Max and Me - A Tale of Jabba's Palace

1983 marked the beginning of a love/hate relationship that perpetuates to this day.  And it began on a fateful summer day among friends in a movie theater in Duncanville, Texas.  It was at the day’s first screening of Return of the Jedi on opening day.  The day a silly blue elephant appeared in a Star Wars film and left me in a conflicted state.   While there was as much to love about the final chapter of George Lucas’ star-spanning history of some distant intergalactic realm as there was to hate (think Ewoks), the fulcrum upon which that dichotomy pivots in my view was none other than Sy Snootles’ keyboardist!

Max Rebo, accompanist and band leader (though at the time his band was more a combo), instantly found a special place in my heart and mind when it comes to the Star Wars saga.  In an attempt to go above and beyond when it came to peopling a scene with bizarre aliens, George Lucas and company cast about in every possible direction for unique designs. Perhaps the sting of using off the shelf masks and cheesy costumes to flesh out Mos Eisley lingered when dozens of sketches and maquettes were produced to conceptualize a richer variety of denizens for Jabba’s Palace.  One alien creature presented in a three dimensional sculpture during the approval process was a curious blue elephant who would get the green light for production. 

His excessively bright hue and cartoon elephant form was initially off-putting to me.  Max Rebo seemed terribly out of place at first pass, especially given the equally difficult to place in the Star Wars universe nature of his band.  Droopy McCool appeared to be one of the worst examples of “a guy in a suit” aliens I had ever seen and Sy Snootles exaggerated snout terminating in Rocky Horror Picture Show lips seemed more at home in a B-movie than a George Lucas production!   The only saving grace of the Max Rebo Band came in the form of the Ewoks.  Somehow everything that was wrong with this musical trio was softened by the unforgivable presence of a living Soft Toys Department on the forest moon of Endor!  By the third act of Return of the Jedi, and through subsequent screenings, the little blue guy really started growing on me.

Part of his appeal was a very clever design.  Even before images of the pre-production maquette were made public I could tell from the sculpt of the puppet used on set that Max Rebo was designed to be one of the more alien of the aliens in the Palace.  One of the reasons a puppet was used rather than an actor in a costume was to allow for a non-humanoid creature to be working the keys of the Red Ball organ for Jabba’s listening pleasure.  It was obvious to me from the shape and placement of the character’s “arms” that they were in fact more akin to legs.  While it seemed unlikely at the time that the musician would ever become part of the Kenner Star Wars toy line of the day, given unwieldy size of his principle accessory – his organ, it was no less exciting to imagine that there would be a uniquely proportioned action figure in the series.  But alas this was not to be the case.

Whether by gross misinterpretation of what was presented on screen or out of the necessities of 80s manufacturing processes, the toy company determined that Max Rebo have a stout body from which a pair of legs, complete with bare feet with toes that mimicked his suction cup fingertips, would protrude from a loin cloth covering his alien shame.  Initially I was more than a little disappointed with this adaptation.  Making the elephant-like keyboardist humanoid robbed him of much of his mystique after all!  That his instrument of choice helped disguise this artistic license was of little consequence to me at the time.  It would take years to simply accept this rethinking of the character’s design and enjoy the fact that a means to get him and his band immortalized in plastic was found, even if the approach was personally unappealing.  Besides, over a decade later there was hope that Kenner would have a second chance to get it right.

After an absence of about ten years from toy store shelves, Star Wars returned to fulfill my collecting needs in the form of the Power of the Force line in 1995.  Initial offerings seemed to meld the artistic sensibilities of Masters of the Universe with the designs of the Star Wars saga, much to the disappointment of fans everywhere.  In time, however, Hasbro (now exerting their name over that of their acquisition, Kenner) came to their senses and mandated sculpts more in keeping with the on-screen look and feel of characters.  While the Max Rebo Band would be a long while coming to the resurrected line, but when it arrived any hope of a movie accurate band leader were again dashed.  Taking their cues too heavily from the vintage line, they simply remade a superior version of the original, right down to the loin cloth (which was at least painted this time).  To make matters worse for the cinematic concept of this character, the so-called Expanded Universe took hold of the toy design and folded into the visual canon via Dark Horse Comics publications and illustrations in guide books.

Now identified as an Ortolan, Max and his requisite species were given the Kenner design for reference purposes and the inaccurate design was given precedence in the greater Star Wars universe.  This is where the hate side of the relationship comes heavily into play.  It was forgivable in the 80s for Max to have legs out of manufacturing necessity.  Though less so, some grace could be given to the Hasbro incarnation as a tribute to the original toy, though they were undoubtedly forced by Lucasfilm to use the CG version of Sy Snootles over the original puppet design, so a tribute seems less likely.  In fact, to date, only Gentle Giant Studios’ various incarnations of the character in statue and mini-bust form seem to illustrate some grasp of the unique physical anatomy of the character.  Otherwise the design put forth by Kenner all those years ago, while obviously wrong, has become the go to version.

But why all of this contention over a 30 year old background puppet character?  Apart from the fact that the dichotomy of Max Rebo’s suggested form and that taken on in collectibles and adopted into the Expanded Universe having been contentious in my thoughts for decades, I recently stumbled upon an article that showed I was not alone in my thinking.  You can read the inspiration for my own article here and perhaps gain a better understanding of what set me off on chronicling my own long standing doubts about the depiction of the bright blue musician.   My sincere thanks to Pablo Hidalgo for penning that article and subsequently inspiring mine.  Getting a bit of this off my chest as it were has proven cathartic and helped elevate poor Max to a higher place in the Star Wars pantheon. 

At the conclusion of Mr. Hidalgo’s article an illustration of Max Rebo ambulating is included as well as a suggestion that the characters ears might in fact be more akin to forelimbs.  In the spirit of that drawing, and inspired by the aforementioned suggestion, I took it upon myself to illustrate the skeletal anatomy of Max Rebo taking the “flipper” concept into account.

Hey Kids, Comics! #56 - About a Toy

If you have followed this podcast over the first year of its existence then you know that toys and action figures are a recurring theme. And why not?  These days so many companies are making toys and collectibles based on comic book properties from the obvious to the obscure that it is a blessing for fans. 

With recent toy company reveals at San Diego Comic Con the fanboy blood is boiling here at Hey Kids, Comics! over some exciting additions to existing lines as well as some great new stuff in the works. Andrew and Cole talk up the Marvel Legends and Marvel Universe lines from Hasbro, Kenner's plans for their DC license, DC Direct and Marvel Select offerings, and more.

If you want to see the statue that JediCole was on about, check it out here.


JCU Sunday Funnies #20

Want to see Bobby Blakey's art and his own humor?  Check out six years worth of his strip "Last Stop" right here!

Hey Kids, Comics! #55 - Continuity is Not Absolute: When it Sticks

Do retcons ever amount to anything?

Lasting change is something that is rare when it comes to retcons and sweeping editorial mandates.  When changes come they make a big splash, sometimes drive sales, and certainly inflame the fan community.  But do they have a durable impact or simply dissipate in time?  More often than not it is the latter, but at times the big decisions about the direction of a comic remain for years or even become permanent. 

As Andrew Farmer and Cole Houston wrap up this expansive story arc, the focus is on the few times that a big change made enough difference to become part of the permanent (such as anything ever is) continuity.  Believe it or not, this has actually happened a few times!  Furthermore  your hosts reflect on a few loose ends from this surprising series.

The JCU is on Facebook. Yeah, We Are Really There!

Just in case you didn't know (since it has not really been formally announced pretty much ever, you can find The JediCole Universe on Facebook and join the group!  And I certainly hope that you do!

