Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

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Friday, May 6, 2011

Radical’s forthcoming illustrated novel, Jake the Dreaming will be available for the iPad (and iPhone) around December 2011. I do know that it’s the story of boyhood, forever tilting at the world, reimagining the world as it adventures its way through. Jake discovers the power to walk into others’ dreams and save them from Nocturnus, the demon that would poison sleep forever. It’s also the story of technological shifts inscribing a new cultural story. And, speculating on 40 years down the line, it seems to be a story that will not need a second act.


[Download the preview of Jake the Dreaming.]


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Wednesday, Mar 2, 2011

Amid the patriotic pomp and circumstance of the 2011 Superbowl, Marvel Studios unveiled the trailer for their latest blockbusting superheroic outing: Captain America: The First Avenger. Helmed by Joe Johnston, whose directing credit on The Rocketeer (1991) shows that he might just know what to do with this franchise, and starring Chris Evans, rolling the dice as another lycra-clad Marvel icon, Captain America is pitching for summer success with a July 22 release date. Unfortunately for Marvel, this will place it in direct competition with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II, and Cowboys and Aliens, released one week on either side. With the market for high-octane, otherworldly special effects so crowded, Cap will have to keep his shield and his wits about him, or it won’t only be the Red Skull giving him a kicking this summer.



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Friday, Jan 28, 2011

Aiming to create a monster every day, artist David Irvine’s fascinating process emphasizes “experimentation with styles and medium and mood”.


“I have a passion for monsters and art, so I merged the two and started a Facebook group called ‘Monster-A-Day’,” he writes. “Everyday I try to post a monster that I drew, painted, sketched, etc., with one rule that it takes 15 minutes or less to complete.”


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Friday, Dec 17, 2010

Seth Green and Matthew Senreich, the creators of Robot Chicken, are taking their toys out the box for the third installment of the Robot Chicken Star Wars series. The critically acclaimed Robot Chicken saga premieres 19 December 2010 with an hour long special parodying the dark side of the universe. Through the show’s signature stop motion animation and crafty pop culture wit, Episode III recounts the untold experiences of four galactic bad guys: Emperor Palpatine, Darth Vader, Boba Fett and Gary the Stormtrooper. As the special flips around the universe each villainous tale intertwines and connects throughout all six Star Wars films.


Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III features Zac Efron as Anakin Skywalker, Anthony Daniels (from the original Star Wars films) as C3PO, Robot Chicken virgins Mike Henry (The Cleveland Show) and Donald Glover (Community), plus returning voices Ahmed Best as Jar Jar Binks and Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian. Additional voices include: Green, Senreich, Seth MacFarlane, Breckin Meyer, Zeb Wells, Rachael Leigh Cook, Tom Kane and more.


If you are not up to date with Star Wars fear not! Between crooked depictions of a cocky bounty hunter and a frustrated patriarch Stormtrooper, you don’t have to be a sci-fi/Star Wars geek to let some laughs slip. Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III premieres 19 December, 2010 at 11:30 p.m. (ET/PT) on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim.



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Tuesday, Aug 10, 2010

The premise of the cartoon Super Chicken is deceptively simple.  A send-up of the comic-book superheroes also found on the small screen and large, the cartoon aired on Jay Ward’s George of the Jungle in 1967, and fit nicely with the show’s simple silliness, also found in other Ward shows like The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.


But as with much of Ward’s output, there was something more sophisticated lurking beneath. Put aside the thematic correlations between Super Chicken and the war in South Vietnam. On a less politicized level, the parody of superheroes often times (and certainly in this case) is as much a jab at the source as it is at the recipient. The intended audience for much superhero fare tends to be the young, the unathletic. The ineffectual. The weaklings who, despite the astronomical odds against them, want so desperately to be heroic, to be seen as heroic. It is precisely because he is neither the brightest nor the most admirable that Super Chicken is a true hero for the disenfranchised.


In the insanely catchy opening theme, we can see two very quick shots that strengthen this claim. First, within the opening seconds, during the lyric “When you’re threatened by a stranger”, an elderly woman is pounding on an over-sized thug with her purse. Simple reversal of fortunes equals a quick laugh. But pause the YouTube video here and think about it: do we know this “thug” was at all threatening this woman? What if he had been offering her assistance across the street? Asking for directions to the local charity hospital so he could volunteer? That ever-present polarization between the elderly and the young was probably never more at the forefront of the American mind than it was during the late 1960s, and here Jay Ward has, however briefly, captured that. Who else to save a “thug” from a “granny” than Super Chicken?


This notion of the generation gap is reinforced with the very next lyric/image (“When it looks like you will take a lickin’”). A young man is about to be spanked. We know not his dastardly crime, but we all know that position, that feeling of terror: “An authority figure is punishing me!”  Ineffectual.  Weak.  It hits an immediate emotional core, and that extended caaaaaall for rescue reverberates from within.


Even if it is for a chicken and a lion in an egg-shaped flying car.



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