So many trades, so little time so let’s jump right in! A friend of mine suggested I check out Tokyo Ghost, which didn’t take too much pushing because I love Sean Murphy’s artwork in books like The Wake, Punk Rock Jesus and Joe the Barbarian and I’ve always thought that Rick Remender’s stories work better in worlds that he fully creates and that’s exactly what you get with Ghost. Continue reading Trade Pile: Tokyo Ghost, Sonic/Mega Man & Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Over on PopPoppa.com I gave a glowing review of Toy Story Of Terror. It’s highly recommended if you or yours are big Toy Story fans. In addition to the Halloween special, there’s also a trio of shorts and three commercials based on the characters appearing in the title story. Above you can see the Combat Carl PSA which obviously isn’t a toy commercial, but does share the spirit of the G.I. Joe ones from days of yore. The Blu-ray also includes spots for Old Timer and Transitron that will make fogies like myself smile with nostalgic glee.
I’ve long given up on trying to figure out why certain films kill at the box office and others don’t. Take The Lone Ranger for instance. Much like it’s filmic cousin, Pirates Of The Caribbean, this film stars Johnny Depp as an offbeat character, was directed by Gore Verbinski and features a ton of fun action set pieces. And yet 2011’s POTC: At World’s End made over $1 billion worldwide and Lone Ranger pulled in a mere $206.5 million. At the end of the day, as a viewer, these things don’t matter to me aside from the fact that a poor performance in the real world will kill franchise potential which is too bad because I did like this film.
I was never a Lone Ranger fan. I remember the reruns being on the Disney Channel when I was a kid, but I avoided them (Zorro was more of my jam back then). I did read the first arc or so of Dynamite’s initial comic series which was solid, but that’s about where my experience ends. So, I went into this without many expectations and was pleasantly surprised by what I was presented with which was a big, fun popcorn movie featuring Armie Hammer developing into the Lone Ranger persona with the help of Tonto (Depp) while running afoul of the always-fantastic William Fichtner.
Sure, the film probably could have been a little shorter — it clocks in around the 2.5 hour mark as it is — but I didn’t find it lagging, personally. There’s a solid mix of character as Hammer’s John Reid moves from the law abiding district attorney he is at the beginning of the film to the masked vigilante at the very end. We even learn interesting things about why Tonto’s so crazy and get looks at a lot of interesting character as well as a bevy of train and shoot-out based action scenes that are always fun.
My one complaint about this film is that they went with the origin story. Much like with comic book films, I think that screenwriters, directors and producers fall into this trap when they’re making films based on existing properties and that is this desire to devote the first film to the character’s earliest days learning to be a hero. I’m personally much more in favor of the Die Hard method of action film storytelling in which you just show the lead being awesome and give details about their past as they’re needed. I wonder if a full-on Lone Ranger film would have done better than the story of the guy who becomes the Lone Ranger. Still, I enjoyed the movie, think it got a bad wrap and would suggest spending a lazy Saturday or Sunday giving it a watch.
Right off the bat, I want to say that I talked about both of these books a few weeks back on the 42nd episode of my dad podcast, The Pop Poppa Nap Cast. I’m sure I’ll get to a few new points that I didn’t hit on there, but if you listened to that episode this post might feel a bit redundant.
Anyway, one of the greatest things about working at Wizard was meeting so many people who were so passionate about so many different kinds of comics. Some guys were Marvel scholars, others knew everything about indie books and a few others were more fans of old school material like Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge comics. These are Disney comics I’d been hearing about for years, so when I had a little extra cash last year I figured I’d finally dip my toe into that coin-filled pond and check out Fantagraphics’ Uncle Scrooge: Only A Poor Old Man which happened to collect Barks’ first Uncle Scrooge-starring comics (before that he was more of a supporting character in Barks’ Donald Duck comics).
Like a lot of people my age, I’m mostly familiar with Uncle Scrooge thanks to Mickey’s Christmas Carol and Duck Tails. While the former didn’t paint a very flattering portrait of the character, the latter made him out to be a go-getting adventurer with a mile-long greedy streak. It’s the latter version that comes front and center in this book. Every story revolves around the almighty dollar (or coin, in many cases) with Scrooge, Donald, Huey, Dewey and Louie going to great lengths to keep his money safe. The stories are presented in Barks’ iconic style which is perfectly cartoony, but also detailed and fun at times you might not expect it. He seemed to enjoy drawing Duckburg as much as Atlantis, so there’s a wide breadth of locations and characters in this collection to enjoy.
“Great lengths” is actually a pretty solid descriptor of this book. I was surprised to find out how long many of the main stories were in this book. I guess that’s just how comics were set up back then, but I often found myself flipping to the end of the story to try and figure out how many more pages I had to go. Personally, I think a few of these longer stories could have been cut down and would have felt a lot more streamlined and focused. As it is, some feel a bit meandering at times. This was compounded by the fact that there are one page gag strips included that I absolutely loved. These were quick, concise and often hilarious.
Even though some of the strips felt a little slow, I would still recommend checking out some of these Carl Barks strips. There’s such a great sense of wonder and exploration here that doesn’t get swallowed up by the greed also present in the series. In fact, Scrooge’s obsession with money might kick off many of the adventures, but it also leads to all kinds of calamity. I don’t want to read too much into these stories, but you can easily pull lessons from here that are good for both adults and kids. I tried reading this book with my kid and she wasn’t super-interested just yet, but I’ll try again later on down the line.
Herge’s Tintin is another one of those books that I’ve heard about for years but never actually read. At last year’s New York Comic Con I was flipping through a box of $5 trades, saw a bunch of Tintin books and decided to try The Secret Of The Unicorn. At the time I didn’t realize that this was actually the book that the recent Tintin movie was based on. I actually watched the movie, but remembered next to nothing about it aside from the opening scene which is the same way this book opens. From there, though, it was like experiencing a story for the first time.
In this book, kid reporter Tintin gets wrapped up in a mystery directly related to his pal Captain Haddock’s family. The adventure includes shady antique dealers, pickpockets, cops, robbers, pirates, treasure and even a big, old mansion. The simple, comic strip-esque art style lulled me a bit to the point where I was shocked when a guy got shot in the back. I also didn’t expect for the B storyline to tie back into the A one so concisely because I was expecting something more aimed at kids. This was probably the best way to read it because it helped enhance the surprises, twists and turns.
As it turns out, this book leads directly into Red Rackham’s Treasure which I don’t have, but do want to get my hands on. I enjoyed this story so much, I’m actually thinking of picking it up in one of those three-in-one collections so I can keep going.
I want to say one more thing about both of these books, they are absolutely packed with bonus material. Scrooge features an intro by none other than George Lucas and is followed by a series of essays written by Duck Comic scholars and fans that not only give details about Barks and what he was going through at the time, but also explores some of the themes therein. In the Little, Brown versions of the Tintin stories, they’re aimed at kids and include a bunch of material in the back that add historical context and also show off comparisons between Herge’s finished art and the extensive reference material he collected while working on Tintin. I love when trades like this add extra material to flesh out the experience, especially when you’re dealing with older material that might offer a bit more context.
Every morning I go through my RSS feeds for my day job. My main goal is to figure out what will make for good stories over on Spinoff, but I also keep an eye on toy news and look for fun stories to read later. I have a ridiculous backlog right now that I’m slowly going through, so you’ll see a few older interviews and news bites here, but I’m still jazzed about them.
The Raid 2 is getting a US release! We don’t know when yet, but that’s awesome! (via Variety)
TVLine put together a list of 15 questions they’d like to see How I Met Your Mother answer before ending this year. I agree with about 10 of them, but still a fun rundown.
I’m a big fan of the Ramones anthology that Rhino put out several years back, but I’ve got to say, this box set that Rolling Stone talks about bringing their first six records into one package for under $40 is awfully appealing.
I’m a big fan of the National Treasure movies, so when I read this brief interview on Collider with director Jon Turteltaub about one filming in the next few years, I got pretty stoked.
New Led Zeppelin tracks? That’s not enough for me to re-buy all the records, but I’m definitely intrigued by this Rolling Stone story about songs with John Paul Jones vocals.
I’ve become a big fan of the Duplass Bros. in the past few years, so I enjoyed this interview with them about what they’re up to these days over on Variety.
It would have been pretty cool to be at that small, career-spanning Blink-182 concert they talked about in this Rolling Stone interview.
Dave Grohl opened up to Rolling Stone about the waning days of Nirvana. I’m alway up for a Nirvana interview, you guys.
Halloween is one of those movies where you’re never quite sure which version to buy, so I’m glad that HMAD got around to not only reviewing the latest offering, but saying that it’s the one to buy. Much appreciated!
Little Ms. Sunshine was a really emotionally honest film, so I think it’s directors are great choices to make a Mister Rogers biopic. (via TheWrap)
I discovered this old Mental Floss article about the 10 coolest Disney park attractions that never got made while doing some research for a story. Fun stuff!
Whoa, Rolling Stone is reporting that Norah Jones and Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day have joined forces to cover an Everly Brothers record. It’s called Foreverly and I’m incredibly intrigued.
The CW sounds like the perfect place to set a drama revolving around California’s emerging surf scene in the 60s. Scheduling conflicts aside, I’m…on board. (via Deadline)
If you don’t buy my friend Justin Aclin‘s upcoming Dark Horse comic S.H.O.O.T. First, you suck.
I recently discovered a site called Humans Of New York that I can’t get enough of. A photographer walks around NYC, snapping pictures of people and asking them questions then presenting them on the site. Sounds simple, but that’s why it’s so interesting.
Oh my goodness, you guys, this Screen Junkies Honest Trailer for Batman & Robin is super-great-fantastic. Thanks to The Mary Sue for bringing it to my attention!
As a kid, I read The Giver more than any other book. The adaptation is shaping up to be quite a film. Jeff Bridges is in it and according to Deadline, Meryl Streep’s on board too. I will certainly see this flick.
Not quite sure what to think about the CBGB movie. If it’s got even a fraction of Please Kill Me in it, it should be alright. The Ramones look like gods in the first trailer over on THR, so that’s a step in the right direction.
Variety‘s telling me that there’s going to be a Disney Imagineering documentary. I went on the Behind the Magic tour at Disney World which was fascinating, so this should be even better.
Not too long ago, I talked about how much I enjoyed the concept of Centurions and wondered why it never made a comeback. Now there’s a killer custom of Ace McCloud by Hemblecreations as posted on ToyNewsI that looks all kinds of rad. That’s internet synergy, yawl.
Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer is hilarious, you should check it out. I will definitely check out her Judd Apatow-produced film, Deadline reports.
Transworld Business, an action sports website I recently discovered, tells me that Oakley’s doing a 6-part web series featuring skateboarder Bob Burnquist showing off his own personal skatepark. The part where he skates around a helicopter made me super nervous.
Right after the X-Games, Nyjah Huston wrote this fantastic column for THR about the greatness of his sport and its potential for inclusion in the Olympics. I’ll throw my vote in for that idea right now.
Danny Way told ESPN might return to the X-Games, bringing a whole new gigantic ramp thing to the proceedings. Yes, make this happen.
I’ve always been interested in how Alice Cooper balances his normal life with his stage one, something he talked to Esquire about recently.
Web Urbanist posted these amazing pictures of a Texas Walmart that was converted into the largest single floor library in the country.
I picked up The Tom Tom Clubs’ latest record Downtown Rockers this year and have really grown to dig it, so I’m glad to hear they told Rolling Stone they’re likely to get back together and record later this year.
Brilliant physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson talked about science and how it needs to be more prevalent during SDCC. (via Spinoff).
If you’re like me and wondered why the producers on Real World and The Challenge don’t seem to be interfering as much when things get violent, Variety did an interesting write-up on why.
Finally, go check out the larger version of Sam Bosma‘s Lisbon drawing. It’s wallpaper-worthy, no doubt.
