Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Pulled From the Pack: Wacky Packages!

Redartz: Today we introduce another category in our ever- increasing array of topics: "Pulled From the Pack", in which we will look at another fondly remembered  element of Bronze Age (and earlier, and later) childhood: trading cards! For the inaugural edition, we will yank the wrapper off of Wacky Packages- a very popular series of stickers (and cards) which featured parodies of well-known products. 

Wacky Packages were made by Topps, best known as a Premier manufacturer of baseball cards. "Wacky Packs" first appeared in the late 60's, and were revived to great reception in 1973. They were common trading fodder among kids throughout the 70's, and they have reappeared periodically ever since. And they may have a familiar style to comic fans: they artwork for the stickers was produced by some big names in alternative and popular comics: Jay Lynch, Tom Sutton, George Evans and Bill Griffith (who gave us Zippy). Indeed, while researching this topic, I was amazed to learn that the 'father' of Wacky Packages was none other than Art Spiegelman- the amazingly talented creator of the acclaimed graphic novel "Maus" (which may well be the subject of discussion some other day). 

I came to love "Wackys" in middle school. Among my frequent trips to the local drug store for Archie comics and baseball cards in the early 70's, I found these funny-looking packs of stickers for sale. Featuring some very familiar 'products' treated to a graphic version of the Dean Martin roast! They actually  had a slightly subversive feel (parents probably didn't find them so amusing) that really appealed to my pre-teen sense of humor. Therefore, my school notebook (and the closet door of my room) was soon adorned with "Crust Toothpaste", "Hostage Cup-cakes" and many other Wackys. And often, lunchtime at school would find a group of us trading stickers and snickering  over each one. Some of the parodies had great staying power in my memory: even today, at the supermarket, I can't see a bottle of Log Cabin pancake syrup without thinking of  "Log Cave-In". 

In 2008, Topps released a "Retro Set" of Wackys, representing some of the classic stickers from the 60's and 70's. In preparing for this post, I coughed up a few bucks on ebay, and got the whole set (all my original stickers being loooong gone). Best 7 dollars I've spent this week!

Obviously, we can't have a discussion about these stickers without looking at a few, so here we go:


As part of this retro set, several cards were included which depicted never-before used artwork. Here's a few of those:

So how many of you were captivated by these little 'provocateurs of Madison Avenue'?  And would you trade a "Liptorn Soup" for a "Swiss Mess" Cocoa?  I would...

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Panel Discussion: Jean Grey or Wile E. Coyote?

Martinex1: Chris Claremont and John Byrne were hitting on all cylinders in the late 70s during their seminal run on Uncanny X-Men, reaching their apex in the Hellfire Club and the Death of Phoenix arcs. Supported by the inks of Terry Austin, the colors from Glynis Wein and the letters of Tom Orzechowski, the books were top notch. It was lightning in a bottle and the character interaction and subplot styles were often imitated as the Bronze Age started to wind down.   Few could capture the magic of that series. 

One of the most memorable pages came from X-Men #137,  a double-sized issue cover dated September 1980.  It of course depicted the tragic death of Jean Grey, the beleaguered and distraught Phoenix.    Considering that the story culminates in the death of a fairly major heroic character, it interests me that the moment is handled in a mid-sized panel on a very busy page.   There is a large amount of text as the last three panels have Cyclops verbalizing what just occurred.  Those middle panels however are exceptional and memorable.

I am going to focus on those panels for the rest of the column, as over the years I have become more and more disconcerted by them.   This short passage, at least for a while defined the Marvel approach.   Stories were laced with tragedy and pathos.   Even the word balloons quivered with the import.   The colors were diffused as the bright light of realization as well as the physical blast struck.   I believe this is a truly historical moment in comics.

Having said that, this is where I take a complete detour in my analysis.  I have developed a strange perception of these three panels, over time I was distracted by some artistic elements.   I could not look at these panels without thinking, "Ditko, Disney, and ACME."   See if you are with me as I dissect this scene.

I don't know if John Byrne was channeling Steve Ditko or paying homage to him in the first panel.  But for years now I cannot look at that Jean Grey and not see the large heavily lashed eyes of a Ditko damsel.  I had feelings of deja vu as I looked upon the arched eyebrows, the peaked hair and the full lips and open mouth; surely this had a Ditko influence.

But my interpretation didn't stop there.   The second panel with Cyclops agape reminded me of something else.   It was the tongue and the open mouth.   In my eyes it was cartoony in a way that super-hero comics tended to avoid.  I know it is an artistic technique in which the bright light highlights certain features - and Byrne uses that technique often and well.   But that mouth and the floating tongue seemed like something from a Disney film.   Again, I could swear I had seen this before.

And then there was the third panel.  An explosive blast disintegrates Jean Grey.   The mighty Phoenix is felled.   But somehow my view of it has shifted to Wile E. Coyote and the various contraptions that ultimately lead to his temporary demise.

Strange I know... a classic scene devolved to Ditko, Disney, and Wile E. Coyote.   You may think I am off the rocker, and you may demand that Redartz take over permanently.  But before you persist take a look at the following scenes that I have cobbled together and tell me then that I am not onto something.

Take a look at Clea with the wild hair, large lashes, and even a tear drop.  And from Hercules, a character yells; indeed this came out some time after X-Men but look at that tongue.  And of course our beloved Coyote blasted to ash.

Still not sure - okay here is another.  Both Betty and Liz have those eyes and curvy eyebrows.   This Disney villain shows a little more throat but you get the idea.   And how many cannons and guns have pointed at Wile over the years?   Still not convinced....
Ditko again.   A "Cyclops" from Disney's Lilo and Stitch" (I don't believe in coincidences).  And a typical Warner Brothers' blast.  Okay, okay, just one more...

Squirrel Girl by Ditko.   Evil stepmother doing the Cyclops yowl.   And nothing but a silhouette.

So that is my art critique for the week.   Tell me that you won't look at this scene differently from now on!  Only at the "Panel Discussion" on the BITBA site can you get such depth!   Cheers all!

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Quarter Bin: The $1 Challenge of Changing Ways!

Martinex1: It is time for another round of the $1 Challenge.   This time we are taking a look at characters' fighting togs, but not their usual and most iconic examples.   These covers look at the various costume changes for our beloved heroes.   A few of these costumes lasted for a reasonable period, others just for a few issues; some of the looks were tied to power changes and others were simply a dive into the laundry hamper.  I may not share the exact issue in which the change occurred, but simply a cover where the change was clearly visible.

Here are my initial thoughts about some of examples below:  I liked that Ant-Man look and I'd like to see Hank swing a rusty nail more frequently. Did Binary have any real adventures in that guise?   Is Dazzler still dazzling without the dazzle (say what you want - but I think she needs some glitter)?  I refuse to believe Vance Astro had a mullet beneath his space suit.  It may be from the year 2000, but I don't mind Hellcat in blue.  On the other hand, back in 1993, I am not sure what that were thinking about Sue Storm.  I'm a fan of Strange with a mask.  And Clint Barton sure picked some extreme clothes over the years. 

Pick four that you like and comment on the style and substance of the change.  Did you like the design or did you lament the revamp?   Choose your favorites and share some thoughts.   I know I missed some key examples, so feel free to expose those as well.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sunday Break!

Hopefully you are not blown up like a blueberry after a hearty Thanksgiving weekend or got crushed in holiday shopping.   Just like us - take a break and put your feet up.  It is Sunday, so we have nothing new today - but we will be back tomorrow and the rest of the week with posts and posits. 


We looked at splash pages in our $1 challenge, talked about leadership, voiced opinions on animated vocal talent, enjoyed a feast, did some shopping, and poked at Nighthawk and Moon Knight.


We will critique some fickle fashion, look at a few X-Men panels though a funhouse mirror, get a little Wacky, herald in the holiday season, talk about Jack Kirby, and more!

Redartz:  Hi, just a quick tip to Bronze Agers everywhere - if you haven't seen the DC lineup on CW,  this would be a great week to try them .  Four night crossover with Supergirl ,  Flash , Arrow and Legends !

You Might Also Like --

Here are some related posts: