Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Phule and his author too soon parted

Robert Asprin passed away last week only 61 years old.  He was the author of many of the books I read in my Dungeons and Dragons-laden teen years and beyond.  

Most notably, he wrote the "Myth" series - books about an apprentice wizard "Skeeve" and his demon partner "Aahz."  These books were great reads - only about two hundred pages tops, each.  All the titles were puns on the word Myth: Another Fine Myth, Myth Conceptions, Little Myth Marker - and they were all good, silly fun.  He also wrote the "Phule" series about a rich guy who buys his command of the worst space marine platoon in the galaxy (don't bite my head off if I got a detail wrong; it's been awhile since I read them).  These titles were, well: Phule's Paradise, A Phule and his Money... you get the picture.

My absolute favorite piece of original art I own is this piece drawn by Phil Foglio for Asprin's book Myth-ing Persons which was first published way back in 1984.  I found it on Ebay with no other bidders - it was listed in some obscure (but appropriate) category applying to book illustrations, rather than in "Comic book original art."  That is less accurate, but would reach all the Phil Foglio fans that look for his stuff there.  It was damaged in shipping because it was sent in a frame with glass - and poorly packed.  The seller offered to refund my money, but seeing the damage was mostly those streaks across the sky that look like shooting stars, I said I'd still take it.  He was happy, and I got the original art to my favorite illustration from a book series I loved.  

I actually brought it to the World Science Fiction Convention in L.A. a couple of years ago,  to ask Phil Foglio to blacken in the scratches to "repair" it - but he wasn't in the dealer's room, he was a guest, so I didn't run into him there.  Now the scratches are part of the history of the piece to me.
I had it placed in a gray matte with a gray frame that complemented it perfectly, and it hangs by my front door.  It's probably the one piece of art I see the most.

If you're not familiar with the books:  Skeeve has cast a spell on his apprentice Masha to make her lighter than air so they can float up to the cell holding his partner Aahz.  That's his bodyguard Guido hanging from him.  They're on a vampire world, the name of which eludes me right now.  

So - while I honestly have this because I'm a big Phil Foglio fan, it's a reminder that I'm a Robert Asprin fan too.  I'll look at one of his collectible books I have next.

As nearly every online obit I've seen said - and I can't resist myself:  

He Will Be Mythed.

Thanks Robert.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Monday, May 26, 2008

Double Collectible

If you collect cereal stuff, and you collect Star Wars stuff, you HAD to be pretty excited when Toucan Sam has a mail-in offer for an exclusive Han Solo action figure back in the early 90's.  I wasn't even collecting these Star Wars figures, and I think I sent away for two of them - and kept the cereal box (empty).

One of the Solo's is in storage somewhere, still sealed in the plain brown package he came in.  The Froot Loops box has actually been in a cupboard in my kitchen for over ten years, as if I didn't want to admit to myself I was actually saving it...
Well, it's finally old enough to be a little cool, I think.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Still appearing at the 99 cent store...

...Elvis Presley Peanut Butter and Banana Creme Reese's Peanut Butter cups.

Notice the small print.  It's a "Collector Edition" candy.  I like Elvis, and I like artificial banana flavor, but this isn't going to make it into the permanent collection.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Tao of Homer: Collecting

Bart has just realized his new coin collecting book requires specific coins be put in the slots.

Bart:  "This hobby sucks!"

Homer: "Son, all hobbies suck.  But if you keep at it, you might find at the end you've managed to kill some precious time."

Later, when the book is full:

Bart:  "Now, let's put it on a shelf, and never look at it again."

I tend to agree with Homer.  Some hobbies seem to be devised specifically to kill time.  I've never been a coin collector, but I have a few like an uncirculated 1974 silver dollar my grandfather gave me.  It has occurred to me it might be fun to set aside one of each of all the new quarters and see how many came my way - but I've never started on that.

