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When I was a kid, my brother collected comic books. I was never really a fan of the stories (except Superman and Richie Rich), but for some reason I loved the advertisements. The more sensational the better – I wanted it all.

Here are a 10 crazy vintage comic book ads I recently stumbled across. Many of these I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I actually bought (or at least tried to).

Cheap land for sale

Texas Ranch Land for Sale

Who wouldn’t want some prime Texas real estate? I was about six when I saw a similar advertisement and tried convince my parents to advance me four weeks allowance so I could be a rancher.

I had dreams of cows and wealth (Dallas was my second favorite TV show, primarily because it aired right after Knight Rider), but obviously no concept of measurement. Via comicvine

Comic book weapons (click either pic for full-sized ad)

Tripod swivel machine gun from comic book

Something tells me a kid couldn’t buy this nowadays. Actually, I’ll bet an adult couldn’t either, at least without being added to a terrorist watch list. Via comic coverage

Polaris Nuclear Sub Toy

The holy grail of kids’ toys back in the Sixties. The Polaris Nuclear Sub fired rockets/torpedoes, had working controls, and dove deep to help you search for pirate’s treasure. Fun for girls and boys, wow!

The only problem was that the sub was made from cardboard and rubber bands. Thank goodness they were discontinued well before I was born, the disappointment would have been devastating.

Has anyone ever seen one of these? If so, I’d love to hear about it. I’ll even pay for a picture of the actual sub – my curiosity is driving me crazy. Via psubs

The Superman Phenomenon

Superman vs. Muhammed Ali

In the mid-seventies, celebrities started popping up in superhero comics. Superman vs. Muhammed Ali was my favorite. It was quite possibly the silliest comic book ever (a boxer giving Superman a black eye?), but I loved it.

Kryptonite Rocks

This one never made sense to me. Be a friend to superman by buying Kryptnotastic rocks? Kids were supposed to buy them to keep the rocks out of the hands of villains. Makes a tiny bit of sense, but why wouldn’t the government just destroy them all or send them into space?

I convinced a couple kids on the school bus to buy them for protection in case Superman was exposed to red Kryptonite and came after them. They felt this was a logical reason, and received this upon ordering:

Kryptonite Rocks

Painted green rocks – they lost 3 weeks allowance, I got a great laugh. Then they went back to arguing whether or not Superman would come out of retirement to raise the Titanic.

Pics via x-entertainment

Hypnotize your friends

Hypnotize with a coin

My parents were psychologists, so I was always trying to convince them to teach me hypnotism. The hypno-coin was supposed to be my shortcut to fame and fortune. Another waste of two weeks allowance. I tried to hypnotize my brother into trading some of his garbage pail kid cards for my hypno-coin, but even that wouldn’t work.

X-Ray glasses

X-Ray glasses

After I bought these glasses, my older friends tried to convince me I just didn’t know how to use them right, and would “ooh” and “ah” when wearing them and looking towards neighbors houses. I never saw anything terribly revealing, but did give myself quite a few headaches.

Free Cash

Comic Book One Million Cash

Yes, I fell for this too. I probably spent around $3 to get a worthless catalogue and $1 Million in cheap cutout $10,000 bills. Fun.

This and next ad via Tom Heroes

Quail Eggs

Hatch your own Quail eggs

Why Quail eggs? Why not Chickens or even Turkeys? Did these actually work? I remember seeing Live Miniature Dogs (a “no way!” from mom and dad) and Sea Monkeys (another waste of three weeks allowance), but never incubators for Quail. I would love to hear from anyone who tried to hatch a mail order Quail as a kid.

Bizarre Adult Products

Irritated Eyelids

If you read comic books, you probably noticed lots of products that were certainly not marketed towards kids. How many kids had irritated eyelids? Or jock itch? And would women really peruse comic books to buy slimming bras?

If you were a comic book fan, what were your favorite advertisements?

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106 Responses to “The Strange World of Comic Book Ads”

  1. on 17 Apr 2007 at 2:58 am Bunk

    I drooled over ads like those. Because of those ads, I learned the Great Unwritten Law of Advertising:

    “The Large Print Giveth, and the Small Print Taketh Away.”

  2. on 17 Apr 2007 at 10:48 am Anthony

    Oh man, I remember many of those… Those were the days. I never could talk my parents into letting me order the plans to build my own hover car. Man the things I dreamed of doing if I could just have that hover car :)

    Anthony
    Journey Through Divorce

  3. on 17 Apr 2007 at 12:12 pm Cassie

    Wow, it’s pretty amazing how those mean marketers were preying on innocent little kids with no sense (and still do). I fell for that crap a few times too. The only ads I remember from the comics were the sea monkeys ones, but I only ever read the Archie comics and I don’t recall too many ads in that one.

  4. on 17 Apr 2007 at 2:27 pm Bob

    I just laughed outloud.. the Quail Egg thing is made by G.Q.F. here in Savannah.. and we actually did a website for them a few years back.. not something I would have expected from them, but hilarious..

  5. on 17 Apr 2007 at 2:30 pm Jimbo

    Anyone ever try that hovercraft/floating car thingy? I really wanted one, but could never get together enongh cash to send off for it.

  6. on 17 Apr 2007 at 2:30 pm sethjones.net » Free $1 Million Cash

    [...] Who wouldn’t want $1 million cash free, or a one inch square piece of ranch land in Texas? The Strange World of Comic Book Ads  These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web [...]

  7. on 17 Apr 2007 at 2:35 pm innerverse

    Where’s the Sea Monkeys ad???

  8. on 17 Apr 2007 at 2:46 pm Elliott

    I ordered the quail eggs from an issue of “Boy’s Life” when I was young. The incubation chamber was really tiny (barely big enough to fit the egg) and didn’t fully seal like it did in the picture. Of course, because you were ordering eggs through the mail, it’s on equal level as ordering ants through the mail for ant farms — they were all dead by the time you get them.

    Mine never “incubated,” or hatched, and my mom didn’t put the blame on it being a scam, but rather “You didn’t love them enough.”

  9. on 17 Apr 2007 at 2:48 pm Mike

    I am surprised you did not post a GRIT prizes advertisement.

