Spotting some fun stuff in the new Robo Force comic!

So, as I mentioned last month the 1980′s era toyline Robo Force has made a triumphant return with new customizable figure sets from the fine folks over at Toyfinity.  Along with this relaunch of the toys, head honcho John Kent has tapped Jerzy Drozd to help him bring the story of the new Robo Force to life with a webcomic.  The first handful of pages have begun to update and the latest page is slap full of some fun, hidden, 80s cartoon and toy homages!  I thought it would be fun to break them down and see all the cool stuff Jerzy packed in the panels…

Robo Force Comic Page Six labeled

1). First and foremost there’s a little bit of foreshadowing on this page.  In the large middle monitor you can see the shoulder spikes, arm, and chest of Robo Force villain Hun-Dred!

Roboforce 3

2). Speaking of 80s Robot Evil Villains, there is a decimated Slaughter Steelgrave on the floor.  Arch nemesis of Hot Shot from the Starriors figures by Tomy.  I’ve talked about my love for these rad interchangeable wind-up figures before

Slaughter Steelgrave

3). Now I didn’t catch this at first (I needed a hint from Jerzy to figure it out), but up in insert panel you can see the avian hood ornament from the Masters of the Universe Wind Raider!

Wind Raider

4). Speaking of cool animal-themed 80s vehicles, jutting out from underneath that insert panel is none other than one of the arms from the ThunderCats Thunder Tank!

thunder tank

5). But not all of these references are from the far flung corners of the galaxy, off to the right in that above mentioned insert panel you can catch a glimpse at part of Cobra’s Weather Dominator from G.I. Joe!

Weather Dominator

6). If you’ve been following this Robo Force comic then so far we’ve seen a very wrecked looking Wrecker and the sad sight of Maxx Zero (Maxx Steele from the original toys) in pieces.  Looks like he could use this next item to light his darkest hour, the Autobot Matrix of Leadership from the Transformers!

Autobot Matrix

7 & 8). The next two hidden items get a little more obscure and are linked to the same character.  The helmet and power staff of the villainous Cravex from the Visionaries!

Visionaries_Cravex_Cut_Bubble

9). This last hidden item made me blush, and that’s all I’m gonna say about that… ;)

So, if you’re a fan of 80s toys and haven’t had a chance to pick up one of the rad new Robo Force figure sets, keep your eyes peeled on the Toyfinty site for an announcement on the next drop of new stock.  In the meantime head on over to their comic and keep up as the story of the new Robo Force unfolds with a new page each week!  I’ve known Jerzy for a number of years, have tabled with him at conventions, talked at length with him and other friends about 80s cartoons and have loved reading his comics work over the years so believe me when I say that he’s putting his all into this new Robo Force comic and it’s well worth your attention!

 

8-Bit Christmas is the Fruitcake of 80s Nostalgia Novels…

This is the first year in a long time when I’m doing my best to get into the holiday spirit for the Christmas season. For a good portion of my life Halloween has basically been my “Christmas”, and for all intents and purposes the period between November 1st through to January 1st is usually a time when I duck my head down and try and run as fast as I can through the rest of the year trying my best not to knock down any family and friends along the way. It’s a mixture of being burnt out after celebrating a month-long Halloween, and trying to fend off the insanity that comes with trying to find the perfect gifts, visiting with a modern fractured family and trying my best not to go broke in the process. But this year? I’m going all out by letting go of my worries and embracing the holiday.

So I was pretty stoked when I was approached by DB Press to take a look at the first novel from scriptwriter Kevin Jakubowski titled 8-Bit Christmas. Being described as “…A Christmas Story for the Nintendo generation…” (by author James Frey), 8-Bit Christmas tells the story of one kid’s epic quest of Super Mario Bros. proportions to secure a NES for Christmas. Amidst flaming wreaths, speeding minivans, lost retainers, fake Santas, hot teachers, snotty sisters, “Super Bowl Shuffles” and one very naked Cabbage Patch Kid, Kevin’s book vividly weaves a nostalgic tale of Christmas magic and 8-bit glory. Honestly this book being touted as packed with 80s era Christmas nostalgia sounded like just what I needed to kick off my own attempt to embrace the holiday again.

8-bit christmas

First and foremost, 8-Bit Christmas delivers on the nostalgia. Set in the late 80s and centering on Jake Doyle, a nine year-old who covets a neighbor’s NES to the extent where it borders on single-minded stalker-level obsession, the book makes reference to practically every major pop culture aspects from the decade. The Super Bowl Shuffle, baseball card collecting, Showbiz pizza and the Rock-Afire Explosion, the Pizza Hut Book It program, KangaRoos zipper pocket shoes, Max Headroom, Members Only Jackets, Moon Boots, as well as a litany of bands, cartoons, movies, TV shows, and toys way too numerous to name. Karate Kid references? Yup, there’s more than the entire Cobra Kai can battle. Star Wars? G.I. Joe? Transformers? Go Bots? Strawberry Shortcake? Cabbage Patch Kids? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. Much like Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One before it, the novel is an outlet to celebrate all of the stuff we 30-Somethings loved so much about our 80s childhoods, and all of our hyper-collective shared experiences. If there’s one thing our generation does well, it’s bonding over the insane level of pop culture awareness and merchandising from that decade. Jakubowski does an admirable job of shoehorning in so many references, and touching on so many aspects of what it was like being a kid during that time that I’d be hard-pressed to imagine any rock he left unturned. Well, he does skip over the mentioning branded lunchboxes when comparing and contrasting packed lunches versus buying the hot tray at school. Is every reference accurate and researched? No. He fudges release dates (mentioning the Karate Kid cartoon as a favorite even though it didn’t debut until a year after the winter of ’88 when the book is set) and mashes together experiences (like listing cartoons that only aired during the after school animation blocks or on cable like Inspector Gadget, Transformers and G.I. Joe as Saturday Morning cartoons.) But when you consider the sheer volume of nostalgic references, nit picking the errors and decade blending is pretty pointless.

