McDonald’s 2018 Szechuan Sauce (Rick And Morty)

Do you remember where you were on June 19th, 1998? That was the day Disney’s Mulan hit theaters.

No? How about October 7, 2017?

I was at New York Comic Con that day and I was heavily debating if I should even attempt a trip to McDonald’s. Why? Because to coincide with the film’s release, McDonald’s offered a limited edition Chicken McNugget sauce in 1998: SzeChuan Teriyaki Dipping Sauce. I vaguely remember trying it…

Fast forward to April 1, 2017 as Adult Swim’s series Rick And Morty premiered its third season:

Rick And Morty fans are pretty hardcore. By Justin Roiland’s character (specifically Rick, since he actually voices both Rick & Morty) giving a brief history lesson on the sauce, fans went wild on social media! Original 1998 sauces started to sell for thousands and thousands of dollars! (Who’d eat that though?)

Needless to say, with one quick glance on Twitter while still at New York Comic Con, I was able to see that the situation was out of control.

Customers lined up the night before at their McDonald’s locations to obtain the limited edition designed sauce, plus collectible posters.

But alas, the select McDonald’s locations across the country had at most 20 each to give out, which means they ran out in seconds. Because of this, I’ve read some reports where there were fights and even worse outbreaks in attempt to get a pack or 2. Tension built up and demand went higher, leading to more eBay auctions at soaring prices.

Trying to right their wrong, McDonald’s announced that starting today 20 million Szechuan Sauces would be available at every McDonald’s in the country… So let’s see what happened.

I got a few packets to try with some Chicken McNuggets and the new Buttermilk Crispy Tenders.

My McDonald’s location was very strict and only gave a specific number of sauces based on the kind of chicken you order. And depending on your location, they may not even offer it with the Buttermilk Crispy Tenders… no clue why.

The packaging is nice. In fact, I much prefer this black, gold, and red look over the limited edition art from last year. The actual sauce is pretty good, but I’m glad I didn’t stand outside mid-fall to get it (or more likely: not get it). Still, it was fun munching on some nuggets while watching that clip from Rick And Morty.

I’d give this sauce a 7 out of 10.

If you’ve always wanted to try it for yourself, ask yourself: “How quickly will 20 million packets sell out?”


Pink Kit Kats! (Valentine’s Day 2018)

Here in America we’ve seen the typical flavors for Kit Kat: Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, and even White Chocolate… but overseas, Nestlé has been experimenting with limited edition flavors such as matcha, cheesecake, soy sauce, sweet potato, and so much more! In fact, they’ve released over 300 flavors in the past 2 decades!

But 2018’s latest craze is the pink Kit Kat. The good news is that there are a few ways to get your hands on them: a bag of 12 mini raspberry Kit Kats, a 4-pack box of mini strawberry Kit Kats, and the highly sought-after Kit Kat Chocolatory Sublime Ruby (the world’s first ruby cacao bean chocolate)… but the bad news is that today being Valentine’s Day, you probably won’t be able to find them in time for your sweetheart. 💔

If it’s any consolation, all varieties of the pink Kit Kat would break the bank:

This bag of 12 mini raspberry Kit Kats will cost you $12-15, which is at least a dollar per mini pack.

The 4-pack box of mini strawberry Kit Kats runs for $30-35, making each mini pack about $8.

And the pièce de résistance: a single stick of Kit Kat Chocolatory Sublime Ruby is anywhere from $20-30! If you’re worried that one stick won’t be enough, there are 4-packs that go for about $80!

So now let’s go through the different types and flavors. At the end of this post, I’ll rate them and tell you which one was my favorite!

The mini raspberry Kit Kats were the cheapest so I started with those first. The texture is exactly what you would expect from Kit Kat, nothing different there. But the taste of raspberry was very prominent – a combination of sweet and tart, it was very berry! As you can see in the above picture, they have a slight graininess to them, almost like the seeds of a berry.

The mini strawberry Kit Kats were sweet as well, but less tart. I actually enjoyed these a lot and I even liked the color of them better. They were more convincing as a “pink” Kit Kat. But the packaging seemed more red:

Finally, the Kit Kat Chocolatory Sublime Ruby. Debuting just a few weeks ago, it’s the first new natural chocolate to hit the market in 80 years. Swiss chocolatier Barry Callebaut developed this deep pink chocolate from the ruby cacao bean, which has a natural pink color. The taste was unique and had similarities to berries. I can see why this rare chocolate fetches such a high price!

Hershey, the U.S. distributor of Kit Kat, said that they have no current plans to bring this Kit Kat to the States. So your best luck is finding them online or possibly in a Japanese market!

So who won the Kit Kat shootout?

