As we all know from reading comic books and watching movies, the 1970s were a time when lethal ninjas and club-wielding goons lurked around every corner, kicking sand into the faces of honest, hard-working comics readers at every opportunity. The people cried out for something, anything, that could save them from these ruffians, and as they always have, comic books stepped up to help in the most efficient and effective way possible: Advertising!
Comics had always provided their readers with the most exciting purchasing opportunities — nuclear submarines, X-Ray glasses, even the occasional piece of real Kryptonite — but between 1971 and 1974, they were full of opportunities to train yourself in the lethal arts of self-defense. That's why we here at ComicsAlliance are compiling a comprehensive list of the greatest promises for deadly hands and death touches in this, our Grand Compendium Of Comic Book Martial Arts Instructional Advertisements From The '70s.
COUNT DANTE: THE DEADLIEST MAN ALIVE
Best Line: Count Dante is the undefeated Supreme Grand Master of the Fighting Arts.
If we're going to catalogue every ad for martial arts instruction, we might as well start with the single greatest advertisement in the history of comics: Count Dante and the Black Dragon Fighting Society. Dante — born John Keehan, long before he changed his name to Count Juan Raphael Dante and claimed to be descended from Spanish royalty — is a legendary figure among comics readers. The ads were amazing, promising to teach his students the lethal secrets of the "Dance of Death" and, of course, the "Dim Mak Death Touch." Believe it or not, this is one of his more restrained ads, although the claim of an undefeated record in death matches remains consistent across all of them.
In reality, Dante was a well-known martial arts instructor... who was once arrested for trying to blow up a rival dojo with dynamite, and again for starting a brawl between martial artists that ended when someone was killed with a katana. I'm not sure if either of those techniques were ever discussed in his free pamphlet.
Amazingly enough, despite his prominence in Bronze Age comics, I have never seen anyone cosplaying as Count Dante. Hint hint.
WIPE-OUT 2 OR MORE ATTACKERS AT ONCE
Best Line: Joe's fantastic System is MUCH MORE than Karate, Judo or Ju-Jitsu alone — it reveals every effective method of Terror-Fighting known to man!
As you might expect from the sheer number of ads, competition was pretty fierce in the mail-order karate market. It wasn't long before ads started to tout themselves as being better than rival styles, and nobody did that more than Joe Weider. Best known as the bodybuidler who helped train Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the founder of the Mr. Olympia competition (and as the husband of legendary pin-up girl Betty Brosmer), Weider launched a series of ads that got increasingly wild as the years went on. This was actually the most restrained, and keep in mind that it still promises "creeps" and "goons" with broken bottles and thugs being paralyzed with a single jab.
Weider eventually got so over the top, in fact, that he was taken to court over his promise that his 30-day course could turn anyone into a fighting machine, and was found guilty of "conducting a scheme or device to obtain money through the mail by falsely representing its course."
REVOLUTIONARY NEW AUDIOVISUAL HOME STUDY COURSE IN DYNAMIC KUNG-FU AND KARATE
Best Line: WE PROGRAM YOUR MIND TO MASTER ALMOST ANY SELF DEFENSE SITUATION
Okay, so this is where things get amazing. While most courses promised a book of exercises and diagrams that you could use to hone your body into a lethal fighting machine, DeMaru Inc went one step further by providing an LP that you were meant to play over and over as you practiced. The idea, it seems, was to straight up brainwash yourself, Manchurian Candidate style, into a state that would allow you to automatically snap into deadly precision at the first sign of trouble.
From a selling standpoint, the advantages of this are pretty clear. It's virtually impossible to tell whether or not subliminal martial arts training is effective without someone actually trying to stab you, a condition that makes seeking a refund a pretty daunting task. On the other hand, I can't really judge. I don't own the record, as badly as I'd like to.
One more thing worth noting: This ad promises that it will give you the confidence to go into dangerous situations without being afraid, but along with "back alley" and "tough neighborhood at night," they also list "ball game." Was going to a ball game really that dangerous in the '70s?
(Yes. Yes it was.)
THE MASTER'S COMPLETE COURSE OF KUNG-FU
Best Line: We think that Kung-Fu is so effective that 30 days of our system will give you more self-defense power than if you used any other system daily for a solid year!
This ad's pretty standard — it's only really notable for being one of the lower-budget ads, only taking up half of a single page and thereby leaving room for Tootsie Pops or whatever — but I do like the promise that you will learn secrets that, until now, have only been handed down from father to son. Who would've thought that offering comics readers in the '70s knowledge passed down from a father figure would be a solid marketing plan?
I'LL MAKE YOU A MASTER OF KARATE
Best Line: You can apply a simple pressure of your thumb and finger against any one of a dozen vital nerve centers of your opponent and watch his gun or knife fall from his limp hand while he himself sinks to the ground completely helpless and faint.
Another half-page ad, this one promises the secrets of SUPER KARATE, as passed down by Wallace W. Reumann — who, from what I can tell, is something of a controversial figure in the Martial Arts community. A soldier who joined the army at 16, Reumann was trained by "Hammering Hank" Slomanski, a karate champion and ordained minister who is probably best known for training one of his other students, Elvis Presley. Reumann, on the other hand, apparently sold the rights to his book, Simple Karate, for $200 to a couple of shady advertisers who changed it to Super Karate and hyped up the scare tactics, mentions of assault by gun-toting thugs, and "Oriental secrets."
That aside, one does wonder about the quality of the 99-cent training dummy — although keep in mind, that's $5.61 in today's money.
Best Line: Your hands will have the power of an axe and you can use your elbows, knees, and feet as death-dealing clubs!
My heart will always belong to Count Dante, but folks, I love this ad so much. The random capital letters to emphasize the DEADLY KNOW-HOW!! that you'll gain, the emphasis on providing a colorful brochure, and, perhaps most of all, the drawing of Cool '70s Guy with his Karate Turtleneck and his Buxom Karate Lady-Friend. He looks like the hero of a text adventure.
Also, while "death-dealing clubs" are certainly the best line by far, the emphatic EVERYONE ADMIRES AND RESPECTS A KARATE MASTER! is a real close second.