Growing up most kids I knew had a baseball to play with, but some of us kids of the 80’s had something better to toss around with friends; we had Madballs!! And that’s the topic of today’s update, those monster and gross balls that swept the nation of must-have toys on the playground for a short time. Growing up, I can remember seeing kids on the playground tossing around the Madball of Screaming Meemie. My friends and I even tried to play baseball with it, but it was a very poor ball to use in a game as hitting it never seemed to equal a home run. I can remember being at my cousins Dino and Norman’s house playing in the pool and throwing Madballs at each other, and as they would hit they would make a splat sound. We also used Touchdown Terror at their house to play football on Thanksgiving one year. For my birthday one year I can remember getting a Madball birthday card from my parents that also included a metal button of Slobulus if memory serves me. It’s weird, in my youth I never owned an original Madball, but my brother and I did each have a Head-Popping Madball that our dad got for us from Hills Department Store one winter night as a way to keep us entertained when my parents took us to one of my dad’s work friend’s houses. My brother got Wolf Breath, and I got Lock Lips. They were very cool, and I can remember our Mom yelling at us to stop shooting the heads at each other! We both had these figures for years, but sadly, like some of the other toys of my youth, they were given away or sold at a garage sale. Weirdly enough, in my 30’s I now own two Madballs, with Mavericks Cards and Comics selling me Slobulus and Horn Head for cheap prices about 3 years ago as well as my friend Max Ervin who gave me Screaming Meemie around the same time. It’s odd to think that while I never owned any of the original Madballs in my youth, they remain one of the most iconic toy lines in my mind. Below is a picture of the original Madballs I own now as I hope you enjoy this update as much as I enjoyed writing it!
- Note From Matt – In April 2016 Roar Comics started up a new Madballs comic series!
American Greetings is the company who created and produced Madballs. They were started in 1906 by Jacob Sapirstein and are the 2nd largest greeting card company in the world, and to this day they are still run by the Sapirstein family! Over the years they continued to make greeting cards and also became sponsors for TV shows like Entertainment Tonight and Dragon Tales and ventured out into toys and cartoons. American Greetings has created iconic toy characters like Madballs, My Pet Monster, Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears, Lady Lovely Locks and Popples, and after owning many of them for so many years, they sold Strawberry Shortcake in 2015 to Iconix Brand Group for $105 million. I should also point out that American Greetings is an Ohio founded company showing that we Ohioans really are creative people. I wanted to share a brief look at the company that created Madballs and show them some respect before we move onto the fast pitch of this update. So here is to you, American Greetings, for making some amazing characters who helped shape many kids’ childhoods!
Madballs hit toy shelves in 1985 and were aimed at capturing the attention of young boys who loved horror films, horror hosts and monster comics. The gross balls were made of rubber and foam and were supposed to be used to scare your friends as well as play sports with them. The commercials for these toys flooded Saturday Morning Cartoons and started a wave of kids begging their parents to get them one. I will admit that my brother Bryan and I were those kids that they marketed them to, and sadly and strangely, as I noted above, my parents never got us any! Series One consisted of 8 characters that included “Screamin Meemie” a baseball with a face and a large Rolling Stone’s logo tongue, “Slobulus” a green creature who’s got one hanging eye and slobbers, “Aargh” was a blue skinned Frankenstein Monster also with one eye, “Horn Head” is a purple skinned Cyclops with a nose ring, “Skull Face” is a skull, “Crack Head” a cracked head with his brain exposed, “Oculus Orbus” is a giant eyeball and “Dust Brain” a green skinned Mummy! The original Madballs were a huge hit with the kids in Waynesville and were a major talking point between my brother and me for a short time. Parents flipped out over the toys, saying they were too gross and had terrible names, and this changed Crack Head’s name to Bash Brain due to the slang use of the term crack head being used for drug addicts. The worst part about Madballs was that they cracked and parts of the paint would fall off and expose the foam underneath, very annoying and one of the flaws of this toy line for sure.
The popularity of the toyline sparked a second series that showcased “Wolf Breath” as Werewolf, “Swine Sucker” a mutated looking boar, “Bruise Brother” a messed up looking biker, “Freaky Fullback” a freak football player, “Snake Bait” a Gorgon, “Lock Lips” a monster with locks over one eye and mouth, “Fist Face” a hand holding a eyeball and “Splitting Headache” a half peeled face monster! The second series was popular but also was at the point where I noticed the kids at school had shifted towards other toy lines. Madballs were cool but no longer the must have toy. This second set has many great characters that I would love to have had back in the day as well as even to this day: Wolf Breath, Swine Sucker and Lock Lips! Below are some pics from the second series that will show you also how the designs of the characters got better and how they dipped into the pool of classic monsters (Werewolf & Gorgon) as well as real life goons that scared people (the jock & biker). Also, in the 2000’s Madballs made a small comeback and were brought back to toy shelves as squishy toys. They made a small impact before once more being sent off to toy heaven.
