Paul Reubens, of Pee-Wee Herman fame, died yesterday. The announcement was sad. Reubens was just a kid, albeit a 70-year-old kid, with some eclectic proclivities who oozed out gobs of innocence, impishness and the surreal madness of childhood through every puny pore of his performative life. In memory of this man-child genius who invigorated the end of the ’80s and ’90s for us elder Saturday morning TV addicts (and who also had the genius to draft into his fold such artists as Wayne White, Gary Panter and Ric Heitzman to design Pee-Wee’s “Playhouse”), below is one small memory of the master of ageless comedic wonderment, originally published in 2014 with the title “What Was Good About the ’80s”.
[ Since the original posting Mark Newgarden provided the following clarification: “I was as the guy who had that great gig of editing, designing & shepherding that Topps Pee-Wee’s Fun Pak project,” he wrote today. “Gary was fairly hands off on that one, although it was all created under the auspices of the show’s – and Gary’s – aesthetic, of course. The idea was to revive as many vintage Topps paper novelty formats of the past as I could get away with: die-cuts, lenticulars, flip books etc. Paul signed off on everything with Gary’s blessings”.
Artists who contributed comprise a rogue’s gallery of 1980s NYC alt cartoonists & illustrators including: Kaz, Ric Heitzman, Charles Burns, Richard McGuire, J.D.King, Tomas Bunk, Stephen Kroninger & Newgarten. Kaz and Newgarden wrote all of the copy. (Apologies to those not credited in the earlier story.)
Welcome to the first in a series of questions about the ’80s, the decade that ended almost 25 years ago, before many of you were even born. What was good about the ’80s?
Those of you, like me, who were fortunate (wink) enough to live through Ronald Reagan’s presidency and see original episodes of “Night Court,” “Knight Rider,” “Growing Pains,” “Married with Children” and “The Dukes of Hazzard,” may have spent your Saturday mornings with “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse,” Pee-Wee Herman’s brilliant satire disguised as a children’s show.
And if you were a fan of the show, you just might have known Gary Panter was one of the graphic wizards that made Pee-Wee’s sets and stuffs so hypnotically superific. And if that were the case, you may have collected these Fun Pack packs designed by Panter (what a great gig), which you have to agree, gave the otherwise loathsome ’80s some welcome charm.