Tag Archives: Comic Books

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…

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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!

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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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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.)

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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…

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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…

Taking a Closer Look at an Awesome Bedroom, part 2: The Monster Squad Edition!

I had a crap ton of fun examining Sara’s room from Adventures in Babysitting a couple weeks ago, so I figured I’d take a second to take a closer look at another pop culture bedroom.  This time I decided to scope out Eugene’s room in one of my favorite flicks, 1987′s The Monster Squad!

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There really only one scene with the bedroom in the flick, the iconic beat where Eugene, scared out of his wits, begs his dad to come and get the monster out of his closet.  But in that minute or two of footage there are a ton of cool things in the background.  But let’s start with Eugene himself as he’s wearing some pretty darn bitchin’ PJ’s…

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1). Robotech Odyssey Pajamas

That’s right, Eugene is a fan of the 80s Carl Macek re-edit of the Macross Space (Soap) Opera.  Front and center on that rad nightshirt is none other than Rick Hunter, Roy Folker, and Captain Gloval.  But that’s not all the giant mech goodness in this room as we’ll see in a later screenshot.  So let’s take a closer look at Eugene’s room shall we…

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2). The Punisher Poster

3). Garbage Pail Kids Stickers

4). Godzilla Toy

5). My Pet Monster

6). Wolverine Poster

So, I think it can be firmly established that the set designer decided that Eugene was into comics, in particular some of the more violent vigilantes in the Marvel Universe!  There are also some GPK  stickers on the wall, though it’s kind of hard to make out which ones.  There are more GPK stickers on his closet door that I’ll run down in a bit.  Like Sara in Adventures in Babysitting, Eugene was a proud owner of a My Pet Monster too.  Let’s take a clearer peep at those Marvel posters…

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It kind of cool to realize that Eugene was into the same characters that I was growing up, and I’m totally jealous of that Rick Leonardi Wolverine poster!  Anyway, what else is in his room?

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7). Dreadstar Poster

8). Comico Comics posters (Jonny Quest on top and a jam poster featuring Mage, Grendel, Jonny Quest and Robotech among other characters…)

9). Mickey & Minnie Mouse lamp

Continuing the comic book theme we can get a glimpse of some Comico branded posters on Eugene’s wall.  Not only was he reading Wolverine and the Punisher, but also potentially Matt Wagner’s Mage and Grendel as well!  Seriously it’s like that set designer was pulling inspiration from my very mind!  There are a couple of other posters in the room that I couldn’t peg (one to the left of and one below the Wolverine poster in the second screenshot), as well as a toy helicopter on his bureau underneath the Punisher poster.  Anyone out there have any guesses?  Here’s a better look at that Comico mash-up poster…

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Okay, last but certainly not least, a better look at some of the Garbage Pail Kids on Eugene’s closet door…

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10). More GPKs.  Specifically Roy Bot, Apple Corey, Stoned Sean, and Warmin Norman from the 3rd series, Basket Casey, Larry Lips and Dana Druff from the 4th series.  The rest I can’t get a good enough look at…

So, anything I missed?

Other Awesome Bedrooms I’ve covered…

Sara’s Room from Adventures in Babysitting

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

Elliot’s room from E.T.

Fred Savage’s room from The Princess Bride

Josh’s room from Big

Filed under obscure comic book adaptations…

I’ve recently rekindled my passion for finding and reading 80s era movie tie-in novelizations, and in restarting the hunt for books there were a few candidates that jumped up to the top of my list.  One in particular has proven super difficult to track down, the novelization of the Tom Hanks/Penny Marshall movie Big.  I can’t confirm that a novelization actually exists as I’ve never seen it, and finding evidence on the internet is proving to be way more difficult than I could ever have imagined.  First off, there aren’t that many folks talking about novelizations as it is, but this is drastically compounded by the fact that using “Big” as a search term is about as useful as searching for a determiner like the world “the”.  Adding insult to injury is combining it with “Tom Hanks”, “Movie”, “Tie-in”, “Novelization”, or “Book”.  Try looking up “Big” in fiction and literature on Amazon, and then decide whether it’s worth the 16 hours it would take to flip through the six billion books the database brings up.  Long story short, I can’t confirm this novelization exists outside of a few forum posts, and none of these ever list anything remotely useful, like say the name of the author.  The search wasn’t completely fruitless though, as it did turn up one piece of obscure Big merchandise that I had been totally unaware of, a 1988 comic book adaptation!

