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.
Ever since I was in my teens I had a season pass to Six Flags Great Adventure. I can’t say that every friend of mine was as hell bent on constantly spending their summer days incessantly riding some batshit crazy roller coaster of fury, but there always seemed to be a select few who were brave enough. Brave enough not only for the thrill rides, but also to voluntarily take the trip with me. Some of my friends still tell stories about our trips there ’til this day.
Maybe they reminisce about those crazy times because life was pretty simple then. Aside from the shore and malls, there wasn’t a ton of stuff to do in suburbia. We went swimming in our pools, hung out playing board games, went to the movies, all the standard fare. Compared to that stuff, not living too far away from Great Adventure was like holding a key to an action packed alternate dimension. I’ve written about Great Adventure plenty of times here at The Sexy Armpit, and if you’re from the Tri-State area, you know all about its allure, especially when you’re a teenager. Even if you had to get a little crew of friends together and get dropped off by someone’s parents, the whole experience still made me feel like a wild, reckless adult. A trip with me to Six Flags never lacked controversy, that’s for sure.
A season pass to G.A was like having a VIP laminate to a concert. Once I got my license, that season pass got used anywhere from 10-15 times in a season. That was back when having fun and filling up my summer days with cool shit was basically my job. With the ability to drive my friends and I down there came the opportunity to elevate these excursions to Ferris Bueller levels. I blasted music in the car, exceeded the speed limit by at least…9 miles per hour, and maybe we didn’t eat pancreas, but we inhaled Quick Check subs and chugged Mountain Dew in the parking lot (right before nausea inducing rolling coasters.) It was a tradition for me to get us into a few scrapes on the way down there, and there was usually the inevitable “disagreement” with a line cutter or some other miscreant.
Some people reminisce about high school. Me? I’ve been reflecting on all the years I’ve been going to G.A. and it’s incredible how many memories I have at this place. Comparatively, I’m proud of what I accomplished in high school, but I wasn’t a fan of it at all. I always wanted to be somewhere else. I knew I was going through the motions. A testament to that is the fact that I met most of my closest friends that I still talk to way before high school. A ton of people go to high school reunions, some gossip about people they graduated with, and some never really let go of that period of their lives. To me, those 4 years can’t hold even the tiniest birthday candle to the immense amount of time I spent through the years at Six Flags Great Adventure. It might sound preposterous, but it’s been part of my entire life. It served as a backdrop for long summer hangouts with friends, and as the pinnacle of romance for a 17 year old kid with a driver’s license and a bring a friend free pass. If you can’t relate to that, I guess you’ve never tried to impress a girl by taking her on The Skyway? Now that’s class! Sure you could tell a girl you were picking her up in an actual CAR, a licensed road vehicle, but when you offer the opportunity to take a leisurely flying wicker seat ride, that gained you a day or two of her adoration. That is, at least until she revealed that she secretly had eyes for a guy on the intramural football team who laughs at all your jokes in 5th period, plus she didn’t really want to hear you gush about what kind of impact A Lonely Place of Dying had on your life. But that’s a whole other 19 paragraph post, isn’t it?
Do you remember the names of all your teachers from high school? I don’t, save for a select few. Did you have a moment from your prom that still gives you the butterflies? I don’t. But, I can tell you that I get choked up just thinking about how I’ll never get to ride The Great American Scream Machine ever again. Of course, I should be more than satisfied that I’ve ridden it literally hundreds of times in its entire 20 year existence. Now that Nitro has turned 15, I’m already worrying that I won’t know how to cope if it ever leaves us. Scream Machine and Nitro are my favorite coasters of all time and I’ve probably spent more time on them than I’ve spent with most of my relatives and that’s saying something since they each last a little over 2 minutes.
Mind you, it wasn’t all “More Flags, More Fun.” A lot of it, the parts we ignore for posterity, kind of sucked – and still do! Take for instance, the often blistering heat, sunburn, sweat, agitation, fatigue, and hunger. Long ride lines were never a good scene, but they usually indicated that the ride was worthwhile. A big chunk of time was spent hanging on the steel railing and saying dumb things with your friends or trying to make our with your then-love interest. It’s easy to suck up those negatives to be enthralled by repeated whip-lashings for 35 seconds, but damn, each one of those seconds makes us feel like all life as we know it could stop instantly and we’d all have abnormally huge smiles with rippling cheeks permanently plastered on our faces. What could be more fun? It makes some people drool. Others vomit. Come to think of it, those peeps probably don’t revere all this nonsense as highly as I do.
By now, you’ve gathered what Great Adventure symbolizes to me. My affinity for the park hasn’t changed, but my trips to Great Adventure have. They aren’t as dangerous. They don’t involve near death experiences on the New Jersey Turnpike (well, most of the time) and they’re a heck of a lot shorter. As an example, I’ll leave you with a summary of our latest Great Adventure excursion.