I do, however, collect my coins in a Doctor Who tin.  It's one of the few collectibles in my living room, close to the door, and I fill it with all the non-quarters in my change.  (Quarters go to laundry, and are kept nearby in a Disneyland ashtray).  
My sister gave this one to me ages ago, and it's always been a  favorite item of mine.   It shows Tom Baker (the 4th Doctor for those keeping score) who was the Doctor when it hit big in the States in the late 70s, when I first saw it.

I wasn't that big of a Dr. Who fan then, but the police call box looks pretty cool, and I usually display it with the non-Baker side showing - so it could just as easily be the current Doctor now, and I'm quite a fan of both the "new" Doctor's who've been on the revival of the show lately.

So what do you do with a tin full of coins?  Well, I cash them in at coinstar, and get credit on Amazon, which I usually end up using to buy Doctor Who DVDs.  And the circle of collecting is complete.

Now that I think about it, there is one type of coin I do collect.  I'll show you those as soon as I can get a picture taken of them.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Even a Jawa would've tossed these! (Tales From Storage Part 3)

Why do I still have these?  The torn up cards my Star Wars action figures came on back in 1978 or 1979?  The cards I clearly cut the proof-of-puchase out of to send away for Boba Fett?  (I sent away for 3 Boba Fetts, by the way).

Because I'm a fancollectorgeek, that's why.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

It's a subatomic particle, too

According to Blogger, I'm the 23rd person to list "Quark" as one of my interests, as of my post on Monday.  

I'm the only one that wasn't referring to page layout software...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

(Almost) a (Virtual) Micronauts collector...(literally)

A few posts ago I made mention of a piece of Big Bang Theory ad art I had "collected" off the internet.  This reminded me of an odd time in my life when I planned to virtually collect all the Micronauts toys ever made.

This was probably the mid-1990s, when money was somewhat tight for me.  I had recently been introduced to this new thing called "Ebay" where you could easily find previously hard-to-find collectibles all over the world - and buy them.  We all know Ebay now, but remember the time before it where, if you wanted say a Mego Green Arrow doll from the 70s, you had to either:

1) find one at a yard sale or thrift store

2) find one at an "antique mall" or some such for big bucks, or

3) find one listed in a weekly/monthly toy collector newsletter.

In short, it was work to track them down, now you just type it in and -poof- you have 13 listings ranging from ten bucks for a loose one to $995.00  (!)  for a mint in box one.

So once I started on Ebay, I quickly bought up a few things I'd been wanting for a long time and never came across.  Then, I thought about getting more of the Micronauts toys I loved as a kid.  The problem was, I was well aware that my beloved toys were sitting in a box packed away (see above) - so why spend hundreds of dollars on toys I'd just put away?  (This is one of the key questions collectors must ask themselves from time to time: Is It Worth It Even Though It's Not Going On Display). 

The brilliant idea I had was to just collect the toys virtually - that is, 
search the auctions on Ebay and just download the good scans of all the toys I wanted.  Easy.  I would soon have great images of all the toys I want, and they wouldn't be filling up the back of my closet (no storage space yet at that time).  I started collecting scans right away.

It probably lasted about thirty minutes.

The main problem?  It was boring.  Who cared about having jpegs of all the toys?  It was obvious that - even though you may handle a toy you get on Ebay for just a little while and then put it away, that tactile sensation of Having, combined with the satisfaction of Owning, was what you want in collecting.  This was an important thing to realize.  It kept me from beating myself up over some of the collectibles I "had to have" that I just packed away as soon as I had them.

The funny thing is, though, I never bought more Micronauts.  All the ones I have packed away are the ones I had as a kid.  Maybe that's all I really needed?

I still never got a Green Arrow, though...

(Fun bonus game!! Can you name 3 geeky things in the top photo of a box from my storage that are NOT Micronauts parts?  I'll give you a head start: One of thing in there is a glow in the dark plastic squid!)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Long before Ferengi were even thought up...

I'm quite a big fan of the 1978 NBC TV show QUARK.

