21st Sep2012

Thrift Justice – Operation: Time Dig Part 2

by Will

So, has everyone changed their underwear? Are you sure you’re ready to proceed? OK, so we left off with me posting some of the pics from the website promoting the sale. Now let’s get to my experience digging through TIME!

The sale was to start at 10:30, and I planned to be there as the doors opened, but familial issues prevented that. In any case, I broke the landspeed record to Ellicott City, and got there about 15 minutes after everything started. The booth is located on the 3rd floor of Taylor’s Antique Mall, yet I could hear the sound of shuffling plastic as I walked through the door. I couldn’t tell how many people were there, but I knew I’d have competition. I bounded the stairs to find about 10 people already fast at work in the giant tubs filled with everything. From the pics, I had an idea of the items I’d be looking for, but this was clearly no time for a plan. I jumped right in and started digging in a tub that wasn’t being fanboy molested at the time.

Let’s just say that the “parts sale” description was more than accurate. While you could find some figures here and there, this was Heaven for anyone looking to replace lost figure accessories or restore old Joe vehicles. Two tubs were just G.I. Joe vehicle husks, while one tub was vintage Joe figures and weapons. Everything else was a mix of MOTU parts, Marvel Legends stands, orphaned zords, and anything else you can think of. I came prepared with my own plastic bag, as I really wasn’t sure how things were being priced. The ad mentioned that everything would be “priced to sell/no eBay pricing”, so that was certainly promising. Once I saw other folks with bags, I whipped mine out and started filling it. Since I didn’t really know what the pricing would be, I got greedy. I snatched up anything that seemed semi complete, semi collectible, and, most importantly, wasn’t already claimed by someone else.

Now, here’s the part that I’m ashamed to tell you. Ya see, the original title for this saga was “How I Almost Got Super AIDS”. I guess I was so high on the discovery at hand that I lost a bit of self awareness. As I was digging through a particular tub, I noticed that my hand was wet, but I just kept digging. At one point, I pulled my hand out and noticed my finger was covered in blood. It was my blood. Honestly, I was bleeding pretty badly. At some point, while digging through 30 years of detritus, I managed to cut my finger above the cuticle, and it did not want to stop bleeding. Beside the point that I probably just contaminated the batch, I was also losing out on valuable digging time! I didn’t have a tissue or anything, and while I tried the elementary school first aid of “suck it til it stops”, I just ended up with a mouthful of blood. At that point, I remembered an old receipt that I had in my wallet. I wrapped it around the finger, and kept it moving.

The white stuff is where the receipt fused to the nail. Fun!

I struck up conversations with a few fellow diggers, A) to find out how they’d heard about the sale and B) to somewhat distract them. Yeah, I’m a stinker like that. Once I found out we were looking for different things, I actually helped them out when I ran across something on their list. One guy was looking for vintage Joes, while another had seen some Voltron in the pics and had dragged his little boy down to help him look.

I made sure to hit each tub at least twice, simply because my OCD wouldn’t allow me to leave until I was sure I hadn’t missed anything. Over the course of this time, I struck up a conversation with the booth owner, Todd. It turns out  he’d acquired all of this stuff over the years via various yard sales and whatnot. Instead of throwing away incomplete pieces, he’d just throw them in a tub. Eventually, he had several tubs and his wife wanted him to clear the space before he brought in more. He’s a really cool guy. We discussed Toy Hunter/Collection Intervention (turns out he’d seen neither), I told him about ecrater (he’s tired of eBay being a buyer’s market now), and we discussed the current offerings from LEGO. He also revealed some bad news to me: it turns out, while he was unloading the day before, a guy came up to him and bought 4 of the totes before they even made it inside. Remember all the Transformers stuff you saw in the pics from the last post? Yup, that guy bought basically all of the Transformers stuff, and who knows whatever else was in those totes. Even without the Transformers, I still found some cool stuff, that can be broken down into about six categories:

1) Power Rangers Zord Parts

I actually have a post lined up next week that goes into a bit more detail about why I got this stuff, but the long and short of it is that I tend to buy “orphaned” zords. It’s a pet project of mine to reassemble Megazords by acquiring pieces at a time, on the cheap. When it comes to earlier zords, it doesn’t get much more obscure than this. What you’re looking at it is:

-Thunder Power Turbo Transporter (Ninja Storm): It’s basically just a launching semi.
-Most of the Deluxe Centaurus Megazord (Lost Galaxy): this is one of the zords released when they started not even caring to identify the separate component zords. It debuted near the rushed end of Lost Galaxy and existed merely to be blowed up.

-fist from unknown zord

-Yellow Galactabeast (Lost Galaxy)

-Time Force Megazord micro playset (Time Force): I actually hate micro playsets, and I just grabbed this out of greed

-Senturian Synergizer (Turbo): this was the role play weapon for Ranger ally, The Blue Senturian. Yes, it was spelled that way. Don’t worry, I’m pretty sure he’s dead now.

-Head of the Red Dragon Thunderzord (MMPR season 2): this is one of those parts that was easily lost. You laugh at me now, but watch…

-Astro Megazord Shield (In Space): this is definitely going to come into play in an upcoming post!

-Galaxy Megazord Sword (Lost Galaxy): again, future post

-Firebird Thunderzord leg stand (MMPR season 20: like the Red Dragon head, it’s another easily lost part – especially since it’s removed to form the Thunder Megazord

2) Hasbro

Yeah, I know some of you are disappointed, but this is pretty much all that was left intact! If you were into restorations and picking up accessories, you’d have had a field day. I, on the other hand, just sold off all the G.I. Joe and Transformers stuff that was in my e-store, and I’m in no hurry to start any restorations at the moment. Plus, as far as my own collection, I’m over vintage and focusing mainly on the anniversary stuff. So, here’s what we have:

-OK, I kinda lied about the “not doing restoration” thing. I actually have a box of TF parts, and I recognized this gun when I grabbed it, but for the life of me, I can’t remember who it’s for. Have I ever told you that transformers are not my strong point? The research is the reason it takes me forever to list them on my site. Help me out, Bot fans!

-It looks like a Dollar General Duke, but I’m not convinced that’s what it is. I know it’s the newer body style that I collect, but since I’ve yet to actually see a DG Joe, I’m reserving judgment. What say you, internet?

-Of course you recognize vintage Deep Six! I never had him, but always wanted his immobile ass, so I fixed that. Dreams do come true!

-I honestly don’t care enough about those Transformers to insult you with incorrect info. They’re incomplete anyway. To the parts box!

3) Marvel Bases & Accessories

This pic points out something I’ve always found interesting about thrifting: one day’s finds may not actually “pay off” until down the road. I picked up a 10″ Toy Biz Silver Surfer about 2 months ago, and he’s just been sitting on my site. Besides the fact that the articulation sucks, I feel like he has sat there because I didn’t have his board. I mean, who wants Silver Surfer without his surfboard?! Well, lo and behold, while digging through this completely unrelated tub, I found the board! Not quite sure what I’m going to do with those figure bases yet…

Don’t worry – like we tell today’s youth, it gets better!

