ExtraComicular Activities #4: We Return to The Clifton Comic Book Expo!

2016 is history and I haven’t posted a damn thing in 2017 yet, but history is gonna change…

Recently, Matt from Dinosaur Dracula expressed to me that he was really charged up to dig through some long boxes. Coincidentally, there was a comic show coming up by me and I’m always up for comics. There’s nothing better than an old school comic book show. Picture a big room filled with geeks awkwardly attempting to navigate around other people trying to scan through thousands of old comics crammed too damn tight into long cardboard boxes. I’m talking about a true comic show run by local dealers where you can actually get some steals. This is the type of show that isn’t bogged down in ridiculous hidden advertisements from media conglomerates and not speckled with tables hawking products or podcasts that have nothing even remotely to do with comics.

Since NJ is my thing, let me clue you in on the city where this comic show went down. It’s the city where Rupert Pupkin hails from, the birthplace of Vera Farmiga and Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, it served as the backdrop for a ton of scenes in The Sopranos, and it’s also home to a legendary place called The Gates of Hell. If you’re from the area, you know exactly what I’m talking about, but maybe you didn’t realize that they also have a pure, longstanding comic show that has been unfazed by trends. This is the Clifton, NJ comic show, the same show that I wrote about a couple of years back. Matt was super excited for that one as well. He’s onto something because stocking up on reading material during a cold ass winter ain’t a bad idea at all! He’s also detailing his windfall of comics over at Dino Drac so check that shit out when you’re done here! I can easily say that the plastic grocery bag I hauled home this time is 1000% better than that last time. Wanna take a look at some? Here’s 10, solely based off how eye catching their covers are.

1. Dracula Versus Zorro #2 (of 2)

Topps Comics, November 1993

During the comic book boom of the early ’90s, every company wanted IN on the comic book game. Though they were almost never in the same conversation as DC and Marvel, Topps had some decent comic book offerings. Starting in 1992, their lineup of well known licenses can only be described as wildly eclectic. During their 6-year stint, Topps ran comics from mega movie hits like Jurassic Park, TV shows like The X-Files and Xena: Warrior Princess,  horror icons like Dracula, Frankentstein, Jason Voorhees, and Leatherface, and even the indescribably bizarre Barbi Twins Adventures. Shuffled in between was a classic hero who’s said to have inspired Batman. Zorro was created in 1919 and he’s still popping up in the comic pages, most recently with Dynamite Comics. Much like the Lone Ranger, I was introduced to Zorro as a young kid by my Dad (of course!) Reinforcing my interest in these characters were toy lines and cartoons for both LR and Zorro in the early ’80s.

I had forgotten that Zorro once faced Drac, but I’ll be damned if this cover doesn’t have me totally intrigued right now. The backdrop of a stained glass window bathes this cover in gorgeous hues of pink and purple. In the corner to my right, wearing all black, the man who leaves his mark in the form of a slashed Z, ZORRO, meets his match against the blood sucking DRACULA himself…and the Z-man even takes second billing! Since this is the second issue of a two-parter, we pick up the adventure right when the getting’s GOOD! It’s like an old fashioned swashbuckling movie serial where everyone’s fate (including the readers) is in Zorro hands! Giant rats are about to eat Zorro alive, but he’s fighting ’til the death. All veiny and gnashing his fangs, the ghoulish Drac is about to pounce as the enraptured Carmelita looks on in wicked delight. This is an old fashioned heroic horror adventure and now I have to hunt down the first issue.

2. G.I. JOE #43

Marvel Comics, January 1986

This issue was another one I picked out solely based off its badass cover. The grim reaper blasting a machine gun?!! Of course, auto-included. Wish there was a G.I. Joe figure of that guy. The story is thin and there’s nothing worth noting about this issue except for a two page ad where Spider Man plays detective and goes on a search to find Cap’n Crunch.

3. Betty and Veronica #104

Archie Comics, October 1996

With the upcoming premiere of Riverdale, everyone’s going to try to claim their lifelong alliegience to Archie Comics, but let’s be honest, before they revamped the characters with a horror/supernatural twist, the Archie gang wasn’t necessarily in the spotlight. I actually read the books quite often many years before the revamp because I always found them to be stupid fun, but mostly due to my affinity for the art by Dan DeCarlo and Dan Parent. Through the years, I’ve posted a few cool Archie items I picked up here and there, and I’m genuinely excited for the new era of these characters. Ironically, when I was a kid I thought the Archie comics were pretty dopey, so I think I’m aging backwards. Regardless, Betty and Veronica have consistently been one of the more entertaining aspects of Archie Comics, and the shenanigans depicted on this cover are a prime example. Betty faking the need for CPR so Archie comes and makes out with her, aw man, that’s the sales pitch right there. This book is filled with cheesy jokes and a few ridiculous storylines, but what do you expect? What will happen when Betty trips over Veronica’s in-line skates? Will Betty sue Veronica for real or is this just a ludicrous misunderstanding? You must read it to find out!

4. Darkhold: Pages of the Book of Sins #7

Marvel Comics, April 1993

I’ve got to be completely honest here, I’ve never heard of or read this comic series before, but look into those mesmerizing eyes! What the hell could she be so freaked out about? Oh, right, the SLIME! Coincidentally, DEATH BY SLIME is how I want to go out. Frankly, I don’t even care what’s inside this book because this cover needs to be framed. From what I gather, and I’m probably only a quarter accurate, is that the Darkhold book is sort of like the Necronomicon of the Marvel Universe. And go easy on me if that’s way off base. This comic features Scarlet Witch, Dr. Strange, a giant monster, demonic war planes, and…Ectoplasm Raining From The Freaking Sky. Ectoplasm Raining From The Freaking Sky. Sold. I’ll take it!

5. ALF #24

Marvel Comics, December 1989

Alf’s girlfriend Rhonda always amused me with her ginormous super wacky pink hair. Naturally, this one was a must buy. The cover to this issue features wordplay involving the fact that Rhonda’s Back with an obnoxious arrow pointing to Rhonda’s “back,” but we really know what they were going for. Marvel worshipped that Melmacian ass. How can you go wrong with a comic that proudly offers Alf making uncomfortably perverse jokes on the cover of a comic geared toward 7 year olds? In the oh so slight chance that none of that appeals to you, this issue includes a random Rocky reference. Alf’s working out with a boom box blasting “Gonna Fly Now” while rocking a Philadelphia shirt and doing Sly Stallone impressions. A++.

6. The Real Ghostbusters #3

NOW Comics, January 1992 

Out of all the comics I used to collect when I was a kid, NOW Comics were in a class by themselves. At the time, even mentioning NOW made my friends confused because it wasn’t Marvel or DC. In retrospect, NOW didn’t get enough credit. Unlike other independent comic companies, the majority of their books were printed in full color on high quality paper while even the big companies were still using cheap news type paper. I was hooked on all their big titles including Fright Night, Terminator, Married with Children, Twilight Zone and all of the Green Hornet iterations. What was cool about their Real Ghostbusters series was that it was perfectly in line with the cartoon and enriched the RGB lore with further adventures. You’d even see some ghosts that you didn’t see in the show. Many of the issues offered some outstanding art (especially some of the later run) and this line is worth a day of nostalgic marathon reading.

This cover is worth it just for Egon and Ray’s getup. If you dig the cover, you get a free pinup poster of it inside! As a kid, the idea of that was better than the actual poster itself. It would cause me so much heartache to know that I had to try to dismantle the staples from the comic in such a delicate way as not to ruin the comic while trying to remove the poster. Didn’t they ever hear of perforation? Currently, I have a class action suit against all comic companies in the ’80s for taking years off my life.

Also within these pages, you’ll see the winners of the draw Slimer contest, you’ll witness Ray vs. the Loch Ness Monster, and to sweeten the deal even more, you get to see what the actual Tobin looks like, yes, that guy of Tobin’s Spirit Guide fame! Oh, and there’s one more bizarre feature that I have been holding out on. In the ’80s, when adults needed tips on parenting, they usually picked up the latest issue of The Real Ghostbusters comic where Egon had his own section, “Egon Spengler’s Parent’s Guide For Health and Safety.” No, I’m not lying, and he even signed it at the end! Step off Dr. Phil.

