Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Black Stickers

I think one of the biggest disappointments of my childhood was black stickers over cardboard packaging. Let me explain.

I had a lot of Star Wars stuff. Figures, playsets, the Death Star, the Millenium Falcon, the Slave One, and a bunch of other assorted crap, like a lizard with a trap door in his back so you could put figures on it. Also, when you moved his head, the tail would move in the opposite direction. So anyway, I got a lot of these figures. They came in a little blister pack, a figure on a card with a square plastic bubble that held the dude and his gun. On the back of each card were photos of other available toys. Well at one point a bit before Empire came out, the cards were printed with a special offer – if you clip enough proof of purchase seals, you can send in for a free figure for this dude from the next movie, named Boba Fett.

Of course, I immediately amassed as many of these damn coupons as I could find. I think I had enough seals for TWO figures, so I was in a frenzy over this. And this Boba Fett – nobody knew anything about him, but he looked like Darth Vader or a Stormtrooper, with an armor suit and so forth. But the coolest part was his rocket backpack. And the rocket looked like the same missile that equipped various Battlestar Galactica toys – a red rocket that SHOT WHEN YOU PUSHED A BUTTON!

There was no information about the rocket on the packages. My nine-year-old mind wondered why they didn’t advertise this in 72-point type, as it was obviously the biggest selling point of Mr. Fett. I mean, the big and somewhat dumb-looking Battlestar ships had two rockets, but that was on an entire ship. Boba Fett had a rocket on a single portable launcher, which meant a much higher per-capita killing capacity for him. Why didn’t they tell me more? Why weren’t there commercials every fifteen minutes during the Hanna-Barberra lineup every Saturday morning? I didn’t get it.

I heard rumors that some kid shot the Battlestar Galactica rocket down his throat and killed himself. Also, someone said Coke and pop-rocks may have been involved. And something about Rod Stewart getting his stomach pumped, but I didn’t entirely get the details. This was before the Internet, so I couldn’t just do a search on Bobo Fett or whatever the hell the guy was called. So I investigated the package further, and found a strange detail – the mail-away offer was printed on A STICKER that was glued onto each action figure package.

I also thought this was suspect. Were you suppsoed to peel off the sticker and put it on a card to mail in? Was I ripped off and did some cards have cooler stickers, like maybe a Death Star I could put on my lunchbox? The sticker didn’t peel off though, so I spent a few hours trying to carefully pry it loose. When I did, I saw a picture of Boba Fett’s backpack FIRING THE MISSILE! Why did they hide this? I don’t know, but I quickly begged my mom to send in all of the paperwork. I patiently waited the 16 weeks or whatever, and when the package showed up, NO MISSILE. The sticker was like a conspiracy theory to me, like a hidden level in a videogame that you know is there, but you can never find. I searched for stupid conspiracy theories like this in all of my toys. I took apart everything to search for hidden functionality. I played our Sears pong game for hours, thinking there might be a magic way to unlock a secret mission of some sort. The closest I ever got was a misprinted card in Trivial Pursuit.

And then when I got older and didn’t care about this anymore and my step-brother had a Nintendo and the game Contra, he told me about the up-down-up-down-left-right-left-right thing to unlock infinite lives, and I felt like my entire childhood had been betrayed. When I was a kid and my parents were spending their hard-earned money on my toys, there were no secrets. Now, everything is about extra features, bonus tracks, unreleased scenes, secret codes.

Oh well. I don’t know where I’m going with this, I was just thinking about that Boba Fett backpack.