One of the coolest hobbies my son Ryan has gotten me into is checking out filming locations from some of our favorite movies. This past weekend we went to Alamo City Comic Con in San Antonio, Texas and checked out some locations from the espionage movie (with some cool video game elements) Cloak & Dagger, a cult classic.
The video game store in the movie was filmed in California, so we don't have photos from that location.
last month’s Pop Culture Collective column (published in AntiqueWeek) centered around Dallas Fan Expo, I
hadn’t planned on writing about another convention so soon. But then disaster
struck SUPER! BitCon, the biggest and best annual video game tradeshow in
Oklahoma, hours before I got there.
back to Friday, April 28. In preparation for my usual role of vendor at SUPER!BitCon, where I sell everything from Atari to Xbox, along with autographing
copies of my books about video games, I loaded my Chevy Trailblazer with as
many boxes as it could hold. Instead of heading up to Oklahoma City Friday
afternoon as per usual, I had to wait until early Saturday morning to leave
because I had a family obligation that evening—my wife was being recognized as
Teacher of the Year, and, since I have good survival instincts, that’s
certainly something I didn’t want to miss.
I got up at 4:00 a.m. on Saturday and hit the road at 4:30. My only stop on the
three-hour drive from Fort Worth to Oklahoma City was a roadside casino to go
to the bathroom and grab a free soda. Since casinos want you to stay put and
keep feeding money into their machines, many of them keep customers carbonated
and caffeinated with complementary fountain drinks.
drive was uneventful, but when I arrived at the Oklahoma State Fair Park where SUPER!
BitCon was being held (it’s a cheap venue for the amount of space you can rent),
a cop stopped me at the road to the back entrance and told me a storm had
ripped through the area earlier that morning, damaging the convention center
and knocking out the power.
told the officer why I was there, and he said, “There’s not gonna be anything
going on here today.”
can imagine how disappointed I was. In addition to supplementing my writing
income and helping me promote my books, video game conventions are a blast,
from panels hosted by popular YouTube personalities to arcade games set on free
play to a huge room full of vendors selling a vast array of video games and accessories.
time was from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., and I had arrived around 7:30. I checked
the SUPER! BitCon Facebook page on my iPhone, and they had posted instructions
for an alternate route that would allow vendors access to the convention center.
I circled the labyrinthine State Fair Park a couple of times and finally found
my way in, dodging tree branches and downed powerlines as I drove—I’m surprised
we were allowed in at all.
scene at the convention center was like some kind of fallout shelter, but
colder and with less lighting. Since it had gotten into the upper 80s on Friday
afternoon in Fort Worth, it didn’t occur to me to pack warm clothing—I was
wearing a T-shirt and shorts, which wasn’t nearly enough to counter the
47-degree temperature brought on by the cold front that had coincided with the
stepped inside the drafty convention center via a side door that was propped
open. Since the only lighting was from several open doorways and the space left
by an overhead door that had been torn down by the storm, I used the flashlight
on my phone to look around, same as several other vendors were doing. Many
vendors had set up the night before, but only one or two had lost any stock
from water damage.
wandering around in the barely lit darkness for a few minutes, I found my booth
and then made my way to the front to speak with a couple of the SUPER! BitCon
organizers. Obviously, they were a bit frazzled and shocked by the situation,
but they were already expressing hope that the power could be turned back on
later that morning. After all, Oklahoma gets lots of storms, and experienced emergency
crews are always on call. I wished the organizers well and walked around a bit
more, shivering as I went.
speaking with a few vendors I knew, I went back out to my vehicle to dig
through the boxes until I found the one marked “SHIRTS.” I dug out a Captain American T-shirt and
pulled it over the shirt I was already wearing for another layer of warmth. It
wasn’t much, but it was something. I eventually decided to unload my vehicle
and stack the boxes in my booth. At least it gave me something to do and kept
at 11:00 a.m. the organizers called a meeting and said they didn’t know when
the power would be back on, and they were cancelling the show for the day. We
could just leave our merchandise there in hopes of having the show on Sunday. I
texted my friend, Delf Meek, who I was staying with that night, and who was going to help
me at the show, with an update of what was going on, and he said to come on
over—we could run around town, going to video game stores, thrift stores, used
bookstores and the like. He also bought my lunch and let me borrow a coat.