Super Madballs were bigger and were not in the shape of a baseballs but the sport they were named after. They were “Goal Eater” a soccer ball with teeth, “Touchdown Terror” a football missile monster and “Foul Shot” a basketball with a face and worms in his eye! These were big and bulky, and my cousins were the only kids I knew who had one of them. By the point Super Madballs were released, the steam was out of the line and over time Madballs faded into the world of forgotten toys. I was not a fan of the Super Madballs back then and still don’t really have a soft spot for them. So let’s move on past, them shall we?
Head-Popping Madballs featured the popular characters from the toy line, this time with bodies and the ability to launch their heads off as well as swap with other characters. The bodies were made of hard plastic with movable arms and legs, while the heads were rubber and detailed. The line had Screamin Meemie, Horn Head, Oculus Orbus, Slobulus, Dust Brain, Skull Face, Wolf Breath, Bruise Brother and Lock Lips who I had as a youngster like I said earlier. While the original Madballs were really cool, these figures were the ones I really liked, and I can remember playing with Lock Lips alongside my Masters Of The Universe figures. You see the Head-Popping Madballs were action figures, while the Madballs were, well, just balls! For a long time at GameSwap, the body of Skull Face was floating around, and many of us dug through a bin of old toy parts hoping to find its head that we sadly never did. Below are some examples of this series of Madballs, enjoy!
Besides these toylines, over the years many other cool merchandise has been released based on The Madballs like greeting and Valentine Cards, stickers, wind-up toys, t-shirts, VHS tapes, comics and video games! That’s right, Madballs had a video game in 1988 that was made by Ocean for Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum that had you playing a Madball rolling around a maze and collecting your fellow Madballs. The game got very poor reviews and never made it to the NES. In 2009, a game for the X-BOX Live Arcade called Babo: Invasion featured two Madballs as characters, Horn Head and Oculus Orbus! So while a modern generation of kids might not know what a Madball is, for us kids of the 80’s there was lots of great merchandise to choose from back then and even a little now!
In 1986, Madballs got the cartoon treatment, and oddly enough, the toons were not made for TV viewing but only for the home video market by Nelvana on VHS. The first cartoon was called “Escape From Orb” and has the Madballs living on Orb, a place that music is banned. They want to escape to Earth so they can tour as a band, but Commander Wolfbreath and the Badballs want to stop them. The second tape was called “Madballs: Gross Jokes” and had our stars acting out silly skits. I can remember renting the Escape From Orb cartoon from Mary L. Cook Public Library and being super hyped to watch it and rushing to pop it into the old VCR. After the cartoon I was so disappointed at the back story given to these characters and hated the fact that they were aspiring rock stars…so lame and to me it came off as trying to cash in on the popularity of The California Raisins who were singing their way into hearts around the same time as well as cashing in on the success of bands like Bon Jovi and Poison who were as well very popular at the time with youngsters. Plus I was not a huge fan of the personalities they gave some of the Madballs as they should have been a little more gross and a little more mean. But while I may not have liked the story of the characters, I did find that animation to be pretty cool and it made me wonder why they went the home video route and not the Saturday Morning Cartoon one that could have given the series a shot in the arm and made them last a little longer on the must-have toy list. And before you ask, no I never did own the VHS tapes as a kid and only did get them when I got older and found them dirt cheap at a thrift store.
While Madballs became popular, they also sparked knock-off toys like Bonkers The Ugly Ball, a grey skull face with a grin, and even Odd Balls, a series that had a Devil and even a Mummy as part of its line. Now I must admit that I did have two Odd Balls growing up as I can remember that they were very generic rubber balls that stung when being hit with one during a came of ball tag. The ones I had were Dirty Devil, a goofy very generic devil complete with evil twisted mustache goatee combo as well as buck teeth, and the other was Evil Knievel, a Mummy with purple skin and blood stains on his wrapping. Evil Knievel is the one I played with most, and I can remember tossing him around the backyard, rolling him off the roof of the house and shed and even tossed him over in the neighbor’s yard when my school crush was visiting her just so I could come over and say hi to her…yeah, I was such a monster kid dork back then that I used a Odd Ball to talk to a crush. Below is Ugly Ball as well as the two Odd Balls that I used to have when I was a kid.
So we are at the core of this update, the Star Comic reviews! My brother and I had the first three issues of Madballs growing up, and I can remember that we both thought that our issue # 1 was going to be worth a fortune when we grew up. To no one’s shock, it’s only worth a few dollars and is really common to find in local comic store’s dollar bins. Star Comics was so cool in the 80’s and made so many amazing comics based on toys and cartoons of the time, and Madballs was one of the lucky few that were chosen to be a three issue mini series and went on to be a total of 10 issues! I am pretty hyped to see if the final issue is a true final issue or if it will just end like so many other Star Comics at the time, quickly and dirty with no respect for the readers. Before we go bouncing around with The Madballs, I need to remind you that I grade these issues on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. I also want to thank Mavericks, Bell Book And Comic, Lone Star Comics and 2nd And Charles for having these issues in stock for this review. So let’s get ready to get totally gross with Star Comic and The Madballs!
