Author Archives: Shawn Robare

I’m in the Gosh Darn Club, right?!

I wanted to take a second and point to something very awesome, the Halloween 2016 release from one of my favorite independent companies, 8 Bit Zombie!

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I’ve mentioned Ross and his rad clothing and merch outfit 8BZ on Branded before what with his super cool vintage-inspired lunchbox releases and his badass Masters of the Universe-style action figure Thrashor.  While there are a lot of neat independent companies putting out fun t-shirts and toys, there’s just something that feels dead-on when it comes to 8 Bit Zombie in terms of the design aesthetic and products that Ross and his cadre of artists realize and produce that speaks directly to my eight year-old brain.  Whether it’s the attention to detail (like the accurately nostalgia-ridden fonts and illustration styles), the quality of the products, or how Ross and company manage to fill in the gaps missing in vintage pop culture collecting with all new very cool stuff, I always feel like this stuff was tailor-made for me.  And like I’m want to say about the era 80s kids grew up in, this feeling is such a shared experience that I’d be willing to be that quite a few of you will feel the same when you browse through the 8 Bit Zombie catalog.  It’s like 8BZ took all of the stuff we loved as kids, put it in a blender, and made something new, yet still very nostalgic.  And I love that.

Which brings me to the brand new 2016 Halloween product drop scheduled for 2pm eastern, 11am pacific this very afternoon.  If I already felt like 8BZ was aimed at me specifically, you can only imagine how excited I was when Ross reached out and gave me an early glimpse at the stuff he had in store which for the first time is going to be centered on a single nostalgic theme.  What’s that theme?  Well, just so happens the new 8BA release is riffing off of one of my most favorite movies of all time, the 1987 Fred Dekker classic, Monster Squad!

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I mean, holy freaking crap.  For a film that was woefully under-merchandized back in the day, the new stuff 8 Bit Zombie has put together makes up for that ball being dropped in spades!  Today’s release includes a metric ton of cool stuff, but lets start with that beautiful old school plastic lunchbox you see above.  Available in two colors (red or black), this thing is literally a dream come true for me.  I can’t tell you how long I’ve dreamed of owning a Monster Squad lunchbox.  Like I’ve mentioned a million times on the site before, the film should have had a huge marketing push as it was released at an apex of kid’s pop culture branding and merchandise, but somehow it fell through the cracks and was forgotten way too easily.  This Scooby Doo-inspired design just reminds me how rad a Monster Squad animated series could have been.  Instead of a thermos, each lunchbox comes packed with a very neat pint glass that features the same beautiful artwork by the super talented Matthew Skiff…

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In addition to this bad ass lunchbox, 8 Bit Zombie is also putting out a couple of new t-shirt designs celebrating the film.  First up, there’s a riff on the original UK logo with the an updated version featuring homages to all five monsters that appear in the film featured on a black shirt…

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So now you can show off your membership in one of the coolest goddamn clubs around!  The second t-shirt dropping this afternoon is a Ratfink-inspired take on the monsters that is both an homage to the 1987 film and the 50s and 60s monster culture that originally influenced Fred Dekker to create the film…

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Again, talking about the amazing attention to detail, I freaking adore that the Monster Squad font chosen for this shirt is a throwback to the font used in the German release of the film (under the title Monster Busters)!  Don’t even get me started on the nods to Dracula’s hearse, the dynamite that absolutely can not kill the Wolfman and the fact that the Mummy is hanging off the back like in the climax of the film.  This shirt just puts a huge smile on my face…

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The coup de grace?  Well, last but certainly not least is the official Monster Squad-themed membership pack that includes a plethora of awesome goodies, way more than any of the past 8 Bit Zombie member packs…

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So what’s in this thing? Included in each pack is a pair of Rudy Halloran-style shades, one each of a Monster Squad membership patch, sticker, pin and membership card, a set of three monster patches and an extremely badass decision coin!

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Here’s a close up of the rad patches you can totally sew to your jean jacket…

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And wouldya look as this too-cool-for-words decision coin!?!

I can pretty much state unequivocally that I will be making all of my important decisions with this coin very soon.

