The Essential DC Hostess Ads Vol. 3: Fruit Pies, 1975-1978


By Shawn Robare

There really were a ton of these Hostess ads published between 1975 and 1981. I keep finding more, and I haven’t even gotten into the Marvel series yet. I think I’ve mentioned this, but I still think it’s really funny how on the one hand, since DC writers and artists took the time to script and draw these full page comic ads starring all the major (and some minor) comic characters, that DC would seem to be fully behind the Hostess product. I mean it’s one thing to sell ad space, but to have the ad feature so much of the creative DC content, it just screams that DC endorses Hostess. When you think of it, the modern equivalent would be something like a series of say Frito Lay commercials starring the cast of C.S.I Las Vegas, set in their world with the crew trying to find corn chip thieves based on analysis of snack food finger dust or something.

But still, on the other hand, these DC characters never ever come into contact with any unwrapped Hostess product, and if a villain does, then it’s invariably one created specifically for these ads, ala Cat Man or something. It actually sort of makes a statement for anti-advertising, where subconsciously maybe kids think that the product isn’t all that good because it’s obviously not good enough to cross Batman’s lips. Of course, much like bad press, I’m sure negative advertising is just as good as any other advertising, getting the word out in any manner possible. I’ve had this argument a lot, but I tend to fully agree that even the most vile and annoying commercial is doing it’s job well, because that one time you need that product it’s the first thing you’ll think of. There are these horrible jewelry store ads all over the radio here in Atlanta (much like everywhere else I assume) that make me want to strangle the store owners, all of ‘em, but I guarantee that the first time I ever needed to (I say need but I mean want) buy a ring or something that would be the first place I went even though I’m sure there are plenty of independent jewelers that have fine product. I think I prefer my product placement/food ads to lean in the other direction. Like in the horrible Ghost Rider movie for instance, when Nic Cage/Johnny Blaze is promoting Jelly Belly jelly beans, he really promotes the hell out of ‘em. Eats the damn things by the bucketful and everything.

Anyway, this is all beside the point, which is discussing the third volume in the Essential Hostess Ads series, of course this time focusing on Fruit Pies. Though I associate Hostess with Twinkies, their line of Fruit Pies must have been a huge part of their business at the time considering their large range of flavors, at least six during the 70′s (apple, cherry, blueberry, blackberry, lemon, and peach.) It’s also kind of interesting that the company focused only their Twinkies, Cupcakes, and Fruit Pies, but neglected the Ding Dongs, HoHos, and Chocodiles. I mean since a Chocodile is basically a chocolate covered Twinkie you’d think that, that would make for some awesome DC comics adventures, if not a nice twist on the villain speech, mixing dark, chocolate, creamed, and golden into a thousand possible combinations (or maybe just sixteen.) So before I write the encyclopedia Britannica of my thoughts on Hostess comic ads, lets get into the meat, er, real fruit filling of this week’s Essential Hostess volume.

Superman in The Spy 1975

Ah Clark, you sly bastard, you filled your closet with fruit pies. Obviously it would be insane for a dude to have a Superman costume in his closet, but a boatload of fruit pies? Standard operating procedure. At least he didn’t spin the world around backwards to make the “spy” forget, or kiss him. Man, all my knowledge of Superman is pretty much derived from that first Donner film.

Batman and the Captive Commissioner 1976

First off, Robin sure is being lewd in that first panel. Real, Deep, Big trouble is it Robin? Is it a Hot, Sticky, Load of trouble as well? Now did the writer of this comic just previously lean the definition of Svengali, because he sure goes to pains to both define it and massacre the reference all at the same time. I know I looked it up, because I’m a dork and I was tied of hearing the reference and not knowing exactly what it meant. This comic is also another perfect example of how Hostess Fruit Pies did absolutely nothing to help save the day, yet everyone seems to think otherwise. Apparently Batman can’t knock out two thugs without the help of real fruit and tender crust that you just wouldn’t believe.

Penguin in the Cuckoo Cuckoos 1976

What the hell is going on in this ad? There are ideas flying all over the place, the dissident cuckoos, hell, cuckoo clocks with talons and wings, double hell, talking cuckoo clocks with talons and wings, no super heroes with closets full of Hostess Pies, the police actually thwarting the Penguin? Jezz this thing is all over the place. Also what’s up with the last panel full of cats and stuff? This is just the first of a slew of villain starring Hostess Fruit Pie ads, so I guess that flaky tender crust must bring out the flaky tender headed evil of the DC universe…

Batman in The Whole World’s Upside Down 1977

Okay, this now wins, hands down, as my favorite DC Hostess ad of all time. Where do I begin commenting on this masterpiece of literature? I know that if I had the power to completely flip perception, gravity and the laws of physics as Mr. Topsy Turvy Man apparently can, I’d spend my days picking up loose change and fruit pies. Actually let me get this straight. Now, it’s not that TT man is upside down and floating in the air, it’s that he’s managed to flip the entire earth upside down, gravity-wise I assume as it’s kind of impossible to flip the earth upside down since there really is no up and down in space, I mean as I’m right side up in the US right now, Asia is technically “upside down” at the same time. So he has the unique ability to make everyone perceive that they are upside down by creating a second source of gravity working on the body, one that concentrates on clothing and one’s sense of balance, while not disrupting the normal gravity that keeps people grounded on earth. So in reality, he is floating upside down and all fruit pies and loose change are losing gravity and floating up, and since he’s upside down he can catch them, making him, well, the worst criminal in the history of stupid villains. I feel like I did after trying to describe Donnie Darko to a friend. This whole comic would have made so much more sense if TT man was making ladies skirts fly up around their heads or something.

