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Notes From Higher Ground:
MegaPorn 2003 By Christian A. Dumais
"When you find yourself pushing through a crowd of middle-aged men dressed like Japanese school girls as theyíre frantically spending hundreds of dollars on animated pornography with a motif involving little girls being raped by demons with phallic tentacles, you canít help but feel jaded."
I donít know what the final count was, but I do know that between the U.S. Open Cheerleading event and MegaCon 2003, the Orange County Convention Center was expecting over 20,000 people to pass through their doors last weekend, with 15,000 in mind for MegaCon alone. What that meant was that all the enthusiastic cheerleading moms from all over the country got to experience the joy of having their children surrounded by pedophiles and overweight superheroes.
I have a high tolerance for spectacles and it takes a lot to set me off, so before I get into rant mode, I need to make a few things clear. If you live in Tampa and pay attention, you know that this town is the Porn Capital of the World; the skin business here has been known to put the Las towns like Vegas and Angeles to shame. Thereís an air of professionalism about it, which is why itís managed to both evolve and branch out without much resistance from the locals. Itís not unusual to find simple events like a funeral, class field trips, or concerts to involve massive amounts of nudity and lots of cameras. Itís just how it is here. If anything, it makes life interesting and Fun (and yes, thatís fun with a Big F!). Itís easy to see it as a Freak Show, but the high production values and beauty just wonít let the title hold. Itís simply a way of life here.
With that in mind, itís with great shame and loathing that I declare MegaCon to be a world class Freak Show of epic proportions. Personally, Iím just thankful itís in Orlando. Tampa would be embarrassed by this show; it would never fit in. There were freaks everywhere. Iím not talking about the pleasant kind of freaks either that I see on a Saturday night in the shadows, nor am I talking about the ugly and the amputated. No, Iím talking about the disturbing kind that alters your DNA.
No wonder Marvel or DC wonít show their face there. Iím certain once CrossGen takes over the industry, it wonít even acknowledge MegaCon; itíll just be another conquest to brag about. And personally, I wouldnít blame them when they do. Iíve witnessed comic book professionals turning to therapy because of shows like this. People in the CrossGen area were fending off the freaks with wooden bats. Chris Staros from Top Shelf was in tears most of the time and Mark Alessi was rumored to have gouged out his eyes with a pencil. It got so bad that all sharp objects had to be removed from the convention center all together. The folks in Team Red Star were making sketches using Q-tips and peanut butter.
It was a tragedy of biblical proportions. There was madness all over the place and the claustrophobic layout didnít help the cause any. And why all the madness? Because of the freaks, plain and simple. I didnít want to write about this. Last year, the freaks were in the peripheral, it was easier to maneuver around them; but this year you couldnít avoid them.
Itís like thisÖWhen you find yourself pushing through a crowd of middle-aged men dressed like Japanese school girls as theyíre frantically spending hundreds of dollars on animated pornography with a motif involving little girls being raped by demons with phallic tentacles, you canít help but feel jaded.
Yeah, Iím talking about the hardcore manga fans. These are the people who have no concept of Asian culture beyond submissive girls in short skirts and think bukkake is a standard part of foreplay.
None of this would bother me if the freaks hadnít successfully managed to suck the fun out of the show with their presence. Listen, Iím all for people dressed up like clunky robots and sailor moons, but could you try at least stay out of the way? The aisles are small enough as they are without having to worry about your jetpack knocking me down.
Itís only tolerated because manga is where the moneyís at these days. These people are so hardcore that theyíll buy anything as long as thereís something Japanese on it.
ďTheyíre authentic Japanese bananas,Ē promised the seller. ďYou can see the Japanese characters written on the peels here.Ē
ďIt looks like gibberish written with a magic marker,Ē I said. ďWhatever. How much for a banana?Ē
ďItís a mangana, and itíll be five dollars. And if you want, for another ten dollars, Iíll throw in this bootleg of Ringu.Ē
Does anyone see the hypocrisy of allowing booths to sell movie bootlegs next to a booth selling Image books? We make such a big deal out comic book creators getting paid for their hard work, and yet, we donít seem to mind when it happens to a movie or television creator. I know one thing, if I started scanning copies of CrossGen books and sold copies for a quarter, Iíd be asked to leave. But for some reason, if itís a movie, itís no big deal. One of the bootleg sellers told me that if he didnít have a movie, he could get it for me, andĖthis being my favorite partĖhe could meet me at a public place to sell it to me.
ďWhy come to my store when I can come to you,Ē he said.
ďWhereís your store?Ē I asked.
ďOh, itísÖuhÖitís hard to find. Really, just call me and Iíll come to you.Ē
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Itís just not all about the 12-hour version of David Lynchís Dune anymore. Now we have to deal with Girls Gone Wild and lesbian videos with look-alike celebrities. Look, Iím not up to speed on Britney Spears, but Iím pretty sure she didnít do the things that these tapes are promising.
Which brings me back to pornÖ
Looking at the MegaCon website, I notice that they donít go out of their way to label the show a family event; however, when you advertise that children under 10 are free, itís safe to say that children are welcome.
There must be something gratifying for the promoters to watch parents slowly realize that theyíve brought their children to a fetish show.
Why arenít there designated sections for booths selling adult material? I like to think that children should be able to walk around without absorbing images of rape and pedophilia. And the fact that itís animated doesnít lessen its impact. I want to think that Iím exaggerating here, but some of the sellers couldnít have made it more obvious what they were trying to shill. If you want to sell adult material, donít make it easily accessible. Donít have it right out front for people to see. Keep it out of view. The one thing I know is that if people want something at a booth that they canít find, theyíll ask for it.
Like I said before, I donít mind pornĖI just donít feel like being at an event that has no quandary exposing children to it.
The show is obviously not for children anyway. Thereís nothing for them there. Itís done nothing but alienate them. Thereíre a lot of arguments pertaining to how to get children reading comic books, and I think part of it comes down to how we present the products at the conventions. Letís make it kid friendly; letís make it fun again. We need more professional actors dressed up like superheroes. And yeah, I know there were quite a few at this show, but the last time I checked, Batgirl wasnít a stripper. Letís create an area for them at next yearís MegaCon, where they can sample products geared towards them, where they can play with a toy that wonít give them nightmares, and not be exposed to an entire generation of selfish consumers who cherish the bizarre and mundane over quality. When the industry finds itself dying with the Gen-Xers in nursing homes and dark alleys across the world, we can all look back with perfect clarity and know that we did nothing to pass the torch to the next generation.
Speaking of nursing homesÖ
Brother Geek pointed this one out to me. Did anyone get a good look at the people checking the tickets at the show? Listen, I donít have any issues with old people; I live in Florida. In the last fifty years, theyíve turned this state into their very own ghetto. Iíve grown up here, so Iím pretty much immune to the car blinkers that never turn off, the slow driving in the fast lane, and the massive geriatric orgies that they have in golf courses and medical waiting rooms. Iím fine with all of this. Itís their picnic and hell if Iím going to rain down on it.
But seriously, if I wanted to get in without paying, all I had to do was wait for the old lady at the door to blink like the dozens of other people I witnessed. It was a sick joke. I mean, Iím glad they have jobs to keep them off the streets and away from a life of crime and prostitution, but they were not equipped to handle the amount of people pushing through those doors.
Did I have fun? Despite all the nonsense, it wasnít a terrible experience. I got to show my love to the one publisher that has yet to let me down, that being Top Shelf. You wonít find a more enthusiastic group of people with better products. While everyone else is selling cocaine at ridiculous prices, these guys are selling crack at amazing prices that wonít break the bank. Top Shelf is the Grey Goose of the industry and is perpetually living up to its name with every new book published. Just when you think they canít top themselves, the next book comes out. Staros has an amazing thing going, and if I can get through life with half the class and integrity he displays every time I see him, Iíll do all right.
Letís see, what else did I do? I got to see some friends and pick up some amazing books. That was good.
Oh, yeah, and I met one of my favorite pornstars.
Aria Giovanni was there. A beautiful mix of Italian, Yugoslavian, French, German, Irish, and American Indian, Aria has made a serious impact in the adult industry since her debut in the September of 2000 issue of Penthouse. Sheís as lovely in person as she is in her pictorials. Smart too. Iím especially intrigued by her minor in English/Writing. Aria was there to promote her website where you can download hundreds of nude pictures of her, and she had plenty of her pictures, books, and movies on hand too.
Did I mention that there were kids there?
Other works by this author: Brother Geek Comes Home Slush welcomes the addition of Christian Dumais' gonzo-style column, Notes From Higher Ground. You can't beat this geek.