Miss Sexy Armpit and I made our way down to Jackson, NJ after work one night last week. Considering they close at 9pm, that didn’t leave us much time. By the time we got down there we had a solid 2 hours and we didn’t plan on wasting it. Traditionally, as long as we get to ride Nitro, we’re happy campers, but this time we rode their newest roller coaster, The Joker! At first, it seemed like it wasn’t running. This was a possibility since the ride broke down shortly after it opened and many riders got stuck. I assumed it was just stopped for repairs, but as we got closer, the ride was indeed operating, so we were in luck. I had every intention of riding it, although Miss Sexy Armpit needed a bit of coercing. She wasn’t fond of the idea that the coaster cars themselves spin around while the coaster was running. This could be extremely vomit inducing for some people. She relented and we hopped right on. The ride turned out to be pretty tame – almost more of a wild Ferris wheel gone haywire. I laughed maniacally the entire time like Cesar Romero, so I can see why they named it, The Joker. We were glad we rode it, although, much like The Dark Knight Coaster, it’s not on my must-ride list.
Number one on my absolute must-ride list is Nitro. The lines were pretty much non-existent this late in the day, so we got right on without a long wait. After that, I convinced Miss Sexy Armpit to stay on for one more ride. Even though we technically only went on 2 rides, we accomplished our mission.
Then, as always, I checked the DC Hall of Justice store. I’ve mentioned this place before, but to reiterate, this is the ultimate gem of a store that DC Comics fans might want to consider buying admission to the park just to gain access to this shop. It’s not a gigantic store by any means, but it’s about the closest answer to the DC Super Hero section of the old Warner Brothers store in the mall that we may ever have. I didn’t pick anything up this time, mostly because I had something else in mind that I was hoping to find on the way out.
Last stop was the Main Street Market. For regulars, this is the first shop you see after you make your way through the metal detectors (yes the park has excellent security.) I was asked if I needed help finding anything and in my best Lando Calrissian voice I said, “As a matter of fact you can…” Then, I explained that I had heard about a few Great Adventure t-shirts that had just been released with the vintage logo on them. He had no clue what I was talking about. The poor kid looked at me like I just posed him a question that Einstein couldn’t figure out. Finally, Miss Sexy Armpit dumbed it down for him, “it has like…a rainbow with stars…” “OHHH YEAHHH!” then it dawned on him that we weren’t complete psycho nutjobs after all and actually perfectly normal customers towing the Great Adventure retro t-shirt line.
Before we even got to the park, I had it in the back of my head that I absolutely HAD to get this shirt. Thanks to Miss Sexy Armpit for getting it for me. I’ve always had a major soft spot for the old Great Adventure logo, and years back, I even made a Sexy Armpit parody of it. (Below you can save the Sexy Armpit/Great Adventure iPhone Wallpaper) Perhaps even more coincidentally, I’ve been scoping out actual vintage Great Adventure tees on eBay for such a long time: Check out this ridiculous old post.
What does this all mean? I really don’t know, but maybe it’s just my way of telling you that you should get out of your house and go to your nearest amusement park this summer and maximize your fun! Thanks for reading!
Does it get any geekier than parodying an early ’70s soft rock hit from the band Chicago to use as a title for a blog post? I think not. The 4th may not have been the specific date we visited Six Flags Great Adventure for their Holiday in the Park extravaganza, but I kept singing “Holiday in the Park” as if it were a real Chicago song that night. At first, the thought of going to an amusement park in December sounds preposterous, falling short of maybe only the Polar Bear Plunge, where clearly crazy people VOLUNTARILY choose to dive into the ocean, which happens to be filled with ridiculously freezing cold water. Fortunately, on the night that we headed to Jackson, NJ, it was unseasonably mild…but raining. On our drive down, the weather was indeed “frightful,” and I told Miss Sexy Armpit that we were nuts for even thinking of riding roller coasters in the rain. Wait, hold up, note to self, remember to write a mid-80s style, smooth R&B song called “Riding Roller Coasters in the Rain” because that title f*cking rocks. Anyway, we justified it as such: “But they have Christmas lights!!” so we wooden-soldiered on.
To my knowledge, Great Adventure has never done a Holiday celebration, and if they did, it was never anywhere close to this extreme scale. It all felt like Six Flags on Candy Cane flavored Crack. It was like Great Adventure submitted themselves to compete in The Great Christmas Light Flight. Once we arrived and heard the Christmas tunes echoing into the parking lot and saw the soft glow of the festive lights pouring into the misty night sky, it was obvious this was the Christmas version of Fright Fest and we were in for a real treat.
