How Persona 5 Royal Rescued My Heart in Lockdown

Artwork by Shigenori Soejima (Atlus).

Andrew Nardi is a freelance journalist from Melbourne, Australia. In 2016, he presented his dissertation, titled ‘Game Over, Gamers: Contesting the Gamer Identity through the Gamergate Controversy’, at the Australia & New Zealand Communication Association Conference. Since then, he has worked as the editor of BMA Magazine and is currently studying game design and production at the Australian Institute of Entertainment.

In a year of unyielding anxiety and concern for our futures, 2020 was nothing short of frightful. But it was also the year that we received Persona 5 Royal, a game that occupied many of my months in isolation. As the city of Melbourne endured an economic downturn and hard lockdown for over three months, I became segregated from my friends, made redundant at work, and started to feel disconnected from the world at large. P5R became something of a comfort for me in my evenings as I explored Tokyo and got to know my super-powered high school friends. To my surprise however, P5R also helped me reclaim pieces of my identity I thought I’d lost to depression.

Let’s back up. When Persona 5 launched in Japan in 2016, it showed players a window into actual issues that grip Japanese society. The role-playing game and social sim hybrid quickly chalked up a reputation as one of the most stylish, finely tuned and well-written JRPGs ever. But its significance in Japan was much more profound than the overseas response it would receive later.

Persona 5 follows a young, unnamed male protagonist moving into a café loft in Tokyo after a legal dispute in which a sexual predator falsely pins their offence on him when he tries to prevent a case of street harassment. Attending the only school that will accept a student on probation, the protagonist’s reputation is instantly soured by his criminal record – his guardian scrutinises his every action, his homeroom teacher complains at the thought of coordinating him, and unfounded rumours spread rampant among his peers. The plot takes a turn for the supernatural when he and Ryuji Sakamoto – another outcast student – accidentally enter a metaphysical castle born from the distorted desires of the school’s Olympic medal-holding P.E. teacher, who has been physically and sexually abusing students behind closed doors.

The concept and direction of Persona 5 took shape following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, and the events that followed. Before these disasters, Atlus’ P-Studio had planned P5 to be a globe-trotting, backpacking adventure. In their wake, and particularly after observing how the country united in a crisis, the team decided to shift focus back onto Japan to underline the nation’s issues that had worsened or gone too long unaddressed.

Artwork by Shigenori Soejima (Atlus).

From the cyberbullying in its schools, the culture of overworking in its workplaces, to the dishonesty in its politics, and the mistreatment and disregard for its criminals – no topic is too sensitive for developer Atlus to call in its cast of crime fighting high schoolers, the self-proclaimed “Phantom Thieves of Hearts”. So, it’s appropriate that especially in the face of its Japanese audience, Atlus treats these matters with acuteness and empathy. Even in company with Persona 5’s eccentric flair and extravagant art style, it never tries to sensationalise delicate topics.

Persona 5’s brand of social commentary made an impact in its home country because it dared to cast its native audience in a disapproving light. Importantly, the game wrestled with Japan’s widespread apathy which allows for injustices committed by high profile citizens to go unaccounted for, and for some of its most vulnerable citizens to slip through the cracks. Continuing along this thread, P5 sets out to challenge Japan’s collectivist thinking, particularly the stigma of raising one’s voice against the crowd.

In a translated statement from the official Persona website, P5 director Katsura Hashino envisions a harmony of individuality and collectivism. “Individuality isn’t purely good or bad; rather it’s something that has the power to change how people think and act when they’re touched by it.” This speaks to the question at the centre of P5, concerning how a young adult is expected to thrive in a collectivist society where any sense of individuality is under constant threat of suppression. Hashino continues, “we might live in a world that’s less than accommodating to a lot of us and hard to live in. But so long as people don’t give up on reaching out to one another, the individuality that shines both at the [personal] level and from groups as a whole can help us break through that feeling of oppression, and feel free.”

Persona 5’s plot is underscored by such feelings of estrangement, with students exhausted or exiled from their daily networks – home life, extracurricular groups, friendship circles, etc. – and uniting to reform society with their own sense of justice. In an interview with Game Informer, Hashino spoke of this sense of belonging in Japan, explaining that each of the game’s characters feel that they “no longer have a place where they belong in society”. This is the birth of the game’s Phantom Thieves: using a navigational phone app to cross into a psychological “metaverse”, they can enter the minds of wrongdoers (“Palaces”, as the game calls them) and steal their distorted hearts in order to trigger a change in their personalities.

Artwork by Shigenori Soejima (Atlus).

Exploring the minds of evildoers and rehabilitating their dangerous thoughts opens Persona 5 to all manner of discussions on corruption, morality and the psyche. How these scenarios unfold across the course of the game is a thrill to experience, and isn’t worth spoiling here. But while Persona 5 doesn’t shy away from conversations about mental health, especially surrounding the social issues aforementioned, some more focused commentary can be found in Persona 5 Royal.

Persona 5 Royal is an expansion of the original game that includes two new characters and an extra chapter before the curtain call. It also elevates the original plot by offering deeper insight into the tribulations shared by its cast. With the introduction of Dr. Takuto Maruki, a school counsellor, the Phantom Thieves gain a confidant with whom to share their anxieties. The result is that P5R manages to deliver some unapologetic and well-informed comments about mental health, with special attention given to the afflictions one suffers in the high school ecosystem.

“If our game can give people a little courage to keep going in their day to day lives, to face things head on and do something with themselves, then we’ll have done our jobs here.”

—Persona 5 director Katsura Hashino, Famitsu

The Japanese high school experience has always been the centrepiece of the Persona series. In Atlus’ original Sony PlayStation game Revelations: Persona (and before that, the Japan-only title Shin Megami Tensei If… for the Super Famicom), the high school setting was chosen as a point to which players could easily relate and approach the series’ themes. Talking to Kill Screen, Hashino commented, “For both good and bad reasons, the school life experience deeply affects many Japanese people in their daily lives. [Everyone has experienced needing] to compare themselves with others, and, at times, had to suppress their own identity, learning to take hints so they don’t stand out or [become] ostracised from the crowd.”

Without spoiling the events that unfold in Persona 5 Royal’s new chapter, its approach to mental health is at once gentle and intense; it completely grasps the importance of easing oneself into counselling, in creating a safe space where therapy can take place, but also the difficulties involved in confronting and overcoming one’s trauma. P5R, and particularly Dr. Maruki, teach us that it’s normal, even encouraged, to wish for a life without suffering – we should never apologise for that – but when we find ourselves in tough circumstances, we must try to look for strength and growth on the other side.