  10. on 17 Apr 2007 at 2:55 pm Chris

    Oh man! I wanted the Sea Monkeys SO BAD, but my parents wouldn’t let me! I also wanted to earn valuble prizes by selling greeting cards, but my parents said it was a scam. I wanted so many of the novelty items that were for sail, but I never actually ordered any of them.

  11. on 17 Apr 2007 at 3:03 pm Scott

    I did sell the greeting cards and it wasn’t a scam! I actually earned enough “credits” to redeem and get a hand held CB radio scanner. Pretty cool when you are all of 10 years old!

  12. on 17 Apr 2007 at 3:06 pm Greg Sandell

    What about the “Real Fort” that only cost a few bucks? Showed a kid with a coonskin hat guarding the front door. Last year or so The New Yorker (magazine) had a great one-page cartoon by Art Speigelman illustrating his experience of buying one as a kid. The whole thing came in a 8.5″ x 11″ flat envelope. It was a plastic cloth, with a piece of cardboard to create a peaked roof. If you set this thing up on a card table, you’d get your “fort”.

  13. on 17 Apr 2007 at 3:08 pm ben

    I used to love the superhero ads for Hostess fruit pies and so on.

  14. on 17 Apr 2007 at 3:12 pm JoeBob

    The Mythbusters TV program tried out the hovercraft plans/kit with little success.

  15. on 17 Apr 2007 at 3:23 pm Brandon

    I ordered the quail egg incubator thing too. I’ll try to give a good description of it since I doubt I could actually find it in my parents’ attic.

    It was a little plastic pod, like the one in the picture, the bottom was solid yellow and the top half was a clear dome. It had a mesh tray in the bottom half to rest the eggs on. Underneath the mesh was a light bulb to provide the heat (just like an Easy Bake Oven). I didn’t have Elliot’s problem of the thing being too small though, quail eggs are smaller than chicken eggs, so I fit like 4 or 5 of them in there.

    Mine never did hatch either, and I always sort of blamed myself. See, you were supposed to mark them on each side to rotate them once every so many hours (8 I think). I would always rush home from school to turn them, but it was never exactly the right time, so deep down I thought I killed them. It was probably hopeless to begin with.

  16. on 17 Apr 2007 at 3:40 pm Mark R. Brown

    I fell for the ‘sell greeting cards to earn great prizes like THIS BIKE!’ ad. Didn’t sell enough to get the cheapest prize, as I recall.

    But my absolute favorite comic book ad of all time? Two words: Johnson Smith!

  17. on 17 Apr 2007 at 3:44 pm live tv

    @bunk
    “The Large Print Giveth, and the Small Print Taketh Away.”
    That’s seriously awesome, I remember always wanting to try out some of these – everything from the “sea monkies” to the “x-ray specs” and even the “freeze guns” that they advertised. The freeze guns as a friend of my found out, was really just a toy gun (read: cheap cardboard gun) that supposedly squirted water (you were supposed to put cold water in it). The problem (assuming it even worked) was that water and cardboard don’t go well together, and seconds after trying to fill the contraption with water, you were left with soggy paper.

  18. on 17 Apr 2007 at 3:47 pm Mark

    I got the hovercraft thing when I was a kid… Well, not an actual hovercraft, but *plans* to build one. We never got around to building it.

  19. on 17 Apr 2007 at 3:48 pm Rick Miller

    The ads in the back of “Popular Science” were even worse. Lots of ads for PLANS for lasers, phasers, lockpicks, hovercraft, geodesic dome houses, etc. Then there were always ads for spiral staircases and well-drilling equipment. Who were they trying to reach? And of course the perpetual add for Bellsaw Institute – Be a LockSmith!

  20. on 17 Apr 2007 at 3:52 pm Carlos

    I fell for the GRIT stuff. That was such a waste of time! But oh it was fun! :D

  21. on 17 Apr 2007 at 3:55 pm Jim

    My favorite was the “wrist radio”. The ad showed a kid talking into a wrist-watch sized device much like Dick Tracy’s. I was EXTREMELY excited by the prospect of secret communications with my friends using this easily concealed walkie-talkie-like instrument.

    Until, of course, I eventually read the small print. The wrist radio had nothing to do with 2-way communications, despite the misleading illustration. It was just a cheap AM radio you’d stick on your wrist. Glad I saved my money.

  22. on 17 Apr 2007 at 3:57 pm D. Burtner

    I was known as the “comic book kid”. Would read them under the covers by flashlight! I remember all of these ads. I was a “Grit” salesman and got an appropriate prize for the work I put in. Lot’s of neighbors were a big fan. It was a pretty interesting publication. Of oourse I dreamed of the big prizes like bicycles and gas powered airplanes but my small community didn’t have enough people to earn these.

  23. on 17 Apr 2007 at 3:58 pm Mike

    I bought the quail egg gizzmo 30 years ago. The quail eggs had to be shipped separately. I got them (small brown eggs) but they never hatched. Years later I found a chicken egg at the Long Island Game Farm and used the same incubator again. Sure enough, that worked! Got a Plymouth Rock chick and eventually gave it to a vet in the area for his “farm”. So the incubator did work, just not with the quail eggs (maybe I got bum eggs)? :)

  24. on 17 Apr 2007 at 4:02 pm Dan

    This post brought back so many memories. One I remember most was that hovercraft that I begged my folks to buy me. But they never did. My father tried convincing me that something so cheap couldn’t possibly do what the ad said it did. I still wonder about it though. :)

  25. on 17 Apr 2007 at 4:19 pm Kamilche

    The Sea Monkeys were actually brine shrimp. I bought them when I was a kid… they never had little crowns and scepters like the illustration showed tho, and they suffered the same fate as the quail eggs – DOA. I never blamed it on not loving them enough tho, and I never bought anything from the back of a magazine again.

  26. on 17 Apr 2007 at 4:33 pm consumer_q

    They still sell that same incubator and quail eggs: http://tinyurl.com/ysjp2y

    Redeem your childhood failings for only $18.98!

  27. on 17 Apr 2007 at 4:41 pm Drexel

    What a great article. I loved those adds! The art was as mesmerizing as the comics. I always liked the x-ray glasses adds and the one where a bully was kicking sand in the skinny guys face.

