PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

Joe Kubert’s Tarzan of the Apes Artist’s Edition

Joe Kubert’s Tarzan of the Apes Artist’s Edition
by Joe Kubert
IDW Publishing
ISBN-13: 978-1613774496

Today is BIG TICKET DAY at The 2018 PopCult Gift Guide, and our pick is an incredible work of art, literature and storytelling.

Published in 2012 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ most enduring creation, Tarzan of the Apes, this Artist’s Edition book highlights Joe Kubert’s take on the character, which many people (including your PopCulteer) consider the definitive comics adaption of Tarzan.

Artist’s Edition is an award-winning line of hardcover reprint comic books published by IDW Publishing. Each page in an Artist’s Edition series book is printed the same size as the original art board and scanned in high resolution from the original art wherever possible. Additionally, while appearing to be in black and white, each page is scanned in color to show blue pencil and other corrections. These remarkable collections are as close as many people will ever get to seeing original comic book art pages. The books are huge. This edition is seventeen inches tall, and a foot wide. This is an impressive gift for any devout fan of Joe Kubert, Edgar Rice Burroughs or comic art in general.

Joe Kubert was one of the most acclaimed comic artists ever. His career in comics lasted nearly 70 years. Throughout all those years his hallmarks have been a mastery of sequential storytelling and exceptionally fine drawing. Highlights of his career include work on Hawkman, Enemy Ace, Tor, Sgt. Rock, and the Viking Prince. But of all these exceptional artistic achievements one stands out: his remarkable adaption of ERB’s Tarzan.

This incredible work can be ordered directly from IDW Publishing for $125. You may find better (or worse) prices at other online retailers by using your Google machine.

Mitch O’Connell Leave It To Beaver Monster Shirts

Mitch O’Connell Leave It To Beaver Monster Shirts

Today’s final suggestion in The 2018 PopCult Gift Guide is the perfect gift for the die-hard fan of Leave it to Beaver, or also a great gift for fans of early 1960s gross-out monsters like Rat Fink.  It’s shirts (T Shirts or Sweatshirts–you pick) based on “Sweatshirt Monsters,” a 1962 episode of Leave it To Beaver.

In case you don’t remember this particular episode, here’s a synopsis from “Huggo” at IMDB

Beaver, Richard, Whitey and Alan are all excited about the new sweatshirts they have each purchased, each one which has a different monster face on it. Although he is not the one who comes up with the idea and is the one least amenable to it, Beaver ultimately agrees with a group pact that they will each wear their sweatshirt to school the next day. They figure that if they all do, they won’t, in their terminology, get “clobbered” by the teachers.

Although they can’t force Beaver to return the sweatshirt which they detest, Ward and June can demand that Beaver not wear the sweatshirt to school, or so they believe. When Beaver leaves the house, he is wearing a regular shirt. But once outside, he takes off that shirt and has his monster sweatshirt underneath. When he arrives in class, he finds that the sweatshirt causes much commotion, especially as he is the only one of the four wearing it.

Not only does Beaver feel like he will get into much trouble, but he also feels betrayed by his friends for them not sticking to the pact. He ultimately learns that good judgment trumps promises made.

Now, even though I was not a huge fan of Leave It To Beaver, that episode stuck with me. I always wondered if there were ever any attempt to market these designs on real shirts (seriously, I was just talking about this with a friend a few months ago).

It always seemed like a golden marketing opportunity missed, but with the nascent state of pop culture licensing back then, and the fact that the attitude of the show being that designs like this were borderline evil, it never came to be.

Now my buddy from Chicago (who I haven’t seen in person for over thirty years), Mitch O’Connell, has done something about the situation. Here’s what Mitch says:

If you never saw the peewee version of ‘The Wild Ones’ on tv and are a little confused about what I’m yacking about, watch it for free.

