Casting Internets

Guys, it’s been a ridiculously long time since I did a Casting Internets post. Work and life got in the way of my internet reading, but here’s what I found interesting over the past month or so.

I’ve done a ton of CBR writing since last I posted. If you’re interested, head on over and check out my author page on the site.

I also interviewed the President of the Eagles in a roundabout way by doing this piece for Marvel.com about the poster they and Marvel made for Brian Dawkins. I also did some NYCC coverage for them, but you’ll have to search around for it.

The amazing Alex Kropinak took part in Empire Strikes Back Uncut and I weaseled my way into doing the voice for Yoda in this 15 second clip. Go check it out. Now.

Speaking of Star Wars, check out this R2-D2 NES mod posted over on Ubergizmo. I’ll take one, thanks.

One more quick Star Wars-related thing. The coolest thing I saw at NYCC was this huge Lego city that combined Star Wars, DC Comics, Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who and a lot of other geek faves.

My pal Kiel did an awesome interview with Once Upon A Time co-creators Eddie Kitsis and Adam Horowitz for Spinoff.

Can’t remember who sent me this, but Jim Mroczkowski, perfectly encapsulates what I’ve been struggling to vocalize when it comes to the silly idea that comic readers are a community instead of a group of people who like to absorb entertainment a certain way.Scott C. did a Road House Showdown!!!! And then he did The ‘Burbs!It won’t happen, but I would love to go see Halloween on the big screen on Halloween.

I’m really bummed to hear that Covered is donezo, what a great site.

In other bummer news, the dance/pop group LMFAO is apparently splitting up for now. That’s not really my zone of musical expertise, but I sure love those guys. The real question is, where does this leave Shuffle Bot? (via THR)

It’s official, Soundgarden’s got a new album called King Animal coming out on November 13th. I’m not the biggest fan of theirs, but I am very excited about this record. (via Rolling Stone)

This opening fold-out TARDIS bookshelf I saw over on Bookshelf Porn is pretty amazing. Only problem? Should bee bigger on the inside.

Not sure when or if I’ll get around to reading Michael Chabon’s new book Telegraph Avenue but Esquire‘s Benjamin Percy noted that it had some of the same problems I had with The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, a book I could not finish.

Check out this interview R.L. Stine did with The Washington Post about the Goosebumps books. I found his rules for those stories geared towards younger readers pretty interesting.

Like a lot of people, I’m only familiar with The Vaselines’ song “Jesus Don’t Want Me For A Sunbeam” thanks to Nirvana’s Unplugged album. Even so, seeing Krist Novoselic playing accordion on the song with the band was surprisingly emotional. (via THR)

Not sure how I feel about Run-DMC reuniting, but it’s pretty cool that they got Jam Master Jay’s sons Jason and TJ to fill his gigantic shoes. I dug this interview with them on Rolling Stone. Dave Perillo‘s travel posters from movies like National Lampoon’s Vacation and Caddyshack are amazing.

Reading the HMAD review of new horror film Sinister makes me actually want to see it even though I’m not big on haunting movies.

The Hollywood Reporter wrote about the true story behind Argo including their own involvement in the ruse as well as Jack Kirby’s!Still not sure about the casting of Daniel Radcliffe as Ig in the film adaptation of Joe Hill’s Horns, but this photo on EW sure looks cool.

I love that Jason Statham keeps making the same kinds of movies, but bigger and bigger stars are now doing them with him. Parker. Boom.

Dolph Lundgren’s going to be on a TV show called Rescue 3. (via THR)

Jed Mayer’s IndieWire piece on going to see Dawn of the Dead over and over at his local mall is both a fun look back and a great set of observations about one of my all-time favorite movies. I haven’t seen any of the new Teendage Mutant Ninja Turtles show, but I’ve heard good things. As a long-time Metalhead fan, I fully support his inclusion in the current toy line. (via Toynewsi)

Once my oven’s back in working condition, I’m definitely going to make Smitten Kitchen‘s pumpkin cinnamon rolls. Definitely. I love Tales From The Crypt so much, you guys, so I was pleasantly surprised when I saw Glen Brogan drew him recently.

I haven’t been on the Masters of the Universe Classics comp list for about a year now. I miss getting those awesome boxes every month, but I’m going to miss getting the upcoming Four Horsemen-designed Castle Greyskull even more. Man, that thing looks sweet. Bandai’s Chogokin King Robo Mickey & Friends looks freaking amazing. I hope they sell it in the States. Everything should get Voltron-ized! (via Toynewsi)

Especially after the next few days we’re going to have here, I very much want to try The Southside as described by Michael Ruhlman. That reminds me, I should move the liquor away from the window…

Casting Internets

Over on Marvel.com I talked to Roger Stern about his five favorite Avengers. Considering how many awesome stories he wrote, this one was a big get for me and the column.

