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Friday, April 22, 2016

Rad Ads - Shirt Tales, Sears Catalog Nintendo and SHERRY Great Teen Physique

Picture it. You're rummaging through your garage... maybe you're looking for something, maybe it's spring cleaning... it doesn't really matter. You come across a large unmarked box. Curious, you open it. Inside you find the box is filled to the top with VHS video cassettes. Not commercial releases, mind you... unmarked tapes, ya know... the good stuff.

You lug the thing the the last TV in the house that still has a VCR attached to it, and pop the first tape in. It's an episode of Who's the Boss?. You think to yourself "who in the hell taped an episode of Who's the Boss?" Yet, you watch... you sit through the opening theme as the video struggles with its tracking, and the first segment (or maybe you just leave it on as "background noise"). As the show fades into its first ad break, you get an odd feeling in your stomach... then it happens. Whoever taped this... left the commercials in. Familiar jingles and catchphrases fill your head, and suddenly it's as though you're a kid again.

Commercials are, whether we like it or not, part of our popular culture. Whether it's a contemporary ad in which someone sings off key as a car drives along a road, or "By Men-nen", these things stick with us, and truly have the power to bring us back to where we were when we first saw or heard them. The adverts in comics are no different... at least to me. Perhaps I'm projecting, and I'll concede that may very well be the case, but one of the more special things about reading older comics is seeing the ads. It's something that cannot be recreated through trade collections... it's something unique and engaging about the ol' single issues, that truly (in my opinion) rewards those readers who seek them out.

Here in Rad Ads, we aim to revisit some old favorites (and not-so favorites), and perhaps go into some detail on their relevance, and stories (if there are any). We'll be covering DC house ads and product ads alike. We hope you enjoy.

From New Teen Titans #38 (January, 1984)

The new Saturday Morning Line-up was always a favorite ad growing up. As you can see, this one not only has the toons, but also the jazz! The only thing missing from this one is having the different characters interact with one another. Granted, I'm not sure how much conversation Thundarr the Barbarian could have with a six-story tall Mr. T.

Now just what in the world is a 'Shirt Tale'?

I'm glad you asked. The Shirt Tales were a cartoon series based on a line of greeting cards, of all things. They each wore a different brightly colored shirt, which would illuminate with what they were thinking. Strange concept that sadly only lasted two-seasons on NBC.

From Mister Miracle v2 #7 (August, 1989)

Now. If you're an eighties kid who was into comics and video games... I can think of no better ad to frustrate and annoy you with than the one above. This SEARS ad still makes my teeth itch. I mean, how can one advert have so many mistakes? For an ad whose tag-line is "Video Games Just Got Easier to Order!", they are sure complicating things!

Let's start on the left hand side. They very clearly transposed Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (or just Simons Quest here) and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link's images. Okay, I suppose that's forgivable. However, they've also mislabeled what is very obviously Super Mario Bros. as Super Mario Bros 2.

No... wait. Maybe... maybe they're right. Hear me out... Maybe SEARS carried import copies of the Famicon version of Super Mario Bros. 2. That would explain it. I bet that's it. I take it all back, SEARS. Ya done good.

From Robin #1 (January, 1991)

Veering just a hair outside of our 1980's purview, comes this rather creepy ad from SHERRY. You see, she (?) wants all you outta shape comic book fans to turn those flabby bellies into rows upon rows of rock-hard abs. You just need to let Teen Mr. America into your life. Which, upon a quick and (makes me feel) dirty Google search, appears to actually be a thing. It appears to be defunct as of the year 2000... which was also when I turned 20. Coincidence? I think not.

That's gonna do it for our inaugural Rad Ads. If you dig the concept, let us know. If there are any ads you'd like to see covered, feel free to contact me in care of this website. We thank you for reading.


Can't wait for the next installment in this series of articles? For more of Chris Sheehan, check out his highly recommended Chris is on Infinite Earths blog.


  1. Shirt Tales was an amazing cartoon that really highlighted the shyness of moles

  2. I love this idea! I got a bunch of vintage comics and then 70s and 80s and 90s comics with awesome nostalgic ads! Great idea I'd follow these posts!

    1. Excellent! Thanks for reading, and we'll most definitely keep 'em coming!

  3. My husband and I can totally relate to the beginning of your article: we spent about an hour or so last month watching collections of old TV ads on YouTube...what a trip!

    I always found it funny that you can tell roughly when a comic was released just by looking at the ad on the back cover, since they tended to use the same ones in a particular month. Oxy-10, MPC, Burger Time...if you've got comics from 1984 in your collection, you've got those ads on the back of 'em!

    1. Those old ad compilations on YouTube can certainly be addicting, I probably watch them with unhealthy regularity! and you're right, flipping a book over and looking at its back cover is just like chopping down a tree and counting its rings. You can always tell its vintage by the wares they're trying to peddle.