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Saturday, November 19, 2011

BATMAN COLORFORMS AND MY DAD

TALES FROM THE TOY CHEST

Stories of Childhood Toy Triumph and Tragedy




By
John "THE MEGO STRETCH HULK" Cimino


CASE NUMBER: 6730-CC
BATMAN COLORFORMS AND MY DAD


Age:  4 Years
Date: 1977
Place: Osco Drugs
Location: Waltham, Massachusetts

I have always been an individualist and an anomaly as a little kid (hell, I still am today). I had some friends, but I usually did things alone and created my own worlds to play in. I liked being in my head rather than in the real world around me because to be honest, I had a BIG imagination. To me, it was much more fun this way. Kids in school always wanted to be doing things the older kids did just to fit in or to be accepted. I never succumbed to peer pressure and no matter how weird or otherworldly I got, I was always pretty popular with everyone. But for the life of me I never had a clue why? Looking back on my childhood today, I get a kick out of the stuff I did and got away with. Was it all the cartoons I watched? Was it all the comics I had? Was it all the toys I played with?

Nope. It was because of my dad.

My dad came to America from Sicily back in the early 1960s with his parents and 6 brothers and sisters. His father was very sick (he died just a year later) and since he was the oldest son (20 years at this time) he had to provide for them. Life was always very tough for my dad because even as a young child in Sicily he had to work long back-breaking hours for little to no money and his family was so poor that they sometimes ate just one meal a day. Now working three jobs in America to provide for his fatherless family must have been excruciating. He even tried to take off from his responsibilities and enlist into the Army to go fight in Vietnam, but he got rejected because his mother pleaded to the draft about his financial dependency needed for the well being of his brothers and sisters (that must of sucked). He barely had any schooling but he was a real hard/honest worker who had a gift for using his hands. He eventually built a plumbing company from nothing that is highly respected today and has been in business for over 40 years. It's a tale truly worthy of the American dream.

But as great as that was for my dad, it wasn't so great  for me and my older brother. Living such a tough life made my father a hard man with very little emotional understanding. For him it was work, work, work and nothing more. He was the type of guy who had very little patience (especially for us) and could lash out on the drop of a dime (I could go on to tell some horror stories of some of the beatings I took and how hard I worked as a youth but I don't need to). He provided for us and put food on the table and for that I will forever be grateful. But I just wish I could have played with him, got a hug from him or even heard him say he loved me (he never has even to this day). Instead, I was scared to death of him and I usually stayed in my room when he was home. My mom was the one who gave me and my brother the love and nurturing we craved - but to be honest, I wanted it from him. He barely ever talked to me and when he did it was usually to make me do something.

So staying in my room was the norm for me and to escape I lived in my worlds of wonder. To most people this would seem kind of sad for a kid to do this but I actually had a lot of fun. I had my comics, toys and superheroes that were my real friends and I loved them.

One day, my father came home from work early as my mother and brother went to the dentist (I think). He made me some food and as usual we both sat there eating without speaking a word to each other. He then told me we had to go to the Osco Drugs up the street so he could pick something up. I can't remember what he wanted, but this was the first time I was ever with my father at a store alone. I was always with my mother so it was almost surreal to me. Usually, I would just run to the toy aisle and my mother would catch up later, but this time it was different. I dare not do that with my father as I just followed behind him as fast as my little legs could carry me.

I managed to come to the toy aisle end-cap as my father was looking at something nearby. When I looked up, I saw some awesome Batman Colorforms. The box looked fantastic and the way the end-cap displayed it captured my imagination (I'm such an easy sell). I took it off the shelf to take a closer look. Here was the mighty Batman looking so proud, I could only imagine what fun lurked within this box. I wanted it of course, but I wasn't going to ask my father for it. I was too scared and I don't think he even knew who Batman or a toy was for that matter. But amazingly when he finished what he was doing he asked me if I wanted the Colorforms and I shockingly said "yes." Soon enough, I followed my father to the cashier line and he bought me my first toy ever!! I was in utter-shock because of this. Sure, it was my father's money that was providing all the other toys and such that I got with my mother, but never had I gotten something personally with him. And the funny thing is that I don't even remember playing with the Batman Colorforms today because the events that lead to me getting them is what left a forever impression. This was so HUGE in my young mind that I've never forgotten it.