4) Playmobil

You can’t tell from the pic, but there’s a veritable shitload of Playmobil here. I have to admit that this stuff I got mainly for my site. When I see Playmobil, I hear cash registers and see dollar signs. Why is that? Well, it’s probably because Playmobil is the official toy of white upper middle-class parents who don’t want their children playing with licensed toys. “No, put down that Spider-Man and play with this shaggy-haired airport worker!” If it didn’t bring back warm memories of Kindergarten, I’d despite Playmobil much like I do anything by Melissa & Doug. Anyways, this stuff don’t come cheap, and these happened to be vintage pieces. One day, I might take better pics of the stuff, but the copyright date on most of the accessories is 1978. Also, I had no clue that Mattel was once the licensed reseller of Playmobil.

The best part of this acquisition, however, is that it allows me to show you the most racist, yet most hilarious Playmobil set I’ve ever seen:

This guy learned the hard way that you do NOT insult the loincloth of the king’s prized monkey!

5) Minicomics & Manuals

I’m a BIG fan of pack-in premiums from old toylines. I’m still collecting Kenner Action Toy Guides, so this stuff was right up my alley. Todd seemed to think these were the best items I’d found, so let’s see if you agree with him.

Yup, vintage Masters of the Universe minicomics. And yes, there are doubles, so I await your tribute.

Precursors to the Action Toy Guides, these are all Star Wars, all the time! Some of them were even woven together instead of stapled. I’m not sure if that’s how they came back then, or if they had been restored. Again, lots of duplicates.

And I couldn’t forget Hasbro, baby! In fact, I even scored a few vintage G.I. Joe blueprints amongst others below!

6) Pop Culturesplosion!

If you follow me on Instagram (and you totally should; williambrucewest), you’ve already seen a version of this picture. I needed a caption for it, so I said something like “My childhood, kicking you in the face!” Of course, the nerd police jumped on me because I have a 200x He-Man and a Sailor Moon in the pic. Haven’t you ever heard of “creative license”?! Anyway, it was really just an excuse to take a pic of everything that was left, yet didn’t really fit into one of the other categories. Yes, you see:

-Rock Lord

-James Bond Jr (who we all knew was one of Bond’s bastard children, even though they claimed he was a “nephew”)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Krang’s walker

M.A.S.K. Raven (that should get me some Underscoopfire traffic!)

-Mego Pocket Heroes Spider-Man (it’s funny to me that most figures in this line look like they’re masturbating. You can tell me it’s unintentional, but this was a company with a hot tub in the center of its headquarters. From the stories, Mego was like something out of Caligula!)

-Sailor Moon

-200x He-Man and Battle Cat

Knight Rider Key Car (put key into spring loaded hole and launch K.I.T.T.)

Justice League lenticular S-shield (I LOVE holograms and lenticular stuff!)

Stompers-esque truck with A-Team logo

A-Team Face figure

Bravestarr Laser-Fire Backpack

-Mr T trading card

Lazer Tag sensor (sadly, seeing this in the pic on the site was the sole reason I decided to check out the sale. Post to come on all that…)

Rambo bazooka and tripod

-General Lee friction car

So, that pretty much wraps it up. I brought home a lot of crap, but I use “crap” endearingly. I was pleased as punch with what I got, as it certainly beat the junk I probably would’ve found at a yard sale. There are worse ways to spend a Saturday morning, and it’s not every day that you get a chance to go back in time and put your hands on stuff that you’ve either only seen online OR you remember your mom throwing away. Sure, I’ll be out in the streets at yard sales this weekend, but I’m sure I’ll just find the usual Rescue Heroes and broken JAKKS WWE figures. This will probably make me depressed, and make me realize I’m wasting a lot of gas. At those moments, though, I’ll think back to the time dig. There’s more stuff out there, just like this, and it’s waiting to be found. It’s not always on the surface, and sometimes you have to dig for it. I’ll be there, and next time, I’ll wear gloves!

10th Sep2012

My 2012 Baltimore Comic-Con

by Will

Normally I’m excited about a comic convention, but that wasn’t the case here. Between the fact that my love affair with comics has hit a rough patch, I’ve been busy with a new job AND wedding planning, combined with the fact that I have a cold that took my voice, I was not looking forward to this year’s Baltimore Comic-Con. Still, I’m a big fan of streaks, and I haven’t missed a BCC since 2004. So, I took some meds, manned up and made the drive. One of the things that I look forward to is that the show allows me to see folks I don’t get to see often. It’s been an annual meeting with Twitter pal @sycobuny, last year I met Yo from @OAFE and I get to see old industry friends. This year, though, it seems that most of my friends didn’t realize it was con weekend until it was upon them. So, no meeting with sycobuny, Yo and I didn’t cross paths, and I didn’t get to meet any new Twitter pals.

So, the show. I’m getting conflicting impressions about how the show was going. I hope @dcuniverse blogs about his take on things, but the show seemed smaller than in the past. There were areas with a lot more walking room where there had previously been booths. I’m not sure if this was intended, or indicative of the economy. That said, there was high demand for entry. However, when I ran into con organizer Marc Nathan, I asked him if it was a good show, and replied that it was an “OK show”. Must not have met the day’s expectations. In the past, I’d wake up at 6 AM and stand in line to get in when the doors opened. Over time, however, I’ve come to realize that there’s really nothing to gain by doing that. I mean, we’re all going to the same place, and unless you know exactly where you’re planning to hit first, it’s a waste of time. So, I got there at about 2 PM, and there was STILL a LOOOONG line outside of people waiting to get in. There were separate lines for cash and credit, and of course cash ran more smoothly. I didn’t want to get in that line because I didn’t bring a ton of cash, and it would eat into what I could buy. I didn’t want to stand outside, though, so I did the cash line.

Once inside, I didn’t wander long before I ran into my sword brother, Keith Davidsen. He recently left Avatar Press, and he’s now cock of the walk as a bunch of publishers are interested in working with him. I’ve known him for 5 years, and I’ve never seen him that in demand. It was pretty impressive. So, I spent a good chunk of time looking taking pics of cosplay, as he chatted up the dude behind Gutters, Brian Pulido, the guys at Dynamite and more. We’ll get to the cosplay. I’m not done pontificating yet!

The con floor had the typical layout: pro booths, artist alley, and the dealer side. Due to some bad experiences in the past, combined with the fact that I’ve basically met everyone I want to meet, I avoided the pro booths. They were full of lines of people waiting to meet their favorite creators. God bless ’em, but they’re wasting good time in those lines. No, thanks! Artist Alley actually had some cool stuff, but my days as a buyer kinda make me an asshole. Ya see, the minute you make eye contact, they’ve got you and you may not want that. Still, I came into the show wanting to leave with unique things, and I knew that I’d find that there. Chris Flick from capesnbabes.com was doing caricatures of folks are their favorite heroes. I, of course, chose Batman. I think it came out well (notice that even the Batsignal has glasses)!

The dealer side also held little for me. I went into the show with a loose plan: I wanted to fill in holes in my Amazing Spider-Man and X-Factor runs. The problem, though, was that I’m not looking for vintage. I’m actually looking for books published within the last year. I haven’t purchased either of those series since last Christmas, since I find I enjoy them more in chunks than on a monthly basis BUT I don’t want them in trade form. Considering the amount of overships Marvel has done recently, I figured it wouldn’t be a problem. I was wrong. I guess someone else had the same idea, as I came up empty on both. Toys were the same situation. I’ve reached a point where I don’t really have any more holy grails as far as Marvel and DC figures go. I’ve got about 75% of DC Universe Classics, and I’m not a huge Marvel toy guy. I did pick up this loose Gambit for $5, though, ’cause five bucks! I know he’s lame now, but I came up in the 90s when he was the coolest mofo in comics, so this is how I like to remember him.


