PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

Start The Year With Random Images

The PopCulteer
January 4, 2019

The truncated week combined with a sudden influx of interruptions has left your PopCulteer a bit flummoxed this week. As I have been known to do in the past, when faced with adversity and chaos, I elected to punt.

The essay originally scheduled for today will be postponed until next week so that it can be re-written, thought-out a bit better and extensively proofread before seeing print. In its place today I will run a photo essay of random images from the last couple of months of 2018. Many of these are leftover from the early-December trip to Chicago, but others are local and date back to November, when a lot of cool stuff happened while I was compiling the Proust-length 2018 PopCult Gift Guide.

Among the Chicago images you’ll find a few from The Green Mill, the legendary nightclub where your PopCulteer and his wife spent an evening enjoying the sounds of Alan Gresik’s Swing Shift Orchestra. I was so impressed by this genuine Big Band Swing music that I included a tune from that night in the latest video episode of Radio Free Charleston, which debuted last Sunday night and you should go watch RIGHT HERE if you haven’t already. This latest installment of our video show also includes music from Brooke Brown and The Velvet Brothers, and even more of our trademark mind-hurting weirdness.

Each photo will have a caption, and chances are that this week’s PopCulteer will be filled with typos…moreso than usual…because I’m cranking it out in a hurry. The lead image of this post is a Chicago nightscape, as seen from our hotel window.

Hopefully this photo essay will have something for you to enjoy, be it Batman, wrestling, toy news, travel photos or whatever. It’ll help us get this year off to a random and disorganized start!

Mrs PopCulteer was feeling a bit Wagnerian at the Mountain State Pop Expo
Seen at MSPX. This is not the announcement of Richard Ojeda’s presidential campaign.
A sudden power outage happened duiring the final match of the Woody Numbers Memorial Show, put on by IWA East Coast wrestling. The show was finished, illuminated by cellphones held up by the audience. It was freaking amazing.

Continue reading…

PopCult Meets MOLD-A-RAMA

In December, 2019, your PopCulteer and his wife, Mel Larch, visited The Willis Tower in Chicago, one of the tallest buildings in the world, and rather than ascend to the famous SkyDeck, we immediately went to the second-sub-basement for the arcade near the gift shop. There we beheld two MOLD-A-RAMA machines. This video captures that experience.

MOLD-A-RAMA machines are huge beasts of post-war engineering, giant vending machines that make and dispense a cool little injection-molded plastic toy while you wait. The machine was introduced in 1962, but really took off at the New York World’s Fair in 1964, and soon spread across the country, thrilling kids with its distinctive smell of freshly-molded waxy plastic. Invented by Tike Miller, this cool novelty inspired the cult-television show, Wonderfalls, and created lasting memories for hundreds of thousands of kids.

There are still over a hundred machines operating in eight states, and Chicago is a hotbed of MOLD-A-RAMA activity because the company than currently owns the rights to the machines is based there.  A separate company operates the same machines as MOLD-A-MATIC, and those are primarily found in the South.

The engineering that goes into these machines is amazing. The vat that holds the plastic is heated. The molds are refrigerated. There are hundreds of moving parts, and the temperature of every piece has to be perfect, plus the molds have to fit together tightly. Hot plastic is injected into the molds, where it solidifies instantly. The remaining hot plastic inside is then blown out (which also cools the insides a bit). Then, once the mold halves part, a little knife slices the toy loose from the nozzles, and slides it into the retrieval basket.

This is the kind of engineering that got us to the moon.

I was inspired to seek out these machines after Tom Wheeler sent me a video link to a story about them, and through that I discovered that MOLD-A-RAMA has machines all over Chicago, a city that PopCult readers know I like to visit regularly.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that there are a lot of great MOLD-A-RAMA videos on YouTube, particularly by Carpetbagger, who has been covering MOLD-A-RAMA much longer than we have, as well as tons of other cool raodside attractions..