My pal Matt seems to be posting over on Saturday Morning Is Awesome again, check that shiz out.

Check out these James Bond book covers in Hebrew. Some really interesting designs here. (via Illustrated 007)

I’m not nearly as big a Disney fan as my wife and dad, but I would definitely like to go for Star Wars Weekend some time. Dig these crazy wallpapers they posted online this week.

I realized while making a playlist for Lucy’s birthday party that it’s been far too long since I’ve really listened to Offspring’s records. They’ve got a new one called Days Go By. I’m excited to go back and also check out this new one when it drops. Can you believe it’s been 20 years since Ignition came out?! (via Rolling Stone)

THR tells me that Anthony Bourdain’s novel Bone In The Throat will be turned into a film, I like the sound of that.

Reading Leon Hendrix talking about his brother Jimi on Rolling Stone was interesting. Jimi’s such a mythical figure you almost assume he just sprang out of the ether and started shredding, so it’s interesting to hear about him as a young dude.

I’m not the biggest Community fan in the world, but I thought Dan Harmon‘s open letter about getting laid off from the series he created was interesting.

I’m not sure who tweeted this After The Final Curtain link, but these photos of the Loew’s 46th Street Theatre which eventually turned into a furniture storage place were super interesting. I’ve added the site to my RSS feeds, can’t wait to see what else they’ve got coming up.

Rolling Stone posted this interview with Adam Horovitz about his fallen brother and Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, it was pretty moving. I can’t imagine losing a friend you’ve known for so long and also had such creative chemistry with.

The Hollywood Reporter did a long feature about ALF creator Paul Fusco and I was fascinated. Give that guy another shot at the big time, Hollywood.

Casting Internets

Writing, writing, writing, I did lots of writing. For CBR I covered Planetoid and Enormous.

Meanwhile, for Marvel I wrote about Ryan Stegman taking over on Fantastic Four, Jamie McKelvie taking over Defenders, Fred Van Lente’s issue of Hulk Smash Avengers, a Harley Davidson Avengers comic and Stegman’s Five Favorite Avengers.

In writing-my-friends-have-done news, Sean T. Collins not only reviewed Shia LaBeouf’s minicomics for The Comics Journal, but also interview the writer and artist for Rolling Stone. I think I might download one or two of these for my Fire. Expendables MiniMates are now a thing! Think of all the customizing options now!

Beer makes men smarter. Yes. Good. (via Esquire)

THR says that Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are going to be in a new comedy shooting soon called Internship. Love those guys together.

I don’t have HBO, so I won’t be seeing Girls for a while, but I’m excited to. This THR interview with Judd Apatow from last week helped.

Finally got around to reading this Rolling Stone article from 1986 about the Monkees resurgence and reunion that they posted after Davy Jones passed away. I actually saw them on that tour with my parents and remember being personally insulted that Mike Nesmith didn’t do the tour.

Rolling Stone also talked to former Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson about his upcoming poem book Letters To Kurt about Nirvana frontman Cobain. Sounds like an interesting project.

Erlandson also spoke to FuseTV and revealed that Cobain was working on a White Album-esque solo record when he died. Someone needs to get that into existence so I can hear it.

Less interesting to me than the fact that Stephen King is writing a amusement park serial killer novel called Joyland is that Neil Gaiman wrote about hanging out with him and and Joe Hill.

I really like Glen Brogan’s Where’s Waldo-inspired Jason wallpaper that you can download for free on Strange Kids Club.

Hey, remember the Hives? They have a new record coming out soon! (via RS)

I’m not the biggest fan of the name Thrillbent, but I am very excited to see what Mark Waid and John Rogers have planned for digital comics. This could be the future, folks.

In other digital comics news, DC is doing an out-of-continuity Batman comic that will be purely digital. Better yet? Jeff Parker is writing! (via Robot 6)

I’ve been enjoying the Only The Young Die Young Tumblr for a while now. So many great pictures and tracks posted on a daily basis. The guy who runs the site is in a band called The Agenda and recently posted all or most of their songs which I’ve really been digging these past few days. I don’t really care about Banshee, but I do like the idea of how crazy his family is. Therefore, I’m a fan of Luca Pizzari’s Project: Rooftop redesign of the characters.

The description for the upcoming James Bond game 007 Legends is fairly vague, even with a very long press release, but I’m still excited. (via SHH)

Geek Doc Triple Feature: The Rock-afire Explosion (2008), Special When Lit (200X) & Chasing Ghosts (2007)

I don’t remember how, when or why, but The Rock-afire Explosion–an animatronic animal band from a southern chain of kids restaurants in the 80s with a strong fan following online–came to my attention within the last year or two. I can’t tell you how I heard of them because I have no idea. It could have been a link to one of the videos that are all over YouTube of privately owned versions of the machines programmed to pop music or a friend sending the link to the trailer around, I’m not sure. Anyway, when I did find out about it, I fell down the YouTube Rock-afire Explosion rabbit hole for a few hours and came out smiling and bleary eyed as I’m sure you will if you do the same.

