PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

Monday Morning Art: Back To The 80s

 

This week we wrap up our series of weekly artifacts that revisit Dr. Sketchy’s of years past.  Our faceless model this week is Pepper Fandango, back for the second week in a row, and this is based on a pose from a 2015 edition of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School devoted to the cult Anime classic, Fooly Cooly (most often spelled “FLCL”). I didn’t really focus on the FLCL aspect of the pose, and instead went all 1980s on it. So there’s a bit of a Nagel influence, along with some post-pop-art minimalism and high contrast, high-saturation tinkering.

UPDATE: Thanks to Robert Farley, who caught that I managed to confuse FLCL with Cowboy BeBop. This is from a session of Dr. Sketchy’s devoted to Cowboy BeBop, and my brain mis-remembered it. Sorry for the confusion and laziness that kept me from going back and double-checking.

As always, click the image to see it bigger. Next week we’ll start a new theme, and I’m leaning toward an architectual one.

Sunday Evening Video: HAIR Turns 50

On this day fifty years ago, in a year filled with as much social and cultural anxiety as we face today, a Broadway musical opened that made a political statement but also paved the way for rock music to seep into the Great White Way. HAIR debuted on Broadway April 29, 1968.

Controversial for its time, HAIR: The American Tribal Love Rock Musical has gone on to become a standard. Charleston has even seen several high-quality productions in recent years. There was even a movie version, back in 1979, directed by Milos Forman.

To mark this anniversary PopCult brings you a complete production of the musical presneted by Nassau Community College, in Spring, 2016. I wanted to post the entire show, and this version came highly-recommended, and features a very talented cast.

It’s sort of weird to think about how now, the entire original Broadway cast is probably past the age of 70. Tempus Fugit, folks.

The RFC Flashback: Episode 136

For the next few weeks The RFC Flashback will go back to the most ambitious series of episodes in Radio Free Charleston history.  In June, 2011 I decided to try and do something sort of crazy. I’d managed to crank out Radio Free Charleston on a weekly basis before, which was no mean feat since the show was basically produced by me alone, with camera help from my now-wife Mel Larch and occasional help from other friends. For FestivALL 2011, I managed to produce eight episodes of Radio Free Charleston in under two weeks.

Part four of Radio Free Charleston’s FestivALL 2011 coverage combines The East End Main Street Streetworks Art Auction with The Music Works/Songwriternight.com Songwriter Invitational. You’ll see plenty of the Streetworks brick art, plus MC Ted Brightwell (right), along with music from Sierra Ferrell, Don Baker, John Radcliff and John Lilly.

This was our fourth show in four days. After this we took four days off so we could record events during the second weekend of FestivALL, which we posted the following week. You’ll see the first of those shows in this space next week.

Randomness Abounds

The PopCulteer
April 27, 2018

Your PopCulteer is still not quite back to 100%, but there’s a lot of stuff to talk about this week, so let’s just jump in…

Blue Parrot Friday

Friday night at the Blue Parrot you can hear Three’s Company Blues, Bad Keys of the Mountain and The Jeffrey Thomasson Group, which features Joey Lafftery on 6-string bass and none other Chuck Biel on drums, joining Jeffery on guitar.

All three bands are well worth catching live, and seeing them all on one bill for a mere five bucks is too big a bargain to pass up (unless you’re still on the injured reserve list, like yours truly). Were your PopCulteer in any shape to do so, this would be a great triple bill to record for Radio Free Charleston.

Because Chuck is involved, there will be a program for The Jeffrey Thomasson Group, who are opening, and you can see a part of that at the head of this post. I believe the music kicks off at 9 PM, with The Jeffrey Thomasson Group, and the plan is for Three’s Company Blues to stream their portion of the show on their website at 11 PM.

Even without the presence of yours truly, there are still vibrant musical acts performing all over town. You really need to get out and support the local scene, if you’re able to at all.

Cosby

Bill Cosby was convicted of three counts of sexual assault yesterday, and people are asking how his work should be presented in light of the fact that so many accusations are practically confirmed now.

My take is that it shouldn’t be presented anywhere for the time being. At this point it’s too close to allowing him to reap rewards from his renewed notoriety for his wretched and criminal actions. Maybe in a few years, his work can be viewed in the proper historical context of being ground-breaking material that helped break down racial barriers in this country, but for now there’s no other way to look at it except as the things he did to put himself in a position to rape women.

Monet

I am a recent convert to the ways of the smartphone, and wanted to make note of a nifty little gadget-type-thing (I believe the word I’m looking for is “accessory”) that was recently gifted to me.

The Monet is a nifty little compact wallet/grip/stand that sticks to the back of your cellphone (or cellphone case) and allows you to take better selfies, carry your ID and a credit card and stand your phone up so you can watch it like a little GI Joe-sized flatscreen TV.

The peel and stick application is simple, and the patented design is quite clever, with the sliding grip/stand easily slid back into place to give you a flat profile for your phone when not needed. The animal-friendly, stylish material is durable and the construction solid, and you can get one of you own from their website, Amazon or in upscale boutiques nationwide.

Their PR says, “The ultimate fashion accessory for the on-the-go minimalist.  It’s an extension of your hand with its easy slip on grip helping you to have a secure grip on your phone while taking better selfies. That same grip becomes an on-the-go phone stand when you need to put your phone down to watch something, and Monet is a sleek wallet to hold money and cards. It’s currently available in 30 color variations with more colors currently in production. Monet is an expression of you and your phone.”

This is the only accessory I’ve added to my phone, and I’m really happy with it.

More Reviews in PopCult

You can expect to see more reviews in PopCult in the coming weeks as I get back into the groove, covering toys, comics, books, gadgets and TV shows. I’m about a year in with Netflix, and due to my recent bouts with illness, I’ve somewhat mastered the art of binge-watching. I’ve also discovered a lot of new hidden gems and lost classics tucked away on the Roku, so expect to read more about that, too.

Toys R Us Update

As I write this, the Canadian, French, German and Italian branches of Toys R Us have all been sold and will continue to remain in business. The Asian operations, including Australia as well, are expected to be sold to the minority partner in the Chinese stores.

That leaves the American branch, and at the moment last-minute bids are in the works, but only for part of the stores. Isaac Larian, of MGA Toys, is said to be courting new partners and is hoping to present an enhanced bid for 215 of the US stores, but as we go to press no bid has been submitted, and the liquidation has moved into its next phase, with most items now marked down to 20% off.

Word is that the trustees may drag this out to give prospective bidders more time to build alliances.

The AIR

Our sister internet radio station is still plugging away. Tune in at the website or on this embedded radio player to listen to truly independent radio…

As soon as your PopCulteer is back at full strength, The AIR will be back on track, with all-new programming every weekday at 2 PM.

The Monday Morning Art Unintentional Theme for April

Thus far, April has been a repository for Monday Morning Art based on old sessions of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School. With next Monday being the final day of the month, we see no need to change that, so check back for a new painting of Pepper Fandango, with a bit of a 1980s flair to it, first thing next week.

And tha’t it for this week’s PopCulteer. Yours truly plans on spending Friday eating Advil and watching WWE’s huge event in Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, you can check back every day for fresh content here in PopCult.

Look, Up In The Sky…It’s An 80-Year-Old Guy!

The PopCult Comix Bookshelf

Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman Deluxe Edition
by Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster and various
DC Comics
ISBN-13: 978-1401278878
$29.99

Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman Deluxe Edition has had a bit of an interesting path to publication. It was originally announced as “Action Comics 1000,” meant to be released at the same time as the one-thousandth issue of Action Comics, and part of a huge celebration of Superman’s 80th birthday.

The original plan was to release it with a poster featuring all 1000 covers of Action comics. Somewhere along the way the price was raised to fify bucks, retailers rebelled, so the price was lowered back to $29.99, but the poster was eliminated and will now be sold separately, and the name of the book was changed because this book was not actually going to include the real Action Comics #1000, and it was confusing enough already.