My folks came in for a visit this weekend and after watching a few of Lu’s favorite movies, my dad put on Pixar’s The Incredibles. After the difficulty I’ve had showing my daughter Wall-E and Cars, I thought this might be a lost cause, but she was into it, so we wound up watching the whole, nearly two hour movie. I’d seen this flick maybe once before when it came out in 2004 and have fond memories of playing the video game with my wife when we were newlyweds, but aside from that, only remembered the basics: after being retired by the government, a superhero comes out of retirement to face an evil guy on an island. He can’t handle it on his own, so his superpowered wife and kids come to help save the day.
The first thing to hit me while watching this movie is how freaking dark it is. The script gets into some really heavy areas like Mr. Incredible getting sued by a guy he saved who was trying to commit suicide. The deaths of dozens of other heroes at the hands of the movie’s villain as a way of testing his killer robot also get mentioned several times. These deaths or near-deaths might not hit as hard as Nemo’s mom in Finding Nemo or Carl’s wife in Up, but there are a heckuva lot more of them.
There’s also Elastigirl/Helen’s fear that her husband Mr. Incredible/Bob is cheating on her, something their kids, at least older daughter Violet, pick up on. As it turns out, Bob’s been playing hero for what he thinks is a super secret branch of the government trying to build some kind of powerful attack robot, but there’s definitely some romantic tension between him and go-between Mirage. Anyway, as it turns out, Mr. Incredible’s actually just one of a number of heroes brought in by the villain Syndrome to test his killer robots against. Each hero either defeats the robot, offering more data to build a better one, or gets killed in the process. When he’s got it right where he wants it, Syndrome wants to release it on a big city and then swoop in to save it, using a remote to shut it down and look like a hero.
All in all it’s a well put together film with strong family ties and various characters offering emotional relationships to form with the audience. You might not be the middle aged person wanting to relive the glory days, but maybe you’re the repressed youngster who wants to let lose or the teenager who wants to figure out the world or the one trying to hold the family together. Add in healthy doses of superhero fun — from the look at Edna’s costume-testing system to seeing each Incredible use their powers — and there’s a lot to love about this movie. As a long time James Bond fan, I also appreciated the many Bond villain nods that came from seeing Syndrome’s various villainous lairs.
And yet, I don’t know if I love The Incredibles. After watching with my wife and parents, they were totally into it and I was the one voice of dissent, noting the similarities to existing comic book teams, characters and stories. It was a silly discussion to kick off with non-comic fans because I couldn’t possibly make them understand where I’m coming from without laying down lots of evidence that they probably wouldn’t care about anyway. The best I could do was saying to my dad, “What would you think if another band put together a great pop record that actually borrowed a lot of hooks from The Beatles.” It’s not the best analogy and I’m probably confusing terminology, but it works to an extent.
The main problem I have with the film comes from the power sets and how they relate to the Fantastic Four. Sure, Mr. Incredible isn’t rocky, but otherwise he’s The Thing. They also swapped out Human Torch for the Flash, but the main aspect that bothers me comes with Violet’s powers. Sure, it makes sense that the shy teenager can turn invisible, but why does she also have force field powers? Those aren’t organically linked abilities, but were put together for the character Sue Storm by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. It’s not like having super speed and the ability to vibrate through things because you can shake your molecules. Those both come from the ability to move quickly. Invisibility and force field projection aren’t related making Violet’s powers a direct lift from Invisible Woman/Girl.
To a lesser extent, you’ve also got elements of Watchmen in there as well with the government outlawing superheroes, a theme that had been played with throughout comic book history. I guess what bums me out about The Incredibles is that it could have been more original. Writer/director Brad Bird could have done a lot more to make a completely new story, but by compounding various elements that comic book fans are already familiar with, it kind of bogs things down. Sure, I’d compare any original superhero fiction to my internal library of comic knowledge, but this one hit off so many notes from things I’ve read and seen before that it can somehow overshadow the general feeling of fun that came from the film.
At the moment, I’m feeling more positive about the movie. Seeing Mrs. Incredible use her stretch-y powers on screen was a real treat, the kind of thing I haven’t seen so much done with since the old school Plastic Man cartoon. I also really enjoyed how the Incredibles used their powers together. There’s a more seamless nature to the way husband and wife play off of one another’s abilities — which not only refers to their past as heroes, but also the bonds that form through marriage — while the kids need a little more coaching as they learn how to use their own abilities to stay alive. Combining powers has always been a favorite aspect of team comic books for me, so I enjoyed scenes where Mrs. Incredible turned into a boat and Dash kicked them towards shore at super speed or Violet made a ball and Dash ran them around hamster-style.
If I could just forget about all the comics I’ve read, I’d be fully in love with The Incredibles. Since that’s not happening without a head injury at this point, I guess I’ll remain on the fence with this one.
My other pal Alex Kropinak did an amazing stop motion trailer for David Ezra Stein’s upcoming children’s book Dinosaur Kisses. The video’s above, see how he did it over on his blog.
There’s going to be a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen show on Fox? Huh. (via TVLine)
Jon Negroni took a lot of time to come up with a timeline that supposedly sets every Pixar movie in the same universe. There’s some huge logical leaps many of which are based on the idea that Easter Eggs (visual or verbal nods to other films) mean something more. It’s fun and a little crazy, but also a lot crazy.
Hey have you seen the new action movie and video game news site called Explosions Are Rad? You should check it out.
There’s a Rambo video game in the works according to Topless Robot. I like the idea of this news, but I’m not sold on the quality based on this trailer. Still, if the mechanics aren’t terrible, I’ll probably dig the game.
J.W. Rinzler and Mike Mayhew’s adaptation of George Lucas’ original Star Wars script, called The Star Wars, from Dark Horse is something I will aim to read in trade. (via CBR)
THR reports the Duplass Brothers’ Togetherness got ordered to series for HBO. This is good news for the world.
There’s a Calvin & Hobbes documentary called Dear Mr. Watterson. What else do you need to know? (via The Mary Sue)
Fearnet did a cool list of George R. Romero’s projects that never actually happened. That dude was involved in a LOT of dead or morphed projects!
Tony Shasteen’s Vincent Price art over on Ashcan Allstars is fantastic.
My fellow Happy Endings fans will be interested in reading this TVLine interview with the show’s creators who talked a bit about the end and where they would have gone next season.
Like a lot of people I watch most of Sharknado. Before the movie even hit, GQ did an interesting article on The Asylum as they were filming Atlantic Rim. Interesting stuff.
I Tweeted this out, but while looking through my wife’s old Martha Stewart magazines I came across this ingenious idea for a hidden office space made out of two book shelves hinged together. I don’t even have the space for something this small these days, but if I did, I’d be all over it.
Rolling Stone talked to Pete Wentz about Fall Out Boy’s recording session with Ryan Adams. I need to hear those tracks.
The Fwoosh ran down the first wave of M.A.S.K. figures, if you were a fan of this line like I was, this’ll be a nice walk down memory lane.
Tom Whalen‘s 66 Batman poster is fantastic.
Stacie Ponder analyzed the importance of landline phones over on her Final Girl blog. Entertaining as always.
Finally, I feel for Riley in this clip where she says that girls want to play with girl toys as well as boy toys. Can we finally cut this gender specific BS, please? Thanks to The Mary Sue for posting.
We’re pretty lucky to live in an area with not one, but three drive-in movie theaters that are less than an hour away. We usually go to the Warwick, but they’ve had some pretty strange pairings this year. I’m still not sure why they didn’t go with an Iron Man 3/Star Trek Into Darkness combo, but that’s neither here not there. As the parents of a 2-year-old without a regular babysitter, we’re pretty limited in our movie-going options, so we like to have at least one film that Lu will kinda-sorta like. So, when we saw that Hyde Park had Monsters University paired up with Iron Man 3, we figured it’d make for a pretty good outing.
Lu and I actually have never seen Monsters Inc., but we did both see the show at Disney World based on the film. Even so, I’d say we both enjoyed the experience. Lu loves pretty much anything that’s big and bright and I thought the movie was a fun, kid friendly version of the kinds of college flicks I’ve loved since I was a kid myself.