So, I knew about the whole thing when I saw a few weeks ago that the documentary about the band and its fandom was now in Netflix Instant! I was excited and had a bit of a lighter workload yesterday and decided to dive in. It was fascinating, a really deep look at some people who never let go of their dreams in various ways and how that has changed them throughout their lives. The film’s two main focuses are the guy who created the band, Aaron Fechter, and their number one fan Chris Thrash. Chris very honestly explains at one point that the reason he stayed a fan and continues to watch his own private Rock-afire band is that it allows him to slip back to a time when he had no worries and could forget the world. It’s sad in a way, but also good that he knows the reasoning behind what some might consider a bit of a madness.

On the other hand you have Fechter who had a huge amount of success creating these machines and opening hundreds of restaurants and then dealing with the failure of all that. He had a couple hundred employees at one point and had to let them all go. He still owns the building and basically left it the way it was when everyone left, so it’s kind of a crumbling monument to days gone by as well as a fandom that still exists. The theme of the day for these documentaries was a mix of “never growing up” and “dealing with failure after success.”So, yes, at times it’s sad, but there’s also something nice about having something from childhood that you can still take such joy in, it just shouldn’t be your entire life.

From musical machine animals I dove into the world of pinball machines with Special When Lit: A Pinball Documentary. I joked on Twitter a few minutes into the movie that it might as well be called “Back In MY Day,” because it started with a lot of older people talking about how great pinball was and how it failed. But, it’s actually a lot more upbeat and positive than that. Plus, I discovered that there’s a heavy metal/pinball bar in a town that’s pretty near my house.

Anyway, Special When Lit does have some of that “we were the biggest thing around until the crash” stuff as the documentarians talk to a few people who were both makers of pinball machines and guys who ran some of the bigger arcades. Like anything, the game held on to fans, some of whom become obsessive in their love of it and others who just like to play. It reminded me of how much fun I used to have hanging out at the Red Baron arcade in the Franklin Park Mall in Toledo or heading out with my dad to any given arcade to pump quarters into a pinball machine. Sure, I liked the larger arcade video games like Ninja Turtles and X-Men better, but pinball was always something I’d go back to and play.

If you’re a fan of pinball, 80s culture or any rise-and-fall-of-a-particular-group-or-thing story, then you really can’t go wrong with Special When Lit. I was also surprised to find out that pinball was wildly popular in other countries (not for any particular reason, I just never really thought about it) and that some of the guys who still play in tournaments do all kinds of wild movements with their bodies to help their game. It really is fascinating to watch. I’m always down for a glimpse into a subsect of geekery that I either didn’t know existed or hadn’t thought much about.

The last movie I came across in my exploration of different geek subcultures through the lens of documentary was Chasing Ghosts: An Arcade Adventure. I didn’t read much about it, just saw the cover and decided it fit in with my other viewing. As it turns out, the film follows many of the same people that were in the amazing King Of Kong, itself a movie that got me interested in documentaries of this ilk a few years ago. Both movies came out the same year, but I would be interested to find out which was being filmed when. Anyway, if you’ve seen KoK or are a fan of video game history, you’ll remember that Life magazine did a big photo shoot with some of the best video gamers in the country in Iowa with the dude who runs around with a referee jersey on in both films, Walter Day. While it doesn’t state it right out, this film follows not only the history of video games, but the history of those young men who are now grown up and had to deal with the very real fact that the thing that made them so popular and even famous has not only moved on or passed them by, but morphed into something almost entirely different than what it was in their day.

Like with the other two movies, the film focuses on people who were swept up in something that no longer rules their lives and shows how some of them have dealt with it. It also chronicles the adventures of some people who continue to enjoy such things now and strive to keep them alive in a world that does not care nearly as much.

Aside from general interest in other groups and seeing how liking something can so easily turn to obsession, I have a more personal stake in movies like these. I achieved one of my life goals pretty young, I got a job in the comic book industry. I wasn’t writing comics, but I did write about them and later toys. This was a huge deal for a kid who grew up on both. But, then it stopped for a while and has shifted around to mean different things for me in different years. That idea of getting what you want when you’re so young and then dealing with the fallout of not having it anymore is something that I think about. I’m still in the game and actually enjoy what I do now more than I have in a long time, but I have a paranoid streak that keeps me wary. If it all falls apart, how will I react? Will I build a shrine to the good old days? Will I leave it all behind and start something else? Will I raise spiders? Well, definitely not that last one, but it’s interesting to put yourself in that position and ask yourself how you’d turn out and what you’d do. Really what I’m saying is that I want to make a documentary about some of the places I’ve worked over the years. Anyone interested?