I did see it as a youth, and immediately salivated over the surfin’ wild Rat Fink-like graphics, but sadly, they only existed in tv land. According to Tony ‘Wally’ Dow, a talented stagehand actually painted the iconic incredibly icky shirts that you see hanging in the window at Tildens. It took me 56 years to get around to doing my best to replicate those cool duds, and through Threadless, you can finally get all four Beaver horror heads printed on pretty much whatever your heart desires, including grey sweatshirts!

So if you go to Mitch’s Threadless store, you can purchase your favorite design (or all four) on an almost infinite variety of garments, in a rainbow of colors. You’ll also find a bunch of other cool designs by Mitch there. Best of all, you can pretend that they’re gifts, but actually keep them for yourself because they’re so cool.

MEGO Figures at Target

MEGO Figures at Target

Our next pick in The 2018 PopCult Gift Guide is something that I’ve been writing about all year. MEGO action figures returned to retail shelves this year after more than thirty-five years in limbo, and you can find a lot of great gift ideas among these figures, which are exclusive to Target stores (until December 31). Revived by the company’s founder, Marty Abrams, these MEGO figures maintain the look and feel of the classic MEGO figures of the 1970s, but bring that format to a whole new series of pop culture classics.

Much more recognizable than Funko Pops, these eight-inch tall action figures (DC comics heroes are fourteen inches tall) make great gifts for the fans of the respective shows, and it’s pretty easy to find the figures based on Happy Days, Cheers, The Facts of Life, Married with Children, I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, Charmed, Charlie’s Angels and Full House.

Other cool figures, like those based on KISS, Star Trek and MEGO’s Monsters sell out very quick, but do occasionally pop up on the website. The only drawback to collecting the line is that, with sixty figures or sets of figures released in four months, many Target stores haven’t gotten the full assortment yet, and the most popular figures sell out very quickly on the website (but they do come back into stock, so if you want to check it obsessively, it can pay off).

However, if you have a casual fan of any of the TV shows I mentioned a couple of paragraphs above, you might just have the perfect, low-priced gift (eight inch figures are fifteen bucks, but have been on sale for under ten bucks at times).

The DC Comics Characters (some of which are a bit elusive) are great, big action figures that work as office decorations for adults, or great toys for kids. They sell for under twenty bucks each, with periodic sales kicking the price even lower.

MEGO figures are great gift ideas for the person who likes having little artifacts of their favorite pop culture personalities, but thinks that Funko Pops all pretty much look alike. Available only at Target stores and online.  Note that Target is offering free shipping now, so you’ll save on that, too.

For much more detailed news and larger images, please visit MegoMuseum, where Brian Heiler has been doing a bang-up job posting the latest news on Marty Abrams presents MEGO for the last two days. He’s been updating the sight often, and is the major source for news on the return of this beloved brand.

Local Spotlight: Record Store Day Special Release

Record Store Day, the national movement to get people into records shops by offering hundreds of exclusive releases on one day each year, has expanded to a second day in recent years with a smaller, but still impressive slate of exclusive limited edition vinyl releases on Black Friday.

Locally, Budget Tapes and Records (3708 MacCorkle Ave SE, in Kanawha City) and Sullivan’s Records (1588-A Washington Street East on Charleston’s Historic East End) are participating, with special vinyl reissues from Todd Rundgren, Madonna, Frank Zappa and the Mothers, YES and dozens of other great artists, and new and unreleased music from Harry Nilsson, Paul McCartney and more. You can find a full list of available records HERE.

And don’t forget that Budget also carries a huge range of other cool gift ideas, from clothing, to smoking accessories to adult novelties, and Sullivan’s now has a used bookstore in the back, so it you want one-stop-shopping, you can’t go wrong at either place (but hit both of them, and Elk City too).

Elk City Records (311 W Washington Street on Charleston’s West Side) won’t be carrying the new releases, but they will be running specials on their great stock of used vinyl, so you’ll want to hit them up, too. Plus they’re just around the corner from Kin Ship Goods and Base Camp Printing, and a short walk across the street from Void and Gonzoburger, so you can just make a whole West Side shopping day of it.

