February 14, 2008

Frankenstein's Feast of St. Valentine

Truly a monster for all seasons, Frankenstein was conjugated with Valentine’s Day back in 1966, when a mere nickel spent at the corner store would get you a pack of Frankenstein Valentine Stickers, a cheap wax-paper wrapper containing five full-color peel and stick cartoons, and a flat wad of pink, petrified bubble gum.

The cards in bubble-gum card packs were originally designed as premiums to help sell gum, a trick copied from tobacco companies that had long used baseball or movie star pictures as sales incentives in cigarette packs. The success of the Bazooka Joe miniature comics in the late 40s, and the colorful sports and adventure themed pasteboards produced by the Topps Company of Brooklyn, New York, quickly evolved into a collecting and trading hobby.

The Frankenstein Valentine Stickers are typical of the Monster Boom era merchandizing that combined monster movies and humor in equal dozes. Monster trading cards were very popular, and all featured either black and white movie stills or gaudily painted monsters with funny captions and jokes on the backside.

The artist on the Frankenstein series was Norm Saunders who had joined Topps in 1958, coming off a career painting pulp magazine covers. Saunders illustrated a rousing and bloody Civil War trading card series, and the legendary Mars Attacks! cards that remain a favorite with collectors to this day. Saunders would go on to be one of the leading artists on Topps’ Wacky Packages, a pop culture phenomenon of the 70’s.

The Frankenstein Valentine Stickers were done in a crude, effective, lowbrow style, and eye-blasting primary colors. It appears Jack Davis may have penciled some of these. All the classic monsters are represented, including Dracula (“I Vant You!"), Wolfman, Mummy, Mr. Hyde, Lon Chaney’s Opera Phantom and vampire from London After Midnight, and the Metaluna Mutant (“I Admire Your Brains!”). The display boxes and the wax wrappers were illustrated by Wally Wood.

The entire 44-card set of Frankenstein Valentine Stickers is posted online, complete with several sketches and original art. 

Explore the Official Norm Saunders website and admire a wide range of his extraordinary art.


Anonymous said...

typo nitpick: Bazooka, not 'Bajooka' Joe.

rob! said...

very fun pieces! frankenstein: suitable for every occasion!

Pierre Fournier said...

Thanks for the pickup, Anon. I hate messing up a cultural hero's name.

Rob: I knew Frankenstein was everywhere, but doing the blog was still a revelation. Frankenstein is literally ubiquitous.

Arbogast said...

People really knew how to celebrate back then. Frankenstein kick's Dora's ass. Dora and Boots!

B-Sol said...

Wow, Wacky Packages, that brings back some memories. I can assure that pop culture phenomenon continued on well into the 1980s!