Category Archives: Personal

The All New Branded in the 80s Podcast – Refining my Quest to Collect

Branded Podcast Logo_RAD

In this episode of the show I switch gears from looking backwards to what it’s like to be a collector in the modern age.  How does getting older change the way I look at collecting, and how can I refine and focus my efforts to best accomplish my goal to reconnect with my childhood.

How about you?  How has getting older reshaped the way you collect?  Have you gone though any collection purges lately?  Focused or refined your hunt?  Let me know in the comments.

For this episode’s shout out I want to take a moment to point to my good friend Paxton’s new solo podcast called I Read Movies.  It’s all about movie novelizations, specifically how these book adaptations differ from their cinematic counterparts.  Pax and I both share a love of novelizations and he does a bang up job of highlighting what they bring to the table for fans of film.  You can find the show on iTunes, Stitcher, or at the show’s site.

i-Read-Movies4

The All New Branded Podcast – Passing down the Matrix of Nostalgia

Branded Podcast Logo_Transformers

The second season of the All New Branded in the 80s podcast continues with episode 10 where I talk a bit about passing the torch of nostalgia to the next generation.  Having had the opportunity to babysit my nephew, a 10 year-old Transformers superfan, I got a chance to see how he reacted to the original generation of toys and cartoons.  We played the XBox game Transformers: War for Cybertron and I screened the 1986 Transformers the movie.  Does the old stuff still hold up for this new generation?  And how weird is it that Transformers is now a generational fandom?

What are some experiences you’ve had sharing your fandom with your children, nieces and nephews?  Are the kids open to our nostalgia, or did they just think our cartoons, movies and toys sucked?  Share your experiences in the comments below.

For this episode’s shout out I take a moment to point to the fine folks behind The Future Cyborg.  Part comedy show, part retro toy review show, and an all around good experience.  You can watch season 1 a their youtube page, or check them out on social media on Twitter or Instagram.

TFC

Oh wow man, that Tayble really ties the room together…

Ever since becoming an actual home owner this past year my outlook on spending money has changed drastically.  I’ve curbed most of my spending on my various collections in lieu of saving enough money to make sure I can afford things like mortgage payments, much higher electric bills, and buying the small stuff like new roofs (that one hurt even though we knew about it when we bought the place.)  So no more toys, Garbage Pail Kids, 35 year-old mom magazines, or animation cels.  Though this has certainly been an adjustment, the upside to this is that I’ve been totally retraining my brain when it comes to larger purchases.  When you nickel and dime yourself, picking up a bunch of small stuff here and there you really don’t feel the impact on your wallet, and it’s not until years later when you look back and wonder where all the money went.  Scanning your shelves you could probably pick out a pricey treasured item or two, but you probably don’t see thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars in the collection per se.  But when you do save up for a bit and bite the bullet and make a larger purchase, that item tends to jump right out at you every time you walk past it.  The first time you buy a new bed, couch, or refrigerator you tend to appreciate that item more than the rarest toy you might have (or at least, that’s been my experience.)

So, when I stumbled upon a small company specializing in designing and manufacturing a very particular, retro-inspired, piece of furniture, a piece of furniture I just happened to be in in the market for, I got pretty damn excited.  But let me back up for a second.  The significant other and I have been slowly making this new house we bought into our home, one room at a time.   One of the areas we’ve been concentrating on is out cozy basement.  Jaime is a video game nut, so we’ve been slowly turning the basement into a sort of retro clubhouse.  Embarrassingly large TV?  Check.  Comfy overstuffed furniture for maximum marathon gaming comfort?  Check.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle arcade cabinet marquee lightbox?  Check.  But something’s been missing, something we can set our snacks on, or set up the Lego Dimensions portal on so that we’re not jumping up constantly to move our minifigs around.  We’ve been needing a coffee table, but nothing was really grabbing us, nothing was fun or retro enough to really speak to us.  That is until this past week when I discovered Taybles!