Delf and I spent the afternoon thriftin’, junkin’, game chasin’ and, to borrow
a term from Larry McMurtry, book scoutin’, and it turned out to be a pleasant
experience. While we were upset about the show cancellation, going from store
to store was a fun, funny and even heartening experience as we kept running
into vendors and others who had planned to attend the show but were left with
an open afternoon.
mantra among all the vendors was to “make the best of things,” and that’s exactly
what we did.
best stop of the day was a big, musty comic book store that reeked of
old-school retail. Silver Age comic books lined the wall behind the cash
register, supplementing boxes of less expensive back issues positioned in rows
in the middle of the store. There were also disheveled shelves filled with
action figures, toys, video games, superhero coin banks and other geeky gear.
Most impressive was a row of vintage Ben Cooper superhero costumes still in the
power at the store had gone out, so we used the flashlights on our phones to
look around. After about half an hour, I got a headache from squinting at all
that treasure, but it paid off. I found some cheap boxes of sports cards to
sell by the pack in my antique mall booth, an issue of Pizzazz magazine that I was missing, and a copy of Movie Special Magazine featuring Flash Gordon (1980), one of my favorite
of all was a box of 70 Doctor Who
paperback books from the 1980s. The store owner said he “doesn’t really deal in
books” so to make him an offer. I got the entire lot for just $50. I’m just a
casual Doctor Who fan, so the books
aren’t for me—I can sell them at comic book shows for $6 each.
night the SUPER! BitCon organizers hosted an after-show party at the local Main
Event, even though there was no show. The party, where Delf and I hung out at the bar with YouTubers like The Game Chasers and 8-Bit Eric while others got their NES copies of Double Dare signed by Marc Summers, was a blast as we held to our
“make the best of things” attitude. However, by this time we—or at least I—figured
the show would be cancelled for Sunday as well. Despite the hardship, all the
vendors, YouTubers and everyone else involved expressed far more concern over
the fate of the organizers than their own lost revenue. After all, the
organizers had much more invested in the event than we did.
fate would have it, emergency workers managed to restore the power to the State
Fair Park by late Saturday night, and, incredibly enough, the show was in full
swing by 9:00 a.m. Sunday morning. It remained busy all day, with attendees and
vendors equally excited that the event was salvaged. The organizers were especially
relieved—if Sunday hadn’t happened, there likely wouldn’t be a SUPER! BitCon in
the lost revenue from Saturday still stings a bit, I’m grateful for the
experience. Bonds of friendship were strengthened, it was nice to see the
vendors more concerned about the organizers than themselves, and it turned out
to be a heck of a fun weekend.
all that darkness—both figuratively and literally—no one panicked, got overly
discouraged or even had a bad attitude. Selflessness, unity and perseverance were
on display everywhere as we did our darndest to “make the best of things.”
Check out the new episode of The ColecoVisions Podcast, where Willie Culver, John "Gamester81" Lester, Robert Ferguson (of Atari 2600 Game by Game Podcast), and I discuss a number of topics, including Super Bitcon, Miner 2049er, Quest for the Golden Chalice, and Adventure (for the Atari 2600). As always, we had a lot of fun talking about our favorite hobby. Thanks to Robert for guesting on the show, and to Willie and John. You can listen HERE.
I love the nostalgic nature of this Amazon review of my KISS book, written by someone named Kris Anderson:
spent two years between ages 12 and 14 listening to KISS virtually every day.
Alive II was on a constant cycle among me and my friends - so much so that we
could speak and sing every word that was uttered on that album. It wasn’t the
only one, but it was definitely part of the soundtrack of our lives.
took some time for me to receive this book and it was worth the wait. So much
so that I read it in one sitting! This is not your average encyclopedia. This
is a very detailed; very cross referenced volume of information that is perfect
for super fans and average fans alike.
alphabetically, each entry covers any aspect of KISS that you can think of:
personnel, events, music, songs, individual projects, related bands, former
bands, venues, producers, merchandising etc.
only are these areas covered, they are cross referenced. Some entries are
substantial. This is true in particular about the members of the group –
original and replacements. Each is covered in equal depth.
