Here is a feature gallery where we will present some of the most memorable (and sometimes most horrible) advertisements ever to grace the pages of our beloved comic book medium. Peruse and enjoy this modern gallery of pulchritude and go away with a smile. Return again, bringing your own examples of advertising virtuosity from the comic Ages past. Our tour begins with those muscle-bound and true-to-life strongmen who inspired us to no longer be the wimp at the beach.
Charles Atlas, He'll Make a Man Out of You
Charles Atlas ruled the advertisement pages for years, becoming an icon in the eyes of young boys everywhere. Atlas was the living embodiment of the superhero physique, and proof that the "90 lbs. weakling" can grow up to kick butt and take names. He had the confidence to wear a leopard print bikini bottom and stand like he had a stuck up his rear, and managed to make it look cool. Thank you, Charles Atlas for sharing your pecks with the world.
Next stop on our tour, the wonderful world of action figures.
Get Some Action (Figures)
If you were a man-child of the 70's or 80's (and probably the 90's as well), you played with action figures. Let's face it guys, "action figures" are just what we call them so we can say we DON'T play with dolls, but the outcome is the same nonetheless. Above are two of the absolute coolest of the cool. Who in their right mind DIDN'T want a gold plated Cylon. And don't get me started on the Warrior action figure. He was the baddest @$$-kicker of them all.
G.I. Joe had his own kickin' rescue and attack dog. Look at him go! Name another dog that can use a zip-line or keep tabs on the enemy via periscope. Look at the longevity of the G.I. Joe line. It's possible that you had some Joes passed down to you from a big brother, or maybe even a dad, and you might have passed them down to your own children. I know I did.
Does ANYBODY remember Major Matt Mason? I'm sure he was the coolest astronaut hero of his day, but looking back now I wonder what the "tech" designers for the toy line were thinking. Look at the "wheels" of that space crawler, and the flying treadmill "space sled," that's some well-tested equipment there I'm sure. What's with the moon suit? It looks like more like a buoy out in New York harbor. ROM the Space Knight was SO much cooler. He even had his own (fairly) successful comic title for a short while, created just to boost toy sales. Remember when Forge built that gun based on ROM's Neutralizer for use on Rogue, but it ended up getting used on Storm and erasing her powers for years? Good times.
Quite possibly the best action figures EVER, the Star Wars collection ruled the school playgrounds of America in the late 70s and early 80s. If you brought a new figure to school, you were the coolest cat for the day, at least until your playground nemesis brought another one hot off the shelf. Yet another set of figures to pass down to your children. Then there's Stretch Armstrong, an "action figure" you could stretch him as far as you wanted and he would snap back into his original shape. My friends and I actually snapped the head off of one of these things. I'm not kidding when I say that it was one of the hardest things I've ever done.
Suck It Up Soldier!
Look at that high technology at work. Buy this green and brown face paint and you can become almost INVISIBLE. I love the line, "Give you a SECRET advantage over your enemies." Yeah, like the people the US army fought in WWII and Korea didn't know how to smear paint on their faces. It's not so politically correct anymore it seems to play with little toy soldiers. I've had the hardest time finding them for my son when he wanted them. Back when some of us were children, you could just order the things out of any comic book any time.
See that ad on the right above, I remember ordering that set of toy soldiers and thinking, "I can't wait until that footlocker comes in, that's gonna be so cool." Yeah, right. Read the fine print stuck in there right above footlocker. What 8 year old boy is going to read the find print, or really even care what "pasteboard" is? I think that "footlocker" lasted a whole day.
It's Alive! It's Alive!
You could order live animals through the mail? Real live animals? And since when is a RACOON America's favorite pet? Easy to care for? If you like rabies, I guess so.
Why is it so many of these live animals are coming out of Florida? Were they trying to make more room for geriatric retirees and hot girls?
Why do they keep putting those poor little animals in teacups? Do they come in a teacup? Is that even really safe. And why does that old woman keep calling us "Friends?" I've never spoken with this woman ever, have you?
OK, so this last one's really not a live animal, but tell me if you can resist. If you had an air bladder in your hand with an air tube running up your shirtsleeve nowadays, I wonder what people would think you're hiding. It STILL might have something to do with a snake (or not).
