PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

ToyLanta Test Video

Here is a quick and sloppy trailer for ToyLanta made the morning of March 9 to test the rendering abilities of the new laptop.

pce-001Okay, it’s the morning of Friday, March 9 and I’m up early. ToyLanta registration is later this afternoon, so I have time to cover the trip so far in photos and a few words.

To your right you see a bowl of soup from Sweet Tomatoes. This is a chain of restaurants that is known as “Souplantation” on the West Coast, and for many years now one of my favorite bloggers, Mark Evanier, has been writing about their tomato soup.

He has spoken well of this tomato soup, proclaiming it to be the best he’s ever had. The catch is that they only have tomato soup during the month of March. This year I looked into their Southern locations while planning our annual trip to Atlanta for toys and fun, and discovered that there is a Sweet Tomatoes location right off the Interstate in Kennesaw, Georgia, about half an hour before Atlanta creeps up over the horizon.

We stopped there on Monday and I am happy to report that Evanier’s tales of this soup are quite accurate. We’re going to hit them again on our way back home.  It was an epic meal.

Shortly after that, we first laid eyes on the Atlanta Skyline.


And then we laid eyes on the building that houses Adult Swim and Cartoon Network, and CNN, among other channels.



Then there was that whole traffic thing.



We come down to the Atlanta area early the week of ToyLanta so that we can spend a couple of days in Senoia, Georigia, where they film The Walking Dead. Mrs. PopCulteer is a huge TWD fan and will be introducing her Walking Dead Trivia at ToyLanta this year.




We stopped in at the Georgia Tour Company in their new location, and stumbled across a cool mystery that I’ll tell you about in a moment. Mel keeps in touch with all the friends she’s met down here and it’s cool to see her walk into stores that we see once a year, and be welcomed like an old friend.

pce006About that mystery…to the right you see a photo of a phantom sign that’s on the wall inside the Georgia Tour Company. The building they’re in now was built onto the side of an existing building decades ago, and one of their interior walls used to be an exterior wall of the building next door. The wall is covered with phantom signs, probably faded by the weather and age before the new building was built, and one of the phantom signs was a mystery because it was so badly faded.

The folks working there had been trying to figure out what the sign was. You could make out a few smaller like “comedy” and “music” but the two big words were so badly faded that nobody could figure them out.

I was intrigued, and after staring at the sign “magic eye” style, and trying to suss out each letter, I deciphered it as reading “Florida Blossoms,” which didn’t mean anything to me or make much sense until I Googled it along with “vaudeville.”

I discovered that the Florida Blossoms Big Comedy and Minstrel Show was a black-owned travelling variety show that ran from 1907 into the 1940s, and among other things was known as the company that may have discovered Bessie Smith.

The company was founded by Charles Henry Douglass Jr., the son of a former slave who went on to become the richest African American in Georgia.  He founded Florida Blossoms in 1907, and sold his interest in 1912 before going on to found a legendary theater booking ogranization and the Douglass Theater Complex in Macon, which is still open.

That briefly took me down a rabbit hole of early vaudeville and black theater which I intended to explore more fully when I’m not on vacation. There’s a cool coincidence in the fact that my friend Doris Fields (AKA Lady D) is a fan of The Walking Dead, and while standing in a building that plays host to Walking Dead tours, we discovered a phantom playbill for the company that gave Bessie Smith her first paying job. Doris does a great tribute show to Bessie Smith called “The Lady and The Empress.”

After that little mystery, we stopped in a few other places around town. Mel met “German Abraham. We checked out the new carnage and destruction at the Alexandria Safe Zone. We also found the church where the survivors searched for Sophia in season two of The Walking Dead (it’s for sale, if you’re interested). Back in Senoia, we stopped in to The Georgia Mercantile Company, and saw the new “selfie spot” in front of the Woodbury Shoppe.











Wednesday night we met up with some of the early arrivals for ToyLanta and had dinner at Lucky’s, where some of the party indulged in a giant mutant monstrosity of a hamburger that weighed in at twelve pounds and was bigger than most people’s heads. It was scary just sitting near that thing.






That’s your first blast of photos from this trip. The plan is to try to post some short videos over the weekend, but this will be my first time trying to render video on the laptop, so it remains to be seen whether or not that’s possible. Stay tuned.


17309371_1283316801705724_8430803179771612796_nThe PopCulteer
March 9, 2018

This is my true vacation each year. I am at ToyLanta. I may post from the event. I may not. You’ll just have to check back and see. Meanwhile, I’m slacking off on this post. Here’s some of the cool graphics from this year’s show. This is just a small fraction of the cool stuff that’s going on in Atlanta starting TODAY!  The first one is based on the JoeLanta convention exclusive figure…







Continue reading…

Catching Up With The Real American Hero

The PopCult Bookshelf

Beyond ’94: The Story of the Real American Hero Action Figures after their Original Run
51aywtkq7zlby Thomas Wheeler
Independently published
ISBN-13: 978-1973454601
$9.99 ($8.99 Kindle)

Since we’re all about toys this week, I decided to plug a book by my friend, Thomas Wheeler.  Tom’s an expert on the Real American Hero incarnation of GI Joe, and was actually the first person besides the line’s creator, Larry Hama, to write the files cards included on the back of the packages.

