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Recently I decided to take extensive photographs of a typical Toys R Us store mainly because late last year, just before Christmas, Toys R Us had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This month Toys R Us is closing a large number of its stores throughout the United States. Nearly three years ago I did an extensive post covering the two-month period that the Kmart in Greenbelt, Maryland conducted its going out of business sale. This time I decided to take a photo of a Toys R Us store that is NOT among the stores that are slated for closure because I wanted to provide sort of a time capsule as to what it was like to visit a Toys R Us store on a typical day when it was in normal operations.

The biggest irony about the upcoming store closings is that this year is Toys R Us’ 70th anniversary. When I looked up Toys R Us’ Wikipedia page I learned one interesting fact—that chain started its first store in the Adams-Morgan section of Washington, DC. That store, which was then-called Children’s Supermart, was operating in a space that is now occupied by the iconic nightclub Madam’s Organ Blues Bar. A few years later the first store with the Toys R Us name was opened in Rockville, Maryland. Toys R Us went from being a local business to a national (then international) store chain when it was sold to Interstate Department Stores, Inc. in 1966.

In a way it’s kind of sad that this is happening to Toys R Us because I grew up watching those commercials on television that featured someone dressed in a Geoffrey Giraffe costume while the ad jingle went “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Toys R Us kid/There’s a million of toys at Toys R Us that I can play with.”

There was only one Toys R Us store in the town that I grew up in (Glen Burnie, Maryland). Sometimes my mother would buy toys from that store but she also purchased toys from Montgomery Wards and Sears as well. I still have memories of when I used to go to the one in the Glen Burnie Mall and it had a sign that said that children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Sometimes I would get permission from my mom to go to either the Record Bar (which sold vinyl records, 8-track tapes, and cassette tapes) or the video arcade (both of which have long since gone out of business) while she and my grandmother went inside of some clothing store. I was somewhere between 12-15 when I did this. (I know that for a fact because I pretty much lost interest in doing this once I reached 16.) I always made an effort to go past the Toys R Us entrance in the mall where I would enter that store without being accompanied by an adult just so I would flout that rule. None of the store employees ever did anything to kick me out for being an unaccompanied minor under 16 but it still filled my juvenile ego to know that I flouted a store rule. I never stayed too long inside Toys R Us because most of the toys were geared towards younger kids and I had pretty much outgrown any interest I had in things like Barbie dolls or Play-Doh. I only went inside because a sign said I couldn’t do it and it was an easy way to rebel against authority without getting into any kind of serious trouble. (LOL!)

Ironically that Glen Burnie Toys R Us is still going strong and it’s among the stores that is being saved from closure for now. The same can’t be said for the rest of the mall and, in fact, that mall had finally closed down for good last year.

When I moved closer to the Washington, DC area as an adult, I was lucky enough to be in an area where there were three different Toys R Us stores all located just a short drive away from my home—in New Carrollton, Laurel, and Langley Park. I used to periodically shop at Toys R Us mainly to purchase presents for my then-husband’s nieces and nephews or to buy baby shower gifts for various friends, relatives, and coworkers. There was a time when my church had a Toys for Tots-like program around the winter holiday season where we purchased toys for the children at this non-profit community center in Washington, DC that strived to provide programs for inner city kids from low-income families that would be an alternative to gangs and I used to shop at Toys R Us for that reason as well.

But then Toys R Us encountered its first problem when the dotcom boom happened and it was very slow in getting an online presence.  Amazon, which sold only books at the time, wanted to start selling toys so Toys R Us entered into a ten-year contract with Amazon to allow that online site to be its exclusive online supplier. It might have sounded like a good idea at the time but, in retrospect, that deal was like having Coca-Cola decide to let Pepsi-Cola handle all of its marketing and distribution of Coke products. Amazon soon allowed other third-party retailers to sell toys on its site, which resulted in a lawsuit.

One-by-one, over the next few years, the Toys R Us stores that were located closer to my home started to close. The one in New Carrollton was located in a building with a flat roof. A major blizzard hit the area where two feet of snow accumulated. The flat roof of the New Carrollton Toys R Us had accumulated so much snow that it literally caved in. I still remember seeing local news reports about that roof collapse along with pictures of stuffed animals floating on top of huge puddles that were created by melting snow. The chain decided to permanently close that store rather than rebuild. The building was razed then rebuilt and a CVS Pharmacy now sits in that location.

As for the one in Laurel I remember that the chain decided to do a remodel of that store while remaining open for business during the remodeling. Once that job was done that store looked really nice with a fresh coat of paint and bright lights. A year or two later the chain decided to close the Laurel store, which had me rolling my eyes since that chain had spent time and money remodeling that store only close it soon afterwards.

At that point the one in Langley Park was the closest Toys R Us store to my home. Compared to the Laurel store or even the New Carrollton store, that Langley Park store was a major hot mess. The floors had scruff marks everywhere and the shelves were totally messy and disorganized. It was almost like no one cared about having that store looked its best so it would encourage customers to return. I don’t know if the clientele had anything to do with the store deciding not to do much to keep up appearances or not. (Many immigrants, mainly from Central America and the Caribbean, started to settle in Langley Park starting in the 1980’s.)

Early one morning the bodies of two men were found in the parking lot of the Langley Park Toys R Us. Each of the men have had their their throats slashed. A third man was also knifed and survived. Naturally this story of three immigrant men being attacked in a Toys R Us parking lot was extensively covered by the local news media. Police found out that these slayings were the result of a drug deal gone bad and a suspect was arrested. That Toys R Us store closed soon after that incident.

As a result of those closures, these days if I want to shop at a Toys R Us, I have to drive at least a half-an-hour in any direction in order to get to a store. As a result, my shopping at Toys R Us has become very rare. These days if I need to buy a toy for whatever reason, I’m more likely to go to the Target store that’s located only three miles from my home and it has a pretty decent toy selection.

At this point there are only two Toys R Us left in my county and they require at least (depending on the traffic) a half-an-hour commute. One is a regular Toys R Us store in Clinton and the other is a Toys R Us outlet store at National Harbor. The Clinton store is the one that is among the stores that Toys R Us plan to close soon. Once that happens, my county will only have the outlet store left and no more regular Toys R Us stores.

