Category Archives: Halloween

How I discovered the Monster Squad…

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I’m sure most Monster Kids can recall that moment when they were exposed to and ultimately fell head over heels in love with classic horror. That first experience where they stumbled upon an issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland, when they caught a glimpse of a Basil Gogos painting, found their first Aurora monster model kit, or tuned into their first local horror host screening a beat up old print of one of the universal classics on a Saturday afternoon. For me, I can pinpoint that moment to an almost exact place, date and time. I had just recently turned ten years-old, it was in Orlando on August 22nd 1987, at the Altamonte Springs Cineplex Odeon theater at roughly 4:00pm. I know that because that was when I attended a screening of Fred Dekker’s The Monster Squad with my childhood friend Bryan and my mind was blown by what transpired on that huge movie screen over the course of the next hour and twenty minutes.

The excitement had been building for a couple weeks prior to that screening. I had about $10 worth of saved birthday money in my black Velcro Jimmy Z wallet that was earmarked for a matinee at my local theater and there were a handful of flicks that I really wanted to see that summer. I wasn’t sure if I should get a ticket to North Shore (I lived in FL and was in the middle of my surfing/BMX/Skateboarding phase), the new live action Masters of the Universe flick (I was in the waning days of my initial love of that cartoon and toy line), or Garbage Pail Kids: The Movie. Then one afternoon I was hanging out with my friend Bryan at another kid’s house that I didn’t know all that well. That kid’s parents were out shopping and we were sitting at the kitchen table flipping through the Orlando Sentinel looking for the comics and movie announcements. We were making a mess of the Arts and Entertainment section, spreading it all over the kitchen trying to find the fun stuff when out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed an ad for a film I hadn’t heard of and the tagline had me diving over Bryan to snatch up the page.

“You know who to call when you have Ghosts. But who do you call when you have Monsters?”

Monster Squad Newspaper Ad August 14 1987 2

I wish the above picture was ripped from the Orlando Sentinel, but unfortunately their archive is mainly text, but pretty much everything else besides the theater location is what I saw that afternoon.  I remember drooling over the artwork in the ad, the iconic painting by Craig Nelson featuring a group of kid monster hunters hanging out on the hood of a hearse underneath a sky literally filled with monsters. It was like the Mt. Rushmore of classic movie monsters, and at that moment I knew exactly where the remainder of my birthday money was going. All thoughts of surfing vacations in Hawaii, Dolph Lundgren as He-Man, or little people in GPK costumes evaporated from my consciousness. In my spastic excitement Bryan and his friend had stopped spreading and paper out and they hovered over my shoulders to get a look at what I was obsessing over. They were hooked too. The Monster Squad sounded amazing to our 10 year-old brains, it was like The Goonies versus Halloween and we all decided that come hell or high water we’d be catching that movie as soon as possible.

Spokane Chronicle Page Spread Aug 14 1987

That afternoon was capped off with some weird drama as Bryan and I got into an argument with his friend about the use of his home phone and our now immediate need to call a 1-900 number to “hear a special monster message”, part of the Monster Squad theatrical advertisement that ran in the August 14th papers across the country (as seen above.) By calling 1-900-660-6666 we could actually talk to a freaking monster! Bryan’s friend was having none of it as he wisely knew that he’d get into huge trouble when the phone bill came and there were a bunch of charges that he’s have a tough time explaining away. No matter how much we needled him, no matter how much we cajoled, or offered a month’s worth of sack lunch Twinkies, he would not budge.  Needless to say we were bummed and in a fit of childhood stupidity Bryan and I stormed out of his house and sped away on our bikes in a huff. That little row lasted the entire week and on that next Saturday it was just Bryan and I packed into the rear-facing, fold-up station wagon seat en route to catch a screening of a film that would forever change my life.

Twenty Seven years later and I can still feel the visceral pull of needed to call that 900 number.  When I sat down to write this my mind raced.  Dare I dial it?  Would that recording still be ready to play, sitting on an aging cassette tape in some call center switchboard, just waiting for me to finally be brave enough (and financially stable enough) to accept the charges and hear a real live (er…recorded) monster tell me some juicy tidbits about their life, or my Horror-scope, or whatever cheesy message was in store?  I had some Skype-Out credit sitting in my account so I decided what the hell, what’s the worst that can happen?  Well, it’s my sad duty to report that the number is no longer in service.  Sigh.  That doesn’t mean my research stopped there.  I dug into the internet archives hoping someone else had written about, or hopefully recorded that original message.  No dice.  Well, not exactly.  Thankfully someone on youtube managed to rip an old 1-900-660-6666 commercial from a VHS tape and upload it, though for the final nail of my despair coffin the commercial was Christmas themed.  Apparently whoever held that number changed it out seasonally.  Still, kinda neat that my detective skills were unable to unlock that tidbit I guess.

