Ad Nauseam: Toxic Avenger #3

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.

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Guide To Your Halfshell Hero

InstaDon
Time spent: Around 6 hours. But I can spend all day with the Ninja Turtles.

Took an idea I had of a Mega Man Blueprint piece I sold a couple years back and applied it to my favorite sewer dwelling teenage pizza eaters. You can now get a print of this at my store! If I ever have the energy (or time most likely) I’d love to do this for each brother! And judging from my last 3 pieces “puke green” as a background is a trend.

Stamp of Greatness

Ad Nauseam: Bishop #3

When I read comics as a kid, I always wanted fewer ads so I could have more story. I didn’t care about a two page spread for grape soda since it was butting into Hulk’s smashing.

Yet now, as an adult, I thumb through my old back issues exclusively looking for ads. Perhaps to nip a little nostalgic taste to a simpler time. 9-year-old me may have scoffed at a redundant ad for Super Wrestlemania, yet 20 years later I look for details and analyze it far more than anyone should.

Tonight we delve into Marvel’s Bishop #3.

Released February 1995 as part of a X-men Limited Series.

Bishop is a time traveling mutant police officer that joins the X-Men and has a hard time not killing everything. I bought this comic back in February 1995 at JJ Peppers because Bishop seduced me with his lenticular scarf and logo. Such is life.  

Okay. Now let’s look at old advertisements together!

Street Fighter The Movie: Released December 1994

By simply opening the comic you are righteously hadouken’d by a full page ad for the Street Fighter movie. And it’s clear right off the bat that this book desperately wants you to know it’s 1995. If you don’t know anything about Street Fighter this poster makes everything abundantly clear: Jean-Claude Van Damme has to fight Raul Julia on his Dr. Robotnik flying cart all inside of an Alienware computer tower surrounded by onlookers composing of early nineties professional wrestlers.

Though this movie is famously ragged on by both fans of the Street Fighter franchise and people with at least one of their facial extremities, I happen to enjoy this film for what it is. After all, it is based on an arcade game where you can have a flame spitting rubber Gandhi face an anthropomorphic bottle of Gatorade. In what other game can you get bonus points by having a sumo wrestler punch a car into a metal dump heap?

Perhaps I’m being lenient because I simply enjoy images consisting of an overbearing composition of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s face. But when it comes to the Street Fighter movie only one thing is abundantly clear to me: M. Bison’s wardrobe gets an opening credit.

Seriously check that out.

Maximum Carnage For the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis

Oh shoot. Things just got pretty real pretty quick. You’re just a few pages into Bishop’s new flippin’ mutant adventure and you’ve already come face to face with Carnage.

So, for those who don’t know, Carnage is a Spider-man villain. And at this time he was at the height of his popularity (just 3 years after his first appearance).  What’s made him so enticing to comic fans was that he was essentially an NC-17 horror character existing in a PG-13 world. Imagine merging Charles Manson with a Xenomorph. That’s Carnage, baby.

This ad in particular was for a video game based on his first story arc: Maximum Carnage. It was a side scrolling beat ‘em up that directly lifted panels from the comic in 16 bit form to progress the story. The biggest draw of the game was that you had the option to play as Spider-man or Venom(who was Wolverine anti hero levels of popular in the 90s). Not to mention you could unlock superhero assistance from Captain America or Cloak & Dagger to clear the screen of thugs for you.

This game was a pretty big deal. From the print ads such as this to the creepy vague commercial  and bright red game cartridge, it made a point to separate itself from the dregs of previous comic book inspired games. Plus it was really good. I remember renting this game numerous times from my local Blockbuster and playing it until my fingers were raw hot dogs.

Also let’s not confuse Maximum Carnage with Total Carnage when you’re 14 and at the register of a Music Recyclery. Because there’s nothing nearly as disappointing. No hyperbole here.   

I also love the secret tip given in the lower right corner of the page. I miss when gaming was like this.

Wolverine: Adamantium Rage released for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, Bub.

I don’t miss when gaming was like this.  

Remember how I mentioned that Maximum Carnage separated itself from the dregs of previous comic book inspired games? Well, hey, here’s one of the dregs I was talking about. Wolverine: Adamantium Rage followed everyone’s favorite uber violent Canuck and not-yet-Hugh-Jackman’ed mutant as he slices and dices his way through monotonous and lackluster gameplay. If I had a dime for every minute spent wandering around some mad laboratory blasting rejected 16 bit covers of Kriss Kross I’d have, like, enough dimes to buy Wolverine: Adamantium Rage.

