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Random Fun Moments in Comic Book Ads

Kung Fu Sandals!

Source: Incredible Hulk #205, cover-dated November 1976.

Hey, kids! If you’re chasing your dream of becoming a world-class martial artist like Bruce Lee or Jim Kelly or Chuck Norris, you’ll need proper footwear. And what better footwear than used sandals once worn by the great Oriental Fighting Masters? Either they outgrew them, saved up to buy better ones, or died fighting in them, and now they can be yours for just three bucks and a crude outline of your own foot on notebook paper, so we can tell which dead masters wore your size. We’re located up in scenic Connecticut, where all the most renowned sensei live. Send us your allowance today!

Star-Lord!

Source: Iron Man #113, August 1978.

Before Chris Pratt was a Hollywood superstar, before someone dared Marvel to turn Guardians of the Galaxy into a box office smash, once upon a time Marvel decided there should be super-heroes that look like Star Wars. Presto: Star-Lord! He had a costume and he had space adventures. He had the blue-and-yellow color scheme of the X-Men’s original suits, red goggles that could’ve been ruby quartz like Cyclops’, and superfluous forehead ridges like Wolverine’s first catlike togs. STAR-LORD. He never starred in his own comic! STAR-LORD. The artist used to be the publisher at DC Comics! STAR-LORD. No one cared!

Then times changed, and other creators’ discarded leftovers were turned into solid gold. The forgotten heroes of yesteryear are like ugly thrift-shop goods, and Marvel Studios is like Macklemore with a platinum Visa.

Star Comics!

Source: Power Man and Iron Fist #123, May 1986.

Back in the ’80s Marvel created a separate comics line for younger readers. Kids and adults alike could enjoy the Marvel universe together, but Star Comics were only for kids. The first wave saw a few titles like Planet Terry and the Richie Rich ripoff Royal Roy canceled after a handful of issues, but this subscription ad shows the Year Two lineup of merchandise posing as reading matter, from the two Star Wars cartoon spinoffs to the long-running Heathcliff, whose comic-strip fame helped him outlast the rest of the line and persevere through a fifty-six-issue run. The Star line tried a couple more original concepts, the derivative Top Dog and Trina Robbins’ Meet Misty miniseries, but not much caught on. But for a while you could have them delivered directly to your mailbox and personally crumpled by your neighborhood mail carrier.

You’ll note the list includes He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, a kids’ comics based on a kiddie cartoon based on a line of kiddie toys. To this day I remain amused at any and all repeated efforts to turn a guy named He-Man into the star of serious graphic literature, which DC Comics is still attempting to this day. Perhaps America will treat him with reverent gravitas once that long-gestating, still-hypothetical John Woo film version gets off the ground and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe becomes the next Guardians of the Galaxy.

Guys. GUYS. You notice he’s called “He-Man”, right? Good luck fabricating a grim-‘n’-gritty justification for that. Don’t forget you’ll need extreme backstories for Battle Cat, Man-E-Faces, and Fisto, too.

Miracleman!

Source: The Liberty Project #6, Eclipse Comics, November 1987.

Marvel Comics is two-thirds of the way through reprinting all twenty-four issues of Eclipse Comics’ monumental Miracleman, but I’ve been on standby awaiting new material because I still have my original copies — the first sixteen issues written by co-creator Alan Moore as well as the final eight that were written by a young rookie named Neil Gaiman. Running across this old house ad reminds me how cool I thought the book was when I was a teenager, and how much I miss the pen-and-ink work of artist John Totleben, who drew Moore’s final issues in an era when inking in general and technique in particular were things that mattered and made a difference.

Part of me would like to see Gaiman and his artist/co-conspirator Mark Buckingham (best known today for Fables) finish the stories they’d planned twenty-five years ago as much younger men, but part of me is a little skeptical about trying to go home again.

Customizing!

Source: Incredible Hulk #205, November 1976.

But hey, if bringing back old comics doesn’t pay the bills, if creating your own works is a dead end, why not change career tracks and consider a life in automotive customization? Now you can paint flame streaks and viking battles and dragon warriors on the side of every vehicle you and your buddies drive, and get paid! No college required! No Wikipedia studies necessary! There will always be paint, there’ll always be cars, and there’ll always be guys trying to impress chicks, even during recessions. Only loyal readers of Marvel Comics were privy to this top-secret special offer to unlock their destinies and become the next Boris Vallejo or Michelangelo or Pimp My Ride host.

These are some of the reasons why buying back issues at conventions is more fun than reading reprints in trade paperbacks or from digital retailers. Their reprints almost never include the original ads, because of either copyright issues or elitist sensibilities. Look at all this vital history you’re missing that The MAN doesn’t want you to see. I bet The MAN owns twelve pairs of vintage Kung-Fu Sandals and doesn’t want other grabby collectors muscling in on his turf.

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About Randall A. Golden
Hoosier since birth, geek since age 6, father at 22, Christian at 30; launched Midlife Crisis Crossover at 39. Full-time service rep; part-time internet contributor; former message board admin; inhabits Twitter as @RandallGolden. Views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of any other corporation, being, or party line.

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