I totally wrote that Signal-Above-The-Noise post months ago and then totally fell off the face of the earth. Stopped really participating on social media all together, with the exception of stuff I needed to do for Panda Mony Toy Brands, and even then I let our social media manager handle 99% of that. I just need to do approvals and then check the analytics every week. It is, by far, my favorite way to interact with social media at the moment (also, if you’re enjoying anything posted on my Instagram lately thank Rene, she has been on it posting for herself, Arlo and me and doing a hell of a job).
But something has happened, something I did not expect – my website traffic is starting to grow. A lot. Not sure why, but if people are coming then I need to have more than an old post here for them to visit. I mean, it’s the neighborly thing to do. You come visit I should at least produce some new content. And what better way to start than by telling you about HOW AWESOME ALTER NATION IS DOING RIGHT NOW?!?!??!?!??!?!?
Known as the “Oscars” of the toy industry, the Toy of the Year (TOTY) Awards are presented annually to the top toys, games, and properties of the year. Administered by The Toy Association, the awards program supports the philanthropic work of The Toy Foundation, which delivers new toys to children in need.
You can help! Consumers are invited to participate and vote for their favorite toys HERE.
There has been SO MUCH going on with Alter Nation the last month.
Well, longer than that, but this last month has been especially busy.
First of all, the toys have actually landed on U.S. shores! This means that toys are actually shipping to stores where you can buy them! That said you can still order them to come directly to your home HERE!
Also the first webisode has been released! It features lots of cool people, including Rene and myself. You can see the first episode here:
And you can subscribe to the Alter Nation channel to see new episodes as they are released HERE! New episodes release every Wednesday.
I’ll do better about keeping this blog updated. As if this wasn’t enough, there’s all kinds of cool stuff happening right now.
I don’t think that this is any kind of real surprise to anyone who reads this blog or knows me, but it’s not something that I bring up that often for public consumption. Working in toys has really activated my geekery gene and since that is what I’ve been spending so much time on turning it into content for the internet seemed like the next natural choice. But as I’ve gotten back into my geekier pursuits I’ve noticed that I’m not feeling particularly connected to “geek” as a community – and I don’t know how I feel about that.
Why do we care?
In all likelihood you probably don’t, but it’s very possible that we are about to see a change to geek culture and since geek culture has been mainstreamed any changes that come are likely going to affect the entertainment industry in a massive way. I think my identity crisis is just a symptom of something bigger… maybe.
Being a geek is nothing new and we are somehow still in a geek culture golden age. If you were to tell me twenty-five years ago that some of the most popular things on YouTube, videos that were getting MILLIONS of views, were of people playing Dungeons and Dragons and other role playing games I’d laugh until I passed out. Put on top of that the fact that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is one of the most popular, profitable and unstoppable franchise factories making household names out of characters that no one knew of merely a decade ago? And the fact that Star Wars as a universe is still chugging along in mainstream media? And that I can find Iron Man action figures in just about every single armor that he has ever worn both on screen and in the comics? I tell you my little teenage heart would burst.
But it was not always this way.
I like to frame myself as a “proud geek,” but if I’m being honest that hasn’t always been true. Even in times as geek popular as now I tend to hold that part back from the spotlight. In the past I have justified this hiding because of my “brand.” On this blog and on social media I preferred to be an actor first, focus on career related things… and every once in a while toss in an obscure movie reference, mention that I need to go play D&D, or talk about Iron Man. But that was not very authentic in how much of my private identity can be tied back to what are considered geeky (sometimes VERY geeky) things.
Although some of the geeky things have gained a hip status, the fact of the matter is that all the cool popular people playing or involved in this stuff are a very small, niche part of the people who play and participate in the core of geekery. The core audience still carries the stigma that was turned into stereotypes used in TV and movies, especially in the late 70’s through the 90’s. Hell, that was my bread and butter for most of my young acting career.
I think that Simon Pegg has presented the best definition of the modern geek:
As he points out, this doesn’t just apply to things like superhero fans and Warhammer 40,000 players but sports fanatics and people who love cars too. But the stigma doesn’t follow the latter the way it does the former. Jocks and nerds may be satisfying the same itch deep down, but society in general views them in very different ways and always at odds.
I was at Rose City Comic Con this year. It’s the first con that I’ve been to since San Diego ComiCon back in either 2012 or 2014 (I can’t remember) and even longer than that since I went to a convention of any size that wasn’t related to the entertainment industry in some way shape or form. This year felt different than what I remember.
Some of my favorite childhood memories are of my dad and I going to comic cons all over Southern California (mostly the Shrine Shows in L.A.) looking for old Iron Man back issues, checking out old toys and collectables, and doing our best to bargain down a price with the dealers. At these shows I built a very impressive collection of Yoda memorabilia, got my first Iron Man action figure from the defunct Secret Wars line, and completed a volume 1 collection of Iron Man comics.
