Hey Kids, Comics #19 - Sensing Comics: Did You Just Hear Something?

Hey Kids, Comics! is back, so give us a listen as we explore how sound and hearing play an important roll in comics.  The current story arc, "Sensing Comics" draws nearer to its conclusion with this episode that provides unique insights on one of the top four senses that have an impact  in comics.  And if you like what you hear we would like to hear from you!

What was that?  Why it was the sound of another great episode of Hey Kids, Comics! coming your way of course!  As an audio production this issue covers subject matter of vital importance to podcasters everywhere, the sense of hearing. 

What Would Comic Book Villains Do? (WWCBVD?) Week 9

It's Black Friday in the United States so what better day to explore the dark side of super-powered entities than to present a new addition of What Would Comic Book Villains Do?  So without further ado we will explore how some of our favorite bad guys would handle a particular social situation...

Scenario: A friend of yours comes to you for advice about a big decision in their life.  What they have in mind is not a good idea in the least.  You don’t want to hurt your friend’s feelings but at the same time you see nothing but disaster coming from their plans.  What do you do?
Dr. Psycho:  In cases like this one it is always best to fall back on the old ways.  Some people we encounter in our lives simply lack the capacity to realize their dreams, or in this case, realize how foolish those dreams are in reality.  What is best for them in the long run is to have me administer some targeted reordering of their thought processes.  I am a doctor after all.  I live to help people, especially if they may help me in the process advance the ends of my own dreams.  After all, my dreams are the only ones worth dreaming! 

So once I’ve managed to erase any vestiges of such pointless notions from his mind I would then help make sure he puts his time and energy to a more useful purpose as one of my mindless henchmen.  After all, even if he gets caught aiding and abetting me, no court in the land would convict someone under the unnatural influences of a master manipulator of the mental capacity of others.  It is a win-win situation really.

Mesmero:  You know if I had a dollar for every time one of my friends or colleagues came to me with some half-baked scheme asking for advice I would never have had to turn to a life of crime!  Be it my old college buddies or that guy from two doors down at my apartment complex or worse still other super-villains, everyone has an angle on something!  And for some reason I seem to have this big flashing sign around my neck that everyone but me can see that says, “The Life Advisor Is In”!  I learned  a long time ago to just hypnotize any such notions right out of their noggins so I don’t have to suffer through giving my sage advice only to have it flatly ignored!

Saturn QueenAs a would-be, and bear in mind I don’t intend to remain so for much longer, conqueror of the galaxy I have little time for such trivialities.  Who has time to cultivate friendships when there are planets to subjugate and the Legion of Super-Heroes to thwart?  Mere mortals simply do not understand what we villains go through on a day to day basis!  Do you know what it is like to spend months or years hatching a scheme alone or with my colleagues only to have the whole thing undermined in a heartbeat by some do-gooder?!  Of course you don’t!

And the worst thing is that we villains don’t tend to socialize much.  Sure we get together to plan, to scheme, to work out the minutia of our next caper, but that is strictly business.  I don’t even know Lightning Lord’s real name!  How sad is that? 

You know this feels really good, opening up like this and all.  I spend so much of my time exerting my mental will on others to open bank vaults or decide not to arrest me that after all that I never get a chance to share my true self.  Is this the kind of thing friends do?  I believe I would like to have this friend after all.  Someone I could tell about my day over the vidphone and just get a lot off my chest.  Especially that “grand plan” my friend has in mind!  If anyone ever needed a notion willed out of their head by someone it is my friend!  What a moron!  In fact I find myself questioning why I ever decided to have a friend in the first place!  I wonder if I can self-hypnotize that notion out of my own head. 

Hi.  Who are you?

Controller:  Who am I to stand in the way of someone else’s plans?  Have all of my own schemes gone forward as hoped?  Not even close!  Sometimes I sit in my jail cell or at my headquarters depending on my present state of personal liberty and contemplate the aspects of my schemes I should have recognized as detrimental.  Hindsight is 20/20 as they say! 

Sure I could always take over his mind and extract such thoughts and ambitions as I deem impossible, couldn’t I?  Now you tell me how that is a responsible use of my powers!  This is my buddy we are talking about here!  Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find people you can just pal around with when you look like this?!  There is no way I would do anything to jeopardize that friendship.  Besides, he’s a grown man, he can choose his own way, right or wrong.  You never know, he might just pull it off!  

Starro the Conqueror:  There is only one way.  THE way!  There is only Starro!  Starro must rule all!  The Way of Starro is the way of all life!  All must bow before the might of Starro the Conqueror!   

 So what I am getting at here is that I would use one of my countless spores to take him over and make him my slave for all time or until the Justice League again manages to thwart my deviltry, whichever comes first.  Sorry about all that “Starro must rule!” garbage.  When you’ve been conquering as long as I have, and you look to all the world like a harmless, if colossal, starfish then you have to really pump up the drama to be taken seriously.  Since I’ve never really been one for friends or camaraderie I think a good spore to the face is the way to go here.  

Puppet Master:  Oooooh!  I just realized that this would be an ideal opportunity to utilize my special mind control clay to create a puppet of this hapless friend!  Imagine his confusion as I, behind the scenes, manipulate his every action, silently guiding him to make the kind of decisions I would make to keep his plan on track.  Naturally I want him to succeed where otherwise he would have failed. The best case is that he would become filthy rich with my guidance and then I could simply force him to divert much of his new wealth to me!  What a great plan!  If only I had such a friend…

But wait!  I just realized something else!  I could engineer this whole scenario by using my special clay to make a puppet of some random individual, forcing him to be my friend and later to ask my advice about his hare-brained scheme.  I could feign support while secretly putting my plan of manipulation into effect and in the end making myself rich!  You know I don’t usually respond to these surveys but in this case I am really glad I did!

Hey Kids, Comics! - The Back Issue Bin

 Hey kids!  This week Andrew and Cole are taking a much needed break before the holidays so, as announced, there is not scheduled episode of Hey Kids, Comics!  But it occurred to us that many people have only recently discovered this show and, like finding a new comic title already in progress, they might enjoy catching up on the previous issues. 

To that end we present The Back Issue Bin, a chance to catch up on every single issue of HKC! released to date.  From the surprisingly concise #0 issue in which we sought our footing to the first issues of the current story arc, "Sensing Comics" you can peruse and download the 19 issue run thus far in one easy to find location.  And next week we will return with the penultimate issue of the current story arc.  We hope you will join us and in the mean time enjoy some of our earlier work.
Thank you,
Andrew Farmer - Host and Creator of Hey Kids, Comics! 
Cole Houston - Co-Host and Producer of Hey Kids, Comics!
Almond Puppycuddles - Dog/Hamster Hybrid of HKC! Labs

The Back Issue Bin


Coming Soon:
#19 Sensing Comics: Did You Just Hear Something? (11/28/12)
#20 Sensing Comics: Something Tells Me I’m Smelling Something Good (12/5/12)

You never know what you will find in a back issue bin!

The Apocrypha #3 - The Cave Man of Steel

Editorial Note: This edition of The Apocrypha was to have been published on Sunday, November 11.  That it failed to be thus is typical of how things happen when the staff of The Apocrypha are given a deadline.  Despite this grevious error in timing, the headline banner has been published with the original scheduled date unchanged.  This will serve as a reminder to our staff that timeliness is key and to our readers that The Apocrypha is about as half-assed an operation as you are likely to find in the world. 
                               Captain Theodore Vincent MacHornberger III (CTVM3) - publisher, The Apocrypha

The Cave Man of Tomorrow
By Joe Rockhead
In 2001, Warner Brothers reinvented the Superman mythos, though certainly not for the first time, with their hit television series Smallville.  Previous television shows like Superboy and Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman put their own unique spin on the Man of Steel, however there was a certain ABC show in the 60s that served as a pathfinder for all of these programs.  In 1963, early into its fourth season, the Hanna Barbera-produced prime time cartoon The Flintsones debuted the first televised retelling of Superman’s origin.  A groundbreaking  move that went unnoticed for nearly a decade!

Hanna Barbera was notorious for borrowing themes and characters from other creators, retooling them, and calling it original.  From the Sgt. Bilko-inspired Top Cat to their more famous, and far more contentious, Honeymooners rip-off, The Flintstones, this little animation studio made a name for themselves that persists to this day.  Secure in having successfully avoided a threatened lawsuit from Jackie Gleason, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera next set their sights on DC Comics for inspiration.  And with flagship character Superman still basking in the limelight, the character’s back story must have seemed ripe for the picking.

But what connection does the “modern Stone Age family” have to “the last son of Krypton”?  The story of a mysterious orphan with powers and abilities beyond those of mortal men being adopted by an amiable and childless couple to be raised as a normal human being of course!  Or proto-human being depending on the epoch in question.  And so it is that, like his contemporary counterpart, the Cro-Magnon Kryptonian known as Bam-Bam shares an early history that mirrors that of Kal-El.  

Strange Visitor
While not as dramatic as the planet fall of his comic book cousin, Bam-Bam’s arrival in Bedrock would be no less impactful.  Abandoned on the front porch of the Rubble house in a tortoise shell cradle, the baby boy was a blessing to the Flintstone’s infertile neighbors.  Initially mistaken for “another basket full of kittens” in exactly the way the infant Kal-El’s unearthly conveyance was not, Bam-Bam was a welcome addition to Barney and Betty’s lives.  So overwhelmed were the couple by there unexpected bundle of joy, they were completely unbothered by the child’s inexplicable superior strength.

At least, like the Kents, the Rubbles had to make the adoption of the abandoned child official.  Unlike their counterparts they faced a legal battle with prehistoric one-percenter Mr. Stonyfeller who presented a prior claim on the boy.  Represented as he was by the highly successful Perry Masonary, the couple lost the custody battle and very nearly their bid at parenthood.  While they certainly could have elected to pursue more traditional avenues of adoption, fate smiled upon them when Mrs. Stonyfeller proved not to be barren after all.  Upon discovering that he would have a true blood heir, the wealthy Bedrock resident retracted his custody claim and averted potential class warfare.

Whether Stonyfeller was aware of Bam-Bam’s potential like some prototype of the Luthors of Smallville is uncertain, but within the confines of a single prime-time episode, Bam-Bam became a Rubble for all time.  And it was under the care of his newfound parents that he began to exhibit the preternatural strength that would be his childhood trademark.  Much like the infant Superman-to-be, Bam-Bam’s was known for incredible feats that were beyond the capacity of even the most powerful adult, like lifting his father’s automobile and placing it within the garage.  Plus he had the personal liability-inducing habit of hurling Fred Flintstone bodily to the floor from one side of himself to the other. 

Powers and Abilities
Unlike Clark Kent’s adoptive parents, Bam-Bam’s openly reveled in the unique nature of their son.  Given the level of social sophistication exhibited over 10,000,000 years before a strange visitor from another planet plowed into a Kansas field, there was little likelihood that government black-ops teams or experimentation on extraterrestrial life forms had been invented yet.  At that period in prehistory, if it couldn’t be done by a trained animal, it simply couldn’t be done!  So in that regard it was relatively safe to tout the existence of an adopted child who could lift hundreds of times his own weight with ease comparable to his parents lifting a dodo feather.

In order to skirt copyright infringement issues such as those that plagued Fawcett Publications’ flagship character Captain Marvel, the animators shrewdly opted to limit Bam-Bam’s super-humanity to impossible strength.  Early drafts of fifth season scripts had suggested the addition of “fire vision” and “ice breath” to the boy’s repertoire but when the high-profile Shazam! case reduced Fawcett to reprinting Family Circus comics, plans for power expansion were scrapped.  By managing to escape the attention of National Periodical Publications, Hanna Barberra was able to effectively borrow the basic conceptual themes of Superman for an additional two years.

What Ever Happened to the First Last Son of Krypton?
Five years after the show that made Bedrock famous and wooly mammoths synonymous with housecleaning, a spin-off show was to be launched that would bring a teenaged Bam-Bam, flushed with Herculean strength, to the forefront.  However, a shrewd copyright lawyer at DC Comics happened to be home with the flu one fateful day and chanced to watch two episodes of The Flintstones prominently featuring the baby version of the character, including his first appearance.  The similarities in the origin and powers of Bam-Bam and those of Superman as presented by Simon and Shuster were not lost on this litigator. 

Contacting his employers from his sickbed he insured a promotion by informing the publisher of the blatant disregard of intellectual property rights  displayed by the syndicated cartoon.  A threatened lawsuit forced a last-minute rewrite of the first episodes of the new series, The Pebbles and Bam-Bam Show, dooming it to obscurity in the eyes of many fans.  In an out of court settlement the creators of the cartoon did not admit direct wrong-doing but did acknowledge the similarities and pledged to remove any super-human aspects from the character in any and all future incarnations.  

And so it was that when the Flintstone and Rubble children were given their own series, every vestige of his former strength was not only absent but also not spoken of in past tense.  While such a move spared the show’s creators a potentially devastating court appearance, it did leave life-long fans wondering why Bam-Bam had managed to outgrow his super power.  While the onscreen  character was officially no more endowed of strength than the Bronto Bunch’s Zonk, fan fiction picked up where the show left off.  Bedrock Babylon, a popular fanzine of the day, was the most noted for not only extrapolating the Bam-Bam/Superman connection to its logical conclusion, but also suggesting that the aforementioned motorcycle gang were in fact corollaries to the Phantom Zone criminals. 

While the Bronto/Zod connection went quietly unnoticed by a more attentive DC Comics, it was not the only example of Hanna Barbera skirting the Cease and Desist order.  The Great Gazoo is widely recognized as a blatant rip-off of Superman’s extra-dimensional thorn in the side, Mr. Mxyzptlk.  None the less, speculation runs rampant to this day that perhaps the character did garner notice and as such was the real catalyst for the demise of The Flintstones rather than the lackluster, shark-jumping plotlines and incessant pop-culture nods.  An unpublicized action against the animation studio could well have been what opened the door for future DC Comics parent company Warner Brothers to obtain Hanna Barbera outright, thereby taking the Bam-Bam saga full circle.

Joe Rockhead is a freelance writer and author of “Modern Stone Age Conveniences – The Technology of ‘The Flintstones’”  He resides in New Rock, NR with his wife, three children, and their hoparoo. 

Note: This article is dedicated to my lifelong friend Steve McCauley and his lifelong love of Superman and to my friend John Glio and his lifelong love of The Flintstones. Special thanks to John for his suggestions and Flintstone fact-checking. - JediCole

Hey Kids, Comics #18 - Sensing Comics: You've Got the Touch

Welcome to a touchy, feely issue of Hey Kids, Comics!, literally!  As “Sensing Comics” continues, Andrew and Cole get in touch with the sense of touch.  While seemingly a difficult topic at the outset, they soon find their stride and discover all manner of examples of how touch can be an important sense within the realm of comic book characters.

All things tactile are the order of the day on this episode which takes us half way through the latest story arc.  This before a necessary skip week for Hey Kids, Comics! 

There will be no new issue next Wednesday, but look for the show to return the following week on November 28 with "Sensing Comics: Did You Just Hear Something?"

Hey Kids, Comics! #17 - Sensing Comics: Insights on Sight

Hey Kids, Comics! continues to delve into the human and super-human senses in our latest story arc, "Sensing Comics".  In this issue we explore sight in comics as well as in the real world.  A variety of observations are made on how comic book characters as well as we normal folks (and sometimes not so normal) utilize our eyes. 

Join Andrew Farmer and Cole Houston as they take a look at how our optic nerves can be taken a step further in reality and to unfathomed plateaus.  From the natural to the super-natural, the enhanced to the downright incredible, the eyes have it in this great episode!

Jedi Justifications #4 - Hoth Mail Call

This is a first (and hopefully not the last) for Jedi Justifications.  The originally scheduled installment is being postponed so I can address a couple of questions that arrived in a recent email.  The following came to me from Rick Gutierrez, founder and fearless leader of the United States of Geekdom.  <PLUG!>  And do not fear, I have not forgotten what was promised for Jedi Justifications #4, this was just too good a challenge to pass up.

I have a couple of things to get justified by you.

The first is why is Lando wearing Han's clothes at the end of Empire Strikes Back?

The second is why did the Empire not send out TIE Fighters to intercept the escaping Rebels as they were escaping from Hoth?  The Ion Cannon is hardly anything to be sneezed at I know but the TIE Fighters would certainly have been something of use to help out the incapacitated Star Destroyers and take down the escaping transports.

The second one might make a little more sense to me but the Lando one just perplexes and disturbs me just a bit...

I am going to address these in chronological (in the context of events chronicled in  The Empire Strikes Back) rather than inquiry order as the Lando question seems to be the one that had the most impact on Rick.  This will serve the further purpose of putting Lando’s wardrobe choice into perspective.  The overall timing of things within the context of the film has bearing, though events on the moon of Hoth that hosted the Rebel base have little direct relevance to the second question.  So without further ado, the justification of the TIE Fighter issue.

