Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I can’t remember when I was first aware of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but as a big comic book reader in the 1980s it was kind of inevitable that we’d cross paths.  Cleverly playing with some popular comic tropes, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird created a pop culture phenomenon almost by accident.

I do remember the Ninja Turtles and their creators getting a shout out in the “thank you” list of the “Among the Living” album by thrash metal kings Anthrax.  The book seemed quirky and original, it’s popularity boosted with a reputation for genuinely great writing and art.

Next came the cartoon, a couple of years later.  This was the turtles tidied up for a younger audience and it became a massive hit.  I was about 17 at the time (!), but enjoyed watching the cartoon occasionally as a bit of tongue in cheek fun.  I was being ironic, honest.

The toys that were made at the time were very cool; for the era they seemed very well designed and super detailed.  I was far too old for the action figures, but secretly coveted them from afar.

Eventually I picked up the figure of my favourite turtle, Michaelangelo.  He must have been on sale somewhere post turtles craze,’cos this would’ve been in my student days and thus, extremely poor.  He was a perfect ironic, “look how wacky I am” student possession.

Sadly, Mikey disappeared – I know not where – and once again, I was completely turtle-less.

Until a couple of years ago, when taking my daughter on one of her last trips to Toys R Us, before it closed for good.  They had on sale re-issued turtles, exactly like the old versions I loved, and they were cheap (ish).

I replaced Michaelangelo there and then, and over the next few days was so eager to complete a collection of all four turtles that I returned to buy others.  With a little bit of toy spotting help from my old pal Adam, I was soon in business with a full team of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

At the moment, I only have the full group of Leonardo, Donatello, Michaelangelo and Raphael.  It would be great to have Splinter, Shredder and more one day, but I doubt they’ll turn up cheap.

The four turtles are great figures, nicely stylised and featuring great detail.  And awesome weapons.

All four are still Mint in Box.  How long can I resist the urge to release the guys from their blister pack prisons?  Surely one night I’ll have had a little bit too much to drink, and decide to tear that plastic from the backing card…

What do you think readers?  Should the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stay in their boxes, or should I open them up?

Wales Comic Con 2019

Wales Comic Con 

Saturday 27th – Sunday 8th April 2019

Glyndwr University, Wrexham

Storm Hannah was raging on Saturday when my family and I made one of our regular visits to Wales Comic Con.  The usual site at Glyndwr University was drowning under torrential downpours and lashed by fierce winds.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it really was grim.  Thor, God of Thunder, must have been in a really bad mood.  Or maybe it was Storm from the X-Men?

As a result, our family day trip was a bit of a washout.  Corridors were packed out as attendees shuffled along like zombies from The Walking Dead.

We managed to get into the merch tent, which was also very crowded and difficult to get near to the stalls.  Some traders looked to be suffering as the marquis roof was leaking rainwater.

I didn’t manage to get many photos of Cosplayers or props etc.  Most people were wrapped up against the elements, or there just wasn’t room to take a pic.  I don’t think anyone particularly felt like dawdling, posing for a photo – and I didn’t fancy hanging around in the wet!

The queue to get in to the signing tent was massive, stretching outdoors as people waited to get in.  As it was still chucking it down, we decided not to bother joining the line and decided to leave.

No big deal for me as I wasn’t really interested in autographs; Mrs Platinum Al had been thinking about meeting Kiefer Sutherland for a signing though, so that never happened..

But we’d had enough – the miserable weather had us beat.  We were wet through.  Basically, we paid £22 each to look round some stalls in a leaking tent.

Now nobody can be blamed for the weather, it was just unfortunate.  I did feel sorry for the traders with their soaked merchandise.  And the people in the rain waiting to have a photograph with a celeb whilst they looked like they’d just been rescued from the Titanic.

And the poor celebs too – what a welcome to the country!

Well the only answer was to just get on and make the most of things, which I think most did.  The organisers can’t be blamed for Storm Hannah.  Maybe in the future they need to consider shelters for the queue, rain or shine.

Sunday’s weather was much improved, however we’d only got tickets for Saturday.  The reason for that was because Rupert Grint, some Harry Potter kid, was there that day.  For some reason this was a big deal in our house, so we booked tickets for Saturday (the only day Ron Weasley was there) rather than our usual Sunday.

After buying the tickets, we then found out that autographs with Rupert would cost over £130 – so he was priced out of our range anyway.  Ironically, had we known that cost up front, we’d have bought Sunday tickets; avoided the storm and had a great day.

Rupert Grint better not show his face round here, I’ll stick his wand where the sun doesn’t shine for him.

The Wales Comic Con website is here.

