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Part 2 of our Comic-Con Friday. Venture Bros fever, Titmouse party and yet more yummy grub….

adultswimcentral.com's John J Galbo and Michelle wide eyed at the Titmouse party

adultswimcentral.com’s John J Galbo and Michelle wide eyed at the Titmouse party

It was nearly time for the Venture panel so we rested our tired feet and had a quick bite to eat at the food court which consisted mainly of expensive crisps and trail mix. It was apparent – after nearly choking at food prices – that we were unprepared for life at the Con. Tomorrow we would brink snacks and plenty of drinks to sustain ourselves and our wallets.  

Huge snaking queue for the Venture Bros panel

Huge snaking queue for the Venture Bros panel

We headed to the IGN theatre for the Venture panel, crossing through what felt like a huge aircraft hangar before we got to the entrance. The queue was massive and it’s a good job we got there an hour early otherwise we wouldn’t have got in. After an arduous wait, eventually we shuffled through and settled into our seats to watch the Venture team put on one hell of a show. Forgoing the traditional convention formula of one massive desk, they opted for a 70’s chat show theme entitled “Let’s All Smoking” where they smoked electronic cigarettes and drank that notorious granny diet grapefruit drink, ‘Fresca’. The crowd whooped as they brought on guests Mike Sinterniklaas, who plays Dean, and Paul Boocock (great name) who plays Jonas Venture Senior and we eagerly awaited the new clips. It’s been forever since the Season 4 finale in 2011. During that time, all the scheming that led to us being at Javits watching this panel had happened. We’d befriended Chris McCulloch (Jackson Publick) a year before at Pulp’s Hyde Park gig in London. Seeing him again on stage doing his Venture thing was surreal. The clips came, we got a sneak peek of the Halloween special and a hastily thrown together cut of what’s coming up in Season 5. The rough snippets of new Venture Brothers they showed us were not enough to give anything away but just enough to make us yelp a little, then it was time for the Q&A. Doc and Jackson answered questions with their typical flair, oozing sublime nerd coolness from every pore. It’s rare to find creators who are as entertaining as their shows and these guys are masters of giving the fans what they want (besides more episodes, more often that is… You can’t rush quality)

Pretty bad photo of the Venture panel

Pretty bad photo of the Venture panel

 For many fans in the room that was the end of it but not for us. A quick coffee and a sprint across to the backstage press area and we were in interview land, a series of temporary rooms separated by huge curtains at the back of the aircraft hangar waiting area we’d been waiting in earlier. We commandeered a table and waited patiently as Doc and Chris wandered around being interviewed by bloggers, journalists and other film crews. I seized this opportunity to Irish up everyone’s coffee with a bit of duty free from my hip flask belt buckle (never leave home without one).  John J was readying a small HD camera when Lou stepped in and offered to shoot the interview on our mega camera, this would give it that professional zing. Just before the shot, we got to have a little chat with Doc and Chris. I introduced myself to Doc Hammer for the first time in person. I don’t know if Chris had clued him into who we were or if he genuinely recognised me but he shook my hand and said “Hey you’re that British guy we did the Skype interview with that time”.  I can’t imagine that 1am Skype interviews with unknown British bloggers are a regular event at the Astro Base, but all the same I was working hard to suppress my inner fanboy at this acknowledgement.  

John J, Doc Hammer, Jackson Publick and the lovely folks from Adult Swim

John J, Doc Hammer, Jackson Publick and the lovely folks from Adult Swim

Before we knew it, it was interview time. John J nailed it, of course. It was great seeing him work and he bounced confidently from question to question. Interview over and Friday was fading fast. After making a proper mess in the press area we skulked out to catch the Titmouse panel. 

 The panel had already started by the time we got in, it was comprised of the movers and shakers of Titmouse New York and LA and they were showing clips from the huge catalogue of work they do from Motor City to Metalocalypse, Superjail! and more.  Jon Schnepp entered part way through, having been over at the Grimm panel. He had changed into a skeleton onesie, which looked very impressive on a man of his build. He proudly showed us a clip from Grimm Animated (and I got to see where the $40 I’d contributed to the Kickstarter had gone).  After the questions, I looked over to see that Chris had joined the room. Apparently he was going to the Titmouse party too (well he does have an office there). It turns out the party was being hosted in his girlfriend’s garage, double win! Next to Chris stood a nicely dressed older gentleman, “have you met Keith yet?” asks Chris. “Keith… Keith…” I think to myself… KEITH! As in KEITH… FUCKING… CROFFORD! We are not worthy! This guy’s name appears on the end of virtually every adult swim show I’ve ever loved, second only to Lazzo himself; he’s someone who gets stuff done. We mention our film, of course he can’t comment but he wishes us luck. That’s enough for me. 

