Tag Archives: Eighties

Cereal Killers sticker cards series 2!

This is a great week for those in the mood to buy some cool stuff! Not only did the second series OMFG! minifigure Kickstarter begin, but on Tuesday Wax Eye officially started selling the second series of their awesome Cereal Killers sticker cards!  I absolutely adore the first series and I was super curious to see what Joe Simko and crew had in store for their second helping of sugary, gory insanity…

These are available in two formats, either in a hobby box of 24 packs (as pictured above), or in the super cool mini cereal box edition (pictured below.)  Either way you’re guaranteed to secure a base set of the sticker cards this time out, though I do have to admit that I had a lot of fun trading my extras last time…

Here are a few examples of what’s in store this time out…

     

To sweeten the bowl, so to speak, this time Simko is also offering even more special chase cards too!  There are three new blacklight/glow in the dark stickers…

…as well as silver spoon foil cards, sketch cards, and the ones I’m super keen on getting my hands on, Sugar Gitter cards!

You can find Wax Eye on Facebook!  Tell ‘em Branded in the 80s sent ya!

An awesome gift from a reader…

Looking back over the past six and a half years of running this site I have to say that if nothing else it’s enabled me to meet a bunch of super kind folks that continuously inspire me every single day.  Whether it’s having a fun conversation in the comments section, laughing it up on twitter or Facebook, participating in cross-site events like the League or the Countdown to Halloween, or even the rare times when I’m goosed into meeting up in the real world, tabling at conventions like Wizard World Chicago or helping to put on shows like the Up Fair in Kentucky.  Recently I received an e-mail from a reader, Daniel Carroll, who was super gracious in offering to send me a handful of his personal back-issues of Muppet magazine so that I could scan them and share them on the site…

It’s gestures like this that remind me of how cool the nostalgic pop culture community is, and how glad I am to be a part of it.  It’s not about getting my hands on rare magazines, it’s about the sharing in the community, of information and our communal memories of our childhoods.  I’m really looking forward to digging into these issues and to write about all the Muppet-y goodness within, but I also wanted to take a second to thank Daniel for sending these in, and to point to his graphic design website Carroll Creative Design

Included in the package was also a super cool Sesame Street calendar from 1988 that has some brilliant photos of the  Muppets that I’m also looking forward to sharing here soon.  So thanks again Daniel!

Branded in the 80s Headquarters, or creating the clubhouse I never had as a kid

I was prompted by Andrew Jones to document my recent room renervations in a conversation on twitter.  If you have a second, check out his site as he has a bunch of cool stuff up there…

A few weeks ago I’d wanted to go through my set of Topps Goonies trading cards (I’d wanted to take a closer look at the card with Sloth having his prosthetics applied for some reason), and had a hell of a time finding them.  Though I’d managed over the years to put my vast collection of sticker cards in binder pages, I had a ton of card sets that were literally laying all over in our second bedroom/office.  After an annoying search I finally found them, and then promptly went out and secured enough trading card pages to put everything I had in binders.  This was the first sign that I’ve been denying my problem with ephemera organizing, and that I needed to do something about it before the wife decided to call TLC and report me to Hoarders.

The second sign was when a friend mentioned that they wanted to see the Branded archive and to get a feel for the real location where this site is more or less broadcast out of.  Though we have a bunch of friends and family that come over to our place, none of them are all that interested in my nostalgic hobbies, so our second room has always been cluttered and a general mess.  The idea that I had some sort of archive for my collection was a little hilarious, at least an organized one.  Though I got a chuckle out of it, pretty soon I had to backtrack and ask myself why I wasn’t more on top of things with the various stuff I’ve been collecting and writing about all these years.  That weekend the wife and I took on the monumental task of sifting through every single piece of paper and plastic in that room (along with the “collection annex stashes” that littered the rest of our place) so that we could get this stuff properly organized.  The first step was tackling the dreaded closet.  That thing was packed floor to ceiling with 10 years worth of stuff, not all of it wanted or needed, and it took the better part of two days to get it all sorted, cleaned, and put into keep, toss and donate piles.  Along the way we found some things that we had completely forgotten we owned like a veritable arsenal of ninja-esque weaponry…

