26th Oct2016

Comical Thoughts – IDW Presents A Revolution You Can Skip

by Will

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For some time now, IDW has been the comic home of Hasbro’s biggest properties, including G.I. Joe and Transformers. They recently added MicronautsRom: SpaceKnight and UK import Action Man to the mix. So, it seems like as good a time as any to gather them all under the same umbrella in a shared universe. The mechanism for doing this is the miniseries Revolution, which will also result in a long awaited M.A.S.K. spinoff series. While this all might sound good on paper, the execution of it has been horrible. The story runs in a 5-issue miniseries, combined with various one-shots for each property involved. So far, the first 3 issues have been released, as well as the one-shots for Rom, M.A.S.K., and Micronauts. By this point, I feel justified in saying that the story is confusing, ugly, and not well planned. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

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In the first issue, we learn that the Transformers depend on a mineral called Ore-13, which has recently become unstable and is exploding. The new Action Man is investigating a stockpile of it in Mt Olympus, where he discovers former G.I. Joe member Big Ben who’s not long for the world. Big Ben tells him that he was running a mission when he was ambushed by some Joes. He doesn’t know why his former teammates would attack him, but he managed to grab one of their dog tags before the rest of his crew was slaughtered. He says it seems like they were after the Ore-13, but Action Man is snatched away before the mountain explodes with Big Ben and the rest of the Ore-13. Well, apparently, the Transformers recently proclaimed that Earth would be joining the Cybertronian community, and the humans aren’t too pleased about that, as they see the Transfomers establishing themselves as our overlords. Enter G.I. Joe, who decide to attack the Transformers during a humanitarian mission. Things are pretty much at a stalemate until Rom the SpaceKnight comes out of nowhere and kills 4 Joes, including team founder Joe Colton. Since Rom looks more Cybertronian than human, the Joes assume he’s on the Transformers’ side. So, they take this as a declaration of war. We also get a back-story from Revolution #0, which introduces M.A.S.K.’s Miles “Mayhem” Manheim. They actually do something clever here by saying that he was a member of the original Action Team with Joe Colton. It appears he’s actually got Transformer Blitzwing in captivity, who he’s harvesting for parts and technology.

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In the second issue, it’s the Transformers vs Rom, as they’re pissed at him for “blowing up their spot”. They had formed something of an uneasy alliance with the humans, and Rom’s actions had just undone that by murdering those Joes. Rom, however, insists that he murdered no humans. Rom tells them that he is hunting the Dire Wraiths, who have managed to infiltrate world governments. Meanwhile, we’re introduced to the M.A.S.K. team, and the new Black Matt Trakker. Aileron and Kup face off against the M.A.S.K. team, whose vehicles were built using Cybertronian technology, resulting in Kup being captured. Trakker, however, has second thoughts about what they’ve done when he realizes the Transformers are sentient, and more than mere machines. At the end, we find out that Micronauts’ Baron Karza is behind the unstable Ore-13, as he’s been stealing it via a transdimensional space bridge in order to save the Microspace. Um, OK.

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The third issue brings a whole bunch of confusing Micronauts stuff, ’cause I know nothing about that franchise. It seems like the “heroes” of that world have formed an uneasy alliance with the villain Karza in order to save their universe. It’s Optimus Prime vs Rom because Rom’s mission is to defeat the Dire Wraiths, while Prime insists that Earth must be their primary concern. At the end of the day, Prime determines that, while Earth is important, the Microspace must also be preserved. Meanwhile, the autopsy results are in and the Joes realize their fallen friends weren’t human after all. Since they don’t know who they can trust, Scarlett puts in a call to “somebody we haven’t talked to in a while.” I think we all know who she means. Karza does some shit. Rom does some shit. And the issue ends with an entrance by Snake-Eyes.

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Revolution M.A.S.K.: Mobile Armored Strike Kommand #1 is the only one-shot I’ve bought from the series. It introduces us to the rest of the M.A.S.K. team, as we watch as they’re recruited and how they handle basic training. We also get hints that some of them aren’t as virtuous as they should be, yet those personalities align with team leader Miles “Mayhem” Manheim. Nothing here is original. Some recruits die in training, as “collateral damage”. The team is tasked with an impossible rescue mission. You’ve seen all of this before. Yet, it’s a serviceable introduction to the team and franchise. That said, I think all of this could’ve been possible without it taking place within the clunky Revolution storyline, as nothing in the special ties into present events – it’s a prequel story.

So, what are my problems with the series? Well, first of all, it’s a terrible jumping-on point for new readers. There’s WAY too much backstory with the Transformers and G.I. Joe books for this to go smoothly. Now, IDW did release a The Road to Revolution discount trade paperback with 5 stories that they felt were crucial to making the story a richer experience, but there shouldn’t have been required reading. A successful crossover like this should be accessible to all. To give you an idea of the problems here, IDW has had the Transformers license for ELEVEN YEARS. They’ve had the G.I. Joe license for EIGHT YEARS. In that span of time, the G.I. Joe comic has been rebooted four times, while most of the early Transformers comics were just a series of miniseries. I was IDW’s Diamond brand manager at the time of the early Transformers books, and even I didn’t really know what was going on. For folks with a cursory knowledge of the brands, this series opens with a ton of questions: Why’s Soundwave with the good guys? Where’s Bumblebee? Why is Scarlett the team leader? Where’s Flint and Duke and the Joes people care about? What about Cobra?

Something like this seems like it would be better served by a reboot of the existing brands instead of trying to get them to mesh with the newcomers. It doesn’t feel like they’re bringing their truest, core representations to the party. G.I. Joe isn’t just the military, as it’s used here. Their primary mission was to fight Cobra. Without Cobra, what are they? Here, they’re a shoot first, ask questions later sort of organization, which doesn’t really line up with what we’ve known them to be. If they’d been the least bit diplomatic, then this whole battle wouldn’t have even taken place. Like, why is Scarlett so pissed? And Snake-Eyes is a lot less cool/mysterious when he’s TEXTING! What happened before this miniseries to make her like this? As a new-ish reader, I can’t help but feel that I’m missing a lot. This miniseries might be a rich experience for those who’ve been following the series recently, but it’s just not a fulfilling experience for casual readers.

Another problem is that it seems actual story is taking place in the one-shots, which isn’t how these things are done. One-shots in an “event series” are supplemental material, stories going at the periphery of the action. Here, though, you open up Revolution #3, and Rom is suddenly just chilling with the Transformers like the events of the past issue never happened, and there’s an editor’s note of “See Rom : Revolution #1.” NO! That’s not how you do this. Major team shifts, side switches, etc don’t happen in the one-shots. You leave the meat and potatoes for the main series.

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Finally, the art’s just ugly. I’m not sure if IDW has a stable of “exclusive” artists, but you’d want the best on something this high profile. They do a capable job of handling the tech, such as the Transformers and the M.A.S.K. vehicles, but the humans are rough and inconsistent from panel to panel. They also look a bit cartoony for the subject matter. I realize all of these properties are toylines, but they’re being introduced in a story with some pretty high stakes. Imagine if Marvel’s Civil War had been drawn by an Archie artist. That’s what you’ve got here.

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After saying all that, I’ll probably stick with it since there are only 2 core issues left. That said, it hasn’t been an enjoyable experience. If this had just been a one-off thing, I’d probably give it a pass. It’s not, though. This miniseries is meant to set up the future of the Hasbro properties at IDW, and that just doesn’t seem like a good thing at this point. This series is a mess, so it doesn’t make me too optimistic about the future. If you’re a die-hard Transformers or Joe fan, I guess you’ve got to read it, but if you’ve just got casual interest, this is a revolution you can skip.

 

02nd Sep2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/2/16

by Will

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It’s a holiday weekend and y’all never read this thing when that happens, so let’s keep it short and sweet today, shall we?

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In comic news, the Diamond Retailer Summit is currently happening, so some news is trickling out of there. In the Marvel camp, they revealed a Monsters Unleashed series. Whatever. They’d been teasing something called MU for weeks, first revealing Cullen Bunn was involved and then slowly revealed artists, such as Leinil Yu, Adam Kubert, and Greg Land. Well, today it was announced it was this monster shit. I know some people are into all that, but I’m not one of them, nor do I feel like such an announcement deserved all that fanfare. It’s making me think that Marvel’s cried “Wolf!” one too many times. It’s also odd to me that a monster series is coming out in January instead of October. Also, they announced that the follow-up to Death of X and Inhumans vs X-Men would be called ResurreXion. Yeah, you read that right. I’ll bet someone in Marvel’s marketing department got an erecXion when they came up with that one.