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I know, “What the what?!?” indeed.  It’s not that comic book adaptations of flicks are all that rare, it’s just weird to find one that wasn’t action, horror, or science fiction-oriented.  You don’t tend to see dramas or comedies adapted because the target audience, especially in the 80s was almost always 12 year-old boys, and by and large most comics aimed at this audience are almost always super hero-related, with the stray Archie and cartoon adaptation thrown in for good measure.  What makes this even weirder, at least for me, is that this single issue was published by Hit Comics, which was a division of Dark Horse, the company at the time that was responsible for bringing us a line of very adult and graphic movie tie-ins including Terminator, Aliens, Predator, and RobocopBig just doesn’t seem like a likely candidate to fit in with this line’s tone or audience appeal.  Regardless it exists, and when I first found out about it I really hard my hopes up that it was going to be amazing considering it was largely advertised as featuring the artwork of Paul Chadwick, the man behind Dark Horse’s Concrete

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Before I get into the actual comic though, I wanted to take a look at the single most important reason this comic book exists, which is the back cover (featured above.)  A full page advertisement for Big coming to store on VHS seems a little redundant, but then again it explains the entire endeavor.  I know this is obvious, but this comic is just one giant advertisement for the home video release, but considering it was released via Dark Horse is where it gets a little weird in my eyes.  See, back in ’88 DH didn’t have the market presence of some of their rivals like Marvel and DC.  To be honest, I don’t remember seeing any DH titles in grocery or convenience stores, only in the specialty comic stores.  So it’s weird that an obvious 32 page advertisement would be produced, with writers, pencilers, inkers, and colorists brought on board just to have it sit on a rack in a comic store being largely overshadowed by a plethora of more popular titles.  If I had to take a guess, I’d say that this was comic ended up as a marketing blunder and an eventual lesson learned by both DH and 20th Century Fox, that in the future the future it might be a better idea to try something else (like Dark Horse partnering with New Line to reverse the process and bring their comics properties to the screen, ala The Mask.)

Anyway, this obscure gem exists, and I thought I’d take a few moments to take a look at what it is we did get.  So, as I was saying earlier, I was pretty excited by the idea of Paul Chadwick handing the illustrative duties on the book, but then was sorely disappointed when I had the comic in hand and realized he only worked on the cover.  The actual comic was penciled by Jack Pollock, inked by John Nyberg, and adapted by Mark Verheiden.  Pollock worked in the production department at DH and brought a very Mad Magazine-esqe cartoony-ness to the project.  It’s not that this is awful, but it wasn’t the wistful tone that I was expecting from Chadwick’s brush.  As far as the adaptation of the film goes, well, it’s all basically there, though extremely abbreviated considering the actual comic only runs 28 pages.  Most scenes only get a panel or two, and a majority of the dialogue is reserved for the key quotes from the flick.  I was actually surprised that they really managed to fit it all in considering…

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Back to the artwork, again, it’s not awful, though it is pretty loose and a lot of the caricatures and exaggeration tend to go way too far.  There are a bunch of places in the book where Pollock tries to ramp up the intensity of a scene, or to capture the action of the film and he just ends up going way too far off the grid.  Take this segment where Josh Baskin wakes up as a fully grown man…

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Egads, no one ever needed to see that particular angle of comic book Tom Hank’s underwear-covered taint.  The effect this has on the tone of the overall book can be quite drastic at time.  Consider this next scene when Josh first confronts his mother…

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Wow, vicious and kind of scary.  This cartoon-y approach does make for some weirdly fun interpretations though.  My favorite by far is Pollock’s take on the segment where Josh and Billy decide to check into the Saint James hotel in the city.  Pollock’s version of a run-down New York is pretty bonkers, and evokes something you’d be more likely to see in a Troma or John Waters film.  Speaking of John Waters, I think the caricature on the far left was an homage to the pencil-thin mustachioed king of sleazy cinema…

