On Saturday John and I went to check out the grand opening of Gods & Monsters here in Orlando, claimed to be the second largest comic and toy shop in the U.S.
So you know this is gonna be gooooood.
Gods & Monster is located in what used to be the Festival Bay Mall. The mall never took off, though; it had something like 30% occupancy for years, despite it being big, pristine, and beautiful. So, last year the owners revamped it into Artegon Marketplace:
It's kind of like an upscale Flea Market, with rows of metal-caged stalls rented out to local artisans:
Plus there are still some big department stores on the edges: a sporting goods place, some restaurants, etc.
Even this has been dead, though, and the times John and I've gone to browse it was a complete ghost town; too depressing to stay long. I think the shop keepers have been banking on Gods & Monsters (which kept pushing back its open date) to bring in the crowds.
From what we saw on Saturday, I think that's a good bet.
Ready for the photo tour?
Here we goooooo!
The front registers greet you immediately to the right as you step inside, and the "Arkham Dispensary" theming is flat-out incredible.
Barred windows, Riddler graffiti - and check out all the security cameras and spot lights pointed at you on the upper right.
[Hit the Read More for the rest; lots of photos ahead!]
Through one of the windows you can glimpse a vault door in the back:
We worked our way down the right side of the main floor, which flows around these circular comic book displays:
Looking back towards the entrance:
Lots of great art overhead - and all hand-painted!
In the very back there are two food/drink counters with a Blade Runner theme, lots of lounge-type seating, and a game playing area complete with free board games to choose from.
Eventually they plan to serve alcohol here. (See the booth seating to the right? Very cool.)
Here's a shot of the entire food & gaming section, taken from the far left:
That's going to be a noodle bar at the far end, to fit with the Blade Runner theme. Overhead there are lots of star lights and those fun cascading bar LEDs.
(For the grand opening they had a bunch of extra tables set up for local artists - you can see one in the foreground there.)
Further down, the seating switches to more of a Skyrim/Game of Thrones vibe:
I love how they've given the booths a sense of privacy with those low walls.
More great theming: these dragon sconces have color changing light crystals:
There's a lot to look at everywhere you turn in Gods & Monsters, but I was especially drawn to all the overhead art designs. This LotR (or is that WoW?) silhouette had a shimmering light effect behind it that was just stunning:
Coming up the center of the main floor, we found a bunch of high-end shelving stocked with more collectible figures than I even knew existed:
The way they're displayed - no boxes, no clutter - it feels more like you're in a friend's badass nerd cave than an actual store:
More goodies in a lit glass case:
Those are just a few of my favorites; there were plenty more to drool over.
There are huge support columns around the store, and each one has a different theme with some fantastic props:
That's Pyramid Head's head up there, and I think those glass pendants had Edison bulbs in them.
Indiana Jones & Jurassic Park:
Terrible shot, but that's Aquaman's trident under Superman's cape:
And my favorite:
Check it out: you've got the Infinity Gauntlet, Spidey's web, Thor's hammer, Hawkeyes's arrows, Cap's shied, and Gambit's playing cards. SO COOL.
(Did I tell you guys I saw Age of Ultron in the theater? 'Cuz I did. Earplugs, yes; panic, no; bragging, YES. :D)
Coming back towards the front of the store, here's possibly the prettiest overhead art section:
It even has color-changing LEDs tucked behind some of the cut-outs, making it EXTRA colorful.
Below this is a custom decal counter, where you can order any of a gillion nerdy designs in your choice of colors.
Back to the center, there are plenty of tempting toys, even for non-collectors like me:
A whole line of Doktor A's Mechtorians.
I was THIS CLOSE to buying this vintage style Toucan Sam:
Only $20! (Maybe I should go back and get him. Hm....)
Oh, this was a fun find: Remember this art from my last roundup?
I didn't know Ant Lucia even offered decals & glasses!
And finally, coming full circle (square?) up the left side of the store, there's the art gallery:
That's right, you guys. This place has an art gallery. Woot!
Not only that, it's filled with some fantastic art:
There are even 3D pieces, from crocheted dolls to wall sculpts, like this:
All told, I'm incredibly impressed with Gods & Monsters, and I hope it becomes a staple for local geeks and tourists alike. (It's not too far from Disney, so worth the detour if you're planning a trip.) I love that they've created big, beautiful areas encouraging folks to linger and play games, and once the store gets their Noodle Bar & liqueur license, I can see it becoming quite the hub for geeky hangouts.
I'm also looking forward to going back when it's not quite so crowded, so I can do some more shopping. :)
Best of luck to you, Gods & Monsters!
And I hope the rest of you enjoyed the tour!