Space City Comic Con 2015

Houston, Texas

With the exception of their Galveston winter event a couple of years ago, I’ve attended every Space City Comic Con to date.  From the excellent first year event at the Galleria to this year’s event at the NRG Center, I’ve seen this convention do wonderful things, fight growing pains, and, most importantly, learn from their mistakes.

This year’s convention had a whole lot of pros and a few cons as well.  Let’s start with the pros first and then work our way through the few cons that I happened upon.

Spider-Gwen!

Spider-Gwen!

First and foremost, this convention has maintained one thing throughout its existence, and that’s the fact that it’s a big event with a small event feel.  I’ve heard many attendees refer to something known as the “Space City feel” which is basically that despite having some big name celebs like William Shatner, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darville, Kevin J. Anderson, and most of the cast of Star Trek:  Voyager on the guest list, this event is very laid back.  Volunteers were friendly, full of information, and quick to make sure that any and all problems were handled as swiftly as possible.  NRG Event staff was awesome as well, making sure that the area was clean, safe, and friendly.

Harley Quinn, DDK, and Poison Ivy.

Harley Quinn, DDK, and Poison Ivy.

Karen Gillan and Arthur Darville.

Karen Gillan and Arthur Darville.

Event attendees were friendly as well.  There are always a few bad apples in the basket, but pretty much everybody that attended the convention played “Texas Friendly” throughout the duration of the event.  This includes celebs, authors, artists, and vendors.  In fact, the celebs at this event went out of their way to interact with the fans.  Handlers didn’t stop them, either, which is a plus in my opinion.  The highlight for me was getting to meet the lovely, friendly, and funny Michele Specht of Star Trek Continues.  Not only did she remember me from a tweet that I posted about a week ago, she hung out with me and a few other chemically imbalanced members of the Just Us League!  She’s definitely one of the funniest and friendliest celebs that I’ve ever met, and I hope to see her at another event in the future.

The Just Us League and Michele Specht of Star Trek Continues!

The Just Us League and Michele Specht of Star Trek Continues!

Another pro for this event was their programming app.  Yes, I’m a more traditional kind of guy when it comes to programming schedules.  I prefer to hold a program in my hand and read it instead of flipping through an app to see what’s going on.  However, after using the app for a bit, I grew to appreciate its usefulness when it came to updating any last minute changes or cancellations.  It still needs a little work, but I believe it will get better as this event continues to grow.

Iron Texan!

Iron Texan!

Something else that I enjoyed about Space City Comic Con was the fact that getting into, out of, and around the event was a snap.  The check in process flowed quickly and there were almost no hassles to getting inside the convention hall.  The size of the crowd was good, but not cramped like it was for Space City’s second event.  A few spots had slower traffic than others, but those spots were usually occupied by excellent vendors, artists, cosplayers, or my favorite green ladies, Orion’s Envy.  While they didn’t have an official performance at the event this year, they danced all over the convention floor.

DDK and his favorite green ladies, Orion's Envy!

DDK and his favorite green ladies, Orion’s Envy!

There were also tons of cosplayers at the event.  While I don’t like to use the term professional cosplayer, there were a few in attendance at this event.  All of them were very cordial and seemed to get along quite well with the crowd.  Plenty of “regular” cosplayers also attended the event, and they were all very friendly as well.  I had a lot of fun interacting with them and taking photos of and with them.  There were more Harley Quinns in attendance than you could shake a stick at, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing in my book!

GOTG!

GOTG!

Marty McFly, DDK, and Cap!

Marty McFly, DDK, and Cap!

The Joker, DDK, and Harley!

The Joker, DDK, and Harley!

Myself and Harley Quinn!

Myself and Harley Quinn!

But was the event perfect? Not at all.  However, I’ve come to expect a few bumps in the road from an event of this size.  My biggest hangup about this event was the poor signage.  Without a physical, in-hand program, and an app that shows promise but needs a little work, it wasn’t easy to keep up with the locations and times for everything.  I do see this improving in the future, but it should be mentioned in my opinion.

Another con was finding the entrance to the event (but only the first time).  I rode with friends this year and despite the GPS getting us to the event, we had to circle a bit before we found the proper gate to go through.  After that initial difficulty, though, getting to the event was no problem.

My only other complaint is that this event should have stayed open a tad longer on Saturday evening (or at least dropped the extra cost of getting into the after party).  I didn’t attend the after party and from what I heard from folks who did, it wasn’t worth the extra money to attend the event.

So will I attend this event next year?  Absolutely!  Houston is one of my favorite cities and Space City Comic Con is one of my favorite events.  It’s still growing and as long as the show runners keep a happy balance between the “Space City feel” and the quality of its guests, I’ll continue to attend this event until I become one with the Force!

Quicksilver!

