Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Guest Review - Buried Treasures: Dynamite 1974

Doug: We have a treat for you today. Over the past few weeks we've been discussing the superhero inserts found in two magazine from the mid-1970s: Smash and Dynamite. Many of us recall those mags, available to us through monthly book orders in our elementary school classrooms. You might recall Mike Wilson's comment last Friday that he actually has the Dynamite from which I pulled the Captain America exhibit. How long do you think it took me to email him after his comment? Not long! So today we're very thankful to have Mike's review of the complete issue -- which we know those of you who lived the magazine will love, and we hope everyone else finds quite interesting. Thank you, Mike!

Dynamite #5 (November 1974)
Scholastic, Inc.

M.S. Wilson: I mentioned in the comments to Doug's post on superheroes in Dynamite magazine that I had the issue featuring Captain America, so Doug asked if I'd do a write-up on the entire issue; not completely comics-related, but BAB is about pop culture in general, and a lot of us seem to remember Dynamite quite fondly... I know I do. So, here's a look at that particular issue, from November 1974 (which was issue #5, so Dynamite was still in its infancy back then). Now, I was only two years old in 1974, so you're probably wondering how I ended up with this issue. When I was in Grade Six (around 1984), I took this issue out of the school library. I guess I took it home and never got around to returning it... so I suppose I actually stole it, but I was pretty absent-minded in those days; of course, I'm much better now.

The first page is the Table of Contents, and then they get straight to the story featured on the cover. My copy is missing the cover (besides being absent-minded, I wasn't all that careful back then), but the cover story was about the TV show Born Free, which starred Gary Collins and Diana Muldaur (later of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame). I don't remember this show (it apparently only ran for 13 episodes in late 1974), but Collins and Muldaur played real-life conservationists George and Joy Adamson, who lived with a variety of animals and tried to protect them. Both the Adamsons were later murdered (Joy in 1980 and George in 1989), so it's a little strange seeing this article about their fictional selves. The article talks a lot about the animals used during filming, including Elsa the lioness. The show was filmed on location in Kenya, which was (and still is) pretty unusual. There are only a couple of quotes from the stars; most of the article talks about the animals and how they're trained -- which sounds a little intense in places, like how they describe feeding two different lions in the same spot to get them in a territorial mood, then bringing them together so they would fight... they say the lions were pulled apart before they could hurt each other, but it still sounds a bit iffy to me. Apparently there was a lion poster included with this issue, but I never had that.
There's a page of Daffy Definitions (my favourite is "Secret:  Something you tell one person at a time"). Dynamite seemed to have a lot of these little one-page things, usually some kind of joke or cartoon. The most famous is probably "Bummers", which is missing from my copy of this issue. Why is it missing? Did I mention how careless I used to be? Anyway, next up there's a 3 page article about Hershey, Pennsylvania (The Sweetest Town in the USA), although it seems to be as much about chocolate in general as it is about Hershey specifically. After that is the three-page Captain America article which Doug already covered in its entirety. I guess it was one of a series, but I don't have any other Dynamites of this early vintage, so I don't know what other superheroes featured in other issues. After Cap, there are two pages of "Dynamite at the Raceway", which is basically just five "trivia" questions about auto-racing.

Next there's a two-page feature called "Sound Off", which shows how to make musical instruments from household objects (shoebox guitar, pot lid cymbals, wine jug tuba, and stuff like that); some of it is pretty ingenious, but I'm not sure how good it would actually sound. In the middle of the mag is a calendar for Nov. 1974; apparently this was a regular feature, though my later (early '80s) issues don't have it, so I'm not sure when they stopped including it. The calendar has little factoids and celebrity birthdays and such for each day, plus some really funky artwork. In fact, the art looks a lot like the art on "Bummers", so maybe the same artist did both. The calendar is followed by another two-page spread about the Hero sandwich ... but instead of an article, there are five recipes for different versions of the Hero (or Sub, Hoagie, Paris Loaf ... whatever you want to call it); some of the recipes sound pretty good, though I've never actually tried any of them.

The following article is two pages (well, one page of text and a big picture) about Olga Korbut, who had made quite a splash at the 1972 Olympics. Of course, Nadia Comaneci was the big story in 1976 and she isn't mentioned here. But there's a quote from an American high school gymnastics coach practically guaranteeing that America would produce their own Olga Korbut. I guess Mary Lou Retton was just waiting in the wings. Next is a feature that I always remember somewhat fondly, "Hot Stuff". It's a couple of pages about products, interesting facts, or ideas for stuff that kids could do. Over the years they had some cool stuff in Hot Stuff. This particular instance talks about the "Ghost Writer and Developer", which was an invisible ink pen you could buy (for 98 cents, which was a lot of money in those... ah, never mind), and it came with the Developer pen which made the invisible writing visible. There's also a recipe for a genuine (I assume) New York Egg Cream, a blurb on how to make your own perfume, and a few paragraphs about how to make some extra money... by setting up your own auction. I bet a lot of kids who followed that advice later regretted auctioning off their comics, baseball cards, and toys.

