First Trip to Comic-Con

In 1933,  a small printing company in Waterbury, Connecticut known as Eastern Color Printing began publishing what would later become the first modern comic book, Funnies on Parade. The company began by reprinting newspaper “funny pages” in collected editions to be given out in promotional campaigns by large companies such as Shell Oil. Recognizing the advertising opportunities the company began producing its own original comics featuring characters like Mutt and Jeff and Buck Rogers.

Also in Connecticut, but approximately fifty years later, a somewhat nerdy kid found a way to combine his love of reading with his love of Saturday morning cartoons. Many of those early superhero comics are still hanging around, bagged and boxed, joined by thousands more of every possible genre. Horror, science fiction, war stories, sword and sorcery.  I’ve got them all.

San Diego Comic-Con has been on my bucket list for a while, but like golfing in Ireland or attending a Super Bowl, it’s unlikely I’ll make it out there anytime soon. This year the Connecticut convention was held at the Mohegan Sun Casino thirty minutes from home, so I grabbed the teenager, threw on my Batman T-shirt and headed off.

 

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We had a lot of fun. Kayla has been my movie-going partner for years now, but has always enjoyed her YA novels more than comics. I think she was a little disappointed that the focus really seemed to be on comic books and not as television and movie related as some of the bigger conventions seem to be. People watching is always a big draw, and I think we were both somewhat relieved that although there were plenty of cos-players in attendance, we didn’t stand out by not being in full costume. There were enough cool displays like a replica TARDIS and an original 1960’s Batmobile to keep her occupied while I browsed the memorabilia.

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I think that it’s probably good that we were leaving for vacation the following day or I might have spent a lot of money on things that I may have later regretted.

 

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A highlight for myself was all the creators that were available for signings and question and answer panels. Louise Simonson, Mike Carlin, Carl Potts, and Scott Hanna are just a few of the artists and writers that I have been enjoying for the past thirty years. To shake their hands and put a face to the people behind the work was pretty cool.

My favorite was an hour long session with Roy Thomas, the man who succeeded Stan Lee as editor in chief at Marvel and first brought Robert E Howard’s Conan to comics. I really enjoyed hearing his first hand stories about the early days at the company and wished that it had been longer.

Next year the convention will be returning to Mohegan Sun and I already have the dates saved. I think that it may be time to break out the face paint and bring these two out of retirement.

 

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Some Days are Better

Regular visitors to this site have probably picked up on a few things about me by now. I’m often sarcastic, a bit on the nerdy side, and have no use for people unable to think for themselves. Also, that I like to be organized.

Often too organized, to the point where it may sometimes cross over into some sort of disorder. I can tell you with a high degree of accuracy what I’m going to be doing every day for the next several months, including what chores I plan on doing each day and what television shows I’ll be watching each night. On a trip to Disney eight years ago I drove my future wife insane with a very detailed itinerary detailing what we needed to see each day for maximum entertainment. It was our first vacation together as a new family and very nearly our last.

 

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By necessity fatherhood has increased my scheduling flexibility, but it seems that my daughter may exhibit some of the same traits. Before going to bed each night she likes to have a rundown of the following day’s plans. She wants to know where she is going, what she’s going to be wearing, and what her “jobs” are going to be. Patronizing her is counterproductive because then explanations are needed as to why the plans have changed.

It makes days like Wednesday pretty rare. Days when we leave the house intending to go one place and eventually end up far off course. The plan was to visit a Native American museum about twenty minutes from the house but the final destination was lunch with my family and a visit to a  Catholic retreat center on a small island in Long Island Sound, over an hour away.

 

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The story of the switch itself is pretty uninteresting. The weather changed for the better soon after we left and I became aware that my Aunt and Uncle were in town visiting my parents.

What I did find interesting were several comments made over the course of the day expressing surprise that I was OK with how things had turned out. Some days are worse than others, but I had always thought that I kept my anxiety pretty well hidden. As long as “my stuff” at home and at work is where it needs to be I’m usually alright. People know not to touch “my stuff”, but I always assumed they just thought I was  kind of a dick.

The other surprise was that there are still lots of places in Connecticut that I’m not aware of. St Edmund’s Retreat on Ender’s Island in Mystic is a great place to visit if you are in town for some of the more “touristy” attractions. Accessible by car via two narrow causeways, it’s home to waterfront gardens, carved seawalls and numerous fountains and gazebos, all featuring Catholic embellishments and decoration. For those with a taste for the macabre, the severed arm of 13th century cleric St Edmund rests on a pillow under glass in the chapel. Known as a “first class relic” for its rarity, its been preserved for over 700 years as a pilgrimage site and reliquary.

Unfortunately the battery on my phone wasn’t properly charged for such extended adventures, but I did manage to get this shot of Alaina and my father that I like quite a bit.

 

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So we went off script for a day. The sky didn’t fall, the oceans didn’t rise, and truth be told, neither one of us gave it much thought until much later. Like I said, some days are better than others. This was a pretty good one, all the way around.

 

 

 

 

Autumn is Coming

It seems premature to talk about this summer in the past tense, but I already catch myself doing so. The pool is getting colder earlier in the day, the Red Sox are losing, and fantasy football drafts are starting. All signs that fall is fast approaching. I haven’t seen anything pumpkin flavored yet, but it’s just a matter of time.

Most disturbingly, school will be starting up soon.