It only ran for eight episodes total, but included some of the funniest stuff I've ever seen on tv. Also some of the silliest. It was created by Buck Henry, and Richard Benjamin played Adam Quark, captain of a "United Space" garbage ship that roamed the galaxy mostly cleaning up after big space parties. He also managed to save the galaxy almost every week.  His crew consisted of Betty and Betty (one original and one clone - they didn't know which was which), Ficus, an entirely logical plant who looked human, Gene/Jean, a tough guy whose dual set of chromosomes could turn him effeminate in the blink of an eye, and Andy, a cowardly robot.  The last figure on the sheet music there is Conrad Janis as Hugo Palindrome, Who sent Quark on his missions.

Being eleven when it first aired, I loved the show, and dutifully recorded the audio of each episode on my modular Panasonic tape recorder much like the one shown here. Years later, I was able to buy a couple of shaky VHS tapes of all the episodes at comic book conventions (shown below). With those, and the sheet music above, I liked to joke that I have the world's largest collection of memorabilia: three items.  I have to believe the sheet music was the only "merchandise" made for this show.

In the early 90s I was working for a small film distribution company that was working with Conrad Janis and I had the opportunity to meet him.  This, I thought, was the perfect chance to get better copies of the shows than the shaky bootlegs I had.  I introduced myself as a Quark fan and he said in his most delighted "Mindy's dad" voice: "Ah, Hugo T. Palindrome.  You know, I've never seen an episode!"  So much for borrowing copies!  He also related a story about getting a check for residuals for under 2 dollars, because the show played in Turkey or Hungary or someplace like that.

One more interesting thing to note: when I decided to show the sheet music on this blog, I did a little research and found out that Perry Botkin Jr., the composer, has his own website.  I wrote to him there, sent the jpeg of the sheet music, and asked if he had any thoughts on the theme song - or if it might be a small, forgotten job from the distant past.  Less than three hours later I had a reply:

Interesting.  I just ran into the QUARK main title on the Net yesterday.  Hadn't heard the theme in many years.  Hmmmm   Sort of  "Star Trek" sideways with a disco beat.  I did get "MORK and MINDY" because of it so somebody at Paramount must have liked it.  It was a marvelous show wasn't it.  Really too hip for it's time but very very funny none the less.


It's really amazing to consider, in this relatively small way, the effect the internet has had on collecting and fandom.  Not only did I buy the sheet music on eBay, but I was able to find the composer, contact him, and hear back in one afternoon.  I'm dating myself here, but way back in, say, the 1980s, if you were a fan of a show it took legwork at a library or at least on the phone to find a place to contact the creators.  If you sent off a letter, you were most likely to never hear back - but if you were lucky, you might get a form letter in a few weeks.

Also if any of you are moved to learn more about Quark, go to your local internet browser.  You can find Quark fan sites, and even episodes posted on YouTube.  (that'll give you a fast listen to the theme song, too).

As rare as the sheet music must be, I do have one even rarer Quark item to share in the future on this blog...

The Galaxy, and Infinitum!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

How to make a brick

As I said back here, at one point I found Pez flavored popcorn at the 99 cent store and saved one of each flavor.  Here's the only image of them I could find.  After a couple of years of getting a little too warm then cooling off, they had locked into rigid, rock hard blocks.  I chucked them out.  I don't collect Pez or popcorn, but sometimes I'm moved to buy something just because it's weird.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

There's a cute li'l snake in the plane, Jock!

Indiana Jones has always been big to me.  I don't remember exactly when I first saw Raiders of the Lost Ark, but I was fifteen when it came out, and I know I saw it in the theaters in Syracuse (probably Shoppingtown or Fayetteville Mall - Fayetteville sounds right)  many, many times.  In a high school art class when we had to draw a self portrait, I drew myself as Jones, from the famous close up poster by Amsel, but with a garden hose wrapped around my shoulder instead of a whip.  You know, to be funny.

(With an unsettling flood of repressed memories resurfacing, I suddenly recall that I naturally chose to draw myself as Jones because I had taken up the habit of wearing an old fedora in high school to emulate him!  Oh, the 1980s.  I would have been the perfect background extra in a John Hughes high school picture.  I also had sideburns down to my shoulders Because I Could Grow Them).

