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.

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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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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.

08th Feb2012

The Toy Fair Post

by Will

This is part of a post that I teased all the way back at the tail end of 2011, and here we are, almost 2 months later. Before we jump into things, I should probably tell you that you won’t get the whole story this go-round, but it’ll lead into wonderful new things. That’s worth it, right? Anyway, I thought this would be a great time for the post, as many of my e-friends are gearing up to head to NYC for Toy Fair, and what you’ll see here ties into that. What’s Toy Fair? Well, I’m glad you asked!

The American International Toy Fair is held every February at both The Javits Center and the Toy Building in NYC. It’s a trade show for the industry, where buyers come to see the toys that are expected to be the hot items during the next holiday season. As it’s a trade show, it’s not open to the public. So, this has caused the show to be surrounded by a certain mystique, as toy fans have wondered what occurred within those halls. To a toy fan, going to Toy Fair is like going to Mecca. In recent years, however, it has been easier to gain access, as blogs have been able to gain press access. What used to be relegated to a ten-minute segment on 48 Hours is now the bread and butter of the toy blog set. Toy Fair news, especially the exclusive kind, is guaranteed site hits.

As we’ve already covered on the site, I love learning about the toy industry. Sure, the product is nice, but there tends to be a more interesting story behind the product. It recently occurred to me that I never wrote about my own Toy Fair experience. I, like other toy fans, have had dreams of entering the halls of Toy Fair. Remember that 48 Hours special I mentioned in the last paragraph? Well, that’s how it all started. I remember it clearly: 1988 – I was eating one of those giant chocolate chip cookies that you get from delis. And since I had a loose tooth, chewing said cookie knocked out my tooth. Anyway, while eating this cookie, I was watching 48 Hours (I was a weird kid), and they were showing the Galoob Star Trek: The Next Generation toys. This was also the dawn of my Trekkiedom, so seeing toys and Star Trek at the same time sent my little heart a-flutter. I noticed that the toys were being presented by spokesmodels wearing Starfleet uniforms. As I continued watching, I learned that this show happened EVERY year! Unfortunately, it was also only open to people in the toy industry. I didn’t know how, but I was going to find some way into that show. That was the plan.

Fast forward 20 years later. Yes, it really took 20 years. I was working at Diamond Comic Distributors, and I’d pretty much exploited that job for every opportunity it presented. I got sent to New York Comic-Con, San Diego Comic-Con, and worked with the dude who wrote most of the episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Hell, my biggest account handled Transformers, G.I. Joe and Ghostbusters! I’d made all my dreams come true – except one. It was time to go for the brass ring. You see, Diamond also has a toy department. Well, they actually kind have two: there’s Diamond Select Toys, which is basically Art Asylum in sheep’s clothing and there’s the Diamond Toy Department, which buys up mass market things, like Marvel Legends from Hasbro, and then distributes them to comic shops. Due to its role in the toy industry, Diamond also has a presence at Toy Fair. I don’t know how I pulled this. I honestly never expected this to go through, but I mentioned to my awesome, awesome boss that I’d always wanted to go to Toy Fair. A few days later, he tells me that he can get me a pass. Sure, I’d have to get up there on my own, find my own lodging, etc, but I could get into the show. To this day, I wonder how he pulled that off, as they really loved to say “no” around there. So, one Vamoose Bus ticket purchased, and I was in NYC.

So, Toy Fair. It was everything I ever wanted yet nothing I expected, all at the same time. First off, while the news outlets focus on the hot popular stuff, like Star Wars, Cabbage Patch (well, in the 80s), and G.I. Joe, I was amazed by how much of the show actually catered to toys you’d never really think much about. See, as a Toy Fair novice, I didn’t realize that the GOOD stuff is at the Toy Building. Most of the major companies, like Hasbro, Mattel, etc, have year round showrooms at the Toy Building, and they hold most of their presentations there. The Javits Center is where they might set up a booth, but it’s not where they’re showing the best stuff. Instead, the Javits Center is comprised of smaller vendors. To make a comic analogy, Marvel and DC are in the Toy Building, while Javits is the small press.

Walking around, it was interesting to see 10 different Chinese vendors trying to sell the same little pedal car. I guess they all use the same factory, and then it becomes a bidding war to see who can give retailers the best price. Oh, right. I forgot that part. The purpose of Toy Fair (in theory) is so that retail buyers can get a sneak peak at the holiday season’s projected hits, so that they can place their orders for the season. I said “in theory” because it’s a not-so-well known fact that there’s actually an earlier November Toy Fair that’s just for the big guys like Toys “R” Us, Target, and Walmart. So, while the February Toy Fair might feature “new” stuff for some buyers, it’s more of a refresher for the bigger guys. Anyway, you end up seeing more stuff that would end up in a mom and pop toy store than you would in a major market retailer. For example, this was during the Mentos/Coke craze, so there was actually a science kit with elaborate tubes and stuff, allowing you to really get some mileage out of that explosion.

Since I didn’t know about the Toy Building showrooms at the time, I missed out on all the cool stuff. Still, I made my dream come true, and I got into Toy Fair. There was a lot of other stuff that happened during that trip, worst of all was me losing my cell phone in a cab. It was like a scene from a movie – I realized I’d left it in there just as it pulled off. I ran after it, but it turned a corner. As I ran around the corner, there was a SEA of yellow cabs. Which one was it?!! So yeah, lost my cell phone in a cab, in New York City, on a government holiday ( I think it was Presidents Day).

So why did I post this now? Well, one of the best parts about Toy Fair is the exclusives. Some of these are rare toys, while some are just industry-specific brochures. I’m sad to say that I didn’t leave with much during my adventure. I still have the program, and I think I have a picture frame, but that’s about it. However, over Christmas, I went to Denver and found a few Toy Fair items that I simply couldn’t leave behind. I think any child of the 80s would love to see these, and that’s exactly what’s going to happen…tomorrow.

22nd Nov2011

Off To See The Wizard…

by Will

So, in an effort to sort out my junk room, I decided that I could probably start with my longbox of Wizard publications. I quickly tired of being reminded of Wetworks and Vampirella books, so I decided to focus on my issues of Toyfare instead. For those not really “in the know”, Toyfare was a monthly magazine published by the fine folks who also gave the world Wizard: The Guide to Comics (which later rebranded itself as a “Men’s Pop Culture Magazine”, whatever that means). Anyway, Wizard used to highlight toys, but as the industry ramped up, there was too much to report than the meager 2 pages in Wizard allowed, so the toy focus was spun off into its own magazine. At its best, Toyfare gave an in-depth look at fan favorite toy lines. At its worst, it was a glorified toy catalog. To be honest, “glorified” doesn’t even fit, as regular toy catalogs at least listed prices – something Toyfare couldn’t be bothered to do in many cases. Anyway, while flipping through the pages, a few thoughts came to mind, and I figured I’d share them here.

-What happened to Palisades Toys? I was never a Muppets fan, but I could respect that they truly paid attention to detail in making those Muppets toys.

-Diamond Select should’ve been run out of business for those horrible Serenity figures. I’ve actually said this to DST staffers. They like to change the subject when that line is brought up. I’m no Serenity fan, but I know a slap in the face when I see it.

-Did Hasbro ever present a use for those Jedi Master points?

-Is bbi still around? I remember they used to make those awesomely detailed solider dolls. Sometimes they’d use a Hollywood likeness without ever really securing the rights. So, instead of a Saving Private Ryan doll, it’d be a “World War II Officer” with a Tom Hanks face or something.

-An issue from 2002 stated that we had a better shot of seeing a Thundercats revival before a true G.I. Joe renaissance. Huh.

-The book REALLY started to suck when they took a parody approach to the articles. It was cute for the April Fools issue, but for a good  3 years every article in the book was like a Robot Chicken skit. While Robot Chicken showed that approach could be funny, it just gets tired in print.

-I wonder how many of the toys previewed in Toyfare actually NEVER came to fruition. I know for a fact that King of the Hill Series 2 never came out. That was when everyone wanted to jump on the interactive soundchip playset bandwagon, but I guess Toycom realized they couldn’t swing it.

-When they started posting the Complete Photo Guides to toy lines, that made the magazine worth the price of admission.

-Near the end, they were just reprinting the movie articles from Wizard, seeing as how comic movies also tended to have toylines.

-I never realized how many 80s Toy Quizzes they published. That magazine survived an extra 3 years just by jerking off fans to fantasies of a M.A.S.K. revival.

