Tag Archives: Magazine Article

The Strange Kid Comix anthology needs your help!

Hey folks, I just wanted to take a second and announce that the Strange Kids Comix anthology is in the final leg of its Kickstarter campaign and is getting pretty darn close to getting funded!  I have an article all about 80s era R-Rated flicks getting the cartoon treatment (Robocop, Rambo, and The Toxic Avenger), and I can’t wait to get this issue in hand to flip through…

This morning Rondal shared a glimpse of the artwork that will accompany my article, and boy, is it ever a dozy!  James Callahan really knocked it out of the park!

If you dig comics, especially the indie and alternative stuff, than you’ll love the Strange Kids Comix anthology and there’s a lot of great talent in this issue.  Please take a second to check out the Kickstarter page and help make this issue a reality by backing or sharing the project on Twitter and Facebook.  There are plenty of cool reward tier exclusives left, including some authentic Real Ghostbusters Animation cels cherry-picked from my personal collection that would look mighty fine framed on your wall.  Thanks in advance for looking and thanks to everyone whose spread the word and backed the project so far!

Help the 3rd issue of the Strange Kids Comix get the kickstart in the pants it needs!

Rondal Scott, the very cool and super nice dude who runs the Strange Kids Club, has recently put together the 3rd issue of his Strange Kids Comix anthology.  This time out, instead of a traditional pre-order, he’s taken the release of the magazine over to Kickstarter so that he can help fund not only the magazine, but some awesome goodies to go along with the issue.  This 3rd installment of SKC is themed with all sorts of 80s and 90s era television fun and includes a breathtaking cover by Jason Edmiston!

skc

Not only will there be a ton of great comics in this new issue, but Rondal also decided to pack the issue with articles written by a bunch of swell folks including Paxton Holley (Cavalcade of Awesome and the Nerd Lunch Podcast), Brian Adams (Cool & Collected and head honcho over at the League), and, well, me!  I’m really proud to have been able to contribute an article to the magazine as I enjoyed the ever-living heck out of the first two issues.  If you’re curious about my take on some R-rated flicks from the 80s that were oddly turned into Saturday morning cartoons, you should probably head on over to the Strange Kids Comix Kickstarter page and snag yourself one of the limited number of discounted early-bird copies before they’re sold out!

I know I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of this new issue.  Reading the first two nearly melted my mind!

Gonzo was a plumber, but now he’s popping and locking with the best of ‘em!

So I know it seems like I’m continuously going back to this same Fall 1984 issue of Muppet magazine this month, but in my defense there is a lot of neat stuff packed between those covers.  At first I had intended to just post tidbits from that issue while I was on vacation and out of the state, but there was so much neat content I couldn’t help but stretch it out a bit for fear of there being too much radness for one post!  Seriously…

This is the last tidbit though, I swear.  So we all know that Breakdancing really broke through to the mainstream in 1984 what with the release of Beat Street and Breakin’, not to mention classic episodes of sitcoms like Gimme a Break (where I first leaned of the phenomena back in the day.)  So, as a bastion of pop culture news for kids, it comes as no surprise that Muppet magazine was there at ground zero to cover it for the children of America.  This article features a couple of formative breaking crews, The Dynamic Breakers and their all-female spin-off the Dynamic Dolls.  The DB’s are themselves the more acrobatic members of a larger crew called the Dynamic Rockers, who were certainly a formative part of the hip hop scene at the outset.  The Breakers (Airborn, Duce, Kano, Flip and Spider), saw an opportunity to market their crew and ended up going on a media blitz in 1984 including talk and variety show appearances (even teaching Penny Marshall to do a headspin), and eventually ending up in this photoshoot/interview with the one and only Gonzo from the Muppets…

I can’t even summon the words for how cool it is to see Gonzo in his own Dynamic branded track pants.  Anyway, there’s plenty of advice for aspiring breakers in this piece including how to create your own outfit without going broke, building your crew around a variety of styles, and even a lexicon to Freshen up your lingo…

I’ll be the first to admit that I was a class-A, uncoordinated dork as a kid, and I have some very distinct memories of watching the Breakdance episode of Gimmie a Break or catching a bit of Breakin’ on HBO and then rushing out to the dining room where there was some space and trying my best to do a kick or backspin and then falling flat on my face.  I think all I ever managed to eek out was a sad moonwalk or two, but I suppose at least I gave it a shot.  Thank god none of that is on video…

The accordion is the wave of the future, the Sound of the 80s!

