Momentous M.U.S.C.L.E. – Darrin Vindiola

Darrin VindiolaToday just about everything can be Googled. It feels unbelievable when we can’t instantly find an answer. But in the earliest days of M.U.S.C.L.E. collecting, it was more surprising to find any answer or even another collector. It was a handful of people and discoveries that shaped everything about modern M.U.S.C.L.E. collecting.

Momentous M.U.S.C.L.E. was not selected as a feature title because of its alliteration. It was selected because certain people and events had a momentous influence on modern M.U.S.C.L.E. collecting. Momentous M.U.S.C.L.E. will attempt to interview those individuals and capture some of those now-forgotten moments.

First up is the legendary Darrin Vindiola. He was first mentioned on this site in the Website Review #5 as the creator of the first M.U.S.C.L.E. website. He reappeared again when he launched The M.U.S.C.L.E. Blog. His final two appearances were in AW #82 and AW #162. But none of those mentions really highlight the full scope of his impact on M.U.S.C.L.E. collecting. Hopefully his Momentous M.U.S.C.L.E. interview will help new collectors learn about and appreciate Darrin as much as all his old school friends already do.

For people unaware of your place in M.U.S.C.L.E. history, how would you introduce yourself?

I’d say name is Darrin Vindiola Sr. founder of the Internet’s very first M.U.S.C.L.E. Website The M.U.S.C.L.E. Preservation Society. The M.P.S. Was the very first hub where M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors could meet up, trade, share stories, art, history, and began building the foundation of the hobby you see today.

The MPS went away, came back for a hot second, got handed off to someone else (I believe), and now you’re bringing a version of it back. What moved you to revisit and relaunch the site?

Heh heh. You missed a couple of gaps there buddy! I did hand off the site at one time to a fellow enthusiast who promised to take the reigns and do more with it than I ever dreamed. Well.. quite simply, he did not. So, I took it back and retooled the site three times over the next six years. First came Darrin’s MUSCLE Dojo, then The M.U.S.C.L.E. Guild, and finally an all new version of The M.P.S. In 2007

In retrospect, those four incarnations make something crystal clear to me now. One, I couldn’t stay away from the hobby too long without wanting to be involved in it once again. And two, I was desperately trying to build something that would get me excited and reinvested in the hobby. In the end, being a family man with three kids took priority over everything else and life got in the way.

I guess it feels as if I’ve come full circle, back to the hobby that gave me so much joy. My kids are now all grown, I have a nice stable life, and finally feel like I can afford to buy out more time for my personal hobbies and interests. In mid 2020 I started reassessing my life as so many of us did. I took steps to minimize the clutter and disorganization in my life. This included the major downsizing of my collection. And when I say collection, I mean dozens upon dozens of toy lines, hundreds of collectibles and lets face it, lots of junk.

In the end, I was left with some items I truly could not part with. One of which was my full set of original pink M.U.S.C.L.E. Figures, and a few related items. It really is one of the last collectibles that mean anything to me. December rolled around and I desperately tried to focus on something positive for the sake of my sanity. One day I pulled my collection down from the shelf, and started thinking about the M.U.S.C.L.E. Preservation Society and all the joy it once brought me. It then dawned on me that it was nearly 25 years since I launched that modest collectors club. I started digging through old boxes in search of my old M.P.S. Files, and it felt as if I had been reconnected with an old friend. In January 2021 , I ran my plans of a relaunch by a few of my oldest M.U.S.C.L.E. Compatriots (you included) which solidified in my mind what I had to do. Resurrect the M.P.S.!

Things about M.U.S.C.L.E. collecting and the community have both changed and stayed the same. What do you remember about “the good old days?”

Ah the Good old Days! Or as I’ve come to call it.. the ’90s M.U.S.C.L.E. Renaissance’. A new period of discovery when everything was so new and exciting. My favorite part was how we worked as a collective, cataloging every bit of data and sharing it with everyone else. We spent hours in the M.P.S. M.U.S.C.L.E. chat room trading, swapping stories, brainstorming on how to get the word out about our group, and helping new collectors build their collections. Everyone was more than happy to contribute, and they made it real easy for me to come up with content for the site and newsletter. The M.P.S. Members were definitely the stars. I just organized everything to showcase in a tidy little quarterly publication.

