Saturday, April 28, 2007

the gospel of the farting preacher

Robert Tilton is the once and future king of the post Jim & Tammy Implosion era of slick TV evangelists, hounded and humiliated huckster of holy water, prayer cloths, and inspirational books, and flatulent fraudster star of what may be the original "viral video".

As host of the long-running "Success-N-Life" television program, Tilton preaches a "prosperity" gospel that promises to enrich its flock with God-ordained good fortune with Jesus as sugar daddy/investment counselor/loanshark/bookie. Since the key part of this gospel - 'sowing the seed'- means sending Tilton one thousand dollars, the only person this gospel has ever made wealthy is Robert Tilton himself. His sermons aren't about sin, death, or salvation - they're about making a vow (to send Tilton cash) and keeping your promise (to send Tilton cash), interrupted only by frequent, Tourettes-style bursts of "speaking in tongues". After being investigated by ABC's Prime Time Live, the Texas Attorney General's office, and the FBI, Tilton vanished from the airwaves, but after a few years of laying low he returned- tanned, rested and ready- shooting a new series of inspirational infomercials from a classy new studio in Florida, which you can catch late at night on places like BET.

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Where did this slick-talking holy-oil salesman come from? Texas, of course. A college dropout and real estate salesman, in the early 70s Tilton latched onto both Jesus and the teachings of Tulsa evangelist Billy James Hargis. Hargis was the first to combine the fire of holy-rollering with the technosavvy of mail order marketing, and his mailings went out to three million homes at their peak. Tilton's TV show "Success-N-Life" began in 1984 and at its peak reached more than 200 stations - a one-hour informercial designed to get people to phone in pledges and mail him checks. In return Tilton would bless coins, pray over napkins, place prayer cords into a miracle wall of prayer, and generally use every pagan voodoo trick at his disposal to convince Jesus and God that little old you needs $1500 for a new transmission. Trouble for Tilton came when word got out that prayer requests sent to "Success-N-Life" were winding up in the garbage, when dead people were recieving letters promising Tilton's healing hand in exchange for cold cash, when a Tilton anti-Semitic rant was secretly caught on tape... when the level of disgusting excess and outright fraud became too much for even the strong stomach of the Dallas evangelical community.

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But it's as an ironic touchstone for disaffected youth that Tilton may have his greatest success. The hopped-up, gibbering spectacle of Brother Bob pounding his desk, ranting in "otoyo basoya" tongues, and, quick as a wink, shifting gears to a dewy-eyed patriarch deeply moved by the suffering of humanity - well, if that isn't good television I don't know what is. Hipsters, pop culture junkies, kitsch connossieurs and po-mo pontificators all found "Success-N-Life" a terrific late-night watch, funnier than that OTHER "SNL" by far. Daniel "Art School Confidential" Clowes devoted a whole page of his groundbreaking "Eightball" comic to highlight Tilton. There was even a "Love That Bob" night at Club Dada in Dallas, sponsored by the Robert Tilton Fan Club, and a fanzine entitled "The Beast Of Robert Tilton". But it was through home video that Tilton would reach his greatest non-sucker audience.

The "Farting Tilton" tape, also known as "Joyful Noise", "Farting Evangelist", "Fart Preacher", etc., is mentioned in the press clipping for the "Love That Bob" Club Dada night (Jan 9, 1992), but it had been shown previously, passed from hand to Christian hand among the video trading network that existed in the days before Bittorrnet. My own copy came via my involvement with Phenomicon, a UFO/hacker/conspiracy convention that was held in Atlanta in 1990 and 1991. We ran "Fart Tilton" on the big screen before the Sub-Genius devival.

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Who made the tape? A collection of Tilton's more inspired moments of Jesus fervor and glossalia, highlighted with the addition of fart noises, it's a, lets's face it, juvenile concept that could have been created by anyone with rudimentary video editing equipment. Slightly more professional-quality copies of the original and a color sequel were included on the "Mondo Tilton" compliation videotape released by Russell Media Underground in Dallas in the late 1990s. A staple of "Anime Hell" performances for many years, the clip has since reached an unimaginable audience courtesy filesharing and the Internet.