Culling the ranks of the Toyfare stash didn’t take much time, so then I cam back around for the herculean task of weeding out the Wizards. After all, I had a complete run for about 10 years or so. Along the way, I noticed a few interesting things:

-Where is Christina Z these days? For those not in the know, she was the first woman to make Wizard’s Top 10 Writers List, and she used to write Witchblade back when it was all T&A. That way, whenever someone criticized it for being a T&A book, Top Cow could protest, “No, it’s written by a woman!” Her last publicized work was Jenna Jameson’s Shadow Hunter. I bet that wasn’t a T&A book at all…

-Paula Cole should sing “Where have all the CCGs gone?”

-I don’t want anything to do with J. Scott Campbell until he finishes Wildsiderz.

-Brandon Jerwa started his career on G.I. Joe with a fan submission

-I had no idea Fox has been using the “Animation Domination” name for its Sunday block since 2005!

-Broken Promises: Bryan Singer’s Ultimate X-Men arc

-Broken Promises: Jeff Loeb & J. Scott Campbell’s Spidey title

-Broken Promises: When Bendis left The Pulse, he said it would continue with another writer. This didn’t happen.

-Yay! Kubert’s on Batman. Surely, he’ll have a long run on this book!

-In ’03, J.Scott Campbell went exclusive with DC. Can anyone name what came from that? Anyone? No, because NOTHING came from that contract.

-Why did they stop making DC Minimates?

-There was actually an article called “Treasured Chests”, where they compared the cleavage of Talia Al Ghul, Power Girl, and some Wildstorm chick.

-Kia Asamiya. Yes, I get that everyone had Manga Fever, but WHO THE FUCK PUT HIM ON X-MEN?!!!

-Broken Promises: Loeb & Lee’s promised post-Hush 6-issue arc on Batman.

-Before they diversified their brand with Pilot Season, Top Cow was pretty much just, “Hey, kids! Tits!”

-After Chaos went under, Lady Death went to the Code 6 imprint at Crossgen. Now, she’s at Avatar, under the Boundless imprint. Lady Death: She Doesn’t Just LOOK Like The Village Bicycle!

-There was an Olympic ad in the March 2002 issue. Like, a real brand, and not some e-store or superhero-inspired motorcycle jackets. The actual Olympics, with the athletes and shit. SO out of place.

-Chaos allowed fans to serve as associte editors on books. They spun it as “interaction”, but it was really just cheap labor. They went under soon afterwards.

-Only in 2002 could Joe Mad make the Top 10 Most Influential Artists List. He ranked higher than Sienkiewicz!!!

-Broken Promises: Kevin Smith was supposed to take over Amazing Spider-Man, and JMS was to move over to a new book. Smith also said in interviews that he only agreed if they would allow him to reunite MJ and Peter.

-Broken Promises: Kevin Smith was also announced as the writer of a new iteration of Brave and the Bold just before signing an exclusive with Marvel.

-Based on the number of articles, Fathom “returned” about 12 times, but never actually finished.

-Top Cow has been streamlining its universe since 2001, with no end in sight. The first event, Universe, made Tomb Raider & Fathom part of TC canon…interesting, seeing as how both properties are no longer under the TC umbrella.

-Where is Devin Grayson? Did her career end at the same time as her relationship with Mark Waid?

-I think the best depiction of Rogue was the promo image to her Icons mini. She’s strong and athletic – believably 19 (which is the age she’s rumored to be), and not a busty, 30-something skunkhead.

-Alicia Witt would’ve been a MUCH better Mary Jane in the Spider-Man movies.

-Instead of rushing to reprint them, Bill Jemas put the Ultimate titles online, 12 pages at a time, to “reward the readers and retailers who jumped on the Ultimate bandwagon at the beginning, thus making those initial issues all the more valuable.” – 2001

-In 2001, Poison Elves creator Drew Hayes signed an unprecedented 50 year deal with Sirius Entertainment. While this was clearly a publicity stunt, Drew would pass away in 2007.

-Casting Call: Geoff Johns cast Heath Ledger as Wally West and Owen Wilson as Trickster.

-Issue #110′s letter column only featured mail sent by prisoners.

-They used to have a column called “oops…” where they made corrections to previous stories. This was phased out in later years, as the entire magazine became one giant collection of typos and mistakes.

-Broken Promises: Top Cow got the A-Team rights in 2000. Did nothing with them.