I mean, everyone has a set of batarangs, shuriken, nunchucks, and a couple samurai swords in their closet, right?  Hell, we were a bo-staff and a pair of sai away from outfitting the Ninja Turtles.  Anyway, though it seemed like it took forever, we finally managed to get it all done, and had two carloads of stuff to take over to the Goodwill.

If you’re wondering, yes we kept the weapons.  For one, I’m not sure if you can actually donate them to the Goodwill, and for another, well, you never know when Shredder and the Foot Clan is going to break into your home looking for the secret of the ooze or something.  When all was said and done we’d given away over hundred books, 30lbs of clothes, and a bunch of those white elephant-y gifts that you get from relatives, except they were serious when they handed them to us.  Though we appreciated the thought, we weren’t sure we were ever going to really find a use for the dragon in a glass ball with the strobe light attachment.  Trust me, it sounds way cooler than it actually was.

All of this work left us with a second bedroom that was feeling rather sparse now.  It used to do double duty housing half our library of books as well as our computer and my cartoon collection, but now most of the books were in the other room.  It was neat but sort of sad now…

Pretty much the only stuff on the walls were a couple of framed animation cels and my collection of 25th anniversary G.I. Joe figures.  The wife never uses the computer, so she basically turned the room over to me to do with as I pleased.  Immediately I began scheming, trying to figure out how I could convert the room into the cockpit of an AT-ST from Star Wars so that I could finally live out my dream of the perfect clubhouse I never had as a kid.  By the by, would you call the area in the AT-ST “head” a cockpit?  Anyway, since that was a dream that would never materialize (I don’t have access to the room from above anyway), I decided to instead stick with the idea of a clubhouse and proceeded to figure out a way that I could make this room feel like the 8 year-old me had decorated it.  The first thing I needed was to find the proper wall art!

  

It was hard narrowing it down as far as movie posters went, but I ended up picking a bunch of flicks that meant a lot to me growing up.  Some of these are replicas of posters that adorned my walls as a kid (Tales From the Darkside was one I loved), and others are for flicks that I’ve watched so many times I’ve just about memorized the scripts (UHF and Rad.)  These were all sized to 11×17 so that I could maximize the space by the way.  Not pictured are mini posters for The Lost Boys, The Monster Squad, and the Star Wars trilogy.  I didn’t just want to stick to movie posters though, and I was wracking my brain trying to figure out a way to represent some of these cherished movies from youth.  Then, last week, TL from Flashlights are Something to Eat pointed to a badass miniposter/prop from The Karate Kid featuring the tournament announcement as seen in the Cobra Kai dojo.  A geeky designer had recreated the poster pretty darn well and is offering the digital image of the poster for free on his site.  A quick trip to Kinkos, two bucks and a little white lie about this being a real tournament announcement later and I had my own copy for the Branded HQ wall!

  

I also really wanted to represent the Goonies, but again, not particularly with another poster.  I liked the idea of procuring some replica props from the film when I came across this awesome map on eBay!  Not only does it look great (aside from the Photoshop-y burnt edges), but it was only $10 and I am certainly on a budget with this clubhouse remodel.  Today I even managed to find some pretty authentic looking replicas of the map doubloon and the copper bones key as well.  I’m crossing my fingers that they’ll fit inside the frame I bought for the map…

When attempting to narrow down the number of posters I wanted to hang, there were a lot of runners up that I still really wanted to hang, but just didn’t have the room.  On a recent trip to Target though, I found a solution to this problem in super cheap decent looking 4×6 inch frames.  So another trip to Kinkos, and 4 bucks (plus $6 more for the frames) later I have a bunch of these to put up as well (I posed them with Brad Turner from M.A.S.K. for scale)…