8-bit christmas 2

Where the book sort of falls apart for me can be summed up by James Frey’s pull quote from above which evokes the film A Christmas Story; Jakubowski doesn’t just shoot for ACS‘s tone, he basically uses it as a point-for-point outline. Whether it’s aping the aged and slightly sarcastic narration of the main character reflecting on his youth, the plot device of a kid yearning for that one specific Christmas gift and then dealing with parents that basically tell him he’ll shoot his eye out with the NES Zapper, being forced to wear an item of goofy, girly clothing, reminiscing over the old man’s curmudgeonly ways, dealing with an annoying and whiny younger sibling, battling the town bully, or using the exact turn of phrases that seem uniquely in the voice of A Christmas Story, the book starts to feel a little hollow when you get past 80s homages. This is amp-ed up by a sort of ridiculous conceit that in 1988 only one kid in an entire Illinois county has a Nintendo Entertainment System, and only because his parents are filthy stinking rich. Having grown up in a decidedly middle class family with plenty of friends on both sides of the financial spectrum, I’m having a hard time remembering many kids who DIDN’T have an NES. Amp the story up even further with a Footloose-level county-wide ban on both owning AND selling Nintendo after the system is blamed for the accidental death of a yappy dog and all the reader is left being able to relate to is the plethora of 80s references. I think the problem lies with Jakubowski slavishly relying on A Christmas Story for inspiration. He riffs on Ralphie’s obsessive daydreams in that film as a jumping off point to tell Jake Doyle’s story, but forgets that with the exception of an all out attack by a pack of wild neighbor dogs on the family’s beloved turkey and an outlandishly sexualized leg lamp, that film is pretty firmly grounded in a very believable reality. 8-Bit Christmas has its head in the clouds and packs the book so full of wacky adventures in addition to Doyle’s Nintendo obsessed daydreams, that for me it was hard to relate to the story. As a film it would probably be easier to get behind, with only an hour and a half’s investment, but spending 8 or so hours reading a book it just sort of left me a little cold. It also doesn’t help that the singular obsession with obtaining an NES overshadows most if not all of the Christmas spirit in the book. I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that instead of helping me get into the mood the book kind of reinforced a lot of insanity I’ve been trying to avoid for the past 15 years.

When all is said and done, even though the story didn’t resonate with me as much as I’d hoped, I can’t help but recommend 8-Bit Christmas purely on the richness of the 80s pop culture experience. There are enough obscure observations to balance the obvious references and that alone makes the book a worthwhile read.  It’s so literally heavy and densely packed, it’s like the fruitcake of 80s nostalgia novels…

Awesome 80s Bedrooms: Goonies Edition

In my quest to document some of the awesome kid’s bedrooms from 80s flicks I’ve been kind of bummed that some of my favorite flicks don’t really have any bedroom scenes, or if they do they’re super abbreviated.  A movie like SpaceCamp only features the communal bunks at, er, Space Camp, while films like Wargames, The Wizard, and Little Monsters have super boring rooms with little to nothing to really comment on.  There are also some that are featured so quickly that it’s hard to really get a good look at anything.  Today’s awesome 80s bedroom, Mikey’s room from The Goonies, fits in that latter category, even though it’s a brief appearance there are still a handful of fun things to be spotted…

Goonies

This main shot has the bulk of the fun junk (even though there is a second shot as Mikey walks out of the room where you can see his work bench, there’s not a lot to comment on…)

Goonies 3

1). The Jacksons Poster clipping (most likely from their 1984 tour) *Corrected* Prince and the Revolution!  Dude, the white glove tricked me!!!  Thanks to The Navigator (as in Flight Of) for pointing out this poster clipping error!

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2). MSA All Service Gas Mask Model S.

