2/28/09

Public Service Comics: Blatant Sales

Ok, final bit of Public Service comics, except these are pretty blatant advertisements. The first comics is "Taz's 40th Birthday Blowout from K-Mart," published for KMart by DC Comics, 1994. Bugs and friends take Taz to K-Mart so he can pick out his 40th birthday present.


"The Adventures of Kool-Aid Man," from Marvel Comics Group, 1983 with Kool-Aid copyright General Foods is a bit better. In this comic Kool-Aid fights the thirsties in two separate stories, plus puzzles, special offers, and how to build your own Kool-Aid stand. It says it's a 60 cent value, although I think I mailed away for this comic after drinking three packages of Kool-Aid. I was in college at the time, so it was either free or really cheap.


And finally, the "Ex-Mutants: Consumer Electronics Show Edition!" from Malibu Graphics, 1992. There's nothing about the CES in the comic, except to promote the new Ex-Mutants game on Sega Genesis

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Public Service Comics: Careers

Here are some more public service or educational comics, all of which have to do with careers. Click on any picture to see it in more detail.

The 50's and 60's coincided with the Baby Boomers starting high school, and a general shift toward the future. Luckily GE came out with the comics "Science in Your Future." This is from the Adventures in Science Series, published by General Electric, 1956. There's not much of a story, but runs Jane and Johnny through a survey of modern electronics, including vacuum tubes and transistors.



Popeye had a series of comics advising young folk about possible careers. I'm not sure why they chose this fighting sailor for their guide, but there were fifteen titles in all:
Here's the full list of the King Features Career Education Series:
E1 - Health
E2 - Environmental
E3 - Communications
E4 - Transportation
E5- Construction
E6 - Consumer and Homemakin
E7 - Manufactionuring
E8 - Hospitality and Recreation
E9 - Marketing and Distribution
E10 - Business and Office
E11 - Public Service
E12 - Personal Service
E13 - Marine Science
E14 - Fine Arts and Humanities
E15 - Agri-business and Natural Resources

Here's Popeye and Communications and Media Careers (E3), copyright King Features, 1972, but printed by Charlton Press. In this comic Popeye says to Swee Pea: "In this country, we get more information than any other people on earth, See'pea, and I am going to explain to you how we get our information." In the background there are various media, such as a phone, a TV, some magazines and newspapers. None of these comics have a story, just Popeye dragging us to various workplaces and commenting on them. The section with the telephone operators is sort of quaint.



Here's another Popeye "Careers" comics: Popeye and Consumer and Homemaking Careers (E6) from King Features, 1973, also printed by Charlton Press. In this comic Popeye drives a delivery truck, works as a custodian (not "janitor"), and plays golf at a resort.




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Public Service Comics: Transportation

Here are some more Public Service comics. Click on any picture to see it in more detail.

The Wonder Book of Rubber from BF Goodrich Co, 1947. The splash page proclaims: "Wherever you live - - wherever you go -- quality rubber products are close by." This was just after WWII, and while there was a shortage of rubber due to the Japanese occupying prime rubber producing areas in Southeast Asia, a lot of work had been done on harvesting natural rubber from Brazil, and developing synthetic rubber from petrochemicals. After the war the US economy was primed for growth, and people were ready to buy cars, household goods, clothes, all of which needed... you guessed it: Rubber!



I'm not sure how I got this copy of Sprocket Man, copyright 1976 by Urban Scientific and Education Research (USER?). It's a fun comic with tips on safe cycling in an urban environment, and it still applies today! There's nothing for sale in this comic -- it's purely an educational tool on how to keep you and your bike safe in the city. PS: don't lock your bike to a tree. That'll end with the loss of both a bike and a tree!



It's the beginning of a wonderful relationship: American Honda Presents: Supergirl in cooperation with the US Department of Transportation's National Safety Belt Campaign
DC Comics, 1986. The inside cover has a special message from Elizabeth Dole, who was Secretary of the Department of Transportation at the time. Most of the story takes place in a dream, with Supergirl meeting pigs who're Road Hogs, Humpty Dumpty, and all sorts of other bizarre elements.




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Public Service Comics: Computer related

One reason I think the Public Service comics are interesting is because they blur the line between education, propaganda, and sales. For example, in the context of historical hindsight, the comics produced by GE help people learn about new technology, and might also convince some kids or adults to become scientists or technicians. But they are also used by GE to sell the idea of atomic power, and also to promote General Electric as a company that has a future, and that's a much more subtle message.

Here are some comics from computer hardware and software companies, and they're a lot more blatant. Sure, they're still trying to be entertaining, but the comic is really a showcase for the product. Click on any picture to see it in more detail.
Superman in the Computer Masters of Metropolis from DC Comics, 1982 for Radio Shack.
Superman, Wonder Woman and the TRS-80 Computer Whiz Kids tak on Lex Luthor. The cover is only the beginning. Learn how powerful transistors make the TRS-80 the most amazing thing since sliced bread. Check out the pre-Internet explanation for how to set up an "information retrieval system."



Tandy Computer Whiz Kids (A Deadly Choice Edition), produced for Radio Shack by Archie Comics, 1990.
The kids use camcorders, skateboards and computers to stop a drug dealer near the school. This issue has a confusing message, since the kids use the computer to set up a drug abuse hot line, but that's only a small portion of the story. It's mostly typical late 80's anti-drug propaganda.



SWAT: Software Warriors Against Tampering for XTree Company anti-virus software circa 1992(?).
I don't know where I got this, but it's a great example of a comic gone wrong. Sure, it catches your eye, but it's not really entertaining, and it doesn't explain the features of XTree anti-virus software, which might have been useful in 1992.











