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At any moment now, and maybe already in some markets, the "new" Bazooka
Last November, Bazooka Candy Brands--a division of Topps (the company
Although the company stated that the characters might still appear on
Joe and the gang were, it seems, being put out to pasture, where they
I've been chewing this one over, for a while....
I can remember the first shock, growing up in Long Island, when Bazooka jumped from a penny, to two... Back in the late '70s?
The whole thing about bubble gum was that it cost you almost nothing. And, in all seriousness, as a little kid, might even help give you your first sense of fiscal empowerment, being able to walk into a candy store, and make your own purchase. (That, and 12 to 20 cents for a comic book, of course!)
Back in the 1960s, Bazooka often shared shelf space, here on the Island, anyway, with Double Bubble and Swell. Swell was--and still is--kind of
This was still in the day of CANDY STORES virtually, seemingly everywhere. You'd walk in, and often there'd be a lunch counter as well.
(My next door neighbor, Sam Picker, used to walk two blocks up almost
I can remember it being a big deal when Bazooka introduced new FLAVORS:
But that might have been after 1973, when it felt like almost all the
Had some odd, dark magician canvassed the greater Tri-State area,
A slice of Americana disappeared forever.
(Although... In the late '90s I tipped off the Eastern Indian fella I had become "Hello"-friendly with who owned the local stationary store, that another shop, about a mile away in Elmont, was available for sale.
I always loved the Bazooka Joe characters. I was a little horrified some
Why, I thought, if Bazooka had finally gone to the fun extent of
(Bazooka Joe may not be Norman Rockwell, but its place in pop culture I
I was embarassed some time later,when airing my criticism in a phone
(Cruse was first famous for his "underground" work, and his talents have
Cruse, among his many aptitudes, can replicate other illustrators, so I
Howard recently elaborated: "I was indeed charged by Topps with creating teenaged (and therefore, by definition, heretically altered) versions of the Bazooka crowd. I doubt
"If, however, it was indeed in the 1990s when you re-encountered your
"The comics that were wrapped around the gum produced by the Topps
As the book details, Topps itself is something of an American success
But the first attempts evidently didn't catch on.
Bazooka Joe was created some time between 1952 and 1954 (the character's
Gelman was a long time resident of Malverne, who passed in 1978.
"Woody was the nicest, most creative and gentlest man I ever met," says
Remarkably, Gelman should also have the gratitude of pop culture mavens
(Gelman also was among the very first in the United States to reprint
Gelman and Brown often employed comics
(Perhaps it's only fitting that so many of these cherished Topps totems
If I'm surprised at Bazooka's ending of the comic strips, it's for a few
One, it's their branding trademark!
In 2007, Topps was purchased by Michael Eisner's The Tornante Company,
Also, much of the gum's sales over the last decade or more, I would
How much could the inserts have added to that overall cost?
(And, since Topps' Autumn announcement explained that Bazooka's
A Bazooka representative says that "the product began rolling out" at
But perhaps most significantly, last week, when I spoke with several
One Cigarette/Lotto shop owner in Lynbrook used to have that famous
And no one from Topps, or an affliliate, had reminded him, for YEARS.
It's difficult to judge, of course, how any such gaps in the vendors'
Nor might it do a willing Bazooka fan any good to dial Topps' consumer
Two such phone calls resulted in my being put on hold for over thirty
(Two emails to customer support resulted in no answers. Another, sent to
The NEW slips are indeed an odd mix: black and white word games,
Again, it's difficult to perceive Topps' logic, or why they wouldn't at
Brown, who now lives in Texas (where he continues to write, and indulge
"You see marketing folks make the decisions at Topps these days as
So, say it ain't so, Bazooka Joe...
And if there are any among you who never pulled a t-shirt or turtleneck over your nose and didn't think of Joe and his pals...
I'll treat you to a Wetson's burger, a Black Cow candy pop, and a whole month of Sundays...
James H. Burns
(An earlier version of this article appeared in THE LONG ISLAND PRESS.)
(James H. (Jim) Burns, a writer/actor living in Long Island, has written for such magazines as GENTLEMAN'S QUARTERLY, ESQUIRE, TWILIGHT ZONE and HEAVY METAL. More recently, Jim has made several contributions to
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