10th Sep2012

My 2012 Baltimore Comic-Con

by Will

Normally I’m excited about a comic convention, but that wasn’t the case here. Between the fact that my love affair with comics has hit a rough patch, I’ve been busy with a new job AND wedding planning, combined with the fact that I have a cold that took my voice, I was not looking forward to this year’s Baltimore Comic-Con. Still, I’m a big fan of streaks, and I haven’t missed a BCC since 2004. So, I took some meds, manned up and made the drive. One of the things that I look forward to is that the show allows me to see folks I don’t get to see often. It’s been an annual meeting with Twitter pal @sycobuny, last year I met Yo from @OAFE and I get to see old industry friends. This year, though, it seems that most of my friends didn’t realize it was con weekend until it was upon them. So, no meeting with sycobuny, Yo and I didn’t cross paths, and I didn’t get to meet any new Twitter pals.

So, the show. I’m getting conflicting impressions about how the show was going. I hope @dcuniverse blogs about his take on things, but the show seemed smaller than in the past. There were areas with a lot more walking room where there had previously been booths. I’m not sure if this was intended, or indicative of the economy. That said, there was high demand for entry. However, when I ran into con organizer Marc Nathan, I asked him if it was a good show, and replied that it was an “OK show”. Must not have met the day’s expectations. In the past, I’d wake up at 6 AM and stand in line to get in when the doors opened. Over time, however, I’ve come to realize that there’s really nothing to gain by doing that. I mean, we’re all going to the same place, and unless you know exactly where you’re planning to hit first, it’s a waste of time. So, I got there at about 2 PM, and there was STILL a LOOOONG line outside of people waiting to get in. There were separate lines for cash and credit, and of course cash ran more smoothly. I didn’t want to get in that line because I didn’t bring a ton of cash, and it would eat into what I could buy. I didn’t want to stand outside, though, so I did the cash line.

Once inside, I didn’t wander long before I ran into my sword brother, Keith Davidsen. He recently left Avatar Press, and he’s now cock of the walk as a bunch of publishers are interested in working with him. I’ve known him for 5 years, and I’ve never seen him that in demand. It was pretty impressive. So, I spent a good chunk of time looking taking pics of cosplay, as he chatted up the dude behind Gutters, Brian Pulido, the guys at Dynamite and more. We’ll get to the cosplay. I’m not done pontificating yet!

The con floor had the typical layout: pro booths, artist alley, and the dealer side. Due to some bad experiences in the past, combined with the fact that I’ve basically met everyone I want to meet, I avoided the pro booths. They were full of lines of people waiting to meet their favorite creators. God bless ’em, but they’re wasting good time in those lines. No, thanks! Artist Alley actually had some cool stuff, but my days as a buyer kinda make me an asshole. Ya see, the minute you make eye contact, they’ve got you and you may not want that. Still, I came into the show wanting to leave with unique things, and I knew that I’d find that there. Chris Flick from capesnbabes.com was doing caricatures of folks are their favorite heroes. I, of course, chose Batman. I think it came out well (notice that even the Batsignal has glasses)!

The dealer side also held little for me. I went into the show with a loose plan: I wanted to fill in holes in my Amazing Spider-Man and X-Factor runs. The problem, though, was that I’m not looking for vintage. I’m actually looking for books published within the last year. I haven’t purchased either of those series since last Christmas, since I find I enjoy them more in chunks than on a monthly basis BUT I don’t want them in trade form. Considering the amount of overships Marvel has done recently, I figured it wouldn’t be a problem. I was wrong. I guess someone else had the same idea, as I came up empty on both. Toys were the same situation. I’ve reached a point where I don’t really have any more holy grails as far as Marvel and DC figures go. I’ve got about 75% of DC Universe Classics, and I’m not a huge Marvel toy guy. I did pick up this loose Gambit for $5, though, ’cause five bucks! I know he’s lame now, but I came up in the 90s when he was the coolest mofo in comics, so this is how I like to remember him.


One dealer had a DC Universe Classics figure I’ve wanted for years: Gentleman Ghost. Some backstory: DC Universe figures ship with pieces of a larger figure. Collect all the figures in a series and you can build a cool, big figure. Gentleman Ghost comes with one of the rarest pieces, and he was never really shipped evenly to stores. The dealer had $100 on it, but I offered $80. For you non-fanboys, you’re saying “$80 for a TOY?!” It’s worth it. Go check eBay. I’ll wait. Anyway, the dealer declined, as he said he bought the thing at the show at a premium, and didn’t even expect to sell it this weekend. Rather than budge, he feels he’s got a better shot selling it next month at New York Comic Con. My loss, I guess. Or I might just go to NYCC and offer him $80 again.

So, in the end, I ended up with a bunch of Series 4 LEGO minifigure packs (Lindsay & I started collecting at Series 6), DMZ Vols 11 and 12, Scalped Vol 7 (which I actually already had and didn’t know it), Gambit, the caricature, some art cards of Miles Morales Ultimate Spidey and Batman Beyond, Drafted: The Essential Edition, We3: The Definitive Edition, Batman: Earth One HC, The Boys Vol 11, and Batman & Robin #10. I didn’t go too overboard, and I only bought stuff that was either a good deal or unique.

Now, for the cosplay. I think the cosplayers brought it this year. I was impressed by a lot of what I saw. Let’s see if you agree with me.

April O’Neil! She even had little Turtles with her!

You remember what I said about Gambit. Loved this costume.

Booth Babe Rogue, handing out coupons for Collectors Corner

Um…I got nothin’

Tuxedo Mask! At Otakon, he would’ve been The Man. Not sure if people recognized him here, though

Dominican Wolverine! You can’t see it, but his “claws” were butter knives tapes together.

It’s either Nick Fury or my Uncle Leroy. Both were old black dudes with eyepatches…

Last year, I gave you GaBlactus. This year, I give you Blor.

PG’s boob veins were still adjusting to the New 52…

Ya know, “Zatanna” wouldn’t be too unusual a name for a black chick these days.

A lot of booth dealers were ogling their asses, but I run a classy joint over here!


Oh, Mista J!

Baltimore keeps the Spirit of Vengeance quite busy

“Stand back, old chum! Villainy and scalpers are afoot!”

This marks the first time any has paid attention to The New Mutants in years!

I’ve got a world exclusive: Bane & Jubilee meet up in the crossover of 2013!

As part of MarvelNOW, we’re getting Nicky & Tash – teenage Nick Fury and teenage Natasha Romanov fight international crime, while still making it to the homecoming dance.

Booth Babes helping out at the charity art auction

Such a badass costume. The pic doesn’t even do it justice.

I had nothing for him to sign, but I had to say hello to the father of A Real American Hero, Mr Larry Hama!

Well, that about wraps it up. Not the best convention, but I’m glad I went. When I got next year, I’ll be married, a year wiser, and hopefully sans cold. Tune in next time, when we get back to Thrift Justice!

07th Dec2011

Thrift Justice: YSE – Yard FAILS

by Will

So, you read all of these posts, and you simply MUST wonder at all of the luck that I seem to have. “Where does he get all those wonderful toys?” Well, my friends, it’s not all sunshine and sloppy joes over here at Casa West. You see I, like you, sometimes fail. I’ve been trying to put this post together for a while, but recent events seemed to dictate that now was the time. During my last real yard sale run, I decided to bring trooperlite along with me. Known as “Special Forces” from my TRU days, we both share a love of thrifting and Power Rangers. I figured it’d be fun to have a partner in crime, so off we went. And this was single-handedly the worst yard sale run I’ve ever experienced. He apologized for jinxing me – while I don’t blame him for my misfortune, it probably was his fault. I mean, when I’m alone, I’m UNSTOPPABLE! All kidding aside, though, I’ve found that “you can’t win ’em all”, and every trip is still a learning experience. I figured I’d let you in on a few of my biggest yard fails. NOTE: The pictures are crappy to hide my shame.


Transformers are proving to be my blind spot. I can’t pretend to know more about Transformers than Bumblebee, Optimus Prime, and Megatron. I have the Transformers knowledge of a suburban soccer mom – “Ooh, look how cool and yellow this little guy is!” That said, I know that TF toys are highly collectible, so I find myself taking chances on things that I really shouldn’t. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s “stick with what you know”. I don’t yet have a TF expert in the fold, so this had led to quite a few disappointments. Mainly, I’ve learned that you’ll NEVER find a complete Transformer in a yard sale/thrift store capacity. That being said, for me the main criterion is “Can it still transform?” Basically, if it can still be changed from mode to mode, and isn’t missing important appendages, it’s good enough for me. Even worse is when dealing with Beast Wars/Beast Machines toys. About a month ago, I bought around 12 Beast Wars figures, and after sorting through them I could say that only 3 of them were anywhere near a “complete” state.  That’s why there are very few Transformers items coming to Will’s World of Wonder – I don’t want to pass off crap to people. If you see a TF toy on there, it’s been extensively researched to make sure it’s worthy of someone’s collection. *end of shameless plug*

ALWAYS check DVD packages! If it’s open, make sure the disc is in there! You see, a few months back, I discovered the USA show PSYCH, and fell in love. Where had this show been all my life? So, as luck would have it, the following week I ran across a yard sale near my house. This yard sale was a bit shady, based on the quality of items I saw. A recent trend I’ve noticed is that the popularity of Storage Wars has gotten more people into the storage auction game. Unfortunately for them, most units aren’t filled with rare artifacts, but rather the personal effects of some single mom as she left town under the cover of night. So, they win these lockers, and then host yard sales to make their money back. Everything is usually a dollar, because it’s dirty and/or there’s no guarantee that it works. That’s exactly the kind of sale that this was. However, I conveniently forgot all of this when I looked on his DVD table and saw PSYCH Season 1. I can experience this magical show from the beginning! And for a mere American dollar! God bless America! So, I snatched it up, along with some other things, and I paid the man. So, I got home, and threw it on the shelf with the rest of the unwatched DVDs. A few weeks later, I decided to check it out, and I noticed that there was a disc missing. Damn it! And not just any disc, but Disc ONE – with the pilot episode. Double Damn it! I wanted to see how it all began. If I wanted to see any random ass episode, I’d just watch ION late at night. So, I can’t sell it without a Disc 1, but it’d also be foolish to buy a new one just for one disc (which I almost did on Black Friday). Curse you, yard sale guy!!!!

You’d think I’d learned my lesson with that yard sale guy, right? Wrong. You see, he managed to approach me in such a way that I found myself visiting his weekly sale throughout the season. Here’s how he did it: I wanted some IKEA desk lamps that he had, but I wasn’t sure if they worked. I asked him about them, but he answered that he didn’t know. Great sales pitch, right? He, then, followed up with this pearl of wisdom: “Think of it like a scratch-off ticket. It’s only a dollar. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but you’re only out a dollar.” The greasy prophet was RIGHT! And I LOVE scratch-off tickets! Seriously, my aunt started buying them for me when I was 8, and I’ve loved a good scratcher since then. In fact, it’s part of the reason that I don’t regularly carry cash – if I end up at a 7/11, I’m wasting that money on scratch-off tickets. I wouldn’t say I have a gambling addiction, as I’m not betting on the ponies, nor have I been to a casino. I will say that I’m addicted to “chance”. So, after that beautiful soliloquy, he had me as a loyal customer.

So, what did I end up foolishly buying? A used Super Nintendo. I never had one growing up, but I figured it would fit in nicely with the rest of my antiquated gaming systems, like my Sega Saturn and my Gamecube. Again, I asked him if it worked, and because it was higher than the $1 price, he guaranteed me that it worked. He even threw in some games, like Super Mario All-Stars and some other notable stuff. At the end of it all, I threw down $10. OK, audience: who knows what happened when I got home? Did the SNES work? OF COURSE IT DIDN’T! My dumb fault, I know. So, the next week, I went back to his sale (remember, these were a weekly occurrence) and told him how the system didn’t work. He feigned surprise, and was like, “Here, take some more games.” He grabbed all the SNES games he had left, and piled them up in my arms. Excellent customer service, right? Well, yeah, unless you realize one small tidbit: I DIDN’T HAVE A WORKING SYSTEM ON WHICH TO PLAY THEM! So, now I’ve got a shitload of SNES games that I can’t play, nor can I even test them to sell. I’ll tell you this, though: the minute yard sale season starts back up, I’ll be right back there at his sale. I’m a sucker.


So, based on the weather, the “yard sale season” is pretty much over. Even still, mixed in with various holiday and church bazaars, I’ve managed to find a few yard sales. Last week, I made somewhat of a dumb purchase. It’s not exactly a “fail”, but it’s hardly a success. Yes, I bought a Disney animation cell. It’s from Robin Hood, and on the back it’s signed by the voice actor for the character. Pretty nice, right? Except for 2 things: 1) they stored it in their attic, so it has sustained some sort of heat damage and 2) the autograph is made out to “the Levitts”. So, I spent money on a damaged item that was personalized for someone else. But it’s a Disney animation cell!!! I’ve spent $25 on worse, and at least I didn’t have to get tested afterwards!

So, the yard sale season may be over, but I’ve still got more stories you haven’t heard. Summer may be over, but Thrift Justice: YSE is just getting started!

22nd Nov2011

Off To See The Wizard…

by Will

So, in an effort to sort out my junk room, I decided that I could probably start with my longbox of Wizard publications. I quickly tired of being reminded of Wetworks and Vampirella books, so I decided to focus on my issues of Toyfare instead. For those not really “in the know”, Toyfare was a monthly magazine published by the fine folks who also gave the world Wizard: The Guide to Comics (which later rebranded itself as a “Men’s Pop Culture Magazine”, whatever that means). Anyway, Wizard used to highlight toys, but as the industry ramped up, there was too much to report than the meager 2 pages in Wizard allowed, so the toy focus was spun off into its own magazine. At its best, Toyfare gave an in-depth look at fan favorite toy lines. At its worst, it was a glorified toy catalog. To be honest, “glorified” doesn’t even fit, as regular toy catalogs at least listed prices – something Toyfare couldn’t be bothered to do in many cases. Anyway, while flipping through the pages, a few thoughts came to mind, and I figured I’d share them here.

-What happened to Palisades Toys? I was never a Muppets fan, but I could respect that they truly paid attention to detail in making those Muppets toys.

-Diamond Select should’ve been run out of business for those horrible Serenity figures. I’ve actually said this to DST staffers. They like to change the subject when that line is brought up. I’m no Serenity fan, but I know a slap in the face when I see it.

-Did Hasbro ever present a use for those Jedi Master points?

-Is bbi still around? I remember they used to make those awesomely detailed solider dolls. Sometimes they’d use a Hollywood likeness without ever really securing the rights. So, instead of a Saving Private Ryan doll, it’d be a “World War II Officer” with a Tom Hanks face or something.

-An issue from 2002 stated that we had a better shot of seeing a Thundercats revival before a true G.I. Joe renaissance. Huh.

-The book REALLY started to suck when they took a parody approach to the articles. It was cute for the April Fools issue, but for a good  3 years every article in the book was like a Robot Chicken skit. While Robot Chicken showed that approach could be funny, it just gets tired in print.