The teenager will be entering her junior year of high school, the most important year in my opinion. Having spent the majority of the last few months in the nonstop company of her boyfriend, a re-prioritization of time management will be in order.

The baby will be transitioning from three days of preschool a week to five. She loves going, and we like the break enough that she’s been attending a summer session Tuesdays and Thursdays, but having the weekends as the only time for our adventures  just doesn’t seem like it will be adequate.

This summer started, as they all do, with a long list of things that I wanted to do with the girls. As with most summers, very few of them got crossed off. We’ve had a great time, with lots of fun days by the pool, but I don’t like lists with things not crossed off them. Nobody else seems to be bothered by this.

I know there are still a few weeks left. This weekend I’ll be taking Kayla to her first comic-con and soon we’ll be kidnapping her for a few days at the shore. We didn’t do any fishing, but I finally got Alaina out on the lake a few days ago.

 

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The novelty of being “on a boat” wore off relatively quickly, but she was very excited when we spotted the “gnome house.” I have no idea what this building actually is, but she accepted the fact that gnomes sleep during the day so we shouldn’t stop by to say hello.

 

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The good news is that I’ll have plenty of time alone in the afternoons to figure out what is able to be transferred to the “fall, to-do” list.

I guess I’ll make this one a little shorter.

 

 

 

 

 

Toys Will Be Toys

This weekend Target announced that their toy and bedding departments would no longer be separated into “boys” and “girls.” Different color paper on the back of walls will no longer be used to suggest gender relevance. Progressive parents and gender equality advocates are hailing the move as the beginning of the end for stereotyping and forced toy conformity.

As a frequent Target shopper with a bit of an “organization” problem, I found this news alarming. Currently the superhero and spaceship toys are found in one aisle together. The princesses and fairies in another. This makes sense. I’ve been assured that this will continue. Dinosaurs and ponies will not occupy the same shelf space. Monster trucks won’t be mixed in with stuffed dogs. Order shall be maintained. Only the signs will be removed.

I’m the father of what a more unenlightened generation might have called a “tomboy.” Her current favorite toys are her Twilight Sparkle pony and her Paw Patrol bulldozer. On any given day she may be a teacher to a classroom of Barbies or a pirate captain searching for treasure. When given the choice she picked out a Sophia the First backpack, but would not be dissuaded from an Incredible Hulk bicycle helmet.

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None of which should be overly surprising. Disney spent a ton of money acquiring Marvel and Lucasfilm as “boy” alternatives to their “girl” princess and fairy franchises, but anybody whose paid attention to their last few princess movies knows that these aren’t the Cinderellas and Sleeping Beauties of old. Alaina’s favorites are Brave and Frozen, both of which feature princesses that aren’t sitting around waiting for knights to rescue them. Princess Leia has her own comic book series and when Marvel relaunches all their titles next month, nine of twenty-nine “single hero” titles will feature a female title character. The line between “boy” and “girl” stuff has been blurring for a while.

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All of this, of course, is easy to say when it is a daughter playing demolition derby with her matchbox cars. How would I feel if I had a son that enjoyed his sister’s hand-me-down dolls? I’ll say that I’m fairly confident that my feelings would remain the same. Especially at this age.

Here’s what I’ve learned from watching a four year old play: the toys involved don’t really dictate the action. Her Stormtrooper and Optimus Prime have long arms and are used primarily for carrying sick patients to the doctor. That doctor could be played by anybody from Shrek to an Octonaut to a Lego race car driver. The Batmobile gets most of it’s mileage making “special deliveries” and Spider Man spends more time slinging pizzas than he does webs.

Everybody had stories about their kids setting aside expensive toys and playing instead with the box they came in. As she gets older her toys may hold more relevance towards whatever she’s playing, but for now they are the vessel for her imagination, not its instigator.

 

 

Doin’ the Dad Dance

Earlier this week I published one of my most viewed and most controversial blog posts to date. In it I lamented the fact that more people seemed interested in persecuting an American dentist than were interested in the real problems of Zimbabwe. I pointed out that although poaching and the decimation of protected wildlife is a tragedy worthy of conversation, not enough was being said about a lost generation of Zimbabwe’s children. Not everybody agreed with all my opinions, but it’s led to some interesting dialogue and hopefully given people something to think about. You can find it here:
The Real Tragedy in Zimbabwe.

Today I’m backing up some of those words with action.

And dancing.

 

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I’m proud to be participating in a charity campaign for The United Nations Children’s Fund. For almost seventy years, UNICEF has been on the forefront of the fight for the rights and well-being of children around the world.

Our good friends at The Dad Network are asking the fathers of the world to join together, shake your tail feathers, and participate in the world’s first online charitable dance off.

The rules are simple:

1. Film yourself dancing, either with or without your children.

2. Upload to social media using the hashtag #dothedaddance

3. Nominate your dad friends to do the same.

4. Make a donation at www.justgiving.com/dothedaddance/

The site asks for a donation of two pounds, which is around three dollars American. For added motivation, I will match the donation of anyone who posts their video in the comments under this link on the Thirsty Daddy Facebook page within the next week. If you don’t have kids, a video of you dancing will suffice.

Make me proud Thirsty Nation. Show me your moves.

For additional information you can visit:www.thedadnetwork.co.uk/dothedaddance

Note #1: I’m a much better dancer at midnight on a Friday than I am at noon

Note#2: If you’re on an older browser and there is no video directly underneath these words, you can search #dothedaddance on You-Tube to be entertained

 

Adventures with girls, from preschool to proms