Tuesday, September 11, 2012
These are the dummies I covered a few years ago in this post! I never thought anyone would've bothered naming or packaging these things because they're 100% stolen designs!!
And apparently there are eight of them?! I posted about six and have since gotten my hands on another....damnit!
Monday, September 10, 2012
So these guys have been a bane of my monster ball collecting existence for quite some time. I first noticed them when I was trying to win one of those elusive monster wiffle ball bats. They were packaged under the name Gruesome Creatures then, and they contained aforementioned bat and a bonus ball. The card had drawings of all the balls you could collect and they were exactly the same as these. The trouble is, these are packaged as Wacki Balls. You can tell they're awesome because the spelling's weird.
I gotta say, these dudes are pretty cool. They have names, stories, a cool stitched up logo and the designs are inspired by but not stolen from Madballs. They also have cool stuff in French on them. Maybe to sell to Canadians? So wait, the packaging itself is kinda weird because it's simple but still has a TON of stuff on it. Like its just a green background witha black flare around the ball. There's drawings of the other monsters but it still seems kinda spare? Even though there's a deluge of slogans, ("Scuzzy! Scummy! A Total Gross Out", "Collect Them All", "Spook All Your Friend With This Ghoulish Gang", and finally the slightly pedo-ish "Touch 'em if you dare...and...if you dare you'll want to touch 'em all!!!" it seems like everything was spaced just right to give it a no frills look. What am I saying? After the Zombie Zoo fiasco of aught twelve, this is like the Mona Lisa of monster ball packaging.
Like I said before, each monster has his own name and blurb, but the entire line of toys has a back story!
"From beyond the universe, from the dying planet Grotesque, prepare for the invasion of Wacki Balls. Frightening fun with Freaky Footballs and Batty Baseballs, they're the scummiest, scuzziest, wackiest faces ever found on a ball."
Take that Madballs.
Here's a quick look at the drawings of the idiots. Cool names guys. I've seen Mind Stein around on ebay before but Stevie Slimeball and Wrinkle Wart are super elusive. In fact, this is the first time I've had a hint of their existence.
However, I did find out Lucky Star is still making toys! If it's the same Lucky Star from '86, they're still makin' stuff but mostly plush toys and not gross out rip offs. Ok, let's get into our first monstrous meanie.
This dummy's name is Lizard Breath. The "lizard" part is a bit phoned in. I guess he's got fangs and scaly skin ,but other than that he just looks like an ugly dude. Don't get me wrong, he looks like an awesome ugly dude but still not a lizard. He's got the "classic" monster ball one bulging eye but combined with a completely missing eye! And he's also got a worm/snake slithering out from behind his oversized orb! So cool. I will say that out of the three of these that I have, I think that Lizard Breath is the most poorly sculpted. He's painted very well which covers most of his molded flaws but the rest have a lot more subtlety and nuance to them.
Black Jack the Overtaker, is pretty awesome. I still can't get over the football shaped monster ball. As a kid I never even knew this was an option, so it still thrills me when I can secure an oblong oddity. This dude is painted a bit worse than Lizard Breath (look at that stupid tongue)
but the details in the hair and wrinkly face makes up for it. Now, I wouldn't complain about this next thing except that the drawing on the package gave it away, but he's supposed to have missing teeth that are floating around on his tongue (I'm guessing he got hit with a black jack and his teeth got busted). I wouldn't have known or cared but it's right there in the drawing on the package he came in! Still he's pretty cool, I love the detail of the football stitching on the back of his head!
Last, and awesomest is Mud Brain. I love this dude. His paint job and mold is way better than the rest. Maybe they were trying to win an award or something? He's got six colors and the individual teeth and veins in his eyes are sculpted! He kinda reminds me of a mix between Slobulus and Spit Ball Louie. In fact, this entire line seems more like a rip off of Weird Balls than Madballs....and I'm ok with that.
Here's a size comparison! Oh I should also mention these dudes are made out of the same foam as Madballs, not the hollow rubber of Sadballs.
In conclusion, snatch these up if you can! They usually go for a lot on ebay, but they're worth it. I got mine from a cool Italian online toy shop that I won't share with you because he's still got stuff I want (once I save up enough monster ball money).
