It’s surprising upon putting pencil to paper that I realized I never had drawn Chicago’s very own creature feature host: Svengoolie prior.
Svengoolie, like many young Chicagoans before me, introduced generations to classic (and not-so-classic) horror and reeled many into the art of the late night “Creature Feature”. Taking over the titular role in the late 1970s from Jerry G. Bishop, Svengoolie was more than just a horror host. Every Saturday night in the 1990s I parked myself in front of the television and watched Sven’s alter ego (Rich Koz) host Stooge-a-Palooza followed by Svengoolie.
His wacky humor was always comforting when showing a more scary feature but also synced up with the more campy silly movies. He was a bonding agent between my mom and myself as well, as she often recalled soaking up classic monsters via Bishop’s Svengoolie in the late 60’s and 70’s.
For me, Svengoolie always was. As natural as the sunset or rain. And he’s been a local legend in Chicago’s history. If you knew Svengoolie, you were from here. It’s been over a decade since he’s gone national, but he hasn’t lost his luster. I’m glad we aren’t selfish when it comes to Sven, as the horror host is an endangered species. I’ve recently wondered what will happen when Rich Koz retires. Which he’s hinted at numerous times recently. I truly hope someone worthy in his eyes picks up the mantle, as I’d despise the American tradition of the late night Creature Feature tumbling to its death like King Kong.
So I put pencil to paper (as well as ink and color) to create my take on a Svengoolie piece. I combined several of my older “pen and ink” monster pieces into his hat. I put this together as an 18×24 canvas piece and shipped it, along with a short heartfelt note, to Svengoolie’s production studio with the hopes of him simply seeing it.
I’ll keep an eye out if it ends up featured in someway on his weekly show; and I’ll update this post if it indeed does.
I only decide to write my Ad Nauseum articles when the breath of the comic gods speaketh to me naturally. I let the comics find me, you see. The timing, price, and content has to be just right. One may call the process very sadSuPeRnAtUrAl. Which brings us to tonight’s book: The Supernaturals: The Most Supernatural Superheroes of Them All!
This was a four issue miniseries released by Marvel Comics in December 1998. I found the entire series (including the preview book) for $20 at a semi-local comic convention last month. The covers slapped me in the face harder than Will Smith. TOPICAL! It’s as if Halloween threw up its orange and purple guts all over a comic book. And, on top of it all, each issue came with a “pop-out” mask of a Supernaturals hero! When hitting that close to home I realized this book was created specifically with me in mind.
No one else.
The Supernatural story is about a team of superheroes with occult-superpowers that battle the team of Dracula, the Mummy, and Frankenstein’s Monster led by literally a man with a jack o’lantern for a head named Jack O’Lantern because what else would you name him hellooo? This comic doesn’t take place within the “mainstream” Marvel Universe as they take established heroes like Ghost Rider, Black Cat, and Werewolf By Night and adapt them into extreme hip 90’s teenagers. I learned wonderful tidbits like Werewolf By Night’s adoration of Quentin Taratino, and Metallica; Ghost Rider’s love of all extreme sports; Black Cat being a vegetarian Democrat that listens to Jewel; and Brother Voodoo being a successful R&B singer and “mega-producer” whose headquarters is a revamped YMCA.
IT’S LIKE I’M READING ABOUT MYSELF! IT’S JUST WHAT WE KIDS WANTED.
But I digress, as we’re here to look at the relics between the story. So I plucked out the four ads that spookily spoke to me most. So turn off your Spice Girls CD, put down that Prowrestling Illustrated magazine and save your game in Ocarina of Time. We’re headed back to December 1998 to ask: Hey, why did this Jack O’Lantern comic coupled with Halloween masks come out in December?
UNIVERSAL MONSTERS COOKIE SWEEPSTAKES!
One of the few products where you can take a bite out of Dracula, Universal Monsters cookies were essentially chocolate Teddy Grahams in the shape of classic monsters instead of cuddly teddy bears which makes them one of the greatest treats ever produced in American history. I talk about the Universal Monsters as much as Twitter talks about injustice, so it’s shocking that I had no idea these were in the grocery aisles at the time. By late 1998 I was already fang deep into classic horror: religiously attending the weekly church of Svengoolie; proudly displaying my Burger King Universal Monster toys; and dressed as Dracula and Wolfman four Halloween’s in a row! Little did I know I could’ve been literally ingesting the Universal Monsters via sugary low quality cookie-like byproduct!
