Comics have been a part of my life since early childhood, 5-6 years old. I started out with Bugs Bunny comic books and other ‘kid’ friendly titles. It was a few years later when I discovered my true love of comics. Hanging out with my dad one Saturday afternoon we went over to his friend Harold’s house to drink a few beers. (I was relegated to Root Beer, but I was 8 so it makes sense). While they were shooting the sh… uh, breeze I came across a few comics that were far removed from the Bugs Bunny stuff I’d been reading.
I still remember the cover of the first comic I read that day. It featured a skeleton with flames coming off his head, riding a motorcycle engulfed in fire, jumping over a truck! The comic was, of course, Ghost Rider. I was hooked by the cover and the story inside solidified my interest in comics. I didn’t even know they made comics like this! I thought they were all Bugs Bunny and Donald Duck.
From that point on I was interested in more ‘adult’ titles of comics. Ghost Rider, Batman, Capt America, Conan, anything that wasn’t ‘for kids.’ I grew up in a strict house (mom, not dad) and anything that resembled the Devil or evil wasn’t allowed. So Ghost Rider was out, way out. And the other titles I wanted to read were suspect at best. Unfortunately going to the to the comic book store was out too. I don’t know why it was forbidden, but I wasn’t allowed to go. (Probably because they sold KISS and Ozzy Osbourne records too, but that’s just a guess)
I had a hard time in those early days getting the comics I wanted to read. I’d buy a Superman at the gas station, which was always a safe purchase since the movies were pretty benign. But the ones I really wanted either weren’t available at the gas station or confiscated when I got home. Confiscation was much worse, with it came a lecture and more importantly, my hard earned money down the drain! The key was to read it before trying to smuggle it into the house.
One day dad and Harold were finishing up an afternoon session and as we were leaving Harold handed me a brown paper bag and told me to enjoy it. On the drive home I opened the bag and inside were comics! Not just any comics but Flash and Capt America and a bunch of Fightin’ Marines comics. (Harold is a former Marine and served in the Korean War). Ghost Rider wasn’t included in the bag….he knew I’d never get it into the house. The bag also included the comic we’ll talk about today… The Savage She-Hulk #9.
Harold was a comic book reader, not a collector. He didn’t ‘bag and board’ his comics. He’d read them, then toss them on the coffee table or in the magazine rack next to his chair. While none of them are worth much on the collector market, they are priceless to me. I still have the dozen or so comics he gave me that day. For reasons still unknown my mom never threw them out.
The Savage She-Hulk started in February 1980 and ended 25 issues later in March 1982. She’d be back at the end of the 1980s with another solo series, The Sensational She-Hulk. The Savage She-Hulk #9 (Oct 1980) deals with Jennifer’s struggle adapting to her new life as human and hulk. The main plot is She-Hulk trying to rescue a man from a religious cult run by ‘The Word.’
Re-reading this I was intrigued to see Dr. Micheal Morbius in the book. He is under house arrest at UCLA’s Experimental Neuro-Radiology Lab and is analyzing She-Hulks blood. I love vampire lore and Morbius is one of my favorite characters. He would eventually get his own series, Morbius: The Living Vampires in September 1992.
She-Hulk #9 marks the first appearance of The Word and Ultima. What? You’ve never heard of them? Yeah, few have. They didn’t last long in the Marvel universe. The Word, was Jack Wordman, a dictionary editor, OK, doesn’t quite scream criminal mastermind. Ultima was his daughter. They would stick around for awhile, then get capture by SHIELD and never heard from again.
While the story is decent and well written this isn’t a review of the issue. This post is all about the ads! As you can see from the cover image there’s a Toys ‘R’ Us contest inside. Let’s see what else awaits us…
One of the first ads we get is from Marvel. It starts out with an apologize about the rising price of comics, they are now 50 cents! Today that’s about $1.50, still not to bad. But back then it seemed like a lot of money. It then goes on to offer a lower cost if you subscribe to the comics instead of buying them one at time. Look at the fine print…it says ‘Please allow 10 weeks for delivery’ Does that mean I have to wait 10 weeks after an issue is released before I get it? By the time I get issue #10, issues 11 and 12 are already in print. This is 1980, not 1880, there should be something faster than the Pony Express! Thanks, but no thanks.
Next up is an ad from the Heroes World. Now this one is right up my alley. Lots of cheap stuff and I wanted all of it! I’ll take the Batman water gun, Super hero watch, Super hero stick-ons and the Walkie-Talkies. I could never talk my parents into buying any of it though. So I just stared at it and read the descriptions over and over again.
Smack dab in the middle of Savage She-Hulk is a 2 page ad for a comic book store, Mile High Comics. Their ads didn’t change much in 20 years, lower cost to have text only I guess. This ad was of great interest to me. My oldest sister was going to college in Colorado and Mile High Comics was in Colorado! I might be able to go to the store. However, it wasn’t meant to be, all the times we visited my sister I never made it to Mile High Comics. It wasn’t until I moved to Colorado that I finally visited the store; I was less than impressed. The staff was rude and the books seemed overpriced, overall it was a complete let down. But in late ‘80s and early ‘90s at the height of the comic book craze Mile High Comics was known across the United States, thanks to ads like this one.
In the second half of the book we get another ad from Marvel. This one is for an adult fantasy magazine called Epic Illustrated. I would have passed over this ad quickly back then. The art doesn’t work for me. But looking up the cover images it looks like an interesting magazine.
The one you’ve been waiting for! Nestled in the last few pages of the book is the Savage She-Hulk Toys ‘R’ Us shopping spree contest. In 1980/81 I vaguely knew about Toys ‘R’ Us, seeing one or two commercials. There wasn’t a store in my town and the closest one was at least 200 miles away in one of the big cities.
But winning a shopping spree would have been great! Even if it was only three minutes long. You’d need to know the store well and have your route mapped out to maximize that three minutes. I never entered the contest. Even at that young age it seemed like a desecration to cut out parts of the comic to enter a contest. Not to mention the reverse side of the ad is part of the story!
One of the last ads in the book is for Hostess fruit pies. I love me an apple fruit pie! The Human Torch ‘saves’ the day so we can all enjoy the fruit pies. Actually the deliciousness of the fruit pies save the day, the Human Torch just helped out.
The final ad inside the book is for Task Force. It looks impressive, tanks, planes, ships and a complete battlefield included. According to the ad it’s enjoyed by over 200,000 people. I never played it, nor do I know anyone who ever played it. I’m sure it was the plastic ‘army men’ type toys and I would have loved to get my hands on it.
The Savage She-Hulk #9 had some decent ads in it. The ads above aren’t the only ones in the book. Scattered throughout are more ads for toys, letters to the editor and even get rich quick ads.
Comic book ads added to the lure of comics for me. Seeing what trinkets I could get or what other comic books were coming out was part of the experience. I see some of the cheap toys my kids get and realize why my parents wouldn’t let me order anything. But it would have been fun to get a cool pair of x-ray glasses in the mail!