    The Sea Monkeys I had. Damn disappointment. They were shrimp. I was so angry. Those Sea Monkey’s didn’t even hang out in their castle. Bunch on ungrateful sea dwelling jerks.

  28. on 17 Apr 2007 at 5:09 pm mizo

    I don’t remember the exact details, but I do remember seeing an add in a couple comic books where you could buy a G.I. Surplus Jeep that you had to assemble yourself for something like $100. Not a toy, mind you, an actual vehicle. How on earth that could ever have been true, I don’t know, but my brother and I dreamed and schemed to try and get it for the longest time. Never happened.

  29. on 17 Apr 2007 at 6:14 pm Michelle

    It’s a shame that I was a comic book reader when I was growing up only like, 10-15 years ago. I would have loved to see these types of ads in the books. They’re awesome. Being a journalist, print ads are so interesting to me haha.

  30. on 17 Apr 2007 at 7:09 pm Adam Black

    Out of all the things I wanted from comic book ads, I did actually buy one thing: The Roman Armies.

    There were ads in the comics of the 70s that advertised “AN ENTIRE WAR CHEST OF SOLDIERS!” for a very small price. Sometimes they were Civil War soldiers, sometimes they were cowboys and Indians…that sort of thing.

    I got the Roman Soldiers. Two armies: one blue and one yellow. Each army came with footmen, cavalry, chariots, and even catapults.

    When I got them, they were about the height of the ubiquitous green plastic army men, but they were wafer thin…about an eigth of an inch thick. The catapults were very simple plastic affairs which shot little round balls (also color coded).

    The thinness of the soldiers actually proved to be very challenging. My brother and I would set up our armies on the kitchen floor in whatever rank and file seemed best to us at the time.

    Then we’d take turns firing the catapults at each other’s armies. Whoever knocked down the most men before running out of projectiles won.

    I have to say, it was a lot of fun for a couple of elementary school kids with nothing better to do.

    Oddly enough, I don’t remember much about the “war chest” the soldiers came in. It was a cheap shoebox-like affair, if I recall. I threw it away pretty quickly and put all the soldiers in one of those round “Quaker Oats” cardboard cans. As I recall, there were so many figures that they barely fit.

  31. on 17 Apr 2007 at 8:34 pm holotone.net

    [...] Say No to Crack » Blog Archive » The Strange World of Comic Book Ads – When I was a kid, my brother collected comic books. I was never really a fan of the stories (except Superman and Richie Rich), but for some reason I loved the advertisements. The more sensational the better – I wanted it all. [...]

  32. on 17 Apr 2007 at 10:15 pm Matt S.

    I asked my Mom for a lot of those things. I remember her telling me that GRIT was published by evil people that took advantage of little kids.

    But I did buy the Sea Monkeys and I LOVED them. Before I ordered them, she warned me that they were almost microscopic, and were little sea bugs rather than people. But since my life’s goal was to become an entomologist, that made me almost as excited.

    When I got the tank, I was very skeptical, but when I started to see the shrimp swimming around, I was ecstatic. Life sprang from a dry envelope! I remember being very sad when the last one died.

    I didn’t become an entomologist, but I did major in biology, and spent a semester chasing spiders.

    Maybe, somewhere out there, there’s an ornithologist who hatched some quail.

  33. on 17 Apr 2007 at 10:39 pm Brian

    I always wanted Sea Monkeys when I was a kid. The ads for Sea Monkeys often were cartoons of them dressed in royal robes with little crowns and driving mini-underwater chevrolettes around some magical Kingdom. Man, that woulda been cool… Of course, my parents never bought them for me.

    When I got into high school I had a job and a car and power to buy stuff I wanted. I was talking with some friends about how I always wanted Sea Monkeys but never had any – turned out they felt the same.

    We found a local store that sold some. It took a couple of batches before we actually followed the directions right and managed to not kill them.

    They never developed a civilization with mini-subs or a Royal family. Instead, most of them died over time, and the water started to get pretty gross. Eventually we had to flush em.

  34. on 18 Apr 2007 at 2:06 am Jan

    Man, i used to dream about those things.
    Unfortunatly i live in Denmark, where we had no such adds in our comics, but now and again we got hold on a US issue, and boy did we dream!

    Guess i saved some money, but i think i rather have the Polaris NUCLEAR sub

  35. on 18 Apr 2007 at 3:28 am FiremanJersey

    Adam Black…

    Yes, I ordered those wafer thin armies too… but I ordered the US Army men. I don’t remember different colors, I think they were all army green. I actually remember getting alot of play time out of those little army men.

  36. on 18 Apr 2007 at 6:51 am Pau1 from Cleveland

    i *repeatedly* ordered stuff from johnson smith company from the back of comics as a youngster, and can’t say i have any regrets. (of course, i also had a catholic school education and am one of the rare individuals that feels the nuns did not beat me *nearly* enough for the crap i used to pull).

    sure, they were junk and rarely looked / worked as advertised, but they taught me two important things; buyer beware, and the joy of anticipation. checking the mailbox on a daily basis starting the week *before* the promised date was half the fun.

    glad to see johnson smith

    http://www.johnsonsmith.com/

    is still in business selling useless gadgets at allowance level prices:

    http://www.thingsyouneverknew.com/website/aspfiles/home.asp

  37. on 18 Apr 2007 at 7:40 am Lord Matt

    I have a friend who collects comics and have actually read comics older than I am including the Superman vs. Muhammed Ali story. I actually expected it to be a lot worse.

    Of course by the time I came to read them I was already a bitter skptical adult and so my only reaction was to wonder how they got away with it.

  38. on 18 Apr 2007 at 7:55 am A. Nonymous

    I, too, used to DROOL over these ads in the comics.

    I not only bought the Sea Monkeys, twice, I had the special ‘aquarium’ for them! It was a six ounce, approximately, clear plastic tall rectangular holder with ‘magnified’ portals! Along with it you could purchase plethora of other accessories–special ‘vitamins’, so on.

