Scott and Dan have teamed up to review old school comic books, magazine, and miscellany! Dan will be providing his extensive collection and existing reviews, which Scott will be taking and – along with his own collection – providing some commentary on. Enjoy!

The Adventures of Jell-O Man and Wobbly #1

story by Michael J. Pellowski
interior story art by Richard Howell
cover and advertising art by Ken Steacy
logo by Gary Robertson
published by Welsh Publishing Group, Inc.
dated 1991

The cover to my copy of THE ADVENTURES OF JELL-O MAN AND WOBBLY #1. Copyright 1991 Kraft General Foods, Inc.

The cover to my copy of THE ADVENTURES OF JELL-O MAN AND WOBBLY #1. Copyright 1991 Kraft General Foods, Inc.

I’m not sure how readily I should admit this, but I remember reading The Adventures of Jell-O Man and Wobbly #1 as a kid. A lot. Why? Because, probably as part of some School Cafeteria Lunch corporate agreement, there was a copy of it in my elementary school’s library. I distinctly recall that, for some reason, I checked it out nearly a dozen times.

Until I discovered this copy at the Clifton Blvd. location of Big Fun, all I could remember was the cover. After flipping through it a few times I can sort of see how 1991 Scott may have been caught up in the crazy colors, product familiarity, and clumsy dinosaurs.

2013 Scott is not so amused.

If you’re trying to wrap your head around just what the heck this comic consists of, imagine an expanded version of those Hostess Snack Cake ads that would run in old Marvel and DC comic books. Its goal is the same, and the content makes about as much sense.

Before reading this issue again for the first time in over 20 years, I really expected that when I wrote this review I would lay into it for being a terrible corporate ploy (nostalgia has clearly not done Jell-O Man and Wobbly any favors in my mind). The first breadcrumbs I jumped on were the “First Issue! Collector’s Edition!” emblazoned on the front, which tries to get you to believe there will be a second issue in this long-planned ongoing series. And in the upper left corner it actually says “A $1.25 Value” – so that any poor parent who gets handed this for free can take solace in thinking, when they hand it to their child, that they’ve just saved the $1.25 they would have otherwise spent on some other actual comic for their kid.

I’ll get into the substance of The Adventures of Jell-O Man and Wobbly #1’s interior – and what actually terrifies me about the book – in a moment. But first I have to say that, after reading the stories within, my fervor for blasting away at the corporate propaganda undermining people’s childhood waned. Why?

Well, one problem is that I actually read the comic book as a kid, and since I’ve not become some sort of Jell-O obsessed slave (I didn’t eat it when I was young, and I couldn’t tell you the last time I actually had any as an adult) I can’t really claim it effected anyone in the way Kraft General Foods’ marketers may have wanted it to. Or in a positive way, either.

Beyond that, the other reason my desire to cry out in disgust at the comic’s corporate invasiveness dried up is because of the amount of Jell-O references in the story. Not because there isn’t a ton of Jell-O brand product placement inside, but because the number of Jell-O references are so ridiculously obvious and numerous that this could not possibly be confused as anything other than a giant advertisement. Inspector Gadget was better gifted at subtlety and subterfuge, and his unnatural alterations much better hidden.

Reading the comic and getting angry over the product placement found throughout is like swimming with sharks and getting angry when one bites you; it’s purpose and goals are made perfectly clear from the start, and being upset or shocked when it does the one thing it is designed to do just makes you look like a fool.

Honestly, in a way, The Adventures of Jell-O Man and Wobbly #1 is actually less corporately subversive than those Hostess Snack Cake ads. They tried to sneak in their marketing as if it was part of a larger story, and implied that the dessert itself – which you could buy in any store – was all one needed to stop a rampaging super villain. I’m surprised nobody ever tried throwing one at a robber, got shot, and sued Hostess. At least Jell-O is clear in their comic that an anthropomorphic hard-light hologram with free will is required to actually fight crime.

And that’s the aspect that starts to terrify me. Jell-O Man and Wobbly live in a world where multi-million dollar experimental accidents, where life was granted to the inanimate, are allowed to casually stroll away. Where a robot gets jealous of children eating Jell-O and reroutes the entire world’s supply to be delivered to itself…in a locked down Jell-O owned lab which has ready-to-eat pudding just sitting in open bowls inside cabinets. Yes, I know some of these things – like the scientists named Dr. Goodtaste and Snackens – could seem like a throwback to some of the Golden Age goofiness that brought us the most beloved superheroes running around today. But those stories had a twisted internal logic to them.

The Adventures of Jell-O Man and Wobbly #1 makes no attempt to create internal logic to its absurdity. It is not even presented as parody or comedy. When Jell-O Man needs to get into a rooftop air vent, of course there’s a box of spare parts nearby, and of course they contain springs. This isn’t a wink and a nod to the audience, this is “here’s how we’re solving our contrived situation.” And even then the springs are clearly the kind that are meant to stretch and bring objects back together, not expand and cause our heroes to jump at great heights. It is sort of an important detail that goes overlooked, and the book is filled with these gaping holes of basic reason in the series of events presented to us.

