This week I got together with a few of my closest friends over 40 and we rolled some serious D&D dice. It’s been decades since I actually played the Dungeons & Dragons, and this was after an entire year of promising to get the actual game together. Everyone rolled up 5th Edition characters and showed up the bar with Player’s Handbooks and dice, ready to throw down. Yes, we played at a bar. We had pub food, cheap draft beers, and it was glorious.
It was very surreal, actually sitting down and playing. I’ve been buying D&D manuals and modules for years, even though I’m not playing. And I’ve spent way more time on Twitch and YouTube watching other people play the game. I’ll admit, I was a little nervous at first, playing the dungeon master. My main source of anxiety was making sure I still had the mechanics of the game down properly. In the end I think I might stocked the game with softer monsters than necessary, but everyone had a great time. Now it’s just a matter of figuring out when we can all do it again!
My geek game is strong this week in Iceland! After returning to Reykjavik on our final day, I managed to drop in on Nexus Comics. I haven’t done any research, but I’m guessing that it’s probably the country’s best comic book shop.
Here’s a panorama I snapped as I entered the shop (click to expand):
There’s an impressive games section, along with several shelves (and barrels) of fantasy costumes & weapons– perfect for some legit cosplay adventures in the Icelandic countryside.
I think my favorite thing about traveling Iceland is how dramatically the landscape can change over just a few
miles kilometers. One moment you’re in a scenic storybook landscape and in the next you’re alone on an alien landscape. That’s the main reason that so many genre movies have been using the “land of fire and ice” as the backdrop for otherworldy tales. Driving across the countryside, I directed an entire sci-fi short film in my mind (one that I hope to shoot there someday).
This weekend while on a quick getaway to Astoria, Oregon, my wife asked what places we should visit. It took me less than half a second to shout out, “the Goonies Jail!!!”
Now serving as the Oregon Film Museum, the former jail and movie set, is a tribute to The Goonies and other films shot in the state.
By JL Watkins • December 1, 2015 • My Stuff
We had an incredibly fun day in the studio today, filming scenes for a Star Wars spoof that’ll be part of several customer related events. I wrote and directed the humorous, short film about how Darth Vader deals with the Imperial IT officers who accidentally let the Death Star plans get stolen by Rebel Alliance hackers.
When I was firming up plans for an upcoming business trip to Amsterdam, I did the two things that I always do when preparing for a trip. The first was to research if any of my favorite bands were on tour there, and I was THRILLED to see that Chvrches would fit nicely into my evening itinerary (ignoring the fact that I’ve already seen them twice in concert this year). Secondly, I looked for local comic book shops, which led me to Henk Comics, located in the Chinatown area, just as it bleeds into the infamous Red Light District. I found the store along a cobblestone street, illuminated by early holiday decorations and neon lights.
While geeking out with my family at Universal Studios in California (which is inferior to the Orlando park in every way), I wandered into the ridiculously massive Things From Another World comic shop. Being a resident of Portland, I’m already very familiar with the TFAW brand, so it was kinda fun to see one of the shops outside my local area.
Like I said, the store is huge. Did this used to be a Rainforest Cafe or something? (j/k) While the store does have a current releases wall, it definitely caters mostly to the touristy, gift shop crowd with tons of Legos, t-shirts and Funko type figures. I mean, it would definitely be weird to have a pull list there unless you worked somewhere on the Universal Studios property or have a season pass to cover the expensive parking lots.
Anyway, there was a lot to check out there and would probably be a great introduction their online store for folks wanting to similar items when they get back home.
Twin Peaks fans have had quite a bit to rejoice about lately, with the series being revived by Showtime after 20+ years. So it’s not only sad, but bittersweet to hear about the passing of Catherine Coulson, known to fans around the world as the “Log Lady”.
