Friday, November 11, 2011



Stories of Childhood Toy Triumph and Tragedy



Age: 8 years
Date: 1981
Place: MacArthur Elementary School 2nd grade
Location: Waltham, Massachusetts

Okay, I'll admit it, I wasn't the most “normal” kid when I was a wee young lad. I was wild, free, imaginative and a total spaz (kinda like I still am today). But when I was younger, I had a lot less control of myself and my desire for anything superheroes was always in full effect. I'm not kidding, I wanted to literally be the Hulk 24-7. I occasionally wanted to be Thor, Sub-Mariner, Daredevil or Spider-man, but it was the Hulk that was at the top of my “who I had to be” list.

I would cut up my “Toughskin jeans” and run around the neighborhood shirtless and barefoot and play the Hulk all day long (even during cold weather). When the kids on my street (mostly girls) played “school” or “store," I would of course be the Hulk and try to fit into their scenarios but eventually Hulk had to SMASH! When I was in kindergarten, I can remember the teacher, Mrs. O'Reilly yells at me saying “John could you be human just for once!” so she could have some peace from my constant Hulk role-playing. I would even go to my friend Frankie's house and we would swim in his huge underground pool and play our made up a game called “Underwater Armageddon” and have a "Hulk vs. Sub-Mariner" slugfest! In this game we would jump into the bottom of the deep end of the pool, hold our breath as long as we could and fight it out! First one to go back up for air was the loser. I usually won, especially when I was the Hulk because my ego was always involved.

The game I played with Frankie called "Underwater Armageddon" was based off this Hulk portfolio image by Steve Fastner and Bill Larsen from 1980. We couldn't help but try to act it out in the deep end of his pool.

My Hulk obsession got so bad that the kids near my house didn't want to play with me all the time. So I would just run around my neighborhood all day with my proud cut up kiddie jeans and scream at the top of my lungs with all the gamma-spawned power that fueled my scrawny body. Sure, this may seem a little extreme to some, but no one could argue about all the fun that I had. Being in school was no different. I daydreamed all day long about superhero battles, it was better than coming back into reality and learning about addition and subtraction.

One Monday morning in second grade I walked into the classroom and I happened to see Robin, Joker, Catwoman and Penguin stand-ups stuck to the top of the chalkboard. I used to have them a year or two back, but to see them in school, and all brand new -- I was startled! I asked the teacher what they were for and she said we will be selling school calendars for the week and each student that sells ten of them will get to choose from one of the stand-ups as a prize. For some reason there was no Batman stand-up so I turned my attention to the Robin one and of course -- I wanted him badly! I not only had a week to sell ten calendars, but I also had to beat out all the other boys in my class because I knew the Robin stand-up was the most desirable (I didn't really mind the girls because I knew they would want the Catwoman).
These are all the Batman Stand-Ups that were available in this set. Unfortunately, the Batman one was missing so I turned my attention to the Robin and total chaos would soon follow.

Once I got home, I started harassing my parents and neighbors into buying these calendars. With them being five bucks each, they were no bargain. I could only manage to sell three that day!! ARRGGHH! On Wednesday a kid named Dennis was the first to make the quota and I was terrified that he was going to pick the Robin, so I cunningly talked/manipulated him into taking the Joker (man, I'm good). So thankfully, the Robin stand-up was still up for grabs. I tried to sell off more calendars when I got home, but after three days I only managed to sell a meager five of them. On Thursday a girl named Kristin made the quota and as predicted, she picked the Catwoman stand-up. I now had only one day to sell five more calendars so I could get that blasted Robin stand-up. I ran home at the end of school and went back into selling mode. I traveled a lot further than I was allowed to and in the end, I managed to sell exactly five more calendars to get the ten total!! YAAHHOOO!! Tomorrow Robin the Boy Wonder was going to be all mine!!

When I entered school the next morning I found out another kid named Timmy managed to also sell ten calendars. I was horrified!! I tried to convince him to pick the Penguin stand-up, but he was undecided. I knew in my heart we were both going to battle over the Robin stand-up. I couldn't take the chance so I took the initiative and went straight up to the teacher before class started and I asked her if I could have the Robin because I sold the calendars. She said I would have to wait until class started so she could announce to the students that Timmy and I both had each sold the ten calendars. As “bad” luck would have it, after the announcement she called on Timmy to pick what stand-up he wanted first and of course the bastard picked Robin!! I was furious about it and even more furious that I got the lame-ass Penguin stand-up. Who the hell cares about the Penguin?? Certainly not me! I wish I never talked Dennis into taking the Joker stand-up a few days earlier because he would've been a great second choice... UGGHH!!! The events that followed are kind of a blur because when the the teacher awarded me the Penguin stand-up I had a case of potty mouth. Before I knew it, she took back the Penguin stand-up and sent me to the principles office. Man, I'm such an idiot.

