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4 Beloved Characters Who Debuted In The Weirdest Places

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There were nine Ernest movies, and a TV show in the late ’80s, but the character was created by an ad agency back in 1980 to promote a Kentucky amusement park. The park was a shithole undergoing renovations, so they needed to advertise all the features that would exist but couldn’t be shown yet. In the commercial, Ernest visits/harasses his neighbor Vern by rattling off all the park’s features into the camera. They were aiming for “intrusive but lovable,” just like how many a domestic abuse incident report starts.

The ads weren’t enough to save the park, but the agency liked the Ernest character. So they kept using him to promote other stuff, mostly other local businesses, but also a few national products like Coke and Chex. Every ad used the same format: Ernest would talk rapid-fire to Vern / the camera about the product’s features, and Vern couldn’t escape the sales pitch despite clearly wanting to because he was trapped in the horrible pseudo-reality of his commercial world. Of course, Vern was also the viewer, because in a way, aren’t we all trapped?

Carden & Cherry Advertising

Carden & Cherry AdvertisingTampax ultimately decided to pass on their Ernest ad.

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The ads didn’t reach the Los Angeles area, but Ernest inexplicably became popular enough to appear in the Indianapolis 500 parade. Shots of fans cheering him on caught the eye of Disney executives on their never-ceasing quest to own the totality of human output, and the eventual result was, somehow, a commercial empire. It’s like if in 2027 the GEICO Gecko inexplicably started building a vast cinematic universe.


Jimmy Olson Was Invented So That Superman Would Have Someone To Talk To On His Radio Show

Between Batman and Robin, Superman and Jimmy Olsen, and of course Aquaman and Kelp Lad, there was a time in comics when seemingly every hero had to have a plucky young sidekick. Olsen’s role in the Superman mythos is to give Superman a more relatable human companion, and to help him out despite sucking, just, so hard. Ur-Jimmy’s first appearance was in a 1938 comic book …

DC ComicsStatistically, keyholes have been used for spying three times as often as actually locking doors.

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… but since he didn’t get a name beyond “Office Boy,” and because he looks like he just wandered out of a Hitler Youth meeting instead of sporting Olsen’s signature red hair, we officially declare that punk to not be a True Jimmy. Jimmy Olsen’s name was first uttered in 1940, on The Adventures Of Superman radio serial. (For our younger readers, you used to need a special box to listen to podcasts, and they’d only be available at a certain time.)

The young reporter was invented mostly so Superman would have someone to talk to on his adventures, because thought bubbles don’t really come across in an audio-only medium. Olsen dutifully helped Superman battle the Yellow Mask, Atom Man, and the KKK, but only made a few appearances in the comics with his proper name. Then the Superman TV show debuted in 1953 and brought Olsen into the new medium, after which he became a comic staple, even receiving his own spinoffs. And then Zack Synder turned him into a CIA agent who gets shot in the head after one minute, because DC movies are stupid.

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For more, check out 8 Traumatizing Early Versions Of Beloved Kids’ Characters and 9 Incredibly Dumb Early Versions Of Iconic Characters.

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