Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"Spaceman Floyd" Lands in Madison, Ohio

The sign that caught our eyes in the heart of Madison Village
Have you ever stumbled across something so great that you can't quite believe that it is true? That is our reaction to the discovery of a new toy shop in nearby Madison. "Spaceman Floyd's Cosmic Toys" offers new and vintage collectibles, with a concentration on horror, sci-fi and fantasy. Jason F. Williams, the proprietor, told us that one of the first names he considered for the store was "Godzooky's," but ultimately decided the reference might be just a little too obscure.

Do you dare to learn the secret of the Fly? We did!

Cleveland area toy geeks will be reminded of both "Big Fun" locations the moment they walk into "Spaceman Floyd's," with good reason; Jason was with "Big Fun" for nearly ten years. Just like at "Big Fun," it takes some time to stop being overwhelmed and to start being able to concentrate, but once you get your wits about you, you notice that there is little in the way of cutesy ephemera. "Spaceman Floyd's" is all about the toys.

Hey...looks like home! Both loose and carded vintage Star Wars on display

Star Wars, Transformers, Universal Monsters, Shogun Warriors, Masters of the Universe, Marvel and DC Comics are all well represented, with new items being added daily. Best of all, from our perspective, there is no lack of Godzilla and other kaiju from which to choose. Bandai, Trendmasters, and even Far East Monsters merchandise is on hand, and kaiju flicks are available in various formats. Last Friday, Jason kindly screened "King Kong vs. Godzilla" while we were there.

Andy and Jason are all smiles on a Friday afternoon

"Spaceman Floyd's" is making a concerted effort to enagage the surrounding community--a magician entertained at the store this past weekend--and the possibility exists of holding both Halloween and Godzilla-themed events in the future. To my knowledge, there is nothing else like "Spaceman Floyd's Cosmic Toys" in Lake County. You've got to see it (a couple times) to believe it!

Here's some cool stuff that came home with us from S.F.C.T.

Spaceman Floyd's Cosmic Toys buys and sells vintage toys from the 1960's to today. The shop is located at 46 West Main Street in Madison, Ohio (44057).

Sunday, August 29, 2010

G-FAN Magazine # 92 "Vacation on Monster Island"

The summer issue of G-FAN is always neat, because for a couple years now it has arrived in the mail not too long after our return from G-FEST. The summer 2010 issue has been a good late-summer diversion from inevitable autumnal realities (think "school," for instance).

The effective, wordless cover is the work of director John Fasano, who, according to the acknowledgments section, could be tapped to direct the Legendary Pictures Godzilla 2012. If that comes true, G-FAN could potentially have the inside track on just about everything to do with the film.

On the G-FORCE "news and notes" page, the announcement appears that has many fans talking--G-TOUR 2 is in the works. Questions about this venture abound. One of the chief ones-- "Does a summer 2011 G-TOUR mean no stateside G-FEST?"--was answered Thursday with the announcement of G-FEST XVIII dates on Brett Homenick's blog. That was a relief!

A review of "Mega Monster Battle" follows, and the author comes across as crotchety and hopelessly behind the times. Can't he just relax and enjoy a good Ultraman flick? (FULL DISCLOSURE DEPT.: that author was me.)

J.D. Lees' "Dear G-friends" column offers the editor's thoughts on the forthcoming Legendary Godzilla, hoping that the producers will avoid the egregious errors of the Tristar debacle.

Brett Homenick comes through again with another quality interview, and the information he reveals about actor Dennis Falt is genuinely surprising. It turns out that Falt, who had a bit part in Godzilla 1985, has enjoyed an accomplished career on the Japanese stage and screen. The photo of him with the legendary Toshiro Mifune is really very cool.

Another Homenick contribution offers behind-the-scenes memories from the producer of "Ultraman: the Ultimate Hero," and many of the details underscore how un-glamorous the shooting of such programs can be.

Mike Bogue checks in with a well-reasoned opinion piece about the positive benefits of the "Americanization" of early Godzilla films. That is immediately followed by an article pointing out the differences between the French version and the Americanized version, not to mention the Japanese original. If that sounds a little arcane to you, that's fine--I found it fascinating.