How Seeing Van Halen Changed My Life (For Now)

I’ve talked about this both on The Monkee Diaries and over on Pop Poppa, but my dad and I went down to Madison Square Garden on March 1st to see Van Halen play. The whole shebang was a birthday present for me that was fantastic and I thank them both for making it happen. I’ve got to say, it was kind of a revelatory experience for several reasons, not the least of which was that we got to see one of the all time greatest guitar players of all time playing better than he has in years. Eddie Van Halen has gone through some well publicized struggles with substance abuse that have turned a legitimate guitar god into a guy who can barely remember songs while playing in front of thousands of people. It seems like he’s gotten  himself cleaned up and genuinely had fun playing music with his brother, son and old pal David Lee Roth.

And that’s kind of what stuck with me after the show–in addition to the fact that he looked good with longer hair and inspired me to keep working with mine instead of chopping it all off–he was having fun. Here was a dude who’s done pretty much everything a rock and roll icon can do and he’s standing on stage in a T-shirt and jeans just killing the audience, annihilating us.

I realized that I want to do that. Not wail on a guitar, though I do enjoy turning my volume way up and banging out some tunes, but not up to his level. I want to enjoy myself through my work. One of the problems with being a freelancer for the same place for an extended period of time is that you can very easily get stuck on autopilot. When I worked at ToyFare and then later did freelance for them, I found myself falling into the same patterns of writing over and over and over again, almost like filling in the parts of an equation. But, that’s not necessary. There’s always more fun and life you can inject into something, whether it’s figuring out a new word for “said” or challenging yourself to find creative ways to stay in the present tense.

I also realized that I have a lot more control over how happy I feel on a daily basis than I was letting myself believe. I think I have a bit of Seasonal Defective Disorder and get down in the dumps during the winter without even realizing it. I think I’m feeling fine, but a few months later when the sun starts shining and the snow melts, you realize that you were not in fact feeling great. The weather has turned pretty nice where I live and it was timed perfectly with the concert. I decided that there were two many things I was letting slide in my normal life. I spent so much time focusing on the baby or work that I wasn’t taking as much care of myself as I should have. Showers would fall to the wayside as would the vitamins I take because I don’t get outside as much as I should. As regular readers here and on my other blogs will note, so would posting, which is something I do quite enjoy. So, I made a daily checklist of tasks I want to tackle and have been sticking to that pretty well. I also set up different household chores to do during each day of the week to help keep the house in better shape. These are little things and I can move them around if need be, but I do very much enjoy crossing things off lists, so this method works for me. Another key is that I don’t beat myself up too bad for not crossing something off. Failing one day isn’t failing life, you know?

But, and this is more directly related back to watching Eddie do what he loves in front of thousands of people, I realized I needed to make my creative endeavors a bigger priority in my life. A lot of that fell to the side with the baby and me being tired after a day of working and babywatching. I’ve refocused myself with much more defined goals. I want to finish the novel I’m working on. I want to edit the screenplays I’ve been sitting on for a year. I want to record at least three songs that I’ve been playing for pretty much myself for years. I want to move on to writing other ideas I’ve had forever. I want to start a podcast. There’s a lot of creative things I want to do just for the sake of being creative and getting ideas out there that I now am a lot more focused on.

And it’s all thanks to a concert. I know it sounds silly, it sounds a little silly to me too. I’ve been to lots of concerts and none of them hit me anywhere near this way. But, I think I was just in the perfect place to learn something from someone who’s lived longer than me and done a lot. So, while I know I’ll never meet Eddie Van Halen or maybe even see him again live in concert, I thank him for being a good example, sticking with what he loved and playing a mean guitar.

Doc Double Feature: Too Tough To Die (2006) & Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop (2011)

After watching roughly a metric butt-ton of horror movies and almost nothing else in the month of October, I was looking forward to watching something a little different. While scanning my Netflix Instant queue I came across a movie that caught my attention: Too Tough To Die: A Tribute To Johnny Ramone. The second part of the title didn’t come through on my screen or maybe I just missed it, but I was sold anyway. You could show me pretty much any picture of Johnny playing guitar in one of his awesome stances and I’d bite. As it turns out, TTTD is equal parts tribute concert for a man about to pass away and brief biography of one of the greatest bands of all time as told by famous fans and the people who were there to see it happen.

Basically, before passing away from pancreatic cancer in 2004, Johnny Ramone planned a tribute concert to his already fallen bandmates Johnny and Dee Dee to celebrate the band’s 30th anniversary. He himself couldn’t make it, but he had a hand in nearly every detail from asking his pal Rob Zombie to MC the whole thing to getting bands like The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Dickies and X to perform and even guys like Henry Rollins, Steve Jones, Eddie Vedder, Pete Yorn and others to get together and play some of the Ramones greatest hits along with some deep cuts. The concert was a lot of fun, though I don’t see the appeal of X (maybe they didn’t age well) and I’m always a huge fan of seeing seemingly disparate musicians coming together to share their influences. Would you have thought Yorn was a fan? Maybe not, but hearing him sing “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” made perfect sense (though he looked a little funny playing one of the Ramones signature style guitars).

