around, but if so… it sure would be cool to see it re-released. Even better, Takara Tomy might consider converting the plates to digital and creating an app that would let kids mix and match and then print out the final creature on a printer. Kids would miss the experience of handling the tiles and tracing the creature with the crayon, but the lines would be sharper and an app could offer up new tiles as in-app purchases. Just a thought if anyone at Takara Tomy is listening…

Rear of BoxMy wife reminded me tonight that there was a similar product called Fashion Plates and she owned one! I asked if she still owned it, but she’s uncertain. if my mother-in-law manages to find it, I’ll post a follow-up. (It had only 15 tiles, so the girls definitely got ripped off.)

Fashion Plates

So, that’s it… Mighty Men & Monster Maker. One really cool toy from 1978. I’ve seen a few of them for sale over on eBay (along with some smaller sets of tiles being sold piece by piece). If any of you DO own one and have the original crayon holder, I would GREATLY appreciate any close-up photos you could provide — side, front, top — as well as measurements so I can CAD one up and print it out.

Give me a few days or more… I’ve got one seriously cool collection I’ve been wanting to share with readers for some time. As I mentioned, it’s a lot of stuff to photo and go through, so be patient — another GeekDad Retro Gaming post coming soon.

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