No, seriously, give this a listen.

The ad itself is eye catching and completely enticing. That (now) classic image of Wolverine in pure berserker mode surrounded by squares showcasing such memorable Wolverine foes like: Soldier-on-fire, Silver Wolfman, little boy and Baraka in sunglasses! Plus check out those screenshot descriptions.

Wolverine battles the demon within.

Wow. Is there a level of self loathing and regret in the Wolverine video game?! Like, totally EXISTENTIAL dudes!

Frank Miller’s run in the early 80’s solidified Wolverine as a true comic celebrity. And for a guy who runs around in bright yellow spandex, he’s quite the brooding tormented soul. Which is why it was such a letdown playing this game. It wasn’t unplayable or even especially bad. It was just so mundane and uninspired, which made it completely undeserving of the Wolverine character at the time.

I always loved how some comics cut the crap and catered to their stereotypical demographic: You’re reading comics instead of doing your homework you pimply little spice weasel you.

Enter Cliffs Notes and Clearasil.

Man, if I ever wrote a book about my high school years that’s the title.

Fun fact: Writing this made me realize it’s “Cliffs Notes” with an “s”. I’ve been calling it “Cliff Notes” forever. I guess reading can pay off. This little ad has an offer for the “Cliffs Edge” to receive free study tips and a free newsletter. So Cliffs Notes to Cliff Notes I suppose. Did you know George Lucas has a large library of these little Cliffs Note books? I don’t know what to make of that exactly.

The clearasil ad is interesting. This particular kid pictured has a giant exclamation point in the place of his head made up of how awful getting acne is. I can’t disagree with that. Acne shoots your confidence right in it’s heart. And you know what? Clearasil does nothing. It makes your face feel sticky and smelly. But you can always stick your face into some Cliffs Notes to hide I guess.

Premiere Edition Fleer Ultra Skeleton Warriors Trading Cards. With a name like that I imagine trading these on a red carpet with a glass of champagne in hand.

Oh my. Skeleton Warriors. Boy, what the heck was this about?

Skeleton Warriors was popular for about a hot second. It had a cartoon, comic series, video game, and a toy line. Compared to the detail and articulation of our current offerings like Ninja Turtles or Power Rangers, Skeleton Warriors were on another level. Another skeletal level. I begged my grandpa for DR. CYBORN one morning during a quick trip to Walgreens. What kid would turn him down? He looked like a Terminator merged with the rotting corpse of Count Dracula! Plus he’s the CYBER SCIENTIST OF THE SKELETON LEGION I JUST LOOKED THAT UP RIGHT NOW!

Judging from the intro of the cartoon show all skeletons are evil (dang) and a group of humans ride neon speeder bikes to battle them. Lightstar is the leader and there’s also a Mr. Sinister looking guy who’s dressed as a skeleton but a good guy? Does he dress as a skeleton to mock them? My favorite aspect has to be the overlaying guitars practically screaming to viewers to please not think of He-Man. Good to hear Dokken’s getting work.

The last line of the title theme is, “They’re bad to the bone!”. You damn right that’s the last line. Because it better be.

The cartoon only lasted 13 episodes. I nor anybody I knew actually watched it. Yet those toys were smuggled in during recess throughout the school year. And Dr. Cyborn got plenty of play throughout my toy career. He went on to battle such greats as Aero Strike Batman and T-Rex hand puppet.

This ad in particular is promoting the “Fleer Ultra Skeleton Warriors Trading Card Line”. And if you can say that ten times fast you are blessed. It pictures Prince Lightstar who is now a prince and wearing a completely unpractical costume. Never did I think “big sharp horns protruding upwards out of your nipples” would be a weapon I would need during the mighty skeleton war. I dig the Skeletor color scheme. Not sure if that was intentional or not. The particular skeleton warrior chosen is named “Dagger” and from what I understand (quickly skimmed wikipedia) he is the clumsy servant that’s comic relief.

The ad claims “Bad To The Bone! January 1995.” Yet just 5 months later the show was boned and buried. Throw me a bone with that last line. I’m sorry.

I don’t know how this show ended. But I can only assume the heroes discovered that if we put our differences aside there is a skeleton deep within us all.

If the Skeleton Warriors ever went on to get as popular as  the Turtles or Power Rangers the marketing could’ve went great with making Milk cool. Drink milk to build strong healthy bones and you can become a Skeleton Warrior!


So that about covers the tantalizing tasty tidbits of what you’d find being advertised in Bishop #3. Thanks for reading about ads found in a 22 year old comic book.