25th Jan2019

Thrift Justice – Operation Kondo

by Will

I miss writing, and by that I mean that I miss writing about more than just the week’s pop culture news. If you look at the slider on the homepage, there used to be other columns here: Adventures West Coast, which was my graphic novel/trade paperback review column; Best of the West, which showcased the jewels of my various collections; Track Star, which was my music post that sadly never really found its identity. And, of course, my baby – Thrift Justice, where I showed you all the stuff I managed to find while scouring the local thrift stores.

As I was telling some friends recently, Google killed blogging. When Google Reader was taken out behind the shed, nothing came along to capably take its place. Yes, I said capably, just to ward off all of y’all who are about to go, “Well, Feedly…” A lot of folks quit, while others pivoted to other media, like video or podcasting. I, however, am still a fan of the written word. I feel a lot of videos could’ve been blogs, and that also goes for a lot of podcasts (especially the short ones). I’m too old and fat to move to video, so blogging is where I shall stay.

So, this is all a long-winded way of bringing us to why we’re here today. I’ve been sitting on this idea for about 6 months, as I know it should probably be a video, but that’s just not my bag, baby. Instead, I feel like this would be a great way to bring back Thrift Justice: We’re going to liveblog an unboxing. This could be really interesting OR it could end up like that time Geraldo found Al Capone’s vault. Either way, it’s new content, so yay? But first, some backstory.

Back on the 4th of July, I was at a family cookout, when a cousin of mine told me she had something for me in her car. Apparently, I had let her borrow some toys when her nephews came to town, and she had run across them while she was cleaning her house. There are some very important things you should know here, though. First of all, those nephews are about 18 & 20 now, so if I’m doing my math right, this took place around 2004. Secondly, I’m not exactly the world’s greatest sharer, as I’ve had a bad track record of visiting relatives breaking my shit. So, one of two things happened here: 1) I let them have some stuff about which I didn’t give two shits OR 2) my mother gave them some stuff behind my back, which I clearly didn’t care about if I haven’t missed it in 15 years.

Anyway, for the life of me, I could not remember what these kids had of mine. As I followed my cousin to her car, she handed me a shoebox (think Timberland size) in a shopping bag. I’ve got a toddler, and the last thing I need is to be opening toys around her, so I figured I’d just get around to checking out the contents once we got home, and she went to bed. Instead, the box rode around in the back of my wife’s car for months until she eventually had to put it into the shop for body work. So, there’s no time like the present, right?

Here’s how we’re going to make this interesting, though. Thrift Justice is usually about the stuff I get from the thrift store, but this installment is going to be about stuff I’m sending to the thrift store. Everyone in the world is Marie Kondo-ing, by reducing the clutter in their lives by ridding themselves of the possessions that fail to bring them joy. Will anything in this mystery box bring me joy? Let’s see what’s inside, shall we?

Somebody call Geraldo, ‘cause I think I’ve got him beat. Man, what a box of garbage! Ugh, let’s take a closer look, though. I mean, we’ve come this far.

So, first up we’ve got Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender, along with his…friend? Enemy? Anyway, let’s call him Pinkeye McGillicuddy. I vaguely remember buying this set because I thought Aang’s wind blaster pack was kinda cool. I’ve never seen one episode of Avatar, but I knew it was one of the hip things back then, so I guess I wanted to gain entry by getting the toys. Plus, when I first got it, Aang’s pack lit up or made noise or some shit. The batteries are dead now, and I’m too lazy to change them.

Look at Aang’s eyes, though? It’s like he’s been radicalized. What the Hell was that show even about?! Isn’t “air bending” just a polite way of saying “farting”. I’m bending air as I write this.

Next up, we’ve got these Masters of the Universe 200X Happy Meal toys from McDonalds. I remember these being pretty cool because they were decent action figures, in a 4-ish inch scale, with just a hint of an action feature. They were highly detailed, and we’d kill for something like this today. Sadly, though, nobody gave much of a shit about that show, as the Internet had yet to evolve into the geek hive of scum and villainy that it is today. Thrift stores are littered with these figures, and they’re about to get 4 more.

