Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Literary" History of the Golden Age of Video Games - Golden Age Video Game Books Part 6

More Kiddie Fiction

Kid Stuff, of course, wasn't the only company turning out video game related fiction for the tyro set. Traditional publishers also released a handful of titles featuring various video game characters, starting around 1982.

There were two likely reasons why these books didn't appear earlier. The first is that video games still hadn't really exploded into the larger culture yet and the second was that video game merchandising didn't really start until a certain yellow fellow named Pac-Man appeared on the scene in 1981 (yes, it was released in 1980 but didn't really make a splash in US arcades until early 1981).

Pac-man and the Ghost Diggers (September, 1983, Golden Press)
John Albano; illustrations by John Costanza


This one was done by Kid Stuff but I think the Golden Books version (sans record) came first. The story involves Pac-Man pulling baby pac-man around in a wagon trying to avoid the "ghost diggers" (the 4 ghosts/monsters), who are trying to get at his power pills.

Along the way,  has to work his way through three mazes

 I don't know about you, but to me, even a 3-year-old would have to be positively addled to not be able to make it through that one.
Does, Paccy make it home safely? At the risk of spoiling the plot, yes he does.

What's this??? That doesn't look like the same Ms. Pac-Man from the arcade game to me. Did Pac-Man trade her in for a younger model after is success? Geez, what were they teaching kids back then.

Ms. Pac-Man's Prize Pupil (1983?, Golden Books)
John Albano; illustrations by John Costanza


Golden also produced this one, by the same writer/illustrator combo. The plot is basically exactly the same as the other one (including three mazes), except that it's Ms. Pac-Man taking junior or a stroll in the stroller.
You can read the whole thing here (though you may have to hurry):
Ms. Pac-Man
So who were John Albano and John Costanza?
The evidence is circumstantial but they may be the comic book artists of the same name.
John Albano is probably best known as the co-creator of Jonah Hex, DC's scar-faced cowboy bounter hunter.
He also won a Shazam award in 1972 for scripting the story "The Demon Within", which appeared in House of Mystery #201 (read the whole story HERE) and another in 1971 for Best Writer - Humor Division.

A search of Grand Comics Database reveals 410 credits for Albano. Other titles he worked on include House of Secrets, Plop!, Angel and the Ape, Binky, The Unexpected, and Archie.

John Costanza was a letterer (for titles like Swamp Thing) and a cartoonist on Warner Bros characters and the Simpsons comic books.

What is the evidence that these were the same two guys that did the Pac-Man books?
Mainly this article which says that the two worked on another Golden book titled Ronald McDonald and the Tale of the Talking Plant. The article doesn't mention the Pac-Man titles (and it may be wrong about the connection) but since the Ronnie McD book was from the same publisher and by the same writer/illustrator, it seems likely they were the same people.
The Adventures of Q*Bert (1983, Parker Brothers)
John Robinson, Illustrations by Al Moraski?


Q*Bert ran a distant second to Pac-Man in the video game merchandizing pecking order but or me it was no contest. I like his orange fuzziness much more.
In this book, Q*Bert tries to make his way to the top of the magic mountain that towers over Q-Burg (where everything is cube-shaped, even the apples). Joining him are his pals Slick and Sam, who spout things like "Maybe we shouldn’t like, you know, climb the mountain, Q*Bert my man.” Guarding the mountain are the Quarrelsome Quorum (Wrongway, Ugg, and Coily).
Not bad, for a children's story. I liked it much better than the Pac-Man books above.
One thing we learn is that Q*bert's word balloons are actually not cursing (contrary to popular belief). %#!!%X, for instance, means "I know I am brave. I will triumph."
You can read the whole thing HERE along with a book report
Q*Bert's Quazy Questions (September, 1983, Parker Brothers)
John Robinson?, Illustrations by Al Moraski

I haven't read this one, but it APPEARS to be a book of standard riddles, like
Q: How much fur can you get from a skunk?
A: As fur as possible

Along with some Q*Bert themed ones
Q: When is Coily not a snake?
A: When he’s a little cross.

Q: What does Q*bert say when he bumps into Sam?
A: Well, X Qs me!

If  this site is correct (and I'm not at all confident that it is), then John Robinson is the author of "Nobody's Child: The stirring true story of an unwanted boy who found hope", which is actually his autobiography. It's the story of his being abandoned as a 4-year old and how he found God and became a born-again Christian. I haven't read it, so I can't say if it's the same person or not. Nor am I sure that Robinson was the author of the riddle book.
Coloring and Activity Books
There were lots of these and I'm not going to go into them in any depth at all.
The most interesting may have been the "Dragon's Lair Presents" series, which included four books (Dirk the Daring Battles the Black Knight, Dirk the Daring Battles the Crypt Keepers, Dirk the Daring Battles the Giddy Goons, and Dirk the Daring in the Quest for the Stolen Fortune)
All Marvel Books, 1984, by Susan Weyn.
Unfortunately, I have never even seen so much as a picture of the cover of any of these books.
Weyn is apparently this Susan Weyn who writes young adult sci-fi and fantasy novels (including The Bar Code Tattoo).
More info:
 Other activity books:



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. "What's this??? That doesn't look like the same Ms. Pac-Man from the arcade game to me. Did Pac-Man trade her in for a younger model after is success? Geez, what were they teaching kids back then."

    I'm sure the designs for those two Golden Press books were based on the Hanna-Barbera cartoon show that debuted the same year. Don't forget there really wasn't much consistency with the way Pac-Man and the others were drawn at the time.

    Of course the Whitman coloring book is a lot closer to the way Namco liked depicting him for the most part.