taybleslogo

I stumbled on the Taybles site after posting a picture of a cherished Some Kind of Wonderful cassette soundtrack on Instagram.  The Taybles crew happened to like the photo, and out of curiosity I clicked through to their account and I practically fell out of my chair when I saw what they were up to…

700x500-B4syA92vLrE7x172249

Just look at that beautiful cassette tape table!  I was immediately in love and absolutely had to have one.  Jaime and I love dead media and this would be such a great way to solve our coffee table needs while also bringing in a much needed bit of retro fun into the space.  It’s just too perfect. Constructed out of birch hardwood in a number of different natural stains, these tables aren’t just pretty to look at, they’re also pretty functional as well.  The exposed tape section on the one side flips down to expose a hidden shelf where you can store TV remotes or wireless Playstation controllers.  And the sunken tape holes are stainless steel cup holders (with embedded leds for some rad mood lighting.) I kind of want to marry this table.

700x500-nU6P9z2qBF5x357521

Of course, like most things this freaking rad that I want for the house, these Taybles were a bit pricey.  Okay, they’re downright expensive as hell.  All of the selections on their website range somewhere in between $1600 to $2300 dollars.  As much as we need a wicked awesome coffee table, there’s no way we can justify that price.  I did consider not eating lunch for a few years, but in the end I resigned myself to never kicking my feet up on an oversized cassette tape.

But just as I was about to give up on attaining the perfect coffee table, a ray of hope broke through the clouds.  I saw that there was an impending Taybles Kickstarter campaign on the way and I decided it was worth it to sign up for the mailing list.  Then, yesterday I received a bit of news that got me excited all over again.  According to the e-mail, the Kickstarter was going to have the coffee tables up at the much more affordable price of $250!  Well, the campaign went live today and low and behold there are indeed two new models that they’re making available at a much more attainable price…

Whereas the tables on their main site are considered part of the “A-Side” collection, these Kickstarter tables are the “B-Sides”.  They’re almost identical to the originals, except they lack the led lighting in the cup holders and instead of birch, these B-Sides are made of fir.  Though fir isn’t a hardwood, it is one of the more dense and hard of the soft woods and is a much more readily available and cheaper wood.  This is a pretty small trade off for making these tables well over a grand cheaper.  The B-Side collection is available in two difference color schemes, classic black and retro brown….

700x500-L2r7dIG9shx357517 700x500-eI43cTgF7R2x357819

And as an added cool factor, the tabletops on these B-Sides are manufactured of whiteboard material so you can customize your own mixtape titles for special occasions!

700x500-rE5X7tnV98pCQx357520

The kickstarter has only been live for just over 12 hours and they’ve already raised about $20k towards the $35k goal, so I think it’s a pretty safe bet that this project is going to meet its funding.  If you’re in the market for a supremely awesome piece of furniture that really ties the room together you might want to jump on this kickstarter before its March 21st end date.  I’m not sure if the company has any plans to offer these B-Sides after the kickstarter.  $250 might still seem a bit high for a coffee table, but I can attest that taking a break from picking up vintage toys, comics, and collectibles for a few months is totally worth the savings so that you can pick up a rad piece of furniture like this.

900x800-mX73vPC4jfE9V2yx357479

If you end up backing this project do me a favor and tell them that Branded sent ya, and after you’ve pledged, come back here and let me know which version you’re picking up.  Me?  I’m going for the classic black…

900x800-oB38qKN2g6eDY5x357516

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…

PopCultureLeague-Logo-Big

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!

image1

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…

image4

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

image14

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…

image11    image5

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!)

image6

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

image15

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…

image13    image10

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)…

image9

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)…

image3

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!

image7

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…

image12

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…

image2

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…

image8

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…

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

Branded Podcast Logo_RAD

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…

Battle-Cat-Hopper

11667277_10153454747567328_6015714517964212045_n

13912576_10154395893082328_7956163153978392863_n      13935140_10154395893087328_4510943413195037200_n

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 5!

