Toybox Time Machine:
A Catalog of the Coolest Toys Never Made
Written and Illustrated by Marty Baumann
Introduction by Byron Howard
Foreword by Jim Steranko
Released June 20, 2017 / $29.99
Anyone who ever read a DC comic book in the 1960s would likely be familiar with the concept of multiple earths. The parallel earth theory has long been a trope in science fiction—a world just like ours, only slightly different.
The best way to look at the recent IDW book, Toybox Time Machine—conceived and illustrated by Disney artist Marty Baumann—is as a collection of 1950s and 1960s toy, magazine, and comics ads from such a parallel earth.
You certainly aren’t going to find a single one of these playthings on OUR world!
Described as “a catalog of the coolest toys never made,” that’s not entirely accurate. In fact, many of these selfsame toys were available in my own sixties childhood. I even had some of them. The clever twist here, though, is that these aren’t quiiiiite the originals. For example, the Girl From U.N.C.L.E. doll is now “Holly Thorne, Agent of M.O.D.” Similarly, the Man From U.N.C.L.E. is now “The Man Called C.O.U.S.I.N.” They’re the same as they were on our earth…only different.
That minor caveat aside, the author, in his introduction, writes, “I hope this volume recaptures something of an innocent era of boundless commercial creativity.” And that, my friends, is where the joy of this volume truly lies.
Although the ads do somewhat resemble the ironic ad parodies found in classic issues of Mad or National Lampoon, a closer look shows these to be instead a loving homage, showcasing more the retro-cool design work of the almost magical toy ads of the mid 20th century rather than skewering it in any way.
Admittedly, it’s an odd idea—“Hey, I used to love those neat toy ads from when I was a kid! Why don’t I draw a hundred and fifty fake ones and make a book out of it?” But it works!
If you’re of the right age, you’ll recognize, among others, Jonny Quest, Viewmaster, George of the Jungle, Sparkle Paints, Big Daddy Roth, Dick Tracy, King Kong, Hamilton’s Invaders, Yogi Bear, the Green Hornet, Dark Shadows, Supercar, and the Johnny Seven gun! And monsters! Monster toys were omnipresent in my childhood and thus they make a great showing here as well!
Look also for a cameo by legendary comics artist (and the Foreword writer to this book), Jim Steranko, as a Marshal Brodine-style TV magician in an ad for the Art Kenso Magic Club!
There are even running gags between ads like the multiple appearances of Yetiki or Steve Holland (similar to the way real-life model Holland was the paperback Doc Savage but also appeared on hundreds of other mass market covers in his day).
I have to question one ad, though—for Vampire Blood in a tube. I actually HAD that, circa 1973. A white tube with a red splatter logo, just like in the “fake” ad.” How’d that get in there? As I recall, it was a little too thin to be realistic but I still creeped out my share of girls and parents with it. But I digress.
The artist has clearly invested lots of love in these pages—from the scores of fake logos that are better than many real ones to the wrinkled, grubby paper effect throughout. Toybox Time Machine is a quick, fun read and best of all, like every toy catalog you ever had as a kid, its something you’ll want to revisit often, both to enjoy Mr. Baumann’s superb, faux nostalgic artwork, and to dream of what might have been.
Booksteve Recommends! (Especially if you’re over 50!)