MSA All Service Gas Mask Model S 1

3). 1984 LJN Gremlins PVC figures (featuring the Gizmo and Stripe Mogwai)

LJN Gremlins Figures

4). Tomy Zoids ZRK model

zrk

5). 1978 Superman Sheets

Superman Sheets

So there’s a handful of fun stuff in this shot.  I was really happy to spot the Zoids toy as well as the Gremlins Mogwai figures (a nice nod to Spielberg), but also the ’78 era Superman bed sheets!  Richard Donner having a past film in the set dressing is pretty rad.  There’s a bunch of magazines and comics on the dresser that are impossible to identify, as well as an interesting looking pink book that I have no idea what it is.  Also, I love the skull light on the bed post!  Speaking of magazines though…

Goonies 2

6). Coconut Pirate Head

7). Mad Magazine issue 227

MAD Magazine issue 227

This isn’t the only Mad magazine in the flick.  Though Mikey is looking at this issue in his room, in a moment, after he walks out and gets a pep talk from Bran, he throws himself on the couch where he picks up another issue, again making reference to Donner’s 1978 Superman film…

Goonies 1

8). Mad Magazine issue 208

Mad magazine 208

So, even though this was a really quick sequence, it illustrates that Mikey still had a pretty awesome bedroom!

So, did I miss anything?

Other Awesome Bedrooms I’ve covered…

Sara’s Room from Adventures in Babysitting

Eugene’s Room from The Monster Squad

David’s room from Flight of the Navigator

Robbie’s room from Poltergeist

Ben’s room from The Explorers

Pee Wee’s room from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure

Elliot’s room from E.T.

Fred Savage’s room from The Princess Bride

Josh’s room from Big

X-Men, Go and Save the City!!!

I’ve mentioned a few times on this site how much I love the Konami 6-Player X-Men Arcade game from 1992 (as a part of my dream arcade or while rambling about the Pryde of the X-Men Cartoon), and in general the X-Men have come up a few times (like when I was re-gifted my old comic collection or when discussing the Essential X-Men Crossover ads.)  Let’s just say that it’s a safe assumption that the X-Men were a pretty big part of my pop culture experience as a tween and teen.  In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that I feel lucky to have grown up during some of the best years for that comic property, getting into them around 1987 and sticking with them until the departure of the main series writer, Chris Claremont, around 1991-92.  I was there for the VHS release of the very under-appreciated Sunbow pilot, Pryde of the X-Men, I remember staring slack-jawed at the pegs when the 91 Toy Biz X-Men action figures were released, and was one of six billion people who fell in love with the artwork of Jim Lee as he came onto the Uncanny X-Men comic.  But getting back to the arcade game, that game was released right as my love for the X-Men was at its height.  My small group of friends at the time were all also x-fanatics and there were a number of birthdays celebrated at a local go-cart/arcade establishment called Malibu Grand Prix where the five of us spent all of our money on that beautiful 6-player machine…

X-Men Small

If there’s one thing that I miss about the disappearance of arcades across the country it’s the ability to step up to the above machine, plunk in a bunch of quarters and kick some Brotherhood of Evil Mutant butt with Wolverine, Dazzler and Colossus.  A few years ago I had the opportunity to pick up one of these cabinets for about $500, which as I understand it is a steal, but I ended up passing based on pure logistics.  Where in the hell was I going to put this behemoth?!?  It has to weigh at least 750lbs and there is no way it would fit through my front door let alone trying to find a place for it in a 2 bedroom apartment.  No, owning one of these machines is pretty much out of the question and so I resigned myself to never getting another chance to try and take down Magneto and his minions.  Well, that’s what I thought until this past weekend when Glen Manders, the gentleman spearheading the release of the Cheestroyer vinyl toy I blogged about this past weekend, pointed out that the game is available for iPad and android tablets.  Um, HOLY CRAP!

IMG_0066

I was a little skeptical at first as I’m not a huge fan of playing games from the arcade or home systems ported to the iPad.  I just don’t like using the touchscreen as a d-pad, it’s not comfortable in my hands typically.  I feel the same way about emulators on the computer.  I can’t use a keyboard to play them for crap, and I’ve yet to invest in a usb controller.  Honestly I’m just not enough of a rabid gamer to bother with it, at least not to invest the $20 or so I’d have to in order to make the gaming experience more in line with what I remember as a kid.  Anyway, I went into the X-Men Arcade game app pretty skeptical.  But after messing around with the settings for a bit, I was completely won over and was sitting in amazement as I got a chance to play this long lost arcade game again…

IMG_0057

As I booted it up and watched the opening sequence it was like being 15 years old again…

Cut Scene 2

IMG_0070

Just like in the arcade you have six X-Men to choose from, Cyclops, Storm, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Dazzler…

X-Men

…and you play through 7-8 levels battling against the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, more or less the exact line up from the Pryde of the X-Men cartoon, including Pyro, the Blob, the White Queen, Juggernaut and eventually Magneto.  Not sure why Toad got the shaft and left out of the game…

Brotherhood

For the most part you’re fighting your way through a city against mini Sentinels and armored brutes with cannons, but you also do battle with a series of other X-Men villains including the Reavers (well, a few variations of the tank-treaded punk Bonebreaker), Wendigo, Mastermold, and Mystique.  There’s also a handful of Egyptian statues in there that I think were supposed to point towards Apocalypse, but I’m not sure…

Cyclops 1

Wendigo

Reavers

So many familiar things came flooding back while playing this game, from Wendigo shouting his name as he pummeled the crap out of me, to how it kind of sucked that in order to use your mutant powers you had to spend heath points!

