PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

Music Blogging

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A couple of years ago, I started playing around writing music on the computer. As part of this blog, I plan to inflict…..er, share some of it with you. I would have to say that the best thing about my music is that it’s usually mercifully short.

This first musical burst is a jumpy little thing I call “STOMPY”: STOMPY

If you have a high-speed connection, you can just click on it, and listen. Or you can right-click on the link, and hit “Save Target As”, to download.

Comic Book Scoop

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Since we recently mentioned Jack Kirby and Marvel comics, it’s a good time to menion a cool thing I recently found at Family Dollar: Digest-sized black-and-white reprints of classic Marvel Comics from the early ’60s, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and the Avengers. They’re 68 pages, and each reprints the first three stories from the first, early 60’s issues of these classic comics. And they only cost a buck each!

What I can’t understand is how these managed to slip under the radar of the comic book internet community, where any attempt to create a low-priced entry-level comic book is hailed as a major step towards saving the industry. You see, despite all the big success in Hollywood with comic-book-based movies like Spider-man, Batman Begins, The Hulk, X Men, and the like, comic book sales are just a tiny fraction of what they used to be back in the 60s and 70s. For some reason, the success of those movies didn’t bring any new readers to the comics.

The main reason for this seems to be that comic books are no longer considered a disposable treat aimed at kids. They’re fairly expensive, and the average age of a comic book reader is well past twenty–and rising! And with no comic books aimed at kids (at a price they can afford), you don’t get any new readers. Some younger readers, raised on Pokemon, are drifting towards Manga (Japanese comic books, usually sold in bookstore collections), but not too many kids are getting hooked on traditional American comic books. Comic books have gone from being a universal element of childhood to being a red flag, warning of giant geekdom. Which is a shame, because, at their best, comic books can be just as good as any other medium.

So these little Marvel Digests at Family Dollar (they must be an exclusive to the chain–the Family Dollar price tag is printed on the cover) are a sign that, just maybe, the folks in charge are going to try to market comics to kids again. Still, regardless of the audience, these are classic Marvel Comics for a buck! Who can beat that?

And with nobody else noticing this, I get to scoop the entire internet comic book press.

The Equestrian Statue

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Took a pleasant stroll around downtown the other day, and thought I’d pay tribute to the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.

The sky was fantastic that morning.

This is, of course, the statue of that Davis guy. I don’t remember who, but I’m sure it wasn’t Sammy.

More downtown photo blogging to come.
For more info on the Bonzos, go here.
For the lyrics to The Equestrian Statue, go here
For info on Nutella, the original creamy, chocolaty hazelnut spread, go here.

Hail To The King

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Okay, there are few things cooler in this world than the creative legacy of Jack Kirby (1917-1994).

This is the guy who co-created Captain America in the 1940s, and gave the comic book world loads of memorable characters like The Newsboy Legion, The Vision, Sandman, The Challengers Of The Unknown, among other classics.

With his partner Joe Simon, he was responsible for the first horror and romance comics. Simon and Kirby split up in the 1950s, and on his own, Kirby was responsible for great work for DC, Marvel, and newspaper comics.

Kirby teamed with Stan Lee at Marvel Comics in the 1960s, and together, they created the Fantastic Four, and laid the groundwork for the Marvel Comics empire. When you see The X Men, The Fantastic Four, The Silver Surfer, The Hulk, and almost all the other Marvel heroes, you’re looking at Jack Kirby creations.

When he left Marvel to work for DC Comics, at an age when most cartoonists are contemplating retirement, he still had enough left in his tank to bring us classics like Kamandi, The New Gods, Mister Miracle, and Etrigan, the Demon.

Perhaps because he’s not the one whose uncle owned the company, Kirby gets a bit of a short shrift when it comes to things like putting his name on blockbuster movies based on his Marvel co-creations (Fantastic Four, Hulk, X Men), and his estate doesn’t even get paid royalties when Marvel reprints his classic work. Even when they do it in a coffee-table book called “Marvel Visionaries: Jack Kirby.”

DC treats Kirby better, but he’s responsible for so much of what makes up comic books today that he really deserves more acclaim.

So, it’s really cool that Kirby now has a museum dedicated to his work. It’s about time the guy got the credit he deserves. This is a guy who was creating memorable characters from the 1930s to the 1980s. Most of the modern-day universes of both Marvel and DC Comics are deeply-rooted in Kirby’s concepts and creations.

The museum is an online presence for now, with the stated goal of developing a traveling retrospective of Kirby’s work. Brought to life by Randolph Hoppe, Kirby’s daughter, Lisa, and John Morrow (publisher of JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR ,along with other great books and magazines that preserve comic book history), the Jack Kirby Museum is a long overdue honor for the man who almost single-handedly created the modern comic book. Check out the Kirby Museum here

It’s a good start when it comes to recognizing the plucky little Brooklynite, without whom we would not have two-thirds of today’s most recognizable comic book favorites. And think how cool it would be if the Avampato Museum at the Clay Center could sign on to host the traveling retrospective when it starts in 2007.

Beatles Cover Alert!

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So, I’m a Beatle freak. The group stuff; the solo stuff; the guest appearances on other artist’s album–I eat that stuff up.

One thing I keep an eye out for is cover versions of Beatle songs–group or solo–the more obscure, the better. Well, we’ve got a pretty unusual one to listen to this time.

