Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Seattle's Sports Poster Boys

Over the summer, Manhattan gallery Salon 94 ran the exhibition For the Kids, displaying these once-ubiquitous, athlete-worshipping posters cranked out by West Seattle's Costacos brothers. John and Tock Costacos enjoyed early success selling "Purple Reign" T-shirts to Washington Husky football fans in the mid-'80s, before getting Seahawks star safety Kenny Easley to pose for their first poster as "The Enforcer." The Costacoses then convinced other star athletes to do the same, and by the time they sold their company in the mid-'90s, they had moved some 25 million posters featuring over 700 athletes. Their most popular poster was of Michael Jordan, selling 1.2 million copies. Probably the most popular poster here in the Emerald City celebrated notorious Seahawk flop Brian Bosworth (above).

The brothers initially didn't own licensing rights to display logos and game uniforms, so they instead relied on the color schemes of the subjects' respective teams, like the green and gold in this poster of Seattle SuperSonic Xavier McDaniel...

Nowadays these pre-Photoshop posters look pretty campy, with their garish colors and weird, non-ironic themes. However, for better or worse, they did help turn pro athletes into larger-than-life celebrities. Here's Giants-licensed hothead Kevin Mitchell (N.L. MVP in '89, the same year Tim Burton's Batman was released) before he joined the Mariners...

I never actually owned any of 'em -- I was more partial to Sports Illustrated's straightforward posters, like the one I had of Steve Garvey.

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