Cheering on my SDCC time with Comic-Con@Home

Not even a terrible pandemic can stop the San Diego Comic-Con.

Today, the 51st San Diego Comic Convention begins now, until Sunday. This could set a record for attendance, depending on one’s perspective. Because this year, the whole show is “@Home” and online, as the global-wide pandemic continues to keep large social aspects and gatherings to a minimum.

This pandemic time is difficult for the comic book and related creative industries across all entertainment landscapes. With many shows and events canceling, the news for artists, writers, creators, publishers, distributors has hit hard, especially as venues and storefronts continue to struggle. Yet, many of the same shows reactivate to a virtual, online version with guests, creatives, and a lot of fun people coming together via video conference service and streaming platforms.

The San Diego Comic-Con keeps its grand prestige, with its innovative Comic-Con@Home event. Unlike past cons, this event will be the first 100% free event for all with no registrations, no line, no IDs. Just take a look at what they got, and join in.

I am personally excited, as this will be my 26th year in attendance!

The core of this online event is the many, many discussion panels. Glancing over the many panels, I see the drive that has always made Comic-Con great, with the appeal to inspire and grows its community through discussion and promotion of what’s out there. But, there’s not a lot of A-list celebrity and big studio presence, which feels makes this whole event feel like the old Comic-Con that I came to love in the 1990s. The comic book presence feels strong again too, which I think that industry really needs that attention now.

Here’s my viewing list for the following days:

Thursday, July 23
10:00am-11:00am – P.S. NPC: Storytelling in Video Games
12:00pm-1:00pm – Comics During Clampdown: Creativity In The Time of COVID
2:00pm-3:00pm – SYFY: Untold Tales of Todd McFarlane
3:00pm-4:00pm – Soundtracks to Fandom: Z2 Comics and the Graphic Album
3:00pm-4:00pm – ThunderCats Roar
5:00pm-6:00pm- Breaking Into Comics and Staying In!
Friday, July 24
10:00am-11:00am – “Crazy” Talk: Mental Health, Pop Culture, and the Pandemic
10:00am-11:00am – Pixel Stories – Reimagining Video Game Narrative
12:00pm-1:00pm – Lucasfilm Publishing: Stories From a Galaxy Far, Far Away
4:00pm-5:00pm – VIZ: A Haunting Conversation with Junji Ito
4:00pm-5:00pm – How to Make a Comic From Start to Finish
Saturday, July 25
10:00am-11:00am – UDON Entertainment 20th Anniversary!
10:00am-11:00am – Narrative Design For Computer Games
10:00am-11:00am – Warner Archive’s Secret Origins of Saturday Morning Cartoons
11:00am-12:00pm – From Wakanda to Numbani, Writing the Next Generation of Heroes
2:00pm-3:00pm – IDW in 2020 and Beyond
3:00pm-4:00pm – Authors on the Best Advice I Ever Got
3:00pm-4:00pm – Best and Worst Manga of 2020
5:00pm-6:00pm – What’s New In Small Press Comics
5:00pm-6:00pm – Mexican Lucha Libre: History, Tradition, Legacy
Sunday, July 26
12:00pm-1:00pm – The Craft of Worldbuilding in Comics
1:00pm-2:00pm – Kevin Eastman Panel
1:00pm-2:00pm – Mega64 Panel In These Trying Times
3:00pm-4:00pm – Making A Living Being Creative
3:00pm-4:00pm – The Writer’s Journey: Developing a Producer’s Mentality

For living viewing, I will have to make some tough decisions.

There are also collectible show exclusives again, watch parties, costume contest via Tumblr, virtual art shows, portfolio reviews, the Eisner Industry Awards, the annual Blood Drive, and many more activities. All of which are on the official site.

This Comic-Con has a lot going on.

In addition to official events, we have our Comic-Con involvement with our newly built Stranger Worlds Discord Server, with a special sub-channel for Comic-Con. We will share news from more news from the show in the following days as well. Come and join us!

So dive right in and share in the joy that is the Comic-Con@Home, wherever you are!

Treasures of the Portland Retro Gaming Expos, Part 2 (Nintendo Power!)

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(Continued from Part 1 of my adventures through the annual Portland Retro Gaming Expo, 2019)

This next part is dedicated to an awesome featured part of the PRGE, its video game history room. This mini-museum is presented by the Video Game History Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to preserving interactive entertainment’s past. Their focus for this show was the 30th anniversary year of Nintendo’s Game Boy handheld, and Nintendo’s pre-Internet game counselor service. 

So, many amazing treasures on display here, I took some pictures, of which I am proud to share below…

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A display of company jackets worn by the Nintendo Game counselors…

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Just who were these Game Counselors? Well, back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, players could call via their telephone, and speak to a human being on getting through the hardest part of their video games.

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The game counselors had a variety of aids, handbooks, demo copies, whatever it took to deliver that awesome service with a smile.

