Way back in 1983 there were a few things I’m confident I enjoyed. Fast food kids meals, and super heroes. Given time, I’m sure I can find pictures of myself with a Happy Meal and I know there’s evidence of some Incredible Hulk Underoos. There were scatterings of super heroes on TV. The occasional aforementioned Hulk. Adam West Batman, or even better Adam West voiced Batman on Scooby Doo. Spider-Man Spider-Man does whatever a spider can. A couple toy lines were forthcoming, but these random TV appearances which I had no control or knowledge of were it. Little did I know in other areas of the country I could enjoy my hamburger, fries and a soda alongside my four color friends.
Hardee’s is a fast food burger chain predominately in southern United States. Years ago they combined with Carl’s Jr, which is on the west coast. In recent years the restaurants have been showing up in northern states but the closest one is still in far off Pennsylvania. Even if one opens nearby tomorrow, I’m still years removed from my kids meal of choice. Way back in 1983 Hardee’s had the Marvel Comics 3-D Theater.
Spider-Man! Hulk! Captain America! The copyright protecting Spider-Woman! Iceman and Firestar! Many of you are saying, “who?” to those last two but for awhile in the early 1980’s those two heroes were Peter Parker’s best friends. They shared an apartment together and had wacky syndicated adventures.
The gimmick is that that comic strip is inserted into the kids meal box. On the box is that thin film that helps printed 3-D pictures pop. Slide the strip through and enjoy the three panel story jump right into your eyes. It’s probably cheaper than a plastic toy but still fun. Due to this being from 1983 it existed before comic books, pop culture, and fast food premiums were seen as collectible in any way.
Which is a damn shame because these are beautiful. It encapsulates the magic of the movies within a cardboard box. Not only is Spider-Man here (and the other heroes on their own boxes) but so is not-Elvis, the Village People, random children. I find something new every time I look at the box. Without any sarcasm, I would frame this and put it up. It’s eye catching and would be a great unique piece. It also sells for at least a hundred dollars on eBay right now. Again, no sarcasm, not kidding. I’ll foolishly spend my money on a lot of things but this is where I draw the line. Or more specifically this is where my wife will draw the line for me.
The art is all such a toy needs to be. Simple enough to be printed en masse but also detailed enough to be unmistakably Spider-Man and maybe create a love of comic books in any child in between bites of fries.
It’s a shame I’m only finding out about these 35 years later. Far removed by time and distance. But therein lies the joy of discovery. This could be the introduction to comics that inspired one of the many creative minds bringing heroes to life on page or on screen. Don’t let anyone tell you what does or does not matter, what “counts”. If this dirt cheap kid’s meal is a spark for writing or art that brightens the world, pass the ketchup.