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Brian Sternberg (WSJ) reports on the rise of product placement in comic books, including the Nike logo’s recent appearances in Marvel comics like New X-Men. In some ways, the only thing new about this is the money changing hands, as real-life products have popped up here and there in some comics artwork before. What is significantly new, however, is the merger of superhero and product from the moment of inception, as in DC’s forthcoming Rush City, a mini-series in which the hero is placed behind the wheel of a new Pontiac Solstice. (Well, I should say that it’s new for a non-toy product to be wrapped into the creative process like this, as fans of The Micronauts and ROM would otherwise be quick to remind me.) Pontiac isn’t the only automaker getting in on the act, either:

“Last week, DaimlerChrysler AG’s Dodge finalized an ad pact that will include product placements in Marvel comics. Marvel, home of Spider-Man, Captain America and Sub-Mariner, may feature Dodge’s new car, the Caliber, in the books’ cityscapes, including on billboards, T-shirts or signs over the next four to eight months, Joe Maimone, Marvel’s advertising director, says.”

hulkfruitpies.jpgDodge execs have to be counting their blessings that the Hulk is currently stranded on an alien planet light-years away from Earth and won’t be around to smash their lovely new cars. It’s interesting to note that Maimone frames Marvel’s competition not so much as other comics companies, but laddie mags like FHM or Maxim; also worth noting is that the story’s Comic Book Guy stand-in predictably moans about how all this commercialism “taints the experience” of comics reading. As if years of superheroes hawking snack foods hadn’t already done that

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