Welcome back! I hope you all are having a fun and safe winter so far. I used to love the winter when I was younger because there was always a chance of a snow day away from school, and if one did happen, that was a day spent playing Nintendo, reading a comic, watching a movie and playing toy wars! Of course this would also be a day of snow ball fights, that wonderful way to throw frozen ice balls at your friends face and pass it off as a fun time. I remember having snow ball fights in Waynesville against my brother and friends like Mike Censsna, Bill Hamm, Brad Burns and so many more kids from the neighborhood. This would also carry over to Kettering when I was working at Kroger as a teenager, and my pal Josh Weinberg and I would spend time throwing snowballs at each other while pulling carts. But one thing about winter always made me upset, the weather men who would predict snow and lots of it and poof, the next day not a flake had fallen. Being a kid, I would stay up later the night before in my room reading comics or watching my little black and white TV and be grumpy the next day when I would find I would have to go to school. My brother Bryan and I use to always make fun of Carl Nichols, the weather man for Channel 2 who would predict “Winter Storms” and the next morning his reporting was wrong. But here is to winter and here is to all the fun memories that go along with this season, from building snowmen to sledding, this is a fun season to be a kid. Next update I will share a little more of my winter memories and fun times.
Fast food restaurants were running wild in the 1980’s, and most of them were all trying to get the youth of America to choose their place to eat over the others and would use all types of things from kid meal prizes to cookies to get customers’ money. The thing the worked for me to choose a place to eat was the mascots and TV commercials that would show the adventures of these characters, acting as 30 second TV shows hyping the cheap food and fun idea of that place to eat. Most places had some sort of mascot. Burger King had The Burger King Kingdom with guys like Magical Burger King and Sir Shakes A Lot, and later they had the Burger King Kids Club. Wendy’s had Wendy, the cute red head with the pigtails; Captain D’s had Captain D’s, the sailor who loved history and seafood; Dominos Pizza had the Noid, a creepy little guy in a red costume and rabbit ears and so many more. But the one that always stood out and was super popular for kids back in my time was Ronald McDonald and the rest of McDonald Land characters who were the mascots for the mega burger chain McDonald’s. Everyone in the world would say that when it comes to fast food burger joints, McDonald’s is king, and I for one grew up loving the place. Growing up in Waynesville, there were no fast food chains in downtown. All we really had was The Hammel House, Dagwoods, Village Family Restaurant and The Dairy Corner, and all were very good and classic style small town restaurants. The Dairy Corner was a place my Mom would take us a lot, and I can remember always ordering a cheeseburger and fries and and enjoying sitting with my family and enjoying the food. A few times over the years I would drive to Waynesville with girlfriends or friends, and we would eat at the Dairy Corner. Sadly it’s gone now and where once a fun ice cream shop that served food was alive, now sits a shell of a building. Why did it close up you ask. Well one of the major reasons was the coming of McDonald’s, the first major fast food place to enter the small village of Waynesville and later came Subway. But while it’s gone, Dairy Corner will never be forgotten by this comic book reader.
In 1940 Richard and Maurice McDonald opened up a restaurant that was a BBQ place, but in 1948 they changed into a hamburger joint and started to use drive-thru service, paving the way of “Fast Food” along side White Castle. In 1955, Ray Kroc became a partner in the company and later bought out the brothers to become the owner of McDonald’s, and he turned it into the The King of Fast Food with changes in how the company ran and franchises it supported. But the buyout was not a smooth one as Kroc and the brothers feuded over the business, and this went on for years. Kroc won the battle, and McDonalds expanded outside the United States and has restaurants all over the world. The restaurant is known for selling hamburgers, chicken nuggets, milkshakes, fish sandwiches and McRibs and has expanded its menu to cafe-style drinks, chicken wings and gourmet salads. McDonald’s also was a pioneer in kids meals when they introduced The Happy Meal in 1979 that had food placed in a box or bag that came with a toy. Growing up, I loved to a Happy Meal and eat the tasty food and also collect toys based on the likes of The Muppet Babies, Barensteen Bears or Charlie Brown. McDonald’s is still the top fast food joint in the world and it continues to evolve and stay on top by doing so.
I don’t eat McDonald’s very often, but I still do enjoy it from time to time. The charm of the place has been lost to me once they cut back on using Ronald McDonald and phased out the rest of the McDonald Land characters. But when I do go, I have a order that is a must for me and consists of the same items I have ordered for a very long time: two cheeseburgers (sometimes a double cheese burger), a large french fries and a medium orange Hi-C. The fries for me are the highlight of the meal, and I would say out of all the fast food places they have the best french fries followed by Burger King. I know some people will trash the food and spew out the same gargage that Morgan Spurlock did in his documentary Super Size Me, but if you don’t eat the food every day in extra-large portions, then you’ll be all right. I say if you’re out and are looking for a cheap burger, get yourself a Big Mac and enjoy it!