If you’re a fan of Monster Squad, or just like really bitchin stuff I highly suggest you head on over to 8 Bit Zombie this afternoon and load up on some of these amazing goodies.  Ross is also brining back some retired Halloween-themed t-shirts from the graveyard (in particular a couple very cool Lost Boys and Return of the Living Dead shirts.)  He also still has some Return of the Living Dead-inspired Body Bag old school jointed paper Halloween decorations in the shop (I have one hanging at my house right now!)  So head on over and pick up some fun stuff.  Make sure you tell him that Branded sent ya, and if you pick up some of this stuff, please send me pictures.  That would really brighten what has been a pretty crappy start of Fall here at Branded…

Cartoon Anxiety

4461391534_02cce86892_oThough I mainly enjoy flipping through old “mom” magazines to find cool vintage advertisements for extinct products, every so often I do dip in a little further and read some of the articles.  Like the one I took a look at last week about kid’s infatuation with gross out toys and collectibles or the Washington Post editorial on how He-Man and the Masters of the Universe contained hidden messages I dug into a few years ago, it’s always fun to read these to get a glimpse into the wacky world of parents back in the 80s.  Sometimes there are some interesting and valid points raised in these articles, but they’re typically pretty crazy, over the top windows into the minds of parents who loved pointing the finger at cartoons and toys as a reason that their kids are hard to deal with.  If I’ve learned nothing else in my almost 40 years on Earth I can pretty unequivocally say that kids are just annoying and irrational no matter how you slice it.  It doesn’t matter if they watch Transformers or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles every day after school, if they’re going to get into fights or tear up a neighbor’s yard with their bike, it’s not because of cartoons.

That said, this article titled Cartoon Anxiety from the December 1986 issue of Working Mother magazine is a pretty mixed bag of interesting points and flat out crazy.  The piece was written by Lois Meltzer, an attorney and freelance writer out of the California area.

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First off, from a design perspective, this article is a little weird.  I know that Mrs. Meltzer had no hand in it, but Doug Taylor’s illustration has some weird aspects to it.  I feel like the idea was to give a general impression of a mixed range of cartoon characters coming out of the TV for the kid to interact with, but that knock-off, but very obvious Voltron head on the right is just messing with my head.  I know the subtitle of the article evokes Voltron, but the combo of that illustration paired with the glove-wearing cartoon squirrel is just trippy.  Also, why the psuedo-Asian brush font for the title?  Anyway, getting into the actual nitty-gritty of the piece, the overall gist of the article is an argument that parents can’t stop their kids from watching cartoons, so they should just stop trying to fight it and give in. Meltzer lists a bunch of perceived positive and negative aspects to the at the time modern animation that had me laughing out loud.

For instance, she states that cartoons teach children about which tasks or jobs they should tackle in the real world, versus which ones they should just outsource to a professional for sake of ease.  Like she literally says that if a kid watches cartoons it’s plain as day that if you want to take over the world, it’s best not to leave it to henchmen or underlings.  On the other hand, cartoons teach kids that it’s crazy to attempt to fix plumbing, your car, or electrical outlets in the home for fear of causing a flood, having a car blow up or getting electrocuted, and that it’s best to leave those tasks to professionals.  This is kind of insane.  I mean, what is the logic here?  Is a cartoon villain trying to take over the world a metaphor for a kid being aware that the sky’s the limit on chasing their dreams?  If so, then conversely, is Meltzer saying that jobs like being a plumber, electrician, or auto repair technician beneath her children?  I mean, wouldn’t she want her kids to learn to do those things if only to be more self reliant?

Also,  I specifically took umbrage with a statement she makes that claims that kids won’t learn how to pronounce “triceratops” by watching cartoons.  Well, I think any kid who grew up watching the Dinosaucers would disagree with that…

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Even though the article is super silly, it was still fun to read.  I may be a grown-up kid with my head in the clouds most of the time, but I do know for a fact that a healthy dose of cartoons during my childhood certainly made me a much smarter person that most adults at the time would have believed.  There were so many subtle and not-so-subtle things that cartoons had peppered throughout the plots and settings that introduced me to ideas way before I “officially” learned about them in school.  Dr. Mindbender on G.I. Joe taught me all about deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) while creating Serpentor long before I ever learned about it in biology class, and Optimus Prime and Ultra Magnus taught me about self sacrifice and leadership (or lack there of) in the Transformers movie before I every took a World or US history class in high school.  Just saying…