Monday, July 16, 2012
Monster Spitballs are up first and they definitely win the best packaging award. Entertech here, went for a classic monster motif, with a Frankenstein and a Dracula ball. Apparently Entertech were making all sorts of water based toys in the 80s like motorized water pistols and stuff! Thankfully, they moved into the monster ball market with these.
Look how cool that cover is! Dracula and Frankenstein frolicking together! OH MY GOD THEY'RE HAVING SUCH A GOOD TIME! They're smiling! I like to think that they were on some sort of monster retreat at an ancient Transylvanian castle to build creature character, complete with trust exercises. "Entertech: Making Better Monsters".
OH GOD THE BACK IS JUST AS GOOD! Look at that graphic. Like you couldn't figure out how these worked on your own, but it's really cute. Anyway, onto the balls!
The Frankenstein is pretty cool but a little more cartoony than the Drac. It reminds me a little of that weird 60's cartoon stylized Frank Monster Ball from before. I like the purple bags under his eyes and his weird wrinkley mouth! The best part however, it the fact that the water squirts from the giant half stitched wound in his head!
The Dracula is pretty cool too but in a different way. It actually kinda looks like Bela Lugosi! It's really well sculpted and designed, especially for something this small. It makes me even more mad about the Zombie Zoo idiots. They were so much larger and so much worse. Guh!
Moving from the 80s to the 90s we come to these regular style Spitballs. Well Spitball. I only have one. And it's a pretty cool one. It's named 20/20 and it's a giant Oculus Orbus influenced eyeball thing. The back of the package is full of drawings and slogans and other fun stuff including MORE instructions. Why is it so hard for people to figure out how to use these things?!
There were only four of these, a shark, a bomb and a crying baby were the others. A shark is pretty cool but the other two? WTF? Lame, guys. That's the same kind of lame I would expect from Super Bouncing Weird Balls or Foul Ba-.....OH.....MY.....GOD....Landard. I KNOW THOSE IDIOTS! THEY ACTUALLY MADE FOUL BALLS! OOF! Those were so horrible! But...dare I say, these are pretty good? So, what's the deal?
Oh, that's the deal! They finally make a monster ball that's half decent and it's poisonous! FULL OF LEAD! AHHHHHHHHH!!!!! Maybe it's some monster ball assassin trying to snuff me out for talking smack on their other toy lines? But that would mean that it was made in the 90's in in preparation for my late aughts betrayal! Like The Terminator!
Well, now that I know my arch-Madball-enemy has tried to assassinate me let's get this over with and look at this stupid ball. I mean the disembodied eye is a classic monsterball design. And this one is filled with details. All those lines in iris, and the three dimensional veins! I will say that it's weird that the actual eye ball has a brow? That doesn't make sense!
But it is cool! Look how gross those giant veins are in the back! Ew! It's almost as bad as that goddamn Lanard logo. Idiots.
And because you've all been so good, you get a family portrait! Well actually, its so you can see scale.
In conclusion, I'd suggest these guys to anyone. They're fun and well designed. Ok maybe I wouldn't suggest the Spitball because it's full of lead but the other ones, totally get 'em!
Monday, July 9, 2012
So, someone was in a board meeting at Cadaco and pitched that catch phrase. You know, the one about the hairy balls.. Probably guys in suits or at the very least, business casual, and coffee and a giant 90's computer. They tossed various ideas around, but the one that they liked so much they put it on the front AND back of the package was "The Hairy Balls You Hurl".
Despite that ridiculous faux pas, I have to admit that these are pretty cool. They're made of soft hollow rubber, filled with details and the designs themselves are pretty cool. There must have been a monster ball revival in the 90's that I wasn't aware of or paying attention to. Freak Balls, Spitballs and these guys all popped up around then.
I had heard of these dudes but never actually seen one for sale anywhere. The package pictures below I saw (and stole from) Skullbrain.org. But that's it. Never saw one at a toy show or even so much as a few strands of that gross hair at the bottom of a Berlin Farmer's Mart $1 toy bin. Then one popped up on ebay, followed by a pair that were on etsy (all three were ridiculously cheap, partially making up for how much I spent on those stupid, stupid Zombie Zoos). We'll get to the toys in a sec. For now, let's look at these internet captured package pics.