In 2013 McDonald’s unleashed on the market their own take on chicken wings when they put out Mighty Wings! My girlfriend and I love chicken wings and have tried every major wing place in our area. For me, the four best have to be Roosters, Wing Zone, Buffalo Wild Wings (BW3s) and Fricker’s. So when McDonald’s said they were getting into the wing game, I knew I had to try them. I was working hard on editing a Baron Von Porkchop episode and needed to take a break for lunch. So I called up my Mom, and we decided to go to McDonald’s to get a quick bite to eat. In the drive thru I saw the advertisement for Mighty Wings and ordered a 5 pack. I ate them before I touched my fries or took a drink from the Hi-C, and I must say they were pretty good. They had a nice spice level, and the meat, while a little fatty, was very juicy and flavorful. The downside to them is price at almost a dollar a wing, and the meduim size of each wing makes you really wonder just how much you overpaid. But if you like wings and are looking for a snack, a 5 pack of Mighty Wings might just hit the spot.
Growing up I have many memories of McDonalds and many of them have to do with the whole McDonald land characters and merchandise. I can remember going to the local McDonald’s and pestering my Mom and Dad to get me a Happy Meal so that I could get the Baby Fozzie from the Muppet Babies on his rocking horse and they did! It always felt magical to open up the Happy Meal box with all the cool artwork around it and pulling out your food and seeing what prize you got this time. It’s a shame that nowadays they have switched meals to putting them in a paper bag and put less time pushing these meals. Another thing that always stuck in my mind was The Apple Pie Tree statue that was placed inside the stores and also outside in the playground area. The giant grinning face also made you as a kid feel welcome. I can remember climbing all over the Tree with my brother and cousin Norman. The Tree is burned into my memories and if I ever get a house in the country like I want, a McDonald’s Tree will for sure be in the backyard. Another memory has to be the birthday parties that McDonald’s would have. I can remember going to one for my cousin Norman and having a fun time on the playground and being around my family. I remember the cake not being all that great but thinking it was cool to see all the McDonaldland characters on it, but to be honest I dislike cake and am not a fan of it at all. So there you have it, Ronald McDonald and his magic fast food are apart of my youth, and I am okay with that.
McDonaldland pull back racers aka Fast Macs were a hit with me and my brother Bryan. I can remember getting them and turning our kitchen in Waynesville into a drag strip as my brother and I would race them. He had gotten the Hamburgler in a slick red dragster built for speed and tricks, while I had Officer Big Mac in a bulky yet fast police car. We spent awhile racing them, and most the time they would crash into the kitchen table or get caught up on the walls. I can remember losing a lot in the races, but I am sure that my brother bent the rules in his favor by saying things like “if I pop a wheelie, I win the race.” Later on we got Ronald McDonald in his yellow car of doom and Birdie in her pink race car. Over all these were great cheap toys that delivered a lot of fun for the Brassfield Brothers.
Besides the Fast Macs and The Muppet Babies toys, I also remember liking the Changeables aka McRobots who were generic style Transformers that would change from food items into simple robots. I had a few of these growing up and would use them in toy war and even had them get crushed many times by Transformers and GoBots. The simpleness of these changing robots was their charm, and the fact that McDonalds jumped on the popular 80’s robot boom was a given. My favorite was the Big Mac one because my brother and cousins all use to say he was the leader of the others much like Optimus Prime and Leader One were in charge of their robot friends. The second best one was the milk shake one who in my mind was like the right hand man and the fighter of the group. The store I am the manager of has an Amazon store, and I have sold many of these McRobots to the masses! I am sure many of you readers have a smile on your face as you are now thinking back on these generic transforming robots.
Not only were robots and fast food places big in the 80’s but so were collector glasses that restaurants, pop companies and even gas stations would sell and give out. Growing up I remember drinking Coke out of a Superman glass or strawberry milk from a Bugs Bunny one. Even as an adult as I am writing this I am drinking water from a Rocky The Squirrel glass put out by Pepsi. I know many of these glasses used lead paint so maybe that explains why I still love to read Star Comics. Some of the cool ones that were put out at this time were the 1977 McDonaldland character glasses. You could choose from Ronald McDonald, Mayor McCheese, Officer Big Mac, Captain Crook and the others! Collector glasses are awesome and always helped add to a bland meal at home. Sitting at the kitchen table and having to eat spinach chicken and peas was always a terrible time, but add in a Batman glass filled with Kool-Aid and the meal is still bad but a little easier to have to deal with. I have many of the McDonaldland glasses as well as many other character glasses and these are a super fun and cool way to make drinking fun. You can find these cool glasses on Ebay, Thrift Stores and Flea Markets.
