The Sunday Paper


The Sunday Paper returns thanks to Peter M. He did something new too.

He sent his write-up to UofMUSCLE@gmail.com and followed the guidelines. But the write-up wasn’t quite done. He asked a few questions and thought my responses could be interesting.

Thanks Peter! I love trying new things like this concept.

Remember the Sunday Paper is open to anybody! If you have a M.U.S.C.L.E. topic/question/rant that you want the world to see, then please feel free to send it in. I know M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors would love an extra day of content.



MUSCLEMANIA

Oddly, I find myself more and more obsessed with Musclemania. Whereas all the mysteries of MUSCLE seem to be uncovered, and all that is left is a cynical collecting “community” Musclemania seems to have retained a real air of mystery. And a general lack of interest has prevented prices from getting out of hand.

There just seems to be so much more story to tell with these figures, even though in an objective analysis (is that really even possible?) I think that Muscle is unquestionably a superior line in every way.

I think beyond the general inconsistencies in material quality across the line, there is a clear difference in sculpt quality in Series 1 vs Series 2. The sculpts in Series 1 might be derivative of Muscle, or Kinkeshi if the 1984 copyright is to be believed, but I think they are still FAR more creative and interesting than the sculpts in Series 2. Nostalgia can play a role here- I absolutely had Series 1 figs as a child and absolutely did NOT have Series 2. Perhaps my childhood nostalgia is causing me to look more favorably on Series 1 vs 2?

Chad’s Response:

Based on what you’ve said, I think you’re referring to Series 1 as figures 1 through 12. And Series 2 as 13 through 24.

I think it is impossible to exclude nostalgia when talking about toys from your childhood. As an adult you can see Series 1 and Series 2 as equals. Adding nostalgia to the assessment of those groups is probably going to tip the scales to the figures you had as a child.

I never had the figures as a kid. They were an adult discovery. However, Series 1 (just the figures from the 4-pack) were the first figures I knew. It took the discovery of the 12-pack to add the second series of figures. Both series were fun discoveries.

I tend to like Series 1 better because they are mostly the Firm versions and have those Translucent Green versions. The Stretchy doesn’t really display very well.

Speaking of my childhood- in my previous email I had mentioned my memory of the figures being in Flesh color. Since then, I have purchased a few figs and have to admit- I wonder if my flesh memory isn’t false or incorrect in some way. It just feels utterly bizarre to me that I recall these sculpts in flesh when almost nobody else on earth remembers them that way. Anyway, back to the sculpts. Do you agree that series 1 seems to be carved from a different, and more skilled hand than that evident in Series 2?

Chad’s Response:

I am going to say, “no.”

To my knowledge, Select was not an enormous organization. As a business you’d want to keep headcount low. Having multiple sculptors on a relatively small project doesn’t make much sense as a business.

With that said, you could also hire two contract sculptors for two projects: (1) the 4-pack figures; and (2) the 12-pack figures. Without all the added costs of full-time employment, two 1099 contractors could easily have been used. Of course, as a manager I wouldn’t want to make sure two artists are hitting the same concept.

As a leader, it would would be easier to find one artist for the project.

I liken it to comparing different comic book artists. My “theory” is that the artist who sculpted series 1 was very young, or at a very early point in their career, and moved on from Select before the Series 2 sculpts were created by a less skilled artist. Still aping other artists (ie Kinkeshi sculpts) but talented enough to add unique touches. For example, the “antennae” on Figure 1. I don’t know if this has been discussed elsewhere, but I believe that the headpiece on this figure is actually a falcon hood. See my pic below and tell me what you think.

Just a weird and creative little touch, no? Perhaps not- perhaps there is a falcon hooded figure the artist copied that I’m unaware of, but I hope not honestly.

Chad’s Response:

Wow. I don’t know.

I think you nailed it – unless a Kinnikuman expert can tell us differently.