These Should Exist: The Movie Novelization edition

One of the things I tend to skirt around covering here at Branded is the crop of modern films and cartoons that very heavily influenced by the 80s, either in setting or just straight up homage.  There are a bunch of cool flicks and TV shows that fall into this category, stuff like Netflix’s recent Stranger Things, JJ Abrams’ Super 8, or the handful of 80s era cartoon re-launches (including Danger Mouse and Voltron.)  I’ve been enjoying a lot of this stuff, but I usually take a pass on covering it here since there are a ton of other websites doing a much better job of taking a look at that stuff.  That being said, there is a modern movie that I wanted to touch on, one that I’ve found myself watching and re-watching on an almost monthly basis, Michael Tully’s 2014 throwback comedy Ping Pong Summer

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The flick centers on the Miracle family as they embark on their yearly summer vacation in Ocean City, Maryland.  Specifically the film follows the young Rad Miracle, a kid who enjoys rocking out to the funky beat of the Fat Boys, Mantronix, and RUN DMC, breaking in his cherished pair of red parachute pants, and playing ping pong.  While at the beach Rad runs into his new best friend Teddy Fryy (spelt with two Ys), an awkward kid who loves to rap, falls for the town hottie Stacey Summers, and gets into a beef with a local bullies Lyle and Dale, all culminating in an epic battle that can only be decided with a devastating match of ping pong.

I came to this movie through my fiancée a couple of years ago when we were still living in separate parts of the country.  Jaime grew up in the Baltimore area and spent years going to the boardwalk in Ocean City, so when she found out that there was a movie set in that era she had to see it opening weekend.  This movie just clicked for both of us.  For Jaime, Tully managed to capture a story on film that felt amazingly authentic to her experience growing up, and aside from experiencing that through her vicariously, I fell hard for the visual style, an amazing soundtrack, the humor and some pretty obscure references to some of my favorite cult films including Troll 2, Rad, and No Retreat, No Surrender.  I also loved the casting of the flick, not only for the group of unknown kids that killed it in the flick, but also for really fun turns from some 80s mainstays like Lea Thompson and Susan Sarandon. I could go on and on about how much I love this flick, and if you really want to get deeper into my thoughts on the flick you can check out episode 26 of the Cult Film Club podcast where Jaime, my bud Paxton Holley of the Cavalcade of Awesome and I spend and hour and change gushing about how much we dig this flick.

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I’ve had the opportunity to chat with the writer/director of the film, Michael Tully, who is a very awesome dude with great taste in film and a great sense of humor.  It’s kind of a bummer that ultimately, Ping Pong Summer didn’t crush at the box office because the film is great, and it’s quickly becoming one of those cult films that gets better and better with each viewing.  Recently I was joking on twitter with a few friends and Tully about movie novelizations and how I feel like it’s a bummer that we live in an age when films aren’t routinely adapted into books anymore.  I mentioned that I’d love to read a novelization of Ping Pong Summer and Tully took that and ran with it even giving me what he would have wanted as the first line of the book.

Well, I always love an opportunity to practice my skills in Photoshop, so I sat down last night and designed a vintage-style Point/Scholastic book cover for the novelization of the flick, and I even wrote the first two pages of the book to boot.  These are the pinnacle of what I think this These Should Exist column was created for…

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I hope Michael Tully digs this little exercise as I had a lot of fun working on it.  Hell, part of me wants to sit down and finish writing the book!  Maybe someday.  Until then, this is as good a way as I know to start closing out the summer.  If you haven’t seen the flick I whole heartedly suggest seeking it out.  It’s in the vein of Napoleon Dynamite, with a dash of the Karate Kid, and a whole lot of beach-y awesome fun.

Peel Here 123: The Local Chicago Affiliate edition

4560287382_404990f06c_oOne of the things that I talk a lot about when it comes to the 80s is this idea that because the pop culture of the decade was so loud, syndicated and homogeneous no matter where you lived in the United States, it’s like everyone who grew up through those years had a shared childhood.  We all watched the same cartoons, read the same comics and ate the same prepackaged,, processed foods.  And I love that about the decade.  But there’s also something to be said about regional nostalgia.  For instance, growing up int he southeast I was bombarded with local television commercials that featured Jim Varney doing his Ernest character for our local Fox affiliate channel.  This was something that he did in a lot of regions, but the commercials were all localized, so only the folks growing up in those areas got a chance to see those spots.  There’s something really cool about the idea of having a more focused, obscure nostalgia that ties you more closely to your hometown, but it also very much a part of the pop culture zeitgeist.

