I was originally just going to throw some fun screen grabs from these early time machine Phineas and Ferb episodes up on the Paleo Porch facebook page and be done. While going through the episodes for the shots though I noticed there was more to say and show about the museum than just the “back-in-time-with-dinosaurs” trope.
Backing up a bit, if you haven’t watched Phineas and Ferb before, or in a while, you should add it to your queue because it is well written , clever, and even the angular animation style is less offensive than its contemporaries.
The time machine arc here actually spans two episodes across two seasons. The first one, episode 21 “Out of Time” aired over 10 years ago now (!) has them fixing the time machine in the museum and going back in time. The establishing shots and setup are great though:
Gags, and chronologically challenged fossils aside, the backgrounds and the animation inside this museum are great. They really capture the essence of the Natural History Museum as it exists in our collective consciousness. Who wouldn’t love to see a hall of gadgets through the ages permanent exhibit?
Once they get the time machine working and end up in the past, chaos ensues in the predictable manner, what is brilliant is the continued cuts to the modern ichnology display at the museum as it changes from alterations (altercations) in the past/it’s present.
Now, if you are into your dinosaurs you are thinking that a T-rex really gives away the geography of the show, but I am going out on a limb here and considering that this T-rex is actually called a “Tri-State rex.”
Once Phineas recognizing the track, their problems are all but solved. Taking a stick he quickly draws out a message to the others at the museum. Be thankful that there is a time travel section in the Fireside Girls Handbook.
Isabella and the troop arrive to save the day, only the Tri-State Rex comes back too. This is a longer clip as it wraps everything up, and if you aren’t familiar with the series the talkshow/secret agent cut will be a little confusing, but just roll with it, because “Fossils. *da, duh, dahn.*”
Again, just taking a few seconds to stop in on the interior of the museum as it rolls under a chase scene, and it is a great collection, even if the fish, pteranodon, and protoceratops thing (and the coprolite?) are a threepeat run sequence.
One of the best things about this show was how well the writing meshed across its entirety. Not just within an episode but across episodes and even seasons. It was built as a coherent universe and the obvious and subtle running gags really play in to reward the viewer. The “It’s About Time” episode arcs all the way into early season two when the time machine comes back into play plot and in “Quantum Boogaloo” we see the museum and the Tri-State area 20 years in the future.
Something quietly reassuring that the museum of the future, which we are halfway to now is pretty much the same.
In the end, not only was this a fun museum/dinosaur/time travel episode. It was one of the best written time-travel stories written for any medium. It doesn’t complicate itself with 473 different paradoxes, it plays out well in the 22 minutes the episode was given, and ties in pretty seamlessly with itself the following year and a half later when the second episode aired.
There are countless instances of Irish heritage showing up in popular culture one way or another. They range in seriousness from say the clan wars in Gangs of New York to a box of marshmallow cereal. I think that there are two reasons that The Real Ghostbusters cartoon series drug so much out Irish lore: 1) They live in New York City and B) There is a lot of it. Below is just a running list of things–episodes and issues–that can make your St. Patrick’s Day a little more Ghostbuster-y. Currently (as of 3.17.18 The Real Ghostbusters is streaming on Netflix and The Extreme Ghostbusters are on HULU)
The Bird if Kilarby is a less common than your usual Irish faire, but a haunted Irish Castle that was “brought over stone by stone” and reconstructed in a lake in the park complete with pipes, drums, and 800+ ghosts is a great place to start.
Banshee Shanna has decided that one at a time misery is too old hat and that taking her destruction national is the best way to go. Mirrors reveal their true self, but her own voice may be her undoing.
It will be another 10 years before we see a banshee again.
“The Scaring of the Green” follows a bog hound rising on a full moon on St. Patrick’s Day to carry off the head of the Clan O’Malley, who just happens to be the chief of police. The family was cursed in ancient times for stealing a Leprechaun’s pot of gold. Chief O’Malley shows the guys a lock of the bog hound’s hair that his grandfather had gotten. Peter called it a family hairloom.
“Sonic Youth” see a return to Banshee-ville, although this time she has a sister. The sister is a Siren. Luring people in with her voice so her wretchedly haggard banshee sister can steal their youth.
The Extreme Ghostbusters actually face a leprechaun, not just the by product of one’s curses, hellbent on capturing the Sons of Erin and retrieving his stolen gold. By now, the curse has moved from the chief of police to the mayor.
Honorable Mention: “When Halloween was Forever” is really all about halloween, but given the fact that Samhain hails from the Emerald Isle he should at least get a spot on the list, right?
DisHonorable Mention: “Halloween II 1/2” is the sequel. It wouldn’t be bad except it is one of those “junior ghostbusters” episodes. I hated that then, and I hate it now. There was so much “tweaking” that execs pushed through because charts and research with everyone but kids said too.
When I was first thinking about this list I was just including the cartoons, then I remembered that IDW specifically ran a “Happy HorrorDays” arc in the Ghostbusters comics. In Volume 2 number 9, which I *think* is the kickoff, the Ghostbusters meet Stingy Jack.
His carved turnip lantern is ubiquitous (as a pumpkin) with Halloween, but it is another dive into Irish folklore.
Jack’s carved turnip is also the face of our new old friend Samhain. Less pumpkiny, and more concerned with names.
Later in Ghostbusters international, the guys again meet up with a banshee. The whole international arc is fantastic and I would love to see another one or three, bringing in folklore as it would work if it were real has always been my favorite part of storytelling.
This particular setup is a bit different though, the banshee brings life to the victim to keep them alive forever as a curse.
I will add that this issue manages to make Walter Peck a sympathetic character and that the whole IDW run has managed to humanize him in a way that I really think befits the character.
Well there is a quick rundown and collection of bits and clips for a Ghostbustin’ St. Patrick’s Day. I partly wanted to put this together for my love of The Real Ghostbusters and partly for my love of myth and folklore and how it conveys messages and meanings to things humans didn’t understand. I was a kid when The Real Ghostbusters hit syndication, maybe that is partly why I am into folklore so much. I think I might be one of the only people who liked the “monster of the week” episodes of The X-Files far more than the alien conspiracy stuff.
ADDENDUM: (3.19.18) When I was putting this together I went digging around on Archive.Org’s WayBack Machine to check out the old Extreme Ghostbusters site, and ultimately didn’t link to anything since it didn’t add much to the rest of post, but after thinking about it, I want to include some of the screenshots here for posterity. There was also a specific entry in Spengler’s Spirit Guide for St. Patrick’s Day and a few paragraphs on just what leprechauns might be made of/from. Also enjoy the little slice of 1998 internet.
There is so much stuff I need to catch up on. I need to write about getting a full time position, how my dissertation work is shaping up, and how I finally wrapped up the Shead stuff. But, a collected set of commercials came across my social media feed the other day and that pretty much has set everything else in the back seat.
The following stop-motion (I still call it clay-mation) #PaleoPopCulture brilliance is brought to you by Nissan Cup O’ Noodle. Kim Blanchette animated a series of these commercials in 1992 .
Blanchette’s CV is impressive, and has worked on just about everything recent in 3D animation from Toy Story to The PJ’s to Robot Chicken. It was these cavemen v. nature ads that gained him international acclaim according to the bio on Mandy.com Where they “won numerous awards and considered the Cinderella story at the 1992 Cannes International Advertising Festival where it won the Grand Prix Award.”
And now a word from our sponsor: all these ads follow the same format, but what is so great about the Tom and Jerry-esque takes is that the prehistoric beasts involved are beautifully rendered. Starting simple, with a mammoth.
There were technically four mammoth commercials, the last two (at least in the order I saw them) being the same animation for the “Curry” flavored noodles.
and a little extra for the “Spicy Curry”
Another common ice age animal is the sabre-toothed tiger, it gets two spots.
The first clip of this series I ever saw was the one with the Megatherium. I was already thinking about a PaleoAd post before I found this treasure trove of 90s animation.
The Moa makes an appearance:
Then, as the fount of paleo animation began to runneth over, I started seeing creatures that I worked on from the Eocene. The Brontothere (you’ll see this on youtube as a “Giant Warthog”)
and not to be outdone a Uintathere! This one is a top favorite of mine since my Paleontology studies started in the Uinta Basin in Utah.
This next one surprised the heck out of me. You almost never see this one get reconstructions. They show up in some paleoart, but I haven’t seen a mount of one yet. I think the strongest image I have of the syndyoceras antelope is from my copy of Zoobooks which, who knows, maybe that is where Kim saw it too. (You’ll find this one on Youtube as “saiga antelope.”
I am putting this one at the bottom, not just because it isn’t a mammal, but because it is part of that “we know it didn’t happen but it’s part of the trope” situation that is humans living with dinosaurs. I always think of Gary Larson’s intro to the collected Far Side where he says you almost feel like you should confess in the vein of “forgive me Father for I have sinned, I have drawn humans and dinosaurs together” (paraphrased). That being said, it is still a great animation.
There are a couple of honorable mentions. Specifically to the theme of this post, not because they are in any way sub par animations. The Seafood flavorings of Cup-O-Noodles had some aquatic problems for the local, hungry heroes.
If you would rather watch most of these at once, you can see them all linked here:
I had never seen any of these commercials before and was only made aware of them when the Stan Winston School of Character Arts posted a video of them to advertise their stop-motion animation courses.
I am not entirely certain, but I think a great part of it might have to do with what I associated “science” and “engineering” with when I was a kid. Even when I was little the idea of scientists in white coats was a bit weird. I had seen them made fun of in cartoons enough to appreciate a caricature. My grandfather worked in a hospital lab and for me such lab coats were for doctors. I never could put my finger on it until recently but as I have went back through the franchises I enjoyed as a kid, I finally realized who I wanted to be:
I know that they are basically the same person, barring the mutation thing. But that was it. Referencing in books, figuring out solutions and answers, the person that people went to for obscure things, that is who I have always wanted to be. In fact, it turns out that when I was 8 I tried to teach myself Assyrian and Sumerian because Egon knew them.
Now, here is the problem: There isn’t a path of study that can lead to that outcome. That outcome is not quantifiable nor does it really bring prestige or money to your alma maters and paters. As I continue to work towards finishing what has become a huge portion of my life I take solace in the fact that all of the extemporaneous stuff I have done through these years have led me more towards being the person I really wanted to be. Whether or not a Ghostbuster and a Ninja Turtle were the reasons I decided to get a PhD, they remain the noblest aspect of this entire experience.
I have learned more about myself in the things I have done to stay sane during graduate school than I have about any topic I have studied. When it came time to pick a major for university I settled on Mechanical Engineering because I was good at math and mechanics. If you’ve taken courses in engineering you can see where this is going. I completed all my core courses my first year in college and realized that I didn’t want to be a career engineer in the sense that we were learning it. I wanted to design and build things, not manage button pushing operations. There is a perfect example of this in Egon’s life in an episode of The Real Ghostbusters: “Cry Uncle”
In “Cry Uncle” Egon’s uncle shows up and reminds Egon that he said he would come work for him at Spengler Laboratories. There Egon would get to do “real” science. Once at Spengler Labs, Egon has his white coat, and is tasked with feeding the research rats and mice. When he admitted it wasn’t what he expected, Uncle Cyrus explained there are no small jobs in research.
There isn’t inherently a problem with going into a field you are good at, especially if you are interested in it, but for me it was extremely limiting in the scope of my expectations for college. Such expectations continue to shape my opinions of higher education. I think the first thing I found odd was that the way our classes parsed out on the rubric I would be a senior taking freshman speech. Nothing built on anything else. Even the Engineering courses, which were only offered every other semester or so, wanted info in and were built on the premises that you passed or dropped out.
When I went back 5 years later I tried my hand at a broader field: Anthropology. I took every course my university offered and enjoyed them all. I did field work in Belize with another University and ran the gamut of geology towards that degree. Issues of being color blind and terrible mineralogy courses dropped me out of that certification (although I still practive the paleo and science outreach that I learned there) and ended up with a history degree. That itself is just as problematic because everything is formulaic and most of the people at the top hate everyone and have painted themselves into such tight “intellectual” corners that they wouldn’t dare step out of their offices to help someone even if they could.
I even completed an advanced degree in History. Then moved on to combining what I had done and what I thought I wanted to do. History of Science. I worked on another MA, which was worse than History because of the way our coursework is arranged. I still wanted to know more. Not more of one thing, but more in general. There were loose ends that needed to be tied up. So I reached out and ended up taking graduate level hours in Art History and Biology. As I have worked through all the stories I want to tell, and then figuring out how to appease the Academy and still get to write for the audience I want to engage with, I realized that I still want to know it all, and I want to be able to use that to help people answer questions and solve problems.
I still want a lab and a workshop. I doubt I will ever build a nuclear accelerator or a portal device, but with such a practical environment, who knows. I think that this is one of the reasons I have gravitated towards museum exhibits. Aside from presentation and engaging the public with collections (and collecting) there is the technical aspect of getting the displays built, arranged, and installed. Practical needs that people ask you do do.
I think the best thing about all of this is that it took years of advancing schooling to get back into comic books only to find what I study and write about was there all the time. That isn’t to say I write about mutations or ghosts, but a huge swath of my work is science and popular culture, and how the public engages with science. As for my dissertation, it will compare early American Naval and Army expeditions in their scope and treatment of the scientists (naturalists) and artists as were full expedition members. The first one, The United States Exploring Expedition (U.S. Ex.Ex), was in many ways undertaken due to John Symmes’ insistence and marketing that the Earth was hollow.
Even my PhD advisor admitted that my niche might be in being a generalist.
Today is another of those scenic turnout days from comps work. Instead of painting (I did that last week, and will post it after the next section break) I spent the day organizing and figuring out my bazillion bytes of animation data that I have spread across several hard drives.
This post will be filled with cartoon intros and very little thinking substance. While organizing and checking for new DVD releases I was checking the dates of some of my favorite series and noticed that they all happened about the same time. This isn’t a complete or exhaustive or even objective list. These are the series I remember watching, playing, and remembering from the three channels that we had on television.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe My cousin had nearly all of the toys for this line. At least I thought he had nearly all until I saw the list of what all actually made up this toy line.
The 2002 series intro is much shorter and actually spoofs the original, which is a lot of fun.
G.I. Joe: The Real American Hero actually “debuted” in 1983 as well, but the first two seasons were mini-series, so I will add that intro in 85.
Transformers More than meets the eye. I think it did something like the G.I. Joe mini-series intro, I was more familiar with Transformers than G.I. Joe so I am putting it in for its first year release.
These things have come back around in various (dis)guises forever, I think the last time I saw any at all they were in the computer animation style beast wars and Optimus was a gorilla and Megatron was a dinosaur.
Voltron-Defender of the Universe I never saw Voltron until I was much older. I was aware of it through toys, but I wanted to include it here in situ with Transformers.
Voltron-The Legendary Defender The new (2016) Netflix launched one (that has been picked up for a second season) that really shows you how to do a reboot of a popular 80s franchise. It is a great story, but most importantly it looks like it is supposed to.Since it is Netflix, there isn’t an intro per se, but here is the original trailer that we were all excited to see
and a really great fan-made intro where none were before
I don’t want to leave 1984 without adding one of the best kids’ shows that ran the last half of the 80s. If you haven’t seen it, or don’t remember it, just because it was muppets doesn’t mean it didn’t have action, adventure, and a healthy dose of satire.