Figure #8

Another “special” touch, IMO, would be on the back heel on Figure 8’s right foot. It always fascinated me as a kid. the way it was raised off the ground- it lends the figure a sense of motion that you just don’t see in any other Musclemania figure, or in Muscle for that matter. Figure 8 is the Series 1 figure most clearly and plainly patterned after a normal human wrestler, or Geronimo from Muscle if we are being cynical. I’ve always thought the outstretched open palm arms on Figure 8 remind me of a wrestler running to the ring, making his entrance, palms outstretched to receive high fives from the crowd. Again, a cool little “action” touch, assuming that I’m not reading too much into it. There are open palm figures in Muscle and Kinnikuman but I’m not sure any of them seem to be reaching out in quite the same way as Figure 8.

Figure #3

Figure #7

Figure 3 and Figure 7 both seem to have been sculpted to carry a weapon that was removed before molding/casting/manufacturing. Look closely at their right hands, and tell me if you don’t think Figure 3 has the gun that is missing from his holster and that Figure 7 has the hilt of a sword or ax that would have fit his costume motif. Neither of these are particularly all that creative or amazing, but perhaps offer evidence of an artist being reined in by cost-conscious overlords at Select Merchandise.

Now, if you don’t mind humoring me some more, I wanted to touch in the different plastic consistencies across the line. My childhood experience and nearly all of the figures I’ve acquired over the past month are of what I assumed you would describe as the “more firm Muscle-like” consistency. Firm, but you can bend the arms or legs ever so slightly. Someone on facebook described them as “gumy little dudes” and yeah that makes sense. To my knowledge, I’ve never encountered the more stretchy consistency of the later figures. One your page, you have a picture of a red Figure 1 with arms stretched out to about 2-3 inches away from the body. I can’t do that with any of my figures. So, I assumed, these are all “firm” as opposed to stretchy. Then, this week, I got my hands on a Yellow Figure 2. To my surprise, his consistency is of an entirely different firmness- almost completely rigid. I thought, is this part of the “Army Man” plastic oddities that you have uncovered? I also acquired a translucent Green Figure 1. And he is also quite rigid. Not *QUITE* as rigid as the Yellow #2, but noticeably more so than my other figures. UNLIKE the Army Man plastic figures that you uncovered, both of these guys have clear Select copyright markings. So now I’m wondering- are these guys of the “firm” consistency and the figures I previously thought were firm are in fact stretchy? What do you think?

Chad’s Response:

I would be embarrassed to admit how long I took on this question. Not because I didn’t understand your question, but because I want to make sure I answered it correctly.

The Translucent Green figures, although microscopically and almost-unnoticeably different, fall into the Firm group.

The Army Men Plastic are wholly unique. There is no mistaking their unique texture – different from the firm ones.

The Stretchy can’t be mistaken either. They, in my humble opinion, suck because they can’t be displayed. Their texture is almost like a Wacky Wall Walker you would have gotten in a children’s cereal. I actually keep them isolated from other figures because I’m pretty sure they are just going to melt one day.

Finally, the name Musclemania. Any wrestling fan would immediately point to the WWF’s annual Wrestlemania event first held in March 1985. That name was itself patterned on Hulk Hogan’s phrase “Hulkamania”- which was first uttered on air by WWF announcer Gorilla Monsoon during Hogan’s first Heavyweight Title victory in January 1984 vs the Iron Sheik. You can go further and point to “Fernandomania”- the craze that surrounded Los Angeles Dodgers rookie sensation Fernando Valenzuela during the 1981 season. There are probably countless other uses of it during the time, but clearly Hulkamania, established 1984, and Wrestlemania, established 1985, have the most relevance to these “wrestling” figures. Is it possible that Select Merchandise, patterned the name Musclemania primarily on Hulk Hogan/WWF and Mattel swooped in and turned it into M.U.S.C.L.E as opposed to the other way around?

Chad’s Response:

I bet you thought this was the easiest question. I think it is the most philosophical.

The “Mania” suffix is used too broadly to assume Wrestlemania or Hulkamania is the source. It could be! But, the guy naming it might have been a huge Beatles fan and wanted to inject “Beatle-Mania!”

The philosophical part comes when you start discussing which toy came first: M.U.S.C.L.E. or MUSCLEMANIA.

