Your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from thrift stores, estate sales, and flea markets.
Outside of fanfic and self-published white-supremacist Kindle books, the easiest thing for a rank amateur to get published has to be coloring books, those poorly drawn, cheap-papered pamphlets that most parents quickly discover absorb baby fluids as well as paper towels. On occasion, your Crap Archivist gathers together the cheapest, chintziest, most ill-conceived coloring books he can find, and, hey, guess what? This is one of those occasions!
First up is a ringer: A not-terribly drawn 1966 Superman book from Whitman Press. Here’s a page already colored — and graded, presumably by some teacher. “Very, very good,” someone has written, in a crabbed, teacher-looking cursive. Despite those twin “verys,” the teacher has, bizarrely, judged this to be B+ work — “89/100,” he or she has declared, just beneath a scribbled out “90.”
What could have cost this kid that key point separating A from B? How about the fact that Superman’s skintight costume is here joined with Clark Kent’s slacks into some bizarre onesie?
But that’s a mere appetizer for the weirdness of Superman ’66, whose adventures build to this shocking climax:
Superman shouting “pussy” still seems more in character to me than him snapping Zod’s neck.
Speaking of needlessly dark takes on beloved DC superheroes, here’s an unconscionable page from 1992’s Batman Returns coloring book, from the Golden company:
Paging through this miserable book, it’s hard not to imagine the voices of the kids it must have confounded: “Mommy, what color do I use for despair?”
“Mommy, what color are flame-puking fear clowns?”
“Mommy, what color is flirting? And Mr. Mom’s perm?”
Pop Quiz! Is the following image of the Penguin as played by Danny DeVito …
… or is it of your average costume-wearing old-dude Tea Partier as he reads the headlines on Drudge?
Coloring books have always been more about shutting kids up than inspiring artistic expression. (Why else would that teacher above grade that Superman page? Wouldn’t all the A-level work look pretty much the same?) Here, from the late ’60s, is a model of kid-occupying: a freebie pamphlet handed out by PSA flight staff to children on airplanes.
To their credit, though, the artists and editors at PSA took the time to instruct the kids they were hired to distract. Here, for example, they remind children what women should look like:
Even more retrograde is this strange gem, which must have been just the thing to foist upon kids who complain too much — “You think you have it tough?” this one asks.
Page after page, The Chimney Sweeps’ Coloring Book challenged kids to capture in Crayola all the pleasures of squalor and malnourishment.
Of course, a real chimney sweep wouldn’t need a gray or black crayon to complete these drawings. A real chimney sweep could just rub a sooty finger over the page.
Still, the book is in many ways dispiritingly crappy:
No amount of coloring or jolly child labor could make home rhyme with warm!
Less depressing but no less confounding, here’s another cheerful chap with an unlikely job: The Amazing Sprinklerman, the creation of the children’s education experts at the National Fire Sprinkler Association of Patterson, New Jersey.
For some reason, that cover depicts Sprinklerman just a breath after some sniper blasted him with an impressive headshot.
The rest of this book is less violent. Mostly, Sprinklerman shows us all the kinds of public places where fire-safety sprinklers are likely to have been installed. Naturally, he invites children to daydream that they are alone with him in a strange hotel room:
Here, litterbug Sprinklerman tosses his movie popcorn to the floor for some other sucker to clean up.
Finally, here we see Sprinklerman flouting his fire-safety duties by hanging out in the one place that could never possibly need him.
WAY TO STOP THOSE UNDERWATER FIRES, SPRINKLERMAN
More:Studies in Crap