Hallowe’en Countdown IV, Day 26

« … a radical series of crappy jokes & trashy art mopped out of the Bowery’s least washed lavatories. Fueled on bologna sandwiches, black coffee & cheap cigarettes, these are the ugly buttons that scream ‘America‘ to an America that has forgotten itself. » — a tasty bit of hype from Goblinko

Fabled pulp illustrator Norman Saunders (a definite favourite around these parts) is legitimately appreciated for his body of work, but I do believe he isn’t sufficiently lauded for his humorous work. After all, he could hold his own against the likes of Basil Wolverton and Wally Wood, and how many of his peers could lay claim to such a lofty achievement?

A passage from his son David’s definitive monograph, the simply and fittingly titled Norman Saunders:

Ugly Buttons came out in 1967 to exploit the popular trend of protest buttons with witty sayings. The macabre humor of Ugly Buttons reflects their Halloween release date as well as the morbid comedy of popular TV shows like The Addams Family and The Munsters. Norm Saunders created half [ eleven, actually ] of the twenty-four images in this set, while Wally Wood created the other half.

A sample of the original packaging…
I’m sorry… but that bat is just so adorable…
You can see why these are perfect Hallowe’en fodder!
Macabre, and with a tidy moral to boot! At a nickel apiece, an undeniably excellent value.
Well, perhaps not *strictly* altogether moral.
The final Saunders button, shot from the original art. This looker was entitled Peek-a-Boo.
One of the original boxes, which held 24 packs. Featured buttons Here’s Looking at You and I’m a Cool Ghoul were designed by Wally Wood.

Collectors find this set very difficult to complete. Although the series was a popular success in 1967, the buttons appear to have rarely survived. This is perhaps attributable to the design of the tin back pin, which was made in Japan with a hair-trigger clasp that instantly popped open and fell off.

Here’s one of the underperforming bad boys in question. To be fair, this one’s still holding together, which surely has earned it some kind of goodwill, a half-century hence. Those old enough (enough, enough!) will recall when ‘Made in Japan’ was an indicator of shoddy goods. All that’s been turned on its head since, interestingly. The Japanese people have admirably overcome much adversity, that’s evident.

By the way, I don’t know just how sanctioned these reissues are, but the cool cats at Goblinko have made these lovely buttons available once more, presumably sturdier and certainly at a perfectly reasonable price (forty times the original, I’ll grant you… but you do get to pick).

-RG

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