What the Hell?! Is this alien being LYNCHED?! I don’t even know what this is. It’s the same texture of those spiders you throw at the wall in order to watch them crawl down, but I don’t know what the goal is here. Do you swing him around by the loop? You can kinda yo-yo him, but that doesn’t feel right, either. This is like 2 of the darkest periods of American history rolled into one pathetic gashapon toy.

Gather ‘round, kids, as I tell you a tale from the turn of the century! You probably know (recently deceased) Stan Lee as That Old Man Who Keeps Popping Up In The Marvel Movies, but this wasn’t always the case. Back around 1999, ol’ Stan wasn’t exactly on the best terms with Marvel. Sure, he was getting an annual salary for being the company mascot/cheerleader, but he wanted MORE. So, he decided to start Stan Lee Media, which would go on to inspire a quagmire of lawsuits that continue to this day. From this venture, nothing they threw at the wall stuck, but one of the highest profile creations was The Backstreet Project.

Starring boyband The Backstreet Boys, The Backstreet Project was a comic concept that envisioned the group as superheroes. Remember, this was 1999, and things were different. The Backstreet Boys were one of the biggest pop acts in the world, while comics were on the decline. In 2018, you’d ask “Why would anyone make a comic about the Backstreet Boys?!” but in 1999, it would have been more fitting to ask “Why would the Backstreet Boys slum it in the comic industry?” Since Stan Lee Media was poised to harness the true potential of this newfangled thing called The Internet, the focus was more on webisodes than print.

Anyway, Burger King somehow found itself as the official restaurant of the Backstreet Boys, as they were selling CDs and VHS tapes to go along with your diarrhea-inducing Whopper. And for the kids, they had Backstreet Project toys in the Burger King Kids Club Meals. I actually had the entire set at one point in time, as I thought the concept was pretty cool, plus I had a mad-on for any boyband. If you’ve been to this site before, none of this is news. Hell, a friend of mine was actually working at Burger King at the time, so I just asked him to grab the stuff for me from his job. I wasn’t eating that shit! Because I was a huge BSB fan (until Brian had to go and get all political), there was no way I was letting those kids have my prized BSB toys, so these were probably my doubles.

Here you have Brian (the one holding the basketball), as “Top Speed”, while Nick is the one dressed like a ninja, named appropriately enough “Ninja Man”. Jesus, Stan. Were you even trying? Anyway, the gray thing in the middle is some sort of stasis tank that Brian breaks out of. I have to remind myself that this was an era when these guys could’ve pissed in a Sprite bottle, and it would be distributed all across Europe, but in hindsight there’s not a lot of care or attention invested in this concept.

 

Another Burger King premium. Who was eating all this Burger King? It sure as Hell wasn’t me. Anyway, this is some Dragon Ball thing. I don’t know if it was Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball GT, or Dragon Ball GTFO. I know nothing of that franchise, but I know this little guy does some sort of balancing act. I just don’t seem to have the base upon which he does the balancing.

My Ronin Warriors! Man, I loved that show. That might’ve been my first anime, come to think of it. Anyway, I used to have the whole team because when KB Toys was in their death throes, Ronin Warriors were a mainstay in the 3 for $10 bin. Sadly, I donated mine some years back because I couldn’t find them all and didn’t feel the need to keep an incomplete team around. Well, I couldn’t find them all because they were chilling at my cousin’s house. As you can see, they lost a good portion of their shit, as well as a figure (where’s the White one?). These are probably the best thing in the box, but I’m met with the fact that I don’t want an incomplete team, so maybe these figures will be reunited with their brothers in the thrifting afterlife.

Ooh, this one tickles me to no end. If you know me, then you know I don’t give a shit about Harry Potter. In my mind, JK Rowling just stole all of Roald Dahl’s best ideas, and nobody’s called her on this because they teach the wrong things in school these days. Anyway, my hatred aside, I’m a sucker for a good, translucent action figure. Whether it’s the Spirit of Obi Wan Kenobi that I got from Lays Potato Chips, or this boy wizard I picked up from Toys “R” Us (a moment of silence, please), I love them all. The reason this is funny to me, though, is that those boys’ mom is really pro-Black and pro-Jesus. If she knew her boys were playing with a plastic representation of the White Devil, slinging his witchcraft around from his cloak of invisibility, she would shit a brick. I’m actually gonna see her in about 2 weeks, so maybe I’ll just drop that into conversation to see what happens.

