The 1990s were a scary time for Marvel readers familiar with the looming financial fate of the famed comic publisher. But if you were a blissfully unaware child at the time *cough*me*cough*, you were just thrilled to be reading the newest web-slinging adventure of your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-man™! (This phrase is trademarked by the Walt Disney Company and you have to pay $3 to read it.) Although Marvel has grown to an entertainment juggernaut today, it’s hard to imagine we got so close to losing synonymous superheroes like Iron Man, Hulk, and Wolverine not too long ago.
Nowadays you can find most comics from the 1990’s in the bargain bin of a local bookstore or comic convention. I’ve even been to conventions where they give them away with the price of admission. It’s the effect of being “over-published”. Its become an era of hokey gimmicks, poor storytelling, and false promises of collectability.
The Golden age. The Silver age. The Bronze age. If I had to put a name to the “age” of 90s comics it would be the Holographic Age™ (this phrase is trademarked by ChrisDoesComics.com and you have to pay $4.50 to read it. Please contact for licensing rights.) But if you grew up reading these disposable adventures filled with an over-excess of belt pouches and rat tails they act as a time machine of sorts. Transporting you to the days of cooling off with a Capri Sun and hanging out with that one annoying kid because you just wanted to play his Game Gear.
Because embedded between the misadventures of X-Force lies a cultural foundation of sweet sweet capitalism and unhealthy nostalgia: A D V E R T I S M E N T S.
So join me and this September 1995 issue of Web Of Spider-Man that I pulled out of my ass, as we embark on a journey through the ads it offers that may have shaped our childhoods and made us beg our mom for that new junk food that led us on a path to poor self control and aimless internet blog posts.
When the empty reality of writing an overlong blog post about 23 year old comic book ads began to sink in, I opened this issue to be hit with a full page ad for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Cereal. Like the story of Moses speaking with the burning bush, I knew my life was on the right path. This cereal made by Ralston (known for making cereal as delicious as the box it was packaged in) debuted at the height of Turtlemania in 1989 and ran until 1995 (the year of this comic). If there’s two things to personally know about me it’s 1. Ninja Turtles are the reason I wake up in the morning and 2. I don’t really eat cereal. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I’ve never had TMNT cereal with the pizza-shaped marshmallows it offers. This cereal had a barrage of gimmicks throughout it’s lifespan including: a packet of “green ooze” syrup topping, enclosed mini comics, trading cards, and entire Ninja Turtle cereal bowls. The ad itself, like a lot of Ninja Turtle ad material, is something I would get framed above my fireplace. The fact that it incorporates the Pizza Canon (an actual vehicle you could purchase for your action figures) makes the ad even more charming and radical. Though I’ve heard this cereal was sharp tasteless garbage, I would still purchase it and give it a chance. Because I used to willingly eat Turtle Pies. Not because I liked them, mind you. But because I felt it was my duty as a fan.
I felt what I thought was a bookmark in the middle of this comic. And quickly thought to myself what kind of goose can’t get through a single comic issue in one sitting. Well, this was my comic (self insult) and it wasn’t a bookmark. It was a Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers White Ranger Tiger Barcodzz Player Card.
“A what?!” You begrudgingly asked.
Oh, my sweet summer child, let me explain. You remember those awful Tiger Handheld LCD games? The ones we’d play because we couldn’t afford a Gameboy? We were told, “It’s the same thing, Spencer!” by our parental guardians. It wasn’t the same thing. It was beeping trash packaged in an impossible to open plastic shell for $19.99. But here come The Gimmicks! Tiger Electronics made a new Power Rangers LCD game in which you can switch Rangers with the simple swipe of your Power Kardzzzzz. You see, in the 90’s you had to show attitude and with that the use of the letter “z” shot up 700%. I mean, what letter of the alphabet captures the extreme attitude of this generation better than the letter “z”? “X” you say? Yeah, surez, laterzzz dweebzz.
I have to admit, it’s a trendy and unique idea. And it would be cooler if the scanner was attached to anything else but a Tiger Handheld LCD game. As far as I know, the Power Rangers game is the only Tiger Handheld to have this kind of feature. So it may be safe to assume this gimmick didn’t quite take off the way Tiger wanted. Probably because all their games played exactly the same. And the novelty was vaguely changing the look of a character. Why invest in that when we now had the Playstation and handhelds with backlight screens in full color?
Their idea was full on Power Rangers. Their execution was pure VR Troopers.
Ah, these things. The only food that you could still buy an 80 pack at your local grocery store for two dollars. The pricing on the “treat-that-ravages-the-edges-of-your-mouth” has been steady throughout the years. Whenever I see them I think of summer school. We received these every Friday as silent compensation. A sweet frozen reminder that it was summer yet you’re stuck here because you can’t comprehend long division. So suck on this, kids.
Mr. Freeze is a brand that personally does not ring a bell. Unless it’s shooting ice rays at Batman of course. I assumed the brand was reduced to a cold dead puddle from a DC Comics lawsuit by now. Yet it seems the snowman known as Mr. Freeze has fled to the United Kingdom where he lost a lot of weight, got some sweet shades, and has his icy grip over the European freezer pop market. Stateside I don’t even know what the go-to brand for this even is. I’m sure it’s something along the lines of Slush-Pup, Polar-Pops, Ice-Boy, Freezie Dinks or some other winter themed Bible Man villain.
Also I’m not even going to touch the “The snack that’s as much fun to squeeze as it is fun to eat” tagline. We’re a PG-13 website here.