A major feature of issue # 92 is a revised, reprinted retrospective of "GMK: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack." I'll admit, a part of me was thinking, "Uh oh...reprinted articles?" However, it is explained that the issue it first appeared in (#55) has been sold out for some time. No matter, really--I love GMK and the article does a fine job of weighing its "pros and cons."

The artistic centerpiece of this issue is "The Monsters of Ultraman," featuring the work of Frank Parr, Matt Frank, Jared Proust, and more. It is a great collection for Ultra-fans. Fortunately, we picked up one of Parr's color prints at G-FEST this year.

There is much more to like between the covers of G-FAN # 92, including insightful reviews of books by writer/director Ib Melchior and Allen Debus, a trio of articles by Justin Mullis, and a humorous contribution by Lyle Huckins. And that's still not everything worthy of your time and attention.

One of the things I appreciate most about G-FAN is that it delivers plenty of "I never knew that before" info without the know-it-all, pretentious quality that makes some genre writing insufferable. G-FAN keeps it fun, and because it does, I'll keep coming back.

Friday, August 27, 2010

G-FEST XVIII Dates Announced

"Sidelong Glances of a Pigeon Kicker," Brett Homenick's blog, is reporting that G-FEST XVIII is a go and will be held July 15-17 at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Rosemont, Illinois. For more info, click the link in the right-hand column.

Return to G-FEST XVII: The Panel Experience Part II

My meeting with the Mad Scientist, Martin Arlt
At 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, I had the privilege of being on a panel entitled: "Discovering the Daikaiju Genre" with Martin Arlt, Kevin Horn, Jay Johnson, and J.D. Lees. After the morning's festivities, I was brimming with excitement--so much so that Martin, who served as the panel's moderator, had to reign me in a little at the start. No "practiced cool" persona for me!
At any rate, we settled into a comfortable groove of sharing memories of early exposure to giant monster movies. It was a rare treat to listen to these gentlemen talk about the lengths to which they went to see Godzilla films. Some had seen movies such as "Godzilla vs. the Thing" as first-run showings in theaters. I was able to talk about seeing 70s flicks such as "Godzilla vs. the Cosmic Monster" in the Detroit area with my dad. All of us seemed to have the shared experience of scouring TV listings in search of upcoming monster movies. The experience was enhanced by the participation of the audience, who reported similar activities, like waiting for "Godzilla Week" on their local TV station.

Among the Giants of G-fandom:
Kevin Horn, Jay Johnson, me, J.D. Lees, and Martin Arlt
It was a special part of G-FEST XVII. Being able to converse with people whose work I greatly respect and enjoy was unforgettable. A couple of times I caught myself wondering, "How did I get here?" The answer, I suppose, is simple: the chance presented itself, and I decided to go for it. I would encourage you, whatever pursuit you are following, to get off of the sidelines and get into the game. You'll have a lot more fun, and end up doing things you never imagined you would do...like being a G-FEST panelist. Who'd'a thunk it?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

International Monsters Converge on Ohio Campout

An idea that started taking shape at G-FEST XVII became reality on Friday, August 20, 2010, as the Cuyahoga Kaiju Club met for an overnight extravaganza. Old friends and new faces alike enjoyed much monster fellowship as the heat of the day gave way to picture-perfect weather for outdoor movie viewing.

As folks arrived throughout the late afternoon, tents were pitched, toes were twinkled in “Tokyo Bay,” and introductions were made between new participants. Facebook “friends” and “friends of friends” meeting for the first time found it easy to slip into knowledgeable conversation about the upcoming Legendary Pictures Godzilla film, classic sci-fi television programs, and even Star Wars miscellany. A wonderful summer-picnic-style supper was served, more conversation ensued, while younger generations excused themselves to play Wii, go swimming, or create their own adventures.

Some highlights of the evening included Tom Tvrdik allowing us a look at a prototype he’s working on for 2011 (all I can say is that it is incredible) and the surprise appearance of Matt Evangelista. The Kaiju Modeler himself brought one of his completed pieces, a large concept Millennium Godzilla, to the great delight of those who had never seen his work before.

Oh yeah…there were movies, too! As dusk deepened, the “Monsters Around the World” marathon began with the Danish disaster “Reptilicus.” I had not seen this film since my childhood, when I recall being none too enamored of it—especially the monster itself. Perhaps the good company was an influence, but I had fun watching “Reptilicus”—it falls into the “so bad it’s good” category for me. Andy and I thought the musical interlude “Tivoli Nights” was super cool, having sung it during G-FEST’s “Kaiju Confessions.” It is hard to hate a film in which a giant winged lizard shoots what my friend Ashley now calls “the green snot of doom.”
Next came “Gorgo,” and it looked great on the newly constructed and painted “Theo-ter” screen. The general consensus was that “Gorgo” has a lot going for it, especially the destruction scenes. I agree—it is an atmospheric picture, enhanced by effective visuals, interesting characters and a fairly brisk pace.
That was all the fun we could stand, so we made our way back to Tent City and drifted off to sleep to the sound of explosions and monster roars. What could be better? There is nothing that compares to being awakened by Gamera’s keening wail in the middle of a summer night! The marathon continued into the wee hours with “Cloverfield,” “Destroy All Monsters,” and the original “Gamera.”

Campers began to stir with the morning light, and soon youngsters were gathered around the video game console, and more talk of giant monsters and Ultra heroes could be overheard in the damp air. Overnighters posed for pictures before the outdoor screen with Tom’s hand-lettered banner and were treated to a hearty breakfast. Pancakes, bacon, watermelon and milk made it an “Andy’s favorites” type of meal.
One by one, tents were disassembled as the heat and humidity quickly rose. Farewells were said, and soon it was back to business as usual, with many new monster memories having been made. Special thanks to the Theobald family for their gracious hospitality and to Don and Tom for inviting all of us along on their kaiju journey.

We are thankful to have been made to feel welcome and to live close enough to participate in the CKC. There is even talk of having a Lake County CKC event in the future. It sounds promising, and you can be sure that Monsterland Ohio will share the details when they become available.
The Cuyahoga Kaiju Club is an informal, family-friendly movie club that has met in Northeast Ohio since 1996. For more information, search for “Cuyahoga Kaiju Club” on Facebook or e-mail Don “Kaiju” Theobald at: theozilla@netzero.net

Monday, August 23, 2010

Return to G-FEST XVII: Dr. Tsutsui on My Mind

Late Saturday morning I was able to speak with Dr. William Tsutsui, author of "Godzilla on My Mind." I had hoped that this opportunity would present itself since I would be busy during his afternoon engagement. Dr. Tsutsui proved to be as friendly and approachable as his writing style suggests, and he kindly signed my copy of his book that I had brought along from home. I love that in the above photo, Dr. Tsutsui's tie has fallen outside of his jacket, a la Dr. Yamane in Godzilla '54!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Friends, Fans Gather for CKC Kaiju Campout

We just returned from the Kaiju Campout that you've seen us promoting over the past couple of weeks, and I'm happy to say that we had a great time. Expect a full report in the near future!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Return to G-FEST XVII: The Scoop on Saturday Morning

Andy meets Robert Scott Field, aka Android M-11
Saturday morning's G-TV lineup brought us the first episode of "Ultra Galaxy" and the beginning of "The Manster," which became a favorite after last year's G-FEST. Making our way to the elevators, we were greeted once again by Robert Scott Field, who was kind enough to pose with Andy for the picture you see here. We really enjoyed our brief personal time with RSF!
One of the first areas to open Saturday morning was Minya's Place, which we had missed on Friday. Ron Lipecky's artwork is a major element of this kid-centric venue: many crafts feature his drawings of pint-sized Godzilla, Anguirus, Mothra, Rodan, and the like. Andy stopped to use an Anguirus template to create a scene of his own.
By ten o'clock, G-FEST had roared to life, highlighted by an in-depth interview with Akira Takarada and the opening of the Dealer's Room. We were on a specific mission, though, which was to enter Andy's model in the official contest. After a momentary wait, we were ushered inside the model room, where we carefully filled out an entry form, placed his model on a table, stowed our packing-peanuts-filled box and enjoyed the other amazing creations on display. It is impossible to name a favorite, but among the most notable were an MST3K-framed Gamera and Guiron, a forced-perspective fighter jet attack on Godzilla, a Half Human snowman and a dynamic Mecha King Ghidorah.

