Awesome Comic Book Products
- Model Apollo Lunar Module
The Promise: It only cost a dime and you could feel like those engineers at NASA or the next Neil Armstrong while building this scale model with "30 precision parts" and "two lunar astronauts in FULL space gear." Plus, you'd get membership into The Science Program, which would entitle you to a 25-part science album that was different every month and covered various topics from space to mechanics and photography. The guidebook was illustrated and came with a number of full colour photos.
The Truth: Well, a scale-model meant you were only flying to space in your dreams, but that Science Program membership was real. No word on the quality of the albums, or whether readers really got them in the first place.
- Charles Atlas
The Promise: This was a classic and it spoke directly to us pencil-neck geeks reading the comics with a strip called 'The Insult that Made a Man Out of Mac!' about a guy who gets pushed around by a bully at the beach and after reading Charles Atlas's book gets buff, takes his revenge and gets the girl. The ad hits us right in the heart with, "Are you fed up with the huskies walking away with the best of everything? Sick and tired of being soft, frail, skinny or flabby? -- ONLY HALF ALIVE?" Gee Charles, tell us how you really feel. Anyway, if you wanted to build muscle like the guy in the comic, you just had to send away for Charles Atlas's "Dynamic Tension" system. No weights, springs or pulleys and only 15 minutes a day.
The Truth: "Dynamic Tension" relied on isometrics, which is still used today, but all you really got in the mail was a giant rubber band or elastic cord and an exercise guide. It worked, but it would take too many pulls to ever get you to becoming the muscle-bound Mac from the ad. Most of Atlas's "30 million students around the world" gave up before they ever got even close to a six-pack.
- Frontier Cabin
The Promise: Readers could live like Daniel Boone in this huge playhouse that was 3 ft. high, 9 ft. square and 23 cubic feet. It was said to fit up to two to three kids at a time and could be built without tools, while being both fireproof and waterproof. Plus, you could build it in all weather, either outdoors or indoors. If you were a girl, and weren't enough of a tomboy to appreciate a miniature log cabin, there was a more traditional playhouse also available.
The Truth: The cabin was just a tightly folded vinyl sheet with a log cabin design painted on. The only time it ever took the loose shape of a cabin was when it was draped over a table or some other type of standing furniture. Hardly, the rustic hideaway that was advertised. To make matters worse, it was impossible to spend much type under the vinyl sheet, thanks to the plastic-y fumes that permeated off of it.
The promise: You could impose your will on anyone you pleased and get them to do whatever you wanted -- perfect when your parents or your little brothers and sisters get on your nerves. What they gave you was the ultimate guide to mastering hypnotism, complete with 24 photographs to show you how it's done. Plus, so you could practice on your friends and family, you'd also receive a bonus hypno-coin with a hypnotic swirl that was bound to put anyone in a trance.
The Truth: You'd try to hypnotize your friends with the hypno-coin and either nothing would happen or your friends would fake being hypnotized for the laughs and try to prove that your being a sucker doesn't stop with sending away for that cheap plastic disc with a swirl on it.
- Automatic Firing Tripod Machine Gun
The Promise: Didn't you always want a replica WWI machine gun? I know I did (kidding!) and according to the ad, "it swivels in all directions." Obviously, they can't send real weapons to children through the mail, but juvenile delinquents would be drooling for this thing. So many begged their parents for the $1.98 they needed to develop "deadly target skill!" I wonder how many moms and dads took advantage of the supposed money back guarantee?
The Truth: This gun embodied that parental idle threat of "You'll take your eye out with that thing!" It fired pea-sized pellets that could lodge into your skin and cause infection, but it didn't even work 90% of the time. It's a wonder nobody sued the manufacturer.
- Real, Live Miniature Dog
The Promise: A true yapper, like Paris Hilton's chihuahua Tinkerbell, this dog apparently was small enough to fit in a tea cup. You could also request a monkey if you weren't a dog person. One feature is that the dog will fit in a box. (way to suck the life out of it)
The Truth: You would only get a pet if you got 20 of your friends to order hand-coloured photo enlargements and send them in to the ad's sponsor Dean Studios. I'm sure that was a hard road to hoe, but I wonder if anyone ever actually pulled it off and if they did, what kind of sickly half-dead animals arrived at their door?
- Sea Monkeys
The Promise: The illustrations looked so promising didn't they? A family of sentient underwater aliens that you could observe and take care of. All you had to do was add water and these little guys would come to life right before your eyes. You could even train them to do tricks and you would learn how with the free sea monkey manual that came with a year's supply of food and their water habitat. They were the ultimate no fuss pets, since they ate very little and kept their water very clean. As the ad said, "So easy, a six-year-old could raise them without help."
The Truth: Sea monkeys were actually an artificial breed of brine shrimp that looked nothing like those humanoid illustrations drawn by legendary DC Comics artist Joe Orlando. They were just above microscopic and only survived about a week. Though, their biology allowed them to survive in a lifeless stasis when the pools they lived in went dry.
- Ventrilo Voice Thrower
The Promise: You'd be able to throw your voice across a room, into trunks and from behind doors. Plus, the helpful guide it came with would teach you how to be a ventriloquist, so you'd be auditioning for The Howdy Doody Show in no time.
The Truth: What you really got was a "swazzle," a flat, square metal object tied with a ribbon that you were liable to choke on the minute you put it into your mouth. Besides, a swazzle didn't exactly throw your voice, as much as it made you sound like the sped-up Donald Duck voice from the Punch and Judy shows. Oh well, at least you could still annoy your parents, even if they couldn't understand a word of what you were saying.
- 200 World War II Soldiers
The Promise: Okay, nobody was expecting the veterans of the legion to come stand at attention in their yard, but they did expect real plastic army men -- you know, the ones they still sell in the dollar store. They were supposed to be made from unbreakable plastic and each one came with their own base. They were all supposed to be in different poses for a full battle scene and you would even get a jeep to drive them around in.
The Truth: They were just two-dimensional, flat, plastic pieces of crap and yeah, they needed a base to stand up at all. It was almost like re-enacting battle scenes with paper dolls. Plus, most of them arrived like they'd already been through the war anyway, with broken arms, legs and missing heads.
- X-Ray Specs
The Promise: If these glasses really could see through things, wouldn't everybody be wearing them? Right off the top, the ad told readers that this was an illusion. (a very funny one, apparently) But, in the same sentence, it also tells them that they'd be able to see through their own fingers, see the lead in a pencil and see through the yolk in an egg.
The Truth: For some, the scam was harder to see through than anything else while wearing these glasses. The specs just made things look blurry, which, it could be argued, gave the illusion of being able to see through objects. For the $1.25 that they cost, what did anyone truly expect?