Category: Toys

With Further Ado #124: An Outside Interpretation of the Fans of Geek Culture

With Further Ado #124: An Outside Interpretation of the Fans of Geek Culture

Taking a page from one of my favorite columnists, Nicholas Kristof, this week I’m presenting the winner of the first annual Ithaca College Guest Columnist contest.  At the Ithaca College School of Business, I teach entrepreneurism, including classes on planning and managing trade shows – like comic conventions.  We also explore the many issues of this unique segment of entertainment business.  I invited the students to submit potential With Further Ado columns for Pop Culture Squad, and I was very impressed with their thoughts and writing.

It was hard to select just one, but my first annual guest columnist winner is IC student Anthony Hernandez.  Anthony has some smart insights that I’m eager to share with you all.  Congrats, Anthony!

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I love Star Wars and really enjoy watching the Marvel superhero movies, but that’s about it when it comes to diving into geek culture for me. I never went to any conventions or picked up a comic book out of my own will. I never had any ideas for new content, speculated on the future of any fictional universe, or spent more than $100 on merchandise. I have deep hesitations about immersing myself into the world of geek culture for many reasons and have quite often distanced myself from doing so. While I could list them all, I’ll just mention two and expand on them.

Just a small note, when I say “fans” I’m generally referring to anyone who identifies themselves as a hardcore geek or a related title.

Firstly, fans have been associated with a certain stigma of being extremely obsessive when it comes to their interests; It’s even perceived that they’ would blindly do or buy anything if it has any correlation with their interests.

I just recently watched the Star Wars episode on The Toys That Made Us (a documentary series on Netflix about various toys) that embraced and amplified that type of behavior. Kenner Products, a small toy company, deployed a two-phase plan of satisfying the Star Wars toy market when they decided they could not produce action figures in time for the holidays. The first phase was simply recycling their old products and slapping a Star Wars sticker on it. The second phase is what really stood out to me as unique and dumb from a business perspective. It should have failed.

The second phase consisted of making consumers purchase an empty box with the promise of sending action figures once they had been produced at a greater scale. Surprisingly, it worked. I mean really, how was this successful? How is it that a small toy company that hardly anyone had any confidence in could have pulled this off? It was all due to the consumers’ blind faith and hope that they would receive their Star Wars merchandise.

Now of course, Kenner Products intended no harm with their strategy, but it can be said that they were confident with it because they relied on the fact that the Star Wars label was enough for people to throw money at the company. It almost insinuates and makes the generalization that obsessive fans are mindless. When looking at it from this perspective, who’d want to be part of that community? At the time of purchase, consumers were really spending their money on a promise that their Luke and Leia action figures would come in eventually. All of this fosters up a sort of “we can do whatever we want, and these idiots will pay” attitude amongst producers even though (for obvious reasons) they may not show it.

Also with the action figures, a rocket firing Boba Fett figure was promised as a promotion that would arrive by mail. Many people actively sought out and eagerly awaited this figure. While present day Star Wars fans might not see the problem of wanting a limited Boba Fett figure, you have to keep in mind that Boba Fett’s character had not even made an appearance in the films yet! The only real glimpse that fans got of Boba Fett was during his first appearance in the dreaded Star Wars Holiday Special. By this logic, it seemed as if George Lucas didn’t even have to put in much effort to get the fandom hooked on a character. Boba Fett virtually did not exist yet in live action form, yet his was the most sought out action figure all because he looked cool, and he was going to fire a rocket.

Much to the disappointment of fans, when their Boba Fett eventually arrived, he was not fitted with the rocket-firing mechanism due to potential choking hazards. This is when serious desires for a rocket-firing Boba Fett really began to come up. Collectors paid top dollar for anyone who could produce one (one Boba would sell for $20,000 today).

This sort of mindset is one of the reasons why I’d be hesitant to be associated with geek culture. To an outsider like me, fans seem absolutely mindless. Who’d pay $20,000 for a 4-inch plastic toy? The fans who praise content creators and place their complete confidence in them have been at the mercy of said producers emotionally and financially.

