ComiCONN 2017 (Foxwoods Resort Casino)

ComiCONN proudly boasts being “A Show for the Fans by the Fans!”, but can you feel it when you attend?

Whether your interests lie in sci-fi/fantasy, comedy, or pop culture, ComiCONN has something for everybody! It was my first time attending this con and I thoroughly enjoyed it. From the guests & vendors to the venue itself (Foxwoods Resort Casino), it was packed with things to do, photo opportunities, and plenty of ways to throw away cash!

Primarily I was excited to attend this con because of their guests Paul Springer & Simon Williamson, both of whom I’ve never met. But the guest list goes on and on with cast members from Sons of Anarchy, The Walking Dead, Karate Kid, and V. Unfortunately Paul Springer (puppeteer for Ree-Yees in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi) had canceled just before the start of the con but I still got to meet Simon Williamson and plenty of others!

Also got to meet Mr. Timothy Zahn, who’s written many fine books, but one of the more popular ones today is Thrawn, a recent redone character from his work in the 90s. Grand Admiral Thrawn has been re-imagined for the Star Wars Rebels cartoon and he’s such a great antagonist. Since I missed my chance to see him at Star Wars Celebration, I was so glad I got my book, comic, and figures signed!

I was pleased to find that our initial entry into the show floor was fairly simple, as well as our first re-entry in the beginning of the day, but to get back in later in the day was a total nightmare. ComiCONN was quick to respond and fixed the re-entry issue the next day. If they didn’t, it would be Rhode Island Comic Con all over again (same company, actually).

But at least once you’re outside you can enjoy the show store and some more photo ops! (And of course all that the casino has to offer) Some of the additional photo ops included a Wonder Woman cosplayer on a prop horse riding off the success of the standalone film, the 501st Legion, and Speed Racer.

Even Speed Racer needed some cash for show exclusives! But by far the best ComiCONN exclusive was the exclusive G.I. Joe #241 with cover art by Ian Chase Nichols. I picked one up for $10 and got it signed by him for free at his booth:

The vendors on the show floor were very cool, with a lot of variety in products. Booths ranged from art to collectibles to freebies. I think one of my favorites was Foxwoods’ very own Cake By Franck. They normally have a state-of-the-art vending machine on the casino floor but it was shut down for repairs. Instead, they had a booth set up at the con on top of their retail store on the other side of the resort. They were serving up specialty geek treats for this weekend including, but not limited to, chocolate covered pretzel lightsabers, comic themed cupcakes & brownies, a chocolate throne from Game of Thrones, lemonade potion bottles, and a completely edible chocolate Millennium Falcon in 3.75″ scale!

How amazing! But as fun as that was, Sugar Factory takes the cake with jaw-dropping desserts & drinks. We had lunch here and we had a total blast with their Smoking Goblets. We realized that there are a few in our area but figured that with all the other places we could check out in NYC, we would never make the time to actually go to a Sugar Factory.

As our day started to wrap up, we made our way to Jason David Frank’s booth for his final signing of the day. After hearing about him being someone’s target at last month’s Phoenix Comicon, we were relieved to see he was still traveling to cons. Even though we saw him at multiple cons in the past, we only now made an effort to meet him.

JDF seemed like a fun guy who cares about his fans! But just before our turn, NBC Connecticut interviewed him for their ComiCONN news segment, where the anchor asked him about Adam West (who had passed away the night before, RIP). It was Jason’s first time hearing the news and was totally shaken up, so when he returned to his booth he wasn’t fully himself quite yet… You can tell by his smile in our photo. And also by the fact he signed my comic book: “To: John”!

Can you find us in his epic selfie?

On our way out, we got to say hi to Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin on Netflix’s Stranger Things, and also pose in the Byers living room:

And a con wouldn’t be a con without a couple of freebies! We got a few DC posters for Wonder Woman and Justice League!

All in all, it was a great con and the venue made it even more enjoyable. It was their first time at Foxwoods, but hopefully not their last. I loved that you can enjoy this midsize convention but also venture out into the casino & outlet mall during your down time. I’d like to see how they handled the change in re-entry since that was my only negative experience. Looking forward to their 9th next year!

Wizard World Philadelphia 2017

 

We had a blast in Philly this past weekend!

Last year I attended Wizard World’s show in Richmond, VA and was slightly disappointed by the size so I was very much excited to attend one of their bigger shows in Philadelphia with guests like: Chuck Norris, Jesse Eisenberg, Rob Liefeld, Michael Rooker, Sean Gunn, Jon Heder, and Ralph Macchio! I originally planned on attending to meet Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven from Stranger Things) but she unfortunately backed out a while ago.

But the convention itself was set up much better than Richmond was, and it utilized its floor space more efficiently too! Upcoming 2017 blockbusters had their displays up and were perfect for memorable comic con photo ops. Despicable Me 3 had a prison cell with lifesize Gru & minions “giving tattoos” (plus receive temporary tattoos that come alive with their app), Spider-Man Homecoming had their theater standee with Spidey in his yellow blazer, 47 Meters Down had a giant shark cutout that you can pop out of, Transformers The Last Knight had a photo op with SQWEEKS, and Warner Brothers had a booth to promote their latest hits: Wonder Woman (which I stand by my decision that it’s a fantastic movie), King Arthur, Lego Ninjago, and the remake of It.

WB also had a raffle wheel where you could win promotional items from those movies. You could have won a plastic Wonder Woman tiara, some WW bracelets, a King Arthur patch, or a poster featuring Lego Ninjago or Wonder Woman. I could tell that the staff member wasn’t too thrilled to work at this station.

