Category Archives: Personal

Reclaiming my Childhood: Miscellaneous Edition

So I’ve written numerous times about how much I want to rebuild the toy collection I had as a child and how difficult that is for me because I’m not all that fond of buying loose used toys.  I have a  mental block against buying another kid’s memories if that makes sense.  So my stance has been to patiently wait until I find min on card (or mint in box) versions of the stuff I want.  Again, this comes with its own set of hurdles, mainly monetary in nature.  As much as I want to re-collect these treasures, I find it next to impossible to fork over much money to procure them.  Same story told a million times by other toy collectors and nostalgia buffs.  Lately my tactic has been to ignore the really popular toy lines, the Transformers, G.I. Joe, Masters of the Universe, Star Wars and M.A.S.K. in lieu of searching out the more obscure stuff.  Depending, the prices can be much cheaper and there aren’t quite as many 30-somethings clamoring for them so they’re easier to snag without getting into bidding wars on eBay.

I was pretty excited this past weekend when I stumbled upon one of these slightly more obscure toys at the local vintage toy shop I’ve been frequenting.  Sitting there in a glass display case was a single carded Tonto action figure from The Legend of the Lone Ranger line by Gabriel from 1980…

Tonto 3

Sure, the card was pretty beat up with a huge crease across the top, but this is exactly the kind of thing I’m looking for on my vintage toy hunt.  The intention isn’t to keep the figure hermetically sealed on the card anyway; I want to open it up and hold it again.  So for $10 how could I pass this up?

Tonto 4

I originally had both Tonto and the Lone Ranger from this Gabriel line based on the 1980 film.  I honestly don’t think I ever saw the movie but I did catch the old black and white series on reruns and loved the Filmation cartoon, so at some point I must have begged my parents for these.  I must have been 3 or 4 at the time.  Though I’d love to reacquire both figures, Tonto was always my favorite because he came with both a pistol and a really neat buck knife.  I wrote about this action figure line awhile back as well

Tonto

I also vividly remember loving his purple belt/sash.  Even as a kid I appreciated fun color matching in my action figures.  With both of the figures I had, my favorite aspect was that you could actually holster their pistols and sheath Tonto’s buck knife.  This was pretty advanced for action figures this early in the 80s.  I mean aside from some removable helmets and the lightsaber action on the early Star Wars figures most toys weren’t that intricate.  These also had knee-joint articulation as opposed to the Kenner figures, a stepping stone that would lead to the broader range of joints that Hasbro would use with G.I. Joe.

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I love the card art for these toys as well, working in the tone and style of the movie’s poster art, but instead of just cloning the painting they did a new piece just for the toys…

Tonto 5

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I also love the Silver Bullet on the back of the card.  I’m not positive, but I wonder if the idea was to treat the bullets like the Kenner Star Wars points (or the later Robot and Flag points that Hasbro offered with Transformers and G.I. Joe) so that kids could save them up and use them to mail away for special promotional figures or sets.  There was actually a mail-away cardboard playset for these Gabriel figures, but weirdly enough the form requested that kids cut out the character names from the cards to act as the proof of purchase?!?  Check out this ad my good friend Paxton posted on his site The Cavalcade of Awesome when he was taking about the similar Kenner Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid toy line from the same year…

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Total missed opportunity to use the Silver Bullet Points!  Just another example that I was born too late to make awesome branding decisions for these companies.  Gotta work on that time machine…

Anyway, over the past couple of months I managed to pick up some more slightly obscure action figures I had when I was a kid.  I thought this would be a fun time to share those as well.  My parents took some chances on odd toy lines and I’m curious whether they thought that I wasn’t interested in them or if they just bought them as a fluke?  I had a bunch of figures in which I only owned one or two of the toys like the ThunderCats (just had Mumm-Ra and Slithe), Silverhawks (just had a Quicksilver), or Tonto and the Lone Ranger.  In this same camp were Warduke (from the LJN Advanced Dungeons & Dragons) and some miscellaneous Blackstar villain figure (which I must have quickly rejected or lost) because I had one of the little included neon green demon PVC figures…

Blackstar Demon

I’m really loving picking up this miscellaneous figures since they’re basically one and done.  They really feel a lot like a true missing piece to my past being put back in place.  I will say that I broke my normal loose figure buying rules with these.  I saw the Galoob Blackstar Demon at a toy show up in Baltimore and I couldn’t beat the price.  Besides, it’s not like I want to shell out the moolah for a mint Blackstar villain on the card when I’m not even sure which one I had.

DandD Warduke

As for Warduke here, well, I recently won a D&D Dwarf figure from this same line from The Garage Sale of Awesome and it felt weird owning that and not my long lost Warduke.  I had some Amazon cash burning a hole in my pocket so I picked one up blindly from a third party seller for a couple bucks.  He’s not in the best shape (mostly some gauntlet paint wear and he’s missing his rad shield and ice sword, but I’ve researched MOC prices for this little guy and man, that is just never going to happen on my budget!

