Philip K. Dick’s World of Advertising: Branded Dreams


Philip K. Dick’s visions of an intrusive manipulated reality is portrayed in this short piece by Studio Smack . Dick explored the concept of consensual reality and the potential conflict between “two levels of reality” – one “objectively” determined, the other a world of appearances imposed upon characters by various means and processes.


“Reality is that which , when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”

“It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.”

“Don’t try to solve serious matters in the middle of the (long) night.”

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep ?

“This is on a level, and it goes to show you

that you should never take your dreams too seriously.

Or else it shows that the unconscious

or the universe

or God

or whatever can put you on. ”

Studio Smack are Ton Meijdam, Thom Snels and Béla Zsigmond. All three of them studied at the AKV|St.Joost in Breda (Art Academy), The Netherlands. Their animated films gained awards at international film festivals. Studio Smack produces work that in the first analysis has an autonomous value, but often also responds to developments in society, the so-called Design for Debate.  Some of their happy clients are Dutch TV Networks VARA, VPRO and MTV NL, Greenpeace, MOTI, Next Nature, GOD, Graphic Design Festival Breda, Festival Mundial,..and many many more.


Here are the creators’ comments on this short media piece. 

“The real question is not: How many ads do we see? The real question is: What do we have to do to see no ads? And the answer is: go to sleep” (James B. Twitchell)

We see ads everyday and everywhere. They have become part of our life. While some people try to avoid seeing ads, advertisers keep finding new ways to reach us. However they are unable to reach us when we sleep. Our dreams are the last safe and add-free place so it seems.

But what happens when advertisers have the possibility to enter our dreams? Based on recent developments in brain science and technology this might be possible in the near future.

This animated short is an impression of a dream infected by a brand we all know…….


The question I pose is, … should we view this short a social commentary warning on Mass Media intruding into private consciousness, as Dick speculated on ? Or is it a deconstructed advertisement, masquerading as social commentary – a metaphor for subliminal imagery that is being planted in you dreamscape for later reference ?





Bryan Hitch on Batman

Comicbook characters such as Batman are part of contemporary iconography – a modern mythology on which we project  values, beliefs & ideologies in the forms of hopes & fears. Batman, being one of the earliest comic superheroes ( 75 years ), has his roots in the Pulp Magazine  & Pulp Hero tradition.

He blends the qualities of characters such as The Shadow & The Spider with the master savant detective first crystallized in the character of Sherlock Holmes. Batman’s comicbook universe setting  ranges from  Hard Boiled Noir to Gothic Fantasy, with  stop overs in the cosmic metaphysical realms associated with speculative fiction. This  makes the character both flexible and challenging, whether being portrayed in print or other media, such as movies and television. Bryan Hitch‘s observations, as writer & illustrator of the current JLA comic, provide some insight into this creative balancing act.

— I wasn’t sure about Batman. When I had that abortive attempt to do “Justice League” 15 odd years ago with [Mark] Waid, I couldn’t figure out, visually, how to handle Batman. And I kind of translated that mentally into, “I probably wouldn’t be able to write him, either.” The odd thing, when I started writing the story out, was just how much Batman took care of his own business for you. You just find a situation, drop Batman in it, and he writes his own dialogue. It’s hilarious.

JLA - Bryan Hitch

Batman, at the same time, he’s the guy that has the detective skills, and the analytical skills, to be able to look at all this stuff, and start putting the picture together with the jigsaw pieces, and make that leap that some of the other characters may not be able to — because they’re looking very closely at the individual points, where Batman’s experience is a little wider, I think. I was worried about Batman, but I’m actually having such a nice time writing him in the context of these stories. And he’s such a useful character, because he’s the guy that figures everything out.

Batman - Bryan Hitch &  Paul Neary

I actually find him hilarious to write. He’s got that kind of grim visual, certainly, but I find that he’s the guy with the sarcastic one-liner — not necessarily because he’s trying to be funny, but you have a funny situation, and he nails the line at the end of the scene. And it’s funny because of that, not because he’s trying to be funny. I find that in that group environment, there’s a lot of humor to be had. I’ve been writing him a scene between him and Aquaman, and they’re actually talking about magic crystals, and just these two characters talking about magic crystals, they realize that they’re having an absurd conversation. FULL INTERVIEW at CBR: Bryan Hitch Stays Put at DC with “Justice League of America”






Timmins, Ont. girl petitions to sign up for boys-only robotics class

A nine-year-old girl who started an online petition to take part in a boys-only robotics class at a Timmins, Ont., library will now be able to take part.

Robotics for boys only advertisement

The Timmins Public Library advertisement for this “special program” was challenged by a local girl who wanted to take part in the session.

The Timmins Public Library is now offering the robotics session to all children between the ages of 9-12.


It was welcome news to Cash Cayen’s mother, who said “we need to change the way our society thinks.”

The Exile of Time

“The CEO of the library sent me a text message directing me to their Facebook page to see their official media release,” Caroline Martel said.

Rendezvous with Destiny

“The media release [said] they ‘wish to apologize to the public and Science Timmins for the misunderstanding related to the Robotics event which was designed to encourage improved literacy through reading.’ Although I disagree with the claim that this was a ‘misunderstanding,’ Cash and I are happy with their decision to open the session up to all children regardless of their gender.”

Close to 30,000 people signed the petition, and many shared stories about discrimination.


“Gendered approaches to education are extremely problematic,” Martel said in a post on .

via Timmins, Ont. girl petitions to sign up for boys-only robotics class – Sudbury – CBC News. Listen to Interview: Caroline Martel and library board chair Michael Doody spoke with CBC Sudbury’s Up North radio program on Thursday about the situation that has raised the ire of many.

Superhero Part 2:”It’s A Bird… It’s A Plane… It’s A New Medium ! “

Before we start on part two of this topic it is a good idea to re-cap:

  1. Sharon Lamb, Ed.D., a professor, and clinical psychologist, is the author of four books, including the The Secret Lives of Girls: What Good Girls Really Do – Sex, Aggression, and their Guilt. She recently gave a presentation at the 118th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association on how current superhero figures in the movies are impacting on young boys. She perceives “ a big difference in the movie superhero of today and the comic book superhero of yesterday” .

Today’s superheroes send wrong image to boys, say researchers

2. The comic book superhero can be traced back to classical Greek and Old Testament hero templates. These templates wound their way through English literature till they arrived in fertile publishing markets of the American Dime Novels and Pulp Magazines. These templates were re-imagined by American writers for American Audiences and were used to generate what came to known as the Pulp Hero.

3. The first Pulp Heroes and their settings were used in other forms of media – movies, newspaper comic strips, and radio dramas. This further popularized these characters, but in the process first broadened and then shifted the potential target audience. The narratives were simplified and the characters’ appeal to children, especially boys, could be emphasized. This played into a number of potential marketing areas, including toys.

4. Eventually (1938 -39) the Pulp Hero template would be modified again to create unique heroes whose narratives would be presented directly in a comic book format. The comic book superhero template was inspired by pulp science fiction heroes, weirdly disguised pulp detectives, and in particular Doc Savage and The Shadow.

The Comic book Superhero Template

The superhero template was first presented in Action Comics # 1(1938) with the introduction of Superman. The next most famous and effective example of this template was Batman in Detective Comics # 27 (1939).

If you look at these sample pages of the first Superman and Batman stories you will notice that the style and content owes a fair amount to the pulp magazines and the daily newspaper serials. They are intended for a wider audience than say, some of the Radio shows or Saturday Afternoon Matinees which were aimed at the specific demographic of school age children. In effect, even though the comic books were intended for kids the writing style and content could be rather adult and serious.

The reason for the discrepancy in content and intended audience can be explained. Consider the following factors that played into the creation of this new template. First the publishers of these comic-book magazines were either the same people who produced the pulp magazines or connected to the publishers who owned the rights to newspaper strips. Initially comic-books were early compilations of news-strips. It was with the increased demand the publishers needed to generate new material. Because the source of of the new material came from people who were familiar with producing news-strips / pulps they borrowed those codes and conventions. They did not realize that they were creating for what in many ways was a new medium that would have its own codes and conventions, a different constructed reality, and would be much more accessible to a different target audience, a different demographic with different expectations (values, and beliefs).

To get a better sense of how closely those early comics adhered to the conventions of the pulps take a look at Action # 1 (online). The Superman story quickly establishes the protagonist’s background, skill sets, working environment, and personal relationships. It is a bit episodic because the whole narrative was originally envisioned as serialized news-strip. It ends in a cliff-hanger. While the Superman introductory adventure is on the cover and is the lead story, there are a variety of other adventure/mystery, and humour stories in the magazine. There is also a short prose piece that could easily fit into a regular pulp magazine. The most telling feature is that while the Superman story is in colour, most of the magazine is in black and white.

The Bloody Pulps, as they were sometimes called, were know for there bright lurid covers. The interior were however in black and white.

Colour was of significant importance to the comic-book superhero. It is one of the conventions that came from the Sunday comic-strips. Bright and colourful marks the world of characters like Flash Gordan and Buck Rogers. This would become a significant difference between the Pulp Heroes and Superheroes.

In most cases the Pulp Heroes costumes were not much more than a domino mask combined with variations on the American Detective’s hat & trench-coat or the more urbane dinner dress of the rich dilettante detective/thief.

Some Pulp Heroes borrowed from the horror genre for their appearance, like the stone cold faced Avenger or The Spider , with his hunchback and fangs. Doc Savage, an adventurer and scientist with his perfect physique and bronzed appearance, only needed to  get his shirt ripped up. The Man of Bronze did this regularly in his adventures and covers.

Because the comics looked better in colour and it was possible to do so in the smaller cheaper magazines, the characters and their world could be brighter and bolder. In the comic strips, Little Orphan Annie had her bright red dress and orange hair. The Phantom ended up in purple ( click here for an explanation), while Dick Tracy had his yellow fedora.

It is no wonder that Superman’s costume, influenced by the bright “uniforms” of pulp & news-strip space-men, circus strongmen, and then added the stage magician’s cape, was red, yellow, and blue. Nor is it any surprise that he would be followed by a host of mystery men with colourful names and costumes to match: Green Lantern, Red Tornado, The Flash, Starman, Hawkman, and the Green Arrow.

These bright colourful heroes were naturally more cheerful, positive, and youthful than the dark violent seemingly older Pulp Heroes. It was the end of the Great Depression and young men and women in bright uniforms would soon be needed to fight terrible menaces of science , technology, and an alien/foreign world. But didn’t we say that the other core character was that Dark Knight of Gotham, Batman ? How could this masked detective of the night with his brooding pulp magazine atmosphere fit into this world of colour ? Two crucial elements came into play that would quickly influence the other comic-book heroes.

  1. Create adversaries that were colourful and strange appearance and name.
  2. Provide a youthful partner whose costume and name would be more at ease in the world of the comic-book superheroes.

The success of modifying Batman’s  dark pulp component quickly lead to other brightly coloured mystery-men adding youthful assistants. The comics were now the perfect vehicle for building patriotic values and beliefs and strengthen societal ideology in the face of war – Truth, Justice, and The American Way.  All those young children with fathers, uncles, and siblings overseas could fight along the side of bright colourful heroes in their imagination, never surrendering hope.  Nothing to fear except fear itself.

All was right with the comic-book world of the superheroes, then with the 1950’s arose new fears. The old motto was forgotten and the heroes were now the villains. The comics had become as dangerous as the Bloody Pulps. That is a story for another post.

Some interesting links:  Pulp Sunday

The Robert E. Howard United Press Association