Tag Archives: 2008

Day 27 of the Halloween Countdown: Branded/Art & Story Podcast crossover!

Wow, this month is flying by.  It’s already the week of Halloween, how in the hell did that happen?!?  Well, I stumbled a bit last week in terms of keeping up a daily posting schedule, but it’s certainly not the end of the world.  I am on vacation from the stupid day job this week, so I should be able to cram it chock full of Halloween-y goodness.

First up is my half of the Branded in the 80s/Art & Story Podcast cross over event.  When Mark Rudolph, Jerzy Drozd, my wife and I got together to talk about horror storytelling and Halloween we recorded enough material for both of our podcasts.  Their half, episode 61 of the Art & Story podcast is up and available at their site, and now here’s the second half.  We end up talking for around 40 minutes about some Halloween memories past (in particular costumes and some fun candy gathering hyjinks) as well as talking a bit about how we celebrate the holiday today.  Talking with these guys is always fun for me, so I hope you can get some pleasure from the conversation as well.  To listen you can either click on the banner below, or right click and save it to your computer for ipod/mp3 player listening and such.

Again, if you enjoy this podcast, take a minute to check out the Art & Story show, as Mark and Jerzy have really put together a great podcast…

Day 23 BONUS! Talking horror on the Art & Story Podcast, Episode 61!




I wanted to take a minute and point to one of my favorite podcasts, Art & Story (hosted by Mark Rudolph and Jerzy Drozd), which I had the extreme pleasure to take part in recently.  Jerzy and Mark do an amazing job deconstructing the process of writing and illustrating comics (storytelling in general), and I was invited to the conversation to help get into the nuts and bolts of horror storytelling.  We ended up talking about why people choose to watch and read horror stories referencing our own personal taste in horror movies and such.   I had an absolute blast during the recording and I think we did a good job starting the conversation on horror as a storytelling genre.





We also recorded material that I’m going to use for the basis of another Branded in the 80s podcast, a look down the Halloween-y memory lane, which I’ll hopefully have cobbled together and ready for everyone’s listening pleasure this weekend.  It’s a Branded in the 80s/Art & Story crossover, 80s Marvel comics style!

Also, Mark Rudolph has another great podcast on Metal music called the Requiem, which I also urge anyone interested in broadening their listening horizons to checkout.

Day 23 of the Halloween Countdown: I wonder when the first edible full-body costume will come along?




Well, this certainly is the week from hell (as far as the day job goes.)  I can’t wait for tomorrow to be over because I’ll then be on vacation until the end of October.  Anyway, I hated missing yesterday’s posting, but thems the breaks.  To make up for it today, I’m going to take a second to talk about the craziest piece of Halloween candy I’ve found this year, and possible ever, the Tricky Treats Mask Pop from Brand New Products, LLC!





When I saw this on the shelf at my local Wal-Mart I just about crapped myself with a mixture of awe and fright.  Sure, we’ve all probably seen the giant rainbow colored confections that the Lollipop Guild carried in the Wizard of Oz (a lollipop that is also a staple of the Walt Disney theme park experience), but this Mask Pop sure beats those other suckers bloody.  This insane piece of candy clocks in at just under a pound (at 13 ounces/369 grams, 330 of which is sugar) and has 1400 calories!





Health hazard aside, this is an ingenious product that borders on the sadistic for sucker enthusiast and the parents or loved ones of said enthusiast alike.  It’s as if one of Homer Simpson’s world-made-of-candy daydreams came to life Halloween-style.  I mean what kid wouldn’t love traipsing around the neighborhood on All Hallows Eve, knocking on doors, and screaming out "Trick or Treat" from behind one of these delectably gruesome masks, scaring poor old grandmothers and strong-arming them into giving them sweets, and then, when the night of greedy debauchery is through, getting to eat your own Halloween mask?!?





Now I did mention that this awesome mouthful-of-cavities-waiting-to-happen is sadistic, and here’s why.  Being that it’s a mask made out of candy, as soon as you unwrap it, it’s almost impossible not to make an exploratory lick.  Bust even the slightest bit of moisture near this giant lollipop brings out the sticky, so even if a kid could resist nibbling on an ear, their warm breath trapped behind the mask will certainly make it one giant mess.


