Obscure Comics: Spider-Man, Buscema, Doc Ock, & Bubble Gum

The 1980's, the Era Of Marvel Promotional Comics

There are many Marvel promotional comics, in fact Marvel had a division devoted to them for a time, but the main era that promotional comics really came into their own and Marvel had a lot of them come out was the 1980's.  Marvel has packaged comics in newspapers, catalogs, magazines, menus, toilet paper … though that last one was just a product of the 1970's.  During the 1970's Marvel really experimented with promotional comics, but by the 1980's Marvel had it down, and we see an expansion of comics into bubble gum. Now comics printed on the wrappers of bubble gum pieces isn't a new promotional tactic, it's Bazooka Joe's whole thing, and even Archie had gotten in on it in the 1950's.  However, Marvel teamed up with Amurol Products to create a series of four comics called the Bubble Funnies Miniature Comic Book Collection, and the first entry was, of course, Marvel's favorite son Spider-Man.

Obscure Comics: The Amazing Spider-Man Bubble Funnies #1: In The Clutches of Doc Ock

This 10 page comic starts with a one page origin for Spider-Man, and then jumps to Peter Parker traveling by bus to the headquarters building of World Computer Communications, where he plans to do research for his advanced computer science test. However, as typical for Parker luck, he finds all the guards have been replaced with Doctor Octopus' henchmen who are helping him steal advanced computers. The art has been attributed to Sal Buscema, with inks by Mike Esposito and Frank Giacoia, with letters by Irv Watanabe, and a cover by John Romita Sr.
Whoever wrote and colored it is unknown, but the artwork clearly belongs to "Our Pal" Sal Buscema with John Romita contributing a cover as he did for many Marvel comics during this period as Marvel's Art Director (and having just come off the Spider-Man Daily Newspaper Strip).  Each page has a very simple layout with two panels per page. It is a fun little tale, but it is very short and very "dated" (look at the size of the computers), plus its logic of Peter Parker, working on biophysics graduate degree at Empire State University. having a test in advanced computer science is a bit of a stretch (though oddly possible in the Marvel Universe).  

The Bubble Funnies Comic Line

Marvel produced four of the Bubble Funnies comics, released shrink wrapped with the comic having a piece of gum tucked in the back cover (look carefully at the scans for the cover and back cover and you'll see the gum sticking out the top and bottom).  All four comics were full cover, featured ten pages and measured 2 and 5/8 inches by 3 and 1/2 inches. The line was all published in 1981 and made available in July.

The comic did have a variant, with the back cover either having the ingredients list in white, with the UPC, or in blue, above the UPC. (A very minor difference and neither is more rare.) The line only had four issues with Marvel, before Archie took over the numbering and did a 5th and 6th issue with their own characters.  The comics can be found in several places ranging from $12 for a near mint copy to $5 for just a readable copy, or even $15 to $20 for a set of all six, just have to browse. The comics have no official online presence, but this comic is a fun read to hunt for, just don't spend a lot on this very short tale.

About Ian Melton

Japanese Teacher, Comic Book, Manga, & Anime collector, LCBS worker, father of 2, fan of far too many things for far too long...