• Spider-Man, Where Are You Coming From? Nobody Knows Who You Are

    4:07 PM PST, 11/10/2007

    Anybody remember the old Electric Company show on PBS? If you do, you probably remember what a big deal it was when Marvel Comics licensed Spider-Man to appear on it, with his lines presented only as speech balloons comics-style so that children had to read them to understand the storyline.

    It may seem hard to believe now, but in the 1970's comics were still not a respectable artform, but were derided as trash by authorities on child development. Not just a waste of time, but something that would actively degrade your taste. So using Spider-Man as an educational tool was highly controversial, and more than a few educators condemned the Children's Television Workshop as pandering to puerile tastes.

    What a long way we've come since then. Spider-Man is big-budget now, hitting the big screen with a bang in three movies that have gotten not only the attention of leading critics, but a powerful buzz in the blogosphere as well.

    And of course plenty of spinoff toys to cash in on his popularity. Toys which may well become collectors' items as many of them are played with a little too vigorously and broken, or left behind somewhere and lost, then discarded by someone for whom they mean nothing.

  • Remember When Star Wars First Came Out?

    4:21 PM PST, 11/9/2007

    We're actually developing a cultural divide between those of us who can remember when the original Star Wars movie first came out, and those of us for whom Star Wars has simply always been part of the cultural landscape.For me, it was the summer between fourth and fifth grades. I can still remember seeing the advertisements in the newspaper, and seeing the reports on television about the groundswell of popularity that had arisen around it, of kids opening lemonade stands to fund their ability to see it again and again.

    Unfortunately, its PG rating put the kibosh on my chance of actually seeing it. But I remember borrowing the illustrated storybook from the library so many times the librarian finally remarked that I should not monopolize it (to be fair, the small-town library was tiny, with a mere 800 volumes in a single cramped room, so it probably was problematic to have one person borrowing a book over and over again).

    And that's why I was so delighted to run across the Princess Leia story scope viewer. As I peered through the tiny lens at the pictures within, it brought back memories of those days of poring over the Star Wars storybook, admiring the pictures as I read the text, wishing I could actually see the movie but knowing that was most unlikely.