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Revisiting Classic Comic Book Adverts (Part One)

issue #6

I have been a fan of comic books since forever, but they have evolved over the years and not always for the better. For instance, in the 1970’s and early 1980’s comic books were a treasure trove of some of the greatest advertisements ever conceived by man. Now thanks to the internet, we don’t get ads for x-ray specs anymore. Who needs x-ray specs to look at ladies underwear when it’s all just a Google click away? Anyway, the ads in the middle of comic books were sometimes better than the story. Take for example, five of the ads in my copy of Fantastic Four #161 from August 1975.

 

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We can ignore the actual storyline, although it is a classic example of how Mr. Fantastic, Reed Richards, is the absolute biggest dick in the Marvel Universe. We’ll explore his dickery in depth later in a different article. Just trust me when I tell you that Reed Richards is a super genius, misogynistic a-hole, who pretty much almost destroys the universe every fourth issue because science isn’t for pansies, loser.

 

But anyway, we’re here to talk about the ads. Our first gem shows up on Page 5. It is cleverly disguised to look like part of the comic book by introducing us to Cleveland, Ohio’s greatest super human – Electroman!

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Electroman bursts onto the scene in a hail of bricks and mindless property damage to interrupt what is clearly a drug deal, and let “Jim” in on the special secret that anyone can play with dangerous electricity from the comfort of their own home! Just get two free books from the Cleveland Institute of Electronics labeled “School Catalog” and “FCC License Book” and you’re on your way to learning how to re-wire lamps. The books are packed with details only a school catalog and literature from the Federal Communications Commission can have! Also don’t mind Electroman as he continues to punch things for no reason, breaking the dotted line around your coupon with a resounding “WHAM”. The best part of the ad is the fine print next to the coupon.

electroman z

Get CIE’s books. We will try to have a school representative contact you.” Gosh, you’ll try? Gee willikers, thanks Cleveland Institute of Electronics!

 

On Page 9 we come to our next gem. A set of bath towels featuring the greatest daredevil of them all, Evel Knievel! Dry your hands on a man listed in the Guinness Book of World Records twice. Once as the survivor of “most bones broken in a lifetime” and again as the owner of “the biggest set of balls ever”.

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The towels feature Knievel’s famed X-2 Skycycle steam rocket, which in 1974 carried Evel halfway across the Snake River Canyon before its parachute deployed prematurely and then plummeted to the bottom of the canyon in a spectacular failure of epic stupidity. Take him to the beach and relive the moment where he narrowly escaped drowning in the river at the bottom of the canyon because the X-2 was designed with a harness that the pilot could not unfasten. Only $5.00 America!

 

 

Page 13 brings us an ad for GRIT. Some comics in the 70’s and 80’s would contain multiple ads for selling GRIT. They made GRIT seem like the greatest magazine in the history of the world even though I have yet to meet anyone who ever picked up a copy. GRIT claimed to contain “World News, Sports, Women’s Features, Children’s Pages, Comics, Games, and Exciting Fiction”.

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GRIT promised a pyramid scheme where you could not only win fabulous prizes but you could make between $2.00 and $10.00 a week! Because with GRIT, you keep 9 cents from every 25 cent copy you sell. If you somehow manage to sell 30 copies of this fish wrap a week, you can make $2.70 in profit before taxes! Just look at the picture of the “happy, prosperous’ GRIT salesman…

 

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Where the hell is that kid’s neck!?

 

Page 20 brings us a Six Million Dollar man rip-off courtesy of G.I. Joe.

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The Six Million Dollar man debuted in 1973, and by 1975, Hasbro had decided it was time for a Bionic, I mean, “Atomic” man to join the “Adventure Team”. Plus Hasbro had outright tried to buy the rights to produce the toy line for the Six Million Dollar man but failed, so this was a more subtle way to tell Lee Majors to go f*ck himself, instead of molding Atomic Man’s middle fingers straight into the air. Now in 1975, G.I. Joes were still 12 inches tall and had just recently been given the famed “Kung-Fu Grip”. Since Vietnam had been an utter disaster to war toy producers, G.I. Joe had been retooled as Adventure Team and this ad was the introduction of Steve Austin….I mean Mike Power to the squad. Mike Power decides not to let the disabled limbs he was born with hold him back; so he uses those disabled limbs to build new better limbs, and then, I guess, cuts off the old limbs and attaches the new ones with his teeth? Anyway, the freak is given a rigorous set of tests in which he shows that he is superior to every current member of Adventure Team and is instantly promoted to Major even though Steve Austin is a Colonel. I think they stopped caring by the 8th panel of this thing. Why they shout the famed battle cry of the Three Musketeers at the end I still haven’t figured out.

 

 

Our final Advertisement…

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This ad is amazing for one simple fact…see, Razzles Gum is having a sweepstakes and wants to send you to the brand new Walt Disney World as the grand prize. Walt Disney World at the time of this ad was only 4 years old so it still had that new Disney smell. That’s a pretty awesome prize, right comic fans? Also they’re giving away 275 walkie-talkies, 120 minature jukeboxes, cameras, slot machines, and 1500 creepy Reggie Razzle dolls. Awesome! I’m going to chew as much Razzles Gum as possible and enter today! Except if you look at the bottom left corner you’ll notice that the contest expires on June 30th, 1975 and this ad is appearing in the August 1975 issue of The Fantastic Four, at least a full month after the contest ended. Cue sad trombone sound.

