Another batch of old comic book ads!

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It’s been a long time since Dino Drac’s last Comic Book Ads review, and even longer since I dived into my specific favorite type of them: The tiny-sized ads that were all mashed together on the classifieds pages.

That’s where the real treasures were! Fifty antique coins for a dollar! Legitimate monkey skulls! An Atlas body in seven days!

I’ve collected nine of my favorites. It should have been ten, but I got tired. Enjoy them as I have.

starrocks

Star Rocks!
(Alpha Flight #26, September 1985)

The fine print indicated that your meteor would look nothing like the illustration, but that wouldn’t have kept me from expecting exactly that. What a perfect little meteor doodle! The rough edges… the chocolatey colors… and my God, the CRATERS!

Still, five bucks does seem high for these, especially in 1985. That’s probably more than museum gift shops were charging, and museum gift shops already existed on the principle that they could charge five times more than was reasonable for everything they sold. Exclusivity begets twenty dollar geodes, or some shit.

I still would’ve bought one. That doodle is too powerful.

shrimp

Amazing Mystery Shrimp!
(The Transformers #22, November 1986)

It looks like the people behind Sea-Monkeys didn’t have exclusive rights to those brine shrimp, because here were some other jokers, selling the exact same kits. The difference here is that the proprietors employed no illusions about what they were selling. These weren’t lanky humanoids with bright blue eyes who somehow played underwater checkers without any of the pieces drifting away. They were SHRIMP, dammit, and that was good enough.

For as much flak as the Sea-Monkey people took for their misleading advertisements, I think they may have been doing themselves a disservice. I find the idea of “Amazing Mystery Shrimp” even more appealing, at least in part because what they were promising me looked like a Facehugger.

An easy “yes” for purchasing. Even if I wasn’t satisfied, there was a money back guara…

There was a “money back gua.”

glove

The Original Diamond Glove!
(Alpha Flight #15, October 1984)

If you weren’t already thinking that this was a “Michael Jackson glove,” the fact that the ad’s from 1984 should sway you. With shipping, you were paying nineteen bucks, which — at least while within the scope of prices seen at the back of comic books in the early 1980s — made this like buying a ten story castle in the middle of New York City.

You had to be REALLY hot for Michael Jackson to consider this. For that price, you could’ve purchased NINE Amazing Mystery Shrimp kits, and still had 95 cents leftover for… I don’t know… Blackjack gum.

Sorry, Diamond Glove Incorporated. Your risk-to-reward scale lady looks like she’s doing the mambo.

jetpack

Build Your Own Personal Jet-Pack!
(Superman #72, October 1992)

I’m a little confused. Were you paying for a kit with instructions, or just the instructions? It says it comes with plans and a manual. Aren’t plans manuals? Aren’t manuals plans? Is the enemy of my enemy my friend?

I suppose “plans” does in rarer cases hold the definition of “materials,” and given the exorbitant $20 fee, I can’t imagine that all we got was a tutorial.

Either way, it suggested a scenario wherein kids could become Boba Fett, and that’s awesome. The Beushausen Brothers knew just what card to play, which was fitting, since “Beushausen Brothers” sounds like a name you’d give to the blackjack mini-bosses in some old casino-themed Nintendo game.

I wonder what the gimmick was? Clearly no one became the Rocketeer by way of this, or we’d be living in a much better world today. I’d sure as hell spend less time writing about comic book ads if I could fly around with a fucking rocket pack.

lamboposter

Lamborghini Poster!
(Captain Atom #15, May 1988)

I didn’t have this, but I’m pretty sure that my best friend did. His whole bedroom was full of car posters. I had a few, but only enough to meet the unspoken quota regarding male children and fancy car posters. My friend’s room, though… it was saturated.

And I seem to remember one especially long Lamborghini poster, positioned so poorly that it was actually curved around the corner of two walls. He definitely had SOME giant car poster that did that, and it drove me nuts. It was unnecessary to the point of seeming intentional, but who would do such a thing on purpose? Fortunately, in my old age, my OCD is now limited to being aggressive with light switches.

crabs

Giant Land Hermit Crabs!
(Infinity Inc. #2, May 1984)

Yep, I would’ve been all over this. Maybe not in 2014 when I’m more sensitive to the plight of crabs, but as a kid? DEFINITELY. And once again, it would have been the doodle that sold me. Belial in a shell!