-Did America ever get Bandai’s handheld system, the WonderSwan Color?

-They were REALLY pushing for Brendan Fraser to be Superman, as they cast him in 3 different Casting Call articles over the years.

-Casting Call: Tom Selleck as Tony Stark, Kevin Sorbo as Thor, and Howie Long as Cap. This would’ve been fine…in 1990. They also cast Howie Long as Duke in G.I. Joe. Wizard really liked Howie Long.

-The same character was named “Venus”, “Sexbot”, and finally “Aphrodite IX”

-Finally, back when DC did the whole Superman Red/Blue thing, a few high profile artists were asked to redesign Superman’s iconic suit. One of those artists happened to be Jim Lee. Looks like he’s been married to that high-collar design for quite some time…

 

 

So, what were your favorite Toyfare/Wizard memories?

11th Nov2011

Will’s World of Wonder – It Begins! #111111

by Will

I need more collector friends – In Real Life collector friends. It’s not always easy being a collector. First off, non-collectors think you have a problem akin to an addiction. If that’s not bad enough, other collectors become the competition. You find yourself not wanting to share your secret haunts, fearing that other collectors will milk them dry. Plainly put, the life of a collector can be a lonely, paranoid one. But it doesn’t have to be.

For me, Twitter changed everything. Through Twitter, I’ve found collector friends. I’ve been able to compare war stories and let folks know which chains have the newest stuff. A lot of the time, we come across stuff someone’s looking for, and we help each other out (I know that Suribot, Engineernerd, and MrSithy can attest to that!). It truly is a sense of community, and it makes The Hunt a little less lonely.

Ah, yes – The Hunt. I know there are folks who hate hunting for new toys, but I’m not one of those people. I’ve heard that it’s a waste of time and gas. Like anything you love, you have to make time for it. And, honestly, I feel like driving to work is a bigger waste of gas than looking for toys. That’s just the kind of guy I am. The Hunt is like a drug, and looking forward to it is the only thing that gets me through the day sometimes. That rush you get as you make your way to the action figure aisle. The sense of dread you feel as you round the corner and see a guy standing in the middle of the aisle. Is he in front of the DC Universe Classics or the Young Justice figures? Is he a “friendly”? What’s in his cart?! AM I TOO LATE?!!! Just the thoughts that run through the mind of the collector.

For all of the excitement of The Hunt, I’ve found that I love the experience more than the reward. I’ve found myself buying figures for lines in which I only have a passing interest. That has led to a room filled with toys – both loose & unopened. The thing about The Hunt is that I’ve gotten damn good at it. I’m really not one to toot my own horn, but I’ve got a keen eye, and I come across amazing deals. If something catches my eye, I just can’t leave it behind.

There’s another reason I can’t seem to leave toy runs empty handed. You see, there’s been a lot of talk lately about collectors’ “Holy Grails” – those seemingly unattainable items that would complete any collection. When I see certain items in stores, I can’t bear the thought of a kid ending up with someone’s Holy Grail. Don’t get me wrong – I love kids AND I love toys, but I don’t necessarily love them together. My time at TRU taught me that most toys are purchased by exhausted moms and clueless grandmas. As a result, kids don’t always get what they want, nor do they appreciate those toys that they do get. They’re rough on toys, and it keeps those toys from getting into the hands of those would do appreciate them. Now, sometimes that person is a 30 year old man, but who am I to question love? All I’m saying is that I don’t think many kids want a figure of a hipster with a big staff, but I know a lot of collectors would like to have Modern Starman. So, sometimes I grab stuff in the hopes that I might one day cross paths with that collector, or maybe I already talk to him online (don’t bother pointing out the holes in my logic; I’m already aware).
So, I’m sorry if it seems like I’m rambling. This whole thing is building to a point. These are the key things to take away from this:

1) I’m looking to strengthen the collector community

2) I’m constantly on The Hunt for new things, many of those trips ending in success

3) I need a way to offer these finds to those who might appreciate them

So, what did I do? I created a storefront. I’d like to introduce you to Will’s World of Wonder.

WHY?

I’ve always kinda toyed with the idea of being something of a “toy broker”. A few months back, my e-pal The Robot’s Pajamas put is best when he tweeted: “It’s seriously weird how I want to collect toys to sell now. I get a much bigger joy out of helping other collectors than owning things.” He took the words out of my mouth. I mean, to me, it’s really just enough coming into contact with certain items, but I know I wouldn’t appreciate them as much as someone else out there might. As you’ve seen in my Thrift Justice pieces, I come across some pretty cool stuff, and I’d like an avenue to share those things with others.

