Major Matt Mason - Mattel's man in space

© Maikel Das and Toy Hunter's Journal 2001

In a time before you could zap through 30 cable channels or surf endless hours in the internet, the Beatles released the first concept album "Stg. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band" and nearly 400.000 US soldiers were stationed in Vietnam, Mattel presented us their  man in space - Major Matt Mason.
That was 1967!

Major Matt Mason, short MMM named, were created after the American space programme. The early vehicles and spacesuits are all based on Nasa prototypes. That was an important element for many boys that made this toyline so popular, despite its short life from 1967 - 1970. Like many people of its time, especially the boys followed the manned rocketstarts with fascination in front of the bulky b/w television sets. Who didn't wanted to be an astronaut and exploring distant planets?

In the first year Mattel offered MMM on a bister card with a Space Sled & Jet Pack. The major was also available with the Space Suit, which was nearly identical with a 1962 "Life" cover.
Like all classic toylines, many legends shrouds the history of MMM about variations and prototypes.  Many of it has only been released in the USA, respectevely there's no information available of what, when and how things have been released in Germany. In general the American toys were repackaged and distributed under the "Mattel Spielzeug GmbH" logo.

Quite unusual for an action figure, it was made out of rubber with a wire sceleton and flexible joints. This was the critical part of the figure. Those thin wires broke when you played often with it and the hero couldn't bent anymore in the desired position. Many little boys were traumatized, each time another joint was lost of their beloved spaceman. The value of a figure depends on the condition of the joints and the paint. The latexpaint can be peeled off like a skin. A complete figure in good shape cost at least EUR 50 today.

Early Major Matt Mason figures had blue straps with red dots on the arm on a white spacesuit. Later versions had black straps without the red dots. Two different headsizes and taints of skincolor existed that can be traced on both variants.  Although the copyright says 1966, the toys weren't distributed before '67.
In early 1968  Sgt. Storm in his red suit was established, to accompany the major on the moon. On the same the line distants from pure space travel and got a more science fiction oriented touch. Also  Matt's space buddy differs in an early version with blue straps and black dots and a latter one with black straps without dots. Later the radiology Doug Davis in a yellow suit and the colored rocket expert Jeff Long in a blue outfit was added.

The vehicles were an important part of the toyline.  Most common was the Space Crawler that could move with 2x4 rotating legs over rough landscape and had a winch. It also could be mount on top of the space station where it was used as a heavy crane.
The space station was "the doll house" of the astronauts . As a 3-level extendable station, it was one of the most impressive parts of the MMM line. Equipped with a blinking radar and various accessories, the space scienist had a considerable home.
The Space Bubble was a kind of hamster-roll with a chair in the inside. It could be carried by the Space Crawler or Uni-Tred. Pulled by a vehicle, the transparent bubble rolled, while the chair remained in an upright position.

Beside of the vehicles there were a lot of equipment available to explore the moon. With the Reconojet you could gap large distances very quickly. On a string the recon-flyer glided through the children room, while his antenna was spinning wildly.
If you was too far away from the station, the Space Shelter gave you protection. The inflatable tent protected the astronauts from meteorits and storms. Power Suit, Power-Limbs, Gamma-Ray-Gard, Satellite Launch- & Space Probe Pak, our heroes had a wide assortment to master their missions successfully.

The growing MMM-toyline had interterrestial visit from Jupiter. The mysterious alien Callisto was added around 1969. His transparent skull had a highly developed brain and with his Space Sensor, he could fire an energy beam. Actually, it was only a yellow string blown out of an air-pump. But it was cool nevertheless. Callisto was the classic version of Hollywood's "little green man". For us, who crawled on the ground with the toys, he was of course the mean villian and his sensor a deadly ray-gun, no matter what the ad wanted to tell us. Two variations of Callisto excist, one with tall boots and one with shorter boots.
Captain Lazer was a 12" battery-operated figure that was properly developed for another line and stood out of the entire series. It was much larger than the other figures and made out of plastic, not rubber. The batteries powered the "solar chest reactor" and made his eyes glow or lit his various sensor attachments.  We can assume that Mattel included the figure on a short notice and just descriped Capt. Lazer as a " friendly giant from another world". A few years later he was recyled for the Battlestar Galactica line.

Armstrong's first steps on the moon in July 1969 not only marked the end of the moon-race between Americans and Russians, but also was the beginning of the end of the MMM toyline. Despite the giant success, Mattel's executives quickly realized that the public's interest in space dwindled. 1970, practically on the heigh of the the production, MMM was canceled, even before the sells went down.

The toys produced in the last year are therefore the rarest and most expensive parts, because they were only a short time available. As far as I know, nothing of this was released in Germany.
The insect creature Scorpio is the most unusual figure. His violet plasticbody contained a battery whose eyes and mouth "flashed with the light of another intelligence". The pink rubber extremities were decorated with arm- and leg shields. Scorpio carried a bellow-controlled vest protector that send "search globes" via a probe shooter.
The most advanced piece was the XRG-1 Reentry Glider. The glider flew(!), if an astronaut sat in the seat. The weight of the figure balanced the  center of gravity so exactly that the spacecraft glieded through the air, when it was tossed. For obvious reasons the wonderful XRG-1 is rare in a good shape today. Most of the time it's scratched and the canopy is missing. In combination with the Talking Major Matt Mason as a set, it's worth a fortune. Pulled on a string and strapped on flying stilts, the major gave comments like "Mission accomplished, returning to base".
The "strangly shape visitor from Orion, Or" didn't went into production anymore. Or sat in the middle of a 12" rotor that was propelled into space with air pressure. There's no proofed evidence about the existence of Or, although there're pertinacity rumors that prototypes made for the advertisement are in circulation. But these might be fakes, because an Orbitor would fetch a few thousand Dollars in the collectors market.

Despite those few years Major Matt Mason was on the market, it belongs to one of the most popular toys of the 60s... with prices that will rise in the years to come. Who knows, maybe Mattel will remember their classic, when the ISS spacestation is operational, expeditions reports from (past) life on Mars and the world follows manned space travel with renewed excitement. You certainly willl see 40 year old collectors in the toy stores with tears in their eyes, who will remembers their childhood.

I want to see more pictures!
Advance to the MMM-gallery!

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