Storm 2

Back in the arcade days, this totally sucked because it meant plunking in more and more quarters as you killed yourself in order to have Storm summon a tornado, Cyclops fire his optic blasts, Dazzler set off a light bomb, or have Nightcrawler teleport.  It made a little more sense with Wolverine, who goes into a berserker rage, or Colossus, who shifts from metal to human back to metal with a sudden explosion.  At least you get to walk around skewering Sentinels as Logan and beating the crap out of armored villains with Peter’s Russian metal fists.  But the rest of the X-men are a little more hampered by sacrificing their innate mutant abilities in lieu of punching and kicking (or in the case of Storm, smacking people upside the head with a scepter?!?)

Colossus 1

Dazzler 2

Even so, the game is still super fun and with this tablet app version you have the amazing benefit of unlimited continues, so you can totally let loose with all your mutant abilities!

Continue

I was a little surprised how short the game is, considering my friends and I were never able to beat it back in the 90s.  I was able to play through and beat the game twice in an hour!  Granted, I had it set on the Easy difficulty, but still, it played through pretty quickly.  This is hardly a complaint though, as I had a lot of fun making my way through the levels, and plan on going back and beating the game with all six of the X-Men…

Mystique 2

There were also little things that I forgot like Nightcrawler’s ability to stomp on villains that have been knocked to the ground, and Magneto declaring that “You’re Dead!” when he takes one of your player lives…

Nightcrawler 1

There’s also a multiplayer function, but I haven’t had the opportunity to check it out.  All in all, for $0.99, if you’re a fan of the original arcade game you can’t go wrong.  There’s so much nostalgia to be relived with this game, and it takes the edge off of not buying that hulking cabinet when I had the chance!

Magneto 1

 

Cheestroyer is eating his way into my heart…

You ever stumble upon a piece of art that feels like it was designed specifically for you, the artist tapped into your brain and cherry-picked a bunch of cool imagery that you love and mashed it up into something new and incredibly awesome?  Well, for me that piece of art just happens to be the Cheestroyer, a rad independent toy created by the fine folks at Bad Teeth & Double Haunt.  He’s a little Mayor McCheese (cheeseburger head), a little Gamera (turtle kaiju), and a little Skeletor (the skull and furry underpants) with a dash of cephalopod for good measure!

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Hailing from Australia,Bad Teeth & Double Haunt are preparing to unleash their Mini-Cheestroyer figurine in 2014.  Their recent resin releases have all sold out, so the guys have decided to produce the “little cheeseburger monster” in a vinyl edition, but they need a little help to get everything up and running so they set up a Kickstarter for the production of the toy.  The first planned wave will consist of Glow in the Dark, Crystal Clear vinyl and Clear with Guts editions! Other pledge rewards include hand-painted resins, clear resins and copies of the Cheestroyer comic book.  I mean seriously, look how ferociously cute this monster is!

Cheestroyer

There’s only one week left to get this rad little creature funded and unleashed on the world, so if you dig art toys and turtle monsters with cheesburger heads, go pick yourself up a Cheestroyer!

 

Awesome 80s Bedrooms: E.T. Edition…

It’s been a few weeks since I sat down and got all OCD combing through a DVD looking for an awesome 80s bedroom.  Last night I popped my special edition of E.T. the Extra Terrestrial into the computer and spent a couple hours staring at Ellitot’s room looking for some fun stuff to talk about.  At first I was a little disappointed because so many of the scenes were in silhouette, but with a quick finger on the pause button I managed to find some nice shots with a lot of fun junk lying around, in particular I realized that Elliott has a favorite comic book hero that I never noticed before!

ET One Sheet

So, with any Spielberg flick from this period there is always going to nods to Star Wars, and E.T. is no exception, but there are a lot of other interesting things lying around Elliott’s room…

ET 1

1). Star Worlds Planetarium playset

Star-Worlds-Planetarium

2). Coors Beer baseball cap (because you know, drunk E.T. and Coors is totally the official beer of earnest sci-fi flicks…)

3). Viewmaster Theater projector by GAF

Viewmaster-Theater-Projector-GAF

4). Star Wars Hoth Turret and Imperial Probe Droid playset

Turret and Probot

5). Han Solo’s Blaster

Han Solo Laser Pistol

One of the things I love about Elliott’s room is all of the little items that represent space travel, be it the plethora of Star Wars toys, the space shuttle hanging from his ceiling (in a later screen shot) or his planetarium play set.  It’s subtle for sure, but still welcome for a movie about meeting an alien.

ET 2

6). Star Wars Greedo action figure

Star Wars Greedo

7). Captain America Pez dispenser

Captain America Pez

8). Frozen Moments fake spilled can of Coke

9). “Jaws” shark pincher/grabber wand

Shark Pincher

10). Star Wars 2-1B Medic Droid (in the football helmet)

Star Wars 2-1B

So, I have to assume that the shark pincher wand was an in-joke/reference to Jaws right?  There are a lot of Star Wars figures scattered around on Elliott’s desk, but these are the only two we get to see clearly and not just in silhouette.  Also, the Pez dispenser was a bitch to identify.  Even though Elliott holds it up to E.T. to show him how to fill and eat the candy there’s only a split second or two where there’s enough light to identify it.  Also, this is not the favorite super hero I alluded to before.  That’s still to come…

