I Dissected An Alien

Are toys as fun as they used to be? Would the modern kid rather have a touchscreen instead of a Stretch Armstrong? Years of experience as an expert man-child led me to realize that toys have sort of “grown up” alongside me. Trading “Glow In The Dark!” and “Oozing Action!” features for “collector friendly packaging” and “high articulation and detail”.

Yet sometimes you long for a toy that wants to be played with. It’s a wild concept, I know. So my 25% off coupon and I ventured to a Target toy aisle this holiday season in search of adventure. And I think I found it…in the form of a plastic capsule holding what looks like an aggravated cucumber.

ALIEN1
If you’re not here for this why do you even come here to begin with?

Enter the TREASURE X ALIEN. 

This dude cost me $12.99. They have two other alien designs you can slice into, but I chose this one because I wanted the rare opportunity to own something that looks like someone pickled The Creature from the Black Lagoon. 

ALIEN2Some research (scrolling through Amazon while eating a damp corndog) revealed that Treasure X is a line excavation toys that involve slime, sand, scalpels, skeletons, and serpents. Digging deeper revealed boards games, expansion packs, and promises of REAL (?) gold and meteorite treasure. Feeling overwhelmed and confused I longed for the simple days of baking a tray of insects using a low wattage light bulb. And using my recollection of Creepy Crawlers as a palate cleanser, I decided to (literally) dig into my discounted alien creature. You’ve come this far. You might as well finish the article.

ALIEN3Long story short: You cut open a slimy alien to retrieve a smaller slimier alien.

After struggling with insanely intricate packaging, I removed my oozing phallic space monster as well as several accessories needed to dissect it. The “directions” given were really creative, overall looking/reading less like directions and more like a special top secret assignment. I do not feel as ridiculous as I should I thought to myself standing in my living room dressed in Ninja Turtle pajamas holding a plastic toy scalpel.

I began to cut into the creature, eventually removing it’s rubbery skin plate revealing a bright yellow ribcage. I proceeded to snap it out because I watched The Autopsy of Jane Doe 5 times and that is what you do. That led me to discovering  the alien’s slimy yellow egg-like gut sac. Gut sacs normally don’t intrigue me but I was lost in my playtime imagination and proceeded with the autopsy as directed by my top secret government files from Target.

ALIEN4
What was thought to be a simple autopsy turned out to be a rescue mission.

Using my scalpel to slice open the egg-sac, it began to overflow with what I can only describe as thick dank green ooze. Feeling in the moment, I quietly exclaimed “My god…” to myself as my mutant cucumber’s innards dramatically dripped on the paper towel I laid down out of fear of my girlfriend’s wrath. I then dug my scalpel inside the snot-like region and “rescued” our dear alien adventurer. To the right of the gut-sac squeezed in tight was a “heart” bag containing more strange alien treasure. I put that to the side as I tended to the little mucus soaked creature I had just removed.

ALIEN5
The gooey contents within my creature… 

After a quick cleanup I examined the little ninja alien guy. He was a pretty cool little action figure complete with moving limbs and a blaster. I also discovered a stretchy and sticky little pink slug monster within the gut-sac. If I was a child I would have ate that for sure because even as an adult I was debating doing so. Cutting open the creature’s heart-bag revealed this a small plastic accessory that looked like a late 90s pocket planner. Kind of a let down, but I made up the story that my alien devoured some sort of Michael Douglas-esque businessman during rush hour. So it had that going for it.

ALIEN6
The little adventurer dude that I extracted. I named him Barry. 

That pretty much sums up the autopsy process. Think of this as those little “blind box” figures you see at the store checkout, but instead of ripping up some cardboard you have to cut into a large rubber alien to reveal your character.  It’s a very creative and fun way to go about it and isn’t that what buying toys is all about? So let’s breakdown the positives and negatives of this Treasure X Alien.

