Martin Handford's Where's Waldo
books have been adored by kids the world over since the absent minded candy striped hitchhiker first made his debut in 1987. That being said, this is not an effort to defame the Waldo (or "Wally" depending on where you're reading this) books because frankly, life would be much less cool without them. Instead, our ambition is to point out some of their most noteworthy peculiarities -- things that we didn't necessarily find mentioned on the scrolls and postcards adorning each map, or on the checklists in the back of each book. No, these are the images and concepts that stayed with us long after we found Waldo, and for probably the wrong reasons. Whether amusing, horrifying, bizarre, or simply too historically accurate for our own good, Waldo's journeys took us down some interesting paths by way of subject matter that Handford has all but wiped from the most recent Waldonian adventures, possibly thanks to pressure from his publisher. Of all the things found while searching for Waldo, here are the 9 strangest.
9) Topless Lady in "On the Beach," Where's Waldo
The second map in Handford's original Waldo adventure featured plenty of not-so-kid-friendly beach intrigue. From men coming on to women and vice versa to cartoon people stopping mid-step to ogle beach babes or pumped up dudes right in front of their significant others, Handford's beach was no place for the sexually immature. The most notable addition to this sandy controversy was the image of a sunbathing woman who exposes herself while jumping up in surprise when a kid jams an ice cream scoop onto her back while a smiling man looks on fondly and takes mental notes, presumably in front of his wife. While again, it wouldn't quite be Waldo without this kind of stuff, that particular display got the book into enough trouble with libraries and schools that the decision was made to cover the poor lady up for the 1997 special edition re-release of Where's Waldo?
8) Aztec Human Sacrifice in "The Last Days of the Aztecs," Find Waldo Now
When he wanted to, Martin Handford took off the kid gloves and decided to give fun the hook so that historical accuracy could take over the spotlight; evidence-a-plenty was available when Waldo found himself visiting the Aztecs during their "last days." Ritualistic sacrifice didn't seem to concern Waldo as he happily explored his new surroundings, nor did the Aztecs feel the need to feed Waldo's heart to the gods as was the fate apparent of his European brethren in the illustration. Maybe an appreciation of Waldo's forward fashion sense is to thank for his good fortune and dagger dodging.
7) The Transvestite in "Having a Ball in Gaye Paree," Find Waldo Now
While visiting one of Napoleon III's Parisian balls circa 1870, the red
and white adventurer finds himself surrounded by party animals drunk on
French wine, burlesque dancers and statues that playfully come to life
and mess with people, which is pretty standard Waldo fare. That being
said, even though we never quite know what we'll run into on a Waldo
map, we probably still didn't expect to find a man demonstrating his
ability to wear women's clothing, yet there he is, confusing kids and
prompting them to ask the tougher questions of mom and dad at an early
age. Happy searching Waldo watchers!6) Lions Peeing at a Urinal in "Safari Park," Where's Waldo
This particular strangeness is actually kind of awesome, since lions doing things like waiting in line for a public lion-only urinal (lional?) or driving a car to escape captivity is an excellent sight indeed, whether on a Waldo map or in real life. A lion doing these things is probably second in sweetness only to bears in the same situations. Who's driving?
5) People Getting Tortured in "The Museum," Where's Waldo
The Waldo canon definitely has its fair share of scenes involving people in painful situations they'd probably rather avoid, but none are quite so disturbing as these poor bastards imprisoned at the museum. Not only are they an exhibit ("Let's see the traitors to the state next!") but their long white beards imply they've been a part of the museum a long, long time. Obviously, that suggested donation to enter the museum is a very strong suggestion.
4) The Sex Boat in "Campsite," Where's Waldo
Okay. The idea that a bunch of guys would jump on a boat and take it for a spin around a canal to pick up chicks seems pretty pedestrian. But please note that young boys and girls are being asked to stare at a boat full of bespeedo'd men flexing. And that every woman in swimming distance is leaving their husbands and loved ones in order to get onto the boat to be ravished by these muscled hunks. What kind of gender issues is Handford teaching our children?
3) Waldo's Topless Mermaid Orgy in "The Deep Sea Divers," The Great Waldo Search
By the time The Great Waldo Search
came around, things had calmed down a bit in Waldo's world; the Wizard Whitebeard was making cameos and the maps Waldo explored were far tamer by comparison to his earlier adventures. That being said, Handford still found room to include the series' trademark topless mermaids. Yes, their hair covered enough to keep the Waldo books in circulation, and the fact that the topless mermaids are topless isn't too crazy, considering their roots in mermad-ian lore are often portrayed the same way. However, it's worth noting that Waldo decided to hide on the mountain with all the topless chicks. Of course he did
2) Portraits of a Man Whose Bicep Exploded in "The Museum," Where's Waldo
Paintings that come to life and interact with both one another and the people visiting them is one of the trademarks that make the Waldo books special. While most are memorable and at least a little bit kooky, this four panel portrait sequence of a body builder flexing, exploding his pumped up bicep and then openly weeping at the sight of the mass of flesh hanging from his ruined arm really takes the cake. It's like David Lynch stopped by for guest sketch or something.
1) A Man About to Be Raped By a Mountain Lion in "Fun and Games in Ancient Rome," Find Waldo Now
Best case scenario -- this is just some elaborate Roman furry mating ritual. Or maybe that's the worst case scenario. Frankly, we just want to stop thinking about it.