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.
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.
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.