I’ve been riding that Sonic The Hedgehog 2 high the past few weeks. I decided to revisit some old drawings I did around early 2020. I packaged my conceptual designs for a mock animated series I called “Sonic Spin”. Another “what if?” project where if a certain IP were in my hands, how would I pitch it? “Sonic Spin” would be aimed at very young children riding the success of the Sonic the Hedgehog films. It would be more in tone to the 1993 Adventures of Sonic The Hedgehog rather than the overly complicated, often too-serious anime Sonic shows that followed. Sonic has always been a lighthearted fun colorful character. Which is why children are so drawn to him in the first place.
When it comes to my actual designs, I went for a light hearted Looney Tunes aesthetic but also simplified designs as modern cartoons tend to do. Today, you’ll see a lot of classic IPs like Ninja Turtles or Thundercats “reimagined” into a wackier tongue-in-cheek animated direction. It never bodes well with the diehards, but sometimes it can be enjoyable for what it is…even though you sort of question how it got this far in the first place.
When I shared some of these designs via Reddit in 2020, the consensus from the Sonic fan community was “Amazing skill; Terrible take.” And that’s okay. Because it’s also not aimed at them. It’s a silly fast paced, adventure comedy about a Hedgehog and his friends fighting evil robots aimed at 5-8 year olds. Personally, I loved drawing these characters. I would love to see this realized a bit more. One day maybe. #gottagofast
Oh, hey there, I didn’t see you come in. What’s that? Oh, I was just thumbing through my eighteen issues of Night Thrasher comic books. “Who” you ask? Ah, well Night Thrasher is basically Batman without cool villains but makes up for it by riding a skateboard. Now I’m going to talk about the advertisements in this particular 27 year old issue. I do this semi-regularly.
Hey, where are you going? You just got here! Why don’t you get comfortable and stay for a while. I have sweet tea in the fridge.
Tonight we’re looking in between the action of Marvel’s Night Thrasher #4 released in November of 1993. We’re going to hit all the nostalgic topics you’d expect: defunct toy stores, bad video games, and fast food tie-ins! What’s that? Why am I doing this? Well…why don’t buses have seatbelts? Why doesn’t McDonald’s sell hot dogs? Why is he called The “Lone” Ranger if he always has Tonto with him?
“Defensive”, you say? Well, kiddo, I only have one thing to say to you: Remember Seaquest?
First of all, DSV stands for Deep Submergence Vehicle. Glad that’s out of the way. Anywho, Seaquest (I’m typing it like this from now on) was a television show that ran for 3 seasons from 1993 to 1996. It took place in the scientific super-future of 2018 and was basically underwater Star Trek. It starred Roy Scheider (of Jaws fame) adding to my theory that he was clearly some sort of amphibious man-fish that needed quick access to salt water at all times.
I included this ad as it was something I haven’t given a single solitary shred of thought since I last “watched” it. Seaquest, alongside Stargate SG-1, provided involuntary background noise that polluted the backroom of my grandfather’s currency exchange during my summer break days. I couldn’t tell you if this show was good or not (research shows it was popular for a hot second) but boy did it seem boring to an 11 year old. Apparently not even Darwin, Seaquest DSV’s genius talking Dolphin, could keep my attention for a full episode. And Darwin was mentioned so matter-of-factly on the wikipedia page that I had to do a double take.
Nowadays Seaquest is some sort of aquatic zoo franchise throughout the US where you can book corporate events and birthday parties to touch otters and curse stingrays for taking Steve Irwin from us. Regardless of what Seaquest DSV means to people, it’ll always be sleepy television droning to me. Beats All My Children though.
That last sentence sounds kinda dark.
KayBee Toy Stores Ghost Rider Deal!
I’d like to point out that this issue of Night Thrasher stops dead in its tracks for a TWELVE PAGE ad for Ghost Rider’s comics and coupon deal. If anything, I’d say Night Thrasher himself acts as a mere husk for the Spirit of Vengeance and his aggressive marketing. It was around this time that Marvel paraded Ghost Rider quite a bit. Besides his main comic title, he was featured in SEVEN others! Not to mention his own toyline. So why was Marvel suddenly pushing the decades old Ghost Rider, you ask? SPAWN. Todd Mcfarlane’s series was the hottest comic on the planet. This new indie creation about a human unwillingly bonded with a demonic force under “Satan’s” power? Heck, that sounds like Ghost Rider. Well, that’s what Marvel thought too. And that’s why ‘ol Flamehead was everywhere in the mid 1990s.