This is probably the worst Optimus Prime toy ever made. I tend to think of Happy Meal toys along the lines of rack toys, as they’re all “toys for poor kids”. But this Transformers Armada Happy Meal toy is so bad that even a poor kid would say, “Man, get that shit up out my face!” There have been many bad Transformers Happy Meal toys over the years, and this is merely one of them.

This isn’t even a quality yo-yo. This is no Duncan, and is more like the kind of thing the dentist gives you at the end of your cleaning if you were a good boy.

Good old little green army men. A true classic. Hey, wait a minute. What the Hell happened to the dude in the middle at the top?! He ain’t got no arms! What did my cousins DO to him? I hope they at least said a prayer over him. It’s what their mom would’ve wanted.

“How are your crayons hanging?”
“Low, and to the left”

How does this happen? I mean, I guess they got hot or something and then cooled down, but they’re all curved like that. It’s eerie. It’s somewhat perverted. I have questions.

This is a Wild Planet motion alarm. Whenever there are commercials for things like this, it’s always some little boy trying to protect his worthless shit from being touched by some bratty little sister. I don’t think they really work like that. I’ve never actually used it, but my pal Tarek got it for me in college on an a cappella gig I wasn’t able to attend. Looking back, though, I could think of quite a few uses for this thing for a growing man…

Ah, we come to the end, featuring a pair that will set off all your nostalgia boner alarms. Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow here were from a G.I. Joe two-pack that I think contained a DVD. I remember they were on clearance, and I think I only bought them for that DVD. I don’t even collect this scale, ‘cause these are just “dolls” at this point, but it must’ve been quite a good price, because here they are. They came with a shit ton of accessories, half of which you see strewn about here. There are also a lot missing. Like, where are Storm Shadow’s ninja booties? I’m not even gonna try to put this stuff back on them. To the thrift store they go, and their next owner can worry about all that.

So, there ya have it. My journey back in toy time ends not with a bang, but with a whimper. You win, Kondo!!!! None of that brought me any joy. Still, it was nice to take a stroll down memory lane, thinking of all the terrible ways and reasons I’ve wasted good money. I hope you’ve gotten some kind of enjoyment out of this, and if you want more like it, then leave a comment below. Oh, and don’t forget to subscribe! I don’t know what I mean by that…I just hear the YouTubers saying it all the time.

21st May2013

Best of the West #3: Knight Rider Knight 2000 Voice Car

by Will

botw

I don’t do these posts much, so you know it’s a special occasion. If you’re new here, then let me explain Best of the West to you: these are pieces of my collection that hold more meaning than the others. These are the “I’d grab if there’s ever a fire” items. This ain’t your average Thrift Justice stuff – these are the top shelf items. OK, now that I’ve got that out of the way, why am I doing this today? Well, it’s really all but the timing of some real life events. Yesterday was the funeral for one of the kids at work. I didn’t know him, but I wanted to feel a part of the community, so I volunteered to sing in the choir for the service. It was really moving, and it was a feeling I hadn’t experienced since glee club days. It got me to thinking how I’d want to be remembered when my time comes. I hope people think I was hilarious. Not just “haha” funny, but “why wasn’t he a comedian?!” funny. I hope they think I was a good person and a good friend. Also, I hope I’m remembered as a caring and magnificent lover, despite my average endowment (at least according to my spam folder…). Anyway, this also got me to thinking about my first funeral experience: my dad’s.

KRRC

Courtesy of Orangeslime.com

My father passed away from an aneurysm when I was three. For this reason, I’m always scared of head trauma, and I never make fun of aneurysms. Because I was so young, I wasn’t really privy to the funeral proceedings. In fact, my cousin was tasked with taking me to Toys “R” Us to distract me. While there, I remember getting a radio controlled Knight Rider K.I.T.T. that had a working scanner light. You don’t give an RC car to a three year old! I just kept driving it into walls. It was really cool, but I was always rough with toys, so it didn’t last long. Sure, I kept it, but the electronics surely didn’t work, and the car looked like it did at the end of “Knight of the Juggernaut Part 1”.

knight of the juggernaut

Still, I remember the car always angered me because I couldn’t put a figure inside. I think I eventually even broke the window, like an inner city youth, just so I could stick a G.I. Joe in it. I didn’t realize there was actually a version that did what I needed it to do. No, I had my “distraction” K.I.T.T. so I wouldn’t realize my dad was gone. In fact, it wasn’t until years later that I pieced together what had happened that day. Until then, I always remembered it as “the time all my relatives came to see me”.

 DMC11953

Fast forward to about a year ago. My former employer, Diamond Comic Distributors, was releasing a Previews exclusive Knight Rider K.I.T.T. with lights and sounds, and included a 3.75″ Michael Knight Figure. Of course I was gonna buy it! Even if it was $50, and the Michael Knight looked NOTHING like David Hasselhoff. That reminded me that I already had a nearly 6″ Michael Knight from the 80s, and I never really knew why he was released. Remember that post about my Cousin Oliver and the G.I. Joe mystery? Well, that was also the first and only time I saw Knight Rider toys at retail. With the exception of the Whip Shifter (which I also had), I had completely forgotten there was essentially a full line of toys. So I took to eBay, to learn more about the line, and find out if there were any figures other than Michael. It turns out he’s the only one, and that he came packed in with an electronic K.I.T.T. That had opening doors! What I always wanted had existed all the time! And the vintage K.I.T.T. had dropped in price since the announcement of the newer version, so you could get one for about $100. Why buy a newer copy when I could have the original? So, a few weeks before my wedding, I told Lindsay, “I’m about to drop about $100 on a Knight Rider car, and I just want you to know that.” Thankfully, she knew the importance and was cool with it. It actually arrived just before our honeymoon, but I didn’t really get a chance to look at it until weeks later. At the end of the day, it cost about $80 after shipping, and it had its original box! Oh, and IT WORKS! Let’s take a closer look at it, shall we?

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This thing was $26.96 in 1985! That’s, like, $80 in today’s money. NOTE: I am not an economist, nor an expert on inflation

 

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Nowhere on this box does it say “Child’s hand not included”. I demand my white child’s hand!

 

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I wonder if it even had pack-in directions, as the whole shebang is told on the back of the box.

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I love the detail of the stickers inside, but Michael needs to do some dusting!

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I just like pushing it along my carpet, pretending K.I.T.T.’s driving through the desert. Of course, it’d be more effective if the friggin’ white child hand had been in the box!

As you can see from the box, K.I.T.T. says 6 different phrases. I couldn’t really verify them all, ’cause we’re a household with no C batteries; lots of Ds for some reason, though… Anyway, with the voice of someone who’s just roofied you, the car said “Callll mee K.T.T. for shorrrtt.” Supposedly, he also says:

“Engaging Infrared Tracking Scope”

“Scanner Indicates Danger Ahead”

“I Shall Activate The Turbo Boost”

“Your Reflexes Are Slow”

“What Is Our Next Mission?”

Well, the circle is now complete. Like a phoenix, my fallen K.I.T.T. has arisen, with all the qualities I originally wanted. Screw Diamond and their imposter. I now have the real thing! I hope you’ve enjoyed this “shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist”. Anyway, tomorrow’s promised to no one, so try to enjoy today. Thanks for reading, and let me know some of your “holy grails” in the comments!

12th Oct2012

LoEB Presents The State of the Site Address

by Will

It’s funny that this week’s topic for The League is a “state of the site” address. You see, about a month ago, I posted a total emo rant over on Tumblr during a bout where I wasn’t feeling so great. If you’re interested, it’s here, but it’s not all sunshine and lollipops. I think my problem is that I’m constantly trying to figure out that one thing that’ll put me over the top. I’m a funny dude, I’ve got a cool name, and I like the same stuff that you do. So, why do I not have disciples?! My blogging role models wouldn’t surprise you: X-Entertainment/Dinosaur Dracula was my first geek blog reader experience, and I admire the empire that Rob Bricken has built over at Topless Robot. At the end of the day, I want what they have. I want to be the defining opinion on nerd culture. I want to be a frequent guest on podcasts. I want to be able to throw up a Kickstarter and meet my goal in a matter of hours. I WANT POWER!!!! I’ve been striving to find my niche, like the period of time I decided I wanted to be America’s Top Blerd. Then, I stumbled upon Black Nerd hanging out with actual nerd-lebrities, and realized he’d already claimed the title.

