Ever notice how short football season is? It’s because football players take time to heal up from their injuries. Comic convention season lasts nearly all year because, when you’re a geek, you just put a Band-Aid on your blisters and play through the pain.
Saturday, while waiting in line to meet Anthony Daniels, the gold standard in droids, I looked at my watch and noted to Duane, “Well, it’s 11 o’clock, Comic Con tickets are officially on sale. I bet they’ll be gone in an hour!” Duane had no reaction, having already declared his feet and knees couldn’t take another West Coast convention.
It didn’t incite panic as in previous years. We had declared this would not be the year to resume our travel to the prettiest city in the United States, San Diego. Though it is unrivaled in both size, exclusive merchandise and celebrities attending, the San Diego con is just too darn big. It’s really a venture that requires a vacation to recover from your vacation.
Instead, this year we’ve already attended two smaller conventions that are easier on our wallets, feet and noses (other attendees often forgo hygiene during convention time.)
Our first trip in the middle of February brought us to the city otherwise home to the world’s most famous mouse — Orlando. We went to Mega-Con for the first time last year and enjoyed both the scale and pace. There was enough to see and do for a couple of days, but we didn’t look like we could be extras on the Walking Dead when the convention ended.
This year, the show featured Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter series), David Prowse (the “body” most often occupying Darth Vader’s suit, and Tia Carrere (Wayne’s rock goddess from “Wayne’s World.”) They were all professional and friendly, which is always a relief.
The highlights of this year’s show, however, were the two panels we added. The first was a retrospective on DC’s Teen Titans with former artists and creators. They stressed the importance of not becoming too attached to certain story lines or specific versions of characters since the comics must evolve to remain relevant to ever-changing world of comic readers. The Titans of the 1970s and 1980s will not appeal in the same way to new comic fans. More than once, the panelists had to remind some of the attendees that the Teen Titans are just characters in a book. This concept didn’t make sense to some of the smellier among us.
The second panel involved experienced cosplayers who shared information on how to cut costs without sacrificing the look and authenticity of your costume. We learned better techniques to making metallic surfaces on a budget as well as plenty of ideas for future projects. The panelists regularly attend conventions and other events and never break the bank doing so. This was a panel we could have enjoyed for hours because of the amount of information and ideas. It was over far too soon.
A side trip to Orlando and Google research took us to Rock n’ Roll Heaven, a great record shop in downtown Orlando. The condition of the albums were so pristine that I was convinced they were reissues. They had almost everything a collector could hope for in virtually every genre. We picked up Nilsson Schmilson, a Big Brother and the Holding Company album, Van Morrison Live and Queen II.
One of the owners looked as though Jim Morrison had resurfaced and decided to inhabit a record shop. It was really uncanny. We discussed our collection and music and he gave us some suggestions for music documentaries. He told us Davy Jones frequented the shop since he lived close by. He said Davy always put on a great show for the Flower Power events at Epcot. We were especially sad to hear of Davy’s passing just a short time after our return from Orlando.
Once we came home, we headed to our second convention of the year — Steel-City Con in Monroeville, Pa. We’ve gone to this show five times now and each time keeps getting better. They’ve started adding bigger media guests and more vendors are seeing potential on the modest retail floor, especially when they see Duane coming with wads of cash and no filter for what he’s willing to buy.
The deciding factor for the show was the announcement of the Sid and Marty Krofft reunion tour featuring Kathleen Colemen and Wesley Eure (Holly and Will from “Land of the Lost”) Johnny Whitaker (“Sigmund and the Sea Monster” and “Family Affair”) and Butch Patrick (“The Munsters” and “Lidsville.”) The previously mentioned C-3PO, Billy Dee Williams and his son, one of the cast members from Beverly Hills 90210, a wrestler from IMPACT Wrestling, and Susan Olsen and Christopher Knight (Cindy and Bobby Brady) rounded out the lineup.
We had a lengthy conversation with Ms. Coleman who told us how her and Wesley’s scene for “Land of the Lost” movie ended up on the cutting room floor. She also wanted our advice on other conventions to attend, which we were all too willing to give. She may be the sweetest celebrity we’ve ever met. I mean, come on! She’s Holly from Land of the Lost! She rocks!
