Hostess: The supervillains have triumphed

What would The Hulk and Captain America think about a world without Hostess snacks?

The big news of the day—forget wars and stuff, they happen all the time—is that Hostess has chosen to shut down and lay off all its workers as a way of “settling” a strike. That’ll teach those human beings with lives and families.

There’s probably not much likelihood of Twinkies and other popular Hostess products actually disappearing, since the brands are the main asset Hostess still possesses. The company will sell the Twinkie name and the secret formula (the one that led to all the jokes about how Twinkies are the only food that will survive the apocalypse) to someone else. I’m hoping for Disney, since they’ve been buying up everything else.

Actually, in the unlikely event that Disney were to buy the Hostess brands, they could cross-promote it with Marvel and bring back one of Hostess’s most important contributions to our cultural life: the Hostess comic book ads. You probably remember these if you read comic books in the early ’80s, and a lot of the ads later turned up online—Seanbaby has a site where he adopts several different personas to provide colour commentary on the ads. Hostess got the rather terrific idea of paying all the comic book companies to create one-page ads that looked like comic book adventures of famous characters (though not the character who was actually starring in that particular book). The superheroes would foil supervillains by distracting them with the glorious taste of delicious Hostess Fruit Pies.

The in-house artists at the comic companies had all kinds of rules imposed on them by their editors to prevent the ads from destroying the brand of the heroes: for example, the heroes were rarely allowed to eat the Hostess products, since this would somehow cross over into a full-fledged endorsement. And the villains usually had to be one-shot villains with incredibly lame themes: the Chairman, a guy who turns people into chairs, or the Ding-a-Ling Family, a clan of space hillbillies who are impervious to Thor’s mighty hammer but cannot resist Hostess snacks. Usually the bad guy would be lured away from villainy by the yummy filling, but there were some variations and exceptions. For example, this ad, where the Incredible Hulk so dislikes a bunch of roller-skating disco fans that he just kills them all in cold blood. But much like Charles Bronson in Death Wish III, he has the neighborhood cheering for this act of horrific violence, because now they can go buy Hostess products.

Roller Disco Devils

Perhaps the most surprising Hostess ad, in view of the events at the company, is this one, where Captain America bursts into a dressmaking operation and interferes with the small businessman’s right to run the business the way he wants. The businessman protests against Captain America’s interference: “Why do you bother me… a poor simple tailor? You have many more important crimes to go after!” But Captain America, that meddling busybody, essentially leads a labour revolt against their boss, just because he was using magic chalk to turn them into dressmakers’ patterns. Cappy’s hatred of efficient business methods and cutting down on the size of the labour force clearly marks him as a secret enemy of the Hostess company, and possibly of capitalism overall.

Cut on the dotted line

Well, as I said, Twinkies are not over. (I don’t know about fruit pies; have they even made those for a while? I always assumed that they were featured most prominently in these ads because they weren’t very popular.) But I think it’s fair to assume that if this campaign hadn’t ended, Hostess would still be a thriving business. Once Richie Rich, Superman and Hot Stuff the Little Devil are no longer endorsing you, it’s a short step to bankruptcy.

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