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90's X-Men Food Ads
By: Hoju Koolander
Even though Marvel's Merry Mutants had been around since the 1960's, by the time 1990 rolled around they were anything but a household name. That all changed of course with the release of X-Men by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee in 1991, which became the highest selling single issue of a comic book ever. This was followed in 1992 by the hugely successful Saturday morning cartoon series on FOX, which instantly made Wolverine every kid's favorite super hero, even the ones who had never read a comic book in their life.
Of course with popularity comes merchandising and the X-Men were inescapable throughout the 90's, showing up in toy aisles, arcades and our lunch boxes. Previously I covered some snack food ads from this era featuring the larger cast of the Marvel universe here, but the X-Men were a phenomenon unto themselves. So let's look back at these ads from my personal comic book collection and remember the Mutant Munchies we couldn't live without.
Pizza Hut Kid's Pizza Pack (1993)
This is actually the second time Pizza Hut got on board the X-Train with their Kid's Meals. I actually wrote about the original promotion from 1992 featuring mini-comics and VHS tapes of the cartoon series in my first article for RetroDaze here, but this offer was a respectable follow up.
Of course each child got their own personal pan pizza (always loved that alliteration) housed in a box featuring dynamic original X-Men art, but also up for grabs were collector's cups featuring various members of the team in action. Though it's not listed as a promo item, the featured placemat was obviously meant to double as a poster for your bedroom wall, if you could keep greasy pepperoni from sliding off your slice.
Fittingly there were also 4 exclusive X-Men mini comic books included with your purchase written by Scott Lobdell, who was the all purpose X-Men scribe at the time. The burst mentions art by celebrated illustrators like Joe Madureira (who did the placemat), Chris Bachalo and Andy Kubert but doesn't specify where their art is featured. The text discussing the comics lists a bunch of lower profile artists I've never heard of, so I'm assuming the "big dogs" were saved for splashy covers and the "other guys" handled the interiors.
Betty Crocker X-Men Fruit Snacks (1994)
Now I distinctly remember grabbing these "snacks made with fruit" off the shelf of the local Lucky grocery store at the height of X-Mania and keeping the awesome piece of box art long after I had enjoyed the fruit flavors within. I also remember being pretty happy with what I found inside. I think Betty Crocker made a pretty good choice in only offering one shape that was supposed to look like Wolverine, then playing it safe with basic iconography for the rest of the team.
Storm's lightning bolt may have been the most generic, but pretending to charge up one of Gambit's playing cards before tossing it in your mouth was pretty fun. The X symbol may seem like a cop out, but remember that anything bearing that logo at the time was instantly cool. The Blackbird jet would have been right at home with Betty Crocker's other line of aircraft based fruit snacks, Thunder Jets and could have made an awesome crossover "rare" fruit snack, like the Great White from Shark Bites.
Cookie Crisp Trading Card Offer (1994)
Finding this ad blew my mind. Not because of the awesome 90's fashion being sported by the kids in the piece (though that is great) and not because of some strange devotion to Cookie Crisp (which I do not have). No, it's something much more interesting. The truth is, I've already reviewed this ad in a previous article. Yes, apparently this layout design was a favorite of the Ralston advertising department.
The sad part is that they didn't even bother to throw in a picture of Rogue flying around or Beast trying to steal a bite from the side pony tail girl. Instead they just haphazardly slapped a yellow Post-It on the front to tell you that an X-Men trading card was inside. I guess they didn't have the official box design ready for a photo shoot? Whatever the reason, you gotta feel bad for the kid with the backwards baseball cap and parachute pants who got cut out of this second run of ads.
Target Kids Mutant Meal (1994)
Even though Target was my go-to store for purchasing X-Men action figures during the 90's (man, did I ever hassle those poor stock boys in the action figure aisles), I never did visit their "Food Avenue". If I had, maybe I would have scored some "Hero Caps Game Cards" featuring 2 teams of X-Men or X-Force characters with my "Kids Mutant Meal".
