Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Holiday Geek Parade

Let's face it, most holiday parades are overshadowed by Macy's bloated cavalcade of d-listers and dance numbers. For many, anything less is usually considered a bargain basement motorcade. Not true, however, as Dallas' Neiman Marcus Adolphus Children's Parade crams downtown's Commerce Street with enough holiday hullabaloo to choke eight tiny reindeer.

In the past I've given little thought to parades in general since the only elements that ever grabbed my attention were the giant balloons shaped like playthings from the past. Luckily I didn't have to wait long.

Attention getting? Sure. The Mr. Potato Head balloon was enough make me take notice. But my short attention span demands more fanboyish sights to hold my interest. So in an effort to force my sadly myopic view onto the world, here are the geeky highlights of the 2008 Neiman Marcus Adolphus Children's Parade:

One thing that may be important to note is that when an object is in motion, it tends to be difficult to take a picture of it that is in focus. So that's my lame excuse for this slightly out of focus picture of Iron Man. It's a shame too because he had one of the cooler costumes of all the characters in the parade. Oh well, there's always next Christmas.

The fighting 501st Garrison made an appearance, trooping through the procession, on their way to becoming cannon fodder. It's true, no one can take a blaster shot to the face like a Storm Trooper.

No float could contain the Amazing Spider-man or his amazing hand shaking powers. One wonders if Spidey feels he needs to work a little harder and vamp for the crowd as a way of damage control for the crappy reviews from his last movie. As you saw, the well reviewed Iron Man stayed comfortably perched on his fire truck. Speaking of which:

So did a particularly creepy looking version of the Hulk. Instead of hearing cries of "Hulk smash!" We got bellows of "Hulk feeling a little cocky after comeback movie! Hulk will most likely be in Avengers movie so Hulk not have to make effort to work crowd like Spider-man."

That's all fine and good but at the very least I thought he could have worn one of the cute little Santa hats.

So on that note of overconfidence the parade comes to a close. Nothing left to do but watch the guys dressed like Elvis clean up the horse poop.

Happy Festivus everyone!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Latest Shoot: Wizard World University

This movie just doesn't seem to want to make itself so out came the camera and off we went to Wizard World Texas.

This year Wizard World Texas hosted Wizard World University, an academic track of programming created alongside the Institute for Comics Studies. Saturday's "Comics in the Classroom" panel featured none other than CBL producer Khindra Kent and her presentation, " Comic Book Literacy in the Early Childhood Classroom."

Joining her on the panel were Weldon Adams (Overstreet Price Guide Advisor) presenting "Comics Strips as Classroom Material" and Stephen T. Varela (University of Texas - El Paso) presenting " Re-Canonization: Transforming the English Curriculum with the Grapic Novel." The room was packed and there was a genuine sense of excitement and support for the topic.

Afterward we were able to interview several Wizard World University participants.

Above: Interviewing Travis Langley, WWU-T Provost and professor of psychology.

Special thanks to everyone at Wizard World and ICS who helped out and made this shoot successful.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Comic Book Literacy at Wizard World Texas

This time let's have dessert first. Hostess Hulk Cakes, anyone?

If you say "Hulk Cake" really fast it almost, kinda sounds like "cup cake." Which is what they fundamentally are but, as always, green food coloring, sprinkles and revamped packaging turns an everyday, mild mannered lunchbox treat into a gamma radiated beast intent on dessert domination.

Add on a half-assed attempt at a holiday tie-in (these are "Hostess Scary Cakes" Halloween...) and we've got a real cafeteria commodity here. Sure, the cynical might point out that the cream center could also have been green but the goo's shear gooeyness makes up for any tonal indiscretion. In fact, the goo amps up the sweetness factor so much that eating one of these may be a life experience equivalent to being punched in the face by the Hulk himself.

And if it seems like I'm waaay too excited about these things, it may be because I rarely eat sugar. So after two of these I'm about ready to throw on the purple pants and go on my own Hulk-style rampage.

On to the main course:

Join us Saturday November 8th for Wizard World University at Wizard World Texas. At 2:00 the "Comics in the Classroom" Panel will feature Comic Book Literacy producer Khindra Kent as she speaks about the utilization of comics in early education.

The panel also includes Weldon Adams (Overstreet Price Guide Advisor) presenting "Comics Strips as Classroom Material" and Stephen T. Varela (University of Texas - El Paso) presenting " Re-Canonization: Transforming the English Curriculum with the Grapic Novel."