Secondly, on top of seeming to drool over anything with a label, fantagonism comes into play. The term “fantagonism” refers to any hostility that fans display towards content creators. In a previous course I took, I was able to explore fantagonism and how it evolved. Even before I knew the term existed, I was well aware of it and it was a main reason why I thought that fans seemed flat out crazy. It steered me away from ever considering myself a geek.

While the relationship between producers and fans certainly has the potential to be beneficial and friendly, it looks to have been mostly antagonistic ever since fans and fandom came into existence. Why is that? It’s no doubt that it’s the fans themselves who are at fault of stirring relations. They feel the absolute need to not only give their opinions on their favorite books, comics, or movies, but also their scathing criticisms. Some even go as far as giving death threats to creators just because they killed off a fan favorite or some wild speculation didn’t come true!

Actual petition to throw out the stories in Star Wars Episodes 7, 8, and 9

On a lesser scale, some fans of the Skywalker Saga have decided amongst themselves that the new Disney trilogy is “not canon”. Huh? They claim that anyone who doesn’t show a sliver of hate for the sequels or Disney isn’t a real fan. Just because they hated the new movies does not give them the ability to overstep their authority and declare what’s canon. They actively put themselves to war with producers and then get mad when they don’t get their way. Obsessive fans tend to be the loudest, which is probably why I find myself creating these stereotypes and applying them to all geeks.

Needless to say, fans are to blame for the hostile environment in geek culture. At first, it used to be through letters, however with the expansion of the internet and social media, we are beginning to see the fans take on producers directly, almost eliminating the blind following that producers once had. Geeks have never been so dangerously close to producers, and they’re definitely not afraid to show it.

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Anthony Hernandez is a sophomore studying Business Management at Ithaca College in New York. While he’s cautious about connecting with other fans, he loves fan objects possibly just as much as they do.

Brainiac On Banjo #083: Why Mickey Mouse Only Has Four Fingers

Brainiac On Banjo #083: Why Mickey Mouse Only Has Four Fingers

The Mayor and Corporation / Have declared such jubilation / ‘Cos the stork has brought / A son and daughter / For Mr. and Mrs. Mickey Mouse / Pluto’s giving a party / And before the fun begins / He’ll present a golden dollar / To the father of the twins — Mickey’s Son and Daughter, written by Tommie Conner and Eddie Lisbona, as recorded by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band 1967.

To no one’s surprise, last week The Disney Company “furloughed” 100,000 workers due to ramifications of the coronavirus plague, a move which is supposed to save The House of Mouse some $500,000,000 a month.

As horrific it is to at least 100,000 families, this is understandable. Disney makes movies, but most theaters are closed… for the moment. Disney operates theme parks, which also are closed… for the moment. Their many television operations are doing fine (well, ESPN not so much) because reasonable people are trapped at home.

I suspect their overall advertising revenue might be down some. However, I should note cable teevee revenue is less dependent upon advertising than it is on payments from cable operators, and streaming revenue is not particularly ad-dependent. Still, Uncle Scrooge doesn’t have quite as deep a money bin as he did last New Year’s Day.

You are most likely aware of many of the company’s jewels. To name but a few: the Disney movie and television empires, the Disney theme parks worldwide, ABC television, the Disney Channels (there are several), the Disney Plus streamer, Marvel Comics, Lucasfilm, The Simpsons, Pixar, Disney Radio, the Muppets, Narnia, the Disney Cruise Line, 80% of ESPN, half of A&E, half of Lifetime, 10% of Vice Media, and enough merchandising and licensing operations to warrant a seat at the United Nations Security Council. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #083: Why Mickey Mouse Only Has Four Fingers”

Pop Culture Squad was at Baltimore Comic-Con 2019 and it was a BLAST!

Pop Culture Squad was at Baltimore Comic-Con 2019 and it was a BLAST!

The weekend of October 18 – 20, 2019 was the twentieth anniversary celebration of Baltimore Comic-Con. It is consistently one of our favorite conventions of the year. That is a sentiment that is shared by visitors, invited guests, and exhibitors alike.