There’s not too much I ever disliked about the hobby except for one thing, that being; scalpers and rip off artists. Do you know that there are guys we know of by name, that have been ripping M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors off since the early days of the hobby? The bad deals they made were a subject we often talked about in the e-mail newsletters and in the chat room. Someone on Instagram asked me just last week about a guy that we had warned collectors about back in 1998 via our e-mail newsletter. They never stuck around our group for too long, because our collective would look out for one another and everyone knew who to avoid practically overnight. Unfortunately, they would quickly prey on inexperienced collectors that were just breaking into the hobby.

To me, our group started feeling like a community when there were three of us. When me and Tim Drage from the U.K. Started kicking around ideas to make M.U.S.C.L.E. Websites, it was just a couple of blokes nerding out about toys. When Patrick Gresham came into the fold, it just got better and better after that. The group rapidly grew and got more tight knit than ever.

M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors, seemingly more than ever, are concerned with quickly finishing their set or securing that “Class A” figure. You have the unique experience of collecting in the earliest days, amassing a large collection, and then selling most of it. Tell us about that journey.

First off, thank goodness for you and everyone who helped with the Class and figure color designations. It’s a daunting task that I don’t think I ever would’ve tackled so ambitiously. Back in the day M.U.S.C.L.E. was so easy to find. I lost count of how many 4-packs I scored in the 90s and succinctly emptied to help complete my collection.

We bought everything in sight because no one wanted them except for us. We didn’t want them rotting in the back of a toy shop somewhere, and by God we were going to liberate them! And, every toy dealer I bought from was all too happy to get rid of them to free up shelf space.

At one time I had multiple pieces of every item in the toy line, both opened and boxed. As work and family took over my life, and I simply had no time to put towards the hobby, I started slowly selling off the collection piece by piece over the course of several years. I figured the toys were doing me no good just sitting in a closet, when someone else could really be enjoying them. I do believe the last item I sold from that massive collection was the Nestle’ Quik Can. That one was tough to let go of, but I knew you would put it to good use and give it the attention it deserved.

As far as regrets go, I sometimes do long to own the entire line in its original packaging. Digital photography has gotten so much better, I would love to be able to better showcase them for all to see, as well as using them for some video shoots. The price points have gotten so ridiculous, I don’t see myself buying any of the items back anytime soon. I would really like to obtain a sealed M.U.S.C.L.E. Ten pack for my toy shelf, but paying $100.00 for one on eBay? I just can’t and won’t do that. If I find these items for a fair price, I’ll buy them. However, I feel no pressure or constant yearning to do so. I’ve been there, I’ve done that, and I now look at collecting from a very different perspective. Maybe it stems from owning all of it previously. Whatever the case, its very liberating to collect on your own terms.

Overall, I’m perfectly fine with the collection I currently have being;
~ My all pink M.U.S.C.L.E. Set
~ The only documented M.U.S.C.L.E. store shelf tag ever to be found thus far
~ and a few fist fulls of Kinkeshi and mini figures that I am already working on expanding

Returning to the M.U.S.C.L.E. community today, what were some of the biggest surprises/discoveries for you?

The first was how FEW websites there are dedicated to M.U.S.C.L.E.! I had this stark realization as I was building my Links section. I could only list three active M.U.S.C.L.E. Sites on my links page which were; U of M, Nathan’s M.U.S.C.L.E. Blog, and LRG. Out of curiosity, I dug into the M.P.S. Archives and found a 1999 version of the links section with 34 M.U.S.C.L.E. Links listed!

The second thing that shocked me and quite honestly touched my heart, had to do with the recent launch of the first ever M.P.S. Instagram account. Within a day, collectors started reaching out, thanking me for great memories, and how much they’ve missed us. Someone told me the M.P.S. Was their favorite site growing up, and they checked it every morning. I’ve really done nothing to promote that account, but every time I sign on, I’ve got messages, replies, and scads of new followers. I must admit this has really lit a fire under me to give back to the community more than ever before.

20/20 hindsight can be one of the few benefits of growing older. As you look back is there anything M.U.S.C.L.E.-related that you wish you had done?