So in place of the actual Call a Monster message, here’s asimilar horror-themed 900 hotline from back in the day.  I’m particularly fond of it as it was pimped by Al Lewis, Grandpa Munster himself and called the Jr. Vampires of America Club!

Also, this first post is just the taste of a much longer article that I recently wrote for the premiere issue of Monster Shindig magazine which should be debuting later this month!

Lastly today’s first Monster Squad Trading Card!!!

Monster Squad Wrapper

I made a mini set of 80s Topps-style digital trading cards for my favorite movie of all time, one that unfortunately never had an official set released (or any merchandise for that matter.) So come back each day for Trick or Treats and collect them all!

Today’s card is #10, The Mummy!

10 Mummy F-B

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IT’S ALIVE! Branded gears back up for the 2014 Countdown to Halloween

It’s been pretty quiet around here during this past summer as I’ve been juggling a lot of projects, but things have calmed down a bit and I’m fully ready to tackle my 9th Halloween at Branded in the 80s.

Before I talk about this year’s theme, I wanted take a second and point again to the Countdown to Halloween site, a hub for sites who are participating in the month-long celebration of all things Halloweeny.  I recently re-skinned the website for this new year and added a brand new batch of participant badges, all with a monstrously aquatic theme in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the release of Universal’s Creature From the Black Lagoon!

Julie Adams and the Gill Man in CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, 1954.

I had a lot of fun fudging the 3-D effect for the new site banner as well as picking some creature-rific imagery for the 2014 badges.  This year there’s also a special project I’m working on specifically for the countdown site that I hope to announce in the next few days.  So head on over to the Countdown site. check out the list of participating websites, and join up if you’re planning on celebrating on your own site!

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As for Branded, this year I’m finally going to spend some quality time talking about one of my favorite films, probably my most favorite, Fred Dekker’s 1987 kid-adventure, horror masterpiece The Monster Squad!  I’ve written and talked a little bit about the flick over the years, though mostly it was either reviewing the bootleg DVD, lamenting the lack of an official DVD release, and then when the film was finally released on disc, it was to lament the horrible cover art that adorned it.  I fully intended to spend a week talking about the movie when the 25th anniversary came up a couple years ago, but I got sidetracked and just wrote one short piece about seeing the film for the first time.  I also did a breakdown of Eugene’s room when I first started my exploration of 80s era kid’s rooms on film.  I still feel though, that I haven’t sufficiently tackled a discussion of the flick, so for the next 31 days I’m going to do my best to dig into all aspects of my favorite movie of all time!

10655011_1449641078658365_981214608_nI have a pretty ambitious line up of articles and features planned to celebrate this cult classic, so I hope you’ll join me each day as I examine all aspects of the movie from the script, the marketing, the home video release, trivia, behind the scenes footage and so much more.  As an added bonus, each day this month I plan on posting a treat for your virtual McDonalds Halloween Boo-Pail.  I’ve always been bummed that the movie didn’t have a big merchandising push like other kid’s flicks from the decade, so there were never any read along adventure books, Burger King Collectors glasses (a crime since they were so prominently featured in the movie), or toys.  We didn’t even get a set of Topps trading cards!  We all know how much I love Topps, wax wrappers and junk, so I’ve taken it upon myself to create a mini set of collectible digital Monster Squad trading cards, and I’ll be “handing” them out in place of candy for all you trick or treators who stop by Branded this month.  To get you started I’ll post the first one below.

27 Scraps F-B

Thanks again for reading Branded and I look forward to kicking some Wolfman nards over the next month…

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Happy 2013 Halloween from Branded in the 80s!

Well, we made it though another Halloween season.  I want to personally thank everyone who follow my countdown this year via the site, facebook, instgram, and twitter, and I hope each and every one of you has a monster haul of candy this evening.  Do what you can to avoid Endless Mike and the pumpkin-smashing Hallo-Weenies, compliment Bill Haverchuck on his rad Bionic Woman costume if you see him, and remember to stop by the pumpkin patch and say “hi” to Linus (he needs the encouragement.)