When crossing swords the Imperial and Rebel forces can be analogous to just such weapons.  The Rebellion is a rapier and the Empire a Claymore.  Both are effective weapons in their own right but each has its myriad advantages and disadvantages.  The Imperial martial doctrine is one of size and strength while the Rebellion, largely out of necessity, enjoys a greater sense of agility and maneuverability that comes with being smaller and more versatile.  From the standpoint of military doctrine, the Empire favors coming on strong and putting their largest forces at the forefront.  Intimidation is a powerful tool for a government that is accustomed to having their enemies lose resolve in the face of superior forces.  Hence Admiral Ozzel’s ham-fisted approach to stealth that allowed the Rebellion to shield their base from orbital bombardment.

Overconfident in its own might, the Imperial command tends to underestimate the tenacity and adaptability of the Rebellion.  The presence of the ion cannon certainly underscores that aspect of the Alliance.  While they had a presence in the past on Dantooine and one of Yavin’s moons, a capital weapon of the scale of the ion gun suggests that there was never a single, all-encompassing Rebel base anywhere in the galaxy.  The Hoth moon base was just the latest to be utilized at full. 

What made it an ideal location to escape Imperial notice also made it a treacherous place to maintain.  Its proximity to an asteroid field that could not be navigated by any but the smallest craft also left the entire Hoth system subject to constant impacts by meteors and asteroids.  The solution was a massive laser emplacement that could be utilized to deflect or destroy larger asteroids that might threaten the construction and settlement of the base.

The added strategic advantage of this weapon was the effect of a concentrated ionic pulse on spacecraft of any size.  The devastating effect of that type of blast is illustrated when the first transport makes good its escape right under the nose of a Star Destroyer.  But then there is that burning question of why there was no concentrated Imperial pursuit.  And again it comes down to that sense of empowerment that comes from having the largest and most deadly fleet in the galaxy at your disposal.  While the Destroyer in question undoubtedly maintained a compliment of TIE Fighters, the commanders would have seen no point in fielding them when their gunners could easily pick off any fleeing Rebel craft.  After all, the Star Destroyer is bristling with guns of every imaginable size and range.
What their “might makes right” attitude did not allow them to anticipate was the possibility that a charged ion blast would precede the evacuation craft.  After all, the Probe Droid had discovered the shield generator but not the full range of the Rebel ordinance before its destruction so the presence of such a weapon would not have seemed likely.  Once struck, all operations within the affected Star Destroyer would have been rendered unworkable, including the launching of a wing of TIE Fighters.  Frankly it would be all the pilots could do to keep the vessel from falling into the gravitational pull of the Hoth moon!  And though it is not seen on screen, it is safe to assume that other destroyers suffered the fate of the hapless first on which did not in fact land its first, or indeed any, catch of the day.

And on a final note regarding TIE Fighters, the inevitable question would rise as to why none were sent in pursuit of the escaping transport and its escort wing by other Destroyers in the vicinity.  Partly this would be due to the element of surprise being very much in the Rebel’s favor and also due to the specific limitations of Imperial fighter craft.  As one Destroyer is taken out unexpectedly, the commanders of all others would have been more concerned about getting their capital ships clear of the range of the ion gun than in scrambling their fighter crews.  And even if they had, the dynamics of both Imperial and Rebel fighters have been well established.  As is repeatedly illustrated, Imperial military thinking is short sighted and results in effective yet somewhat limited weapons.
The TIE Fighter is designed to be fast and nimble in dogfights, but has no purpose beyond warfare.  Again, largely out of necessity, the X-Wing Fighter is a multi-purpose craft that is both an ideal for combat as well as transport applications.  This is illustrated in The Empire Strikes Back when Luke is reloading the cargo bay in the belly of the craft as he departs the swamps of Dagobah.  This is a product of the X-Wing being designed to make planetary landing.  The standard TIE Fighter is meant to be flown until its mission is completed or it is destroyed.  And then there is the hyperdrive capacity of the X-Wing, a feature sorely lacking in the short range TIE Fighter.  While this aspect of the Rebel craft was not revealed until Return of the Jedi, it is implicit in Luke’s journey to Dagobah which would have taken years absent hyperdrive technology.  Once underway, no TIE could hope to pursue the escaping Rebels once they went into hyperspace.  So in the end there would have seemed to be little point in sending fighters in pursuit of Rebel craft that were never meant to have made it past the blockade of Destroyers.

Now from Hoth System we make our way to the Noad System and Lando (the man, not the system).  To understand Lando’s choice of attire when he, Chewbacca, and Princess Leia depart the Rebel Fleet to set an elaborate rescue operation into motion, Lando has indeed doffed his elegant attire and is clothed in an outfit very much akin to Han Solo’s standard garb.  In fact it is so much a variation on Han’s minimal wardrobe changes as to almost certainly be one of the smuggler’s own outfits.  But is such a fact truly all that troublesome?

