Thursday, October 4, 2012

Hide Your Shame: 24 Hour Edition III!

Alright, this is getting ridiculous. Blogsylvania's turning into a t-shirt blog. CHECK IT:

First up is my favorite of the day, punk rock Slimer, from Ript Apparel:

And The Yetee has "God Save the Thing"

And woot has "Tricorn of the Sacred Realm," which is only rescued from pointless mashup oblivion by the shrewd inclusion of candy corn:

To be perfectly honest, I don't particularly like any of them! So why am I featuring them on Blogsylvania? After all, you can use the same limited t-shirt aggregator I do: teemagnet! They also have special collections set up, presumably in celebration of Halloween, of Supernatural, Ghostbusters, and zombie tees.

Of course, my own Halloween shirt holy grail is a long-gone Teefury edition, called "Trap Them All:"

 "Let Egon sort 'em out!" Oh, fun. But alas, the artist, nakedderby, hasn't made the design available anywhere else, that I've seen, which leads me to believe he's another Soviet operative like the Dracula Dirt masterminds. Oh, well.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Hide Your Shame: 24 Hour Edition II!

Woot's offering today is just too perfect for our kind: x-ray Halloween treats with all the horrible fillings we were told could (and probably would!) be in each and every piece of trick-or-treat candy we dared to eat! AND it glows in the dark! (Blogsylvania historians might know that the original name for this blog was, in fact, X-Ray Apples. Kis? MET.)

Glow-in-the-darkedly make fun of your paranoid, well-meaning parents for a mere $12 at woot!

Ript Apparel, meanwhile, is showcasing what I assume is a reference to The Walking Dead, but zombies bore the crap out of me. Nowhere Bad also has a "Buffalo Bill's Body Lotion" gag, but it doesn't really do much for me either.

And less limited are these two shirts from RedBubble:

Evil Ed from, well, I'm sure I don't have to tell you!

The default color puts the design on white, but white's for those Christmas sissies! Buy it on black for $23.34 plus shipping.

And I hope you've been watching the seventh season of Doctor Who, because this shirt might delight you if you have:

In any case, I'm a sucker for I Blank City shirts! Buy this one on whatever color you want for $24.74 + shipping.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Dracula Dirt

Ever looked through old comic books from the 1970s? They contained ads like windows into other worlds, selling the stuff of dreams -- treasures beyond imagination -- and for mere pennies! Learn how to kill my enemies with my bare hands, from a man named Count Dante of the Black Dragon Fighting Society, for a quarter? A 7-foot tall Frankenstein's Monster with glow-in-the-dark eyes for $1 (with a mysterious and provocative ten day free trial)? An entire war in a box for $1.75? A fragment of the planet Krypton for $2.50? A 7-foot Polaris nuclear submarine for $6.98? A coffin-shaped amulet containing one gram of authentic, and possibly cursed, earth from Dracula's castle high in the mountains of Transylvania for $9.95?

There was an entire generation of us born in the '80s who were TORTURED by these ads. It was like finding out that Santa Claus was real, but he crashed into a mountain in 1979. I mean, the ads in contemporary comics were great -- Johnson Smith offered entire arsenals of devices to enhance the performance of obnoxious little brothers, and if you sold enough Olympic greeting cards, you could earn a telescope AND a ukelele -- but mail-order retail in the '70s was almost too fantastic to be believed.

So what suddenly changed in the early 1980s that you couldn't learn to hypnotize people with magic, swirly coins for a dollar anymore? Did the American government have to restrict ownership of free hovercrafts after some kind of spectacular hovering disaster? Did Marvel Comics' wormhole into the Irresponsible Toy Dimension collapse? Did Santa Claus really die? Was it a stunningly elaborate Communist plot to inspire paralytic envy in America's children, thereby undermining the capitalist system? Yes.

But the Russkies, for all their devious treachery, didn't foresee the internet, eBay, and Blogsylvania, because despite their best efforts to sabotage our materialistic ambition, DRACULA DIRT CAN BE YOURS. Read it and weep, pinkos: thanks to patriot peter*alien, you can now buy one of these elusive pendants on eBay for a mere $25, plus $7 shipping, which, adjusted for inflation, is just about the original price! And what's more, he has an entire batch of these on-hand -- I bought my own last year!

