PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

The 2021 PopCult Gift Guide: Day Five- Grab Bag

Today we don’t have a theme for The 2021 PopCult Gift Guide. We just have five cool gift ideas for the folks on your holiday shopping list.

T Shirt In Disguise!

I’ve recommended books by my friend, Thomas Wheeler, in past PopCult Gift Guides, but now Thomas has turned his hand toward T-Shirt design, and I’ll be telling you about a few of them over the next couple of weeks.

First up we have a funny spin on the beloved Transformers franchise that cracked me up.

It’s Optometrist Prime, the eye doctor in disguise!

You can get this design on a variety of different quality T-Shirts from Small to 3X and it’s also available on a tank top, hoodie, mug, sticker and more.

Check it out at Thomas’s Threadless store, and keep watching for more of his designs in The 2021 PopCult Gift Guide. This is the perfect gift for the toy-collector on your shopping list who has a healthy sense of humor.

Death in Mud Lick: A Coal Country Fight against the Drug Companies That Delivered the Opioid Epidemic
by Eric Eyre
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1982105327
$17.99 (paperback) $28.00 (hardcover)

Eric is one of my former colleague’s at the Charleston Gazette whom I actually never got to meet in real life (such is the life of a freelancer). Always a top-notch reporter, Eric won the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting for his work covering the the Opioid epidemic in West Virginia. Death in Mud Lick: A Coal Country Fight against the Drug Companies That Delivered the Opioid Epidemic details that story.

We go to the pubisher’s blurb:

Death in Mud Lick: A Coal Country Fight against the Drug Companies That Delivered the Opioid Epidemic is an urgent, and heartbreaking account of the corporate greed that pumped millions of pain pills into small Appalachian towns, decimating communities.

In a pharmacy in Kermit, West Virginia, 12 million opioid pain pills were distributed in just three years to a town with a population of 382 people. One woman, after losing her brother to overdose, was desperate for justice. Debbie Preece’s fight for accountability for her brother’s death took her well beyond the Sav-Rite Pharmacy in coal country, ultimately leading to three of the biggest drug wholesalers in the country. She was joined by a crusading lawyer and by local journalist, Eric Eyre, who uncovered a massive opioid pill-dumping scandal that shook the foundation of America’s largest drug companies—and won him a Pulitzer Prize.

Part Erin Brockovich, part Spotlight, Death in Mud Lick details the clandestine meetings with whistleblowers; a court fight to unseal filings that the drug distributors tried to keep hidden, a push to secure the DEA pill-shipment data, and the fallout after Eyre’s local paper, the Gazette-Mail, the smallest newspaper ever to win a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting, broke the story.

Eyre follows the opioid shipments into individual counties, pharmacies, and homes in West Virginia and explains how thousands of Appalachians got hooked on prescription drugs—resulting in the highest overdose rates in the country. But despite the tragedy, there is also hope as citizens banded together to create positive change—and won.

“A product of one reporter’s sustained outrage [and] a searing spotlight on the scope and human cost of corruption and negligence” (The Washington Post) Eric Eyre’s intimate portrayal of a national public health crisis illuminates the shocking pattern of corporate greed and its repercussions for the citizens of West Virginia—and the nation—to this day.

This is a very important work that should be required reading for every politician who thinks it’s a good idea to cut healthcare funding, let big business run wild and reduce Harm Reduction programs. It’s also a great gift for people who appreciate quality investigative journalism.

Available from any bookseller using the ISBN number, or from the evil empire at a considerable discount. Also available as an Audio CD.

Game of Thrones: The Complete Series
Available on DVD and Blu-Ray

One of the most talked-about TV shows of recent times, Game of Thrones has wrapped its run, but just in case you didn’t have HBO, or don’t have HBO Max, or if you just want a hard copy you can hold in your own hands, you can now get the complete series of Game of Thrones to watch over and over again.

As they say in the blurb:

Trouble is brewing in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. For the driven inhabitants of this visionary world, control of Westeros’ Iron Throne holds the lure of great power. But in a land where the seasons can last a lifetime, winter is coming…and beyond the Great Wall that protects them, an ancient evil has returned. Based on the bestselling book series ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ by George R.R. Martin comes this epic HBO drama series set in a fantastic realm where noble families engage in a deadly fight for control.

It’s a fairly epic boxed set, with 38 DVDs in a slipcover package for $169.99 (you can find it for under a hundred bucks), or 31 Blu Ray discs for $204.99 (again, usually marked down to around a hundred-twenty bucks). It’s also available in an even pricier 4K set, but the point is, if you want to give somebody a hard copy of the whole set, either because you know they’re a fan, or you think they’ll love it, here’s your chance.

This will make a great gift for any fan of the show who doesn’t already have all the episodes, and it’d also be great for fans of the book who somehow managed to avoid the show until now, or fans of epic fantasy of all kinds.

Available anywhere you might find boxed sets of DVDs or Blu-Ray discs, or at Amazon.

O, Mountaineers! Volume II: Noted (or Notorious) African-American West Virginians
by Danny Kuhn
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1737295303

This is the follow-up to O, Mountaineers, Danny Kuhn’s 2019 book that collected quick biographical sketches of notable West Virginians. O, Mountaineers! Volume II: Noted (or Notorious) African-American West Virginians, as the title proclaims, points its focus as Black West Virginians from history, entertainment, folklore and politics.

As with his first book, this is a lively read, and one that doesn’t need to be consumed in one sitting. In addition to pulling back the covers on the many contributions that West Virginia has made to the world, this book uncovers the often-overlooked stories among the overlooked, as Black folks don’t usually get their due in American culture, and West Virginia is no different.

As with the first volume, O, Mountaineers! Volume II: Noted (or Notorious) African-American West Virginians is a brisk and engaging treat for anyone with any interest in West Virginia. With our current political landscape it’s really easy to feel down and depressed about the state of our state. O, Mountaineers! Volume II: Noted (or Notorious) African-American West Virginians reminds us that greatness can spring forth from the most dire of circumstances, and that’s a message that we really need right now.