The sellers were fortunate to have such a stellar artist, but they were also fortunate to live on 76 Maple Street. I just can’t imagine anything but love and sweetness coming from a place like “Maple Street.” It’s a street name that turns skeptics into blind believers, even if in a completely subconscious way.

magiccrystals

Magic Crystals & Fossils & Gems!
(Superman #72, October 1992)

“Prehistoric poop.” Ten dollars for “prehistoric poop.” Ten dollars for “prehistoric poop” by a company named “Sassy Productions,” which operated from an address that read like untraceable government code. There were leaps of faith and there was just being crazy. No poop for me.

warriors

50 Warriors!
(Captain Atom #15, May 1988)

The figures were assuredly no better than plastic green army men, but who could resist the temptation of FIFTY figures for that price?

The set was full of play potential, too. Romans battling ninjas, ninjas battling Civil War soldiers… it was like The Warriors gone global. Global and omnitemporal.

chemlite

Chemical Light!
(Marvel Two-In-One #19, September 1976)

My best guess is that this was an everyday glow stick, and yes, back in 1976, you could get away with making a big deal about those. Even ten years later, I remember treating glow sticks with incredible respect, mostly because they only turned up during the Halloween season. Also, to a kid’s brain, they seemed to be filled with radioactive demon spit.

PS: If you like junk like this, I encourage you to pick up Mail-Order Mysteries, a terrific book that collects tons of old comic book ads, along with photos of what kids actually received. It turns out that I’ve been friendly with the author for a year now, never realizing that this was his book. Sorry, Kirk!


41 Responses to Another batch of old comic book ads!

  1. Amazing mystery shrimp sounds like something contracted from a Jersey prostitute. Not that I would know.. or anything..

  2. … and undoubtedly that Original Diamond Glove would have ended up being used and my brother and my wrestling wars with pillows. We’d dreamt up this entire federation of characters and would hold mega events performed out with by us and some everyday pillows. That glove would have been a great gimmick weapon for instant KO punches. I mean hell, I used the pull string that came out of my sweatpants as a pretend stand of barbwire!

    I would have certainly ordered those 50 warrior also. The possibilities are endless. The kitchen floor would have seen some glorious battles. Not before or since have Romans and Ninjas joined forces.

  3. The 50 plastic warriors would have been great as a kid. It’s amazing how rare it is to find little plastic guys that aren’t just army men. I know there were others, but the only ones I’ve seen were policemen, cowboys & Indians, and some over-sized Marvel character ones by the Marx company.

  4. @Morgan R. Lewis: Check CVS if you’re near one. They’re selling lunatic packs of figures just like the ones described in this ad. There are two types of figures in each pack, and it’s stuff like “Zombies Vs. Ninjas.”

  5. Excellent post! It made this drab monday so much better.

    I love the Hermit Crab ad. I immediately thought of Porno For Pyros.

  6. Is that a biblical reference in a paragraph about jet packs? If it is, hilarious. If it isn’t, I’m going to pretend it still is and nominate DinoDrac for a Pulitzer.

  7. I bought hermit crabs, seahorses, and pipefish. I waited for the mailman everyday telling him that I was looking for my box of seahorses. I expected the box to be a foot tall. He finally delivered it, but the box was about 3 inches tall. They were miniature seahorses, about 3/4″ tall. They needed to be fed the shrimp or “sea monkeys”. The pipefish ate the same thing and they were very small. The hermit crabs were the only things that grew and once when I came home from school, I found a nightmarish scenario occurring right before my eyes. The hermit crabs were devouring the pipefish and the next day they killed the seahorses too. The hermit crabs kept growing and I put some larger shells into the aquarium that they might want to use. I watched as they quickly pulled themselves out of the smaller shells and moved right into the larger shells as if they always lived there. Ah, kids learning about nature… it can be a very harsh world.

  8. @Richard: Wow, I’ve always wondered about the famous seahorse ad. Even if small, I’m amazed that they really were live seahorses. I figured there must have been some kind of scam going on.

    I guess you had sea hermit crabs, considering your story? I suppose that’s the obvious answer since you certainly did not have land seahorses.

  9. I’ll break my over-a-decade-long double-site-spanning lurker status to say that I always enjoy your ad roundups and I have zero information on any of these in particular. That’s good because the world needs mysteries. Also, thanks for plugging Mail Order Mysteries! (MOM for short, but that always sounds weird) And thanks for the heartfelt apology. The fact that you took kindly to me without this knowledge is all the more dear. It’s just like the story of The Gift of the Magi, which I have never read.

  10. I have a feeling that “Star Rocks” were little more than Kingsford Charcoal Briquettes. How many of us who ordered this stuff learned an important lesson in advertising. Kinda like how the brightly colored speeding Matchbox like car on the box of Fruit Brute turned out to be a two-tone non functioning waste of plastic. Sea Monkey fact…..you can kill an entire colony with one Alka Seltzer tablet….or so I’ve been told.