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Of all the scenes to leave in or cut, I was actually surprised that the touching love scene between Josh and Susan was one of the ones that made the cut.  Granted, we’re luckily spared of seeing the comic version of Hanks getting to second base.  But the scene is alluded to and we do get the “lights on” quote/gag…

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All in all I thought this was a thoroughly weird piece of obscure 80s merchandising, and quite possibly the only for the film Big (unless I eventually track down an actual novelization.)  It certainly makes me wonder if there are comic adaptations of The Money Pit or the Man with One Red Shoe floating around out there.  Better yet, I could actually see Dark Horse having done The ‘Burbs.  As it stands, I guess I’ll just have to console myself with this parody of Splash in the meantime…

Come out and meet me at the Up! Fair this Friday and Saturday!

Just wanted to break radio silence one more time to remind everyone that coming this Friday and Saturday I’ll be at the 1st Up! Fair!  What’s the Up! Fair you ask?  Well, I’m joining Jerzy & Anne Drozd (of Tiny Astronaut, Make Like a Tree Comics, and the Art & Story Podcast), Sara & Brian Turner (of Cricket Press and Make Like a Tree Comics), Mark Rudolph (of Control Voice Comics, the Requiem Metal Podcast, and the Art & Story Podcast), Kevin Cross (of the Art & Story Podcast, as well as being a swell freelance artist), and my wife Carrie Robare (demonals.com) in putting on one heck of an independently minded comic book and zine fair in Lexington, Kentucky.  You can get an idea of what we’re shooting for in the below comic by Sara Turner and Jerzy Drozd…

We’ve all put a good year’s worth of work into this project and we’re bursting at the seams to see it finally realized.  If you’re in the Lexington, KY area and would like to stop by and meet me and the other organizers, we’d love to see you.  Admission to the event is free to the public and we’ve got a great roster of artists and writers on hand selling their stuff as well as leading all sorts of awesome workshops (you can download a pdf of the program by right-clicking and saving here.)  I’ll see you at the Up! Fair!

Essential DC Hostess Ads Vol. 2, Part 2: Cupcakes 1975-1980

So for the time being this post will finish off my collection of Hostess comic ads. Like I’ve mentioned before, I think there are still about 30 or 40 more ads that I haven’t been able to find yet, so that’ll probably be a project I work on over this coming year.  Right now though, lets take a look at the last 10 DC ads in what I like to call the Essential DC Hostess comic ads Vol. 3, Part 2: Cupcakes 1975-1980.

Shazam in the Cupcake Caper 1975

Wow, that is one straightforward Hostess ad.  Bam, cupcakes are missing.  Bam, Shazam restates the obvious.  Bam, he stops the brilliant Cupcake Caper. Bam.  BAM BAM BAM.  If nothing else, I’m beginning to find some possible context clues for why the last Shazam ad was written so (to me) oddly.  So does young Billy Batson work at the TV station?  If so that would go a long way to explaining why he was kidnapped in that ad.

Superman Saves the Earth 1976

Man I never realized that Superman sat in on such universe plotting council meetings.  Thank god he eats cupcakes and not Spam or the whole planet might have gone up in a puff of smoke that fateful day.  Also, I love how in comics alien worlds are often delineated by the lack of any sort of atmosphere, having only a vast blanket of stars in the sky.  As silly as it seems, it really is a nice artistic short cut.

Batman in the Muse 1977

Besides the fact that Batman and Robin are stepping out attending a concert in full bat-suit glory, I really dig this ad. In particular I love the switch that the Muse makes from internal monologue to exclaiming his love for Hostess cupcakes mid thought. I wonder when in ’77 this ad was written as there’s a nod to Elvis in it. Not a good year for the king.

Batman and Robin in Birds of a Feather 1977

You know, I would have loved to see this ad end with Batman and Robin watching as Pigeon Person’s plan crumbled when she realized that even an army of pigeons can’t pick up a mountain…

Batman in Sable Lady 1977

“That’s giving it to her on the old chinchilla…” Um, okay.  Holy inappropriate Batman!

Wonder Woman in the Maltese Cupcake 1977

I have absolutely no idea what just happened in that comic. Seriously.