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Public Service Comics: Health Issues

Here are some more PSCs, all around health topics. Click on any picture to see it in more detail.

"Hooked!" is an early anti-drug comic from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), US Department of Health, Education and Welfare and the US Government Printing Office 1966.
This lurid story is told by a Heroin junkie who's done it all, from Marihuana to Goofballs. His girlfriend no longer needs drugs -- she's dead! And this poor sap is still hooked. You can read the whole story online here.



"Operation Survival," is a Civil Defense (CD) comic from Graphic Information Service Inc, 1957.
Two kids get stuck in a flood, and then the boy, Jim, dreams the US is under attack. Li'l Abner only shows up on the cover, and I don't know if any of this was drawn by Al Capp.




"Spider-Man - Explores the Tragedy of Verbal Abuse of Children"
In association with National Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse (NCPCA), Marvel Comics, 1987 presents two stories of kids who get loads of verbal abuse unfairly heaped on them.
Then, Spider-Man unleashes his wrath, and a lengthy speech, against the Hobgoblin.
As the Hobgoblin says, "Spider-man, you are a real drag."




"Captain America Goes To War Against Drugs." Produced in Cooperation with The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Marvel Comics, 1990. This is a truly weird story of aliens giving drugs to a high-school kid to undermine the human race.


"Death Talks About Life," from DC /Vertigo Comics, 1994. Surprisingly, written by Neil Gaiman and drawn by Dave McKean.
Starring the Death character from The Sandman. It's frank, but not too shocking.



"Ninja High School Talks About STD: Sexually Transmitted Diseases," from Antarctic Press, 1992, is a lot more graphic. Ichi is on her period, but that's nothing because Rich has Gonorrhea! Jeremy gets quite an education.
This comic is explicit, and written by an MD to combat misinformation from other PSA comics that only talk about "safe sex." By Ben Dunn and Dr. Joeming Dunn MD



"Microbes: Invisible Invaders Amazing Allies," copyright BBH Exhibits Inc, 1997, is a strange comic which I picked up at a science museum (OMSI? Exploratorium?).
It was "made possible by Phizer, Inc." I like Microbe-guy's pick up line: "Want to try my new time machine?" Unfortunately, it doesn't work.




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Public Service Comics: Reading and Comics

Here are some more public service comics, although these all seem to have conflicts of interest. They are all about reading, and collecting comics.

The "Marvel Guide to Collecting Comics," from Marvel Comics, 1982. This isn't a story, but a basic handbook on collecting. Definitions, where to buy 'em, how to bag and box 'em, and tips on potentially lucrative investments. Unfortunately, this was the 80's, and most of the comics since then have gone boom and bust.


"Comics 101: How-to & History Lessons from the Pros!" from TwoMorrows Publishing. I picked this up on Free Comic Book Day 2007. Get the hint? Free comic that explains how to collect comics...


"Target Presents Reading to the Rescue!" from Marvel Comics and Target
Copyright 2004, Target Stores. In the story Loki turns the attendees at an amusement park illiterate, and it takes Cap, Thor and Spider-man and Jean Grey to get them to read again. Poignant, and why not buy something at Target?



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An assortment of Energy related Public Service Comics

For years comics have served not only to entertain, but to educate. Although some of the pseudo-science in DC Comics' The Flash is questionable, I at least gleaned from the pages of the Justice League of America that a geosynchronous orbit must be at 22,300 miles above the Earth.
Of course, quite a few comics have been printed as blatant propaganda, often omitting the story entirely.
From time to time I've picked up various comics I call Public Service Comics (PSCs). Sometimes the topic is interesting, and sometimes the content is just absurd.

Here are some covers and excerpts from my collection on Energy and Conservation PSCs. Click on any picture to see it in more detail.

"Adventures Inside the Atom," from the Adventures Series by General Electric Comics, 1948. As the narrative states: "The modern miracle of atomic power is the climax of a never-ending search for knowledge." It mentions that "we
re building the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory near Schenectady, New York where we will learn to use Atomic Fuel." So, this takes place before the first useful nuclear power plant. It also mentions the Hanford Plutonium reactors.




"Network of Power," from the Adventures in Science Series by General Electric, 1953. Notice that "in Science" has been added to the title of the series. This comic talks about the distribution of energy and the miracle of power lines.



"Inside the Atom," from the Adventures in Science Series by General Electric, 1955. Extols the virtues of atomic power. Notice that the artwork from the final page is almost the same as the final page of "Adventures Inside the Atom" (see above).



"Adventures in Electronics," from the Adventures in Science Series by General Electric, 1955. It explains how radio and television transmissions work.



"The Earth: Our Home in Space" from The Soil Conservation Society of America, Ankeny Iowa, 1972. A good comic stressing conservation of all kinds.



"The Atom, Electricity and You!," from Portland General Electric Company (PGE). This is copyright 1973 and produced by Custom Comics of NYC for PGE. It talks about the proposed Trojan Nuclear Power plant, which was shut down in 1992 and demolished in 2006.



"Ee-Yi-Ee-Yi-Oh! A Barnyard Fable About Ecology," from Consumers Power Company, 1973. I picked this comic up while touring (what I believe is the) Donald C. Cook Nuclear Generating Station in Michigan. It's a sort of "Animal Farm" a la Orwell, except instead of communism, the evil force is the back-to-nature movement.



"Mickey Mouse and Goofy Explore Energy," from Walt Disney Educational Media Company, 1976. Due to the energy crisis of 76, Mickey and Goofy explore energy alternatives including solar, hydro and nuclear.







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