-I wonder how many of the toys previewed in Toyfare actually NEVER came to fruition. I know for a fact that King of the Hill Series 2 never came out. That was when everyone wanted to jump on the interactive soundchip playset bandwagon, but I guess Toycom realized they couldn’t swing it.

-When they started posting the Complete Photo Guides to toy lines, that made the magazine worth the price of admission.

-Near the end, they were just reprinting the movie articles from Wizard, seeing as how comic movies also tended to have toylines.

-I never realized how many 80s Toy Quizzes they published. That magazine survived an extra 3 years just by jerking off fans to fantasies of a M.A.S.K. revival.

Culling the ranks of the Toyfare stash didn’t take much time, so then I cam back around for the herculean task of weeding out the Wizards. After all, I had a complete run for about 10 years or so. Along the way, I noticed a few interesting things:

-Where is Christina Z these days? For those not in the know, she was the first woman to make Wizard’s Top 10 Writers List, and she used to write Witchblade back when it was all T&A. That way, whenever someone criticized it for being a T&A book, Top Cow could protest, “No, it’s written by a woman!” Her last publicized work was Jenna Jameson’s Shadow Hunter. I bet that wasn’t a T&A book at all…

-Paula Cole should sing “Where have all the CCGs gone?”

-I don’t want anything to do with J. Scott Campbell until he finishes Wildsiderz.

-Brandon Jerwa started his career on G.I. Joe with a fan submission

-I had no idea Fox has been using the “Animation Domination” name for its Sunday block since 2005!

-Broken Promises: Bryan Singer’s Ultimate X-Men arc

-Broken Promises: Jeff Loeb & J. Scott Campbell’s Spidey title

-Broken Promises: When Bendis left The Pulse, he said it would continue with another writer. This didn’t happen.

-Yay! Kubert’s on Batman. Surely, he’ll have a long run on this book!

-In ’03, J.Scott Campbell went exclusive with DC. Can anyone name what came from that? Anyone? No, because NOTHING came from that contract.

-Why did they stop making DC Minimates?

-There was actually an article called “Treasured Chests”, where they compared the cleavage of Talia Al Ghul, Power Girl, and some Wildstorm chick.

-Kia Asamiya. Yes, I get that everyone had Manga Fever, but WHO THE FUCK PUT HIM ON X-MEN?!!!

-Broken Promises: Loeb & Lee’s promised post-Hush 6-issue arc on Batman.

-Before they diversified their brand with Pilot Season, Top Cow was pretty much just, “Hey, kids! Tits!”

-After Chaos went under, Lady Death went to the Code 6 imprint at Crossgen. Now, she’s at Avatar, under the Boundless imprint. Lady Death: She Doesn’t Just LOOK Like The Village Bicycle!

-There was an Olympic ad in the March 2002 issue. Like, a real brand, and not some e-store or superhero-inspired motorcycle jackets. The actual Olympics, with the athletes and shit. SO out of place.

-Chaos allowed fans to serve as associte editors on books. They spun it as “interaction”, but it was really just cheap labor. They went under soon afterwards.

-Only in 2002 could Joe Mad make the Top 10 Most Influential Artists List. He ranked higher than Sienkiewicz!!!

-Broken Promises: Kevin Smith was supposed to take over Amazing Spider-Man, and JMS was to move over to a new book. Smith also said in interviews that he only agreed if they would allow him to reunite MJ and Peter.

-Broken Promises: Kevin Smith was also announced as the writer of a new iteration of Brave and the Bold just before signing an exclusive with Marvel.

-Based on the number of articles, Fathom “returned” about 12 times, but never actually finished.

-Top Cow has been streamlining its universe since 2001, with no end in sight. The first event, Universe, made Tomb Raider & Fathom part of TC canon…interesting, seeing as how both properties are no longer under the TC umbrella.

-Where is Devin Grayson? Did her career end at the same time as her relationship with Mark Waid?

-I think the best depiction of Rogue was the promo image to her Icons mini. She’s strong and athletic – believably 19 (which is the age she’s rumored to be), and not a busty, 30-something skunkhead.

-Alicia Witt would’ve been a MUCH better Mary Jane in the Spider-Man movies.

-Instead of rushing to reprint them, Bill Jemas put the Ultimate titles online, 12 pages at a time, to “reward the readers and retailers who jumped on the Ultimate bandwagon at the beginning, thus making those initial issues all the more valuable.” – 2001

-In 2001, Poison Elves creator Drew Hayes signed an unprecedented 50 year deal with Sirius Entertainment. While this was clearly a publicity stunt, Drew would pass away in 2007.

-Casting Call: Geoff Johns cast Heath Ledger as Wally West and Owen Wilson as Trickster.

-Issue #110’s letter column only featured mail sent by prisoners.

-They used to have a column called “oops…” where they made corrections to previous stories. This was phased out in later years, as the entire magazine became one giant collection of typos and mistakes.

-Broken Promises: Top Cow got the A-Team rights in 2000. Did nothing with them.

-Did America ever get Bandai’s handheld system, the WonderSwan Color?

-They were REALLY pushing for Brendan Fraser to be Superman, as they cast him in 3 different Casting Call articles over the years.

-Casting Call: Tom Selleck as Tony Stark, Kevin Sorbo as Thor, and Howie Long as Cap. This would’ve been fine…in 1990. They also cast Howie Long as Duke in G.I. Joe. Wizard really liked Howie Long.

-The same character was named “Venus”, “Sexbot”, and finally “Aphrodite IX”

-Finally, back when DC did the whole Superman Red/Blue thing, a few high profile artists were asked to redesign Superman’s iconic suit. One of those artists happened to be Jim Lee. Looks like he’s been married to that high-collar design for quite some time…



So, what were your favorite Toyfare/Wizard memories?

09th Nov2011

Back & Fourth: The One With The Beyblades

by Will

So, just when I was settling into a groove with the whole lunch duty thing, The Man threw a wrench into our plans. You see, the kids used to eat in their classroom, which sort of made them a captive audience. Now, the multipurpose room is being used as a cafeteria for EVERYONE, so now I’ve got to deal with 5th graders, a different class of 4th graders, and the 4th graders I actually like. Today, I was finally able to sit down and have a tete-a-tete with “my” kids.

First off, an observation: I’m noticing these kids REALLY hate their school lunch. Now, I know the whole general cultural belief is that kids are supposed to hate school lunches, but I’m not used to that experience. I went to private school and our shit was catered. Then, I went to a college that was the home of the #1 dining hall in the country. So, I guess you can say I’ve been spoiled. I’m not gloating, though; I’m fat, so I got what I had coming to me. Anyway, it just sucks to see all the food these kids throw away. I’m not even one of those “think of the starving kids in China” people. I mean, a lot of these kids are starving, yet, they STILL won’t eat it. That’s some bad food. When the fat kid throws it away? That’s some bad food. I know the stuff doesn’t look appetizing. I mean, half the time it looks like someone took a shit in a Kid Cuisine tray. I’ve eaten some of it, and some of it wasn’t that bad, but I can see why the look might turn folks away.

I’ve also wondered if the kids might hate it just because it’s more nutritious than they’re used to eating. I am FAR from a bastion of healthy eating, but one chick’s lunch was comprised of two glazed doughnuts and a popped bagged of microwave popcorn. Another kid’s lunch was about EIGHT Fruit Roll-Ups and some Goldfish. This is the shit that happens when kids have kids! Kinda hard to give your kid a nutritious lunch when you still do most of your shopping at Five Below. Where’s the First Lady now?! She fucks up the Happy Meal, but doesn’t get to the root of the problem, the food that kids pretty much have to eat – school lunches.