    The ‘Olympic Sales Club’ was also another diversion as I sold various greeting cards to family, friends, neighbors. Instead of the ‘prize’ I took the $1.00 per box commission!

    Did anyone buy the ‘Giant Frankenstein’ that I used to advertised a lot?

  39. on 18 Apr 2007 at 12:51 pm Mike Johnson

    Out of curiousity i looked up GRIT recently — they actually still publish, only now it’s a magazine about rural subjects. Wikipedia has info on them also.

  40. on 18 Apr 2007 at 3:02 pm Troy

    That was the best read of the day! I forgot all about those ads. It brought up alot memories all good. I too wanted alot of those things (the sub the most)but my mom said that it was waste money. HUH?! Moms was right.

  41. on 18 Apr 2007 at 3:32 pm Keith

    While I did own the Sea Monkeys, I was never permitted to buy anything else from a comic. My favorite ad however (and I can scan and attach copies if anyone wants to see it) was from around 1970 when you could order a live monkey from a company based in Florida for $19.99. It appeared to be the same species as you now see working as ‘helper monkeys’. My favorite quote from the ad was “Live Delivery Guaranteed”, which terrified me into thinking you might get a series of smelly boxes before you got your living monkey.

  42. [...] The Strange World of Comic Book Ads – Say No to Crack When I was a kid, my brother collected comic books. I was never really a fan of the stories (except Superman and Richie Rich), but for some reason I loved the advertisements. The more sensational the better – I wanted it all. [...]

  43. on 18 Apr 2007 at 11:17 pm Bunk

    How about those “Liftee” shoe inserts that would make you appear to be “UP TO” 3″ taller so you could get the tall girls?

    Another great source for teen boys was the J.C. Whitney automotive parts and accessories catalog. You could buy klaxon (Ah-OOOga) horns, wolf whistles, fuzzy dice, chrome accelerator pedal covers in the shape of bare feet, mudflaps with chrome bimbo silhouettes, neckers knobs, flame decals, and “Blinky the Cat” with eyes that flashed in time with the turn signals.

    I bought a genuine imitation leather (vinyl) jacket for $14 when I was in high school. I still have it. J.C. Whitney had every automotive thingy I ever wanted but didn’t need… because I didn’t have a car.

  44. [...] Strange World of Comic Book Ads Filed under: Uncategorized — recar @ 7:50 am The Strange World of Comic Book Ads When I was a kid, my brother collected comic books. I was never really a fan of the stories (except [...]

  45. on 19 Apr 2007 at 8:46 am Ron Larson

    I order the “free stamps” from a comic book. They promised free stamps from all over the world that were worth a lot of money.

    Sure enough, there were about 6 canceled stamps from overseas. Interesting to look at, but soon forgotten and lost by an 8 year old boy.

    I never told my mom about it since it was free. Years later she told me she received an invoice addressed to her from the company demanding payment from the parents for shipping expenses, like $10 I think. My mom told me that it was a very stern letter that implied legal trouble for the parents if they failed to pay for the goods their child had ordered.

    My mom write them back and told them to go ahead and sue her. She never heard from them again. I wonder how many parents just paid the bill without question?

  46. [...] remember a lot of these Vintage Comic Book Ads, and I remember my utter disappointment that the X-Ray Specs didn’t actually allow me to see [...]

  47. on 19 Apr 2007 at 1:13 pm Don

    I received the Quail Eggs FOR CHRISTMAS through Boys Life as part of a science project for school. I followed everything to a “tee” turning the eggs, etc. I was really really sad when they didn’t hatch, heartbroken in fact. I honestly have not gotten over the company that will ship these eggs through the mail during winter, it’s really pretty evil. I believe quail eggs were related to a humorous nature book, popular in the 1950s-60s called “That Quail Robert” which every older woman in my neighborhood knew when I proudly told them of my project. I spent Christmas break writing in my science journal and taking pictures of the set up. I probably would have been happier not thinking about this.

  48. on 19 Apr 2007 at 6:01 pm J Donley

    Had forgotten about the stamps my brother & I ordered “on approval”…whatever that meant. And the letters dunning us and threatening to send a lawyer after us if we didn’t pay. Spent some sleepless nights worrying about the legal problems.

    The big disappointment I remember was $3.98 for a “brass bound telescope”….60X I think. We had a full brass telescope envisioned, but what showed up was a cardboard tube with plastic lenses and the only brass on it was on the end of the telescope…. a small ring of very thin brass. That experience lead me into a passion I have today for optics….binoculars and spotting scopes.

    Don

  49. on 19 Apr 2007 at 6:03 pm RoverDaddy

    Wow, this brings back memories. I was never allowed to buy any of this stuff, but I did meet a kid once who had the hovercraft. It was a paper-thin plastic shell about 6 inches long and 4 inches wide, with a propeller stuck in the top. The propeller was driven by a hand-held battery/motor pack with a 4 ft. cable leading to the propeller. It -barely- hovered over a clean flat tile floor, forget about water, grass, roads, etc. :)

    Now, does anybody remember back-page comic ads from Armstrong Flooring, that featured a multicolored caterpillar type creature (a stuffed animal I presume) that you could get if you dragged mom and dad to the flooring store (or something like that?) I always wanted that one – of course I thought it was alive and smart just like the Sea Monkeys! :)

  50. on 20 Apr 2007 at 12:24 am Bunk

    Back to “the Large Print Giveth…”

    Another scam was “Government Surplus Jeeps for Just $44.” The vehicles were supposedly unassembled, a lot of parts.

    All you had to do was send in $10 to find out the details. A friend and I figgered that we could put the thing together, and sent our money in.

    What we got was a five page xeroxed publication explaining how to participate in government auctions. That publication is free to the public upon request.

    Even with the “money back guaranteed if not satisfied” promise, who is gonna waste a lot of time and effort to retrieve $10? We learned a good lesson, and it only cost us a coupla fivers.

  51. [...] Anita Bath — love the name — offers up 10 crazy vintage comic-book ads. (Link via John Brownlee.) [...]

  52. on 20 Apr 2007 at 10:21 am Carl

    Clovering Salve. Sell twelve cans and get a “free” diamond ring. Got suckered into that one out of a Grit ad (I know we are talking about comic book ads, but this came to mind). Only problem was that once you opened the package you were required to sell them all and return the money to them. I sold maybe five. They were selling for $.50 each and my weekly allowance was a quarter. It took me forever to pay my parents back, I foolishly put my phone on the order blank and they called when I was two weeks late with my payment and that how my parents found out. Oh yeah and the money order was another $.15 or another week of pay back. HAHAHAHAHA. But it taught me a lesson, to this day it is almost impossible to bring myself to oder anything from either an ad or from a catalog.

  53. on 20 Apr 2007 at 10:22 am Carl

    I forgot to mention that the entire ring was plastic, even the stone. Of course I immediately lost it, probably to my older brother I suspect

  54. on 20 Apr 2007 at 2:26 pm OldTexan

    I loved comic books, my 11 year older brother and I shared our bedroom and he would bring home comic books all the time and that is the way I learned to read at four and five years old. The ads in the back were great in the late 40’s and 50’s.

    We ordered the plastic Army men in the 50′s. We would take them out to the edge of town and set them up on the practice field behind the high school football stadium. Then we would take out .22 rifles and lay down about ten feet away and slowing shoot all the (German, we always called them Germans.)soldiers.

    Can you imagine 11 and 12 year olds spending a summer afternoon shooting guns on school property unsupervised and not being a threat to anyone?

  55. [...] read a blog entry about The Strange World of Comic Book Ads. Talk about bringing back some [...]

  56. on 21 Apr 2007 at 1:22 pm john

    Here’s an ad I scanned of OJ Simpson selling boots

    http://superpunch.blogspot.com/2007/04/old-comic-book-ad-oj-simpson-sells.html

  57. on 22 Apr 2007 at 6:20 pm Jay

    I can’t believe nobody has mentioned the Charles Atlas “98-pound weakling” ads. They seemed to be in every comic book I had in the early 1980s.

    98lb weakling at beach
    98 lb weakling gets sand kicked in face by bully
    98 lb weakling sends money to Charles Atlas, gets strong
    98 lb weakling returns to beach and extracts revenge.

    Good times!!!

  58. on 22 Apr 2007 at 10:19 pm Johnny A

    My mother ordered me the Necular sub for $6.99. We waited about 8 weeks for it. A large box was delivered which contained ripped up newspapers and no sub. Back then there was no place to complain to about it. Disapointing.

  59. [...] The strange world of comic book ads [...]

  60. on 27 Apr 2007 at 2:08 am mexicodoug

    As an adolescent during the 70s, I was more inclined toward the underground comix, which included satirical ads. I especially remember one “ad”, I think it was in Mother’s Oats, for a life-size Jimi Hendrix doll guaranteed to turn purple, puke, and drop dead.

  61. on 27 Apr 2007 at 7:07 pm Motorcycle Guy

    These are awesome. The funny part is there are ads just as bad still today.

  62. on 30 Apr 2007 at 12:00 am Dreamer

    I Googled this site by putting in “comic ads sub” and I found exactly what I was looking for! A great picture of the Polaris Sub ad; it is now my laptop background for awhile. Over 40 years ago I used to daydream for hours at a time about that sub. Obviously I still think about it once in awhile, with fond memories, even though I was never able to get my hands on one. The daydreams were probably better than the real deal anyways. There is one other ad that I lusted after as a boy in the comics, it was the one that showed a whole army of soldiers that could be purchased, they would show a really neat battlefield with cannons and marching men, I used to daydream about that ad also. I think they were probably little plastic soldiers, but I really don’t know. Thanks for the memories.

  63. on 01 May 2007 at 12:27 am Ray D

    I got the sea monkeys but they never got as friendly as the ad said,they were fun to watch though .Those were the days!

  64. on 07 May 2007 at 6:28 pm brian h.

    Does anyone out there know when these “classic” comic book ads stopped? I am trying to figure out the year, and have had no luck so far. Was there an across the board stop to them, or did they gradually disappear? (I am talking about ones like the sea-monkeys ads, the gadgets you could buy, like x-ray specs, and such.) And, when did they start? I think I have seen an early 1990s comic book without the ads, and I was buying up until the early ’80s, I would guess. Any ideas?

  65. on 10 May 2007 at 9:43 am will

    That brings me back. The odd world of comic book ads, were the outlandish was possible. Of course, you could buy a whole cruise ship for two dollars, but you never did read the fine print: “a very small cruise ship. one that could fit in your bath tub. oh yeah! it’s made of plastic…but it’s still a cruise ship!”

  66. on 11 May 2007 at 7:44 pm bill

    I bought the Polaris submarine. I remember that it was VERY expensive and it took me weeks and weeks to
    save the money. We had a pond next to our house and I dreamed of taking that sub to the very bottom. Of course I didn’t see the ‘cardboard’ disclaimer. I think I was about 10 years old. On that ‘special’ day, when I got home from school, my mom said that my submarine had arrived and it was in my room… that dad would ‘put it together’ when he got home. Put it together? In my room? I remember total confusion as I headed towards my room. There, in the middle of the floor, was a long cardboard box… quite flat. Hmmm. After dinner that night, dad suffered the ‘Tab A into Slot B’ scenario but kept me out of the room until it was finished. When he announced it was done, I fell for the illusion. Damn, it looked real! The outside was silver and had ‘rivits’ printed upon it. It had a conning tower (like the illustration) and a periscope. I was thrilled! But as soon as I touched it, the illusion faded away. It was cardboard! I was crushed! Yeah, I got inside, I shot the torpedoes with the crappy rubber bands… they went about 3 feet out a cardboard tube and landed on the floor. My final memory was jumping up and down on it, destroying it in a fit of rage over my broken dreams. …as a final note, this company also sold a realistic cardboard tank, too. I did learn to read closely after that and never fell for the sucker bait comix ads dangled in front of my eyes. Man, you should have seen the vivid dreams I had of using that sub in our pond…

  67. on 31 May 2007 at 12:00 pm anatol

    Nise site!

