Tag Archives: 80s Books

Fee, Fi, Fo Fom, this Rodeo is really Dumb!

During this past Halloween season the wife and I were browsing around some of the outlet stores in North Georgia and I had another one of those lightening strike nostalgic moments while in an antique shop.  Sitting on top of a stack of old records was a copy of Scooby Doo and the Mystery of the Rider Without a Head record and storybook issued by Peter Pan records back in 1977.  I’ve mentioned this feeling before, but it’s my favorite sort of nostalgia moment, the kind when I can’t believe I forget whatever it is that made me slap myself upside the head with disbelief.  There are plenty of these bits of pop culture flotsam and jetsam that I come across that will put a smile on my face or make me stop for a second and say “Huh”, but it’s really a great an rare feeling when I feel like a part of me has been lost and is there sitting in front of me again.

This particular book must have been a hand-me-down from my sister as I was born the same year it was released and probably wouldn’t have used or appreciated it until I was five or six.  I’m also not sure how often I actually listened to the record as I didn’t recall much when I listened to it recently…

(You can listen to the record at the great read-along site, the Secret Cavern of Read-Along Treasures.) What really grabbed me when I found this in the antique shop, and what I really remember pouring over as a kid is the interior artwork.  Unfortunately the artist on this particular book wasn’t credited, and I have a feeling it’s because it was more of a quickie in-house art department rush job as opposed to shopping the work out to freelance talent.

Honestly, looking back at this stuff so many years later I have to say that I’m a bit underwhelmed at the quality.  Actually it’s pretty sloppy in a lot of places, smacking of a bad tracing job.  The line work is very stiff with almost no grace or variance to the line width and weight, but even for all of this, I still love it.  It makes me feel like I’m six years old again…

My favorite bit in the book is the Rider Without a Head, not only because of the monster-esque subject matter, but because the character is rendered with the most detail and attention throughout.  In fact, the stiff art style paired with the watercolor in the book reminded me of the work of one of my favorite artists, Quinton Hoover.  When I started playing the Magic: the Gathering collectable card game back in the mid 90s, Hoover artwork was the one that really stood out and spoke to me.  I’m a big fan of the exacting lines and the colored pencil & watercolor work in the color.  It’s the essence of comic book art, minus the thick black shadowing.  There’s something in this type of clean line work that makes me think of cartoons or the type of simple effective illustration used in product packaging.

Even though the artwork in the Scooby Doo book isn’t nearly as elegant as Quniton Hoover’s work (example of which you can see here and here), it makes me wonder if spending hours pouring over the book helped to predispose me to enjoying this sort of clean style (though obviously there were the hundreds of hours of cartoon watching and comic book reading that didn’t hurt.)  Looking at the pieces above and below, I really do see a close connection to Hoover’s style, so much so that I would have to say that there is some sort of connection (as tenuous as it seems.)  At the end of the day it’s another piece of the puzzle at least.

On a side note, I thought it was interesting how on-model the above image of Scooby is compared to the art in the rest of the book.  You see this exact same pose repeated in the final image in the book, again leading me to think that a good bit of the artwork was traced from other existing Scooby Doo work.



Though I had a handful of other read-along storybook and record sets (namely Gremlins, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and the various weird Star Wars exopanded universe books like Planet of the Hoojibs), I don’t remember if I had any others released by Peter Pan Records.  I seem to remember the company character icon pretty well though.  I wonder if it was from pouring over this Scooby Doo book so many times?

I am going to choose my OWN adventure…

I thought I’d take a moment and talk about my current nostalgia obsession. I’ve been spending the last three or four months scouring my local used bookstores for all the Choose You Own Adventure style books that I can find. I only had a handful growing up, most of which were books from the actual Choose Your Own Adventure series, but there were a couple others that I read and re-read a few times including a Marvel Super Heroes Gamebook featuring Wolverine, and one of the Which Way series of books starring Batman. Though I loved both of these latter books because of the characters, I always sort of thought of them as CYOA knock offs because they didn’t have that branding.

Well, when I first started buying up all of the CYOA books I could find I was getting a little discouraged because I wasn’t finding all that many. In fact, without resorting to eBay I only managed to find about 20 (there were something like a hundred and fifty or so I think), and another 5 that my friend has had since he was a kid. One of the reasons that I wanted to track these books down was to get some more material for the site as I’m getting towards the end of my sticker collection (I have a good 6 months worth of material left, but I’ve sort of tapped that reservoir), and 25 books just isn’t going to cut it. Then I remembered the Batman and Wolverine books and it got me thinking about what other CYOA style paperbacks were available in the 80s. Let me go on record as saying that there were a ton, and I’ve been buying them left and right. I was sort of blown away when I started taking stock of the books that are stacking up on my shelves. I’ve found no less than 20 different series that range in branding from generic/original (like CYOA, Find Your Fate, Which Way, Your Amazing Adventures, and Wizards, Warriors and You) to a ton of popular 80s properties (including Marvel, DC, D&D, G.I. Joe, Transformers, Thundercats, Jem, Indiana Jones, James Bond, Star Trek, and even Blackstone the magician.) I’ve even discovered the world of paperback gamebooks (including stuff like Lone Wolf, Fighting Fantasy, and Sagard), which are basically one player role playing games that act a lot like CYOA style books except you use dice and make decisions based on what weapons and spells your character has amassed.

