2/5/16

"What Is Wrong?" from HOW DO WE KNOW (1946)

I will often buy antique school books.  I find them hard to resist.  If I stumble on one old enough, or--especially if the artwork has that amazing style and color that just doesn't exist in printed material today--it's an insta-purchase.  Here is one that actually came from the storage building treasure-trove of my late uncle.  I'm not sure where he got it, but it has a grocery store-type price tag on it labeled "MEAT."  That sets the tone nicely for what is to follow.

The book, called HOW DO WE KNOW, is from 1946, and it is apparently a "science lite" type of gradeschool book. It's packed with paintings and text about going outside and observing things, playing, and that sort of stuff.  It's been on my shelf a couple of years, and the other day I decided to flip through it...and found this very interesting couple of pages.

This section is called "What Is Wrong?" and is exactly what it sounds like, but the artwork quickly becomes a study in surrealism. I think lots of these paintings would make a good album cover, or backgrounds for a really fun CD booklet.  Enjoy!


I don' t know about you, but that frog terrifies me.
I must confess I have stared at the final picture for quite a while...the best I can come up with is that the stork/crane has the wrong feet, but they ended on a weird note here.

1/25/16

Sesame Street in 1970!


I found a stack of really pristine, hardcover Sesame Street books from 1970, when the show would have been turning 1 year old.  They have that great nostalgiac feeling of its early days, when there was a cruder, yet more exciting, feel to the show.  The Muppets had an enticing air of primitivism.  That surrealistic feeling of wonder always reminds me of my own childhood, and seeing these early segments still in rotation a few years later:
When there was Mr. Hooper.
And, Oscar was orangey-brown in the first season!
When Bert and Ernie were amazing.
When Cookie Monster was a Monster that ate Cookies (and sometimes lots of other things!)
And then there is this great moment that I found in the books:


1/19/16

THE CANTINA COMPENDIUM (2nd edition, 2016)

Why do we seldom talk about Star Wars around here?  Well, to put it mildly, because other sites do it better.  It was my first, true love, before (but just barely) Godzilla...ah, memories.  

But, when it pertains to our causes here at The Sphinx, it gets top billing.  Five years ago, in 2011, I wrote a "rough draft" of a "research project," collecting all of the information I could find over the years about the Mos Eisley Cantina.  The sources came from everywhere, including books, magazines, documentaries, comics, websites, you name it.  I was never completely happy with it, and in the five years that have passed, lots of better photos and some new information has emerged.  

Long story short:  it was time to do it right.  It's been an interesting journey of several months, but at last the book, the real book, is done.  

So, why read a 350-page book about one scene of the original film? Not a bad question, and this is coming from somebody who rarely reads anything that's not comics....and certainly not anything without pictures (a double-major in English and History did that).  Well, if I said that it had almost 700 illustrations and photos, would that help?

Also, this version is completely re-organized, and very little of the original remains.  Here is the Table of Contents:
The first chapter looks at the evolution of the Cantina, and how it was featured in different versions and drafts of (what became) the finished film.  From there, we look at the two groups of men who created the actual masks used in the scene.  
Next, we show why it is impossible to accurately map the floorplan of the Cantina.  The fourth chapter deals with the actual filming(s) of the scene.
Chapters 5 and 6 are done in the format of an encyclopedia (you remember those, right?), where each customer of the Cantina is looked at up-close.  Where possible, concept art, reference photos, and original photos of masks are provided. We also look at the origins of the character's official name, as well as try to unearth the names of original actors.
In Chapter 7, every appearance of the Cantina in comics of all types are examined, with commentary.
The eighth chapter deals with Cantina toys and playsets over the years.
Chapter 9 deals with the dreaded Holiday Special, which only gets worse the further you investigate.  A short bio on each character is included.
Chapter 10 looks at the purposeful omission of Cantina information during the first year of marketing the original film.  The next chapter profiles different appearances of the Cantina in the media, such as variety-show skits, PSAs, and some surprises.
Finally, in Chapter 12, we examine Cantina Dioramas, and a full walkthrough of the process of building one is included!
Another improvement over the last volume was the Bibliography, which is now specific to each chapter, and includes links where available:
To summarize, no, you don't have to read it, but if you do, I promise you will learn something.  As I write in the Introduction, some mysteries will be solved, but others will be created.  There are little pieces of information, and anecdotes, scattered throughout books and websites, but this information has never been presented together.

I hope to make this book available on other sites (after all, I get absolutely nothing from it), but it's fitting that it is offered here first.  I hope it is enjoyed!

LINK: the cantina compendium (2nd edition, 2016)

1/11/16

FAIL of the Day: "SUPERHEROES" by BlockTech

I don't know why I find so many hilarious things in the "cheap section" at the front of Target stores, but I do.  This is funny on so many levels.  I almost spent the three bucks for it, but in the end I lost interest.  
The funniest part of this are the names:  Revenge, Smasher, Falconman, Metal Man, and Lightning Bolt (of course, some of these are actual comic character names, but we won't go into that).  I've mentioned what I call "Grandmother Toys" before, because these are the sorts of items that are made to fool elderly people who need a child's gift, but don't pay any attention.

In the end, though, you have to wonder if there's anyone else this company wants to irritate, since they will be angering both Lego and Disney/Marvel...which between them own most of the world.  Why don't we just make fun of the dictator of North Korea or something, and go for a trifecta? Maybe include some "Bill Cosby is Innocent" stickers? It was nice briefly knowing you, "Block Tech!"

11/30/15

Godzilla (and more) Bromides! Part Two

Today, here is the second half of my Toho Bromides!
A promotional paste-up that never occurred in the movie GODZILLA'S REVENGE.
My buddy, Gorosaurus, from KING KONG ESCAPES!
An overhanded-body-slam-flip for Gabara in GODZILLA'S REVENGE.
Kumonga from SON OF GODZILLA!
Godzilla is beaten and bloodied by Gigan in GODZILLA vs GIGAN!
The first Mogera, digging, from THE MYSTERIANS.
The 1964 Monster Conference from GHIDRAH THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER!

11/23/15

Godzilla (and more) Bromides! Part One

Today, some interesting cards that are more than just trading cards--they are "bromides."  If this term is new to you, they are colorful Japanese cards, many times single-sided, 3 inches by 5 inches, that it's pretty tough to find any information about in English.  They were apparently printed through the 1970's, are often hand-colored (which provides a gorgeous, artistic effect like early lobby cards), and for Godzilla, there are at least just over 200 different ones.  We know this, because there is a boxed set of reprinted cards made a few years back that includes that many.

It's always been my gut feeling that these little masterpieces were meant to be small pin-ups.  I say "many times" single-sided, because every now and then, you will see one with blue printing on its back.  This is perhaps similar to the occasional "Lucky Card" (which was redeemable for stuff) that could be found with their tinier cousins, the trading cards made by Yamakatsu.  It's also pretty common to find cards with pencil writing on their backs, as these were treasured by kids of Japan.

So now that you know all that I do, let's look at some!

This first group is from SMOG MONSTER,  you know, Hedorah.
There has been years of puzzled debate, but as I've said elsewhere on this site, these are meant to be Hedorah's EYES.  Trust me on this one!
This is my favorite one of the group, because it's so unique!
This is a very oddly dramatic image for Rodan, which has more to do with his debut movie I suppose.
Another very unique card, from GHIDRAH THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER.  The smear technique is very innovative (kind of like the early Peter Gabriel album covers), and I think very surreal!
Next time, Part Two!

11/6/15

The Abomination That Is the Singapore Godzilla Bootleg Coloring Book (1970s)