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Meanwhile, DC announced their first major Rebirth crossover in the form of Justice League vs. Suicide Squad. I can’t help but feel like this would’ve been better timed to coincide with the release of the film, but maybe its release will bolster the Blu Ray sales, while getting folks primed for Justice League. In the story, Batman decides to take down Amanda Waller’s Task Force X – much like *SPOILER ALERT* Batfleck threatened to do in the post-credits sequence of Suicide Squad. And like all comic book fights, I’m sure they’ll be forced to team up against a greater threat. Anyway, it’s expected that a new Justice League of America series will spin out of this event.

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Speaking of Batfleck, this week Ben Affleck “leaked” some footage of Deathstroke the Terminator. Originally a Teen Titans villain, it seems that Mr. Stroke has been promoted to the big leagues. At first, it was believed this might be Justice League footage, but now the word on the street is that Deathstroke will be the main villain of Affleck’s standalone Batman movie. Oh, and it’s rumored that Joe Manganiello will be playing Deathstroke. Not really excited about it at the moment, but I probably will be as we learn more.

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In TV news, it’s reported that Marvel is shopping around a comedy based on the New Warriors – but featuring Squirrel Girl. Now, this bothers me because Squirrel Girl was never in the New Warriors. Sure, I can understand creative liberties, but it seems like Marvel’s just desperate to create a Squirrel Girl vehicle and this is what they’ve come up with. First off, I don’t know if I like the Superhero Comedy genre for television. I think they should wait and see how DC’s Powerless (which looks horrid) does on NBC. Second, I’ve never really understood the whole Squirrel Girl thing. I get that she’s cutesy and all, but I’ve yet to read a comic where I’m like, “Wow! That Squirrel Girl!” Lately there’s been this movement to get Anna Kendrick cast as the character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yeah, that’s nice and all, but I think that casting’s wrong. And there’s no way Kendrick is gonna do TV at this stage of her career. No, I think The Middle‘s Eden Sher is a much better choice. It was reported that she was having meetings with Marvel years ago, trying to figure out ways to get her into the MCU. Sadly, I think that ship might’ve sailed, as nobody expected The Middle to still be on at this point. At the moment, though, I’m hoping this project ends up with the same fate as Marvel’s Most Wanted.

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Meanwhile, in DC television world, Greg Berlanti is developing a Black Lightning show with the creators of Girlfriends/The Game, Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil. I’m all for the Berlantiverse becoming more robust, but I always feel like the older shows suffer when he introduces a new one. I’d much rather they try to make Legends of Tomorrow a better show, and maybe add the character over there first. Black Lightning is an inner city teacher who has lightning powers, hailing from an age when all Black heroes had to have “Black” in their name. If this show gets off the ground, I’m sure it’ll end up being called something like Lightning. The funny thing is that he’s supposedly shopping it around to networks, like we all don’t already know it’s gonna end up on The CW.

 

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You know what really grinds my gears? Country radio (yes, some of us still listen to the radio) does this thing where they play a new single from an album, and then they ask listeners to call in and tell them what they thought of the song. Supposedly, if the response is predominantly negative, the song won’t be played anymore. Um, THAT’S NOT HOW THE INDUSTRY WORKS! If a song has been released as an official single, they pretty much HAVE to play it. Radio doesn’t have the power to make or break an artist anymore. There are people selling albums and touring who’ve never even been on the radio. The days of “If I spin your record, it’ll make you a star” are over. So I guess I wish country stations would cut the shit and stop making the audience think they have some power they don’t really have.

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Another thing I don’t like? An Adult Swim show called Million Dollar Extreme Presents: World Peace. I’ve tweeted before about how I don’t really like the show, but last week I found I’d attracted the wrong attention: fans of the show. Now, first let me explain who’s behind it: Million Dollar Extreme is a sketch comedy group comprised of Sam Hyde, Charls Carroll, and Nick Rochefort who specialize in making you uncomfortable. Just Google Sam Hyde. I’ll wait. Especially look up his TED Talk. Basically they’ve made a name for themselves as part of the alt-right movement that despises political correctness. So, they go completely in the opposite direction. They do shit in blackface, they mock the handicapped. It’s pretty bad. So, last week, I tweeted this to a friend:

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And then I went to sleep. When I woke up, a bunch of their fans had sarcastically favorited the tweet, and were replying to us, saying stuff like “Yeah, but you’ll watch it and LIKE it”. I looked at these folks’ profiles, and they are NOT nice people. I thought I was gonna end up doxxed or something. Anyway, bottom line: don’t watch World Peace.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Image Comics will reportedly relocate from Berkeley, CA to Portland, OR
  • Netflix announced a second season of the show you’re all raving about, That’s Still So Raven. No, I kid. You’re getting more Stranger Things.
  • Jon Favreau will reprise his Happy Hogan role from the Iron Man movies in Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • Though I don’t know anyone who watches it, someone’s bound to be upset that Grimm will end after its next, abbreviated season
  • Pretty Little Liars will also end after its next season. Unless, you know, they’re lying about that…
  • The next season of Dancing with the Stars will feature Vanilla Ice, Babyface, Gov Rick Perry, Amber Rose and more. Still no word on which *stars* will be on the show
  • Chris Brown almost got killed by a SWAT team after pulling a gun on some chick who tried to steal his jewelry.
  • Disney Interactive shut down the Marvel: Avengers Alliance mobile game, which won’t be playable by the end of the month
  • Britney Spears released her 3rd “comeback” album, Glory. I’ve heard it, and I don’t think she’s back yet
  • Alison Brie and Marc Maron have been cast as the leads in Netflix’s series GLOW, based on the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling

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So, the only thing I really watched this week was the BBC Are You Being Served? special. Sure, it was a UK thing, but luckily I was able to find it on YouTube. I grew up watching the original show, so this was something that I HAD to see.

If you’re not familiar with it, Are You Being Served? was a Britcom set in a high end department store called Grace Brothers. The show particularly focused on the employees of the Men’s and Ladies’ departments, including Mr. Humphries, Mrs. Slocombe, and Captain Peacock. It had a very rigid class structure, where everyone was supposed to know their place and follow a certain chain of command. Captain Peacock was the snobbish “floor walker”, who kept everyone in line. Mr. Humphries was the butt of gay jokes because he was effeminate and lived with his mother. And Mrs. Slocombe was always talking about her pussy (Get your mind out of the gutter! It’s her cat!). The show ran for 13 years, but only has 70 episodes because, well, England. Once it ended, they even tried to “Golden Palace” it by moving the cast to a manor in which their pensions had been invested.

Anyway, in a celebration of British comedy, The BBC “revived” several shows by casting current actors in one-episode specials. This was especially necessary for AYBS?, seeing as how the entire cast is dead now (well, except for Mr. Spooner, but nobody gives a shit about him). Surprisingly, I didn’t know a single actor they cast in this thing. I always joke that there are only about 11 British actors, but I guess there are only 11 who’ve crossed over the pond. None of them, however, made it to this special. I felt the casting for everyone was pretty spot-on, though, especially Mr. Grainger and Mrs. Slocombe. I did, however, feel like they overdid it with Mr. Humphries. While he was effeminate in the original show, there was always a question of “Is he or isn’t he?” but here they just pretty much played him as humorously gay, which sort of took something away from the character.

When the episode starts, a young Black man named Richard Conway shows up for his first day as a member of the Men’s department staff. One thing I’m always curious about is race relations in other countries. While the episode was set in 1988, I was surprised that they never once referred to or joked about his race. Is this just not done in the UK? Or was it felt like that wasn’t the kind of humor you would expect from AYBS? I’d really love to know more about how they came to that decision, because an American show would’ve been ALL ABOUT the fact that he was this Black guy in a prim and proper establishment. It’d be called Homeboy In Knickers, and would air on UPN after Shasta McNasty.

Anyway, at the end of the day, it felt like a genuine “lost” episode of the show. It completely retconned the spinoff Grace & Favour, and it did some clever tinkering to get Mr. Grainger back in the mix. Basically 3 years have passed since the final episode, but things are pretty much like you remember them. There’s a Downton Abbey aspect to the show where it’s mired in class humor in a world that’s quickly changing. The crux of the episode is that the new Mr. Grace is determined to drag the store into the 20th century. It’s an interesting idea, and I’d actually love to see more of it. From what I’ve read, the special wasn’t well-received by the Brits, but I couldn’t have really asked for more. It didn’t swing for the fences by killing a major character, nor did it go for shock value. It tried to give you more of what you loved about the original show, and in that respect, I think it succeeded. That’s why the Are You Being Served? one-off special had the West Week Ever.

 

04th Nov2015

Will’s Really Late NYCC 2015 Swag Grab Recap

by Will

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So, it’s been almost a month since New York Comic Con, and here I am finally putting my thoughts to “paper”. I meant to do it sooner, but there really wasn’t much to say at the time. I mean, I always enjoy the chance to go to a comic con. I missed Baltimore in September for the first time in 10 years, due to my sister-in-law’s wedding. So, NYCC was meant to fill that void. Did it? Not really. You see, Baltimore is still a somewhat intimate show, even as it has grown. NYCC is just straight out of control now. Too many people. No me gusta!

