Ad Nauseam: Star Wars Insider #38

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The mid-nineties represented a reawakening for the Star Wars brand. The trilogy was remastered and released into theaters to coincide with a home video release. Accompanying that, of course, were waves of marketing that made the original release blush. With enough new merchandise to pack a Deathstar and the flannel draped galaxy-master himself, George Lucas, announcing a new film in the works, Star Wars had, once again, eclipsed popular culture. 

But this wasn’t just some lazy modern nostalgic cash-grab as it was a way to introduce a new generation to the galaxy far, far away…and recapture the imagination and magic Star Wars brought nearly 20 years prior. 

Star Wars was indeed special. A personal realization by experiencing this era firsthand. It was the first time my “newfound” interests were not only encouraged by adults…but shared with them. A time where I thought toys, video games, and comic books were solely for kids…yet shown that Star Wars was for everyone. Afterall, these adults were my age back in 1977. They were doing what I do now: reliving a simpler time through recaptured interests. 

What we’re covering today was just a morsel of that 90’s Star Wars-Mania. I was slapped with a stack of Star Wars magazines lovingly shared by my best bud Eric. The intention? To see what overpriced plastic was being peddled to our small feeble minds a long time ago from a galaxy far, far away. And like a Gungan at a Tatooine marketplace, I had to stick my tongue where it didn’t belong. 

Star Wars Insider is the official Star Wars magazine that grew out of the official newsletter in 1987. The title changed from the Lucasfilm Fan Club Magazine to Star Wars Insider in 1994. It’s still going till this day, with well over 200 issues at the time of this writing, which truly exemplifies the power of the force that is Star Wars. Though modern issues traded that prideful energy, respectful cadence, and welcoming fan interaction for something sterile, lacking depth, and more expensive. A true representation of not just modern Star Wars, but entertainment as a whole. 

Star Wars Insider #38 June/July 1998

Besides the alluring Simpsons crossover cover, this specific issue had a Star Wars catalog of nearly everything available shoved right in the middle of it. My eyes were filled with the heavy nostalgic steam of carbonite emissions. A gathering of merchandise similar to a smattering of cantina patrons: Strange, goofy, endearing and kind of slimy. So lets jump to lightspeed and head back to a time when Star Wars was only a trilogy, heroes were heroes, and special effects were practical. When Star War’s only travesty was George Lucas’s poor judgment. 

Technically, this is where the fun begins

C-3PO Ceramic Cookie Jar

With our first highlight I’d like to state something: Any product that exists in our world…there is a Star Wars version of it. If there are chopsticks, there are Star Wars chopsticks. If there are window drapes, there are Star Wars window drapes. If there are cookie jars, there are Star Wars cookie jars (rightfully so). 

Novelty cookie jars peaked in the 1990s for whatever reason. If you had truly broken into pop culture, getting your own cookie jar was akin to getting your own trading card series or Spaghetti-O shape. You made it, man. I can’t recall a single Na-Na being hip enough to actually own a Batman, Looney Tunes, or Star Wars cookie jar. But, hey, the crossover appeal was there. And you can’t blame them for that. 

For a mere $275 + $14.95 shipping and handling you could be the proud owner of this 16 inch tall cookie jar of everyone’s favorite uptight worrisome british droid, golden-rod himself, C-3PO. Human Cyborg Relations? NOT ANYMORE, Bantha brain. Add Human Cookie Relations to the ‘ol droid resume now, Threepio. This ad boasts (3 times in fact) that this is the BEST likeness of C-3PO EVER MADE. Not only does it look like he stepped right out of the sands of Tatooine and into your kitchen, but he’s full of delicious cookies FINALLY. 

My search results on eBay show I can claim this collectable for about half the price offered here. Which, $300 for a cookie jar is pretty steep. With inflation…that comes out to $538. I’m pretty sure I can get Anthony Daniels to bake cookies with me for that price. At least throw in an R2-D2 crockpot for dinner with my dessert. If I’m spending $600 on a C-3PO cookie jar, I’m probably keeping the various keys to my Lamburginis in it….not cookies. 

HAN SOLO: SMUGGLER. PIRATE. COLLECTABLE PLATE.

Much like novelty cookie jars, the “Collectable Plate” market is often just as baffling. This hobby peaked in the 70’s and 80’s and was already on the decline by 1998’s standards. But God bless ‘em. 

Nothing speaks decadence and class like a 24K gold bordered plate featuring several illustrations of Harrison Ford’s indifferent faces. These days, you may recognize collectable plates from the trailer park of that middle aged Aunt your family keeps their distance from. Walk into any antique store, and you may think that collectable plates were invented solely to feature the likeness of Elvis Presely. Regardless, I don’t know of any fans who were into the “Collectable Plates” of Star Wars. When you can line your shelves with statues, busts and lightsaber hilts…adorn your walls with film posters and original artwork…I’m not sure if “plates” even come into question. But to each their own. Between this and the cookie jar, I’m beginning to think Lucasfilm really wanted to corner the mee-maw market. 

