Category Archives: Halloween 2007

*Updated* Some Halloween-y reading recomendations…



Halloween blogging has been a blast, and it’s only the 3rd! Something that’s certainly keeping me going is all of the other fine folks taking the ghastly plunge into 31 straight days of blogging this month, which is making for some great daily reading. I figured I’d take a second to give some shout outs…













There’s also the awesome yearly delight over at X-Entertainment, as well as Final Girl, Senses Working Overtime, Geektarded, and I think Jay at the Sexy Armpit will also be throwing in a post here and there, but these are only the ones making blog-a-thon announcements. I’m sure there are a ton I’ve missed…

**Update**  Just like to take a second and also mention that Erik at the Wonderful Wonderblog will also be traipsing through the mire of Halloween blogging this season, so you can check his stuff out as well.

A little less than a meal, but a little more than snack…



When thinking about the Halloween season, I can’t help but connect it with monsters; Werewolves, vampires, various creatures (some slimy, so dry and shedding), bigfeet, patchwork Frankensteins, witches, demons, and mummies rising from their crypts. Of course I think about monsters all year round (and heck, I think about Halloween all year as well), but at Halloween it’s a little more special. In thinking about monsters this season, what’s one of the first things that come to my mind you might ask? Well, processed meat sticks containing beef, mechanically separated chicken, water, salt, corn syrup, dextrose, flavorings, spice, paprika, hydrolyzed corn gluten, soy and wheat gluten, proteins, sodium nitrite, lactic acid starter culture of course. That’s right, Slim Jims. Slim Jims and some great Jack Davis illustrations from a couple of 1978 comic book ads…



You know, I was completely unaware that Slim Jims used to come in pizza, bacon, and salami flavor varieties. I mean, it’s not that much of a stretch, and looking at today’s Slim Jim offerings including nacho cheese and Tabasco, I could certainly see it. I’m intrigued by the idea of a bacon flavored Slim Jim (well I’m intrigued by bacon flavored anything for that matter), though it seems like it would be too salty. Maybe it was just smokier.



Halloween, Muppet Style…



Today I thought I’d share a fun little monster themed Muppet’s comic that I found in the 1980 Random House published Muppet Madness book. Unfortunately there aren’t any writers, artists, or contributors listed, not even a signature on the title page of the comic. The entire book was sort of a mish mash of random Muppet themed fare that reminds me of the sort of stuff that was found in the Muppet Magazines. I’m not sure, but this might be a collection of those, though I don’t know when Muppet magazine was being printed. Either way, it’s chock full of monsters, both the usual suspects (Sweetums for example) and a bevy of muppetized versions of more classic fare.

Muppets Book Cover Random House 1980


So lets take a trip with the Muppets on their Holiday Haunt…



The Muppets are kind of a weird animal for me. Whenever I see them in any other medium other than as puppets, they tend to come off kind of stiff. I think one of the genius aspects to the whole thing is how well the puppeteers at Henson productions could convey emotion through all the felt. So when I see them drawn in comic form a lot of this emotion is lacking, if only because the artists are trying to stay on-model across mediums. For instance, in the 2nd panel above, I think Piggy is supposed to look annoyed as is her want, but she seems sort of, I don’t know, mildly interested. I think the artist nailed Fozzy though…

On the other hand you get to see stuff that you might not ordinarily see, like little artistic touches. Kermit’s captain’s hat for instance. Makes me want a driving hat…



I really like the watercolors in this. It give the characters a nice texture, maybe not fuzz and felt, but it’s something…

















As a bonus, I’m also including a scan of the ghoulish Haunted Theatre board game that was also in this book. With one six sided die and some friends, you too can try and escape from the haunted theatre. Lookout for Miss Piggy on that last turn as she chases a ghost, she’d be libel to karate chop you a good one!



Halloween, discount Wal-Mart style…



One of the things I wanted to do this year for Halloween countdown was to document the various store displays and schwag that I’ve seen, so I figured I start with one of my least favorite places and work my up the list. Now it’s not that I hate Wal-Mart for its principals and all that rut per-se, it’s more that I really don’t enjoy the shopping experience all that much. Since all the locations in my area have switched to the Super Wal-Mart format I’ve noticed two things: One, checking out of the store in a timely manner is impossible, even with self-checkout lanes (there seems to be a 30 minute minimum no matter what time of day you shop, and this grows exponentially at night), so even though you’ve found that great cheap piece of Halloween joy, you’re really paying for it in time; Two, the stores are a disaster area with stuff lying around everywhere. It’s not uncommon to find a package of hamburger meat in with the toys or DVDs in the freezer section (I’ve seen both numerous times.) As far as their Halloween selection goes, it’s about 80/20 in terms of a boring to cool ratio.

