Let’s look at some trading cards. 1980 brought us the wonderful trading card series known as Creature Feature or You’ll Die Laughing and there’s one card in particular that holds a special meaning and moment for me. This series was first produced in the early seventies and Topps decided to resurrect the series with some packaging, design and content changes.
What was better than riding a bike to the corner store to get milk and cigarettes for your stepmother and maybe using some of the change on candy or comics? (Yes it’s true, she wrote me a note in case of any trouble. I’m certain I wasn’t the only kid to have that as a chore?) Anyway, while at the store, getting a pack of Creature Feature cards was worth the effort!
The cards had great still photography of movie monsters in black and white, from the thirties on up to the modern era. Giant radioactive creatures, human monsters, aliens, oh my! The photos (let’s pick the Mummy carrying a damsel) had goofy captions, like “Gee kid, you weigh a ton!” Each pack of cards came with a sticker. The backs of those stickers each had a section of a larger photo. Once you assembled them, they made a photo of a movie monster. On the back of the cards, were jokes and rhymes.
Which card , even now, has a hold on me and is one of many influences on my writing as the Man of a Thousand Bad Monster Jokes? Any guesses? How about you, the freaky thing lurking in the corner? Ok, I’ll let the black cat out of the bag. It’s number 79. It Came From Outer Space.
I’m not a huge fan of the alien on the front, but the rhyme on the back still has me! I can recite it without looking , even now.
“A thought inside my cranium.
This prophecy that I make-
If a monster eats uranium.
He’ll get atomic ache.”
It’s weirdly wonderful and I thought, if I were ever to write a poem, I’d try to write something like that. I understood the mix of monsters and humor from Mad Magazine and Famous Monsters and these cards, but I didn’t have the writing bug or the mechanics of it. Not a lot of eleven year old boys did. Little did I know that I’d have a writing assignment for school that year, that required poetry.
I chose a limerick for my style and I had card number 79 as my guide or template. I tried to fuse the words with the imagery and I didn’t have it. I wrote the card’s rhyme on a sheet of paper and left it in my desk. I was out sick for a few days and when I got back, the paper was gone. I thought I had to makeup the work, as my limerick was nowhere near complete. But, nothing was said until a month or two later. I was told that my poem was selected for a school anthology of poetry. I was a little confused because I couldn’t recall what I submitted. When I saw what was in my copy of the anthology, I wanted to barf! It was the contents of my sheet of paper- the copied limerick from the card!
When I got home, I tried to explain what happened to my parents and maybe I was so intimidated by them that it didn’t come out right, maybe it would, but it didn’t. They thought I willfully turned in that paper. I got so verbally chastised that I felt like a monster, myself! Oh, I was told that as a plagiarizer,(yeah they jumped that far) I could go to juvenile hall or get fined by the government. Add to that, they let it be known that I couldn’t have possibly come up something so well done as that! My eleven year old brain, writing and vocabulary were simply that of a filthy chimpanzee. Well, that was a fun month. I knew that one day, I would write something of equal value. Ok, it took awhile, but I think I have. In fact, one of my books, “Ha-Ha! Horror,” won an award for humor. A gold medal.
My next book, “Bride of Ha-Ha! Horror,” was nominated for a Rondo Classic Horror award. I’m working on the upcoming book, “Son of Ha-Ha! Horror.” Each book has over 500 Bad Monster Jokes, rhymes, cartoons, song parody lyrics, etc.
Rhymes and jokes like…
Why was Wolfman mad at his health care provider?
They won’t pay for his FLEA DIPS!
What’s the Phantom of the Opera’s favorite coffee drink?
It’s raining, it’s pouring.
The old Vampire Bat is soaring,
Across the lake to flee the stakes,
That Van Helsing is carving and scoring.
After all of that, do I love or loathe the Creature Feature cards? LOVE! It’s the only answer. The cards are a form of monster fun and entertainment as well as a reminder of what it’s like to see a path and follow it, no matter how long it takes . To get there and take those steps. Knowing in your heart, that you have what it takes to do it.
If you’re interested in hunting down these cards, they are relatively easy to find, not too expensive. They are a blast! If you need a note from your stepmother for cigarettes, you’re on your own.