Madballs # 1 **1/2
Released in 1986 Cover Price .75 Star Comics # 1 of 10
“The Evil Dr. Frankenbeans” A delivery truck loses 8 rubber balls from the cargo it’s carrying. They bounce down the road and land in a pond of chemicals at the R.U.I.N. laboratories and turn into Madballs that include Screamin’ Meemie, Horn Head, Dust Brain, Crack Head, AARGH, Skull Face, Slobulus and Oculus Orbus. They find a nearby park and meet some youths led by Tommy playing baseball, and the two groups quickly become friends. Meanwhile R.U.I.N. head scientist Viktor Frankenbeans and his dim-witted assistant Snivelitch spot the Madballs and want to capture them as Frankenbeans thinks they will lead to him winning a Nobel Prize! When Snivelitch fails to capture them, Frankenbeans plays dirty and uses free drinks to give Skull Face everlasting hiccups and tries to kidnap the Madball but is stopped thanks to Slobulus who uses his slime to trip up Frankenbeans making him fall into his own chemical pond and swearing revenge on our round heroes. In the end, Skull Face is cured of his hiccups with a look in a mirror that causes him to scare himself. The second story is called “Corn-Ered!” The Madballs are playing hide and seek with Tommy and the kids when the corn comes alive and takes the kids captive to an old barn where the Madballs come face to face with Colonel Corn who was once a normal piece of corn until he fell into the chemical pond of R.U.I.N. and now wants to take over the world! Colonel Corn uses puns and a floating ball of kernels he calls Cornball to defeat The Madballs, but they are not down for long as Screamin’ Meemie gets so mad the heat from his anger turns Colonel Corn and Cornball into popcorn!
This first issue was just as cheesy and fun as I remember it to be way back in 1986 when I first read it! This issue shows how the Madballs came to be and uses the chemical pond as a way to turn normal rubber balls into talking scary and gross living creatures who have hearts of gold and befriend the local youth as they just want to have fun. None of the Madballs stand out as the leader and each are just filled with bad puns and really silly bad habits like drooling and screaming. It’s pretty amazing seeing a kids comic use the name Crack Head as the character is used in many spots and gets his time to shine. Dr. Viktor Frankenbeans is a mad scientist who is working for R.U.I.N. and is making terrible chemicals that not only smell bad but also are causing harm to nature and people. He seems not to care as he is only seeking fame in this issue. He reminds me of a cheaper version of Gargamel from The Smurfs as his look and attitude are kind of matching. Snivelitch is a goon who is shown to not be very bright and is the whipping boy for Frankenbeans who jumps at any chance to put his goof assistant down. I am sure Snivelitch will act as the comic relief as I can see him screwing things up in the coming issues. Colonel Corn is the master of puns and with his play on words is able to beat down The Madballs, but when he is defeated and his head kernels are popped and turned into popcorn, he is just a husk head of a man watching as the kids and The Madballs eat what was once his face…. I want you to think about that….it’s like being weak and defeated and watching as zombies ate your face flesh meat while watching the Care Bears…sick twisted stuff. The cover is top notch and fantastic and I am sure caught the eye of many kids on the newsstands. The art inside is also well done for this style of kids comic and was done by Howie Post (Howard Post) who is known for his comic strip The Dropouts as well as his work for Harvey Comics. He also did the artwork for some issues of Wally The Wizard for Star as well as the Centipede promo comic from DC, both of which I’ve covered here on Rotten Ink. An A-list artist for kids comics was on board for this one! Over all I can say I enjoyed this comic back when I was a kid and still did when I read it again. So let’s see how issue two holds up.
Madballs # 2 **
Released in 1986 Cover Price .75 Star Comics # 2 of 10
“Dr. Frankenbeans Returns” The Madballs are having fun with the kids when Oculus Orbus decides to go bird watching and goes on an adventure of his own. Meanwhile Dr. Frankenbean has come out of the chemical pond and comes up with a plan with Snivelitch to get The Madballs under his control. It includes getting the help of Miss Tic The Mystic who hypnotizes The Madballs to be under Frankenbeans’ control so he can have them turn on the kids! In the end Oculus Orbus returns and reverses the spell and has Frankenbeans, Miss Tic and Snivelitch thinking they are ducks and swimming in the pond. “Meet Weirdbeard The Pirate” Tommy and the kids are fishing with The Madballs. They enter a fog bank that takes them back in time where they are kidnapped and forced into slavery by Weirdbeard and The Madballs are tossed into the sea. Weirdbeard needs this crew as he wants to find the hidden treasure of Peg Leg Peg. On the Island The Madballs with the help of a octopus save the kids and find the fog to get back to their time. As for Weirdbeard, he gets himself gets captured by Peg Leg Peg who makes him her slave!
