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Back in the 1970s and 1980s the Hostess™ snack company had a long-running comic book ad campaign, with story pages produced by the comic book companies themselves. They appeared in comic books published by Marvel, DC, Gold Key, Archie, and Harvey. The Marvel and DC ads, featuring prominent superhero characters, would normally have plots along the lines of:
- Villain comes in, starts ruining everyone's fun. The villain is typically a ridiculously themed one created specifically for that ad.
- Hero pops up.
- Hero gives villain delicious Hostess Fruit Pies/Ding-Dongs/Oreos in exchange for being turned in, or to distract the villain long enough to be captured.
- Villain complies, not being able to resist the real fruit filling.
- (optional) "Everybody Laughs" Ending
(The non-Marvel/DC ads generally appeared in humor books, which allowed for more variety in their plots.)
As well as the "villain causes trouble, hero averts trouble with Twinkies" plot, there was also the plot that the villain would simply try to steal the treats himself, and either be defeated outright, or be defeated by the very confections he was coveting.
One Superman story, "The Spy", illustrates how silly these stories could get. It begins with a reporter discovering Clark Kent's secret closet with his Superman costume (and a spare). Superman himself sees the reporter snooping, and refills the closet with Hostess Fruit Pies before the reporter reveals his "big scoop."
While DC and Marvel let their superheroes shill shamelessly for Hostess products, one action was curiously "over the line": the heroes could never be shown actually eating Hostess products. Supporting characters like Lois Lane and Mary Jane Watson were apparently exempt from this rule, though, and other publishers' characters (e.g., shameless capitalist Richie Rich) could chomp away freely.
The Hostess ads are the most numerous and infamous of the type, but other advertisers got into the act occasionally (e.g. four Marvel and DC heroes shilling for the "Magic Snake" puzzle). Because of their absurdity, even by the standards of superhero comics, this is a Dead Horse Trope nowadays, subverted and parodied far more often than played straight.
- Seanbaby has a whole bunch of these ads archived.
- Dexter's Laboratory had a segment with Captain America look-a-like Major Glory and his "Justice Fruit Pies".
Mathemagician: Not Justice Fruit Pies! The Delicious treat you'd have to be crazy to hate! Oooh, I give up!
- Order of the Stick did a parody in this comic strip.
- Believe it or not, this was done to one of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels against his will by his old German publisher:
Terry: There were a number of reasons for switching to Goldmann, but a deeply personal one for me was the way Heyne (in Sourcery, I think, although it may have been in other books) inserted a soup advert in the text ... a few black lines and then something like 'Around about now our heroes must be pretty hungry and what better than a nourishing bowl'... etc, etc. My editor was pretty sick about it, but the company wouldn't promise not to do it again, so that made it very easy to leave them. They did it to Iain Banks, too, and apparently at a con he tore out the offending page and ate it. Without croutons."
- That was apparently common practice in their paperbacks for a while, with a number of authors... and yes, it was apparently always soup. Instant soup, even. Arguably, the segregation of the "soup" content to one full double-sided page kept them from feeling too intrusive, and made it easier for those so inclined to emulate Mr. Banks, above.
- Alan Moore's First American strip, being a parody of both superhero tropes and American culture, also did a take-off of these.
- Another parody from R.K. Milholland's Super Stupor.
- And don't forget when Davan created stats for one of those villains and managed to capture his players, making Jason want to know the saving throw to commit suicide.
- Parodied in Wizard magazine, which featured Jesse Custer and the cast of Preacher (Comic Book) in a mock-Hostess fruit pies ad.
- Another Wizard ad had this, featuring the 'heroes' of Marvel Zombies. Instead of fruit pies, they find two kids. Two tasty kids.
- Yet another parody in an Earthbound fancomic, using Rock Candy and Magic Pudding (both of which are items from the game.)
- Shadowgirls also get in on the fun.
- The video game Spider-Man Friend or Foe has a fun reference, as one of Spidey's post-battle quips is along the lines of "I could go for a fruit pie right about now."
- The tie-in game for the third movie had the Apocalypse gang stealing these at every frakking opportunity, with everyone openly referring to them with the full trope name. Spidey would actually lampshade this, by asking "without fruit pies, what'll I use to distract supervillains?" In addition, there'd occasionally be a truck driver with a dodgy Indian accent who would protest that he couldn't deliver Delicious Fruit Pies on time because the truck had broken down.
- Parodied in Green Lantern Secret Files And Origins, which featured "the tastiest Green Lantern / Flash team-ups ever!" First the Golden Age GL and Flash defeat Nazi saboteurs with the aid of Secret Files candy bars, and their secret ingredient. Then the Silver Age incarnations use the "space age taste" of Secret Files bars to expose alien criminals disguised as alien policemen (the real policemen absorb energy). Finally the Modern Age versions (Kyle Rayner and Walter West) are halfway through an ad for Secret Files Powerbars, before Kyle starts complaining it doesn't make sense. "We defeat the bad guy by giving him food? And why is he standing at ground zero of his own weapon anyway? Who wrote this?" While Kyle argues with the director of what now turns out to be a TV ad, and learns they're still working off Alan and Jay's contracts, Walter learns that the "secret ingredient" is sugar.