I also couldn’t resist asking Mr. Daniels what it was like wearing the C-3PO suit. He recounted cutting his foot during the first take and said the entire costume was dreadful although he did add that it got better with each film. Seeing some of the people in line behind us, I believe his nightmare was only beginning. Smells were already wafting forward from what appeared to be an unwashed Pokemon costume two sizes too small.
Convention season is in full swing now. It’s exciting to see events across the country taking shape and knowing friends that we’ve met from standing in line are representing geek-dom well by reporting back on their encounters. Live long and prosper, fellow fanboys and fangirls.
Meesa been troubled about something for several weeks.
a) expose my bright little girls to the most wonderful film series of ALL TIME?
Unfortunately, theesa not mutually exclusive questions.
That’s because George Lucas, who shot first and then changed his mind repeatedly, is releasing his Star Wars films IN 3D starting with the most mediocre film of all time, “Star Wars: Episode 1: A Phantom Menace: George Lucas Can’t Stop Meddling With His Movies But He’ll Never Get Rid of That Annoying Jar Jar.”
So, I’ve been torn.
I love the Luke Skywalker/Han Solo/Princess Leia versions of the series, which began in 1977 in the GREATEST DECADE OF ALL TIME.
But the prequels? Not so much.
Still, I thought my kids need to start somewhere. And the prequels are built for kids — what with the cartoonish Jar Jar, a young Anakin Skywalker portrayed by the aforementioned Jake Lloyd and pod races. Plus, you know, it’s the beginning. Might as well begin there.
So I left it up to them.
And here’s the conversation we had:
Me: ‘Yousa want to go learn about the difference between a da Jedi and the Sith tomorrow?”
Kid No. 1, Age 9: “No.”
Me: “For real? Not even for battles with laser swords and spaceships?”
Kid No. 1: “No. It’s boring.”
She comes at this with some degree of credibility. She likes the “Doctor Who” television series, and last summer she went with me to ‘Super 8,” “Harry Potter,” “Green Lantern” and “Captain America.” So she wasn’t just being a dumb girl, and I mean dumb girl in the fondest way possible. I guess she sniffed out ‘Phantom Menace” for what it really is. Still, “boring”? You haven’t seen boring until you’ve seen “Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.” Blech.
I resorted to bribery.
“How about for popcorn?”
Me: “How about for a sugary, carbonated drink?”
Meanwhile, Kid No. 2 started drawing me a friend to go to the movies with.
If the movie were “Star Wars: Episode 4: A New Hope: Han Shot First,” well, then — THEN! — I might be happy to go over to the movie theater with my very own hand-drawn friend.
But not in this case.
Sorry, Phantom Menace. I guess we-sa opting outsa.
One of the best ways to gauge the success of a toy is its ability to appeal to generations of children without changing the formula. There are a few that come instantly to mind — Playdoh, Slinky, Lincoln Logs and of course, LEGOs.
My first memories of LEGOs involve dumping them from a large bucket onto the floor and trying to figure out something to build with the colorful, plastic interlocking bricks. Usually, my limited abilities could only muster a house with a very square roof or a poor replica of The Great Wall.
I was never incredibly adept at making masterpieces on my own, but enjoyed playing with the blocks once in a while. Fast forward a couple of decades to our first trip to Comic-Con when we encountered oversized LEGO creations featuring characters from Toy Story and Harry Potter.
So, while shopping that Christmas season, we decided to try our hand at the modern LEGO playsets and chose a set based on The Weasley’s home from the Harry Potter series, The Burrows. We put it together on Christmas Eve night last year in a few hours while watching Christmas cartoons and have decided to make it a Maddy tradition.
Unlike the buckets containing a mix of various sizes, these new sets have ridicuously detailed instruction panels, allowing you to build miniature worlds, one piece at a time.
Since we had such a wonderful experience with The Burrows, we requested my in-laws buy us a larger LEGO set this Christmas. It’s been an incredible way to connect, a great family activity, and a nice escape from the internet/iPhone/other electronic devices.
