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M.A.S.K. was an animated television series directed by three Japanese studios - KKC and D Asia, Studio World, and Ashi Production; with Korean studio Hanho Heung Up and produced by the French-American DiC Entertainment (Jean Chalopin & Andy Heyward) and also the toyline of the same name sold by Kenner.
A total of 75 episodes were broadcast from between 1985 and 1986 in syndication. One of many cartoons produced during the 1980s as a vehicle for toy merchandising, M.A.S.K. (which is an acronym for the Mobile Armored Strike Kommand), was a hybrid of popular era cartoons G.I. Joe and The Transformers. It featured a special task force featuring an array of characters, led by Matt Trakker, with transforming vehicles engaged in an ongoing battle against the criminal organization V.E.N.O.M. (an acronym for the Vicious Evil Network of Mayhem), with an emphasis on super-powered helmets called masks worn by the characters on the show.
The original series focused mainly on the vehicles and characters from the original 1985 toy line. More characters were introduced as the line expanded with a second wave in 1986. The format for the last season of the show featured a racing theme to correspond with the theme of the third wave M.A.S.K. toys. A major difference from the first season is by the second, V.E.N.O.M. agents knew the personal identities of the M.A.S.K. team, whereas V.E.N.O.M. did not know their identities during the first season. The second season lasted for only ten episodes. There is a storyline difference in the mini comic books which came with each toy. In the comics, Miles Mayhem knew the identity of Matt Trakker and had originally helped start the M.A.S.K. team but betrayed him later by killing Matt's younger brother Andy. This was very similar to the second series of the cartoon.
Due to the short-lived nature and new format of the racing series, many characters from the first season were given reduced roles to establish the new cast members and their vehicles, or to reintroduce older characters with new masks and vehicles. Buddy Hawks began using the name "Clutch" and gained a more prominent role with a double-act partnership with agent Boris "The Tzar" Bushkin. Matt Trakker and Miles Mayhem's rivalry remained strong, but the two usually only appeared in their own focus episodes. Other V.E.N.O.M. operations against M.A.S.K. agents were now exclusively handled by Vanessa Warfield.
The toyline's fourth and final wave went to one other variation, "Split Seconds", in which the vehicles sold under the line would split from one whole into two different vehicles for a M.A.S.K. pilot and his/her "clone" holographic partner (a transparent version of the same figure carried with the vehicle), but the cartoon was not renewed for the fourth wave. Besides the cartoon and toys, there were also various merchandising products like sticker books and comics to capitalize on the success of the show.
In the D.C. Comics series, the M.A.S.K. team is sponsored by an organization called the Peaceful Nations Alliance (PNA). Their exact relationship is never explained. The liaison between the P.N.A. and M.A.S.K. is Duane Kennedy. Duane and the P.N.A. did appear in the cartoon, although in a much more limited role in such episodes as "The Roteks" and "Assault On Liberty".
It is never made clear what sort of criminal organization V.E.N.O.M. is, exactly. They were not the typical world-conquering villains and their schemes mostly revolve around profiting from illegal activities and doing mercenary services. The comics tried to give them a more believable background. They appear to be the foot soldiers of an even higher evil organization called Contraworld. Like M.A.S.K. and P.N.A., their relationship is not explained, nor are Contraworld's larger goals.
- Matt "Hunter" Trakker - The Leader of M.A.S.K. as well as a multi-millionaire philanthropist.
- Scott Trakker - The adopted son of Matt Trakker. His father raised him alone. He has great mechanical skills and is always upgrading his robot sidekick T-Bob with some new function.
- T-Bob - The cowardly robot sidekick of Scott Trakker and can convert into a scooter. He was built by Scott. He likes making bad jokes and is easily frightened.
- Bruce "Magic" Sato - Mechanical engineer and design specialist, and Matt Trakker's de facto second-in-command. Is of Japanese origin. Occupation: toy designer. He often talks in Confucian riddles that only Matt Trakker seems to understand.
- Alex "Megabyte" Sector - Computer and communications expert and Zoology specialist. Hails from Britain. Occupation: veterinarian and exotic pet shop owner. As an action figure, Sector originally came with the Boulder Hill playset.
- Dusty "Powderkeg" Hayes - Auto and marine stunt driver, all-terrain specialist and tracking and demolition expert. Occupation: pizza cook.