As we leave the room, Chris beckons me to go for a smoke with him and Schnepp. Chris was accosted by a polite but persistent fan, talking about how he’s trying to get into the business. Chris goes to work, nodding politely, chatting away, aware that this guy is going nowhere fast. A full 15 minutes later we actually get outside and the guy’s going full-on Columbo on him “oh, there’s just one more thing…” Eventually he leaves, grinning all the way home no doubt, leaving us to have a cig together and chat. Chris asks about my shitty job and we talk about the fact I post tons of photos of food. He checks my Facebook, apparently.  

Titmouse party - Brooklyn

Titmouse party – Brooklyn

A little while later we catch up with Lou, Michelle and John J and head over to Brooklyn for the Titmouse party. Now when Chris said the party was in a garage I thought it’d be like a UK garage, you know, attached to a house. Nope, this was four bare walls and a massive shutter door guarded by a couple of bouncers. It was starting to get a bit chilly by now but the swell of people in the room and the free alcohol was enough to get us through. A DJ played a decent mix of rock and indie tunes for that room full of lucky creators, actors and animators although nobody danced. “Nobody dances in New York” Lou exclaimed. Well I do… but I decided not to on this occasion lest I look like a tit.

By 1pm we were cold and tipsy enough to leave, so we sloped off to get some grub.  We headed up the road, the cold really biting now, to a quaint little diner just like you see in the films. One look at the menu reminded me how little I’d actually eaten since breakfast, so whilst everyone else was quite modest in their food selection I went for a pizza burger which came with a humungous pickle… and a White Russian on the side. 

I am a glutton. I'm a sucker for greasy, delicious stuff with stuff on it...

I am a glutton. I’m a sucker for greasy, delicious stuff with stuff on it…

Full and a bit warmer we headed to the subway to catch the L train back to the East Village. Some clever GPS trickery got us home eventually but only after going the wrong way for a bit, I also couldn’t fight my bladder any longer and offloaded into a bush in the middle of the East Village much to the disappointment of Michelle. (insert comment about working with monkeys here – Michelle)

I’d flown backwards in time (geographically at least), been to Javits to pick up my press pass, found my digs and our first proper day at Comic-Con was about to begin. This is part 1 of what happened on Friday when team [ASTFW] got their Con on in true monkey pirate style.

Michelle has helped me to trim down the massive tome of a diary I’ve been writing since we got back and she’s provided her own unique commentary to my chimp’s eye view on what went down. There’s a lot to get through so let’s get going…

Dedicated Aqua Teen cosplayers outside Javits

Dedicated Aqua Teen cosplayers outside Javits

FRIDAY

I woke up bleary eyed on Friday morning. Jo was already up and typing away on her laptop. I’d arranged to meet Michelle at the local tube at around 11am with the hope of getting to Comic-Con by midday for our first full day of filming. I had a great video chat with Mrs C via Skype, telling her about the previous day and my travels. I had free internet and a snazzy phone so I got to show her round my room as well as see her lovely face. I was amazingly hungry and Jo recommended the Odessa Cafe, a local Polish cafe near the park. I craved a big hearty American breakfast. Thanks to Google maps and a bit of luck, that’s exactly what I got.

Heart stoppingly delicious breakfast... Seriously!

Heart stoppingly delicious breakfast… Seriously!

Memories of my honeymoon came flooding back with the scent of coffee, crispy bacon, eggs and syrup. I sat on a stool by the bar and ordered the blueberry pancakes with bacon and coffee. By this point I was practically drooling, a few minutes felt like hours but then I was presented with a huge stack of thick pancakes bursting with gorgeous purple fruit, thick crispy strips of salty bacon adorning it, like a cheeky meat mountain top. I slathered the sweet and salty tower in corn syrup until it glistened and shimmered under the fluorescent lights inside the cafe. I devoured it in minutes, polished off three cups of coffee and… (okay that’s enough Chimp vs Food – Michelle). 

I still had an hour before I had to meet Michelle so I took the chance to survey the local area and get some cigs. The East village is swamped with bars, cafes, small supermarkets and little Delis that double up as newsagents (think they call them bodegas, mate – Mich). I made it to the tube in about 20 minutes and suddenly realised I had a lot of waiting round to do. It started to rain, so I retreated to a Maccy D’s on the corner for a coffee. No sooner had I ordered and sat down than Michelle arrived, I saw her lugging her stuff up the steps of the subway, gave her a big hug and off we went back to Jo’s.

After a quick change we headed off in a cab to Comic-Con. Pirate swords from Cannes in our bags(that’s another story – Mich), chimp mask and pirate hat at the ready. After we sorted Michelle’s press pass we met Lou (who was already there, shooting some footage) by the giant Lego. Unlike Press Day, Friday Comic-Con was packed with wall to wall geekery and freakery of the highest calibre. We saw a cross dressing Wonder Woman and lady Ghostbuster, a thousand female Loki’s, some hot looking Poison Ivys and hundreds of random anime characters. This melting pot of spandex and cardboard was both impressive and fascinating to watch. After a brief look around we contacted Jon Schnepp, donned our personal microphones and headed out to the front of Javits for our first proper interview.

It's amazing how quickly carrying a sword everywhere becomes perfectly normal

It’s amazing how quickly carrying a sword everywhere becomes perfectly normal

The mountain of a man that is The Schnepp loomed over the ten-deep lines of con fans. After a quick handshake outside the main entrance and some brief introductions, I produced my hastily written and unrehearsed questions and just went for it. Now at this stage in our journey my interview technique wasn’t exactly perfect. I was a bit nervous and definitely needed work getting my words out. I think Jon could sense this and luckily he gave us plenty to go on, coming alive on camera and brimming with enthusiasm.  We discussed his latest project – “Grimm Animated” – by Zenoscope, Metalocalypse and his own metal credentials. He gave us a great story about his first days of working for Adult Swim and his various run-ins with Lazzo. It was a great experience and after a post interview chat and cigarette he invited us to a party for Titmouse staff later that evening in Brooklyn!

Post interview pic with Metalocalypse's Jon Schnepp

Post interview pic with Metalocalypse’s Jon Schnepp

Back inside and a little star struck we hit the floor once more. Lego didn’t stop at a mere giant Frodo and Gandalf at Comic-Con, they also had a vast Lego wall where you could fish pieces from a trough and make something on a giant white Lego board. We defaced it by building our [asftw] logo in black brick, much to the annoyance of some killjoy fanboys who happened to be passing, who seemed to think a naff-looking Jesus was the height of modern art and should be preserved for all time. This guy clearly didn’t understand the transient nature of Lego. We had at least left an awesome Ninja Turtle on there, and we got some decent shots of Michelle and myself. With a few hours to kill before the Venture Bros panel, we mooched around the main hall hunting for Adult Swim cosplayers. Whilst on this quest, we were accosted by some online Japanese TV show who roped us into their booth to interview us. They had a live stream set up on a big HD TV and during the interview there was a noticeable delay on the video and user comments.  It slowly dawned on me that this was essentially a trollathon. We got a verbal onslaught by the 12-year-old nerd crew sitting at home covered in Cheetos and normally I’d brush that type of thing off (what? The Cheetos?- M), but for some reason I let it get to me and I suddenly felt really self-conscious. Maybe it was the jetlag kicking in or the enormity of what we were doing but I had a mild pang of horror all of a sudden. I was determined not to let it spoil my day and after some positive talk from Lou and Michelle I was back to my ballsy, chimpy self….

I'm sure you'll agree, pretty impressive Ninja Turtle there

I’m sure you’ll agree, pretty impressive Ninja Turtle there

This coming week I’ll be posting the most exciting chapter of our story so far, our trip to New York last October where, amongst other things, we attended NY Comic-Con. As a teaser, here’s a bit of footage from our bat sh*t crazy trip across the pond:

To put this into context we thought it’d be a great idea for our potential pitch/ Kickstarter vid to get me stopped at the entrance to Comic-Con by a cop and have a bit of a tussle. On the third day of the Con we pretty much figured getting an actual cop to partake might be a tall order, until near the end of the day, we happened upon this guy in a Gotham City PD uniform. Perfect! (or so we thought)

After explaining to this guy and his friend what we were doing the man in blue agreed to help us and off to the entrance we went. Lou had lined up the shot and explained to us both what he wanted. I was to walk through the door, once I got to the security counter this ‘cop’ would stop me and we’d have a bit of an argument whilst he demanded I take my mask off. What actually happened (and what I wasn’t prepared for) was that the guy immediately launched at me and started wrestling me to the ground. My heart was pounding as I saw the pure fury in this guy’s face as he tugged at my shirt, countering every attempt I made to wriggle free. Time slowed down and I genuinely thought this guy was going to floor me. I tried desperately to ‘tap out’ of his vice like grip until he suddenly realised this wasn’t supposed to be real and laughing, let me go. Slightly shell-shocked, I took off the mask and the guy patted me down and shook my hand.