It breaks my heart, especially after knowing first-hand that she was such a sweet person. I went to college in Ashland, Oregon, and she worked nearby at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Hearing from some colleagues that I was a super-fan, she sent me an autographed photo and a hand drawing of her infamous log, writing, “My log knows, JL” How rad is that? Several months later, she graciously signed her official trading card for me. (I had been carrying it around with me for several weeks before I ran into her). I have other friends from back then with similar, fun stories of meeting her.
By JL Watkins • July 17, 2015 • Comics
Now that I’m back from my international and geeky travels (for a while), it’s time to shift focus on getting my office space into shape. For months I’ve been hoarding variant covers from Jeff Lemire and John Tyler Christopher. However, I decided that the walls would reach maximum radness with the Wicked + Divine covers from Jamie McKelvie and Matt Wilson.
I’m still going through the five million photos that I took at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, and here’s of a my first favorites. Starting with Wonder Woman looking for back issues.
Scattered, and occasionally hidden, all over the Gaslamp District during San Diego Comic-Con are numerous pop-up shops, branded lounges, and genre “experiences” for fans to visit. For the most part, you’ll wait in a long line to eventually get into a themed room to score some swag or get your photo taken with a movie prop (don’t forget all the #hashtags!). Sometimes they’re epic, like Flynn’s Arcade from Tron. Other times they’re interesting, but usually little disappointing.
This year my favorite had to be Skeletor’s Lair.
It’s been My nerd loot from StarFest ’89 to snap a pix of all the just I acquired at a convention, spread out on the hotel bed. Here’s my assortment of junk (much of it free swag) from this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. I snatched up some exclusive comics, including Avatar’s Mercury Heat #1 (Limited Edition). I added two more Superfight expansions to my already overcrowded deck (I passed on the Anime set). I grabbed a lot of killer items at Super 7’s ‘Skeletor’s Lair’, and a bunch of indie graphic novels that have been on my list.
And believe it or not, this all somehow fit into carry-on luggage. FTW!
The jet lag killed me.
I’ve been on a lot of international adventures, but never experienced the aftermath from a brutal, sixteen hour time difference. Whatever blogging or Flickr uploading I wanted to do upon my arrival home was near impossible when I inevitably slammed into that impenetrable wall of exhaustion.
So now I’m finally well rested, sharing a few photos and impressions, several weeks later.
Firstly, I almost went about this trip all wrong.
My best travel advice for going to a place like Tokyo is to go there and just take it all in – especially the food. Embrace the weirdness. Often I gone on trips like this, planning to do very specific things – like find certain geeky, collectibles – only to find that what I’ve been daydreaming is quite different from reality. Read More
By JL Watkins • June 25, 2015 • PDX
It’s weird being back in the Pacific Northwest. It’s not the first time I’ve have this notion when returning to Portland. But it’s so much more tangible now that I’m here to stay. Maybe it hasn’t quite sunk in yet.
Over the past ten years I’ve been a Portlander at heart, but with each passing year I realize less what that actually means. It appears being a hipster weirdo is still an option, if I want to go back down that path. The city hasn’t changed much, but it has been changed all around. Places I used to frequent have been replaced, or have altogether vanished. Streets now make weird turns in directions I’m never expecting.
I used to know how to navigate the city by all the grim landmarks of TV new stories I’ve covered. I’m relieved that the mental overlay of homicides and sex crimes is now less opaque when I travel throughout the town. In my younger days, I knew the city by its nightlife. These days, I’m getting to know it again through family friendly activities and discovering geeky stores as I explore my fine city once again.
And even though I’m no longer breakdance fighting for survival, or busting up vampire dens in Old Town, part of it still feels right. I’m finally back.
And yes, #@$% you, I moved here from California.
I love it when an unexpected assignment comes along, and everything falls into place like magic. While in Las Vegas this past weekend, I was tasked with writing and directing a short video. I had roughly thirty minutes to shoot everything, but I found myself needing far less.
I would expect nothing less when working with The Most Interesting Man in the World.
I have no idea where I began with this little project. One day I was trying on a Thor helmet, and just a Prime shipping days later I had several costumes that I just had to be photographed wearing. Why be one Avenger when you can be them all, right? Without telling anyone other than my studio assistant, I threw this little photo shoot together.
