Thursday, March 29, 2012

Book Look! Mail Order Mysteries by Kirk Demarais

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.

Vintage Star Wars Thursday!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hokey Religions and Ancient Weapons...

... are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.

One of my more epic finds during my weekend at Wonder Con happened during set-up day, before the con even opened.

There I was, setting up the Mixo booth, when I noticed the guy in the booth across the aisle and over one stall was setting up his booth that appeared to be focused entirely on vintage Star Wars toys and other collectibles. I made a note to scope out his wares when I got a chance. On my way back from getting some coffee, I walked past his booth, looked down at the piles of stuff he had strewn about the floor ready to be displayed, scanned the items quickly, and spotted amidst the scads of Episode I crap and Power of the Force castoffs this cold black beauty right here...

Some of my fondest memories from my childhood involve the myriad adventures I would embark upon with this trusty sidearm hanging from my belt. You just never knew when you'd run across a squadron of Stormtroopers while on your way to the drug store to pick up your latest batch of comic books and trading cards.

I got my Han Solo blaster for Christmas back in 1978. By this time, I had just turned 6 and was officially deep in the throes of my Star Wars fandom. And at that age, this weapon seemed to me like the ultimate exact replica of the one wielded by Harrison Ford in the movie.

I had often thought about finding another to add to my collection, but usually only found the hideous orange remake from '95 or one with either an Empire or Jedi sticker on it (which would not do) or it was shockingly too expensive.

So this baby was just right.

I quickly asked the guy how much he wanted, and then gladly forked over the $20.

This piece does have its flaws, such as this odd melted area that looks like someone set it down on a hot grill, perhaps during a break from cold-bloodedly shooting Greedo through a cantina table, to sit down and eat a hotdog at a family cookout. I'm choosing to look at it as evidence of a harrowing near-miss from Stormtrooper blaster fire.

Also, one of the knobs that holds the battery cover in place is missing, but the cover stays on, so I can live with this.

I did drop a couple of C batteries into this bad boy to see if it still fires up, but to no avail. Those wires are 35 years old, so I'm not surprised.

Still, it's an awesome piece of classic sci-fi weaponry and will surely take its rightful place on the Epic Shelf of Nostalgia.

I just may take to keeping this with me at all times, just in case I'm ever invited to dinner by some so-called friend, only to find Darth Vader waiting on the other side of the door, and you can be jolly-well sure I'll get a few solid shots off. Because I, like Han Solo himself, always... shoot... first.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Action Figure Camping Trip! Part II

When we last saw the gang, Indy had just bought a new RV and the whole crew decided to all go on a camping trip together. So Indy, along with his wife, Spider-Woman, and their best friends, Captain America and Princess Leia, and Boba Fett and Scarlett, headed off to grab their gear.

Our story picks up with Indy, Spider-Woman, Cap and Leia pulling up to their camping spot in Indy's new RV...

"Awwww YEAH! We're here!" yelled Cap, hanging out of the RV door.

"Oh, what a gorgeous spot!" added Leia as Indy pulled the RV to a stop.

"Aaaahhhhh... Just smell that fresh air," Indy Said, surveying the camp. The air was fresh, the birds singing, the sun was warm, and somewhere off in the distance a moose, or possibly an elk, bellowed its call.

BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! Cap's sidearm cracked off three rounds.

"What the hell was that?!" Cap yelled, scanning the treeline for Nazis.

"Jeezus, Cap! What is wrong with you?!" Indy yelled. "It was probably just a moose. Or maybe an elk."

"Yeah, Cap," said Spider-Woman, getting up from the ground, where she and everyone else had dropped for cover. "You really need to chill."

"Oh... right... an elk. I thought it sounded like a Nazi." Cap said, calming down and holstering his gun.

"Okay, gang," Indy announced, "Let's get the gear out and camp set up."

Indy started a cook fire, since lunch-time was looming near. Cap got the mountain bikes down, anticipating an exhilarating ride through the surrounding trails, while the girls set up the tables and chairs.

"I don't know why we're bothering with a fire," said Captain America, "These beans are just fine right out of the can."

"Honey," answered Leia, "Forgive us if some of us would like to maintain a modicum of civility during the trip."

"I'm just sayin'," replied Cap, "When I was in WWII, and we were hunkered down in the trenches of bombed-out France..."

"WE KNOW!" interrupted everyone in unison, squelching yet another wistful WWII story.

 "Anyway, while you two citified softies," Cap said, gesturing to Indy and Spider-Woman, "rest your dainty little heads in your fancy-pants RV, Leia and I are camping old-school, in a tent, like God intended." Cap looked over his recently built shelter.

"Yeah, well, " Indy replied, "I'm not sure I'd want to be sealed in that portable gas chamber with you tonight after all those uncooked beans you've been eating."

Cap looked down at his almost-empty can of beans, then over at his wife, who rolled her eyes at him, then said, "Yeah, good point."

"Hey," said Spider-Woman, "I hear a vehicle approaching."

"Oh yeah," agreed Leia, "I bet it's Fett and Scarlett!"

And sure enough, with the rumble of a vintage engine, and the crunch of tires on a gravel road, Boba Fett and his wife, Scarlett, drove up to the camp.