The three Kit Kats were all delicious and how can you go wrong with pink? But in ascending order, I’d rate them as (3) raspberry, (2) Sublime Ruby, and (1) strawberry!

Wherever you’re at and no matter what chocolate you receive today, I hope everyone has a happy Valentine’s Day!

CGC (Certified Guaranty Company)

Today is December 28, 2017 which means it’s Stan Lee‘s 95th birthday! Happy birthday, Stan the Man!

Stan is known for being an iconic comic book writer / editor / publisher for Marvel Comics, and more recently known as the King Of Cameos (in the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies). He created Spider-Man, the Hulk, Doctor Strange, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Daredevil, Thor, Black Panther, X-Men, and so many more! I loved meeting him at New York Comic Con 2016 which is around the time I also learned that Stan is a huge supporter of CGC as well.

CGC (Certified Guaranty Company) was founded in 2000 and was the first independent and impartial third party grading service for comic books. I’ve always been a fan of comic books and always wondered what the process was for getting a book “slabbed” (graded and encapsulated in a protective container). When I met Stan at NYCC 2016, the process was incredibly simple. CGC was already at the autographing area where their witnesses would help fill out your respective forms to submit your books to their facility in Sarasota, FL.

On their website, you can see all kinds of grading that can be done (not just for comic books) as well as the possible grades & labels you can receive. As a huge Star Wars & Marvel fan, naturally I had to get my 1977 Star Wars #1 (first printing) signed by Stan Lee himself:

Here are some fun facts about Star Wars #1, straight from CGC’s December newsletter:

What makes it special? The first issue of the comic book was sold just over a month before “A New Hope” premiered in theaters. The first six issues adapted the movie, before the comics explored an “expanded universe,” a fresh concept at the time.

Why is it interesting now? Star Wars is one of the top-grossing movie franchises of all-time, and “Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi” will be in theaters in mid-December, followed by “Han Solo: A Star Wars Story” in May 2018.

Did you know? Lucasfilm approached Stan Lee and Marvel about doing the comic books before the release of the movie, but Lee was initially resistant. Both Lucasfilm and Marvel have been acquired by Disney in the past decade.

Total graded by CGC: CGC has graded 7,266 copies of this book (including 503 of its variants), as of Nov. 28, 2017. Ten percent of them are in Signature Series labels.

CGC median grade: The median grade for these books is Near Mint- 9.2

CGC highest graded: CGC hasn’t graded any copies of this book or its variants in Mint condition (10.0 or 9.9). CGC has graded several hundred at the 9.8 level.

Sales highlights: A 35-cent variant graded 9.4 by CGC was sold by Heritage Auctions in May 2016 for $26,290. More recently, Heritage sold a standard CGC-graded 9.6 for $478 in July 2017. A 9.8 signed by six key actors, including Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, sold for $15,000 in 2017.

All in all, my 7.5 isn’t a bad grade, especially for a 40 year old comic with a Signature Series label… By the way, happy 40th anniversary to Star Wars this year! It’s been an incredible journey for this saga, even if the reports for The Last Jedi are pretty divided among fans…

But my journey with CGC is just beginning… While this slabbed book is now one of my most prized possessions, CGC became one of my most visited booths at cons this year & last! My experience with them is always nothing but stellar, and their staff is so easy to work with. True, at bigger cons, the lines can be epically long – so don’t expect to be in & out, especially if you have a lot of back & forths to do between autograph sessions. If you’re just dropping off books to be graded, the process is a lot quicker & smoother (especially if express drop-off is available).

Long story short, if you’re attending a con with the intention of getting a comic book autographed and care about the future authenticity of it, definitely consider CGC. Follow the procedure and get your books verified, protected, and display-ready! The turnaround time isn’t bad and the cases are really cool.

As we approach the end of the year, I won’t be posting a “Year Of The Con” like last year but you’ll see the chronicle of my cons from my list of CGC books. As of this post today, I have 17 CGC’d books:

