Saturday Morning Cartoons #16

M.A.S.K.: “The Deathstone”

It is the Fall of 1985 and I am a 2nd grader. It’s 8 AM, meaning that I have at most 10 minutes before I have to go catch my bus to school. It also means that one of the best cartoons that I never saw a full episode of was coming on: M.A.S.K. I figured that a Saturday Morning Cartoon post would be the perfect time to watch my first full episode of M.A.S.K….. after the break.

M.A.S.K. – an acronym for “Mobile Armored Strike Kommand” – is a franchise from Kenner, featuring toys, comic books, and a cartoon TV series, which ran through 1985 and part of 1986. It also will be an upcoming movie(!!). M.A.S.K. was the first Closed Caption series to run in first-run syndication, which I thought was an interesting fact.
M.A.S.K. was a task force, using a mixture of special masks, “futuristic” technology, and Transformer-esque vehicles, that battled the quasi-terrorist group known as V.E.N.O.M. (Vicious Evil Network of Mayhem). Apparently, the head of V.E.M.O.N. betrayed M.A.S.K., stole half of the technology that they had, and formed V.E.N.O.M.

This episode is the pilot: “The Deathstone”.
We begin at a meteor crash site. The impact site started growing plant life after the crash. Weird. Anyway, people in Hazmat suits are then at the site, videotaping and analyzing everything in the area. Suddenly, a UFO shows up and meteor disappears!
The person filming the site catches the UFO on camera; one of the other Hazmat suited people reveals himself as a one-eyed criminal (not named yet). He sees the person recording everything, runs towards them, pulls their hood off… it’s a woman! (One Eyed Guy sounded more surprised than my words conveyed). The woman runs off to a jeep, pursued by One Eyed Guy and then by a masked guy on a motorcycle. She is shot at and eventually running off of a clip, into a river. The 2 bad guys laugh.
We then see the as-yet-named woman in a bed, waking up to the voice of a guy named Matt Trakker (the leader of M.A.S.K.); “some of my friends found you in the river”. The woman is Professor Stevens. She gives Trakker her videocassette; “it’s a matter of life and death for millions of people!”. In another room, Trakker’s son, Andy, is playing Table Tennis with a trash can-shaped robot named T-Bob. Andy and a transforming T-Bob head off to meet with his dad.
Matt Trakker is in a Control Room, watching Professor Stevens in her room, while analyzing the videotape in his room. He mobilizes “the best agents”, which is where we are introduced to M.A.S.K. as a team:

  • Brad Turner: motorcycle pilot, driving a cycle-helicopter hybrid; code named “Condor”; as each team is introduced, you see that Turner and the others are wearing a watch-like device that blinks and sounds an alarm when they are needed; this leads to some pretty… “odd” departures by the team members from their current situation; for example, Turner was performing at a concert then just runs off the stage
  • Bruce Sato: Mechanical Engineer and Mechanical Specialist, driving a big semi cab; code named “Rhino”
  • Alex Sektor, the communications expert for “Rhino”; it doesn’t look like he has his own vehicle
  • Hondo McClain; Weapons Expert and Tactician; vehicle is a pickup truck, code named “Firecracker”
  • Dusty Hayes; Auto and Boat Stunt Driver; drives a Jeep, code named “Gator”
  • Buddy Hawks; Master of Disguise and Intelligence Expert; co-pilot of “Firecracker”

Meanwhile, in V.E.N.O.M.’s headquarters:
The leader is experimenting on the stolen meteor: he has 3 potted plants in a chemistry hood, cuts the meteor in 3 pieces, and the plants wilted. Just as he suspected. The next stage of the plan begins: auction off the pieces of the meteor – now named “The Deathstone” – to other countries, as weapons, for a minimum of $50 million. For 1985, that is a nice chunk of change! Insert evil laughter.
At Mask’s HQs (I’m not abbreviating the 2 groups the rest of the way; I think you know who they are by now), Trakker briefs the rest of the team on the situation, patches in to a tracking satellite, and begins the sequence where each person gets their powered(?) Mask, hook up to their vehicles, and – to use the popular phrase from their contemporary cartoon series – “roll out”.

“So, we’re raiding Antorus tonight?”

