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There’s a Yancy Street playset, right? There better be a Yancy Street playset. – The Superhero Catalog #1

February 16, 2012

Every year when the Super Bowl rolls around there are breathless news stories announcing how much the 30 second ads during that year’s telecast are going to cost. The number goes up and up and up. There’s always some angle in the coverage that the amount paid is out of step and obscene, that we should all bow our heads in collective societal shame. “At a time when there are children starving in the world blah blah blah.” Maybe so, though worrying about the price tag on Super Bowl ad space is the most First World of First Word Problems.

But you can’t say that the ads are overvalued. It’s the one time of the year when people give a crap about commercials. They’re actual content, not something begrudgingly tolerated at best or at worst completely missed with DVR skipping and convenient piss-breaks. If anything, the brief blocks of Madison Avenue time are vastly undervalued. People want to see these ads. They’re part of the show. They can’t get enough of them. At the party, when dopes like me are trying to listen to Chris Colinsworth’s caustic analysis of the last 3rd and 1 stop, the yentas are still yakking about the talking E-Trade baby.

Ads as content. That brings us to The Superhero Catalog.

I’ve managed to acquire several of these “comics” over the years (including a couple this past weekend). The Super-Hero Catalog and The Heroes World Catalog — and other iterations –are ads. All ads. All GLORIOUS ads. They’re so glorious, the 50 cent cover price is like the Super Bowl business. Undervalued. This is like when a kid was little back in the day and flipped through the department store Christmas catalog, but in this case the Christmas catalog is 100% toys and games and comics and I’M ABOUT TO LOSE MY MIND OH MY GOD. It’s muffin tops. It’s pudding skins. It’s all the good stuff. Not a vegetable in sight. It’s content.

I realize that this was published in 1976, and that the offers and order forms have long ago expired. I wasn’t even born in 1976. The secondary market for many of the gadgets and gizmos is exorbitantly expensive, and sadly, I’m a grownup now and can’t have toys cluttering up my single-guy-still-trying-to-bag-broads domicile. But flipping through this mag is like a dreamy FAO Schwarz shopping spree. There’s a “Just imagine…” element at play, and a strong one at that.

Here’s the mission statement from inside the front cover — note some of the recognizable names on the production crew, including Jim Salicrup and Roger Stern:

Most of the ads reproduced within are regurgitations (or perhaps they’re predecessors — gurgitations?) of ads that have been featured here before. A few: the Mangler, Ricochet Racers, Rock Reflections of a Superhero, Marvel Mirrors, Medallions, Pillows, and Mood Rings. And oh so many more. There are also a number of fresh presentations that caught my eye, including this eye-popping two page spread of early, pre-movie revival Star Trek goodies:

So one of the half and half cookie bigots from Cheron got an action figure. But what about the other 50% of that planet’s population, the ones that looked like Lokai and not like Bele? Where’s their representation? DAT’S RAYCISS. (And the “Mission to Gamma II” playset was actually released as a “Gammy VI” playset. Whatever. With it you could quite nicely approximate Vaal from “The Apple,” that’s for damn sure.)

There are roughly 1.5 billion t-shirts within, including the patriotic offerings shown here. Screw “Fonzie for President” — can I get one of the devilish Stan Lee “Excelsior!” shirts? Please? PLEASE?:

There are also — surprise — a number of genuine comic offerings, like the classic Son of Origins trade seen on the cover. The bouquet of treasuries was acutely painful. It taunted me. They. Are. So. Hard. To. Find. Nowadays.

Though it’s hard to uncover a clunker product in these pages, a few snuck through, as demonstrated by the terrifying dolls on the top half of the back cover. Baby Wonder Woman’s dwarf arms are disturbing IN THE EXTREMIS:

I admit to having a bit of a doll-phobia, but those are particularly repulsive. (The Super Friends placemats might make up for it. They’d definitely make any big dinner party special.)

You may see one of these Catalog books in back issue bins sometime. You’d probably flip right past it. “Ads? I’m supposed to buy ads? Pshaw!” But if the price is right, it’s money well spent. Trust me on this. I swear on the Red Stan Lee Excelsior T-Shirt.

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