Friday, April 11, 2014

KISS -- Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Yesterday's induction of KISS into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame reminds me of how cool my parents are/were.

When I was a kid, my mom, who kept an immaculate household, let me plaster KISS posters and magazine photos all over my room.

After going to Baskin-Robbins one night, we went to a shop next door, and they bought me a KISS T-shirt (pictured in the photo). Back then, you had to pick out your T-shirt color and style, and then select an iron-on transfer for the store employee to put on the shirt. I was so excited to get the shirt and even wore it for my school photo that year.
And coolest of all, my dad would take KISS magazines to his work and make copies of the pictures so I could hand them out at school (this was fifth and sixth grade). He would also let me play "Love Gun" and "Destroyer" on the 8-track player in his Ford pickup while we were running errands in "town." I'm sure he hated the music, but he never said a word about it.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Super! Bitcon Panel

Hosted by the Retro Gamers Society, Super! Bitcon took place at the Oklahoma State Fair Park March 29. It was an awesome gathering of fans celebrating their favorite hobby. Almost 2,000 people were in attendance, an amazing total for a first-time show. One of the highlights for me was appearing on a panel with video game media personality Patrick Scott Patterson and super collector and historian Jeff Cooper. Here's that panel, in its entirety. I was a little nervous (hence the fidgeting and over-drinking--not sure why I didn't just put the cup on the table), but I thought it went pretty well overall. You can judge for yourself.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

World’s Largest Video Game Collection

HAMBURG, NY—Most anyone familiar with Robert Wadlow, the tallest man in history, and Billy and Benny McCrary, the world’s largest twins, grew up reading The Guinness Book of World Records, an annual reference volume that began in 1955 and is now published as Guinness World Records.

The Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition, a concession to modernity that began in 2008, tracks such achievements as high scores, bestselling games, largest tournament, and longest winning streak. The 2011 release included a feature called “World’s Largest Videogame Collection,” a feat attributed to Richard Leece of Florida, a father of two who owns more than 8,000 games and also deals in rare coins.

Enter Michael Thomasson, a collector who believed—correctly—that he had a bigger collection than Leece. Recently, after doing an official count observed by several witnesses, including Jon-Paul Dyson, Director of the International Center for the History of Electronic Games, and Leonard Herman, author of Phoenix: The Fall & Rise of Videogames, Thomasson discovered that he owned 10,607 games.

Despite the fact that Thomasson trumped his accomplishment, Leece doesn’t view the New Yorker as a competitor or a rival. “My congratulations to a fellow collector,” he told The Associated Press. “It’s very impressive and I'm very happy for him. (Getting the record is) something I did for my own enjoyment. I applied for the Guinness book for my kids so that years from now they can look back and say, wow, my father was in the Guinness Book of World Records.”

In addition to amassing the world’s largest officially recognized video game collection, Thomasson is a GameStop employee, graphic designer, freelance writer, and adjunct professor of video game design and history at Cansius College, the largest private college in Western New York. Thomasson also owns Homebrew Heaven, an online video game retailer specializing in new titles produced by independent publishers for vintage consoles.

Thomasson’s first game was Cosmic Avenger for the ColecoVision, a then-cutting edge console that came out in 1982. “It’s my first love so it’s sentimental,” he said, referring to the ColecoVision. “(The games for the system) looked good, they played good. For the time they sounded good for the bleeps and blips of the ’80s.”

Carrying an estimated value of $700,000 to $800,000, Thomasson’s collection includes all the common stuff, of course, such as carts for the Atari 2600 (1977) and discs for the Xbox 360 (2005), plus he owns rare games for such obscure consoles as the Fairchild Channel F (1976) and the Japan-only Casio Loopy and Pippin, both released in 1995.

“I have games on cartridge, laser disc,” he said. “I have VHS-based games, cassette-based games.”

Thomasson also owns rare video game-related merchandise, such as a leather jacket from Don Bluth Studios that was worn by the team during the production of Dragon's Lair (1983) and Space Ace (1984) and hand-painted art cels from the early 1980’s Donkey Kong Jr. cereal commercials.

When considering Thomasson for a world record, the Guinness World Records officials adhered to a strict set of guidelines. Downloaded games, duplicates, and unreleased prototypes didn’t count, nor did computer games. The latter is why Syd Bolton, a computer museum curator who owns more than 15,000 games (as featured in the September, 9, 2013, issue of AntiqueWeek), would not be considered by Guinness as having more video games than Thomasson. Many of Bolton’s games are for computers, not consoles.

In the time since the official count took place, Thomasson, who is married and has a five-year-old daughter, has added hundreds of games to his collection, which now surpasses 11,000 titles. However, he has toyed around with the notion of liquidating the bulk of his inventory.

“I might be putting it up for sale,” he said during a recent interview with Steve Tripi of the 97 Rock Morning Show in Buffalo. “I can’t afford to insure it.”


Friday, March 21, 2014

The Greatness of High Def - Annie Hall & KISS

I'm a huge Woody Allen fan and have seen Annie Hall many times over the years. I watched it for the first time in high def tonight, and my wife spotted a KISS billboard in the background. The film was released in 1977 at the height of the band's popularity.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Wizard World - Major Expansion

Wizard World, already the world’s largest pop culture convention series, is expanding to seven new cities in 2014, for a grand total of 15 events throughout the year.
First up is Sacramento, the capital of California. Taking place March 7-9 at the Sacramento Convention Center, Wizard World Sacramento Comic Con will “celebrate the best in pop-fi, pop culture, movies, graphic novels, comics, toys, video gaming, television, sci-fi, gaming, original art, collectibles, contests, and more.”

This includes a huge vendor’s room, where you’ll find modern and vintage memorabilia for sale, and areas where you can meet, greet, get autographs from, and have your photo taken with celebrities and comic book creators.

“Our mantra has been, ‘Give the fans a great experience, give the celebrities and creators a great experience, take care of our exhibitors, and everyone will want to come back,’” said John Macaluso, Wizard World CEO and Chairman. “We've had such an overwhelmingly positive reaction to all our 2013 events, both first-year and existing shows, that it was obvious what the fans were telling us—‘We want more!’”

As if to tell fandom that the new Wizard World installments aren’t miniature versions of what has gone before, the Sacramento show will be teeming with famous guests, including Norman Reedus  and Jon Berenthal (The Walking Dead), William Shatner (Star Trek), Bruce Campbell (Army of Darkness), Billy Dee Williams (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back), Julie Benz and James Marsters (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville), and many others.

Even Ralph “The Karate Kid” Macchio will be in attendance. Feel free to call him “Danielson” or to tell him to “Wax on, wax off,” but be forewarned that he’s probably heard these lines more times than he’s heard his own name.
 Stan Lee, co-creator of such iconic super-heroes as Spider-Man and the X-Men, headlines the group of comic book pros set to attend, followed by veteran writer Chris Claremont (Uncanny X-Men) and such accomplished artists as Neal Adams (Batman), Ethan Van Sciver (Green Lantern), Humberto Ramos (The Amazing Spider-Man), Greg Horn (The Avengers), and Michael Golden (The Micronauts).

Here’s a listing of the six other cities scheduled to host Wizard World for the first time: Louisville, KY (March 28-30, Kentucky International Convention Center); Minneapolis, MN (May 2-4, Minneapolis Convention Center); Atlanta, GA (May 30-June 1, Georgia World Congress Center); San Antonio, TX (Aug. 1-3, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center), Richmond, VA (Sept. 12-14, Greater Richmond Convention Center); and Tulsa, OK (Nov., 7-9, Cox Business Center).

Those attending any of the Wizard World cons throughout the country should keep one thing in mind: to set phasers on “fun.”

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The 100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1977-1987

The 100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1977-1987, my first book to be published in full cover and have bookstore distribution, will be available this spring. You can pre-order it now through Amazon.
There have been many top 100 books before, but rarely one like this. Here are the best of the early video games, shown in over 400 color photos and described in incredible detail in the entertaining and informative text. Each game's chapter features production history, critical commentary, author anecdotes, quotes from industry professionals, gameplay details, comparisons to other games, and more.