Next up are a couple of pages on secret codes, my favourite article in this issue of Dynamite; unfortunately, I loved it so much, I tore out the pages years ago and now they're long gone. So that's why there are no scans of those pages (and why there's no Bummers page... it was on the back of one of the secret code pages). I was crazy for secret codes and ciphers as a kid, so I collected everything I could find on them. I think Dynamite did a number of articles on codes over the years. Apparently there was a decoder wheel on the back cover of this issue, but as I mentioned, I don't have a cover so no decoder wheel either. Next is a one-page Dynamite Race Track Game which is played on graph paper with a pen. The rules are a bit convoluted and it looks pretty boring to me. Next comes "Good Vibrations", which was another regular feature. It was kind of a "Dear Abby" (or "Agony Aunt" for you Brits out there) aimed at kids. This time around the letters deal with divorce and are answered by an actual doctor (I'm assuming a psychiatrist), Paulina Kernberg; I'm not sure if she answered the letters in every issue, or just this one. I know this "advice column for kids" was a regular feature for a long time, but it may have had a different name later on.

Next is another light-hearted page called "Name Dropping", giving us the real names of celebrities. I think this is the first place I learned that John Wayne's real name was Marion Morrison. The following two pages are perennial favourites ... that's right, I know you've all been waiting for it... Count Morbida! This featured (as far as I know) through Dynamite's entire run and basically consists of a couple of pages full of (fairly easy) puzzles presented by a cartoon vampire named Count Morbida, who constantly breaks the fourth wall by insulting the kids reading the magazine and getting angrier and angrier as they solve his puzzles. The art is crude, but for some reason I've always loved it. There's lots of detail in the background that makes it fun to examine closely. The last page talks about next issue's content, and urges kids to send ideas in to Hot Stuff... and maybe get one of those cool Hot Stuff t-shirts. So, that's it for this issue. Some articles were interesting, some were kind of blah (at least for me), but I think that was the appeal of Dynamite; they put so much into each issue (and such a variety) that there's almost certainly something that'll appeal to everyone. I know I could always find at least one article that I liked, plus all the regular features like Bummers, Hot Stuff, and Count Morbida. I guess that's why so many of us have such fond memories of this old mag; thanks, Doug and Karen, for letting me relive my (long-) lost youth!


david_b said...

Certainly brings back memories.., Mike, not all good. I recall buying this issue, and as it was one of the first issues, Dynamite had a great tradition (so I thought at the time..), of including an ULTRA-cool poster of the featured super-hero, as they previously did for both Hulk and the FF which I had adorning my room at the time.

Soooo, as Cap was my all-time favorite hero at that particular time, I was sooo pumped to open up the Dynamite poster to reveal.......? Nada.

No Cap poster.

No Cap poster.

A 'tiger poster'...? I vividly recall thinking 'WTF', looooong before anyone ever would have thunk to utter a colloquialism as such.

Nevertheless, thanks for the post, certainly it will bring back great memories for most of us.

Martinex1 said...

Mike those are some great memories. I enjoyed the recollection regarding the library theft; your overdue fees may reach the record books. I only peripherally remember Dynamite for the Mork and Mindy issue. My sister collected some because they seemed to focus on Shawn Cassidy and some of the 70s heartthrobs. I would flip through issues for the puzzles and super hero details described.

I seemed to recall Pizzazz more than Dynamite. But I know kids ordered Dynamite from the Scholastic choices each month. I really wanted the Space 1999 issue.

Redartz said...

Very nice look back today, Mike! I only vaguely remember the magazine, but Count Morbida sure rings a bell. That's a lot of fun, youth oriented articles; no wonder it was popular enough to spawn a few imitators...

Edo Bosnar said...

Nice overview, Mike. Like I said previously, I did have a few issues of Dynamite (from the late '70s), but like Martinex, my memories of them are fuzzy. Even so, the pages you posted have this odd, and almost comforting familiarity about them.
By the way, Diana Muldaur not only appeared in TNG, she was also an alumna of the original series, appearing in two episodes (in seasons two and three, playing a different character each time).

Doug said...

I think today's scans are just great. And thanks again to Mike for turning this around so quickly over the weekend. I think he got pretty enthused -- I had no idea I'd get the goods as quickly as I did.

I showed my wife today's post and it brought mack memories for her as well. A simple Google search of "Dynamite + Scholastic" revealed a whole bunch of covers and we reminisced over those as well. We picked out several that we recall owning, with Fonzie, Welcome Back Kotter, and King Kong & Laverne and Shirley. These magazines are snapshots into the 1970s, to be sure!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comments everybody. Strangely, this issue of Dynamite is the oldest one I have (as I said, I got it from the school library); all my other issues (I have about 7 more, I think) are from the early 80s.

@Edo: Yeah, I forgot that Muldaur was in those Original Series episodes...She played Miranda Jones in "Is there in Truth No Beauty?" and whatsherface in "Return to Tomorrow" (I'm too lazy to look it up); Karen's weekly reviews will get to those episodes in due time, I imagine. I think Muldaur also played McCloud's girlfriend, if I remember right. (By the way, what happened to Croatia in the Euros? They were doing so well...)

Mike Wilson

Anonymous said...

Many thanks, Mike!
While I don't remember this issue per se, I definitely remember the features! Count Morbida was a big favorite of my sister's, as I recall. Like him, she was sinister and diabolical.
Great fun! Hope to see more of these!
A BAB tradition in the offing, perhaps...?

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