Artwork by Shigenori Soejima (Atlus).

It’s perhaps for these reasons that so many of us find comfort in Persona 5. It welcomes players into friendships that develop naturally over time, with peers who come to depend on the player’s guidance: a rebellious boy facing up to his anger, an honour student and the high expectations forced on her, a girl staying strong for her hospitalised friend, a recluse re-entering society after losing her mother. As fantastical as the Phantom Thieves are, their individual battle scars are born from real world problems; they represent the developmental roadblocks many teenagers face in their most crucial years. Like in all young adult fiction, it’s a privilege to be able to join these young men and women on their personal journeys while also reflecting on our own.

Labels such as “young adult” are perhaps too broad to define everything Persona 5 strives to achieve, however. Taken as a whole, the Persona series’ central motifs combine magical realism (or urban fantasy) and Jungian theories on human psychology. “The vibrant, everyday life becomes the Persona series’ persona, beckoning players to escape into a fun-filled experience of adolescence,” Hashino told Kill Screen. “But sooner or later, they’ll experience the dark shadow aspect of the game hiding beneath that persona, which they’ll feel a strange connection to.”

At several points across the game every member of the Phantom Thieves will awaken to their Persona (a cognitive being used to fight demons), instigating a reconstruction of that character’s identity. These transformative scenes are loosely informed by elements of Jungian psychology, with respect to how a person houses within their unconscious different façades for different situations, known as personas. As each teenager decides to reject the status quo and unlock their powerful Persona, a turning point is marked in that character’s arc from which they can continue to grow and conquer the challenges in their everyday lives. Witnessing this literal manifestation of a teenager’s identity formation is what makes the Persona series so engrossing. But it’s also why it comes as a disappointment that Persona 5 misses the mark in certain areas of representation.

Across its hundreds of hours of dialogue, Persona 5 is notably lacking any gay romance options or LGBTQ stories. Additional to that, there is an intentionally comedic scene in which the game’s only outwardly gay characters – two unnamed, older men residing in Shinjuku – prey on Ryuji, a teenager, and take him away despite his lack of consent and his calling out to the protagonist for help. For Persona 5 Royal the English localisation team altered this scene, first by naming the two men, and secondly by removing any sexual undertones so that Ryuji is being led away (albeit still against his will) to try on drag.

Artwork by Shigenori Soejima (Atlus).

Persona 5’s decision to make a predatory joke out of its only visibly gay characters will disappoint many who have come to appreciate almost everything else about the game. The resolve to rewrite this scene while maintaining the depiction of a minor being forced into a situation that he feels is unsafe, doesn’t do enough to make amends. For a game that claims to stand up for society’s most oppressed, this scene still feels like a bit of a slap in the face.

Unfortunately, this is only one example of Persona 5 holding on to the dehumanising tropes we’ve come to expect from manga and anime. There are numerous scenes that objectify Ann Takamaki (another teenager), including one in which the player has no choice but to ask her to remove her clothes for a figure drawing session, despite her adamant lack of consent. While that never goes ahead, it’s still an uncomfortable sequence in which a young girl is pressured into exposing herself. The inclusion of these scenes, despite the fact that they take place directly after a separate storyline in which a teacher’s sexual abuse crimes are brought to justice, comes across as selectively tone deaf.

It’s a fair assessment that Atlus makes a much better representation out of Lala Escargot, the crossdressing proprietor of the Crossroads Bar in Shinjuku. Lala welcomes the protagonist into her bar, invites him to try crossdressing without pressuring him, offers him part-time work and even shows concern for his safety when walking alone at night. As a standalone character, Lala possesses her own unique humanity, sass and warmth, and while it’s a shame she isn’t granted her own Confidant quest line as other minor characters are, her honest portrayal in Persona 5 is a step in the right direction.

For a game inspired by some of Japan’s worst disasters in history, it’s no wonder Persona 5 makes a supportive companion during a global pandemic.

Speaking to Japanese magazine Famitsu about the authorial intent behind Persona 5, Hashino explained, “[you’ve] got these high school punks who are trying to bite back at a world that’s trying to pin them down. If our game can give people a little courage to keep going in their day to day lives, to face things head on and do something with themselves, then we’ll have done our jobs here.”

Persona 5 has taught me more than I expected a video game ever could. Its emphasis on time management and life balance showed me the importance of setting aside time for exercise as well as my hobbies. Seeing Ryuji open up about his quarrels on the track team reminded me to pay more attention to my friendships with men. Watching Futaba overcome her agoraphobia helped me to sympathise with my housemate. Even simply directing the protagonist to borrow library books has taught me the healthy habit of always carrying a book around. And if it weren’t for Persona 5 egging me to pen this article, I wouldn’t have tried to reignite my passion for writing. That’s why any player is likely to pick up a life lesson from Persona 5 – the game encourages self-improvement at almost every turn.

Artwork by Shigenori Soejima (Atlus).

For a game inspired by some of Japan’s worst disasters in history, it’s no wonder Persona 5 makes a supportive companion during a global pandemic. This is a game that sympathises with the feeling of being removed from society. It only takes a quick glance at the Persona 5 subreddit to witness the immense emotional weight this game carries, as plenty have spelled out how their life changed for the better as a consequence of playing P5. While that may not be true for everyone, there’s no denying that P5 and P5R, though at their core developed with a Japanese audience in mind, weave coming-of-age stories that resonate powerfully across our generation.

If you’re currently living in lockdown and craving an escape, do what I and so many others have done and pick up Persona 5 Royal. It’s a temporary stay in a foreign country, full of life-affirming experiences and new friends you won’t soon forget.

Thank you for reading my piece on Persona 5 Royal. I hope it encouraged you to take a look at this very special game. If you would like to check out more of my work on games, you can follow my blog at bigxp.net and my Twitch stream at twitch.tv/Hoffy. If this piece resonated with you, you could donate to Give2Asia to help support the COVID-19 response in Japan.

May the 4th, Revenge of the 5th, and so on be with you…

Happy Star Wars Day, even though it will over by the time you read this…

Yet, the many of us don’t stop really enjoying and appreciating those Star Wars.

Star Wars is with us forever. What a silly thing this science fiction franchise does for us! So many among love the characters, get deep into its expansive lore, praise, or groan emotionally at creative turns through the years across all mediums. And how remarkable and surprising was that Star Wars: Clone Wars finale? 10 out of 10 lightsabers up for me!

What is it about Star Wars appeals to so many beyond its initial groundbreaking movies from decades ago? There’s a huge plethora of cool creatures, spaceships, robots, action with laser swords and laser pistols. There’s weird space politics, mystical religions, various cultures, and lifestyles that keep growing with the many more movies, games, serials, books, whatever else.

My three favorite Star Wars movie are The New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi…the original trilogy!

My three favorite Star Wars comic series is the Star Wars Tales (Dark Horse anthology), Darth Vader (the first Marvel series run), and Tag and Bink are Dead.

My three Star Wars video games is Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Knights of the Old Republic, and the Super Nintendo trilogy (I group all three games as a singular experience!).

My Three favorite Star Wars books are the Heir to the Empire Trilogy by Timothy Zahn. That’s all I recall enjoying in the 90s and haven’t read any more since. But, I hear there’s a lot of great ones centered around the new sequels lately.

I can go on with other favorite Star Wars, but another time because the time is too late now.

I believe it’s the binding and bonds between established characters. There are ongoing themes about friendships, family, rivalries, comradery, and the sense that we are all connected no matter how far apart in planets we are. You can be a farmer, a robot, a princess, a bounty hunter, a soldier, a wizard, a princess, a knight. Somehow, there’s a possible connection in the universe for anyone to partake. Then go on an adventure, discover something about yourself or others, check out an environment opposite of your familiar zones, get the rush of an exciting and very high stakes battle. From all, gain something new for surviving the experience. Star Wars is just a fascinating thing that happens through its pop culture that will never end as long as humanity enjoys the escapism that science fiction brings us together.

May the Force be with you, always!

The Star Wars playing cards in the picture are from the Theory11 company. Great quality and I recommend giving them a purchase at theory11.com.

In memory of the Konami Code, a life hack symbol from Kazuhisa Hashimoto

UP, UP, DOWN, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT RIGHT, B, A (and then Start usually)

For my life forward, that famous Konami Code known among classic video gaming enthusiasts, shall remain a part of my continual development. That was my first cheat into a grand system, for a secret shortcut can provide the best path to victory, in dealing with stacked unfavorable odds in the way.

Thank much to the code creator Kazuhisa Hashimoto, long-time video game developer, programmer, and producer of many Konami published games, who recently passed away on February 25, 2020, at 61 years of age. He remains well-known among game history enthusiasts, as the person who implemented a sequence of button presses intended for early Konami-published games for the 8-bit original Nintendo Entertainment System. The result of this sequence would give the player special advantages, such as extra lives or power-ups, to help finish a difficult game.

The sequence meant for play-testers in the development of his first game Gradius. The develops left the code within the game, to avoid possible glitches and disruptions in its complex program. This code was used in other games by Konami at the time, and eventually discovered by the public, and shared.

This nostalgic code is an odd note for one person to be remembered, after passing away. It’s referenced often, and well-known to many hard-core gamers of every generation, as a nostalgic footnote into the complex history of interactive games. What made the Konami Code special? There were many cheat codes and game hacks at the time, usually shared in gaming magazines and tip books. But the Konami Code, so unforgettable though history

For me, it was a symbol of my upbringing with the glory days of Nintendo’s 8-bit era. I lived a less-privileged childhood, often hustling in the deep urban city streets of San Francisco for money. Nearly every NES video game of my early collection, I saved up for, from doing small errands for some street artists around Fisherman’s Wharf. It was a hard early life not depending on my parents for money, but I found my way through an advantage of many there knowing my parents, thus trusting me with their money.

My Nintendo collection grew, with much money earned on my own. After the included Super Mario/Duck Hunt game, I purchased Blaster Master, Legend of Zelda, Contra, Life Force, others including the first Final Fantasy game on the day it was released. But, going back to Contra, I would find a special fixation.

Contra was an awesome side-scrolling shoot-em-up game, an epitome of 80’s macho space marine commando types sent to stop some sinister hybrid army of enemy soldiers and nasty space aliens. That game was difficult for me at that time. Yet, I felt obsessed with finishing its programmed conclusion eventually. I had rescued Princess Toadstool from King Koopa, defeated Ganon twice, triumphed over mutant overlords, and street gang bosses. But saving the Earth by dodging a hail of bullets, traps, claws, lasers, and everything else in between seemed impossible on less than three lives and limited continues.

I would learn through an old Nintendo Power magazine, of some cool secret code that gives 30 extra lives to one playing Contra. Just use that secret Konami code with special directions on your Nintendo Control Pad, and there you go. You can save the Earth on much easier terms.

And that I did, finally ending the game to a somewhat satisfying end. I would tell my friends, share at school, proudly share the mighty secret that Contra the game can be beaten, with this super-secret code. And then, I discovered and shared the same code in other Konami published games, usually in Gradius and Contra sequels.

But something happened with repeat plays that original Contra, and my love later for the Gradius games. I got really good, especially with Gradius III on the Super Nintendo. I could play that on the hardest mode, and lose 0-3 lives in one single play without a single continue. Yet, I had to punch in that code, to bring that satisfaction of added safety, or…

Maybe a small reminder of just how much power I had before the game begins. Nothing felt hidden from me that could otherwise be found, and perhaps that’s the real power of the Konami Code, where it was applicable.

And then, much else difficulty in systematic design seemed less unfair. Never look at the obvious in front of you, as an impossible puzzle. See what else there is, and especially look out for cheat codes in some metaphorical sense. Cheat codes in that sense were should be legal, yet not well known to the general public for obtaining tough objectives in difficult times. That for me would include applying for free school credits in community college through proving my lack of income, discovering tax fixes leading to a bigger refund, volunteering to do press work that would get me into special events, with free food and sometimes free places to stay. So much more, from all this, leading me to survive in the most difficult times.

So thank you Kazuhisa Hashimoto, for creating that memorable, fun way to originally test your games. Having that, lead the way to a path many gamers of hold, can still symbolize for the rest of our lives as that life hack held within.

A look back to the prequel past of Star Wars: The Clone Wars

I love my Star Wars, especially in the hands and hearts of creative storytellers.

That’s why I am psyched for the new Star Wars: Clone Wars episodes, with Season 7 coming through on the Disney+ streaming service soon. Also, Dave Filoni, the original show-runner, is taking lead again. Finally, a proper send-off (I hope) to the original Cartoon Network series I felt never got its full respect of the Star Wars overall community, as the best representation and mood of the prequel era. The movies only set the stage, while the Clone Wars TV show was truly the grand epic space opera that George Lucas originally set fort in 1977.

The reasons I believe are obvious after going through the entirety of the TV series, though the art style took some getting used to for the visual part of the appreciation. The stories were a beautiful mix of character development of new and established characters, new legends built, old ones resurfaced, and an overall world-building that made the best sense of the vague references spoken by Obi-Wan and Darth Vader in Episode IV. Multiple award nominations including won Daytime Emmys, top ratings for its time slots, and heavy merchandise sales were further testament to its greatness.

The Clone Wars series focused on the destined paths of unique soldiers, space wizards, mercenaries, political figures; all with a mix of humor, drama, action, and sometimes unexpected philosophy and expansive thinking not often associated with the Star Wars brand.

In my excitement, I would like to share my favorite stories (usually multi-part episode arcs), through its overall progression.

Season 1 – Episode 5

“Rookies

An all around great episode that humanizes the clone warriors, where we see some individual human qualities to Cody, Rex, Fives, and others we get to know not just as soldiers, but as brothers. There is more humanization to these clones, as we can tell them apart from here and beyond. This episode truly brings out what makes this series great and standing well beyond its story progression onto Star Wars: Rebels.

Season 2 – Episode 20-22

Death Trap, R2 Come Home, Lethal Trackdown

A great story where we really get to know the bounty hunter Boba Fett as a great standalone character, as still young but fresh with dedication for revenge against the Jedi master who killed his father, Mace Windu. There’s a great mix of great action, many rogues, and pretty much everything that is fun about Clone Wars. I grew up thinking Boba Fett, was a cool space ninja dude. But, never could figure exactly why from just looking at the movies. He was just there with just enough of a presence to feel there was more to him. Episode II gave gave a little more background, but not enough.

This arc, delivered plenty on the cult character. We learn he was a young character coming to terms with the loss of his father, seeking vengeance, then eventually a meaningful path to himself, perhaps making his father proud eventually, but still selfish to those around him. This story arc sets his path well.

Season 3 – Episode 15-17

Overlords, Altar of Mortis, Ghosts of Mortis

Now this, is a powerful story that delves deep into the mystical side of Star Wars, and the nature of the force. What balance means, and the complexity of the Dark and Light side. This story deals with the Anakin, Ashoka, Obi-Wan drawn to a mysterious place where we meet a family trio of powerful force entities. The Daughter represents the Light, The Son represents the Dark, and the Father represents balance between the two. Anakin is given a difficult choice, and an unsettling vision of the future of what he will become, leaving a dilemma for the Family of Mortis to deal with.

The progression centers to Anakin as the central character in the movies, conflicted and doomed. His relationship to his apprentice becomes more important for the Clone Wars, leading the audience to care and share in his eventual fate, foretold here.

Season 4 – Episodes 7-10

Darkness on Umbara, The General, Plan of Dissent, Carnage of Krell

Wow, this story arch really blows me away. It’s a mix of Apocalypse Now (with the original Walter Murch as the story director) in a galaxy far, far away with twist and turns leading to an epic conclusion.

Even before we get to the main story, there is an amazing CG sequence of war and grit, mixed with classic and modern science fiction organic and mechanical imagery.

Then, we meet the general for the protagonist side, General Krell. He’s a tough Jedi, but then a psychotic murderer. His soldiers eventually must deal with him, an deadly nail-biting showdown. Everything about this arc is epic and truly badass, with an ending that leaves much for the audience to think about.

Season 4 – Episodes 19-22, Season 5 – episode 1

Massacre, Bounty, Brothers. Revenge, Revival

A huge story line revolving around Jedi Padawan turned bounty hunter Asajj Ventress, whose tragedy upon her people sends her on a quest for revenge. There is great development, but the story switches focus to a new character, Savage Opress who ends up on a journey of his own as he finds the remains of his brother Darth Maul, long thought dead in Episode I. He lives, as his brother gives him new life and purpose, making the galaxy a more interesting, and deadlier place. also, the new voice for Darth Maul by Sam Witwer brings a new emotional depth and dark tragic melody to the known Sith.

Season 5 – Episodes 2-5

A War on Two Fronts, Front Runners, The Soft Wars

A great story about intervention in a planet’s dispute and involvement with the Separatists, that is given restraint by the Republic and Jedi Order. Here we meet Saw Guerra, a revolutionary rebel later taking part in the Star Wars: Rogue One movie. His background and this story arc challenges both the viewers and our protagonists that not everything is simply good and evil, as there are moral dilemmas to ponder and sides to take for the Jedi and The Republic, in a conflict that becomes personal for Ahsoka. A tragic twist at the end, builds much towards Saw Guerra’s character, that made his later appearances more meaningful and interesting.

Season 5 – Episodes 6-9

The Gathering, A Test of Strength. Bound for Rescue, A Necessary Bond

A very different perspective to the Jedi Order than the usual conflict melodrama. Here’s its more about what makes a Jedi as a new generation of younglings take center-stage, where Ahsoka takes on a more teacher role. Her maturity feels like it reached full circle here, in a mentor role we will see more of in Rebels. Lots of bonding, but also a building melancholy when thinking about the tragic fates of this next generation.

Season 5, Episodes 14-16

Eminence, Shades of Reason, Shades of Reason, The Lawless

A great continuation of the journey of Darth Maul, as a great complex character with feelings and motivations of his own, reaching beyond the Sith agenda now. This crosses over into the world of Mandalore, with gives more background on the designs of Boba Fett’s armor, and the culture it represents. We also peek more into a potential love interest for Obi-Wan, Duchess Satine. There’s also the Darksaber weapon passed around, which just looks crazy awesome whenever used. The story moves toward more tragedy for both Obi-Wan and Darth Maul, as they both suffer personal losses, leaving them more intertwined than ever.

Season 5 – Episodes 17-20

Sabotage, The Jedi Who Knew Too Much, To Catch a Jedi. The Wrong Jedi

The story arc for Clone Wars as a whole to end on, before season 6 brings us to more self-contained side stories. This arc starts off as a murder mystery, but delves deeper into conspiracy and false accusations. In the heart of this, is Ahsoka Tano, who must prove her innocence. The story progression is an awesome mix of twists, action, drama, and revelations that lead for a shocking turning point for Anakin’s apprentice. This will need the most follow-up for Season 7, which I hope connects well to her later appearance in Rebels.

