Finding My Center in Mall Meanderings and Air Surfing

Remember that scene in Batman Returns when Batman and The Penguin both tell each other that “Things change?” It’s simple dialogue, but I always loved it because it applies to so many aspects of life. Yes, I quote Batman movies like they’re Shakespeare. To Bat or not to Bat, that’s never a question because he’s universally appropriate.

Recently I went to a comic show at Great Adventure. I had heard that the crew who produces the Garden State Comic Fest touted comics, artists, toys, cosplayers and more at their first ever theme park comic-fest. They already had me at roller coasters, but had me speeding down the Turnpike with “oh, and by the way, did we mention that we’ve got a comic show?” That’s quite enough deal sweetening, you don’t even have to twist my arm.

As I’ve mentioned here pretty often, Great Adventure is one of my most favorite and nostalgic places to be in the entire state. I’ve been a season pass holder since as long as I can remember and I simply enjoy the hell out of being there. Going for a mini comic con was a double-whammy.

After waiting on the long security line, I headed straight for the comic show. I didn’t want to sell it short, but hell, I wanted to get on some rides! The comic show took up only a few small tents near the Joker ride. I noticed John Wesley Shipp, TV’s Flash from the ‘90s, was signing autographs and taking pics with fans. Good for him enjoying his CW resurgence. That’s bucket list shit right there: Personal appearance at one of the world’s largest theme parks (conveniently located in Jackson Township next to Dracula’s Domain!)

Considering the comic cons I’ve been to, this was low-key in comparison. Although the Flash was there to amp it up, to casual theme park goers this was probably a really cool event to unexpectedly happen upon. I didn’t spend any money at the comic show although literally seconds after I left the tent, something caught my eye.

I made a purchase at the concession stand and shockingly, it wasn’t a Churro. There was a sign advertising this awesome Batman figural popcorn bucket. Yes folks, I bought a Batman popcorn bucket that I will most likely never put popcorn in, let alone anything else for that matter, but this is the kind of junk that I live for. It came with a separate bag of popcorn which I gave to my friend Bob to snack on as he was running his Glowmania table at the comic show. This is the kind of thing that’s exclusive to Six Flags so I plunked down my money.

Although the comic fest didn’t blow me away, this GA trip came at a good time. When real life stuff happens, it’s a perfect place to escape to. Most people wouldn’t consider this paradise. There’s no beach, but they do have Hurricane Harbor. There’s often long lines and massive amounts of people aimlessly wandering with no f’n clue where they’re going. But the coasters on the other hand, the roller coasters are therapy for me. I really mean that. Some people like to talk to a therapist, I prefer to work out any stress or worries by riding thrilling high speed loops and corkscrews. I don’t surf, but I do from a certain point of view, I sit in a coaster car and surf through the air. There’s something special about slicing through the air with your arms up and floating in your seat, not expending any energy whatsoever. Maybe it’s the lazy man’s surfing, I don’t know. One thing is for sure, it puts things in perspective.

All of life’s speed bumps and road blocks seem minuscule when you willfully strap yourself into the craziest rides in the entire state. You’re volunteering to be whipped around and thrown upside down in furious fashion. When the ride is over, the brakes are abruptly applied just as if you’re driving fast and you halt for a red light that seemingly appeared out of nowhere. In most cases, this is a cue to vomit your brains out, and some people do. In fact, as an example, just as I was about to hop into my seat on Nitro, the ride had to stop and be hosed down because someone lost their lunch. Talk about clearing their mind, they could start with a clean slate for the rest of the day. Personally, these rides don’t effect me like that, they actually bring me calmness. After putting my body and brain through over a minute of complete and utter chaos, the momentary serenity restores my balance.

Aside from the therapeutic power of thrill rides, I was also unwittingly jettisoned back in time. I wish I could say I hitched a ride on a DeLorean, but this was more of a memory trigger.

One of the grabbers for me at Great Adventure was always their licensing of DC Comics characters. For me, The Justice League/Super Friends were never a passing fancy. As a baby, I had DC characters in my crib. There were times throughout the years that I feared Six Flags would distance themselves from DC altogether. Thankfully, with the superhero craze, it’s quite the opposite nowadays. The Justice League characters and their respective rogues gallery appear all over the park. For instance, Batman, The Joker, Harley Quinn, Green Lantern, Bizarro, and Superman, all have their own rides. Some of the characters even show up in costume to take photos with park goers. Shit, even the Six Flags fast pass is referred to as The Flash Pass, yet another reason why this is one of my happy places.