Venom is on the run, so to speak: they split up into 3 groups, each with a slice of the stone. Miles Mayhem, the Venom leader, is providing air support. On the pursuit is Mask, with “Condor” taking to the skies: his motorcycle sprouted helicopter blades. Hondo gets into trouble, so Trakker takes to the air: his car doors transfo… er, evolve, into jet wings!
Condor and Mayhem have a strange dogfight; Sato takes on a Venom guy on a bike, and Andy and T-Bob, as stowaways, nearly get Hondo killed, after they are thrown from the truck they were hiding in; Hondo covered Andy while debris was falling from the sky and got pelted by beams of steel. Andy and T-Bob motor away; Trakker just mutters: “V.E.N.O.M.”.

Venom agents start their meetings, beginning with Miles Mayhem and some shady characters on a ship… and Andy and T-Bob are on said too. This kid… grrr. Anyways….
Andy needs to contact his dad, Trakker, to let them know where he is and what he’s seeing, but there’s no radio nearby.
But there is Mayhem’s helicopter.
Andy jumps in, somehow finds the radio, but also finds the ignition. Chaos ensues. What do you think would happen when a 12-14 year gets in the seat of a “futuristic” helicopter? He crashes the helicopter but finds a semi, which T-Bob drives away with Andy in tow, much to the chagrin of Mayhem. His chagrin deepens as Mask closes in. “Condor” might be the MVP of this episode: his bike, which already sprouted helicopter rotors, now goes into “Mach 1” mode and rockets towards Meeting #1, between One Eyed Guy and some random Business Man.

“I’ll give you what’s in this box…. or you can take what’s behind Door #2.”

“Condor” blasts in between the 2, destroying a briefcase of money and taking their slice of the meteor, drawing One Eyed’s ire. He jumps into an armored military-armored vehicle and gives chase. “Condor” whips out another surprise: “Ant-Matter Guns”, which blast a portal into the side of a building; One Eye just barrels through the wall…. and straight into “Rhino” and a smokescreen. Elimination.
Miles Mayhem jumps on one of the coolest vehicles that I remember seeing as a kid: a motorcycle that split its sidecar off, mid-ride, and became a bike-boat hybrid. Mayhem drives away in the sidecar while a henchman blasts off across the ocean. “Gator” shows up on the beach that Mayhem escaped through and pulls a similar maneuver: his Jeep splits horizontally, revealing a Jet Boat, and Dusty takes off after Mayhem.
Meeting #2, between henchman and Shady Business Man, is stopped by Dusty, a freeze ray, and some cheesy one-liners. He snags Meteor Slice #2.
Meeting #3 takes place on a sea plane; Trakker is tailing the plane but is shot at by Mayhem . Apparently his bike also can fly…? I’m not complaining, just pointing it out. Trakker shoots a Force Rocket at Mayhem’s Bike-Boat-Jet, which latches onto the top of the vehicle and forces it into some unknown distance. That victory came at a sot: the loss of Meteor Slice #3. Trakker, in the most forlorn voice in 1980’s cartoon history, reports the loss to the rest of the team back at Mask’s Headquarters.
Enter Andy and T-Bob.And the missing Slice, which was in the back of the truck they stole.

“We did a thing! It’s our fault that Hondo is nearly dead but… we did a thing!”

Professor Stone, with help from the rest of Mask, reassemble the meteor, place Hondo in the room with it, and let it do its magic: Hondo is healed.
The meteor is drained, however.
Miles Mayhem end the episode with a bellow of vengeance towards Mask.
A 1-minute PSA follows the episode, warning kids about running out into traffic.

I enjoyed this episode, to be honest. The animation looked a lot like G.I. Joe and Transformers; some of the voices sounded like the same actors/actresses from those 2 shows, also. I loved the fact that the leader of the bad guys – Miles Mayhem, in this episode – did not hide in the background, shouting out orders; he was on the front lines, taking on any and everybody. They (bad guys) weren’t a collection of blundering idiots, nor were the good guys virtually invincible, as Hondo was badly hurt, the [kid] was slightly injured early, and Trakker failed to recover a slice of that meteor.
For Christmas 1985, I got one of the M.A.S.K. toys: an Indy Car that split the sides off into two-wheeled cars, with the central part that became a Jet or a 3-wheeled car; the Mayhem brothers came with it (I didn’t have Buzzard, the center figure in the picture):
1985 me was pretty happy with that toy. 2018 me was pretty happy with finally watching the pilot to M.A.S.K..

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