Imagine Lando’s life just before his old friend and fellow smuggling rival showed up in the city that he owns and operates.  Life was good.  He had settled down a bit, become legitimate in ways Michael Corleone only dreamt of doing, and the whole gas mining thing was starting to be worthwhile.  Then who should show up but one of the top fugitives on the Empire’s “most wanted” list with two more in tow!  Being the shrewd businessman and scoundrel to the core that he was, an offer for the Empire to turn a blind eye to his formerly unnoticed operations was too good to pass up.  Perhaps he imagined he might even get his old ship back in the bargain.  And undoubtedly use it to disappear himself from the hole he’d dug himself into at Vader’s bequest.

As we all know the deal just kept getting worse as did Lando’s whole life.  So he did the only thing any good gambler would do when backed to the wall, he went all in and cast his lot with the Rebellion.  He had certainly caught on that bargains with the Empire are largely open ended in favor of the Imperial side of things.  In the end this meant beating a hasty retreat with Chewie, Leia, Luke, and the droids without benefit of a stop by his lavish apartments to grab an overnight bag or even so much as a change of clothes!  That is one of the big differences between vacationers and refugees. 

So after a particularly trying day in which he saw his best friend flash-frozen, nearly had his trachea collapsed at the hands of an enraged Wookie, and  had to abandon his life and livelihood the last thing Lando would have wanted to do is rummage through what uniforms the Rebels may have had about on the medical frigate.  And he certainly wasn’t going to wear one of those hospital robes that Luke had for the long trip to some backwater planet in pursuit of a bounty hunter.  The only option left open to him would then be to raid Han’s closet.  Since he and his buddy are roughly the same size they likely shared wardrobe in their past adventures so this would not have seemed all that bizarre to Chewbacca.  Han’s co-pilot was worldly enough that he was not even bothered by the fact that human’s pile on so much cloth when his people go au nautrale!

Bonus Justification!
For the sake of argument let’s just say that Lando doesn’t quite wear the same size as Han.  The shirt may be just a bit too tight or the pants legs a touch too long.  Or worse yet, high waters!  This would be an inexcusable look for someone with Lando’s fashion sense.  Enter Mon Calamari textile technology!  Utilizing special memory fabrics, clothing in the Star Wars universe can be, in fact, one size fits all!  A little tug here, a little tweak there and another man’s attire will fit you as well as were it custom tailored!  But you may be asking why is this technology uniquely Mon Calamari in origin?   One need only look at Admiral Ackbar’s uniform for the answer.  Absent such malleable fabric, there would be no getting the Rebel hero’s Popeye-like forearms through the sleeves of his otherwise fairly snug tunic! 


And with that we set Rick’s concerns regarding The Empire Strikes Back at ease.  Have a burning Star Wars question that comes from scenes in the theatrically released live action Star Wars films?  Drop me a line at jedicole@yahoo.com and ask me to justify your particular conundrum! 

Hey Kids, Comics! #16 - Sensing Comics: Making Senses of it All

Have a look, hear us out, take a whiff, and cop a feel with the latest tasty issue of Hey Kids, Comics!  In case this introduction has not  tipped you off,  your hosts Andrew Farmer and Cole Houston discuss the senses.  Heightened senses to be exact.  In this introductory episode of the latest arc, “Sensing Comics”, the concept of how four of the five senses are greatly improved by powers or devices in comic book characters.  The stage is also set for the next four episodes in which an individual sense will be examined within the realms of both comic books and real world applications. 

We hope you enjoy this extra special  extra-sensory  edition of HKC!

Our sincere apologies for the lateness of this issue.  Due to various technical difficulties we were forced to postpone for two days. 

It Came From the Dollar Store! Premiere Edition

With Halloween just passed, it seemed appropriate to bring something truly scary to the JediCole Universe.   Welcome then to the long awaited (or at the very least, long promised) first installment of a new monthly feature It Came From the Dollar Store

For the last eight years Mrs. JediCole and I have hosted an annual Dollar Store Christmas party and as a result have discovered a wealth of oddball products that someone felt compelled to produce.  Perhaps it was solely because they could still hit that $1.00 retail price point or the producers and manufacturers just have no clue how bizarre their products would seem to the average person.  Regardless of the directives behind these curious objects and foodstuffs, they are certainly worth exploring and always good for a few laughs.