Andy's Model Contest entry (with "Godzilla: Final Wars" playing out in the background)
While there, we were treated to some humorous "worst case scenario" model-making stories by the fellows on the panel, which included the afroementioned Stan Hyde. The Modeling Thread, as it has come to be known, is a convention within a convention. One could easily spend the majority of his time simply absorbing the vibe and information shared by these meticulous artists, to the exclusion of G-FEST's other attractions.
Around this time we crossed paths with Don Kaiju and Jadon and found oursleves back in the costume and filming area, where we happened into a monster battle between Godzilla and Ebirah! Shortly thereafter, it was time for another foray through the Dealer's Room.
Wandering back through the convention hall, we caught the end of Akira Takarada's interview, and thus began one of the weekend's most memorable experiences.
As Mr. Takarada made his way from the stage at the conclusion of his interview, many fans took the chance to get photos with him, and some even asked for autographs. I thought this might be the closest encounter we would have with the storied actor, so Andy and I entered the relatively friendly scrum. Within a minute or two, Akira Takarada himself was standing directly in front of us. A couple of times, Andy politely asked Mr. Takarada to pose for a photo, only to have eager autograph seekers thrust items at the Toho legend, which he graciously would sign. Finally though, as if acknowledging Andy's patience, Mr. Takarada nimbly scooped him up in his arms for a once-in-a-lifetime picture, much to the delight of everyone--especially us! Later, Andy would say he was "in amazement...I felt like, "What just happened?""
We were stunned by this, to say the least, and at the time I was convinced that we had just experienced our pinnacle moment of G-FEST XVII. Astoundingly, I would end up being wrong.

Mr. Akira Takarada and Andy

Monday, August 16, 2010

From the Toybox...

In a prior post I referred to a few wish list items we were on the hunt for at G-FEST...well, this is one of them. We are big Mechanikong guys, and were determined to add the robotic gorilla to the collection. I believe this was purchased from James Bond (yes, that's really his name) at Radioactive Toys. It is a 1991 Bandai, and it is almost impossible to look at him without hearing a little "bee-bee-bee-beep-beep" emanating from within!

Friday, August 13, 2010

CKC "Kaiju Campout" One Week Away

The Cuyahoga Kaiju Club will meet August 20th for an "End of Summer Bash and Kaiju Campout," which includes a movie marathon with the theme "Monsters From Around the World." Films being screened will include "Reptilicus," "Gorgo," "Yongarry, Monster from the Deep," and more. Please consider yourself invited to the mega-event of the summer!
For more info, visit the Cuyahoga Kaiju Club on Facebook or contact Don Kaiju at theozilla@netzero.net

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

G-FEST Gallery: Kaiju Creativity

This homemade, handcrafted Godzilla suit turned heads all weekend long

One of the favorites in the Model Room was this dynamic Mecha King Ghidorah

If Jim Henson had been Japanese, it might've been a very different world...

Saturday, August 7, 2010

G-FEST Gallery: The Dealer's Room

This was our first peek at the G-FEST XVII Dealers' Room

Renowned artist Bob Eggleton at the Kaiju Modeler booth

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Return to G-FEST XVII: The Panel Experience

Jay Johnson, Martin Arlt, Robert Dwyer, me, and Brett Homenick (l to r) discuss "Misunderstood Monsters" on Friday afternoon

