Friday, January 28, 2011
Comic oddities: Chad Valley See-A-Show
The name of the British toy company Chad Valley will be familiar to millions of children, particularly during their prolific period of the 1960s. Many people will have fond memories of the various Give-A-Show-Projectors, which featured cartoon strips as film strips that were projected onto the wall. (See the Doctor Who model here.)
However the company also produced another, similar toy, but one which required no batteries and produced images in 3-D!
The See-A-Show toy consisted of a simple red plastic binocular-type device and six individual comic strips. The strips were fed into the device and, by holding it up to daylight, you could view the story as seven 3-D panels. The strips were very American in flavour, which is understandable as the toy was simply a UK repackaged version of a Kenner product. (See here.)
The examples shown below were a Christmas present I had in 1964. I think the viewer is long gone, but here are the six strips that came with it. As they were fed into the viewer in a downward motion you'll have to read each one from bottom to top. If you cross your eyes whilst doing so you might even achieve a 3-D effect, but this blog can accept no responsibility for damage to eyesight or your eyeballs falling out of your ears.
First one is The Pickle. This was of course the American Dennis the Menace, but with that name taken in the UK the strip had to use a different name...
Next, here's Bozo the Clown, very popular in the United States at the time.
The third one was Mr.Ed the talking horse, based on the popular American live action sit-com.
Number 4 features Superman, who needs no introduction. This must have been the very first Superman strip that I saw. To give the strip its due, it manages to explain the basic setup of Lois/Clark/Superman in just seven panels and with minimal dialogue. A perfect introduction to the character and a lesson that some of today's writers of decompressed multi-issue story arcs might learn from. Too bad they coloured the chest symbol wrongly though.
Number five is Gooney Bird, presumably based on the mascot of Kenner toys.
Finally, Chad Kids! Or, as they were in the American original, Kenner Kids, which sounds a bit less insulting...
Other variations on the toy were made with different strips including Marvel heroes, The Bionic Woman, and more. If you Google for "Kenner" + "See a show" you'll find various items on the internet about it.
A very simple toy, but in the pre-iPad age of the 1960s it seemed like the work of magic 3-D gods. Well, at least it did when I was five.