14+ Gainfully Employed Super-Villains Who Moonlighted as Guest Villains in at Least One Hostess Snack Cake Ad
For the uninitiated: there was a time in the ’70s and early ’80s when our superheroes picked up a little extra cash by shilling for Hostess. Batman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man and many others touted the crime-busting goodness of Twinkies, cupcakes, and fruit pies whilst battling the daffiest super-villains ever conceived: a misguided fellow (“the Chairman!”) who turned people into chairs, a city employee (“the Bureauc-rat!”) who threatened to bury his city in a literal sea of red tape, a gangster (“Peachy Keen!”) who really loved peaches, that sort of thing. The ridiculousness of the premise demanded ridiculous villains to make it work… but every so often, a bona fide super-villain from the comic pages would also stop by, presumably in search of an easy payday. Easily the most famous of these slumming ne’er-do-wells was the Joker, who used his starring role in a few Hostess ads to shower fruit pies upon police and onlookers while attempting his getaway. Funny thing: in the ad above, he claimed he didn’t keep any of the pies for himself because he doesn’t like them (“Wow! He is crazy!” says one judgmental cop), while in another he’s enjoying a post-arrest fruit pie break in the back of the paddy wagon. Yeah, he’s a wild and crazy guy, I get that… but surely a little consistency in the depiction of our favorite characters’ snack food preferences isn’t too much to ask.
Not to be outshone, the Penguin, another of Batman’s arch-nemeses, also appeared in a few Hostess ads. In “Penguins on Parade,” he uses mechanical Emperor penguins to distract the citizenry whilst he attempts to steal a precious sword; “Twinkieless Gotham City” finds him plotting to hoard the city’s Twinkie
supply by hypnotizing Hostess delivery men (um… okay); and “The Cuckoo Cuckoos” features flying cuckoo clocks terrorizing Gotham and pillaging at will. It’s the last one that should have tipped the feds to illegal drug use amond DC’s artists, in that the cuckoos in the clocks are seen to both talk and lust after the taste of Hostess fruit pies. Obviously, they’re not mechanical if they’re that easily distracted by promises of partially hydrogenated fruit snacks. But if they’re real birds acting under the Penguin’s control, then why would he waste time teaching them how to verbally express their material desires? How could they be so easily led astray by packaged desserts if the Penguin could command them with his umbrella? Come to think of it, why would Gothamites flee in hand-over-the-city terror from a bunch of flying clocks? Sure, they’re sprouting wings and bird feet, but they’re still only clocks, unless they come with little retractable machine guns and flamethrowers that we can’t see.
The third of Batman’s archest of arch-villains, Catwoman apparently passed on the chance to guest-star in a Hostess ad of her own. But the jungle cats were already rented and the Teamsters were on the clock, so the Hostess people made some last-minute script changes and stuck Catman in there instead. No, he only looks like an embarrassing afterthought — there really is a Catman in the comics, and he first appeared in 1963 as a big-game hunter turned thrill-seeking criminal. Probably because he outright stole Catwoman’s gimmick right down to the cat-themed capers, he spent a long time in the minors as one of Batman’s less celebrated adversaries. He’s experienced a few highs and lows in his costumed career since then; this ad probably counts as one of the lowest. Apparently, his “love of darkness” is all it takes for him to lower his guard and hungrily devour chocolate treat while Robin — Robin, fer crissakes! — ties him to a tree with his five jungle cats. Which should make things very entertaining for the arresting officers when they arrive on the scene.
Speaking of cat people. The Cheetah was one of William Marston Moulton’s more inspired creations; after all, what’s a comic strip about a bondage-loving gal in hot pants without an archenemy sporting claws and a skintight catsuit? (All that’s missing is a climactic showdown at the local massage oil factory.) Depending on which incarnation you go with, the Cheetah is either a bored socialite suffering from a split personality, a brainwashed dupe, the prettiest member of the Legion of Doom (sorry, Giganta), or a deranged archaeologist using mystical means to become a savage were-cheetah. Regardless of which version you go with, her spots and commitment to form-fitting costumes are the two most consistent things about her, which makes the casually attired Cheetah here a bit of a disappointment. Wonder Woman lassos panther, sneaks into house, knocks out panther, captures woman enjoying a carefree moment while wearing thigh boots and dressing gown… yeah, it’s kinda kinky, but really not up to the high standards of kinkiness we’ve come to expect from the folks over at Wonder Woman Inc.
