First there was Stretch Armstrong, the blonde haired, black Speedo wearing wrestler guy. He was the first to exhibit true stretching powers similar to those classic comic book heroes like Plastic Man and Mr. Fantastic. He showed up in the toy aisles sometime during our nations bicentennial year of 1976 and was an instant hit.
Patent#4,169,336 lists the toy genius, James O. Kuhn (father of the Easy-Bake-Oven) as the inventor of this new and unusual toy introduced by Kenner Toys. (Mr. Kuhn passed away in 2005 and you can click here for a nice write up about the toy maker.)
James (Jeep) O. Kuhn
Every hero needs a villain and Armstrong got one in the form of a green scaly monster with protruding fangs and a brooding brow. Stretch Monster showed up in 1977 and would end up on most kid’s Christmas wish lists.
A crazy thing, is that Stretch Monster was almost a cute Stretch Giraffe instead. The patent shows a design for a stretching giraffe and here’s a photo of the head sculpt prototype from Stretch Armstrong World of the proposed Stretch Giraffe. Luckily the giraffe was scrapped, which is a good thing since Stretch Giraffe Week would probably not be all that great.
Now it’s a mystery on who designed Stretch Monster, but I’m guessing this person might’ve been influenced by another stretching super villain and that’s the Super Skrull. Take away Stretch Monster’s fangs and give him pointy ears and wha-la, you almost have twins.
The party for Stretch Monster only lasted two short years as he was replaced by Stretch X-Ray, the see-through alien invader. Monsters kind of fell out of favor with toy companies as pop culture became space-crazy thanks to movies like Star Wars and Alien.
Of course, us kid’s had stars and lazer beams in our eyes and we quickly forgot about our fun stretch pals and started playing with little 3 3/4" Star Wars figures. Looking back, I’m amazed that Kenner didn’t turn some of the Star Wars cantina creatures into stretch figures. I think that would’ve been an obvious choice for the toy company. Go figure! (No pun intended.)