They were a ubiquitous part of reading comic books for decades, and those of us of a certain age dreamed of seeing our bones through our hands through the science of a cheap pair of glasses.
Kirk Demarais must be one of them, because he’s put together a great book, “Mail-Order Mysteries: Real Stuff from Old Comic Book Ads!” (Insight Editions, $19.95).
In it, he does way better than just rerun those ads with snarky commentary. Each entry shows what we thought we’d get and what we’d really get, plus rates each novelty on its effectiveness, too.
All the greats are in there, from the Spex (“Customer Satisfaction: Not X-actly what we X-pected”) to Kryptonite Rocks (I had one of those, but I got mine in a store after the first “Superman” movie) to all those plastic soldiers to the classic Whoopee Cushion.
Some of them even worked, such as Mystic Smoke (smoking fingertips) and Vampire Blood.
With tons of photos and breezy write-ups on more than 150 items, “Mail-Order Mysteries” is a great bit of nostalgic fluff that’s especially illuminating for those with enduring curiosity about just what you got when you ordered those things. (Mom and Dad would never fall for it.)
For a look at those Spex, the Ventrillo Voice Thrower, the Air Car Hovercraft and more, check out this video Demarais made: