In September of 2010 an email was received for the defunct website Rare-MUSCLE-Stuff. It contained the following message:
Came across your site while doing a little reference on some muscle items and I thought maybe this might interest you…
I am in contact with one of the guys that did some artwork for Mattel back in the 80′s. One of the lines he worked on was MUSCLE briefly. He sent over most of the materials relating to his time there to me, and in it was this grouping of Muscle/ Kinnikuman that were sent to him by Mattel for upcoming artwork reference. He doesn’t remember if he ever did any artwork for these characters, but the items definitely came from Mattel as reference for the M.U.S.C.L.E. line. all of them are made of that Kinnnikuman “eraser-like” material…
The email message also had the following attachment:
The picture was of five keshi Kinnikuman figures that were purportedly used as reference to create artwork for the M.U.S.C.L.E. brand of toys.
Emails that had been sent to the Rare-MUSCLE-Stuff website were often the result of a potential buyer or seller trying to figure out what they owned. Even when they believed they had something special or unique it often turned out to be something very pedestrian. It was because of this, the emailer’s claims were met with great skepticism.
Several more emails back and forth started to unravel new information from the emailer named James, who claimed that:
- The person that originally had the figures was not a Mattel Employee, but an external person that was contracted by Mattel.
- He was a person on a team of contractors hired by Mattel.
- He was involved in work with Mattel from around 1984-1987.
- This person was in fact in charge of the team and would divide up the jobs and reference materials to the other contractors.
- The artist that got the job depended on who he had available, how quick the job needed turned around, who best fit the style, etc.
- He did not do any of the art.
- Once completed, he would also collect the work and submit it to Mattel.
I don’t think they really did anything other than working up packaging and ads. They had no input whatsoever on the decisions and creation of the brand. In fact, they did VERY little work with Muscle (as opposed to Secret Wars and MOTU). They were just given reference and told what to draw…which is where he got this batch of figures. It was toward the end of the line, so it probably never went any further. When the line was canceled, so was whatever work was intended to be done with these reference figures.
As a write-up was being constructed an email was sent to James asking if he had a website, Facebook page, and/or Twitter account that he would like credited for this information. That was the last email and James never responded. The lack of any response made the entire exchange feel less than truthful.
Now the question for M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors, “Can this information be believed?”
Mattel did not create a tremendous amount of original art for the M.U.S.C.L.E. line. Three of the most noticeable and original art pieces (the Pre-Pack, the Quik advertisement, and the
back of the 28-pack) do not seem to be heavily influenced by any of these “reference” figures. So if the answer is no, then nothing really changes.
However, if the answer is yes, then new questions can start to arise:
- Is there significance in the Flesh color?
- Does the inclusion of a non-M.U.S.C.L.E. Kinnikuman character suggest the line was going to expand?