The comics were axed in 2013, but now classic Bazooka Joe antics from the ‘70s and ‘80s are coming back.
Back before comic strips were just another thing you could waste time looking at on the internet, they were printed on paper: The funnies had a whole section to themselves in the big Sunday newspaper, and if you liked a strip well enough, you’d go out and buy entire collections of The Far Side or Calvin & Hobbes or Peanuts at the bookstore. Comic strips would pop up in other places too — like wrapped inside pieces of Bazooka Bubble Gum. Added to the gum in 1953, six years after its launch, Bazooka Joe comics helped turn the Bazooka Gum into an iconic brand. Frankly, the jokes were already a bit dated by the time I was reading them in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but I always read them anyways, if only to elicit a solid groan.
Bazooka parent company Topps (yes, company that also makes Major League Baseball cards) axed the comics as part of a brand refresh in 2013 — apparently agreeing that, yes, maybe Bazooka Joe wasn’t as hip as he used to be. But at the same time, taking away the comics also stripped away part of Bazooka’s identity. So finally, the folks at Bazooka have accepted that gum is best served with a side of humor and the brand is bringing reprints of classic Bazooka Joe comics back.
The return of Bazooka Joe will come as part of a new Bazooka Throwback pack, which will contain six pieces of gum in a box “inspired by the brand’s iconic original packaging” with “nostalgic 1980s graphics and Original flavor Bazooka Bubble Gum wrapped in classic comics.” The company says these retro-tinged packs will be available nationwide.
“A few years back, we re-launched Bazooka Bubble Gum, reinvigorating the brand for kids who may not have been familiar with the eye-patch wearing Bazooka Joe or the brand’s place in America’s pop culture landscape,” Matt Nathanson, Bazooka Brand Manager, told me. “Yet even as Bazooka continued to thrive with its new look, we have never stopped hearing from our passionate consumers who longed for the Bazooka bubble gum of their past. Those classic Bazooka Joe comics clearly have a special place in the hearts and memories of so many fans. We are always listening to our fan, and are incredibly excited to bring back the Bazooka fans remember!”
Nathanson says that a lot of effort went into choosing which comics to bring back as well. “We began by diving into the Topps vault to find the original Bazooka Joe & His Gang comics… Believe it or not, some of these assets hadn’t been seen for decades,” he explained. “We selected 48 of the best comics from the 1970s and 1980s—all with Bazooka Joe’s trademark (and maybe a bit off-beat) sense of humor — to include in our new throwback package.”
Each comic in the new release also comes with a fortune, something that many, but not all of these classics comics had. However, it turns out the answer to fixing this problem was already in the offices. “Luckily, among the Topps confectionary team is Alan Grupp, Senior Director of Customer Marketing & Canada, who has been with the company for over 30 years,” Nathanson continued. “In fact, Alan was the writer of many of the original comic fortunes from the 1980s! So even though some of the fortunes are ‘new,’ we are proud to say they came straight from the original source himself!”
Finally, as a nod to the fact that, yes, the year still is 2019, these new comics will also feature a unique “digital code” that can be used to unlock additional content at BazookaJoe.com. “We wanted to continue to keep this element of the brand experience intact as it has been a key part of the brand since the last relaunch,” Nathanson said. “Encouraging our consumers to ‘go back to the future’ and enter the code, we found a fun way to bridge the old-school and new-school fun of the Bazooka brand.”