Top 5: Unforgettable Comic Book Ads

Comic book ads: you know them, you dimly register them, you switch to trades to get away from them. There was a time not so long ago when some of those ads were as memorable as the stories themselves, and only partially because they seemed to run every month for years at a time. Here are just a few old favorites:


it's never too early to work for The Man, little drones! Olympic Sales Club.

5. Olympic Sales "Club"

They wanted you to think you were working for that guy up in the corner, but they didn’t mention that he was a villain. He enslaved thousands of children who willingly sold themselves into indentured servitude for a shot at finally owning the “I’m Telling” board game and some walkie-talkies. These ads ran for decades in one form or another and are a true relic of a bygone era, when telling ten year olds to wander the streets alone trying to get strangers to invite them inside seemed like a great business plan. Even in the seventies, I can’t believe “our sales force is greedy children” made it into the prospectus.


all singing, all dancing, not happening Captain America musical!

4. Send Tap-Cap Your Head Shots

If the Spider-Man musical has taught us anything, it’s that the road to Broadway has a great many speed bumps, potholes, and maliciously placed spike strips lining it. I don’t know what stopped Cap from reaching the footlights; I only know that the “whaaa?” accompanying the sight of this ad only intensified as the show failed to materialize. In the pre-internet age, when you couldn’t find out any more information, what were we to think? “No, it’s not a scam! Nothing shady going on here. Just, if you’re a little girl, send in your picture. So you can be Cap’s special friend.” (See #2.)


Tobacco is whacko... if you're a teen. ONLY IF YOU'RE A TEEN.

3. Cool Dudes Don't Smoke, Yo!… For Another Couple of Years

The rare 21st century ad memorable for something other than wrecking the flow of the story, this experiment in reverse psychology successfully converted 4.7 million honors students into smokers in 2003. At the sight of this young woman being simultaneously electrocuted, strangled and boiled by the demono-cig, I myself promptly got up and bought a carton of Marlboro Reds. I think it was the “If You’re A Teen!!!” which ensured that, if I ever do a “Top 5 Things in a Comic That Made Me Laugh Out Loud,” this ad will get three slots. Sponsored by the tobacco industry? You don’t say!


do not let any adult touch you in your superhero costume area.

2. A Little Too Memorable

I couldn’t say how many kids this campaign prevented from being victimized; I can only say it prevented me from ever seeing Power Pack without immediately thinking “child molestation.” Maybe it would have helped if they had used the kids less in this ad and more in ads for their own book. This may actually have been how I found out what Power Pack was, which as cross-promotion goes is not ideal.


meatloaf! special olympics! whaaa?

1. Meatloafantasmagoria

I don’t know what the marketing budget was like for the 1987 Special Olympics, but it seemed like this ad was on the back cover of every Marvel comic for approximately fourteen years. (At least, it seemed that way until I needed a scan of it this afternoon, at which point it naturally went into witness protection on Brigadoon.) Everything about it is forever etched into my hippocampus. The fact that the artist has never seen a picture of Meatloaf. The fact that Meatloaf is a shape-shifter who plays the guitar with one hand behind his back. The dose of Ecstasy that all the heroes were given in exchange for their participation. How hard Logan is smiling at Meatloaf. On the rare occasion that anyone says the words “comic book ads,” the first thing I picture is that grinning Hulk with his arms around his chums. Good ol’ grey Hulk, always palling around with his buds at the Meatloaf concert.


  1. Ah, memories.

  2. Also, I remember seeing those ‘tobacco is whacko’ adds and defiantly lighting up a cigarette.  Oh, teenage angst.  Where did you go?

  3. The ads I hated the most were those ones from just a couple years ago that were the full two-page spread with the sewn-together eyes. I don’t remember what it was for, but it horrified me every time I flipped it open.

  4. Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    You’re completely right about the Power Pack, Jim. But if you really wanted to get a skewed perspective on them, you should really try having the only story you’ve ever read with them being the one where they help track down a child who’s run away from home because of sexual abuse. Seeing the characters themselves still creeps me out. It didn’t help that in the same issue, Spider-Man revealed his own creepy potental abuse story. It took me a while to get over that story.

    On a lighter note, just how is Meatloaf playing his guitar in that first panel? That is ridiculous.

  5. I’m personally a big fan of the Hostess cupcakes ads. I bought a few 70’s comics a couple of weeks back and was very confused when all of a sudden the Freedom Fighters became wonder woman and hostess cupcakes. 

    Also, I got very frustrated that I couldn’t find myself some hostess cupcakes after seeing them, but that’s a different story altogether 

  6. where’s the bunch of crunch or munch and crunch er….you know what im talking about! it was on the back cover of every comic book from the mid 90’s!

  7. I’ve still got the Power Pack one from an old Spider-Man comic. I remember being as disturbed by it then as I am now!

  8. @JeffR – I think he was impaled in the chest with the neck.

