Okay, so Bazooka gum isn’t the first commercially produced bubble gum, nor is it the first to contain a comic strip on the wrapper. That hasn’t stopped it, however, from becoming an iconic candy for well over a half century. It’s about as American as apple pie and Chevrolet, with its patriotic red, white and blue wrapper and its availability in just about every drug store for a mere penny or two. As a result, it’s mere appearance unfailingly brings back fond memories of childhood to anyone who ever took a moment to read a Bazooka Joe comic or save up a stack of the wrappers to turn them in for a prize. (more after the break)
Bazooka was one of the first successful products introduced by the Brooklyn-based Topps Company, who would later become very well known for their line of sports-related trading cards, notably baseball. The small rectangular slabs of pink, sugary gum were first introduced towards the end of WWII, when rationing of sugar and latex were finally relaxed. A few years later, in 1953, Topps decided to introduce the world to their mascot, Bazooka Joe, an eyepatch-wearing character who appeared in hundreds of comic strips hidden on the inside of the gum wrapper. One of the most recognizable ad characters of all time, he was an instant hit among kids, who loved his comical, lighthearted adventures. Even more so, they loved the fact that by saving up numerous wrappers, this paper bounty could be exchanged via mail for some fun prizes.
Over the years, bubble gum technology became more advanced, and Joe had an onslaught of competitors to contend with, but Bazooka has managed to hold its own and is still popular around the world. New flavors have been introduced over the years, including Cherry Berry, Strawberry Shake, Watermelon Whirl and others, but it is the good ol’ fashioned original recipe that remains one of the most recognizable flavors of all time. And the comics from yesteryear remain enormously popular on the collector’s market, fetching surprisingly high prices on places such as Ebay.
For a simple slab of pink flavored rubber, the legacy of Bazooka bubble gum endures and has earned a rightful place in pop culture history. And, it is quite refreshing to realize that, after some 60 years, the original product remains virtually unchanged. It might not be the first, it might not even be the softest, but one taste can send you traveling back into the simpler times of childhood, when a handful of pennies could buy a lot of gum.