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And more interesting Nintendo treasures from within

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An example of a game counselor station, which in its prime had over 400 ready to take calls.

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One of many subtle touches to build company pride, among the service.

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Many counselors had their own maps, some hand-drawn and their own notes to help callers

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And there is the Game Boy portion of the PRGE history museum. Lots of ads and posters, showcasing its past aesthetic.

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More past relics, and merch tie-ins

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And of course Tetris, which helped make the Game Boy a smashing success.  it’s main launch title which initially came with the Game Boy.

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But before the Game Boy, Nintendo had other handheld products which helped paved the way for company success.

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The Nintendo Game Boy had more than just games!

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Including a sewing machine peripheral.

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Overall, this was an awesome experience for fans of Nintendo and game history. Check out www.gamehistory.org for more on the Video Game History Foundation.

Treasures of the Portland Retro Gaming Expo, Part 1

Last weekend, I attended the 2019 Portland Retro Gaming Expo. I had an awesome time there.

The Portland Retro Gaming Expo. remains a show, taking heart in the Pacific Northwest US for its 14th year now. The cultural event grows a little more every year, celebrating older video and electronic games for their history, aesthetic, social aspects, and cultural impact. Vintage games include pinball, arcade machines, console setups, handheld devices, and other related oddities, Throughout many treasures to be appreciated, purchased, played, and discovered.

Here are some pictures and notes to share of my PRGE experience, showing small parts of this grand show…

Many merchants here, with the best colors of our classy consoles on the table!

On one table, a small sampling of rare imports at this PRGE

Some cool rare oddities, including TOPO, the programmable robot from the early 1980s

Playable Atari games at one booth, with old school TVs to match

Another interesting find, an extra violent edition of the original Resident Evil for the PC!

A few cheap treasures from dealers I purchased, with my guide

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Also at PRGE, many creative artists and developers. Some with their own homebrew games, which I sadly overlooked in pictures. But also many just selling print or promoting webcomics and other creative work influenced by retro games. Here’s Spicy (Twitter @SpicySpaceDragn), one of many artists here.

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More merch!

James Rolfe, AKA the Angry Video Game Nerd was a special guest this year. Sorry for the bad picture.

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Also here…console gaming playable for every generation

Arcade gaming all day,, free to play!

Nights into Dreams, an underrated Sega Saturn classic. This beautiful lenticular poster brings back precious memories.

Many, many pinball machines here, both vintage and the newest available for free play/

The music in the free play area was off the hook, and set the mood there to an awesome 80’s arcade glory that made the show more worthwhile

The best panel I went to, a reunion of Nintendo Game Counselors who worked the glory days of Nintendo HQ’s call center. Lots of fun stories, insider tidbits, and history told. Enjoyed every minute.

At that same panel, a surprise guest in the audience… Alexey Pajitnov, the creator of Tetris!

Briefly meeting Alexey Pajitnov was a big joy for me. He also signed my show pass.

Another awesome guest at PRGE at a panel, Howard Phillips, a main spokesman and producer of Nintendo of America throughout the 8-bit era. You may remember him in cartoon form from the Howard and Nester comic strips in the early Nintendo Power magazines.

Among the best of the show, this gaming history exhibit showcasing Nintendo history focused on the anniversary of the Game Boy and Nintendo Game Counselor service. I will share more pictures on that experience, in part 2 of my PRGE adventure (posting soon!).

….

San Diego Comic Con 2019, Adventures in the Exhibit Hall

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Over 1000 miles away, I look back to the San Diego Comic Convention of 2019. I wave slowly for my 25th visit to this annual pop-culture extravaganza of the universe.

Thank you for another exciting run, to the organizers and all involved with this 2019 SDCC. It’s all been wild, jumbled together joys and madness sorted through organized chaos and a maze of thing-doing and epic quests, glory for treasure and the meeting and greeting of friends old and anew along the way.

So…, did I have a great time? Oh yes, I did!

But this Comic-Con is never simple and no year is the same as others. One has to fight and plan and struggle and walk and rise with short hours of sleep with hard choices to truly appreciate the subtleties of this great show. Never expect anything to go smooth, and have contingencies for whatever does not happen..

But don’t overplan. Try and leave as much room as possible for the unexpected. Your entire plan can go out the window for some greater opportunity…for example, a shortcut into the Hall H line before the Marvel Comics panel, or a sudden chance to meet an admired person of creative or celebrity status, perhaps an easy way into a very exclusive friend, or running into a long-time friend.

The greater occurrence of sudden surprises at the SDCC is at the Exhibit Hall, where you you can enter empty-handed and  leave with something of value. That could be rare treasure, a one-of-a-kind custom creation, an experience unlike no other, or a new friend or history making connection.