- Gloria Baker - A champion race car driver and black-belt in kung fu. Occupation: racer/sensei.
- Brad "Chopper" Turner - Expert hill climber, rock musician, motorcycle and helicopter pilot.
- Hondo "Striker" MacLean - Weapons specialist and tactical strategist. Occupation: history teacher.
- Buddie "Clutch" Hawks - A master of disguise and intelligence expert. Occupation: mechanic.
- Calhoun "Stonewall" Burns -A construction and demolition specialist. He works as an architect and enjoys raising horses.
- Jacques "Trailblazer" LeFleur -A natural disaster specialist and martial arts master. Occupation: lumberjack. Hometown: Québec, Canada.
- Julio "Doc" Lopez - Expert in languages and cryptography. He is of Latino descent. Occupation: doctor.
- Ace "Falcon" Riker - Former NASA test pilot. Works at a hardware store.
- Boris "The Czar" Bushkin -A big, burly, bald, bearded Russian who was a former VENOM agent who defected to MASK.
- "Chief" Nevada Rushmore - An American Indian and Matt Trakker's childhood friend.
- Ali "Lightning" Bombay - An immigrant from Kandukar, India.
- Miles "Wolf" Mayhem - The Big Bad. The leader of V.E.N.O.M. In the comics, he betrayed the original M.A.S.K. team by killing Andy Trakker, and stealing half of the masks for evil purposes. In the cartoon, the origin of V.E.N.O.M. is a lot less clear, though Mayhem's connections to M.A.S.K. remain the same as the comics, and that he co-created the organisation. Mayhem's catchphrase is "I oughta buy you a new face".
- Sly "Wrecker" Rax - A con artist. In the comics, he has ambitions of replacing Miles as V.E.N.O.M. leader.
- Cliff "Blaster" Dagger - Demolitions expert and strongman.
- Vanessa Warfield - V.E.N.O.M.'s espionage and intelligence agent. Becomes the unofficial leader of the team by the beginning of the second season, and is one of few agents besides Mayhem to pilot Switchblade regularly when he is incapable of doing so as well as occasionally riding shotgun with Dagger in Jackhammer. Falls for Brad Turner in series finale "Cliff Hanger". Came THIS close to stealing a space shuttle in "The Everglades Oddity".
- Bruno "Mad Dog" Sheppard - A kidnapping specialist and another strongman.
- Nash "Goon" Gorey - Overeager and boot-licking henchman. In the comics, Gorey was initially a new recruit for M.A.S.K., but was revealed to be a mole working for V.E.N.O.M.
- Lester "The Lizard" Sludge - A smarmy henchman with an annoying signature laugh. Almost succeeds in murdering Matt Trakker in "When Eagles Dare".
- Floyd "Birdman" Malloy - Biker gangman and expert forger.
- Maximus Mayhem - Weak-Willed twin brother of Miles Mayhem.
Twenty-five years after MASK left the airwaves, the line was "adopted" by G.I. Joe when a new Matt Trakker action figure was released as part of the Joe figure line under the name "Specialist Trakker", with a character bio explaining MASK and VENOM as special ops units of Joe and Cobra.
In 2011, Hasbro announced a re-imagining of the series, under the "UNIT: E" umbrella, which is supposed to be a shared universe containing Hasbro's more famous lines such as G.I. Joe, the Transformers, Jem, and others into one shared universe.
Not to be confused with The Mask, or the docudrama Mask starring Cher (it doesn't help that the latter film came out the same year).
M.A.S.K. contains the following tropes:
- Animesque: The cartoon was a Japanese-American co-production, which was common in the 1980's.
- Avengers Assemble: Just about every episode, Matt Trakker has his computer "scan personel files for the M.A.S.K. agents best suited for this mission." The computer names the agents it selects, followed by their special skills and the vehicle they drive or co-pilot. After each is named, a little vignette shows the agent being alerted, dropping whatever he is doing, and running off.
- Which, given "whatever he is doing" is usually a day job like pizzeria cook, opens up a bit of Fridge Logic, all on its own...
- Big Bad: Miles Mayhem
- Calling Your Attacks: Most of the time--not always--characters using their mask's powers would call out something like "Lifter, on!" or "Whip, on!" depending on the name of their mask. The series was inconsistent about this, though, and sometimes just seemed to be an excuse for the target of a destructive power to get out of the way.