Now that I have given you all a rundown on some of the cool stuff about McDonald’s we should now get to the main course of this mind meal and take a look at all the characters that made up the magical Mcdonaldland. Before we get into the main cast, let’s take a small look at three that did not make it to the land.
Speedee is a hamburger headed chief who was the mascot for McDonalds from 1948-1962. Speedee’s main purpose was to show how fast your food would get to you after you placed your order. Speedee sadly never caught on and was phased out and replaced by the 1st Ronald McDonald in 1962. While gone for many years now, Speedee will never be forgotten by fans and historians of the fast food burger place he promoted.
Ronald McDonald # 1
The original Ronald McDonald is nothing like the one we all know and love. He was dubbed The Ham-Burger Happy Clown and wore a tray on his head, a magic tray belt that kept him supplied with hamburgers and a paper cup on his noise. This original Ronald was slightly creepy, and his voice was deeper and kind of menacing. He really loved to push hamburgers and tried to befriend kids to follow him back to McDonalds…wait, doen’t this kind of sound like Pennywise the Clown from the Stephen King Novel IT? Years later his look was changed and became the more iconic version of the character we all know and love. To me this first version was like the modern’s weird and crazy brother who later was locked up in the McDonaldland Asylum of Mental Health. I should note that Willard Scott played the original Ronald McDonald on TV in the D.C. area, who is known for being a weatherman on NBC, and this version started in 1962.
McDonald’s was going to start staying open late nights via the drive-thru and needed a way to let people know. So enter the moon headed, sunglasses wearing, piano playing Ray Charles style Mac Tonight. Mac Tonight started in 1986 and was a smooth operator and gained a following with young and old and became a main stay of McDonald’s ads. Mac Tonight was so big that his image was used for over 20 commercials, was made into Happy Meal Toys and was used to great customers along side Ronald McDonald. But the moon headed man’s fun ended in 2007 when he got a CGI make over and started to be used less and less. While his image can still be seen on signs at McDonald’s, this jazz loving moon man’s popularity has dropped. Here’s hoping at some point he will rise to the charts of mascot history and be used properly once more.
So with this let’s get into the cast of characters that made up McDonaldLand! I will try and make these brief and just give you a little background of each iconic mascot.
Ronald McDonald is a fun loving clown who loves to bring joy and food to his friends thanks to McDonalds. Ronald is the ring leader of all the characters in McDonaldland and has many friends all over the world and even on other planets. Ronald is also very active and likes to go out a play sports and enjoy nature making him a very energetic. Ronald is always in a good mood and makes the mood of any room rise and turns frowns upside down. He is also the face of McDonald’s and is so popular his image has been made into toys, shirts, comics, video games, and he even had a cameo in the movie “MAC AND ME” . Ronald McDonald is more recognizable to children than JFK, Abe Lincoln, Magical Burger King and many more famous people and mascots from around the world. Ronald is the man and remains one of the most iconic characters of all time.
1971 was the year kids were introduced to a giant purple character named Evil Grimace with four arms who loved soda and milkshakes and would steal them! In 1972/74 two arms disappeared, and Evil was dropped from his name and the lovable dimwitted Grimace became a well loved mascot for McDonald’s. Grimace acts as the comic relief of McDonaldland and is Ronald’s best friend. Even after turning good, Grimace still loved a good milkshake and soda as does his uncle known as O’Grimacey who loved the St. Patricks Day themed Shamrock Shake. Sadly Grimace was put into mascot retirement in 2011. Grimace in his prime had his image used for toys, cartoons, video games and even cookie cutters. Grimace is one of my favorite characters of McDonald’s.
Birdie The Early Bird
In 1980 an egg fell in McDonaldland. Ronald showed it love and it hatched to be Birdie a yellow female bird who is a terrible flyer and loves breakfast food! Birdie is much like Grimace and is very clumsy and is the first official female character mascot for McDonald’s. Over the years and many different forms of media Birdie has learned karate and even try to find aliens. Birdie has been used to sell toys, video games and dolls. Biride sadly was sent to the Mascot retirement home in 2011 alongside other characters from McDonald’s.
