Whenever I wish I was ten years younger, I try to remind myself of all the great toys I would’ve missed out on. Sure, it’s irritating to have hit that age when people start suggesting invasive exams of my most unmentionable areas, but at least I got to play with Mad Scientist toys as a kid.
Look, it works for me.
Unleashed by Mattel in 1986, Mad Scientist was a strange line of playthings that would best be described as the demonic love children of action figures and chemistry sets.
The commercial embedded above promotes the collection’s peak offering: The Monster Lab, which let you bring monsters to life, and then kill them in vats of acid. (Metaphorically, but also pretty literally.)
This and the other larger Mad Scientist kits had the air of arts & crafts projects, but whereas crayons and construction paper only let us satisfy our collective desire to create, Mad Scientist also let us satisfy our desire to destroy.
Between Madballs and Boglins and everything in-between, this was the golden era for “gross” toys, and Mad Scientist fit right in. Since most of the sets included parts that were never intended to last thirty years, you rarely hear about them in today’s collectors’ circles. Make no mistake: They were pretty popular!
Even more charming to me were Mad Scientist’s smaller kits, which were presented similarly to action figures, in everything from packaging to price. While lacking the “science experiment from hell” aspect of the larger sets, these had a sort of quiet charm. As much charm as an alien pig who blew fake snot from his snout could have, really.
The smaller kits had wildly different gimmicks, but they all boiled down to messing with some kind of toy slime. Sammy Sneeze — the weirdo shown here — was only worth five minutes of fun, but man, they were a great five minutes.
The set includes Sammy Sneeze, a rubber monster who looks like an uglier E.T. mixed with one of the bad guys from Q*Bert. More important is the tub of “Alien Blood,” which was Mattel’s fancy nickname for glow-in-the-dark slime with the consistency of stale egg whites.
Since the Alien Blood dried out years ago, I had to make do with Nickelodeon Slime. It doesn’t glow, but otherwise, same difference.
Goal: Fill Sammy Sneeze with ooze, tuck his rubber feet into a cap, and squeeze away. It only now occurs to me that I’m writing a whole article about a 3” pig that shoots snot. Well, great.
Revolting? Maybe, but it’s also a lot of fun. And the same could be said for every Mad Scientist kit.
You might look at this and just see some gross novelty item, but to kids of the mid ‘80s, they meant so much more. Playing with toys was usually just playing with toys, but when you messed with a Mad Scientist kit, you felt like you were… I dunno… doing something. Does that make sense?
Instead of “regular” tutorials, most Mad Scientist kits instructed us by way of awesome little comic strips. Not only were these essential for guidance on pairing alien-shaped condoms with vats of slime, but the comics also had a neat way of giving personality to all of the screwy monsters that the kits came with.
Seriously, read that comic, and tell me you didn’t leave it with an increased fondness for Sammy Sneeze.
When I think “childhood,” my brain turns into this crazy multicolored strobe light — like some bullshit you’d buy from Spencer’s — with each of the thousand beams representing some part of my past. They all vie for dominance, and some of them nearly achieve it. I won’t say that my memories of Mad Scientist toys shine brightest, but one of those beams — thin and faint as it may be — absolutely represents these dumb toys.
You just don’t forget making piggy gargoyles spew mucus!