Today we’re gonna get reacquainted with some very special books.
If you’re at all familiar with these, you already love them. Published by Antioch in the ‘80s and ‘90s, they were commonly found at elementary school book fairs, and on those delightful Scholastic Book Club order forms.
Those were some of the best days of the school year! My book fairs were always held in the library, where hundreds of shiny new books were piled atop borrowed desks, silently spiting the library’s ten thousand used books, which ironically went completely ignored on the library’s busiest day.
We’d shop with our parents’ money, ostensibly there to find motivation to read. Heading home with sticker books and the errant edition of Choose Your Own Adventure, the fairs felt more like school-sanctioned trips to toy stores.
And those book club order forms? Getting them made for great days, too. Filled with everything from Garfield treasuries to puffy sticker sheets, they were again ways to interpret our superiors’ encouragement to read as our superiors’ encouragement to buy bullshit.
Often enough, the books I’m celebrating today were the stars of both events. While having little to do with one another as far as subject matter, they still shared many traits. One, they were all published by Antioch. Two, they were always perfectly square. Three, THEY CAME WITH 12 COLLECTOR STICKERS.
Yeah, three was the big one.
Now, the truth is that we would’ve picked these books even if they didn’t come with stickers. The range of topics was wonderful! If it wasn’t about some cartoon or movie, it was about dinosaurs. If it didn’t have Hulk Hogan on the cover, it at least had Corvettes or sharks or the planet Jupiter. You’ll find no better parade of everything you once loved than Antioch’s series of 6×6” sticker books.
And hey, let’s face it: Not all of us were big readers, so the simple act of choosing our own books was a huge deal. So what if the book only had 50 words? So what if half the pages were devoted to glamour shots of Slimer? They were still books, dammit, and they let us put on our serious faces as we lazed on the couch, pretending that prose detailing Andre the Giant’s height and weight came straight from the fingers of Shakespeare.
Below are three random “12 Collector Stickers” books from Antioch’s collection.
An abridged retelling of the film’s events, this had to be the biggest book fair seller of 1989. Antioch always struck when the iron was hottest, and in 1989, few things were hotter than Ghostbusters II.
(And yes, I mean for kids. Remember, by ‘89, we were all watching The Real Ghostbusters. Some have criticized the Ghostbusters II for being too silly, but I think they were just playing to kids more in the sequel than in the original. Making the Statue of Liberty dance with a NES Advantage controller? Come on, that had to be there for eight-year-olds who drank Ecto Cooler.)
The sticker sheet was phenomenal, too. Glued to the first page of the book, the set could have only been better with the inclusion of the Scoleri Brothers. As things stand, it still gets an A+. My favorite is the “Ray possessed by Vigo” sticker, if only because I cannot believe they made a “Ray possessed by Vigo” sticker.
Hulk Hogan Wins the Belt!
Oooh, I loved Antioch’s WWF books. There were several, and for a newly-blooming fan like myself, they were great crash courses in All Things Wrestling.
In 1985, I was only barely watching the regular shows, and was more commonly exposed to the WWF by way of Rock ‘n’ Wrestling and the constant airings of the Hulkamania Workout Set commercial. These books filled in so many blanks!
Most of them offered page-long bios of various wrestlers, but written in Hulk Hogan’s voice. An example, from this particular book:
“Mr. Fuji is the sneakiest wrestler in the World Wrestling Federation! But his bad buddies always mess up his schemes! He thinks he’s tough but he couldn’t karate-chop his way out of a bread factory.”
Okay… I could see Hulk Hogan saying that.
The sticker sheet was extra sweet, too. All too often, Antioch would repeat each sticker three times, so it wasn’t really “12 stickers” as much as “3 sets of 4 stickers.” Technically indistinguishable, but we knew better.
With Hulk Hogan Wins the Belt, you got 12 unique stickers. My favorite shows Hillbilly Jim manhandling a dog’s head, because when Vince won’t give you a championship belt, you find your own damned props.
Tornadoes, Earthquakes and Other Natural Disasters!
Consider this inclusion a catchall for Antioch’s many books that had nothing to do with pop culture. Secretly, those were the best in the series. Covering everything from sea life to outer space to motorcycles to the social conventions of gorillas, these books were just flat-out interesting, and they helped build our passions for things that didn’t air on Saturday mornings.
Tornadoes, Earthquakes and Other Natural Disasters covers… erm… tornadoes, earthquakes and other natural disasters. It might not have been anyone’s first choice, but once we started flipping through those pages, we didn’t stop until there were no more to flip.
(The stickers are a little weak, I admit. Hard for a crack in the street to match wits with Egon Spengler and Big John Studd.)
All of these books are easy to find today, but the trick is finding them with the stickers still included. This generally quadruples the asking price, but the books just feel so naked without them. Like cones without ice cream.
The basest explanation for why we adored Antioch’s series was “free stickers,” but like I mentioned, the truth runs deeper. These books made our existing passions burn brighter, and made us care about new things. Quietly, these books did exactly what any “real” book was supposed to: They taught us, they made us think, and they made us interested.
And, yes… they gave us free stickers.