This visit documents our baby steps, but late in 2019 the plan is to return and record a full-fledged video safari with as many as two-dozen MOLD-A-RAMA machines captured in action. The video above shows our first two MOLD-A-RAMA machine sightings. I expect we’ll have many more. You can visit the official MOLD-A-RAMA website to get an idea of where we may be headed next. And now, we’ll give you a few bonus photos…

Bigger than a Jukebox, but tens times as cool for toy collectors.
Each machine only holds one mold. This one has The Chicago Skyline, in royal blue.
Post-molding, the blade/pusher slices off the toy and pushes it into the basket.
The end result is a nifty plastic souvenir.


To kick the year off in a reflective mood, we’re going to glace at our year-end statistics and give you updates on five or so of the most-read stories in PopCult for the year we just wrapped.

It’s an odd mix of pop culture topics, and I have to admit that I was a bit surprised by our most-read story, because to be honest, I didn’t think that it would be quite the powerhouse it turned out to be. I think the main reason that this post was our most-read has a lot to do with the fact that nobody else seems to have covered this story on the internet, at least not without linking to my post.

Here are the top-six stories in PopCult for 2018:

1) Monster High Closed

Mattel’s strange decision to abandon what recently been a two-billion dollar a year brand continues to mystify industry observers and die-hard collectors of Monster High. As the year ended, it was clear that Monster High was done, at least for now. You can read the original story HERE, and a follow-up HERE. What was strange about this story was that, while it did initially garner a lot of hits, around the time of the San Diego Comic Con, the number of people reading it daily almost tripled, and stayed that high through today. It remains in the top-three or five PopCult posts read every day.

The only product available in Walmart or Target was leftover items that shipped early in the year. K Mart stores (those that are still open) had some Monster High dolls in stock, but those were items that initially shipped to other retailers in 2017.

As the year progressed, Mattel’s strategy seemed to be to discontinue any fashion doll line that might compete against their star brand, Barbie. Their CEO made a remark in one interview that fashion doll trends today, aside from Barbie, only had a shelf-life of two or three years, so their plan was to pull the plug early and move on to what they hoped would be the next big thing. It seems to have become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as Mattel has seemingly shut down lines that still have a lot of life left in them.

Mattel wound up pulling the plug on their Enchantimals line even sooner than expected, barely hitting the nine-month mark at retail with that concept.

However, Barbie sales were up 11 %, so perhaps in the short term, Mattel’s plan was working. It’s just a shame that Barbie’s resurgence seems to have been built on the corpses of Monster High, DC Superhero Girls, WWE Fashion dolls and Ever After High.

It’s still possible for Monster High to be revived, but with lines like Super Monsters and Vampirina eating up market share, it may be to late for a return from the dead.

2) The John K. Story

John Kricfalusi, the creator of Ren & Stimpy and Ripping Friends was accused in print of engaging in unacceptable and irredeemable behavior. There are no reasons to doubt any of these accusations, and I wrote about them HERE.

The only update to this is that Kricfalusi issued a public statement in May, that only made things worse. The first page of his statement read like a reasoned, if tepid apology, and had he stopped there, may well have been the best that he could possibly have offered in the way of a public apology.

Unfortunately, his statement continued for an additional ten pages that showed off the worst of his delusional and narcissitic personality. It pretty much confirmed that, not only was every accusation about him true, but that he had yet to learn anything from the experience or change in any meaningful way.

3) The Marx Toy Museum

The Marx Toy Museum in Moundsville closed in 2016, which you can read about HERE. In 2017 the museum re-opened to allow American Pickers to come in and visit and buy some classic Marx Toys from the museum’s founder, Francis Turner. You can read about that visit HERE, and see a couple of videos about their encounter with Big Loo HERE.

The episode of American Pickers featuring the Marx Toy Museum originally aired in November, 2017, but every time this episode gets repeated, thousands of people flock to Google and find their way to PopCult to read more about it.

For now the museum is still closed, but it usually re-opens on a limited basis during the annual Marx Toy Convention, which is held nearby in Wheeling at The Kruger Street Toy and Train Museum. We expect to pop in for a quick visit this June, and you can see some of last year’s convention coverage HERE.

