With great economic power comes great merchandizing responsibility, so as Mario became the biggest thing in the world with Super Mario Bros, he got his requisite boatload of merchandise. This was also a boon for those of us looking for weird images of Mario as well. Once Mario became Nintendo's marquee character, the company kept his model fairly consistent on game boxes and manuals since it was the sole publisher of all his games. Yet when they licensed him for official things, like stickers, t-shirts and coloring books, the second parties making them took some interesting liberties.
Playing with Power
We'll start with probably the most famous instance of an off-model Mario: Nintendo Power's landmark first issue. In case that doesn't ring a bell take a look:
Seems like they were going for the image of Mario on the box to Mario 2, but got everything wrong along the way. How the artists got the colors, size, and vegetable so very mistaken is astounding, especially when Wart looks strikingly close to his real self.
Above: Even the shoes and buttons are off the mark? C'mon!
Though this was not the last Claymation version of Mario on the cover of Nintendo Power, the later ones knew the little things about the most famous fictional character in the world, like hat color and that a radish isn't a carrot, no matter how much you want it to be.
Nintendo Comics Systems
Incredibly amateurish and propagandizing even for a licensed comic book, the US Mario comics of the early 90s are better left forgotten, though here's a sampling:
Fun Fact: The publisher, Valiant, later went under and was purchased by Acclaim, which in turn published Turok comics until it closed as well.
You probably know less of Mario's Japanese comics. Most of his adventures are in the long running and super-deformed-tastic Mario-kun series. The series chronicled his titles from Mario World all the way up to Sunshine and beyond. And while Mario's standard design has some manga influences, it's shocking to see him go full-on kawaii.
Above: Mario-kun daisuki!
We also found this really early manga telling a condensed version of the first Super Mario Bros. Instead of the cuter SD look, the artist went for a mix of Pinocchio and a little Hitler added for flavor. We don’t think it worked, especially in that last panel. Mario's really hamming it up there.
Jigsaw puzzles & lunch boxes? Sure
Other interesting merch we came across were several puzzles involving Mario and pals, though none were more puzzling (GET IT!?!) than this one.
We don't know where to start. All the enemies are just wrong - the Lakitu is taking a Spiny for a walk, while all the other enemies are squat and mostly discolored. Peach is either a midget or a little girl, and both possibilities are disconcerting with the concerned look on her face as Mario holds her so close. He looks like he just kidnapped her, smug smile celebrating his abduction as security tries to stop him. And where'd that rope come from? Only Toad, the character voted least likely to matter ever, looks correct. Ugh.
Also confirming Mario had made it, his face graced many a lunch box. Most were used boringly re-appropriated manual artwork, but one little gem had the surreal image of the Mario brothers playing a Legend of Zelda II that never was.
Above: We're ready for second grade now, Mom
Mostly it was a boon for the 7-year-old who couldn't decide between a Zelda or Mario lunch box, but it proves the sad fact that Mario doesn't know how to play a videogame. Just look at Link about to die as Mario holds the controller sideways. Just give up and eat your popcorn, jerks. At least he figured it out by the time he got Dr. Mario.
Above: Uncross those eyes, Luigi
Good night and good luck
When anything has been around as long as Mario, there are bound to be hundreds of official images out there, and we may have even missed some good ones (though probably not, because we spent way too long on research as it is). But in the unlikely event we did, why not direct us to any good ones in the comments section below? We leave you now with one last image, though if you've never beat Super Mario Bros 2: SPOILER WARNING.
Above: It was all a dream, how original
Mar 13, 2011
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