Saturday, August 31, 2013

Pictures from the 2013 Comic-Con International, part 5 (Patrick Warburton, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Walking Dead Escape, Joss Whedon at Nerd HQ and more!)

Here's some downright presidential pictures from Friday and into Saturday of this year's Comic-Con!  Let's get to it.

The gentleman above not only bore a striking resemblance to our current President of the United States, but he surrounded himself with fake Secret Servicemen as well.  Here he is with equally impressive Supermen (even if I hate that New 52 costume) and Captain Marvel.

Friday brought a signing at the Tick booth with Ben Edlund.  A healthy number of fans showed up to meet Ben, and this guy brought a spot-on reproduction of the Little Wooden Boy from an episode of the cartoon.  I wanted to get a picture of it, and Ben just kind of slowly leaned in while I was framing the shot.  Afterwards, Ben asked something to the effect of "was I not supposed to be in the picture?"  But if you're Ben Edlund, you do what you gotta do.  And I'm happy to oblige.

Later on in the day, Patrick Warburton, he of the live-action Tick series as well as the Venture Bros. and Seinfeld, stopped by for a few minutes.  I was lucky enough to get to say hello and I'm happy to say that I only did a minimum of gushing while he was around.  What a treat it was to meet this guy who is a part of so many of my favorite television programs!  In my hand I'm holding the Comic-Con exclusive Brock Samson figure, which he was kind enough to sign for me.

There were a number of celebrity sightings on Friday and Saturday, and I was able to snap a picture with more than my share, which was really fun.  While walking outside of the convention center, I spotted Christopher Mintz-Plasse, of Superbad and Kick Ass fame, walking casually in the other direction.  There were hundreds of other people around, but no one else seemed to notice.  If this took place anywhere else, I probably would have figured that I had spied someone who simply looked uncannily like Mintz-Plasse, but since this was Comic-Con, I caught up to him and asked him for a picture, to which he kindly obliged.  For some reason, I forgot all about how to snap a picture on my iPhone (wilting under pressure, let's call it what it is), but he said "I got this" and took the photo himself.  Thanks, dude.


Notice the tiny cameo by Hypnotoad.  These were great, simple costumes.

After the show ended on Friday, and as people poured out of the convention center, I saw a veritable comic celebrity in the person of Rob Liefeld talking to who I assume were his sons.  Rob is such a firebrand within the comics community.  It was fun to say hello and he was gracious enough to take a picture with me.

Friday was one probably the longest day of the five for me, as I woke up before 5:00 am, stayed at the convention the entire day and had a few things planned for the evening.  I was pretty tired by the time the show let out, but the Walking Dead Escape at Petco Park was on the list and I wasn't about to let it slip on by.  In 2012, I had considered running the obstacle course filled with the undead, but the event closed shortly after the convention center closed, and I was never able to get a ticket in time.  This year, the event stayed open later into the evening and I snatched up a ticket for the evening.  Here's a nice picture of a zombie on a cell phone.

The event was a lot of fun - I hear that the zombies were a lot more docile than the year before, in which a few people got banged up a bit from the high-intensity chase.  Even so, it was a challenge filled with half an hour of running, climbing, dodging and crawling...still very intense.  I made it through the course winded but mostly intact, though I did stumble over a road block, wiping out onto the cement concourse of the baseball stadium.  I think I ended up scaring the event staff (and nearby zombies) with my fall more than anything else, which was kind of funny.

In the above picture, I'm climbing over one of the larger obstacles in the course.  I've got the easy-to-spot yellow hat on.

This picture is particularly spooky.  The light in the background makes it look like I've got a skeleton arm.

After some much needed rest, we got up on Saturday morning and headed back to Petco Park for the Nerd HQ Joss Whedon panel.  We were lucky to get tickets to this event and were excited to make it to the enclosed section of the baseball stadium; you can see the field in the background!

Joss Whedon came out and put on a great show.  He talked about Firefly, Avengers, SHIELD...all the hits.

As an added treat, Nathan Fillion served as moderator for the event!  What a treat.  Nerd HQ really outdid themselves this year, as they provided an experience seamlessly complementary to Comic-Con.  They provided, I think, a little glimpse of what Comic-Con will become in the years ahead: not only will the convention center continue to host great, gigantic events, but outside attractions such as this will become more elaborate and more involved.  You could have spent a few days at Nerd HQ with all of the various events and you wouldn't have gotten bored.  This will get as big as Nerd HQ wants it to.

As we were leaving the panel, we ran into this photo shoot taking place.

And here we have some early promotions for the upcoming X-Men movie!

It's not Comic-Con without at least one guy dressing up as Galactus.

Pretty neat.