I’ve had a lot of success with craigslist, but those are just local sales. I don’t know what it is about it, but I just see Ebay as an old man’s game these days. Now, I know there are a TON of storefront sites out there, so why did I want to enter that pool? Out of all of those sites, many of the ones I’ve encountered are just people trying to offload stuff they’re tired of, but you’re pretty much limited to that stock. Well, I want to take the small town approach to retailing. Sure, you could go to CVS, but you go to the local pharmacy for the service and because they know your face. If you’ve already been reading this site, you have a pretty good idea of who I am. As naive as it may sound, despite the distance, I think of many of you as friends. I don’t screw over my friends. Also, The Hunt isn’t going to stop. I’d just like to use my powers to help others. If you’re into a certain thing, shoot me an email. If you’re an expert on a certain genre, I’d love to have your input on things. If you don’t really like a price that you see, let me know and we might be able to work something out. At the end of the day, I want you to think of this as your store. If nothing else, it helps me stay abreast of trends, but I really want to think of other collectors as sort of “brothers in arms” instead of toy aisle threats. And for those who hate The Hunt, let me do the legwork for ya!

WHY NOW?

Well, the timing was really organic. I’ve been working on this for the last three months or so, but it couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m currently planning a wedding, and those things ain’t cheap! Plus, I’m sure Lindsay would love for me to clear some stuff out of the apartment. As icing on the cake, it’s also holiday time, so I can help you make a dent in your shopping list!

WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR STUFF?

That’s a great question. Honestly, it’s from various sources. A lot of the stuff is from The West Collection. That’s what I call my “I bought this in the heat of the moment but I could really use that money for invitations about now” pile. Also, while I worked at Diamond, I received a LOT of stuff that I wasn’t allowed to sell while still employed by the company. A lot of it comes from my travels thrifting, yard saling, and the like. I’m always on the lookout, and I love a good hunt. In any case, the majority of it is comprised of things that I just feel might be more appreciated in someone else’s home.

So, that about covers the main points. I wanted to take a more active role in the collecting community, so I decided to create a storefront. I know it’s kinda bare bones, and not as flashy as other sites, but it’s the goods that are the focus. I’m launching with 75 items that I feel do a good job of covering the genres I’m familiar with. I’m new to this whole thing, so bear with me as I work out the kinks. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me. In the meantime, I hope you like what you see! Also, before I go, I’d like to thank Matt Guzy, Vincent Robot, and Brian at Cool and Collected, as I couldn’t have done this without their help!

24th Mar2011

Adventures West Coast: How I Made It To Eighteen GN

by Will

Oh…where to start with this book? Normally, I use this column as an excuse to get snarky, but this is the rare occasion where I can actually “talk shop”. You see, How I Made It To Eighteen is reminiscent of the kind of submissions that started coming in near the tail end of my time at Diamond. For those of you just tuning in, I used to be a brand manager for Diamond Comic Distributors – the largest comic book distributor in North America. Basically, my department decided which books ended up in comic shops. Well, let me rephrase that: my department decided which non-DC, Marvel, Image or Dark Horse comics ended up in shops; based on their contracts, those publishers can put out whatever the Hell they want. So, basically, I was assigned to what’s known as “the small press”. I worked with sizable publishers, like Fantagraphics, IDW Publishing and Oni Press, but I also worked with a lot of one-man shops. It wasn’t a very “happy” job, as I was constantly crushing someone’s dream. These people had wanted to create comics all their lives, and here I was telling them that they weren’t good enough for widespread exposure. Who was I to judge them, ya know? It’s just that over time, you start to see a pattern in what sells. A lot of the time, these comic hopefuls had great ideas, but just didn’t have a good marketing plan worked out. They felt that just getting into the Previews catalog would be enough publicity, as it would get them in front of the eyes of the country’s comic retailers. Sadly, a Previews blurb is NEVER enough. If they had just taken more time plotting their attack, they might’ve had a better shot on the stands. In other cases, the book just wasn’t what we felt would move in the “direct market” comprised of comic shops. How I Made It To Eighteen would fall into the latter category.

