It’s been another busy work week so this post will have to be a quick side-trip down memory lane. In the mid-Seventies US chewing gum and trading card manufacturer Topps (who were better known as Bazooka in the UK) licensed images from Marvel Comics to produce a set of collectable stickers featuring the publisher’s range of popular super-heroes and villains (and, for some reason, Kid Colt).
The stickers were 2.5in x 3.5in in size and came in sealed wax paper packets with a stick of gum that came in four different flavours – fruit, spearmint, cinnamon and grape – and there were 40 stickers in total to collect, featuring existing artwork of Marvel characters taken from the comics. The stickers showed the characters with word balloons with ‘funny’ messages that look as if they were written hurriedly in felt tip marker and some of the cards – The Hulk, Hercules, Luke Cage, Conan, Volstagg and Loki – also featured an alternative saying. These blurbs aren’t exactly the apogee of sophisticated wit but at the time I remember being quite tickled my them. Then again I was eight.
Inside some selected packets one of the stickers would be replaced with a checklist card with the names of all 40 characters and on the back there was an image broken up into nine segments that could be reassembled to form the cover to Conan the Barbarian issue #1.
I have very fond memories of collecting these stickers and nearly every school book I owned was covered with the things, as were large areas of my bedroom walls. Over the period of several months I remember spending nearly all my weekly 10p pocket money (it was the Seventies) on these stickers. I recall getting The Thing sticker more often than the others and had to swap them with school mates so I could eventually get the entire collection (although I only ever got one of the alternate cards, Luke Cage). Selling the gum and stickers in a sealed packet was an old marketing ploy that was genius in it’s simplicity: since we kids couldn’t see what they were getting in advance the only way we could collect the entire set was to either buy more gum or swap them with our friends.
The set shown here is from the 1976 collection; Topps released a set the year before which featured a lot of the same artwork with different sayings but I must have missed them as I don’t remember them at all. In 1978 Topps released another set of collectable bubblegum packs that featured a small comic book instead of the stickers. I have a full set of those too and I’ll be looking at them soon – probably when I get another busy week!