PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

RFC 98 “Marilyn Monroe Shirt” from RFC Archives on Myspace.

logoAbove you see episode 98 of Radio Free Charleston. This means we’re just two episodes away from our big 100th show, with Jeff Ellis, The Nanker Phelge, The Hellblinki Sextet, Eva Elution and David Synn.

This edition, “Marilyn Monroe Shirt,” features music by The Diablo Blues Band, David Synn and Captain Crash and The Beauty Queen.

98 rudWe also have animation by Frank Panucci, and a look at the new GI Joe Adventure Team.

Host segments were shot late Friday evening on the grounds of The State Capitol, which didn’t seem nearly so dark while we were there.

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Sunday Evening Videos: Captain Scarlet

“Captain Scarlet” was a 1960’s creation of Gerry and Silvia Anderson, who are mainly noted for their earlier “Supermarionation” series, “Thunderbirds” and “Supercar,” and for their later, live-action series, “UFO” and “Space: 1999.” However, my favorite was “Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons,” which told the story of a war between Earth and a band of aliens known as “The Mysterons.” Earth’s greatest champion was Captain Scarlet, who leads his fellow agents of Spectrum against the wily space terrorists.

“Captain Scarlet” featured more realistic puppets than the earlier Anderson shows, and as you can see, the show had a very special psychotic energy, which can only be found tucked away in the odd children’s program. That’s a techno/rap remix of the theme by Power Themes 90 VHS that you see at the top of this post. After the jump we have a few more clips. Some are music videos, plus you can see the entire pilot episode and a bit of Moonplay.

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Sunday Evening Videos: MEGO Action Figures

Last week I brought you a ton of cool videos about Captain Action, one of my favorite toys from the 1960s.  In the 1970s, Stan Weston, the licensing wizard who brought all the DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and King Features Syndicate characters to Captain Action struck again.  He took those licenses to MEGO, a small toy company that was struggling with their 8-inch-tall GI Joe knockoff, Action Jackson. The result was “The World’s Greatest SuperHeroes” line, which propelled MEGO to massive success, which dried up a few years later when they passed on the license for Star Wars.

Here’s a great promo film for 1976. Notice how they don’t seem to know the real superpowers of The Fantastic Four, plus the way they refer to The Falcon is…uh…unfortunate.

Coincedentally, Captain Action is now being made in the classic MEGO size.  I just got mine in this week, and I’ll be posting a review in a few days.  After the jump, we’ll look at a few more classic MEGO Toys.

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Adventures In Toyland

The PopCult Toybox

Last weekend your PopCulteer attended two cool toy shows in two days, and is in the midst of working on videos and photos of those cool things to bring to his readers here in PopCult.

However, this is taking a bit longer than was expected because a mild-case of dual-city con crud needed tending to, and there were some other deadlinery things to deal with upon my return home.

Today we’re going to have a mini-photo essay of the trip, with five images from The Marx Toy Show in Wheeling, and five images from MEGO Meet in Columbus. If all goes according to plan, tomorrow I’ll have a short video and way more photos from The Marx Toy Show, and then Friday we’ll do the same for MEGO Meet. Both shows were incredible, and it was exhausting making the trip between them. I’m hoping that next year they have them on different weekends so I can take in the full experience of both shows.

The Marx Show will happen June 19-20 next year, so the MEGO folks, who did a great job with everything except scheduling this year, have a full year to pick a different weekend.

I’ll have more details on both shows in the next couple of days. The images below are sort of randomly-picked because I’m posting this right after moving the images into the PC for the first time. We’ll have way more pictures and links and stuff in the coming days.

The Marx Toy Show


Collectors in the train room, as the train layouts were being constructed just out of camera range. The dinosaur display caught my eye.


Not Marx, but it’s always cool to find a display case of Captain Action stuff on Tom Heaton’s Vintage Toy Room table.


The Bowlings, who wowed everyone with their custom creations, talking to Scott Stewart of Stewart’s Toy Attic in the Johnny West Dealers Room


Cheap plastic. Can’t beat that.


Another shot of the Johnny West Dealers Room, looking at Professor Jim Fuller’s table of cool stuff. I bought a couple of those custom figures.



Your PopCulteer with none other than Marty Abrams himself, the founder of MEGO Corp, and a very gregarious and nice guy.


These slightly modified customs of Captain Kirk dealing with Tribbles cracked your PopCulteer up, big time.


A portion of the MEGO customs entered into the Custom Auction.


Art Baltazar’s freaking incredible display. Always cool to see Art buzzing about the show.


We wrap up this look at MEGO Meet with a stop at the Small Chaos Studios custom display. Very cool stuff.

Thursday expect a big post on The Marx Toy Show, and Friday we’ll return to MEGO Meet in The PopCulteer.