At one point Toys R Us had opened a giant flagship store at Times Square in New York City. I went there many times whenever my then-husband and I visited his father and step-mother. I used to be awed by the four floors that not only included toys but I remembered there was a giant life-sized version of Barbie’s dreamhouse that you could walk through while browsing the selection of Barbie dolls that were displayed on shelves inside of that house, an animatronic t-rex robot, a giant candy section, and large 3D displays that were built from LEGOs.  In addition there was this giant indoor ferris wheel that was as tall as the store itself so one could see all four floors of the store while going on that ride. I never went on that ride myself because I still have memories the one and only time I went on a ferris wheel when I was seven years old and it literally made me feeling so dizzy that I never cared to repeat that experience. On top of it, the lines to that ferris wheel were usually long and I wasn’t in the mood to wait in a long line to get on a ride. I last went to New York City in 2011 (just a few months before my hip surgery and my husband’s subsequent sudden walkout) and I walked past that store while seeing the ferris wheel through the glass windows from the outside. I’ve heard that this store is now closed, which is too bad. Here’s a video tour of the Times Square store I found on YouTube that was shot shortly before it closed.

As for the chain itself, it has been going through more troubles in recent years. This article said that Toys R Us has an e-commerce site that’s very clunky to use compared to Amazon while also mentioning that kids these days are more likely to play with computers, smartphones, and tablets than traditional toys like Barbie dolls and Lego. Another article said that Toys R Us’ prices are higher than what Walmart, Amazon, and Target charge for the same toy. There is another factor in Toys R Us’ decline and it has less to do with kids’ playtime, their parents’ shopping habits, or the cost of toys and more with the fact that in 2005 the management decided to sell the company in a leveraged buyout to the real estate investment trust Vornado Realty Trust and the private equity firms KKR and Bain Capital. This trio of companies have focused more on doing a complex financial deal that would leave them richer while drowning Toys R Us in debt. It’s the usual Wall Street financial shenanigans that focus more on extracting huge short-term profits for the very wealthy 1%  class and less on operating a viable profitable store chain in the long run.

In a way one could say that karma had finally struck Toys R Us. When that chain first started opening stores throughout the United States in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, a lot of the smaller toy stores that were locally owned were driven out of business because many of them couldn’t compete with the wide selection of toys or the low prices that Toys R Us provided. Now it’s Toys R Us’ turn to eventually get driven out of business through a combination of increased competition (from the likes of Amazon, Walmart, and Target) and being literally milked heavily for profits by a bunch of Wall Streeters.

Of course it’s the employees who are suffering the most due to increased workplace stress and losing their jobs.

Which led me to my recent visit to a Toys R Us store in Annapolis, Maryland. I wanted to pick a store that isn’t among the stores being closed and I ended up picking the one in Annapolis because I decided to attend the weekly Thursday night meeting of my support group for people who are separated or divorced. The meetings are held in Crofton and Annapolis is just a few miles away on Route 50 so it made sense for me to go to the Annapolis store then head back to Crofton for the meeting.

The next photo shows the outside of the store. Some of the stores in this chain are Toys R Us only while other stores are its Babies R Us subsidiary. (The latter store focuses on items for babies and toddlers such as furniture, formula, and diapers.) This location is a larger store that has both Toys R Us and Babies R Us under the same roof.

Here’s what I first saw when I entered the store.

The next photo shows the Fingerlings, robot toys which were THE Hot Toy of 2017. These critters were sold out everywhere just before Christmas and these toys were sold on eBay for several times the original $15 retail price. As of late January I saw a few of these toys on the store shelves at the original retail price.

There was a section devoted to toys that were based on recent movies, such as Coco and Batman vs. Superman.

The store was nearly empty when I visited it. I know that the fact that I visited it on a Thursday in late January was a major factor. But this particular Toys R Us is located across the street from Annapolis Mall and I noticed that the mall was filling up with cars when I was leaving the area yet Toys R Us was mostly empty.

The store had a few Toys R Us exclusive toys, such as this Funko Pop! vinyl set featuring Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

They had some retro video games based on Space Invaders and the old Sega Genesis console system on the shelves yet they kept the games for the newer console systems kept behind locked cases.

Curiously Toys R Us had a bunch of Sharper Image products that it was selling on its store shelves. (The Sharper Image is a separate store chain that specializes in upscale electronic products.) This store sold mainly robot dinosaurs.

Toys R Us had an entire display devoted to last year’s hot trend, Fidget Spinners. (Remember them? I certainly do.)

Toys R Us carried a few American Girl dolls but they were all of the 14-inch Wellie Wishers.

This next item was among some of the more unusual toys I found on sale. This one is a Bear Surprise, where each bear is a pregnant female who could carry anywhere between 3-5 cubs. (The person wouldn’t know for sure until after he/she purchases a Bear Surprise and take her home.)

The one thing I most remember about Toys R Us is its mascot, Geoffrey Giraffe. I remember when that store used to sell Geoffrey Giraffe stuffed animals where the giraffe wore a sweater with the Toys R Us logo. I didn’t see any stuffed Geoffrey Giraffes on sale. In fact, I didn’t see much of Geoffrey Giraffe anywhere in this store except for this graphic. It’s obvious that they’ve redesigned him but he looks incredibly lame compared with the Geoffrey Giraffe I knew when I was growing up. It was like someone decided to make Geoffrey into this bland forgettable character that would blend in with a corporate environment. I can’t imagine any child being enthusiastic about this Geoffrey Giraffe.

The Journey Girls are 18-inch dolls that are Toys R Us’ answer to the ever-popular American Girl doll. They cost around $40, which is cheaper than American Girl’s $110 dolls.

Curiously Toys R Us had a section devoted to jewelry from Claire’s (which is a separate retail chain that sells jewelry and other accessories).

Here’s another Toys R Us exclusive I found, a Zoomer robot unicorn.

Naturally Toys R Us had a line of Star Wars toys.

