They say that people have always been the same, but that's bullshit. As I've developed Man Comics: Classic Comics For Today's Fuckin' A Man, now the number one comic action series on correctional center Internet, I've noticed some trends in classic comic book advertising that prove our grandparents were very, very different from us. And I don't mean that the market has died out for hernia belts and $1.99 real, working submarines. I mean that I'm about to prove that the human race has only been sane for about 30 years.
These ads are all real.
Here's the difference between our safety and the safety of our grandparents: When we were kids, commercials told us not to play with a downed power line. If we'd grown up in the 40s, those same commercials would have told us to throw a cat at it to see if it was live, and if so, how many hands we need to grab it with to not get shocked. A kid with a comic in the 40s could order firecrackers and axes by mail and learn the secrets of the ninja. Safety literally hadn't been invented yet. For example, let's begin with this Captain Tootsie ad. See if you can spot where it might be giving irresponsible, maybe even unsafe advice to children.
So here's a look at Captain Tootsie's poisonous snake safety procedures.
Safety Step 1. A snake is attacking! Tell the children to stay! Sure there's a poisonous snake here, but there might be three somewhere else.
Safety Step 2. Eat a Tootsie Roll. Sure, why not? It's not like you need candy anymore -- the children have already been successfully lured into the woods.
Safety Step 3. Leave. This is actually pretty smart, and the snake will never expect it. The children you left behind probably should have.
Safety Step 4. Come back later and throw a rock at the snake. Try not to miss because a startled rattlesnake will probably kill a kid and good luck getting the other children undressed next to a poisoned corpse. Ignore this advice if you're not a child predator, but seriously, if you're not then what the hell is going on here?
Safety Step 5. Teach young children how to catch poisonous snakes. Wait, what? Holy shit.
Safety Step 6. Listen to the little boy's plan to find that fucking snake's wife. When you do, pin her head down with a stick. Find someone who can speak snake and tell her what you've done. Her rage is the only thing that brings you happiness, her tears the only thing that can get you off.
Ray-O-Vac batteries had a running series of these "safety" ads. Most of them were comics about young boys finding flashlights because from what I understand, once you have a flashlight all your problems are solved. For instance, in the left comic you see that a gorilla is on the loose! This ends up being fine, almost irrelevant since our heroes, who totally know they might run into a loose gorilla, find an old mine where there are no loose gorillas but one flashlight. I think the message is that Ray-O-Vac batteries are so reliable that unpredictable gorillas instinctively have no interest in them.
In the second comic, the boys are chased into a cabin by a bear! But what's this in the cabin? An old flashlight? Then I guess they'll be fine. In fact, a flashlight so obviously implies safety that the comic actually skips the boys' daring escape from the bear. There's even a panel that clearly shows that their flashlight isn't doing a goddamn thing except making that bear more interested in killing them. When you tell someone your batteries are safe right next to a picture of them causing children to be eaten by a bear, that's confidence. Let's take a look at how Eveready battery deals with flashlight safety tips.
You will never see an ad like this again. I'm not saying people don't need to know how to solve wild dog problems. They do. And shining a flashlight "directly at the dog's eyes to blind and perhaps bewilder him" is an awesome idea. But I don't think a modern battery company is ready to take on the legal responsibility of giving dog fighting advice to children. Today, this ad would be printed right next to an ad that said, "Call Schuster Weinman and Goldstein if you or a loved one have been bitten by a dog after your flashlight didn't cure its rabies."
If you tried to sue someone for this in the 50's the judge would say, "Look, I'm sorry your kid was eaten after following that battery's advice, but are you sure he was holding the flashlight right? According to these studies, flashlights solve all bear, gorilla, and dog problems. Hell, I shine a flashlight on my wife when I fuck her so she'll give me a son. Case dismissed."
Besides flashlights, our grandparents had another cure-all for every problem: punching it in the face. People say that violence never solves anything, but historically speaking, that's how every single thing was solved in the 1940's. It was a lesson they taught children, usually by hitting them. If the BP oil spill happened in 1948, they would have fixed it by punching oil executives and then sending skin divers down to punch oily fish. The only trouble is that using violence as a solution only works on things that are less tough than you, so 70 years ago pussies couldn't solve anything at all. Today, a determined pussy can ruin your life.
The most ubiquitous example of violence as a solution comes from Charles Atlas:
In Charles Atlas' world, if someone kicks sand on you, you punch them. And if they're too big, you lift weights until they're not. There's such a pragmatism to the way brains worked back then that it's hard to relate to. Looking at it with a modern brain, nothing here makes sense.