One wonders what Tilton thinks of his gastrointestinal success. Older and more jowly, his recent programs (retitled "Success In Life") feature a toned down Tilton, soft-pedalling his sucker pitches for an audience that might not respond to the firey schizophrenia of his earlier performances. Or maybe he's just, you know, holding it in.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

the 14, uh, 15, em, MANY types of annoying anime fans

If you spend any time among Japanese cartoon fandom, you'll start to notice some distinctive character types. Sure, most of them are fine folks. But some of 'em are just plain annoying; and what's even funnier is that they come in all shapes and sizes. Let’s review!

Know-it-alls: These ego boosters get into anime so that they can impress their friends. Listen for their distinctive croaking during theatrical screenings of anime, as they attempt to show the audience just how cool they are. Usually can be squelched by asking "Why is it that three months ago you didn't know anything about these movies, and now you won't shut up about 'em?" Most of these fans moved on to HK action movies in the mid 1990s, thank goodness.

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One-note-wonders who concentrate on ONE SINGLE aspect of fandom - like, "I only like this one show or this one activity" - and get annoyed at fans or conventions that don't show their "special thing" enough respect. My advice is for these people to start their own fan clubs and hold their own conventions. We'll all be happier.

Utterly insane lunatics -these are the people who dig your phone number out of old C/FO directories and call you collect at 1:00am to ask if you'll send them free stuff. The answer, by the way, is NO. They're also prone to involve themselves in hopeless crusades involving network syndication, commemorative postage stamps, or mind control rays from Jupiter, and won't miss a single chance to speak on these topics at length, on your dime.

"Now That I'M Here, The Fandom Can Begin!" - they got into anime six months ago and are convinced that, even if fandom DID exist before their involvement, it must not have been very good. They're full of innovative ideas that were tried in 1995 and didn't work then either.

Youth-Culture God (or Goddess) - of course they're into anime, just like they're into snowboarding and hip-hop-techno-jungle and baby-Ts and scooters and whatever else happens to be hip just now. File under "pet rock" and if they give you any trouble, trip them with their own baggy pants.

Rules Are For Others - They enter every door that says "Do Not Enter". If the rules say "no guns" they bring their M-16. They stand under the "No Metal Weapons" sign, displaying their metal weapons proudly. Asked to not take photos? Flashbulbs pop away. Forget explaining anything to them, because these people are possessed with the deadly combination of Know It All-itis and Got Nothing Better To Do-ness, which means that they have the means and the oodles of spare time to debate Every. Single. Flipping. Thing. with anybody stupid enough to argue with them.

Japan Uber Alles- why, I like these Japanese cartoons, so naturally Japan must be a superior nation populated by a master race of intellectual and physical giants! Watch as I embarrass myself and annoy my friends with my intense wannabe-osity! Easily spotted by their thrift-store JAL yukata and incessant usage of mispronounced Japanese phrases at every opportunity. Can also be found in shopping mall food courts complaining about the lack of chopsticks at the Mr. Panda franchise.

Mister Technology - can only enjoy Japanese cartoons on his state-of-the-art TV, VCR, DVD, LD, ETC, WTF, and will thrill you with endless explanations of how the particular model of gadget HE chose is so superior to those other hopelessly lame brands. Never offer to help this guy move. He's got a lot of junk and it's ALL worth more than your car.

this guy sometimes merges with:

Mister Computer - for whom Japanese animation is a medium with which to show off his amazing computer technology and skill. Downloading episodes, burning DVDs, hosting web sites, arguing about same on internet message boards - if there's not a computer involved in it, it ain't anime. Don't help THIS guy move either.

Not For Kids - A failure to appreciate the differences in standards for children's entertainment leads these geniuses to conclude that if it has what would be considered adult-style content in the States, then it must be adult-style content in Japan! These cartoons are much too sophisticated and mature for children. There's no way Sailor Moon was intended for little kids! Why, the original Gatchaman series had blood and gore in every scene! No, I don't actually own the Gatchaman DVDs, why do you ask?

Senor Creepy - every town has one. He's the guy for whom regular bathing is just a suggestion and has worn the same outfit since the Reagan administration. For him "anime fandom" means replacing his pictures of naked Princess Leia with pictures of naked Sailor Mercury. And that's his GOOD quality.

