With Further Ado #022: The Bat and the Matt: Batbooks and the Holiday

With Further Ado #022: The Bat and the Matt: Batbooks and the Holiday

On several Christmases, Santa gifted me a plethora of Batman toys. My favorite Bat-gifts? Well, I especially loved the Trans-o-gram Batmobile.  My dad and I even built a cardboard Batcave for it!  (#BestDadEver) I always yearned for the Batman Captain Action set, but Santa could never find one. My (wonderful) mother ended up sewing one for me. (#BestMomEver) And I am pretty sure I looked quite dashing pedaling during rush hour in the living room, riding the Marx Batmobile.

(By the way, the commercial for that one is classic. Check it out here!)

After a few more Christmases, I still like Batman but I’d graduate from toys to books. The quintessential Bat-book for me is still Batman from the 30s to the 70s, a collection of stories wrapped up in that gorgeous Infantino & Anderson dustjacket.  But many subsequent Batbooks would follow on many subsequent Christmases. And now I really love giving Bat-books too. It’s never too early for brainwashing, after all.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #022: The Bat and the Matt: Batbooks and the Holiday”

Working Title #012: The (Im)Possibilities of Christmas

Working Title #012: The (Im)Possibilities of Christmas

“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned the nephew. “Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

                                        -Nephew Fred, A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

Christmas has also always been my favorite time of year. More precisely, it’s Advent – the time leading up to Christmas – that I’ve enjoyed the most since I was a kid. Advent was full of possibility; there was the anticipation of what Christmas was going to be. What was I going to get, what could I give within my limited funds that the recipient might actually like, what would it all feel like?

Part of Advent was the Advent Wreath. It was made of evergreen boughs and laid flat on the table. Four candles stuck up out of it; each representing one of the weeks in December leading up to Christmas. Three were white and one was purple; the purple one was for Gaudette Sunday, the third Sunday in Advent. You’d light the candles at the start of dinner, say a prayer, and dig in to the food, hoping the candles wouldn’t fall over and set fire to the wreath and perhaps the table as well. Ah, Holiday cheer!

In 1965, A Charlie Brown Christmas first aired on TV. The following year, How the Grinch Stole Christmas debuted which was even better. (I am, of course, referring to the TV special created by Chuck Jones and narrated by Boris Karloff and not the bloated movies since made.) I have both on Blu-ray and they continue to be a part of my lead-up to Christmas every year. Both are very much a part of my own personal Christmas.

We also had an Advent calendar. For those who don’t know, these are large cards usually with the picture of the Nativity scene on it and windows set in it that can be opened, revealing a picture of a toy or a piece of candy or a portion of a story. Ours had the Nativity story from Luke. The windows were numbered from 1 to 24, going from December 1st to Christmas Eve. That’s when the whole Advent schtick climaxed. We didn’t use the one that had chocolates behind each window because I think my Mom instinctively knew they’d never make to December 24th. They probably wouldn’t have made it to the 3rd and I most likely would have been the reason. I was only as patient during Advent as I was forced to be.

Part of our family Advent ritual was to go downtown to State Street, that Great Street, and see the Christmas windows at the big stores, especially Marshall Fields. They always did up Christmas in a grand style and, if you want, you can take a peek here

Back then, the Christmas shopping season started the day AFTER Thanksgiving. No running out on Thanksgiving dinner to be the first in line. No Black Friday sales in the middle of August. (Okay, I exaggerate but only for effect.)  Continue reading “Working Title #012: The (Im)Possibilities of Christmas”

Beat JENeration 018: A Holiday Holla’ to All My Ambiverts!

Beat JENeration 018: A Holiday Holla’ to All My Ambiverts!

Christmas clearly came early for all of us when Michelle Obama walked on stage in those thigh-high gold Baleciaga boots, but the sad truth is even the fiercest FLOTUS ever cannot save us from the horror show that is the holiday season.

The “us” I speak of, is specific. Christmastime is hard on extroverted introverts. And/or the introverted extroverts. I can never figure out if they are are actually the same thing or which one I am. But, whatever label you slap on my personality type, I know I’m not alone because Buzzfeed did a listicle. So, this being the season of sharing, I will speak for all of us.

Also, I am fueled by a couple glasses of really good Claret from my third Christmas party in two days (of a total of 6 in 5 days) and it feels right to speak in the first person plural.

Though let me go back to first person, for a sec… 

I love Christmas!  Continue reading “Beat JENeration 018: A Holiday Holla’ to All My Ambiverts!”

With Further Ado #017: When Steve Rude Almost Saved Christmas

With Further Ado #017: When Steve Rude Almost Saved Christmas

Back in the early 90s, we needed to save Christmas and I almost got Steve Rude to do it.

I was in brand management when I was starting out my marketing career. I had the great fortune to be assigned to Nabisco’s OREO brand.  It was a lot of fun.  I worked on the launch of Mini OREO, introduced the Halloween OREO and a Christmas variant with red crème.  In those days, changing anything about Nabisco’s brand was a serious exercise only undertaken with the most serious thought and planning.   This is in stark contrast today, when every season there are several more flavor variants to the brand.

Christmas and cookies always go together, and one of the annual traditions for the brand was to create a collectible OREO tin. These were tins with a wistful, family-focused Rockewellian painting that would be sold with a 16 oz.  package of OREO inside it.  From a marketing perspective it served many purposes: it was one more reason for someone to buy OREO, the retailers had an excuse to build a display and we even had fans who collected them each year.

We typically hired a commercial illustrator to provide the painting of a family eating OREO cookies by the Christmas Tree. They were perfectly fine, but I had the idea that I wanted to step it up with one of my favorite artists.

Steve Rude had burst onto the scene the decade before with his brilliant Nexus series and other comics work.  His work was always exciting and fun to look at fun to look at, but one couldn’t help but be struck by both his brilliant design sense, and his ability to render expressive figures.  Many of the covers would be painted, while the interiors would showcase his impressive traditional comics work.  His paintings are what sparked my idea.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #017: When Steve Rude Almost Saved Christmas”