When you think of a comic shop or a card store, you might think of the fans who shop there or the folks who run it and how they are so passionate about the things they love. Retail shops like these are always the epicenter for focused geek authenticity.
And when you think of Las Vegas, you might think of gambling, or partying, or glitzy entertainment. Vegas isn’t about deep or thoughtful enthusiasm about your passions, it’s about giving vihttp://www.comicmix.com//?p=109466&preview=truesitors a license to be enjoy the moment, and to be both indulgent and shallow without any guilt.
So it’s incongruous, in many ways, that over 400 of the nation’s card/comic shops attend the GAMA trade show this past week in Las Vegas. For more than 20 years this event has helped connect, educate and motivate hobby stores. The Expo focuses on card games (Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokemon, Cardfight!! Vanguard, etc.), board games, miniatures and all the related products and services.
Trade publication ICV2 recently reported that the hobby games business is growing at about 10%. Amazingly, this is the 8th year in a row of growth. This growth comes from many different segments. On one hand, Magic: The Gathering grows the business for established fans, and parent company Hasbro seems to be noticing more than ever.
On the younger side, the incredible resurgence of Pokemon proves to be the perfect gateway property for whole industry. The game community does a good job of onboarding and cross promotion.
GAMA estimates there are 3,200 game stores nationwide. And although last week’s GAMA trade shows focused on card games and board games, many of these retailers are hybrid stores and also carry comics.
In fact, there were a lot of the “usual suspects” from the comics world here. It didn’t take long to run across folks like Diamond’s Chris Powell, Skybound’s Shawn Kirkham, or ICV2’s Milton Griepp.
And on the show floor, familiar booths to a comic fan included:
Paizo – This publisher was showing off their new Starfinder property and their enthusiasm was contagious. Publisher Eric Mona was on hand, and he also spoke about his writing for Dynamite’s Pathfinder Worldfinder comic, co-starring Red Sonja, John Carter and Tarzan.
IDW’s games division was showing off their new board games. I was especially impressed by the gorgeous the cover art to their Planet of the Apes
Off World Designs is a geek-culture T-shirt design company and familiar site to many San Diego Comic-Con attendees. Each year they have two booths at that Nerd Prom, who’s formal name is still Comic-Con International, even though nobody ever calls it that.
These retailers are a strategic thoughtful bunch. Since they play strategic gamers and hang around with folks who play strategic games, that makes sense. But card shop owners are, at the heart of it, pretty much like comic shop owners. And as mentioned, they are often one and the same. They are a fun group to spend time with, and you can’t help but be pleased that they could get away for few days and rejuvenate with their peers. They are hard-working entrepreneurs whose DNA is over-stuffed with optimism and persistence.
Friday’s latest plot twist in this year’s Presidential campaign – the announcement that the FBI was reopening its investigation into Hillary’s e-mails based on some suspicious correspondence found on Anthony Weiner’s computer – had all of us spinning our heads like Linda Blair in The Exorcist…sans pea soup vomit, I hope.
Well, none of us knows yet the results of the election – now only eight days away, as the media would say in its annoyingly obsessive countdown – but one more immediate result was that it had me thinking about great fictional plot twists that none of us, or at least most of us, didn’t see coming, the ones that made go Whoa, Nellie!!!!
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
Darth Vader: “Obi-wan never told you what happened to your father.”
Luke: “He told me enough. He told me you killed him.
Darth Vader: “No. I am your father.”
Im-not-so-ho, the greatest plot twist ever. Search your hearts, you know it to be true.
Planet of the Apes
Taylor: “Oh, my God. I’m back. All the time, it was…we finally really did it.”
Taylor: “You maniacs! You blew it up! God damn you! God damn you all to hell!”
The original, not the remake. Oh, definitely not the remake.
And definitely the second-best twist ever. Imho, of course. YMMV.
The Sixth Sense
“I see dead people.”
The story of Cole Sear, a boy whose ability to see ghosts has sent him into a deep depression and an alienation from the world and from his desperate mother, and of Dr. Malcolm Crowe, the child psychologist who tries to help him, is a film whose plot twist totally sent the public’s head spinning – some people may have vomited pea soup from some of the gorier and emotionally upsetting scenes – in 1999.