The ToyLanta 2019 Joe Haul

The PopCulteer
March 22, 2019

Full disclosure time: Your PopCulteer is still having trouble with his eyes. In the grand scheme of things, it’s but a minor inconvenience, but for PopCult, it means that I’m going to delay the photo essay of the ToyLanta Dioramas and Custom Vehicles until next week. I hate to keep pushing back this photo essay, but I want to be able to do it right when I do it.

When I bring you photo essays here in PopCult, I don’t just slap up raw images. There’s cropping, rotating, color balance and other minor and major tweaks that have to go into each image. When dealing with pictures of detailed miniatures, this is a very important step.

However, I need to take a couple or three days off from spending hours in front of a computer monitor, so as much as I hate it, I’m going to have to wait until next week to bring you the ToyLanta Diorama goodies. In the meantime, you can see them on the video I posted last weekend.

That doesn’t mean that you won’t get any photos today, though.  I did manage to edit a sizable batch of pictures I took of the stuff I found on the trip, and those are ready for you to see today. I should have posted them more than a week ago, but hey, whattya gonna do?

At the head of this post you see this year’s custom figure for Commander’s Package attendees of ToyLanta, displayed on Bryan Tatum’s very limited edition mini-diorama accessory set. Today we’re going to look at what your PopCulteer scored for his personal collection on the road to (and from) ToyLanta. Photos were taken by yours truly in the living room at Stately Radio Free Charleston Manor, using our rolling luggage as a glamorous backdrop.

The Trip Down

On the way to ToyLanta, we stopped at the Peddler’s Mall in Winchester, KY, and picked up two figures for our low-rent Western collection.
Closer in, we discovered a new cheesy knockoff, a 12″ Army Action Figure with minimal articulation, at Five Below in Kennessaw, GA.

At ToyLanta

This year’s custom figure that came with the Commander’s Package was a Mountain Man,, packaged in a cool box made by Sgt. Van, with an inner sleeve, and illustrated by Buddy Finethy.

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Toy Fair 2019: Retro Toys and Links

The 2019 International Toy Fair in New York City officiall opened yesterday, and most of the big announcements have been made, with the products shown, and photos splashed all over the internet.

Since your PopCulteer did not attend the big show this year, I’m going to do my best to round up as much news as possible about all the cool pop culture collectibles coming your way this year, with some analysis and plenty of links (and borrowed images) to bring you up to date. This long post is just our first installment. Sunday Evening Video is taking the week off, but we will have a special video presentation later in the week.

You can find the latest news on what Hasbro is doing with Marvel Comics HERE, with Star Wars HERE, Transformers HERE, and with Power Rangers HERE. I will post links to what Mattel is doing with Barbie, WWE, DC Comics and more after they have their blogger breakfast meeting Monday, and more information is available. It will also take a while to dig through all the reports to find out what’s happening with Frozen 2, Toy Story 4 and the other big movies coming out this year.

Over the past few years, one trend that seemed almost to become the rule this year is that we didn’t get a lot of surprises. The major toy companies started leaking information about their offerings days, and even weeks, in advance. Even LEGO, who had a major surprise with a construction set based on The Flintstones, had leaked word of that in January, even though they just unveiled the product to the public Saturday (that’s it, seen left).

The usual suspects are out in full force at Toy Fair 2019. Everybody who can secure a part of a license is offering product based on the heavy hitters: Marvel, WWE, Disney’s Frozen 2, Pixar’s Toy Story 4, Star Wars, and DC Comics, and the second tier, but still profitable properties like Universal Monsters and all things horror, KISS, Star Trek, Hanna Barbera, and retro toy lines.

That last catagory, retro toy lines, is both near and dear to my heart, but also a little disappointing this year as I seem to have aged out of the target demographic for such efforts. Yours truly grew up at the end of the 1960’s era of super-cool toys like the original GI Joe, Captain Action, Johnny West, and Major Matt Mason.

So far I’ve only found news of one company offering collector figures in the 1/6 scale that I collect, and that’s the very excellent and very expensive Quantum Mechanix. You can see their offerings for Star Trek, It, Supernatural and more HERE.

In the 1970s I was still young enough to enjoy The Adventure Team GI Joe, Evel Knievel and the MEGO World’s Greatest Super Heroes, but as with most people my age, by the time MEGO started licensing every property known to man, and then Star Wars came out and lowered the bar for what an action figure should be, my interests were turning to girls and cars.

However, my mom ran a daycare center, and I was there almost every day, and therefore got to see several waves of “hot toys” that kids had to play with over the next twenty years or so. I remember realizing that the Star Wars figures existed to sell the larger vehicles, and that’s why they were so tiny and barely-articulated. I understood why they were the way they were, but thought the figures were crap. Later, the revived Real American Hero GI Joe showed that you could make quality, articulated figures in that small scale. But most companies who scaled down to that size didn’t bother, and the results were underwhelming.

