In this edition of Vintage Vending, we’re gonna take a look at Squash Faces. I realize that none of you have heard of them before, nor have you even seen the words “squash” and “faces” paired together. I live to change lives, in the smallest and stupidest ways possible.
I don’t know when they’re from, but 1986 is a good guess.
That was the age of Madballs, and more quietly the age of everyone trying to rip Madballs off. The rubber monster balls were imitated by lots of companies — including ones who had to size their shit to fit inside vending machine capsules. Remember Wacky Goulies?
Strange, then, that where evoking Madballs would seem to be the entire point of ripping them off, the “Squash Faces” set tried so hard to mask its ties. In fact, some may doubt that these were even intended to ape Madballs. Trust me, they were.
Still — and likely by accident — Squash Faces veered so far away from the accepted Madballs ideals that they felt very much like their own brand. Their own weird brand, where nothing made sense, and where devil women broke bread with green puppies.
The teaser card refers to the toys as “gooey, dripping horror nose masks.” Yet none of these words accurately describe them. They look a bit like crude hand puppets, all while lacking anything that would make them good at serving that purpose.
I did notice that there are tiny holes in each’s eyes and mouth, perhaps indicating that these were meant to be paired with toy slime. With a little pressure, you could certainly make Kenner Ecto-Plazm ooze out of the monsters’ orifices… which may be what they meant with the “gooey, dripping” stuff. It’s a stretch, yes, but every attempt to understand Squash Faces ends in a stretch.
(PS: Despite the “nose masks” descriptor, I don’t see how these could’ve been worn by kids. I mean, not without tape and glue and pain and patience.)
What really confuses me — and delights me — is the disparity in style between these characters. Only a few look comfortable under horror’s umbrella. Others, like the green dog and black walrus, have no idea what they’re doing here, and in the latter’s case, isn’t even sure he’s a walrus.
Somehow, the inclusion of “cherubic” characters makes the mean ones seem even meaner. My favorite is the red-skinned devil child, but I’m also fond of wicked old man, both for being the most detailed, and for having a nose that — again, on a stretch — resembles a land crab traversing the wind-shaped sands of Vero Beach.
Really dig the blue monster at top, too. Mostly because I know I can draw him.
With Squash Faces, the more you dig, the more you’re mired in mystery.
While removing the toys from the teaser card, I noticed crude cartoony pictures underneath them. Incredibly, the pictures actually matched up with the Squash Faces. Thing is, there are minute changes in detail mixed with huge color shifts, as if the drawings indicated their true identities. Or maybe their former selves? Notice how the red devil girl is pictured with chalklike skin. And how the blue monster was formerly a bee. What is going on?
And then, when you look even closer, you’ll see that each Squash Face doodle was placed squarely above another picture, this time of a more sinister “real life” ghoul:
They’re Squash Face toys on top of Squash Face doodles on top of Decidedly Not Squash Face monster photos. If you think about it, it makes sense. Many horror movies ply their trade not through clarity, but through murk. What’s impossible to comprehend is almost always scarier.
What a neat set! “Spooky” vending machine prizes were great gateway drugs for kids who wanted eerie exhilaration, but weren’t quite ready for two hours of Freddy Krueger. These fit the bill.
I just adore the idea of a seven-year-old testing the waters of gloom through a two-inch plastic pig head.