M.U.S.C.L.E.Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere, clever acronym (later often imitated in many other toy products) that describes pefectly the essence of this toyline.
Produced by Mattel in the mid-80's these little figures quickly became a HUGE hit on the american market. They originated - again - from a japanese product called Kinnikuman, a popular manga that spawned a wide array of toys and products on several media.
The comic tells the story of alien wrestlers that battles on their planet (and others) to obtain the championship belt. The story has a great potential to showcase hundreds of different characters and it certainly does!
The standard-sized keshi sold in Japan (approximately from 1.5 to 2 inches) were first available in 5 colors: Flesh, Yellow, Orange, Green and Blue and made of standard keshi rubber (very soft and flexible) and divided in 30 parts of 10/20 characters each one, that sums up to a total of 417 unique sculpts. The american release takes 234 sculpts from the first 21 parts and recasts them in a more sturdy flesh colored plastic along with 2 unique sculpt exclusively created for the american market included in the wrestling ring playset, that makes 236 sculpts to collect!
Why some sculpts from the japanese parts (46 to be precise) were left out?
Nobody knows for sure, but some of these outcasts are out there ad they are called Super Rares.
Basically they are japanese sculpts from parts 1-21 that weren't on the M.U.S.C.L.E. poster and apparently not available in the american market. They are made of the same plastic used for the officially released M.U.S.C.L.E.s and share the exact smell and trademarkings. Plus, to add some confusion, some years ago 11 sculpt from 22-28 parts casted in the same plastic of M.U.S.C.L.E.s were discovered on YHJ... Who knows what can be uncovered next?
M.U.S.C.L.E.s were available in these packages: 4-pack, 10-pack and 28-pack. The 4-pack permits to actually see all the random figures in it, the 10-pack was a semi-translucent white plastic can (it looks like a garbage can! How cool is that?) that permits to see next to nothing and the 28-pack has small windows where you could see half of the figures in it.
Mattel released different colors later in the line: Dark Blue, Red, Purple, Magenta, Salmon, Green, Orange, Light Blue and Grape (this one counts only 10 sculpt and was an exclusive for the Board Game). Unfortunately not all the sculpts were released in every color, but thanks to the Soupie's Muscle Color Image Archive and the efforts of the M.U.S.C.L.E. community now we know that a full color set is made of 1528 sculpts. Better start to collect as soon as possible...