From 1982-1994, the Real American Hero dominated the action figure world. And then, the line came to an abrupt and surprising end.  Hasbro switched to a slightly bigger figure with their Sgt. Savage line, but that was prematurely cancelled with Hasbro reorganized and shipped GI Joe off to their Kenner division, and Joe was reborn in an unfortunate “Extreme” phase.

After the whopping failure of GI Joe: Extreme, just three years after Hasbro pulled the plug on the Real American Hero line, they brought it back, and it’s been around in one form or another since.   This book takes a narrative and often personal look at the continuation of this amazing action figure line – Beyond ’94.

Thomas has a great writing style and shares his insights into how Hasbro’s moves affected the Real American Hero, and how the line proved so durable that it led to two major motion pictures, with a third on the way.

You can order Beyond ’94 directly from Amazon in print or as a Kindle book.

17190777_10212325074109811_1607390189262306461_nToyLanta (incorporating JoeLanta, Botlanta and The Great Atlanta Toy Convention) begins tomorrow. One of the most-anticipated and well-attended panels at ToyLanta 2017 saw Felipe Monaco give a detailed presentation on Brazil’s version of GI Joe, Falcon, and also a look into his own production of custom outfits and figures under the banner of Louco Por Bonecos.

Felipe introduced American audiences to the amazing details of Brazil’s version of GI Joe, which was an amalgam of military GI Joe figures and 12″ versions of the smaller-scale American “Super Joe” line of the late 1970s.

He also presented background information on Brazil’s Estrela Toy Company, which basically had a monopoly on toy production in the South American country while Brazil was under military rule.

You can find more information about Felipe’s work at his website. Felipe will be on hand this year too, with an impressive line-up of custom outfits and heads.

This week’s PopCult posts have been prepared in advance, so that I don’t have to worry about missing a day while we made our way down South. There is a good chance that you may be seeing other posts that are being crafted while we’re en route to ToyLanta, but we wanted the option of taking it easy along the way, so we didn’t make any promises. I will try to post photos and maybe even video this weekend, once all the fun starts.

Come, Soak In The AIR

wave-logo-005The AIR is still flying on autopilot while your PopCulteer is en route to ToyLanta, but we will always have some great programming for you. A new episode of Life Speaks to Michele Zirkle is the highlight Wednesday, while we pull a classic episode of Radio Free Charleston International out of the archives for you on Thursday.

You can visit the The AIR website, or listen in on this embedded radio player…

Wednesday at 1:30 PM, right after our replay of last year’s JoeLanta preview episode of On The Road with Mel, Michele Zirkle tells us how Life Speaks to us about water and how it’s been a running theme through her life.

You can hear Life Speaks to Michele Zirkle Wednesday at 1:30 PM and 7 PM, with a replay Friday morning at 9:30 AM.

Later Wednesday afternoon, at 2 PM you can hear classic interviews with The Fab Four on Beatles Blast, and at 3 PM it’s an encore of the two part “Broadway Swings” crossover between Mel Larch’s Curtain Call and your truly’s The Swing Shift.

air-sun-log2oFrom 7:30 PM to Midnight tune in for a mini-marathon of The (BS) Crazy Show. At Midnight we have an impromptu overnight blast of That Conversation with Patrick Felton.

Thursday we replay this week’s dip into the archives with Blue Million on Radio Free Charleston at 2 PM, and follow that with the first broadcast in over a year of an episode of Radio Free Charleston International that brings you music ranging from DEVO to Kate Bush, to Franz Ferdinand with Sparks and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes.

You can keep track of the full schedule right here…

wozatworkToyLanta (incorporating JoeLanta, Botlanta and The Great Atlanta Toy Convention) happens March 9-11, 2018, and we’re so excited that we’re bringing you videos from last year’s event all week long leading up to it.

One of the most highly-anticipated panels featured James Wozniak, the man behind Classic Recasts, who tells the tale of hunting down vintage Marx Toy Company molds, and how that led him to Mexico. That’s James with his back to the camera at left, making a dad and his kid very happy with some great Marx reproductions.

James tells us the history of the Guzman family of Mexico and their toy empire and how their patriarch came to rub elbows with the likes of Walt Disney and Louis Marx. He also tells the enthralled crowd how toy molds that were made over half a century ago found their way to Mexico and are still being used to create cool toys.

You can find more information about Classic Recasts and James’ work at the Classic Recasts website.