"Wooooo-hooooo! Waddup, fools!? Let's get our camp on!" Boba Fett yelled, hanging out of his 1969 Dodge Charger.

"Hey ladies!" Scarlett yelled to her girls, happy to see her best friends again.

"Fett! Welcome to the camp, brother!" Cap said with a big grin.

"Yeah, glad you made it, man," Indy added. "I can't believe you drove that car up here on a camping trip."

"Hey, if you'd spent as much as I did on this sweet ride, you'd drive it as often as possible," Boba replied, eyes sweeping over his bright orange baby.

Indy looked nervously at the four-legged ball of teeth and growls standing by Boba's side. "Oh great, you brought Timber," he said, giving Cap a look.

"Awww, come on," Fett replied, "Timber here is a sweetie! We just have to keep him supplied with lots of raw meet to keep his bites to a minimum."

"Seriously, dude," Cap said, "I think it's weird that you've adopted a dog that belonged to one of your wife's ex-boyfriends."

But Fett just ignored him.

"How was the ride up?" Leia asked Scarlett.

"It was okay," Scarlett replied, "but Boba wouldn't let us listen to anything but Styx, Rush or Journey the entire way up here."

"So, uh..." said Indy, looking over Boba's gear, "Where's your tent?"

"Tents are for punks and cowards!" replied Boba, "We're sleeping under the stars, brother!" he announced, unrolling two sleeping bags onto the grass.

"You know, in WWII," said Cap, "all we had was our bedrolls..."

"WE KNOW!" said Indy and Boba.

The rest of the day was spent in the usual relaxing way that goes along with camping. Indy spent some time in the RV, researching the location of the crypt of King Solomon...

The girl caught some rays on the roof of the RV...

Boba Fett grilled up a little something for Timber while he tried to get cell phone reception...

Captain America got to know some of the local wildlife...

Timber did something stinky in Cap's tent...

And Boba did the same thing on a rock...

Later that afternoon, the guys headed out for a brisk bike ride.

"I feel stupid in this helmet, Cap!' yelled Indy.

"Safety first, chum!" replied Cap.

Boba Fett had a little trouble keeping up.

"Yo! Guys! Wait up! This bike wasn't really made for this kind of terrain!"

Soon the sun set, and after a night of making s'mores and sharing stories (most of Cap's were about WWII), it was time to hunker down for the night.

Boba Fett rolled out the sleeping bags...

Cap roasted a little late-night snack over the fire...

Indy made sure all of the gear and food was secured...

Scarlett showed Spider-Woman how to breakdown, clean and reassemble several types of assault weapons...

And Leia got the tent ready.

"Uh, honey," she called over to Cap, "there's something stinky in here..."

Soon it was time to go to bed.

"G'nite, babe, "said Scarlett.

"Nite, hon, " replied Boba Fett.

"Zzzzzzzzzzzzz," added Timber.

 "Did you have fun?" asked Leia to her husband.

"Oh yeah," said Cap, "Camping like this reminds me of the time in WWII when me and the boys..."

"I know, honey," Leia interrupted, laying her head down for the night.

"Well," Indy said to his wife, snug in their queen sized bed in the RV, "I'd say this camping trip was a big success."

"Absolutely, " Spider-Woman agreed, "Now we just need to do this every weekend for the next 6 years to make the price you paid for this RV worth it."

And with that, our gang fell asleep under the night sky, to the flicker of the fireflies and the chirp of the crickets. As they slept out in the fresh air, stomachs filled with s'mores and skin coated in bug-spray, it was clear, in the quiet of the woods, that all was well...

... or was it...

Ch-ch-ch... ah-ah-ah...


Friday, March 23, 2012

League of Extraordinary Bloggers Weekly Theme: Zombie Apocalypse!

This week's topic: Which TV or movie hero do you want beside you when the zombie apocalypse arrives.

This one is a no-brainer for me. It took me all of .005 seconds to make my choice. Granted, I may be stretching the rules a bit since this character originally started out as an action figure, but he soon showed up in the animated series based on the toys, then in a 2009 motion picture, then in a new reboot cartoon on the HUB network and has recently been seen dominating the previews for the big screen sequel.

I'm talkin' about a guy who is both comfortably at home with blades and bullets. A highly trained killing machine. A tireless warrior who has practically cornered the market on badassery.

I'm talkin' about... Snake Eyes!

Think about it;  it's a zombie apocalypse and the world is taken over by the shuffling undead. What better ass-kicker to have at your side than Snake Eyes? He's the kind of fighter that would be lopping off zombie noggins before you even new the rotten droolers were even there. He could take on 5 busloads of the shambling stinkers all at once while cooking a can of beans and franks over a make-shift campfire.

And here's the best part; the dude doesn't talk! The last thing I'd want at the end of civilization as we know it is some Chatty McGabberson yapping at me about the good ol' days or screaming like a little girl every time something with only one filled eye socket comes around the corner.

Also, his new costume for the upcoming movie looks way more badass...

So, there it is. When the world comes crashing down due to the roiling masses of undead crawling up from their earthly slumber, me and Snake Eyes will be waiting for them... eating beans and franks.

Please see the complete list of posts from the Extraordinary League of Bloggers and show their blogs some love. Thanks!