The vendors were pretty typical but I was able to pick up a few things for myself and some friends, including the rare first issue & first appearance of Batman Beyond which I got signed by voice actor & Boy Meets World star Will Friedle! In addition, I got my Deadpool #12 signed by creator Rob Liefeld, and my Marvel Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos #1 signed:

I’m excited to get them back once CGC grades them and add them to my collection!

In the middle of the day we needed a break from all the walking and standing in line, so we grabbed lunch in the ever popular Reading Terminal Market. The last time I was in here was 9 years ago and it was not nearly as crowded as a Saturday filled with convention geeks! I was disappointed that Delilah’s had closed a few years ago – I really wanted to try the 7-cheese mac & cheese that almost beat Bobby Flay in Throwdown. But thankfully, we found a delicious alternative with Beck’s Cajun Cafe! We got to dig into some cajun alfredo pasta, jambalaya, gator gumbo, and fried mac & cheese balls! If you’re ever in the area and you’re craving some spicy creole cuisine, definitely stop by.

I also had the privilege of meeting the talented Lex Lang who’s done countless voices in animation. He’s also done some great work with Lucasfilm, specifically Stormtroopers in Rogue One, Poe Dameron in Lego Star Wars, and Han Solo in Battlefront II/Rogue Squadron III. Maybe you’ve heard his voice in: Lupin the 3rd, Transformers RID, Digimon, Ghost in the Shell, Justice League Unlimited, Naruto, Avatar, The Batman, Bleach, Dragon Ball Super, One Punch Man, etc.

He signed my Rogue One Stormtrooper figure! We got a photo together and as he signed my Stormtrooper trading card, I asked him if he’d seen the new Rogue One trading cards by Topps. He said he hadn’t, so I gave him one of the extra ones I brought of troopers storming the beach of Scarif. He seemed to really appreciate it

But the highlight of the con was definitely being able to meet the legendary Chuck Norris. Twice.

He was fashionably late and was surrounded by Wizard World staff, security personnel, and local police. I think they all stayed close to him for their protection.

He & his wife Gena were very kind and the line moved very swiftly, like a roundhouse kick to the face.

There were a lot of people getting autographs on the provided 8×10’s from The Expendables or Walker Texas Ranger, but just as many getting rare memorabilia signed as well. Once I got my comic signed, we came back shortly after to line up for the photo op with him which was a lot longer than the autograph line.

Again, he was very courteous and was happy to pose with us despite posing normally with most others.

In the end, Wizard World redeemed itself in my book. I’ll keep checking on what they’ll bring to the table in the near future.

But for now, I’ll close with one of my favorite Chuck Norris facts:

Chuck Norris once killed 200 people with a grenade. And then it exploded.

LEGOLAND Discovery Center Westchester

Legoland Discovery Center in Yonkers, NY opened in 2013 and is run by the same company as Madame Tussauds. Located in the very fun Ridge Hill Shopping Center, this Discovery Center offers a variety of activities from rides to 4D movies. Technically all Discovery Centers and Legoland theme parks are unaffiliated with the Lego Group itself but are still home to many great Lego licenses today: Lego Star Wars, Batman, Ninjago, Duplo, Racers, etc.

I’ve always wanted to go and I wasn’t able to find sufficient information on the internet about what it’s like… so I hope this post helps someone out there! It really is a blast to visit especially with the new Ninjago section that was added just last month (April 2017).

You save money by booking online so be sure to order all your tickets & extras on their website:

  • Online Saver Ticket – Choose the date & time you wish to enter the center
  • Extra Value Ticket – It’s the Online Saver Ticket + a Lego collectible for an additional $4 (it can be anything from Friends, Ninjago, to even Star Wars)
  • Ultimate Flexible Ticket – It’s the Extra Value Ticket, but with entry at any time and day

You can also pay ahead for a photo package (prints will be given on the day-of and the brick photo will be mailed to you) and a $4 activity lanyard which gives your child fun missions to collect stamps along the way in order to claim a prize as you exit the center (see the end of this post for the prize).

It’s important that I mention “child” because this Legoland does not allow adults to enter by themselves without children… for obvious safety reasons.

Everything inside is mostly Lego – even the frames for signage! Cash registers are covered in bricks, giant versions of minifigures are built out of Legos, and tons tons more. We start our trip with our photo package. The photographer was very friendly and directed us every step of the way. You pose in front of a green screen and later you choose which pose + background combo you like best. The package includes 2 prints, a digital copy, and a brick wall photo that gets sent to your home to be assembled later! (This post will be updated once I receive mine)

The first room contained tons of Lego history and fun facts… even a scale to convert your weight to Lego bricks! But as interesting as this room was, we were instantly drawn to the next section which was the Kingdom Quest Laser Ride! This reminded me of the Men In Black ride at Universal Studios Orlando – you sit in a roller coaster-esque car that moves as you blast your way to rescue the princess. It even keeps score! Can you guess which score is mine?

By the time you finish this ride, your photos are processed and ready for you to select the best combo. Do this before or after you visit Miniland, a replica of New York City landmarks – Fifth Ave., the Statue of Liberty, the George Washington Bridge, and so much more! It was absolutely breathtaking!

There are a lot of Easter Eggs & funny scenarios hidden all around too, so be sure to take your time before moving on to the new Ninjago section!

