Top 10 Outrageous Comic Book Advertisements


From many of the comic book lists on this site you can tell 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!

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

Image result for 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

Image result for 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

Image result for Charles Atlas comic ad

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

Image result for Build Your Own Apollo Lunar Module comic ad

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

Image result for Grow Man Grow - Be Taller comic ad

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

Image result for Live Miniature Dog at No Cost comic ad

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

Image result for 200 World War II Soldier comic ad

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

Image result for nuclear sub comic ad

“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…

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  1. Nathan Forester on

    I recall that Jay Leno has a story about monkey in a teacup, I remember him saying that he owned one as a kid and it was this little naked hairless creature running around.

  2. I never fell for any of these, I bought the “throw your voice” gadget. if at summer camp, you ever put a leaf in your mouth and made squawking noises by blowing thru it, that’s what the “throw your voice” gadget was like. I probably never bothered to read the instructions, if any. Disappointment kept me from buying the x-ray specs.

  3. Oh, do I remember these! My friend and I were especially anxious to get our “fully functional” submarine… we could just imagine the fun of taking it out in the pool, then graduating to lakes, then launching it into the ocean right from the beach! We just KNEW we’d be the “envy of the neighborhood” cruising around in this beauty! And we sure couldn’t understand why our parents just laughed when we asked them for the $6.98 (plus a whopping 75 cents for shipping). Funny (considering all the comic books I read) I don’t ever recall seeing the “giant tank” ad — since as a kid I always loved tanks best, I would have been salivating for THAT one!

  4. Carole Saylor on

    This might be the place to ask this question. Does anyone remember seeing an ad in the back of a comic book, sorry I can’t remember which one as I read a lot, that had a picture of the Vitruvian Man, the man standing with multiple arms and legs, and it was an advertisement for the Illuminati. I wanted to answer the ad but there was something about it that felt somewhat weird. I remember that so distinctly but don’t know anyone else to ask as most of my friends didn’t read comics. Those poor unfortunate children. 🙂
    Thanks so much, Carole

  5. Does anyone but me remember an ad in the comic books and adventure mags
    of the 50`s about an underground civilization in Anarctica? If so could you
    e-mail me info or a picture of the ad. It would be great if any one could.

  6. Ha ha, I was a kid who bought lots of comics back in the ’60s and I remember most of these ads very well. My brother and I even bought a couple of things via mail order. He bought the sea-monkeys, which were actually little shrimp-like sea creatures that lived in brine. A neighbor kid bought the “unbreakable” toy soldiers, and they were thin, flat figures that were short compared to “real” plastic toy soldiers, and the mail-order soldiers broke so easily. I also remember asking my dad about the “real” tank until he assured me it was just made of cardboard. Oh, I also bought the Apollo lunar lander mini-diorama and, yes, I got it for just a dime. But I knew it was a plastic model that you assembled and painted. It was well-made and I actually still have it packed away in a box. That book company occasionally offered other space models too, i.e. Mercury and Gemini capsules, and I bought those also for only a dime each. What I would do is mail in my cancellation of the science books right after I got the model, and would then sign up again a year or so later when they had a new model. They never complained about my multiple subscriptions and cancellations, ha ha. The one thing our dad never let us order was the live monkey in a teacup for $19.95, the ad for which I don’t see here. They were little marmoset monkeys and, yes, they were real. My dad said, “that thing will poop all over the place and make a mess. I don’t want that thing in our house, inside or out!” He was right, because we ran into a family once that had one, and it was a lot of work taking care of that little creature.

  7. Wow, what a nostalgia trip! This really takes me back! I never did get those weird Sea Monkeys, but I always wondered about them. Gotta stick up for the lunar module–when we first walked on the moon, I had the greatest time putting that cardboard gem together and playing with it.

    And does anyone remember the Nixon “I’m not a crook” wristwatch? The face showed a cartoon-pic of old Dick scowling, and underneath it the caption “Nixon says ‘I’M NOT A CROOK.’ The cool part was that his eyes shifted back and forth as the watch ticked. Did anybody ever get one of those? Or was that a scam, too?

    Oh, the outrageous ads. I miss those days!!!

