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Marvel Comics Food Ads of the 90's

Saving the world on a daily basis must make a hero hungry because for years Marvel characters have been promoting snack foods in the pages of their "funny books". Going way back to the late 70's and early 80's there were the Hostess Fruit Pie comic strips, but by the mid 90's, super powered schilling for food companies took on a life of its own. I recently searched my personal comic book collection and found some amazing examples of Marvel Comics food ads, so let's get to exploring.

Crunch N' Munch (1993/1994)

This first ad is the one I remember seeing most often on the back of my comic purchases. Though the What If...? style layout was eye-catching, the sketchy, rough artwork on the display cards with Wolverine and The Hulk drove me nuts. It looks terrible. At least the ones shown on the bottom of the follow up ad appear to be more on model. Also, I'm pretty sure my Dad was the only person on the planet that ate Crunch N' Munch. Butter Toffee popcorn with nuts? That's the stuff I skipped over in those holiday popcorn tins when I was searching for the cheese flavor. No, Thank you.

The main offer was the free trading card inside, but there were additional opportunities to score other Marvel swag as well. The first ad touts a Limited Edition Marvel Universe poster and the second shows an exclusive T-Shirt and Baseball hat mail away offer. Ever know anyone who mailed in their $2.95 and 3 proofs of purchase for these babies?

Charleston Chew/Sugar Daddy/Sugar Babies (1993)

Until I met my wife, I had never come across anybody who could even tell me what a Charleston Chew tasted like, but in a shocking twist, it's her candy of choice! Knowing her though, I'm sure this promotion tied to the 30th Anniversary of the Avengers had nothing to do with her preference. Even with their decision at the time to wear matching leather jackets.

What's interesting is the claim that there were 12 different wrapper designs featuring individual members of the team, yet they chose to display the Captain America style 3 times! What, they didn't think that Black Knight and Sersi wrappers were going to move a lot of product? You don't say!

Then there's an offer within an offer that's pretty fascinating. Apparently you could mail away for a "Collector's Comic", but as an added bonus they included and uncut sheet of oversized trading cards.  The uncut card insert was a pretty common practice around this time, but making them oversized seems like over-KILL if you ask me. You couldn't fit those things into binder sleeves!

Sweet Tarts (1994)

Finally, a treat I can get excited about. Sweet Tarts were always my favorite Halloween candy to find in the bag and now endorsed by the likes of Sue Storm or just plain Storm, I could definitely feel justified in my decision. What cracks me up about this era is that the design of the "Smart Hulk" always made him look like a green tinged Fabio on the cover of a romance novel. In this case though, I think all the heroes are just ticked off that Captain SweetTarts isn't sharing. What a jerk!

The special offer tied to this ad is one I would have dreamed about winning. Not only did the Grand Prize Winner get a real comic book artist to draw a picture of them, also part of the deal was a trip to New York for a tour of the Marvel Comics Studio to pick it up. Even if you weren't the lucky one to be immortalized with pen and ink, your odds were still pretty good to win one of the 355 watches, shirts, hats or pins being offered.

Pizza Hut (1994)

This promotion for Real Heroes Kid's Pizza Packs from Pizza Hut is one that totally passed me by, I have no recollection of it being offered at my neighborhood location. Let's be honest though, nothing compares to the X-Men promotion from 1993 that included mini comics and episodes of the cartoon on VHS. Still you can't say they didn't try and give their non-mutant characters a push.

In this offer kids got 1 of 4 collector's cup designs, as well as a custom comic and trading card produced by such big names as Bob Gordon (who?), Tom Morgan (uh?) and Chris Cooper (I'll take your word for it). OK, I'll be honest, the only guys on that list I've ever heard of are Evan Skolnick and Andy Smith, but even they are not huge names. I will give Marvel props for including Firestar in the promotion, since she had escaped the TV confines of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends to become a member of The New Warriors at the time.

Nabisco Cookies & Crackers (1994)

How much better would your Oreos or Chips Ahoy! taste served from a Super Snack Tin that had Iron Man soaring through space? Answer: You'll find out in 4-6 weeks after 2 proofs of purchase plus $1.99 shipping and handling. Isn't that lame? I guarantee they would have sold more Ritz crackers by setting them on store shelves inside these tins, rather than making us buy 2 boxes to eventually empty to fill the 4 limited edition tins.