Tickets on sale on Wizard's site.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Crossing Over

Awhile back I mentioned that I had donated my bizarre Super Hero Food Collection to the Toy & Action Figure Museum in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma. Well the best part of making charitable donations is shamelessly bragging about them in a public forum...which is what brings us here today. I finally got to visit my old food in its new home:

Yes, not only is this rare photographic evidence of CBL director Todd Kent (I usually prefer to stand behind cameras, not in front) but it's also a look at the greatest assembly of super hero related food products in Central Oklahoma. A recent road trip to the Sooner state gave me an opportunity to bask in the super hero foody-ness contained behind museum grade glass. Nothing exudes significance like being enclosed behind glass. See for yourself:

Yeah, the gang's all there. Spider-Man Candy Canes. Superman Orange Drink. Hulk Gumballs. Batman Bottled Water. And so much more. I just hope that the collection can bring a little bit of "WTF" to the museum visitors' experience.

And as I've said before, the museum itself is worth a visit. It's not huge but it is densely crammed with every kind of action figure related whatnot in creation. Of note on this trip was the (I assume custom made) life size Green Lantern statue.

As eye catching as that was, there was a somewhat more subtle, yet maddeningly genius display hidden in plain site amongst the 12 gazzillion action figures locked in eternal battle. Look closely:

At first it appears to be the USS Enterprise-D being attacked by the combined might of the Klingons, the Romulans and the Borg. Picard's crew seems to be aided by Captain Kirk, Captain Sisko and Odo. That might be enough for the casual crossover fan...but wait. The Romulans brought reinforcements. Alien, The Terminator, Edward Scissor Hands and Cyclops from the X-men are all looking to get their hands a little dirty.

Fortunately it looks like Starfleet enlisted the help of the Guardians of the Universe, the Flash and Captain America (or possibly U.S. Agent) mans the helm. The robot from Lost in Space looks on in a fairly useless fashion, as usual...but in a stunning field promotion, the first officer's chair is occupied by Alf.

A seemingly arbitrary arrangement of random collectibles or a blockbuster in the making? You be the judge.

And for those of you in the "everything must have some kind of explanation" club, it looks like that's Q standing on top of the bridge. So we can all assume he put this little party together. Happy now?

Find the museum online here:

Also, I had posted this awhile back but it's worth another look. It's a video we made about the museum after we had shot there for the Comic Book Literacy Documentary:

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Latest Shoot: POW!

Believe it or not, we actually got some production done lately. Thanks to our old friends at the Hero Foundry. Take a look at some pictures from "POW!":

"POW!" stands for "Pictures on the Wall" and was a live art show and auction to raise funds for the Hero Foundry which donates comic books to schools and libraries.

Live art, live music, live food....well I guess the food wasn't alive but the crowd certainly was. Especially when it came time to bid on the artwork generously donated by local artists.

For information about how you can help the Foundry get comics into the hands of kids, find them online here:

Special thanks to Paul and Brian from the Foundry and Jeremy and his staff at Titan Comics, the greatest comic book store in the world. Find them online here:

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Kid Stuff

The wild west was full of surprises. Most of them were decidedly unpleasant. A sleeping bag-nested rattlesnake here, a touch of tuberculosis there. Life came fast and hard and pleasant surprises were few and far between. It's that frontier styled expectation that kept my hopes low regarding the Billy the Kid Museum in Canton, TX.

Best case scenario, I thought, was a kitschy roadside gem. Worst case scenario: a boring building with nothing in it. Well, my friends, the Billy the Kid Museum did not disappoint. And it offered a surprise that did NOT lead to a slow and/or painful death. You can't ask for more than that in your wild west experience.

I had driven past the ominous site a hundred times on various trips to East Texas. It's located in Canton, TX whose claim to fame is "First Monday Trade Days" which may or may not be the world's largest flea market. Suffice it to say, if you are looking for a particular item, it can be haggled for at First Monday.

The exterior of the Museum had always been, at the very least, attention grabbing:

So on this trip my curiosity won the battle it was having with my sense of self preservation and I made the stop.

Inside, amongst the livestock remains, wanted posters and a lengthy dissertation linking LBJ to the Kennedy assassination, I found what can only be described as "the best Billy the Kid Comic Book collection in the world." There was even a laminated piece of paper that said so. And you know if it's laminated they mean business.

I have to admit to only having a marginal knowledge of western comics. I know they were big in the 50's and that they starred both real and fictitious protagonists. It was something of an eye opener when I saw not one, but EVERY wall plastered with Billy the Kid comics.