Anyway, I sat down with the kids and we shot the crap. The kids had brought their Beyblades, and I was at a loss. I sold the things for years, but never really knew how they worked. It’s like if Scarface had never tried the coke! So, when Mike asked, “Mr. West, do you wanna rip my Beyblade?”, I saw it as my chance to finally learn what the whole thing was all about. For you old folks out there, let me just break it down for ya: “Beyblades” is just a fancy marketing word that means “fancy tops”. Ya know the shit your great grandpa played with on the Titanic? Yeah, those things. I’m just kinda surprised their still this popular. Shouldn’t they have been unseated by Bakugan? Has the Era of the Bakus gone?

I wasn’t gonna settle for kids being excited about an almost 10 year old toyline! No, I decided to take it to the next level. You see, there’d been some Twitter discussion about what might be The Toy of the Holiday Season this year. There’s usually an Elmo, and some other thing soccer moms are willing to shank each other over. So, I decided to take it to the kids. They’re at the “one foot out of the door of toys, one foot into the world of console games” age, so they’re the perfect audience. I also told them that they couldn’t name video games, so no Arkham City, Modern Warfare, Uncharted, etc. So, what did they answer? Beyblades! All of them. Really?! I kept asking about Bakugan. Seriously, I’ve asked them about Bakugans so much that you’d think I worked for Bakugan marketing, but those kids simply don’t give a shit about balls that open up into weeblesque “beasts”. No, today’s kids love the shit out of fancy tops. Sharpen your shivs, moms!

08th Nov2011

Thrift Justice – Lois Lane Meets The TMNT

by Will

Last weekend saw the final Civitan Flea Market of the year. As I’ve written in the past, this neighborhood sale is GREAT for finding collectible treasures. This sale was no different, as I made some pretty sweet deals. Let’s take a closer look at some of the booty I scored.

Now, when I get to any sale, I try to pace myself but I have a lot of trouble with that whole process. Whether it’s a comic con or a yard sale, I tend to blow my wad too soon, and then end up spending more judiciously as the day goes on. The Civitan market takes place in a 5-level parking garage, and you enter from the top level. I didn’t know what wonders might lurk in the depths below, but before I could descend I immediately found myself rifling through a box of Silver Age comics.

I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I try not to buy old comics unless they’re just basically giving them away. Anything under $1 is fair game to me. After all, most folks think their stuff is worth way more than it is, and most of those stories have been retconned 3 times over by now. I do, however, have an affinity for Silver Age DC books. If you pick up Marvel stuff from that era, it’s just full of hyperbole and cave drawings, but old DC books were actually…fun. Due to a magnet set that we have on our refrigerator, I’ve gained an appreciation for Lois Lane comics. Honestly, I feel like DC writers sat around and wondered, “How can make Lois a huge bitch this month?” Those old bastards clearly had some run-ins with the wrong kind of women, and seemed to have an ax to grind. That series is CRAZY, whether she’s tricking Superman into a paternity suit or changing her race to be black for a day. I picked up a few some months back, and I found 13 more on this particular day. This batch even included the issue I mentioned where she’s black for a day! I actually already have a copy of that one, but I know I’ll probably end up gifting it to someone. I told the old lady manning the booth that the books would be going to a good home, for a little boy who loves comics (it’s secretly ME! Muhuhahaha!). She cut me a pretty good deal, as I paid $25 for these, as well as the comics you’ll see below.

These are some other silver age books I picked up. Back when I first got into comics, I used to buy these grab bags from my local shop that were just FULL of crap. I didn’t know any better then, but it would have comics for toylines, like Visionaries, as well as old All-Star Squadron and issues of canceled series. I remember getting issues of The Secret Society of Super Villains and Kobra, and loving them. So, I had to jump on the issues you see here. I probably already own that Brave and the Bold (I bought a bunch of them at a con a few months back that I still haven’t processed), but I’ll buy any cheap Batman comics.

Not quite “Silver Age”, these are some 80s era comics I got. Again, more cheap Batman. I believe that’s the final issue of Ted Kord’s series. It says “The Final Adventure”, but that could just be comic hyperbole. There was a time when you could always count on Superman to have dynamic covers, and this is a great example of that. He’s begging, in an alley! How can you pass that up? I probably have that issue of X-Men, but I’m a sucker for 80s Uncanny. The way I see it, the $25 was for the Lois Lane books, as $2 an issue was a great deal; the rest of this stuff was just a bonus.

The series that wouldn’t die! Fans brought this thing back to life more than I can remember, but that must say something about its quality. I’ve never read Spider-Girl, but I was always curious. Plus, it’ll give me more Adventures West Coast material. I’m not sure if this is the very first collected edition, but it does include issues 0-8. Plus, I got it for a dollar, so it’s not like I could shake a stick at that!

Let me clear something up – I am nowhere near a “gamer”. My newest system is the PS2, and I use it primarily as a DVD player. Lindsay and I had a Rock Band/Guitar Hero phase, but I don’t really get into games. I do, however, pick up games when I find them A) interesting and B) cheap as dirt. Somewhere along the line, I forgot that I’m in a relationship, so the concept of “downtime” doesn’t really exist anymore. Still, in my mind, I have this vision of playing video games all night, while drinking Smirnoff Ice. When I come across a cheap game, I think to myself, “Would I enjoy playing this game, while sipping on a cool malt beverage?” I didn’t even know this game existed, and it appears to be the precursor to the popular Red Dead Redemption. The guy sold it to me for about $3, so that was enough for me. I’ll probably never play it, but if I ever feel like reenacting a Western, at least I’ll have it.

I’ll admit that this was an impulse buy. While I collect Batmobiles, I’ve passed on this thing at many a thrift store. I found it at a booth that usually has a lot of great comic stuff. Remember the comic posters and Age of Apocalypse cover from the last flea market post? Yeah, that booth. Anyway, at that time, they’d assured me that they would have a ton of comic stuff at this sale, as it’s the last one of the year. I went just looking for them. I get there, and this is pretty much all they had. It had a sticker on the hood, guaranteeing me that “it works”. I can’t even verify that at this time, but it’s a big-ass, battery operated Batmobile monster truck. Yeah, I’m kind of ashamed, so let’s move on.

So, I’m wandering through the aisles, and I find myself at a dead end, with this TMNT Lair playset sitting on a table. I start looking at it, as I’ve never really seen one of these in person. I didn’t really pay much attention to TMNT, as that was the incarnation for kids of the ’00s. For me, I only deal in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Show some respect, and spell that shit out! Anyway, as I inspecting it, the seller comes by and asks, “Would you like that big thing?” I proceeded to tell her that my fiancee would kill me, but she keeps on pressing. She tells me that it wuld be 50% off. That’s when I see the price tag: $3.00. I ask her, “So, wait, you mean this would only be $1.50?!” She says that is correct. Well, now you understand why I currently own a Turtle Lair playset. Back when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Sewer Playset came out, my mom gave me a choice: I could either get it OR get the G.I.Joe General. I was more into our American heroes, so I chose the latter. The General’s sitting out in our shed, as I get to fill that void with this newer Turtle playset.

So, there ya have it. I’ll miss the Civitan Flea Market, but you better believe I’ll be there on the first Saturday of next April! Coming soon, I’ve got another installment of Thrift Justice:YSE, where we’ll talk about some of my greatest yard sale FAILS.

