Click to read my review of an itsy bitsy Ninja Turtles pinball machine! Also imagine a grown man posing his Michelangelo action figure several ways for the pictures in this article. It’s not sad at all. Coin-a-bunga, dudes!
Welcome back to my retrospective series of articles in which I sit in my dark apartment, listen to synthwave, and thumb through back issues in hopes of sparking shadowed memories of simpler times! An exciting Saturday night is finding a 24 year old advertisement for Dinosaur Eggs oatmeal. How can life possibly offer anything more?
X-Men Vol. 1 #60, January 1997
If there’s a main theme throughout these articles (besides the onset of Peter Pan Syndrome) it has to be constantly waxing nostalgic about the X-Men. They were a benevolent force throughout comic culture in the 1990s. But 1997 marked a lull in X-Men fandom. While at heart X-Men was always a glorified mutant soap opera, the ideas of love triangles, false deaths, and double agents were tired tropes. This was also the year the acclaimed X-Men animated series was cancelled. And with that dries up the marketability of X-Men toys, tie ins, and video games.
But, as we all know, this wasn’t goodbye for the X-Men. It was just “see you later”. Because in just 3 short years Marvel introduced the ULTIMATE universe of comics and the blockbuster X-Men live action movie hit theaters worldwide.
But, right now, we’re stuck in 1997 and we have this awfully mundane issue to get through. But between the story: A D V E R T I S M E N T S. This is an X-men title so I didn’t have to necessarily hit the clearance for you, so we’re not at the bottom of the barrel per-say. That’s reserved for Witchbalde or Youngbloods. So put on your finest Austin 3:16 shirt, pause your Playstation, crack open a cold Surge and join me on this capitalistic journey of useless trading cards and fruitless VHS tapes.
It’s summer break and you and your best buds have the whole day ahead of you. Maybe you play some Bucky O’Hare, head over to the park district pool, split some nachos, and do that weird running gallop so the lifeguards don’t blow the whistle at you for running. What always hits the spot on a hot summer day like this was a big pitcher of some sticky flavored sugar water. And while you sit on your throne of innocence and Super Ropes you think to yourself, “How can this get any better?”
Well let me tell you: Getting free garbage for drinking that cold sticky sugar water. What we have here is the always incredible Kool-Aid Kool Points program. Kool-Aid packets were worth points. You save the packets. And mail them in to get treasures. I have to say, I love everything that is offered in this ad. I try to imagine what I’d save up for and I get anxiety from the choices. I’d love to get some official Kool-Aid merch like a shirt, beach towel, or bottle that way I can let everyone know I’m well on my way to premature diabetes. But, at the same time, the idea of saving up for a Yomega Fireball Yo-Yo, Nintendo Gameboy Keychain, or Remote Control Car truly feels like an accomplishment I’d cherish more so than my college degree (it’s a BA in art so it’s basically not real) .
This Kool-Points program was started sometime in the early 1980s and ended recently in 2008. Unfortunately you can’t find as much Kool information as you’d hope as it seems to be the name of a mobile gaming app nowadays. But let this be a remainder of the days where you just didn’t chug a pitcher of Rock-a-dile Red for the pure enjoyment of quenching mere thirst, you were inching closer to quenching the thirst of owning an Official Kool-Aid Man kite. Oh. Yeah.
Got Milk? Featuring Spider-man!
As stated as the topic for my college thesis, if you were anybody of significance in the past 20 years you were featured in a Got Milk? ad. Singer, athlete, actor, wrestler, cartoon character or inter-dimensional idea you were given a page wide spread with a glass of milk complete with white mustache. Even Spider-man himself, complete with mask mustache, is pictured in this very ad presented. The Nobel Peace Prize paled in comparison to the worldwide recognition one receives when simply asking the question “Got Milk?”.