How I Made It To Eighteen, by Tracy White, is a semi-autobiographical tale about “one girl’s struggle with depression and addiction.” I got that from the cover blurb. Before we tackle that, let’s back up for a minute. Prior to reading this book, I had no frame of reference for the writer. According to Ms. White’s included biography, she’s been making webcomics since 1996. While that’s an impressive length of time (this book was published in 2010), it could be argued that the audience for webcomics and that of published comics are two different animals. Not everyone can crank out a PvP or a Penny Arcade, so you often find that people follow webcomics because they’re free, but wouldn’t spend their hard-earned cash on a print collection of them.

One thing the book had going for it was the fact that it came from a book publisher and not a comic publisher. Roaring Book Press doesn’t really have much of a track record in the comic industry, but as an imprint of Macmillan, it has some clout in the “real book” world. Had this been submitted by a first-time creator, who was storing inventory in her garage, it probably never would’ve made it into stores. Diamond’s primary focus is on the +3500 comic specialty shops in the US, and this wouldn’t have appealed to many of those accounts. A book like How I Made It To Eighteen isn’t going to make waves in most comic shops, but it’ll do alright in a Borders, which is what I think to myself every time I see a copy of it on the shelf as I’m looking for the latest volume of Jack of Fables.

Ignoring the subject matter of the book, the art is the main reason that How I Made It To Eighteen wouldn’t appeal to your “typical comic shop”. This is a little known secret, but we rarely read the books that were submitted. There were just too many of them. If the art was good, the book could sell. If it was bad, the book couldn’t. However, in the rare case that the art was mediocre, that’s when we’d read it so that we could see if the writing tipped the scales in the book’s favor. Otherwise, you’re left to sink or swim based on your art. After all, comics are a visual medium – if it doesn’t look good, maybe it should be prose. To look at the art in this book, it’s clear that it came from a webcomic background. It’s rough and rushed – fine if you’re trying to keep some sort of consistent online schedule, but nowhere near polished enough if you want people to pay. Then again, what is “art”? It’s all subjective, so maybe it’s not my cup of tea, but it may appeal to someone else. With that in mind, let’s talk about the story itself.

How I Made It To Eighteen is somewhat based on the author’s life, though events and names have been changed to protect other people. The main character, Stacy Black, is a recent high school graduate who has found herself at a crossroads. She doesn’t want to go to college, but she doesn’t exactly have a plan for her life. She’s obsessed with her emotionally unavailable, yet controlling, boyfriend, and she has a strained relationship with her mother. Through a series of events, she finds herself checked into Golden Meadows Hospital, and the book follows her struggles with depression, addiction, and eating disorders. Now, let me say that I get the draw of this premise: on paper, this should be a great book to share with young women who might be going through similar circumstances. By no means do I wish to belittle Ms. White’s experiences, and many young women might be able to relate to her struggle. It’s for these same reasons, however, that I feel the book is a letdown. Considering the heft of the subject matter, it might be unrealistic to expect everything to be neatly wrapped up in a little bow by the end. That said, I did expect to get more out of the book than I got. The book doesn’t indicate that it’s a part of a series, but it feels incomplete – almost as if the entire story isn’t presented here. If this had been a documentary, we would’ve just been forced to digest the information that was captured, and we’d have the understanding that the footage was edited the best it could be, given what was available. Here, however, the author is in control of the narrative, but it doesn’t feel as if she realized it. The book travels at a somewhat slow pace, but it feels like the ending was thrown together in order to satisfy a deadline. Has the character of Stacy made any progress by this point? Yes, but the reader isn’t given enough information from which to draw any conclusions. I guess the editor felt the same way, as the book ends with a tacked on epilogue page, which has as much substance as those movie end credits that flash a character and say “Bobby went off to ‘Nam. He never came home.”

This is the kind of book that comic snobs LOVE, as it shows you can do more with the comic medium than just feature capes and boobs. Well, you can use comics to tell autobiographical tales, but the successful ones are a lot better than this. The book has promise, but it doesn’t stick the landing. I can forgive the art, as its minimal, rough look doesn’t mar the narrative in any way. What I can’t forgive is the fact that it just doesn’t seem like it was mapped out before it was put on the page. As I said before, a lot of small press books fail because the creators don’t seem to be thinking long-term. Ms White might be skilled in the webcomic format, but I’m not sold on her printed work.

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