     I was fooled as a child by the 100 toy soldiers and vehicles for $1.50 ad.  Magnifying glass not included.

  9. What fun.  I remember all these ads bar the Meat Loaf one, which is odd as I was buying pretty much all the Marvel super-titles back then. Maybe I was out selling Grit …

  10. Why would they EVER stop making Captain America musicals???

  11. The olympia sales club. I did it. It was awsome. I was a kid didn’t see anything wrong at the time. And the meatloaf one did it too. Them was the good old days.

  12. I had to do it. …I just called the Olympia sell club. It’s now a live chat number. I’m about to cry now.

  13. No X-Ray specs?

  14. even as a child that Cigarette ad’s caveat stood out like a sore thumb. the 11 yr old me realized the tabacco companies just wanted me to bide my time until i was legal age AND THEN i could msoke all the cigarettes i wanted

  15. I was always surprised at the lack of Gary Coleman/Power Pack crossover.  "Say NO, then GO, and TELL, or we’ll totally use our powers on you."

  16. Ah, Olympia sales club, even as a child I wondered, "Just who the hell is Peggy, and how many people of that name do they employ?"

    And I love how the last line in the Cap ad is a guilt trip.  ‘No, I don’t want to let Cap down, because that would be the same as letting America down.  I must sign up!’

  17. @flakbait They were ‘truth’ adds.

  18. God, I remember the Olympic and Power Pack ads as if it were yesterday.  I have no idea why but they, and a couple of others, have burned themselves into my memory more than some of the books they were contained in.  A lot of them made me think of what an exotic land the USA seemed compared with grey ol’ England.  A lot of them made me think the US had a major epidemic of cigarette electrocution.

  19. That powerpack is so wrong and funny:D

  20. That ad with Levis pants and matching them to chili dogs and sloppy joes ensured one thing: that I would NEVER eat joes and chilidogs EVER. It made me vomit in my mouth. To this day I can’t open my Scarlet Spider #1 in fear of gagging.

  21. Where the hell are the Hostess ads?!!?!?!?? 😛

  22. @Mangaman I remember the Levi’s one that had the three dogs was in their all the time too

  23. That Meatloaf one took me back. I remember that one fondly…not enough to actually order the record or cassette ever though. 

  24. all of those Olympic Sales club type ads were the best. Whenever I see an overly photoshopped ad in today’s comics i just get nostalgic for the old days of classic comic ads where there was a fine line between scam and home business. 

  25. Funny stuff Jim but where is all the Oxyclean aids?

    In the 90s Tobacco is wacko… if your a teen. WTF I’m twelve I only have one year of eligiblity left until it’s not cool anymore.

  26. Between the Tobacco is Wacko and the Trust ads, comic books and smoking clearly have some serious crossover

  27. Remember all the 3 Musketeers ads where they would unearth a giant candy bar out of the side of a mountain claming it was a dinosaurs food source?

     what the hell where they smoking?

  28. Count Dante, anyone?

  29. "If you’re a teen". Because it’s totally ok when you’re an adult!

  30. It is totally ok if you’re an adult.

  31. @mangaman are you sure it was the ad in Scarlet Spider #1 that made you gag???

  32. JesTr: the Oxy ads were just one of about nine I had to cut. Once you start going through old comics seeing those ads, it quickly becomes an avalanche.

    I’m still transfixed by #1 all over again. So, he thinks the first part, and then asks for help out loud? And everyone offers him help, perhaps psychiatric in nature? Is the coupon on stage with him? Has Meatloaf ever played the guitar?….

  33. No Sea Mokneys? or Grit? or the 1001 Army men? There are so many that stand out.

  34. That tobacco ad is burned into my brain from when I first read Runaways Vol 1, #5. The last page was Molly standing on her bed screaming, and she looked just enough like that girl that every time i see the ad on the last page, I imagine her face has exploded in pain. Haunting memories, indeed.

  35. Nice choices, but no list is complete without Seak Monkeys.

  36. See others have pointed out the Hostess ads, but also the Dr. J  Spalding ads were all over the back covers way back in the day.

     There were also all those ads for cowboy boots and bb guns. 

  37. Hold up!! Nothing takes you back like those ads for Saturday Morning Cartoons!!!

    Smurfs, Pacman, Spaceghost…FTW;]

  38. I was just reading one of my quarter bin issues and ran across the Captain America musical ad.  It also had an ad for a proven method to add 2-4 inches to your height in a matter of weeks.

  39. Nothing beats a tap dancing Captain America.


  40. i’m still waiting for my X-ray specs

  41. What about the Wolverine boxer shorts?!

  42. The Meatloaf ad was my first exposure to that particular artist. I didn’t even think he was a real person; I assumed he was an obscure 1970’s comic book character. Imagine how baffled I was when "Bat Out Of Hell 2: Back Into Hell" came out and "I Would Do Anything For Love" was on the radio and MTV FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR.

    I have only recently recovered from the trauma.



  43. What?? No sea monkeys or X-ray specs??