Branded Podcast Logo_RAD

So for those of you who are into hearing me talk instead of reading Branded pieces, the latest episode of the Branded in the 80s podcast is an audiobook rendition of the latest article I wrote, Thrashin’ and Trashin’ all about my years as an 80s skateboarding poser.  There’s a few extras thrown in for good measure as well as a shout out and a call back to last episode from the seriously awesome Michael of RetroMASH.com!

image

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!

Thrashin’ and Trashin’

In 1988 I was a number of things, a comic book fan, a budding artist, a metalhead (more specifically a Metalikat), a lover of cartoons, a Garbage Pail Kid collector, but more importantly, I was a skateboarding poser. As much as I loved the culture, brands, imagery and artistry of skateboarding, I was super timid and afraid of getting hurt, and thus I spent a couple of years steeped in the sport, standing on a board very comfortably on the sidelines.  I bought issues of Thrasher magazine, I adored movies like Gleaming the Cube and Thrashin’, and I had more fingerboard key chains than fingers. That was one of the first times in my life when I desperately wanted to be a part of a clique that I absolutely knew I’d never be accepted into.  I’m not throwing blame on anyone but myself here, but being a heavy kid who was awkward at best and downright terrifyingly clumsy at worst, it felt impossible to break into the culture.  That didn’t stop me from wearing the clothes, obsessing over the movies and begging my mom for a skateboard in the months leading up to Christmas 1987.

image

Sadly, not my original board, but this is quickly becoming my next collecting holy grail…

I actually lucked into my first hand-me-down skateboard sometime in early 1987.  It was an Action Sports Kamikaze, a white board with a knock-off red, Hosoi rising sun graphic on the deck, red wheels, and black rails, tail and nose guards.  I have no idea how I ended up with it, whether I traded with someone to get it or if I found it in a yard sale, but I know it wasn’t purchased new by my parents.  It was beat up with gouges scraped into the art, which I artfully covered with some extra Garbage Pail Kids stickers from my collection, in particular a Greaser Greg which I thought added a nice level of badass to the deck.  I happily rode that board up and down my street doing the only “trick” I knew how to do, kickturns, which is about as basic as you can get.

Where I grew up in Florida in the mid to late 80s, the BMX, surf and skate culture was pretty hardcore.  I’m sure it was noting in comparison to southern California, but you couldn’t throw a rock in my neighborhood without hitting a homemade launch ramp in the street or a gang of kids out “shredding” the pavement.  Hell, every 7-Eleven in my area (just north of Orlando) sold bars of Sex Wax (for waxing down your surfboard) next to the candy! Everyone was decked out in Powel/Peralta, Sims, T&C, or Santa Cruz t-shits, wore Vans, Dynos, Chuck Taylors, or Airwalks (before they were co-opted by Payless Shoes of all places), and had the hairdos to go along with it ( either the ‘Tony Hawk’, semi-shaved on one side and along the back, with long bangs flipped to the other side, or the ‘Brian Kelly’, short-ish and gelled to either wave to one side or be semi spiked.)

MSDGLTH EC002    tumblr_mcuep1jhFc1qj9zl0o1_500

I had a weird mix of the Brian Kelly and the Tony Hawk cut, lived in T&C shirts and surf shorts and wore a lot of Dynos and dual color Chuck Taylors.  I used to sport a Tracker Trucks painter’s cap with the bill flipped up and the word ‘Rad’ written in sharpie across the bottom.  In the winter I wore a grey and aqua green Billabong corduroy denim jacket.  Actually, I pretty much lived in that jacket from the winter of 1987 until my sophomore year in high school, during the fall of 1992.  The only reason I finally took it off was because my friends were so sick of seeing me in it that they chided me until I go so pissed off that I literally took a pair of scissors to it during home room and cut it into small pieces so I could throw it at them like confetti in the hallway at the end of fifth period.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Mine was like this, one with aqua green sleeves and a grey torso...