I also framed a few more animation cels, some other original art and a couple prints.  I think I’ve done a pretty good job of capturing most of the nostalgic highlights, from toys and cartoons, to TV, Flims, and even stuff like the Garbage Pail Kids…

  

I even managed to pull in all of my favorite horror and nostalgia DVDs, as well as keeping a small bookcase just for my ridiculous Choose Your Own Adventure-style and novelization paperback collection.  Though I still have a few more odds and ends to frame and hang, I’ve more or less created an official Branded HQ/Clubhouse.  The last thing the room needed, in a “really tying it together” sort of way, was a lamp.  Wouldn’t you know it, Target had this brand new beauty on the shelf this week…

Now I can sit back and write in an environment exclusively designed to keep me Branded in the 80s.  Here’s to hoping I don’t spent all that time with a glazed look on my face just starring at the walls though…

Cartoon Commentary, taking a closer look at King Gorneesh from the Ewoks…

I’ve been on a kick lately going through my collection of ephemera and animation cels looking for my favorite stuff to pull out and frame.  I recently converted our office into the true Branded HQ and archive, and for the first time in 6 years there’s actually stuff on the walls besides action figures.  While sifting through my collection of cartoon cels, I came across this one of Gorneesh, King of the Duloks from the Ewoks cartoon, circa 1985…

I’m a pretty big fan of the design of these bumbling villains in the series.  There’s something about how they visually spar with the shorter, stubbier design of the Ewoks that really works for me. They’re taller, lanky, and much more slimy in appearance, yet they feel like they inhabit the same world I guess, specifically in the cartoon series (I have a hard time imagining them in the live action Star Wars world without them coming off like the Gungans from the prequels.)  Actually, now that I think about it, the Duloks were a sign of things to come in the overall Star Wars universe, design-wise, but I guess I can forgive a lot of their cartooniness when they’re in an actual cartoon.  Hell, there’s an episode of the series where the Duloks big scheme is to steal the fabled Ewok soap so they can take a bath and get rid of their ever present fly infestation!  Maybe it’s hypocritical of me, and I can accept that, though I think there’s a possibility of them being pulled off less like Jar Jar, and more like the characters in say Jabba’s Palace from Jedi if handled by the right creative team.  Hell, the Ewoks don’t come off nearly as cartoon-y in ROTJ as the Gungans so in TPM.

In particular, with King Gorneesh, I love the animal bone armor he was given, and think that the vertebrae headpiece doubling as a Mohawk was a brilliant flourish.  I also love that one of his ears has been scarred, along with his eye; makes the character design seem really imposing, even though he was sort of goofy in the cartoon.

 

I also loved the dark, dank, swamp the Duloks called home.  Again, it’s in drastic contrast to the Ewok’s village in the trees, and reminds me of the Legion of Doom’s hideout in the Super Friends cartoon

 

All in all, whenever I think about the Ewoks series, the first thing that comes to mind is King Gorneesh, as the Duloks were the most striking addition to the mythology that the cartoon introduced.  I remember seeing these Kenner figures on the pegs before I got a chance to see the cartoon and was in awe of a Star Wars villain I’d never been introduced to before.  It’s made the acquisition of the animation cel above one of my favorites too.

Now, if only the animated series would get a proper release on DVD instead of the horrible edit that already exists, I’d be a truly happy Ewoks fan…

Top ten childhood crushes (Yup, I like-liked them…)

I’ve been feeling a little under the weather this week, not to mention in a very silly mood (did you read the last article?), so I’ve decided to finish off the week a bit weirder than usual here at Branded by posting another top-ten list, something I’m not prone to doing, but I’m going to let you into my head a bit.  When I was a kid I started having crushes around age 3 or so.  Not sure if this is early for a boy, but I do know that I had a “girlfriend” by age 4 (Robin – she dumped me by the by), and was madly in love at 5 with a girl, Heather, down the street when we lived in Tampa.