Season 6 – Episodes 1-4

The Unknown, Conspiracy, Fugitive, Orders

Hands down, my favorite Star Wars: Clone Wars TV series story. It’s also very standalone, with enough basis and knowledge of what happens when soldier Fives finds out that he is programmed as a murderous tool for a vast conspiracy well-hidden from him. A concern and paranoia sends him on a revealing journey, to the heart and beginning of his clone production. He, and the audience learn more about Order 66, and to what ends is its purpose. Of course, we know the answer…but seeing it through Fives view and determination is gut-wrenching, exciting, then tragic. Clone Wars has a lot of well-written tragedy.

Season 6: Episode 11-13

Voices, Destiny, Sacrifice

A story that takes the Force to greater mystery with its complexity and mysticism…which sets at ease that it’s all more than midiclorians. The setting for all this is incredible, with a mix of beautiful and haunting visuals. Liam Neeson returns as the voice of Qui-Gon Jinn, whose character journey reaches a far more proper and dignified end. We also have a more humbled Yoda on a quest to learn more, with still much to understand about the Force, This is where the Clone Wars ends, for then but not now.

That’s overall my impressions of Clone Wars, summarized on what and where I found it best. I would like to revisit its series and impact as a while, as I look forward to its completion as the best of what makes Star Wars great.

Appreciating the Spider-Verse movie soundtrack

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Yes, it is known, the animated Spider-Man into the Spider-Verse movie is an awesome masterpiece. It’s beautiful creative artful animation, combined with a gripping story packed with action, humor, laughs, and drama well-earned it an Academy Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA, and Critics Choice Award for Best Animation film of 2018.

But, I felt a part of it went unnoticed by the big critic heads out there: that is Spider-Verse’s excellent movie score and soundtrack.

The vocal tracks are a mix of current music artists including Post Malone, Swae Lee, Nicki Minaj, Anuel AA, Juice Wrld, Lil Wayne, Ty Dolla Sign, Thutmose, Ski Mask the Slump God. The results are an excellent feed of the best examples of modern hip-hop and urban beats.

And wow, it’s two single hits are damn perfect for this film. The first being Post Malone and Swae Lee’s “Sunflower,” a dreamy style, unlike anything expected based on past Spider-Man media, but really sets the mood and animated world centering on Miles Morales. Just listen to it!

And there is my personal favorite track, which I think is the best vocal ever set for a superhero film, “What’s up Danger,” by Blackway and Caviar. This piece exemplifies everything that one needs to know about the spirit of Spider-Man’s character. Listen:

There are many other great vocal tracks throughout the movie to gush about. But, the end credits with its mindbending animation, is heightened much further by its “Elevate” track by DJ Khalil with Denzel Curry, YBN Cordae, SwaVay, Trevor Rich. It’s adrenaline pumping, head thumping, body-energizing awesomeness. It’s a good track to put in your exercising playlist, to give that extra boost to keep going. Gotta go hard!!

So yes, great vocals…but now let’s move on to the cinema score of Spider-Verse, done by Daniel Pemberton, whose other recent work includes Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs and Guy Ritchie’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Here, his original work is masterful and sets a roller coaster of suspense, mystery, tension, raw emotions at perfect moments throughout.

Every track sets the mood, and in some parts really enhances the tension and drama. Some tracks tell a story just from its tone and progression. Visions Brooklyn 1,2,3 is a perfect example, and a personal favorite. But to truly appreciate, one needs to listen to the whole track…

Prowler’s theme is memorable, sending chills to the viewer as it perfectly signifies the stalker hunting its prey, closer and closer. You hear this, and you run!

The “Spider-Man Loves You” track feels like an addition to a legacy of Spider-Man films. It may not be as catchy as the iconic 60’s cartoon intro, but there is a feel to it that is special to this new expansion of Spider-Man towards a new generation of fandom; which I believe has done far more than the MCU live-action movie and tie-ins in the preservation of its original premise.

So yes, the Spidey-Verse soundtrack is amazing. I think it’s better than the Black Panther movie soundtrack, which did receive the Academy Award for Best Original Music Score. Yet, I think with all the love for Spider-Verse from its fans, there will be many repeat viewings for decades to come, and the love and appreciation for its soundtrack will grow with age.  

My fantastic comic book relationship with Stan Lee

Stan Lee, a brilliant creative genius whose heart and soul put into comic writing, editing, publishing ignited a new generation of comic books, inspiring beyond with no limits. His Marvel Comics brand became an essential modern myth to our culture, expanding beyond the printed page into every other medium possible. Though he passed away recently at age 95 after living a full and awesome life, his inspirations shall continue to awaken our inner superheroes.

Yet, there is something more to his work, in the ongoing limited series run that is my life. That is my connection to Stan the Man through the pages with his spirited philosophy on awakening the incredible, the uncanny, the fantastic to my yearning for some amazing fantasy. Such would inspire me to better create, adventure, embrace my geekish side, leading me to maintain my love for comic books for the decades ahead. And with all that, build a sense of duty toward helping many in need, especially when great power and privilege comes my way.

My first true exposure to Stan Lee’s Marvel Comics brand came at a turbulent time for me during age 9. I was in the middle of a difficult transition, moving to the big city of San Francisco from the suburban/rural life of Fresno, California. In that, I would also be reunited with my mother after separation for most of my early childhood, and with a new stepdad I would hardly know at the time. I had already begun to miss my old friends and felt a bit overwhelmed by my new loud, confusing big city life.

Still feeling on page 1 of this new adventure, I would eventually visit my first comic book store, where my life would forever change. It was a small little store in the North Beach (aka Little Italy) area on Grant Street near the Coit Tower landmark. I think the store name was “Best Comics” or something like that (not the nearby more famous, Comix and Comix, which I would discover later and spend many after school hours in). Within, I walked into the next giant splash page of my life, rich in detail and dramatics. Rows of comics books around me, with boxes of more below. Some stacks were stray, and come loose on counters.

There and everywhere inside, were some familiar friends from TV and toys. All with much more vivid color and detail, speaking in word balloons, in combat poses, expressing action. I saw the Amazing Spider-man, as known from my beat-up stuffed plush doll. I would see the X-Men, recognized from some comics in a waiting room at the last eye doctor visit. I saw the Iron Man, Thing, Captain America recognized..and more from a Marvel Super Heroes card game played often in the library of my early grade recess hours. So many familiar faces in colorful outfits; waiting for me to get to know them; take an adventure with any back home.

