Category - Toys, Comics and CCGs

If you’re into that kind of stuff

My DC Descent into Obsession

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I have a confession that is probably going to knock a few points off of my geek-cred score… I’ve never really read much in the way of DC comics. In fact, the only things I really remember reading are The Watchmen and Batman: The Killing Joke. While it’s true I’ve seen all the Batman and Superman movies countless times, I never really read the comics. I was a Marvel guy as a kid, and for whatever reason I was firmly entrenched on that side of the Fanboy Mason-Dixon line. X-Men, New Mutants, X-Force, Spiderman, Punisher, Incredible Hulk, these were my gospel. I was a ‘true believer’, also known as a true belliwar.

Something peaked my interest lately, I’m not sure what it was. Maybe it’s been all the Dark Knight Rises talk in the nerdosphere, maybe it’s been the revamped Superman talk… I’m not sure. Something compelled me to sit down this weekend and start digging into those two universes and so far, it looks like I may be hooked.

First off I sat down this afternoon and watched Batman: Under the Red Hood on Netflix. I’ve caught a few minutes here and there of Batman: The Animated Series, but it never really grabbed me. I’m not sure if it was the visual style, or some lingering preconceptions I had about the DC Universe. Either way, this was my first time watching a WB Animation Batman movie.

Anyway, I won’t dance around it… this movie absolutely blew me away.  Not only was the animation of the highest caliber, but the story and characters were on a level far above anything I’ve ever seen in an animated series. I’ve already gone into Netflix and added every single available Batman title to my Instant Queue.

This compelled me to head over to my local Borders and pick up some DC Graphic Novels. After standing and staring at the shelf for a while I realized that I’ve missed out on a lifetime’s worth of stories and I really didn’t know where to start. I ended up picking up Superman: Earth One and Batman: The Long Halloween. I’m sure there might have been better choices, but I was going in with the eyes of a total DC noob.

I sat down and read through the entire Superman Earth One in just under an hour. So, I guess right there that says how much I enjoyed it. I’ve always found Superman to be a sort of (how shall I say this delicately) one-dimensional character. Don’t get me wrong, I love the hell out of the movies, I’ve just always felt like he less interesting than Batman.

I really enjoyed this retelling of Superman’s origin. It was much more interesting to see Superman as a reluctant, conflicted super hero rather than just flying into Metropolis one day and announcing he’s a hero. I’m not sure what direction they’re taking for the Zack Snyder reboot movie, but if this is any indication I may rescind my previous statements about it being a bad idea.

I’m glad I finally took the DC plunge, I feel like theres so much great content I’ve been missing out on. I’m already looking forward to picking up some more Superman Graphic Novels, I’m open to any suggestions from the DC Veterans around here. What should I pick up next?

Wizard World ’09 Philly

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Yesterday I headed over to Wizard World in Philly for the second time ever, but the first time as a regular guest. You might remember that Frank and I headed there about two years ago trying to plug Shamoozal.com. We were so under prepared for that event, with only a handful of flyers, some tiny character cut outs, a “Shamoozal” yellow table cloth, and a laptop that only ran for about two hours a day to actually show our shorts. Oh, and the stickers we wanted to hand out didn’t come until AFTER that weekend… and I’m still stuck with about 500 of the things all this time later. This year was all about just enjoying the show, which I didn’t have much of a chance to when we were trying to sell people on typing in our URL when they got home.

Wizard World isn’t really my thing since I’m not really into comic books. That is essentially the bulk of the show, a way for collectors to buy MORE comics and more toys. I love toys, but I chose not to look at them this year since I’m in the process of figuring out what to do with the current toys I already have. The good thing is that there is enough other stuff to still make it an interesting trip. For instance, getting to meet the friendly Newgrounds staff, the always great B-List celebrity alley, the more grass roots Artist alley, and of course lots of video game stuff. Oh, and plenty of cosplay and Jedi too.

