As mentioned in my previous post, I bought a pile of cheap comics books from the ‘80s and ‘90s specifically for the old advertisements, which never fail to remind me of a time when the stupidest stuff meant everything.
So, pulled from the pages of otherwise unremarkable issues of Excalibur and Doom Patrol, here are five ads that I’d love to get framed:
Marvel Universe Trading Cards: Series II!
Excalibur #40, August 1991
Thinking back to my ‘90s obsessions, few hit harder than Marvel Universe trading cards. It started with the first series but peaked with the second one, featured in this ad.
The special hologram cards from the first series stayed valuable for a long time, so I’m sure I wasn’t the only kid who “doubled my efforts” during Round 2… which of course featured more special hologram cards. Those things were as good as money at the time, and you could trade them for just about anything. (I remember “renting” my best friend’s Nintendo games for a week, for the cost of one hologram card per game.)
Pretty much everyone I ran with had multiple complete sets of the 2nd series. We’d use the standard baseball card binders to hold them, stuffing our doubles into the individual pockets until they could stand no more.
A neat byproduct of that was how much random Marvel trivia we picked up. I’ve never considered myself a comic “expert,” but those cards worked like CliffsNotes. You’d learn not only about the primary characters, but also about their primary feuds, as well as all of the big crossover events that happened before you were paying attention. If you studied the card-backs long enough, you could survive a conversation with true aficionados.
Doom Patrol #61, November 1992
I was a pretty devoted comic collector in the early ‘90s, thanks mainly to that decade’s lean on “special edition” covers that made inherent hoarders like me go berserk.
Paging through that era’s books again, I’m reminded of how prolific horror movie ads used to be. Moreover, as someone who was intrigued by the genre but still only dabbling in it, I’m reminded of how much I loved seeing those ads.
The horror movie sections in video stores were my baby steps of the ‘80s, and I’m only now realizing that comic book ads were my baby steps of the ‘90s. Of course, the difference with the latter was that I’d finally become old and “brave” enough to watch those movies.
I never did get around to Dr. Giggles, though. Weird, considering how much I loved Larry Drake as a severed finger collector in Darkman. Guess I know what I’m watching tonight!
Pineapple Sticker Club!
Everything’s Archie #119, September 1985
Oh man, I loved the Pineapple Sticker Club. If you aren’t familiar, Pineapple was like a gender-neutral Lisa Frank, where the only prerequisite was that you enjoyed goofy stickers.
Pineapple’s advertisements were always fetching, somehow blending the best elements from a book club order form and the cocktail menu of a Polynesian restaurant. By the time you realized that you had no use for smiling carrot stickers, your mother’s check was already in the mail.
Even by 1985 standards, getting this much crap for four bucks was a steal. I was especially fond of Pineapple’s “Neon Laces,” which functioned poorly as shoelaces but worked wonderfully as surrogate Leon Neon toys.
Receiving a package from Pineapple was so boss. They shoved everything into thin envelopes that were bumpy as hell from all of the weird things inside, and simply handling those envelopes was really the best part of the experience. (As was typical for me, I refused to toss the envelopes, considering them part of the ensemble.)
G.I. Joe Nintendo Game!
Excalibur #37, May 1991
I remember so little of the G.I. Joe Nintendo game that I’m tempted to say that I’ve never played it. Even so, I had to include this ad, because the rare glimpse of a “real life” Cobra Commander is simply amazing. Even if it’s probably just a doll. (I believe that same photo was used in some non-Nintendo Joe ads, too.)
In the cartoon, Cobra Commander’s hood fit impossibly well. Any attempt to replicate the effect using a pillowcase and scissors made me wonder how he did it. Seeing this ad takes away the pain, because that guy’s hood is just as ill-fitting as my bootleg versions were. Hell, I’m not even sure that he used better materials. Isn’t that just a dinner napkin?
Regardless, I will always prefer “hooded” Cobra Commander to “faceplate” Cobra Commander. To me, there’s no contest.
Spider-Man Vs. The Sogmaster!
The Transformers #25, February 1987
This is a weird one! In early 1987, Cap’n Crunch embarked on another epic adventure — the kind that required episodic television commercials and specially marked boxes. This time, it was the “Free the Cap’n” sweepstakes, where kids vied for their part of a million dollar prize by trying to save Cap’n Crunch from a milk-obsessed robot.
Spider-Man had nothing to do with the TV promotion, so working him into the comic book ads was a needless but still super appreciated expense. I hope the knowledge that Spider-Man canonically battled Sogmaster warms your heart as much as mine.
Now, if you were alive and eating cereal in 1985, you may remember this promotion as the one that gave boxes of Cap’n Crunch a temporary redesign, where our hero was barely visible within a red brick prison. Which reminds me of a funny story:
In elementary school — let’s say second grade — our class was visited by a nutritionist. He was there to tell us why sugar was bad and why vegetables rocked. He was also a big fan of visual aids. Showing off various older boxes of Cap’n Crunch, he ended on the “bricked in” version from this sweepstakes, and insinuated that the good Cap’n had become too embarrassed by his increasing rotundness to want to show face. The moral? Don’t eat shit cereal. Nobody listened, and actually, I really hated that guy for misrepresenting cereal box imagery.
Thanks for reading! I have around a hundred other comic book ads clipped for future use, so on the next rainy day, I’ll show you another batch.