O, Mountaineers! Volume II: Noted (or Notorious) African-American West Virginians should be available to order from any bookseller, using the ISBN number above, or you can take the path of least resistance and get it from Amazon. This is a wonderful gift for anybody interested in West Virginia history, and anybody who wants to learn more about the contributions of Black people in our state and country.

Final Faction Action Figures

For the cheapskates among us, here’s a great gift idea for kids who love 4-inch sci-fi and supehero figures, or adult collectors who might have their minds blown when they find out where you got these.

Final Faction is a line of Science-Fiction, alien-fighting action figures in the popular 1/18 (roughly four-inches tall) scale. Most of the figures have five points of articulation. Most come with at least one accessory. The paint detail is above-average. There is a backstory and accompanying nine-minute CGI cartoon on YouTube, and most importantly…they only cost a dollar each! These are Dollar Tree exclusives.

For a mere buck, you get a hell of a lot. Quality-wise, the figures are just a notch below ReAction’s line of licensed five-point figures, but those sell for fifteen to twenty times as much. If you are a 1/18 scale hobbyist, these figures are great customizing fodder. At this price you can try all sorts of things–from total repaints to attempting to add joints.

The backing cards are printed in full color on both sides and include Power Ratings and a bio for each character, along with this intro to the series…

In the year 2050, a large asteroid collided with our moon. Among the debris, we discovered a hibernating alien mothership. Now, the Kharn are awake and they want to plunder our precious natural resources. So, we recruited teams of special operatives to defend Earth from their alien threat.

They are the…


There you go: A cool space-opera premise with well-sculpted figures that sport decent (if limited) paint detail, and a computer-animated short. And they cost a buck apiece. You can collect the entire first series of figures for eight bucks (fourteen dollars if you buy all six extra accessory packs). For less than the price of one ReAction figure, you can own the entire line (if you can find them–in some stores the first series has long been sold out). These are great stocking stuffers, for the toy collector on your shopping list.

You may not find these in stores now, but you can still order them online, and late news is that a second series, which includes vehicles for the good guys and the bad guys, is starting to hit stores, but hasn’t shown up online yet.

The PopCulteer
November 05, 2021

We take a brief break from The 2021 PopCult Gift Guide to tell you about what to expect on our sister internet station Friday afternoon.  We offer up shiny new episodes of MIRRORBALL and Sydney’s Big Electric Cat, and we offer up a brand-new Life Speaks to Michele Zirkle special Friday evening! The AIR is PopCult’s sister radio station. You can hear these shows on The AIR website, or just click on the embedded player right here…

At 2 PM, Mel Larch uncorks a new MIRRORBALL! The AIR’s showcase of classic Disco music presents a salute to the last major hitmaker of the Disco era, a Disco artist who helped usher in the coming of New Wave Music, while keeping a danceable beat, the MInneapolis band, Lipps Inc.  While many see them as a one-hit-wonder, after “Funkytown,” the band had several club hits, and also produced some very funky deep album cuts. You’ll hear a sampling of all that in this show. Check out the playlist…


Lipps Inc.

“All Night Dancing”
“Tight Pair”
“Addicted To The Night”
“Designer Music”
“The One…The One After”
“How Long”
“Hold Me Down”
“Rock It”

You can hear MIRRORBALL every Friday at 2 PM, with replays this Saturday at  8 PM (kicking off a mini-marathon), Sunday at 11 PM, Monday at 9 AM, and Tuesday at 1 PM  exclusively on The AIR.

At 3 PM, Sydney Fileen graces us with a bombastic new episode of Sydney’s Big Electric Cat with no theme whatsoever. It’s just two hours of fantastic New Wave Music, interspersed with Ms. Fileen’s insightful commentary and pithy comments.

Just check out this star-studded playlist to be amazed…

BEC 080

Echo and the Bunnymen “The Killing Moon”
Special AKA “Free Nelson Mandela”
Wang Chung “Dance Hall Days”
Bananarama “Cruel Summer”
General Public “General Public”
Thompson Twins “Hold Me Now”
Corey Hart “Sunglasses At Night”
Arcadia “Election Day”
Tears For Fears “Head Over Heels”
Altered Images “I Could Be So Happy”
Dream Academy “Live In A Northern Town”
Charlie Sexton “Beats So Lonely”
Strawberry Switchblade “Since Yesterday”
Katrina & The Waves “Walking On Sunshine”
Real Life “Send Me An Angel”
Dfx2 “Emotion”
Romantics “Talking In Your Sleep”
Red Rockers “China”
Pretenders “Brass In Pocket”
The Fixx “One Thing Leads To Another”
Psychedelic Furs “Love My Way”
ABC “Poison Arrow”
Belle Stars “Sign Of The Times”
The Beat “Save It For Later”
Missing Persons “Walking In L.A.”
Tin Tin “Kiss Me”
Translator Everywhere That I’m Not”

Sydney’s Big Electric Cat is produced at Haversham Recording Institute in London, and can be heard every Friday at 3 PM, with replays Saturday afternoon, Monday at 7 AM, Tuesday at 8 PM, Wednesday at Noon and Thursday at 10 AM, exclusively on The AIR.

That’s what’s on The AIR Friday, and that is this week’s PopCulteer. Check back because we have a fresh post every day and Friday afternoon will see our latest five-item entry in The 2021 PopCult Gift Guide.

Special note: PopCult may disappear from this location at The Charleston Gazette-Mail soon. Don’t miss out on our new posts at our NEW HOME. Bookmark the new site, and subscribe to our RSS feed. You can also follow PopCult and Rudy Panucci on social media at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The 2021 PopCult Gift Guide: Day Four–Christmas

This may seem odd for a holiday gift guide, but today’s theme in The 2021 PopCult Gift Guide is Christmas.

Especially after the mess of the last several years, it might be hard for some people to get into the Christmas spirit, so today we’re suggesting five gifts that can be given early to help provoke a more Christmas-y mood. In fact, so many people could use an extra holiday boost that we’re planning to revisit this theme next week with five more picks.

