You can read the last installment of “Ad Nauseam” here.
The Toxic Avenger No. 3-June 1991
The 80’s and 90’s were an interesting time in American pop culture. It seemed like nearly every license (no matter how grossly inappropriate) was marketed to children in some form. R rated films like Robocop and Rambo had popular action figure lines, video games, and cartoons. Freddy Krueger had his own bubble gum. And I swear The Terminator was a step away from his own breakfast cereal (Cinnamon Furlongs).
Take our current subject: The Toxic Avenger. A janitorial nerd turned toxic superhero, the film was a crude, violent, and campy trip released in 1984 by (now infamous) shlock movie producer Troma Entertainment. It led to a franchise of movies, video games, toys, even a musical! Not too shabby being based off a B-movie that climaxed in a taco joint.
Toxie also starred in his own comic book series published under Marvel. Which brings us to The Toxic Avenger No. 3: Night of the Hardbodies! Published in 1991, Toxic Avenger was standing on his last radioactive leg of relevance. His prior success of meta-camp had run its course and while Toxie was “kiddfied” for his Toxic Crusaders animated series and comic, kids didn’t care for teenage mutant non-ninja people. Especially when they looked like Hulk Hogan fused with a stale green pepper.
But it’s whats on the inside that counts, right? And in our case it’s A D V E R T I S M E N T S.
So join me and this June 1991 issue of The Toxic Avenger (supplied by The Graveyard Machine ) as we crack open yet another “captivating” comic to casually stroll through a cacophony of capitalism captured in time! Thank Christ for Thesauruses.
Battletoads for the NES
Battletoads was great. Battletoads was hard. I love Battletoads. I hate Battletoads. Released for the NES in 1991, Battletoads was a game that positively reeked of ‘tude and being rad, man. As evidenced in this single paged ad, they knock the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and went on to declare that their game “TOADALLY KICKS BUTT!”. A bold move, yet Battletoads backed it up. This was a regular rent for me at Lion Video and when they had to make room for the Super Nintendo games, I was able to purchase the used copy of Battletoads I had rented so many times before.
Even though it had a stellar and popular game series (even a crossover with Double Dragon!) a pilot for an animated series was made in 1992 but never picked up by a network. The backstory for the game is oddly complex (lab techs made a Battletoads game, got sucked in by evil game developer, became the Battletoads to fight an evil queen) but the animated show took a much simpler approach in a way roided out frogs punching in outerspace only could. Perhaps a network didn’t want to bank on something that seemed so similar to TMNT, perhaps Street Sharks and Extreme Dinosaurs were simply better (how?), perhaps their names being RASH, PIMPLE, and ZITZ wasn’t endearing enough to executives.
I do not have these answers. But when it comes to the journey of the Battletoads I think we can all agree on one thing: They had the best pause music ever put in a game.
Disney’s The Rocketeer
In the summer of ’91 Disney released The Rocketeer based on Dan Steven’s nostalgic comic series. Since then its become a bit of a cult classic, and if you were outside at all in the Spring-Summer of 1991 you seen this beautiful art deco poster. The visual marketing for The Rocketeer was nothing short of artful. Posters like the one pictured were paraded on bus shelters, movie theaters, and billboards. It harkened back to suggest a “classier” time of marketing as the poster is not only alluring but could be displayed even if you didn’t care for the film its representing.
As for the film itself? It was okay. I wanted to love it. But I only liked it. Personally speaking, making a film with the flavor of Indiana Jones meets Iron Man sounds like a match made in heaven. Throw in Jennifer Connelly at her peak major babe-ness and a restaurant shaped like a giant Bulldog and what’s there not to like? Well, a decent amount unfortunately. The pacing was bad if I remember.
Disney fully embraced The Rocketeer for that summer. His helmet and jetpack adorned candy, comics, posters, and toys. He even flew into the sky for Disney’s MGM Studios fireworks show! But the film brought in a $6 million profit leading to future plans for The Rocketeer being cut short. Fans could still find little nods to the film in the current Disney Studios theme park but it’s simply not the same. If there’s a property to be rebooted, I’d go all in on The Rocketeer.
Exclusive Marvel Comics T-shirts
I can get myself a Groot shirt in 15 minutes. Yoda? Even less time. I’m not talking about clicking some buttons either. I can get in my car and drive 10 minutes to a Walmart, Target, Kohl’s etc and have a variable selection of nerd shirts for my purchasing needs. In Adult sizes mind you.
It wasn’t always like that.
If you wanted a Darth Vader shirt you had to order one through a Star Wars catalogue. If you wanted The Hulk you had to thumb through new issues, hope they had a design you liked, and fill out the order form. Then in 6-8 weeks you’d get your shirt in the mail. Maybe you had a local comic book store that carried some apparel. That was always a plus. You want a character like The Vision or Black Panther on a shirt? Good luck with that, buddy boy.
There was no insanely profitable Marvel Cinematic Universe or marginally profitable DC Red Headed Step Child Universe. Comics and superheroes were for kids. And besides a Batman or Superman logo on a shirt, nerdy apparel like that was limited especially for adults. Sometimes I have to step back and be grateful. I own a friggen Monster Squad shirt. How would you even begin to go about that in 1991?
So which one of the designs in this ad would you go for? Personally I’d be all over Silver Surfer. He was always a favorite of mine.
So when Spidey tells me to order a t-shirt, I order one. Spidey knows.
3 Musketeers Candy Bar
I always enjoyed when ads in comic books were also short comic books. It’s like a Big Mac interrupting your Whopper for a couple bites. Whatever, you know? I remember M&Ms, Crest Toothpaste, and various cereal mascots stepping into the titular adventure to direct my attention to whatever little BS they were doing. Werewolf By Night was just impaled with an ancient sword by Morbius The Living Vampire but, hold up, Toucan Sam’s gotta open this treasure chest on a pirate ship. Oh, it’s Fruit Loops? Because of course it is.
In the ad pictured we have NOT Indiana Jones discovering a lost Mayan tomb which houses a (historically accurate) giant 3 Musketeers candy bar. I’m not sure if you noticed but it says, “No. 5 in a series” and it really makes me wonder if there’s people out there who collect these ads. Or if there was a kid that was all, “Damn, I missed No. 4!”.
SleepWalker Comic Series
This one really caught my eye. Mostly because I assumed this was a spinoff in which Newt Gunray cosplayed as Skeletor. I have never heard of Sleepwalker but I was intrigued none the less. 27 years later and this ad still works. This character debuted in his own series which ran from June 1991 to February 1994.
So Sleepwalker is actually his race. He exists in The Mindscape. And essentially they’re the dream police. Please listen to the Cheap Trick song when finishing the rest of this article. Sleepwalker was tricked by a foe and mind-bonded with a New York college student and it created an excellent premise for a situational comedy on NBC. So the student goes to sleep and Sleepwalker takes over and fights crime.
That sounds pretty awesome. Cooler than when I sleepwalk but instead of fighting crime I put bananas in the dishwasher. Unfortunately, Sleepwalker doesn’t make many appearances outside of his 33 issues from 1991-1994. So if you’re reading this, that means this can be the character that you could latch onto and form a really underground hipster opinion of. I’m telling you, jump on that Sleepwalker train to coolsville. I did it with Dreadstar and I’m pretty cool (?). I’m spending way too much time typing about old comic ads that nobody will read. Ice cold cool.
I’ll also throw out some names of 90’s superheroes because there’s space on my website: DARKHAWK, TERROR INC., QUASAR, NIGHT THRASHER, NAMORITA.
So many foil covers.
So that about covers the tantalizing toxic tidbits of what you’d find being advertised in The Toxic Avenger No. 3: Night of the Hardbodies! Thanks for reading my dumpster thoughts about garbage ads found in a 27 year old comic book. I’ll be back with another installment of Ad Nauseam in the future about things in the past. I’m sorry you wasted your time.