MUSCLE toys - Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere - M.U.S.C.L.E.
MUSCLE toys are about the only remaining toys I had as a kid that I still own, somewhere deep in the confines of my out of control garage in a tiny black and red duffel bag. I began collecting these M.U.S.C.L.E. figures sometime around 1985 through 1986 and possibly very early 1987, right in that period where I was still a kid but soon to become a greasy long haired metal head!
Honestly I can’t really remember why me and my friends loved them so much, but we started collecting these figures during sixth grade, and took our collection to the next level during the summer between sixth and seventh grades. My friend Demian even had the MUSCLE video game for the original Nintendo Entertainment System!
Originally, only the flesh colored figures were available, which were really more like bubble gum pink. But soon after we all had the purple, red, lime green, dark blue and neon orange colored MUSCLE toys.
MUSCLE figures were two inch tall monochromatic toys made from PVC gum produced in the United States from 1985 through 1988. They were intergalactic wrestlers fighting for supremacy and control over the universe. All together, the line included 236 official figures with an unknown number of knock-off copy figures (and we all owned several of those). In addition to the figures produced in the United States by Mattel, there was a board-game that included 5 grape and light purple figures, a M.U.S.C.L.E. video game for the original Nintendo Entertainment System, a championship belt figure holder and a wrestling ring playset. The MUSCLE toys themselves came randomly in packs of four, packs of ten inside semi transparent garbage cans, and boxed into packs of 28 figures.
Many of the figures were completely abstract and outrageous, with some resembling brick houses, brick prisms, hands with giant warts, men with holes in the center of their heads - very sick and deranged - all very creative and cool.
In the United States, the only two MUSCLE figures that had names were Muscle Man and Terri-Bull, originally named Buffaloman. Muscle Man was the leader of the Thug Busters (the good guys) and Terri-Bull was the leader of the Cosmic Crunchers (the bad guys).
The line of M.U.S.C.L.E. figures was based on kinkeshi, a Japanese toy line based on anime and manga called Kinnikuman - the original Muscle Man. It is said that some of the figures were made to resemble Japanese wrestlers like Jushin “Thunder” Liger and Abdullah The Butcher.
While Kinnikuman toys are still popular in Japan available in many other sizes, the MUSCLE toys only lasted two years in the United States. I never had the board game or play sets, but some of my friends did and we had some fun with those accessories.
I do remember doing a lot of trading with them, but the most fun I had was lining them up in various rows and shooting them down with water guns - that was a wholly anti-productive summer before the era of the internet and hand held video game consoles.
Luckily, I eventually developed more meaningful interests such like Jimi Hendrix and Black Sabbath record collections which ultimately inspired me to pick up the electric bass guitar. And now that it’s been almost three years since we’ve moved into our new home, I’m 60% into my campaign of clearing and organizing my garage, chipping away at the giant mess that will ultimately guide my to the lost box that houses the infamous MUSCLE toys - and as soon as they’re found, I’m going to have an exciting photo shoot and post the results on this page! Come back for the exciting photographs of this amazing collection!
These days, there appears to be a growing fan base and community of collectors for these now rare figures, with prices ranging from $2.00 for each common figure to about $50 for an unopened 10 pack garbage can of random figures. Even more depending on the rarity and demand of specific figures. Maybe I’ll find some more treasures in my giant mess of a garage!