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JCU Sunday Funnies #19

Want to see Bobby Blakey's art and his own humor?  Check out six years worth of his strip "Last Stop" right here!

Whatdjathink? - Elysium

Wish You Weren't Here

Welcome movie goers to another edition of Whadjathink?the JCU's spoiler rich movie review show.  This time it is the Matt Damon sci-fi action film Elysium.

Catherine and Bobby are joined for this discussion by none other than JediCole himself.  Opinions vary on how many targets were hit and how many were missed amid gunplay and class warfare.  Listen in if you you have seen this movie or are not bothered by spoilers.


Hey Kids, Comics! #54 - Continuity is Not Absolute: The Dicey Hand of Death


A word with lasting connotations in the real world.  A word that reflects the gamut from permanence to inconvenience in comics, however!  It is hard to keep a good hero down and harder still for a comic company to sacrifice a cash cow on the alter of compelling story craft.

So while the Grim Reaper may still be portrayed with a grinning skull on the four color page, editors and corporate suits have effectively pulled his teeth when it comes to their precious characters.  Many a hero and villain have fallen to the proverbial scythe only to sprout up again through the vehicle of imaginary stories, dream sequences, unique physiology, magic, or the intervention of entities who can undo  death itself.  Regardless of the methods utilized, death just can’t seem to keep a firm grip on the Lazarus-like denizens of comics.  Dead men tell no tales, so Andrew and Cole will tell the tales of dead men who just couldn’t be bothered to stay that way in the next to last issue of “Continuity is Not Absolute”!

JCU Sunday Funnies #18

Want to see Bobby Blakey's art and his own humor?  Check out six years worth of his strip "Last Stop" right here!

What Would Comic Book Villains Do? (WWCBVD?) Week 12

When the worst that humanity has to offer is concentrated into one pitch black soul and the custodian of said soul is empowered by natural or artificial means then you have the stuff of super-villainy!  From simple street hoods who discover ancient mystical artifacts to deranged geniuses who use their stunning mental capacity to criminal ends to the physical embodiment of wickedness, the fraternity that is the counterpoint to the super-hero is always lurking in the shadows!  And so it is into those shadows that we delve to discover what path the truly evil might take when faced with a simple moral conundrum.

And this edition of WWCBVD? is brought to you by the letter R!

Scenario:  You are out strolling through the park on a cool summer evening and decide to take in the sights by sitting on a park bench and relaxing.  Then you notice that the only bench in sight has a sleeping homeless person stretched out across its entirety, contentedly snoring away.   What do you do?

Ruby:  Okay, don’t think me bad because of this, but honestly, how could I resist?  One of the only real advantages of having your consciousness transferred into a hyper-malleable compound sphere that replaces your now severed head is the sheer freak-out factor my physical form provides.  I mean look at my body!  Not that much!  I said look at my body, NOT undress me with your eyes you perv!  Okay, now imagine me wearing a hat and a veil so for all intents and purposes any guy would be thinking to himself, “With a body like that she must be either a looker or a butter face!”  Regardless the curiosity is just too much for most and when I grant him a peek I like to reshape this crimson globe of a noggin into bizarre shapes and forms, usually alternating from spikes to long tendrils to a bizarre ear shape.  That really gets them running every time!

Needless to say, if I came across some wretched soul camped out in the park for a little nap time I would quietly wander up to the bench and position myself near his face while giving him a gentle waking nudge.  Then I’d say, “Okay buddy, take it someplace else!”, while forming a pair of cartoon-like hands with my head and clapping loudly.  I would just want to see the look on the guy’s face when he realizes what’s making all that racket!  And if that is not enough to make him wet himself and hot foot it out of the park I’ll just do a quick shape-shift and confront him with a gaping maw full of teeth all Venom-style!  Is that really evil of me?


