Comics Entertainment

Pie for Pi Day: A Look at Hostess’ Comicbook Promos from the 1970s and 1980s

For those of you who are not mathematically inclined, fear not; we’re taking liberties to celebrate Pi Day this year and adding an extra ‘e’ on the end—and some superheroes.

If you’ve picked up a comicbook originally published during the 1970s or 1980s, not just from Marvel but also the likes of DC and Archie, you may have noticed something… a little bit different, sweet, and definitely not part of the story.

Starting in 1977 and running for five years, Hostess masterminded rather unique comicbook advertising campaigns that looked and sounded so familiar to fans because they were actually constructed by the comic publishers themselves!

Everyone’s favorite superheroes made appearances in these adverts, from Spider-Man, Captain America, Thor, Daredevil, the Fantastic Four, Captain Marvel, and the Hulk on Marvel’s side, to Distinguished Competition including Flash, Wonder Woman, Batman, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and more. There were differences from these heroes’ main tales, of course: namely, the one pagers featured rather simple plots that were all wrapped up by the last panel, something that surely did not happen in the books they were nestled in. Being that Hostess only had a single page to work with, most of the stories hinged on the more formulaic side: villain wreaks havoc and the hero swoops in to save the day with the help of Hostess—or even worse, the villain tries to steal the snacks!

When it comes down to it, of course, no one can resist those delicious treats… well, except for the superheroes, that is, as the leads were ironically never actually drawn enjoying the very scrumptious snacks they were selling. (Strangely, though, it was fine for supporting players like Mary Jane Watson to relish in Hostess goodness every so often). Rather, the tempting snacks were usually used to bribe or divert the story’s miscreant long enough to bring them to some sort of justice.

Hostess promotion aside, if anything, readers could count on these amusing one-offs to provide outrageous tales ranging from Roman time travel (“Captain America and the Time Warp!”) to tech villains (“Spider-Man vs. The Human Computer”) to laser-shooting gigantic mammals (Iron Man’s ad “The Charge of the Rhinos!”) to alien crocs who… eat gold (“Batman vs. The Intergalactic Gold Eaters”).

Please enjoy a selection of these vintage adverts below. Though today is Pie Day, these infamous Hostess promos not only hocked their fruity items, but also cupcakes and Twinkies, so naturally we’re throwing some of those goodies into the mix.

How many readers remember these ads?