(That’s me in yellow & green on the far right, and Heather is the blonde next to me.  Oh and that was my birthday at Showbiz and I was peeved at my Dad for sticking me in the back, no one puts Shawn in the corner!)

Anyway, I’ve been threatening (myself) that I’d eventually do a top ten list of my childhood crushes, so here it is.  You’ll notice the absence of Punky Brewster, Drew Barrymore, and Vicki the Small Wonder robot because even as a boy I was into older women (TMI, I know.)  First off, a couple of honorable mentions…

Honorable Mention 1: E.G. Daily (Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Better Off Dead, and the Rugrats)

How can you not be in love with Dotti from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure?  Not only was she the cool bike store chick, but she was also playing herself as a rock star in Better Off Dead (pick up some of her albums by the way, they’re great!)

Honorable Mention 2: The Guys – John Cusack (the holy trinity of Lloyd Dobler, Lane Meyer, and Hoops McCann), Matt Adler (Teen Wolf, White Water Summer, and North Shore), and Clayton Rohner (as Rick Morehouse in Just One of the Guys)…

I’m pretty comfortable with my sexuality, enough so to admit that I had crushes on all three of the above mentioned gentlemen, Matt Adler in particular.

Okay, now on to the main list.  These were kind of tough to put in an order, but after a lot of deliberation this is how it plays out…

10). Erin Grey (Buck Rogers & Silver Spoons)

Mrs. Grey is probably one of my first big crushes.  While Star Wars introduced me to Carrie Fisher, I spent the better part of my youth watching Buck Rogers and Silver Spoons week in and week out so it was hard to ignore Mrs. Grey charms.  I’m also not sure how much this crush was that I wanted her as my alternate mom…

9). Mitzi the Mouse from the Rock-Afire-Explosion Showbiz Pizza Band

As much as I’m willing to admit that I had a crush on a bunch of guys, I can also admit that I had a crush on an audio-animatronic mouse.  Was it the cheerleader outfit?  Shalisa James’ singing?  I’ll never know, but I do know that I looked forward to seeing her every time a birthday came around in the early 80s.

8). Lea Thompson (Howard the Duck, Back to the Future, Red Dawn, & SpaceCamp)

Lea Thompson didn’t jump out at me at first, but as I was looking through my DVDs to compile this list I couldn’t help but notice that she starred in a number of my favorite films.  The more I thought about it the more I realized that I had most certainly had a crush on her growing up.  She was my favorite junior-naut in SpaceCamp, was one of the only ones to make it out of Red Dawn alive, and was quite the flirtatious bad-girl in Back to the Future.  Did I mention she was the awesome lead of the Cherry Bombs in Howard the Duck?  If I can love a mouse and she can love a duck, well, there has to be something there…

7). Diane “Monique” Franklin (Better Off Dead)

Cute as a button and a tomboy to boot.  She can throw a lemon like no other, and you have to give her props for lasting as long as she did under the same roof as Rickey…

6). Joyce “Terry Griffith” Hyser (Just One of the Guys)

I’m not sure this was intentional on the part of the filmmakers or not, but I found Joyce Hyser way more attractive as Terrance then Terry.  I guess I dug the short hair and bravado, but she was my deamgirl for a couple years in middle school.  The final confrontation scene in the flick didn’t hurt either…

5). Tie between Jane “Diana” Balder & Faye “Julie Parrish” Grant (V)

Jane Balder’s Diana ate a guinea pig in V.  I still had a crush on her.  Julie Parrish was also a big crush of mine, I’ll admit for her weirdly sexy white get-up in the torture scenes.  If I ever speak to a therapist, I’m positive that scene will come into the conversation.  I’m also noticing a trend of girls with guns here.  Hmmm….

4). Christine “Moose” McGlade (You Can’t Do That on Television)

YCDTOTV was my first real experience with sketch comedy, and by far my favorite actor on the show was Moose.  Well, I guess I probably had a crush on Alister too, but Moose was where it was at.