Right off the bat, these guys are doing better than most. They have names, and little bios, as well as full color pics of each one on the back. Well done Cadaco!
The person I stole these pics from, was kind enough to take a close up of the copyright info. I did a little internet hunting and found out that Cadaco is still alive and kicking. In fact they made this awesome thing!
So, let's move onto the actual hairy balls. This first one is one of my favorites of that 90's era. Doc Hairline Fracture is a combo mad scientist/monster creation complete with stitches, bulging blooshot eyes, wrinkley green skin and LOTS of teeth (kinda like Dr. Teeth). The detail in the sculpt is amazing. So many little folds and warts. Even the paint job is good! The veins in the eyes are super cool. But the most important thing, that separates these from the myriads of knock offs in the 80's and 90's are those disgusting strands. I appreciate the fact that Cadaco tried to do something that would set them apart, but why, oh why did they put hair on these? It's so gross, which I guess makes sense when you're making gross out toys. Ew.
Next up we have one of the rarest of all monster balls...a definite lady monster ball. Other than Snake Bait, I don't know of another monster ball that is purposely designed as a lady. It's a shame because I'm sure there were a bunch of gross creepy girls that enjoyed these toys back then. Mouldy Locks here is a gross, gross toy for all the ladies. Some sort of zombie with warts, wrinkles and splatters of slime and those disgusting curly green locks. I don't really mind the hair that much but it's odd because these Hurlers would've worked even without that added touch.
Lastly we have this weirdo (Buzz Head). He's not my favorite but I've never been a fan of the "regular guy" Madballs (ie-Screamin Meemie). He just looks like a gross dude with buck teeth and red hair. Again though, there's tons of details that make him better than most of the bull crap imitations.
Up above you can see what these morons look like compared to actual Madballs. They're roughly the same size, but made of Sadball material and of course, with hair.
In conclusion, if you can track these dumb-dumbs down, you shouldn't buy them because I call dibs. Unless they're the ones I already have, then go for it!
They don't pop up too often though, so be vigilant and good hunting!
Monday, July 2, 2012
Oh god. Seriously? I can't believe I decided to restart this blog with these awful idiots. Like, I know I've posted some garbage in the past (like Foul Balls, Super Bouncing Weird Balls) but Zombie Zoo is by far the worst. Ok, maybe not "by far" but they're pretty bad.
I have to say, I was excited when I saw these pop up on ebay, because Zombie Zoo was a kind of rip off I'd always heard about, but never actually seen. I heard people refer to them and even read a few descriptions, but never had I actually glimpsed one. Like the cryptids of the monster ball kingdom. And much like someone that searches for a bigfoot or a chupacabra, I would've been better off having not seen them. The packaging is misleading, with full color drawings, a super awesome logo (blood and lightning!), multiple slogans and even a backstory present these idiots to be way better than they are. Look at those drawings! They're only a little bit worse than some James Groman work. That's saying something! But the execution. Oof! We'll get to that in a minute. Before that I'll type out their origin for you:
"One night when the moon was full, a weird color slime was found in a local city zoo. Cages were found open, bars were bent; and the result is the ugliest, mangiest bunch of zombies ever to escape captivity. Beware of the...Zombie Zoo Collection."
While I do appreciate that they took the time to write a "story", it is pretty lazy. What was the slime? Where did it come from? Why does the monkey have a vice on his head if he's a mutant?
PS guys "These play balls are not recommended for ages 3 and under"...there's got to be a better way to say that. Oh and those slogans..."Throw 'Em", "Mangy Mutants", and "Creepy Bouncy". So lazy. That drawing of that kid is pretty cool though. Look at him "throwing".