I do have to admit though, that this year they’ve managed to score some points with me in their package design department. In the past it’s been very innocuous and sort of bland, but this year something awesome slipped through in the form of a little spot illustration which adorns practically everything they’re shilling, from age old paper cut-outs, to the more modern cheapo rubber masks. When I saw this drawing my heart skipped a beat for a second (I know I’m building this up a bit too much, but I love it, so you’ll have to bear with me.) Without further to-do I present the 2007 Wal-Mart Halloween mascot, Little Frankie Forehead (actually I have no idea what his name is, but that’s what I’m calling him…)



It’s a pretty simple drawing, something that an ad guy probably whipped up in Illustrator in a jiffy, but it’s really iconic and has all the qualities I like in a good cartoon-esque Frankenstein’s monster mascot (cel shading color, exaggeration, and a touch of sadness.) It’s nowhere near as cool as the Target Halloween ad campaign from back in 2003, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

As far as what Wal-Mart has to offer in terms of products this year, well it’s not all that different from last year. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if they just had all of the same stuff stored in a corner of the warehouse and just hastily repackaged for the next year.  There was the same selection of electronic lack-o-lanterns, even the seriously odd sports themed ones, as well as the same discount candle holders and figuries…



…though thrown into the mix of the same old wooden yard signs was the nice addition of a Frankie Forehead sign.





There was also a really cool oversized skull wall plaque, which on the one hand was pretty darn large and seemed worth the $10 they were asking, yet on the other it was made of very cheap Styrofoam, so light in fact that think it would break very easily, and therefore very over priced at $10…



They did offer a pretty neat string of skeletons which makes a very fitting bit of Halloween garland…



They had all sorts of trick-or-treating pails, though none of which looked to be in the spirit of the holiday. I’m not really against this idea (of having matching costume accessories), but then again I have a ton of nostalgia for the old orange plastic standbys (not to mention the handy pillowcase which has a much better candy gathering capacity.) I was surprised that there were no Optimus Prime heads in honor of this summer’s blockbuster. For that matter, where are the plastic Venom and Silver Surfer heads?  I would have bought a hollow Norrin Radd head in a second…



They also had their usual selection of Halloween themed party favors, though only about 95% of them are actually Halloween themed as Matt over at X-Entertainment talked about last month





Apparently Frankie Forehead isn’t the only new character created for this Wal-Mart Halloween season as I spied a vampire and a pumpkin in the holiday house wares section…



The vampire is pretty cool but I still prefer the Frank design…

Rounding out my Wal-Mart shopping experience was this awesome Frankie Forehead placemat, which I was (and still am) tempted to buy, not for the table, but to put up on the wall or something. I’m not sure. Maybe I could it get it framed and have a nice piece of felt Halloween art, but then I’d have to track down a nice picture of Frankenstein painted on black velvet to offset it, and I’m not sure if a trip to Mexico is in the cards anytime soon. I can dream though…



Hey, there are some nice plastic pumpkins up on the shelf there, thank goodness. 

I would have taken pictures of their Halloween candy, but honestly it was pretty darn boring. Pretty much, besides the two million bags of candy corn, they really only seemed to have the mega bags of mixed candy, nothing all that special. I guess that’s more of Target’s gig these days…

Peel Here #47, Dueling Wolfmen!



As I promised a couple weeks ago today will start the 31 days of insanity as I try and make a Halloween themed post every day this month, along with my regular Cartoon Commentary! columns. Luckily I have enough material to convert the Peel Here postings for this month into holiday appropriate fare, so without further ado I present my first official Halloween Peel Here…

I thought I’d start off with a bang by sharing one of my favorite acquisitions over the last year, sticker-wise, the 1980 Topps Creature Feature (aka You’ll Die Laughing) sticker card subset. I’m not 100% positive on this, but I believe these stickers are part of a set that is the sequel to a stickerless set of cards that Topps manufactured in 1973. Topps was really big into the whole monster thing in the 60s and 70s (what with the monster initials, monster stickers, Weird Wheels and the like), though it pretty much died out in the 80s (to be replaced by Wacky Packs and Garbage Pail Kids, so not all that different in tone.) A couple years ago, when the more or less complete Universal Monsters backlog started coming back out on DVD, I really started to get into these films and characters, in particular Frankenstein’s monster, but they’re all pretty much tops in my book.



This sticker subset is a little weird as far as which characters (and which versions) appeared on the stickers. There are some gimmies character-wise, the wolf man, Frankenstein’s monster, the phantom, the mummy, and the invisible man, but there are also some more neglected characters like the creature, the mutant from This Island Earth, Mr. Hyde, and the Hunchback. Of course I was really surprised to see that there was no Dracula sticker, or at least Chaney’s London After Midnight vampire whose visage is just as striking as Chaney’s phantom, probably even more so than his hunchback.