The one downside to this ad campaign is that it was a little too successful in that it became trendy for nearly every brand or company to ask the famous “Got Milk?” question with their own, often illogical, spin. I remember seeing tons of t-shirts and bumper stickers being sold with simple text reading things like “Got Comics?” or “Got Pizza?” in that tall white font. I even recall the local zoo selling “Got Dolphins?” bumper stickers with the names of various animals at whatever exhibits.
It was genius in it’s simplicity. These ads were featured in every kind of newspaper, magazine, or comic. And it made Milk, well, cool if you seen Spider-man, Brett Favre, or Whoopi Goldberg with the classic ‘stache. I even seen someone with a “Got Speed?” bumper sticker on their car driving home last week. It’s still relevant today and kind of douchey apparently!
Michael Jordan Highlights on VHS!
When you want to describe someone being the best at something, nowadays it’s common to say “They’re the Michael Jordan of” it. For example, “Chris is the Michael Jordan of having a cynical outlook!” or “ChrisDoesComics.com is the Michael Jordan of websites nobody cares about.” Well, Michael Jordan is the Michael Jordan of basketball. Being a Chicago native during the Bulls legendary era, I and everyone I knew wanted to be like Mike.
MJ was on my t-shirts and my bedroom walls. I had MJ books and magazines. I wanted Hanes because Michael wore them. I wanted a Big Macs and Ball Park Franks because Michael ate them. Space Jam was a childwide event in Chicago complete with parades and screenings in church. I made that last one up. Michael Jordan was so awesome and such an international phenomenon that for $30 the NBA sold a 2 1/2 hour MJ highlight reel on VHS.
I included this ad because I really downplay the love I had for Michael Jordan nowadays. Not really for a particular reason other than I simply forget what a idol he was to me and so many other kids back then. This ad truly gave me the warm fuzzies because it’s the reason I write these articles to begin with: to dust off fond forgotten memories. And I remember a time where I wanted to be Like Mike. Except for that short period where he played baseball.
CardZillion Trading Card Machines!
Another reason I write these articles is to share things I had no idea existed like CARDZILLION. I wasn’t sure to include this ad but after doing some research I simply had to. These “vending” machines were located exclusively in Toys “R” Us stores from 1994 until 1997 and were distributed by Bandai. You’d pop in a quarter and receive a trading card from properties like Power Rangers, Beetleborgs, Sailor Moon, and Donkey Kong Country. Each series composed of 42 cards including 6 ULTRA cards (which were the rare ones).
What set these cards apart were they all felt special. They had hologram cards, holofoil cards, Ultra rare cards, cards that popped up into little dioramas, cards that made up a battle game. And with the machine being placed in the store exit, it was a great strategy for kids to drain a little more out of their parents during the trip. 9 year old me would be all over those Donkey Kong Country cards without fail.
I’m not sure why they didn’t last long. It may have been because the novelty of trading cards weren’t nearly as popular as they were 10-30 years ago. That being said, had I known about these I would’ve certainly begged for a trip to Toys R Us just to use one.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if they brought these back with comic books? With Marvel and superheroes being modern day Greek Mythology, it would be a fun experiment to bundle these with some $1 back issues with maybe some “exclusive” or signed covers as a rarity.
Rugrats Reptar Crunch Cereal!
The Rugrats is a cartoon that elevated Nickelodeon to legendary kids entertainment. And it open the floodgates to a plethora of classic cartoons. But with Nickelodeon being presented as a network “For kids by kids” they understood that children knew when they were being marketed to. Which is why, compared to say Disney, they had very limited merchandise. It made getting your grubby little meathooks on something Rugrats, Rocko, or Ren more special.
And, here, we have not Rugrats cereal but Reptar cereal! Reptar was a show within the show that the Rugrats themselves watched and idolized. What I love about Reptar is although he was watched by babies he was much more Godzilla than Barney. He had no educational value for these kids. He just loved to smash cities and roar. And I love him for that.
