6 Hilariously Awful Examples of Product Placements in Comics
No form of entertainment is safe from advertising tie-ins -- that's how the industry makes its money, and if an advertiser wants to pay to have its product actually in a television show rather than just promoted during a commercial break, they are not likely to be refused. Comic books are no exception, and over the years big publishers have been more than happy to peddle out their most famous icons in ridiculous stories centered around virtually any product imaginable. Like ...
The Justice League and Craftsman
In an effort to appear at least somewhat relevant to America's apathetic youth, struggling retailer Sears teamed up with DC Comics to produce a comic book that would prove to the world that they, too, could be cool, despite the fact that no young person has thought Sears is cool since the Eisenhower administration. And what's cooler than smearing your product all over the Justice League?
And so we wind up with a comic in which The Technician, a scruffy handyman tasked with replacing light bulbs and keeping toilets unclogged in the Hall of Justice, masterfully showcases his indispensable Craftsman Bolt-On Tool every chance he gets. Even if it means putting the actual superheroes in their place now and then:
"Let's not lose sight of what's really important, OK, Batman?"
So, the Justice League goes out on an emergency mission, leaving the Technician by himself to tighten doorknobs or whatever, when villainous super-genius The Key invades with an army of robot henchmen. However, The Key fails to account for the Justice League's trusty janitor, a man in a Craftsman onesie packing a villain-thwarting Craftsman Bolt-On Tool.
Which still leaves him at least 80 percent more menacing than Aquaman.
The sequence of events that follows proves that either The Technician really does have the handiest tool in the universe, or that The Key is the worst super villain ever conceived (or that both of these truths collided on a timeline of Fate to bring us the plot of this comic).
"I don't even know what this tube is for."
Armed with nothing but his rugged looks and a motorized hand tool with multiple attachments, The Technician manages to repeatedly irritate The Key and send a distress signal out to the Justice League, because apparently nobody in this organization carries a cell phone.
Wow, learn how to finish a sentence, The Key.
The Key and his battalion of robot soldiers are inexplicably powerless to stop a man running around the base with a power drill, giving The Technician ample opportunity to show off the many applications of the Craftsman product, such as drilling through panels and unscrewing things.
"DRILLS FIX ALL ELECTRONICS!"
Eventually, the Justice League arrives (even though The Technician clearly had everything under control at that point) to boot The Key and his friends the hell out of their base.
"Wait, we have a janitor?"
The Technician takes the last panel of the comic to assure us that all would have surely been lost had it not been for a piece of retail garage equipment.
"Never mind the fact that Batman is a techno-genius and half of you people are from space, and all you buy for me to use around here is a freaking cordless drill."
If this cannot sell power tools, indeed nothing can.
The Avengers and Harley Davidson
In mid-2012, as part of an effort in no way meant to shamelessly cash in on Marvel's recent explosive film successes, the Avengers teamed up with Harley Davidson, despite the fact that both Thor and Iron Man can fly and Hulk cannot possibly ride a motorcycle.
The story begins with Captain America and Black Widow cruising around on their standard-issue Harleys (that have never been seen before or since in any iteration of the Marvel universe), looking for Hawkeye, who apparently got lost somewhere in Russia on his way back to the Avengers tower.
"Could you repeat that, Natasha? I couldn't hear you over your breasts."
Assuming he can't be far, the duo proceeds to explore the blasted remains of an eastern bloc city on a pair of the loudest vehicles commercially available.
"Keep opening your throttle, maybe Hawkeye will hear the noise and come out from wherever he's hiding."
Cap and Black Widow eventually hone in on Hawkeye's signal, tracing it to an abandoned warehouse where he is currently tied to a chair and getting his ass beaten by Baron Zemo. They speed off on their motorcycles to save him, once again ignoring the fact that 30 percent of their team can fly and probably could've found him without driving aimlessly around Russia all afternoon.
"Yes, these crude engines strapped to wheels sure do look impressive next to gods and indestructible power armor."
Unfortunately, the warehouse was also full of giant naked monsters, who apparently hate justice and the free-riding spirit of a quality American chopper in equal measure. The resulting battle (wherein the rest of the team finally arrives) quickly turns against the Avengers, because hulking gray space demons have a knack for gaining the advantage in a melee.
In the next panel, Iron Man just turns around and leaves.
Just when it seems like our heroes are on the ropes, reinforcements arrive in the form of a fleet of Harley Davidsons. Because clearly, the problem here was that the Avengers just didn't have enough motorcycles.
"Thor! Go fetch us some gasoline."
Fighting side by side with the Road Force, wielding what appears to be rainbow-colored motorcycle noises, Cap and the gang proceed to force the monsters back into the stygian dimension from whence they came.