3). Susan “Boof” Ursitti (Teen Wolf)

Teen Wolf is a film that I love, but is rife with huge problems, not the least of which is the insanity that Scott would rebuff Boof.  Seriously.  Oh, as TL, of Flashlights are Something to Eat, brought up on instagram today, where did she get a name like Boof?

2). Evil Lyn, specifically Linda Gary’s voice-acting and the Mattel action figure (He-Man and the Masters of the Universe)

Yup, I’ll admit it.  I scraped off the paint on my Evil Lyn breast plate because I wanted to see what was underneath.  I was six.  Little did I know that I’d just have to wait a couple years to watch Just One of the Guys to find out what was really under there.  By the way, after that my mom never bought me any of the female action figures in any line of toys, so I never had a Scarlett, Lady Jaye or Baroness.  I had to buy Jinx with my allowance.

1). Michelle “Jordan” Meyrink (Real Genius)

Hands down, Michelle Meyrink is the ultimate 80s nerd girl (starring in Real Genius and Revenge of the Nerds.)  Jordan is someone who would drive me insane, what with the non-sleep and six million projects all running at once, but still, she was awesome in my book.  She’s also one of those actresses that I thought should have been in more flick.  Thanks to Jamie over at Shezcrafti for reminding me of the flick Nice Girls Don’t Explode for a starring turn by Meyrink.

Well, that’s the list, what about you guys and gals, any crushes you’re afraid to admit to from back in the day?

Octopus, or how the film Popeye taught me to fear and hate unconditionally…

For this Overdue Books column I wanted to try something a little different.  Instead of reaching over to a bookshelf full of overlooked 80s paperback treasures and modern nostalgia-driven coffee table books, I decided to delve a little deeper.  Today I’m going to take a look at one of my own works, one of my first penned at the age of six, my 1983 magnum opus, Octopus

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This is largely a work of non-fiction, a scant few pages containing my astute observations concentrating mainly on the physiology and to an extent the psyche of the octopus.  My memory is cloudy concerning the exact circumstances in which this hand-bound book was conceived and written, but if I had to hazard a guess I’d say that the following was my response to having watched the final waterlogged set piece in the seminal 1980 Robert Altman film, Popeye.

If you’ll recall, Robin Williams and crew engage in a harrowing battle with a psychotic cephalopod, and the ferocity of the choreography mixed with the stellar special effects work must have had a profound affect on my impressionable mind.  I’m positive that this pushed me to put pencil to paper, feverishly interpreting the sights and sounds mixed with my fears, to produce the final work you see before you.  I’m also pretty sure my mother was steadfast in her ability to take dictation as she aptly hand-wrote the narrative of the story you are about to read.

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(Me pictured above, working hard at my craft.)

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I’ll forgive my mother for describing the sea creature in the singular as I’m sure the tone of that day was one of strenuous creativity that left little room for proper grammer.  None the less, the ideas presented are clear and precise; cutting even.  Octopuses, proportionately speaking, do have much longer appendages than most sea dwellers, if not in all of the animal kingdom.  They are indeed identified as “tentacles”, and particularly if you are a crab, a polychaete worm, a whelk, a clam, or Popeye, they will be used to do harm.  I’m not sure exactly why I chose to dedicate the majority of the text to the tentacles, 60% in fact, but I’m sure a lifelong aversion to arachnids predisposed me to a certain fascination, dwelling on them unduly…

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As we can see on page two, I already had a stern grasp on math, though luckily my muse did not push my knowledge into the double digits.  Nevertheless, and again, drawing off of the frenetic experiences I witnessed in that Altman classic, I felt it important to reaffirm the dangers of sparing with these formidable mollusks.  I don’t want to overlook the disproportionate joke Mother Nature played on the creature though as I weighed the differences between their ocular diameter and the gargantuan nature of their apparent cranium, but I was too young to realize that the bulk of this trunk is more likely considered a soft pouch containing their stomach and organs.  Ah the folly of youth.

