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Comic books tell us all about 1983's *hottest* items!
Matt - 10/14/00

One of the many perks of being a webmaster, besides the endless stream of hot naked chicks who knock on your window at night asking for cgi tutorials and massages from the typing fingers that never sleep, is that you become the personal dumping grounds for those who want to clean out their closets. So today, a mysterious box arrives in the mail. Ludicrously oversized, taped poorly, and only marked 'Fresh Legumes'. No return address - and no postage mark! Now, I'm hesitant to believe that the universe has decided to shill it's anomalies towards my mailbox, but this is pretty strange.

I opened it to find some of the weirdest stuff I've ever received through the mail. And I was one of those boys who bought the incubator & chicken eggs set. That's really saying something. I've got no clue who sent this stuff, but he/she definitely knows what it takes to make me high-five myself. Some of the contents will be saved for rainy day posts, but for now, let's talk about one item in particular...a Marvel Fantastic Four comic from '83.

Now, as I've said before, I was a comic book poser. At a point, I was a hardcore collector, but I never really read any of 'em. They just sat here yellowing until finally soda would spill on them and they'd get thrown away. Not a pleasant existence for 'em, but that's the way it was. However, I flipped through the pages of every old comic book I had at least once. There was something I was always interested when it came to these things...the ads.

Comic books of years past definitely contained the greatest advertisements I've ever seen. From suspicious companies with suspicious post office boxes in suspicious cities I've never heard of trying to sell me muscle-making kits and sea monkeys, to crazy ads for Atari games, to those dismal pleas for our help in selling Grits, comic books are a haven for the kid who had money to burn and wanted to do it as quickly and ridiculously as possible.

Now, I don't want to discredit John Byrne's fine work in the actual story here. It's a rare occasion where one comic features the Fantastic Four teaming up with Mole Man to do battle with everything from guys in Mickey Mouse costumes to giant purple hippos. And oh yeah, it also features the special pregnant edition of the Invisible Woman. But I had no choice but to completely neglect reading the story, because for whatever reason, this particular comic packs more of those crazy old ads in than any other I've ever read. So let's take a look at some of the hottest items around, circa 1984.

Masters of the Universe Talon Fighter and Attak Trak model kits! I never realized He-Man branched off into the world of models, but considering how I've got toothpaste toppers and coin banks with Skeletor's likeness on it, I'm not too surprised.

These were part of that long line of snap-together kits, otherwise known as model kits for retards. You'd make these things and convince yourself that you've made some high-standing accomplishment in the world of art, but when all was said and done, all you were doing was sticking legs and wings into little holes. As much as you'd love to believe that this was hard work, it wasn't. I can use the regular He-Man figures themselves as an analogy - know how you could never resist the temptation to pull Stinkor's arms out of his sockets and switch 'em with Trap-Jaw's? That takes about as much talent as these did.

Of course, most people who'd come over to peruse your model-creation skills were amateurs at best, so you could always lie. They'll just think you're really good at hiding the glue marks. On the plus side, these model kits at least looked good. Your He-Man toys wouldn't fit in them, and chances were you'd break half the pieces while putting it together, but you've got to look at the bright side, as pointed out by the ad: 'Talon Fighter has tail-feather pistol grip that makes wings flap when you squeeze the trigger!' I know there's something wrong with that sentence, but as Teela always said...dramatics over grammatics.

I'm all for advertising rush jobs, but not at the expense of words hideously misspelled. Little Jimmy is marveling over the new Revell Magic Glo Racers, another model kit (guess they were hot in '84) ...but with a twist. Those of you courageous enough to brave the cold darkness while building your models will be in for a special treat - some of the parts glow in the dark! That's another toy fad that's always been lost on me. Few people are going to want to play with their toys directly aside a lamp, and even fewer are going to want to run to the light switch every three minutes to catch a four-second glimpse of Duke Nukem's ultra glowing powers. The only things that should glow in the dark are cars and special edition Halloween nail polish. Other than that, the whole glowing thing gets a little excessive.

Anyway, misspelled words. It's something I'm no stranger to. As several people pointed out, unless I was referring to a guy who shoved other guys for a living, a few days ago I misspelled 'chauvinist' to the point where it was almost criminal. But that doesn't mean it doesn't annoy me to see others doing it. If someone tells me 'I like you're site', I switch off the comp in disgust. So it's no shocker that this ad pissed me off: 'I saw serpents, vampires, and scorpions. Even a panther. They were all glowing an eery green in the dark.'

'Eery'? EERY?! AGH!

Eerie, it's EERIE. JESUS. It's no wonder I've never heard of these model kits until now. If they can't spell the most used word in the English language, how are they going to compete with those spelling bee champs over at Aurora? They can't! The ad states that we won't believe what little Billy Miller saw in the dark. I don't know what he saw, but I'm sure it was something scary.

The worst part about this is, I just looked 'eerie' up, and allegedly, 'eery' is an acceptable variation. But I'm still going to say they got it wrong. You have no choice but to agree.

Ah, here's something cool. The Zorcom Spaceship. You know how you used to make forts out of the couch cushions and bedsheets? This thing had the same premise, only it spared you the end result of looking like an asshole. This was some giant piece of fiberboard with a shuttle design all over it, essentially allowing you the chance to be an astronaut right in the middle of your own bedroom. Now, I'm a little cautious after seeing that the thing only costs 13 bucks. Reminds me of that 'working' submarine we reviewed awhile back. The one that was marketed with three kids lounging in what appears to be a billion dollar toy sold for the low low cost of 8.97, but in actuality, is a few pieces of cardboard that couldn't support it's own weight much less yours? This Zorcom thing might have that kind of potential. The ad does make some poignant yet altogether unnecessary remarks about the product, ranging from but certainly not limited to the following:

* The Zorcom Spaceship is completely nontoxic. So you don't have to worry about your little ones getting sick if they manage to ingest a toy that's over five feet long.

* Exciting Place! Illustrated with an astonishing array of colorful space graphics, ranging from vibrant reds & yellows to passive blues & greens. You know, I really liked the idea of having a play area made of heavy-duty fiberboard, but it's those passive blues & greens that really sold me on this one.

There's also a shill for Spaceship Adventure audio cassettes for just 5.99. These people really understood the importance of good marketing. Check out the short paragraph meant to sell you on this one. Spelling errors are theirs, not mine: 'Journey with ZORCOM in his - PULSATING SPACESHIP - HEAR the AWSOM voices - LAZERS - battles and beasts come to life in dramatized stereo!' Ain't that somethin'?

I never got something like this as a kid. I always wanted one of those cartoon tents you attach to your bed, but it just never came to fruition. I was fated to lead a life of makeshift table/blanket fortresses whenever I was feeling saucy. The Zorcom Spaceship would've been a great thing for us when we were kids. Think about how many times you and your friends tried to convert a washing machine box into a fort. Never quite worked. That's why Zorcom was so great. After all, like the selling point right in the ad header says... It's The Dynamic New Space Adventures Kids Can Really Get Into!

Bubble Yum was pretty much the first gum company to really take their advertising seriously. They knew the power of the written and spoken word - flavor just doesn't speak for itself. That's why in virtually every comic book from this time period, you can find a full-page Bubble Yum ad complete with word games, cooky kids, and news on all the hot new flavors! This time, they're shilling pink lemonade. I loved this flavor. It was one of the only gum brands out there that had a gimmick. Pink Lemonade gum didn't quite taste exactly like pink lemonade - but you'll definitely let that slide after seeing it's amazing dual-color abilities! It was like eating two pieces of gum at once! My God! How could wild cherry and grape even hope to compete?

