Star Wars Celebration Chicago 2019 Photos #10: Welcome to Our World of Space Toys

Elite Praetorian Guards!

Elite Praetorian Guards from Kotobukiya. Pricier than you think.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

April 11-15, 2019, was the ninth American edition of Lucasfilm’s Star Wars Celebration, recurring major convention celebrating their works, creations, actors, fans, and merchandise, not always in that order. After jaunts around the U.S. coast and overseas, this year’s was in Chicago, gracing the Midwest with its products for the first time since 2005. My wife Anne and I attended Thursday through Saturday and fled Sunday morning…

TOYS! Studies show 106% of all viewers who ever enjoyed a Star Wars film have owned at least one Star Wars toy in their lives. Anne and I don’t actively collect them anymore, but we haven’t yet parted with our respective collections. Frankly, it would take a while. Hers is ten times the size of mine, even after gifting a few extras to kiddie relatives. We nonetheless continue to admire Star Wars toys and toy-like products from afar, amazed at how far toy design technology has come since the ancient times when action figures with more than five movable joints were illegal in forty-two states because too much articulation might encourage naughty posing.

Naturally Lucasfilm invited some of their fanciest licensees to Celebration to display their wares, from the rulers of the commonest big-box toy aisles to the higher-end collectible craftspeople. Each of those vendors also had exclusive Celebration pins for sale, a value-added incentive for window shoppers to take a closer look. When the pin-bug bit Anne, we did a little of exactly that.

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C2E2 Photos, Part 8 of 8: Geek Commerce on Parade

C2E2 Dalek!

This way to REGISTRATE! REGISTRATE! REGISTRATE!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! My wife Anne and I just got home from the tenth annual Chicago Comic and Entertainment Exposition (“C2E2″), another three-day extravaganza of comic books, actors, creators, toys, props, publishers, freebies, Funko Pops, anime we don’t recognize, and walking and walking and walking and walking. Each year C2E2 keeps inching ever closer to its goal of becoming the Midwest’s answer to the legendary San Diego Comic Con and other famous conventions in larger, more popular states. We missed the first year, but have attended every year since 2011 as a team…

…and taken photos as a team, of whatever sights catch our eyes around the vast exhibit hall, which could contain several football games at once, though it does not because football is out of scope for geek mega-parties like C2E2.

In the spirit of the Moral of the Story from our seventh exciting chapter, in which we ultimately learned that photos are cool and words are dumb if you put too many together in a row, please enjoy one last photo gallery of stuff and things that demand your money or at least your attention. Looky!

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R.I.P. Geppi Museum: A 2017 Road Trip Epilogue

Batcave Shakespeare!

Once upon a time, this dead author was the gateway to a crimefighter’s lair. Who knows where he’s headed next.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. For 2017 our ultimate destination of choice was the city of Baltimore, Maryland. You might remember it from such TV shows as Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, not exactly the most enticing showcases to lure in prospective tourists. In the course of our research we were surprised to discover Baltimore also has an entire designated tourist-trap section covered with things to do.

As a fan of comic books for nearly four decades and counting, I wish I could say we find comic-related tourist attractions everywhere we go, but that’s nearly never the case. Leave it to one of the most powerful men in the comics industry ever so kindly to place one in our Baltimore path. And not just comics — Geppi’s Entertainment Museum is a haven for collectible 20th-century pop culture in general.

Its founder and namesake is Steve Geppi, also the founder and owner of Diamond Comics Distributors, the near-monopolistic juggernaut through which the vast majority of American comic shops are required to receive their weekly comics and ancillary products. Geppi has been a leading figure in the industry since the 1970s, with Diamond rising to indispensable prominence when the tumultuous 1990s market saw the company either outliving or outright buying its competitors. In 2006 Geppi — himself a big fan of all those worlds — decided to try something different and opened his Entertainment Museum on the second floor of the former B&O Railroad Station, with its exhibits curated out of his own enormous personal collections.

As of June 3, 2018, those paragraphs became past tense.

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C2E2 2018 Photos, Part 7 of 7: Random Acts of Pop Culture

Cards Against Humanity!