This second issue is good but did slip a little as it’s not as fun as the first issue. In fact, the stories in this issue seemed a little rushed and both would be better as backup stories in an issue with better plotted stories. The return of Dr. Frankenbean is a letdown as his plan to get revenge is taken apart in moments by Oculus Orbus who turns the table on him and once more places him in the chemical stew pond. Miss Tic is a goth woman who has the power of hypnotizing the weak of mind and can also read minds, funny thing about that is Snivelitch has dirty ideas in his mind when it comes to Tic! The atmosphere for the first story’s castle of Miss Tic is well played as it reminded me of a set used on a Horror Host show from the 70’s. The second story of Peg Leg Peg and Weirdbeard was not my thing and for the most part I was bored reading it as it had a very generic feel. Here is to hoping we won’t see Weridbeard or Peg again but that we will see Miss Tic again as I could see her joining the fight against The Madballs more often. Oculus Orbus is the only Madball who stands out this issue as he uses his power of being a big eye to reverse the hypnotic spell and save his friends from being mindless slaves. The rest of The Madballs all kind of do what they do and that’s deliver puns and have fun doing things with their friends Tommy and his crew. The cover is well done and once more eye catching with the first story’s art by Howie Post and the second one by Roberta Edelman. Both do a great job with the art even if the stories are a little lackluster. I’m going to move on from this issue to the third one and hope that it has better stories.
Madballs # 3 **1/2
Released in 1986 Cover Price .75 Star Comics # 3 of 10
“Attack Of The Bad Balls” Dr. Frankenbean and Snivelitch hide and listen to The Madballs and the kids talking about how the chemical pond turned 8 regular balls into their gross friends they call The Madballs. Frankenbean returns to R.U.I.N and tries to make his own version of talking gross balls. Only after nearly giving up and using bowling balls does it work and out come The Badballs who are Smasher, Crasher and Trasher. They have a rumble with The Madballs that leaves our heroes having to make a run for it! But once more Crack Head comes up with a plan that leaves the Badballs falling back into the chemical pond and turning back into boomerang balls that knock out Frankenbean and Snivelitch as the Madballs spin some more puns. The second story is “Now Museum, Now You Don’t” that has The Madballs running loose in a museum and the security guards are trying to stop them as hijinks run wild that leaves them all crashing into a big gross mess and being mistaken for art! The third story is “ Spaced Out” The Madballs bring down a U.F.O as they fear it might attack Tommy and the gang. Inside is Rojad who came in peace but feels The Madballs are attacking him so he uses his shrink gun and turns them to the size of peas! As he grabs them, they muster all their power and take Rojad for a quick ride. The alien and The Madballs patch things up, and they soon find out that his ship is out of fuel and the fuel he needs is the drool slime of Slobulus who he tries to kidnap. The Madballs must tangle with Rojad again, but after the fight they become friends as Slobulus fills his tank up and even gets a gold tooth as payment!
This third issue is a fun goofy ride and, like issue one, captures the gross nature of The Madballs and adds in some trouble for them to face that seem like actual threats. This issue also has three stories instead of two, giving you more silly adventures for the 75-cent price tag. The best story of the three has to be “Spaced Out” as I like the idea of The Madballs fighting an alien who wears yellow and has a robot like face. The idea that drool slime fuels his ship is also classic 80’s toy and comic stuff. The Madballs in the issue are shown to be fighters and thinkers as they outsmart not only The Badballs but also Rojad and do so with smarts and might. They are also very protective of their human friends. If they think they are in danger, they will attack and defend with all their round might. Oh yeah, Crack Head once more shows that he is smart as he comes up with a plan to defeat the Badballs that works! Like in all of the issues up to this point, the Madballs spend lots of time spewing out cheesy puns that young kids would laugh at. The Badballs are three tough as nails bowling balls who are bullies, but soon find out that their heavy nature helped them in the fight but also was their downfall. Rojad was not really a bad guy but did have The Madballs on the ropes with his shrink gun. For an alien that came in peace he sure did turn evil when it came to kidnapping poor Slobulus! Dr. Frankenbean and Snivelitch once more come up with a plan to get revenge and as always fail at that mission. The cover is great and would catch the eye not just of Madball fans but also Monster Kids as it has a very Frankenstein feel to it, or at least I think so. The art is once more done by kids comic legend Howie Post and shows why he was a go to guy for these type of comics. I’m glad to see the series back on track with this issue, and I hope the fourth keeps it up! Plus, this is a Star Comic that went on after its 3-issue mini series, now let’s take bets if it has a true final issue.