This year the Newgrounds guys had a huge booth in the front of the show floor with lots of goodies to buy and several of their popular artists chatting it up and doing commission work. I introduced myself to Tom Fulp, the creator of Newgrounds and he seemed like a really nice and down to earth guy. It was nice being able to chat it up with him. I also had the chance to meet the extremely popular Egoraptor, which was a really fun encounter. Frank and I spoke with him for a bit about the show and Newgrounds in general. He’s a really nice guy and is about as quick witted as you’d expect. I also met Steve V (SardonicSamurai) who was also a really nice guy. There were a bunch of other regulars there that I saw but didn’t actually get to speak with like Swain, HappyHarry, and Tomamoto. To be quite honest, it was actually a really overwhelming moment for me because there were so many people there. What I can say is that is a pretty tight group and they came from all parts of the US to be there, which is pretty impressive and shows they’re dedicated to the brand that Fulp created. Pretty cool stuff, I look forward to running into those guys again and hopefully spending a bit more time with them.

Outside of that, Wizard World has added tons more gaming related stuff this year, with tournaments for a bunch of different games (Call of Duty, Halo 3, Smash Brothers), and many more vendor tables. The year we went there was only one (tiny) game vendor and a Sony booth with playable demos (Sony was a no show this year). I just love looking at all of the classic retro games, because there is seriously just so much interesting stuff to look at. Everything from boxed Atari games, Neo Geo systems, ancient unopened packs of Nintendo trading cards, and rare games. I ended up buying about seven NES games and a Genesis game for about 25 dollars total. I could have easily spent more (especially at those 3 for 10 tables) but I did pretty good in limiting myself. Still, it was tough passing up stuff like Contra Hard Corps, Ristar, Illusion of Gaia, and the original Kirby’s Dreamland. Still, it’s awesome just being able to see all this stuff. I’m definitely in my glory with all that stuff.

I always feel bad for the celebrities that show up to these cons where people literally walk by and look at them like they’re at the zoo. This year saw tons of celebrities like Edward James Olmos from Battlestar Galactica, plenty of wrestlers (like Honkey Tonk Man in full costume), Kristanna “The Terminatrix” Loken, and of course Bruce Leeroy himself, Taimak. It reminded me of that scene from the wrestler where The Ram goes to that signing and no one gives a shit. This obviously wasn’t as pathetic as that scene, but it still had a similar vibe. I mean, it must work out for them to some degree or else Virgil wouldn’t be showing up every single year. Still, I kind of feel bad for them. Well, aside from Ray Park, whom had a huge line of people waiting to meet him. Either people are still pumped up over the 5 minutes of iconic kick ass footage of him in Star Wars Episode 1 from over 10 years ago, or people are stoked about him as Snakeeyes. It’s probably a bit of both.

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Anyway so Taimak. I actually brought my Last Dragon DVD with me because god damn it, I was going to have this guy sign it for me. The Last Dragon is one of the secret best movies ever created. I watched it all the time as a kid even though I kind of hated it because I thought it was so ridiculous. Watching the movie again as an adult, I realize it’s supposed to be absolutely ridiculous and campy, and that’s why it works so well. It’s pretty much a classic in my eyes. So anyway, I approached Taimak at his rather empty table. His tabled was lined with photos and DVDs (I guess work out type DVDs) and I asked him how much for a signature in which he replied anything on his table was 10 dollars and anything I would have brought would be 20. I’m sorry, but 20 dollars for a signature, to me, is just kind of outlandish, and he was one of the cheaper guys. By comparison, Edward James had some ridiculous 100 dollar package going on. Yikes. So I told him that I did have the DVD with me but that I was low on money. At that point he said “You know, that’s fine, I’ll do it.” So he signed my DVD for 10 and made sure he pointed out that he wrote “To Phil, Keep Glowing!” in which I laughed and said that was awesome. At this point I guess he got pumped up, came out from around his booth, gave everyone with me a handshake, asked if I wanted to get a photo with him, and he even told us how he partied way to hard the night before and that the day was really tough. Yeah, it was kind of awesome. Oh and he’s still jacked as shit.