I also don't know how I started collecting Raiders of the Lost Ark stuff  but one day when boxing things up to move I noticed I had acquired quite a lot of it without even realizing I was building a collection.  I guess I just kept seeing things and thinking they were neat and buying them.  That sounds silly like that, but to think that I was collecting so many different things I wasn't aware of one of the collections... it's amazing to me.

At Disneyland this weekend I spotted these new cute li'l Indiana Jones figures and had to have them.  Indy, Marion, and Belloq with the most adorable li'l deadly cobra you ever saw.  (You can't call stuff like this little.  It's li'l).  These follow a similar line of Star Wars figures that I also bought quite a lot of, until they started doing li'l bounty hunters and li'l ewoks and li'l background muppets you don't remember even seeing, just like the original Kenner line.   After the main characters and a few vehicles, my interest petered out.  They're packed away in storage now.

Also in storage, though, are some of the truly magnificent original Kenner Indiana Jones playsets, like the Well of Souls here.  The Indiana Jones action figures back then were clearly modeled on the Star Wars line, but somehow people weren't as interested in buying Nazi truck playsets as they had been X-Wings.  There was something a little odd about the plastic depictions of archeological digs that led to the line not selling so well - at least, I had the opportunity to pick up several of the sets on severe markdown at Lionel's Kiddie City (a similar
 store to Toys R Us).  Severe markdown was a blessing to me as a teenaged collector, because I didn't have all that much money.  I'll show more of these playsets at a later time.

One thing Kenner never came up with back then, though, was the Cutest Li'l Spirit of God's Wrath Action Figure the new line has. Aww. 

Don't look, Li'l Marion!

News Flash! (Green Lantern too!)


Over at Jim Fanning's terrific blog Tulgey Wood, he has posted a shot from the Big Bang Theory that shows the art in Sheldon's room that I'm talking about here.  You can read Jim's take on it here.

(I don't have any new collectibles to show for this program, so please enjoy this logo art "collected" from the internet...)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A random closet view, + bird elephants

Today's photo is a small section of my closet.  I suspect that many multi-collectors have an area like this where several different things end up together.  We've got a Maleficent dragon beanie that used to be the mascot in my (also black) car, but somehow never made it back after one visit to the service station (I dutifully removed the beanie in fear a sticky fingered mechanic might cherish it and take it home.  Yeah, right).  The tin is a "Brady Bunch" tv.  To the right are many comic books - some bagged and boarded, some not - on top of a guide to "The Simpsons" tv show.  I love the Simpsons, but after the series started coming out on DVD, I realized I didn't need a book I never looked at taking up valuable shelf space in the living room.  Now, that space (and more) is taken up by DVDs I rarely look at.  An improvement.

The books in the back are fantastic (no pun intended).  The Marvel "Essential" books reprint all their classic comics, in order, in black and white for about 15 bucks apiece.  (Probably a little more now).  I bought Thor volume 1 for half price and was delighted to read this classic Lee & Kirby comic's first 30 issues for cheap.  These were the books that built Marvel comics, and I had only passing familiarity with most titles besides The Amazing Spider-man.  The next time House of Secrets had a half price sale, I stocked up on a couple of dozen of these books, and proceeded to read my way through the early history of Marvel comics.

Very slowly.

Since each book contains 25 or 30 issues - over two years worth in the normal word of an issue a week - it took me a long time to get through those books, and in fact, I still haven't finished them all almost three (4?) years after I bought them.  I'm not complaining - I'm happy to have them, they are great reading.  DC also does their own version of them (And Sheldon Cooper has those in his room on "The Big Bang Theory..." but I digress).

Well, I like to put more than one photo on here, so I'm going to share this very odd little carousel I spotted outside more than one supermarket in Southern California.  Notice two of the steeds are ordinary horses, but the third is a half bird / half elephant creature that defies explanation.  The front half is clearly an unlicensed likeness of Disney's Dumbo, right down to
 his hat - and the back is a bird's tail.  Notice he's only got two elephant feet, two.

Does this delight small children?  

Posting more pretty soon: we've got some news about fancollectors impact across the globe, and a much-needed definition of the components of our name, too!

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