Invasion of the M.U.S.C.L.E. Creatures
Updated: Feb 2, 2022
This is it: My long-awaited article on...
"Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere."
You weren't waiting for it? Well, here it is anyway! There's a ton of information about these figures online. There are even fan sites dedicated to nothing but the diminutive brawlers. This article is about my personal M.U.S.C.L.E. memories, and as such, I am the only person who can write it. Ego? You bet!
Call them M.U.S.C.L.E. creatures or M.U.S.C.L.E. men: If you had a couple of these bad boys on the playground in the mid to late '80s, your social standing increased exponentially. A product of Japan, where they're known as "Keshi," they're figures based on an anime called Kinnikuman. Of course, '80s kids in America had no idea of that.
All we knew was that, as the box proclaimed, they were "Weird, Wild Wrestlers!" (Little-known fact: That's what the "www" preceding Retro Injection stands for.) Save yourself some money on acid by checking out the intro to the anime:
Wrestling was somehow huge in the '80s, so much that pro wrestlers transcended the ring, becoming true multimedia superstars. Movies, commercials and cartoons awaited many of the WWF roster. The phony sport was ingrained in the American psyche, and thankfully, there was enough blood-lust left over for these little guys.
In 1987, we lived a couple of blocks down from the local Thrift Drug, a now-defunct chain store. My dad and I would occasionally walk there, and when we did, I could bet with a fair degree of certainty that I was coming back with a new toy. M.U.S.C.L.E. figures were my hands-down favorite, because you got a minimum of four at once, a tag team right out of the box. You could also get a little trashcan of them, containing ten, but I didn't generally press my luck. I loved the unmistakable plastic aroma which would waft out of a new ten-pack:
One of my most vivid M.U.S.C.L.E. memories was the time that a friend put one of my figures in his mouth! I was horrified, a germophobe even at seven. To make matters worse, I had a duplicate of this creature, and I didn't know later on which one he had contaminated. I didn't touch either figure for probably a week, and I was still paranoid. I then did the only thing I could think to do: I asked my dad. He told me that sufficient time had passed, and that surely any residual bacteria had since died. With his word alone, I ceased to care. In retrospect, I probably should have washed them both, but I did in fact survive to write this article.
I am very slowly rebuilding my collection, all of my childhood figures now doing their aforementioned lurking in parts unknown. In 2016, I saw a local toy store ad on Craigslist, which featured a photo of a glass case containing an unopened four-pack of these elusive brutes. This was the same style of container that I would get from my dad for no good reason. I drove to the shop as soon as I could, and not surprisingly, no one had been clamoring for it. (These unopened boxes are not especially rare.) This is how it sat in the living room before we packed up everything, including fourteen arcade machines, to move from New York to Arizona.
The loose figures in front? My dad got me the one in the middle at a rummage sale in 2017. It's my most-treasured M.U.S.C.L.E. figure.
I found this diary entry my mom made for me in January of 1987. Little did she know she was setting up her six-year old with blogging gold:
1987 has come creeping back into my life recently, with the addition of this custom Cadillac hearse and Fleetwood motorhome.
In 2017, a company called Super 7 licensed the M.U.S.C.L.E. line from Mattel. Their collections feature a variety of pop culture properties available in the classic four packs, including WWE, Street Fighter II, Aliens and Toxic Crusaders. I picked up these WWE Legends M.U.S.C.L.E. figures at Five Below, and they're poised for action on the camper's console.
M.U.S.C.L.E. is one of those great collectibles, which my wife would classify as clutter. Similar to their Western-born spiritual successor Monster In My Pocket, their entire purpose is to sit around and look cool, which is a good gig if you can get it.