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Ren Hsieh

Just One More Hit of Con…

Irene Gallo’s posting of the Salon walking tour with Chip Kidd somehow made me feel strange pangs of withdrawal from the Con. So, in case, anyone else wanted one more hit of the madness, here are some more costumes from the Con’s final day…


Winner! Cutest Couple. A courteous Alice and the Mad Hatter.

Casey Jones… wants me to do something about those nacho crumbs on the floor.

[More below the fold…]

NYCC: Sci-Fi/Fantasy Toy Parade

Always a great place for the premieres of new and limited edition toys, figurines and memorabilia, this year’s Con was no disappointment. Here are some interesting new finds from this year’s NYCC…


“Faker” reissues available for the first time at the Mattel booth. Not this one but the toy-sized versions. When I was a kid, I begged my aunt to get me a He-Man, she got me a Faker. I tried to paint him into He-Man, now I just wish I had the original Faker.

[More toys below the cut!]

NYCC: Sunday Wrap Up

Another Con Gone


This is what Sunday looks like before closing. This is the Marvel booth just 30 minutes before shutdown. Everyone wants just a little swag to take home with them. If you can make him out, the man in the middle with the light brown sports jacket and dark brown hat is the giveaway emcee, so to speak, and he’s becoming a something of a celebrity at the Marvel booth. He rocked the crowd to a equally fevered pitch in San Diego last summer.

The final minutes on the Exhibition Floor can sometimes be the busiest all weekend for retailers. As friends at the Epic Proportions and Animated Closet booths can attest, there’s clean-up looming, good-byes and hellos from friends, family, colleagues and publicists, and two swarms of buyers: the reserved buyers, picky but now out of time and frantically looking for a keepsake; and the bargain-hunters, looking for close-out prices on goods no one wants to ship home.

Sunday used to be a slower day. It felt like Saturday on the floor. And kids, you can’t see them. Their light-sabers always hit you where it hurts.

[Another set of costumes, then… these choice pics were taken by my brother on Saturday.]

NYCC: Saturday Costume Revue

Arguably the best part of Con-ning… admiring the costumes. Sometimes simple, sometimes painstakingly detailed, often ingenious and always entertaining, it is the Con’s finest form of audience participation.  Although Friday didn’t seem to have as many guests decked out as in Cons past, Saturday certainly did not disappoint.

Stormtrooper… meet bobblehead, animated version.

[More below the fold!]

NYCC: Friday Round-Up

Ladies. Love. Sho. Sakurai.


And apparently the boys do, too. Way back, overlooking the crowd from what appears to be a bullet-proof, vacuum-sealed booth, Japanese pop idol Sho Sakurai and his handlers observe his loyal subjects below. This was supposed to be a signing to promote his upcoming collabo with famed maverick director Takashi Miike as the star of the live-action re-interpretation of the classic 70s anime, Yatterman. But they, meaning Sho and his handlers, severely misunderestimated the turnout and citing “security reasons,” they scrapped the signing. If only they had read the announcement of the signing and seen the 70 some-odd comments announcing the travel plans of fans from all over the country to get a piece of Sho, they might have been better prepared. So, you can understand if those fans walked away a little disappointed.

For me personally, this kind of adoration is usually reserved for Miike.

Well, maybe not to that extent but Miike (above, in red) was getting plenty of love. I kept looking for my friend, Robyn, who promised to bum rush the stage during the Yatterman panel in the Theatre to sit on Miike’s lap but the panel went by without incident. As for the movie, Miike introduced a trailer and a roughly 5-min intro sequence that felt like 30 seconds as it neared terminal velocity. He said to expect roughly two more hours of that. As with most of Miike, it will require some endurance. Yatterman’s premiere at the Director’s Guild Theatre Friday evening is the first major Japanese release to have its world premiere in the U.S. It is the Con, Miike remarked, where the fans would appreciate it most.


CI-FI & Fantasy Celebrity Sighting of the Day

In a departure from the usual celebrity sightings, there was no more conspicuous and perhaps surprising guest than New Jersey Nets rookie center Brook López. For what its worth, he walked the floor and waited in line like he was just another guest on the floor, just 7-0 tall and with the physique of a professional athlete. He had a badge. He was wearing a Green Lantern t-shirt. So it seems this was no token appearance, he let his geek flag fly. Here he is waiting in line to get a sketch from the legendary Jim Lee (with hat, huddled over drawing). Brook López, an inspiration to comic book-loving athletes worldwide. But a terrible subject for a balanced composition.