ET 3

11). Star Wars X-Wing Fighter

Star Wars X-Wing

12). Darth Vader’s Tie Fighter

Star Wars Darth Vader Tie Fighter

13). Incredible Hulk Poster

So, as I started to pay closer attention to the set dressing in E.T. I started to notice a lot of Incredible Hulk items hanging around.  Granted, this was smack in the middle of the character’s popularity thanks to the Bixby/Ferrigno TV show, but I like to image Elliott being a huge fan of the Hulk because he was a middle child and always seemed like he was being put down by his brother and all his friends.  Like maybe he identified with that inner rage or something.  Anyway, there are a couple of other toys in the above screenshot, the aforementioned space shuttle and another toy hanging from the ceiling at the top right of the frame that I can’t identify…

ET 4

14). Elvis Costello poster (so Elliott has good taste in music)

15). Weird dart board cabinet.  Artful Dodger Dartboard Cabinet (see update below)

16). Mighty Marvel Incredible Hulk Glowplate light switch cover

Might Marvel Glowplate

17). Star Wars Tie Fighter

Star Wars Tie Fighter

Alright, the dart board cabinet.  The main reason I pointed to this is that I’d love to find out what that weird Jack the Ripper-looking design is on the cabinet (MYSTERY SOLVED!)  Also, there’s an weird amount of dart boards in Elliott’s room!  Not only does he have this cabinet on the wall but there’s an additional dart board to the left.  Also, that other dart board?  It changes through out the film.  There’s another design that’s strictly black and white that’s hanging in other scenes (which you can see in the screenshot with items 6-10 above.)

ET 5

18). Star Wars Hammerhead Action figure (as well as Snaggletooth, Walrusman, Lando Calrissian, and Boba Fett.)

Star Wars Hammerhead

I didn’t want to clutter this will all of the screenshots detailing the various Star Wars figures Elliott shows E.T. in silhouette, but they’re all listed above.

ET 6

19). Star Wars Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer Playset

Star Wars Darth Vaders Star Destroyer Playset

20). Stratego and Chutes & Ladders board games (as well as a Lego set to the right of those)

In the screenshot above there is a weird looking clown/egg head toy that I can’t identify.  The nose lights up and there’s a tuft of hair that pops up and down as well, but I’ve never seen it before and couldn’t figure it out from google.  Anyone know what this freakish thing is?  Also, there’s one additional Star Wars item, a Tauntaun up high on a shelf with some wooden dinosaur puzzle toys…

Okay, one last cool item that’s not technically in Elliott’s room, but goes to proving his love for the Incredible Hulk…

ET 7

21). Incredible Hulk Sleeping Bag

Hulk Sleeping Bag

I think part of the reason that discovering all of this Hulk merchandise in Elliott’s room made me so happy is that I was a pretty big fan of the character at the time too.  That TV show had a huge impact on me and I remember begging my mom for the Ben Cooper costume for Halloween around this time as well as having my own Hulk Sleeping bag and Hulk plush toy (that had velcro hands so you could make him hug your arm…)

While I’m talking about E.T. and stuff I noticed in the background, there’s another little thing that I noticed during the opening scenes with all the kids in the house playing Dungeons & Dragons.  It’s just a little thing but I noticed that C. Thomas Howell is smoking while they’re playing, but it’s only in a quick shot and the cigarette and ashtray disappear pretty quickly…

ET Smoke

I wonder if that was a mistake, like Spielberg didn’t intent for it to end up in the film, or was it placed to show the kids being a little rebellious?

**UPDATE**

I recently had the opportunity to catch E.T. on the big screen so I took extra special care to keep an eye out for details in Elliot’s room since I’d been having so much fun analyzing the bedrooms in 80s kid’s flicks recently. First of all, when I originally dissected the room there was a weird dart board cabinet that I couldn’t identify (number 15 in the above screen shot…) Well, it was as plain as day on the big screen. #15 is in fact an Artful Dodger dart board cabinet from Oliver Twist!

artful dodger

Now that I’ve identified that it doesn’t do much to explain why the Artful Dodger is on a dart board cabinet, but still, mystery solved. In addition to this I also noticed some more toys in Elliot’s room, as well as in their living room!

ET 1

1). Chutes and Ladders boardgame

2). Magic 8 Ball

Magic-8-Ball-Fortune-Teller-Alabe-Late-1960s

3). Lego Universal Building Set

4). Empire Strikes Back Twin-Pod Cloud Car

cloud car

5). Super Simon Electronic Game

super simon

Though the Super Simon box is in the screen shot above (in Elliot’s room), the game itself is actually on a shelf in the living room…

ET 2

But for the first time I noticed that there are also some other fun things in the living room like…

6). An Atari 2600

7). Big Trak from Milton Bradley

big trax

There were also a bunch of other small, fun things I noticed throughout the film. Little details, like how John Williams drops into Yoda’s Theme for a could of beats during the Halloween scene when E.T. sees a kid dressed up in a Don Post Yoda mask…

ET 3

…or the fact that Dee Wallace is wearing a really weird handgun pin on her vest in one sequence…

ET 4

Sure, these things haven’t radically changed my outlook on the film, but any time I have the opportunity to learn something new about a film I thought I knew everything about, well that’s worth a full-priced movie ticket if you ask me.