Six Flags’ affiliation with Warner Brothers also boasts the liberal use of the Looney Tunes characters as well. This isn’t marketing 101, but stick with me, I’m actually leading up to something here.

I’ve long felt that the shops at Great Adventure are the closest thing we’ll ever get to a modern day Warner Brothers Store. The WB Store in the mall was always on my short list of places to stop at when I was a mallrat. And yes, well before it was a movie, I was an actual mallrat. My friend E and I used to basically live at the mall every weekend for a few years in high school before I started working at the local movie theater.

I don’t regret any of those wasted days at the mall. We’d get there at noon on Saturday and leave at 5. We’d sit on the benches by the fountains and trade Marvel cards that we bought. Afterward, we’d set up shop in the back of Burger King and inevitably always ran into a handful of people we knew. E would get free food because the girl that worked there had a thing for him, even though he was hung up on someone else. After Whoppers and Dr. Pepper mixed with 7 other sodas, we would literally sit there and bullshit for an hour. Miraculously, we didn’t have cell phones to pick up and look at every 2 seconds either.

After leaving Suncoast or The Game Room, we’d simultaneously launch into the geekiest disagreements and the deepest conversations about Star Wars at a time when it was super uncool. It was the dark times – way before the prequels. We were completely focused on debating details of Yoda’s origins and what brand of salsa pairs most perfectly with A New Hope for our Intergalactic Nacho extravaganza later.

I could literally write 6 pages solely about all the nothing that we did during those days. My Dad and Uncle used to tell me the craziest stories about the over the top hijinks they would get themselves into as teenagers. In comparison, me buying the ultra cool, brand new Wizard magazine and a cherry ICEE was about as extreme as things got during that period of time. We once spent 2 hours in the aisles of B. Dalton while E read Jack Kerouac and I read an Elvira young adult novel. Calling back to Batman Returns, do things really change all that much? Maybe just the backdrop. For a fleeting moment, I was in a store that reminded me of those times in the mall, and the memories rushed back into my mind.

We’d stay up late in the summer, walk around the neighborhood with our friends, make multiple stops at 7-11 for snacks, play SNES, Nightmare or HeroQuest, watch horror movies and then fall asleep at whosever house we were at. It was unbeatable. As an adult, I can live pretty much that exact same life, but it winds up paling in comparison because it’s missing some key elements. Sorta like when Gary and Wyatt forgot to hook up the doll in Weird Science.

In this scenario, one of the key elements missing is the actual mall. The mall I described earlier that was basically our headquarters for a long time has changed, and not for the better. Amongst stores like Heroes World, Suncoast Motion Picture Company, The Game Room, Sam Goody, and B. Dalton, was the Warner Brothers Store. The WB Store was a mainstay for us. There was NEVER a time we didn’t stop in to lust after their DC Comics knick-knacks on display. I still own a large cross-section of inventory from that store and I’m happy I do. So much of the merch they sold was exclusive to WB Stores. Thinking back, I always bought their large sized action figures that you couldn’t find anywhere else. Cut to present day, I still buy giant sized action figures of Batman called Big-Figs. Things do not change.

E and I would hover around in awe of their commemorative animation cels that we couldn’t afford, but pretended we could anyway. One time the older, professionally dressed salesperson got into a conversation with us about which pieces we were interested in and what our price range was. We had to slink away after swearing that we were just browsing before they roped us into a $350 dollar Road Runner animation cel.

The WB Store was also good for some exclusive t-shirts, plush toys, books, mugs, and statues…yeah statues! I type this sitting a foot away from a 24″ silver age Batman statue that I only dreamed of owning back when we thought it must have merely been a larger than life store decoration. It never seemed like it was actually for sale, and even if it was, it never sold because it was probably way too expensive. Years later, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I own it, an actual piece of the Warner Brothers store. Oh, and an enormous Gossamer statue too!

As I eased back into the present day, I was standing in a shop in Great Adventure. It wasn’t a shocking revelation to call it virtually the modern day version of the old WB Store. I’ve mentioned this here on the site before, but my last few visits here have been so nostalgic that I almost felt like they should just call it what it is: The WB Store at Six Flags Great Adventure.

When you first walk into the park, two or three stores are connected and basically make one huge mega store. This is very similar to how shops are linked together in Disney World. In this case, you walk through the Looney Tunes section and then the DC Comics section. I stop into these stores every time I go to the park, but this time I literally spent 45 minutes because there was so much new crap to look at. As I browsed around, much like the WB Store before it, it’s safe to say more than half of all the merch was exclusive to Six Flags and Great Adventure specifically.