Ninjago City Adventure is the latest display at Legoland Discovery Center. It features a huge “ninja” playground with moving parts, nets, poles, and slide. Also featured is a giant version of Jackie Chan’s Master Wu from the upcoming Ninjago movie, a climbing wall, a color reflex test, and a giant diorama to build on (with a dragon in a den to boot)! It’s great that the new Ninjago section has a little something for every kind of kid.

And if your child is a little too young to be running around, bumping into other kids, then maybe you should consider the much tamer Duplo Village. Just like the actual Duplo bricks, it’s harder to get hurt! A closed off section, a single slide, a giant giraffe, and they’ve replaced the balls in a ball pit with some soft Lego blocks that you can actually build with!

When we decided to take a short break, we were pleased to find plenty of seating at the Cafe. It’s disappointing that there aren’t any punny or clever Lego themed food names but they had everything you could need – quick bites & a variety of drinks (including coffee, moms & dads!). And check out this register!

Behind the Racer section is also the bathrooms which are decorated with Lego portraits in the hallway and even Lego themed decals on the stall doors! Hilarious!

Then try your hand at building your fastest racer! Buckets of parts are available in many colors. Team up with your youngster and race to the finish line! I was honestly expecting just a simple incline to race the cars but I was surprised to see a functioning button which times a lowering gate and countdown. Very fun!

Right across from Racers and at the corner of Ninjago is an earthquake test to see if your building can withstand some shaky ground:

All the while, keep checking out the line situation for Merlin’s Apprentice Ride and the 4D Cinema. These are 2 of my favorite attractions (along with the Kingdom Quest Laser Ride). The 4D Cinema is a little dated compared to today’s modern 4D movie theater effects. Spoiler alert: the 4th dimension is simply water spraying from above for various liquid effects throughout the short film (A Clutch Powers 4-D Adventure). It was still enjoyable but if you or your family hate getting wet, I’d bring a poncho or stay out altogether.

If you have a big Lego fan, stop by the Master Builder Academy where they have scheduled lessons on building models and/or mosaics. These have specified timeslots posted on the classroom door so be sure to plan accordingly. We stopped in to check out the class but ultimately didn’t stay due to time. But the instructor was nice, and he was our first minifigure trade of the day! (If you bring minifigures to the center, you can trade with employees who have minifigures on their badges. It’s highly unlikely they will turn down your request, but it’s more likely that you’ll notice that the employees do not have any figures at all!) We traded a Frozen “friends” Kristoff for a modern policeman. Good trade and we got to see some cool art!

But, of course, I saved the best for last…

The Lego Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace Miniland! This was an amazing display of mini Tatooine & mini Naboo… Anakin’s podrace and the Gungan battle against the Trade Federation. There’s a lifesize Lego R2-D2, Lego Star Wars videos playing on a screen, and some cool art on the wall.

Race against Sebulba with the controls or help Jar Jar mess up!

The detail in this room was absolutely incredible. So glad we finished with this setup.

But don’t worry, there’s tons more to see and photograph! You’ll find a lot of photo opportunities with Lego props & characters, some special displays, and gift options at their giant Lego Store, the machines for souvenir pennies or my preferred heavy duty souvenir token:

And on my way out I was able to trade a less favorable Nexo Knight with an employee’s new Series 17 Retro Spaceman minifigure!

All in all, Legoland Discovery Center in Westchester is a fantastic day trip especially if you love Legos. We underestimated our trip and ended up staying there for 4 hours but it only felt like 2! We walked away with some great souvenirs, a very cool exclusive Star Wars R3-M2 minifigure, one more memory on the way (the photo brick wall), and with the activity lanyard full of stamps we were able to claim a pop-out Lego Batman button! It’s a two-piece plastic button that doesn’t need a pin to attach to clothes. They have some other designs, so be sure to ask the employee for the options!

For a more in-depth look inside Legoland in Yonkers, watch the video here:

East Coast Comic Con 2017

This is our second time attending East Coast Comicon and we came back because the first time was so much fun & was a meaningful trip for us. Again at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, NJ, there were some great guests, vendors, and vehicles for attendees to experience.

The Guests

As always, ECC had some amazing comic guests who have left their mark in comic book history: Michael Golden, Mike Zeck, John Beatty, Jim Salicrup, Marv Wolfman, Fabian Nicieza, Yanick Paquette… the list goes on and on! But I did get to meet Batman The Animated Series’ Kevin Altieri who was seated right next to Ren & Stimpy’s Bill Wray:

Kevin signed the cover of my Batman: Mask of the Phantasm VHS (yes, VHS, you read that right). He was an… interesting guy, to say the least.

But on top of all the pro comic book guests, there were tons of up & coming talent in the artist alley like my go-to favorite CreeesArt (check out the Minion-Captain America art at the end of this post). I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen him at cons now. But check out his work, he’s fantastic!

But the media guests were of particular interest this year: Dawn Wells (Mary Ann of Gilligan’s Island), Penny, Don, Judy & Will from Lost In Space, Danny Trejo, Ernie Hudson (Winston from Ghostbusters), wrestlers Kevin Nash & Ashley Massaro, and of course Daniel Logan from Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones!

At first I was worried because when doors opened at 10am, he wasn’t at his booth. In fact, he didn’t arrive until after 11am. But we stuck through it! While waiting on the online queue to buy NYCC 2017 tickets, we patiently stood first in line at his booth. When he finally arrived, the energy of the place totally changed! While he was setting up his table with 8×10’s and Boba Fett trading cards, not once did he ignore the crowd. He kept telling stories, connecting with fans of all ages, and went above & beyond. I can’t say enough about Daniel!