This plated collage of Han would set you back $35 (that’s $63 today) but trusty ‘ol eBay, the internet’s lovable cyber-smuggler, had a bunch of these brand new for around $30. If these were slightly cheaper, I’d probably go ahead and create a custom “Hanburger” and serve it on this very plate. I’d dine while watching “A New Hope”. Picking the remnants of my Hanburger toppings off this plate. A few shreds of lettuce revealing Ford’s disgruntled face staring back at me. His judgement seeping through me; making me question my life choices up to this point.   The realization of my dinner’s main course…being loneliness. 

R2-D2: THE TELEPHONE

Well we found it. We found the thing that I want most in this entire magazine. Understand, I despise talking on the phone. Yet I want it. I have no need for a landline. Yet I want it. It’s large. Cumbersome. Impractical. Probably annoying after the novelty wears off in a few days. 

Yet I want it. 

This replica of Artoo lights up, swivels his head,and makes authentic noises when the phone rings. The receiver is part of his leg. The image they went with is great too. That warm illuminated cloud city grated floor. A black gloved hand holding the receiver. Is it Darth? Is it Luke? Who are they calling? Do they have phone numbers in Star Wars? Weequay looks like he could’ve been a phone technician. 

This bad boy was going for $99 in the catalog (that’s $177 today). Going the eBay route, he looks to be around the same price in box. And Call2-D2 was repackaged various times throughout its lifespan. From the “blue/gold space” Original trilogy aesthetic to the “gold/red/maroon” Episode 1 vibe to the “Guy Feitti’s hot rod” Revenge of the Sith look. It’s clear it was a popular item that the people demanded. If you had to make a phone call, wouldn’t it be through an R2 unit? He is a service droid afterall!

Lifesize Replica Boba Fett 

Back before Boba Fett was an aimless boring old man that needed to soak in a Bacta tank to take out the garbage, he was the galaxy’s most feared bounty hunter that had a cult following for simply looking like a complete badass. A character that truly represented the best parts of “less is more” within the fandom. Mystery served Boba best and although those days are far behind us, I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t punt a Porg for a set of that sweet Mandolarian battle armor.  

This is a 6 foot fiberglass Boba fett dressed in authentic armor made by the legendary Don Post studios. And I’m pretty sure it’s the most expensive thing in this catalog retailing for $4,500 (that comes out to a little over $8K today). I had to do some digging on this specific Boba in question, as the paragraph doesn’t give much insight. But I tracked it down through the bobafettfanclub.com (est. ‘96) that these were limited editions to around 250 pieces. The armor was cast from original props on actor Jeremy Bulloch from Return of the Jedi. It weighs about 85 lbs and there’s currently (?) one on display in the lobby of Lucasfilm in San Francisco, California. 

It also states (twice) that this is not a costume, meaning they know exactly what I’m thinking. 

I often wonder who would buy these and for what reason. I realize the business aspect of marketing this, I’ve seen “props” like this in wax and movie museums, but the ability to sell this privately is something. Eccentric millionaires could line their personal screening rooms with fun things like this…but….let’s be honest…the people who would truly appreciate this couldn’t fit it in their apartment or their wives wouldn’t allow it in their two bedroom ranch home. 

 There are only one of these listed on eBay currently…and it’s going for $18K. Considered a “grail” piece of Star Wars memorabilia. I’m certainly glad at least one of these survived. They’re worth a lot to me. 

Star Wars Buddies and Luke Skywalker Utility Belt 

Being me I have to briefly touch on some toys that brought up some nostalgic memories. 

The Star Wars Buddies were bean bag plush that I felt like were capitalizing on the Beanie Baby fad of the time. I remember seeing a box of these guys in every toy store I had the privilege of visiting. They never spoke to me though unfortunately. Droids shouldn’t be soft and huggable. Jawas aren’t likable. Wicket and Chewie make sense, yet Chewie looks like some sort of hairy Mr. Potato Head. I would’ve leaned more into a set of various Ewoks personally, as the younger generation would probably embrace them more than the previous. I also find it interesting that Wicket isn’t called by his name. He’s just “Ewok”. 

You can still find these galactic “beanie buddies” at various comic cons and online marketplaces for around the same price they are now. I believe more characters were made, as I remember Yoda, a “leather” like Jabba the Hutt, and even purchasing a Max Reebo for my own nefarious reasons years back. I can personally recall my friend Eric, who lent me this very magazine, had a bunch of these strung up adorning his bedroom window when we were kids. Heard he had to fight girls off back then. They were practically an aphrodisiac. 

The Luke Skywalker utility belt really stuck out to me for two reasons: roleplaying sets were some of my favorite kinds of “toys” and I’ve actually never seen this set before. It comes with his blaster, adjustable belt to attach your suction cup darts, and “electrobinoculars”. What’s missing, as I’m sure we’ve all noticed, is a Lightsaber. In fact, there isn’t a lightsaber (toy or collectable) available in this entire catalog. Which I find more shocking than sith lightning fingers. The Lightsaber is arguably the most iconic prop in Star Wars and one of the most iconic weapons in popular culture. I did some digging and did find out midway through 1999, Hasbro recalled over half a million toy lightsabers due to “batteries overheating and rupturing”. Yet this catalog is from mid-1998, nearly a year prior. Regardless, it’s just an interesting and surprising insight, as you’d think you could open The Star Wars magazine with The Star Wars catalog to purchase  a Lightsaber. It’s like going to Disneyland and not finding Mouse ears to purchase. 

This roleplay set was going for $18.95 (about $34 today). It looks to go around $50-80 online, which is interesting for this era of Star Wars collectability as many toys were overproduced. I guess there’s a reason why I didn’t recall seeing this when I was a kiddo. I would’ve certainly begged for it come my Birthday or Christmas time. And it would’ve paired great with an electronic Lightsaber. Damn. Just thinking about this now makes me regret it! 

1995 Darth Vader Power Talker Mask

This Darth Vader mask pictured isn’t listed in the catalog I’m sharing. But it’s an important artifact in my personal Star Wars lore. It’s not worth much these days. About $30 new in the retail box. I distinctly remember going to a local Service Merchandise with my grandparents one particular afternoon when they purchased this for me. I don’t know why I was getting this. I don’t know if we went there for this…if it was a special occasion or I was being rewarded in some way. I can recall holding the box in a toy aisle. Getting home. The sturdy plastic with a velcro strap pressed against my face. How it always sort of hurt the bridge of my nose. The slight dark tint the eyes gave my surroundings. It came with a speaker box adorning the “Star Wars” logo you’d clip to your pants. The deep robotic tone it made your voice when you’d speak into the tiny cheap microphone embedded in the plastic. You didn’t really sound like Darth Vader, but it was close enough. 

I remember this vividly because that mask gave me a boost of courage. When wearing it, I was no longer afraid of the dark. Or being in the moody basement or damp crawl space alone. The weird natural bellowing noises didn’t make me dart off in fear. I was Darth Vader, baby. Dark Lord of the Sith. I emanated Vader’s iconic breathing to the best of my ability. I thought it sounded legit but who knows these days. The boogeyman himself could’ve jumped out in my darkened path and threatened me with maximum spook-age. But with my Darth Vader POWER TALKER mask on, I wouldn’t have taken his shit in the slightest. I’d probably try to Force-choke him, realize it did nothing, and then ran. My point being though, before that I felt badass.

This era of new Star Wars merchandise was branded “Power of The Force”. And I know I’m thinking too much about this, but it certainly was. It was THE POWER of Star Wars.  It has had relevance since inception. And staying power culturally and financially.  

Hey, since I have you here…lets get existential for a minute…

I was driving home last night and thinking about thumbing through this magazine and simply asked myself, “Why do I like this shit?” I guess…more specifically…”Why do I like Star Wars?”. 

Upon posing that question, I remembered, as a child, tying an old belt around my waist while wearing one of my grandfather’s white v-neck t-shirts. It being at least 3 sizes too big draped over me. Underneath I wore tight cream colored long underwear. A cheap black plastic flashlight gripped in one hand. Running around my grandparents’ hallways. Peaking into rooms, igniting my “lightsaber” flashlight, and whispering “I’m Luke Skywalker, I’m here to rescue you…” to the imaginary Princess sitting captive on the bed. This memory wasn’t unearthed and buried under decades of memory matter.

It was reflexive. Like when a doctor hits your knee with that tiny rubber hammer. The memory I shared is my natural answer to the question “Why do I like Star Wars?”.  Natural as The Force itself. As if my brain answered back, “You like Star Wars because you always have.” As adults, imagination fades with time and responsibilities. When we witness children doing this, we now simply see it as “playing”. And it is. But reality tarnishes imagination. It makes us lose sight of our simpler pleasures and interests.

Star Wars, to me, is tied to innocence, simplicity, and limitless imagination. It’s a story of good conquering evil through bravery, selflessness, and doing what’s right…even when it seems most difficult. 

Star Wars was a bond between family and friends I no longer have, in places that no longer exist. Each film started with the iconic words, “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” and the warmth of this past I’m describing is beginning to feel a long time ago and with a history that certainly seems far far away. And Star Wars is one of those devices, the force if you will, that takes me back and, in the very least, gives me the memories…the feelings…of being together again. My whole life ahead of me. Plastic flashlight in hand.

Star Wars, now to generations of people, has sparked imagination, determination, and creativity for decades. It has succeeded popular culture. It’s biblical…for better or worse. Blasphemy? I’m speaking on popular culture…also for better or worse. Star Wars represents a simpler time for some. It currently is a simpler time for many. A bonding agent for human socialization. An ice breaker. Maybe even the very foundation of friendships and relationships. A source for positive growth and morals. We can’t all be Luke Skywalker…a simple farm boy destined for greatness…but we all play a role in each other’s destiny. 