The ad featured is for a H O T D E A L in which you can bring the attached coupon into a KayBee toy store and get $5 off any Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis (when I was dead broke, man, I couldn’t picture this) game cartridge PLUS a Ghost Rider collectors comic issue! The combination of Ghost Rider swingin’ his chain near a Street Fighter II SNES box all below the KayBee Toys logo promotes this ad to the MEGA 90S NOSTALGIA HALL OF FAME. If there was some sort of physical shrine to my childhood memories…it would all be encompassed inside of a KayBee toy store.
Till this day, if I’m visiting my childhood mall, I’ll always glance and visibly frown where the KayBee toy store used to be. I can recall the sound of electronic toys chirping ,grinding, performing on display as you walked in. Stepping onto that dirty royal blue carpeting stained from sugary Icee spills. Surrounded from floor to ceiling with various boxed toy trends spanning multiple eras. KayBee never got rid of anything. Employees just caked on those tiny white and red price stickers until the toy was basically free. I can place the three claustrophobic aisles leading to the back wall where you’d nearly be squashed by towering Care Bears and other assorted plush. Shuffling up to the cashier with your purchase, the entire counter area was littered with assorted candy, gags, keychains, and trading cards stacked at eye level for one last impulse purchase. I’d eagerly glance behind the cashier at the carefully lined wall of video game cartridges sitting in those hefty plastic cases. Scanning for suggestions I can rattle off for my birthday or Christmas. Man. What a vibe. I’m there, y’know?
Pizza Hut X-Men Pizza Packs!
Pizza Hut has pizza with all the X-TRAS this ad boldly claims in an eye-catching two page spread that I would have framed hanging above my roaring fireplace. In my deep (dish) personal (pan) opinion, Pizza Hut was never the place to go for tie-in trinkets. Yet when they wanted to, Pizza Hut truly delivered (not only pizza) but some awesome X-TRAS as illustrated here. X-Men were as hot as the mozzarella on your slice with an awesome cartoon, toyline, and rebooted (sorta) comic series. For just $2.99 you can order a Kid’s pizza pack that consists of a personal pan pizza in a X-Men pizza box, One (of four) collector’s cups, an activity mat, and an X-Clusive X-Men comic (new issue every two weeks!).
Around this time, the X-Men truly had a set of colorful characters brought to life by some amazing comic artists like Jim Lee, Andrew Wildman, Stephen Baskerville, John Herbet etc. that really made them stand out. From the logo to the backdrops and action poses…X-Men all came together and cemented the 1990s comic aesthetic many tried to duplicate. It’s a look and style that’s just so alluring to children and artists alike it’s no wonder why it was incorporated into toy, VHS, fast food, and trading card packaging. It just looked so intense and fresh. Personally I was never taken to a Pizza Hut unless it had to do with a Book It! coupon. And I was not aware of this promotion at the time. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t just go to eBay and see if someone had a set of these cups to purchase. Because, in my reality, nothing broadcasts culture more than one sipping from a 27 year old plastic Beast cup. Who would’ve thought the X-Men paired as well with pizza as the Ninja Turtles did?
Bram Stoker’s Dracula THE VIDEO GAME
Man, seeing this ad made me remember how Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula was everywhere. It truly was considered a “blockbuster” in its time. I recall seeing that “gargoyle” Dracula head plastered in every comic, magazine, billboard, bus stop and movie theater for months. I even spotted toys of Dracula in his red armor and “wolf” form at my local Suncoast video. But being in my “afraid of everything” phase there wasn’t a chance I was going to see this movie anytime soon. I didn’t find out there was a video game for it until ages later. And growing into a monster fanatic I had to play it.
I remember it being about as “good” as the film. I don’t know what the general consensus of Bram Stoker’s Dracula is. I sat down thinking I was about to watch the ultimate Dracula film experience. And although the sets, costumes, and effects were all top notch…I felt pretty unimpressed when it ended. In the same vein (ha!) The game was nothing special either. The ad boasts “photo-realistic graphics” and “awesome soundtrack”. I’m sure they’re referring to the Sega CD version, while I only played the Super Nintendo game. The ad challenges me to “Play It If You Dare” and I suppose it did what Dracula is known to do…suck.
There’s actually a better version of this game called Nosferatu released on the Super Nintendo in late 1995. I never heard about it until I ventured into emulating. The only negative is knowing I’m not playing as Keanu Reeves. That being said, the Dracula “gargoyle” head and title design still gives me the heebie jeebies. That’s great design work. Just wish the movie could’ve lived up to that.
