I remember walking through the aisles one day back in the 80's when I stopped in my tracks to gaze upon a new toyline unlike anything I had ever seen before: Madballs. There were eight balls in the first series and they all looked completely different in their own grotesque little ways (some far nastier than others). Being a fan of monsters and gore, Madballs instantly clicked with me and just about every other boy at the time. After all, with stuff like the Mad Scientist Monster Lab and Dinosaurs Attack cards, our lives were already completely saturated with gross-out humor at the time, so Madballs were obviously a natural fit.
Before we knew it, Madballs were everywhere... pencil toppers, sticker albums, lunchboxes, party favors, comic books, silly string, you name it... and we simply couldn't get enough of 'em. Granted, I was one of the kids who never really cared about the Goodballs vs. Badballs storylines that they tried to develop for Madballs. They were wacky balls with gross faces and that's pretty much all I needed to be sold on 'em.
With names like "Aargh", "Crack Head", "Slobulus", "Screamin' Meemie" and "Oculus Orbus" (my personal favorite), what kid in his right mind wouldn't want to own every last one of these suckers? Series 2 also brought in eight more Madballs and they were just as fun as the first batch. In addition to the regular baseball-sized Madballs, they also released a series of larger "Super Madballs" which were even more impressive since you could actually use them to play the sports they represented:
It's a tough call to pick just one of 'em, but I'd say my friends and I got more use out of "Touchdown Terror" football than any of the other "Super Madballs". I just couldn't bring myself to kick around the "Goal Eater" soccer ball or dribble the "Foul Shot" basketball out of fear of ruining them. The artwork on the balls wasn't nearly as durable as a real soccer ball or football, and most kids used these things for imaginary battles with their He-Man figures rather than for real sports play anyway. Touchdown Terror though, he really was great for football games, and he gave those of us who couldn't throw a perfect spiral a great excuse. "It's not my fault it was a bad throw, it's the crazy shape of that damned Madball!" That excuse worked most of the time, except for when you gave one of your friends a nutshot, compliments of Touchdown Terror. Talk about mad balls. (screw you. that joke was funny when I was a kid and it's still funny now.)
There were other novelties introduced to the Madballs line such as miniature figures whose heads popped off, but I never got into those because the whole point of Madballs is that they were just balls. We didn't need action figure versions of Madballs. We didn't need vehicles, weapons or storylines. Why they tried to overcomplicate things when they already had a winning formula with crazy lookin' balls that were sellin like hotcakes is beyond me. As if that wasn't enough madness, there were plenty of knock-off Madballs being released on the market (even by Bonkers candy) which only confused people more.
For the most part though, the generic balls (or "Sadballs" as I prefer to call 'em) were easy to spot since the artwork and detail put into them wasn't anywhere close to being on par with genuine Madballs. I mean christ, just look at that thing! It looks more like a surgically removed polyp than a genuine Madball. Still, some parents didn't know any better and bought those wretched Sadballs for their kids. Those kids turned out to be none other than the Menendez brothers.
And now here we are, roughly 20 years later and it's finally time for Madballs to make their grotesquely glorious return! I gave you guys a little sneak preview of them at the 2006 San Diego Comic-Con (and again in 2007), but now the good people at American Greetings have sent me the complete relaunch set of Series 1 Madballs and they're magnificent. Behold!
Believe me, I'm just as skeptical as the next guy whenever it comes to an old toy being revamped, but you can't tell me that these new Madballs aren't a thing of sheer beauty. They stayed completely true to the originals while adding in way more detail than ever before. Those of you who are hardcore Madballs fans will notice that there's a new addition to the group this time too: Repvile - a snaggletoothed blue badass with spikey bumps 'n scales all over his body and green mucus seeping from his mouth and nose. He may be the new ball on the block, but I already feel like he's a vital part of the Madballs family. Now for a better look at 'em outside of their packages, doing The Madballs Dance!
