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     Friday July 23, 2004
San Diego Comiccon

I was able to attend the San Diego ComicCon International for one of the four days that it was open. This was the first year that I have tried pre-registration (on the internet) for my pass, rather than waiting in line on the day of attendance. Man, what a difference that made! Last year, I was in line for about two hours to purchase my one-day pass for the convention. This year, I waited for about five minutes to get inside to a row of computers where I could enter by name or registration ID to have my pass immediately printed out. This was also the first time I have ever had to wait to enter the convention hall (the exhibition hall doors don't open until 10:00 AM, so I had to wait almost an hour).

There were quite a few costumes in evidence at this early stage, so at least there was some rubber-necking to be done. The only costume that I snapped a picture of during my wait was this guy, who denied any specific inspiration for his costume (though I thought he looked a lot like Alex or one of his droogs from A Cockwork Orange). He was probably only pursuing the very prevalent "goth/ punk-not" theme that many attendees were decked out in or possibly even the "undead" theme that was also somewhat prevalent...

Once inside, I was struck by the immensity of the convention hall and the number of exhibitors, artists, and costumed pitch-people. I planned the route that would give me the opportunity to see everything (or so I thought), and set out to the east end of the convention hall, to begin wandering up and down each aisle of exhibitors with my trusty camera in hand.

The costumes seemed to fall mainly under one of four themes this year: Star Wars, Lord of the Rings (elves, generally--but I did see one dwarf), goth or, of course, superheroes.

Mark Oakley wasn't there again this year. I really didn't expect him to be there, but I was disappointed nevertheless.

Ryan Woodward (Invinvcible Ed) was there again this year, so I had that going for me. I picked up his sketchbook called Gesture drawings and sketchbook from life. Also for sale in Ryan's booth was the latest issue of L'il Red Stitch by Courtney Huddleston. I, after no little embarassment, discovered this year that Courtney is a man, not a woman. I guess he gets that a lot.

Mike Kunkel (Herobear and the Kid) was also there. He was selling the usual Herobear backissues as well as a new hardcover book called The Land of the SokMunster. The book came in two variations--a color cover or a blank white cover for Mike to sketch on. I bought the blank cover. The other new item was a two issue Convention exclusive comic, Herobear and Decoy in Fieldtrip, that also came with a mostly plain white cover, which mike generously filled with a sketch. Mike also drew another Herobear sketch on the inside of Laurie Breitkreuz's sketchbook. More about that in a minute...

While rubbernecking in the halls outside the convention halls, I was feeling reluctant to ask most of the costumed guests for permission to take their photos, but once inside, I found new reserves of insolence and asked nearly anyone that caught my eye if they would allow me to snap a photo...

There was a huge Star Wars "pavillion" with an actual-size X-Wing fighter surrounded by various costumed characters: pilots, stormtroopers, jedi, etc. Tie fighters hung from the ceiling and stormtroopers stood watch atop the displays. Apparently, Hasbro is re-releasing all the original Star Wars toys with updated packaging as well as many new Star Wars toys. There was also a life-sized Darth Vader made entirely of Legos (and many other Lego related Star Wars items). One of the Star Wars booths had a model dressed as Leia (as Jabba's prisoner).

One of the comic creators I met for the first time was the Konsequential Studios team: Laurie Breitkreuz, Jess Mead and Kandrix Foong. They publish a few comic titles, one of which is called A Monk's Tale> It's a Candian book and I had never seen it prior to the 2004 convention, but Jess talked me into buying it as well as their sketchbooks. The comics are quite good and remind me, in a way, of the old Tru Studios' Trollords comics.

One of the sketches in Laurie's sketch book was of a bear that bore a striking resemblance to MIke Kunkel's Herobear. I suggested that she stole it from Mike Kunkel and she insisted that it wasn't plagarism, she was merely inspired by Mike's bear. I teased her about having Mike autograph her bear and later told him the story and asked him to autograph her bear sketch. He went a step further, sketching herobear right on the page over her bear. I had to show it to Laurie and she then had to go show it to Mike and make sure he knew she wasn't plagarising. One more comment about the Konsequential crew: they are from Canada. And they don't know who Mark Oakley is. Shame on them! When I pointed out the lack of Canadian flags, etc in their booth, Laurie showed me her maple leaf.

