By James Robert Shaw (The Wind up Geek)
This is a new segment on Otaku no Culture, one where we explore the t-shirt, that talkative piece of clothing that has (through the decades) bared powerful political statements, expressed the wearer’s feelings, and has caused fits of laughter or bouts of disgust. I’ll be posting photos sourced from different media and in those posts I will try to give proper credit not only of the photographer but of the manufacturer of that certain tee.
There are times it won’t be possible and we will be asking you, the public, to help us fill in the missing information. In my travels I will also be asking people permission to snap photos of cool tees that I spot in the street. So if I come up to you to ask for a photo, please don’t be shy and know that I won’t be asking to take a snap of your face, just the shirt you’re wearing.
Our first photo is of comic actor, Paul Reubens, best known as the loveable man-child Pee-wee Herman, whom he created in 1978. He would star as his Pee-wee persona in two HBO specials, a Saturday morning TV series (Pee-wee’s Playhouse), and three films (Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Big Top Pee-wee, and Pee-wee’s Big Holiday).
Reubens is wearing a black and white printed tee of Osamu Tezuka’s creation Tetsuwan Atomu (鉄腕アトム), or as he is known in North America, Astro Boy. Seen on the t-shirt is Astro Boy’s sister Urna or Astro Girl. In the Canadian version of the series she was known as “Sarah.” Astro Boy was originally written and illustrated as a manga by Tezuka between the years of 1952 to 1968. Tezuka’s creation would spawn a live action series, multiple animated series and an animated feature film in 2009.
We have no idea what company manufactured this shirt or who the photographer is but from the looks of things it was probably early in Reuben’s career when he was a member of the Groundlings, a Los Angeles based improv group that created stars such as Phil Hartman (who was one of Reuben’s closest friends), Jon Lovitz, Laraine Newman, Craig T. Nelson and Will Ferrell.
Does this t-shirt indicate that Reubens is a bit of a nerd/geek/fan boy, only Reubens and his close friends knows, but we would like to think he is. The shirt could also have been a gift from a friend. His childhood TV viewings of Captain Kangaroo, Howdy Doody, The Mickey Mouse Club, and I Love Lucy indicate no Japanese animation influences.
Check out Reuben’s other noteworthy credits as Pavel in the animated TRON: Uprising, the Spleen in Mystery Men (1999), Buck LaFarge in Dunston Checks In (1996), and Amilyn in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992).
The Canadian dub of the 1980-81 Japanese television series.
Source(s): Vanity Fair and Bruce Handy.