Friday, March 28, 2008

When you're hot, you're hot...

Good news for people like me who are obsessed with defunct advertising mascots! (Hey! What's with the looks?) A news blurb courtesy of Cartoon Brew says that Renegade Animation has obtained the rights to the Funny Face characters and is working on a pilot for a potential cartoon series.

(This is a color version of a picture I did for the last issue of GRRL zine waaaay back towards the end of the 20th Century featuring Funny Face mugs.)

For those of you who have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about, some history: Back in the sixties Pillsbury (They of the giggling dough dude) were jealous of the bucks General Foods was raking in with Kool Aid. (Fun fact: Originally Kool Aid was a liquid concentrate called "Fruit Smack". No wonder Kurt Cobain used to use the stuff to die his hair...) Figuring to outdo Kool Aid's pitcher-with-a-face-draw-on (Later to be known as "Kool Aid Man") Funny Face drink packets featured a whole menagerie of cartoon characters, such as Goofy Grape, Lefty Lemon, Loudmouth Lime...and more controversially Injun Orange and Chinese Cherry. (These were later changed to the less racially divisive Jolly Ollie Orange and Choo-Choo Cherry.) Additionally, they created a barrage of merchandise featuring the characters, most popularly a set of drink mugs. (You can see a slew of Funny Face premiums and packages here at the wonderful Imaginary World site.) Unfortunately, although fondly remembered, Funny Face never did that well against Kool Aid. It didn't help that in the sixties is was made with cyclamates, and even after they were removed there was the perception among some that the stuff could still kill white rats.

So will the cartoon be any good? I admit I've never seen Renegade's TV shows Hi Hi Puffy Amy Yumi or the Mr Men show, but I do remember when Elmo Aardvark was running strong. That and other shorts of theirs I've seen were highly entertaining, so here's hoping...

In the meantime to whet your appetites (Or thirsts, as the case may be.) here's a couple of vintage Funny Face spots:

The sixties version with the original politically incorrect lineup.

The seventies version with less cancer and less appealing art direction.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

ABC with two extra D's

It's come to my attention that one of the hottest YouTube vids right now is a demonstration of French designer Marion Bataille's new pop-up alphabet book ABC3D , and that it's the brainchild of fellow Playground Ghost Colleen AF Venable, who also provides the hands! (She being the creator of the always fun-tastic Fluff In Brooklyn webcomic.) It's been blogged about on the New York Times webpage, and the book(Although not due to be released for 8 months.) has shot up to #160 on Amazon's rankings.

Check out the video below. If you want to pay back some joy, leave Colleen a nice rating or comment here to help Roaring Brook Press realize what a marketing genie they have.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Great Scott

Whatcha Reading: The latest installment...

Okay, this one's serious old news to a lot of comic readers, but I've just gotten around to it..."It" being Bryan O' Malley's SCOTT PILGRIM comic.

For the uninitiated: the comic's titular hero is a scruffy Toronto resident who's the bass player for the band "Sex Bob-omb". At the outset of the series Scott (Who's 23) is having a rather chaste boyfriend/girlfriend relationship with the seventeen year old Chinese-Canadian high school girl Knives Chau. Scott's fairly satisfied with this slightly jail bait-ish romance...until American ex-pat delivery girl Ramona Victoria Flowers rollerblades into his dreams and then his life. Scott wants to date Ramona, but to truly secure her love he must defeat her Seven Evil Ex-Boyfriends in bizarre combat rituals.

If that last part seems a bit weird,it seems a lot more normal in the comic itself where slice of life romantic comedy brushes up against a surreal sensibility that's part video game and part manga. It's not unusual for characters to have bizarre super powers or generally subvert the laws of physics or common sense. Yet it all works somehow, or it least I think so.

These books are generally shelved with manga and there's certainly a strong influence evident, but O'Malley keeps the approach fresh and avoids the kind of paint by the numbers slavishness that bogs down so many Japanese influenced Western comics. His chops have grown impressively over the course of the series. The linework is lively and the images practically jump into your lap. And it's funny! O'Malley uses everything from dialogue to labeling to keep your face smiling while you read.

So consider me a convert. I'm already chomping at the bit for volume 5 where Scott must confront THE TWINS. (Eek!)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Saturday Morning Breakfast Psyche-Out

A little shmear of somethings for your weekend...

In the late 60's/early 70's the two biggest cartoon cocks of the rock were SCOOBY DOO and The ARCHIES. The success of these shows paved the recipe for most of the cartoons that followed for years: Groovy Mystery + Teenagers (Mix of cool kids and neurotic cowards)+ Goofy animal sidekick + big musical number at the end. The musical numbers tended to either involve a band playing, people running around being chased by bad guys or some combo of the two. It's not surprising that these segments were popular with animation houses of the day, as they usually featured 50% or more recycled animation mixed with a lot of cartoon psychedelic foofah. Combine this with the sugar stimulated brains of the target audience and SHAZAM! Instant stupefication!

