Many comic-based superheroes of the ’80s and '70s served as inspiration and encouragement to a lot of children at the time. To most children, the fact that they could see a real-life superhero at their local mall might’ve been mind-blowing as kids idolized the comic-based American heroes heavily. All the figurines, comics, and even TV shows never prepared them for the day they would meet their idols... in their local shopping center, but maybe meeting them at the local mall wasn’t the worst part, considering the funny and awkward type of pictures they got to bring home after all of the “excitement” was let out.
Those kinds of hilariously amazing photographs can be found on the website called Plaid Stallions. The website is themed heavily after the 1970s and 1980s and serves as an online platform where folks across the internet decided to share their pictures of childhood mall appearances alongside their favorite superheroes.
Although there is much more to the website than just hilarious pictures from the past, we decided to let the creator of the website Brian Heiler (otherwise known as Brick Mantooth on social media) explain more to Bored Panda about the platform he created.
"I started the PlaidStallions blog to cover my obsessions about growing up in the '70s and '80s. Things like department store catalogs, vintage toys, fashion, obscure TV, and movies, all of it done with a dose of humor. I was blown away by the positivity and support that I was shown from all over the world. That led me to publish my first book 'Rack Toys: Cheap, Crazed Playthings' and now I'm working on a second book called 'Mall of Justice' and launched a quarterly magazine called 'Toy-Ventures' devoted to toys from the 1960s-'80s which is now on its third issue. Starting this site changed my life for the better and I have never regretted it.
By the way, the name 'Plaid Stallions' came from me putting photos of '70s leisure suit models in my locker in high school back in the late 1980s."
Brian also mentioned that since he is working on his second book now, he is also actively seeking more submissions from people that feature candid photographs of superheroes posing with their young fans at malls in the 1970s and 1980s. Despite that, if you’d like to see more pictures like this, then we suggest checking out Brian’s "Toy-Ventures" magazine, which includes more photos of these mall appearances with each new issue.
Previously, Brian mentioned to us that he is looking for people to submit some more photos that he could possibly use for the book he is writing at the moment. Therefore, we decided to ask him how he gets all of his submissions in the first place.
“It stemmed from a collector friend showing me a picture he had with Cornelius from the Planet of the Apes in a toy store promoting Mego toys. It was so magical that I shared it on my blog with the tagline of 'If you have photos like this, please send them to me!' and, well, people really took to action. I was flooded with everything from Polaroids to Super 8 movies. They were so charming and the stories were often just so hysterical.”
As we were told previously, Brian told us he was working on his second book and we decided to investigate a bit more.
“Yes, the book is called 'Mall of Justice' and it's a love letter to these custom character appearances from the 1970s to the 1990s. People are asked to submit their photos and memories. There is a lot of humor to be mined, but it also contains some really warm sentiment.”
We were also curious as to why Brian’s second book "Mall of Justice" was solely inspired by the pictures of kids posing with superheroes at their local malls.
“Like a lot of Superheroes, my origin story is tragic. When I was five, Spider-Man, the Hulk, and Captain America visited my local Woolco.
I lived fairly rural, so this made a huge impact on me. Seeing my heroes standing there, towering over me pretty much overloaded my young brain.
My mum took pictures, but when she went to remove the film, she exposed the roll and it was lost forever. Since then, I've been on a quest to find another Whitby, Ontario kid who has pictures from that day somewhere.
Since that event, I always gravitated towards this stuff. I remember as a teen going to a Toys R Us grand opening just to see the spectacle. I didn't get He-Man's autograph, though.”
Brian also told us he was working on a magazine, so we were curious whether working on two projects at the same time was difficult.
“Mall of Justice has been about five years in the making because I'm dependent on submissions, so it's a very 'on-again/off-again' affair that I hope to wrap up in 2021. One of my hurdles is variety; I don't want the book to be exclusively Darth Vader and Spider-Man.
Toy-Ventures magazine is very, fortunately, a collaboration of like-minded friends, many of which are skilled designers, writers, and editors, so I'm never responsible for the whole thing. In fact, in the last four pages submitted, I did absolutely nothing because the author is a better designer than me. So it's only stressful at press time.”
Running such an interesting blog for such a long period of time, we wanted to know whether Brian was doing it out of a hobby or as a career.
“I think when I started out, I had some sort of a 'five-year business plan' that I just forgot about, so it's been a hobby ever since. I have a stressful 9-5 so it's always been my happy place and it's gotten me through some really rough patches. As much work as I've put into it, even though it's never paid the bills, it's paid me in other ways. I've made a lot of friends, taken risks I never thought I would, and mostly learned a great deal.”
As we probed further, we also found out that Brian and his great friend Jason were running a podcast too!
“Oh sure, Pod Stallions is a collaboration between myself and my good friend Jason Lenzi.
When I started the blog, Jason was running a toy company called 'Bif Bang Pow' and he noticed we liked a lot of the same things. We started having these long phone conversations and even though he grew up far from me, it was like we had the same childhood and obsessions. We'd have been best friends in grade school.
Eventually, I think it may have been Jason who just said, 'We should tape these calls and make it a podcast' and that's what the show is, two guys with waaaaaay too much pop culture info tucked in our brains having a long car ride. It rarely stays on topic and we love to talk about growing up a geek in the '80s. We've really found a loyal and wonderful audience, the Pod Stallions Facebook group is my favorite place on the internet sometimes.”
Doing so many things makes one really productive for sure, so we wanted to know how Brian would describe what he does to other people.
“Without too much grandeur, I'd say I was a pop culture and toy journalist/historian I guess, although I don't really mention it in mixed company often.
It started with me just amusing myself with a blog while my then-baby daughter took a nap, but it spiraled into a community and changed my life. I'm really glad I started it.”