Monday, April 27, 2015

Rate the crap!

I cannot tell you how many times I saw this ad in comic books when I was growing up.


All of these things had a certain appeal, although even with a kid's impaired ability to reason we knew they would be disappointing. As one boy I knew once said (in a somewhat less elegant manner), "If X-ray specs really worked, they'd be standard issue in every doctor's office."

Honor House, which peddled this stuff and lots more to gullible children, always sold products that could not fulfill their promise, but the promise was enough to fire our imagination. I never ordered any of these items from them, but I did engage in any number of discussions on their supposed virtues and probable failures. Maybe being a New York City kid made us more wary, but I doubt it. Personally, I was just too broke to send away for anything. The price of the comic book cleaned me out.

Looking over this page, all jammed with goodies, I feel compelled to rate the crap. Herewith are my brief takes on the objects on this iconic page, bearing in mind that I have never actually held any in my hand. Ratings focus on appeal, schoolhouse experience, and probability of worth, largely based on recollections of discussions held decades ago.

X-Ray Specs
Top rating. Just because they could maybe work and wouldn't it be awesome. Note how the ad shows the guy looking at his hand, but in his line of vision there happens to be a buxom lass. Makes ya think, eh, boys?  A

Secret Book Safe
This one seemed likely to be legit. We knew it would never keep out a determined sibling, but camouflage and secrets are cool. A little too practical, though, to be that much fun. A-

Monster Size Monsters
Sharp eyes notice that the ad doesn't say what these things are made of. Paper cutouts, I believe, are what they turned out to be. Nice reminder, though, of the 1960s and early 1970s nostalgia for the great Universal horror movies of the 1930s. Now I'm nostalgic for the nostalgia. C+

Throw Your Voice
Eerily compelling, and at an age when you think it is possible to actually make your voice come out of some other place, highly suggestive of practical jokes. "Hey, don't pee! I'm stuck down this terlet!" Still, throwing your voice means throwing your voice, so even if it works people will figure out that's just you with a lousy Bela Lugosi accent or something. B

Naval Cannon
Maybe cool, especially if you looked up to the military vets in your family, or you just want to wake up Mom from her headache nap in a new and funny way! Funny for three seconds, anyhow. Otherwise, not that great. B-

Monster Size Skeleton
Smaller than the Monster Size Monsters, but supposedly glows in the dark. Every kid old enough to send away for this knew that glow-in-the-dark stuff is always disappointing. Would get an A if you had a nosy younger sibling that had skelephobia, but otherwise, meh. C

Onion Gum
Fool your friends! Might work. Probably be about as fresh as the gum that came with baseball cards back then. Worth a shot, if you can offer it with a straight face, and victims will accept it without examining the packaging. B

Bullet Holes
No one is going to fall for these. Yeah, someone shot up my car. Call the cops! Probably don't look that great. As pranks go, way below plastic dog poop. D-

Trick Baseball
Strange, possibly fun---but for prank purposes? Hmm. What if someone did manage to hit it? Would it break? Could be little more than a Wiffle Ball with coins in it; they also wobble in flight. Maybe it was just a version of that? If it was plastic no one would mistake it for a baseball. Too liable to be a flop. D

Moneymaker
If it really made good-looking bills, they wouldn't sell it. Maybe good enough to fool your little sister, but she's not too smart. And couldn't you get arrested for this? C-

Joy Buzzer
These were all over the place, and always so big and clunky that you could never hide one in your hand, and they didn't give anyone a shock. They just buzzed. Harmless indeed. Rare case of popularity sinking an idea. Kids don't normally shake hands, anyway. D+

Magic Cards
If the 10 tricks didn't suck, sure. But the cards had to look like regular playing cards, not something out of the Goofy Kidz Deck O' Fun. Risky. C

Jack Pot Bank
"Should not be used for gambling purposes"? What the heck else is it for? Maybe you can get some dummies to play. But if it works, they might win. Bleah. F

Smoke Bomb
Always fun in school, the smoke bomb was great for all-purpose laughs and smelled like egg farts. How much to buy them by the case? A

Boomerang
There wasn't a boy alive who didn't want to try one to see if they really came back. Seems like something you could get at the toy store rather than having to buy through a comic book, but never could. It would be great if it was of any quality. You could play catch by yourself when Dad was busy fixing the car or drinking or something. And don't they use these in Australia to cut the heads off kangaroos? Nice. B+

Skin Head Wig
Oddly enough, one thing we never considered was that for this to work, it would have to be the exact shade of the rest of your skin. And even if it did work perfectly, it wouldn't be much of a joke. "Hey, Joey! Where's your hair?" "Oh, I'm bald now." "That sucks." D

Karate Et Al
You can't learn sports out of books, but kids weren't all enrolled in karate classes in those days. Where else were you going to learn to be cool like Bruce Lee? If you just learned a few things... well, it might be the difference the next time Stinky Joe Blatz decided it was Swirly Day. B

Surprise Package
Way way way too dangerous. You figured you would definitely wind up with the 500 stamps from the other offer in the comic. Skip it. F
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