4) Mistress Rhonda Has Left Us

Eleven-and-a-half months ago PopCult lost a friend, Rhonda Baffes, the proprietor of the Bizarre TV Roku Channel. Rhonda succumbed after a long battle with cancer, and her channel, which she’d programmed to run on auto-pilot, kept going for several months following her death.

You can read the original obituary for Rhonda HERE, and our notes on the passing of the channel HERE.

5) Captain Marvel vs. Racism

Last summer, following DC Comics’ decision to cancel a deluxe hardback collection of the first long-form serialized comic book story, “Captain Marvel vs. The Monster Socieity of Evil,” I managed to procure a copy from public domain comics re-publisher, Gwandanaland Comics, and reviewed it HERE. My conclusion was that, due to the overwhelmingly racist elements in parts of the story, it was a wise move by DC not to put this out in advance of their big “Shazam” movie.

Sadly, after I discovered Gwandanland and started buying up their collections of classic Captain Marvel stories, it was discovered that those stories may not be in the public domain after all, and they discontinued their Marvel Family series. They remain a wonderful source for reprints of great Golden Age comics, just with a little less of the stuff I really, really like.

6) The Return of MEGO

Marty Abrams’ MEGO returned to mass-market retail after more than thirty years in limbo, and you can read our coverage of that return HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE. It was a pretty big deal in the action figure collecting world, and fans are waiting for the arrival of the fourth wave of figures, currently expected sometime around March.

There were other big stories in PopCult in 2018, the saga of The Bakery, the end and fizzzly resurrection of Toys R Us and lots of your PopCulteer’s travel adventures. We’ll take a look at some of those tales of pop culture next week.

Swing In The New Year On The AIR

Today you can listen to The Swing Shift all day long on our sister internet station, The AIR. Tune in at The Website, or listen right here on this embedded radio-type player…

I’ve made no secret of my love of Swing Music. Each week I bring you a new hour of The Swing Shift, in addition to the other programs I host on The AIR (Radio Free Charleston, Beatles Blast, Radio Free Charleston International and maybe some new shows in the new year). The truth is that Swing Music holds a special place in my heart, going back to my chance purchase of Joe Jackson’s Jumpin’ Jive way back in 1981. That was the spark, and Mel Gilliespie’s Big Band Music class at WVSC whipped it into a fire that has yet to go out.

So, to ring in the new year, since so many of my readers and listeners are enjoying the day off, and I’d sort of like to do that as well, I’ve programmed 24 hours of The Swing Shift, beginning Tuesday morning at 9 AM.

We’ll have some other programming stunts on The AIR this week as we prepare to unveil our new schedule next Monday.

In the meantime, PopCult wishes you a Very Happy and Prosperous New Year. Remember, it don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing.

Monday Morning Art: Pencil Pagoda


We wrap up 2018 in PopCult with a pencil drawing based on the decorative pagoda near the entrance to Chinatown in Chicago. This started life as a real-world pencil sketch based on a photo I was looking at on my phone. When I finished, I realized that I have yet to reconnect my printer/scanner after last February’s move to a new computer, so the sketch was photographed, and after I looked at the photo of the sketch, I did a little more digital tweaking, losing a few smudges and elminating glare along the way. I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out, since I’m still sort of teaching myself how to use my hands again.

As usual, you can click the image to see it bigger.

Also, in case you missed it, yesterday I posted a Brand-New episode of the Radio Free Charleston video show. You can see it and read about it HERE, or just scroll down one post on the main PopCult page. It was only one post ago.

In honor of the new RFC, we are going to present a 24-hour marathon of Radio Free Charleston on radio…on The AIR, beginning Monday at 7 AM, and wrapping up Tuesday morning. Next week we are going to do a major reset of the schedule of The AIR, so this will be the final 24 hour Monday Marathon.  We’ll tell you all about that in the coming days.

You can tune in on The AIR website, or on this cool New’s Year’s Day toy we call thel radio thingy…


Just like we did last year, the final Sunday Evening Video of the year sees the debut of a BRAND-NEW video episode of Radio Free Charleston!