Unfortunately, I don't have much to say about it, which is why I've been stalling. It's a little plastic coffin with dirt in it. I've been closely monitoring it for mystical properties over the past year, and so far no magical effects are evident  - I'm reclusive, averse to sunlight, and have a heart as black as the abyss, but the dirt hasn't cured ANY of that. (It's still possible that it's infected with the plague, but I always suspect things from Europe of being infected with the plague.) Anyway, buy your own below while you can, but try to resist the strange urge to eat it.

To  further entice you, and fill out this blog entry, I've prepared a short vignette to dramatize the potential effect of Dracula Dirt on Dr. Peter Venkman:

'Cause, y'know. He always blames Slimer an' stuff.

(I've been a negligent Blogsylvania host, and I'm sorry, accidental Stumbleupon readers. My every free moment has been occupied, either with the Presidential election, the new season of Doctor Who, or Supernatural and Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix Instant. Yes, the rumors are true: I gave both shows, one of whose stinking guts I'm on record as hating, a second chance, and both have more or less redeemed themselves. Unfortunately I don't have anything blog-worthy to say about them besides wishing congratulations to Jared Padalecki for getting his mouth overacting under control in the second season of Supernatural, and to go on record again, this time as wanting to throw Xander down the Baby Jessica well. One Chandler was already too many, Joss Whedon.)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Dell's Dracula Comics

In the early 1960s, Dell Comics, publishers known for their humor comics and workman-like adaptations of films and TV series, received the license to publish comic books based on the Universal monsters. They published loose one-shot adaptations of the monsters' seminal films (Dracula in '61, The Mummy in '62, The Wolfman and The Creature in '63, and Frankenstein in '64) before their license evidently lapsed, but they weren't through with the monsters yet.

At the height of the silver-age superhero boom in 1966, Dell retooled the monsters to less resemble their movie star counterparts and relaunched Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolfman (renamed the more generic "The Werewolf") as their own stable of public domain crimefighters. The comics aren't classics by any standard (proved by their short lives of three issues apiece), but they possess all the silly charm of any silver age comic book, and they're fun reinterpretations of characters that are otherwise comfortably familiar.

Dracula begins on a light and mild afternoon at the height of the Cold War, where a man works in a laboratory high in a castle in Romania to discover "ways to find world peace." So peace is a chemical process! We were WAY off. The man is working with bats (specifically their pink juices) to derive a drug that will heal brain damage in human beings, presumably because war is waged exclusively by people with brain damage. Or, wait, I guess it's to redeem himself in the eyes of humanity so that he THEN can formulate the world peace drug. Redeem himself from what, you ask? Why, the fact that this man is of the bloodline DRACULA!

Unfortunately for his ongoing quest for redemption, he seems to have a fundamental misunderstanding of his family's reputation. He calls bats "the animal which through the superstitions of the simple people of my country has brought bad light to my family name..." managing to blame bats AND Republicans for his family's problems in a single sentence. And it seems to me that if you're trying to overcome the stigma of associating with bats, proudly announcing that you've been squeezing bodily fluids out of them in seclusion for years seems counterproductive. But whether he's a bat-lover or not, his slate's about to be wiped clean, because just in time for his comic book debut he's discovered the cure for brain damage!

But what's this? One of those disreputable bats has, unseen to Dr. Dracula, knocked over a beaker, spilling the miraculous serum into an empty glass, into which he unknowingly pours water with which to celebrate his achievement:

I think we've all been there.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Horror Hosts

Any fan of the unique American Halloween tradition owes a great debt of gratitude to horror hosts: they helped usher horror into the mainstream, and brought a little bit of Halloween into homes all year round. They're not as big a presence in our lives as they once might have been -- we have to actively seek them out now -- but they're still around, fighting the good fight and deserving recognition.

In 1957, television stations across the country were licensed 52 theatrical horror films in a package known as "Shock Theater." Many of these TV stations, to put a personal touch on the films, would enlist someone (often from the station's regular staff) to adopt the persona of a horror character themselves and introduce the movies. This proved wildly popular with viewers, and the roles of some of these hosts expanded: where some of them started as announcers simply imitating Bela Lugosi or Boris Karloff's voices, they went on to dress in costume and create their own unique characters, stepping in front of the camera to perform in skits that would bridge the movie with the commercial breaks. These skits could range from the dry satire of Vampira to the corny Vaudeville slapstick of Svengoolie, and they often worked in humor specifically tailored to their community -- referencing local personalities, institutions, or regions -- which made the experience all the more personal for viewers. Fans grew loyal to their hosts as mascots representing their communities, and you can still find proud fans engaging in rivalries over whose city had the best host.