Seeing as I shared the Weird Al/Michael Jackson congratulatory advertisement earlier in the week, I thought it would be fun to follow that up with this Al Yankovic fluff piece (and not just because he’s interviewed by Fozzie Bear) from the Fall 1984 issue of Muppet Magazine.  There’s not really that much to dig into as far as revelations, or any trivia that isn’t pretty common knowledge, but it is fun to see the duo in similar Hawaiian shirts…

I found it rather interesting that these articles from Muppet are attributed to both a muppet character and to the actual author (in this case Katy Dobbs.)  I mean if you’re going to try and keep the fantasy of the Muppets alive by having them “interview” the celebrities, why then go so far as to list the actual writers with an “as told by” credit?  I get crediting for the work, but I think it could be handled on the contents page or something.  Just think it’s a little weird.  Anyway, I thought it was neat that Yankovic also brought up the fact that he always asks for permission when doing a parody, and to connect it to last week, Fozzie’s favorite song is “Eat It” by Michael Jackson…

Also included in the 4-page spread was the lyrics to “Eat It” and “I Love Rocky Road”, which is a nice touch.  Not sure if the lyrics were in the liner notes of Yankovic’s albums back then, but as a kid I would have totally loved being able to see them transcribed like that…

Man, I miss Steve Gerber…

I found some time this weekend and scanned another Thundarr the Barbarian article.  This one comes from an issue of Fantastic from 1980, though for the life of me I can’t remember which month.  It was written by Adam Eisenberg and makes a nice companion piece to the Fangoria/Buzz Dixon article I posted before, though it centers on more of the limitations and censorship the series had to overcome because of the imposed network standards and practices…

I know I tend to go on and on about this idea time and again, but I think it’s interesting to note just how important the 1980-1983 timeframe was for modern action animation.  In the piece Steve Gerber talks a little bit about the collective intentions to bring the “action” back to action/adventure cartoons while creating Thundarr with Joe Ruby (of Ruby Spears.)   First off, though he was already working in animation doing production design for Hanna Barbera, Jack Kirby was probably hot on Gerber and Ruby’s minds because of what he brought to the table for Marvel and DC comics.   I think it’s really cool to see an animation production team playing to the strengths of their contracted talent instead of trying to force them to bend in another direction, which doesn’t always bode well in network/studio environment.

At the same time, Gerber admits that even while shooting for the stars in terms of creating a thrilling action oriented cartoon they still had their hands tied to an extent where their barbarian hero couldn’t “…throw a punch or…even hit anybody.  He can do all kids of acrobatic things, but he can’t even trip anyone.”  This kind of over protective standards and practices is equal parts infuriating and incredibly flooring.  Whereas it’s frustrating to watch a cartoon that centers around a barbarian that you just know wants to knock the block off of every douche-bag wizard that he runs across (they are enslaving humanity you know), these limitations opened the door to exploring another heroic archetype, the strong non-violent hero (think He-Man.)  Though I know it’s really easy to bag on the He-Man ideal for being too goodie good and unrealistic, this kind of storytelling is not always about focusing on the visceral and gritty realism.  Sometimes it’s about fables and though I know this is obvious, morality.  This is what’s really cool about a great creative environment, that there is room to explore both paths (and more), so you can have something more fist in the face like G.I. Joe, something more moral like Masters of the Universe, and something inbetween like Thundarr.