New York Anime Festival 08

It might have been a hazy, humid weekend but that wasn’t enough to stop the New York Anime Festival from returning for its second year–even if rain meant getting to the Jacob Javitz Center in costume was more trouble than usual.

The NYAF, a self-described spin-off of the New York Comic-Con (in itself a spin-off of the now legendary San Diego version), showed significant growth, adding more  hours and more special guests and panels. And following the footsteps of its counterparts, organizers Lance Fensterman and Peter Tatara intended the NYAF to not only be an exhibition of anime and manga but a celebration of “all that is part of Japanese pop culture.”

[More below the fold…]

SDCC: The Wrap of Con

Terminal Smackdown 

As the P.A. announcer counted down the last 20 minutes of the Con in 5 minute intervals she began to sound eerily like every automated self-destruct sequence in recent movie history. And when she counted 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… everyone on the Exhibition floor cheered. Another Con in the bag. They only seem to get bigger and Sunday was no exception. Typically the slowest of the four-day Con, known as Kids Day, Sunday’s Exhibition floor was just as packed and musty as any other day. And there was still plenty of panels to cover. None greater than the Starship Smackdown… the only way to finish out the Con.

The general idea of the Smackdown edition XI panel goes a little like this: 16 starships from any Sci-Fi/pop-culture movie or television series can be chosen to compete, 10 from the panel and 6 from the audience–the only requirement as they be “real” as in not animated. They are pitted head-to-head in 8 first round matchups and move along accordingly like the NCAA bracket. This year’s panel included of Robert Meyer Burnettt (The Hills Run Red producer), Jeff Bond (Geek Monthly editor), Steve Melching (The Clone Wars writer), Daren Dochterman (GI Joe production illustrator), Mary Forest (writer/comedian) and Mark A. Altman (DOA: Dead or Alive). But more importantly, below is the list of this year’s contestants and their first round match-ups:

  1. Battlestar Galactica (new edition) vs. Starship Dave (Meet Dave)
  2. NCSA Protector (Galaxy Quest) vs. Starship of the Imagination (Carl Sagan)
  3. Serenity (Firefly) vs. Heart of Gold (Hitchhiker’s Guide)
  4. Enterprise 1701-D (New Generation) vs. Millenium Falcon (Star Wars)
  5. Spaceship that abducts Brian (Life of Brian) vs. 3 Cylon Base Stars (old ed.)
  6. V Mothership (V) vs. Tardis (Dr. Who)
  7. White Star (Babylon 5) vs. Imperial Star Destroyer (Star Wars)
  8. Axiom (Wall-E) vs. War Rocket Ajax (Flash Gordon)

As you can see, the Smackdown is run a little tongue-in-cheek even as a few of the more passionate souls in the panel and audience declare that everyone must stop laughing, that this is “very serious business.” The second round added a little wrinkle as the panel chose captains for each starship out of hat–that would heat up the debate. The panel selectees were great, debates were impassioned, in-depth and hilarious and not without impressions of various starship captains and singing of theme songs. Needless to say, Captain (or should we say Admiral?) James T. Kirk in an Imperial Star Destroyer took home victory, knocking of Capt. Meryl Stubbing in the Millenium Falcon in the final round. Another Con well fought.

SDCC: Sci-Fi/Fantasy Toy Parade (Part 3)

Spotlight on Weta Ray-guns

Weta’s immaculately detailed and finely crafted retro-Sci-Fi ray-gun replicas were among the finest pieces at the Con. You couldn’t walk by the booth without stopping to take a look. Weta Workshop is an Academy Award winning (Lord of the Rings trilogy) effects house that has an affinity for crafting ray-guns in their down-time. Click here for more info.

Co-founder Richard Taylor cradling a rifle that apparently was not for sale at the Con; nor on the website.

Ray-guns through the looking glass at Weta.

The Manmelter 3600ZX Sub-Atomic Disintegrator Pistol.

Comic-Con Exclusive Mini-Goliathon 83 Infinity Beam Projector.

SDCC: Saturday round-up, and more Costoomz…

Bring Your Terra Cotta Army

Unfortunately, I found out first-hand just how big Saturday is. I had six panels of interest and I got in to only two. An hour-long wait in line wasn’t enough to get into the Battlestar Galactica panel in Exhibition Hall 20–it really should have been in Hall H. These guys to the right got in, for obvious reasons.

So I went instead to the Adult Swim’s casting session for a live-action version of “Carl” from the series Aqua Teen Hunger Force. I even got myself a Carl costume, white tank top (3 X’s too big, I’m only 160 lbs) and blue women’s sweat pants (a perfect fit).

But as there’s not much for me to report from the panels–and because I missed the Masquerade Ball (down for a moment at the hotel last night to unwind around 10pm, my system crashed and didn’t reboot until this morning)–I’m going to supplement this round-up with another edition of costoomz… 

Bumblebee with disinterested wife. 

The Fett reunion is always a good time. Elvis lives. 

A fully-poseable costume of the obscure Transformer “Blaster,” the Autobots answer to Shockwave. She did not transform. But notice also the Jawa in the background with remote control mini-droid (from the Death Star, the name eludes me). 

Steampunk (?) Darth Vader and Lesiure Suit Boba Fett. 

Fantasy Celebrity Sighting of the Day

Ralph Bakshi, animation pioner and creator of the cult fantasy animated film Wizards. There he is signing my copy of his new biography/complete works, which I found a bit strange but what the hell, it was the one item/autograph I was most excited about getting–just slightly more so than Chip Kidd.

SDCC: More Costoomz…

Just wanted to follow-up Dot’s costume post with more choice pics. And coincidentally, I just happen to be posting across from the impossibly long line for tickets to SDCC’s Masquerade Ball tonight.


Samaritan Skeletor directing traffic in front of the Convention Center.

An original Cylon Centurion (circa 1978) helps out.

Stormtroopers on vacation.

Almost the whole Batman family in one shot.

Star Wars bounty hunters with crying baby.

Snake Eyes from G.I. Joe shuts it down.

Stormtrooper Elvis, prolific.

SDCC: Sci-Fi/Fantasy Toy Parade (Part 2)

Spotlight on Bandai’s Robotech

Consistently one of the world’s best toy-makers, Bandai’s iconic Robotech series has kept a lasting impression on collectors for decades. Though most of these fully transformable figurines were not for sale at the booth, they could be found in toy booths throughout the SDCC Exhibition floor.

A collection of Macross Veritech fighters.

Veritech fighter and Zentraedi battlepod.

Hanger with various mecha. And even a docking crew for armaments.

1/55 scale Veritech fighter. With new head moldings!

Various Robotech: New Generation mecha. Alpha fighters and their Beta components.

SDCC: Friday Round-Up

Watching the Watchmen:

Friday’s highlight was without question the Warner Bros. panel in “Hall H” featuring the much-anticipated film adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ immortal Watchmen. Director Zach Snyder and company did not disappoint. With his entire cast on hand–Malin Akerman (Silk Spectre II), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Comedian), Carla Gugino (Silk Spectre), Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach), Billy Crudup (Dr. Manhattan), Patrick Wilson (Nite Owl II) and Matthew Goode (Ozymandias)–Snyder presented new footage from the film and discussed its process; all with a humility, dedication to the spirit of the work and self-deprecating sense of humor that may have been surprising to some given his last film’s (300) criticism by some as mere “war porn.”

Like everyone else at the Con, I saw the Watchmen preview prior to seeing The Dark Knight–and Snyder knew well enough not to bring the trailer. Instead, he cut a series of extended scenes that elaborate on some of the clips in the trailer. The new footage was magnificent and, of course, we were not allowed to capture any of it. The discussion that followed, however, was what really made the panel. Every actor enthusiastically contributed–rare for this large a panel–and all seemed genuinely awed by the project, its themes and its scope. The Watchmen movie looks very promising; but don’t tell Alan Moore.

Above is the actual set-piece of the ship used in Watchmen. Below is the interior.

