The Comic Book Ads Strike Back!

It’s been many moons — too many moons — since my last tribute to ‘80s and ‘90s comic book ads. Even during the drought, they’ve remained the only reason that I continually buy bundles of old comics.

It’s always been that way. As a tween, when I spent every weekend clocking in as many comic shop hours as possible, old advertisements are what kept me interested in those fifty cent bins full of unloved titles. I couldn’t tell you a thing about Dazzler, but I practically owned her whole series.

Back then, the ads in those comics helped me remember things that I was otherwise never prompted to think about. It’s even more true today. Try skimming through a stack of comics from your childhood years. The ads are a hit parade of everything you played, played with, ate, drank, bought, wanted, loved or hated. It’s awesome.

Below: Another six comic book ads from the ‘80s and ‘90s, starring Ash, Mario and the Silver Surfer. Enjoy!


CBS Saturday Morning Preview!
(The Transformers #8, September 1985)

Throughout the ‘80s and into the ’90s, television networks routinely advertised their Saturday morning fall lineups in comic books. Saturday morning television meant everything back then, and learning the various network lineups really revved us up.

This particular ad promoted CBS’s 1985 schedule, which notably included the debut of Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling, starring many of the time’s hottest WWF superstars. If I’m being honest, I thought the show was weirdly boring back then, and couldn’t understand how an animated version of Mr. Fuji wasn’t the greatest thing ever.


Army of Darkness!
(Morbius Revisted #7, March 1993)

When I was in high school, Army of Darkness was passed around like the outcast’s bible. This was several years after the film’s theatrical run, but not so long after that it was considered particularly “old.”

It seemed like we all had dramatic introductions to Army of Darkness, and in turn, each of us created a dramatic introduction for someone else. It wasn’t merely a “suggested” movie. The person who told you about Army of Darkness made sure to watch it with you, and made sure you understood that Ash was the coolest mofo in town. You’d absorb the intricacies, and then pass ‘em along to someone else. Watching that movie was like the initiation to some fringy cool club.

(It was great!)


Clearasil Pads!
(Avengers #307, September 1989)

They’ve been around for too many decades for me to doubt their usefulness, but man, I hated pimple pads. I only ever used them during junior high, when zits were practically targets, and when going to school with one was akin to going to school wearing a head-to-toe clown suit.

(Funny thing was, the companies who made the pads were largely responsible for the pimple’s reputation. Look up some of the older commercials. The actors would treat their makeup zits like fucking Kuato was growing out of their faces.)

The pads may have been helpful in the long run, but I mostly remember them as the things that made zits extra shiny and noticeable. Suddenly my forehead resembled waxed fruit. Of course the other kids were gonna look at it. Of course it would be a topic of discussion.


Castlevania III Contest!
(The New Warriors #9, March 1991)

As cool as the art is, I’m only including this for the fine print. To promote Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, Konami whipped up a sweepstakes that (presumably) sent one lucky winner on an all-expenses paid trip to Transylvania.

It took two seconds of Googling to confirm that there are sweet ass resorts all over Transylvania, but the me-of-1991 would’ve taken this to mean that the winner was actually gonna sleep on the cold grey bricks of Dracula’s castle. Like some undead chauffeur would drop me off at the ten foot door and then speed away in his Munsters car. I so want to have that experience, even now.


Nintendo Cereal System!
(Avengers #307, September 1989)

I’ve covered Nintendo Cereal System before, but this ad was too neat to leave out. (I especially love how the writer obviously struggled to give Link a Link-appropriate line.)

Nintendo Cereal System was doubtlessly the coolest cereal of my childhood. It’s not even a close race. Even the legendary Batman movie cereal would be a very distant second. There were tastier cereals for sure, but nothing gave you schoolyard bragging rights quite like fruity Goombas.

It’s amazing that Ralston put so much into it. In 1988, the simple inclusion of the word “Nintendo” was enough of a hard sell. I’m not sure I could name another tie-in cereal that handled its property so perfectly and so thoroughly.


Bronto Bright Fruity Pebbles!
(Heroes for Hire #3, September 1997)

I admit it, I’m a sucker for cereals that just brighten their artificial colors and call it a “special edition.” In this case, Post Fruity Pebbles was temporarily boosted with “Bronto Bright” colors, which were in fact so blazing that no less than Fred Flintstone had to wear special glasses just to be in their presence.

Question: What happened after the promotion ran its course? Did Post just go back to duller colors? That seems weird. “Temporarily new and improved!”


Silver Surfer Hi-Score Contest!
(The New Warriors #9, March 1991)

This was even stranger than Konami sending kids to Dracula’s castle. To promote the Silver Surfer Nintendo game, one high-scorer had the chance to win a goddamned Silver Surfer jet ski. A literal jet ski, painted up with a Silver Surfer theme.

Okay, what? Of all the extravagant prizes to invest in, why that? I’m not saying it wasn’t cool, because I’d never say that a jet ski with the Silver Surfer painted on it isn’t cool. But wasn’t that sort of… limiting? Certainly among the game’s many fans were a number that had no access to bodies of water suitable for jet skiing. Certainly among the game’s many fans were a number that had no room for jet skis, period.

Why this, of all things?

I barely remember the game. Were jet skis part of it? It seems so odd that they wouldn’t just give out ordinary surfboards. Not everyone could’ve used those either, but at least it’s theoretically possible to treat a surfboard like some decorative trophy.

In closing, if that jet ski ever turns up at one of my flea market haunts, I’m buying the shit out of it, and maybe using it as a terrible recliner.

PS: My latest Star Wars piece is now live. If you loved The Force Awakens, here are some newly-released books that you absolutely have to buy. (I’m serious. They’re fantastic.)