7. G.I. Joe Action Force #23

Marvel Comics, August 1987

Picking up these magazine sized Joe issues at the US-1 Flea Market back when I was a kid was one of my favorite things. I was hesitant to include Action Force because I know it’s considered more of a magazine rather than an actual comic book, and I already brought up a Joe comic in this post, but whatever – this cover is too incredible not to show off! Simple, yet effective. This Cobra soldier really has a chip on his shoulder. It’s either that, or he’s been inhaling whatever’s in that toxic canister. If it’s none of the above, the sweats and bloodshot eyes could mean he’s coming down from some crazy drugs, or maybe he’s just MAD! Ultimately, it all ties back to my fixation for toxic stuff since I’m from New Jersey and live with a talking pile of sludge.

8. Toxic Crusaders #1

Marvel Comics, May 1992

Thumbing through thousands of comics you’re bound find some treasures. For me, that means finding some classic issues that I forgot had and buying them again. In this case, I probably have at least 2 or 3 copies of Toxic Crusaders #1, but it’s so good that it’s worth owning more copies just so I can make one into a Japanese war fan. The premiere issue spins the classic tale of how Toxie became New Jersey’s favorite superhero and met such cohorts as Headbanger and Major Disaster and foes like Dr. Killemoff. For a New Jersey freak like me, it’s a historical document as far as I’m concerned, and all for 50¢!

9. VAMPIRELLA #106

Warren Magazine, July 1982

You know that old saying, “I’ve never seen a Vampirella cover that I didn’t like?” Well, I resemble that remark. If I had the resources I’d buy every damn Vampirella comic that I came in contact with just so I can frame all the covers. That was the main thing that hooked me as a kid. I’d drool over the gorgeous art on the covers, then I’d thumb through the pages and notice they were black and white. FYI, my turn offs include: Black and White comic pages. See, I was able to watch black and white movies as a kid, especially horror and comedies, but when it came to reading a black and white comic book, I was flabbergasted. In my young mind, I thought “how could a B&W comic book have the audacity to sit on a shelf amongst fellow comic books that were overflowing with vivid, colorful artwork?” No matter how exciting and vibrant the covers are, the inside totally lets me down. It was false advertising if you ask me. Take this cover as evidence. It’s so unbelievably awesome that it sends your mind into a spiral of thoughts. It makes me think if the cover is this cool looking, I can’t even fathom what’s inside, but not so much. Vampirella’s dead husband is in it trying to seduce her, that’s for sure, in all his black and white glory. (womp womp)

10. DC Who’s Who Vol. XXI

DC Comics, November 1986

With the hundreds of comics that I have from when I was a kid, I don’t think I have more than one or two issues of DC Who’s Who. As a kid in the comic shop, you had to weigh your options. As it was, I used to be lucky enough to get a stack of comics on a weekly basis, but even my parents knew which ones were worth the purchase. To keep up on the main ongoing storylines, you need the base titles, not the comics that were character encyclopedias masquerading as an actual comic.

In the back of my mind I always wanted to have every single issue of Who’s Who and keep them in that badass binder. That’s right, at one point, Who’s Who came with three hole punches on the left side of the book so you can put them in a DC Who’s Who binder. It was a masterfully concocted gimmick, but still a stretch for me to justify. Doing a Google image search for DC Who’s Who will convince almost any DC fan in about 0.1 seconds that they need every single issue of Who’s Who that ever existed. That’s what made me pick up issue XXI. I’m a DC guy and reading obscure character bios makes everything right in this crazy world.

Now onto why I was hooked by that cover! Judging by this illustration of Solomon Grundy, I started thinking about how he could’ve had a career in the WWE back in 1993 against Yokozuna. Holy shit, I’ve never seen Grundy drawn to the point where he’s busting out of his shirt from eating over 4,000 White Castles. In addition to the character bios, there’s a map of Skartaris which details the Warlord’s stomping grounds. It was known to be a land where Dinosaurs somehow found their way to even though they were extinct on Earth.

Talk about stocking up on good reading material for the cold winter season! Trust me, there’s no better way to spend a snowy Saturday than to study the personal data and histories of Space Cabbie, Spawn of Frankenstein, Spellbinder, and The Spook, than in the yellowed pages of a limp, 50¢ comic.

Get yourself out to a local comic show and seek out the cheap bins! You never know what you will find. Until next time friends – thanks for reading!

Purple Stuff Podcast Episode 23: Batman ’89!

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CLICK HERE TO LISTEN NOW!

The DC heroes are about to blow up the big screen. Fans of the DCU are in their glory right now. Even though there’s been so many movies based on DC properties, the DC film universe will be ushered in with the premiere of Batman v. Superman. I was out on the black carpet event with Miss Sexy Armpit for the premiere of the film at Radio City Music Hall, and it’s making me count the minutes until I’m in the theater for this. Growing up, World’s Finest comics were always at the top of my list, so I’m extremely excited to see my two favorite heroes on the big screen, and even more pumped to finally see Wonder Woman joining the fray. In light of this major DC Comics event, let’s recall one of the biggest DC Comics movie events of all time, Batman ’89!

Can you imagine living in a world where there wasn’t super hero movies in theaters every 2 months? That’s how things were back in the day. If you were around then, you know what I mean. Super heroes wound up becoming almost taboo to be a fan of. For me, things were doubly worse since I was both a fan of comics AND wrestling…and KISS for that matter. All the cards were stacked against me, but I wore my obsessions proudly, and I’m glad I did, because there was a payoff – a major one. In June of 1989, one of the biggest pop culture phenomenons was released to theaters: Batman.

In modern times, we’ve been spoiled by 8 Batman movies (9 if we count BvS!). The first Batman film in 1966 was an answer to that era’s Batmania hysteria caused by the TV show. In 1989, comic fans and moviegoers came out in full force to show that they were ready to get caught up in their generations Batmania. I was so lucky to be deeply entrenched in Batman my entire childhood, so to experience this kind of fervor for my favorite hero was astounding.

If there was a popularity contest between Bats and Supes, let’s just say, Supermania wasn’t really bandied around too often. That’s not a knock on Superman, but there was something mysterious about the 1989 Batman that made it so easy to fall in love with the film. One of the reasons for this is likely the fact that it was such a dark departure from the over the top, campy colorful fun of the ’60s TV series. If you weren’t reading Batman comics at the time, this was a brand new Batman that brought viewers into new territory. If you watch the film now, it seems pretty light, but in ’89 this was a dark, Noir inspired adventure which was unforgettable to so many who saw it in it’s theatrical run.

If you are a fan of this film, I recommend that you document your love for it. As it is with other forms of entertainment like music and books, the impact that the ’89 Batman movie had on the public may be documented for future generations in news articles, but it’s difficult to capture what kind of a massive Bat-frenzy it actually was. If you walked into a mall in 1989, to say that would’ve noticed over a hundred Bat symbols EVERYWHERE is not an exaggeration. Whether you went into a toy store, music store, or grocery store, Batman was literally everywhere. Two opposing boxes of cereal promoting Batman v. Superman cannot compare to how we were all lovingly swaddled in Batman’s cape with all kinds of goodies. You didn’t even have to be a hardcore Bat-fan to own a t-shirt or magazine that promoted the film.

What amuses me about all these superhero movies that come out, Marvel’s included, is that even though they make bank, we get flooded with them. All they have to be is “good.” Consider this: Will Batman vs. Superman make the same kind of impact that Batman ’89 did? Most likely no. It could wind up becoming the most well-reviewed DC inspired film ever, but I will wager that most Batman films since then did not have the potential to romance fans the way the ’89 film did. This is because on-screen Batman was in a unique spot to reinvent himself and turn the genre into serious business. Looking at this trajectory, you would not have any of the Nolanverse films without Batman 1989. Credit also has to go to Superman ’78 for being the genesis of the modern superhero film, but Batman ’89 had Kim Basinger!