  8. Moby is correct. At some point in the 70’s the Air Force announced, with great fanfare, that they had developed a NEW way to exercise they called “isometrics”. Those of us raised in the 1950’s knew it was NOT new. It was the same thing Charles Atlas called “Dynamic Tension” which is muscle contraction or working one musle against another or a stationary object and it was very effective if the exercise directions were followed. What’s the old adage? “There’s really nothing new under the sun.”

  9. Great list. I had fun reading it, though I never got nor read any of the ads. I live outside the U.S. so I couldn’t order any of products. When I was younger, i always thought that these crazy ads were some sort of joke. Anyway, i had fun reading them.

  10. Yes some of these items were scams but many were simple things that children of that day and age had imagination and simplicity and could play with cardboard and simple plastic toys. Today kids need to have a 3d gameboy or PS3 or Xbox. I can remember playing with cardboard boxes as forts and wooden spoons and sticks for guns. Me and my friends played for hours. On another note, millions were made for the inventors of Pet Rocks and Chia Pets….

    • Absolutely Johnny. Same here. We would get a wooden spoon or a bent stick and use it as a gun or rifle. We enjoyed ourselves outside and our muscles didn’t atrophy and eyesight didn’t go bad sitting at a computer screen filling our heads with evil because parents don’t care to screen or filter the internet in their houses.

      And about the Charles Atlas ad. Yes, they were selling a cheap rubber exercise thingy but it wasn’t a scam. Of course, to look like Charles, you would have to do many more exercises and lift weights but it wasn’t exactly a scam. It’s the fault of lazy people that wanted the non-existent shortcut way to he man status if they didn’t get beefed up like they wanted. And as for dealing with bullies, yes the way to take care of a bully is to sock him in the nose. One of two things would happen. They would leave you alone after that or you would become friends and he would learn not to be a bully. More often than not, it would be the former. This sissifying of American boys is a mistake. We don’t need cops to take care of most disputes. Just deal with them like a man and move on.

    • I always wonder if anyone reads the opening paragraph, or does everyone just look at the pretty pictures. I’m guessing you are a pretty pictures type of guy. I added an editor’s note in the beginning explaining why I am reposting an older list.

      Basically we had a SNAFU with the list scheduled and I picked one of my favorites from back in 2009. Hope you liked it. Glad you thought it was funny, ’cause I wrote it.

      • I did like it, I was just wondering. And yes, I’m probably the pretty pictures type of guy. Sorry about that. 🙂

  11. I fell for exactly NONE of those scams… I wonder why they’re allowed in Comic Books, since the Comics Code Authority is supposed to keep that from being put there./

  12. I actually got the lunar module and joined the science club. They mailed small books every month covering some aspect of science AND included a small paper holder to put the books on the shelf. Found a set not long ago in a used book store. Actually not a bad thing (compared to the other scams identified here)

  13. What a fantastic list. I used to pour through these when I was little. I was never allowed to get any though as I live in the UK. I think my Mum used that as a convenient excuse!

  14. Speaking of stuff like those plastic soldiers, there were also those “100 dolls for $1.00”. Thinking you would get a bunch of cool dolls, what you got were these two-inch tall pepto-colored abominations that were plastic like the soldiers. There were different kinds of characters, but the fun level was about -1. Did I mention to tell you that there were actually only 75 of them? Not that that mattered anyway, due to the overall cr*ppiness of these dolls.

  15. Thanks for the memories. I came here looking for the sub ad so I could show my daughter something from my youth. When I was a kid I wanted it desperately and was convinced it was real and that I could even voyage in the local lake. Of course mom knew better and always stood frirm against my repeated pleadings.

    Well done

  16. Charles Atlas’ “Dynamic Tension” worked then and every variation of the same idea continues to work to this day.

  17. I actually bought the knights and castle playset and the navy playset with the ocean and two hundred piece navy’s Think i still have the navy set. The knights castle was a sheet of plastic about a foot by a foot. It did have firing catapults and rolling battering rams and opening gates and drawbridges. Bought them in the early sixties. The knights were 3d and better made than some of the newer army men, Lots of fun to play with. I am 55 now brought back lots of memories. Always wanted a tank; even wrote them a letter asking for pictures. Was a cynic way back then.

