Fool Me Once …

Back in fifth grade, my best friend and I went in halfsies on what we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt was going to be the coolest thing ever in our young lives – a monster! But not just any monster, no – a life-size monster that obeys your every whim and comes when you command!

We ordered it out of the back of a comic book. I think it was $1.50, so we each put seventy-five cents in an envelope and mailed it off. It said wait six to eight weeks, but of course we’d come home every day after school and immediately look in the mailbox. We did this for two months. Finally, it arrived.

Now, understand. We weren’t stupid. Gullible, perhaps. Naive, definitely. We knew the illustration of Frankenstein’s Monster in the comic, arms outstretched in that familiar B-movie gait, was not what we were going to get in the post. No, obviously had this mail-order firm somehow been able to mass produce actual hulking, shambling, resurrected-from-the-dead monsters, then every single schoolboy would have one, especially at the price of a buck-fifty. We got that concept pretty clearly. Besides, dead or alive or undead, the whole human slave thing was pretty clear to us as far as morality went. No, we saw that ad and thought it could be a robot or a radio-controlled mechanical man or maybe just a costume that would be so mind-bogglingly awesomely cool that we would scare the ever-lovin’ bejeezus outta every classmate at J.Y. Joyner Elementary.

So when we opened the mailbox and saw the package – heh, package is being too generous – large envelope, well, we were more than a little disappointed. (Of course, logically, had we suspected something as huge as an automaton, why were we looking in a mailbox every day rather than expecting a massive van to drive up with a special delivery crate we had to sign for? Good question. And one our 10-year-old brains did not entertain even for a second.)

We took the envelope inside and opened it to find – a poster of Frankenstein’s Monster (the same picture as the comic book ad). Instructions were included on how you could put it on a string in a dark room (so no one would notice the string) and call forth your monster then pull the string and have the poster slide down another string. “Obey your every whim!” As long as the whim was to slide on a string when pulled and look like crap, effectively fooling no one.

I can’t remember what we did with the poster. I know no strings were involved, no commands given, no friends astonished (good word “astonish” – always seem to be amply used in those comic book ads, although I can honestly say I don’t think I ever saw any of my friends in elementary school actually astonished for any reason. Amazed, sure. Surprised, yes. Agog – once during Webelos. But never astonished.) I suspect the thing hung in one of our closets for a few months until it ended up thrown in a garbage can along with the many expectations of youth.

The point of all this is that I WAS NOT ALONE. And so, CRACKED lists the 12 COMIC BOOK ADS THAT TAUGHT US HOW TO BE CYNICAL. My monster isn’t listed but other, more familiar ads, are. Maybe you too waited by a mailbox for one of these.

Sucker.

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