For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes.

Thanks for reading about some ludacris Star Wars collectables found in a 25 year old magazine and the impact this silly space story had on me decades later. You can always find offbeat ramblings on comic culture such as this at ChrisDoesComics.com. Until next time, May The Ads Be With You…Always.

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Ad Nauseam: Fangoria Spooky Spotlight

Welcome, my precious ghoulings, to a spooky edition of Ad Nauseam! As the Halloween season approaches, I ventured out from the usual comic confines and found frightening familiarity in Fangoria Horror Magazine! And thanks to my compulsive buying habits and decrepit interests, I couldn’t just keep to one issue either! Lucky you! 

First, some quick history: Fangoria started off in 1979 as Fantastica, a spinoff of Starlog magazine, with a focus on fantasy films. Hemorrhaging money after just seven issues, the editing staff quickly reimagined the magazine to be dedicated to the modern horror genre. This led to the newly titled Fangoria to turn a profit and the rest was horror history. 

After 36 years of publication Fangoria got the axe in October 2015 at issue 334. But like most horror icons, it was resurrected…as a quarterly publication in October of 2018. Due to a 2007 warehouse fire the only remaining back issues of Fangoria are housed in private collections or available on the secondary market. So understand this installment of Ad Nauseam is a rare, educational, and insightful look into horror culture.

I’m proud to say I am a Fangoria subscriber. And I had to be an adult to fulfill that due to their unbiasedly gruesome magazine covers that would not only make any parent deny you ownership…but question if they are indeed raising a spawn of Satan himself.  

So pour a glass of apple cider, stroke your black cat gingerly, and light up a pumpkin cake candle. It’s time to dig up the grave of consumerism and raid it’s rotting corpse for nostalgia… 


Horror Tees, Tanks, and Sweats! (#88, 1989) 

With the gory glory of the internet, we’re able to proudly wear pretty much any niche we adore. I could purchase an ALF shirt in 2020 faster than I’d care to admit. But, 30 years ago, styles were limited…and much harder to find. If you wanted to let the world know you bled horror, you searched in horror magazines to do that. And here’s a great example!

Return of the Living Dead Part II was just a year old at this point, so it’s “fresh hotness” drives this ad into the grave. Texas Chainsaw Massacre II and Evil Dead II are also present to get printed really solidifying the tongue-in-cheek horror sequel theme the ad seems to have going. T he offbeat retro crowd also has Reefer Madness, The Devil Bat, and a (miscolored) Dracula poster as options as well. These all would look better printed on black clothing yet white seems to be the only choice given. I’m always weary of white colored clothing (sweatshirts especially) not just because of the fact that I dressed like a lowkey goth growing up…but also because I had a bad experience with a white sweatshirt of mine and a bowl of spaghetti when I was a kid. That sauce just does not come out and I’m not sure if I ever want to be in that situation again.


Freddy Forever! (#109, 1992)

By 1992 Freddy-mania was on it’s way out. A year prior to this issue Freddy’s Dead was released to bury the Springwood Slasher once and for all. Yet his “rest” only lasted three years since Freddy Krueger was a pop culture icon that seemingly eclipsed the horror genre. Despite being a disfigured child murderer with a sexual edge, Freddy moved merch as fast as Batman or The Ninja Turtles. Which is apparent with this dreamy ad of “final” official Freddy merch to honor his Nightmare legacy! 

Horribly authentic! Collector’s item! Perfect for any Fango fan! As someone who was a slave to the cult of Krueger, I had to include this ad. Latex mask and deluxe hat? Awesome! Authentic adjustable razor glove? Oh baby. Freddy Wall Mount? Sure…that’s something I guess. But what turns my dreams of collecting all things Freddy into a possible nightmare is the fact that none of the mentioned “collectibles” are pictured. Instead an actual picture of Robert Englund as Freddy is labeled. I know I’m not going to look that authentic, bro. You don’t need to tease me like this. 

I see the wall mount. I see how Freddy looks like some chewed up grape and strawberry Laffy Taffy. I’m not sure if I trust you in making me look like the toasty child killer of my dreams this Halloween. Yet despite all that, I love the gamble this ad suggests I take. Is the mask and glove not pictured because it looks so bad? Or does it not need to be pictured because it looks so good? I suppose you just have to drop the $60 and wait 6 weeks to find out. And I believe that’s the genius of this ad. If I saw the mask I might just write it off as a dud…but I don’t see it…so maybe it’s the best mask ever made! How can I pass this up? Now who do I make the check out to? 


Batman Returns Costumes! (#114, 1992)

If you were a boy growing up in the 1990s and not Batman for Halloween…you at least thought about being Batman, right? I mean, I think about being Batman in general. Just as a life choice. 