Likewise, when He Man and the Masters of The Universe first showed up, I was stunned at the sheer idiocy of the concept, the name, the cartoon, and the design of the toys (I was also about as far from the target audience as you could get). So I have no fondness for that toy line at all. I understand that people who grew up with that will love it forever. I grew up with the Batman TV show. It’s about as silly and stupid as TV shows get, and I will love it to my dying breath.

That’s how nostalgia works. So if I seem dismissive of certain types of action figures, just remember that I’m showing my age. Not every toy can be as cool as a new MEGO 14″ Gorn (seen above).

So sadly, this year the trend in retro toys is to go back to the style of toys that were made during the time I had little interest in then-current toys (and I have to admit here, that once I rekindled my interest in toys as an adult collector, I started paying attention to the whole toy industry again, so my disinterest was just a phase). While there is some great stuff out there, and I can admire it for what it is, at lot of it is stuff I can leave out of my personal collection. It’s cool, but the toymakers aren’t aiming at folks my age for nostalgia anymore. The “Sweet Spot” for toy collectors now encompasses people ten to thirty years younger than I am.

But there are some great goodies coming out, and let’s run down some of the highlights with links and stuff

Joel and Paul, from MEGO, in front of part of the MEGO booth at Toy Fair.

As I have mentioned here before, MEGO made a triumphant return to Toy Fair after more than three decades in limbo, and showed off plenty of new product, although they had leaked much of it beforehand. Over the past couple of weeks they told MegoMuseum about 14″ version of their Star Trek and KISS figures, but at Toy Fair they were able to show them off in person, along with a few new 8″ figures, and one entire new line, Heads Up!.

MEGO also showed off 14″ tall versions of Bruce Lee, Jimi Hendrix, KISS and Star Trek, and posted images on Facebook. Plus they took the wraps off of Heads Up!, which is an inexpensive line of hi-power bouncing balls that come with stands. The balls are recognizable heads from pop culture, including Marvel Comics, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, KISS, SpongeBob Squarepants, Beavis and Butthead, South Park and others. Set to retail for under five bucks, this could be a surprise hit. It’s a cool product that doesn’t take up a lot of space, and it has recognizable characters plus play value.

You can see the Heads Up! display at right.

In a few days we’ll cover the other companies that showed 8″ MEGO-style figures at Toy Fair.

The real big trend in retro toys this year is one that, I have to confess, does not push any of my buttons. Toymakers are marrying the worst elements of the original Star Wars action figures–simple sculpts and only five points of articulation– to dozens of pop culture properties.

Some of them, to be honest, do look great, but these also seem to be designed to be kept in the package, since they don’t offer much in the way of play value. ToyArk has some of the best photos, and I suggest you visit this link to see their latest photo galleries.

Even Hasbro has jumped into this segment, reviving the Kenner brand to release Target-exclusive retro Star Wars figures that look every bit as lame as the originals. I’m sure these will provoke squees of delight from the folks who loved them as a kid. For me, it’s an easy thing to pass up.

I realize that there are people who hold this type of figure in high regard, but I just can’t count myself amongst them. To me, these recall a time when bean counters took over the toy business, and sacrficed size and articulation at the altar of profit. Profit does drive the toy industry, of course, but when I was a kid, I wanted toys that could be played with, instead of just being three-dimensional trading cards for movies and TV shows.

Mezco is getting into the game with their 5 Points line, and the stuff looks cool, but gets an easy pass from me at the same time. At Toy Fair they showed figures based on Scooby Doo, The Warriors, Space Ghost and Birdman, The Six Million Dollar Man and The Addams Family, which is based on Charles Addams’ original designs (right), and might actually pry some money out of my wallet. You can see ToyArk’s photos of these HERE.

The folks who kicked off this trend with their ReAction line (which spent a few years licensed to Funko before returning home), Super 7, showed off an impressive assortment of new licenses, which will all take the form of tiny, barely-articulated figures.

If you are a fan of Pee Wee’s Playhouse; Beavis and Butthead; Planet of The Apes; Alien, Masters of The Universe; Universal Monsters; 80’s movies They Live (prototypes seen at left), Breakin’ and Teen Wolf; metal bands Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Ghost, King Diamond, Ozzy, Megadeth, or Slayer; and a couple of other properties, then you might be tempted by these poorly-articulated figures. To be fair, many of them look really, really good, as you can see at ToyArk.

Funko is going even further into retro land with several lines of figures produced in the ludicrous He Man style, including DC Primal Age, which at least as a good comic book tie-in. You can also find Funko’s “Savage World” He Man style figures of horror icons like Freddy Kreuger, Jason Vorhees and Leatherface, as well as ThunderCats and Street Fighter. Once again, ToyArk has the photos.

PopCult will continue to update you on the latest news out of Toy Fair all week long.

