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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The Ben Cooper, Inc. Legacy

Ok, yeah - Halloween was LAST month, but we didn't decide to start adding stand-alone content to the website until a couple of weeks ago.  So go ahead, grab a few fun-size Kit Kats or Crunch bars that you bought in bulk for 75% off on November 1st to get yourself into the mood and read on.

Started in 1937 by former costume and set designer Ben Cooper, Ben Cooper, Inc. initially sold costumes of ghosts, goblins and other creatures but began licensing characters like Superman and Zorro as the popularity of their TV shows grew.  If you were a kid growing up in the United States during the 60s, 70s or 80s, the chances are pretty doggone high that at one time or another you wore a Ben Cooper, Inc. costume on Halloween. 

As the leaves would start to change from green to browns, reds and yellows, store shelves would begin to fill with boxes covered in images of popular characters from cartoons, television and movies.  If you were of a certain age (generally five to 10 years old, or so), you would go nuts upon seeing these in K-Mart or a local five and dime store – you could be almost ANY character you could think of.  Did you want to be Spider-Man? Maybe Evel Knievel or a generic witch or ghost?  No matter what you wanted, chances are good that Ben Cooper, Inc. had a costume for it – although calling it a costume requires a fairly liberal definition of the word. Each costume consisted of a plastic mask and vinyl smock, the former molded and painted to look like the character while the latter was printed to look like the character’s outfit (although there were a lot that just had an illustration of the character on it which seemed really dumb.  Seriously – Underdog’s costume should be red with a ‘U’ on it, not a picture of Underdog flying).  

Sadly, all good things must come to an end and The Ben Cooper company was not exempt from the winds of change. The company struggled in the 80s as sales dwindled and, in 1988 filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.  In a textbook case of “when it rains, it pours”, their facility burned to the ground in January of 1989.  Despite paying off their creditors and emerging from bankruptcy, a lengthy court case involving their insurance companies and a relocation from Georgia to North Carolina, caused Ben Cooper, Inc. to file for Chapter 11 once again which they were unable to recover from and, in 1992, the company was sold to Rubies Costume Company.

So, in honor of this trailblazing pioneer of a company that provided countless kids with Halloween costumes for generations, let’s take a look at some of their best (and worst!) offerings.

Thankfully they put his name on the costume otherwise I don't think anybody would have recognized this as Yoda!

Shouldn't this have cuts and bruises all over it? 

Is orange too hard of a color to make?  You've got the red and yellow right there. Wilma!!

One, two, plastic Freddy's coming for you.

Okay, Fred Flintstone having a yellow outfit is one thing, but making Spidey yellow?!? We're blaming J. Jonah Jameson on this one!

Why are Simon Bar Sinister and Cad Lackey on this? The simple Superman-esque "U" wasn't good enough?

This doesn't look like the King of the Monsters - it looks like a Sleestak with blonde cornrows!

I'm supposed to be Gumby, dammit!

You Rang? We're assuming that's supposed to be Thing on the left, but why does he look like a reptilian hand?

Oh, dear. This looks like the poop emoji wearing a beanie.

Why they bothered with this one is one puzzle even Rubik himself couldn't solve.

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