Between songs, the performers along with others like Debbie Harry and the Ramones’ original managers talked about the band coming together and the impact they had on music. I’m by no means a Ramones expert, but the movie does a good job of filling in the basic details. I knew most of them going in, so I followed along nicely, but I’m not sure if the same could be said for someone completely unfamiliar with the band. Still, you should watch this flick to get an idea.

Johnny passed away two days after the tribute concert and many of the people interviewed think he hung on just to make sure the show went off without a hitch. It was really touching seeing many of the people interviewed in the movie eulogize Johnny. It wound up being an interesting doc because, even though he was the main focus of the discussion, Johnny only showed up in archival interviews and recordings, so you wind up completely seeing this man through the eyes of his friends and family, even though he was alive for at least part of the filming.

After being really bummed out all over again by Johnny’s passing, I grabbed my electric guitar and started wailing on it. I played a few songs that I’ve had in my head forever in a power chord, punk rock tempo and by the end of a quick session my hands hurt, I was sweating and my heart was racing. It felt good. I imagine Johnny and the Ramones felt something similar but magnified a million times on stage. That’s why punk rock is awesome, anyone can do it with a guitar and a few chords.

Moving from the Ramones to Conan O’Brien might seem kind of strange, but the two movies shared not only a thematic relationship, but also a common guest in the form of Eddie Vedder. Basically, Conan was totally punk rock last year. He not only turned down a multimillion dollar deal to move his show back an hour, but after he did so, he went on a DIY tour of the country with a band, skits and guest spots. Sure, he had a team behind him, but he was loyal to them throughout the entire thing and vice versa. It’s not exactly the same as The Ramones slogging through the mean streets of NYC, but it took a lot of integrity and hard work to make it happen.

Can’t Stop follows Conan from the end of his stint on the Tonight Show through the announcement of his Legally Prohibited From Being Funny On Television Tour and all the dates. You actually get to see the moment he sent out the tweet announcing the tour, which was pretty cool to see from the opposite end of things. I followed Conan throughout these days, so now I feel like I know what was going on on his end but also what he was going through.

The real meat of the documentary isn’t seeing Conan and his crew of writers figure out the jokes or him working out and playing songs with the band, but what the tour, being funny and leaving the Tonight Show really mean to the funny man. I heard Conan interviewed by Marc Maron on his wonderful WTF Podcast, so I kind of had a preview of the man behind the smile on TV, so it wasn’t as much of a surprise to see him freaked out after a show or having trouble with certain members of his staff. You tend to think of Conan as a guy who’s always smiling and making jokes, but that’s not the case. If you want to get a real look at the man, watch this movie and then check out the WTF episode…and then all the others, that’s the best damn podcast around.

Casting Internets

I’ve been holding on to these links for WAY too long. Like, back to NYCC long, so let’s get these out and move on.

As I mentioned in a previous Casting, I’m writing for Spinoff Online now, you can check out all those posts here.

For CBR, I wrote a ton of stuff including this Commentary with Ron Marz and Filip Sablik about Artifacts Volume 2, the Image creator owned comics panel at NYCC, David Hine about taking over The Darkness, the NYCC announcement that Extreme Studios is coming back, Dark Horse‘s NYCC panel, Robert Kirkman’s Skybound panel and the McFarlane panel.

Speaking of CBR, I was in the room for this interview with Patton Oswalt and had to stifle myself from laughing too loud. It’s weird seeing video of a memory but from a different angle. That Roots bit at the end was genius.

My pal and brand new member of the CBR family Brett White wrote a killer column about new Ultimate Spider-Man Miles Morales. It’s been out for awhile, but I finally had a chance to read.

Speaking of Brett, check out his Tumblr now for the amazing sketches he got at NYCC. I am jealous of his ability to talk to artists. Dorkly‘s graphic of Fifteen People You’ll See At Every Con is pretty accurate. I’d add “Adventure Time Cross Dressers,” “Dead-Eyed Journalists” and “Skanky Costume Chicks” to the list. (via IHC)

Dan Trachtenberg of Totally Rad Show fame will be directing his first feature called Crime Of The Century. I know I don’t actually know him, but I feel like one of my pals has made good. (via /Film)Mondo’s Trick r Treat, The Burning and Sleepaway Camp posters look amazing. I’ll take one of each. (via /Film)

TLo wrote about the first episode of the second season of Work Of Art on Bravo which features Sucklord, a toy customizer/kitbasher who used to get covered in ToyFare all the time. It’s awesome to see him on TV and I think TLo’s take on his performance in the first ep was pretty spot on.

Conan O’Brien sold a sitcom to TBS called Fat Chance according to THR. Nuff said.

