New York Comic Con 2017

It’s that time of year again for the biggest pop culture event on the East Coast! This marks my 6th year attending New York Comic Con, home to the latest in comics, video games, movies, toys, anime, and much more!

If you’ve only attended small cons before, New York Comic Con is exactly the same… except pumped up on Bane’s Venom formula! Just imagine your favorite local comic con amplified 10 times! So without further delay, here are some of my favorite moments:

Despite the space restrictions this year due to the $1.5 billion Javits Center expansion, I think ReedPOP did a good job managing their 12th NYCC. And as always, they had a great display for DC Comics in the South Concourse. A giant Justice League banner & costumes were out, DC television show clips were playing, and some cool freebies were given out.

On top of that, Graphitti Designs had some incredible t-shirts and variant covers of this year’s Dark Nights Metal issues as well as their tie-in’s (Red Death, Murder Machine, and Dawnbreaker). I waited on their line which was almost an hour long and many covers sold out for each day’s allotted quantities! Thankfully I got the ones I wanted.

Along with DC were some amazing booths for photo ops, VR/AR, and fan experiences. You could hang like Spidey in an upside-down room, step inside SpongeBob’s Pineapple, or snap a photo with some Justice League cardboard cutouts.

But I had a blast inside on the show floor.

One of my favorite exhibitors is trading card company Topps. They were offering giveaways and Star Wars autographing all weekend.

On Thursday, I got to meet Jerome Blake (who I had the privilege of meeting last year as well) and even got to hang with him a little afterwards. Such a nice guy and his presence in Episode I is quite important! He signed an 8×10 and my Oppo Rancisis figure.

On Saturday, I met Philip Anthony-Rodriguez (the voice of the Fifth Brother in Star Wars Rebels) who signed an 8×10, my Fifth Brother figure, and my Topps card.

Just as they did at Star Wars Celebration 2017, Topps authenticated the autographs with their special holographic QR code which verifies that specific signature. And on top of the free autographs, Topps was also offering some great giveaways by participating in a scavenger hunt & app demo!

To get the exclusive chase droid cards, you had to receive 3 stamps found on the map card. They were also giving out an exclusive trading card each day from The Walking Dead, Star Wars, Garbage Pail Kids, and Mysticons. Lastly, you could win exclusives like a Star Wars poster, card holder, or Rey pin by earning a high score on their game Topps BUNT’s Batter Up.

In addition to Topps, Konami had a section set up for Yu-Gi-Oh. They were handing out Yugi hair headbands and had a booth to turn yourself into a custom token card!

Like many others, we went for the New York Comic Con exclusive design! This was a great freebie and the line wasn’t that long either.

Some other great photo ops were Bandai’s Power Rangers morphin’ grid and a Dragon Ball power-up video (more in my YouTube video). I even met Sean Schemmel (voice of Goku) while waiting to power up!

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet David Yost (the original Blue Ranger) this time around. He & Amy Jo Johnson are the last of the original MMPR cast I’ve yet to meet. But I did get to meet some other amazing stars.

Kevin Conroy – He’s not just the hero of Gotham. He’s the hero of my childhood. “I am vengeance, I am the night, I am Batman!” A long line to meet him, but well worth it! I told him how much Batman The Animated Series impacted me growing up. I brought one of my favorite childhood Batman Adventures comic book to get signed too. I explained that Loren Lester (Robin/Nightwing) signed off to the side to leave room for Kevin’s autograph. Mr. Conroy laughed and signed up top to leave room for Tara Strong (Batgirl).

Tara Strong – This was Tara’s first NYCC! One of the most popular voice actors of our time: Timmy Turner, Bubbles, Raven, Harley Quinn, Batgirl, the list goes on and on! And while she arrived late to her last autographing session, Tara stayed extra to meet every single fan instead of cutting the line short. I told her the story of Loren & Kevin and how there’s tons of room for her name now… and she signed a very tiny autograph on Batgirl’s cape. What a story! This comic book is now being graded by CGC with their Signature Series program.

Jim Cummings – Kind of a Disney legend. You may know him as the voice of Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Pete (Goofy), Razoul (Aladdin), Bonkers, Darkwing Duck, Dr. Robotnik… You can check out his IMDb for more! But I just had to finally get his autograph on my Hondo Ohnaka figure from Star Wars The Clone Wars. Initially, we were worried on the line because a lot of time passed and he hadn’t shown up for his autographing session. But when he finally arrived, we all had a fun time. As I was leaving, he even did the voice for me: “Do me a favor… [voice] Be careful out there. There are Jedi EVERYwhere!”

Nolan North – Another voice actor legend. His credits are too long to list (IMDb) and his line never got shorter! He was a very nice guy and took the time to chat with fans. He told me a great story about how he was directed by George Lucas for the episode of The Clone Wars he voiced as El-Les. I told him that that episode was so good and kicked off one of my favorite story lines in the whole series.

Along with the autographing area downstairs was the new Artist Alley. Because of the construction being done at the Javits, Artist Alley was moved to the “experimental” hall from last year. Frankly, it was too warm down there and I can’t imagine spending all day in the cramped aisles. I had to navigate through here a couple times to reach the lower level CGC (because the upper level CGC would not travel to the autographing area). But at least I got a free print from artist Christopher Jones!

Meanwhile, upstairs on the show floor you could find some great artists & writers for meet & greets and book signings.

Early in the morning I received the wristband which entitled me to purchase the convention exclusive of From A Certain Point Of View – Penguin Random House’s compilation of 40 Star Wars stories from 40 different authors! Over the course of the NYCC weekend, I was able to get my exclusive book signed by 4 of the authors who worked on it (which is 10%… not bad, I guess?): Chuck Wendig, Delilah S. Dawson, Pablo Hidalgo, and Jason Fry. They each signed standalone posters for their respective books as well.

IDW also had a signing with Star Wars Adventures creatives Derek Charm (artist) and Landry Q. Walker (writer). They signed my SDCC Star Wars Adventure #0 ashcan issue and it’s on its way to CGC too! Surprisingly, they mentioned that they didn’t get any of these to sign this weekend:

What’s beautiful about New York Comic Con is that it appeals to all kinds of fandoms whether it’s comic books, movies, or pop culture in general. And the Fandom Fantasy Food Truck is no letdown in this category. Featuring food & drink from Star Wars, Stranger Things, Rick & Morty, and The Walking Dead, this food truck serves up sweet & salty treats to give you a little boost during the con.

Quantities were limited and were on a first come, first serve basis. But throughout the weekend we were able to try out all 4 items: Porg In A Blanket (chocolate cake pop with royal icing, white chocolate, and marshmallow wrapped in a mini tortilla), Upside Down Waffle (whole grain waffle covered in milk chocolate, cotton candy, unsweetened coconut flakes, and marshmallow), Pickle Rick Soda (dill pickle juice, fresh dill, club soda, and pickles), and Lucille Bat Pretzel (a pretzel stick covered in caramel, white chocolate, red food coloring, and a candy eye)!

Also, throughout the con, food vendors were serving up Brooklyn Defender 2017! We didn’t get to pick up a pint but we got to check out the launch party last month. Check it out here.

But one of the best parts of the con was the surprise booth by Verizon to showcase Star Wars: The Last Jedi (and how about that trailer??)! This immersive experience deserved its own post so be sure to check it out here.

Some other highlights from the con were the world premiere of 8K at Domo! World, the DIRECTV NOW Walking Dead photo booth, Weta Digital’s Planet of the Apes mocap station, and the Lego BrickHeadz truck for the Boba Fett/Han Solo Carbonite exclusive!

We wrapped up our time at New York Comic Con with An Evening with Mark Hamill at the Hammerstein Ballroom. Because we got to meet Mark at Celebration for photos & autographs, we decided to skip the meet & greet at NYCC and opted for the paid panel. Recently ReedPOP started offering a variety of off-site panels that don’t require NYCC badges but do require payment. This is an excellent alternative for non-attendees, but additional hurt for already paying con attendees. (Not to mention the extensive bag check removing all Sharpies, gum, etc. which we sort of got back after the show…)

For $1500, you’ll be in the first row with a post-show meet & greet with Hamill himself – plus an included autograph & photo session. Needless to say, we got the best seats on the first balcony and enjoyed 2 solid hours of #Hamillstein – stories of his journey as Luke, his voice acting career, an extensive Q&A, and a heartfelt tribute to Carrie Fisher.

15 random audience members received a blue Post-it indicating that they would be moved to stage seats, which they called Hamill-vision! This also guaranteed them a free autographed headshot presented later in the show. And during the Q&A, the first 15 people also received autographs.

It was truly a memorable talk even if you’ve heard some of the stories before. Mark has a way with words and you can tell the man really cares about the fans too!

To wrap up, New York Comic Con 2017 was so much fun! Honestly I was worried about the crowds and space issues due to the construction but not only was this not an issue, ReedPOP did an unbelievable job managing the morning queue lines too! We got to do almost everything we planned, and even had time to visit the WB/Boomerang/BoxLunch “Get Animated!” pop-up on top of that. I’ll be curious to see how next year is handled as the Javits goes through even more changes.

Until then, see you at the next con!

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Legoland Discovery Center: Lego Ninjago Movie Days + Giveaway!

*Don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end of this post to win a Family 4 Pack of tickets to LDC Westchester!*

Find your inner ninja on September 22-24 and September 30-October 1 at Legoland Discovery Center!

With this fall’s new Lego Ninjago Movie, Legoland Discovery Center is launching a special series of events especially for Ninjago fans! Here you can take part in a ninja-themed scavenger hunt, help build a big mosaic portrait of the Green Ninja Lloyd, build something special in the master class, and much more!

I had the privilege of checking out the Lego Ninjago Movie Days this past weekend and it was a blast for kids and families of all ages.

Apart from the existing Legoland attractions (which you can read about here), new Ninjago fun has been added. Up above, you can snap a photo with Lloyd, Nya, or Master Wu – completely made out of bricks! Or be your own ninja with the cardboard cutouts next to Ninjago City Adventure, a two-story 2,300 square foot interactive play area!

And as if that still wasn’t enough, keep your eyes peeled for Kai the Red Ninja who makes his rounds throughout Legoland. Strike a pose and help defend Ninjago against Evil Lord Garmadon!

The positive energy at Legoland Discovery Center Westchester is always a plus and the staff is always helpful. Thanks to them, I was able to find the room where you can help build the big mosaic of Lloyd (or as Garmadon calls him, La-Lloyd)!

Simply pick a 6×6 plate (or try to find the corresponding number if you prefer a specific spot on the mosaic) and build along with the mapped out colors!

I played my part! Here’s plate #215, one of the last available spots on Lloyd’s face. It was so much fun to take part in, and I can’t wait to see the finished product! Don’t miss out on your chance – visit Legoland Discovery Center this weekend!

Not only that, there are plenty more activities that are unique to Lego Ninjago Movie Days:

In the Master Builder Workshop, you can build mosaics of Ninjago characters! Simply use the examples on the screen provided by the instructor. There are buckets of colors on the tables for you to build on a 16×16 plate.

It could be one of the main ninjas, or you can be creative and make your own! We decided to build Master Wu and an original ninja, J:

The second Master Builder Workshop is to design your initials using the Ninjago language. At the start of the class, you’re given a translation sheet and practice paper so that you can map out how you want to design your initials.

Using the same buckets of bricks and 16×16 plates, the instructor walks you through the basics of creating your initials. We decided to make our initials with their English counterparts, with some white highlights. What will you come up with?

And again, the staff here is so friendly and great with kids. If your family is big on collecting minifigures, be sure to bring some to trade! Many staff members have a nametag with a minifigure connected to it. Offer a trade and see what happens – you never know! (During the Lego Ninjago Movie Days, all staff members will have a Lego Ninjago Movie minifigure on their nametag, unless they’ve traded already for a non-Ninjago figure)

Lastly, a newer feature in Legoland Discovery Center is the Lego In-Store Action app!

This AR (augmented reality) app allows you to scan displays around the attraction to see Lego characters come to life.

In this particular case, the Master Wu #BENINJA Activity Station will allow you to see this popular Ninjago character:

Watch as Lloyd comes to life! Pose with him, or just take a picture of him next to your favorite section inside Legoland.

Once you save your awesome photo, tag @LDCWestchester and use hashtag #BENINJA on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook for a chance to win a Lego Ninjago Prize Pack!

And speaking of winning, I’ll be picking one lucky winner on October 5, 2017 for a Family 4 Pack of tickets to visit Legoland Discovery Center Westchester! Entering is easy, so you won’t want to miss out on this: Enter Here.

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!

All New AMC “Ultra Lux” Dine-In Theatre (Shops at Riverside, Hackensack, NJ)

The first Ultra Lux AMC Theatre opened today at the Shops at Riverside in Hackensack, NJ. AMC’s latest movie theater offers the feature Delivery to Seat with guest-favorite movie-going amenities in an upscale environment.

With renovations currently going on at the mall, this new AMC is a great addition as a luxury entertainment experience. Walking into this theater is already different from other AMC’s with beautifully tiled floors, upscale decor, elegant lighting, and a lobby rivaled only by posh hotels.

Arrived early? No worries! The lobby is very spacious and if you’re not ordering from the concession stand, sit back and enjoy one of the carpeted seating areas accompanied by a flat screen television.

Standing on lines to order tickets is a thing of the past, and that couldn’t be truer here at AMC DINE-IN Shops at Riverside 9. Not only can you buy & reserve seats on your phone, you can do the same at their ticketing kiosks inside or outside the theater.

Tickets are very reasonable considering the experience you’ll get inside: plush AMC Signature recliners and a comfortable “eat-at-seat” service!

And when you’re ready to order, stop by the food & beverage area to choose from a menu full of amazing handcrafted entrees, appetizers and desserts. And once your order is ready, it’ll be delivered straight to your seat!

Have some time? Grab a drink at the concession stand or the AMC MacGuffins bar (21+) which offers beer, wine, and cocktails that can be enjoyed before, during, or after the movie.

On your way in, don’t worry about those stubs! This Ultra Lux Theatre features ticketless entry. Head on over to one of the 9 state-of-the-art theaters for your show and make your way to your assigned seat.

I’ve been to other AMC DINE-IN Theatres and this one differs most obviously by the aesthetics but also the theater size. Other locations I’ve tried will seat less viewers to accommodate bulkier chairs or more leg room. While AMC DINE-IN Shops at Riverside 9 also has plenty of personal space, it also fits a large crowd inside. Just take a look at this stunning interior:

It’s by no means small and the rows & seats are clearly marked. Every seat is optimized for a clear view of the screen and makes sure your viewing is as comfortable as possible. Here is an example of the recliners, one fully reclined and one fully upright:

Snack on some AMC signature items like the Ultimate Nachos (starting at $10.99) or Poutine Fries ($10.29). Or if you’ve got a larger appetite, aim big with the Asian Steak & Shrimp Bowl ($16.49), Royal Burger ($12.99) or Chipotle Chicken Melt ($12.79)!

Then satisfy your sweet tooth with a Ghiradelli Chocolate Milkshake or OREO Milkshake, but don’t forget to check out the wall of iconic movie quotes before you leave (if you didn’t already on the way in).

“I’ll have what she’s having”

“You had me at hello”

“To infinity and beyond”

But I’ll leave you with my favorite from the photo above: “MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU”

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!)

INTRODUCTION

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.

TRANSFORMERS

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.

STAR WARS

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…

G.I. JOE

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:

MARVEL

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!

BOARD GAMES

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!

NERF

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!

OTHER BRANDS

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:

CELEBRITY MEET & GREETS

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)!

Up Close: Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel (Westfield World Trade Center Oculus)

During a limited engagement in the Oculus at Westfield World Trade Center, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel came to life with breathtaking life-size replicas! Thanks to some state-of-the-art technology, the ceiling paintings from the Sistine Chapel were reproduced in full scale and were put on display for all to see. Inspect the artwork from afar or up close – either way, this is an art spectacle like you’ve never seen before!

Feast your eyes on sections of the Sistine Chapel from A (Adam) to Z (Last Judgment)!

Each panel has a brief description of what you’re looking at. On top of that, an audio guide is also available for those who are interested.

Get lost within the display of 34 works of art straight from Rome!

The details were exquisite and though the exhibit was brief, it’s a must for any Renaissance art fan.

And what was great about seeing it in the Oculus was that you could view these pieces not only from within the exhibit itself, but from many vantage points throughout the mall.

Here’s a favorite shot of mine from one of the balconies inside:

But the only way to get the best look at Michelangelo’s masterpiece is to step inside and get “up close”!

Be sure to hurry! Though its time in the Oculus is over (6/23/17 to 7/23/17), the exhibit is continuing their 8-city tour, leaving just 7 locations for the next year.

See if any are at a mall near you:

  • Westfield Garden State Plaza (Paramus, NJ) – 9/1/17 to 10/15/17
  • Westfield Topanga (Los Angeles, CA) – 11/3/17 to 12/31/17
  • Westfield Galleria at Roseville (Roseville, CA) – 1/12/18 to 2/18/18
  • Westfield Southcenter (Seattle, WA) – 3/1/18 to 4/8/18
  • Westfield Old Orchard (Skokie, IL) – 4/27/18 to 6/3/18
  • Westfield Annapolis (Annapolis, MD) – 6/4/18 to 7/22/18
  • Westfield UTC (San Diego, CA) – 8/9/18 to 9/23/18

Get tickets here!

The Art of Spider-Man Exhibit NYC

Hey Spider-Man fans! At the Society of Illustrators (previously known as the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art), your friendly neighborhood web-slinger is swinging into action with the largest collection ever seen in the world… I counted over 160 framed pieces of art!

The first ever exhibition of original Spider-Man artwork by John Romita and other significant artists including Steve Ditko, Todd McFarlane, John Buscema, Ross Andru, Gil Kane, Ron Frenz, Keith Pollard, John Romita Jr. and others. The exhibit runs from June 6th through August 26th, 2017.

Get ready for Spider-Man everything, from never-before-seen art to memorabilia! Here are some of my favorite shots from my visit, plus a video at the end of this post:

Every inch of wall was taken up by something amazingly interesting, whether it was pages from a Spider-Man script or a pencil sketch. But one of the coolest displays was the first setup as soon as you reach the second floor of the museum:

Here you find just a small glimpse of what’s to be expected inside: rare framed art from the comics, newspapers, ads, and more! Some were signed by the artists like John Romita, and even Stan Lee himself! Excelsior!

The first corridor began with a wall decal of Spidey and some iconic poses by John Romita. But around the corner was a fantastic display of more incredible pieces:

It took a while to get out of this hallway. Too much eye candy!

What I loved about this exhibit at the Society was that each framed piece has a tag that explains where it comes from with all of its credits (issue #, year, writer, penciler, inker, etc.).

As you make your way to the top floor, the museum continues to use every space possible before you even make it up to the next floor… Wall decals, more art, and even a ceiling decal! If you don’t look up, you’ll easily miss this fun sign:

Once you reach the top, you’re greeted with an oversized version of Amazing Spider-Man #50 (“Spider-Man No More!”), signed by John Romita:

As the final stop in the exhibit, the museum did a great job showcasing some even rarer drawings and collectibles on beautiful brick walls.

And what’s great about seeing this iconic art up close is that you can see that some of these pieces were not an overnight success. You can see where artists needed to undo and redo lines, touch-up, even white-out to get the perfect illustrations. Just look at this proof of 1972’s Marvel Tales #34:

But not everything was a published (or to be published) piece of art. Since much of the exhibit was on loan from collectors/experts Mike Burkey and Rob Pistella, many pieces were custom and personalized to specific individuals. What an amazing feeling that must be, to have original Spider-Man art drawn for you! Or to even own a piece of history like… John Romita’s pencil?

But fans of pop culture will be glad to know that this exhibit isn’t just for the art but also the lasting impression Spider-Man has made in TV, movies, and of course merchandise.

In two cases were shelves of collectibles, ranging from statues to collectible coins!

Some of my favorites were the 3-pack coin set of Spider-Man, Hulk, & Conan the Barbarian and a Midtown High diploma for Harry Osborn, complete with a Green Goblin sketch by John Romita!

This last floor is a shared space with their 128 Bar & Bistro so there were places to dine & sit, or have a drink at the bar. I had to ask the bartender for his signature drink for the event, aptly named “The Spider-Man”. Look at those Spidey colors!

Finally, on the way out, be sure to stop by the gift shop! They have some great items that coincide with all of their exhibits, not just the Art of Spider-Man. You can pick up a sketchpad, some prints, or apparel. Check out the range of Spider-Man gifts they have for sale in the video below! I opted for solely the exclusive variant of Secret Wars #1 from Dynamic Forces, limited to 15,000 copies and comes with a certificate of authenticity!

Don’t delay! This awesome exhibition crawls away very soon!

Six Flags – Justice League: Battle for Metropolis 4D Ride

One of the latest rides at Six Flags Great Adventure is Justice League: Battle For Metropolis. As the sixth park to get it, I was super excited to finally check out this 4D ride, newly installed inside Movietown as a reinvented DC “Metropolis” starting with the crossing of the Metro-Narrows Bridge. This is a great shout-out to classic comics where Metropolis & Gotham City are geographically situated next to each other and separated by a bridge by the same name.

Other Metropolis goodies include eateries like Metro Grill and Munchopolis:

The bathrooms were labeled with “Metropolis Water And Power” and the observatory was renamed “Lena Luthor Science Explorarium”.

These are all great photo opportunities for DC fans, especially if you score a deal on Six Flags’ capes in the shop. There’s often a BOGO deal on capes, or specials offered with your Season Pass. But nothing will be a better photo opp than the actual Hall Of Justice itself. From the weathering of the building to the “fountain” sculpture in the front, all the details were in place for a fantastic Justice League experience.

So we just had to take a photo ourselves, representing Supergirl & Green Arrow. But Kara & Oliver’s got nothin’ on us!

From start to finish, this ride reminded me a lot of Universal Studios Orlando, from the line-up to the queue itself. Once you step on the line, you’re handed a slip of paper with a place number. You’re not allowed to leave & re-enter, or cut the line, for any reason. One family was removed from the line for not complying… but that’s a story for another time.

Starting from the moment we stepped on the line, it took us 1 hour to find ourselves sitting in the ride itself. But time went by rather quickly while looking at some of the amazing JL decor.

I thought the marble was well done and they even topped it off with marble-esque statues of our favorite JLA members: Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman:

Even though I knew what to expect from the ride, many others didn’t. Luckily for them, there’s an animated video playing in the queue hall to explain the plot and purpose of the ride: Lex Luthor & Joker have branded the Justice League as public enemies and captured Supergirl, The Flash, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman. Our job is to work with Cyborg and use our EMP blasters to help Superman & Batman stop trouble throughout the city and ultimately save the Justice League, scoring points along the way.

Fans of the 90s cartoons will be glad to hear Kevin Conroy as the voice of Batman. It was difficult to hear over the crowd but Joker’s voice could be Mark Hamill or a very good imitator.

And as you make your way towards the end of the wait, you enter a great hall featuring an animatronic Cyborg and more videos on a large screen. You will be divided by group size, which makes loading the cars a lot easier based on who you are riding with. I was very grateful for this because the group of 3 in front of us was very loud & wild.

Once you’re handed the 3D glasses, you’re ready for the ride itself! It runs about 4 minutes long and each car holds 6 players (3 in each row). The blasters are easy to use and are easily retractable, avoiding tangled lines in the car.

The ride itself is a lot of fun! Just imagine the Universal Studios Transformers or Men In Black ride but with a Justice League theme. The moving props throughout the ride are a nice touch (brought to you by the same makers as E.T. Adventure at Universal Studios Orlando & Hollywood). They even tell you what percentile your score falls under. My final score was a whopping 130,832! Can you beat it?

When the ride finishes, the Justice League presents everyone’s scores on a screen with black boxes, which I assume is supposed to show your face from hidden cameras (but failed). And when you exit the car, 6 smaller screens display each score with a black box as well. This path leads straight to the store:

The DC Super Hero Store is also a new addition to this area and sells many unique items only found in this store. Tons of DC souvenirs can be found here ranging from apparel, pinhole sunglasses, themed cups, plush dolls, action figures, etc.

I hope Six Flags starts to install more rides like Battle For Metropolis. It’s easily a top ride for me now. Glad I don’t have to travel all the way to Orlando to have fun like this again & again!

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!