The beauty of the film is M. Night Shyamalan’s writing and direction, for as an audience we became involved in the story unfolding before our eyes, which on the surface was a modern-day family drama with some, uh, creepier aspects, and totally missed the clues so beautifully woven into the storyline and superb cinematography of Tak Fujimoto – the color red, absent from movie’s pallet except when the “afterlife” is intersecting with our world; the drop in temperature whenever a ghost is around (Cole’s mother complains about the house being cold, we can see Cole’s breath in the red tent when the little girl visits him; Cole’s mother never interacts with her son’s psychologist; and Malcolm never interacts with his environment (touching or moving objects) except around Cole. Well, until the end of the movie, and that red doorknob.
The twist – that Malcom is dead – should also have been as plain as the noses on all our faces when Cole, in the hospital, tells Malcolm “…They only see what they want to see. They don’t know they’re dead.” But we were all so caught up in Cole’s personal trauma that we, collectively, only thought that Malcom was helping Cole by getting him to admit what was at the heart of his, uh, troubles.
Grace: “If you’re dead, then leave us in peace. Leave us in peace!”
Mrs. Mills: “And suppose we do leave you, ma’am, do you suppose that they will?”
Mrs. Mills: “The intruders.”
World War II has ended, and on the Isle of Jersey Grace Stewart and her two children are awaiting the return of her husband from the front. Her daughter Anne insists that she has seen “others” in the house, and when three servants appear on Grace’s doorstep in answer to her advertisement, other strange and creepy occurrences start to happen; curtains are taken down, the piano, dusty and out of tune, is heard being played in perfect resonance, Grace hears voices, and her son reports meeting a boy named Victor who told him that he (Victor) lives there with his family.
The twist: Stricken with grief upon the news of her husband’s death in the war, Grace went mad and smothered her children in their sleep, and then shot herself. Waking up the next morning to find her and the children still alive (the kids are pillow fighting) Grace believes that she has been given another chance by God to prove herself to be a good mother. But the real truth is that it is Grace, her children, and her servants who have been haunting the current occupants of the house – Victor and his family. It is they who took down the curtains, who played the piano, whose voices were heard by Grace. The family leaves the house, unable to exorcise Grace and her children, and as they drive off, we see Grace and the children watching them from a window as Grace promises the children that they will never leave their home.
Other great movies with great plot twists not seen coming include:
“Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”
Evelyn Mulwray reveals to Jake Gittes that her sister is actually her daughter; she has had an incestuous relationship with her father, Noah Cross.
The Usual Suspects:
“Who is Keyser Soze? He is supposed to be Turkish. Some say his father was German. Nobody believed he was real. Nobody ever saw him or knew anybody that ever worked directly for him, but to hear Kobayashi tell it, anybody could have worked for Soze. You never knew. That was his power. The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. And like that, poof. He’s gone.”
Keyser Soze is Verbal Kint.
Martin Vail: “So there never… there never was a Roy?”
Roy: “Jesus Christ, Marty. If that’s what you think, I am disappointed in you, I don’t mind telling you. There never was an Aaron… counselor! Come on, Marty, I thought you had it figured, there at the end. The way you put me on the stand like that? That was fucking brilliant, Marty! And that whole thing like “act-like-a-man”? Jesus, I knew exactly what you wanted from me. It was like we were dancing, Marty!”
Aaron Stamper never existed, never had multiple personality disorder. It was always Roy.
Let me know what you think. Is Empire’s reveal better than Planet of the Apes? What have I left off the list? Did you guess the twists before they occurred, or did you just “say” you did around the water cooler?
In this last of meeting places / We grope together / And avoid speech /Gathered on this beach of the tumid river• The Hollow Men • T.S. Eliot
Yesterday, Mike and Martha went to the movies in New York City to see Captain America’s Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton and a host of international stars in Snowpiercer, a post-apocalyptic movie based on the 1983 French graphic novel Le Transperceneige by Jacque Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette. It’s been generating a lot of buzz here in the States while having already earned, according to Entertainment Weekly, $80 million in the overseas market. (EW profiles the film this week in an apocalyptic-themed issue – along with the cover story of the upcoming MadMax: Fury Road, starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, due in 2015). I didn’t go because I had already penciled in some Grandma time with baby Meyer on my calendar, and although a story of the remnants of humanity careening around the Earth in a train sounds right up my summer movie alley – environmental disaster brought, politics and class warfare, and some excellent visual effects – visiting with my grandson, who is already nine months old – almost a year? Already? – is a no-brainer when it comes to Mindy’s afternoon delights on a fine early summer day.