Madballs # 4 **1/2
Released in 1987 Cover Price $1.00 Star Comics # 4 of 10
“The Madballs Meet The New Madballs” Dr. Frankenbean is depressed about not being able to get his revenge on The Madballs, and this has taken over his life until he and Snivelitch come up with a plan that has them throwing eight more rubber balls into the chemical pond. Out comes eight new Madballs that are Wolf Breath, Swine Sucker, Snake Bait, Lock Lips, Fistface, Freaky Fullback, Splitting Headache and Bruise Brother! Frankenbeans tricks his New Madballs into going to the park and rumbling with the old ones, and boy do they, as each team has members fall. It comes down to Horn Head and Bruise Brother clashing head on that causes the ground to crack, and Tommy falls in! When all The Madballs and New Madballs awaken, they figure out they are all brothers and they save Tommy and chase off Frankenbean and Snivelitch and all sixteen Madballs make their home in an abandoned dance hall. “Anchors Away” Tommy and the gang along with Madballs Screamin’ Meemie, Slobulus, Dust Brain, Wolf Breath, Snake Bait and Fist Face are rush home to watch the news, but before it comes on Wolf Breath along with Snake Bait and Slobulus all go for the kitchen for a snack and don’t see that news anchor Ben Defax has hypnotized his viewers into giving him all their wealth. He’s also begun wearing a mask in the shape of a boat anchor and calling himself Anchor-Man! His power comes from his microphone, and the three Madballs figure out a way to defeat him and break his hold on the viewers when Wolf Breath’s bad breath breaks the hold on the fellow Madballs and Snake Bait uses his snakes to crush the microphone.
This issue is the first for The Madballs to break the mini series banner and become a full series as Star Comics listened to the readers and gave them more gross out adventures than what was planned. Plus this issues adds in the eight Madballs that were released in series two into the plot and has them joining the others as well as Tommy and his friends in having fun and foiling the plots of Frankenbeans. I must say that adding the New Madballs to the cast was really cool as seeing Wolf Breath and Swine Sucker in action is cool, but it also dilutes the cast as now some Madballs seem to take a backseat and others seem to be the focus as Snake Bait is showcased more in this issue than Oculus Orbus, AARGAH and Crack Head (who is now being called Bash Brain) combined! It’s nice to see Frankenbean and Snivelitch come back to the now on-going series, and they and the R.U.I.N. Lab are great as the major bad guys to the series. The main baddie is Ben Defax aka Anchor-Man, who wants to use his fame of being on TV and his hypnotizing microphone to steal from his fans. He’s a real ego driven jerk who wears a dumb giant boat anchor mask to add fear to his life in crime. In this issue we also find out that The Madballs are make home in an abandoned old play theater and this run down setting is great for their gross home base. I enjoyed both stories equally, and it was nice to see The Madball rumble in the first story as it’s clear only a Madball can defeat a Madball. The art in this issue is done by Howie Post once more, and it’s fantastic and the cover is good. Over all this is a solid kids comic based on a toy line, and so far I am enjoying it as much as I did when I was a kid and first read them.
Madballs # 5 **1/2
Released in 1987 Cover Price $1.00 Star Comics # 5 of 10
“Plus 3 Makes 19” Dr. Frankenbean is very upset over the 16 Madballs and how they have foiled his evil plans. When Tommy and the gang go to get ice cream, he steals their soccer ball, football and basketball and tosses them into the chemical pond and out pops The Super Madballs named Touchdown Terror, Foul Shot and Goal Eater. He sends them out to beat up The Madballs, and the rumble starts and ends soon as Freaky Fullback and Touchdown Terror find they have lots in common and they discover that they are all one big gross family! The Super Madballs chase down Frankenbeans and Snivelitch and toss them into the chemical pond, and all ends well for the ever growing Madball family. “Veg Out” has Dr. Frankenbean getting help from a hypnotist after his last defeat at the hands (or is that heads?) of The Madballs that has him now focusing on growing vegetables. After a mistake made by Snivelitch, instead of water he sprays his garden with liquid from the chemical pond and out comes The Vegeterribles that include Rotten Tomato, Crushroom, Paul Onion, Spud-Nick, Pea Shooter and Iceberg Lettuce who he wants to send after The Madballs! The two groups rumble in the old Abandoned Theater, and Frankenbean and Iceberg Lettuce freezes Tommy and the kids in blocks of ice making The Madballs surrender. In the end Horn Head and Swine Sucker rush to the R.U.I.N Lab and save The Madballs, and Swine Sucker eats The Vegeterribles and they bury Frankenbean and Snivelitch as if they are vegetables!
