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Hostess, a little piece of comics history, is going out of business

by  in Comic News Comment

Hostess Brands, the long-struggling wholesale baker whose offbeat ads for Twinkies, CupCakes and Fruit Pies were a staple of American comics from 1975 to 1982, will close for good next week in the wake of a crippling nationwide strike.

The Irving, Texas-based company, which filed for bankruptcy protection in January, announced this morning it will sell off all of its assets because not enough striking workers met its Thursday deadline to return to work. Plant operations already have been suspended, but Hostess retail stores will remain open for several more days to sell already-baked products.

“We deeply regret the necessity of today’s decision, but we do not have the financial resources to weather an extended nationwide strike,” CEO Gregory F. Rayburn said in a statement. “Hostess Brands will move promptly to lay off most of its 18,500-member workforce and focus on selling its assets to the highest bidders.”

The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union went on strike Nov. 9 after the company imposed a contract that would cut wages by 8 percent and benefits by 27 to 32 percent, leading Hostess to permanently close three plants on Nov. 12. Executives warned that if a sufficient number of employees didn’t return to work by Thursday at 5 p.m. ET, it would seek permission from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to liquidate the company. ABC News reports that if the motion is approved, the shutdown could begin as early as Tuesday.

Hostess, formerly Interstate Bakeries Corporation, emerged three years ago from a 2004 bankruptcy only to rack up more than $860 million in debt, which the company blamed on high labor costs and rising prices of sugar, flour and other ingredients.

Although the company’s brands include Drake’s, Dolly Madison and Wonder Bread, it’s perhaps best known — certainly to comic readers of a certain age — for its Hostess line. The snack cakes became a hallmark of American comics during a seven-year advertising campaign that featured such characters as Aquaman, Archie, Batman, Bugs Bunny, Iron Man and Spider-Man in one-page adventures in which Hostess products played a key role. Tomorrow’s Heroes has an archive of 204 Hostess ads,