It might not come as a huge shock to discover that I am not a huge sports fan. Good Lord, who would have thought it? Please be careful while clutching at your pearls and fainting to the floor, I don’t have proper liability insurance on this place.
But I actually loved sport up until about the age of 11 or 12. Rugby league, baseball, basketball…I spent hours watching and playing them all, at school and with friends. There were always kids who were better than others at sport, but it was quite acceptable to play just for the pleasure of playing.
I feel like around year 6 this changed; as people hit puberty there’s suddenly far greater emphasis on playing to win, rather than enjoyment. Skill and co-ordination are suddenly required to be a serious contender. As a kid who lacked both but had recently discovered Star Wars, I realised that my time as a sports fan was drawing to an end.
But I might have hung in a little longer if I’d known about Madballs.
Y’see, Madballs are the perfect bridge between sports and weirdos. They’re such a simple concept, but genius – monster heads as balls. Put them on the shelf to impress your geek friends if you want, but you could actually toss them around like a real ball too. Perhaps the peak example was Oculus Orbus, a ball that is literally an eye! Whoever designed that deserves to be earning enough royalties to never have to work again.
Madballs had come and gone by the time I was old enough to pay much attention -- far too early to salvage my interests in sports. They didn’t have a supporting cartoon series to keep the line on life support in syndication, and the concept itself screams “fad”. This isn’t a criticism, but more of a reflection of the attention span of kids in the 1980s, an era where new franchises were debuting every other week. You can see how things got lost in the wash. The range was revived in 2007, but I don’t remember it at all (did it even make it to Australia?) and for a time it seemed that the world’s experience of Madballs would be limited to reading about them on nostalgia blogs or paying extortionate eBay prices for them.
But all that’s old is new again. Kidrobot has licensed the Madballs range, releasing a range of foam balls, and a bunch of blind-boxed stuff. More is apparently on the way too. So today, we take a look at Dust Brain!
Mummies have been well-established horror tropes for more than a century now, and any horror-related toyline that doesn’t include at least one is simply getting it wrong. With my love of ancient Egypt, Dust Brain was the natural purchase for me. And boy, did Kidrobot do a nice job on this guy.
One thing I really like about these new versions is that they’re very faithful to the original designs. They’re subtly updated, but no less effective as a result. Often when 80s properties get revived, their character designs become a little more streamlined, toning down some of the weirdness in the process. Madballs is a property that is almost totally oriented around gross little details, so it’s to Kidrobot’s credit that they’ve opted for maximum grossness.
He’s wrapped in horribly yellowed (browned?) bandages and you can see his teal mummified face peeking out from beneath. Orange eyes leer while rotting teeth often to form a horrible imitation of speech. It’s totally disgusting, while still being totally kid-friendly. Great work!
Dust Brain is cast in a soft but solid foam; these are clearly designed more as collector pieces, but you could do damage if you hit someone in the face with one*. Durability and paint will be rapidly tested if you start hurling it around though. Keep this guy on the shelf.
My only real criticism is that the price seems just slightly high. I paid around $15AUD for this guy, and while I don’t think it’s outrageous I would feel much more comfortable if things came in around $12AUD. The sculpt and paintwork is very solid…but I do feel like there’s a slight Kidrobot tax on it too. Nonetheless, if you’re a fan of the old toys you won’t be disappointed. And if you just want something weird on your desk for work, you won’t be disappointed either.
*Don’t hit people in the face with Madballs