5. Mirror Master
First off, let’s get this out of the way: what the hell is Mirror Master doing fighting anyone who isn’t the Flash? Okay, on to more pressing business; namely, what in God’s name is going on here? If I understand this scene correctly, Green Lantern used his ring to create a cage out of light… but because Mirror Master is the master of all mirrors, he reflects the light cage back onto the hero and ensnares Green Lantern. And so it’s up to a couple of kids walking by Mirror Master’s hideout to use their golden Twinkies (*editor’s note: Green Lantern’s ring is ineffective against anything artificially colored yellow) to stop Green Lantern’s beam and foil Mirror Master’s evil plan of… whatever he was up to before Green Lantern arrived. Hey, you know what else can stop Green Lantern’s ring beam? Green Lantern thinking he should turn the damn thing off! I hear that’s one of the handier features of a ring that’s powered by the user’s will. Or maybe Green Lantern conveniently “forgot” that feature because he was too busy thinking of ways to con those kids out of their Twinkies: “Thanks for the assist, kids! Hey, you don’t mind if I feed the costumed maniac one of your Twinkies, do you? There’s a good lad.”
The Trapster is one of those Marvel super-villains that really should have consulted a marketing expert before embarking on a life of crime. An expert in adhesives, he turned down lucrative gigs at Elmer’s and Dow Chemical to get his butt kicked by whichever hero happened to come his way; I’m sure I could find the story chronicling his defeat at the hands of Aunt May, if I look hard enough. Even sadder than his long history of loserdom is the fact his Hostess debut didn’t even acknowledge his trademark mastery of mucilage; no, in “Fury Unleashed!,” he’s just another generic criminal mastermind who’s apparently just really into traps. Not so much that you would guess that from this ad, of course; the only traplike things to be seen in his secret lair are the bald goon’s hands around Nick Fury’s throat. Not even a frickin’ trap door to be seen, for crying out loud! But then, given the look of his lair — bare metal walls and floors, easily punched doors, a distinct lack of furniture or equipment — a minimalist approach is probably what the Trapster was going for. That, or his plan to have Fury strangled was just the first in a series of diabolical steps towards scoring some tasteful accents.
7+. League of Assassins
Organized by Batman uber-baddie R’as al-Ghul, the League of Assassins is exactly what you’d expect: a group of people who are really, really good at killing people. They were hardcore, too: if any of them failed in their assignments, they were tracked down and killed by the other members of the league (which probably made for awkward moments during campus recruitment drives). They weren’t fussy about the types of assassins they allowed in the club; some were hands-on martial arts types, while others were proficient with bows, guns and, for all I know, sporks. In this ad, we see a trio of nondescript martial artists taking on Batman at the same time, no doubt expecting the world’s foremost hand-to-hand combatant to cower at the sight of their bare feet and white belts. Things go about as well as you would expect (“Hey, Hostess Twinkies! Let’s take a quick break from mercilessly pummeling our foe to… hey, how did we get tied up like this?”), with Batman announcing at the end of the story he can “head home” now that the assassins are “all wrapped up” (well, more like tied up, but why quibble). It’s that last line that strikes me as delightfully prosaic, as if Batman had already punched his time card and was heading for the door after a long day of Bat-busting his chops when these three assassins showed up and were the only thing keeping Batman from hitting the couch with a cold one in one hand and a remote in the other: “Survivor time is Batman’s time, bitches!”
8. Red Skull
How evil is the Red Skull? He’s so evil, he once described Hitler as an “underachiever.” He’s so evil, he tells his own kids stories about himself to get them to behave. He’s so evil, he once planned to take over the United States just prior to its bicentennial celebration for the sole reason of depriving patriotic kids of big fireworks shows and pieces of flag-shaped cakes. And he’s so evil, he kidnaps his biggest archenemy just so Cap can witness the Skull’s dastardly scheme. Okay, so maybe that last one wasn’t so much “evil” as “blindingly stupid,” but how was the Red Skull supposed to know Cap keeps emergency Twinkies on him at all times? And how could he possibly have known his “can-do-anything” Cosmic Cube would pick this precise moment to make like a snack-deprived henchman and betray him at the merest hint of smooth creamed filling (even though, technically, the cube doesn’t have a mouth that we can see)? Even master criminals can’t foresee every conceivable flaw in their plans.
Nitro is yet another C-level Marvel super-villain with a gimmick (he can blow himself up and then reconstitute his molecules) who has exactly two claims to fame: he accidentally caused the cancer that took Captain Marvel’s life, and one of his accidental explosions near a school in Stamford, Conn., ignited the events in Marvel’s Civil War mini-series a few years back. “Accidental evil” is still evil, I guess. Like the Trapster, his modus operandi has undergone a slight change for his Hostess ad debut, in that he’s gone from blowing himself up to blowing up random things like the ocean floor. How a massive explosion in the middle of the ocean is supposed to flood the world — or how Nitro intends to profit from submerging the world and all its money — is never really spelled out. Nor is it really explained how Captain Marvel knows that leading Nitro and his henchmen towards a big pile of Twinkies will make them forget their plan to destroy the world long enough for him to blow up their hideout…. or, for matter, why they wouldn’t just go ahead with their evil plan after a quick snack and a visit to their other secret hideout. Hey, here’s a crazy thought: why don’t we stop Nitro from flooding the world by reminding him that it would mean destroying the world’s supply of Twinkies? That’s the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that wins the day, Mar-Vell!
