Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Roads to Regrettability: Corporate Spokes-Heroes
The League of Regrettable Heroes – soon to be published by Quirk Books and written by yours truly – features write-ups on 100 of comicdom’s weirdest, most unfortunate, most misunderstood and flat-out strangest  superheroes. The book debuts June 2, 2015, so in the meantime let’s discuss the many paths a character can take on the road to regrettability. With their bright costumes, catchy names and flamboyant, attention-attracting powers, superheroes make obvious advertising mascots. Let's look at a few heroes who felt the call of corporate crimefighting ...

Superheroes were still fresh out of the oven when advertisers latched onto their inherent sale-ability. As much as crusading against evil and injustice, superheroes – with their bright colors, flashy powers and memorable sobriquets – were practically walking, talking billboards even without a product to shill.

The multi-panel comic format also lent itself to the construction of flimsy narratives which promoted products ranging from shoes to gum to cough drops and hair cream – everything the kid of yesteryear could desire! Plus, with the seemingly seamless transition between a full page of comic adventure and a full-page comic adventure ad, advertisers were just as likely to engage their young audience in the narrative of their pre-packaged hero as they were in the feature stars.

Captain Tootsie, of course, may be one of the more famous of the original comic page spokesheroes. Powered by Tootsie Rolls and aided by his “Secret Legion” of tagalong children – and more importantly drawn by Pete Costanza and C.C.Beck of Captain Marvel fame – the Captain even graduated to his own comic eventually,  mixing space exploration with sweet treats.

"As does my abrasive personality."
Less successful was the dual-utility Volto from Mars, a red-and-blue, fin-capped super-alien whose magnetic powers were replenished with hearty spoon fulls of his favorite cereal, Grape Nuts Flakes. His left hand repelled, his right hand attracted, and his bowels were cleaner than a freshly buffed marble floor.

Kid heroes also got in on the act, with Thom McAn sporting around with an elf pal and a pair of bazooka-shoes, while Bazooka the Atomic Bubble boy aided the infirm and needy with his awe-inspiring giant gravity-defying bubble-blowing. I wonder if they had the same agent. Fun fact: Bazooka gum actually used to make you fly, it was twenty percent Cavorite. Then they decided it was cheaper to just put comics in it, which is why the present-day sucks.

In the Seventies, contemporary and mainstream heroes started getting in on the act – even Red Tornado crammed Hostess cup cakes down somebody’s throat. However, the epitome of the Seventies’ comic adventure page superhero was certainly AAU Shuperstar, a shoe-pun obsessed comic which ran confrontations between the Sinister Sole and the Dirty Sneaker. Neither one possessed the power of the Jizz-Crusted Sock, though.

Advertising superheroes continue to be de rigeur, as are crossovers with the same – the Avengers recently palled around with Captain Citrus, a lackey for Big Orange Juice,  while the JLA hung out with the Craftsman Bolt-On System superhero The Technician, just to name a pair of ‘em.

There’s very likely going to continue to be a trend for the conceit, although if they ever run out of ideas, I don’t think Captain Clueless ever got close to finding those ding-danged Ugly Balls.

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