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Celebrating Illustration, Design, Cartoon and Comic Art of the Mid-20th Century

Lessons in (Boys') Life

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Lesson #3: Wheels

Remember the freedom you felt the first time you sailed through the neighbourhood on your two-wheel bike? Maybe you were one of those kids lucky enough to have built a soapbox racer or a gocart. Did you rush right out and get your driver's licence as soon as you were old enough?

That's because you understood that man was meant to move about the earth on wheels.

Boys' Life's advertisers understood that too and made sure to start building brand loyalty at an early age. Today's 11 year old soapbox racer is tomorrow's Chevy owner.

The two "Race of Champions" ads are almost certainly from Johnstone & Cushing, the art services agency that specialized in comic strip-style advertising, as is the "Science of Cars" ad. The style is, to me, always reminiscent of comic artist Neal Adams - but I've learned in recent years that it was comic strip artists like Stan Drake and Lou Fine who's styles other artists tried to match.

It might be hard for modern generations to appreciate what an effective way of advertising the comic strip ad was. Today's newspapers have shrunk the average comic strip in size and importance but during the fifties comic strips, especially those done in "realistic" styles featuring adventure, romance, detectives, etc. were read by millions of Americans of all ages - the storylines discussed around office watercoolers and the creators considered important celebrities.

Comic strip ads like these targeted every demographic and could be found in every kind of magazine and newspaper, not just the publications perused by children.

You can find more examples of these kinds of ads in my Comicstrip Advertising Flickr set.

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