First, a modern couple wouldn't scream at the guy who accidentally kicked sand on their blanket. They'd mumble under their breath and let their shared frustrations silently build inside. Then one day much later, they'd let it all out during a five hour screaming match about how she sent a Facebook message to her ex-boyfriend.
Second, it takes a long time to double in size with weight training. About five minutes into the first workout, a modern man would say, "This is heavy and boring. There's no way I'm still going to be pissed at that guy by the time I'm big enough to punch him."
Third, that's felony assault. And besides, couldn't he just buy a Charles Atlas book and punch you back? Man, a modern brain can talk a person out of giving someone an ass kicking way too easily.
Fourth, and most importantly, why would he take that horrible woman back after what she did? She basically left him for his worst enemy as soon as that worst enemy came to exist. You can't betray someone harder and faster than that. And if she's still with the bully by the time Mac is bulked up, that means they've been dating what, a year? Two? And she's going to throw all that away for the first guy who sucker punches him? That's twice she's done that! You can't trust this bitch! Is it really that hard for Mac to find a different cranky girl shaped like a hot dog?
You might be wondering, "Hey, if they solved every problem in the 1940's with punches, why didn't Mac hit his girlfriend for mocking him after the bully left? I would, but that's not why I'm in prison. Hi, I'm Nate." Well, Nate, I can answer that with a comic from the same era:
See, back in the 40s violence even solved domestic violence. The whole time that guy was being whipped he was thinking, "I've got to get home to my wife and thank her for this."
Charles Atlas produced many variations on the bullied weakling storyline. In this one, Jack gets bumped on the dance floor and holds a grudge long enough to bulk up, buy an identical suit in a larger size, build a time machine and go back to the same party. This guy and his date probably have no idea why he's being punched. These ads are stupidly impossible, but they show how crazy people used to obsess about revenge in the 40s and 50s. If you wanted to appeal to the same audience today, it would be called "The Insult that made a Murder Suicide out of the Prom." Jack would come back after staring at a high powered rifle for 235 panels and shoot at all the beautiful people. Our grandparents were quick to punch, but we are slow to go completely fucking crazy.
Today, if you worked in advertising and you handed this to your client, they'd say, "Obviously, you're fired. But before you go, what made you think to include a cougar being shot in the neck in our cough drop ad?" Sixty years ago, this is how they advertised everything. For kids back then, knowing which cough drop to suck on while shooting animals was a huge selling point.
These are ads for bike tires and Tootsie Rolls. See if you can spot where the lions are being strangled to death.
This is the origin story of Volto From Mars, an incredible space man who recharged his magnetic powers by eating Grape Nuts. Science still doesn't quite get how fucking magnets work today, so they had absolutely no clue back then. The closest the writers could come to an explanation was having Volto blast a mountain lion into the sky. Killing animals was so normal it was like the comic artist's equivalent of a shrug.
Shooting animals when they got out of their cage or passed harmlessly by in their natural habitat was so common in comic book ads that Pepsi had to make this escaped gorilla bulletproof just to add tension. Pepsi's mascot had a gun, and in 1950, if you had a gun and an escaped gorilla the idea of not shooting it wouldn't even enter your head. If this thing could be killed by bullets, the reader would be like, "Pepsi must think I'm an idiot. Ooh, a gorilla near a gun. What could possibly happen here?"
People in the 40s and 50s hated animals. They'd mail monkeys to any random child who wanted a free miniature monkey. Does that sound like something you'd do if you cared whether monkeys lived or died?
Murdering animals simply to watch them die was so normal that as soon as someone in this comic sees bear tracks, everyone's first thought is kill it. The bear never did anything except live where bears live, and Captain Tootsie forces the children into hard labor in a lunatic scheme to murder it. Parents, when you leave your children with Captain Tootsie, it's implied that you don't expect to see them again.
Luckily, they're caught by park rangers who... hold on, the park rangers don't care that there's a child molester digging pit traps to illegally bait and hunt bears? In fact, they seem to love it. They even brought a cage so it can die confused. I understand that the idea of being nice to animals was foreign to 1940's people, but why did this comic about pointlessly fucking with a bear make them hungry for candy?
As history marches on, two things grew larger: our imaginations and our vaginas. Today, when you show someone a realistic toy gun, they immediately think one of two things:
A: Some cop is going to feel really bad when he shoots the dumbass kid holding that.