They had a whole shelf full of Sharper Image drones.

Here are some more toys I found at Toys R Us, which includes Wonder Woman, Gremlins, and even a stuffed Godzilla plush.

I remember when Teddy Ruxpin first came out back in the 1980s and I saw news stories about this teddy bear. I was amazed by the animatronic technology back then even though this product was aimed at young children and I didn’t have any young children of my own. Teddy Ruxpin has been re-released and he’s compatible with a smartphone app and Bluetooth.

Toys R Us had a section devoted to bikes, small cars that children could ride in, and rollerblades.

Here’s another shot of an empty store aisle.

Toys R Us had an arts and crafts section including a shelf dedicated to nothing but Crayola products.

A quarter of the store was devoted to Babies R Us, which had cribs, blankets, and other products geared towards infants and toddlers.

Here’s a shot of the hall in the Babies R Us section that has the restrooms.

Toys R Us had a couple of STEM-focused high tech toys that are designed to encourage making and coding but they were pretty small compared to what Target and Best Buy offer.

They had a bunch of shelves devoted to board games. Some were the games I knew from my childhood, such as Rock’Em Sock’Em Robots, while others were definitely ones I hadn’t heard of before.

There was an aisle devoted entirely to LEGO products.

This one was another interesting item where you create your own version of a Kinder Surprise Egg.

Toys R Us had toy vacuum cleaners and toy irons for those budding young housewives.

I remember when Zhu Zhu Pets were the big Hot Toy way back in 2009. Like Fingerlings, Zhu Zhu Pets were sold out in stores everywhere just before the holiday season but then they became plentiful once Christmas passed. I haven’t seen Zhu Zhu Pets on sale anywhere in my area in a few years so I was surprised when I found them at Toys R Us.

Toys R Us also had Barbie dolls on sale along with newer dolls, such as the DC Super Hero Girls dolls.

I saw one discount bin full of polar bear Christmas ornaments.

I found a few dolls and plush based on Disney’s Moana movie and Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. video game series.

I decided to make one purchase. The woman at the cash register offered me a free frequent rewards card. I accepted it even though I rarely shop at Toys R Us these days and I don’t know when I’ll make another trip to any Toys R Us store in my area. (Like I wrote earlier, most of those stores are located at least a 30-minute trip from my home.) I have to admit that the card is pretty colorful.

Here’s the one purchase I made. I bought a $15 Fingerlings monkey for the heck of it. I shot a video of the first time I played with this baby monkey, which I’ll write about in my next post.

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Santa Claus

I wasn’t able to get to Behnke’s Nurseries before Christmas so I decided to spend the day after checking out the post-holiday sales. There were still plenty of Christmas and Hanukkah decorations that were available for sale at discounted prices.

I made only one purchase. It was a cute Ginger Cottage that I purchased for 25% off.

Here are a few reasons why I prefer Ginger Cottages over Department 56: 1) They are smaller, which means they take up less space in my modest house. 2) They are more affordable for my budget than Department 56. 3) They are actually made in the USA while Department 56 cottages are made overseas in countries like China.

Santa Claus

My birthday is on December 15 and I usually like to do something fun. Last year I spent my birthday last slogging through Baltimore in very bitter cold temperature and frantically trying to contact someone in authority about a homeless man who was sleeping on the steps of the Baltimore Convention Center despite the fact that the Polar Vortex had come through the area plunging the temperature below 20 degrees.

I don’t know if I reached anyone and I was stymied by the fact that I don’t live in Baltimore so I didn’t know who to turn to. I spent the next couple of days doing Google searches to see if anyone had frozen to death on the steps of the Convention Center only to turn up empty. I guess the man survived that bitter cold night but I’ll never know for sure.

This year I decided to go to Tyson’s Corner Mall in Virginia because I had spent some fun birthdays there in previous years and I also wanted to avoid any more drama about homeless people in cold weather. December 15 fell on a Friday this year so I was looking forward to it.

Except it rained that day then the temperature plunged to below freezing so all that rain on the ground turned into ice. I still have memories of when I slipped on ice in Annapolis back in 2011, which resulted in my hip replacement being knocked out of position so I had to undergo hip revision surgery later that year in order to put it back into place. I just wasn’t willing to risk falling and having my hip replacement messed up.

So I decided to postpone that trip a couple of days. December 18 fell on a Monday, which is usually a relatively quiet night at that mall. Except it was just a few days before Christmas so there were more people shopping there on a Monday night than usual. But it still wasn’t bad. Here are the photos I shot that night.

I took the Metro to the mall, where I was greeted with this cool rainbow Christmas tree and some lovely twinkling lights when I arrived.

Some people were resting at one of the many fire pits that are set up outside this time of the year.

People could be found skating on a temporary ice skating rink, which is also usually set up this time of the year.

The first store I hit was American Girl Place. I was on a mission. Here’s the backstory: This year American Girl decided on an African American character for its Girl of the Year named Gabriela McBride. She was the first girl of color to be given such an honor since since 2005. She’s described as being an artist, which I find personally cool since I’m an artist myself. Earlier this year I was having camera problems so when I arrived at American Girl Place back in June, I was unable to shoot any photos while I was there. A few weeks later it was July and I decided to return to American Girl Place with my Canon DSLR in tow. I was able to shoot a few pictures until the battery ran out of juice. So I got pictures of the new contemporary doll Tenney Grant and her friend, Logan Everett, who’s known as the first boy doll that American Girl has ever released. I also got a picture of a case displaying what was the newest BeForever doll at the time—Melody Ellison, who’s supposed to represent the 1960s. But those were the only pictures I got before my camera battery died on me.

Ironically  I came close to arriving at American Girl Place without a camera this time around. I had left my Canon PowerShot camera in the car and I didn’t realize it until after I had gone on the Metro train at the Greenbelt station. I managed to dart out of the train before the doors closed and walked outside the station and back to the parking lot so I could retrieve my camera.

It was worth the effort to retrieve my camera and arrive at the mall a little bit later because, at long last, I was finally able to take pictures of the 2017 Girl of the Year, Gabriela McBride. On top of it, this doll was scheduled to retire after New Year’s Eve and be replaced by the 2018 Girl of the Year (which means that this doll will be retired by the time you read this). Here’s the standee where people can take selfies with Gabriela and a brick backdrop.

Here’s Gabriela herself. I think she’s a cute doll and I love her art accessories, especially the miniature replicas of a paint set and a sketchbook pad.

I was also able to take pictures of another doll on this trip. American Girl has been releasing a new line of contemporary characters who are growing up in today’s era. I took pictures of would-be country musician Tenney Grant and her male friend Everett Logan on the last trip. American Girl released another character who have nothing to do with Tenney or Everett and she has her own separate story. Her name is Z Yang, she is a Korean American, and she is passionate about photography and videography. Like Gabriela McBride, Z Yang also shares my interest. (To be fair, Tenney Grant shares my interest in playing the guitar except I prefer rock and folk music over country.) Z Yang’s miniature photography and video equipment are absolutely adorable (even if they are expensive).

They even have a human version of Z Yang’s meet outfit, which I personally find adorable. Sadly they are only available in children’s sizes.

Since my last visit to American Girl place back in July, American Girl have released a new BeForever historical doll. Her name is Nanea Mitchell and she has a white American father and a Hawaiian mother. She is described as growing up in the then-U.S. territory of Hawaii in 1941. Anyone who knows history will know what major event happened in Hawaii back in 1941.

I found Nanea to be gorgeous in person. I loved her meet outfit and her shell necklace.

They offer a variety of Hawaiian clothes for Nanea that are sold separately.

American Girl offers Nanea’s Family Market, which can be yours for only $250. (LOL!) I have to admit that I’m really impressed by the details on that furniture, including the tiny replicas of vintage World War II-era posters.

 

Here’s a photo of the 1960s BeForever character, Melody Ellison, wearing this gorgeous yellow outfit.

American Girl had this good sale on Melody’s Hairstyling Set, which was only priced at $5. That’s a pretty good deal compared to the high prices that this store usually charges. If I had a Melody doll, I definitely would’ve purchased it.

American Girl had a really cute new outfit for Julie Albright, who represents the 1970s. I remember people actually wore embroidered peasant blouses and blue jeans skirts back when I was a kid so her outfit definitely brought back memories for me.

Since another BeForever character, Rebecca Rubin (who represents the 1910s), is Jewish, there was a Hanukkah display featuring this doll.

The next two photos show a display of the Wellie Wishers dolls. They are pretty cute and I like their outfits.

American Girl had a display touting this one new service that they offer called Create Your Own. The idea is that if you don’t find a doll and/or an outfit that you want, you can always create a customized product. The idea of a customized doll isn’t new. The Japanese ball-jointed doll company Volks has long offered something called a Full Choice System which, from what I heard, can run into hundreds of dollars. The now-defunct Makies dolls had a similar service where you can get a 3D printed doll for far less. (I still miss that company. Sigh! If you’re curious, you can check out my posts about my one and only Makies doll, Victoria.)

So American Girl is now trying its hand at a similar customized service. There are two caveats about this new service: 1) You can only order the doll and/or outfit online since the store don’t offer any facilities to allow anyone to design something in-store and 2) Your customized doll and/or outfit will cost way more than an off-the-shelf product. According to this link, a Create Your Own doll costs $200 versus an off-the-shelf doll for $115.

I saw these American Girl Mega Construx kits featuring characters who were previous Girls of the Year, including Mia St. Clair, Kanani Akina, Isabelle Palmer, Lea Clark, and Saige Copeland.

 

Here’s a case full of the 9-inch mini doll versions of the historical 18-inch BeForever characters.

Here are a few more miscellaneous photos I took inside of American Girl place, including the  store’s Christmas tree.

I went to Build-A-Bear Workshop where I checked out these Star Wars plushes and some Christmas reindeers.

I checked out this temporary Christmas shop that will be in business until after New Year’s Day.

Strangely that store had some Day of the Dead-themed ornaments and decorations even though that holiday had long since passed.

This is the first time I’ve ever seen a Beatles Christmas ornament available for sale.

I went to The Disney Store, where I saw a lot of tie-ins to the new Disney/Pixar movie Coco (which I actually saw on Christmas Day) and the latest Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi (which I saw on the day after Christmas)

I went to the LEGO store where I saw some cool things on display.

I ate my belated birthday dinner at Wasabi, the Japanese sushi place that delivers its food on conveyor belts. I really love the food, which is why I keep on returning to that place. If my finances weren’t so tight, I would be eating there more often than once or twice a year.

I went to Lolli and Pops where I purchased some gummy bears made from champaign and took these pictures.

That store sold two teddy bears named—what else?—Lolli and Pops.

Here are a few miscellaneous photos I took during my time at that mall.

Santa Claus Baby New Year

I decided to check out the Baltimore chapter of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School at The Wind-Up Space when I decided to go to the Christmas shop at Valley View Farms in Cockeysville as well. When I used to have a pet hedgehog I would sometimes schedule buying more hedgehog food where I would go to the original pet store where I got Spike, buy his food, then drive south along I-83 into Baltimore where I would go to Dr. Sketchy’s. (The pet store in question was located about 3-5 miles away from Valley View Farms. That store has since gone out of business.)

So I had a similar idea regarding Valley View Farms. I left home a few hours early in order to leave myself with plenty of commuting time. I figured that I could leisurely walk through Valley View Farms then head on into Baltimore where I can check out Dr. Sketchy’s. But then I encountered a horrendous accident followed by extremely slow traffic on the Baltimore Beltway. What should have been an hour-long commute turned into a nearly two-hour commute. By the time I arrived at Valley View Farms I only had 45 minutes to browse the store before I had to leave in order to make the start of Dr. Sketchy’s on time. I was kind of peeved that my plans went awry but what else could I do? I decided to make the most of the limited time I had. I also managed to take a few pictures.

The next two pictures show mistletoe, which brings back memories of the years when I used to buy mistletoe for the house when I was married. I haven’t purchased any since my husband left me because it seems useless and silly to buy it since I live alone these days.

