Category Archives: childhood

Quisp

Finally my local Shop-Rite has decided to stock Quisp cereal. This is kinda cool, rather than drive a couple miles away to the Acme, or ordering through the mail, we can get Quisp almost any time we want. For a long time, that wasn’t really possible. Quisp was among the missing.

Quisp was my favorite cereal when I was a kid way way back when. Way before Frosted Flakes and Rice Krispies, I loved me some Quisp. The cereal was what I would munch while watching the Saturday morning cartoons and beg for in the supermarket because it had a toy inside. I have a distinct memory of my big sister building the toy flying saucer from inside the box. That’s right, a toy so complex it had to be put together. She even attached a thread to it so it would appear to fly on its own.

Yeah, we’re talking about real cereal, it’s even made mostly of corn and sugar, in the shape of little flying saucers. It even took its name from the little alien who was the cereal’s mascot, who was featured in a series of animated commercials during Saturday mornings, by Jay Ward, who also did “Rocky and Bullwinkle.” Can you get more retro than that?

On Saturday mornings back in the day, the commercials were a little longer, not thirty-second buy-me blasts, but sometimes multi-minute-to-be-continued-on-a-later-break stories. The ads for the original G.I. Joe Adventure Team were like that, and so were the adventures of Quisp and Quake.



While Quisp was a little alien dude, Quake, his default friend and active rival was a big burly miner (later a superhero-like swashbuckler), and they would argue, fight, and compete over whose cereal was better. Ironically, they tasted the same, but had different shapes, Quisp in the shape of tiny bowl-like flying saucers, and Quake was, I think, big rock-shaped cereal. I really couldn’t say, I always got Quisp.


I remember vividly in 1972 when an election took place where you could vote for your favorite of the two cereals. A nation of kids, wrapped up in the same type of election fever that gripped their adult counterparts, voted for Quisp as the chosen one. Quake won. As his punishment, besides dealing with Quisp’s gloating, Quake became the sidekick to Simon the Quangeroo, who got his own cereal, albeit an orange flavored version.


When another election, one I don’t actually recall, was held in 1976, Quisp won again and Quangeroos were vanquished, ahem, I mean discontinued. The ironic thing is shortly thereafter, all three cereals seemed to vanish from not only television screens, but also store shelves.

Quisp returned in the 1980s briefly and then again in the 1990s as available online only, before coming to select stores. I’m glad it’s now available closer to home, and I’m sure we’ll be getting it more often.

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Nick Cardy 1920-2013

A big chunk of my comics childhood has passed away. Nick Cardy, born Nicolas Viscardi, was perhaps the first influential artist on Aquaman and Teen Titans, but most importantly, he illustrated almost every DC Comics cover in the early 1970s. To me, Nick Cardy’s versions of the DC superheroes were the definitive versions, as those were the ones I saw all throughout my childhood, and even on the covers of books I didn’t read. And he was damn good. Nick Cardy passed away this weekend.

Here is the official press release from DC Comics:

“We are saddened to learn of the passing of Nick Cardy, one of the industry’s greatest artists. A talented draftsman with a knack for layout and energetic cover design, Cardy’s art leapt off the page and helped redefine some of DC Comics’ most lasting characters for a new age.

“Like many early comic pros, Cardy began his career working under the tutelage of the legendary Will Eisner, as part of the Eisner and Iger studio. But it was his arrival at DC Comics in 1950 that saw the artist begin to show signs of the legend that would soon form around him.

“Cardy’s smooth line and dynamic sense of action graced the first appearance of the Teen Titans in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #60, not to mention almost 40 issues of AQUAMAN during the character’s initial Silver Age solo series.

“Cardy continued his relationship with DC’s teen team for the entirety of TEEN TITANS 43-issue Silver Age run, redefining the collection of sidekicks through his innovative and yet still classical brushstroke, with a dash of post-modernist design and 60s swagger.

“Cardy was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2005.

“We’ve lost one of the artistic pillars here at DC,” said Diane Nelson, President of DC Entertainment. “Nick’s work on Aquaman, Teen Titans and beyond helped define how we look at these characters today. Our thoughts go out to his family, friends and many fans.”

“Nick Cardy was a wonderful artist and person, but I’ll always remember his amazing covers,” said Dan DiDio, DC Entertainment Co-Publisher. “From the classic “Is This My Foe?” AQUAMAN #42 image that featured a victorious Black Manta hoisting Aquaman above him to the first appearance of the Teen Titans, Cardy just knew how to get a reader’s attention – and that is a talent that can never be understated. He was my definitive DC cover artist for the 60s.”

