Friday, October 22, 2010

31 favorite monsters: Rat Fink

In the 1960's, cartoonist and hot rod hobbyist Ed "Big Daddy" Roth was designing some of the rudest, crudest monsters America had ever seen, popularizing the "ugly-cute" trend later seen in the Ugly Stickers of the same era, the MADBALLS of the 80's and more. While considered innocent fun today, these hideous ghouls were considered pretty subversive in their day, mocking the status quo and promoting the kind of wild, carefree fun that most of the country shied away from. While Roth personally designed dozens and dozens of the slobbering, bug-eyed freaks, it's Rat Fink who remains popular by name; a character Roth designed just to stick it to his hated Mickey Mouse.

Rat Fink is largely considered an icon of "Kustom Kulture," the Hot Rod & Motorcycle customizing hobby that Roth is considered partially responsible for. I may not know much about this stuff, but I can certainly appreciate what Rat Fink stands for as well as his adorably grotesque design.

31 favorite monsters: the Great Round Jelly Thing

Slow down there, BUSTER. If you've never read Harlan Ellison's famously sadistic short story "I Have no Mouth and I Must Scream" and would like to read a famously sadistic short story without having the sadistic surprise spoiled for you, click here to read it online, it's public domain!

For the rest of you who don't care about spoilers or already know the twist, let's all show some appreciation for the great round jelly thing, A.K.A. the final form of Ted. I Have no Mouth tells the story of a bizarre and hellish post-apocalyptic world ruled by AM, a computer so powerful that it has a god-like control over reality within its domain. Unfortunately, that domain is limited to the planet Earth, and to AM, it's a prison so maddeningly tiny that it hates mankind for creating it at all. And how much does it hate mankind?

When our story begins, there are only five human beings left on the planet Earth, selected by AM for no explained reason as playthings to act out his frustration. The computer uses all of its impossible power to keep these five random people alive for all eternity, just to torture them in every conceivable way; revolting foods, obnoxious sounds, ravenous monsters, bouts of insanity, whatever the machine can come up with. To make a short story shorter, our protagonists suffer over nine hundred years of this technological hell before finally figuring out how to kill themselves without AM's interference, though it leaves one of them alive - our narrator, Ted - to suffer the computer's wrath. To make sure his last human toy can't ever escape, AM transforms Ted into a helpless form that can't even harm itself.

Poor Ted. This particular image actually comes from the ending of the PC game, and could actually be any of the five characters depending on how you played. Since Harlan Ellison worked on the game directly, it's safe to say this is the jelly thing's "official" design, and don't you just want to flop all over it like a beanbag chair? You wouldn't want to be Ted, no, but for a mockery of humanity that only exists to suffer, isn't it just SO huggable?

31 favorite monsters: Delia's Art

So I initially set out to count down my top favorite monsters like Penanggalan is doing, but if I stuck with that idea, I'd spend the rest of the month repeating monsters I've already written about on my main site. To keep things fresh and interesting, I'll be blogging more about monsters that are favorites of mine, rather than the favorites, and just devote the final three entries to my all-time definite top three.

With that in mind, here's what may be the very weirdest entry of the month; something that may very well not count as a monster at all, but if I don't blog about it here, I may never find the right context to do so. Yes, it's Delia's Artwork from the movie Beetlejuice:

Shame on you if you've never seen this movie, but either way I'll cut to the chase: Delia Deetz is an unpopular yet insufferably smarmy artist with highly eccentric tastes, including some incredibly weird (awesome) abstract sculptures. Towards the end of the film, two of her sculptures are animated by the ghostly powers of Beetlejuice himself. It's only a few seconds worth of stop-motion animation, and I suppose they're only "monsters" if you consider a possessed object a monster for however long it's possessed, but that's good enough for me.

The bulbous, brain-like sculpture can't seem to lift its cubical base, dragging itself with its tentacular appendages. In motion, it seems like an intentional homage to the crawling brains from Fiend Without a Face, one of the monsters that would have been on my top list.

The other sculpture, my favorite of the two, just flips itself around to become a crazy block-headed crawling worm.

As minor as their roles were, I loved these things the moment I saw them, and always thought it would be awesome if you could buy little bendy toys or plushes of them. Why the hell not? Am I the only one who finds them so fascinating? You can see their 15 (more or less) seconds of fame in this clip, though it does contain spoilers if you've never experienced the film (again, shame on you)