Friday, June 17, 2011

Memories: Mighty Men & Monster Maker

When I was growing up, I was really into art, as I've mentioned before.  I loved drawing and sketching and I still actually have most of my old drawings all organized into a few portfolios.  One thing I remember drawing a lot were monsters, and heroes to fight them.  Back when I was about nine years old, when I was still living in Reno (well, technically, Sparks, a suburb of Reno.  They used to say "Reno is so close to Hell that you can see Sparks"), before I'd heard of D&D or Conan or John Carter or anything like that, I heard of "Mighty Men & Monster Maker", which was the most totally awesome gift that a nine year old boy who loved to draw could get for Christmas. 

So, if you had the misfortune of missing this most excellent of "toys", let me enlighten you - it was a sort of "tracing table" you could use to create a wide variety of monsters, superheroes, and "mutants."  It came with a whole bunch of templates for heads, torsos, and legs, made in plastic with raised images, that you slid into a frame. You could mix-and-match each of the three elements.  Then you put a piece of paper on top, pulled the frame down, and used a black wax crayon to rub over the paper so that the raised parts on the plastic templates formed an image on the paper.

The thing was, whoever designed this thing was an absolute genius.  They had things like serpent tails, wolfman legs and arms, zombie legs, vampire heads, alien heads, Frankenstein's Monster heads... it was totally awesome.  Once you had your design, you took the paper out and then colored it with colored pencils. They even had "texture" templates to create things like scales or hair patterns on your monster. 

I spent dozens and dozens of hours with this toy as a kid, designing all sorts of heroes and monsters.  I created hero "squads" that had similar uniforms, but in different colors, aliens and mutants and all sorts of things.  My sister, that same year, got a very similar toy called "Fashion Plates" that was for girls to create different fashion models.  The concept was very similar though.  So, every once in a while, I would borrow her toy and create a "damsel in distress" on the same page for one of my Mighty Men to rescue.  The next year, they came out with a smaller version that could be used to create a custom van (which was a HUGE deal back in the 70's) with different front, middle, and back sections, and I would use that to create special vans for my heroes that had the same color scheme as their uniforms. 

A few years later, after we had moved and I had been exposed to RPGs, I learned about Gamma World and started using my old trusty Mighty Men and Monster Maker to create mutants for my game.  It was super quick and easy - much faster than trying to draw something on your own.  By this time, though, I was about 12 or so, and had begun to see the limitations.  It would've been really cool if they had come out with additional templates that you could use with your original toy, but they didn't.  You only ever got the ones that came in the original box.  I think there were six heads, six torsos, and six legs.  As a kid that seemed like unlimited options, but a few years makes a ton of difference. 

My Mighty Men and Monster Maker very soon got packed away in the garage, and I'm not entirely sure where it is now, but there's a good chance it's in my parents' storage facility where they put everything when my dad got transferred back in the early 90's.  My parents keep saying that they're going to go open it up one day so we can go through our old stuff and keep what we want.  I think there are a lot of treasures from my youth in there, including all of my Lego's and an entire run of the original Kenner Star Wars figures.  But one thing I know I'd want to find immediately is my old Mighty Men and Monster Maker. 

9 comments:

  1. Oh. My. God. Total blast from the past! I wanted one of these so badly--my friends had one, and I was obsessed with it. Good times.

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  2. I hear ya, bro. I love this friggin' toy. You can make a Satan that is flying through outer space, or a mummy with tentacles. What's not to love?

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  3. Ah man, did I love this thing. It provide the template for many of my early attempts at superhero design.

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  4. ...Holy crap!!! I totally forgot about that toy! I had one and I loved it! Thanks for the memories, Martin...literally!

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  5. Yep. Had one and loved it. AK now inspired to make an rpg equivalent... though raggi has already done so for a price...

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  6. I didn't have one but the kids down the street did. We played the hell outta that thing. Seems like there should be a re-release or new version by now, given the comic book craze.

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  7. You can make a Satan that is flying through outer space, or a mummy with tentacles.

    @Jeff - you should be an advertising copywriter. That's the perfect, succinct way to describe this one.

    Glad you all enjoyed the post, everyone.

    I could totally see a combo "rules light" old-school comic-book RPG that also included something like this in a boxed set doing really well with the kids.

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  8. Sorry I missed this post when it went up - that's what I get for slacking off! I absolutely loved my MMMM - I still have NPC sheets lurking around here with character portraits created with it. It didn't take long, though, for me to hit the wall - proverbially - that the MMMM's limited plate count threw up.

    That didn't stop me from getting several more years of use from it, though. Check out this post on my blog and see if you can spot an example of how my MMMM continued to be an integral part of my gaming experience. :D

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  9. I really wish they would bring this back. I think kids would love this.

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