All in all these guys make for one awesomely Awkward Toy Family Photo!

Awkward Family Photo 80s Toys Edition

They also look great in my collection that adorns (read: is taking over) my entertainment center…

Toys

Now, if I can just find a cheap Quicksilver figure from the Silverhawks line…

I was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Gamer & Other Strangeness

Recently while organizing one of my bookshelves I found myself reminiscing over a stack of my old RPG game books.  I haven’t gamed in well over a decade and a half, but I’ve clung to the various modules, rulebooks and expansions because I spent so much time pouring over them I can’t imagine not having them around.  I first discovered table-top gaming as a dorky teen.  My father had just recently moved our family across country twice within a year and I felt disconnected from everything save what was going on in the pages of the Uncanny X-Men and Wolverine.  It was the end of 1990, and having just turned thirteen I was also caught up in the whirlwind hype of another group of “teens”, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, thanks to becoming slightly obsessed with the first live action film that was released in theaters earlier that year.  I was basically living exclusively through and for the fantasy worlds of cartoons, movies and comics having had to leave my friends and sister in Florida, and then not even getting a chance to connect with any other kids while I was up north for 9 months.  Our family ended up putting down roots just outside of Atlanta and after scouting out a local comic store where I could get my monthly sequential art fix I began to feel at home.  At the time comics were my lifeline for sure…

AmazingSpider-Man328It wasn’t long after that I was enrolled in the local middle school, finally starting my eighth grade year of school about three weeks late.  I spent my bonus summer vacation time in an extended-stay suite while our family was waiting for our new house to be finished being built, and I was suffering from terrible case of cabin fever and feeling utterly disconnected from other kids.  Though normally an extreme introvert, when I first started riding the bus to my new school I was kind of dying to break out of my shell and meet some new kids.  One afternoon I was sitting alone behind two guys that were having an animated conversation about comics.  I wish I could remember exactly what they were talking about (if I had to guess it was probably McFarlane’s art on issue 328 of the Amazing Spider-Man featuring the “Mr. Fixit” grey Hulk), but whatever it was I was so happy to have found some other comic readers that I did something I had never done before.  I butted myself into the conversation telling them all about my comic collection and how one of my favorite comics was issue 8 of Wolverine that also featured a guest appearance by Mr. Fixit.

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I offered to bring in doubles I had for that issue for both of them the next day, and thus started a friendship with a group of local misfits that lasted all through high school and college.  It wasn’t long after this that they introduced me to another friend of theirs and before I knew it we’d sort of formed a tight nit group of four, like the Three Musketeers and d’Artagnan, or more appropriately, the TMNT.  We all watched the Fred Wolf cartoon and had a smattering of action figures, but after a chance encounter with another local teen on the bus that winter we were introduced to the glue that would keep our little cadre together for years to come, the core rulebook for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness…

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There was a couple of older kids that were a grade ahead of us (in high school!) that we kind of knew and traded comics with occasionally and one day they brought the above book on the bus and it kind of blew our 8th grade minds.  I think we’d all heard of Dungeons & Dragons, but none of us was really all that into high fantasy and never contemplated that there might be role playing games that were outside of that genre, let alone based on a comic/cartoon series that we all liked.  Within the week all four of us had manged to secure copies of the main book and we were all on the lookout for sets of non-standard dice so we could start creating characters and figure out how to play this game.  I remember bugging my parents relentlessly to find a place where I could get some role playing dice, and after consulting the phone book I found a store in a ritzy mall 30 miles away called the Sword of the Phoenix that specialized in stocking all sorts of dice and game books.  That weekend we made the trek out and I bought my first two sets of clear gem dice (one purple and one blue.)  I only have a couple of these left in my collection (two four-sided) that you can see below…

donnydice 1

Looking back this entirety of the experience is kind of a blur, but for about three or four years we had a standing Saturday gaming session that rotated between a handful of our houses.  Typically these involved a metric ton of Cheetos, Cool Ranch Doritos, white cheddar Smartfood popcorn, yellow vanilla Zingers, and gallons upon gallons of store-brand soda.  At the time these weekend meetups seemed so epic in scale.  We’d all take turns acting as the gamemaster, writing what we thought were magnum opus stories to test the intelligence and mettle if our group, though in reality only a couple of us were semi-decent at running the campaigns (certainly not me) and the rest of us were more concerned with equipping our characters with stuff and jukeing up their abilities.

The basic concept of TMNT & Other Strangeness is creating mutant animal characters that exist in same world of Eastman & Laird’s creations.  It’s sort of like combining the A-Team and the Turtles, where the game master creates environments for a group of characters to have an adventure in.  I say the A-Team because the game is sort of geared towards creating mercenary-like characters in battle-torn militant environments.  It didn’t help that we all read comics like the X-Men and were well versed in the Star Wars universe, so when we wrote stories they tended up feature a tyrannical villain with hordes of nameless soldiers put in the story specifically for our characters to annihilate.

