Marx introduced Rock’em Sock’em Robots in 1966. The game was invented by Marvin Glass and Burt Meyer, who took their inspiration from a trip to a Chicago amusement arcade where a boxing-themed game piqued their interest. The toy continued to sell well into the 1970s.
Standing inside the roped-off Rock’em Sock’em arena were two blocky robots – the ‘beautiful’ Blue Bomber from Umgluck and the “rollicking” Red Rocker from Soltarus II – both itching for a good brawl.
The robots’ human masters took the control levers that jutted out from the ring, got a firm grip, and sent their plastic bots into battle.
The levers slid around to move Blue and Red around a small area, and separate buttons controlled each of the robots’ jabbing fists. One solid thwack against the robots’ tender chins (their lone weak spot), and the losing robot’s head would fly up on its spindly neck with a clicking whir.
Those were the basics of robot-to-robot combat, but every kid had his own strategy to outbox his fellow robot masters.
Some were wild men, striking quickly and blindly in the hopes of landing a lucky shot; others were dancers, sticking and moving with fancy robot footwork; still others were shovers, thinking that the harder they jostled the control lever, the harder Blue or Red would punch – and when players’ thumbs got too tired to deliver the punches, players would often resort to simply slamming the controls with the palm of their hand.
Whatever the strategy, there were always plenty of locked fists and futile body blows before the climactic headshot.
Rock’em Sock’em Robots have disappeared and come back several times, even showing up in a “Buzz Lightyear vs. Emperor Zurg” form after the success of Toy Story 2 (1999).
Mattel’s relaunched version in 2000 was considerably smaller than the original.