Why Am I Here? He or she doesn't know or care anything about Japanese cartoons, but this is where everybody is hanging out this weekend so that's where he or she will be. Usually found proclaiming loudly that he or she knows nothing of this "anime" of which you speak, but by the end of the weekend will be a total anime fan who has always loved anime!

The Tape God Of The Ancients - this person built anime fandom, and won't ever let you forget it. Has shelves and shelves full of every Japanese cartoon he could beg, borrow and copy, borrow and never give back, trade for, phone total strangers in Japan and convince to buy for them, or steal. The problem is you will never, ever be able to have any of it, ever, UNLESS you grovel properly. Don't help to move either, those back issues of ANIMAGE are heavy!

Promotional Stepping Stone Guy - He (or she) has some sort of gimmick to push and naturally your anime club or con is the place to push it, whether it has any relation to Japanese cartoons or not. Listen for: "Why, of course, this has LOTS to do with Japanese animation!" Scarlett O'Hara impersonators, dog racing tracks, vampire role playing - if you're willing to lie down they're willing to do the walking - all over you!

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Cardboard Fetishist - In the old days, to command the attention of the masses you'd have to learn a talent and practice for years. Now, utilizing techniques developed by years of crazy street person rant theater, all one needs to become a master attention whore is cardboard. Cover it with tinfoil and make a big sword! Write "funny" messages on it and tape it to your back! Or just put it on your head! If you saw 4-year olds doing it down at the playschool, chances are it's YOUR ticket to Fandom Fame! Sometimes collaborates with:

Cosplay Fetishist - Japanese animation fandom is, simply, people dressing up in costumes. That's all it is. Anime conventions are where people dress in costumes and have pictures taken of themselves posing. What all those OTHER people in street clothes are up to is anybody's guess! Sure, whatever it is they're doing would be a lot easier if fabric-draped drama queens weren't stopping dead in the halls every two minutes so clueless morons could get just one more photo, but you know, if those people were REAL anime fans, they'd be in costume!

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Social Climber - You see, the world of conventions has a rigid class structure where the high and mighty lord it over the mere peons down below. To attain status in this fantastic world, you either have to do a lot of hard work as a staffer and run the convention, do a lot of hard work as a voice actor or artist and become a guest at the convention, or kiss enormous amounts of ass and be the guy that everybody knows and is friendly to but doesn't quite know why. You'll know you've achieved Convention Status Godhood on that glorious day when, without being a guest or a staffer, you are permitted to enter the holy Green Room and feast upon the Stale Pastries within.

Freaking DJs. Holy cow, freaking DJs. Why is it that every desperate, talentless loser decides to become a flipping DJ? When did the ability to match beats become a valuable life skill? And why does every single one of them think that a Japanese animation convention is the perfect place for them to show the world how awesome they are at pressing "play" on a CD player? And if there's anything they're better at than pressing "play", it's whining about those OTHER freaking DJs. Everything would have been AWESOME if it wasn't for those OTHER melonfarmers, right? People, there are a hundred and fifty million nightclubs in every city where people who want to celebrate the club lifestyle can go and rock out with their jock out all night long - if you want a great time dancing, why not go there? The ANIME CON is for FREAKING CARTOONS. Jesus. I mean seriously people, I don't go to raves and start whining because nobody's showing "Astro Boy", now do I? Jesus.

Little Miss Hyperactive - she's sweet 13 and has drunk SO MUCH SODA in the past six hours that she can't stop moving, can't stop giggling, can't stop screaming, and can't stop spending Daddy's money on bootleg CDs and toy magic wands. Warning - they travel in packs, and once they get old enough to discover boys, they get REALLY dangerous.

In Too Deep - anime fandom has been around long enough to develop its own little culture, and some people find they enjoy the con culture a lot more than the stuff the con is supposed to actually be about. They only communicate in con-culture catch-phrases and references, they're festooned with buttons and tags and signs and paddles and their idea of a great anime con is watching web memes on a laptop in the hotel lobby while waiting for the once-a-year trip to the favorite local restaurant, and then later there's a party. Good thing anime fandom came along to give these people something to hang their social lives onto!

The Cynical Veteran: Bores everybody with his seen-it-all attitude and constant stereotyping of other anime fans. Attends cons to drink and sell collection for rent and beer money. Professes noninterest in anime but is willing to waste hours arguing about the smallest - well, OK, that's me. Eh, everybody's gotta be something.

Friday, April 20, 2007

What Will Horses Do?

Over at the WFMU Blog they've posted a few choice bits of Ron Ormond's Godsploitation classic IF FOOTMEN TIRE YOU WHAT WILL HORSES DO? Proof positive that Commies have more fun!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Force Five!!

Force Five! No, not a powerful hurricane, but five different Japanese cartoons that entertained us in the early 80's! Force Five was a package deal translated into English by a man named Jim Terry (and his production company) and released as a package to independent stations across the US and Canada.

The five shows were, in alphabetical order: Danguard Ace (original title Planetary Robo Danguard Ace), Gaiking (Space Dragon Gaiking), Grandizer (UFO Robo Grandizer), Spaceketeers (SF Saiyuki Starzinger), and Starvengers (Getta Robo G). How they were shown pretty much depended on the whims of the program director at the station in your home town - in Atlanta they would schedule an hour and run an episode of Grandizer followed by an episode of Starvengers (and then an episode of Star Blazers, so that was pretty much your Saturday morning right there).

Now, a lot of people label these shows 'Shogun Warriors." That is so, so wrong. Shogun Warriors is a Mattel toy line that repackaged Japanese toys for sale in the American market. This is how us lucky 70's kids got die-cast Mazinger, Getta Robo, Raideen, Danguard Ace, Gaiking, Daimos, etc., as well as cool vehicles from even stranger shows like Gorangers. There was also a licensed comic book from Marvel. But there is no cartoon titled "Shogun Warriors". And the real question is, why not? Why didn't some executive get the bright idea of linking the Mattel toys with the Jim Terry cartoons? This isn't rocket science here. Then again, this is the 70's we're talking about.

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Jim Terry had some kind of career retooling Japanese shows for the American market. He produced several Toei titles for ZIV (Captain Harlock, Candy Candy) and would handle shows from all over the map for a wide variety of home video outfits – Timefighters (Time Bokan) from Tatsunoko, Ninja The Wonder Boy (Manga Sarutobi Sasuke) from Knack Studio, and something called Scamper The Penguin. He also was behind the “Crushers” dub of the Nippon Sunrise film Crusher Joe. Most of the later works would feature musical accompaniment by the session band “Bullets”. (

The dubbing is typical goofy-voiced TV fare. There's nothing really terrible apart from a few bad celebrity impersonations, but nothing really outstanding either. The least satisfying thing about the Force Five package is that there were only 25 episodes of each series in syndication. This meant we never got to see the complete runs of these shows, all of which ran at least 50 episodes. Well, to be fair, there WERE edited-together-from-TV-footage "movie" versions of all five shows, too, and the Starvengers and Gaiking "movies" actually feature their respective climaxes.

I know everybody has their favorites, but I'm going to start this out in alphabetical order, so don't get all panicked. Danguard Ace, I didn't care much for when it aired, mainly because I had been used to Grandizer and Starvengers, and anything would have suffered by comparison. Danguard is a giant-robot show based on manga by Reiji Matsumoto, so it's not surprising that the robot isn't in it much. The show is about the race to colonize the new planet Promete. The Earth government battles the evil Krell Corps, a secret army with legions of mind-controlling-mask-wearing zombies and high-tech robot monsters. The Earth Govt. develops a super-weapon called Danguard Ace, the chief pilot of which is a young man named Windstar, who's father vanished mysteriously on the first mission to Promete ten years ago. Anyway, pop was zombified by Krell but managed to escape with his freedom, but without his memories. When Dad (or "Captain Mask" as he's now called) shows up at the Danguard base with in a stolen Krell fighter, he's immediately put in charge of training pilots for the Danguard program, one of which is his son. And he doesn't even know it! Oh, what pathos. Anyway, Windstar learns to pilot the Danguard, Mask grapples with his missing memories, Commissar Krell sends robot monster after robot monster to destroy the Danguard base, eventually they launch for Promete, etc. We don't get to see it in the American version, but they finally do reach Promete and destroy most of the Krelloids. And I mean, the show ends with them reaching the planet, and that's it! If I understood Japanese, I might know what was so great about this new planet, but I don't, so I don’t. What we also don't get to see is most episodes featuring the evil Krell commander Hakken (he's the good-looking villain) and the later-episode character designs by Shingo Araki, who would later go on to do chara designs for shows like Rose Of Versailles, the Harlock TV series SSX, and Saint Seiya.

