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Archive for the ‘Comic Con’ Category

For the past several-to-many years I’ve dreamed of displaying my art in a booth at Comic Con. Imagine! Over 100,000 people bustling past, taking in my photos and seeing my videos. Each year I dutifully submit my application and wait for the inevitable notification that the convention floor is full, but I’m in the queue for next year — and the next, and the next, and the next. If there is one thing Comic Con vets can relate to it is lines. Really, really long lines. Lines to enter the building, lines to get autographs, lines to buy overpriced concessions (the line at Starbucks inside the convention center is legendary), and seemingly endless lines of people hoping against their better judgement to ever set foot in Hall H. So to be on a waiting list for booth space is more or less to be expected. And that’s exactly where I’ve been for the past four or five years.

Well, guess what?

ArtExpo Map

Where is ArtExpoSD? Here!

Nooooo… I don’t have a booth at this year’s Comic Con, but I do have the next best thing: I’ll have a space at ArtExpo SD — a first-of-its-kind event coinciding with the first three days of Comic Con and taking place just a few short strides from the convention center at the historic Wonder Bread Factory:

Wonder Bread Factory
121 14th Street
San Diego, California

Yep, right over the footbridge and across the big parking lot next to Petco Park. In fact, you may actually find your car closer to the wonders of ArtExpo than to the actual convention center!

Oh yeah, and did I mention that admission to ArtExpo SD is… free? Oh yes! I just did!

And what will you find at ArtExpo?

ArtExpo SD — The Art Show

The first floor of ArtExpo SD will feature a curated exhibition of work from emerging artists around the world, including an impressive lineup of names you know, and names you are soon to know. The exhibition continues a long tradition of world class art events that have popped up in San Diego to coincide with Comic Con — each an extension of this annual celebration of the creative arts. Past events have included an impressive collection of amazing art, and — if sneak peek are to be believed (and they usually are!) — the launch of ArtExpo SD should prove to be no different!

ArtExpo SD — The Exhibition Hall

On the second floor of the Wonder Bread Factory, Art Expo SD will play host to dozens of artists and DIY denizens showing off their creative spark. Expect an art fair-ish atmosphere of exhibitors and booths — minus the greasy food and guys trying to sell you terry cloth rags. Think of it was a intimate collection of all your favorite stuff: painting, photography, handmade marvels galore, all in one convenient place.

Tell me more!

Where can you get more information? Social media, of course! Drop by the ArtExpoSD Facebook page for more information, including the scoop on how to get into the opening night VIP party!

Shameless Self-promoting Sneak Peek

Yep, I’m going to taking place in the event, with a brand spanking new photo on exhibit in the first floor gallery, and a booth of creative wonders located on the second. Expect videos, vinyl records, and a few entertaining surprises, so come on by and say hello!

And while I have your attention, here’s my own quick sneak peek at what I’ll have on display.

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You may recall a post from back in 2012 where I totally lusted over an amazing product I saw displayed behind glass at Comic-Con — a working replica of a Mystic Seer fortune telling machine made famous in a 1960 episode of the Twilight Zone starring William Shatner. The price of the Mystic Seer was exorbitant, so I sadly left the convention center  vowing to someday own a Mystic Seer of my very own.

The memory of the Mystic Seer haunted me with no end. Questions loomed! Thoughts of mysteries revealed swirled in my mind! How could I possibly continue to live KNOWING that a Mystic Seer could be guiding my every decision? Finally, I broke down, scouring the internet for the Mystic Seer I had spotted at the Con. Amazon, of course, had an outrageously priced after-market version, but not actually having a Mystic Seer to which I could pose the question “is this a good deal?” I had no choice but to pass. Then, I spotted the Mystic Seer at Entertainment Earth for the same price that had tempted me at Comic-Con. I placed my order in July and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Each month, it seemed, I would receive an email from Entertainment Earth updating me on the stays of my order: estimated release date is September 2013… estimated release date is October 2013… estimated release date is November 2013…. Without fail, release was always perpetually just one month away, until one day I received an email that said “your item has shipped.”

How exciting! And, yes, the happy day has finally come! I have a Mystic Seer of my very own!

Ask me a YES or NO question

Ask me a YES or NO question

Now that I have a Mystic Seer (which, by the way, only takes pennies, but what a bargain!) I feel as though I have the weight of the entire universe pressing upon my shoulders, as the prophetic powers of the Mystic Seer cannot be taken lightly! Oh, sure, I could be asking the Mystic Seer some of the trite questions posed on the instructions to the right:

  • Does she love me? (doubtful)
  • Will I become rich? (well, I can afford a Mystic Seer)
  • Is my future bright? (of course!)

But I believe it is my sworn duty to be asking the Mystic Seer questions that will reveal futures that will benefit all of humankind. My pledge to you, the regular readers of my blog, is to regularly ask the Mystic Seer important questions to guide our collective pop culture lives and actions. Who knows, the Mystic Seer may eventually have his own prognostication web site!

The first question posed to the Mystic Seer (which actually took place yesterday morning): Who will win the Super Bowl? 

There you have it! The Mystic Seer CORRECTLY picked the winner of the 2014 Super Bowl!! If this is not proof positive to the Mystic Seer’s window into the future of the unknown, I don’t know what is!!

The Mystic Seer!

The Mystic Seer!

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Okay, I lied.