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Though in the middle of this tome I took a detour for the descriptive, we certainly hit the climax of the narrative by page four with a re-reassertion of the inherent danger associated with mingling with this species.  Though it’s very obviously my bias based on limited experience with the creatures, I can’t help but appreciate the passion with which I sought to warn the reader of the potential for danger.  The sea is vast and largely unknown, and back in 1983 there was still the potential for running across a variation of the species that had, shall we say, a questionable moral turpitude.  I also think it’s fascinating that only three short years past a decade filled with stories that ended with an ambiguous and/or depressing conclusion, I was already taken in by the “yes we can”, conqueror attitude of the 80s, ending on a note of not ennui, but a masterful control over my fear of the species.  Not only did I best my perceived opponent, but I ingested it, taking it into my own being and drawing strength and sustenance from it.  In the immortal words of Weird Al Yankovic, I did in fact “Eat It”.  To this day, I still do.  I still do.

As a postscript to this deconstruction, I wanted to note that my mother also hand-bound the book in the finest contact paper we had on hand.  Also, I totally considered releasing this as a kindle or iPad ready ebook, but felt that, that would be incongruous with my strategy for sharing my memories on this site.  Instead, it’s free for all to read.  Also, on a final note, it was exhausting using this tone in writing the column, and please bear with me as I remove my tongue which was planted firmly in my left cheek.

Wax Paper Pop Art #34, A Very Special Episode in which Klinger Doesn’t Cross-dress…

I had a fun conversation with a fellow on twitter this week about the line of M*A*S*H action figures that was released back I the early 80s.  I find it fascinating that series like M*A*S*H and Dallas were merchandised as much as they were considering they’re more or less aimed at an adult audience.  In particular, the idea of dedicating a line of trading cards to a dramedy like M*A*S*H just seems insane.  “Got it, got it, got it, ooohh, a Hot Lips Houlihan!  I’ll trade you two Klinger’s for your Father Francis…”

1982 Donruss M*A*S*H trading cards

I guess when Doc and Lifeline weren’t enough medics to collectively care for your battle-damaged G.I. Joes, you could always call in the M*A*S*H unit.  And it lightens my heart to know that kids had a Father Francis figure to see those poor souls, the ones with the broken O-rings, got the last rites they deserved…

Hi, my name is Shawn and I’m a mechanical pencil nerd…

A couple weeks ago I shared my love for the vintage Mead Trapper Keeper folder system.  Well, writing that post reminded me that I also wanted to expose my slightly geekier side by talking a little bit about my nerdy mechanical pencil memories.  Though I’d hesitate to say that I enjoyed my time in elementary, middle and high school, I can say without a doubt that I loved “gearing up” for the new school year with all new supplies.  Of all this stuff, folders, figural erasers, writing instruments, and lunch boxes, my all time favorite school supply had to be mechanical pencils.

I was given my first “mechanical” pencil (using air quotes because these barely qualify) by my sister as a hand-me-down.  It was a strawberry-scented push pencil (I wrote about these a few years ago) that no longer had a berry scent and was missing some of the pencil tip nibs, so I had to stuff little wads of paper inside the barrel to get the pencil to work.  A little later on I remember getting my hands on a new one, Transformers branded that was light purple and covered in little Megatrons and Decepticon logos.  I was constantly losing the nibs though (they made great darts for my rubber-band slingshot), and had to make the leap to something a little more utilitarian for actual writing.  My mom bought me a package of Papermate Sharpwriters, those ugly yellow pencils where you’d twist the point to advance the lead inside…