Gaiking is yet another robot show, with the usual scientific center battling evil aliens hell-bent on conquering Earth. What makes Gaiking special is that instead of three or five robot pilots, there's an entire crew of robot heroes piloting the huge Space Dragon, out of which is launched the Gaiking robot. The Space Dragon is the coolest part of the show - it's a big Asian-style robot dragon that flies around and destroys things and stuff. There's the usual friendly feud between the Gaiking pilot and the Dragon pilot, and there are some cool ancillary dinosaur-shaped fighting vehicles, and the last little part has a huge pitched battle on the slopes of Mt. Fuji (instantly dated in the American version by referring to the volcano as "Mt. St. Helens" ) that's fun and well-animated. There's even a subplot about a robot boy the aliens create as a spy who turns against his programming and attacks his masters with his robot Pegasus, which is kinda neat. But all in all the show is pretty standard 70's robot fare.

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Grandizer, on the other hand, is a little older and a little more kick-ass than the rest of the shows. It's about a guy named Duke Freed (in America, "Orion Quest"), whose home planet was attacked by the evil Vegans (they come from the star Vega, not Las Vegas, tough guy). His planet was destroyed, but he managed to steal the Vegan's top secret weapon, the giant saucer-robot Grandizer, and escape to Earth, where he was promptly adopted by the local scientific research institute. Anyway, right around the same time the Vegans show up to get their robot back, the scientific research institute gets a visit from a guy named Koji Kabuto ("Lance"). Koji used to pilot Mazinger Z in the show of the same name, and in Grandizer he's a supporting character, flying his homemade UFO against the Vegans. The Vegans are a fun bunch of aliens - most of them are weird blue guys with big ears, and there's one guy who, every once in awhile, his face will split open and his WIFE, who is about five inches tall, comes out and starts bitching at everybody. You can definitely tell this is a Go Nagai show. Anyway, we get to see 'Orion Quest' do his thing every episode, which means leaping into the air while transforming into his flying outfit, launching his saucer from the secret base, and shouting "Grandizer GO!" a lot. Grandizer is not one of those wussy, effeminate transforming robots - the Grandizer robot rides inside the Grandizer saucer, and when Duke Freed feels the situation calls for hand-to-hand action, Grandizer just leaps right out of that saucer and starts kicking butt with any number of really impressive weapons, including the screw-crusher punch (sort of like a rocket punch, only with sharp spinning blades), the rainbow beam, the hydro-phasers, the double sickle, the hurricane wind thing, and the Space Thunder. Since Grandizer is an alien weapon, we don't have to have a lot of time-wasting scientist-types building and testing weapons - Grandizer just leaps right into action. Duke naturally falls in love with the local rancher's daughter (the local rancher is a potato-head UFO nut who thinks the Vegans are his space brothers) and Koji has a thing for Duke Freed's sister, who arrives from outer space right around the time Jim Terry quit dubbing episodes for us. So we never get to see the awesome combination robot vehicles featured in the second half of the series, and we never get to see Emperor Vega sliced in two with Grandizer's double sickle. Ooh, what a giveaway.

