If you grew up reading comic books, you probably saw ads for things like x-ray glasses or sea monkeys. If you are like me, you may have even ordered a couple items.
Mail-Order Mysteries looks at the products behind those seductive mail-order ads that graced the pages of my favorite superhero titles. Most of the time, I skipped over the ads because I wanted to see what Spider-Man or the X-Men would do next. On the third and fourth readings, though, I slowed down and scanned the ads.
Mail-Order Mysteries reprints many of those ads, and I am surprised at how many I still remember, especially since it has been more than 30 years since I’ve read a comic with ads in them. Demarais shows the ad and then breaks the copy into four sections: We Imagined, They Sent, Behind the Mystery, and Customer Satisfaction.
We Imagined is what kids probably thought that they were ordering. They Sent is the physical description with a few background details. Also, there is often a picture of the actual item. Behind the Mystery explains more about item, such as how it technically meets the description in the ad without meeting youthful expectations. Customer Satisfaction was a quippy remark about whether the item was worth it or not. For instance, on the page about stamped pennies, Customer Satisfaction reads “Senseless cents.”
The products are grouped by type in chapters. They are: Superpowers and Special Abilities, War Zone, House of Horrors, High Finance, Better Living Through Mail Order, Top Secret, Trickery, and Oddities. The book is also attractively laid out with lots of photos. Having both the ad and the product to compare is like a before and after shot.
Demarais has a large collection of these old mail-order items. Although these cost just a buck or two when I was a kid and were usually junk, nowadays, they often sell for many times their original cost on eBay.
There’s no story to this book. It’s a fun trip down Memory Lane and takes me back to my childhood. After reading it, I dug out my collection of Wacky Packages and California Raisins to enjoy once more. I guess I’m as big a nerd as Demarais is, but who cares? It’s nice to remember simpler times.
Customer Satisfaction: Childish delight.
Here are some other pages about Mail-Order Mysteries:
- Secret Fun Blog: The “Lost” Mail-Order Mysteries
- Lair of the Dork Horde: Book Look! Mail Order Mysteries by Kirk Demarais