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Though the bland “useful” design kept me from wanting to tear it apart and play with it, I never really liked these Sharpwriters because the tips aren’t tight (by design) and therefore they’re a little awkward to write with.  Well, even though I didn’t want to play with it, as you can see in the picture above, I do have a predilection for taking these kinds of things apart, though as a kid it was so that I could try and figure out a way to make it feel a little more solid.  I remember that I was supremely frustrated when I discovered that once you remove the tip, the pencil is basically dead.  These are ultimately the most disposable mechanical pencils anyway, but after breaking it trying to fix it I knew I was going to begging my mom for something better and studier.  So sometime during the 2nd grade I got my hands on my first Pentel Sharplet-2…

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This is truly where my mechanical pencil fetish began.  How can I adequately explain this discovery?  I think what really got me hooked on these Pentel pencils was the bright colors and the fact that they were built to be somewhat dismantled.  You could unscrew the tip to get to the lead-advancing mechanism inside, as well as remove the eraser cover to get at or replace both the erasers and lead.  It didn’t take me very long to find a couple colors I really liked that I could swap out the tips and eraser caps to make my own designer pencil creations.  In fact I seem to remember a bunch of kids in my class doing this and personalizing their pencils…

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These Sharplet-2′s were a revelation and a lot of fun, but as far as I know they were only available with two lead sizes, 0.5 and 0.7.  During elementary school 0.5 was what I loved because the lead was thin enough to always feel sharp and ready.  But by the time I got to middle and high school, I was yearning for something a little more versatile.  For one, the erasers were so thin that they’d wear out really quick and before I knew it all I had was the little aluminum eraser holder on the end.  Again, I’d have to wad up a piece of paper to keep the extra lead from falling out when the cap was off.  So by the time I entered the 5th grade I was upgrading yet again, this time to my favorite mechanical pencil, the Quicker Clicker!

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Though I’m certain there are “better” pencils on the market, once I received my first few quicker clickers I was done searching.  Design, color, customizability, multiple lead sizes, these suckers had it all.  Not only that, but for the first time I had access to pencils that had super cool translucent plastic barrels, and much wider, more useful erasers.  The overall design of the quicker clicker, with its lead advancing button right at your finger tip, better erasers, and availability in a 0.9 lead thickness made then super useful for drawing (which I had taken up around that time.)  Also, I always thought the eraser cap looked a whole heck of a lot like Megatron’s head, which reminded me of my old push-pencil, so these sort of felt like a good replacement.

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The 0.9 lead was a bit softer and would dull like a regular wooden pencil tip which made it really versatile for sketching and being able to vary the line width and contrast of the pencil work.  From 1987 until today, the Quicker Clickers have been my pencil of choice, with only a few road bumps along the way…

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I’m not sure when they changed, but sometime after the year 2000, Pentel decided to alter the design of the Quicker Clickers to add a rubberized grip around the front of the barrel (around the lead advance button), as well as changing out the tip a bit.  It’s not a huge deal, but part of me had become so accustomed to the feel of the non-rubberized grip that this addition actually affected my drawing for awhile.  Though I’m a pencil nerd, and this change did bug me, I tend to obsess a little over using the same pencil. I guess it’s sort of like ballplayers wearing the same jockstrap during a good season (or career if you’re Cal Ripken, Jr.), so when Pentel switched to the new design I never thought to stock up on some back-up pencils in the older style.  Well, in the ensuing years the value of vintage Quicker Clickers (without the rubber grip) has skyrocketed.  A 0.9 lead QC in the original solid red or brown can cost as much as $50 on eBay!  As for the more standard translucent 0.5 lead versions in blue and smoke are almost non-existent on the secondary market.  Apparently though, recently a few boxes of old overstock 0.5 translucent smoke pencils have made their way onto eBay and you can get a package for around $10 to $15.  It’s still much higher than a mechanical pencil should cost, but it’s a lot better than what the standard vintage pencil scalpers are asking.

