After picking up so many cheap books from that comic show, I’m now flush with vintage print ads. That’s all I’m really after when I buy comics, anyway. Don’t care what Thor is up to. Just want to see hero shots of SweeTarts.
Below are five of the coolest ads I’ve found so far, covering everything from Striped Chips Ahoy to Super Mario Shampoo.
Super Mario Shampoo!
Avengers West Coast #66, January 1991
Super Mario sure was a golden goose back then, huh? We went wild for anything that bore his likeness, up to and including shampoo!
The print ad is colorful, but I’m not sure that “Mario and the Princess bathe children” would’ve been my first pitch. Still, the artist obviously had fun with this, subtly implying that the shampoo was thick enough to make your head look like a giant sundae.
I love that the shampoo and bubble bath were made by Revlon, which presumably guaranteed some degree of quality. Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, cartoony toiletries were more commonly produced by fly-by-night companies that’d sooner relabel motor oil as “conditioner” than spend the extra five bucks to do it right.
Power Rangers Power Pak!
Fantastic Force #1, November 1994
How adorable is this? For one low price, kids could grab a pile of the cheesiest Power Rangers toys ever made.
Produced by the Oriental Trading Company (duh), the “Power Pak” included everything from a plastic canteen to one of those expanding swords that were normally only sold outside goofy stage shows.
Toss in that gym coach whistle, and not even Oriental Trading was bold enough to suggest that this eclectic mix let kids pretend to be actual Power Rangers. The equipment was more suited to mimicking ramp service agents, which I guess was okay if you loved the Green Ranger and waving sticks at airplanes equally.
Transformers UK #112, May 1997
God, I loved Battle Beasts. Ignoring the robust Japanese origins that people like me didn’t hear about until the internet age, these were simply a bunch of anthropomorphized warrior animals, each dressed like a Stalker from The Running Man.
Each Battle Beast had a rubsign on its chest. These heat-sensitive stickers revealed the characters’ secret team affiliations, similar to how Transformers toys had Autobot-or-Decepticon rubsigns. (Fitting, since both lines were from the same company, and in Japan even shared a universe!)
The teams worked under the same principle as Rock-Paper-Scissors. Wood beat Water because wood floats on water, Fire beat Wood because fire burns wood, and Water beat Fire because water puts out fire. Easy to remember, though as a kid I found wood’s advantage over water to be tenuous at best.
Despite their small size, Battle Beasts figures now fetch high prices, with complete warriors selling for as much as $20 a pop. Sounds too extravagant until you realize that there’s no other way to add a purple mole dressed like the Borg to your toy collection.
Striped Chips Ahoy!
The ‘Nam #11, October 1987
I’ve always preferred Chips Ahoy cookies in their original style, unburdened by sprinkles or M&M’s or alternative flavors. For me, the only time a spinoff came close to beating the originals was when Nabisco made Striped Chips Ahoy.
Those cookies were amazing, and for so many different reasons! For starters, the stark white packaging really popped in the garish cookie aisle, and somehow made Striped Chips Ahoy seem more… I don’t know… mature.
Then came the taste and texture. Each cookie was striped with chocolate, but then the entire backs were also dipped in it. I’ll never forget the flavor of that chocolate, because I’ve never tasted another chocolate quite like it. Picture a Hershey’s bar mixed with hot cocoa mixed with a slight hint of 9V battery.
I used to eat the cookies in sections, biting only as far as the next stripe. I imagined my front teeth as Paul and Vince from Ikari Warriors, and each stripe as an enemy base. I even said as much in my 1988 fan letter to Nabisco. They never wrote back.
Crash Test Dummies!
Star Trek #8, May 1990
As I mentioned on a long-ago episode of The Purple Stuff Podcast, the first PSAs with the Crash Test Dummies were quite a bit darker than the later ones.
I don’t want to overstate the case. The Dummies were adorable and funny, and one of them sounded just like Garfield. Kids latched onto them from the very start. Even so, they managed to spook me more than once.
It had to be dark, it had to be late and I had to be alone. Between the scary voice-over guy and the fact that so many of those PSAs ended with dismembered Crash Test Dummies, watching them seemed much safer in the afternoon. If the shit hit the fan, oh well, it was still light out, and I had Scrooge McDuck to protect me. At night? Whole different story.
I’m not saying that I was actively scared of the PSAs, because of course I wasn’t. Still, whether I was consciously aware of it or not, the grim visuals and haunting voice-over were fully capable of kicking my late night paranoia into high gear. (What was that noise? Why is that shadow moving? OMG, THE CEILING FAN IS ALIVE! IT’S MANHANDLA.)
Bright side: I didn’t have cable in my bedroom, and I watched a lot of bad TV. Sometimes I’d be stuck in one of those weekend ruts when nothing was on television besides horse races and political roundtables. Since the Crash Test Dummies could turn up anywhere at any time, they afforded much needed respites from super shitty programming.
Thank you for reading about old comic book ads. Looking over the Dino Drac archives, it seems like this was my eleventh article on this subject. If you wanna read about old comic book ads ten more times, knock yourselves out: