Friday, May 28, 2010
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Monday, May 24, 2010
"Batman: The Animated Series" first aired in 1992 and my son and I were instant converts. Eventually, I'd figure out that the writing on the show was truly exceptional (notably the episodes by the great Paul Dini), but what first made me want to watch the show was the look. Most of the credit for this goes to the amazing Bruce Timm. It combined the best elements of the Tim Burton movies, with super cool deco look of the Fleisher Superman cartoons. And it all worked like a charm. It was one of the few series I can think of, that as time went on, they refined the design to only look better and better. The more they pushed the simplified, stylized design, the better I liked it. And if anything, the stories got darker and deeper. Mr. Freeze, shown here, was given a tragic back story that made you almost root for him. His costume was one of the few not designed by Timm, but was created by the equally amazing Mike (Hellboy) Mignola. Ah, T.V. Animation in the 90's. There will be plenty of more posts on that topic to follow.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Some more paperback book covers, this batch using the oldest trick in the book to sell them: Sex. Specifically, the fairer sex. These were meant to be tawdry and low brow, but seem almost quaint now. And I should really read "The Mark of the Moon" to find out what's the deal with the smoking, crescent moon wearing guys ogling the belly dancer. "Marked for Murder" (A Mike Shayne Mystery) has some of that classic paperback cover painting skill that was so prevalent then, but has pretty much been lost in the next generation of illustrators. Her hair alone is worth the 35 cents. And the use of red and black with the reversed out type really sets the tone. A tone I've attempted to borrow many times.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Friday, May 14, 2010
This was a fast food toy of Pudgey the Penguin from "Cat's Don't Dance", an animated movie that didn't do well at the box office but my kids and I enjoyed. And still watch fairly often. It was set in Hollywood in the 30's, had cameos by Laurel & Hardy, Gable and Mae West in classic cartoon caricature form and a score by Randy Newman. What's not to like?
Thursday, May 13, 2010
My favorite independently (really independently) produced cartoon series must be Homestar Runner, created by The Brothers Chaps at homestarrunner.com. Two brothers (one handling design and animation, the other the awesome voices, with both writing) churn out almost weekly nuggets of comedy gold. My kids first showed me some of their stuff (Trogdor!) years ago and I've gone on to see it referenced on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"! Christmas presents have included DVDs, T-shirts and these little figures of some of the supporting cast: Strong Mad, Strong Sad and Coach Z. The fact they they are also friends and collaborators with They Might Be Giants doesn't hurt, either.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Today's post holds no special memories, I just dig the cover style (that band is wailin') and the innuendo of the tag line. Even the author's name seems vaguely porn-star-ish. Apparently purchased at a place called Book Hunter's Shop, where it's value had already dropped by ten cents. I didn't buy it there, but I like how there sticker only adds to the design.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
I'm a big Pee-Wee Herman fan, starting with his Letterman appearances, though the "Pee-Wee Herman Show" that I tracked down on VHS, "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" (co-written with the late, great Phil Hartman) and into "Pee-Wee's Playhouse." The design sensibility was firmly in my wheel house, as was the ability to tap into that childhood logic. I would have watched whether I had kids or not, but having a son who was the right age (and later a daughter, through taped episodes) to enjoy it with me was perfect. And it gave me the excuse to buy some of the merchandising, including the fold-open Playhouse itself, which these figures are from. I wish I was in the L.A. area to see Paul Reubens bring Pee-Wee back to life recently, but the toys and DVDs will have to suffice. Todays secret word is "Giant Underpants." (AHHHHHHHH!)
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Man, I loved (and still love) School House Rock. It was my first real experience with the animated music video form (not counting the musical running around sections of Scooby-Doo), and I guess maybe it was a sign of the times that the range of styles of music they worked in was so varied. Country, Pop, Soul, Rock, Folk, Blues... and I was diggin' all of it. "Number 9" may have been my very favorite. And, of course, the groovy 70's visual style of them hits me right in the nostalgic sweet spot. 30 years or so later when I started doing my own animated videos for They Might Be Giants, School House Rock loomed large in my mind as the high mark to shoot for.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
This covers two obsessions: The amazing fonts from House Industries and my obsession with monsters growing up in the 1960's. Specifically, Aurora Monster Model Kits (which this Box nicely mimics the packaging of), Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, and the monster movies they'd show on Saturday afternoons.
Back then, it seemed that every city had a local Monster Movie Matinee of some sort, complete with semi-creepy hosts, and low budget sets. In Rochester (or Fishers, outside of Rochester, where I grew up) we had some options. If we twisted the antennas correctly we could pick up "Eivom" from Syracuse (The otherworldly title was "movie" spelled backwards, in case you're as slow as I was). We also had a Rochester based show, who's name I can't remember, but the host was just a hand coming out of a coffin, along with his assistant Egor (of course). Then, on Saturday late night, we had Gregory the Gravewalker! The movies were usually pretty bad, but we eagerly sat through them anyway.