And so it is that once a month I will blow $5.00 (plus tax) on a sampling of curiosities culled from actual dollar stores in my general area.  I simply won’t allow myself a larger budget on things I do not plan to keep.  However, in some cases the products showcased will be actual gifts that others purchased for Dollar Store Christmas.  Perhaps you have seen these products as well, perhaps not.  None the less they are carefully selected to raise eyebrows, invoke laugher, and simply beg the question “why?” 

First Responding in Style
Army men in olive drab have long been the top stationary pose boys toy produced on the cheap.  However, bags of little plastic soldiers have always shared peg space with cowboys and Indians, dinosaurs, and even police or firemen.  For those on a tight budget the marketers of dollar store toy aisle seem ever able to field sets of such figurines to fuel young imaginations. 

You have to love the grammar on these things!
In this case we have a set of firefighters who stand at the ready to battle back the flames and come to the rescue of any hapless children or pets who have become trapped by falling timbers amidst an inferno that was once a happy home.  If that plays overly dark, then fear not.  Once safely in the clear air it seems these brave firemen have a pair of sweet rides in which they can take those they have rescued for a refreshing high-speed jaunt around the neighborhood.  After all, nothing so soothes the blow of watching everything you own go up in smoke like a ride in a kick-ass sports car likely equipped to legally run red lights! 

Okay buddy, where's the fire?
No longer content with the blocky monstrosities of old to convey them to the scene of a blaze, these firemen race to the rescue in stylish roadsters that make up for a lack of utility with super-charged engines that are the envy of other vehicles in their class.  Five alarm fire on the other end of town?  When you can go zero to sixty in less than two seconds it is of little concern.  The long wait for the fire trucks and ambulances to arrive is a bit awkward, but at least the first first-responders can show off where your tax dollars have gone by popping the hood to show off that sweet, sweet engine that purrs like a kitten! 

Who says a dollar doesn't buy much these days?
Also included are a pair of traffic cones and a barrier gate to prevent any fire watching gawkers from parking too close to these kings of the road while the ladder company is busy dousing the flames nearby.

Taste the Tiger
Off brand, oddball, and just plain goofy candies are one of the staples of dollar stores.  So it was no surprise that the only place Mallow Pals could seem to find a market was in such an environment.  Sharing the shelves and pegs with hoarhound hard candies and the inexplicably still available on the open market Necco Wafers I discovered this particular confectionary trainwreck. 

When contemplating how to market a drab and hideously textured species of marshmallow fluff as a confection it seems inevitalbe that some kind of licensed brand would be the best approach.  After all, chalky sticks of so-called candy packaged with brightly colored images of Spider-Man or Wolverine at least give some initial appeal before the disappointment provided by the contents.  Perhaps finding Marvel Comics characters out of their price range, the makers of Mallow Pals went with the less expensive but equally high profile Animal Planet franchise.  After all, the two things kids love most are candy and animals.  Just ask Speed Racer's brother, he hung out with one and consumed copious quantities of the other.

And lions taste like watermelon!
So with a recognizable brand in place you need only secure some images of popular if endangered mammals, slap their photo on mylar foil, and custom cut a Capri Sun-like recepticle in the shape of said creature with a water bottle spout at the top and you have the ideal vehicle for sales of your fruit flavored sludge.  That is assuming two things.  One, that mom and dad will fork over a Washington for a tiny little 35 gram pouch of marshmallow that tastes like sour apple (if sour apple tasted more like something that almost tastes a bit like the essence of marshmallow whipped up with a quarter of a melted Jolly Rancher and a hint of some indistinquishable funk), and two that anyone can get past the idea of slurping a green-white paste out of the head of a Bengal tiger!  Needless to say I hurdled both of these obstacles in the interest of this feature, but from the taste and texture I would wager that most of the production run of Mallow Pals now reside in various landfills around the nation along with a tiny percentage of the containers from which at least a portion of the sqeezable marshmallow was extracted.  

Note: Sour Green Apple was not the sole flavor of Mallow Pals available at the time of purchase, it seemed the flavor least suited to complement the childhood memory-invoking flavor of marshmallows.  Even the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man is offended by this would be snack treat!