I was kind of skeptical about this whole deal, even thorough my near-bowel-moving excitement, as it just seemed too good to be true.  I feared that the pop itself would taste disgusting, if not just bland, and I wasn’t sure how well it would work as a mask.  There were a few varieties to choose from including a cat-like demon, a pumpkin head, a witch, and a pretty frightening clown, but this zombie pop is the one that really sang to me.  Besides, a lot of the other pops tended to have the mask eye holes separate from the design of the face (so there were effectively two sets of eyes to the mask), and this zombie was a nice combination of form and function with only one set.  When I got home immediately ripped the pop out of the plastic packaging and had my wife give it a test drive.  The verdict?  This is one creepy-as-hell mask!





As far as the edibility factor goes, it was surprisingly great.  The zombie pops are grape flavored and it was quite tasty.  There’s no way in hell I’d ever eat the whole thing, but I nibbled off an ear and chipped off some sticky goodness here and there.  What’s kind of funny is that the mask only gets more and more disturbing the more little bits you eat off of it.  This is an amazing piece of candy, though it is pretty damn unwieldy, especially after you start eating it (there really is no going back from that point…)

Day 21 of the Halloween Countdown: I wonder if raisin flop sweat is sickly sweet?

Well, the day job is certainly doing its level best to impede my work on the Halloween countdown this year.  I’m not writing to complain about the woes of the working life though, nope, I’m here to share a crazy piece of Halloween-y goodness (one endorsed by the California Raisin Advisory Board none the less.)  For today’s entry into the countdown I present the wackiness that is the California Raisins in A Haunting We Will Go! (circa 1988.)

The book was written by Mark W. Lewis and illustrated by the elusive Pat Paris Productions (elusive because the only info I could find on the world wide intertubes was that she/they illustrated not only the rest of the California Raisins books, but also Lady Lovely Locks and the Pixietails books as well.)

The story is pretty simple (how could it really be all that convoluted anyway), everybody’s favorite sun-dried R&B a cappella choir runs out of gas late at night near a broken down abandoned manor that just so happens to be the site for some ghostly birthday celebrations.   The ghosts have a broken phonograph and a need to boogie, and the Raisins can’t stop boogie-ing if they tried and need a place to crash.  Hilarity and a good dose of Scooby Doo inspired antics insue…

I was surprised by the art in the book. It’s not amazing, but it’s still pretty fun and I like the wrinkly style (especially in the 300 year old Shadowy Lady.)

I’ll tell ya, I’ve never seen a group of raisins secrete so much flop sweat in my life!

I do have to say that even though I’ve been aware of the raisins since their inception, I never really paid all that much attention to the story or characters.  After reading the book I’m sorry to say that they don’t get much deeper than the goofy claymation commercial shorts they originally starred in.  Proof of this can be found in their names (Shades and Tux are a couple of the amazing examples of how deep the character design goes…)  I never had any of the Raisin’s swag, but I always wanted some of the little PVC figures you could get at Hardee’s when you ordered their raisin biscuits for breakfast.

Anyway, the Raisins are another shinning example of anthropomorphized food items that should turn kids off of eating the sun-dried fruit (“Mommy, I don’t want to eat Shades, he’s my friend!”), but ironically fueled a temporary fire of raisin purchases in the 80s.  Weird.

*Updated* Day 20 of the Halloween Countdown: I think I just might make my pumpkin Skeletorized this year…




This is going to have to be a quick countdown entry today (work is crazy stupid killing me today.)  This is from the Fall 1986 issue of the He-Man & the Masters of the Universe magazine.  Make your pumpkins the mightiest pumpkins in the universe!





Hopefully I’ll get a chance to update later with the cover to the magazine and some other interior treats from the issue…


**Update**


Here’s some more from that issue of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Magazine including the cover…





…this really fun PAAS Halloween make-up kit ad (I always thought PAAS was just about the Easter swag..)





…and this Pineapple Kids Club ad (notice those four Glow Ghosts!)





Hopefully I’ll have more time tomorrow!

Day 17 of the Halloween Countdown: More gummi than you’ll need ever!