Further espousing their allegiance to Canada, they told me a joke about how Canada got its name:
When the founders of Canada were deciding on a name for their new nation, they were at a loss. They decided to put Scrabble tiles in a bag and draw letters to determine the name for their country. The first letter that they drew was a "C," and the person who drew the letter said, "C, eh." The next letter was an "N," and the person who drew the letter said, "N, eh." The third letter was a D, which prompted "D, eh." Thus, the name for the country became C-eh-N-eh-D-eh... I guess you had to be there. I thought it was funny.

My friend, Dan Denney, asked me to pick up a copy of Alcatraz High for him while I was at the convention and told me that the author, Bobby Rubio, was a friend from school. I found Bobby and his wife having lunch and told them that Dan had sent me. They were surprised to hear that I knew Dan and asked how he was doing. Yada-yada-yada...I bought copies of his comic (2 issues, so far) for myself and another set for Dan. Bobby was nice enough to do a little sketch on the back of each comic. Unlike some of the other artists at the convention (Greg Horn, for one) who were charging for their sketches, Bobby did his free of charge.

Here are the covers for the first and second issues of the comic. Here are the sketches that Boby did for me on the back of the first and second issues. Bobby Rubio is a remarkably talented guy and his experience in the animation industry (Disney and Nickelodean, especially) is evident when you read his book. The most remarakable thing about this comic is that it is all him. He writes the story, does the art, foots the bill to publish...he does it all. And the comic has full color interiors as well as nice cardstock covers. These books are definitely worth picking up if you don't have them.

Another comic artist I met for the first time was Frank Camusso, creator of Max Hamm: Fairy Tale Detective. His was another comic book that I was unfamiliar with prior to the convention, but a Snow White pinup on display (which I failed to buy, unfortunately) caught my attention and I stopped to talk to Frank. I looked through the 3 comics he had on display and eagerly bought all 3 when I saw the quality of the black and white art within. The cover was eye-catching, too. It looks like one of those children's Golden Books from my childhood. The stories themselves are populated by fairy tale/children's story characters in real world detective situations. They are very interesting and entertaining books. Get them if you can find them.

A common feature in the ever-evolving ComicCon is the prevalence of models. I'm not talking about booth babes --those have always been there. There are generally even ex-Playboy Playmates signing autographs in the autograph section of the convention center (never right in the main hall). This year, Miss Nov 1998's Tiffany Taylor was there (looking amazing), sharing a booth with a blonde ex-playmate (I can't remember who she was, but...let's just say that she couldn't compare to Tiffany Taylor).

Over the past few years, more and more models have been getting their own booths to sell autographed photos, to pose (for a small fee) for photos, and to generate traffic to their web sites. One of these models was the 20 year old Ohio native, Jasmine Grey. She caught my eye because she reminds me of someone I know / have known (although I still can't figure out who it is)...

There were reputedely a few celebrities in attendance, but I failed to see any. Oh well, No biggie. As always, there were a million things to see and, unfortunately, my efforts to capture it all fell far short. Maybe I'll get more than one day next year...

Vacation

We packed up the family and made the annual pilgrimage to Utah/Idaho for the Wilkes Clan family reunion again this year. It's such an ordeal that I'm not sure we'll be doing it again next year. We did make one interesting discovery: we visited, with low expectations, the Rosenbruch World Wildlife Museum in St. George, Utah. It was definitely a small town museum, but the quality of the exhibits was surprising. The large building was a taxidermist's dream: filled with all manner of preserved animals in authentic appearing habitats, Here is a gallery of photos I took in the museum. It's worth the price of admission if you are ever passing through St. George, Utah and find time on your hands.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Bruce Campbell

While on my vaction, I was surfing the internet at my in-laws' house and for whatever reason, ended up on Bruce Campbell's web site. I discovered that he puts out periodic editorials on whatever is on his mind at the time. He is obviously an intelligent, articulate guy with, uncommon for a Hollywood type, some common sense. He also puts a humorous spin on things, so that makes his insights even more fun to read.