One thing I’ll never understand is all the people dressed as Jedi that go out to these things and just sword fight the whole time. From what I can tell, no one is asking them to come to these things and perform. They just kind of show up and do their thing, because it’s not like these people are professional sword fighters. They just go out there and twirl their plastic light sabers around and act awesome. So I mean, are they doing this to try and impress people, or just because they’re having fun? I guess I just don’t get it. Part of me thinks “Well they’re not hurting anyone and just having fun.” But the other part of me thinks they want people to see how awesome they are because why else would they just perform at a public thing like this? I don’t know, but if I were them, I would have been pretty embarrassed pretending to use a light saber when the real deal, Ray Park, is sitting 10 feet away from them. I wonder what he thinks of this stuff? Whatever, I guess in the end it really does just come to down them having fun and not really hurting anyone, so yeah.

Anyway, Wizard World was a pretty good time overall. The 35 dollar ticket at the door was a little shitty, but hey, I got to experience a lot of geekery and had fun for the few short hours I was around there for.

Still collecting TMNT stuff 20 something years later

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I guess my love for the Ninja Turtles will never truly fade. I’ve loved the Turtles since the second or third grade and while I didn’t really follow the comics, newer animated series, and the terrible live action series, I’ll always have a special spot for them.

As a grown adult, I still enjoy my fair share of TMNT merchandise. A buddy of mine handed me this super sweet “Artobiography” about the original TMNT comics that is full of all sorts of great content. The book is packed with tons of drawings, story boards, character designs, and behind the scenes insight all compiled by Kevin Eastman himself. It’s a great book, even if looking at it now shows me that Eastman and Laird weren’t exactly the greatest artists. That doesn’t matter because their idea was so solid, and their work ethic so dedicated that they were able to take TMNT from their small apartment and turn it into a world wide phenomenon that has become ingrained in culture as much as anything from Marvel or DC.

Second, I ordered a beat up copy of TMNT: Fall of the Footclan for the original Gameboy for a whole six cents off eBay. The thing looks like it’s been through a bomb blast, but I cleaned it up, threw some double A’s into the old green beast and played through the first stage of the game. I loved this game back when it came out, but it’s a rather average action game these days. Since I didn’t want to deal with the ancient Gameboy screen, I ended up playing through the whole game using Super Gameboy. There was some great TMNT fan service in here including lots of great stills right out of the pilot episode of the cartoon. Sure, it’s really dated now, but back then Gameboy games just didn’t have graphics that looked like the real deal.

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On top of all that, I was also handed a cardboard box full of over 30 loose TMNT action figures. To be quite honest, I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to do with these things. I was doing really well in my quest to sell or throw out all of my old action figures and now this comes along. I’ll likely pick through it and grab some of the figures I really want, like the original four Turtles, and Mecha Turtle. Mecha Turtle was the first TMNT figure I ever had when I was growing up, so that figure in particular means a little something to me, and even though I still have my original, he doesn’t have any limbs. It is kind of crazy that I had most of the figures that are in this box at some point in time, so it was actually worth the memories alone.

Being that this is the 25th Anniversary of TMNT, this year in particular is seeing the release of all sorts of cool TMNT stuff that I’m tempted to grab. There’s a bunch of new action figures, DVD releases, and even screenings of the original film at certain theaters. What I’m interested in however is the new Smash Brothers inspired TMNT game for Wii from Game Arts, which could be something worth looking into. Then there is the recent announcement of the Turtles in Time remake for Xbox 360 and PS3. While I’m pretty turned off by the artistic approach to the game (the game loses much of it’s charm with it’s new 3D graphics), I’ll probably get it and enjoy the hell out of it.

So yeah, I still love TMNT and at this point, I probably will for the rest of my life. Cowabunga dude.

Transformers 2 and G.I. Joe trailers tonight

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So during the Superbowl tonight, we’re supposed to be treated to new official trailers for both Transformers 2 and G.I. Joe. It’s kind of fitting that the both of these are shown in this manner as I remember the two franchises coming on almost simultaneously back in the 80’s. Myself, I fell in love with robots that turn into cars, planes, and guns as opposed to a bunch of misfits dressed in silly fatigues ejecting out of helicopters.

Think about that on there for a second, and you’ll realize that these franchises are simply steeped in the ridiculous. It doesn’t cease to amaze me that people from my generation don’t seem to grasp this concept. For example, I just read a comment from someone on Comingsoon.net that went something along the lines of “I hope they don’t ruin my childhood”.

