Saturday, July 8, 2023

Going Batty

Following a truncated 60 subject set of Baseball Buttons that were released in 1956 Topps started issuing a fairly steady stream of pin, or more precisely, button issues in the 1960's.  These were eventually sourced from Japan and imported into the United States.  After a half-decade hiatus they came back with what may be their best non-sport button issue ever, 1974's Batty Buttons.  Some sources say 1973 and there are no commodity codes to guide us, so either year  is possible. Twenty-four subjects made up the checklist, which was a decidedly wide-ranging one. 

I found a nice scan of the pack over at the Busy Beaver Button Museum when I realized I did not have one:

Typical Topps smart-alecky stuff from the look of things, right?  Well some buttons certainly were in that mode:

OK, so right away it's obvious there are two distinct styles in these half-dozen: a Topps-standard illustrated look and a photo-based one. "Get Off My Back" was also a subject in the 1965-ish Topps Wise Guys Buttons but that set's version was an illustration. I'm almost reminded of Harvey Kurtzman's Help!  Magazine's fumetti's with the three bottom buttons.  Kurtzman and Topps Creative Director Woody Gelman were friendly and many artists did work for both Warren Publishing, who put out Help! and Topps (and MAD, and Cracked and Sick, and on and on....).  Kurtzman was the one of the first to publish Robert Crumb's work in any kind of widely distributed format and lo and behold, there is a Crumb-like knockoff in the set:

The "Kiss Me" pin above is in the photo-realistic category but that middle one is the most intriguing of the trio. I make the first 8 buttons in the set to be photo-based and I'm guessing Topps salvaged designs from three different planned button issues and decided to just do a mash up and see what happened in the marketplace. The timing works,  as Topps had been consolidating and streamlining operations in the wake of the March 1972 IPO so I could see some planned releases being scrapped or rejiggered.

The next batch of 8, which includes KOT,  are 100% illustrated and mostly feature words and an image. The last run of 8 however, well they all feature Universal Monsters!

Frankenstein's Monster, The Phantom of the Opera and Wolfman-nice! The full roster of monsters is like so:

17-Creature From The Black Lagoon (Get Lost)
18-Wolfman (I'm Available)
19-The Mummy (Remember Mummy's Day)
20-Werewolf (You Make Me Drool)
21-Wolfman (Warning-Full Moon Tonight)
22-Frankenstein's Monster (Ain't I Cute?)
23-Monitor of Metaluna Metaluna Mutant (I'm A Brain )
24-The Phantom of the Opera (I Want You).

The Monitor of Metaluna Metaluna Mutant may confuse even some classic horror fans but it's taken from the 1955 movie "This Island Earth," which was a color release from Universal. As you can imagine, this subset of buttons is quite popular and can get a little pricey; not crazy, but for a 1970's ancillary Topps set they can bring strong prices.

UPDATE 5/9/24: Hjalmar Poelzig has left a comment that corrects #23-it's the Metaluna Mutant as the Monitor was the leader.


John Bateman said...

When I was a kid in the early 1970s, my uncle used to own a small grocery/candy store (where I got my Topps cards) and these look strangely familiar. Thanks for the post.

Hjalmar Poelzig said...

I have 7 of the 8 Universal monsters ones...this was great finding your page on these!...but as a major Universal fan, I have to correct you on one point:

The creature from This Island Earth is [i]not[/i] the "Monitor of Metaluna" (that title of "Monitor" was reserved for the Metaluna leader), but it's the Metaluna Mutant. Throughout the film it's referred to as the Mutant. You might want to correct your mistitling of that particular button.

toppcat said...

I will, thanks!