GOOD: 

Creative and fun. From the directions to the packaging to the actual dissection. It all comes together well. I took my time and the whole process took me about 15-20 minutes.

Affordable. For $13 you get a cool little action figure, accessories, rubber alien, slime, and a really awesome experience to retrieve it all. I could also see why Target has these dudes all over the store for the Christmas season: They are perfectly sized for CHRISTMAS STOCKINGS. Duh. Solid marketing there.

Gross with Variety. There’s 2 other types of aliens to slice open. And about a dozen different little alien adventurer guys to “save”. And in an age terrified of gender labeling, it’s refreshing to see something that is so clearly a “Boy’s Toy”. Though anybody can dig this, honestly.

BAD:

Messy. I don’t mind gettin’ down and dirty with my alien cucumber, but the toy scalpel isn’t very sharp and it may take some scissors to cleanly open/dig into things. I understand it’s for safety reasons, but at times I felt like my alien was like cutting a Dollar Tree steak using a glorified spork. And, obviously, slime is involved. And kids, probably. So take that as you will.

No Story. Is my alien dead? Who are these little guys I’m digging out? What are their names? Why is their treasure and why am I getting it? Imagination is a great tool but so is direction. I love that this isn’t some sort of tie in an existing property, but having some fun backstory is nice too.

One and done. You can’t “re-dissect” the alien. And if you somehow spend too much time reassembling it, the autopsy still won’t be as fun. The whole point of these being so cheap is to buy more and “discover” more aliens. So it’s understood. It’s just kinda sad that your big oozing alien has a huge permanent hole in his chest.


Overall this is an awesome little toy for an affordable price. It took me back to the days of Creepy Crawlers and Dr. Dreadful’s Lab. It’s original, it’s gross, and mysterious. I hope these gross dudes end up in some Christmas stockings this year, because I’d love for this line to continue and even expand into more intricate sets of gross slimy dissection.

ALIEN7
Pictured: My face when being forced to watch The Last Jedi 

Plus when you’re done dissecting, you can jam as much goop into your alien’s head as possible, squeeze it, and watch him ooze from his eyes, nose, and mouth! Yum!

So are toys as fun as they used to be? While the innovation and creativity may have taken a backseat to collectability and intellectual properties, fun original and interactive toys are still in the aisles. You just might have to dig a little deeper to find them than, say, 20 years ago. The best thing about toys is the ability to pretend and imagine. And these types of toys are perfect for that. Like I mentioned earlier, these are toys that beg to be played with. Would I buy another one? Not for myself, but they’d make an excellent gift for kiddos on Christmas.

I hope you enjoyed reading my college thesis on pointless future trash that you don’t even care about. The thought “Why are you even doing this?” popped up several times when I was writing this article and photographing my toy. Then I seen green slime ooze out of my new rubber alien’s toy face and that’s when I knew the answer. It was all worth it in the end, folks.

ALIEN8

Sig_2018_SMALL

Ad Nauseum: Magneto #2

Hey, I heard you guys like trash. Welcome to another installment of Ad Nauseum: a completely original idea where I look at old ads from childhood comic books and write about them as a means to escape an unfillable void!

Let’s wind the clocks back to December 1996, a time where Superman inexplicably had a mullet, Nickelodeon was in its golden era, Bill Clinton was totally not getting head in the oval office, and Michael Jordan kept telling me I should buy a particular brand of hot dogs based solely on plumpness.

1

Magneto Vol. 1 Issue 2 December 1996

Magneto is quite possibly one of my favorite comic book characters of all time. And riding that X-Men high from the mid-90’s, he was able to acquire his own title in the form of several miniseries throughout the era. This is the first of 3 miniseries and is the second of four issues. In this particular issues Magneto does such badass things as cry about his daughter and complain about violence. Let me remind you this was the 1990s, which means every character you were reading about was always revealed to be a clone or cyborg. Duh! 