After making our way back to the convention center to get in line, we saw this Khal Drogo coming our way.  This guy certainly has the face and the eyes for the part.

I'll stop here as I've got a number of pictures to show from the panel we stood in line for!  Which panel was it?  Come back and find out!  Okay, it's the Tick panel.  You forced it out of me.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Visit the newly remodeled Pop! Culture Connection in Greensburg, PA!

Pop! Culture Connection, located in Greensburg, PA, is one of the best all-around stores for vintage toys, and I've enjoyed watching it grow over the last three years.  The store recently underwent a fancy remodeling that impressed the heck out of me; it was always a really cool place to browse and gawk, but now it's become a high-end toy shop with a selection that always astounds me.  Seriously, I'm even in awe of the stuff that I have absolutely no interest in.

Since it's been a while since I first wrote about the shop, I decided to take some pictures during a recent trip to document the changes.

The merchandise on display never stays on the shelves for too long, but the store always has a host of impressive memorabilia.  Recently, the owner invested in some high-end display cases that line the walls.  Not only does this better protect and showcase the items on display, but it serves to organize things in a way that wasn't possible with the previous layout.

LEGOs might be more popular than ever, and Pop! Culture has more than its share.

This wall display - which doesn't show any of the game cartridges - is entirely devoted to Nintendo (with a few Pac Man items thrown in for good measure).

This windup Popeye toy is, I think, from the 1930s.  Think about that!  What a find this is.  It's got the key and everything - it looks to be in great shape for an 80-year-old toy.

The store has items from most decades of collecting, thought the '70s and '80s might be the most well represented.  Here's a vintage Thundercats line.

The number of box sets at the store is impressive.  Boxes are, of course, the hardest to find when it comes to old toys.

The Ninja Turtles display here is really impressive.  The Technodrome!  UGH!

And what's the Technodrome without Krang's robot body?  Unbelievable.  That Gizmo figure is pretty neat as well.

The store has some new items as well, such as this Back to the Future Hover Board!

Lookit all of these Megos.  They are so ugly.  But I love them.

There's plenty of comic related items in stock.  I'm told that the owner has an impressive comic collection as well, but very few books make it to the shelves.  Maybe one day I'll come across a Fantastic Four #1, and convince the owner to give it to me out of the kindness of his own heart.

So much weird, cool stuff here.  That Batmobile model is outrageous, as is the Superman guitar.  I've got my eye on one that Fantastic Four lunch box up at the top.

Movie monsters are well represented at the store.  Not pictured is some cool Munsters items.

What's the story with this rip-off toy?  It's obvious that it's Spider-Man, but perhaps it's *just* legally distinct enough to pass.  Also pictured are fake Captain America, fake Wolverine, fake Cyclops and fake Batman.  Perhaps they are the Fake Avengers.

Most of the store is redone and set up in working order.  The front still needs some work.  But look at that pinball machine!  Awesome.

In this picture, Larry apparently is measuring something.

The store has a few nice sports items as well, mostly (AS IT SHOULD BE) from the Pittsburgh area.  To the right of the picture, next to the Roethlisberger autographed football, is a program from the 1961 Pirates season...the year after they won the World Series.  A great piece to be sure.

If you are anywhere near the Pittsburgh area and enjoy seeing vintage toys and the like, do yourself a favor and visit Pop! Culture Connection.  It's like a museum of pop culture merchandise and it's well worth the trip.  Suffice it to say, I could easily go broke on any given day, but it's worth it just to see all of the items in stock.  The owner really takes great care of the inventory and it's quite a nostalgia trip.

Here's the (incredibly Google-able) address and other information:

Pop! Culture Connection
105 East Pittsburgh St.
Greensburg, PA 15601

Hours: 11:00-6:00 Tuesday-Saturday

Phone: 724-691-0179

Click here for their Facebook page

Click here for their eBay store

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Pictures from the 2013 Comic-Con International, part 4 (The Godzilla Experience, Eric Andre, Ben Edlund and more!)

More pictures from Comic-Con?  Fantastic!  Let's get to it!

One of my goals for this show was to finally - finally! - make it into the Hasbro line for merchandise.  Hasbro's exclusives remain some of the most difficult to land because of their ticketing practices: you have to line up early in the morning to get a ticket; if your ticket is stamped, you've won the opportunity to wait in another line for the opportunity to buy things from the Hasbro booth...if they have anything remaining by the time you get there.  To their credit, though, Hasbro certainly does take advantage of the hype that this creates.

The goal made Friday morning an early one for me, as I woke up at 4:45 AM and drove to the convention center.  After waiting in line for almost three hours, everyone was allowed into the convention hall, where I found out that I was already too late to enter the Hasbro ticket raffle line.  The last person to get entrance into that particular line, it seemed, had been waiting since 4:00.