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As you know from my past convention reports, I tend to post a lot of cosplay pics from the show, but I just couldn’t do it this time. That’s not to say that there weren’t cool costumes, but it was too overwhelming. For example, I really wanted to take a picture of Black Dick Tracy, because it was a cool costume AND I really wanted to type “Black Dick Tracy”. Welp, I guess I got to accomplish half that. Anyway, my pal Chris Piers gave me a challenge: he wanted me to figure out which property/character was being cosplayed the most at the show. Discounting all the Harleys, Deadpools, and Banes (I no longer even notice them anymore), I’ve got to say that Rick & Morty won hands down. I know the show is great, but I had no idea it had the reach that it does. To see so many folks cosplaying as the duo means that there’s quite a strong fanbase behind the show. Coming in a close second would be Spider-Gwen crossplay. By that, I mean that I saw a lot of dudes wearing Spider-Gwen hoodies. I still don’t know how that character has taken fandom by storm like it has (I’ve got all the issues, but haven’t read them yet). It’s just amazing to see that it’s taken off so quickly.

So, after quickly realizing that taking pics wasn’t gonna be “the look”, as the kids say, I knew that I’d have to come up with some sort of plan. Since conventions are known for their swag (that’s “free stuff”, for the unenlightened), that was gonna be my ticket: I was gonna see how much free stuff I could rack up over the course of the day. That’s not to say that I didn’t buy anything, because I did and we’ll get to that. Still, I wanted to see what I could get for nothing, and I think I made out pretty well.

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Almost 5 minutes into the Javits Center lobby, and I had my first shot at some free stuff. There was a booth set up to promote Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, seeing as how the free wifi at the show was being supplied by “LexCorp”. All you had to do was follow @AlexanderLuthor on Twitter, show them that you followed him, and they gave you a free LexCorp rechargeable power bank. Score! I hadn’t even set foot on the convention floor yet, and I was already getting stuff. The show was starting to look promising.

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The DC Comics booth, for some reason, was also outside the main hall, so I picked up this Dawn of Justice themed LEGO poster.

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The DC booth was also giving out this free comic sponsored by KFC. I remember reading about this before the show, and thinking I wanted a copy, but I completely forgot about it until someone handed me a copy. I was kinda hoping it would tie into the whole Darrell Hammond/Norm MacDonald thing going on with the commercials, but it seems to be its own thing. All I know is that KFC is doing a lot of head scratch-inducing marketing lately.

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Marvel had a booth set up just to promote the upcoming Netflix series Jessica Jones. I got a promo poster with art by Alias artist Michael Gaydos promoting the show. There was also a preview comic, also with art by Gaydos. I also got business cards for Alias Investigations and Nelson & Murdock – Attorneys At Law. Finally, I got a picture and video of myself at the desk of Alias Investigations.

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The Marvel booth was giving away this poster promoting the animated Guardians of the Galaxy series on DisneyXD. I’ve heard absolutely nothing about that show, either good or bad. Has anyone seen it?

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Marvel also gave out this double-sided poster promoting the ABC Marvel series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter.

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I got this Groot crown, also designed to promote the Guardians TV series.

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As for comics, Marvel was relying on their FCBD offering, by giving out copies of All-New, All Different Avengers. I took my copy to Artist Alley and got it signed by artist Mahmud Asrar. I also got a free Avengers comic meant to tie in with the Playmation system that just came out. Finally, I got a Secret Wars print by Skottie Young.

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At the ABC Family booth, they were surprisingly not promoting their upcoming name change to Freeform. I guess the banners and stuff had already been printed up by the time the news broke. Anyway, they were giving away this poster tube promoting their shows Stitchers, Pretty Little Liars, and Shadow Hunter. It wasn’t until I got home that I actually looked at the posters and realized they were commissioned by Marvel:

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I really like the Pretty Little Liars one, as it reminds me of Fables. However, I’ve never seen the show, and have no idea what I’d do with it, so back into the tube it went.

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The Dark Horse booth was also relying heavily on their FCBD offerings, but I didn’t get a chance to get Fight Club or the Avatar book when they first came out, so I grabbed them. I also got a Call of Duty: Black Ops III comic, as well as an ashcan for a comic called Rebels. I just liked the poster for Joe Golem: Occult Detective, but it got kinda messed up on the way home, so I chucked it.

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At the Del Rey booth, they not only gave away a Star Wars sampler, but they also gave away a complete novel – Star Wars: Tarkin. I’m never gonna read this thing, but it was a whole book. For free!

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I’d never heard of 451 Media before, but their booth guys were just shoving these into people’s hands. One guy was like “You want me to sign ’em?” I had no clue who he was, but I was like, “Sure”. It turns out this is a media company co-founded by Michael Bay. Each comic has a card in the back that you scan with an app, and it’ll unlock more content. I haven’t tried it yet, but the art in the books is actually pretty good. I’ll get around to reading them one of these days.

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There was a guy handing out the Den of Geek Magazine as you got off the escalator. Meanwhile, I collect convention programs, so I had to grab one of those, as well.

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All they seemed to have at the IDW booth was this Star Trek: Starfleet Academy ashcan comic. I’m not even sure if I like NuTrek, but it was free, so…

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At the Diamond booth, they were giving out this little Cardcaptor Sakura figurines. No interest in that franchise, but again, it was free.

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At the Valiant booth, I got this 2016 Preview book. I’ll talk a bit more about Valiant later.

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The LEGO booth gave away what is probably the thinnest poster I’ve ever held in my hands. I swear, it’s like 1/2 ply. Anyway, it was to promote the upcoming NEXO Knights line.

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Finally, while not exactly free (I bought the comic at a shop before I left for NYCC), I had a nice conversation with writer David Walker, who signed my copy of Cyborg #1. We actually did a podcast together about a year ago, so we talked about that, and it seems like he might want to do it again soon.

So, in all, it wasn’t too bad of a haul. I don’t want a chunk of that stuff, but that wasn’t the point. I really just wanted to see if you could have an enjoyable experience without shelling out a ton of money. I think you can, as I had fun tracking down all the different swag. But I told you in the beginning that I did buy some stuff, so let’s take a quick look at that, shall we?

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If you read last year’s post, you might remember that I met The Cosby Show/Living Single actress Erika Alexander on the convention floor. It turned out that she and her husband, Tony Puryear, had written a book called Concrete Park. Well, I bought the first volume from them last year, and Tony was here selling the second volume. To be honest, I haven’t even read Volume 1 yet, but I always think it’s cooler to buy a book directly from the creator than at a shop, so I picked up Volume 2.

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Somehow, I found myself in the Valiant booth. Let me tell you a little something about me and Valiant. I’ve NEVER taken them seriously as a comic publisher. Back in the early 90s, when they were first getting started, I wanted nothing to do with their books. When their revival started up a couple of years ago, I didn’t think they’d last a year. Their stuff just never seemed interesting to me. Still, while I was in their booth, I was approached by one of their marketing guys, and he was so friendly. He asked me what kind of stuff I liked to read, and then he immediately was able to find a Valiant book comparable to it. Like Batman? Then try Ninjak. That sort of thing. Plus, since it was the last day of the convention, they were running a special: trade paperbacks were $10 each OR you could get 5 for $30. They were basically giving you two for free. I couldn’t pass that up, and he even sold me a copy of Quantum and Woody that had been signed by the creators. So, I went from completely ignoring Valiant to actually being excited about their output. I’m pretty sure I’ll write about those books once I get a chance to sit down and read them.

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Finally, there was a booth that had trade paperbacks for half price, so I got these 6 books for $5 each. I remember wanting to read Freelancers, plus I’d been intrigued by the all-female Ghostbusters story arc when it came out. I loved the first Dr. McNinja collection, so I was glad to find “Timefist”. I grabbed those Axe Cop books because I enjoyed the first collection, but never really wanted to pay $20 each for the other volumes. At $5 each, that’s just a little over what a single issue would cost, so I jumped on it. Then I got home, and found that I actually already had 2 of them. I really need to catalog my collection so this stops happening…

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In all, did I have a good time? Yeah, I guess so. I mean, I originally wanted to go because I thought it would be a great chance to meet up with some of my Twitter friends. Unfortunately, I never made any concrete plans. So, when I sent out the call that morning, it fell upon deaf keyboards. So, it was actually kind of a lonely experience, to be honest *cue sad violin*. I enjoy comic conventions, but NYCC has gotten to be a bit much. It needs a bigger venue, and I’m not sure that even exists in the city at the moment. As it stands, though, this may be my last NYCC. If I go again, it will be with a strict agenda, i.e meeting friends, checking out particular projects, etc. instead of just wandering around, killing time.

13th Feb2015

West Week Ever – 2/13/15

by Will

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So, I decided to put a dent in my DVRed movies, so I checked out The Purge. If you’ve never seen it, it takes place in the year 2022 on Purge Night – a government sanctioned night where all crime is legal. Wanna kill your boss? Done. What to get revenge on your neighbor for his barking dog? Done. Due to the annual purge, the crime rate has gone down considerably, and it is believed that the purge cleanses one’s soul of violent urges. In the movie, Ethan Hawke is a rich guy who’s made his fortune selling purge night security systems to the rest of the houses in his neighborhood. Then, the purge starts and his stupid, stupid kid decides to provide sanctuary to a stranger who’s trying to gain shelter in the neighborhood. And then all Hell breaks loose. I had a lot of thoughts about this movie. First of all, it made me scared to be a husband/father, as it’s his job to protect the family in a situation like this. I would’ve been USELESS. Did I mention that all crime is legal?! I don’t wanna die! Anyway, it really got me to thinking about what I’d do if Purge Night were an actual thing. I think I’d just hole up somewhere and wait til it passed. Knowing me, though, I’d probably get killed. Anyway, now I need to see the sequel, The Purge: Anarchy.

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Next up, I watched Jason Bateman in Bad Words. Basically, Bateman plays a 40 year old man who exploits loopholes to participate in children’s spelling bees. Why does he do it? Well, you’ve got to watch the movie to find that out. Meanwhile, he befriends a 10 year old boy who also happens to be one of his competitors. That may sound heartfelt, but it’s not. Bateman’s character is foul-mouthed, and calls the kid – who’s Indian – stuff like “Slumdog”. Directed by Bateman, it’s a small movie with big moments. It definitely has some funny scenes, but it could’ve been stronger. If you’re a Bateman fan, however, it’s worth checking out as his character is a departure from the level-headed straight man that he usually plays.

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I read that Dredd was leaving Netflix this month, so I figured I should watch it while I had the chance. And I LOVED it. I’ve never been a fan of the Dredd comics because they always seemed so…British. It’s funny because I actually worked with Rebellion when I worked at Diamond, but I never read anything they put out. That said, I was really impressed by the movie, as it made me want to know more about that world. I loved the effects, and it has some good action. Plus, it was the second movie I watched that night starring Lena Heady as someone trapped in a building (see The Purge). I know that Vincent over at The Robot’s Pajamas has been raving about this movie for a long time, and now I see why. It definitely deserves that sequel that everyone’s been requesting.

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I don’t get into it much, but I hate space. Not so much that I wanna defund NASA, but where most people see wonder and possibility, I see cold loneliness and death. I think my hatred of space came from X-Men comics because they used space travel as a cop out a lot of the time. When things would get too crazy on Earth, they’d take to the stars and get into it with the Starjammers and the Shi’ar. By the time they got back to Earth, all the drama they’d left behind had somehow righted itself (see Operation: Zero Tolerance). Anyway, Gravity reminded me of all the non-comic reasons I hate space. My God, is it terrible up there! Beautiful, but terrifying. And this movie captures all of the good and the bad of space, from the beauty of a sunrise to the fear of running out of oxygen. If you don’t know what’s it’s about, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney find themselves in the middle of a debris storm during a space walk. And then they have to survive. I won’t say anything else, but SO much goes wrong, that you’re left wondering what could possibly go wrong next. The suspense is strong with this one. I don’t feel like I need to own it, or really ever see it again, but I enjoyed it for what it was.

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The big news of the week was that Marvel and Sony would be partnering on the next Spider-Man movie, and this would also allow the new Spider-Man to debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And fans went crazy! Tons of blog posts and memes heralded “Welcome Home Spidey”, and fan speculation ran wild. Would he appear in Captain America: Civil War? After all, he’s set to debut in a 2017 Marvel movie, and then debut in his own movie on July 28, 2018. Would he be part of Avengers: The Infinity War? What does this mean for the Sinister Six film (it’s been put on hold)? Some related news that didn’t get as much attention was that Marvel shifted the release dates for half of their Phase 3 films, including moving the release date for Black Panther from 2017 to 2018. Anyway, then the speculation took a turn, as some folks started saying that it’s time for a Black Spidey, reigniting the “Donald Glover for Spider-Man!” campaign. Then, folks took it one step further and said that the next cinematic Spidey should be current star of Ultimate Spider-Man, Miles Morales. I don’t know about all this. I like Glover, but they say the studio’s skewing younger, which is fine with me. I LOVE Miles, but I don’t see it happening. I feel like the Peter Parker name recognition is too important to the man on the street. In fact, I feel like there’s a better chance of a Black Peter Parker than there is of Miles Morales being the big screen Spider-Man. They might throw us a bone, and have Miles join the movies as a friend of Peter, and maybe set things up for a potential Phase 4/5 Miles Becomes Spidey movie, but I’m not holding my breath, especially since some announcements have already said that they’re going with Peter Parker. Plus, the thing to remember is that Sony retains final say in everything, so they could still mess things up.

Ground Floor Smashbox Studios, Hollywood, CA

According to multiple reports, TBS has cancelled Ground Floor, which makes me a sad Will. I really loved that show, and I know its stars will move on to bigger and better things. Everyone already knows Skylar Astin from the Pitch Perfect movies, while I think Briga Heelan has the potential to be a very big deal. Anyway, considering it only had 10-episode seasons, it would’ve had to be on the air for many many years in order to qualify for syndication. The ratings just weren’t high enough to sustain it (though they were higher than Cougar Town, which is in its final season). Still, I wish it could’ve gotten a third season, like other TBS sitcoms Men At Work and Sullivan & Son. A moment of silence for another fallen sitcom.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

-Netflix accidentally released season 3 of House of Cards 2 weeks early. The episodes were taken down within 30 minutes.

-Jon Stewart announced that he’s leaving The Daily Show by the end of the year

-CBS was billing this Sunday’s episode of CSI as a series finale, ending the series after 15 seasons. CBS later recanted, saying that the episode is merely a season finale, but current ratings insist otherwise.

The Best Backstreet Boys Songs You’ve Probably Never Heard

 

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You know someone who did NOT have the West Week Ever? Brian Williams, Man, that’s a shitty situation. If you’re not in the know, NBC Nightly News anchor/father of Marnie from Girls, Brian Williams has been suspended for 6 months without pay, due to the fact that he lied about being in a helicopter that came under fire in Iraq. NBC News launched an investigation, citing reason to believe that he may have lied about other stories, as well. Many are saying that this is really just an exit strategy, and that Williams will not return to NBC airwaves. It’s a shame that it came to this, but other news careers have been ruined for less. Anyone remember Dan Rather? In any case, I’m surprised that it took this long for Williams to fall. I mean, he’s always come off as a likeable guy, but he always seemed too…accessible to me. He was always game for a good time, and I don’t know if that’s what the viewing public wants from their news. He’d do stuff like Slow Jam The News which, while funny, blurred the line between news and entertainment. Of course, that segment was always meant to be pure entertainment, but I think the audience developed a stronger relationship with him because he was so relatable – making his transgressions that much more of a “betrayal” of that trust. We live in a different time than the Walter Cronkite era, but it’s clearly a problem when newscasters become the news. I really hope he lands on his feet, as I like the guy. It’s just a shame this all had to happen like it did.

That’s right – nothing had The West Week Ever. Try harder next week, America!

26th Feb2014

A Day in the Life of “Keith”: My Trip To Toy Fair 2014

by Will

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So, I went to Toy Fair last weekend. Not sure what Toy Fair is? Well, that means you’ve clearly never read this post in my archives. Yes, though it’s an industry-only event, this was actually my second trip to the trade show. The New York Toy Fair happens every February at the Javits Center, and it gives buyers a chance to see the hot toys slated to come out for the holiday season.

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How did I get there? Funny you should ask. You see, my good friend, Keith, works for a well known comic publisher. Said publisher recently announced they were launching a toy line, so it was only natural that they go to Toy Fair. Well, the announcement was a bit premature, as they really didn’t have anything to show for themselves. Still, a pass to the show had already been procured. Keith really couldn’t care less about Toy Fair, but he knew that I felt the exact opposite. I LOVE Toy Fair, almost as much as I love getting into stuff not open to the general public. So, it was then decided that I would become Keith. Yes, I would skin him and wear his pelt around the convention floor. No, it wasn’t that deep, but I would be assuming his identity for the day. There was one catch, however – they would be checking photo IDs when giving out badges. Keith is tall, slim and white. I am none of those things. So, how would I get in? That’s when we devised an Oceans 11 type plan. I don’t wanna help expose the holes in Toy Fair security, so I’m not going to go into detail. Let’s just fast forward and say that I arrived at the show Sunday afternoon.

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After getting “my” badge, I texted my Twitter pal Matt Guzy (@mattguzy) who was already on the show floor. He came out, and I finally got to meet him after all these years! We walked around the floor, as he explained the ins and outs of Toy Fair from the press perspective. He’s formed relationships with industry public relations folks, so he knows how to get into all the cool parties. I could learn a lot from him!

We saw Grumpy Cat, who's really more like Lethargic Cat

We saw Grumpy Cat, who’s really more like Lethargic Cat

After walking around for about an hour, we ran into my Twitter pal Nik (@T16skyhopp) who, along with Sprocket (@Tekcorps), happened to be doing press for Online Action Figure Entertainment (@OAFE). I also got a chance to meet my Twitter pal Jon (@preternia_). Matt had to run off to an appointment, so I hung out with these guys on the convention floor. Sprocket showed us a bunch of pics from that morning’s LEGO showcase, as well as some pics of the Hasbro Preview from the night before. We walked around to booths for 3A, NECA, Diamond Select and more. They were all heading to the Mattel presentation, but I didn’t want to risk it seeing as how I wasn’t exactly who my nametag said I was. In fact, I was being introduced as “Keith” to most folks, but Nik somehow recognized me just by walking by. And Sprocket told me he reads West Week Ever, so that made me feel awesome. At that point, I pretty much abandoned the Keith facade.

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After the other guys left for the Mattel presentation, I walked around on my own. You ever want to experience true discrimination? Walk the floor not wearing a Buyer badge. Exhibitors will bend over backwards for buyers, as those are potential customers, but they’ll pull down the blinds on ya if your badge is not of the buyer ilk. You’ll see a smiling spokesmodel handing out something, and as you get closer, you’ll notice her glance at your badge. Once she sees “exhibitor”, she assumes you’re just like her, so her smile changes into a dismissive look, and she scans the crowd for the nearest Buyer badge to engage. I’m not sure if it’s the same thing for those with press badges. I’d assume the exhibitors would be more friendly to them, as they need them to get the word out about their product, but I could be wrong.

I could post a bunch of pics of Guardians of the Galaxy or Ninja Turtles toys, but there are already sites dedicated to that. I like to show the side of Toy Fair that folks don’t generally know about. It’s a huge venue, and there’s everything from action figures to airport gift shop toys. Tons of websites are devoted to the former, but they rarely think about the latter. So, you’re not going to see any top secret reveals here, but you just may see a 12 foot Batman!

I told ya you'd see this guy!

I told ya you’d see this guy!

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Stuffed Peyton looks like he’s been seeing MJ’s plastic surgeon. I still kinda want one, though

Vroom! Vroom! Bdee! Bdee! Vroom!

Vroom! Vroom! Bdee! Bdee! Vroom!

 

This thing didn't work all that well, but it looked cool. The marbles went EVERYWHERE!

This thing didn’t work all that well, but it looked cool. The marbles went EVERYWHERE!

 

Ceiling Pikachu watches you while you masturbate!

Ceiling Pikachu watches you while you sleep!

Skylanders had their own corner. I kinda thought they'd be over by now...

Skylanders had their own corner. I kinda thought they’d be over by now…

 

LEGO basically had its own little city, but you really couldn't see anything unless you had an appointment.

LEGO basically had its own little city, but you really couldn’t see anything unless you had an appointment.

 

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30th anniversary merchandise or marshamallow gun promo? How about both!

30th anniversary merchandise or marshamallow gun promo? How about both!

 

Speaking of Ghostbusters, this one's kinda sad now.

Speaking of Ghostbusters, this one’s kinda sad now.

 

Beanie Babies may be over, but that's not stopping the TY empire!

Beanie Babies may be over, but that’s not stopping the TY empire!

This is why Grumpy Cat was in attendance.

This is why Grumpy Cat was in attendance. I wish there was a real life Boo ’cause I’d rather meet him.

Needless to say, there was no Beastie Boys blaring from their booth.

Needless to say, there was no Beastie Boys blaring from their booth.

So, after all of these pics, I’ll bet you think Toy Fair’s pretty exciting, right? Well, it isn’t. Don’t get me wrong – it was cool to meet some web pals, and it was cool to be in an event that was kinda seekrit, but there’s no real excitement to be had. I was just talking to Matt, telling him that I was having trouble wrapping up this post because it doesn’t really seem very exciting. He pointed out that it’s probably because Toy Fair isn’t very exciting. Sure, it’s probably nice for buyers and exhibitors, but there’s a reason it’s industry-only. Beside the chance to see some stuff before the general public, there’s not much more to it. You can’t buy anything. There aren’t any crazy kinds of sweepstakes. Most of the big reveals are spoiled online before the show. And besides walking by Jordan Hembrough, and passing Grumpy Cat, there aren’t really any celebrities. At the end of the day, it’s just a trade show like any other, only it happens to pertain to the toy industry. So, did I have fun? Sure, it was a nice way to spend a Sunday. Will I go back? If given the chance, I sure would. Maybe that seems contradictory to my stance, but I’m a sucker for bragging rights. Anyway, for actual Toy Fair coverage, be sure to check out Awesome Toy Blog, OAFE, and Preternia.

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02nd Dec2013

Virginia Comicon (& Rob Liefeld) In Pictures

by Will

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I know I said that my convention season was over, but “just when I thought I was out…” Here’s some backstory. It’s funny how you can meet people. About a year ago, when I started Operation: Trade Up, I was selling a bunch of my comics on Craigslist. That’s when I met John – a pretty cool guy with whom I ended up talking comics for 2 hours in a freezing parking lot. Though we never hung out as much as we should have, we kept in touch and talked comics over text. One of his favorite artists was Rob Liefeld, and Rob just happened to be coming within a few hours of us to the Virginia Comicon in Richmond, VA. John wanted to commission a sketch from Rob, so he was all about making the trip to see him. I’d been getting emails about the VA Comicon for years, but had never made the trip. Since John was moving back home to NY, this was sort of a last hurrah before hitting the road.

We got to the show at around 10, and the doors weren’t opening until 11. So, we braved the cold for an hour. Once inside, we immediately ran over to the Liefeld line, where we took turns waiting in what would be a 3-hour line. John would go to the bathroom, and I’d hold his spot. He’d come back, and I’d make a loop of the place, checking out the dealers’ wares. Rob’s flight was late, so that made the wait even longer. At around 2 PM, we finally made it to Rob’s table to meet the man himself.

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Now, I’ve met Rob Liefeld before, so I already had his autograph. I didn’t have the budget for a commission, so this show was all about John. It turns out he had already ordered a sketch online, which Rob brought with him. It was a gorgeous sketch reminiscent of a Cable & Deadpool cover. Now, John wanted Rob to draw Cable and Deadpool on a sketch cover comic that he’d brought with him. In the midst of all this deal-making, John had Rob sign a chunk of his comics. I mean, we’re talking a sizable chunk – comprised of X-Force, New Mutants, Hawk & Dove, and other books. We weren’t sure how many Rob would actually sign, as the promoters had quoted a limit of five items. John, however, was of the “it doesn’t hurt to ask” mindset, especially since he was commissioning a sketch. So, he had his chunk, and since I didn’t have anything for Rob to sign, he gave me a small amount to get signed for him. Here’s where things got a little messy. See, Rob’s main claim to fame is that he created Cable and Deadpool, and really hasn’t done much since. You know how I know that? Because he charges $20 to sign each copy of New Mutants #87 (first appearance of Cable) and New Mutants #98 (first appearance of Deadpool). On top of that, he charged $10 just to sign random issues of X-Force. So, having paid for admission to the show, as well as having stood in a 3-hr line, the only way to get something signed for free would be to have some of his less-desired books, like Hawk & Dove or his 2-issue Teen Titans arc. Anything “worthwhile” was gonna cost ya. John had given me some second printing copies of New Mutants #87, so these clearly had no value, yet Rob still wanted to charge for them, so I kindly said “That’s OK”, and handed him a stack of his lesser-desired books to sign.

Saved By The Bell

There was something I wanted to ask Rob about, but he had his son with him and I didn’t know how that would go over. Actually, I wanted to ask his kid: “How’s your Aunt Leanna?” Here’s some backstory for that. Remember the weird 5th season of Saved By The Bell, where Tori replaced Kelly and Jessie? Well, pseudo-lesbian Tori was played by real-life lesbian Leanna Creel – one of a set of triplets. Rob Liefeld married one of her sisters. Since he was the son of a preacher, and kinda devout, I hear that they don’t associate with Aunt Leanna, and didn’t go to her wedding to her partner. Now, I can be kinda messy, and my Saved By The Bell fanboyishness really wanted some info on how Leanna’s doing, but I didn’t want to cause a scene – especially while John was trying to get his collection signed.

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Rob was going to do John’s commission during the show, so we had to kill some time before it was done. My pal and former Diamond boss, Jim Kuhoric, was there promoting his creator-owned series, Dead Irons. In fact, he had some folks cosplaying as some of the characters from the story. After catching up with him, I was able to fill some holes in my collection from the vendors. I think John was able to grab a lot of stuff he’d been needing, as well.

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It’s not a comic convention without cosplay, and it was out in full force. I’ve gotta say that Harley Quinn has quickly become the de facto choice for female cosplayers, as I must’ve seen about 8. There was traditional Harley, Injustice Harley, Steampunk Harley, etc. I think we’ve reached the saturation point of Harley by now. Plus, the queen of cosplay herself, Yaya Han, was in attendance. Fresh off the success of Heroes of Cosplay, she was there promoting her brand and giving out hugs.

Once John got his commission from Rob, and they took a pic together with it, we hit the road. In all, I think a good time was had by all. I was certainly glad to grab the stuff I got, and John was glad to have finally met Rob. As a convention, VA Comicon’s nowhere on the level of Baltimore Comic-Con, but it’s bigger than the hotel comic shows I tend to frequent when looking for $1 comics. I’m not sure if I’ll ever go again, but it was a worthwhile trip. Now, I’ll leave you with some cosplay pics.

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And here’s my haul:

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25th Nov2013

Mail Call Monday – Facts & Figures

by Will

Welcome to the return of Mail Call Monday! I’ve been a bit of an eBay whore lately, so I’ve gotten quite a few packages. I wish I could say that these were holy grails or something, but they’re really just the result of boredom. Basically, I searched for auctions that were ending soon, and checked to see if any of them interested me. It’s a cheap tactic, but it yielded some pretty nice results. Let’s see what I got, shall we?

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I wish I could say that buying this figure was the result of some sort of racial obligation, but that’s just not true. I really just wanted him because he was rare, and he was the one Thor figure I never found at retail. Luckily, someone had him at retail price so I jumped on it. Sure, I know he probably turned up at Five Below of TJ Maxx (which I’m sure you’ll tell me in the comments), but I’m not disappointed. I also think there should be a metal band of all black guys called “Heimdall”.

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I really just got this to flip, as I already own it. I love this figure ’cause he’s really to scale with the rest of the Batman: The Animated Series/Justice League figures. This version of Tim Drake was much younger than Dick Grayson’s Robin, and the diminutive size of the figure shows that. Mattel has reused those BTAS molds time and again, but they haven’t done much with this one, so he’s still a bit harder to come by. As a strange coincidence, it turns out that this item came from Diamond – my former employer. Yup, they sold it through their Hakes Americana subsidiary. Small world…

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I got this from my dear friend @Ponderiss, as she accidentally ended up with two and knew that I’d love it. I think this may end up on my desk at work.

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“I’m The Juggernaut, bitch!” God, did that meme get old fast. And then Ratner made things even worse by putting that line in X-Men: The Last Stand. It wasn’t even in context with the scene and just came across as unnecessarily aggressive. Anyway, I collect 3 types of Marvel Legends: X-Men, Ultimate Marvel, and movie figures. This falls into 2 of those categories, and I only paid $5 for him so it wasn’t too much of a sacrifice.

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This X3 Colossus came from the same seller as Juggernaut up there. Again, he fulfilled 2 categories, and was another $5. The additional shipping to add him to Juggy was $1, so why not, right?

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This guy’s a longer story. $5 Figure Guy above had one of these for, you guessed it, $5. I bid on it but missed the email telling me that I’d been outbid. Turns out the winner beat me by $0.50. By this point, I’d already made up my mind that I wanted the figure, so I went looking for the next cheapest offering. I can’t say I got him doe $5, but I did OK – especially when I know that the seller lost money on shipping, based on the size of the box this came in.

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As I’ve written about in the past, I collect Toy Fair, industry-only catalogs from the major toy companies. I didn’t have any from Mattel, and this also happened to be a good year: 2003. In 2003, Mattel debuted the 6″ Batman line, which eventually led to the DC Universe Classics line. It was also in the middle of the Masters of the Universe toyline revival.Unlike most of the thin catalogs that I own, this one is pretty thick -basically the size of a modern IKEA catalog. Here are two of my favorite page spreads from the book:

 

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I also got a late 80s Kenner Toy Fair catalog – 1989, to be exact. While it was too late to have Super Powers, this was still a great year, as the book contains Police Academy, The Real Ghostbusters, Robocop, and Starting Lineup figures. Here are two of my favorite pics from that catalog:

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One day, I might get around to posting actual scans but that’s all you get for now.

So, that brings this edition of Mail Call Monday to a close. Expect another one soon, as I kinda went on a bender this weekend, including getting my first S.H. Figuarts Power Rangers figure. That was a can of worms I really tried not to open…

31st May2013

West Week Ever – 6/1/13

by Will

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oie_922142seDasWF9

During a recent marathon, a sad thought occurred to me – who were the Golden Girls‘ friends before the show? They went from strangers to best friends in such a short amount of time. Now, this isn’t so uncommon, due to proximity and the amount of time they spent together. Still, what did they do before answering that ad on the grocery store bulletin board? Who listened to Rose’s St. Olaf stories? To whom did Blanche brag about her sexual conquests? To whom was Dorothy a bitch? OK, that was clearly Stanley Zbornak, but still… Once they became roommates, they became all that each other had. I’m glad they found each other, but it just makes me think about the elderly folks who don’t have a group of friends like that. I always joke that I was raised by the “Black Golden Girls”, and I don’t know what they’d do if they didn’t have each other. That’s not something I really like thinking about…

Last week, I told you about my trip to NJ, but I forgot to post my meager toy haul. You can’t have a road trip without toy stops!

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It appears the latest wave of Hot Wheels Pop Culture Collection cars have hit stores, as I didn’t even know these existed. They don’t get me as excited as the first series, but I had to have them for completion and all that. It seems like the cars in series 1 were iconic in spite of their movies, while series 2 seems to be comprised of obscure cars from hit movies/shows (with the exception of the Back to the Future DeLorean). I mean, I can’t even remember Axel Foley’s car, and this certainly isn’t the car that comes to mind when remembering Ferris Bueller. I think Hot Wheels is just fleecing us at this point, ’cause they know we’re completists.

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Out of the LEGO minifigures, only 3/5 were new figures for me. So, if anyone needs a Roman soldier or an Ogre, let me know!

I was cleaning the “store” and ran across some notes from Diamond. A really good quote that every prospective comic creator should know is:

“All these guys who want to do comics in the worst way do them the worst way.”

It means that a lot of small press comics come from a place of passion, yet there’s nothing professional about them. We used to call these “vanity projects”, as these guys really just wanted to walk into a comic shop and see their names on something. What they don’t realize is that their shop probably ain’t even gonna carry it unless the creator has a relationship with the shop owner. Passion is not a substitute for preparation. I think that’s valuable advice for many things in life.

COMEDY CENTRAL RADIO LOGO

I’ve written about my love of SiriusXM before, but I have to gush about their newest channel, Comedy Central Radio. I was really into Raw Dog Comedy, but they were playing too many Andrew Dice Clay deep cuts. I do miss some of the regular shows, like the Alternative Comedy Show with Mark Says Hi, as well as Besser’s Back Room. That said, CCR plays selections from Comedy Central’s library – a lot of which I missed by not having cable growing up. They don’t seem to really play too much old stuff, though. Right now, there’s a lot of Tosh and Amy Schumer – just like the TV network. Still, I’m finally hearing bits that are new to me, as I was really getting tired of the constant loop of Carlos Mencia talking about Bill Clinton lying about the blowjob.

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I like to think I’m “in the know” when it comes to popular stuff, but I didn’t know a thing about Uniqlo until this week. I was reading a really old GQ (December 2011, to be exact), and there was a profile on The Unique Clothing Warehouse, now stylized as Uniqlo. Basically, they’re trying to out-H&M H&M and out-Gap The Gap. They don’t look at clothing as “fashion”, but rather as a necessary commodity. They feel everyone should have equal access to said commodities, so they keep prices low. So, their pricing is like H&M, but their styles are solids and wardrobe basics like those carried at The Gap. To hear the corporate culture of the place, though, it sounds like a cult. They have mantras like this:

Uniqlo is the elements of style.

Uniqlo is a toolbox for living.

Uniqlo is clothes that suit your values.

Uniqlo is how the future dresses.

Uniqlo is beauty in hyperpracticality.

Uniqlo is clothing in the absolute.

Anyway, I kinda wanna check out their clothes, but I know I’m still too fat for fashion. Nope, it’s just the TJ Maxx clearance rack until I lose another 20 lbs or so…

from the Marvel Cinematic Universe facebook page

from the Marvel Cinematic Universe facebook page

This image was released of The Winter Soldier from the set of the upcoming Captain America sequel. Say what you will, but I think it shows the weakness of the Captain America concept that the sequel is The Winter Solider. Don’t get me wrong – it’s an amazing saga, but it’s like doing the second Batman movie and making it about No Man’s Land. You kinda need to have established the world before jumping into those concepts. Winter Solider is Cap 3 material, not Cap 2. What would’ve been a better idea for Cap 2? I honestly don’t know. There aren’t a ton of iconic Cap storylines. I guess they could’ve done the one where he runs for President. Otherwise, a lot of his major character beats happened during Avengers stories.