I would spend my days reading comics and coming up with adventures for all my favorite characters in my head. The reading material came in handy for auditions as well since I was merely a passengers for nearly a decade. I was proud to know as much about the Marvel Universe as I did. I knew Doctor Who lore and stories that would surprise adult fans. I knew Star Wars down to the Tonnika sisters. But I had very few people that I could share all this with.
Junior High School, the worst of all the “schools” in my opinion, was when I met my core group of friends, people I still know and love to this day. Jeff Garvin was my entry point to the group. He and I met doing Annie with a community theater group (another thing that is generally considered pretty geeky, but that’s another blog post altogether). We shared mutual interests, Star Wars and comic books in a general sense, and he introduced me to his Dungeons and Dragons group. Jeff, Dan and Scott became my best friends through school.
In addition to D&D we shared other common interests in movies and music. Star Wars and Indiana Jones were big favorites and we spent way too much playing the original X-Wing and TIE Fighter computer games. We tried some other RPGs and Dan, Scott and I all started playing Warhammer 40k. We had each other’s backs. We were our own little community and we could run in the circles of other geek communities without effort.
At Rose City Comic Con I was the outsider. Even though I’m an over 40-bearded-beer-gut-guy (a description that has come to be the standard archetype for the stereotypical geek) I saw the distrustful looks that came from the cosplayers and gamers and comic book fans. I imagine I must’ve looked like a dad who was missing his kid, especially since I was there by myself. There was a part of me that wanted to say, “Don’t worry I’m totally one of you.” But even writing that seems condescending and pointless, especially since geekdom and fandom are plagued by toxic jerks right now. I can’t find fault with the suspicious looks. If you didn’t know any better I could be one of those entitled, angry and anonymous man-children screaming about The Last Jedi. Toxic Fandom is the culmination of people who felt powerless finding a voice and, in most circumstances, trying to claim ownership on a fictional world that should be open to everyone. When that kind of “fandom” finds other people who feel the same we get things like what we saw with recent Star Wars stars leaving social media.
But that’s not what I want to see. Sure there will always be jerks, but in general the community is at its best when it is supportive of each other and when people who want to learn about and participate in the geekery are welcomed. Even though I got a lot of side-eye yesterday, the folks at the convention we all very polite and super excited about what they were doing there. That’s the part I like. That’s what I’d like to see more of.
To that point I’m going to start talking about my geekier pursuits here on the blog more. I may not feel like I’m directly linked into the community like I used to be, but I still D&D like a boss, build and paint 40k armies competently, and can still throw down in Supernaturalcontinuity conversations with the best of them. The old saying goes “be the change you’d like to see” and I’d like to help put some positivity back into the geeky stuff that I love.
Please join me! Tell me about the geeky stuff you love in the comments. Introduce me to that thing you like that maybe you’re self conscious about. Let’s build a better community without entitlement and toxicity.
We have been hard at work on all of our new stuff and while we’re are still working on things like sketches:
And things like Rene’s music parodies:
The thing that seems to be taking off is our series of LIVE Discussions. These are weekly (Sundays at 11am Pacific Time) and recorded live on our YouTube Channel. We have a topic of discussion (usually arts or creativity related) and I assemble a panel of friends, co-workers, and contemporaries to talk about it for at least 20 mins (although lately we’ve been going longer). Once a month we do a Feature Discussion with a bigger panel. Feature Discussions last for at least an hour and I do a follow-up video of just the highlights after the fact. Below is a playlist of all the discussions so far:
Please check these out, feel free to click on any of the advertising (wink).
Rene and I have some big plans for the future, especially as we continue building our own content. We can do a lot on our own, but we could use some additional financial support to help raise the bar on our activities. Everything we’ve done thus far has been done on a shoestring where we beg, borrow and steal what we need to get a project done. This has worked pretty well, like with The Chili and Bloody Mary:
But with a little bit more money we can do a lot more!
Please consider joining our Patreon page. We’ve set-up some good starter rewards and I’m very pleased to announce that I got some of our art proofs back this morning for the merch that we will be releasing (actual release date TBD, but it’s coming!!!).
If Patreon isn’t an option, please don’t be afraid to click on the advertising links you see here and on the channel. I try to make sure that all of the ads presented are appropriate for the page and they should be set-up so that the items shown are things you, as the reader/watcher, would be interested in.
Thank you all for your support! We have seen the page jump in activity since we started – and we’re doing very well for only being about 4 weeks into this new effort! We’re really looking forward to what’s next!
As some of you may recall, I wrote a blog about my excitement that New York Seltzer was coming back. You can find that HERE. Well, the folks over at Original New York Seltzer saw my post and were excited about my excitement! They generously sent me a care package that included a whole bunch of New York Seltzer. I did a unpacking video which you can see below:
Want your own New York Seltzer? Visit their website at DRINK NEW YORK SELTZER and let them know Curtis sent you. I don’t think you’ll get a discount or anything, but tell them any way.