I only purchased one thing at Valley View Farms and it was a tub of Fisher’s Popcorn. I used to buy it whenever my then-husband and I went to Ocean City. I haven’t had too many chances to buy it because I haven’t gone anywhere in the Delmarva region since my husband left. I know I can buy it online through their website but I haven’t gotten around to doing it. So I literally leapt at the chance to buy it when I saw that Valley View Farms had it in stock. The popcorn tasted just as good as I remembered it.

I took so many pictures in this post that I’m going to do a separate post about Dr. Sketchy’s. (Link is definitely NSFW.)

Santa Claus

On that day the local weather forecast was not only calling for snow but the temperature had plummeted to below freezing. In the Baltimore-Washington area such forecasts usually result in people cramming into the grocery stores and buying everything in stock because they are so afraid of being somehow snowed in for months. (It turned out that the snowstorm didn’t begin until sometime after midnight on early Saturday morning.)

I needed some tissues but there was no way I was going to get into the crowded mess complete with long lines at the checkout counter just so I can purchase a couple boxes. Instead I went to CVS where I was able to buy those two boxes while waiting no more than five minutes in line. While I was there I saw the Christmas stuff they had on sale, which I took pictures of.

I also noticed a different line of Christmas plush on sale at CVS that I didn’t photograph on that day. However, when I returned to CVS just a couple of days before Christmas I saw that the prices of this plush were marked off 30% and each plush was on sale for just under $5. So I decided to buy it on impulse. Here is my newest Christmas decoration.

It’s the plush version of the famous Internet celebrity Grumpy Cat. I liked the fact that this cat is wearing a black Santa hat with the sarcastic words “HO HO NO.” Here’s a last shot of my new Grumpy Cat plush sitting pretty on my coffee table along with my other Christmas decorations.

Santa Claus

One early Thursday evening I decided to make a stop at Homestead Gardens on the way to attending my weekly support group meeting for people who are separated or divorced. They had their Christmas shop open and they decorated the grounds with all kinds of gorgeous lights. That store sold a variety of Christmas decorations along with plants like poinsettias. Here are the pictures I took.

Once again Homestead Gardens had its giant train layout where one can see toy trains travel past the various Department 56 ceramic buildings.

After I went to Homestead Gardens I went to Wegman’s where I purchased dinner to eat before I headed to my meeting. I also took some photos of interesting Christmas display, which I’ll write about in my next post.

Santa Claus

IKEA is such a great store to walk around in over the winter holidays. In addition to the furniture, cafe, and food marketplace, IKEA sells all kinds of traditional Swedish Christmas decorations and food. I took a photo of this interesting looking plush that looks like a smiling rainbow cloud.

Here are the rest of my photos that have that Swedish Christmas look.

Santa Claus

Since today is Christmas Day, I figured that it would be very appropriate to blog about The Doll and Teddy Bear Show that took place at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Gaithersburg, Maryland earlier this month.

I used to go to that show frequently. While the show, which is held about two or three times a year, has always had a huge emphasis on vintage dolls prior to 1960, I remember that the show had tables that were devoted to more recent dolls from my own childhood (such as Beautiful Crissy, Barbie, and Dawn) as well as newer dolls from recent years. I even remember seeing a table or two selling Asian ball jointed dolls.

I have lots of memories of going to those shows, starting with the couple of times I attended doll meet-ups at the Gaithersburg show that were organized through the Den of Angels forum where we all carried our Asian ball-jointed dolls around the show as we browsed the various vendor tables.

It was at one of these shows in September, 2005 where I found a vintage Velvet doll that was partially clad and had eye mold. I purchased her for only $10 then went to another table that sold vintage doll clothes and purchased Velvet’s original dress with a pair of shoes in her size for another $10. I managed to get rid of the eye mold and restored Velvet to her original glory. I took photos of what I did at the time. I later wrote a post about what I did back in 2010 and that post still remains among my more popular posts of all time.

At another show I found two vintage circa-1940s dolls that were totally disheveled and they were on sale for only $3 each. I purchased both of them and I turned one of them into a Little Red Riding Hood doll that I later sold on Etsy. (I’ve since misplaced the other doll but I’m hoping that she’ll eventually turn up once I get really serious of decluttering my home once and for all.) It was at that same show where I had unfortunate encounters with vendors whose hearts weren’t clearly into their profession of selling dolls.

The last time I went to a show was in 2011, when I purchased a couple of adorable outfits that were perfect for this doll that I had recently purchased. But then my hip problem became so acute that I had to have surgery followed by my husband leaving me abruptly just three months after my surgery. Then I spent the next few years dealing with the fallout from the hip surgery and divorce while adjusting to my new reality. (And that’s not to mention the crappy economy and the crazy politics that have gone on since an African American was elected to the White House for the first time followed by unlikely election of Donald Trump. But that’s a whole different series of blog posts that have nothing to do with the topic of this post.)

So it was 2017 and I found out online that another doll and teddy bear show was being held in Gaithersburg in early December. I hadn’t gone in six years so I was ready to visit again. I remember that the December show was usually the biggest one. The show’s organizers would rent more space than usual and it would be filled with lots of vendors and lots of dolls and teddy bears. I was looking forward to seeing some eye candy. My attitude was that I would purchase a new doll and/or doll clothes only if such items fit in with my tight budget but, otherwise, I was only there for window shopping with no anticipation of buying anything new for myself. I wasn’t disappointed because there were tons of eye candy and I took tons of photographs to prove it.

There were plenty of Christmas-related dolls and teddy bears for sale but I found one vendor table that had a Hanukkah menorah on display.

The most memorable booth was the one that sold Lenci dolls. The most notable thing about these dolls is that Dare Wright used her own Lenci doll in The Lonely Doll book series. I found them to be very lovely to see in person.

I really loved the expressive look on their faces.

Lenci even made a Madonna and Child doll.


Many of the outfits on these dolls are very exquisite.