I loved the most about this book is that it is not filtered through the Gene
Simmons/Paul Stanley prism. Equal weight is given to Peter Criss and Ace
Frehely as there is to Eric Carr, Tommy Thayer and others. Too many times in
“official” KISStory, the story cuts out the original members who we grew up
This is such a fun
read. I literally could not put it down and stayed up way too late absorbed in
all the details. After I finished, I dug out Alive II and flashed back to my
teen years – black light posters, incense and KISS! It rocked! *You can order Encyclopedia of KISS HERE.
I recently interviewed the perpetually positive Alex Thompson, Chief Content Coordinator with PopNerdTV, and co-host of Nerd Portal, for an article I'm working on for the July issue of K Magazine. I will cull some quotes from the interview for the piece, but I decided to go ahead and publish the entire interview here in order to give fans of comic books, video games and geek culture in general a little behind-the-scenes info on the website, YouTube channel and Alex himself. Enjoy!
BRETT WEISS: You live in Keller, correct? Did you grow up in this area?
ALEX THOMPSON: We film in Keller and our CEO, John Martin, currently lives in Keller. I was
born in Albuquerque, New Mexico and moved to Temple, Texas at the age of six. It wasn't until I finished my associates degree that I was accepted into the University
of North Texas as a music major, which quickly changed to a broadcasting major,
that I moved to Denton where I still currently live.
WEISS: Are you a millennial? What does that label mean to you?
THOMPSON: I guess I am technically labeled as a millennial, but I was raised by my
grandparents, and most consider me an old soul. The term millennial has its
negative connotations with a group of people born in a certain time, but weren't
the baby boomers saying the same things about the Gen-X crowd back in the '80s?
It is all just a cycle--millennials grew up in a time of technology that I
think causes some to believe in instant gratification. Success only comes from
time and hard work, which is something my grandfather always told me.
WEISS: Did you grow up reading comic books?
THOMPSON: Surprisingly, I did not grow up reading comics. I did spend a lot of time in
front of the TV set, though, and shows like X-men: The Animated Series, Batman: The Animated Series, Super Friends, and Spider-Man all inspired my love for
comic characters. It wasn't until I moved to Denton, and not knowing anyone, that
my now-fiance decided to go on eBay and buy me a box of Venom comics to read
that my love for comics blossomed. She recalled me talking about how at the
time Venom was one of my favorite comic characters and how I disliked his
portrayal in Spider-Man 3 that she randomly decided to buy the box. I think she
saved me from a lot of bad things in my past by doing this though. Comics can
change old habits by forming new hobbies.
WEISS: Did you grow up playing video games?
THOMPSON: In my childhood, video games were life. I had my group of neighborhood friends
who each had different systems and games. We would get together and bike from
one person's house to the next to spend hours playing games. I can recall my
aunt having an NES that I would just push buttons on because I was too young to
know what I was doing. Another thing that I miss so much is the time I would
spend with my grandfather in the arcades. He would play Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter II, Primal Rage, and all kinds of arcade games with me. I don't think my
love for games really blossomed, though, until I got a Nintendo 64 for Christmas. It was
my first console just for me, and after I played Super Mario 64, I was hooked. Later
on I had my phases with Tony Hawk, fighting games, first-person shooters, and
whatever my friends or I could get our hands on. I will say the arcades of the '90s influenced a lot of my choices, though.
WEISS: What comics and games do you enjoy now?
THOMPSON: Currently, I am still a Marvel fan boy. I'm really into the classic cosmic Marvel stuff done by Jim Starlin, Ron Marz, Roy Thomas, and more. I have also
always been an X-men fan, and even though they aren't very popular now a days, I
still read almost every X book that comes out. On the DC side of things, you
can't go wrong with Hal Jordan. In the video game world, I still play my
original N64 very often. I have started to collect old systems now since I am
an adult and can afford things, but for new games I'm stuck on playing Overwatch and Grand Theft Auto V.
WEISS:What has geek culture meant to your life beyond entertainment value?
THOMPSON: Back in high school, most people would see me as the complete opposite person I
am now. I used to go out a lot and party with no real care about the world that
was going on around me. Most people think that starts in college, but for me,
college was where I kind of found a new hobby with fandom, and I used this to
try to make my life more meaningful. I have always been a social person, and
growing up I was always into the geek culture, but doing the full 360 and coming
back to it really impacted my life.
WEISS: What is your day job? Is it related to your interest in geek culture?
THOMPSON: My day job is kind of similar, but the topics are different. I am a web content
coordinator for a digital marketing firm that deals with insurance companies. I
oversee and edit what goes on company websites and manage a numerous amount of
blogs for insurance. Never did I think I would end up in an office reading
about insurance all day, but the job has its perks, and my coworkers are great!
WEISS: What is PopNerdTV? How does it stand out from similar YouTube channels?
THOMPSON:PopNerd is a labor of love that is made by fans for the fans. We started out as
a project among a group of grad students at the University of North Texas
before I was even involved. Eventually they ended up getting busy with other
adventures and projects, leaving PopNerd kind of on a hiatus. Later on I met
John as a student of his. I presented a short documentary to him as a final
project over the rise of comic culture in the Denton area and how the rise of
diversity in comics was becoming more and more relevant at the time. This was
when Jane Foster ended up becoming Thor and Marvel was doing their big switch
up with characters. John had mentioned the site before, and I needed an
internship, which lead to me becoming a writer for the site. After about 5
months of me doing what I could, John asked me to become editor in chief, and
we put together a writing team of students and fans to front the push for nerd
culture that seemed to be lacking as a media outlet in the DFW area. Soon we
started adding video content, and from there we pushed off on our journey. I
would like to think we stand out from other YouTube channels because we
all have this vision of what we want to be. Like I said, most of us are just big
fanboys and girls with a love of expressing ourselves and entertaining others.
We don't want to feel like all the other sites who like to use click bait and
spoilers to drive traffic. We want to be organic and genuine with our movement
and show the world that fandoms are still around and loud in the DFW area.
WEISS: What is your current role with PopNerd?
THOMPSON: Awhile back, I
gave up my responsibilities as editor in chief to my good friend Jake Combs
and started to focus on video content as the Chief Content Coordinator. I am responsible
for making sure things get done on time and managing the interns and production
teams. I like to think of my self as a multi-role kind of guy. We all do this
for free so sometimes you have to take on multiple jobs.
WEISS: What are your plans for PopNerdTV moving forward? Where do you see the channel and website five years from now? Do you hope to make it a full-time job?
THOMPSON: Moving PopNerd forward has been a challenge because no money is
involved. We are trying to focus on quality and content for now, and social
media has been a big help for advancing our material to larger audiences. We
have a great social media team and set of content creators who I am thankful for. Every day we see the progress made and continue to research and brainstorm
ways to promote ourselves and the DFW area. I would love in five years to
be doing this full time. I can see the website and channel blowing up, but it
takes time and hard work. Finding advertisers and people who want to invest in
us is tough for a company that has only been pushing content for a little over two years. I love the involvement from the students in the DFW area and the creators
and shop owners we come across daily. We have high hopes that PopNerd can
eventually be built into something that will not only represents the DFW area
but Texas as a whole. We want to get our voices out there.
Check out my interview with the lovely and talented Cierra Caballero, one of the co-hosts of PopNerdTV. She's the horror hostess (of a sort) with the mostest, she fronted a really cool rock band while she was in high school, and she's a funny and intelligent girl, which you'll gather as you listen to the interview. We talk horror, science fiction, absurdism, film, geek culture, belief in the supernatural, and more. The interview cuts off abruptly at the end, but it was pretty much over--just needed to sign off. Click HERE to listen.
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 entry features production history, critical commentary, 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.
*"This is an amazing book...detailed information...very high quality all around." - 8-Bit Eric
*"Truly beautiful from cover to cover...It should be a fixture on every coffee table in a video gaming household...Each section of the book is well-written and accompanied by high quality artwork and photos." - Patrick Scott Patterson *"Author Brett Weiss knows his stuff...a respected name in the classic gaming community...he provides insightful behind-the-scenes information...the book is suitable for just about any type of video game fan." - The Video Game Critic
*"100 Greatest Console Video Games 1977-1987 is truly an excellent book that anyone interested in video games should own. Whether you want to read about the details of the games or just admire the tons of images within its pages, this book is for you. Will you agree with every game selected? Unlikely, but thats part of the fun. If you dont find a game you think should have made it within the main book, be sure to check out the appendix at the end with 100 honorable mentions. That game may have made it there." Rating - 10/10." Retrovideogamer.co.uk