This book celebrates the very best of the interactive entertainment industry's games from this highly crucial, fondly remembered decade. This pivotal period was marked by the introduction of the indispensable Atari 2600, Odyssey2, and Intellivision, the unleashing of the underrated Vectrex, the mind-blowing debut of the next-gen ColecoVision and Atari 5200, plus the rebirth of the industry through Nintendo's legendary juggernaut, the NES. Whether you're young or old, new to the hobby or a hardcore collector, this book will introduce you to or remind you of some of the greatest, most historically important games ever made.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Dallas Comic Con: Sci-Fi & Comic Expo – Eddie McClintock

I recently got the opportunity to interview actor Eddie McClintock. He was funny, engaging, candid, and more than willing to answer my questions. He even asked me several things about myself and promised to stop by my vendor's table at the show. Here's the Dallas Comic Con preview that I wrote, based on the interview:
Eddie McClintock isn’t a Secret Service Agent or an ex-military man—he just plays one on TV.

“I was never a United States Marine, I’ve never carried a ray gun,” he said. “I’ve never saved the world, although I’d like to think that I have a few times.”

As the heroic, but humorous Pete Lattimer, McClintock stars in the SyFy series Warehouse 13, a show about a secretive location in South Dakota that houses supernatural artifacts.
McClintock, along with such celebrities as Richard Dreyfus (Jaws), Peter Weller (RoboCop), Lee Majors (The Six Million Dollar Man) and Lindsay Wagner (The Bionic Woman), will appear at the Dallas Comic Con: Sci-Fi & Comic Expo, taking place at the Irving Convention Center Feb. 8 and 9. For a fee, the celebs will sign autographs and pose for pictures.

Convention participate in a costume contest, attend various panels, meet and greet professional writers and artists and purchase such memorabilia as trading cards, action figures, T-shirts, original art and, of course, comic books. A frequent sight on the convention circuit, McClintock collects comics (Silver Age Marvel in particular) and enjoys talking with fans, so he gets a kick out of attending sci-fi shows. He’s especially excited to attend the Dallas/Irving event, where he’ll get the chance to interact with one of his childhood heroes.

“Richard Dreyfuss for me is like the Holy Grail,” he said. “Jaws is one of my favorite movies of all time, so to meet Richard Dreyfuss will be really cool. I showed Jaws for the first time to my eight-year-old son just the other day—he loved it!”
 Born in North Canton, Ohio on May 27, 1967, McClintock is married and has two kids. His wife is from Corpus Christi, and he lived for a brief time in Austin and Houston. A job as an insurance salesman prompted a move to California.

“Fresh out of college, my uncle gave me a job selling corporate insurance,” he said. “That’s how I got to Los Angeles.”

Fortunately, that job didn’t quite work out.

“My uncle fired me after seven months,” McClintock said, laughing. “It was a little dicey there for a while, but now everything’s cool—my uncle does all my insurance.”

McClintock has appeared on such shows as Bones, Desperate Housewives, Sex and the City, Felicity and Stark Raving Mad (where he starred as a regular alongside Tony Shalhoub and Neil Patrick Harris), but Pete Lattimer was his breakout role.

“Pete has given me a career,” he said. “I have 61,000 followers on Twitter because of Pete Lattimer.”

When auditioning for the role, McClintock, an actor with leading-man looks and a great sense of humor, brought his own personality into play. Instead of portraying a dour, by-the-numbers government employee, he wanted to have some fun.

“I always try to find some humor in a part, so I went in and read with that in mind,” he said. “For me, the easiest way to show up to work is to just be yourself. I don’t want to have to play a character 14 hours a day, five days a week for nine months a year.”

McClintock brought an extra layer of substance to the role as well, suggesting to showrunner Jack Kenny that Lattimer, like himself, should have a past marred by alcohol abuse.

He said, “It was interesting when we talked about Pete being sober, because you go, ‘Here’s this guy, he’s kind of goofy, and then he says I’m an alcoholic, and I’m 13 years sober, and you go, ‘Oh, there’s depth here.’ That’s one of the great things about Warehouse 13 to me is Jack kept putting that kind of pathos into the show.”

The ex-Marine angle was also McClintock’s idea.

“I think it’s important to acknowledge the people who sacrifice their lives and their families for our country,” he said.

Despite favorable reviews and solid ratings, Warehouse 13 was cancelled in 2013, meaning the already-filmed fifth season airing sometime later this year will be the last. Obviously, McClintock was saddened to see the series come to an end, but he assures fans that the show is going out on a high note.

“The fifth season has some of the best episodes we’ve ever done,” he said. “Lots of strong emotion—what we’re playing onscreen we’re actually feeling emotionally because the show is ending.”