Okay, number one, click this thing:
And number two: Did you land here from a search engine? THEN READ PAGE 1 FIRST. DON’T NOT LISTEN.
“Personalized” G.I. Joe Figure!
Captain Atom #14, April 1988
This made mountains out of molehills in all the best ways. See that action figure on the lower-right? He was code-named Steel Brigade, but he was actually meant to represent YOU. You’d fill out the way-too-long form, and when Steel Brigade came in the mail, you got a personalized bio sheet along with him.
Come to think of it, since you could give the figure your own code name (even something like “Shitta Shitta Pumpkin Pitta”), I’m not sure that it’s entirely accurate to call him “Steel Brigade.” But everyone else does, so I guess I’m safe. The point is, you got an action figure with beige pants and a teal shirt, and it was supposed to be YOU.
G.I. Joe had tons of great mail-away exclusives like that. Maybe more than any other line of its time. (For example, you could originally only get the “hooded” Cobra Commander by mail. I didn’t know that at the time, and spent my childhood years tearing apart the racks at every toy store in town. Ultimately, I just pretended that a normal Cobra Soldier was “Cobra Commander unmasked.” Or maybe I didn’t. Is it even possible to remember things from when you were three? If not, there’s a bright side: I now write fiction.
NBC Super Star Saturday!
The Legion of Super-Heroes #282, December 1981
I was too young in ’81 (rhymed) to have many special relationships with these particular cartoons, but over the years, lots of networks made lots of comic book ads just like this, promoting their Saturday morning lineups. I’m very familiar with the concept, and it was always a thrill to see characters from different shows share one universe for the sake of ratings.
From time to time, certain networks still try to “make something” of their Saturday morning lineups, but it’s mostly as a lark. A kid’s world in 2013 will never revolve around Saturday morning television in the way it did back then. I’d pity today’s kids for missing out, but when I see my nieces and nephews simultaneously watch five different shows on just as many devices, it’s hard not to think that they traded up.
Also of note: Cross-eyed Gargamel with Bootleg Azrael. Huh?
Reese’s Pieces Alien!
Alpha Flight #26, September 1985
YES. The Reese’s Pieces alien! I covered him many times on X-E, but the statute of limitations has certainly passed. I am once again free to gush about this BEAUTIFUL CREATURE, sent from space to do everything E.T. did, for a fraction of the cost.
The monster appeared in many comic book ads, always with a different alien saying above his head. Most memorable was “Etagramulfabetz,” which loosely translated to “this tastes good.” In this rarer version, we learn how to praise orange Reese’s Pieces in space talk. Finally.
Even better were the television commercials, which gave us this crazy alien in live action. Hershey’s did a lot with the character, but it wasn’t enough. This guy should’ve had his own series, or movie, or at least a spinoff brand of Reese’s Pieces, where the candy shells alternated between sky blue and speckled black.
The New Warriors #36, June 1993
Brach’s Rocks did everything right. Everything. The snacks really did look like rocks. It’s not like they took normal raisin-shaped fruit snacks and said, “Hey, these are rocks.” I don’t know what wizardry went into their production, but Brach’s Rocks had beautiful marbleized shells, with gooey centers that looked, on a stretch, like troves of shiny jewels. For lack of a better term, it just worked.
The snacks also looked mildly prehistoric, and thus it made sense that their mascot was a kickass dinosaur, who wore sunglasses, and a varsity jacket, and possibly drove a pink Cadillac.
I don’t know if they were successful in stealing money from Fun Fruits or Fruit Wrinkles, but man, Brach’s tried. They tried hard. I set myself up for a rock joke there, but I dunno. It feels like a trap.
Oh, and for anyone who uses Tumblr: If you steal that image and crop it down to only the third panel, I bet you’d get a bazillion notes and reblogs.
UPDATE: I did it myself. Frig you, it was my idea.
Sears Nintendo Ad!
G.I. Joe Special Missions #26, October 1989
We’re finally up to the last ad. Thank God. It’s weirdly exhausting to write about old comic book ads. Perhaps more than three hours sleep was in order. I’m trying to get by with lots of coffee, but you know how it is when you pile tons of coffee on top of no sleep. All it does is make your esophageal tube feel like it’s been invaded by hot ashy tar.
This looks like a page straight out of the Sears Wish Book, and for all I know, it may have been. It doesn’t seem too interesting if you only give it a quick glance, but once you notice Bowser and those Koopas, holy moly:
No, Bowser doesn’t usually look like this. At all. The head is completely off, changing Bowser’s kisser from a sort of gargoyle/bulldog hybrid to something more akin to the kind of dragon an aloof second grader draws when his teacher tells him to make a circle.
The Koopas are also different, this time presented as actual birds with turtle bodies. For my money, they’re a lot cooler that way. Like Wuzzles with a purpose. (Others argue that they’re just white-headed turtles. We can agree to disagree.)
I asked some Super Mario nuts about this last night. Weird/incorrect art was not unfamiliar territory for Mario, or really video game characters at large. The Koopas, in particular, had been seen in “bird form” before.
Still, everyone agreed that this was a pretty amazing Bowser. I’m very proud to have put him online. And I will stay proud until someone chimes in with the inevitable “yah dude he’s drawn the exact same way in the fucking game manual.” After that, I’ll spend two days hiding under a blanket, with a box of Saltines.
I need a good ender.