06th Oct2011

Thrift Justice – The Case of the Three Jokers

by Will


So, last weekend the rain was too much of a nuisance for any of the local yard sales to take place, but I was still jonesing for a treasure hunt. That meant that I had to find someplace indoors, which led me to the Civitan Flea Market. Located in Arlington, VA, the Civitan Flea Market occurs on the first Saturday of each month, from the months of April to November. I checked it out for the first time a few months back, and I liked what I saw. Since it takes place in a multilevel parking garage, it’s open rain or shine. Basically, a vendor pays about $20 to set up in a parking space, and you’re left to just make the rounds. From what I could tell, vendors don’t seem to have “regular” spots, so I walked around to see if I noticed any of the good vendors from my first trip. But we know you’re not here for the words – you’re here for the haul!

Recently, I’ve been buying up all the cheap Calvin & Hobbes books I run across. Here’s a little confession: I really hated C&H up until about 2 months ago. I know most of my peers fondly look back on the series, but I just never “got” it. I think I had the misfortune of always tuning in when it was one of the, for lack of a better word, “preachier” strips, so I just always felt it was overrated. That said, as someone who had a myriad of imaginary friends, this series was pretty much right up my alley. So, I found a collection at a yard sale a few weeks back, which has led to the acquisition of 2 more collections.

As a fanboy, this is one of those things that I guess I’m expected to have read. I’d never really come across it, and it always seemed a little too much of a Sandman gateway book anyway. Since I’m neither a cutter, nor do I work at Hot Topic, I always shied away. Well, on this particular day, I guess I was kinda desperate to buy a comic, and this was the best I could do. The vendor wanted $3 for it, which I felt was kinda steep. Then, she told me that it was for her grandson’s college fund. I couldn’t let the guy suffer through student loans as I had. I forked over the three Georges. Then, I asked her where he was thinking of going for college. She replied, “Well, he’s only 16 months old right now.” Huh. All I could say was, “Well, I guess you’ve got a couple more sales ahead of you.”

I’d seen this book during one of the Borders liquidation sales, but couldn’t bring myself to pay what they were asking at 25% off. This, however, is not only an advance reader’s copy but it was also a quarter! I’m a sucker for preview and promo items, so this was just what the doctor ordered. The seller had placed a sticky note on it, saying it was “Perfect for fans of Family Guy and The Daily Show“. This might just be an oversell – kinda like how every comedy compared itself to The Hangover for a whole year.

If you dare claim there was a better game for the Nintendo Entertainment System, I will slap you in the face and kidnap your dog.

Stallone was supposed to be in Beverly Hills Cop. They decided they wanted to go in another, more comedic direction. He made this instead. And it was GLORIOUS. I love this movie for the odd product placement. Just imagine: Pepsi paid to have one of their soda fountains shot up in a standoff; a Christmas-themed Toys “R” Us commercial is playing in the background, as Stallone cleans his gun and eats cold pizza!

I wouldn’t buy season sets of this show, but I am sucker enough to fall for “The Mike Judge Collection”. Sure, it’s a best of collection, but it’s a multi-disc best of. Plus, I trust Mike Judge. The man went on to give us Office Space and King of the Hill. It’ll be worth it if “Teen Talk” is one of the episodes featured. “I’m Lolita, and this here’s Tanqueray. You boys wanna go back behind the bleachers and make out?”

And now we come to the reason for this post’s title. You may not be able to tell, but this is a deck of Batman Begins playing cards. It was purchased for three reasons:

1) I love Batman

2) I love shiny things/holograms

3) They were $0.25

Now, I knew what I was getting into. The seller told me that someone earlier in the day had counted the cards and that while the deck was missing an Ace, there were THREE Jokers. Now, I’m used to quirky merchandise, so I wondered if it was supposed to have 3 Jokers. I mean, “Joker” kinda means a little more in a Batman-themed card deck, so maybe that was the novelty. Still don’t know. I don’t even play cards!

This is Tri-Klops. He’s from He-Man. That is all.


This is Lothor – the “big bad” from Power Rangers Ninja Storm. While he was far from the most menacing villain, I always loved his aesthetic. It’s not everyday you see an evil alien ninja in a luchadore mask. The articulation sucks, like most Power Rangers villain figures, but he still looks cool standing around.

A Nightwing doll! How cool is that?! Yes, I’m calling it a “doll” because that’s basically what this is. Sure, his body is probably based on a G.I. Joe style body, but he’s got a cloth outfit and hard plastic head. He appears to have mustard or something on his chest, but I don’t care. Nightwing doll for $1!

I got this from my favorite vendor. Last time, she had some great Batman stuff, and this was just as cool. If you’re not a comic person, this is an unused cover from X-Men: Alpha, which kicked off The Age of Apocalypse. This event started just as I was getting into comics, and I haven’t experienced something that riveting since. A lot of comic crossovers are cyclical now, but this was actually a fresh idea. Anyway, this appeals to my love of comics, as well as my love of shiny thing/holograms. Oddly enough, I don’t remember this as having a holographic cover gimmick; it shipped with a foil cover gimmick, so I wonder if this was some sort of retailer exclusive.

These came from the same vendor as the X-Men cover. It may not be immediately apparent, but the “Vote DC” poster is actually a promotional item from the Marvel vs. DC event. You’ll notice Batman hiding Captain America’s shield in his cape, as Superman brandishes The Hulk’s pants. Below that is a poster for 1991’s X-Men #1. I collect comic promo items that are typically only available to retailers, so these 2 posters were great finds.

Well, that’s all she wrote for the flea market. Next month is the last one of the season, so I’m pretty sure I’ll go check it out one last time. In the meantime, I’ve got my hands full with the thrift stores. Tune in next time, where I’ll show ya some autographed stuff I came across!

12th Sep2011

Book Report – Toyland: The High-Stakes Game of the Toy Industry

by Will

This will come as a surprise to no one, but I used to want to work in the toy industry. Yeah, I did the whole 10 years at Toy “R” Us, but I also chose my college major in the hopes of landing a position at Kenner (hey, it was still around then!) or Mattel. My major was early childhood development, with a focus on play and interaction. Since there was no real “toy curriculum”, I figured knowledge of how children go about playing would point me in the right direction. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It turns out that toy companies want *designers*. Instead of trying to make educational toys that look pretty, toy companies attempt to make pretty toys that seem educational. Like with dating and job interviews, looks come first. I did, however, manage to snag an internship at a small specialty toy company in Chicago, called Manhattan Toy. Now, during my time at TRU, I’d learned that I didn’t really care about ALL toys – I just loved aisles 6D and 7D. So, when this small stuffed animal company came along, brash 19-year old me blew it off and jetted of to London. By the time I graduated, I started to realize my dream may not come true. Then came Diamond.

Many people may not realize this, but Diamond has a toy team. Sure, most of the focus is on comics, but they’re also the ones responsible for getting those overpriced toys and busts to your local comic shop. Sadly, the extent of Diamond’s toy decisions are usually something like “How can we get Kotabukiya to give us a great price on these Slutty Sakura statues?” By this point, I was already pretty much over the idea of working in the toy industry. I’d already been a brand manager, albeit in the comic world, and I was really just tired of the sense of entitlement. I didn’t wanna shift over to DST, ’cause a lot of those guys were asshats. Don’t get me wrong – like anything, there were some cool folks, but there were also quite a few douchebags. So, there ended my toy dream. Or so I thought. The moment I cracked open Toyland: The High-Stakes Game of the Toy Industry, it all came rushing back to me. This might sound like hyperbole, but I feel this book should be required reading for anyone with an interest in the business side of toys. If you ever want to bitch about Mattel’s distribution, or wondered why NECA picked up a particular license, or needed to know how toy marketing and development actually work, you MUST READ THIS BOOK.

