DC Comics Posts

The Joker is IT: Collecting Lovable Clowns in Pop Culture

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

pennywise jokerHey, collectors, do you know what time it is? It’s clown time! (Maniacal laugh). In all seriousness, and clowns are a serious subject, they’re kind of a big deal right now in pop culture. The second IT movie is doing big box office, as is the Clown Prince of Crime, aka Joker.

So with those two lovable jesters going at it (I haven’t seen either movie, so I assume they’re light-hearted comedies), why not look at some other clowns from pop culture. And since this is hobbyDB, we’re focusing on ones with collectibility. Also, Halloween is around the corner, and you might need a costume idea.

pennywise collectibles Stephen King’s original novel IT was actually a middling success with critics, and he even disavowed it to a degree. Pennywise seems innocent enough to the kids at first, which is the scary part. Nonetheless, it made for a scary TV movie adaptation in the early ‘90s and a downright horrifying two-part cinematic remake in the last few years. Both generations are represented in the collectible world.

Not to be outdone, the Joker has pestering Gotham City for so long he has become something of a sympathetic creature. Thanks to the fluidity of the DC timeline, the character has been interpreted numerous ways from relatively benign (Ceasar Romero) to comically psychotic (Jack Nicholson, Mark Hammill) to psychopathic (Heath Ledger) to, well, a tragic and misunderstood figure (Joaquin Phoenix). While the older versions of Joker have been well represented in collectible form, the latest one has not… yet.

joker collectiblesCould it be that the “R” rating of the new movie makes it not as useful for being turned into what are essentially toys such as Funko Pop figures? Well, consider that Ledger’s Joker was anything but kid-friendly (a lot of folks felt The Dark Knight should have come with the same rating) but is well represented in collectibles. Also, there is no shortage of Pennywise merchandise, and both IT movies were for grownups.

It might be that the passage of time was necessary for those two versions to become collectible. Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance has become so iconic that it has passed into the culture in general. And part one of IT came out two years ago, so the critical and box office success suggested collectors wanted more Pennywise.

Even Jared Leto’s much-maligned take on the character was worthy of some Pop love. But Pheonix’s performance has also come with critical acclaim (more so than the movie itself even). And early box office has been no joke. While we wait for the punchline, let’s look at some other pop culture clowns…

Seems Harmless Enough

clown krustyIf you grew up in the ’60s or ’70s in the Chicago area, you were treated to a morning of goofiness from Bozo. Other stations in other markets had weak imitations of him, but WGN Bozo was the real deal.

A younger generation grew up with Krusty the Clown as their makeup intensive morning entertainment. As a part of the Simpsons universe, we get to see him not only behind the scenes but in day-to-day life where he never removes his costume or gets out of character (aside from being a surly, bothered, chain-smoking pile of bitterness).

Even though he’s a throwaway character, The Clown With The Tearaway Face adds a bit of spooky fun to the Nightmare Before Christmas. But not too spooky.

Not to get into the politics or ethics of fast food and consumerism, but Ronald McDonald has been enticing kids into his restaurants for decades. Despite his gentle demeanor, artists and satirists have portrayed him in a scarier form, the weirdest being the heavy metal band Mac Sabbath. Seriously, check them out!

Speaking of Clowns Who Rock…

kiss insane clown posseLove’em or hate ‘em, the boys of Insane Clown Posse put on an intense show and have an even more intense following. Juggalos, their fans, are more invested in the whole circus act than the band itself.

Can we talk about KISS? As much as they wanted to be scary metal gods, their music was more of a loud, hard, pop sound and their mostly monochromatic outfits barely qualified as menacing. Don’t worry, though, we’re laughing with you, not at you.

killer klown funkoClown Schlock

No one would ever pretend Killer Klowns From Outer Space is a cinematic masterpiece. But it was a good, silly, modestly scary time at the cinema, and in the right frame of mind, buckets of fun.

Clown Time is Over

hot wheels clown carFive Nights at Freddy’s walks a weird line between entertainingly good fun and genuinely dark jump scares. In addition to the animatronic band gone awry, the cast includes Fruitpunch Clown who knows how to exploit evil lighting angles to maximum effect.

Regardless of whether clowns give you the giggles or nightmares, there are plenty more collectibles out there we just couldn’t fit in our clown car. Let us know some of your favorites in the comments!

From Marvel to Marbles to Mar-Vell to Ms.: The Crazy History of Captain Marvel

Captian Marvel

captain marvel

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

The early audience reviews for the new Captain Marvel film were not very good. In fact, they pretty much trashed the movie. The problem was, those reviews came out before the film was even released. It was a case of trolling fueled by… who even knows anymore? Something to do with the character suddenly being a woman, right? We live in weird times.

Once the movie finally hit theaters, critics and fans agreed it actually was pretty darn good and lots of fun. The retro ‘90s theme was a hit with audiences (just wait til Wonder Woman’s 1984 era movie comes out!), and Brie Larson nails the performance. So in the end, she triumphed.

captain marvelBut, come to think of it, when did Captain Marvel become a woman? Wasn’t she a guy in a live action TV show back in the ‘70s? He drove around the country in a Winnebago with a kid and guy who looked like a cross between Pat Morita and Stan Lee, right? Turns out this superhero has a way more convoluted backstory than you may have remembered.

captain marvelOf course it makes sense that Captain Marvel would have been created in 1967 by Stan Lee of…. wait for it… MARVEL Comics. Except, the character was actually named “Captain Mar-Vell” because the “Captain Marvel” name was already taken by another comic book publisher. A publisher that had been defunct for a decade and a half. Oh, and Captain Marvel was a man back then, so your memory is correct. Partly anyway.

See, there was an earlier character named “Captain Marvel” who appeared in various titles from Fawcett Comics from 1940 to 1953. That early date puts him right on par with the first superheroes, such as Batman, Superman, and Captain America, who debuted in the late 1930s and early ’40s. And that was the start of his problems.

captain marvel

Nothing at all similar between these two comics, right?

Fawcett unfortunately went out of business in 1953 after a copyright infringement suit involving the character. Not from Marvel, but from National Comics. Apparently they felt this caped, flying strongman was a little too similar to their character Superman. Wait, what? Yep, DC Comics was actually known as National Comics back then and sued over a character named after another comic book company that actually had yet to be named similarly to that character, but who subsequently named their new character after themselves. Did I mention this stuff is convoluted?

captain marvel hoppyBefore the lawsuit was settled, Fawcett really hunkered down on the character, creating Captain Marvel Jr., Mary Marvel, Uncle Marvel, Grandpa Marvel, and Hoppy the Marvel Bunny. (One of those characters I just made up. If you guessed Grandpa Marvel, you are correct. Yep, Hoppy actually existed. And I thought we were living in weird times today…)

Meanwhile, in 1953, issue #4 of MAD ran the story of Superduperman, featuring a nod to his lawsuit against Captain Marbles. MAD would of course eventually become part of the DC empire. (I am not making any of this up so far, aside from Grandpa Marvel. Seriously.)

captain marvelSpeaking of DC, they eventually acquired the rights to Fawcett’s Captain Marvel character and decided he had a lot of potential to expand the brand. Of course, with that name, he would be likely expanding the brand of their biggest competitor, so they gave him a new backstory and a catchy new title (but not a new name). The first issue of Shazam! was released by DC in 1973, complete with the subtitle, “The Original Captain Marvel.” So, naturally, there was another lawsuit. The producers of Gomer Pyle USMC sued over the “Shazam” catchphrase (okay, I made that up too, but honestly, at this point, it sounded believable, right?). No, of course it was Marvel Comics who sued DC over the name and the character. So the tagline was changed to “The World’s Mightiest Mortal.” And by the time it hit TV, people just kind of assumed that “Shazam” was the character’s name.

Got all that? Okay, back to Captain Marvel. The one from Marvel. The one named “Mar-Vell.” The one from the new movie. Yeah, her. Him. Let’s go back in time a bit… Captain Mar-Vell, a flying alien superhero from another planet (man, that sounds familiar), took off on his own in the late ’60s. Turns out he shared molecules with a kid named Rick Jones, and only one could exist in the world at a time, so they flip-flopped between the two identities. If that sounds familiar (it probably doesn’t but…) that was almost word for word the origin story of the original Fawcett character.

captain marvel

Ironically, while DC’s Shazam! was becoming popular with comic fans and TV viewers, readers didn’t really dig Marvel’s Marvel, so the character was killed off in the 1970s. And then revived several times since, as various male and female characters, most with the last name “Vell.” At one point he was resurrected long enough to die again in an explosion where his DNA was mixed with his cohort, USAF Officer Carol Danvers. So Danvers acquired super powers and of course became… Ms. Marvel. And then she eventually just took on the Captain Marvel name. At various times over the last couple of decades Ms./Captain Marvel has starred in her own standalone comics, made guest appearances in other stories, and has been part of the Avengers. So if you’ve been paying attention and weren’t confused by everything that happened before, all of this should make sense.

captain marvel

So yeah, now there’s a Captain Marvel movie, and the character is female, and it’s a pretty dang good movie, and you should see it despite what the trolls tried to tell you. And you’re going to love her cat Goose.

captain marvel

By the way, DC is releasing a Shazam! movie later this summer. It looks like a fun, goofy, good time at the cinema. No word on whether he’s called “Captain Marvel” anytime in the flick. Let’s hope not. That could get confusing.