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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Spiderbites

Spidey
Time Spent: About 4 hours. 

I’m rarely ever happy with how my stuff comes out. So much so that I don’t even refer to it as “art”. See my first sentence? I called it “stuff”.  Though once in a while I’ll look back to see my progress when it comes to my lines, color, composition etc. If you head over to my instagram you’ll see the difference from a similar Wolverine drawing I did in 2012. Is it worth the 6 years of progress? Maybe. But I’m happy with the progress I’ve made. I turned to my favorite Spider-man artist, John Romita Sr., to mimic his colors. Spidey will always be my guy.

Ad Nauseam: Web Of Spider-man #76

You can read the first installment of “Ad Nauseam” here.

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.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Cereal

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.

Tiger Handheld Power Rangers Game

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.

Mr. Freeze Freezer Bars

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 Spider-man Pasta

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 T-Shirt Contest

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.

Street Fighter II Contest and VHS

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.

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Damme it.

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.

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