25 Nights of Nineties Nostalgia: The Rhino

Welcome to MASK Mondays! Today’s advent article is a look back at a toy-line not many people may remember, but is nonetheless worthy of your consideration. The Rhino and its driver Matt “COWBOY” Tracker are a fantastic example of everything the line wanted to accomplish in one toy. Hot off the success of their Star Wars toys, Kenner wanted to hit stores with the next big thing. Hasbro had struck back hard in the market with its GI Joe and Transformer figures, and Kenner wanted to take them both on – the only question was how? Creating another pseudo-military organization might work, but beyond the success of Hasbro, that was still untested waters. They could create another line of transforming vehicle robots, but a quick glance over at Tonka’s GoBots would show that it was taking everything they had just to keep up with the Transformers, and they were slowly gaining a reputation as knock offs to the real deal despite having hit the market first. No, the answer was not going to be taking them on separately but taking them both on at once.

Comic book, poster, and inferiority complex included.

Comic book, poster, and inferiority complex included.

Kenner created M.A.S.K. the Mobile Armor Strike Kommand, turning Cs into Ks long before Mortal Kombat angered parent groups. MASK would be an anti-CRIMINAL organization rather than anti-terrorist; totally different thing. Each member, and therefore figure, would be given a literal mask that would grant them super powers. For example their leader, the aforementioned Matt Tracker, has the mask Ultra Flash which grants him the ability to blind his enemies with a flash of bright light. But that wasn’t all, as each member of MASK received a vehicle to drive as well. A vehicle that could transform into another at a moment’s notice to suit the situation. As if to challenge Transformers right out the gate, the Rhino was a huge, bright red tractor trailer that made every attempt to look bigger and badder than Optimus Prime’s red truck. However, while Optimus turned into a robot, the Rhino turned into a mobile attack center. Smoke stacks turned into machine guns, the trailer hitch became an attack vehicle, the front bumper a battering ram, and the side opened to reveal a huge missile launcher. It went from being a hard truck able to run down criminals to a battle platform ready to fire heavy weapons at whatever unlucky purse snatcher.

Kenner did not pull any punches and indulged itself in its comparisons to its competition. Having made their figures the same size as GI Joe and offering transforming vehicles at a cheaper price than Transformers without the unfortunate GoBots comparison was an ingenious idea on Kenner’s part. Also if it wasn’t obvious, the Rhino was an absolute blast as a toy, with its killer looks and crazy gimmickry. Oh course, no heroic toy-line would be complete without the proper villains to face… but for that story, come back next week and we will take a look at more of the wonderful world of MA MA MA MASK!!

About the author

Al

Al Baldino is half bear, half owl-bear, which makes him some sort of terrible fraction no one wants to think about. He's a co-host on the Line Cutters every Wednesday at 7pm EST.