Thursday, June 30, 2011

Finding a new job in 1973 with Spider-Man's help

As I was leafing through the July 1973 issue of Marvel Team-Up featuring Spider-Man1, I was struck by the nature of the advertisements. There are a dozen ads pitching career training to the comic's readers.

There are far fewer advertisements for silly things like the Monster Fan Club (which I wrote about previously), sea monkeys2, joy buzzers and toy soldiers.

I'm guessing that two factors came into play here. First, were readers of Spider-Man comics slightly older than readers of other types of comics? An older demographic might have been more interested in finding a career than in buying cardboard submarines and X-ray specs.

Second, were the economic times reflected in the world of comic books? July 1973 fell within the United States' 1973–75 recession, which was characterized by both high unemployment and high inflation.3 So it's only natural that comic-book readers might have been interested in making meaningful salaries that would allow them to move out of their parents' basement, eat something other than Hamburger Helper ... and buy more comic books.

So it's interesting to see the kind of career training that was targeted to readers of this 1973 comic.

The panel at the top of today's post is part of the full-page advertisement for Cleveland Institute of Electronics4 (pictured at right).

In "The day Bill told off his boss," the man with the tucked-in plaid shirt and sideburns gets the last laugh against the man who looks like he's straight out of a 1950s classroom film from The Educational Archives.

Here are some of the other job- and career-opportunity advertisements from this issue of Marvel Team-Up:

For just 25 cents for postage and handling, you can learn how to cartoon for money! I like how the company name is simply "SUCCESS, Dept. M." I wonder if this company was similar to Art Instruction Schools, which is famous for its matchbook advertisements.

Here's your chance to become the next Jimmy Page5 or Eric Clapton! The Ed Sale Studio in lovely Avon-by-the-Sea, New Jersey, offers the following deal: "In this Special Introductory offer you get ED SALE'S famous Secret System worth $4.006 which shows you how to play a beautiful song the first day and any song by ear or note in seven days! Contains 52 photos, 87 finger placing charts, etc., plus 110 popular and western songs (words and music)..."

Start training at home for a career in the airline industry! Atlantic Schools (founded 1949) made the following pitch about its career training:
"Airline and travel employees often enjoy air travel passes to exciting cities, meeting interesting personalities, lead active lives, get good pay with advance opportunities, security, many fringe benefits."

Other advertisements in the issue include training for outdoors careers (wildlife management, parks and recreation, etc.), the shoe and clothing business, accounting, architectural and mechanical drafting, and veterinary work.

There's also this comic-style advertisement (pictured at right) for the Locksmithing Institute. It makes direct references to the state of the economy (and perhaps hints at some social unrest) in the first two panels:
Panel 1: "What a mess! Another layoff at our plant and I'm still in debt from the last one. Look at these headlines. I've got to do something soon!"

Panel 2:
"Say, Jane, look at this Locksmithing Institute Ad. they say with all the violence, there's a great need for locksmiths -- and they train you at home. And it only costs a few dollars a month!"

Soon, Joe is doing some hands-on learning from home. And, in the final panel, he even has his own store (which might be a bit of an exaggerated outcome). Joe exclaims, "Job security? I've got it now. No bosses. No layoffs. My own shop. What a difference when a fellow's independent!"

And the best news? If the shop in Joe's comic-book world is targeted by any civil unrest, Spider-Man and friends will be there to help him out!

1. The full matchup was Spider-Man and the Inhumans (Black Bolt, Gorgon, Karnak, and Triton) vs. Zarrko the Tomorrow Man and Kang the Conqueror.
2. Speaking of sea monkeys, Evan Hughes had an interesting article on sea monkeys and their "creator" -- Harold von Braunhut -- titled "The Shocking True Tale Of The Mad Genius Who Invented Sea-Monkeys" earlier this week on The Awl. It's a good read.
3. The pairing of high unemployment and high inflation is termed stagflation.
4. The Cleveland Institute of Electronics was established in 1934 and is still around today. I find it amusing that you can purchase CIE athletic wear, even though the school has no sports teams.
5. I haven't really been wowed yet by many of the articles on Bill Simmons' new Grantland. But I was entertained by Chuck Klosterman's piece on Led Zeppelin, titled: "In the Evening: A second-by-second analysis of Led Zeppelin's last stand."
6. Something worth $4 in 1973 would cost $19.41 today, according to the Inflation Calculator. Still, stating that the "famous Secret System" is worth all of four dollars seems to be crying out something about the quality of the product.


  1. I love that "Cartoon For Money" ad. I remember very clearly sending away for that back in the early 70s. The booklet they sent was maybe 10 or 12 pages in magazine size, featuring the cartoon tale of a cartoonist who learned to make big bucks from his doodles. I was disappointed at the time to find the "Free" book was just an advertisement for their course/books, and being 8 or so years old at the time the price they were asking was out of the question. I wish I still had that booklet and I wonder what they were actually giving out to the paying customers.

  2. I'm guessing that two factors came into play here. First, were readers of Spider-Man comics slightly older than readers of other types of comics? An older demographic might have been more interested in finding a career than in buying cardboard submarines and X-ray specs.