A consistent refrain you will hear is that it is a “comic book convention that is about comics”. The vendors and guests are heavily weighted toward the comics side of fandom. The show is sponsored by Cards, Comics and Collectibles in Reisterstown, Maryland, and there is a very family-like atmosphere to the event. It is not easy to pull off an event of this magnitude as an independent convention. Marc and Shelly Nathan, the showrunners, put their heart and soul into this weekend, as do all the people who work on planning, logistics, and making sure everyone has a blast.

This is the sixth time that I have attended this convention, and it never disappoints.

Location

The convention was held at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, MD. It is located across the street from Oriole Park at Camden Yards in the heart of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. There is a light rail station across from the Convention Center, and there is also a ton of parking garages in easy walking distance to the event.  The convention partners with Parking Panda to provide easy access to pre-paid parking from its website.

The convention floor was an easy escalator ride down from the main entrance, and the programming panel rooms were one flight up. Continue reading “Pop Culture Squad was at Baltimore Comic-Con 2019 and it was a BLAST!”

With Further Ado #059: Isaac Bidwell of Pickled Punks

With Further Ado #059: Isaac Bidwell of Pickled Punks

One of the coolest Finger Lakes entrepreneurs I’ve gotten to know is Isaac Bidwell.  Sometimes he refers to himself as an artist, but he’s really so much more. He’s created a company, Pickled Punks, that evokes a bygone era of Halloween and spookiness, all with a charm and panache that forces you to exclaim, “More, please!”

The official listing for Pickled Punks talks about how this innovative company creates artwork, plush toys, coloring books and apparel based on Cryptozoology, Sideshow, Spook Show and Halloween. They sell online, but also travel around the county doing various events from craft shows to horror festivals, committed to educating people (young and old alike) to the wonders, mysteries and folklore of the past. 

I caught up with this busy guy and had a lot of questions for him!  Continue reading “With Further Ado #059: Isaac Bidwell of Pickled Punks”

With Further Ado #058: Discoveries beyond Discovery

With Further Ado #058: Discoveries beyond Discovery

Back in the day, when we had no idea that the Star Trek mythology would become so expansive, there was always a hint of untold stories about the folks on the Enterprise before Uhura, Scotty and the gang.   We were briefly introduced to Captain Kirk’s predecessor, Captain Pike, and shown the tragic ending to his career.  Little fanboys watching the show via 70s reruns (like me) couldn’t help but wonder what adventures that guy had in the earlier part of his career.

Over the years, I read a few paperback books focusing on Captain Pike. Marvel published a series called Early Voyages (that didn’t really do it for me) and more recently John Byrne took a crack at it again at IDW.

With all that in mind, I was pleasantly surprised by IDW’s new series Star Trek: Discovery – Aftermath. This series spins out of the recent Star Trek Discovery mythology.  As is the case for many longtime fans, this new reboot seemed to have so many troublesome issues for me that I’ve kind of drifted away from it.  Oh, I’m not shaking my fists with fan rage. Like a party that isn’t that great, or meant for me, I found myself slinking out the back door when no one was looking.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #058: Discoveries beyond Discovery”

With Further Ado #033: Where Are All The Toys?

With Further Ado #033: Where Are All The Toys?

Captain Marvel saved the universe this [past] weekend.  She did it onscreen but her economic dominance has hushed the hatred (even if it’s just a brief respite). As you may know, this movie suffered a backlash by a bunch of Neanderthals, who took to the internet to kneecap the movie’s success.  These hateful fans didn’t like what Captain Marvel stood for…or maybe they just felt aggrieved by the currents and eddies swirling about in the never-ending flood of today’s geek culture.

Captain Marvel crushed it at the box office this weekend, posting $153 million from 4,310 theaters. Overseas, this movie raked in an incredible $302 million (including $89 million in China), which is the fifth-highest international opening weekend ever.

Does that mean it’s a great movie? Not necessarily, but everyone agrees that succeeding financially is better than the alternative. I thought it was a lot of fun.

But once we get beyond all that nonsense, I have another issue to bring up: Where are all the toys?

Why isn’t every young girl wearing a Captain Marvel shirt? Or maybe a better question is: Why aren’t all kids playing with Captain Marvel action figures and dolls?

I haven’t seen a crush of Captain Marvel merchandise on store shelves. That’s what outrages me.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #033: Where Are All The Toys?”