Quicksilver!

Next up on my convention agenda is Louisiana Comic Con in Lafayette, LA in October.  This will be a first year event by an established convention running group, AVC, that has already put on shows in Mississippi and northern Louisiana.  They haven’t announced many of their guests yet, but Lafayette is close enough to home and I have a ton of con family and friends that live in the area, so this is going to be a fun ride no matter how good the convention actually turns out.

As always, I want to thank you for reading this post.  Be sure to let your friends know and feel free to comment below if you attended Space City or any other convention recently.  Thanks!

SDCC Leaks, Hits, And Misses!

Not In San Diego

I’ve never attended San Diego Comic Con.  I’ll probably never make it to the convention unless I get an invite or one of my many, many stories gets picked up for a film (a guy can hope), but I do look forward to the photos, videos, and articles about the event each year that friends and others share on the web and in person.

This year’s event featured three big sneak peeks and one that was pulled from the web before I could see it.  Warner Brothers coughed up looks at the highly anticipated Batman Vs. Superman and another DC property that hasn’t garnered as much attention (but I think it will now), Suicide Squad.  Fox offered a glimpse at Deadpool, a film that has been begged for for many years by the Merc with a Mouth’s biggest fans, and X-Men:  Apocalypse, which I’m sure will be a very good film based on the strength of the two previous films (First Class and Days of Future Past).  Unfortunately the sneak peek that was offered for Apocalypse has been pulled from the web, so I won’t have anything to say about it until Fox makes the official trailer release.

So, let’s take a look at each trailer (except for Deadpool, which was apparently pulled except for the bootleg video) that I have managed to see and then I’ll post a few comments about each one.

Batman Vs. Superman

A lot of people, myself included, cringed at the first brief tease of Batman Vs. Superman whenever Warner Brothers and DC presented it at last year’s SDCC.  Batman was laughed at for looking like a LEGO figure and people were talking about how Batman/Bruce Wayne was going to be terrible because Ben Affleck was cast in the role.  Also, Man of Steel didn’t draw as much positive heat as Warner and DC had hoped for, and with the announcement that Jesse Eisenberg would be portraying Lex Luthor in the new flick, things looked pretty bad for the Bats/Supes face off……until now.

Although there isn’t much revealed in the new trailer, we do get to see a whole lot more than what has been offered up to this point.  Ben Affleck looks like he’s comfortable in the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman, and Jesse Eisenberg (despite just a few brief seconds in the trailer) looks like he’ll be just fine as Luthor.

I have to admit that of all of the trailers I’ve seen from SDCC, I’m most excited for Batman Vs. Superman.

Suicide Squad

While big DC fans are no strangers to the excellent Suicide Squad books, the general movie-viewing audience isn’t familiar with them at all.  Sure, even casual DC fans know about Harley Quinn, and everybody knows about the Joker, but how well will characters like Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, Enchantress, and even Killer Croc, translate onto the big screen?  I had my doubts, but after seeing the trailer (including Jared Leto’s inked and grilled Joker), I’m pretty pumped up for this flick.  I’m sure that there will be plenty of naysayers for the film regardless of how well it does in the theaters, but I’ve just got a really good feeling about this movie.

Deadpool

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Go ahead and watch the bootleg if you want, it’s pretty good, but I am not that impressed.  Plenty of fanboys headed for social media to whoop and wail over the wonder that is Ryan Reynolds as their favorite mercenary, but all I saw was Reynolds channeling his old (and wretched) Hannibal King from the only Blade flick I hate, Trinity.  I have yet to be that impressed with Reynolds as an action star.  I didn’t like him in X-Men Origins:  Wolverine or as Hal Jordan in Green Lantern.  Sure, neither of those films was that great, but I feel that a better actor could have done a better job with the material had they been given the chance.

I’ll hold my judgment off until I see the film (and you all know I’m going to see it), but expectations are pretty low.

So, there’s my opinion on the big reveals at SDCC.  Do ya agree?  Disagree? Lemme know!!!!

Hikes, Hot Springs, And Purple Cows

Hot Springs, Arkansas and Surrounding Area

A couple of days ago, my family and I returned from a nice vacation in Arkansas.  We stayed in the Ouachita National Forest in Mount Ida, AR.  Our trip included visits to Hot Springs, Magic Springs, a couple of hikes, and the kids went digging for diamonds as well.

On our first full day in Arkansas, my wife and the kids headed out to a local state park to dig for diamonds.  As a rule, I do not post photos of my family in this very public blog, so I won’t be posting any images of my children in this post.  However, I can say that they really enjoyed their time at the crystal dig site, but came up short on finding anything of value.