One dealer had a DC Universe Classics figure I’ve wanted for years: Gentleman Ghost. Some backstory: DC Universe figures ship with pieces of a larger figure. Collect all the figures in a series and you can build a cool, big figure. Gentleman Ghost comes with one of the rarest pieces, and he was never really shipped evenly to stores. The dealer had $100 on it, but I offered $80. For you non-fanboys, you’re saying “$80 for a TOY?!” It’s worth it. Go check eBay. I’ll wait. Anyway, the dealer declined, as he said he bought the thing at the show at a premium, and didn’t even expect to sell it this weekend. Rather than budge, he feels he’s got a better shot selling it next month at New York Comic Con. My loss, I guess. Or I might just go to NYCC and offer him $80 again.

So, in the end, I ended up with a bunch of Series 4 LEGO minifigure packs (Lindsay & I started collecting at Series 6), DMZ Vols 11 and 12, Scalped Vol 7 (which I actually already had and didn’t know it), Gambit, the caricature, some art cards of Miles Morales Ultimate Spidey and Batman Beyond, Drafted: The Essential Edition, We3: The Definitive Edition, Batman: Earth One HC, The Boys Vol 11, and Batman & Robin #10. I didn’t go too overboard, and I only bought stuff that was either a good deal or unique.

Now, for the cosplay. I think the cosplayers brought it this year. I was impressed by a lot of what I saw. Let’s see if you agree with me.

April O’Neil! She even had little Turtles with her!

You remember what I said about Gambit. Loved this costume.

Booth Babe Rogue, handing out coupons for Collectors Corner

Um…I got nothin’

Tuxedo Mask! At Otakon, he would’ve been The Man. Not sure if people recognized him here, though

Dominican Wolverine! You can’t see it, but his “claws” were butter knives tapes together.

It’s either Nick Fury or my Uncle Leroy. Both were old black dudes with eyepatches…

Last year, I gave you GaBlactus. This year, I give you Blor.

PG’s boob veins were still adjusting to the New 52…

Ya know, “Zatanna” wouldn’t be too unusual a name for a black chick these days.

A lot of booth dealers were ogling their asses, but I run a classy joint over here!


Oh, Mista J!

Baltimore keeps the Spirit of Vengeance quite busy

“Stand back, old chum! Villainy and scalpers are afoot!”

This marks the first time any has paid attention to The New Mutants in years!

I’ve got a world exclusive: Bane & Jubilee meet up in the crossover of 2013!

As part of MarvelNOW, we’re getting Nicky & Tash – teenage Nick Fury and teenage Natasha Romanov fight international crime, while still making it to the homecoming dance.

Booth Babes helping out at the charity art auction

Such a badass costume. The pic doesn’t even do it justice.

I had nothing for him to sign, but I had to say hello to the father of A Real American Hero, Mr Larry Hama!

Well, that about wraps it up. Not the best convention, but I’m glad I went. When I got next year, I’ll be married, a year wiser, and hopefully sans cold. Tune in next time, when we get back to Thrift Justice!

19th Jul2012

Laughonomics Part 4: Living Dolls & FYI

by Will

If you read yesterday’s post, then you probably think that everything is now sunshine and lollipops for The Bower Agency. Despite its current success, there was one dark spot on its track record. We start off with that scandal today.

                                                                                       (courtesy only80s.com)


Show: Who’s The Boss/Living Dolls

Business: Carlin Modeling Agency

Outlook: This might only be memorable to the Who’s The Boss superfan, so bear with me. As Samantha Micelli started blossoming into a beautiful young woman, she developed modeling aspirations. As luck would have it, Angela’s old friend, Trish Carlin, ran a modeling agency specifically for teenage girls. If this were a Dateline episode, the end of that sentence would be the point where the ominous bassline hits. As Sam dips her toe into the industry, her friend from the old neighborhood, “Charlie”, comes for a visit.

If you’ve seen the Tori episodes of Saved by the Bell, or any Jo-centric episode of The Facts of Life, then you already know Charlie. Played by Leah Remini, Charlie’s a little rough about the edges, but a natural beauty. She’s got more street smarts than she should at her age, and she’s been fending for herself on the streets. Seeing as how she already runs an agency for teenagers, Trish decides she likes the cut of Charlie’s jib, and takes her in. This led to a one-season spinoff, called Living Dolls. The only notable thing about the show was that it was Halle Berry’s acting debut. Outside of that little fact, most of the show has been forgotten. So, what happened to the Carlin Modeling Agency?

Verdict: I wish I could say it was as simple as the place just going out of business. I wish I could say that, but I can’t. You see, the Carlin Agency’s primary source of income was sex trafficking. Charlie was the one who blew the whistle on the place, which led to a life on the run. As The Bower Agency had ties to the company, this was a PR nightmare for Angela Bower. As the authorities closed in, Trish Carlin jumped off the roof of a New York hotel. Most of the girls were accounted for, and Trish’s business partner was taken into custody. Charlie was tracked down, and placed into protective custody while waiting to testify. Rumor has it that she spent a summer working at a beach club, with the cover story that she was working for her “father”. After the trial, Charlie went on to lead a normal life, and is currently married to a delivery guy in Queens.

                                                                             (courtesy tvland.tumblr.com)


Show: Murphy Brown

Business: FYI Newsmagazine

Outlook: When Murphy Brown premiered, it was the dawn of the primetime newsmagazine boom that gave us Dateline, 48 Hours, Primetime Live and more. It’s very much a staple of its time, as the subject matter was more political than tabloid journalism. The anchor team was comprised of recovering alcoholic Murphy Brown, stiff and conservative Jim Dial, balding wildman Frank Fontana, and former Miss USA Corky Sherwood. Throughout Murphy Brown’s run, FYI seemed to be a steady performer for its network.

Verdict: FYI, though it has gone through some changes, is still on the air. After the reality TV boom, the show was moved to its parent company’s cable news channel. Over the past 15 years, the show has experienced a bit of an identity crisis, as popular news anchors like Anderson Cooper, Soledad O’Brien, and Greg Gumbel all had temporary stints at the newsdesk.

As most primetime news shows have skewed become more tabloid in recent years, FYI has somewhat “graduated” to the role of a sister show to 60 Minutes. Focusing on an older demographic, FYI isn’t forced to have all the flash & sizzle of Fox News or NBC News. It does, however, cater to the younger demographic via its popular newsportal FYINews.com. In fact, just like it was for Murphy, FYI still serves as a second chance for journalists who may have fallen on hard times. The current news team is comprised of FYI veteran Frank Fontana, a newsman from Ohio named Les Nessman, and former co-host of The View, Debbie Matenopoulos. Heading into its 30th season, the show will be joined by an award-winning investigative reporter from New York City. While the network isn’t ready to make a formal announcement at this time, buzz indicates that she left her old job in disgrace due to a mental break concerning sewers and feet.

Well, that does it for today. Be sure to tune in tomorrow for the grand finale of our series!


