Horror in the Palm of Your Hand!: The History of Mighty Max
When a toy company has an extremely successful line of girls’ toys, what is the most logical thing to do? Why, trade in the pastel colours and cute animals for blood-red tones and gruesome monsters galore, that’s what! This is exactly the route taken by British company Bluebird Toys when they debuted their boys’ toy line, Mighty Max.
In 1989 Bluebird released Polly Pocket, a range of toys for girls that were basically small dollhouses. Created back in 1983 by Chris Wiggs for his daughter, the original design was based upon a make-up powder compact, into which Wiggs built a small house for the miniature Polly to reside in. Wiggs then took the idea to Bluebird, who licensed the product and went on to have huge success. In fact, the line saved the company. Bluebird’s shares had dropped from 500p each in 1987 to 29p in 1991. Thanks to Polly, Bluebird shares were back up to 57p by 1993.
Bluebird figured they could reproduce the success of Polly with a similar toy line for boys, and so Mighty Max was born. Unlike Polly Pocket, whose self-contained playsets were based on real-world items such as books and clocks or were in the shapes of stars or hearts, Mighty Max’s playsets were much more detailed depictions of all manner of horrid beasties, such as Cyber-Skulls and zombie hands. With its strong horror and science fiction themes and playsets full of blood, skulls and other unimaginable terrors, Mighty Max couldn’t be further from Polly Pocket aesthetically, but the self-contained playset with miniature figures design was once again a winning formula. When Mighty Max was unleashed upon the youth of the United Kingdom in 1992 and was an instant success.
The Mighty One
In the first release of Mighty Max toys, three sizes of playsets were on offer. Horror Heads, which were small playsets that consisted of Max and villain mini-figures with occasionally an accessory of some kind; Doom Zones, which were palm-of-the-hand size playsets that came with a Max and 1–3 villains and often movable parts such as a trap door; and the “large” sets (these…