Thursday, October 1, 2009

October 1st! Halloween Memories Part 1

I'm going to sound curmudgeonly, but kids today don't know how well they have it when it comes to Halloween costumes. When I was younger, it seems there was a wider variety, but these days, at least costumes are made of FABRIC! When I was little, I learned at a young age that the name Ben Cooper, meant the BEST Halloween costumes you could find. I based this judgment simply upon the fact that they made all the licensed character costumes.
Nowadays, I'm fairly convinced those costumes were a form of child abuse along the lines of caning that was simply ignored by polite society for nearly four decades. These literally were "sweat shops." Let's start with those masks!
Here we have Superman and Wonder Woman. First off, two tiny air holes on the nose, no air hole over the mouth. Hey, guess what? I have allergies and asthma, plus by October 31st, what kid didn't already have their first cold of the season? Basically, I'm a mouth-breather, what of it? Why not just throw a plastic bag over my head and call it a night?
Doesn't everyone know who Batman is? I'm fairly certain even my grandmother does. Yet they felt the need to label him TWICE, on the chest and the forehead. By the way, if the real Batman were hiding in the shadows and a gun-toting criminal spotted a bright yellow target... err, logo on his forehead... just sayin'. I wore this Batman costume in 1st grade.

Can we talk about those plastic shrouds they wrapped us in? Ugh! Seriously, you'd sweat off five pounds by the time you were done Trick-Or-Treating. Ah-HA! Maybe that was the plan! Even so, sweat plus plastic casing equals yuck. Plus, all that condensation on the inside of your mask from breathing... just yuck yuck yuck.
The mask doesn't go there. If anyone can find me this Aquaman costume, I'll be your best friend for life! Want a kidney? (Ha ha, my kidneys are shot!) This was produced in the late '60s when Aquaman had his own cartoon. Even though he was on the Super Friends in the '70s, he usually got screwed out of the merchandising by those two media whores Superman and Batman. They're like the Jon & Kate of super folk.
I know I also went as Spider-Man one year. I'm surprised this suit is sleeveless, but I think that's preferable to the all-encasing earlier suits. Back then, it was the total opposite of the way it is today. The DC Super Heroes (basically the Super Friends) were everywhere! The Marvel characters were more obscure, most only appearing in the comics, although Spider-Man and The Hulk had their own TV shows and Captain America appeared in a couple of dismal TV movies. Nowadays, you have 3rd stringers like Iron Man headlining major motion pictures! Even so, Marvel attempted to license out even their minor characters.
I actually HAD this costume and went as Dr. Strange, I think in fourth grade! Dr. freakin' Strange! I knew who he was, because he'd guest-starred in an episode of Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends, along with Captain America, Shanna the She-Devil and The Sub-Mariner, whom I had the hots for, because he ran around in just a Speedo and was kind of a cocky bastard and we all know my history. Ahem. I went as Dr. Strange because there wasn't a Sub-Mariner costume, but the whole night I just kept wishing I was The Sub-Mariner. To the rest of the world, I was dressed as "Who are you supposed to be?" In Mobile, AL, dressing as a comic book Super Hero equated to dressing as a literary character. I may as well have been dressed as Boo Radley.
This is the Dr. Strange mask, but my costume did NOT come in this cartoony box. My box had various Marvel Heroes on it, although I don't recall whom. Presumably, Spidey, Hulk and Cap. Doc looks mighty angry. Like angrier than the Hulk! He's probably just tired of everyone asking who he is.
Freakin' Thor?! Are you kidding me? That's one of the nicest faces out of all of them, though.Here's a box that a lot of the Super Hero costumes came in. It features a circa-1938 Superman, Batman, THE SPECTRE (who, to my knowledge, wasn't actually made into a costume... guess he just looked scary) and everyone's favorite Super Heroine, Mary Poppins. Also, note, these costumes are "Funtastic!" It's true. Even Batman thinks so and that guy hates having fun and making up words, so for him to go out on a limb like that, you better believe it!
DC either wisely or luckily, in addition to Wonder Woman, also had two female knock-off characters, Supergirl and Batgirl that they could license out. So even though neither of these two chicas were on The Super Friends cartoon, they still managed to make it onto a lot of the merchandising. (Probably more so than Aquaman, grumble grumble.)
Marvel eventually wised up and cranked out poorly conceived female versions of its heroes. Spider-Woman was even given her own Saturday cartoon. There was also The She-Hulk and Ms. Marvel (based on Captain Marvel). None of these gals' comics were worth a damn, but in subsequent years, they'd all be developed into GOOD characters and they all headline their own comics now. Anyway, this allowed Marvel to try and appeal to young girls the way DC did with Wonder Woman, Supergirl and Batgirl. It didn't work as well, though, because the Marvel heroines weren't as widely exposed.