16th Jul2012

Laughonomics Part 1: Jack’s Bistro & Over Our Heads

by Will

I’ve always loved TV. Sure, you’re probably thinking, “Well, I love TV, too.” No, I LOVE TV. I was basically raised by it. It’s not just that I like watching TV. Like Kenneth Parcell, I love the industry, the magic, but also the business side of things. I’ve always had a fascination with business, and while watching a LOT of shows in syndication recently, I started noticing just how many fictional companies were depicted. Since most of these shows are anywhere from 20-30  years old, I started to wonder what exactly became of those businesses. Are they still thriving? Did they survive the introduction of the internet? To borrow a page from my pal ClaymationHowl, I figured we’d use this week to take a look back at some of this TV businesses and see where they ended up.



Show: Three’s Company/Three’s A Crowd

Business: Jack’s Bistro

Outlook: Anyone who’s seen Three’s Company knows the basics: Jack Tripper is a cook who lives with two girls. Sure, the landlords change, and the girls change, but his dream stays the same: he wants to own his own restaurant. In season 7 of Three’s Company, that dream comes true and he opens Jack’s Bistro. Since Jack specialized in French cooking, the menu featured items like Coq Au Vin. He was conned into renting the rundown restaurant from his former boss, Mr. Angelino, and when Three’s A Crowd started, the building was purchased by Mr. Bradford – the father of Jack’s live-in girlfriend.

A cute little restaurant, Jack’s Bistro only has about 6 tables in the entire establishment. Not only is this to promote an intimate feel, but it’s also probably due to the fact that there are only 2 employees – Jack and his surfer-dude stereotype assistant E.Z. At any given night, only about half of the tables are full. Business was NEVER booming.

Now, let’s focus on Jack’s personal issues. Just as Three’s Company dealt with the taboo of mixed-gender roommates, Three’s A Crowd dealt with the taboo of a cohabitating unmarried couple. Jack wanted to marry his flight attendant girlfriend, Vicky, but she wasn’t having it. Her parents had gone through an ugly divorce, and she didn’t want that for herself. Jack agreed to live with her, but he never really gave up on trying to change her mind about marriage. She was constantly on the go for work, and her father was Jack’s landlord. Let’s just say that Jack was dealing with stressors in every area of his life.

Verdict: Jack’s Bistro is closed. In fact, it’s been closed  since about 1987. When watching the one season of Three’s A Crowd, it comes off like Jack was more in love with Vicky than she with him. Hollywood loves a happy ending, but we were spared the season 6 finale wedding event. So, I’m able to be realistic and say that their relationship lasted about 2 years. Vicky simply loved her freedom, and Jack wanted to settle down. Mr. Bradford, not afraid to kick a man while he’s down, wanted a tenant in the space that would actually be able to pay the rent. The real estate was simply too valuable to waste, and it’s currently the site of a Starbucks. Since Jack boxed in the Navy, he went on to become a sports writer. He got married, and had three kids. Sadly, in 2001, he passed away after collapsing in a grocery store.

Oddly enough, the Regal Beagle is now a thriving franchise known for its happy hour deals. There are currently 15 locations in southern California.

                                                            (courtesy X-Entertainment.com)

Show: The Facts of Life

Business: Over Our Heads

Outlook: You know the story – there’s the Eastland School for Girls, which is chock FULL of students, yet the housemother Mrs Garrett only seems to give a shit about four of them: Natalie, Tootie, Blair, and Jo. After they graduated from school, they helped Mrs Garrett open her own bakeshop, Edna’s Edibles. In season 7, the store burned to the ground, but was rebuilt as Over Our Heads – something of a Gadzooks/Spencer Gifts hybrid. Mrs Garrett got married and moved to Africa, so the store was run by the girls and Cloris Leachman. Oh, and Mulleted George Clooney. These stores were ALL the rage during this era, as you could buy a giant nonworking pencil, or chattering teeth, or a large set of novelty lips. Pretty much if Judge Stone on Night Court had it, Over Our Heads sold it. If you want a closer look, Matt over at X-Entertainment did an INCREDIBLE job dissecting everything in the store. Needless to say, this was the kind of store that could ONLY thrive during the late 80s/early 90s. You can barely find a real Spencer’s these days, so good luck finding a copycat.

Verdict: There’s no way in Hell Over Our Heads is still open. The Facts of Life went off the air in 1988, and I’ll say that it the store survived until about 1992. Not too shabby, really. It was long gone, however, before it got the chance to jump on the Beanie Babies/POGs bandwagon. That might’ve actually saved it. All was not lost, however. In The Facts of Life Reunion, Mrs Garrett, now widowed, came back to America to start over. The movie ends before we see where she ends up, so here’s where my imagination takes over. Not only do I see her reopening Edna’s Edibles, but she also has the good fortune to be ahead of the curve on the whole cupcake craze. She rides this wave, and even ends up with her own TV show. At this point, Mrs. Garrett is probably the Paula Deen of baked goods.

Anyway, that’s it for today. Tune in tomorrow, when we discuss Jefferson Cleaners and Punky’s Place.



18th Jun2012

On Toy Reviews

by Will

Disclaimer: I don’t have a running list of the specific sites that receive product samples. So, this isn’t targeted at any specific site or reviewer. That said, the criteria I used focused on sites that posted reviews for items that had yet to hit retail. I mean, if it can’t be bought in stores, they probably got it from the company. 


So,  I started this on Twitter, but in my haste,  I forgot some key words and my message got mangled. Let’s try this again : if you are a toy reviewer who gets free product samples from the manufacturer,  I don’t trust your opinion. Now,  allow me to say that I don’t trust *most* reviews. While I enjoy reading your thoughts, I’m not going to be swayed by what you have to say. It’s just not in my nature. The main reason that I cant trust these reviewers, though,  is because I cant trust their judgement of whether X is worth buying ; if you got the toy for free,  you never had to answer that question for yourself.

I think this is a problem unique to toy collecting. Oddly enough, I don’t feel this way about comic, book, or movie reviews. Hell, my Adventures West Coast feature is mostly based on books I got for free. So, I clearly don’t have an issue with free comics. The difference, to me, is the matter of *experience*. The other media that I mentioned are things that you experience, or take in. You take in a movie or a good book. It makes you feel a certain way. Plus, you have options with other media: you can get a book from a library rather than buy it OR rent a movie from Redbox instead of seeing it in the theater. This is only my opinion, but I don’t feel that way about toys. As an adult collector,  it seems like 2 things are paramount : sculpt and articulation. Sculpt is more important than ever these days,  especially if you’re a MOC collector, as the buck pretty much stop there. If you like to open your toys, you’re going to care about articulation,  as you’ll want to be able to pose it in cool ways on your shelf /diorama.

However, there’s an aspect that’s commonly missing in toy reviews: experience. Sure,  some sites discuss the notion of play value,  but few reviewers would admit to commonly playing with their toys. Hell,  if you want a real opinion of play value,  ask a damned child! Instead,  we’re left with grown ups who attempt to surmise what the child’s opinion might be.