I can write volumes about this movie because of how much I love it, but why not listen to our latest Purple Stuff Podcast where Matt and I talk all about it? In Episode 23, we detail many of our ’89 Batman memories. Matt and I share stories of seeing the film in the theater, the toy line, dressing up, reciting lines, the Prince soundtrack, theme parks and much more. This is our testimonial to what an indelible mark Batman 1989 left on us. If the Joker wrote this post, he may have ended it something like this: “…If you gotta go…go with a Smile!”

New Jersey Comic Expo Was Nerd Nirvana

SANJComicExpo

Much like Jello, there’s always room for another large scale comic convention, especially in New Jersey. Thinking back to when I was a kid and events like this were basically non-existent in my neck of the woods, the sheer abundance of pop culture conventions in the Tri-State area is reason to rejoice. The amount of cons is unfathomable to me at times, but it’s the quality that matters of course. Lately, I haven’t been disappointed. You might remember the AC Boardwalk Con, which was pretty awesome and set a pretty high standard for the modern era of NON-NYC Comic Conventions. With no affiliation to NYCC or Wizard World, this weekend’s New Jersey Comic Expo turned out to be an event we Jersey geeks can call our own, hell…look at that logo! It all went down this weekend at The NJ Convention and Exposition Center in Edison, NJ and I will give you the full report.

A sunny and cool Fall day provided the background for my excursion to the NJ Comic Expo. It was the perfect reason to ignore the fact that I desperately needed to clean my condo. On the ride to the convention center I thought to myself “How is this going to be any different than the other 462 conventions that I’ve been to?” For one thing, the complex I was driving to is where I had covered several Exxxotica conventions in the past. So, right there, it was definitely going to be different because there would be a lot less porn.

Even though I was an early bird, the parking lot was already starting to fill up. I got registered and made my way inside. First thing I noticed was the massive scale of this event. It was on the level of NYCC, and it hit me right away that it wasn’t bogged down with too much promotional nonsense. Everywhere I looked I saw collectibles, toys, and most importantly, COMICS! There was copious amounts of nerdery for me to gorge on, but I emphasize comics because that is the crux, the spirit, and the lifeline of all comic conventions, as it should be. When you have a hard time finding actual comics at a comic con, then there’s a problem. You may have read previously here that I stopped collecting physical comics a while back, opting for digital, and although it’s extremely tempting, I try my damndest not to buy hard copies unless it’s something really special. Further into this article you will see how I flip flop on this stance.

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The Dianoga in the Garbage Chute from A New Hope was a little ornery, but he finally quit squirming and posed for this photo for me. He was the true star of the event.

I continued on my trek through the entire expo center. The layout was logical and left enough room for me to not feel claustrophobic like I often do at these things. I stopped at Robert Bruce’s table to see his wildly diverse assortment of toys and nostalgic collectibles. You know him from AMC’s Comic Book Men and his accounts on social media (@popculturizm.) I’ve known him for a while now and I always enjoy talking with him because he loves what he does so much. He’s the real deal when it comes to toy collecting. After shooting the shit with Robert, I went over to talk to my friends in the New Jersey Ghostbusters. They had their Ecto 1 parked next to their table as we discussed their upcoming appearance in the Ghostheads documentary that is coming out soon. They are great dudes and they also appeared in The Sexy Armpit Halloween Special this year so I owe them a Chinese Feast with the last of our petty cash! They even had a small billboard for themselves that was a screen shot of them from their cameo in my Halloween Special. Check them out here: GBNJ.NET

Then, I found the autograph tables. I went to say hello to my friend Tommy Walker, star of Netflix’s Daredevil, who was appearing. Actress Amy Acker (Angel, Person of Interest) seemed very friendly as I passed by her table while she was meeting her fans. At that point I remembered that Samantha Newark, voice of Jem was appearing as well, and I had to go and meet her. Voice actors, especially those from cartoons that I grew up watching obsessively, are icons to me. Samantha was so cool to talk to and since I was in there just before the crowds started piling in, I had a while to chat with her. I told her about how I felt the Jem movie was needlessly shat upon (well, I didn’t use that exact terminology) and she agreed. I still stand by the fact that it in 5-10 years it will be looked at as a cult classic. You might think that’s a stretch, but stranger things have happened. Samantha had various Jem promotional photos to sign and other items, but I opted for a JoeCon exclusive GI Joe #212 comic with Zartan and Cold Slither and Jem and The Holograms on the cover. It’s one that I had been watching on eBay for a while. I’m glad I held out because now I can say I bought it and had it signed by the voice of Jem herself. This was one case where I had to get the Hard Copy. In fact, Barry Nolan is going to do a schlocky TV report about this.

What was cool about meeting Samantha Newark was that I didn’t even go to this expo with that objective in mind. I totally forgot that she was appearing, so it was this cool little unexpected moment for me. I actually smiled in the selfie we took which is rare for me. She even brought up her last name and how it has nothing to do with Newark, NJ, so all of those burning questions have been answered. It’s not a secret nod to her hometown or anything. It was just a cool moment because I’m that type of person who can hear Jem’s voice in my head, or any cartoon character from my youth, like He-Man or She-Ra etc. Not like “voices in my head,” but those are the voices I hear if I think of the character. I’d imagine not everyone feels as strongly about voice actors as me, but I’ve always been so fascinated with them, especially those who voiced characters that I loved as a kid.

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NJ Cosplayer Ashley Uncanny as a Gotham Cheerleader

Next up, I walked over to the Cosplay Corner. I’ve always been heavily interested in Cosplay and dabble in it myself. I can’t make any claim to be a cosplayer per se, but I do put together my own intricate costumes. What is so insanely impressive about cosplayers is their dedication. The cosplayers I know put so much time, money, and love into whatever character they are portraying. Their attention to detail is incredible and the fact that they travel hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles to be at these cons is a testament not only to their love of cosplay, but to meeting fans and being a part of the scene. I had a chance to speak to Princess Morgan and Ashley Uncanny, and both were very cool. Princess Morgan had such an elaborate costume that left in me in awe (it won best in show at a Wizard World con) and traveled several hundred miles by car to be there. I told her I’m going to wallpaper my walls with her Harley Quinn photo shoots…she didn’t laugh. You can see the one that I took home below. Ashley Uncanny (pictured above) is a bubbly Jersey girl who was sweet and super friendly as she greeted everyone who went to her table.

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By that point, all I purchased was a comic book. I always go into these things trying not to blow too much cash, but this wound up being like a small leak that grew out of control. Actually, I’m exaggerating. Truthfully, I wound up picking up a few things I had on my mental wish list for a while. Let me tell you about my haul!

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I bought some cool shit, didn’t I?

I came home with some action figures, naturally. I’ve been re-watching the first season of The Flash TV series now that it’s on Netflix and that made me realize that, out of all the Reaction figures I own, I didn’t have The Flash! He’s now speeding around my condo cleaning for me (yeah right!) wouldn’t that be so awesome? I continued through the little mini storefronts that were set up with T-Shirts, Pop Vinyl figures, old Star Wars memorabilia, and my eyes zeroed in on one figure out of about 50 hanging on pegs. It was the Jae Lee Wonder Woman DC figure that I had been looking out for. It would’ve been easy to just get it on Amazon, but since it was right in front of my face, I figured why the hell not. It’s such an awesome figure! Glad to have it as part of my collection now and it coincided with the release of the Gal Gadot/Wonder Woman movie promo picture that hit the Internet. And the one figure that I hadn’t seen up until that moment was this Game of Thrones Daenerys figure from Dark Horse. It’s really more of a figure-statue since it’s not articulated, but I’m fine with that considering how detailed it is. Surprisingly, this is my first Game of Thrones collectible even though I’ve watched and loved the show since it premiered.