Liverpool Comic Con 2019 – Part 1

Liverpool Comic Con

Friday 8th March – Sunday 10th March 2019

Exhibition Centre Liverpool

 

The Albert Dock was under ferocious attack from strong winds as I made my way to the Exhibition Centre for Liverpool Comic Con.  It was bitterly cold, the sky was grim – I wondered how the American guests would enjoy the weather on this visit?

Not to worry though, inside the event all was transformed into a safe refuge.  Getting in seemed very straight forward and hassle free, and as with all things Liverpool, there was a great atmosphere from the start.

This was my first visit to Liverpool Comic Con, though I’m very familiar with the city from numerous gigs, nights out and shopping trips.  Great place.  My buddy Adam was going to the convention and I tagged along to check it out.

Inside, my first impression of the huge event hall was of the life size X-Wing fighter on display – smack bang in the middle.  Sadly it was a pretend X-Wing from the new films, not a proper Episode IV to VI Incom T-65 – but it was impressive none the less.

Also on display were the A-Team van, a Back to the Future DeLorean and KITT from Knightrider (amongst various other replica vehicles and props).  It was a real thrill to see all of the cool items and grab some photos.

I’m always a big fan of investigating the merchandise stalls at a Con, and this was no exception.  There was plenty to see and spend some cash on.  Sadly there’s never enough cash, otherwise I’d have spent a fortune.  As it was I picked up some Masters of the Universe figures and Marvel comic books, so all good.

The guests were interesting, though none of them particularly appealed to me so my wallet stayed closed there.  Top of the bill were Teri Hatcher (Lois Lane), Dean Cain (Superman) and Burt Young (Paulie from Rocky) – so an impressive calibre of stars.

The real stars however were the Cosplayers.  There were some fantastic Cosplayers of all types and ages, displaying amazingly talented creations.  I tried to get as many photos as I could, which you can see here.  Thanks to everyone who posed for a photo!

All in all, Liverpool Comic Con was a great day out with enough entertainment for everyone.  I’ll definitely try to visit again next time.

In Part 2, I’ll share some pics of the props that I photographed.  In the meantime, enjoy these shots of the awesome cosplayers.

Visit the Liverpool Comic Con Website here.

Wales Comic Con 2018

Wales Comic Con

Saturday 1st – Sunday 2nd December 2018

Glyndwr University, Wrexham

Another weekend, and another trip to a convention!  After my previous excursion to Birmingham, this one was a fair bit closer to home: just down the road in Wrexham.  Wales Comic Con takes place at Glyndwr University, and has steadily been building up a great reputation over the years.

The main attraction at Wales Comic Con has been the guests.  Held twice a year, and in a somewhat smaller area than other events, the con has consistently punched above it’s weight in terms of the sheer quality of guests that it has attracted.

It was for this reason that my family and I were attending again this year.  Mrs Platinum Al wanted to meet the actor Chris Sarandon, who as the voice of Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas (as well as playing evil Prince Humperdinck in The Princess Bride) was a definite must-meet for her.

Unfortunately, Chris dropped out just a day or two before, after we’d bought tickets and a photo op.  Not good news, but not the end of the world: these things happen.

The photo op money would be returned, and we decided to go to the con anyway to have a day out.  This was the right move as there was still plenty to experience, even though the weather was temperamental.

The cosplayers at WCC were fantastic, as always.  There were a large variety of characters from comics, film, tv, games and more.  The costumes were of the highest standard and the cosplayers were all friendly.  After the disaster at MCM Birmingham the week before, I had manged to remember my camera this time and got quite a few good shots.

My daughter has discovered Harry Potter not long ago, so she dressed as Hermione Granger.  She posed for some great photos, some of which are included here.  Plus she was really happy to meet Stanislav Ianevski, who played Viktor Krum – that made her day.

In the past, there hasn’t been a massive amount of merchandise available at WCC.  This has improved over the years though, and I was able to acquire a few nice action figures for Christmas.  Very happy!

So we all had a fun family day out at Wales Comic Con, and hope to return for the next event in the new year.  Hopefully Chris Sarandon will be there.  Third time lucky?

The Wales Comic Con website is here.

Battle of the century!

MCM Birmingham Comic Con 2018 – Part 2

Avengers

NEC Birmingham

24/25 November 2018

And now we return to Birmingham NEC for Part 2 of my MCM Comic Con report…

Despite forgetting my camera, which is a new low even for me, my trusty phone was at hand to document everything.  So luckily, I managed to take plenty of photos during the day – and there are plenty of awesome cosplayers still to see.

Which is good, because I don’t have much else to write following the previous post.

But you’re not here for my ramblings, are you?  Enjoy the pics instead.

DC gang

I’ll leave you with one final image: the Stan Lee memorial.  This was a massive mural to commemorate the life of the recently departed genius – a nice touch.