Sure,  the collector market is important,  but the big toy companies will tell you they’re trying to court moms,  and moms get their info from kids (and assorted mommy blogs) . Because adult collector reviewers hardly delve into the play value aspect,  it has left me feeling that their opinions are incomplete. I don’t experience toys. Its more like a passing fling. I see something attractive,  the price is right,  and if it was amazing,  I steal her panties and keep them as a souvenir. Or put the figure in my Detolf.  You knew where I was going … Based on that chain of events,  the process of the adult toy collector is a bit…lacking. So,  lacking any real depth,  the matter of whether X is worth buying becomes even more important. Shit, that’s pretty much ALL that matters, which brings me back to why I cant trust toy reviewers who get free samples. They didn’t have to answer the most important question of the whole endeavor. They never had to. It’s like taking marriage advice from your bachelor friend who gets enough ass that he sees no point in settling down. Yes,  to me, reviewers who get free samples are basically Larry Dallas.

I’ve come to realize that some people truly do defer to certain reviewers’ opinions. Its an odd phenomenon to me (I should probably point out that I’ve never understood groupthink concepts,  like school spirit. I’m borderline autistic in that regard) . It seems like toy companies also understand certain critics’ sway, earning them a spot on the coveted product sample list.

How did I get on this train of thought? You see, this afternoon I saw a tweet featuring a review of the upcoming SDCC Movie Masters Bruce Wayne. A toy that isn’t out yet. A toy that many of you will never have a real shot at owning. Even if it sucks,  I do not believe he would negatively review it PRIOR to its release. That’s just bad mojo. So, he’ll, as we say in MD, “sice it” (translation: over promote it),  and everyone will rave over how awesome the figure is and how much they want it. To me,  this is disingenuous because it violates the one tenant that I’ve established that toy reviewers must follow: just honestly tell me if it’s worth buying. In this case,  by not paying for the product, he is no longer an impartial reviewer. He’s now a representative of the toy company,  albeit in an almost freelance capacity. He is no longer in a position to honestly answer the only question I would have in this arena : is it worth the price?

There are far more costs involved in transactions besides *price*. There are opportunity costs, as in what you might have given up in order to buy toys instead. There’s your time. There’s gas. There’s the fact that what you want is shortpacked, on top of the fact that the manufacturer has a reputation for spotty distribution. In the grand scheme of things, all of these factor in to the “cost” of acquiring the toy.

Now, let’s look back at that SDCC Bruce Wayne. Here’s a review from a guy who not only got the item early, but he got it without even having to GO to SDCC. You know what the experience would be like for you or me? First,  we’d have to go to SDCC (hopefully we’re going for more than just the chance to get this one toy) . Once there, we wait. Sometimes you just wait in one line. At other times,  you wait in line for the *chance* to later wait in another line to buy the toy! Can you believe that?! You’re “engaged to be engaged” in the process of buying a TOY! If you wait long enough,  and they don’t “run out”, which is laughable since they’ll certainly have “limited stock to throw up on the website”, you’ll get your toy. If you don’t go to SDCC,  you can still wait,  along with everyone else who didn’t go, to buy some of that “limited stock” off the website. Of course, those will be made available in the middle of the day,  while you’re at work. So now you either take a sick day, long lunch, or have your unemployed bud do you a solid. Or maybe you have a cool job where they don’t care if you buy toys on company time. And if you miss all that,  there’s the Sears & Roebuck interpretation of Dante’s Inferno known as eBay. It seems that JediLover69 somehow has a whole case of the fuckers, and he only wants $100 each. Now,  remember, you just went through all this because some dude told you it was awesome. A dude who didn’t have to go through a fraction of what you did in order to say that.

So, am I being cynical? Perhaps. But we’re talking about something that geeks and nerds love, so there’s no such thing as TOO much cynicism. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea: some of my best online friends are reviewers who get free product from toy companies. Hell, I’m not hating the player OR the game. I think any of us would love to be on that list. If I ever get that amount of clout, though, I won’t do reviews. I might post a bunch of TwitPics, saying “Look at me NOW!”, but I wouldn’t post a review. That just wouldn’t be genuine.

26th Apr2012

You’re Gonna Love It In An #Instagram

by Will

Since this seems to be introspection week, I figured I’d check in and give a social media update. If you’re new here, every so often I like to take a look at the digital world, and explore how my role in it has changed. My entry to this world started with this blog, so it’s only fitting that I track my progress here. In the past, I’ve discussed Friendster, MySpace, Twitter, and the rest. This time around, I think I want to talk about Instagram.

First off, I think I’m over Facebook. Every change that’s meant to “enhance” the experience has really made it worse to me. Let’s get down to brass tacks: I like the “spying” aspect of social media. It allows me to keep tabs on people that I don’t really feel like calling on the phone. It’s nothing against them, but I just don’t like the phone. The latest change to Facebook has been the introduction of Timeline – a new profile design that essentially changes Facebook into a digital scrapbook. By grouping events and status updates by year, it has essentially changed the purpose of the site. In the beginning, Facebook was a connectivity tool – it allowed you to keep in touch with people and share moments/thoughts/pictures/jokes/etc with them. This change, however, really turns into into a digital equivalent of “This Is Your Life”. It turns the focus inward rather than outward, and I feel it’s more isolationist than communal. Of course people are upset about it, but people are upset about every change that occurs online. That’s just the Circle of Digital Life. This, however, is worth being upset about, as it basically changes the mission of the site. I don’t need a digital time capsule. I want to see pics of the skank that my friend met on Spring Break!

When discussing these changes with an online friend, he responded that it really shouldn’t matter, as social networking “can’t be taken seriously”. I was really struck by that argument, and I can’t say that I agree. I feel that an outsider would feel this way, but it’s so odd to hear that point of view from someone “within the system”. This person and I are connected over several different platforms, and I actually take it seriously. I don’t know if this is sad or just proof of how social media has changed interaction, but I talk to certain people online more than I talk to my family. I can go 3 days without talking to my mother (we’re close and she lives 10 minutes away), but I worry if someone hasn’t tweeted in 24 hours. I’d rather livetweet Star Trek with them than go out in the “real world”. That’s just how I am. I just feel like, considering some of my closest interactions now occur online, it’s definitely something to be taken seriously. When a popular platform, like Facebook, vastly changes its interaction model, that’s something to take very seriously. Hell, that’s a chink in the armor of the digital landscape. Anyway, with these changes, I’ve pretty much moved away from Facebook. Hell, I’d pretty much just used it for Farmville, but that’s a game I haven’t touched in months. It started out as fun, became an obsession, but then they expected me to manage 4 separate farms at once. Sorry, but I’m not a shut-in or a stay-at-home mom. Maybe I’ll go back one day, but I’m mainly just rocking Twitter.
I know I discussed it in the past, but I just haven’t been able to get Tumblr to work for me. Microblogging is not my strength, and I’m not mesmerized by gif files. Tumblr is the most ADD social network out there, and it seems like the “junior college” to MySpace’s “high school”. Lord knows I’ve tried to embrace it, but I haven’t figured out how to make all of my posts blink in glitter font.More recently, I dipped my toe into Pinterest, which is essentially a digital pinboard. Since I’m not really acquainted with the notion of “pinboards”, I think of it more like a “junk drawer”. We all have that drawer that just holds a bunch of random shit, like movie ticket stubs, and that thing from that time you went to that place with that chick. It’s all the shit that doesn’t fit neatly on a Splurgg from IKEA. That’s Pinterest. You find stuff online that you like, and then you “pin” it, which puts it in one of the folders that you publicly display on your profile. They say that 90% of its traffic is women, and I don’t doubt it. Unlike Twitter, where I feel I need to stay on top of updates, Pinterest is something that you just check in on while waiting for an oil change. There’s no real pressing content, but it’s a way to pass the time. While Tumblr has established a bit of a reputation as a porn portal, Pinterest has yet to really establish a niche to make it a worthwhile time sink.
We’re not here to talk about Pinterest, though – we’re here for Instagram. If you’re not familiar, Instagram is a social media platform that allows you to apply filters to photos you’ve taken, and then share them. In the beginning, this app was exclusive to the iPhone, so it had a hipster elitist vibe to it. Also, because these people seemed to ONLY use the “Toaster” filter, it gained a reputation as the “app that made new shit look like old shit”. We all had a good laugh, half because it seemed stupid, and half because it wasn’t compatible with our phones. About 3 weeks ago, that all changed when Instagram became available for the Android, and we all became a bunch of hypocrites. I downloaded it on Day 1, and haven’t looked back. I love, love, love this social media platform more than I ever thought I could.One of the biggest issues with Instagram was that it “made hipster douchebags think they were real photographers”. While  there are certainly examples of this, I think it also took mediocre photographers to the next level. I don’t toot my own horn, bu I’ve always had a keen eye. Whether I’m looking for a needle in a thrift haystack or noticing how the light hits certain things, I’ve had moments when I’ve felt “that would make a great picture”. Since I skipped photography class in high school, and I’ve never had what one might call a “good camera”, I never really got to take a lot of those pictures. I don’t understand the basic rules of photography, as you might notice from pictures on the ecrater site. A lot of it is due to ignorance, while the rest is due to lack of patience. I find that Instagram has bridged that gap for me. To real photographers, I might be “cheating”, but I’m finally able to realize a desire that I couldn’t really do anything about in the past. I enjoy trying the different filters, and it’s a great feeling to have someone “like” something that I’ve shared. There are some shots that I’m more proud of than a lot of the creative stuff that I’ve done. If that makes me a hipster douchebag, so be it. All I know is that this has opened a new door for me, as I’m interacting with artsy people instead of the usual comics/toy bunch. Don’t get me wrong – a lot of my pictures are of toys, but it’s helping me explore other facets of myself at the same time. So, if you’re on Instagram, I’m williambrucewest. If you’re not on Instagram, I highly recommend that you sign up!