Toys are great, but Artist’s Alley is always my favorite place to browse at a comic convention. Jim Lee was appearing, but I was more interested in the creators in artist’s alley. Whether I’m discovering a new artist or meeting one of my favorites, it’s an excellent opportunity to pick up some original work from artists from the comic book world and elsewhere. After checking out almost all the artists, I arrived at two shared tables by a husband and wife from Chicago. The pieces they had on display were enticing me. Note to those with a table at a con: easiest way to lure me in: just put Lily Munster somewhere in your display and I will be at your table in mere seconds. After trying to decide what I wanted, I came to the conclusion that the Julie Newmar Catwoman print pictured above was perfect. This oil painting style of her had that special quality and it was like nothing I’ve seen before so I had to have it. I also picked up a couple of other pieces for friends here.

It was about time for me to wrap up since I couldn’t afford to stay any longer! I dug the Jersey Comic Expo and I hope they come back next year to the same venue. Next year, I’d like to see a larger roster of celebs as well as an expanded cosplayer area with photo backdrops and faux sets. Otherwise, there really wasn’t anything to nitpick, and if you’re into comics and buying geek paraphernalia, this is one of the best events I’ve been to in the area and I recommend it to you for next year! Thanks for reading.

NJ-Set Velvet Rope Horror Anthology Gets Trailer Treatment

VelvetRope03Is it possible? A horror anthology comic set in a New Jersey movie theater? That requires a really obnoxious fugetaboutit! Words cannot express how close to my heart the mere thought of that comic is. Old movie theaters, The Garden State, and sexy fishnet stocking-clad movie usherettes comprise Velvet Rope and there’s no way I can go wrong with it.

Since it was a based in New Jersey, I’ve owned Mark Poulton’s (Savage Hawkman, Avengelyne) Horror Anthology from Arcana Comics, Velvet Rope since it was released,  but now is a perfect time to spotlight it because our fellow NJ’er, Poulton, and the Underbelly crew have created actual movie pitch trailers for the book to show the Arcana bigwigs the potential of making it into a feature film!

The anthology’s frame tale features a phantom movie theater, a possibly demonic (and hot) theater usherette, and an unsuspecting dude who’s just trying to get his horror movie marathon on. Oh, and adding to the pot, it’s freaking Halloween night, 2008!

Out of the roughly 10 stories contained within the book, there were a few that should definitely be included if a film ever gets made. First is Poulton’s own story, Baker’s Dozen, a deliciously sick yarn about beef jerky that takes place just outside Atlantic City and recalled classic late night Tales From the Crypt episodes. Continue reading NJ-Set Velvet Rope Horror Anthology Gets Trailer Treatment

AC Boardwalk Con Adventure!

You couldn’t move in AC last weekend. Everywhere you turned there was a bachelorette party going on. It was like an old B-movie, but, instead of the Jersey Shore getting infested with 50-foot mutated soon-to-be brides, it was overrun with literal hordes of drunken twenty-something girls wearing dresses that could barely fit my arm. They were stumbling all over the boardwalk, making a scene at the casinos, and even loud talking (slurring) on line at Starbucks. Believe me, I’m all for partying, but the combination of drunkenness only amplified the fact that they all seemed to think they were hot shit. Something about getting dressed up and downing weak shots of fruity liqueur makes even the biggest disasters feel like they could nail David Beckham. They couldn’t even pronounce Macchioto at that point, but, then again, they could barely walk – even with those giant heels in hand. Don’t think for a second that their male counterparts weren’t up to the same shenanigans in other casinos, they just disguised it better. Clusters of dudes on their bachelor parties were equally as obnoxious, but they weren’t wearing tiaras and sashes, so they didn’t stand out as much. Why am I telling you this? To set the scene of course!

While much of this turned out to be entertaining in itself, like witnessing multiple girls trip over their giant heels in their micro mini skirts right before my eyes, it got in the way of my real mission: getting to the FIRST EVER Atlantic City Boardwalk Con. Last weekend, Dinosaur Dracula and I escaped immediately into a parking garage and sought refuge in the most perfect place imaginable – The Atlantic City Convention Center. This place was bustling with an entirely different breed of revelers: Geeks. The Atlantic City Boardwalk Con was like being in the Merry Land of Oz, if Oz was a comic convention and Kevin Smith was the Wizard.

AC took on a double meaning for me. The Atlantic City Convention Center was supplied with Air Conditioning, which made it a haven in more ways than one; it was an awesome way to get out of the humidity (I’m currently AC-less at home), but it was also an immense emporium for all of my favorite geek things. From comics books to Zatanna cosplay, it was all there spread throughout the cavernous facility. The craziest part about it was that they didn’t even utilize half the floor space and ACBC was still a huge con.

Cosplay was in full force. Personally, I never get sick of seeing cosplayers and the insane amount of time and effort they put into their bringing their characters to life. Some cosplayers have such elaborate homemade costumes and they never break from their roles. They’re usually happy to chat and take pictures and those I spoke to at ACBC were friendly and seemed pretty psyched to be there. Cosplay was a key part of the AC Boardwalk Con (i.e Dark Helmet) and it’s welcome to see it get the spotlight that it deserves here in New Jersey. I saw Callie Cosplay as Sue Storm and she looked fantastic. Much like some of the other cosplayers at ACBC, she changed costumes over the course of the weekend, but in the video you can catch a quick glimpse of her as Sue.

Since ACBC is new, it was a fresh experience. There was an aspect of discovery that I don’t get from other cons. With New York Comic Con, it always feels like an organized mess, overshadowed by the mega conglomerates who sink the most ad money into the event. On the other hand, ACBC provided me with a happy feeling every time I turned a corner and noticed something that I hadn’t before. It was a mix of independent vendors and the random official Marvel Universe kiosk. An excellent balance of both. Plus. the easy to follow floor layout and the imaginative vendor set-ups infused the stagnant con prototype with a new style. Mostly, it was just different than the norm, and less stressful and aggravating to navigate than the other big cons.

Enticing my eyeballs for a few hours were random toys, odd collectibles, and beautiful artwork. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but I actually didn’t come home with any. I resisted. I so desperately wanted the Batman/Harley Quinn painting you’ll see in the video above, but it was about $900 bucks! I got bills, yo! I’ll stick with the shots in the video footage I took. Further guilt was brought on by the fact that I’ve bought so many figures recently that I wanted to stick with a few original items to take home with me, so let me show you what came home with.

The NJ Ghostbusters were on site investigating a free floating full torso apparition of an old famed casino owner who is known to haunt the Atlantic City area. When I ran into the boys in gray, they didn’t have much time to B.S with me about the latest issue of Space Catalog because they just got an urgent call from Janine Melnitz, so I quickly threw them some cash so I could own one of their beautiful NJGB t-shirts! Could this shirt be any more apropos for me? NJ and Ghostbusters, perfect. I also picked up some stickers.

All the way from the far off land of Los Angeles, CA, I stopped at the table of JSalvador’s Super Emo Friends. These cute paintings of sad super heroes, rock stars, and pop culture icons grabbed me as if I saw a sad puppy in a pet shop window. How could I resist Emo Jason Voorhees moping on his mother’s severed head? I also picked up the Emo Arrow for Mike.

ACBC didn’t give me much to bitch about at all. I only had one minor gripe. I didn’t wind up meeting any of the guests, but the celebrity signing lines could’ve used more ingenuity. Once you reached the autograph and picture area in the back of the con, it was clogged up with people milling around trying to figure out whose line they wanted to go wait on first. Even getting remotely close to that wing would’ve gotten you caught up in a bit of a traffic jam. It’s possible they weren’t expecting such a huge turnout, but they’ll definitely have to expand this area next year.

ACBC was a success and I will venture to say that it was one of the most enjoyable conventions I’d ever been to. There was a positive vibe throughout and people weren’t acting like jerks. Seeing kids and families there also brought me back to when I was young and geeky things like comics weren’t ruled by 40-something dudes. It’s a family affair and that’s cool. ACBC did a bang up job right out of the gate. Looking forward to next year already!

You didn’t think our adventure ended at The Atlantic City Boardwalk Con, did you? Of course, there’s more to come from our exploits AFTER the con! Things got pretty interesting so come back soon to check it out. Thanks for reading!