That’s why I was super stoked to find the below sheet of stickers that were promotional giveaways for Chicago’s local Fox affiliate WFLD TV 32 back in 1985.  Granted, I didn’t grow up in this area, but I love the idea of the local station putting together sticker sheets to give away to kids which illustrated their after school cartoon line-up…

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I also love seeing this hodge-podge of cartoons together all on one sheet mixing some very 80s properties with older series like Tom & Jerry and the Flintstones.  I wonder how many other stations put out promotional items like these geared towards their cartoon line-ups?

The League Re-Revisited!

6883501769_16f5716f51_oLong Time readers might remember that I used to have a lot of fun participating in a weekly pop culture project called the League of Extraordinary Bloggers, or just the League as I preferred to call it.  The project was spearheaded by Brain over at CoolandCollected.com, as a way for folks to find new sites and share inspiration.  I met a bunch of cool folks through the exercise, and though I didn’t participate every week, I always had a blast when I did.  The League has come and gone a couple of times, and finally Brian is giving it another go, though this time a bit rejiggered for a more modern content sharing community.  With the rise in folks ditching traditional sites for Tumblr, Instagram, and Facebook he wanted to make sure that everyone felt they could participate no mater how they interact with the pop culture community, so the Project is now been re-dubbed the Pop Culture League and has a spiffy new logo to boot…

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The first new assignment is up which is simply, Shelfie.  So to answer the call and jump back in the saddle with the folks who are participating I present my most recent obsession, my Dead Media collection of copies of the 1987 Fred Dekker flick Monster Squad on VHS from all over the world!

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This is actually not literally on a shelf, they’re currently giving me inspiration on my desk, but you get the idea.  I’ve made no secret that Monster Squad is one of my favorite films and even though there isn’t a ton of merchandise floating around for the film, there’s enough to keep a true fan busy for awhile trying to pick it all up.  Since I don’t have the wall space for the various movie posters I’ve mainly been concentrating on acquiring Squad ephemera (press kits, photos, international programs and fliers, and magazine articles), but this past year I decided to challenge myself by trying to hunt down copies of all the various releases of the film on VHS.  What I really wanted was a way to display my love for the film literally here at Branded HQ and this seemed to be a fun way to do it.  Not only do these tapes feature a lot of the alternate poster art, but it’s just really cool seeing all of these together.  So what do we have in that picture above?  Going from left to right we have…

The CNR Video, ex-rental VHS from the Netherlands…

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Next up is the Australian Filmpac ex-rental VHS in that snazzy red clamshell case…

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This one is a little worn, but I kind of like that.  I imagine it was rented a bazillion times which makes me happy.  Next, a couple of releases from the UK, an Braveworld/World Vision ex-rental and the Braveworld/World Vision mass market releases of the film on VHS…

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Note the altered Craig Nelson poster art and the alternate UK log on the ex-rental (and Horace’s rad Monster Squad shirt!)  Also, I love that red tape cover on the ex-rental as well, it reminds me of the green on that was on all of the E.T. VHS releases…

Moving right along, here are a couple of German releases.  First is the VPS Video mass market release of the VHS (where the film was re-titled Monster Busters!)

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Then here’s a German ex-rental from Videoplay-Spielfilm that has the most boring VHS tpae stickers ever…

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Now let’s jump over to Spain for a couple more releases.  Here we have the Record Pictures ex-rental VHS with some of the gaudiest cover art ever (and a re-titling of the film to Una Pandilla Alucinante), as well as an Action Time Video ex-rental release of the Beta version of the film…

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Staying in and around the area of Spain, here’s the Transvideo ex-rental release of the VHS from Portugal (re-titled Deu A Louca Nos Monstros)…

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Next up was a very hard VHS to find, and I wasn’t even sure it existed until I had it in my grubby little hands, this beautiful Italian ex-renal from Gallery Panarecord (the Italian subsidary of Worldvision) complete with the most bizarre poster for the film (re-titled Scuola Di Monstri, Monster School)…

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Next, let jump to a completely different continent with my absolute favorite VHS release of the film all the way from Japan, this Hearld Videogram ex-rental that is appropriately Halloween-y!