  68. on 07 Jun 2007 at 8:43 am ken

    ha,ha,ha lol i got the xray specs they never worked glad i wassent alone

  69. on 10 Jun 2007 at 3:07 am mike

    I ordered the army men. The box was just cardboard but printed up nice. They were thin but you got lots of them. Hard to make them stand-up.

    I also ordered the Frankenstein. It was just a door-sized white plastic sheet with a green and black Frankenstein printed on, with I think glow-in-the-dark stickers for the pupils or soemthing like that. Disappointing at first but still pretty cool.

    I kind of remember ordering some wrist bands that help you bust boards; but I can’t remember what they were like, I jsut remember wearing them briefly and feeling tough.

    I always wanted to join FOOM but never did.

    Always thought Tony Atlas was the coolest, that he must really care about kids. My brother, I think, ordered the Atlas program, but it was just a little exercise book and catalogue, but it was still TOny Atlas so it was all good.

  70. on 02 Aug 2007 at 7:52 am MAGICTAINMENT

    It was an ad like this which sparked me to look into what it is we do today!

    Dave & Lindy

  71. on 10 Aug 2007 at 3:38 am Glenn Granada

    I ordered the product “Weight-On”… Remember the add? A young, shirtless “Matt Dillon” type with a stupid football. The product promised some rather far fetched weight and muscle gains in young male athletes.
    I don’t know how I convinced my mother to order this swill for me but she did. It arrived in a large, ominous looking brown glass bottle. Probably the smartest marketing guise so far as to mask its vile contents. Very similar to “Pepo-Bismal”, only a lot stronger. A sickly, pepperminty pink medicine like creamy slurry, with a disturbingly odd, nauseating bouquet. Always caused that little flame of fear in the back of your mind that you may regurgitate in a microsecond. I believe it DID come with a little brochure stating its large dose of sugar calories.

  72. [...] (via Say no to crack) [...]

  73. on 22 Aug 2007 at 12:49 pm Lisa

    I thought the sea-monkeys would actually have chairs and watch TV. I also ordered “one hundred dolls for a dollar!” forgoing the more expensive 2 dollar ones that said they had clothes. I got a teeny box of extruded plastic things. I’m sure mom let me order so i could learn, but it was fun to fantasize that all that stuff was real.

  74. on 09 Sep 2007 at 5:42 pm JP

    You can actually get something like that tripod cannon here:

    http://www.iwantoneofthose.com/room-defender/index.html

  75. on 12 Oct 2007 at 12:17 am SK

    Found this site when trying to look up any references to the old comic ads of the 60′s and 70′s. I remember in some of them was a large dollhouse that the girl would actually sit on the floor and close the dollhouse around her while she played in it. Being a girl, I loved the thought of that (especially so my little brother wouldn’t be able to mess with me – I thought). Anyway, did anyone ever get one of those, or does anyone remember anything about it so I can research it some more? Thanks!

    P.S. A lot of the craft stores, like Hobby Lobby, still sell the Sea Monkeys kits. I always wanted one of those, and still do but my DH says No Way. Maybe I can talk my Mom into for my BDay?! HaHa!

  76. [...] and naturally, with the miracle of the Inter-webs, I was able to see it again within a few seconds. Check out this site if you’d like to see more, and I’m sure information superhighway is peppered with [...]

  77. on 23 Oct 2007 at 3:08 pm Scott Andrew Hutchins

    I wanted the Crazy Crabs, which were hermit crabs shipped live with a custom shell that was paintable. My dad said he wouldn’t gamble on them, mainly because the comics were a couple of years old when I got them and the company was probably out of business. He didn’t mention the dead crabs possibility. Charles Atlas ads reemerged in the 1990s, but eventually, mot comic ads were for video games, cereal, and commercially-available toys, and the child-aimed 900-numbers before those were banned.

    Now some comics have ads for cars in them, and I don’t mean toy cars.

  78. on 24 Oct 2007 at 11:49 am Scott Andrew Hutchins

    Dean Studios is still in business. Their number is 515-243-7757. Someone should call and ask them about monkeys in the mail.

    Quail eggs, on the other hand, are delicious. you can buy them hard boiled in cans at Asian grocery stores. They’re like deviled eggs without the mustard–the yolks have the same texture.

  79. on 24 Oct 2007 at 3:53 pm Scott Andrew Hutchins

    If you think the Dean Studios miniature live animals are interesting and notable, please say so here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Dean_Studios

  80. on 19 Nov 2007 at 4:04 am Clay McBride

    Please tell me that someone actually sent you a photo of the famous “Polaris Sub” (Seats Two!) from our collective childhoods! Like you, I am haunted by this pre-fab bit of marketing genius, and would dearly LOVE to see a photo of the actual real McCoy in all its dream-crushing glory.

    If you did receive a photo of this wonder toy, could you PLEASE forward a copy to me at my email address? I would be deeply grateful–if only for the chance to prove to my 11-year-old son that I do not speak with fork tongue regarding this Maltese Falcon of American ’60′s kid’s everywhere.

    Sincerely,
    CLAY

  81. on 24 Nov 2007 at 1:30 pm Jack

    It was spring of 1967 & I was 8 years old. I saved my pennies, nickels, & dimes and with my Mom’s help, I too sent for the Polaris Sub. I remember seeing the cardboard disclaimer. However, in the typical weird, 8 year-old goof head’s mind, I rationalized and filled in the blanks with “hey, they figured out a way to waterproofed cardboard. Wow, ain’t technology great!” I no-kidding had visions of being a junior Jacques Cousteau in one of our local lakes or rivers.

    After suffering with agonizing anticipation for what seemed an eternity (I somehow remember it being worse than the usual Christmas wait…), it finally arrived in the mail. As Bill described above, it did in fact have all the markings of a sub, but I knew right away I’d been had. The crash and burn was most profound and intense – I’m a grizzled old cynic today just because of the seed of corruption this company planted in that trusting, gullible, goofy 8 year-old kid. I remember we put it together in my bedroom and I sort of half-heartedly played in it, trying to make the most of a lousy situation. In fact, I think we kept it around for a year or so, but it eventually found its way into the trash.

    Like Bill, I also remember that tank and thinking “sure, some poor sap will no doubt get taken just like I did.”

