Vor-Tech: The First M.A.S.K. Knockoff Franchise

On MASKast 63, Wyatt and I briefly discussed Kenner's short-lived 1996 animated series Vor-Tech. Produced by Universal Cartoon Studios and distributed by Claster Television in first-run syndication, Vor-Tech: Undercover Conversion Squad followed a group of secret agents which used special masks and transforming vehicles. 

Vor-Tech's first and only season ran during the 2-hour "Power Block" program which also included Beast Wars: TransformersG.I. Joe Extreme, and Reboot. The team was led by Hudson Roarke in "a mission to stop Lord Matrix (Hudson’s older brother) and his evil Bio Mechs from infecting the world with a techno-infectious plague. In their battle with the Bio Mechs, Vor-Tech agents use special computer systems with Vor-technology that enhanced them and their vehicles with special powers."

Footage of the Vor-Tech series is scarce with just the intro (above) and a mind control scene available on YouTube. The series has also yet to be released on DVD. But beyond TV, Kenner also produced a toyline for Vor-Tech which was about the same scale as M.A.S.K.'s figures and vehicles.

According to AlbertPenello.com's page, Kenner planned to produce two series of Vor-Tech toys which included seven vehicle/figure sets in the first wave and five sets in the second wave (displayed in a Kenner catalog but never released.) Each vehicle converted and each figure came with a mask. Many similarities to M.A.S.K. vehicle designs were present in the first wave with a slight disconnect in that Vor-Tech figures did not have knee joints.

Using the image above (which is the back of the Sonic Stinger box,) we can see the similarities with mainly the second series of M.A.S.K. toys. Beginning with Sonic Stinger, the conversion has elements of Bruno Shepard's Stinger with the how the hood extends and also a hint of Vanessa Warfield's Manta with the wing extension from the under carriage, roating front wheels, and trunk boosters. The Battle Tracker ATV has the conversion action of Ali Bombay's Bullet. The Desert Striker Dune Buggy is an obvious knockoff of Firefly with more simplified action to reveal the front gun. The Blazin' Fury 4 x 4 truck is another familiar conversion to that of the Wildcat tow truck from the M.A.S.K. racing series. The Rattler Off-Roader is very similar to the Gator Jeep and its hidden boat. Thunderwing has a slight similarity to Meteor, but the Road Heat cycle is probably the most original design of the bunch. Several of the masks also have similarities like Hudson Roarke's mask looking much like Gloria Baker's Aura.

I found a Sonic Stinger review on YouTube which gives a closer look at the vehicle/figure and its the transforming action. I also found a few toys on eBay for those interested in collecting Vor-Tech. I'd really like to watch a few episodes on the TV series just to see how much M.A.S.K. influence was adapted by producers and writers.

If you have any other insight into the Vor-Tech TV series or toys, feel free to leave a comment!


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