As it stands we have an almost 400-page tribute to the history of The Man of Steel, with a collection of very well-done essays by the likes of Paul Levitz, Jules Fieffer, Joan Siegel Larson, Marv Wolfman and others. We also have a good collection of stories from Action Comics. It’s a decent tribute to eight decades of Superman. However, there are some choices I wouldn’t have made, some glaring omissions and an editorial change that should have been made when they changed the name of the book.

As this was originally intended to be a tribute to Action Comics, the inclusion of non-Superman stories made sense. However, with the change of title, the thirty pages devoted to Zatara the Magician, Vigilante and The Human Target might have been better off being dedicated to stories drawn by the classic Superman art team of Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson. Likewise, while “A Hero’s Journey,” from 2003’s Action Comics 800 was a really nice annivesary celebration, including it here it eats up 57 story pages that could have been used to showcase other, shorter classic stories.

With twenty-one stories spread over 80 years, it’s a bit jarring when you find gaps of 12, 13 and 14 years between Superman stories. There are only two stories drawn by Curt Swan, who worked on Superman from the late 1940s into the 1990s and is considered by many to be the definitive Superman artist. One of those is hampered by a less-than-inspired inking job.

Entire eras of Action Comics are left out. We only get one of the stories Otto Binder wrote for Mort Weisinger, and the Murray Boltinoff editorship is skipped completely. Even the fifteen-year editorship of Julius Schwartz is limited to a mere two stories.

This book also manages to completely skip over the experiment where Action Comics was published weekly for nearly a year. Not only was this an attempt to recreate the feel of a Golden Age Anthology comic, it also included some terrific non-Superman stories and it’s also the reason that Action Comics hit number 1000 about three years ahead of schedule. And I have to question the choice of DC co-publisher Jim Lee as the cover artist. For a book as monumental as this, they really should have gone with an artist more associated with Action Comics, or simply of a higher profile. Neal Adams, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Alex Ross, Brian Bolland and Dave Gibbons are all available, and would have produced a more definitive Man of Steel than Lee’s drawing turned out to be.

There are two absolute gems in this collection. The first is never-before-published Superman story wrtten and drawn in 1945 by Superman’s creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. An accompnaying essay by Marv Wolfman tells how he managed to rescue this story from being destroyed back in the 1960s, when he was a kid visiting the offices of DC Comics. My only gripe about this story is that they didn’t bother coloring it. It would’ve been interesting to see what it would look like colored using today’s technology on this nice paper stock.

The other gem is a brand-new story by Paul Levitz and Neal Adams, which I believe may have been intended for a DC holiday special a few months go. For whatever reason, it makes its debut in this collection and is a fitting end to a tribute to eight decades of Superman.

Aside from my minor quibbles, Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman Deluxe Edition is a decent celebration of Superman in Action Comics. It could easily have been double the size and triple the price, but given the scope of Superman’s history and the desire to keep this book under thirty bucks, they did a pretty good job. Available from bookstores and some comic book shops, plus online retailers.

Tune in to The AIR Wednesday as Life Speaks to Michele Zirkle examines the art and wisdom of walking away and Beatles Blast presents part two of a classic Beatles radio documentary. Listen to it The AIR (or this embedded player).

This week Michele talks about knowing when to walk away from a pointless confrontation and how to recognize when a conversation has turned toxic. There’s a fine line between standing up for yourself and taking abuse, and Michele helps you find that line in this week’s Life Speaks.

Life Speaks to Michele Zirkle replays on The AIR Friday at 9:30 AM and Monday at 12:30 PM.

Continuing this week, Beatles Blast presents a re-edited radio series from 1973 devoted to The Beatles Story, a British radio history of the Fab Four which hasn’t been heard since its original broadcast. This second installment follows the band through their early days trying to land a record deal, and then recording their first singles.

Beatles Blast can be heard Wednesday at 2 PM, Thursday at 11 AM and 9 PM, Friday at 5 PM, and Tuesday at 9 AM.

Stay tuned all day, every day, for incredible music, thought-provoking talk and gut-busting comedy exclusively on The AIR.

