Superheroes were heard to be celebrating all across both the Marvel and DC Universes today as Twinkies make their return to American store shelves, thanks to investment firm Metropoulos & Co. and Apollo Global Management.
Absent since last November when Hostess, who had filed for bankruptcy in early 2012, finally suspended operations and the last snacks rolled off of assembly lines, the venerable golden sponge cake with the delicious creamy filling, along with other Hostess products, were key weapons in the never-ending battle against evil in years gone by.
Particularly against third-rate Z-list criminals whose only appearances in Marvel and DC Comics came in the one-page story ads, like the incredibly specific stick-up duo calling themselves the ‘Twinkie Takers’ that it took Spider-Man an entire three panels to defeat:
As a bonus, it was announced that the reintroduced 2013 model of Twinkies will now have a 45-day shelf life instead of the previous 26, once again making it the perfect foodstuff to ride out the apocalypse with, should the masked champions of justice catastrophically fail to save the day.
Last fall, I started a trilogy here on Public Domain under our slightly off-kilter Tales to Admonish! brand, devoted to examining some of the bizarre misadventures our super-friends got themselves into while trapped within the confines of these paid advertisements.
By the time I got around to getting two parts up, the joke seemed like it, lacking some of the key ingredients of Twinkies, was a little stale. I never finished the third installment, figuring the window of relevance had passed.
And, of course, somehow the Hostess comic ad posts ended up being two of the top ten most-viewed posts here on PD, and I always felt a little bad I didn’t properly cap the whole thing off.
Not one to look a gift horse too closely in the mouth when I’m slaving away on other projects (more on that soon), or pass up a shameless chance to piggyback on a trend (twice, in this case), I’ll re-present the two original installments of the Hostess Comic Ad series and actually finish it this time.
And next maybe I’ll get around to Part 2 of our series on procrastination, but for now, enjoy some high fructose corn syrup silliness. (And forgive the sizing on some of the images. A) I really didn’t know what I was doing in putting them together at the time, and B) the blog was using a slightly different theme at the time they were originally posted.)
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Hostess has had a special connection with comic book history, thanks to their long-running series of advertisements that ran in comics from Marvel, DC, and Archie Comics, among others, starting in the mid-1970s.
If you read comics during that period, it was impossible to escape them, or their particularly inspired brand of lunacy.
What made them unique was that rather than just the traditional sort of sales pitch meant to instigate a feeling of absolute need to go out and consume their product, Hostess commissioned each comics publisher to create simple one-page stories featuring their established characters — with the caveat that each short tale must hinge upon a Hostess product playing the essential force behind the successful conclusion of the tale.
Which meant it wasn’t power rings, utility belts, magic lassoes, or trick arrows, but Twinkies, chocolate cupcakes, and fruit pies that ultimately saved lives, and the day. The superheroes were often just there to pass out the snacks, and the power of confections did the rest.
Needless to say, the sponsor’s requirements and the take-no-prisoners five or six panel format lent itself to some of the most bizarre and surreal storytelling in comics history.
This ‘story’ might serve as the absolute best example of why Batman is billed as The World’s Greatest Detective.
First of all, in the space of a single panel, Batman’s steel trap of an analytical mind manages to make the logic jump between this gang of thieving femme fatales who were appropriating ‘mink furs, black pearls, and caviar’ — all considerably easy-to-transport items able to be fenced with little effort — to the city’s oil supply being their very next target.
Who’s going to fence that for them? Some crooked OPEC official?
Granted, this is Gotham City. There’s clearly something in the water there that seems to encourage the proliferation of masked sociopaths, so perhaps the rules of standard criminology as the rest of the world knows it don’t quite apply in the same fashion.
Then the Dark Knight is able to deduce that the absolute perfect bait to lay a trap for this quartet of ‘Midnight Ladies’ — who despite their deep-seated fetish for the color black, dress in red outfits that seem more appropriate for the Gotham Springs Ski Resort (maybe to avoid some narcissistic feud with Catwoman, who knows) — is with Hostess-brand Chocolate Cupcakes.
Now, it is a one-page story, so there may have been a considerable amount of sleuthing and forensics work done off-panel. Perhaps closer examination of the previous crime scenes gave Bruce some crucial clue, like an infinitesimal drop of blood, that when spectroanalyzed on the mighty Bat-Computer, showed a particularly high concentration of a very specific type of high fructose corn syrup used only by the Continental Baking Company.
Or he and Robin might have just swung in a 7-11 for a couple of cherry Slurpees at 4 A.M. (after-dark vigilantism is thirsty, hot work, you know), and inspiration hit at the snack cake display. Not dissimilar to the key, life-altering moment when the bat came crashing through the window of his study at Wayne Manor all those years ago.
BATMAN (snaps fingers) ” Robin, that’s it! ”
ROBIN: ” What, Batman? ”
BATMAN: “Criminals are a cowardly and sugar-addicted lot.”
ROBIN: (eye-rolling hidden behind the opaque white lenses in his domino mask while considering a bag of pork rinds) ” Are you sure you don’t want to head home and have Alfred check you for a concussion? Killer Croc *did* tag you a good one back there in the sewers the other night. ”
BATMAN: ” No time for explanations! Scoop up all the delicious Hostess Chocolate Cup Cakes you can carry and head to the checkout counter. ”
(Apparently Robin isn’t the only one with a touch of the WTFs, either — check out Commissioner Gordon’s dialogue and inflection in the final panel: ” Good work, Batman. A brilliant ploy. ” There’s enough dripping sarcasm there to keep Aquaman, the Sub-Mariner, and the Atlanteans of both the Marvel and DC Universes moist and content.)
Batman’s not the only one using cellophane-wrapped confections to take a bite out of crime in Gotham, as this Batgirl story-ad illustrates.
Good thing for the 1% of Gothamites whom Jet-Set Jessie was terrorizing with her jewel heists that:
a) Batgirl shows enough foresight to somehow prepare in advance a Twinkie-Batarang, a common enough go-to utility belt staple in
Crazytown Gotham City to have at the ready in almost any circumstance.
and b), Jet-Set Jessie clearly suffers from some crippling form of ADHD and is unable to differentiate between the importance of defending herself from Batgirl’s attempts to capture her, and enjoying ‘golden sponge cake’. Note the last panel in which Babs is zooming away with Jessie on the back of her Batcycle: Jet-Set doesn’t even seem like she is in any sort of restraints. She’s still savoring the delicious, creamy filling as she and her new red-headed Twinkie-slinging BFF just take a leisurely, willing cruise out to scenic Arkham Asylum.
I sincerely do hope that once this caper was wrapped up and Jessie taken into custody, the Arkham officials returned Liberace’s outfit to him and the appropriate charges were filed for that theft.
And here’s why Aquaman gets zero respect from the rest of the superhuman community and is consistently the butt of everyone’s jokes at the Hall of Justice.
So a trio of otherwise normal, apparently non-powered unarmed surface dwellers are threatening to ‘shake Atlantis to pieces’ with their exploratory underwater explosions, and pretty much tell both Aquaman and Aqualad off as soon as they arrive on the scene.
Our heroes’ response to that?
Pretty much just kick underwater rocks and sulk. Then run off to bribe the treasure hunters with Twinkies.
Listen, when you’re the self-professed King of the Seven Seas and you AND your teen sidekick can’t take down three ordinary human while you’re UNDERWATER, in your own native element, where you have telepathic control over all manner of sea life . . . heck, simply grabbing their scuba gear and tearing it off of them would’ve showed the arrogant so-and-sos who’s boss.
Nah, just grab some Twinkies and sort it out with those.
Ah, good old Archie Andrews, eternal teenager. Came along in 1941 and has barely aged a day since. Edward Cullen’s got nothing on Arch.
I’m not a big sports guy, but even I’m not sure what kind of self-respecting coach is A-OK with the incentive of just handing out snack cakes if they win, rather than delivering a firey locker room speech to inspire his players to get back out there and give ’em hell.
Also curious to see what kind of ass-kicking Archie and Jughead end up getting once the Riverdale High team wins, they show up to collect their hard-earned prize, and there’s Jughead licking every last crumb off his fingers with about four full boxes of Twinkies in his distended stomach.
I understand that day-to-day life in the Marvel Universe is a bit off-kilter.
You’ve got constantly increasing numbers of mutants running amok in the streets, Silver Surfers in the sky, a Mole Man with an army of weird little yellow dudes in goggles and Speedos and access to giant, Godzilla-like beasts living under the Earth’s crust. Any number of garishly-dressed madmen are plotting to subjugate the human race, and the only ones who can save you is a smart-alec teen dressed as a spider, and a brilliant scientific mind in a body seemingly made of rubber. Galactus could pop in at any moment and try to eat the Earth as easily as a low-hanging shiny blue-green apple plucked from a tree.