11th Apr2012

Why Spider-Men Isn’t Such A Bad Idea

by Will

So, a few months ago, I wrote this article over on The Robot’s Pajamas. Go ahead and read it if you haven’t; I’ll wait. Don’t have the time? OK, I’ll break it down for you. Amidst much controversy, Marvel killed Spider-Man Peter Parker in the Ultimate Universe and replaced him with Miles Morales. As you can imagine from comic circles, this caused fanboys to lose their shit. We’re talking wall to wall diarrhea here! Frankly, I didn’t care what they thought. First off, it was a “safe” move, since the Ultimate Universe isn’t the REAL Marvel Universe. Second, I think Miles is a great character, who can breathe new life into what had become a stale copy of everything that had already occurred in the “real” Marvel U.

Why am I bringing this up today? Well, Marvel officially announced the details of Spider-Men, a series they’d teased but hadn’t fully explained. This summer, both universes will cross over, as Miles Morales will get to meet Peter Parker. Back when the Ultimate Universe was created, former Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada swore that the two universes would never cross over. In fact, he said something akin to the fact that such a thing would only occur after they had completely run out of ideas. This morning, everyone online is trying to remind him of this sentiment. First off, Quesada has gone back on a LOT of his 10 year old promises. I’m pretty sure he never thought he’d have the job as long as he did, so these things happen. Also, I don’t think this is the same scenario he was discussing. Spider-Men, while controversial, isn’t such a bad idea after all.

Miles Morales is a bit green behind the ears, and he needs someone to train him. Sure, Peter had The Ultimates training him, but look how that turned out (SPOILER: he dead). Sure, The Ultimates never really got started with their training, but the fact of the matter is that Miles could learn much more from someone who’s been in his shoes rather than an outsider who doesn’t truly understand his powers.

As I write this, someone is telling me that Miles can never be THE Spider-Man if he interacts with Peter Parker. I don’t see how that’s relevant. Miles interacting with Peter just gives him another perspective on his powers and of what he can become. A similar thing happened with Ultimate Reed Richards. As the first Ultimate crossover with another Marvel Universe, the Ultimate Fantastic Four characters interacted with the characters from the Marvel Zombies universe. The events of this continue to affect Ultimate Reed Richards to this day. Learning about other universes changed his perspective, and gave him a new understanding of what he could become. Some people may not like the current state of Ult Richards (Spoiler: he bad), but the event certainly helped to shape him into something vastly different from his “regular” incarnation.

Miles needs to see a successful, grown Spider-Man in action. As it stands, the Ultimate Universe’s idea of Spider-Man isn’t the best. Sure, he died a hero, but he’s also the poster child for reckless youth. He was untrained and that lack of training got him killed. Miles just got his powers and isn’t too sure of himself. He’s studying Peter’s moves via YouTube videos, but he needs more. Not to borrow from the headlines, but this sort of interaction with the “regular” Peter Parker could serve as Miles’s “It Gets Better”. It would show him that he won’t always be the novice, but could one day successfully get the hang of things.

Comics are full of gimmicks these days, and Marvel tends to be the one doling out most of them. It’s easy to rail against things that go against the norm, but I think this storyline could be a good thing. Plus, I find that most of the people who hated the idea are the same who hated Miles to begin with, for whatever reason. I have GREATLY enjoyed the new direction of Ultimate Spider-Man – not because he’s a minority character, but because his addition breathed life into a property that had been stagnant for quite some time. Anyone following the Ultimate Universe knows that it was pretty obvious Peter was to die during the Ultimatum event, yet someone chickened out of pulling the trigger. So, we ended up with a relaunched title that accomplished nothing until they finally killed Peter and decided to move forward. This is just another step in that forward momentum. If you hate the idea, fine. this clearly isn’t for you. I don’t like half the shit you all tell me is awesome. The difference, however, is that I typically check it out for myself before making that decision. This isn’t Civil War II or another trip to the Age of Apocalypse. You only THINK you know what’s going to happen, but it’s  somewhat uncharted territory. Unlike events that exist solely to set up the next one, I can see a lot of positives that could come out of this. I only hope that I’m right.

01st Mar2012

Pimps Up, Toys Down

by Will

Ever since I opened Will’s World of Wonder, I’ve dealt with situations I never really thought I’d encounter. Since I don’t feel like writing about comics or thrifting, I thought I’d give you a peek at the travails of the online e-seller.

Surprisingly, the venture hasn’t required too much promotion, as the items appear in Google searches. Sales were amazing right before Christmas, as most of my business seemed to be stay at home moms doing online gift shopping. After the holidays, however, things slowed down. That’s when I explored other channels to get the word out – facebook groups, Craigslist, message boards, etc. Throughout these interactions, I’ve begun to realize that it’s not that much different from online dating or (so I’ve heard) dealing with a john. People wait til they see what they’re looking for, you strike up a conversation, and you hope to make something happen. Even though it’s toys and not a lifelong relationship (or easy sex), the highs and lows are still the same.

Recently, I’ve joined a SHITLOAD of online groups, from 80s toy collectors to toy traders to what I’ll call the “justified scalpers”. Oh, you don’t know what a justified scalper is? Those are what I call the folks who buy up all the good toys, and then pop online saying, “I grabbed all the Marvel Legends at Toys “R” Us, so let me know what you need.” They feel justified because they’re not necessarily charging a mark-up, but their actions are still preventing others from being able to buy the toys.