So, to end this countdown of vintage ghoulish Garbage Pail Kids with a bang, here are some very seasonally appropriate sticker cards!  First up, from series four comes 153a&b, Jack O. Lantern and Duncan Pumpkin painted by David Burke!

31 - Jack O Lantern

You have to give props to a kid who can carve their own face so well!  Next up is a gross later entry in the GPK cannon, stickers 438 a&b, Hallie Ween and Trick or Tricia, which hail from series eleven and were painted by Tom Bunk!

31 - Part 2

Alright folks, everyone have a safe and awesome Halloween!

Once again, I’m also helping to organize the annual Countdown to Halloween alongside the tireless and super cool monster kid John Rozum. So if you like what I’m doing over here, you might want to head on over to the Countdown site and check out the huge list of other sites participating in this year’s spooky festivities. There’s also a like-minded sister collective called Blog-O-Ween being put together by my pal Cody, the Crooked Ninja Turtle Sensi. Be sure to check them out as well.

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Day 30 is alive, ALIVE!

We’re up to the, uh, eve of All Hallows Eve, and have the final classic monster of the 2013 Garbage Pail Kids Halloween Countdown.  Not only is this the final last of the classic monsters, it’s also my personal favorite monster, Frankenstein’s monster to be precise…

30 - Frank N Stein

Stickers 112a&b, Frank N. Stein and Undead Jed hail from the 3rd series and feature artwork by Tom Bunk (seriously, those dimples always give it away.)  What is it about hulking monsters and pink and purple pants?  Maybe it’s why they’re always so pissed?

Once again, I’m also helping to organize the annual Countdown to Halloween alongside the tireless and super cool monster kid John Rozum. So if you like what I’m doing over here, you might want to head on over to the Countdown site and check out the huge list of other sites participating in this year’s spooky festivities. There’s also a like-minded sister collective called Blog-O-Ween being put together by my pal Cody, the Crooked Ninja Turtle Sensi. Be sure to check them out as well.

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Day 29′s Halloween GPK will have you howling at the moon!

We’re moving right along with yet another classic GPK monster for day 29.  Creeping out of the third series we have stickers 116a&b, Eerie Eric and Berserk Kirk!

29 - Eerie Eric

I’ll be honest, I wanted to keep the classic monsters together for this countdown, but I also wanted some of my favorite pieces of art to fill the last week of the countdown and these Tom Bunk paintings just aren’t some of my favorites.  Though I respect him as an artist, this card in particular just feels off to me.  Bunk’s kids are a little more static and “hard” (it’s those dimples!), a little rougher around the edges and this werewolf just doesn’t get me howling.  It never really did.  Even though, I’m glad there was a werewolf in at least one of the sets and he’s not horrible, just not my cup of wolfs-bane tea…

Once again, I’m also helping to organize the annual Countdown to Halloween alongside the tireless and super cool monster kid John Rozum. So if you like what I’m doing over here, you might want to head on over to the Countdown site and check out the huge list of other sites participating in this year’s spooky festivities. There’s also a like-minded sister collective called Blog-O-Ween being put together by my pal Cody, the Crooked Ninja Turtle Sensi. Be sure to check them out as well.

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A Nasty Way to Kick of the Last Week of the Countdown!

Kicking off the last partial week of the 2013 Countdown to Halloween with the head vampire, so to speak, sticker number numero uno, 1a&b, Nasty Nick and Evil Eddie!

28 - Nasty Nick

The concept in this painting is just so perfectly beautiful.  As a parody of the Cabbage Patch Kids, to have a Vampire kid seducing a Barbie Doll is just, so, darn, perfect.  My only complaint with the art in this one is that the bat, star and moon muddle up the image and aren’t needed in the slightest.  Series one, John Pound.  Sigh…

Once again, I’m also helping to organize the annual Countdown to Halloween alongside the tireless and super cool monster kid John Rozum. So if you like what I’m doing over here, you might want to head on over to the Countdown site and check out the huge list of other sites participating in this year’s spooky festivities. There’s also a like-minded sister collective called Blog-O-Ween being put together by my pal Cody, the Crooked Ninja Turtle Sensi. Be sure to check them out as well.

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GPK Halloween Countdown Day 27 wants to suck…his own blood!

