Brand New Bag

I pitched two ideas for my guest comic over at Cyanide & Happiness. This is the one they rejected.

If you’re under 30, you probably have no idea that for SEVERAL DECADES before you were born it was considered perfectly acceptable to wear a plastic mask of your favorite cartoon character, along with a trash bag (ACTUALLY A LITERAL TRASH BAG) featuring a full body picture of the same character as your Halloween costume. Not only was this considered acceptable Halloween attire for children, but it was an accepted business practice for companies to offer these “costumes” as their “best effort” in exchange for “actual money.”

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Now I walk through the costume aisles of Wal-Mart and Target and kid’s costumes have achieved near Hollywood levels of production value. There are muscle suits, led lights, articulated armor, sound FX… it’s only a matter of time before children go door to door wearing green body suits, and handing out augmented reality goggles that make the candy-giver see them as a 70 foot tall full CG dragon. Dad will stand to the side with a flame thrower and torch the neighbors bushes for increased special FX.

I wasn’t allowed to celebrate Halloween. We had the fundamentalist Christian alternative: HARVEST FESTIVAL. It’s EXACTLY like Halloween except you don’t get to Trick Or Treat and all the costumes are either animals, cowboys or Bible characters. I had a basic costume rotation each year of monkey, cowboy and… let’s say Noah. In retrospect I was just dressed like a modern day Muslim, but I had a burlap sack over my tunic. The 80’s were weird. One year I got a real screen quality ALF costume. It was my favorite thing ever and simultaneously the worst costume I ever had. The shag carpet full body suit made it 800 degrees and itched all to hell and the fur and latex mask was like a tight, rubbery panic prison for my face.

My wife and I enjoy helping our kid have a unique Halloween experience. She’s been Princess LeiaBoo from Monster’s Inc., a Backyardigan, Jessie from Toy Story, A Ghost, a WitchRaven from Teen Titans (complete with a narrative adventure) and Hermione Granger. This year she’s going to be Amethyst from Steven Universe. I’ll post pics of that one after it’s all assembled.

UPDATE: Here’s a Tumblr post with all the Kiddo costumes so far.

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    • You managed to sweat to death in those masks? That’s amazing. Due to the fact that the eye-holes were never lined up with my actual eyes, I always wandered into traffic and was run over to death before I could sweat to death.

  1. My mom made most of my costumes. One year I was a jackolantern! Made out of a giant cardboard box. A square jackolantern. 😐

    FYI your tumblr post has nonworking links to progress pics of the amethyst costume. I expect it looks FANTASTIC and I super want to see the progress & result pics. Amethyst, aka “Gross Mom,” is my fave SU character.

  2. I remember one year I was a ‘somewhat famous Italian plumber’ and about halfway through the night I noticed that my plastic mustache was gone.
    Being the OCD kid I was I made my dad help me look for it with a flashlight for a good 10 minutes before I remembered that I had pulled it off 15 minutes ago and put it in my pocket.

  3. What branch of Christianity didn’t celebrate Halloween? I mean, my family is pretty religious and I grew up in a fairly religious area of Michigan but almost everyone I knew went trick-or-treating. I think mom liked making our costumes. Costumes are suppose to be about scaring the demons away. That doesn’t seem like a bad thing to me!

    • I was raised a Southern Evangelical Baptist. That’s about 2 steps away from “Snake Church.” Halloween was a “celebration of the occult” and they had a “complete lack of understanding of Halloween’s origins or purpose.”

      • Yep, I too was raised–no, let’s say schooled–that way, as my school was run by the local speakers -in-tongues (mom was afraid public school would lead to taking all the drugs). I remember the year we had a lecture on demon-possession (5th grade!), and the year they banned dragons on anything (7th grade!). I usually dressed up in fatigues for the Harvest Festival. God and guns = America!

        In better memories, I fondly recall my store bought Sleestak costume. I wonder what eBay has…

  4. I remember being 4 or 5 and realizing how terrible those costumes were. I now hold them directly responsible for my jaded cynicism.

  5. Either He-Man is going as Kuatu from Total Recall, or Skeletor put one hell of a curse on him.
    Also, Joel, was your choice of a monkey costume as a kid to piss off everybody who didn’t believe in evolution? Because that sounds hilarious!

  6. Those pictures of your daughter’s costumes are so adorable it hurts. I might have squeed. I’m gonna have to go fight a bear/shark hybrid in order to restore my manliness now.

  7. I assume the children who wore these costumes were immediatly taken away by child services?

    Oh wait, this was the 80s, child services were probably just a drunk guy in a room full of clown paintings. These days its two drunk guys.

  8. Oh my gods, I remember those things. They were awful. Most parents put together the kid’s costumes but you felt so sorry for the kids whose parents didn’t, who had to wear those awful things.

  9. I just read the blog post about “Harvest Festival.” Despite the fact that we were church-going Catholics, there was never any tut-tutting about Halloween when I was a kid. We put on costumes and went around trick-or-treating, none of this “trunk or treat” nonsense I see churches doing nowadays.
    (There are two churches literally across the street from each other at the main entrance to my neighborhood, one of which did “Trunk or Treat” this year. I would bet real money at least half the trick-or-treaters that came to my door started their evening at that church.)
    And there was no steering us away from particular costumes, either. One year I went as a vampire, with a fantastic cape my grandmother had made and a plastic mask of Drac from the Groovie Ghoulies (yes, I am old). Another year, I used the same cape, but with plastic fangs instead. The last year I went out (age 13, 1976), I just wore a gorilla face mask and gloves with my regular fall/winter jacket.
    I’m happy to say that neither I nor my sisters ever wore the flameproof-short-sleeve-pajamas-with-a-character’s-picture-on-the-chest costumes.

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