Tag Archives: geek culture

Edward Gorey Illustrating Lovecraft?

Over at Lovecraft eZine they’ve got a wonderful post featuring pics of Danish artist John Kenn Mortensen in which he basically channels artist Edward Gorey (the Gashlycrumb Tinies anyone?) illustrating Lovecraft.

I’m gonna repost these pics (to be fair i’m basically reprinting the post because time is not my friend today and shame and i have never been close.) They are very awesome i assure you.


To reiterate, most of these are all drawings drawn on post-it notes.

When it’s all said and done, the world is an awesome place.

You can buy John’s artwork in book form here.


Posted by on July 1, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Little Orphan Annie

As we saw in our last post, the pathway to the character of Little Orphan Annie was longer and more interesting than one might think. Heck, we did an entire post and didn’t even get to the actual red haired Little Orphan Annie character we all know and every little girl loves.

Well, in August 1924 cartoonist Harold Gray, who had been trying unsuccessfully to get The Chicago Tribune to pick up one of his strips finally succeeded. Owner Joseph Patterson agreed to try out this Little Orphan Annie character in the New York Daily News to a test audience. The response was positive so the Chicago Tribune picked it up and soon the strip was running all over the country.

Gray had decided on the character based on a meeting with a little “ragamuffin” while wandering about Chicago. Her common sense and spunk (note, spunk in the american sense NOT the english) made an impression on him. He wanted to write and draw a successful comic strip and kids were popular stars to have in them.

Most comic strip featured boys as main character so a girl stood out. Furthermore, by making her an orphan he had the excuse to put her in whatever various adventures and places he wanted. He took the name directly from the Riley poem Little Orphant Annie which we covered last time.

Annie was popular enough but when the depression hit she became wildly successful, one of the most popular strips in the country during the 30s and according to Fortune magazine in 1937 THE most popular comic strip, beating out Popeye, Dick Tracy and Lil Abner.

Gray’s philosophy was more about conservative values then “the sun’ll come out tomorrow”. Annie outspokenly advocated hard work, respect for elders, and yes, keeping your chin up regardless of the circumstances. It also heartily criticized FDR’s New Deal and 1930s labor unionism.

Gray was occasionally criticized for the fact that because of the enormous success of the strip he rode out the depression well cared for while all the while preaching to the huddle masses.

In 1930 the Little Orphan Annie radio show began, which was also a runaway hit. It aired for 12 years until 1942.

The show’s sponsors were indeed Ovaltine and they made a killing out of cultivating the show’s fan base by offering special premiums, including secret decoders, shake-up mugs for drinking Ovaltine and rings for members of the Little Orphan Annie secret society. Announcer Pierre Andre’s exuberant pitches for Ovaltine and the many premiums were an integral part of the show. This has of course been immortalized in one of the greatest Xmas movies ever made, A Christmas story.

There was a (very bad) cartoon and two pretty bad Annie movies in the 30s. IN 1962 there was a pretty popular Annie spoof in the then wildly popular Playboy magazine. Written and drawn by Harvy Kurtzman, the guy behind Mad Magazine and Will Elder, it featured “Annie Fanny, a tall, blonde, amply breasted, round buttocked, curly-haired young female who seems to find herself in trouble and naked in each episode.” The Mad Men guys went crazy over it.

Well now, isn’t that interesting? Ask anyone around in the Mad Men era, they know about Little Annie Fanny.

Which FINALLY, after ALL THIS, brings us to the version of Little Orphan Annie everyone actually knows, the 1977 Broadway musical and that stupid damn song “Tomorrow”. Which i’m not gonna play here, although don’t get me wrong, i find the music from the show in general to be immensely hummable and catchy.

It led to the 1982 film and actually another in 1999 which i never heard of.

So there ya go. Little Orphan Annie, a character you probably dismissed as utterly uninteresting actually has one of the most interesting histories of any long running character still around.

I leave you with a medley from the musical. Personally i’d rather beat my own genitals with a hammer rather than have to sit through an entire performance of the show, but hey, that’s me. If i was an 8 year girl i would feel very, very differently and indeed know many who did.