- The Onion: Spiderman Distracts Dr. Octopus With Delicious Hostess Fruit Pies
- Killroy And Tina shows us the way it should work.
- Appears oddly enough in the second season of Darker Than Black -- a character who carries around a bag of hamburgers from which he has to eat after using his powers tells another Contractor that he will share his burgers if she cooperates with him. Given that this is a Darker and Edgier superhero series, this doesn't really work.
- Parodied by Marvel Comics in the issue of Marvel Team-Up released as part of the infamous mid-80's "Assistant Editor's Month", entitled "Aunt May and Franklin Richards vs. Galactus". In this particular story Galactus took Aunt May as his new herald (under the name "Golden Oldie") after which she halted his latest attempt to devour the earth by serving him "Grosstest Twinkles".
- Marvel also parodied this in their early-90's comedy title "WHAT THE..?!", where a hero offers "Stinkies" cupcakes to The Blob, whose whole gimmick is that he's fat. The Blob is initially overjoyed, but after reading the full list of ingredients of the wrapper and seeing that the treat is full of saturated fats, he proceeds to beat the stuffing out of the hero. "I'm trying to lose weight, you're not helping!"
- Marvel again in The Age of the Sentry, with advertisements for Marvel Fruit Pies with Fruit-like Filling.
- RPG World parodied this as well. It does actually work, turns out robots are strangely vulnerable to fruit pies.
- A collection of Watchmen Delicious Fruit Pies parodies.
- A post modern dadaist version of Delicious Fruit Pies
- Dan Slott's Spider-Man/Human Torch mini-series had a scene in one issue where Spider-Man distracted the Red Ghost's Super Apes (who had stolen the infamous Spider-Mobile) by snagging a store display of fruit pies with his webbing and yanking the display into the street. The apes immediately attacked the fruit pies and forgot about Spider-Man and the Torch. Spidey immediately calls the ad agency that gave him the car and tells them that the deal's off, but he's got an idea for an ad campaign they can use...
- A recaptioned Hostess ad appears in the gender bending parody Jet Dream Remix Comic. The fruit pies have significant side effects, but they are apparently considered desirable ones.
- Welcome to Tranquility gives us an ad for Minxy Millions Mini-Pies. In "Maxi Man vs. the Vampire," Maxi-Man helps some disco-loving teens escape a vampire's bite by giving the vampire Minxy Fruit Mini-Pies (oh, and also by knocking out the vampire's fangs.) "It tastes similar to real fruit!"
- SpongeBob SquarePants once parodied this, with Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy advertising the "New Krusty Kids Meal" at the Krusty Krab.
Man Ray: How can I be evil with flavors this good?
- An interlude ad in the Wildguard: Casting Call TPB shows Four-Teen stopping a robbery by Speeding Skull with Hostris Fruit Pies.
- A Questionable Content guest strip parodied it.
- A 1943 comic book ad for Wheaties included a single-panel comic with a variation on the theme: "Look, Fritz! Dose Americans are capturing our storm troopers mit free samples Wheaties again!"
- Inverted in a different ad: "The Japs are getting smart - they're putting Wheaties in the boobytraps." Most commentators are more concerned with how the commander's assistant is apparently trained to spout Wheaties adlines on command than how the Japanese are baiting traps with cereal.
- The Simpsons Comics parodied this, with Radioactive Man and Fallout Boy in "Catch of the Day"
- Also parodied by God-Man.
- An issue of E-Man comics had an ad for "Hostess Tweakies" featuring Cutey Bunny. She defeated the villains by force-feeding them so many Tweakies that they could barely move.
- The Free Comic Book Day 2011 issue of 2000 AD featured "Obmoz™ Battles the Twinklie® Winkler!", in which a camp Silver Age villain in a typical 2000 AD Dystopia steals the official Government™ snackfood, only to be stopped by the Government™'s zombie crimefighter, Obmoz™. Rather permenantly.
Obmoz™: Light, tasty skull ... creamy brain filling!
- Double Subverted in a Captain SNES crossover with a good deal of Lampshading. The Captain engages a Magus/Lavos hybrid after the original party was wiped out. Alex offers Mavos a SNES' Fruit Pie, to which Mavos is disgusted at the blatant product placement. He takes it anyways and finds they are actually pretty good, but will still eat Alex's soul regardless. Then it turns out Alex spiked the fruit pies with Chocopectate and sends Mavos running toward the nearest bathroom.
- In Space Beasts, during a chase scene, Big Bad Bimbolurlina stops chasing the Fellowship crew for....Delicious Big Johnny's Ham Sandwiches
- The first issue of Limekiller At Large opens with an ad for "Lil' Dolly Fruit Pies".
- Parodied by Let's Be Friends Again, wherein we are shown the relevance of Hostess Fruit Pies to the death of Gwen Stacy.
- Surprisingly played straight in one of the Justice League of America Famous Friends Subway ad insert comics from 2011, when the possibility of getting a sandwich distracts Black Manta from his actual plan.
- One of the characters in Lethargic Lad always attempts to stop the villains by throwing snackfood cakes at them, and is always baffled when this fails to work.
- One issue of The Powerpuff Girls comic ends this way. After several pages of the girls fighting Mojo Jojo in a power suit, the girls get him to surrender with 'Mostest Fruit Pies' in a finale that pretty much rips off the Dexter's Laboratory example.