Now kids are building the proto-version of that laser in their garage.
I present to you, on this fine Friday, a demonstration of a laser weapon that may not be powerful enough to fill a house with popcorn, is powerful enough to strike fear in the hearts of balloons everywhere.
The new Avengers: Age of Ultron trailers are pretty great! I can’t wait until May! And the stand out star so far has been the Hulk-Buster armor that Iron Man fights the Hulk in. Let’s check the tape:
Pretty cool, right? There’s something about two big things beating the crap out of each other that just says “blockbuster!” Is there anything else that can explain the success of the Bay-former movies? But I don’t want to get distracted.
The Hulkbuster first appeared in 1994 during a series of stories written by Len Kaminski and penciled by Kev Hopgood where Iron Man was trying to clean up old Stane factories that were polluting the environment or working on hazardous projects. Each issue had a different guest star including Venom (he was being positioned as a hero at the time), Deathlok and Smart Hulk (when the Hulk had the strength of the hulk, the mind of Bruce Banner and the attitude of the grey Hulk… ask a comic geek, they’ll tell you what that all mean. It was the 90’s). The technical first appearance of the Hulkbuster is in Iron Man 304, but it’s just the final page as a teaser for the next month.
Photo from ComicVine.com
All the actual Hulkbuster action is in Iron Man 305 “Green Politics.”
Photo from Marvel.Wikia.com
The original Hulkbuster was actual a series of add on bits for the armor that Iron Man used at the time called, believe it or not, the Modular Armor which switched out systems and weapons on a mission specific basis. A lot of different bits and bobs were created and used, but the Hulkbuster stands out and the only truly memorable one.
Since then there have been many versions of the Hulkbuster in both art and action figure form. I was going to post some of those images here but it’s actually worth seeing how much has been created so HERE’S A LINK TO A GOOGLE IMAGES SEARCH.
Film wise, we all thought we were getting a Hulkbuster in Iron Man 3, but instead we got “Igor”:
Photo from MarvelToyNews.com
It was a little disappointing.
Then we got this concept art from Age of Ultron:
Photo from Marvel.Wikia.com
And all Iron Man geek hearts were a-flutter!
Seeing the Hulkbuster in action is just whetting my appetite even more and you know I’ll be first in line when Avengers 2 comes out in May!
Well, first in line at a reasonable hour, I’m too old for midnight shows anymore.
Are you excited for Avengers: Age of Ultron? Hit the comments!
EDIT: This was originally written for yesterday, but it looks like it didn’t get posted, so I’ve made some adjustments and am posting today. Apologies to my friends who’s shorts aired yesterday that this blog wasn’t a portal for people to see your stuff. -C.A.
The shameless self-promotion train continues today as we have five spook-tacular shorts premiering today: Fun Size Horror web site
Since neither Rene or I have any shorts playing today (although they are absolutely worth checking out, it’s a good mix today) I thought it might be nice to give a little history as to how Rene and I got involved in this project in the first place.
This whole project is the brainchild of my friend Zeke Pinheiro. He’s a director/writer/editor and you’ve probably seen his and my names together before particularly if you remember a horror film that we were trying to get made called The Pom Pom Massacre. The one thing we ran into, time and time again, was a lack of ability to get the film funded. Even after a successful Kickstarter to help get the development funds we needed, we just couldn’t lock the financing down. This happened for a few projects in a row and it started to feel like we were always looking for money and never actually making anything.
Last November I got a call from Zeke while I was on set for a commercial. He said that he wanted to make 31 short films for Halloween and release one every day in October. They would all be self-financed so we wouldn’t need to lock down funding. He and I know too many talented people, if we could just find a few that wouldn’t mind helping us out we’d probably be able to do it. That being said, I was a bit flabbergasted. But, it sounded like a hell of a lot of fun and I’m always up for a challenge so I told him I was in. After that he reached out to Mali Elfman and Michael May, two other friends of ours in the industry. Together we started building a plan. That plan was to reach out to other filmmakers we know and see if they were into the idea of:
Creating a short film at 2 minutes or less. (This idea changed later.)
It would be self-produced and funded. (We had no money to offer anyone.)
The creator maintaining all rights and intellectual property.
They licensing us the right to air it through the end of 2014 on whatever distribution we can get, even if it’s just our own YouTube page, and have the option to participate in a bigger release if they choose.
Simple plans with a simple goal: get projects into production and get them seen by the public.
Thankfully a LOT of filmmakers we picking up what we were putting down and we were pleased to have more projects pitched than we were even able to use!
This is the first of what could be an annual event. So many great little shorts have come out of this and there is so much talent that Rene and I have had the pleasure of working with now. I look forward to how those relationships grow. I hope you’ve enjoyed the shorts this year. Check out the Facebook page and come to the public screening if you’re in L.A. on November 2nd.