TMNT Space

It’s actually funny that we ended up playing as long as we did as we all kind of sucked at the core concepts of role playing.  We all tended to try and shoehorn the play into a more hack and slash video game experience, and we very rarely worked together as a team no matter how hard we tried.  When it was all said and done, each of us was way more interested in creating a whole bunch of characters, outfitting them, and doodling pictures of them, rather than actually playing them in a game.  It wouldn’t be until a few years later when we all made the switch from the Palladium gaming system (the publisher of TMNT and other games like Robotech and After the Bomb) to the more story-oriented system published by White Wolf (Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, etc.) that we’d evolve a bit.

After the bomb 2

In fact, it got so bad in our group that we all became game-lawyers, spending hours debating and arguing over rule and character creation minutia.  All of our copies of the core rule book were heavily underlined, with highlighted passages and notes in the margins.  We probably spent more time arguing than we did gaming, yet it still kept us regularly meeting up and “playing” for years.  Over time we also drafted other friends into playing with us, and at one point there was about 10 of us rotating in and out of the group.  The fighting between the group became so fever pitched that it eventually came to a head and it formed a schism between the founding four members and we split the group in two to play separately, complete with spying between the two factions and a whole bucket-load of hurt feelings.

Weird TMNT

I hate to admit it but at the end of the day we all sucked at role playing.  Even so, I wouldn’t have changed a single second of the experiences I had being a part of that group of friends.  When I look aback at these books now I get a visceral sense of what I felt like at the time, a mix of heady nostalgia and fear that I’ll have to try and create a campaign all on my own again!  I also fondly remember what it was like finding a group of friends and what it felt like to be included.  To have our own little clique where it was us against everyone else.  Back when we first started hanging out we all chose one of the Turtles as our mascot.  Over the years my recollection of who picked who was kind of hazy, and I would have sworn that I picked Donatello since he’s my favorite character.  But while flipping through my copy of the book last night I was greeted by some very awesome notes that were scribbled in the book that reminded me that I was totally a Raphael guy…

TMNT Friends

Just four geeky teens against the world.

 

Geeky Valentines weekend shenanigans

This past weekend my girlfriend Jaime and I took the opportunity of some downtime to check out a couple of cool sites in and around Baltimore.  I’m still seeing a lot of the city for the first time and we lucked into a pair of free tickets to Geppi’s Entertainment Museum right across the street from the Orioles Stadium, so we thought it would be fun to head downtown and check it out.  I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect.  I only heard the words comic museum and toys, but I was intrigued.  When we pulled up to the building on Saturday morning it was a little unassuming, but as soon as you walk inside you’re bombarded by large-scale banners of all sorts of pop culture fun from 50s era tin toys to recreations of famous comic covers done in a more modern style.  Once you get past the front desk you’re greeted by an amazing hallway covered from floor to ceiling with rare film one-sheets, product merchandising ephemera, and some pretty inspiring artwork (including a couple breathtaking conceptual pieces from the ’66 era Batman TV series!

museum

The museum is broken up into a series of seven or eight individual exhibits including a comic book retrospective, a turn of the century comic strip showcase, a local Baltimore pop culture collection, a collectible and art show centered on African American works, and a number of rooms full to the brim of collectibles and antiques divided by decade.  There’s so much amazing stuff on display that you could probably spend an hour in each of the rooms and not see everything in one visit.  The comic retrospective alone is worth the price of admission as there are some truly “amazing” pieces in the collection including copies of Amazing Fantasy #15 and Action Comics #1!

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shawn Jaime

In addition to some of the heavy hitter powerhouse comics above, there was a really nice collection of 50s & 60s era EC, Atlas, and Dell comics, as well as a bunch of those really cool mini hardcover digests from the 30s and 40s featuring The Shadow, Buck Rogers, and Tarzan.  There were some nice Esiner Spirit inserts which I’ve also never seen in person before.  I loved getting a chance to see some of the rarer formative books in person for the first time, but it was also rad to see copies of more modern books like issue one of Eastman & Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or the wall of 90s era books featuring all sorts of gimmicks and cover enhancements (that I bought into back in the day hook, line, and sinker!)

In the comic strip exhibit I was a little bummed that there were no copies of Little Nemo in Slumberland, but there was a surprise that totally made up for it.  I was really excited to see a couple of Winsor McCay Gertie the Dinosaur drawings.  I mean talk about animation history!

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All of the comic book stuff was really neat, but the rooms where my eyes really lit up were the rooms dedicated to pop culture collectibles and toys.  From Disney, Popeye, and Little Orphan Annie all the way to the Transformers, Masters of the Universe and (gasp!) Vanilla Ice, there was something for everyone on display.  