  1. Star Wars #1 (1977) – [7.5] – Signed by Stan Lee at New York Comic Con 2016
  2. X-Men #1 (1991) – [9.6] – Signed by Jim Lee at Big Apple Comic Con 2017
  3. Wolverine #24 (1990) – [9.6] – Signed by Jim Lee at Big Apple Comic Con 2017
  4. X-Men Annual #1 (1992) – [7.0] – Signed by Jim Lee at Big Apple Comic Con 2017
  5. Batman Beyond #1 (1999) – [9.4] – Signed by Will Friedle at Wizard World Philadelphia 2017
  6. Deadpool #12 (1998) – [9.8] – Signed by Rob Liefeld at Wizard World Philadelphia 2017
  7. Chuck Norris #1 (1987) – [4.5] – Signed by Chuck Norris at Wizard World Philadelphia 2017
  8. Star Wars: Heir to the Empire #1 (1995) – [9.6] – Signed by Timothy Zahn at ComiCONN 2017
  9. G.I. Joe #241 AR Variant Cover (2017) – [9.8] – Signed by Ian Nichols at ComiCONN 2017
  10. Superman #650 (2006) – [9.6] – Signed by Dean Cain at Garden State Comic Fest 2017
  11. Batman Adventures: The Lost Years #5 (1998) – [9.6] – Signed by Loren Lester at Garden State Comic Fest and Kevin Conroy & Tara Strong at New York Comic Con 2017
  12. Star Wars Adventures #1 SDCC Ashcan Variant (2017) – [9.4] – Signed by Derek Charm & Landry Walker at New York Comic Con 2017
  13. Dark Nights: Metal #1 Cliff Chiang Variant (2017) – [9.8] – Signed by Cliff Chiang at New York Comic Con 2017
  14. Batman Gallery #1 (1992) – [9.4] – Signed by Joe Quesada at New York Comic Con 2017
  15. Contemporary Bio-Graphics #4 Pee-Wee Herman Cover (1992) – [8.0] – Signed by Paul Reubens at Rhode Island Comic Con 2017
  16. Deadman #1 (2018) – [9.8] – Signed by Neal Adams at Rhode Island Comic Con 2017
  17. Obi-Wan & Anakin #1 Sketch Variant (2016) – [9.8] – Sketched & signed by Creees Hyunsung Lee at Garden State Comic Fest and signed by Weird Al Yankovic at Rhode Island Comic Con 2017

As you can see, I received a lot of 9.6 & 9.8’s… so my New Year’s resolution is to finally get a Mint 9.9 or Gem Mint 10.0!

Protect Your iPhone X!

The iPhone X (10/”Ex”) is being branded as the “most breakable iPhone”. With glass on both sides of the phone, your $999 investment (or $1,149 for the 256 gb) will be the most fragile phone you’ve ever held. And if you have a tendency of dropping your phone, the X may not be the phone for you!

But as always there are some ways to protect it.

Now, I haven’t drop tested my phone with or without the following case + screen protectors, and I don’t recommend it either! I’m sharing this post completely from a practical, affordable, and reliable sense. In fact, these items are the iPhone X versions of what I used on my iPhone 7 last year.

Here it is, fresh out of packaging and without any protection. You could’ve asked to see the phone but I would’ve had you sign a waiver!

I was a little late to the iPhone X party because my upgrade wasn’t quite eligible yet and the availability of this specific iPhone was difficult to lock down. But after a little quick research, I found this Spigen case and this Maxboost screen protector (3 pack) on Amazon. They were affordable, reviews were good, and they were the same brands from my iPhone 7 – so why not!

The case boasted some kind of “Air Cushion Technology” with a “Military Grade drop test”… I hope it won’t come to that because I’m generally careful with my phone and even more so with my iPhone X!

The case is very nice. It’s got a clear back with no branding, which makes your Apple logo clearly visible. The camera hole doesn’t protrude and protects the raised lenses of your iPhone. And the matte sides give it a nice grip, while matching the color too:

Once I peeled both sides of the protective film, I got the screen protector opened and ready. Pretty standard stuff like the dust removing stickers, wet & dry wipes, but also:

This time around, Maxboost provided a frame to use as a guide while applying the screen protectors. I decided to try it out since it seemed to fit the shape of my iPhone X pretty well.

My recommendation (if you buy these products) is to not use the guide! I had to redo the screen protector because the guide wasn’t 100% lined up with my phone. I did a much better job just eyeing it. You probably will too.

Here’s the final product. I feel much more comfortable holding this phone in my hands. Much less slippery / good grip, I barely feel the phone heat up, and the cutout of the screen protector leaves the sensors & front camera perfectly alone. (By the way, can we talk about Face ID for a moment? Wow, it’s amazing!)

I do think both of these products are improvements from their iPhone 7 versions. I’ll be curious to see if my case will work well with a Qi Wireless Charging Pad. I’ll be sure to update this post once I try. But if you guys have any case/screen protector favorites, I’d love to hear what you’ve tried in the comments section!

My Ocha – Matcha Shop (Shops at Riverside, Hackensack, NJ)

“Whole Lot A Matcha… We Got Ya!”

My Ocha is a new café inside the Shops at Riverside (Hackensack, NJ) with a focus primarily on matcha, or powdered green tea. With a very modern interior and fantastic fresh menu, My Ocha is a wonderful addition as the Bergen County mall undergoes renovations this fall.

