The first time I ever heard about Moxie was a reference to it in MAD Magazine's parody of The Sting in the mid-'70s. I gathered from its inferrence in a word balloon that it was a beverage of some sort, but beyond that I really had no idea. As I continued to read copies of MAD--especially those special editions that reprinted past material--I saw the name crop up a lot more, even its actual logo. An example is shown here, from a Wallace Wood/Frank Jacobs piece If Famous Authors Wrote Comics (the best one is Tennessee Williams' version of Little Orphan Annie). Here we see a panel from If Rodgers & Hammerstein Wrote Rex Morgan M.D., with a Moxie logo stuck in the background for no apparent reason.
According to Frank N. Potter's book The Moxie Mystique, MAD editor Albert B. Feldstein said the magazine started inserting references to Moxie in 1958 as an experiment. While it refused to include advertising for years, the Moxie logo started turning up at random, as a way to see if the sight of this brand of then-obscure (and also now-obscure) soft drink would generate any response.
"We never made Moxie obvious by mentioning it in an article. We also never ran a satirical ad for it like we sometimes do for other products. We just stuck the Moxie logo in with the regular illustrations for articles and waited to see what happened.
"Ever since we started printing the word 'Moxie' inconspicuously, hundreds of letters have come in about it. Most of the letters ask for more information: 'Who is Moxie? Your tailor?' Others have it figured out, like the reader who wrote, 'Maybe the appearance of Moxie all over the place in your last issue is your idea of advertising by subliminal projection. Well--it doesn't work. I didn't even notice it.'"
The Monarch Corporation, which owns the Moxie brand, never paid for the inclusion of its logo in MAD, the magazine simply asked for permission to use it, while keeping an eye on sales of the soda, then only available in New England for the most part. The soft drink did experience a rise in popularity, to which the company responded by reintroducing Moxie into the marketplace with a new taste, which proved to be a disaster for an item with such a die-hard following. Shades of New Coke, anyone?