On the back of the package you can see all the cool drawings and names with even short descriptions of each guy. This is so much more effort than the dummies that made Super Bouncing Weird Balls put into their product. It's too bad the sculptors they hired were a bunch or moronic idiots with toes for fingers.Seriously. Look at Bone Breath here. Well, first look up at the picture that shows the drawings of them, then look down at this guy. Something was lost in translation. Details were deleted, nuances were tossed in the trash and paint jobs were haphazard. And this is the best one. Monkey Mash here is maybe the second best, at least as far as one looking like the animal it is supposed to represent. He's way worse that the drawing though. I think he's supposed to have a vice on his head? But again, just a huge pile of lumps and sloppy paint. Ok, ok, ok. This one is horrible. Atrocious. Like, what is this?! I'm guessing from the name Wart Rus, he's supposed to be a Walrus but maybe a walrus sculpted by a blind person that has never even heard a walrus described to them. I think his eyes are supposed to be stitched shut and his nose is bleeding..ketchup?, but then what are the two indented holes in between his nostrils and eyes?! Ugghhhhhh.....it's killing me. As a Madball aficionado, I am offended sirs! Even the material they used is abysmal. They're foam like Madballs, but really soft foam. It looks like there were bubbles in it that popped and left huge gaping holes in it. Guh!Nope! I was wrong. This is the worst one. Bloody Bull?! NOOoooooooOOOOOoooooooo! THIS IS NOT A BULL! A- Why would it be blue. B-It's not a shaped like a bull. C-It's not shaped like any animal. D-It kinda looks like Trumpy. E-Fuck you.These write ups are actually starting to hurt now. Not emotionally but physically. It's paining me to write them. My stomach hurts and I have a headache. Because this is supposed to be an elephant. Missing an eye. Eye Lephant. It makes me even madder that the names are cool but the toys themselves are the worst. Like the worst. I may have just pooped myself from awful.
Vein Brain. Dumb. I can't even write this one up. I mean I guess I can? But I don't really want to. A dog with a leash around it's neck and in its mouth and veins in his ears and his head cut off? And it kinda looks racist?! WTF?! NO, NO, NO, NO, NO! BAD!
I guess if you want to you can see the size comparison. Zombie Zoos are larger, and the foam is softer and they are also the worst. THE WORST. NO, NO, NO!
As far as the dillholes responsible, I've looked up Panville Inc from Chicago and I've found nothing. Not a thing. Which is good, because that means they stopped after they unleashed this hell in ball form.
In conclusion, only an idiot anal retentive collector would ever spend more than $1 on any of these stupid dummies and, trust me, I spent way more than that...boooooooo......
The next post will be something way cooler, I promise.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Monday, January 23, 2012
Well, dudes and dudettes, I've been managing to upkeep this blog more than I actually thought possible. Today, we have some tiny terrors that I know some of you nerds out there are obsessed with. See, these guys seem to be in higher demand because they overlap crazed collector criteria. They appeal to the maniacal Madball enthusiasts as well as the little rubber toy aficionados. I've heard horror stories about people trying to track these down, but I've managed to amass quite a collection without even going out of my way to do so. Ebay lots that I've won, often come with a few of these crammed in the box as an added bonus...or an added bogus!
Most of these little grotesqueries are minute renditions of larger dudes and seem to be some sort of pencil top eraser or eraser material. These two for example are tiny takes on the classic devil Sadball, and the horrible Horn Head. The problem with these two, is that the material doesn't work well this small. There are crease lines and the details aren't too crisp.
See how small this dude is? Regardless of the loss of clarity, both of these are pretty neat. They would be perfect if you were a really small person...like miniature, and Madballs were too large for you to hold in your freakishly tiny hands. Then again, I guess you'd have other things to worry about besides your toy collection. Like cats, and tarantulas and being so small that you cease to exist on a molecular level. Now I'm sad.
Not anymore! Look at these idiots! Another Madball rip off (Argh) and two more Sadball rip offs (Blood Bulge and Broken Brain). Though, I think at the point you rip off a rip off you become something else entirely...like a rip-rip off. The rubber these three are made of is a little bit sturdier than the previous dorks so they look a little better. They also appear to have been painted at some point?! That's pretty cool. I actually prefer mini Blood Bulge to the adult version, because that design was pretty sparse in the first place. Cramming all those features on a 1" ball makes it look cooler.