Honestly, I think it’s a bit different than that. I mean, power sounds fun and all, but one thing that people don’t realize is that I live on the internet. Recently, I’ve come to realize that I have Aspie tendencies, and I don’t like reality too much. My IRL friends call me and I avoid the phone, for reasons I can’t really explain. Over the past couple of years, some of my most meaningful friendships have been online. For some, Twitter and Instagram and the like are just pastimes, but I honestly consider you people friends. When you disappear for a period of time, I worry. When you get married or have a kid, I celebrate. Sure, I’ve never met any of you, but that doesn’t matter. So, the blog is a bit of an extension of that. I’m sharing myself with you, so I like to know that it’s at least being accepted. Comments, retweets, blogroll addition – all of these make my day. Sure, that sounds sad to some, but that’s really where I’ve found myself lately. There’s always the whole “we can agree to disagree” thing, but if you reject my site, you’re rejecting me. I put more of myself into it than expressing myself in everyday life.

There’s a guy on Twitter. Most of you know him. Hell, he’s probably the coolest guy to you. He likes to tweet his thoughts, which range from “random” to running commentary. Recently, he thought it was deplorable that people would no longer care about your opinion if you unfollowed them. This hit close to home to me because he had unfollowed me, and his opinion had pretty much faltered in my eyes. Sure, Twitter doesn’t have to work both ways, but it should. Every now and then, you might accidentally follow the wrong person, and then have to come up with a digital equivalent of “it’s not you, it’s me” to get out of it, but I can see that line of reasoning. If my words no longer matter to you/annoy you, then why should I put up with your words? We’re no longer having an exchange, so what’s the point?

All of this probably sounds like rambling, but this is what I think about when I think of the site: What is my reach? Have I done anything that has gained traction? Does this feel like it did when I started back in 2003? What do I get out of this process? Over the past year, a few things have stood out to me. I think I’ve settled into 4 basic themes/features that seem to work:

Thrift Justice/Thrift Justice:YSE – The place where I showcase things I find at thrift stores and yard sales. This has been more successful than I could’ve imagined. I’m far from the only one doing this stuff (Flea Market Finds over at Toy World Order, Goodwill Hunting for Geeks), but I certainly struck at the right time. With shows like Collection Intervention and Toy Hunter, it’s a good time to be in the “buried treasure” game. I could honestly write these forever, based solely on the amount of stuff I’ve already found. I could never set foot in another thrift store, and still keep that feature going for another 2 years.

Comical Thoughts – I’m hesitant to make this a “feature”, per se, but it serves as a nice umbrella under which to discuss comics. I’m not as comic-focused as in the past, as the thrift stuff has taken over my life. Still, I’ve been able to have some good, focused discussions on events in the comic industry.

Adventures West Coast – This one is harder to do than it seems. Ya see, I got laid off a couple of years ago and found myself with a lot of time on my hands, and a lot of unread graphic novels on my shelves. So, AWC was where I’d review all the graphic novels I read during that stint of “funemployment”. The problem is that I was reading more than I was writing. Once I started working again, if I read a graphic novel, I just folded it into the stack read during the unemployment. THEN, I got laid off again. Rinse and repeat. Long story short, I now have an IKEA Billy bookcase filled with books I’ve read but haven’t reviewed. Many of those books were terrible, while others weren’t memorable. I have a Gotham villain-like tic, where I swore that I HAD to review it if I read it, even when there wasn’t much to say about certain books. I’m currently trying to figure out where to take that concept.

Best of the West – I’m a collector. This comes as no surprise. This segment is where I showcase the absolute BEST of my collection. The holy grails, the white whales, the black Republicans – ya know, rare stuff. So, these shouldn’t be too frequent, but shouldn’t disappear altogether. I’m trying to figure out a logical schedule for those.

Upcoming Ideas

Track Star – I’ve really lost my grasp on bubblegum pop. Music has always been important to me, but it hasn’t been a big focus of the blog in recent years. The problem is that it’s hard to find people who actually want to read about “bad” music. Everyone wants to be ahead of the curve, blogging about The Next Big Thing, but I actually like to focus on gems that fell through the cracks. I dwell in the world of “guilty pleasure” music, like boybands, UK pop groups, and the like. My last attempt was Westlife Wednesday over on Tumblr, but I’d be lying if I said I’d ever figured out how to get Tumblr to work for me. I think I’ve come up with a great angle for this, but I’m waiting on the graphics department before I unveil it.

