Give Someone… a Bad Case of WORMS (1982)
Yanked from: Justice League of America #208 (November, 1982)
Hey, I thought gross-out humor was more of a 90’s thing? I dunno, I look at this — and, knowing what little I do about “bad cases of worms”, makes me itch in places I’d rather not scratch.
Looking at this advert, you might think the product that Mattel is shilling here is simply called “Worms”. As, it’s the only word that is stylized… bubble-fonted… covered in, ya know… worms. But, in fact, the product’s full name is “A Bad Case of Worms”.
If you’re unaware of the gimmick here, if your parents were to give you A Bad Case of Worms, what you’d be getting is… well, a small plastic briefcase with a pair of sticky worm-like strips of rubber inside it.
Boy, it’s amazing to consider just how easy it used to be for us to amuse ourselves, right? Just a couple of sticky bits of rubber and a box.
They were displayed in shops on the usual sort of action-figure peggable packaging, as seen below – and included a certificate you could fill out to… I dunno, legally adopt the little buggers? Legitimize your fandom of non-toxic sticky strips of rubber?
As these were firmly and unashamedly “boy toys”, a big emphasis is being placed on how you can use these little critters to gross out all of the important girls in your life. That annoying classmate? Your sister? Your mom? The lunch lady? Nobody’s safe from a big ol’ infection of WORMS.
In fact, the TV commercial for A Bad Case of Worms is pretty much all about freaking people out. Take a look:
Just lookit that thumbnail… ol’ Elroy looks dementedly pleased with himself. What he doesn’t realize is, he’d likely be grossing the gals out even without the worms.
Now, you might be thinking that scaring li’l sis is the only thing these bits are good for… and, well – you’d mostly be right. But, what would you say if I told you that these Worms can perform tricks? Because, well — that’s the other half of the usefulness of these parasitic Nematodes. By pressing on them, you can make them dance… and if you toss ’em at many of the “slick surfaces” in your home, they’ll slither their way down. Oh, what fun!
The Trouble With Trematodes came out just a bit before my time. Well, I was living and breathing on the planet when this Sequential Ad hit… but, I was at an age where I don’t think my parents would’ve entrusted me with stinky sticky rubber. For my generation of gross-boys, we had Wacky Wall Walkers — which, were basically the same thing, only not shaped like worms. Though, for all I know, there may’ve been some worms in the mix. I seem to remember spiders.
Actually, after a bit of digging, I just found out I was half-right… or, only mostly wrong. Wacky Wall Walkers were more octopus-ish. Here’s a look at an Apple Jacks Commercial which included a (hopefully) non-toxic glow-in-the-dark clump of sticky rubber within.
And, if you’ve got an extra half-hour to kill… here’s the Wacky Wall Crawler’s… Christmas Special? I remember seeing commercials for this… but, I don’t think I ever processed that it was actually a thing that exists on our Earth. “Deck the Halls With Wacky Walls”!
Back to “A Bad Case…” I mentioned at the start of this already overlong and unfunny piece that, the thing that most jumped out at me was… the name. “A Bad Case of the Worms” conjures up some strange sensations — nobody, not even a gross boy of ye old 1982, wants to play with parasites… right? I mean, I’m not here to kink-shame or judge, but… ya know, yuck.
I did a little bit of research on the name, and found out that the person responsible is Jill Barad, who would go on to become the wildly successful CEO of Mattel in 1997. She’d state, in a 1990 interview with the Los Angeles Times that “A Bad Case of the Worms” was a bomb. She was handed the product to market very early on in her Mattel career (she’d start at the company in 1981). She said that they “crawled down [the wall] in a very unattractive way.” and admits that, “I was responsible for that awful name.” Barad claims that the failure of A Bad Case of Worms taught her a lot about “play value” in toys. Which, yeah — there really wasn’t much with the Worms, was there?
With some fake-ass history out of the way, let’s take a look at the Sequential Ad itself… using a “found” version of the advert… since mine (above) is a bit muddy.
First things first, we see that the entire city has been overcome with a Bad Case of the Worms… you can see the folks atop the skyscrapers in full-on panic mode. Either that, or they’re hyped to watch the Worms travel down the entire length of the building… in their trademark “very unattractive way”.
From here, we meet our main character — who gleefully and proudly informs us that his new toy is “absolutely disgusting”. I really don’t understand it — was there a time when boys prided themselves on being gross? Was this a thing… or did the toy companies just try and “make it so”? I honestly don’t remember ever wanting to be gross.
From here, he tells us that we can “toss ’em at a smooth wall” and “watch ’em crawl”. I’d like to think he’s rapping this entire bit. Maybe he’s got an equally disgusting friend over in the corner beatboxing along with him.
In our senses-shattering conclusion, our hero uses the bright and colorful neon worms to scare the absolute bejeezus out of his dimwitted sister. That’s what she gets for being a girl! Punishment fits the crime, you ask me.
In our post-credits sequence, we find out that these “creepy little devils” are non-toxic… and, if washed with soap and water become just as sticky as ever. I dunno about y’all, but I’m already picturing these things covered in pet hair and dust. I’d guess that, you might get about 45 seconds of play time out of these things. Though, I suppose your mileage may vary.
That’s all for today. Were YOU ever afflicted with A Bad Case of Worms? If so, please share your experiences here! I say this with fingers-crossed that this post doesn’t find its way onto a fetish sub-reddit!