Their menu currently consists of various drinks & snacks including French macarons from the popular Macaron Café in NYC, soft serve ice cream, and a selection of refreshing spritzers (20 oz) for only $4.95: enjoy flavors like matcha limeade, cherry yuzu, blueberry matcha latte, and much more! They also serve both hot & iced matcha drinks (you can even choose from regular, almond, coconut, and soy milks), hot & iced teas, and coffee.

The owners, John & James, take great pride in what they do and as I spoke with James, I instantly loved the direction they are taking My Ocha! Get this: they only use ceremonial grade matcha and 90% of their inventory in house is organic… even their water is triple filtered!

The shop will actually continue to expand its offerings in the near future. James indicated that as their food menu grows past macarons (think crêpes and poké bowls), one of their goals is to provide tall tables for dine-in guests.

Personally, I think the inside is perfect from the colors, down to the decor. It’s very inviting and James is very hospitable, leaving for a great experience from beginning to end.

They’re also one of the few shops in this area that use the Coffee Ripples service, which is an app-powered machine that “prints” high quality images on your coffee foam using coffee bean “ink”. This is an awesome bonus I discovered during my visit! I printed a Darth Vader onto my foam, and the possibilities are endless because you can customize your own image with your smartphone app & it gets sent directly to My Ocha’s machine. Check out the video below for how it all works:

My personal favorite here is the strawberry matcha latte. What is it? Imagine hand-ground ceremonial grade matcha powder via mortar & pestle, meticulously brewed & then swirled with a milk of your choice (regular, almond, coconut, or soy), and a layer of utterly delicious housemade strawberry compote at the bottom. What you get is this:

Not only does it look good, it tastes even better!

You can find My Ocha right by Au Bon Pain and Mr. Cupcakes on the first floor of the Shops at Riverside (390 Hackensack Ave, Hackensack, NJ 07601) and online at Yelp & Instagram.

Brooklyn Defender 2017 Launch Party with New York Comic Con

Tonight was the launch party for the latest Brooklyn Defender IPA by Brooklyn Brewery partnered with ReedPOP’s New York Comic Con. Every year, this power couple releases a new take on the “Official Beer of New York Comic Con” featuring brand new artwork of an original modern Brooklyn superhero.

Defend Beer with Brooklyn Defender IPA, our heroically hopped golden IPA featuring strong notes of tropical fruit, well-muscled hop bitterness, and an incredibly dry finish. Cape not required. #DefendBeer Brooklyn Defender IPA is proud to be the official beer of New York Comic Con.

The event was jam packed with fans eager to try the new golden IPA but the night wasn’t just about beer, no.

ReedPOP/New York Comic Con was in the house, providing fun all night long! As we entered, we received a raffle ticket for the end-of-the-night prize drawing, a couple of NYCC stickers, and a voucher to redeem a limited edition Brooklyn Defender pint glass!

Once we were inside, everyone was already enjoying the Brooklyn Brewery Tasting Room atmosphere, except this time it’s been decked out with #DefendBeer artwork and photo ops!

You could enjoy the existing arcade games inside, grab a seat at one of the many tables for coaster/paper sword decorating, or head over to the superhero backdrops where you can pose with props in front of the skyline or a wind machine!

Eventually, the pizza that was promised showed up and it didn’t disappoint.

Brought to you by Sizzle Pie, an assortment of slices fed the hungry crowds!

While waiting for the raffle drawing, we got to sit down and check out the “Design Your Own Coaster” baskets:

But honestly, even the printed side of the coasters were keepers!

Next, we had to check out the fondant cake by Rock Candy Cakes. Modeled after the Brewery, this cake was intricately detailed, down to the building design and the superhero pose on top!

As the night came to a close, the MC announced the Instagram story winner who would win a 4-day pass to New York Comic Con next month! Though multi-day passes are not an option this year, these special passes would allow entry for all 4 days. Lucky!

The same top prize was given to the raffle ticket winner… except this was 5 minutes after the MC attempted to read off winning raffle tickets pulled from the wrong bucket… (Runner-ups won Brooklyn Beer swag!)

The final event was the cosplay contest. Many entered and I saw a bunch that were phenomenal like this Batman costume from Christian Bale’s Dark Knight Trilogy.

Winners also won the special NYCC passes, with a Grand Prize of 2 passes. Check out the top 3:

Congratulations to all the winners!

The whole event was well thought out and didn’t leave a single second for a dull moment. And the night just made me that much more excited for New York Comic Con, October 5-8, 2017 (buy tickets here)!

And to top it all off, on our way out we were able to redeem our vouchers for that limited edition pint glass! Originally behind schedule, we were told we would need to return to Brooklyn after 2 days to pick it up… but thankfully the shipment had arrived just as the event was winding down!

Thanks, Brooklyn Brewery & ReedPOP for hosting a fun event for us! Cheers!