He explained that he was late because of airport luggage mishaps and needed to go clothes shopping with his manager Saira. It was quite funny, all the while he was putting his Boba Fett helmet together for display. Then I got to talk to him about being in the low-budget “Sharknado: The 4th Awakens” film, Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett) & Tem Morrison (Jango Fett), how some other celebrities are just so cold towards fans, and why he’s so blessed to come to cons! Then later on (since we were first again at the photo opp) he talked to us even more, congratulating us on our Disney engagement right before we attended Celebration, and how he & his wife also had a special proposal at Walt Disney World (but with Mickey & Minnie too)!

I wasn’t a fan of the company running the photos this year. It was a single photographer with a single SD card running one booth. The camera wasn’t wirelessly connected to the printers and would take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes to receive your print. Previously (and at every other con I’ve been to), the photos print instantly! We came back after an hour only to find that someone had taken our print (??) but the photographer was by the vehicles for the Lost In Space photo opp, so my photo could not be immediately reprinted… I had to come back in another hour. Also, digital files were also not offered. It was a major hassle. But when I told Daniel this story, he offered to sign our photo at no charge – what a guy! He also signed my Clone Wars Boba Fett figure and a photo of Jango & Boba I already got signed by Tem at Celebration. Plus he threw in a free selfie & signed card!

On our way out we also ran into Tony Todd from Candyman, Star Trek: TNG, the voice of Zoom on CW’s Flash, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Super nice guy!

The Vendors

On top of the obvious booths filled with vintage & modern comic books, there are always a lot of interesting vendors at ECC. Various prints & posters, collectibles, cosplay items, etc.

With the 40th Anniversary of A New Hope coming up, I thought it would be fitting to share these cool Star Wars coasters:

And who can resist Lego mini figures!

But thanks to a little smart shopping, I was able to finally get a 6″ Black Series Sabine Wren, a cool comic book adaptation of Michael Keaton’s Batman, and more!

The Vehicles

Another highlight from this con is the collection of vehicles they bring in. This year they had the Munster Koach, The Monkee Mobile, Christine from the Stephen King movie, the Lost In Space Chariot, the Ghostbusters Ecto-2, and 3 Batmobiles (Adam West, Michael Keaton, Christian Bale)!

On top of all of that, we did eventually score tickets to this year’s New York Comic Con online! So all in all it was a great con. Fantastic cosplay, delicious food (check out the mac & cheese bites, jalapeño poppers, and chicken nuggets below), and amazing swag haul. What more can you ask for?

Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017

Star Wars Celebration – The Ultimate Fan Experience” is a giant convention specifically for Star Wars starting in 1999 just before the release of Episode I: The Phantom Menace. I realized the huge traction it was gaining with Celebration III in 2005 with the release of their exclusive Darth Vader figure. I still remember paying slightly more than I should have back in 2005 for one. If only I had waited 12 more years…

Years went by and with their 12th convention, the stars finally aligned for me to attend my very first Celebration! And the timing couldn’t have been better – not only was it the 40th Anniversary of Episode IV: A New Hope, but they’re taking another break to return in 2019… PLUS George Lucas, Harrison Ford, and John Williams appeared! We weren’t there for that (we were in Disney on Thursday) but still!

Today, the convention is run by ReedPOP who also manages C2E2, Emerald City Comic Con, and NYCC. There were many similarities to how Celebration was run that reminded me a lot of NYCC. Never been to one? Let’s walk through together! (And TL;DR there’s a video at the end.)

The massive queue hall was very familiar. But quickly it’s filled with thousands of Star Wars fans in cosplay, Star Wars apparel, and props as far as the eye can see. If you heard about the horror stories of getting in on time at NYCC 2016, you’ll be glad to hear it was consistent at Celebration 2017… But it’s all part of the experience, right? I mean, once you finally get into the main hall, you’ll see amazing photo opportunities like this:

Or a “life-size” AT-AT Walker:

The number of things you could photograph were infinite!! Seriously. Who’s the more foolish? The fool who brought only one battery or the one who brought only one memory card?

We had our list of to-do’s for the weekend. We only attended Celebration on Friday & Saturday so we had to make the most of our time. So we came and we conquered. Honestly, I don’t know how we managed to check off everything on our list. We had so much to accomplish! Autographs, photo sessions, vendor exclusives, limited edition prints, and just soaking in the amazing experience that is Celebration itself!

One thing we didn’t get to do is attend a panel… any of them. I joked about how half my day was spent standing on lines and a passerby exclaimed, “Oh hey! You’re here at Line Con too??” It was funny… and then it was sad. But the good news is that there were some large screens for the major panels and we got to watch some of The Last Jedi panel!!! If you haven’t seen the teaser trailer yet, what are you waiting for??

And because of these screens, we also got to catch a little bit of the Star Wars Show with Andi Gutierrez and Anthony Carboni (that’s not him below). Love that show!

All throughout the hall are vendors selling everything from figures to Legos, film cells, costumes, you name it! There were artists, fan clubs, and fun giveaways that we got to partake in. It was a blast meeting all sorts of people, especially the moderators from my favorite Star Wars collecting site Jedi Temple Archives: Chuck & Paul!

And if collectibles are your thing, then Celebration was the place for you too. I had to pick and choose what I brought home because as I shared on Instagram, luggage space was VERY limited!

