A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Hooptedoodle #29 - Small Ads in Comics

This is all triggered by the fact that I came across this picture - I don't know whose picture it is, so if it is yours then thank you, it is a great picture. I have never seen one of these things, and haven't thought about them for well over 50 years, but this was one of a small number of weird toys I always fancied from the small ads on the back of my mate Brian's comics when I was a kid. I wasn't allowed comics like that - I just got the Eagle, and later I got the Rover and Adventure. Brian's comics were much darker, with heavy, violent stories about US Marines fighting in the Pacific and suchlike. But the Seebackroscope was definitely on a secret wanted list, as was a device which, apparently, enabled you to throw your voice and mystify all your friends. I would have loved to mystify my friends.

The only thing Brian and I ever bought through these ads was a small box of ex-US Army ration packs. Don't ask me why. Brian arranged for them to be delivered to his grannie's house, and we opened the box like thieves. I am delighted to recall that the packs contained no morphine capsules - nothing dangerous in that sense - but they did contain foil-wrapped chocolate and fudge bars. Brian liked the chocolate, which was too strong and bitter for me, and which also had an odd grey appearance which might have served as a warning if we had been receptive to such a thing. Brian, sadly, consumed a great deal of the grey chocolate, and was unable to venture further than a few feet from the toilet for the next day or two. For some reason, his mother blamed me for the whole escapade. Most unfair.

So, as you will see, this is nothing more than me idly dreaming about things from long ago which I didn't really understand at the time anyway. I am confident that there will be a whole specialist hobby built around the toys you could buy from these old comics, and there will be experts. You may actually have a degree in this very subject.

Did anyone ever have a Seebackroscope? Was it any good?


  1. I don't remember that one but I do recall those ads in the Marvel Comics for the War of Independence toy soldiers - I so wanted those!

    I spent nearly 20 years of my life in toy retail and Mail Order and have a lovely collection of photocopies of wacky toy packaging with some brilliant bizarre translations. The best product we ever found and imported however was a battery operated "Missile Firing Chicken". Ah, happy days...


  2. Ian - I don't suppose your HH blog could support a few samples from your collection? No - of course not - perish the thought - silly of me...

    Would be fun, though.

    I had a Chinese-made clockwork "Walking Lovely Bear" which was pretty fine, but it eventually lost its lovely fur, and was just not the same.


  3. I remember these! I never saw one either, but if you're sitting with your seebackroscope in position, it will be pretty obvious what your up to. It would be more subtle to just turn and face what your looking at, I think.

    There was also a sucker advertised you could put between a teacup and saucer. That would be a laugh if you are into scalding grandmothers.

    This post has got me scratching my head trying to think of more, Cheers. Lou

  4. My wife's great uncle still grouses about the "Dance like Fred Astaire" DIY kit that he paid for but never received in 1954.

  5. I sent away for the War of Independence soldiers that Stryker refers to. They were 1/72 scale and made of soft plastic. The British were red and the American revolutionaries were blue. The infantry of both sides were very authentic looking, however the cavalry were dressed as if they were off to join a fox hunt.
    My brother sent away for "sea monkeys" which were depicted in the back of a comic book as smiling little mermonkeys. In fact, they turned out to be nothing more than brine shrimp. It was quite disappointing for the both of us.

  6. A submarine that actually dived and resurfaced (thanks to the wonders of bajing soda and chemical reactions) yes, but no x-ray glasses or seebackroscopes. Or footlockers full of toy soldiers.

  7. Though the AWI soldiers sound fair, and the submarine might actually be pretty cool, there is a theme of disappointment running here.

    Maybe the advertisers actually did everyone a service - teaching kids early in life that most things are a fraud, or at least not what they seem. I can see that would be a valuable life lesson - come on kid, get real - grow up fast or you might still be playing with toy soldiers when you're 40.

    It would be devastating, though, learning to cope with the social disability of not dancing like Astaire after you had built up your hopes. That's the sort of grievance that would simmer for years, right enough.

  8. Seebackroscope's and X-Ray glasses - is there an underlying theme that we are all closet voyeurs?? :o))

  9. The lesson is that you can't always get what you want, since very few kids were able to get their parents to write a check for that stuff.

    But you just might find, you get what you need:
    I did want the 204 Revolutionary War Soldiers and just bought some more yesterday.

    No luck on the X-Ray Specs, though, yet.

  10. All this is as nothing compared to Stryker's exquisite post on this subject at


    If you haven't seen it, go and have a look.