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RetroDaze Invades RetroCon 2016
By: Hoju Koolander
When you think of G.I. Joe or Captain Planet and The Planeteers, these were teams of extraordinary people from distant lands taking part in adventures they would never forget. Several contributors to Retro-Daze recently found themselves in a similar situation, transported to the strange world of Retro-Con 2016 for an amazing weekend by a benevolent leader known as Vaporman87. The resulting experience was unforgettable.
In case you didn't know, Vaporman87 is the creator of this refuge for nostalgic hearts and minds we call Retro-Daze.org. If you have ever found yourself transported back in time by a visit here, he's the one you have to thank for it. This retro community may be a part of your daily life, reading or even writing articles about your favorite childhood toys, cartoons and experiences, to share with people just like you who have never forgotten the wonder of the good old days. It's a rare space on the internet where "trolls" can't spoil your fun and friends are made easily.
Many of the regular contributors here on Retro-Daze were recruited years ago by Vaporman87, who sent us invitations to check out this new space and maybe share a few stories as we had on other nostalgia websites. Since then we have gotten to know each other by leaving comments on articles, participating in special events like the annual Halloween/Christmas specials and hanging around the forums until all hours of the night. We never thought that a meeting outside this digital world would be possible, but Vaporman87 had other plans.
Retro-Con is an annual event held in Pennsylvania where vendors sell vintage collectibles, retro-inspired crafts and more. It's filled with attendees ready to celebrate their favorite parts of pop culture from years gone by. Retro-Daze has been a sponsor for years, but our team had never made an appearance in person. As the date of the convention approached an unbelievable offer was posted in a new Retro-Daze forum thread, a call to unite the forces of Retro-Daze in person, all expenses paid. This was an open invitation, but only a few answered the call.
To some, the scenario sounded too good to be true. An open invitation like this could be the start of a horror movie scenario or the beginning of a Goonies style adventure story. But which would it be? Each of us had to look within ourselves and decide if we were we ready to take the risk and discover the truth about our "friends", who up to this point were just clever names on a computer screen. Soon curiosity and excitement overcame fear as the Retro-Daze away team roster was finalized, plane tickets booked and travel plans confirmed.
Retro Con 2016 took place on the weekend September 24th and 25th, with members of of the Retro-Daze crew arriving in Pennsylvania on Friday for some pre-convention fun. NLogan, Rick Ace Rhodes and thatdudeinthehoodie enjoyed bonding the night before over intensely competitive card games as The Empire Strikes Back played on a TV screen in the background. Unfortunately massreality was not able to join the fun due to a work commitment (missed you, buddy).
In the morning the rest of the crew showed up as vkimo and yours truly arrived in hotel lobby to find the friendly looking group assembled in their custom Retro-Daze jerseys supplied by Vaporman87. After a few handshakes and learning each others real names (oooh, exciting), we all piled into our vehicles and hit the road to make some new memories at the main event, Retro Con.
Walking through the entrance of the main hall to pick up our passes and free Ecto-Cooler juice boxes, the feeling of being among "our people" was palpable. This wasn't some overblown convention like San Diego Comicon, with movie studios hyping the latest Hollywood blockbuster. Instead it was a land of thousand nostalgia inducing items as tables stacked with toys, video games and trinkets of the 70's, 80's and 90's danced before our eyes.
I can't stress how comfortable the whole vibe was, most of which came from the fact that we knew that the people we were with actually wanted to hear the stories that these precious playthings brought out in us. Family and friends can only hear so many stories about how awesome the original Lion-O figure with the light-up eyes was before their own glaze over. But here, we were free to gush over these topics endlessly and share the same buzz in real time that only a mint on card Panthro can inspire.
Speaking of Thundercats, there were a pair of cosplayers teamed-up as both forms of Mumm-Ra who really drew a lot of attention. That's not to say that the couple dressed as the recently deceased Adam and Barbara from Beetlejuice didn't rock our world as well. I even had an up close and personal run-in with Batman, who has only one response to the question, "Who are you?" Answer: "I'm Batman!" It should be mentioned that our own NLogan was decked out in a killer Indiana Jones outfit and was stopped regularly for photo ops, even snapping a picture with a family that had similar taste in movie heroes.