By the way, that dumb kid never lost hold of his damn fruit pie so he should just shut his, well pie hole.

Green Lantern in the Fruit Pie Scene 1977

Two panels into this Green Lantern ad and I had high hopes. Already the writer has made both an awesome homage to a brilliant film (Bride of Frankenstein) and one of the worst “name explanation” gags ever. It started out with a high camp bang, and I was hoping it’d just get all John Waters from there, but alas it ended pretty weak. So Green Lantern’s ring can just bigify him and the others? Well what can’t it do then? Also, I’m getting to point where I believe that the DC universe of cities is populated by idiotic dorks that have no idea what they are talking about. They couldn’t eat their fruit pies because they were small and their mouths were not large enough to bite into that tasty tender crust to get to all of that real fruit filling? Well, weren’t the pies shrunk-ified as well? I didn’t see those guys straddling giant fruit pies in those jars. I guess this strip was just gnitnioppasid (spell that backwards to see how I feel.)

Joker in the Cornered Clown 1977

The fruit pies are really starting to bring the evil side of the DC universe out to play as we get the first ad starring the Joker. Now even though they probably can’t have him winning in this ad, I thought it would have been so cool to see this ruse work. I mean honestly, the reverse is true for most of the other ads. Throw a maniacal villain a fruit pie and he’s libel to not only stop the crime he’s committing but also put himself in handcuffs just to get at the damn flaky crusts and real fruit filling.

Also, on a side note, the first panel just reminds me of Spielberg’s quest to ungunify the E.T. movie. Guns are neat, an this Hostess fruit pie ad shows how pointless it is to have cops standing around with walkie talkies instead of 12 gauge shotguns. I mean these awesome flatfoots managed to hold their rifles, eat some fruit pies AND catch the Joker (possibly with other limbs that weren’t featured), all without seeming menacing, so I call bunk on you Spielberg.

Aquaman Mera Meets the Manta Men 1978

Sigh. So like why is this an Aquaman comic? Shouldn’t it be an Aqualad and Mera comic? That is Aqualad right? There’s just so much wrong with this comic. First we have some really pointless narration that says exactly what the characters will say, then there are Manta Men emitting deadly stun blows that work as mind control on sharks (jeez, couldn’t they just pick a type of ray to emit, I mean these are neither deadly or stunning, they just blow), all of which is followed by the coupe de grace of a giant hand materializing out of water (I’ll buy that as Mera’s power), but where in the hell did the fruit pies come into the picture? Okay, so there are fruit pies as well, but aren’t they freaking soggy underwater? You know, I believe I can think of about a million better things to do with my fingers, hands and mouth than eat fruit pies, Manta Men. I hate this ad.

Batman in the Corsair of Crime 1978

HA! Finally, a mainstay DC character eating a damn fruit pie! I can see that the artist on this piece was a maverick.

Joker in Clowning Around 1978

Joker, Joker, Joker, is crime paying off so badly that you have to stoop so low as to audition for the freaking Gotham circus? At least we get a tale of revenge in this fruit pie ad from 1978. Too bad there weren’t clowns dying akimbo in mass amounts of real fruit filling, now that would have made for an exploitation masterpiece. Instead we get a very cinematic story where the plot is told in monologue flashback and we see that the Joker never had a chance. Um, so exactly how does this work. See apparently the Joker hates him some fruit pies. So since Joker didn’t accept any deliciously tender and flaky pastry, and thus wasn’t distracted, when exactly did these clowns switch darts on him? I wish the ending was worth the amount of plot they put in this ad.

Joker in Laugh, Clown, Laugh 1978

In this second Joker ad from 1978 we had a writer that totally screwed the pooch on the previous built up of the back-story on Joker’s feelings towards fruit pies. Doesn’t he hate fruit pies? Why would he be so glad he kept some at the end? Has that dude in the crown never seen five clowns all together at once? These questions sadly have no answers. Oh well.

And on this sad note, I’ll end our investigation of this installment of the Essential Hostess Ads Vol. 3: Fruit Pies. Fear not though, because I have unearthed enough material for 3 more volumes of DC Hostess ads, not to mention at least as many posts on the Marvel ads (I don’t think that’s the sound of rejoicing I hear), so I’m sure we’ll continue this dialogue another day.

  • Esteban

    Like a fifty word short story, these one page comic strips are marvels of storywriting skill. Establishing the setting, conflict and resolution all on one page isn’t easy but even the bad ones have been really great. Maybe that’s because the storytelling shortcuts that have to be made make for some interesting character interactions. I think my favorite is “”The Captive Commissioner”" starring Batman. Establishing that the city is in chaos because of the commissioner’s absence requires that the people of Gotham act like savages right off the bat. I like how all it takes to get the people of Gotham to go looting is news that the commissioner has been kidnapped. But how much of an authority figure is a police comissioner in real life anyways? Do people in that position literally embody the balance between order and anarchy? Apparently in Gotham they do. I guess there isn’t much keeping civilized society in Gotham from eroding into chaos on a daily basis. I also like how the commissioner gets bound and gagged but Batman doesn’t get restrained at all as the kidnappers kindly escort him to their hideout. Wouldn’t he be worth at least handcuffs? They terribly underestimated him. It doesn’t matter because that’s the last mistake those guys will make thanks to Batman sucker punching them from behind. Sheesh! Talk about fighting dirty. But this is Batman. I wonder how he got control of the car with its driver unconsious. He probably just jumped out and let it crash into a tree, killing both occupants. With the kind of ruthless heroes and savage citizens Gotham has I almost find myself siding with the kidnappers who want to change the status quo.