San Diego Comic Con, circa 1989 or 20th Annual Bunny Slipper-O-Rama

Flashing back to 1989, I was a newly minted U.S. Navy sailor. I had graduated boot camp and was learning the job skills needed for my chosen career. I was attending what is called technical “A” school by Navy definition and what that means is I was required to sit in a classroom and learn about computers on base at San Diego, California. Much like other formal learning facilities the Navy allows your evenings and weekends free, provided you weren’t assigned a working party to clean something or stand a watch. There was a weekend in August and I had heard that there was this event being held called Comic Con at the convention center. With lack of anything else to do I decided to go check this out. You should realize that I have had just a passing interest in this medium up to this time frame. I had collected Cracked magazines in the past but nothing formally called a comic book. Sure I was aware of the heavy hitters … Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, Hulk … pretty much whatever main media had thrown at me so my knowledge of these characters was influenced by my viewing of the Super Friends cartoon, The Incredible Hulk TV show, and Batman TV show reruns. That was pretty much the extent of those characters, right? Wow, was I ever wrong and naïve into the world that I would soon, come to, appreciate and love. Unlike today’s standards where getting into the door of the San Diego Comic Con is not a small feat and requires months or years of pre-planning. Side note, if I now qualify as the media due to my blog and podcast I will gladly take any tickets that anyone wishes to offer for future comic conventions especially the king daddy San Diego show (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). So, back to my story, I take the trolley out to the convention center pay my admission fee for a day pass and I am in. I remember being a bit taken back by the sheer volume of vendors and fans. This was definitely more than what I was expecting. This wasn’t just a few vendors with a few boxes of comic books setup on a folding table with geeky fan boys with thick glasses slobbering through looking for some obscure back issue of Aquaman. This was … something bigger …. something kind of wonderful …. something AWESOME! Safe to say this event along with a movie I would catch a little later would hook me in a major way into a love for the comic medium. Yes, I jumped onboard to comics when I was 18 years old, feel free to call me a late bloomer.

I honestly, don’t remember attending any panel discussions and I have taken the liberty to dig out the convention events guide that I have kept all these years and scanned it and made available in this blog entry. Click here (zippyshare link) to download the program in PDF version. No, it is not the program guide to the 20th Annual Bunny Slipper-O-Rama as stated.

Program Cover

I did make two discoveries and purchases that would start my meager comic book collection. One was something that fell in line with my past connection to the satirical type book, similar to Cracked or Mad magazine that I had enjoyed. This was something a bit different. I knew of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles but I found a book that would plot a teddy bear against them. His name was Boris. Boris the Bear on issue one was depicted as a teddy bear with an uzi and brandishing a sword but then further promises that he “slaughters” the Teenage Radioactive Black Belt Mutant Ninja Critters. Sold! I bought that bad boy and I believe also picked up issue 2 and 4 at the same time. Spoiler alert, later Boris would be revealed to be a robot teddy bear, how freaking awesome, is that? Good job Dark Horse comics, you got me hooked way back then.

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My next discovery which would help shape my ongoing love of the Batman. I discovered and purchased the trade paperback of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. This was not the version of Batman I had seen from the TV shows and cartoons to date. This was something darker, something far less “campy”, and something really wonderful. The story line introduced a now aged Bruce Wayne that had retired from being Batman and was drawn back into his vigilante lifestyle to protect Gotham City. There was absolutely nothing I hated about this graphic novel and what you will read in future Dave’s Utility Belt blog entries is what has become the defining super hero of choice for a the majority of my coolest collectibles.

Batman

That summer I would also see Tim Burton’s Batman film, which will be discussed on another super awesome episode of 80s Reboot Overdrive podcast.

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Posted on October 30, 2014 and filed under Uncategorized.

Vampire Batman Action Figure Review

In honor of the upcoming arrival of All Hallows Eve, or Halloween as is the most common name, I am going to be taking a closer look at one of my Elsewhere themed Batman figures, notably the scariest looking one of the lot, Vampire Batman. Released by Mattel for the Batman Unlimited action figure line this figure is based on the story line Batman & Dracula: Red Rain in which Batman voluntarily becomes a member of the undead in order to properly fight vampires that were attacking Gotham City and most notably take on Dracula himself.

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I am a big fan of the concept of Batman in different time periods and concepts which is the staple for the Elseworlds storylines and subsequent themed toys, so while I am not a huge vampire fan this fits into the first criteria so it is a very cool figure to take a deep dive look at for me. Between the wings, fangs, red eyes, thinner/gaunt look of his body I would say this represents well what you would expect to see from a Vampire Batman. Starting with his vampire wings, they really put the focus on the fact that you aren’t looking at just another Batman figure. The wings give this ready for flight at any moment and not giving the vibe that this was not something manufactured at Wayne Enterprises to help Bruce take flight, the wings definitely have the organic living vampire bat type look. This figure also depicts what looks like a gaunt feel than my other Batman figures, as I would suspect if you were to become an undead vampire than you may have to not worry about excess body fat. J There is still some good muscle definition on this Batman figure but in my eye we see more of an elongated or thinner version of Batman.

One of the aspects about this figure that I am not usually a fan of is the very long ear pieces protruding from Batman’s cowl. When this is depicted in the comics I am not a fan at all. I just don’t understand how having antennas sticking that far up from a very tall man that is Bruce Wayne would be conducive to stealth and helping his fighting ability. If I was fighting him it would give me something to grab a hold of and given the right strength be able to swing him around like Hulk does to Loki in the Avengers movie. For the sake of this figure it oddly works because it gives a more vampire-ish look to the figure so I am much more tolerant of the “rabbit” ears for this version of Batman.

