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Arts & Culture

Comic-Con Sunday Scrapbook

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One of the nicest people you'll meet at the Comic-Con is Al Simmons of

McFarlane Toys. McFarlane Toys is part of a family of companies run by Todd McFarlane, the creator of

Spawn . McFarlane, one of the founders of Image Comics, created the McFarlane Toy line first to produce toys of his Spawn character and then to make the best collectible figures from movies, TV and sports. Simmons was McFarlane's roommate in college. When McFarlane created the

Spawn comics in the early nineties, he named Spawn's human persona after Al Simmons. I met Simmons the first year he was at Comic-Con to promote

Spawn and I remember he told me to watch for it because it was going to be big. Well, everybody launching a comic says that but Al was right. Within a couple years, Spawn was HUGE. But success hasn't spoiled Simmons. He's a wonderful person who's always accessible at the booth, signing autographs for kids and adults, and posing for pictures. He also runs the toy museum in Arizona where you can see the incredible action figures the company has created. You can buy the toys in stores or online but make an effort to visit the booth next year and speak with Simmons, who I just call Spawnaclaus for all the nice things he does.

Al Simmons at the McFarlane Toy booth. He shows off a not yet released Simpsons toy that the company is making. Prototypes of toys were on display at the Con. The McFarlane Toys are favorites among fans because of the incredible detail and care put into making them.

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I mentioned The Vader Project , in an earlier post. It's something that was created for the recent Star Wars Celebration convention. Pop surrealist, graffiti, tattoo, comic and underground artists such as Shag, Tim Biskup, Frank Kozik, Marc Ecko, Amanda Visell, J. Otto Seibold, Gary Baseman, Joe Ledbetter, Urban Medium and Jeff Soto, among others, took part in a project akin to the Cow Parade. Each artist customized a Darth Vader helmet in a gallery exhibition called The Vader Project that debuted at Star Wars Celebration IV on May 24 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The project was presented by Master Replicas, and curated by Dov Kelemer of DKE Toys. Only a fraction of the helmets were on display at Comic-Con but I'm sure we'll be seeing more of them in the future.

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Chucky under glass. Sideshow Toys , along with McFarlane Toys, produce the best in collectible movie toys. Sideshow specializes in 12 inch dolls and were the ones who made the hilarious Monty Python and the Holy Grail dolls. They have a huge booth at the Con where they show off prototypes, prop replicas and more.

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Here's the Sideshow 12-inch doll of Light, a character from the wildly popular Japanese manga, anime and live action film, Death Note.

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Coming up with just the right promo item for the Con is always tricky. Tartan Films was handing out surgical masks with an imprint of a bloody mouth to promote their new release of an Asian Extreme horror film called Slit-Mouthed Woman . In the film a woman with a horribly carved mouth wears a surgical mask to hide her face as she terrorizes local children. Here some Con-goers model the giveaway item.

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Just to prove that Comic-Con is not just about comics and action figures for guys, here's a booth catering toward lovers of fantasy and plush toys, Stuffe and Nonsense. The booth features the most beautiful and imaginative stuffed animals. There are some unique animals specially handcrafted by Candace Martinez. These animals have very distinct personalities and are named. In the past I have bought Bunnihana, a samurai rabbit, and Mousashi, a samurai rodent.

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This is why you should always take your toys out of the box. Setting up action figure scenes is half the fun of owning the toys. If you keep them trapped inside their plastic boxes, what fun is that? Take 'em out and let them breathe! When I interviewed Stan Lee years ago he said, "Its funny how we talk about action figures. We used to call them dolls and no man in the world would be caught dead playing with dolls and then some genius came up with the idea of calling them action figures and suddenly every man is playing with them." Take that Barbie and Ken!

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The Muppets are a favorite of mine. The Muppet Show remains a witty program for both kids and adults. Not represented here are my favorites the Swedish Chef and Beaker.

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Luwam, Kevin and Tony model Spawn masks while Christopher Walken looks over their shoulder.

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Then of course there is the mixing and matching of promo giveaways. Here Spawn meets Sparta and the Slit-Mouthed Woman.

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How can you tell when Comic-Con is over? Your wallet is empty, your feet hurt, you've lost your voice and you're already thinking about next year. Since I didn't get out on the floor very often I only got to make a few purchases. As an avid poster collector I always look for old movie one-sheets. This year I scored a Chimes at Midnight, Young Dracula, The Arena (with Pam Grier) and Edgar Allen Poe's Cry of the Banshee. For me, poster collecting is about two things: finding posters of films you love and finding posters with great art work and design. Young Dracula for instance has the brilliant tag line: "Young Dracula has so much trouble with the opposite sex that he's carrying around his own stake looking for a guy with a hammer." Whoa! They don't write copy like that any more! The Pam Grier poster says: "See wild women fight to the death." That's not quite as good but Pam in her Spartacus duds is priceless. I also picked up the Comic-Con exclusive DVD of 300 with a mask of the Immortals. My son was kind enough to get me a plush Space Godzilla to add to my collection. I also ordered a 28-inch stuffed Wookie because his eyes kept following me every time I walked by and they seemed to say "Take me home." Unfortunately, the one on display is the only one in existence. The company was taking orders for 100 and after the Con was going to make and ship them out. So I wasn't able to take him home. The mask was a freebie but of Simon Pegg in his new film Run Fatboy Run but since I couldn't find the booth where they were giving them out I had to make a trade with an attendee who had one.

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And that's it for Comic-Con 2007. Farewell from the Film School Confidential booth where we raised enough money to finance the 2008 Film School Confidential student film festival. If you have any Comic-Con memories to share, please post them here.

So goodbye until next year. And congratulations to the Comic-Con for another great year. I think the cap on ticket sales worked and made the event better.