Heroes' World Ad

Back in the Sensational 70s we used to see these full-page ads for superhero-related merchandise, drawn (usually) by the students at Joe Kubert's School of Cartoon and Graphic Art.

These ads were always fascinating to me, for a number of reasons. First of all, superhero-related merchandise wasn't nearly as ubiquitous in the 70s as it is today, and unless you lived in a town big enough to have a Toys-R-Us (I didn't), it's possible you'd never see any of this stuff at all. So the thought of a store and/or warehouse somewhere devoted to nothing but superhero stuff was pretty mind-blowing.

Somebody out there probably knows what the letters stood for in "NCG Merchandise," but it ain't me. All I know is that within a couple years, they were putting out whole catalogs of stuff under the name Heroes World, and like this ad the pulp paper catalogs were illustrated from start to finish with "artist's renditions" of the products for sale, presumably because it was cheaper than photographing the stuff and printing catalogs on glossy paper stock.

Fair enough, I guess, but it always struck me as a bit weird to expect people to order stuff based on a drawing that might or might not have reflected the product. For instance, I remember an ad for 12-inch Mego figures of Superman, Jor-El and Wonder Woman that looked like it was drawn by Joe Kubert himself, and I can tell you for a fact Joe's pictures looked a gazillion times better than the actual figures (I had the Superman). But on the opposite end of the scale, you had artists who looked to have dashed off sketches without much care or interest, which might have hampered sales of stuff people could have found desirable, had they seen the real deal.

For the record, here's some of the stuff advertised above as it looked in real life:

It must have felt particularly weird for those artists to re-draw packaging art done by other artists they'd heard of, or even knew, like in this case Dick Giordano (on the puzzle can), Wayne Boring and Carmine Infantino (on the books).

Heroes World ultimately folded for reasons unknown to me, but given how big superhero merchandising has become, and how well-positioned the company was by its foresight, you'd have thought they'd be bigger than Apple by now. Personally, I have to wonder if it wasn't those hand-drawn catalogs that did them in; I understand they're considered collector's items these days, but I still say it's crazy to expect customers to buy something based on a doodle.