The First Year of PopCult

The PopCulteer
August 31, 2018

As I mentioned on Tuesday, this is a bit of an anniversary week for me and this blog. Last Sunday was my wedding anniversary. Tuesday was the thirteenth anniversary of the first post in PopCult, and I neglected to mention it, but this weekend marks 29 years since the very first broadcast of Radio Free Charleston, on WVNS, 96.1 FM, right here in Charleston. To mark that, Labor Day will see a 24-hour marathon of Radio Free Charleston and Radio Free Charleston International, alternating on The AIR.

Since we’re looking back at things a bit. Today’s PopCulteer will link to some memorable firsts and important posts from the debut year of PopCult.  The first month, especially, really set the tone.


September 1 saw the first post about toys. It’s also the first really snarky thing I wrote in this blog.

On that same day, I posted a joke item that isn’t quite so funny anymore, now that this sort of thing happens in real life.

September 3 saw the first mention of The Charleston Playhouse, and later that day, the first mention of Jesco White.

September 6 was the first time I really pissed off somebody by posting the truth.

September 7 was first mention of local wrestling fed, IWA East Coast. I still write about them. Soon I’ll tell you about the Woody Numbers Memorial Show they’re having in October.

September 8 was when I published my sketchy bio. Things have changed quite a bit since then.

September 9 saw the first mention of The Beatles and Jack Kirby in PopCult, and the first appearance of the “Scape” series of not-really-that-good digital art.

September 14 saw the first long post about one of my favorite childhood toys, in this case Captain Action and the elusive Dr. Evil.

October 2 saw me bitching about Marquee Cinema at Southridge. I have not been back since. On those rare occasions when I do go to see a movie in a theater these days, I do it at Great Escape, which is now owned by Regal.

October 4 marked the first mention of Kate Bush in PopCult.

For some unfathomable reason, October 6 found me complaining about TiVo. Somebody must’ve really been doing a hard sell on it, because I seemed really worked up.

October 18 had me indulging in TV criticism and looking back fondly at Radio Free Charleston.  We all know where the latter eventually led.

October 21 was the day I first included multiple items in a single post, including a quick theater review, a promise of special Halloween music (which all disappeared from the servers during one of the moves) and an insult hurled at Charleston Mayor Danny Jones.

November 7 Mel Larch and I tried to revive our old Animated Discussions print column in this blog, but the animation glut and our schedules didn’t allow for this to happen often enough. We managed to keep it up on a weekly basis for a few months, but eventually it fell by the wayside.

On November 13 I wrote about falling and smashing my face. Nobody seems too upset that all the graphics that accompanied this post have vanished.

November 14 saw Mel and me writing about the premieres of Squidibillies and The Boondocks.

I was going to post a link to the first ever PopCult Gift Guide, but it seems to have disappeared from the archives. From December 7, here’s Day Three of the first year’s Gift Guide.

December 27 saw my first rant about local idiocy. Specifically, this was me stating my opposition to a plan to destroy Kanawha Boulevard so that all the imaginary people in Charleston who like to hang out on the riverfront can get there without having to dodge traffic. Of late the enemies of the Boulevard have succeeded in ruining the West end of this once-glorious parkway to install a multi-million dollar bike lane, which one year after its opening I still have yet to see a single bicyclist using. That bike lane has turned Kanawha Boulevard into a bottleneck that backs up from Patrick Street almost to Elk River every day during rush hour, and the people who stopped going that way have crowded the other ways out of town, causing everybody’s commutes to take way longer. See what happens when people don’t listen to me?

December 28 saw day two of Rant Week, wherein I explain why smoking in public should never be legal. Three years later the county health department agreed, and the quality of my life improved dramatically.  Day three was a harsh criticism of the WHCP Newscast, which irritated the station manager in a delightful manner.


January 24 saw me and Mel writing about the Disney takeover of Pixar. Little did we know that eventually Disney would also own Star Wars and Marvel.

The very next day saw the first prolonged mention of GI Joe in this blog.

On February 4, a bit irritated by a review that David Williams wrote of a West Virginia Symphony performance in which my now-wife, Mel Larch, was a guest soloist, I reviewed David’s review. I got a tiny lecture from my editor, who couldn’t quit laughing while admonishing me. Apparently all the musicians in the Symphony loved it. David seemed to get the humorous tone I was trying to strike with this post…sort of.

February 13 was the first time I covered the happenings at the International Toy Fair in New York. This was just habit. I’d been writing about Toy Fair for magazines for years. I still cover it here in PopCult, and even got to go there in person a couple of times.

February 21 saw PopCult gain national attention for the first time when super-blogger Mark Evanier linked to my piece about Radio Shack. More than twelve years later, people still ask “What was Radio Shack?”

On February 27, the WHCP Newscast failed, as I had predicted. Because their station manager had been a jerk to me in the comments, I rubbed salt in the wounds.

March 17 saw the first mention of The Aquabats in PopCult, although I had earlier reviewed their “Charge” album in the now-defunct “New Music” blog here at what was then the Gazz.  I wish I had access to those archives. I think I lost some of my best writing when they pulled the plug on that. I’m still talking about The Aquabats, as recently as yesterday.

