Ad Space – Ultraverse

You are now entering Ad Space, a realm of commercials, brought before us so we might examine how they work, and discuss why we both love and hate them so. So it is written …

The Product:
Ultraverse comic books

The Promotion:

The Pitch:
Prime and Hardcase are going to be as big as Superman and Spider-Man … to the max!

Happy New Year, everyone!

As we go forward into … 2023? Already?

… Okay. As we press forward into the new year, it’s a fine time to reflect back on the past.

In the early days of Ad Space, I covered a commercial for DC Comics, where I went on about how thoroughly, utterly 90’s it was, reflecting all that was “hip” in that era of comic books. Well, I’ve now discovered a comic book ad that may be even more 90’s than that one.

For starters, there’s the fact that it’s touting the inevitable, wildfire success of the Ultraverse line of comics … an imprint which only lasted from 1993 to 1997. Then there’s the gratuitous display of bike and skateboard stunts, so popular in the era. But what’s most 90’s about this whole thing is how it’s targeting a specific type of comic book consumer: the speculator.

See, in the 1990’s, people started hearing just how much comic book collectors would pay for old comics that had originally sold for a quarter or less. Anyone who found a copy of Action Comics #1 (featuring the first appearance of Superman) or Amazing Fantasy #15 (featuring the first appearance of Spider-Man) could become rich overnight. This created a rush of people looking to buy comics, not to read, but to keep in sealed plastic bags, waiting for them to appreciate in value so they could be sold for a profit.

Comic book companies saw this new trend arise, and catered to it hard. Anything that made a comic more likely to be a collector’s item (a “#1” on the cover, first appearance of a new character, limited edition alternate covers) was gleefully exploited to court the speculator market.

And that’s clearly the market this ad has its hooks in. It’s advertising a new line of superhero comics, not only promising it will be as big as “that Super guy” or “that Spider guy”, but that you’ll be able to get in on the ground floor with them. They don’t come out and say you should buy these comics for their inevitable resale value, but the code is all over the thing. The way they specifically mention “first editions” are for sale, the way they stress the importance of beating others to the store before this collectible is gone. Because surely such a sought after item won’t get a second printing; that’d saturate the market, reducing their collectible value to nothing, and utterly devastating the comic book industry once speculators realize their investments are worthless and the whole bubble bursts. Surely that could never happen.

If this sounds suspiciously similar to the Beanie Baby bubble that also happened that decade … what can I tell you? Reckless fiscal optimism, thy name is 90’s.