As you may recall from my last Comic-Con report, I promised that my next post (this one) would be all about celebrities, but having surveyed my gallery of yet-to-be-posted photos I tallied 57 images of various celebrities (though not, actually, 57 different celebrities) and only 10 photos of costumed Con attendees. So, in the spirit of posting sooner-than-later, I’ve opted to put Hollywood’s finest off for a few more days and instead share images of people dressed as bats, cats, and… splat (to be explained in a moment).

To begin… what the hell?!?! 57 photos of celebrities and only ten measly photos of costumes? Shouldn’t those numbers be reversed? In past years, yes, definitely, but after the many years I’ve been attending the Con with camera in tow, the costumes have sort of become a blur, so I’m seldom motivated to haul out my camera and snap yet another picture of Wonder Woman, Batman, Princess Leia, miscellaneous Storm Troopers, and assorted gentlemanly Steam Punks. Does this mean that the costumes I captured this year are phenomenal beyond belief? No! This means that my threshold for costume photos have concentrated on the weird and different. So don’t expect shots worthy of the grand prize at the Comic-Con Masquerade Ball.

Instead… you get this guy:

Literally, a Cat In The Hat hat

Each year I take at least one or two photos of people queued up on the concrete floor of the Sails Pavilion awaiting early entry to the exhibition hall. What’s not to like about a Cat In The Hat checking his Facebook status on a smart phone wearing big white radiation goggles? Most interesting to me about Mousier Cat are the three rubber bracelets he has around his left wrist. What sort of statement might the Cat In The Hat be making, and is the presence of Rubber Statement Bracelets part of the costume… or an expression of the guy wearing what had to be an incredibly toasty costume?

Next up is a strange group of costumed revelers in line to see Tim Burton’s appearance in Hall H. Ignoring, for the moment, the fact that Burton’s rather dull Alice In Wonderland came out in theaters at least two Comic Cons back, did this quartet really think Alice’s entourage would be more effective with three of Johnny Depp’s cartoonish Mad Hatters? Then again, they did attract a lot of photo attention (and went straight to the front of the line when it came time to ask questions of Tim Burton, who looked both amused and troubled by the trio).

Not one, not two, but THREE Mad Hatters!

I’m not sure what they were looking at here. Though, given the slightly cheeky expression of Mad Hatter #2, it was probably another photo request.

Examining the conference guide in search of a medic

No matter how well you think you’ve planned your day, zipping from hall to hall, or snaking your way through the crowds on the floor of the exhibition hall, even the most organized of attendees will find the need to sneak off into a private corner to catch a breath or check the massive conference program for panel times or other important information. Here, a woman walking through the hall was suddenly struck down by an Alien chest-burster and apparently was in dire need of medical attention.

Back down on the exhibition floor it was sometimes difficult to differentiate between those wearing costumes because that’s how they chose to dress to attend the Con, and those who were paid to promote products or otherwise lure you into a booth—the latter case generally noted by someone young, attractive, scantily clad, and usually trying to hand you something. The ego-stroking novelty of a leggy Laura Croft smiling in my direction for a photo has long worn off this Comic-Con vet, so I seldom stop for posed photos on the floor of the exhibit hall. Besides, all she really wants is for me to help her meet her postcard distribution quota.

I make exceptions, though, when an inflatable Stay Puft Marshmallow Man—paid or not!—is dancing to LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” in the Sony booth.

A dancing, inflatable Stay Puft marshmallow man

I also stopped for this photo; unsure, though, whether or not the duo in wintry fluorescent orgy-wear (yes, their faux-fur glowed and changed colors!) were authentic Con attendees or merely pitching a project. They were wearing “professional” badges, so I would normally suspect the latter…. Though they were walking the hall accompanied by the carnivalesque creature wearing stilts you see in the middle. In any case, I’d never seen illuminated parkas before, so why take chances?

Glowing fluorescent winter wear for the exhibit hall

Bat Girl playing a video game

As you might guess, Batman was big at Comic-Con 2012, with Caped Crusaders emerging from the shadows in every aisle. There were tall Batmen, short Batmen, fat Batmen and skinny Batmen (by the way, is the correct plural of Batman, Batmen, or Batmans?). To the right is one of the younger Bat fanatics, here dressed as Batgirl at the controls of an X-Men pinball machine.

Outside the convention center was a sprawling display of Batmobiles from each of the Batman films. The coolest Batmobile of all-time is, of course, the original Batmobile from the 1960’s TV series, pictured below beside a leather-clad, whip-wielding Batgirl. Hard to tell if Ms. Buckles’n’Boots was a sanctioned, licensed, or otherwise official Batgirl working the event… or simply a fan who wanted to squeeze into some polished leather for a day in the San Diego sun. In any case, kudos for being in the right place at the right time (even though she closed her eyes for this shot).

S&M Batgirl posing with the original Batmobile

The next photo was taken in line for Hall H and nicely captures what it is like to wait for hours, and hours, and hours, for a chance to get inside the nice air conditioned hall for a panel of your favorite Hollywood stars and directors.

Does a paper hat make you a Hobbit?

Is this guy technically wearing a costume? No, not at all. But I admire his use of a giveaway paper Hobbit hat to shield himself from the blazing sun. You may be thinking to yourself, Gee! That looks like a really swell paper hat! However did he get such a cool giveaway? And it goes so nicely with his cargo shorts and sneakers…. How did he get the hat? Why—of course!—he waited in a veeeeery long line inside the exhibition hall. Genius! Wait in a long line inside, so you can be comfortable in an even longer line outside. Makes sense to me, and I’m sure his prized cardboard hat (so convincingly designed to resemble a soot-dusted wizards cap) is either now on display in his dorm room, or…crushed and dented beneath a bed of Coors Light empties in a recycling bin.