Last year during the ghouliest season of the year I wrote about a piece of Halloween candy that completely floored me as it was the single craziest, and largest gummi I’d ever seen called the Mad Lab Frog Dissection Kit (which was part of the Target-specific branded candy under the Edgar & Ellen heading.)  Though I was completely dazzled by the kit, in particular the molding on the frog gummi itself and the concept in general, I sort of lamented a couple of the design elements (or lack thereof.)  The set came with some gummi flies that were tucked away in a little baggy hidden in the hollowed-out belly of the frog.  Personally I thought this was a missed opportunity as the set is a ‘dissection’ kit, and it would have been so cool to have to cut into the frog (with the provided plastic knife) to liberate the flies.  I also thought that it might have been cool to include some sort of liquid candy (like the innards of a Squeeze Pop) to give the impression of a gruesome reptilian autopsy.


Well I was pretty happy this year when I first glimpsed the 2008 Target candy section and saw that the gummi frog dissection kit had made a comeback.  It’s a bit smaller, though just as heavy, and I hoped as I was standing in the checkout line that it’s reduced stature and increased heft might mean that there were some dreamed of improvements…





Target ditched the Edgar & Ellen branding this year in lieu of their new Domo theme (as I mentioned in the inaugural post for this year’s countdown), and the new dissection kit has since been relegated to the normal Target monster character branding (as well as being a great example of the design of this year’s offerings, package-wise.)  It’s been re-dubbed a Gummy Dissection Kit (a bit more generic to give room for other varieties as we’ll see in a minute), and is pretty much just a pared down version of last years affair…





Basically the gummi flies and a good bit of the molded details have been dropped, and though the frog itself has shrunk, it’s now solid and has an opaque section of gummi layered on top of the more standard green translucent base.  As I plunged the little orange plastic knife into the tough gummi flesh I still had hopes that there was a liquid surprise inside, but I was disappointed as it’s just one sold gummy frog.  Also, it’s still green apple flavored (not my favorite by a long stretch) so I didn’t really care for the taste, though it has a better consistency than the Flix gummies I talked about a couple days ago.


This year we can also choose a second dissection kit if the frog doesn’t float our boat.  The gummi heart is a welcome addition to the stable of oversized (almost life-sized) confections around this season.  It’s exactly like the frog with no fun little discoveries tucked inside, and is strawberry flavored, so it might be more palatable for those of us who don’t care for green apple candy flavoring.





All in all, I’m still a little disappointed at the missed opportunity of putting more ‘dissection’ elements into the candy, but it’s still a neat idea that I’m sure kids are going gaga over.  Maybe next year, huh?

Day 16 of the Halloween Countdown: Sitting for monsters is a full time job…

So if the fact that I’m doing this Halloween countdown weren’t enough of an indication that I love the season and horror themed entertainment in general, I just have to take a moment to say that I love the scary.  Ever since I was a little kid I’ve been infatuated with the macabre, be it grotesque Garbage Pail Kids artwork, the array of insane Halloween masks that used to be on display at Spencer’s in the 80s, the addictive VHS covers to all the horror films at my local video store, and especially in the fiction I chose to bury myself in.  I’ve written many times of my love of the Crestwood Monster Series in past countdowns, and when I started ignoring chapter and Choose Your Own Adventure books for more adult fare it was Stephen King that I first picked up (around the time I turned 12.)  Another example of some ghoulishly fun reading that I did when I was younger is a short series of books starring a character named Samantha Slade.  I mentioned the series a couple years ago in passing, but I thought I’d take a second today to look at the books a little closer, in particular the wonderful cover art by the very talented Jody A. Lee.  The series was published between 1987 and 1988 by Archway Paperback Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, and was written by Susan Smith (an author who I haven’t been able to find much information about.)

