Thursday, October 24, 2013

Superheroes ala Ben Cooper!

Anyone reading this who was a kid up through the mid-1980s probably spent at least a few Halloweens trolling for candy in a costume manufactured by the Ben Cooper company.

Founded in 1937, Ben Cooper, Inc. specialized in inexpensive Halloween costumes based on fictional archetypes, historical figures, and pop culture characters. Starting with Superman in the 1950s, expanding in the 1960s and '70s, the company produced dozens of variations of costumes based on superheroes.

But kids who wanted to pretend they were Batman, Spider-Man, Green Lantern, Captain America, or any other DC or Marvel do-gooder had their bubbles somewhat burst the second they took the cheap mask and costume out of the box. Rather than being miniature versions of the actual supersuits, the Ben Cooper costumes were vague approximations at best, almost always enhanced with the name of the character plastered at least once across the chest, or head (or both!) of the flimsy smock and plastic mask. Even more head-scratching were the costumes for characters like Green Lantern, Aquaman, or Daredevil that—rather than imitate their sartorial preferences—splashed an illustration of the hero across the chest. So, you were Green Lantern wearing a Green Lantern costume that... uh, had a picture of Green Lantern on it. As if the fun-size Snickers doler-outers didn't know who Hal Jordan was!

The drawings here illustrate what it would be like if the "real" superheroes actually dressed in outfits designed by the good folks at Ben Cooper, Inc. Some of these are an amalgamation of different elements from the variations over the years, and I still have to get around to doing that Green Lantern suit (because it's crazy awesome). Happy Halloween!

NOTE: For a companion gallery of dozens of the original artifacts, surf on over to Pops!

BONUS! As I was doing research for this project, I came to discover I was not the first person to do this. The amazingly exhaustive SPIDER-MAN COLLECTOR website includes among its many images this 1960s Woolworth's ad in which the artist did the same thing (much better than I, I might add).

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