Friday, April 14, 2017


The last time I stepped into the men's room at my local gym, I was struck by a sudden idea. Now, I don't think I'm the first man to step into a bathroom full of stripped down weightlifters and suddenly get an idea or two, but my thoughts were literally cleaner than that -- I was thinking about toilet paper.

More to the point, I had noticed that there was a box of that kind of bulk-brand toilet paper which businesses buy when they want to discourage anyone from dropping shits anywhere within spitting distance of their establishment. My local gym: Where you can get a ripped physique and a sanded-down rectum, at one convenient location!

What struck me about the box of toilet paper -- outside of my gym's picture-perfect demonstration of man's inhumanity to man* -- was that it bore a superhero-themed mascot on the side. I suppose that was to best illustrate its bullet-proof quality.

*Inside of my gym's picture-perfect demonstration of man's inhumanity to man, it's too dark to read.

But, looking at that mascot, I got to thinking that no one had ever assembled a decent list of these types of characters, despite the fact that there must be tens of thousands of them. And then it occurred to me that probably the reason no one has ever assembled a decent list of these types of characters was that there were likely tens of thousands of them. 

Still, it's alarming to me that the culture of superheroes is doggedly cataloged by archivists and historians (as well as snark-lipped irony bros whose cornholes are badly abraded by industrial grade toilet paper of the kind originally used by NASA as heat-shielding on the space shuttles) but these figures have slipped into relative obscurity. Although, with that being said, I believe Jeff Rovin sneaked a couple into his Encyclopedia of Super-Heroes...

So, here's my attempt to resolve this problem. There are, as mentioned above, literally thousands of these superheroic advertising mascots, and I'm undertaking the Nowhere-Near Complete Guide to Advertising Mascot Superheroes.

To start with, I wanted to cover a very small handful of some of the better-known examples of the style. If there's someone who appears to be missing from this inaugural list (say, for instance, AAA Shuperstar, who's slated for a later appearance), don't worry -- they're coming. However, feel free to mention any who come to mind in comments, as I can use all the help I can find:

It might make me magnetic. You're not the King of Who Gets Magnetism, buddy.

Among the ur-mascots of the superhero set, Volto (From Mars or, as I like to say it, "Of the East Martian Voltos...") holds a special place in the hearts of hundreds of fans. Specifically, he holds the much-vaunted "I've heard of him!" spot.

Volto arrives from Mars , unceremoniously announces that he's hungry and demands to be fed the world's finest cereal grains. Unfortunately, all they have handy are Grape Nuts, but they still seem to do the trick; Volto's powers are charged up! The little Martian flyboy gets frisky with the magnetic death rays!

Shouting "Volto" activates his powers of magnetic tomfoolery. With he left hand, he repeals all matter, and which his right he attracts it. This must make introducing himself into a genuine plastic hassle. "Nice to meet you, I'm Volto" and he ends up embracing a bookshelf from the other side of the room at forty-five miles an hour. This is probably why the comics would occasionally remind readers that Grape Nuts did not actually give you magnetic powers, as "You might accidentally launch your child out of a fourth-story window at speeds approaching escape velocity" is probably pretty bad publicity.

Imagine he says all of this without taking a breath.

When parents warned their children against accepting candy from weird strangers, they were almost undoubtedly thinking of Captain Tootsie. Designed by C.C.Beck (and alternatively illustrated by him and Pete Costanza), the sugar-shilling superhero was rather intentionally designed to recall Captain Marvel, then the best-selling superhero comic on the racks. 

The captain didn't necessarily gain powers from Tootsie Rolls, but he did gain ENERGY! Short-term bursts of energy, that is! You never see Captain Tootsie and his young friends in the ominously-named Secret Society crash afterwards, but you have to imagine that happened off-panel pretty much twice an episode.

Tigers are a protected species, you poaching sonofabitch!

TIGER-BOY (Uni-Royal)
I don't recall seeing Tiger Boy -- advertising Uni-Royal's Tiger Paw Red Stripe bicycle tires -- ever spouting a line but, rather, being a mysterious figure who outraces every would-be top cyclist thanks to his badass tires. It's also difficult to pin down whether he's an actual superhero -- he does wear a distinctive costume, including a tiger-print cape (which you'd think would create all sorts of drag but, hey, I still drive a Mean Green Machine, so whadda I know) -- or just a dude who can totally school idiot children with their dumb slow bikes that have shitty Montgomery Ward tires. 

What's for certain is that he's one of the few comic book ads drawn by the great Jack Davis, and the Slim Jim ones with the werewolf and vampire can't count for this series because they ain't superheroes. Don't @ me. 

CAPTAIN "O" (& Peggy, Olympic)
Olympic wasn't the first comic book-centric service to rope dumb kids into selling magazines, cards or seeds for cheap prizes and a smidgen of folding money, but they had the most dynamic possible duo available to be their spokespeople. There weren't many other dynamic duos available, though, so these are actually a little lackluster. 

Captain O was always portrayed either blasting directly at the viewers or hugging two children -- most likely strangers, unknown to him, and possibly runaways -- while advocating you bother your neighbors for a play microscope. More intriguing was always Peggy, one of the Captain's small army of telephone operators and, very likely, utterly disposable. Still, she wore a superhero uniform just to take your call, which makes her the real hero here, for some reason I can't articulate. 

Also, in my headcanon, Captain O is the mentor of those two kids who were cosmic heroes because they had banana-shaped phones. I'll get around to them eventually...


Ted Craig said...

Wasn't there a super-hero who helped you find a job in the exciting world of electronics repair?

Calamity Jon said...

He's on his way...

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