On March 20, I really hated the V For Vendetta movie.

On April 13 I wrote about a Blogger meeting.  Two days later my mother passed away. I had been acting as her primary caregiver since 1997, and this was a major life-changing event for me.

May 1 saw the beginning of Monday Morning Art as a regular feature. Sadly, the first couple of month’s worth of these fell victim to the great blog-interface switch, and I cannot for the life of me remember what this one even looks like.

May 2 saw the first book review posted in PopCult as part of “Andy Prieboy Week.”

On May 10 I bitched about robocalls for the first time.

June 2 saw my first non-parental obituary, as Ian Copeland, Alex Toth and Desmond Dekker all passed away on the same day.

On June 23 I praised FestivALL for the first time, and also snuck in the announcement that Radio Free Charleston would be returning as part of The Gazz (and later PopCult).

On July 4, Radio Free Charleston officially debuted as a video program. Since we couldn’t embed video in the blog back then, you’ll have to go HERE to watch it.

August 28 saw me mark the first anniversary of PopCult by revisiting the previous December’s RANT WEEK.

And that’s enough navel-gazing for this week. It’s almost as if I just dashed-off a column full of links real quick on Tuesday so I could write it ahead of time and get out of town quick. I’ll tell you about the trip to NYC next week.

Sydney’s Big Electric Cat

Today we offer up yet another new episode of Sydney’s Big Electric Cat to plug on The AIR.  This is our two-hour, weekly New Wave Music showcase, presented from London by legendary pirate radio broadcaster, Sydney Fileen.

You can tune in today at 3 PM to hear Sydney’s Big Electric Cate at The AIR website, or just click on this cool little embedded player…

This week Sydney brings you another two-hour booster shot of the best music of the New Wave era. Check out this playlist:

BEC 037

Men At Work “Who Can It Be Now”
Men Without Hats “I Got The Message”
The Flirts “Passion (Special Maxi Version”
M “Moonlight and Muzak”
ABC “The Look of Love (Remix)”
Klaus Nomi “Wasting My Time”
Missing Persons “Destination Unknown”
New Musik “Misssing Persons”
Pretenders “The Wait”
Joe Jackson “Do The Instant Mash”
Joan Jett & The Blachearts “Cherry Bomb”
The Stanglers “Hey (Rise of the Robots)”
Klark Kent “Don’t Care”
Adam Ant “Dog Eat Dog”
Magazine “Parade”
Kate Bush “The Big Sky”
Wang chung “Don’t Let Go”
The Staff “Shut Up Tango”
Lost Loved Ones “Raise The Flag”
U2 “Out of Control”
Thomas Dolby “One of Our Submarines”
Vanity Fair “Lips Are Silent”
The The “This Is The Day”
Play “Red Movies”
Kissing The Pink “No One’s On The Same Side”
Thompson Twins “We Are Detective”

That is it for this week’s PopCulteer. Check back for all our regular features.


Anniversary Week


Without quite planning it, the last week of August has become an anniversary week for me. Sunday, August 26, Mel Larch and I marked four years of marriage. It’s easily the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me, and we will be celebrating later this week in an undiclosed location.

However, August 28 is  the anniversary of my very first two posts here in PopCult. I was just testing the waters, so they’re short and somewhat silly, but to save you the trouble of scrolling all the way to the bottom of the page to find the link, here they are:

First I posted, under the headline “Buy An Ebow on Ebay,” “Then write emo songs. Maybe you can get Brian Eno to produce your album.”

Had I known that I’d still be doing this thirteen years later, I might have come up with something more profound. My second post is a bit laughable because my tastes in food have changed dramatically since I wrote it. Under the headline “Feeling A Bit Crabby…” I wrote the following:

“I’m notoriously seafood-phobic. Can’t stand the stuff. I can’t even eat at a table where somebody else is eating shrimp–it just grosses me out. But there is one execption. I love crabmeat Won Tons. So the question I put forth is this–just exactly where in Charleston can a person find a decent crabmeat Won Ton?

Back in the 80s, I used to be able to get them at the mall, but now it seems that every place that sells Won Tons either fills them with nothing, or they fill them with some sort of sick, twisted cream cheese concoction (surely a creation of the Debbil!).

Has all the crab meat been hi-jacked for use in Krabby Patties or something?”

Not exactly Pulitzer material, I know. What’s funny about this post is that, two years later, I decided to start trying food and drink that I’d previously avoided, and discovered that I really like a lot of seafood. I regularly eat fish. I enjoy lobster on occasion. I have found the missing Crab Rangoon (the artist formerly known as Won Ton), and have even tried a variety of other seafood thingys that I found to be less desirable. I can’t really say I’m seafood-phobic any more. I did discover during this time of discovery that I still hate the taste of all beer, coffee, and anything with alcohol in it.