Here's a few musical numbers for you cats and chicks:

As we see here, the Hardy Boys realize that solving capers for their Dad isn't all there is in life... there's also rockin' out in front of screaming babes! Heck, check out the blonde number on stage go-go dancing her little rotoscoped heart out! (Warning, this clip is not recommended for epileptics...)

Next up, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kids! Yes, you heard it right. There's no real relation to the Newman/Redford movie, although I'd like to imagine at some point someone said "The next time I say, "Let's play a gig someplace like Bolivia" Let's play a gig someplace like Bolivia!"

Note that at least in this case they give the extraneous rotoscoped blonde girl a tambourine to play with. "Look! I'm a musician!"

Finally, we have the opening segment of MISSION: MAGIC featuring...Rick Springfield! Yes, that's right, before Rick was breaking hearts on GENERAL HOSPITAL or singing about how much he'd like to cock-block his friend Jessie, Rick had long hair, wore sweater vests and lived in a magic land on the other side of a chalkboard with a little blue owl. CONSIDER YOUR MIND BLOWN. (Catchy tune eh?)

Have a groovy weekend!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Sixties, Eighties style

Okay, this Wednesday I figured I'd break from French music and posts some YouTube clips of bands from the good ol' YEW ESS AAY!

One of my favorite bits from an old issue of Daniel Clowes' Eightball comic where he was giving predictions of the future. One of his prognostications was that rather than have anything new, nostalgia for past decades would just rehashed endlessly. He illustrated this with an amusing fight between a guy who liked the Seventies version of the Fifties (Like "Happy Days") and a guy who prefered the Eighties version of the Fifties. (Like the Stray Cats)

I'm as guilty of this as anyone...but hey, it's fun! So I figured I'd post some examples of the Sixties as interpreted by the Eighties. It's weird to think of the juxtaposition of the two decades, as the Eighties seemed on some level like a refutation of the Sixties. It's worth remembering that inbetween New Wave, Hair Metal and Early Rap there was also a fair amount of 60's nostalgia. Tie-Die and paisley shirts made their brief comebacks, the Monkees reunited and the Grateful Dead finally had a hit single. Here's some examples of bands that made new music with an Aquarian twist, known under the all encompassing monker "The Paisley Underground":

First up, The Three O'Clock. These guys started out as a somewhat punkier outfit called The Salvation Army...until the well known charity group called foul. The band gradually developed a more psychedelic pop sound, sort of like the Lemon Pipers but with modern synthesizers. Like their contemporaries The Bangles the got a major labeol deal and had Prince writing them material. Unlike The Bangles, this effort (Which lacked a lot of their signature sound.) totally tanked and the band broke up. Check out lead singer Michael Quercio's bitchin' Partridge Family outfit. (He actually looks a bit like a teen idol version of "Z-Man" from the movie BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS.)

Next up is The Long Ryders. These guys were an example of the "Roots Rock" movement of the time that drew inspiration from bands like The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield. The band seemed poised for a larger audience, but took a hit authenticity-wise when they and fellow roots rockers The Del-Fuegos appeared in a series of Miller Beer commercials ("Miller's made the American waaaaay!") and they too disbanded before the decade's end. (Although they have recently reunited for some gigs.) Watching this vid, I can see they have the Peter Tork mop top hair shake down to a science.

Finally, representing the Garage Rock Revival, we have The Chesterfield Kings. Unlike the two preceding bands, The Chesterfield Kings never had a major label record...which ironically may be why they never broke up. Bands like these paved the way for the plethora of "The" bands of recent years, too bad they never saw all that cash.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Hogans scoop Emerald Isle

Due to scheduling problems, this year we at Hogan Manor are having our annual St Patrick's Day party a week early. The luck of the Irish still persists though, as we are still having the traditional bad St. Patrick's Day party weather. (Freezing rain is a new twist.) That person you see skidding off the road may be one of our guests, so please treat them kindly.

If you never see another update here after tonight, blame the Jameson's.

Slante bitches!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Nous aimons Serge Gainsbourg

It's wednesday, so how about some more French music? This time out the focus is on the late Serge Gainsbourg, who probably embodies the notion of the "Naughty Frenchman" more than a hundred "Lucky Pierre" jokes. Gainsbourg delighted in causing outrage, whether by singing a raunchy reggae version of the French national anthem or doing a duet with his preteen daughter called "Lemon Incest". Here's a few choice tranches of Serge:

Let's start out with Serge's biggest hit "Je t'aime... moi non plus". This orgasm laden number was too hot even for original vocalist (And Sege's one time lover) Bridget Bardot to handle. Serge eventually moved on to a relationship with actress Jane Birkin who agreed to handle oohing and aaahing chores. The song went on to massive sales and Vatican condemnation.

