11/20/05 - Part 4 and the final article in the timeline for the Marvel Age of Military Inserts. As well as goodbye to military directed comic inserts altogether...
Military Insert Mania - Part 4
Marvel Mark Jewelers Inserts
-The Colored End of an Era-
October 1986 - July 1991
In Part 3, the Mark Jewelers (MJ) slick numbered inserts ended in Marvels cover dated September 1986. Starting the next month, October 1986, were new slick MJ inserts with one striking difference from those previously. The ad codes, used to identify different inserts and also as a tracking mechanism to identify which comics the ads came from by Mark Jewelers, disappeared. At the same time, the ads started sporting vastly different color schemes. The first inserts in the series featured colored trims surrounding the borders. This quickly morphed into solid colors being used on the whole insert. Also, the frequency in which an ad would change increased. Some of the previous ads would run in a title for as long as a year before being replaced. These new colored inserts would change on average every four months or so. Some lasted one month.
Why the change? One reason is the lack of having to track the inserts put out by different comics companies. The inserts stopped in DC comics a couple of months before this new series appeared. Marvel was now the only comics company used by Mark Jewelers to advertise their wares. Because of this, tracking various inserts by the company was probably simplified and ad codes were no longer required.
The colored inserts would run each month in 32 page Marvels for a little under 5 years. Even though some inserts can be found in Marvels cover dated July 1991, they are few and seem isolated to the Spider-Man line. The inserts were probably placed in these comics to exhaust overstock. In reality, the inserts started to phase out in May and June 1991.
Below is a typical MJ colored insert taken from Uncanny X-Men #277 June 1991. This is also the last X-Men issue you will find the insert...
Overall, there are at least 25 different MJ colored inserts used. I'm not going to list all the colors here as they pretty much covered the whole color spectrum, with the exception of yellow, and sometimes used different shades of the same color to differentiate ads.
Confirmed last titles/issues containing MJ inserts:
Silver Surfer #49
Captain America #386
Fantastic Four #353
Incredible Hulk #382
Iron Man #269
Spectacular Spider-Man #177
West Coast Avengers #71
X-Men Classic #60
Amazing Spider-Man #349
Uncanny X-Men #278
Web of Spider-Man #78
This isn't a complete list. Only those I've confirmed as being the last issues with the inserts in a given title. For other titles in which I don't have data, you can be reasonably sure June 1991 will be the final issue with the inserts. Also, I have to emphasize yet again, the inserts will only be found in normal 32-page comics. No giant size or squarebounds. There is a common misconception that Amazing Spider-Man #300 has the insert. I even thought my copy purchased off the military racks contained one. Also, I believed CGC had certified a couple copies. I was wrong. My copy doesn't have the insert. My friend's copy, who also bought his off the military racks, doesn't have one. And CGC has confirmed they haven't graded any #300s with the insert.
Once these inserts ended, it marked the last time military members would see jewelry inserts in their monthly comics. From this point on, all newsstand copies would be identical to their stateside brethren. And would mark the end of a rather interesting period for comics in my opinion.
Though this part takes us to the conclusion of the inserts in Marvel comics, it's not the end to the series. There's still the other comic companies' inserts to tackle. But before we get to those we will stay with Marvel for a little longer. Part 5 and 6 will cover a couple of military directed inserts included in Marvels in addition to the MJ ads. The Mennen and Alka Seltzer insert wraps...stay tuned...