Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Central Florida Comics/Star Wars Mash-Up

I’ve known Todd Merrick for years. We worked together at the old Disney Inn and spent way too many Wednesdays at “Nickle Beer” night at Church Street Station in the ’90s. Todd quickly became one of Tracy’s friends too after she and I began dating, and he ended up in our wedding.

A year or so ago, Todd opened up Heroes Landing, a nice little comic shop in Clermont, Florida. I had a chance to stop in when I was in town on business last month, and was thrilled to find a clean, well-kept store with a little bit of something for everyone. When Todd found out I was coming back in town to cover Star Wars Celebration V for ToyFare magazine, we immediately hatched a plan for me to do an in-store signing for my book, Deus ex Comica: The Rebirth of a Comic Book Fan, the same week.

Todd has all kinds of pre-convention stuff planned Wednesday, August 11! With me at 3pm will be John Booth signing copies of his book, Collect All 21 (which was edited by yours truly). Christian Slade, Top Shelf Comics author and artist, will be signing copies of his KORGI book series and doing sketches. And Chris Macht, director of The Force Among Us documentary, will be signing copies his DVD, as well.

Later, Arnie and Marjorie from the Star Wars Action News podcast will be hosting a charity trivia event at the store beginning at 7pm. Proceeds from the $10 entry fee will benefit the Leukemia (“Luke”-emia, in this case?) and Lymphoma Society of Central Florida.

So if you’re local to Central Florida or coming in town for the convention, stop in at Heroes Landing for what looks to be a fun, unofficial Celebration V pre-party, and support some creative types in our endeavors!

August 11
Events Begin at 3pm

Heroes Landing
12348 Roper Blvd.
Clermont, Florida 34711


Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Capping off what might have been the kiddo’s best weekend ever, we finally let him watch Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. We have held off on this because it’s PG-13 and can be intense in spots.

Although he doesn’t know it yet, he’s going to Star Wars Celebration V in a few weeks, and Tracy and I thought it was only right that he see all the movies in the franchise before we go. So while Tracy and I were making dinner Sunday night, and we off-handedly asked him if he wanted to watch Episode III, he flipped! I don’t think anything could have made him happier. (But he was also thrilled to learn we were having tilapia, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, and a salad for dinner. All on his “favorites” list.)

Tracy and I are not fans of the prequel trilogy. We also understand that it was not created for us. It was made for the kiddo and his generation, so we let them have it. Tracy and I obviously sat through Episode III with him Sunday night, and although we’d seen it at least once before (maybe twice), something was different about this viewing. Sure, it was very cool to watch our son experience a Star Wars movie he has waited years to see, but from our point of view, we were surprised just how powerful the death of Kit Fisto and the execution of Order 66 are when you’ve watched two seasons of the Clone Wars television show.

Over the course of the last two years, we have watched all of the Clone Wars episodes as a family. We look forward to it every week when new episodes are being churned out and have watched the season one DVD set a couple of times through. Because of the series, we have grown to care about the prequel universe characters. And, for the first time in a long time, the characters of the Star Wars universe on the big screen meant something to us.

I should have seen it coming, though, because the first time Hayden Christensen appeared on screen in Episode III during this viewing I was actually taken aback! I knew I was watching the live action movie, but was fully expecting the Clone Wars animated version of Anakin Skywalker anyway. And I think that’s a testament to how well done the series is – I have maintained for a couple of years now that it took the Clone Wars animated movie and subsequent television series to get me to actually care about Anakin.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ohio Heat

The Black Keys
24 July 2010: Nautica Pavilion, Cleveland, Ohio

We’ve taken the kiddo to a few shows over the last couple of years. He has seen Jake Shimabukuro twice, and went with us to see Bob Dylan, John Mellencamp, and Willie Nelson during their minor league baseball stadium tour last summer. But this past weekend we surprised him with tickets to see an artist he loves: The Black Keys.

Tracy and I have seen the Black Keys many times over the years. We love their music and have passed that appreciation on to the kiddo. But, as is my style, we didn’t tell him what was in store for him. We told him we were going out to dinner and left it at that. After dinner, we headed north to Cleveland and the Flats.