But, I had a little money to pick something. After some browsing, I gravitated to a spinning rack of paperback digest-sized comics. Such was not common for the comic book-sized format, but I wanted something with more pages, and easy to carry around. And eventually, I saw this small paperback book… Stan Lee presents The Incredible Hulk (#2).

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It was a 159-pages of full color, 1979 reprint stories of the older Tales to Astonish (mid-1960s, #85-99) stories of the continuous adventures of Bruce Banner, a scientist who would become the Hulk under very stressful circumstances. I knew the green goliath from TV live-action series, starring Lou Ferrigno. But here, he was different and greener with stories far beyond anything the TV show would offer, with more expression, more action, more Hulk! I would buy this with some pocket change, and then witness the pain and the power, the man-brute at his best!

Inside, the Hulk would prove himself as the strongest, against the US military, super-villains, aliens, the High Evolutionary, the Abomination, the Silver Surfer. Each chapter seemingly more excited than the last. Between the action, we got interesting internal struggles, especially within the Hulk and his other self, Bruce Banner. Both would conflict against each other as much as the outside world. This drama is as exciting as the action itself was all written by Stan Lee himself, a name I would never forget.

Stan Lee, through passionate exposition and character building, would give me a message that would stick far beyond the printed pages. Inside, we have trapped within, some incredible greatness waiting to be released through some incredible circumstances. The greatness can be so outstanding and wonderful, that we struggle to recognize it when it’s upon our weaker selves. But in reaching that, we don’t want to look back, until the power becomes a troublesome burden. Then, yearns a return to innocence and normalcy until we need that power for greater responsibility.

That’s what I got out of this Hulk anyway. The difference in the Hulk from other super-types is that his heroism is more on a subconscious level. The Hulk would often find himself protecting the weak while crushing those stupid enough to try to exploit him. He is selfless, never looking to harm others. He would prefer to be left alone, and in that when there is no reason to fight, there is peace for the Hulk and Bruce Banner.

All that, presented by Stan Lee. A name I would first notice more in my next few rereadings of that awesome paperback.

His name would return again and again, in many more Marvel Comics I mostly gathered from cheap quarter bins, flea market finds, more bookstores. The later eighties and early nineties, I spent many hours growing up in the comic stores after school. There, always peeking into the comics of Marvel, and eventually other companies (DC, Gladstone, Mirage, Archie being my top favs).

But often coming back to Marvel, there would be new favorite stories from Stan Lee’s design stemming his creative work, and groundwork messages. The X-Men, heroes living a parallel of the fear and prejudice in today’s world. Spider-Man, a hero whose personal issues would be set aside to defend New York City. Daredevil, a hero for justice whose blindness is both his greatest curse and strength. The Fantastic Four, a family whose cosmic radiated superpowers would lead them into deeper explorations of the unknown. And, many more would follow.

Among them, my personal favorite, the Silver Surfer, after finding reprints of the earlier stories written by Stan Lee (#1-18, 1968-1970). This above all is Stan’s most philosophical, poetic storytelling of all. Every page full of Stan Lee’s presentation, dialogue, exposition of the lonely cosmic traveler in a constant struggle to understand the worlds around him, is awesome.

Over the years, the spirit of Stan Lee would carry on through countless cherished comic stories. Then beyond the cartoons and TV shows. Sometimes, Stan Lee would do some introductions or narration; bringing his passion for storytelling along. Eventually, would come to the movies, which he would have some hand in producing. And, there would be the cameos…always welcome to his fans.

And his presence would be felt at many conventions, often in person. I would attend a few of his panels, looking back to his past of promoting some collaboration on projects. I would even meet him, once by pure luck, while resting nearby his booth in the early 2000s at the San Diego Comic Con. He signed a Spider-Man collected stories paperback I happened to have in hand, and then we shook hands. “Excelsior!,” Stan Lee said with a blessing. That cherished memory, I would look back upon as the greatest echo of my comic book relationship with Stan, since seeing his name for the first time many years ago.

I still feel his work throughout my life, and sometimes it helps keeps the best parts of me going. I sometimes need the attitude of the Hulk on a bad day, the curiosity of the Silver Surfer in my travels, the energy of Spider-Man in keeping up with responsibilities, the leadership of Professor X for group organizing, the patriotic duty of Captain America when I join a protest. Stan Lee’s work continues to inspire me through the foundations of the fictional heroes he shared.

And much like the Marvel Comics that continue on through the comic stores and extended media, there never really is an end to it all. We carry on through reboots, cliffhangers, spinoffs. Though sometimes, we may not get some things right in interpretation. And sometimes, there is are rediscovering of his lesser-known creations through better presentations, like the recent Black Panther and Ant-Man movies. meanwhile, the presence of Stan Lee will carry on, reminding many of us of his original groundwork laid down for readers to grow from.

Thanks again Stan the Man, and Excelsior!

Wandering through PAX West 2018

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A week passed since attending PAX West 2018 in Seattle, a grand annual event for video and tabletop gamers. The memories of this annual event remains fresh.

The show was an overall blast, yet not the best attended over the recent years. The favored part was the significant rise in indie games pushed by smaller developers, looking to gain fame through playable demos and cheap giveaways. Also, plenty of merch sold at booths, especially pins. The gaming tech seemed plentiful, with plenty to demo and purchase.

The downside was the reduction in tabletop games. No large booths or big promotional events for any card or board games. Magic: The Gathering was hardly noticeable, compared to last year where Wizards of the Coast reserved an entire theater. I didn’t see any Cards Against Humanity promotion either, which felt like a bigger part of PAX from past years. I spent nearly all of my time with the video games for this round.

Meanwhile, much of gaming space on the exhibit floor was dedicated to the new trends in the video gaming industry – e-sports, streaming, influencer personalities, and the overall attention given to spectator aspects. Little of that appealed to me and felt like space that could have been utilized better. Whatever, as I do enjoy a Let’s Play or YouTube personality at times, just not here.

The company displays were a bit disappointing. No huge and ridiculous dioramas, or overly large statues or looming creatures. Just a lot of boring logos and posters in lights. I expect more from PAX, based on past years.

But overall, I still had a lot of fun and got all these pins (some purchased, some free)…

I did wander around for much of the time and took pictures. I share below some shots with more notes on the show…

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A typical view of a PAX West game booth, between the Ubisoft and Discord booths.

