Today, a brief investigation of a series of four unusual read-alongs that came and went in 1982 without me even noticing. The great Fisher-Price comany issued 4 read-alongs that year that were based on characters from DC comics. But that wasn't enough. They not only included top talent in their writing and illustrating; they also included a fancy audio production on a cassette that was included in a pocket behind each hardcover, 62-page storybook. The audio plays, sometimes up to 40 minutes in length, included voice work by lots of people (including some surprises), and orchestrations by "The Fisher-Price Orchestra," which may or may not have been a handful of classical music LP's from the bargain bin...and now, the four books, in no particular order:
1) Batman & Robin - The Case of the Laughing Sphinx (Fisher-Price, 1982)
An interesting Riddler story that was actually pretty fun to listen to. Written by Andrew Helfer, and illustrated by Ross Andru (I loved his AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, man), Jim Aparo, Joe Orlando, and Tatjana Wood.
You can tell that the folks involved were having fun with these projects. At the end of the Batman book is a little cameo by the Fisher-Price factory:
Written by E. Nelson Bridwell, and illustrated by Ross Andru, Adrian Gonzales, Mike DeCarlo, and Gene D'Angelo.
I hate origin stories. They are even worse if you are extremely, yawning-ly familiar with the origin that is being retold. They are STILL worse if they are being monkeyed with by Hollywood, but we won't go on that tangent right now.
They have a necessary place, but, to me, re-told origin stories are a waste of space. What kid in 1982 that picked up this book didn't have at least a cursory knowledge of where Superman came from?
That said, this is still quite enjoyable, and done by big names, so you know you are in good hands.
Here are two of my favorite moments. This is the most hilarious panel in the whole book:
And then there's the time that Superman was contacted by Professor X, who wanted to invite him to his school for special youths:
3) Wonder Woman - Cheetah on the Prowl (Fisher-Price, 1982)
Written by Andrew Helfer, Illustrated by Ross Andru, Dick Giordano, and Carl Gafford.
Unfortunately, half the book is origin story, but there are a few interesting moments, like these:
First off, I don't remember the fact that Diana was only issued one set of clothes, and had to grow into them...and then, out of them...
Secondly, the competition that Diana wins includes jousting, but if you read the text, it says absolutely nothing about kangaroos....kangaroos!! Is Paradise Island between Australia and New Zealand, and nobody told me?
Don't worry though; the Cheetah does actually show up, 2/3 into the story, although she doesn't look quite right, and they fight; blah blah blah, and the Cheetah is captured. But we are treated to one exclamation of "Suffering Sappho!" which is always entertaining.
4) The Justice League of America - The Lunar Invaders (Fisher-Price, 1982)
Written by the great Marv Wolfman, and Illustrated by Ross Andru (again), Rich Buckler, Bob Smith, and Bob LeRose. It's a story about a fancy Moonbase, which is always interesting, and a lot of neat monsters. After that, it sort of turns into a Super Friends epsiode, but it's still fun. Here are a few of my musings:
|The Atom: his anger is growing.|
|"Batman remembers all of the SUPERFRIENDS episodes he has seen. He has almost seen them all."|
|I realize Atom is small, but is this really the best way to carry him? Can't we make him a little sling, or something? This just doesn't seem like a good idea...or even comfortable. Do you think they fight over whose turn it is to have to carry him?|
|Do you remember, back in the 1940's, when the guy who invented Wonder Woman was always putting her in bondage, and other suggestive situations? I'm glad we have gotten past all that.|
|Ok, bonus points if you can spot the guest stars here! Ignoring the crayon, here are a couple of hints: 1)SPIDERS FROM MARS, and 2)MUPPETS!!!! Oh, and I'm not talking about Beethoven.|
If you ever run into any of these books, they are getting quite hard to find, and are worth picking up. I doubt you will find them with their cassettes, and if you do, then you are stuck with cassettes, and have to explain to your kids what they are.