Friday, July 29, 2016

CosmicSparky Visits Kokomo, Indiana.

There's a certain beauty to following a line of events to it's inevitable conclusion. Back in early 2015 I took up an interest in subscription boxes which lead to trying out the whole My Toy Box service, which when combined with YouTube videos about said boxes and Funko pops resulted in a slight rekindling of my admiration for toys. Eventually I started to buy Funko Pops and a few of them were bought from a store called Kokomo Toys located in, shocking twist, Kokomo Indiana. I rather enjoyed ordering from them thanks to good prices and quick shipping, especially since being so close means items arrive at my house between blinks. After some studying I found the town was much more than just a cool toy store. If we really traced this back to square one we can blame this entire journey on Johnny Tellez. During my time working the Alzheimer home I couldn't wait to treat myself to a trip and visit this odd hamlet, with my recently renewed freedom I finally got to do just that.

A little background. Kokomo, Indiana is a town that essentially had it's head kicked in by a combo of corporate greed and violent acts of natures. For years it had been a place for innovation and plentiful manufacturing jobs, then those jobs turned tail for cheaper pastures. Adding to that insult was an equal bounty of tornadoes and flooding.
In the years since those disasters, the town has worked towards digging itself out of the pits and becoming something notable again. As you can probably guess there's still plenty of evidence leftover from their troubles. Damaged buildings, beat down & dingy little house, and more old factories than the place knows what to do with. That being said, the town still has a ton to offer. I mean we're talking about a place with both local specialty stores as well as national standbys, a mall, something like 30 parks, museums, YMCA, a sizable downtown with actual stores, on and on. There's a lot of stuff for a place I'm sure many people have never heard of.

After the fairly uneventful three-hour drive we kicked things off in what the town refers to as geek street, a block of Sycamore featuring a comic, toy, and game store. Think I saw a record store as well but neglected to check it out. First up was Comics Cubed in a nifty little corner building. Despite my love for comics, most stores based around the topic tend to give me the creepy crawlies generally due to the customer base. Sorry fellow comic fans, but you know what I'm getting at. While the store is fairly small and subsequently a little cramped they've got lots of stock and good stuff at that. It's about 85% comics with a bit of games and collectibles for added flavor. It's the sort of place I could definitely see going to for weekly releases. The owner was friendly which made up for a couple of his customers coming off a tad rude. One of my favorite parts was that they'd tie whole miniseries or runs on a book all together for a lower price than buying individual issues. Didn't get any pictures but the place is colorful and cool. So far so good.

Next up was my main event. Kokomo Toys, a holy place for toy lovers. While it didn't exceed my expectations it met them perfectly. There's so much to take in I actually had to repeat some aisles just to take in all my options. Here's a wee picture to give you an idea.

It was odd to note price differences from the ebay and physical store. For instance Funko pops have a range of prices on ebay to make up for the free shipping. In store they're only eight bucks each which is a fantastic price. Likewise I saw items that were more expensive in store than ebay but with the offerings on each front being surprisingly different there's a good reason for both to exist.
If you do visit be prepared for an odd smell. They stash a lot of old collectibles in box which makes for a sort of moist, musky odor. I didn't mind it but my more whiny companions did.
Still the selection is great and the prices are really fair. I tried to limit myself to somewhere between $50 and $75 but lord almighty I could have easily spent over a hundred. I left behind items like a Metaluna Mutant doll, Soulcalibur figures, those NECA videogame figures, Street Sharks, and most of all I passed up a still in box Draco the Dragon from Dragonheart. That was one of my all time favorite toys but with my limitations I went another way. If you're a toy person in any way shape or form, you really must check this place out sometime.

Wrapping up geek street I visited Goblin Games real quick. Actually having a local tabletop store these days it's neat to compare and contrast. This place had a lot of playing room and nice prices on their games, but not as much stock as my local joint. Not bad, but not as memorable as the neighboring stores.

Before we headed out to other sections of town we headed over to the storybook express convenience store. It's one of several buildings put together by a development company with a love for reusing old materials and making everything look unique. Don't be fooled though, the inside is still a fairly typical party store though this one has a few more excessive items like bongs and friend chicken.

Needing a wee boost of sugar we headed to Gingerbread House Bakery which was a great decision. While the donuts I had was just good, everything else was practically orgasmic. The peanut butter cups alone are worth a visit. There's a brewery moving in across the street and a pizza joint down the block which means this spot will soon be a refuge for the glutinous.

After that we checked out the opalescent glass factory. Nice stuff but as you can guess incredibly expensive. Then it was time to take in a few odd sights. We'd already seen the kokomantis, a big metal praying mantis, so it was time to seek out the two literal giants. I'm talking about Old Ben, the largest Steer in the world, who's stuffed corpse is kept in highland park next to the world's largest sycamore tree stump. Yea all of this stuff is very kitschy but god help me I love it. There's just something inherently endearing about monster livestock or oversized bug statues.

Feeling the need for proper food we decided to hit one of several drive-in's and ended up at a local joint named Rays. I'd looked into this place as it has some fame for it's big tenderloin burger. True to what I'd heard this was a good sized tenderloin and it wasn't half bad though everything there was just too damn basic. There wasn't anything special about any of it save for size. Likewise the atmosphere could definitely use a boost. Service was good though, points earned there.

Our bellies weighed down with meat and taters, we headed out to some less specialized locations like a local goodwill as we made our way to my last major stop. The night before the trip I decided to search for any good retro game stores and lo & behold I found The Gaming HQ. Very lucky I did since this was such a neat store. I've seen classic game stores with more items than this but they still had a fine selection and generally fair prices. Best of all it was really organized. Color me impressed. Similar to Kokomo Toys I could have spent plenty of geenbacks but I behaved and only brought home a couple items. What really tickled me were the glass cases with high-quality, and moderately rare games. It was essentially my old gaming collection that I'd sold off over the years to maintain a certain level of living. We're talking Suikoden, Parasite Eve, Mega Man Legends, Lunar, etc. Absolutely give these guys a shot if you love video games.

After that we started to wrap up and head back to the glove. Sure enough, I could tell I was back in my home turf when the scenery took a noticeable turn towards Tales from the Darkside atmosphere.

So what do I think of Kokomo, you ask? Well it's certainly an odd duck. For one it's got this strange mix of being a small town yet being quite large in scale. It's got all the shrinky-dink nonsense of villages across the country yet there's a population just shy of 40,000 with all the commerce needed to support that. Those people are a unique batch as well. There are tons of good ole boys and girls from the manufacturing days living out their days within the city. With so many folks like that together in one area it almost feels like a trip through time. These people lived in a time when you could just work at a factory, raise a family, and call it a day. Later in the day I couldn't help but notice how few young folk I saw. Obviously I saw a few teenagers and twenty somethings, just not many. This stuck out all the more the next day when running errands in my wee town of 9,000 people I saw more young attractive woman than I did all day in Kokomo. Maybe they were hiding down at the water park, I can't say.

Would I go back one day? Maybe. I loved Kokomo Toys, The Gaming HQ, Gingerbread House Bakery and Comics Cubed. Plus I'm sure there are many other oddities hiding among the many streets. At the same time it's a somewhat depressing area as it's a living embodiment of the American dream taking a shit and leaving people with the task of digging their way out. There's still a ton of visible damage from everything that hit the place yet there's a good supply of people aiming to make new businesses and make the it more livable.

That's enough dramatics about the failings of America for now. I did indulge in some good old fashioned consumerism, so let's look at my haul.

At Comics Cubed I grabbed an issue of The Incredible Hulk featuring my favorite swamp dweller, Man-Thing. That's another guest appearance down, something like 70 more to go.
I also nabbed this big pack of issues of The Legend of Kamui. I'd only vaguely heard of the title before, and honestly there's a lack of decent info on the internet. Still this seemed like something worth getting. Even better, it was marked as issues #1-26 for $9.99 but it actually 27, 28, 36, and 37 as well. Perhaps you'll see more about this one later on.

At Kokomo Toys I grabbed Cerberus from the Final Fantasy VIII Guardian Force series. Despite my love for this franchise I own almost no trinkets or memorabilia so this was a nice way to patch that hole. Then I picked up the new Dr. Strange Funko Pop, a Yubi Godzilla mystery mini, and since I needed to grab something classic, I picked up a Thundercats Slith figure.

Since I was behaving by that point in the day, the only things I got from the Gaming HQ were two shooters published by Working Designs (god do I ever miss those guys). Gungriffen Blaze was developed by Game Arts, the crew behind titles like Grandia and Lunar. Second is Silpheed: The Lost Planet which is those same guys teamed up with Treasure which makes it a instant buy. I also picked up a Val Lewton double Feature at the Goodwill store. These are out of print and sort of pricey these days so it's a nice find.

So that was my big reward, making up for the months of nonsense I put up with at the Alzheimer home. Now with the special trip out of the way I'm officially back to work on making something of my life, what a drag. I'm actually going to try and have another article cooked up for you all this weekend while I work on a massive pile of backlogged writing. See you again soon.

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