Also just like last year, it’s the only one we did this year.

You PopCulteer and humble host still hasn’t quite gotten the hang of shooting music video while taking loads of medicines for Myasthenia Gravis. However, things are looking up, as two of the songs in this show were recorded within the last four weeks.

This episode of the show, “Chess Records Shirt,” features music from Brooke Brown, The Velvet Brothers and, from Chicago, Alan Gresik and The Swing Shift Orchestra. We also have what I believe is the last bit of animation from the late Third Mind Incarnation, and a new dancing Batman, courtesy of Frank Panucci.

Brooke Brown is an old friend and former Gazzblogger who has become a formidable singer/songwriter. We caught up to Brooke just a couple of weeks ago at Gonzoburger, and both Brooke and Gonzoburger make their RFC debut, coincidentally on a show that is being posted on Brooke’s birthday!

Brooke treats us to a clever original tune called “Asking For A Friend,” and we hope to hear more from Brooke on future shows, and on the RFC radio show on The AIR.

Brooke has been performing regularly at Gonzoburger on Thursday nights, and you can check their Facebook page to see if that continues. You never know when Mrs. PopCulteer, Mel Larch, might jump and and join in on a song or two.

Our animation is “We Takin’ Applications,” which is the final bit of work we have left from Third Mind Incarnation, the chief creative force of which contibuted to our early shows, then feuded with us and made us cut out his cartoons, then fell ill and on his deathbed gave us permission to restore his old “Pentagram Flowerbox” cartoons to RFC, and to also use his other short films on the show. Then, as he asked me to say, he croaked.

The Velvet Brothers are national treasures who operate on a local level. Jim, Greg, Bryan, Al, Craig, Dave and I’m probably forgetting a few are master musicians who specialize in the art of lounge music. They are the epitome of cool, and back in 2017 Mel and I caught them at The Cantina in Kanawha City, and posted a few songs online, outside of the context of Radio Free Charleston.

With this episode we go back to that night, and bring you their ulta-cool velvetty mutation of “Secret Agent Man.”

Playing us out this week is a rarity for RFC. It’s a band with absolutely no ties to Charleston. Earlier this month your humble host and his wife made a trip to Chicago and visited the legendary Green Mill nightclub. We chose to go on Thursday night because that’s the night that they have Swing Music.

If you read PopCult regularly, or listen to The AIR, you know that, in addition to being a huge advocate for all types of local music, yours truly is a major fan of Swing Music. Charleston does not currently have any Swing bands, and I don’t see much chance of one forming any time soon (but if they do, I’ll be there), so to get a chance to hear a top-notch Swing band cut loose, we went to The Windy City. Besides, in Chicago this IS a local band, so there.

Alan Gresik and his crew put on an amazing show, and if we lived there, we’d go every week. They present the evening as if it’s a live radio broadcast from years gone by, complete with commercials and special announcements. The night we saw them they had a rotating crew of four or five singers and a tight and remarkably well-rehearsed 12-piece band.

Of course, I’m always armed with my trusty Kodak Zi8, and managed to capture a song or two before the dancers overwhelmed my view. We bring you “Drummin’ Man” to close out this episode of RFC.

Chances are, we’ll do at least two or three times as many episodes of the show next year, but for now, I didn’t want to go a calendar year without bringing you at least one new edition of Radio Free Charleston‘s video show.

Our host segments were recorded on December 30, 2018, the same day this post goes live, on Charleston’s West Side and in front of The Clay Center, after we discovered that it was “race your cars without a muffler down Washingto Street” day.  Our title shirt comes from Willie Dixon’s Blues Heaven Foundation.  Remember, you can catch the radio version of the show all the time on The AIR.

The RFC Flashback: Episode 164

This week we travel back to July, 2012 for a show that featured music from Mother Nang, recorded at Haddad Riverfront Park, and two numbers from the Charleston Light Opera Guild production of Legally Blonde.  This episode was called “Fighting English Shirt,” named after my T-shirt, which was a mash-up of The Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and the logo for Notre Dame’s sportsball team. With this week we rejoin our chronological presentation of Radio Free Charleston.

