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Jason Frames His Maniac Mansion Poster: A Gripping Account

Mojo needs content, and Remi has threatened to furlough staffers who don’t get their feature count up. Listen, it was between this and documenting my experience at the bank getting an HSA transferred.

Framing stuff is no joke. This is what I have learned. I think I have a handle on the average geek level of the Mixnmojo readership, so I’d like to think they can relate when I confess that I have routinely succumbed to the desire to pick up posters themed on niche entertainment (movie one-sheets, usually) when the opportunity presents itself, often with little foresight as to what I’m going to be able to do with them. Sometimes these impulse buys are surprising bargains, other times they’re a little more irresponsible. But even in the expensive scenarios, the frame job can almost always be relied upon to be more expensive.

Obviously, not every subject is worthy of the same level of care. When I picked up a reproduction Jaws poster at Universal Studios as an adolescent, the cheapest thing Walmart could sell me was good enough. But when you’re framing something authentic or reasonably uncommon, you’re not just framing for presentation, but for preservation. To do it right is to do it at a premium. As a result, an accumulation of cool posters is taking up space in my closet, waiting for the day that I win the lottery.

For more than a decade, that sullen collection included a Maniac Mansion poster. Two of them, actually. For those who weren’t there, let’s revisit one of the more pleasant surprises to occur in...well, ever, if you have the priorities of the Mojo community. One unassuming day in May of 2008, well into those hospice years when LucasArts was making and selling nothing we could give a care about, something amazing happened.

Out of nowhere, a batch of old (that is: new, but unsold) Maniac Mansion posters was apparently discovered in storage by the Lucasfilm janitorial staff (which the Heritage team presumably moonlit as) twenty years after the fact. And the studio, too busy at the time cancelling Indiana Jones games to make considered choices about collectible merchandise, decided to throw that old stock up on the company store – and at the reasonable price of $29.99 a pop. Which really underscores how much of an asshole this guy is.

A dyed-in-the-wool Maniac Mansion fanatic, I shared in the ecstasy of this unimaginable product listing (hilariously out-of-place in a catalog of almost exclusively Star Wars kitsch) and bought two at once, and I’m sure many of you who were fortunate enough to see the news in time nabbed at least one for yourselves. It’s not clear what the quantity was of this leftover supply, but it sold out in a day, with the web team removing the product listing so swiftly that no Wayback Machine crawl has it captured. But it existed, all right.

A word about the origin of these posters: When Maniac Mansion was originally released, included in the box was a little mail-in order form. You could fill out this card and send in for the game’s hint book, poster, or official T-shirt. There appear to have been a few permutations of the card, as these pictures of two extant copies suggest:

Clearly, LucasArts used all that survey data to fuel heartbreaking business decisions down the line.

We’re all familiar with the iconic Maniac Mansion cover art by comic artist Ken Macklin, who spoke a bit about its creation a few years ago. (Macklin’s in-game LEC work is a little less recognized, but only because the adventure game he contributed the most to, the original version of The Dig, was cancelled.) The composition is deliberately evocative of a movie poster, and of course the game itself was Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick’s send-up of horror and sci-fi B-movies. Aside from being a lovely, high-caliber print of the art, the mail-in poster distinguishes itself from a nice scan of the Maniac Mansion box in that it sports the game’s rarely-seen tagline, which Douglas Crockford claims credit for: “His ambition was to rule the world...one teenager at a time.” Honor compels me to highlight that painstaking fan efforts can be as frameable as the real thing, as the noble work of Laserschwert puts beyond all doubt.

I want to put the unlikelihood of that summer surprise in context, because those genuine 24x38” posters from the eighties pretty much never turn up in the wild, and are second only to the near mythical T-shirt in their rarity. I’m not sure that guy, appraised by Lloyd’s of London at sixty-eight trillion dollars, has ever turned up, and the fact that this image we have must have originated from some decades-old eBay auction is our only evidence to the contrary.

A Maniac Mansion T-shirt! If you ever see one of these, you’ve witnessed a miracle.

The bottom line is that unless you wanna convince Steve Purcell to part with his original oil painting of the gobsmacking Edison family portrait (commissioned for the back of the box of Maniac Mansion’s late eighties reissue), which in my book is the crown jewel of LucasArts adventure game art ephemera, edging out Purcell’s cover art for Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge by the thinnest of margins, then getting your hands on one these surviving mail-in posters is the holy grail of Maniac Mansion hangables.

The day Purcell delivered this piece is the day the Mona Lisa became Old News™.

When my order was delivered in 2008, the parcel went straight from the doorstep into storage. For twelve lonely years, this unopened package from “Star Wars Shop” remained interred in the shadows next to my second grade term papers. But no longer, fans. Over all that time I successfully scrounged together enough money (most of it, I’m sure it goes without saying, in the form of donations from Girl Scouts taping dimes to their postcards) to finally get one of the posters done up right. And rather than keep the results to myself, I figured our beloved readership was entitled to a little voyeurism. So here’s some visual proof of my humble but satisfying end-of-story. And do forgive my deficiencies as a photographer; I’m not Michael F. Stoppe.

Thumb The package experiences sunlight for the first time in twelve years.
Thumb You don't see much mail from "LUCAS ONLINE" these days.
Thumb The order receipt claims they threw in a "Rebels and Imperials Miniatures 2PACK" free of charge...
Thumb ...which is soon confirmed! I am pleasantly surprised because I have a new woodchipper that needs testing out.
Thumb The poster is brought to an independent frame shop. They're used to framing "art," so it's a lucky thing I came along to show them what art really is.
Thumb The final product, mounted and glassed for a grand total of $[redacted]. Let’s just say that my kids better be good with their hands, because college is no longer on the itinerary.*

As for the second poster? I’m sure admitting that I have one will only invite accusations of avarice, but let’s face it: my generation has to arrange for its own social security.

Jason

*Just kidding. My posters are my children.