When I really started blogging in earnest, in September, 2005, I covered topics like IWA East Coast Wrestling, the comics art of Jack Kirby, Captain Action and Dr. Evil and Spinach, and posted the first Monday Morning Art (which wasn’t yet a regular feature at that point), a digital painting of my kid sister, who is now the Chief Public Defender of Kanawha County.

The image at the top of this post is the very first piece of digital art that I ever posted for public consumption (or rejection).  It’s called “Out The Window” and it was posted on August 31, 2005. Below you see a new version I just did yesterday of this painting, which proves that in thirteen years I have become somewhat more smeary as an artiste.

About a year later I started posting my art every Monday instead of randomly on any day of the week.  A lot of the early photos and art, and all of the music that I posted here fell between the cracks during some of the several server moves that PopCult has experienced.  That’s also why the first two years of this blog are credited to my original editor, Douglas Imbrogno, because of a glitch during the switch from Blogger to WordPress.

Aside from this post, I don’t see any need to call any attention to PopCult’s 13th anniversary. It’s not really a milestone, and some folks get squeamish around that number.  I do want to take a moment to thank all of you who have stuck by me since day one, through deaths, weddings, several hundred videos (including Radio Free Charleston), lost of posts about toys, comics, movies, books and gift guides, plus an internet radio station or two. I plan to keep doing this until the Gazette-Mail remembers I’m here and pulls the plug.


The PopCulteer
August 3, 2018

Welcome to part two of the epic Tennessee Travelogue. At the end of part one, after checking out of the second hotel on our trip, we had just spent a couple of hours taking in the wonders of McKay’s Bookstore in Knoxville, and then spent about another hour visiting Nostalgia, a really cool vintage store with a pop culture bent. Having performed our morning retail therapy, we then made our way South to Chattanooga.

Right before we reached our destination we made a little side trip. Just North of Chattanooga, from Interstate 75 you can see what looks like a huge Knife outlet store. It is actually The Knife Shoppe at Frost Cutlery, and it’s a pretty cool place to check out.

Let me explain that Mel and I have an appreciation for well-made knives. One year for Christmas I got Mel a reproduction of Michonne’s Katana from The Walking Dead, and I somehow wound up on the Bud K mailing list and started getting their catalogs. It was filled with cool stuff, but when I ordered from them I discovered that much of what they sold was made in China, and I was also turned off by the far-right-wing poltical novelties and confederate flag stuff that pollutes their catalog and website, so I chose to stop doing business with them.

We didn’t know what to expect from The Knife Shoppe, and expected pretty much the same as Bud K, but we were very pleasantly surprised. The confederate stuff was minimal for a store in Tennessee, and all of their knives were not only made in the USA…they were made right next door at the factory!

We were in there for quite some time. I wound up buying a cool Bowie Knife, Mel got a pretty folding knife and we grabbed a surprise box of knives because I’m a sucker for surprise boxes, so our friends can probably expect some sharp gifts for the holidays this year. If you’re heading down I 75 and have some time to spare, The Knife Shoppe is a fun place to visit.

Here’s a wide-angle shot of the friendly store filled with all sorts of sharp, pointy weapons.
Of particular note is the nearly twelve-and-one-half-foot-long, 900 pound Bowie Knife.

After leaving The Knife Shoppe it was a short drive to hotel number three on this trip, which was the Hilton Garden Inn in Chattanooga where we’ve been stopping on our way to ToyLanta for a few years now. We checked in and then ran out for dinner and a quick visit to Toys R Us during their final week in business.

That visit was pretty depressing. It had started raining hard as we pulled up and Mel stayed in the car while I went in to the mostly-deserted and depleted store. I made a token purchase, and to be honest I don’t remember exactly what I bought, but it was cheap and did not turn out to be the last thing I ever bought at TRU.That’s a scene from the store at the right.

Following that, and still in the downpour, Mel and I decided to hit the nearby Guitar Center, just out of curiosity. We don’t have one of these locally, and the chain is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, so we decided to see what all the fuss was about while we had the chance.

What we found was a store with a decent selection and okay prices. We also found that it played host to a large group of either musicians or employees who were heavily involved with expressing themselves loudly on some of the instruments, oblivious to the fact that they had little, if any, talent. Mel could not try out any of the keyboards because some guy was pounding out the worst dreck imaginable on a synth cranked up to eleven. I couldn’t get close enough to some of the guitars to examine the prices because of someone who appeared to be auditioning for the lead guitar chair in the Portsmouth Sinfonia. We were going to try to retreat to safety in the percussion room, but backed out quick when we heard what sounded like a completely arhythmic attempt to rape a set of bongos.

We found a safe, quiet place to eat dinner and wound up back at the hotel to rest up for the next day, when I would finally go to my first (and last ever) Official GI Joe Convention.

