Old comic books and the ads found within are like mini time capsules. You can pick up some random old issue and see ads for things you haven’t thought about in years. And sometimes you’ll come across one that hits you right in the face like a nostalgic baseball bat. At least that’s how these ads were for me. Let’s take a look at them.
Nintendo Game Genie (19)
I don’t know about you, but the Game Genie did more to change my video gaming experience than any other device with the exception of the Nintendo itself. Once I got my hands on it, it was in use every single time I played a Nintendo Game. My best friend at the time, Geoffrey, was one of those kids that got whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted it. He saw the commercial for this thing and went nuts. I still remember the conversation we had on the phone that fateful night. He said he had pitched such a huge fit wanting it, that his Dad drove him the half-hour to the nearest department store and bought it for him.
The next day at school, he looked like a hungover zombie, as he had stayed up all night playing Nintendo. I knew that I just had to make the trip to his house that weekend for a sleepover and check it out myself. Sure enough, I had the chance that weekend and was blown away by just how awesome that thing was.
I started saving my allowances immediately and doing chores for folks around the neighborhood to earn extra money. It actually didn’t take too long to get enough scratch together to go get one of my own. Man, that thing revolutionized my gameplay. Games that had previously had parts that I got so frustrated with that I quit playing the game were now easily navigated, and I pulled those old suckers out and gave them new life.
It was some of the best money I’ve ever spent in my life. And yes, I can say that still today. It was revolutionary to be able to have unlimited lives, or unlimited ammo, or be able to make super jumps. Now I know in all reality, it was cheating, but it made crappy games fun and made fun games incredible. Even now when playing ROMs on an emulator, I still google those old Game Genie codes and put them in play.
Marvel Secret Wars Action Figures (1984)
Secret Wars was a 1984-1985 line of action figures and playsets, launched as a tie-in between Marvel Comics and the Mattel toy company. The line was a reaction to DC Comics’ 1984 deal with Kenner Products for the Super Powers Collection. Mattel, concerned about losing the DC account to Kenner, made a similar deal with Marvel. Mattel’s request was that the line would be supported with an event comic book that included the words “secret” and “wars”, which Mattel’s market research found worked particularly well with children in focus groups.
Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter came up with the concept for a year-long twelve-issue crossover called Secret Wars, in which Marvel’s most popular heroes and villains would be plucked out of their daily lives to a distant galaxy, where they would be given alien weapons and technology and forced to fight each other.
Some of Mattel’s choices for the toy line impacted the look and direction of Marvel’s superhero characters. Shooter introduced the idea of a new, black costume for Spider-Man, which was not intended to last for long, but Mattel was very enthusiastic because it allowed them to sell two versions of the same toy. The “alien costume” was revealed in The Amazing Spider-Man to be a living creature, who separated from Spider-Man to become a new character, Venom.
WCW Wrestling for Nintendo (1988)
WCW Wrestling was the first video game based on the National Wrestling Alliance (at the time, WCW was a member of NWA). After The Road Warriors left WCW for the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), WCW continued to advertise the game in their own catalogs with a mock-up cartridge showing Sting on the label, though no such copies of the game with an alternate label are known to exist or believed to have ever been manufactured. The game sold over 100,000 copies.
I got to play it on a couple of occasions, and it wasn’t too bad of a game. I really can’t speak much to the fun that was to be had by playing singles matches, as the friends I was was playing with and myself always preferred to play tag team matches. Some incredible matchups were had by swapping normal partners, with Hawk teaming with Sting to battle Animal and Lex Luger. Great times were had by all.
Warlord Action Figures (1984)
While Remco never quite made it to the top of the heap of action figures, it certainly held its own due to its licensed properties. I myself enjoyed several of their lines, especially the old AWA wrestling figures.
I never got to own any of these Warlord figures, but I adore them just from the images I’ve seen online, and the story behind the line kinda tells itself. And for anyone who doesn’t get the story, the figures look generic enough to mix in with any number of other action figure toys.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Cereal (1991)
When introduced, this cereal was described on the box as “crunchy, sweetened ‘ninja nets’ with ‘ninja turtle’ marshmallows”. Pizza-shaped marshmallows were later added. The “ninja net” cereal pieces looked very much like Chex cereal pieces.
TMNT came right at the tail end of my childhood, so I didn’t go in for a lot of the toys or merch. But I’ve never been too old to enjoy a great cereal, and this one was pretty good. And the ad itself does a great job of making it look alluring with its bright colors. Some cereals take center stage in ads if they can stand on their own merit. But Ralston looks like it was hedging its bets on this one by making it second fiddle to the Turtles themselves.
If you like looking back at old comic book ads and feeling the nostalgia wash over you, check out these other features I’ve dedicated to the subject.