So, on Christmas morning, we open our gift to discover a LEGO Millennium Falcon, complete with a slew of miniature Star Wars characters to go with it. A week later, we set out on the mission to tackle the monochromatic blocks that promised to look like Han Solo’s prized ship.
We dumped out the various bags, containing the more than 1,200 miniscule blocks, hooks, caps and rods that would bring the Falcon to life. And we were greeted with not one, but three instruction manuals on how to build this massive replica of Star Wars’ famed ship. After wondering how an 8-year-old could put this together alone, we began separating the parts by color and shape and continued our mission.
Piece by piece, layer by layer, the Falcon started taking shape. First, the floor gave way to the control room and area where Luke honed his Jedi skills, I could almost hear him say, “With the blast shield down, I can’t even see. How am I supposed to fight?” (Coincidentally, the set also comes with a LEGO Luke complete with reversible head and blast shield.)
We spent hours in our toy room upstairs, fighting off the leg-fall-asleep syndrome and the carpet imprints onto our skin to configure our miniature ship. The almost-hexagonal frame became a second nature to us as we replicated designs that would make up the exterior panels of the ship. One of my favorite features in the removable chamber that slides Luke in and out for the dog fight with Tie Fighters.
When we finally snapped the cockpit on and placed Han inside, there was much celebration, although our chihuahua was presumably unimpressed. We placed the Falcon next to its slightly larger twin in our collection (which we did not have to assemble.)
After conquering the Falcon, Duane decided to surprise me with the complete Hogwarts set for my birthday. Our nieces and nephew had gotten us an addition to the school which we put together in a few hours on Christmas Eve, so we were eager to attach it to the larger set.
Again, we were met with three instruction booklets laying down the challenge for the famous school of witchcraft and wizardry.
This time, we tried a new strategy in which we each took a book and started putting together the bags corresponding to our chosen book. We then interlocked them when completed.
The detail of the set is remarkable, from the Gryffindor and Slytherin common rooms to the Great Dining Hall to the Owlery to the image of Sirius Black in the fire place. Many of the most intricate details of these sets are never seen by the naked eye, yet it was not overlooked.
While building these sets, I couldn’t help but wonder who designs them? Do they have LEGO engineers sitting in a room, jotting down every minute detail — every sticker placed, every joint locked?
With theme parks now in California and Florida and building sets based on multiple movie franchises and beyond, LEGO is challenging the imaginations and budding architectural skills of generations of children to come, and all of us adults who remain children at heart.
San Diego Comic-Con (http://www.comic-con.org/cci) will not be a destination for Ashlee and I again this year. We missed last year and, sadly, will miss again this year. It’s almost a full-time job to swing tickets with the near “Power Ball” chances of being chosen, and between airfare, hotel, and car rental, it costs more than some full-time jobs pay. Considering that we do not go ‘small’ for our trips to California, we felt it would be best to avoid pretending to be Mitt Romney with our monetary capabilities, if you catch my drift.
We are heading to a couple of familiar geek-friendly spots, though.
Mega-Con (http://www.megaconvention.com) is an Orlando, Florida convention, held on February 17th-19th, with a variety of fan entertainment. There is a major focus on anime, which is highlighted by a slew of slothful sycophants wearing garb from their favorite Pokemon. I become annoyed by their constant hugging and interaction with random strangers who share their interests in squealing upon meeting – and hugging.
Apart from the deluge of woven hat wearing, pubescent squealers, Mega-Con offers fan interaction with panels of comic book artists and writers, Star Wars, and various other topics, as well as autograph lines for celebrities like Stan Lee, cast members from Start Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and other favorites.
Lego fans are always abuzz over the diorama displays of dynamic dimensions. Lots of vendors are available for screen printed shirts to display your love of Dr. Who or the Green Lantern, the Green Hornet, the Green Arrow, or possibly even the Green Giant.
Further north, Steel-City Con (http://www.steelcitycon.com) is a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania convention, held on March 2nd-4th. It’s a smaller scale version of Mega-Con by far, but still has great media guests.