The only thing about Lenci dolls is that the original company went out of business in 2002. As a result many of these dolls are collector items and they are definitely not cheap. Many of the ones I saw on sale cost thousands of dollars. The cheapest Lenci doll I found was a tiny doll that was less than one inch tall and that was on sale for a whopping $75.

The show had plenty of miniatures on sale that were made for dollhouses.

I even saw hand-painted clothespin dolls at that show.

I saw American Girl dolls on sale that were even cheaper than buying a new doll at the American Girl Place store.

I found two Barbie dolls that were made to resemble Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance from the famous “Job Switching” episode of the TV sitcom I Love Lucy. (That’s the one where Lucy and Ethel get jobs working in a chocolate factory only to have their stint be short-lived.)

One table had a variety of doll parts in a variety of sizes available for sale. It would be great for anyone who was looking for a part for an old doll.

Since the show was known as The Doll and Teddy Bear Show, it was natural that there were plenty of bears there, as well as other types of stuffed animals (such as rabbits, and dogs).

There were plenty of Santa Claus dolls available in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Some vendors had those reborn baby dolls which look very lifelike.

I found some odd things on sale at that show, such as this vintage children’s book called Beloved Belindy. It was written by Johnny Gruelle, who was the original creator of Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy. With the Aunt Jemima/Mammy-style illustration on the front cover, I can see why Beloved Belindy is more obscure today than Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy.

I saw a couple of Native American kachina dolls on sale at one table.

I vaguely remembered when I was a very young child, there was a TV show called Julia, which starred Diahann Carroll. That show is remembered today as the first TV show to depict an African American woman in a non-stereotypical role. (The main character worked as a nurse.) I remember some kids in my elementary school had Julia lunch boxes but I never realized that a Barbie-sized doll was also released until I went to that show.

I saw a couple of other dolls based on the main characters in the TV shows The Flying Nun and I Dream of Jeannie.

I saw this one vintage Mickey Mouse doll.

There were plenty of vintage Barbie dolls but the ones that still had their original boxes were expensive.

I saw some vintage dolls that were based on Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

I saw a set of vintage Dionne Quintuplets baby dolls. I have to admit that they are adorable to behold as long as you’re willing to overlook the sad real-life story of what happened to those girls behind the dolls.

I found these bottles of dollhouse-sized perfume and cologne to be totally cute.

I found this sign announcing that a family-owned business will close down in a few months after being in business for 72 years.

Most of the dolls and stuffed animals on sale were very expensive. I found one vendor table that sold something called Bling Dolls, which measure around six inches tall.

They cost $6 each but if you bought two or more, they would cost only $5 each. I might have considered buying two if it weren’t for the fact that all of the dolls had the same hairstyle, hair color, eye color, and skin color. That one doll type was cute but I wasn’t into buying the same doll with different outfits.

I basically bought only one Bling Doll. It was an impulse buy but she costs $6 and I found her to be quite cute.

There’s a keychain attached to her head, which means that she can either be attached to a few keys or clipped to a backpack.

Here’s a closeup of her face.

I took those last three pictures while I was eating lunch that I had purchased from the food stand at the show. A woman sat down near me and we started talking. Like me she had also attended previous doll shows and she mentioned that she felt it was smaller than she remembered.

As I was walking around the show I noticed that too. I remember the Christmas doll shows used to fill at least six large rooms. It would literally take me at least two or three hours to visit them all and I would be exhausted from visiting every single vendor table. This time I basically finished the entire show in less than 90 minutes. On top of it, I saw no Asian ball jointed dolls or even recent modern dolls from the 1970’s onwards. The vast majority of dolls on sale were made before 1960. The older dolls looked nice but they were very expensive. (It was common to see such dolls being on sale for over $100.) I still remember the day when I bought a wrecked Velvet doll for under $20 and I rehabilitated her. Or the times when I found some cool fabric that would be perfect for a doll outfit or a really neat doll clothes pattern that I wanted to try or a really interesting doll book that I decided that I wanted to read.

I don’t know for sure why it had changed so much. Maybe it’s the rise of sites like eBay and Etsy where people prefer to sell online than to actually transport their wares to a doll and teddy bear show. Maybe it’s the rotten economy where too many people have finances so tight that purchasing an expensive doll would be considered a frivolous luxury that they literally can’t afford. Whatever the reason, this show didn’t really have the little surprises that used to amaze me so much and were so relatively affordable that I ended up making impulse buys. The only surprise that really came close was that $6 Bling Doll I purchased. She’s a cute find but I still remember the show’s better days in the past.

The only fringe benefit of going to a smaller show is that I still had time in the afternoon to check out a flea market that was also held on the grounds of the Montgomery County Fairgrounds but it was located on the other side from where The Doll and Teddy Bear Show was held. I ended the day by checking out a show that was held closer to my home and it was also where I ran into a lot of my friends. I’ll write about those two events in a separate post.

Like I wrote in my previous post, I decided to go to Baltimore on November 25 because I wanted to check out the Christkindlesmarkt at the Zion Lutheran Church. But I got stuck in horrible northbound traffic then I waited a long time for both the light rail and the Metro subway. By the time I arrived at the church I only had 45 minutes left until the event ended for the day. (They would continue it on the next day but that day was Sunday and I wasn’t able to make it at all due to commitments I had with my own church that took up most of the day.) I eventually made it to the church, where I saw this statue outside of the church that’s dedicated to all of the Baltimore City firefighters both past and future.

Outside of the church were these trees that produced wonderful red colored autumn leaves.

Despite finally making it to the event so late in day before closing, there were still plenty of things to see and do.

There were a lot of stuff I would’ve loved to buy but I couldn’t due to tight finances. I purchased two German-imported Santa Claus chocolates that were more patterned after the original bishop, Saint Nicholas, than after the fat jolly man who hangs around with elves and reindeer. I kept one for myself and I plan on giving the other one to my mother for Christmas.

I also purchased a pack of Haribo gummy candies that were all cherry flavored and they were even shaped like cherries.

I was bummed that I arrived at the Christkindlesmarkt event so late in the day. It was still daylight outside so I decided to just take the Charm City Circulator bus to the Inner Harbor where I checked out the Christmas Village in Baltimore and the Inner Harbor itself.