Another interesting element of this ad is that it claims to be, "Based on the exciting new animated TV series coming this Fall." Which is kind of false advertising because X-Men had already been dominating on FOX Kids for 2 years at this point and Spider-Man was a hit show as well. So I think they were using the buzz off those hot properties to build excitement for the syndicated Marvel Action Hour duo of Iron Man and Fantastic Four.

Devil Dogs (1995)

OK, I'll admit it, I've never heard of Drake's Devil Dogs. Is this an East Coast or Midwest regional thing? It's obviously an off-brand Hostess deal and they claim to be "Bursting with Adventure!", but are they any good? At least they had the right idea of inserting the special mini-comics into each box. Cracker Jack taught us this years ago. Buy the product, get the prize. That's the way it should be.

What I'm curious to know about these 5 comics is if they are a special Drake's crossover event and if so, do any of the heroes battle an anthropomorphized Devil Dog? It seems like  no-brainer. Also, what is up with the Hulk's outfit here? Was he doing Shakespeare in the park and then Gladiator from the Shi'ar Empire decided to interrupt his soliloquy? Wait, it looks like Spider-Man is also fighting Gladiator in his comic, so this is definitely a connected story, cool!

Combos (1995)

Now here's a fun contest that really ties in a love of comics with an appreciation for salty snacks. Combos always felt like the human equivalent of dog treats, so I rarely indulged in them, but this brain teaser could easily have made me a fan. The trick here is to break down the 14 heroes and villains that have been combined to create the monstrosity known as Combo Man. Dare me to give it a whirl? Let's do this!

Top to Bottom: Hulk, Cyclops, Iron Man, Magneto, The Punisher, Captain America, Wolverine, Daredevil, (Unknown Gauntlets), Spider-Man, (The Thing Thighs?), Human Torch, Silver Surfer, Doctor Doom. Whew, 12 out of 14 isn't bad, but it wouldn't win me a leather jacket, hat or Combo Man t-shirt. Who can help me out with the two I'm blanking on? My money is on NLogan.

Hillshire Farm Lunch N' Munch (1996)

At first glance you might have assumed this was a tie in with Lunchables, but in fact it's your friends at Hillshire Farm trying to get in on the snacks passing for lunch business. Seriously, why did our parents let us eat this stuff? Processed Honey Ham circles may contain some protein, but I guarantee that "Cheddar Cheese Product", Snickers and Hi-C are not part of the food pyramid.

The prize in this promotion is 2 free Overpower game cards for the Marvel version of Magic:The Gathering and an offer to get a 20 card starter set by mail with 3 proof of purchase, yadda-yadda-yadda. 

Confession time, Overpower is the only card game I ever tried to get into since it seemed right up my alley. You know what's not up my alley? Rules and strategy. My older brother played Dungeons and Dragons in High School, so I begged him to read the rules and teach me. After about 10 minutes I was so confused I just thanked him for his time and asked to play Command and Conquer on his computer. I'm no ThatDudeintheHoodie, I'll tell ya that much.

Well that's all I got for general Marvel Universe Snack Food Ads, but guess what? Spider-Man and the X-Men were an entire industry unto themselves when it came to tasty treats bearing their names. So keep an eye out for the next 2 installments of this series, there's some wild surprises in store.

So tell me, how many of these snacks found their way into your hands as a kid? Were you a contest junkie? Did you enter or win any of these prizes?
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mickyarber Posted on Feb 24, 2017 at 06:21 PM

Charleston candy had ads in comic books for years. I have some books from the 60's that have ads in them for Charleston. And I have books from the 70's, 80's, and 90's that also have them in them. They must have gotten great returns on the investment or they wouldn't have promoted in comic books for over 30 years.

Fun article. You know I love food stuff AND comic book ads, so this tickled my sweet spot.

pikachulover Posted on Feb 23, 2017 at 10:20 AM

My family consumes massive amounts of Crunch n Munch. I remember getting some of those trading cards. I found them a few years ago.

Vaporman87 Posted on Feb 21, 2017 at 10:31 AM

Hey don't be dissin' Crunch 'N Munch now! It was the snack I... had to go with because nothing else was present in the pantry at the time. And it tasted fair!

And who wouldn't want to be SweetTarts Man, really? He has the power to create teeth-rotting snacks on demand.

As far as Combo-Man: Would those gauntlets be part of Deadpool? I don't know, probably not. And maybe Mr. Fantastic thighs? Hard to tell.

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