With any of today’s three suggestions, you can SHOP LOCAL, support our local merchants and give the gift of music.

MARY: A Rock Opera

MARY: A Rock Opera

A Charleston tradition is our next pick in the 2018 PopCult Gift Guide. Mark Scarpelli and Dan Kehde’s rock opera, MARY, opens the day after Thanksgiving, and you’ll have nine chances to see the 22nd production put on by Charleston Youth Arts Company. You can sample previous a production in the video at the bottom of this post. This year MARY moves to a new home, at the CYAC Theater at the Mall, Charleston Town Center, 2nd level. This is a smaller venue, so you might want to order your tickets online. Friday’s show is alread sold out.

Scarpelli and Kehde’s rock opera MARY follows the life of Mary, mother of Jesus, during the final 9 months before the birth of Christ. A driving score and vibrant young talent brings the story to life on the stage of the new CYAC theater at the Mall. Accompanied by a large orchestra and chorus, MARY has become a seasonal tradition in the greater Kanawha Valley.

This year the production is filled with fresh faces, as CYAC continues to discover and bring to the stage the brightest new talents the area has to offer. One of the great joys of seeing MARY every year is the glimpse into the future of Charleston’s theatre scene that it gives us.

It’s a testament to the depth of talent that can be found in this city that CYAC manages to mount such impressive productions of this show each year.

This is an experience, a wonderful gift of music and theater that is perfect for the person on your list who isn’t just interested in material things. Tickets are $8.00 Students and $15.00 Adults.  Available at the door or by calling 342-6522 for reservations, or order online through Showclix.

You can see Scarpelli and Kehde’s MARY: A Rock Opera at 7 PM November 23, 24, 29 and 30 and 30 and December 1. And there are 2 PM matinee performances on November 24 and 25, and December 2.

This is the perfect gift for the local theater-going patron of the arts on your gift list. It’s a world-class show that really has to be seen in person to be appreciated. CYAC is hard at work making this 22nd production special and theater lovers, music lovers as well as followers of the Christian faith should make it a point to attend, and it’s such a special show that it makes a perfect gift.

Eat Local

Eat Local

Since Thanksgiving is a traditional day of feasting, our 2018 PopCult Gift Guide pick for today follows our tradition of inspiring you to get out and support locally-owned places of dining. Most of our suggested restaurants offer gift certificates or cards. Even if they don’t, you can still take your giftee out and treat them not only to a great meal, but also to the pleasure of your company. Food is a great gift, and you don’t usually have to wrap it.

Charleston is blessed with a wide variety of great, independent eateries. Take that into account when choosing one for the gift-giving experience. You have a lot of great options. Contact info can be found in the links with the names on our list.

Newcomers on the dining scene this year include:  Gonzoburger, with their gourmet burgers in the old Chris’s Hot Dog location; Void, just across the street, is a new, hip coffee shop; Also on the coffee front, we have Mea Cuppa Coffee and Atlas Coffee in Charleston, Cafe Crema, now in Dunbar along Route 25, and Coal River Coffee Company on Old Main in Saint Albans. Plus there’s Rock City Cake Company, on Capitol Street, blending cakes and treats and live music.

We are happy to report that Caffe Romeo in South Hills, an authentic Italian-style place where you can get Gelato, Expresso, Sorbet and several other treats is stil as wonderful as we said it was last year.

The Olive Tree Cafe and Catering, is already a reliable favorite on the Charleston culinary scene. Their tasty Mediterrean fare is top-notch and the service is quick and friendly. They offer up great salads and sandwiches, and their shawarma is the stuff of legend. The restaurant is open Monday through Saturday from 11 AM to 7 PM. It’s a casual dining atmosphere and they have lots of other deli goodies for sale.