This is another good issue but I must also point out that this comic series is also becoming very paint by numbers as many of the stories has The Madballs having a run in with some sort of bad guys who they beat is some cheesy pun filled way. Frankenbean uses the chemical pond to create new versions of the Madballs who turn on him in no time and so on and so on. But with that out of the way, let’s take a look at this issue as both stories have select Madballs fighting against another group of mutated baddies with the first ending in friendship and the second with victory as their enemies are eaten alive! Dr. Frankenbean is becoming more and more mad with revenge as this series continues and he is even willing to put children in harm’s way in order to destroy The Maballs. If he continues down this path, by the final issue it looks like he will have a collection of bodies buried in the basement of R.U.I.N Labs all the while thinking the clock on the wall is telling him when it’s “Revenge” time….In other words, he is going crazy! None of The Madballs really stand out as at this point, there are just too many of them and they are having to be split up just to try to work them into the plot. Some are so loosely in the story that they don’t really add much. The Super Madballs are cool to see, but I really hope this issue is the only one they appear in though I have a bad feeling they will return and clog up the weakening stories even more. The Vegeterribles are cool but kind of a waste as they are killed, and I mean murdered, by the end of the second story. The cover is great but shows you just how clustered the characters are getting with the art from the first story being done by Howie Post and the second done by Michael Gallagher. Both are good stuff. Over all I am being a little generous with this issue’s star rating as it’s more like a two, but I did have fun reading it. However, if things don’t change up in the next issue I will not be as kind.
Madballs # 6 **1/2
Released in 1987 Cover Price $1.00 Star Comics # 6 of 10
“Mad Love” Dr. Frankenbean and Snivelitch find one last rubber ball near the lab and along with some make-up they toss it into the chemical pond and out comes MadBelle, a gross female who causes Horn Head, Foul Shot, Fist Face, Swine Sucker and Bash Brain to fight amongst themselves to win her heart when he tricks them to come to the lab for a party. Just as they are about to ram themselves into a tree to see who wins a date with her, Madbelle stops them and tells them she is in love with Snivelitch, and The Madballs figure out they have been set up and turn the tables once more on Dr. Frankenbeans. “Maiden Hong Kong Blues” Chin, one of Tommy’s friends, is shocked when he finds that his dad’s restaurant has been wrecked by Maiden Hong Kong and her bodyguards sumo wrestler Topknot and ninja Ninjun Joe who want bad fortune cookies given out! In the end The Madballs, come up with a plan to stop Maiden Hong Kong from getting her request and send her to jail. After the victory they have a great Chinese food meal.
Once more Frankenbean tosses a ball into the Chemical Pond to create something to get his revenge on The Madballs. By this point I am getting pretty sick of this format and starting to wonder why they are doing this plot over and over again. I mean, I get the comic is based on a toy and that they are trying to do a cartoon style format with it, but good God enough is enough! Madbelle is lame and her whole reason to help bring down The Madballs is thrown out the window as she is just used to deliver dumb puns and fall in love with Snivelitch. Speaking of Snivelitch, he and Frankenbeans once more are just around for blah revenge and in the end both get what’s coming to them. The second story is the better of the two by far and has select Madballs having to tangle with a sumo wrestler and ninja all in the name of fortune cookies! But still nothing new over all and in fact it’s as stale as the last issue. While enjoyable, the been there, read that feeling creeps into your brain and makes it slightly less enjoyable. If not for the second story, this one would have been rated lower. The cover is okay, and the art is done by Howie Post and Michael Gallagher again marking at least good art quality making up for the lack of story in the first segment. Also I am pretty sure we have not seen the last of Maiden Hong Kong and her goons as I think they will be out for revenge soon, but I hope this is the end of Madbelle as she was kind of a waste. Let’s just move onto issue seven and hope it steps it up next issue.
Madballs # 7 **1/2
Released in 1987 Cover Price $1.00 Star Comics # 7 of 10
“Body Builders” Madballs Skull Face, Dust Brain, Slobulus, Snake Bait, Lock Lips and Wolf Breath are feeling down that they do not have bodies and come up with a plan to trick Frankenbean into making them bodies! After a trick that has them breaking down a old building, Frankenbean thinks they have turned evil and shares with them his new invention the FrankenTank that will be used to cause panic and help him take over the world! With the help of the chemical pond and the bodies of dolls, The Madballs now have bodies and rush off to test them out. Unbeknownst to Frankenbeans, they are really building vehicles to combat his and in the end they are able to destroy his tank and save the world from his evil plan. “Tourist Trap” has select Madballs like Screamin’ Meemie, AARGH, Goal Eater, Fistface and Bruise Brother all going on a vacation to an island where they meet the scum bag Bermuda Schwartz The Terrible Tourist, who uses his cheap cigar smoke, freezing camera and tacky shorts to rob people and places, but with the help of a cheap mirror and luck, Fistface is able to turn the tables on this terrible man and send him to jail while they enjoy the rest of their vacation.
