Sunday, August 17, 2014

Ned's Head! Custom Ned Stark Game of Thrones Pez Candy Dispenser

Inspired by all the custom toys I've been seeing lately, especially all the diy vinyl art toys and some of the work Sucklord (www.suckadelic.com) has been doing with vintage Star Wars toys, I started thinking about toying around (pun intended) customizing various candy containers to highlight characters and artists from tv, music and movies that probably wont ever be made into licensed products either because of their inappropriateness (this definitely falls under that category) or lack of public interest (until they realize it NEEDS to be made, of course!).

So, the first thing that came to mind for me was of course a Ned Stark (Game of Thrones) Pez Dispenser! I was surprised to not have found one of these yet after a quick Google search, so I decided to give it a go. Taking one of the King Aragorn dispensers from the Lord of the Rings box set that came out a few years back, I painted-up Ned's head with a fuller beard, rolled-back eyes and the appropriate blood splatters here and there. So, here we go - the finished product repackaged into vintage packaging. Ready to be used to have red Pez pulled out of his neck. Because Joffery would've wanted it that way...










Sunday, August 10, 2014

Confessions of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Enthusiast



Everyone knows I'm a huge fan of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Since the original cartoon debuted way back in '87, I've been hooked. I've managed to read almost all the comics, going back from the original Mirage series up until the current IDW series and have seen every form of TMNT movie, cartoon and live band (caught the 'Coming out of their Shells' tour in Beaumont) that has been produced. There have been ups and downs in the franchise and some moments shine through better than others. Many changes have taken place over the years - origins tweaked, looks altered or directions shifted, but I've enjoyed each new offering with an open mind and appreciated when certain creative teams were able to take some of the best elements from past versions and combine them in a new way that could push the story and characters forward, introduce them in a better way to a modern audience, but still remain true to the core bits that made the characters interesting and entertaining to begin with.

So, two nights ago I saw the new Michael Bay-produced TMNT movie. Knowing how big of a fan I am of The Turtles, folks have been asking me my thoughts on the movie, so I felt a proper write-up was in order.

Months ago, as bits of leaked set photos and teasers began trickling onto the internet, I tried to keep an open mind and shrug-off the naysayers who were immediately shooting the new movie down and passing it off before it was even released. Rumors of insane scripts and extreme changes to the story and characters were flying left and right. "Just wait and see," I'd say. "There's got to be more to it," I assured. I was building everything up beyond what the film was capable of becoming. I was adding my own ideas of what the clues meant to imagine my own fantastic Turtles story full of everything I personally would want, trying to use any glimmer I saw of connections between my rationale and the harsh truth of what the film actually was going to be.

The new more realistic look didn't bother me. In, fact I liked what I was seeing. The accessories that each turtle was sporting in order to personalize themselves and make each character more distinguishable from one another was fine in my book, even if I was taken aback at first. My fear was that they would rely too heavily on the clothes and appearance of the Turtles to be a half-assed replacement for actual character development and dialogue that would showcase the true differences between the brothers. While I love the standard simplified uniform look that made them seem like more of a unit, and more humble as their Master Splinter taught them to be, this was just another new twist that didn't seem to stray too far away from what might've been possible before given certain treatments. Donnie in particular seemed to work for me, because he's always been a character that embraced gadgets and technology. Sure, now they appeared to be hulking mutants that might could hold their own in a fight with The Thing or Hulk, but hell - these guys DID get mutagen all over them after all. In my wildest dreams, this more realistic look could only mean a more gritty movie, more in-line with the original Mirage comics. Surely, if Kevin Eastman was involved this had to be certain.

In my head, when I saw the first photos of The Shredder and the initial announcement that William Fitchner (who I like as an actor) was cast as him, I wasn't as upset that they had cast a white guy in the role of a traditionally Japanese role, because in my fanboy mind I expected there to be a big twist. "Oh, they're tricking everybody," I insisted. Maybe Fitchner is actually an Utrom or a Kraang? Or Krang simself! Or, maybe he's a rich guy interested in Japanese artifacts, get's obsessed with the lore of The Shredder and then they real Shredder pops up and takes over? My mind was racing. By the time the first trailer was released, I immediately spotted an ancient Japanese scroll on the wall in the background and found what I was certain was an Utrom, Kraang or Krang. I convinced myself I had solved the riddle.