R.I.P. Stan Lee

Stan Lee

28.12.1922 – 12.11.2018

This week we lost another hero, the one and only Stan Lee.  Writer, editor and publisher at Marvel comics – not to mention creative genius behind some of the 20th century’s most memorable characters.

I use the words “hero” and “creative genius” in relation to Stan for completely legitimate reasons.  The work of this man was ground breaking and had a massive impact on culture; he was also a genuinely decent human being.

Together with a creative team including legends such as Kirby, Ditko, Romita and Buscema, Lee was responsible for creating some of the most imaginative and ground breaking characters in comics.  Fantastic Four.  The Incredible Hulk.  The Amazing Spider-Man.  The Uncanny X-Men.  Thor, Iron Man, The Avengers and on and on.

Marvel characters may have been heroes, but they were not perfect.  For the first time, comics characters had real world problems.  They wrestled with the same everyday issues that their readers faced.  These superheroes leapt from the page with a load of personal baggage – and this new approach was revolutionary.  And very successful.

My favourite example is Spider-Man.  Spidey was a cool wise cracking hero, but Peter Parker was a nerdy kid; an outcast.  The guys didn’t want to hang around with him and the girls didn’t want to be with him.  As time went on, he struggled balancing classwork, relationships, a part time job and superhero-ing.  At any point in Spidey’s adventures, any or all of those issues could tumble out of control.

You can read numerable tributes to Stan Lee online, by all manner of people from all walks of life.  One positive from his passing is seeing how universally admired he was.

Reflecting on my own experience, I can remember seeing the Spiderman cartoon and the Hulk TV show as a tiny kid in the seventies.  By the age of seven, I’d graduated to my first Marvel comic (I vividly remember buying it and still have it to this day).  I was hooked.  I devoured comic books; all I wanted to be as a kid was a comic book artist.  To this day I attribute any grasp of the English language that I possess to these publications.  Including English exam results.

Stan Lee’s creations fired my imagination and inspired my creative aspirations, and those of millions all over the world.  They still do to this day, both in comic book form and the hugely successful movies.

This Marvel Universe – Stan’s Marvel Universe – was one where the outsider was welcome.  Bigotry and intolerance were not his way, nor that of his creations.  In making the underdog the centre of the story, Lee emancipated millions of us.

I’m proud to proclaim Stan Lee not only an innovator, but a true legend and one of the greatest creative individuals of the 20th century.

Excelsior!

Halloween Horror Fest 2018

Yes, it’s that time of year again!  The nights are getting shorter, the wind is howling and strange things are afoot.  Halloween is almost upon us – so what better than watching a load of old scary movies to creep you out of an evening?  Yes, it’s time for another Halloween Horror Fest!

I’m starting a bit late this year, but once again I’ll be watching some fantastic (or not so fantastic) horror movies and writing bite-sized reviews.

Let’s start with…

Tales from the Crypt (1972)

Classic British horror of the seventies, but from Amicus Productions, not Hammer – this film stars many a great actor in another anthology movie.  The concept is basically a film version of some of the stories featured in the old EC horror comics of the same name (though only a couple are actually from that title).

Five strangers encounter The Crypt Keeper (Ralph Richardson), deep in the catacombs of a tourist attraction.  The Crypt Keeper then reveals a story for each of the protagonists.   

The first segment features a very lovely Joan Collins, as a housewife who murders her husband on Christmas Eve.  However a homicidal maniac is on the loose, which complicates Joanie’s plan to dispose of her deadly doings.  Despite the festive setting, this is a good start to proceedings.  I may dig this one out again to watch with the family at Christmas – it’ll make a change from Home Alone.

Up next is what I considered the weakest of the stories, though I can imagine it working better in comic book form.  Ian Hendry leaves his wife and family to take off with his bit on the side.  A dream premonition and nasty car crash result in a change of plans.

Peter Cushing pops up in the third tale, putting in a brilliant performance as a kindly old widower.  His snobbish neighbours decide to grind the old gent down so they can get rid of him – but revenge is on the cards.  Although Cushing’s casting is no surprise at all, he does a superb job in this role.

The fourth story is a chilling warning to be careful what you wish for; a ruthless business man (Richard Greene) comes a cropper in what is the most gruesome tale of the five.

Finally, a repugnant ex-army Major gets his comeuppance, after mistreating the inhabitants of the hoe for the blind that he’s supposed to be in charge of.  His fate is grim but well deserved!

Tales from the Crypt offers only mild innovation from the usual Amicus product, but is remarkably well done.  Freddie Francis directs and puts together a highly entertaining film that has spine chilling horror and genuinely repulsive moments.  Although a little dated, there’s still plenty to recommend this movie.

8/10