From many of the comic book lists on this site you can tell Toptenz.net is big supporter of comic books. In today’s comic books you don’t see the advertisements you used to – no ads with outrageous promises to be taller or more muscular. No advertisements to own a nuclear sub or army tank can be found nowadays. But if you look in older comic books you’ll see a treasure trove of sneaky ads, crazy claims, preposterous promises and looney lies. We’ve tried to bring you the worst comic book ads of the bunch. Here are 10 of the most outrageous comic book advertisements ever. Read on, true believer!
Editor’s Note: This was originally published in January 2009. We are re-publishing it today for two reasons. 1.) It is hilariously good, and 2.) The original post we had scheduled wasn’t quite as finished as we thought. Hopefully most of you will be reading it for the first time and find it a pleasant waste of time.
10. Sea Monkeys
A bowl full of happiness: How many of us were suckered into purchasing these aquatic miracles of life? An entire humanoid-looking family of pets for our amusement. This was great and surely the pictures (illustrations) would never lie. Heck, they might even be able to speak. After all they have mouths and sparkling white teeth. And look at the size of the shadows in the fish bowl! They are enormous. I do like the way the father (male) has his tail strategically placed over his crotch.
The Truth: They were just above microscopic size and certainly didn’t look anything like a human or a mermaid. They were usually dead within a week. Next time buy gold fish.
9. Amazing X-Ray Specs
A Hilarious Optical Illusion: Well, the ad does have the word illusion written in bold, so we were only fooling ourselves if we believed the x-ray glasses would actually work. Did it not occur to us that doctors would be wearing these x-ray specs if they could see through things? Well, I guess doctors didn’t read comics so maybe they just didn’t know about this medical marvel.
The Truth: You paid for glasses that made things look blurry which gave the “illusion” of seeing through objects. Your only hope was to pawn these disappointing specs on the next sucker. Too bad you couldn’t “see through” the scam.
8. How to Hypnotize - Hypno-coin
Impose will over someone – Sure, impose your will by learning these amazing hypnotic techniques. You get 24 photographs to show you how. And if they techniques are beyond you, (although it states anyone can follow it) you can order from the inset advertisement and get the Hypno-Coin. How the heck do you spin it and why turn your victim into a zombie with arms held out in front?
The Truth – While trying to hypnotize your friends you either look like an idiot as nothing happens or they fake being hypnotized and embarrass you as they ignore all your commands for world domination.
7. Charles Atlas
The insult that made a man out of Mac – The best part of this comic book advertisement is the fifth panel as they show the passage of time with a simplistic “Later”. How much later? One day, one month or one year? They don’t say and if you follow the logic of the comic it looks like later that same summer season, so it must be only a few weeks at most. Good to know that violence IS the answer, Mac. Thanks, Charles Atlas!
The Truth – You received a big rubber band and got fed up after a few days of pulling rubber. Then you start a company called Microsoft and the rest is history.
6. Automatic Firing Tripod Machine Gun
Develops Deadly Target Skill – Nothing like preparing our youth early for their days of protecting our country. It’s magazine fed and swivels in all directions. So, once you kill all your enemies you can turn it against your fellow soldiers. Friendly fire never felt so right. And all this imaginary killing is yours for $1.98!
The Truth – When it worked, it shot pellets which could, in the immortal words of Clark Griswald, “…lodge under the skin and cause a very bad infection.”
5. Build Your Own Apollo Lunar Module
You get all this for just one dime – The real beauty of this was that you actually mailed the dime in the safety coin holder included – do not tape or seal. And you got, not one, but two lunar astronauts in FULL space gear. Good to know your toy astronauts will not be braving fake space without full space gear.
The Truth – It was just a scale model and you will only be traveling to space in your dreams, but you did get a trial membership at the Science Program, whatever that was. And why was it a trial?
4. Grow Man Grow – Be Taller
Height gain guaranteed - If you are worried about being short, act NOW! It actually says, “Tall up instantly.” How do you tall up? If you look at the picture it would also leave you to believe you get pumped up too. Pump up instantly? Your new height secrets will be rushed to you in a PLAIN WRAPPER. This sounds insidious, but gaining 3 inches is worth the possible embarrassment. Wait, are we talking about your height or that certain part of the male anatomy?
The Truth – At best you were sent a pair of shoe lifts. At worst you were sent advice like, “Stand up straighter.” Either way you weren’t going to be any taller. And no, gaining 3 inches was not meant for your, well…you know.
3. Live Miniature Dog at No Cost
Please give me a home at no cost – Paris Hilton must have read this ad to get her tea cup dog, poodle, or whatever it is. They give you good advice and say you can keep it in a box and enjoy teaching it tricks. Yes, like play dead, because keeping your dog in a box will suck all the life out of it. But hurry, they only have a limited supply of miniature dogs. Imagine the storage facilities.
The Truth – You could get a dog (and some ads offered a monkey) if you could get 20 of your friends to order hand colored enlargements of photos they send in to Dean Studios, the ad’s sponsor. I’m betting not many people could sucker 20 other people to pay for this rip off, but I assume a few did. Getting the mutant dog or the half-dead monkey with HIV must have been quite a reality check.
2. 200 World War II Soldier
2 armies, the Americans, the Germans - Okay, I certainly didn’t believe I would be getting real soldiers in the mail. But I fully expected to receive unbreakable plastic army men. I have outlined the promise of indestructible plastic army men in red. Feel free to click the picture to see a larger image. It states it quite clearly. UNBREAKABLE. I assume I was getting some space-age plastic that would resist all efforts to destroy these men of plastic.
The Truth – These plastic army men met their demise with frightening ease. Of course they melted effortlessly and I can forgive that. But a few days after receiving them it looked like war had, indeed, been hell. Many were missing legs, arms and even heads, but they continued to fight on…brave soldiers that they were. I was disappointed as one bite would render any plastic soldier headless.
1. Nuclear Sub, Army Tank – Toys of War
“Fires Rockets & Torpedoes” - With that one statement all bets are off. This submarine must work. I don’t care how it was powered. You could power it with a nuclear reactor or rubber bands but I fully expected it to submerge and fire freakin’ torpedoes. Is that too much to ask? And when I read I’m getting a real mobile tank I fully expected to be crushing the neighborhood bully under my metal machine of death. A real working, electronically lit control panel only adds to the promise of realism.
The Truth - Each item is really just a weak cardboard cut-out you put together. And nothing worked. No rockets and no torpedoes from your sub and your tank could be trampled by a pack of ill-tempered kittens. Lesson learned, you can’t get instruments of war for under $7.00 with a 10-day free trial. You just can’t. Sigh…