“Nick Cardy’s work helped define some of the things we see in comics today and take for granted,” said Jim Lee, DC Entertainment Co-Publisher. “He broke out of the mold in terms of covers and layout and created a truly interactive experience for the reader that directly points back to his time with the Eisner studio. His versions of Aquaman, the Teen Titans and Bat Lash – to name a few – remain iconic today. Our sympathies go out to his family during this difficult time.”

When I think of the Teen Titans, I think not of Marv Wolfman and George Perez’ wonderful New Teen Titans, I think of Nick Cardy’s Titans. The heroes of the comic my big sister read, on which I learned to read, the ones that even taught me about Shakespeare, and slavery, and the Civil War, and the civil rights movement. We have lost a comics legend, and I have lost a piece of my childhood.

To see a few more of Nick Cardy’s covers, check out my Tumblr here.

RIP Lou Scheimer

Lou Scheimer, the father of Filmation, and the king of American television animation for many of our childhoods, has passed away at the age of 84.

Filmation was a small animation studio, one of the few still doing animation in the United States, rather than shipping it overseas. Founded by Scheimer, Hal Sutherland, and Norm Prescott in 1962, they did some little known cartoons like “Rod Rocket.” They really caught fire when they licensed the DC Comics characters in 1966.

Beginning with “The New Adventures of Superman,” they began to expand to shorts that featured other characters like Superboy, Aquaman, Batman and Robin, and later the Justice League of America and the Teen Titans, as well as those groups’ individual members. These cartoons were, along with the 1966 “Batman” TV series on ABC, my gateway drug into comic books. My love of Aquaman, Superboy, and others sprang from early viewings.

The DC deal brought another comics company to Filmation’s offices, and Archie came to Saturday morning animation for years under their guidance. Later in the 1970s, Filmation became a major player in the animation game, producing cartoons of “The Brady Kids,” “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids,” and “Star Trek: The Animated Series” among many others.

Filmation delved into live-action with shows like “Isis,” “Space Academy” and Shazam.” While the studio began to get a reputation for repeating backgrounds, limited animation, recycling designs, rapid jump cuts, and using the same music over again, they had also produced some real quality programming as well.

In the 1980s Filmation produced some of its most well known shows like “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,” which featured, like many of the previous shows, a lesson at the end of every episode. Before closing up shop in 1989, Filmation also produced over the years some very cool versions of Flash Gordon, Tarzan, and the Lone Ranger, using then fairly new rotoscoping techniques.

With the loss of Lou Scheimer on Friday, we have lost one the legends of animation, and for me, a big chunk of my childhood. He’ll be missed.

Re-Reading The Shining

I am reading “The Shining” again for the first time in thirty-five, thirty-six years. Amazing how far author Stephen King has come, and so odd to see simple wording and point of view errors he would never make today. It is also something to marvel to read a simpler King, but also what may be a more sinister King.

Back in 1977, I started reading the big hardcover version of “The Shining” first, which my mom had borrowed from my book enabling big sister. It seemed like a historical romance from that cover, almost giving off a “Dallas,” “Dynasty” or sweeping John Michener vibe. There was the big hotel on the front (and back) cover looking almost similar to Tara from Gone with the Wind, painted images of the man, the woman, and the child, and the hedge animals. My sister needed her copy back, so then I bought the paperback at the local grocery store. That was a gray book with a blank boy’s face on it, and that’s the copy I still have today.

I remember plowing through it rather quickly, on the front porch swing during the days, and in bed before sleep, which defiantly came. This was King’s third book, chronologically at least, and I’m pretty sure I knew he was something special even then, that he was subversively teaching me writing skills and techniques. All that and he was a joy to read.

And what attracted me most of all, was that he wrote about writers. There’s the interviewer in “Carrie,” Ben Mears in “‘Salem’s Lot,” and now Jack Torrence. I could relate, and now I was hooked for a lifetime. Both my own and King’s, as writers would continue as protagonists and even antagonists for dozens of novels to follow, notably the nebulously aligned Harold Lauder in my favorite King novel, “The Stand.”

The young Stephen King plays fast and loose with perspective and point of view I’ve noticed. As an editor (and yes, I know how presumptuous this is), there are more than a few things I would have corrected in the book regarding POV. Let’s just say, he did get better. Much better, or at least as good as one of the best selling novelists of our era can be.