Book Retort – Contrary to popular belief, I do read “real” books. I don’t, however have an outlet to discuss those. Since I get my fiction from comics, I tend to gravitate towards non-fiction and biographies. Lately, I’ve been on an “autobiographies by comedians” kick, so a lot of Mindy Kaling, Tina Fey, and Chelsea Handler. I need to find a way to sneak this into the rotation somewhere.

Real Life – yeah, this isn’t really a “feature”, but I don’t talk about my life much anymore. Despite the narcissistic nature of using all my name for all my screennames, I’m still a somewhat private person. Still, this flies in the face of the former nature of this site, as I jokingly say that it used  to read like a Livejournal. Then, I revamped the site, deleted about 100 posts to retcon certain people/events, and then threw myself into geekdom. I know that my wife (wow, that’s the first time I’ve typed that), Lindsay, would like to be mentioned more so I need to find a happy medium of “how much do you need/want to know about me outside of geek stuffs?” I think this will happen organically, but it’s still on my mind.

Visuals – I wish I knew graphic design, or at least had a designer in my pocket. I need a header, I need logos, and few people are willing to work for free. I really need to figure out what to do there. I’ve got ideas, but no way to bring them to fruition. I am, however, happy with the general layout of the site for the first time. I’d like to take that to another level.

Don’t let the introspection fool you, though – It’s been a good year online.

-Guested on the General Geekery, Nerd Lunch, Super Hero Time, and PowetCast podcasts.

-Launched my e-store, Will’s World of Wonder

-Finally compiled my Black History Month calendar

-Made lots of new friends

So, thanks for reading, and here’s to another year of this mess. 2013 marks my 10th year of blogging, so it should be pretty exciting. Until next time, check out these other great blogs to see what they’ve been up to recently:

http://shezcrafti.com/shezcrafti-then-now-the-state-of-the-site/

http://goodwillhunting4geeks.blogspot.com/2012/10/day-24-state-of-site.html

http://that-figures.blogspot.com/2012/10/feature-loeb-state-of-site.html

04th Nov2011

Best of the West #2: Toys “R” US Aisle 6D Sign

by Will

image

So, I’m not sure if anyone remembers, but I created “Best of the West” to showcase the jewels of my personal collection. I only posted under that heading once, and that was to discuss my autographed Obama Spidey comic. I kinda got preoccupied with yard sales, and let’s face it – a collect a lot of shit! Anyway, I know my pal Mike enjoyed this feature, and Brian over at Cool and Collected recently asked when we’d see the West Collection. I don’t know when I’ll ever get around to a full collection post, so the Best of the West segments will have to do for now.

Today’s item is a quirky one. If it’s your first time reading about me, I worked for Toys “R” Us in a part time capacity for 10 years. It was my first job out of high school, and I just couldn’t tear myself away. I fought on the beaches of the Great Gundam War of ’01. I waged the storms of the Pokemon Tsunami. I tickled many an Elmo, and I laughed in the face of the fabled NeoPet epidemic. We lost a lot of good men out there.

Before working at TRU, I thought I had a love for toys. I thought I loved toys of all shapes and sizes. Just say the word “toy” and my face would light up. About 2 weeks into my TRU career, I began to realize that I didn’t love “toys”. I loved “action figures”. You see, when you’re a customer, you just go right in to the aisle that holds the stuff you like. All the other stuff is just part of the TRU obstacle course. Fuck a bike! If you’re serious about cycling, you ain’t buying a bike at TRU. And I didn’t give a shit about car seats and Pack ‘N Plays. No, I just loved aisles 6D and 7D – home of the action figures. Sadly, when you work for the store, you’re forced to worry about those aforementioned departments. It didn’t matter to me. They could assign me to diapers, bikes, or cart duty – I always found my way back to those 2 aisles.

