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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Rad Ads - How to Breakdance, Breed and Raise Parakeets, Skul and "Attention Virginia"

Welcome back to the long-awaited and highly anticipated return of our Rad Ads segment. Chris Sheehan and I will be teaming up for this one.

DC Comics — who published materials targeted towards teens, young adults, college-aged kids and (in some cases) adults — reached a very wide North American demographic. This was perfect for selling advertising space. (DC Comics was a business after all, and needed to generate revenue to keep it's doors open). Many companies that produced candy, cookies, video games, bicycles, model kits (and just about anything else aimed at a young adult market) bought full page and half page ad space to display their colorful advertisements for their products. These were legit companies with REAL advertising dollars who were able to pay for vibrant and splashy ads.

...and then there were the 'classifieds' (for lack of a better word). The classifieds took up a whole page and contained a whole bunch of ads packed into one condensed space.

Need to post an ad in a DC comic, but you're on a tight budget? Here you go...

If you had the money, Sanford Schwarz & Co. (and later Print Advertising Representatives Inc.) would let you advertise in a DC comic — no matter how nefarious the product or service. To be fair, most of the ad space featured comic book shops trying to sell back issues, Charles Atlas ads or "high school from home" programs for adults [note: we at DC in the 80s strongly support education of any kind. Stay in school, kids. -J].

[There were times in which you could tell how lucrative these classified pages were. There would be months where several of the ad "spots" would be full of DC "bullets" or variations on the WRITE RIGHT NOW! Bumper. I may be misremembering, but I feel like there were even months where the classifieds only received a half-page. -Chris]

In this article, Chris and I are going to take a look at some of the more interesting classified ads we've ran across in our years of reading DC comics.


Found in a few 1985 issues:


Justin: Remember when breakdancing took North America by storm? As evidenced by the films Wild Style, Breakin', Beat Street, Body Rock and Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, America seemed to be fascinated with this new dance craze in the early to mid-1980s. I think there's even a scene in Flashdance where Jennifer Beals mixes it up with some pop n'lockers. Well, now you can learn at home and earn a "Champion Breakdancer" certificate.


Even McDonald's was trying to cash in on the North Americam breakdancin' craze


Chris: The breakdancer certificate is something I’m actually surprised they're including for the low low price of just under five bucks. I’d have imagined there would be a coupon or something in the back of the book that a novice pop-locker would have to clip and mail off with an additional fiver. Just think of the value here… Sally Struthers should be doing commercials for this place! You wanna learn to headspin? Sure, we all do!

Justin: I think breakdancing was popular again for a bit while I was in high school (mid 1990s). Some of my 'cooler' friends tried really hard to get good at it, but of course, we were all just middle-class white kids from a small Canadian town so we were all self-taught (based on music videos we saw and etc) and none of us were able to pull it off gracefully. I personally don't know anybody over the age of 30 who still breakdances. Except for 'the Robot'. Everyone seems to think that they can do 'the Robot'. They claim to do it ironically, but they're really putting their hearts into it.

Justin: In keeping with the true spirit of the 'classified' section, they should've re-worded the ad to "MAKE EXTRA MONEY! LAY DOWN SOME CARDBOARD AND PERFORM HEADSPINS AND WINDMILLS FOR HAPLESS PASSERBY".

Chris: I’m thinking this is a missed opportunity. Seinfeld fans may remember Kramer’s "Coffee Table Book" that would actually fold out to become a coffee table… why not give this booklet an over-sized cardboard cover? You could learn your flashy footwork secrets… then just lay the book down on a street corner and bust 'em out. Hell, maybe even offer a "deluxe" model with a linoleum cover!

Justin: On that note, I've never seen anyone become successful from being a B-boy or B-girl. All it ever seems to net them is a hip replacement at 45 years old. Truth in advertising, "DAZZLE YOUR FRIENDS WHILE CRUSHING YOUR T6 VERTEBRAE". Breakdance Back Syndrome is a real thing, people. Look it up.

Chris: Ehhh, that pesky T6 vertebrae just gets in the way of doing the worm anyway!

Justin: I wouldn’t be surprised if the city of New York had never issued any Public Service Announcements warning the population from partaking in this activity. A very stern 1984 New York Times article addressed the perils of breakdancing. The truth in all this is that while we recognize breakdancing is a REAL art form, it can't be taught from the pages of a book with illustrations — you'd need an actual experienced instructor who knows what he's doing.

Chris: Just a brief mention, but the Johnson Smith Company is still in business, though no longer in Michigan. Now operating out of Bradenton, Florida, JSC has a wide array of catalogs and novelties. There’s no mention of breakdancing how-tos on their website… so either they realized the fad has passed, or they lost their accreditation from the Boogaloo Shrimp Board of Crew Dancing.

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1981 classified ad (this one ran for a few years):



Justin: Welcome to the fast-paced and high stakes world of parakeet breeding.

Chris: Just don’t put them in the same cage as the rattlesnake eggs you got from another ad!