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Some of my favorite older pieces included a LOA decoder pin (which of course elicited a series of A Christmas Story quotes from both Jaime and I) and a really nice collection of vintage PEZ dispensers (featuring three of my favorite Universal Monsters)…

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There was also a display of Monkees memorabilia, teen magazines and and a sweet insulated lunchbox that I would have killed for as a kid.  I grew up watching the series on Nickelodeon and for all intents and purposes they were my first favorite band (with a little competition form the Beach Boys and Weird Al.)

monkees

As far as the more recent stuff, the toys and collectibles that I have some true nostalgia for, Geppi’s did not disappoint.  Though I wouldn’t call the collection exhaustive, it was diverse enough to be really fun and it featured items that don’t tend to get the same spotlight shown on them.  So whereas they had a very nice mint in package Transformers Jetfire, as well as an Optimus Prime and Grimlock, I was honestly more excited to see their collection of Super Friends (Nabisco) and Star Wars cookie and cereal boxes!  I remember collecting the Super Friends boxes for awhile around the time that the first Burton Batman film hit theaters…

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There was also a nice collection of vintage MOC Dukes of Hazzard toys.  Not quite as obscure, but still not as popular as the Transformers.

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I loved seeing these because of it just drives home how cool the impending Funko/Super7 ReAction figures are that are about to start hitting the pegs.   In addition to all this there were also some weirder pieces and arrangements in the collection that showcased the sense of humor of the curators.  Whether it was the BFF placement of the Buger King and Ronald McDonald or the oddly suggestive C3P0 tape dispenser, Geppi’s surely has a lighter side to their exhibits…

best buds

C3P-Wow

If you’re in the Baltimore area and you want a fun place to spend and afternoon I’d highly suggest stopping into Geppi’s Entertainment museum.  There’s a to to see and they also have a pretty decent pop culture gift shop.  I could leave with out a swell ThunderCats Mumm-ra vinyl Funko Pop figure!

On Sunday we braved the icy streets and made our way further south into Washington, DC, specifically the Georgetown area so that we could visit a cinematic landmark I’ve wanted to see for a long time.  For those of you that are horror fans, you’ve probably already figured out what I’m talking about by the mere suggestion of film and georgetown, but for those who might not know, The Exorcist was filmed in and around this area back in 1972.  I’ve wanted to visit this town and walk the staircase where Father Karras took his fatal plunge in the film…

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Let me just say that picking the dead of winter to visit this site was a precarious decision indeed.  The streets leading to the steps were on steep hills and coated in inches of thick slippery ice.  Luckily the steps themselves were pretty much ice-free, so we could still traverse them.  Also, in an odd turn of events, Jaime had secretly cued up the Exorcist theme so she could be set to play it as we walked the staircase, and before she could actually play it it automatically started playing as we approached it!  Maybe there’s a weird hidden glitch where based on your GPS Spotify will surprise you with rad music cues.  Or maybe Pazuzu possessed her phone :p

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All in all is was an amazing Valentines day weekend…

Reclaiming another small piece of my childhood…

I think it might surprise folks that I don’t have a huge collection of vintage toys from the 80s.  Almost none of my original toys made it through the plethora of family moves throughout the 90s (my parents secretly disposed of most of my childhood things claiming they were lost), the the few pieces that survived were either foolishly destroyed or traded away.  It didn’t help matters that as a kid I was always a “trader” swapping toys with friends as a means of getting stuff my parents didn’t gift me on birthdays and Christmas.  My history is littered with boneheaded toy transactions where I was most assuredly on the losing end of the bargain.

Case in point, my rash decision at age 12 to trade a garbage bag full of my Transformers for a Hot Wheels Rally Case full of about  40 Micro Machines cars and planes.  For some reason my parents ignored my pleas for some of these, and the rad commercials staring John Moschitta were driving me crazy with tiny vehicle lust.  Since I never had an allowance until in my later teen years, there was no way I could buy these on my own (40 MM, at $4 per pack of 5, works out to about $32 which to me at the time was nearing Scrooge McDuck net worth territory.)  So it made perfect sense to trade almost all of my transformers.  What did I give up?  Optimus Prime, Red Alert, Ironhide, Ratchet, Inferno, Sideswipe, Swoop, Soundwave, Buzzsaw, Dirge, Shrapnel, Kickback, Bombshell, Crosshairs, all five Terrorcons, a couple of Stunticons, Wreckgar, Beachcomber, Brawn, Warpath, Cliffjumper, and all of Computron.  Easily $250 worth of toys for a measly handful of Micro Machines.  I’m super glad my parents never found out (or let me know if they did uncover my black market toy swaps.)  For years I’d regretted it, and it wasn’t until the past six or seven years that I was able to come to terms with it after replacing a few of these toys with some Toys R Us reissues.  But there are a bunch of Transformers what weren’t put out again, and have been way too over-priced to even contemplate picking up mint on card or MIB.  This past weekend though, after visiting a toy store I thought was no longer open, I finally managed to reconnect with another of these lost Transformers (well, sort of.)

Afterburner 1

While browsing the tiny, impossibly cramped vintage toy shop I locked eyes with one of my favorite Transformers, Computron’s right arm, the Techobot Afterburner.  I’m not sure whether it’s his Tron-esque design, the cool looking white canopy/cockpit, the orange color scheme or the simple fact that he was one of the rare 80s era motorcycle toys, but Afterburner has always been burned into my psyche as a childhood favorite toy.  When I saw this carded figure I had to have it and was temporarily blinded by the fact that the bubble had been lifter and he was missing his rad pulse cannon.