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned that the Hall of Justice shop was the pinnacle of stores in the entire park, and for DC Comics fans, it truly IS. Unfortunately, there’s been a bit of a misstep. Things are changing. The shop has lost so much of it’s personality since they decided to change its name to the…Gotham City Gift Shop? Are you f*cking serious bro? WTF! The name change obviously capitalizes on its proximity in the park to Batman: the Ride and The Dark Knight Coaster, but with the build up to the Justice League movie looming, the Hall of Justice is the most appropriate name for the shop, no question. On top of that, the OG storefront was faintly designed in the spirit of the actual Hall of Justice in the comics. Six Flags can try to justify the change in various ways, but there’s no better time in the history of Great Adventure to have a shop inspired by the headquarters of DC’s iconic Superhero Team. Now dropping a Roman Reigns quote on you: “Believe that!”

I picked up a Green Lantern hat on sale for 9 bucks. Sexy Armpit color scheme. Also added to the cart, the exclusive Batmobile print.

Just as a brief downpour began, I hopped in my car and headed for the Turnpike. On the way home I stopped in at Wawa. I rarely get their fancy pre-made iced drinks, but not because they aren’t delicious, more because they are filled with so much sugar. I felt pretty good about things at that moment. As I flipped through the touch screen options, I came across an iced mint creme drink. I know mint isn’t a flavor that everyone digs, but it’s probably my favorite flavor of ice cream or iced beverages. I was pleased with my decision and I loved it. I inhaled it about 2 minutes after buying it. It was refreshing and a cool way to cap off the trip. Treat Yo’ self!

On a trip to Great Adventure I would’ve never expected to get a rush of fond memories about the Warner Brothers store and summer days in the mall. Did I use this post to reminisce? Sure I did, but it was all legit. The ironic part is that I don’t even want to step foot into a mall nowadays, so in that respect, things have absolutely changed.

Since so many malls have lost their luster over the years, If you’re even remotely in the vicinity of Great Adventure this summer, I recommend escaping there for some thrills. It’s a blast, a diversion, and a therapy session all in one. Plus, they have the closest thing we may ever get to another Warner Brothers Store, and that’s one hell of an endorsement if you ask me.

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!

HALLOWEEN 2016 WAS A SCREAM!

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A BLOODY GOOD TIME is right! One of the coolest things from this Halloween Season for me, if not EVER was Scott Modrzynski’s art of…ME! WHAT? So amazing. Check out his artwork here: http://www.mojoswork.com

Word on the social media street is that this Halloween season was painfully mediocre. While I can’t speak for everyone else, I feel like this Halloween will go down in my own personal Halloween Hall of Fame. To its credit though, as standard as it may have been, there was still enough stuff for me to write a giant recap post about it all, so dig in and enjoy! Happy Halloween!

THE SEXY ARMPIT HALLOWEEN SPECIAL

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CLICK HERE TO WATCH!

First and foremost, our Halloween Special this year was our most batshit crazy one ever! I was really happy with it and we received a ton of amazing feedback. Thank you so much for watching it and if you haven’t yet – check it out at the link above! Special thanks to our cast and crew and New Needle Productions. Check out New Needle’s page for their annual Halloween Short!

PODCASTING AND BLOGGING

The Purple Stuff Podcast took a short break, but we will be back! In the meantime, I was a guest on the annual Nerd Lunch Halloween Show. Will from Casserole of Disaster joined us as we created Scary Movie Menus. It was a fun show so give it a listen! You can check it out at the Nerd Lunch site.

Dex over at AEIOU and Sometimes Why interviewed me for his Halloween Memories Series. It was very cool of him to invite me on there. You can check out the post HERE where I discuss Halloween memories, costumes, and other anecdotes, some that I haven’t shared anywhere else!

FOOD 

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Not actual food, but I got one at a place that serves food, so this counts: McDonald’s offered The Great Pumpkin Trick or Treat Pails which were a huge win. Celebrating the 50th birthday of this classic Halloween TV Special, these pails are very cool. Even if you don’t collect these, their lineage ties back to the ’80s when McD’s released their McBOO pails!

There was so much pumpkin flavored stuff that hit the grocery store shelves this season that they forgot to make it feel important. Rather than make a big deal about some of these products with a promotional tie-in to Halloween, it seemed like shelves were flooded with Pumpkin Spice and Candy Corn everything and not many of them had a Halloween vibe. I really hope that we see some strong, more blatant Halloween tie-ins in the future. The “Fall” offerings are usually weak. Let’s get some more spooky imagery on packaging and in commercials! I was still impressed with the Reese’s commercials, although it feels like they air only like a week before Halloween, which sucks.