Spaceketeers is the one Force Five show that doesn't involve giant robots. It’s a science fiction version of the Monkey King legend “Journey To The West”, in which the Monkey King and his two wacky companions accompany Buddha on a journey, um, to the west, I suppose. Anyway, American audiences won’t get the reference, so this show is called Spaceketeers, after the Three Musketeers, which also sort of fits in a half-assed sort of way. Anyway. Mysterious radiation from the center of the galaxy is turning all animal and plant life into weird monsters who are forming military units and conquering the galaxy. Princess Aurora is sent in the spaceship Cosmos Queen to travel to the center of the galaxy and deal with whatever's going on. Assigned as her bodyguards are three space warriors - Aramos, prince of a water planet, Porkos, the fat, comedy relief prince of a mud planet, and Jesse Dart, the invincible cyborg bad boy. He's the Monkey King character who must learn patience and courage and honesty when he'd rather be destroying things. This is the sort of show where everybody zips around space in little scooters, and characters grow to giant size just for the heck of it, and nobody bothers much with space suits. It's a myth, it's a fable, it's what I guess you call Space Fantasy. Anyway, I enjoy the Matsumoto character designs, and Princess Aurora looks cute in her outer-space togs, but all in all the show really doesn't do much for me these days. I sure liked it when I was 12, though.

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Starvengers is an American version of Getta Robo G, which is a sequel to Getta Robo. Jim Terry didn’t bother with the first series, which might have been kind of confusing for new viewers. Anyway, um, Starvengers starts right off with the evil plot of the Pandemonium Empire and their plan to sally forth from their underground caverns and conquer the surface world with an army of giant robots and secret agents who communicate via mechanical horns (all the Pandemonium people have horns, because in Japan, they're known as the Hundred-Demon Empire, and demons have horns, man). So naturally the Starvengers, in their new Star Dragon, Star Arrow and Star Poseidon machines, do battle for the fate of the entire world. Our heroes Hummer (the name's nothing special in the 80's, but now sure to elicit giggles) and Paladin are joined by Foul Tip, a large comedy relief guy, and the three of them spend the rest of the series piloting their respective combining machines and destroying Pandemonium robots. This is another Go Nagai show, and it shows -the robot violence is intense and never-ending, the characters are all either driven by revenge or.. well, revenge, mostly, and the villains are bizarre and cruel. There's even a Pandemonium baddie named Captain Fuhrer. Considering the guy resembles a skinny, horned Hitler, and his name was "Captain Hitler" in Japan, it's not tough to guess this character's inspiration. The robot designs for the various Starvenger mecha are, I think, the best of the '70s robots - sleek, powerful, and bold, these things resemble nothing so much as American muscle cars. This is also a show where the hero doesn't get the girl - the scientist's daughter Ceres ("Michiru" in Japan) falls for Paladin, the mean guy. Go fig. This of course is after the flying fortress of the Pandemonium Empire is destroyed in apocalyptic fire.

The best thing these days about Force Five is that it's been released on video in various forms at least four times. In the late '80s FHE released the 'movie' versions of all five shows, and at least one volume of TV episodes from each show (some got two). These are still kicking around in the kiddie sections of video stores across the country. Later on , two different extremely cheap outfits released old Force Five episodes under the title 'Roboformers" or "Z-Force”. Avoid these tapes -they're really bad, have chopped title sequences, and are recorded at SLP speed. Another company, Best Film & Video (I believe) also released Force Five episodes under their real names (Danguard Ace, Gaiking, etc) and these tapes are superior in every way to our bootleg friends. Wanna relive your youthful weekday or weekend TV viewing? Go check 'em out!

Friday, April 06, 2007

transformers conventions in disguise

(this article is from the late 90s and originally appeared at

So my friend Dan came to town last weekend and we spent most of the time driving around doing some serious shopping. Yeah, I know it sounds pretty boring, but let's face it, I'm a pretty boring guy. I live in a fairly boring city. I drive a boring car and I have a boring job and I make up for it by seeking out and consuming weird pop culture from all over the place. I dunno, some guys hang-glide, others go for kickboxing, I root around in the detrius of civilization. Which one of us still has all his own teeth?

Anyway, Dan got to telling me about the Transformers convention he went to up in St. Paul the other week. That's right, Transformers, More Than Meets The Eye, Autobots and all that. Actually the name of the con was Bot-Con. It's an international thing, a convention that meets in a different city every year. Last year it was in Britain. This year it was in St. Paul. There are quite a few of these things, travelling cons - there are SF cons (Worldcon being the big example), there's even one for Gargoyles (the Disney TV cartoon about stone gargoyles come to life) that has been in two different continents so far. So I'm not too surprised somebody worked up a con for Transformers.

Knowing some Transformers fans, I'm not surprised at all. Transformers fans are sort of a weird hybrid between fanatical toy collectors, Trekkies, and anime fans. What's more, they're hard core. Most of the anime fans I know went through a Transformers phase when they were kids - you know, giant robots and all that - but once they discovered Robotech or Gundam, in other words, the real thing - they dropped Transformers before you could say "otaku."

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But not these guys. They know what they like, which is Autobots and Decepticons and Beast Wars and Headmasters and the Movie and ferreting out old Mint-On-Card toys and digging up the three Japan-only TV series and buying plastic bags full of broken toy parts at the Value Village because there's part of an Optimus Prime in there somewhere. I can't quite figure it myself - I never liked that half-assed Marvel Productions animation, which is just as flat and lifeless and sterile now as it was back in 1985. Watch an episode of Hulk or Fantastic Four today, and compare it to an episode of GI Joe or Transformers, and there's not a dime's worth of difference. Character design by committee - guaranteed to suck the life out of anything. Plus, I never liked the idea of sentient robots. Cartoon robots are things you climb inside and blow stuff up with -everybody knows that! I once even watched the entire Headmasters mini-series, because a friend of mine insisted that if only I watched this I'd be convinced that Transformers was as good as Zeta Gundam or Saint Seiya. When the 10-episode series was over and the only practical thing accomplished was to turn the surface of the planet Autocron gold, I'd had enough. But like I said, I don't have enough toy-collector in me, different strokes for different folks, etc., etc., etc.

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Anyway, Dan said Bot-Con was totally empty when he showed up - everybody was next door where representatives from Hasbro Toys (they own Transformers) and a guy from the CG animation company that produces Beast Wars were holding court and anwsering questions. Sample question, "Have you talked about making another Transformers movie?" "Yes, we've talked about it... next question." When the Q&A session was over the crowd moved back into the main hall, the dealer's room, where bits and pieces of Transformers history were on sale for widely varying prices. These guys had every kind of Transformers toy ever made, bits and pieces, on card, in box, out of box, and from what Dan said the dealers could tell you every single bit of trivia about the toy, when it was made, how many were made, what colors of plastic it was made in. There were even two special exclusive Bot-Con-only releases of Transformers toys, that Hasbro made JUST FOR BOT-CON! Now that is what I call knowing your market. Dan said the British Transformers fans were really interesting and the Japanese Transformers fans had really groovy T-shirts left over from the previous Transformers convention in Japan, but they were $20. The Bot-Con '99 shirts were cheaper but weren't nearly as good.

The goofiest thing about the con was, as Dan saw it, was the program book. It cost an extra $15, and while it had the schedule and lists of guests and everything, it was mostly fan fiction. Fan fiction that was continued from last year's program book, and didn't end this year, but would be continued next year. Now, I like fan fiction as much as the next guy, but putting it in the program book of a con is kind of suspect, having it be "to-be-continued" fan fiction is even worse, and charging an extra fifteen smackers for the whole shebang is highway robbery. That's what ADVERTISING is for, people- to pay for the program book.

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What Our Correspondent remembered best about the con was the go-getting attitude of the dealers. Seeing Dan as one of the few people at the con who wasn't carrying around a box full of previous Transformers purchases, the dealers zeroed in on him and launched every hard-sell missile they had in their arsenal. One guy even ripped a toy OUT of the bubble-pack so he could show it to Dan better. Now, I know toy collectors, and they'd rather rip out their own hearts than take away the precious "mint on card" status of their merchandise! Dan's not a big Transformers fan, and the other anime stuff was way overpriced ($70 for a toy Yamato gun that makes the wave-motion noise when you pull the trigger? I don't think so) so his wallet was safe.

(When this was originally published, Danno reposted it Usenet and it got crossposted to a Transformers fan message board and much hilarity ensued. Years later I still have zero interest in robots in disguise, so spare me your outrage, Transformers fans.)

Visit Shain and Dave's Mister Kitty

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Behind The Blue Door is fifty

Fifty strips in and you still aren't reading Shaindle Minuk's stream-of-conciousness horror/comedy manga ? You should go there now and start reading and tell all your friends. You'll thank me later.

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