But some of my favorite vendors were present: EFX Collectibles, Kotobukiya, Hasbro (couldn’t obtain the exclusive 6″ Luke but ordered it online before it sold out!), Topps, Disney Parks, Lego (we got the exclusive Detention Block set!), Funko, and of course ANOVOS. Check out EFX’s TIE Advanced (you can see the Star Destroyer behind it and a bit of the Y-Wing to the right of it) and the Kotobukiya First Order Stormtrooper displays:

With only so many hours in a day, and with us rushing to make it to Disney’s Galactic Nights at Hollywood Studios on time (more on that later), you can imagine how much walking/running was involved (24,607 steps on the first day, according to my iPhone)! But at least I didn’t have to run in cosplay like this guy did for charity!

Props to this guy!

But back to why I packed so many figures with me… autographs, of course! This year was the first time Topps was in charge of the autographing & photos. It gave off the vibe of being more “official” but it was still overly hectic and complicated. Unlike every other con I’ve ever been to, you can’t simply walk up to a guest’s table and pay cash for an autograph. You guessed it: another line! Thankfully, we caught the line at a good time and it only took us 1 hour to get to a register… But success! Here are some of the tickets I was able to score:

With our autograph & photo sessions we got to meet: Mark Hamill, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiarmid, Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Paul Blake, Denis Lawson, Temuera Morrison, Tim Rose, Matthew Wood, Vanessa Marshall, Sam Witwer, and Taylor Gray. Whew! I don’t know how we did it in the short time we were there, but the Force is strong with us!

I’ll be posting pics of the autographs & photographs on my Instagram so be sure to head over there to see them over time. There’s just SO much to share that I can’t do it in a single post. So I hope you’ll join me there!

Long story short, Celebration was quite the experience. I’m glad I met all those Star Wars guests last year because it saved me so much money and time to not have to meet them again. I’d imagine if we go again in the future, I’ll have even less guests to focus on and more time to enjoy the rest of the con. But besides the autos & photos, we got some cool posters, prints, cards, buttons, and more! Check out this poster of the upcoming book Phasma, leading up to The Last Jedi, signed by author Delilah S. Dawson!

If you attended Celebration too, I’d love to hear about your favorite part(s)! Comment below or find me on social media platforms. For now, I leave you with my recap video:

Kellogg’s NYC Cereal Cafe

“Just follow your nose!”

In the summer of 2016, Kellogg’s opened a very unique and very sweet cereal cafe in NYC’s Times Square. After missing the Pop-Tarts pop up cafe last month, and the Pop-Tarts World Cafe a couple years ago, I finally got to visit the shop and try some of their famous concoctions (in collaboration with founder & owner of Momofuku Milk Bar: Chef Christina Tosi)!

You’re immediately greeted by unique signage, neon lights, and Kellogg’s packaging, followed by their creative menu worked on by Tosi.

Though the location is seemingly in a “permanent” location, the menus clearly say “limited time!” and “limited quantities!”… Is it only a matter of time before this establishment also ‘Flakes’ and goes away?

I quickly noticed that workers were few and seating was scarce, but there were tons of treats to go around!

All around, your favorite cereals are on display: Froot Loops, Apple Jacks, Rice Krispies, Krave, and of course Pop-Tarts!

And once you’ve decided on which sweets to consume, you hit up one of the workers who has a tablet containing all the possibilities they offer at Kellogg’s NYC. While you’re doing that, take a look at what hasn’t sold out yet, including their available cereal donuts and L’eggo my Eggo sandwiches (look out, Eleven!):

We ultimately decided on the Life In Color (Froot Loops) donut, Double Chocolate (Cocoa Krispies) donut, Smack “Burger” (Honey Smacks, Cocoa Krispies, Frosted Strawberry Pop-Tart Patty, Pineapple “Cheddar”, and Corn Flakes “Lettuce”), and a Dem Cookies, Dough milkshake (Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pop-Tart, Vanilla Ice Cream, Blueberry Jame, Fresh Strawberries, Milk, Whipped Cream).

Once ordered, you receive a buzzer that will display the cubby number to pick up your order.

And surprise! Your treats are waiting for you. And wow, everything was so sweet… like SO sweet. You’d better absolutely love (slightly chewy) cereal if you’re considering coming here.

As the days get warmer, look out for how the workers handle your food. If not gentle, their tongs will crush your cereal donut. And if not in the perfect temperature, your milkshake will start to melt & fall apart way too fast! So be warned: photograph quickly, people!

In the end, it was quite an experience and the entire place is beautifully colorful, but we couldn’t wait to get to dinner and indulge in some salty dishes next!

I Took A Photo For Jim Lee & Frank Miller (Big Apple Comic Con 2017)

My first con of the year!

I’d never heard of Big Apple Comic Con before, but it proudly boasts that it’s the longest-running comic/sci-fi/fantasy/pop culture convention in NYC. After doing some reading, I found out that it had gone by many names over the years but is now run by Wizard (more in my blog about Wizard World) and is still overseen by original founder Michael Carbonaro. Long story short, I didn’t know if this event would be big, small, organized, or a trainwreck. All I knew was that there was quite a list of comic book guests!

The convention itself was located at Penn Plaza Pavilion / Hotel Pennsylvania, just behind Penn Station in NYC. Entry was slow when doors opened because the space was so cramped. I don’t know how many attendees there were but it felt like trying to get to the other side of a small high school with only 1 minute between classes. The show floor itself had very little variety but I can tell that it was trying to be a very comic-centered show, which is good for people who are looking for specific issues (especially vintage). But as far as collectibles go, it was hit or miss.

