Great Philadelphia Comic Con 2016

The Great Philadelphia Comic Con is a rising force in the mid-Atlantic convention scene, as proved by the impressive show assembled April 22-24. The program was packed with over two dozen panels and as many celebrity guests, including Robin Lord Taylor and James Frain from Gotham, and a rare appearance by Amy Jo Johnson, the original Pink Power Ranger. Other guests included Denise Crosby, Garrett Wang, and Robert McNeil from Star Trek, Caroll Spinney (aka Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch), and Ray Park, best known as Darth Maul!Fun at the Philly Comic Con

For those planning to make the trip next time to the Expo Center in Oaks, PA (“Upper Providence” on GPS), here’s a sample of what to expect. There are dozens of vendors and artists, including some big names like the legendary Neal Adams, offering a variety of merchandise and chatting with fans. It’s good to shop around first, since several vendors offer similar items at different prices. I found heavily discounted trade paperbacks, clearance rate Bronze Age comics, and reasonably priced rarities.  Not all vendors are comics-related; there’s also TV and movie memorabilia, and even training weapons for cosplay and role-playing.

The autograph and photo op areas were extremely fan-friendly, allowing more time spent with the celebs than most of the bigger cons. Prices for add-ons and concessions were moderate, and customer service at registration was really accommodating. There was a strong turnout by some excellent cosplayers, and a full panel schedule complemented by gaming and speed dating areas, so there was always something different to do.

The Unauthorized TarzanBeing a completist, I was able to fill some gaps in my Bronze Age Marvel collections, especially Doctor Strange (featured in the last post) and the Incredible Hulk (the Crossroads storyline and John Byrne’s run). Since I don’t collect for monetary value, but because I actually enjoy reading comics, it’s worthwhile to buy trade paperbacks to follow complete storylines cheaply. Some trades have material no longer available in other formats, such as The Unauthorized Tarzan shown. I also opened my wallet for some pricier items, including some very early Mad paperbacks to add to my substantial collection.Early Mad Paperbacks

The panel guests brought great energy. This was especially noticeable among the Power Rangers Time Force cast, who were enthused to be together again and reminisce about the show. Erin Cahill, who played Jen Scotts, remarked how honored she was o be the first female leader in the Power Rangers franchise.

The same high energy was taken into a physical dimension with Ray Park, aka Darth Maul (Star Wars) and Snake Eyes (GI Joe). A martial artist first and an actor second, Park could hardly stay in his chair, constantly bouncing up to show some moves. His base discipline is shaolin kung fu, though he admires Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, and includes jeet kune do among his other disciplines. Both the Darth Maul and Snake Eyes parts were offered to him unexpectedly. In the case of Star Wars, he accepted without even knowing who he’d play, as he was just happy to be in the prequel, hardly expecting to be the face of its marketing. Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson were great to work with in fight scenes, and he was allowed to create much of his own fight choreography, trying to bring as much realism as possible. One of his moves was actually thought up as a joke, bringing in some ballet and other dance disciplines.

The actors trained with aluminum poles for light saber scenes, since this has good weight balance, which begs the question: how practical are light sabers anyway?

Ray Park on whether a light saber would be… by retro-geek

A comic con wouldn’t be complete without a cosplay contest. The contestants excelled both in realism and creativity. Here are just a few:

Cosplay contestants

Hilariously, the Batman kept dragging dead Superman around everywhere.

Cosplay contestants

The Hawkgirl’s jet pack, a nice retro look from DC Comics Bombshells, was a really elaborate design. She was among the winners (as part of a female duo). Here are the rest of your winners:

Cosplay contest winners

It was a great way to close out the convention. Be sure to check the official convention website for the full list of this year’s guests, and watch for updates for next year’s event.

Three Stooges Con 2016

Three Stooges Con Program The first major Three Stooges convention in about 17 years took place this past month, with celebrity guests (including Adam West!) and Stooge family members, rooms full of memorabilia for display and sale, and non-stop screening of Stooge films, including some rarities. Attendees from across the country agreed it was well worth the trip to Trevose, PA. If you couldn’t make it this time, here are the highlights of my visit, from Stooges trivia to collectibles tips. Would I meet Adam West? Find out below!

The families of the Stooges were on hand to share their memories, answer questions and meet with fans up close. Moe’s daughter Joan, now 89, has faithfully attended even the smaller annual gatherings in Fort Washington. The families provided great tidbits about the boys, some of which are not already in published sources. The first stop for Stooges history is Moe’s autobiography (my 1977 first ed. shown). Joan and others have also released books. Moe Howard autobiography

The boys looked like ordinary, well-dressed men in their regular lives, and were not recognizable unless you were up close. They sometimes took advantage of this to play pranks. When eating out, Moe would place an incomprehensible order using his famous double-talk to confuse the waitress. She would turn to Larry, saying, “Maybe we’d better start with you,” and he’d answer, “I’ll have the same.”