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A small portion of the football-field sized Exhibit Hall

Navigating the convention floor is a skill mastered best by memories and past trips to this show. Have a map otherwise if you feeling unguided through this colorful, weird jungle. For this year, the usual large displays propagated by large media and collectible production companies, with those focused on show exclusives and celeb hosting being the most attracting.  Pre-show lotteries to such helped bring some of those lines down, leaving those not lucky enough, to remain hopeless or persistent enough to take part.

For the Exhibit Hall, I spent most of this Comic-Con time. Here below, are some moments and notes of my crazy adventures of treasure hunts, side-quests, joining friends and braving the crowds and potential chaos of the this wonderful show..

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just mentioning again, the Hall was very crowded. But, that’s a good thing I believe. That more interesting things can happen, and more fun is shared.

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Some random awesome in the vinyl area, now moved away from the corner and into the center.

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Sith Troopers, the main feature among the Star Wars cluster of booths, promoting the upcoming Star Wars: Episode XI.

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The Steven Universe featured at the Cartoon Network booth, with encouraged karaoke below.

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The Lego booth again impresses with life-sized Lego displays.

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The DC booth this year was sadly missed from the front and center spot, now moved to the corner back next to the Warner Studios booth. Here, booth reps offer Todd McFarlane prints in exchange for signing up for a credit card. I refused and spent little time at the DC booth this year, because of that.

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I kind of forgot which booth this was, but love the use of dinosaurs

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Here are some pricy things!

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But,  I like cheap stuff. Here is my Q-Pop Pinky and the Brain figurine. Only 15.00 and I think exclusive to the show. I dont remember, but I loved it so much that I took it out of the package!

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A much better breathe of fresh air, to one of many small press tables now in in place of where the DC booth once stood.

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Still, plenty of comic books here! I love seeing stacks of comics on back issue bins!

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Some awesome magazines I picked up, from Warren Publishing in the late 70s, early 80s.

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This is our first SDCC without Stan Lee sharing the same mortal realm. But his legacy and spirit live on. Excelsior!

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Awesome Japanese classic style art from the Ukiyo-e Heroes booth. Check out their sight at www.ukiyoeheroes.com

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Chrono Trigger artwork from the Ukiyo-e Heroes above booth.

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The Porcupine Cat, one of the GMO animal hybrid guardians o the Genesis II graphic novel, feature at this booth. Check out their graphic novel at genesisiicomics.com, where the first chapter is free to download!

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And here is Troma Entertainment President & Co-Founder, Director, Producer, Genius. Lloyd Kaufman and his long-time friend, Toxie the Toxic Avenger! I have seen them both many times here in the Exhibit Hall over three decades. 

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The Dark Horse booth saves its best space for coloring adventures!

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And that, is how you pronounce Bill Sienkiewicz!

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My favorite piece of original comic art found from Marvel Comics Journey into Mystery #99. Price is $6000, of which I could not afford.

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Original Peanuts art from Charles Schulz

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At the Udon booth (sorry, I missed the name of the artist).

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The two prize Funko pops, exclusive to the this year’s 50th show.

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Emmalee Pearson presents her comic, the Avengables..a very silly comic about evil fighting vegetables! Find out more at www.avengables.com.

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At the Toynami booth, where the Golden Girls and Robotech share the same universe!

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After 20 years later, the Matrix inspires this great group cosplay!

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The Warner Brothers booth, where fans meet those Legends of Tommorrow.

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A large Gundam presenting its 40th anniversary booth.

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The Image Comics booth, as usually impossible to capture all in one shot, so you have to pick an angle.

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Not sure where what series or movie this figure is from, but I love it!

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A vintage shirt from the 1992 San Diego Comic Con, still fraggin fresh!

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Some Jurassic cosplay here!

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Yeah, there is lots of cosplay on the floor. I will share more on that in a separate post, soon

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Unicorn on display, summons your wallet here for a purpose!  This two foot-tall Transformer is part of Hasbro’s third crowd-funding production project.

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Ghostbusters and WWE, a strange toy crossover by Mattel coming, along with the Master of the Universe and WWE, also announced during the show.

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Love the latest cartoon classic TMNT figures on display at the NECA booth.

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Peanuts figures on display at the Super & booth….good grief!

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Michael Golden, artist and co-creator of X-Men’s Rogue. Also, co-creator of Bucky O’Hare!

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Weirdly fun, very short produced artist-made figures at the DKE booth

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Inside the Dark Crystal, Age of Resistance booth, for the upcoming Netflix show.

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King of the Hill mashup parody art, from Joel Adams

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Disney fine art from Krystiano DaCosta

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Some pins and stuff I got from the Exhibit Hall.

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I met World Wrestling Entertainment RAW Women’s champion, Becky Lynch. Also, WWE legend Rey Mysterio, and current WWE World Champion, Kofi Kingston (got a cookbook signed by him, lol). All awesome in person, indeed!

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And a shot of the Artists Alley from the corner exit of the Exhibit Hall, which is a good spot to leave off. I hope you enjoyed checking out these random joys of this year’s Exhibit Hall adventure.