Host segments were shot at the Charleston Civic Center, which just goes to show you what might happen if you leave your podium just sitting around.

The CLOG production of Legally Blonde starred Micah Atkinson as Elle Woods, along with a large talented cast that included Matthew Bryant, Allison Plants, Michael D. Gore, Cameron Vance, Toni Pilato, and Rudi Raynes-Kidder along with many others. The RFC cameras were allowed in for the first dress rehearsal, and we witnessed a show that is coming together quickly was a lot of fun. We brought you two numbers from Legally Blonde” in ths episode, “Serious” and “What You Want.”

This episode of the show also features the song “Buying The Farm” by Mother Nang, recorded in the summer of 2011 at Haddad Riverfront Park. Mother Nang is a legendary band on the Charleston Scene, and the various members are all still active, musically, whether together or apart.

We also have animation this week, but I’m still not allowed to talk about it.


The PopCulteer
December 28, 2018

PopCult has been covering it for over a year and a half, but New Year’s Eve sees the official grand opening of The Bakery, Charleston’s newest all-ages music venue, located at 1007 Bigley Avenue (the old Purity Made Bread Factory).

Long months of work by volunteers, raising funds, painting, doing construction and bringing the building up to code have paid off.

Monday evening, beginning at 6:30 PM, a FREE show kicks off the new, completely-approved by Charleston’s Fire Inspector and compliant with ADA and all other regulations, music venue. The Bakery is finally here, and it’s completely legal.

There are four bands scheduled for Monday with more expected to be added later. As of now the line up is Saprogen, Everpulse, Luna Park and The High Incident Project.

This is a free, all-ages show, intended to introduce Charleston’s much-needed new all-ages venue to the public. Think of this opening night as a harder-rocking alternative to Charleston’s Good Night performances.

Charleston has needed an all-ages venue for quite some time, and it’s great to see the group behind The Bakery overcome the various and formidable obstacles that have caused this project to have such a prolonged gestation. Here’s to the perseverance of those who worked so hard to make this happen.

Speaking of Good Night 2018

We have a schedule for this year’s free New Year’s Eve concert series around town, and here it is:

Charleston Baptist Temple – Fellowship Hall
209 Morris St.
6 & 8 PM Presby Pickers
7 & 9 PM Appalachian Celtic Consort

Charleston Baptist Temple-Sanctuary
209 Morris St.
6 & 8 PM Charleston Civic Chorus
7 & 9 PM Youth Symphony

Christ Church United Methodist – Chapel
1221 Quarrier St.
6 & 8 PM Roger Rabalais
7 & 9 PM Edward Pauley and Friends

Christ Church United Methodist – Sanctuary
1221 Quarrier St.
6 & 8 PM womanSong Chorale of West Virginia
7 & 9 PM Kanawha Kordsmen Barbershop Chorus

Civic Center – Little Theater
6 PM River City Youth Ballet Ensemble
7 PM“Moonage Daydream: The Bowie Songbook”
Ryan Hardiman, Mark Scarpelli & strings
8 PM “Josh Groban and Classic Rock”
Jonathan Tucker, Mark Scarpelli & strings

First Presbyterian Church – Sanctuary
16 Leon Sullivan Way
6 PM Rose Fisher
8 PM Mary Street Brass
7 & 9 PM Makenna Hope

St. John’s Episcopal Church – Hunter Hall
1105 Quarrier Street
6-10 PM “It’s Midnight Somewhere” with FOOTMAD

St. Marks United Methodist Church – Chapel
900 Washington St., East
6 pm St. Marks Steel Drums
7, 8 & 9pm Frank Ball and Friends Gospel Sing

St. Marks United Methodist Church – Sanctuary
900 Washington St., East
6 & 8 PM Martin Luther King Jr. Male Chorus
7 PM Appalachian Children’s Chorus

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church
1600 Kanawha Blvd., East
6 & 8 PM Almost Heaven Dulcimer Club
7 & 9 PM Albert Frank Perrone

This ia great chance to get out and enjoy some of Charleston’s most talented performers in intimate settings without spending any money on tickets. It’s a way to support the local scene and be a cheapskate at the same time, and with The Bakery grand opening at the same time, music lovers can choose from Hard Rock, folk music, Celtic music, classic rock, choral music, Barbershop, world music, gospel, old-time traditional, classical and more.