Holly Jolly: Celebrating Christmas Past in Pop Culture
by Mark Voger
TwoMorrows Publishing
ISBN-13 : 978-1605490977

This is a book that was due out last year but was delayed by the pandemic until this spring. I reviewed it in March, and here’s why you should consider giving this as a gift to the person on your shopping list who needs a little prodding to get into the holiday spirit.

Mark Voger has written a series of wonderful books of pop culture nostalgia for TwoMorrows and Holly Jolly is no different. It’s basically a collection of short, entertaining essays, lavishly illustrated, that celebrate Christmas as a pop culture phenomenon. Sections of the book are dedicated to the history of the holiday, the toys of Christmas, the books, movies, decorations, television and music of Christmas and even holiday memories from celebrities.

Holly Jolly is a brisk, enjoyable survey of fond recollections that doesn’t have to be devoured in one sitting. This is going to punch the nostalgia buttons of readers of a certain age (like yours truly) more than others, but the experiences are universal enough that anyone who grew up enjoying Christmas can identify.

Voger touches on everything from Captain Action to Gumby to “I Love Lucy,” to classic animated Christmas specials to hit holiday songs to beloved movies.

Holly Jolly: Celebrating Christmas Past in Pop Culture is a nice blast of Christmas spirit, and it’s really too much fun to hold off and read only during the holiday season. You should be able to order it from any bookseller using the ISBN code, or get it directly from the publisher .


This is a repeat from last year’s Gift Guide, but the mugs and scarves and other fine stuff have all been updated for the new year.

The Christkindlmarket Chicago was first conceptualized in 1995 when The German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest Inc. (GACC Midwest) was seeking alternative ways to promote bilateral trade between the USA and Germany.

The inaugural event took place on Pioneer Court in 1996 for the first time. By special invitation of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, the Christkindlmarket Chicago moved to Daley Plaza in 1997 and has become a staple event on the plaza ever since. Last year there was no in-person Christkindlmarket, but they did do a virtual online store, and that is back this year with all-new Christmas gear.

In addition to the collectible mugs, this year they’ve added the first-ever Christkindlmarket official Christmas ornament.

At the online store you can order mugs and scarves and ornaments and other cool stuff, plus they have several different sizes of gift boxes with select items from some of their favorite vendors. These boxes include things like Souvenir Mugs; Glühwein Spice Mix; Hermann the German’s roasted almonds; Bob’s Belguim Hot Chocolate Mix and many other traditional trappings of the holiday season.

Check out the Christkindlmarket online store and you’ll find a variety of gift ideas at a wide range of prices.

Dark Horse Records
In a variety of formats you can find HERE

It’s a nice day for a White Christmas!

What would Christmas be without a cool new holiday album, and who better than Billy Idol, the New Wave/Punk icon, to deliver it.

Even if you find that you’re dancing with yourself underneath the mistletoe, your spirits will be brightened by hearing Mr. Idol’s take on 15 classic and original holiday songs.


1. Frosty The Snowman
2. Silver Bells
3. Happy Holiday
4. White Christmas
5. Here Comes Santa Claus
6. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
7. Santa Claus Is Back In Town
8. Let It Snow
9. Winter Wonderland
10. Run Rudolph Run
11. Jingle Bell Rock
12. O Christmas Tree
13. Silent Night
14. Auld Lang Syne
15. On Christmas Day

You can order this album on CD, vinyl, or white vinyl, HERE, plus you’ll find a collection of other holiday-themed Billy Idol merch, too, including an ugly holiday sweater with an f-bomb on it.

The Great Treasury of Christmas Comic Book Stories
by Walt Kelly, John Stanley and more
edited by Craig Yoe
IDW Books
ISBN-10: 1600107737

This is a book I recommended several years ago, but it’s still in print, and you can still find it at Amazon, and I can’t think of a better way to jump-start your holiday spirit than in this reprint collection of classic comics.

Among the joyful and innocent work in this volume, you will find stories by Walt Kelly (“Pogo”), John Stanley (“Little Lulu”), and many others. If part of your Christmas tradition is cozying up with a big stack of holiday themed comics, this is the book for you. It’s 176 pages of holiday happiness. Just check the publisher’s blurb:

These wonderful Christmas comics from the Golden Age of Comics will warm the hearts of children of all ages! Top cartoonists like Walt (Pogo) Kelly, John (Little Lulu) Stanley, and Dan Noonan penned the humorous, heartwarming comics in this beautiful collection. You’ll meet elves, reindeer, talking snowmen, funny animals, and, of course, Santa Claus himself, in terrific stories that will provide a sense of wonder for the whole family.

You should be able to order this from any bookseller using the ISBN number.

Available in a variety of formats, DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital

I have to admit a personal agenda here. I’ve noticed that a lot of folks consider The Nightmare Before Christmas to be a Halloween movie.

Those people are wrong. This movie is about Christmas. It even has “Christmas” in the title. Santa Claus is in it, for crap’s sake!

And the movie is all about appreciating the Christmas experience. This animated classic is the perfect way to get your hardcore Halloween-addicted friend or family member to grudgingly acknowledge that Christmas is cool too.

So I’m including it on this list. It’s available almost everywhere movies are sold or streamed. A new Blu-Ray release includes a sing-along version, which might put some folks off their lunch (the last thing I want to hear when I’m trying to watch a movie is somebody beside me singing their own version of it), but if that’s what floats your boat, go for it.

The Nightmare Before Christmas is way more of a Christmas movie than Die Hard, so you really ought to consider this as a holiday mood enhancer.

Special note: PopCult may disappear from this location at The Charleston Gazette-Mail soon. Don’t miss out on our new posts at our NEW HOME. Bookmark the new site, and subscribe to our RSS feed. You can also follow PopCult and Rudy Panucci on social media at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The 2021 PopCult Gift Guide: Day Three–The Beatles

Today in The 2021 PopCult Gift Guide we bring you the first of two Beatle-themed days (the second of these will happen next week). Today, due to the high-end nature of most of our picks, we are breaking the fifty-dollar barrier with four of the five entries. However, the boxed set remastered releases we recommend are all available in a variety of formats, with a wide range of lower prices. However, the book, which was just released yesterday, is pricey, but worth every penny. Obviously, all of today’s picks are recommended for Beatles fans, young and old, and anybody who loves the best music in the world.