Last, but not least, my absolute favorite costume photo of Comic Con 2012! As frequent readers will certainly note, I have a finely tuned sense of Vinyl Radar that beep! beep beeps! whenever vinyl LPs are close at hand. Thrift store bins call my name. Garage sales beckon like a GPS beacon on weekend drives through my neighborhood. Vintage vinyl abounds!

But Comic-Con?

Much to my surprise, as I walked the far reaches of the exhibition hall I suddenly found my vinyl sixth sense honing in on a very faint signal. I followed, blindly navigating the crowded aisle as the signal pulsed stronger. And there before me—voila!—stood a lone crate of sci fi and cartoon themed vintage LP’s. Make that, “very expensive and overpriced” sci fi and cartoon themed vintage LP’s. I flipped through the bin, stopping here and there to gaze at an interesting cover or two, but there wasn’t anything I couldn’t live without. I walked away.

No sooner had I left the bin, up stepped Snow White to peruse the records at the exact spot where I had left off—a 1967 copy of The Music of Walt Disney, on Buena Vista Records. She lifted the precious record from the plastic bin, gazing at the picture on the cover with loving wonder. How could I possibly miss this opportunity?!?!

Snow White with Disney vinyl!

And with that, is there really anything more to say about costumes at this year’s Comic-Con? Surely, no!

Next time… celebrities! (Maybe)

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Welcome back to my recap of Comic-Con 2012 and the second half of our journey through the vast tract of vendor booths on the floor of the exhibition hall! As you’ll recall from part one, my Comic-Con shopping cart was completely empty after encountering one high ticket disappointment after another.

Today, we’ll change all that.

Yes, in fact, I did manage to find a few awesome items to buy that fit quite nicely within my modest budget. No, nothing as grand as a Mystic Seer or The Private Life of Helen of Troy, but I’m very happy with the odd and unique purchases I scrounged from the dealer room. For example, this:

Naughty swiveling seated belly dancer figure from the 50s (?)

What is it, you wonder? Near as I can figure, it is a titillating amusement from the 1950’s that was probably sold from under the counter at stores that specialized in men’s magazines. The base is made of wood and the figure is some kind of very soft rubber. Beneath the base is a short, rotating metal handle, which—as you turn the handle back and forth—causes the beige little beauty on top to wiggle and dance!

Don’t believe me? See for yourself…

We pause here for readers to catch their collective breaths and take a quick cold shower

I guarantee that this talented lass will make it into one of my photos very, very soon!

One booth I aways make a point of visiting is Cards and Comics Central, a cool little store from San Francisco that sells lots of fun miniatures imported from Japan. Last year I bought a pair of mystery boxes containing human body parts, and this year I was excited to see a second series of similar mystery boxes available at the show! Now, the problem with these mystery boxes is that you never quite know what you’re getting, as the boxes are glued shut and don’t indicate what is inside, instead tantalizing the shopper with pictures of what might be contained within. The series includes the 7 different body parts seen on the box, plus a super secret mystery organ.

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The picture on the front is, of course, the most coveted of all possible prizes, and last year I scored by finding the human torso featured on the face. This year, I expected nothing less than the skinless musculature-man you see in the slideshow above.

You might think that the act of selecting a mystery box is as random as the spin of a roulette wheel. Not so! There is an art and a strategy to increase the odds of finding what you desire. No, shaking the boxes does not help; there is padding inside and every box responds silently to insistent jostling. Luckily, the weight from one box to the next varies considerably, and no doubt the muscle man would be one of the heavier items. I carefully weighed each box, grouping them into heavy and light boxes, then bought one of each so I’d be guaranteed that the contents would be different (nothing worse than duplicate body parts!).

Upon returning home following day one, I broke the seal on the heavier of my two mystery boxes to find…

Teeth. Not exactly what I was looking for. Oh, sure, they are nice teeth, but they are still merely teeth and not as satisfying as an entire flayed body.

Box two revealed a human hand reaching into the air and stripped of skin and muscle to show all the bones and tendons within. Again, nice, and I have a lot of respect for the mechanics of hands (which are currently dancing madly upon the keys of my laptop as I type this post), but not anatomically spectacular.

Returning to the exhibition hall for day two I beelined to Cards and Comics Central and found another full display of body parts. Today’s strategy would be a little different. I’d neglected to notice that the mystery box containing the teeth was bottom heavy. Argh!! Big, glaring oversight! Surely, a mystery as glorious as a WHOLE BODY would be equally weighted from top to bottom. Again I separated all the boxes, weeding out the light items, then went about testing to see which boxes would balance like a see-saw atop an index finger fulcrum. Only an engineer would apply physics to the otherwise simple task of selecting a toy figure….

After much concentration and observation I finally selected what I believed to be the most evenly balanced of all the heavy mysteries.

Apparently, a uterus is very balanced, because my mystery box contained a uterus. Ah! But not just any uterus… a uterus with a removable baby!!! He (I think, I haven’t checked) is all pink and fetal-like, and tucked snugly away behind a removable pelvic bone. Yay!!

Body parts from the three mystery boxes I bought (the eye was from Comic-Con 2011)

Comic-Con has long been one of my sources for the finest in provocatively titled and illustrated pulp magazines and novels. Past events have unearthed such treasures as Eastern Shame Girl, The Love Toy, and Illicit Wife, all of which have served as essential background scenery for my fine art photographs. Though it is unfortunately becoming more difficult to find pulp vendors at the Con, as all the little mom’n’pop vendors of the cool and unusual seem to be getting squeezed off of the floor by big time movie studios, but I did manage to find a couple of booths offering a small but outstanding selection of tawdry tales.

For I Have Sinned, 1955

At Bud Plant (a Comic Con fixture) I discovered the sultry selection to the left, For I Have Sinned — The confession of a Paris streetwalker, by Ruth Sachs. I already have a photo in mind that will use this cover as an essential element of the background imagery. This cover so moved me that I was immediately inspired to scan the web for something with a similar composition: pink night gown, dark green backdrop, but with the model on the left instead of the right. How specific is that?!?! And guess what? I found one! Both will appear in an upcoming photo, so keep your eyes open for future announcements.

There were actually a ton of other cool titles at the Bud Plant booth, and I had a nice little stack of pulps going before I whittled my purchases down to only two: For I Have Sinned, and…

The Son of the Grand Eunuch — Charles Pettit, 1949

Complete and unabridged… oooooooooo! I’ll leave it you, Patient Reader, to contemplate the genealogy that would be required to produce the son of a grand eunuch.

Another of my favorite booksellers is Altair 4 Collectibles, located in Orange, California. They always have a cool selection of rare books and sci fi pulps. I picked up the two vintage magazines you see below: Astounding Science Fiction from January 1947, and Fantastic from October 1956.

Astounding Science Fiction — January 1947

Fantastic, Volume 5 — October 1956

Call me crazy, but I’m a sucker for “red scare” literature and any story that involves a well-mannered business man materializing into a women’s locker room.

Question: When did t-shirts become so bloody expensive?

Answer: When the Comic-Con staff discovered that people would be willing to line up in the hundreds for ticket vouchers that would entitle them to buy a conference t-shirt at some later time when shirts were again “in stock”—or so I was told by someone standing in the endless line at the Comic-Con souvenir booth.

I’m not sure what the Con was charging for official conference shirts, but the going rate elsewhere in the hall seemed to be $20 to $30 for custom t-shirts, with occasional price breaks if you chose to buy a whole wardrobe of witty T’s to bring envy to your friends and coworkers. I suppose this is a bargain compared to the $40-and-up price charged these days at most rock concerts, but still…

IT’S A T-SHIRT!!!

Enough complaining! We know you bought at least one t-shirt. After all, weren’t t-shirts and shorts the mainstay of your “business” wardrobe during all those years you worked as an engineer?

Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster T-shirt

Yes, okay, I shouldn’t be whining, because I did find a couple of incredibly cool t-shirts, and I definitely did get my money’s worth, and (one more time) I do plan on selling my own similarly priced T’s when I eventually have a booth at the show.

So, what did I get? Two incredibly cool shirts from the fine folks at the Retro-A-Go-Go. Robots! Pin-ups! B-Movies and horror pulps! That’s my kind of booth!

To the right is t-shirt number one, which reproduces poster art from Frankenstein meets the Space Monster. Yes, it’s a real movie! No, I’ve never seen this 1965 “classic”, but I invite you to checkout the trailer!

I have no idea what the source is for the second t-shirt, Dr. Yen Syn Fortune Teller, which you see below. But isn’t it just too, too, too cool?!?!? Imagine what psychic powers I will have while wearing this shirt! Oh, and to think of how unbounded my cosmic powers might have been with the Dr. Yen Syn shirt AND the Mystic Seer machine!! No doubt, the Universe has conspired against me out of malice and jealousy, to limit my ultimate power.

::: sigh :::

Dr. Yen Syn Fortune Teller T-shirt

That’s it for my trip around the exhibition hall. Hope you enjoyed the shopping!

Up next: Celebrity sightings!

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July already? Well boys and girls, you know what that means… Comic-Con! I’ve been attending the annual pop culture fest for more years than I care to remember, and owe a large chunk of my sublime collection of Weird & Unusual Things to exhaustive hours wandering the darkest corners of the cavernous exhibition hall. Without Comic-Con, many of my very best photos would not have been possible, as the exhibition hall has been the source of everything from Frankenstein flashlights and lascivious lobby cards, to plastic body parts and scandalous paperbacks.

How was the shopping at this year’s event?

Hold on tight as we snake our way through the costume-filled aisles and take a look at some of the wonderful things that tempted (and sometimes defeated) my wallet!

Original Beatle Bobbleheads — $950!!

Our first stop is at a vintage booth near the front of the hall where I spotted the above set of original Beatles bobblehead dolls from the early 1960’s. Those of you familiar with my photography have no doubt seen the smaller (and far more sadistic looking) version of these dolls in many of my conceptual art pieces (examples here and here). This figures are much larger, and actually bear a reasonable resemblance to the Fab Four. Best of all, they were RIGHT THERE on the faux velvet tablecloth where anyone could pick them up or tap their bobbling brows to watch them nod along to whatever Beatle classic that might be floating through your head. Under those circumstances, and with the really good stuff saely locked up behind glass… how expensive could these really be, right?

Try $950. There. On the table.

No, I did not buy them. But I did make their heads bobble. Ooooooooooooooooooo!

The Private Life of Helen of Troy — John Erskine, 1947 edition

Having just saved myself almost a thousand dollars, I was now empowered to seek out more reasonably priced collectibles and ventured into one of the dwindling few booths that still sell vintage pulps and paperbacks. There, I was very excited to feast my eyes on the incredible paperback to the right. Oh wow!! Just the kind of thing I would buy! Well, except for one problem, quickly corrected as I fumbled for my reading glasses to better make sense of the price sticker.

