21+ Amusing Examples of Advertisements in the Backgrounds of Alan Moore’s Top 10
1+. Various subway ads
Top 10 was a limited series penned by Alan Moore and published by America’s Best Comics in 1999. The book’s title is the nickname for the 10th Precinct, a police station in a city where everyone — cops, criminals, civilians, even pets and household vermin — dress like superheroes and have super-powers. Sounds cool, right? You’d think so, but part of the genius of the book’s set-up is that it plays the concept completely straight; sure, everyone is flying around and rubbing elbows with Norse gods and talking dogs, but they still have to deal with the mundane aspects of everyday life, like sitting in traffic, filing paperwork, attending staff meetings… and advertising. In the first issue, the very first panel shows a rookie police officer taking the subway to her first day at her new job, and above the riders’ heads are the kinds of subways ads you might expect in a city crammed with superheroes, including ads for Action Insurance (complete with a tip of the hat to the first issue of Action Comics), Phone Booth (a clothing shop for heroes in need of an outfit change) and Logan’s DNA Dietary Supplement (“With Extra Adamantium!”).
2. Crimson Cape Catering
“Let us cater for your Crisis or Crossover!” And now I can’t get this image out of my mind of the Monitor from Crisis on Infinite Earths fussing over his canapés, and worrying that he didn’t order enough pigs in a blanket for all his guests.
3. Yggrasil Apartments
An obvious take on those “If you lived here, you’d be home by now” signs put outside apartment and condo complexes near busy roadways. Yggdrasil is a reference to the giant tree in Norse legend that binds the Nine Worlds together; I like how this is a twist on the arboreal names given to apartment buildings and housing developments in our world, like “Shady Pines” and “Whispering Willows.”
4. Businessman: The Movie
This billboard (with an obvious dig at the famous line from the first Superman movie) answers the question of what kind of movies would be popular in a world where everyone is a superhero. Coming next summer to a theatre near you: Magazine Intern, Insurance Claims Adjuster, Gas Meter Reader and Administrative Assistant II: Outlook for Disaster!
5. Elastic Stan’s Furniture
A rare (as in, the only one I can find) example of a Top 10 advertisement conflating two comic icons, this is a storefront sign for a furniture store that combines Stan Lee and Plastic Man into one (no doubt excessively alliterative) corporate mascot.
6. The New Fjord Justice
Any resemblance to the Batmobile from the Tim Burton movies is, of course, entirely coincidental. But now that I think about it… where did Batman get all those wonderful toys? It’s not like he could have walked down to a Fjord dealership to take a look at the latest models, and I have a hard time imaging Bruce Wayne creating those tail fins from scratch just because they looked cool.
8. Los Hermanos Hernandez
A quick shout-out to the Hernandez brothers of Love and Rockets fame; “embarcadores” is Spanish for “shippers,” marking this as some kind of import/export firm or a gathering place for people who really want two fictional characters to get jiggy with it (wait, do the kids still say “jiggy” these days?).
9. Kirby Dots
Hey, who doesn’t love Dippin’ Dots? Apparently, people in Neopolis, where Kirby Dots are the preferred brand of novelty “ice cream of the future” snacks. “Kirby Dots” is a reference to the practice of using dots to illustrate crackles of energy, as first depicted by Jack Kirby and since copied by many others.
10. Non-Rip Fabric Gamma Pants
+25 points for the “You wouldn’t like me when I’m naked” tagline. Come to think of it, I always did wonder where Dr. Banner went shopping for pants that always managed to stay on no matter how many times he Hulked out.
11. Red K Kola
We see a couple of panels featuring vending machines selling Red K Kola throughout the series, in addition to this billboard sighting. Funny how they didn’t go with “Green K Kola,” since green kryptonite is the form that makes Superman weaker, not Red K… yeah, I know, I’m overthinking it.
What I liked about Top 10 — and Astro City, too, now that I think about it — is how the creators took the time to honor all kinds of great comic writers and artists, not just the ones who are still famous among casual modern-day fans. This sign on a hamburger stand is a nod to Kurt Schaffenberger, an artist best known for his work on DC’s Superman titles (including a decade drawing Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane) and on Captain Marvel tales for both Fawcett and DC.
15. Soylent Green: Now in Cans!
A rare advertisement referencing a sci-fi movie with no comic book connections, this ad is (I’m guessing) saying that Soylent Green is “for people who love people.” Would it be a spoiler if I explained to people not familiar with that film why that tagline is funny? If so, too bad: “SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!!!”
16. “The Natural Wingtip”
I can’t quite make out the name for this brand of hair conditioner (HOI-8?), but I love the idea of marketing a hair product specifically for those superhero types with decidedly odd hairstyles, like a certain short Canadian I could mention. How much time do you think he spends in the bathroom getting those tufts just the way he likes them?
17. Holland’s Swamp Tubers
Not one of the more clever allusions to a comic book character — it’s pretty clear this is meant to be a reference to DC’s Swamp Thing — but I’ll include this one in the list just for the sheer risqué-ness of it. Given the fact it’s hard to find stores in the real world that specialize in selling “swamp tubers,” I’m guessing this is a reference to a famous Swamp Thing story in which he and his human companion consummate their marriage by eating a hallucinogenic tuber that Swamp Thing grows from his body. If this store is selling that kind of product to the citizens of Neopolis, then it’s probably doing very well in sales.
19. Vacation on Infinite Earths
The best part of this poster advertising an inter-dimensional travel agency? The figure leading the conga line who looks a lot like Pariah. Anyone who read the Crisis on Infinite Earths series from the ’80s will remember that guy as the sad sack scientist damned to witness the destruction of world after world and powerless to do anything about it. DC brought him back decades later only to kill him off, then dug him up again for the Blackest Night crossover. So it’s nice to see the guy having some fun for a change.
20. Ex-Verminator Services
Whoa, hey, now. Some of us like our radioactive spiders and career-defining bats, thank you very much, and actually wouldn’t mind seeing one or two of those show up on our own doorsteps. On the other hand, imagine all the clone sagas and Joel Schumacher films we could have averted if a superhero exterminator had been on the job when Pete and Bruce could have used one…
21. Paradise Pads
Lest you think billboards and store signs are the only types of advertising featured in Top 10, here’s an ad for Paradise Pads that plays on the radio while one of the Top 10’s officers goes through her morning routine. And suddenly I have this vision of statuesque women on a remote island showing up for the morning shift at the Paradise Pad factory. Makes sense; after all, something’s got to pay for all those invisible planes.