Let It Be Super Deluxe Box Set, 5 CD
by The Beatles
Capitol Records
$139.99 (discounted at many retailers)
Available in less elaborate editions at lower prices

This is the long-awaited remixed and remastered version of what, to many Beatle fans, is their most disappointing album. Essentially the soundtrack to the film of the same name, Let It Be was recorded under unusual and stressful conditions, and coincided with a time when the band had just exhausted their stash of unrecorded songs the previous year with the White Album.

While the album contains major tunes like “Let It Be,” “Get Back” and “The Long and Winding Road,” it also has more than its fair share of filler, and a muddled production that shifted from unproduced to overproduced during the gestation of the album/movie project.

Yet, the new box set is a must-have for Beatles fans.  Newly mixed by Giles Martin and Sam Okell in stereo, 5.1 surround DTS, and Dolby Atmos, the new stereo mix of the album was guided by the original “reproduced for disc” version by Phil Spector. The Super Deluxe Edition includes 27 unreleased session recordings, a 4-track Let It Be EP, the 1969 unreleased 14-track “Get Back” stereo mix by Glyn Johns, and a 100-page hardback book with an intro by Paul McCartney, track-by-track recording information, and many unseen photos, notes, and more.

The Let It Be Super Deluxe Box Set offers a fascinating peek inside the sausage factory for Beatles fans. The bonus tracks show several songs from Abbey Road and the band’s solo endeavors in their “work in progress” stage, and we get plenty of fun studio chatter, jam sessions and alternate versions of the songs that made the original album.

You have to remember that every Beatles album is somebody’s favorite, and if you know somebody who loves Let It Be, then they need to have this in their life. Of course, this was released to tie-in with the Peter Jackson Get Back film, which debuts on Disney+ later this month.

The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present
by Paul McCartney
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1631492563
$100 (heavily discounted at some online retailers)

Perfect for any fan of Sir Paul McCartney, this book is a treasure. I just got my copy yesterday (the day of release) and it’ll be weeks before I have a chance to read it all.

The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present celebrates the creative life and the musical genius of Paul McCartney through 154 of his most meaningful songs.

From his early Liverpool days, through the historic decade of The Beatles, to Wings and his long solo career, The Lyrics pairs the definitive texts of 154 Paul McCartney songs with first-person commentaries on his life and music. Spanning two alphabetically arranged volumes, these commentaries reveal how the songs came to be and the people who inspired them: his devoted parents, Mary and Jim; his songwriting partner, John Lennon; his “Golden Earth Girl,” Linda Eastman; his wife, Nancy McCartney; and even Queen Elizabeth, among many others. Here are the origins of “Let It Be,” “Lovely Rita,” “Yesterday,” and “Mull of Kintyre,” as well as McCartney’s literary influences, including Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, and Alan Durband, his high-school English teacher.

With images from McCartney’s personal archives―handwritten texts, paintings, and photographs, hundreds previously unseen―The Lyrics, spanning sixty-four years, becomes the definitive literary and visual record of one of the greatest songwriters of all time.

This is 960 pages, spread across two slipcovered volumes, of pure McCartney gold. How can you go wrong? Available from any bookseller, but heavily discounted online.

All Things Must Pass Super Deluxe Box Set, 5 CD
by George Harrison
Capitol Records
$149.99 (heavily discounted at many retailers)
Available in less elaborate editions at lower prices

Recommended for any Beatles fan, but particularly for fans of George, this is Harrison’s first “real” solo album, released after the breakup of The Beatles. Filled largely with a backlog of songs that The Beatles never got around to recording, the original release of All Things Must Pass was a two-LP bumper crop of great songwriting, with a bonus LP of Harrison having fun jamming in the studio.

In celebration of its 50th anniversary (plus one year due to the pandemic), George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass has been commemorated with a suite of new releases. The Super Deluxe Edition collects 70 tracks across 5 CDs including 47 tracks (42 previously unreleased) of demos, outtakes, and studio jams.

Also in this set is a Blu-ray presenting the main album in hi-res stereo, 5.1 surround sound, and Dolby Atmos. Housed in a beautiful slipcase with a 56-page scrapbook by Olivia Harrison and a replica of the original album poster.

As with the Let It Be box set, All Things Must Pass benefits from a new mix that brings new clarity to the somewhat muddy original mix by the album’s producer. The fresh mix and the demos and outtakes are a real treat, even for fans who own the 40th Anniversary remastered edtition from eleven years ago.

All Things Must Pass was revelatory on its initial release for showing that George had song since come into his own as a songwriter, and was now a peer of Lennon and McCartney. The new mix makes that even more clear.

Plastic Ono Band Box Set, 6 CD
by John Lennon
Capitol Records
$135.84 (discounted at many retailers)
Available in less elaborate editions at lower prices

Plastic Ono Band was John Lennon’s first post-Beatles solo album, and it remains one of the most stark, stunning confessional works in rock and roll.

This version has been completely remixed from original multitracks, overseen by producer Yoko Ono Lennon, featuring Ringo Starr, Klaus Voormann, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston & Phil Spector.

Extras on this multi-disc set include: Ultimate Mixes, Outtakes, Elements, Raw Studio, Evolution, Demos, Jams & Yoko Live Sessions. These are found on 2 Blu-Ray Audio Discs and 6 CDs. Included in this set are 159 new mixes; 11+ hrs of audio; 132-page hardback book with rare photos, memorabilia & extensive notes; Poster & 2 postcards.

Since the original album took a minimalist approach, the new mixes don’t add a whole lot, but they do offer up some fresh clarity. The real meat is in the Ultimate and Evolution mixes, some of which allow you to hear John’s voice, un-processed, in all it’s glory.

As with the other box sets on today’s list, Plastic Ono Band is also available in less elaborate versions on CD and vinyl.

A must-have set for any fan of John.

