There’s only one ‘l’ in Pogo Bal. Remember that. The fad was a big hit in the summer of 1987, but sales plummeted the following year, probably because it was so goddamn tiring and looked so stupid.
Both commercials highlight the obnoxious styles and faddism characteristic of late 1980s decadence. The era is nicely summed up in the first spot by a giant, corpse-like demon-hand reaching in through the art deco palace window to grab and presumably throttle the kids to death.
From shrooms to video games.
(Images via eBay)
Friends, what we’ve got here is a two-tone western pattern t-shirt (what?) adorned with a glitter outlined Boris Vallejo iron-on transfer and fuzzy blue iron-on letters that nearly, but not exactly, match the blue “collar.” Do we think Toad refers to the original owner’s level 15 halfling thief? Other theories? I’ll tell you what: if one of the below illustrations—glitter outlined, naturally—graced the back of the shirt under the word in question, I would buy the fucking thing and eat Top Ramen for the rest of the month.
Another homemade D&D t-shirt here.
There were four major reasons original laser tag was a short-lived fad, with both Photon and Lazer Tag ending production in less than 5 years. First, Lazer Tag, the more popular brand by far, came out in November 1986, and the units were drastically underproduced when demand was highest. Second, the technology may have been cleaner than paintball, but it was much less effective. Nothing pisses off a kid more than a hit that doesn’t register. Third, the units were expensive (about $50 in 1986) and playing alone was boring, so you and a friend (or, better yet, friends) had to convince the respective parental units to shell out. Four, there were very few official arenas to support team play and provide the futuristic atmosphere the game required (as played up in the commercials). By Christmas 1987, we had moved on to something much bigger and better: the NES.
One last thing. Laser tag wasn’t immune to the biggest toy gun problem of all. In 1987, a group of teenage boys was playing Lazer Tag at night in a California elementary school. A neighbor called the police, and when a sheriff’s deputy arrived, one of the kids, thinking the deputy was a player, jumped out and “tagged” him. The cop shot twice, and the kid died.
(Ad image via X-Entertainment)
The commercials are slightly different and highlight different weapons (pump-action shotgun, water grenade set), but the catchy tagline is the same: “The look… the feel… the sound… so real. En-ter-tech.” The cadence and music are unmistakably military, and the letters of Entertech appear on the screen in time to the rattle of a machine gun.
Zap-It was another Entertech gun line, the gimmick being that the “ammo” was disappearing ink. The first commercial is from 1987, before enactment of the orange tip law. Watch the kid pop out from behind the door and shoot the pleasantly bemused postman! (There were 18 postal killing incidents in the U.S. between 1983 and 1997. The first use of the phrase “going postal” in the media seems to date to 1993.)
The second commercial, from the early ’90s, features guns decked out in all the colors of the rainbow. The Death Wish fantasies of the Reagan era gave way to Clintonian sax appeal and Vanilla Ice brand hip-hop.
Only in America, and only during the 1980s. LJN’s Entertech line (1986 – 1990) was hugely popular, and might’ve saved its parent company if not for all the cops shooting kids holding realistic-looking weapons. All toy guns were required to be fit with an orange tip starting in 1989.
Photon was the first laser tag unit to be sold commercially (1986), followed almost immediately by the Lazer Tag brand (released by Worlds of Wonder). Both were out of business by 1990.
LJN also produced a Gotcha! The Sport! NES game and paintball gun in 1987, based on the 1985 movie.
There were several memorable commercials for Entertech products. I’ll dig some up.
The pulps are making a comeback. From grand adventure in the tradition of The Shadow and Doc Savage to weird fiction inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, the “thrills and chills” genre is getting a rewrite by a new generation of authors for a new generation of readers. I haven’t had a lot of reading time lately (three-year-old + three-month-old), but Don Gates’ Challenger Storm novels are at the top of my list. I dig what I’ve read so far, and illustration legend Michael Kaluta—who, with writer Dennis O’Neil, delivered a canonical comic book adaptation of The Shadow in the 1970s—provided cover and interior art. Yes, please.
Here’s an excerpt from the press release:
When several cargo ships begin disappearing on the waters of the Aegean Sea rumors begin to spread about black-armored demons rising up out of the deep. For Challenger Storm and his MARDL team, these events hold no particular interest until one of Storm’s troubleshooters, Diana St. Clair, informs him that her former lover, and one-time MARDL scientist, Herbert Chambers is among the missing. Later, a freakish wave wipes out a small Greek fishing village leaving only a handful of survivors. Is it possible someone has learned how to control the seas to do their bidding? When Storm and his companions arrive at a mid-ocean refueling station, they are attacked by saboteurs wielding bizarre rifles that fire sea-water.
Who is the mysterious figure calling himself Poseidon and what is the secret of his ability to create monstrous tidal waves? Can Challenger Storm find his underwater base in time to stop this mad genius before he rains down more watery destruction upon unsuspecting coastal populations? Is mankind doomed to be ruled by a new King of the Seas?
Read a few pages of Challenger Storm: The Curse of Poseidon below. You’ll also find a couple of Kaluta’s illustrations. The book is available at Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.