This ad, in particular, is a great mix of Halloween vibes with purples, greens, and oranges alike not to mention the illustrated presence of the classic monsters! This was definitely during the awkward era where Universal had likeness-rights issues, so we get “Not-Quite-Lugosi” Dracula, a generic Mummy, “Bye-Bye-Boris” Frankenstein, and a Blurry-Is-That-Even-Wolfman? Wolfman. This ad also boasted a sweepstakes in which you could win a trip to Universal Studios Florida and “Party with the Universal Monsters in the Ghostly Spirit of Halloween!” They poke fun at old horror movie titles by naming the sweepstakes “The Son of the Curse of the Wicked Halloween Party”. It’s an ad worth framing and hanging above my roaring marble fireplace posing as an entranceway to my hidden laboratory.
The thought of attending a 1998 Halloween party in Universal Studios with the Universal Monsters is nothing short of incredible. The opportunity to slow dance with the Gillman to Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” or boogie with Frankenstein to Jay Z’s “Hard Knock Life” is something I would quite possibly sell my soul for. The Mummy would definitely be the wallflower of the group, but I feel like I could get him swaying when “You Get What You Give” starts playing.
Anybody else catch on how weird it is that there’s a Halloween comic (that comes with a mask) with an ad for a Halloween party but it’s released in December? I think somebody missed the deadline.
YOMEGA YO YOS!
I remember going to school one day and suddenly everyone had a yo yo. Honestly. I sharply remember walking into my classroom on a particular weekday morning to nearly everyone attempting to “walk the dog”. It was an annoyance. Not because I was suddenly surrounded by 22 colorful yoyos (we’ve all been there) but because, yet again, I missed the newest fun trend. How do they keep up? I thought to myself. Does my “Letter of Hip Trends” get lost in the mail every month? Or is it an e-mail I miss because I don’t have a computer? I was yoyo-less. For the day. Week. Month probably. But the realization of being the actual Charlie Brown didn’t stop my need for INTEL. YOMEGA was the “it” brand (so I’d been told by the trend-masters as I hit the local beat) Duncan was a distant second yet still emitted a passable-cool. It took a couple weeks of nagging my grandmother with my woe filled yoyo-less days until she finally succumbed to buying me one.
We hit a now defunct store called “Gamer’s Paradise” in my local mall. There they had a rack displaying all the newest coolest trendy YOMEGA YOYOS. I grabbed a Yomega Fireball (black with clear accents) as the store clerk quipped how these were suddenly all the rage. The next morning at school was when I was accepted amongst my youthful peers. As we stood around in a circle during recess all totallysucking at doing anything remotely impressive with our yoyos. Despite all that, I actually enjoyed playing with it. At the very least I learned how to successfully make my yoyo “sleep” as well as “walk the dog”. And the quality of the Yomega yoyo did seem “professional” compared to your cheap run-of-the-mill bargain yoyos.
When it comes to the modern nostalgia niche, there’s certainly a lot of cherry picked “memories” deemed worthy to market as retro. The yo yo fad of the late 1990s is certainly one that’s overlooked. In fact, I completely forgot about it until coming across this ad…demonstrating why I do articles like this to begin with. I can even vaguely recall a classmate bringing up the “Yoyo Championships”..perhaps even a VHS tape was involved. And now that recollection is gone. It was for the best.
Not too long into yoyo-mania ‘98, I had acquired a glow-in-the-dark yoyo that contained an actual scorpion molded into the clear plastic. From the reaction of my classmates, it was then when I realized I had flown too close to the sun. A yoyo so extreme…so extra…so ‘90s…I may have single handedly ended the yoyo craze within my community. From ”hot” to “not”. Regards of yours truly. It wasn’t long before my yoyo ended up in a drawer alongside my knockoff Tamagotchi, mismatched baseball cards, and forgotten Happy Meal toys. One might say the yoyo craze of 1998 certainly had its ups and downs.
POKEMON RED/BLUE ON GAMEBOY!
The yoyo trend completely paled in comparison to Pokemania which, at this point, was runnin’ wild, brothers. A Japanese pop culture monster that eclipsed Godzilla yet fit in your pocket, Pokemon was (and still is) a popular cartoon show, trading card game, and…now…video game. If you didn’t see Pikachu’s fat face adorning everything from lunchboxes to backpacks at this time I’d argue that you, indeed, had no eyes. And if you have no eyes…how are you reading this article? Some sort of cyber-optic-eye implants I assume. Then you better use those fancy-robo-eyes to best watch yourself. Because we don’t take kindly to cyborg-types around these parts, you understand?
Anyway, Pokemon Red/Blue was my gateway drug into Pokemania. It was a trend making the rounds within my school that (no surprise) I was still unfamiliar with. While my friends were “battling” their Pokemon cards and “linking” their Gameboys to trade their pocket monsters, I was cradling my glow-in-the-dark scorpion yoyo and wondering where it went all wrong. It was my birthday gift of WWF Attitude on the Gameboy Color that began my journey into the world of Pokemon. How does a terrible wrestling game for the Gameboy Color bring me to Pokemon you ask? Simple: I didn’t own a Gameboy Color. And the game did not work on my original Gameboy. So my grandmother took me to Gamer’s Paradise (you know the one) to return it. There I was told I could not get the money back but I can exchange it for a game of the same value. I spotted Pokemon Red in their display case, thought the dragon on the cover looked cool, and that was that.
