For those of you who don’t have a collection of late ’70s and early ’80s comics, or if you’ve only read them digitally, then you’ve missed out on the best part – the Hostess ads! These ads were mini one page stories. Spider-Man would see a problem, not be able to stop it the usual way, then throw out some tasty Hostess products (that’s what is called a deus ex machina*, kids). The bad guys just couldn’t resist the real fruit filing (or whatever that particular product boasted of) and would stop their get away or evil plan to eat. Spidey webs them up and everyone is happy (even the bad guys – they’re eating goodies)!
Were they cheesy? Of course! Were they formulaic? You betcha! Were thy awesome? You know it!
You knew how they were going to end, but you didn’t care. And they were all Spidey, either. The first one was “Batman vs. the Mummy”. When Robin’s Bat-Mummy gun doesn’t work, Batman throws out the Hostess treats which stops the mummy’s evil tricks. They appeared in DC, Marvel, Gold Key, you name it. DC only featured DC ads and Marvel likewise, but Disney and Gold Key also ran the Marvel ads for some strange reason.
Most artists at the time drew these, but no admits to writing the Marvel ones (although Wolfman says he may have, but can’t remember, which I doubt – Bob Rozakis from DC mention how well Hostess paid, so I’m thinking Wolfman would remember if he wanted to). However, we do know that we can thank Sol Brodsky for working out the deal with Hostess for the Marvel ones.
Hostess did not want it to seem as if the heroes were endorsing the product, so you’ll never see a hero actually eating the treats, which seems absolutely pointless to me, although Marvel plays fast and loose with that idea more so than DC.
Usually the villains weren’t canon villains (no Doc Ock getting nabbed by a Twinkie-toting do-gooder), but were created just for the ad. I find it amazing that so many different ads were created and that the same one wasn’t used over and over again (like you would see today). Plus, you hardly ever saw the hero of your comic in the ad. So if I was reading a Spider-Man comic, it would be Captain America dispensing the pastry justice. But of course, Spider-Man appears in more ads than any other hero (a full third of the Marvel stuff), because if you have a character lie Spider-Man, why would you waste time on lesser guys like Iron Man?
There are twenty-two of the Spidey Hostess ads, so let’s break this segment into two parts. This first one will cover the ads from 1975 – 1978. Click the ad to see it bigger.
Spider-Man and The Trap (June 1975) – Drawn by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito, this is the first Marvel Hostesss ad (lead off with your best hero). This must be a really strong net, plus Spider-man seems to have lost all his Spider powers, but there is no (insert character of the month) around to pull his hash out of the fire. This is a rough start for the series, but thankfully they kept going with it. My only real problem is, where is Spider-Man keeping those things? He gives the goon at least three of them! I shudder at the thought and try hard not to think about Tombstone and scissors…. This first appeared in Daredevil #121.
Spider-Man and the Kidnap Caper (January 1976) – Talk about your classic case of dumb crook news, we have two kidnappers holding Aunt May for $50,000 ransom! Come on! If you are going go for ransom, the first thing you do is find someone who HAS money. Peter’s lucky to get $50 much less $50,000 (which in today’s time is over $222,000). Those guys are pretty much jerks, too! Calling Aunt May an old goat. They should be ashamed. On top of it all, Spider-Man calls her “Aunt May in front of the two kidnappers and May! So you want to know how long May knew his identity according to issue #400? It was right here. O.K., not classic yet, but getting better. First appeared in Daredevil #129.
The Cupcake Caper (March 1976) – This one features Man Mountain Marko, and it doesn’t take Hostess to take him down (that’s reserved for real threats like old lady kidnappers). Marko’s just a minor distraction, the real conflict here is Peter Parker’s relationship with MJ. How cold is she in here? Add to that – SHE KNOWS! So she’s just toying with the poor guy. Women! Can’t live with ’em. I think there may be more to that saying, but it’s probably not relevant. The really sad thing is, this writer gets the Parker luck BETTER than all of vol 4 of ASM. First appeared in Daredevil #131
The Twinkie Takers (May 1976) – And all this time I thought the store in my hometown was the only one with a Twinkies express line at the grocery store. These guys take the cake when it comes to clever disguises. Note to you would be robbers, if you have a bright orange afro, chances are that Groucho glasses won’t be enough to hide your identity. Plus, what’s up with the design of this store? The store room is under the store with a trap door like entrance near the check-out line? Maybe this is normal in New York and we just design things better here in the South. First appeared in Marvel Two-in-One #15.
