More Crazy Comic Ads!

A return to the wacky world of vintage comic book advertising.
October 11, 2006

Marty! (Is it okay if I call you Marty, reader?) We're about to take another trip back into the wacky world of 80s comic book advertising, so put on your retrospectacles and saddle up. This sucker is nuclear and we're running on 1.21 gigawatts of AWESOME.

Follow me.

From Machine Man #3 (Dec 1984)

There's something very disturbing about this first ad. Yeah, the only way to 'be a proud American' is to dress up in camo fatigues and parade around like a militia nut. It's a fairly obvious attempt to trade on the popularity of GI Joe, with the use of a common 1980s boys' name (Jason).

Seriously, between shit like this and the BB gun ads that they used to plaster all over comic books, I'm surprised we haven't had more mass-murdering psychos emerge from 80s childhoods.

From ROM: Spaceknight #24 (Nov 1981)

If you can't read the words on the t-shirt print, it says 'Conserve Earth. Colonize Space.' I really dig that sentiment. Go fuck up E.T.'s planet, keep Earth nice and pristine. That's the ticket.

I also dig the name of the company hocking this t-shirt: "Space Enterprises." I hope this outfit let their hold on the name lapse (and I'm pretty sure they would've... the whole affair sounds like just some 14 year old kid with an old screenprinter in his garage), cos I'm heading down to the Chamber Of Commerce tomorrow and register my new corporation as 'Space Enterprises'.

I have no idea what line of business I'll pursue, but with a go-get-'em name like 'Space Enterprises', I'll be chomping on the finest Cubans with Donald Trump by the time I'm 25.

From Marvel Two-In-One #61 (Mar 1980)


Sorry. Flight of fancy there.

Probably the only consolation to getting a piece of fruit in your lunchbox instead of a bag of Cheetos or a fun size Snickers is that you got a sticker. Not that there was anything special about those company logo stickers, but kids don't give a fuck, man. It's adhesive.

So it's nice to see the good people at Chiquita actually trying to liven up lunch time a little for those kids unfortunate enough to have attentive, health-conscious parents. Still, I can't see this promotion being really successful, and in part I think we have to blame Chiquita's failure to capitalize on the obvious Winter Olympics/banana connection: frozen bananas. Come on, it's a no brainer!

Now, I wasn't around for the 1980 Olympiad, but as a kid I used to go fucking nuts for Olympic mascots. I wouldnt've cared about the stickers, but I would've begged my mum to get those bananas so that I could send in for the stuffed raccoon toy. Oh, the adventures Racky (for that is what I 'd have named him) and I would have had, frolickin' in a wintry wonderland!

From ROM: Spaceknight #25 (Dec 1981)

I've always been in love with the idea of the Willy Wonka Candy Company, and it's not just because Nerds are the best candy ever (and they are... don't even attempt to argue the point... I WILL DESTROY YOU).
I like to imagine a 5 year old Daniel85 holding a box of Nerds while watching Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory on TV, then doing a comedic double/triple/quadruple take between box and screen when he notices the company logo for the first time.

I'm actually not sure when I first became aware that the Wonka Candy Company (now owned by those evil Swiss bastards at Nestle) really existed, but I can pretty safely say that that was the point I became forever a willing suckler at the teat of that most crass capitalist practice; licensing.

Anyway, it's disappointing that the Wonka in this ad looks nothing like Gene Wilder, or even like the Quentin Blake illustrations that the current Wonka logo/mascot is based on. No, they decided to go for the Vincent Price with a lobotomy look for this one.

From Marvel Two-In-One #63 (May 1980)

I know I go on about this a lot, but it's ads like this one that really sum up vintage comic book advertising for me. That image of the kids having a good ol'-fashioned cookout brings to mind a golden age of childhood, when kids were still interested in outdoor pursuits as well as indoors stuff like video games and TV.

This may be just a romantic construction that I've come up with from reading too many Uncle Scrooge comics and watching too many 80s sitcoms and family movies, but it was certainly that way for me in the late 80s/early 90s. I remember when McDonald's came out with the camping gear Happy Meal. I collected the multi-tool, canteen flask, all of it; and then begged my dad to take me camping just so I could use it.

The equipment was plastic and pretty much useless, but it was magical to have my own gear, no matter its lack of utility. I felt like I could've braved an Alaskan winter with that plastic spork.

From Marvel Two-In-One #61 (Mar 1980)

This 'Lite Writer' is just the kind of thing I would've flipped for as a kid. Anything glow-in-the-dark or with a built-in light was totally up my alley. I once shut myself up in a huge box our new fridge came in, wallpapered it with my Ninja Turtles trading cards, and then looked at the cards by the weak light of my light-up Micro Machines' headlights for hours.

I wonder if Boyer actually obtained permission from the producers of Battlestar Galactica, or just decided it was their right to co-opt the name 'Cylon'. There's no sign of any 'Cylon is a registered trademark of blah blah blah' disclaimer on the ad, so I guess they did. Bastards.

Aww, who am I kidding? I can't stay mad at the people behind Mallo Cups.

From ROM: Spaceknight #26 (Jan 1982)

I was really excited to come across this ad in my recent readings. In my last article ('The Wacky World of Comic Book Ads'), a previous advertisement for this same product showed up.

It seems my predictions of the ultimate failure of Creative Mass Media's attempt to 'Make 1981 The Year Of The T-Rex!' proved true, cos just a few months later here they are again, desperate to sell their shirts. So desperate, in fact, that they took out more space this time, and crammed it so full of info that they recommend the kids use a magnifying glass to read it. Not desperate enough, however, to pull out the Da-Di volume of Encyclopaedia Britannica and figure out that it's spelled TyrannOsaurus.

The fact that they added a new product, the Werewolf tee, onto the bottom of this ad reeks of desperation to me. You do have to admire CCM for being able to just straight-up lie in their advertising, too. "Be one of the thousands wearing these shirts today". They're making it out as if the T-Rex shirt is 1981's equivalent of 'Don't Worry Be Happy', or 'Frankie Says Relax'.

Forget Bonfire of the Vanities, the story of Creative Mass Media is the real dirt on the heady world of 1980s business.

It's a little dream of mine that somewhere in Chicago, there's a warehouse full of hundreds of thousands of deadstock T-Rex t-shirts gathering dust. I would like to discover it some day.

Next time: a feature article on the comic book advertising campaigns perpetrated by the networks to promote their Saturday morning schedules in the 80s.
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