In 1971, a pint size thief entered McDonaldland, and he had one thing on his mind: to steal hamburgers! When first seen by viewers, he was older with a big nose and was called The Lone Jogger. In the 1980’s he was transformed into a younger guy who while bad, became friends with all the other characters. Hamburglar spoke gibberish and his catch phrase was “Robble Robble” and was the second major villain to be introduced in the commercials. During the 80’s I always remember him being one of the most popular characters with kids wanting to collect his toys that were in Happy Meals. Sadly like Birdie and Grimace, he joined them in the mascot retirement home in 2011.
In 1971 Mayor McCheese was the silly cheeseburger headed Mayor of McDonaldLand, who tried so hard but was a little dimwitted and relied on the help of Ronald and the rest of the gang. The Mayor spoke with a giggly voice and was mostly a background character for the company. The Mayor was voted out of power in 2008 as McDonald’s sent him to the mascot retirement home. Mayor McCheese remains a popular character and has become a pop culture icon thanks to the internet and shows like Family Guy.
Officer Big Mac
Law and Order was brought to McDonladland in 1970 as Officer Big Mac was on the case to bust the likes of The Hamnurglar and Captain Crook! Officer Big Mac was a by the book character who was the main source of law in the land, also making him one of the good guys. Big Mac was phased out in the 1980’s and made a small appearance in 2008 before being sent to that sad place known as mascot retirement. While remembered, Officer Big Mac did not gain cult status like his fellow hamburger headed friend Mayor McCheese.
Starting in 1970, the people of McDonaldland’s Filet-O-Fish were in big trouble as a pirate named Captain Crook took to the waterways and began stealing this sandwich, making him the first official bad guy of the land. Captain Crook was close friends to The Hamburglar and would translate his mumbles. Crook also spent a lot of time trying not to be captured by Officer Big Mac who always had his eyes on the beady eyed pirate.In the 1980’s Captain Crook started to be phased out, and in 1999 he was sent to that retirement home for mascots.
1971 was the year that a grey haired old man known simply as The Professor also made his mark in McDonaldland and was the inventor for the magical land. At first he was just a minor character, and later he became a major one that was given even a lightbulb hat. But like many other of his friends he was set to the retirement home for good in 2001 but not before being in a few cartoons and a video game.
Happy Meal Gang/Hamburger Patch/McNugget Buddies/Fry Guys
The Happy Meal Gang was a group of talking food items such as a hamburger, fries and a cold drink who were all friends of Ronald and brought joy to customers. They were introduced in 1984 and were later joined in 1989 by the McNugget Buddies who later would replace the Happy Meal Gang altogether. In 1973 The Hamburger Patch was the main talking food and were hamburgers that grew on plants and were picked to be eaten by Ronald and customers. They were phased out in the mid 80’s. The Fry Guys were odd colored short shaggy creatures who like to steal and eat french fries who were introduced in 1972. They were so popular that they were used all the way till 2008. So many fun and odd talking food characters!
In 1980-1985 Ronald McDonald and his gang of friends also befriended an alien from space who had many arms and wore a giant round space suit! He was a kind character who always wanted to trade McDonald’s food and wanted to share the great taste of the food with his people. CosMc was not a mainstay character and was used only a handful of times. He did however make it into a video game and animated series based on the characters of the restaurant. I should also note he spoke like a surfer dude.
So there was a very quick rundown of some of the amazing McDonaldland characters. I tried to make them all brief for if we broke them down too much, we would be here for another few pages of who epic and amazing they are! So now you know a little about them and your mind is recharged with memories of these characters making it time for the comic reviews that were free give aways and were called McDonaldLand Comics! I just want you all to remember I grade these on a standard 1-4 star rating and base it on entertainment value, quality of the story, the art and how true it stays to the source martial, and I would like to think Mile High Comics and Amazon for having these comics in stock.
McDonaldland Comics # 101 **1/2
Released in 1976 Cover Price FREE McDonald Corp. Comics #101 of 102
It’s America’s 200th birthday, and Mayor McCheese has gotten an invitation to be a guest at the country’s huge birthday party! The Mayor invites Ronald, Officer Big Mac, The Professor and Grimace to go along with him on a magical train, and they decide to leave Captain Crook and Hamburglar back in McDonaldland to watch after things. Crook and Hamburglar sneak aboard the train, and they all take a tour of the amazing sites of America. But along the way the Captain Crook falls from the flying train and could be lost as they arrive at the party! The second small story in the issue is about The Hamburglar who is giving up stealing hamburgers, but now is stealing things that begin with the letter H!