The focus for Steel-City Con is different. It has a majority of its space taken up by vendors of classic toys and collectables. There are no panels.
Media guests in the past have included Adam West and Henry Winkler. This time, there is an incredible lineup of 70s stars and Star Wars actors. Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian) and his son, Corey Dee Williams (Klaatu – a minor character from Star Wars) will join Anthony Daniels (C3PO) for autograph signings and photo opportunities.
Stars of the classic television series, The Brady Bunch, will be in attendance as well. Susan Olsen (Cindy Brady) and Christopher Knight (Peter Brady) will be there. Wesley Eure and Kathleen Coleman (Will and Holly – Land of the Lost), Butch Patrick (The Munsters and Lidsville) and Johnny Whitaker (Sigmund and the Sea Monster and Family Affair) will all be representing a mini-reunion of Sid and Marty Krofft Superstars. That will bring back Saturday Morning memories for me!
Lidsville <–Theme Song/Intro
Stepping forward two decades, Ian Ziering (Beverly Hills 90210) will be appearing and Ian Petrella, who played Randy on ‘A Christmas Story’. That should cover most famous people named Ian. There are plenty of other media guests and artists attending to fill up a full weekend, so this should be a fun excursion without the high cost of airline travel cross-country…although, there is not a more pleasant city on earth than San Diego, California.
You have a geek in your life and you are stuck on what to give them for Christmas. The last gift you bought them was a sweater and they gave you a look like Dark Phoenix gave Cyclops when Jean Grey was completely inhabited. Your problem is, you don’t even know what that last sentence means.
No need to fret. Your friendly neighborhood geeks are here to perform a little mutant magic this holiday season. Ashlee and I are going to give you some training that Master Yoda would’ve been jealous of. If you use the force…of shopping….you will survive the holidays and avoid the dark side.
iCade: Okay, so no one really NEEDS an iPad, but this ThinkGeek exclusive gives you another reason to justify the purchase. Using an old-school video arcade cabinet, this retro beauty comes with a fully functional joystick and arcade buttons. With more than 100 classic games available from the App store, that special geek in your life will be rockin’ Asteroids like it’s 1984. This time, without the mullet.
Han Solo ice cube tray: Another ThinkGeek gem lets you bring home every Star Wars fan’s favorite rebel smuggler in convenient 3-inch blocks. Freeze him, make him chocolately, just don’t call him scruffy. Jaba has several in his freezer, I’ve heard.
Holiday Yoda: Sideshow Collectibles offers the Jedi Master dressed in his holiday finest. Based on a 1981 greeting card, Holiday Yoda comes complete with an articulated body and over flowing sack of presents. You can find him at www.sideshowtoy.com
Star Wars cooking essentials: Williams-Sonoma offers several options for making Star Wars-themed goodies including Heroes and Villains cookie cutters, Darth Vader pancake molds Millennium Falcon sandwich cutters and an apron to keep your geek’s Stormtrooper uniform flour free!
The Big Bang Theory Seasons 1-4: Geeks appreciate a shout-out. The Big Bang Theory works very hard to keep geeks happy. This show is on every geek’s wishlist, if they don’t already have it, and can be found on amazon.com
Subscription to comic books: It’s not hard to find out what a geek’s favorite character is. What is hard is for them to keep up with that character all year long. You can get a gift subscription to their favorite comic book at www.marvel.com/comic_books or www.dccomics.com generally, they may have an independent company as a favorite as well.