As national, syndicated broadcasting began to crowd out local programming in the late '70s and early '80s, infomercials and reruns of old sitcoms supplanted the horror hosts, but their success still reverberates today, nearly sixty years after they began. The enduring popularity of the classic monsters in our pop culture can be traced directly to the Shock Theater films and that full-fledged cultural phenomenon known as the '50s-'60s monster boom that they inspired, and even people either too young or too isolated from major media markets have been able to experience the legacy second-hand with those born out of the tradition like Elvira, Count Floyd, Mystery Science Theater 3000, and the Fright Night films (which were themselves a direct homage to the Los Angeles-area host Sinister Seymour and his show, Fright Night).

Luckily for those of us who missed the golden age of horror hosts, a great number of people are still carrying on the proud tradition on public access television and the internet. This generation of hosts is a different breed: these aren't working stiffs making the best of an assignment; they're fans living their dream. Their personal enthusiasm enriches the experience and instills a different sense of community, where instead of identifying as Clevelanders or Angelenos, defined arbitrarily by geography, we identify as one big community of fans, defined by our shared love for the culture, hosts included.

Penny Dreadful's one of my favorites: she has a great deadpan delivery and a fun dymanic with her non-verbal sidekick Garou (along with a cast of guest stars good enough to star in their own shows), there's a wide range of options to watch her show, Shilling Shockers, and they put great care into their shop, selling wares that invite fans to feel a personal connection to the show that might otherwise be lost in the less intimate global venue of the internet. It's affordable, too: for an irresistible $10, you can become a formal member of the Shilling Shockers fan "coven" with a kit that includes a personalized membership card, certificate, autographed photo, and more! My favorite goodie has to be the unique, mysterious toy familiar (but the attention to fine detail on the membership certificate is certainly appreciated), and I recommend membership wholeheartedly to all my readers/mom.

And as if she wasn't coming across as a superstar already, Penny also had an old-fashioned crossover with fellow superstar Dr. Gangrene (see below) for a totally original Halloween special on DVD!

I've seen it, sure, but if I have to say more to convince you to buy it from Amazon for $8, then buddy, you're on the wrong blog.

Svengoolie is horror host royalty, a living legend and a Chicago institution. The second in the Svengoolie lineage, Rich Koz was one of the first fans-made-good, taking over the role he was a fan of in 1979, and he's still going strong Saturday nights on Me-TV. The site's regularly updated with video-taped readings of viewer mail and puppet sidekick Kerwyn's (user-submitted) Joke of the Week, and the man behind the myth updates his blog every single day. The Svengoolie shop isn't as comprehensive as Penny Dreadful's, but they have one handsome (and GLOW-IN-THE-DARK!) t-shirt, and a very attractive set of buttons. You can also register for a chance to win an autographed rubber chicken, which any Svengoolie scholar will tell you would be a rarefied honor.

Dr. Gangrene Presents can be seen on CW58 in Tennessee and Southern Kentucky, but lucky for those of us outside their viewing area, the Doctor also keeps a pretty active YouTube channel. He also blogs and podcasts via his website, and, AND, he also produced an award-winning series of public service announcements encouraging environmental conscientiousness, making him not just a Halloween hero, but a civic hero, too!

Count Gore De Vol is another horror host hall-of-famer (and esteemed ambassador for mustachioed Draculas everywhere), having started his Washington, DC-area show Creature Feature in 1973. His website's a little confusing to navigate, for its wealth of content, but he has a pretty beefy shop with some cool (and GLOW-IN-THE-DARK) tees, DVDs, and more. The Count's program is one of the most accessible, on-demand from his Vimeo channel.

Showcasing these four barely scratches the surface of the vast number of hosts, active and retired, and finding new ones is at least as much fun as enjoying the ones you know. There's the ribald zombie bombshell Ms. Monster; the legendary patriarch of horror hosts Zacherley; the "spooky, sexy psycho" Helena, Hussy of Horror; the subversive beatnik Ghoulardi and his successor (and many would say surpasser) The Ghoul; the undead-Banana Splits-like Ghouligans; the list goes on! An excellent place to dive in would be the horror host documentary, American Scary, available for streaming on Netflix Instant, but below are some links to excellent resources for those interested in learning more about horror hosts. - an entire blog devoted to the culture! - the Rondo Award-winning blog with outstanding weekly horror host updates - a comprehensive host database - state-by-state horror host guide

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Hide Your Shame: 24-Hour Edition!

