Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What Lurks in the Longbox? #25

Lego KidsFest 2012 – A Builder’s Paradise 

My wife's contribution to the Lego "Art Gallery"
Many of the toys our parents and grandparents enjoyed during their childhood have long since faded into obscurity, or are no longer even in production.  Perhaps the most significant exception to this rule is Lego, the company that manufacturers the well-known interlocking “bricks” that can be used to build almost anything, given the proper combination of creativity and talent.  Based on the wooden toy designs of a Denmark carpenter in the 1930’s, and then gradually transforming into the modern-day brick a quarter century later, Lego may be at its most successful stage yet. 
The popular building toys are now more closely aligned with the comic book industry than ever before, especially given the partnerships with Marvel and DC that were secured this past year.  The release of The Avengers in theatres this past summer helped to cement that relationship even further.  With the recently announced licensing agreement to produce building sets featuring the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, collectors are finding Lego to be as much of an “ally” with comic books as video games and movies are. 
The 2012 nation-wide tour of the Lego KidsFest Expo landed in Detroit during the weekend of October 12th-14th, 2012.  KidsFest was held at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, which is also home to The Motor City Comic Convention each year.  The unique expo was perhaps the most interactive event ever held at this venue.  Several different building areas were available throughout the building: The Lego Art Gallery, where parents and kids alike could contribute to a huge wall of brick displays; Creation Nation, where anyone could add a building or landmark to a continually growing Lego map of the United States; and the Monochromatic building areas, for those fans that like building everything with just one color (several color selections were available).    
The Ninjago tournament area was one of the most popular spots at the KidsFest!
Lego “Master Builders” provided live demonstrations, and explained to the audience how they hold the enviable position of being “paid to play.”  Staff and workers were well informed and very helpful with providing information or pointing the way to one of the events.  Perhaps the most popular attraction of KidsFest was the Big Brick Pile, which could best be described as a gigantic mosh pit of Lego bricks.  Kids (and adults) could get on the floor with thousands of brick pieces and either build to their heart’s content, or literally bury themselves under the bricks, which some did in the same way that people bury each other in the sand on the beach. 

If you lost one of your friends, there's a good chance they were buried in here.

Unlike traditional conventions and expos, the event was divided into “sessions,” in which ticket holders were allowed at the expo for a specific number of hours only, and then closed until customers came in for the next session.  There were two sessions on each day of the expo, one starting at 9:00 a.m. and one starting at 2:00 p.m.  The reason for the limitation on ticket sales quickly became apparent, as the Showplace was packed almost to capacity throughout the day. 
DK Publishing was also in attendance, with a wide variety of Lego-related story and sticker books for sale, with all their popular licensed product, including Star Wars, Harry Potter and Ninjago.  The Lego Marketplace had an huge selection of Lego sets for sale, including some hard to find items not often found in standard venues, such as Walmart and Target.  However, the marketplace (or “gift shop,” as my son called it) was tucked into a sequestered area, which was appreciated by parents who didn’t need product shoved into their faces, after spending money on tickets and concessions.

The expo also provided areas for taking a break, with large video screens showing Lego-related movies and website episodes.  Extra credit goes to the convention organizers for making sure there were plenty of chairs available for weary parents to sit down while the kids practiced their building skills. 
Best friends enjoy a quick break before getting back to the action!

Lego KidsFest was serious fun, and an announcement is expected before the end of the year for the tour dates in 2013.  If you missed it this year, stay tuned to for updates on tour visits to your city! 

The ninjas of Ninjago helped with security detail during the KidsFest. 



Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What Lurks in the Longbox? #24

My First Review for CBG!

This week marks the third anniversary of submitting my first comic book review to Comics Buyer's Guide Magazine.  CBG is the longest running ongoing magazine about comics; they celebrated their 40th year of publication in April 2011.  Before I became a regular contributor for the magazine, I had several letters published in which I related both my family's convention experiences, and our annual Free Comic Book Day adventures, as we visited several local stores during each year's event.