This box also brings to mind my childhood obsession with Lon Chaney. The Dryden Theater at the George Eastman House here in town was one of the few places you could see silent movies on the big screen. When I was a kid, maybe 9, they did a series on Lon Chaney, with a variety of his work on display, but I was mostly interested in the monsters: The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera, specifically. I later caught "Man of a Thousand Faces" on TV, with Jimmy Cagney playing Chaney. I was hooked, especially with the notion of him carrying around a tackle box full of make up, so that he could transform himself into anything the movie needed. For years I had a similar box (although I didn't carry it around with me or anything) full of stuff to make fake scars or sideburns if the occasion called for it. And, of course, his son (Creighton Tall Chaney, later Lon, Jr.) went on to play perhaps my favorite of the Universal monsters, The Wolfman.
Okay, I've gotta go dig up my copy of "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein" now.
Friday, May 7, 2010
A few years back, I was contacted by my now friend Ralph Hattenbach about doing some business together, including producing a couple of vinyl figures. I agreed, but wanted my son Clayton to design one of them. The result is Crunchy, based on a character he came up with for a comic while he was still in High School. China worked off of our sketches, and the result can be seen above. Awfully cool!
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Plucked from the same "Free" pile as the Captain America notebook, this Star Wars cup features Darth Vader, Luke, Leia (and the rest) and can never be drank from again. So, let the floodgates of Star Wars memories open. Mine rests with the first showing of the first Star Wars movie (or the fourth movie, if we buckle under to Geaorge Lucas' will). It was an early afternoon showing in the Summer, and me and my friend Jim Garlock were there at the old Pittsford, NY movie theater, standing around the parking lot waiting for it to open. And there were only a hand full of people there. (I heard that the evening performances were much better attended, and that my fellow artist friend Karl Kesel had gone in a tux) My knowledge that the movie might be worth seeing at all came from Jim, who had a better connection to the Sci Fi world than I did. Apparently, Harrison Ford had stayed at a local hotel here with his family not long before the opening and his kids were wearing Star Wars T-shirts, which didn't mean anything to anybody yet. Once the doors opened, the theater did fill up and a certain electricity filled the air as the opening scenes unspooled. And I was a convert. The Death Star exploded, I bought a souvenir book in the lobby, and then the shock waves started across the country. A never quite left. I started to get annoyed with everyone else's case of Star Wars fever (where were they on the opening day?), but that's just my personality. When my son became old enough, though, I dutifully indoctrinated him into the Star Wars cult. Just like George Lucas knew I would...
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
No special memories connected with this one, just a box design that appealed to me. Another garage sale find, this was a little wooden wheel with suction cups on the bottom that "makes a susan out of any serving dish"! I dig the pink wood grain and the yin/yang shape dividing the space makes it feel exotic yet suburban at the same time.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
This is a Burger King Kid's Meal toy (now illegal in California) that featured some of the shows from Nickelodeon's great run in the 90's. (That was a golden age for kid's shows in general) This particular package featured characters from "Action League Now!" which was a short that was featured on Nick's Sunday afternoon animation extravaganza "Ka-Blam!" Put together by the geniuses behind "Pete + Pete", it was a crudely animated super hero group made up of toys that looked like they could have been bought off the toy store shelves. In the bag you can see bits and pieces of Stinky Diver, Thunder Girl, Melt Man (who had the power to... melt!), and The Flesh! I miss the days when a parent could watch their kid's favorite shows with them without having the urge to tear out their eyeballs.
Monday, May 3, 2010
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Found this in a "Free" pile of stuff by the road after a garage sale, featuring an awesome cover by Jack Kirby (inked by John Romita Sr.). I'll admit to some resistance to the 1970's Kirby art when I was a teenager. My friends down the street, the DeMayos, and I started collecting comics seriously right around this period, and Big John Buscema was my favorite artist. I set about methodically collecting all the back issues of The Avengers that he had drawn (a good chunk of his work can be seen in that left panel). And we dug Kirby's 60's work, especially on The Fantastic Four. But his newer stuff, we couldn't get a handle on. Why couldn't that guy close his fist all the way? Where is his knee going? We used to refer to this period as "square fingers" art. It was similar to the way that I couldn't really appreciate Picasso at that age. But years later, after I'd been working as an illustrator for a while, if a client asked me to do something in a classic super hero comic book style, I'd find myself going right into the Kirby arsenal: The lighting bolt shading, the over exaggerated perspective, and yes, the square fingers. King Kirby is back, indeed.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
This note pad, with the great Lou Brook's version of Wooly Willy on the cover, was picked up for me by my friend Maria Friske at a newspaper design conference down in Florida that I wasn't able to attend. Lou Brooks was there, and knowing I was a mega fan, she picked this up for me. Inside, he wrote: "To my pal Dave, Never forget that great time we didn't have in Fort Lauderdale!! Love ya, Babe! Lou Brooks" And I never have.