After thinking on it, I agree with Matt, the pumpkin spice gimmick is getting a little long in the tooth. The only area where it will never get old is probably coffee, because there’s something about pumpkin flavored coffee that has become truly synonymous with the season. Although, as Starbucks highlighted, you don’t necessarily need pumpkin flavor to create a killer Halloween drink. Their Frappula came back this year and they even had an amazing poster touting it where the Frappula had bat wings.

Kool-Aid’s Ghoul-Aid changed its formula and not for the better. If you’ve ever had cough medicine, you know what I mean. The old blackberry formula was delicious and now it seems like they needlessly changed it and I barely heard anyone talking about it this year except to complain.

Butterfinger Skulls were pretty badass. If it wasn’t for their cardiac arrest inducing fat content, I’d be more upset to see them go.

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Even though Ecto-Cooler came back way before Halloween time, it’s still on shelves, so it can loosely be considered part of this year’s Halloween season. The release of the new Ghostbusters on video and on demand definitely fell in the prime time of the season and that brought us the insane Wayback Burgers promotion. A Slimer Shake AND a Ghostbusters burger made for a tie-in of epic proportions. Thus far, it’s been pretty much the leader this year in terms of cool stuff.

In terms of cereal, Halloween Crunch still remains at the top for me even though the box art stayed the same this year. As for other cereals, Cheerios got into the Pumpkin Spice mix. I searched like a madman and finally bought roughly 18 boxes and had a tough time finishing half of one box. It’s heavier on the spice rather than the pumpkin, but at least they gave it a shot. Maybe if they went with a more mellow pumpkin flavor and did a Great Pumpkin tie-in too? You can’t go wrong with the Peanuts.

In this post, I will brag twice. I try to keep it to a minimum, but these are instances where it’s worthwhile. First, the Japanese Halloween Garlic Doritos. I hadn’t even the slighest clue that these would ever be made when I brought them up as an idea I had on The Purple Stuff with Matt. I just conjured up a product I would like to see made and BAM, a year later, they exist…but only in Japan. We ordered them and I wasn’t a big fan of the texture or flavor as it was a little different than the Doritos here, but it was still incredible that this became an actual thing. The spooky bag art was cool too!

I must say that I came right out immediately and called it from the beginning: the Monster Cereal Election tie-in was pure garbage! For me, and I know many of you as well, the Halloween season is pure escapism. We can travel back in time and recall memories of Halloweens of the past and we can delve into other horrific worlds while watching or reading spooky movies or books. Infusing some convoluted Monster Mascot election into the promotion of the cereal this year was utter nonsense. It brought us out of the nostalgia factor for those cereals and reminded us about the most mocked presidential election in U.S history. I felt like I was really onto something with the Monster High tie-in that I brought up on the Purple Stuff as well as on Twitter many times.

MERCH!

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Matt at Dinosaur Dracula continues to enthrall nostalgia nuts with his monthly Fun Pack. His Halloween Fun Pack was one for the ages this year. You can subscribe at his website www.dinosaurdracula.com

8 Bit Zombie released one of their coolest and most unique items ever: The Monster Squad Lunchbox and Glass set. The cartoonish art by Matt Skiff is freaking awesome and the whole idea of this set brings me back in time. It’s such a cool addition to my collection.

If you haven’t visited the Cryptocurium, Jason McKittrick has been creating his own horror inspired sculptures and magnets for a while now. He’s done a hell of a job with his monthly Trick or Treat subscriptions this season.

Rob Zombie and Fright Rags tagged up to release a bunch of cool Rob Zombie related tees and sweatshirts. As always, the artwork was superior!

We were blessed with insane Zombie straws and a Pumpkin shaped Slurpee cup both from 7-11.

Artist Travis Falligant @IBTrav has been killing it with his Lost Mysteries pins and now he has Halloween Costume Kits for sale! The “Dead Dame” is in the style of Frankenhooker and it is perfect…but it’s now SOLD OUT! I’m glad I ordered early.

We’ve seen the release of a lot of cool pins and tees this season, although Matt Skiff’s Spooky Storyteller inspired by Curly the Skeleton from Goosebumps was a standout for me.

Tyler Ham aka @Ham_FX created a print mashup of Halloween III and The Great Pumpkin and it was GLORIOUS!

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My friend Bob helped me realize that one of the most simple and dare I say overlooked aspects of this season was Walmart’s clothing offerings. They had horror t-shirts including Friday the 13th, Child’s Play, NMOES, and Hellraiser, as well as lounge pants, which are awesome. I instagrammed a pic of the lounge/pajama pants that I bought and I’vee been wearing them like crazy. They’re comfortable and they even have pockets, which is key for me. I need somewhere to put my phone once in a while.