The Down Side of Shelf Presence
Some names become so completely synonymous with their products that they enter the vernacular and often even the dictionary.  Classic examples of this are Kleenex, Coke, Xerox, and Band-Aid.  Then there are the products that were not fielded by major corporations that spent months and thousands to millions, employ marketing teams, and arrange consumer focus groups all to come up with a catchy name that could possibly become a part of Americana.  When your product is developed for the burgeoning dollar store market it is more likely that you just ask everyone from the production line to the mail room to submit a name suggestion and go with the first one you pull out of a hat.

16% zinc oxide ointment presented in grand style!

This had to be the case with Baby’s Butt Aid, a diaper rash cream with the most awkward and off-putting moniker in the history of over-the-counter pharmaceuticals.  If there was an annual prize handed out for consumer product names, this one would easily have won in the “Most Blatant Name” category.  What it lacks in brand name sophistication, like Desetin, it more than makes up for in the painfully obvious depiction of the purpose of the tube of cream housed within the package.  And if the name alone were not enough to convey its purpose, the brazen gluteus maximus motif of the letter B in Butt-Aid just adds that extra punch!

Pictograms for the illeterate parent.
This particular item was one of the gifts from the eighth annual Dollar Store Christmas and, if memory serves, garnered the guest who purchased it the coveted Dawg Award for “Tackiest Gift”.  While its humorous name made it an ideal choice for this feature article, the undeniable similarity between the baby face on the logo and Think Geek’s monkey face logo added an additional layer of appeal.

think butt.com.
A Ninja For the Blind 
For the unindoctrinated, stealth is the watchword of practitoners of the ancient and secretive art of Ninjitsu.  When hearing the word Ninja, most immediately imagine a silent warrior clad entirely in black, plying his deadly trade under cover of conceling shadows.  But in the case of this Action Figure brand set of...action figures, the term takes on an entirely different meaning.  To this toy's manufacturer Ninja was more invocative of Rio de Janero during Carnival than warlike fuedal Japan.

No!  You can't see us!  We're Ninjas!
 Un-stealthily clad in flaming red and screaming yellow, this pair of ineffectual assassins could never hope to find a shadow deep and dark enough to offer the slightest concielment.  Dressed as they are their every movement is broadcast to any living creature that has a pair of eyes, working or not!  The festive colors arrive on the scene a split second before the ninja themselves and their decision to carry the color scheme through to their katana simply adds to this crime against subterfuge.  The martial art of Ninjitsu is difficult enough to pursue without costuming that attracts flocks of hummingbirds and suggests a Hong Kong action flick directed by Joel Shumacher!  In garb this brightly hued this duo shares the distinction of the Luxor and the Great Wall of China as man made objects that can be seen from orbit!

I Want What She's Having!
Consider the humble wire head massager.  It is such a simple thing with its exploded whisk-like appearance and inexpensive production costs.  It is little wonder that such a devise is an ubiquitous stock item for dollar stores nationwide.  It is an impulse buy free of buyer's remorse given its miniscule price tag.  If it provides no appreciable stress reduction or scalp health improvement you can always chock it up to being akin to a non-winning lottery scratch-off and move forward with your life.
New SyFy Original Movie: "Robopus"!
So when it comes to increasing the appeal of such an object, every concievable marketing tactic must be considererd.  Considered and then abandoned for the only sure-fire method in existance.  The one promotional tool that has been employed by every product from candy bars to sports cars - sex appeal!  But how does one inject sex appeal into something that looks like it belongs in a kitchen utensil drawer?  Much as nature found a way in Jurassic Park, sex appeal found a way in the packaging of this particular specimen known simply as "Head Massager".

My head is up here, mister!
 In order to bring sex appeal to the presentation the manufacturers chose to give consumers something akin to half of a Cialis commercial (the sexier half).  Or perhaps this image of a sultry bather was meant to bring to mind "Calgon! Take me away!"  Regardless there is something alluring about a woman lounging in a bathtub with a look of post orgasmic satisfaction draped across her countenance.  If this particular device can deliver that level of ecstacy then, in the words of a Robocop television personality, "I'll buy that for a dollar!"  The presence of the mind-altering-spore-producing plants from This Side of Paradise motif in the background defies any logical explanation.

When you contemplate that someone developed, produced, packaged, and shipped for the consumption of the general public some of the items that grace the shelves and pegs at your local dollar store you are left wondering what compelled anyone to go to that much trouble to hit such a low-ball price point!  While I would never deign to make an attempt to understand such business logic, I will drop about $5.00 a month on taking home a few choice items to share with visitors to my website.  Check in late in November to see what other horrors half a sawbuck can obtain! 

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