Change The World – EP
by Ringo Starr
Universal Music

This is our stocking-stuffer-priced pick for today, Ringo Starr, who at the age of 81 appears to have been aging in reverse for many years, has a new EP with some great new music for fans of The Beatles’ drummer.

Change The World is his second EP after his announcement that he was done recording full albums, and it’s an absolute treat.

Change The World, recorded at Ringo’s Roccabella West, includes: “Let’s Change The World” (written by Joseph Williams/Steve Lukather) a song that delivers a welcome dose of hope and optimism; the reggae-infused “Just That Way” (Ringo Starr/Bruce Sugar); the Country-esque “Coming Undone,” Starr’s first collaboration with Linda Perry who wrote and plays on the track (also with Trombone Shorty); and Ringo rocks his version of “Rock Around The Clock” revved up by the unmistakable Joe Walsh on guitar.

I’ve already played a couple of these tracks on Beatles Blast (which can be heard on The AIR every Wednesday at 2 PM) and the response has been terrific. Change The World sends a great message, and should put a smile on the face of any fan of the Fab Four.

Available almost anywhere that CDs are sold.

Today we’re looking at graphic novels and comic book collections. These books should be available from any bookseller, using the ISBN number, or you can probably find them at comic book stores and certain omnipressant online retailers (often at a discount).

Nexus Newspaper Strips Volume 1: The Coming of Gourmando
by Mike Baron and Steve Rude
Dark Horse Books
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1506714363

I’ve been a fan of Baron and Rude’s Nexus for nearly forty years, and this new entry into the canon is an absolute treat for longtime fans. It’s also a great jumping-on point for new readers.

Originally intended to be published a series of very, very large pre-1940 Sunday Newspaper-sized comics pages for a project that got scuttled, this book collets a new 90-page story, told in one-page chapters. My only complaint is that these beautiful pages have been shrunk down to standard comic book size for this edition, and the deluxe, oversized hardcover has been indefinitely postponed.

We still get a terrific new Nexus story, along with a great re-telling of his origin and lots of bonus material. From the blurb:

Something long dormant beneath the surface of Ylum comes alive, triggering a visit from the planet-devouring Gourmando and his mysterious ally.

With powers far beyond those of even Nexus himself, this unstoppable being banishes Nexus to an unknown realm–and the only way out is to face one’s worst fears! Mike Baron and Steve Rude deliver a new Nexus adventure in this special collection that also includes the newly-remastered “Nexus: The Origin” comic and the classic Rude hand-painted Sundra story, “When She was Young.”

Nexus Newspaper Strips Volume 1: The Coming of Gourmando is the perfect gift for fans of intelligent science fiction or superhero adventures, or just for folks who love great comic book art. Steve Rude is an under-appreciated master, and he really gets to show off here.

BOWIE: Stardust, Rayguns, & Moonage Daydreams
by Mike Allred, Steve Horton, Laura Allred
Insight Comics
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1683834489
$39.99 (frequently discounted online)

I’m a big fan of Mike Allred (Madman Comics, X-Statix, Silver Surfer), and have been since I read his first graphic novel, Dead Air, during an overnight shift in my broadcast deejay years.

BOWIE: Stardust, Rayguns, & Moonage Daydreams is his dream project, and while this was released last year, it somehow managed to escape being included in the PopCult Gift Guide.

Let me rectify that with this amazing gift for any fan of Allred’s, and any fan of Bowie. This is a great piece of comics art, and a true labor of love. We go to the publisher’s blurb:

Inspired by the legendary David Bowie, BOWIE: Stardust, Rayguns, & Moonage Daydreams is the original graphic memoir of the great Ziggy Stardust!

This graphic novel chronicles the rise of Bowie’s career from obscurity to fame; and paralleled by the rise and fall of his alter ego as well as the rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust. As the Spiders from Mars slowly implode, Bowie wrestles with his Ziggy persona. The outcome of this internal conflict will change not only David Bowie, but also, the world.

You can’t go wrong with this as a gift for any music or comics lover with taste.

DC Through the 80s: The End of Eras
(DC Through the Decades)
Edited by Paul Levitz
DC Comics
ISBN-13 : 978-1779500878

A perfect gift for any die-hard DC Comics fan on your list, DC Through the 80s: The End of Eras is a pretty wild collection of comics, accompanied by some terrific essays. This expansive and eclectic collection of stories published by DC, mainly in the first half of the 1980s, reveals a level of quality and variety that was not fully appreciated at the time.

Most of this collection pre-dates the publication of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, which most folks point to as the turning point where DC Comics pulled far ahead of Marvel in terms of quality and innovation. The stories here prove that DC, under the direction of Jeanette Khan and Paul Levitz, was already nurturing a creative environment where seasoned veteran comics creators found creative a resurgence while collaborating with then-newcomers. long before those breakthrough comics.

With appropriate space given to the supeheroes, DC Through the 80s: The End of Eras also offers up a section devoted to “Mystery” stories (the word “horror” was still forbidden by the Comics Code Authority at this point). This section is a blast, as we are treated to artwork by some true legends of comics like Irwin Hasen, Lee Elias, Infantino, Tom Sutton, Nester Redondo, Gil Kane and Johnny Craig, illustrating stories from a mix of veteran writers and newcomers,

The next section of the book covers their war titles, and we are treated to Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert on a Sgt. Rock story, plus Sam Glanzman drawing an adventure of The Haunted Tank.

The “Other Worlds” section includes a story from Mike Grell’s Warlord, plus a couple of short sci-fi tales and a two-part Jonah Hex epic. This again demonstrates the variety of different comics that DC published in the 80s.

After that, we get a section of the book titled “Endings and Beginnings,” and it includes a seemingly random assortment of really great comic book stories. Rounding out that section of the book, and making things even more delightfully random, we are presented with some of the glorious artwork of Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, from DC’s consumer products style guide. .

These are all great stories, but the real attraction is the text bonus that immediately follows them. DC has finally officially published Alan Moore’s 1987 20-plus page proposal for a company-wide DC Comics crossover story that was to be called “Twilight of the Superheroes.”For many fans, the publication of Twilight of the Superheroes is worth the price of the book. I have to wonder if its inclusion here influenced some of Levitz’s story choices.