The first story is a silly adventure that is a way for Ronald McDonald to teach the readers American history. So while you as a youngster read this, you were also learning! It’s odd how in this issue the bad guys of the land, Hamburglar and Captain Crook, are supposed to be the ones left behind to watch over things. Now don’t they like to steal and cause panic…so why would they want to leave them behind? Plus Officer Big Mac seems to be a one trick pony in the issue and repeats about the railroad being too bumpy and about arresting people. Ronald is clearly the ringleader of the group as his word is law, and at one point he is being questioned by a cop and escapes without showing his ID so he won’t be late for the party! The story is short and ends with a cliffhanger as they get to the party but Captain Crook has fallen from the train that is flying now, so did he die? The next issue I hope will explain this. The second back up story of Hamburglar stealing things that start with an H is just a cheesy joke as the rest of the comic is filled with puzzles and such. The artwork is great and has that classic 70’s kid comic look and each character looks like they should. The cover is also pretty cool, and I am sure in 1976 kids picked up this free issue like crazy! So over all this is a fun and average free restaurant comic that was worth a read. I am going to say that the best character in this first issue would have to be Ronald McDonald himself followed by Captain Crook. So with this let’s move onto issue 2!
McDonaldland Comics # 102 **1/2
Released in 1976 Cover Price FREE McDonald Corp. Comics #102 of 102
The McDonaldland gang is gearing up for a silly version of the Olympics that include pogo stick jumps, and hamburger dashes! The gang that includes Ronald, Captain Crook, Hamburglar and Grimace are going up against The Fry Guys! But late the night before the event, a short man named Sneak-Snoop Snoggly of the Sneak-Snoop race who live in the hills comes to town and causes mischief and pranks on all the group! The pranks leave Mayor McCheese falling down a hole, Grimace squashing a giant tomato and Ronald’s pogo stick spring being so tight that he bounces up way to high and smacks into a bird! In the end they confront Snoggly who in turns falls of a high dive board and wins a medal that puts a smile on his face and all is well again in McDonaldland. The second mini story of this issue is about The Professor taking the gang around again on the flying train to see historic sites from around the USA and uses a machine that lets them see the past in the spots they are visiting.
The McDonaldland Olympic Games are filled with silly things that kids would have fun doing, pogo sticks and bouncing, sounds like Field Day events to me! This time around a trickster is causing issues in the fast food land and almost leads to Ronald’s and a bird’s death as they collide in the air and both are stunned. It’s clear that Captain Crook must have lived after his fall in issue one as he is in the Olympic Games, though they should have some how worked in how it all worked out. This main story as well only really highlights Ronald as the rest of them all take back seats, and this is to be expected as Ronald is the main mascot for the company. The second story seems a little lacking and is just more history lesson left over from the first issue. While very informative, I wish they would have not repeated the American History lesson. The rest of the comic issue is filled with puzzles and such and I am sure had kids of the time entertained. Over all the first story is pretty fun though I wish had a little more to it. The second story is just okay, making this issue another average issue but well worth the read, and the price it coast when it was released…FREE.
One has to wonder why McDonaldland Comics only lasted two issues when Big Boy and Captain D’s both had comic series going at the time and years after even. One has to wonder if the cost of making the free comic just didn’t outweigh the payout of making kids have a collectors item based around their mascots. I for one would have loved to have gotten comics for free based on these characters in the 80’s and would have looked forward to getting an issue anytime we ate there. The comic series really focused on Ronald and that makes sense with the surprise two characters that seemed to get a lot of panel time being The Professor and Captain Crook. Hamburglar, Mayor McCheese and Officer Big Mac all had solid roles to play in the two issues, and Grimace was almost a second thought and offered very little to the story lines, and that’s a shame cause he would have been a perfect character for a kids comic. The art, as I stated before, is great and would have been right at home if Star Comics was going in 1976. The covers were both very well done and eye catching and better than any other free restaurant comic cover. I wish that McDonald’s would bring back all these classic characters for this modern generation who are lacking the fun wonders of mascots. I also wish they would bring back free comic books based on these characters, and I also wish they would stop being the target of parent groups and TV “chefs” who want to make a name for themselves by attacking the worlds largest burgar chain. Well the chill in the air is telling me it’s time to go, but before we do I must tell you readers that next update will be on Christmas Eve and will be all about Thundercats! So make sure to come back and give it a read! Till then, have a great holiday season, read a comic or two and eat a Big Mac.