In the second half of 2009, I was contacted by Brent Frankenhoff, the Editor at CBG, about a new feature in the magazine that would be called "Fan Reviews."  The purpose of Fan Reviews would be to feature a different reader/subscriber each issue, and give them the opportunity to write a couple comic reviews.  Apparently, I did something right with my first few reviews.  On November 13, 2009, I was pleasantly surprised to receive an offer from Brent to become an official member of "The Review Crew," CBG's official monthly team that writes comic book, graphic novel, and trade paperback reviews in every issue, and rates each one on a four point scale. 

It's hard to believe three years have already passed. During this time, I have had the opportunity to expand my writing skills to graphic novel reviews, press coverage for Heroes Con 2011, and even having the honor of writing the lead cover article for CBG #1685, which featured my interview with Mark Sparacio about his independent comic series Omega Paradox. 

For this occasion, I thought I would present my very first review for CBG:  Issues# 1-2 of the Black Lightning: Year One mini-series that was released in the first half of 2009.  I'd like to think my writing skills have improved since then, especially after I began moving past my comfort zone, and started writing reviews for independent publishers such as Antarctic, Boom Studios and Zenescope. 

I've enjoyed writing for CBG, and hope to continue for many years to come. 

Black Lightning: Year One #1-2 (of 6), DC, $2.99 each, Color, 32 pgs.
Writer: Jen Van Meter; Artist: Cully Hamner 
Black Lightning: Year One brings the title character back to its roots, eschewing previous incarnations of the character, like his stint as Secretary of Education under Lex Luthor’s administration, and at the same time provides a fresh look at the character’s background and motivations.  High School Teacher and Olympic Gold Medalist Jefferson Pierce, armed with a “Wayne Education Trust Grant,” has moved to a Metropolis borough called Southside (aka “Suicide Slum”) with his wife Lynn and daughter Anissa to continue his mission to, in Lynn’s words, “save the world one school at a time.”
With Jefferson taking on the role of Garfield High’s new Principal, Writer Jen Van Meter expands upon the role of his wife (no longer divorced as in previous series), and family, while updating original cast members like Peter Gambi and Earl Clifford.  The first part of this mini-series sets the groundwork for Black Lightning declaring his personal war against the criminal gang called “The 100,” while Issue 2 establishes a promising relationship between Jefferson and Clark Kent. 

Van Meter’s pace will keep the reader looking forward to future installments, and Hamner’s art has an engaging quality that is nicely complimented against Laura Martin’s colors.  Year One #1-2 does a solid job of honoring the character Tony Isabella created in 1977 while carving out its own path at the same time.

Friday, October 5, 2012


Just a reminder that this weekend is our final Comic Book Garage Sale of 2012!  Thanks to everyone who stopped by and made Day 1 such a success.  We still have thousands of comics available, including everything from The Walking Dead to Gold Key to Marvel and DC. 

The sale is at 1370 Maureen Avenue in Madison Heights, Michigan, and will start at 10:00 a.m each day.  Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What Lurks in the Longbox? #23

Superman Family Adventures!

DC Comics
$2.99, color, 32 pgs. 
Writers: Art Balthazar, Franco
Artist: Art Balthazar
The recent cancellation of Art Balthazar’s Tiny Titans did not sit well with fans of the beloved series.  Those readers who have Balthazar as a Facebook friend are well aware of this, as the fallout from disappointed fans continued on his Facebook wall for quite a while.  However, Balthazar’s new ongoing series Superman Family Adventures is off to a great start, and he has crafted yet another perfect comic that’s entertaining for both kids and adults alike.   

Balthazar manages to include all the favorite characters, including Lois, Jimmy and Perry.  Plus, he even manages to fit in a guest appearance by a couple of those Tiny Titans: Kara and Superboy.  With a little help from Superman's friends, villains like Lex Luthor don’t stand a chance.

Perhaps Perry should cut down on the caffeine.

This is Superman at his finest: battling giant robots, saving the day, and enjoying his own private joke that he plays on the rest of the world while disguised as the mild mannered Clark Kent.  Future issues will feature Bizarro, General Zod, the Super Pets and many other familiar characters, all portrayed in that great Art Balthazar "Aw Yeah" fashion.  If all that isn’t enough, what happens between Luthor and Krypto in the first issue should have fans rolling on the floor in laughter, and that's all I'll say about that. 

Superman maintains his "New 52" costume in this series.

Reviewed by Christopher Galvan