Bubble gum wasn’t precisely a staple of my childhood — as a “good boy”, I didn’t chew it at school, and my folks were more Doublemint and Juicy Fruit types, but like any kid, I’m sure I chewed my share. Usually I got it in packs of baseball or football cards (or more rarely, Wacky Packages), when I’m pretty sure it was the molecular equivalent of blackboard chalk, and around sixth grade, soft gum made the scene (complete with rumors that the sugary crunch was actually the product of spider eggs from a factory accident.) But occasionally, if I was at the local convenience store and there wasn’t money for an Icee or a comic, I’d get some bubble gum, Double Bubble or Bazooka.
I preferred the latter, as it came with a comic, printed on waxy paper, featuring Bazooka Joe (with the eye patch — the childhood version of the Hathaway Shirt guy) and his buddy Mort (the one with a turtleneck pulled over his face). The jokes had probably been rejected by the makers of the Exeter Book, the fortunes were insane, and the mail-in prizes required the collection of enough comics (and bubble gum) to founder a Clydesdale. But dammit, they were comics, and they came with bubble gum, so even if the Bazooka was smaller than the Double Bubble, I was up for the Bazooka (later, I would discover that it also made a decent rhyme for Paducah and former Notre Dame basketball star Kelly Tripucka. I haven’t availed myself of that, but one day… ONE DAY!)
New inserts will feature brainteasers, like a challenge to list 10 comic book heroes named after animals, or activities, like instructions on folding the insert into an airplane. They also include codes that, when entered at BazookaJoe.com, will unlock content like videos and video games.
Bazooka Joe and his sidekick, Mort, who wears his turtleneck up over his mouth, will appear only occasionally as illustrations in the new inserts, but without the antics and corny jokes of the three-panel strips.
Oh, well. Time marches on, and what was it the Romans said? “De Mort nil nisi bonum.”
Sorry — couldn’t resist.