The film follows Mike (Billy Crystal), a young monster who wants to be a scarer who winds up getting in to the number one school for such things, Monsters University. There, the overachieving bookworm meets Sulley (the glorious John Goodman), another scaring student who’s the latest in a long line of scarers. The problem? Mike isn’t actually scary and Sulley relies too much on his family name. The two wind up in the same geeky fraternity which allows them to compete in the Scare Games. Thanks to a deal made with the dean (Helen Mirren!), if they win the Games, she will let them back into the scare program. From there they have to join forces, become friends and learn to work together.
I like everything from Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds to PCU and Pitch Perfect, all of which either influenced or are somewhat similar to this movie, so it’s right there in my wheelhouse. Even though I haven’t seen the original, I didn’t feel lost when it came to this movie which was nice. I didn’t realize that one of the villains from the original was also in this one, but my wife told me about it on the way home, so I was in on the joke after the fact. I’d say this works extremely well as a stand alone film and a prequel because it does actually make me want to see how these characters act as adults. Time to move that flick to the top of the ol’ Netflix Queue!
Much as I wound up liking Monsters University, Iron Man 3 was the movie I was more excited about. Movies like this which are big on the geek radar can get a little tiresome to folks like myself who cover them on the interwebs. Even though I probably wrote a dozen or two stories about this film for Spinoff, I still enjoyed it and — more surprisingly — was still in the dark on a lot of the major plot points. It helped that I avoided every tweet and conversation about the film after it came out.
So, the story this time around is that Tony Stark’s going down a fairly dark path. He’s pretty disturbed after the events of The Avengers which saw him possibly destroy an entire world/army/dimension. He’s building all kinds of armors, but there’s a more physical threat gunning for him: The Mandarin. An international terrorist played by Ben Kingsley, the Mandarin has plenty of shady people working for him like Guy Pearce, but more importantly, his people have been imbued with Extremis, a techno-organic program that can rewrite a person’s DNA, making them a fire-breathing, superpowered menaces. They blow up Tony’s house which sends him out on his own without a suit to figure out what’s up with the Mandarin and spoilerific things ensue.
I’m not going to get into specific spoilers just yet, but I do want to talk about the ending of the film. Like I said, I went in relatively spoiler free, but I did figure that the extra armors Tony built would come into play during the film and boy do they. It’s so rad seeing Tony running around a giant structure, hopping in and out of different suits and fighting off bad guys. It’s the kind of thing that Joss Whedon did really well with the final battle scene in Avengers and something director Shane Black followed up on pretty well in this film.
Okay now it’s time to get into SPOILERS. Consider yourself WARNED. Man, I really liked what they did with the Mandarin in this movie even though the reveal feels a bit like the one used in Batman Begins with Ra’s al Ghul. In this case it helped that they got such a weighty actor and had him turn in first, a scary performance and second, a hilarious one. Going for the complete personality switch is what sets this apart and makes for a great moment. This was the element of the film I was most surprised hadn’t been spoiled for me yet. Then you’ve got the ending which certainly leaves Tony Stark in an interesting place in the Marvel Studios Universe. He’s still got that big brain of his, but he doesn’t have the ARC reactor which powers his suit. It’s the kind of move that would last for maybe a few years in the comics before something else would pop up and he’d have to, I don’t know, have his heart get blown up again or something. But, since we’re dealing with a film universe — even a shared one — they get to play with the elements and the players a bit more. The real world side of things is that RDJ might not want to play Iron Man much longer — Tony Stark seems less taxing — and it might make sense within this new world to go a different route and have someone else fill in inside the suit. Of course, since the Extremis now exists in the movie-verse, it’s within reason that Tony will find himself in a situation where he needs to inject himself, this becoming Iron Man Version 2.0. There’s a lot of possibilities and it will be interesting to see where things go with the character from here.
As you can probably tell, I enjoyed the movie. It wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely a fun viewing experience. I also really liked the kid who played Harley and think he needs to be in a kids-dealing-with-craziness movie like The Goonies. At this point, I’m a general fan of the Marvel Studios films. Avengers is rad, I dig the Iron Man flicks and Captain America, Thor was okay and I haven’t seen Incredible Hulk in a long time, but didn’t like it at the time. I’m curious about the Thor and Cap sequels, but am far more interested in Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man and the other flicks starring new characters. Let’s see what they can do with some new old characters.