“You put up quite a fight there buddy but I would have got you in cuffs eventually” he said. Now I know cosplayers can sometimes take their role play quite seriously but I thought “this guy is dedicated”. 

Whilst all this was going on, Michelle was stood watching this spectacle with the guy’s friend and had been having quite the conversation. Here’s her side of what went down:

So I’m left talking to this way-tall Stevie Van Zandt type in a bandana and leather trousers who’s nursing a beer – an unusual sight at Comic-Con – not so much because geeks don’t drink (hey-ull no) – more coz beer’s about nine bucks a pop in the convention centre. We’re stood about twenty feet away from all the action, amidst the thronging ninja turtles and chicks dressed as the Tardis. This guy leans down and says in pure Italian American Jersey: “Err… I think you oughtta know… errr… my buddy over there… he’s a real cop. And… errr…” At this point, it’s kicking right off, about fifteen feet away from us. The Gotham cop is wrestling with Gritty and it’s No Quarter – a veritable maelstrom of limbs, boots, and black hair. The chimp mask looks like it’s screaming. Stevie Van Zandt rubs his chin and nods, like he sees this stuff all the time. “And errr… yeah… he’s been drinking since noon…” I’m watching with extra interest, now I know it’s ‘real’, which is soon confirmed. The first thing the breathless, shiny-eyed cop does when they all bundle back to us is flip out his NYPD badge – aye carumba. As for Gritters, when he took off that mask it was like he literally had tweety birds circling his head. 

As we were leaving we saw the cop having his photo taking with his hands around Darth Maul’s throat. I leaned over to him and said “He’s getting off light, innee?” Gotham cop chuckled and nodded in a way that signaled loud and clear – NEVER get on the wrong side of the law in Jersey…

Banana Magic

Banana magic the night before (the toaster has no part in it other than holding everything in place) I’ll explain it sometime… or maybe I won’t

After Tim and Eric we got a proper ache to get this film done. With just a couple of weeks notice we decided to take the plunge and head over the pond to New York to cover Comic-Con where we hoped to reach out to the adult swim talent who would be appearing there. This is the story of that trip and the important next step in getting this thing made.

THURSDAY

I awoke after a restless sleep, most of my was packing done and I had time for a last-minute panic whilst breakfasting before I was on my way. Mrs C got up with me and we spent our last couple of hours together watching Vintage TV which at that time of the morning must cater mainly for the elderly owing to the rampant blitz of 40’s and 50’s music. Bloody Vera Lynn, nothing like a weepy war classic to make you realise how much you’re going to miss someone. The emotion hit me like a wave as I got to the front door and fighting back tears (like a man!) I bade a sad farewell to Mrs C and headed out to the airport. Sadness gave way to giddiness as I neared Piccadilly train station. Before I knew it I was bounding up the escalators at Manchester airport and onto the blue lit travelators that reminded me of every overseas adventure I’ve had in the past decade.

20121011_084404

The lady on the drinks stand accidentally made the drinks glass look like it ha man legs

Online check in! What a saviour, after legitimately barging past the massive queue of travellers I went straight to baggage check leaving me with ample time to peruse the duty-free. Ah duty-free, the best luxury of a trip to the US. After posing for a comedy picture at the rum tasting booth and equipping myself with two litres of Jim Beam for an amazing 24 quid it was time to board. I don’t want to bore you with the details of the plane, you’ve all probably been on one right? Think of that except I’m sat next to you drinking all the free wine I could blag from the flight attendants. I arrived at.. What was the damn time?  Mid day I think, yes that makes sense as I got 5 hours back (always a little odd). It was when stepping off the plane and into the security check queue that I realised how pissed I actually was and that I really hadn’t a clue what I was even doing there. Reality hit me as they took my fingerprints and quizzed me about my visit. “On holiday?” I said. Well that was technically true but it was definitely more like work, as you’ll find out later.

wine

Wine, comics and more wine please….

Our director (Native New Yorker and fellow bearded guy) Lou had sent me an email to say he was going to pick me up at JFK airport and maybe get some shots as I arrived. Hmm, no sign of Lou. I went outside to a much warmer climate than grizzly ol’ Mancland and had a cig whilst contemplating my next move. “Maybe he’s late” I thought, quickly followed by “Where am I? What am I doing? Where’s the friggin ashtray and how much will it cost for a text on this silly roaming tariff??”…  the important stuff.