Last week I explained how I used to work for the GI Joe Club years ago, and would have been comped to go to the conventions then, but was unable to travel because I was the full-time caregiver for my disabled mother. I’d worked for Brian Savage for a few years, almost twenty years ago, and had never met him in person. This was a bittersweet big deal for me.

I should also point out that, being a recent convert to the ways of the smartphone, on this trip I used the navigation function, much like normal adults do in this century, and it made life much easier.

We woke up the next morning, checked out of the hotel, had breakfast and found our way (rather easily) to the huge Chattanooga Convention Center. Of course, we got there before we could get in to the show. Your PopCulteer is nothing if not habitually early. Luckily we ran into out buddies from ToyLanta, and hung out with Mike Gardner (with yours truly, at left), Scott and Charlotte Beckmann, Buddy Finethy, Brian Becker, Steve Bugg, Jack Hall and many other good friends that I didn’t get photos of and won’t mention because I don’t remember whether I saw them in Chattanooga, or last week in Louisville (this is what happens when you wait more than a month to write about a toy convention).

After spending just a bit too much time hanging out, we discovered that there was a very long line to get in before we could make our way inside. The better part of an hour later, we were able to pay to get in. That hour flew by because we got to hang out with fellow Joe fans and cosplayers and everybody seemed to be in a really good mood.

The line, wrapping around a hall, and then going on for a bit after that before we got in.

Once inside, I made a beeline for the GI Joe Club booth, where I plunked down my money for a complete set of “As Seen On TV” black and white GI Joes, plus a couple of extra acccessory sets I needed. Eventually I’ll get around to posting reviews of this cool stuff.  I decided to pass on this year’s convention set because it just didn’t connect with me.  It’s a great set, but I’m cutting down on collecting military sets, prefering the Adventure Team stuff.

Once I loaded myself down with stuff from the club, I began to make my way through the dealer’s area. About three minutes in I ran into Mark Otnes, of Patches of Pride and The Joe Report fame, who proceeded to interview me, unaware that I’d basically just gotten there. You can read that interview HERE, and I swiped Mark’s photo of me for the head of this post. Mark does an incredible job of covering the Joe scene, and his blog is a must-read for action figure devotees.

Mel and I made our way around the vendor floor, buying a few things and running into more friends from ToyLanta. We decided to deposit what I’d bought so far in the car, so we made a quick trip to the parking garage and then went back in.

Charlotte Beckmann and Brian Becker, wisely taking a break.
Scott Beckmann and Steve Bugg, happy to be there.

I’d been told by my buddies at ToyLanta that if I didn’t want to mess with the after-hours events, I could probably see everything I wanted to see in four hours. They were right. This is no knock on the club on the convention. This was the most professionally-run toy convention I’ve ever attended. The only hitch was that it was devoted to all permutations of GI Joe, and that meant that probably 80% of the vendors and guests were dedicated to the Real American Hero Joes, which I respect, but do not collect. They just came out too late to be a part of my childhood.

After making another pass around the dealers room, Mel and I settled in one of the many comfortable couches in the convention center to wait for the other big event I wanted to be part of, the “Name Your Price” sale, where the Club dumps out copious amounts of oddities and leftovers from their warehouse and you cram what you want in a bag and haggle over the price.

While waiting for the sale, I noticed that, sitting across the hall from me, was Jim Beard, whose Captain Action pulp novel I’d reviewed here in PopCult, and who had just published a new book that was a collection of essays about GI Joe, written by some of the top experts on Joe, and edited by Jim. I walked over and introduced myself and bought a copy of the book, and it’s on my long list of things to review here in the blog.

I was first in line for the sale, which involved standing in line for half an hour or so, and I got a small, but swell bag of goodies, including some super-articulated Joes with unpainted heads and a nude Counter Culture Adventurer figure who needs some hair repairs, and with that, I was pretty much spent.

Waiting in line for the big sale, I did get to meet Brian Savage and Lanny Latham, from the Official GI Joe Club, albiet briefly, and I didn’t really get to socialize any with them. Still, it was cool to finally get to shake their hands. It was wild attending this convention as a complete civilian, too. I did not take many photos or shoot any video. I just wanted to soak in the experience.

I did grab just a few photos of the floor of the convention, so let’s take a look at those…

The cosplayers were not all deadly serious.
These guys were pretty much like the Ghostbusters WV crew, only they dress like GI Joe: RAH guys. All for a good cause.
The vendor’s room occasionally got crowded.
Master artist, Larry Selman, and some of the work he’s had printed on GI Joe Classic Collection boxes.
More wheeling and dealing went on in every corner of the hall.

I haven’t mentioned before how this trip was undertaken with my newfound knowledge of how Myasthenia Gravis gets worse in extreme heat. Most of this trip took place during an extreme heatwave. I was able to pace myself and have a wonderful time, but the convention marked day four of the trip, and standing in line to get in to the convention, plus standing in line for the sale, did a number on me, and by 3 PM I was ready to head out. We said our goodbyes and jumped in the car for the drive back home.