After perusing some of the memorabilia exhibits like actual props from Spaceballs, replicas of Bill and Ted's phone booth, Doc Brown's DeLorean and the Ghostbusters' Ecto-1 we all started laying out our missions for the day. Rick Ace Rhodes was after Poke' Balls and any Animorphs figures to be had, while thatdudeinthehoodie was ready to school the locals in how to reign supreme in Magic: The Gathering. MickYarber was talking up his negotiation strategy to score a deal on a G.I. Vehicle from a hard-nosed vendor, while fuschnikt was planning to get one of the Garbage Pail Kids artists to sketch an original character inspired by Lydia from Beetlejuice, for his daughter who shares the same name (it turned out awesome by the way).
A moment of generosity that floored us all was when Vaporman87 informed us all that he had arranged for the entire Retro-Daze crew to meet with Alan Oppenheimer aka the voice of He-Man's arch-enemy, Skeletor (among others) for an autograph session. Not only that, we would each be waking away with a replica Skeletor figure to be personally signed by the legendary voice actor. I took the opportunity to have him recite his infamous line from the He-Man/She-Ra Christmas Special, which delighted me to no end. It's worth mentioning that to the left of the table was former WWF star Ted DiBiase "The Million Dollar Man" and to the right, Cam Clarke aka Leonardo from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Another spot of interest was the retro video arcade that was provided courtesy of a donation by Retro-Daze. Games included After Burner, Ms. Pac-Man, Dragon's Lair and many more. Our own mickyarber tried his hand at NBA Jam against his daughter and brought the "Boom-Shakalaka!", while fushcnikt reportedly beat Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with the help of some friends. For those who prefer home console gaming, there were stacks of cartridges to be had for the NES, SNES, N64, Sega Genesis and more to help true gamers complete their collections. The amount of 8-bit crafts were also quite impressive, with yarn dolls, framed game box art and more for the taking.
After a lunch break the crew gathered for the Karaoke Contest where Hoju Koolander had been replaced by an 80's hair metal vocalist named Mel Zorro. Legends of his wild leopard print stage attire had been shared on the forums prior to the event, but seeing the man in person was a whole different ball game. Though many song choices had been teased, the final rendition of Bon Jovi's "You Give Love A Bad Name" with Scorpion from Mortal Kombat on lead guitar/scythe was a reportedly a real show-stopper (Click Here to watch it for yourself).
Though Mel Zorro was not awarded 1st, 2nd or 3rd place, the judges added the category of Honorable Mention just to accommodate the rocker into their list of winners. "He was robbed!" was the battle cry of the loyal Retro-Dazers, who could only imagine championship status for their heavy metal compatriot. (Thanks, guys.)
As the convention drew to a close, the decision to attend the special screening of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze was put aside for a dinner out as a group to get to know each other better. After all, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Based on a suggestion from the hotel clerk we caravaned over to a restaurant called Chadwicks, but after navigating the mile long driveway up to a country club golf course, we had a sneaking suspicion that this dining experience was not for us. Dressed in jeans, shorts and t-shirts, we looked like riff-raff compared to the other guests arriving in sports jackets with elbow patches.
We imagined being hazed by the club members a la Caddyshack and making a nuisance of ourselves like The Blues Brothers while trying to fit in at this fine dining establishment. We saved the wait staff the trouble of having us escorted off the premises and went to Buffalo Wild Wings instead. Much more our speed. Over wings and onion rings we got to know each member of the Retro=Daze crew. It was these moments that made the trip so memorable.
After dinner (for which Vaporman87 secretly picked up the check, what a guy!) we couldn't think of anything we would rather do than spend the next 3 hours chatting it up in the hotel lobby. There we were, like knights of the Retro Round Table, sipping on Ecto-Cooler while talking about how we all found Retro-Daze and learning the secret origins of the site from Vaporman87. We also got in an exciting round of the wacky MAD magazine card game, which I won in a stroke of beginner's luck (or perhaps it is the proof that I am truly the most MAD of the site's contributors).
The whole weekend was like an accelerated summer camp experience, as if we were binge watching old episodes of Salute Your Shorts on fast forward. Together, we had re-claimed the toys of our youth, met the voices behind our favorite cartoons, seen pop culture icons brought to life through Cosplay and more. By Sunday morning we were all saying our good-byes over a complimentary continental breakfast, not wanting the fun to end. We knew we would be back on the site just a few days later, but something about being together face to face truly enhanced the bond we had been sharing electronically all these years.
Most of all we were so grateful to our stalwart and humble leader Vaporman87 for making it all possible. Just hours after after the event ended, we were all on the forums expressing our appreciation for his generosity and just being a cool guy. Like Zordon to our Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, he had gained our respect an hundred fold and we were ready to follow him into battle waving the Retro-Daze banner all the way. Vaporman87, we salute you and join our voices in a mighty, "Retro-Daze, HOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"
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