Tuesday, May 25, 2010
The world of Madball imitations is seemingly limitless and ranges from disgustingly gorgeous to dreadfully abysmal. Lovingly designed creeps like Weird Balls, Blurp Balls and Wacki Balls may lack originality but make up for it in detail and style. Then there's the bottom of the barrel dudes like Super Bouncing Weird Balls and Foul Balls that were obviously churned out to make a quick buck but are worth while for their clumsy awfulness.
As you get deeper into the world of monster face ballery, you realize there are some fakes out there, that just don't have names. They're not part of any series and were molded and remolded, packaged and repackaged, painted and repainted a million times. They have no brand name or individual names, but have been dubbed "Sadballs". The attributes they share are that they're the general size and shape of Madballs, they're all made of soft inflatable rubber, they're limited to 3-4 colors, and they usually have "Taiwan" stamped on their underside.
Many of them are also packaged similarly in a plastic bag stapled to a card, but the cards vary from ball to ball. In fact some of the exact same balls have been packed with different cards or on the same cards but made with different colored plastic.
While there are a dozens of these nameless dudes there are six that are almost as recognizable as Madballs themselves and have even been bootlegged and imitated.
First up is one of my favorites. Dubbed "Blood Bulge" at Weirdo Toys (I really like the names Justin gave them so I'm sticking with them), this purple dude is a grotesque....thing. Maybe a vampire skull but probably just a lazy attempt at a monster, Blood Bulge at least isn't a direct knock off of a particular Madball. His skull(ish) nose and cracked back side contrast with his fangs and gore filled mouth. Let's not skim over that.
His features may be pretty simplistic but that mouth is really highly detailed and makes him look like he's been chowing down on disgusting viscera. That combined with that disgusting bulgy eye makes him on of the grossest rip offs I've ever encountered.
Even though the Ugly Ball is inspired by Skull Face and Evel Kneival is reminiscent of Dust Brain, there was some minor attempt to redesign them. Not well, mind you, but redesigned nontheless. "Lace Face" on the other hand, is a stolen mold. I doubt there was espionage in the world of monster faced balls involving men in black masks jumping over lasers to get to the secret Madball sculpts, but someone definitely remolded this dude directly from Aargh.
The shape of the mouth, the pig nose, the furrowed brow and the the stitches are all directly taken from Aargh. The ONLY difference, aside from the paint job, is that Lace Face has a smaller eye, while Aargh's non-bugged eye is squinted shut. It's odd because Aargh is one of my least favorite Madballs, but tends to be one of the most imitated.
"Evil Knievel" is one of the more baffling of the Sadballs. I think he's supposed to be wrapped up like he's hurt as opposed to mummified, but he does still look like Dust Brain.
Now why he's wrapped up is a different question. The fangs poking out and the blue skin suggest that he's a vampire, so maybe he's got a really bad sunburn? Or he's a tooth daredevil that's had a run of bad luck. Very similar to Blood Bulge and the Ugly Ball, this dude doesn't have a lot of detail, but he is a cool specimen of 80's fakery.
This one is my absolute favorite and I've often wondered why there weren't more devilish Madball rip offs. It seems like such an obvious monster figure. The sculpt on this demon is a bit different from the others. While it shares the simplicity of them, it's a better stylization. The rendered mustache and cracks in the horns help carry the basic nose, teeth and eyes. Along with Blood Bulge "Dirty Devil" is the only truely original Sadball.
Up next is a nerd I've named Broken Brain. He's an odd rendition of Bash Brain just with a Screamin' Meemie face and one eyeball larger than the other. He's not particularly painted or designed very well and his face is uncomplicated except of a few wrinkles but he makes up for it in his exposed brain! It may be the texture of the rubber or the oddly spray painted colors but this gray matter icks me out more so than any Madballs with bust skulls. It reminds me of Hellraiser II when Dr. Channard is performing surgery and talking about labyrinths or Josh's obsession with "maggot brain". Most of these guys are nameless imitations made by faceless companies trying to make a quick buck. This last dude, however, isn't so mysterious. He was a promotional gift released by Nabisco for their Bonkers candy during the height of the Madball craze. There were even nightmarish commercials advertising the "Ugly Ball" with a family that had lifesize Ugly Ball heads! All you had to do was mail in ten Bonkers wrappers and they would ship one to your doorstep. He does share all the other characteristics of Sadballs though.
Aside from his association with human-assaulting candy the Ugly Ball is pretty uninspired. He's a monstrous skull dude with a big red tongue. Kinda boring especially when you compare him to Skull Face who's got awesome flair (I seriously love those keyhole eye sockets)! The nose and teeth are surely lifted from the Madball design, but the rest of him has nothing goin on. I'm not really sure why he doesn't work as well. Most of the vintage Madballs are really simple, but their imitators almost always fall flat. I half expect it from the nameless imitators but from a company like Nabisco that's using a toy for a promotional gimmick? Nothing better?
That said, these ugly buggers are pretty neat and considering the depths that some fakes sink to, these aren't actually THAT bad. I do like these a lot, and maybe my reviews have been a bit harsh. They have a certain budget charm that Krazy Balls are missing.
In conclusion, try to find these guys. They're very odd, hold up fairly well to againg and are some of the more iconic examples of Madball fakery. Some of them go on Ebay for a decent amount but others slip through the cracks and sell for a few bucks.