Comic Collection Review: The Gumps: The Saga of Mary Gold by Sidney Smith

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This is another of the collections put out by the Library of American Comics, which highlights the series and years which had a significant impact on comic history.  This is one of the big ones.  You can get this collection on Amazon Here: http://www.amazon.com/LOAC-Essentials-Library-American-Comics/dp/1613775733/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461420533&sr=1-1

In 1929, Sidney Smith was riding high with the longtime establishment of his world famous comic The Gumps.  Sidney was earning over a million dollars during the 1920’s if you can imagine what that kind of money meant back then.  This was truly the heyday of comic creators as far as paydays went.  It was long before Radio and Television took those markets away from newspapers.

During this year Smith began the saga of Mary Gold.  Spoiler alert, it is the first time a major character died in a comic strip.  There was a long story line set up between Mary being involved in a love triangle as two men vied for her affections.  The slimy, unscrupulous businessman Henry J. Ausstinn & Tom Carr, the inventor working on a top secret perpetual motion device.

Sidney Smith was also an innovator in his style of story telling, he would add teasers and re-caps to his strips to remind readers of the complicated storylines which trace all the way through the strip.  This format was later appropriated by Soap Operas as a way of hooking viewers.

The Mary Gold story line does not really revolve around the main characters of the Gumps, they actually play a sort of side role in this story line and keep it all together.  Andy Gump initially sees Henry J. Ausstinn as a great man, much like his own opinion of himself and a fellow businessman.  He sees Tom Carr as a good young man with a good idea, but quickly turns against him after Tom is beaten and robbed of the money that Andy invested with him.  The man behind the crime is none other than Henry J. Ausstinn.

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This is an overview of the Gumps as they originally appeared, but they soon evolved as all the great comics do, into something much more than a gag a day strip.  Sidney Smith captivated a nation with his complex storylines which were followed daily in all the major newspapers of the day.  This was the sort of watercooler talk which could be enjoyed by anyone during that era since newspapers were ubiquitous much like computers and television are today.

If you want to read a comic that will captivate you and keep you turning the pages like a well worn novel, then check out The Gumps and see what it is all about.  Sidney Smith changed the face of comics back in 1929 and the echoes of his impact are still being felt today.  This is a must have for any serious collector, or anyone interested in comics.

Until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

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Comic Collection Review: Reads Well with Others by Gene Ambaum & Bill Barnes

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This is the 11th collection of Unshelved, a comic strip about life in a library.  You can order it off Amazon Here: http://www.amazon.com/Reads-Well-Others-Unshelved-collection/dp/1937914062/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1461417297&sr=8-1&keywords=reads+well+with+others

You can also read the latest Unshelved comics on their website Here: http://www.unshelved.com/

This is the first series written by Bill Barnes (See the Not Invented Here review on our site.) and this volume even contains a crossover strip with Desmond from Not Invented Here.  You can check out that comic here: http://notinventedhe.re/

The series follows the adventures of our great cast of characters who populate the local Mallville Library, we have:

Dewey: The Sarcastic young adult librarian who through his snarky manner winds up helping the patrons of the library help themselves more often than not.

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Tamara:  My favorite character is the children’s librarian and she always has a positive sunny attitude about everything in life.  Life is meant to be happy and cynicism comes from the bad karma associated with eating meat as she would say.

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Colleen:  She is the matron of the library that everyone feared as a child.  She is a master at the old school ways of running a library and is not impressed by the technobabble and computers.  Her knowledge comes from the “Old School” of knowing things, not just googling it.

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Mel: Mel is the manager of the library and the ultimate bureaucrat, she is more at home in her office supply catalog than in dealing with the public.

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Buddy:  buddy is the library mascot who spends all his time in Gopher costume.  He is quite possibly insane, but in a good way.

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These are the main characters, we also have some new additions recently as well as the usual suspects that have the misfortune of populating the library as patrons.

The series is actually really good and I was surprised that I hadn’t heard of it before.  (Especially since it has 11 collections!)  I actually came across Not Invented Here first, but I am glad I have stopped off at the Mallville library and met these great comic characters and peered into the life of the party at the center of their community.

Bill and Gene have created a whole world within their three panel world and have gone even one step further with their Unshelved Book Club which is inspired brilliance.

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I highly recommend this collection as well as checking out the others. Unshelved is a comic masterpiece and well worth the investment to bring yourself up to date with all the volumes.  It is a hidden gem lost in the vast sea of webcomics, so do yourself a favor and stop by the Mallville Library and check out a copy of Unshelved for yourself.  Until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

20 Questions with Comic Artists: Patrick McCuen of The Devil & Mr. Gandhi

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Our world famous segment is back!  20 Questions with comic artists where we delve deep into the minds and creative process of your favorite comic artists and writers.  Today we have none other than Patrick McCuen (Inkpuddle Pat for those in the know) from The comic The Devil & Mr. Ghandi.  You can check it out here: http://www.devilandgandhi.com/

Question 1: What got you started in doing a comic series?

I’ve been drawing comics, either one panel cartoons or strips since I was little, maybe since 3rd grade. I even drew a strip or two on my old x386 computer back in the 90’s and printed it out on a dot matrix printer. Actually committing to doing an ongoing webcomic and taking it to print was more of a personal promise to myself later in life. Later in life being now-ish.

Question 2: Who was you greatest influence?

Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, I copied the art of the big names like Jim Lee and Frank Miller and Todd McFarlane.  I was very influenced by the art of Ron Lim, who worked on Captain America when I was actively collecting comics as a kid. John Romita, Jr. also stands out to me in terms of influence. The greatest? hard to nail down. I hope I took a little bit from each of those legends.

Question 3: What is your favorite root beer and why?

Hires, without a doubt, it makes the best root beer float.
Question 4: What do you hope to accomplish with your comic?
I hope to bring joy and laughter to the world. Maybe get some cheap chuckles from like-minded thinkers. I think my comic has already allowed me to publicly place myself in the continuum of comedic writers.

Question 5: Do you have any other artistic interests outside of comics?

I love making black and white pencil illustrations. I would love to illustrate my own line of children’s books some day.

Question 6: Do you see yourself as a professional cartoonist, or is this just something you do for yourself?

I definitely do it for myself. I actually never see myself doing cartoons or comics as my profession, hopefully something else artistically related, though.

Question 7: What type of subject or humor do you consider out of bounds for your strips and why?

Nothing is out of bounds if my criticism of the subject matter is expressed clearly enough to my liking. I deplore censorship, and I spit on close-minded people (metaphorically, of course). The only subjects I am not willing to write and draw about are the subjects I am not informed enough about. If I don’t have something funny, intelligent, and poignant to say/draw about a subject, I should probably read more about that subject, and keep my mouth shut and my pen dry.

Question 8: What kind of equipment or style of drawing do you use?

Although I am attempting to improve my digital stylus skills, I use pen and ink on paper: pencils, brush pens, markers, brush and ink. I am recently loving pens and brush pens made my Kuretake. I consider my style of drawing to be cartoonish, in other words, I do not employ even a modified realistic style. I like cartoon eyes and mouths and teeth.

Question 9: what sort of training or academic program did you pursue to become a cartoonist?

All my degrees are in English literature, which I think trained me very well for writing my comics and captioning my cartoons. I took four years of Art class in high school and a class or two in college, but artistically, I am mostly self-taught.
Question 10: What has been the highlight of your cartooning career?
That would be my most recent print publication, my crossover issue with the fine folks over at Dandy Press, Dave Dellecese and Andrew Cieslinksi. They make a comics called Holidaze. You can read about it at http://www.holidazecomic.com/ It has definitely been the highlight of my career. I found kindred comedic spirits in those two guys, and we had a blast making the crossover comic.
Question 11: What has been the lowest point in your cartooning career?
There was a time when I had lost interest in drawing comics for a while for various reasons. I had some college newspapers reject some political cartoons I was submitting. Nothing seemed to be going right, artistically. Thankfully, that time period was just before I renewed my determination to draw comics on a regular basis.

Question 12: Are collections of your work available beyond the web? If So where?

I still have trouble getting my print comics in brick and mortar stores, but they can be purchased at http://www.inkpuddle.storenvy.com. ;

Question 13: Are there any other web comic artists that you really admire?

Wow, there are so many. When it comes to sheer amount of output and quality of work, Mark Stokes of Zombie Boy and Crispin Wood of Small of Blue Yonder stand out to me. They happen to be nice guys, too, which is admirable.

Question 14: What kind of impact has cartooning had on your life and could you ever see yourself not doing it?

Cartooning has kept me, a troubled youth, off the mean streets. It is definitely a form of therapy for me, too, so there is definitely a carthartic aspect to making comics. It keeps me sane and happy.  I’ll never stop. Bury me with bristol and brush and ink.

Question 15: Do you have any advice for the Trolls out there who harass content creators? (no need to keep this answer clean.)

You are worthless, you are scum, you are not worth my time. I fart in your general direction.

Question 16: Do you set yourself any deadlines or other tricks to keep yourself motivated?

Sadly, my self-imposed deadlines seem to pass me by unheeded.  It is tough staying motivated. Do you have tricks? Please tell me.

Question 17: Apart from root beer, what is your favorite drink?

I would kill for a cask of Amontillado wine.

Question 18: Are you already a member of the root beer party and if not, what is the matter with you?

I already belong to the Green Party, and the Communist Party, so I would be happy to join the Root Beer Party.

Question 19: What is the most challenging aspect of cartooning for you?

Staying on track and focused on just one project. I really admire and envy cartoonists who publish their work daily or even once a week. I sometimes struggle with that. I like to start multiple projects at once, so staying true to a strip and publishing it in a consistent and timely manner is challenging to me.

Question 20: What are your future plans involving web comics or anything else going on in your life?

In addition to a third issue of The Devil & Mr. Gandhi (as well as more daily format strips), I am also beginning work on an All-Ages Sci-Fi/History/Adventure story entitled Shakespeare Jung. I hope to add to more to http://www.shakespearejung.com as soon as I can. I am also getting married this July to a beautiful librarian, which has been my dream of mine. I plan to steal the Hope Diamond, find Amelia Earhart, and build a better mousetrap.
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So there you have it True Believers, another introduction interview with an up and coming legendary cartoonist.  We here at the Root Beer Party always give the people what they want, You demand it and we deliver.  You can also tell Pat is a really good guy from the fact that he likes Hires Root Beer, all good hearted people drink Hires.  So until next time, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

#Save The Egg Part 3

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It’s the Ragtags to the rescue over at Bubblefox!  http://bubblefox.thecomicseries.com/

The weasels are massing against the forces of good in their effort to get the egg, but Bubblefox and the gang are doing their best to #SaveTheEgg.  If you haven’t been following on Twitter, Our own Mr. Blob has entered the fray to help out his buddy Bubblefox.

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Mr. Blob the Browncoat travels from all the way across the verse to help out.

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Bubblefox appoints him General in charge of strategy and Mr. Blob does his best using his Alien ways.

CgnVuE_WwAAk3WfNot everyone is a fan of Mr. Blob’s help, but he really means well and he can win anyone over.

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All the ladies swoon over Mr. Blob as he comes to the rescue to #SaveTheEgg  Nothing can stop Mr. Blob and the Root Beer Party.  Be sure to follow this hashtag that is trending on twitter and keep up with Bubblefox to find out what happens.  You can join in the fun by using this hashtag and post your own fan art.  Until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.  And now, a special addition to Mr. blob the Musical, a root beer party exclusive:

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Comic Collection Review: Baron Bean 1916 by George Herriman

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Baron Bean is know primarily as sort of the bastard son of George Herriman, who is much better known for his influential and world renowned comic Krazy & Ignatz also known as Krazy Kat to many people. You can find the IDW Library of American Comics Collection at Amazon Here: http://www.amazon.com/LOAC-Essentials-Library-American-Comics/dp/1613774427?ie=UTF8&keywords=baron%20bean&qid=1461162898&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1

Baron Bean is at first a strip about societal class and later a strip about domestic life.  It shows how many believe in the “Old World,” that hard work is for the working class and an unfit pursuit for a “gentleman”, a misnomer which has hung around for far too long as the aristocracy languishes around in decaying mansions living off of borrowed money and dying a slow death of decay.

In the “New World” these aristocrats found themselves basically living in ghettos and still clinging to their air of aristocracy as they spent their days trying to mooch a meal or a bed from anyone they could.  Herriman even wrote another strip before this one called Baron Mooch which played much to a similar style of gag.

Baron bean shifted in focus, probably due to lagging sales in newspapers, and became more  of a domestic comedy strip on June 20, 1916 about halfway through it’s first year.  the class struggle angle really wasn’t landing with the American public, so out of the blue the wives of Baron Bean and his sidekick Grimes show up.  The daily strip lasted two more years before finally being cancelled, but Harriman was already working on Krazy and Ignatz by then and his star was ascending.

It is a comic of some interest to collectors and people interested in the immigrant crisis as well as class struggles at the turn of the last century, those same issues are once again playing themselves out today.  Now it is the industrial working class or white collar worker which is the dying breed instead of the aristocracy.