Spider-Man and the Fly (November 1976) – Here we get the Fly, who had just recently made his debut in January of that same year (ASM Annual #10). That oppening caption looks like something straight out of the old Electric Company show. I’m just not sure of the Fly’s motivation here. It seems that he wanted to kill Spider-Man, but from the text it seems that he had Spider-Man dead from throwing him off the Empire State Building. So you save him, just to strap him down and shoot him? He deserves to get caught by pastries. On a side note, we do get where Spider-Man holds his Hostess goodies – in his utility belt, which is apparently made with minor Time Lord technology (bigger on the inside, for you non-Whovians). First appeared in Marvel Two-in-One #21.
Spider-Man the Champ (March 1977) – This is the point issue of Hostess ads. The story is unreadable! The referee is the Foe? For what purpose? Spider-Man’s spider sense tells him that there is a crooked ref? And what’s that explosion underneath the Champ for? Not to mention the awful quip Spidey makes at the end. This one gets and F rating. Still, it is better than Amazing Grace.
First appeared in Marvel Two-in-One #25.
Spider-Man in Will Power (April 1977) Again, since MJ knows, she is really playing him hard right now. In fact, this is an instance when the retcon actually improves the story (I know several of you think the retcon improves most of these older stores, but I’m not getting into that right now). If she didn’t know and isn’t playing him, then she is down right witchy here. She saw Peter Parker, science nerd, being hauled away by four guys while she acts like that Bond girl in View to a Kill (you know, screaming for Bond to help her while he is being attacked on top of the Golden Gate Bridge) and then when she is rescued, she doesn’t even want to know where Peter is (or, from the looks of it, does she save him one of those delicious fruit pies with the wonderful tender, light crust). But since she knows, she’Now, Simon the evil swami doesn’t get arrested, so I wonder what happened to him. Many sites that claim to have ALL of the Marvel and DC character ads do not have this one, but BD the evil Crawlspace host demands more from us. The reason this ad is often left off of Hostess collections is because it never appeared in a Marvel comic. Instead, it appeared in three Gold Key comics (Walt Disney the Beagle Boys #34, The Inspector #11, and Pink Panther #42).
Spider-Man and Madam Web (July 1977) – No, this isn’t the old blind Madame Web that has plagued us for the last quarter of a century. Denny O’Neil. In fact, the plot of the villain in love with Spidey has intriguing potential. Is this the inspiration for the Black Cat or more obviously Madame Web? Who knows – we can’t even get the writers to take credit for these ads, much less to say it inspired them to create, but I’m going with the notion that since they came out after this ad, it is totally responsible. And since the Black Cat is pretty much lost to us now, maybe a rival of Madam Web is in order. By the way, what’s up with her hair? Is that a web pattern on a hood or is she really a lost Osborn (now THAT has potential!)? What’s bad abotu this comic is how much of a complete suck-egg-mule Spidey is. Madam Web gives up to get the Hostess treats and Spidey never delivers! What a moron (please pronounce that in your head as Bugs Bunny would). First appeared in Marvel Two-in-One #29.
Spider-Man in Legal Eagle (November 1977) – What a treat we have for you guys today – the role Micheal Keaton was born to play in the next Spider-Man movie – Legal Eagle! This is just crazy (and by that I mean stupid crazy, not funny crazy). His plan? To take over the government by destroying the original Bill of Rights. I’m not quite sure he’s thought this plan all the way through. No wonder it made Geek Twins’ list for “9 Dumbest World Domination Plans from Hostess.” I also don’t get his eagle maneuver joke. First appeared in Marvel Two-in-One #33.
Spider-Man in Break the Bank (November 1977) – Printout Man has an Ocean’s 11-esque plan here. He has jammed the bank’s computers – not to divert the money into his account, but to make statement errors and to print out statements in light ink so that they will pull their money out of the bank and he can take it over. That’s right, he wants to take the bank over AFTER people take their money out. It’s working, too. Nobody can see this oddly dressed man slinking around in the corner and there is no George Bailey in sight to calm them down. Spider-Man is really disgusted when he finds out that what Printout Man is really after is the vault full of Hostess Cupcakes. The quips are pretty lame (“Error yourself, Printout punk”), but everyone (besides the villain, of course) is happy that Spidey emptied the bank’s vault and is sharing the goods with everyone. I’m guessing that MJ left, because she complains about the crowd and then we don’t see her again. This one made Geek Twins’ list for “9 Dumbest World Domination Plans from Hostess.” Printout’s biggest success isn’t bank robbing. It is that he is later mentioned as being a model prisoner in New Avengers Most Wanted Files. I do not have that issue and it is not on Marvel Unlimited, so if any of you have it, I would love verification of Printout Man’s 616 canon status. The only other Hostess villain to make it to the big time is in a Human Torch ad, Ice Master. He made it into canon when Kurt Busiek wrote him into a Thunderbolts comic 20 years later. He became one of the Masters of Evil. – Printout Man, Larcenous Lil, and others are found in a NY prison in Fin Fang Four alternate reality comic. First appeared in Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories #446.
