He’s one of the few iconic advertising candy characters, and along with Twinkies, one of the few brands to use comics to sell the product.
He’s known world-wide, speaking in a variety of languages, and known to just about any kid with a nickel in his or her pocket (or willing to swipe a piece from the grocery store checkout).
He’s told more jokes than Henny Youngman, and more fortunes than Zoltar.
But now, sixty years after his debut, Topps bubblegum is relegating Bazooka Joe to emeritus status, making token appearances with Mort as the iconic comics will be replaced by activities, brainteasers, and codes redeemable at the Topps website,
According to the New York Times, the brand will be getting a redesign, making it more appealing to today’s kids. New colors, trendier logos, and new flavors will be introduced to sell the brand, sales of which have dropped 48% in five years.
Some would say the flavor of the gum lasted about as long as it took to read the comic. (It lasted longer, about average for bubble gum, and much longer than the shingle found in Topps’ collector card packs.) It’s a cheap diversion, and I still buy a handful on occasion from the local deli in my neighborhood, stuffing them into a coat pocket for later enjoyment.
Many (myself included) will wonder why Topps is getting rid of the one thing which makes their brand stand out from other gums. With this, Bazooka is just another Dubble Bubble, another cheap bubble gum which used to run comics. (I’m still trying to figure out why chocolate bar wrappers don’t have printing on the inside. Imagine if kids collected the wrappers! But I guess the death of the sports card market has put the kibosh on that…)
Ironically, Abrams will be publishing Bazooka Joe and His Gang, a 60th anniversary collection and retrospection next May, for $19.95. (Roughly the cost of 400 pieces of bubble gum.) It will include essays, history, and 100 comics from the archives, including the complete first series.
If you’d like to hoard, I recommend ordering it online. Or you might want to relive your youth and buy (or swipe) a piece from your local candy counter. If you just want to read the comics, try this! (Variants included!)
Maybe IDW will revive Joe and the gang with a comics series, complete with multiple covers (printed on waxy paper) which can be redeemed for a cheap toy. Hey… if Choo Choo Charlie can have a comic book, why not Bazooka Joe? Or maybe he can be become a cartoon star.
I’ve been writing for The Beat since July of 2010.
I’ve been reading comics since 1974, collecting since 1984, and spreading the graphic novel gospel since 1994.
I’m a bookseller, a librarian, an amateur scholar, a cool uncle, and a comics evangelist.
Ask me anything!