Ra’s al Ghul:  Personally I can imagine no better course of action than to befriend this hapless soul.  I find that the destitute are ideal agents as they are grateful for the opportunities my various organizations provide them.  We take in the indigent routinely, clean them up, provide them with fresh clothing, vocational training in the all-important work of toppling world governments by subtle means, provide nutritious meals, a regimented lifestyle, and a serve-my-ends-or-die ultimatum that tends to really turn their lives around.  And it keeps the park benches free of layabout space-hogs so people can enjoy what their local government has provided for their enjoyment and recreation until such time as my machinations undo the fragile underpinnings of contemporary society.

And yes, it is not lost on me that the likes of Dr. Psycho, Mesmero, and Starro the Conqueror have suggested using their mind control powers to create loyal minions.  Like any of the three of them was the first to hit upon this idea!  Well, Starro, perhaps, he is almost as old as Darkseid after all.  But then he probably stole that idea from Darkseid!  The thing I am getting at is that is that there is nothing new under the sun so don’t get all splitting hairs on me for utilizing the age-old doctrine of obtaining henchmen and minions from reasonably easy to control sources.  Not all of us have mind control or hypnosis on our sides.  Some of us have to fall back on good old fashioned brain washing through lengthy training and conditioning.  Besides, apart from Starro, which of these vaunted mind manglers can claim a private army at their beckon call?  And I don’t have starfish spores slapped on my people’s faces! 

And no, I am most assuredly not bitter!

Rhino:  If I wasn't busy on some caper or another or fighting Spider-Man or Hulk or some other such thing – basically what I mean is if I’m not busy at the time – I’d likely just kind of take a seat on the ground next to him to make sure no one gave him any trouble.  These homeless guys, they live a really hard life.  Most people look down on them, call them “bums” or “creeps” or worse!  And everyone assumes they are every single one a bunch of winos.  The truth is that some are suffering from mental illness and can’t cope in society or have just fallen so far down on their luck that there’s no getting back.  I know a lot about how these folks have to live.

You see, when you live your life forever trapped in a massive animal-themed super-suit, you don’t generally get your application for an apartment approved.  When I’m not working with the Fearsome Five or some such I spend a lot of time catching my zees in parks, back alleys, loading doors, or city zoos.  Apart from the zoo I tend to get to really socialize with people that most of us just ignore.  It turns out that by and large you find some of the most generous, affable, and understanding people in the homeless community.  A kind of “we’re all in this together” society.  So if I happen upon a guy trying to get comfortable and have a decent rest before he’s got to pound the pavement in hopes of scoring enough grub to keep him going another day I would be happy to scare of punks and smart-asses and lousy cops telling him this is a public park and he can’t be sleeping here.  He’s part of the public too, you know! 

Rainbow Raider:  That is quite the question, but first I have one for you…  Do you know what a “stage mom” is?  Sure.  Of course you do.  Most people have heard the term before.  But do you know what it is like to have one?  To live under the oppressive thumb of a parent who’s pride in her offspring is equaled only by her own insecurities and jealousy?  No, you don’t, do you?  Count yourself lucky, my friend!

You see, this was my fate, born as I was the fifth child and preceded by four sisters.  As the sole male child of the Bivolo family, my parents finally had the opportunity they had so long awaited – saddling a son with the name Roy.  You see, my name was really my mother’s idea.  She always thought it would be fun (after marrying a Bivolo, that is) to have a son who’s name would invoke the mnemonic for the colors of the rainbow.  Yeah, you are catching on now, aren't you?  The whole “Rainbow Raider” shtick was dear old mom’s idea!  Right down to being an arch criminal…can you believe that?!  My own mother pushed me into crime!  I wanted to be an artist!