    Unfortunately, I have no photo of the actual sub, only the imperfect memories of an 8 year-old boy. Funny though – seeing that ad brought back those very memories of anticipation and fantasy about how cool it will be to have my own private (real) sub for $6.98…

    Jack

  82. on 27 Dec 2007 at 5:30 pm Bob Gallo

    How about those crazy little plastic skeleton hands.

    The ad would tell you how you can have a skeleton crawling out of your pocket. Terrify your friends etc.

    When you paid the 25 cents for the catalog you got the hands for free. When they arrived you found out that they were merely two plastic skeleton hands that were about two inches long and hung over your shirt pocket.

    I would say that the people who sold these were predators screwing kids out of money but I have to admit that they were so much part of my experience of growing up and isn’t it interesting that we think of these things as more than other things which were probably more important?

    Bob

  83. on 18 Jan 2008 at 7:34 pm Newworldman

    In the late 60s, My friends and I ordered many of those comic book offerings. My friend ordered the Polaris sub, and I can remember observing this little cardboard sub which would explore the depths of the mysterious seas only in the vivid imaginations of kids who ordered them. I remember his disappointment at his rather rude introduction to advertisement in America, where “a sucker is born every minute” (P.T. Barnum).

    I ordered the incubator, but not the eggs. You see, a fertilized egg will die if it’s not turned on a regular basis — to keep the fertilized embryo from floating to the inside edge of the shell — and I am sure that the company must have known this. I obtained two chicken eggs, and 20 something days after turning them 3 or 4 times a day (1/4 turn each), one of the eggs began to hatch. Unfortunately, the chick died before it could fully hatch — probably from excessive heat from the incubator — leading to my first of many clinical depression episodes.

    Here are a few other items which lured this “sucker” in. The pocket spy scope was very cool, performing as both telescope and microscope — well worth the few bucks that I paid for it. Of course, I hatched a family of “royal” sea monkeys, learning years later that the near-invisible creatures were simple brine shrimp. I have several “dog whistles” which were supposedly inaudible to humans. My experience with them was that they were also inaudible to dogs, which looked at me like I was an idiot when I blew it around them. Good memories.

  84. on 27 Jan 2008 at 9:31 pm HockeyFan

    They actually had an episode of CSI:NY where a guy and his childhood friend ordered the Polaris Nuclear sub and his friend drowned as a result (because it was cardboard of course). So he was over protective of his kid and lost custody. He went after the guy that had sold him the sub all those years ago.

  85. on 29 Jan 2008 at 7:38 pm jolie

    i forget the name of the cop show my wife was watching a few months ago, but the guy that the bullet was meant for was the owner of the “store” that sold the (polaris)sub. reason? the murderer and his friend as youths took the sub out to the water, but his friend couldn’t swim and drowned!
    my own experience with back pages was receiving a bike speedometer for 75 cents from honor house products in lynbrook. the back, relying upon wind speed, had a propeller-like device attached to the dial. to top it off, the odometer’s numbers were pre printed. after that, i broke down and bought a stewart-warner cadet from my local bike shop.

  86. on 17 Feb 2008 at 3:06 pm Kevin

    I think we all had big eyes and little pockets. I joined the Olymic Sales Club to win/earn “the bike”. I ended up getting more than one bike because of the sales I was trying to make, but they didn’t come from Olympic at all. I met a talent agent at her house who put me in TV comercials and in a movie with Flash Gordons woman, Melody Anderson. I was waxing nastalgic last night after finding my Screen actors guild (SAG) paystubs. So after trying to find out if I still have residuals comming from the movies syndication, (oh, it was called Police Woman Centerfold) because I had moved and never kept in touch with the agent or SAG. I decided to see if anybody else had had such an extreme experience with door to door sales at such a young age.
    I don’t think anybody ever really got the bike, or any of the big prises. If you sold enough to “win” a big one, you would ussually have enough to buy it yourself if you kept the $1 cash instead of waiting.

    For me it was a great and life changing deal. But until today doing a search for Olympic, I never met anybody who did any of these sales gigs.

    As for all the other stuff advertised, My folks were real sceptics. I guess they thought a twin brother was enough of a tow for both of us. We didn’t need “all that crap”. But I still have a huge part of me that wants to try a pair of the X-ray glasses. I have to assume they didn’t / don’t work, because I think that would have really hurt the internet porn deal. LOL

    Great day to all
    PEACE

  87. on 11 Mar 2008 at 2:35 pm Tatyana

    Thanks for the post.

  88. on 29 May 2008 at 3:08 am Kevin

    I’m really late to this discussion, but I was just telling my friend about the Quail Egg Incubator earlier and was googling around for it. I actually did this twice, and had success both times from it. At least one chick hatched from each batch and lived pretty normal quail lives.

  89. on 29 May 2008 at 9:32 pm Stacy

    If you love this nostalgic comic book humor and old ads, you’ll love pop culture artist Nelson De La Nuez’s artwork–the sides of his canvases are these vintage style ads–they are amazing! Check him out at popcultureart.com

  90. on 08 Jun 2008 at 5:32 am seth

    What a great site! Haven’t laughed this much in ages. As a kid in the 70′s, I too was mesmerised by all the great stuff on offer in the backs of comics. Living in Australia though, my parents convinced me that I’d have to convert Aussie dollars to U.S., the products would get lost in the mail and they were probably fake anyway. Still, I couldn’t help having visions of cruising the streets in my own tank and hunting down my enemies. Jeez I used to envy you American kids. Got duped by the Sea Monkeys though, still bitter about that one.

  91. on 22 Jun 2008 at 9:48 pm Gus

    Wow, that polaris ad brings it all back. My friend Charlie and I were convinced that we were gonna sail that sub under the north pole on an expedition!!

  92. on 29 Jun 2008 at 12:52 am Trish

    G.Q.F. still runs that ad in the back of Outdoor magazine. I saw it a couple of months ago and remembered seeing it as a kid. My mom wouldn’t let me order it and that made me really sad. I’m 39 now so I said, ‘Suck it, Mom!’ and ordered. It arrived about 10 days later with 4 quail eggs.

