I've been a fan of Kirk Demarais' blog, Secret Fun Blog, for years, so when I heard about his newest book, Mail Order Mysteries, I got more excited than a kid waiting by the mailbox for his secret decoder pin. (And as a former professional magician and somewhat reformed prankster, I've been dying to find a copy of his book, Life of the Party, but to no avail.)
Mail Order Mysteries is the kind of book that hits me like a freight train of nostalgia on so many personal levels. It's a a brilliant tome dedicated to those classic mail order comic book ads that tempted us with thrills, chills and solutions to life's ills.
As a kid, it was pretty common practice for me to read through the comic first, then go back and pore over all of those brightly colored pages packed to the gills with tiny ads offering up a multitude of trinkets and novelties. I would carefully look over each ad, mentally picking out the things I was going to buy someday, only to never actually order anything, usually due to my allowance getting sucked up by in-store purchases of trading cards, candy, toys and, of course, more comic books. But that didn't change the fact that I was sorely tempted by life-size submarines or mystical medallions that warded off vampires.
Although I never ordered anything from a comic book ad, there were a couple of moments in my life when I would have a brush with one of these bizarre items, such as the time I visited my first prank store the summer after 5th grade, promptly plunking down my bottle and can return money on a pair of X-Ray Spex, a Whoopie Cushion and a Switchblade Comb (I love the classics), only to almost kill myself on my bike because I tried to where the Spex on the ride home. There was also a time in 3rd grade, when a classmate brought his "foot locker" full of 100 toy soldiers to school, riddled with disappointment over their diminutive size and flat appearance. I, on the other hand, thought they were beyond cool and wasted no time in forking over my Little Debbie Nutty Bar in trade for them.
As you can see from my pics, this book is simply bursting with full color photos of all of the classic mail order pieces of merchandise. The presentation helped scratch two different itches for me; I got to take a walk down memory lane, being thrust back in time with every turned page and every new ad, and I finally got to see the items that I had always wondered about, in all their chintzy glory.
The book covers everything, and is broken up into categories such as superpowers, war, horror, top secret spy stuff and trickery to name just a few.
Of course, no collection of mail order comic book ephemera would be complete without a mention of those classic pets in a pouch, those adorable freeze-dried friends, the Sea Monkeys.
If any of you out there are like me (and I know for a fact, many of you are), I strongly suggest you get this book. It's a finely crafted ode to a bygone day, when mysteries were but a few stamps away and catalog humbuggery was practically an American institution.
So do what you have to to get your hands on it. Even if you have to mail order it.