I thought it was interesting which versions of the characters the designers at Topps chose to use, for instance the Glen Strange Frankenstein from Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Lon Chaney Jr.’s Mummy, or the fact that they chose to use both Chaney Jr. and Oliver Reed’s werewolves. I wonder if this was for design or licensing reasons? It’s cool to see these later versions in merchandising, though it seems a little weird. I also loved seeing a mad scientist get his due on a sticker, though for the life of me I can’t tell which movie it’s from. I want to say it’s Boris Karloff, but my movie knowledge is failing me on this one…



Either way, I love the super high contrast direction Topps decided to go with on this bordered portrait stickers. Not that the monsters weren’t already creepy enough as it was, but with the nice dark shadows and limited colors they appear quite a bit more impressive.

The second half of this sticker set is mostly made up of movie posters, though again there were some odd choices here. I’m not sure, maybe the bulk of the regular card set came from these movies (and the later Universal or Hammer flicks that they portraits were taken from), but it’s kind of weird to see poster stickers for the Hammer version of the Mummy when the Chaney version is on the portrait sticker.

On these stickers we also get to see the beginnings of the patented Topps ‘Peel Here’ logo, a convention that I have burned into my memory after collecting so many Garbage Pail Kids over the years.



Rounding out this sticker set are a couple of candid shots of the titular Creature From the Black Lagoon. Now I’m not sure exactly how the story goes on this, but I believe that these pictures have been colorized, as the original gillman suit didn’t have red on his palms and lips. I think the addition of the red to the creature had to do with advertising posters and stand-ups that were produced and then managed to make their way into other merchandising as well. I could so be wrong about this, but that’s what I remember reading anyway. It’s nice to see the gillman get some love though…



Last but certainly not least is the poster that’s made up of the sticker card backs, again celebrating the creature!


Though I love horror films from all the entire expanse of cinema history, the Universal period of the 30s-50s, is hands down my favorite, quickly followed (in recent years) by the Hammer versions of these flicks. I’m so glad there was a cool set like this in the 80s so that I could share them here.

On next weeks ghoulish edition of Peel Here I’m going to take a look at my collection of stickers surrounding a bunch of creatures that you really should pour water on, and never, ever feed after midnight…

Cartoon Commantary #17, Spookiness in Space…



I was re-reading over the first Galaxy High commentary and I think that I came off a little cold regarding the main characters and how I was viewing their archetypes. I think part of this comes from my mindset after watching 27 episodes of Dungeons and Dragons where all the characters are painted in very broad strokes for the most part. Venger is evil, Dungeon Master and the kids are good, and that’’s just how it was. There are episodes later in the series where the characters are put into some more dynamic situations and end up growing a little bit, but there aren’t that many shades of gray in the show (except for Dungeon Master who can come off kind of suspicious at times.)

With the first episode of Galaxy High, Chris Columbus shook the conventions of the good/bad characters up a bit, for instance by painting Doyle Cleverlobe as an ass in the beginning (in particular in the credits where he not only hogs most of the scenes and song cues, but also ends up treating Aimee like crap)…



Going into the episode I was sort of hoping he’d get his yet at the same time I also immediately felt for him, as he and Aimee were exposed to the weirdness of 80s animated space. I guess at the end of the day Doyle isn’t all that much different from a character like Eric on D&D. Hell, when you get right down to it, Beef Bonk and his stooges aren’t all that different either. I think there’s a part of me (a subconscious part) that really took it to heart when I was a kid that being evil was wrong, and therefore I shouldn’t get behind evil characters. This is kind of crazy though as I feel villains tend to make the much more interesting characters. Take Cobra Commander and his crazy ranting, or the mysterious Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget, both are pretty damn entertaining. Hell most of my favorite characters from childhood fall under the umbrella of evil in one shape or another. I don’t know, maybe I’m looking too hard at these cartoons and finding stuff that isn’t there (well except for that giant penis man in the end sequence, he was definitely there…)

Anyway, just a thought. On to the next thrilling chapter of Galaxy High, an episode that I ended up really liking (though it’s probably because of the season we’re about to jump into; more on that in a bit.) Today’s episode, titled Pizza’s Honor, originally aired on September 20th, 1986 and was written by Larry DiTillio (of He-Man and Beast Wars fame.) DiTillio also served as story editor for the series’ 13 episodes.



I’m not positive, but the title might be a reference to the film Prizzi’s Honor (starring Jack Nicholson and Kathleen Turner) which came out the year before this episode aired, though that film’s themes aren’t really visited upon in this episode.

Out of all the characters on the show, I think my favorite in terms of design and concept is Booey Bubblehead, the girl with the impaired short term memory. I think part of what I like are the clean lines on her bubble head, not to mention that fact that it’s made of glass which gives her color scheme more depth than the average character as there will usually be two shades of the pink used to color her (to illustrate where her collar is behind the glass neck for instance), as well as a shine. This is something that I like about cartoons that are painted with using flat colors; whenever there is any shading needed the animators typically add another layer (possibly on another cel) with a darker shade of the same color already in use, which adds a world of dimension to what amounts to a very flat painting. It’s something that I’ve found in the style I’ve chosen to color my own artwork with. So with Booey this concept is always used to one extent or another simply because of her design…



Something else that I brought up in the first episode commentary is the sense of claustrophobia that the writers, storyboard artists and animators have in many of the scenes as there are at time up to ten to twenty characters on screen. So far in the establishing shots of Luigi’s Pizza there has been a recycled animation scene featuring a bunch of background characters dancing to a band playing up on an elevated stage. The creators chose to animate the point of view of this scene looking up from about waist level and to give both depth and a sense of how crowded the place is they placed out of focus figures close to the camera.



