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80s Coloring Books

The majority of our playthings from childhood end up destroyed or in the trash can as the years go by. Yet somehow after 3 decades I have managed to hang on to my collection of coloring books featuring some of the most iconic characters of the 1980s and kept them in decent condition. So let's scan through these Crayola splashed pages of yesteryear and take in the fun. (FYI, I know that Spider-Man book is from the 90s).

Superman in "Luthor's Lost Land" by Whitman, 1975

This Superman coloring book is the oldest in my collection, published seven years before I was born. It must have been collecting dust on a rack at the local pharmacy long before my Mom bought it for me. That striking image of Superman happily punching his way into the action presents the traditional look of the hero I grew up with and teases some of the illustrated pages within just waiting to be colored.

This should really be called a Coloring Comic Book because it actually tells a complete story, just blowing up each panel to a full page. That being the case, there are quite a few pages of establishing shots and exposition that as you can see, I avoided coloring. I do love how much time the artist put into rendering the "hot 70's woman" walking through the airport as well as the image of Clark Kent looking like James Bond while seeming to not notice the giant pterodactyl flying next him.

The biggest moments for me in Superman movies, cartoons and comics were the transformation scenes, so of course I raided the crayon box to bring some color to this image of Clark Kent ripping his shirt open to reveal the S shield underneath. For the curious, the plot of this story centers around Lex Luthor resurrecting a prehistoric island, hence all the dinosaurs that Superman is pummeling on these pages. Lois conveniently ending up unconscious takes up the first half of the tale.

This final shot, especially taken out of context, gives me a chuckle simply for the caption, "You've broken our truce by trying to have Lois killed, Luthor". I love how Superman the boy scout is chastising Luthor for being murderous and untrustworthy. Haven't you learned anything after battling this villain for nearly 50 years? Speaking of bad guys...

Villains Activity Book by Happy House, 1983

Isn't this just a fantastic group of DC Comics baddies to find lounging around together? It really puts some attention on how much The Brainiac of this era just looked like a green Lex Luthor. You gotta love the pimped out Joker look and Cheetah is going to be featured in the upcoming Wonder Woman 1984 sequel film, so it's great to dip back into her classic look from around that same era.

This book really does give the spotlight to the super-villains, but it's fun how they work the "DC Trinity" of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman into a matching the hero to their villain game. It's nice that they acknowledge a little comics history to remind kids that some of these heroes have fought these bad guys before, even if they are not specifically their arch-enemies. That being said, 50% of these criminals belong to Batman's Rogues Gallery, just sayin'.

The seemingly banal nature of some of these scenes cracks me up, but you gotta assume that there's something more sinister going on here. We've got Cheetah and Catwoman posing sweetly in what looks like a Grandma's house, but obviously they are commemorating the murder of the rich old lady and you can bet that Joker's camera shoots acid or some kind of laser beam, so he can take all the loot for himself. Then we've got the Disguise Lex Luthor activity, which gave me the chance to combine my apparent love of Sherlock Holmes with a pirate eye patch and amish beard combo. Seriously, what was I watching as a kid?

Sadly these fruit on bread monster face designs are not meant to invoke any established comic book villains, but let's try shall we? The raisin mouth angry face is most likely a mutated Jimmy Olsen (the man has taken on many forms over the years) and the shredded coconut mustache face is obviously J. Jonah Jameson from Marvel's Daily Bugle, but what's he doing here? Orange eyes with raisin fangs could easily be Killer Croc and that last fella with the peach slice horns is obviously DC's Blue Devil. Mission accomplished.

Amazing Spider-Man by Golden (1988)

Going from DC to Marvel we have The Amazing Spider-Man coloring book, which features one of my favorite Spider-Man images ever, as imagined by Todd McFarlane. I actually own this as a full sized poster and have it framed in my retro room. This book has both a 1988 and 1992 copyright, which makes me think they reprinted it with the McFarlane Cover and added a Venom picture for marketability.

Jumping right into the action, we have Spider-Man mixing it up with a duo of dastardly demons. First is an encounter with the Hobgoblin as he dodges some pumpkin bombs and next a stunned Venom takes a major POW! to the kisser. It looks like I had moved into using colored pencils by the time this book came into my possession and was starting to make my own comics, so artistry was at the forefront of my mind.

This activity page cracks me up as it asks us to identify the differences between the 2 pictures. Spidey in Bunny slippers is a laugh riot, as is the smiley face emblem on his chest (a Watchmen reference perhaps?). Also, eagle eyed folks will notice "This Space For Rent" on Mysterio's cape latch lapels. The artist must have had a fun time putting this together.

So how does the Web-Head unwind after a day of being nearly choked to death by Doctor Doom? He heads on over to "The Club" to get in a few games of Tennis with his super hero buddies using a spider-webbed racket (nice touch). Who is his opponent? My money's on Tony Stark of Warren Worthington III aka The Angel, they definitely spend their free time taking in high society activities.

Centurions "The Missing Scientists" by Golden (1986)

Centurions was one of those inventive toy lines of the 80s known more for its clever gimmick of turning the human heroes into vehicles with snap-on accessories than for the tie-in cartoon series. Still, this trio of adventurers who saved the day through "Power Extreme" always fascinated me. Despite the simplistic art on the cover, the interior illustrations are pretty dynamic.

See what I mean? Though seeing Jake Rockwell riding a magnificent steed in his full power suit is a little bit jarring (and frankly, it's gotta chafe), the art itself has nice thick lines and great detail. As you look to the other page where the team is getting ready to be transported down from their satellite base, you can see that I at least had an idea of the signature colors for Jake, Ace and Max.

The attention to detail continues, though the description of this scene feels a little off. Max Ray doesn't seem to be radioing anybody for help. If you ask me, it looks like he's throwing a hissy fit. One page over, Ace seems to have things in hand, but head-butting Doc Terror without a helmet on seems ill-advised. That guy's body is literal heavy metal! Hopefully Crystal can beam down some Power Extreme Excedrin for the headache that flyboy is bound to have at the end of this adventure.

I just had to share this final page with you where we see Doc Terror inserting a kidnapped scientist into the pod that is very clearly marked, "Human-Machine Fusing Station". You'll notice that the villain's got it set to "Evil Mode" and there's even a scary skull face on the screen to make the dastardly intentions even more apparent. So quaint.

MASK by Golden (1986)

Finally we have a duo of MASK coloring books, one described as a "A Big Coloring Book" and the other "A Giant Coloring Book". So what's the difference between the two? As you'll see in the comparison images that follow, in order to add more pages to justify the 50 cent increase in cover price on the Giant, the quality of art had to suffer.

Here we have two nearly identical images from the books featuring MASK team leader, Matt Tracker flying Thunderhawk through the air. In the second image Matt obviously put his Spectrum helmet on to hide the embarrassment of having a 6th grader as is personal sketch artist.

Why don't we check in on Venom's evil mastermind, Miles Mayhem and see how he fared under the pen of 2 different artists. Despite what look to be Mickey Mouse gloves on his hands, you gotta love the way Mayhem smashes a table into lightning bolt shards. On the right however, is that Miles or Teddy Roosevelt selling sports cars made out of solid gold?

One of the coolest segments on any episode of MASK was when the team decided to "Energize" by putting on their special combat helmets, which is brought to life in a bombastic way as energy spews forth from the helmet delivery apparatus. On the other page we see a story from the Giant book where our heroes battle killer plants, like this prickly (and frankly, unsettling) cactus. Though the artist's rendering makes it look like a case of falling asleep on a desert highway and crashing into roadside vegetation.

As you can see, one of the few pages I actually colored in featured Matt Tracker's son, Scott and his robotic buddy, T-Bob (who was my favorite part of the cartoon series). Not sure why I chose the yellow and aquamarine color scheme, but imagining Scott as an alien makes the show even more fun. Finally the Giant book redeems itself by giving us a "poster" featuring the basic promotional logo and graphics we know so well. The final page is missing from the book, which means I must have sent it in as an entry into their Color For The Gold contest.

Can you blame me? Just look at the amazing prizes up for grabs. 4 families could win a trip to Hawaii (yaaawn), 4 people could win an RCA camcorder and 20 inch TV set (YES!), 20 people could win a Quasar brand portable disc player (Oooooh), 20 people could win a 5 inch Quasar portable mini-TV with AM/FM radio (always wanted one of those) and 3,200 kids would get a digital quartz watch (basically just for entering). This was an 80's electronics bonanza!

Well there you have it, the coloring book collection of an 80s kid 30 years on with plenty of pages still waiting to be colored. So tell me, did you own any of these books? What coloring book growing up meant the most to you?

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @hojukoolander where I share pics of my collections on a weekly basis.

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jkatz Posted on Sep 23, 2018 at 07:09 PM

I'm a fan of the website coloring book corruptions (and its subreddit). Absolutely inappropriate for kids and definitely not safe for work, it takes me back to rainy elementary school days where my friends and I thought drawing genitalia and mustaches on cartoon characters was the height of comedy.

Vaporman87 Posted on Sep 23, 2018 at 04:16 AM

Something that irritated me about coloring books back then... when they utilized the art of more than one artist. Some of them would have 6, 7, 8, or more artistic styles going on in one book. I hated that.

See your Mask Coloring Book for just one example.

Superman Posted on Sep 18, 2018 at 11:38 PM

I had many coloring books as a kid, but the two that stick out the most in my mind are a Scooby-Doo one and a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers one.

Hoju Koolander Posted on Sep 18, 2018 at 04:27 PM

These are amazing, especially the Hulk ones. "Hulk like coloring. It the only thing make Hulk happy." But he is kind of going for a low blow against that dragon creature and Uatu has really been working out.

NLogan Posted on Sep 18, 2018 at 02:40 AM

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