Here we have my favorite ad out of the lot, Batman Returns costumes hot off the press circa 1992! Batman Returns is, in my opinion, the most underrated Batman film with the most underrated villain performances ever. I, like most, was in the trance of Batmania as it began its second (and, honestly, most aggressive) wave. From Happy Meals to action figures and ill fitting t-shirts, like a drunk baby boomer in a soiled Tommy Bahama shirt sitting at a Vegas roulette table…I was all in, baby.  

The Penguin is probably represented as the most solid costume choice. And, due to my small stature, I’d definitely be slappin’ my money down for one of those. $160 with inflation comes out to a little under $300…so, in all honesty, I’d probably have to kidnap all of Gotham’s first born children in order to come up with that scratch at the time. The Deluxe Batman costume looks too good to be true. And retailing for $310 ($672 with inflation) I’d bet that only Bruce Wayne himself ordered these as backup costumes for those harsh summer nights. I’d probably have to settle for the DC Comics Batman costume…which, judging by the model in the ad, makes Adam West look like Frank Miller’s Batman. Not sure if I’d be keen stopping any crime in that…maybe just help some elderly people cross the street. 

I remember my first outting as Batman the following Halloween. My grandma picked up a Batman “costume” from the 1989 film on clearance at a local pop up Halloween store. It came with a thin plastic “utility belt”, disfigured and wrinkled “cowl and cape”, thin flappy foam “boot covers and gauntlets”, and literally a sticker of the emblem. I wore my black sweats underneath it. Belt sagged because it was too big. Couldn’t see out of the mask. Emblem fell off within 15 minutes. 

Yet the polls show I was still a better Batman than George Clooney. What a dated dig. 


Screamin’ Monster Model Kits! (#154, 1996)

When I think of model kits I immediately think of horror. Yes, I understand that’s the “wrong” theme that comes to mind considering most..but I can’t help it. Most of the old Aurora horror kits from the 1960’s and 1970’s have become an overpriced rarity. And as alluring as it would be spending my afternoon painting Wolfman’s crotch with the right amount of detail, Screamin’ breathed new life in the horror model kit realm. Vinyl models of Freddy, Cenobytes, Leatherface, and the Crypt Keeper send happy chills throughout my arthritic spine.   

Of course, 1996 was 24 years ago (oof!) so these kits currently fetch a high price for simply partaking in painting your very own Butterball. Yet what I appreciate about model kits such as these is the fact that you get out what you put in. I’ve seen that same Freddy Krueger model look like a museum piece…yet I’ve also seen the exact same model look like a Dollar Tree reject. Sometimes “rushed” or dare I say “unskilled” model kits may be something more to admire than the ones pictured in this very ad. But, either way, I love the idea of “building” your own horror icon and calling it “quits” when you personally see fit. 

If you can have one of these right now which one would it be? That Crypt Keeper is calling my name. 


Power DeRangers Tee (#147, 1995) 

It’s Murderin’ Time! How bizarre is this? 1995 was the height of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers popularity. And where there’s popularity there’s parody, right? Here we have the Mighty Murderin’ Power Derangers t-shirt! Each Power Ranger reppin’ a classic slasher as they decapitate Barney the Dinosaur…for some reason? I mean, the Ninja Turtles would make sense since the Rangers pretty much took their spot. But what do I know?  

This ad has such a DIY quality to it that I completely fell in love with it. From the designs crudely drawn with markers to the hand written instructions and sales. It shows that if you have an idea and a little bit of know-how, you can probably make some money through Fangoria. Media Goofs Inc operates out of Flourtown, PA. And like most of these hole-in-the-wall companies featured in old magazines…there’s no trace of them on the internet. 

The other shirt designs they offer to the right are hastily drawn “serial killer” inspired designs. No grace or subtly is expected from Media Goofs Inc I suppose. The drawings look more like middle school doodles rather than final design work but, again, I expect nothing less from Media Goofs Inc. It all has an alternative Beavis-and-Butthead vibe, which is to be expected from 1995. I’m not sure if I’d ever wear anything like this at any point in my life…but, then again, I’d be wearing similar South Park shirts a couple years later. And none of those featured Trini the Yellow Ranger wielding a chainsaw. So never say never I suppose. 

Bonus: In this very same issue I found an ad for Spooky World “America’s Horror Theme Park” that really peaked my interest. A Tom Savini Haunted House? A Horror Museum? Tiny “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” Tim to perform? I’ll board a plane tomorrow! Unfortunately I couldn’t find much information on the Minneapolis location other than this 16 year old Halloween forum post: 

Haunty hates those overpriced cheese curds but who doesn’t?

I had some better luck with the Massachusetts location including this amazing 1997 commercial! And if that’s not enough, I even stumbled upon a 1994 “tour” of Spooky World at its peak narrated by none other than Kane “Jason” Hodder! It’s long since been abandoned but after a few moves the Spooky World name is still spookin’ by creating new haunted attractions every Halloween season


Various Masks! (1989-1996?)