I find this very interesting because it’s a very cinematic move, which is rare in cartoons. Actually this is the opposite of something that tends to give me a headache when watching most animated movies, the fact that every single part of a scene is drawn in perfect focus; there’s just too much information going on and my eyes strain to take it all in. So a subtle focus adjustment on one of the levels of animation actually makes the scene a little easier on the eyes, though it still puts me in a very confined space.

Another thing I’d like to revisit for a second is the odd convention of having Beef Bonk turn blue when he’s angry. I got to thinking about this as well, and I completely forgot about the Hulk, whose thick angry green skin doesn’t bother me in the least. In fact, back when I took a look at the TV pilot movie I mentioned that the show/film’s writer/director Kenneth Johnson had wanted the character to switch from his classic green to a more logical red, which I thought was ridiculous. So why does the switch to blue bug me so much? I think it has something to do with the character’s color scheme to begin with. I’m not fond of the clashing, loud red, yellow, pink, green and flesh colors he sports, and when you replace the red with blue and the green eyes with magenta, it’s just as loud and clashing, so the change doesn’t really grab me the way I think it’s supposed to.



The basic gist of this episode involves a phantom spaceman arriving at the pizza parlor to order 100 pizzas for his master who resides on the supposedly haunted planet Tingler in a manor called Tremble Hall. Doyle, Luigi’s newest delivery boy gets the job of delivering the pizza’s, who unbeknownst to him is being followed by Beef Bonk and his cronies who hope to scare the living crap out of him…



When the phantom shows up in the pizza joint, there’s something odd about him, something I couldn’t pinpoint at first, as there’s a static-y like effect that shivers through him every so often. Eventually he reveals that he’s a hologram sent by his master, which normally would have been just hunky dory, but then I remembered that as he entered the pizza joint he was doing things, turning off lights, freezing the band, etc., things that a hologram shouldn’t be able to do. This is another pet peeve of mine, the idea of introducing technology and then writing it incorrectly. It’s funny because, if there was another explanation, even a made up technology, like solid holograms, then I wouldn’t have thought twice about it, but when you go so far to invoke something in particular I think it would be best served to treat it like it actually works. We’ll see this again in this episode…

So, last episode we stumbled upon a little adult themed in-joke between either the storyboard artists or the animators in the form of a giant penis man in a crowd scene. Not that I’ve got my eyes peeled for more penis references, but I think I found another one, though this time a little more veiled. When the phantom stranger revels that he’d like the pizzas delivered to planet Tingler, the supposed haunted planet, the crowd inside Luigi’s goes nuts running in panic. In the craziness there is a character running across the screen that has a very phallic shape to his body (I say his for obvious reasons, though maybe in space there are female penis people, who knows.) In a scene just a few seconds later, the character pops up again, though this time colored more normally (he was tan and flesh colored in the first scene, and now he’s purplish-blue and green and wearing a T-shirt…)



Though in his purplish-blue hue he looks more like a lizard alien, his distinctly phallic shape is hard to ignore (or maybe I’m just seeing this.) What sort of seals the deal for me in terms of this being another veiled sexual reference is the T-Shirt depicting an arrow pointing downtown, if you know what I mean. Granted, I could so see this as being in my own head, if it weren’t for the appearance of the other such ‘alien’ in the first episode. Here’s to hoping giant penis men aren’t to Galaxy High what Dragons are to Dungeons and Dragons…

I do have to say that I really like the design on Beef Bonk’s ride. I’m not a huge fan of the idea that everything futuristic has to be rounded or saucer shaped, ala the Jetson’s. This is something that made the design work stand out for me in flicks like Star Wars and Alien, that the ships were a nice mixture of boxy and a bit futuristically rounded (or in Alien’s case, a floating city mining compound that looks much like what it would probably look like if it were just a compound on Earth.) The squared jets with the soft rounded corners on the back of Beef’s cruiser are nice, along with a subtle nod of the hat to the fined card designs of the 50s. It just really works for me.


Of course it is weird that this is a vehicle that’s proposed to be ready for space travel and yet there is not sort of canopy, not even a rag top hanging on the back. Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s a fun cartoon that’s not really taking the space setting seriously, but it still bugs me a bit. I think Futurama did a much better job of dealing with the balance between fun comedy and factual environments…

It begs the question why in the next scene Doyle is stepping aboard the Luigi delivery ship with does have a handy dandy glass canopy. Is this more of a visually pleasing design element or is it because Doyle is human and can’t survive out in space?