If you’ve never been to the Flats, don’t bother unless it’s for a concert at the Nautica Pavilion. While I am a huge cheerleader for
Akron and Northeast Ohio in general, I’m also the first to admit Cleveland is filled with missed civic opportunities. And the Flats is one of them. Now a mess of “gentlemen clubs” and bad comedy shows and restaurants, it’s a sad little area that straddles the east and west banks of the Cuyahoga River.

Compounding the maze of dead-end roads and industrial wasteland is the fact that you need bridges to go to the West B
ank (where Nautica is located) from downtown and the East Bank. When you shut down one or many of those bridges for construction, you end up with more confusion.

Regardless, we eventually made it over to the West Bank, parked next to the Powerhouse and walked to the venue. When we got inside, the kiddo was growing more and more anxious, wondering what his parents
had dragged him to this time. When we revealed it was a Black Keys show, he was stunned and overjoyed.

We’ve had some oppressive heat in the region these last few weeks, and Saturday night was no exception. Temps in th
e low 90s and a nasty storm rolling through in the late evening spiked the humidity, but we came prepared with bottled water and were relieved to have a cool breeze every now and again.

The opening act was Canton native Jessica Lea Mayfield. She didn’t do much for Tracy or me, and the kiddo expressed his
dislike for her by announcing to me he’d rather be at Carrabba’s so he wouldn't have to listen to this band, and he’d just come back when the Black Keys start. (Why Carrabba’s? I have no idea.) He did, however, very diplomatically note after sharing his point of view that other people might like her music, but it’s just something he has discovered he doesn’t enjoy.

The high-point for the
opening act set was running into our friends David and Gina, who it seems we can’t attend a Black Keys show without doing. Always good to see them and have a chance to say “hello” and visit for a bit.

(photo courtesy of John Soeder)

Shortly after 9, the amphitheater lights went down and singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney sauntered on stage in front of a red, white, and black backdrop scrim of two hands clasped in the center of a whitewalled tire (think the "brothers" theme of the new album filtered through Soviet propaganda by way of Akron, Ohio). Although we have talked about the Black Keys many times and watched the Live at the Crystal Ballroom DVD together, the kiddo immediately turned to me and asked in genuine surprise, “Is there just the two of them in the band?!” He was beside himself at the
big sound these two men were producing. Very cool parent-kid music revelation moment.

They immediately ripped into the staples: “Thickfreakness”, “Girl Is on My Mind”, and “10 A.M. Automatic”. The three of us, along with the rest of the sold out crowd, were loving every minute of it. And when they launched into “The Breaks”, the kiddo turned to me and screamed “Favorite song ever!” above the roar.

(photo courtesy of John Soeder)

It wasn’t until ten songs into the set that they finally broke out the new material and we saw something completely foreign at a Black Keys show: Auerbach and Carney were joined onstage by a pair of sidemen. Keyboardist Leon Michels and bassist Nick Movshon added some new dimension to the Brothers song selection. Everything you’d wanna hear off the new album was played. “Everlasting Light”, “Next Girl”, “Chop and Change” (an outtake from the Brothers sessions that ended up on the Twilight: Eclipse soundtrack), “Howlin’ for You”, “Tighten Up” (complete with a whistle-along opening!), and “Ten Cent Pistol”.

(I think the Black Keys should take their cue from Dylan, who puts his Oscar statuette on stage every night he performs, and bring out Frank, the dinosaur puppet from the “Tighten Up” and “Next Girl” videos, every night. Just set him on a stool and let him soak it in.)

When they left the stage after the main set, the kiddo turned to me and said, “We should go now to avoid the traffic.” I told him I was pretty sure they were gonna come back out and play some more and maybe we should stay. The kiddo was amazed and thrilled when they actually did come back for an encore. (Don’t remember when encores weren’t expected? Just attend a concert with an eight-year-old to rekindle that sense of wonder.) “Sinister Kid” was the highlight of the three-song second set, smoking hot, rocking the river, and shaking the cityscape beyond.

After the show wrapped up just before 11, we made our way back to the car and spent an hour getting from our parking spot to I-77. (A drive that should have taken no more than 15 or 20 minutes, tops! Did I mention things are a mess in the Flats?) But the people watching was amusing, and the three of us had fun rocking out to the Black Keys in the car.

It was strange to see the Black Keys joined by sidemen. I still think they are most powerful when it’s just the two of them. Drums, guitar, voice. But I’ll take them in any form they’re offering. The only thing missing was Frank.