Beautiful Girls With SwordsAnother Year, Another ComicCon
If you read the previous article "Beautiful Girls With Guns", published last November (and if you haven't, you should, because this one is kind of a sequel to that one), then you know that 2011 was a horrible year for me, my family, and some of my friends. I'm happy to report that 2012 was much better for all of us. I celebrated once again by going to ComicCon at the Jacob Javitz Center in NYC, only this time, I spent part of three days there instead of just a couple of rushed hours.
First, a shout out to one individual in particular:
As I wandered around ComicCon on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I was constantly impressed by many of the hard-working artists and craftspeople tirelessly promoting their own work. People selling their videos, their books, their artwork, showing up every day, sitting or standing in their booths or at their tables for hours, trying to get passers-by interested in their goods.
People like Shanna, aka "Super Madonna", who is with Your Faith Looks Familiar, a non-profit organization that promotes freedom of religion and the free expression thereof. I really had no intention of buying a t-shirt (it was Day Three and I had about ten bucks left in my wallet) but I asked her if I could take her photo because, well, honestly, she looked pretty in her costume and half of my time at ComicCon consists of snapping photos of strangers in interesting costumes. After I took the picture, she talked me into playing a dice-throwing game in order to win a prize, a "magic pill" that turns into a pen - like a James Bond device only colorful and non-lethal. She also blessed me several times. Everybody I met and talked to at ComicCon was friendly, but Shanna - she qualifies for the "superfriendly" category. Thank you, Shanna, for helping make the final day of Comic Con a great one! You made my day, so I mention you first!
Now, onto the rest of ComicCon.
My first stop each day was the ASC/Troopers Touch Entertainment booth, where my friend, actress Laura Aguinaga, was promoting the ASC projects S.E.A.L.S and Ikenhisu II, along with several of the members of the cast of both films First, another interruption while I tell you a little about my most unexpected friend Laura.
I vaguely knew Laura from when she and I worked on the same block in Manhattan. She worked at a bank I frequented several times a week, and occasionally, through random chance, I would get her as a teller. I knew her as that girl with the amazingly beautiful eyes. That was the extent of me knowing Laura, and she knew me as the guy who worked two doors down. When she left the bank a few years ago, I wondered what happened to her and heard through somebody that she was going to devote her full time attention to acting. A year or so later, while walking the streets of my home town in Astoria, Queens, when who should I run into but Laura with a group of other people. She probably didn't remember my name but she did recognize me, and she told me she was going to a shoot for a web series. I took note of the name of the series, found it on YouTube when I got home, and loved her performance in the episodes I saw. Through the magic of the Internet, I found that like me and a billion other people, she was on Facebook, so I sent her a note about how much I liked the video and we Facebook "friends". It was long before those quotation marks would be removed, and we were friends in real life as well as in the world of social media. Since then, I have had the pleasure of seeing her in a small part in an episode of Law and Order:SVU, several infomercials, and, best of all, in a starring role playing herself in an episode of Animal Planet's My Extreme Animal Phobia. Since we've been friends, I've written two parts for her Internet comedy videos, because, along with her talents as an actress and an action hero, she's one funny lady! I don't often get to see Laura, so if she is at an event I can attend - you know, one that is affordable and I don't have to wear a tux or a tie - I try to make it. Hence, ComicCon 2011 and again this year. A bit of boring trivia but, hell, it's my article: she's the only one of my real life friends who calls me "Jay", my Facebook handle. At a movie screening earlier this year, when the lights went up, I heard somebody calling "Jay! Jay!", and it took me a minute to realize that "Jay" was me!
Okay, ASC Trooper Touch Entertainment ASC specializes in action and martial arts films starring beautiful women, a cinematic niche I fully support. At the booth, where they were selling DVDs, calendars and posters, the ladies were all friendly and affable, available for autographs, picture taking, interviews or just shooting the breeze. Laura looked spectacular throughout the event, and was oh so very popular on the last day, where, due to not being able to track down her costume for S.E.A.L.S., she showed up in a white bikini. With her weapons strapped to her thighs, she had a definite "Ursula Andress in DR. NO" vibe going on. Being the first one to arrive at the ASC booth that morning, and dressed the way she was, she attracted the attention of many photographers both professional and amateur - they could't get enough of her. (Sorry - no photos of the white bikini. Next time, come to ComicCon).
It was at this time, while photographers were snapping their pictures, that I met Vincent Vlado, host of a local cable access show SciFi Ninja Theater. Vlado goes to as many of these conventions as he can, with his film crew, to interview up and coming talent for his show. As mentioned in a previous article, he also seeks out the most beautiful women at these events and takes his picture with them. When I asked him if I could take a photograph, he was only interested if it could be with Laura. As I said, very popular lady, that Laura. When he went over to her, I thought I saw a look in her eyes that signaled "Who the heck is this guy Jay is sending over?" but according to her he was a lot of fun. He interviewed her for his show, but God knows when it will be on. I don't know how long it takes him to edit shows together, and he seems to cover these conventions by doing a series of multiple episodes devoted on one convention.
Last year, because of family issues and plumbing problems (the bathtub's, not mine), I could only stay a couple of hours on one day of ComicCon, so I missed a chance to meet the other ladies working on ASC projects. This year, I had my picture taken in a couple of group shots, and also requested a photo with model and actress Vanessa Bontea (left), whom I had seen previously in the YouTube teaser for the martial arts web series Ikenhisu II. Vanessa was a doll - I mean that in a non-sexist way; I am an Irish New Yorker and that's the way I talk - and she gladly posed with me. I was going to post it here, but I changed my mind when I saw this one by professional photographer Champion Hamilton, which I think captures a nice candid moment of a young actress taking a little break during the insanity that is ComicCon. I'm really looking forward to seeing the entire film, which not only stars Vanessa but also Laura.
Beautiful girls with swords!
How can anybody not love that concept?
(If you are on Facebook and want to
officially be a fan of Vanessa Bontea, here is the link, straight from
On Saturday afternoon, I was delighted to meet comics veteran Paul Castiglia, the smiling gentleman on the right. Paul is another Facebook friend, and when I found out he would be at ComicCon, I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to turn another Facebook pal into a real life acquaintance. Paul is a writer and editor, most famous for his work on the Archie's Americana series of trade paperbacks, a multi - volume compendium of Archie stories that reflect American fads and attitudes from the 1940's through the 1990's. Paul was signing two volumes of The Best of Archie Comics that day, but only from 4PM to 5 that day, so I didn't have much time to chat with him, but he did sign a copy of Volume One for me. When I was a kid, I had a trunk full of Archie comics, but I haven't read any comic book in years, so it was still a revelation to work my way though the book. It covers covers 70 years of Archie and his friends Jughead, Reggie, Betty, Veronica and the rest, as well as some non-Archie characters such as Sabrina the Teenage Witch. We follow Archie from a young, girl-crazy kid prone to accidents in the 1940's to one who learns about diversity, women's rights and other issues in the '60s, 70s and 80s. Despite the topical issues in those later years, the series never lost its sense of humor, and I was surprised how easily I made it through the entire book. I guess like riding a bike, you never forget how to lose yourself in a comic book. (NOTE: the interview with Paul, linked above, is a good one, but for some reason, most of the graphics are broken links. Still worth reading, of course!)
Seated next to Paul is another comic book legend who worked on the Archie, Batton Lash, although he is probably best known for his series Wolff and Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre.
By the way, if you love old movies, look for Paul's upcoming book Scared Silly: Classic Hollywood Horror-Comedies. Paul runs a blog with the same name.
Hurricane Sandy has wreaked havoc with my self-imposed deadline on several projects, and I wanted to get these thought up on The Secret Vortex right at the beginning of November, so I will leave off with some websites dedicated to a few offbeat things I discovered and enjoyed at ComicCon. I have no affiliation with any of the people, projects, products or websites I mention below, or above - I do this because I like them and I want to share them with others.
Boilerplate: In 1999, artist Paul Guinan started a historical graphic novel about the turn of the century, featuring a fictional robot named Boilerplate. He soon abandoned the graphic novel but instead developed a book and a website.devoted to the character.
Tales of Isolation: A claymation web series that is expertly done. Although I am not that fond of the goriness of many of the episodes, I admire the effort and the artistry.
Tales: Any company that offers a Christmas mouse toy that
burps when you squeeze it is okay by me!
Classic Comic Press: A publishing house that reprints vintage comic strips from years ago such as The Cisco Kid, Dondi and Buck O'Rue. They also offer Edgar Rice Burroughs's Tarzan The Ape Man and The Return of Tarzan in a single hardcover volume beautifully illustrated by in vintage style by Sal Amendola.