I’d like to point out again how weird it is that so many things in this show are anthropomorphic in design. There’s a scene later when the ‘face’ on this ship makes a weird, almost surprised expression when it’s rear-ended by Beef’s ship. I get why it’s done, but I still struggle with the idea if it’s a good idea or not. I think the show feels like it has got one foot firmly planted in a pseudo-reality that makes these weird design aspects too foreign for me. Maybe I just need to let go of that notion and sit back and enjoy the ride more…

Like I mentioned earlier, this is basically a Halloween episode with out all of the trappings of the traditional Halloween celebrations. You know the planet is spooky because of its giant foggy cloud that surrounds it…



So, in dealing with holograms weirdly again, there is a sequence where Beef Bonk, who hopes to scare the crap out of Doyle by using a hologram gun to disguise his car as a monster. The thing that bugs me is that the hologram that Beef has Roland make takes on a corporal aspect, so much so that the car’s new monster jaws can bite at Doyle’s delivery truck, get stuck on the back and force both of them to crash land on the planet. Though I can see where DiTillio was going with this, it doesn’t work for me because of the idea of using a hologram…



It is a fun moment though, and it does get the job done as far as having both parties stranded on the planet.

The two parties end up separated in the crash, and Doyle ends up running into the first inhabitant of Tingler, Mutie (the stereotypical New York auto mechanic.) What’s kind of cool is that Mutie is a reference both visually in titularly to the Mutant creature from the flick This Island Earth (a fact that I only realized because I have a little toy of that character that I got with a set of Little Big Head monster figures a few years back.) It makes me wonder how many of the other characters are similarly referenced from other 50s and 60s B movies…



Now something else that was kind of weird to me in a ‘this doesn’t really jive sort of way’ is the fact that when Beef and his cronies run into some of the other indigenous life forms on the planet that are scarred out of their minds…



The reason that this bugs me is that the character design on the students from Galaxy High leaves little room for scariness. I mean if some of the inhabitants of GH aren’t already scary to Beef, then why would a big tree with goofy eyes be scary? Again, I realize that it’s an aspect to this world that I’m supposed to take for granted, but as a viewer who is trying to get acclimated to the craziness he’s seeing under normal circumstances, this seems a little silly. It ends up working a little better for me later on when the penguins show up…

Another main-ish character that’s introduced in this episode is Ollie Oilslick the resident taxi driver extraordinaire. His amoeba-like design is practically burnt into my psyche and is one of the things I remember most about this show from watching it as a kid.



To reinforce that this is basically a Halloween episode, we get a lot of creepy background design which actually plays really well into the overall color scheme of the show. I really liked the jack-o-lantern rocks surrounding the very creepy grounds of Tremble Hall, which is a very Castle Duckula-esque mansion…



So I mentioned penguins a little earlier. There’s a sequence when Beef, Roland and Earl split up looking for Tremble Hall and each of them comes across a different crazy monster, my favorite of which is vampire penguins. I don’t know why this concept hasn’t been broached a million times before as it seems perfect to me, what with the cold environments and the fact that penguins are basically already dressed for the part. Comparing them to Count Duckula, I almost sort of wish he was a penguin now…



The giant man-eating mushrooms are pretty neat as well, and it was a nice touch by DiTillio to have the two creatures fight as Beef and Roland crossed paths…

As Doyle enters Tremble Hall there are some pretty heavy Rocky Horror vibes coming from the place with the phantom spaceman in the place of Riff Raff, and the Master as Frankenfurter. I though this was a nice touch, though Rocky Horror itself is playing off of countless old horror movies itself, so it might all just be paying homage to the same material.



Though the idea of weird monster aliens doesn’t work all that well for me, I did like the design work on the various creatures hanging around Tremble Hall, in particular the light brown insect looking alien with the nail stuck through its head. Honestly, when I think about it, the whole moral of this story sort of works because the monsters don’t look all that different from the denizens of Galaxy High. Because of this Doyle isn’t really scared of them, so maybe there was sort of a point to this after all. Yay DiTillio for bringing a deeper layer of meaning to something that actually came off as silly, and in a nutshell, this makes a great argument for the artistic validity of cartoons…



By the way, though this episode was the second aired, I think it’s actually chronologically (or possible production order-wise) supposed to be after the third episode which I’ll talk about next, The Beef Who Would Be King.

Jones Soda, a new Halloween tradition…



Of all the new Halloween product traditions popping up in the last few years (plastic electric jack-o-lanterns, two-foot high molded candy bowl statues, designer candy corn) my favorite so far has to be the yearly crop of new Jones Soda flavors, in particular the offerings in the small grenade-sized cans, though some of the larger bottle variety are cool as well. Jones has certainly made a name for themselves on the frontlines of the new flavor battle what with their insane Thanksgiving variety packs (gravy, peas, turkey, mashed potatoes, etc.), not to mention their other holiday offerings, but it’s with their Halloween selections that I really get excited.