- Card-Carrying Villain: you don't call yourself "vicious evil" for no reason.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Bruce Sato, Hondo MacLean, Julio Lopez, and Cliff Dagger in the second season.
- Cool Car: Several that were based on Real Life cars would have been cool all by themselves. The fact they transformed just made them cooler.
- Cool Old Guy: Alex Sector.
- Cool Shades: Brad Turner, Sly Rax, and Lester Sludge.
- Cute Kids And Robots: Scott and T-Bob.
- Dead Little Brother: Matt Trakker's intelligent teenage brother Andy, who was killed by Miles Mayhem in the mini-comic story "Flaming Beginnings".
- Dumb Muscle: Cliff Dagger and Bruno Sheppard.
- Early Installment Weirdness: In the early episodes, VENOM has generic Mooks at their disposal.
- Expository Theme Tune
- Which is also an Ear Worm: 25 years later, that song STILL occasionally gets stuck in this troper's head.
- Flight: Granted to Alex Sector by his mask.
- Fun with Acronyms: M.A.S.K. stands for Mobile Armoured Strike Kommand and V.E.N.O.M. stands for Vicious Evil Network Of Mayhem.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Buddie Hawks' mask is called Penetrator. It allows him to pass through solid objects by vibrating. Its alternate name, Vibrator, is not much better.
- Hard Light: The explanation for the holographic pilots in the Split Seconds vehicles.
- Husky Russkie: Boris Bushkin.
- Initialism Title
- Intangible Man: Buddy Hawks when he uses his Penetrator mask.
- Invisibility: Jacques LaFleur when he uses his Maraj mask.
- The Jimmy Hart Version: The memorable theme song seems to owe inspiration to cues from the song "Faithfully" by Journey.
- Kid Appeal Character: T-Bob.
- Mask Power: This show runs on it.
- Master of Illusion: Brad Turner when he uses his "Hocus-Pocus" mask. And possibly the vehicles' engineers.
- Mind Over Matter: Granted to Bruce Sato by his Lifter mask.
- Nerd Glasses: Nash Gorey.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: Trakker's Spectrum Mask.
- Nice Hat: Buddy Hawks and Cliff Dagger.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Sly Rax sounds like Jack Nicholson. Ace Riker sounds like John Wayne.
- No One Could Survive That: Uttered in the first two minutes of the pilot episode, "The Death Stone".
- Official Couple: Matt Tracker and Gloria Baker. Most obvious in "The Counter-Clockwise Caper".
- Playing with Fire: Cliff Dagger when he uses his Torch mask.
- Product Promotion Parade: Matt's Avengers Assemble sequence invariably was one of these.
- Robot Buddy: T-Bob
- The second season introduced one for V.E.N.O.M., the drone pilot for the Buzzard's core fighter that was shown out of the vehicle in the series.
- The Smurfette Principle: Only one woman in each faction, and Vanessa and her vehicle never got a toy till the last two waves. At least Gloria technically got two rides (however, there was never a Shark toy; there was a Gloria figure made for the Split Seconds series, though).
- Southern-Fried Private: Dusty comes close, he's got the voice and the mannerisms, but not the mistrust of others.
- The Starscream: Sly Rax in the comics.
- Super Senses: Matt Trakker's Spectrum mask grants him super vision. The theme song even says so.
- Super Strength: Granted to Nash Gorey by his Powerhouse mask.
- Ted Baxter: Maximus Mayhem
- Tsundere: Vanessa Warfield towards Brad Turner in the second season.
- Twenty Minutes Into the Future: Which almost justifies all the Family-Friendly Firearms; the directed-energy weapons.
- The Unfavourite: Nash Gorey by all the other V.E.N.O.M. agents.
- Vocal Evolution: In a couple of early episodes, T-Bob sounds somewhat like Kermit the Frog and doesn't stutter.
- Whip It Good: Vanessa Warfield when she uses her Whip mask.
- Writer on Board: Scientologist writer Jeffrey Scott's episode "The Star Chariot" involves an ancient spacecraft left behind by Ancient Astronauts. The ending has Scott and T-Bob apparently killed, then beamed away to an alien world, resurrected by alien, and beamed back offscreen. All in two or three minutes.
- Xtreme Kool Letterz: In this series, Command begins with a...
- The Yoda: Bruce Sato