Two really cool horror shirts are available for cheap on a couple of those limited-edition shirt shop sites -- get 'em while you can! Even if they pop up elsewhere later, which is never a certainty, they'll be twice as expensive.

I'm usually not one for mash-ups, but this one's so subtle, I'll allow it:

11 smackers, plus shipping (my last order from them came out to $14.75), at The Yetee.

I'm even less of one for "got milk?" riffs, but it actually works with this one:

Get it for 10 simoleons, plus shipping, at Ript Apparel.

And here are a few more recent discoveries (but you can take your time with these).

Friday, August 3, 2012

Doctor Dreadful Lives!

Remember Doctor Dreadful toys? It was the one your mom wouldn't let you have. Well look out, moms, 'cause you're not the boss of us anymore, and Doctor Dreadful is BACK! Dig it, turkeys!

I'm firmly convinced that no one in the world ever actually bought one of the original Doctor Dreadful sets, but EVERYBODY knew about them. Taboos, of course, hold allure all their own, and none are stronger than the allure of things that gross your mom out. The marketers of Doctor Dreadful toys knew this, and know it still:

Like all things forbidden to children, Doctor Dreadful was the stuff of myth and legend, whispered about conspiratorially like the Beatles in the Soviet Union. But you know as well as I do that if we'd been allowed to buy them, we'd have made a batch of brains, eaten them theatrically in front of our moms, and then stored the kits away in our closets to be forgotten about. But children never look beyond the initial materialistic thrill, and somewhere, deep in my subconscious, that shortsighted longing has survived into adulthood. When I look at these playsets, the obnoxious little boy in me wakes up, and he plans. He plans wicked, wicked plans.

Of course, he's planning these wicked plans deeper in my subconscious than the adult who won't spend $20 on a childish one-off novelty for my own fleeting amusement. (I could probably still gross my mom out with it, but it would be a more profound and existential nausea, the kind that's tinged with regret and a sense of failure. Not even my inner brat's that sadistic.) Luckily for us, other people's inner responsible adults have lost the battle, and they've documented their defeats on the internet.

The line appears to be ongoing, and one of their coolest sets was just released:

But if, like me, you prefer to spend frivolously on things with a bit more longevity, if not practicality or maturity, there are these TOTALLY AWESOME clip-on plush dolls from Mezco:

I'm not much of a Chucky guy, and I'm absolutely not a Saw guy, but I'm glad to see them branch out a little from the usual quartet of Jason, Freddy, The Shape and Leatherface, and I find the entire set utterly irresistible. These will be available from the usual retailers, but I stole the pictures from from Things from Another World, who have them available for pre-order for a reasonable $5.59 each. Argue with THAT, inner responsible adult!

But Mezco hasn't forgotten about the classics, and they have, due out just in time for Thanksgiving, a line of equally totally awesome (DIBS ON MUMMY) stylized Univeral Monsters figures:

According to Mezco, these stand 9" tall and will retail for $33.

And finally is some merchandise from the upcoming flicks Hotel Transylvania and ParaNorman. First there are the Hotel Transylvania plushes, which, from what I gather using my advanced powers of deductive reasoning, will be coin-operated claw game prizes:

Left to right: Frankenstein, Dracula's daughter Mavis, Murray the Mummy, Dracula, a shrunken head, a zombie bellboy, and the Invisible Man. Maybe.
Dracula looks like crap, but I would too if I was played by Adam Sandler. The shrunken head's not bad, but zombie bellboy's the clear winner (after the Invisible Man. GET IT?).

Huckleberry Toys is also releasing a line of statuettes from ParaNorman, which Big Bad Toy Store has available for pre-order for a not-too-shabby $11.99! 

Whether this is the extent to the merchandising being done for these movies, it remains to be seen (I know some people are holding out hope that the slippers and toothbrush used to promote ParaNorman will be made available at retail). Remember when EVERY movie and cartoon got a full line of toys? I guess the more sophisticated youth of today are more into statuary and gambling.