I found this issue in a clearance drawer for 50 cents. And even though the bookstore was nearly empty, the one customer besides myself was browsing the same section without a shred of decency concerning personal space. Humans are very irritating.  So it’s fitting this all led me to a Magneto comic. He smelled like stale pizza rolls.

Let’s see what we got between these dank smelling yellowed pages…

2

Universal’s Islands of Adventure Theme Park

Universal’s “newest” theme park didn’t open until 1999 but they built up years anticipation in what is one of their earliest ads! The park was a smorgasbord of Intellectual Properties such as Jurassic Park, Dr. Seuss, and Marvel Superheroes. In this particular ad the park “skyline” is illustrated from early concepts and is showcasing the Incredible Hulk roller coaster!

I was lucky enough to visit Islands of Adventure multiple times as early as 2000.  And as much as I enjoy Disney, it was a very special feeling to be among superheroes at Marvel Superhero Island. I seen ads in my Marvel comics for years building up this section of the park. Realize this was long before a cinematic universe. Tony Stark and Stan Lee were names only “nerds” recognized. Walking around this colorful “city” ripped straight from comic panels, passing Kingpin’s “gambling” arcade, and Fantastic Four’s cafe seemed to good to be true. Walking through Dr. Doom’s fortress and seeing an army of full scale Doombots was incredible!

Due to Disney now owning the rights to Marvel, Universal Islands of Adventure has an agreement to still use the characters for this section of the park but Universal can only use what they have. Therefore the Island is stuck in this late 90s era of Marvel comics style. This may seem disappointing with how much Marvel has grown in the years but I find it very comforting to see this piece of childhood nostalgia frozen in time when comics were most important to me. ‘Nuff said! 

Editors note: The park does not feature a twelve story raging Hulk. Sorry.

3

Crash Bandicoot Video Game

This ad for Crash Bandicoot on the Playstation perfectly exemplifies the 1990s counter culture “attitude” of the era. The idea of costumed characters in rebellious “adult” situations mixed with the crude “handwritten” messages to create this almost scrapbook-like advertisement was fresh and cool way of marketing your garbage.

I didn’t pick up a copy of Crash Bandicoot until it was a “Greatest Hit” on the Playstation about 3 years later. This was a great 3D platforming game with solid humor and a fun style. It was Playstation’s attempt at a Mario or Sonic. And though Crash was cool and had good games to back him up, he never really met that level. My favorite thing about this ad is definitely the picture of Crash showing of his new game at Nintendo headquarters.

My main question is why Crash is traveling to Seattle exactly. Perhaps this was a series of ads that featured Crash traveling major cities to show off his new game? If anything, Crash taught me that a Bandicoot is an actual living animal. A marsupial based in Australia. Though I highly doubt they can drive automobiles. Who said video games rot your brain?

4

Marvel Online

Well now the masses have access to this thing called the internet. And American Online was a browser that pretty much streamlined it to where anyone can use it.

Having a website at this time meant you were somebody. And the mere idea of the internet to someone like myself was expansive in thought yet limited in execution. I remember one of my first interactions with the internet involved me trying to wrap my head around being able to look up information on anything. My fingers hovering over the keyboard overwhelmed. I specifically remember visiting the official website of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, WWF, Disney, and Marvel. Take it, there wasn’t much to these sites back then…but it was still a new exciting experience. And little did I know Disney would end up owning mostly everything I loved.

This ad for Marvel Online in particular takes me back to the early days of internet. Calling itself the “C Y B E R V E R S E” with exclusive features like Live Chat Sessions, Cybercomics, and Message boards. Message boards were probably my favorite thing about the internet. Being able to connect with other fans all over the world about such niche interests and hobbies was fascinating at the time. Being able to access exclusive comics of Spider-man or Wolverine for free was something captivating.

In this time, when left to your own devices, you had what you had. But the idea of having a device that was constantly updating, evolving, and changing around your interests and hobbies but being able to access it anytime? It was mind bending. Suddenly being “stuck” in video games and not knowing song lyrics was gone….expansive knowledge on your favorite subjects you can only find in libraries was all there. And it was just waiting for you to find it.

