I came upon these advertisements by accident; last week’s episode of Smallville, “Stiletto
“, cast Lois Lane as a superhero whose power was kicking people with very sharp boots. It was a cute episode, and it made me nostalgic for Denny O’Neil’s infamous late ’60s run on Wonder Woman
in which Diana ditched the costume and lasso and adopted a new persona as a mod kung fu chick.
I went back and reread several issues from that period, beginning with the final issue prior to the debut of the “new” Wonder Woman, #177.
Diana’s non-powered, non-costumed phase was condemned by Gloria Steinem as a sexist move on DC’ s part, and years later a repentant O’Neil says that he agrees, and that in hindsight he views the experience as something of a stain on his writing. career. After reading just a few pages I was reminded of what a simpering wuss pre-Crisis Wonder Woman was, and I began plotting an outline for a blog post arguing that Steinem and O’Neill were wrong in condemning the change. That’s right, despite being neither woman nor professional comics writer I was going to take the fight to them. Balls of steel right here, ladies and gentlemen!
I may yet write that post, but halfway through WW #177 I began seeing advertisements for popular model kits that were so astonishing – and a bit horrifying – that wonder woman herself was put on the back burner. If anything should have been controversial about these comics, it’s these toys and their creepy advertising copy.
Sure, I understand that in the ’60s comics’ reading audience consisted primarily of young males. And it’s no secret that boys enjoy playing with gun-toting action heroes, from the from the day a marketing genius invented the first toy soldier to G.I. Joe – a franchise that’s been around for about 40 years now, and grows in popularity by the day. But reenacting World War II? Actual blood soaked battles like Anzio Beach?
Maybe the horrific memories of that war had faded into nostalgia in comparison to the disastrous situation in Vietnam. At least WWII was an official war, not to mention one in which the tide turned in favor of the good guys once the US stepped in. I can understand the desire to view American warfare from that perspective, and for your kids to share that view. A generic “1940s Action Man” toy would’ve made perfect sense in that environment. But to re-create details of a real, horrific war? This is why we don’t leave our kids alone with Grandpa, because we don’t want them to hear his terrifying old war stories.
Apparently the good people at Aurora models don’t share my opinion on that matter. Creepier still, however, were the ads for Revell’s popular toys of the day.
Take a good luck at the copy:
“Authentic model of this German killer? As devastating as the original?” These guys were apparently in the business of turning villains, to say nothing of wartime enemies, into action heroes.
Still not convinced? Don’t worry, it gets better:
Once again, the ad appears creepy at first glance, but it’s only upon studying the copy that it gets downright horrific:
I don’t even know what to say about that. Please understand that my politics are not what you would call conservative. But can you imagine a modern-day version of an advertisement like that? Can you believe there was a toy for kids to pretend that they were “no chicken” kamikaze fighters?
After reading that, can you believe that this is the picture that caused all the controversy?
6 thoughts on “Creepy Toys from the Silver Age”
Sensitivities have changed over time, and there may be some overreaction here. If it’s not one thing that’s offensive and horrifying, it’s another, depending on how it’s portrayed. But looking at the ads, I drew similarities to videogames kids and adults alike play today like Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, etc. that reenact WWII events in greater audiovisual impact than the toys and models of that day could do. Growing up I played with the toys, built the model kits, and the like that were advertised in these sort of ads. I can’t recall these sort of ads affecting me to glorify kamikaze fighters and such. If anything gaining awareness of such things spurred me to actually look them up in the local library as a kid, and read about the true horrors of war.
I’d like to see that WW post. Those issues of Wonder Woman are among my all-time favorites. I’d started reading WW a couple of years before the change to a non-super-powered Diana and she was more interested in Steve Trevor than in being a strong woman/heroine. And the stories were so lame. Once she gave up her powers to stay on Earth, she seemed to be freed up and for me, represented a powerful, human woman.
The stories got better and I like Sekowsky’s art, a big improvement as she now looked attractive and yet, not sexualized. She looked tougher as just Diana Prince than she had as Wonder Woman not all that long before.
In fact, a year or two later, I discovered Modesty Blaise and I’ve come to associate the unpowered Diana with Modesty, two tough women making their mark.
I don’t find anything wrong with either “new” Wonder Woman or the war model kits. They were of their time and there’s no point in judging them by modern sensitivities.
The all-new, all-now Wonder Woman was dreadful, but so was what it replaced. Wonder Woman was only really interesting to read in the 1940s, when Moulton had all that interesting bondage and discipline stuff going on.
Yes, her relationship with Steve was absurd, but after his death she falls for one rat (Tim Trench) then another (Reginald Hyde-White) in the course of a single issue.
Diana starts a boutique, and is apparently barely scraping by. And yet she can close the store at a moments notice to go off crusading around the globe?
And of course it got worse when Sekowsky took over as editor and writer of the series.
As for the ads, you can’t imagine how popular World War II movies were back then. I am not surprised at the idea of doing a battle scene (although Anzio does seem questionable).
The late 1960s were definitely the era of the anti-hero, with the Dirty Dozen in the movies and the Enemy Ace series in comics. Plus you did have briefly things like Hogan’s Heroes and Snoopy Versus the Red Baron that said that people were taking World War II a little less seriously than they had.
I am amused at the concept that the kamikaze pilots were not chickens; they did not have the option of chickening out.
You want real creepy?
Michael Bay’s PEARL HARBOR was the #1 movie in Japan the year it came out.
But aye, there’s really nothing in those ads any more offensive, when you really think about it, than what you see today. The popular consciousness is not a pretty thing once you really look beyond the PC exterior…
I don’t think the copy for those ads state anything really controversial.
Everything written is fact; Kamikazes did exist, the JU88 bomber was a devastating killer, and I don’t see that as glorifying “villains” so much as linking the models to their real-life history.
Probably your negative reaction comes from the end of the copy, where they make an, admittedly clumsy, attempt to link the history to the builder’s enjoyment of the model
I wrote ad copy for model kits for a few years. Its harder than it looks, especially considering German armored vehicles and planes are by far the most popular subject…
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