Major guests and autographing/photos were located on the top floor of the hotel, about a couple minutes away of indoor walking from the show floor in the Pavilion. It wasn’t a very obvious route but if they hold it here every year, it’ll be easier to navigate in the future. But onto the guests:

My primary reason for going was for Spencer Wilding who played the new Darth Vader in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. He was the first guest I tracked down for an autograph and it was easy because he stands at a mere 6’7″! Immediately, I was glad that I didn’t purchase the $200 Star Wars VIP pass which included: 2-Day 9:30 Early Admission Collectible Badge, 1 VIP Line Cut for Spencer Wilding, 1 Signed Vintage Star Wars Comic Book signed by Howard Chaykin, 1 Star Wars Print by Brian Kong, 1 Autograph from Spencer Wilding, 1 Photo Op with Spencer Wilding, and VIP Seating for Spencer’s Panel.

The reason I was glad was because I wasn’t able to attend the 2nd day in the end, and additionally I actually won an Instagram contest for the 2nd day which I ended up not being able to claim anyway! Plus his panel was on Sunday, the line cut to meet Spencer would have been a waste because there was no line… and Howard Chaykin was offering autographs for free. So instead of $200, I spent $30 for a standard pass. Meeting Spencer was a quick 2 minutes and I got my Rogue One figure signed for $40:

Next up was legendary voice actor Neil Kaplan! Neil had to last-minute cancel his appearance at Newark Comic Con last year, so I was very glad I was finally able to meet him. He’s worked on Voltron, Transformers Robots In Disguise, World Of Warcraft, League Of Legends, StarCraft II… And not only that, Star Wars The Old Republic, Knights Of The Old Republic, and Galactic Battlegrounds! Can’t say enough about this guy. He’s talented, hilarious, and sincerely cares about his fans (especially on Twitter)! Got my Grenade Battle Droids signed! Roger Roger!

And originally, that was it. I wasn’t very interested in the other guests attending but I didn’t mind if I got to meet them. Stan Lee was on the bill but two days before the event he cancelled due to a sudden illness. Fans were disappointed but, of course, wished him a speedy recovery and then were extremely surprised to see his quick replacement from the realm of DC Comics: Jim Lee (heavily responsible for Marvel’s X-Men’s classic blue suits in the early 90s, DC’s New 52 Justice League, as well as Gen13 & WildC.A.T.s)! Jim would fly into New York for 3 hours to sign FREE autographs for fans. Not only that, Frank Miller (creator of 300, Sin City, Daredevil’s Elektra, Dark Knight Returns…) who was originally scheduled only for Sunday also decided to appear during the same time slot! It was a Comic Con miracle!

I tried my best looking for a DK III comic for Jim Lee & Frank Miller to sign, but I was unsuccessful. This didn’t matter though, since Frank ended up signing only on Sunday. But I did manage to get 3 of my comics signed by Jim: Wolverine #24 (1990), X-Men Series 1 #1 (1992), and X-Men Annual Shattershot Part 1 (1992 – and a childhood comic I’ve had since then).

Not only that, I got him to sign my obscure replica of X-Men Series 1 #1 Magneto variant cover on a card by Toy Biz, which is super nostalgic & sentimental to me:

As Frank Miller was leaving, Jim asked him for a photo together. Scrambling to open his iPhone camera, I offered to take the photo for him. He hands me his phone and here’s the shot!

Posted on his Instagram, fans instantly started making jokes, pointing out the Grant Gustin (CW’s Flash) and Jerry Seinfeld lookalikes! Can you spot them??

We finished our con by standing on the CGC grading submission line, which took about 75 minutes to get through to submit my 3 comics. And then finally getting my micro comic recreation of Star Wars #1 signed by Howard Chaykin:

Remember how I got my original 1977 comic signed and then graded by CGC at New York Comic Con 2016? Wish I had thought to bring it here, have CGC crack it open, and get it signed additionally by Howard Chaykin & Roy Thomas… What a wasted opportunity!

What was interesting was that Howard Chaykin mocked me for even waiting to request an autograph, for wanting an autograph on this particular comic, and told me to expand my tastes past Star Wars and I’ll be better off… wow… But I still appreciate him!

And now I leave you with some fantastic work from a local artist I’ve met 3 times so far at conventions. I first met Creees HyunSung Lee at Newark Comic Con last year (outdoors) and again at WinterCon (indoors). This time, he was at Big Apple Comic Con with a big update: he had been contacted by Upper Deck for some Marvel sketch cards! Out of the 40 blanks, he got to keep 4 completed trading cards, which he had encased and on sale at his booth. Here’s the one I was able to snag. Can’t wait for Homecoming!

Whole Foods Mochi Ice Cream Bar

Just a few weeks ago, Whole Foods Market announced that they would be rolling out a new self-serve Mochi Ice Cream Bar featuring a variety of flavors. The news went viral!

Being a big mochi ice cream fan, I just had to try it for myself so naturally I tracked down the closest Whole Foods that launched one of these self-serve stations. Disclaimer: Your local Whole Foods locations may have 0 idea what you’re talking about.

Right next to the usual ice cream section is a giant sign that signals you over to grab a container and help yourself to these Japanese goodies!

mochi

If you don’t already know, Mochi is pounded sticky rice that is then molded into a rice cake confection. It can be filled with red bean, strawberries, or in this case: ice cream.

Here you’ll find a pair a tongs and 3 different container sizes with lids so that you can take your treats to go! This particular store was $2 per mochi or $20 for 12. There were 6 kinds available: Vanilla, Double Chocolate, Red Bean, Black Sesame, Matcha Green Tea, and Coffee. (Special note: the black sesame actually has black sesame seeds!) Your mileage may vary.