I do feel bad that I let the M.P.S. fall into digital oblivion, but there is one caveat to that statement. I’m also a true believer that if your heart isn’t into what you’re doing and you can’t give it the proper attention it deserves, it will suffer miserably. At this point in my life, I try not to look back and think about failed opportunities, but rather.. possibilities that lie before me now. I’m super excited that I now have a chance to follow up on the many old ideas for The M.P.S. I never pursued, and all new ones that are filling my mind now.

I had an interesting thought when I saw one of your Instagram posts. Like me, you seemed happy with your lack of specific Kinnikuman knowledge. Calling a figure Jericho is a funny reminder of the innocence and ambiguity that childhood collectors experienced. Today you can easily Google that information. How do you feel about the abundance, and maybe overabundance, of M.U.S.C.L.E. information that exists today?

Haha! Yes.. M.U.S.C.L.E. #155 aka Jethro. To me his name is ‘Jethro’.. and it will ALWAYS be Jethro. Just like I will always call that kid from the movie Coco.. ‘Coco’ which really bugs my wife and kids. People definitely digest their information in a totally different way versus the 80s. I personally like a little bit of mystery in regards to M.U.S.C.L.E. Collecting. In regards to M.U.S.C.L.E. And Kinnikuman, some collectors believe you can’t have one without the other, but I collected M.U.S.C.L.E. first and fell in love with THAT toy line, long before I ever heard of Kinnikuman.

The mystery that used to surround the toy line is what made M.U.S.C.L.E. so endearing to myself and like minded collectors. I know that every figure in our beloved toy line is based on an actual Kinnikuman character, but I don’t feel the need to know every name and backstory. Don’t get me wrong, I love kinnikuman. However, I love M.U.S.C.L.E. Even more. I dip my toes in the Kinnikuman hobby, but don’t spend an awful lot of time researching it. However, it does feel good knowing the info is out there if and when I need to access it.

Between the four M.U.S.C.L.E. Sites that are still up and running today, there is definitely a wealth of information that can practically answer any question a collector may have. However, each have their own distinct style and feel unto themselves that all compliment each other nicely. It’s definitely an honor to be back in the mix with you guys.

Not many collectors can document their love of M.U.S.C.L.E. over the decades. What advice would you offer to collectors rediscovering M.U.S.C.L.E. Today?

Don’t collect for anyone but yourself. Collect for YOU first and foremost. Don’t feel pressured to collect a certain way because it’s the status quo. If you only want to collect unopened boxed toys, do it. If you want to collect nothing but red and blue M.U.S.C.L.E. Go for it. Lastly, collecting simply for the sake of collecting will eventually burn you out. If collecting truly isn’t bringing you joy, then what’s the point?

I have always held a fascination with where the M.U.S.C.L.E. hobby will go in the future. What is your honest assessment of the future of M.U.S.C.L.E. and these silly, little pieces of plastic from the 80’s?

In a way.. maybe in a big way, the M.U.S.C.L.E. Community bolstered the mini figure and indy toy market. We used to talk about making our own figures back in the day, and some like GodBeast went out and actually did it! The hobby seems to continually bring new collectors into our fold with no signs of letting up anytime soon. I honestly can see our hobby gaining steam in the years to come. Ever notice how collectors go insane over minifigs that are cast in resin that resembles M.U.S.C.L.E. Pink? There’s a reason for that.. people love M.U.S.C.L.E.

Look at it this way, M.U.S.C.L.E. Has been around for 36 years. I will be a M.U.S.C.L.E. enthusiast until I’m an old man. There are kids who are just beginning to collect M.U.S.C.L.E. In 2021. There very well may be enthusiasm for this hobby for decades to come!

I hope this doesn’t feel too redundant, but it feels different to me. Cynics could probably argue that just about everything has been done, that could be done, in this silly little hobby. As one of the true pioneers, how do you feel about this? Do you think there is still room for growth?

People say this a lot about everything, but I feel possibilities are endless and only limited by imagination. In 1985 did you ever think you could communicate with friends by talking into a watch? Stare into a laser for 30 seconds to correct your vision? How about swallowing a nanobot that can deliver medicine to specific cells? People are so ingenious and creative. As long as we keep brainstorming, creating and dreaming.. who knows how the hobby will evolve!

Personally, I hate social media. I have never been drawn to it. However, for better or worse, I had to adapt and use it for this website. As one of the old-timers, what do you think about M.U.S.C.L.E. and social media?