Good Night is a wonderful Charleston tradition, every New Year’s Eve, from 6 PM to 10 PM, presenting free music all around town. It’s a great way to ring in the new year and get a head start on forgetting the one we’re about to kick to the curb.

And that’s it for this year-end edition of The PopCulteer. Check back for our regular features, and also look for some kind of surprise before the end of the year, if I can force myself out of my post-holiday slacking mode. Having Christmas and then New Year’s hit right in the middle of the week has thrown your PopCulteer off his usual work-a-holic methods, and going back to work is taking more effort than normal. Still, I’ll soldier through this bout of relaxation…for the kids!

DC Comics Action Figure News

The PopCult Toybox

One of the biggest toy industry stories of the latter half of the year broke last week, and it took four days before anybody noticed, and didn’t hit the hobby press until two days after that.

DC Comics has signed a three-year deal with Spin Master to make action figures and other toys for three years, starting in spring, 2020.

Spin Master announced this news in a press release on December 21, but since they used the term “boys action catagory” instead of “action figures” nobody noticed or knew what they were talking about until Bloomberg figured it out and broke the news on Christmas Eve, which sent Mattel’s stock on a downward spiral going into the holiday. It was bit of a ridiculous reaction when you consider that Mattel will still be making and selling DC action figures for the next year, so any earnings estimates for 2019 shouldn’t be affected at all. Mattel will still benefit from selling toys based on Aquaman, the highest-grossing film released this holiday season as well as the upcoming, kid-friendly Shazam movie. .

Specifically, Spin Master announced, “Beginning Spring 2020, Spin Master will be a new toy licensee for DC in the boy’s action category, remote control and robotic vehicles, water toys and games and puzzles.” Spin Master had previously made and sold several remote control, Tech Deck and other DC Comics-based toys (like the one seen at left), so it’s not like they didn’t already have a working relationship with DC.

What we don’t know yet is how aggressively Mattel tried to keep the DC action figure license, if at all. Mattel has retained the rights to girls toys, including DC Superhero Girls, which is a line many people thought Mattel really dropped the ball with this year, and there is one school of thought that Mattel may have let the DC action figures go for a specific reason, which I will get into later in this post. Mattel also retained the DC Comics pre-school license, which includes the very lucrative Imaginext line.

Spin Master is one of the rising stars of the toy industry, growing exponentially through recent acquistions and is managed probably better than any other toy company of that size, they will add the DC portfolio of toys to their already successful brands that include Air Hogs, Paw Patrol, Meccano, Zoomer, Hatchimals, Gund, Teck Deck and about a zillion other toys.

One area that Spin Master has been weak in has been action figures, but with Hasbro recently laying off some of the brightest talents in action figure design and line management, Spin Master could very easily assemble a top-notch team and have a great product launch in 2020. Previously Spin Master has released action figures based on Tron and The Last Airbender, and has shown that they can handle design and distribution of 6″ and 3 3/4″ figures.

This does not look great for Mattel, but like I said, we still don’t know how hard Mattel tried to retain their deal for DC action figures. My theory is that Mattel deliberately gave up the line to make a potential merger with Hasbro more likely. One of the possible regulatory hurdles to such a merger would have been that if Mattel controlled DC Comics action figures, while Hasbro controlled Marvel’s, and that the merged company would have a virtual monopoly on the superhero action figure market.

Mattel seems to be trying to slim down a bit to make a merger or acquisition possible. They seem to have cut way back on Matchbox in favor of their Hot Wheels line, and in fashion dolls, Mattel has seemingly pulled the plug on any of their own products that could eat into Barbie’s market share.

