Sunday, March 8, 2015

Comic Book Toy Ads!

If there's one thing I love more than random comic books, it's the random toy ads in those random comics. Here's four of my favorite ads from my meager collection.

Kenner M.A.S.K. 
Power Pack #21 Apr 1986

M.A.S.K. is one of those toy lines that always seemed to elude my grasp. They were always a bit more expensive than G.I. Joe, which meant I nearly always gave them a pass. In the end, I only ended up owning two of them: Razorback, which was a stock car from the 3rd wave, and Firefly, a dune buggy. They were some of the coolest toys around, and I'm kicking myself even now for not saving my allowance up and buying more when I had the chance.

If you're unaware of the basic premise of the toys, each one was a vehicle with a secondary mode. Think Transformers, except instead of changing into a robot, each vehicle turned into a vehicle with more guns sticking out. There were some playsets as well, such as Boulder Hill, which was a mountainside gas station that turned into a heavily armed fortress. The best part about the toys is that they all looked like normal cars and trucks until you activated their action features. The Gator looked like a normal Jeep, Rhino a normal semi-truck, etc..They all came with a driver figure as well, so you were never left with a car with no one behind the wheel. For the most part, they were all in scale with each other too. Some of the smaller vehicles were a bit larger, but that was just so they could incorporate their action features.

M.A.S.K. started out normal enough, but as the line went on, things started getting weirder. The 3rd series introduced a racing theme, while the 4th introduced vehicles that split in two halves and a clone driver for the second vehicle. Sadly, I think the novelty had worn off by that point, since I remember seeing those 4th series vehicles hanging around for a while before hitting the clearance sections.

Ultra Games' Nemesis
Wolverine #27 July 1990

I always wanted the original Game Boy, but sadly, I had to depend on my Tiger Electronic games for my handheld entertainment. Seeing cool ads like this didn't help me resist begging for the little gray brick at every opportunity though. It looks like Ultra cast the Game Boy in the role of video game boss, and it's up to the enemies of the game to take it out. I can't see how successful they could be, with the flying C-clamps with attached flashlights and what appears to be the disembodied skull of a space dragon on their side. Perhaps the whole thing was an allegory for Nintendo's immediate dominance in the hand held market, with all the little ships portraying their competitors. Or, maybe I'm just reading too much into this.

As you can probably tell, Nemesis is a Gradius clone for the original Game Boy. Developed by Konami and published by Ultra, it doesn't look like they changed much in the way of game play going by the little pictures at the bottom. You can still power up your ship until you can nearly fill the screen with tiny round bullets, and you still have to fight mysterious Space Moai Heads. I imagine it was still insanely difficult too. I never played this game, but I spent many hours trying to beat Gradius and Lifeforce (another Gradius spin-off) and failing miserably. I apparently have the hand/eye coordination of an epileptic chimpanzee hopped up on caffeine, because I never came close to beating either game on my own. Even with a Game Genie, it was an exercise in frustration. I like to think of them as "The Last Starfighter" level hard. Whoever programmed them must have been looking for the next hero to save the frontier.

G.I. Joe Mail Order Form
Fantastic Four Annual #21 1988

I'm no stranger to G.I. Joe mail order forms, but this is the first one I've seen in a comic book. Much like the catalogs included with some of the figures and vehicles, this one offered toys that hadn't been sold in stores in years. So, if you missed out on Major Bludd the first time around, or didn't get your Flag Points sent out in time to get The Fridge, here was your second chance. Speaking of Flag Points, this ad makes no mention of them at all. I think 1988 was the first year you could actually order from the inserts without having to cut rectangles out of your action figure's cards. You usually had to pay a bit more, but it was ultimately cheaper than buying toys and clipping off their Flag Points.

Speaking of cheap, look at those prices! The figures cost a little more than they did in stores, but a Cobra H.I.S.S. for $4.00? An L.C.V. Recon Sled for $5.25? Actually, that last one is a bit puzzling to me, because a H.I.S.S. is much larger, and a lot cooler than the L.C.V ever was. Still, if you wanted to get the whole group, it would have only cost you $21.50, or just over a month's allowance for me in 1988. That's an awful lot of fun for the price of two modern G.I. Joe figures. The only downside; having to wait the 6-8 weeks for them to be delivered. If you're like me though, after a few weeks you just forgot about them, so it was a complete surprise when they finally showed.

Kenner Super Powers Collection 
Batman and the Outsiders Annual #1 1984

 I may have mentioned this once before, but this is one of my favorite toy ads ever. I still maintain that the Super Powers toys are the best representations of these characters, even today. Sure, they can't strike all the poses the newer figures can, but these actually had action features. And cloth capes!  I held on to a comic I didn't even care about, just so I could look this picture again and again. And this was years after Super Powers had already left store shelves. Such is the power of this ad.

This page also acts as an unofficial checklist of sorts, since it shows the entire line up for the first series of Super Powers figures. Of course, no kid in their right mind would defile such a work of art with crayon or marker. I'm just a little tempted to remove the ad and frame it, because I know it would really bring the room together. I feel like that's a slippery slope though. One day I'm framing ads from comic books, and the next I'm making paper mache sculptures from their pages. Actually, that idea doesn't sound so bad.

I know I mentioned it last time, but I still love how bewildered Lex Luthor is at getting beaten by a Superman figure controlled by a giant hand. I like to think that once Lex escaped, he spent some time alone, thinking about his place in life. Once you're getting beaten by toy versions of your enemies controlled by disembodied, omnipotent hands, it's time to take stock of your life and maybe find something else to do with your free time.

If you'd like to see more posts about old comic book ads, I recommend checking out Dinosaur Dracula. Matt has a whole library of posts based on advertisements he's found in random comics.

If you'd like to learn more on toy advertising in its various forms, I suggest picking up Action Figures Not Included by Philip Reed. It's fun and informative. It's Funformative!


  1. Replies
    1. Aren't they though? I miss seeing ads like these in comics and magazines.

  2. Man,I forgot about that Joe ad!As If an addiction to comics as a kid wasn't enough,every other add in them was a toy company or video game company pushing their product on us, ughh.Damn you 80's marketing schemes!

    1. This is my first time seeing that Joe ad. I hate knowing that I missed out on deals like that.

  3. These ads really worked on me as a kid. I remember annoying my Dad about the goodies they showcased, hoping he'd cave and buy me something (anything!).

    1. Ha! I used to use ads like these to help make up my Xmas list. I really should have paid better attention to the dates on the ads.


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