Superman in the Big Fall 1978

Wow, that was total overkill Clark! You know, you could have just stopped the elevator from falling and gently let it come to rest at the bottom of the elevator shaft. There was no call in flying it out of a building, and in assuming that it would burst through the roof without hurting the occupants who were so blissfully unaware of the danger because they had their mouths full of chocolate-y goodness. Sheesh, that seems more in line for a Hulk Hostess ad…

Wonder Woman vs. the Cheetah 1978

Well that was kind of a mean trick to play on the cats. Lure your way in and then slap them around instead of the master. I guess it was bad form to have a cheesecake cat-fight in a 70s cupcake ad.

Batman in Someone is Kidnapping the Great Chefs of Gotham City 1979

…and this is why America doesn’t give in to terrorist’s ransom demands. I wonder if the networks would ever stoop to this level of advertising on TV. I’d love to see a series of 24 one-minute Hostess ads starring Jack Bauer. In the last minute it would be revealed that Twinkie the kid wasn’t a terrorist, he was honestly trying to transport three tons of Hostess products overseas in hopes of balancing the world economy or something. I’m going to get cracking on writing those so that I can pitch them if the writer’s strike continues. I’ll make a mint.

Wonder Woman and the Barron 1980

Wouldn’t this ad have been that much cooler if instead of a generic chocolate vampire wannabe called the Baron, Count Chocula was the villain? Man, new idea, advertisement crossovers, like the Secret Wars, but with cartoon advertising icons. Again, another idea that’ll make me rich…

Essential DC Hostess Ads Vol. 1, Part 2: Twinkies 1975-1979

I’m back with my second to last round of Hostess comic book ads from the 70s and 80s. I know that there are about 50 or so more ads than what I’ve been able to locate in my collection of ads, so sometime this year I think I’m going to have to do some serious $0.25 bin diving to find the rest. I thought I’d share my last round of DC comics Twinkie ads today…

Batman and the Mummy 1975

Well, I’ve actually been waiting for a while to get to this one. I believe this is one of the first (if not the first) Hostess comic ads back in ’75, and right from the get go these ads didn’t make much sense. Granted, this comic is relatively straight forward, but there are some crazy wow moments like when Robin pulled the Mummy Ray-Gun out from nowhere. Now what is the point of a mummy ray gun if it doesn’t have an effect on mummies? I suppose Bruce was just humoring Dick when he gave him that last Christmas. Anyway, this ad also features a little bit of a history lesson thanks to Robin’s exclamation of surprise in the first panel. Turns out (and I certainly had to look this up) that Cheops was a 26th century B.C. king of Egypt and builder of the pyramids. Nifty. The only other thing I’d like to point out (besides the Daring Duo’s amazing bolder moving strength) is that in this ad the Twinkie filling is referred to as ‘creamy’ instead of creamed. I wonder if there was a creamy vs. creamed lawsuit at some point?

Shazam fights the Minerva Menace 1975

I’m not all that familiar with Shazam, but he sure does seem to have a way with words. All he has to do to unravel all of that dastardly brainwashing is to tell those kids what’s what with a pointing finger for emphasis. I love the non sequitur plot point of the kidnapping of Billy Batson. I guess this is where my ignorance of Shazam really sets in. Is the whole Shazam thing secret? I’d assume no one (except maybe a dog or an uncle or butler) would know that Billy could turn into Shazam…

Aquaman Twinkies and Kelp 1976

Ha, he said Kelp twice. Seriously, sometimes I really wonder about the prowess of Aquaman. Again, I didn’t grow up on DC comics, but from what I’m gathering in these ads, and from his stand-alone cartoon, the guy is mostly harmless. He never seems to do any of the heavy lifting when it comes to fighting villains (he usually gets the creatures of the sea to do it for him), and in strips like this the writers make him out to be a sort of over reacting blowhard…

Batman Twinkieless Gotham City 1976

Man, the Penguin sure gave up that Twinkienapping caper pretty darn easily. I guess a little whining from a leisure-suited henchman can go a long way…

Wonder Woman Kookie La Moo on Broadway 1977

You know, I don’t know if I’d classify a 60 ft. tall blonde bombshell as grotesque. I thought it was kind of funny that the ad wasn’t copy edited as Steve Trevor is referred to by Giant Cooky as Steve Howard.

Green Lantern in Half the People Here 1977

Thank goodness Hal Jordan still had the ring on the right half of his body. Whew. I actually really like this ad, even for it’s zany half-witted plot.