Afterburner 4

Honestly, I didn’t care all that much because missing pieces or not, this was still a brand new Afterburner complete with card.  I’ve mentioned in the past that I have some weird issues when it comes to “buying back my childhood” and how I’m not all that keen on acquiring vintage opened toys as they’re essentially someone else’s memories.  Sure, we all share the common pop culture pool of toys and cartoons which binds us in a sense, but the specific toys that were loved and played with are very individual.  So when I happen upon old/new stock at a reasonable price it’s like having my birthday and Christmas all rolled up in one.  Extra added bonus with this particular Afterburner is that it was also packaged with a Transformers Decoy minifig, something I never had and have always wanted.  Win Win!

Afterburner 2

I immediately purchased the figure and the first thing I did on the way to the car was take a snapshot to share on instagram, twitter and facebook.  Inevitably the question came up about whether I intended to open the figure or to keep him (relatively) sealed.  Well I ended up opening him and here’s why…

Afterburner 3

First of all, the card and bubble weren’t in the best shape, and the bubble had been lifted further off the card that I realized initially (in my excitement I didn’t inspect it too closely, I just assumed the one pulse cannon had been removed.)  That alone would have bugged me, what with the staples used to close the bottom bubble and all.  More importantly I just really wanted to hold the toy again and to transform and pose him.  So I took out my sharpest knife and proceeded to cut away the portions of the bubble that weren’t glued down to free my new treasure…

Well, it was mush to my chagrin after opening Afterburner when I realized that this was not an almost mint on card toy.  In fact, this was a well played with and kinda grungy figure!  I should have realized this as the stickers had already been placed on the toy, but I really figured it out when I took him out and the side of the toy that was facing inward towards the card was dirty as all hell.  There was some sort of sticky gunk in the wheel well and there were years of dust and dirt in the crevasses.  Sigh.  I’m 95% sure this specific figure and card weren’t originally together either.  If I had to guess, the shop owner found the card with the bubble, weapons, and Decoy attached and put in a loose Afterburner he had on hand.  The fact that the one side was all clean sort of confirms that for me.  Am I pissed?  No.  But it confirmed that my decision to open the toy was the best bet.

Afterburner 7

Not only was the toy dirty, but he was a bitch and a half to transform.  I thought for certain that I was going to snap it in half while trying to bend the waist joint.  Judging by what looks like some super glue residue at the base of his head (which doubles as the connecting pin for attaching it as Computron’s arm), the head/neck piece was also broken and glued back on.  Still though, after I cleaned him up and very gingerly transformed him I did get a little thrill and it felt nice to hold him in my hands almost 25 years after stupidly giving him up.  Seriously, is his alt mode not the coolest toy motorcycle since Condor from M.A.S.K?

Afterburner 5

Afterburner 8

Luckily I was able to preserve his cardback and the inserts.  Because the package came from a Decoy edition, it was packed with a mini fold out comic which is really fun.  There was also a mail in form for Reflector (something I’ve coveted for years), as well as instructions on how to form Computron.  Isn’t this card artwork just the coolest?!?  I’m so happy that a nice hardcover book featuring Transformers box art is coming out in May (I’ve already pre-ordered my copy!)

Transformers Afterburner Cardback 1987 front

Transformers Afterburner Cardback 1987

Here’s the Decoy minicomic…

Transformers Decoy mini comic 1987 2

Transformers Decoy mini comic 1987 1

And that rad Reflector mail-away…

Transformers Reflector Mailaway 2 1987

Transformers Reflector Mailaway 1 1987

Only 2 Robot Points huh?  Well, I guess I only need one and a half more!!!

Transformers Robot Points 1987

Lastly, for anyone curious about how to form Computron, here you go…

Transformers Computron Instructions

I sure would love to have the other 4 figures to be able to form the full Computron again.  Since this Afterburner was originally someone else’s memory maybe I’ll be able to make an exception and pick up some opened figures.  Who knows.  Maybe someday…

Afterburner 6

Thank you Mr. Scheimer.

I never had the opportunity to meet Lou Scheimer and I regret that I was never able, in person, to say those two little words that can’t even begin to express how I felt, “Thank you.”

Like so many kids who grew up or came of age in the 70s and 80s, cartoons were the cornerstone of our lives. For some maybe only during those formative years pre-K to third grade or so, but for others like me, cartoons have been an essential part of my life for over three decades. As a kid cartoons were an alarm clock on weekends, as well as my introduction to comedy, tragedy, drama, and heroes and villains. They were my inspiration to pick up a pencil and start drawing. They were an escape, a comfort. They helped instill in me a moral compass. They were/are magic. Over my lifetime there are a handful of studios that have greatly affected me to different degrees, Sunbow, Hanna Barbera, Ruby Spears, Disney and DiC, but at the end of the day there really was only one that helped to define my voice as a person and that was Filmation. And Lou Scheimer basically was Filmation.