What gets me, though, is that they also don’t seem to understand supply and demand. They seem to think there’s a magical, neverending stockpile back at the warehouse just waiting to be shipped out. So, they hop on and say “Make sure to check your local Targets because mine had the latest wave of DCUC and I BOUGHT THE WHOLE CASE. I had them check the other Targets in the area, and I’m gonna make a few more stops on the way home. Hehe.” Thanks, asshole. You just cornered the market. Sure, it’s a small market, but it’s cornered nonetheless. If you live in a town with 2 Targets, and they’re the only ones carrying a particular line, if you hit them ALL and bought up all the cases, you have effectively cornered that market for your area. And it’s not like you have 64 friends who need the figures. No, you’re “just helping out fellow collectors” . The best way this plays out is if they return them after a few days, but most either keep them for trading fodder or, worse, end up charging $30 for a $15 figure. Oh, and did I mention that they’ve opened the figure, and removed the build-a-figure piece? Anyway, long and short of it is that I’ve interacted with a lot of different people.

It all starts about the same way. Instead of waiting for them to come to me, I go looking for them. I spend some time online, and when someone posts “I’m looking for a G.I. Joe Rise of Cobra Gunship”, that’s when I pounce. Send ’em a link, and tell them to PM me if interested. They message me, asking what I’m looking for in exchange, which always frustrates me because there’s clearly a price listed if they had simply clicked the link. Anyway, I do the dance, and repeat the price. Then, they ask about shipping. Again, the shipping is listed. If I can ship cheaper, I refund the difference, but I don’t have time to run searches on each and every zip code. OK, so after the volley, if everything goes well, you’ve got a transaction.

Sometimes, though, these people throw you for a loop. Everything is going well, and then they tell you “Oh, by the way, you’ll have to ship to The Netherlands.” THE NETHERLANDS?! I don’t even know where the fuck The Netherlands are! Do I look like Carmen Sandiego?! Why are you doing business with Americans? Why didn’t you tell me this in the beginning? It’s seriously like a betrayal. I thought we were gonna make things happen, and now I have to worry about this distance and whether or not you’re on board to do what it takes to make this work. Real grown folk drama!

Anyway, I’ve told you enough of my secrets. I think you should pay me back by buying something from me. Go, make it happen. Unless you live in the damn Netherlands. I’ve already been down that road.

01st Feb2012

Today In Black History…

by Will

So, if you followed me on Twitter at this time last year, then you’re already familiar with this whole process. I wanted to do it again this year, but I’m unreliable, and I’ll probably miss a day. Plus, as I’ve acquired more black followers, I’m learning that this isn’t so uncommon. Instead of looking like a “biter”, as they say, I wanted to show that I can roll with the big dawgs! So, I thought I’d blow it out in one fell swoop. Plus, at the end, you’ll find a handy, dandy PDF that you can print out and remember the great contributions that Ne..African Americans have made to our society. There’s a different event for each day, so share it with your white friends, and put a copy up on your Kwanzaa mantle. Yes, we can!




1) Today In Black History: Arnold & Willis Jackson became the first poor black kids adopted by a rich white person

2) Today in Black History: Jimmie Walker left his lucrative career in demolitions to become a comedian.

3) Today in Black History, The Eastland School for Girls admitted Dorothy “Tootie” Ramsey as its first black student

4) Today in Black History, the Fresh King of Bel Air was assassinated. The throne remained empty until a long lost son was found in 1990.

5) Today in Black History, Kunta Kinte is accepted into the space program, and it only costs him his eyesight.

6) Today in Black History, the black girl became the Yellow Ranger, which was only slightly less offensive.

7) Today in Black History, boxer Cassius Clay was bitten by a radioactive Muslim, transforming him into Muhammad Ali

8) Today in Black History, the remains of the fabled “Caribbean Queen” were found in the trunk of Billy Ocean’s car.

9) Today in Black History, Devonté Henson became the first black person to scale the Aggro Crag.

10) Today in Black History, a young Tyler Perry put on his first dress. Years later, he would learn that he could be paid for it.

11) Today in Black History, scientists combined the DNA of Morris Day and a pony. The result was Prince.

12) Today in Black History, Mr. T pitied his first fool, which is still illegal in most states.

13) Today in Black History, Lt Uhura inspired a generation of black women to work for the phone company.

14) Today in Black History, DeBarge discovered a place where they could dance the whole night away. It was an abandoned T.J. Maxx

15) Today in Black History, the US Government cracked down on music piracy after Rerun snuck that tape recorder into the Doobie Bros concert

16) Today in Black History, the Negro Hockey League was founded. After everyone had a good laugh, the site was converted to a Popeyes.

17) Today in Black History, Magic Johnson opened the first movie theater chain where blacks were encouraged to yell at the screen

18) Today in Black History, George Washington Carver’s lazier brother, Jamal, invented crunchy peanut butter.

19) Today in Black History, Janet Jackson joined the cast of TV’s “Fame”. Critics declared this would be the lowest point for the Jackson family

20) Today in Black History, Dwayne Wayne discovered a parallel universe – a different world, where Marisa Tomei was the only white person.

21) Today in Black History, Frederick, MD was named for Frederick Douglass – known for his love of Walmart and the white women

22) Today in Black History, Aunt Jemima discovered Uncle Ben’s affair with Mrs Butterworth, thus splitting Black America’s first power couple

23) Today in Black History, Acorn Avenue -an all-black version of Sesame Street, debuted featuring NeGrover & Big Turkey. It would only air once

24) Today in Black History, 16 Soul Train dancers were killed in what has come to be known as “The Cabbage Patch Massacre of ‘91”

25) Today in Black History, Autobot Rosa Sparks gained attention when she refused to transform into the back of a bus. (Courtesy of @OAFE)

26) Today in Black History, Jesse Jackson formed the R&B group The Civil Rights. They were dropped from Motown before releasing a single.

27) Today in Black History, with Knight Rider & The A-Team, NBC became the first network to devote a night to shows starring black vehicles

28) Today in Black History, Republican scientists proclaimed “Shucky ducky!” as they successfully completed secret cloning experiment, Operation: Chocolate Cheney.

Be sure to celebrate responsibly, but let’s get it poppin’ like a Jackson Hewitt commercial! After all, it’s what our ancestors would’ve wanted.

Black History Calendar





30th Jan2012

Who’s That Guy?

by Will

My rants tend to take a nostalgic bent, but I find I try to stay away from the true “retro blogging” front. I rarely venture earlier than ’93, and there are so many bloggers that already have a handle on the ’80s stuff. That said, the folks over at UnderScoopFIRE! and ColdSlither Podcast have really kind of stoked the fires for my nostalgia. Having followed them on Twitter, and listened to their podcasts, I realize that they’re my kind of people. Every day, I can count on a great debate like “Stone Cold OR The Rock?” or “Ma’am and George Papadapolis OR “Philip and Maggie Drummond?” These aren’t the debates you get from CNN, but these questions must be asked! So, the wheels have been turning, and I’ve started thinking about 80s pop culture, and some of the quirk inherent to that era. One such phenomenon I’d like to refer to as “Who’s That Guy?”