An added bonus in this collection, and something that has been sorely lacking in many recent DC Comics collections, are new essays recounting these remarkable times from participants Elliot S! Maggin, J.M. DeMatteis, Andy Kubert, Jack C. Harris, and Paul Kupperberg.

Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles
by Jack Kirby
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1302930714

Say you have a Marvel Comics fan on your holiday shopping list…or maybe somebody who just loves Jack Kirby or Captain America…this is the perfect gift for them.

Marvel has reprinted Jack Kirby’s 1976 all-original Treasury Edition, Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles, in its original tabloid, treasury edition, size and it is a joy to behold.

This new edition is a hardcover, printed on pristine white paper that shows off the art in a whole new light, and there’s also the bonus inclusion of a few of the uncolored original art pages and Marvel’s 1976 calendar.

Captain America was not only always politically-oriented, most of that time he’s been a champion for hardcore progressive and liberal causes. The cover of his first comic book shows him punching Hitler…and that was a year before we entered World War 2.

This particular comic was created to tie-in with America’s Bicentennial, which was a marketing bonanza, and since Jack Kirby had recently returned to Marvel and was writing and drawing the regular Captain America comic (some 36 years after co-creating him), Kirby was assigned the task of telling a story about how Captain America relates to The American Dream.

With elements of A Christmas Carol, This Is Your Life, and A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court, we see Captain America transported through time for episodic adventures that demonstrate American ideals. He is reunited with his long-dead sidekick, Bucky, during World War 2. We seen him in pre-Revolutionary War Philadelphia, where his appearance inspires the design of the first American Flag.

We also see Captain America in the middle of the Indian Wars of the old West, flying an airplane during World War I, inspiring John Brown to become an abolitionist, witnessing the first atomic bomb blast and even inspiring a young newsboy in Mahattan’s Lower East Side to become a comic book writer and artist. That would be a young Jacob Kurtzberg (Jack Kirby) by the way.

If you haven’t read this story before, it’s well worth experiencing. The story is great fun, and the appeal is timeless.

Slow Death Zero: The Comix Anthology of Ecological Horror
edited by Jon B. Cooke and Ron Turner
Last Gasp
ISBN-13 : 978-0867198836

Slow Death was one of the most notable of the underground comix published back the 1970s. The first issue was commissioned to be released on the very first Earth Day in 1970, and the title ran for ten more, roughly annual, issues, with one revival issue in 1992.

With a mission to mix ecological and political themes with cautionary horror and science fiction tales in the style of EC Comics and the best of underground comix creators, the book left quite an impression.

It was a real treat to see this new one-shot revival of Slow Death (designed to come out on the 50th anniversary of the first issue, but delayed a year by a certain pandemic, among other reasons) and I’m happy to say that this new anthology is as wildly entertaining and informative as the original series.

Edited by Jon Cooke (the editor of Comic Book Creator, and before that, Comic Book Artist) with Ron Turner, the original editor and publisher of the underground comix version of Slow Death, Slow Death Zero is a beautifully-produced, slick, thick collection of new stories created by a mix of original contributors and newcomers (with two pages by Robert Crumb being a reprint). There’s over 120 pages of new comics here, a mix of full-color and black-and-white, along with a great article by Cooke that tells the full story of Slow Death and the title’s publisher, Last Gasp.

Slow Death Zero is a nostalgic treat for fans of the original series, but also works as collection of ecological horror stories for folks who were born too late to be long-time fans. These are scary, thought-provoking, often hilarious comix stories with a definite agenda.

Slow Death Zero would be a great gift for fans of classic underground comix, connoisseurs of good comics and people who don’t mind (or badly need) a good dose of harsh reality mixed in with their horror comics.

Once again we have come to Tuesday on The AIR  but our script is a bit different this week. Today we deliver unto you a brand-new episode of Radio Free Charleston, while The Swing Shift is in rerun mode this week while I work on The 2021 The PopCult Gift Guide.  However, we have a special treat as Dexter Checkers, the host of Ska Madness, who stepped down a few years back for health reasons, returns for one week to bring you tracks from a brand-new album of protest songs by THE Two-Tone group, The Specials.

So that’s still two new programs totalling four new (ish) hours of particularly nifty internet radio!  You simply have to twonk your cursor over and tune in at the website, or you could just stay on this page, and listen to the cool embedded player right here…

We have a  killer new Radio Free Charleston at 10 AM and 10 PM Tuesday.  This week we open with new music from a great Charleston Metal band, Disarm The Fallen,  and we continue with a pretty darned epic line up of music that includes great new and vintage local stuff, particularly swell releases from major artists, a few classic tracks and a whole hour of live tracks recorded for the RFC video show (and recycled from RFC Volume 4).

In our second hour, we go back over fifty years to bring you the legendary Morgantown band, Mind Garage, and their “Electric Liturgy,” which is often credited as the first example of Christian Rock. It’s a 17-minute epic.

Check out the playlist below to see all the goodies we have in store (live links will take you to the artist’s pages)…

RFC V5 068

Disarm The Fallen “Cold Dead Night”
Mediogres “Mon Cherie”
Skafish “Executive Exhibitionist”
Red Audio “Holograms”
The Gods “Garage Man”
Billy Bragg “Ten Mysterious Photos That Can’t Be Explained”
Static Fur “Temporary”
Cassius At Best “Alabaster”
CHVRCHES “Violent Delights”
The Inmates “Dirty Water”
Joseph Hale “Soap Opera Camera Eyes”
Safetybelt “All In Stride”
Tori Amos “Speaking With Trees”
David Essex “Monlight Dancing”
Hello June “Momma”

hour two
The Specials “The Lunatics (Live)”
Lost Decades “My Poison”
The Stranglers “If Something’s Going to Kill Me (It Might As Well Be Love)”
Guitarmy of One “Emma Belle Cintronella”
The Renfields “Transylvania High”
The Lickerish Quartet “Snollygoster Goon”
Feast of Stephen “Mystery Hole”
Mind Garage “The Electric Liturgy”
“Offeratory (Sunday Christian)”
“The Lord’s Prayer”
“Communion (Water)”
PFM “We’re Not An Island”
Gary Myrick “Guitar, Talk, Love & Drums”
Kid Creole & The Coconuts “Endicott”

hour three
John Radcliff “Body”
Punk Jazz “Little Star”
Raymond Wallace “Variations”
Lady D “Go Higher”
Spurgy Hankins Band “Blue Parrot Set”
The Paris Project “Sugar”
The Clementines “Soundscapes”
Jeff Ellis “Fade”