Larry’s grandson remembers once Moe, Larry and Shemp decided to put up wallpaper themselves. They laid out the paper, and Larry started to apply the glue, and brushed right over Moe’s hand. Moe paused, reached out and whacked Larry with his brush, and before you knew it, they were doing a full fight scene for one seven-year-old audience member. When they settled down and saw the mess, Moe deadpanned, “I know a contractor.”

Emil Sitka’s son Saxon recalled that, in the scene in “The Tooth Will Out” where Emil comes bursting out of Vesuvius Ravioli yelling at the Stooges, he originally started yelling, “You bastards!” and other epithets. When they cut, the director asked incredulously, “What was THAT?” All the curses were audible on film, so the take was unusable and had to be shot again, this time with scripted, family-friendly exclamations.

Shemp’s daughter in law Geri Greenbaum, married to his son Mort for 20 years, was proud that Mort started the first self-service gas station. Girls in t-shirts and shorts would come out on roller skates. If a customer chose to pump his own gas, they’d hand him the pump, skate back to the office and bring back change.

Interestingly, none of the Stooges really had idols that they looked up to, though there were certainly some contemporaries that they admired (Chaplin, Laurel, Gleason). They were too busy working on their craft to indulge in that sort of thinking. They were setting standards instead of following examples.

First issue of Three Stooges comic
Dell Four Color 1170 Some pre-press copies of the first issue of a new Three Stooges comic were available. One of the writers, S.A. Check, was on hand to sign copies. They explained this will be an ongoing, bimonthly series (not a limited edition or one-off), so the second issue will be in June. There are five different covers for the first issue, and there will be multiple covers for future issues as well. The first issue has two new stories and a reprint of “Midway Madness” from Dell Four Color #1170 (1961). The parody ads are also a nice touch.

Adam West, who appeared in the Stooges’ final feature film, “Outlaws is Coming” (1965), though I think he’s also known for something else, was signing photos and memorabilia. I tried to be cool about it, but that wasn’t happening.

Adam West at Three Stooges Con April 2016

Oh, right, now I remember who he is. If you haven’t already, check out the delightfully surreal “Return to the Batcave” DVD from 2003. By the way, Adam West is tremendously funny in real life, and really delights in interacting with the fans. You can see some of his bizarre self-deprecating deadpan in “Return,” which is a reunion special done right.

There are mixed opinions about “Outlaws is Coming.” Many see it as a clever Western spoof, but some may find the humor a bit telegraphed. Keep in mind the 1960s feature films were aimed at child audiences. The Elvis and Beatles references are either clever or strained attempts at staying up-to-date, depending on your point of view. Johnny Ginger, one of two surviving “Outlaws” from the film, was also on hand to chat and sign autographs.

Naturally, Stooge shorts were being screened constantly. I especially enjoyed the rarely shown Shemp solo films. These help you appreciate that much of what we think of as “Stooge humor” was actually a broader genre, and they were just the “best of breed.” Some of the Shemp shorts are online, including the hilarious “Mr. Noisy.” Shemp actually beat the other Stooges to film, appearing in a couple of Fatty Arbuckle films.

Pauley book on Stooges filming locations Jim Pauley gave a great talk about his investigation into the Hollywood filming locations of the Columbia shorts. The research was impressive, and can’t be replicated by Google Map searches. For example, a checkerboard sidewalk where Curly stood is now a school, fenced in and tarred over, but they got pics while there was still access. They also found the steep staircase where the boys slid down blocks of ice past a cul-de-sac in a quiet residential neighborhood. You can find details in the handsomely printed book, with high quality paper and photography. This is one of those books well worth having in hard copy.

Without scooping the book, I can share the location of the famous beer barrel scene in “Three Little Beers,” since this was previously known. This was on Echo Park Ave., but different side streets seem to have been used for different shots. The shots with the policeman at the intersection and the final pile-up of barrels with (real-life) onlookers were definitely filmed at Echo Park and Delta St. The building with distinctive double-windows and fire escape still stands today. This is not a cross-shaped intersection, however, so the scenes showing the barrels rolling down the cross intersection must have been shot elsewhere, likely Echo Park and Scott Ave.

Three Little Beers filming locations on Echo Park Ave

Also check out the new Papercutz graphic novels for kids. The stories follow the continuity of the 2012 movie, if “continuity” is even a meaningful concept for the Stooges.