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Literature 100 – 1986 and 1987 Mattel Catalogs
Catalogs Provided To Retailers
Mattel created catalogs for toy store owners to use as a reference as they ordered, or re-ordered, merchandise. These catalogs are often finalized and printed prior to Toy Fair to highlight both new and existing products. Before the use of computers these catalogs were sometimes finalized months before Toy Fair. It was not uncommon for some products that were showcased in the catalog to change or be discontinued.
M.U.S.C.L.E. first appeared in Mattel’s 1986 catalog. The table of contents grouped M.U.S.C.L.E. in the blue section after Wheeled Warriors and before Leon Neon, Powerbots, and Hot Wheels. The blue section seemed to collect many of Mattel’s offerings for boys. Masters of the Universe was grouped in the green section along with Princess of Power and Mattel Games. These were likely grouped separately because Masters of the Universe alone took 24 pages of the catalog.
As a point of comparison to the 24 pages Masters of the Universe received; Barbie received 35 pages, Hot Wheels received 22 pages, Wheeled Warriors received 11 pages and M.U.S.C.L.E. received 4 pages.
The first two pages of the M.U.S.C.L.E. section are arguably the most interesting. The first page highlights the unique M.U.S.C.L.E. logo and pushes Muscleman and Terri-Bull to the forefront as main characters. The second page offers a child’s hand sorting through a sea of M.U.S.C.L.E. figures. It seems as if the photographer was not overly concerned with the figures highlighted, because #153 (The Claw) is obscured by the child’s left hand.
The most interesting part of the picture is the appearance of five Kinnikuman figures that were not on the poster, and seemingly never produced as actual M.U.S.C.L.E. figures. Two less severely cropped versions of this picture can be seen in The Uncropped Catalog Pictures. At least seven figures can be seen in those versions of the picture.
However, in the Mattel Catalog the six Kinnikuman figures in the picture are:
Big the Budo – from Part 5 of the Kinnikuman collection.
Okamaras – from Part 8 of the Kinnikuman collection.
Black Fire – from Part 9 of the Kinnikuman collection.
Silverman – from Part 15 of the Kinnikuman collection. This figure is actually from a pair of figures, the Choujin Gods, the Goldman can be seen below.
Goldman – from Part 15 of the Kinnikuman collection. This figure is actually from a pair of figures, the Choujin Gods, the Silverman can be seen above.
Kinkotsuman – from Part 15 of the Kinnikuman collection. Once again, this figure is from a pair of figures. The Kinkotsuman and Kinnikuman pairing seen below is actually a unique 2-piece bootleg of Kinnikuman keshi.
The appearance of these figures may cause some collectors to start considering the Mattel picture as a possible explanation for Non-Poster figures. The most substantive argument is based on the connection between Kinnikuman Parts.
Big the Budo is from Part 5 which has Chain Man. Silverman, Goldman, and Kinkotsuman are all from Part 15 which contains Dark Emperor and Drunken Master. However, Okamaras is from Part 8 and Black Fire is from Part 9 and neither of those parts contain any Alpha or Beta figures.
Several sources have also mentioned the need for catalogs to be completed months before they are printed – which almost completely negates any argument for authentic M.U.S.C.L.E. figures being used in the photograph. The appearance of these six figures is most likely the result of Mattel providing the original Japanese Kinnikuman figures to the photographer. These Kinnikuman figures would have been readily available and would photograph identical to the harder plastic M.U.S.C.L.E. figures that would be released.
The third and forth pages of the 1986 catalog showcase the actual products that toy store buyers would be purchasing. In the text explaining the product Mattel is quick to point out that the toys are new and that they will be receiving television advertising. The 1986 catalog text also puts the official count of M.U.S.C.L.E. figures at 233 figures. This is interesting because the poster, not yet announced in any form, would also feature 233 figures. This 233 figure count also excludes Satan Cross and the two Wrestling Ring figures – widely considered by collectors to be part of a full 236 Flesh figure set.
The 4- and 10-pack pictures do not offer anything novel. The 28-pack does have two worthwhile notes. The first is that all of the Muscleman characters on the boxes are missing the forehead logo. The 28-packs are printed both with and without the forehead logo. For further 28-pack observations, please read History 100.
