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Spider-Man Food Ads of the 90's

I have been pretty obsessed with old advertisement pages in my comic book collection lately, especially those centering on super hero themed snack foods from the 90's. Other recent articles focused on the X-Men and every other super powered being in the Marvel Universe lending their names to candy, pasta and breakfast cereal. Apparently it was just a matter of time before Spider-Man decided to rake in those endorsement bucks, while his hit animated TV series was running from 1994-1998. lt was an exciting time, so let's swing into the advertising action!

Cookie Crisp Trading Cards Offer (1994)

In my previous article, I ranted about Cookie Crisp's lackluster decision to throw a yellow box promoting X-Men trading cards on a pre-existing ad, but they've really redeemed themselves here. First we get the "just edgy enough" joke about the cereal containing Spiders, Vultures, Scorpions and Octopus, which is fun. Add to that the fact that this ad is from 1994, while all the others being highlighted below were published in 1995 and we can applaud Cookie Crisp for being an early adopter of Spider-Mania.

The special offer here is for 1 of 6 exclusive trading cards, which may seem boring now, but remember that collecting cards was all the rage at this time. Plus, Cookie Crisp didn't just toss any old card in the box, these were premium grade! While "animation style artwork" wasn't really a special feature (Spidey is a comic book character after all), you better believe that "gold foil stamping and a high-gloss UV coating" definitely were. Anything that made the card reflective, whether it be holographic images or metallic ink always upped the value in our minds.

Spider-Man Cereal (1995)

Ralston must have have had a lot success with the campaign above, since just one year later they were producing a fully Spider-Man themed cereal. I have to say that the vertically attached box and bowl is really eye-catching. So much so, that I have actually held onto a newspaper coupon ad with the same design for 20+ years because I liked it so much. Of course the real stars of any trend-hopping cereal are the marshmallows. I would put these marshmallow designs in the same arena as the Magic Eye pictures that were so popular at this time. 

If you allow your eyes to go out of focus, you could probably accept the orange blob as a pumpkin, you might be able to conclude that the red blob is a spider (maybe a squished one) and sure, the blue rectangle is vaguely camera-esque. But there is no way you're going to convince me that the white "fish" shape is in fact a "Fisk" shape. Y'know, Wilson Fisk, The Kingpin? My first thought was actually The Punisher skull logo, but why even try for a fat, bald guy, when with a Green Goblin shape, half the work is done for you? You know where the Ralston development team really missed out though? Calling the the imitation Crispix shaped rice cereal, "Web-Bites"! Right?

Chef Boyardee Pasta (1995)

Moving from breakfast to lunch, how about a can of Spider-Man pasta to fuel your daily adventure? The funny thing is that the claim of this stuff being radioactive was pretty accurate once kids "nuked" it in the microwave. The ad claims the can contains "Totally webbed out pasta shapes", yet we get no pictures. I guess they were playing on the mystery, like Peter Parker's secret identity, especially with the mention of the shapes being "smothered in secret sauce".

Further investigation reveals the 3 shapes to be your basic spider web, Spider-Man's face and a full body action pose of our hero. Predictable? Yes. But I guess we can be thankful that they didn't over-extend themselves like Ralston by trying to include Aunt May or J. Jonah Jameson. These are definitely identifiable as advertised.

Kool-Aid Bursts Collector's Cards Offer (1995)

While Squeeze-It was my go-to juice bottle beverage, Kool-Aid Bursts and their space ship shaped caps were a solid runner-up. This was a pretty standard buy a 6-pack, get a free card deal, but at least they were "educational". Kids could get a comics history lesson, being shown scenes from Spider-Man's 30 years of adventure at that point. Although by showing the 6 "First Encounters" card designs, they kind of let the cat out of the bag on this one. I still marvel (pun intended) at how many different card sets were produced for offers like this throughout the decade, yet they never seemed to repeat the designs. Amazing.

Peter Pan Mini-Comic Book & Watch Offer (1995)

Apparently the boy from Neverland wasn't enough of a draw to win the battle against JIF and Skippy in '95, so they had to team up with another hero in tights to get our shopping dollars. While there is a digital watch mail-away offer at the bottom of the page, kids are always about instant gratification and Peter Pan brand peanut butter had that covered.