You can hear this episode of Radio Free Charleston Tuesday at 10 AM and 10 PM on The AIR, with replays Thursday at 3 PM, Friday at 9 AM, Saturday at Noon and Midnight,  and  Monday at 11 AM, exclusively on The AIR. Now you can also hear a different episode of RFC every weekday at 5 PM, and we bring you a marathon all night long Saturday night/Sunday morning.

I’m also going to  embed a low-fi, mono version of this show right in this post, right here so you can listen on demand.



After RFC, stick around for an encore of MIRRORBALL at 1 PM, and a special new Ska Madness at 2 PM.

Dexter Checkers returns with the first new episode of Ska Madness, I think, since 2017 at 2 PM. He has recovered nicely from his serious health issues and has returned to work at The Haversham Recording Institute. He’s been threatening to give us a new Ska Madness, and the release of a brand-new album by The Specials prompted him to put together something for The AIR.

The Specials released an acclaimed new album, Encore, in 2019, and were preparing work on a follow-up. When the pandemic hit, the band couldn’t assemble for their usual songwriting meetings, so they decided to do a covers project in the interim.

The band decied to look at “the protest song,”  compiling a list of protest songs from the last hundred years or so.. They found around 50 songs and then picked 12, and in  April of this year they went into the studio and recorded Protest Songs 1924-2012. You will hear tracks from that newly-released album during the hour of Ska Madness. Included in the show, The Specials give their takes on songs by Leonard Cohen, Frank Zappa, Pops Staples, Rod McKuen, The Talking Heads, Bob Marly and others. Dexter even let me preview his show with one of the bonus tracks on Radio Free Charleston.

Ska Madness will be repeated this week Thursday at 9 AM, Friday at 11 AM and late Saturday afternoon.

At 3 PM we have a couple of encores of recent episodes of The Swing Shift, covering everything from Tuba Skinny to Benny Goodman.

You can hear The Swing Shift Tuesdays at 3 PM, with replays Wednesday at 7 AM, Friday at 8 PM and Saturday afternoon only on The AIR. You can also hear all-night marathons, seven hours each, starting at Midnight Thursday and Sunday evenings.

Special note: PopCult may disappear from this location at The Charleston Gazette-Mail soon. Don’t miss out on our new posts at our NEW HOME. Bookmark the new site, and subscribe to our RSS feed. You can also follow PopCult and Rudy Panucci on social media at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The 2021 PopCult Gift Guide: Day One–Toys

Here we are already at day one of The 2021 PopCult Gift Guide. It’s hard to believe that it’s that time of the year again already.

We’re trying a new format this year. There will be one post every weekday in November. Each post will have five gift suggestions. Most days there will be some sort of theme. Today that would be toys.

I’m not putting a price limit on the gift ideas, but I will try to keep them somewhat reasonable, and most should be under fifty bucks. I’m also going to take the available supply into account, and recommend stuff that I know you can actually find in stores or online.

And with that, let’s jump in.

Hess 2021 Cargo Plane and Jet

Traditionally we kick off the PopCult Gift Guide with the HESS Truck for the year, but this year it’s not a truck.  It’s a cargo plane, with a jet tucked inside. You can only get this from the HESS Truck website, and it’s $39.99 (plus tax). That includes shipping and batteries.

The 2021 Hess Cargo Plane and Jet has landed in the fleet, all geared up for high flying adventure with 6 remarkably lifelike, button and motion activated flying sounds, and enough LED bulbs to light up the night sky!

The Cargo Plane is an impressive, six turbine engine, heavy-load transport aircraft. Colored in white with a green undercarriage, bold green striping, sparkling chrome nose cone and accents, the plane includes free-rolling, foldable landing gear, and 32 high-visibility lights that provide an impressive glow. A quick press of the taillight will release the rear cargo bay doors to provide access to the Jet. A hidden slide out ramp makes loading and unloading the expansive, internally illuminated cargo bay a breeze. With a nearly 14-inch-long fuselage and 15-inch wingspan, the Cargo Plane is the largest Hess vehicle ever!

The accompanying Jet completes this formidable flying duo. Designed for speed and aerodynamic maneuverability, the sleek Jet roars to action with a combination of button and motion activated sounds! 3 top-mounted buttons will flash the engine lights and activate realistic takeoff, flyby, and landing sounds. Tilting the Jet activates the Climb/Dive, Bank, and Cruise motion sounds. The strikingly bold white and green colors are enhanced with finely detailed inlays and chrome nose cone and accents. The Jet also has free-rolling, folding landing gear and 2 sets of spring-loaded retractable wings which allow it to travel covertly inside its Cargo Plane partner or fly solo missions.

The 2021 Hess Cargo Plane and Jet is sold exclusively, at HessToyTruck.com, for $39.99 plus tax. 6 Energizer® batteries and free standard shipping are included. Only available while supplies last.

This is perfect for kids of all ages, including the ones nearing retirement age.

Continue reading…


With Inktober behind us, I decided to do a small, colorful painting. This is inspired by one of the shots I took last week on our leaf-peeping trip. I did this painting of a colorful tree that we saw in the shopping center just South of Bridgeport. Since I was using acrylics on a cheap flat canvas panel, I was able to ramp up the colors to be more autumnal, and more in line with what the fall leaves look like…well, right about now. Get out and look at the real world leaves if you can. They’re more impressive than this.

I actually speed-dried this with a hair-dryer and then scanned it, and it’s cropped a bit to cut out my sloppy edges.

If you want to see it a bit bigger, just click on it.

