In the mid-1980s, American Greetings Corp.’s AmToy division released Madballs, a series of soft rubber balls with ugly faces.
AmToy’s venture into gross-out humour featured eight collectible designs. Each Madball was roughly the size of a baseball and came with a provocative name and character backstory.
The first series included Aargh, Bash Brain, Dust Brain, Horn Head, Oculus Orbus, Screamin’ Meemie, Skull Face, and Slobulus. While each design was unique, common elements drew inspiration from the grotesque — including exposed brains, rotting teeth, and abnormally large or small facial features.
After Madballs entered fad territory, AmToy released a second series and expanded the line into a video game, cartoons, and comic books.