Aquaman in That Dirty Beach 1977

Um, on the one hand I’m really glad to see Aquaman step up and sok a bad guy in the mouth once in awhile, but on the other I’m kind of lost in the horrible message of this ad. So let me get this straight, the answer to stop all the pollution humans are causing is to take a bribe of Twinkies? Right.

Superman in an Unbeatable Power 1978

Well now that wasn’t a great plan by Big Dome if it required him to keep his hands on the controls the whole time he had Superman trapped. It’s kind of hard to take over a planet when you’ve got to baby sit a powerless Superman. Sigh, I miss the Captain America Hostess ads, there was a lot more punching.

Aquaman and the Imperiled Sub 1978

Granted, I know it’s hard to get it across in a one-page strip, but that is one of the sorriest looking tidal waves ever. I think I’ve come across larger waves in the bathtub. Sigh, again, not one of the more exciting Aquaman strips.

Wonder Woman in Dilemma 1978

Superman in the Rescue 1979

I don’t have much to say for these last two though I love it in the last Superman strip where the writer thought it was pertinent to show the kids on the mountain watching the disaster unfold even though in the previous panel it was pointed out that the UFO and Superman were traveling at the speed of light. Those are some darn observant children.

Essential Marvel Hostess Ads Vol. 3, Part 2: Twinkies 1979-1981

Wow, I really have been lax around here for the past two months.  I’ll tell ya, the holidays really suck all my drive and energy, even when I’m not doing all that much. Anyway, it’s a new year, blah blah, and really want to get back to a more regular posting schedule, so I thought I’d dip back into the well a little and throw up some more Hostess comic book ads.  I have a handful of ads left (I don’t have a complete collection, but I do have another 25 or so left to get to) that I’m going to make my way through over the next week or so and then hopefully I’ll build up another modest head of steam to get me going on a more regular posting schedule.  I certainly have a backlog of stuff that I’d like to share, including getting back to the Galaxy High Cartoon Commentaries, getting started on the second year of the Peel Here column, as well as getting to some other material that I’ve been accumulating over the last year.

So with that said, lets dive back into the weird world of Hostess Comic ads with the last crop of Marvel ads from my collection.  These are all Twinkie-centric and span the years 1979-1981.

Spiderman meets June Jitsui 1979

I have a feeling that some days the writers at the Marvel Bullpen came into work and just didn’t have anything to contribute Hostess-gag-wise.  This is about as cut and dry as you get, villain intro, kick, kick, toss-a-Twinkie, gloat, and villain foiled.  I have to admit that I’m glad to see Spidey carrying a sack full of Twinkies instead of him producing them from some hidden spot on his suit, though I’m deducting creativity points since the sack isn’t made out of his webbing.

Spiderman in Hotshot on the Block 1979

All right this is a little more like it.  Granted, it’s about as thrill packed as the last strip, but at least there are a bunch of bad puns thrown about.  It’s kind of weird to hear Peter refer to himself not only as a swinger, but as a cookie too.  Well it was the 70s.  As far as dashing Hot Shot’s plan by burdening him with a package of Twinkies, well all I have to say is that I hope Mr. Hot Pants learned his lesson and in the future he’ll know that it’s perfectly fine villain etiquette to stuff the entire Twinkie package in one’s mouth, chewing it up, and pulling the plastic wrapper out later, so that you still pitch some fireballs at an silly hero that thought Twinkies could stop you from taking over the world.  I need to write a villain handbook or something…

Captain Marvel Defends the Earth 1980

Wow, I believe this ad wins the title of The Weirdest Cold War Strategy Metaphor Ever. Damnit, let those Kree bastards eat cake!

The Human Torch in a Hot Time in the Old Town 1980

This ad made me chuckle because for once the hero delivered on his pun-y plan. Johnny really does just use the Twinkies as a diversion as he ends up burning down Flame Thrower’s laboratory. Of course, I’m not sure exactly how burning down the lab stopped him considering he was just burning down the city in general, but I’ll let it slide. I guess I’m just extra glad it wasn’t a hollow pun.

