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Toys No Child Could Love #5: The Collector

Rich Cerow

Nothing says unstoppable badass for the forces of good like a yellow safety vest and a minimum wage job.

Maybe 80s toys were trying to tell us that beneath the sleek, cocaine-fuelled "greed is good" boom of the decade lurked destructive forces ready to tear apart the precious things we’d worked so hard for...with laser guns. Between the Transformers and M.A.S.K. (which undoubtedly stands for something like Mobile Action Strike Kommandos - they were trained in Germany, maybe?), we see the propensity for violence bubbling under the surface of the American dream, represented by that most American of symbols, the car. After all, even though the Transformers were from outer space, you always secretly knew that they were Americans while the Decepticons were the insidious communist forces, hoping for an even distribution of Energon amongst all sentient robots Or at least all sentient robots of the their RoboBolshevik party.

But the characters from M.A.S.K. went further than that, and actually featured American drivers for all those awesome transforming cars. Blonde-haired, blue-eyed, corn-fed American boys who lived in a gas station at the base of a volcano, which doesn’t seem like the smartest place to bury highly flammable oil (right next to flowing lava). Not that it mattered, because the gas station was just a front, like all the M.A.S.K. vehicles were, that metamorphosed (definitely not transforming) into a crazy battle station for fending off the forces of evil. The M.A.S.K. team did have a lot of cars, though, so they must have had working gas pumps somewhere in that base as well. Maybe they were hidden under the missile silo they’d built into that volcano.

When it came to the M.A.S.K. toys, the gas station was pretty weak - a deadly filling station just doesn’t compare to a motorcycle that can transform into a personal helicopter that doesn’t even have a semblance of concern for personal safety. Still, gas can be kind of cool - it’s aforementioned explosiveness came in handy in a lot of action movies, and breathing in deep at the station while your mom filled up the station wagon was one of the few ways for kids to get high. What is never cool, however, are tolls. And this edition’s embarrassment, the Collector, was a toll collector with a transforming booth.
I think this box is more action-packed than the figure and playset included within.

Tolls are just not cool - they slow you down and strip the road of that limitless freedom the M.A.S.K. team fought so hard to defend. You’re burning down the highway in your DeLorean that turns into a tiny plane (with lasers), and the government slaps a big fat fun-killer down. Fortunately, you can just fly over the toll booth, because where you’re going you don’t need roads. But then this dude, the Collector, flips a switch and has anti-air missiles to bring you down and make you pour seventy-five cents in exact change into that coin-funneling bucket. Which, by the way, I have a really hard time believing that he can fund all that high-end military equipment and keep the ammunition rolling in with the tolls he collects. Maybe if he had some more conventional weaponry, and he was situated in a high traffic area (which would make keeping his booth’s secret lasers a secret difficult), I could see him keeping that stockpile going, but not with the sophisticated weaponry he seems to require in order to stop anybody evil who just happened by.

Which is the biggest problem with the Collector (besides the bald head which makes him look remarkably like fellow toy abomination Rancor Keeper) - his little booth doesn’t move. Now, the gas station I can understand - these dudes need some place to sleep before they roll out on their turbo jets, and keep it stockpiled in case somebody finds them is a fine idea. But how do you use a toll booth for defensive or offensive purposes? You can’t put it right next to the gas station for extra support, and it doesn’t seem like it would do much good to build it on some random highway and pray the bad guys show up. Not to mention that all the enemies of M.A.S.K. are driving tanks and jet fighter and whatnot, and probably aren’t even driving on the highway (and if they are, I doubt they slow down for tolls - more likely they just activate their flame throwers and torch that pig, and steal all the change if they’re the extra evil boss villain and not the dimwitted sidekick who’s secretly sensitive and childlike, and has just been bullied into being extra evil, and you discover this in the Christmas episode in which he still believes in Santa, and along with some of the other kids in the neighborhood gets to meet the real Santa. Maybe he would get a lump of coal from Santa at the end for being bad, but also get the teddy bear he’s been asking for all year). Basically, the Collector would only be useful against perfectly law-abiding citizens who for some reason still need to be incinerated beyond recognition by the most powerful in ray gun technology.
I hope this includes one of the seventy-nine versions of "The Hannukah Song."

The Collector have been replaced with... Toll Booth Willie, the hilarious Adam Sandler audio-only sketch.

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