    The incubator is basically just a plastic flying saucer with legs and you really have to babysit it, but I hatched one quail. You can even see the video on YouTube (search: Dan Quail hatching). I’m hooked now and bought a professional incubator that’s cooking up a dozen quail as I type this. I’ve turned into a bird nerd. Say no to hatching.

  93. on 23 Jul 2008 at 3:16 pm Anissa

    Does anybody remember the crazy hovercraft that was always advertised in the back of GRIT magazine??? Any idea how to find an old ad copy??? I’d just LOVE to see that again!!!

  94. on 24 Jul 2008 at 6:59 pm Eric

    Oops, the URL was dropped. The Polaris Nuclear Submarine” for $6.98 is here: http://www.boingboing.net/2007/06/14/photo-of-comic-book-.html

    Is this what was really sent?

  95. on 11 Oct 2008 at 1:29 pm Rob in WA

    What a wonderful return visit to my childhood. We all shared some wonderful experiences of anticipation… combined with some sad disappointments, didn’t we? But this page of reflections caused me to laugh so much about these enticing but misleading ads, that I think today I finally got my money’s worth for everything I bought based on comic book ads. Thank you all.

    Oh, and my son (now in grad school) ended up not taking my advice and purchased Sea Monkeys. He loved them, even though you needed the built-in magnifier to see what the little creatures were doing. He never forgave me for flushing them down the toilet when I (wrongly) thought that their empire had come to an end. Apparently, even though I could only see the rubble of their civilization, they were not quite extinct. In fact, he bought some again while he’s been at college. I think he may really be waiting for them to reach a medieval cultural equivalent and choose those kings and queens you see in the ads.

  96. on 20 Jan 2009 at 4:45 pm Trevor Adams

    Another great source of spurious adverts was the Johnson Smith catalogue.How gullible I was!:-)

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  98. on 24 Jun 2009 at 12:52 pm Rick

    Nice to know I wasn’t the only naive kid back then!

    I once sent for the “You Can Learn Karate” course from a comic book. For 99 cents you got a poorly Xeroxed copy of some pages the “Sensei” had put together. Some were too dark and you couldn’t read them and some were too light and you could’t make out the photos. Needless to say, I never recieved my black belt.

    The flat soldiers are known as “Comic Book Flats”(Seriously) and are collector’s items now.

    I also was a “GRIT” paper boy for about a year. Actually, it wasn’t too bad a deal. I got a nickel for every paper I sold for fifteen cents.
    The worst part was when my family moved and I could no longer deliver their paper. They kept sending the damn things which were then forwarded to my new address.

  99. on 12 Feb 2010 at 3:31 pm voodooplaya37

    those were some wonderful times!

  100. on 12 Feb 2010 at 4:05 pm voodooplaya37

    the polaris submarine has been and forever will be a mystery to me. like most kids in the 60s and 70s who read comics, i wanted one, but my real inspiration for getting one wasnt the comic ad. my neighbor who lived on the corner got one and it looked exactly like the picture. it was relatively the size seen in the picture (relative to the size of a 10 year old boy) is was red and wasnt simple cardboard but a kind of coated cardboard material kind of like a plastic or acylic fiberglassing. it had a contol panel that looked really realistic. now the kicker is it wasnt new his mom had gotten it from some people she worked for. the damn thing was impressive to the extreme. i have sat in it many times until he and i had a fall out. so, i sold pop bottles for a couple of days after school to raise the money to order one. to my surprise what i got was light years away from what my friend had in his yard. it was cardboard that had to be assembled similar to the cardboard dollhouses still sold. it was kool but a disappointment because it wasnt what my friend had. it was silver gray colored about six or seven feet i guess. it had the conning tower fake controls, it had missles that fired by rubber bands. his didnt have missles or torpedos but the holes for them were still in the sub. for years i was puzzled as to why his looked just like the comic ad and was more substantial and mine was mearly a cardboard cutout. a few rains destoryed mine. his, kid in the neighborhood over the years dismantled it and only the nose cone was still in existance when i was 20, though it was weathered and faded. this was the early 70s so i chalked the differences in them up to inflation.lol! with the internet i have learned that others shared my experience and no one had my friend anthonys with the polaris. so it will always be a mystery to me. was the one sold by the comic ad a knockoff of a more substantial one sold by a major catalogue house catering to high end clientel? so far i cant say.

  101. on 01 Apr 2010 at 1:38 pm umer

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  102. on 21 Jul 2010 at 8:24 am mbt on sale

    that is very kind to see this, thank you very much to do this for us.

  103. on 27 Jul 2010 at 12:00 am sheenashirley

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  104. on 14 Sep 2010 at 3:13 pm Dre

    Wow to go back for just one day – looking back what I remember most fondly was running home from the school bus every day to see if my Hovercar had arrived.

    Somehow I thought i was going to fly inside the thing around town LOL imaging the disappointment when I saw a plate sized piece of plastic that needed two D batteries to hover three inches off the ground via the controls which were attached with a four-foot wire.

    Thanks for taking me back all those years.

  105. on 03 Dec 2010 at 8:19 pm guasilas

    And look how influential these ads were, they practically explain all of Bush junior.: Own a small ranch, Machine guns to go to war (well, he did stay in Texas for Viet Nam, but sending others to Iraq is ok), Superman versus Muhammad(Ali), Airport security now a teenage fantasy of strip tease machines, and if you are the right banker, M. Bernanke will give you a million, or even a hundred million for nothing.

  106. on 24 Dec 2010 at 11:54 pm inlarry

    I remember ordering one of the GQF incubators out of my Boy’s Life as a kid for around $10. I got my little plastic incubator, with the wire screen and a little piece of foil (a reflector), and my 6 eggs. Followed the directions, and I guess I got lucky and managed to hatch 4 chicks if I remember correctly. The down side, they didn’t give you all the stuff to care for them post-hatching. But with a cardboard box, old pie tin and another bulb we made a little home, and I think 2 of them survived from there. Eventually set the grown birds free on a teacher’s farm.

    And, like another response, did the Olympia Sales club thing, went for the (I think) $2/item at the time. Made about $50 I think, products seemed on par with school fundraiser crap. Did it a couple times before the neighbor’s got tired of buying shit.

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