And not just the Kid, but the Texas Rangers, the original Rawhide Kid, the Cheyenne Kid and even Zorro. If it rode a horse and had a predilection towards shouting "yeehaw" then the odds are that it ended up in comic form at one time or another.

While the main focus of the museums seems to revolve around the legend of an elderly Billy the Kid retiring and living out the rest of his days in a small Texas town (instead of being shot and killed by at a young age as most "traditional" historical accounts claim), other Texas legends get coverage as well. The afore mentioned Kennedy assassination garnered its own room and mini-exhibit. Legendary Texas gangsters Bonnie & Clyde are also included with these eerily lifelike representations:

But for me it was the comic book collection that really set this place apart from other roadside attractions. There's something to be said for for the element of surprise. And there's nothing better than finding a niche comic book collection where you least expect it.

Find the museum online HERE

And tell 'em, "Brushy Bill" sent ya!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Indiana Jones Lottery Tickets

I've been trying to think of something clever to say about these Indiana Jones Lottery Tickets.

But sometimes the juice just isn't there. I just thought they were neat. I don't know that I've ever seen a movie-tie in lottery ticket. But I never play the lottery so maybe they happen all the time.

I wanted to get one of each of the four (one for each movie) and the $5.00 price tag just barely allowed me. Unfortunately I got 2 Temple of Dooms and zero Last Crusades. Although if I were to look on the bright side, I could say that Temple is arguably the best of the series. Plus it was the only winning ticket in the lot. Five cool buckaroos.

...Making my total lottery winnings: negative fifteen dollars. Where's that Star Trek slot machine when you need it?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Let's Roll

As I've stated before, when it comes to Super Hero food products, fruit snacks are usually a fairly pedestrian offering. But this summer's disgraceful lack of Iron Man edibles and a seemingly similarly low Dark Knight nosh turnout have left us with little options on the fanboy aisle at the grocery store.

Since beggars can't be chooser we must look on the bright side of our ever dwindling grocery lists. Sure there's nothing new about Fruit Roll Ups...but Fruit Roll Ups with a gimmick? Fruit Roll Ups with the flimsiest of premises masquerading as a high concept RPG? Well sir, that's a horse of a different color.

Get acquainted with Batman Battle Rolls Fruit Roll Ups:

I know, I know, it seems like every other crappy Fruit Roll Up you've never been interested in. But at the very least they made the tiniest effort to break away from the pack. It's a game, you see.

But the most challenging part of the game seems to happen before you even get started. I don't know if fruit Roll Ups have always been this hard to unroll or if there is a special trick to it that just escapes me but my first several attempts at de-packaging ended up looking like this:

It's hard to have a "battle" with results like that.

After finally getting a couple out of their plastic cocoons, it was game on...and here's the playing board:

At first glance I'm sure we all had the same reaction: "Wow, that looks like blood splattered human flesh." Hungry, yet?

Ok, so the rules, as I understand them, are simple: Tear your "Batman Battle Rolls Fruit Roll Ups" in two (for some reason). Then add up each character's points and whichever side has the most points "wins."

Also, in the game's defense I spent about four seconds trying to figure out how to play so I could have just completely fabricated the above rules. So how did I do, you ask?

Round 1:
Evil: Joker Bomb, 5 points vs. Good: Gotham City, 1 point
Evil: Scarecrow, 7 points vs. Good: Batarang, 7 points

WINNER: Evil!!!

Round 2:
Evil: The Joker's Motto, 6 points vs. Good: Rachel, 0 points (The box seems to indicate that Rachel has 4 points but for the life of me I couldn't find any kind of points on the actual fruit roll up. Plus the character always seemed pretty pointless to me so, zero it is.)
Evil: TwoFace, 8 points vs. Good: Batman, 10 points

WINNER: Evil!!

At this point in the "game" I was pretty bored and thought I had more than enough to fill a blog entry so I called it quits. What can we learn form this? When it come to Fruit Roll Ups, evil always wins.

BONUS: By the way, I also came across a new case of Batman Bottled Water, so here's one for your "looking at" pleasure:

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


One of the single most driving forces in humanities' quest for knowledge and understanding is the yearning to understand the origins of man. While scientists and theologians may snipe and bicker about the details of early man, a bold theory has been put forth in Custer, South Dakota. A re-creation showing not just primitive man but his social structure, community and, yes, his foot-powered cars.