So, anything I missed?

Other Awesome Bedrooms I’ve covered…

Sara’s Room from Adventures in Babysitting

Eugene’s Room from The Monster Squad

Mikey’s room from the Goonies

David’s room from Flight of the Navigator

Robbie’s room from Poltergeist

Ben’s room from The Explorers

Pee Wee’s room from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure

Fred Savage’s room from The Princess Bride

Josh’s room from Big

Alternative Movie Posters bringing the Art back to Design

I’ll be the first person to admit that I have my gaze set firmly in the past when thinking about pop culture art and design.   The packaging, ad campaigns and poster designs, all of the branding that I love to examine, catalog and collect.  I know a big part of this is because of my nostalgia, looking back to my childhood to what I consider the heyday of innovative and interesting artwork and design.  And I know that this can become a trap, where I’m blinded to great modern work because it’s doing something different than what I might prefer.  In my defense though, there are what seem like unending trends in graphic design these days that have made the landscape truly mind numbing and boring. In particular I’ve noticed this with a lot of modern poster design for films and DVDs, which I’ve mentioned before bugs me to no end.  I mean seriously, is it just me or do the following posters all blend into one giant mess of bland, sad, white noise?

Movie Posters the same more

I would certainly not lay this at the feet of the films themselves as there are some really great movies in this bunch (as well as some truly horrible films.)  All I know is that if I walked into a theater with a wall of these posters all lined up and had to pick a movie based only on this imagery I’d be confounded as to which one to pick.  They’re all the same.  Even when the campaigns are a little more successful in terms of good design, you quickly see so many other designers jump on the bandwagon, diluting interesting concepts and bringing it all back down into the pool of white noise, boring static…

same

Obviously this isn’t always the case.  There is still some great poster design out there in the mainstream, for instance the campaign that was recently run for the 2013 release of The Wolverine

the wolverine poster good

Simple, beautiful and tied into the story of the film (what little coherent story there was in that very horrible movie), the artwork in the above poster is a breath of fresh air even though it was the cream in an ad campaign that was rife with other horrible designs like this argument for banning the “brightness/contrast” function in Photoshop…

the wolverine sucks

So, does this mean that the art of design died sometime in the late 80s?  Of course not, it’s all about trust for creative vision and the lack of which exists in the large movie studio system.  These companies have millions of dollars riding on marketing and design campaigns and when attempting to sell their product to as large an audience as possible they can so very easily lose sight of the merits true art, favoring instead to stay the course of design by committee honed by market research and focus groups.

But there is a fascinating response to this bland design in film art, and in his new book Matthew Chojnacki explores this phenomena.  Alternative Movie Posters: Film Art from the Underground dives into the limited run screen prints, glycees and digital prints created for revival and festival screenings of movies that have been cropping up over the last decade.  There’s been a movement to bring the intimacy and limited edition of band gig posters to the film world where thousands of artists celebrate screenings with interesting conceptual designs.

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For those of us that don’t want to do battle with the shopping cart at Mondo (trying to land a copy of their popular, insanely fast selling screen prints), or who can’t afford to keep up with all of the amazing artwork with these alternative posters, Chojnacki’s book is a great archive highlighting the work of over a hundred different artists from all over the world.  Much like he did with his previous book, Put the Needle on the Record, he really does an amazing job curating this collection of independent artwork.  Whether it’s double page spreads highlighting a specific artist or using these opposing pages to compare and contrast between artists, focusing on a particular style, medium, or similar concepts, there was a lot of care put in the arrangement of the designs.

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There are over 200 posters spanning the gamut of the past 80 years of film, from stark expressionistic takes on M through to unbelievably creative spatial collages for The Dark Knight Rises.  For lovers of film and design Chojnacki’s Alternative Movie Posters is a welcome raft in the sea of uninspired corporate design.  Not every piece of artwork in the book will win you over, but all of them go a long way to recapturing a time when studios actually seemed to care about producing and commissioning true works of film inspired art.

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Each work is accompanied by artist commentary including poster specific inspiration, the art, films and other artists that influence their work, as well as what they use to create and their thoughts on film.  The book also annotates each piece with biographical info and how to contact the artists to find further work or commission some of your own.  Though the book doesn’t focus on any specific genre or era of film, for children of the 80s there is a lot of work focusing on the films we grew up loving.  Tron, Robocop, The Dark Crystal, Gremlins, Goonies, Labyrinth, The Burbs, The Lost Boys, Ghostbusters, Beetlejuice, Big and a ton more…

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I also love that Chojnacki didn’t limit himself to work being released in America, the roster of artists is truly international and an interesting mix of well known and up and coming designers.  I was just as excited to spot artwork from folks I recognize like Joe Simko, Tim Doyle and  Jason Edmiston, as I was to be introduced to folks like Gary Pullin (contributing outstanding Teen Wolf and Street Trash posters), Laurie Shipley (with a great Revenge of the Cheerleaders piece), Rocco Malatesta (with a great eye for minimalism and spacial conceptualization in his Raging Bull piece) , and Ryan Luckoo (who did a phenomenal job with the Dark Knight Rises.)