Now think about THAT one for a second as well. How can any of these big budgeted Hollywood films even come close to doing any of the original material for these properties any justice when they are already based on ludicrous ideas. The fact that there are giant sentient robots from another planet that can somehow turn into a firetrucks, and no one even notices until it starts shooting lasers from its headlights is insane. No one in G.I. Joe ever dies…well, Duke came close to death in the animated feature from the 80’s, but he came through. The premise of these shows is paper thin in the first place.

The fact is, just about EVERY animated series from the 80’s was nothing more than a giant 22 minute commercial designed to sell toys. The sole purpose of killing off a large majority of the original characters in the animated Transformers feature from the 80’s was solely to introduce a new toy line. This trend continued even beyond the animated Transformer feature when they once again attempted to change the line by introducing the Power Masters and Head Masters. This was when I started to loose interest in Transformers, and apparently I wasn’t alone as it was around this time period when Transformers’ popularity began to decline. The claim that these new live-action features based on our cherished childhood make-believe friends is nothing more than an easy cash grab by Hollywood is…well, exactly right. However, it isn’t anything new, and is really nothing more or less than what G.I. Joe (its 80’s iteration anyway) or Transformers was intended for in the first place.

I’ll try to post the trailers here when they become available.

More cool toys from Japan – Nintendo mystery eggs

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Usually when I buy a gift, I’m just happy I was able to come up with something to give someone. I feel like with age, I’m getting worse at buying gifts for people. My wife on the other hand, she’s not only good at buying cool gifts, but she even goes the extra mile and throws in little things you wouldn’t think about. Case in point, attached to my Christmas gifts this year was a Mario Galaxy Star Bit charm for my DS (she picked a Red one, to match my Red/Black Lite) and this Nintendo mystery figure. This mystery figure is awesome, and I wish they were available domestically because I’d probably buy a bunch of them.

Each mystery egg comes in it’s own box (above) and is all wrapped up in foil. Removing the foil reveals a chocolate egg…

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Once you unwrap the egg, it’s now time to crack it open.

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As you can see, inside the chocolate egg is a red capsule, this is where the prize is. Also note that the inside of the chocolate egg is coated with white chocolate, making for a rather delicious treat if I do say so myself. Now it’s time to pop open the capsule, would could be inside?

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Awesome, it’s Luigi! The fun of getting these things is that you don’t know what you’re going to get. Usually each figure requires a bit of assembly, which makes it fun to put the character together (even if it does take less than 30 seconds). So yeah, this thing is pretty awesome. Not only is there a delicious treat involved, but you get a cool figure with it too.

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Hooray for odd inventions.

Jack Bauer figure in the house

Bauer_smallI was over at the local mall today buying myself a new pair of glasses. I decided to take a trip to Samgoody, aka the most over priced store on the planet, and see if they had anything cool. Samgoody is an awful store by the way. I was trying to browse through their Playstation collection and it was a nightmare. Nothing is in order, it’s this mix of old and new product, and everything is ridiculously expensive. There was a used copy of Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter which looked like it was wrapped up in a shit, and was going for 20 dollars, where as I bought a copy for myself at Gamestop a few months ago for 6.99.

Unfortunately, there are no more specialty shops in this mall, so this store is the only place where you’ll find cool American and Japanese toys that you likely won’t find at Toys R Us. Case in point, the new Jack Bauer figure from McFarlene. I wrote about this figure before, but it looks like it finally came out. At 20 bucks, it’s a little steep. Problem is, even if I found this thing on the net for cheaper, I’d probably still end up paying around 20 dollars with shipping. Since I’ve been looking so flipping forward to this figure, I didn’t mind the price so much. Heck, I’m on vacation too, I’m allowed to toss away some money if I want (glasses not included).

Of course he doesn’t look as good as the prototype, but it’s damn close. The problem is I don’t really have room for this figure anywhere. I’m debating taking it out of the box, not that I’m anal about that stuff, but sometimes certain figures look better packaged. This one might be one of them. For the Bauer fan, it doesn’t get much cooler than this.

