As we all know, M.A.S.K. is a great concept and there are many fans out there - whether it be fans of the Toys, Comics, Cartoons or all all aspects. I asked Mark some questions on his experience of M.A.S.K., please see the Q&A session below.
Mark: My name's Mark, I live in the UK (South West to be precise) and I'm 34 years old.
maskcomics: What first got you into M.A.S.K.?
Mark: My memory's rather vague but I think it was the cartoon first, then the toys (my first being Condor) and then the comics.
maskcomics: I didn't collect many toys, but Condor was my first also - and I think a popular first toy for most collectors! Did you collect the comics growing up?
Mark: I certainly did. I collected the UK comics from first issue to last along with all of the various specials they produced. I wasn't even aware at the time that there was any American comics.
I remember getting that first issue very clearly. I'd seen it advertised on TV and I pestered my Mum to buy it for me one Saturday morning. I expected it to be like the Transformers comic that I was also collecting at the time so I was quite surprised at how big it was compared to the smaller Transformers. I was also surprised that most of MASK was in black and white. I was used to my comics being in full colour.
maskcomics: If you saw the comic advertised on TV I assume you missed the Preview Issue?
Mark: That's right, I had no idea that there even was a preview issue until recently.
As far as I know the collection is complete so I've never felt the need to add to it. Having said that, although I did also collect the issues of Eagle that included MASK I'm not sure that I kept them all so perhaps I might want to add those at some point.
maskcomics: What was your favourite aspect of the comics?
Mark: For me, it's the earlier issues that are probably the most memorable. Those are the ones that I would read and re-read so I have good memories of a lot of the stories from those issues. My favourite stories were usually the ones illustrated by an artist called David Pugh. Recently you've been reviewing one of his earliest stories, 'Kamikaze' and it's stories like that which really stand out in my mind. I don't think it was just his artwork I liked, the stories he illustrated always seemed to be the most exciting ones.
One other story I also really liked was 'Hogan's Gang' which was a bit later in the comic's run. For those who don't know that was a long running strip about a boy called James Hogan whose MASK toys came to life. I can imagine that a lot of kids read that strip and imagined their own toys coming to life.
The one other I liked about the comic was the letter page was usually split between MASK and VENOM so, depending on where your loyalties lay, you could write to either Matt Trakker or Miles Mayhem. It was nice that the editors of the comic acknowledged that some people might actually prefer the bad guys!
maskcomics: The split Letters Page was a great idea. Did you ever have anything published?
Mark: Sadly no. I would have loved to have come up with a new vehicle or a new mask and get that published but unfortunately I can't draw at all. My friend, who was quite a good artist, come up with a few ideas of his own but, as far as I know, he never sent them in.
maskcomics: How do you think the Comic compared with the toys and the cartoon?
I've recently bought the complete series on DVD so I'm slowly re-watching all of the cartoons. They actually stand-up pretty well after all these years but the stories seem so short compared to the ones in the comic. A lot of the stories in the comic seem bigger and more epic. The comic also does things that the cartoon would never do, like having a story where MASK toys come to life for instance.
One other thing that the cartoon lacks is any kind of back story or motivation for why these two teams are fighting each other. Other cartoons of the time like Transformers or Thundercats have backstories which helps you to understand the characters and their world. The MASK cartoons doesn't have any of that as far as I can tell. What sets the comic above the cartoon is that it does provide something of a backstory. At the time I read it it was something of a revelation. I'd had no idea that Matt Trakker and Mile Mayhem used to be friends!
As for the toys well I loved those! My favourites were Condor, Rhino and Iguana. Between myself and my best friend at the time we had quite a sizeable collection of MASK toys. I'm not sure if you can really compare the toys to the comics or the cartoon because they're very different. The comics and the cartoon are telling you the stories but with the toys you can do what you want which obviously was part of the appeal. Sadly I can't remember what stories I used to come up with using my toys but I'm sure they were brilliant.
maskcomics: You seem to be clued up on the Artists, did you do a lot of research?
Mark: Not really no. At the time that I was reading MASK, I was also reading a lot of other comics, most of which were also produced by Fleetway so I saw a lot of the same artists' work appearing in these other comics. Sometimes those artists got credits on their other work so I was able to put names to their work. Since then I've picked up odd bits of information on these people, mainly though the Internet but also the odd book. But I've never really actively researched the artists or the writers for that matter. It might be an interesting thing to do though.
maskcomics: How do you think M.A.S.K. compared to other comics of the time or now?
