Greetings, scumbags! The spring thaw is just around the corner, and that means more trash has been washing up on the muddy shores of the Strange Kids Castle. Some of the rank and wrong artifacts turning up in the mossy slime is beyond description… nameless horrors rejected from any sane toy box nigh unto thirty years ago. It is one such husk of plastic insanity that we bring to you this night. So grab a candle, pull up that loose burial shroud, and snuggle in. We have quite the… something in store for you.
As you’ve no doubt gathered from previous installments, and your own ragged memories, the horrid playthings of the murky ‘80s would often assault us from the most unassuming locales… striking at us from pharmacies, gas stations, candy counters and grocery stores. And such is certainly the case for this unspeakable freak of nature. It spawned in the cesspool breeding ground of the grocery store toy aisle, wriggling and writhing in plain sight mere feet away from the Boku juice boxes and Fruit Roll-Ups. It should have been considered a public health hazard. But it wasn’t. The ‘80s were a different time. Remember Robocop? Remember Jason Takes Manhattan? We kept our toxic waste right out in the open, and we were better for it.
Stumbling onto this “thing” in about 1989, I was taken aback. It was a knockoff of… everything. Everything I’d ever loved, in one bootlegged package. It had the skull structure of a Garbage Pail Kid (Scalped Ralph came to mind), the look of a Madball, the bloated, crawling worms that were on everything good and beautiful in the world (the terrifying-yet-compelling video box for Lucio Fulci’s Zombie screeched back into my tiny brain)… and it SPIT. Water, sure, but coming out of this thing’s putrid mouth, even refreshing ol’ h2o became an impure vehicle of horror.
The waves of excitement and glee that pounded into my chest were palpable. It was a rotting, festering ball of glory, and I had to own it… but alas, I would not. It was one of those unpredictable occasions where my mom was simply not interested in allowing me the keys to unlimited power, and the monstrosity was left on it’s peg. As the decades crawled on, my memories of the thing have corroded. What it was called, I dare not say. I remember it had a bitchin’, drippy logo, but that’s about it. It was one of countless cut-and-paste, ripoff abominations that seethed in the sewers of the toy kingdom at the time, rendered nameless by the unforgiving ages… but time has at least provided a bit of context. As it turns out, it’s pedigree was incestuous indeed; a copy of a copy, the ultimate knockoff.
Right around the time the Madballs phenomena took hold in the gutters of suburban America, another line rose from the trash to take a bite of the rotten apple: Weird Ball, a pretender to the monster-head throne that never quite had the, uh, balls to go the distance, but was still head-and-shoulders above the rest of the ripoff brigade, so to speak. With terrific art direction, sculpting and paint application, and a a very self-aware sense of humor about their place in the food chain, Weird Ball was awesome in it’s own right, and produced one of my all-time favorite monster ball characters – Worm Skull.
A truly righteous, putrid-green football with the grinning face of a dead corpse, it (along with it’s purple, pig-nosed brother Wart Hog) served as the clear “inspiration” behind the spit-ball leering at me from the grocery store toy aisle that sunny day in 1989.
So, what does it all mean? Who knows. I eventually got my hands on a Worm Skull, and cherish it to this day. But not that spit-ball… not that nameless, fetid, inbred abomination, begging to be bought, left behind in the trenches. Whatever it was… wherever it went… I like to think that it’s still waiting for me. For all it’s utterly knocked-off details, it had a charmless lure all it’s own, the perfect vulgar hybrid, the perfect snapshot of a time and place long gone. But not forgotten. Not totally. It squirms out there, somewhere in the dark… and I can’t wait for the day it finally settles the score.