Earth’s military minds are, by now, probably pretty well adjusted to the fact that they have met the enemy and they is, for the most part, pretty #$%&ing weird.
Then Captain Marvel here bursts into an emergency war room session called to deal with an impending alien invasion and declares, ” No! Violence is for those who have run out of ideas! Stand down all of Earth’s military, let’s put five billion lives on the line — and send the intergalactic aggressors a rocketship full of Twinkies, instead. ”
What really scares me is that the last panel seems to hint this isn’t the first time Cap here has saved the human race using snack cakes as his primary strategy.
This Captain America Hostess adventure might be my absolute favorite of the bunch.
Let’s start with the helpful fine print at the very top of the ad that lets newcomers catch up with a long-running plot device / artifact that’s been kicking around the Marvel Universe for quite some time: ” Note: The Cosmic Cube Can Do Anything. ” That’s an important piece of information for readers to know going forward, because otherwise, the story would clearly seem a bit nonsensical.
That simple one-line backstory is a gross understatement. The Cosmic Cubes can warp the very fabric of reality, and the mysterious ‘omnidimensional’ energies contained within the matrix will eventually evolve into sentient beings of immense power. This is not the sort of thing you want someone like the Red Skull tossing idly back and forth between his lime green gloved mitts.
So the Skull has one of the most powerful artifacts in existence, and what does he do with it?
Well, aside from a vague plan of world domination and putting a kibosh on America’s Bicentennial celebration, he teleports his arch-enemy directly into his secret lair (which one would presume to be deep underground, or perhaps submerged within a live, active volcano).
You know, Captain America. The one adversary who has foiled his villainous plans time and time again, all the way from World War II until the then-present day of 1976?
Not teleports him into a specially designed cell or some other sort of trap within the lair that would quickly render Cap unconscious and / or immobile. Doesn’t even bother to separate Cap from his iconic, indestructible shield. Just plops him down right smack in the middle of his private sanctum, allowing him to remain fully armed, with no other machinations in place beyond just trying to what . . . impress Captain America that he had the power to just pluck him out of Washington D.C. like some omnipotent hand reaching down from the heavens?
Skull, you’re a Nazi. Captain America was created specifically to punch you, and every other Nazi up to, and including Adolf Hitler, directly IN THE FACE:
Oh, but it gets better.
Cap then apparently had some Twinkies secreted upon his person — guessing by this point all the superheroes realized the sheer offensive capabilities of golden sponge cake — and proceeds to introduce the Cosmic Cube to the joys of that mass-produced, All-American culinary delight.
Which does indeed distract the Cube. The Cube has no mouth and therefore can’t actually eat the Twinkie, but in the second-to-last panel, while Captain America busies himself in the background with trying to knock the Red Skull into 2076 for the Tricentennial, the Cube hovers leeringly over the Twinkie, and we are privy to its rather salacious thoughts:
MMMM. Smoooth, creamed filling, too . . .
And that’s a big ’nuff said.
More Hostess superhero madness in the next installment.
Thanks for stopping by Public Domain, whether by design or by accident. (Don’t ask me how ‘scanned panties scrooged’ leads here, but apparently it does, thanks to the mysterious digital alchemy of search engines.)
Fun bit of trivia with the superheroes shilling snacks on behalf of Hostess: at no point do you see any of them actually eating any of the product they’re pitching — with one exception, being, of course, the Incredible Hulk:
And even then, it was just the one time. No, the delicious confectionary treats were reserved solely for the criminals, or innocent bystanders to chow down upon. Champions of justice clearly didn’t consider Hostess Fruit Pies or Twinkies as part of a well balanced diet, especially if you’re wearing painted-on spandex.
People were used to seeing the Hulk bursting the seams on his purple pants.
I asked legendary archer Oliver Queen, a.k.a. Green Arrow, who only starred in a single Hostess ad — even Aquaman got a half-dozen — and his response was simple:
” I didn’t touch the stuff. Seriously? You ever seen the list of ingredients in a Twinkie? Even Brainiac couldn’t pronounce half that stuff. That’s why we fed it to the bad guys, slow them down.
We got plenty of exercise running around saving the world, yeah, but you try hitting a sprinting target at 400 yards in a stiff crosswind with a punching bag arrow when your B-cup man boobs are getting in the way of the drawstring.”