Upon entering the park we were immediately transported into the North Pole with snow machines blowing snow everywhere! Talk about eye candy, every inch of the entire park was decked out in Christmas decor. The attention to detail was incredible, it felt like every tree had lights and every window had animatronic elves preparing gifts. It was a sight to behold. Miss Sexy Armpit even said she liked it better than Fright Fest. For me, as a G.A regular since 1985, it felt much different than anything they’ve done before. The park transformed into its own little Christmas island.
As we made our way through the park, I kept thinking how my Christmas spirit this year wasn’t anywhere near the levels it had been in the past. I couldn’t pinpoint why that’s been the case, but experiencing Holiday in the Park was like a shot of Christmas spirit right in the heart. With the Christmas tunes playing and visitor’s of the park in a more laid back, jolly mood, it was just what I needed. It actually felt like more of an escape from reality than any other time I’ve been to Great Adventure.
The rain and drizzle was intermittent, but it was actually exactly what we needed to be able to hop on all the rides with almost no lines. Turns out that most people don’t like to go on rides in the rain. What a shocker. The longest we waited to get on a ride was about 10 or 15 minutes, which was great. Miss Sexy Armpit and I hit a couple of our favorites including, Nitro and Superman. We even took a ride on the indoor Skull Mountain, which is tame compared to the other insane thrill rides they have there, but it’s still old school, simple fun. The closest comparison to it would be Space Mountain in Disney, although it’s always been a few steps behind. Looking back since it opened, the ride had the potential to be amazing. Consider this: it could’ve been a Goonies ride! Even if they couldn’t secure rights to the Goonies, they could’ve easily picked a licensed property that would’ve worked, or even created their own original generic pirate or ghost theme. The story and the characters associated with the rides always enhance the ride experience for me. They should’ve also incorporated spooky music into the ride as well. But, here’s why I won’t complain this time around: For Holiday in the Park, Skull Mountain transformed into Poinsettia Peak and it was completely draped in red Christmas lights. The whole rocky facade of the ride was bathed in red, like Tootsie’s dress, so all was forgiven. Good old Skull Mountain has never looked this glamorous….or RED!
After the rides I had my imperative browsing session in the Justice League store. This place is a MUST every time I go to Great Adventure. With wall to wall DC Super Hero stuff, it’s the closest thing I’ll get to the old WB store in the mall. I want to buy everything. Hint: check out the video above to see the cool, customized white Christmas tree adorned with all kinds of DC characters! I didn’t buy anything this time around, but I was sure tempted. I’m just glad this store is still open and as awesome as it ever was.
Aside from the obvious Christmas theme, there was an element to the whole experience that made it stand out. The fact that we were riding coasters in December, the temp was in the mid ’50s, and the foggy night sky had an ominous, purple hue, made those high points on the coasters feel fifty times more awesome than usual. In addition to the coasters which are predominantly a warm weather pastime, we also partook in G.A’s Boardwalk games to briefly recapture that summer magic. For a minute I’d thought I hit the jackpot since that tricky milk can toss game with the softballs was chock full of Star Wars: Force Awakens stuff. Kylo Ren plush toys gave Miss Sexy Armpit a reason to blow copious amounts of money to try to win one for me. What a girl! She bought us both chances and we both failed miserably, but we had fun so that’s what matters, right? Come to think of it, maybe we would’ve nabbed Kylo Ren if we actually completed our Jedi training on Dagobah.
To ease the pain of our simultaneous double loss, there were holiday themed treats for sale everywhere. For example, Hot Chocolate with Snowman Peeps was served and sipped at several of the fire pit stations. Yes, you read that correctly, they had fire pits set up strategically by the food and snack kiosks which was a hit. People with mittens holding hot drinks were hanging out by fires as if they were at some super expensive ski lodge. Carollers sang holiday songs while flashy Christmas tree light shows burned green cones into my retinas. That was all good, but what’s a holiday celebration without the big man himself? That’s right, Santa Claus appears to hear all the kiddies tell him they want hover-boards, and so does Mrs. Claus with her special story time show. They covered all bases except Mrs. Claus’ late night lingerie striptease – that, for some reason, was not on the docket.
With trees wearing Candy Cane disguises, holiday photo-op stations erected (they affectionately nicknamed them Mistletoe Moments for all you lovers out there), and reindeer crooning Christmas songs, Six Flags did a bang up job creating a Winter Wonderland at Great Adventure. Trust me, experience Holiday in the Park if you can, but do it before it comes to an end on January 3rd! The key is to go at night once it gets dark to soak in the optimum amount of Christmas cheer. That, and the fact that “kids are scared of the dark” according to Marv from Home Alone.