 

So that’s just five of the gems from this particular issue. Join us for part two when we examine how you can go from 90 pound weakling to 240 pound strongman with Charles Atlas, home courses for Veterinary Assistants, and more get rich quick schemes by forcing everyone you love to buy copies of GRIT.

 

 

GRIT

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About Jack DeVoss (77 Articles)
Jackson Holden Solo DeVoss learned how to write poems from an old blind man he met while incarcerated in a Madagascan prison for crime he did not commit. After serving three long hard years, Solo was finally paroled when a wealthly lady friend paid the ransom for his release. Solo then traveled to a Shaolin monastery located high in the mountains of Myanmar; where he learned the mastery of many mystical and ancient arts from the Head Abbot, a crippled monk named Brother Lars who quoted Oscar Wilde too often. Two years later, Brother Lars and most of the other monks were killed - during an attack that was carried out under the cover of a horrendous snowstorm by ninja assassins of the Dark Hand Cult. Solo and a few others escaped, but the monastery was burnt to the ground. After slumming around Southeast Asia for five years, Solo migrated back to his home in the United States - where he became a vigilante crimefighter, fighting against the nefarious schemes of the Dark Hand Cult and its ninja assassins. He also published his first book, 'Names For Boys And Girls' and a collection of poems entitled 'Columbus Lost Another Genius'. Solo now lives in an abandoned church in Columbus, Ohio where he writes freelance, fights crime, and has a major drinking problem.

26 Comments on Revisiting Classic Comic Book Adverts (Part One)

  1. I’m going to burst out and say , That was Stupendous, Long Awkward Pause!!! OK, really, I liked this a lot, xo, Jayne

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  2. This was completely awesome. Haha!

    Yeah, Reed was a dick.

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  3. Great article, I loved it. As a comic book fan myself I had to do with the Dutch translated editions that had nowhere near such great ads. It was all about detergents and such in our versions lol

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    • That is the saddest thing I have ever heard. I am cancelling my trip to Amsterdam.

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      • cancelling a trip to Amsterdam I can only cheer for, you should come to better places instead to tourist traps 😀
        The good thing about the translated versions? they are translated very well, I had the opportunity to compare the US and the NL versions of some Amazing Spiderman comics and the translations are often better than those of “real literature” ;).. it’s not all bad heheheh

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  4. NotAPunkRocker // April 25, 2014 at 8:52 am //

    I kind of want my son to look into becoming ElectroMan. We will try to contact the CIE.

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  5. Electroman needed a new tailor and a better agent.
    Thanks for the ultra-cool blast from the past!

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  6. When I was a kid I begged my mom to order a set of 100 fabulous dolls from a comic ad. They were tiny plastic molded pink army figures…great for killing off on Hot Wheels tracks. For some reason the Sea Horses never arrived…..

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  7. GRIT: The path to being a hundred-aire everybody can take! If you’re a top salesman, it will only take you a SINGLE year!

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  8. Willy Nilly // April 25, 2014 at 4:11 pm //

    Awesome post! You somehow knew it was me. The one kid that actually used a pair of X-ray specs. My older brother was 16 and was fixated on girls’ anatomy. I thought he was Pervo the Ass-Clown and then when I was 16, it happened to me too. He bought the X-ray specs (1966 version) and we tested them. I somehow thought my brother should ask for his money back. He was afraid our parents would find out he was a peeping pervo X-ray boy ass-clown. We abandoned our evil plan and resigned ourselves to just being invincible without any carnal knowledge of female anatomy. No internet back then. We had to use our imagination. I found out later in life, our imagination was just as flawed as X-ray specs. Superman turned us into Pervo the Ass-Clown. That’s the way it was and we liked it that way. 🙂

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  9. That kid in the ad was a celebrity back in the day. Everybody wanted to be him. Good article though. I only collected Archie Comics. Wish I’d kept them.

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  10. haha! I have read comic books for many years and don’t think I ever once actually looked at the ads inside. Always skipped right by them. Great post.

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  11. That was great! It’s just like TV…sometimes the commercials are the best part. Unfortunately, these will never go viral no matter how worthy they are.

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  12. I used to read those comics to my kids. Try explaining x-ray glasses to a 3 year old?

    The Knieval towels were hilarious. I seem to remember a long ago thought that I just couldn’t bear to have that face next to my butt. 🙂

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  13. I really hope you cover the amazing Sea Monkeys in another follow-on. How the hell can one not talk about Sea Monkeys?

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  14. Yeah, but at the back of comic books were the really cool ads for sea-monkeys and drawing school where you had to copy the picture they showed.

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    • Yes, bingo! I remember those, as well as a ton of ads for gag and joke gifts, muscle building (especially Charles Atlas), and even ads for instruction courses on how to draw comic book superheroes.

      Many of these were fairly common to any sort of periodicals aimed at kids, especially young boys– like the Boy Scout’s mag Boys’ Life. (Interestingly enough, the magazine ran an article about Charles Atlas.)

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