Now this little story is by no means intended on putting my father down, this is actually my way of honoring him. He was a man who has to be respected on so many levels because as time went on I realized that my father was doing the best that he could with what he knew. He wasn't a bad guy, he was just a hard guy because he had such a tough life. He never had the chance to be a kid and understand the magic of youth so I can forgive him for our relationship. I'm thankful for all that he has given me and I will always honor that. Today, age and my daughter has made him a lot more calmer, nicer and less serious because he does things with her I would never have imagined (sometimes it brings tears to my eyes) and I'm happy that he's trying in his own way. We talk more and I've grown to understand him more. But to tell you the truth, I still don't think he has any clue who Batman is...



THE END??

As for the Batman Colorforms, I was later shocked to find out that it first came out in 1966 and was later reissued and released in 1976. So despite the greater value of the 1966 set, I'll always think the 1976 set will be the more valuable (at least to me). And just to let you know, my father came home from hunting one time a few years later after this story took place and brought home two boxed Mego Spider-man's for me and my brother. That was a great surprise and a fun gift!


Thanks dad.


To be continued...


Other Tales From the Toy Chest:

THE HULK ROLLER SKATES DEBACLE
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2011/11/hulk-roller-skates-debacle.html 

THE STEALING OF THE SUPERHERO STAND-UPS
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2011/11/stealing-of-superhero-stand-ups.html 

MY TOP 15 GREATEST TOYS EVER
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2013/09/my-top-15-greatest-toys-ever.html

THE MANGLOR MESS UP
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-manglor-mess-up.html 

SUPER MARKET SKIRMISH: THE PDQ INCIDENT
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2014/05/super-market-skirmish-pdq-incident.html 

HULK OR HOLOCAUST
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2014/07/hulk-or-holocaust.html 

THE TOP 10 GREATEST G.I. JOE FIGURES EVER
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2015/08/the-top-10-greatest-gi-joe-figures-ever.html 

THE WRANGLING OF WRESTLEFEST
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2016/05/the-wrangling-of-wrestlefest.html 
 

John "The Mego Stretch Hulk" 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, BACK ISSUE and THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR from TwoMorrows Publishing 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 still thinks he's really 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 johnstretch@live.com or follow on twitter at @Elastic_Hulk and have some fun.

Friday, November 11, 2011

THE STEALING OF THE SUPERHERO STAND-UPS

TALES FROM THE TOY CHEST

Stories of Childhood Toy Triumph and Tragedy



By
John "THE MEGO STRETCH HULK" Cimino

CASE NUMBER: 68891-Q
THE STEALING OF THE SUPERHERO STAND-UPS!



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 we 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 of superhero battles rather 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 have died on it. Then at that moment, I looked down and saw a box filled with a bunch of packages of superhero stand-ups. And to my amazement, they were packages of Marvel Superhero Stand-Ups!! HOLY MOLEY!!! Packages of glory and grandeur filled with Captain America, Spider-man, Thor, Iron man and ... gulp... THE HULK!!! I've never seen so many packages of these in all my life! It was almost too much for my young mind to comprehend. Why were they here and more importantly, how was I going to get one?

I couldn't ask Mr. Cronin, he was about to punish me and I couldn't ask my 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 packages here and now and make off like all the super-villains that I loathed. Hey, these weren't 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 have 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 did return, 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 packages of the stand ups fell out of my shirt and onto the floor between us. Just like in a movie, and that instantaneously. 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 or 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). The great thing is that I still have them today and every time I see those packages in my collection, I can't help but think of how crazy I was to try and steal these things out of the principles office.



THE END?

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 either get caught or somehow you'll mess it up. And to be honest, I still play "Underwater Armageddon" in 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 www.plaidstallions.com for making my life a little easier.



Other Tales From the Toy Chest:

THE HULK ROLLER SKATES DEBACLE
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2011/11/hulk-roller-skates-debacle.html 

 BATMAN COLORFORMS AND MY DAD


John "The Mego Stretch Hulk" 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, BACK ISSUE and THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR from TwoMorrows Publishing 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 still thinks he's really 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 johnstretch@live.com or follow on twitter at @Elastic_Hulk and have some fun.

Friday, November 4, 2011

THE HULK ROLLER SKATES DEBACLE

TALES FROM THE TOY CHEST

Stories of Childhood Toy Triumph and Tragedy



By
John "THE MEGO STRETCH HULK" Cimino


CASE NUMBER: 3478-B 
THE HULK ROLLER SKATES DEBACLE!!


Age: 6 years
Date: 1979
Store: Osco Drugs
Location: Waltham, Massachusetts.

