Were you a comic book junkie when you were I kid? I certainly was. I had a ton of comic books! Do you remember all the oddball ads that were scattered throughout the comics? Full page advertisements for soon to be released or special edition comics or dozens of gimmicky cons, tricks and contraptions guaranteed only to relieve you of your money.
I have to confess to falling victim to a few ads and even though my mom told me there was no way I was going to get what the ad promised. Against her better judgement she allowed me to send my hard earned ironing money, yes that’s right I said ironing money. I earned money ironing. By the time I was 11 or 12 I was a pretty good ironer. My mom use to pay me by the piece. It was a pretty easy way to earn a little money. I even ironed my dad’s work shirts, not t0o much starch in the collars. Anyway, what I sent away for was a footlocker full of soldiers. 100 green plastic infantrymen, riflemen, machine-gunners, sharpshooters, officers, plus tanks, jeeps, bombers, battleships, fighter planes and more! I should have known it was too good to be true. I just assumed they were going to be just like my other green army men, about three inches tall or so. Boy was I wrong.
When the package finally arrived a few weeks later I was shocked to see this small brown package instead of the foot locker I’d been expecting. The package was only about 6 inches long by 3 inches wide and maybe a couple of inches high. Well I tore it open and was surprised to see that it was a miniature foot locker. Inside was a clear cellophane bag with a 100 piece army set. I was shocked! The soldiers were these teeny tiny pieces of green plastic less than a half inch tall. What a gyp! It was my first experience with the phrase “buyer beware.” Later when my mom and I examined the ad, there it was printed along one side of the foot locker, the dimensions 6 1/2 x 3 x 2 1/2. The exact size of the footlocker!
Yes, those ads could be quite deceiving. Remember the Charlie Atlas muscle building ads with the bully kicking sand at the skinny guy on the beach. that had to be one of my favorites. “Let me make you a new man.” Right!! The ad promised that in no time at all you could be muscle bound just like Charlie Atlas and exact your revenge on the beach bully. The ad itself is very comic book like. No where are the months and months of vigorous exercise and sweat, pictured or even metioned, the ad simply places the ambiguous word ‘Later’ to imply the passage of time. No mention of hw much time or how much later? The transformation from beanpole to mega-muscle man seems to be instantaneous much like a super heroes transition from man – to superman.
You definitely had to be careful when reading those ads. The best ones were the little gadgets like the X-Ray Specs that promise you the ability to see through flesh or clothing, all for only $1.00, or the wind up, joy buzzer for only & .50, guaranteed to give a ‘shocking sensation’ when you shake your friends hand. This is the other ad I responded to. I bought 2 joy buzzers when I was in the eighth grade. They actually worked for awhile until I accidently over wound them. Oh well. Then there was the Hypno Coin that said you your hands black when you washed with it, only a quarter!
And what about those Sea Monkeys for $1.25 remember those “Own a bowl full of happiness” ads showing a family of Sea Monkeys. As intriguing as they seemed, after my bad army men deal, I stayed away from this one. There were so many off the wall things you could order, do you remember the adds for getting rid of pimples, Silly Putty, miniature dogs, bullet hole decals, magic cards, onion gum, pet raccoons, wrist radios, the famous Kung Foo Sandals or the very strange Hitler heads! What were they all about? I often wondered why in the hell anyone would
want Hitler heads? What could you possibly do with them? I’m sure there were some suckers out there who bought them. No one I knew ever did. A buddy of mine did buy a pair of the famous ‘see behind you” glasses. They were a pretty cool novelty. They looked ridiculous but they worked. So much junk, so little time.
The only other thing I ever bought from the back of a comic book was a little gimmick called exploding cigarettes when I was about seventeen, only $1.00 for a pack of 12. They weren’t actually cigarettes, but little loads that looked like small pieces of a round toothpick only softer. You push one(or more) into a cigarette and when the smoker lit up the cigarette would eventually burn down to the load and it would explode! And yes, they really worked. I remember I bought them with a specific purpose in mind. I hate to admit it, but I started smoking when I was around 15. I had this friend Paul who also smoked, but he never seemed to have his own cigarettes and was always bumming smokes from me or my friend Dave. One summer it was getting really bad so when I saw the ‘exploding cigarettes’ ad I devised a plan to take care of my cigarette mooching buddy.
I remember the day the loads arrived very well. I drove up to my friend Dave’s house and showed him the loads and told him of my plan to stop Paul’s mooching. He loved it. We experimented with one load in a cigarette. It went off with a small pop and tore the cigarette apart a little, so I took three Winston’s from my pack and carefully placed loads in them. We wanted a little more bang for our buck, so I placed 3 loads in each cigarette. Using a paperclip I pushed them down into the tobacco about a half and inch and returned them to my pack. We then drove up to the Canyon where we were meeting Paul and some of our other friends at our local swimming hole.
Once there we parked then worked our way down the mountainside to the river below. As the water wound its way down from the dam it made a sharp left turn created a large pool on th right side of the curve. Dave and I took off our shirts and placed them on the rocks with our towels and left the pack of Winston’s sitting on top. We swam across the pool to other side where the guys were and said our hello’s. In a matter of moments Paul approached and asked for a smoke. I told him my pack was back on the other side and he could go get one if he wanted.
Without skipping a beat Paul swam across the pool and grabbed my cigarettes. Dave and I watched, hopeful that he would pull out one of the three loaded cigarettes. Paul settled back on a large rock and lit up. We looked on and waited. Paul was clowning around,
blowing smoke rings and laughing as he poked at them with his middle finger. Just as I convinced myself that he had somehow grabbed a regular cigarette from the pack, the cigarette exploded! Even though we were expecting it, it still surprised the hell out of us. I can’t begin to describe the shocked look on Paul’s face, the remnants of the cigarette dangling between his fingers. After a pregnant moment of silence Dave and I roared with laughter. It was awesome or as we used to say bitchin’! Yes, Paul was angry and yes it was dangerous especially with three loads, and yes it could have injured his eyes or burned him, but it hadn’t and despite the danger it was funny as hell! The best part. From that day on Paul began buying his own cigarettes! Thanks to a little ad in the back of a comic book. Mission accomplished…