Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Two advertisements in a comic book

Recently, I read the entire run of DC Comics’ Starman by James Robinson. As far as I’m concerned, Starman is as true a masterpiece as has ever been produced in fiction of any kind – a large cast of well-written characters, a plot that continually builds to an amazing climax, consistently fun side-stories along the way. I’ll probably go into more detail about why I love Starman so much another time. In the meantime, check out Scott Tipton’s overview of the series at Comics 101.

This post concerns one particular issue - #54, published in April 1999. This is a terrific story, flashing back to 1899 to tell a story of Opal City, its citizens, and an object of great importance to our characters in the present. But I own the series in single issues, so it’s not just a story – it’s also a vehicle for delivering advertising. In this issue, two ads jumped out at me, and both of them were promos for new prime-time cartoons about to debut on FOX. I don’t know how comic book readers at the time reacted, but the two ads reveal a great deal about the respective quality of both shows.

First, on the inside front cover:

Here we get a tiny glimpse of the world of Futurama. We don’t really learn anything about the characters, except that one is named Fry and looks like a hipster. We don’t even know who Fry is. He might be a celebrity within this world, endorsing this product. What we do learn is that Futurama takes place in a universe where Earthlings have made contact with other planets. More importantly, though, it’s a world where advertising exists that promotes the tastes of alien cultures. If we want to learn more, we need to tune in to find out just what this world looks like.

Here’s the other, opposite page 7:

Here we learn that the dog can talk, and makes puns about bodily functions.

Draw your own conclusions.

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