Everything I have uncovered suggests MUSCLEMANIA could have been released first. There isn’t enough evidence, for me, to declare it an absolute truth. But if it was first, then why the use of ‘MUSCLE?’ Why not Mini-Fighter Mania? Or Wrestler Mania? Or any other name?

And if Select was trying to draw a closer connection to WWF, where else is the connection? Shouldn’t an easily identifiable wrestling character trope be on the card? Instead they went with that weird, red guy (who would fit in much better as a M.U.S.C.L.E. figure).

The easy conclusion could be that M.U.S.C.L.E. simply came first. It’s bigger and more successful and spawned seemingly endless copycats.

I personally like the Tesla/Edison idea. What if Select and Mattel both identified Kinnikuman as a turnkey product to bring to North America? Mattel had the power and influence to just reuse Bandai’s product. Select did not have that power. They tried to take everything that worked about Kinnikuman and made their own toys – maybe even before M.U.S.C.L.E. gets to market. In the end, people remember Edison and M.U.S.C.L.E. because they had the power and influence to be bigger and more powerful in the marketplace. I like that idea.

Anyway. These are my current Musclemania musings. I hope you don’t mind me sharing these with you. Its likely everything covered here is something you discussed years ago on LRG and I’m not breaking any new ground. Again, just felt like sharing with someone who might find them interesting.



Thank you Peter! I enjoyed your musings, and I hope I didn’t detract from them. This was a fun endeavor for me. Hopefully at least one other MUSCLEMANIA nut liked it. And if not, who cares? We had some fun!

If you’re feeling inspired, then please sent in your article and pictures to UofMUSCLE@gmail.com.

  1. #1 by Orgg on December 6, 2020 - 10:58 am

    Another note on the stretchy (‘non-sticky wall walker’ is accurate) Musclemania figures– they’ll stain regular MUSCLE-style figures.

    My childhood batch of Weirdball Wrestlers were stored in the same bag as my three Musclemania figures for a duration of probably six or seven years. I now have streaks on my Weirdball Wrestlers. (I ended up exiling my Musclemania figures to Soupie in exchange for a few replacement Weirdballs).

    Considering how rare the stretchy ones seem, I might’ve gotten the worst in the bargain, but that’s fine. I was angry at them, lol.

  2. #2 by Rodney on December 6, 2020 - 12:41 pm

    Select licensed a lot of their toys from other companies and sold rebranded versions here in the US. I would guess that like their Convertors line, the mania figures we’re an already finished product and they just bought the rights and sold them as their own. The series one are marked Japan on the backs while series 2 are marked Korea, which helps explain the very different style and feel of the figures. I haven’t been able to find any evidence of series 1 being sold on Japan under a different name, but series 2 have popped up in Korea in a variety of forms. My theory is these came about from the partnerships select made bringing their Convertors line to market. Someone had a line of 12 ko kinkeshi that went in released and Select bought the rights rather than just licensing them. The made some money selling 12 packs of figures, so they grabbed another set of sculpts for series 2, this time from Korea, and released both sets in 4 packs at a cheaper price point. I’ve dug around trying to find any hint of series 1 in Japan but I don’t know the language and haven’t been able to uncover anything. Just my hypothesis as a collector of this line.

  3. #3 by Chad Perry on December 6, 2020 - 1:26 pm

    The stretchy ones aren’t rare. I have probably hundreds.

    Ignoring that anecdote, I feel like I see more of the Stretchy ones than the Firm on eBay.

  4. #4 by Pete V on December 6, 2020 - 2:43 pm

    Interesting observations. I think you’re probably right about those figures originally having weapons.

  5. #5 by Donny on December 8, 2020 - 2:43 pm

    Fun article! Definitely agree with the idea that some sculpts were originally holding weapons. The aforementioned #3 and #7 being the most obvious, but I’ve always thought #6 probably had a bow in his raised hand as well. The removal of the weapons may be simply an issue of the figures size—there’s not a whole lot of wiggle-room in those blister packs.

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