I spent the day hiking the Hunt Loop at Iron Springs near the Jessieville Ranger Station in the Ouachita National Forest.  Whenever I travel through Arkansas on Scenic 7, I always take at least a few minutes to stop at Iron Springs.  It’s a lovely little spot to take a break, eat a sandwich, or just take in the sights.  This was the first time that I walked the Hunt Loop Trail at Iron Springs, and I must say that I really enjoyed it.  There were plenty of nice sights to check out, and I ran into a few other hikers along the way.  The trail got a bit rough in a couple of spots, but overall all it was a decent trail to walk.  The terrain was a tad rocky in place as well, so if you ever decide to take this short 1.1 mile trail, be sure to wear sturdy footwear.

Iron Springs at the beginning of the Hunt Loop Trail.

Iron Springs at the beginning of the Hunt Loop Trail.

I also took a hike on the Friendship Trail at the Jessieville Ranger Station.  This was a much smoother trail and I highly recommend it to anybody who wants to take a hike but might not be up to any long treks on rough terrain.  This trail is specifically designed for people with handicaps or who just can’t handle tough trails.  It has only one steady upgrade and the entire trail is blacktopped and paved with plenty of space for wheelchairs to pass each other.  The trail is dotted by a number of informational signs about the wildlife and the forest, and the highlight of the trail is the fish pond (also handicap friendly) that has a pavilion suitable for get togethers.

Duck boxes at the Fish Pond at Friendship Trail.

Duck boxes at the Fish Pond at Friendship Trail.

The fish pond at Friendship Trail.

The fish pond at Friendship Trail.

On our second day in Arkansas, the family trekked over to Magic Springs, an amusement park near Hot Springs.  I’m a huge coaster fan, and couldn’t wait to tackle any of the big rides that Magic Springs had to offer.  There weren’t that many big thrill rides in the park, but the few it had were well worth checking out.  There was almost no line for any of the rides (we went on a Monday), so I got on each of the big rides after a very small (if any) waiting period.

My favorite ride in the bunch was The Gauntlet.  Suspended from the rail and with feet free in the air, this coaster whipped myself and other riders around a few times and was very fun.  I also enjoyed riding the X Coaster, which featured a 90 degree vertical lift and multiple corkscrews before dropping you back in reverse to do it all over again.  My wife said it was one of the craziest things she’s ever watched me ride, and I have to admit that it was a bit crazy BUT I will say that I never felt safer on a coaster than I did on this bad boy.

The Gauntlet at Hot Springs.

The Gauntlet at Magic Springs.

The X Coaster at Hot Springs.

The X Coaster at Magic Springs.

I also rode Big Bad John, a traditional roller coaster with a couple of nice twist and turns.  My son and wife rode this one as well, and they really enjoyed it.  The wooden rocker, Arkansas Twister, was a teeth-rattling, rickety wreck.  It’s the biggest coaster on the property, but it banged me up more than any other wooden coaster that I’ve ever ridden.  It was fun to a degree, but I don’t recommend riding it more than once.

Big Bad John at Magic Springs.

Big Bad John at Magic Springs.

Arkansas Twister at Magic Springs.

Arkansas Twister at Magic Springs.

Other highlights included the Plummet Summit, a large flume ride that dumps tons of water on riders and bystanders, and the Ozark Taxi Co., a car driving experience that allows drivers of all ages to make a couple of loops in an old timey car.  My wife, kids, and other family members also went to the Crystal Springs Water Park, which is part of the Magic Springs Property.  They really had a blast soaking up fun on the lazy river and multiple water slides.

On our final full day in Arkansas, the family and I took a walking tour of the city of Hot Springs.  I’ve been here multiple times, but there have been a few new stores and sights added to the area.  I really enjoyed checking out Stella Mae’s, a rockabilly and alt store that featured plenty of retro styled clothing and products.  When I heard the Reverend Horton Heat blaring over the speakers in the store, I knew that I was in the right place.

After walking around Hot Springs, we ventured over to the newer part of town to eat at The Purple Cow.  Another retro style place, but this time around instead of rockabilly, golden oldies were playing over the speakers as we dined in a very 1950’s styled restaurant that included a great soda shop that featured tasty floats, sundaes, and pie.

I tackled the Purple Cow Ice Cream Soda while my wife and son split a piece of Purple Cow Ice Cream Pie and my daughter had a traditional root beer float.  I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you visit this place for great burgers and even better dessert!

Purple Cow Ice Cream Pie.

Purple Cow Ice Cream Pie.

Purple Cow To Go Cup.

Purple Cow To Go Cup.

Purple Cow Ice Cream Soda.

Purple Cow Ice Cream Soda.

We finished the trip off with a quiet visit to the Charlton Creek Campground, where the kids played in the water and I just chilled out for a bit.  It was a very shady little campground and there was a very nice creek on the property.  It was the perfect ending to a fun vacation.

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