Along the way, we stopped in Richmond, Kentucky for one last hotel stay. This town was chosen so that we could stick our heads into a Meijers store and a Peddler’s Mall before heading home the next morning, and we did, and it was fun. I even found a Marx Comanche horse for cheap at the Peddler’s Mall right before we headed out on the final leg of our journey.

We made our usualy stop at Big Boy in Winchester, KY for lunch, and made a final stop at the Barboursville Toys R Us, and we were home in the afternoon. It was a great trip. I was happy to be part of the final Official GI Joe Convention, and I’m wondering what the future holds for Fun Publications, Brian’s company that’s run the GI Joe Club and put on the conventions for so many years. There are few organizations in this country who can put on a toy show this well (Fun Publication also ran the Transformers club and BotCon until recently), and it’ll be interesting to see what they decide to do after the Official GI Joe Collector’s Club winds down at the end of the year.

GI Joe Collectors won’t have to go without a convention, though. There’s still ToyLanta, which began life as “JoeLanta” and is still very GI Joe-oriented, plus the Kentuckiana GI Joe Toy Expo is picking up steam after its recently-concluded fifth show, and the Dallas-Fort Worth GI Joe club puts on an annual show that people rave about. Fans of the small-scale GI Joes have CoilCon coming up to look forward to. There’s a new show in Harrisburg, PA next month that fans are really excited about, and new regional shows are popping up all over. Even with Hasbro leaving GI Joe on the backburner the hobby seems to be growing by leaps and bounds.

Anyway, that is the long-delayed tale of our big trip to Chattanooga for the final Official GI Joe Convention. Please check PopCult for more fresh content every day, and visit our internet radio station, The AIR, which brings you the coolest music and talk on the face of the planet…at least we think so.

Photo Recap: The Marx Toy Convention, 2018

It’s time to play catch up here in PopCult. It’s been six weeks since the Marx Toy Convention happened at The Kruger Street Toy & Train Museum in Wheeling, and while I posted a video last Sunday, I still need to get this photo essay up for your enjoyment.

And be advised that I’m putting this together while there is a ton of breaking news out of SDCC about both Captain Action and Marty Abrams’ revival of MEGO. We’ll post about those later today, after some dust settles. But now, it’s Marx Time.

Also note that, during the Marx Toy Convention, Francis Turner held an open house at the now-closed Marx Toy Museum in nearby Moundsville. We’ll tell you about that side-trip and post some video this Sunday. Today we’re going to look at the Marx Toy Convention.

It was a fun trip. Mel and I left Thursday afternoon and arrived at our hotel (after a depressing final visit to the Toys R Us in St. Clairsville, Ohio) and found our way to Dave Roth’s room to mingle with our fellow die-hard Johnny West collectors. I hadn’t planned to shoot video or take many photos this time around, but so many folks asked about it that I changed my mind and that eventually became the video I posted last weekend. The Johnny West collecting community is such a fun group of people from diverse walks, and socializing is as much of an attraction at this convention as the toys are.

While hanging out in the makeshift hanging-out area (the hotel was undergoing renovations, and our normal courtyard with the firepit was unavailable), I was able to pick up my “Ghost” Chief Cherokee (seen left), which was part of a very limited run produced by Terry Ryder and Buck Maas. That’s going to have a special place in my collection. Less than a dozen were made.

Terry and Buck created a new mold off of a vintage (first issue) Chief Cherokee, and cast him in clear material. He’s done in the spirit of Buck’s earlier “Ghost” Johnny West, which I am also lucky enough to have. With these new molds, Terry and Buck plan to make some more Chiefs, using body colors that haven’t been used before. You’ll see one of them later in this batch of photos.

While editing the photos, it hit me that I have enough images for at least one bonus photo essay sometime in the future, so stay tuned. This was all I could fit in here today due to the new image limitations here at the blog. And apologies for the odd layout. Those same limitations make the site glitch a bit when I post more than five images, so some of them aren’t quite centered and the spacing is a tad askew.

The really cool news at this show, which I have mentioned here in PopCult previously, is that Scott Stewart of Stewart’s Attic, teamed up with James Wozniak of Classic Recasts and Dave Johnson to create a new line of Johnny West action figures using newly recast and vintage bodies, plus a mix of recast and custom heads. We will have our long-delayed reviews of those next week, along with reviews of some very limited figures that Scott produced with Tom Heaton of The Vintage Toy Room.

Thse reviews will be in PopCult next week. Right now, let’s dive in to the photos…



People happily paying to get in and see the wonders of the Marx Toy Convention.
Mrs. and Mr. PopCulteer, on the main floor of the Kruger Street Toy & Train Museum, in front of the running train exhibit. Mel is actually responsible for a lot of the images you see here because she shot much of the video, and I used a lot of screen grabs. So, hooray for my beautiful wife!

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