Although the Captain himself appears to be content to simply ride his Harley and point at things.
Another successful advertising tie-in executed with flawless precision. Wait, comic book geeks ride Harleys, right?
The Fantastic Four and Hitachi Data Systems
Released worldwide in 2011 in partnership with Hitachi Data Systems, Fantastic Four: Trapped in the Data Vortex warns us all about the of the dangers of sub-par data storage while somehow managing to be less entertaining than a corporate training video.
The plot is that irritable giant head thing M.O.D.O.K. is trying to screw with humanity yet again, this time by slowing down the world's data centers. That's right -- slowing them down. Not destroying them, just making them a little shittier. However, his plans are halted by Hitachi's ultra-kickass data storage service, the Hitachi Virtual Storage Platform, which is so intensely awesome not even the superhuman psionic powers of M.O.D.O.K. can touch it. So instead, he has to bully around some Hitachi IT guy named Ray (after straight-up murdering the kid's boss).
"The $11.50 an hour you make puts you in an elite caste of humanity."
Luckily, the Fantastic Four shows up just in the nick of time to rescue Ray from what would assuredly have been the mightiest headbutt in history.
M.O.D.O.K. is a sore loser, as befitting a giant floating head with a horrible face, so he blasts Ray into a virtual data stream (instead of just melting him into photon dust like his boss). This leaves the Fantastic Four no choice but to go into the data stream after him.
"If we abandon him, tens of people might be somewhat bummed."
The virtual data stream looks exactly how you would expect one would look, which is another way of saying it looks like a giant lava lamp full of weird metallic boner spheres.
This is pretty much how we've always pictured the Internet.
The boner spheres are actually pieces of corrupted data that have been clogging up the system, so Ray suggests that they clear them out by having Johnny Storm blow them all up with blazing meteorites of destruction. This is apparently how Hitachi's Virtual Data Storage Platform is supposed to work.
"Like this! But quietly and in a cold, dark room!"
But then, the damaged data spheres ooze together to form a giant purple monster called Datazilla, because this comic book sucks.
Seeing that Datazilla might actually contain important information, the gang decides to handle the situation in the most delicate way possible by sending the Thing screaming across the dataverse to punch it in the face.
Not enough IT workers know how to punch.
Somehow that does the trick, and the Hitachi Virtual Storage Platform teleports everyone back to safety (and a passive-aggressive Reed Richards).
"All I did was beat the hell out of everyone in this room while you guys were gone. The real credit goes to Hitachi for ... whatever it does."
The Incredible Hulk and Sleepy's Mattress Professionals
In 2008, in an effort to educate people on the dangers of not buying their mattresses, Sleepy's Mattress Professionals decided to join forces with The Incredible Hulk, who is a character who does not sleep.
In the comic, Bruce Banner is suffering from a crazy case of insomnia, which is causing more frequent fits of Hulk rage than usual. Bruce tries to science the hell out of the problem, but no matter how many tests he runs, he just can't seem to figure it out. It's like the plot of Fight Club if Edward Norton was a scientist and Brad Pitt was Lou Ferrigno.
In other words, if Fight Club was better.
With sleep eluding him once again, Bruce Hulks out and starts breaking things. Luckily, The Sleepy's Man comes swooping in on a flying mattress to take Hulk down with one well-placed mattress to the foot. You see, The Sleepy's Man knew all along that the only thing Bruce needed to cure his insomnia was a quality affordable mattress. Beyond that, no aspect of the mattress mascot's presence or abilities are ever explained.
G ... Gamma Rays?
Unfortunately, the instant Hulk falls asleep, the pair find themselves transported into a strange dream dimension existing wholly within Hulk's mind, a place where no living being was ever meant to venture. There, Hulk and Sleepy's Man discover that Bruce's insomnia was actually brought about by a Freddy Kruger-esque villain called Nightmare, who, as his name suggests, has the ability to haunt people's nightmares. Nightmare has been living in Bruce's mind and harassing him, in the name of the endless villainous pursuit of shits and giggles.
It turns out the Hulk's greatest fear is David Bowie with shitty hair.
Unsurprisingly, Hulk elects to smash, while the Sleepy's Man provides support in the form of invaluable sleep-related puns. Hulk's stupefying strength and Sleepy's breezy annoyingness prove to be no match against Nightmare on his own turf, until a poorly-aimed sonic Hulk Clap shatters the barrier between the dream world and reality, presumably causing Hulk only a moderate amount of brain damage in the process.
"HULK BREAK MIND WALL. NOW HULK CAN'T REMEMBER COLORS."
Nightmare gets violently shat out into the real world with them, where Hulk proceeds to beat the everloving Jesus out of him with a durable, dependable mattress, courtesy of Sleepy's Mattress Professionals.