HASCON 2017 – The Premier Hasbro FANmily Event

I had the privilege of attending the first ever HASCON this past weekend (September 8-10, 2017). This convention, right across from Hasbro’s headquarters (1 Hasbro Place, Providence, RI) is all things Hasbro! Yes, that means Star Wars, Transformers, Marvel, Nerf, G.I. Joe, My Little Pony, Dungeons & Dragons, and much, much more!

Couldn’t make it? Join me as I revisit some highlights with this post and a video at the end! (Disclaimer: this will be a long one, so be on the lookout for bold/underlined titles so that you can navigate to topics that interest you!)


When Hasbro announced their first convention, fans and con veterans alike were pretty confused. I, for one, miss seeing the Hasbro booth at New York Comic Con so I was anxious to see what kind of “Brand Experiences” they would offer. HASCON even boasted many free opportunities including photo ops, autographs, and giveaways. Everything was being advertised as being a family event, down to the guest list: Stan Lee, Transformers films’ Mark Wahlberg & Isabela Moner, voice actors Peter Cullen & Frank Welker, Guardians of the Galaxy 1 & 2 director James Gunn, and even athletes & YouTube stars!

Fortunately (and unfortunately) the only lines I experienced at HASCON were for the Exclusives Store and to obtain Meet & Greet vouchers.

The exclusives were fantastic and the con had a great variety to offer from many of their brands. They also stocked up on San Diego Comic Con exclusives as well for anyone who couldn’t get their hands on those.

All the exclusives were out in display cases for window shopping while standing on the line. Friday’s limit was 4 of each exclusive per person, until they realized it should drop to 2. This carried until the rest of the con and was strictly enforced with a stamping policy on your event badge.


Then in no particular order, here are some of the brands represented on the show floor, starting with Transformers.

First off, it was amazing to finally see the film version of Optimus Prime (truck) in person. I attended several cons recently that advertised this version of the truck but they all failed to deliver. But additionally, there were also a couple of Bumblebee’s, Barricade + Frinzy, and other great Transformers displays I’ve never seen before.

A 20-foot Optimus Prime from NYCC 2011 also greets you as you enter the show floor. And later on, a Bumblebee cosplayer walked around during Peter Cullen & Frank Welker’s meet & greet session for photos (more in the video).

The Transformers section did not disappoint. As one of Hasbro’s oldest brands they displayed toys ranging from the 1980s to today, as well as amazing dioramas featuring scenes from their latest Transformers film, The Last Knight.


The next section is my favorite, of course!

Hasbro set up many fun photo ops with permanent props throughout the show floor so that you can jump in & out for quick pics.

All around the Star Wars section were cases of their current lines: The Last Jedi 3.75″, playsets, The Black Series, Forces of Destiny, and the return of The Vintage Collection!

This is exactly where I got to meet Hasbro Star Wars designers Steve Evans & Mark Boudreaux!

It was great to finally meet them and geek out about the Star Wars line – Mark’s work on 5 Millennium Falcons (take that, Han!) and Steve even signed a couple of my Force Awakens figures:

There were also plenty of props and costumes on display, including a semi-lifesize Tatooine Landspeeder (signed by many of the Original Trilogy cast) and Rey’s Jakku Speeder (accompanied by electronic BB-8):

But one of my favorite things to see here was the SDCC display case of 6″ Black Series dioramas. Hasbro put together one-of-a-kind action figure scenes based on Episode IV and had them in a huge case again here at HASCON. Here are a couple of my favorite scenes:

In my opinion, the Star Wars section had the most to see/do (and justly so!). But for the sake of time, we’ll move on…


Technically, the Joe section was in the hallway where foot traffic was always at its worst, but there were very neat things to check out.

Along with vintage figures and props/costumes from the films like Storm Shadow & Snake Eyes, there were chances to meet G.I. Joe legends (24 of them!) to sign an exclusive Snake Eyes cardback.

As well as a photo op to become a Real American Hero yourself:


Imagine a section filled with MCU costumes, photo ops with Thor’s hammer Mjölnir, and a giant Hulkbuster!

Now imagine… 12 dancing Baby Groots?

The Marvel booth was absolute fun. Similar to the Black Series case, there was one for the Marvel Legends depicting an epic battle – possibly modeled after Infinity War? They also had a table where Hasbro prototype painters were finalizing a couple figures including Jim Lee’s Wolverine for the Marvel Legends line and it looked so amazing! You can see the system they use for painting them and the colors they choose as well.

And to top it off, they were handing out Marvel Legends postcard prints and blind bags of Marvel 500 too!


The Hasbro Gaming section took up a huge chunk of the show floor because there was a giant Monopoly board on the floor! Roll the big dice and make it around the board to collect your prize: a Monopoly Gamer Power Pack of your choice!