$50?!?! Hopes dashed! Magnificence shattered! Desire unsatisfied!

Another cool item that did not pass the wallet test, but I took a photo of the cover all the same for a couple of very good reasons:

  1. It’s just so cool!
  2. To collect as much information on the book as possible, as the search now begins for a more affordably priced copy.
  3. The author… John Erskine! Coincidence of coincidences, John Erskine was the author of another amazing book that just so happens to be a feature player in my most recent photograph!! Is it any wonder that Erskine wrote The Influence of Women… and its cure, after putting Helen of Troy in a Victoria’s Secret catalog?

Quick! Run with me from this booth before reverse buyer’s remorse gets the best of me!

Onward we trudge through the sweaty masses and stumble upon…

Mystic Seer fortune telling machine!

OH MY GOD IT’S A MYSTIC SEER MACHINE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Just like that famous Twlight Zone Episode starring William Shatner (Are we going to live in this country?). They actually worked and dispense fortunes on specially printed Mystic Seer cards.

How long have I wanted—no, needed—a Mystic Seer machine of my very own? Wait, that’s not a Yes or No question and the Mystic Seer would be of no use. Let us rephrase: Would a Mystic Seer machine make my life even more wonderful than it already is??? The answer, of course, would not be the usual read-what-you-will mystic ambiguity; it would be a resounding YES!

Oh… but as you can see from the photo, the Mystic Seer was locked up in a glass case, and that spells dollar signs that would require an affirmative response to question number two on the boldly printed examples. Worse, to the left of this traditional red Mystic Seer was a limited edition silver model (signed by William Shatner, by the way!), and while any color but red could not possibly be trusted to lend guidance on one’s mystic journey, the mere presence of a limited edition model had to add up to big bucks.

In this case: Glass Case = $250 for the red model, or $500 for the limited edition.

So, no, I do not have a Mystic Seer sitting here beside me that—for the bargain price of a copper penny—would be able to predict whether or not you, the reader, are enjoying this post. I just have to wing it.

But I will, someday, have a Mystic Seer.

Creature from the Black Lagoon bust

It seemed as though collectibles from my distant youth were popping up to tempt me in every aisle of the exhibit hall. Everywhere I turned enticements plucked at the strings of my memory, calling out, “Hey! Remember me? You like me! You want me! Buy me!” There were DVDs of old TV shows, vintage toys, horror comics I remember buying (without telling my parents) off the rack in Mission Beach, and… our friend to the left: The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Last summer I wrote a collection of posts on “Really Scary Things,” but completely neglected to mention the Creature! When I was a kid, the Creature from the Black Lagoon was the ultimate monster! All it took was one wide-eyed viewing of the original 1954 film on Science Fiction Theater—San Diego TV’s Saturday afternoon horror show—and I was hooked! The Creature was gross and scaly, and breathed through bellowing gills. His webbed hands were HUGE! The size of canoe paddles and tipped by razor sharp claws. He was inhumanely STRONG, and was relentless in pursuit of his startled prey. I thought the Creature was AWESOME! But he was also kind of scary because, you know, monsters could be real, and we happened to live up the hill from a large lake that didn’t look… all… that… different… than… the Creature’s Lagoon! So, yeah, I was fascinated by the Creature—but also scared and a little freaked out by the Creature. And isn’t that what makes all the best horror work?

Note!
Incidentally, just in case you’ve never seen Creature From The Black Lagoon, it may have the most immediately identifiable “monster movie” score of all-time.

Dunt-dunt-DUN! Dunt-dunt-DUN!

Yeah, that’s exactly how it goes. See for yourself.

Back to the scaly fellow above who was trapped in a glass case on the convention center floor.

When I was a kid I had a Creature from the Black Lagoon plastic model kit that I built and painted (badly), to honor my favorite movie monster. Really though? What am I going to do with a giant bust of the Creature? My home decor is adventurous, but tasteful, and I’m afraid a giant green amphibian cast would push me beyond “edgy” into full-on weirdness. Besides, I already have a small Creature on display in a bookcase along with his Universal monster friends.

I have no idea what he cost, but it was an easy decision to pass on my beloved Creature.

Original Major Matt Mason — Not for sale!

Another icon from my past is pictured to the right: Major Matt Mason, on display—and not for sale!—in the toys-of-yesteryear section of the Mattel booth. Matt Mason was an awesome toy figure created during the space race before man had actually landed on the moon. How cool was Matt Mason? He had a jet pack! That’s right—a jet pack! Everyone is always complaining that “we were promised jet packs.” Well, Matt Mason had one! Okay, in reality it was a doo-hickey that attached to his back that zipped along on a string… but if you had any sense of imagination, IT WAS A JET PACK!

Beside the jet pack, Matt Mason was cool because he had posable arms and legs. See the black accordion things in the photos? The accordion joints allowed his rubbery spacesuit to bend and remain in position. In reality, Major Matt Mason was filled head-to-toe with a substructure of stiff wire that sooner or later either broke (resulting in limp limbs) or poked through the rubber turning Matt into a saber wielding space maniac that could scratch and puncture the delicate flesh of his adolescent astronaut cadets.

Mattel had all kinds of Major Matt Mason figures and accessories on display in pristine condition. I rarely see Matt Mason figures anywhere—including Comic-Con—so it was a delightful treat to see him standing inside the glass case with his trusty space helmet at his side! Amidst the menagerie of space stations, moon suits and space sleds were a pair of Major Matt Mason accessories I had as a kid: the much coveted ATV Space Crawler and one of Matt’s space “buddies” (?!?) Doug Davis riding his Space Tractor. Each of Matt’s fellow astronauts wore a different colored suit and Doug Davis wore yellow.