What’s kind of crazy is that I’m currently about a hundred or so paperbacks in to a collection that I think might just be gargantuan. The good news is that I should have plenty to talk about when I finally tackle how I want to approach these books. The bad news is that since there are so darned many of them I’m not sure where to start. I guess there are worse problems to have though. Anyway, I thought I’d share a few cover scans to give an idea of the kinds of books I’ve found and what’s going to come up eventually on Branded…

First up we have an entry in the Twist-a-Plot series (I don’t have the date handy as I type this.)  I was completely unaware of these books growing up and though I’ve been scouring the kids section of used bookstores for years I never paid any attention to these because they’re kind of light on the page count. I have a couple that are around the CYOA standard (which is around 110 pages), but most seem to be around 50 to 60.

Next we have book one in the Lazer Tag series published by TSR (again, don’t have the book in front of me so the date escapes me.) TSR, the publishers of the Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying game system, seems to be the second largest publisher of CYOA style books (next to Bantam who were responsible for CYOA, the Time Machine series, as well as the Be An Interplanetary Spy series.) Not only did they publish about 50 novels in their D&D branded CYOA series called Endless Quest, they were also responsible for a series of Marvel Super Hero books and the above Lazer Tag books.

Last up today is one the rarer series (well at least in suburban Georgia), the Heart Quest books, which were also published by TSR and took place in the D&D universe. These were aimed at girls and I believe are more in the vein of romances (which ought to be a trip to read.) They even have die-cut covers, so that when you open the book you get a full version of the picture on the cover. Classy. Anyway, I thought I’d throw these up on the site since I haven’t made an update in awhile. Hopefully I’ll get back on schedule with more Peel Here columns next week.

Crestwood Monster Series

So lately I’ve been wondering about how my love for all things monsters and horror began. I know there were a lot of contributing factors such as Garbage Pail Kids stickers, which featured some disturbing and gross horror related artwork, and Halloween in general, but I know that there has to be more to it than that. There were some movies, Monster Squad, Gremlins, and Poltergeist in particular, that definitely added fuel to the monster fire as well as the original Universal Monster movies that I know my parents sat me down to watch at some point.

Being the 80’s of course, it was hard to not be aware of stuff like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but I didn’t see those flicks until almost the end of the decade. Let’s see, there was some TV that influenced me, namely Tales From the Darkside, Monsters, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone and the occasional scary episode of Amazing Stories. Michael Jackson’s Thriller video didn’t hurt either staying on regular rotation on both MTV and my cassette player. I suppose the monster theme of the He-Man rogues gallery was an influence as well.

Of course there were also the books that I’ve talked about on the blog before, Samantha Slade, Bunnicula, and a few others that had monster theme-ing that I can’t remember the titles to.

Well I recently stumbled upon a series of books that I used to check out of my elementary school library on almost a daily basis, the Crestwood House Monster Series. I saw some pictures of the books on Neato Coolville’s Flickr account, and immediately flashed back on the third grade and our school library. We only had a few of the books in the series in our library, but I read and reread them a million times. Here’s a list of the books in the series:

I’m pretty sure we had Dracula, Godzilla, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman. Well after seeing these books for the first time in 20 years, I had to have one and I whisked over to Ebay with hopes that there was a bristling business in old out of print horror related school library edition books. Guess what? There was, and I picked up a couple, one that I definitely remember reading, Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, and one that I just want for myself, Frankenstein. The Franky Meets the Wolfman arrive last week in horrible condition (there was no picture on the auction, but the price was right) but I still love it to pieces. Here’s a scan of the cover:

These books were a huge push in the horror direction for me because of the hours I spent pouring over the large crisp black and white photos and just the idea that there were so many other books in the series that I might one day stumble upon. I received the Frankenstein book in the mail yesterday and I was relieved that this one was in much better condition, yet after flipping through it I was sort of bummed, not because the content was bad, but exactly the opposite. This is the best kids book on Frankenstein that I’ve ever seen. Between its two worn covers lie a plethora of information on many of the various incarnations of Franky in the past 70 years, and if I had read it when I was a kid I might not have waited so long to watch the Hammer version, Curse of Frankenstein, until so late as there were a few really good photos of the Christopher Lee Monster.

Anyway, I am so glad that I stumbled upon these and can’t thank Neato Coolville enough for posting them on his Flickr account for the world to rediscover. Now if I could only find cover scans or copies of the series of hardbound school library editions of the Marvel Super Heros orgin books. There were four that I remember, the Avengers, Spiderman, the Hulk, and the Fantastic Four. Each book had the first two or three issues of the comic and a little introduction about the series. I guess that’ll just have to wait until another day…

Twitter del.icio.us Reddit Slashdot Digg Google StumbleUpon