Oh god, these triplets. I got them in a lot and I like them but they are uuuuuggggly. Almost too ugly? like the first guy is kind of hard to make out...i guess he's a fang toothed dude with a pig nose? Hogrible will be his name. The second dude is the real problem. I know this isn't the greatest picture but even holding him in my hand in the light I couldn't make out what the hell is going on with his face. At first. My hypothesis (as a Madball academic) is that he's a dude with half a skull and a mouth full of worms? Maggot Mouth it is, until someone else looks at it and tells me what's up. The last one is the most simple but also the easiest to see. He's just a generic monster type. His name is Gener-ick! from now on. The triplets here suffer from the same eraser material syndrome as our first two freaks. But those two, the eraser rubber hardened over time, these three have a porous softness to them that makes me think they may crumble in time...ah crap I'm sad again.
Not any...no I'm still sad. This guy doesn't cheer me up. He looks like a yellow tiger stripped turd (Tiger Turd). Like if Madballs were made the same way as Kopi Luwak but with tigers. He doesn't even have the excuse that he was made out of crappy (get it?) rubber. He's made of rigid hallow plastic. He could be well rendered if some lazy so and so had decided to spend a few extra cents. He had a key ring attached to him at some point but I don't think he suffered much damage from that. I think he was just poorly painted and designed. LAME!
In conclusion, These are fun if and when you can find them. They usually have a lot of rubs in them but are a neat addition to any Mad/Sadball collection. Check above for a family portrait that depicts their relative size.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
As a collector of toys, I gravitate towards things that are gross and monstrous. The toys I loved as a child were always the bad guys or the creatures with snarling faces and multiple eyes. Cobra over G.I.Joe, Deceptacons over Autobots, and I always wanted the Mutores to triumph over the Earth Corps, because then we'd live in a monster utopia where everyone looked cool and ate trash. One thing I never considered as a kid was who the hell was designing these things. It also never occurred to me that one person could cross over. Like if anything, Mattel had three creepy dudes locked in a basement that just worked on their stuff. As an adult (now an illustrator myself) I've done research as to who's broken brain spews this sweet stuff out. One name that I kept running into was James Groman. An amazing illustrator, James has been designing toys for 20 years and worked on my favorite line of all time, Madballs. He was kind enough to answer a few questions via email (please excuse the robotic tone of my questions) and add some insight into the world of monster faced balls.
BLARGHHH-Let's start with a simple introduction..
GROMAN-James Groman is the name. I’ve been drawing, designing and sculpting toys and model kits for about 20 years now. I may be best known as a creator and contributing artist on toy lines like: Madballs, Blurpballs, Barnyard Commandoes, Stretch Armstrong, Star Wars, and a sculptor on model kits based on The Mummy, Star Wars, Sleepy Hollow, Godzilla and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. I currently work as a Children’s’ Entertainment and Product developer for American Greetings Properties in Cleveland Ohio, as well as sculpt, paint and doodle monsters as personal projects and for gallery shows whenever time allows.
BLARGHHH-How did you get involved in illustration and toy design?
GROMAN-I have been drawing and sculpting since I was hatched. Back in the 60’s when I was growing up, we had what was called Super Saturdays, and Cartooniverse. All the programming on Saturday was virtually owned by the Hanna Barberra studios with shows like: The Herculoids, Space Ghost, Galaxy Trio, Dino Boy, Frankenstien Jr., Mighty Mightor et all. This was usually followed by a marathon of Saturday afternoon monster flicks on the Weekend Movie or Saturday Drive-in Theater. There I was introduced to most of the classic Universal Monsters, Ray Harryhausen, the awesome Hammer Studios films as well a parade of way-cool B-movie monsters. I would sit in the dark like a morlock, eyes glued to the television, sculpting and etching every monster, alien or dinosaur that came across the screen.
It ended up that practice makes perfect, or at least made me good enough to be able to attend The Cleveland Institute of Art. There I majored in illustration and Graphics and minored in Cinematography. I graduated with a BFA and moved into a career as an illustrator and sculptor for major toy product and model kit companies such as: American Greetings, Hasbro, Playskool, Ertl Collectables, Cap Toys/Oddzon, Wild Planet, Playing Mantis/Polar Lights and Geometric design to name a few.
BLARGHHH-It seems like you'd be a big Tales From the Crypt fan. Can you tell us some influences?
