Good things come to those who wait, right? Obviously, that’s not guaranteed, but judging from what I’ve witnessed, it’s often proven true. Things I’ve only dreamed of as a kid have materialized. I’ve flexed with Hulk Hogan and I live in a world where there’s a Wonder Woman feature film. Life is good. In many respects, it keeps getting better. How’s that, you ask? Read on! Continue reading Battling For Metropolis…In My Backyard!
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!”
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.
This year it seemed like Christmas didn’t pack the wallop that the immense holiday usually does. Collectively, many of my friends on social media have confessed to not being into the holiday spirit this year. At least for me, it’s hard to come close to the highs of our Halloween celebration, but, just because it was an off year doesn’t mean we can’t at least wing it! I still listened to Christmas tunes all month long, ate several indulgent meals, and got a bunch of cool gifts. Since you probably don’t need to hear about my ingestion of 14 pounds of eggplant parmigiana and the scraps from my mother’s ridiculously good rainbow cookies, I’ll tell you all about some of the kickass stuff that magically appeared under my Christmas tree this year. Continue reading Christmas 2015
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.