Next up is a song that Bardot DID agree to do. Not all that naughty (Not that you can ever be too sure with Gainsbourg. Those sound effects could signify almost anything.) but it sure seems appropriate for this site.

Finally, not a song, but a classic talk show incident that really sums up how Serge's head worked. (Not necessarily work safe audio-wise.)

Have a great wednesday and remember to cherchez la femmes....

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Lay me among the swee' peas....

The "Whatcha reading dept.":

Lately I've been reading a collection of "Thimble Theater" daily strips circa 1930-1931. For the less cartoon savvy, "Thimble Theater" was the strip that introduced "Popeye the Sailor Man" to a waiting world. Popeye wasn't there from the begining though. Elzie Segar's "Thimble Theater" first appeared in the New York Journal back on December 19, 1919. Originally the strip focused on Olive Oyl, her boyfriend Ham Gravy and her brother Castor Oyl. Popeye didn't join the cast until nearly a decade later on a January 17, 1929 as a minor character.

At the point I'm reading Popeye's been around for over a year and the strip's adventures largely revolve around him and Castor Oyl. (Starting out with the introduction of long time villainess The Sea Hag.
) What's interesting at this point is that while Popeye has started to take on a bigger role in the strip and evolve into his more familiar persona, he isn't quite there yet. He's got the familiar sailor suit, but his face is longer and it's made more explicit that he's old and missing one eye and all his teeth. (In one hospital sequence our politically incorrect hero smacks down and swears at a nurse who dares to bring him soup, demanding instead beef or salt pork. When the nurse complains that he has no teeth to chew with, Popeye asserts that "I kin gum it sumpin' arful-I got swell insides anyways-I even eat nuts!")

The early Popeye is something of a less heroic figure. He's brave, albeit in a somewhat scrappy sadistic fashion (He repeatedly tells one villain "Snorky, ya got a chin I loves to touch" before punching him.) but his superstitious nature leaves him deathly afraid of "Evil spiriks". He's also not the most honest of guys. Popeye frequently takes credit for Castor Oyl's detective work, and in one sequence he sets out to buy loaded dice for playing craps. (It's suggested that Popeye has a bit of a gambling problem.) He doesn't yet have spinach as a super powered backup, he's just really, really one point absorbing multiple gunshots at close range and surviving. Finally, it seems like Segar was still experimenting with catchphrases and whatnot. Although Popeye's already doing the familiar "Blow me down" bit, he also frequently talks about him or his opponent "Laying among the swee'peas" as a euphemism for defeat or death. (Segar would of course finally indulge his sweet pea obsession with a Popeye's infant ward.)

So it's some fun (If somewhat crude) stuff with an endearingly rougher edged Popeye. I'm reading one of the old 90's collections, but Fantagraphics Books has a a new set of reprints available. Just to remind you how everything turned out, here's the very first Popeye animated cartoon:

Sunday, March 2, 2008


Ugh, I'm now getting over my second cold in one month (How I got this second one is beyond me, I'd just started a health regiment that week.) and I am happy to see February gone gone gone. Now if winter itself could join it. There's been enough snow to dismay a mastadon this year, and I am more than willing to put up with the inevitable mud and thawing dog turds if I can just see ground again. Under the circumstances, I suppose I should be thankful for my relatively small and stubby driveway. (I was amused though, that a "College student needing tuition money" left a flyer in my mailbox offering to shovel my driveway for 20 bucks. 20 bucks for less than a half hour's work? Shouldn't that be the goal after you graduate?)

With this winter being the worst worldwide in awhile, some people are saying we are now facing Global Cooling. I'm not convinced just yet that Al Gore has been punking us and it's time we all bought Lincoln Continentals, but if we are going to freeze to death I prefer the explanation in this vintage radio program. A conspiracy involving the northern lights and transdimensional cold craving woolly bear caterpillars who sing vowels? How wild is that?

By way of explanation, that show is an episode of "Quiet Please", a classic old time radio show created and written by Wyllis Cooper who also created the better known "Lights Out", series. Ol' Willis crafted plenty of weird and imaginative stories, including the best known "Quiet Please" tale "The Thing On the Fourble Board" which is probably one of the creepiest mixes of terror and romance ever. (Seriously)

Chilling radio on top of chilling weather. It's the sadist/masochist in me.