It Ain't Easy Being Green
How about some live plants in the mail to go along with your live animals? Read the fine print on the 2D Chia Pet wannabes: "Purchase of $1 or more automatically makes you a member of the Lucky Clover Club. You receive a genuine four-leaf clover for good luck." Man, what a deal!
Oh, How Novel!
I love the hokey buzz lines they use on these old things. "Eyes will pop as friends gasp!"
"The most fantasmagorical hobby kit in the history of everything." What does that even mean? And "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" just sounds dirty.
Just imagine how much you could get on Ebay for one of those Gene Autry friendship rings. The 147 automobiles looks good, but notice the "Garage." Yet another press board box.
Here's the trick section of the comic ads. How many kids fell for the "$1 million" gag because they didn't read the fine print to see that it was fake money? Aren't "exact reproductions" illegal? Maybe they made enough money off of the scam to pay their lawyers. Then you have the "Lucky Grab Bag" full of prizes, some of which were "formerly up to $10." Read, "this is leftover crap, and it's better to have you pay us a buck for it and clear out our warehouse."
"Tell your parents every ingredient in the Margaret O'Brien Candy Kitchen is guaranteed to be absolutely wholesome." Yeah right. Those little bottles have just a slight resemblance to mini-bar bottles. The Vac-U-Form toys all look pretty good, but what's up with the bird and the cow?
Look at the Texas Ranch scam. Somebody do the math for me and find out how many square inches are in an acre. I have a feeling that somebody made a killing off of their land. I mean, have you ever been to Amarillo, TX?
"Kids, we'll give you a free toy if you buy our cereal. Yes, it tastes like crap, but you'll be having so much fun you'll never notice." In Junior's Television you have a real visionary at work. Who knew that just a couple of decades later we really would have rear projection TVs in our homes?
Look at the "Chinese" guy up at the top of the magic tricks page. You couldn't get away with that kind of thing today, and that's a good thing.
I want my money back! I ordered the X-Ray specs when I was a kid and all I got was a headache. I never once saw the black silhouette of a woman through her clothes.
OMG! The Shocker?!?
Win Fabulous Cash & Prizes
Who cares about the cars on the right, we've got Linda Carter in a Wonder Woman outfit. The contest was to finish a sentence in 50 words or less. Here's my entry: "The daring rescue I would like to see Wonder Woman perform is...you and me alone together at the end. You're hot." I don't think I would have won.
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry...
I love the tag lines here. "Hep cats purr over the fresh, clean taste of 7-Up." "Delicious for folks of action!"
What?!? A guy named "Captain Tootsie" rescues a guy named "Fatty" after he jumps off of building with an umbrella? He probably would've just bounced.
Why are Nazi's shooting at a little kid? That just doesn't make any sense. I guess you really don't have to be much of a superhero when your arch nemesis is Dr. Narsty, and the best he can do is fire a cork into your mouth that a bunch of kids can pull out.
I guess the original Captain Tootsie was a cowboy, but he didn't work out so they fired him. I'm not touching the strip on R.C. and the Adventures of "Quickie" if you know what I mean.
Become an Artist
"Learn to draw like us, even though we're not good enough to get our art into this comic unless we pay for an ad."
Yeah, I remember in school the guys who could draw well got all the girls. So did the guys in drama and chess club.
Buy This Comic!
I think I see why Daredevil Comics failed. Look at the character names: Nightro? Dash Dillon? Pat Patriot? Trés original. I wish I had gotten a hold on some of those Mary Marvel glow pictures though. Yummy!
Glow in the dark Kryptonite rocks? It's terrific! It's fantastic! It's Kryptonastic!
And here's my second favorite part--when you wear it too long, it turns your finger green.
I love how they draw you in with the plight of the poor, homeless superhero, then throw the Frazetta naked chick art at you. Why is Wonder Woman the biggest doll? Not that I'm complaining, but are they trying to tell me something? I can't make fun of the Titans though, that was one of the best teams of all time.
Here's another great, the Muhammed Ali vs. Superman fight. Hey, isn't that Cassius Clay? Underoos are actually the biggest kid rip-off ever. I mean, think about it. You get these really cool superhero uniforms, but you have to wear them under your clothes. Every body stares at you if you wear them on the outside of your clothes, at least they did me.