I had the light up sword of Omens from this series but always wanted Panthro’s nunchucks. I thought Tygra’s whip was cool, but never really liked him. I can’t remember why.
More recently Thundercats came back in 2011. I haven’t brought myself to make time to watch it yet. I have seen bits and clips online and I am torn on the character looks. From what I understand there isn’t a tradition intro as one would have, but there are several fan made ones on youtube, with clips from the show with the original audio.
G.I. Joe: Real American Heroes
I didn’t have many, if all, of these figures either, and I only remember seeing a handful of episodes, and I really only include it because it is iconic in lists of 80s cartoons. I remember liking the ones that weren’t in standard uniforms which, in the 80s, meant some kind of outback hat and vest or something.
The Real Ghostbusters
Now we get into the realms of utterly obsessed I suppose. The Real ghostbusters were the first figures I remember asking for by name. I remember having the sword of omens but not asking for it. I remember asking for and getting a proton pack. I never got a trap because we had carpet inside and dirt outside and there was no place for it to roll. I always thought this was unfair reasoning. It is also the first series I remember wanting to be like someone and that was (is) Egon. I saw the cartoon before the movie and was a little disappointed that Harold Ramis didn’t look like Egon was supposed to.
The show holds up extremely well. I didn’t care for the slimer shorts when I was a kid, but it didn’t bother me when he became more involved in later episodes. I didn’t like the Jr. Ghostbusters at all.
Bonus: Why are they the Real Ghostbusters? The earlier Filmation (who also did He-Man) series debuted in 1986 as well and it was based on the 1975 live-action version.
Filmation’s guys were the sons of the live action guys, episode 1 was even called something like “I’ll be a son of a ghostbuster or something.” I am a diehard Real Ghostbusters fan, but there are things to appreciate about filmation’s busters, if only for the level of bizarre the series took. There was crazy fallout conspiracies with the two on air at the same time. One even declared Filmation was racist as the ape was supposed to be the equivalent of Winston.
in 1997 a PKE surge saw the formation of a new gang of busters. I was an adamant hater of Extreme Ghostbusters then. I caught a couple reruns on cable after 2000 while working out of state but didn’t see the whole series again in order until the dropped it on HULU. Honestly the “extremeness” really sets itself firmly in my late junior high early high school days, but the writing on this still holds up and like the original some of the episodes are genuinely spooky. Egon (and Janine and Slimer) are the carry overs (if you aren’t familiar) with the extreme ghostbusters consisting of students in one of Egon’s courses. A more diverse group, without being preachy, the toyline on this one really blew up when they refused to market the wheelchair bound adrenaline junky Garrett.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
By all accounts this was a true phenomenon when it hit the airwaves. The comics has been around a couple years and an older generation (or those that lived anywhere near a comic shop) generally hate the cartoon versions, but they were my first exposure and I was hooked. The downside to getting turtles toys was I had to get rid of my ghostbuster ones. Seriously. It was a tough choice and I think when it stopped coming on television I was able to justify the cut somehow and went on to get the turtle van and sewer lair. I never had the blimp but wanted it. Plus this thing runs for 10 seasons, the intros change (not for the better) throughout the season with the final “Red Sky” seasons splicing bits of the movie into the intro.
I just finished re-watching the series and there were scores of episodes I hadn’t seen as they aired on cable channels later. I have more recently started watching the 2003 series having never seen a single episode. The character development seems solid and the writing is an over arching story reminiscent of the original series first seasons. We’ll see how it goes for another 7 seasons. This is an extremely annoying intro and I have skipped it every time since watching it the first time.
TMNT comes back again in 2012 (there was a feature length computer animated film called Turtles Forever but that isn’t what this is all about). This series is fully computer animated and is generally described as “more for kids” but there are some deep themes covered in this ongoing series (currently towards the end of season 4). This intro is ridiculous too, but watching it change through time is interesting. Given the changes the intros made within a series who knows where they will go now.
My original list ended there, but I started looking at other things I watched on Saturday morning so I could round out the decade. In fact I would say the 1980s were the zenith of animated series that didn’t subtitle themselves “The animated series.” But before moving on, we can’t skip one of the best that is about to get a reboot:
One of my favorite episodes still is the druids episode with the glowing hound.
Another that seems only a handful if us remember was the far out space sci-fi western (way before Firefly) Bravestarr, another Filmation production.
Garfield and Friends
I am watching old episodes of this as I type. The craziest thing about this is that the intro I remember doesn’t jive with the episodes I remember. It is also one of those intros that changed for the better and one of the few that had something different in each one (similar to, but not to the extent of the Simpson’s couch gag, more like Bart’s chalkboard writing).
The intro I actually remembered:
A Pup Named Scooby Doo
I watched every episode of this. Scooby Doo is by far my favorite animated series and this was the newest incarnation of the franchise (13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo kicked off in 1985, but was something between a mini series and a series, but some great voice work).
The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
It seems like 1988 was trying to turn away from the gritty anime action stylings with these new releases. In fact this is about the same time The Real Ghostbusters started fading towards a harder focus on Slimer and their intro was reoriented to be Slimer and the Real Ghostbusters. Either way, the turn wasn’t terrible. Maybe the sword fighting sound effects guy retired.
This was the year for me that everything went Nintendo. The two new shows that hit network television were Captain N: The Gamemaster (which so few people remember) and The Super Mario Brothers Super Show.
Captain N: The Gamemaster
This was a weird live action into animation that included a dog. I didn’t know many of the characters in the show because affording Nintendo games wasn’t something I was good at. Welcome to VideoLand
The Super Mario Brothers Super Show
This is one of those shows that I remembered fondly and when it hit Netflix a couple years ago I wasn’t disappointed. That isn’t to say that it holds up as well as Real Ghostbusters, but the live action segments were the best. It was an animation/live action mixed intro with music that was great, but catchy as hell. I always liked Luigi, but being an only child I never was able to play the character (that is why I liked Super Mario Brothers 2). It is a weird intro, and when it was on Netflix it didn’t have the Legend of Zelda shorts in the middle. You remember “Excuuuuse Me Princess”? Because Link was obviously a valley girl. Putting this together I realized this show was over 10% intros.
Full show intro:
The Mario Brother animated Intro:
and the Legend of Zelda intro:
It wasn’t all Nintendo though, these were on Saturday morning, but after school (or at least by the time I got off the bus) there was an Indiana Jones and Magnum P.I. team of chipmunks.
Chip N’ Dale: Rescue Rangers
The 90s. What’s to add except
Tiny Toon Adventures
My grandmother loved this intro.
I am going just into 1991 to include a few outliers.
Darkwing Duck Is an excellent parody of the super hero genre that really takes off with animated series of their very on from 1992 until the virtual end of television.
The Pirates of Dark Water
Peter Pan and the Pirates
This was an excellent series and I wish it would get a DVD release. Who wouldn’t love a Tim Curry Captain Hook?
That will wrap up the pre “animated series” series. This is a rough mix of what I watched on Saturday mornings and when I got home from school, after feeding all our animals. The later years most of the good stuff came on FoxKids which was channel 29 for us and we only picked up if it was cloudy-but-not-too-cloudy. From 1992 on you see Batman, X-men, Animaniacs, The Tick, and a huge shot in nostalgia’s arm with Cartoon Network’s Toonami (my aunt got satellite by this time so I could get some VHS recordings of the Herculoids, Thundarr, The Centurions, G-Force, etc. Then Cartoon-Cartoon took off and we got Dexter’s Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls, Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken, and (maybe most importantly) Samurai Jack.
This all started while I was waiting for files to transfer and I was interested to see which of these were on the air at the same time.
As you look back through this batch of nonsense, it is the perfect time to point out that those of us that grew up with this are now reaping the benefits of others our age working in the comic industry. Of those listed IDW publishing currently runs a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ongoing comic, Ghostbusters comes in series, and Transformers are a huge swath of their enterprise. The also have Pink Panther and Strawberry Shortcake and ,among others, the reprinting of the old Popeye comics. There is also a growing trend with major crossovers. To date:
Ghostbusters/Real Ghostbusters (2015)
TMNT/Batman (Dec. 2015-May 2016)
and DC is currently running…
Ending where I started with He-Man, if you like the art here (and in the Batman/TMNT series) you can check out more, buy prints or originals at the artist’s (Freddie Williams II) website.
Midweek post, but I think I have a schedule and routine that will facilitate more efficient information acquisition and postings. This is a subset under the 19th century natural history block, the next few are particular to that as well. It will be a big deal when I get to the next “question” area of study.
I have also realized that most of what I write here will make little to no sense to anyone who isn’t familiar to Darwin (or any other portion of this) in the same manner that I am, but if you are along for the ride, it is worth the price of admission.
Let’s talk about Darwin. One of the two possible images that come to mind might be the portrait of the young man in relation to his famous voyage on the Beagle. The other, more likely image is an old bearded man in with a white beard peaking our from a black coat and hat.
So much ink has been spilled with regards to Darwin that it may seem insurmountable to get your bearings within a larger context of who Darwin was in relation to other 19th century naturalists vs the modern context of who Darwin is in relation to modern biology.
Working backwards it is best to start with when the Darwinian Revolution became a thing. It wasn’t in 1859, or 1871, or even later with the worms. It wasn’t really even in the 19th century. One of those modern social construct type arguments. On that point it is poignant to ask “Was Darwin and a Darwinian?”
I’d say to a certain extent he was. But not in the case of being a Charles Darwinian. He was an Erasmus Darwinian. Charles’ grandfather and I share a birthday (and the more I read about him, it seems a few more sensibilities). His influence on young Charles is almost always understated in such a manner as “he grandfather’s book was on their shelves…” But the elder Darwin was far more influential in Charles’ politics and freethinking than that book, or his poetry really suggest. The connections can be drawn by anyone who looks at their work as comparative literature.
I first met Darwin through his geology, and to my mind he is a geologist that made great inroads and has sense been shanghaied by biology. This, most likely, is why Sandra Herbert’s Charles Darwin, Geologist is my favorite Darwin book. Re-reading it now, with a greater understanding of British politics made it even more enlightening.
Paired with the first volume of a large biography (Voyaging) by Janet Browne reinforces the thought-path that has put me in this predicament: field work. The voyage and its meaning on Darwin and biology are still argued, lauded, cussed, and discussed but the simple matter of fact that is as important in this case as the American cases that I will cover in my dissertation is that field work is incredibly important for shaping scientific enterprise.
Knowing geologist Darwin makes Herbert’s argument incredibly obvious: Darwin travelled as a geologist so of course his discoveries should not be surprising in relation to geological thought in the 1830s/40s. What is brilliant is reading this and then reading one of, if not the newest Darwin text to hit the press Political Descent by Piers Hale. For full disclosure at this point, Dr. Hale is on my committee and was the original point of contact when I discovered the HSCI program at OU. After visiting, meeting, and finally getting accepted into the program I moved into the American side of things from the Victorian, but he still plays a major role in the comparison work that I am doing.
That being said, Political Descent is a beast. To say it is a Darwin book is like saying The Bridges of Madison County is a Clint Eastwood film. This book is an amazing history of British socialism with Darwin in it. And why not? With all that has been done with Darwin he gives a good meter-stick to follow on either side. What is brilliant about it is that the argument is almost the same as Herbert’s replacing “geologist” with “radical whig.” More is said about Erasmus’ influence here as well.
The best parts of the book, for me at any rate, was the reconsideration of Herbert Spencer, bringing Huxley down a peg, and my introduction to Peter Kropotkin. I was absolutely glued to the Kropotkin account from beginning to end. Mainly because it is another example of how Darwinian natural selection wasn’t the obvious choice chosen by all except the church after 1859. One of the biggest things about Kropotkin was the impact that FIELD WORK had on his anti-malthusian version of descent with modification. Hale also brings in work on H.G. Wells and how evolutionary politics and political evolution not only show up in his works, but in most cases is the pulse of his works. Having studied under Huxley as a student, it only makes sense. The little coursework in Victorian history at Lamar turned out to be a boon to understanding the background politics in Political Descent too, and that is always a good feeling. Reading more about Gladstone and his government as Darwin (and his family) saw it, was like running into an old friend at the coffee shop, or tea house as this case might be.
Many people describe Desmond and Moore’s Darwin biography as the Darwin biography. It is exhaustive, and it is enormous, but I don’t know that there can be a the book in the collection of Darwinalia. It’s as close as any I suppose. This is not to say I didn’t enjoy it, or think it is a great insight into Darwin’s life, it is just a bit much and adds fuel to the whole Darwinian importance that is pretty much all time since the 1920s. Thinking about it while reading Ruse’ philosophy of science (ick) book on the Darwinian revolution really throws into focus that you can fully remove Darwin from the entire equation of descent with modification. Other people could have discovered it, in fact other people did (you know, Wallace?). It is the very reasons that Herbert pointed out about the geology network and the same reasons that Hale pointed out about political networks that keep Darwin on people’s lips until his theories reached critical mass by being validated (more or less) by genetics and modern biology.
Even as people are adopting the term “Darwinian” in the late 19th century they are not all using it in the same way. Kropoptkin was very adamant about this case in regards to Huxley. I mentioned earlier about Huxley being dropped a peg, I suppose I mean humanized. Don’t get me wrong, I love Huxley and he is eminently quotable as so many of the good British speakers tend to be, but any time someone of such historical stature can be plinked, I am always for the plinking (this is probably why I read CRACKED and MAD magazine). Huxley’s work with the newly franchised working and middle classes through his public lectures have always been of interest, and his ability to use them to his own ends is remarkable. This also goes back to Lightman’s popularizers accounts (many of which were not publishing on Darwin’s particular version of natural selection during the period) when Huxley wanted to put that responsibility in the hands of the men of science themselves–especially himself. Much to his consternation he was unable to find success until he employed the same methods that he actively bitched about. To his credit he did employ those methods to great success in the end. Much could be done comparing Huxley and Darwin’s reactions after the passing of their children. It comes up in random places, but I am not aware of a side by side comparison that shows how existing personalities were solidified and enhanced in the years that followed.
What does it mean in the end? Darwin is still the greatest meter stick of natural history, politics, and even upper class education in the mid 19th century. He fits firmly into his family’s whig politics while also utilizing more than a few things he inherited *ahem* from his grandfather. He is a perfect storm of gentlemen naturalist, radical whig freethinker, and (for a time) active traveller. Many of Darwins contemporaries possessed some combination of these but few could claim all three. That is why, in the end, on the occasion of his interment at Westminster Abby the Times could, with absolute justification, quip “the abby needed Darwin more than he needed the Abby.”
There are frillions of documentaries and some films about Darwin’s life, but of all the ones I have seen (most of them) the best for my money is is first part of PBS’s 7 episode series Evolution. That episode (Darwin’s Dangerous Idea–of which (the clip above is from)is notable because the first time I saw it I thought Charles and Erasmus Darwin were played by Nathan Lane and Hank Azaria, respectively. After discovering that wasn’t they case, I still wish to make it so.
Popular Culture has taken up much of the torches that carry Darwin on as hero among heroes with no equal. One of the more ridiculous is in a series I am collecting for another project. I have mentioned Beakman’s World in a few other places regarding representation of science and–with his smokey door of history–history of science. This is one of the most unique portrayals of Darwin for at leat two reasons: 1) It is a young Darwin, and B) he has a speech impediment, now who, in all the hagiography that is Darwin Studies would stand for that? Well, “You Dar-win some and you Dar-lose Some”
Another, more recent incarnation shows the ye olde bearded Darwin taking on a David Bowie Classic Changes in Horrible Histories. This really works well to reveal just how much, and what of, Darwin has become part of popular consciousness.
Something that makes complete sense until you think about it is having Charles Darwin show up in a franchise that revolves around mutations. I don’t think that he has made an appearance in any version of the comics, but he does show up in X-men The Animated Series. Obvious tropes aside I think it is one of the better episodes as it reveals the backstory to Sinister (who, I hear will be in the newest whatever after Apocalypse X-men we get, it theoretically *should* take place in the 90s, but I digress). It’s called, what else, Descent. Charles Xavier’s grandfather-James-was a contemporary of Charles Darwin, while Essex was working on a serum to save his wife–the daughter of Lord Grey, among some mutant experiments, most of which are pulled off the streets in London running from mobs calling them demons. The Irish surnames add another layer to it all.
This section’s core texts:
Browne, Janet. Charles Darwin: Voyaging Jonathan Cape, 1995
Desmond, Adrian and James Moore. Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist, W. W. Norton & Company, 1996
Hale, Piers J. Political Descent: Malthus, Mutualism, and the Politics of Evolution in VictorianEngland, University of Chicago Press, 2014.
Herbert, Sandra. Charles Darwin: Geologist. Cornell University Press, 2005.
Ruse, Michael. The Darwinian Revolution: Science Red in Tooth and Claw. U of Chicago Pr, 1999.
I still haven’t put together all my thoughts on an action figure post yet (nor have I finished enough of my comps readings to make a useful post) so in the interim you get this, which, admittedly, is just an excuse to put all the Bebop and Rocksteady images I have in one place.
June ended up casting me down the pop culture wormhole that I long forgotten. In much the same manner that a random tweet rekindle my love for the Real Ghostbusters and finding the comics the universe had conspired to help me remember other parts of myself. I still say it is because all the people creating things are the same age as I am so there is a bout of cultural memory taking over production but whatever the reason, it has been fun.
There is a Ghostbusters/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comic crossover from IDW publishing. This is old news to many, but if you got here through some weird google image search and don’t know about it, check it out. It is what led me over to the IDW TMNT series itself. I probably would have remained agnostic over it otherwise.
A brief word about the IDW TMNT comics as a whole: It is great. It nods to the originals (both comics and cartoon) but has a more real feel to it. I don’t mean real in the authentic sense, but I mean it develops the characters in ways that weren’t possible in an animated program used to sell toys.
Now, back to June. A TMNT movie and a special IDW TMNT comic arc were the specials of the month. I’ll start with the comics since I have less to say about it in general. Bebop and Rocksteady Destroy Everything is exactly what it sounds like. The two get their hands on a time traveling sceptre and generally Rocksteady and Bebop their way through time and space. If you know anything about those two (and let’s assume you do since you made it this far anyway) you have some idea of just how bad it gets.
Since Time is involved we see our heroes in a half shell meeting back up with Renet (it has ties with Turtles in Time which is interesting given how much that was hated, at least that is the sense I get from the boards around this place).
As a whole this thing must have been a logistical nightmare. There are 2863 different artists (slightly exaggerated for dramatic effect) on each issue. I usually hate when artists change mid run, much less mid issue, but this one really seemed to work as they popped up and around different times and places.
They also tie back into IDW’s kickstarted for a TMNT board game. Nothing super special, just two scenarios included in the last two issues. Well it was supposed to be two different scenarios but many of us ended up with repeats.
The swath of cover art is fantastic and Nick Patarra‘s interlocking 5 actually interlock back with itself and I am currently trying to find a way to make it into a nice lampshade because that seems like the best way to display it. Thank goodness there us a digital version of it, because it really does loose something when shot together for lampshade purposes. The tangible interlocking is rough, but there is still something about it that is fun.
The timing for this arc could not have been better. The breakout stars of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows film was Bebop and Rocksteady. This movie was much better than the first one, which, admittedly I never finished. But, Out of the Shadows was absolutely ridiculous and over the top and wonderful.
For one, and for me specifically, it (and the comics really) have allowed me to actually match the turtle that I always liked. Donatello has always been my favorite but I have always been more of a cartoon Ralph in practice. With the movie making Ralph a jock and Donatello a more skeptical practical person, and the comics giving him (and all of them really) more wit, sits well with me.
Turtles aside, the single duo reason to see this movie is the rhino and the warthog. Ever since I was a kid, even before the turtles were a thing Rhinos were one of my favorite animals, along with armadillos and anteaters. So when Rocksteady arrived I was thrilled even if he was a bumbling villain idiot. Fast forward to getting back into the comics and seeing how the duo are treated there was what kept me hooked on the series. (Now Leatherhead is back, and while I am more than a little sad he isn’t the crocodile dundee swamp thing he is, I am sure they are going good places with it).
When they announced the TMNT sequel I was skeptical and shrugged it off as another summer 2016 movie to ignore. Then I saw the first Bebop wanted poster. I instantly hit social media and tagged a friend of mine, who happens to be a DJ with a substantial mohawk (although not purple) that he had the perfect halloween costume. The next day or so Rocksteady’s showed up. So I went back and added that one and admitted that I had to do it.
I saw their action figures first. I was in WalMart on the hunt for the classic Ghostbusters mini figures and since they were working on part of the store they had staged about a dozen pallets of TMNT toys in the main aisle and I had to wade through them to get to the tiny little Ghostbusters section in the back. I ended up getting Donatello first and outfitting him with a proton pack. The next time I went back I got the 11″ Rocksteady and Bebop to go with the 13″ classic Rocksteady and Bebop. For the record I don’t actively collect action figures.
I didn’t know anything about either one of the guys playing them (I have been working on PhD stuff for a while and not watching television and I have never been into wrestling) so I went in with no preconceived ideas of what we were getting and it turned out great. The entire setup and most of the movie are rife with plot holes, impossibilities, and utter nonsense but that makes it great. Someone sat down with the comics and the original cartoons and said “how do we translate this to the big screen” and however they did it and whoever made it work need awards.
I went to see it the Sunday after it opened at an IMAX matinee and there were only 20 people in there and 90% of them weren’t born when the Turtles first fell into our laps. The 3D was awesome, but not the crux of the movie which is always nice. Donnie’s holographic gadets looks great and the internal mutation stuff with the cell binding and DNA structure changing looked really good in 3D. After seeing it, I had to go back and get the regular sized figures. The Rocksteady comes with a sledgehammer which he uses in the comics, but not the movie.
A couple weekends ago I pulled out some of our paints and took a stab at the comic and cartoon duo. I had recently been working on pastels based on the Cryptozoic Ghostbusters trading cards that I liked so it wasn’t a huge shift. I usually do something like that over the weekend to decompress from exhibit work and reading for comps. That is really why I got back into comics, they are a nice palate cleanse from comp prep.
I still haven’t gotten the $20 (each) sets of Bebop and Rocksteady on their bikes. But I am watching for a clearance. I have wanted to chop my own bike for a while but don’t have the money and means to, but I now at least know how I want to do it.
Incidentally the Paul Jr. from that old Orange County Choppers organization designed and produced the bikes. I would have watched that episode. Actually if someone cut out all the Days of Our Lives family drama and focused on bikes the series would have been great. Maybe it will come out in a behind the scenes book or DVD extras or something.
I have never been big into trikes either and the only ones I had really ever seen were huge and were powered by Volkswagen engines and not an actual bike/chain drive, so Bebop’s was interesting to me on that front.
I even tracked down the UK released poster that was just Rocksteady and Bebop so I could frame it. There standard posters are 30×40 so framing it whole was going to be a gazillion dollars but luckily(?) the one I got in had a crease in it (so I got my shipping refunded) and didn’t feel bad about cutting all the words off the bottom. After getting it into a poster frame I already had, I think it looks better without the words.
To that end I am trying to track down all the pieces for a good human Rocksteady halloween costume, so far not a single custom shop will touch it. One custom leather place in Chicago can get a basic one I would have to stud myself for almost $300. So I think it will be old jacket and razor blade time. I will probably make a post on that process too just to see how it comes off. The patch on the movie vest is a Black Label Society patch by the way, in case you are trying to make an authentic custom. It doesn’t show up as such on the figures, which makes sense if you listen to metal. It helps that Sheamus is only a couple inches taller than me and serves as a nice avatar for what I could look like in shape.
The final thing I haven’t gotten and probably won’t ever be able to afford are the SideShow collectibles figures for the two. (Rocksteady, Bebop) Both together are hovering around $700 before shipping, and I mean you really can’t get one and not the other that is just wrong. But the prototypes look AMAZING. Already decided when I win the Mega-Millions and build my museum of art and natural history (Faux-Art Gardens, HA) I am going to have life sized statues of these in the entryway.
In the end, I clipped just a fraction of the trailer in to put on my youtube channel to share whenever someone asked why they should see this movie:
Someone on youtube has clipped most of their scenes from a bootlegged cam and put them together for about 7.5 minutes of madness, which is funny but I think it is even better when it is strung out throughout the movie.
***I literally just–like as I am typing this part of the post–received my stickers in the mail to put on my bike’s windscreen. I can’t afford to get the bike converted into the Rhino Chopper, but I can afford $3 skateboard vinyl stickers. These will go well on the bike since I have the No-Ghost Logo on my saddlebags and the bike *is* an 86.
Whatever the back stories on the other in-universie mutants, (I think Rocksteady was a Russian Arms dealer in one, I haven’t kept up with them all, but I might be getting around to them later this year). For my money and universe these guys are Bebop and Rocksteady. Now it is just question of making sure my Halloween partner doesn’t flake.
I guess the whole take home point to all this is realizing that I had packed away a lot of what made me, me. These are the things that shaped my primary school years and are people (imaginary or not) that live in my pysche. These are things I put away when I went to high school and then to college to be replaced by things like books and journals. I read the books as a kid too. Red Badge of Courage and Moby Dick in Jr. High and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea a half a dozen times before that.
But the books could stay, they were acceptable part of the trade of growing up. Why did Ghostbusters and TMNT shed? I have no idea really, but I am glad they are back on the scene, even if their influences never really went away. Welcome back guys, it has been too long.
Last week some time a friend of mine sent me a youtube video from a guy called Captain Disillusion (whom I have never heard of until receiving the link) who had a very special guest on his myth debunking channel: it was Beakman!
If you are unfamiliar with Beakman let me bring you up to speed. There are many overlaps in production and what networks wanted was pretty similar, but it wasn’t–and isn’t– a Beakman’s World vs. Bill Nye The Science Guy world. It goes way back to an earlier program called Watch Mr. Wizard. That seems like a great place to start:
Don Herbert through a series of assistants taught kids in throughout the 1950s and early 60s. Watch returned briefly in 1971/72 but in 1983 Don Herbert had his own world with Mr. Wizard’s World which was the same format with new assistants.
Mr. Wizard’s World ran until 1990, but Herbert would live another 17 years to see his path well-traveled and extended. He died on June 12, 2007 just a month shy of his 90th birthday.
Something interesting happened in the 90s (if you actually lived through them at an impressionable age like I did, that is the understatement of the century). Mr. Wizard’s World may have went off the air, but nature and television networks deplore a vacuum and low ratings.
I watched as much television as I could in the 90s. Admittedly that isn’t much since we had three network channels and Fox 29 if it was cloudy. Thankfully that connection improved by the time we got Fox Kids. I thought I was familiar with everything on network television and a saturday morning cartoon snob. Only recently was I introduced to Back to the Future: The Animated Series.I know you are probably thinking “Congratulations, Columbus you’ve discovered something thousands of people already knew about,” but bear with me here, this is important for science programming reasons.
The series was short-lived, consisting of only 2 seasons, but it is interesting for a variety of reasons. I was never into the Back to the Future movies or anything so maybe that is how I missed this. Or, more likely, it came on CBS opposite something I really liked. Either way, I have just recently discovered this thanks to a friend of mine in London (because I hadn’t even stumbled across it on the internet), and want to share a quick bit about how it works and what it means for the rest of the decade.
Each episode was bookended by live action segments with Dr. Emmett Brown himself, Christopher Lloyd, setting up and reviewing the episode AND then explaining some principle of science related to what happened to them. I think it is doubly interesting for me since I am a historian of science to see the science and then a historical perspective and then the science again tied back into the episode, however loosely.
Here is the intro and the opening live segment.
I let it run into the narration for the cartoon to share some fun trivia on this: Even though Lloyd did the live action segments he, unlike Mary Steenburgen and a few others, did not provide the voice of his animated counterpart. The animated Doc Brown is expertly brought to life by the amazing voice talents of Dan Casttelaneta who you may recognize from a bajillion other sources, namely the Simpsons.
Now, the important part: The ending live segment with the science of the water test, more or less.
Did you recognize Doc’s lab assistant? Look again… I’ll wait. The white lab coat and the bowtie? That is Bill Nye in a non speaking, recurring role two years before he gets his own program. The animated Back to the Future ended in December of 1992 and Bill Nye The Science Guy’s debut was the following September. But, a year before something else exploded onto the science scene:
In September 1992 we all broke into Beakman’s Worldwhere we were allowed to take up residence until 1997. The show, which is based on a comic called You Can With Beakman and Jax, also pays homage to Mr. Wizard’s World and Mr. Wizard himself in the form of two puppet penguins named Don and Herb.
The program is as full of craziness as it is science and I absolutely loved it. From the Don King hair, to the neon lab coat to the giant lab rat with tattoos it was what I knew science to be and not what I had seen in the stuffy depictions of scowling scientists in the lab. It was fun, the same kind of fun I had when I was looking at bugs under the microscope or trying to figure out what kind of rock I found or what bird was making a particular noise. It was built around not just the experiments that you could perform at home (I made the sugar glass at least twice) but also viewer questions usually answered in a rapid fire round called “Beakmania!” (I am way prouder of that gif than I should be, but it took more than a few tries to get the timing right).
The series moved off of out local station before it ended and I had never seen the godawful season 4 until it reran on Netflix a couple years ago. It was okay, I honestly cannot stand the way they built the last assistant Phoebe (nothing against Senta Moses, but that seasons just got too 90s and too annoying). It was funny watching them again because I remembered episodes and experiments but I had somehow managed to morph Joey and Liza into one person and only ever remembered one person being their throughout the ones I had seen.
But what really made the show tick was the chemistry between the folks making it, the limitless guest characters played by the trio–Art Burn in his diner, Meekman, the school nurse, Woody Chipper, the sports announcers, the game show contestants–and, above all, a man in a giant rat suit.
One of the other bits I really, *really*, enjoyed about Beakman was the “smokey door of history™” when famous folks would show up and talk about their stuff.