So hopefully next time, okay, gang?
Anyway, reading the “doomsday in the movies” issue of EW while sipping on my breakfast tea and inspired me to tell you about some of my favorite “end of everything” about all the great movies and television shows that have centered on the destruction of us and/or the Earth and which ones of them are my favorites.
Top of the list in making me feel true dread: On The Beach.
Originally a novel by British author Nevil Shute, written after he had emigrated to Australia and published in 1957, it is the story of people living in and around Melbourne and how they deal with the coming, inescapable annihilation of the human race as the radioactive fallout from a total nuclear war in the northern hemisphere a year earlier inexorably expands to cover the globe, slowly drifting across the equator and into the southern reaches of the Earth. (I always wondered where the title On The Beach came from; thanks to Wikipedia, I now know that it refers to a Royal Navy phrase that means “retired from the Service,” which is very apropos as the main character is a U.S. Captain in the submarine service who is co-opted into the remains of the Royal Navy fleet. It also refers to T.S. Eliot’s poem and the lines quoted above.) The book was adapted into a 1957 film written by John Paxton, directed by Stanley Kramer, and which starred Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, and Anthony Perkins, along with British and Australian actors, and Shute’s story of hope mating with despair to give birth to fatalism is brilliantly enacted.
Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, the movie from which the phrase “pod-people” was born, is based on Jack Finney’s 1954 The Body Snatchers. It was adapted twice, first in 1958 and then twenty years later in 1978. I like both films, but I prefer the original, which starred Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter, and was directed by Don Segal, which, while differing from Finney’s novel, is much more faithful. In the fictional town of Santa Mira, California, an alien invasion is taking place – people are being replaced with doppelgangers devoid of any human emotion or individuality. An allegory of paranoia in the post-WWII years about – pick one: (1) conformity; (2) Stalin, Soviet Russia, Mao-Tse Tung, China and communism in general; (3) dehumanization and isolation; and (4) McCarthyism (a bit of irony here in that Kevin McCarthy, who plays the heroic local doctor in the film, has the same last name as the onerous Joseph McCarthy, Republican Senator from Wisconsin and the instigator of the notorious hunt for communists and other “disloyal” Americans in the government and the U.S. Army.
The Andromeda Strain: Released in 1971 and based on Michael Crichton’s best-selling novel of the same name, it is one of the first stories to deal with the danger of out-of-control viruses and/or bacteria, although in both the book and the movie the deadly microscopic organism is alien in origin. In it a team of government doctors and scientists race to discover a means to stop the spread of a virus brought Earth by a crashed satellite. So far the only survivors are an elderly man and an infant. The thing that is scarily prophetic about this film is that we, the human race, us, are currently creating our own super-bugs by the insistent and pandemic use of antibiotics in everything from the food we eat to the dishwashing liquid we use to clean the plates we eat from. Combine that with the lack of new R & D by Big Pharma (not one of them is developing any new antibiotics or anti-virals to fight the increasingly resistant strains of bacteria and viruses prevalent around the globe) because they’d all rather make quick gains on the stock market exchanges producing new erectile drugs, and we’re not going to need an extraterrestrial bug to kill us all.
And finally (at least for this column):
“You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!””
Yes. Planet Of The Apes.
In 1968 I went with my boyfriend to the DeWitt Theatre in Bayonne to see a movie with a very weird title, but my parents had encouraged us because Charlton Heston was in it and because both had read the book by Pierre Boulle, who had also written The Bridge on the River Kwai, which had been made into a (now-classic) Oscar-winning film.Not really knowing what to expect, Michael and I walked out of the theatre two hours later with mouths agape.
Everybody knows the story, and of course since the debut of the original film the whole idea of a “planet of the apes” has been derailed into a cheesy franchise, a couple of really lousy remakes, and (I presume) a steady paycheck of royalties for Roddy McDowall until his death in 1998.
Because of this, the impact of the original has largely become forgotten in the mists of celluloid history, but, let me tell you, folks, that final scene, with Charlton Heston collapsed on the shore of a dead sea in front of a beached, half-buried Statue of Liberty still bravely holding her torch high above her starred tiara, banging his fists into the ground in total shock and hopelessness and anguish…