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If you have a film buff, artist, or designer on your Christmas list this year, do yourself a favor and pick up Matthew Chojnacki’s Alternative Movie Posters: Film Art From the Underground (and while you’re at it, pick up a copy of Put the Needle on the Record too.)  You won’t be sorry you did!

 

Now this is a film about Garbage Pail Kids!!!

For those of us who have sat through the beloved train wreck that is 1987′s Garbage Pail Kids: The Movie, all I have to say is, cheer up, because there is a much better GPK film in the works!  As much as I love that cheesy original flick (well, hate…yeah…no, love, well, love/hate) the idea of trying to bring a fictionalized version of these rad sticker cards to the screen was sort of doomed conceptually.  Maybe it could have worked as an animated feature, though as an owner of the unreleased cartoon series on DVD, yeah, maybe not.  Either way, the bottom line is that for those of us who love and collect Garbage Pail Kids it’s not about seeing these cards brought to life in another incarnation, it’s about, well, collecting the darn cards and loving the artwork and jokey concepts.  It’s as simple as that, which is what I want to see out of a film, a documentary that chronicles these gross out stickers from their origins in the 60s era Topps Nutty Awards, through the Ugly stickers, Wacky Packs and on through the phenomenon of the original 15 sets and beyond.  The Abrams book featuring the art of the first few sets was a great start, but a film would be really awesome.  Well guess what?  Some really dedicated artists are trying to do just that with the 30 Years of Garbage project!

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Spearheaded by director Sean Tiedeman and co-produced by Krystle-Dawn Willing, Jeff Zapata (artist and Topps GPK art director 2003-2011), and artist Joe Simko and partner June Gonzales, the film is looking to dig into the world of GPK with interviews with the original Topps artists, writers, and designers, as well as a bevy of current artists both inspired by the original stickers and working on the newer sets today.  They’ve already lined up folks like Art Spiegelman, Tom Bunk, Len Brown, Jay Lynch, Mark Newgarden and one of the most important for me, John Pound!  They’re also going to showcase rabid collectors and the next generation of artists like Brent Engstrom and Joe Simko…

Garbage Pail Kids Artists Brent Engstrom and Joe Simko(Brent Engstrom and Joe Simko posing on set)

The crew has created a kickstarter campaign to help fund this film, and I really want to see it reach it’s funding goal because I kind of NEED to see this film.  Seriously, just take a look at the great work being put into the set design…

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Simko has donated a lot of of personal work as varying rewards (including cereal box packs of Cereal Killers sticker cards series 2 and his amazing kid’s book The Sweet Rot), and there is even a series of GPK artist cards featuring parodies of themselves!  So if you’re as much of a fan and collector as me head on over and make a pledge today and let’s get this flick funded pronto.  Here’s a look at some of the rewards…

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There’s also a facebook page for the flick where you can keep up with news and talk to other fans.  So what are you waiting for?  Go like that page, pledge in the kickstarter and help make this thing a reality.

The Return of Robo Force!!

As a kid growing up in the 80s I felt pretty lucky when it came to be exposed to all sorts of different toy lines.  I was pretty obsessed with a lot of the usual suspects, G.I. Joe, Star Wars, Masters of the Universe and Transformers of course, but also got into some of the smaller or more obscure stuff like Dungeons and Dragons, Blackstar, Go Bots, ThunderCats, Silverhawks, Air Raiders, Starcom, etc.  In this more obscure subset, one of the toys I had that I’ve developed an amazing appreciation for over the past decade of reveling in nostalgia is Robo Force.  I only had one figure as a kid, Wrecker, the black and yellow muscle of the heroic robots.  In fact, I ended up finding Wrecker in the woods behind my house, caked in mud with his chest sticker half torn off.  I wiped him down and added him to my collection, fascinated by the intense hugging crushing action of his bendy straw arms, and his huge suction cup feet (foot?)  I’m pretty sure he acted as a stand-in for one of Skeletor’s minion robots when I played with my Masters of the Universe figures, but I never dug into the line enough to really realize what he was or that there were other toys in the line.  If I had to guess it’s because the line was never merchandized well, not like practically every other property in the 80s.

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Sure, there were bedsheets, baseball caps, watches, stickers, a lunchbox and even a magazine, but the line failed to really penetrate the marketplace with the absence of a syndicated cartoon.  There was a single episode produced by Sunbow that aired only once in the evening back in the winter of 1984, but it was never picked up for a full 65 episode run and thus the toy line sort of died on the vine.  A few years ago, when guesting on the early episodes of the Saturday Supercast, the little under-appreciated robots came up in conversation with Jerzy Drozd and our pal HooveR.  Ever since I’ve been really been addicted to the toys and have been picking up mint figures here and there whenever I can find them in the wild, like this Enemy figure I found at a local flea market.

