By Chris Cummins and Brian Heiler
Not to sound like cranky old timers, but we here at Topless Robot believe that the golden age of trick-or-treating was the late 1970s/early ?80s. To quote Ray Liotta in Goodfellas, it was a glorious time. Kids everywhere would get dressed up as their favorite characters and hit the streets in search of candy and frights aplenty. Then it all changed thanks 1982?s Tylenol poisoning scare and the subsequent urban legends about how a cabal of madmen were seeking to tamper with Halloween candy. Before you knew it, the days of devouring fun-sized Snickers bars on the walk back home were replaced by taking your candy to get X-rayed at the local hospital. And with that, the magic of the day slowly began to die.
Instead of dwelling on how lame Halloween currently is for kids, lets take a trip in the wayback machine to a time when every pop culture icon from TV, movies, cartoons and videogames were immortalized in cheap vinyl shirts and even cheaper plastic masks. Here?s an amazing, double-sized look at 10 of the greatest?and then 10 of the worst?costumes from Halloweens past.
Pulsar was Mattel?s answer to the then popular Bionic Man series. Instead of going techno, they went organic? Pulsar had a see-through chest that enabled you to see his bloody organs. How this gave him superpowers was never explained and since children are naturally stupid, we never questioned it. The Pulsar Halloween costume works so well, because it’s both accurate to the character and super-gross?the Halloween costume equivalent of chocolate and peanut butter.
9) Mazinga from Shogun Warriors
One of the earliest imports from Japan, Mattel?s Shogun Warrior toys were 2-feet-tall, fired missiles out of every orifice and had giant fists that shot out at you?and this was in the ’70s, so these thing shot far and hard. Despite their lack of a cartoon, the Shogun Warriors were known by reputation (and their commercials) as heavyweights. Your coolness factor doubled if you were able to find one of these costumes for Halloween night.
8) He-Man from Masters of the Universe
The only time in your life you should willingly wear a pageboy haircut. Considering the whole premise of Masters of the Universe was that a young boy could change into a muscular adult superhero, the He-Man costume was a logical fit for the Halloween trade. It let boys pretend they too were hulking men with rippling muscles and enormous strength. And it gave adults the hilarious view of a midget with a hyper-developed chest and legs, but tiny, bird-like arms.
Seeing that the highpoint of ?80s bubblegum pop sensation was all about transformation, this Jem costume makes a lot of sense for girls, just as He-Man did for boys. Little girls could become Jem, a super-popular and beautiful adult pop star, and then sing the Jem and the Holograms theme song for the entire night as they trick-or-treated…until they got home, at which point their poor parents would drink a “truly outrageous” amount of gin.
6) Ape Warrior from Planet of the Apes
Planet of the Apes is a sci-fi classic that gave us many things: simian-infused adventure, a twist ending, an unnecessary view of Charlton Heston?s ass, and so forth. But one of the film?s biggest legacies is its collection of spin-off merchandising, including this awesome Ape Warrior costume. Based on a generic soldier ape, it?s most memorable feature is its illustration of a machete tucked behind a bandolier. Interestingly, dressing up as a super-intelligent ape who gets to walk around in this bad-ass, day-glow outfit is as awesome now as it was then.
No toyline? No cartoon? No problem for this amazing, albeit generic, robot costume. With a mask embedded with working lights and a shiny silver suit, this was the most high-tech Halloween outfit for kids ever produced. And staring at it long enough will put Flight of the Conchords? ?Robots? song in your head. Once again without emotion!
4) Everything from Star Wars (tie)
Before Star Wars came around, most licensed Halloween costume featured a mask of the character, then that character’s face on the shirt, in case candy-distributing adults didn’t get it. This was pretty much as cool as wearing a shirt with your own face on it, which is to say, not at all. But when Star Wars came out with Halloween costumes, kids could actually dress like the characters, with plastic masks and vinyl outfits which displayed Vader’s chest-thingie or Chewbacca’s furry chest and bandolier. Thank you, Star Wars.
3) Warduke from Dungeons & Dragons
LJN?s line of toys based on the popular virgin pastime of role-play were somewhat overlooked by children too fascinated with the Masters of the Universe. The shame is that the character designs?especially lead villain Warduke, who looks like every evil/demonic hell warrior ever imagined?were especially fantastic, and perfect Halloween material. If you were wearing a Warduke costume, you weren’t a D&D-loving nerd?you were a badass knight from hell…a significant improvement.
2) The Devil
Since Satan is kind of awesome, it?s not surprising that costumes based on Father of Lies are perennial favorites. Of the countless Lucifer costumes released for kids over the years, this one is the spookiest. Along with a glow-in-the-dark mask and red hood, the costume features Beelzebub peering out from the flames of hell as if he was trying to summon kids to join him is his fiery kingdom of suffering, and it seems pretty reasonable that Satan would have a smaller demon inside his chest for grabbing children.. Fun!
