Apes on Covers (seen at KEVIN GEEKS OUT ABOUT MONKEYS)

At last week's KEVIN GEEKS OUT ABOUT MONKEYS we shared a popular story of how in the late 1950's DC Comics Editor Julius Schwartz discovered that gorillas-on-covers = SALES.  Eventually all the comic editors wanted apes on the cover.  But Schwartz didn't want to kill the goose (or gorilla) that laid the golden egg; he said only one gorilla cover each month.   Since then, gorillas have been a staple of comic artwork.  Below are some of those covers. (Story continues after the jump.)

NOTE: Just before the show began, I was rehearsing with M. Sweeney Lawless, who did this segment with me.  Some guy saw the color copies and introduced himself as a DC Comics editor.  (weird, right?)  We asked, "Is gorillas-on-covers true or an urban myth?"  He said "It's true. Gorillas sell."  There you have it.

Kevin Geeks Out About SHARKS

Save the Date:  Friday March 19 @ 8pm


Kevin Maher and co-host Matthew Glasson look at the history of JAWS rip-offs, from the Golden Age of Shark Cinema, the Silver Age of Sanctioned Sequels and the Bronze Age of Documentaries and CGI Sharks.  Plus the adult-movie inspired by JAWS, the National Lampoon parody that never was (with a script by John Hughes), and incredible shark scenes with zombies, superheroes, Jackie Chan, Burt Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, the Olsen Twins and the Harlem Globetrotters. 

Special guest Karen Sneider (The New Yorker) shares a shark comic strip.  
Comedian Ritch Duncan addresses a plot hole in the JAWS quadrilogy. 
And Sara Reiss will serve Shark Cupcakes. 

This show WILL sell-out.  Buy tickets in advance here.

Kevin Geeks Out About Sharks 
Friday March 19, 2010
at the 92Y Tribeca
200 Hudson Street
New York City


Kevin Geeks Out About Visions of the Future: Show Recap

Each month I host a theme night at the 92Y Tribeca in New York City, the show is called KEVIN GEEKS OUT.  

January's sold-out show celebrated the year 2010 with a collection of speculative visions of tomorrow.  (In honor of this occasion, I dressed as Orson Welles when he hosted the sensationalist Nostradamus documentary: The Man Who Saw Tomorrow, more on that later...) We started off with a grab-bag of video footage from a variety of films (and TV shows) that showcased: a police state that enforced mandatory dancing (The Apple), a fully-realized 3-D chess game aboard a spaceship (Futureworld), the most popular cable channel of the 22nd century (Idiocracy), and a time-travelling spaceman who taught the people of the future all about funk (Buck Rogers). 

After that KGO super-producer Jay Stern shared an edited-down video of the 1930 talkie JUST IMAGINE.  This science-fiction musical showed what life would be like 50 years in the future.  (Warning: The film features lots of prohabition jokes.)

Daily Show writer Elliott Kalan shared a photo-essay on the 1939 World's Fair.  Elliott featured surprising details and photos of the world's largest cash register -- but he also got at the heart of the World's Fair's sorrow.  (Elliott's piece will be making its way to the internet soon.)
Continuing with the 1930's promise of tomorrow, KGO Super-producer M. Sweeney Lawless  gave us the ultimate profile of ELEKTRO the Moto-Man.

Elektro was the star-attraction of the '39 Fair, but after the Fair ran out of money and shut down, Elektro became the world's first has-been robot.


We moved onto the 1950's with the promise of exciting advances in automobiles, highways, homes and luxury devices.  Special thanks to Matt Novak (editor of the incredible Paleofuture.com) for suggesting some of these clips...

Continuing with the march of progress, we featured a slide-show by Seth Porges (technology editor for Popular Mechanics.)  Seth shared some of the more outrageous predictions made by his employer over the years. (Video of this presentation will be coming soon to an internet near you.)
After that we welcomed a very special guest to the show: Psychic Jane Doherty.

Before the show started, we asked audience members to submit questions about life in the future, and Jane would tell us what we could expect.   The segment revealed that we would see a woman president in the United States, a vegetarian fast-food chain will be established by 2015 (it will start in New York or California), within this decade a lot of questions will be answered about finding a cure for cancer (we will find a cure!)  And finally, Jane answered a question about whether there's any truth to the prophecy that 2012 will bring the end of the world.  Jane has communicated with Mayan Elders and explained that they do not believe 2012 is the end, rather there will be a shift in consciousness. 

We turned our attention to another psychic, the infamous Nostradamus.  Sure there are dozens of Nostradamus shows on the History channel, but none of those specials could be more distrurbing and over-the-top than the documentary The Man Who Saw Tomorrow.  This 1981 movie was hosted by Orson Welles, not only did it include re-enactments of past events, but dramatizations of things that hadn't happened yet.  Needless to say this movie freaked me out as a kid:

After that traumatic bit of video, we needed a snack break!

Each month we provide a thematic treat, and what could be better than a heaping helping of DIPPIN' DOTS -- the ice cream of the future!  The good people of Dippin' Dots donated enough cryogenically frozen ice cream for each and every member of our audience.  Thanks again Dippin' Dots gang!

Moving into more recent visions of the future, I looked at five futures predicted by Saturday Morning Cartoons, including Thundarr the Barbarian, The Partridge Family 2200 A.D. and the worst Bugs Bunny cartoon I've ever seen.

At this point we delved into the darker possibilities of tomorrow. The amazing Kriota Wilberg (aka The Cinematologist) addressed the topic of Mutants in the future.  Kriota dealt with the overthrow of the human population, viral vampirism, genetic engineering, hypertrichosis (aka Wolfman disease) and more!  I cannot do justice to her dizzying analysis of mutation, so instead here's a photo of a Martian prostitute with multiple breasts: (below)

Note: during the show we re-visited this slide, observing that the image, which had been pulled from the internet, was stamped by a someone calling himself "Sauron_2000"(!)

Now that I have your attention (or did I lose just you?) you can read Kriota's lecture here.

Our penultimate guest was a favorite, Tenebrous Kate, who edited together this very special video about lessons learned from the 1982 Italian post-nuke favorite The New Barbarians (aka Warriors of the Wasteland). Watch and learn:

Our final guest was the first person we thought to book for this event: Scott Christian Carr, a writer/filmmaker/and author of post-apocalyptic fiction.
Scott started his segment by asking the audience a thought-provoking question "If you survive the end of the world, who do you want by your side?"  Scott answered that the one person you'd want more than anyone is your brother -- and then he shared a scene from his original film The Nuke Brothers.  (CLIP COMING SOON.)

Following a brief Q&A about his movie, we watched a montage Scott edited (with his brother Jeremy) looking at the theme of "Loneliness in the Future".  (CLIP COMING SOON)

Oh, it was a splendid evening of oddball entertainment, super-cold ice cream, and fantastical futures.  What's in store for the future of Kevin Geeks Out?  Here's the trailer for February's event, KEVIN GEEKS OUT ABOUT MONKEYS.  (Click here for tickets)

note: all photos (except for the Dippin' Dots) by Matthew Glasson.  
Additional artwork courtesy of Sauron_2000


Kevin Geeks Out about Monkeys!

Friday, February 19th @ 8pm
92 Y Tribeca
200 Hudson Street
New York City

Get tickets (no service charge!) and find more details here.


SCI-FIVE: Five Cartoon Visions of the Future

At the last KEVIN GEEKS OUT, I spoke on the topic of Saturday Morning Cartoon Visions of the Future.  Here's a recap, with links...

The first example people think of is THE JETSONS.  But remember, the 1962 cartoon appeared on ABC as a prime-time sitcom.  What's more it was a sort-of spin-off of The Flintstones.  (Jetsons: Flintsones as Green Acres: Beverly Hillbillies.)  The show was set exactly 100 years in the future -- 2062 A.D.

In 1974 Hanna-Barbera ripped-themselves off by making THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY 2200 A.D.   This cartoon was made 12 years after the Jetsons premiere, but it was set 40 years later than the Jetsons.   It follows the same basics of flying cars, elevated cities, automated kitchens. And instead of a dog for comic-relief, there's a ROBO-dog.
The cartoon came hot on the heels of the live-action Partridge Family.  Just after that show was cancelled, this appeared on the Saturday morning line-up.

The cartoon borrowed songs and storylines from the live-action series -- except it was set IN THE FUTURE.  And there were some outer-space aliens, who enjoyed the kid-friendly bubblegum sound of the folk-rock family.  Also, there's never any explanation about how or why the family is in the future.  No time-warp, wormhole or other plot device.  These are not the descendants or great-great-grandchildren of the original family.  You just gotta go with it, dude. 

Shirley Jones and David Cassidy bowed out, but a CBS press release boasts "the kids are the same -- with voices of most of the original cast -- and there will be new friends to join in the fun of the future." The Band's manager was originally voiced by Daven Madden (TV's original Rueben Kincaid) but was replaced by John Stephenson, a go-to voice-actor for Hanna-Barbera.  And the robot-dog Orbit was performed by (who else?) Frank Welker.

Next is my favorite of the bunch:  THUNDARR THE BARBARIAN (1980).  Man, I loved this show -- so much so that I refuse to re-watch the series and learn how horrible it probably is.  (Please, let me enjoy the false memories.)  It's been said that Thundarr was ripping-off Star Wars and Conan the Barbarian.  But watching the opening credits, I'm reminded of that hint of melancholy that exists in post-apocalyptic fiction.  No matter how well a particular adventure goes, they are still living in a nuclear wasteland.  It's strangely romantic, right?

Thundarr was created by Steve Gerber, who wasn't some TV guy but a comic-book writer. That's part of the reason the series has a distinct look and feel that's different from the stuff churned out by Hanna-Barbera. It was a Ruby Spears production; they made shows like Wonderbug, Plastic-Man, Fangface and a host of other hits.  Marvel Comics' legendary Jack Kirby designed the backgrounds and the destroyed cities, as well as some of the bit characters.  The series is set in the year 3994, but it predicts the end of modern civilization in 1994.  Thundarr ended after only two seasons and was replace with an entirely different animated sensibility: THE MORK & MINDY/ LAVERNE & SHIRLEY/ FONZ HOUR. (I guess ABC was inspired by CBS's idea to turn long-running live-action shows into cartoons.)
In a nutshell: Mork was a faithful adaptation, but it had him in school and added an egg-car and a space-dog.  Laverne and Shirley had the girls join the Army with a drill sergeant who was a pig (literally!) and voiced by Horshack from Welcome Back, Kotter.

But I'm going to focus on the Fonz portion of the show, since that one deals with the future.  First off, the premise is that Fonz, Ritchie, Ralph Malph (and Fonzie's dog Mr. Cool) join a future chick named Cupcake and ride in her spaceship, which is also a time-machine.   We know this is true to the Happy Days universe, because in the fifth season (post-shark-jump) Mork from Ork visited the Fonz.  So we know that aliens and UFOs were around in 1957 Milwaulkie, and they were capable of traveling into the future and Boulder Colorado.)  [Also, I wonder if this is where Repo Man took the idea that flying saucers are time machines?]

Many of the Fonz and the Happy Days Gang episodes are comically set in the past.  But one episode, titled "May the Farce Be With You" takes them to the year 2057 for a Star Wars spoof.  This is ironic for two reasons:  first, all the Star Wars references are wasted on the 50's kids who won't see the movie for another 20 years.  Second, Star Wars was set in the past, not the future.  (Tangent: I wonder if Ron Howard and George Lucas talked about this connection when they collaborated on Willow.   Or did Lucas just razz Ron about making a fortune on a sitcom that ripped-off American Graffiti?)

Sadly, the Happy Days U.F.O. never brought Fonz and friends into the year 3994.  Too bad, it would've been a great cross-over with Thundarr.  Can you imagine a better comic duo than Ralph Malph and Ookla the Moc?  I cannot.
Next: true story from a pitch meeting.  I was invited to re-invent an old show from the vaults of Classic Media.  They own some beloved properties including Lassie, Gumby, Felix the Cat, George of the Jungle, the list goes on and on.  I was given the chance to pick a property and come up with a brand new take for a TV series.

I chose a personal favorite that was in desperate need of a make-over: The Lone Ranger.  my pitch, titled LONE RANGER: 2056 took the masked man out of the Old West and put him in a new frontier: the post-apocalyptic wasteland. The same way The Road Warrior is a re-telling of Stagecoach, my Lone Ranger followed a single man fighting for justice in the shattered cities of America. Instead of a white horse, he'd ride a silver harley. Instead of Injuns, there'd be Mutants.  And instead of train-robbers, there'd be a corrupt would-be government threatening to foil the vigilante hero.  The backdrop was new, but it still provided dramatic obstacles for the Ranger to uphold his creed (which takes on new meanings when applied to a post-apocalyptic wasteland.)
My pitch was not well-received.  The guy I met with said that it would be irresponsible to set a children's show in a post-nuclear setting.  You can't do that.  (Sure you can --Thundarr the Barbarian.)   He also said you can never have a children's show where the government is portrayed as the bad guy.  (Sure you can -- Boss Hogg!)
I later learned that a successful re-imagining was to take a character like Richie Rich, but make a new show where he's black.  You only had the freedom to recreate a lesser-known character in their library (like Commander McBragg or Tennesee Tuxedo).  But the company would never pay money to bring back a lesser-known character.  The lesson was: do not screw with beloved classics and put them in a bizarre new environment.

Which bring us to our final cartoon vision of the future.  Do you recognize this rabbit?  If you said Bugs Bunny, you're close.  It's Ace Bunny, a descendent of the famous Looney Tunes rabbit.  He was the star of LOONATICS UNLEASHED, a KIDS WB series that imagined the classic characters as Matrix-style super-heroes in the year 2772 A.D.    The series ran from 2005 - 2007. Daffy Duck was now Danger Duck.  Wile E. Coyote became Tech E. Coyote. And Tasmanian Devil was Slam Tasmanian.  They teamed up to fight crime in the futuristic city of Acme-tropolis.  But don't worry, even though they run around with samurai swords and jet-packs, they still possess the vaudeville-like wit and humor that made their ancestors famous.

(Ace Bunny is voiced by Charlie Schlatter, who is doing a Bugs Bunny impression.  Fun Fact: Schlatter started his career doing a George Burns impression in the body-switching comedy 18 Again!)

Before the first episode ever aired an 11-year-old kid in Oklahoma started an online petition asking Warner Brothers to not make the show.   In two months there were over 80,000 signatures from around the world, urging Warner Brothers to kill the cartoon. But a WB Spokesman said they "just wanted to create something that would be accessible and fun to a new generation of kids."  In his defense, they had already turned the characters into babies, so a something new was needed.

Watch an episode of Partridge Family 2200 A.D. in Spanish.

Play the Thundarr online role-playing game.

See the Fonz pilot a space-ship and make-out with an evil robot.  Ayyyyyyyy!