NEW YORK – Bazooka Gum is now 75 years old. The bubble gum brand, best known for dry joke comics and a sort of hard initial chew that eventually satisfies, is now its own company.
The brand debuted in 1947, a product of the Brooklyn gum company Topps. It was named after the World War II gun, with deliberately patriotic colors. It introduced the comics in 1953.
Its main competitor through the 20th century was Philadelphia based Fleer, maker of Dubble Bubble. The chief difference between the two was that Bazookas were a small rectangle, and Dubble Bubble was in a twisted wrapper. In the 1970s, the harder bubble gum took a back seat to Bubble Yum and Bubblicious, two bubble gums that had a softer feel, and were easier for an initial chew.
These new gums also came in a package, rather than being sold individually. This proved impossible for grocery and convenience stores, as the individual gums had no room for a UPC tag.
In January 2022, Former Disney CEO Michael D. Eisner’s Tornante Company and Madison Dearborn Partners sold the the sports division of Topps Inc. to Fanatics. They renamed the remaining company The Bazooka Companies Inc.
This fall, for their 75th anniversary, they have a promotion with Birch Coffee House locations. From Nov. 7 to 21, a wrapper will get fans a free cup of coffee.
Rebuild After Inattention
The company has been slowly rebuilding after coasting on its household name status, and living in the shadow of Topps, which focused on the odd and different economics of the collector market. They even dropped the comics and Bazooka Joe in 2012.
In the last five years, they have begun to reinvent the brand, all the while keeping it wholesome. In 2019, the company introduced the Bazooka Throwback pack. It featured the brand’s original packaging and old-school, dry comic strips, as well as Bazooka Bubble Gum wrapped in those classic comics.
On Father’s Day in 2021, they introduced a Dad Joke campaign. For generations, the Bazooka comic’s appeal has been its groaning, dry humor. Many saw the comics as outdated, and too “clean” and old fashioned. However, the collector market saw value in the comics. And the advent of the “dad joke” recast the appeal of all of the old comics. In the campaign, the company brought in names like Anthony Anderson, Sean Astin, Jon Lovitz, Dolph Lundgren and Charles Shaughnessy.
The current website has blown up the role of Bazooka Joe, who is now in videos. The wrapper comics happen to translate perfectly to social media and Instagram. Not only are they colorful, but timeless.
There are over 1,500 different “Bazooka Joe” comic-strip wrappers. Characters in the comics include Joe and Pesty, Joe’s brother Mort, Hungry Herman, Joe’s friend, and Jane, Joe’s girlfriend. There is also Tuffy, who wears a sailor hat, and a dog, Walkie Talkie.
The comic is credited to Topps product managers Woody Gelman and Ben Solomon. The comic itself was originally drawn and created by artist Wesley Morse (1897-1963), who also created a character for Popsicles, and illustrated for magazines like Collier’s. Many of the original comics were based on his son, Talley Morse.
Bazooka Candy Brands is a division of The Bazooka Companies, Inc. Products include Ring Pop, Push Pop, Baby Bottle Pop, Juicy Drop Pop. www.bazookacandybrands.com.