Young Danny’s perspective and understanding of things is a puzzle of complexity. Does he know and understand because of his psychic abilities? Or does he for the sake of storytelling? King walks a very fine line here, most times opting for the latter, and weaving a tighter more terrifying tale for the reader.

There is one difference I noticed in my Nook copy of “The Shining” however. The word REDRUM written in a graphic in my original paperback copy of the book, but not in my Nook copy. It was missed. Back in the day, tricks like that, raised and/or cut out covers, or the multiplying flies above chapters in “The Amityville Horror,” made books in the late 1970s a little bit more special.

There is also the matter of Jack Torrence’s alcoholism. At the time “The Shining” was released the public was unaware of King’s own struggles with old devil drink. This fact in retrospect lends a frightening realism to what was already horrific in the book. We knew King was a teacher, spent time in Colorado, but now, we can’t help but wonder… was he abusive as well? Dare I ask – did he harm his wife and family? Just how autobiographical is “The Shining”?

King has always made the distinction with Stanley Kubrick ‘s film version, that he had written a book about a haunted house, but the director made a movie about domestic violence. What if he protest-eth too much? What if King insisted on that because Kubrick hit too close to home? My intent is not to make accusations, mind you, but to report the extra dimension facts about the author’s life bring to the work. It certainly made some of it uncomfortable to read.

The sequel to “The Shining” has been a rumor that has floated around for years. It became just a little bit more real when Kung finally gave it a name, “Doctor Sleep.” When he wrote it and announced a release date, then things got hot. “Doctor Sleep” is scheduled for release today, and there’s also a preview at the end of my Nook copy of “The Shining” as well.

Author Frederik Pohl Passes at 93

There was a time in junior high school when I was devouring all the classic science fiction at the local small town library, or at least trying to. I was fascinated by Bradbury, found Asimov and Clarke far too obtuse, loved Ellison to death, dug Heinlein and Dick, and also really liked Frederik Pohl.

Besides Harlan Ellison, Pohl was one that entranced me into reading more of his work immediately. I spent some time exploring Gateway, Jem, and the secrets and stories of the Heechee. Fantastic stuff. I should give it another read after all this time. Two days ago, Pohl passed away at the age of 93. He’ll be missed.

Corvette Summer

Corvette Summer ~ I guess it’s impossible to relay to those who weren’t there at the time just how huge this dumb little movie was when it came out. Corvette Summer was Mark Hamill’s first film after Star Wars, and his much anticipated non-Luke Skywalker debut.

In the eighth grade, this was the biggest movie of the summer, period, and must see. If you didn’t see it, you just weren’t cool. I guess that’s why I finally saw it on a Friday night on ABC-TV. It is worth noting that as I remember it, no one was really talking about this flick after they saw it. It’s not Shakespeare, but I wouldn’t be as rash to say it was all that bad either.

Other than Mark Hamill as a possibly slow high school shop jock, and Annie Potts in her film debut as a ‘prostitute in training,’ Corvette Summer is pretty much just a pretty typical teenage romp. It had a bit more heart than most, and could have easily been a TV movie of the week, but it wasn’t bad.

Surprisingly it follows the Hero’s Journey template as Luke, I mean Mark, tracks the shop class’ prize Corvette Stingray across country to Las Vegas, where he learns some hard truths.

Annie Potts is fun, and look out for an awkwardly older Danny Bonaduce, there’s also a cast of great 1970s TV and film character actors. Hamill is good, but after all these years I still wonder if his character is just mental because he’s so obsessed with finding the car, or if he’s just mental, period.

Corvette Summer was harmless and enjoyable, and a nice time capsule to high school and the seventies. I dug it then, and I dig it now.

RIP Alan O’Day

We all (well, all of us of a certain age) have that one 45 RPM single that enticed us into the world of listening to the radio, that one single that we heard and then had to own. For me, and for many of my friends in the summer of 1977, it was “Undercover Angel” by Alan O’Day. I remember first hearing it on WIFI-92 FM and then having to have the single.


Alan O’Day passed away this weekend after a six month battle with brain cancer. He also wrote, among many others, the haunting and enigmatic “Angie Baby” for Helen Reddy. We’ve lost yet another icon of the 1970s.

RIP Jonathan Winters

April has been terrible with loss. Today we have lost another of the greats. Award winning comedian, actor, writer, impressionist, and recording artist Jonathan Winters passed away today. More of my childhood has gone away.

When I was a kid, Jonathan Winters was everywhere. He was always a guest star on various sitcoms and variety shows, even game shows and talk shows. I’m pretty sure he even had a few short-lived shows of his own as well. His manic improv and madcap characters were always a treat for me.