FilmationTrio_Big

I’m well aware that no one person is solely responsible for a studio, and I have a very long list of artists, animators, writers, producers, voice actors, secretaries and interns to be grateful for, but from all the documentaries, interviews, and articles I’ve read, Lou Scheimer really did put his all into Filmation and so many of his ideas and principals shine through in every production they released. He wasn’t just a figurehead; he was involved and invested in the art that was being created. The more familiar you become with Scheimer, the more and more you see him in the Filmation stable of cartoons, not only in just tone, but in all aspects of production. The most obvious example is his contribution of voice-work for so many characters I grew up listening to. In so many of the live action series Scheimer provided both credits narration and was constantly heard breathing life into robots and creatures, over intercoms and on computers. He was Dumb Donald on Fat Albert, Bat-Mite and the super computer on Filmation’s Batman. He played Tracey the Gorilla in Filmation’s Ghostbusters, was Zero, the off-screen boss from the live action Ghostbusters show from the 70s, and was Sandstorm on Bravestarr. But to me he was one of the major players that helped to define the vocal sound of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and She-Ra Princess of Power voicing so many of my favorite characters including Stratos, Orko, Trap-Jaw, King Randor, Swift Wind, Kowl, Mantenna, Grizzlor, Fisto, Spikor, Two-Bad, Moss Man, and the Attack Trak computer just to name a few. Scheimer’s voice has been with me in one form or another for practically my entire life.

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Scheimer was also instrumental in keeping animation in the US, and was one of the last hold outs with a studio that had all aspects of creation in-house for the majority of their run. Though a lot of people like to make fun of the studio for its budgetary restraints and re-use of animation, the work, to my eyes, is still beautiful and well worthy of study and deconstruction. I’m still really proud of the two episodes of the Saturday Supercast where Jerzy Drozd, Kevin Cross and I took a stab at breaking down the Masters of the Universe cartoon (Part one and Part two.)

If nothing else, I’m glad that Scheimer had a chance to see the impact that he had on so many lives and that over the last decade we fans have been treated to wonderful releases of a good majority of the Filmation library on DVD. These initial releases, the ones produced by BCI Eclipse, are also chock full of lengthy documentaries on Filmation, the shows, and Scheimer and his family. He made it out to conventions to meet with the fans and together they celebrated a lot of great animation art and childhood memories. Andy Mangels, who produced most of the special features content on those DVDs, also sat down with Lou and co-wrote his biography, Lou Scheimer: Creating the Filmation Generation, so for anyone interested in his story, there is plenty to delve into.

It’s a little late, but I guess this is my way of saying thank you Lou, for all you did, for living the life that you did and making mine immeasurably better off for it. Thank you.

6+6+6= Day 18 of the GPK Halloween Countdown!

We’re up to day 18, the second to last Friday in the countdown.  You know what you get when you add 6+6+6?  Day 18, and the Devil!  Er, or these series 2 Garbage Pail Kids stickers, 64a&b, Hot Scott and Luke Warm…

18 - Hot Scott

There’s something supremely creepy about a baby devil.  Whether it’s the little bit of hair creeping up his little baby belly, or the pencil thin mustache.  Shudder.  I’m glad the name plate and logo were red, only enhancing John Pound’s gorgeous artwork in this painting.  Oh, and speaking of baby devils being creepy (and other creepy evil babies), here’s some more proof.  I made this baby devil, baby Pinhead, and Baby Leatherface for my sister years ago for Christmas (she dug weird things like I do.)

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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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One of the few non-candy treats I could really sink my teeth into!

So, confession time.  I was a, er, late trick-or-treater quitter, or how ever you phrase that concept.  I had a hard time giving up the costumes and pillowcases when I got into middle school, and even the first couple years of high school.  I was never one to “do what I was told”, and lets be honest, going door to door in your local neighborhoods at night dressed up like a monster getting free candy?  How in the hell does one just quit that?  That’s like quitting smoking (I hear) or heroin (a closer comparison I would have to guess.)  Anyway, I had a very hard time giving up the ghost (costume), and found myself going door to door with a small group of like-minded geeky friends back in 1991.  My costume?  I was Riff Raff from Rocky Horror.  But I didn’t have moolah in the costume budget for a fake bald cap or wig, so I wore an old fireman’s helmet my ex-EMT uncle gave me.  My concept?  Riff Raff was a volunteer fireman on the weekends.  Everyone needs a hobby.