Now, here's two crazy Bubble Yum factoids you might not have heard:

Bubble Yum Crazy Fact 1: Some time ago, just when Bubble Yum was enjoying success way beyond what it had ever dreamed of achieving in that surprisingly competitive chewing gum market, something terrible happened. Their sales dropped. Big time. No, it wasn't because people were tired of chewing after learning that the jaw is the *only* part of the body that doesn't require exercise. (it's true!) No, it's not because there was a simultaneous global realization that it tasted shitty. It's because a horrible rumor started on the east coast and spread like wildfire that Bubble Yum's soft interior was a result of it's secret special ingredient: spider eggs. The company actually had to spend money on counter-advertising and handle the rumors with public statements due to it's increased size, but it definitely hurt the company for a few years. Now of course, since we're way more concerned with making sure we're not drinking a Mexican's urine while trying to get our loads on, you can pretty much prove that Bubble Yum's got spider eggs and not too many people would care.

Bubble Yum Crazy Fact 2: Somewhere along the way, someone was hit by that infamous genius lightning bolt and hatched the brilliant plan to market baby dolls with inflatable balloons in their mouths and call 'em Bubble Yum Baby dolls. In the end, they did look pretty silly...the 'gum' looking more like a whippit bag, and the jeans were rolled up without the slightest regard for what's in style. On the pros list, at least it wasn't one of those ridiculous dolls that pissed. If any of the female readers out there can explain to me if there's some internal maternal desires you have that make you want to play with those pissing dolls, please let me know. Personally, I just think they're the toy companies way of getting you to pay for your 'fuck yous'.

We started with He-Man, we're ending with He-Man. That's my way to cover for this entirely themeless article. Well, we've seen his models, and now we're seeing him branch out into another genre entirely - video games. Now, the way you'll feel about this game really depends on what type of person you are. If you're the kind of guy who likes completist collections, likes seeing the stuff he's interested in represented in every possible facet of life, you'd probably enjoy this game. On the other hand, if you're the kind of guy who makes verbal agreements with other guys to get kicked in the stomach whenever a new shitty video game comes probably won't be a fan.

The Power of He-Man was released for the Intellivision and Atari 2600 systems, and features everything from He-Man riding around in his Wind Raider to an all-out war with Skeletor at Castle Greyskull.

As you can see, the graphics are superb even by today's standards. I want to meet the mastermind who came up with that template for Atari games which dictates that the top third of the screen has to be covered in a rectangle rainbow with virtually no purpose whatsoever. There's at least 50 games with this phenomenon present. Even by old standards, this just wasn't a good game. The Intellivision version was a little better than the all-around Atari abomination, but you're better off avoiding this one entirely if you ever decide to get retro.

PS, for some reason the ad shows Tri-Klops and Beast Man in battle, but I don't even want to open Pandora's Box on that one. We'll be here all night if I start debating how those two could've had a falling out in between getting interrupted by Skeletor's summoning ray while standing on piles of rocks for no apparent reason. Ergh.

So that's what was popular in 1983. Well, aside from drugs and sex, but those were already pretty popular and there wasn't much of a reason to advertise 'em. I guess kids are a lot more hip and cool today...with all their silly concerts and their little websites and, but back then? Definitely the era of geeky toys and video games. And what I wouldn't give to relive that era knowing what I know now - if I never opened any of my toys, I would never have to work again. ;)

- Matt
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PS - have you checked out X-E's new and improved forum? Organized. Faster loading. Pokemon evolving. It's an amazing thing, really. Go Check It Out!

Special Bonus:

Do I really even need to give this a commentary? What could I possibly add to this one to make it any funnier than it already is? If you can precede 'Pope John Paul' with 'From the people who brought you Mephisto and Speedball...', you know you've found something special. It's The Pope! Marvel's latest and greatest superhero! Watch as he teams up with Morbius and Doctor Strange to bring peace and sanctuary to the upper east side! That ring's not just for kissin' the Pope leave his SUPER RELIGIOUS FISTPRINT on all who oppose the HOLY WAY OF JUSTICE! Coming soon - the Pope, Cloak, and Dagger action figure 3-pack! With special, limited edition holographic Pope trading card! Soon to be a major motion picture starring Wesley Snipes as the holy but misguided hero to be, and Frank Langella as Marvel's newest hero supreme...The Pope!!!

Accompanying the Pope comic book at newsstands everywhere - Chuck Norris and the gun-toting ninjas! These comics go together like cheese and wine! Get 'em before they're gone!!!