1) Alien /Jaws (tie)
For sheer WTF awesomeness alone, these two rank among the best Halloween outfits ever. Unbelievably, someone decided that Alien and Jaws were kid-friendly enough that Halloween costumes based on each of the flick were produced, and small children wanders the streets of the ’70s dressed as a murderous shark, complete with jagged fangs, or a hideous, chitin-covered nightmare, ready to lay its eggs in whatever stupid kid wanders close enough. Clearly, these are two of the greatest Halloween costumes ever made.
You’ve seen the best, now piss yourself in horror at the worst old-school Halloween costumes on the next page.
This is what happens when you send your grandmother to get your Halloween costume for you?she inevitably came back with these sneaky little lookalikes, made specifically to fool out-of-touch adults into thinking they?re buying Batman or Spider-man instead of their cheap Mexican equivalents. On the plus side, knock-off costumes such as these were wonderful lessons for kids, clearly illustrating the series of crushing disappointments life was surely going to bring in the future.
9) Colonial Girl
Released to cash in on the Bicentennial craze, this Colonial Girl costume had young ladies dreaming about what life must have been like during the early days of the United States, e.g. yellow fever and feet calloused from cobblestones. And who exactly is this so-called Colonial Girl supposed to be? She looks like some lame-ass villain that Dazzler would fight. If you are going trick-or-treating in era-specific garb, wouldn?t it be slightly better to go out as someone specific, like Martha Washington or Betsy Ross? Or maybe this outfit is based on one of Ben Franklin?s favorite prostitutes?that would certainly explain the whorish lipstick and easily removable dress.
8) Cyclops from Krull
Getting a Krull costume meant one thing; your uncaring parents, too wrapped up in their own lives, bought your Halloween costume at the very last minute, when this was the last thing on the rack. Which also means we’ve just unleashed a painful memory you?ve likely kept repressed. Sorry about your luck.
7) Kooky Spooks
Putting the retard in flame retardant, these monstrosities allowed kids to beg for beatings by having them prance around in a costume with a huge inflatable head. Upon their release in 1979, the Kooky Spooks series of costumes were loved by parents because they came with reflective tape that made wearers less likely to get plowed down by cars while crossing the street in search of some Tootsie Rolls. They were also more durable than the traditional vinyl costumes, which meant hand-me-downs from your older sibling now included bullshit Halloween outfits that instantly made you the deserving target of local bullies. Since each of the Kooky Spooks came with color-coordinated makeup, kids who chose the bat costume suddenly found themselves looking like pint-sized racists after applying the black face paint.
6) Rubik?s Cube
The year 1983 saw a nation obsessed with this damned cube, which even inexplicably received its own, painful, half-hour cartoon on Saturday morning. Despite the toy’s immense popularity, in the end, it?s a Halloween costume of a frustrating puzzle that a nation couldn?t solve, and like it’s toy inspiration, deserved to be hurled into a wastebasket in rage.
5) Chachi from Joanie Loves Chachi / Jimmy Osmond (tie)
If you ever needed proof that Halloween is Satan’s handiwork, please look no further than the Chachi costume. It?s troubling to think of how many little brothers were coerced into being Chachi in order to accompany an older sister dressed as Joanie. Being Scott Baio, even for an evening, is a special torture in itself.
As for Jimmy Osmond, it should come as a complete surprise that there were Osmonds other than Donnie and Marie. This youngest singling was best known for his 1972 hit ?Long Haired Lover from Liverpool.? That?s great and all, but it?s unlikely that anyone outside of Utah actually wanted to put on what is essentially a red trash bag with his face on it and then go begging for snacks.
4) The Biker from the Village People
One of the most confusing things about life is how a song about anonymous gay sex became a mainstream hit in the ’70s, and yet ?Y.M.C.A.? continues to be a staple of weddings/bad parties everywhere. So powerful were the Village People?s homoerotic antics that they spawned this costume, which let kids everywhere pretend…actually, let’s not go there.
3) Scrappy Doo
You?ll need that plastic smock to protect yourself from the endless amounts of rotted fruits and vegetables other children will likely lob at your Scrappy Doo costume. As everyone knows, Scrappy Doo was the repulsive additional character that completely ruined the mojo of Scooby Doo forever?to go out dressed as him was like going out dressed as Hitler or Charles Manson. If you saw a kid dressed like this on Halloween, you’d be tempted to slip a razor blade into his apple.
2) Hawkeye from M*A*S*H
While no one would question the popularity of such a television classic as M*A*S*H, the question begs to be asked, how many children really wanted to be Alan Alda at Halloween? You could swill gin and throw out equal parts pathos and one liners at each door, stopping occasionally to do a Groucho impersonation. And then you could have the ever-loving shit beat out of you by all the neighborhood kids.
From a questionable line of Atari game-related costumes that included Yar?s Revenge and Missile Command, the Asteroids costume is tenuously based on the then popular videogame of the same name, which has no humanoid characters. There is simply a tiny arrow which is the spaceship, and many, many asteroids.
The costume maker could, theoretically made the pilot of the asteroid-shooting ship, which might have looked okay. But by having the mask resemble an asteroid, the wearer instead looks like he’s going as massive burn victim or a discarded sponge from a men?s shelter bathroom. A clever bully could?and would?also use it as an excuse to play Asteroids by repeatedly punching you in the face.