Mark: Nowadays most comics in the UK and the US at least seem to be aimed at either older teenagers or adults whereas, back in the day, comics like MASK or Eagle were aimed at readers aged between about 8 (when I started reading MASK) and the early teens. There aren't many comics around like that now. In fact I can't think of any UK comics that are aimed at that age group any more which is a bit sad really.
Compared to other comics of the time like Eagle or 2000 AD, I think MASK stands up pretty well. Bearing in mind that the comic is based around a toy franchise you would think that either the writers or the artists would slack off a bit but that doesn't seem to be the case. Admittedly I think the quality did drop off a bit towards the end of its run - far too much T-Bob as I recall - but, for much of the time it was all good quality stuff.
maskcomics: Are you still a collector of comics, if so what are you into these days?
Mark: I still collect comics and enjoy them a great deal although I can't afford to indulge in it as much as I'd like to. In terms of regular titles, I restrict myself to collecting a few Marvel and DC titles like The Avengers and the Justice League. I did collect 2000 AD for a while and then lost interest in it. I have collected some of the Judge Dredd Casefiles comic strip collections as well as the hardback collections of the classic British strip Charley's War which is probably my all time favourite comic strip.
maskcomics: Now for a few quick fire questions from my Facebook page -
maskcomics: Vanessa or Gloria?
maskcomics: Spectrum or Ultraflash?
maskcomics: Hurricane or Firecracker?
maskcomics: M.A.S.K. or Transformers or G.I. Joe?
Mark: I think MASK but it's close between that and Transformers. I was never interested in G.I. Joe.
maskcomics: You may be aware I've written a M.A.S.K. script, what are your thoughts on a movie?
Mark: Given how many revivals of 80s toys/cartoon franchises there have been in the last few years, I'm a bit surprised that there's been no MASK revival of any sort. I think MASK would work really well as a live-action movie, or as an animated movie come to that. My only question would be: should it be a reboot or a continuation? There's a part of me that would like to see what had happened to MASK and VENOM in the 25-odd years since we last saw them but I'm not sure how well that would work for a general audience who may never have heard of MASK before.
Mark: Brad Turner, Alex Sector and Bruce Sato are my favourite MASK characters so I'd like to see them in it. Rhino and Condor are also two of my favourite vehicles so that works out well. For VENOM my favourites are Cliff Dagger and Sly Rax so I'd like to see them with Jackhammer and Piranha respectively. And I'd like Lester Sludge and Iguana to be in there somewhere too.
I noticed that you'd come up with some new vehicles for your movie which I think is a great idea. There's always room for new blood.
maskcomics: Transformers came under criticism for changing many of the vehicles, what are your thoughts on updating the vehicles in M.A.S.K.?
Mark: Quite a few of the vehicles in MASK had a fairly futuristic look at the time they first appeared so I'm not sure that there's much need for an update. Switchblade for instance would still work well today with only minimal tinkering. Some of the other vehicles, like Rhino and Thunderhawk, are such classic designs that I wouldn't want them to change. If you change them too much they might as well be different vehicles.
maskcomics: I agree, many of the vehicles would look as good today as they did back in the 80's - Piranha and Condor looked fairly futuristic as well. Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions!
Ok, so there you have it. If any more readers would be interested in sharing their experiences of M.A.S.K. feel free to PM me on my Facebook Page or E-mail me.
Mark has also agreed to add some more content to my blog in the future when he has some time so we'll look forward to that in anticipation!
On a movie note, as well as my script, you can keep up-to-date with Wyatt and Jason on their blog and if you haven't already been there you will be able to catch up on all of their old blogs as well!
I'd like to say a big hello to all of my new readers, including a number of you from the Indonesian Facebook Group! Glad to have you onboard!
And one last little thing to end on - if you are a UK reader and you haven't already bought the M.A.S.K. collection on DVD as of today (20/03/13) you are getting a good deal on amazon.co.uk for the full collection - as cheap as £4.99 plus £1.26 delivery from one of their Marketplace Traders. If yo don't have this collection - get it now before it goes up in price. Beware of idiots trying to charge £100 for the same item in other places!