If you own a Monopoly or two (or 6 like me), then you’ll want to grab a bunch of HASCON exclusive $1,000 bills!

Then get a deal on Hasbro Gaming Crate, demo some of their newer games, or play giant Jenga! (Not actually playable… don’t try!)

But I think the highlight here was the mosaic of the Monopoly man made entirely out of Rubik’s Cubes… now that’s art!

And as you head upstairs, WS Game Company was a vendor with many collectors editions on display for Monopoly and Scrabble. Here’s one of the coolest board games you’ll ever see, Transformers The Movie Monopoly ($300)! You could enter to win it by signing up for their mailing list… good luck to all!


Who doesn’t have a giant wall filled with Nerf blasters?

This section had live demos, Nerf gear & apparel on display, previews of upcoming guns, and an arena to duke it all out! It’s Nerf or Nothin’!

Because there was no Nerf exclusive at the con (seriously?), I suggested to one of the employees (who, by the way, are almost all employees of Hasbro – from marketing to design to interns!) to make some exclusive darts for next year!


There are so many other sections that I didn’t get to cover like Hascade (Hasbro arcades, games, apps, etc.), Play Doh, My Little Pony, Dungeons & Dragons, Magic The Gathering, Furreal, Littlest Pet Shop… even a Dunkin Donuts booth with free Monster energy punches & munchkins, and a game to win free DD swag! You’ll see what I mean in my video at the end, but I can’t move on until I cover one of the best (yet worst) parts of the con:


Just like everything else at HASCON (minus the vendors & Hasbro stores), the meet & greets were 100% free! This was unbelievably cool yet overwhelmingly stressful because the official rule for meet & greet was that vouchers were to be handed out 1 hour prior to the meet & greet. Yet, no one followed this rule – not the attendees and certainly not HASCON.

In my opinion, to make this completely fair, they should have made vouchers available as soon as doors opened to the convention so that it’s legitimately first come first serve basis.

But honestly I’ve attended cons that have been established for 10 years and they still haven’t hammered down the meet & greet portion yet…

And even though I didn’t get to meet Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime) and Frank Welker (Megatron), I did still get to meet James Gunn and Candace Payne (Chewbacca Mom)! So that’s a huge plus.

Officially, HASCON preferred that you receive guest’s autographs on the provided medium (they said “almost all will be custom artwork we have had created for the event) but I saw almost everyone on the lines bringing their own collectibles… At that point, the guest or Hasbro has the right to refuse the autograph if it is not an authentic or officially branded item.

This wasn’t a problem for my Guardians Of The Galaxy comic book for James Gunn (plus got a signed Marvel Legends card too!). But I ran into a roadblock when bringing a Chewbacca figure for Chewbacca Mom… what?

The volunteer insisted that merchandise wasn’t allowed to be signed by Candace… but long story short, it all worked out in the end, so I’m a very happy Wookiee!

No COAs were offered at this con but what else can you ask for a free autograph & photo with celebrities?

All in all, HASCON was a blast and a great first effort by the amazing people at Hasbro. You don’t fully realize how much of your childhood, collections, and pastimes revolve around their products until you are fully immersed in their Brand Experiences.

I hope they consider this con a success and are considering making it an annual event because I would love to come back over and over. And hopefully they’ll listen to feedback from fans to make each experience even better next time around.

My wallet was hardly hurt from this trip. In fact, the only things spent are my arms from carrying around all this free stuff!

Hello Kitty Cafe Truck

There’s a pink truck outside Westfield’s Garden State Plaza serving fun treats and merchandise but it isn’t your typical food truck… it’s the Hello Kitty Cafe Truck!

For the past 2 years, Sanrio’s popular character has had its own cafe on wheels travel the country: delivering cookies, macarons, petit fours, water, mugs, and t-shirts.

Not only is it a must for fans of Hello Kitty & all things pink, but also fans of the baked goods as well! I was surprised to discover that the macarons and petit fours not only photographed well but were quite tasty too.

Check out the whole menu below:

As short as the menu is, the line still moves along very slowly but if you make it, you’ll be able to choose from 6 fun items on their menu – plus a free tote bag with a food purchase over $25!

Make sure you arrive early! The later you are, the longer you’ll wait and the more likely things will sell out before you reach the front. It was a very diverse group of people lined up – from kids dressed head to toe in Hello Kitty to adults who thought Hello Kitty stopped being popular in 1992:

But once you reach the front, everything is displayed in their window and a little tent is set up next to it for the non-food merchandise.

When you’re finished, the truck is decorated on all sides… so whichever side is free, be sure to swing around to snap a selfie!

So don’t miss your chance! The Hello Kitty Cafe Truck’s next stop is this Saturday, September 9, at The Shops At Skyview Center in Flushing, NY from 10am-8pm (while supplies last)!