Next Level Videogames = Gamer bliss

In South Jersey, there aren’t many options when it comes to buying rare and classic video games. Obviously we can look up anything we want to on eBay, but nothing beats browsing around, holding items, looking at them, and salivating over their very presence. High off my Gamestop haul from a few months back, I asked an acquaintance where I could find old Dreamcast games (since the one Gamestop was clearing out DC titles, but only rubbish like NFL2k). He pointed me towards Next Level Videogames, a privately owned joint that was apparently only 30 minutes away from my house.

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The Great Wall 

I never ended up checking the place out, but for some reason I’m completely obsessing over the PS2 game Gradius V, so in an attempt to find the title I decided to take a ride down to Next Level Games. While I didn’t find a copy of Gradius, it was totally worth the trip and checking out the store. I nearly passed out when I held a boxed copy of Super Mario Brothers 2 for the NES (used, but still decent condition all things considered), and when I turned around to find a section of import titles including stuff from the Dreamcast, Famicom, Super Famicom, and PC Engine, I nearly had a heart attack. I hadn’t felt the urge to spend so much money since I stumbled upon Super Potato back in Japan. Along the floor lie bundles of classic and modern consoles, including Sega Saturns, TurboGrafx, and even old Atari units. The moment I saw the Saturn, my mind started racing and I asked the clerk if they had any copies of Radiant Silvergun, had he said yes I seriously would have bought it and the Saturn (plus it doesn’t help that I have a copy of NiGHTS sitting on top of my PC, waiting to be played).

Those weren’t the only classics either, the place had boxed copies of Atari and Odyssey games, along with the consoles to play them on. Heck, they even had a rack of Sega CD and 3DO games. One corner of the store was dedicated solely to portables, with games from all the Gameboys (including Virtual Boy), Game Gear and even the stinkin’ Lynx. I almost consider getting Wario Land for Virtual Boy just to see if the unit really did have something worth playing.

When all was said and done, I only walked out of the store with a copy of NES Tetris (the best Tetris ever I might add) and a Japanese “mystery box” figure (they had a decent lot of collectibles as well). I felt kind of bad looking through just about all of their merch and not buying much, but I seriously had to resist the urge to buy stuff like a maniac. I totally plan on going back sometime soon, and I advise anyone who loves classic games and lives in the Southern Jersey area to check the store out.

For more info check out Next Level Video Games at their website or Myspace.

Wizard World Philly Style 2007 – Day 2

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Whew! What a weekend so far. Today was the second day of the convention and foot traffic picked up a whole hell of alot in general from yesterday. There are tons and tons of toys and comic books to look through that if you were a hardcore comic-head, you’d loose your mind.

There’s all kinds of stuff going on. Sony has a pretty cool section with a bunch of playable games for all their platforms like “Lair” for the PS3 and “God of War” on the PS2. Unfortunately, we dont get much time to peruse the isles as we’re off to the side away from all the commercial tables and booths. There are a bunch of panels and what-nots happening from industry professionals. There’s a whole bunch of cos-players walking around, but most of the time I forget I have a camera and I don’t get to take their picture. However, we DID have a run-in with a particularly famous internet-celeb that we’re just gonna’ have to tell you all about later.

So in short, the con is going pretty well for us at The Shamoozal. We’re not exactly widely known. Most passerby’s look at our characters and don’t think much of them because they’re not your classic, comic book super hero, nor are they highly rendered artwork with cross hatching and shading. Most people don’t understand that these are ANIMATED characters that actually move, and that the characters are simple in design for this purpose. However, we do get some people when they walk by and see our work they get it. They like what they see and understand it. A few people even recognized our shorts and some actually laughed at a joke in them. Of course, this makes us feel all warm and giddy inside that I promptly peed myself like a child. Hah.

Well, that’s all for now. I just wanted to do a quick and dirty update and let all the Shamoozalites in on what’s up. We’re planning on going into all the nitty gritty after the dust settles from this weekend so hang tight for more updates.

If you’re in the Philadelphia area and are reading this, make sure you stop by our table in Artist’s Alley at table 1607 and say hello. We’ll even kick out a sketch or two for ya at rock bottom prices ahahahahahah.

On to Day 3!