The PopCult Toybox

In the most recent PopCult Gift Guide I recommended a designer toy that’s been around and collecting accolades for some time, Automoblox. These are exquisitely-crafted wooden cars that can be disassembled and reassembled into different styles.

Each Automoblox vehicle sports a body made of European beech wood, and includes multiple interchangeable components, including tires, rotors and calipers. It’s easy enough for kids as young as 4 to get in on the fun, and the cool, collectible mix-and-match designs appeal to older kids and adults as well.

I finally got my hands on a couple of Automoblox Mini sets, and I have to say, they’re as impressive in person as they look in print. And they have been covered extensively. Besides being in the PopCult Gift Guide, Automoblox has received attention from the media in publications such as Motor Trend, Newsweek, Parents Magazine and Car and Driver. Automoblox also received the prestigious Oppenheim Platinum Toy Award for its line of emergency vehicles.

The two sets I have in hand are the “Minis,” which means they’re about four to five inches long for the cars (longer for the truck and trailer) and these are really cool little toy cars. The size makes them just about compatible with a vintage Marx garage, and the wooden cars with rubber tires are quite a step up from the simple plastic cars that originally came with the Marx playsets.

First up we have a two-pack of cars featuring an HR5 Scorch (below), a super-luxury car, and the SC1 Chaos, a super-sportscar. The laquered wood construction for the car bodies is simply brilliant, like a tiny work of art. Adding to this are the color-coordinated plastic roofs and rubber tires, and the deluxe chrome hubcaps.

The cars roll freely, which is pretty important for a toy car, and they can also be taken apart, and combined into new configurations, adding considerably to the play value. These are really sharp-looking toy cars, and I’m posting close-up photos to give you an idea of how cool these look. Right below you see the SC1 Chaos.

 

Our second example is the X10 Timber Pack, which consists of a huge SUV with a trailer carrying a motocross motorcycle. This is another great set, with the green-accented SUV sporting gold chrome rims and the matching trailer toting a nifty little red-and-orange motorbike.

 

These cars come assembled, so they don’t immediately indicate that they are building toys in addition to being toy vehicles, but they do list the number of pieces on the box, which will help parents keep track of them once they do get scrambled.

It’s almost a shame to take them apart. These are great toys and kids will love them, but they also work as tiny works of art. They make great office decorations without screaming “NERD,” and they’re just really cool to look at and admire. The Motorbike alone, is a teensy masterpiece of simplicity.

 

Seriously, I don’t know whether to recommend Automoblox as toys or as cool decorations. You might want to buy one for your kids, and one for yourself.

A couple of years ago Automoblox was acquired by our friends at Playmonster, and they’re easier to find now. You can always look for them at their own store or at Amazon, but they’re also turning up in more independent toy stores and museum shops and online at Walmart and Fat Brain. These are not the cheapest toy cars on the market, but they’re well worth the price considering the craftsmanship on display. These are the kinds of toys that kids grow up remembering.

Radio Free Charleston and The Swing Shift are back today on The AIR. You can tune in at The AIR website, or just listen on this little embedded wonder…

At 10 AM and 10 PM our latest Radio Free Charleston mixes a couple of new tunes with about forty-five minutes of music resurrected from one of our old Voices of Appalachia shows. This was a voice-conserving move, since yours truly is still not 100% (but doing much, much better, thanks for asking). Check out the playlist below…

RFCv4075

Poor Man’s Gravy “Leaving Today”
Brian Diller “Hey Mister Auctioneer”
Jordan Searls “Any Kind of Wind”
Dina Hornbaker “Black Coffee”
Sheldon Vance “Birthright”
Hitchcock Circus “Dirty Girl”
Three Bodies “My Friend”
Blue Million “Don’t Leave”
The Bounty “Buffalos”
Science of the Mind “Son of Sam”
David Synn “Anesthesia”
Karma To Burn “Bobbi, Bobbi, Bobbi, I’m Not”
BobaFlex “Strangle You”
Ptolemy “Event Horizon”

Radio Free Charleston can be heard Tuesday at 10 AM and 10 PM, with replays Thursday at 2 PM, Friday at 8 PM and Saturday at 11 AM and Midnight, exclusively on The AIR.