Other restaurants you might want to consider for a fun, gift-style special meal are The Block and Bricks & Barrels. And of course, there are all the old favorites. You can buy gift cards or certificates for Bluegrass Kitchen, Tricky Fish, Starling’s Coffee and Provisions, Leonoro’s, Mi Cocini De Amor, Pies & Pints, Lola’s, Bridge Road Bistro, Adelphia, Fazio’s, and Taste of Asia.

These are the stores that we know off the top of our heads offer gift certificates or cards. Your PopCulteer does not get around as much as he used to, due to health issues related to Myasthenia Gravis. You might want to ask around to see if your favorite local restaurant also offers gift certificates. If they do, please feel free to tell us about it in the comments section.

The Lights of Broadway Show Cards

The Lights of Broadway Show Cards

The final pick in today’s 2018 PopCult Gift Guide is a trading card set that I have grown quite fond of this year. The Lights of Broadway Show Cards feature the artwork of Broadway’s reigning caricaturist, Squiggs, and present the stars, theaters and shows of The Great White Way in trading card form. This is the absolutely perfect gift for the theatre fanatic on your holiday shopping list.

The Lights of Broadway Show Cards celebrate Broadway theatre. The stories and the storytellers, the art and the artisans, those who make it all possible and the community embracing it. Shows, actors, directors, writers, designers, and all else in the spotlight or behind the scenes who keep the theatrical world spinning.

This is the first time I’ve ever included something in The PopCult Gift Guide that I’ve also written about for Non Sport Update, but my editor said it was okay to spread the word on this cool card set, so I’m including it here. You can read more on the subject, including my interview with Justin “Squigs” Robertson himself, in the next issue of Non Sport Update, on sale in two weeks.

The reason that the timing is perfect to tell you about these cards now is that, next week they will start taking pre-orders on their next series of cards, Autumn 2018, but right now they are running a sale and you can find all sorts of great items at 20% off their normal price.

Over at The Lights of Broadway website, you’ll find special deals where you can get packs of their Spring 2018 and MegaMix cards for the discounted price. You’ll also find deals on binders and starter kits (which include an illustrated binder and several packs of cards).

If you want to go whole hog, you can find entire boxes of 36 packs, to shower your theatre fanatic with loads of great cards. You can even find single-show packs for Fiddler on The Roof, Fun Home and Dear Evan Hansen. They have everything from stocking stuffers to mid-sized gifts to BIG TICKET items.

The cards are beautifully printed and feature the amazing art of Squiggs. If you’ve got a theatre kid on your gift list, this is where you need to go. You can order directly from The Lights of Broadway Show Cards website, or go to New York and look for them in Schubert Alley and The Drama Bookstore.



Next up in The 2018 PopCult Gift Guide is a great little gag gift that’s perfect for the stressed-out person on your holiday shopping list who enjoys the idea of mangling manatees. The Stress Manatee from Archie McPhee is under ten bucks, and will let you take out all your aggression on this sweet, gentle, harmless endangered species. At this price, it’s a good stocking stuffer.

This manatee feels as squishy as a real manatee looks. Manatees have got it made. Constantly floating in warm water, not having to care how they look. Watching them makes all your stress melt away. Now you can get rid of all your anxiety by squeezing this soft polyurethane foam 5½” squishy while you read the affirming poem on the back of the package. I like to put the manatee on my shoulder and pretend that it’s whispering relaxing things to me. After all, a good manatee is hard to find and this one is a great one!

What you get is a A squishy manatee, 5-1/2” long, that you can squeeze and squeeze and squeeze in a relaxing, soothing and calming manner. It takes over 9 seconds to pop back into shape, which, if you know your stress manatees like I do, you know that means that this is one ultra-high-quality squishable mammal.

The folks at Archie McPhee have even created a video to show the Zen-like reclaimation of form by the Stress Manatee. See it at the bottom of this post. You can order the Stress Manatee directly from Archie McPhee, or you might luck out and find it at one of the stores that carry Archie McPhee products (like Taylor Books, in Charleston).