Also AOL Keywords. That was a thing.

5

Millennium TV Series

Sometime in the late 1990s somebody at Fox thought it’d be a good idea to put Lance Hendrickson’s enormous head on television and I actually watched it every week with my grandma. Well, really, X-Files was huge at the time and the creator decided to give another swing with a series titled Millennium

It’s about an ex-FBI agent that can read the minds of criminals and works in Seattle where he probably ran into Crash Bandicoot. The series ran for 3 seasons and was cancelled right before the friggen’ Millennium! So close! Imagine the X-Files meets Se7en and you got yourself Millennium. I remember the show being very atmospheric and gritty. And you can use those words to describe Lance Hendrickson’s forehead alone. After it’s cancellation it had a crossover with the X-Files for an episode to give things closure.

And, after that, Lance Hendrickson decided to haunt every horror convention within a 1200 mile radius of his home.

If that’s not enough for you, IDW actually published a 5 issue Millennium series of comics in 2015 proving that nearly anything can get revived as a comic! And I sit here like an idiot waiting for a Perfect Strangers season 9 in comic form.

6

Bonus! Macfarlane Movie Maniacs! (Bloody Edition) 

Oh, sweet nectar of the horror Gods! I praise thee!

McFarlane Toys was pretty much the company that stepped up and made adult collectable action figures a thing (in the US anyway). Started by Spawn creator and human slinky dog, Todd McFarlane, McFarlane Toys took IPs that appealed to adults and made super detailed high end collectable figures. The Movie Maniacs line took R-rated slashers like Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, Norman Bates, Leatherface, and Jason Vorhees, packaged them, and sold them so your mom could complain about how you’re well on your way to becoming a serial killer.

The set pictured featured “blood splattered” variants in which you can order all 3 for $29.95. Pretty incredible considering a single figure fetches a price of around $50 unpackaged nowadays. To much surprise, I actually never owned a single McFarlane Movie Maniac. And the series expanded quite bit from Predator and Terminator to The Blair Witch and even Shaft for some reason.

I couldn’t tell you why I never partook in buying a single action figure from a toy line that seemed to be marketed specifically for me...it could’ve been that I was too caught up in Sideshow Collectable Universal Monsters figures…or I was simply too thick headed to pick up on signals like that girl in my art class junior year of high school (sorry Liz).


Looks like we’re on the last page of Magneto Vol. 1 Issue 2  from December 1996. I hope you enjoyed reading my overblown recollection of theme parks, Lance Hendrickson, and bloody action figures. While typing this article I actually had a coworker ask what I was doing. After I explained they had a look of complete bafflement on their face and simply asked, “Why?”. 

I honestly didn’t have an answer.

You’ll always find articles on ancient comic culture right here on ChrisDoesComics. Until next time, fiends!

Sig_2018_SMALL

Ad Nauseam: X-Men #60

Welcome back to my retrospective series of articles in which I sit in my dark apartment, listen to synthwave, and thumb through back issues in hopes of sparking shadowed memories of simpler times! An exciting Saturday night is finding a 24 year old advertisement for Dinosaur Eggs oatmeal. How can life possibly offer anything more?

X-Men Vol. 1 #60, January 1997

If there’s a main theme throughout these articles (besides the onset of Peter Pan Syndrome) it has to be constantly waxing nostalgic about the X-Men. They were a benevolent force throughout comic culture in the 1990s. But 1997 marked a lull in X-Men fandom. While at heart X-Men was always a glorified mutant soap opera, the ideas of love triangles, false deaths, and double agents were tired tropes. This was also the year the acclaimed X-Men animated series was cancelled. And with that dries up the marketability of X-Men toys, tie ins, and video games.

