Regular readers of the site are probably aware of the fantastic illustrative work of Tina Garceau. If not, you can head over to this page for a heaping helping of her incredible work.
Are you back? Good!
As you can see, she uses a combination of clipart, scanned images and her own photography to craft these clever collages. Lately, the images she likes using the most are taken from mid twentieth century catalogs. We scour thrift stores, flea markets and online auctions for these marvelous tomes. They also make great gifts! While some wives may expect jewelry or flowers as a gift, Tina is deliriously happy with a mouldering catalog that may or may not smell like a basement. She received the 50 year old John Plain catalog from me as a Christmas gift.
When the catalog arrived, I flipped through the pages reassuring myself that it would meet with Tina’s approval. It looked like a winner. When I reached the page pictured below, I audibly gasped! This went beyond fodder for collages and became something very special. It was my childhood brought back to me on a single printed page!
I had never heard of the John Plain company which was a department store based in the midwest, but flipping through their 600 page catalog was like a wild ride in a time machine whipping me back to my childhood. When I got to the toy section, I felt as I did as a kid as I would lie on the living room floor slowly turning the pages and carefully studying each picture and each description imagining how incredible it would be to have and play with each one of these plastic, battery-powered treasures.
I had a lot of these toys, but being that we were in the space age and the United States would soon be landing men on the moon, the most important of these was Major Matt Mason!
I had all of the toys pictured above including the gigantic, battery powered Captain Laser. it looks nothing like the rest of the Matt Mason line, and my guess is that it was developed separately from the more realistic astronaut toys. They labelled him a friendly alien, and he was lumped along with the rest of the space faring brand of action figures. It didn’t make sense, but who cared? Captain Laser had a ray gun and he lit up! It worked for me!
The catalog described it as such:
Superhuman Capt. Lazer…action charged with astonishing power! Holds a light up Lazer pistol in his hand. Add on the Cosmic Beacon, Paralyzer Wand and Radiation Shield, and he’s ready for any adventure. His eyes flash,his solar reactor lights up his chest and buzzes. Has movable arms and space-booted legs. 12 in. tall. Push button back pack control. Uses 2 “AA” batteries (not included)$6.95
At 12 inches tall, I imagine that the Captain was probably conceived to be a competitor to Hasbro’s GI Joe and Marx’s Cowboy and Knight dolls.
Check out the picture below of me with my brand new Captain Lazer!
In reality, Major Matt Mason was kind of a crappy toy. Repeated play made the paint on his spacesuit peel and the bendable wire skeleton within the figure broke at the joints. He didn’t stand the test of time like GI Joe or Tonka, but 50 years ago, I don’t think there was a toy I loved more.