The comic poses some interesting parallels to the modern world, I think Herriman’s Baron Bean comic would have found a much more receptive audience in today’s climate, but he had a much greater destiny to fulfill anyway.  Baron Bean is an interesting read for any aficionado of comic history and any student of the class struggle.  You will see glimpses of Herriman’s artistic genius here and there, but in the four panel format, he was limited, unlike the mind blowing innovations that he did with Krazy & Ignatz on Sunday’s.    So check it out True Believers, this comic will show you that Herriman was not just a one trick pony, but a well rounded comic genius, so until next time, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

Comic Collection Review: Dick Tracy Ace Detective by Chester Gould

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This book is actually a novelization of the classic comic strip series Dick Tracy.  Whitman Books published several comic strip novelizations during the war years (this volume is from 1943) for young readers.

This is the first Dick Tracy book they did, the other being Dick Tracy Meets the Night Crawler published in 1945.  You can still find these books around on E-bay or Amazon in the used book sellers section: http://www.amazon.com/Detective-Original-Famous-Newspaper-Authorized/dp/B006HUJR38/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1460991544&sr=1-2&keywords=dick+tracy+Ace+detective

This book takes Dick Tracy out of the city and all the way to Arizona to the lair of a scientist who has developed a new type of fuel.  The story contains all the great plot lines of the era, although his usual rouges gallery is replaced by a group of Nazi spies.  They get the better of Tracy and he pursues them to Mexico before justice can finally be served.

If you are a fan of Dick Tracy and not the horrible movie starring Warren Beatty and (sigh of sorrow) yes, Madonna???  than you will like this book.

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Dick Tracy was meant to be a humorous spin on the hard boiled detective drama which was popular in the 30’s when it started.  It was an action packed series that actually had great imagination and talented artwork as well as a jawline that was so sharp it could give you a paper cut.

This is Dick Tracy as he was meant to be read.  There are illustrations from the comic throughout the book highlighting the plot points and taken from the original strips.  I would recommend this book if you really like Dick Tracy, there is also a complete collection of the comic strips available where you can read them all now, but this sort of thing was not available back in the 1940’s.  Back then, this was the comic collections that most people were familiar with.  Unless you cut out the comics and pasted them into books, which was a popular thing to do back then, you did not have comic collections, especially of the action and adventure genres.  These books are similar to the famous Big Little books in design, only they are normal size.

So once again, forget about the bad movies made in Hollywood and seek out the source material when looking at comics.  That is the real lesson of Dick Tracy.  Until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

Comic Collection Review: The Family Circus 1960-61 by Bil Keane

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You know that sickeningly sweet comic of wholesome archaic family values that you see in the paper these days?  This is not it.  This is what it once was, a great family comic done in a original format and hilariously funny.

This collection captures the Family Circus from it’s very beginning, back when it was called “The Family Circle,” and the innovative marketing and creative humor which made the strip such a huge success.

We have 3 of the 4 children which will eventually populate this comic as well as the mother and father in much more predominant roles.  It is by no means a cutting edge comic, but during this time, it was very insightful and very funny.

During this time, Bil Keane actually had the kids which would make their way into the comics and the hijinks that they got up to played perfectly into the mind of the budding cartoonist and made great material for the strip.  As the years went on, the comic would remain funny and relevant for another 2 decades, but eventually, like all comics, it falls into the routine of running gags and panders to the nostalgia of older readers and fails to innovate.

The comic is now drawn by Jeff Keane, one of the original kids from this collection and is just an imitation of his father’s work.  It can still be funny at times, but it has long ago given way to sentiment.  It is now one of the dreaded “Zombie Strips” which has outlived it’s creator.

It is a difficult thing to create, write and draw a comic on a daily basis and many cartoonists are actually made up of teams of writers and artists which make it possible, Bil Keane was one of the comic creators at the time who went it alone for a long time until finally having his son come in as assistant and finally take over.

If you want to see what this comic was in it’s prime you can check it out in this collection.  You can get it off Amazon here:  http://www.amazon.com/Family-Circus-Bil-Keane/dp/1600105483/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1460990261&sr=1-1&keywords=the+family+circus

This collection is a great read and deserves a place in the Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives as well as volume 2 which is also available. I do not think there are any plans to continue publishing the complete series beyond this point though.  Family Circus was a really good strip once upon a time and innovative in it’s presentation and marketing.  I would highly recommend this collection to any serious comic collector.  Until next time True Believers,  may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

Comic Collection Review: Camp Foxtrot by Bill Amend

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This is one of the my favorite comic strips, and this is my favorite collection of Foxtrot, I first read Foxtrot when I got a copy of the first collection, Foxtrot by Bill Amend in a used book store in Arizona that I worked at.  I was instantly hooked, this was a great comic about people and the relationships between friends and family.

It has since turned into a gag-a-day comic that is only published on Sundays, but back in the 90’s Foxtrot was one of, if not the best comic strip in the paper.  His first book has an introduction by Bill Watterson for crying out loud, that’s how good it was.

Camp Foxtrot is actually a Treasury of 2 Foxtrot collections “Come Closer Roger, There’s a Mosquito on Your Nose and Welcome to Jasorassic Park.  Many of his early works have been combined into treasury volumes so you can pick them up pretty cheap.  You can get this one on Amazon here for one penny used: http://www.amazon.com/Camp-FoxTrot-Foxtrot-Treasury-Amend/dp/0836267478?ie=UTF8&keywords=camp%20foxtrot&qid=1460988534&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1

The reason I really like this volume is because it contains his longest continuity storyline of Jason going away to summer camp.  Jason is the main character of the strip, although it didn’t start out that way.  He sort of grabbed the spotlight as the role of the stereotypical nerd became more fashionable and pop culture, superheroes and science fiction became more mainstream.

You will get the full foxtrot experience with this collection, It shows all of the characters at their best during the height of the strips creative impact.  Bill Amend is not as popular as Bill Watterson in the comic circles, but he is every bit as good, his characters are more human and the humor in this volume is at it’s peak.  If you want a great introduction to Foxtrot, this is the volume to get.  It is Bill Amend at his best.  Until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

Comic Collection Review: The Adventurous Decade by Ron Goulart

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This goes to show you the level of depth that the Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives goes.  We have books about books.  You can find a new reprint of this book on Amazon Here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Adventurous-Decade-Strips-Thirties/dp/1932563709?ie=UTF8&keywords=the%20adventurous%20decade%20by%20ron%20goulart&qid=1460989204&ref_=sr_1_2&sr=8-2

This book is a great summation of the history of comic book adventure strips in their heyday, the decade of the 1930’s.  The lost generation had returned home and the world was still far away from the horrors of World War 2, so people were once again taken up by the promise of adventure in their daily comics page.

During this time, we see the rise of Tarzan, Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Captain Easy, Dick Tracy, Fu Manchu & Charlie Chan, Terry & the Pirates, and a whole host of aviation strips, detective strips, secret agents and even superheroes.   This was a time when comics could be anything and often were, it was a great period of experimentation as newspapers fell over each other to compete with their stable of comic artists in search of the next big thing.

Television was not a common thing so only radio competed with the comics for a daily dose of action and adventure.  Goulart has done several books on comics as well as pulp magazines and even biographies as well as being an award winning author of science fiction as well.

This book is a great introduction to the classic adventure comics, I would highly recommend it for anyone serious about reading comics and enjoying the tales of days gone by.  While many of these comics went on to become icons of popular culture, there are many here which you will be introduced to for the first time, and there is nothing better than finding a long lost gem of a series that may have only run for a few years.

The book will also introduce you to the comic writers and artists who revolutionized the industry.  Milton Caniff, Alex Raymond, Roy Crane, Dashiell Hammett, Al Capp, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Chester Gould as well as many more.

The book is concise and very well written, it is not the sort of dry, intellectual dull academic study of comics, this was written by a man who actually read the comics and was an avid fan.  His love of the adventure strip really shows is his careful crafting of this book.

We cover a lot of gag-a-day comic here at the Root Beer Party, but there is a lot more out there besides superheroes and funny animals, there is a whole world of comic adventure waiting for you, so kick back with your favorite root beer and check out this book and let Ron Goulart introduce you to a side of comics you may not be familiar with.

Until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

#SaveTheEgg Update: Kim Belding

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Grover to the Rescue!!!!

You can cut the tension with a knife over at Bubblefox comics.  http://bubblefox.thecomicseries.com/

Will Bubble and the gang be able to fight off a thousand weasels and Save The Egg????  Guest comics have been lining up to offer support to Bubblefox.  The latest is Kim Belding of Picpak Dog.  Picpak and Wakky are on the run but it’s the thought that counts.

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Here are some extra benefits exclusively for Root Beer Party members, a couple of paintings I did this weekend.

Until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy, and don’t forget to follow the latest updates from Bubblefox and the number one trending topic on Twitter #SaveTheEgg.