I’ve tried all sorts of mochi ice cream – Japanese made, American made, you name it. The ones found here at Whole Foods were delicious. They stayed perfectly cold (but not so frozen that you can’t bite into them) even with the strange warm weather (are we sure it’s still winter?) and the consistency of the mochi itself was perfect. The preservation of the temperature may be due to the fact that the takeout containers are kept in the freezer alongside the actual mochi!

Anyways, I’m so ready for warmer days, and I’ll be back. Again and again.

A Visit To The Georgia Aquarium (Atlanta, GA)

While in town recently, a group of us decided to visit the largest aquarium in the Western Hemisphere – the Georgia Aquarium. With 13 acres and 10 million gallons of fresh & marine water, they house tens of thousands of animals! Unless there is a special offer, be sure to buy your tickets in advance on their website and save 20% on weekdays & 10% on weekends. With these pre-purchased tickets you’ll be able to enter via a separate line, but you still may need to wait anyway because you’re not the only one buying tickets online!

The exterior of the aquarium is fairly large but it may feel underwhelming when you first enter. You’re greeted by a room with a very underwater feeling only to be led into a giant hall, similar to many large museums. From here, you can branch out into several corridors which lead you to the 5 main exhibits of the aquarium: Tropical Diver, Ocean Voyager, Cold Water Quest, River Scout, and Dolphin Tales.

For the casual to avid fan of aquariums, a full walk-through of the aquarium will only take a couple hours. Some exhibits will take longer than others and will depend on how often you stop to read the signs. We only attended the Dolphin Tales show but if you check out every show/feeding available, I’m sure it will be an even longer trip. Hardcore fans will also want to give the touch tank (Touchwall) a chance but beware of the long line.

If you can spare a moment, take your time with the Ocean Voyager conveyor belt! The automated walkway will have you go through a tunnel – you’ll get to experience what it will be like inside the tank filled with tons of animals like the famous whale shark!

Some of the other animals I enjoyed were the manta rays, penguins (poke your head into their home!), eels, sea otters (watch them swim!), and whales!

The aquarium gift shop is filled with something for people of all ages. There’s apparel, toys, plushies, snacks, jewelry, and more! You could potentially spend a lot of time in here as well. But back to the aquarium…

To be honest, I’ve been to a few other aquariums which aren’t as large but took just as much time and were just as enjoyable! I think the Georgia Aquarium is considered very large mostly due to the dolphin tank, the tunnel tank, and the open space for the crowds to hang out, eat, or to watch the penguins walk on the ramp (which may or may not be worth the wait, depending on your visit). Nevertheless, I’m glad I got to check it out! And now you get to check out some of the highlights from my visit in the following video:

The Year Of The Con

CON!!!

In the early 1990’s being a kid was all about Saturday morning cartoons: Batman, Superman, X-Men, Spider-Man, Iron Man, and the list goes on! These shows were the only way you could learn about comic book characters aside from… comic books.

But as I grew up, where did all of this cartoon-watching & comic-reading pastime get me? What did it all amount to?

So once I discovered the idea of a comic con, I was hooked! One of my first exposures to this kind of idea was Book Expo America 2005 in NYC.

Soon after, I was introduced to the 501st Legion, an international fan-based organization dedicated to costume as Imperials for charity, such as the Trooper above. So you can imagine my surprise when I found out that there are conventions all around the world where not only are there Star Wars enthusiasts like me, but costumers (cosplayers) and endless halls of vendors with rare & collectible items!

Fast forward 11 years to 2016, where I knew I would be attending my 5th New York Comic Con… yet, that didn’t stop me from hitting up more cons! Hence: The Year Of The Con… In total, I attended 9 comic cons! So if you bear with me for a moment, here are the ups & downs of each of them:

April 2 – L.I. Geek Con (Long Island, NY)

A smaller con that I had never heard of but I made the drive out to Long Island to meet Greg Grunberg, long time friend of J.J. Abrams and sci-fi extra of the decade! If you’re a fan of the sci-fi and/or superhero genre, chances are you’ve seen Greg in something (Alias, Star Trek Beyond, Heroes, Agents Of SHIELD, to name a few…). But I wanted to meet him to get my Temmin “Snap” Wexley figure signed from The Force Awakens. Really nice guy and if it weren’t for him, the con would’ve been a major bust. Plus, got to chat with a fellow fan while waiting on line, which always helps the time go by!

April 16 – East Coast Comic Con (Secaucus, NJ)

I was thoroughly impressed with this convention, especially after L.I. Geek Con. Having already attended New York Comic Con 4 times by this point, I knew the do’s & don’ts of cons pretty well. ECCC had the feel of a big comic con but was housed in a pretty limited space. But I must say that this one really got my blood pumping with excitement for NYCC (but still 6 months to go)! There were some great local vendors & artists, and some amazing cosplay to go along with it. And even though the size was “smaller”, it was easy to get engrossed in the show floor for hours. Oh, by the way, I met Jeremy Bulloch – THE Mandalorian himself, Boba Fett! Signed my rocket-firing Vintage Collection Boba Fett and our 8×10 photo by Sci-Fi Photo Guys (not the last time I’ll ever see them either). It’ll be great to meet Jeremy again one day. He’s a super nice guy and takes his time to share his favorite Star Wars memories and hear yours too!