AC Boardwalk Con Is Coming May 14th – 17th!

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Get Your Tickets at DOACBC.COM and USE DISCOUNT CODE “BLOG10” to receive 10% off your ticket purchase, courtesy of AC Boardwalk Con and The Sexy Armpit!

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Geek conventions and casinos have something in common. Think about it, aside from a few exceptions, for many years there were two main spots in the country to gamble in a casino, Atlantic City and Las Vegas. It was much the same with comic conventions. The official Comic Cons always happened in San Diego and New York City. No longer do we have to deal with only two major cons. Nowadays, comic and pop culture conventions are happening constantly all over the country.

Promoters have been capitalizing on the demand for cons and we have more events to choose from than ever before, especially here in New Jersey. One that I have been waiting patiently for the last couple of years for is the Atlantic City Boardwalk Con, a.k.a ACBC. The announcement for this huge event came quite a while ago and it’s finally upon us. In merely a couple of weeks (May 14th – 17th 2015) you can be a part of their inaugural event in Atlantic City, NJ.

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New Jersey has a few comic conventions throughout the year, but none seem to be on the same level as this one. ACBC’s organizers have spared no expense to hit the ground running. Although it’s the first ACBC, it has the epic feel of a con that’s been around for a decade. Celebrity guests, collectibles, concerts, events, contests, film fests, and an after hours party will comprise this jam-packed geekgasm of a weekend.

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This is a chance to hobnob with comic book artists and creators as well as check out some Q&As, workshops, take part in masquerades, and snap your cosplay photos at some awesome backdrops. There will also be the cosplay competition and crowning of Mr. and Miss Cosplay Atlantic City, a Warriors Reunion, and a Film and TV auto exhibit.
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I’ve always been a huge fan of events that take place in Atlantic City because there’s always stuff to do when the con ends for the night. Plus, it’s so much easier to make a weekend of it all and give it that “mini-vacation” vibe. The weather is warm, the beach is next door, the boardwalk is always filled with stuff to do, and you’ll no doubt want to try your luck at a table game or a slot machine while you’re in AC, because what’s the sense of being in AC if you don’t gamble away your life savings and fall deeper in hate with yourself in the process? But do that AFTER you head to ACBC because you may want an autograph from Thea Queen from Arrow first. Just looking out for ya!

From the looks of the website, this con is shaping up to be the real deal. It would truly be a feat to see ACBC succeed in such a big way that it cements it’s place amongst the major players of the convention scene. It’s looking promising, and New Jersey may finally have it’s official comic-con.

Celebrities Appearing for Autographs and Photo Ops Include:
Stan Lee, Kevin Smith, Adam West, Burt Ward, Julie Newmar, Danielle Panabaker, Tom Cavanaugh, Willa Holland, William Shatner, Brian Tee, Bryan Johnson, Drew Powell, Charles Fleischer, Elizabeth Lail, Garett Wang, Georgina Haig, Jason Mewes, Jeremy Shada, Jess Harnell, Michael Rooker, Manu Bennett, Rob Paulsen, The cast of The Warriors, Tress Macneille and a host of others!

Bands Performing: September Mourning, New Politics, and Make Out Monday

Atlantic City Convention Center
1 Convention Boulevard
Atlantic City, NJ 08401

From Mallrats to Miracle World: Monster Mania Adventure Part 3

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Enhancing the ambiance of our departure from Monster Mania was the gray skies, rain, and my fogged up windshield. I couldn’t have asked for a more picturesque day. The sun is nice once in a while, but for this type of weekend, I prefer it to be a horror movie outside. If you’ve been reading along you know there’s a few more stops to make before heading home. Where we’re going we don’t need Google Maps…actually, wait, yes we do. Shit, why did you throw the GPS out the window? Pull over.

It may sound pretty generic, but my first stop was the Cherry Hill Mall. The mall was only a few minutes from Monster Mania so it would’ve been a crime not to stop there. Shannon from Mallrats ™ wouldn’t have any reason to criticize me because I actually did have a very specific shopping agenda. I wasn’t going to buy men’s slacks, nor was I looking to get some junk jewelry and scrunchies from Easy Pickins. Nope, I was there for refreshment of the liquid type. Matt and Ms. X had no clue what the hell I was up to.

I must’ve driven around the entire mall 12 times before I finally settled on a entrance tucked away in a corner. Naturally, this entrance couldn’t have been further from our eventual destination within this “monument of consumerism” (Mallrats ™.) I can’t help myself with the Mallrats references, I’m already getting excited for the sequel.

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For the last several months, I’d been overcome with an insane craving for an Orange Julius. The problem was that there’s no Orange Julius places near me. There’s a Dairy Queen nearby, the company that owns them now, but I really wanted an Orange Julius from a standalone Orange Julius store, is that too much to ask? Getting an Orange Julius from a shop that’s solely a Dairy Queen is like getting a Dole Whip any place that’s not Disney World.

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The mall by me had and Orange Julius for as long as I can remember, but it closed down several years back and millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror. This was devastating and I haven’t been able to indulge in one in a long time. I remember my mallrat days and there wasn’t a mall visit that went by when I didn’t have either an Orange Julius or an ICEE in hand.

Man, things have changed. It seems like all the good shit has to be 5 thousand miles away nowadays (we took quite a trip just to get Ghostbusters donuts the morning they came out), so incorporating the satisfaction of my craving into the MM weekend worked like a charm. And now, behold, the greatest photo you will ever see of an Orange Julius sitting on top of a trash receptacle in Cherry Hill Mall. Its a very specific genre of avant garde photography. I’m presently teaching a lab course on this at The Learning Annex.

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After my tastebuds took part in a delightfully euphoric makeout sesh with that creamy orange goodness, it was onto the next stop, all while obnoxiously sipping an empty cup thinking some extra Julius would magically get sucked up through the straw. It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t make our way to at least one flea market on this trip. After the sad news about The Columbus Flea Market, which we visited last time, I felt that we should drop into another popular Jersey flea market.

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I wonder if Ivannah with the 3rd nipple was doing the psychic readings in that room back there?

Surprisingly, I’ve lived in New Jersey my entire life and had never been to the Collingwood flea market. History was about to change. With the rain, we didn’t get to experience the outdoor vendors, although the inside had old school superhero murals on the wall that had clearly been neglected and covered up over the years. They might have been the most intriguing thing about this place for me.

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We also stopped into a comic shop within the market which sort of reminded me of the vibe of a comic store I used to go to at the old US1 Flea Market.

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From what I saw, the Collingwood market isn’t as eclectic as Englishtown, nor as amazing as Columbus was, yet still a worthwhile stop if you happen to be in the area. #Undertak

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Have you had enough? You can’t tap out just yet, there’s one more detour to make before we get home: Zapp Comics in Manalapan. This was my first time at this shop and it was awesome to see that they offered such a wide selection of new comics, back issues, action figures and collectibles. It’s where Matt picked up Odious Ogre from Dungeons and Dragons. There’s something awesome about a store who has tons of used action figures in plastic Ziploc bags neatly stocking the pegs. Makes them feel brand new, even though they are not MOC or MIP. They are OPP, but not BBD.

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After all this blousing, I mean browsing, we were starving. Turns out that an Orange Julius won’t carry you through all day, so it was time to eat.

But, hell, why not cram in one more thing before we finally shoved food in our bellies. It was my birthday a few days prior and I still had a present to open from Matt. I may have been secretly waiting to open it to extend my birthday weekend that much longer. It wouldn’t be a gift from Dinosaur Dracula unless it was awesomely nostalgic and this took me back to when I was a kid playing Sega Master System on my mini wooden rocking chair.

 photo AlexKiddInMiracleWorldBx_zps3ybwq1pe.jpgBehold, ALEX KIDD in Miracle World. One of my favorite Master System games of all time and Sega’s answer to Super Mario well before Sonic the Hedgehog became synonymous with Sega. Thanks to Matt for the trip down memory lane. Once I’m through posting this I’m going to punch the shit out of rocks with my hysterically giant fist.

