Watch your hand there, Cliffy.

§ April 26th, 2023 § Filed under advertising § 6 Comments

So I was processing a whole bunch of 1950s Western comics (stuff like Lash Larue and Gene Autry) when I came across this ad in one of them:

Pic’s a little askew since I took it with my cellphone instead of scanning it properly. Ah well, good enough. But looking at the ad had me wondering just want kind of puppets you’d get for a quarter and a couple of candy bar wrappers. Even in 1950s money, I don’t think 25 cents would result in full-on high quality marionettes.

Anyway, say you were a big fan of the Super Circus TV show, and you were itching to make Mary Hartline and Cliffy the Clown to do anything you want them to do. (“Anythinnnnnng?” [steeples fingers]) Thus, following the ad’s suggestion, you ask your Mom and/or Dad how you can earn that money, and three weeks later, after you’ve finished building the bomb shelter in the backyard, you get that shiny coin in your hand, pack it along with those grubby candy wrappers and send off to Chicago for your wonderful prizes.

And what you got, after they rushed you your Mary and Cliffy puppets 8 to 12 weeks later, were these (courtesy scans I found on the eBays):

The full color fronts:

And the Grant Morrison Doom Patrol-looking backs:

Okay, yes, they’re just flat jointed cardboard things, like those Halloween skeleton decorations you’d put on your door or in a window or whatever. And they only seem to be strung at the shoulders, so I’m guessing the joints are at least a little loose so that the limbs would flop around as you bounced the handle. Or they were reasonably stiff so you could pose them as you like before amazing the family.

At any rate, I know the proper response is “whaddaya want for a quarter (and two wrappers)” but I am sure there were at least some kids imagining that they’d be receiving something a little more…substantial. Or maybe at the time this was the state of the art in mail-away TV show tie-in puppetry and what kids got was exactly what they expected. Look, I’m no puppet expert.

It was satisfying, however, to find this ad in a 70+ year old comic, wonder about what the actual product looked like, and then immediately find out via an online search. What a world, what a world.

6 Responses to “Watch your hand there, Cliffy.”

  • Sean Mageean says:

    It looks like Mary Hartline beat Power Girl to the whole “boob window” thing by about 20 years…and Cliffy the Clown predates Obnoxio the Clown…

    I remember interviewing Russ Heath several years ago, before he passed on, and one of the things we talked about is how many tens of thousands of children must have been vastly disappointed when their 132 Roman Soldiers packages arrived–his highly detailed, vibrant art in the advertisement featured in endless Silver and early Bronze Age comics made them look so cool, but in reality they were tiny, chintzy bas-relief plastic pieces of crap.

  • Snark Shark says:


    “Russ Heath”


    “132 Roman Soldiers”

    I always wondered about those things!

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Looking more closely at the advertisement…is it my imagination, or did Snickers used to be thicker in the ’50s??? Also, I love how it says: “Marvelous Candy Bars from Mars.”

  • Snark Shark says:

    “did Snickers used to be thicker in the ’50s”

    I think everything was thicker in the 50’s!

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Snark Shark:

    — true dat! Comics ‘n’ cars for sure! And the hustle and the rustle of Jane Russell’s bustle!

  • Snark Shark says:

    I’m certainly thicker in my 50’s. And also 40’s!