Welcome to Bedrock City.

The Black Hills area of South Dakota has always been a huge draw for tourists with Mount Rushmore being the main draw. But, while impressive, four faces alone can't hold the attention of today's traveler for more than an afternoon. So the area surrounding the monument has a dense amount of attractions and whatnots all competing for the tourist dollar.

Sure Gator Farms and Mystery Spots abound but for my money, stop #1 revolves around the modern stone age family. the Flintstones. Yeah the gang's all here at this 30 acre park and campground. As far as attractions go it's a little odd in that the main activity is to walk around and look at stuff. But since that's really the only thing I like to do anyway, I was pleased.

Fred, Wilma, Barney, Betty and the kids are all present and accounted for in fiberglass form and sometimes in "hand shaking costumed character" form. But Bedrock is a much larger and bustling metropolis than I recall from Saturday morning viewings. And characters and locations that you might not remember are also there. Like the Bedrock City Fire Hall:

I don't remember too many episodes of the Flintstones where stuff caught on fire...especially since everything in town seemed to be made of rock...but that doesn't mean that BCFD doesn't remain eternally vigilante.

Now as I mentioned before, the area's main draw is Mount Rushmore and there seems to be some type of South Dakota state ordinance that every tourist attraction in the area must pay homage in some way to the monument. Bedrock City is not exempt so let me introduce you to Mount Rockmore:

Fred? Check. Barney? Check. Dino? Ok. Some random guy? Well, he's there too. It seems sexism was rife in the stone age. Surely Wilma or Betty deserve a place on the Mount Rockmore more than the family pet or...some guy.

I guess cave women still had a lot to prove back in the day. You've come a long way baby.

As I visited I wondered how popular the Flintstones are with today's kids. There was a theater there that showed non-stop Flintstones cartoons but it seemed like the not-so-sublte nods to the Honeymooners were lost on the Harry Potter crowd. Their loss I guess.

The one cartoon I wanted to see wasn't shown though:

Now that's some smooth stone aged flavor.

Find Bedrock City online at:

Friday, June 20, 2008

Latest Shoot: Comics at the Bedford Public Library

We finally had time to shoot some actual content for the documentary. Our stop this time? The Bedford Public Library in Bedford, TX. They've got the one thing that all libraries need: comics. A donation from the Hero Foundry helped supplement an already impressive collection of comic books and they just kicked off their Summer reading program. So off we went.

The best shoots are fueled by complex carbohydrates and the best complex carbohydrates are deep fried and have the face of a comic book character plastered on them somewhere. Tasty snacks like that are usually few and far between but all you have to do is ask and 7-Eleven will provide.

The Hulk donut doesn't just look like the Hulk, it turns you into the Hulk. After one bite I had green icing on my face, my hands and portions of my body that went nowhere near the emerald confection. In a word, it's messy....and green...that's two words I guess.

Successfully carbo-loaded, I headed straight for the library.

In filmmaking, concepts like literacy don't always lend themselves to dynamic visuals. Thankfully I was able to get the shot that all cameramen strive for. That's right...the handing of the "big check."

Ah, the "big check" shot. Is there nothing greater? Several local companies were sponsoring some of the library's summer programs and nothing gets that notion across visually like the "big check."

Here's a look at some of the Bedford Library's comic/trade paperback collection:

You may notice perennial standards like Wacthman, Maus and The Spirit. The collection also included lots of manga and some more conventional favorites (Batman, Spider-man, etc.). The collection is a favorite of the regulars and continues to grow in size and popularity.

And the good part is you can help. Most libraries are always very receptive to donations and I know all those trade paperbacks in your closet just aren't being read. You know what to do.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Where's the Iron Man stuff?

I don't want to sound like an alarmist, but some days when I go to my really dark, pessimistic place, I think that there just won't be an Iron Man Cereal this year. I know, I know, that's crazy talk. But each weekly trip to the grocery store leads to disappointment. With nary a can of Batman chili or Hulk taco shells to choose from it hardly seems like the summer movie season has started at all.

Maybe I'm just overeager. Looks like we'll just have to make due with Dollar Store bounty...such as it is:

A poor man's Pez, "KLIK" Candy Dispensers have existed for the last several years with character heads ranging from Super Mario to Popeye. They just can't seem to get out from under Pez's shadow or wash off the stink of "second best." They are meant to be loaded with "Smarties" candy that fling out of Iron Man's neck with throat-choking speed. I just can't seem to get excited about them.