Mr. Fantastic in the Power of Gold 1980

Wow, the writers of these ads really should have avoided trying to explain these strips with science. As golden as a Twinkie might appear, it’s just not gold. On the other hand, I’m so glad the there was a little social commentary thrown in with the crack about heroes not being able to afford gold in the 70s. I find it funny that Richards found it necessary to stockpile gold back in his heyday of hero-ing though; it really gives him a very Hugh Hefner-like quality. I wonder if he had a super stretchy velvety bath robe that he’d wear while counting his gold?

Spiderman in the Rescue 1980

Is it just me or does the pacing of this strip make it seem like that kid screwed up Spidey’s plan to stop those kidnappers with some sweet Twinkie action?

Spiderman in the Trap 1980

Holy crap, that is some Twinie throwing magic Peter just performed. I mean, if he couldn’t get out of that net, how in the hell did he manage to throw a package of Twinkies through it? I’m starting to think that he’s acting like a chump on purpose just so he can grease the squeaky wheels of injustice with creamed filling. What a sellout.

Captain Marvel in Flea Bargaining 1981

Flea Bargaining is one of those Hostess strips that almost defies description. It’s certainly makes me think that the writer really didn’t want to work on Hostess scripts anymore. This is also a great example of how weird it can be to merge established fictional characters with advertising campaigns. There’s no reason Captain Marvel shouldn’t just blast the giant flea into space or something, but I’d be willing to bet that there was a stipulation of not using violence in the strips (not to mention the idea of working in Hostess products to foil the exploits of the various evildoers.) I think my favorite part of this strip is in the second panel where an angry shop keep is more concerned with turning a profit (or at least getting in a little bargaining time) than helping to stop the giant flea market eating flea. It’s so out of place, yet it really helps to ham up the crazy flea market jokes. Weird.

The Human Torch in Hot Tempered Triumph! 1981

You know, stealing cold hard cash from orphans is one thing, but stealing their Twinkies, well that’s just plain evil. Evil I tells ya.

Iron Man in the Charge of the Rhinos! 1981

I wonder why the scribe of this comic was pushing Fission so hard? And why giant Rhinos? Granted rhinos are pretty tough, but it still seems like an engineering nightmare to have created them.

Essential Marvel Hostess Ads Vol. 3, Part 1: Twinkies 1975-1979

Well, I was a lazy bum last night and I didn’t fix up the screen shots from episode six of the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, so instead of another installment of Cartoon Commentary!, I’ll be throwing up another Essential Hostess Ads post. C’est la vie. This week it’ll be the Essential Marvel Hostess Ads Vol. 3, Part 1: Twinkies.

Spiderman and the Kidnap Caper 1975

Wow, this Spiderman ad from 1975 almost comes off pretty normal. I mean there must be at least two dozen sitcoms with this exact same plot; loved one kidnapped, hero must scramble together money but can’t find enough, substitutes snack of choice (or stacks of copy paper, phone books, etc.) in briefcase to distract the kidnapper. Classic sitcom. Or bad movie. One of the two. Also, for once the villains seem kind of conflicted about the whole thing, which is a nice change of pace (even though this is one of the first Marvel Hostess ads.)

Iron Man in City Crisis 1976

Now that I’m really thinking about it, I believe that if there are going to be any Hostess Comic Book ads that stand the test of time it will undoubtedly be the nutty schizo ones. Like Thor vs. The Ding a Ling Family, Spiderman in Legal Eagle, Penguin in the Cuckoo Cuckoos, or Batman in the Whole World is Upside Down, Iron Man in City Crisis is perfectly insane, as insane in fact as heroes fighting crime with pastries (even if those pastries have no recognizable expiration date.) Kwirkegard is the perfect Hostess Villain, with an awesome plan; I mean who else but good ‘ol Kwirkegard would think to existentially poison New York’s drinking water with sadness? That’s brilliant! The author of this comic gets an extra five points in my book for using the word existential, as well as making a loose reference to the Danish philosopher Kierkegaard, in…a…freaking…Hostess Twinkie ad no less.

I also love how secondary the Twinkies are; they’re included less to foil Kwirkegard’s plot than to help the children of the city bring back hope and happiness to everyone through their laughter, their sticky, gummed up with half chewed Twinkie laughter, which we all know is the best medicine. Why can’t all the Hostess ads be like this?