At 3 PM point your ears to The AIR for a new hour of The Swing Shift, continuing our mission to bring you the best Swing music from the last century. This week we open with some hot Electro-Swing featuring vocals by Cosby protester Nicolle Rochelle. Here’s the playlist for this epic swingin’ hour…

The Swing Shift 040

Bart and Baker with Nicholle Rochelle “Swing Phenomenon”
Frank Sinatra and Chrissie Hynde “Luck Be A Lady”
Dem Brooklyn Bums “Switchblade Mambo”
Lavay Smith and her Red Hot Skillet Lickers “Blow Me A Fat Note”
Cherry Poppin’ Daddies “Fly Me To The Moon”
Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald “It Aint Necessarily So”
Indigo Swing “Hot In Harlem”
Jack’s Cats “Puttin’ On The Ritz”
Casey McGill “Sing Brother Swing”
Kitten and The Hip “Don’t Touch The Kitten”
Royal Crown Revue “Walkin’ Blues”
Louis Prima Jr. “I Wanna Be Like You”
New Morty Show “In The Groove”
Arite Shaw ” Scuttlebutt”

You can hear The Swing Shift Tuesday at 3 PM, with replays Wednesday at 9 AM, Thursday at 7 PM and Saturday at 9 AM, only on The AIR.

Monday Morning Art: Campfire Girls

 

Above you see a digital painting based in images from a session of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School from a few years ago. That seems to have become the theme for April’s MMA. In this piece we have Luna L’Enfant and Pepper Fandango doing something really sexy: reading and roasting marshmallows by the campfire.

This was another case of me going back to a batch of old Sketchy’s photos to find something to paint over with my new toy. It’s been over two months since I had to start using a new computer for my artwork, and I’m finally starting to get comfortable with my new software and my recovered brushes and stuff from the old PC. I was going for an illustrative look for this one, with a slight oil pastel touch. As always, click the image to see a larger version.

Sunday Evening Videos: Kirby and Ditko

Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko (right) created the Marvel Universe. Sure, Stan Lee played a large part in its creation too, but his main function was to hire these guys to make up the stories, point them in the right direction, and clean up the dialogue after they were done. Kirby and Ditko were the storytellers. Lee was the editor. Stan Lee has spent decades receiving the kudos and reaping rewards for work for which he did not do the heavy lifting.

It was always a bone of contention that Stan Lee was compensated much more handsomely for the work that these men did than they were themselves. It wasn’t until Kirby’s family was on the brink of arguing before the Supreme Court that Disney struck a deal to give Jack Kirby his fair amount of credit for his creations, and pay the family a more equitable share of the proceeds. Sadly, this all happened many years after Jack Kirby passed away, but it’s still good to see him get the recognition that he always deserved for being the dominant co-creator of The Fantastic Four, The Avengers, Black Panther, Silver Surfer and so many more of the pillars of the Marvel Universe.

Steve Ditko, who co-created Spider-man and Dr. Strange, and by most accounts was doing almost all of the writing before he left both strips after a prolonged falling out with Stan Lee. Ditko is still with us, but has not spoken to the press for nearly fifty years, preferring to let his work do the talking. Personality-wise, he’s the complete opposite of Stan Lee, shunning the spotlight and going out of his way to share credit where its due.

At the top of this post you see a documentary about Jack Kirby that runs a little over an hour. It’s a good, basic introduction to the mind that created so much of what is the foundation of modern comics. Below you’ll find a documentary by Jonathan Ross where he tries to track down Ditko. It’s a fascinating look into the vapor trail that is Ditko’s public presence. Both of these documentaries are more than ten years old, but they’re still very much worth watching.

This is not meant to slam Stan Lee, who has sadly been in the news a lot lately, but it’s an attempt to set the record straight and recognize the indispensible contributions of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko to Marvel Comics.