The Halloween Grab Bag!
The Mighty Max Trapped In Skull Mountain Playset
by: -RoG-

Today, I want to talk about the highly underrated Mighty Max toyline. Basically, each miniature toy playset put this kid named Mighty Max (who always made me think of Commander Keen when I was younger) into precarious situations. I'm sure you've all seen them at one time or another, but due to their compact size, it's easy to see how the killer details that go into each one could be overlooked. So rather than just tell you about how nice they were, allow me to start things off by showing you one of my personal favorite Mighty Max toys:

This is the Mighty Max Grips The Hand playset from the Doom Zones collection. Looks cool enough from the outside, right? A severed, green zombie hand with exposed bone, stitches, yellow fingernails, and even a little maggot crawling on it. It's everything a horror fan could ever want in a toy, until you realize that what's inside the hand is even better!

Upon opening up the hand, you're treated to a visual smorgasbord of death, with skeletons, zombies and tortured souls abound. One of the undead, with a slimy exposed spine, is reaching for the mortuary and realizes that the roof can open up to show another body and spider inside. While the dead continue to rise in this creeping graveyard setting, there's a horrific red tree which opens up to reveal trapped souls and tombstones inside of it. And finally, we have the finger, which bends completely backwards and then splits open to reveal monstrous jaws. Here's how it looks when fully opened up. I honestly don't know how any horror toy collector could possibly not fall in love with this, and there were loads of other sets (such as the Horror Heads) just like it.

Now, while Mighty Max was known for packing some awesome horrors into little compact cases, most people don't know that there were a few larger playsets as well. The largest of them all was called Mighty Max Trapped In Skull Mountain and it's absolutely gorgeous. Behold!

The Mighty Max Trapped In Skull Mountain Playset!
[click to enlarge]

I won't lie - the insanely cool box art was a huge part in my breaking down and buying this playset when I was younger, so I had to make sure I purchased another one that came with the box if I was going to write an article about the playset. If you ask me, the Skull Mountain illustration is legitimately on the same level of quality as the box art for Snake Mountain from Masters of the Universe. There's just so much going on here - from the lightning striking the evil skull lord and spooky eyeballs peering from its gaping maw drawbridge, to green slime dripping from a walkway and skull mountain blasting a fireball from its ocular cavity - it's just too perfect. Oh, and there's also this:

That's right, Skull Mountain came with a GIANT GUARDIAN GRAB!!! So, even if you managed to bypass the shark-infested waters, you'd have to deal with this crab. And look at it... just look at it! That Guardian Crab is sooooo ready to tango. It's staring directly at you as if to say, "Bring it." Of all the wonderful things about this set, I assure you I'm not exaggerating when I say the Guardian Crab is my favorite character from Skull Mountain.

The Mighty Max Trapped In Skull Mountain Playset box!
[click to enlarge]

The back of the Trapped in Skull Mountain box also served as its instruction manual, showcasing all of the little features, and telling us some backstory behind the horrors that await Mighty Max:

"'Max's Dad had left him his old baseball cap. Trouble was, this was no ordinary baseball cap. 'Gotta look cool!' Max thought as he twisted the cap's peak round to the side. 'AAAAARGH!!' Suddenly, the world had gone weird and very unfriendly! The cap had changed color! Something very strange was going on! He'd been caught in Skull Mountain, stumbling from one terrifying adventure to another with only his own wits and a mysterious clue to help him escape. He was all alone. He was scared. But he was MIGHTY MAX and he'd get out somehow!'"

Wow. If only something like this happened whenever Lincoln Hawk turned his cap around in Over The Top.

As you can see, the Trapped In Skull Mountain playset not only lives up to the box art, it has some great features inside, including a fireball catapult, a trapdoor, an Axe of Doom, an Evil Warmonger lookout platform, and a retractable "Jawbridge", and more. Now, let's take a closer look at some of my favorite features.

First up we have the Skelevator - a fully-functional bony elevator made from what appears to be a blue rib cage. Whenever I look at this thing, I'm immediately transported back in time and thinking about the skeletal character select screen from Golden Axe. Another nice thing about the Skelevator is that it doubles as a lookout tower that extends high above Skull Mountain itself. Just once in my life, I want to ride up an elevator made of bones. I don't think it's too much to ask.

Next up we have the dreaded Rock Monster. His main purpose was to hide in the dark granite formations on the bottom level of Skull Mountain as a perfect camouflage, and then jump out at Mighty Max when he least expected it. I placed him up on these purple rocks instead so you could actually see him a bit more clearly. He's a sneaky fella, that Rock Monster.

Skull Mountain also included this little island extension that included a launching pad for the Skull Master's V.T.O. Hover Pod, which would jettison off of its spring base. More importantly, however, it served as a great docking station for another killer creation: The Hammerhead Shark Sub! They actually modeled a submarine after a hammerhead shark, and the best part about it? If you tug on its dorsal fin, its head will come shooting out like a battering ram. Also, kudos to whoever decided that purple & yellow was the most appropriate color scheme for a hammer head shark submarine. I'm all for it.

I cannot fathom why this next creature wasn't featured on the box illustration. When you know your playset includes a Ferocious Skeleturtle, you make sure you call that out on the front of the box! A blue skeleton sea turtle with orange eyes and spots running down its spine? Come on! That alone would sell more units if you gave it prominent placement on the packaging! It's just common sense. Honestly, there's only one figure that the snapping Skeleturtle takes a back seat to.

Yep, you guessed it... The Giant Guardian Crab! Not only is it an awesome yellow crab with orange claws, but it has its own special little cave in Skull Mountain. When you place it in its cave, there's a little knob hidden on the side of the mountain that makes it twist around and jump out at Mighty Max. According to the comic on the back of the box, the crab claws make a "CLAKA! CLAKA!" sound when they try to clamp onto Max. From now on, whenever I make crab claw motions with my hands, I will shout "CLAKA! CLAKA!"

Now the main bad guy in charge of Skull Mountain is known as The Evil Skull Master. When I purchased this on eBay, it was listed as a complete set, but as you can see above, I was only given a portion of his costume, rather than the Skull Master's full body. I've included a photo up above on the right of his complete form so you can at least see how he looks. I never called him Skull Master back in the day though; I called him Mezmeron. You gotta admit, he bears a striking resemblance to Mezmeron from the old Pac-Man animated cartoon series.

Also missing, was the "Double Headed Dragon" figure. But hey, don't feel bad for me, for I got something MUCH better:

Chocolate. Yes, CHOCOLATE. Apparently, the previous owner of this playset forgot to check if his kid had left any special gifts behind, because my Skull Mountain came with decades-old chocolate, literally mashed into one of the inner rock formations on its base. Who needs the evil Skull Master or a two-headed dragon when you can have petrified confectionery treats smooshed into your beloved toys? Hell, with extras like that, I should've paid double for this thing!

Oh, the wonderful surprises of buying toys from strangers on eBay.

As you can see, Skull Mountain closes up neatly for display, and while it's larger than any other Mighty Max playset, it's still relatively small compared to playsets from just about any other toyline. I guess it's the fact that they were able to cram so many features into such a compact toy that made it so impressive to me.

I'm sure I'll cover more of these classic Mighty Max playsets (including other Doom Zones and Horror Heads) sometime in the future, but I simply had to shed some light on Trapped in Skull Mountain - one of the coolest horror playsets that most people never even knew existed. I hope you enjoyed taking a look at it, and may your Halloween season be filled with visions of ghoulishly gargantuan guardian crabs and old chocolates mashed into plastic crevasses.


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