  18. I bought the sea monkeys AND the WWII soldiers as a kid. The sea monkeys were, in fact, microscopic; and the soldiers were not only very brittle plastic (like cocktail “swords”), but they were virtually one dimensional. They were about as wide as a McDonald’s french fry and as thick as a credit card. All 200 soldiers came in a box not too much bigger than an Irish Spring soap box. I also bought the Revolutionary War soldiers and actually played with them. They were made of real live army man plastic, but their “catch” was that they were tiny. They probably could have used a Monopoly hotel for a bivouac tent…

  19. I either ordered each of these or really wanted to (I couldn’t afford the sub, but I REALLY wanted it – heck, who wouldn’t want a Polaris sub that fires rockets and torpedos in their bedroom?).

    The army men… I ordered the version that came “in a footlocker” (a cardboard mini-shoebox). there were a hundred or whatever they advertised, but they never told me that they were flat, 2 dimensional soldiers made from hard shiny plastic and had a base that barely held them up.

    Joy-buzzers, x-ray specs, life size movie monsters… all of these were part of the magic that made up the fabric of my imagination via comic books. God I wanted that hover-craft…

  20. In the new Creepy and Eerie archive books, they’ve reprinted some of the original 1960’s ads, including an ad for a “live monkey” by mail. “You can be the happiest boy on your block with your own live baby squirrel monkey…Dress it in cute costumes and put on shows. You and your monkey can be real pals….Live delivery guaranteed!” It’s hard to believe that this kind of service was once legal…

  21. It was interesting seeing the old ads when I was sorting through some old comics a few months ago. One of the more interesting ones was for Daisy BB guns, featuring Johnny Unitas and how they helped teach his sons responsibility. Wow, a dad spending time with his kid teaching them responsibility with a weapon. What a concept.

    Another couple of ads are a little weird in light of more recent history. Ads for shoes featuring OJ Simpson. And no, they weren’t for Bruno Maglis — that would have been TOO weird.

  22. I have sea monkeys to this day. I hatch them and feed them to my aquarium fish, cheaper than commercial fish food.

    • OMG, Sea-Monkey Armageddon!

      I can the scenario now:

      Susie Sea-Monkey: Mommy! They killed Bobby and Daddy! What do we do?

      Mommy Sea-Monkey: Pray Susie, pray…

  23. great list! i remember one for a specific bicycle, the slogan was 'Looks like it's moving, even when it's standing still'. i was amazed and wanted to see such a feat so badly! the things that comics got away with 🙂 what about those betty crocker easy bake ovens? did those ever work?

    • Yes, the Easy Bake ovens worked. The heat source was a light bulb and it would bake small treats. My sisters had them and my wife says she had one as a child. We call our convection oven “the Easy Bake” because it’s small and sits on the counter. I like it because it doesn’t heat up the kitchen like the big oven.

  24. Now, you absolutely have to add to this list the best of all, the squirrel monkey you could have for only 20 bucks that came from Hialeah florida. It was listed in Marvel comics and some of the others.I so wanted one but was never allowed to place an order – my mom didn't want a monkey in the house 'cause she said she had one already and that was enough.

  25. Wow! I'd forgotten these ads. I was trusting enough to believe them. I especially wanted the Sea-Monkeys and submarine. Luckily, my parents wouldn't let me.

    Why is it "buyer beware" rather "seller be truthful?"

  26. Barry Hetrick on

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I actually order the Lunar Module Kit!

  27. Last year, my friend and I went to a 1st class toy shop and checked out a rack of seemingly-cool-but-actually-not sea-monkey stuffs, and the saleslady told us in a snobby manner, “It really does work, so quit observing and buy one.” Of course we didn’t believed the pug-face, but it sure is fun if we could show this article to her. LOL

  28. I clearly remember an ad for a flying disc that seemingly could transport you around the neighborhood with ease. I guess it cost too much, because I never bought it, but as a kid I saw no reason why it wouldn't actually work as advertised.

      • That is correct, especially to the Brits.

        Us Umericans don’t always follow the “an” before vowel sound (silent H sounds like the following “i” – brits use “an” with “H”)

  29. the sea monkeys are brine shrimp. About 40 years ago my uncle bought a squirrel monkey thru the mail for twenty bucks. It lived about ten years. More than once he pinched my balls. {the monkey}

  30. Sea monkeys were about the stupidest thing ever! (Says someone who spent her hard-earned allowance on them.) Great list!