Top 10 Outrageous Comic Book Advertisements

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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!

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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54 Comments

  1. 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!!!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.
    Thanks

  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. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Thanks so much, Carole

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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.