Remember to check PopCult for the first installment of The 2021 PopCult Gift Guide, going live sometime before noon.  Monday’s entry will include five toy-related gift ideas.

Meanwhile, Monday at 2 PM on The AIR, we bring you a new episode of  Psychedelic Shack, followed at 3 PM by a new edition of Herman Linte’s weekly showcase of the Progressive Rock of the past half-century, Prognosis.  You can listen to The AIR at the website, or on the embedded radio player right here…

At 2 PM Nigel Pye has a trippy party with the latest episode of  Psychedelic Shack! It’s an entire hour filled with lesser-known music from the golden age of Psychedelic Rock including an opening track by West Virginia’s own legendary Mind Garage (supplied to Nigel by yours truly).

Check out this playlist…

Psychedelic Shack 052

Mind Garage “Ruby Rose”
Friends “Mythological Sunday”
Rupert’s People “Dream On My Mind”
Dr. West’s Medicine Show “Jigsaw”
Chocolate Frog “Butchers & Bakers”
I Luv Wight “Let The World Wash”
New Formula “Stay Indoors”
Jigsaw “Tumblin'”
Gentle Power of Song “Constant Penelope”
The Glass Menagerie “Have You Forgotten”
The Attack “Neville Thumbcatch”
The Berkley Kites “Alice In Wonderland”
Fruit Machine “I Am Alone Today”
Crocheted Doughnut Ring “Two Little Ladies”
Rokes “Works of Bartholemew”
State of Mickey & Tommy “I Know What I Would Do”

Psychedelic Shack can be heard every Monday at 2 PM, with replays Tuesday at 9 AM, Wednesday at 10 PM, Friday at 1 PM,  and Saturday at 9 AM. Classic episodes can be heard Sunday at 9 AM as part of our Sunday Haversham Recording Institute collection.

At 3 PM, Herman Linte offers up a new Prognosis, loaded with two hours of  brand-new prog-rock, all released over the last couple of months. The show opens with a Dream Theater track that was just released less than two weeks ago.

Check out the playlist…

Prognosis 080

Dream Theater “The Alien”
YES “Damaged World”
CYAN “The Sorcerer”
Kyros “Where’s My Thing”
Rachel Flowers “Take Me Away”
Britt Hooten “Celestial Rain”
Steve Hackett “Relaxation Music For Sharks”
Joe Bonamassa “Time Clocks”
Viriditas “State of the Art”
Panoply “Manifesto”
J Crist “Count To Three”
Gerard Smith “Breathe”
The Quiet Life Project “Black and White”
Puppeteer “Ripples”

You can hear Prognosis on The AIR Monday at 3 PM, with replays Tuesday at 7 AM, Wednesday at 8 PM, Thursday at Noon, and Saturday at 10 AM. You can hear two classic episodes of the show Sunday at 2 PM.

At 8 PM, stick around for an 11-hour final dip into this year’s special Halloween programming, beginning with the Oingo Boingo Halloween Farewell concert from 1995.

Special note: PopCult may disappear from this location at The Charleston Gazette-Mail soon. Don’t miss out on our new posts at our NEW HOME. Bookmark the new site, and subscribe to our RSS feed. You can also follow PopCult and Rudy Panucci on social media at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Sunday Evening Video: Braxton County Monster

I told you we weren’t done with the Braxton County Monster after our photo essay last week.

In 1995, my friend, Matt Mullins, and my brother, Frank Panucci teamed up to produce a pilot for a proposed television series devoted to the paranormal in West Virginia. This first episode of Weird Wonderful was all about The Braxton County Monster.

Nothing came of it, and the project was scrapped while the second episode, devoted to Mothman, was still in the early research phase.

After I revived Radio Free Charleston as a web video show in 2006, I started asking Frank what had happened with the footage. He had no idea, as he had moved on to other jobs and never really had that precise of a memory to begin with.

Digging around in a closet one day, looking for old footage of Charleston bands, I found a VHS cassette labelled “Braxton County” and it turned out that Frank wasn’t the only one with a faulty memory. Apparently I had not only narrated, but also edited the show into a workable finished package, and then managed to completely forget that I’d done either of those things.

I was able to digitize it and burn it to a DVD, and it was shown in public once, at the Radio Free Charleston Halloween event in 2008 at the Labelle Theater in South Charleston, thirteen years after it was produced.

Then it sat, forgotten, on one of my hard drives until last weekend, when I was reminded that I had this 24-minute documentary in my files, and had never shared it with my PopCult readers (except for a short trailer in an episode of RFC).

So here, on Halloween, thirteen more years after it was last seen in public, we have the pilot episode for Weird Wonderful, devoted to The Braxton County Monster.

Written and researched by Matt Mullins, with camera work, animation and direction by Frank Panucci, and narrated and edited by yours truly, this project could have easily been lost to foggy memories and dusty closets.

Matt did a killer job on the research, lining up interviews with James Haught and Terry Marchal of The Charleston Gazette, and UFO experts Richard Taylor and Bob Teets. Frank shot the video and contributed some animation that looks way better than anything created on such a primitive computer has any right to. I have vague memories of recording my narration using a cheap microphone plugged directly into the back of a VCR, and I’m guessing I added the heavy reverb while editing it. I had no input on the script.

The special thanks to Steve Gilliland, Marc Porter and Jamie Cope tell me that I must’ve edited this at West Virginia State College, a few years before it blossomed into a University. The occasional use of negative video tells me that this was probably shot with my old camcorder, and I would imagine Jamie Cope loaned the microphones and lights used on location.

The irony that every piece of equipment used on this project is far less sophisticated that what most people carry around on their phone today is not lost on me.

The RFC Flashback: Most of the Halloween Shows

Above you see a compilation of (almost) every Halloween episode of Radio Free Charleston’s video show, plus a few other holiday-appropriate clips. You can see the episode we left out in last week’s RFC Flashback.

Tomorrow, PopCult’s Sunday Evening Video will be a very, very special holiday-appropriate video that hasn’t been seen anywhere for more than a dozen years.

And don’t forget, we still have Halloween programming all day Saturday and Sunday on The AIR!