GROMAN-I love the old E.C. comics Tales From the Crypt, and have studied the artwork of many of the great artists that worked on that comic magazine. I also grew up reading later day magazines like Creepy, Eerie, Boris Karloff Presents, and the Marvel comics titles: Where Monsters Dwell, Where Creatures Roam, Werewolf by Night, Monster of Frankenstien, Tomb of Dracula and Man-Thing. Artists like: Frank Frazetta, Bernie Wrightson, William Stout, Dave Stevens, Mike Ploog, Alex Niño, Nestor Redondo, Esteban Maroto and Alex Toth were all very highly influential to me. Though many have told me that they can see a big influence on my work from the early adventure cartoons of Hanna Barberra that I mentioned before.
Also, as I mentioned before, I am a huge monster move fan, the original King Kong being my all-time favorite. Just a brilliant film on so many levels. Story, artistic vision, groundbreaking special effects, music and sound effects. I don’t think there has been any one film, (other than perhaps, the original Star Wars) which has influenced more artists and filmmakers than that 1933 classic.
BLARGHHH-Pick your favorite Universal Monster.
GROMAN-That would have to be the Gillman from Creature from the Black Lagoon. One of the all-time great monster designs ever created for motion pictures. I was lucky enough to be selected to sculpt the Gill-man for Geometric models official licensed model kit of the character a few years ago. If they only knew I would have done it for free…
And though the choice of the Gill-man as my favorite seemed to come to me rather quickly, it did not. I am also a huge admirer of make-up master Jack Pierce’s incredible Frankenstein Monster that has gone on to define the character.
GROMAN-I love the werewolf make-up used in Hammer’s Curse of the Werewolf. What I always enjoyed about the Hammer Studios horror films was as much as they followed Universal’s lead on atmosphere and drama, they always brought something new to the proverbial table. And that could be said of the awesome Victorian style werewolf played in that film by Oliver Reed.
BLARGHHH-I love the werewolf make up in that too but Christopher Lee as Dracula will always be my favorite. I prefer him to Lugosi. Speaking of monsters (clever segue huh?), you worked on a comic called Buce N Gar after school. Was it self-published?
GROMAN-Buce & Gar (now spelled Boose & Gar) was published by my friend Robert Kraus with his company RAK Graphics. We traveled the country doing comic book shows and promoting B&G to the comic-buying public for a number of years back in the early 1990’s. This was a very enjoyable time of my life, talking to all the people who loved the books and the characters across the U.S. I recently ran into a guy in California that used to buy Buce & Gar when he was a kid. I happily handed him the new, collected edition of the books that I recently self-published. It made my day.
BLARGHHH-That's awesome! The new edition was a long time in the making. An entire issue was lost right?
GROMAN-Actually, it was the final 7 pages of the entire 100 page, 5-issue story arc. It was lost at the printers along with two full color pieces of cover art. Broke my heart. Years later Bob Krause showed up at my studio with an envelope he found with my lost pages. I was so happy that I published the complete 5 issue run as a collected volume, which is available through KaBlam comic publishers and my website. Though it was done early in my career, I think it is still a fun read.
BLARGHHH-Then your first toy job was at American Greetings right out of college?
GROMAN-Yup. I always fancied myself doing paperback book covers, comics and film design while attending school, but being hired by American Greetings product development division set me on the path of a career in toy design. Never saw it coming, but it’s kept a roof over my family’s head ever since.
BLARGHHH-Can you tell us the origins of the Madball line? Any significant predecessors?
GROMAN-I was originally hired at AG because my style seemed to be a good fit for the work being done on Madballs and a couple action figure lines they were working on. The idea of Madballs seemed to come from a toy concept based on Hot Potato. Some designers at AG started drawing the toy potatoes with goofy faces on them. This seemed to click with everyone, and before long the concept had jettisoned it’s hot potato origins and evolved into the horrendous monstrosities that we have come to know and love. Most of the artists working on the balls at that time were quite talented illustrators who drew from their knowledge of E.C. comics, Eerie and Creepy horror comics with a wink to Big Daddy Roth. You see, AG is mostly known or cute and cuddly critters like Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake and Holly Hobby, so working on something as irreverently horrific like Madballs was a form of therapy for some of us.
BLARGHHH-You worked on BOTH lines of Madballs (80's and 00's). What was your involvement with the 80's line?
