G.I. Joe, Captain Action and Johnny West were the toys of choice in my childhood, but Major Matt Mason and his moon base were cool playthings that had the advantage of being timely.
The United States was deep into the space race in 1966, when Mattel released the Matt Mason action figure, his cohorts and their gear. The astronaut figures — military types with flat-top haircuts — were obviously inspired by real-life space jockeys.
The Mason characters were different from the hard plastic action figures of G.I. Joe and Captain Action in part because of their size — a little more than half the height of the 12-inch action figures that dominated the boys’ toy market at the time — and because they were rubber figures with accordion-like joints.
I was about six or seven when Major Matt Mason came out and I probably had one fairly early. I base that on the fact that characters introduced later in the toy’s run, according to online sources, are totally unfamiliar to me. While I had Mason and some of his fellow astronaut figures like Sgt. Storm, I have no memory of Captain Lazer, the “giant” figure that was part of the set.
Truth be told, the Major Matt Mason gear that I loved the most was the moon base. Molded white plastic floors and red support beams with blue plastic windows, the moon base could be built and stacked in “creative” ways. I suppose Mason’s moon base was the equivalent of Barbie’s dream house and maybe it shows my frustrated architect instincts, but I liked playing with the moon base best.
I have no memory of what happened to my Major Matt Mason stuff. More than a decade ago, I saw a few of the figures and part of a moon base at a nostalgia shop. The prices were outrageous and, needless to say, I didn’t pay to recreate my memories.
There’s been talk about a big-screen Major Matt Mason movie starring Tom Hanks. If the project happens — and why not, in these days of movies based on Transformers and games like Battleship? — it’ll be interesting to see if the toys make a comeback.