Now, let me give you a little retail history lesson. In TRU’s heyday, it was essentially a supermarket for toys. During the late 90s, it was decided that it had too much of a warehouse feel. So, aisles were partially done away with, as the company migrated towards the “racetrack” layout. In this new floorplan, the guest would follow a winding path around the store, with different “worlds” situated outside the track. There was Boys World, Girls World, Wheel World, etc. Supervisors were now “World Leaders”, and the whole thing was supposed to make the shopping experience flow more easily for guests. Only important stores got the full floor plan. My store wasn’t that important, so it still retained some of the old signage.

Then, the day after Christmas 2005, old Geoffrey decided that he didn’t need us in his empire any longer. It wasn’t too bad, though. Let me tell you this: there are few things more exciting than working for a store going through liquidation. No, seriously! I know some former Borders and Filene’s employees might disagree, but there are no rules, and you no longer have corporate oversight. We hosted fake radio shows over the PA system, some chick wished cancer on my Asst.Manager because he couldn’t process a return. Oh, and a mentally challenged guy came in and started masturbating in the R-Zone! I can’t remember the last time my life was that exciting. But the one thing that remained was my love of action figures. It was that love that brought me there in the first place. So, as we were closing the place down, I grabbed the sign for aisle 6D. What I love about it is that it was promoting lines that weren’t even really hot at the time, but I collected everything on this sign. If it had Ghostbusters, Batman, and Star Trek, you’d have my toy resume.

So, here it sits in my “office”. Before taking it, I had no clue how heavy it would be. It’s got to be a good 50 lbs, which is why it’s just leaning against the wall. I can’t hang that thing, and I’m amazed we’ve never heard of them falling and killing some kid. It’s big, heavy, and doesn’t really tie the decor of the room together, but it’s my past. Batman has a giant penny, and I’ve got the sign to aisle 6D. After 10 years of lying about truck shipments, helping lost grandmas, and selling D batteries to lonely single moms, this is my trophy.

15th Aug2011

Introducing Thrift Justice!

by Will

Welcome to my newest feature on the site: Tales From the Thrift! As some of you may know, I spend a LOT of time in thrift stores. I tend to wonder what to write about sometimes, and I realized it’s been in front of me the whole time: thrift store visits.

Crazy stuff tends to go down at the thrift store, so the thing practically writes itself. If I’ve got no “stories”, per se, I’ll just show you some of the latest stuff I’ve picked up. Unlike other columns on the site, I hope this doesn’t get dropped after 1 or 2 posts (I’m looking at you, Best of the West). If ya like what you’ve read, leave me a comment so I know it’s not falling on deaf ears.

So, why “Thrift Justice”? As you know, I’m a big proponent of branding, and I wanted a title with a ring to it. I started out with “Tales From the Thrift”, but some dude uses that to post YouTube videos. Then, I thought I’d go with “Thrift Wars”, but some hipster chick…uses it to post YouTube videos. So, the brain started working, and it came to me: “Thrift Justice”. Let it sink in, and you’ll learn to love it as much as I do. So, come back tomorrow for our first installment!

09th Jul2010

Best of the West #1: Signed Amazing Spider-Man #583 Variant

by Will

Going through my posts, I realized that I never really spoke much about my time in comics. On top of that, I’m supposed to be this big collector of comics and toys, yet there aren’t many posts that reflect my hobby. So, instead of being all snarky and digging up a bunch of dirt, I figured I’d try something new, by showcasing a few of the best items in my collections that most haven’t seen. You might see some cool stuff, or it might result in me having my apartment broken into. In any case, I’ll give a little rundown of its history, and voila, I’ve got a new regular column.

So, today’s item is what you see here:

IMG00182-20100708-2333

Yes, that’s a first printing of the hard to find variant cover of Amazing Spider-Man #583. The first of the popular Obama Comic Cover gimmick, this book sold out quicker than hotels on prom night. Last I checked, I think it got up to about 5 printings, many of which are still being sold above cover price. Well, I somehow managed to get a copy. But wait, there’s more! If you look closely, you’ll notice that it’s signed. No, it’s not signed by Big O, himself, but by Marvel Editor-In-Chief and Chief Creative Officer, Joe Quesada. So, how did I snag this comic? Well, it’s funny you should ask…