These were three of the most enticing mask ads I found combing through the various issues of Fangoria I presented today.  The idea that it didn’t have to be the Halloween season to peruse monster masks made me believe I found “my people”. These ads have a great balance of “gore” and “creatures” from companies I’ve never outright heard of such as Nightmares, Creature, and Artifakes. I always leaned towards the “creature” masks when browsing possible costume ideas…and the ones featured in magazines like Fangoria were meant to be the main event of your costume or collection. 

Looking at masks such as these in your local pop-up Halloween store or (if you were lucky enough) a year round costume shop was always a highlight of the Halloween season for me. Strolling into the section to be hit with that strong smell of latex…gazing into the eyes of these abominable creatures presented lifelessly on old styrofoam heads…the faint sound of a royalty free Halloween soundtrack echoing in the background. Dang, I got vampire bats in my stomach just thinking about it! 

The idea of actually getting one of these masks was unheard of at my age. There was no way my mom was going to shell out $30-50 for just a mask when a quarter of that price could get me a Superman garbage bag to wear for the next 3 Halloweens. Yet the best thing was always coming across ads like this and wondering just who would get them. I’d always imagine perhaps the local haunted house crew “stocking up” on new monsters to scare this year…or maybe fellow amateur mask maskers and horror fiends adding another creature to their collection? Many of us had to settle for a plastic “hockey slasher” mask from the local drugstore (which, I’ll admit, have a charm of their own) but a part of me still daydreams about getting one of these back in the day and wandering the neighborhood for reactions and scares. 

Which one would you get? I’m between “Grim” on Creatures or “Amphibious” on the Artifakes ad. 


For some of us, the sanctity of Halloween expands beyond a simple holiday. It means more than just carving pumpkins while jamming to Monster Mash. It’s an idea and feeling that gives you a sense of belonging. It’s familiarity and warmth that fills your guts with a certain indescribable zest. Flipping through magazines like Fangoria brings me back to a time and place…even if I’ve never been. It inches me closer to untangling the fibers of my personal wiring. Why black and white monster movies, the sound of pouring candy corn , and the smell of latex masks is as comforting as grandma’s home cookin‘. 

Thumbing through these damp newsprint pages littered with images of grotesque gore and monster merch may be just that to many. But to us, I think it means a little more…wouldn’t you agree? I mean…that’s why you read all this. Because you can feel it too. And that’s Halloween, baby.

I hope my waxing nostalgic about 30 year old ads in defunct horror magazines made your Halloween season a little bit more special. Because it certainly made mine. Have a safe and spooky season. And don’t forget to sacrifice a fun size candy bar of your choice to the spirit of the Great Pumpkin!  

Ad Nauseam: Wizard Magazine #78

AdWizard

Look! Up on the internet! It’s another installment of Ad Nauseam: tediously long articles where I take the form of an elderly man sharing his geeky recollections of “the good ‘ol days” that nobody asked to hear! It’s been a while since I buckled down to write one of these, so I figured my subject matter better have quite the fat to chew. And our issue today is nothing short of obese, folks. I mean, I can practically hear it wheezing.  Let’s set the scene for February 1998:

You’re bummed on the bus ride home from school because your Tamagotchi died for the sixth time this year. As you prepare to get off on your block, Josh the bully, compares your body shape to that of a Teletubbie. Embarrassed, you scurry off with clenched fists. It’s Monday, so you look forward to a new episode of WCW Nitro to cheer you up. You get home and open the door to your room, admiring the new “I Want To Believe” X-Files poster you bought at Spencer Gifts last weekend. You carelessly throw your backpack to the floor, pick up your Gameboy, and fire up your newest savepoint in Pokemon Red. The music of the Spice Girls hum from your clock radio. You hope they play some of The Offspring next. Nope, it’s Alanis Morissette

Frustrated by the sleeping Snorlax ignorantly blocking your way to Lavender Town, you turn off your Gameboy and decide to finally study. But just as you’re about to open your backpack you spot the newest issue of Wizard Comic Magazine on your nightstand. You begged your mother for it, just as you do every month, during another insufferably mundane grocery store trip. “Homework can wait” you think as you delve into another issue, losing yourself in a world of halftone fantasies where you always felt more accepted.  

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Wizard Magazine #78: February 1998 

Wizard was a monthly magazine about comic culture featuring news, previews, and interviews. It boasted price guides, advice columns from industry professionals, and contests packaged in its own slew of offbeat humor. It was also a spotlight on the comic community with monthly sections showcasing fanart, costumes, collections, polls, and reader mail. It ran from July 1991 to March 2011. To admit that “Wizard Magazine was my bible” would be a severe understatement. From my preteen years until my early twenties, it was a respite from the norm. This was long before cinematic and television “universes” and the ability to connect through social media to discuss them all. This was a time where mentioning “Iron Man” was met with blank stares, collecting action figures was a dark hidden secret, and no one noticed you quoted Yoda in your cover letter. 