GROMAN-I came in after most of wave 1, 2 and 3 had been designed. What I was recruited for was to work on the lesser-known Madballs action figure line. This I dove into with reckless abandoned. I designed a couple of the wave 1 figures, and almost all of wave 2.
BLARGHHH-Who were the other designers involved?
GROMAN-Madballs concepts and designs came from many different people. Some of the ideas came from art directors who never put a pencil to paper, but still were instrumental in their inception. Many of them are still very good friends of mine to this day. The artists were James Elliott, Mark Spangler, Vint Gonsor and Tom Kuebler. Kuebs is a well known sculptor these days, and you can find some of his amazing work on his website: www.tskuebler.com/
Other folks who were instrumental in the creation of the balls were George Chanter and Ralph Shafer. All of us were part of the American Greetings division called Those Characters From Cleveland who was responsible for many of AG’s most memorable characters.
BLARGHHH-Can you discuss your process in designing toys?
GROMAN-Most of the time my approach depends on the project on which I am working. It usually starts with a discussion on what the toy is, and what the expectations are for its features and aesthetic. How big is it? Does it have electronics? What is its price point at retail? I know, it doesn’t sound like that much fun,…but most of the time that is exactly what a toy designer needs to take into consideration when designing most toy product. The cool thing about Madballs was they really didn’t have a ‘demonstrable feature’ or mechanism. The main feature of Madballs was all-aesthetic. It was all about the unique, imaginative monstrous designs.
GROMAN-I don’t remember too many designs back in the eighties being too gross to be released. But I do remember having to cut back a bit on the red blood paint operations on the balls. We had to turn alot of the bloody deco into the green slime that has become synonymous with the line. But we do have a few designs in the new line that had to be pulled. One was a gangster riddled with bullet holes, and the other (not designed by me, I might add) involved a wonderful mouthful of maggots.
We did have one character whose name had to be changed for reasons that I think most of you will understand. His original name was Crack Head, and that is the name that appeared when he originally shipped in the 1980’s. Later product shipped with a small sticker over that name on the backer card. His new name had been changed to Bash Brain, which it remains to this day.
BLARGHHH-The one I have definitely has Crack Head stamped on the back. Aside from the balls themselves there was a ton of Madball merchandise. And MOUTHFUL OF MAGGOTS?! How much would it cost me to get that made? Oh god. Anyway, back to the questions: What was the weirdest related product you worked on?
GROMAN-Wow. Weren’t Madballs pretty weird themselves?
BLARGHHH-Haha, point taken.
GROMAN-Well, a lot of the other Madball product was designed by whatever licensee had picked up the license from American Greetings. But I will tell you the weirdest stuff I have seen are the countless Madball tattoos on various parts of the human anatomy people have sent me over the years.
And yes, I have considered getting one myself.
BLARGHHH-More in the 80's than now, Madballs had a fair share of imitators and bootlegs. What was it like seeing something you'd worked on be copied like that?
GROMAN-Well, most of us saw it as an educational experience. It taught us at American Greetings that we needed to be prepared to follow up a successful toy line like Madballs with new, fresh product. Because if your not prepared for success with new product ready to ship, you give all the rip-off companies a chance to line the shelves with copy-cat merchandise that waters down the market for your product.
GROMAN-All of us in the toy industry are constantly trying to find the next big trend in toys. Every once in a while you come across an empty space on the toy shelf that if you fill it, creates a whole new category in the marketplace. I’m not sure who is responsible for the wave of ‘gross-out’ products in the 1980’s, but I know that we at AG and TCFC are partially to blame. I suggest that it started with Garbage Pail Kids collector cards (who were continuing a tradition begun by the wonderfully infamous Mars Attacks cards), and we took it to the toy shelves.
GROMAN-Yes, I had the pleasure of being the sole designer of that line. But I must in good conscience remind everyone that an imaginative guy that goes by the name Rick Reising penned the names of the Blurp Balls characters. Rick still works with me here at American Greetings Properties, and has been instrumental in christening our new Madball characters with their perspective monikers as well.
I might mention that one of my favorite Blurp Ball characters was never made. He was an astronaut that fired a satellite from his mouth. His name was Up-Chuck Yeager.
BLARGHHH-You're blowing my mind here. Up-Chuck Yeager is maybe the funniest thing I've ever heard. Whose idea were Blurp Balls?
