Hands down I’d say everything from the ‘90s was the best. It was the time when 14-year-olds actually played outside instead of centring their lives around Instagram. It was the time when we would watch shows like Boy Meets World, Recess, and Rugrats after school as we indulged in our fave snacks like Mamee Monster, ice pop, or that Trix cereal that comes in different shapes. Even recalling those moments seems so nostalgic, and we wished somehow they’d make a comeback, but some things are better left in their era.
Aside from playing outside or watching our fave TV shows, the majority of us might also remember a time when we would actually pick up a comic book and read. There were also those gamebooks where we got to lead our own adventure, which we would end up finishing earlier than thought (cheating is only a matter of flipping the pages!). It was purely entertaining.
S to jog your memory, here’s a list of exactly those things that will surely make you rekindle nigh forgotten childhood favourites into feel-good nostalgia.
Our national pride, our favorite little mischievous kiddo, Lat, the Kampung Boy. This graphic novel by Datuk Mohammad Nor Khalid, better known as Lat, has placed him on the international platform, entertaining readers from around the world with his kampong adventures, troubles in the jungles of ‘50s Perak, his manhood (aka his circumcision), family, and school life. Alongside the titular Kampung Boy, fans have also grown to love Lat’s cane-wielding teacher with the butterfly specs, Mrs Hew, who was inspired by Lat’s teacher, the late Lew Siew San. Since its inception in 1979, The Kampung Boy has become widely popular that it was later transformed into TV series, movies, and also musicals, and it remained a childhood staple even amongst ‘90s kids.
Calvin and Hobbes
What was originally a newspaper comic strip by Bill Watterson soon became the sentimental piece of our childhood. This light-hearted but also compelling comic series tells the tale of a little boy named Calvin, and his imaginary friend-cum-stuffed tiger, Hobbes. Whilst most people might think that the storylines are reflections of the writer’s childhood, it’s quite on the contrary, as the writer was completely the opposite of Calvin. But Calvin was still created as a way for Watterson to express his immaturity and curiosity towards human nature. Hobbes, on the other hand, was inspired by a cat named Sprite. To Watterson, Hobbes wasn’t just a doll that comes to life whenever Calvin is around, nor was he just an imaginary friend. It all depends on how readers see it, because their respective views of the world are different from one another. Essentially, Calvin & Hobbes is more about the subjective nature of reality as opposed to the simplistic dolls-coming-to-life narrative.
Old Master Q
Like The Kampung Boy, this is another timeless classic that has overcome the test of time. Although Old Master Q hails all the way from Hong Kong, it’s still one of Malaysian pop culture staples back then. The series was created by Alfonso Wong, and the comics covered a lot of social and political issues that occurred back then. Nowadays, you couldn’t find these comics anywhere, except maybe at those Chinese barbershops that are facing obsolescence itself. The comic series is very witty and humorous and it surrounds the adventures of the eponymous old man, Old Master Q, Mr. Chin, and Big Potato.
The Magic School Bus
If you didn’t grow up in the ‘90s but know of this old school series, it’s probably thanks to its revival by Netflix. For all the grownups though, you definitely remember how The Magic School Bus made science fun and entertaining as your read through both the books and its cartoon adaptation. Written by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Bruce Degen, the series revolves around a teacher named Ms Valerie Frizzle and her class taking an impossible amount of school trips to the most bizarre and interesting places, which are dependent on the individual chapters they’re learning on. Back then, all of us wished we had a teacher like Ms Frizzle to take us on fun school trips on the magic school bus that talks and changes shape and size into anything Ms. Frizzle commands it to be. On top of that, they have a pet lizard that accompanies them on trips.
Think we would leave this one behind? Now, please don’t get Riverdale and classic Archie mixed up. Riverdale is based on the Archie series, but like any other comic turned series, it’s always with a little twist to fit the market and relevance of their viewers. The OG Archie is much less murder-y as it’s more wholesome – and painfully white – in its portrayal of suburban America. Archie Comics began initially as MLJ Comics and our fave Archie characters like Archie Andrews, Jughead Jones, and Betty Cooper made their first appearance in Pep Comics, created by John L. Goldwater and artist Bob Montana, with writer Vic Bloom. The comic series received a large popularity amongst youths and adults back then and even until now with its current iteration. However, the original comics aren’t so cheap either as retailers prefer the newer version of Archie as opposed to the reprints of the original. Still, you can probably find them during the Big Bad Wolf sales.
This mange – created by Naoko Takeuchi – got some of us wanting to be the girl, Usagi Tsukino (including boys), and others wanting to be her talking cat, Luna, who identifies her as Sailor Moon. In the series, Usagi was chosen to be Sailor Moon and will have to fight against forces of evil in the name of the Moon and the mysterious Moon Princess. Along the way she forms allies with the other girls, Sailor Senshi (or Sailor Scouts), in the series and together they all fight for justice against evil. For many children, Sailor Moon’s brand of girl power was their first exposure to feminism.
Kids used to stay up late at night just to read this all-time fave horror book series by R.L Stine. Kind of like what we have locally here, Singapore’s Mr. Midnight. Each book has its own monsters and demons that give readers the spook they need, with different characters in each story as the books aren’t a shared universe. It was later made into movie directed by Rob Letterman and gained a surprisingly positive rating on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes. What made the Goosebump series even more entertaining is its touch of humour – which isn’t too surprising considering Stine had a comedy background. One of the most notable monsters that fans will never forget is the dummy named Slappy, who is also one of the rare monsters that received multiple stories.
What was your childhood staple? Let us know which comics or childhood book series that got you hooked since forever in the comments below!