May 1 – Undiscovered Realm Comic Con (White Plains, NY)

What an utter disappointment, and a waste of a drive. I drove 30 miles all for nothing because this newbie con messed up transportation details for the only guest (James Marsters) I was interested in. Now I’m a pretty understanding guy, and I’m well aware of cancellation policies for guests. But James was there all weekend and had to leave a couple hours early because Undiscovered Realm botched up his flight details. This would have been a great detail to post on their social media so that I wouldn’t arrive right when he went for a “lunch break” for 2 hours, aka he’s gone. After circling around a basement of 5 aisles for 2 hours (oh, hello again Sci-Fi Photo Guys!), I found out that James was actually never coming back.

There was a mini crowd of disappointed fans holding their James Marsters memorabilia (mostly Spike from Buffy) as one of the “managers” tried to control the situation by offering ticket refunds and pre-signed 8×10’s. What can you do? But all hope wasn’t lost because I got to meet him eventually… you’ll see what I mean later.

August 20 – Newark Comic Con (Newark, NJ)

This was another tiny convention but it was still more interesting than Long Island and Undiscovered Realm combined! They had some pretty out-there guests but still tons to look at. Plus, I walked away with some great purchases. We sat in on the Cosplay Panel, which was pretty lackluster, but it helped us to cool down since it was super hot that day and most of the con was outdoors (to the surprise of both the fans and the vendors)! But meet & greet #3, check! Phoenix James, one of the First Order Stormtroopers responsible for the capture of Max von Sydow’s character, Lor San Tekka, in The Force Awakens. Signed my carded FO Trooper, and we got this sweet photo together wearing our Star Wars shirts. I felt bad for some of the vendors/artists who I saw leave angrily before the con was even halfway through (might have to do with the fact that they weren’t guaranteed a booth, or even a table)!

August 27 – Monsters & Robots (Somerset, NJ)

If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking, “what an unusual name for a con”… especially once you find out there weren’t many monsters & robots! But I suppose you can consider Nien Nunb a “monster” and Darth Vader a “robot”! Again, a lot of “been there, done that” moments but meeting Mike Quinn & Brian Muir from Star Wars was iconic & memorable, so it was worth it! Plus we got to take photos with the Ghostbusters Ecto & Back To The Future DeLorean. But judging by the many vendors disappointed in the turnout & marketing flop of the con, I don’t imagine this one lasting very long (even though this is brought to you by the same makers as the successful East Coast Comic Con).

September 10 – Wizard World (Richmond, VA)

Officially the farthest I’ve driven to reach a con (350 miles, one-way)! But the stakes were high: Ray Park (Darth Maul, Snake Eyes, Toad) and, finally, James Marsters! Daniel Logan (young Boba Fett) was on the list too but unfortunately cancelled last minute. But being able to tell James Marsters the whole story from Undiscovered Realm made it totally worth the trip. He was so understanding and actually took his time to get to know his fans, compared to some other celebrities who breezed through the autographs.

But to be honest, I was expecting a little more from Wizard. I grew up reading their magazines in my local comic book shop, so I had higher hopes for this con. But I suppose in order for it to make sense to have multiple Wizard World conventions throughout the year, they need to be on a smaller scale. This is part of the joke that Jerome Blake made at NYCC.

Still, it was a great experience and they had some fun displays & giveaways set up around the show floor. Got to get a couple of Darth Maul things signed and took a photo with the man himself. But one of the highlights from the trip was definitely Mama J’s soul food with an amazing 4.5 stars on Yelp. More photos from Wizard World.

October 9 – New York Comic Con (New York, NY)

So you have comic cons, and then you have Comic Con. NYCC is the best I’ve ever seen & continue to see on a yearly basis. As my 7th con of the year, it still surpassed all the others! There was talk that the Friday queue to enter went on for blocks without moving (way past opening time), while latecomers just walked in through the front door. Luckily, I didn’t experience this on Saturday. Yes, the lines are longer and the crowds are bigger, but New York Comic Con is an unbeatable experience! Every year, just look at the long list of appearances & panels available… and that’s nothing compared to the massive show floor & displays. It was also when we got to meet Carrie Fisher (Rest In Peace, Carrie & Debbie…). Read more about NYCC specifically here.

November 12 – Rhode Island Comic Con (Providence, RI)

What a nightmare of a con… Some people there called RICC the San Diego Comic Con of the East Coast, but clearly they haven’t attended NYCC before. From navigation to execution to everything in between, RICC failed in so many ways. But I suppose it’s worth it since I got to meet Billy Dee Williams, John Ratzenberger, and Felix Silla. This place had the crowded feeling of NYCC but in the space of a smaller con. So much running was involved in order to make it to things on time (and there weren’t even that many things going on)! But in the end, settled down with the best bowl of ramen I’ve ever had at Ken’s Ramen.

December 3 – Wintercon (Jamaica, NY)

Last con of the year and what a year it’s been! But it was amazing to wrap up my year of cons by meeting some of the legendary Star Wars rebel pilots we’ve come to know & love: Chewbacca, Nien Nunb, Biggs, and John D. Branon. Plus, Tion Medon from Utapau in Episode III. Wintercon was very well-put together for the size it was. It wasn’t too crowded since the show floor was wide, and there were plenty of unique vendors to check out. I didn’t buy anything but I did score a cool Death Trooper pin + Yavin patch for asking an awesome question at the rebels panel! One of the best parts about this venue was the free parking. Because of the proximity & ease of getting there, I’d come again if the guest list was good enough!

Happy New Year, and many more cons to come!