Waiting for the principle Mr. Cronin was scary. As a kid, during those days, getting into trouble was a big deal. It was almost like waiting for your execution. He was busy in his office dealing with some other unruly kids and I could hear him yelling at them (I remember they were twins and one of them was actually named "Thor", I thought that was the coolest thing ever). Jeez, this is going to suck. When he came out he told me to wait in his office and he would return shortly. As I sat there I just stared at his desk and thought of how many kids might've died on it. Then at that moment, I looked down to my right and saw a box filled with a bunch of packs of superhero stand-ups on the floor. And to my amazement, they were packs of "Marvel" Superhero Stand-Ups!! HOLY MOLEY!!! Packs of glory and grandeur filled with Captain America, Spider-man, Thor, Iron man and ... gulp... THE HULK!!! I've never seen so many packs of these in one place in all my life! It was almost too much for my young mind to comprehend. Why were they here in Mr. Cronin's office and more importantly, how was I going to get one?

I was in a weird predicament because I couldn't ask Mr. Cronin for a pack, he was about to punish me. I couldn't ask my homeroom teacher because she was mad at me too. It was such bad timing, but I was not going to be denied. Desperate times call for desperate measures (and I was so obsessively desperate). I was thinking the unthinkable, I was going to steal at least one of these packs here and now and make off like all the super-villains that I loathed. Hey, these weren't the DC Stand-Ups, they were Marvel Stand-Ups! And Marvel Stand-Ups were pieces of gold sent from heaven in my mind. So, I put one pack under my shirt. But like every villain, I got greedy and then proceeded to stuff at least five more packs under my shirt. If I thought I was scared before, I must've been terrified now as I waited for Mr. Cronin to return.

When my young eyes saw these packages of Marvel Stand-Ups I was in shock. As soon as I noticed the Hulk Stand-Up in it, I knew it was all over for me. I had to have it!

When Mr. Cronin finally returned, he seemed to be in a better mood and I just stood there listening to him trying not to move much so he wouldn't notice all the packages under my shirt. I can't really remember our conversation, but I think I made him laugh a little. When he was done, we both got up, and as he walked me out of his office... all the stand up packs fell out of my shirt and onto the floor between us. Not a hoax, not a dream, but a terrible reality. It was so absolutely horrifying that I wanted to pass out. Mr. Cronin looked at me in total shock. Man, I thought I just escaped the fiery pits of the Apocalypse and now within a few seconds, I was right back in them.

Now the rest of this story may be a let down to some of you, but for the life of me I cannot remember what happened next. Maybe I just blocked it all out because it was so painful. Maybe I jumped into a parallel universe and escaped. Maybe I did get executed and this is a ghost writing down the memory of it to you. Either way, I don't remember. I do remember however that I never did get the Penguin stand-up back and a few years later, I actually found another box filled with about ten of these Marvel Stand-Ups packages in it at a toy show and laughed while I bought them all (and yes, I did buy them). I still have them today in my personal collection. And every time I see them, I can't help but think of how crazy I was trying to steal them out of the principles office.


So what can I say to the young peeps out there in dreamland? Never be a villain no matter how super you think it is because you'll eventually get caught. And I still play "Underwater Armageddon" in the deep end of pools when no ones looking... I'm lying, I play even if they are...

To Be Continued...

I have all these items in my collection but I was too lazy to dig them out and take pics of them so a shout out to for making my life a little easier.

Other Tales From the Toy Chest:


John Cimino
John Cimino is a Silver and Bronze Age comic, cartoon and memorabilia expert that runs a business called "Saturday Morning Collectibles." He buys, sells, appraises and gives seminars on everything pop culture, so if you got something special, let him know about it. He contributes articles to ALTER EGO, RETRO FAN, BACK ISSUE and THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR from TwoMorrows Publishing, runs the Roy Thomas Appreciation Board on Facebook and has appeared on the AMC reality show Comic Book Men. He also represents some of comicdoms biggest stars and brings them to a Comic Con near you. John likes to think he's the real Captain Marvel, people just don't have the heart to tell him he's just an obsessed fanboy that loves to play superheroes with his daughter Bryn. Contact him at or follow him on Instagram at megostretchhulk.


  1. Great story! I was cringing during the last couple of paragraphs though, just waiting for you to get caught. Painful indeed!

    - The Mighty Drew. -

  2. wow John your childhood sounded like mine Kenneth garrison here..i had the same kind problem as you did when i was a wee lad too the other kidds never really under stood me because of my Super hero Passions it made me a bit of outcast but to tell you the truth i wouldnt wanted any other way im Proud to be a geek.

  3. Great story, cool blog.

  4. I loved these stand ups a kid. Nice story.

  5. You were nuts to try and take those stand-ups!! I wonder why you blocked out those memories, back then they beat the shit out of kids lol!!

  6. I had these stand-ups as a kid. Great to see stories on them.