Mail-order mysteries: 10 tremendous trinkets from comics history

Oct. 14, 2011 | 6:33 a.m.
01 sevenfootmonsters Mail order mysteries: 10 tremendous trinkets from comics history

1. 7-Foot Monster-Size Monsters | Comic books offered a variety of giant creeps including ghosts, space creatures and dinosaurs, but they all turned out to be one of two things: balloons or posters. The Monster Size Monsters from Honor House were the latter, printed on two separate sheets of "durable polyethylene," the stuff trash bags are made of. The ad built high hopes with phrases like "...so lifelike you'll probably find yourself talking to him. Won't you be surprised if he answers?" He didn’t, and neither did that Farrah Fawcett poster. (Photo by Kirk Demarais, posters courtesy of Eddie Guevara of houseoftheunusual.com/)

02 hypnocoin Mail order mysteries: 10 tremendous trinkets from comics history

2. The Hypno-Coin and "25 Lessons In Hypnotism" | Any kid educated by late night horror shows can tell you that hypnotism is simply a matter of dangling something shiny and talking like Vincent Price. Forget using hypnosis for a better memory, or breaking bad habits, most of us were just hoping to conjure human puppets. The coin is a plastic disc with a lenticular surface that makes a spiral appear to rotate, while the book is full of handy advice like using hypnosis in lieu of dental anesthesia. (Kirk Demarais)

03 worldsdeadlies fightingsecrets Mail order mysteries: 10 tremendous trinkets from comics history

3. "World's Deadliest Fighting Secrets" by Count Danté | Comics have always been overflowing with fitness programs and self-defense literature, but the legendary Count Danté skipped the exercise routines and just told us how to kill people. He wasn’t afraid of terms like “maiming, mutilating, disfiguring and crippling.” Finally, a mail-order product that’s truly practical. (Kirk Demarais)

04 shockmonster Mail order mysteries: 10 tremendous trinkets from comics history

4. Shock Monster Mask | Comic book ads and monster mags provided young horror fans an invaluable service by offering year-round access to merchandise usually reserved for October. The Shock Monster is a product of Topstone, a costume company that served up their own interpretations of traditional scaries rather than using licensed characters. The designs are film-worthy thanks to the talents of sculptor Keith Ward who also illustrated the "Dick and Jane" series of books. (Photo and mask courtesy of Raymond Castile of thegalleryofmonstertoys.com)

05 100soldiers Mail order mysteries: 10 tremendous trinkets from comics history

5. 100 Piece Toy Soldier Set | We all know what toy army men look like. You see plastic bags full of them in every toy department. And we all know what footlockers are, big chests at the foot of your bed that you sit on while you lace up your boots. That's why kids were shocked to receive a seven-inch-wide cardboard box filled with warriors that are flatter than poker chips. But even though they're wafer-thin, they still possess the intrinsic fun that comes with little plastic army men. (Kirk Demarais)

06 100dolls Mail order mysteries: 10 tremendous trinkets from comics history

6. 100 Little Dolls | Barbie is to G.I. Joe what "100 Little Dolls for $1" is to the "100 Piece Toy Soldier Set." This group of figurines which includes cowgirls, clowns, and even Santa Claus are indeed packed with "Lilliputian cuteness." Their only crime is that they're called dolls, a term that doesn't usually apply to one-inch, pink, hard plastic trinkets. (Kirk Demarais)

07 smokefromfingers Mail order mysteries: 10 tremendous trinkets from comics history

7. Smoke From Fingers | The S.S. Adams Company originated American classics like Sneezing Powder, The Joy Buzzer, The Dribble Glass and The Snake Nut Can which spawned an entire industry of practical jokes and magic tricks. One of the few remaining trade secrets is a concoction called Mystic Smoke, a sticky substance that produces floating smoke-like strands when applied to fingers and pulled repeatedly. Magicians beware— it’s nearly impossible to remove from rabbit fur. (Kirk Demarais)

08 smokiepet Mail order mysteries: 10 tremendous trinkets from comics history

8. Smoking Pet | Not the stuffed animals with lung capacity that you may have expected, the key to Smoking Pets is the fake cigarettes which emit bursts of smoke regardless of what's "smoking" them. This meant that you could give any toy an apparent nicotine habit. On the bright side, they prove that not everyone looks cooler with a cigarette in their mouth -- especially not wiener dogs. (Kirk Demarais)

09 lielovedetector Mail order mysteries: 10 tremendous trinkets from comics history

9. Love Tester and Lie Detector | In 1969 Nintendo offered this love-testing gadget long before Link's love for Zelda was put to the test. Two metal terminals are wired to the main unit. When held by a couple, their love level is determined by a needle that moves across the readout window. When applied to an individual the needle supposedly indicates lies. The fact that deceit and love are measured with the same device stirs up endless philosophical quandaries. (Kirk Demarais)

10 xrayspex Mail order mysteries: 10 tremendous trinkets from comics history

10. X-Ray Spex | Developed by Harold Von Braunhut (the man who also brought us Sea-Monkeys), the X-Ray Spex are the quintessential mail-order novelty. It's easy to understand why; they seemed to offer us a chance to pack more nudity and skeletons into our days. Best of all, they really work! This is a rare case where the actual product performs even beyond the bold claims in the ad. The crystal clear view they provide rivals high end hospital X-ray machines, and the clothing setting can make any city street look like a nudist colony. Don't hesitate, order a pair today! (Kirk Demarais)

GUEST ESSAY

In “Mail-Order Mysteries: Real Stuff From Old Comic Book Ads!” from Insight Editions, which recently hit bookstores, author Kirk Demarais turns back the pages on vintage comic ads, revealing what actually arrived four to six weeks after kids sent in their hard-earned pocket money. Demarais gives us a glimpse of some of his favorite mail-order “treasures” in today’s guest post and gallery. (Click “Captions On” to see the details for each photo.)

1. 7-Foot Monster-Size Monsters: Comic books offered a variety of giant creeps, including ghosts, space creatures and dinosaurs, but they all turned out to be one of two things: balloons or posters. The Monster Size Monsters from Honor House were the latter, printed on two separate sheets of “durable polyethylene,” the stuff trash bags are made of. The ad built high hopes with phrases like “… so lifelike you’ll probably find yourself talking to him. Won’t you be surprised if he answers?” He didn’t, and neither did that Farrah Fawcett poster.

mysteries Mail order mysteries: 10 tremendous trinkets from comics history2. The Hypno-Coin and “25 Lessons in Hypnotism”: Any kid educated by late-night horror shows can tell you that hypnotism is simply a matter of dangling something shiny and talking like Vincent Price. Forget using hypnosis for a better memory or breaking bad habits, most of us were just hoping to conjure human puppets. The coin is a plastic disc with a lenticular surface that makes a spiral appear to rotate, while the book is full of handy advice like using hypnosis in lieu of dental anesthesia.

3. “World’s Deadliest Fighting Secrets” by Count Danté: Comics have always been overflowing with fitness programs and self-defense literature, but the legendary Count Danté skipped the exercise routines and just told us how to kill people. He wasn’t afraid of terms like “maiming, mutilating, disfiguring and crippling.” Finally, a mail-order product that’s truly practical.

4. Shock Monster Mask: Comic-book ads and monster mags provided young horror fans an invaluable service by offering year-round access to merchandise usually reserved for October. The Shock Monster is a product of Topstone, a costume company that served up its own interpretations of traditional scaries rather than using licensed characters. The designs are film-worthy thanks to the talents of sculptor Keith Ward who also illustrated the “Dick and Jane” series of books.

5. 100 Piece Toy Soldier Set: We all know what toy army men look like. And we all know what footlockers are, big chests at the foot of your bed that you sit on while you lace up your boots. That’s why kids were shocked to receive a seven-inch-wide cardboard box filled with warriors that are flatter than poker chips. But even though they’re wafer-thin, they still possess the intrinsic fun that comes with little plastic army men.

6. 100 Little Dolls: Barbie is to G.I. Joe what “100 Little Dolls for $1” is to the “100 Piece Toy Soldier Set.” This group of figurines which includes cowgirls, clowns and even Santa Claus are indeed packed with “Lilliputian cuteness.” Their only crime is that they’re called dolls, a term that doesn’t usually apply to one-inch, pink, hard plastic trinkets.

7. Smoke From Fingers: The S.S. Adams Company originated American classics like Sneezing Powder, the Joy Buzzer, the Dribble Glass and the Snake Nut Can, which spawned an entire industry of practical jokes and magic tricks. One of the few remaining trade secrets is a concoction called Mystic Smoke, a sticky substance that produces floating smoke-like strands when applied to fingers and pulled repeatedly. Magicians beware — it’s nearly impossible to remove from rabbit fur.

8. Smoking Pet: Not the stuffed animals with lung capacity that you may have expected, the key to Smoking Pets is the fake cigarettes that emit bursts of smoke regardless of what’s “smoking” them. This meant that you could give any toy an apparent nicotine habit. On the bright side, they prove that not everyone looks cooler with a cigarette in their mouth— especially not dachshunds.

9. Love Tester and Lie Detector: In 1969 Nintendo offered this love-testing gadget long before Link’s love for Zelda was put to the test. Two metal terminals are wired to the main unit. When held by a couple, the device determines their love level with a needle that moves across the readout window. When applied to an individual the needle supposedly indicates lies. The fact that deceit and love are measured with the same device stirs up endless philosophical quandaries.

10. X-Ray Spex: Developed by Harold Von Braunhut (the man who also brought us Sea-Monkeys), the X-Ray Spex are the quintessential mail-order novelty. It’s easy to understand why, they seemed to offer us a chance to pack more nudity and skeletons into our days. Best of all, they really work! This is a rare case where the actual product performs even beyond the bold claims in the ad. The crystal clear view they provide rivals high-end hospital X-ray machines, and the clothing setting can make any city street look like a nudist colony. Don’t hesitate, order a pair today!

– Kirk Demarais

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Comments


2 Responses to Mail-order mysteries: 10 tremendous trinkets from comics history

  1. kidkosmic says:

    I have this book and it's a joy to look at (with great photography) and read (informative and satirical). If you're a fan of comic books, this is a must. I grew up pouring over these ads, but my parents never allowed me to order the "rip off" products. Now I understand why. The book, unlike the "Monster Ghost" comprised of a balloon, fishing line and a trash bag, does not disappoint.

  2. Almark says:

    I personally knew this guy, he's a riot, always the life of the party, it doesn't surprise me he's still at it with his 'huge' collection I use to see sitting in his room, it was always a marvel to just look at that collection.

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