Speedy's Back

Speedy’s back and Alka Seltzer is the better for it. Long gone, a remnant of more innocent advertising times, Speedy has been revived as solace, perhaps, for the stressful, stomach-aching epoch we exist in today.

Speedy was born in 1951 when A.G. “Jeff” Wade II, head of Wade Advertising in Chicago, conceived the idea for a Howdy Doody-type spokes-character for Alka-Seltzer. As ad legend has it, Wade had just met the creator of the Fisk Tire boy (“Time to Re-Tire”) on a hunting trip in Michigan. He was looking for a similar creation to advertise the effervescent tablet on the new medium of television.

Artists were invited to submit concepts. Chuck Tennant, an advertising man, commissioned artist Robert Watkins, who sketched a baby-faced character with red hair and a tablet body and hat. Originally named “Sparky,” Perry L. Shupert, an account exec, renamed the character Speedy after that year’s promotional theme, “Speedy Relief.”

Speedy’s high-pitched child-like voice was supplied by Dick Beals. Speedy also co-starred with Buster Keaton, the Flintstones and others until he was discontinued in the mid-60s, when “spicy meatball” and “plop, plop fiz fiz” hit the airwaves. And oh want a relief it was. But now, Speedy is a welcome reminder that nostalgia can ease an aching stomach and head.

5 thoughts on “Speedy's Back

  1. Karen Connelly

    Speedy Alka Seltzer is soooo cute! He’s now voiced by Debi Derryberry, who I know best as the voice of Jimmy Neutron. I dressed one of my Care Bear plushies (Bedtime Bear, to be exact) as Speedy Alka Seltzer for Halloween. I used a collapsible SpongeBob bucket for his hat and the lid of a popcorn tub for his tummy. I used the baton that turns on gloE as a prop.

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  3. Angela

    The original Speedy is charming in that dorky 50’s way; the new Speedy is disturbing in a clueless 2010 way. He looks positively manic and lobotomized at the same time—never would have thought that was even possible.

  4. Chris DiAlfredi

    I agree with Susan. I am a big fan of nostalgic advertising icons, but it seems that the current version of “Speedy” is a creepy, lifeless, fatter, whiter, and corporate monstrosity born of 90 minutes of Adobe Illustrator blending and crunching.
    Too often, young designers are handed briefs and they go right to their Macs. I am a seasoned designer with a penchant for starting ideas with a sketchpad. How I wish I could’ve been part of advertising back in the 1950’s and 60’s, when artists and sculptors collaborated to create iconic mascots for major brands.
    Thanks for sharing the story of “Speedy”.

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