Pay attention to the wording here, "Mini-comic books ON specially marked jars...". Now that probably has you thinking that the obvious place for a comic would be on or under the label, right? You would be wrong. The splash text on the jar tells us, "mini-comic on lid". On the lid? Yes! These were circular comic books (my mind is blown) with some pretty great artwork on display. I'm seriously thrilled about this entire concept. Bring it back, Peter Pan and you will have a customer for life.

Fruit Roll-Ups (1995)

Here are 2 different ads for the Spider-Man Fruit Roll-Ups, that are exciting in their simplicity. The first plays on Spidey's tendency to lower himself down via web, except that in this case he's offering us a strawberry flavored snack. The 2nd ad shows off the "action feature" of these treats, peel out Spider-Man shapes and for added play value, "secret villain peel-outs"! I remember buying these as a kid and really enjoying the process of pulling out the individual characters. It was a simple gimmick that was applied to many cartoon shows of the era, but always a lot of fun.

Welch's Fruit Juice Bars & Eskimo Pie Trading Card Offer (1995)

Nothing exciting here you say?  Just another trading card promotion? Maybe, but in this case the combined forces of Welch's and Eskimo Pie brought a unique twist to the offer. But before I reveal the gimmick, can I just say that I would never have connected Welch's and Eskimo Pie as being sister brands. Silly, but this really caught me off guard. Now back to the fun.

So not only were there a total of 24 Spider-Man Timeline cards in this "Limited Edition Collection", but you could also send away for a free poster designed to display them. I've collected a lot of trading cards in my day and never have I been given this spectacular opportunity. I would have 100% preferred a wall display option for my trading cards, instead of shutting them away in binder. Why didn't more companies think of this? Oh and in case you just wanted a Spider-Man baseball cap, that was available too.

McDonald's Happy Meal (1995)

Well we've covered breakfast, lunch and snack time, so what what's for dinner? A Spider-Man Happy Meal of course. McDonald's could have run 2 different promotions with this line-up of toys, but instead decided to go whole hog with 4 vehicles and 4 figures. My personal favorite was the "Spider-Sense Peter Parker" whose head would flip to reveal a half-Peter/Half-Spidey face. Outside of a few limited edition 2-packs and Barbie doll options, this was also the only Mary Jane action figure most of us ever owned back in the day. 

I actually still have the Happy Meal bag and Spider-Man figure from my trip to McDonald's during this period. It was one of those promotions I simply could not pass up and being a lifelong Spider-Man fan, a request my parent's could not find it in their heart to deny. Seeing Spidey join other icons from my youth like Muppet Babies, Super Mario Bros. and The Real Ghostbusters as a Happy Meal toy was a joyous occasion.

Well, that's it for another round of comic book food ads from the 90's. How many of these did you snack on back in the day? Did you ever get that Welch's/Eskimo Pie poster and put it on your wall? If so, you are my hero.

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mickyarber Posted on Apr 24, 2017 at 12:41 AM

Through working at a grocery store throughout the 90's,I remember just about all of this stuff. The McDonald's toys are foreign to me, but the rest I have at least a recollection of.

The Spiderman pasta always sold really well. Keep the old advertising, especially the food advertising, coming.

Hoju Koolander Posted on Apr 24, 2017 at 12:11 AM

You're right. I mean Marvel still has a lot of their movie characters on Doritos, Skittles and even Kleenex boxes around the time of movie release dates, but those are movie tie-ins, not the illustrated comic book characters promoting Go-Gurt for example.

You see The Avengers everywhere, but it's like movie concept art. Meanwhile the original inspirations for the live action adventures are relegated to dollar store merchandise, it's a sad state of affairs indeed.

Vaporman87 Posted on Apr 23, 2017 at 05:17 AM

You know, maybe I'm wrong and remember things incorrectly, but it seems like that even though nowadays comic book heroes are the cat's meow for everyone on Earth, the amount of promotional material using their likenesses is actually not as prevalent. Am I wrong?

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