Part of this is the awesome design on the cans, all of which feature a gnarly looking jack-o-lantern face and very pun-y flavor names, but it’s also the fact that for the most part the flavors are more drinkably friendly. Call me crazy, but if I’m gonna plunk down my money on soda, I’d at least like to drink it without having to resort to a ‘who can drink the whole can without puking’ contest. Turkey flavored soda is certainly not going to worm its way into my refreshing beverage selection list any time soon, but Spider Cider, the apple cider flavor Jones issued last year would.

I’ve been buying all of the new flavors for the last couple years, but for some reason I decided not to write about them last year, well except for a brief mention in my Target review. Each year there’s a slightly different line-up, and for the life of me I wish I could remember what was on the shelves two years ago. I know there was a Carmel Apple, as well as the Candy Corn, but I’m not sure what rounded out the list. Last year there were four different packs of small cans (including Candy Corn, Spider Cider, Gruesome Grape, and Berried Alive)…



…and two of the larger bottle varieties (including Lemon Drop Dead and Monster Mojito.)



For some reason I passed up on both Berried Alive and Gruesome Grape, as well as missing out on the larger bottles, opting instead for the weirder flavored cans. Luckily this year they reissued the Grape can and switched the Lemon Drop Dead from the bottles to the cans. The one flavor that I did buy and ended up loving was the Spider Cider…



Though it’s more of a basic flavor, it was really flavorful without being over powering, and honestly it’s one of the perfect flavors for the season. I had a can left over from last year at the back of the fridge, so I decided to take it out and crack it open so I could share what it looked like. It’s a bit disturbingly opaque, almost like actual apple cider. Though this is kind of weird for a soda, it certainly adds to its realism…



Here’s what was offered this year…

First off, there was yet another reissue of the Candy Corn flavor in the cans.



Though I love this because of its pure Halloweeniness, I’m not a big fan of the flavor. The soda itself is a really deep yellow, so infused with food coloring that it looks like it would make an awful stain if you were to get it on fabric or the carpet or something, a very distinct possibility after you take in a mouthful and invariably end up doing a spit-take. The main thing I noticed about the candy corn flavor was that it was more of an aftertaste, as the main flavor is just crazy sugary. Give it a second and the candy corn-ness sort of comes back up like a throw-up burp and then messes with your palette for a while. This year, for obvious reasons I opted not to waste any money on a new four-pack as the experiences I had prior will last me a lifetime.

Like I mentioned above, Jones decided to send their more adult bottled soda flavor Lemon Drop Dead to the minor leagues this year. I’m glad they did because now I can get a chance to try it, and in a much cooler looking can. I’m not sure if the flavor is exactly the same as there is a little ‘Sour’ logo before the name proper, but I’m not sure if this is to win over the hearts of the kids who will most likely be asking for these or not.



As far as the flavor goes, it’s really freaking sour, most of which hits you on the back end (sort of like the candy corn flavor of the other variety.) At first it tastes a lot like the recent Sierra Mist with extra lemon, but then it enters a whole new world of sour. Though I don’t see myself pouring a 32-ounce glass of this anytime soon, I could easily see this as making a great mixer for a cocktail.



I’m not sure if this is a new flavor (I think it might have been previously released in 2005), but Strawberry S’Lime is a nice addition, bringing in more color and a much subtler flavor to the offerings this year…



Though I think it tastes more like a regular Strawberry soda, if I’m reading the can correctly, it’s also supposed to have a hint of lime in it. I think I’m missing it because I more used to this flavor from places like Sonic, that use actual limejuice which is much more powerful in the flavor department. This Jones version seems pretty tame, especially in comparison to the Lemon Drop Dead flavor.  Regardless though, this actually helps to make it very pleasing to the palette…



Rounding out the canned varieties this season is the reissue of Gruesome Grape.



This is probably the most normal of the group, and therefore the most drinkable.



One of the things that makes these sodas so great is that they are formulated with real cane sugar instead of corn syrup, which is one little difference that really changes the flavor for me.

Also available this year (though I’ve yet to pick any up) are two new larger bottle varieties, Black Cat Licorice and Dread Licorice. I’m not a huge fan of the flavor of licorice, though I will eat it if it’s put in front of me. They’re also stocking the Monster Mojito again, so I might have to break down and try it this year…



Looking on the Jones website, I see that they have the previous year’s line-ups, and yes, Strawberry S’Lime was avaible in 2005

Peel Here #46, a sticky Halloween anyone?



Well, seeing as how the wonderfully spooky, ghoulish, costumed, candy-addled, holiday season is practically upon us (well at least the month before festivities), I thought I’d break out my creepier, monster-themed sticker fare for Peel Here.