Not long after Watchmen let out came the Ghostbusters video game panel–at least that was when it was scheduled. Dan Aykroyd (Dr. Raymond Stantz) and Ernie Hudson (Winston Zedmore) who voiced their respective characters in the game along most of the original cast were supposed to be there. Instead, the entire panel was canceled. So much for that. The game, however, didn’t look half bad.

I spent the rest of the day grabbing pics to help Dot with her costume review before taking off to see the 8:50 screening of Ralph Bakshi’s classic psychedelic animated feature, Wizards. Bakshi was there to introduce the film and announce plans for a sequel (one in which he swears Avatar will finally close the deal with Elinore). Bakshi figured the only people going to the screening–one even he hadn’t heard about until today–had to be real fans. He was right.

Fantasy Celebrity Sighting of the Day:

That’s Sergio Aragones, folks. Groo master. Counting his green.

SDCC: Thursday Round-Up

The Day the Earth Stood Still

21st Century Fox kicked off the Con officially in the infamous mega-exhibition “Hall H” with Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly right off the bat at 11:30am promoting their upcoming remake of the Sci-Fi classic, The Day the Earth Stood Still.  Typically housing the biggest and most popular events in the Con, the line for “Hall H” stretches almost always stretches outside and around the back of the convention center–which is why I usually avoid these panels–and the Con’s first big one was no let-down.

Keanu and Ms. Connelly both spoke about their roles in the film and numerous previews were shown.  We weren’t allowed to capture any of it on film but I can say without hesitation that it is indeed an updated version.  The effects were deafening–or maybe that was stadium-sized speakers next to the press box–but that’s fairly typical of event film trailers.  Moreso with this one it seemed; it was certainly impressive.  But to the fans, that impression wasn’t nearly as strong as the stars themselves, as you can see from what appears to be every digital camera in the exhibition hall focusing at once.

Next up was the Red Sonja panel with Robert Rodriguez and Rose McGowan.  I arrived early so there was no line but by the time I had gotten up to leave every seat in the slightly more modest “Room 6CDEF” was packed.  Rodriguez didn’t have much to show, just posters drawn up with McGowan’s likeness really.  Then he and McGowan discussed how they came to begin the project.  Below is the autograph session that shortly followed in the Autograph alley.  Well, at least the poster looks good.

Next up was the Chip Kidd panel on his upcoming book Bat-Manga, a 400+ page collection of officially licensed Batman manga from 1966.  The panel, which displayed numerous slides of the collected artwork, was a fascinating time warp through a Japanese lens with some truly beautiful images.  Kidd never disappoints and he’s a riot in person.  His book is due out October this year.

Sci-Fi Celebrity Sighting of the Day

Mr. Chekhov himself, Walter Koenig, from the original Star Trek.  He swung by the Tor booth and here he is talking shop with fellow blogger, Pablo Defendini.

SDCC: Sci-Fi/Fantasy Toy Parade (Part 1)

Since toy-makers and designers discovered that there was indeed a relatively smallish but loyal fan base for more sophisticated figurines and designer toys, crafted with finer materials for a heftier price tag, the realms of sci-fi and fantasy have been explored exhaustively for subject matter. SDCC is the place where many of these works are premiered and quickly hauled off by almost cultish fans. There’s literally thousands of them but let’s start small… baby steps.

Star Wars chess set from Sideshow Collectibles. Observe the nice Death Star inlay on the board.


Halo Master Chief busts from Sideshow Collectibles. 

SDCC: Preview Night pandemonium

The Slightly Less Stormy Calm Before the Storm

This is the pandemonium that has become the 2008 San Diego Comic-Con preview night.  Massive hordes of zombified professionals, exhibitors, badge holders and press just trying to find the right line.  The Wednesday night pre-Con, usually just a bonus for 4-day badge holders and VIPs to roam the floor in quiet, unfettered bliss, was something new and unrecognizable.  They created a monster.

The line for press credentials took over an hour–which I’m sure that anyone who’s had to wait in the badge holders line is crying us a river–but it was more a result of bad planning than sheer numbers, supposedly cut down from years before.  The wait, the combination of anticipation, frustration and the desire to decapitate the next person who bumps into me brought me back to the good old days, when I was a badge holder, too.  And that’s how I’ll cover the Con, on the beat, as one of the horde.

[More below the fold…]

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