When I was about 12 or 13 years old, I became incredibly nostalgic for my 80s childhood. I don’t know what it was, but all I wanted to do was watch He-Man and Transformers cartoons, which I was able to find at a nearby Blockbuster in a big for-sale box. This was before the days where everything was readily available on DVD or even streaming, so it wound up being a huge find. I also dug out my parents’ Betamax which allowed me to watch old home movies as well as TV shows we taped (I love watching old tapes like that not just because of the cartoon content, but the commercials too!).
But, the truth is that, as much as I feel like a child of the 80s, I’m equally a product of the 90s. That decade took me from 6 to 16 and helped introduce me to some of the most influential things in my life from movies and music to the job I would have for the next five years, the end of grade school and the beginning of high school and crazy-future-tech like cell phones, home computers and the internet. So, when I got a PR email asking if I’d be interested in reviewing Gael Fashingbauer Cooper and Brian Bellmont’s The Totally Sweet 90s: From Clear Cola to Furby, and Grunge to “Whatever”, the Toys, Tastes, and Trends That Defined a Decade, I jumped at the chance.
In addition to having a strong connection to that decade, I also realized that I hadn’t really read or looked into 90s nostalgia. Fashingbauer Cooper and Bellmont’s book does exactly that by running down a list of alphabetically ordered topics, talking about them for a few paragraphs and offering an update as well as a fun fact about each. The book kicks off with “Adam Sandler Songs On Saturday Night Live” and ends with “Zubaz” to give you an idea of what you’ll be dealing with.
It was a lot of fun taking this trip down memory lane which combined with my own experience, but also moved into topics I was unfamiliar with like the short-lived MTV series Austin Stories and Coke’s attempt to get Generation X bucks with OK Soda. The short-and-sweet format of the book kept me moving from section to section with a quickness I wish I could harness when reading fiction.
It might seem like the subject matter is light and somewhat inconsequential (how important can Orbitz, Scrunchies and Pogs be?), but the intro made a really interesting point that I hadn’t thought about: many of the elements of modern life we take for granted began life in the 90s. I’m a firm believer that you can’t really appreciate today without having a fairly good working knowledge of yesterday. The Totally Sweet 90s might not get into in-depth analysis of the decade, but it does start the process by presenting a sample of the things that were popular to the young people of that generation.
My only complaint about the book is that there aren’t enough pictures. I know from being a research assistant for so many years, though, that including a lot of photos of copyrighted materials can be difficult and, worse, pricey. The ones that are included in the book are usually of toys or products which are cool to shoot and print. On a somewhat related note, I haven’t seen the Kindle or digital version of this book, but I can imagine that it would make for a really cool experience, especially if links to various images and/or videos were included. I have no idea what the feasibility of something like that is, but it’d be rad.
Finally, I just want to throw in another way this book made me nostalgic, but for a much more recent time. While reading The Totally Sweet 90s, I had all kinds of flashbacks to my days working for Wizard and ToyFare. This book is basically one giant list and list features were always interesting to work on. I helped with everything from the coolest single issue comic stories and best villains to coolest toy action features and best movie fights, plus many more. Instead of imagining Fashingbauer Cooper and Bellmont sitting around a room trying to figure out their list, I went right back to the old Wizard conference room where we’d first hash out exactly what the list was supposed to be about (an important step some outlets tend to gloss over, resulting in a poor list) and then coming up with every possible entry. From there you start crossing off. Once you’ve witled your kitchen sink list to the number you’re going for (10, 50, 100, whatever), then you get to have the fun talks about what makes one entry better than another which results in the final order. It was a long process, sometimes taking several meetings a week, but I loved taking part when I could.
So, for being a fun time capsule of a very important time in my life and reminding me of some fun professional memories that I’d lost touch with, I give The Totally Sweet ’90s a thumbs up. If you’re interested in checking the book out, follow the above link. The book will be out tomorrow.