You’ve probably heard that I never pursued my artistic potential because I am color blind and that in desperation I turned to becoming a color-themed criminal with a fondness for knocking over art museums and galleries.  Well you know what?  That was mommy’s idea too!  I’m about as color blind as a honeybee!  If anything I have above average color perception.  I had it checked out after my mother passed away a year ago August.  All those years I wasted with mom pulling the strings, living a life of crime vicariously through her own son!  Did  you know my sisters wouldn’t even visit me in prison any time I got caught by the Flash?!  Ohhhh yeah!  The whole family turns their backs on poor ol’ Roy Boy when the cuffs get slapped on, but guess who picks me up outside the stone walls and barbed wire?  Yep!  It was mom!  All “welcome back son and here’s the next big score”!  And you think Honey Boo Boo has it bad!

Now days I am following my own dream and not someone else’s.  Flash pulled some strings with his pals in the Justice League and found me a really affordable loft where I can pursue my art.  I even had a gallery show a couple of months ago that was pretty well received.  And get this, it was a gallery I robbed 15 years back!  Ain't the world a funny place?  So anyway, as a result of the show I got myself a patron now.  Some big business mogul up in Metropolis.  Guy has his own skyscraper and everything.  He says he wants to sponsor me and had some huge plans for me to help him out with some art he’s always wanted.  Something about the Mona Lisa.  I guess this Luthor guy wants me to churn out my own rendition or something.  At least I’ll be doing something I’m good at!

Did you ask me about some street bum earlier?  Sorry, don’t know any.       

Rogue:  You certainly aren't up on things, are you sugah?  I've not been a villain in oh so many years!  When did you put this list together?

Riddler:  When is an interviewer like a confused coon hound? 

When he’s barking up the wrong tree!  Sorry, I could not resist.  I heard about your little confusion with Rogue.  Anyway, it is usually me who poses the questions, you know.  Well, actually I tend to just pose riddles, which are like questions yet are not truly questions.  Hmmm…there’s a riddle in there someplace.  I will have to explore that further.  And by the way, why aren't you bugging Joker with this sort of thing.  It is more suited to his style!  Oh?  He was in the first one, eh?  Showboater!

Okay, what do about this hypothetical hobo of yours… 

The best remedy is a quick poke or two with my cane and then a pithy little riddle like, “Why is your presence on this bench akin to British English and me standing here like the American variety?”  Naturally I don’t expect him to be witty enough to puzzle through the all-too-obvious answer to this query, so I will let him off the hook by yanking him off the bench with the crook of my cane and providing the proper response…”Because there is a bum where my ass should be!”

Hey Kids, Comics! #53 - Continuity is Not Absolute: Out of Character, Out of the Blue, Out of Whack

She did what?!  Did he just say that?!   How is that even a thing?!

How often have we as comic book readers found ourselves saying or thinking such things?  One of the trickiest aspects of continuity is keeping characters in character.  Captain America is not likely to start cursing like a sailor and you can pretty much expect that has never and will never happen.  But in a much less obvious way many a comic character has made an abrupt about-face from what we know and love.  And very often it is the more shocking because there is no forewarning.  It just happens!

Andrew and Cole will discuss the changes that came from so far out of nowhere as to be inexplicable by any stretch of the imagination.  From minor characterization flaws to massive changes in one issue of a book that had no precedent in the prior issue.  What happens when editors are either asleep at the wheel or, worse yet, are taking it by force from the creators who are driving a given comic storyline?  Find out for yourself as “Continuity is Not Absolute” continues! 


JCU Sunday Funnies #17

Want to see Bobby Blakey's art and his own humor?  Check out six years worth of his strip "Last Stop" right here!

Whadjathink? - The Wolverine

Bare Claws

It's time yet again for Whadjathink?, the show that asks a select fan what he or she thought of a recently released feature film.  

Show hosts Catherine Houston and Bobby Blakey are joined by Texas illustrator and tattoo artist Chris Oz Fulton as they pop the claws and take on The Wolverine!  Did it inspire a berserker rage of Mutant mayhem or did it just hole up in a cave in the mountains to be forgotten?  Give a listen, but remember, these shows are chock full of spoilers in the way that Logan's skeleton is chock full of adamantium.


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