B: I'm going to go rob a 7-Eleven holding that.
Realistic toy guns have been so villainized that we almost hope their owners get shot just so the dipshits learn a lesson. If a mother in 1940 saw police mistake her children for armed criminals and shoot them, she'd be extremely confused. If the same situation happened today, the mother would have an "I told you so" themed funeral and her eulogy would just be an apology to all attending friends and family for wasting their time mourning such total retards. I mean, toy guns? What did those stupid kids expect would happen? My point is, people don't react to toy guns with appropriate measure in modern times. Decades ago, it was only natural for children to get acquainted with guns at an early age since they'd be using them all day when they grow up to kill Nazis and pumas. Today, guns are really only used to accidentally shoot children holding toy guns.
Toy guns used to be awesome. Lever action, explosive reports, smoking barrels ... they were so realistic that my pussified worst-case-scenario 2011 mind is already conjuring images of 1940s children in a one-sided gunfight against a twitchy store owner who think they're robbing him. It was actually a bullet point back then when your gun was convincing enough to start something like that.
* Realistic sounds! Hear the whimpers of a dying cougar after every report!
* Don't do this, but brandish it and pedestrians will hand you their cash!
* Fires painful wads of fleshy blood to convince pals and onlookers that they've been shot!
Everyone played with toy guns back then. Boys, girls, or as you can see here, a combination of both. They didn't even have a name for kids like this back then and they still marketed realistic rifle weapons towards them. Fellows! Ask for the Man-Size Daisy Pump Gun for Christmas! It's the only air rifle that will make your 1940s mother say, "Son, I don't understand what I did to make you the way you are, but I ... I still love you. And you're not the reason your father left. It's more complicated than that."
Literally everything about this seems unsafe to me, including the part where it says "Completely Safe."
A lot of comics used to have advertisements promising to teach women the secrets of charm. I guess when all the men go off to fight Hitler, the ones that stay behind are the ones attracted to etiquette. Today, if you're reading a comic book, it's a reasonably safe bet you're not a girl. And if you are a girl reading a comic book, here's a hot tip: the guy reading the comic book next to you will fuck you. If someone was marketing this book today it would simply be called How to Have the Proper Number of Holes.
I really like a system where women are the ones in charge of being charming. I've found that today, hot girls spend so much of their time being entertained that they never had to develop wit. I sometimes don't even notice that I can't stand a girl until after weeks after sleeping with her. That being said, I don't think these books were intended for attractive women. A book called Better Than Beauty seems to already know that you're a beast. The first chapter is probably tips on dodging harpoons.
They were so desperate for dong back in the day that they designed perfumes that allowed women to steal men from other women. It's not really clear from this ad if DIABLO's DOUBLE POWER is to make you yourself smell irresistible or if you're supposed to smear it all over your target's wife and make her smell like diarrhea. This very well could be an ad for a bottle of diarrhea. That's how crazy I think 1940's marketers were.
I can't express to you how happy I was when I started Steve Wilson, Editor: Illustrated Press" expecting some kind of newspaperman fighting crime and slowly realized that the whole adventure was him figuring out how to break it to the maniac copy girl that she smells bad. I also like it because it's a positive message to the disgusting women of yesterday: Ladies, if you wash yourself with soap, we might marry you! And if you love to watch women be told they stink, don't miss next month in Steve Wilson, Editor: Illustrated Press:
I guess you might have figured this, but in a decade where the most famous ad campaign was "YOU CAN SLAP A JAP," advertising executives figured a little bit of racism was okay. Which is good, because it's really hard to sell Carnation Malted Milk without puttin' a few bullets into injuns.
Culturally I'm not allowed to make these kinds of decisions, but if I was, I'd say that the writer's sense of humor here is more offensive than the artist thinking that black people have hemorrhoid pillows for mouths. This ad is probably why Archie didn't have a black friend until the 1970s.
I bet those 1940s assholes couldn't even sell Scotch tape without doing something raci- oh my god.
"And in lighter news, two young soldiers on leave were given full R.C. Cola honors today for assaulting a local Chinese ham radio enthusiast. Sounds like they'll take the kung POW chicken to go!"
Even their public service ads against racism seem racist. I'm not going to take anti-racism advice from someone trying to disprove the stereotype that Puerto Ricans are bad at baseball. Is it racist for me to notice that's ignorant in like a completely different direction? Plus, why is an Asian kid playing the part of Luis? Speaking as someone doing it right now, it's comforting to know that white people trying not to be racist has been racist for over 50 years.
