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Mail-Order Mysteries: Real Stuff from Old Comic Book Ads! Hardcover – August 20, 2011


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Mail-Order Mysteries: Real Stuff from Old Comic Book Ads! + Popular Mechanics The Wonderful Future that Never Was: Flying Cars, Mail Delivery by Parachute, and Other Predictions from the Past + Popular Mechanics The Amazing Weapons That Never Were: Robots, Flying Tanks & Other Machines of War
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 156 pages
  • Publisher: Insight Editions; First Edition edition (August 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 160887026X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608870264
  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 6.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,397 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Kirk Demarais is a freelance creator and author of Life of the Party, a visual history of the S.S. Adams Prank and Magic Company. He wrote and directed Flip, an awardwinning short film inspired by mail-order novelties, and he codirected Foot, an animated film distributed by bobblehead maker FunKo.

In addition to neglecting his retro culture website, SecretFunSpot, Kirk’s pop-surrealist artwork is regularly shown at L.A.’s Gallery 1988. Kirk enjoys life in the hills of Arkansas with his wife and son and a ghost.

Jesse Thorn is the host and creator of The Sound of Young America radio show on Public Radio International, where he has interviewed such guests as Mark Evanier, Weird Al Yankovic, and Judd Apatow. He is also the founder of production organization Maximum Fun, as well as the host of The Grid, a cultural recommendation program on the Independent Film Channel (IFC). He lives in Los Angeles with his wife Theresa.

More About the Author

Kirk Demarais's fascination with vintage toys and novelties has inspired "Life of the Party," a visual history book of the S.S. Adams Prank and Magic company, as well as "Mail-Order Mysteries" which offers a rare look at mail-order products from old comic books.

Mail-order of yesteryear is also the focus of his award-winning short film "Flip." (See it here: http://vimeo.com/979599) Kirk also co-created "Foot," an animated film distributed by bobblehead maker FunKo.

In addition to neglecting his retro culture web site, SecretFunSpot.com,
Kirk's pop-surrealist artwork is regularly shown at L.A.'s Gallery 1988. Kirk enjoys life in the hills of Arkansas with his wife and son, and a ghost.

Customer Reviews

This book was a great idea and very well-done.
philwblackwell
This neat book shows ads for various items available in comic book and magazine ads marketed towards kids as well as photos of the actual items.
James D. Crabtree
If you read comic books during the 1940s-1990s, I think this book will bring back fond memories for you.
Joseph T. Reeves

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Adam Richter on October 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I IMAGINED: A cool collection of pictures and descriptions of assorted novelty items that were heavily advertised in old comic books.

THEY SENT: An awesome book featuring page after page of pictures, trivia, and entertaining evaluations of mysterious, suspiciously cheap products that always seemed WAY too good to possibly be true. I fondly remember being fascinated by the ads from mail-order giants Johnson Smith, Fun Factory, etc. which could be found throughout the comic books I was reading back in the late 1970's through the early 1980's. I placed several orders back in the day, so it was a nostalgic treat to see these products included in this book, along with many, many others that I was too wise to get suckered into buying (alright, it was actually because I didn't have enough cash at that young age!)

I couldn't stop reading this book! It's very hard to put down; I found myself wanting to keep turning pages to see what was next (Sea-Monkeys? Hypno-Coins? Secret Martial Arts lessons? They're all here!). I recall the same ratio of occasional gems amidst a sea of rip-offs as the author finds. In fact, it's a bit odd to feel such nostalgia about companies whose business model largely seemed to be finding ways to cheat naive children out of their allowances. I guess you could argue that it was a relatively inexpensive way for kids to learn about becoming more cautious consumers... it taught them to be wary of something that seemed too good to be true (an important life lesson that many adults have yet to learn). However, as the book notes, there were some really fun items available for low, low prices (plate lifters! magic tricks!). In fact, part of the excitement of the whole experience was the mystery... what would you actually get?
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48 of 48 people found the following review helpful By crawdad mcgoo on October 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This one is a lot of fun, and has an engaging format in which the authors acknowledge the youthful high expectations
we all had for these cheap crap items when we sent in our carefully saved paper route money, and then they detail the
crashing reality of the dashed hopes which arrived 4-6 weeks later in our mailboxes...amazing that a lot of
this junk now resides in the "collectible" category, but I understand why! Nostalgia is a bewitching mistress...
They hit most all the main ones I remember with the glaring exception of the "411 pc, 3 complete fishing outfits"
which was a standard on the back cover of practically every comic in the late 60's early 70's, it cost a whopping
12.95 as of this 1968 Gold Key Twilight Zone comic I am using as a reference, so maybe no one ever bought it! That was a lot
of dough! I always wondered about that one...
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37 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Roger Farnham on October 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover
A lot of the stuff shown here was around way back in the 1940s and 50s. I spent many a hard earned penny on this junk, waited with wild anticipation until it arrived and then was usually disappointed in what came. The "Remote Controlled Ghost" for example was a tissue paper "ghost" cutout that you fastened to a thread that was stretched between a doorpost or some other attachment point and your hand. When you jiggled the thread the "ghost" moved. As I recall it cost me 34 cents. The 411 piece fishing outfit that another reviewer mentioned had 150 lead sinkers (each of which was counted), 30 cheap hooks, the pole came in 3 pieces and each was counted and so was the 100 or so salmon eggs for bait. I caught one fish and the pole broke. Still, I remember buying all this junk with fondness since it gave me something to look forward to. Great book about some awful trashy crap.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By D. W. T. Taylor on December 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover
...choking with laughter, that is.

I've only had this book a couple of days and its already my favourite book of 2011, hands down. I haven't laughed this hard in ages.

Anyone of a certain age will remember these ads from the back pages of comic books in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Apparently astounding products such as X-Ray Spex and Sea Monkeys that seemingly promised miracles for just pennies, all delivered right to your door. As someone who once owned a pair of X-Ray Spex and tried to cultivate my own personal kingdom of Sea Monkeys, I know only too well the crashing sense of disappointment once you realised you had been duped. But that never stopped you from gazing longingly at those ads - maybe THAT one would finally deliver on its promise...

Well, Kirk Demarais has finally produced the quintessential book debunking all those myths. This collects together the original ads and, wherever possible, the actual products you received, with a droll description of each. It's both a wonderful sourcebook of nostalgic images and a hilarious expose of the art of the con. The products might have been total junk, but this book is priceless.

I just wish Mr Demarais had depicted one of my most humiliating mail order purchases: Grow Your Own Monsters. The ad suggested that you could rear ghastly giant behemoths in your bedroom, then unleash them to crush your local neighbourhood! What you actually got was a bunch of small cardboard cut-out monsters and a pack of grass seed. The idea was that you soaked the cardboard monsters in water, then sprinkled the grass seeds onto a panel on their heads and, after a few days, the grass sprouted to make it look like the 'monsters' had green hair.

Yes folks, I admit it: I spent a couple of weeks of my childhood excitedly growing grass in my bedroom. Sad, but true.
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