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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I don’t know if it’s simply the Halloween season or what, but I can’t help adding some skeletal anatomy into whatever I’m drawing! But as long as it turns out for the best I can’t complain. I already submitted my selected work for an upcoming Star Wars art show. I’m kinda bummed I can’t add this piece I drew this morning. But a deadline’s a deadline. Have a great weekend.