I always kinda liked the ads in comics. In stark contrast to prose books (I am a big bookworm and love to read books, too), the constant interruption of comic stories by advertisements sprinkled throughout has a charm all of its own. And when they fit in with comics, it’s even better. Sometimes the ads showcase other genre-related properties like movies, TV shows and licensed merchandise. Sometimes they just serve as a nostalgic tether to days, and products, long gone by.
I’m proud to have had a few of my ads appear in various comics over the years. It was a thrill to see them in print. Like the Super Bowl, there were times when I’d look forward to seeing the ads more than the main event. In a recent conversation with my old Nabisco pal, Doug Haase, we ended up talking all about our old Marvel comics cross promotion and the ads that went along with it.
I’ve worked with professional experts too. Creative types as well as sales folks. As far as I’m concerned, people like Marvel’s Renee Krumper, Valiant’s Seymour Miles, and DC’s Avery Stiratt have an important place in comics history. Most notable is the entrepreneurial warrior, Kris Longo. He’s been fighting the good fight at Geek Riot Media, the firm he founded, for years now.
With all that in mind, I was especially delighted when I stumbled across Harvey’s Dick Tracy #99. I’m working on a Dick Tracy article for the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, and I need to get up to speed.
In this 1956 comic, I was surprised to find that every ad is curious and quirky.
The back cover’s ad for Baby Ruth Candy Bars doesn’t look appetizing to me, although the cartoon panels are fun. It’s hard to believe that proclaiming a product is “enriched with dextrose” ever resulted in more sales.
100 planes – for just $1.25. Wow! Incredible, right? And it even comes with an ‘official’ airplane hangar. Who needs those plastic army guys, anyways?
Beacon Falls Rubber Footwear is selling Chuck E. Taylor-style sneakers, with MLB logos. Was it even authorized? Hard to tell. But boy, this sure looks like it was hastily pulled together.
My mom used to tell me this story about how she and her brother lied to the neighbors and said they had a TV. In reality, they just had a fancy radio with a displayed cathode ray tube, but television was so new that the local kids didn’t really know what Television was. (My mom and uncle got punished for that little episode!) I wonder if that might that have been the case with this ad. It’s peculiar that this organization “T.V. Company” advertises their Disneyland Color TV Set for only $1.00.
Scripto pens and pencils is another lulu of an ad. How long did they work on the brand name: Scripto? Was it 4 seconds? Maybe 5 seconds? The use of a “celebrity” spokesperson, Al Morrison, Cartoon Gag Writer, is bit off-the-mark for kids reading a comic, but back in 1956 it was more than kids who would be reading.
Red Goose Shoe’s Treasurama (Oh, why didn’t they trademark that name?) showcases some stylish shoes!
Goodyear Bike Tires! Seems like a natural to me. And kids love dogs, even they look like Winston Churchill, don’t they?
The most amazing part is the 2/3 page Champions All strip, Where Joe Palooka, that famous boxer character, talk to a bunch of kids about the “extra-terrific advertisers who tell you about their products in Harvey Comics.” It’s essentially a Harvey Comics character butt-kissing the advertisers who bought ad space that current month’s comics. Talk about a vicious circle. Have they no shame? “Look for and buy the products advertised in your Harvey Comics. They’re all Champions” the tagline announces.
One last thing: I also really enjoyed the Harvey Comics News page. It’s kind of like an early versions of the Marvel Bullpen Bulletins – without Stan’s Soapbox. And this blurb caught my attention:
Everyone’s talking about the new covers on Joe Palooka and Dick Tracy. What do you think of these specially painted new covers? Send us a post-card [sic] letting us know how you feel about them.
I’m not sure about the Joe Palooka cover, but the Dick Tracy cover was painted by the legendary Joe Simon over a Chester Gould layout. What an unexpected treat!