Around 5:30 p.m. on Friday we headed over to Session Room 2 to make sure I was on time for my panel discussion. It was a diverting wait, because we were able to catch the second half of Stan Hyde's presentation on Japanese ghost folklore. Mr. Hyde is a gifted, humorous speaker, and it is no exaggeration to say that G-FEST would not be the same without him. Whether it is presenting a specialized topic or sharing tips in the Modeling Thread or rocking the house at the convention-closing Kaiju Confessions, Stan is The Man.
When his part was done, the other panelists and I moved up front and settled into our seats. I will admit to being excited to the point of nervousness--an unusual feeling for me, as I am a public speaker by trade--but this was a new context. My main concern was to have fun and not bring the panel down.
My fellow panelists and I (pictured above) were tasked with talking about "Misunderstood Monsters," defending certain Japanese monsters against unjust criticism and fan derision.
When I was introduced by Brett Homenick, I was rather surprised when he called Monsterland Ohio "one of the biggest up-and-coming blogs"--a bit of kind hyperbole on Brett's part, no doubt, but no less appreciated by yours truly.
Then the discussion began! Martin Arlt led off with a cogent and persuasive defense of Minya and "Son of Godzilla." Robert Dwyer sang the praises of Mothra. I had planned to bolster the reputation of King Seesar, but Robert had won the audience over with a remark about the creature looking like an "overgrown poodle," so I didn't even go there. Perhaps my most convincing remarks were made about Gabara, Minya's tormentor in "Godzilla's Revenge," whose appearance mirrors the intimidating yet ridiculous qualities shared by most bullies.
Overall, I would give myself a "C" for my first ever G-FEST panel. I'm glad I did it and had a lot of fun. What will be most memorable for me will be the young people who attended the panel. In my opinion, they stole the show. Their evident love for Japanese monsters and their mastery of kaiju knowledge was encouraging to me. It was proof that Godzilla and the genre over which he presides continues to create fans and bring people together.

The illustrious G-pardy trophy

After the panel concluded, it was off to the Main Hall for Junior G-pardy. For the uninitiated, G-pardy is Godzilla-themed Jeopardy, just like you see on TV, with J.D. Lees filling in for Alex Trebek. The junior (14 and under) participants dazzled with their kaiju competence, and the contest was up for grabs until the final answer, further pleasing the audience.

Robert Scott Field and J.D. Lees look on as Akira Takarada addresses the crowd

Soon after, it was time for the introduction of Mr. Akira Takarada. It was mind-bending to see this iconic actor in person, and he instantly commanded the attention of the room with gracious magnetism. It immediately became apparent that he was going to be a guest of special distinction. In word and action, Mr. Takarada was a consummate professional, yet it seemed as if he was genuinely moved by the reception he received here. After entrancing the audience with a number of compelling comments, mediated through Robert Scott Field, Mr. Takarada surprised everyone by asking for a group photo, coming down from the stage to pose with us fans. It was a heartfelt gesture that set the tone for his visit, creating an ebullient mood among FEST-goers.
It was striking, then, to observe Mr. Takarada at work that night in "Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster" at the Pickwick Theater. Enjoying his charismatic performance as the burglar with a heart of gold was a fitting end to another truly amazing day at G-FEST.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Cuyahoga Kaiju Club on Facebook

If you are part of the time-sucking vortex that is Facebook, then you are cordially invited to look up the Cuyahoga Kaiju Club the next time you log on! Join in the discussion and see what we are up to lately. Just no Farmville requests, please. We're begging you.

The next big event is a true CKC blowout, the "End Of Summer Bash and Kaiju Campout," Friday August 20th. Among other activities, such as a cookout, swimming, and telling "kaiju tails" around the campfire, a movie marathon is being planned with the theme, "Monsters Around the World," featuring screenings of "Reptilicus," "Gorgo," "Yongarry," and probably more. If you would like to be part of this family-friendly, all-ages-welcome monsterfest, then seriously, look us up on Facebook or contact Don Kaiju at theozilla@netzero.net

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

From the Toybox...

Straight from the Dealer's Room of G-FEST XVII, it's Pigmon, the lovable, self-sacrificing alien who has appeared across the Ultra series in various incarnations. This figure is part of a miniature Bullmark reissue series that is really cool and inexpensive for fans of the Bullmark style. Here Pigmon is paired with Anguirus, with a mini-measuring cup as a stand-in for Tokyo's Shibuya district!