But, as we all know, this wasn’t goodbye for the X-Men. It was just “see you later”. Because in just 3 short years Marvel introduced the ULTIMATE universe of comics and the blockbuster X-Men live action movie hit theaters worldwide.

But, right now, we’re stuck in 1997 and we have this awfully mundane issue to get through.  But between the story: A D V E R T I S M E N T S. This is an X-men title so I didn’t have to necessarily hit the clearance for you, so we’re not at the bottom of the barrel per-say.  That’s reserved for Witchbalde or Youngbloods. So put on your finest Austin 3:16 shirt, pause your Playstation, crack open a cold Surge and join me on this capitalistic journey of useless trading cards and fruitless VHS tapes.

Kool-Aid Points

It’s summer break and you and your best buds have the whole day ahead of you. Maybe you play some Bucky O’Hare, head over to the park district pool, split some nachos, and do that weird running gallop so the lifeguards don’t blow the whistle at you for running. What always hits the spot on a hot summer day like this was a big pitcher of some sticky flavored sugar water. And while you sit on your throne of innocence and Super Ropes you think to yourself, “How can this get any better?” 

Well let me tell you: Getting free garbage for drinking that cold sticky sugar water.  What we have here is the always incredible Kool-Aid Kool Points program. Kool-Aid packets were worth points. You save the packets. And mail them in to get treasures. I have to say, I love everything that is offered in this ad. I try to imagine what I’d save up for and I get anxiety from the choices. I’d love to get some official Kool-Aid merch like a shirt, beach towel, or bottle that way I can let everyone know I’m well on my way to premature diabetes. But, at the same time, the idea of saving up for a Yomega Fireball Yo-Yo, Nintendo Gameboy Keychain, or Remote Control Car truly feels like an accomplishment I’d cherish more so than my college degree (it’s a BA in art so it’s basically not real) .

This Kool-Points program was started sometime in the early 1980s and ended  recently in 2008. Unfortunately you can’t find as much Kool information as you’d hope as it seems to be the name of a mobile gaming app nowadays. But let this be a remainder of the days where you just didn’t chug a pitcher of Rock-a-dile Red for the pure enjoyment of quenching mere thirst, you were inching closer to quenching the thirst of owning an Official Kool-Aid Man kite. Oh. Yeah.

Got Milk? Featuring Spider-man!

As stated as the topic for my college thesis, if you were anybody of significance in the past 20 years you were featured in a Got Milk? ad. Singer, athlete, actor, wrestler, cartoon character or inter-dimensional idea you were given a page wide spread with a glass of milk complete with white mustache. Even Spider-man himself, complete with mask mustache, is pictured in this very ad presented.  The Nobel Peace Prize paled in comparison to the worldwide recognition one receives when simply asking the question “Got Milk?”. 

The one downside to this ad campaign is that it was a little too successful in that it became trendy for nearly every brand or company to ask the famous “Got Milk?” question with their own, often illogical, spin. I remember seeing tons of t-shirts and bumper stickers being sold with simple text reading things like “Got Comics?” or “Got Pizza?” in that tall white font. I even recall the local zoo selling “Got Dolphins?” bumper stickers with the names of various animals at whatever exhibits.

It was genius in it’s simplicity. These ads were featured in every kind of newspaper, magazine, or comic. And it made Milk, well, cool if you seen Spider-man, Brett Favre, or Whoopi Goldberg with the classic ‘stache. I even seen someone with a “Got Speed?” bumper sticker on their car driving home last week. It’s still relevant today and kind of douchey apparently!

Michael Jordan Highlights on VHS!

When you want to describe someone being the best at something, nowadays it’s common to say “They’re the Michael Jordan of” it. For example, “Chris is the Michael Jordan of  having a cynical outlook!” or “ChrisDoesComics.com is the Michael Jordan of websites nobody cares about.”  Well, Michael Jordan is the Michael Jordan of basketball. Being a Chicago native during the Bulls legendary era, I and everyone I knew wanted to be like Mike.