No, Major Matt Mason was not for sale, and that was probably a good thing, locked glass cabinet and all. After the Beatle Bobblers, the jiggling Helen of Troy, the Mystic Seer (whose demonic head bobbles, by the way), and the Creature cast, could I bear yet another incident of exhibition sticker shock? Or would the temptation break me? Would I make a mad dash through the hall, filling my arms with limited edition wonders, as gleeful vendors stripped fat rolls of greenback from my pockets? Surely, Comic-Con 2012 could not pass without me making a single pop culture purchase; could it?

To learn the answer to these and many other crucial, overly dramatic questions… stay tuned for Part 2!

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Okay, it’s taken me a couple of weeks to complete my three part Comic Con wrap up, but we’re going to end on a high note (well, at least for me), with a quick accounting of the wondrous things I was able to purchase and add to my collection of stuff-soon-to-be-featured-in-future-fine-art-photos. This year, though, perhaps anticipating the inability of our elected leaders to agree how our debt should be managed like big boys and girls, I really didn’t buy very much in the exhibition hall.

In any case, let’s start with Really Cool Books.

Over the years I’ve found all kinds of amazing pulps—books, magazines, and periodicals—from the 1920’s through the 60’s. This year, though, very few dealers brought pulps to the show, and I had to hunt and dig to find these lurid gems lurking in the shadows of only a handful of booths. What I found, though, was Pulp Fiction Gold!

The best of the lot is surely Burn Witch Burn, a novel originally written in 1932 by A. Merritt, which was later the basis for the classic Tod Browning horror film, The Devil-Doll (starring Lionel Barrymore… in drag!). Astute readers will also recognize A. Merritt as the author of Seven Footprints to Satan, the pulp paperback that appears in my 2010 photo and stop-motion video, Unbeknownst to her Creator, Eve longed to become a cheerleader.

I like to occasionally work vintage paperbacks into my photos as background context for the scenes I build in the foreground. Close examination of past photos reveal such classic noir titles as Blood On Her Shoe, Illicit Wife, and Eastern Shame Girl. This new batch, I believe, will feel right at home.

It’s becoming much more difficult at Comic Con to find the types of vintage or unusual toys and figures I like to use for my photos, so I did a lot of looking but not much buying. I’m not really interested in using figures with recent movie or series tie-ins, and prefer to use figures that either invoke a connection to the past (e.g. the Universal monster figures I found in 2009) or are obscurely ambiguous in the characters they represent (e.g. “a football player,” “a circus performer,” “a glamor girl”). In any case, let’s see what I did manage to get….

Oooo... mystery human body parts from Japan!

Let’s admit it; all the best toys come from Japan. There’s almost no end to what our friends to the east (well, west for me since I’m on the west coast) will manufacture in tin or plastic and hide away in mystery boxes. Who knows what you’ll find inside, but the glorious box art promises fascination beyond the limits of the imagination!

A couple of years ago I bought two boxes of “mystery women’s apparel” only to find, later in the day, a vendor selling boxes of “mystery body parts.” Drat!! My budget already exceeded, I bought one box, hoping to get the human torso seen above—or at least a big, plump, human heart. Ah, but the fortunes of Japanese mystery box luck was not on my side and I got the human eye. Sure, it was better than the cutaway chunk of epidermis (low organ on the body-part totem pole), but disappointing given the pleasant surprise I’d anticipated.

This year, on my last day at the show, I found a vendor still selling mystery body parts (along with mystery desserts, mystery flower arrangements, and mystery guitars), so I splurged on two packages, and couldn’t wait to get them home to break open the seal and see what laid waiting inside.

Mystery Box One

The green kewpie, slightly disappointed by the contents of box one

And what did I find inside mystery box one?

Noooooooooooooooo!!!!

Another eye.

Oh, how disappointing after a two year wait. Well, at least I now have two, and I suppose I can do something interesting with a pair of socketless eyeballs. Actually, I shouldn’t be so hard on the eye. After all, it does have a hinge allowing it to be opened and explored, and the insides come apart so children in Japan can explore the complete anatomy of what makes them see.

But, come on! Another eye?!?!

Mystery box number two had better deliver!

Mystery Box Two – last chance to hit the internal organ lottery…

The green kewpie is so happy to welcome his new friend!

Yay! Jackpot!!

Inside mystery box number two I was very excited to find the rare, highly coveted, Human Torso figure depicted on the front of every Body Part Mystery Box!! The “cover body,” if you will…. Okay, so I already have a somewhat larger 3D model of a guts-filled human torso that you’ve probably seen in a couple of my past photos. This one is a smaller scale I’ll be able to work into even more new pieces. Speaking of which, I’m pretty sure all the internal organs are themselves “pieces” I can use individually. I’ll know better once I rip off this guy’s rib cage. Stay tuned for the dissection.

The last thing-I-bought-at-Comic-Con (told you I didn’t buy much) is also from Japan: a set of roly-poly wobbling figures from the 1950’s animated series Astro Boy.

Wobbling Astro Boy characters from Japan

Two Astro Boys, one Astro Girl, and various friends and scientists. They (especially the girl, who here looks kind of pregnant… naughty Astro Boy!) will definitely make appearances in future photos.

And that’s it for Comic Con 2011. I hope you enjoyed my three part reports on Famous People, Weird Stuff, and Stuff I Bought. Hang around for another 12 months and I’ll do the same next year. Or, better yet, I’ll be seeing you at the Con in 2012!