The possibility of a Cannonball Run remake by Guy Ritchie starring Brad Pitt and George Clooney is a remake I could get behind. (via /Film)

I can’t believe I just discovered Jay Mohr had been blogging about Real Housewives of New Jersey recently! I could have been enjoying this Bravo blog all season!

Adventures In Freelancing: NYCC Post Mortem

Between my photo diary entries over on The Monkee Diaries (Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday) and a pair of posts over on Pop Poppa about my experiences leaving Lucy for the first extended period of time and her first comic con, I’ve done a lot of writing about the New York Comic Con. And that doesn’t even include all the actual work I did for CBR!

Last year, I wrote a pretty negative post about the NYCC. My main complaints were that people were not very considerate while walking along, the show was too crowded to really look for comics and the press pass line was way too long. And you know what? Those problems still exist. Well, I assume the press line thing was still a problem, I’m not exactly sure because, the main reason I enjoyed the show so much more this year over last was because I not only had a series of solid assignments but also was doing them for a company that really knows how to treat its employees.

I know this might seem like I’m being a company man or what have you, but I don’t do that and never have. I say good things about good people and groups, but if I happen to be aligned with a less reputable group, I’ll keep my mouth shut. So, take that into consideration when I say that Jonah Weiland and CBR are wonderful to work for. They not only had press passes waiting for us so we didn’t have to wade through the line, but also had a nice skybox overlooking the smaller of the show floor sections. The room was done up in a tiki theme, a desk was set up overlooking the floor and a corner was designated for video interviews with comic creators and celebrities. If you’re unfamiliar with the press situation at the NYCC, everyone is crammed into a living room-sized space on the bottom floor with no real ventilation and very little table space.

Being busy with panel coverage (sitting through the hour-or-so talk and then writing it up) kept me away from the show floor for the most part, which was fine by me. Actually, my only real problem this year, aside from huge crowd and a smell of buttered feet in the main area of the floor, was that press had to wait in line to cover a panel. I know this makes me sound like an entitled jerk, but hear me out. If you’re going to bother giving out press passes, the point is, presumably to get the press to cover the event. Whether the organization wants the event covered so news can reach the people or so people can read about how awesome the event is and want to go to it doesn’t really matter to me. What does matter is potentially not getting into a panel to cover it because of a huge line. It bothers me because this is my job, this is how I help feed my family. I’m not demanding front row seats or anything along those lines, but possibly a row or two set aside somewhere for press and the ability to take those seats between panels would not be beyond the realm of normalcy, right? Heck, look how well set-up sports writers are at baseball or football games.

Okay, that’s the end of my press rant. I still think there’s too many people on the floor, lines are impossible to control and there should be a height limit on costume accessories (or an outright ban), but at the end of the day, I had a good time at this show. It was long, hard work, but I liked that too. Last year I didn’t have any work to do, so I felt like I had more of a purpose this year. I also had a great place to do said work alongside great people, which always helps. I got to see some old friends, meet some new ones and even found myself in the same room with Tom Morello (a panel room, but it was still cool), Patton Oswalt, a good deal of the cast of The Walking Dead, Greg Nicotero, Liz Lee from My Life As Liz (got introduced to her and didn’t realize who she was until about 10 minutes later, but she was super nice) and Kenny from The Challenge. Honestly, being in the same room as Patton Oswalt and seeing how free and easy and insanely funny he is just talking to a bunch of people overlooking a comic convention floor was a career highlight. You can see the video interview here, by the way.

So, yes, I think I enjoyed the NYCC more this year than ever before. They shuffled things around yet again, but the set-up seemed to make sense. Most of the big booths were in one area while artists alley and people selling stuff were in another. It will never be a light and easy show to breeze in and out of or walk away with a big stack of cheap comics, but it’s starting to feel familiar and therefor somewhat more normal, which is funny considering I saw a guy dressed in a pretty darn good Voltron costume and an absolute army of girls dressed up as Finn from Adventure Time. Crossing dressing Finn is the new Slave Leia and I kind of like it.

Casting Internets

Before I get into calling out the things I’ve written lately, I’d like to talk about a few other things I’m doing. First off, I’m on Twitter @PoppaDietsch. I started it to tell folks about my new dad blog called Pop Poppa, which you should also check out. Finally, I got back to posting on my Tumblr blog. Fun stuff.

I talked a lot about being busy before the con. Here’s the proof. I talked with Top Cow’s Matt Hawkins and Filip Sablik about Pilot Season, Joe Keatinge and Frank Cho about Brutal, Tony Lee about an upcoming MacGyver comic, Josh Fialkov about Pilot Season: The Test, Alan McElroy about Pilot Season: Anonymous and Landry Walker about Danger Club.

But that’s not all, I also wrote a pair of articles for Marvel.com about Black Panther vs. Daredevil and Villains For Hire!