Check back on strangerworlds.com for more late coverage of this year’s 50th San Diego Comic-Con!

My early years of the San Diego Comic-Con, 1994-1999

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The San Diego Comic-Con will reach its golden 50th year anniversary, this year. I am super excited, not just for being the surely amazing extravaganza of this yearly event…

2019 is personally exciting for marking my silver 25th anniversary in attendance for the annual Comic-Con, since 1994.

I proudly think back to each wonderful year being special and well worth the travel costs (with setbacks at times). I always look forward to the SDCC, being my shared megacenter on converged passions in creative print and digital media routed in deep, imaginary levels of far-out storytelling. Thus, I share many personal moments with friends, interact with and cheer on creative talent, embark on crazy treasure hunts, panel-hop, discover new properties, promote my projects, do a lot of presswork, help retailers, and much more.

The SDCC is now more important to me than all the holidays, and birthday. I love this show, with all that connects to it. And with all that, comes the growth and constant changes it brings. Now that means lotteries everywhere, more outside events, grander cosplay meetups, more art commissions, creator interactions, celebs, and the chance for comic companies to really stand out (getting more difficult now).

But it wasn’t always that way. Comic-Con had its simple carefree years slowly escalating to its maxed-out frenzy now. You could walk in, buy a ticket, and do regular convention things like shop and meet some artistic creators or B-tier celebs, admiring the cosplay in between. San Diego Comic Con just offered more of it, which was my impression between 1994-1999, my first five years in attendance.

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The Exhibit Hall in 1998, picture credit – the 1999  San Diego Comic-Con Souvenir Guide

Conventions focusing on collectibles and fandom would become my jam throughout the 90s, starting with my first Star Trek convention in 1991, then a few small local comic conventions in San Francisco. I regularly attended a quasi-convention that occurred twice-a-week, east of Los Angeles (Frank and Sons). My euphoria bloomed from treasure hunts among dealer tables, usually obtaining cheap comics, anime VHS tapes, odd trinkets, and cards.

On with the show!

I would learn of the San Diego Comic-Con through early comic book mags including Wizard, Comics Buyers Guide, and similar zines. It seemed like an important big deal and bigger than anything I attended before. Eventually, my time to see for myself would come for the first time in 1994, with a ride offered to San Diego along with an extra ticket, by a very good friend.

My time there was short, and my wallet small. I purchased a stack worth of bargain comics adding to a pile of promo freebies (lots of ashcans) from the various booths. I also missed out on a lot of great programming…

 

Above: The Friday and Saturday Schedule from the 1994 Comic-Con Event Guide.

I would return to buy my own ticket for 1995 and 1996, but only a day for each. For 1997, I would buy a full pass but only attend three days. Then for 1998-1999, I come as a retailer representing my comic book store worked in Diamond Bar, California (Comics and Stuff), to engage on the more business side of the industry.

Comic books, everywhere!

Comic books were my main focus in attending, branching off as a buyer and having an interest in meeting creators or listening to them talk. Throughout the 90s, comic books and graphic novels were the center focus of the show for most attendees. Bargain bins were everywhere, vintage and rare books were plenty, and all the main companies were present.

The crazes were a mixed bag. Indie comics were on the rise, with Image taking the lead (but then Wildstorm, Top Cow sub-publishers beginning to splinter off). The bad girl craze was in full effect, where scantily clad warrior women would take charge with Lady Death, Vampirella, Shi, Witchblade, Fathom in the lead. Marvel Comics presence weakened a little since their record-breaking boost in the early ’90s, but still showing strength with its many X-Men and Spider-man titles,. DC Comics also hit some trouble spots but grabbed new attention with some very different series including JLA, Kingdom ComePreacher. 

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Page clip from the 1999  San Diego Comic-Con Souvenir Guide

Plentiful presence of creative talent!

Best of all at the SDCC, nearly all the creators of the popular books were there. If there was someone you admired, just bring your books or buy some at a booth, then find out which spot that person was at for a good signing. Neil Gaiman, Garth Ennis, Grant Morrison, Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, J. Scott Campbell, Mike Turner with many more were around!

Sketchbooks were a common thing to bring, and essential for the best personal interaction with artists. Many artists were often happy to provide a little doodle or something grand for commission price. I would just pull out a backboard from a bagged comic. I would go for pretty much anyone, but finding someone I admired by chance.

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Six-Pack from the Hitman series by John McCrea…not exactly the late 90s, but definitely a favorite artist of the time.

There’s more than comics at Comic-Con, right?!

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1995 San Diego Comic-Con event guide

Right, and plenty around. But, not front and center.