Visit ToyLanta for early details on how you can be part of the coolest toy show in the South. You can also check out the Facebook page .

blue-million-rfcWe have a great new episode of Radio Free Charleston for your enjoyment this week, and you can hear it Tuesday at 10 AM and 10 PM on The AIR, or on this sweet litle embedded player…

This week’s show is all from deep in the RFC Archives, and it’s built around a twenty-five minute video I uncovered in my recent computer crash.  I didn’t even realize it at the time that I did the voice over work for this show, but this is Blue Million recorded live at The Empty Glass in 1993 at a Flood Aid Benefit that I actually promoted.

That means that somewhere in my house I probably have video of The Carpenter Ants and The Leon Waters Blues Band recorded that same night. The only problem is that the video isn’t really watchable, but the music sounds great, so we bring that to you. I was so happy to find this that I put the show together before I even knew what songs Blue Million performed that night.  As you can see in the playlist below, Alan Griffith and the boys gave us eight songs, including six originals and a couple of classic covers.

Because of this find, I made the whole episode an archive show. We kick it off with hardcore punk from 2007, courtesy of Holden Caulfield, and no track is less than ten years old. Here’s this week’s line-up…

Holden Caulfield  “Open For Business”

Blue Million – Live At The Empty Glass 1993
“Real Life Baby Doll”
“Tangled Up In Blue”
“What Would It Take”
“Blueberry Jam”
“That Was Then, This Is Now”
“Folsom Prison Blues”
“Flesh Blood and Bones”

Three Bodies  “Gardens of Hope”
Go Van Gogh  “Shut Up, I Love You”
Two Watts of Power  “World”
Whistlepunk  “Falling Down”
Raymond Wallace  “Shine On Harvest Moon”
Mark Bates and the Vacancies  “Spiral Down”
Under the Radar  “Mothman”
The Amazing Delores  “Rats In My Trailer”

You can hear a replay of this show Thursday at 2 PM, Friday at 8 PM, and Saturday at 11 AM and Midnight, exclusively on The AIR.

img_9429In just three days ToyLanta happens again at the Marriot Century Center in Atlanta, Georgia. I’ll be there along with Mrs. PopCulteer and we’ll be shooting video of the cool stuff going on and some of the panels. To remind you how cool this show is, we’re going to bring you some of last year’s panels all week long.

The Monster Squad talks all about their favorite monster-based toys and games, touching on AHI monsters and other permutations of the classic Universal Monsters, plus Aurora model kits, toys based on The Outer Limits, The Mummy, The Addams Family and more. Listen in as the guys discuss classic monster themes in action figures, playsets, boardgames, model kits and Halloween costumes.

ToyLanta begins this Friday in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s not too late to make plans to attend.

Visit ToyLanta for early details on how you can be part of the coolest toy show in the South. You can also check out the Facebook page .

Monday Morning Art: Adventure Time



ToyLanta, the convention formerly known as “JoeLanta” begins this Friday, so we devote our Monday Morning Art to a piece that I created to be auctioned off for the benefit of the Cody Lane Memorial Toy and Diorama Museum. The auction will be held Saturday night, and it’s one of the highlights of the convention.

This particular painting is a new take on an old project that I did about almost twenty years ago, then abandoned. I wanted to created a custom box for a red-haired, beardless GI Joe Adventure Team member. The reason it had to be custom was that Hasbro never made a red headed guy without a beard back in the day. I discovered, in one of my loopier experiements, that if you got one of the dark brown-haired, beardless Adventurers that Hasbro was reproducing back then, and dipped his head in bleach for a couple of days, for some reason it turned red–the same shade as the red-headed Sea Adventurer back in the day.

After that discovery I decided to take my newly-reddened GI Joe, who only faintly smelled of chlorine, and make a box for him. I called him the “Stealth Adventurer,” because he had managed to make it through the 1970s Adventure Team era without having his own box.

fourboxesAs a base, I used a scan of the Air Adventurer’s box, then worked some digital magic on it, removing the beard, changing the color of the hair, the sky and his jumpsuit, and changing the typography to create a cool-looking box. Unfortunately,  I never got around to printing it. If you’re interested, you can see the progression of how I changed the original box to the right. That tiny .jpeg is all that I had left of the project.

But since I have a bright, shiny new PC with much faster art gears in it, and I have control of my fingers again, I decided to just do a digital painting based on the finished design. I didn’t try to hew too closely to the original style, and I didn’t want to mess with the logos since this was not intended for a custom box. I know lots of guys who can make fantastic custom boxes now without my art. I ended up using a color scheme like I used on my painting of my late pal, Johnny Rock– Sort of as a tribute, and sort of because I just liked the way it looked.

That’s the story of this week’s art, and it kicks off our countdown to ToyLanta. Stay tuned to PopCult for more ToyLanta coverage, and click the image to see it bigger.