Spiderman and Madam Web 1977

I have to admit that this ad is pretty fun too, though not as crazy as the last one. I love the disheartened Peter pepping it up with smarminess just long enough to use make Madam Web do his job for him (even though she did create the whole mess.) Hell, I think if I were Peter, I’d of given her the Twinkies and sent her off to 3rd world countries to do all of the cleaning up she eluded to. Damn, he could have introduced the work to a new Mother Teresa, a saint that can spin a mean web, and if you’ve got a Twinkie or two and about fifteen minutes, I’m sure there’s a lot more she’d do for you as well.

Spiderman in the Spiderman and the Fly 1977

This comic, though pointlessly wordy and well pointless, is tops in my book for introducing me to the phrase, “I dispense justice, sometimes tempered with Twinkies!” By the way, did the writer just copy and paste the Hostess references into this ad, ’cause he sure does make ‘Twinkie’ plural in odd places. I think I might have to start referring to my single Twinkies, as Twinkies regardless. At least it’ll be funny to me.

Iron Man in an Irresistible Force 1978

It’s pretty sad when a car outfitted with a sheet of metal on the front is an even match for Iron Man. Maybe that’s why he started drinking…

Captain America and the Time Warp 1978

Okay, what did I lean from this comic, hmmm? Well, for starters that the writer is utterly bewildered by the concept of time travel. Do you really think that Caesar would think our future world was populated by ‘creatures’? If he did would he bother eating whatever was left in all those picnic baskets? Actually now that I’m on that, why were there so many people in the park with baskets full of Twinkies? I mean, that’s a little weird right? It’s funny how pushy Fury can get when he’s got a bunch of Romans in the park eating Twinkies, I mean he could have asked Cap a little nicer. I wonder what was shared, “much discussion” wise between Cap and Caesar? I wonder if Cap tried to make him beware the ides of March?

Spiderman Puts Himself in the Picture 1978

Okay, I apologize in advance for this, but this ad is screaming for some ass jokes. Well, two ass jokes. Okay, first ass joke (well more of an ass question really): Why did Photoman reach into Peter’s pants, and when he did, why did he pull out what must have been a seriously warm and squished pack of ass Twinkies? Sigh. Okay, ass reference number the second: When Peter squirts his webbing at Photoman and says, “Here’s web in your eye…”, is he referring to Photoman’s brown eye? ‘Cause that webbing is no where near his eyes. What an ass-er-iffic Hostess ad.

Thor meets a Glutton for Gold 1978

If it’s better to enjoy the golden goodness of Hostess Twinkies snack cakes than storing up gold that does naught but gather dust, why did they even care that the actual gold was gone? Greedy bastards. Hey, I thought the trademarked heroes weren’t supposed to be seen eating the damn Twinkies?

Captain Marvel vs. Professor Sneer 1979

Oh man, that ad is just boring. Boring and sad really. I mean, what kind of a hero is Captain Marvel if he needs to basically beg a villain to eat his tasty Twinkie in order to stop his dastardly villainy. Sad, sad, sad. And Boring.

Mr. Fantastic in a Passion for Gold 1979

Is it just me or did Reed reach across the city and steal a pack of Twinkies to distract that villain? Man, there’s not much to this ad either. I miss Kwirkegard. Now he would have posed a much more interesting problem to Mr. Richards, like he would have devised a ray that could distract every one in the city by making them all of a sudden hear a tree falling in a forest they couldn’t see. Then he’d steal all the Twinkies and impregnate all the city’s women with sadness and dispair. Or something more interesting than becoming selectively intangible, only then to be defeated by a pack of Twinkies that, for some reason, caused him to lose his selective intangibility. Pshaw.

Essential Marvel Hostess Ads Vol. 2, Part 1: Fruit Pies 1975-1979

Well, it’s time to dip back into the world of Hostess ads, this time we’ll be taking a look at some Marvel fruit pie ads from 1975-1979.

Spiderman in The Trap 1975

You know, I don’t want Peter to think I’m losing faith in him or anything, but Phil Spector and his crew seemed to capture him easily enough the first time with their patented Super-Steel Spider-Net. I think he’s being a little over confident. In fact, move over Doc Ock, I believe Spiderman has a new arch-nemesis in town.

The Incredible Hulk and the Green Thumb 1977

I think this takes the crown for the most pointless Hostess ad ever. I mean first “Hulk want sit near shady tree with lady”, then he’s all, “Screw you lady and your stupid plant people, ARGHHHHH!!!” The fruit pies are so tertiary to the ad it’s almost not funny. In the end I like to think this is really an ad starring the mighty Green Giant and he’s punishing the vegie people for cannibalizing their fruity brethren. Green Giant SMASH!

Thor in the Ding-A-Ling Family 1977

Oh man. Who’d of thunk that a fruit pie ad starring Thor and a bunch of inbreed hillbillies could be so damn wordy? By the By, I do believe hilarity ensues when you get two sets of folks together and each has a sho’ nuff funny way of gabbing on. I think I might need a secret Hostess Hillbilly Decoder ring to understand what exactly in going on here. Okay, so like Hillbillies in space (or what ever that area is on the rainbow bridge between Earth and Valhalla) is pretty cool, but when there are wonder powered twin cousins, who are strong enough in their redneck love connection to take down Thor (not to mention a smack on the noggin from Mjolnir), it just becomes so over the top cool that it starts back over at boring again. Okay, maybe it was all the words that made it boring, I mean these are Marvel Hostess ads which by definition should have at least 60% more action than the DC ads. Where was I? Oh yeah, wandering hands is like kryptonite for hillbilly twin cousins. I’ll have to remember that on my next trip to Hazzard county…

Captain Marvel meets the Dreadnought 1978

I don’t remember seeing a villain dispatched so quickly in a Fruit Pie ad before. Captain Marvel is apparently the man, no nonsense, screw the fruit pies, it’s men’s destiny that he’s concentrating on.

Spiderman meets the Home Wrecker 1978

What an odd villain. It isn’t everyday that we meet a guy whose purpose as a villain is nothing any more grand than destroying buildings for destruction’s sake. No master plan for world domination, no money-making scheme, just plain old wrecking ball on concrete action for him. This is actually oddly refreshing.

Thor in Good Overcomes Evil 1978

I’d be pissed too if my magically charmed super warrior was freed of my evil grasp by a few fruit pies. Curses indeed! By the way, is this a Jack Kirby Hostess ad, or just a look-a-like artist?

The Incredible Hulk and the Ultimate Weapon 1979

I really wanted to see Hulk grab one of the fleeing humans and throw them at the Ultimate Weapon (or ordinary tank if you prefer.) So, um, where did the uber huge bag of fruit pies come from? I’m assuming Hulk fruit pie ads are hard to write or something.

The Human Torch in the Icemaster Cometh 1979

Seriously Johnny, I think the Icemaster was making a pass at you. Once again, much like in his cupcake ad, the Human Torch doesn’t seem all that concerned with actually capturing the villain. Maybe they hook up off panel or something. He’s such a player.

Iron Man in the Hungry Battleaxe 1979

So, uh, was Battleaxe going to eat the uranium? Honestly, I do think that’s an awesome set of adjectives for a good villain, Big, Mean, and Hungry. Take a gander at the cop’s dialogue though, the dude was paid off by the board of overweight pastry company owners to slip in a nasty bit of not having to be hungry to eat. See, it’s comic ads faults that I struggled with childhood obesity!!!

Iron Man in Brains Over Brawn! 1979

Dude Tony, way to go yelling out your secret identity there! Next time, thought bubble it why don’t ya. So why does every crack pot in the marvel comics universe think they can take over the movie with one weird looking tank? I guess they spend their childhood reading up on Rommel and developing a time portal device that only showed future movies, and even then on the C. Thomas Howell flick Tank. That’s got to be it.

The Thing and the Ultimate Weapon 1979

First off, robots only like Twinkies. Second, I wonder who took the time to gather all the scrap parts from that Hulk ad and rebuild the Ultimate Weapon into this fruit pie swilling, cape-less, Doctor Doom wannbe? Third, how in the hell did those two cloaked dudes manage to get the Thing in such a tight spot? Oh Ben, just give them a damn fruit pie already. Oh wait, considering how he reacted in the whole cupcake caper, I guess I have to assume that Mr. Grimm only gives Hostess stuff to friends and not enemies. Stingy bastard.