When the casting details were posted online, I geeked-out over news that characters like Karai and Baxter Stockman were to be included. These are both two very interesting and complex characters that have always been favorites of mine and my hope was that they would get a proper treatment in the film. In the same first trailer, I spotted Karai getting slammed against a wall and I was convinced that I saw Baxter taking a sheet off of a vat of mutagen. I was only building myself up more, trying to tie the pieces together. Where would they go next? How would all of this play out to set up future films? With a supposed three-film deal, I was trying to map it all out...

Oh, yeah. Meghan Fox? I didn't care. April was always a secondary character for me and I figured just about anyone could play that part just the same as anyone else. I didn't expect any particularly huge character development there.

By the time the last teaser trailer was released, we got glimpses of Shredder's mech-suit upgraded armor, confirmation that Fitchner WAS NOT the "real" Shredder, and some intense action footage and fight scenes. I was even further convinced that my idea was correct - certainly Krang was inside that robot armor, the real Shredder was going to show up and set everyone straight and everyone's ranting that the film was going to suck was unfounded.

Friday night, I went into the theater with a completely open mind and tried to enjoy it for what it was. We finally had a new TMNT live action movie in the world and that in itself was a great thing. I knew that expectations were disastrously low by the general public, but I still had hope that all the naysayers would be proven wrong and we would be given a strong opener to what would become a trilogy of great Turtles movies for a new generation.

As I sat through the first 30 minutes or so, I was fine - things seemed to be moving in a decent direction and I was enjoying myself. I was very happy to quickly learn that Shredder was Japanese, as he appeared along with some ominous subtitles, in a darkened dojo. Then, I quickly began to realize that my notions of the story's plot were all completely unfounded and almost entirely off the mark. I sat through a great portion of the remainder of  the film with my fist in my mouth so I wouldn't start shouting obscenities. I gasped and signed uncontrollably at times, at moments completely taken aback by how opportunities were lost to develop characters or simply include those that were cast.

Even though an actor was attached to the role, Baxter Stockman was never present and Karai was only called by her name one time, leaving her identity a complete mystery to those who know nothing about the character - much like what unfortunately happened to the character in the ill-fated 2007 cgi TMNT film. Her purpose here was relegated to something similar to that of a construction site supervisor telling the workers to "dig faster" or "move that thing" during each of the The Foot Clan's various crime-spree antics.  Multiple scenes from early trailers and leaked photos were not even present in the final cut of the film, leaving one to assume that much editing was done and many elements were altered or nixed during post-production. While the look of the film and Turtles were fantastic and the digital effects were impressive along with a couple tense and somewhat innovative action sequences (mainly the eighteen wheeler scene), these periods seemingly could have been shortened in half to allow for more actual character development or story work that would have made the film's final plot seem more legitimate and worthwhile. Shredder's and Fitchner's motivation for carrying out their plans are basically dumbed-down to the reasoning of "cuz we can".

My biggest beef is what I'll call "The April Connection". Without trying to give anything important (is there anything?) away for those who haven't seen it, I'm sure you've heard that the origin story has been tweaked for the film. This has been done many times before. In the original cartoon Splinter was transformed into a rat from his former human form (Hamato Yoshi) after he fled Japan and The Foot Clan. In the 1990 movie, Splinter was a rat owned by Hamato Yoshi that got in ooze and avenged his master's death by the hands of The Shredder. In the current IDW comic series, Splinter and the Turtles are the reincarnations of Yoshi and his human sons from Japan in the past who have now once again found themselves in a new world, faced with the reincarnated Shredder who murdered them before in a past life. While these are all slightly different, one thing remains the same - there is a strong direct connection and conflict between Splinter and the Turtles with The Shredder and his Foot Clan. Here, however, their connection to The Shredder is loose at best and along with Shredder's unexplainable reasons for being evil, there is little to no reason why Splinter or The Turtles should even feel a great ill-will towards Shredder, much less feel any need to teach themselves ninjitsu from a book found in the sewer. Oh, yeah- AND APRIL IS BASICALLY THEIR MOM.