Whereas Wonder Woman was her own person, not based on a pre-existing male hero, Marvel attempted to license one of it's very few similar original female heroes...
The Dazzler! THE DAZZLER got her own Halloween costume! This trumps Dr. Strange AND Thor! Dazzler (also known as Disco Dazzler, as she is labeled here in this catalog) was a mutant disco singer, who used her light powers to create dazzling light shows for her concerts. She also roller skated. Too bad they didn't make a Luke Cage costume. Hey, black kids Trick-Or-Treat, too!

Also beside Dazzler's leg is Web Woman, an obscure Saturday morning character that Marvel claimed infringed on their Spider-Man/Woman copyright, so she was removed from the air, along with other characters that Marvel and DC both claimed were too similar to their characters and sadly these cartoons (which aired as part of Tarzan & The Super Seven) can never be released on DVD. Totally educational!

It wasn't all just Super Heroes. However, for girls, I remember the pickings being a bit thin. Of course there were the licensed characters like Strawberry Shortcake and Holly Hobby, but there wasn't the same volume of selection. I mean with the Super Heroines, with just the ones I listed, you can choose between like six characters, but you could only be Strawberry Shortcake. What if you were a bigger fan of Blueberry Muffin? You were S.O.L., is what. Most of the girl costumes were really generic. Witch. Cat. Clown. Princess. Beauty Pageant Contestant.
Here we have a less generic choice, Samantha from Bewitched. Egad, that first mask is hideous! She looks like Gary Busey! Can you imagine being poor Elizabeth Montgomery and seeing kids dressed as "you" looking like THAT?! The second one might not be a knock-out, but it's a vast improvement! Oh, wait a sec! I think the second Samantha is holding the box my Dr. Strange costume came in. Looks like Spidey, Hulk and Thor and a fourth character I can't make out. Could be Dr. Strange but his cape looks green. Hmmm.

Side note, my last year of T-O-T-ing, fifth grade, I actually went as Dr. Doom. This, to my knowledge was the first super VILLAIN costume. (Odd, they never even made The Joker and you'd think he'd be a big hit.) I think this costume was only produced one year, as a tie-in to the Secret Wars toy line.
I mentioned before, the lack of black licensed characters. I don't know what's worse, not having ANY black costumes, or having this one, Nipsey Russell as the Tin Man from The Wiz. Couldn't they at least have made Michael Jackson?
I think my dad pulled one over on me as a kid. I think HE loved Star Wars and brainwashed me into loving it too. He got me the Darth Vader tie-fighter for my 5th b-day and the first time I went Trick-Or-Treating, he basically made me go as Darth Vader. I think I wanted to be C-3PO. (My first gay role model!) Guess I got overruled.
I was also Twiki from the Buck Rogers TV show. I think Ben Cooper realized they weren't so hot when it came to making "human" faces, so they tended to stick with adapting the dopey sidekicks. Perplexingly, I was not beat up that Halloween.

Scary old Jew.

What pussy wanted to be either Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny? I'll never understand why any kid was into these types of characters over Super Heroes or other action-adventure characters. I mean, I like the Looney Tunes cartoons and all but... really?
Costumes for aspiring rednecks. As you can imagine these were HUGE in Mobile. BUT WHO THE HELL WANTS TO BE BOSS HOGG?! The birth of childhood obesity.
My first reaction was, Is that a Ralphie costume? Number one, that's the wrong holiday and number two, who wants to be that guy? Actually, it's Egon from the Ghostbusters. My bad. Even so, it looks vaguely like a blowup doll and that's not a good thing. And it DOES look more like Ralphie than Egon.
I never saw this kick-ass Voltron suit! I probably wouldn't have chosen it, but it looks awesome!
What the hell?! "Sorry kid, we're not handing out LSD!"
There's just something so wrong about this.
That concludes this trip down memory lane. More to come!

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