This was all pretty astounding to me.  It seems that if there's anything at Comic-Con that is even remotely popular, you've got to be prepared to camp out at night to have a shot at achieving that goal.  It's something that will probably have to be addressed in the coming years, or the lines will start forming earlier and earlier.

In any case, after the disappointment of the AM Hasbro line, I decided to get in the gigantic line to enter the convention floor.  Above is a picture taken in the moments before 9:00, and below is a picture of the mad scramble to enter the exhibit hall once the show officially opened.

Look at this mass of humanity!  It was, though, fairly orderly and no one, as far as I know, was trampled to death.

It's quite a sight.  I find that I'm just as happy, though, walking in at 9:30 and not having to wait in any lines.  It's a give-and-take, I suppose.

Friday was also the day that I had signed up to see the Godzilla Experience, which was one of the more talked about events outside of the convention hall.  On the way there, I spotted this "King of the Nerds" Cereal Bar.  Whether they were serving cereal inside or not, I don't know.  It would have been interesting to find out.

I reserved my tickets online a few days before the show, and an electronic version went straight to my phone (which is pretty cool).  The Friday at 10:30 slot was one of the few left at the time, and I'm glad I got it when I did.  It seemed that tickets for the first half of each day were given out exclusively online, and tickets for the latter portions of each day were given away at a booth during the show.  These tickets, though, as with most things at Comic-Con, went very quickly, and soon the Godzilla Experience became a rather exclusive thing to do.

While waiting in line to get it, this tricked out "Defiance" car drove by.  We waited in line for about an hour, because right before we were to enter, the director of the new Godzilla movie stopped by and wanted a look at the exhibit himself.  Because of this, they shut the whole damn thing down while he walked through.  This was annoying, but they did give out free t-shirts to everyone who was stalled in line as a result.  Apparently the shirts were only given out to VIP guests...or at least that's what they told us.

The inside of the warehouse was decorated with movie memorabilia and props.

Oh, and Godzilla was there, too.

By downloading an app (and probably signing away your rights forever), you could translate Japanese posters that were in various spots throughout the exhibit.

The event itself was fairly underwhelming, as it took about ten minutes from start to finish.  Perhaps I'd have been more excited about it if I were a fan of Godzilla or if I was looking forward to the new movie, but regardless, it was over almost as soon as it began.  I didn't see what all the hype was about.

On the way back to the convention, outside of Petco Park and Nerd HQ, I ran into Adult Swim's Eric Andre!  So of course I bothered him for a photo.

And then, while walking to the Hilton hotel for the Venture Bros. panel, I saw none other than Ben Edlund, who kinda-maybe-almost recognized me?  We chatted for a minute or two and then it was off to the hotel.

Once inside the hotel, we were directed to the back of another super long line.  Along the way, I saw this menu outside of one of the hotel bars.

Just outside the doors, I came upon these great Venture Bros. fans in costumes.  I've seen them around before...though I guess it'd be hard to miss a full Monarch getup like that.

The line stretched from the Hilton almost back to the main convention center.  Along the way I saw these Adventure Time folks.

The end of the line almost met up with the end of the Assassin's Creed pirate ship.  A full sized pirate ship!  We ended up making it onto the ship the next day.

Giant, inflatable Teen Titans, just 'cause.

These were some very nice Invaders costumes.  Namor pulled his getup off well.  The wings on his sandals looked like actual bird wings up close, which was a little weird.

At the alternate universe Bob's Burgers meetup!  A great time.

Another Zapp Brannigan.  There were a lot of Futurama costumes on display at this show.  Though I don't think I saw Bender at all...

We ended up being about 20 people late to get into the Venture Bros. panel, which was a shame, but it's something that happens.  Cartoon Network was filming some kind of Adventure Time promo (perhaps a DVD extra?) outside of the convention hall.  A little kid dressed as Jake said some lines, then they brought in Marcelene as the giant "C" and "N" danced along.

The LEGO displays weren't just limited to the convention floor.  This is a full size Hobbit home, complete with hobbits and, I guess, Gandalf.

One of the highlights of the trip was the return of the taco truck.  The taco truck is a well-kept secret of the convention, as people just inside the doors pay outrageous sums for mediocre food.  There's never a long wait for made-to-order food at the taco truck, the dishes are outstanding and the price is better than could be expected.  I ate here several times during the show, buying giant $6 burritos each time.  If you manage to make it to Comic-Con in the future, keep this gem to yourself.  I hope to eat here for years to come.

More pictures on the horizon!  Plenty more to go.