For the last weekend day of the countdown I decided it was nigh time to share a true vampire; the Bat creature from before was vampish, but this guy is pretty hardcore!  Sticker 411a&b, Van Pire and Bud Sucker…

27 - Van Pire

These suckers hail from the 10th series and were painted by the talented James Warhola.  I love this concept of sucking blood from an IV like a Capri Sun pouch!  Since this is such a specific concept I thought it would be fun to share another variation that was just release last year as a part of the newer GPK magnet card sets (as well as a bonus vampire!)

27 - Van Pire extras

Once again, I’m also helping to organize the annual Countdown to Halloween alongside the tireless and super cool monster kid John Rozum. So if you like what I’m doing over here, you might want to head on over to the Countdown site and check out the huge list of other sites participating in this year’s spooky festivities. There’s also a like-minded sister collective called Blog-O-Ween being put together by my pal Cody, the Crooked Ninja Turtle Sensi. Be sure to check them out as well.

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Halloween Countdown Day 26 will put a spell on you…

We’re up to the last Saturday in this year’s Countdown to Halloween, and I’ll be ramping up to my favorite holiday by sharing some more classical, monster-y GPK fun!  Today, we’re going all the way back to series one for a pair (does two make a coven?) of witchy sisters, stickers 16a&b, Weird Wendy and Haggy Maggie!

26 - Weird Wendy

This one is filled with enough Halloween-y imagery to choke a newt, and was again painted by the amazing John Pound (starting to run out of positive adjectives for the guy!)  This is one I have an over-sized card of hanging in Branded HQ, right near my Dead Ted and another card that’ll be popping up on the countdown soon…

Once again, I’m also helping to organize the annual Countdown to Halloween alongside the tireless and super cool monster kid John Rozum. So if you like what I’m doing over here, you might want to head on over to the Countdown site and check out the huge list of other sites participating in this year’s spooky festivities. There’s also a like-minded sister collective called Blog-O-Ween being put together by my pal Cody, the Crooked Ninja Turtle Sensi. Be sure to check them out as well.

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GPK Halloween Countdown Day 25, You’ve got the Body, He’s got the Brains….

Though there were a few obvious pop culture references in the GPK series from the start, they didn’t start getting super overt until towards the end of the run.  Not that I’m against it, in fact, I’m kind of sad that the following Freddy Kruger homage is the only “branded” horror icon to really show up in the GPK universe…

25 - Claude Flesh

Stickers 617a&b, Claude Flesh and Slasher Asher, made their debut in the final series (15) back in 1988, and was painted by long time artist Tom Bunk.  Not only was this the final series, but these cards were also some of the final in the original numbering scheme (if you haven’t noticed, the number picks up from set to set…)  I really like this card and the art, not just for the Freddy reference (which is rad), but because it’s also simple and straight forward, and in a way a callback to the original series stickers.  I’m also glad that bunk chose a darker palette for the painting, side stepping a super gaudy red and green sweater and sticking with something a lot more moody and atmospheric.

Once again, I’m also helping to organize the annual Countdown to Halloween alongside the tireless and super cool monster kid John Rozum. So if you like what I’m doing over here, you might want to head on over to the Countdown site and check out the huge list of other sites participating in this year’s spooky festivities. There’s also a like-minded sister collective called Blog-O-Ween being put together by my pal Cody, the Crooked Ninja Turtle Sensi. Be sure to check them out as well.

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Day 24′s monster will destroy your city!

After today there are only 7 more days till Halloween!  In honor of that I think Godzilla should destroy a city or something.  Or at least I can share this parody of Godzilla destroying a city or something…

24 - Fryin Ryan

Stickers 54a&b, Fryin’ Ryan and Charred Chad hail from the second series of Topps’ Garbage Pail Kids.  I remember pulling a Fryin’ Ryan from a rack pack of mixed 2nd and 3rd series cards back in the 80s and I was so excited.  This was one of my first monster GPK stickers from that series if not ever.

Once again, I’m also helping to organize the annual Countdown to Halloween alongside the tireless and super cool monster kid John Rozum. So if you like what I’m doing over here, you might want to head on over to the Countdown site and check out the huge list of other sites participating in this year’s spooky festivities. There’s also a like-minded sister collective called Blog-O-Ween being put together by my pal Cody, the Crooked Ninja Turtle Sensi. Be sure to check them out as well.

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