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The Incredible Hulk Rage Cage
When I was a kid, I would often inherit toys from older family members. This was a nice perk of being one of the youngest. But by the time the toys got to me, they had been very well-used. So the quality of the toys I would receive were rough at best and usually just consisted of pieces of toys and play sets.
This was a mixed bag at play time. While I could enjoy the new additions to my toy chest and do some Frankenstein style mix-and match, I was always a little sad that I didn’t get to enjoy the original toy in all its functioning glory.
In the 1980s, I received a mysterious rubbery foot-tall Hulk figure that had belonged to a cousin that had gone off to college. I was not sure where he had come from at first, the only clue I had was a strange nub on his lower back where something was supposed to be connected.
I would learn from a friend, that this was where you were supposed to hook up a pump to inflate the Hulk and make him break out of a cage that was lost at some time in the past. The toy was called The Incredible Hulk Rage Cage.
Watch him grow! His cloths rip! Now his rage cage bursts! What will the monsters do next?
Originally released in 1978 by Funstuf, the Rage Cage featured the Hulk, a plastic cage that could not contain his massive rage, a splitting shirt, and a pump that you would attach to the figure to make him Hulk-Out.
For me, all of it was missing, I imagine the shirt being the very first thing to go. Looking back at the Hulk toys from this era, I think the toy companies all agreed, the most important thing about a Hulk toy was its ability to show a shirt being split and torn by growing muscles.
Did they interview kids, or did they just watch the Incredible Hulk TV Show and see the tearing cloths and know that was the essence of Hulk play? Another inflating Hulk toy from this era was the Incredible Hulk Instant Muscles. With that one, you needed to provide your own shirt.
How did the Incredible Hulk Rage Cage work?
The Rage Cage is a simple toy. You attach the inflating hose to the Hulk and place him in a loosely put together cage. Then you start pumping and as the Hulk grows, he convulses slightly, which makes him look angry.
As he continues to grow, and it’s not much growing, his Velcro shirt tears, and he bumps up against the cage, and it falls apart.
Eventually, they would add a set of “handcuffs” to bind the Hulks’s wrist together. This would make a more dramatic “Hulk Smash” moment when his arms finally broke free, with great cage breaking potential.
During all of this, to make this part of the play experience fun, you should probably growl and make Hulk noises with each pump.
Later versions of the Hulk doll would include electronic glowing eyes that would turn from green to red as you inflated him. Sadly, I have never seen a working example of this version.
This description doesn’t really do it justice, so here is a commercial that is pretty great, especially the audio.
Funstuf Toys was a Florida-based company that started in the early Seventies. They made a great gross-out toy called “The Brain,” that got them a lot of press at the time. The brand became much more well-known when they started getting licensing deals with companies like Marvel Comics.
That’s when they start producing, among other things, Spider-Man web shooters and Aniform Hulk toys.
It looks like Funstuf toys survived at least until the 1990s, but I can’t find much from them after that. A company called, F.S currently owns the trademark to, “The Brain” toy, although the initials are the same, it’s not clear if it’s related to the original company.
The Rage Cage was just one in a line of toys made by Funstuf. They also had inflatable Dracula, Frankenstein, The Thing, and Popeye in their Aniform Toy line.
How did the other Aniforms “animate?” Dracula frees himself from his coffin, Frankstein breaks free from his straps, The Thing breaks out of a pair of manacles, and Popeye gets loose from an anchor chain.
Over the years Aniforms they have become very collectible, with examples still in their boxes going for hundreds of dollars.
How much did the Rage Cage Cost?
In 1978, you could pick up this toy for about $15. Which would be the equivalent of around $64 today. So this was not a cheap toy. They would go on clearance pretty quickly, and I have seen it going for as low as $5.99 a couple of years afters its release.
ToyBiz Rage Cage
In the Nineties, Toy Biz began selling a modernized electronic rage cage. These had been the more affordable alternative to the Funstuf version, but over the years they have developed a fan base of their own.
I have seen them in action and they pretty great, but their electronic nature doesn’t appeal to me. I prefer the more visceral, hands-on Funstuf version.
I wish I still had my flaccid old beat-up Rage Cage Hulk. Sadly, his rage was not enough to protect him from the jaws of our dog.
Rage Cage Hulk was a great simple idea, that on the surface seems sort of one-note, but jokes aside about the shirt-ripping, it captured the essence of what made the Hulk cool to a little kid.
I also think it’s great that they kept trying to evolve the toy. Adding glowing eyes and a set of cuff seems minor, but I am sure they improved the experience dramatically.
I would love to see those glowing eyes change color in a dark room.
So if you are lucky enough to have an Aniform toy, especially the Hulk, I hope you treasure it, and are keeping it away from the uncaring jaws of your dog.