Of the series, I must have read this first installment (SS: Monster-Sitter) the most (at least 10 times if not more) since my mom picked it up for me in 1987.  The series was probably cashing in on the craze of the Babysitter’s Club and the rest of the book series in that ilk.  I certainly wasn’t against dipping into series that were more or less meant for the other gender (I loved the more girl-centric Judy Blume books for example), but what really grabbed me wit this series was its creepy theme in that Samantha is a babysitter for what amounts to an amalgam of the Addams Family and the Munsters.  Basically, Samantha plays Marilyn to the Brown Family’s monsters, spending the majority of the first book unaware that the kids she’s sitting for are actually monsters (believing that the family is just eccentric to a T.)  Between heading up the planning committee for her school’s annual haunted house, taking on this new babysitting gig, and trying her darnedest not to embarrass herself in front of a boy she has a crush on, Samantha just doesn’t get a break.  With the help of her best friend Iris and some unexpected aid from the Brown kids (Lupi, a real life werewolf, and Drake a mad scientist in training) she manages to pull everything together and put on a legendary haunted house party.

One of the aspects of the first book that’s always stuck with me is all the crazy food that the Browns (an unbeknownst to her, Samantha as well) consume including crunchy spider’s legs (seen on the cover above.)  There’s a scene in the book where the Brown kids help Samantha make burgers out of, well, it would be indecent to say.

As far as the rest of the series goes, I wish I had found them when I was younger.  Though I loved the first book to death I never found any other entries in the local used and new bookstores around the central Florida area.  There was an ad in the back of the first book which teased me with and informed me to look out for the second installment, Confessions of a Teenage Frog, and for years I was curious about the continuing adventures of Samantha Slade.  It wasn’t until the amazing gift that is the internet that I’ve managed to track it, and the rest of the series down in the last 10 years.  Confessions picks up where the last book left off with Samantha now the permanent sitter for the Browns.  While attempting to run for class president she partakes in Drake’s “Greatness Formula” which does little for the campaign, and in fact turns her into a frog.

In the third installment, Our Friend: Public Nuisance #1, Samantha is introduced to Lupi and Drake’s pet dinosaur Bubbles.  Drake invents an invisibility formula that makes Bubbles disappear, but he escapes the starts ravaging the town.  Samantha has to snap to action to corral the dinosaur and keep him safe from the nation guard and the angry townspeople as the invisibility formula begins to wear off.

The last installment revolves around Samantha and the kids starting up a band (called simply enough Blood) and entering into a battle of the bands.  This is probably my favorite cover in the series as the realization of the band in full glam/glitter rock glory is awesome…

I think these hold up pretty well, and aside from the questionable first person perspective (it gets old having Samantha explain and give internal commentary on everything), I was surprised at how enjoyable it was to read through them.

Day 15 of the Halloween Countdown: It’s doesn’t just look gross, and that’s a shame…




It’s funny, I’ve spend a ton (for me) on candy for this Halloween season, but I’ve yet to talk about any of it yet, so I thought today would be a good day.  The crop of interesting new stuff in the stores right now can hardly be described as a banner year for Halloween candy.  Like most years, 90% of the treats are your basic fun-size output from the major companies, so you won’t have a hard time finding any Snickers or Reese Peanut Butter Cups, and of the remaining 10% most of it is retreads of last years new products.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m just as happy to see Ghost Dots on the shelves again as finding something new, but it sure doesn’t help me with content for the site.


Anyway, I don’t really have a preferential list of favorites, but I do have a handful of candies that feel like they deserve to be at the bottom of a proposed list, so it’s as good a place to start as any.  Basically this year, some of the candy I was most excited about picking up ended up being some of the worst tasting dreg I’ve ever shoved into my mouth.  Flix Candy is sort of making a name for themselves in the odd/grotesque department with a whole assortment of gummi stye candies, ranging from the mildly amusing (Gummi Popcorn), to the out right nauseating (Zit Poppers gummi pimples.)  I first rand across them a couple Halloween seasons ago with one of their first big entries into the market their Fresh Box of Boogers.  What caught my eye initially was the super detailed mascot character on the packaging and the very odd concept of snot gummis.  Back then I didn’t care for the flavor and consistency of the product (they fell into the category of sugar coated gummis that were on the sour side, not some of my favorite things), and even though they supposedly have been improved in the past two years I haven’t been able to bring myself to picking them up again.  This year I couldn’t help but notice how much the company has grown (in terms of product offerings), so I decided to give them another chance and I picked up 4 varieties including Zit Poppers, Bed Bugs, Freaky Fingers, and a life size gummi Gecko that I didn’t bother to photograph after trying the rest of this stuff (it too was awful.)