  11. I used to love those ads. My favorites were for the puzzles that offered insanely great prizes. “For only a $2 fee you could win an entire gaming room with every system on the market.” The puzzle would always be really easy too. Until you looked at the fine print and realized there were millions of puzzles before you made the prize rounds. Each with a higher and higher fee. I think Doug did an episode about them.

  12. I really want to know what kind of a jet pack you get for twenty bucks. I would have sent in the money just to find out.

  13. Sorry for the double post but I just ordered the book, looks very cool!

  14. I too would really like to know what the jet pack kit included. Regardless, I can only assume this company met a terrible fate. If the product existed, they would have been sued into oblivion by every parent group at the first sign of a child’s injury. If they only sent a manual, kids would likely have banded together and set the corporate offices ablaze. Alas, I can only assume all funds were redirected to an offshore account in the Caymans and no one actually received anything in return.

  15. No CVS here, Matt, but it’s good to know more stuff is out there. Next time I’m looking for filler-gifts for the nephews I’ll try some of the “corner drug store” type places.

  16. From what I remember from the last time I visited Hartford, Maple St isn’t exactly the best part of town to be living in. I wonder if there is a boarded up building full of dead hermit craps there?

  17. Palos Hills, IL? That’s right next to where I live. I don’t think there was anyone making jet packs in that area. In fact, a GoogleMaps search of the address shows a regular house. The house shown looks old enough to have been there in 1992. Was there really someone there trying rip-off kids with the promise of a real jet pack?

  18. As much as I love these old ads, I would love to see Matt do an article on old comic covers. Covers to old comics can be weird, hilarious, and just plan awesome.

  19. @Brian: Sweatpants string as a foreign object = amazing.

    @Bill: Thanks, bud!

    @K: It may have been, or it may have been a Dick Tracy reference.

    @Kirk: Not a problem at all! I was familiar with you/your site of course, and probably even that you made books, but — and you should take this as a compliment — it just never registered in my brain that this book could’ve been from an “internet guy.” It just felt like too big/nice of a production, with the layout and cover and all. I’ve read it to death.

    @DerDavenWarrior: Interesting idea… maybe someday. Rather than pluck oddball ones I’d probably do something on select issues that meant the world to me all because of their covers. (And there were a few — the g-i-t-d Ghost Rider comic I referenced recently among them.)

  20. @Kirk, I love your book! I wrote a review of it back in December 2011 for the TV station website I run. Alas, a server change has eradicated the (glowing) review from the internet.

    Here’s proof I posted a link to my review on Facebook, anyway: http://imgur.com/05R9jPf

  21. 1. Matt’s right. Not for that amount of money.

    2. We actually did have Sea Monkeys in the early 80s. All I remember is they died rather quickly. I can’t imagine my folks would have let us have more – or any variations – after we didn’t really take care of the first batch and complained loudly about their early demise.

    3. Once again, the price was too high. None of us were big enough Michael Jackson fans to consider it.

    4. I can see my sister – or a decade later, my brother – going for this one, even if we all knew it was probably bogus. She was into sci-fi and he was into building projects.

    5. None of us were into cars enough for this one to be on our radar.

    6 & 7. I grew up at the Jersey Shore. If I wanted hermit crabs, I could go to any boardwalk gift shop. If I wanted “prehistoric poop,” I could prowl a beach and pick up as much as I could carry for free.

    8. All of us might have gone for this one. My sisters and I would have wanted them to fight He-Man, She-Ra, and the Thundercats. My brother would have something similar later in the early 2000s to fight his “Star Wars” revival figures.

    9. For that price, we might have gone for it, especially my sisters who loved anything that glowed, from light sticks to candles.

  22. Re: the Build Your Own Personal Jet-Pack – I get the hunch it’s instructions only. $19.95 does sound too much for just instructions, but goodness, it certainly sounds too little for an effing jet pack.

    But the real reason I feel that is because of how the ad appears to be intentionally misleading – I’m assuming you read the print in the ad as “COMPLETE PLANS w MANUAL – ONLY $19.95″, but at first glance, I read it as “COMPLETE PLANS w MANUAL ONLY – $19.95″. So, I’m guessing this was a gotcha ad.

    I was very intrigued by the 76 Maple St in East Hartford, since that’s pretty close to me. A quick glance at Google Maps shows it’s completely residential, so I think it’s likely the sellers were just regular people. I once read a pretty funny story from a woman who, back in the heydays of back-of-magazine ads, along with her husband posted an ad of something they wanted to get rich off of. They expected thousands of responses, and got around five. So – that taught me that a lot of these ads can be just regular joes selling junk from their basement.

