Comic books and the world’s greatest comic characters and brands have always held themselves separate from the world of humans. Part of what keeps our intrigue alive is the super heroes doing their jobs in an alternate universe, similar to ours. Throughout the history of comic books though there has been some blurring of the lines.
Good Triumphs Over Evil! – The War Years
Interestingly, the birth of Superman and many other comic book characters was as a direct result of WWII. While Marvel’s characters were active against the forces of Germany and Japan. DC’s heroes tended (most of the time, at least) to shy away from the conflict. During the war, comics were used to promote patriotism, and jingoism even, with many super heroes coming down to aid the American war effort.
Clark Kent Goes to War
Issue #25 of Superman in 1943 had a story that was commissioned by the US military as a tool to explain what the Technical Training Command of the US Army did. This helped raise money and support for this division. Captain America was also roped in by the government to tell the world how to buy a grenade to help the war effort.
There are other examples of comic book heroes and characters and even entire comics devoted to promoting products. While many were used to promote and advertise specific comic merchandise and branded goods, there are just as many instances where comic book characters were plagiarised and used for marketing and corporate purposes.
Can you really trust a super hero after he has been given his own brand of cereal to punt? (This wasn't the first cereal he's marketed, either.
“Thwack!” Say The Fantastic Four
All types of products got promoted by the super heroes of the day. The Fantastic Four were used to advertise chewing gum and even had a couple of cheesy lines to say in true comic book style.
Spiderman had his own sub-story when this comic book was printed to advertise the Magic Snakes Puzzle. The question is always whether or not Stan Lee was involved in the marketing and advertising from his favourite character?
Some corporate giants created their very own comics as an innovative way of advertising products. Charles Atlas could “Make you a Man”, but did the use of a comic book style dilute the big man’s message?
Cigarettes And Pimple Cream – Everything Got The Comic Book Treatment
Although the Marlboro Man didn’t get his own comic book, a number of cigarette companies used to advertise their wares in comic books. Comic book adverts were considered a way of reaching the youth market and providing entertainment. The advantage of comic book ads was that they could easily introduce a character and provide different scenarios without having to create a new campaign.
Although the golden age of comics has died out, the internet is becoming a new environment for the creation of web comic books and daily comic strips that are used to entertain and educate, whilst delivering a global social message.