Zip Poppers…





These are packaged in a very similar manner to the Boogers from a couple years ago and I was expecting them to be the worst of the bunch.  Inside the box is a bag full of wet, translucent flesh-colored gummies with angry looking red tips that are filled with a bit of liquid candy (they are billed as Ozzy, Sticky, Goo Filled Zit Gummies after all.)  Comparatively these are the best tasting candy I’ve sampled from Flix Candy to date, though they aren’t nearly as good as most common brands of gummi candy and I’m not a fan of the sticky messy factor as it feels like an "eat-the-whole-bag-or-throw-the-remainder-away" kind of candy.  The "zit-popping" aspect was lackluster at best (I’ve had better oozing experiences with Freshen Up gum), though there are quite disgusting to look at…





Bed Bugs …





I was really impressed by the quality of the design on the Bed Bugs candy, as it’s pretty rare to find gummies with this many colors and this much detail in the molded design.  Taste-wise their pretty damn horrible and a bit too tough for my gummi palate.  If there was one saving grace (beyond their interesting appearance) it would have to be that fact that 4 of the 8 included gummis had a camouflaged candy sugar coating that make for a ghastly and realistic (I’m assuming here) bug crunch that really took me aback…





Freaky Fingers…





I’ve come across two large sized gummi severed hands this season which in and of itself is cause for celebration.  For this Flix candy severed hand installment I was really jazzed by the coloring and the detail in the molded design.  This looks like a perfect gummi zombie or decompsed corpse hand, though unfortunately as far as taste and consistency goes, this was horrible.  The candy tastes like it’s laced with a low quality gasoline or petroleum product of some sort, and it was tough as all get out.  Maybe this is the trade-off for such a nice appearance and design, but if that’s the case give me less detail and colors and a better taste and mouth-feel.  This is candy we’re talking about and it shouldn’t be a chore to eat it.





If nothing else, I hope Flix candy keeps plugging away at their formulas and hopefully they can find a nice middle ground between appearance and taste.  They are trying which is something I can’t say about a lot of other companies out there…

Day 14 of the Halloween Countdown: Don’t mess with this version of Frankenstein!




If I had to pick my favorite scary, creepy, Halloween-y character ever, it would most likely be Frankenstein’s monster.  There’s something about his sad, lumbering, misunderstood figure that I can identify with.  Over the years I’ve amassed a small collection of Shelley’s book, as I’m always willing to pick up a new copy when I find a cover I really like, or (gasp!) if it’s illustrated.  One of my favorite permutations of the book is the 1988 Step-Up Classic Chillers adaptation by Larry Weinberg (published by Random House.)  It’s not the adaptation that I love, but the creepy cover (painted by Lisa Falkenstern), and the interior pen and ink illustrations by Ken Barr





There’s something very menacing about the way the monster is pulling back the shroud on the cover; there’s a bit more of the spark of life in the character’s face and intent in his posture.


As far as the interior illustrations go, I was surprised by how influenced they were by the classic Universal version of the creature’s visage (I always thought that Universal was pretty litigious when it comes to squared-off, flat-topped interpretations of the monster.)  Ken Barr’s illustrations are really fun and are in the vein of 70s and 80s era comic book art (which makes sense considering Barr did a lot of work for Marvel and D.C., as well as men’s adventure magazines.)  If I’d have found this particular version as a kid I would have flipped for it…





In particular I love how aged and weather beaten the monster’s face appears, with the hard worn wrinkles and deep crags around his eyes and the evil looking laugh lines around his mouth.  Granted, I also love the more standard vacant or innocent look the creature is given, but every once in awhile it’s refreshing to see the seething anger just below the surface of the monster, if not outright as it is in this book…














Day 13 of the Halloween Countdown: Now I want to see a Groo Vs. Freddy comic…




Well, I did some podcasting this weekend, though it wasn’t what I thought I might be doing.  I won’t go into the specifics until they’re final, but I’ll be a guest on another show in the coming weeks, and I snagged some audio for a Branded podcast that I’ll hopefully have up this coming weekend.  Should be fun.


For the countdown today I present a few comics by the mega-awesome Sergio Aragones which he did for the October 1987 issue of MAD magazine.  They all center around A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors…