In which we attempt to follow the trail of Mary and Bill, after events of the 6000 Ideas book. We look through subsequent Ideas books and move to the Adventures of Captain Indigo, featured in Bricks n Pieces magazine in the 1980s…
Let me tell you a story. It has been a little while since we have visited the world of the 6000 Ideas Book, but I have not forgotten where we are heading. So, here is a recap:
The Story So Far…
In 1979, the 6000 Ideas Book was released: a masterful use of minifigures for story telling, the book drawing heavily on the 1978-79 LEGOLAND Town/Space and Castle sets for inspiration and we follow the adventures of two minifigures referred to, in the US edition of 1980, as Mary and Bill.
My hypothesis is that they are alive and well in LEGO City today. But before I would presume such a thing is happening, I set out to see if it is possible. I have investigated long form story telling within , and between LEGO themes. There is certainly some evidence to support that some of the stories told in LEGO sets stretch out over years, and jump between themes (Here, I believe we are going from Books, to either LEGO City or Creator Expert.)
In the mean time, Mary and Bill’s 40th year has been recognised by others in a number of ways: the LEGO City XTRA sticker pack, reminiscent of the sticker sheet included in the 6000 Ideas Book ; and the Parts Pack in LEGO Tower 1.4, released in September this year, where players could collect Mary and Bill’s torsos. I secretly hope that we might see a reissue of the book, or see the figures appear in a CMF series in the next twelve months. I can but hope.
Now, read on…
And so, the time has come to investigate the Fate of Mary and Bill. There was, in my mind, an obvious place to start searching for them: In Ideas Books released subsequent to 6000. Now I have previously said that the 6000 Ideas Book remains one of the best examples of using ‘smiley’ minifigures, and no words to tell a story. Listening to the different ways that my friends remember the book, and the adventures of our heroes, it is apparent that the stories write themselves for the reader, as an individual experience.
Pursuing new Ideas
Thee were another 5 ideas books aimed at system style building over the next 10 years. None of these books runs with such a firm narrative stream as 6000. As such, I thought it unlikely that any of these books would feature the characters as we knew them, with the white stripes on the blue torso, or the red polka dots on the torso. I merely looked for figures that had similar basic structure to those in the book: a white torso with red legs (or even reversed) and ‘lady’s hair’, pictured with a blue torsoed male, with brown hair and dark legs.
Is it fair to consider these color changes as legitimate? I have been looking at figures from the Hidden Side sets recently, and our teenage protagonists have a number of different torsos. Certainly you might consider it to be just with and without a jacket, but they provide an example of inverting the colour patterns for the same characters:
All Aboard For Railway Ideas
In 1981, we saw the release of the 7777 LEGO Train Ideas book. Depicting life as you might see it around railways stations, and rail yards and track maintenance, this book does not have a convincing narrative structure. However, in the centre spread of the book, we see two figures walking across the platform with their luggage.
Now, if you look closely, there are some details you might pick up. Our candidate for Bill has a printed shirt. Now, if you look at the images scanned from 6000 that we referred to earlier in the year, you can see that the torso sticker has been placed over this same torso. As for our potential Mary – White torso, Red legs – check. But black hair? Really? I think it is feasible. Lets remember her first trip to town…when she visited the hair dresser. I think it is totally feasible for her to have the color of her hair changed.
And then we never see them together in that book again…
226,200,250 and 260: No linear book numbers, with no linear storylines.
Moving forward to 1982, the 226 Ideas Book has a wide variety of models, from DUPLO to basic system to minifigure scale ( such that it was, back in the early eighties), even mosaic and a brick built alphabet. Looking through the book, however, there are a couple of instances where I am wondering if we are looking at our heroes. One, on a swing and another in a living room, albeit with an alternative colouring for the lady ( red torso, rather than white.) Black hair persists. Of course, by this time, although the red hair is still in production, especially for the Dacta sets, but it is not as common as black.
The 200 Ideas Book was released in 1985, and while it had no clear narrative there are a couples of characters who could be readily interchanged with Mary: could this be Mary with Bling? she seems to wearing a necklace. Royalties from those appearances she made in the 6000 Ideas Book?
I am not too sure about this, to be honest. perhaps she has had another change of hairstyle, and could be one of the other female figures seen around the town scape. Or perhaps I am just clutching at straws. From the outset, this would seem to be the most likely point.
The 250 Ideas book from 1987 features a few layouts, and detailed instructions, for models in Town, Space and Castle environments, but it would appear to be difficult to even pretend that any of the figures could be Bill or Mary, even by my extremely lax standards! Unless she is wearing a hat.