Reptar merch was always present in the show itself with things like a Reptar chocolate bar, Reptar on Ice, Reptar The Movie, and Tommy Pickles’s beloved Reptar doll. I find it very interesting to bring that branding off the show and into reality as it makes for a much more fun and unique product. Sure, you could’ve had an actual Rugrats cereal with marshmallow rattles or something uninspired. But instead you now have a product that Chuckie Finster and Tommy Pickles himself would eat….if they had teeth that is.
With with whole Nick Nostalgia in full effect to drain us 90s kids of our hard earned cash, they’ve actually released a whole Reptar brand of merchandise including cereal and the legendary chocolate bar itself. So if you gotta find that Reptar now is the time more than ever.
Would you look at that? We’re done with X-men #60 cover to cover. Man, I can’t believe Cyclops was being mind controlled to kill Storm. I thought for sure ‘ol Summers was just overcome with jealousy over her latex outfit and cool white hair. I hope you enjoyed reminiscing with me about the soulless ads featured in a 21 year old comic about mutant love triangles. One might say I’m the Michael Jordan of writing articles that waste your time.
Welcome back to “the short end of the stick” when it comes to reading things on the internet. In this edition of Ad Nauseam I digitally scrape the bottom of the barrel with Genetix #2 published in November 1993! This is time you’ll never get back, folks.
Genetix follows the adventures of a superhero group of experimental mutants published by Marvel UK that the internet has virtually no insight on. Even the official Marvel Database has no history on this team. I gathered the little information I could and what I present you with may just be the most 1990’s assortment of words you’ll read featured in an article about garbage:
Genetix is a team of mutants recruited by Dr. Oonagh Mullarkey for Gena-Sys, the genetic research division of Mys-Tech. They wear implanted armor derived from the Digitek project. When Killpower was sent by the Time Guardian to locate a device called the Chronifact, Dr. Mullarkey sent the newly created Genetix to defeat him. The team was trained by Dark Angel after learning about the existence of super villain Death Metal whose goal was to (evilly) impregnate a team member.
Holy cow the things I waste my time on.
I can only assume that in 2018 they use shredded issues of Genetix to stuff the big Stewie dolls you see hanging at your local park district carnival. If there’s anything I love about comics from this era it’s definitely the technologic “language” used throughout. Take a computer part, throw a “Z” or “X” in there for attitude, and you got yourself a superhero.
This Summer in a Limited Series…The Adventures of RAM-X and DARK PROCEZZOR: Created by Science, Manufactured by Fate, rendered for Justice!
So let’s dive deep into the shallow end of the comic pool and be concussed with the advertisements of yesteryear. And as we unconsciously float through the memories of 16 bit video games, lenticular trading cards, and junk food ask yourself: Do you want to be saved?
Without a doubt, the X-Men were the premiere superhero team of the 1990s. 1991 brought the first new X-Men title in nearly 30 years by the hottest name in comics at the time: Jim Lee. ‘Till this day X-Men #1 is the highest selling comic issue of all time. With that launched the legendary X-Men arcade game, fantastic animated series, and tubular toy line. X-Men reigned supreme.
Here we have episodes of the animated series being sold on VHS tapes with covers done by Jim lee himself. Keep in mind this was long before a Marvel Cinematic Universe. So it was a real treat to read about the new adventures of the X-Men and be gifted a series that treated the characters and source material with the respect and seriousness that fans desperately craved. What I love about these tapes is they could be kept on the self alongside your comics without anyone batting an eye. They even came numbered like comic issues themselves.
Pizza Hut later offered some X-Men tapes with a minimalist approach that came with lenticular cards. And while those were cool, there’s something that’s so darn charming about the ones featured in this ad. The series itself was made with care and it’s clear that this presentation had the fans in mind. This VHS series would still look great on your shelf.
Mortal Kombat at K-Mart!