Finally a slight change of pace that kept lots of the same feeling but added a little seasoning to spice it up. The first story has select Madballs getting bodies and tricking and defeating Frankenbeans as the second story has select Madballs stopping a terrible tourist from robbing banks, hotels and people! The second story is short and is a nice backup to the first, even if it lied and used the name Tourist Trap as I did not see Chuck Connors as Mr. Slausen from the film of the same name. But really it’s a cool fun short story with a funny baddie set up for them to knock down as Bermuda Schwartz is the perfect example of a person who takes the fun out of being places with his only-me attitude. Frankenbeans in this issue goes from hating Madballs, to loving Madballs like they are his children to hating them again! He is who he is and while paint by numbers, I will say he is the perfect 80’s kid comic/cartoon bad guy! None of The Madballs stand out once more and share about the same panel time, but the stand out in this issue for me has to be Fistface, who is the one who beats Schwartz at his own annoying game. The art is done by Post again, and the cover on this one is pretty cool even if it misleads a little as Frankenbeans never rides a cycle and Horn Head is not in the issue at all. Over all, it’s good standard kid comic stuff that for the most part is doing these toys justice.
Madballs # 8 **1/2
Released in 1988 Cover Price $1.00 Star Comics # 8 of 10
“Younger Than Springslime” Our story starts with Frankenbeans and Snivelitch running up a mountain from Touchdown Terror, Wolf Breath and Horn Head who caught the R.U.I.N Lab workers trying to blow up their home! But while hiding in a cave, Frankenbean finds the fountain of youth and comes up with a plan that leads to the three Madballs diving into a small pool of the water and turning them into Baby Madballs! But he soon finds that the toddler Madballs are driving him crazy with trying to win his attention, and after a dip in the Chemical Pond, they turn back into adults and decide to drop Frankenbeans and Snivelitch into the youth water giving them a taste of being young all over again! “Weather I’m Right” is the second story and has Skull Face, Goal Eater, Lock Lips, Snake Bait and Screamin’ Meemie heading to the TV Station to yell at weather lady Gail Warning who reported it would be sunny but in fact it’s a severe thunderstorm! They meet up with reformed former bad guy, Ben de Fax aka Anchor Man, who tries to warn them but it’s too late as Gail is indeed evil and she controls the weather! After freezing them and sending them to the North Poll, The Madballs find away to return to town and thanks to Snake Bait’s snakes they are able to get her weather wand and break it and safely deliver her to the cops as she is booked on crimes against nature.
The Madballs in this issue turn into babies and fight the weather, and readers are treated to these two silly stories that are pure kid comic gold. This is a fun way to showcase The Madballs as they do good and in some odd way are teaching some sort of lessons like don’t mess with nature and be proud of your age. The Madballs that stick out in this issue are Goal Eater, who saves his fellow Madballs from freezing to death, and Snake Bait, who uses is snake like charm to rid the world of the weather wand. Frankenbeans and Snivelitch are pretty much the same as every issue as revenge is on their minds, and they know that their plan will end badly but they still take the chance. Nice to see Ben de Fax aka Anchor Man back in a cameo and that the TV Station didn’t fire him even after he robbed viewers. The new TV Station evil on air personality is Gail Warning, and she is a hot to trot blonde who for some reason gets joy in reporting the weather wrong…yeah, what an odd motivation. The best story of the two I would say is Weather I’m Right as I liked the flow a little better and the story moves at a wacky and fun pace. The art for the first story was done by Post and the second one was Gallagher, and like I broken record I will say it was fantastic and fitting. The cover as well is pretty dang cool and showcases the Madball Babies! On a side note before we move onto the next issue, this marks the final issue under the Star brand name as the next two will sport the Marvel Comics logo.
Madballs # 9 ***
Released in 1988 Cover Price $1.00 Star Comics # 9 of 10
“The Return Of Everyone” The twisted mind of Dr. Frankenbeans comes up with an idea to free Miss Tic The Mystic from jail, and when he and Snivelitch do so, they also free some of the other Madball baddies like Anchor-Man, The Bad Balls, Weird Beard The Pirate, Maiden Hong Kong and Colonel Corn. Their plan is to attack five locations unless money is paid to them! The city calls on The Madballs for help who break into five groups to try and stop the madness and return these bad guys to jail. The first group goes to the Midwest, and they are Goal Eater, Snake Bair, Oculus Orbus and Screamin’ Meemie as they take on Colonel Corn! While in China, Dust Brain, Lock Lips, Bash Brain and Swine Sucker tangle with the sinister Maiden Hong Kong! In L.A. Wolf Breath, Splitting Headache, AARGH and Horn Head find the wicked Anchor-Man up to his old tricks, while on the Atlantic Ocean Skull Head, Fist Face, Freak Fullback and Touchdown Terror battle on a ship with Weird Beard who has kidnapped Tommy and the gang of kids! While at R.U.I.N Lab, Foul Shot, Slobulus and Bruise Brother must come face to face with the team up of The Bad Balls, Dr. Frankenbeans, Snivelitch and Miss Tic! And with the readers help to solve puzzles like cross word, connect the dots and word find The Madballs defeat their enemies and make them all jump into the Chemical Pond.