MONSTER HIGH

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The reboot film, Welcome to Monster High, came out for one day only at the end of August in theaters and then went to video and on demand. I saw it in the theater and absolutely loved it. I was actually surprised at how much of a jump it made from a quality standpoint compared to their previous movies. The storytelling was simple, dialogue was fun, voice work was on point, and the CG animation looked absolutely fangtastic (I had to!) I consider this part of the Halloween season since it really hit the world in early September. As if a brand new rebooted film wasn’t enough, the doll line was rebooted as well. And to put the exclamation point on the season on the Monster High front, the Lady Gaga Monster High doll was finally officially announced and went up for pre-order in mid-October. This doll had a long history and to see the attention to detail that it has received is awesome. It won’t arrive to The Sexy Armpit HQ until end of December/early January, but I’d say it really capped off a fine Monster High season.

MOVIES, TV, and MUSIC

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Saturday Night Live created another classic Halloween sketch with a character who will be everywhere in future Halloweens: David Pumpkins! The Tom Hanks episode this season was strong and he put the David Pumpkins sketch over the top to become a pop culture icon in no time!

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Scream Queens Season 2 premiered and by the end of the first episode it blew the first season out of the water, and I LOVED the first season.

“If you like seeing Alice Cooper and getting stuck in the rain” – I changed the lyrics, but you know that song, don’t you? I’ve seen Alice Cooper live before, and nothing beats seeing him in the fall. Alice played First Energy Park in Lakewood, NJ on September 30th and it was cold, windy, and raining all night. Of course, the show went on! It was still a blast to see him regardless of the weather.

The FOX production of Rocky Horror premiered and it wasn’t awful. Obviously, if Victoria Justice wasn’t in it, I probably wouldn’t have been as interested in seeing it, but it wasn’t terrible. It’s impossible to reach the pinnacle of the original, but this was halfway decent. To me, more Rocky Horror is always a good thing.

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After pining for a new Blair Witch movie for 15 years, it finally happened. In disguise as “The Woods,” it finally revealed itself as a Blair Witch reboot, despite them saying it was a sequel to the original. It wasn’t what I was hoping for, but it was still cool that it exists. At times it felt robotic as if it didn’t have much of a soul. I’ve come to find out that I’m in the minority here, but I felt 2015’s “The Witch” was more in line with my expectations and preference when it comes to a new Blair Witch movie. I wanted something that would’ve added to the mythology. Plus, this one ignores the events of Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 and for that, it loses points in my cool book.

As a Rob Zombie loyalist, I was at the premiere of 31 front and center. Unfortunately, much like the Blair Witch situation, it wasn’t what I had hoped for either. Often, when a great deal of people are unimpressed with a film and I wind up liking it, I wonder “what the hell were they expecting?” In this case, I was totally expecting something more Halloweeny. I don’t mean it needed to star Michael Myers or little Sam from Trick or Treat, but I was hoping the story would be more tied into the holiday itself. More pumpkins and ghosts, etc you catch my drift. Maybe his next movie will fulfill that quota?

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AMC’s Comic Book Men had a Halloween Special starring Elvira. This episode was filmed during a blood drive in Red Bank, NJ. I went to give blood and the folks at The Secret Stash asked if I wanted to meet Elvira. Although I met her before, who am I to say no to an opportunity like that? I’m an Elvira freak! I went over and met Elvira and out of all the people at The Secret Stash that day, the moment where I go to say hello to Elvira made it into the show! What better way to cap off this Halloween Season than to say that I was on one of the coolest TV shows meeting Elvira…in NEW JERSEY!

COSTUME

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This year there were a few costume ideas bouncing around in my head, but only one that I really wanted to be. My favorite GI Joe character is Zartan, always has been. But I didn’t want to do any old Zartan costume, I wanted to do 1993’s NINJA FORCE ZARTAN!

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Most people think this is way obscure, but if you’re a fan of GI Joe and 80’s and 90’s action figures in general, you probably know about this variation of the character. The Ninja Force subset of GI Joe was much more vibrant in color and had more of an edgy look to them.

We go out every year and this year it was back to Asbury Park and we had a blast. Miss Sexy Armpit dressed as Jillian Holtzmann from Ghostbusters 2016 and she was spot-on!

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After reminiscing on all of this, it’s obvious that Halloween 2016 was pretty badass in the realm of The Sexy Armpit. I hope you’ve had a kickass Halloween Season and I’m looking forward to next year already! Happy Halloween Everyone!

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

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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.