After flipping through hundreds of yellowed pages that all stank like old glue, I’m now armed with another batch of old comic book ads. When you’re done reading this, go check out the previous editions.
Nightmare on Elm Street Dream Package!
(Pulled from unknown 1988 comic)
Our pal Larry P. snail-mailed this to me, presumably because he knew I’d love it enough to use some archaic Vistaprint template to turn it into a giant poster. Oh my God, it’s the NOES Dream Package!
For 98 bucks, fans got everything pictured: The mask, the hat, the glove, the poster, the book, the board game AND the videotape. As much as I want to make jokes about a late ‘80s comic book ad that banked its success on the notion that thirteen-year-olds could conjure hundred dollar bills out of thin air, this was a good deal.
None of the eight items had less than a $10 retail value, and several were in the $30 range. I’m worldly enough to know that Monarch Avalon wouldn’t have mailed all of that stuff in a single box — it was a rare case when mailing an order in several packages would’ve worked out cheaper — but man, as a kid, I totally would’ve expected everything to come in one giant red and green Freddy Krueger box. That would’ve been the biggest draw for me.
Jolly Rancher Stix!
(G.I. Joe Special Missions #1, October 1986)
I chose this ad because I had a five paragraph plea for the return of Jolly Rancher Stix waiting in my head, but even the barest amount of Googling proves that Jolly Rancher Stix candy is still being made. Wow! If I sound at all bitter in this article, it’s because I feel like one of you should’ve told me.
Dudes, I loved Jolly Rancher Stix. Loved, loved, loved. If you’ve never seen these, picture a bunch of normal rectangular Jolly Rancher candies, resting unwrapped on a table. Now picture some mad miser wandering in, grabbing them, and melting them into what’s best described as “shanks without business ends, or possibly “edible rulers.”
The fruity batons were (and I assume still are) delicious, but they were pretty dangerous, too. As you slowly sucked them down to nothingness, the Stix would invariably gain sharp edges. Sharp enough to make a half-eaten Jolly Rancher Stix double nicely as a letter opener. They were murder on the tongue, but since there was no better salve than a cherry Jolly Rancher, nobody ever stopped eating them.
(And yes, I do realize that this ad has more to do with BMX than Jolly Ranchers, but from the looks on those cyclists’ faces, I think they expected me to ignore them.)
WWF WrestleMania NES Game!
(Cops #9, February 1989)
The WWF WrestleMania Nintendo game has a bad reputation, right? If so, it’s something I’ll never understand. Me and my friends used to play the hell out of this one. It’s clunky by today’s standards, but I think ten-year-olds cared more about just being able to portray Bam Bam Bigelow than seeing him punch with fluidity.
Under most circumstances, I’d only let myself use two of the six wrestlers: Macho Man, because duh, and Andre the Giant, because giant. I don’t think I’ve ever played WWF WrestleMania as an adult — perhaps that’s why I’m able to judge it so rosily — but back in the late ‘80s, I had a blast with it.
The comic book ad is either compositionally terrible or delightfully simplistic, depending on your mood. Since none of you told me about the Jolly Rancher Stix, I’m going with “compositionally terrible.” Look at all of that wasted space! They could’ve fit the whole roster on that page. Instead we just got boring Hulk Hogan, screaming at a floating logo.
On the plus side, the fact that “Hulk screams at floating logo” won out over a dozen better pitches gives hope to the worst of us.
(I never played the VCR version, so someone else can comment on that.)
Prizes or Cash!
(Cheryl Blossom #15, September 1998)
I’m sure I’ve written about these old “Prizes or Cash” ads before, but for the sake of not needing to link to a ten-year-old article loaded with PHP errors, I’ll pretend I haven’t. The Olympic Sales Club — by this point renamed Olympia — was featured in tons of comic ads throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s.
I was a member of the club, and as I recall, it went something like this: Get your family, friends, neighbors and strangers to buy overpriced stationary, and you’d either earn a small amount of money, or “points” towards fabulous prizes. (It should be noted that the prizes were far, far better than anything in the retail catalog, by any and every objective measure.)
Going through so much trouble for a couple of bucks was never going to motivate kids, so I assume that most of us went for the prizes. In my case, after spending one full month as a really irritating salesman, I earned enough points for a electronic bike horn, and some kind of battery-operated light, meant to be affixed to a bike’s handlebars. I just shot an email to the 1988 me, asking why I was so singularly focused on accoutrements for a bike I almost never rode. No word back, yet.
The most famous of these ads came much earlier; this one is from 1998. Tied for Best Possible Prize was a Nintendo 64 and a Sony Playstation, each requiring a ten-year-old to sell an impossible 75 items. If you were able to convince 75 people to buy $30 greeting cards, you were too talented to be wasting time on this bullshit, anyway. The rest of us were realists, happily settling on inflatable furniture and Tasco binoculars.
Jason Takes Manhattan!
(Advanced D&D #9, August 1989)
Gorgeous! One of the most maligned movies in the Friday the 13th series undeniably had some of the best promo art. This same art was featured on the VHS box, which I ranked as the 2nd best in the whole series. (I took a lot of flack about my rankings there, but my only regret is not making Jason Takes Manhattan #1.)
As many of you know, Jason Takes Manhattan was really Jason Takes Manhattan For Fifteen Minutes. It was as if they had a budget large enough to shoot a music video in New York City, but since Jason couldn’t sing or play any instruments, they had to somehow stretch things into a movie. A more accurate subtitle for Friday the 13th Part VIII would’ve been Jason Takes a Boat.
Many fans have softened their stances in recent years, now accepting Jason Takes Manhattan as pure dumb fun. I’m with them. It’s sleazier than usual, stupider than usual, and the finale involves Jason Voorhees morphing into a small child by way of toxic waste… which regularly floods the NYC sewer system with ten foot waves, because holy shit.
I mean, if you can’t go into the seventh sequel in a low budget slasher series hoping for some nonsense to embrace, you probably shouldn’t watch it at all.
Thank you for reading about old comic book ads. Now go watch the new Star Wars teaser. It’s a crowd-pleaser.