We don’t play Cards Against Humanity, but their advertising is always the best.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! The ninth annual Chicago Comic and Entertainment Exposition (“C2E2″) just wrapped another three-day extravaganza of comic books, actors, creators, toys, props, publishers, freebies, Funko Pops, anime we don’t recognize, and walking and walking and walking and walking. Each year C2E2 keeps inching ever closer to its goal of becoming the Midwest’s answer to the legendary San Diego Comic Con and other famous cons in larger, more popular states. My wife Anne and I missed the first year, but have attended every year since 2011 as a team.

In this special miniseries I’ll be sharing memories and photos from our own C2E2 experience and its plethora of pizzazz…

…and it all comes down to this: photos of stuff and things around the exhibit hall. If you’ve never attended a comics or entertainment convention, or if you missed this year’s C2E2, or if you just really like photos of stuff and things, please enjoy this gallery of geek sights and eye-catching outtakes, guaranteed to have 65% fewer words than Part Five and 85% fewer words than Part Six. Yay pictures!

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Elegy for the Final Generation of Toys R Us Kids

Toys R Us v. Green Lantern!

It’s official: everything that stupid movie touched dies. Some just took years longer than others.

Parents and other former children lamented, waxed nostalgic, and raged at the news this week that Toys R Us, the last American large-scale brick-‘n’-mortar toy store chain, may be shuttering its remaining 800 stores over the next several weeks due to the long-term shenanigans of the evil corporate overlords who bought it in 2005 and basically ransacked it for cash for years. Soon that kaleidoscopically immersive childhood shopping experience, one of the few places a family could go and spend a day surrounded only by wall-to-wall playthings, will be downgraded from endangered to extinct.

I’m saddened by the loss, but not devastated. My life has been one long series of toy store collapses.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 43: No, Welcome to OUR World of Toys

Lego Santa Yoda!

Merry Christmas, Lego Santa Yoda wishes you.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. For 2017 our ultimate destination of choice was the city of Baltimore, Maryland. You might remember it from such TV shows as Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, not exactly the most enticing showcases to lure in prospective tourists. Though folks who know me best know I’m one of those guys who won’t shut up about The Wire, a Baltimore walkabout was Anne’s idea. Setting aside my fandom, as a major history buff she was first to remind skeptics who made worried faces at us for this plan that Maryland was one of the original thirteen American colonies and, urban decay notwithstanding, remains packed with notable history and architecture from ye olde Founding Father times. In the course of our research we were surprised to discover Baltimore also has an entire designated tourist-trap section covered with things to do. And if we just so happened to run across former filming locations without getting shot, happy bonus…

Our drive home through the Midwest on Day Seven took us a few miles off the interstate for a while as we sought out a creative repository of childhood imagination. An architecturally impressive school building that opened around the turn of the 20th century educated thousands of students for nearly ninety years until the march of progress closed its doors. After laying fallow for years, a core group of dedicated fans had a vision to bring new life into the former schoolhouse, acquiring the property and turning it into a museum filled with toys, animals, Lego, and other childhood memorabilia, nostalgic set pieces from multiple generations covering the gamut of pop culture staples from Star Wars to Thomas the Tank Engine and beyond.

Sound familiar? It should if you read our previous chapter.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 42: Welcome to Our World of Toys

Percy No. 6!

Thomas the Tank Engine’s pushover pal Percy enjoys some alone time on the tracks between grueling cross-country hauls.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. For 2017 our ultimate destination of choice was the city of Baltimore, Maryland. You might remember it from such TV shows as Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, not exactly the most enticing showcases to lure in prospective tourists. Though folks who know me best know I’m one of those guys who won’t shut up about The Wire, a Baltimore walkabout was Anne’s idea. Setting aside my fandom, as a major history buff she was first to remind skeptics who made worried faces at us for this plan that Maryland was one of the original thirteen American colonies and, urban decay notwithstanding, remains packed with notable history and architecture from ye olde Founding Father times. In the course of our research we were surprised to discover Baltimore also has an entire designated tourist-trap section covered with things to do. And if we just so happened to run across former filming locations without getting shot, happy bonus…

Our drive home through the Midwest on Day Seven took us a few miles off the interstate for a while as we sought out a creative repository of childhood imagination. An architecturally impressive school building that opened around the turn of the 20th century educated thousands of students for nearly ninety years until the march of progress closed its doors. After laying fallow for years, a core group of dedicated fans had a vision to bring new life into the former schoolhouse, acquiring the property and turning it into a museum filled with toys, animals, Lego, and other childhood memorabilia, nostalgic set pieces from multiple generations covering the gamut of pop culture staples from Star Wars to Thomas the Tank Engine and beyond.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 38: The Elephants in the Room

Dumbo ride!