GROMAN-Once again, ‘success has many fathers, failure is an orphan’, so many different stories exist on the creation of Blurp Balls. I know that I was in the brainstorm at American Greetings that initiated the concept, and that its origins are quite bizarre. As I remember it, a young lady in our group brought a rubber monster prop she had bought in California to our meeting. For some strange reason we ended up putting a Madball into the creature’s mouth. When the critter’s soft rubber body was squeezed, the Madball shot across the room and launched the Blurp Balls toy line.
GROMAN-Actually the thought processes were somewhat similar. Though we tried to brainstorm characters that inherently involved a kind of ‘side-kick’ character or prop that they might ‘blurp’ out. Like a cat and mouse, dinosaur and caveman, Baseball catcher and baseball, Vampire and heart, ect. And we also decided to pull back a bit on the gross out factor of the AG in comparison to their Madball cousins. I think we had been beginning to see a slight opposition at retail to toys that were too disgusting and gross in nature.
But I believe that we still were able to sneak a bit of that Madball disgustablity into the line.
GROMAN-It was magical. When I came back to American Greetings they had already started bringing back the Madballs line, so I dug in and battled to claim it as my own. I think my excitement an enthusiasm helped everyone believe that I was okay to be trusted with working on the designs for the Madballs brand, so I went to work. Other folks at AG Properties who were instrumental in the relaunch of the new Madballs product line were Jeffery Conrad, Anthony Davila, Rick Reising, and Judi Schuman.
BLARGHHH-So, I've seen photos of a third series of Madballs floating around on various blogs along with the design artwork. Are those ever happening?
GROMAN-The product line at Basic Fun toys (the company licensing and manufacturing the Madballs toys) is on hold at the moment. But artwork of the characters of which you speak has appeared on sticker sheets, greeting cards, wrapping paper, hats, shirts and other print product. I am hoping that they will be made into toy product as well. Truth be told, we have about 80 additional characters that are part of the Madballs brand that have never been seen by human eyes. Even I drew them while blindfolded.
GROMAN-Only for the moment, my friend. Only for the moment. They will eventually see the light of day if I have anything to say in the matter. As far as the King Kong and Godzilla designs, they are based on two of my favorite movie monsters. You all know that the original Horn Head Madball is loosely based on the way-cool Cyclops in Ray Harryhausen’s film 7th Voyage of Sinbad, don’t you? Well, now you do!
BLARGHHH-Did you have anything to do with those little European Madballs?
GROMAN-Actually, yes. That company chose a few of our lesser-known designs from the new set of 80 characters that were created last year. I had some help on those designs by some buddies of mine at AG. Artists Carlos Villagra and Saxton Moore. This licensee did a great job on the sculpts, too. If you can hunt those down, I would recommend it. They are awesome, and they squirt water too!
BLARGHHH-Yeah I love them! Will there be more?
GROMAN-As always, it will be based on the sales of the existing line. I sure hope they do more, because of the quality they obtained with their first wave of product. And as I said, we have about eighty more characters for them to choose from.
BLARGHHH-Please stop reminding me that there's 80 Madballs I can't have. What's in the future for you?
GROMAN-Well, at American Greetings we have a number of very cool entertainment projects that I am part of that will be on the air very soon. One of them is an amazing action adventure property with lots of creatures and sci fi hardware. I continue to work with all the incredibly creative folks at AG on the characters, vehicles and backgrounds for all the various shows we will be launching in the coming year!
I have recently got back into sculpting again with a new 23 inch tall resin figure called The Zombot Ghoul which I am producing and marketing on my blog. I have been contacted by a collectable company about a sculpting commission, and begun work on stories for a couple comic book companies. I have also just got copies from the printer of what I am calling ‘an illustrated screenplay’. It is a script I wrote a few years back that I have had published in book form with a number of highly detailed black and white illustrations. It is called ‘Monster Hunter’ and is also available in my blogstore.
I like being busy, and am somewhat schizophrenic. I love to draw, paint, sculpt and write, and try to do all of these on a regular basis. So if anyone is ever curious about what I am working on at any given time, just hop on over to www.jgroman.blogspot.com and find out. And leave a comment while your there. Always love hearing what people have to say about my work.