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The next release came out a little later, but it’s still cool all the same, it’s Danish VHS where the film was re-titled Monster Klubben.  This is also the only international paper sleeve release that I’ve found…

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Rounding out the international releases of the film that I’ve been able to source is another rare one, this time from Mexico.  I am super intrigued by this Videomax ex-rental (from Blockbuster of all places), because this is the only release of the film that has a longer running time than the standard North American release.  Most versions of this film are 93 minutes long, with a handful of the international releases edited down to 89 minutes.  But this Mexican release is 100 minutes!  I’m working on getting a new VCR set-up so that I can figure out what exactly is in those extra 7 minutes of film…

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Last, but certainly not least, is the US/Canadian release of the film by Vestron Video.  This copy came from my favorite Mom & Pop video rental store in Duluth, GA, Home Video, and it’s teh absolute gem in my collection.  I’ve personally watched this copy at least 20 times over the years, both as a rental, and then after I bought it from the store when it closed…

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So there you have it.  There are at least two more international copies of the film that I have yet to get my hands on, one from Turkey and another from South Korea.  If anyone out there has any connection that could help me get copies of those two I would be eternally grateful!

If you dug this tour of my pop culture shelfie and would like to see more posts in this vein, or if you want to join in on the fun, then here are some links to other sites participating this week as well as to Cool and Collected, who hosts the League…

Here’s the collection of Chris over at Stunt Zombie

The collection of Brother Midnight at Green Plastic Squirtgun is insane…

Linz over at Pop Rewind loves her some Terminator collectibles!

Cody at Copyright 1984 showcases a bunch of pictures of his rad collection…

And finally Brian over at Cool and Collected short a great video of his Batman shelf…

Parents just don’t understand…

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The Fresh Prince said it best when he declared…

“So to you all the kids all across the land
Take it from me, parents just don’t understand

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love pouring over old issues of various “mom” magazines from the 70s and 80s.  Not only are they chock full of insanely outdated recipes and fun advertisements for products that no longer exist, but they’re also a goldmine for goofy old articles about the latest childhood fads at the time.  Whether it was the lead up to Christmas and the staff editors were putting together articles about the latest toys or hard hitting (LOL) exposes on the popular trends in cartoons comics.  I love getting a chance to look back and see what was on parent’s minds when I was growing up.  What was concerning them about the toys and cartoons I loved playing with and watching on weekday afternoons and Saturday mornings.

I just recently stumbled on this short piece in the September 1987 issue of Working Woman (aka Working Mother) magazine that centers on kid’s fascination with gross and scary toys and collectibles called “Why Kids Love Yucky Stuff” by Dave Jaffe.  Jaffe was a writer and news editor for WGN in Chicago at the time, but he also had a tenure as a sketch comedy writer for the beloved Chicago area Bozo Show, as well as a stint as an editor at the National Lampoon.  The piece has some fun, though albeit harmless theories as to why kids in the 80s loved playing with stuff like Hordak’s Slime Pit from the Princess of Power/Masters of the Universe Mattel toy line or AmToy’s My Pet Monster.  Aside from the concept that kids loved slime because it literally feels good (and I’m not even diving into why that slick, gooshy, tactile sensation might be pleasing), or that they like monsters because they work as an outlet to get out their anger and frustrations, the article doesn’t really say all that much that hasn’t been stated a million times in a million clichés.  Boys like to scare girls with plastic bugs because they like, like them, or what is gross to an adult is titillating to kids…

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But what I feel this piece was really lacking was that simple idea that kid’s love things that are forbidden or taboo.  Plop 10 kids down on a are of shag carpeting and give each a He-Man and Skeletor action figure and I can guarantee that most of them will drop He-Man in a heart beat to play with Skeletor because he has gnarly, clawed fingers, webbed feet, and a skull for a head.  Skeletor represents to many things to a kid on a subconscious level, fear and aggression (just as the article points out), but his design is also just so much more fun because it’s different and weird.  There’s an air of mystery about Skeletor baked into his design.  Why does he have webbed claw feet, what happened to his face, and why is he blue?!  He-Man on the other hand is pretty much all there on the surface.  He likes to work out, appreciates furry underwear, and could probably use a haircut.  If I hard to hazard a guess I’d say that this applies to almost all toylines.  What was more popular in the Real Ghostbusters toy line, Egon, Ray, Winston, & Peter or the transforming ghosts?  Yeah, the ghosts.  Boba Fett, Darth Vader, & the Stormtroopers or Tatooine Luke & Hoth Leia?  Yeah, the former in a heartbeat.

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Again, this article is pretty harmless, but it is a pretty amazing time capsule for all of the icky, gooey, gross stuff that was available at the time including Madballs, My Pet Monster, the Real Ghostbusters, the Masters of the Universe Slime, Slime Time Watches, Nickelodeon Green Slime shampoo, Garbage Pail Kids, the Inhumanoids monsters, those weird Hasbro Belly Buttons, and Mad Scientist Monster Lab playsets.