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I couldn’t write about my favorite pencils without bringing up their constant companions, the Pentel Clic Erasers…

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As most pencil nerds will attest, the idea of using the included eraser on the pencils is sort of frowned upon.  The eraser is more of a last ditch, backup incase your eraser of choice is misplaced or used up.  Besides, though you could adjust the eraser on the Quicker Clickers as it wore down (by pulling out the eraser and the little metal clasp that surrounds it and then pulling it up and snapping it back in), it made the eraser unstable and a little fugly.  For me, the eraser of choice has always been the Pentel Clic because it was long and for all intents and purposes it’s the mechanical pencil of erasers.  The material of the eraser is great for drawing too, soft enough to not tear up the paper, yet sturdy enough to erase most pencil lines (unless you’re a heavy-handed penciler.)

So that’s my nerdly little secret obsession, 30 year old mechanical pencils.  Anyone out there also a closet pencil nerd?  If so, what’s your favorite brand, color or lead thickness?  Anyone ever drop some serious money to re-buy a pencil from your youth, or is that just me…?

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The most powerful cake pans in the universe!

While cleaning up and organizing Branded HQ I found a handful of loose catalog pages that my good buddy HooveR sent me awhile back.  They were from the 1987 Wilton Yearbook of Cake Decorating, and featured their line of pop culture cartoon figural cake pans.  Since I’ve sort of been on a food-centric nostalgic kick of late I thought this would be the perfect thing to share.

Though I have plenty of memories seeing this style of cake pans in grocery stores back in the day, I was never treated to a cake baked in one during my childhood.  It’s not for lack of asking mind you, just that my mom wasn’t keen on that level of preparation and patience when it came to birthday cakes.  She always bought something at the store and put some special candles or action figures on my cakes.  There’s still a part of me that kind of wants to track one of these down and do it myself one of these days…

I’m not sure if it’s the date when the catalog was printed, or if Wilton didn’t have a huge licensing department, but I was kind of sad not to see any Transformers or Star Wars cake pans in the pages.  That being said, there are still some pretty cool franchises represented in sugar and flour, not the least of which are He-Man, General Hawk from G.I. Joe, Superman and Batman.  I love how these came with plastic faceplates so that some sort of recognizable figure would emerge from even the sloppiest cake decorator’s piping tip.  I also love that apparently Superman and Batman were more or less interchangeable when it comes to their cake-y bodies…

  

By far, the majority of the pans in this catalog were geared towards girls with Rainbow Brite, The Poppels, Cabbage Patch Kids, Care Bears, Barbie, and the Wuzzles represented.  Makes me feel like there should at least be a Thundercats cake pan in the mix, but again I’m not sure if it was licensing or when this was released.  Can you imagine the fun that would come from piping out Lion-O’s red frosting hair!

   

For all those curious about getting some pointers on just how to go about frosting one of these beauties, here’s a spotlight on the Snoopy and He-Man cakes…

The weirdest thing about these cakes for me is the extremely sharp and spiky nature inherent in this style of frosting a cake.  Granted, it makes it much easier to keep the colors from mixing, but it always seemed weirdly antagonistic to me.  Is it just me?

Wax Paper Pop Art #33, The Arcade and Video Game edition…

It’s been a long time since I was super excited to catch an upcoming Disney animated film that wasn’t a Pixar creation.  That’s why I was so happy after catching the Wreck-It Ralph trailer that was released this week.  Though I’m not usually all that happy with non-voice actor casting, John C. Riley sounds great as the titular character, and the film has the potential to do for video game characters what Roger Rabbit and Toy Story did for cartoons and toys respectively.  In honor of the trailer, here’s my collection of arcade-centric Wax Wrappers from the 80s…

1st up is the 1980 Fleer Pac-Man wrapper…

Next, from1982, the Topps Donkey Kong stickers

Moving right along, we find ourselves in 1983 with the Topps Video City set

Finally, here are four wrappers from the 1989 Topps Nintendo Game Packs featuring Mario, Link, The Princess, and the spin-off set of Temporary Tattoos released later that year.  By the by, I talked about these Nintendo stickers in the Peel Here column before