MJ was on my t-shirts and my bedroom walls. I had MJ books and magazines. I wanted Hanes because Michael wore them. I wanted a Big Macs and Ball Park Franks because Michael ate them. Space Jam was a childwide event in Chicago complete with parades and screenings in church. I made that last one up. Michael Jordan was so awesome and such an international phenomenon that for $30 the NBA sold a 2 1/2 hour MJ highlight reel on VHS.

I included this ad because I really downplay the love I had for Michael Jordan nowadays. Not really for a particular reason other than I simply forget what a idol he was to me and so many other kids back then. This ad truly gave me the warm fuzzies because it’s the reason I write these articles to begin with: to dust off fond forgotten memories.  And I remember a time where I wanted to be Like Mike. Except for that short period where he played baseball.

CardZillion Trading Card Machines!

Another reason I write these articles is to share things I had no idea existed like CARDZILLION. I wasn’t sure to include this ad but after doing some research I simply had to. These “vending” machines were located exclusively in Toys “R” Us stores from 1994 until 1997 and were distributed by Bandai. You’d pop in a quarter and receive a trading card from properties like Power Rangers, Beetleborgs, Sailor Moon, and Donkey Kong Country. Each series composed of 42 cards including 6 ULTRA cards (which were the rare ones).

What set these cards apart were they all felt special. They had hologram cards, holofoil cards, Ultra rare cards, cards that popped up into little dioramas, cards that made up a battle game. And with the machine being placed in the store exit, it was a great strategy for kids to drain a little more out of their parents during the trip. 9 year old me would be all over those Donkey Kong Country cards without fail.

I’m not sure why they didn’t last long. It may have been because the novelty of trading cards weren’t nearly as popular as they were 10-30 years ago. That being said, had I known about these I would’ve certainly begged for a trip to Toys R Us just to use one.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if they brought these back with comic books? With Marvel and superheroes being modern day Greek Mythology, it would be a fun experiment to bundle these with some $1 back issues with maybe some “exclusive” or signed covers as a rarity.

Rugrats Reptar Crunch Cereal!

The Rugrats is a cartoon that elevated Nickelodeon to legendary kids entertainment. And it open the floodgates to a plethora of classic cartoons. But with Nickelodeon being presented as a network “For kids by kids” they understood that children knew when they were being marketed to. Which is why, compared to say Disney, they had very limited merchandise. It made getting your grubby little meathooks on something Rugrats, Rocko, or Ren more special.

And, here, we have not Rugrats cereal but Reptar cereal! Reptar was a show within the show that the Rugrats themselves watched and idolized. What I love about Reptar is although he was watched by babies he was much more Godzilla than Barney. He had no educational value for these kids. He just loved to smash cities and roar. And I love him for that.

Reptar  merch was always present in the show itself with things like a Reptar chocolate bar, Reptar on Ice, Reptar The Movie, and Tommy Pickles’s beloved Reptar doll. I find it very interesting to bring that branding off the show and into reality as it makes for a much more fun and unique product. Sure, you could’ve had an actual Rugrats cereal with marshmallow rattles or something uninspired. But instead you now have a product that Chuckie Finster and Tommy Pickles himself would eat….if they had teeth that is.

With with whole Nick Nostalgia in full effect to drain us 90s kids of our hard earned cash, they’ve actually released a whole Reptar brand of merchandise including cereal and the legendary chocolate bar itself. So if you gotta find that Reptar now is the time more than ever.


Would you look at that? We’re done with X-men #60 cover to cover. Man, I can’t believe Cyclops was being mind controlled to kill Storm. I thought for sure ‘ol  Summers was just overcome with jealousy over her latex outfit and cool white hair. I hope you enjoyed reminiscing with me about the soulless ads featured in a 21 year old comic about mutant love triangles.  One might say I’m the Michael Jordan of writing articles that waste your time.

Sig_2018_SMALL