Eric Clapton, on his new album, “Back Home“, has covered a song from George Harrison’s self-titled 1979 album. Any Beatle fan knows that Harrison and Clapton are old buddies, even sharing an ex-wife between them. And Clapton has recorded several of Harrison’s songs over the years (Harrison even co-wrote the song “Badge” for Clapton’s group, Cream). Clapton was even the musical director for the Concert for George, held one year after his untimely passing.

So, it’s no shock that Clapton would cover a song by his old, fallen, comrade. “Love Comes To Everyone” is a nice mellow little tune that has aged pretty well. It’s one of those reassuring song about how cool love is. What’s interesting is that Clapton’s recording is slavishly faithful to the original version. With the exception of Clapton’s lead vocal and guitar solo, and some female backing vocals, this is almost a note-for-note recreation of Harrison’s recording. Clapton even brought in Steve Winwood, who played the synthesizer solo on Harrison’s album, to recreate his performance on what sounds like the same ’70s-vintage keyboard.

It’s not an Earth-shattering new version of the song, but it is a nice revival of a forgotten gem from the quiet Beatle.

Sketchy Bio

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Since we’re going live with the Gazz, here’s a quick rundown of who I am, and what I’m doing here:

First, off, I’m Rudy Panucci.

Twenty years ago, along with my brother, Frank, I edited an independent comic book called “Coda.” It was the first nationally distributed comic book published here in West Virginia. I also wrote and drew the backup feature, “Spud.”

Fifteen years ago, I hosted “Radio Free Charleston, the greatest (local) radio show in the history of this city (that’s not really saying much). I played local artists, conceptual comedy bits, and any music that I felt like playing–I’m still proud of the time I segued from the Sex Pistols into Benny Goodman.

About thirteen years ago, I began co-writing “Animated Discussion” with Melanie Larch, which is still being published by the Charleston Gazette, whenever there’s animation to write about.

Ten years ago, I began writing about action figures for Toy Trader Magazine. When Toy Trader was bought up and shut-down by Toy Shop (we were eating away at their sales, so they assimilated us), I moved over to Mastercollector.com, which is also the parent company of the GI Joe Collector’s Club. My work can still be found there, covering topics like action figures, die-cast cars, and cheesy knockoffs. Action figures, especially GI Joe, are one of my main obsessions.

Nine years ago, I began writing for Non-Sport Update, the magazine devoted to non-sport trading cards–you know, the cool ones, like “Mars Attacks” and “Wacky Packages”. I’m still writing for them and can even be seen in their upcoming 15th anniversary issue trying to hide my baldness under a hat.

For the last eight years, I have been caring for my mother at home. She suffered a massive stroke, and rather than park her in a nursing home, I brought her home where she can be healthier and happier than she could have possibly been elsewhere. It’s been a bit of a challenge, and a crash course in medical procedures, but I don’t regret it. It has curtailed my social life, but I was getting lazy about going out before that anyway.

Earlier this year, I had a health scare. I’ve come out of it in better shape than I went in, but it has made me more aware of how important it is to pay attention to what you eat.

So, that’s about it. I may tee off on comic books, toys, movies, animation, health care, food, television, or anything else that strikes my fancy. I’ll also share some of the artwork, photography, and music that I’ve been working on these last few years. Maybe along the way I can reconnect with some of my old Radio Free Charleston co-conspirators.

Hope you enjoy the ride.

Let’s Go Krogering

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Kudos to Kroger

If you check out any of the recently-remodeled Kroger stores in our area, you’ll find an impressive new section of organic and avant-garde foodstuffs.

It’s nice be able to walk into a local store and find spelt flour, Organic soy milk, and all that other hippie-dippy crap that’s supposed to be good for you.

So hat’s off to Kroger for improving the quality of life in this area, just a little bit.

No more ordering in bulk off the internet.

Now if they’d only get Red Rock or Whoopee Cola, made with real cane sugar.

And Quisp. Sure would be nice to be able to buy Quisp locally again.

The Green Stuff

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Okay, this is another Kroger find.

Earlier this year, I had a health scare that caused me to start eating like a responsible adult. As a result, I recently discovered that I actually like the taste of fresh spinach. I eat it without any dressing, just a dash of kosher salt and some fresh ground black pepper.

But I have a confession to make. The reason I found out that I enjoy this healthy food was soley because of the packaging. I bought it because it had Popeye on the bag.

Like the late legendary Charleston Gazetteer, James Dent, I am a huge fan of Popeye. I love the orginal comic strips by E. C. Segar. I love the stuff by his replacement, Bud Sagendorff. I even like the inferior comic books produced by George Wildman. And of course, to any animation fan, the Max Fleischer cartoons are like Beethoven. My fondness for the character extends to the point where I will pick up almost any product that has his picture on it.

So when I was strolling through the Kroger produce section one day a few weeks ago looking for salad, I found a bag of fresh spinach, washed and ready to eat, with Popeye on the package. I had to buy it, at least once.

Imagine my surprise when I developed a taste for the leafy green, and got hooked on it.

It turns out that Popeye brand fresh spinach is a Kroger’s exclusive. You can’t get it anywhere else.

I’ve tried other brands, but without the squint-eyed sailor man on the package, it somehow doesn’t taste as good.

Now, this is not to be confused with the canned Popeye spinach, which is available everywhere, and is really pretty nasty. This is the fresh stuff, sold in a bag in the produce section.

Grab some and season it up–it’s better than potato chips!