So as a sort of shortened intro post this week I present a sheet of Build Your Own Monster stickers which was released by Hallmark in 1984…


Though these monsters aren’t really creepy, there,s enough arms, legs, torsos, and heads for three fun Muppet-esque monsters, or one heck of a three-headed, six-armed, six-legged creature (with two limb-less torsos left over for mood and setting.) I know I would have put the latter together as a kid.

Next week, the spookiness starts proper with some very fun Universal Monsters stickers.

More Halloweeny Wonka than you can shake a package of Nerds at!



All right, I just really can’t hold back on the Halloween blogging goodness any longer. I’ve been sitting on three pounds of candy for weeks now, and it just sits there on the kitchen table staring at and taunting me. Well some of it is actually appearing to stare at me what with all the lifeless, molded, sugary eyes, eyes that I just can’t keep hidden any longer.

As I’ve stated before, when it comes to candy I am basically a gummi/hard/chalky kind of guy. It’s not that I don’t like chocolate or anything, I’m just not all that into sweets in general, and so when I do reach for something it’s usually in the form of a watermelon Jolly Rancher or Twizzlers. Typically I also hold out on candy all together, that is until the stores start stocking up on Halloween candy, and then I feel an irresistible urge to stuff my face with everything that I see. In the past my wife and I have pretty much held off until all the ghoulish loot goes on clearance the day after the holiday, but we’ve begun to notice that more and more stores are changing their practices on discount candy. More often than not, the candy goes on sale before Halloween and then when we go looking it’s practically all gone.

So last year I decided pretty much to buy one big bag that was hopefully varied enough to get me through, and I thought I had found a goldmine in the Scare-n-Share bag. How wrong I was. So this year I’ve learned my lesson and I’ve stuck more or less to buying individual bags and goodies, but I had to take a chance on another mixed pack when I laid eyes on the sexy looking box of Wonka Creepy Treats!



When I saw this sitting on the shelf at my local Target I just stared googlie-eyed with glee, probably because it was so tightly and neatly packed with practically all of my favorite candies from when I was a child. I did balk at buying it on the first trip though, as the stock-lady was still working on that four-foot section of candy and honestly it’s sort of steeply priced (at about $12 give or take a few cents.) I mean it is a pound and a quarter of candy, but still, when was the last time you slapped down $12 for Runts, Fun Dip, Nerds and Sweetarts? I couldn’t help myself the next time I was in though, as I had a chance to take a much closer look at what was included in the set. If I remember correctly, in the past the Wonka candy offerings during Halloween have been relegated to pretty much their normal candy (though in fun sized portions) in pretty much run-of-the-mill holiday packaging. Not that there is anything wrong with that, Halloween candy is built on the tradition of getting smaller portions of normal (and some seasonal) candies, but there’s a dark little demon that sits in the pit of my stomach making it ache for more creativity in Halloween candy. So what was in this set that took me over the edge and got me to eagerly plunk down 12 hard earned bucks?



Well there are 4 varieties of Wonka mainstays (Runts, Nerds, Sweetarts, and Fun Dip) in five flavors (there are two separate Sweetart flavors), with three packages of each for a total of 15 (almost normal-sized) packages of candy. The kicker for me was that each separate variety was branded with a new Halloween-y name and a themed character.

The most interesting candy in the set are the Nerds branded Giant Chewy Bumpy Warts, if only because these are the only ones included that are doing something a little different candy wise. On the back of the box these are listed as Nerds Jelly Beans, which I’ve never seen in stores (the closest product would be the Nerds Rope I guess), and essentially that’s exactly what these are. Think of a regular jellybean with the normal soft candy shell removed and replaced by a crunchy shell with Nerds candy mixed in. The packages found in these Halloween sets are grape flavored and feature a slightly gross variation on one of the patented Nerds characters with a very warty schnoz, which I assume these jellybeans are meant to represent.



Following the candy variation of the Bumpy Warts, my favorite candy in the set has to be the boxes of Runts Fungus Toenails…



At the end of the day these are just boxes of banana Runts, but they also happen to be my favorite flavor (and yes, I admit that they are terrible chemical tasting as most banana flavored products tend to be, but I love ‘em anyway) and I would have to vote the new name and concept as pure genius. What a perfect and gross way to capitalize on an existing candy shape (bananas make for awesome thick toenail clippings) for a seasonal item. The picture on the box is fun as well with a sufficiently disgusting close-up of some gnarly Lumpa toenails. The only thing that would have catapulted these into the stratosphere would have been if the color had been tweaked a little to more of a tan or khaki shade of yellow, but I’m not really complaining here.

Coming in third place are two separate flavors of the liquid version of Sweetarts called, Sweetarts Squeez Sticky Snot (green apple) & Gooey Blood (cherry).



I think the Sweetarts Squeez are normally available in a variety of flavors, but their inclusion in this set is pretty cool, in particular the Gooey Blood variety as it reminds me of an edible tube of stage blood (with a vampire Umpa Lumpa no less.) Even though I’m not all that much of a fan of the Sweetarts flavor in general, these are pretty nifty, though I think they out balance the rest of the set with six tubes (almost half of the set), but it could be worse I guess.