So this short period in animation is so interesting to me because it marks the beginning of the end of 10 long years of anti-integrity self-imposed studio censorship…

Similarly Gerber and Ruby found themselves challenged by another aspect of depicting violence in cartoons in that they weren’t allowed to have any kind of traditional barbarian sword for the Thundarr character.  According to S&P there could be no sharp objects like knives or swords.  Though it could have hampered some of the design aesthetic on the show this limitation pushed them to create something interesting and new in Thundarr’s Sunsword.   Trying to sidestep riffing too much off of Star Wars the sword was designed to have a blade forged from a bolt of lightning.   Again, even though they were hampered by network S&P the crew ended up treating this as a chance to bring something relatively new to the table, or at least they used it as an opportunity to tie in a different set of influences than a barbarian fantasy cartoon would normally lean on.  It’s less Conan and more Norse god in look and design.  Again, this is certainly playing to the strengths of Jack Kirby who brought a taste of his work on characters such as Thor and the various 4th World creations for DC.

   

Here’s another Gerber quote from the article that I love…

“The big thing that we’ve had to overcome is that the censors tend to treat children as if they’re not just morons, but lunatics, potentially dangerous creatures.”

 

Demon Dogs!

I’ve been getting pretty excited about the impending release of Warner Bros. Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1980s, Vol. 1 as it’ll finally give me a chance to revisit one of the shows I never got a chance to see much of as a kid, Thundarr the Barbarian.   Granted, it’s only a taste with one episode on this two-disc set, but it’ll be better quality than the various youtube videos that have been satiating my hunger in the interim.  Besides, if this set is successful it might lead to more Thundarr on DVD.

Regardless, I’ve been thinking about the series lately and in a moment of kismet I stumbled upon a couple of Thundarr-centric articles while doing some magazine back-issue research on another project.  These articles are pretty cool considering they largely feature Jack Kirby’s production artwork, not to mention a few Alex Toth model sheets.  I thought it would be fun to share one of them today; written by Buzz Dixon (of Sunbow animation fame) this article was originally featured in issue number 9 of Fangoria magazine back in November of 1980 (when the horror magazine felt a whole heck of a lot more like its sister publication Starlog.)

Since I haven’t really seen a full episode of Thundarr since I was a kid, reading this article puts me right back into that mindset of speculation and hoping the cartoon will be as cool as it potentially can be based on this artwork and Dixon’s enthusiasm for the project…

  

Like Blackstar, Thundarr unfortunately debuted right before the landscape of network and syndicated television was drastically changed in 1982-83.   Because of strict regulations and pressure from parent activist groups there were some crucial missing ingredients that kept most cartoons from reaching their true potential in the 70s and very early 80s.  In particular there was a ban on fully merchandising cartoon series, in particular releasing toys of popular shows, and I think this lack of product awareness hurt that instant recognition a good toy line has on kids.  When He-Man and the Masters of the Universe came on the scene it shattered all expectations of just how popular the combination of a well-designed toy line and thought out cartoon series could be.  Had Thundarr gestated in the minds of Steve Gerber and Ruby Spears just a little longer I think it had the potential to depose He-Man from the throne it seized in the early 80s. 

Not only was it similar in style, design and tone, and thus obviously a successful to the audience, Thundarr pushed the envelope of action animation much further as it was coming from the likes of Gerber and Kirby who were well steeped in comics dynamic storytelling.  The unbridled power that Kirby is well known for can be felt in every second of the animation, even if it’s only a shadow of what he brought to the comics medium.  Add to that Steve Gerber’s wackiness and biting social commentary and you have a powder keg just waiting to explode.   Again, there was so much potential in this series, and I truly believe that a toy line, even a mediocre one, would have ignited it.

  

If I get a chance I’ll scan the second Thundarr article I found this past weekend, though I think it’s filled with the same production artwork.   Now to go back to waiting, though it’s just a couple more weeks before the DVD finally hits store shelves

Twitter del.icio.us Reddit Slashdot Digg Google StumbleUpon