Sleepy's: One way or another, you're going to fucking sleep.
Rush City and Pontiac
In 2006, Pontiac teamed up with DC Comics to produce a six-issue series about a guy named Rush and his Pontiac Solstice, which you may recognize as the convertible people settle for. To give the character a little street cred, he was teamed up with Black Canary, unquestionably one of the most popular characters on the DC roster.
Rush is a former New York firefighter with a mysterious past that nobody cares about, and of course a Pontiac Solstice, which he uses to drive around and search for missing persons that he has been paid to locate, because apparently superheroes and Dog the Bounty Hunter are the same thing. One such mission leads him on a chase through New York City as he tries to save some foreign exchange student from the clutches of the villainous Gearhead, a half-man half-car cyborg who apparently hates the shit out of hotdog vendors.
Rush is able to stop Gearhead by deploying a miniature Pontiac Solstice EMP grenade in two of the most confusing panels in the history of comic book illustration.
"... wait, did he shrink? What the hell am I looking at?"
The subsequent electrical explosion causes Gearhead to crash, allowing Rush and Black Canary to retrieve the kidnapped student from the wreckage.
Unlike Pontiac, FedEx obviously contributed zero dollars to this publication.
Rush and Black Canary heroically leave the scene of the accident, only to have Gearhead spring miraculously back to life and come giggling after them.
... why does he need a steering wheel?
Concerned that his brand new Pontiac Solstice will get damaged in the hail of bullets erupting from Gearhead's after-market Gatling gun, Rush sends his convertible screaming into the nearest subway station, a turn of events that we are quite frankly amazed Pontiac was OK with. After all, nothing helps sell a car like driving it into a densely packed crowd of people.
"I still have 34 more payments left on this thing! Get the hell out of the way!"
In an effort to minimize civilian casualties, Rush does what any sane person would do and pilots his rumbling stallion directly onto the tracks and tries to outrun the evening Red Line train.
"The Solstice handles like a dream, even on an enclosed railway!" -Pontiac.
Unfortunately for Rush, Gearhead is just as crazy as he is and chases right after him, having now morphed into some kind of giant metal spider outfitted with an entire arsenal of tools from an automobile assembly line.
"Or should I say disassembly line?! Bwa ha ha ha ha!"
The comic ends shortly thereafter when Gearhead gets abruptly run over by a train. Unsurprisingly, Rush City didn't last much longer (and neither did Pontiac).
The Justice League and Subway and the Olympics
Justice League/Subway: Famous Fans features your favorite heroes from the Justice League teaming up with a handful of Olympic athletes to promote the Subway menu, although the title is a bit misleading considering each "famous fan" was handsomely paid for their involvement rather than contributing their likenesses based on sheer enthusiasm for sandwiches.
In one issue, former Olympians Michael Phelps, Nastia Liukin and Apolo Ohno sit down after a solid day of training to shove handfuls of meatball subs with roughly the same nutritional value as a Big Macs into their faces (as all world-class athletes do), when Batman comes sailing through the wall next to them.
Desperately in need of a meatball marinara sandwich.
Moments later, the villainous Mr. Freeze and Solomon Grundy come marching in through the Batman-shaped hole. The two evildoers clearly do not realize that they are about to be supremely outmatched by a small girl, a pothead and a guy who is seriously awesome at ice skating.
Before the battle can commence, the writers had to include at least one panel of Michael Phelps swimming, since swimming on its own is not the best tool against evil (see Aquaman). So, when Mr. Freeze starts blasting the pool with his ice gun, a child suddenly appears in the deep end for Phelps to dive in and save. However, the situation was apparently not a dire enough emergency to prevent Phelps from stopping to put his goddamned goggles on before leaping into the water.
"It's OK, everyone! The chlorine didn't get in my eyes!"
Taking a page from The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Nastia does a series of unnecessary gymnastic flourishes before dropkicking Mr. Freeze in the back, effectively neutralizing the master criminal.
And making every superhero in the DC universe look a little more lame.
With the crises averted, Nastia and Green Latern share a good laugh about Batman's lack of super powers, to which Batman responds by more or less telling them to kiss his ass. He then demands to know where the plucky Olympians got their extra energy, and Apollo heroically informs him that it all came from fresh avocado slices on their delicious Subway sandwiches. Michael Phelps transforms into Kris Humphries in the last panel to deliver a non-joke about eating more avocado sandwiches than anyone else, and everyone shares a good laugh.
"Ha ha! But seriously, don't pull any of that 'avocado' nonsense on The Joker, he'd have killed you all in nine seconds."
For more people who sold out terribly, check out The 10 Most Shameless Product Placements in Movie History and The 6 Most Absurd Product Placements in Video Game History.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out The 5 Most Insulting Defenses of Nerd Racism.