Rounding out the set are three packages of (get this) fun size Fun Dip (one lik-m-aid stick and one pouch of candy dust) re-branded as Toad Dust. Though this is probably the least changed of the various candies, it’s still pretty gruesome, what with the cartoon toads happily going to their end in a meat grinder. The dust is the color (and supposedly flavor) changing blue raspberry to green apple variety, which though again isn’t my favorite, it is at least fun and interesting.



All in all the set probably isn’t worth $12 (I think $7-8 would be a much more comfortable price point), but it is pretty creative and fun. Like the giant gummy frog dissection kit I reviewed last week, this set seems less about giving to trick-or-treaters on Halloween and more tailor made for splurging on one’s own kids (or in my case, my own adult self.) Though normally I’d find this aspect neat, it’s part of a trend in Halloweening, which is shifting the way the holiday is celebrated. I know it’s nowhere near as dead as I’m making it out, but it seems like parents and companies are sort of shifting away from a community celebration to a more personal one, and I find that kind of sad (even if it does mean a whole bunch of useless Halloween swag that I can splurge on ever year.) Call me a traditionalist.

There are about three or four more packages of candy that have really caught my eye this year, so I’ll probably be sharing those over the next week or so to gear up for the insanity that is 31 straight days of Halloween blogging (and if that weren’t crazy enough, Cartoon Commentary! columns as well.) Man I love this season…

Okay, who wants the realistically sized gummy frog’s legs…



I was planning on holding back any Halloween commentary until October when I’m going to go temporarily insane and try and post at least once every day during the month. Heck, most of the stores around here, even though they started putting up Halloween stuff in August, have mostly only begun stocking candy, but after I saw this product on an end-cap at Target I just couldn’t help myself…



First off, Holy Crap! I have never seen a piece of gummy candy quite this big or quite this unique. This Mad Lab Frog Dissection Kit is part of the Target distributed branding this year, which is using the main characters from the Edgar and Ellen book series to push their Halloween products (at least a section of their candy.) I was pretty impressed with a lot of the Target specific candy last year, and this year is no exception, though I’m not so sure about using a set of established characters in the branding.

So what’s inside the package?



The set comes complete with a super large gummy toad (which judging from the acrid smell wafting up it’s probably green apple flavored), a package of gummy flies (I assume to be placed in the stomach of the frog, which I’ll talk about more in a minute), a plastic scalpel (read orange plastic picnic knife), and a pair of plastic tweezers. So, just how big is the frog gummy?



When I picked this set up I was hoping that the frog was solid, much in the same way that I hope all of the chocolate bunnies are solid during every Easter season, and like the bunnies, it was far from solid. Honestly, I don’t think I’d really want a solid gummy the size of my hand, but some disturbing part of me can’t help wishing it were. Actually, what would have been really cool was is there was a separate section that filled the body cavity that had all sorts of organs and stuff (much like the similar at home fake frog dissection kits you can buy and make), but instead we get a package of gummy flies to insert in the hole, so I guess that’s just as cool. Actually, the only thing that would really have put this set over the top as the coolest gummy ever would have been the inclusion of a packet of like cherry flavored sauce so that kids (ahem, cough, and me) could pretend that it was a big bloody mess of a dissection. Sure, real dissection frogs don’t have blood, but this is Halloween after all.

The set sells for $5, and is part of a Lab themed section of candy products including plastic beakers full of pixie dust, test tube sets with liquid and dust candy, and a few other odds and ends. I think there is even a stuffed ‘Pet’ from the character branding that has his one eye full of candy. Here’s a close-up of the characters…



This is actually the mark of an interesting (and kind of sad) sort of Halloween candy evolution. Products like this are meant for the immediate family, and certainly not for sharing with kids that come trick or treating, which has for the most part been the focus of the Halloween candy industry for years. It seems that the one main observation I’ve heard over and over for the last few years is that less and less kids seem to be out trick-or-treating, and it’s certainly been the case in the various places I’ve lived over the past 10 years. I think I’ve gotten a total of 5 kids at the door since my wife and moved in together back in 2001, though granted we live in an apartment complex. I think my friend, who lives in a pretty nice are in a decent sized neighborhood has also seen a decline in kids coming by.

So I guess what I’m getting at is that it seems like there might be a shift in the way the holiday is celebrated, possibly moving more towards Christmas or Easter, or maybe even something in the realm of a birthday party, only with less getting older and more dressing up and eating candy. Is this the future of Halloween? Private parties for kids like the ones adults tend to hold? No more roaming the streets at dusk with pillowcases of candy, no more lazy folks who feel obligated to leave a bowl of candy outside of their dark houses, no more gutters overflowing with unwanted apples and the husks of smashed jack-o-lanterns? Okay, maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but I still have to wonder…