Written by Jonathan Wojcik
THE 2015 SKELEFISHOCALYPSE
Weeks ago, when I reviewed the Crazy Bones animal skeleton collection, I put fish - any fish - on my top five most wanted animal skeleton products. Now, I feel tempted to make a "be careful what you wish for" joke, but that would be disingenuous, because there's absolutely nothing I don't like about what I just found at Wal-Mart, and it's not alone, either.
If you had a television around the dawn of this millenium, you probably remember Big Mouth Billy Bass. Nobody seems to have uploaded the original television commercial, but it's probably burned into enough of our memories that nobody felt it was necessary. The ads assured us that this singing, rubber fish was the sensation missing from our lives, and it apparently worked, with Billy raking in so much money that singer Al Green received more royalties from the fake bass than from record sales dating back to 1974. Since then, Billy has played a role in The Sopranos, and allegedly fights crime as recently as last year, but not everything is sunshine and rainbows down in Billyland...
"Big Mouth Billy Bones" is not actually new by any stretch, having first appeared fairly early in Billy's reign of terror and even with a tombstone-style plaque, but it's certainly been a while since any version of Billy has been sold on the shelves of an everyday Wal-Mart, and they've dragged his bleached, fleshless carcass back out especially to celebrate his fifteen year anniversary, as I imagine people one day will for me when I am also a skeleton and nobody has talked about me for a while and also I will have been a fish by then for quite some time.
It's easy to forget that, from the very get go, Billy was dead. Living fish are not mounted on plaques and hung on walls. Billy's singing was always the howling of a soul that never moved on, but here, his wholesome pretense has been dropped. His innocent, fishy stare has given way to a bony scowl, the face of something dead that knows it's dead. Perhaps this was always his true form, behind some illusionary veil, or perhaps he's simply been eaten away by hide beetles and moth larvae, which would make anyone a little grouchy to wake up to.
When activated, the interior of Billy's skull illuminates with an infernal red glow I'm not sure was present in previous Halloween editions, which presents the compelling possibility that his spirit is growing in anger, and his dark powers with it. In a raspier, more sinister voice than usual, he wails an ancient dirge known to all skeletonkind, informing us that he is infused to the very core with malice. He is bad. Bad with six B's. A darkness that burns too black to be confined behind curtains of sinew and muscle.
And not only has Billy's wailing corpse returned to us with the very flames of hades now burning in its sockets, but we did say he wasn't alone this year, didn't we?
This year's selection at Target will warrant a post of its own, as usual, but we're borrowing two of its items just for this one, the first of which is an entirely different, unauthorized non-Billy singing fish skeleton on a plaque. This seems like it would be a weird coincidence, but it would be even weirder if it were deliberately. Did either Target or Wal-Mart actually catch wind that the other would be hocking a musical fish corpse this year, and scramble to throw their own hat into a ring that almost nobody but myself would ever care about?
Target's Billy knockoff has no designated name, so we'll just have to think of an equivalent ourselves. What kind of fish is this even modeled after? A perch? A roughy? Surprisingly, I don't actually have encyclopedic knowledge of fish skeletons, which I'm gonna have to take a minute to add on to my ever-growing "TO DO: URGENT" list. Until then, let's call him Sammy. Smallmouth Sammy Snapper. Yeah!
Sammy actually has several advantages over Billy. For one, his skeleton is more complete, the sculpt much closer to what a real fish skeleton looks like. For another, he has sharper teeth, which adds a +5 bonus to his spookery. Best of all, he has eyeballs. I love a skeleton with eyeballs still in its sockets, and these are such lovely, eerie little green fish-eyes, to boot. My only complaint is that Sammy looks more like a hunk of shiny plastic, while Billy's bones have a smokier, more decrepit look to them. You win some, you lose some.
Beyond aesthetics, however, Sammy differs starkly from Billy in personality, lighting up green and singing a world famous ballad of hope and perseverence. Billy's rise from the grave may have charred his heart black and hateful as a dolphin's, but Sammy has learned to accept and even enjoy his undying, eternal nature. He is Billy's opposite in so many key regards, could it even be that Sammy is here to oppose Billy? They allied themselves with rival retailers, after all, and their ectoplasmic auras even light up on opposite ends of the color spectrum. What if Sammy's song is referring to Billy? What if it was Billy who murdered Sammy in the first place, and wasn't counting on Sammy coming back from the nethersea as determined as ever to thwart Billy's nefarious machinations? Billy may be bad, yes, bad to the bone, but Sammy has the utmost faith he will survive. Survive to see Billy's madness brought to an end even if it destroys them both.
Will Sammy be victorious, or will Billy succeed in unlocking the final gate? We'll only ever know once we're waist-deep in a smelly tidal wave of rotten-yet-moving sea life, though some of Billy's ghoulish vassals seem to have already bled through the barriers into the living realm.
Yes, Target is also selling non-singing skeletal fish, and they're a licensed "Crazy Bonez" product, exactly like I said I wanted, despite appearing nowhere on the "Seasons" company website. These lovely plastic fiends are even modeled after piranha skeletons, and their little jaws are hinged! They seem like a steal at only six dollars, and you can bet I'll be picking up more than one to decorate with all manner of ways.
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