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Mail-Order Mysteries: Delightful Treasures from Vintage Comic Book Ads Hardcover – 20 Nov 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 156 pages
  • Publisher: Insight Editions, Div of Palace Publishing Group, LP (20 Nov. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 160887026X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608870264
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 17.1 x 26.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 318,054 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

Review

"If childhood disappointment could ever be considered an art form, then Mail-Order Mysteries is a masterpiece. Really. The metaphors for life itself are inescapable, the disillusion heartbreakingly laid bare, the tackiness a drug you just can't quit."--Chip Kidd, graphic designer and author of "Bat-Manga!""Mail-Order Mysteries reveals the secrets behind those too-good-to-be-true gizmos advertised in the comic books of my youth. What a mind-blower!"--Mark Frauenfelder, cofounder of Boing Boing"If I could put one thing in a time machine to send back to my eight-year-old self, it would be Mail-Order Mysteries. This book would have saved me dozens of allowances and hundreds of glacial hours spent standing on the porch waiting for the mailman to arrive. I always knew there was something fishy about those 'Gigantic Dinosaurs!'"--Mark Waid, writer of "Kingdom Come and Irredeemable"

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.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Simon Crubellier on 3 Feb. 2012
Format: Hardcover
As a child, NOTHING annoyed me more than not being able to send off for the simply incredible stuff on offer through the small ads in US comics. So as an adult, I jumped at the chance to find out just what I was missing. Some of the most awesome rip-offs ever crafted is the answer, as revealed by the dedicated Mr Demarais; in particular, had I ever actually clapped eyes on the fabled 100 SOLDIERS IN A PASTEBOARD FOOTLOCKER at the age of eight or nine, I probably would have cried. This book, however, is a true delight - a real labour of love, with great photographs accompanied by captions pitched somewhere between weary cynicism and wide-eyed goshwowoboyoboy enthusiasm.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By G. Stephenson on 2 Jan. 2012
Format: Hardcover
As a child of the 60's and 70's I have fond memories of the ads in Marvel and DC comics, all that wonderful stuff available for a dollar or less......how I longed for the submarine and the life size monsters, how I envied those American kids! Now at long last along comes a book that shows them all in their tacky gloriness and an actual picture of a real sea-monkey. For all fans of comics of old or just the curious do yourself a favour and treat yourself to this, an enjoyable trip down memory lane and a book to treasure....I simply love this book!!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Runmentionable on 22 Sept. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Most comic book fans of a certain age will know the feeling. You excitedly urge one of your favourites on a friend, hoping they'll intuitively grasp the genius of Jack Kirby or Neal Adams, and they'll be converted to your obsession. Only they don't, and they're not. They have no interest in the art or story. All they can see is the adverts.

But they had a point. What we in the UK used to call "American comics" were full of adverts for what seemed, to kids, to be the most fantastic plunder. Amazing novelties with which to dazzle your friends. The chance to gain astounding skills and powers. And mind-boggling toys at unbelievable prices (assuming you could work out the dollars-to-sterling ratio). The fact you couldn't get them in the UK made them seem even more desirable. How I wanted that Polaris nuclear sub - over 7 feet long! Seats 2 kids! Controls that work! Rockets that fire!

Turns out the fact you couldn't get them in the UK was a blessing. Kirk Demarais, the author of this thorough, amusing, informative and handsomely designed book, openly confesses to not getting the stories in the comics but being obsessed with the ads. So he's hunted down many of the most famous products advertised (including the obvious classics such as X-Ray Spex, the Charles Atlas body building course, and the boxes of toy soldiers which promised hundreds of pieces for knockdown prices) and now shares his research with us in the book,, which includes reproductions of the ads, pictures of the products, and his verdict on what you actually got.

And what you actually got, for the most part, was ripped off. Turns out item after item was shoddily made, misleadingly advertised and distinctly underwhelming.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Theo TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 24 Dec. 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book is organized much like an encyclopedia, with a large number of relatively small entries. Each entry describes a single "Mail Order Mystery". There's one entry for the X-Ray Specs, one for the Sea Monkeys, and so on. The entries are well organized, and there are lots of photos to show us exactly what we missed out on.

Well, so much for the "objective" portion of this review. Now for the real scoop.

Speaking for myself, I think I'm _just_ old enough to have grown up with the comic book mail order advertising described in this book. I say that because even during my own childhood, I saw comic book advertising move on to other things. Saturday morning cartoons... junk food... That kind of stuff. Arguably more reputable, but infinitely less intriguing than the mail-order mysteries this book concerns itself with.

Like so many kids, I was always convinced by my parents not to send off what little money I had in response to these ads. That's partly because my parents were quite sure that none of the stuff would actually work: particularly the products with the more extravagant claims like the X-Ray Specs. But also because we lived in Australia. I was patiently informed that the sums requested would never cover international shipping.

And so, like so many children, I was won over by reason. And yet, left forever wondering...

Well, I wonder no more, because now, without even having to suffer the ignominy of being fleeced, I know exactly what was sent out to those who responded to the ads! Or at least (if my parents were right) to those within U.S. borders.

I wouldn't exactly say that this book contains many surprises. But it does contain many wonders.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lector TOP 500 REVIEWER on 8 Feb. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Length: 0:51 Mins
As a primary schoolkid in Northern Ireland in the early '60s, comic books from the US were a major part of my life - wanting to be Batman (I still do!), having a crush on Supergirl (these days it would probably be Catwoman), and losing myself in adventure and worlds that were considerably more appealing than '60s Northern Ireland...

But almost as much as the stories, I loved the ads at in the comics. The promise of real-world scientific marvels such as hypno-disks, X-ray specs, etc., etc., Oh, how I longed for them... But in those pre-internet days, there was no way for lil' schoolkids to order goods from the other side of the Atlantic, so I could only dream.

And now, thanks to this great book, I can see that I avoided some truly epic disappointments!

But seriously, this book is a great stroll down memory lane. I still vividly remember lusting after some of these items, but there were many others that I'd forgotten until this book reminded me of them. However the really wonderful thing about this book is that not only do you get the chance to see all those nostalgia-inducing ads again - you ALSO get the chance to see the actual item itself in all its non-awe-inspiring mediocrity!

I seem to have reached an age where all sorts of nostalgia for my childhood is kicking in. If you can relate to that, and if you too were a fan of those US comics and ads, I think you'll enjoy this.
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