Friday, May 16, 2014

Growing Up Nerdy

This week, the G.U.N. boys talk about '80s cartoons and what geek memorabilia they can't live without.

Dear Growing Up Nerdy,
It’s pretty remarkable that the Navy is naming its newest Aircraft Carrier after the both of you.  The USS ADAMIKE sounds awesome! A few of my friends have been telling me that the 1980s were the golden years of cartoons. What cartoons should I watch?

-Toony in Tacoma

Mike: Boy, I can’t really answer this one. Here’s why: like most kids of the '80s, I loved my fucking cartoons. G.I. Joe and Thunder Cats and He-Man were my jam. Throw in some Saturday morning WWF and my weekend was off to a perfect start. As I got older, I moved onto the great cartoons like Batman: The Animated Series and X-Men. Now that I have two girls, I currently watch the shit out of Sofia the First and Littlest Pet Shop. I’ve come a long way. But back to the cartoons of the 80s…
Adam can answer this better than I can because he’s been the only one brave enough to revisit these cartoons in recent years. I did it once and now I’m scared to death to do it again.

Years ago, Adam and I were hanging out at my wife’s house (she was merely my friend and neighbor back then) when Adam and I discovered her family had a laserdisc of He-Man episodes. Adam and I were so excited. We talked her into watching it one night and HOLY FUCK IT WAS ROUGH. I remember it moved…so…slowly. Everyone talked and explained things as if the were trying to communicate with aliens as opposed to people that may actually understand what the hell was going on. I recognize that they’re essentially talking to the kids watching, but it makes watching it as an adult feel like a chore. It was a bit shattering. Maybe it was just a bad episode, or maybe He-Man is the shitty one while G.I. Joe and Transformers completely hold up. Or maybe they’re all pretty shitty and I’ll stick with Jake and the Never Land Pirates.
Adam: Okay, what I’m about to say is going to upset a lot of you but it needs to be said.  He-Man, She-Ra, Thundercats, Voltron and Transformers are terrible upon re-watching them. I second what my partner in crime said: the makers of these shows must have thought we were complete morons. They talk ssssssoooooooooo slow -- they really must have thought that we were a bunch of idiots. Or maybe we were idiots but don’t remember. My point is that they really don’t hold up. They are so damned repetitive it makes my heart hurt. Side note: did you know that He-Man is Post-Apocalyptic? They keep talking about “ancient artifacts” in the show, and they are almost always super advanced devices from a long passed civilization.

After the first episode of Transformers, the next episode goes as follows: Megatron wants energon cubes and finds a way to get them. The Autobots get wise to his plan and try to stop them.  Autobots get their asses kicked. The Autobots retreat, regroup, attack again, and stop Megatron, only to have him get away slightly wounded. If that sounds interesting then you’re in luck, because every other episode is the EXACT SAME FUCKING THING!

Thundercats: Mum-ra wants to get the “Eye of Thundara”, better stop him. Great, now let's do that every week.

What we didn’t realize at the time was that these '80s cartoons were essentially commercials for toys that ended up being way cooler than the cartoon. As you can probably tell, I’m a little bitter about it.  I can remember buying the DVDs of those old cartoons and being so excited… and then a few hours later being so very disappointed that they just don’t hold up. In some cases you don’t even need to re-watch the old ones. Like if you want your Voltron fix, just put turn on an episode of Power Rangers — same damned thing.

I went through the typical mid-20s “now I have money and want to buy all the things my parents never would” phase and got the DVDs of almost all of those old '80s cartoons. So after shitting on a good portion of yours and my childhood, the good news is that a few of them do hold up. GI Joe still holds up really well. Unlike a lot of the other shows, it isn’t super repetitive and actually has some really interesting stories in there. They do try to keep it fresh, and there is a surprising amount of character development for a 22 minute kids program. What definitely makes the show is Cobra Commander. I’m going to go out on a limb here and saying that good old CC is the best villain of the '80s, mostly because he’s HYSTERICAL. There is nothing better than that moment in a GI Joe episode where shit starts to turn south for CC and he starts calling everyone morons.  Not to mention the fact that all the “bad guys” in the show hate each other but work together to achieve a common goal.

Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends still holds up really well, but that's mostly because of the crazy amount of guest stars that show up. It was really great to see Wolverine show up with the thickest Canadian accent ever, AY! 

Out of all of the '80s shows. the one that is still amazing is Robotech. Mark Ahn and I have had discussions about this show and it is really brilliant. It was Japanese anime, but wow was it cool.  Upon re-watching it, the story is so great and the animation is top notch. With a lot of Japanese anime, they often blow their entire budget on one or two really kick ass scenes and fill the rest in with terrible close-ups of girls eyes. Don’t get me wrong, Robotech still has the cheesy shots, but wow is it good.

If you were going to go back and watch any of those '80s shows, my best advice is to re-watch GI Joe. It still has the “gotta sell the kids toys” feel to it, but still manages to hold your attention with its really great villains, and some pretty kick ass stories. Whatever you decide to do though, stay the fuck away from Care Bears. You won’t recover from that.  Go find some old Episodes of The Super Mario Bros Super Show, it’s all the fun of the Care Bears, without the “need to murder” after effects. 
Dear Growing Up Nerdy,

My girlfriend and I are moving in with each other and she’s asked me to “downsize” some of my memorabilia. I’m having a hard time doing this and was wondering if the both of you have anything that you have a hard time parting with.

-Juan in Ohio

Mike: While I have a lot of collectibles in my basement, I could lose most of them and never shed a tear. I have things like an old Jaws Slurpee cup or My Quentin Tarantino Crazy 88 figure that I still dig. I love my Gandalf plushie my daughters got me for Christmas and my Steven Spielberg E.T. trading card. These, and a bunch of other knick knacks, have all been fun collecting over the years and I they all mean something to me, but there are two nerdy items in my collection that stick out from the rest.

The first is my Halloween poster signed by John Carpenter himself. It’s no secret that not only is Halloween my favorite horror film of all time, but it’s one of my favorite movies period. On top of that, John Carpenter is one of my favorite directors and a hero of mine. To meet him was an honor and to have him sign my Halloween poster was the thrill of a lifetime. I had him sign a poster for The Thing and They Live as well, but his signature written in silver Sharpie on the black background of the Halloween poster is as cool as it gets.
My other treasured item -- and this one needs an explanation -- is my Twixt program from San Diego Comic Con 2011 (I know you guys are sick of hearing about SDCC, but bare with me on this one).  For those unaware, Twixt is a horror film of sorts directed by Francis Ford Coppola. That year, SDCC held a panel for Twixt with Coppola, star Val Kilmer and composer Dan Deacon in attendance. What was unique about this 45 minute panel, besides the fact that Coppola is there, was that this was to be the first “dress rehearsal” for the film. Let me explain: Coppola’s plan was to take Twixt on tour. There would be a normal theatrical cut that would play at your local movie theater, but on these tour dates Coppola wanted to give audiences a unique experience. He talked about how if you attend a concert of your favorite band you’ll hear the same songs you recognize off of the album you’ve listened to again and again, but when played live it’s always different -- sometimes very, other times only slightly. Coppola loved that aspect of live shows and thought that he could bring it to the cinema.

The plan was this: Coppola and composer Deacon would embark on a 30 city tour with Twixt. At each tour stop, Coppola would edit the film on the fly and Deacon would compose along with Coppola’s new cut. Coppola would try to get a feel for what the crowd is responding to and edit accordingly. It’s such a crazy idea that it could only come from the mind of Francis Ford Coppola.
The panel began with about an 8 minute cut of the film. After Coppola explained his plan and took some questions from the audience (I was one of them!!!), he and Deacon reedited and composed what we had seen earlier to give us an idea of what to expect at a live show. It was cool as hell.

When we entered the panel, we were all given a mask that had Edgar Allen Poe’s face (he’s a character in the movie) on one side and a program on the other. The eye holes have 3D lenses in them because part of the movie is in 3D. Coppola explained to us that he likes having programs accompany his films and that these programs/masks would be given out to everyone attending one of their tour stops. It’s the coolest thing ever.
When we got back from San Diego, my wife had it framed for me. It might seem stupid to most to have a program framed for a movie that was never released theatrically (if you haven’t guessed, the tour never happened), but it means a lot to me. Coppola, like John Carpenter, is one of my idols and to be fortunate enough to be present for what I can only assume was the only time Coppola and Deacon “performed” their movie live, is one of my fondest memories.

Adam: Oh, your wife wants you to get rid of some crappy nerd stuff? Tell her to get rid of both of her pinky toes. After all, scientifically speaking she really doesn’t need them. Those pinkys are just wasting space in her shoe, and she might actually be able to get some money for them on eBay.

Most women just don’t understand how awesome some things are. I have an old Green Lantern Super Powers figure and when I squeeze the arms together that motherfucker punches. That’s right, Sinestro you little bitch -- watch me squeeze my legs and knock your purple ass OUT! You know what your wife’s childhood toys probably did when she squeezed them together? Pissed themselves. That’s why if you’re lucky enough to find a girl that collects stuff (that doesn’t suck), you need to hold onto her. Like death-grip, Alien-face-hugger hold. A girl that understands your nerdiness is better than a thousand super models, my friend.

Mike: I think you may have strayed away from the original question a bit.

Adam: I’m just a little fired up is all, guy having to throw out perfectly good memorabilia. Okay, while Mike’s stuff is clearly more movie related, I have to go to the world of comics. As you may or may not know, I am an art guy.  My dream for much of my life was to become a comic artist and it all came from one moment. I picked up the '90s version of X-Men #1 and on one of the first pages is a Jim Lee splash page of Magneto saying, “I am Magneto, this is my home.” Those two pages changed my life. From the moment I saw those pages, I wanted to be a comic artist. Every waking moment after that I was drawing.

Years later, a friend of mine who used to work with Jim Lee ran into him at a Comic-Con. I just happened to be talking to my friend at the time and found myself in a full out conversation with my hero. After about 5-10 minutes of small talk, I figured this was a one time chance to let Jim Lee know how much he affected my life. Jim Lee thanked me for the compliment, gave me some great advice, pulled out a marker and on the back of a comic board proceeded to draw a 2 minute sketch of Wolverine for me. It was amazing and one of the things I cherish most in my life. I have a lot of artwork and cool memorabilia, but that’s the one I can’t part with.


  1. Related note to the G.I Joe cartoons holding up,
    I think that the original comics written by Larry Hama hold up very well. I once read that he thought the series, being a cartoon/toy line tie-in, would be short lived so he basically wrote them for himself. Hence the slightly more mature themes.

  2. As a Genuine Female Lady who is married to a Collector, I feel I need to weigh in. I agree: as long as no one is getting hurt, people should not ask the people they love to give up the things they love. But you do need to show that there's room in your life and home for her. Schmoopy!

    My hubs has some stuff that I didn't "get" at first but he's been able to share with me what it means to him, so now it can mean something to me too. There's other stuff I still don't "get." That's okay, we have a place in our home for that stuff too.

    Try asking your Lady to clarify what she *really* needs; it's probably not "for you to have less cool stuff, Juan." She probably just needs more space for HER cool stuff, or a home that at least partially reflects her taste, or more clear surfaces to rest things on, or fewer masked eyeballs following her around in EVERY ROOM. THEY FOLLOW HER. Or maybe she thinks some of your "cool" is scary.

    Once you find out what she *really* needs, you may be able to accommodate that without actually getting rid of anything. Try consolidating - less "Random Spidermans EVERYWHERE" and more "One Complete and Awesome Wall of Spidey." (Then find a whole wall for HER collection, if she has one.) Try boxing up half your stuff, displaying the other half, then switching them out every month or two (bonus: a great excuse for spending an entire afternoon rearranging your stuff!) Let her pick one room that is completely hers (if you say "laundry room," I will smack you.) Ask her advice about displaying things in a way she thinks is cool, livable, and pleasing to her beautiful, soulful eyes.

    And Juan's Special Lady, remember: a guy that LOVES his MIB GI Joe Cobra Condor Z25 -- or whatever -- is a guy who is willing to love. And that's always cool!