He looked like just another pretty blonde head on a Mr. Universe body. A Ken doll with better pecs and a sporty bathing suit. But Stretch Armstrong, first released by Kenner Toys in 1976, was much more than muscles; he was malleable. Bend him, pull him, twist him, tie him in a knot, it didn’t even faze him. He laughed at your puny attempts to harm him (note: toy did not actually laugh). Stretch’s limbs could be pulled to four times their natural span and still manage to squeeze back to normal size, without unsightly stretch marks. No, we aren’t pulling your leg.
Every Superman has his kryptonite, however, and Stretch’s was puncture wounds. One hole in his tough rubbery hide and Stretch would leak the jelly-like goo that gave him his Mr. Fantastic capabilities. So play nice, kids. Bend him, pull him, tie him in a knot, but keep him away from sharp objects please.
In 1977, Kenner gave the musclebound hero a green-skinned nemesis, Stretch Monster. The fanged foe was every bit as limber as Stretch and twice as mean. Scaly and yellow-eyed, Stretch Monster was the evil antithesis of all Stretch Armstrong stood for (that being blonde-haired good looks and a great set of abs).
The following year found the Stretch line expanding even further. Geared toward young girls who may have harbored a crush on Stretch but thought the Monster was a bit too icky, Olivia the Stretch Octopus was a pink, heavily made-up octopus whose eight limbs made her the reigning stretchiness champ. Granted, little girls don’t normally gravitate towards octopuses, but Olivia was hard to resist.
That same year, Olivia’s pink cuteness was balanced out by a terror from beneath the water’s surface. Stretch Serpent, “The Loch Ness Creature,” had a long green body, bloodshot yellow eyes, and a fear factor of 12 (which is very high on the fear scale, for those not in the know).
The final entry in the Stretch derby was 1979′s Stretch X-Ray, “The See-Thru Invader.” This evil alien’s clear skin allowed a full view of his dark green guts and oversized mutant brain. If DNA from Pulsar, Plastic Man, and one of the little green men from Topps’ Mars Attacks! trading cards were artificially combined, this would be their horrid offspring.
After years of obscurity, Stretch Armstrong mounted a brief comeback in the early 1990′s. The new version gave the toy a more cartoonish look, with longer (and blonder) hair and a big, white, toothy smile, more along the lines of a WWF wrestler than the original Stretch. The more modest Stretch also covered his manly chest with a black “Stretch Armstrong” muscle t-shirt and exchanged briefs for boxers.
Soon, a whole new Stretch line was on the shelves, complete with villains (Wretch Armstrong and the pump-action Vac-Man) and an animal sidekick (Fetch Armstrong). Stretch himself took on several guises, from Commando to Ninja (Fetch even got his own ninja outfit) to superheroic Dark Avenger to futuristic Cyber Space Stretch. The big guy also appeared in the uniforms of several pro sports teams, and to top off the line, Stretch got to ride around in his very own (we kid you not) Stretch Limo.
The new-fangled Stretch didn’t last as long as his 70′s counterpart, but the legend of Stretch lives on, soon to be resurrected on the big screen in his first feature-length film. Meanwhile, the original line of Stretch toys continue to fetch respectable prices on online auctions, especially if they are still intact (a rarity in the Stretch Armstrong world).
If your childhood toy box contained Stretch and some of his cohorts, we welcome your thoughts on this memorable toy in our comments section.