MAIL ORDER MYSTERIES is an easy read; it’s mostly a fun pictorial survey of the mail order ads that filled the back pages of comic books in 60s, 70s and 80s America. Kirk Demarais doesn’t exactly stretch his prose-slinging talent on the material; ads are grouped into loose categories and then he provides (if he can) a picture of the ad and a photograph of what exactly one received if he were stupid enough to send away for the item in the ad. Some of the ads actually delivered (to a point) based on the oft-outrageous claims written therein, but for the most part this is a catalog of the frauds that were purveyed to the (mostly) American public.
I grew up in an age that was profoundly affected by the ads this book focuses on as its main reason for being. I have been a willing victim in the past; I picked up the World War 2 toy soldier flats, and lusted after the concept of the Polaris Submarine (and only ever laid eyes on one much later in life, as recounted in one of the most popular posts on this blog, ever). I cheerfully picked up the multi-viewer tool and actually gave that piece of junk to my brother for Christmas one year.
So, yes, I admit, nostalgia drove this recent purchase, and I’m glad I bought it. If you grew up in a certain time in America and read comic books, you ALWAYS wondered about some of the ads in the back. I wasn’t stupid enough to get sucked in by brine-shrimp-as-sea-monkeys, but I always wanted to try the X-ray specs, and other tricks I can’t even remember anymore. If you fit that category in time, and loved comics as a sprite, you owe it to yourself to pick this book up. Kirk Demarais has been collecting this junk for years, it would seem, and we need to reward him for his patience.