Oops.

The combination of making a secondary character like April O' Neil the main focus is one of the greatest fears people had for this film when there was so much attention of Fox's character in the initial publicity and press releases for the film. People wanted a Turtles film. Plain and simple. The story is already there, the characters are already there. All someone has to do is put it on film. Changes are fine when they add to furthering the lore, but changing core elements of the film to the point that the main characters no longer have a viable connection to one another is not the way to go.

I could write an entire book about this stuff, so I'll try to wrap it up. I certainly hope that they take more care to these details in the future films, which I still look forward to seeing. Like I said, I'll pretty much eat up anything TMNT, but this film left a bad taste in my mouth. TMNT have a universe of characters and stories that could possibly rival the size of any of the major comic and sci-fi franchises. 80% of which has never been explored. This was their chance to open the doors to some of that and instead they decided to focus on a secondary character and morph the entire film and it's characters around it.

One more thing - Shredder doesn't need a mech suit. He could kick someone's ass in his bathrobe. So next time you bring a robot on screen, you better make sure there's a damned brain inside it's stomach.

That's all.

Friday, July 4, 2014

COMIC BOOK AND RECORD FIRE RESCUE STICKERS! (Pet Rescue Parody Art Decals)




When the unthinkable happens, you always want to be prepared. Now, with these decals you can rest assured that if your house, trailer, storefront or bomb shelter were to spontaneously combust, emergency personnel will be alerted of your most precious cargo and know that they require immediate assistance. I present to you...

THE RECORD FIRE RESCUE STICKER. 

...and the all-new...

COMIC BOOK FIRE RESCUE STICKER.



 These 4.25" x 2.75" decals with their bright red, black and white beauty will catch the eye of firemen audiophiles and post-apocalyptic survivalists alike.  Convenient blank spaces will allow you to write-in how many RECORDS or COMICS you have horded away in your dusty abode. Order one for each door, window and chimney. Get one for the kid's treehouse. What about Aunt Clementine? Those Herb Alpert albums and Howard the Duck issues need to be brought to safety should things go haywire!

Available for $2 each online via on eBay/Paypal HERE on my seller's page!

I'm also pleased to announce that Record Rescue Stickers are available in sunny California at any of the three fabulous AMOEBA MUSIC locations in San Francisco, Berkeley or Hollywood!


Do you have a record or comic shop that you'd like to have carry the Rescue stickers?
Please inquire about wholesale orders (100+ quantity orders) at: poppyrobbie at hotmail dot com!

THANKS!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Koopas - 'New Wave of an Old Sound' unreleased final EP available online

My old band The Koopas had one last EP left in it when we randomly decided to stop playing in early 2002. We were holding out hope that it would eventually be put-out by Mutant Pop Records, which had it lined-up to be released. Having something on this record label was one of the driving forces behind doing EPs with this band and unfortunately before we had the shot, after a couple close attempts, the label closed it's doors and went on an extended hiatus (which it is still in), leaving the project up in the air and unreleased. Frustrated with the whole situation, the EP went on the backburner and simply wasn't released by anyone because frankly I never thought it should've been released by anyone else other THAN Mutant Pop.

Alas, MP never returned and over 10 years after recording it and having posted it online a time or two before, we've made our final 'New Wave of an Old Sound' EP available for streaming and download on a new Bandcamp (hey, everyone else is doing it!) page. Here's to hoping some wild and reckless underground label will hear it and come knocking at our internet door and release this dusty artifact from the confusing and terrain-shifting days of the early 2000's pop punk scene.

Depending on the response, I may also upload the rest of The Koopas' recorded material and make it available for streaming/download as well.

Here ya go!