Chef Boyardee is a smart dude. He knows kids don’t have much of a food pallet. He knows kids like cartoons. He knows if he puts cartoons in the 3 month old canned pasta, any 8 year old would choose it over an authentic five-star spaghetti dinner. Plus he can charge parents 68 cents more.
I watch Spider-man, read Spider-man, play Spider-man…but Chef Boyardee made me eat Spider-man. And it was so good it made me shout “Mama mia!” while kissing my fingers that I made into an anus-like shape. Even if you didn’t love Chef Boyardee canned “pasta” gruel, this ad at least had you trying a can next time you went to the grocery store. It used some of the fantastic cityscape art from the Spider-man Animated Series. With that beautiful cool color pallet and alluring font, how can you not want to shovel slimy noodle strings and questionable “meat” balls into your mouth? The ad even claims it’s smothered in that authentic Chef Boyardee “secret sauce”! Which I always thought was 45% Ragu, 30% water, and 25% tin can rust.
Over the years nearly every character imaginable has graced the can of Chef Boyardee. From Pac Man and Batman to Ninja Turtles and Smurfs. It’s a proverbial “who’s who” of pop culture but features a dirty microwave and runny diarrhea.
All jokes aside, Chef Boiardi was a real chef who actually made great pasta from his Italian restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio. It got so popular that he decided to open a factory in Pennsylvania to can it for the masses. The U.S. military commissioned the company during World War II for the production of army rations. See? You learned something new today. Reading this wasn’t completely worthless…just mostly.
The Pagemaster is something that was heavily promoted and became somewhat popular for a short amount of time. Yet there’s not much nostalgic coverage of it. Perhaps it was because the movie wasn’t as great as we’d hoped and even rose tinted glasses can’t save it. But there was a time (3 weeks) where The Pagemaster was super cool.
In the movie, top-of-his-game Macaulay Culkin plays a fearful boy who takes refuge from a storm in a library and is drawn into an animated world of adventure and fantasy in the pages of the books. Doc Brown was the librarian. Mac met a pirate book, a Whoopi Goldberg book, Spock was in it. They gone done adventures. It had a cool video game. It was advertised all over television and magazines. Then it pulled a Rocketeer. It came out to a lot of hype and wasn’t really good. I think it would’ve been better received and fondly remembered if the marketing wasn’t through the roof. Like in a Secrets of Nimh , Once Upon A Forest type way.
But what we’re left with is stuff like this ad acting as sort of a tombstone for The Pagemaster. Awareness was it’s uprising and downfall. Buy some cookies and you can instantly win a Pagemaster t-shirt. The act of a simple t-shirt as a prize would make me think I had a better chance at winning. It’s a contest that most of us wouldn’t bat an eye at, but it’s become a remnant of the past. Nowadays you don’t want to promote something kids want through junk food. Begging their parents to buy as many Oreos as they can so they can win a shirt for a movie they haven’t even seen. Moderation is key but next time you go grocery shopping, keep an eye out for something like this. It’s nearly extinct. But perhaps my reasoning is wrong. With the technology we now have perhaps these contests cease because of the tom foolery and forgery that could take place.
But, still, I miss the days where something as simple as this contest would make me hope to be as happy as a 90’s kid wearing a Pagemaster T-shirt jumping up to grab some cookies. Purple shadow and all.
BONUS: I wanted to include this last ad because it’s just #2Kool4me.
When Street Fighter II was released, it was kind of a revolution when it came to fighting games. Little did we realize we were living in a peak fighting game era with the likes of Mortal Kombat, Tekken, Killer Instinct, and Street Fighter. Street Fighter II was an all time high for the series as I remember this cabinet in every arcade and movie theater I went to. And when it hit home consoles it became a must own or most rented. I don’t even think I played Street Fighter I and til this day when people reference Street Fighter they’re likely talking about II.
While I preferred Mortal Kombat, it was always a bit of a button masher to me while Street Fighter seemed to have more of a strategy when it came to fighting. I loved both but I also s u c k e d at playing them. Street Fighter was huge in Japan and that led to an animated film promptly named Street Fighter II. If interested it’s on Youtube for free and it’s quite good. It’s a great looking anime that adds a lot of dimension to what was simply a bunch of pixels. It makes the game more personal and real to the player. And it gives you a better reason to choose your fighter other than picking Blanka because he looks like an anthropomorphic bottle of Gatorade.
It was head and shoulders above the downright terrible Mortal Kombat animated show. It had a PG-13 rating and felt mature and gritty. As a kid you felt, maybe, you weren’t supposed to be watching this. The American version of the film also had music from Alice in Chains, SilverChair, and Korn. It’s really hip for the kids, man. Notice the ad points out that it’s available at Toys “R” US which at the time of this writing is soon to be extinct. I can’t believe I’m typing that.
Above the ad is a contest to win the video game and an animation cell and you bet it’s filled with more 90’s ‘Tude than you can drink a Mondo to. You answer 3 Street Fighter trivia questions, mail it in, and hope for the best. What’s smart is the questions are all based on the animated movie so you have to see it to answer. Pretty good marketing there. And nothing like taking notes during a movie!
Wow. I wrote a whole spiel on Street Fighter without referencing that AWFULLY entertaining 1994 Jean Claude Van Damme movie.
So that about covers the tantalizing tasty tidbits of what you’d find being advertised in Web Of Spider-Man #76. Thanks for reading about ads found in a 23 year old comic book. I’ll be back with another installment in the future to waste your time.