I’m adept at using most of the social networks, but I truly miss putting the work into a website or blog. For me it’s very cathartic. You simply can’t get everything you need from twitter or Instagram, and at some point you need to go deeper in regards to collecting.

Back in the day, my internet time was primarily split between my website, chats, message boards, and email. It’s just not like that anymore for most people. Folks are able to get the information they want faster than ever. Instantly in many cases. This is why websites aren’t as popular as they once were. However, if done right, you can use a website and social media account like Instagram in conjunction with one another, playing them off of each other with quite effective results.

Last month I read that blogs and websites have been making a comeback recently, as more people feel the need to escape the toxicity and unreliable news & info pumped into social media platforms. People are once again longing for ways to consume info about their interests on their own terms, away from the noise so to speak. Good news for us old guys like us toiling away on our sites I guess!

I have a lot of interests, and was active in online communities for many of them. I also distanced or cut myself off completely from them, because of drama and toxicity among the enthusiasts. My personal Facebook and Instagram accounts practically lie dormant right now, as I simply can’t take anymore hate and negativity. I’ve all but abandoned twitter because its 100 times worse.

It’s been refreshing building The M.P.S. Instagram account, because I did so with a focus on like minded collectors. I’ve seen nothing but positivity and gratefulness thus far. On the same note, the Little Rubber Guys message boards are also a pleasant place to visit, seemingly devoid of flame wars and the like. Our subculture is one of like-minded individuals who help one another, nurture creativity, and welcome others. I don’t believe I’m viewing this all through rose colored glasses. Our hobby does have its problems and quirks, but I can honestly say my fellow M.U.S.C.L.E.-Heads are overwhelmingly the best of the best, when it comes to enthusiast I’ve actively shared a hobby with. Yes.. THIS is my tribe.

I have been lucky enough to know Darrin for probably a decade and a half. I still smile when I think about his White Castle Hall of Fame induction. And I am forever grateful and humbled that he chose me to be the new custodian of his Quik tin. Hopefully everybody feels like they know this momentous M.U.S.C.L.E. character a little better.

Be sure to check out Darrin’s new version of The M.U.S.C.L.E. Preservation Society, and be sure to follow him on Instagram too.

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  1. #1 by Walker26 on January 26, 2021 - 9:27 am

    “The only documented M.U.S.C.L.E. store shelf tag.” I’m sure I’m not the only one who would love to see a picture of that.

    I like how he mentions Nathan’s M.U.S.C.L.E. blog. That was the first website I found when I Googled M.U.S.C.L.E. years ago. Been hooked ever since.

    “Don’t feel pressured to collect a certain way because it’s the status quo.” Amen

  2. #2 by Pete V on January 26, 2021 - 1:10 pm

    Awesome interview!

    That’s interesting about collecting M.U.S.C.L.E. in the 90’s. My only related memory from that decade was walking into a dollar store in a mall and coming across pegs filled with 4-Packs of flesh colored figures. They were in pristine condition. I regret not picking any of them up. Coming across M.U.S.C.L.E. figures at a store that long after they had been gone from retail was a strange experience.

  3. #3 by Darrin Vindiola on January 27, 2021 - 11:06 pm

    Walker26 :
    “The only documented M.U.S.C.L.E. store shelf tag.” I’m sure I’m not the only one who would love to see a picture of that.

    Uploaded that last week! Here’s the link..

  4. #4 by Darrin Vindiola on January 27, 2021 - 11:11 pm

    Pete V :
    Coming across M.U.S.C.L.E. figures at a store that long after they had been gone from retail was a strange experience.

    I remember seeing belts piled up on shelves around 1992 and 93. The boxes were trashed and the stores couldn’t give the things away!

  5. #5 by Pete V on February 2, 2021 - 1:04 pm

    The belt is the only common M.U.S.C.L.E. item that I never owned for whatever the reason.

    That shelf tag is neat. I don’t know of anyone else that has one.

    I just started looking at the MPS newsletters. They’re very cool with great humor!

  6. #6 by John on February 7, 2021 - 8:55 pm

    Great interview! I remember coming across MPS in 1999 I think it was. I was amazed to see there were 236 sculpts in total. I remember having 179 flesh figures as a kid, so I was probably missing 2 28 packs and sc. I guess SC maybe wasn’t released in Canada? I never saw him and I would always be going through 4 packs looking for new sculpts.

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