All New Branded in the 80s Podcast, Episode 8!

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On this episode of the show I take a look at a couple of documentaries that highlight some unsung heroes of the 80s that have virtually been written out of the history of the pop culture they helped to create.  The films discussed are Candyman: The David Klein Story and The Rock Afire Explosion.

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On this episode I also give a shoutout to the supremely cool Rob Lane of Straight to Video.  You can find Rob’s music at his site, or download the albums for free here.

This episode is also brought to you by the fine folks at CanPants.com!

You can find the episode on iTunes, Stitcher, the Branded Facebook page, or you can also stream it directly from the handy player below, or download it directly by right-clicking and saving here.

You can subscribe to the podcast here!

If you want to chat about the show or other fun 80s junk, you can send me an e-mail to smurfwreck@gmail.com

I wonder if Fred Savage ever conquered Bad Dudes?!

4461391534_02cce86892_oA little over a month ago I was farting around on Archive.org when I stumbled upon something magical.  In the magazine rack section some amazing soul had uploaded over 100 issues of the now defunct Nintendo Power magazine.  I was so excited about this I started sharing the link to the collection on twitter and facebook, and then next thing I knew everyone and their brother was also sharing the link.  Sadly it looks like all this attention potentially drew the ire of Nintendo, and all of the issues seem to have been removed from the site which is a real bummer.  Luckily I managed to snag a bunch of these and I’ve been able to dive back into the pages of one of my all time favorite magazines.  As a quick aside, even though it shouldn’t, it endlessly amazes me how news is reported inaccurately online.  Two days after I shared the link to the Nintendo Power archive and I started seeing sites report on it, about 75% of them assumed that either a) Nintendo uploaded them, or b) that the “internet archive” uploaded them.  First of all, do people not know how the Internet Archive works?  Second, hell no, Nintendo did not upload them, and three seconds of fact checking at the destination link would have shown them that.  I think a bunch of these articles were just “me too” pieces that basically plagiarized whatever larger/loud source got it wrong first and no one bothers to fact check or do any research.  I often wonder when something like this hits, do people even care about the actual news, or are they just interested in sharing it for likes, follows and clicks?  Sigh.

Back to the magazine, I’m not sure where I stumbled on the first issue as a kid, but I vividly remember starting my collection with that very distinctive issue with the rad claymation cover back in 1988…

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Like most kids my age I was addicted to the Nintendo Entertainment System and spent endless and afternoons and weekends perfecting my skills in games like the Super Mario Bros. trilogy, Bad Dudes, Section Z, Excite Bike and Final Fantasy.  I used to pour over the pages of this magazine looking for tips, tricks and codes that would help me find my way to the negative world or get a hundred lives in Super Mario Bros., how to perfect the Konami Code, or how to navigate the murky world of Final Fantasy (via the amazing Strategy Guide in issue 17.)  At some point I lost my sizeable collection of the magazine (I’d bet that my parents chucked them in one of our moves), and I haven’t dug into an issue since at least 1994.  Flipping through these digital issues has been a blast and I absolutely love how “of the time” the graphic design is in all the ads and articles.  I mean just take a gander at these two amazing slices of late 80s fun…

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I kind of want to live in that surfing advertisement.  Then there’s this third ad that details all of the Nintendo branded food products that were available back in the late 80s.  I totally ate my weight in the official Nintendo cereal from Ralston, well, at leas the Zelda side of the box.  I wasn’t much of a fan of the Mario Bros. cereal…

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I totally do not remember the Nintendo juice boxes at all, but I vaguely remember some ice-cream novelties and those candy bars seem very familiar.