I absolutely adored the Hulk as a child, but I hated roller skating. If you grew up during the late '70s you would know that they were both a big deal during that time. Everybody watched the Hulk live-action series starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno on Friday nights and everybody loved to go out to their local rink and get their roller skating groove on. So I guess it might seem to be an odd mix to have a rampaging man-monster be a roller skate, but to me (and the manufactures), it seemed to be a great idea. So in 1979 The Incredible Hulk DELUXE Roller Skates hit toy shelves all over the country. After I saw these skates being advertised on a television commercial, I became obsessed to get them.

First time I saw those Hulk roller skates in person was when I was alone in an Osco Drug toy aisle (it's the '70s and nobody watches their kids). I loved how ugly and pudgy the Hulk looked on the skates, it was cheesy toy ecstasy in my young naive mind. However, I had no money to buy them so I just compulsively took the skates out of the box and grabbed the empty box to go show my mother (who was grocery shopping at a Star Market next door) what I wanted. As I was walking outside I got stopped by a man who was an undercover security officer. I told the cop that I was just showing my mother the empty box so she could come back and buy me the actual skates I removed. The cop surprisingly lets me go to find her with the box. When I found my mom and asked her to get them for me she quickly said no. I was upset, of course, but I at least had the box and I wasn't giving it back (I have no idea why my mom let me get away with it). For the next few weeks I pretended I had those skates (because I had the box) and I put my other Hulk toys in it just to make it "official" (in my head anyway).

Eventually, I went back with my mother to the Osco Drugs and down the toy aisle to see this magical item. I showed her the skates and for some reason she still wouldn't get them for me. Even to this day, I don't know why (maybe she thought I was going to break my neck because you had to spin backwards to stop rolling... yes, you read that right). I started to cry and beg and cry and beg and cry and beg, but she continually said no. She said I could get something else and I reluctantly picked the Plasticine Hulk Modeling Set from Coloforms.

Even with that toy I began to persistently complain the whole time while she continued to shop. Finally, in the checkout line, my mom blew a gasket! She went nuts on me and said I couldn't get anything!! I started saying, "No mom please!! I want the Hulk Modeling Set! I'm sorry!! Please mom, please!!!" She threw the toy and her other items into a basket near the cashier and stormed out pulling me with her (can you imagine that scene to the people around us?).


When we got home, I went to my room and packed up my toys and clothes and told my mom I was running away. She didn't say a word. I was shocked that she didn't care. So then I locked myself in my room for a few hours. Later she knocked on the door and told me the Hulk television show was on and I eventually came out and watched it with my mother and brother with nobody saying a word. Things quickly went back to normal.

Eventually I forgot about those Hulk roller skates and went on to other adventures. About 20 years later I got them as a gift from a friend. For fun, I managed to put them on and try them out (hey, why not). Predictably, they never worked as good as they did on that blasted commercial. And judging from how many times I fell on my butt when I spun around to stop, I really would've broken my neck when I was 6 -- hey, thanks mom!


THE END?

Just to let you know, I got the Plasticine Hulk Modeling Set on my 7th birthday as a gift from some friends across the street. If you look closely at the packaging above it say's "Super Easy!" Well, it wasn't. It was "Super Hard." And I gave up on it after about a hundred tries and never played with that damn thing again. Years later I got it off EBay and I was tempted to take another crack at it and put it together, but the package was still sealed in its cellophane wrapping so I passed. Eventually I sold it off with a ton of other toys from my collection. Ironically, it's still in the back of my head if I can make that stupid thing...

Hulk smashed???

To Be Continued...



Other Tales From the Toy Chest:

THE STEALING OF THE SUPERHERO STAND-UPS
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2011/11/stealing-of-superhero-stand-ups.html 

BATMAN COLORFORMS AND MY DAD
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2011/11/batman-colorforms-and-my-dad.html 

MY TOP 15 GREATEST TOYS EVER
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2013/09/my-top-15-greatest-toys-ever.html

THE MANGLOR MESS UP
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-manglor-mess-up.html 

SUPER MARKET SKIRMISH: THE PDQ INCIDENT
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2014/05/super-market-skirmish-pdq-incident.html 

HULK OR HOLOCAUST
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2014/07/hulk-or-holocaust.html 

THE TOP 10 GREATEST G.I. JOE FIGURES EVER
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2015/08/the-top-10-greatest-gi-joe-figures-ever.html 

THE WRANGLING OF WRESTLEFEST
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2016/05/the-wrangling-of-wrestlefest.html  


John "The Mego Stretch Hulk" 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, BACK ISSUE and THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR from TwoMorrows Publishing 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 still thinks he's really 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 johnstretch@live.com or follow on twitter at @Elastic_Hulk and have some fun.