The most mind-blowing example of this “plot without regard to thought” is when the chef (who has a French accent, of course) of a Natural History Museum discovers that all the Jell-O desserts are missing. One of the kids on the class field trip happens to know Jell-O Man’s phone number. Jell-O Man and Wobbly are then air dropped at the museum, where they proceed to determine that the culprit has not had enough time to escape the building.

Now, first of all, do all children know Jell-O Man’s phone number? Or just this kid? Do they know each other? If so, how? Is the kid a local that Jell-O Man has met around town? And, thinking about the logic of the air drop, let’s assume that after getting the call Jell-O Man then has to walk and/or taxi to an airport, go through (the admittedly less stringent in 1991) security, get on his plane, wait for clearance for take off, take off, fly over the museum, and then wait for his parachute to bring him down to the ground. Even if Jell-O Man has some sort of private airport or aircraft (and if he has this, why doesn’t he have a car?), this would certainly give our master criminal – who is an actual living, breathing dinosaur, by the way – plenty of time to escape.

On the other hand, the villain’s brain is the size of a walnut.

But still, when the Chef says he only stepped away from the Jell-O for two minutes and Jell-O Man concludes that this is not enough time for the culprit to escape, how can you ignore all the time that also passed just to get to the museum?

But get this. After all of that we find out at the end of the story that Jell-O Man needs a ride back to town with the teacher and her class on the school bus because, well, he’s only come as far as the nearby town. Does he somehow have an air drop service, but no car? Could he have not gone to the museum via the same method that got him to the airport? I know it’s the 90s, so nobody cares about all the airplane fuel he just used up to travel just a few miles, but seriously? And what would he do if there as a Jell-O emergency on the other side of the globe?

God, my brain hurts. I think I’m going to pass on even trying to analyze how Jell-O Man can introduce Jell-O to an alien planet, or why the aliens can remove their heads, or why one of Jell-O Man’s villains would bother following him to a planet with a limited supply of Jell-O and not stay on Earth to steal as much of it as he can while the substance’s sole protector is on another fricking planet.


I can see why Michael J. Pellowski seems to have more bar trivia and wacky joke books under his name than comic books (based on my “extensive” research on, but I’ll cut him some slack; I don’t expect he was worried about putting on his High Quality Hat for this job. And I do have to give him credit for the best double-entendre I have heard in a while. After Jello-O Man defeats Snackosaurus and asks for a ride on the bus, the fairly attractive blonde teacher at first turns down Jell-O Man, saying the bus is full. He then puts his hands to his hips, leans in, nudges her with an elbow, raises an eyebrow, and says, “Aw, c’mon…there’s always room for Jell-O!”

Bravo, Mr. Pellowski, bravo.

Despite the low quality of the writing, the artist talent was not skimped on for The Adventures of Jell-O Man and Wobbly #1. Cover artist Ken Steacy created a pretty dynamic cover, and he may be better known for his work on NOW Comics’ Astro Boy.

The interior art is colorful, clean, and consistent, a welcome surprise from something that could have been acceptably slapdash. Richard Howell makes it obvious he did not phone this in, filling panels with detailed backgrounds (incorrect springs not withstanding) and keeping the human characters recognizable from panel to panel and angle to angle. As someone who has drawn for an impressive number of books and publishers I am really not surprised that even this project was given real effort and care (I’ll also be happy to revisit his work when I get to reviewing my issue of Soulsearchers and Company). I have to give my respect to Mr. Howell for putting in the quality that he did.

In fact, the only problem with the art (both cover and interior) looks to be from Welsh Publishing not knowing how to select a printing size, which has created a strip of blank paper down the right side of the cover art. Seriously, go back up and check the image – that white bar down the right side is not from me not knowng how to properly crop an image. I actually had to go back and redo the JPG because I snipped it off the first time. Honestly, I’ve seen (almost all) hand-made zines apply more care to their covers than this comic had.

So, at the end of the day, what does all of this mean for my final opinion of The Adventures of Jell-O Man and Wobbly #1 and what you should do if you stumble across a copy?

Well, as I said, it’s purpose as corporate propaganda is so front-and-center that raising a fuss about it is pointless. I’m actually a little sad to say that, despite the quality of art, the writing is terrible to the point that it isn’t even amusing. If Mr. Pellowski had included more touches along the line of “over the heads of children but into the minds of adults” like his “Always room for…” line, maybe I could recommend it. Maybe if there was some outdated references that a contemporary reader could find absolutely hilarious in 21st century context I recommend picking it up.

But, sadly, The Adventures of Jell-O Man and Wobbly #1 offers nothing more than a Jell-O ad filled with talking logos and terrible contrivances. Even I, with the benefit of a past connection and a semblance of nostalgia, find it difficult to be happy with owning it. In the way that after the first lick of ice cream subsequent licks don’t make you more excited or astounded by what you have, reading issue #1 doesn’t create any more amazement about its existence than what you get from just seeing the cover. Given the chance to pull out one comic book from my collection to say, “Hey, have you ever seen this?” The Adventures of Jell-O Man and Wobbly #1 would be low on my list.

The Bottom Line: If found, leave it in the long box.