Well Lou turned up eventually, he thought I was on a BA flight and was at the wrong terminal.  After manly handshakes and another cigarette we headed to his swish car and we headed to the City. The plan was to battle through the jet lag and pick up our Comic-Con press badges before getting me to my hastily booked accommodation.
Having only met Lou once previously (at Tim and Eric), this car ride was a great opportunity to learn more about each other. Crossing into Manhattan I felt butterflies in my stomach and as we passed familiar looking New York landmarks and buildings Lou told me of his love of Graffiti  and pointed out some his favourite tags done by close friends and local graffiti legends. As we neared the almighty Javits Convention Centre, home of New York Comic-Con, we looked for a car park and we were excited to see the plethora of costumed geekery walking down the road towards us… and this was only Press Day.

javits

Javits Convention Centre. Let the geekery commence!

Now I’m a massive believer in luck, fluke and wild unlikely coincidence. This manifested itself immediately as it would throughout the rest of this crazy trip. “I wonder if John J Galbo (my buddy from adultswimcentral.com) is going to be here today?” I said to Lou as we got near to the Press Entrance. I took all of 5 seconds to take in the enormity of the building before my eyes focussed on a male with bright blonde hair right in front of us in the queue. It was John J! BOOM! We couldn’t have organised that meeting if we tried. Now I’ve known this guy for two years, spoke to him many times on podcasts but that didn’t mean the intro in person wouldn’t be a bit clunky, especially meeting like that. I needn’t have worried though, we bonded quickly over some Walgreens Bacon Jerky and like best buddies we headed onto the show floor, all of us eager to see what geeky treasures awaited us. 

We weren’t disappointed. Video games, comics, action figures and massive Lego were the order of the day as we walked through Javits. To be honest there’s too much to describe. Close your eyes and think of that film ‘Paul’. Yes, that one that wasn’t as good as Hot Fuzz or Shaun of The Dead. Well think of the scenes of them at the convention and you’ll get the picture.  OH! We saw the Adam West Bat mobile and the Delorean from ‘Back to the Future’ and for $40 you could have your picture taken with the vehicles and a ‘hot’ model. We politely declined.

Batmobile

Der na na na na na na na, der na na na na na na na Adam West!

lou lego

Lou and the Lord of the Rings Lego

lou and john j

Lou and John J check out the vintage gaming

Fate showed its hand again and we bumped into Jon Schnepp, director of Metalocalypse who I’d been frantically Facebooking only days before trying to line up an interview. He’s a big man and he was getting his swag on early carrying a massive bag of goodies so we set up a time for a Friday interview and got on our way. After a couple of hours of oohing and aahing round the myriad of weird and wonderful stands it was time to get me to my digs. The stress of the flight was taking hold and I was hungry and tired. To the East Village we went.

I arrived at the apartment just off Avenue C and 5th Street at around 6pm (about 11pm UK time). I climbed the grim looking staircase and was happy to be greeted by a lovely English lady, Jo who welcomed me in, got me a glass of water (I had a proper sweat on from dragging that suitcase up the stairs) and gave me the keys. After a brief chat I went back downstairs where Lou was still waiting. The great thing about doing this trip with a local was he knew where everything was. We walked and talked whilst looking for somewhere to eat. There’s a distinct air of crazy in every part of New York, in some areas it’s more concentrated than others and it was certainly more noticeable here in the East Village than the plush surroundings of midtown I’d been used to before. Hardcore tramps, the odd smackhead and one or two meth zombies can be initially daunting but on the whole it’s a beautiful area. We got proper pizza, my first taste of New York in five years and every bite was pure heaven.  We had a bit of a wander round the neighbourhood and dropped in on Clio who runs a trendy pudding shop called ‘Puddin’ (seriously, amazing pudding). This is the lady I’d be staying with next, one of Lou’s oldest and dearest buddies.  After an amble back to the car and feeling much calmer I said farewell to Lou and headed back up to the apartment where I had a great chat with Jo and got stuck in to my duty free. Jo had asked for some English treats from Tesco and I obliged. Twiglets, biscuits and hot sauce were the order of the day and I didn’t feel so much like a stranger in a strange land anymore.

Jos flat

Jo’s apartment was great and she had a superb music collection

The only thing worrying me at this point was Michelle, her accommodation had fallen through and although Jo had agreed she could stay with us, the last message we received from her was just before she got on the plane. I got hooked up to the internet and aimlessly watched a bit of American TV whilst I awaited word of what she was doing. By 10.30pm I knew her flight had landed yet still no message so I stayed up for as long as I could and by midnight I’d technically been up for 24 hours. It turns out her phone had taken ages to kick into the US networks and by the time it was working (2.30am) she’d given up any hope of getting to Jo’s and spent the night in the nearest Holiday Inn. Once I knew she was safe it was time for a heavy jet lagged snooze till Friday.