I’m excited to announce that second editions of miniature ships, arizona, and distant friends are now available in our store! Some pages may have a changed word here or there, some may have adjusted artwork, and some have whole new sections.
1. Country Gentleman Covers - I fell into a rabbit hole this week when I stumbled across an old Country Gentleman magazine on the web. Country Gentleman was an agricultural magazine that was published from 1831 to 1955. A good run! The covers are Saturday Evening Post-like in their Americana essence – some covers were done by Norman Rockwell here, too, so it makes sense – but Country Gentleman’s covers also branch out a little bit more stylistically than the Post did. Here are some of my favorites.
This one might be my favorite of the bunch – the clowns!
1. Fallout - If you watch enough nuclear preparedness films from the 1950s, they have the tendency to turn into white noise. They’re fascinating, for sure, but it’s basically the same handful of half-baked tips over and over again. How distinguishable the films are from each other seems to come down to how the producers visualize these tips; will they have someone act the tips out, create a dramatic scene where the tips are illustrated, or crudely animate 15 minutes or so and call it a day? “Fallout” chose the third option, and while it’s crude the animation is actually pretty charming:
Here’s a beautiful graphic for CONELRAD:
1. That Refreshing Look - The appropriately-1950s-named Vendo corporation produced this promotional film touting the benefits of Coca-Cola’s new vending machines. The part that’s actually about the machines themselves is a little dry, but the crisp color imagery of 1950s American life at the beginning and the ‘roleplay’ selling scenarios at the end are fantastic.
1. Nightmare on Elm Street (NES) – Of course Freddy had a video game. He had a few, actually, but the NES game was the one I played as a kid.
(His pose is less menacing than I think they were intending. He seems to be saying “I give up!”)
Developed by Rare and published by our license-loving friends at LJN, Nightmare on Elm Street was one of the first (and only) NES games to support four players. Using the NES Satellite, you could team up with your buddies to defeat Freddy once and for all. Taking an idea from the film series, the game tasks you with collecting Freddy’s bones in order to destroy them in the furnace at the High School. Just as in the Friday the 13th game there are a bunch of artificial bad guys thrown in as atmosphere, like bats and ghosts. They save Freddy for the boss fights, which makes sense. You have a sleep timer which, if depleted, sends the player into a dream world where the enemies are tougher. You can fill this sleep timer with things like coffee and boomboxes.
The title of the game was at the top center of the screen AT ALL TIMES.
The framework of the game is pretty solid; Castlevania II did the same thing and ended up being a great game. A Nightmare on Elm Street, however, is not. It’s maddeningly, artificially difficult – particularly when you’re just one player, which most people were. Still, a better effort than Friday the 13th and the attempt at a four-player experience is nice.
Here’s an ad for the game:
“ENTERACTIVE”. And another one:
I know these are probably stock pictures, but I like to think that Robert Englund was really excited about getting a NES game and went out of his way to make these ads happen.
Here’s a playthrough:
Interestingly enough, the original concept of the game was apparently that YOU were Freddy and you had to stop these kids from finding your bones. A controversial premise to be sure, but that would have been pretty great. Especially if they had integrated the Power Glove.
1. McDonaldland Fun Times - In the early ’80s, McDonalds had their own take on the kid’s magazine formula that Highlights made so popular. Called the McDonaldland Fun Times, the magazines contained games and stories and probably kept kids quiet for at least ten minutes.
This cover is the obvious image choice here, it being almost Halloween and all…
…but I really think these covers are more fear-inducing:
Creepiness aside, you’ve got to admit that the effort that went into these covers was a cut above what they probably could have gotten away with. I can’t remember if these were available for free in McDonalds or if they were a subscription thing. Anyone?
1. Victorian Visions of 2000 - Here’s an amazing collection of cards made at the turn of the 20th century that illustrate a Victorian vision of what the turn of the 21st century might look like. Check out the whole set, for sure, but here are a few of my favorites:
Personal flying machines. Safety is apparently not an issue in the year 2000! Put your kids on a tiny platform in the sky! I think I’m most interested in whatever the propulsion method must be for the dragon-looking device on the left.
A weather machine. Mad scientist not included.
Tourists explore the ocean depths in an undersea boat. While the Victorians took liberties with the technology of the future they did not seem to think fashion would change at all.
Train-Boat. Or Boat-Train. I wonder how these tracks were imagined to run in deep seas?
1. The Adventures of Gamepro - Gamepro hit the stands in 1989, the first big magazine aimed at covering video games of all systems for kids. Nintendo Power was the only real competition for kids at the time, and although it only focused on Nintendo games it was a pretty stiff competitor. Both magazines featured comics, but while Nintendo’s comic was a series of one-offs relating to a specific Nintendo property Gamepro went the serial route, creating “The Adventures of Gamepro”.
The story is basically that this kid, Alex West, beats an unbeatable game and gets sucked into the TV and becomes the superhero in the game, conveniently named Gamepro. Sounds an awful lot like Captain N the Game Master, if you ask me. Regardless, the artwork was pretty good for such an artificial idea – they could have slouched a lot more than this, but they didn’t and that’s saying something:
The magazine lasted much longer than the comic did. Shocker, there.
1. Playcable - Filed under “Way Ahead Of Its Time”, the Playcable was a subscription service introduced in 1981 that allowed cable providers to stream Intellivision games over standard cable. The consumer would then use a Playcable adapter to download the game and play it on their Intellivision.
This is 1981, people. The future was then!
The service wasn’t as popular as Mattel had hoped, though – by 1983 only three percent of subscribers had access to the service. Add to that the fact that games were getting more complicated and bigger in size and the inability of the adapter to hold games of increasing size, and you end up with a fantastic idea that died too soon.
And then the videogame industry crashed.
Here’s a commercial for the Playcable service. RIP, you magical cable wizards.
1. Playsack - Fredun Shapur designed toys and children’s books in the 1960s and ’70s. His clean, simple (and beautiful) design aesthetic is a big inspiration of mine:
My favorite toy of his has as much inspiration in the product itself as it does in the way it’s designed. The Playsack takes the idea of a used-grocery-bag-turned-costume and makes it beautiful and fashionable. Playsack was released by Trendon toys in 1969 with packaging that predictably matches the vibe of the outfits but is no less stunning because of it:
Look at these things!
Think that giraffe might be my favorite but it’s a really, really tough call. If you’re interested in seeing more of Shapur’s work, there’s a retrospective book of a lot of it available here.