Dumbo may be among the more high-profile pachyderms, but he’s not the only one out there pounding the pavement for peanuts.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. For 2017 our ultimate destination of choice was the city of Baltimore, Maryland. You might remember it from such TV shows as Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, not exactly the most enticing showcases to lure in prospective tourists. Though folks who know me best know I’m one of those guys who won’t shut up about The Wire, a Baltimore walkabout was Anne’s idea. Setting aside my fandom, as a major history buff she was first to remind skeptics who made worried faces at us for this plan that Maryland was one of the original thirteen American colonies and, urban decay notwithstanding, remains packed with notable history and architecture from ye olde Founding Father times. In the course of our research we were surprised to discover Baltimore also has an entire designated tourist-trap section covered with things to do. And if we just so happened to run across former filming locations without getting shot, happy bonus…

We left the Gettysburg Battlefield area after a late lunch and were heading northwest when, barely a mile down the road, we pulled over for our next diversion. In a complete change of pace from solemn reminders of our bloodied American history, we perused a unique little establishment, a seller of myriad sugary snacks that boasts an assortment of over twelve thousand elephants. Because they can.

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Indiana State Fair 2017 Photos #4: The Year in Lego

Red Babel!

Some of us have a problem with having our playtime regulated by The MAN.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! The Indiana State Fair is an annual celebration of Hoosier pride, farming, food, and 4-H, with amusement park rides, cooking demos, concerts by musicians that other people love, and farm animals competing for cash prizes and herd bragging rights. My wife Anne and I attend each year as a date-day to seek new forms of creativity and imagination within a local context. Usually we’re all about the food.

…but sometimes you need other things to do for fun, activities to pass the time between feedings. Lucky for us that one of the commonest sights in their exhibit halls is Lego, the preferred medium for sculptors of all ages, from childhood to adulthood, whether enlisted in 4-H or freelancing for fun and wonder.

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“Transformers: The Last Knight”: The Super Awesome Ultimate Recap

Nemesis Prime!

Hey, kids! Hope you love our new movie and all the cool toy tie-ins! Mom and Dad, sorry all our human friends keep saying the S-word so much.

Midlife Crisis Crossover calls Transformers: The Last Knight “The worst Knights of the Round Table film of 2017”! This may sound like nonsense, but I would say “You had to be there” if that weren’t the opposite of my final opinion about this misbegotten mess.

Michael Bay’s latest assemblage of toy robot fight footage extracted from a wheat thresher doesn’t stop at just King Arthur for his pop culture cribbing. After an opening fray that brings us the Game of Thrones/Armageddon crossover no one ever asked for, Bay and his four credited screenwriters go out of their way to photocopy portions of Suicide Squad, Downton Abbey, National Treasure, Aliens, Stand by Me and Three’s Company while trying to turn giant toy robot fights into Serious Business, to come up with clever disguises for sports-car placement ads, and to perpetuate the four previous films’ ongoing YVAN EHT NIOJ-style recruitment campaign.

Fair warning: I’m getting into MAJOR SPOILERS because I don’t feel like being kind to this ostensible “movie”. If your love for Transformers is so unconditional and fanatical that you’re hoping to keep the surprises fully preserved so that your first viewing will be as pure and blissful as possible, then this entry is not for you. Then again, you’ve likely avoided any and all critical analyses of your beloved robo-family’s entire series to date anyway, so I imagine I’m safe and talking to myself, which is not uncommon for me online.

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Lego. Batman. Movie. Three Products in One!

Lego Batman Movie!

Sneak preview of Lego Batman arriving on the red carpet at next year’s People’s Choice Awards.

(Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na)
LEEEGOOO!
(Na na na na na na na na na na na na)
BAAATMAAAN!
(Na na na na na na na na na na na na)
MOOOVIEEE!
(Na na na na na na na na na na na na)
LEGO! BATMAN! MOVIE!
(Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na)
LEGO! BATMAN! MOVIE!
Da-da-da-da-da-da-da-dada-da-da-da-da!
TOY AAAAAAAAD!

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Our 2011 Road Trip #20: Welcome to Our World of Toys

Anne + Lego Harrison Ford!

As a lifelong fan of Harrison Ford, Anne accepts that Lego Indiana Jones is the closest she’ll ever come to meeting the real deal. But she can dream.

[The very special miniseries continues! See Part One for the official intro and context.]

When you bring a kid or two with you on vacation, assuming you don’t secretly hate them, and assuming you’re not one of those negligent parents who needs to learn a special life lesson about how not to be a selfish jerk, then it follows that your itinerary should have some stops that the kid will enjoy more than you do. And if you should happen to find something interesting about those stops for yourself, then hey, everyone wins.

Thus our family set forth on the trail of the last remaining FAO Schwarz in America. If nothing else, it would make a nice bookend with our visit to the Times Square Toys R Us.

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Our 2011 Road Trip, Part 5: Toys R Us Kicks

T-Rex!

[The very special miniseries continues! See Part One for the official intro and context.]

It’s our first evening in New York City. We’re in Times Square. We’re wandering and gaping and acting like overwhelmed tourists. It’s who we are. We knew sooner or later we had to enter a store instead of just staring at their flickering big-screen ads.

They say there are eight million stories in the naked city. Nine million if you count its toys.

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House Party at the Hall of Heroes

Hall of Heroes!

Gathered together from the cosmic reaches of the universe, here in this great Hall of Heroes, are the most powerful forces of good ever assembled: Captain America! Deadpool! Bucky! Cartoon Hulk! The Lizard!

My wife and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a one-day road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas of Indiana we’ve never experienced before. My 2016 birthday destination of choice: the northern Indiana city of Elkhart, with a bonus stopover in South Bend, both some 100+ miles north of here. Elkhart was regrettably cut a little short because the weather was miserable and tried to freeze us in our tracks, but we had enough fun to fill out another four-part miniseries starring a candy factory tour, a super-hero roadside attraction, and a selection of the “art” in Elkhart. Also, food.

Part Two of Four: a birthday celebration for a venerated super-hero at a museum made by a fan for fans.

Right this way for a glimpse inside the Hall of Heroes Museum!

Meet Your 2017 Wonder Woman Action Figure Line (Probably)

Wonder Woman!

The Wonder Woman MEGO figure was the perfect compromise: too tall for an action figure, too prone to punching for a Barbie doll.

Fans of Star Wars: The Force Awakens have been up in arms the past two months over the complete lack of a dedicated action figure based on Rey, even though she’s the movie’s main character, arguably its most interesting new hero, and quite possibly a powerful descendant of one of the series’ most famous faces. While Hasbro has given Rey a one-way ticket to the Island of Misfit Toys, all the major male characters boast their own figures and multi-packs and variants and prominent roles in numerous other Star Wars toy assortments and games.

Online protesters suspected the executives at Hasbro were just being big fat sexist jerks, but their rage has been further fueled by an interview published Wednesday with an alleged Lucasfilm insider who claims The Powers That Be mandated that Rey specifically be denied an action figure because girl. Fans of Daisy Ridley’s amazing performance are unhappier than ever and demand Rey figures and justice now, in that order. Hasbro, who have yet to reveal the exact location of the landfill where they deposited seven years’ worth of unsold Padme in Immobile Ballroom Gown figures, could not be reached for comment.

While Hasbro squirms and harrumphs in its Rhode Island lair, we here at Midlife Crisis Crossover are betting that somewhere in California, the folks at Mattel are watching the debacle, taking notes, and adjusting their own plans for the eventual toys that we presume will coincide with the 2017 release of the first Wonder Woman theatrical film in world history. Of course there’ll be action figures! If you have a super-hero toy license, it’s what you do!

We’ve consulted our greatest prognosticating minds and our own secret anonymous sources, and have assembled our definitive predictions for the complete release schedule of the Wonder Woman action figure line, broken down by the waves to be released every 4-6 weeks as demand ramps up and the collectors beg for more. We’re thinking 2017 will be a very good year for DC Comics toy manufacturers and the boys who love them.