Toyland, by Sydney Ladensohn Stern and Ted Schoenhaus, primarily follows the creation, development, and release of Tyco’s Dino-Riders toyline. Along the way, however, they provide a great history of the industry – citing major players, as well as the stories behind all of the major toy companies. Published in 1991, many of the companies have since merged or folded, but that doesn’t change any of the history. I got the book about 8 years ago at a used book store, but never really got into it as I didn’t have a lot of attachment to the Dino-Riders line. To be honest, I didn’t even remember it being successful. Now, I clearly see that I was wrong.

I don’t want to give away all of the good parts, so I’ll just give you a sample of what’s inside:

-Sure, you knew about Toy Fair, but did you know about “pre-Toy Fair”?

-Toy companies, while always looking for the next hit, do better with “staples”. In fact, a success could actually be detrimental, as they may be unable to keep up with demand – which is what drove Worlds of Wonder out of business following supply problems with Teddy Ruxpin and Lazer Tag. Hasbro’s acquisition of Milton Bradley helped them stay afloat in lean years, as board games are staples.

-Mattel was considered the “University of Toyland”, as many of its alums have gone on to lead other companies in the industry, bringing Mattel’s systems, terminology, and practices along with them. Most other toy companies ran like family businesses, but Ruth and Elliot Handler built Mattel into the first professional toy operation. Then, they were ousted for fraudulent stock claims, and Mattel eventually became the model of how NOT to run a toy company. Still, it’s nice to read about what it was like before it sucked.Due to its position in the industry at the time the book was written, much of the book serves as an “official history of Mattel”.

-It’s believed that Jem dolls ultimately failed because she was created in a different scale than Barbie. Had they been the same size, they could’ve shared clothes and accessories, despite coming from different companies.

-It’s somewhat amazing to read about the conception of Dino-Riders, and then follow along as it evolves into a completely differrent animal. By no means was the end result what the creators had envisioned, but it was close enough that they could still be proud that their idea ended in a finished product – something few can say.

– Of course a big chunk of the book is about how toy companies felt sidelined when home computing and video game systems came on the scene in the early 80s.

-While the Teddy Bear was originally seen as a fad named for Theodore Roosevelt, it was expected to be replaced by Billy Possum, named for William Taft. Apparently, Taft had eaten roast possum on a trip to Atlanta, but there was no demand for the product.

-When Stanley Weston invented G.I.Joe for Hasbro, the normal inventor’s fee was 5% of net wholesale revenue. Hasbro, however, cited high development costs and only offered Weston 0.5% . Weston countered with 3%, and Hasbro offered him 1% – prompting Weston to sue. In a private meeting before the 1964 Toy Fair, Hasbro asked Weston if they could just buy the concept from him outright, as they felt they were taking a gamble. Eventually, Weston agreed to sell for $100,000. Had he kept the original deal, he would’ve made $150,000 on the first year alone. Weston, however, wasn’t too upset, and had this to say: “I’ve been married and divorced twice. If I’d had all that money I probably would’ve been divorced four times instead of two.”

-Hasbro’s problems surrounding Flubber deserve an entire book of their own. Long story short, a massive Flubber recall resulted in the supply being buried under Hasbro’s parking lot, which has pushed the property about  2 inches higher than the rest of the site.

My Little Pony was the result of market research where Hasbro asked little girls “What do you see when you go to bed and close your eyes?”

-In the great GoBots vs Transformers debate, Tonka’s development team felt they were doing kids a favor by simplifying the transformations, while later research indicated that kids enjoyed the more complex transformations of the Transformers line.

-Toy companies seem to have more moles than a season of 24, which results in specs and samples being leaked to bootleggers and the competition. Most companies, however, take it as proof than they’re onto something big if other are that interested in stealing the idea.

-Xavier Roberts, creator of the Cabbage Patch Kids, is an eccentric genius. He was an artist first and foremost, making him a terrible businessman.

-There’s a goof chunk about the deregulation of the 80s, leading to the Program Length Commercial. It also into the deals that were cut between television stations and syndicators. For example, Lorimar syndicated Thundercats. If a station agreed to air the cartoon, they would get a percentage of LJN’s Thundercats toy sales.

-There’s a great comparison between the business practices of Toys “R” Us, Kay-Bee, and FAO Schwartz. Two of these companies don’t exist any longer, and the remaining one doesn’t look like it did then. Still, it’s an interesting snapshot in time.

Anyway, I’ve teased enough. If you’re interested in the business of the toy industry, I highly recommend Toyland: The High-Stakes Game of the Toy Industry. How do you get it? I dunno. Do I look like Barnes OR Noble? Maybe it’s on bit torrent or Amazon or something. Geez, I can’t do everything for you!

03rd May2011

The America Post

by Will

Well, as I’m sure you all know now, America finally got him. You know…he’s got a ZZ Top beard? Yeah, him. Anyway, I’m not really going to get into all that, but I did want to join in the widespread patriotism that’s catching like Pokemon fever! I support the troops, and appreciate all that they do for us. I kinda wanted to share what America means to me. Of course, things hold different meanings for different folks, so you may not agree. I still wanted to express myself in some way. In any case, I thought about doing another 5-part thing, you know, like “America Week”, but I can’t keep up that schedule (What do you think this is? Postcultural?) So, I thought I would just put all of my feelings in one post, and let the videos do the talking. Fly your flag, let your bald eagle out of its cage, and join me in celebrating the good ol’ US of A!

23rd Sep2010

Dear DC Comics: You’re Doing It Wrong

by Will

This week, DC Entertainment, announced a bold new organizational structure, deemed as a “bicoastal realignment”. The problem, however, is that there’s nothing bold about this whatsoever. When Marvel rocks the boat, you may not like it, but you’d better believe it gets people talking. DC, however, doesn’t seem to know how to make a splash – in the same pool in which they’ve been swimming for 75 years! Marvel has trounced DC in publishing, movies, and video games. By this point, DC’s got to be tired of losing, but they still aren’t taking many chances. With them, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Looking at Marvel and DC together, you start to see a clearer picture as to why Marvel shines, while DC rusts. Let’s take a look at what DC’s doing wrong.

1) Social Media: Marvel has readily embraced every technology, realizing the impact of what’s NOW. DC, seeing itself as some sort of “legacy publisher”, doesn’t readily embrace anything modern, so as not to date their product. The problem with that idea is that the product is already dated, simply through how it’s being mishandled. Sure, you may end up with a Marvel comic with a dated MySpace reference, but at least Marvel TOOK THE CHANCE.

This idea carries over into reality, where Marvel.com’s Editor, Ryan Penagos, was one of the first twitter users to cross 1M followers. Say what you will about twitter, but that’s quite a big deal, especially since it occurred in the age before many celebrities had embraced the medium. Sure, he seems like a nice enough guy, but he’s not doing anything special. The first, and most important step, was that he simply showed up for the party – which is more than could be said for DC at the time. Tweeting as @Agent_M, he’s engaging, and he’s a steadfast cheerleader for the Marvel brand, in the tradition of The Man himself.

Now, let’s look at DC: They don’t really have much of a twitter presence. There’s a @DC_NATION account, but it really just serves to tweet links to the DC site. After they realized how successful Marvel’s social outreach had been, DC decided to follow suit, creating their own blog, The Source. Manning the blog is Alex Segura, DC’s Publicity Manager. This is where the “small world” nature of the industry really hits home, as Alex is also the roommate of Marvel’s Penagos. Both guys came up through the ranks of Wizard Entertainment, so they’ve certainly got industry experience. The difference between how they embrace the power of social media, however, is the night and day. You’d think something would rub off on Alex when he and Ryan bump into each other in the kitchen, but he isn’t “bringing it”. Maybe he’s not to blame. Looking at how DC handles everything else, it’s possible that Alex is FULL of ideas, and he’s just being stifled from above. Either way, DC’s doing social media wrong.