Justin: Prior to this ad, I had no clue Parakeet Breeding was a 'thing', and just thought it was an advertisement placed by a plucky entrepreneur with too many books about raising parakeets lying around. Apparently, the business of Parakeet Breeding is still alive and kicking as demonstrated by specialty websites (i.e. Budgie Place, Types-of-birds.blogspot.ca, Cute Little Birdies Aviary and petbirdincome.com), but it's not a very well-publicized activity (which is why I've never heard of it until this ad). There's a good reason for that — this ad was most likely an offshoot of the North American 'Budgie Boom' that swept the nation in the early-to-mid 1950s.

In 1930, the United States experienced a HUGE outbreak of psittacosis (a respiratory disease mainly transmitted to humans by birds) that affected around 800 individuals and indirectly prompted the creation of the National Institute of Health. The 1930 psittacosis epidemic led to a ban on budgies (aka: the Australian shell parakeet) throughout New York and several other states, but was ultimately lifted in 1952. This led to the North American 'Budgie Boom' that permeated the United States for the next two decades; breeding and raising your own parakeets suddenly became a popular national pastime. Why? Because back then, a single budgie could run you anywhere between $5 to $15 in a bird shop. There was a great demand for these birds.

I couldn't honestly tell you what the state of breeding parakeets for profit was during the 60s and 70s, but I DO know that New York City had reported an influx of exotic birds introduced to it's domestic ecology sometime in the early 1970s, with at least one species of parrot becoming a regular fixture in New York state.



Unless you plan on making this a large-scale operation (i.e. hundreds and hundreds of birds), breeding parakeets is not as lucrative as it used to be. According to experienced parakeet breeders, thanks to a) the high price of bird seed, b) market and demand fluctuations, c) veterinary maintenance and d) the current economic climate of the country, the best a small-scale breeder could hope for is being able to cover expenses. In essence, it'll develop into a hobby that pays for itself. Today, you'd be better off raising chickens. At least you can eat those.


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This one actually ran in DC comics for a few months in 1982:


Justin: Nothing says 'professional retailer' like an ad that looks like it was drawn up by a 7 year old. It's like some kid got mad at his father and took out an ad to sell all of his stuff.

Chris: During the late 1980's, dozens of comics fans ventured into the deepest, darkest corner of Graham, Texas with one goal in mind… Skul Posters. None of them returned. This really looks like something put together by a mad man. I actually get a bit uncomfortable looking at this… perhaps that is due to my vivid and crooked imagination, okay… that’s definitely it. But there is something sinister here… there’s just gotta be.

Justin: I'm imagining you show up at this guy's house, he silently leads you to his homemade backyard arena, throws you a broad sword and excepts you to duel with him to the death. For the life of me, I can't figure out what 'Skul' is supposed to mean. "Skull"? "Kull the Conqueror"? "School"?

Justin: I think the retailer realized how amateur it looked (or decided to pay Sanford Schwarz & Co. for their professional typeface services), because it was quickly replaced with this version several issues later:



Justin: All gentle ribbing aside, I'm really curious to see what Robert Robbins is up to now (is he a professional graphics designer?) and what his posters looked like. Maybe he was the next Todd McFarlane and we all missed out. Or maybe he was a guy who just had too many Conan, Hulk and Skul posters lying around and was trying to ship 'em out. Either way, Mr Robbins, if you're reading this, drop us a line.

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I first saw this in a 1985 DC comic, but I think it ran for many years:


Justin: There's nothing THAT funny about this, except that it seems like the ad is specifically addressing a particular woman. "ATTENTION VIRGINIA. WE FOUND YOUR PURSE. WE DON'T PLAN ON HANGING ONTO IT FOREVER, SO PLEASE COME AND PICK IT UP." or, better yet, "ATTENTION VIRGINIA, ACCORDING TO THE JUDICIAL PROCESS THE RESTRAINING ORDER HAS BEEN LIFTED. COME SEE US AGAIN. YOU WON'T BE SORRY."

Chris: I won’t be sorry? Is that a threat? All kidding aside, it’s crazy to consider that up until last summer… Dave’s Comics (and cards) was still a brick-and-mortar presence in Richmond! He currently runs an online store and is active with local conventions. The ad itself does read like a "missed connection" on Craigslist… only this one probably cost actual USD to share… and likely attracted a slightly less perverted response... hopefully.

Justin: I want to leave this Rad Ads segment on a rockin' note. So we're going conclude with this embedded video of Prism's "Virginia":



-Justin

Big thanks and welcome back to Chris Sheehan, who has been on hiatus to work on The Cosmic Treadmill and the Weird Comics History podcasts for the DC Weird Science blog. Unless I'm mistaken, Chris will also be nearing his one year anniversary on his Chris Is On Infinite Earths blog — be sure to check out his interesting and entertaining comic reviews.

2 comments:

  1. Dave of Dave's Comics passed away last year. Used to get all my comics there when I lived in Richmond VA.

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    1. Oh no! Our condolences to Dave and his loved ones. :(

      He will always be remembered (and immortalized) by the "Attention Virginia" everytime we flip through our 80s back issues.

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