  23. @Stephanie

    You’re bang on. A lot of these are from regular folk trying to be entrepreneurs who just get some crap produced, pay for the add and ship it from their homes.

    The jet pack one is probably just some manual that the guy whipped up that told you how to theoretically build a jet-pack if you had all of the money to actually buy the supplies needed to make one.

  24. @Stephanie: Hmm, you may be onto something there. Ballsy if so; $20 for plans?!

  25. @ Matt: Curse DinoDrac for motivating my intellectual pursuits! I Googled the phrase and learned it’s mysterious history and various origins. When you’re bored, look it up. You may need the knowledge if you ever face Dorothy Zbornak during an audition for Jeopardy.

  26. Reading the jetpack ad again I think that you receive the plans to build your own, plus the manual on how to operate the thing should you actually get it built.

    I think the price is high to try to trick people. If it was $5 people would know they were getting nothing, by pricing it so high people think they must be getting something otherwise the price would not be as high.

    Wasn’t there something similar with your own hover car?

  27. @Jerrod Nice try with that faked image of a fictional facebook link. How unfortunate that there was a “server change.” I suppose I’m also to believe that you “run a TV station web site” and “write reviews” and know how to “use facebook” too?
    Well, if any of this were true I would say “Thank you so much. It means a great deal to me that you enjoyed my book and took the time to write a glowing review (and that you recommended this review to your friends through your personal facebook page.) Your patronage and encouragement is dear to me. I hope that you and yours have a blessed new year.” Yes, that’s what I would say.

  28. Nice write up! Love that you listed the comic the ad was spotted in. Superman #72 was a goldmine. Just curious, how did you pick the comics? Also, a great follow-up would be to track the apperance of an ad through a year or more of monthly issues or see if less popular comics have crazier ads.

  29. i love looking at these. as a kid i always had fantasies about getting some xray specs.

  30. Build your own jet-pack? Seems legit.

  31. FINALLY back in my apartment. :)

    Here’s another comic book idea you can do. Various networks would put their Saturday morning lineups as an advertisement. They had some strange cartoons in those day. Those are fun to run across.

    It seems whenever our elementary school would do their scholastic book fairs (which always RULED!) You could find a lot of car posters and books.

  32. “Mail Order Mysteries” is such a great book. I got it for Christmas a couple years ago and could not put it down.

  33. Kirk, I have loved your art for years. The family portraits are nothing short of genius. But I think my very favorite was the one where you are watching TV behind the sofa. We have all done that at one point.

  34. Matt, a quick Google search for the name Beushausen, connected to JetPacks, or more accurately RocketBelts, turns up some amazing stuff. There were working, if dangerous jetpacks, and the Beushausen brothers were enthusiasts who wrote and published several books on the subject. Derwin Beushausen ran the Airwalker Society until 2003 and is still around. These would arguably kill you if handled wrong, or even as listed in the books. But look up Youtube for the Bell Aerospace Rocketbelt. It does not disappoint. There’s some further info at rocketbelt (.) nl

  35. @Garrett: Unexpected news! Thanks for the info… I’ll look ‘em up!

  36. I love these articles. And Mail Order Mysteries is a great book.

  37. @Bill, I’m so glad you enjoy my art! Much appreciated.

    @Chris and @Newt Thank you for the kind words about the book! Reading your comments brought me gladness!

  38. Hey Allentown PA, I live near there. That store is not around anymore…though they’re building a new hockey stadium in the worst part of town so…er…yay I guess?

    Also yes, even into the 80′s friggen glowsticks were absolutely magical.

  39. This was a lot of fun, Matt. Seriously great stuff here, my friend. “I’d sure as hell spend less time writing about comic book ads if I could fly around with a fucking rocket pack” made me giggle like a mental patient, for some reason.

    I never paid too much attention to these types of ads. I’m not sure if I just assumed that they were rip-offs/scams or if I was told they were, but that’s why I never paid them much attention, because I knew they were rip-offs. But now, looking over these ads, I kind of want to buy some prehistoric poop. And I definitely want to buy 50 warriors. I may have to make a trip to CVS on your recommendation to Morgan R. Lewis.

    If anyone is unsatisfied with my comment, I offer a money back gua.

  40. I remember these types of adds! Me and my brother use to get those cheap plastic BB guns out of them, you know the type with those little rubber yellow BB’s!

  41. Maybe that’s where WWF star, Rene Goulet ordered his Diamond Gloves from.

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