Comic book original art: Looking for something a little more upscale in price? Something that you know they don’t have because there’s only one of it in the world? Something that will garner a single tear rolling down the face of that geek? Here’s your answer: Get them original comic book or comic strip artwork. There’s several affordable ways to do that, but almost all of them can be found at www.comicartshop.com
True Blood Busts: HBO has a certified hit on their hands with True Blood. DC Direct knows this, and has released individual, realistic busts of the characters who made blood sucking sexy. You can find the vampires your geek is craving for less than you’d think at www.dccomics.com/dcdirect/
Autographed movie poster or 8 x 10: Every geek is a geek because of a movie, a television series, or a book that turned them onto a universe they hadn’t been aware of before. With a certificate of authenticity and a signature, you can make your geek’s holiday special with a photo or poster of their favorite movie or television stars guaranteed to be just what the Doctor Who ordered. Don’t fall for knock-offs or copies, you can get originals at www.prestigeautographs.com
Lego sets: Trust me, Legos are not just for kids. There are Star Wars and Harry Potter Lego sets right now that would scare most children. There are Pirates of the Caribbean sets, Heroica sets, and DC Universe sets that will take an adult days to assemble. Prices vary, as do the level of difficulty, but the geek happiness never changes. You can check it out at www.lego.com
Doctor Who Lenticular Animated Chess Set: You don’t need to know what it is, as long as they know you care. If they like the good Doctor and British Science Fiction, then they need this more than a sweater. You can find it at www.thinkgeek.com/interests/giftsunder50/e8d3/
There you have it. Something for every price range and every style of geek. You don’t have much time left for shopping, you slacker, but you can do express delivery on most items in time for the holidays. Hope this helps bring some joy to those most deserving, the geeks.
One thing I didn’t know about Nitro Mayor Rusty Casto is that his favorite ‘Star Wars’ character is Darth Vader.
“Probably Vader. I like Vader. And then I like Luke. And then Yoda. They’re all pretty superb.”
Mayor Casto told me this on the phone Sunday afternoon. He called to talk to a reporter about his town’s “Star Wars” movie series running on six consecutive nights at the city pool. I happened to pick up the phone, so I chatted him up.
Me: “Darth Vader? Why do you like Vader?”
Mayor Casto: “He changes there at the end and saves his son’s life. When it’s all said and done he comes back to the good.”
OK, so he makes a good point there.
That could be why his favorite of the three original films is “Return of the Jedi.”
He speculated that George Lucas might not be finished with the film franchise.
“There’s also a seven, eight, nine that he’ll come out with one of these days. He says he’s not, but I think he will.”
I asked Mayor Casto how long he’s been a fan. He said he really wasn’t, not at first. The series grew on him.
“Well, I really didn’t start liking them until just before the second one, ‘The Empire Strikes Back.’ I liked the first one, and I thought it was all right. But then it came out on repeat, on HBO, and that’s when I started liking it.”
“They’re actually mythology. It’s Joseph Campbell who studied human societies and whatnot. This is what’s common in human societies. I just like the way it plays out.”
Nitro is running a different “Star Wars” movie every night at 9 o’clock at the Municipal Pool. Sunday’s movie was “A New Hope,” the original film.
During its theatrical release, moviegoers are introduced to Han Solo in the Mos Eisley Cantina on Tattooine as he’s subject of a shakedown by the bounty hunter Greedo. Originally, Han shoots Greedo under the table. In subsequent edits by George Lucas, Greedo shoots first, misfires at point blank range and then is shot by Han. It’s a controversial switch to which purists cry, “Han shot first!”
I asked Mayor Casto what version would be playing in Nitro. Who would shoot first — Greedo or Han?
“I don’t know. I’ll have to watch and see which one it shows.”
A couple dozen people have been attending the films each night. There’s still “Empire” on Monday and “Jedi” on Tuesday if you’d like to go.
Next year, Nitro might try a different film series.
“I’d like to do this every year,” Casto said. “We’ll have to see what the kids want. I’ll just ask the kids. Some people say they’d like to see Harry Potter over the course of seven nights.”
Can you wait an extra day for Star Wars: Episode 1 (“Dashed Hope”)?
The city of Nitro has postponed Episode 1 of its “Six Nights of Star Wars”which was supposed to be tonight (Wednesday, Aug. 3) because of inclement weather.
The first episode now will be shown at 9 p.m. Thursday in front of the Nitro Municipal Pool. The conclusion of the series, Episode 6, will be Tuesday night.
Free soft drinks and popcorn will be served.
For more information, contact Mayor Rusty Casto at 304-755-0705.