The Hollywood presence was small, using the Comic-Con to promote with some grand display or large props including the train from Mystery Men or the Time Machine from The Time Machine. Such things were visually cool but wouldn’t attract much in lines unless there was signing or swag (usually a poster) given out. When there were movie panels promoting wide-release, usually the director, some staff, and some co-stars would show up. The top-billed cast to a major film would be unheard at this con, at the time.

Pop-culture presence outside of comic books was dependant on fan and cult popularity. Xena, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, X-Files were often discussed and sought in collectible merch, plentiful on the Exhibit floor. The Star Trek franchise remained strong, with plenty of fans dressed as Klingons and Starfleet crew proud to represent.

1999 was a killer year for movies among the geek culture, with Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, The Matrix, Austin Powers IIBlade, Blair Witch; all bringing new talk and buzz among attendees to help to promote and buy the fresh merch. Movie marketers were definitely taking notes, for the next decade to come.

Meanwhile, I would find a growing love for Japanimation, or as it was growing to be called…anime. The SDCC was a place for such fans to gather and appreciate the growing fandom of Dragonball Z, Sailor Moon, and many new imports on their way. Cosplay was well represented, as the anime conventions would raise that craft to new levels.

Indie film companies also had their presence at the SDCC, most notably The Troma booth, where Lloyd Kaufman himself would greet fans and recommend a VHS tape or something called a DVD.

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A two-page sampling of events from the 1995 SDCC Event Guide

Social interaction!

The show would grow from 34,000-42,000, keeping steady and never selling quite out. The lines to enter first on Wednesday and Thursday morning were absurdly long, leading to bigger crowds and forcing the SDCC organizers to adapt and grow for the coming years.

Throughout the day, one could easily make friends sharing a large table, waiting for a panel to start, or waiting in line; sometimes sharing in treasures gained, or overhearing a discussion of who would win in a with a fight of who, discussing latest storylines in comics. Such social interaction of Comic-Con would remain a cornerstone of its success for every year.

Cosplay was growing, though we referred to that scene as “people dressing up” and less of the sub-culture it’s become today. Craftmanship was appreciated as a surprise, though effort and tribute were worthy enough of a point and shoot of our very limited 35mm cameras.

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The Comic-Con nightlife was small, yet available for those willing to stay up. The Saturday night Masquerade and after party at the convention center was the best bonus for attendees there for that night. For many others on Thursday to Saturday, catching a movie in one of many rooms through the late night remained plentiful. I could always count on some random anime or goofy indie film to watch with a few strangers and be very much entertained. Afterward, some fun chit chat among strangers and looking to see what else left for us night owls.

The Exhibit Hall at Comic-Con, a growing thing…

Only a fraction then of what it is now. Here is the layout for 1996:

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I recall a giant life-sized Alien queen at the Dark Horse booth, something I wish would come back rebuilt. All the big comic book companies had large signs with big tables of freebies. Next up from comics were toys as McFarlane Toys were highly visible, setting a new standard for other companies to catch up. Moore Creations was popular for a while, taking some daring steps with collectible female-oriented figures…especially Lady Death, Witchblade, then Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Some variant colors of figures were around, sometimes con-exclusive. That trend was just beginning.

Overall, the Exhibit Hall had something for everyone, with surprises sometimes. I remember one time waiting in line, and suddenly I met Renee O Conner (Gabrielle from Xena the Warrior Princess). I smile and she smiled back while signing autographs for others, then a security man motioned me to get to the back of a very long line, which I had no time for.

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Panels, panels, panels!

Another essential part of a great con is always the panels of presentations, Q and A sessions, and helpful info. The first panel I went to was in 1996, ” Spotlight on Evan Dorkin,” whose cartoonist work I enjoyed in both Dork and Milk & Cheese. I enjoyed every minute of his personal humor, poking fun at audience members. I recall an awesome panel from Troma Studios (not sure on the year), where Lloyd Kaufman enacted a cheap special effect of a head squishing, very inspiring! I would also join Stan Lee briefly in a room showcasing with a short preview, the movie Blade in 1998. No Wesley Snipes present, but I was happy to see Stan Lee in person for the first of many times.

The more time I spent at Comic-Con over the years, the more exploring open rooms, sit down and see what was talked about, then move to another room..sometimes watch a movie. Such great times, that would grow!

Only a small percent of a small percent!

There are more bit to share about the SDCC in its growth throughout its 50 years, from many attendees with varied memorable, often wonderful experiences. Publishers and creatives would come and go, some keep it real, a new trend practically every year. The late 90s’s set many new roots for the next two decades, raising the experiences and possibilities of the show to its grander heights.

Here is the programming in the 1998 event guide for Friday and Saturday, which you can see from the earlier picture, just how much it has grown in that short time…

 

 

(click on each to enlarge)

What I miss, are the carefree moments of less pressure in making plans. There was definitely less of the exclusives frenzy and nearly no clamoring for celebrities. Though some lesser famous actors, directors would grow from the fandom interaction, including those notable…Bruce Campbell, Kevin Smith, Seth Green, Lucy Lawless. Comic book creators (especially popular artists including Todd McFarlane, J. Scott Campbell, Michael Turner, Jim Lee, Joe Madureira) of the best-selling books were the biggest draws of the show, for this time.