My buddy Sean T Collins talks about his nightly Daddy Dance Party (something I can relate to) and the awesomeness of James Brown.

Sean also has a Spider-Man story that will be out in October. I will actually be finding a comic shop and purchasing this comic, that’s saying a lot.

Speaking of my friends writing comics, another pal Alex Segura is writing Archie Meets KISS. I can’t tell you how awesome this is to me. Congrats! (via CBR)

There’s a red carpet at Comic Con for celebs to walk down. TLo told me this here and here. So weird.

My favorite bit of news out of SDCC is that Fantagraphics will be doing creator-specific reprints of the EC masters. Amazing. (via Comics Reporter)

I’m also really excited about the guys behind the Crank movies and Gamer working on the next Ghost Rider flick. Actually, I don’t know if I’ve been this excited about a comic-based movie in a long time, that’s a winning combination. (via Wired)

George Harrison’s final album Brainwashed was pretty revelatory to me when it came out, so I’m really interested to see Martin Scorsese’s documentary on the former Beatle. (via Rolling Stone)

Music Musings: Bonnaroo 2002

My actual ticket stub.

I originally wanted to write this post the week leading up to this year’s Bonnaroo, but I got busy. As it turns out, though, I’m writing this on the 9 year anniversary of the first day of the very first Bonnaroo. Yeah, I went to there. It was the summer after my first year of college and earlier in the year, while I was home on break, my buddy Toth told me about this new festival in Tennessee. It was three days, tickets were $100 and that included camping spots. I wasn’t the biggest jam band fan in the world, but the line up seemed interested enough and I liked the idea of being able to tell people I went to the first of something I figured would wind up being a pretty big deal (I guess I was right on that point). To make matters better, Toth figured we could head down to Nashville for a few days and then drive the next hour to Manchester and watch the show. Seemed like a good plan to me.

Our days in Nashville were pretty fun, though would have been even better had we been 21. I have a very distinct memory of walking down the main street wherever we were and hearing all this different music coming out of the bars and clubs that we couldn’t get into. We did however find a Charlie Daniels museum (I love the Charlies Daniels Band), ate at a Hard Rock Cafe, went to a few record stores and also got some “rock star clothes” as Toth called them. I still have the redish pink 70s pants and bright green button down shirt I bought there. I also remember having a conversation about this new show called American Idol. Toth thought it was a big deal and I thought it was BS. Guess I was wrong about that one.

Our Nashville Hotel Room

On the morning of June 21st, 2002 we packed our crap up, stocked up on food at a grocery store and then went to make the hour-or-so drive down to Bonnaroo. Seems pretty simple, right? Heh. No way. Instead of taking the hour that Mapquest told us it would, we wound up being stuck in traffic for 7 or 8 hours. I’ll be honest, I can’t remember the exact amount of time because it’s been so long and I was kind of losing it at the time. I don’t know if it was the wide open space, the insane gridlock or the fact that no one else seemed to think this was a big deal, but I was starting to have a serious panic attack as traffic all but stopped. I was very seriously doing the math in my head, trying to figure out how long it would take us to get home if I just turned around and started driving. How mad would Toth be? How would I pay him back? My better judgement won over and I wound up just sitting it out. To give you an idea of how slow the traffic was moving, people were getting out of their cars and tossing the frisbee around for 15-20 minutes spurts and only had to move a few feet to catch up to their car. It was insane.

Toth, The Camp Site & My Old Van

Eventually we got in, though and went to our camp site. As you can see from the pic, they were basically as wide as a car and twice as long. Toth had a ton of camping equipment like the tent, chairs, a grill, the awning, the whole works, plus he knew how to cook on the camp stove, so we were pretty set. We had a pretty good set up across from some older biker-looking people from Chicago who I remember talking about quitting heroin,or “H” as they called it. That kind of freaked me out, but they seemed nice enough. Again, I’m relying on memories that are a decade old that were probably fuzzy to begin with thanks to poor sleep, a lack of showers and (I assume) some kind of contact high. While I didn’t partake in anything while there, there was plenty around being imbibed freely. I even saw a guy with two different colored eyes. I guess they could have been contacts, but he looked REALLY messed up.When we got to the actual gate, we were given a schedule and a map to help us find our way around. I don’t have it here in NY otherwise I would scan it. I believe the camping areas essentially surrounded the concert area which was split between four stages of increasing size. At least one–and I think two–were under huge tents while the larger two were just gigantic, open air venues. I remember having a general feeling of calm and ease while there even though it was beastly hot and really big. Everyone seemed cool and I saw all kinds of things I had never seen before, from the guy with the crazy eyes to some of the wildest frisbee catches I’ve ever seen. And that’s not even taking the music into account.

The Stadium, Bonnaroo's largest venue that year

Thankfully, I wrote about my experiences at the show on my old website which is still around thanks to Angelfire (that’s also where I swiped all these pictures from). According to that, these are the bands I saw along with some modern day commentary.