You can download a PDF of this entire issue here! Although I don’t remember having this issue in particular, you bet your bippy I transformed into my childhood self (sans a Godzilla ‘98 shirt) thumbing through it’s digital pages. Understand this is a 200+ page magazine. I’m not going to cover every advertisement offered. I’m certain that would kill me. But I did cherry pick what I could gab about most complete with bad jokes and embarrassing childhood memories. I recommend reading this while sipping your favorite beverage from a Disney Animal Kingdom McDonalds Collectors cup for a true 1998 experience…

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Tomb Raider II Video Game 

Looking back, it’s sort of wild realizing nearly every male with a Playstation crushed hard on a video game mascot that looks like she’s made out of cardboard boxes. But that’s Lara Croft, baby. Of course, as video game consoles progressed to increase polygons, Lara increased on the Babe-O-Meter. But even in the early days of Tomb Raider, she was still viewed as the sex icon of gaming. Maybe if Samus and Zelda wore some booty shorts and showed off the midriff they’d be in the same discussion? I was aware of Tomb Raider even though I had yet to play the games, and that’s mostly due to seeing ads like these…which involved Lara in some sort of cheesecake-pinup-pose. They certainly get your attention…but, at the time, I didn’t know what these games were about.   

If you never played the Tomb Raider games…imagine an Indiana Jones adventure presented through a mosaic filter…but the protagonist is a rich British babe…and she controls like Frankenstein. Take note this wasn’t just Tomb Raider II…this was Tomb Raider II starring Lara Croft. The character had become so hot that her name became part of the title. And, on top of that, she was getting her own action figure just 2 years after her initial debut! Sure, she ended up looking like Michael Jackson’s mugshot, but it was the only way you could finally wrap your Dorito crusted fingers around a real physical Lara Croft. She’s at her peak, boys. And it’s simply not the late 90’s without Tomb Raider. 

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Wizard World Chicago ‘98 Convention

Besides magazines, Wizard also held some of the largest countrywide comic conventions in the 1990s through the 2000s. Chicago Comic Con started back in 1972 and was purchased by Wizard in 1997. Rebranded as “Wizard World Chicago”, it became the homebase for Wizard Magazine and its award ceremonies. It grew to the third largest pop-culture event in the country, only behind New York and San Diego Comic Con. The first comic book convention I ever attended was Wizard World Chicago (though I was late by a couple years to this particular con) and it was something that rocked my fandom to the core. It was as if the world I had been reading about came to life and charged me money to go inside of it. And although I’m used to paying to go inside things, I always got more than my money’s worth in terms of fond memories and special moments when it came to Wizard World..  

With this ad, you can’t get more “1998” than Todd Mcfarlane’s dramatic mystery face. The guy practically was the comic industry at the time (for better and for worse). Spawn disappointed us all with his big silly Hollywood movie the summer prior yet was still hotter than Hell (ha!). Mcfarlane’s toy company was busting out affordable collector figures with detail like we’ve never seen before. And Image comics was puffing out its chest to bigwigs like Marvel and DC boasting some of the most popular comic characters at the time (#YoungbloodFan4Life). Nowadays, unfortunately, Todd Mcfarlane has been less “let’s revolutionize the comic industry!” and more “My mouth writes checks that my ass can’t cash!”. There was a time where I daydreamed about being this guy…but now I sort of treat him like grandpappy saying racist things at the family Christmas party. Smile and politely excuse yourself.  

Believe it or not, this was a time when comic book conventions were about the comic book industry. A big convention like this would cost you $10 a day or $25 for a 3-day- pass. And you could actually walk around once you were inside. Today, a comic convention is an event in which you put a 2nd mortgage on your house to wait in a line for 16 hours to get a picture with one of the kids from The Stranger Things. It’s worth the “likes” though, isn’t it guys? 

I’m not bitter you’re bitter.  

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Toyfare Magazine Ad

Imagine Wizard magazine but it’s 100% about toys. That’s Toyfare magazine. It’s published by Wizard, so it literally has the same flare, humor, and layout. In fact, I used to get these magazines mixed up all the time. The main difference? I would never buy Toyfare Magazine. Why? Because I was too embarrassed! I could never convince my mom to slap down some hard cash for a subscription, so all my copies of Wizard came straight from the grocery store magazine rack. And this was before the days of self checkout. At the time of Toyfare I was clearly a boy that was approximately “Too-Old-To-Play-With-Toys” age. So the embarrassment of walking up to the cute checkout girl and give her five bucks in exchange for a magazine exclusively about spandex clad plastic people was too much for a shy nerdy 13 year old to handle. 