What is FOOM! I guess they had to make it "Friends Of Ol' Marvel," because if it were "Friends Of Marvel" the acronym would have been FOM, and that's just stupid. FOOM is much better. Now I know why I haven't seen Mockingbird in years. Hawkeye killed her making one of these stupid ads.
"Life has no meaning without my latest Marvels." Get a life Spidey!
Go, Go Gadget Gizmo!
Way to promote a healthy lifestyle to the kiddies there, Mr. Bar-B-Q whatever-your-name-is.
"Flying saucers are real!" Wow! Call the CIA, call MI6, call ANYBODY! Aliens are here and they're driving frisbees! And if someone could explain the scientific principle of differential expansion, please send your answers (and refund requests) to Trek Space Ships (wow, do you think they were jumping on a particular band wagon or what?)
It's those x-ray specs again. They can guarantee me fun but not genuine x-ray vision? Pah! That's just not good enough! I'd say the only thing that will end up "blushingly funny" is me when I wander into the party wearing those thick-rimmed spectacles.
Lots of Toys for Boys and Girls
GoBots! The-almost-but-not-quite-Transformers. Build your very own transforming car / space ship / aeroplane. If only Tonka had had the marketing capabilities of Hasbro, it would be a GoBots movie craze instead of the Transformers.
SILLY PUTTY! That's all I've got to say on the matter.
Oh those were the days... life was good, spirits were high and skates had two and two. None of your "in-line" business. Oh no, we were real kids back when I were a lass, with our stablisers and cabbage-patch dolls. Funny thing is, I think my very first pair of skates really were strap on Winchesters, and they were old fashioned even back then.
Deal or No Deal?
Entrepreneurial spirit starts here folks. First you get your bike, then you get your paper round, then the whole world is your oyster! Alternatively, you could invest your allowance in stamps, the hobby of small kids and anoraks everywhere. Most of us grew out of it but there's still those few, lurking in the background, who geek-out at just the thought of a penny black.
Heath, Hygiene, and Safety
Make Your First Dollar
The Monster Mash
Oh No, OJ!
Before There Was MTV
Oh David, how the gorgeous have aged! Once a pin-up, now Ducky. This just calls for an NCIS quote (do excuse me): (Todd) "Gibbs, what did Ducky look like when he was younger?" (Gibbs) "Illya Kuryakin."
Too Good to Be True
Fashion Sense or Fashion Dense?
What Were They Thinking
Meatloaf; Humongous Rock Star of the Universe
Here's an ad which can be found throughout many 1980's Marvel back issues. Essentially, it features rock musician Meatloaf calling out in desperation to aid the children of the Special Olympics. Note the tears streaming down his face in the first panel. The advertisement appears to start out with Meatloaf performing at a concert, on a stage in front of a crowd, but he becomes distracted from his show and shouts out "But who's gonna help me?" rather than this confusing the audience (because his first lines were in a thought bubble and thereby the audience would not have understood what he needed help with), his audience is replaced altogether by a random grab back of assorted Marvel characters plus a few random children.
Meatloaf then informs us that the way we can help is by filling out a form for a cassette or record for the official theme song to the 1987 Special Olympics.
Panel to panel the conversation has little logical flow, and the end conclusion doesn't seem like it warranted Meatloaf getting as upset as he did. He was putting on a concert, isn't that the perfect time to say "hey I just did a song to help out the Special Olympics, go out and pick it up!"? Instead he gives up on his audience and enlists the help of Marvel super-heroes (and children). Whatever works for ya, Meat.
And by the final panel, in contrast to the first where tears are streaming down his face, Meatloaf looks totally jazzed! It's like his anguish was all an act and he was really waiting to tell us to fill out the form all along. Faker.
This ad is so nonsensical and random that it's charming. Hail Meatloaf, Humongous Rock Star of the Universe.
Volto From Mars
Volto was a superhero from Mars with magnetic powers. Each issue that he appeared in Nedor Comics, Volto would be a regular comic superhero story until the end when he announces he recharges his power by eating Grape Nut Flakes. The last panel would have a boy holding up a plain looking cereal box of Grape Nuts and tell you that you may not get magnetic powers but it will give you a Dynamo Drive.