10-11. Abomination and Wendigo
Like the Hulk, the Abomination gained his powers and appearance from exposure to gamma radiation; also like the Hulk, he gained his moniker from a descriptive word used by one of the first people to see him in his new form. Makes you wonder why there aren’t more super-villains named AUUUGH!!! and Sweet Jesus, Get that Freak Away From Me! Anyway, in this episode he teams up with Wendigo — who came south to take a short break from rampaging and eating human flesh in Canada’s northern parts — to lay a severe smackdown on the Hulk. How severe? They literally left him smoking on the forest floor. Think about the last time you got your ass kicked and how, in that beaten state, you were still no closer to spontaneous combustion as you were before. Never fear, though, because along come two unsupervised forest urchins armed with the power of high-fructose corn syrup and tricalcium phosphate to help get the Hulk back into fighting form. Although, when you consider how he’s just randomly knocking down trees while he walks away — and how likely it is he’s going to cause a lot more property damage in the second round of this match — maybe we were better off leaving the Hulk in a crumpled heap on the ground. Yeah, thanks, kids. Thanks a lot.
12. The Fly
Now, I’m no guidance counsellor, but I’m pretty sure that, if you really wanted to start a career as a criminal-minded human fly, pitting yourself against someone named Spider-Man is probably not the best way to get karma on your side. Not that this MENSA candidate had a lot going for him to begin with: a small-time criminal left for dead by his colleagues, he still had enough strength to stumble into a lab and force a scientist to save his life. As luck would have it, this scientist just happened to specialize in the kind of genetic gimcrackery that bestows animal powers on humans, and so the Fly was born. Given that origin and the fact he first appeared in a 1970s Spider-man comic, he was never really destined for greatness, and no one was too upset when he got swatted (ha!) by one of Marvel’s more efficient vigilantes. This ad probably represents the zenith of his career; equipped with a fancy laboratory and restraint table, he finally gets the drop on Spider-Man, who’s apparently so punch-drunk from whatever beating the Fly just gave him that his first remark upon gaining consciousness is “Just what I’ve always wanted… to have breakfast with the Fly!” What does that mean? No, seriously, what in God’s name could that possibly mean…?
13. Man Mountain Marko
Taking second runner-up in the Marvel Character With a Name Most Likely to Sound Like a Porn Star sweepstakes (losing only to Bushmaster and Steelgrip Starkey), Man Mountain Marko isn’t one of your flashier Spider-Man villains: he’s just a big mob enforcer who’s really, really strong. Later stories had him using steroids to account for his size and strength; he then followed the same career path of so many other performance-enhanced mob enforcers to become an alcoholic professional singer. (Serious.) What I’m trying to saying here is his is not a career that has garnered a lot of respect from fans and comic writers, and so it’s not surprising to see him reduced to making a short appearance in a Hostess ad. Still, you’ve got to feel for the guy; the dude doesn’t even get a speaking part, and he’s subdued in just one panel, leaving Spider-Man free to swing home and deal with the real cold-hearted villain in this story. (Hint: it ain’t the cupcakes.)
For most of the villains on this list, you can kind of understand why they’d agree to do a Hostess ad. Trapster, Nitro, Man Mountain Marko: these are not marquee-name villains, they’re not going to get tapped for the next Marvel movie, and a gig’s a gig. But Loki? As in, the immortal trickster god and sworn enemy of the mighty Thor? That guy? Then there’s the script they gave him. So, here’s this new god who shows up in Asgard — a place, remember, where everyone and their dog is a god — and he starts demanding they all bring him offerings of Hostess cupcakes. Um… okay? So these other Asgardians — who, remember, are all actual gods — will just worship whoever shows up and threatens to turn them into cosmo-dust? And Loki can’t think of any other way to get his hands on a sample of Midgard’s dessert treats than by putting on a mask and ordering other gods to fetch them? And the other gods just went along with it? “Yeah, sure, that Loki guy came by a few hours ago and told us to bring him some of those mortal cupcakes he likes so much, but we told him to go take a hike, eh? And then this unnamed god we never saw before showed up a few minutes later and started demanding the same thing and we thought, geez, we better do what he says — because it’s those new, unnamed gods you don’t want to mess with.”