Well, earlier in the year I caught wind that the rad John Kent and his company Toyfinity had purchased the rights to the line and was planning on relaunching it for a new generation of toy collectors.  We’ve seen all sorts of toy line relaunches by the large companies, G.I. Joe, Transformers and MOTU in particular, as well as designer toys heavily influenced by older lines (like the Weaponeers of Monkaa which riffs off of Crystar and the Trasformers), but how often do we ever see fans grab up the official lines and do an actual relaunch of the property?  Not very often, if ever.  To say that I was excited for the possibility of a Robo Force relaunch is putting it mildly, and this past October I finally managed to get my hands on one of the Genesis editions of the new figure kits!

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The first thing you’ll notice is that these new figures are a little different than the originals.  In particular the “action” features of the originals have been dropped in lieu of a more modern modular approach to the design, taking a page from Onell Design’s Glyos system, with which these are completely compatible.   I’m fully in favor of this switch as it both plays into the robotic nature of the characters and I really love the crossover it presents with other independently created figures like the Weaponeers and Glyos.  The ability to customize Maxx, or down the line to mix ad match eventual colorways is super intriguing and opens the line up to all sorts of fun ideas.

So, what’s included in this initial Genesis Edition launch?  The kit comes geared towards making a Maxx Zero figure with the 25-piece build shown above and below…

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But there are also 14 or so other pieces that will enable you to change out the tank treads for legs and switch out the hands, heads and weapons.  In fact you have enough pieces to build three other classically inspired Robo Force characters, The villain leader Hun-Dred, Enemy and the heroic Sentinel.

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The additional heads are subtly crafted (much like the heads of Glyos figures) to be multipurposed by twisting them around so that in one direction the head looks like the original Enemy or twisted it becomes Sentinel.

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John and the sculptors even managed to get the effect of Hun-Dred’s raised dome to expose his laser gun eyes!

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Getting back to the launch of this new line, when I first found out about it I immediately wanted to tell a handful of other Robo Force fans that I’ve met over the years, in particular cartoonist Jerzy Drozd who I knew would be over the moon.  Secretly, what I really wanted was to see Jerzy get a chance to bring the characters to live with a comic, and lets just say that all the pieces manged to align just right and that has become a reality with the launch of an online story this past week!

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I’m really excited to see where this line goes, and am eagerly awaiting new sculpts and colorways that I hope will be coming down the line in the near future.  If you’re looking to pick up one of these kits, they’re currently sold out at Toyfinity (a very good sign), but keep your eyes peeled as I’m sure there will be more figure drops soon.  In the meantime, Toyfinity also has a line of rad Mordles minifigs that are pretty darn cool!

 

 

I think I have a crush on Lynne Stone…

Even though I’ve seen a metric ton of flicks from the 80s, there are a lot that I’ve never seen.  One of the cool aspects of catching up with these movies is getting to see some established actors before they were huge, and in some cases seeing them in roles that give me a whole new appreciation for them.  A couple years ago I did just that when I saw Laura Dern as a young post-punk rock star in Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains.  It totally changed my outlook on Mrs. Dern and it’s sort of given me a taste for redefining my outlook on some stars that maybe I don’t give enough credit.  Well this past weekend I curled up next to my girlfriend Jaime while she introduced me to the campy 80s dance flick Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and at about four minutes in I found an entirely new appreciation for one Mrs. Helen Hunt!

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Literally, Jaime and I were about five minutes into the flick when I did a spit take (well, would have had I been drinking anything at the time) and freaked out after noticing Hunt wearing a very awesome piece of jewelery that I myself sported back in the 80s.  Her character, Lynne Stone, is sort of a Cyndi Lauper lite, free spirited, takes crap from no one, and has a wickedly fun fashion sense.  Though the film focuses mainly on Sarah Jessica Parker’s character Janey, I kind of immediately fell in love with Lynne and I’m basically already writing the fan-fiction sequel flick in tandem with this article.  Also, since I’ve sort of been locked in a mode of finding all sorts of fun junk in the background of movies I thought it would be fun to point out the six aspects that make Hunt’s Lynne Stone such a rad character…

#6: Her Crush on C. Thomas Howell

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But then again, didn’t we all have a crush on C. Thomas Howell?

#5: Her Transforming Catholic School Uniform

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The scene where Lynne rips off her school outfit and flips it to form an entirely new outfit is pretty cool, as is her line: “Velcro.  Next to the Walkman and Tab it’s the coolest invention of the 20th century!”

#4: Her Awesome Headgear

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Giant grasshoppers, 50′s coonskin caps, and Dinosaur barrettes are just a smattering of the awesome things you’ll see on Lynne’s head throughout the flick.

#3: Her Babysitting Technique

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Get to job, put on Dance TV, place baby in pizza box, take absolutely no messages for her employer.  That’s the way to do it.

#2: Her Taste in Lunchboxes

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I have to say that the 8 year-old me who was carrying a Masters of the Universe lunchbox to school, if he’d crossed paths with a teenaged Helen Hunt with the same lunchbox, well, he (I) would have fallen in love and then fainted.  Seriously, I love that she’s carrying that lunchbox!

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#1: Her Amazing Taste in Kronoform Watches!

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Not only did I have the same lunchbox as Lynne, I also had that same knockoff red Kronoform transforming robot watch!!!  (Also, note the rad dinosaur headgear…)

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Seriously, I might have to consider knocking one of my 80s crushes off my list because I think Lynne Stone/Helen Hunt deserves to be on it…