Mine was like this, one with aqua green sleeves and a grey torso…

I was an all out poser.  Though I did have a love for the culture surrounding skating, I hardly participated.  I just rode my board up and down the street, and would sit on it by the curb when friends and neighborhood kids would take turns flying off the homemade plywood launch-ramps they’d build on the weekends.  What solidified it for me, in my mind, was when I started obsessing over the idea of getting a brand new deck.  The year before I got a really awesome BMX bike, a baby blue GT Performer with white grips, mags and wheels.  I loved that bike so damn much and would ride it at top speed everywhere.  When I was on that bike I felt invincible, like Bill Denbrough on Silver (his 28-inch Schwinn) in Stephen King’s IT, I could do anything on it from jumping curbs to speeding down the steepest hills at full tilt.  So in my 10 year-old brain I thought this would translate to getting a new flashy skateboard that I dreamed of having built custom from a local skate and surf shop.  Makes sense right?

performer1

Well, somehow or another I convinced my mom to drop $150 on a brand new board for me in Christmas of 1987.  By this point my parents had tired of surprising me and they usually either took me out to the store to pick out a few gifts, or like in this fateful year we made the trek out to a surf and skate shop down in Orlando.  Now, I knew about a lot of the pro skaters by this point from endlessly scanning the pages of Thrasher magazine, and when I walked into that shop I knew exactly what I wanted, a Mike McGill Powell/Peralta deck.  I mean, everyone knew that the Bones Brigade was the shit, and of all the pages I tore out of my skate magazines, the McGill handplant pictures were my favorites and the ones that ended up tacked to my bedroom walls.  So I had the opportunity to pick out all the components for my new board and I was very stoked.  The board itself was silver with the classic skull and snake design, but with a subtle purple coiled snakeskin pattern in the background…

Not my actual board, but this is exactly what it looked like…

The first thing I picked out was the grip-tape for the top of the deck.  I wanted mine to stand out, so I decided to go with a clear version.  I also got a couple of intact sheets so that I could cut it up into a sort of rough camouflage pattern, little silver-dollar-sized pieces in weird shapes that I applied myself later.  Since there was purple on the board, I decided to get a set of matching purple Tracker Trucks with a set of black risers.  I picked out a couple of black rail guards and a black tail guard to match the risers.  Then the coup de grace, a set of 4 lime green Santa Cruz Slimeball wheels…

620-073-0003_1024x1024

So, I loved this deck.  Like love, loved it.  Took it everywhere with me.  I practiced handplants on the edge of my bed with it, sat on it in the living room while watching cartoons, and rode it all around three neighborhoods (the one in Florida where I grew up, then in New Hampshire for the 9 months we were there and then for a couple years in Georgia.)  I just wanted to be clear that I loved that board to death, and I was in good company too.  I mean, Axel Rose was also a fan so…

14e0e20d.jpg~original

But at the end of the day I always felt like a phony.  Unlike the GT Performer, this McGill deck did nothing to bolster my skateboarding prowess.  It didn’t help my with my anxiety of breaking every part of my body on a launch ramp, help improve my balance, or assist in the weight loss I so desperately needed at the time to help with my self image issues.  This is all plainly obvious of course, and I knew it at the time in my heart, but damn if I didn’t hope that a cool pro deck would make me, well, cool.

The cherry on the top of this crap sundae is that even though I felt like such a poser on the inside I did love that board.  So, a few years later when I was living in Georgia and it was stolen out of our garage by some local doucebag, that really hurt.  Kind of like how you never mess with a man’s car (ala Pulp Fiction), you do not steal a kid’s skateboard.  I eventually manged to find out through the very active neighborhood kid grapevine that it was taken by a fifth grader who thought I looked like a jerk.  He didn’t even keep the skateboard, he instead threw it down a sewer one neighborhood over.  It was one of those kinds that didn’t have a handy manhole cover either, because I was all set to go spelunking to get that skateboard back.  It was gone, lost to the underground, and with it pretty much my entire identity of that surf/skate/BMX culture that I had wrapped myself in.  By this point my parents had given away my GT Explorer without asking me, stores had pretty much stopped carrying T&C clothing, and all I really had left (now living in Georgia, light years away from the beachy atmosphere of Florida) was that old and by this point ragged Billabong jacket.

