One of the most fondly remembered gross-out toys that hit shelves in the oh-so-glorious 1980s were the Madballs, created and illustrated by artist James Groman and put out by American Greetings subsidiary company AmToy. The toys, which were popular among weird kids in the mid-late ’80s, were essentially foam balls made to look like hideous monsters, and the characters were given fun names like Skull Face, Dust Brain, Wolf Breath, Swine Sucker, Slobulus, and my personal favorite, Crack Head.
Yes, Crack Head. Things weren’t so PC back in the ’80s!
After a brief controversy early in the run of the line – the balls were originally made a little bit too hard, resulting in a handful of minor injuries – the Madballs went on to spawn all sorts of tie-in merchandising, up to and including comic books, Halloween masks, and even a direct-to-VHS animated series. Countless imitators also flooded the marketplace, though true fans knew a real Madball when they saw one – and knockoffs like “Weird Balls,” “Spit Balls,” and “Odd Balls” most definitely were not the real deal.
Though they disappeared for many years, the Madballs proved that they had the power to withstand the test of time when they returned in 2007. Original illustrator James Groman was tasked with redesigning classic balls as well as creating brand new ones, and the revival also resulted in the creation of the high-concept “SICK” balls – unlike the standard balls, they had sacks of gross-out goo inside of them, which could be squeezed out of various orifices. Sadly, the revival was short-lived, and only two series of the “Classic” Madballs were released alongside two series’ of the “SICK” Madballs.
But it was at the 2009 Toy Fair that Basic Fun Inc., the company that brought Madballs back, previewed two additional series’ of each line, which never ended up being produced. Prototypes for Series 3 of the “Classics” and “SICK” lines were shown off at the event, and concept art for Series 4 of each line was also teased. Like Series 1 and Series 2 of the revival wave, the third and fourth were set to feature brand new characters along with redesigns of classic favorites from the ’80s Madballs line, and the bummer here is that a whopping seven new characters were designed and then ultimately banished from existence.
We could cry right now. We really could.
Let’s take a look at the Madballs that ALMOST were.
First up, in Series 3, we would’ve gotten these brand new bad boys. On the left you’ll see Nail Biter, a nasty dude whose name is inspired by the fact that he’s literally got nails stuck into his eyeball, nose, and tongue. Ouch. Next to him is Mosh Pitts, another character who never had a chance to become our new BFF. Rocking a green mohawk and all sorts of facial jewelry, this yellow bastard is obviously the rockstar of the Madballs clan, and if his music’s too loud, you’re probably too old.
I don’t know. I saw that on a sticker in Hot Topic once.
Series 3 was also set to introduce newbie Puck Teeth, a hockey fan who presumably got a little too close to the action. Or maybe he just likes to eat hockey pucks – who am I to judge? On the right you’ll see Fist Face, who you may recall from Series 2 of the original Madballs line. An eyeball being squeezed by a monster hand, this unique ball would’ve been pretty similar to the original classic, though a bit more detailed than its ’80s counterpart – the whole idea here was to breathe new life into old balls.
Remind me to never type the words “old balls” again. Thanks.
And finally, Series 3 would have been rounded out (no pun intended) with redesigns of popular characters Snake Bait and Lock Lips, both from Series 2 of the original line. Given the fact that we already have these characters in our collections, it’s not all that much of a bummer that they never saw release, but it still would’ve been nice to display the remakes side by side with the originals.
Then again, don’t remakes ruin childhoods or some such nonsense?
Thanks to Parry Game Preserve for the above images!
As previously mentioned, Series 4 of the standard Madballs only came to life through concept art rather than prototypes, so this teaser from the website TOYARK is the only proof we have that they were even planned. Bruise Brother and Splitting Headache are the only two characters planned for Series 4 that had been previously released, so Bottom Feeder, Eye-Sore, Klang Fang, and Shrunk Punk would’ve been brand new additions to the Madballs world. You don’t need me to tell you how cool those new characters would’ve been, so let’s all just have a moment of silence and mourn the loss.
They were too good for this world. They really were.
As for Series 3 and 4 of the SICK line, those would’ve included Fist Face, Mosh Pitts, Lock Lips, Bottom Feeder, Splitting Headache, and Klang Fang.
Not to bum you out even further, but Basic Fun Inc. also almost released the official “Madballs Launcher,” a toy gun that would’ve allowed us to fire Madballs at our friends…
How cool would THAT have been?
On a much happier note, Mondo is bringing back the Madballs in the form of newly-designed (and HIGHLY detailed) vinyl toys, which are now available for pre-order and set to ship in the third quarter of this year. The first set, which includes old faves Slobulus, Horn Head and Skull Face, can be yours for $55, and we assure you that the characters have never looked, felt or smelled this good.
A happy ending to this sad story!