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Oh, for those not familiar with the Winter Soldier, you saw the first movie, right? Remember when Bucky fell off the train? Well, in the comic, he’s not dead. The Soviets find him and turn him into this amazing assassin called The Winter Soldier. He has that name because he’s cryogenically frozen between jobs, so he’s been carrying out major assassinations over the past 60 years, and they just put him on ice until he’s needed. He’s brainwashed, so doesn’t remember being Bucky Barnes. So, that means half the movie will just be Cap vs. Bucky until they both realize who the other is. Maybe Cap 2 ends with Steve Rogers dying, so Bucky can take the shield in Cap 3. This is what happened in the comics, and I’m sure Marvel wouldn’t blink if contract negotiations don’t go well with Chris Evans next time everyone’s at the table.

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(The following was a Twitter rant, but I felt it bears repeating, especially for the fools who choose not to follow me.)

I’d explain my issues with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but everyone’s excited about it, and nobody cares about the dissenter. Fine, here it goes. The problem is with it’s structure. It’s in the same universe as the movies. That’s HORRIBLE. On the one hand, it can debut characters not worth their own movie. On the other hand, no broad strokes can be made because it essentially has to “Dance between the raindrops of continuity” of the movies. This has NEVER been done before. Sure, you have spinoff shows, but never a spinoff operating concurrently with an ongoing FILM franchise. Even when Power Rangers did it, it wasn’t canon. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie never happened as far as the show is concerned. And those are just my problems with structure. It doesn’t even get into the Whedon problems. He’s the Gail Simone of TV. He doesn’t have fans – he has DISCIPLES, and they’re never objective about his stuff. Just blind followers. Another issue is Coulson. He always seemed like a “less is more” character to me. Avengers was almost too much. I’m fine with shorts, but the last thing I want is a weekly one hour dose of him. It neuters his concept. Finally, you run into the Birds of Prey problem: no matter how much fans claim they’re fine with the characters they’re lying. They’re secretly hoping the big guys (Avengers) will show up, which will never happen.

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Did you know that Will’s World of Wonder is now on Facebook? Well, it is! Come on over and give us a Like. Also, don’t forget – now until 6/3, use coupon code “memorial” via Google Checkout for 20% off EVERYTHING. Please! My children need wine!

Meanwhile, go read this post that I wrote over at Cool & Collected filled with yard sale tips!

Fans demanded their return, while another made it so with a slice. One teabagger used to be a pimp, while another is giving Marion Barry’s legacy a run for its money. Only one, however, could have the West Week Ever!

This week was rough. I mean, Arrested Development rose from the ashes, but folks thought Patrick Stewart, at 73, ate his first slice of pizza. Meanwhile, James Lipton admitted to having been a pimp in Paris, and Toronto’s mayor smokes crack with reckless abandon! Who really deserves it?!

I enjoyed Arrested Development when it was on, but I was never a devoted fan. Also, I haven’t seen this new season yet. Patrick Stewart’s had pizza – he just hadn’t had a NY slice before, so that kills the wind in that sail. James Lipton celebrated the 250th episode of  Inside The Actor’s Studio AND admitted to Parade Magazine that he had been a pimp. With whores and everything! Meanwhile, Rob Ford is simply unstoppable. I haven’t done this before, but this week, I’m leaving the choice up to you, the reader! So, tell me: Who had the West Week Ever?

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UPDATE – In light of new information, a new player has entered the arena. I’d like to congratulate my bud, Howie Decker, and his wife on the birth of their second son, Lucas Daniel Decker. Forget all the celebrities – I think it’s safe to say the Deckers are having the West Week Ever!

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21st May2013

Best of the West #3: Knight Rider Knight 2000 Voice Car

by Will

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I don’t do these posts much, so you know it’s a special occasion. If you’re new here, then let me explain Best of the West to you: these are pieces of my collection that hold more meaning than the others. These are the “I’d grab if there’s ever a fire” items. This ain’t your average Thrift Justice stuff – these are the top shelf items. OK, now that I’ve got that out of the way, why am I doing this today? Well, it’s really all but the timing of some real life events. Yesterday was the funeral for one of the kids at work. I didn’t know him, but I wanted to feel a part of the community, so I volunteered to sing in the choir for the service. It was really moving, and it was a feeling I hadn’t experienced since glee club days. It got me to thinking how I’d want to be remembered when my time comes. I hope people think I was hilarious. Not just “haha” funny, but “why wasn’t he a comedian?!” funny. I hope they think I was a good person and a good friend. Also, I hope I’m remembered as a caring and magnificent lover, despite my average endowment (at least according to my spam folder…). Anyway, this also got me to thinking about my first funeral experience: my dad’s.

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Courtesy of Orangeslime.com

My father passed away from an aneurysm when I was three. For this reason, I’m always scared of head trauma, and I never make fun of aneurysms. Because I was so young, I wasn’t really privy to the funeral proceedings. In fact, my cousin was tasked with taking me to Toys “R” Us to distract me. While there, I remember getting a radio controlled Knight Rider K.I.T.T. that had a working scanner light. You don’t give an RC car to a three year old! I just kept driving it into walls. It was really cool, but I was always rough with toys, so it didn’t last long. Sure, I kept it, but the electronics surely didn’t work, and the car looked like it did at the end of “Knight of the Juggernaut Part 1”.

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Still, I remember the car always angered me because I couldn’t put a figure inside. I think I eventually even broke the window, like an inner city youth, just so I could stick a G.I. Joe in it. I didn’t realize there was actually a version that did what I needed it to do. No, I had my “distraction” K.I.T.T. so I wouldn’t realize my dad was gone. In fact, it wasn’t until years later that I pieced together what had happened that day. Until then, I always remembered it as “the time all my relatives came to see me”.

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Fast forward to about a year ago. My former employer, Diamond Comic Distributors, was releasing a Previews exclusive Knight Rider K.I.T.T. with lights and sounds, and included a 3.75″ Michael Knight Figure. Of course I was gonna buy it! Even if it was $50, and the Michael Knight looked NOTHING like David Hasselhoff. That reminded me that I already had a nearly 6″ Michael Knight from the 80s, and I never really knew why he was released. Remember that post about my Cousin Oliver and the G.I. Joe mystery? Well, that was also the first and only time I saw Knight Rider toys at retail. With the exception of the Whip Shifter (which I also had), I had completely forgotten there was essentially a full line of toys. So I took to eBay, to learn more about the line, and find out if there were any figures other than Michael. It turns out he’s the only one, and that he came packed in with an electronic K.I.T.T. That had opening doors! What I always wanted had existed all the time! And the vintage K.I.T.T. had dropped in price since the announcement of the newer version, so you could get one for about $100. Why buy a newer copy when I could have the original? So, a few weeks before my wedding, I told Lindsay, “I’m about to drop about $100 on a Knight Rider car, and I just want you to know that.” Thankfully, she knew the importance and was cool with it. It actually arrived just before our honeymoon, but I didn’t really get a chance to look at it until weeks later. At the end of the day, it cost about $80 after shipping, and it had its original box! Oh, and IT WORKS! Let’s take a closer look at it, shall we?

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This thing was $26.96 in 1985! That’s, like, $80 in today’s money. NOTE: I am not an economist, nor an expert on inflation

 

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Nowhere on this box does it say “Child’s hand not included”. I demand my white child’s hand!

 

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I wonder if it even had pack-in directions, as the whole shebang is told on the back of the box.

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I love the detail of the stickers inside, but Michael needs to do some dusting!

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I just like pushing it along my carpet, pretending K.I.T.T.’s driving through the desert. Of course, it’d be more effective if the friggin’ white child hand had been in the box!

As you can see from the box, K.I.T.T. says 6 different phrases. I couldn’t really verify them all, ’cause we’re a household with no C batteries; lots of Ds for some reason, though… Anyway, with the voice of someone who’s just roofied you, the car said “Callll mee K.T.T. for shorrrtt.” Supposedly, he also says:

“Engaging Infrared Tracking Scope”

“Scanner Indicates Danger Ahead”

“I Shall Activate The Turbo Boost”

“Your Reflexes Are Slow”

“What Is Our Next Mission?”

Well, the circle is now complete. Like a phoenix, my fallen K.I.T.T. has arisen, with all the qualities I originally wanted. Screw Diamond and their imposter. I now have the real thing! I hope you’ve enjoyed this “shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist”. Anyway, tomorrow’s promised to no one, so try to enjoy today. Thanks for reading, and let me know some of your “holy grails” in the comments!

