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Official Article

Retro Comic Book Ads Part 1


I buy a lot of quarter bin comics these days. It's not that I'm cheap (OK, maybe a little), it's more that these piles of "worthless" comics are the true time capsules of decades old pop culture. The 30 year old storyline in issues of X-Men, SuperPro or Double Dragon may have aroused some interest, but for me it's the ads that give the pages their value. So today, here's 5 Retro Comic Book Ads to get your memory mojo going.

Freedom Stick, 1988 

No, it's not proper name for the wooden dowels that hold those little American flags at 4th of July parades, it's a knock-off video game controller in the style of the Nintendo Entertainment System Advantage model. You know, the kind Ray Stantz used to control the Statue of Liberty in Ghostbusters II? Wait a minute, Freedom Stick? Lady Liberty? I think we now know where Ramis and Aykroyd got the inspiration for the climax of their 1989 film. 


Anyway, what really strikes me is the claim that it is also compatible with Sega, Atari and Commodore game systems, plus it was wireless! If you had one of these babies, you were all set to munch on some Nabisco Giggles cookies, play Pac-Man over multiple systems and never leave the house again. Did anybody out there ever start "playing with power" using the Freedom Stick?


Personalized G.I. Joe Figure, 1988

Did you ever want to join the G.I. Joe team? In 1988, anything was posssible. This one really takes me back, as I used to pour over this ad in the back of an ALF comic I read endlessly. As a 6 year old I so badly wanted to send in my "enlistment form" and choose a code name like "RunGun" then have my personalized figure get the best of Snake Eyes or Quick Kick during weekly Joe adventures with my friend, Erik. Plus they sent you a custom profile card and Steel Brigade patch. Yo Joe!


To accomplish the dream, Hasbro had you fill-out a slightly sexist personality test with questions like "G.I. Joe Team members consider you to be A) A good friend to all, always there when someone needs a hand. B) The type of man that inspires respect. C) An offbeat combination of military skills and artistic talent (this would have been choice). D) A maverick: No one can keep up with you for long." I never got around to sending in the form, but the concept still fascinates me. What would be your Joe code name?

Child World/Children's Place Video Game Ad, 1990

Just look at those game console prices. I think it's hilarious that SEGA said, "Hey, we have double the bits, so we'll just double the price". This is a very interesting moment prior to the Console Wars of the 90's. At this point the NES was 5 years old and outdated, with the Super NES just around the corner. 


You'll also notice that this ad predates Sonic the Hedgehog, who wouldn't appear as the SEGA mascot for another 12 months. More interesting though is that I've never even heard of Child World/Children's Place. have you? Apparently they tried to give Toys R' Us a run for their money in the late 80's and were out of business by 1992 due to over-expansion. Lesson learned? Don't mess with Geoffrey.

Capri Sun, 1991

For me, Capri Sun was always the forbidden elixir that I never got to enjoy, mainly because of it's questionable relation to any natural fruits (despite the claims on the label). As you can imagine, nutrition was not my main concern in elementary school and the shiny silver juice pouch was way more appealing than the bland Minute Maid juice box I found next to my tuna fish sandwich every day. 


This ad is from 1991 and introducing Pacific Cooler as a flavor, which shocks me, because I thought that Pacific Cooler was the original Capri Sun flavor. Still, you gotta love those blocky graphics and the link to "exotic" Southern California beach culture. Here's the real question: were your fingers nimble enough to insert the straw correctly or did you just "flip n' stick" from the bottom?

Home Alone VHS Offer, 1991

As the ad states proudly, Home Alone was the highest grossing comedy film of all time and Macaulay Culkin was basically a national hero. I owned this VHS (still do), but the $5 Pepsi rebate and American Airlines discount offer really didn't appeal to me, it was all about the free "Burglar Trap" poster. What kid didn't want a diagram of the McAllister's home to base their own deadly obstacle course on? 


It was basically like Where's Waldo with blow torches and firecrackers. I recall the prize being available through Blockbuster Video stores, but this ad mentions nothing about participating retailers, so it must have been a non-exclusive deal. When I got my own copy of the poster, I remember being disappointed at how small it was, as I was expecting full on movie poster dimensions. Just one of many promotional item disappointments, but that's a story for another time.


Speaking of Home Alone, my friends and I over at the SequelQuest podcast just celebrated the holiday season by imagining a 3rd film in the continuing saga of Macaulay Culkin's Kevin McCallister. Click Here to listen now and get in on the wacky hijinks.

I hope you have enjoyed this look back at these old school comic book ads from the 80s and 90s. How many of them did you remember and which items did you personally experience?
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massreality Posted on Feb 10, 2017 at 01:08 PM

Comic book ads were the best! I always loved the super cheesy ones like X-Ray goggles and prank cans of nuts.

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