Holy macaroni. If there was something I loved more than X-Men when I was a kid, it was Mortal Kombat. Brutal, bloody, and beautiful there was simply no video game like it at the time. It was an arcade hit that caused outrage among parents that just led to kids scrounging up more quarters to play it. This ad in particular is for its release on home consoles such as Super Nes, Sega Genesis and portables like The Gameboy and Game Gear. And it was a long time coming.
I was lucky enough to receive Mortal Kombat as hand-me-down for my Super Nintendo. By that time an even better sequel had been released as well as the now infamous film. The ad claims, “For bone-shattering action, it’s K-Mart for Mortal Kombat!”. But why K-mart? Because “K” that’s why. I would’ve loved an exclusive Mortal Kombat K-Mart level. Some Tecehnotronic playing in the background. You could battle over to the K-Cafe and throw hot coffee at Kano’s stupid terminator eye. Perhaps a blue light special fatality? Endless possibilities here.
I love coming face to face with Goro in this ad. He scared the daylights out of me. The game really made a big deal about him rather than the actual boss: Shang Tsung. But, I mean, who would you rather battle in a murder tournament? A giant four armed demon wrestler or some old street tramp that sleeps behind a Chipotle?
WWF Royal Rumble Video Game!
Late 1993 was around the time I started watching professional wrestling and looking back it was pretty awful. The iconic Hulk Hogan was a mere part timer, Macho Man was “retired”, and Ultimate Warrior was dropped. The larger-than-life star power wasn’t really there. Don’t get me wrong I liked Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and Razor Ramon but they hadn’t quite taken off just yet. And in the meantime I was being told Lex Luger, Yokozuna, and Bam Bam Bigelow were the best (Spoiler: They sucked.). I leaned more towards WCW in those days anyway, but WWF by far had the better video games. And that’s still not saying much.
Basically WWF Royal Rumble was just like Super Wrestlemania. And WWF Raw was just like Royal Rumble. Imagine rebuying essentially the same mediocre WWF game 3 times just for some new wrestlers (that all play the same) and one new match type. Redundant and expensive, right? Actually doesn’t sound too different from what they do now. The advertisement also showcases WWF Steel Cage Challenge and WWF King of the Ring which were actually worse games by comparison. Yeah, it was a rough time for the WWF and while in the coming years they would enter a new golden era, the games still had a solid 7 years to suck.
But, back then, you made the best of it. If I got to play as The Undertaker and tombstone IRS into the mat as many times as I’d please, then it was worth it in my little child head.
Spider-man and X-Men Video Games!
Iron-Man, Thor, Ant-man and even Captain America weren’t truly mainstays in comic culture. Yeah, I said Captain America. It may be hard to imagine that now but Spider-man and the X-Men were Marvel’s bread and butter in the 1990s. And that mostly has to do with the comics being written and/or the cartoons being produced at the time. So having them team up in a video game adventure was definitely exciting if you bathed in the comic bathtub at the time. But be careful, that bathtub can be slippery and these video games could not be very good.
And they weren’t very good.
I remember buying Spider-man/X-men: Arcade’s Revenge when stores were phasing out Super Nintendo games. The game was pretty tedious and bland. To play as Spider-man should be a unique and exciting experience. But instead you had to use your spider-sense (which sounded like hard bumbling farts) to collect flashing cupcakes to unlock the X-Men levels. When you played as Wolverine, who was at peak anti-hero popularity, you wandered a funhouse beating up robotic clowns. It’s like playing a Punisher game where you’re limited to picking up trash at a local park district. I believe the term nowadays is called “shovelware“. These characters deserved something much better. And to join forces to fight Arcade? I mean, you’ve got Mr. Sinister, Apocalypse, The Sinister Six, and Magneto but these superheroes have to join forces to fight the guy who runs Six Flags?
That about covers the time warp that Genetix #3 could take you on. I hope you got something out of me reminiscing about 25 year old game cartridges and VHS tapes. I’ll always be here presenting the best (worst?) of comic culture from a time when nearly every comic book inexplicably involved a cyborg.