So when my friends started giving me crap for wearing it everyday, even in the sweltering Georgia summer heat, I had had enough.  That was the day I literally cut the poser off of myself, into pieces, and threw it away.

Of new homes and AT-STs…

The more time I spend gliding through this wondrous existence I can’t help but keep coming back to this underlying thread of kismet that has ruled my pop culture collecting.  Not trying to toot my own horn here, but I try my very hardest to put out as many good vibes as I can into the collecting and nostalgia community as I can afford.  I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t get satisfaction from sharing my collection, through this site and often just sending out pieces to those that I find are looking.  The point is, that I enjoy sharing the love so to speak, and every so often, that love comes back my way and for that I am grateful.

A few year ago I wrote a little bit about my childhood experience with a very particular Star Wars toy, the AT-ST Scout Walker released by Kenner back in 1983.  As I mentioned in that piece my family was uprooting itself from Tampa, Florida and the 1st home that I spent any substantial time in.  My father had landed a new job a couple of hours east in Orlando, and we were in the midst of packing everything up.  I was preparing to leave behind everything that I knew, five years worth of friends, secret short-cuts throughout the neighborhood, and the only house I could remember.  It felt like a pretty big deal at the time, I’d just turned six and hadn’t realized that moving was something that people did.

house in tampa

Before we completely pulled up stakes and left Tampa for good, we took a couple of exploratory trips to the suburbs of Orlando looking for a new house.  Again, this idea was pretty alien to me, and we ended up going to a series of house showings that had a very weird effect on me, in particular I was introduced the concept of coveting other people’s junk.  There were a couple of experiences I had during these trips that had a pretty big impact on me as a kid.  Growing up in the small neighborhood in Tampa we our family lived often times felt very communal.  For instance, there was an old couple at the far end of our oval-shaped development that had a pool that was open to all the neighborhood kids.  All you had to do was knock on their door and ask and you could swim to your heart’s content.  It also seemed like all of the friends I had at the time were really good about sharing our toys.  We were always borrowing each other’s Star Wars or Masters of the Universe figures with little to no squabbling (like in the picture below where I can be seen holding a friend’s Millennium Falcon with joy.)

9116367715_b1f86078fe_o

But the first time we scheduled a house showing at a home that was still occupied by the family trying to sell it, well, that’s when I first started to covet.  What was the object of my affection?  A lone Star Wars AT-ST Scout Walker toy that was perched up on a chest of drawers in the kid’s room in the house we were walking through.  Being six, the thought hadn’t occurred to me that the stuff in the house wasn’t part of the bargain.  In fact, I spent the next three hours trying to convince my parents that out of all the houses we’d looked through to that point, this last one was obviously the one we should go with.  I mean it was two stories, had hardwoo…screw it, it was because there was an AT-ST in one of the rooms that I really freaking wanted.  After it was explained to me that buying a house didn’t quite work the way I’d hoped (and boy was I a tad relieved when they pointed out that if it had I’d be losing all MY STUFF to some other kid), I was a little crushed.  Getting to have Hungry Howie’s Pizza later that night really didn’t make it better.  Getting to listen to my Michael Jackson Thriller tape on infinite repeat during the two hour trip back to Tampa only helped a little.

At-ST

That one encounter in some strange kid’s room was the only time I ever saw an AT-ST toy in real life.  None of my friends had one, and none of the friends I’d eventually make in Orlando did either.  As much as I wanted one, it was six months until Christmas, and in kid time comprehension that was like years.  So I’m pretty sure that I let it slip from my mind, and by the time Christmas of 1983 rolled around I was probably begging for some other toy that had caught my eye.  If I have to be honest I’ve always sort of had an AT-ST-shaped hole in my heart over the years though.  I never sought it out, mainly because by the time that I was starting to have nostalgic pangs for old Star Wars toys they were already becoming collector’s items and were way outside of my budget.  But also, as I’ve mentioned in the past, there’s this idea I subscribe to, that the hunt is more than half of the thrill of collecting.  Somewhere in the back of my mind I think I knew that I should just hold off.