But for me, the experiences of those early SDCC years were enough to set my dedication in attending for many years forward, into the tradition I would hold, and share in many more write-ups. I would think sometimes if there was a better show for comics and related fandoms out there. Will I ever stop going to this thing? Will the show I have barely known in those old magazines, raise the pop culture of geek entertainment to mainstream status, spreading from comics to other media formats. I won’t wait long to find out, just a lot more lines with fun people.

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My only remaining picture of those late 90 years, done from a point and shoot. The rest are lost, probably forever. And yes, that’s me next to Harley Quinn..either 1998 or 1999.

My post-E3 2019 gaming impressions…

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So video game fans, another annual Electronics Entertainment Expo show, (aka E3), just passed through again.

As a fan of video games since the days of the original NES generations, news and previews of such have kept me engaged in the workings and developments of what’s to come, I have been following E3 for nearly 20 years now, attending often in the early 2000s. Eventually, much changed for the better with less of public emphasis on booth models and dumb PR stunts now. Though there are flashy lights and outrageous booth displays on the exhibit floor, it’s still a private-access expo that focuses on the promotion and elevation of digital games across all possible platforms.

I remain interested but not the most excited as I am for PAX and gaming events focused more on the players. This year at E3 however, is one for subtle changes and lessons learned in the industry, at least based on my observations of its coverage on various channels. Less tolerance for play-to-win mechanics, buggy releases, hardware gimmicks, have all effected forthcoming projects pushed by big companies.

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Again with the stage shows…

The most awaited of E3, are still the big announcements on large stages by the biggest companies. Sony (Playstation) and Microsoft (Xbox) still feel about the same, being of similar abilities, target audiences, and weird promises. Hey Microsoft, what the hell is Project Scarlett? I get that there’s a more powerful processor with higher SSD tech and can do more stuff, but it’s referred to as a “console experience.” It’s very vague, but I am far less impressed by graphics and colorful hyper-realism these days. Meanwhile the eventual PS5 will likely have similar impressions, but with news on its details just as vague this year.

Meanwhile, Nintendo wins the stage war with no need for a new console push. It’s got plenty for their dedicated fans with new revelations. You want video games with immersive gameplay, challenge, and deep internal world soon ready for exploration and adventure?!! Well, Nintendo has you covered with new announcements/previews for  a Zelda: Breath of the Wild sequel and remake of Link’s Awakening (!), new Pokemon games, Luigi Mansion 3 (!!), new DLC for Smash Bros Ultimate with Dragon Quest characters and Banjo Kazooie (!!!!)..pretty much all that you love about Nintendo with more of that added, feeling like a reward to its faithful fans.

Bigger, better, badder?!

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Are we impressed as we used to be with this E3 as we used to be? I suppose yes because that’s usually where we look to the video game industry’s best and brightest to lead us into the next generation of interactive entertainment with new announcements, new consoles, new peripherals, and whatever else is trending. But something feels wrong.

I see the big trend this year, for continued fanfare through nostalgia on times when new games felt fresher and original. We have new Borderlands, a Final Fantasy VII remake, new Monster Hunter game, new Pokemon, 2 new Zelda, new Star Wars (with a very Star Wars: Unleashed vibe), a new Avengers game, etc, etc.

Pretty much all taking center stages with some great reactions, but powered by fans familiar with the franchises and brand recognition. Less originality new material on top announcements, and that’s a bit sad for what takes the big headlines.

But there are some hopes for what’s coming, with a little more on Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding…a game a longtime in the making and probably worth it. But, still vague and puzzling towards the overall premise of what a “stranding” game is (according to Kojima). I look forward to whatever may come from this.

Cyberpunk 2077 is perhaps the biggest attention-getter, for its visual appeal and throwback to the old school vibes of gritty cyberpunk and future urban decay in a capitalist dystopian fever dream, now presenting Keanu Reeves in game and in person at e#. Smart move, given the man’s charisma and dedication to making any product he gets involved in a most worthwhile look. But again, appeals are made to our nostalgia for both Reeves and it’s style; not a bad thing but I will be sad if this game disappoints upon full release.

Meanwhile, there are some indie games by tiny companies, which I am excited about; especially platformers including Unexplored 2: The Wayfarer’s Legacy, Valfaris, Unto The End. I am pleased on advancements in development are being applied to the this never forgotten format, and look forward to artistic and creative thought being put forth.

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That being said…

The E3 for now remains a mixed bag of repackaged nostalgia, corporate trends, an appeal to privileged folk to buy next-gen games. Whether this pays off will not be up to those investors and PR agencies involved in setting the show up, but the fans and creative minds who connect through the next round of gaming; which is previewed through E3. What happens next remains continuous.