I had to quickly rifle through the magazine in the store. Quickly scanning each page and absorbing it’s information like a Johnny Five robot obsessed with capitalistic garbage. I had no time to be taken aback by surprising figure releases. Excitement was saved for a safer time. My precious moments were spent cementing release dates in my brain for action figures I pined for. Triple H Wrestlemania 16 Attire? Summer 2001. Now Playing Series 1 Darkman figure? Spring 2005. Scanning. 12 inch Power of the Force Boba Fett with real cloth costume? February 1998. All this data processing being absorbed before my mom waltzed around the aisle with her grocery cart. When she entered within range to command a “C’mon, lets go…” little did she know my knowledge of future action figure releases increased tenfold since we entered the store prior. I had an updated list of future figure daydreams. I could not simply abandon the mission. The future of creating new and robust playtime adventures was at stake. 

I’m pretty sure typing that reinstated my virginity. 

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Julie Strain Posters and Lithographs

I decided to include this ad for several reasons…the first being it’s colorfully ugly…the second being I don’t understand what any of it means…and the third being it features an awkward looking Mark Hamill drawing. It’s three ads in one. Each one being more confusing than the last. So let’s try and make sense of this together…

After some research…Julie Strain was a Penthouse babe in the early 1990s. Think of Penthouse as Playboy’s younger not-as-classy coke addicted brother. And if you really wanted to bring that “sexually frustrated” aura to your room , you can buy some racy original artwork featuring her likeness. But if your parents believe the “Miami weed dealer” aesthetic has no place in their house …well you’re in luck! Because artist Rob Prior replaced all that nudity with 90’s sci-fi fodder! We have some laser guns, Vampirella attire, probably some power crystals (pretty sure she’s wrestling a dinosaur in one). They’d look great hanging next to your gas station velvet tiger painting. The pinups have a bit of an ugly retro charm to them. As for Julie Strain, she made “headlines” earlier this year by simply being alive. God bless, Julie. 

The two other comics advertised have little to no online presence to be researched. I can find next to nothing on the artists either. The “Lost Heroes” comic starring Mark Hamill is pretty interesting because, despite being a futuristic setting featuring demons, Hamill is just drawn wearing a t-shirt on every cover. It’s clear they reached out to license his likeness for marketability, and Hamill just sent them 4 modern 8×10 headshots and cashed the check. 

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Hangar 18 Toys & Collectables 

Wizard issues often featured some ads for “local” businesses such as this one. Of course, with this magazine being nationwide…”local” was a matter of opinion. Although I can’t recall ever seeing a store from my neck of the woods, I still loved seeing what others had to offer. Take “Hangar 18” of Wichita, Kansas offering a peripheral “Who’s who” when it came to a 1998 toy aisle. Star Trek, Babylon 5, DC, Marvel, Star Wars, and Spawn. Also Puppet Master showed up for some reason. Who invited that guy? Do you kids notice anything peculiar? There’s no website! No pre orders either. If I wanted that Violator action figure, I had to call that number, get mailed or faxed an order form, send it back with payment, they process my payment, and finally ship my toy. The whole process could take months. With no guarantees if it would still be in stock either. A Violater of my time perhaps! 

Out of all the figures offered in this ad, I believe I only had a handful of Star Wars “Power of The Force” figures. The electronic X-Wing pictured here was a birthday gift I cherished way longer than necessary. It was possibly one of my favorite toys growing up. I looked up “Hangar 18” and, unfortunately, they no longer exist. What’s sad about a lot of these “pre-internet” businesses is there’s no sign of them existing unless you came across a random ad such as this. A couple years back I bought a couple dozen old Fangoria horror magazines. It was disappointing looking up so many of the “Cult Video” businesses advertised with virtually zero acknowledgement of their existence. Besides these little physically printed nuggets, the internet has been a broom to their footsteps. So tonight, my homies, pour out some Patron in remembrance of your favorite forgotten collectable store. Word up, my brothers-in-plastic-articulated-arms. Your essence lives with Wizard.


 As absolutely syrupy as this sounds, Wizard Magazine was much more than a magazine to me. It was a ticket to another world I’d visit a few hours a month. A world where my interests and hobbies were not insulted or looked down upon…but instead celebrated. An issue of Wizard was always carried in my backpack or messenger bag throughout my life. And it’s a piece of media that has very much shaped the man I am today in too many ways to list. In the words of Egon Spengler “print is dead.”, so the need for this magazine to exist in modern society is moot. But that doesn’t mean I can’t miss what it was. 

To be real, I enjoy looking back as a hobby. Nostalgia is a fun thing to experience from time to time. I haven’t looked through a Wizard since it was currently in publication. And going through this particular issue really gutted me. Every page brought a flood of memories back in a way that no “Ad Nauseam” article had done prior. This was a really bittersweet experience. And I don’t think I can go through another Wizard issue for a while. I’m a person thats always been about moving forward. But nothing has quite sent me the message of “The Past is Dead” like this issue and article.

Thanks for cracking open a 22 year old magazine with me. You’ll always find articles on the remnants of comic culture right here on ChrisDoesComics. Now, excuse me, I have to go purchase some LR44 batteries. My Tamogotchi isn’t just going to revive itself now, is it?

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