by Eva Pasco, author of "Underlying Notes"
“Ma, I saw a dog as BIG as a house!”
“Pesty, must you exaggerate? I told you a MILLION times not to.” (D2
Bazooka Joe and his gang’s corny humor kept our pink doublewide Bazooka
bubble gum under wraps inside a tiny wax paper comic. The eye-patched ringleader’s motley crew included:
sombreroed Pesty; Mort, a gangly dude who always wears his red turtleneck
sweater pulled up over his mouth; Joe’s tubby pal, Hungry Herman; Joes’s girlfriend
Jane; sailor-hatted Toughie; Walkie Talkie, the
neighborhood mutt. The Topps Company developed Bazooka Bubble Gum after the end of World War II, its name a
derivative of the musical instrument Bob Burns fashioned from two gas pipes and a funnel in the 1930s, as well
as the armor-piercing weapon developed during the war. First introduced in 1953, Topps has developed more than
700 comics for the Bazooka Joe series. The 1960s ushered in the D Series (2-61). Beginning in 1962 the comics
would shrink to half their original size.
Before Beatlemania took America by fan frenzy in the Sixties, there was “Bubblemania.” Hubba Bubba! Grab your
Bazooka. Gingerly remove the outer red, white, and blue packaging to spare the comic. Take turns reading your comic
out loud. Save it for posterity or for wrapping up your wad of gum much later. Chew, chew, and chew until you
remove all the sweetness from the distinctive bubblicious flavor of wintergreen, peppermint, vanilla, and cinnamon.
Blow the biggest bubble you can stretch, while your friends cheer you on.
Let’s face it, as exciting as the domination game of “rock, paper, scissors” could be, the sport of bubble blowing
held a thrill of danger if your bubble burst, gum got stuck in your hair, and Mom had no other recourse but to grab
the scissors. At least if the pink smeared all over your face, you could use part of your moistened gum like a “gum
eraser” to remove the sticky residue.
I hate to burst your Sixties bubble, but look what’s under wrap now: Though Bazooka has kept its standard bubble
gum flavor, it now bursts with Strawberry Shake, Cherry Berry, Watermelon Whirl, and Grape Rage. The gum texture is
a little softer. Sugar free versions are available. I understand the comics are now printed directly on the inside
of the wrapper, and are a blue monochrome. Bazooka Joe remains a constant, but his gang has new recruits: Casey,
Wolfgang, Cindy, DJ, Kevin, and Jake. What is this world coming to?