Brings a tear to your eye, doesn't it? Or maybe that's just your eye falling out of its socket? Whatever the case may be, Madballs are not toys that you want to keep sealed away in the original packaging... you wouldn't like them when they're angry. Now I've got more good news for ya. Repvile isn't the only new thing about Madballs... feast your eyes upon these:
The new Madballs SICK series are just like the old Madballs, only they're filled with guts, brains and insects for you to expose with a mighty squeeze. Furthermore, the quality of these things are way better than the typical horror-themed squeeze balls that pop up around Halloween each year. They only made three of 'em so far - Bash Brain, Skull Face and Slobulus - but hopefully we'll see more in the future. In the meantime, allow me to remove these balls from their sacks so I can give 'em a good squeeze! (wow... now THAT was something I never thought I'd have the opportunity to say in an article!)
When you squeeze Skull Face, his exposed head wound bubbles out as it fills with blood and spiders. He already has one spider on his tongue, so I can only assume that he's been on a strict arachnid diet. The spiders and the blood look nice, but they also gave me an unexpected surprise. I must have squeezed it too hard, because the bubble actually popped out of the skull and fell into my lap! It was perfectly fine 'n all, but I'm guessing that wasn't supposed to happen as it took a bit of finagling to insert it back into Skull Face's cranium where it belongs.
Now here's a really different one. They actually added some red mesh netting where Bash Brain's brain is exposed to help keep it in place. You really have to squeeze this one hard, but it's well worth the effort because when you give it a good squeeze, the gray matter seeps between the netting creating an awesome brainy effect! Actually, it looks a lot like the bubbling pods on the back of Gizmo (from Gremlins) when Billy spilled water on him. Either way, it rules.
Last but not least, we have Slobulus, who is easily my favorite character out of the three they chose to give the SICK treatment to. When you give him a squeeze, his hollowed-out eye socket swells up with a bubble filled with the nastiest looking eyeballs I've ever seen in a squeeze toy. Not only are the eyeballs nicely detailed for a toy of this nature (complete with retinas 'n all) but each eyeball has big fat bloody flesh chunks on the back. It's seriously pretty nasty. I was sitting here alone and actually said aloud "Jeez! Hahaha!" when I first saw them. While I do work on this web site a lot and get to play with all kinds of toys as a result of it, I assure you, I don't talk to myself that often... it takes a little somethin extra special for that to happen, and Slobulus has it.
I'm really hopin that Series 2 will be released in the not too distant future so I can perhaps see my old two favorites "Oculus Orbus" and "Fistface" in this highly detailed new Madball format. There's no official word on a revival of the Super Madballs yet, but American Greetings did tell me there's a possibility of a soccer ball called "Goalrilla" being released. Furthermore, I did see a killer prototype of a revamped Touchdown Terror at the Comic-Con in '06, so I have a lot of hope for that one as well. They also hinted at the potential for Madballs convections with keepsake packaging, so let's keep our fingers crossed.
As much as I love the Madballs, it's always a risk when you put them all together in the same room. You never know when they're gonna turn on you. But hey, with great risk comes great............................................. physical harm to your body.
Big kudos to American Greetings for taking a chance and breathing new life into this classic 80's gross-out toyline (and kudos to James Groman too - after all, he's the artist who redesigned 'em!). If you're interested in the new Madballs series, you can check out Madballs.com. They're already available at Toys "R" Us, and according to American Greetings, they'll be available at other retailers come spring '08. Also, for some more images and details about the original Madballs series from the 80's, be sure to check out the old Madballs fanpage which has great profiles on each ball and plenty of other goodies. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go play with my balls.
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***ENDS FEBRUARY 15, 2008***
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Rog, how is the weight on the new ones? I seem to remember the old ones needed a bit more density to them.
You can really tell on the photo of you squeezing Brain Bash that it took alot more effort to expose the innards than the other two. Look at those tendons!
Why is it that you can get me to buy shit, but multi-million dollar ad campaigns have no effect whatsoever?
Wasn't there a MadBall cartoon to? I had only one of these as a kid
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