Obsessions

The Bottle's the Thing: The Branding Evolution of Soda Pop

My fascination with brand design started with the soda-pop realm. I’d always loved leafing through old magazines and usually paid more attention to the advertising in them than the articles. Because my father had a collection of Life magazines beginning with the first issue in 1936 and continuing through the World War II years,...

Clutter My World

I wish I’d come up with “Clutter My World,” but I stole the line from Laura Levine. That Laura is one smartypants—rock photographer, illustrator, filmmaker, and owner of the business I’d most like to work for—Homer and Langley’s Mystery Spot, in Phoenicia, New York. The seven-room shop is named for Homer and Langley Collyer—brothers who...

A Fanzine Editor's 60-Year Love Affair with 1950s Comics

There’s this comic-book story about space aliens who try to save our planet from self-annihilation. But they arrive too late: We’d already destroyed ourselves in an atomic war. They land their rocket ship on a chunk of a devastated earth and discover a science-fiction comic book amid the rubble. It contains a story about...

Vintage Orange Crush Soda Bottles Take a Ribbing

I grew up drinking Orange Crush and hearing my mom tell stories of how it used to come in brown bottles, supposedly to protect the flavor. But by the time I was a kid, those days were long gone, and Crush’s bottles were clear. I was also aware that Orange Crush was made in...

The Motion-Graphic Ads Of Burma-Shave: 1927-1963

In a simpler time, when automobiles went slower and the pre-Eisenhower highway system in the United States was less developed, there was a popular advertising campaign that ran from 1927 until 1963. It consisted of rhymed messages sequentially staked on the right side of the road, all ending with the advertiser’s name, “Burma-Shave.” These...

Black Dahlia Murder, Part 2: The Victim’s Makeup

Wrapping up my interview with crime historian Joan Renner, we delve deeper into an unsolved murder mystery. Joan explores her theory that the victim’s Black Dahlia persona began when she was still alive. Read part one, with more details of the Dahlia investigation, here. Our conversation picks up with Joan describing her passion for...

Amazing X-Ray Glasses And 9000 Other Novelties – Johnson Smith & Co.

With Chicago’s “C2E2″ 2012 ComicCon (http://www.c2e2.com/) approaching this week from April 13-15 at McCormick Place, it seems fitting that I do a piece on an aspect of comic books that everyone even remotely acquainted with the realm knows well – the Johnson Smith & Company of Detroit, Michigan. You may not recognize the firm’s...

Lucky Strike

I thought I was cured. About a decade ago, I vowed to put a cap on my bottle cap collection, after being injured in the line of duty (an embarrassing story I’ve recounted way past its expiration date, I’m afraid). I was through with mining for small objects, but recently started “pinning” a few...

Black Dahlia Murder: the Crime, the Cosmetics, and the Folksinger

  So I’m at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood to scope this 1933 Stanwyck flick about broads behind bars, but before it starts this dame gets up in front, name Joan Renner. Says her passion is historic crime and vintage cosmetics: sounds to me like a lethal combination. Then she gives the whole audience...