On History: Inflate-O-Spidey

By | Tuesday, March 03, 2015 3 comments
One of the earliest instances I can recall where I was conscious that a comic book publisher was creating promotional materials to sell to retailers was in the early 1990s, when I learned that they were making a six-foot tall inflateable Spider-Man that could be hung in stores or suction-cupped to windows. I'm not sure where I heard about it however. I'm pretty confident that I've never actually seen one in person. My best guess is that I saw a photo of one in Wizard or a similar fan magazine.

I also seem to recall that they were reasonably priced. Almost to the point where I could've afforded one, despite not having a job at the time. I want to say they were $100? But I had no way of getting one, since I didn't have any retailer connections at the time. There was effectively no after-market for these because none of the retailers who did buy them wanted to part with them.

Decades later, they're available on ebay with some regularity. I see two that still come with the original box at the moment. But despite having the funds to purchase one now (they still seem to only be around $100!) I find that there are so many volumes more of commercially available products that are better displays of a wider variety of comic book characters, that the inflateable Spider-Man seems pretty chinsy by comparison. It was essentially made in the last days of Marvel just starting to make it big time, but just before they really developed the savvy to do really quality marketing. It's a large tchotchke, not appreciable any different than a logo-emblazened bag or stress ball.

The key to tagging this to a period before they started doing quality marketing is that some of the folks at Marvel sat down in a room and decidedly, jointly, that calling this "Inflate-O-Spidey" was a good idea.
Inflate-O-Spidey box
I've seen copyright dates on these ranging from 1991-1994, so it seemed to have been a success for Marvel. Further proof that it did well was that an Inflate-O-Wolverine was also made available.
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Matt K said...

"Inflatable Spider-Man," 65" high, item #095, offered for just $49.50 in the Marvel Mart catalog inside Doom 2099 #17.

Took me a minute, but I knew I had at least one of these fairly novel comic-story catalogs, because the Inflatable Spidey plays a key role in the story's conclusion. And, while not great literature, I did remember it more than 20 years later, so… :-)

Difficult to say, meanwhile, whether someone had second thoughts about the brilliance of "Inflate-O-Spidey" by 1994, or the alternate name was just ignorance/indifference.

Advertised right within the Marvel books? I didn't recall that, but digging back through my collection, I found that Marvel Mart insert in Silver Surfer #92, which I would've purchased when it came out, the same month Doom 2099 #17 went on sale.

Good memory, sir! I had totally forgotten that until I actually saw the insert again.

Matt K said...

Glad to contribute! :)

I probably would have remembered that catalog anyway; I think I may have ordered a poster from it.

I reread the couple years of Doom 2099 within the past 4-5 months, though; so otherwise I might have been digging a lot longer. "A Marvel from sometime in the mid-90s" encompasses a lot of the comics I own… ;-)