Amusements of the Crypticon 2019

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It’s been a month, but the local Crypticon still feels fresh and spooky to me.

The Seattle Crypticon 2019 happened in early May, as a large horror fandom convention of the Pacific Northwest. This Crypticon has remained annual for over 10 years. but feels local and small in comparison to those big celebrity-driven Comic Cons. There are two other Crypticons held in the U.S further out in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Kansas City, Missouri. All dedicated to those who love horror and supernatural themes in books, movies, TV, games, and whatever else entertains the soul with elevated suspense and tingles.

I enjoyed every minute. therefore I must share a bit more with my casual go to this year, with not much in mind other than sharing time with friends old and new, some shopping, and panel-hopping. Crypticon provided and gave a bit more.

Here are some pictures I took with notes attached:

From the moment you enter, you will find many attendants getting deep in the spirit of the show, with detailed makeup and costumes. Doing such makes the character inside reach out!

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Some of that work will have spectators doing a double-take.

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And of course, some familiar friends walked around like Chucky here!

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And not everything is horror, but a touch of horror and supernatural elements inspire others to focus on those interesting elements of fandoms. Bellatrix Lestrange from the Harry Potter series exemplifies that.

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Not sure what story this creepy girl is a portrayal of, or perhaps there is no need. Great makeup, costuming and accessory is all one could need to really put a story through.

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No convention is worthwhile without an exhibit floor filled with creative souls selling their custom handmade work with a variety of writings, paintings, indie movies, figurines, pins, and so much more.

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Paintdead Artworks by Jacqueline Gallagher (www.paintdead.com, @jackiepaintdead on Instagram). I purchased an awesome Alien print from her.

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Love the magnificent crochet work from Sheri Jordan of SanjiCraft (@sanjicat on Instagram, Sanjicraft on Facebook).

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A big of fan of Sanjicraft’s work here…

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Owlex (@Owlex Never sleeps on Instagram, Facebook), crafter of resin cast half-masks inspired by samurai menpo. 

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I also attended some great panels, including this X-Files TV show panel with supporting cast William B Davis, Brian Thompson, Nicholas Lea, Mitch Pileggi. Lots of fun with some revealing set stories told!

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The Twin Peaks panel with Ray Wise and Sheyl Lee, a treat for fans with more fun behind the scenes stories and thoughts on this classic cult show.

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Also scoped out many short films among two feature viewings…a great mix indeed!

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Then on my way to the fun nighttime party on the 13th floor. No formal attire needed..just be yourself!

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That’s all for now, with a huge thank you to the show organizers, cosplayers, creatives, and others who made this show a worthwhile crash. I look forward with my plan to attend again in the future, for sure!

2019’s Con Season Begins at Wondercon

Last weekend, comic book fans and cosplayers took over Anaheim, California to celebrate Wondercon, now in its 32nd year.  The sold-out show brought an estimated 66,000 attendees, making it now half the size of San Diego Comic Con.  Con season has officially begun, and here are some of our favorite moments….

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Wondercon made a return to Anaheim this year. A giant Bumblebee guarded the entrance by Harbor.

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The vendor hall was bustling on Saturday, but fairly empty Friday. DC’s booth featured Shazam costumes and Batman cowls throughout the year.

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Greg Capullo greets fans at the DC booth.

Exploding Kittens was a popular booth this year, with a puppet-based interactive game where you could buy random objects for a dollar. I watched someone walk away with an eggplant.

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Wondercon always attracts fun cosplayers and pushes the envelope for creativity.

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Just your local robots out for an evening stroll after spa day at the hotel.

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Hey look, we found her!

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Venom gets a classy tux treatment in this handcrafted creation.

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We wrapped our day at the Unnecessary Debates panel, moderated by Grand Geek Gathering’s Tyler McPhail. Our favorite part was Olivia singing as Groot.

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Jenny Jaffe (writer, Big Hero Six TV series), Tyler McPhail (host of The Grand Geek Gathering), Genevieve Cosplay, Abed Gheith (writer, Rick and Morty), and Olivia Olson (Marceline from Adventure Time)

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Wondercon is always a favorite because it has that oldschool SDCC feel to us. There’s a good balance of comics, games, sci-fi, and cosplay, and many of our favorite guests and creators. The panels are creative and thoughtful, but also full of exciting announcements. We can’t wait to go back – Wondercon 2020 will be held Easter weekend, April 10-12 at the Anaheim Convention Center.

Cosplay excellence at the 2019 Emerald City Comic Con

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No modern-day pop-culture convention feels complete without the efficient cosplay dedication from many of its attendees. The 2019 Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle carried on that, with excellence!

