80’s Nostalgia is a very popular cash cow of the moment. By reviving a much-beloved toy for a new generation that their parents remember fondly, you not only sell to kids but adults as well. One of the most recognizable themes in the Eighties was pop art and vivid color explosions. Neon was the word, and geometry was its medium. With that came all sorts of different toys, movies, music and TV, and anything that could sell one if not all of these things was the hottest ticket.
Now, as my people grow older and wonder what happened to the younger generation as we crochet business suits for our cats and grumble about “Kids Today,” we long to be reminded of simpler times. Times where bills were not our problem, and reading a Berenstein Bears book was considered classic literature. And really, what feels better than to share your childhood with the children in your life?
Sometimes the nostalgia market hits it out of the park, (My Little Pony, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,) and others strike out, (Jem and the Holograms.) But there is a little corner of the 80’s that seems to be overlooked and almost buried in relation to the new age boom. Sure, every little kid wants their Rainbow Brite doll, or their WWF action figure. But what about those kids we grew up with that were just too disgusting to function? The booger-flinging, mud-slingin’ pig pens of the world, who weren’t happy unless they were more dirty and disgusting than they were from playing the day before. Those kids kept shoeboxes of Garbage Pail Kids cards that made you feel icky just to touch, and had a blob of hairy sticky hands from the gumball machine that had seen their last wall crawl. These children, who were too cool and too gross to function, have not been well showcased in our toy stores. But that is all changing, as we see with Madballs #1 By LionForge.
Madballs were an extremely popular series of toys that debuted in the mid-1980’s. These ball-sized menaces resembled everything from baseballs to dismembered fists, with rainbows of snot and god knows what else flying from every orifice. Supposedly from another planet, these little terrorists crash landed on Planet Earth for a simple reason: to hide from the trouble they have already gotten into back home, and to raise some new kinds of intergalactic mayhem on all of us poor humans. There was the iconic Screamin’ Meemie, whose voice (and tongue) could be smelt and dealt for miles, Horn Head the cyclops with bones on the brain, and one simply named “Aargh.” That one probably speaks for itself.
It was announced earlier this year that Mondo Toys would be breathing life back into the little foam freaks, and with that a whole new era of classic and original Madballs are infecting the world once again. And with that we get the best present of all for a punk rocker-in-training could hope for: A comic book series!
This first issue holds three small stories telling very different tales of the Madballs. In “Bizarro Bowl,” by Brad McGinty, we see what the Madballs consider to be the best sport around. Of course that sport is a combination of Football, Soccer, Baseball, Basketball, Pinball and whatever kind of spherical game I might be forgetting. Screamin’ Meemie and Horn Head both lead their teams hoping for victory, with Aargh and Fist Face (A dismembered fist with an eye stuffed in it,) doing their best as commentators for the game. Do we have any idea what’s going on? No. Can Fist Face prove one can speak on a microphone when one has no mouth? Yes. Does it matter who won? Not a chance in hell. Just get ready for some vivid and grossly funny antics guaranteed to turn your stomach.
“Bizarro Bowl” is followed by “Night of the Purple Putty Cat,” a story created by Scarecrowoven which takes on a much more creepy and vintage tone. Roswell rings true with this one as you see the Madballs first crash on Earth in a barn, and begin trying to get to know the planet in the least intimidating way possible. That way, of course, is to mold themselves into a great, lumbering mass of leaky eyes and noses who learns English by aping what the horrified farmer who happened upon them says. As the heaving mass of alien lumbers into the city only bellowing mimicked words such as “YEEEEOOOOW!!!” and “GEEYAAAAH!!!” it is needless to say that the Madballs don’t make many friends.
In the final story, Dan Zettwoch presents “Ye Olde-Tymer’s Game,” where the Madballs come up against their extreme doppelgangers, the Orbs of Civility. These dapper chaps set out to kill their twins with kindness, literally. Just goes to show that it is not the clothes that make the man. If you are crazy, it doesn’t matter if you use moustaches and monocles or pull your own teeth out with truck hitches – you’re still crazy.
Overall, each of the three stories are a genuine good time and all of them have very different voices. Whereas “Bizarro Bowl” is definitely aimed at both the die-hard classic fans and the sports enthusiast represented in a lot of the Madballs designs, its 70’s-80’s punk tattoo pop art culture is brought out on the page just as if it was 1985 again. “Night of the Purple Putty Cat” surprises with something a little darker and serious than the other two, as its 1950’s science fiction B-movie inspirations bring a chill up your spine and has you second guessing every strange noise in your backyard. And as for “Ye Olde Tymer’s Game,” the book is pleasantly wrapped up with not only very recognizable comic style, but also keeps it tongue-in-cheek by poking fun of the reincarnation of these gross little wonders and how as much as things have changed from 1985 to 2016, they also have stayed exactly the same.
It’s pretty certain that we all have seen these guys growing up, and whether you were repulsed or overjoyed at seeing them it really boils down to how you want to remember those years, and if you want to continue the tradition of good old honest gross-out humor. Because love them or hate them, it looks like these Madballs will always bounce back.
Madballs #1 came out from Roar Comics on April 20, 2016.
Writer: Brad McGinty
Artist: Brian Smith,
Backup Stories: Scarecrowoven, Gunsho, Dan Zettwoch, Jenny Zych, Sean Dove, Jesse Balmer, Jimmy Giegerich, Matt Crabe
Format: Comic Book
Publisher: Roar Comics (an imprint of Lion Forge)
Pub Date: April 20, 2016
Item Code: FEB161633