Scanning back through these I was a little surprised how formulaic the first 40 or so issues were.  Each one featured a bunch of the same regular columns in the same layout from issue to issue.  That’s not really a complaint mind you, just an observation, something I noticed when I realized that almost all of the first 42 issues featured a celebrity profile of an NES addicted superstar.  All sorts of folks were featured in the pages of Nintendo Power, from actors and comedians like Fred Savage and Jay Leno, to sports stars and commercial icons like Ken Griffey Jr. and Joe Isuzu (of all people.)  I thought it’d be fun to share a bunch of my favorite celebrity profiles from the first few years of the magazine.  Though a bunch of these are from the ’88 & ’89 issues, there are also a handful from the ’90 to ’92 issues as well.  I typically don’t dip much into the 90s here at Branded, but I thought for the sake of completeness that it would be worth it to make an exception this one time.  So here are 20 of my favorite profiles…

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I might as well start with the first issue from August of 1988 which featured a joint profile of those crazy Cameron kids, Kirk and Candace (from Growing Pains and Full House respectively.)  Since I’m starting with Growing Pains I figured I might as well as throw in the Jeremy Miller profile from issue 23, April of 1991.  While Candace had mastered Super Mario Bros. and was (at the time) totally stuck in the middle of the Legend of Zelda, Kirk was more of a Gradius man who was having such a hard time with the Amoeboids he was seriously considering placing a call to the legendary game counselors.  Jeremy on the other hand was a huge fan of Star Tropics and Tetris and was really proud of hitting 289,000 in the infamous block clearing game.

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The idea that Jay Leno was not only playing the Legend of Zelda, but that he was invested in it enough to call the Nintendo counselors asking for help on level 7 just makes me feel all kinds of warm and fuzzy.  I know that celebrities are people too and the NES was huge when it hit, but I still can’t help but break out with a smile when I think of adult celebs getting video game thumb on the same games that I was playing as a kid.  Also, I wonder how Leno liked Ikari Warriors?  ‘Cause I loved it…

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Speaking of adult celebs playing and loving the NES, this one from issue 10, Jan/Feb 1990 with Stephen Furst is probably my favorite profile of a “grown-up” by far.  I love that he went so far as to submit a review of Double Dragon II (he loves that cyclone spin kick!)  I also find it fascinating that Nintendo reached out to an actor like Furst.  I mean, though some 80s kids were probably hip to Animal House, how many of them were watching St. Elsewhere?!

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So, the above two profiles make way more sense to me in terms of the actors they were targeting.  Fred Savage and David Faustino were the perfect age at the time for Nintendo’s main target audience, not to mention that Savage was in The Wizard.  The Fred Savage profile is from issue 9, November/December 1989, while the Faustino profile appeared in issue 37 from 1992.

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These celebrity profiles weren’t just for actual actors or sports heroes, it was also for characters too.  Take these two that feature Bart Simpson and Freddy Kruger (well, Robert Englund, though from reading it, it’s clear he did the piece as Freddy) from issues 28 and 30 respectively. Though neither really talks about Nintendo per-se, I love the Power Glove jokes Englund delivers.  Also, years before there was ever a Freddy Vs. Jason movie, Englund talks about the concept in his profile…

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I could go on and on about these profiles, but I think I should just let them speak for themselves…

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The All New Branded in the 80s podcast, Episode 7!

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On this episode of the All New Branded in the 80s podcast I spend some time talking about what it’s like to be a nostalgia addicted guy in the world of pop culture collecting.  Though I adore most all 80s nostalgic kid’s stuff, these days it takes more than a tub full of Masters of the Universe figures or a wall of Nintendo NES cartridges to get me excited about collecting.  No, to really make my head spin the stuff that I love to find has to be the kind of things that simply just should exist anymore.  So join me as I talk about a few items I’ve stumbled upon in the wild that really made my eyes bug and gave me that metaphorical punch of nostalgia to the gut.

Here are some pictures of the stuff I talk about in this episode…

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You can find the episode on iTunes, Stitcher, the Branded Facebook page, or you can also stream it directly from the handy player below, or download it directly by right-clicking and saving here.

You can subscribe to the podcast here!

If you want to chat about the show or other fun 80s junk, you can send me an e-mail to smurfwreck@gmail.com

The All New Branded in the 80s podcast, Episode 6 – The Marty McFly Theorem

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Welcome back to episode 6 of the new Branded in the 80s podcast.  In this episode I dive into one of my favorite movies, Back to the Future, to discuss an aspect of the story that most folks don’t talk about, the other Marty McFly.  You know, the one that is at the end of the flick repeating the events of the opening, but this Marty is different.  He grew up with successful parents and siblings and he even owns that sweet black 4×4 truck.  I discuss the differences between Marty Alpha…

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…and the lesser discussed Marty Beta.

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You can find the episode on iTunes, Stitcher, the Branded Facebook page, or you can also stream it directly from the handy player below, or download it directly by right-clicking and saving here.

You can subscribe to the podcast here!