This figure also comes with a blood red crucifix stake in the shape of the Batman logo. This piece is very cool other than on mine it was a very loose grip and seldom fell off. In fact at this moment, I have misplaced that accessory which is a complete bummer for the sake of this writing and pics that I am posting. However, if you get this figure and have a method to make him hold the stake with a better kung fu grip than I did or would like to donate the accessory to my collection I would love to hear from you.

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Taking a closer look at Vampire Batman’s nightmarish face, I just don’t have anything to hate about it. Well defined fangs, ghoulish open mouth, and blood red eyes. This most definitely is a great Halloween type figure for Batman and Vampire fans alike. I recommend for all ghouls and goblins provided they have a high tolerance for freaky looking things that may come alive and go bump in the night while they sleep off their sugar induced coma on Halloween.

A plethora of ways to follow or contact me, feel free to reach out or see what I am up to next.

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Posted on October 24, 2014 and filed under Uncategorized.

Two Face Batman Action Figure Review

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This action figure comes from DC Direct released in 2010. This combines my favorite of Batman’s rogue gallery, being Two Face and what it would look like if Harvey Dent was to take over as the Caped Crusader. What is not to love about that? For those unfamiliar with the Batman Reborn storyline, sorry spoiler alert, if you intend to go back and read it. Two Face is aware that there is a new person under the cowl replacing the Batman he knew and respected, he breaks into the Bat Cave to confront what he believes is an unworthy new Batman, which has been Dick Grayson since Bruce was missing. Those wanting to check out the story refer back to Batman issue 690 and 691. photo 1

This figure remains one of my favorites as it shows off so many dual visual conflicts that would be prevalent in a Harvey Dent made Batman costume. First thing is the bold half red and half blue of the uniform and cowl. Closer inspection of the costume also shows that the utility belt has one side of capsules and the other side as pouches, this is a great nod to the best variations of the utility belt throughout the years.The figure comes with two standard Two Face items which is his handgun and his coin in his left hand.

This representation of both profiles of this figure, shown below, is to let you see the red and blue side contrast or the different facial profiles which are what makes the conflicting profiles of Harvey Dent. I imagine if Harvey would be taking over as the vigilante and protecting Gotham you may have to win a coin flip if you are to be saved by him or possibly if you were an evil doer would have your fate of being captured or killed decided on the spot. Which makes him a great villain but not exactly a Batman you would want protecting you.

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A close up look of his face shows us exactly what you would want to see from the smooth sculpted side as a contrast to a seemingly scarred by acid other side. The cowl also properly depicts a wider open eye of the scarred side along with exaggerated open mouth to give the indication of Harvey’s missing lips. The chest emblem on the figure is very different than the comic book source material along with the duality of the utility belt mentioned earlier but if you can overlook these inconsistencies there is no reason not to enjoy this great action figure.

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Why is this figure cool to me?

Two Face as a Batman rogue continues to be my favorite, I believe this is due to the reason that I relate on a personal basis of always trying to understand both sides of any situation. I may not fully agree with all sides of a given situation and in some cases a coin flip would be way easier to make a decision in real life situations. Having read the Batman Reborn story line and loving the idea of a Two Face Batman, I had to take the opportunity to add this as an addition to my toy collection. I have been so enamored with this concept I have commissioned various artists to provide their depiction of Two Face Batman. Also, if I had talent and opportunity to create a cosplay costume to wear at conventions, I would be all in for this one, no coin flip needed.

Posted on September 21, 2014 and filed under Uncategorized.

Dark Knight Returns Batman Action Figure Review

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This figure was released in 2004 by DC Direct and based on the artwork of Frank Miller from the awesome Dark Knight Returns graphic novel. I didn’t purchase mine when it was released as my action figure collection hadn’t really jump started at that point. However, I knew this was one that I needed to have. There has been an updated set that was released in 2013 based on the animated feature of the same name but my figure is the one released in August 2004. The updated version appears to have more subdued coloring and lost the right leg utility belt. One of the factors that really appeals to me about this figure is it gives me a closer to real life vibe on an aged Batman. He is muscular and in great physical shape for being older the figure depicts that he has a hunched over posture. I love the added leg utility belt as I would imagine as the threat of Gotham has changed over the years you would need extra gadgets to fight the evolving crime landscape along with older rogue gallery elements that he would have had to still fight. DKR Batman (1) DKR Batman (2)

I love the facial features of this figure as it depicts forehead wrinkles that you would expect from an aging Bruce Wayne but the very characteristic grimace of the Batman. Unlike most other figures of Batman this one appears longer in the jaw line giving the further impression of age and works very well to characterize the source material.

I am a fan of the bright yellow circle surrounding the chest emblem as I love the contrast this has of the bat suit with dark subdued colors. As the same color is on the utility belts this really makes those elements “pop” on this figure.

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Why is this figure cool to me?

I was a late adopter into comic book reading and collecting. By late, I mean 18 years old. In 1989, it was the summer of Batman, with the huge marketing for the Tim Burton movie being releases, you couldn’t go far without being confronted with the Batman emblem. At that point of my life I was in my fledging days in the Navy and was attending technical school for my chosen Navy career. School didn’t fill every hour so we had nightly and weekend liberty. My technical school was located in San Diego, California. In 1989 I got the opportunity to visit what is now a very tough ticket and that was the International San Diego Comic Con. One of my introductions that summer was to the graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. My view of Batman has never been the same since that summer as he ceased to be the “campy” version from the old TV show reruns I thought he was. This figure brings me back full circle to a never ending passion in my adult life.