I think it's funny that they don't say anything about what food was available. It's like they knew that kids were only going to take one bite of overcooked chicken fingers to justify the purchase to Mom, before punching out their off-brand POGS. The real missed opportunity here is the lack of a Slammer in the promotion. They could have increased their revenue by including text to "Get a Hero Cap X-Blaster FREE when you collect all 3 game cards".
Hi-C Hero Caps (1994)
Now this is a Hero Cap promotion I personally took advantage of in 1994, even though Hi-C was never found in our family fridge growing up. I remember spotting the specially marked packages featuring the X-Men logo in the grocery store aisle and pleading my case to Mom. Although I don't recall anything about Hero Caps or comics inside the packaging as claimed by this ad. I had a more roundabout way of adding these wannabe POGS to my collection.
See the deal I remember from the label was that you could get the full set of 24 X-Men Hero Caps by mailing in 3 proofs of purchase. So we bought 3 bottles of the sugary brew and you better believe I got those things in an envelope faster than a Wolverine claw pop. By the time they were delivered my POG playing days were over, so I never even put them into play. Instead they went into special POG shaped protective sleeves next to my Marvel Universe trading cards, where they have remained for the last 20+ years.
Chef Boyardee Pasta (1994-1995)
The X-Men were apparently all about pasta power by he middle of the decade. With not 1, not 2, but 3 different ads for Chef Boyardee. In the first, we get a good look at the can design featuring the unlikely trio of Wolverine, Storm and Archangel with the promise of a "Mystery Super Villain Pasta Shape Inside". Anybody know who it was? Also, a mail away offer for 4 hologram cards was added to the mix, each featuring a giant villain head in the back with Wolverine in the front motif. Extra points if you can name all 4 villains.
The second ad shows us a new can design, this time bringing The Beast and Rogue along as Wolverine's sidekicks. The special offer is hardly special at this point with even more Hero Caps available by mail. Though these ones claim to be "one of a kind". I want to meet the obsessive Hero Caps collector out there who had to have the full collection from each food brand. Or maybe I don't. Chef Boyardee breath can be a little intense.
The final pasta ad focused more on the gimmick than X-Men shaped pasta. For 5 UPCs and $3.99 you could get a Glow In The Dark poster featuring Cyclops, Storm, Bishop, Rogue and Cable in action poses with Macy's Thanksgiving Day balloons of Gambit and Wolverine in tow. Seriously, what is up with those proportions? And who exactly is the team fighting? Those energy blasts aren't pointed anywhere near Mr. Sinister.
Hardees "X-Men Overkill" (1995)
To close out this article we have an X-citing fast food tie-in that is truly X-treme in it's X-cess (OK, I'll stop). I should mention that in my neck of the woods Hardee's is known as Carl's Jr. featuring a slightly different menu, so I have never actually frequented this chain. But I wish I had, just look at all the X-Men crap they were pushing in June of 1995.
Each Funmeal purchase included a pack of X-Men trading cards, X-treme X-Men Tattoos, A Beast Time Glider, 1 of 4 Custom Marvel Mini Comics and to top it all off, another set of Hero Caps! I promise you that no other kids meal in history has offered this much value. Hardee's where have you been all my life? I really want to know what the Beast Time Glider was all about. It looks like a tub toy, but the text promises, "High-Flying Fun". Strange.
As if that wasn't enough, kids could also pay $.99 to get 1 of 4 "action figure" playsets. They're really more like figurines in action poses, but still a unique offering. I recognize Rogue fighting Avalanche and Wolverine tussling with The Blob, but the other 2 baddies fighting Storm and Cyclops are a mystery. Still, that promotion was X-traordinary (forgive me)!
That was a wild ride wasn't it? No wonder the X-Men movie franchise continues on despite the quality issues, we were literally ingesting super powered mutants on a daily basis for an entire decade. They're a part of our DNA and I'm sure every one of these businesses made a ton of money from their involvement. You know, except for Marvel itself, which went bankrupt in 1996.
Which of these promotions do you remember?
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