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Part Two of my Comic Con report concentrates on weird stuff I saw and photographed during the event, though that term—weird stuff—is really just meant to be a catch-all for anything interesting or out of the ordinary I saw in or around the convention center. I’m sure most of you are expecting lots and lots of pictures of costumed superheroes, but I’ve taken so many costume shots through the years (Transvestite Superman! Leisure Suit Darth Vader!) that the barrage of costumes tends to become white noise as I wander through the convention center.

So let’s get to the weird/interesting stuff!

Opening day crowd queueing up for entry to the exhibition hall

Crowd shot.

Well now, that wasn’t all that interesting was it? Allow me to explain. I take one of these shots every year on the first day of Comic Con as a way of time stamping the beginning of the event, so that the next year I can look back and say, oh, last year I was in line by 8:30, so that means I have to get down to the trolley station by 8:00, so I should leave my house by 7:30….

Okay, yeah, I’m insane. I admit it. (And this year there was no parking at the trolley station.)

"Now... how many dpi do I need to print my photo?"

Comic Con extends well beyond the confines of the San Diego Convention Center, spilling way out into the surrounding Gaslamp, into the East Village, and across the facade of nearby hotels. Above is the San Diego Marriott sporting a very large advertisement for Immortals, Tarsem Singh’s epic slice of Greek mythology. Unfortunately, the banner boasts “From the Producers of 300,” so my enthusiasm is slightly (okay, very) diminished. Sadly, I anticipate that the most immortal thing about the film will be the release date. Quick! Make a wish!

Across the street from the convention center the folks from South Park had set up a popup replica of their animated town, with big balloon heads of the primary characters floating high above. Walking back from lunch in the Gaslamp one afternoon I noticed something about the hotel ad and the floating heads. So I waited… and waited… and shifted my position a step or so to the left….

It's Mohawk Stan!

This just goes to show you that great photo ops are EVERYWHERE! Just keep your camera handy, your eyes open, stand in the right place, and snap the shutter. Photography is easy!

Continuing along the outside the convention center path we’re currently taking, here’s a shot from the new pedestrian bridge that runs over Harbor Drive connecting the convention center with the ballpark (and yet more Comic Conning in the parking lots at Petco).

One way for the Padres to generate revenues during an otherwise bad season.

Across the bridge (and probably the most photographed thing at this year’s convention)….

Is it REALLY necessary to have a lone security guard protecting something this big and ridiculous?

I really don’t get the appeal of Smurfs, but then I have always been a big fan of Grimm’s Fairy Tales where elves, fairies, and other mysterious creatures of the dark forrest looked and behaved like regular people—though with far more menace and deceit. That’s good storytelling (just ask my nightmares), not smiling little blue things with names that badly imitate The Seven Dwarves.

Back inside the convention center, I was wondering—of the two costumed characters in the photo below—who asked the other to pose for the picture. Did the knight ask the bacon, or did the bacon ask the knight? Hmmmm….

World's most unlikely couple.

I’m pretty sure that the bacon, above, is a “booth costume” (Shaky Bacon from Mr. Toast) as opposed to someone sitting at home planning next year’s costume, and finally deciding, What the hell, I’m just going to dress up as a strip of bacon. As Comic Con has grown it’s become very common for companies to hire roving costumed characters to look like players appearing in a just released video game or straight-to-video DVD. So, as you walk the exhibition hall it’s sometimes difficult to make this important distinction: booth costume, or fan costume?

Let’s test it out!

Paramilitary guerilla warfare Asian stripper schoolgirl… booth costume, or fan costume?

"The other 361 days of the year I'm a software engineer in Silicon Valley...."

This one is easy. She was standing in a booth. Hence, booth costume.

Next…

Hammer wielding murderous baby doll… booth costume, or fan costume?

She was much more menacing while posing for other people. I think that means she had a crush on me.

I’m fairly certain this was a roving booth costume, as she wasn’t with any friends (maybe she killed them?) and wasn’t carrying anything besides her props.

And, question three in our impromptu quiz:

Guy covered in free booth flyers… booth costume, or fan costume?

Best costume on the floor... a suit made of the crap people try to hand you as you Walk The Con.

Fan costume—and ingenious! You can see a roll of duct tape around his wrist, allowing other people to walk up and affix their own unwanted cards and flyers to his ever growing costume. Kudos!

And what do you see here?

Very silvery version of the Silver Surfer… booth costume, or fan costume?

The Silver Surfer - with duct tape and masking tape on his board? Shame!

Too easy… fan costume! Budgets for Comic Con are BIG, and would surely cover a better looking silver surfboard than what here looks to be a taped up ironing board.

How’d you do on the quiz? 4 for 4? Awesome!

Next, let’s see how you can do making sense of this mystery…. There were TWO booths displaying what they claimed to be the Back To The Future car. Yeah, okay, there were probably many versions of Doc Brown’s time traveling DeLorean used in the filming of the three movies, but do you really expect to see multiple booths competing for the attention of fans of a mid-80’s franchise?

This first version of the car is from the third film (as noted by the Indians on horseback on the backing banner).

One of two cars, at two different booths, claiming to be Back To The Future cars.

This next version of the car claimed to be the “original” car from the first movie, complete with a glowing Flux Capacitor.

...and another Back To The Future DeLorean...

I asked, but they wouldn’t allow me to travel back to 1999 to convince George Lucas to reconsider the character of Jar Jar Binks for the first Star Wars prequel.