However, those familiar with these events can expect no surprises in trends here. There were the usual Marvel and DC fanfare, with more influence from the movies and TV shows. Star Wars is usual, but didn’t catch my eye as much. Gamer cosplay attire continues to impress, as games like Overwatch and Fortnite have elaborate, challenging costume designs, putting their expert crafters to heavy work to achieve authenticity. I think the game designers in creating these characters, look forward to making its cosplay crafter fans really work for that authentic look.

Meanwhile, the main event for ECCC 2019, showcased as the Western Championships of Cosplay, featured many talent cosplayers on stage. Throughout the show, there was a focus on three categories – Needlework, Armor, and FX. Here is a complete video of that grand display…

So overall, an awesome impression everywhere at ECCC. I took some pictures of many costumes done from casual to expert level from fans walking around on and around the convention floor…

MissBoof  as Thor, using luminescent UV-coated eye contacts and LED lights.

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Zamesta as Mercy from the Doctor Who “The Next Doctor” Christmas episode with a fairy friend.

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Ollei Cosplay as Sugarplum Sylvana from Heroes of the Storm and World of Warcraft

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Alternate dark multiverse “The Man Who Laughs” Batman from the DC Comics..

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Samurai Mario!

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Feel the power of Hulkamania!, BROTHER!!

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Hellboy!

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Not sure, but fits well with the St. Patricks Day spirit, which crossed over this weekend.

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Disney ladies!

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Brilliant design work here!

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Skeletor!

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Monterrey Jack and Gadget of the Rescue Rangers!

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Mera!

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Milly Craft as Princess Celesta from My Little Pony.

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Ariel from Disney’s The Little Mermaid, I think. Costume had a cool glitter effect, which I could not quite capture here.

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That’s all for this ECCC show, with added applause to all cosplayers who attended, and added that extra touch that in the overall enjoyable Con experience!

Casual adventuring through the 2019 Emerald City Comic Con

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Last weekend, was another wonderful time at the annual Emerald City Comic Con for 2019, here in Seattle.

For me, it was my sixth year in attendance, still being easily accessible to my local home area. But, I wasn’t able to attend the full show, with just the weekend available for me. I kept my time simple to casual shopping, small panels, chatting with old and new friends. My con time was chill, and that was enough for now.

Here are some pictures, with notes:

ECCC was as usual, very family friendly. Getting in the spirit sometimes could just be putting on a mask while still being yourself.

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I spent the most time on the main Exhibit Floor. While there was a presence of comic indie publishers, I noticed a larger rise in art sold as prints of all sizes, ranging from postcards to large posters. A wide range of styles, through traditional paints to sophisticated digital art. There was something for everyone to purchase or just admire.

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Artist alley was full of awesome artists; many ready to meet, greet, buy prints for sale, and set up commissions (the best you can really get from an admired artist).  My first purchase from ECCC was a few stickers from Ian Flynn, Mega Man and Sonic the Hedgehog comics artist.

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Tim Sale, legendary artist best known in my opinion for Batman: The Long Halloween.

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Terry Huddleston, a proud and awesome artist presenting his work on the Exhibit Floor.  You can see more at thuddleston.deviantart.com.

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Artist Brianna Garcia poses with an awesome commission original piece of Captain Marvel and Goose… beautiful work! check out more of her work at www.deviantart.com/briannacherrygarcia.

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A new favorite painter, whose stunning work I admired and purchased. She is super awesome to talk to as well. Check out the work of Mia Araujo at http://www.art-by-mia.com. She is also working on an interesting take on Alice in Wonderland illustrative book, that you can follow and support through Patreon at patreon.com/miaaraujo

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I just really like this attendees Star Wars shirt, with art by Shag.

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A convention is nothing without its silly stuff to purchase, and maybe add unusual character in your life.

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Really awesome classic Planet of the Apes pro-makeup work and prosthetic, as the mouth moves. I was told this work took many hours, and I like the result.

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The ECCC has a huge amount of space for tabletop gaming, with something for everyone whether into quick card battles or large elaborate scenarios. Here is just a small portion of a display set up for Forgotten Fortress, miniatures RPG game.

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Later on, Saturday after the lines died down for exclusives, the Funko booth had some of their artists do some Pop sketches for fans of their work.

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Funko Pops as still popular, and plentiful on the showroom floor. Some still command some crazy prices.

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But the best collectibles I feel are those that hold or will hold some sentimental value. Getting something signed, with something more like a picture or a sketch makes the whole show worthwhile.

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ECCC is still a great place for geek attire. I was really tempted to buy one of these awesomely silly Pokemon shirts…

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The Dark Horse Comics booth had a cool wall for attendees to color…

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And the main event of ECCC, the Western Championships of cosplay on Saturday showed off the best craftsmanship in several categories.

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Regarding cosplay, there was plenty of dress-up fandom representation everywhere. I will share more in another post soon.

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And, that’s enough for this year. Overall, a great time but not entirely epic because I didn’t go out of my way for big experiences or crazy goals in mind. Sometimes, you just have to take that con time easy, and naturally mix in.