2) Publicity: Following up on the social media differences, both companies are also VERY different in how they handle their big announcements. Marvel seems to have a pretty good relationship with mass media. Based on its success with movies, as well as the clout of their new owner, Disney, Marvel has no problem getting mass media exposure for its big events, both behind and in front of the scenes. DC, however, does everything in secret, and once things get out, the announcements don’t hold the level of “oomph” that you know the Warner Brothers executives had expected them to have.

Let’s look at this bicoastal realignment. For the past year, most people have expected Warner Bros to decide to move DC out west, so that they could synergize new ways to monetize the catalog. Fanboys and comic journos have been awaiting that announcement with bated breath, and the rumblings indicated that there would be an announcement this week. Well, the rumors were true, but the announcement was the bicoastal realignment. So, as if they feared rocking the boat, WB decided to move the core moneymakers (movies, multimedia, etc) out west, while leaving the comic arm in NYC. All that fervor and leaked info for such a dud of an announcement.

Further, it was announced that certain subsidiaries of DC, such as the Zuda webcomic site and the Wildstorm imprint, would be shuttered as a result of the restructuring. Now, this information almost got lost, as people were spending more time trying to understand how the bicoastal thing would be any different from how things already were. The thing that hit home for me, however, was that the demise of Wildstorm was ANNOUNCED. This is a 20 year old imprint that has resided at two different publishers, launched a few notable careers, and was still successful at publishing licensed comics. We weren’t talking about a relaunch or a move to a new publisher – it was CLOSING. Sure, the core Wildstorm Universe books had been rudderless for some time, but this still wasn’t the way to handle it. At least, wait a day or two to put it in a follow-up announcement. I know that Warner Bros is the parent company, but they do everything in a very formal, let’s not scare the shareholders, kind of way. That’s not how Marvel rolls.

When Marvel was purchased by Disney, there were no rumblings. We woke up one day to the announcement, and many of us had to check our calendars to make sure that it wasn’t April 1st. Marvel doesn’t let anything get out that they don’t want out. When they do announce something, they make it worthwhile. Here’s how Marvel would’ve handled the Wildstorm situation in which DC found itself: Instead of announcing via press release, Joe Quesada would’ve “let it slip” during one of his weekly “Cup ‘o Joe” columns. In the next issue of Previews, you’d see a surprise solicitation for Wildstorm Finale, 48-page special written by Brian Bendis, with art by Bryan Hitch, Frank Cho, Steve McNiven, and whichever Kubert answers his phone first. Sure, in execution, the book will end up being a piece of crap, but leading up to its release, you better believe that Marvel would do its best to convince you that this thing is gonna be on the level of The Bible II: Jesus Strikes Back. And you know what? That book would be the #1 book of the month! All of a sudden, people would be looking back fondly on Wildstorm, making up stories about how they learned to read from Gen13. The way Marvel works, they have a knack for making you care about things you really don’t care about. That’s how Moon Knight has been given more second chances than Robert Downey Jr. DC simply lacks Marvel’s “Huckster Pizazz”, which is why everything they do reeks of buzzwords like “synergy” and “value-added”.

Remember how I mentioned the build-up to the hypothetical Marvel release? Well, at least Marvel understands the need for HYPE. DC takes a different approach. Instead of telling you that something big is coming up, they wait and see if you’re already planning to buy it anyway. Then, as if to punish you, Alex routinely spoils big events on The Source, sometimes as early as Wednesday afternoon. DC’s feeling seems to be “We’re here, making these quality books, and it’s your own fault if you haven’t made it a priority to buy them on your lunch break”. Some character dies, and The Source is sure gonna let you know about it by midday Thursday. YOU’RE DUMB, DC, ’cause now you just lost a sale! Who thought that was smart? Sure, they tack on a line about how the book is “In Stores NOW!” but you already told me what happens.

3) Leadership: There’s a different organizational structure at each company, but both are controlled by larger, corporate entities: Marvel by Disney, and DC by Warner Bros. Disney’s acquisition of Marvel is still fairly recent, but there haven’t been many signs of editorial pressure handed down by Disney. If anything, that acquisition has opened doors, as Marvel products are now sold in the Disney Store, while Marvel has ramped up production of programming for Disney’s XD channel. If only the same could be said for DC.

DC Comics has always been seen as the redheaded stepchild of the Warner Bros portfolio. There were halcyon days in the mid ’90s, when you saw DC crossing into other media, mainly Batman-related. After that movie franchise went on hiatus, and the animated series moved off network television, things seemed to dry up. The Warner Bros Studio Stores closed, so they lost another outlet to sell product. For years, it seemed that Warner Bros was searching for a way to make some serious money off DC, but the comic arm just wouldn’t play ball. A lot of their efforts seemed to have been thwarted by former DC President/Publisher, Paul Levitz. While he could be blamed for keeping the characters in a vacuum, he did it for the best of interests. Like an overprotective parent, he didn’t want anything bad to happen to his properties. As a result, however, he also prevented them from being able to grow. The-Powers- That-Be tired of this, and he was replaced by media wunderkind, Diane Nelson.

For the past year, many have wondered what the Nelson Era would mean for DC Comics. At the outset, the whole division was renamed DC Entertainment, with DC Comics falling under that umbrella. This was to signal that they had set their sights outside of simply publishing comics – they were now aiming for the “real money”. It’s no secret that DC hasn’t come close to meeting Marvel’s success at the box office, as they don’t have anything other than the Batman franchise to fall back on. Even when people discuss the upcoming Ryan Reynolds Green Lantern movie, the discussion always ends up revolving around Deadpool – the Marvel comic movie with Reynolds attached. In the meantime, Marvel’s been building a movie universe with each film, opening the door for the next feature as they go along. So, DC wanted to be like Marvel.

Nelson was brought in, supposedly, due to her success with the Harry Potter franchise. That’s all well and good, but that’s also a franchise that didn’t exist 12 years ago. Nelson basically had to find ways to monetize a franchise that was spawned from 7 books. Enter DC – now, she has to figure out what to do with a catalog of characters, many of whom have been around for more than 50 years. It’s the equivalent of setting out to clean your grandparents’ attack, and not knowing what to keep, while knowing that your only cleaning experience is that you once did a really kickass job mopping a kitchen. Plainly put, these are 2 different worlds, but her approach has been “media is media”. Whenever people focus on the fact that she knows nothing about comics, she hems and haws, and says things akin to “I know what I need to know, and what I know is that comics aren’t making us money”. We’re supposed to hear the statements, and think “She’s got some brass ones!” Sorry, but I’m not buying it. For over a year, every decision has been a non-decision. Who’s going to be the new publisher of DC Comics? “Um…let’s go with Co-Publishers!” Clearly, Ms. Nelson hasn’t watched the most recent season of The Office. Is DC moving to the West Coast? “We’re going with a…hmm…’bicoastal realignment’. Yeah…” Everything she has decided hasn’t been an actual decision. Her newly-named executives were guys who had already been doing the work, so it was just a title change. The bicoastal thing really did more as giving an “official” reason to kill Wildstorm and Zuda, than anything else. It could be seen as “streamlining the brand”, but it was believed that DC had been looking for an exit strategy for both for some time. As far as leadership goes, DC’s doing it wrong.

Sadly, it seems that things are going to get worse before they get better. DCE wants to make money, and they want to find the best way to do that. Batman’s already on Underoos, but he might start selling you car insurance. There’s an anecdote traveling the ‘net about a recent WB corporate meeting. Supposedly, someone in that meeting was chastised for saying, “But Batman wouldn’t say that.” Apparently, in the immediate future of DCE, it doesn’t matter what Batman would say (that has more emphasis if you read it in the voice of The Rock). Hell, Batman will probably start endorsing live ammunition and clown college. It doesn’t seem to matter in the future of DC. It’s just another in a long line of things they’re doing wrong….