Zombies at the AMC booth promoting The Walking Dead.

TV shows were once again very, very big, drawing huge crowds into the Hall 20 panels, and taking up a lot of space on the floor of the exhibit hall. AMC went to great expense to recreate one of the better scenes from the first season of The Walking Dead, which positioned one of the show’s more abrasive characters chained to a pipe atop an Atlanta rooftop, while a mob of flesh-hungry zombies clawed to escape a stairwell. This scene never actually took place on the show, however, though it was heavily implied. Smiling fans could walk onto the set and have their picture taken standing or kneeling next to the very realistic looking mannequin straining to break free of his bonds.

Alas, they would not allow you to venture to the fire door and shake hands with one of the bloody zombie hands. And if they’re not going to allow that… well… why go at all, you know?

Back outside, now, for the first time since I’ve been attending Comic Con, I spotted a guy selling bootleg Comic Con t-shirts. You expect that at a Rolling Stone concert, but not at a comic book convention. Surely, this is a sign that Comic Con has “made it.”

Bootleg t-shirt seller across the street from the convention center

Let’s zoom in on this fine garment, shall we?

A shirt so bad... you can see through the tissue-thin material!

Fairly random collection of sessions and events for a “Complete Convention Schedule,” wouldn’t you agree? I mean, is that all you get for a four day pass? Rip off! Actually, the real rip off is the shirt, which as you can see in this photo is soooo flimsy you can see right through the back and read the writing on the front.

Quality with a capitol Q-U-C-R-A-P.

A slightly more entertaining form of unsanctioned Comic Con entrepreneurship was spotted on the streets of the Gaslamp where—with a simple cardboard sign and a little aluminum foil on the brim of a rice paddy hat—this street musician became part of the action.

Alien stranded on earth since 1992 when his ship crashed amidst the Seattle grunge scene

At the time I took the above picture I was looking for a place to eat. There’s a decent enough pizza place on Market Street, and I just wanted something fast, so I walked on over hoping for a gooey, cheesy slice. I arrived at the restaurant to find a line stretching out the door, to the end of the block, and well up the next block. Really? Their pizza’s not even that good! Alas, like so many Gaslamp businesses, the pizza place had been rented out (by the Cartoon Network), and was providing free slices of pizza to those who had, first, stood in line at the Cartoon Network booth to receive a yellow plastic token, which—second—allowed them to stand in a second line, outside the pizza place for a free (but logic defying and inconvenient) slice of pizza.

Second half of the 'round-the-block line for free pizza given out by the Cartoon Network

So, you’ll spend hundreds of dollars on action figures, t-shirts, and posters that will probably never hang on your wall… but you won’t spend five bucks on lunch? (And I don’t think they got to keep the yellow tokens, either!)

It's... Adventure Time!

I will, however, give the Cartoon Network credit for making the Gaslamp a much happier place to be by placing giant inflatables of Finn and Jake from Adventure Time on top of the building that houses the pizza place. So even though I wasn’t able to slip quietly inside and enjoy a mouthwatering slice of what I was craving, a smile remained on my face and I was able to snap the picture to the right.

In any case… I ended up eating at Cafe 222 (highly recommended—especially their breakfasts!), where I had a delicious lunch and did not have to deal with cheapskates hauling around giant backpacks.

Getting back into the thick of the Con after lunch proved to be a little difficult, as I found the convention center under attack by Godzilla. Argh! How annoying! And after all the attention Comic Con has showered on the giant thunder lizard over the years. Tsk, tsk, tsk….

Godzilla defending the San Diego Convention Center!

Ah! But after further investigation, Godzilla wasn’t attacking the convention center at all! He was defending Comic Con from an attack by Mechagodzilla, Space Godzilla, and whatever that is in the foreground. Good job, Godzilla!

Monsters! Beware!

Once I’d safely negotiated monster mayhem outside, there was still plenty to see on the convention center floor.  Such as…

…an alien gumball machine.

Sure... drop in a quarter. I won't bite.

…and this guy who came to the mic to ask a question during the one-on-one with Pee Wee Herman. When he started to speak Pee Wee stopped him and asked, “How are things in Sherwood Forest?” This, of course, set the questioner off into Explanation Mode, compelled as many Wearers Of Obscure Character Costumes are to correct any misinterpretations of their carefully constructed storybook personas with their “real” name, series, and (at times) complete backstory. No, I’m Green Vest Guy from The Show You’ve Never Heard Of, and I am the defender of bad brown wigs. Yeah, you know, that guy.

"How are things in Sherwood Forest?" - Pee Wee Herman

Last image from inside the convention center… (and I actually have video of this somewhere)

Cute? Or a call to Child Protective Services?

Oh! How cute! Yeah, except for the fact that the little girl… WAS TRAPPED IN A ROBOT! Sure, she’d wave now and then as her dad sent R2D2 rolling around the carpet via remote control, but she mostly looked uncomfortable, bored, and unhappy.

Finally, it’s back out into the streets of the Gaslamp for a visit to… COCO MoCA!!!

Front Window of Coco MoCA - Conan O'Brien's popup art gallery on 5th!

Inside, the gallery was filled with the art of “The Flaming C,” and patrons to this fine upscale gallery were treated to…

Fighting crime alongside The Flaming C, and using my laser camera

Snacks!

Free t-shirts!

Capes and oven mitts!

An opportunity to help complete a massive paint-by-numbers portrait of The Flaming C!

Photos of you and The Flaming C fighting crime with laser beams shooting from your eyes (and, in my case, my camera)!

It was really great, great fun!

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