Toys of Yesterday: Monster in My Pocket

Oct 31 // Scarecroodle
In the beginning, there were 48. The Monster in My Pocket franchise franchise launched around 1991 with its first series of 48 mono-colored soft rubber monster figurines and an accompanying trading card set. The figures were *intended* to also be game pieces (following in the tradition of things like Battle Beasts) and subsequently each figure featured a point value on its back. When two monsters "fought", the one with the higher point value won. Although a stupid gimmick, it helped break the figures up and establish some as being more important than others. The initial release made use of only four colors: yellow, purple, red, and green. Although the figures appeared in multiple colors, the rarer value versions either appeared in fewer colors, or the color swaps were rarer. The very common figures (5-point and 10-point, like Spring-heeled Jack) could frequently be seen in any of the thee colors. The initial package configurations mainly consisted of 4-packs that featured visible 5 & 10-point monsters along with more expensive 12-packs which featured one visible 25-point monster while the rest were random. Thus, somewhat ironically, it was easier to get the 25-point monster you wanted than either a 15 or 25-pointer. The 25-pointers, the big dogs in the yard, were the Great Beast, Behemoth, the Hydra, the Werewolf, the Griffin, and a Tyrannosaurus Rex. I'm still not sure why the Werewolf deserved the honor but, at the time, I didn't question it. Werewolves were cool. I believe I owned two copies of the Werewolf and managed to misplace both. In fact, these are surprisingly easy to lose. I even misplaced two figures while shooting these photos! Speaking of losing figures, what I can find of my original collection doesn't even fill a small container (I probably owned roundabouts of 150 or 200 from the early series). Given that these were my original figures, I've kept them separate from the figurines that I've picked up since then. After all, these figures were a part of my childhood while those other figures were a part of someone else's. The first series featured a different mix of monster types. This included classic movie monsters such the ghost, the mummy, a zombie, Frankenstein's Monster (just called "The Monster" in the guide), a vampire, and a vampiress. As a kid, these were probably the monsters you knew very well. However, it also featured famous mythological monsters like the griffin, Medusa, the hydra, cyclops, and the ogre. These were monsters you had probably heard of or seen on tv, in movies, etc. Going a bit deeper, there were also mythological monsters (and characters) you probably hadn't heard of as a kid, like Coatlique, the Wendigo, the many-headed Jotun troll (who appears in that Epcot viking ride), the Cockatrice, the Catoblepas, and Karnak. More controversially you had things like Kali, an actively worshipped Hindu goddess (who, by her inclusion, is viewed as a monster). She was one of the characters who would be renamed when the series relaunched in the early 2000s. I will say that I liked this figure as a kid. It was a cool design. Also, in case you were wondering if it got more offensive, they did Ganesha in series 2. Naturally two of my favorite things were associated with the lore: the monster checklist (seen right) which came in almost every figure configuration and the cards (seen left). Back when 7-11 was giving away (or selling?) promo packs with a limited number of cards, you better believe I was always trying to get my parents to go to 7-11. The cards were also just sold 11 to a pack. Each one features some neat character artwork on the front (pictured next to some of the figures) and a bio on the back. The style of the cardback varied based on the monsters' point values. Amusingly enough, the coolest design was given to the 20-point monsters instead of the 25-pointers. The cards don't necessarily explain the rationales behind the point values. Personally, the series may have marked the first time that I had even heard of a few of these monsters (possibly including the witch Baba Yaga or the fearsome Manticore). It helped to foster a love of mythology. (Side-note: While Manticores are usually depicted with the head of a man (with multiple rows of teeth), a lion's body, and a scorpion tail, this version opts for a pincher tail. While I don't understand the change, it does look cooler.) Some of my favorite figures from that first series were Cerberus, the Cyclops, the Ogre, Medusa, (I don't know why I have a second Cyclops there but hey, he was really cool), the Jotun Troll, and the Gremlin. Naturally that number also included the Werewolf and Roc, neither of which I have a copy of any more. Series 1 probably represented the line's highest point in some ways. There were a lot of promotional items (including variant colors of these monsters for people who might want a pink Wendigo; with the alternate colored versions from promos and other markets it can be hard to know a bootleg) and tie-ins, including a battle card game which I never learned how to play. Matchbox naturally wanted to capitalize on the existing success so they took things in a weird (and very annoying) direction. Series 2 expanded the line with another 24 monsters (basically they were just trying to crank *something* out). Besides the selection being weaker, Matchbox must have thought that they needed to one-up the previous offerings (maybe because they were giving half the selection?). But how would they go about that? First, the line used obnoxious neon colors. Figures were available in neon green, neon pink (because boys, the primary consumer of this product, just love hot pink), neon blue, and neon orange. But wait, there's more! To show that these figures were "cooler" than the previous set, the point values instead ranged from 10 to 30. How could they possibly top that? Meet the "Super Scary" line, a series of 24 multi-colored monsters... who went all the way up to 100 points. Oh, and did I mention that some glow in the dark? Looking back now, the series reeks of desparation. The actual sculpting, in many cases, was nowhere near as nice as either series 1 or 2. The figures were also a bit larger than the originals (because bigger is better?!). Even as a kid, I didn't like these that much. The series consisted almost entirely of things you'd never heard of yet they were stronger the more famous creatures, often outrageously so. The point system effectively backfired. I lost interest in the line and, reportedly, so did America. The line was mostly sold in Europe and Latin America after that. There was a relaunch in the 2000s which updated many of the designs (and replaced some of the politically incorrect names), but it was produced by a different company and basically limited to the UK and other regions outside the U.S.. It apparently didn't last long and, because of the scarce supply, the figures tend to sell for quite a bit more than the original series. Oh, and that tv show? It never made it past the special. Monster in My Pocket was a really neat line and it's a shame that its success (in the U.S.) was so brief. The figurines themselves still hold up remarkably well (the first series or two, anyway) thanks to an attention to detail. They're also reasonably inexpensive if you want to pick some up. If you want to learn more, be sure to check out the wiki.
Monster in My Pocket photo
Is that a monster in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?
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