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So, when I wasn’t awkwardly telling folks to give me treats, smell my feet and all that junk, I was pretty big into collecting comics, and more specifically, at the time Marvel trading cards printed by Impel.  I had a huge collection of the 1st-3rd series cards, and even though I was a die-hard Topps kid, Impel really impressed me with their card quality.  So, where am I going with this?  Well, in addition to my rather large candy haul that year (king-size pillowcases were the way to go), there were some surprises mixed in that had me way more excited than the eventual chocolate-induced stomach aches that awaited.  When I got home that night and dumped the bag of candy out on the floor I saw a very familiar logo at the bottom of a pack of trading cards I didn’t even realize made it into my loot…

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That’s right, in 1991 Impel marketed a tiny set of Universal Monster Trading Card Treats that folks could buy and give out instead of candy.  Though I’d normally frown on this sort of non-candy treat heresy, I was actually really excited to see these.  Not only was I a pretty big fan of trading cards, I was also a budding monster fanatic too.  Unfortunately I didn’t have the wherewithal to archive these cards (or any of the tons of Universal Monster merch that littered the shelves that year), and I have no idea what ever became of the specific ones I scored that night.  But as luck would have it, on my first trip up to Bel Air Maryland to meet Jaime from Shezcrafti.com, we stumbled into a local antique store that just happened to have a few packs in stock for super cheap.

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As far as I know the set consists of six cards featuring the main stable of the Universal Monsters including Dracula, the Wolfman, the Mummy, the Creature, and Frankenstein’s monster and his Bride.  Now I’m not calling the Bride “Yoko” or anything, but seriously, remove her photo-bombing behind from that card art and you’d have a mean Monster Squad rogue’s gallery.  Just saying…

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I do like that someone (either the artist or someone in the design department at Impel) decided to stick the Bride and the monster on the same single card.  I’m sure Impel wanted these to be six to a pack for some reason.  Anyway, I like that you get a nice range of portraits and group shots on these cards, and I’m so glad the Creature get’s his own featured card considering he tends to get overlooked on a lot of merchandise…

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So the Wolfman gets kind of screwed on the cardbacks.  His synopsis story is eschewed in favor of a “Night Safety” hint.  Also, nice job on the monster movie release date brain teaser Impel, I mean the answers are printed right under the question and they’re not even tiny or upside down!

Thinking about these cards and organizing the monster-themed GPK stickers for my main countdown this year has me wondering, why hasn’t Topps put out a Halloween themed set of Garbage Pail Kids in time for the holiday (you know, for treats?)  I would literally go broke buying boxes of spooky gross stickers.  Topps, get on that.

False Nostalgia…

Nostalgia and memories are the closest thing to a time machine that we have, that we’ll ever have.  The power that images of old toy and food packaging can have over an individual is astounding, transporting them instantly to a day when they were a child in a store, staring up at a coveted item or watching as their parent handed over that week’s groceries to a cashier to be rung up.  Holding an Atari joystick will remind you what that orange shag carpeting felt like between your toes when you were trying desperately to figure out how to find all the pieces of E.T.’s makeshift radio transmitter.  For me, just the sight of a Little Orphan Orange Otter Pop instantly makes me remember sitting on one of those ground mounted transformer units, those big green metal power boxes that pepper the landscape of most suburbs.  I can feel the thing burning my butt and thighs through my long surf shorts as I sucked on that pop and chatted about skateboarding with a friend.  It’s an intense feeling, like a drug sometimes.  There have been moments where I stumble across something that I completely forgot about and literally doubled over as if I were punched in the gut.  The disbelief that I had forgotten, or more accurately neglected some cherished thing and memory is such a strong and weird feeling.  Running a site like Branded, well I’ve made a hobby out of recalling those memories and doing my best to inspire them in others.

So it was weird this past week when I found an advertisement in an old issue of People magazine that both punched me in and gut with remembering, but also made me realize that I’ve had nostalgic feelings for something I actually never had or experienced.  How many folks out there associate the 80s with wearing Lacoste kid’s polo shirts?  I know I did.  I could care less about clothes brands at the time, and I didn’t even know the Lacoste or Izod names, but I thought it was pretty darn cool that a bunch of my shirts had little alligator patches on them!  Part of this was growing up in Florida and seeing gator imagery everywhere, so it was also pretty cool to see those little patches on shirts.  It played into this sense that I had at the time that Florida was the center of the country, the center of cool (later on, when I moved up north for awhile, I was astounded when most of the kids didn’t even know what surfing was!)  I mean, even if you never had one, who doesn’t remember this little guy?

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It’s not like I only wore Lacoste shirts, or I have an intense nostalgic love for the rad little gator patch, but it is an aspect of my childhood that I remembered fondly.  Well, at least I thought I did until I saw the following 1981 Sears advertisement that jogged my memory enough to make me realize I never had any little gator patch shirts!

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As I flipped to this page in that old People magazine my jaw dropped at the sight of that little Dragon patch.  Braggin’ Dragon branded polos.  It was the fire coming out of its mouth, that little burst of flame that I remembered on my own shirts as a kid.  I instantly was transported back to a time as a kid when I thought my shirt was cooler than a friends because mine had a reptile that could BREATH FREAKING FIRE.  Top that.  So stumbling on this ad was sort of bittersweet with the reconnection to something I had as a kid and the realization that for the past 15 years I’ve been fondly remembering the Lacoste gator for no good reason.  Misplaced, misremembered nostalgia.  False.  It’s a lesson about how easy one can jumble memories, how idealized thoughts of the past can become.  It’s also another shining example of why I love ephemera so much.  These old mom magazines full of old advertisements and photoshoots are a version of the truth that’s set in stone.  They’re a Rosetta Stone that can unlock the past in ways that our own minds alone are often times incapable of processing.