I am working on cutting and collecting all of these because I use them when I teach the History of Science. They aren’t perfect, but they are memorable. I haven’t found and loaded it yet, but one of the earliest ones they did was on Maria Mitchell and her works with comets. This episode aired in 1994 and I was in graduate school for the second time in Spring of 2015 before I heard of her again.
A year following Beakman, Bill Nye the Science Guy hit the airwaves on PBS. The closest PBS channel for us was out of Houston 120 miles away and just out of reach of our antenna so I was in high school before I ever saw my first episode of Bill Nye. Whose popularity made me an instant defender of Beakman and the gang.
Bill Nye is fun. But is had such a different feel than Beakman to me, it feels like, I dunno, safer fun. One of the biggest differences here is that Bill Nye is an actual scientist in real life and Paul Zaloom is a puppeteer and comedian.
The 90s were weird (again understatement). It was a decade of dueling doubles with two takes on the same premise: Beakman’s World/Bill Nye, Armageddon/Deep Impact, and Tombstone/Wyatt Earp to name a few off the top of my head.
One of the most interesting things about the Bill Nye/Beakman overlap is the show rules for The Science Guy explicitly pointing out things done in Beakman’s World (without saying the name) that his show would not do:
Number 3 and 4 specifically. I am not certain if number 2 is a dig on the BogusScope® or not. I have never confirmed them as direct points of departure from Beakman, but I suspect they are. Incidentally I have an autographed copy of this, but it is framed and it photographs lousily.
Bill Nye’s show ran out in mid 1998, only 6 months after Beakman and company packed it in. Bill boasted 100 shows, Paul had only 91, but both of their impacts cannot be understated and should not be ignored. They continued a them of education a generation of kids to go out and *do* science, and better yet showed them how. I still use the how to make a fossil project with I talk to kids with the Paleo Porch Mini Mobile Museum. This is far more than falling into the hashtag battles of #TeamBeakman or #TeamNye. I honestly believe these shows helped a ton of homeschool kids learn better science than they would have gotten otherwise. I like them both, I will always prefer Beakman to Bill. My wife had never seen Beakman’s World until we started watching it over dinner in 2014. We remain a house divided.
More instructors teach with Bill Nye Videos than Beakman. Maybe that is because they were easier to get and use coming from PBS and not our plebeian channels. To be completely fair in that sense, Bill’s shows are more thematically aligned and cohesive, but Beakman had one thing Bill could never equal and that was Lester the Rat.
I honestly don’t know where this leaves us. It is 2016, certain politicians believe Bill Nye is just a television host and he has debated the most famous creationist in the world. Bill is fighting the good scientific fight on GMOs and vaccines and such. We still need to educate kids on a level they can have to themselves. I was an ardent rule follower, but I always found Bill Nye just as stuffy as the scientists in books and film. It was Beakman who embodied what I felt about science and what it could do and what I could do with it. So, that is what I cherish, even above the terrible puns which I use every single chance I get. It was amazing to see Beakman back in character on youtube, making fun of the people that brought him there because they didn’t bother to learn how magnets work and “you don’t have to know how is was faked, to know that it is fake”
I am currently working through some visual culture/studies ideas on how things shape our relationship with the social order and more basically the world around us. Without getting caught up in all the theories and manners of looking at things, it has gotten me to thinking more about something I said off the cuff to a friend of mine back over the summer when and after some of the more ridiculous things began happening where I attend University:
If you have read the previous post on the Ghostbusters you won’t be surprised that it probably had something to do with that and it does. I was born in 1982 in a tiny farm/hamlet town that was filled with people whose commute to work was on (a general) average an hour. It was also a town composed completely of white people. My family tree consists of nearly every name on the mailboxes in the town. Some of this is in the “about me” section on here, but I will string it along here again to help me order my thoughts. We had an elementary school through the 5 or 6th grade depending on the number of students in a given year or three, then we were bussed 16 miles to attend Jr High and High school in the next town. There were 18 kids in my kindergarten class. We were the teacher’s first class and she had graduated with my mother (the guy that later became my high school principal graduated with them as well. We won’t get that far, but it is worth mentioning). I was in Jr High before I ever had a class with someone who wasn’t white. We’ll leave that here and get back to the main story.
My friend and I were talking about the television shows we grew up with and what looked like and reminded us of our childhood. He was a Navy kid and spent his impressionable years in Japan so DragonBall Z was his. Mine, as I have belabored the point was The Real Ghostbusters and Scooby Doo. Both were the first things I can remember that were longer than the 6 minutes of Coyote and Roadrunner or the Hanna Barbera cartoons. Scooby Doo was in syndication (until a Pup Named Scooby Doo) but Ghostbusters was new. It also had something different in the main line up: a black guy.
We talked through it for awhile and I have been milling it over for a couple months now to make sure that what I said was indeed true: Winston Zeddemore was the first black person I “knew.” I use the quotations here because how well can you really know a cartoon character? Ghostbusters started airing when I was 4 and ran on network television until the early 90s. I don’t remember seeing the goofy Slimer/professor Dweeb things at all.
That all being said, I wasn’t aware at the time that this was the first non white person that I “knew.” If I went with my mother to the grocery store I would see people that didn’t look like me, but there was no conscious separation of us and them. There was an older guy that mowed the field at our elementary school, who I would see every other week on a tractor, but there were no daily life contact. Later I got to know James (the tractor driver) really well when we would work on the schools equipment for him in the auto mechanics shop.
Growing up like that really shapes the way you see the world. The holotype I had that structured how I thought of an entire population that I had no relationship with, was a cartoon character based on a film character. That is a powerful thing, and I have droned on through this because I believe that this happens more often that we think, and not always with such a positive representative. My school mascot was a warrior, and to this day Spirit Week consists of at least one day where the students fashion headdresses to wear. (in addition to all the bad Indian puns that were put on pep rally posters).
When this is all you know (or is the sum of your experiences), especially in a time when there were no facebooks and twitters and social change hashtags or even someone near you to offend it creates this world of “that’s just the way it is.” What I learned of the Civil War was the northern aggression narrative and the local cemetery in town has more than one CSA foot stone belonging to my ancestors. I took one of those ye olde tyme western photos at the fair when I was 10 dressed as a confederate general with a rebel flag backdrop. I wore a rebel flag belt buckle for years, and even have one on my high school ring (wherever it is). I knew no one it offended for years, as I began life in college and started making friends with people that I didn’t grow up with, that changed, and so did my understanding of things.
If you’re wondering what the point is other than “white kid can remember first black person he knew” it is that there are still a lot of rural schools in the US and there are still a lot of extremely homogenous towns, and when those kids leave those towns for college or life, it might be the first time they have experienced not only the “other” but the voice, the protests, the anger, and the offense of that other. I work with special populations on campus, which generally means first generation students and underrepresented in graduate school. I am a McNair Scholar alum, both as a scholar and working as Graduate Mentor for the two years I was working on my Master’s degree. It has been interesting to see first gen students adapt to the new environment of university both where I am now and my previous university.
It has also been interesting to see from afar kids that have never seen a brown person to suddenly be dropped into a room with 40 varying shades and accents, and then find out that some of them are smarter than they are. There are a lot of things in place to help international students adjust, but there aren’t that many (that I am aware of) in place to work with those I only see the “other” in town sorts. The first thing they usually hear is something about “white privilege” which is never explained and all they know is they aren’t privileged in any way and all sides get defensive and any chance at meaningful conversation shuts down. Everything we are doing to address race in this country is falling short failing. I don’t have the answer, the only suggestion I can propose that I have seen work in small groups (e.g. the McNair Scholars I have worked with) is to start focusing on what makes us the same rather than what makes us different.