Right this way for your ultimate Wonder Woman action figure checklist!

Our Very Special Christmas Diorama and Wreaths

Christmas Diorama!

My wife and I have our conventional traditions. I drag our Christmas tree down from the attic so we can reassemble it and choose which ornaments see the light of day this year and which ones stay packed. She frees our Christmas dinnerware from the back of our kitchen cabinets. We send and gratefully receive Christmas cards. We watch a few Christmas specials. We avoid Christmas TV-movies. We look forward to Christmas Eve service at our church.

And then there’s our Christmas diorama, a time when geek and non-geek decorations gather ’round our Lord and Savior and celebrate the occasion in their own special ways, without any partisan courtroom squabbling to suck the spirit out of them.

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Wizard World Chicago 2014 Photos, Part 7 of 7: the Geek Stuff

Rocket Cookie!

Rocket Raccoon: the Cookie! Northbrook bakery Max and Benny’s had a booth selling cookies shaped like numerous characters and personalities. My wife and I split a cookie shaped like Star-Lord’s head. It was great and I wish we’d bought a few dozen more.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

This weekend was that time again: our annual excursion to Rosemont, IL, for Wizard World Chicago. My wife and I took plenty of photos as usual, many of them usable. We’ll be sharing those over the next several entries…

…blah blah blah blah blah. And now it all comes down to this, Part Seven, the not-really-grand finale: non-living objects and items that caught our eyes on the premises.

Right this way for random objects of power!

Gen Con 2014 Photos, Part 6 of 6: Things Besides Costumes

Gaming!

Gamers gaming with games. The costumes are incidental.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: my wife and I attended Gen Con 2014 and took pictures as usual.

The first five parts were all costumes, costumes, costumes. In this, the final chapter in the Gen Con 2014 saga: slightly fewer costumes. Because there are other persons, places, and things at entertainment conventions besides costumes. Yes, really.

Right this way for one last roundup!

Cartoon Network to Showrunners: Sell Toys or Perish

Green Lantern, Young Justice, canceledTV animation fans are still coming to terms with recent announcements that Cartoon Network had canceled two Saturday morning series, both part of the DC Nation programming block — Young Justice after two seasons, and Green Lantern after a single season. Cancellation isn’t unusual for the basic-cable channel — their programming history is a long shopping list of short-term productions. In fact, if you set aside the frequent Ben 10 reboots (the Scooby-Doo of a new generation in its own way), their longest-running series outside the Adult Swim block (i.e., still producing new episodes and not existing solely as reruns) is Adventure Time, which will celebrate its third birthday next month. The minds behind Young Justice should probably count their blessings that they were allowed two entire seasons instead of being truncated after six episodes.

Typical Cartoon Network cancellations tend to come and go without a public post-mortem or much of a protest. However, the curious circumstances surrounding these shows’ unforeseen terminations was addressed last weekend at the Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle, where longtime Warner Brothers Animation producer Bruce Timm was asked about the cancellations at a Q&A. In the wake of a January article about Young Justice ending due not to low ratings but to anemic toy sales, multimedia news/rumor site Bleeding Cool followed up with Timm’s response regarding Green Lantern, referencing weak merchandise sales as the primary cause of death:

Since the Ryan Reynolds’ film, retailers were stuck with film merchandise that just wasn’t selling. This led to those retailers being very reluctant, if not downright refusing, to any carry merchandise from the Animated Series. Therefore, a lack of sales on that front lead to a lack revenue for an admittedly expensive CG series.

In reading the paraphrasing of Timm’s comments, I couldn’t help feeling a little naïve and a whole lot disappointed. Though the shows weren’t quite for me, I can respect the efforts that went into them and the fan bases they garnered. The part that struck me in the worst way was that, if those two articles linked above are to be believed — and I’ve seen no evidence that anyone in authority disagrees with them — then the crews of both shows essentially lost their gigs regardless of the quality of their own work. If the stories were engaging and the animation was suitably competent, it didn’t matter. Even though Nielsen commoners didn’t exactly boycott the show, ratings were seemingly a secondary consideration. The bottom line, as I understand it: they failed as toy commercials.

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