Eventually, we decided to eat at a Mexican place called Salsarita’s in Old Bridge. At the time, I had no idea that this was a huge chain. Ordinarily, I make every effort to go to Mom and Pop restaurants because they are usually the hidden gems, but it didn’t matter because I inhaled the food anyway. We were only halfway through our meals and it looked like someone bombed our table with exploding tacos, rice and beans and salsa and chips. It was delicious. The food at this place edges out Chipotle and they also get points for embracing the Mexican cantina atmosphere in contrast with the very basic look of the interior of Chipotle. If you’d like to discuss this in more detail, pick up my new informational pamphlet all about my thoughts on Interior Design in fresh Mexican food chains, it’s called LET’S TALK ABOUT MEX BABY!
You’ve finally made it to the end of our Monster Mania extravaganza. It was quite an elongated account of what really only amounted to the span of Friday night into Saturday afternoon, but reliving it through this post extended the fun even more! Thanks for reading.

ExtraComicular Activities #3: The Clifton Comic Book Expo!

Comic purists usually shoot a cross with their fingers at me when I admit that I stopped buying actual comic books years ago. As soon as it was available, I switched abruptly to digital through Comixology. While I absolutely hate the fact that I can’t purchase the comics directly though their app anymore, I still love the immersive, guided reading experience that they offer because it’s the closest I can get to replicating the similar feeling I got when I was a kid reading the old See, Hear, and Read book and record sets, only sans audio.

Regardless of not collecting hard copies anymore, that doesn’t mean I don’t love a good comic expo. I’ve been to shows that had 5 tables of comics and to the ones where you can barely navigate through the sea of cosplayers. Fortunately, in the middle, are Pug’s Comic Expos of North Jersey. Pug Productions has faithfully put on comic book shows around North Jersey ever since I can remember. My Dad took me to these in the early ’90s when they were basically the premiere comic convention in Jersey without having to cross the river over to New York. Mind you, these shows are far from being on the level of a New York Comic Con, but they make up for their scale by laser focusing on comic books. Sure, there’s always a few tables with some action figures, trading cards and random plush toys, but for the most part, the Pug comic shows are meant for serious comic collectors without all the B.S and veiled advertising of the big shows.

Sunday welcomed the early signs of Spring and I happily absorbed every bit of it. The insane sub zero conditions and constant snowstorms made this winter excessively depressing in New Jersey this year, so this was a perfect chance to get out of the house and look through a hundred long boxes of dusty old comics with Matt from Dinosaur Dracula, who actually came up with the great idea to go. With the sun shining and temperatures warm enough to start melting mountains of snow that piled up throughout this abysmal winter, a quick drive up the Garden State Parkway was just what the doctor ordered.

Arrived: Community Recreation Center – Clifton, NJ

I noticed the old school NJ Devils mural above me as I walked into a big bright room that was starting to fill up with a bunch of mellow comic lovers. It was as if it was in some kind of artists loft.

Since I wasn’t looking for anything specific, I really left fate in the hands of the cover art. If it grabbed me then I grabbed it. With comic books, the covers are deceiving and are rarely a good indication of whether it’s going to be a worthwhile read or not. Chances are slim that I actually wind up reading any of these though. They’ll probably get more of a thumb-through job at most. Sounds pretty dirty, but accurate. The two limited collectors’ editions may get full-on reads, but I’ll get to them last.

It’s been unpopular to be a DC guy for most of my existence on Earth (Earth-One that is!), but I’ve been one for better or worse since 1982. Hence, as expected, my haul was DC heavy with a GI Joe and Vampirella thrown in for good measure. Most of the comics I bought ranged from 50¢ cents to $10 dollars. Let’s see what I came home with:

JLA #121, December 2005 
DC Comics

Arrow and Black Canary on the cover was the driving force of this pickup. Actually, who am I kidding? There was no way in hell I would pass up Black Canary’s lady parts all up in my face! C’mon, we know Canary is agile and even acrobatic, but in this issue, every chance she gets she’s putting her vajayjay on displayay. There’s no way the artist didn’t realize this. Before even opening the book, there was a possible 69 situation with one of my favorite female characters in all of the DCU, but after skipping through merely 3 pages…BANG there’s another one! As Black Canary narrowly escapes the path of Green Arrow’s exploding arrow, she’s spread eagle again, er, spread Canary more appropriately. For the record, here’s a “Hey now!” Worth the price of 50¢ cents, I’d say.

Canary Crotch Count: 3

GI JOE ACTION FORCE #13, May 1987 
Marvel Comics

I was pretty pumped to come across some back issues of Action Force for $2 bucks. Quickly, I remembered their larger format didn’t necessarily equal quality due to their super-thin paper that gives them a cheaper, newspaper supplement feel. It’s unimportant though when you check out the diabolically evil face on Destro playing Cobra like a marionette puppet. I love the concept and the colors really pop here too.

Inside, there’s a cool little scene where Scarlett takes the ferry to Manhattan from Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island, our neighbors. You can see the Twin Towers in the background as they sail back from Manhattan. Later in the issue Destro stars in a Casablanca parody, you know, cause he loves his Bogey films.

VENGEANCE OF VAMPIRELLA #18, September 1995
Harris Comics

Although I’ve owned some Vampirella comics for many years, I’ve never actually read any of them. I’ve always meant to though. Although I adore it’s cover, this issue is not going to be my first foray into the exploits of the half naked seductive vampire. Not too much of interest inside this one, although the back cover is a completely different story. Hello nurse! I was greeted with a full page of Vampirella cosplay advertising Vampirelly strikes #1. And this stupid autocorrect keeps changing Vampirella to Vampirelly. VampiREALLY? Get off my back.


THE NEW TITANS #71, November 1990
DC Comics

This double sized issue is the first in a nine part storyline and it’s probably the most intriguing and well written of the stash I brought home. Why do you seem so stressed out, Nightwing? What I gather from the cover is that The New Titans 10th anniversary party didn’t go well so now Dick has to seek counseling. Starfire wasn’t happy with the puff pastry hors d’oeuvres and the Crab Rangoon was cold, WTF? The balloons were overinflated and they started to pop midway through the party (f*cking seriously?) which caused a ruckus in Cyborg’s earpiece. Shucks, this party was a bust guys.

Seriously though, Nightwing reminiscences about his team on their anniversary and we get a tour through his mind and get a front row seat of his thoughts and memories of each member. We see a retelling of some origins and his perspective of what qualities each member brings to the team.

There was also an interesting piece about how the Titans now have to keep track of all their cases, likely because it was becoming the technology age. As he sat near a computer, Dick described how different the team operates now, in some ways it’s easier but more challenging in others. Unlike the old days, they now worry about their finances! Can you imagine an entire one-shot comic detailing the bumpy road that Cyborg had to navigate to successfully file his income tax return? See, things were even meta back then since Dick was talking about licensing each team member for their own action figures.

A bizarre coincidence happened when I read through a panel that took place at the opera. A quick cameo by one of my favorites, Jillian Jackson, a.k.a Beast Boy’s girlfriend, made a comment to him about how she had tickets to see New Kids. What are the chances there would be an NKOTB reference in this comic? This proved to be even more weird since I bought Miss Sexy Armpit a couple of packs of unopened New Kids on the Block trading cards at the comic expo as well.


Possibly my favorite part was this whacked out convo about why Starfire needs to wear a bathing suit at the beach and how bathing suits make her feel inhibited. Meanwhile Dick is disguised as a ’70s porn star. This was the best thing in the whole comic haul. As an added bonus, there’s a cliffhanger with Deathstroke getting enlisted to help the Titans against that bastard Wildebeest to continue the story into the next several issues.

SUPERBOY AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES, LIMITED COLLECTOR’S EDITION, 1976
DC Comics

This book was a dollar originally, and if it came out today, given it’s size and the overinflated prices we see nowadays, it would probably be $12 at least. The first thing that hit me when I opened it up is that it totally stinks inside. The inside smells so foul it’s like a castle dungeon from the dark ages filled with decomposing corpses. That may have been too graphic, but I know actual people who were born the same year this came out and they don’t smell half as bad.