I don't usually do this, but it's been a mighty slow week, so here goes.  From the depths of E-bay comes this...thing you are about to see.  All I can tell you is that it is from Singapore, and from the late 1970's.  Everything else we will have to figure out as we go (such as who made it, how they got away with it, and WHY, oh WHY).
You can tell right away that we are going into the territory of Unlicensed Land...so far, it's not terrible, just slightly off.  If anything, Godzilla sort of looks like the generic rubber dinosaur figures that are still everywhere, to this day...and, also he is holding a boomerang.
The first thing we learn is that coloring books in Singapore are bound at the top, much like American drawing or note pads.  Also, they have printing on one side of the page only.  One thing they have in common with their American counterparts is that their paper doesn't age well, as you can see in this photo.  
Once again, nothing too abnormal, except the pointed dragon-plates on his back are starting to annoy me.  Also, Godzilla seems a bit small here...and it's possible that these soldiers haven't even noticed him yet.
And, also like American coloring books, they give you your chance to color a similar scene from the cover, just with no boomerang.  (Also, no train driver, so I have questions.)
Now, we begin our slow descent into madness.  First off, what is going on here? Oh, wait, the "artist" probably saw GODZILLA vs. THE SEA MONSTER, right? No, I think the tiny Godzilla standing on the boat is our clue.  It's supposed to be Godzooky.  Therefore the date of "the 70's" that the seller gives us becomes "the late 70's," such as 1978 or 79.  
It probably goes without saying, but the drops coming off the giant crab are so huge, it looks more like he is anxious instead of dripping.  Also, is it me, or does the GODZILLA logo seem to be floating in the water? What is it even there for? Have we forgotten what coloring book we are in, now that we are 3 pages in?
Wait a second, here he is now...and our logo has floated into the sky.
On the next page we have...hold on, here.  What do we have?  I thought we were loosely adapting the Hanna-Barbera series here.  Maybe this is a page from another book that slipped in? Professor Sadman and his Sado-Masico-Tron.
Silly me, I thought we were telling a story, here.  Suddenly Godzilla is rampaging the city, and toying with a man who is standing on the hood of his car.  Is Godzilla shouting "HUUU," or the guy? And what in the world???!
Notice that somebody has drawn more Godzilla-like plates on the back of our star, but didn't have the ability to erase, so they just put them on top of what was already there.  Sigh.
Don't worry, because Secret Agent Captain Anglo and Kenny are on the scene.  And don't look now, but Godzilla is right behind you!!! Nope, I think it's--again--supposed to be that lovable goofy miscreant, Godzooky.  If you ask me, it looks like Godzooky is shouting "GODZILLA"...
Then this happens.  We are in the mountains, there's a volcano, and somebody now has arm-fin wings.  Of course, Godzooky is supposed to, but as there is no quality control here, we can assume this is a complete accident....or another monster entirely.  That is only a torso.
But the X-90 is getting away! Or...the X-90 is safe once again! Or...however you want to look at it.
Next, we...hey, that's Major Talbot, who was a rival to Bruce Banner for Betty's affections, and later ended up marrying her.  Get out of here!
Now, back to this.  Godzilla (I think?) is back in the ocean, fighting either a winged snake, or a bird with a long tail.  I want to say that this is loosely based on on of the HB monsters of the week, in the way that you might come out of a three-day coke binge and try to remember the children's program you saw the previous Saturday morning, because you had to illustrate a bootleg coloring book about it....but couldn't quite recall it.  
It's the closest thing to action so far, so we will have to run with it.
I have no idea if pages are missing, but this is supposed to be the "resolution" to our "story."  Either Godzilla is vanquished...or wait, maybe the snake-bat is vanquished.  Or, the X90 is once again safe.  Or, this random little girl just showed up.  Or, Kenny's seasickness is about to reach its breaking point.  Either way, we can join Godzooky in screaming "NUUU!!!"

Just so you know that I'm not going off the deep end here, this same manufacturer of Singaporian coloring books (who conveniently doesn't have their name anywhere on these products) also made other books, like Batman:
The Golden Age wasn't the only time that Batman was packing heat.
"SZZZ"
Quentin Tarantino presents: Batman Family
And, oh, heaven help us....Popeye.  You probably thought we were about done here.  I am going to go ahead and apologize in advance:
To me, slightly off-model is much, much scarier than "waaay off model," which can borderline on ridiculous.  It's like the "uncanny valley" that you read about, where CGI (for instance) is just close enough to a likeness to be creepy.  Of course, POPEYE WITH TWO OPEN EYES might have something to do with this...
Do you remember that Popeye cartoon where he was taking a job as a family's new nanny, and he just floated in on his umbrella, and the kids loved him and sang annoying songs? Of course you don't, because that didn't happen.  AGAIN WITH THE EYES!
"Humm" indeed.
Creepy Singapore Bootleg Popeye:  stronger than...a bunch of meatballs.
"Taco Bell.  And step on it.  And mind the speed bumps."
I know, friends.  We have gotten through THE SUPER DICTIONARY together, so we can't let this get the best of us, but I have to tell you, I am flagging.  In the name of all that is sweet and holy. What. Is. Going. On.....Here? Popeye looks like one of those dolls that have a shriveled apple for a head.  The kind old craft women make, and place next to their quilted broom cover that looks like a goose.
Again, I have no context to even venture a guess as to what is going on, I would only have you note that this man that our Sailor is attacking is some sort of law officer.  This is important, because on the next page...
...POPEYE HAS STOLEN HIS CAR.  And, he's quite proud of himself. And now, both eyes are closed.  Make up your minds. Also, I think the steering wheel is melting:
Then, the inevitable happens.  Bluto/Brutus punched (run POW through Babelfish, set to Singapore, and you get BOPP) by......Mr. Magoo?
And, Bootleg Popeye, now with no eyes, gets put straight through a tree...or maybe we can look at this the other way round, and Olive picked him up by the heels, and drove him straight through a tree.
"AURRR!"