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Now, do I get this little guy tattooed above my heart on my chest? ;)

Shaking the Pillars of Heaven…

So, the start of a new week, and it’s already been a rather crazy roller coaster of ups and downs here at Branded HQ.  Live in or around Jacksonville, FL area?  Did you feel the ground quake around noon on Saturday?  Did it rain frogs for a bit and mess up your outdoor lunch festivities?  Did your rose bushes suddenly burst into very fragrant flames?  Well that was probably partly my fault as I made a day trip down to the area to meet some folks in person that I’ve been talking with online for years.  That’s right, I finally got a chance to meet Paxton Holley of the amazing Cavalcade of Awesome, and in the process uniting 2/3rds of the Cult Film Club in person for the first time (no worries, I brought Jaime along in spirit, or rather with a bit of her soul that was captured on film and then printed out at Kinko’s.)  I’m pretty sure there’s some old testament prophecy about some pretty crazy stuff happening if all three of us were to gather in person in the same location at the same time…

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So what was I doing in that neck of the woods?  Well, when not talking about rad cult films, Pax’s main podcasting gig is as a co-host of the Nerd Lunch show (which I’ve been on a time or two, or ten actually), and they’ve been planning an IRL meet-up for awhile.  Carlin, Paxton, Robert (from the cool To the Escape Hatch site) and myself all converged on Jacksonville for some great food (at 4 Rivers Smokehouse), some great conversation (there should be a podcast released soon), and just some good times in general.

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In addition to the above conversation and merriment I was also introduced to the concept of a Doritos encrusted Mountain Dew flavored cupcake.  Yeah, read that last bit slowly and mull on that idea as you take a look at this monstrosity…

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It was pretty insane.  Not as Dew-y as I’d hoped, but still pretty darn tasty and crazy.

In other news, my beloved DVD player of the last 10 years has passed on to that electronic junk pile in the sky (which I imagine is actually the planet Junkion from Transformers the Movie.)  I’ve watched a metric ton of films and TV on that player and was pretty sad to see it go.  I mean, I wore thumb and finger grooves in the remote.  Sigh.  Well, the last movie to play on it was an 80s flick I’d neglected to watch until last night, the John Hughes written/produced romantic comedy Some Kind of Wonderful.  So if it was going to die, at least it, A, let me watch this flick, and B, picked a pretty rad movie to spin as it’s last screening. I’m glad it didn’t sputter out any sooner as I was able to see a very young and super precocious Candace Cameron playing with her collection of Garbage Pail Kids!  Harkening back to The Monster Squad post, it looks like Eugene wasn’t the only collector on the silver screen…

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In a move that was almost too cute to bear, Hughes, director Howard Deutch, or maybe even Cameron herself decided to have the GPKs fighting against each other.  My head almost exploded by the sheer amount of adorable nostalgia on the screen.

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I also love that she had both a collection on the backing in a cigar box as well as a bunch of stickers that were applied in a photo album.  Too cool.  I don’t remember ever seeing sticker collection in a flick like this before (though I’m sure I’m forgetting a movie or two…)

So, now I have to decide.  Do I finally get a Blu-Ray player and an HD TV?

 

A Good Thing About Moving…

So I recently moved house, which is part of what’s been keeping me so silent on the internet these past few months, but in the process I found some treasures I didn’t even realize I had!  A little while after my sister passed away I took charge of all the family photos so that I could organize and scan them all so we’d have an easy to share set of digital snapshots.  My main focus was getting to all the pictures of my sister, but I kept a stack of photos of myself as a kid that I haven’t had a chance to look through until this past month.  One of the awesome side effects of a move (seriously, you have to try and look on the bright side right?) is that it forces you to take stock of everything you own.  It all has to be packed up, moved and unpacked, so you get a couple chances to find things that have been lost or discover things you never realized you had.

One of laments about my childhood is that by the time I came along my parents had lost a lot of the zest for taking pictures that they had with my sister.  So I don’t have any Halloween photos, or all that many Christmas morning shots.  Well, apparently my parents had been sitting on some pictures that are exactly the kind of things I’ve been dying to post on Branded but thought didn’t exist.  There weren’t a ton, but there were a few really cool snapshots, like this one of me and my friend Timmy playing with his Millennium Falcon sometime in 1982…

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Man, how I remember coveting that thing!  I had some really cool Star Wars junk as a kid (a couple of At-Ats, an X-Wing, Snow Speeder, and a Y-Wing), but isn’t it always the case that the stuff you didn’t have always seemed cooler than the stuff you did?  Well, at least I got a chance to play with it and wasn’t just drooling over the pages in the Sears or JC Penny Catalogs…