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The usual sea of computers for players to game together using the most updated gear. Here, Rocket League is still a thing among the big crowds, or not. It’s hard to tell.

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I didn’t see as much cosplay for this round of PAX. But, the Darksiders booth did step things up a bit with their own.

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Mega Man aims for anyone looking to cut in line to play the Mega Man 11 demo, which was about a two-hour wait. I went through it, and have to admit…it was worth it (and not just for the free pin).

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At the EV3A booth, and here…not sure what this is.

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Some cosplayers together,  geared and badass.

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Some Pyre cosplay. Pyre is a very underrated game. You should play it.

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One large booth premiering the upcoming Gris game in playable demo form, a fresh storyline based platformer with beautiful hand-drawn graphical elements.

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A stage tournament between two pros, locked in Dragonball FighterZ combat.

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Some sweet Splatoon cosplay.

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And a truly awesome Robotic Operating Buddy (or B.O.B), is the best (and only personally seen cosplay of its kind). Well done!

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An oddity I played at the Square Enix booth, The Quiet Man….a game where you play a deaf man in some urban drama. Interesting idea, but some very corner fighting reminiscent of the PS2 era.

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The Jackbox stage, where the play is both the audience and the entertainment, as one logs into the Jackbox website to participate, and engage in silly games.

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The developer crew of another indie title with its booth, The Messenger…a cool old school ninja-gaidenesque slashy platformer indie title. The crew was very excited to personally promote and share.

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Boyfriend Dungeon, a fresh oddity that combines dating with dungeon crawling. Weird dating games with an anime appeal are a rising trend now.

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One of the many panels attended, “We’re all Frauds! PAX West Edition,” with Doctor B [Clinical Director, Take This], Callie Holmes [Web Development Engineer II, Amazon], Tanya DePass [Founder, I Need Diverse Games], Matt Dolbill [Associate Attorney, Morrison & Lee LLP], Katrina Keller [Operations Director, Take This], Katie Golden [Producer, Bungie]. All here to discuss and advise on the problems of self-doubt in creative development ventures.

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Another panel, “(Re) Introducing Escapist Magazine: We Had Issues,” with Russ Pitts [Editor-in-Chief, Escapist Magazine], Graham Stark [President, Bionic Trousers], MovieBob [Creator, Freelance], Yahtzee [Critic, Escapist Magazine]. All here to promote the relaunch of the longtime game news site. I was especially excited to see Yahtzee, one of my favorite game reviewers (Zero Punctuation) present.

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The Guild Wars 2 booth, hosted by a large Griffon mount. I think this was the only mountable creature for this event. Last year, I recall at least five mountable statues.

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My Friend Pedro, another exciting upcoming game of interest at PAX West. This one a physics-based action based platformer that feels a little like a mix of Mirror’s Edge and Hotline Miami.

Maple Story had a huge booth promoting its sequel, Maple Story 2. The original was a cult hit a decade ago, and cool to see it still going and have a huge following here.

A neato life-sized diorama at the Facebook Games booth, promoting Stormland. Take a picture with you in it, then play another game there to receive a special enamel pin of a Facebook emote…yay.

Fortnite: Battle Royale is huge, and so was there silly miniature gold course which seemed as both a promo and reward for its growing fandom. I never played the game but had a blast here (and got a set of four free pins).

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And that was all PAX, in a nutshell, just a metaphorical golf course of one thing to another, amused by visuals and play.

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And that’s all for this year. I had some fun, but hoping next year is much better.

 

San Diego Comic Con 2018 Notes and Commentary, Part 3/5 – Cosplay Everywhere

(Continued from my last entry, San Diego Comic Con 2018 Notes and Commentary, Part 1)

At times, the cosplay at the San Diego Comic Con is the best part of the whole show.

The display of costumed participation has been a cornerstone of con participation among attendees. The prominent among them craft their costumes from scratch, with hard work and dedication. The results bring to life, something awesomely different and familiar. Over the years, I see more body/face paint used, practically effects, LED light use, and clever additions.

Often the choice of cosplay defines the popularity by its growing fandom. This year we got more Steven Universe, Teen Titans, and recent Marvel Cinematic Universe films take the lead. And, more Deadpools, Batmans, Harley Quinns, and Boba Fetts can be spotted from every corner.

So here below, are choice costumes catching my eye. All awesome, and well represented here at the SDCC 2018. Take a look:

That’s enough for now for the cosplay. There’s more from the San Diego Comic Con 2018, coming soon.

San Diego Comic Con 2018 Notes and Commentary, Part 2/5 – Interesting Persons

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(Continued from my last entry, San Diego Comic Con 2018 Notes and Commentary, Part 1)

And now, my continued chronicles of the greatest comics show on Earth, the 49th Annual San Diego Comic Con, 2018.

My next set of pics and notes are dedicated to a very important part of any con; the guests, promoters, and creative people who are the prime reasons are fandom passions develop. At the show, attendees can meet, observe, sample work from, and learn of the talented people who put a lot of passion into their work. Such interaction is on the grandest scale for concentrated fandom at the San Diego Comic Con. And 2018, was especially specially and further wondrous.

So, here are my pictures and notes within, featuring my notable people seen for this 2018 run…

Tom King, award-winning author, comic book writer, and ex-CIA officer. Recent notable work includes the ongoing Batman run, and the Mister Miracle series. My favorite work of his, and a must read is the Vision 2016 mini-series from Marvel Comics.

Longtime artist Randy Martinez, working on new work in the Artist Alley area of the Exhibit floor. We had an awesome chat about artistic drives, following through on work, and having fun along the way. Much of this I have recorded, and plan to share in the near future.

Classic Disney duck artist Patrick Block, chilled out in the artist alley.  We had a fun talk, and an interesting surprise among his original art pages for sale (best to visit him at a show and see for yourself).

Harry Potter book Illustrators Kazu Kibuishi (15th anniversary edition cover artist), Jim Kay, and David Saylor.

Elliot S. Maggin, an American writer of comic books, film, television, and novels. He was a main writer for DC Comics during the Bronze and early Modern ages of comics in the 1970s and 1980s. Kingdom Come (with artist Alex Ross) is his best work, in my opinion.

Yoshitaka Amano, famed Japanese artist, character designer, illustrator and a theatre and film scenic designer and costume designer. His work includes the original concept art for the most iconic Final Fantasy characters and games, the Vampire Hunter D book series, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman: Dream Hunters series, and so much more. Here, Amano does live work at his SDCC panel.