The book is in excellent condition otherwise and it was well worth the price of $10 bucks, in fact I might actually read this one eventually if I can survive the paper of eternal stench. The two page spreads of the diagram of Legion Headquarters and the wedding photo pinup of Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel are awesome and frame worthy.

The other grabber for me here was Saturn Girl. I may cut her out and hang her on the wall of my prison cell if I ever wind up in jail.

SHAZAM: THE ORIGINAL CAPTAIN MARVEL, LIMITED COLLECTOR’S EDITION, 1974
DC Comics

My motivation for getting this one, in addition to mildly enjoying the character, was actually assembling the diorama that’s touted on the cover, but that would mean ruining the comic. I decided to look through all the pages to see what I’d be massacring. Turns out that it was filled with some pretty goofy, comic-strip type adventures. There’s no doubt that I enjoy these types of stories, but not enough to make me say say that I won’t cut the shit out of the back cover. Sorry Shazam. All things considered, I think having the diorama is going to be more fun in the long run than stashing away the comic in a pile of comics. Of course, when the Shazam movie comes out and this book’s price skyrockets to $150 on eBay, I will be kicking myself in the nuts with the strength of Hercules.


When buying stuff from discount long boxes under the tables, it’s easy to feel like you spent too much money since you’re probably going home with a bunch of books, but then you remember they were the least desirable books in the rec center that day, so you feel justified. You too can give books like these a new home for merely a stack of coins. Next show is March 29th! http://www.njcomicbookshows.com

ExtraComicular Activities #2: Mars Attacks the REAL Ghostbusters!

From the Comixology description:
Something even stranger is in the neighborhood when the restless spirits of some merciless martians are stirred from their slumber to attack again! It’s up to the REAL Ghostbusters to save New Jersey from this angry red threat. Well…if they must. Written by: Erik Burnham with Art by: Jose Holder and Ray Dillon

In 1996, Tim Burton revived Mars Attacks! and brought it to a worldwide audience. I was working at the local movie theater when it was released and it was one of a string of films during that time that I remember loving, but it didn’t seem to catch on. Although it broke even at the box office, it’s largely seen as a disappointment, except to many of us geeks and Tim Burton fans. But, it turns out these aliens have got a lot more to say than just Ack, Ack, Ack!

The inspiration for the movie was a series of controversial trading cards that debuted in 1962. Apparently, alien invaders wreaking havoc was very controversial in the ’60s, OK? Other than merely knowing that the series existed, I never became acquainted with the Mars Attacks! on again off again comic book series that spawned from the trading cards. But, one thing I am vastly familiar with is Ghostbusters! Whether it’s live action, Filmation, or the REAL guys, I’ve been crazy about them since I was a little kid. To have the chance to read a comic book that combines these two entities sounded immediately appealing to me.

Presently, the comic company IDW prints an all new Mars Attacks! series, but back in 2013, they pulled off a pretty epic mini-series consisting of one-shots that pitted Mars Attacks! aliens invading five other IDW comic book properties such as Transformers, Judge Dredd, Popeye, and even my favorite rock band of all time, KISS. The issue I wanted to read even more than the KISS issue though, was Mars Attacks the REAL Ghostbusters.

Released January 1st 2013, Mars Attacks The Real Ghostbusters actually ties in four concepts, not only two as the title suggests. The third aspect of this book includes a recurring War of the Worlds theme. You know what that means: it takes place in New Jersey! Of course, it’s not much of a stretch to have the Ghostbusters drive over the bridge to bust some ghosts in Jersey, but weaving in the Mars Attacks! aliens with War of the Worlds was pretty f’n cool. And last but not least, the nod to War of the Worlds also alludes to my favorite holiday because the historic radio broadcast that they parody here was a Halloween special that aired on mischief night in 1938.

A showdown where our cartoon heroes The REAL Ghostbusters attempt to take down some alien scum instead of a class 5 full roaming vapor might sound weird to you at first, but check it out for yourself because there’s a couple of cool twists along the way. As whacked out as some of the ghosts and villains on the REAL Ghostbusters cartoon were – angry, big-headed aliens in space suits fit right in.

This comic one-shot isn’t too highly rated, and it won’t blow your mind or prompt you to write a thesis on it, but this was a quick, amusing read and I recommend it if you are looking for light comic fare that depicts the REAL Ghostbusters with alien opponents that will only happen in this book and probably never again.

Things to look out for:

– The Mars Attacks! aliens crash land in Elmo’s Hill, NJ. This is a play on Grover’s Mill, NJ the site where aliens crash landed in the War of the Worlds radio broadcast. One part Sesame Street Muppet + rhyming word = parody alien crash site.

– I always loved the REAL Ghostbusters TV bumper where the ghost in the No Ghost sign welcomes us back to the REAL Ghostbusters. He does just that in this comic, a nice little touch to make it feel like an episode of the animated series.

Interview With Pinup Artist Erica Hesse

Erica Hesse brought to life our vision to commemorate The Sexy Armpit’s 10th birthday in a vivid, epic work of art. In my interview with her, we get an in-depth look at her creative approach, her influences, her favorite comics and horror movies, and growing up in New Jersey.

SA: I’ve had this idea for a commission from you in my head for quite a long time and it’s finally come to fruition and it’s very exciting. Since I’m not an artist, how does it feel knowing that you’ve created the exact piece of art that I had in my head?

EH: It’s pretty rewarding, as an artist you can only hope you can bring every idea to life that the person has- and be able to do it justice. Especially when the client has original ideas and thoughts and you want to be able to convey what they are thinking. I think it helps in this case, a lot of the subject matter I’m familiar with and a fan of. So it made it that much easier to interpret and have fun with! 

I’m glad you had some fun with this project! Do you prefer to create a piece of art directly from your imagination or do you like having more of a direction such as in commission work?

I like doing both to be honest. Doing art straight from my imagination is therapeutic and freeing. I can do whatever I would like with no one to tell me any different. But I do like commission work too, because it keeps me on the straight and narrow and gives me a sense of direction. I learn a lot from each commission and it gives me a new perspective on how to solve or approach each new piece of art. I find that a lot of commission work I get the clients usually have a lot of imagination and creativity, some things that I wouldn’t think of doing. So it’s refreshing, challenging, and fun to do these pieces of art, subject matter that is “outside of the box” for me. There is this one project I’ve been working on with a writer for a while now, about a year or so. It’s completely different than what I’m used to illustrating, it’s really creative and thought provoking. The story is pretty amazing and we have a great working relationship. He has a great imagination and has a clear vision of what he wants, and that’s exciting. I welcome other people’s ideas and thoughts when it comes to art, I think a large part of it is due to the some of the training I had. I worked for a company before where I had a lot of art direction and creativity within a team. I welcome that because in some cases you only become better at what you do.

Can you briefly tell us about the process you went through to create this piece? You incorporate traditional and digital art, right?

Sure! You’re right I did incorporate traditional and digital art for this piece of art.  Every artist has a different way of approaching a new piece of art, I feel I kind of do things unorthodox as far as my approach in laying out the composition. I usually sketch/pencil in the main characters first, trying to capture a feel for them, then build up the background and elements around them. I usually do two different concepts and email them to the client to see if I’m heading in the right direction concerning their ideas. If it’s approved I then go back and print out the rough concept, lightbox the rough onto a piece of heavy bristol paper and start working on the final pencils. The final pencils is a tighter and more clean version of the rough concept. From there I ink over my pencils with a brush. I typically use a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen or a Windsor and Newton watercolor brush. All depending on the look I need to achieve. When the inks are done, I erase any remaining pencil lines and it’s ready to be scanned and digitally painted. Once I have the line art scanned in and cleaned up, I started blocking in loose colors using Photoshop and my Wacom tablet. From there it’s a lot of playing around with colors and determining if any small details in the composition need to be changed. Colors, for me, I find at times to be challenging, I like them to be heavily saturated and have a certain “pop” to them. I work best when I’m working on a piece of art and walk away from it for a day or so, that way I have a fresh eye when I look at it again. Sometimes it changes everything.

