Anyone in the vicinity of a comic book as a kid, was aware of those lovable Sea Monkeys. One look at the ads suggested evidence of evolved creatures, almost human, who lounged around their aquatic surroundings without a care. And if these depictions compelled you to adopt a family of your own, then you were also going to learn a little about marketing.
Sea Monkeys were the brainchild of a scientist named Harold von Braunhut. In 1957, he learned that the eggs of a certain type of brine shrimp could survive indefinitely without water. This made them easy to ship in the mail. Having watched the success of the ant farm a year earlier, he thought he might be able to sell these eggs under the name “instant life.” That moniker didn’t have enough zing though. Taking notice of the animals long tail, he eventually arrived at the name “Sea Monkeys,” which sounded like a lot more fun.
Enter Joe Orlando, an up-and-coming comic book artist, who was hired to create illustrations for a series of Sea Monkey comic book ads. His drawings envisioned a happy, nuclear family of Sea Monkeys, lounging in their undersea kingdom and looking as if they couldn’t wait to meet you. These drawings would help to sell literally millions of the aquatic critters.
Kids across America sent in their allowance, then paced for weeks by their mailbox. When the glorious day finally arrived, they would learn that it would be another 24 hours before meeting their sea friends. Okay, a minor setback but nothing insurmountable. Soon the would be marveling at, maybe even conversing with, their benevolent underwater pals. This was going to be great!
And, for some kids it was, as long as you weren’t expecting a life form that even remotely resembled those cheery faces in the comic book ad. No, Sea Monkeys were more like an underwater insect, with a see-through body and visible exoskeleton, rows of spidery legs, two freaky bug eyes, and a long tail. They didn’t smile, they didn’t lounge around, they just swam and mated.
More than a few kids learned a valuable lesson from Sea Monkeys. Things aren’t always as they appear, and advertisements aren’t always honest. But that’s not to say that Sea Monkeys weren’t fun. Once you got over the initial disappointment, it turned out to be pretty entertaining to watch them do their underwater thing, at least for a little while.
If you were ever the proud owner of Sea Monkeys, or just desperately wanted them, I hope you’ll take a moment to share your memories with all of us in the comments section below.