Yoshitaka Amano, later signing and greeting fans with his finished work from earlier. I got a big Final Fantasy retrospect book signed with a little sketch by him on the inside.

David W. Miller, longtime comics ant fantasy artist. Very passionate about this work, and doesn’t mind chatting about it.

Away from SDCC floor, at the Nerdeis House special event. Here, with voice actors Gary Paulsen and Maurice LaMarshe (Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, many more) as they meet and greet fans.

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Adam Savage, from Mythbusters greeted lucky lottery ticket winners to meet and sign pictures. He said I had a kickass name!

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Three actors from the Amazon Prime show, Man in the High Castle. I honestly have not watched yet. I was here with a friend, a big fan of the show. There were other cast members out of frame here.

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Fabian Rangel Jr. proudly presents his trade paperback volume of ‘Namwolf, a highly recommended comics story about a werewolf stuck in the Vietnam War.

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Famed cover artist Artgerm Lau. He hosted a great a panel earlier, sharing much about himself, and the lifestyle of doing art for a living.

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Afro-Futurism panel with Reggie Hudlin (Milestone Media, Black Panther), Denys Cowan (Milestone Media, The Boondocks), Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek, Heroes), Tim Russ (Star Trek: Voyager, Spaceballs), Kevin Grevioux (Underworld, I, Frankenstein), Professor Adilifu Nama (San Diego State University, Superheroes Decoded), Professor Ajani Brown (San Diego State University), and La Quia Howard (Kemet, I Choose 2 Be Me). Moderated by Jimmy Diggs (Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Deep Space 9).

Nichelle Nichols gives a quick Vulcan salute to room attendees (just missed with my camera).

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The Writer’s Journey: Maximizing Your Potential in the New Marketplace: an awesome panel for writers hosted by Brandon Easton (Vampire Hunter D: The Series, Marvel’s Agent Carter), and others sharing advice and answering questions.

Marv Wolfman, long-time comics and TV writer, creator of the Starfire, Cyborg, Raven, Nightwing, Tim Drake, Blade, and many more comic heroes and villians. At times, he could be found in the Artist Alley area, or at one his multiple panels giving great advice on writing.

Doctor Who panel in Hall H, featuring the latest person to portray the time-traveler from Gallifrey; Jodie Whitaker, in her first convention appearance with

The Predator panel in Hall H, promoting the new movie, with Shane Black, Sterling K. Brown, Olivia Munn, Keegan Michael Key, Trevante Rhodes, Thomas Jane, Augusta Aguilera, and Jake Busey.

Predator panel – Olivia Munn on the left, and Thomas Jane on the right. Both whom I have seen at many con panels over the years.

Suddenly another aisle jammed and blocked by the WB booth, as the cast of Supernatural greets lucky fans (obtained through an online lottery system).

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That’s enough for now. More SDCC show coverage is coming in part 3. Stay tuned to the SW, and look forward!

San Diego Comic Con 2018 Notes and Commentary, Part 1/5 – Exhibit Hall Madness

This 49th Annual San Diego Comic Con for the 2018 year ended a week ago, but the memories will last.

Those among us, being the 135,000 in attendance and at least double that for the outside events, would find plenty to muse over the endless ridiculousness of corporate promotions, self-promoting indie projects, gatherings of fandoms and geekery of all mediums and platforms. The San Diego city location remains a perfect place for such things, with its spacious convention center, Gaslamp district, surrounding hotels, and gorgeous waterfronts for its annual mecca of devoted attendees.

My time spent of my 24th year in attendance was the best I had for delving into the overall creative, fandom drenched, collectible hunting, and so much more. But it was also the busiest for me, with more networking, panel attending, interviews, and greeting of friends old and new. Little time was left for resting, organizing, ruminations.

Meanwhile, I did take many pictures and notes within, for which I will share now. The following is my series of results, starting with the grand Exhibit Hall of the SDCC…

The Exhibit Hall area is 460,000 square feet, and your feet will hate you if you explore every inch of it.

The Image Booth gives a beastly view this year, casting aside the usual Walking Dead/Saga and presenting something fresh and new…something always welcome for this comic book reader.

The DC Comics booth this year has given Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman a break this year for its center of attention. Now, it’s the 2nd tier heroes time to shine with promotions of the upcoming Shazam and Aquaman movies, with the Teen Titan cartoon movie and live action TV series to come.

The best way to booth market, is to become the product..as best presented by this talking frog ambassador to the CFX booth for Silicone masks.

The Funko Toys booth is still the biggest catch for dedicated collectors of weird vinyl Funko Pop figures…still a thing with at least 50 exclusives again this year. But this time, an online lottery system has brought the line-waiting to sane levels for the lucky ones who obtained an early ticket for each day.

Do you like spending a lot of money on expensive dolls/statues? The SDCC has you covered. I’m not sure what stand this is. That Khan figure is a sexy thing.

Favorite things I enjoy looking at for the Exhibit Hall, are the many original art pages.

Among them, I enjoy the more underappreciated pieces of forgotten comics history.

meanwhile, a plush Purrmaid demands your attention!

Because Deadpool doesn’t get enough fan attention, here’s a animated puppet show to promote the second movie for home release!

It’s Bumblebee’s time to shine at the Hasbro booth, coming to a theater near you (I hope it’s good).

Line up and spin the wheel for maybe something you might want from the USApoly booth.

What’s that? Comic books at a Comic Con? There’s plenty of those here too. Though cheap thrills are hard to find, but look well, and you will find some great printed treasure…

My guilty pleasure is visible in the dealer table areas..action figures!!

Sure, let’s take our nostalgia of childish joys and so weird things to them. This I think is from one of the Mattel booth displays.

It’s a Puglie Pug, ready for pick up!

The Cinema Makeup School continues to impress and freakout with it’s astounding practical effects, carefully applied to the human body.

And, there are plenty of artists here to sketch on whatever paper you may have for them. A purchase is encouraged.

The DKE Booth, a favorite for the strangest artist renditions of figurine pop culture..

The Lego Booth, has never disappointing me with its awesome life-sized blocky renditions of relevant pop-culture licensed icons.

The Cartoon Network booth reminds me I should eventually watch Steven Universe.

That’s enough for now, covering a tiny fraction of the overall finest smorgasbord of creative arts that is the San Diego Comic Con. See Part 2, coming up for more coverage!