Force Friday II (The Last Jedi)

With Disney kickstarting a whole new trilogy of Star Wars movies, Force Friday made an epic comeback with a midnight event in 2015 in anticipation of Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Last year there was a “Force Friday” type event (#GoRogue) but wasn’t technically a sequel to 2015’s event.

However, with the coming of Episode VIII: The Last Jedi on December 15, retailers all around the world participated in another launching of new merchandise today at midnight. Companies like Hasbro, Lego, Funko, Sphero, Disney, and many more made their presence known with tons of new collectibles & exclusives in stores such as Toys R Us, Target, Walmart, GameStop, Amazon… the list goes on and on!

Come along with me as I visit many of these stores and check out what they did to celebrate Force Friday II, as well as a photo of my bounty at the end of this post!

One of the Toys R Us stores near me had a nice variety of new products including new Hasbro, Funko Pop, and Jakks Pacific figures. For many of the stores today, a separate section was set up in addition to their existing Star Wars aisle. Above we see a table filled with new merchandise for The Last Jedi. You’ll also notice interesting “ink blot” signage with the Stormtrooper Executioner, but more on that later in this post!

By 11:50pm, everyone on the line was filled with excitement as Toys R Us mascot Geoffrey made his way outside for selfies & high fives. He even got into the Star Wars spirit and wielded a lightsaber!

Toys R Us was also the only store to sport a special “gateway” into Star Wars land:

In addition to all of this, one of the main reasons I decided to line up at Toys R Us and not at another store was for the free poster and t-shirt. No information was given about this ahead of time except for the fact that the t-shirt would be “Funko” themed. Thankfully, you could choose between M, L, and XL, and the poster was a beautiful shot of AT-M6 walkers on Canto Bight accompanied by TIE Fighters & Bombers! Can’t beat that!

It was also a great time to buy some of last year’s products on clearance like Jakks Pacific big figs and the Black Series 6″ scale TIE Fighter. But the highlight of my trip to Toys R Us was finally seeing the kid-friendly Luke’s Landspeeder (announced earlier this year at SDCC). It’s a lot bigger than I expected!

But that didn’t stop me from giving it a test drive:

Next up, Target had something different going on.

Two years ago, they had a fun door decal with some Stormtroopers. You were to “use the Force” to open the automatic doors! A very fun way to get kids into the mood as they entered the store. This year, the chain store decided to use Rey & a Porg on the island of Ahch-To, inviting you to “create your own path”. Pretty great shot and gets me excited for the movie every time!

But this time, instead of taking over the entire seasonal corner, Target made the decision to limit products to a single aisle… but not to worry! It was chock full of great merchandise, down to the end-cap.

And more Porgs.

And as a follow-up to 2015’s interactive BB-8 display and 2016’s Rogue One AT-ACT, we have Rey again… “Use the force. Place your hand below and concentrate your energy!”

After a few seconds of waiting, ahem, I mean concentrating, Rey’s lightsaber lit up. Very fun!

And just like all the other major retailers, tons more cutouts for photo ops. But the best part of Target was the giant Porg giveaway! My local Target was giving away 2 shopping cart-sized Porgs – just for showing up!

Unfortunately, I lost by just 1 digit! But congratulations to all the winners everywhere! I wish I could have a giant Porg…

But here’s my Porg from the 3.75″ Chewbacca set, along with the 3 free pins Target was giving away and some Lego freebies (with purchases at Toys R Us & Lego Store). Sometimes it isn’t the super large purchases, but the small things that bring great joy! (Looking at you, Porgs…)

Disney Store also had some freebies – they were giving away exclusive mini prints from The Last Jedi to the first 100 customers (with no minimum purchase)! In addition, Disney’s known for having tons of exclusives like their Elite Series, costumes, and figurine sets.

But the coolest thing in the store was the R2-D2 & C-3PO bronzed statue set, exclusively for Disney Rewards Visa card members (and limited to 1,000 pieces). It was $179.95 but these card members also get 10% off… Check it out:

Lego Store is coming off the heels of announcing their latest UCS Millennium Falcon with 7,541 pieces, so they definitely had some cool displays in-store!

New sets were all on the shelves and a very nice incentive to make a purchase today was the free Shoretrooper mini-figure with a Star Wars purchase of $50 or more. And with any Star Wars purchase, you receive 1 of 3 exclusive UCS Millennium Falcon prints! For the next 3 days, Lego Store will change the print each day to make sure you keep buying all weekend!

Finally, I ended my Force Friday journey at GameStop.

While many retailers had unique signage and displays at the front of the store, GameStop kept things private… really. Most of the new products (whatever they received) were behind the counter, out of arms’ reach.