27th Nov2012

Blast From The Past: Small Press Expo/SPX 2006

by Will

So, I pretty much find any excuse to let you know that I was once a purchasing brand manager for Diamond Comic Distributors. Basically, I helped make the Previews catalog, and worked with small press publishers. Anyway, I was going through old emails yesterday, and I found this draft from that time. I’m not quite sure why I never posted it. I think I was going through a blogging dry spell. Anyway, I thought I’d share it with you, as a lot of my feelings haven’t changed in the past 6 years. I’ve also added annotations to it. So, sit back and enjoy this blast from my comic past!

I went to my first-ever Small Press Expo today in Bethesda, MD, to see what the nation’s alternative “comix” creators and fans are all about

My initial impressions:

1. It was a different scene than the Baltimore Comic-Con last month. For one thing, there were a lot of young women — the brainy, hippie types with pale skin, sharp noses and chins, piercing eyes and Lisa Loeb glasses … if you’re into that sort of thing. Sadly (*sigh*) I totally am.

Heh, I’m gonna get in trouble for that one. And it’s right up front. Next!

2. Even the guys looked different. Super-hero comics guys are two-thirds fat slobs, one-third skinny geeks. Indie comix guys are two-thirds skinny geeks, one-third fat slobs. Indie comix cost more, so maybe their readers can’t afford food.

Aren’t stereotypes a wonderful thing? Still, I maintain that you’re more likely to find a vegan amongst the indie crew than the mainstream set!

3. It’s hard to casually flip through comix for sale on a table, then walk away, when the artist is sitting right there, staring at you. I felt guilty. A similar problem: Opening a comic, realizing it’s very explicit gay porn and worrying that I’m going to look like a homophobe to the artist two feet away if I quickly close the comic and put it down. So, um, how long do I have to stand there?

So, there’s an anthology I picked up called True Porn. It’s really just trying to cash in on the taboo nature of sex, but it’s pretty graphic. For years, it was one of my prized indie collections. A few years later, I picked up True Porn 2. This volume, however, was nothing but trucker sex and glory holes. I’ve never ventured to see if there was a 3rd volume.

4. Lots of self-published comix have colorful, well-drawn covers with clean lines … but then you open them, and the interiors are black-and-white scribblings from an epileptic chicken that must have clutched a Bic pen in its claw. One guy was charging $5 for a comic in which he had simply scratched out typos, rather than use Wite-Out.

True story, boo.

5. I think I’m the only fanboy who does not want to write or draw comics or comix.

This part is why I didn’t last long at Diamond. The vast majority of the employees are in the midst of a conflict of interest. Everyone wants to be a writer or artist. I just liked getting comps. If you’re not trying to get your foot in the door, you’ll realize you care more about paying your bills than having an uncredited short story in a Red Sonja anthology.

6. Scott McCloud packed a room to share his latest theories on comix storytelling, which bored the crap out of me. He drew a four-box grid, divided it into “classicists,” “animists,” “formalists” and “iconoclasts” and talked at length about the wars between those camps. He referenced ongoing debates on THE COMICS JOURNAL message board — in-jokes that provoked waves of nerd laughter. I left early. My seat was claimed immediately.

I don’t remember this at all, and I pride myself on my memory. I remember trying to read Understanding Comics while in college, and ditching it after a few pages. I just don’t care about the “science” of comic making. To me, that’s taking the fun out of it. Sure, it’s cool to learn about creators and influences, but when you get into the mechanics of thought bubbles and page gutters, I’m out.

7. The panel next-door, on political cartooning, was much more interesting. Ted Rall is very funny. The cartoonists agreed that America is so badly polarized now that nobody is going to change their minds on any serious issue, such as the Iraq War. So they see their job as rallying the liberals, the way Fox News Channel rallies the conservatives. A dozen lost elections in a row — way to go, cartoonists!

I do remember this, which is funny because I grew to dislike Ted Rall and his whole schtick. To me, this is the crowd that birthed the Occupy Movement.

8. Rick Veitch, our Comicon lord and master, is a truly nice guy. I walked up to his table, stuck out my paw, gave him my real name and said I was one of his message board idiots. He smiled and asked for my screen name, which he claimed to recognize. And he didn’t tear-gas me! We had a pleasant chat about Comicon, which he says he enjoys doing, except for the occasional defamation lawsuit threat. Veitch and co-owner Steve Conley apparently are thinking of ways to make this place bigger and link it to other parts of the fanboy Web world.

This. This shit right here. This…OK, let me back up. I don’t remember this. I don’t even remember having a screenname on Comic.com. I remember the site. It used to be awesome, as it had The Pulse, The Beat and more. I don’t remember being on a message board, though. I HATE message boards. I tend to always kill threads. I need a medium where a response is somewhat guaranteed. I do remember having nice correspondence with Jen Contino, who used to edit The Pulse. Was that on a message board? Who knows?

Here’s the kicker: when I got to Diamond, I kinda got in some shit with Rick. Ya see, part of the conversation that I didn’t post was that he kinda steered me into talking about his books. I get kinda starstruck, so I was all like “Sure, sir. We’ll put the spotlight on your books!” Later on, I realized that he was, at that point, primarily a backlist publisher. This meant that he wasn’t putting out anything new, but was depending on reorders of his back catalog. Let me tell ya something: unless you’re Marvel or DC, Diamond doesn’t give much of a shit about your back catalog. So, I essentially made promises that I couldn’t keep – something I was raised never to do. So, my Diamond career could be charted by a series of flubs and make-goods for Rick Veitch. I gave him an ad in Previews ($3500 value!) but none of his books were in stock. Once they were restocked, he wanted his free ad again. Instead, I relisted all of his books (something that’s never supposed to be done unless there’s a new printing or REASON), and he didn’t like that there wasn’t enough of a spotlight on things. I think I even requested a “Rick Veitch Month” for Previews, and no one could understand why I was doing all this. Mainly, I had to make good on my word. He was a tough bastard, though I feel he kinda took advantage of me. I had offered him things he hadn’t really earned, but he was going to hold me to it. I learned a lot from that experience.

9. Fantagraphics sells a ton of lovingly produced comix and books (boox?) that I’d read for free at my local library out of curiosity, but I don’t see myself plopping down $5 to $45 to buy it. Like a comic about an unshaven clown who weeps. For the entire 20 pages. In French. Drawn with chalk. On black paper. Who has the money to fill their house with this?

I later became the Diamond contact for Fantagraphics. Regardless of how I felt about your product, I became a starstruck poseur once those people were on the phone. I pimped everything that came down the pike from them, and it’s not like you can suggest anything because they’re FANTAGRAPHICS! Once I was gone, I started railing against all their stuff in the comments sections of hoity-toity blogs. Such a coward. They’re still cranking out the same kinda highbrow pablum, though.

10. My apologies to those who suggested questions for me. I had no chance to ask McCloud anything, because I left his panel to hear the political cartoonists. I started to ask Gary Groth a question at the Fantagraphics booth, but as I opened my mouth to speak, he snarled at some guy that he wanted to catch the next flight the hell out of Washington and get back home. It wasn’t a “come introduce yourself, my friend” snarl. Groth is a relatively short, compact, wiry guy with dark hair fading to gray — ironically, he looks like Harlan Ellison did about 20 years ago.

Who the Hell am I apologizing to? Questions? I didn’t have readers to submit questions. Hell, I only have about 20 readers now when I don’t write about Power Rangers. I don’t know what’s going on in this blurb. How the Hell did I know what Harlan Ellison looked like 20 years ago? I guess I had read some old Comics Journals or something.

11. I think I like super-hero comics fanboys better than indie comix fanboys. Comics guys don’t take themselves half as seriously as do comix guys. Even John Byrne, on his most arrogant day, isn’t waiting for his MacArthur genius grant so he can start his 1,400-page autobiographical graphic novel.

This is one of most incorrect statements I will ever make. I wasn’t as entrenched in the internet at this point (MySpace was still hot and The Facebook hadn’t let in the riffraff yet), so I didn’t know what was going on amongst the various message boards. Both fan bases are two sides of the same coin. I hold the same opinion of the indie set, but I also apply those traits to the mainstream.

So, there ya have it – the ramblings of 25 year old Will. I enjoyed my time in the industry, but it was definitely a “don’t meet your heroes” kind of experience. Also, I ABHOR the stylized “comix”. I hope I wasn’t too hard on the small press. Over the years, I’ve encountered a lot of cool small press books that I’ve recommended to friends (some are even in the Adventures West Coast posts!), so there’s definitely some great stuff out there. That said, I just can’t bring myself to go to SPX anymore. It has gotten was too hippie at a time when I just don’t have time for that. I’m not sure what that says about me or them, but we’re just not in the same place anymore. To read this post, I’m not sure we ever were.

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