Mr. Coffee Nerves and his Rivals
I don't know if Mr. Coffee Nerves was the first advertising comic strip "super-villain." He certainly was one of the longest-lived. I have plenty of Postum strips in various reprints, but the only real one I own is this battered one-third-page from 1949. It stars the modernized Mr. C. N.: A snazzy jet-pack replaces the old opera cape and a Buck Rogers helmet substitutes for the top hat. The artist is surely Lou Fine. The surprisingly awkward balloon placement interferes with the slick professionalism that marks most Johnstone & Cushing strips.
But Mr. Coffee Nerves wasn't alone in the world of invisible enemies whose lives were devoted to bringing misery to the American family. From 1952 comes this adventure of Peter Pain, the little green man with a strange flat hat and the chin of a 1930s safecracker. Ben Gay to the rescue! The delightful drawing is by Jack Betts. If you want even more Pain, Ger Apeldoorn has a gallery of them here:
From 1954 comes this chronicle of a rather flabby-looking green guy with "Mr. Stomach Upset" scrawled on his tummy. His flaming trident is about as convincing as his "hep" dialogue in panel two. When he's banished by Pepto-Bismol, he says "Curses!" like his old mentor. Strictly bush league, if you ask me.
I wonder how many of these series pain-pushers there were. If anyone knows who was the first such mascot, won't you let me know?