Sitcoms have really evolved over the past 50 or so years. Before we settled on the whole single camera, no laugh track model (The Office), we had the multicamera, studio audience model (Three’s Company). In the beginning, these shows usually starred some comedian or variety act, maybe a husband and wife team. Then, we got to the 70s where things were a bit more politically charged, and sitcoms began to explore the workplace (Mary Tyler Moore). In the ’80s, however, shit got weird.

In the 80s, shows centered on a family model, and tended to have male family friend who Just Might Be Gay. Who’s that guy? Why is he here? What’s his motivation? He wasn’t just a wacky neighbor, as those had been around for years. No, this was something different. Of course, he couldn’t actually be gay, as Three’s Company showed us that you could only be gay if you weren’t (Ha! He’s only pretending). No, these characters seemed like they were testing the waters of America’s acceptance of the potential of a gay sitcom character. The role disappeared in the 90s when shows gravitated towards the Living Single model – centered around a group of friends who are primarily not immediate family; I’d say Friends model, but any black person under the age of 50 will tell you that Living Single did it first (Honestly, I think TGIF’s Going Places might have actually pioneered the whole thing, but I digress). It’s said that the funniest jokes have some truth to them, so it stands to reason that these roles were possibly meant to ease America into the idea of homosexuality, without fully understanding how best to accomplish that. After all, this was new territory for the era, so there wasn’t really a road map as to how to successfully pull this off. These characters were always played as “bachelors”, but little “bacheloring” was done on their part. It’s kinda like your middle-aged uncle who lives with his “friend”, Kevin. At most, they were played for comic relief. Still, their addition always seemed a bit off, as if mandated by the network. I want to take a closer look at some of these characters.

In the sitcom Webster, real-life couple Alex Karras and Susan Clark take in little Emmanuel Lewis, and hilarity ensues! Not really. Anyone with eyes knew that this was just a Chinese knockoff of Diff’rent Strokes. I wonder if white folks were as crazy about adopting black kids as TV led me to believe. Seriously, TV made it seem like a typical yuppie weekend agenda was:

_Play tennis at the club


_Detail the BMW

_Go down to the orphanage and look at the black kids

The saddest thing about Webster was that he wasn’t even a part of the original premise. It was just meant to be a show about the couple, but everyone was apparently riding the wave of black adoptions (gotta catch ’em all!), so Webster was pigeonholed into the show. And then he took over. And the real life couple wasn’t pleased.

Anyway, despite all the behind the scenes drama, something interesting was happening onscreen. You see, the show introduced Jerry (played by Henry Polic II – how do you even become a “II”? Don’t you have to be a JUNIOR? Anyway…), who was the male secretary to Katherine Papadapolis. Hold up, MALE SECRETARY?!! But that’s a WOMAN’s job, like housekeeping (little did we know the 80s would also turn that occupation on its head, too). Anyway, I’ve watched a LOT of TV. We’re talking a LOT. That said, I can’t remember an important episode featuring Jerry. I do remember him dressed up as Dracula once. Otherwise, I just remember him as looking like he could be Cousin Larry Appleton’s stand-in. As a child, though, all I could think was “Why is he here? They already want me to believe these rich white folks want Webster, and now I’ve gotta make sense of him, too?!” I don’t know if there were any episodes about Jerry going on dates with women way out of his league, or a rushed marriage storyline or anything. In hindsight, part of what taints my memory of him is the Britcom, Take A Letter, Mr Jones. In that show, John Inman (of Are You Being Served? fame) plays a male secretary, and I don’t think John Inman EVER played a straight character, so I guess I’m applying that bias to Jerry on Webster. Was Webster sending a message through established gender roles or was it trying to change established gender roles? Let’s move on to another example, shall we?



Another quirky 80s sitcom was Too Close For Comfort, starring Mary Tyler Moore/Caddyshack alum, Ted Knight. This show was all over the place, partly because it went from network to first-run syndication – changing plot points as it went along. Mainly, Knight played Henry Rush, a cartoonist whose most popular strip was Cosmic Cow. He lived in San Francisco with his wife and hot daughters. Oh, and Monroe Ficus.

Played by Jim J. Bullock, Monroe started out as a friend of Henry’s daughters. While he’s a klutz and always tends to gum up the works, his heart is usually in the right place. Over time, Henry becomes a bit of a father figure to him – especially once the daughters are written out of the show. The problem with Monroe, though, is that he’s a character that just doesn’t exist in that time period. I mean, in today’s vernacular, you would classify him as a manchild, but not in the Judd Apatow sense of the word. Those characters just don’t want to embrace responsibility, while Monroe just had a Peter Pan naivete about him. He never dated any of Rush’s daughters, nor did he even try. I’ve been watching the show a lot lately on Antenna TV, and he doesn’t seem to ever really have girlfriends. Then, there’s the “very special episode” where he’s raped during his shift as a mall guard. It’s played for comedic effect, even though there’s a buried message about how men can be raped, too. He’s embarrassed to go to the police, but Henry convinces him that he should. The whole message isn’t conveyed very well, and you find out he was raped by a burly senior citizen, so it’s still “Haha, poor Monroe!”

As a character, Monroe was a sweet kid, but what was his true purpose? Sure, he served as a foil for Henry (much like the Urkel and Carl relationship from Family Matters), there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered about the character’s motivations. Early on, we learn that his own parents don’t really even care about him, from dissuading him from visiting, to not even calling on his birthday. This is part of why Henry decides to make time for him, but why did the Ficus clan disavow him?

Then, there’s the fact that the character was played by Jim J. Bullock. A longtime HIV survivor, Bullock has never been shy about his sexuality, and he actually learned he had the virus during the final season of Too Close For Comfort. I often wonder if Monroe never chased women because they felt the audience wouldn’t believe it OR if Monroe was actually as gay a character as network TV was willing to allow at the time.

Here’s where I wanted to talk about Joey Gladstone from Full House. I’ve always had a problem with Full House because I don’t know why Danny Tanner puts up with all those freeloaders. Seriously, Joey wasn’t a blood relative, and it seemed like they were helping him more than he was helping them. Also, when you get married, it’s time to move out. When you have a baby, it’s time to move out. When you become a DJ, it’s time to move out. You do NOT move into the attic, expand said attic, or install a studio in the basement. As you see, though, most of my problems were actually with Jesse – Joey was just along for the ride. Plus, any theories about Joey were dispelled by Wolfgnards’s excellent takedown of what was really going on in the Tanner household.

So, we’ve gone over just a few examples here. There are others who fit the mold (Dexter on Silver Spoons, Ralph Simpson on Gimme A Break!, etc), while others don’t (Charley Dietz on Empty Nest). In fact, speaking of Charley, he’s indicative of what happened later on in the decade. Played by “Joe Isuzu” actor David Leisure, Charlie was an oversexed douchebag, much like a real-life version of Family Guy‘s Quagmire. In the latter half of the decade, most of the “Who’s That Guy?” characters would follow this path, as womanizing cads with little moral character. If psychology tells you anything, these guys are actually more likely to have issues dealing with their sexuality than the characters like Jerry and Monroe. But this has already gotten too cerebral, and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna actually use my degree for a blog post!  Can you think of any other characters who fit the mold? Am I way off base here? Do you just want me to hurry up and talk about comics and toys again? Stay tuned!