Since this will obviously just be another of my “random old comic book ad” reviews, there isn’t much point in slaving over a meaningful introduction. Instead, I’ll use this space to tell you about last night’s dream.
I went into a sporting goods store, which I guess was the first clue that this was going to become a nightmare. Indeed, as soon as I stepped inside, I realized that the entire store had been taken over by the goblins of Nilbog, from Troll 2. They’d transformed the place into a mossy Swamp of Death, with puddles of skin-melting slime all over the tile floors.
In that weird way that dreams change without any rhyme or reason, the swamp suddenly vanished, as did Nilbog’s goblins. In their place was a horde of Gremlins. Specifically, the Gremlins from the original movie, not the sequel. The more uniformed and bloodthirsty kind.
If the Troll 2 portion of this nightmare was only a creepy mindfuck, the Gremlins portion was an all-out action movie. These things were AFTER ME. They chased me around the aisles, always grabbing at my feet, until I finally lost them by zipping into a wing of the store that hadn’t been there a moment prior.
It was there that I found an official Craftsman Curved Shaft WeedWacker. Or maybe a generic version of one. Thank God this sporting goods store moonlighted in lawn care!
With my new weapon, I turned the tables. Suddenly, the Gremlins were running from me. Whenever I managed to hit one of them, the WeedWacker’s business end cut through ‘em like butter. I must have killed twenty of the things before I woke up, startled.
I don’t know why I was startled. I was winning!
That was last night’s dream. Lest anyone believe that I made this up and included site-appropriate movie characters for bonus points, fuck you. If I was gonna fabricate, I’d come up with something much more interesting than killing Gremlins with a WeedWacker.
And now, old comic book ads!
7UP Soda-Licious Fruit Snacks!
Silver Surfer #76, January 1993
Soda-Licious fruit snacks were soda-flavored and bottle-shaped, gooey on the insides but with rough sugar coatings. Since soda-flavored candy was never my strong suit, I remember the commercials much more than the snacks, which starred two-dimensional children who literally fattened up by eating packs of Soda-Licious. An interesting conceit for a junk food commercial, if you think about it.
Somewhere along the way, magic happened. Soda-Licious teamed with 7UP for co-branded bits of deliciousness that gave all corresponding promo materials the excuse to be covered in Cool Spot. (The red guy. I guess there was more than one. Cool Spots?)
Arriving in both original and cherry 7UP flavors – complete with distinct bottle colors – the snacks turned skeptics into fanatics, and if you believe the stories, caused Jesus himself to travel to Rob’s Bagel Palace in Birch Tree, Missouri, all for the one thing that kept Heaven from living up to its name.
Look close at the ad. Did they really include Spot-shaped fruit snacks, too? That sounds impossibly cool, but they were pretty clearly hinting at that, no? I need answers. Somebody give them to me.
Ghost Rider/Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance #5, December 1992
Ah, good ol’ Candyman.
It’s a shame that it isn’t more often cited when people talk about “great horror movies” these days. Candyman truly was a great horror movie. It’s been ages since I last saw it, but I remember it being legit scary. There’s a huge difference between “kinda scary” and “legit scary,” and Tony Todd’s turn as the hook-handed, bee-mouthed monster who borrowed from Bloody Mary’s playbook was impressive enough to make me hope he never stops profiting from autograph conventions.
My strongest memories of the film have nothing to do with it. In my neighborhood, Candyman inspired a renewed interest in the Bloody Mary legend, and daring each other to say her name in front a bathroom mirror became THE THING TO DO in my circle of friends.
I never did it. Not all three times, at least. Some of my friends claimed to follow through, and even made up stories about how Bloody Mary appeared in the mirror. (The original nature of the “game” was lost on us. In our version, Bloody Mary was only supposed to replace your reflection and make mean faces.)
Bloody Mary was usually said to be a mutilated corpse, but in certain versions of my friends’ totally true stories, she was just a spooky old lady, dressed like she was Amish.
(“Amish” was our go-to description for any fashion that wasn’t current. You could be dressed like a British judge. We’d still call you “Amish.”)
X-Men Pizza Hut Packs!
Fantastic Four #380, September 1993
People rarely mention Pizza Hut when the subject of great old fast food premiums comes up, but the truth is, they had some nifty promotions. What made Pizza Hut’s deals so sweet was that they usually involved personal pan pizzas in fantastically themed boxes. I know it’s no different from what McDonald’s does with their fry containers, but somehow, it felt BIGGER.
That’s what draws me to this X-Men promotion. I don’t care about the collectors’ cups, or even the free comic books. I just want little pizza boxes with drawings of Jubilee all over them. If that makes me weird, so be it.
I haven’t had one of Pizza Hut’s personal pan pizzas in so long, I’m not even sure that they still make the things. But man, as a kid, no other fast food topped it. They were magnificent. The smaller but still oily crusts tended to burn, morphing into what was essentially fried chicken without the chicken. They were the worst/best things you could ever eat.
PS: I didn’t plan for this, but Storm seems to be controlling my Dino Drac watermark. Apparently, it’s a struggle for her.
The Black Manta Sweepstakes!
Silver Surfer #38, June 1990
This is not the first time I’ve encountered a comic book ad for The Wrath of the Black Manta, and I’ve always been amused by their reliance on that badly-costumed ninja. He was in all of the advertisements. I get that the classic ninja costume isn’t heavy on bells and whistles, but still, it looks like something I could get for 15 bucks at CVS this coming October.
In any event, this is my favorite Black Manta ad of all, because it’s the only one that had that same badly-costumed ninja pushing around a shopping cart filled with toys, money and a small child. I cannot think of many situations that wouldn’t be immensely improved by the arrival of this ensemble.
It was all to promote a contest wherein one winner would go on a $5000 shopping spree, which was the very best type of grand prize anyone even remotely close to my age ever knew. I’m sure the reality wouldn’t have quite matched the fantasy, but the thought of using eighteen wagons to empty my local Toys “R” Us made so many childhood afternoons worth living.
The best part? To enter the contest, you had to call a special number to talk to the Black Manta himself!
Black Manta: Hello, Black Manta speaking. State your business.
Kid: Hey, Manta. Can you tell me how to pronounce “Taito?” Is it “tie-toe,” or is it like the “tay-toe” in “Tato Skins?”
Black Manta: Kid, this 800 number costs a fortune. Just give me your stupid address.
Bonkers Ugly Balls!
X-Factor #17, June 1987
Believe it or not, the best Madball ever wasn’t a Madball at all.
If you read me waaaay back in the X-E era, you should remember Ugly Balls. A completely transparent attempt to steal some glow from AmToy’s Madballs, Ugly Balls were exclusively available through a promotion for — of all things — Bonkers candy.
(You remember Bonkers, right? Looked like Bubblicious, but acted like Swedish Fish? Had commercials featuring old ladies getting nailed in the head with giant strawberries?)
Knockoff Madballs were nothing out of the ordinary, but Nabisco really gave this one their all. The Ugly Ball was as good as any Madball, but considering the obscurity and oddity points, it was even better in many ways. Besides, Madballs didn’t give you the excuse to eat lots of delicious Bonkers.
This comic ad was only the lowest point of the promotion, by the way. Ugly Balls even had their own TV commercial!
If seeing a woman with a giant Ugly Ball head doesn’t warm every piece of your heart, I don’t want you to read Dino Drac anymore.