Matt Berry:Television Themes

Matt Berry:Television Themes

Today’s first pick in The 2018 PopCult Gift Guide is a new album from Matt Berry, who has attained cult status as an actor on The IT Crowd, Toast of London and the upcoming What We Do In The Shadows.  Berry is also a singer/songwriter, which is no surprise to fans of Toast of London, which incorporates his music into every episode. However, his latest release is a nearly-instrumental album of covers of British TV show theme songs.

Television Themes is the perfect gift for the incurable Anglophile, or UK expatriate on your holiday shopping list, and is also a natural for fans of Matt Berry.

It’s sort of bizarre, and also pretty short (songs range from eight seconds to just over three miutes), but it’s also pretty damned delightful, even for Americans who don’t have the nostalgic connection to many of the songs included here.

Recognizable to us Yanks are themes songs from Doctor Who and The Good Life (known as “Good Neighbors” when they showed it on PBS). Less recognizable on this side of the pond are tunes like the Phil Lynott/Midge Ure theme for Top of the Pops or the short musical blips for London Weekend Television or Thames Television (although fans of Benny Hill will recognize the latter).

Even if they don’t punch your nostalgic buttons, the songs here are pretty cool, played using vintage synthesizers and running the gamut from neo-classical to smooth Jazz to experimental electronic and pure pop. A handful of the songs have vocals, which Berry tackles admirably.

Here’s the hype copy from his record label:

BAFTA award winning actor Matt Berry returns with Television Themes. Inspired by his youth, it’s a collection of TV theme tunes that have not only influenced Berry but undergone a fascinating and unique metamorphosis under his musical stewardship. Television Themes was recorded on his own and with his regular band The Maypoles in his newly built studio.

It includes favorites from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s such as Are You Being Served? and Rainbow alongside lesser known themes from Picture Box and Wildtrak amidst those that transcend the decades, Doctor Who and Top Of The Pops. Combining his love of music production and his passion for the ‘signature tune’, Television Themes sees Berry enhance his musical reputation following the success of his previous releases encapsulating Berry’s formative years as a viewer and paired with his boundless appetite for music.

The cover of the album enhances the retro feel of the project with line art that recalls British anthology records of the 1970s.

Matt Berry: Television Themes can probably be ordered from local record shops, or for the sake of expediency, you can also find it at Amazon on CD and Vinyl.

Sample the album with his cover of The Doctor Who theme below…

Hot Wheels Track Builder System Race Crate

Hot Wheels Track Builder System Race Crate

Today’s final pick in The 2018 PopCult Gift Guide is suggested for the young, or young at heart who love Hot Wheels. The Hot Wheels Track Builder System Race Crate is a four-lane stunt set that can be configured three different ways to allow your giftee to race their Hot Wheels cars to their little heart’s content.

That includes adult collectors, too.

You can triple your racing fun and stunting thrills with this 3-in-1 pop-out raceway. This super-portable crate quickly transforms into 3 massive stunt tracks, so kids (or adults pretending to have kids) can launch into epic action at lightning speed. Will they nail the scary-steep drops, adrenaline-pumping jumps, and ultimate high-speed showdowns?

The Race Crate includes everything you need for 3 unique raceways and stunts. You can create challenges and obstacles with 8+ feet of track, 2 double slam launchers, a 4-lane loop and more. Parents can help younger racers transform stunts, and jumpstart family fun, or they can wait until the kids go to sleep and play with it themselves

The best part is that the crate with track on it folds up, and you can store everything inside when you’re not using it. It even had a handle for carrying. Parents will love this, and collectors ought to appreciate it, too.

The Hot Wheels Track Builder System Race Crate gives you a lot of bang for your buck. The set also includes two Hot Wheels cars, but the track can handle up to four, and with some many official configurations, you know that there ought to be lots of other ways to play with this set, or combine it with others.

This massive playset retails for fifty bucks and can be found almost anywhere that toys are sold, or you could snoop around the usual suspects online and find it at a considerable discount.

Check out the video…