I also can't seem to decide if teaming characters up for candy is good or bad. Sure you get more super hero bang for your buck but it reeks of desperation and half-assed-ness. That being said, hey you still get four things of gum for a dollar!

Ah, candy sticks...right after fruit snacks they are probably the most common licensed candy you'll find on the candy aisle. And that's right where I left them. It's still good to see the Hulk and Iron Man putting their differences aside for the sake of corporate shilling...the problem is that candy sticks taste just like regular sticks. You know, like a stick you find in your yard. Just not tasty enough to make it into my basket.

At this point the lack of Iron Man merchandise becomes a little more clear. Marvel Heroes Gummy Candies don't really cover any new ground but they do come with the expectation of a certain Shell Headed gummy shape. And if you agree, you're in for a bit of a disappointment. Tony only makes it on to the bag (you can barely see him above Storm and Cap).

The big three in this outing are Spidey, the Hulk and Wolverine. It looks like they made an effort to match up colors but I think they had a little extra green dye.

Green Spider-Man and Wolverine? Yellow-ish Hulk? Has the world gone topsy-turvy?

As you can see, so far the "pickens" are slim. Oh well, there's always next week's trip to the store.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Start Trek: The Undiscovered Condiment

I hate to cover old ground. Case in point: google "Star Trek: The Experience - Las Vegas" and you'll find any number of blogs, reviews and fan-blubbery about how cool it is, how cool the rides are and how cool the bar/promenade is. And for once the e-gushing is not unfounded. Every time I hit the strip it's easily destination "Number One."

So of course my recent business trip to Vegas had to include a stopover at the final frontier...if for no other reason than to patronize the greatest bar of all time...fictional or otherwise. Highlights of the menu at Quarks Bar include the "Riker-Rita," the "Hamborger" and the "Grilled Chicken of Khan." I was saving myself for a full-on Vegas buffet later that day so I made due with "Hoshi Sato's Coconut Shrimp":

Look to the left of my shrimp and you'll see one of the place's biggest draws, or what's left of it. Yes, here the Romulan Ale flows like wine. It's one of the many advantages of being so far away from Starfleet Headquarters. Probably the most infamous of all Trek contraband, the blue stuff is available on tap or by the case:

Of course everyone is familiar with Romulan Ale and as I said I'd prefer to cover new ground. So in an effort to document some of the galaxy's more obscure nosh I thought I would raid the Trek Pantry. I think this calls for another drink:

A part of the "Deep Space Wine" collection, "Klingon Blood Wine" probably tastes better than it sounds. In past visits I recall seeing a "Trill Wine" but couldn't find it this time. Is it possible that the Star Trek fan base was unable to support multiple sci-fi themed wines? Or is it just that in the Star Trek High School, the Klingons are forever seated at the "cool kids table" while the lesser known Trills just can't maintain a level of popularity that justifies producing bottle after bottle of novelty hootch?

Maybe so. Blue beer and blood wine may keep the attention of today's younger, sassier Trekkie, but what this party needs is a main course flavored by old school Trek iconography:

Oh yes, Sulu's Original Spicy Asian Wing Sauce will fill the gaping void in all of our lives. On a personal note this one kind of stings. Knowing that I only traveled with a carry-on bag and that the sauce bottle would push me over the .0000005 ounce liquid regulation at the airport, this one remained just out of grasp. My usual policy is to avoid cavity searches at all cost so Sulu Sauce must wait.

Now here's one that I missed the last few visits. Hiding in plain sight is a genuine 24th century replicator:

This is located on a wall right next to a few of the promenade shops. I must have walked right past it several times thinking it was just part of the decor. I should have known better.

Just push the button of your selection and it magically appears in front of you. You can see some alien dish materializing in the picture. I like this because its purpose goes no further than 5 to 8 seconds of fun. It makes no money. I takes no money. It's just ten extra pounds of "kewl" stuffed into an already full five pound sack.

It looks like I was able to stumble onto something else on this trip:

Right outside the entrance to the "Experience" is the all new Star Trek slot machine. I'm not a big slot player. Today's machines are way too complicated than the spinning cherries and grapes of our youth. I played $2.00 worth and even though I didn't really follow what was happening, the spinning, the graphics and the sound effects were well worth the cash.

I believe this is new because right after I played, a guy asked me some survey questions about it and payed me $10.00. In my book I consider it to be an $8.00 win. And that's more than I've won on any slot machine before.

So now the score is:

Me: 1
Vegas: 1,278,987,147