Spider-Man Spoils a Snatch (March 1978) Well, talk about an unfortunate choice of words…. This is a classic Hostess ad. We have a problem and Spidey solves it with Hostess. In fact, this ad has Peter acting more in character than we’ve seen him act since Big Time (which in itself sounds like a Hostess ad title). Is it just me, or does this guy look remarkably like Brad Douglas? First appeared in Marvel Two-in-One #37.
Spider-Man vs the Chairman (March 1978) – This story could easily have been written by Slott. Spider-Man is trapped by a guy who has a gun that turns people into chairs. He’s helpless! Then come two kids who throw Hostess Pies at the Chairman and save Spidey’s hash. On top of that, this is OOC for Hostess, The villain isn’t distracted by the soft creamy filling of those Twinkies – oh no. They jam his gun and it backfires. We also have the loose ends of what is going to happen to the policemen who have already been turned into chairs? Quite possibly the worst Hostess ad ever, at least of the Spider-Man variety. Cracked.com even listed the Chairman as one of the six craziest villains to be defeated by snack cakes. However, I must give credit where credit is due. That final quip is great. First appeared in Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories #450.
Spider-Man Meets the Home Wrecker (July 1978) – This bozo is practically a Captain Planet villain. There is nothing to gain so he is wrecking homes just because he has a wrecking ball. I must admit, that if I had a wrecking ball, I’d be tempted to swing it at everything too. The puns are great and Spidey even lets the guy finish his fruit pie after he is subdued. What a guy! First appeared in Marvel Two-in-One #41.
In case you weren’t paying attention, here is a record of Spidey’s pastry of choice when it comes to capturing the baddies:
Fruit Pies – 3
Twinkies – 5
Cupcakes – 5
It seems our hero has a tie and favors Twinkies and cupcakes. I figured it would be Twinkies hands down since he lives near that store with the special Twinkies express line.
Want more? Well, if you do a Google search, most sites will tell you that Seanbaby has the whole bundle. While he does have a lot of Hostess Ads and nicely organized by hero, he doesn’t have them all. By far the most comprehensive collection of all Hostess ads is found at Mike’s Amazing World.
They even have their own Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/HostessComicAds/
We’ll hit the next set in a month or so. Until then, run out to the closest establishment that sells fine foods and load up! And tell me if you remember these golden oldies (and yes, we’ll address that allusion very soon).
We’ll be back in two weeks to look at drunk Spidey!
Bohlean, T. (2009, November 26). The robot’s voice. Retrieved from http://www.therobotsvoice.com/2009/11/the_10_dumbest_comic_book_hostess_ads.php
Comic vine. (2016). Retrieved from http://comicvine.gamespot.com/hostess-superhero-advertisements/4015-56171/
Cronin, B. (2008, November 19). Comics should be good. Retrieved from http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2008/11/19/comics-should-be-good-mailbag-for-1119/
The Geek Twins. (2012, November 21). Retrieved from http://www.thegeektwins.com/2012/11/the-9-dumbest-world-domination-plans.html#.V1c865ErLIU
Hughes, B. (2010, March 2). Again with the comics. Retrieved from
Lamar, C. (2011, May 11). I09. Retrieved from http://io9.gizmodo.com/5800953/which-character-from-hostess-fruit-pie-ads-made-it-into-comic-book-canon
Roach, D. A. (2005). Comic book artist collection, volume 3. J. B. Cooke (Ed.). Raleigh, NC: TwoMorrows.
Robare, S. (n.d.). Branded in the 80s. Retrieved from http://brandedinthe80s.com/category/hostess-comic-ads
Saffel, S. (2007). Spider-Man the icon: The life and times of a pop culture phenomenon. London: Titan.
Seanbaby. (2011, August 20). Cracked. Retrieved from http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-6-craziest-villains-ever-defeated-by-snack-cakes/
Seanbaby. (n.d.). Seanbaby’s Hostess page. Retrieved from http://www.seanbaby.com/hostess.htm
Tv tropes. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DeliciousFruitPies
Voiles, Mike. (2016). Mike’s Amazing World. Retrieved from http://www.dcindexes.com/features/gallery.php?page=hostess
Zjaba, T. (2015). Tomorrow’s heroes. Retrieved from http://www.tomheroes.com/Comic%20Ads/hostess%20ads/hostess_ads.htm
And, while not a source, I think I would be remiss in not including the current Hostess web site: http://hostesscakes.com/.
* A deus ex machina, boys and girls, is a plot device to magically fix a situation when a character is stuck (think of the ruby red slippers or Voltron’s blazing sword). They are generally frown upon in literature unless you can do it perfectly like these ads.
** Just for fun, we’re doing the sources in APA format this week!