08th Mar2010

Power Rangers: Super Legends – AKA “I Saved Angel Grove, and All I Got Was This Lousy Game.”

by Will

I honestly only decided to write this at the behest of my TRU pal Mike “Special Forces” Johnson, but you’re all welcome to read along if you have even the slightest interest in the pop culture phenomenon known as Power Rangers.

Last weekend, I dropped by a Hollywood Video that happened to be going out of business. Their used games were 40% off, so $6 didn’t seem like to much to pay for Power Rangers: Super Legends. Released in 2007 to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Power Rangers franchise, Super Legends was released for Nintendo DS, PC & PlayStation 2. I’d never really heard anything good about the game, but I had a desire to use my PS2 as something other than a DVD player, and I’m a sucker for cheap Power Rangers merch. I ended up beating the game in 2 days, an amazing feat considering I haven’t beaten a video game in 10 years (and THAT was Super Mario Bros 2. Long story short: I like to take my sweet time). In the end, I’ve got a couple of issues with the game, but let’s have a Ranger primer before we get to all that.

Power Rangers debuted in 1993 as part of Fox Kids. It was basically the story of five teens, who were given powers in order to defend the Earth against evil space aliens – sure, there were some seasons when the number of rangers went up to 8, and there were times where the median age was about 25, but that was the main gist.

The first six seasons comprise the Angel Grove Era, as that was the name of the town where the Rangers lived. The show changed names a few times (Mighty Morphin‘, Zeo, Turbo and In Space), and the teens changed, but they all followed the same overarching storyline. Everything is pretty much wrapped up in the Power Rangers In Space finale, and the show changed its formula where each subsequent series only lasted 1 season, and they were only loosely related. Also, the rangers weren’t exactly teens anymore. This was basically the School’s Out Era, which included Lost Galaxy, Lightspeed Rescue, Time Force, and Wild Force.

In 2002, Disney purchased the Fox Kids holdings, including the Power Rangers franchise. Wild Force was the final series to air on Fox Kids, and it was believed that Disney would just shut down production, and sit on the library. Instead, Disney moved production to New Zealand, where it experienced higher production values including more wire work and special effects. Each incarnation still lasted 1 season, but seeing as how New Zealand only seems to have 25 actors, the same people kept popping up as different characters. From 2002 to 2009, The Disney Era gave us Ninja Storm, Dino Thunder, SPD, Mystic Force, Operation Overdrive, Jungle Fury and RPM. Power Rangers: RPM aired its last episode on the last Saturday of 2009, effectively ending the production of new live action Power Rangers series. Currently, they air “remastered” episodes of the original 1993 series.

So, Power Rangers: Super Legends follows a temporal plot, where second season villain Lord Zedd steals some time crystals and starts fucking up the timeline. This is noticed by Omega Ranger, who’s the curator of the Ranger Hall of Legends. Realizing that Zedd must be stopped, Omega visits various timelines, recruiting rangers to help with his mission. Since it’s a 2-player game, the plot has a built-in caveat that only 2 rangers can be active at one time. You’re given 2 preselected choices in each timeline, with the ability to unlock additional rangers throughout the game.

So, what were my problems with the game?

-Why is Zedd the villain? The game already acknowledges that he was “cured” of his evil in the PRIS finale. Plus, it’s not like he was the biggest bad the rangers ever faced to begin with.

The Angel Grove Era worked in a formula where each season presented a villain more powerful than the last. We start with Rita, who’s replaced by Zedd, who marries Rita in almost WWE fashion, who are then “replaced” by Rita’s father, Master Vile. Next, they’re all evicted by The Machine Empire, who are replaced by Divatox, and then we find out they ALL were working for Dark Spectre.

So, with that logic, shouldn’t Dark Spectre be the villain in the game? I mean, he was considered the greatest evil in existence! Also, they try to explain that the game’s Zedd is from an alternate timeline, but that just seems a little too convenient, especially once you get to the end of the game.

-Considering it’s the 15th anniversary of the franchise, not all incarnations are represented. I’ve noticed this happen in a lot of the post-Fox Kids merchandise. In fact, outside of Lost Galaxy, there’s not much emphasis on the Fox years. This can be understood, but it doesn’t go unnoticed. It’s like the Zeo-Turbo-In Space seasons never occurred, and they’re just represented by MMPR. I realize it’s the root source of those jilted incarnations, but they’re still missed.

To compound the problem, Time Force, Wild Force and Ninja Storm are ONLY represented on the DS version.

The most glaring omission of all, however, is that of Tommy Oliver.

Arguably the Greatest Ranger of ALL Time, Tommy was originally the Green Ranger, who lost his powers only to return as the new team leader, The White Ranger. He went on to become the Red Zeo Ranger before his “retirement”. Years later, after the Disney purchase, he returned in Dino Thunder, acting as team mentor and black ranger. The man was FOUR different rangers, always with the best weapons and zords, and you mean to tell me they just FORGOT him?! It makes me wonder if Jason David Frank was on the outs with Disney at the time.

-The Zord battles are shit. They are puzzle/combo based, where you’re shown what’s basically a still image, and given a button combo to enter. Do it correctly, and you successfully attack/block. Considering that past ranger games included Zord battles that utilized the same fight game engine of most games in 1997, this is a step WAY back! At the bare minimum, I was looking forward to something akin to Killer Instinct. Instead, I got Power Rangers: Simon.

-Omega Ranger. I feel that if anyone should be the M.C. of this thing, it should be Zordon. Sure, he’s “dead” but when did that ever mean anything? Especially, since the time crystals you’re hunting are exactly like the kind at the bottom of Zordon’s tube. His whole schtick was that he was trapped in the space-time continuum, so it was a no-brainer. Instead, they give us Omega Ranger.

Now, I didn’t watch a lot of SPD, but I know that Omega Ranger was essentially the Other Ranger of the SPD team. He was composed of pure energy, so he never unmorphed. The thing is, the Omega Ranger in the game is NOT the SPD Omega. However, he ends up recruiting 2 rangers from the SPD timeline – one of whom is…the Omega Ranger? Huh? WTF? The SPD version shows some confusion, and they riff on that in the video interludes, but they never explain that whole thing. That confusions could have all been avoided if they’d just gone with Zordon.

– It lacks in geographical accuracy. In the Angel Grove levels, you fight in a bustling metropolis. In fact, a major fight takes place on the freeway, in the middle of rush hour. Angel Grove ain’t Gotham City. The only time Power Rangers ever depicted it as a bustling city was in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, and that’s, technically, not even canonical. Either fight in a park, a juice bar, down by the docks, or a quarry. Similarly, the Lost Galaxy levels take place in the innards of Terra Venture, when we never saw most of that on the show. Maybe the designers felt they were showing us a “different side” of the cities – one which we hadn’t seen in the episodes. Unfortunately, it just seems like they were reusing boards from other games.

So, there you pretty much have it. In what could have been a decent celebration of a (then) 15 year old franchise, fans were instead given a shoddily thrown together money grab of a game. Power Rangers is no stranger to the notion of nostalgia. Even in the Disney era, they continued the tradition of the crossover between different teams. They’ve also had several incredible anniversary episodes, like “Forever Red” (10th anniversary) and “Once A Ranger” (15th anniversary). Unfortunately, none of that was successfully replicated by this game. I understand that it was, essentially, made for younger children (otherwise, how could I have beaten it so easily?). After all, this is Power Rangers for a new generation. That said, if you’re not going to appropriately celebrate what came before, then why make an anniversary game?