Then, in an amazing turn of kismet, everything changed recently.  First off, over the past year I’ve been working incredibly hard with my fiancee to save up a nest egg that we could use to buy a house.  It’s my first time as a home buyer (and not just a goofy little kid tagging along with his family looking for one), and this would be the first honest to goodness house that I’d be living in since the early 90s, back when I was in high school and my family lost ours when we had to downgrade after a rough patch.  The idea of finally biting the bullet and buying a house terrified me as I’d become more than accustomed to living in apartments, but the time was finally right and all of the pieces were starting to fall into place.  It was an amazingly hard process where we pretty much had to deal with every possible thing that could go wrong (buyers on my fiancee’s town-home pulling out at a week before closing, contracts on houses that had Tom Hanks The Money Pit level hidden problems, and shyster real estate agents that were stealing thousands of dollars from us.)  But at the end of the day we finally found the home of our dreams and for the first time in 23 years I was living in a house again…

IMG_6921

It’s a little rough around the edges and needs some TLC, but we love it.  At the same time that we were hip deep in this process and not sure whether or not we’d even end up in a house, I received a very kind e-mail from a reader in the UK named Andrew who had stumbled upon the original piece I’d written about my childhood lust for the Star Wars AT-ST Scout Walker toy.  It just so happened that he was looking to part with his childhood AT-ST and we made arrangements to give it a new home here in the States.  Something about the timing of this filled me with a metric ton of hope while facing off against all the house buying pitfalls we were experiencing.  I just knew that this was all meant to be, again, that the pieces were all falling in place, and that for the second time in my life, while house-hunting I was encountering this specific Star Wars toy!

Long story short, just after moving into our new house, Andrew’s gift arrived safe and sound at its new home (my office) where it will be loved and displayed proudly at Branded in the 80s HQ…

AT-ST-1

AT-ST-3   AT-ST-2

Don’t think I can thank Andrew enough for this gift and for convincing me that the best practice is to keep putting out as much positive energy and actions out into the world.  Some day, if I’m patient and lucky, lady kismet will make sure that all my pop culture desires are met, and then some!

Doing our best to help make your jean jacket look way cooler…

I’ve been working on a handful of secret projects behind the scenes at Branded in the 80s and the Cult Film Club that I’m super stoked about.  Every couple of years I try and light a fire under my backside in order to make myself try and do things I’ve always dreamed of doing.  Over the last 10 years I’ve been able to check off a lot “to-do” items on my bucket list including writing and designing a zine, tabling at a large comic convention, and designing my own stickers.  Well, I recently had the opportunity to knock another item off my list, an item that I was really happy to finally be able to tackle and one which I was lucky to be able to collaborate on with a very cool bud.  Thanks to Tommy Day of Top Hat Sasquatch and Buy the Rights, I’ve finally been able to use a couple of my illustrations to create a couple of pretty damn neat enamel pins!

image image

Tommy just launched a new project called Laser Pins, a small boutique online store for selling enamel pins and patches.  I’ve been a pin fan for years with a pretty sizeable collection of pin-back buttons and enamel pins that I wear all the time.  I’ve always wanted to design some pins that feature my illustrations, but I had no idea how to even get started on making any.  That’s where Tommy stepped in and was a huge help in acting as a go between with a company he’s been working with, and after just a few short weeks I was able to finally hold the above two pins in my hand (and then immediate pin them to my hoodie.)

laser_pins_grande

For my first two pins I decided to go with illustrations I did for the podcast I co-host with my fiancée Jaime and good bud Paxton Holley, the Cult Film Club.  I settled on the design I created for our show logo, the skull projector that for me really sums up cult and horror films in one fun image, as well as an illustration I did of Steve Buscemi that was done in the style of Daniel Clowes which is sort of an homage to Buscemi’s turn in the movie Ghost World.  The pins are available now and limited to a 100 pieces each.  The Buscemi “Mr. Pink” pin is $8 plus shipping, and the Cult Film Club Skull Projector is $9 plus shipping.  All proceeds from these pin sales go directly into covering the hosting fees we have for both the Cult Film Club and Branded in the 80s, so if you are a fan of either, picking up one or both of these pins goes a long way to keeping these site up and running.

Aside from the two pins that I have up at Laserpins.com, Tommy and some of our really cool artist friends have been designing a bunch of really awesome pins.  Here’s a selection of the kind of stuff you can snag there…

Alf_white_large Shreadhead1_white_large MyPetMonster_White_large

Above we have Alf (who is back, in POG form!), a seriously awesome Shredder from the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles flick (complete with rad glitter suit), and Cole Robert’s take on a favorite of mine, My Pet Monster!  I personally have the Shredder and MPM pins and I absolutely love them.

Ernest_big_large TGRI_white_large Tiger_white_large

Some more of my favorites include the Ernest P. Worell pin, a glow in the dark TGRI mutagen canister from pin Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the kind of obscure but awesome Tiger Electronic Handheld game pin.  You be the judge, but I think Tommy has a great crop of really cool and unique pins, and I’ve certainly put my money where my mouth is…

image

Again, so if you want to help support the projects I work on and get some really cool pins in the process, head on over to LaserPins.com and buy yourself some flair for your jean jacket, messenger bag, or whatever you put pins on!  Thanks in advance for your support and being rad…

image

My tiny weird Star Wars collection…

Nostalgia is such a weird beast that pulls me in some very strange directions. When it comes to collecting and impulse buys I find that I am consistently picking up some very unconventional items like being drawn to collecting 80s stickers and sticker-collecting ephemera including hobby magazines and old photo albums that had been used to house vintage collections.  Then a few years later I was building a rather large collection of old “mom magazines” (stuff like Working Woman, Woman’s Day and McCalls) because I felt a strong urge to find pictures of old household products in advertisements and stuff.  And let me just say that I have found some pretty amazing advertisements in those magazines like this badass Return of the Jedi jungle gym play set!

image

Lately my attention has been focused on old school supplies (vintage Pentel mechanical pencils, Trapper Keepers, and old school folders.)   At the end of the day what I’m really seeking is that gut-punch feeling I get when I see something that very strongly reminds me of my childhood.  Sure, vintage toys and releases of old cartoons and sitcoms on DVD are cool, but the smell of a specific kind of Trend scratch and sniff sticker or the sound the Velcro makes on a Trapper Keeper flap is so vivid and clear that it’s like stepping back in time.

So when I stumbled across a gentleman that was selling mint, in-package vintage Star Wars Return of the Jedi Oral-B toothbrushes and perfectly stored empty boxes of Star Wars Pepperidge Farms cookies I didn’t hesitate and immediately plunked down $30 to reclaim a few tiny pieces of my childhood that really should not exist anymore.  Before I forget, everyone hunting for vintage toys should totally check out @FarToys_Vintage for some great stuff!

image

I’m pretty sure I’ve brought this up in the past, but it still dumbfounds and amazes me that some of this stuff is still bouncing around in people’s pop culture and ephemera collections.  I mean these two Star Wars Return of the Jedi cookie boxes are the definition of trash.  I mean thousands if not hundreds of thousands of these boxes were purchased by parents around the country (even world maybe?), the cookies were eaten, and then the boxes were unceremoniously thrown in the garbage.  Who in the hell had the presence of mind to think, “Hey, I should hold onto these because 30 years from now there will be a dude who will give me $20 for these two cookie boxes.”

Granted, I know that there is/was a craze for collecting anything Star Wars related and that makes the fact that these were carefully flattened and shelved for three decades a little easier to understand.  I mean, hell, I was so into the Tim Burton Batman flick that I distinctly remember filling a short comic book box with every scrap of Batman-related anything that I could get my hands on, up to and including a full sealed box of Batman cereal (the one shrink-wrapped with the creepy Batman coin bank.)  But even though I was a rabid collector that box only stayed in my collection for a few years before it eventually ended up in the trash.

batman-cerealSimilarly, who was buying up Oral-B Star Wars toothbrushes back in 1983 and storing them in their original packaging for posterity?  Now I don’t want to come across as mocking, because as this article points out I not only bought these 30 years later, but and very, very happy that they still exist.  I just can’t help wondering how I can even be in a position to buy these things.

Anyway, on to these miracle treasures that I’ve recently been able to reconnect with.  The first item that I stumbled across was the Oral-B toothbrush.  I can so distinctly remember the day my mom bought me one of these back in 1983.  I’d already seen the movie a couple of times in the theater and I was still practically begging her to take me back to see it again.  It was a rainy overcast day in central FL and I remember driving down a back road to a local Drug Emporium in my mom’s copper-colored Mazda 626.  Though I have no proof of this I would swear that I was wearing my awesome blue Empire Strikes Back Darth Vader iron-on T-shirt as I pretty much had Star Wars on the brain 24/7 that year.

image

I remember walking into the store with my mom, feeling how weirdly slick the low-pile carpeting felt underneath my Buster Browns, and then making a b-line to an aisle that had a bunch of candy and toys.  As my mom went in the back to fill a prescription I was making my way up and down the aisles scanning the shelves for anything of interest when I stopped dead in my tracks in the toothpaste section. There on a set of pegs were a bunch of colorful slim boxes with a very family logo and bunch of characters that I practically thought were my real life friends (and enemies.)  Holy crap, there were Star Wars toothbrushes and I had to have one.  I hated brushing my teeth (what kid doesn’t?) and had recently gotten into the practice of counting to counting to 60 out loud in mushy toothpaste mouth to know exactly when I could stop scrubbing.  Immediately my mind started compiling all the reasons why a Luke Skywalker toothbrush would solve all of my (and my parent’s) frustration with at bedtime as I would now love brushing my teeth.

image

I’m not sure exactly how eloquent I made the argument, but that day I went home with an awesome shiny red brush with my hero, Luke Skywalker, painted on the handle.  As a very predictable postscript to this story the toothbrush did absolutely nothing to enliven my brushing experience and I’m sure I was just as cranky every night at 9:00pm as I ever was.  Either way, that day in the Drug Emporium was burnt into my brain and when I saw a mint in box toothbrush pop up in my instagram feed I absolutely had to have it.  Now, the only question that remains, and it’s a question that’s subconsciously plagued me since that fateful day, why did the designer of this series choose red as the color of the packaging and brush?  Why wasn’t it green like his lightsaber in that third movie?  There was also a Darth Vader brush in the set.  Why wasn’t that one red?

image

The whole ad campaign for these was pretty awesome considering they were just cheap toothbrushes.  There were posters produced, as well as activity books and even an official plaque-fighting club that you could join!

ROTJ TOOTHBRUSH

Moving on to the second nostalgia gut punch.  About a week after I picked up the toothbrush from Faraway Toys on instagram, he blew me away again by offering up a set of two Pepperidge Farms Star Wars Return of the Jedi cookie boxes.  Holy hell did I ever eat my weight in these as a kid.  If memory serves they weren’t even that good, but anything edible and shaped like Chewbacca, Admiral Ackbar, and Luke Skywalker was a favorite.  These came in three varieties, Peanut Butter, Vanilla, and Chocolate (the latter being offered exclusively in the “dark side” villain character shapes.)  Though I remember the dry, crumbly cookies coming in a foil bag inside these boxes, I don’t really have any specific memories of eating them.  I just know that I did because I can recall almost every aspect of these boxes that I undoubtedly poured over while munching on the cookies.  I was always a food container reader, something that I continue to this day.

image

No matter how these things ended up surviving, I can’t thank @FarToys_Vintage enough for allowing me to reconnect with some very obscure treasures from my past.

What’s your favorite weird tiny nostalgic collection?