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Posted by on June 11, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Little Orphant Annie

I have an endless fascination with fictional characters who experience long lives and evolutions through by being expounded upon by different artists who keep the character alive and transforming through generations. As surprising as it may seem, few characters really emulate as thoroughly as Little Orphan Annie, whose history is surprisingly longer and more interesting than you might have thought.

Little Orphan Annie

When folks think of the famous Little Orphan Annie they almost always hum ‘Tomorrow’ and other songs from the famous 1977musical. A few will point out that the musical is based off the long running and at one time enormously popular daily comic strip. However, Little Orphan Annie is actually a product of the Victorian era, although she was born in the states, in Indiana.

The original incarnation of Annie was as an 1885 poem by James Whitcomb Riley entitled The Elf Child.

James Whitcomb Riley

He based the poem on a 12 year old orphan girl who lived with him and his family while he was growing up. The girl, Mary Alice Smith, known as Allie to everyone was orphaned when her father died as a soldier in the American Civil War. Riley’s father was also a soldier in the war and when his mother discovered the poor girl’s plight she insisted the girl be brought in to live with the Rileys.

Mary Alice “Allie” Smith

Allie worked alongside the family to earn her keep and in the evenings told the other children stories. It is this image the poem centers on.

The poem gained some popularity and in 1897 for its third printing Riley decided to change the title from The Elf Child to Little Orphant Allie. However the printing house miscast the type and instead of using Allie’s name cast it as Little Orphant Annie. Riley tried to get them to change it, but the poem’s popularity was taking off and the Annie name was becoming widely known, so he let it go.


Little Orphant Annie

The poem uses a midwestern accent, one used by residents of Indiana, and indeed James Whitcomb Riley was known as the Hoosier poet for his prevelant use of this accent in his poetry.

The poem begins by introducing Allie, well, Annie now, and in the following verses she tells the children various morality tales about bad children who meet their fearsome fate.

Little Orphant Annie
Little Orphant Annie’s come to our house to stay,
An’ wash the cups an’ saucers up, an’ brush the crumbs away,
An’ shoo the chickens off the porch, an’ dust the hearth, an’ sweep,
An’ make the fire, an’ bake the bread, an’ earn her board-an’-keep;
An’ all us other children, when the supper-things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an’ has the mostest fun
A-list’nin’ to the witch-tales ‘at Annie tells about,
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘at gits you
Ef you
Wunst they wuz a little boy wouldn’t say his prayers,–
An’ when he went to bed at night, away up-stairs,
His Mammy heerd him holler, an’ his Daddy heerd him bawl,
An’ when they turn’t the kivvers down, he wuzn’t there at all!
An’ they seeked him in the rafter-room, an’ cubby-hole, an’ press,
An’ seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an’ ever’-wheres, I guess;
But all they ever found wuz thist his pants an’ roundabout:–
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you
Ef you
An’ one time a little girl ‘ud allus laugh an’ grin,
An’ make fun of ever’ one, an’ all her blood-an’-kin;
An’ wunst, when they was “company,” an’ ole folks wuz there,
She mocked ’em an’ shocked ’em, an’ said she didn’t care!
An’ thist as she kicked her heels, an’ turn’t to run an’ hide,
They wuz two great big Black Things a-standin’ by her side,
An’ they snatched her through the ceilin’ ‘fore she knowed what she’s about!
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you
Ef you
An’ little Orphant Annie says, when the blaze is blue,
An’ the lamp-wick sputters, an’ the wind goes woo-oo!
An’ you hear the crickets quit, an’ the moon is gray,
An’ the lightnin’-bugs in dew is all squenched away,-You better mind yer parunts, an’ yer teachurs fond an’ dear,
An’ churish them ‘at loves you, an’ dry the orphant’s tear,
An’ he’p the pore an’ needy ones ‘at clusters all about,Er the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you
Ef you
After the renaming of the poem to Little Orphant Annie the poem became nationally famous. It even became a silent film in 1918. i would LOVE to post some footage of it here, but i cannot find any actual footage online.
The next true evolution of Annie occurred in 1915 however, when writer Johnny Gruelle was presented an old rag doll by his young daughter Marcella. He drew a face on it and when she asked for a name, pulled out a book of poems by Riley and saw the poem Little Orphant Annie. He thus named the doll Raggedy Ann.

Raggedy Ann

Raggedy Ann became a sensation. First the doll was produced and then in 1918 Gruelle began writing books about the doll’s adventures. In 1920 he introduced a companion doll and book of stories to go along with him, Raggedy Andy. He went on to write over 35 books about the pair, although the exact number is contested as beginning in the 1940s it is accepted that as grulle began writing less and less Raggedy Ann and Andy books, the publishing house Saalfield would ghost write books and throw Gruelle’s name on it for authenticity.
The dolls are STILL being produced today. My sister had a Raggedy Ann and Andy doll when she was a girl and in 2012 toy giant Hasbro has signed for a new line of plush Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls.
However, a very interesting note on this, Gruelle’s daughter Marcella died at age 13 after receiving a smallpox vaccine at school without her parent’s permission.  There has been speculation that the vaccine was infected although other doctors blamed a heart defect.Gruelle and his wife blamed the vaccine. Gruelle became an outspoken proponent of the anti-vaccination movement and Raggedy Ann for years was used as an anti vaccine symbol.
We will end here for today. Thanks for stopping by, little urchins!

Posted by on June 9, 2012 in Uncategorized


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For our last post on sci fi movies made on the cheap, we must, MUST i tell you bring up by far the best of them. It’s not just that this is by far the greatest sci fi film ever made for next to nothing, and at $7,000 it really is made for basically nothing, but it’s a truly great sci fi film, one of the most original and challenging by ANY standard.


In any list of films that utterly mess with your head, films that are jaw dropping mindfucks, Primer consistently tops the list. Go ahead, Google away if you don’t  believe me. You think Inception was all deep and complex? Primer mindfucks it out of the park.

It is one of the best puzzle/mess with your mind movies ever made. Yes, it’s that good.

I will warn you, it is one complicated movie. It is NOT nonsensical. It makes perfect sense, but boy, you have GOT to pay attention. Seriously, it will test you. It requires patience. Most people find that only on a second veiwing do they fully grok it all.

Lest i sound like a gushing fanboy, let me flat out say this film is downright brilliant, utterly, utterly original and i repeat, is quite challenging. It is a testimony to what you can do with simply an idea and motivation. Seriously, we’ve been discssing some films in the past few days made with low budgets and big vision, but this is the winner. This is actually a truly great science fiction film, ranking up there with the best head trips in film history. Donnie Darko, Momento, Mulholland Dr… This move stands up with any of them.

It is made with no budget,. It is the first time out for the writer/director Shane Carruth. It is not coddling and friendly, but unlike a lot of purposely confusing films like The Holy Mountain and Inland Empire it is logical and sensible. This is not just a matter of “If you had $7,000 and a camera what would you do?”, i feel strongly the film transcends its limitations to stand in place with any other great sci-fi head twister. I even find the low tech to eventually help with the charm, once you get used it and the initial geek tech dialogue.

Seriously, go watch this movie. The whole thing is online. Here:

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Posted by on May 27, 2012 in Uncategorized


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In discussing sci fi movies made on basically no budget whatsoever (and watchable and enjoyable), two movies especially come to mind: Primer and Lunopolis. Today we shall deal with Lunopolis.

Lunopolis is a documentary style movie about conspiracies and cults. One in particualr with odd beliefs about life on the moon. I don’t want to say much more as the process of revelation is  a key enjoyment to the movie.

The moon i figures in quite a few conspiracy theories, beginning with the idea that the moon landing was faked. Prior to the 20th century the moon factored into wild theories a bit more, but with knowledge comes the need to make the horizon more distant. As the moon became more observed and more known its ability to hold races of aliens or gods lessened and planets that could do such a thing became far off places in other solar systems. Sirius emerged as a major player in such theories.

Or is media manipulated? Public conscious subtley encouraged to look elsewhere, anywhere but the moon which we can now leave alone. it’s dead. Don’t worry about it. Nothing to see here….

Oh, this move goes there and WAY beyond that and it is an excellent ride.

Sadly, if you don’t live in the US good ******** luck watching this. It’s available online on Hulu, but f****** Hulu doesn’t work outside the states. M***** *******. US Netflix has it also.

If you can, well worth seeing with a couple of film makers with no budget and an excellent idea can do.

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Posted by on May 25, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Iron Sky: Cinema 2.0

Just bear with me for a minute here. So, we have a new movie coming out, Iron Sky. Iron Sky is an upcoming dark sci-fi comedy about Nazis returning from the moon where they fled after WWII, with a soundtrack by Laibach, and produced by production companies in Finnland, Germany and Australia.

Sounds fun, right? Could be ridiculous, could be awesome. But what makes the film even more interesting is that it is a product of Wreckamovie. Wreckamovie is an online collaborative film production platform. It is invested in what it calls Cinema 2.0 where films are made and produced using internet group collaboration.

For instance, an example are Swarm Of Angels, where an attempt was made to get 50,000 people to chip in 25 pounds each to fund the shooting or movie footage that would then be freely available to all to download and edit and create as they saw fit.

Wreckamovie was born during the production of 2005’s Finnish Star Trek dark sci fi comedy parody Star Wreck: In The Perkinning. (It has a Stark Trek vs. Babylon 5 thing going on) The movie  was thought up by 5 guys in a two room flat. During production one room was used as the blue screen and the other the render room. The cast and crew was eventually comprised of numerous volunteers, many aquired online. Due to the immense amount of special effects needed and the severly limited budget, various special effects were farmed out to interested film enthusiasts across the world. In fact, although the movie took 7 years to make since the first 5 was a learning experience (all the footage from the first 5 years was ditched and reshot), Wreckamoive discovered that large amounts of the movie making process could be collaborated upon by an international community of film enthusiasts.

Thus Star Wreck was completed and the online reception resulted in more downloads than the most popular Finnish film has box office attendance (2.9 million).  Wreckamovie was thus born with the concept that anyone can build a community for a movie or any audiovisual project, and ask for assistance in desired tasks for the production. The service makes it possible to produce films together with the community, and thus to create a real interaction with the audience from the development stage.

Iron Sky is this very team’s next project and the film has been made using the same methods of online group collaboration, although this time the process has been much smoother.

So, web 2.0 has come to cinema. Repsonsibility for productions and shooting locations were shared across 3 countries. Directed by the Finnish team, shot in Germany and Australia, soundtrack by the Slovenian band Laibach, with various tasks performed by an international online community. It’s marvelous. And truly, when the world comes together, what it wants most is to kick the shit out of space Nazis. I mean, who doesn’t?

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Posted by on May 24, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Popeye The Sailor Man

Created in 1929, this iconic character has lasted over 80 years, through many studios and permutations.

Normally i would write out a long, researched blog taking you through the history of Popeye, but the fact is:

1. I wouldn’t do nearly the fantastic job this video does. Seriously, it’s way too entertaining and informative to possibly compete with.

2. I just simply don’t have the time to write out a lengthy blog.

There’s always lots of things i’m in the mood to cover on any given day, but today is like when you get to see a film in class. Yay! Except you couldn’t click out of class if you got bored or stop the film or write the teacher back profanity laden comments AND the teacher probably actually had some shred of a clue as to what they were talking about most of the time. And instead of learning how the sun and solar system work you learn about a cartoon that eats spinach and kicks the shit out of people. So, you know, it’s kind of like that in no ways except one. There’s a film.

I’m going back to work.



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Posted by on March 29, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Franco-Belgium Comics: Bandes Dessinées

At the center of european comics is the Fraco-Belgium tradition, called bandes dessiness which translates literally to “drawn strips”.

Two of the most famous of these have even made headway in the states, Tintin and Asterix. I myself am a huge Tintin fan, having grown up with them, but only because my mother was a librarian and if you combed the libraries across Pittsburgh, you could find Tintin buried in the stacks and gradually got through most of the series, picking up a couple at one library, a few more at another. I never saw Tintin anywhere outside the libraries and know very few people who were aware of its existence.

At the beginning of the 20th century comics were of course simply run in newspapers and any sort of “comic book” was merely a collection of the newspaper strip finally put all together. In the US the very first original storied “comic book,’ Hogans’ Alley, had run in the last years of the 1800s and invented the speech balloon, a concept which quickly spread across the world and factors into the development of bandes dessinees.

In the 1920s a some franco-belgium artists took comics, which were still mostly goofy, gag related collections of newspaper strips, added the speech balloon and started running with it.

In 1925 Alain Saint-Ogan began Zig et Puce, notable for not only employing speech balloons with no outside text, but creating longer, fantastical and engaging stories. It follows the many adventures of Zig and Puce two teenagers with their pet penguin Alfred. Alfred became a legend unto himself. His name became a comic award for many decades, and Charles Lindbergh flew his famous first transatlantic flight with Alfred the penguin as a mascot.

This paved the way for Tintin, the grandfather off all franco belgium comics. It should be mentioned, we use the term franco-belgium because french is the dominant language in a significant part of belgium and even some of switzerland. The readership and artists working in the tradition are therefore a mixture.

Herge for instance is from Belgium and created Tintin, who actually deserves his own post. Tomorrow let’s say. But in short, Tintin was begun in 1929 and continued until the 1970s, with the 1950s being the most productive period.  The entire adventures of Tintin are collected in 24 volumes.

During WWII the Nazis occupied France and Belgium, and all outside comics and animation were banned. What was produced was carefully censored and after the war strong communist sentiment kept this sort of thing going. Thus Franco-Belgium artists continued the development of their own style.

In the 50s the industry took off. Herge went into full Tintin production mode and other magazines were produced which jump kicked a creative golden era. Spirou et Fantasio was a major player. Though it had begun in 1938, it stopped during the war and wasn’t until after the war when Andre Franquin took over that the tales stopped being silly gags and started tackling long, complex plots with reoccurring characters.

Spirou has had a very long and prestigious career which has spanned  decades and continues to this very day. Numerous teams have written and drawn the adventures of Spirous, Fantasio and the pet squirrep Spip through many ups and down of publishing.

The magazine Pilote became a giant of the industry in the late 50s. It ran serials of several different artists and introduced not only the wildly popular, Redbeard, Moebius’ first hit Bluberry, but the world famous Asterix.

Asterix is of course the 2nd most likely comic to be known across the pond. Asterix and Obelix are two Gauls resisting roman occupation. There have been 34 books in all, several animated movies and even a couple live action movies.

Heroic-Albums is worth mentioning for the fact that they were the first magazine to insist on printing complete stories in their issues. All others printed numerous serialized installments.

The last of these i’ll name is Vaillant. Vaillant was flat out published by The French Communist Party. It began during WWII occupation, published illegally. After the war, the communists in France were quite strong and the entire comics industry felt their power. Herge of Tintin fame had to defend himself against them, as did numerous other comic artists.

Vaillant was the only western comic allowed to be distributed in the Soviet Union. Eventually, in 1965 Vaillant was renamed Pif, due to the popularity of the main character, a dog named Pif. Over time after this change, the continuing serials faded, the content slid, and by the end of the 70s it was on its last legs.

With the late 60s and 70s, just like in the west, franco-belgiuim comics started really freaking out, growing more experimental and vastly more mature. The original Heavy Metal magazine, Metal Hurlant, of the which the american version is said to be only a pale imitation was spawned to great success in 1975.

However, preceding Metal Hurlant was the visionary L’Echo Des Savanes,  pioneering daring, mature work and along with many bold new Franco-Belgian artists such as Moebius, featuring internationally known names such as Neal Adams, Robert Crumb, Wallace Wood, Dick Giordano, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and Bernie Wrightson. It  took inspiration and hired artists from the American underground comix scene of the late 60s. As such it was always racier and more outrightly sexual then Metal Hurlant, which is actually really saying something.

 By the mid 80s there was unquestionably an outright overdose of sex and violence, misogyny style . However, since the 90s science fiction/fantasy stories have flourished especially in graphic novel format, boasting extraordinary art and creative storytelling. In recent years, just as Japanese manga has swept the rest of the world, their are currently many mergings of the two styles. The fact is, the bandes dessinees is directly responsible for the graphic novel as it exist today, influencing american comic publishing as well as being a giant of european graphic storytelling.

 I leave you with a cover for the greatest comic that never was:

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Posted by on March 15, 2012 in Uncategorized


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The second creative death worth noting this last week was that of French comic artist Moebius, 1938 – 2012.

Moebius was a key figure in bringing comic art out from a juvenile market and into a more sophisticated artform, worthy of appreciation beyond adolescence.

His style and background is very European. European comics are rooted in a French style that spans French speaking Belgium and Switzerland as well as France and has played a pivotal influence on the rest of Europe. We’ll get into this in greater detail tomorrow, but suffice to say that during and after WWII American comics were either banned or extraordinarily difficult to get for many years, and so a completely different style emerged.

Jean Giraud, or Moebius began working the 1950s, when comics were still oriented solely towards a youth market, although stand outs like the wonderful Tintin were an inspiration to show the medium could be far more than silly gags and simple, plodding stories.  Moebius’ first stories in the 50s were Westerns. Eventually in 1963 Moebius and writer Jean-Michel Charlier created the very successful Western character Blueberry. During his work on Blueberry through the 60s Moebius’ techniques grew in leaps in bounds and by the 70s he was ready to branch out and stretch his wings.

In 1975 Jean Giraud stopped being Jean Giraud and became Moebius, a pseudonym he had used briefly in 1963. It was the name under which he would do his science fiction and fantasy work which would explore and push the boundaries of panelled storytelling. He and a group of other comic visionaries began the famous Metal Hurlant (Heavy Metal) magazine which blew the confines of the medium wide open during the second half of the 70s and into the 80s.


American readers may be familiar with Heavy Metal magazine. However, it must be stated strongly, that the American version is not completely identical with the French. The American one was started several years after the French one when publisher  Leonard Mogel saw Metal Hurlant in Paris and begged them to let him publish a licensed American version. At first the American one published mostly reproductions of the French version, but soon went its own way and became quite a different entity in terms of style and content.

Many fans of Metal Hurlant are dismissive of the US Heavy Metal or at least it’s later 80s incarnation, and while at first the US counterpart was a major breath of fresh air in the US market, the magazine grew a bit base and overindulgent in being “adult” vs. excellence of story and art. Heavy Metal did spawn Marvel comic’s absolutely astounding Epic magazine, which was more in the spirit of what the French version had been trying to do and featured vastly more inventive comics, including plenty of selections from Moebius himself, which is where i first stumbled across him.

Moebius went on to produce a long stream of sci-fi/fantasy graphic stories. His work is enormously influencial on all European comics that have come since. Euro-comics are far more sci-fi, fantasy based, with elements of visual surrealism and nary a superhero in sight.  Much like Moebius’ signature work.

He did storyboards for several big movies including Aliens, Tron, The Fifth Element (always really liked that movie, ever sure why it doesn’t get more respect) and The Empire Strikes Back.

Farewell Moebius. You float through a surreal landscape now. Let’s sit back and enjoy a bit, shall we?

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Posted by on March 14, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Steampunk Sesame Street

I know you clicked here because you just HAD to know wtf.

Fortunately i kid you not. Here:

But wait, i did not lure you here to merely show you one image like all those regular brands. No, i have more. For instance, you would have clicked on this had i said nothing but Steampunk Ernie & Bert. Steampunk Ernie and Bert could have a picture of Ernie & Bert fornicating and a single goggle laying on the floor and you would clicked here anyway because the moment you hear “steampunk Ernie & Bert” you know you HAVE to know.

Know now:

I would also like to point out that Cookie Monster has been steampunk for a long time.

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Posted by on March 6, 2012 in Uncategorized


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