Here’s how my Avengers got assembled:
I grew out my beard for a few days until it seemed good enough for Thor, and then picked a quiet night in the studio to knock out the photos. (Studio setup photos below) Read More
By JL Watkins • February 19, 2015 • Comics
A long time ago in a comic shop not to far away, I snagged the first issue of Marvel’s new Star Wars comic book like just about everyone else in the known universe. There were over fifty variant covers, but there was no way I’m getting caught up in any of that. Though I did have a moment of weakness over the Hasbro action figure variant with Luke Skywalker on the cover. It was pretty rad, but I didn’t budge, stating that “it wasn’t really my thing.”
(Spoiler: It turns out to totally be my thing.)
I have a bad feeling about this.
Flash forward a month to the release of issue #2, and – sure enough – there’s a Han Solo action figure variant. Standing in front of the new release wall I lament, “So this is going to be a thing now?” There was a moment where I almost bought it. However, since I didn’t get the last one I figured it was too late. And it’s not like I’m in need of new things to hoard.
One week later and I’m staring at Darth Vader #1 and it’s glorious variant cover. If you guessed that I fucking snapped, then you would be correct. “How bad do I want these now?!” I remember yelling out loud, or at least in my head.
The force is strong with this one.
It turns out that the comic shop still had last week’s Hand Solo variant, and I was able to buy the Luke Skywalker issue off Amazon for only a few bucks. I’ve added the variants to my pull list, and it’ll be interesting to see how long i can keep up with them. I heard that they’re retailer incentives, so if they don’t order or sell a certain number of issues, they won’t get that cover version.
Regardless, I’m in the game now. Can’t wait to add Princess Leia #1 and Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star War #3! I’ll update as they arrive.
By JL Watkins • February 3, 2015 • Growing Up Geek
You never know when nostalgia is going to strike. For me, it happened on a random stroll one day through sleepy, downtown Springfield. We were just wandering down Main Street and stumbled across the most rad antiques store window display, crammed full of vintage Star Wars collectibles.
I had this brief, jarring moment where I felt like I had tripped over some invisible, metaphysical pathway from my past. Were these my toys? I had to reset my brain momentarily. These were toys that I had, just not these particular toys.
It’s been a while since I had been this close to original Star Wars toys in the wild. I found myself captivated, staring through the dirty pane of glass, as my mind raced back to imaginary sci-fi battles of my youth.
But I wasn’t the only one taken back…
“You used to play with these?” my daughter asked, completely fascinated by the toys in the display. She didn’t even realize that they seemed so much older and different than the modern figures she’s seen her whole life. To her, they were just really neat toys. “All of them” I replied, breaking my gaze to look at her.
“That’s pretty cool!” she said as we walked away. It certainly was.
By JL Watkins • January 20, 2015 • Gaming
It’s a story as old as time itself. A lone guardian spends a week dashing around amongst the wreckage and shattered remains of mankind. His entire week is spent playing grab-ass on Earth patrols and performing reckless Sparrow stunts on Mars. Friday morning his world comes crashing down around him when he learns that Xur is selling Icebreaker, and he probably should have been saving up for it. Granted, this is like a thousand years in the future so he wouldn’t have heard the old parable about the lazy squirrel who didn’t collect enough nuts for winter.
Wait. What am I talking about?
Oh yeah, buying Icebreaker.
I jump into the Destiny app and do a quick scan of my inventory, noting that I only have 13 – of the required 17 – coins needed to purchase the Icebreaker from Xur. Shouldn’t be too hard to get, right? The easiest way to earn coins is by running the weekly Nightfall strike, which I already completed, earning nine coins. That’s the hands-down easiest way, and I already exhausted it. It turned out that I was going to have to work for it. I mean really work for it, considering that I was taking the kids to Disneyland all weekend, leaving me with just a few hours accomplish this task. Read More