The game was oddly addicting as the “Gotta Catch ‘em All!” marketing mentality became a state of being for me. The game led to the playing cards and, soon, I was an unfortunate addict begging any relative within speaking distance for a quick drive to get a booster pack fix. I’d have a binder full of “moderately-impressive” pocket monsters, the occasionally holographic cards, presented almost as a physical representation of my self worth. Bringing certain “rare” cards in a single protective case to school to “flash” fellow poke-addicted peers for schoolyard validation. Was I merely a “First Edition Holographic Machamp”? Did I peak as a “Japanese Imported Holographic Gyarados?”. It’s questions like these that I still ponder to myself today.
DEADLY DOLLS DOUBLE FEATURE: BRIDE OF CHUCKY & SMALL SOLDIERS!
I decided to combine these two ads into one section because A. I don’t have much personal insight on either of these movies and 2. They involvetoys that are “alive” and cause chaos.
I recall rentingBride of Chuckywhen it was a new release and casually enjoying it. I was still living in the era of my childhood where my mom forbade R-rated horror films…but if I happened to be watching one via my own sneaky schemes …the reprimanding was definitely relaxed. 1988’s Child’s Play scared me stupid when I caught it on late night television years prior. There were a few nights where I had trouble sleeping as I stared intently at my toy box…waiting for any unusual signs of movement. I’d follow up the uneasy fear by thinking about the happy positive toys of Toy Story…and, like the sweet Ambien that is Disney, I would drift off to sleep.
If you’ve seen Bride of Chucky, you might’ve realized that this is when the series became a full blown horror-comedy. And, being a kid, it worked for me…as the film didn’t leave me too scared and the rude crude adult humor of Chucky (dialed up to an 11 here) came off as simply “bAdAsS”. It was that meta 90’s counterculture “attitude” that was so marketable and appealing. Child’s Play is unique for me in that the first film is one of my favorite horror movies…and everything that came after I don’t care for. Yet Bride is interesting in that I haven’t recalled it since writing this…and while my memories of it aren’t too vivid…there’s clearly a fondness that goes along with it that might warrant a second viewing.
Small Soldiers is interesting where it seemed like a PG-13 Child’s Play on the surface, yet is its own beast entirely. I don’t remember this film being released. I believe I was gifted it on VHS that Christmas of ‘98. One of those “You’re a kid, here’s a movie for kids” presents a relative gives you because they don’t really know you. Where it felt more like a “truce” instead of a present. The film is essentially about GI Joe action figures that go haywire, break out of their boxes, and start raging war on each other and any humans that get in their way. I turned out loving the film as it was kept in my constant VHS rotation for years. There’s a certain darkness to it and definitely some offbrand humor that makes it work on many levels. When covering the Yomega Yoyos, I mentioned “cherry picked” nostalgia and how a lot of memories get lost to the past. And although Small Soldiers seems to have a cult following these days, I’d still put it in the “overlooked” nostalgia category.
Editor’s Note:I neglected to mention that I also watched Small Soldiers sooften because I was completely smitten with actress Kirsten Dunst. Years later when we got a desktop computer, I printed out pictures of her and taped them to the walls of my room. I even had a picture of her I cut out from a magazine and taped it to the inside of my school schedule. I am aware this was the behavior of a 12 year old girl. But I just want to create an open honest space here. Once she was cast in 2002’s Spider-man, I became near-obsessed with her. It faded with time but I’d just like to point out that, after doing some research, her husband is my age and, quite frankly, I am much better looking. Your loss, Dunst.
Interesting Trivia Stat: I have written 12 of these Ad Nauseam articles (Covering nearly60 Vintage Ads!) over the course of 5 years! Is that something to be proud of? I DON’T KNOW! Do what you will with this knowledge. I write these when I get an “itch” to; and that’s usually when I come across an ad that tickles my noggin’ while flipping through an old comic. Each Ad Nauseam article very well could be my last. And for those of you who have read one, some, or all of these little paper time machine insights…I appreciate you! It takes a special kind of person to take their own personal time and read the nostalgic personal ramblings of a manchild sparked by 25+ year old advertisements.
I think we’d be friends.
So thank you for thumbing in between the action of old comics and reminiscing with me. You’ll always find “insight” into comfy comic culture here on ChrisDoesComics. Let’s get coffee sometime.
Editor’s Note: Kirsten please stop trying to contact me. You had your chance. Lets move on like two responsible adults.