This is “I Saw It Advertised One Day,” a feature where I take a look at old comic book advertisements that interested me for whatever reason.
Today, we’re going to take a look at about as complete of a collection of 1980s Saturday Morning Cartoons comic book ads as we can (do note that by the late 1980s, the networks mostly stopped doing comic book ads for their cartoons. I found some non-comic book ads just for the sake of completion, and even then we’re one or two ads shy of having every year. We come about as far as humanly possible, though!
Anyhow, two things we need to establish before I start listing the ads. One, for many years, the big three networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) would air brand-new children’s programming on Saturday mornings. They haven’t done this for years, so there are some of you who might not even be familiar with the concept. Two, for pretty much just as long as they would do this, they would advertise for their new lineups in the Fall of the year with a big ad in various comic books, mostly Marvel and DC, but really any comic book that had any sort of market share.
So, over the next three pages, we’re going to take a look at the evolution of Saturday Morning cartoons throughout the 1980s.
As the decade began, ABC was known for two major things in their Saturday morning cartoons. One, they continued to have the Super Friends, who were sort of like “old faithful” for them by this point in time. Secondly, this year both saw the debut of Thundarr the Barbarian (basically a Kamandi riff) and the first example of ABC just turning their popular prime time series into cartoon shows with the debut of Fonz and the Happy Days Gang (which some people think was originally meant to be a Doctor Who cartoon series).
CBS was mostly rocking the Looney Tunes action in 1980. Note, though, that they tried to adapt their smash hit news magazine show, 60 Minutes, to a kid-oriented version…
NBC had some Looney Tunes, as well, in Daffy Duck, but they were mostly about reliable old Hanna-Barbera programs in Flintstones and the Jetsons…
ABC stayed mostly the same, which is likely why they didn’t seem to spring for a color ad (Laverne and Shirley got their own cartoon, as well, which isn’t noted in the ad)…
CBS also mostly stayed the same, but it is an interesting statement about the era that 1980 was still a time when you could say, “Hey, kids, want to watch Tarzan and Zorro cartoons?” and still get a, “Sure, I guess, if we’re already on CBS from watching Looney Tunes!”
The two big additions for NBC was the Smurfs and Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, which would both stick around for a number of years (Spidey didn’t have a bunch of new episodes produced, but reruns would remain popular).
ABC’s big move in 1982 was to cash in on the burgeoning video game crazy by making a Pac-Man cartoon (plus, now Mork and Mindy have joined Laverne, Shirley and the Fonz as all sharing a cartoon hour)…
CBS still mostly relied on their tried and true Looney Tunes cartoons, but they also tried the “How could this NOT work?” idea of doing a Gilligan’s Island-themed science fiction series. The world was not yet ready for you, Gilligan’s Planet…
Now NBC was the one mostly standing pat, choosing to go with a black and white ad, as they only added the Hulk to their lineup…
Plus, of course, Gary Coleman’s cartoon series about him as an angel. They get that Diff’rent Strokes had been on the air for three years at this point, right? “I’m telling you, this Gary Coleman guy is going to be huge! How do I know this? His hit sitcom is going into Season 4! So just trust my gut instincts!”
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