I went to my first Baltimore Comic-Con in quite a few years. I attended that event the first time in 2012 and the second time the following year. Then I didn’t go for another few years until recently. The main reason was financial. I ended up going to other events, such as Intervention Con, and with tight finances being the norm these days, I couldn’t afford to attend those events and Baltimore Comic-Con as well. Something had to give and Baltimore Comic-Con was the one that I ended up not attending.

But then a few things happened. First, my utilities company informed me that they had made a billing error in my favor for the last several months so, for the next few months I’m paying a lower bill than usual. Then I found out that Intervention Con wasn’t going to happen this year mainly because the organizers decided to focus on holding two specialized conventions instead—PotterVerse for Harry Potter fans and (Re)Generation Who for Doctor Who fans. While I like both Harry Potter and Doctor Who, I don’t like them enough to consider spending time and money at specialized conventions. I’m more into conventions that cover things like art in general or comic books in general instead of a very narrow field.

I’ll admit that I miss Intervention Con because that was my favorite convention due to the fact that it’s smaller and more intimate than—let’s say—Awesome Con or Otakon. Getting a good seat at a panel was no problem, I found it easier to meet people, and I didn’t have to do as much walking because of the small size so I didn’t become physically spent as much as when I used to go to Otakon. If you want to know why I loved going to Intervention Con so much, check out my blog posts and pictures from the cons I went to in 2013, 2014 (Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3), and 2016 (Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3).

As I was typing this, I remember that another annual event I usually loved going to at this time of the year, the Silver Spring Maker Faire, has also decided not to put on another event in 2017. I hope it’s not some kind of a sad trend where the organizers of these fun annual events have decided to cut back on holding their events because it would be really sad if that was the case. (If you want to know why I’m sad about what happened with the Silver Spring Maker Faire, check out the photos I took in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.)

Like I wrote a few paragraphs ago, I found out that I had a little bit of extra spending money so I decided to go to Baltimore Comic-Con for the first time in four years. What made it really sweet is that the famed 1980s rapper DMC (from the group Run-DMC) was going to be there and he was not only signing autographs for fans (who paid at least $20 for one of his comic books) but he was giving two panels—one on Saturday and one on Sunday.

Saturday was the only day I could go to Baltimore Comic-Con because of finances and the fact that I was serving as a substitute teacher in my church’s program that teaches local immigrants how to speak English the following day. But I managed to treasure every moment of my time there and I took a bunch of photos the moment I stepped outside of the Baltimore Convention Center and paid the $35 Saturday admission fee.

Baltimore Comic-Con

Baltimore Comic-Con

While I was waiting in line I witnessed this cute scene of a baby dressed in a Batman outfit (which isn’t apparent in the photo below because of the angle of the baby but I saw him wearing it in real life) looking at this man wearing his Spider-Man cosplay outfit.

Baltimore Comic-Con

Here’s the cover of the official Baltimore Comic-Con program book.

Baltimore Comic-Con

I even shot a short video when I first arrived soon after the convention opened at 10 a.m. that morning. Fortunately the ticket purchasing lines were shorter that morning, which wasn’t the case later in the day, so I was able to quickly purchase my ticket then go straight to the Dealers Room where I saw the convention employees actually clapping their hands at each guest who walked through the doors.

The employees only did that in the morning. When I returned to the Dealers Room at various times later in the day, the employees stopped clapping for everyone and simply looked at people’s paper bracelets (which served as our passes) before letting them in the room.

If Intervention Con is my favorite convention because it’s smaller and more intimate, then I have to say that Baltimore Comic-Con is my second favorite because the organizers are trying to strike a balance between focusing on comic books and having a few celebrities in attendance, but not as many of them as the gigantic San Diego Comic-Con. I’ve heard all sorts of stories as to how humongous and utterly exhausting it is to walk through that event and I’m pretty reluctant to even consider trying it. I had a hard enough time going to a three-day event like Otakon (which is why I’ve stopped attending in recent years) and I think San Diego Comic-Con would be even worse. I’m happy to say that finding a decent seat at a workshop or panel is still really easy at Baltimore Comic-Con. I never had to stand in any long lines in order to get to the panel of my choice (and I went on Saturday, which is usually the busiest and most crowded of the three days).

After I got my ticket I initially checked out the vendors room but I only stayed there briefly because the panel featuring DMC was scheduled to begin at noon. I found a few reminders that DMC was here at Baltimore Comic-Con this year.

DMC of Run-DMC Fame and Now Darryl Makes Comics

DMC of Run-DMC Fame and Now Darryl Makes Comics

I arrived at the panel early enough that I was able to get a front row seat. This panel was devoted to DMC’s comic book venture known as Darryl Makes Comics and it also had others who currently work on the comic book series including Greg Pak, Khoi Pham, Domo Stanton, and Amy Chu. DMC can be seen in the photos wearing the black Motörhead t-shirt.

DMC of Run-DMC Fame and Now Darryl Makes Comics

DMC of Run-DMC Fame and Now Darryl Makes Comics

DMC of Run-DMC Fame and Now Darryl Makes Comics

DMC of Run-DMC Fame and Now Darryl Makes Comics

DMC of Run-DMC Fame and Now Darryl Makes Comics

DMC of Run-DMC Fame and Now Darryl Makes Comics

DMC of Run-DMC Fame and Now Darryl Makes Comics

I learned that DMC has been into comics since childhood and this fascination even influenced his rapping days with Run-DMC. He said he started Darryl Makes Comics as a way of getting different voices into the comic book industry who tend to be overlooked by the larger companies—including not only people of different races but also people from different classes, older people, women, etc.

I was really enthusiastic by this panel and I found out that DMC was selling copies of his comic books with his signed autograph in the Dealers Room for $20. I wanted to buy it but, unfortunately I was tempted by a whole bunch of other stuff that was also on sale in that same room and I didn’t have unlimited funds. I took a bunch of photos of some of the stuff that was on sale.

