Cool Vintage Toys: The "Matt Mason" Emissaries Of Diversity

by AnomalousArtist

Here are three companions that may--or may not--have been related to the popular 1960s "Matt Mason" astronaut toy line but definitely added some "color."

In the 1960s speculation about space travel became more popular as we got closer to taking our first human steps on the moon. Until that time the "aliens" were usually slobbering monsters in 50's films that intended, for unknown reasons, to carry off a shrieking, helpless female.

Out of this era was born the wildly popular "Matt Mason" line of toys, 6" rubber "bendie" dolls that were effigies of strong, intelligent astronauts who dwelled on the moon, doing...well, whatever it is we thought there would be to do on the moon at the time. The toys were "action figures," that is, they were dolls but no one wanted to SAY they were dolls, as they were marketed to boys. The idea was to give young boys inspiration to become idealized masculine icons (although MY only idea of a spaceman back then was Larry Hagman in "I Dream Of Jeannie," but never mind).

After the original line of Mattel's "Matt Mason" toys conquered the market the question was what to do next; after all, you could only go so far with Matt in a space suit and his roving crafts.

Into this world were dropped three perplexing and fascinating entities I like to think of as "Matt Mason expatriates," that is, they were supposed to be a part of Mr. Mason's world but never quite fit in, for good and for ill. Let's meet them, shall we?

1) Calisto

This scrawny little green fellow was designed to be a friend to Matt Mason and his pals.  No doubt, as they traversed the planets, "going where no man has gone before" as it were, the Masons were bound to run into SOME type of non-Earth life form.  Indeed, eventually they'd find a representative for EVERY planet (see my other article on "The Outer Space Men" for more info).  But Calisto was the first, and the only "official" member of the Mason clan that counted.

Sporting near-spider-like accordion style arms and a bald, clear-green head, Calisto certainly didn't look benevolent to most little kids who played with him (it?  In truth no sex was ever actually assigned to the creature as far as I know, and maybe that was deliberate as there were apparently no females in Matt Mason's world, but let's not go there).  Often as not Calisto, with his stern, smug grin and pointed eyebrows was designated the "bad guy" in play scenarios.  It's symptomatic of human nature that the Matt Mason gang had no known enemies so kids INVENTED them.

Calisto looked something like the effete Dr. Smith from the then-popular sci fi show "Lost In Space."  You could almost imagine Calisto's snooty, faux-English-accented voice as he informed those stupid, stupid earthlings Matt and pals about some scientific anomaly or other. 

I always felt a little sorry for Calisto; he was skinny and not all that attractive and there was only one of him compared to the army of robust, "All-American Male" clones that made up a typical kids' Matt Mason collection.  Of course, for that reason I also *identified* with this figure the most. I liked his clear green head--he looked like the brother of the evil witch in "Wizard Of Oz," or one of her slaves at any rate.

2) Captain Lazer

There are conflicting reports on the origin of Captain Lazer (sic).  No one seems to know exactly who thought it was a good idea to introduce a 12", hard-plastic intergalactic oddity into the very sane and predictable 6"-regulation-height world of the Masons. There's some speculation he was created for another line of toys entirely then just "tossed in" to the Matt Mason family.

One senses the good Captain would have gotten along far better in the similarly-sized world of G.I. Joe and friends, except one also suspects he might have gotten beat up a lot and made fun of with his tight costume and soft, somewhat seductive smile. 

At any rate, Captain Lazer was supposed to be another multi-universe pal for the Mason gang, despite his presence making them all look like miniature people and despite his being made of different material altogether than his limber companions.  How alone he must have felt!

Mr. Lazer has three unique special powers (or at least he did if you had batteries to put in him)--his eyes, chest plate and permanently attached gun (so much for him being a "friend" I guess) lit up. 

He came attired in a near-obscenely-snug, sparkly blue leotard with silver go-go boots.  He had optional webbed footwear for, one assumes, walking on different terrains although he also had a backpack that was supposed to enable him to fly around.  In fact, he bears more than a little bit of a resemblance to "Buzz Lightyear," although far less arrogant in initial appearance.

Speaking of appearances, I have always been mildly curious as to who designed the Cap'n and how it came about.  For one thing, his look is rather unusual...riveting, dark, close-set eyes and a bowl short, he looks like he might have begun life as a Kling-on toy.  He also looks, to me anyway, a bit like "Commander Comet" from another toy line altogether (see my article on the Outer Space Men).  I've often wondered if there was some good-looking guy around at the time that they used as a model for the face of some of these characters, just because they needed SOME model for a face, but I heard they were designed by people who had nothing to do with each other.

I guess the mystery remains!

3) Scorpio

Here's yet another enigma.  The insect-like Scorpio comes fully equipped with a "ping pongs of death" harness weapon yet the groovy box cover declares this is no fiend; he's expected to be yet another pal of Matt and the gang. 

Personally, I never believed it.  One can see Calisto as a wimpy traitor and Captain Lazer as some sort of himbo who doesn't know his own strength, but Scorpio, with his wide, hollow eyes and mouth (both of which light up in a sparkly gold color) and with a decidedly aggressive stance looks un-knowable and fierce...

...or he would, if he were not a lovely *hot pink* color and attired in a sexy purple singlet with his ripped abs hanging out!  

We're told Scorpio is a "he" on the box cover so we must believe it, and after all it WAS the 60s...and yet...

Like Mr. Lazer  and even Calisto, Scorpio somehow doesn't seem to fit into the Matt Mason world--he's bigger than the Masons but smaller than Lazer...he doesn't fit in ANYwhere, apparently, and maybe that's why he decided he'd better stop and be friendly?


4) So what gives?

In each case the extra-terrestrial "friends" of the Mason's are the opposite of their rugged, conformist pals (I think there were some African American Matt Masons, other than that you can hardly tell one from the other).  It's almost as if someone from  "Planet Fabulous" sent these emissaries to the Mason clan to try to inject a little fantasy and fun in their dreary moon-landscaping lives.  It's possible someone was hoping these delightful fantasy-colored characters might attract some girls to the boys' club of Masons but it doesn't seem an obvious enough effort.

I personally always loved these three odd characters for reasons that would be evident to even the most casual reader of my writing (see:  "Things I Learned From Dressing Up As A Woman For Halloween").  These bright, psychedelic characters showed me that even in the dry world of astronauts there was room for a character like me, one who thinks that a little hot pink and purple color is a wonderful thing to add to any environment and ought to be encouraged along with every OTHER "color" out there. 

Whoever designed, or at least approved of these characters seems to me to have been in favor of diversity and difference, and as the universe continues to open up to us today, that can't possibly be a bad thing, can it?

Space Toys of the 60's: Major Matt Mason, Mighy Zeroid Robots & Colorforms Outer Space Men

Toy collectors will treasure this anthology of space toys and robots designed in the 1960s.

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Action Figures of the 1960s (A Schiffer Book for Collectors)

This fascinating and entertaining book covers the complete range of action figures marketed during the 1960s. Included here are the soldiers and sailors, cowboys and Indians, sp...

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Updated: 07/18/2017, AnomalousArtist
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