And that POP is certainly distinct in the final piece! How do you feel about it? Is there an aspect of it you think is exceptional?

I was a bit concerned as I first started digitally coloring the art and how I was going to make it all work with each other. Honestly I think every artist has that thought when they approach a piece of art, the gears are constantly turning and asking yourself “How am I going to make this work?” But as the piece progressed I was pretty happy on how it was turning out, I really love it.

The parts of the art I think are exceptional are how a lot of pop culture references are sprinkled throughout the art, from the He-Man sword to the Toxic Avenger-like waste barrels, the art is one big fun New Jersey pop culture piece. I love adding the little elements in there that perhaps only people from New Jersey would get. I honestly could have added more, but didn’t want to take away from the main focal point, which is the characters. l do have to say I did add a little personal touch in the art. The license plate on the beach is one number/letter off of my own old license plate I had for years.

Ha! That’s awesome. A little Easter Egg hidden in there! I love it. Switching gears, I’ve always been a huge fan of pinup culture. When did you realize you were in love with pinup style art? Is it something you realized you excelled at and just continued to do or is it legitimately your favorite style to create?

I think pinup style art has been part of me since I was a kid, it was somehow always around me in some shape or form. A lot of the comics I read growing up had a “pinup” aspect to the art, Archie’s Betty and Veronica, Katy Keene, Millie the Model, Sabrina the Teenage Witch all had an impression on me growing up. I didn’t actually discover pinup (in the form of photography and art) until years later. I knew this guy and he had this calendar of Pinup art, I believe it was by Olivia. I remember the image for that month, the woman was a brunette and had on a white man’s dress shirt and it looked innocent and incredibly sexy at the same time. And it wasn’t a photograph, it was a painting! I wasn’t drawing for a few years around that time, that image resonated with me and was in the back of my head. Fast forward some years later I was introduced to Bettie Page and was intrigued by her. I was at a point in my life where it seemed pinup art was always reaching out to me, calling to me and I finally made the leap. I guess you can say it’s been a slow steady progression.

I don’t know if pinup art was something I thought I excelled at, it’s definitely a form of art I enjoy doing. Some people liked drawing animals or wildlife scenery, for example. I like illustrating those things too, but I’m always drawn back to illustrating women. I’ve always been drawn to the female figure and consider it to be one of the most beautiful forms in nature. It’s a form of expression, an extension of myself if that makes sense.

Well, we think you definitely excel at it! As an added bonus, much of your subject matter incorporates comic art, horror, burlesque – which just so happen to be things that I am heavy into. Your piece Roller Bride of Frankenstein really seems to sum up the stuff you enjoy. With that said, can you share with us your favorite horror movies and comic books?

Ooh yes! Ha, I sure can! My favorites change here and there, but here’s what’s on top of my head at the moment. For horror movies, I love a lot of the classics. All of the classic monster movies, Bride of Frankenstein,Frankenstein, The Wolfman, The Mummy. I love Night of the Living Dead, White Zombie, Dawn of the Dead, Fright Night…I could go on and on! Fan of the first few Nightmare on Elm Street movies. For newer horror movies, none stick to the top of my head at the moment. I did recently see the remake of Evil Dead. While it was good, nothing beats the original.

For comic books, I’m currently liking/reading Brian Wood’s X-Men, The Strange Talent of Luther Strode, and the new Harley Quinn series by Palmiotti. Other favorites include Linsner’s Lucifer’s Halo, Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise, Wonder Woman, Witchblade and The Walking Dead series. I usually go for comics with strong and interesting women in them. Or if they have zombies.

Zombies are always a plus. I’m enjoying the new Harley Quinn series as well. Also on the DC front, what are your thoughts on the promo photo of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman from Batman v. Superman?

I thought the promo shot looked good, but kind of holding back my opinions until I see the movie. There’s a lot of thoughts and concerns that are rambling around in my head but I know that will probably change once I see the movie.

Can you tell us some of your artistic influences?

I kind of have a mash up of people, art, or artists that I’m inspired by. In no particular order: Gil Elvgren, George Petty, Alberto Vargas, Alphonse Mucha, Dan De Carlo, Stan Goldberg, Linsner, Coop, R. Black, Bettie Page, Rita Hayworth, Dita, Mosh…to name a few. Tara McPherson and Tokidoki are big for me in the Designer Vinyl Toy World. 

I’m a big fan of Vargas, De Carlo, and Miss Mosh as well. How about influence from your ? Were you born and raised in New Jersey? Growing up, tell us some of the places your frequented or fond memories you have from living here.

Oh heck yes. Born and raised here in good ol’ South Jersey. A lot of the memories I have growing up is where I used to live, in Egg Harbor City. I spent a lot of my time in the Don and Tom’s Newspaper store and the local Ben Franklin five and dime. Mostly buying comics and plotting which Barbie doll was going to be added next in my collection. I had a huge Barbie doll collection. It’s funny, I was never allowed to leave them naked (undressed) they always had to be fully clothed. I had a few Ken dolls but they were boring to me. I used to “borrow” my brother’s G.I. Joe dolls and make them Barbie’s boyfriend. The guy had flocked hair, how can Ken compete with that? I think I even somehow managed to make my brother’s 18-inch Alien figure Barbie’s boyfriend too. Barbie had great taste.

As far as places I checked out, I would say Ocean City was the top of the list. To me it was the “place to go” it had a little bit of everything. It had the boardwalk, ice cream, the beach, the Boardwalk Mall and of course boys. I was a bit of a boy crazy nut then. But what teen wasn’t? Of course I was rarely on the beach, I was always wanting to hop on the water slides or stuff my face with boardwalk pizza. Man, I loved that. And I used to tan, A LOT. So glad I gave that up…eventually, ha. Now I’m as “un-beachy” as you can get. The only tan I get anymore is a driver’s tan.

Same. I get as much tan as David the vampire from The Lost Boys. Similarly, I used to take my sisters Barbie dolls to have my GI Joes mingle with them on her party boat. It was a blast. So, what’s on the horizon for Erica Hesse? Are there any upcoming projects or comic shows you’d like to mention?

I’ve been keeping busy with quite a few sketch cards projects this year. Some are currently out right now. I did a few exclusive sketch cards for Zenescope’s Oz and Grimm Fairy Tales for San Diego Comic Con. I also did some cards for Chaos and the Women of Dynamite which were only available at the San Diego Comic Con as well. I have some more sketch card sets in the works but can’t mention them really until they are talked about in the press or been released. I’ve been kind of laying low on the comic con scene (which is really hard) this year due to commission work and the day job. I also made a point not to do any shows this year because I really, really want to jump back on some things I’ve been putting off. As much as I LOVE drawing pinups, I’m really itching to work on some sequentials/comics! Don’t get me wrong, I’m still working on pinups, but I just want to develop some ideas that have been in my head the past few years. These stories are dying to come out. I’ll be sure to talk about them when the time is right. To keep up to date on any news you can follow me on www.hesse-art.com or my Facebook page over at www.facebook.com/TheArtofEricaHesse.

We’ll be on the lookout! As we wrap up, being a fan of your work, I’ve read that you’ve really made your own way. You practiced hard to become a great artist and carved a space for yourself via Internet/social media as well as setting up at shows such as Wizard World to sell your prints. It’s very inspirational, so if you could leave us with some sort of motivational wisdom that might apply to anyone, not just artists, no matter how cheesy it might be, that would be awesome!

I guess the only thing I can say is do what you love. You’re going to get criticism and feedback on no matter what you do, just take it all in stride and grow from it- don’t let it affect you negatively. Do the best that you can do. Don’t worry about what this person is doing or how successful that person is, that’s a total mind killer. No art would ever get accomplished if we constantly compared or doubted ourselves.

Excellent advice Erica and thanks for the interview! The new Sexy Armpit artwork KICKS ASS!

Erica obviously has our full endorsement, so check out some of her art here:
http://www.storenvy.com/stores/159375-the-art-of-erica-hesse