I loved him in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and it was a family event whenever the film aired in our household. We always couldn’t wait for him to tear the gas station apart. Classic classic comedy. Below you can see that scene, as well as Winters talking a bit about it, and how it helped him come back from a breakdown.

Later in life, he played Mearth, the son of Mork and Mindy in the final season of that sitcom. Being Robin Williams’ idol and inspiration, it is wild to watch him work with and against Winters in a comedic battle of wills.

Later I loved the man in the 1994 version The Shadow, playing it straight as he also did in the dark comedy The Loved One and an episode of “The Twilight Zone” called “A Game of Pool.”

Winters also did voice acting in animation, recorded dozens of comedy albums, wrote poetry, and appeared in television programs as myriad as “Hee Haw,” “The American Sportsman,” and “The New Scooby-Doo Movies.” His final movie role will be the voice of Papa Smurf in The Smurfs 2. We have truly lost another of the legends.

RIP Carmine Infantino

This is rough, losing two of my influences and inspirations in the same day. Artist, innovator, publisher, and legend Carmine Infantino passed away today at the age of 87.

Other than the “Batman” 1966 TV series, Carmine Infantino was my gateway drug into comics through the old issues of Flash my big brother Warren had. I remember one comic specifically, an 80-Page Giant, issue #169, no cover and missing a few pages but I read my brother’s copy ragged. In it was a feature called ‘How I Draw the Flash’ by Carmine Infantino.

I am no artist by any means, but I was entranced by these two pages and they spurred in me an interest at least to try to draw. I learned perspective, anatomy, and of course comic book dynamics from these two pages of Infantino imparting his artistic secrets. To this day, I can’t draw, but I can draw the Silver Age Flash, thanks to Mr. Infantino.

From those days of reading my brother’s comics, the Flash became my favorite character. I grew up with a Flash written by Cary Bates and illustrated by Irv Novick. That was my Flash, but it was always a known fact, Infantino’s Flash was the real Flash. He was among those that created the first of the Silver Age revamps of the heroes of the Golden Age, the Flash in Showcase #4, a more realistic, scientifically based superhero for a new age.

Not only had he drawn the original scarlet speedster back in the Golden Age, he was a collaborator in bringing back those heroes in the legendary groundbreaking “Flash of Two Worlds” story that created both Earth-2 and began DC Comics’ multiverse. Infantino’s ‘Colors of Evil’ from a rejected comic strip of his were the basis for the Flash’s Rogues Gallery, the most unique assortment of baddies this side of Batman.

Speaking of Batman, he also revamped the character for the Silver Age, giving the stories a more realistic detective feel, and also adding the golden circle to the Bat-symbol. His Batman was just as definitive as his Flash. Infantino also left his mark on such characters as Adam Strange (still one of my favorites thanks to a team-up between the hero and the Justice League in a story by Infantino), Black Canary, the Elongated Man, Dial H for Hero, and others in his time at DC. Later he became the publisher, invigorated design, streamlined production, and put together such event comics as the first meeting of Superman and Spider-Man.

Eventually he left DC as publisher and moved on to other projects like the Marvel version of Star Wars and also Spider-Woman and Nova, and returning to DC to draw the Flash once again, and even Batman in a newspaper strip. He has become one of the industry’s living legends. I got to meet him once at a con, and told him silly stories of my brother, the Flash, and my hideous artistic endeavors. He smiled and laughed. He was that kind of guy.

We have lost one of the big ones. Carmine Infantino was a giant in the industry, a legend of the comics field. He will be missed.

RIP Bonnie Franklin

The first time I watched “One Day at a Time,” I didn’t get it. Maybe it was because it was a more female focused show, or maybe because its themes were just a little bit above my head. It was a different kind of Norman Lear show.

Bonnie Franklin, former Tony Award winning Broadway star played the divorced mom raising her two teenaged daughters alone with occasional help from her building’s super. It later got and held my attention a couple years later when my hormones refocused on a budding Valerie Bertinelli as one of the daughters.

“One Day at a Time” had a tumultuous nine year run filled with behind the scenes turmoil, but Bonnie Franklin stood tall through it all, winning multiple awards including the Emmy and the Golden Globe. Her portrayal of a single mom was a pioneering role of the time. Since then she has appeared rarely on television, her most recent gig was in an episode of Betty White’s “Hot in Cleveland.”

Bonnie Franklin passed away this afternoon at her home in Los Angeles from complications of pancreatic cancer. She was 69. She will be missed.