Even the language that we use is up for argument about things. I have gone back and forth with the title of this, and the descriptors of people in order to bother the fewest number of people. I have worked with people who prefer to be called African-American and some that prefer to be called black. I have seen one of each get into a very loud and heated argument on a job site about how African one was–both were born in Texas. I have also been at a drug testing center (for employment) where the black lab tech called this tall lanky white guy back up to fix his paperwork because he had checked the “African-American” box. I will forever remember his reply: in a heavy accent he said, “No, that is correct, I am from South Africa, I am an African-American, you aren’t.” Make of that what you will. There is also the trouble here of growing up with the hymn “Red and Yellow, Black and White, They are precious in his sight,” which I have seen changed to “every color every race—I can’t remember the rest but I don’t think it rhymes with “Jesus’ face.”
The bottom line to all this is to not dismiss something as trivial in your life until you have had time to examine it and see if it really was trivial. What came out as a joke about Winston being the first black guy I knew, actually led me down a long path of talking with my friends of all ethnicities about their experiences and trying to understand where my own mental expectations of things came from. I think I am lucky in the sense that I have recognized that while my creation was based on what someone else created ( the derivative character for the cartoon based on a film) the organization around that mental construct was mostly my own (as far as I can tell) and not because I wholesale accepted what everyone around me was saying I should think about people.
When I finally did see the Ghostbusters movies Winston was the most like his animated self. Remember, I saw the cartoon first was a little let down by some of the movie versions of the others. Winston was the everyman character in both. Ernie Hudson became the “real” holotype for my characterization because it did not conflict with my mental world of what it meant to be “black.” Through it all now, I constantly wonder what the modern equivalent could be for today’s kids, the seeds of my entire notion of a significant part of the population in my country were based on a character created by Dan Ackroyd and Harold Ramis, played by Ernie Hudson, and then condensed (caricatured?) for a Saturday morning cartoon show. I suppose the whole point to this might be something like, “If this isn’t an example of how powerful popular culture can be (and a reason to study and take these things seriously) I don’t know what is.”
*I am aware that my use of “black” and not “African-American” or “people of color” or other acronym may upset some but to be true to the point and expression of growing up and offering my thoughts as I have made and seen them this is the best I can do. I did not live in a world of African-Americans or People of Color, I lived in a world where the people who were not white, Indian, or Mexican were black. Or worse.
Actually it was the reply to a tweet. The one below in fact. Suddenly, going through twitter in the morning before getting out of bed changed the trajectory of the entire summer and, in all honesty, may have helped my reconnect with a very long forgotten piece of myself. I’ve used the analogy before, but in this case I very much feel like Columbus who has discovered something that thousands of people already knew about. The Ghostbusters cartoon, that is The Real Ghostbusters, had a comic.
So it goes, that April 19th began a tireless internet search for any format of any of these comics I could find. I lived for the ghostbusters cartoon when I was a kid. I saw the series before the movie and was always a bit bummed that Egon did not look the same in the movie. If I ever had a television hero or role model as such, it was Egon. Cartoon Egon. I can’t tell you how hard I tried to get my hair to roll like that. Incidentally it was the late 80s and early 90s and I did have the rat-tail too.
Not a single person I knew was into comic books when I was a kid. To be fair I grew up mostly around adults, but still I don’t remember classmates bringing any to school or whatever. The first one I bought was an Uncanny X-men that was in the magazine section of the grocery store (Brookshire Brothers is its name), because I had been watching the animated series on Fox Kids on Saturday mornings.
I kept up with the story arc until at some point in Jr. High school, I was made to get rid of my collection of two large Nocona boot boxes full of comics, by this time X-men, Ninja Turtles, and Wolverine because they were “a fire hazard.” I gave them to the one person I knew had comics and as far as I know he still has them all to this day.
When I tried to get back into them later when I had my own place that I wasn’t concerned with pyromaniac comics burning down, I found that the single story lines I had followed had been split into seemingly limitless different arcs and I absolutely hated it. I didn’t pick up a comic again until this year.
The original run, drawn and written true to the cartoon are a thing of beauty. Not far into the run, there is Egon pointing out the debates on the warm-bloodedness of dinosaurs. That was neat enough, but when I got to the issue that had the reference to Symmes Hollow Earth theory I was hook. I am a historian of science (specifically earth and field sciences, geology, paleontology, and archaeology) so it was fascinating to see that obscure reference in a comic from 1988 aimed at kids. I now have an enlargement of that panel on my office wall.
In addition for finally rounding up all the original US comics and digitizing them, I lucked on to a fellow from the UK selling the first 100+ of the UK Mag comics. I have about 15 of them digitized, but they are coming along. That aside, something interesting started showing up in the google searches for Ghostbusters comics–(and here we have the second voyage of Columbus) there were new ones.
They were new, but they weren’t new. They are brilliant. They are absolutely everything that a fan could possibly want in a 21st century rendition of the franchise. I hate to admit just how long it took me to get used to the newly drawn characters specifically because I love all the artwork and the artist Dan Schoening (@Dapperpomade) is such a great guy and a must follow on Twitter if not for interaction then for his sneak peak/previews (including some really neat post-it art).
There could be a full manual written on just the easter eggs and sly references to other incarnations of the Ghostbusters that he includes in the series. When I started reading the series (that is now more than a couple years old) the appearance of Belushi as Ray’s Dreamworld Virgil pretty much squashed any doubts I had about where this was going. The writing, masterfully executed by Erik Burnham (@Erikburnham) brings everything together in a way that make every single issue enjoyable every single time you read one.
What I think I love the most amongst all this stuff that many of you have been enjoying for years is the fact that it does the very opposite of the thing that turned me away from comics all those years ago. Instead of splitting stories into backstories and alternate universes and riding relative dimensions to some weird end, the IDW publishing series is tying in everything. That is everything. The cartoons–yes, plural, even that weird one made for teens is represented, the movies, the video games, it is all coming together and that, for me, is a nice bit of Ray Stantz cosmological symmetry.
They, along with Tom Waltz (@TomWaltz) produced the crossover to rule them all: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Ghostbusters. (I don’t want to leave the colorist Luis Antonio Delgado out either, the stuff pops on the page and looks amazing on a retina display iPad, Luis doesn’t have a twitter that I am aware). God, how I wish this would have been done when I was a kid, because the very UN-esque agreement that my mother made me submit to in order to get Ninja Turtle toys was to make room for them by getting rid of my ghostbusters toys. That this even exists is a tribute to humanity’s greatness. I am telling you, t is golden record in space worthy.
Every page has comes with something like this. Which, of course, has led to backtracking to Tom Waltz recent runs with Ninja Turtles proper and it doesn’t disappoint either, but that is a thought for another time.
Currently they are running a 4 part Ghostbusters Get Real, wherein the cartoon ghobstbusters have crossed over into the new/real/comic universe. Never before have I wanted to hit up a Comic Con and get anything signed before, but this series has me looking at future locations.
The third one is out in a couple weeks and will feature Egon on the cover, so I am more than a little excited for that. The story is running true to all forms too. The best news comes that they are also working on a Ghostbusters Annual for the end of this year and a full new series (this will be Vol. 3) for 2016 along with a full published Tobin’s Spirit guide. There is really much, much more to say about just how wonderful all of this is and most especially for me as it recaptures a lot of what I was before life really got in the way. It also doesn’t hurt that I am finding it as I am working on my PhD research. A quick read through of one or two issues is a welcome break and recharge from digitizing thousands of WPA letters and funding, locality, worker records, and bureaucratic paperwork. I will, with all sincerity but these guys in my acknowledgements when the dissertation is finished.