Well, that’s another installment of Ad Nauseum in the books. What’s that? You enjoyed that more than you thought you would? Well, you know what? I thought you just might.
And you can always find articles on the remnants of comic culture right here on ChrisDoesComics. What am I talking about? Oh, you just let me worry about that. Just don’t forget to leave your empty sweet tea glass by the sink before you go. Pardon? Oh, that’s right, your ankle chain. Let me just grab the key.
I bought a plastic sack of Super Mario toys for eight bucks so now I’m gonna write about that.
I loveSuper Mario. I’ve spent decades playing through this plump plumber’s adventures. And that’s not just nostalgia speaking. Mario games have a history of being innovative, timeless, and fun. He’s viewed as the Mickey Mouse of video games without becoming a soulless corporate mascot hellbent on absorbing everything you cherish for profit.
So when you’re at a flea market and come across a ziplock of mysterious Super Mario toys for $10, you offer $8. And when you get that ziplock of Super Mario toys for $8, you go home and you write about it for your sad decrepit website damn it.
Research revealed this is a complete set of Super Mario toys featured in McDonald’s Happy Meals back in August of 2018. Retro? Definitely not, but covering the Super Mario Bros 3 Happy Meal toys at this point is beating a dead horse. And I happen to like my horses alive…and thriving…and quietly drinking water midday from a wooded creek. That’s how I like my horses. Anyway the Mario toys…
My favorite Happy Meal toys as a kid were barebones action figures. This is because I’d incorporate them with my non-Happy Meal action figures for what can only be described as Epic Playtime Crossover-Battles™ that predate the Cinematic Universe craze by decades. Yet 2018’s Super Mario toys are games in their own right featuring a pinball game, a maze game, and a Rubix cube-like puzzle game. My favorite being the 8 bit throwback pinball game which can give you seconds of fun. These are all well made and cool, but unlike the good ‘ol days, I can’t have one of these fight my Robocop. I probably could though honestly.
Ah, now we’re getting action-figurey! Yoshi “dashes” with the help of his little plastic launcher. He comes with two token targets. Luigi is the same gist with better execution. He comes with a little Goomba and Koopa Troopa target. You put that plastic “fireball” in his hand, wind him back, and he hurls it at those nerds. It’s also pretty rare to get a Fireflower version of Luigi. Especially one that looks so salty. You can possibly make your own targets…like Mario himself…to really further the jealously that fuels the sibling rivalry.
Don’t worry, there are Mario toys in the Super Mario lot. On the left there’s addictive gambler Mario, where you push his head into a Slot Machine question mark block to test your luck. The Florida Gambling Council actually tried to get this toy recalled as they stated it’s “marketing gambling to children.” Mind you, This is coming from the same state known for an enormous theme park that promises more money more “magic”. And then there’s “Hat Toss” Mario. He operates like “Salty Flame Luigi” but instead tosses his hat onto a target. Think of it as “Manchild Floor Darts” but it comes with a smashed cheeseburger and french fries. Not too shabby. And you also get another rare figure: Hatless Mario. Which is cool and all, but the hat makes the man.
This one is my favorite: YOSHI BINGO. It’s a legit game of bingo with Mario inspired flippable cards, little punch pieces, and a radical Yoshi “spinner” to play. That spinner makes it. It’s creative and it’s a game that takes more than 30 seconds to play. It’s a fun gateway to introduce your kids to a game they’ll be taking way too seriously about 70 years down the road. Do you think we’ll have Happy Meals still?
Solid variety of features/games
Very well made. Better than a lot of the small in-store Mario toys.
Video Game Characters are “games” themselves. What a concept!
I got these for $1 per toy. Not sure how many gold coins that is.
Not Enough Mario characters (Bowser? Peach? Toad? Donkey Kong?)
Rubix Cube Puzzle thing is clearly the least cool toy
Yoshi Dasher doesn’t “shoot” very far (He was never a runner though)
In conclusion, for a cheap impulse buy and being a big Mario fan…these were really interesting and fun to examine and play. The toys themselves are studier with better paint applications than what I’ve seen in stores. It’s always fun to see where Happy Meal toys are nowadays. Nothing can replace the ones when I was a kid, but I think it’s fair to say that’s nostalgia talking. These are way cooler and a lot of thought went into their designs. I don’t even know if kids play with physical toys nowadays or if a McDonald’s Happy Meal is something they’d crave, but I’d be begging my grandma to stop at the ‘ol Mickey D’s drive-thru for these guys without a doubt.
“Shut up, Christopher…” She’d say. “You need a toy like you need another hole in the head.”