As you may have noticed, one of the trends of old comic book ads was incorporating the product into an act of heroism in an extremely stupid way. Maybe you throw a pie to distract an enemy or quickly oil your hair so first responders don't mistake you for a criminal. The writers tried to create these showcases for the adventuring potential of their product, but it just ended up looking like complicated instructions on how to make dangerous situations worse. My modern brain sees these ads and immediately imagines how many women will be run over because of them. Which makes this hard-on both troubling and strange for me to bring up.
Seriously, why did everyone during this era add five extra steps to shoving people out of the way of moving cars? Who thinks sicking a dog on a baby in the street is a proper solution to getting it out of traffic? I swear if you search this writer's house he has pictures of traffic accidents hidden under his mattress. This isn't how you advertise shoes -- it's how you advertise tiny coffins.
Smith Brothers! The only cough drop that will make your armed sentry say, "I think I hear whispering and sucking sounds coming from the direction of that menthol and licorice scent. If only every day at my kidnapping job was this easy."
"Help, the ice is breaking! W-wait, are all you fucking people unwrapping Tootsie Rolls? A-are you going to try to like tie together a little rope or ... YOU'RE JUST EATING THEM!? You unimaginable monsters! Stop watching me DIE!"
As this ad explains, skinny girls don't get enough Vitamin B1, calcium phosphate and iron in their diet. Which is why, right now, every female reader just opened a second browser window to Google how to avoid Vitamin B1, calcium phosphate and iron. And these ads weren't for women with eating disorders or strange diseases. These were for healthy but lazy women who wanted a shortcut to getting fat but lived in a time before instant gravy had been discovered. In the 50's, when you asked a stewardess for a seat belt extender she'd say, "Only if you tell me your secret!"
These ads came from an era where a woman was so eager to please her man that she'd gain weight just so he got a better workout releasing her into the sea. It was a kinder time; a time when a man might tell his wife, "Sweetheart, I'll do that vacuuming for you. I didn't buy you a god damn pizza so you could move all around and burn its calories off."
I included this ad because now that you're fat, I thought your boobs might look too luscious. I have your back, ladies.
Maybe this is my pussified modern brain talking again, but I don't think it's responsible to suggest someone jump into a gunfight armed only with childhood obesity. Classic ads are filled with examples of adults encouraging children into dangerous situations, and once they're there, the children themselves make decisions that I would describe as suicide attempts. It's like the people back then had this absurd ability to separate fiction from reality that gave unmedicated artists to draw panel after panel of child-slaughtering gum adventures. But of course, no one was better at endangering kids than Captain Tootsie.
I'm not sure what's crazier to me ... the fact that the police have no problem with Captain Tootsie eating candy while he watches two children fight a man to the death, or that the fat kid's name is actually Fatso. This is something a draft dodger would write to convince a recruiting officer that he's too unhinged to carry a weapon. I carefully read every Captain Tootsie ad because I'm sure eventually one of the characters is going to say, "I'm writing this comic while wearing a cape made of faces." The rough draft of this was written in toddler skeletons.
This ad doesn't feature any actual dangerous activity, but it is the finest guide to getting your ass kicked I've ever seen. Kids, if you have a clari-flute and 15 minutes of clari-flute training, don't believe the people at the party cheering you on. This is a trick to humiliate you. And police, if you're reading this, find the person who wrote this and I have a feeling you'll also find where several of his missing classmates disappeared to.
Now see, having a kid lure a gorilla into a cage by running into it first is a plan that I don't see a single problem with.
In this one, Captain Tootsie teaches children, who have never even heard of stilts before, how to walk on stilts in the street. And when, surprise, a manure truck is about to run over a little girl, Captain Tootsie tackles her toward the truck. So what I want to know is, at the end of the day does Captain Tootsie return all of these kids to their parents, or does he leave the dead ones where they fell? Who are the ad wizards who came up with Captain Tootsie? I ask because I'm worried that they might really think they're wizards. The people around them could be in danger.
I might joke that Captain Tootsie is probably touching, definitely killing dozens of children, but at least those children don't exist. THE BRAIN made this bizarre child endangerment theme real by taking out full page ads asking for snapshots of children from around the country and posting them next to their home addresses. I get that the 1940s were a different time, but I think I speak for all of 2011 when I say what the fucking fuck.