Hot Wheels and Barbie both saw their market share increase this year, and that was a much-ballyhooed point in Mattel’s third quarter reports. What was not ballyhooed even a little was that Barbie’s market share was up, but Mattel had completely killed Ever After High and Monster High, and barely shipped any new product for the DC Superhero Girls and WWE Action Dolls in 2018.

DC Superhero Girls was a billion-dollar brand its first two years in existence, and now, two years after that high mark, the only evidence that it’s still around is the fact that Mattel retained the rights to the cartoon series that’s coming to Cartoon Network next year.

The first series of WWE Action Dolls sold in decent numbers, but the second series seems to be exclusive to Amazon, who didn’t do much to promote that they had them.

It seems to me that Mattel is streamlining to make themselves more attractive and less complicated to any potential buyer. The name “Mattel” is somewhat tainted in the industry due to years of mismanagement, but Barbie and Hot Wheels are still two evergreen cash cow brands, and that seems to be what Mattel wants their defining brands to be.

There are those who disagree with that idea. An analyst at Goldman Sachs says that he expects Mattel to aggressively pursue the Marvel and Star Wars action figure licenses that Hasbro currently holds. I think he’s sort of nuts if he thinks they have a chance, but that doesn’t mean that Mattel isn’t nuts as well.

The fact is that Mattel has badly botched their DC action figure lines, killing and relaunching them every two years, regardless of whether or not they’re selling, and not bothering to distribute them to the most compatible retailers.

That might not be Mattel’s fault. Warner Brothers Consumer Products might have been pulling the strings, and this entire DC licence situation could just be that Mattel was sick of dealing with them. WBCP is infamous for calling all the shots on toy lines and related cartoon shows, and then pulling the plug on them prematurely. It’s why Cartoon Network, which is a sister company under the Warners umbrella, is reluctant to run new DC Comics-based cartoons.

Based on their handling of DC’s figures, and the success that Hasbro has had with Marvel of late, I don’t see even a remote chance that Mattel could get Star Wars or Marvel. Hasbro’s Star Wars toys are in a major slump, but it’s a slump that corresponds directly to the performance of the recent movies. I don’t think Hasbro will be blamed for that.

Mattel is going gangbusters with WWE action figures (seen left), which are currently the best-selling action figure line in the country, and holding that license may make them more attractive to a potential buyer as well.

And keep in mind that the theory that Mattel is trying to position themselves for a merger or acquisition is just my guess at the moment.

This could just be a case of Spin Master outbidding Mattel for the DC action figure license.

For the collector, this is the “interesting times” of the famous Chinese curse. Will Mattel release all of their previously-announced product before their deal ends? Will Spin Master hire new designers who know how to create great figures? Will Spin Master make their figures compatible with the old Mattel figures, or will they make them in all-new sizes?

We have no way of knowing until it actually happens. Looks like 2020 might be a good year for PopCult to return to The International Toy Fair in New York City. This is, as they say, “a developing story.”


The day after Christmas is called “Boxing Day.” It’s the day we box up all of our holiday programming on The AIR and run it one last time, so we can put off going back to work for one more day. You can listen at the website, or on this handy littled embedded player…

Highlights of Wednesday’s programming include Christmas episodes of Curtain Call at 9:30 AM, The Bats**it Crazy Show at 10:30 AM, Beatles Blast at Noon, Sydney’s Big Electric Cat at 1 PM, Prognosis at 3 PM, Radio Free Charleston at 5 PM and The Swing Shift at 7 PM.

Holiday music continues until Midnight, when we resume our regular schedule with the weekly overnight marathon of Mel Larch’s round up of great musical theater on Curtain Call. In the new year we will be beefing up our overnight marathon schedule, so that you can binge-listen to your favorite shows on The AIR.

The new year will bring some big changes to the entire programming schedule on The AIR, as some of our long-running shows go on hiatus, and we bring in some new programming ideas along with a more predictable replay schedule for our most popular music shows. Keep checking PopCult for details, because you won’t want to miss it.