Friday

Big Wu
Jim White
Umphrey’s McGee
Les Claypool’s Flying Frog Brigade
Gov’t Mule
Widespread Panic (the first set)
Keller Williams Incident (kinda)
Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe (for a few minutes)

I couldn’t tell you thing one about Big Wu or Jim White. You’ll see me writing that a lot in the next few paragraphs, but I think it’s because I wasn’t familiar with most of the music going in, so there aren’t a lot of touchstones. However Umphrey’s McGee made a big impact on me. They really impressed me and I still remember their show as being my favorite. It was in one of the smaller venues and I think we got pretty close to the stage. We saw Frog Brigade from way back, but it was rad seeing Buckethead play. Gov’t Mule and Panic are mysteries, but I do remember sitting on the side of the tent for Keller’s show and peeking under to see what we could see. I actually really regret not sticking around for Karl Denson’s set. It was one of the late night ones and I actually had listened to one of his records, but I think I didn’t want to be on my own that late. Such a wuss…

Saturday

Ben Harper (solo)
Jack Johnson
String Cheese Incident (I think)
Jurassic 5
Col. Claypool’s Bucket of Bernie Brains
moe (the first set)

Harper played the largest stage they had all by himself. I wasn’t really familiar with his music at the time, but that really impressed me. I don’t believe Jack Johnson was a big deal at the time I saw him, but I do remember him bringing out a 6 or 7 year old Australian girl named Scarlet to play drums at one point. I have no recollection of String Cheese Incident, but Jurassic 5 was awesome. That was my first and only hip hop live show experience. Maybe I was thinking of Bucket of Bernie Brains when it came to seeing Buckethead? moe was the late night show that night and it was pretty cool. Toth and I met some nice people while waiting for them to go on. I think the band was an hour or so late (which anal retentive me did not appreciate), but we all wound up talking bootlegs for a while which was cool. I think Toth stuck around for the second set, but I was exhausted and headed back to the camp site.

Sunday

Ween
Bela Flech & Edgar Meyer
Phil & Friends with Bob Weir
Superjam
Trey Anastasio

Ween is another one I have zero memory of, though I know I was interested in checking them out because some dudes I worked with in high school were HUGE Ween fans. I remember being in the thick of things for Phil & Friends, but am not a Dead fan, so it was another “I have to say I was there” kind of a thing. I wandered away from all that craziness and hung out towards the back of the second biggest stage to check out the Superjam which I remember being really sick. The last show of the night was Phish’s Trey Anastasio playing with his then-new band. At the time, Phish had “broken up” and word around the festival was that Phish would be reuniting. That wasn’t the case, of course as Trey went on and played with his big band. I wasn’t all that interested in this particular show and really didn’t feel like wading through a literal sea of people, so I hung back at the camp site while Toth went and watched. I was able to get one of the camping chairs up on the roof of the van and wound up watching from there. It was actually a pretty awesome moment. I’d love to watch more concerts that way.

The Arena, Bonnaroo's second largest stage

By Sunday, I was more than ready to get the hell out of Tennessee. I had had a good time, but that was a completely different kind of living than I was used to. I had spent the whole time in a uniform of cargo shorts (the same pair I believe) and white under shirts. The cargo shorts were important because I could put water bottles in the extra pockets. Man was it hot. Oh and showerless. There were a few rigged-up sinks that helped a little, but I had never been that sweaty and gross for so long.

Phil & Friends with Bob Weir on stage

We had decided–thanks to my prodding, I’m sure–to head home right after Trey’s set. My plan was to get out of there and drive for as long as I could before needing to get a hotel room and sleep.That’s not how it actually went down, though. It took Toth a while to get back because of all the people, but then it took three hours just to get out. My figuring was that that was still better than what it would have been like the next day. I only got an hour away from Manchester before needing to stop. The hotel we wound up stopping at must have made a killing that night because they charged us for a full night even though it was late and we had to be out by 10 or 11 the next morning and we were definitely not the only Bonnaroo attendees staying there. At the end of the day, though, we didn’t care because we got to sleep in an actual bed and even got to take showers. I’m fairly certain that was the best shower I’ve ever had. I also had the best chicken sandwich of my life the next morning at a nearby Cracker Barrel.

Looking back, I’m really glad I stuck with it and didn’t let my craziness get in the way of a really interesting and fun experience that left me with a lot of memories, even if most of them don’t have much to do with the music itself. Toth went back to Bonnaroo a few times after that, but I bowed out. I spent a ridiculous amount of money that summer between the Tennessee trip, visiting the future-missus in New Hampshire for a few weeks and buying a guitar (the last one I bought now that I think about it). Would I go back again? Yes. But only if I was taken in via helicopter or didn’t have to deal with all that traffic thanks to a parachute drop or some such.