The second note is that set #3 (Might Maulers) and set #4 (Cosmic Showdown) both have the same figure, #9, in the top left position of the figure tray. This inconsistency shows that both Mattel and the photographer were not held up by very specific details.
The Pre-Pack is also showcased on the third page. For further Pre-Pack observations, please read Advertising and Promotion 200.
The fourth page of M.U.S.C.L.E in the 1986 catalog showcased the two main accessories: the Battlin’ Belt and the Hard Knockin’ Wrestlin’ Ring. Again Mattel highlights that these toys are new and that they will be receiving television advertising. For further Battlin’ Belt and hard Knockin’ Wrestlin’ Ring observations, please read History 200.
There are two interesting observations looking at the Battlin’ Belt portion of the fourth page. The first is that the text of the Battlin’ Belt mentions that it is displayed in a window box. This claim is missing from the 1987 catalog, and likely explains why there are two versions of the Battlin’ Belt box.
The second is that in the smaller Battlin’ Belt picture, where it is being used as a wrestling ring, a mirrored version of the picture has been used. When looking directly at the production version of the belt, it is permanently connected on the right side of the belt.
In the catalog picture the belt appears to be permanently connected on the other side. Upon closer inspection it is clear the word “Champion” that is molded across the top of the belt is actually backwards in the picture. The reversal is either an artistic or accidental choice.
The Hard Knockin’ Wrestlin’ Ring section has one prominent flaw. Just as the box art for the ring features the wrong Terri-Bull, the catalog picture features the wrong Terri-Bull. It features the Terri-Bull from the poster designated as #2.
The 1986 Mattel catalog has one other M.U.S.C.L.E.-related item. As highlighted in Advertising and Promotion 200’s coverage of the 10-Pack Display Case, He-Man was introduced to a new adversary – Hordak, the ruthless leader of the Evil Horde. One of the new products for Hordak in 1986 was the Slime Pit, with additional Slime that could be purchased. It appears that the initial release of Slime was in a 48-pack case and not the 24-pack as seen in other Slime releases and in the M.U.S.C.L.E. 10-Pack Display Case.
1987 was the final year for M.U.S.C.L.E in the Mattel catalog. The catalog makes it quite clear that M.U.S.C.L.E. was not a top priority as its coverage was cut to only two pages.
Mattel does not highlight any new product, nor does it mention any television advertising. The vast majority of the layout, text, and pictures are the same as the 1986 Mattel catalog. The only clear changes come from the changes in 4-, 10-, and 28-pack pictures. For further 4-, 10-, and/or 28-pack observations, please read History 100.
The 4-pack picture features a combination of Flesh and Color figures. The mix of Blue, Red, and Flesh was a very common package as color figures were introduced. The Flesh figures and Red #31 seems appropriately placed in the 4-pack. The Dark Blue #29 suggests one of two things: (1) this was not one of the exclusive 28-pack figures; or (2) this was an exclusive 28-pack figure and an incorrect 4-pack was put together for the picture.
The 10-pack does not offer much information, other than it is a mix of Flesh and Color figures. And the Pre-Pack picture has not changed from the 1986 picture; it still shows the pre-production version. For further Pre-Pack observations, please read Advertising and Promotion 200.
The 28-pack picture offers the clearest view of the color figures. From the observable figures, it appears that, at least, the viewable figures have been correctly packaged. Below is a breakdown of the viewable figures:
- #4 – Cosmic Showdown
- Red #4 – Class C
- #3 – Mighty Maulers
- Orange #171 – Class C
- #2 – Cosmic Crunchers
- Magenta #83 – Class C
- Magenta #45 – Class C
- #1 – Thug Busters
- Orange #84 – Class C
- Orange #91 – Class C
- Orange #78 – Class C
- Orange #95 – Class C
- Orange #70 – Class C
- Green #13 – Class C
- Green #38 – Class C
- Green #53 – Class C
The last page of M.U.S.C.L.E in the 1987 catalog again showcases the two main accessories: the Battlin’ Belt and the Hard Knockin’ Wrestlin’ Ring. Mattel no longer highlights that these toys are new or that they will be receiving television advertising. For further Battlin’ Belt and hard Knockin’ Wrestlin’ Ring observations, please read History 200.
Another notable absence is the mention of a window box for the Battlin’ Belt, as stated in the 1986 Mattel catalog. This is a likely explanation on why there are two versions of the Battlin’ Belt box.