But I did manage to get a pack of the new Topps Journey to The Last Jedi trading cards! Alas, no hits inside but it was still fun to go through them.

And as if that wasn’t enough Force Friday for you, Disney & Lucasfilm also developed an “Augmented Reality” camera in the Star Wars app called “Find The Force”. Using it, fans can experience new characters live in-store. That’s right, pull up the app and look for that special signage found in most stores and see some Star Wars come to life!

Already a cool display, you’ll notice that the Stormtrooper Executioner on the left has some ink blots around him. This is the code that the app translates and digitizes a life-size Last Jedi character right before your very eyes.

See BB-9E at Brookstone?

Or Chewbacca at Disney Store?

You can take pics of them or hold the button to record a video. Feel free to hop on screen with them too!

The app will continue to unlock new characters/tokens while you explore new products this weekend.

But sadly, that means Force Friday II is coming to a close today…

Shocking, I know.

But here’s my final bounty (note: this shot does not include the free Toys R Us t-shirt & poster, the SDCC Grand Admiral Thrawn, or SDCC Luke/Rey combo):

P.S., I also did not include my trips to FYE or Books A Million, but I went! And I conquered! Happy Force Friday, everyone!

Stan Lee Box #4 “Summer Love” Review (July 2017)

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Subscription boxes are a dime a dozen these days. You’ve got boxes full of contents that appeal to every interest & hobby: food, beauty, Funko, comic books, dog products, and the list goes on & on! I had never been interested in getting a box because usually the mystery of what’s inside is usually overpowered by the probability of getting items that I don’t need or want. That is, until now.

When I found out about the Stan Lee Box, I was excited to see that it doesn’t follow a specific format (ie. Smuggler Bounty’s formula of: 2 Funko Pop’s, a pin, a patch, and a t-shirt). Instead, you’ll receive a variety of items officially curated by Stan Lee himself! How official? I’m not too sure aside from the fact that it’s powered by Stan Lee’s company POW! Entertainment.

Set to deliver every 8 weeks, the Stan Lee Box contains a bunch of exclusives with many, if not all, being exclusive to this subscription service. It always includes two comic books with variant covers featuring Stan! Each box also has a theme so that you know what to sort of expect inside. Plus, 1 out of 10 boxes will contain an autographed item from Stan! How can you go wrong?

In the past, the box has had collectibles such as Metals Die Cast figures, Funko Pop figures, graphic novels, and prints. You’re also guaranteed to get a trading card with a fun Stan Lee fact. But without further ado, here’s Stan Lee Box #4:

Right from the beginning, I was thrilled by the box design because it screamed Stan Lee everywhere with big comic book text like “AMAZING!”, “FANTASTIC”, “INCREDIBLE”!

Unfortunately, due to the recent passing of Stan’s wife Joan, Box #4 (with the theme “Summer Love”) was slightly delayed. Intended to be delivered in time for SDCC, they teased that inside would contain a comic con friendly backpack with Stan Lee on it. It’s perfect for the con goer that needs a place for all their merch! But with the delay also came a heartfelt card pasted to the inside of the box.

As I worked my way into the box, there was a giant image of Stan on black fabric. Was it a sweater? A t-shirt? Nope, it was an “Excelsior!” pillow in the style of “Grease”!

I’ll be honest, I was worried at first because this pillow took up a lot of space in the box… but the geniuses at POW! did a great job packing in the rest of the collectibles.

You’ll be glad to know that each box also comes with a pamphlet with a couple of stories by Stan explaining the box’s theme, and also quick descriptions of each item inside. I loved this because it told me who designed what and where it all came from. Here are the two stories from Stan for “Summer Love”:

Next, I found a sealed envelope with some weight to it. It was time for the books! Secret Empire #1 with variant cover by Mike Perkins, and a Stan Lee Box exclusive version of Stan Lee’s God Woke with Fabian Nicieza (co-creator of Deadpool) and Mariano Nicieza.

Super cool choices. I didn’t have any of these previously, so I was happy to find these inside the envelope!

Neatly tucked away underneath I found a pair of “Spidey” socks by Dead Soxy and a bubble wrapped Stan & Joanie Forever collectible cup (which could either have been a ceramic mug or a pint glass). I was very glad to have gotten the pint glass!

And at the bottom were the flat items: some “Excelsior!” stickers, a Stan Lee fun fact card, and a couple ads.

For $49.99 + shipping, you get at least $100 of value inside! Personally, I think this box in particular was worth it. And if you could save a couple more bucks then even better!

I didn’t end up being one of the 1 out of 10 who received an autograph, but who knows? Maybe next time!

Hey true believers! If this seems like something you’d want to order yourself, don’t forget that you can save $5 by using my link: here.