Last year, I went to the New York Comic-Con with a couple of my Diamond friends.  Near the end of most conventions, the Marvel booth has a giveaway panel. This isn’t a nice, orderly contest, however.  No, at the Marvel booth, everyone stands around yelling for shit, kinda like those  businessmen watching Jennifer Connelly get it with that double-ended dildo in Requiem For A Dream.  There’s a guy (and I really should know his name by this point), who’s like Wayne Brady with the huckster showmanship of Stan Lee. The Marvel Minions bring him large, unmarked boxes of stuff, and he just grabs something out. The stuff ranges from big ticket items (autographed books), to dead overstock (Dark Towers hardcovers), to random licensed items (lunchbox, anyone?) on down to Saga books. That’s right – I’ve seen them give away the same crappy promo comic you would’ve gotten stuffed in your bag at your LCS.

Anyway, I’ve witnessed this thing quite a few times, so there’s generally a formula: “Wayne Lee” generally looks around to see who wants the item most. Sometimes, he might ask a trivia question or ask you to dance for him or something.  He usually goes for the cute kid, the 20-ish girl, etc. In fact, he tends to go for everyone *except* the stereotypical “fanboy”. By adhering to this pattern, the Marvel Giveaway Panel may be Marvel’s smartest initiative to reach out to a new audience; cater to the young, the women, etc. So, the trick is to save your energy for something that you really want. Nobody walks away with 2 items. Not even that  kid in the wheelchair. If you don’t want the Spider-Man sleeping bag, don’t even waste the energy to acknowledge it. Wayne’s pretty good at scanning the crowd, so he’s gauging what you really want. When everyone’s jumping up and down like they’re on The Price Is Right, you become more conspicuous if you stand still. Wayne notices that, and he knows you’re being strategic. Hell, it’s best not to even make eye contact with him. Save it for the big prize.

So, I knew all of the above going in, and I used all that to play my hand. I didn’t acknowledge the Wolverine baseball cap or the Eternals hardcover. Out of the gate, we knew that the big ticket item was the Obama cover, especially since this was about 2 weeks after the inauguration. There wasn’t even a second printing at this point, yet here it was, SIGNED by the creative head of Marvel. I knew they had 5 copies to give away, and those were the only things I went for.

After he had given away the 4th copy, I probably should have gotten discouraged. I mean, I’d been at this panel for about an hour and a half, watching people sacrifice their young for a Hulk pencil sharpener. One thing about me, however, is that I don’t quit. I had a good feeling. I had no basis for said optimism, but I really thought I was going to leave with one of those books. I’ve actually been really lucky in life when it comes to comic-related contests. When I was 12, I won a Batman watch from a Choice Hotels Batman Returns sweepstakes. When I was 13, I won some Avengers/X-Men Bloodties trading cards from a contest I’d forgotten I had even entered. And the list goes on. So, I felt like some of that magic might be in the cards for me for that Spidey comic. My friends were leaving to go to dinner, and some of the booths had even shut down, but I was determined to see this to the end.

Wayne got to the final copy, and made quite a showing about it being the final copy. He paced the floor with it. He’d stop and think about whether the time was right to give it away (he does this a LOT – pulls out an item, gauges the reaction, and then swaps it for a Human Torch backpack once the fever builds). He decided to ask a question: “What’s Wolverine’s real name?” This, my friends, is somewhat of a trick question. I didn’t know which answer he wanted. After all, everybody knows it’s “Logan”, yet this was after Origin had come out, so the real answer was “James Howlett”. Seeing as how he IS the guy from Marvel, I figured Wayne would want the Howlett answer. So, I jumped up and down, screaming “James Howlett!” I could hear a good deal of the crowd going the Logan route, while my fellow fanboys were chiming along with the Howlett chorus. I have to believe that Wayne noticed how I’d played the game. I think he knew that I was there for one thing, and he was determined to make me wait for it. Or, maybe he just noticed me at that point. Whatever it was, he was prepared to make my day. It felt like slow motion, as he walked over and handed me the book. In my haze, I shielded it until I could get out of the crowd, and I quickly put it in my sketchbook for safekeeping. Once I got to an empty corner of the Javits Center, I double-checked to make sure that it was real, and that I hadn’t imagined the whole thing. What I saw in my hands was the book that you saw above, and it’s been sitting on my makeshift mantle ever since.