This issue is hands down one of the best in the series and tells one story that brings back almost all the series’ main bad guys for one final battle! Plus it also showcases all The Madballs, New Madballs and Super Madballs making it feel like a one issue Madball version of Secret Wars. Miss Tic The Mystic is the brains behind the newly formed team of haters, and she is also one of the last to fall in battle. It was great seeing her again as well as all the other baddies. While the fights are not fully shown as the puzzles act as your way to defeat them, it was nice for many of them to get that one last shot at being in the comic and trying to get revenge on those dang Madballs. Once more none of The Madballs stand out as they all play a part in trying to save the world from paying these goons to not do evil deeds. I like the idea of the puzzles being the way for The Madballs to win as it gave kids a challenge and made their minds work to solve them to further the story. My favorite bad guy who returns has to be Colonel Corn who uses his corny puns to defeat his enemies, and like before The Madballs pop his head into popcorn! Plus is clear that Snivelitch wants some Miss Tic booty and even dresses up to try and impress her. The cover is great and showcases some of The Madballs as well as some of the Bad Guys and is eye catching for fans of the series. As always Post does the art and rocks it! For the first issue being done under Marvel, this one is better than almost the whole Star Comic run and that’s because this one has action, fun games and a solid story. Let’s see how the final issue holds up!
Madballs # 10 **1/2
Released in 1988 Cover Price $1.00 Star Comics # 10 of 10
“Fantastic Voyeurs” While walking in the field near R.U.I.N Lab,Dr. Frankenbean finds the shrink gun of Rojad and wants to use it to shrink The Madballs into micro size terrors he can deal with but Touchdown Terror, Bash Brain and Fist Face come crashing in and cause Frankenbeans to have a breakdown and a virus called Unchained Melody is running rampant in his body! Snivelitch begs them to let him shrink them so they can save Frankenbean from death’s door and after thinking about it, they agree and enter Frankenbeans throat to save his life! But they only have 20 minutes to do so as the effects of the gun will run out and they will grow normal size stuck in his body! But in the end they beat the virus and escape his body and all things go back to normal. “Compose Yourself” this last adventure has Swine Sucker, Freaky Fullback, Oculus Orbus and Screamin’ Meemie going up against Grammar Moses, an old lady who uses a grammar stick to beat people who abuse the words! After being knocked around by her, thanks to giant question marks and quotations Screamin’ Meemie uses his loud words to bust her hearing aid and is able to defeat her, but they see she is a good person and it ends with her being a tutor to them so they can speak better.
The final issue is not a farewell issue, and the series does not get its ride off into the sunset instead it just ends like so many other Star Comics and Marvel titles before it. The first story is like the film Innerspace and has The Madballs entering a human body to save a life, dumb silly and a fun read for sure. The second story is a grammar lesson and has them fighting an old lady with her board that she has dubbed the board of education. The Madballs final battle with Frankenbeans and Snivelitch is really more of a rescue mission, and I am okay with that as in my head this could be the moment the feud ended between them. Grammar Moses is pretty silly but fitting when used to educate about the use of words and grammar. Touchdown Terror is the standout in the series as he seems to be calling the shots in the first story when some of The Madballs are shrunk. Would you like to know my top four Madballs that appeared in this series? While I liked them all in my own way, I would have to say my favorites in order are Horn Head, Swine Sucker, Wolf Breath and Crack Head (Bash Brain) with Dust Brain and Fist Face also coming in very close. The art is done by Howie Post again, and I will say that his work shines in these kind of kids comics, and he would be the artist I would have loved to have seen make a Commander USA comic for Star. The cover for the final issue is okay, nothing ground breaking but would for sure get the attention of fans of the series and toys. Again to sum up this series, it was pretty good and I would say it’s on the level with such other Star Comics we have looked at like Inhumanoids, Foofur, Hugga Bunch, AniMax and Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos but not as good as Thundercats, Wally The Wizard and Defenders Of The Earth. If you grew up with the toys and enjoy comics based on toys check it out, if you like Star Comics and kid comics in general check it out. Below is some artwork from the series that showcases select Madballs in action, enjoy!
Madballs is a good average kid comic series based on a toy line but it’s also very limited as they are just flying balls who can only really fight with the power of being gross and headbutting…so He-Man or G.I. Joe they are not, but entertaining they were. For our next update, we are heading back to the old theater as we take our third look at Marvel At The Movies! So make sure to come back for that one as we will be covering some fantastic adaptations in it. Until then, read a comic or three, collect your childhood toys and support your local horror host! And make sure to bring enough popcorn to share with others for the next update.