Opus

Since I plugged Opus last time and pointed out the fact that I had missed an "issue" of Pickles the Viking Princess, I thought I would post the scan that I was missing (I actually went to the newspaper office and bought the back issue of the news paper for this strip. Funny, huh?) and the subsequent adventure of Pickles.

Here are Pickles' July 11 and August 1 adventures.
I purposely omitted the July 25 strip because, even though Pickles is there, her role is minor and the strip is less funny than these two strips (it's concerned more with Opus).
There has still been no threatening letter from Berke's lawyers, so I guess I should consider myself lucky.

 Books
Nanny Ogg's Cookbook

This is an older work by Terry Pratchett, but one I have never seen in a book store to this day. I happened upon it online when browsing the book listings at the Science Fiction Book Club. If you live in the United States, you are probably as ignorant of this book as I was. It is, in part, as the title suggests, a cook book of the Discworld. The recipes, and everything else in the book, are written in the "tone" of Nanny Ogg, Lancre witch. Throughout the book are notes from the publisher to Nanny Ogg's agent about the content of the book. It's typical Terry Pratchett. The latter part of the book is about Nanny Ogg's ideas on etiquette. The recipes are funnier, though. Here's a snippet from the recipe for deep-sea blowfish:

THE MOST IMPORTANT thing here is not to use any of the blowfish whatsoever, since every single part of it is deadly in a very unpleasant way. Basic'ly, they'd be able to bury you in an envelope. So, after covering all work surfaces, dispose of the blowfish very carefully. Better yet, get someone else, perhaps someone you don't like very much but who doesn't owe you any money, to dispose of the blowfish. An incinerator would be an ideal place, provided the smoke is blowing in the direction of unecessary people.
  Of course, you might ask why bother to obtain a deep-sea blowfish at all? Well, if you do not, the dish will still be very peasant. But it will not have that delicate frisson, as they call it, which lifts the dish to gastronomic heaven. Connoisseurs claim they can tell by the taste if a blowfish has been anywhere near the kitchen on the day of preparation, and woe betide the chef who just couldn't be bothered to go out and buy one.

There are illustrations of the various recipe authors or the topics of etiquette discussion throughout the book (illustrations by Paul Kidby)--even the Wee Free Men get a mention (and a drawing). This is a must have for true Terry Pratchett fans.

Angels & Demons

I had seen The Da Vinci Code all over the place for quite a while, but it wasn't until I read a review in the newspaper and lerned a little more about the story that I became interested. Funnily though, it wasn't The Da Vinci Code that I picked up, but Dan Brown's earlier novel, Angels & Demons.

I love the secret society/conspiracy-type stories by Umberto Eco, Tim Powers and, to a degree, Neil Gaiman. I had read the Illuminatus trilogy years ago and was sure that this was going to be more of the same. To an extent, It was. But by the end, I was discovered that this was more that just another illuminati tall-tale. Dan Brown appears to be very well versed in history, the inner-workings of the Catholic church (which plays a major role in this story), and on many topics in general. I burned through this 539 page book in about 3 days--it was hard to put down. When reading the credits at the end of the book, I was very surprised to read that the primary character, Robert Langdon, in the story is a real person. I'm not sure where the fiction ends and reality begins, but he is, apparently, a real guy.

The Folk of the Fringe

I was sure, from the title, that this was going to be a book about elves. Imagine my surprise when I picked it up and read the jacket. As much as Angels and Demons explored the inner sanctums of the Catholic church, Folk of the Fringe, by Orson Scott Card, delves into the hierarchy and culture of the LDS (Mormon) church. As I was reading this book, I thought that it would probably be difficult for a non-Mormon to follow along through much of the story, but probably no more difficlt than Angels & Demons is for a non-Catholic. My second impression, upon reading the back of the book cover, was that this was a Lucifer's Hammer genre story (a great end of the world / disaster story by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle), but the story dealt less with the difficulties facing the survivors of a limited nuclear and biologial weapon exchange, than the recovery of the people in the Utah/Idaho region of the United States. This story would, no doubt, offer some interesting insights to a reader not familiar with Mormon culture.