The 260 Ideas from 1989 is not much better. However, it expands to include Blacktron and Futuron in the Space models, and we see some great suggestions for pirates too. However, there is no common link between these themes, and no obvious narrative thread running through any of them either.
So it looks like we actually lost track of our heroes in the Ideas Books around 1982 – possibly sooner. Could they be manifesting somewhere else in this time?
Indigo and Polka Dot: 1983 – 1989
The Bricks n Pieces magazine was produced in the 1980’s and was a precursor to the LEGO Club Magazine.
Starting with the Spring 1983 edition ( lets say around March/April), there were two single strips, with the classic space call out: Captain Indigo sets out. It was black and white and
read red all over!
This story ran for another 3 issues, transitioning to color in the Winter 1983 issue. I find the story line here to be a little jarring (check out polka dot’s internal dialog:” 14 hours with Captain Indigo…if only my friends could see me now!” Really?
One thing I found interesting, was that Captain Indigo and Lieutenant Polka Dot became flesh toned, while other characters maintained their yellow heads. (this was not obvious for a couple of issues, as the initial story dealt with robots/brick headed aliens.) We saw a number of adventures…at three pages per year, the story telling was very long form. I sourced the images from here, and the entire run is reproduced here, without permission.
After meeting the Zarkonian robots, and being sent back in time to recover a jewel, Polka dot almost inevitably saves the day. The storytellers wait a while before reminding us that the world is made of LEGO bricks, and as such can be reshaped to provide shelter. I love the prediction of the 3×3 plates, which did not actually appear for over 30 years! As we work through the stories, we see a few LEGO Elements, but the commitment to specific designs in the era of hand drawn art means that the final effect is quite interesting to the sensibilities of the 2010’s. Would the proportions used in depicting the minifigures make it through review today? I am not sure how I feel about the variety of facial expressions depicted in the first few stories. We have smiles, straight lines and frowns. All predicting things to come in the future.
After Indigo is captured by robot policemen, it is up to Polka Dot to rescue him, in the Indigo Turbo. However after helming the vehicle for a couple of episodes, Indigo declares that he would like to drive.
Suddenly the car is dropping oil spills and converting into an airplane. Of course the idea of a car turning into a submarine was demonstrated in James Bond: The Spy Who Loved Me, years earlier. That said, it does provide some of the vibe that we pick up in the LEGO Movie, many years later. It is a shame that this ‘LEGO Play’ element plays such small role in the Indigo stories, with the narrative predominantly centred around various forms of pursuit/capture and rescue, with the occasional bit of biffo!
As we approach the middle of 1987, removing the pastels from the banner, we find Polka Dot all but removed from the narrative! A background smile here, a lever pulled there, but she is almost completely written out. It becomes very much about Captain Indigo…
And the arch villain in the Robot story line is…is… is Tobor Rakem? Really? I suppose its as good a name as any for a villain who is a Robot Maker.
The final story sees a style of jumping the shark: introduction of a robot dog, T 4 2, built out of some form of table scrap. Admittedly, this pun is brilliant, if not exceptionally cheesy!
A conveniently located time machine ensures that another great, hilarious situation will follow, however Polka Dot’s dialog is reduced to a solitary ‘Where are we?’ with T-4-2 taking the opportunity to groan at the sheer dreadfulness of Indigo’s puns.
Unltimately, Polkadot shares little role in the ongoing narrative, other than to lurk in the background, and indulge in a little fanciful cosplay.
It is a far cry from their initial 6000 adventures, where, in the absence of dialog, they very much appeared to be on an equal footing. While in this world, they encounter Indigo’s arch nemesis from a previously untold story, Garth Raider (masquerading as the Sheriff of Nottingham).
With 19 episodes, telling 5 stories, spread over six years, the story took some time to unfold. That said, narrative jumps between panels meant that the story was able to move along at a cracking pace. With every new episode, as artists appear to changeover, and the collection of logotypes used seem to embrace every style I remember seeing in 1980’s popular culture.
Of course, by this stage I was in my dark ages, and the resolution was somewhat lost on me. But the story has left me curious. Why, at the end of 1989, does the trail go cold?
Is it just that with the advent of LEGO Pirates, that the opportunity for in house narrative shifts away from the ‘classic’ themes? Certainly the Pirates sets did have their own accompanying books, but there appears to be no obvious sign of Bill and Mary for years.
What could have happened? I have a ludicrous fan theory brewing here, which I shall bring out in the final instalment…
Join me next time, as we attempt to unravel the Mystery of the Aged Fate of Bill and Mary. Straws shall be clutched at. A Long Bow shall be drawn, and maybe…just maybe, we will come to a conclusion about the present fate of Bill and Mary.
Until Next time…