There was a booth by a company called FigureThis who had this really neat idea where they will shoot full body photos of you with multiple cameras placed all around you then send those photos to a 3D printer where it will print a 3D figurine of your image.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

I still have photos posted in older blog posts of various 3D printers that I’ve shot at various events over the seven years that this blog has been in existence. I have older photos of really large 3D printers that cost at least $2,000. At Baltimore-Comic Con I saw these smaller portable printers by a company known as M3D that were available on sale for only $295.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

What’s more, these printers were small enough that a visitor can easily carry the printer home with him/her after purchasing it. If I had more money to spare, I definitely would’ve purchased one myself.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

I was very impressed with the 3D figurines this small 3D printer was capable of producing.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

There was this really cool looking computer from a company known as Chimera Computers, whose slogan is “They might have the flash, but we have the power!”

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

There were a whole bunch of other products besides comic books (yes, they had a lot of comic books available for sale) that were on sale ranging from t-shirts to drinking glasses to vintage Nintendo video games to realistic looking figurines to superhero stories written in chapter book form for children who are beginning readers. In short, there was a little something for everybody.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

The cosplayers were out in full force and I took a lot of pictures of them as well. I saw a lot of people dressed as Batman this year because the day I went to Baltimore Comic-Con also happened to be Batman Day, a day which many comic book shops in the U.S. hold Batman-themed events to observe the anniversary that Batman made his first ever appearance in Detective Comics #27 in 1939.

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

After wandering around the Dealer Room snapping pictures for a few hours, my legs were growing tired. I decided to check out the 2:45-3:45 p.m. (yes, that was the actual scheduled time) panel on “Baltimore Celebrates Batman Day!” (That panel was how I learned that there was actually such a thing as Batman Day.) I’ve been a Batman fan from way back starting with the time my parents gave me a Batman bank as a present and I still have those early childhood memories of putting loose coins in the slot located on Batman’s back. I grew up watching the reruns of the 1960’s TV series starring the recently deceased Adam West and reading whatever Batman comic books my mother happened to purchase during her weekly grocery shopping trip. (Sometimes she would buy Batman while other times she would buy comic books featuring Captain America, Superman, The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and The Incredible Hulk.) So I was eager to check out that panel.

The panel was moderated by Jimmy Palmiotti and it had people who had worked on either the Batman or Harley Quinn comic books including Amanda Conner, David Finch, Peter J. Tomasi, James Tynion IV, John Timms.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

The panel primarily focused on the Batman and Harley Quinn comic books that have come out in the last five years while also mentioning the feature films Batman had appeared in within the last ten years. I’ll admit that I was a bit lost. That was because I haven’t read a Batman comic book since Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel series back in the late 1980’s. (I remember finding Miller’s interpretation of Batman as a very dark vigilante to be an interesting take but the story left me feeling so cold that I never re-read it. It didn’t help that, years later, Frank Miller was openly accusing the Occupy Wall Street movement as being a bunch of louts, thieves and rapists. Never mind the fact that my visits to the Occupy sites in Baltimore and DC indicated otherwise. I ultimately donated The Dark Knight Returns to an upcoming used book sale after my husband left me. Ironically Frank Miller was Baltimore Comic-Con’s 2017 Guest of Honor and he made his only convention appearance the day before. I wasn’t that inclined to even check him out in person and I don’t regret opting to go on Saturday instead of Friday.)

I watched the Batman feature films of the 1980’s and 1990’s but I stopped watching them after that because they seemed to emulate Miller’s vision of a dark violent vigilante anti-hero and I grew tired of that. The only Batman movie I’ve watched in recent years was this year’s The LEGO Batman Movie, which was excellent because it expertly combined the campiness of the 1960’s TV series with the darker interpretations of recent years and it worked extremely well. In fact, I purchased it on DVD when it was released. Maybe DC Comics should just let LEGO have exclusive rights to making future Batman movies because LEGO knows how to tell an entertainingly memorable Batman story.

My legs were a bit sore so it was a relief to sit down even if what the panelists discussed about Batman went over my head, with the exception of when they were discussing The LEGO Batman Movie. Although I was so intrigued by hearing the description of the Harley Quinn comic book series that I’m going to see if my local public library have the graphic novel reprints on the shelves. The high point of that panel was when the panelists asked if anyone had attended any of the Batman Day celebrations at a local comic book store in addition to going to Baltimore Comic-Con and someone got up said he actually went to such an event before he arrived at the Baltimore Convention Center. He had snagged some free Batman and Harley Quinn masks, which he gave to the husband and wife team behind the Harley Quinn comic book.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

The panel ended but my legs were still sore and tired. I decided to stay in the same room for the next panel that was about the legendary comic book writer and artist Jack Kirby.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Panelist Mark Evanier talked about his personal friendship with Jack Kirby, which he wrote a book about called Kirby: King of Comics. Abram Books’ Charlie Kochman was also on hand as the two of them discussed the book and Evanier’s recollections about Kirby. I found it to be a very interesting talk and it seemed like Kirby was definitely an interesting and unforgettable person.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

After the panel ended at 5 p.m. I thought about making one more return trip to the Dealers Room but my legs were really hurting by then so I decided to just take the next light rail back to the North Linthicum station (where my car was parked) and head home.

I had thought about buying one of DMC’s comic books with his autograph for $20 but I found something else in the Dealers Room that I ended up buying instead and I couldn’t afford to buy both.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

It’s a plastic ocarina, which I purchased for $20, and it came with a free songbook that provided instructions on how to play the ocarina along with songs from the classic Nintendo video game The Legend of Zelda. I paid an extra $5 for a Star Wars ocarina songbook. I bought it from the STL Ocarina booth after hearing the person staffing it playing lovely music with that ocarina. I’ve been slowly trying to teach myself how to play it but I think it will be awhile before I can play songs on it that sound just as lovely as what I heard at that booth.

As for the Darrel Makes Comics comic book, I’ll go to the local public library to see if it has a copy of any of the issues on the shelves. I would like to read it at some point since I own a couple of old Run-DMC CDs and I’ve always been a fan of the group. This is one of those times when I regret having to deal with tight finances just so I can survive.

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