Captain Tootsie is attacked by Dr. Narsty's cork cannon. Artist: C.C. Beck.


Medium: Comic book advertising
Advertising: Tootsie Rolls
First Appeared: 1943
Creators: C.C. Beck and Pete Costanza
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The career of Captain Tootsie is not so well documented that it's possible to point to a particular comic book and say that is where he began. He appeared in lots of them from …

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… 1943 on, but doesn't seem to have been spotted in earlier ones. That may be because he isn't there, or it may be because he lurked in a part of the comic that readers don't always acknowledge having even noticed — the advertising. Captain Tootsie hawked Tootsie Rolls, and that was the entire purpose of his existence.

This is not to say he didn't have adventures. About three fourths of each 1-page Tootsie Roll ad was devoted to a story in which Toots (he had no nickname in his heyday, so we're giving him one now), assisted by his Secret Legion (three boys, about 10 or so, named Fatso, Fisty and Rollo, who hung around with him), performed daring rescues, defeated nefarious villains, and accomplished other deeds befitting his status as a superhero. He was able to get all this done so quickly by binging on sugar — uh, that is, by eating energy-packed Tootsie Rolls, an ample supply of which he carried around in a chic yellow shoulder bag.

Toots came out of the comic art studio of C.C. Beck, co-creator of the original Captain Marvel (whom Toots somewhat resembled, except for his blond hair). Beck's main assistant, Pete Costanza, also had a hand in the character's creation. Other Captain Marvel personnel, such as writer Rod Reed, also contributed to many of Captain Tootsie's sucrose-charged escapades.

Captain Tootsie appeared not just in the comic books of Captain Marvel's publisher, Fawcett Publications, but also in those of DC, Quality Comics, Archie and many others, as well as in newspaper Sunday comics sections. For a brief period, he even had a comic of his own — Toby Press (which was operated by Elliot Caplin, co-creator of The Heart of Juliet Jones and brother of Al [Li'l Abner] Capp) put out two issues of The Adventures of Captain Tootsie & the Secret Legion in 1950.

Beck didn't have a direct hand in all of Captain Tootsie's dozens, if not hundreds of adventures (particularly those two 1950 issues where Toots was the title character), but he's the one who set the visual tone for the series. His open, clean linework made Toots stand out from the rest of the ads. Perhaps that's why Tootsie Roll Industries continued using him as their spokestoon long after the 1940s superhero trend had run its course. Eventually, however, Toots was replaced by toons from trendier genres, such as western and sci-fi. By the mid-1950s, he was only a memory.

But he's proven to be a particularly long-lasting one. As recently as 1997, the cover of his first Toby Press issue appeared on a phone card. They got the colors of his costume wrong (it's supposed to be red shirt, blue pants, yellow "T" emblem), but after an absence of almost 40 years, that's not too bad.


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Text ©2001-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Tootsie Roll Industries.