The 4 sections of the book (each covering a different part of the timeline of the story) were written independently as short stories making the book's transistions, for me, anyway, somewhat disjointed. But it was an interesting look at a post-apocalyptic future.

 Movies
The Bourne Supremacy

I went to see this film on opening weekend, unfortunately, and was stuck sitting in the third row from the screen. Big mistake. Huge! This movie could have been titled "The Bourne Witch Project." I'm not sure how it appeared for those siting more than 20 feet from the screen, but I was almost ready to lose my lunch several times durng the movie. The camera work, though possibly intentionally so, was awful. Every action scene seemed to have been filmed by a severly caffeinated and/or 90 year old cameraman.

Aside from the constant motion-sickness I experienced, the movie was entertaining enough. It was typical spy movie fare, but not too incredibly unbelivable. And it ended happily. Walt Disney would be proud!

i, robot

It has been years since I read the Issac Asimov story that this movie was very loosely based on, but I am quite familiar with his other "Robot" novels (having re-read them semi-recently) and I'm guessing that this movie strayed substantially from the beaten path of the original story. If I can dig out the Asimov box in the garage, I'll have to do a quick re-read and see where the director/script writers erred. As far as the movie itself, it was enjoyable enough. Product placement was everywhere. The studio may have made their money back before they even released the film. The special effects were very well done. The acting was convincing. The ending was unexpected. There were frequent twists in the plot to keep me on my toes and Will Smith's co-star, Bridget Moynahan was gorgeous.

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 DVDs
Confession of a Teenage Drama Queen

This is yet another teen-chick flick from Disney starring the voluptuous Lindsay Lohan. There is, underneath all the exposed cleavage, vapid teen dialog and misbehavior, a message about...somthing, I guess. I'm just not sure what it was.

The basic story: a teen is uprooted from her urban New York home to move to the suburbs in New Jersey. She brings along the expected teen attitude one would expect; trying to prove her social superiority by dressing like a bizarro at school, lying about her life, etc. Turns out she's a nice girl underneath it all and has a great singing voice to go along with her acting ambitions. And they all live happily ever after. Just what we have all come to expect from Disney's crumbling empire.

Hellboy

I have never felt particularly inspired to read this comic book (as is the case with nearly all the "superhero" genre comics). That being the case, I can't offer any sort of opinion on how closely the movie stayed to the original work.

Here is my impression of the movie: It starts out with a scene straight from Indiana Jones (Nazis pursuing an occult weapon) where Hellboy is discovered as a baby-demon. Jump to 50 years later. Hellboy is all grown up and fighting evil for a secret branch of the US government. And he is not the only non-human member of this crime fighting force--his co-crime fighters are a half fish/half man psychic creature straight out of League of Extraordinary Gentleman and a human with mutant fire controlling abilities straight out of the X-Men.

Enter the supernatural dog/alien/dragon creatures that bore a striking resemblence to the creature from GhostBuster (the one Rick Moranis is chased by and turns into). And then there was Ilsa the she-witch of the Nazis or the undead/immortal assassin. Quite a colorful and nonsensical collection of characters. In the end, the good guys save the day and evil is defeated until the sequel is released.

Cody Banks 2

I enjoy watching Malcolm in the Middle, so I figured this movie couldn't be much more painful than the first Cody Banks film, but I was wrong. There were clever moments (the camp scene from the beginning of the movie was one), but this was obviously a movie made to appeal to the under 18 set. The bumbling, overweight depatriated spy "stuck" in London was a bit much (and if he was being punished, wouldn't they stick him in some third-world dump?). On the bright side, Hannah Spearritt was cute and entertaining in this fluffy romp, and played the role of a much younger teen very convincingly.



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