Cory Stolberg discussing saving My Happy Place Comic Book Store

Cory Stolberg and Bill Hoeks are dreamers. As the managers of the My Happy Place Comic Book Store in Crystal Lake, Illinois, they’ve set out to give customers the same great experience they had when they were younger. In store giveaways, special guest appearances and the thrill that comes when you first open a new comic.

They recently started a Go Fund Me Page in hopes of raising enough money to turn My Happy Place into one of the premiere comic book stores in the Midwest. I recently chatted with Cory about his younger years, his passion and the dream he and Bill hope will come true.

Mike Smith: Can you give us some background on the store?
Cory Stolberg: We opened the store in January of this year and it is my first time running a comic book store. The current owner opened the store as a tribute to her youngest son, who was only 19 when he passed away three years ago from an unknown heart condition. He was a huge “Captain America” fan and had always told his mom, who had previously owned a used book store, that one day he was going to take it over and turn it into a comic book store. Bill and I have been helping and assisting since day one of this project. We’re involved in everything from planning and remodeling the location to moving inventory around. We also handle setting up the current floor plan and the ordering of merchandise. We try to host an event a month by having artists, writers and publishers in the store for free meet and greets. We hosted Free Comic Book Day back in May and just had another one on Halloween.

MS: Is it hard work?
CS: We have worked hard every single step of the way We have laid the ground work for where we want to see this store go and the owner has pretty much given us free range to do it and we have made it a success thus far. But the time frame to purchase the store was moved up, which is why we set up the Go Fund Me page. The people that have donated thus far are regulars at the store and they understand and see the big picture of what we want to accomplish. It is their passion and commitment to us that keeps our heads up.

MS: Give a little information about your Go Fund Me efforts.
CS: I started the Go Fund Me Page in late August and it has had a slow start. Since then, we have fielded quite a few questions. Everything from is the store closing to “what about my orders!” Our store is different from every other I have ever been in. Now granted I don’t get to travel the country and visit other stores, but compared to the many I have been to in Illinois, none of them have the energy we have, none of them greet the customers walking in the door by name, few are willing to go above and beyond to locate books for customers if they are not found in the store or on the Diamond Distributors page. We receive so many compliments from customers who quickly become friends. Because of our efforts they often become loyal to our shop with just one visit.

Our goal is $75,000, of which part will be used for updating and remodeling as discussed on the Go Fund Me Page. More inventory, some gaming, some updating, new racks and displays and a nest egg to help us for a bit. Any and all funds raised will go directly into the store. If we do not hit our goal, then ever dollar is returned to the donors. However, we believe that we can and will make this work, it is just a matter of keeping our heads up and staying the course.

MS: Why do you want to run a comic book store?
CS: For us this is dream. I have been reading and collecting comics on and off for almost 40 years. I dropped out in the 90’s, like many others, after the whole “Death of Superman” experience and the introduction of Spawn and Image Comics to the world. Over the years the writing has gotten better, the artwork is incredible and many of the story lines are just amazing. I personally prefer to read the independent books or smaller publishers, as I have outgrown the whole Super Hero thing. Plus, its near on impossible to go back and try to collect the back issues if you aren’t wealthy. For Bill and I this has been the most fun we have had working, ever. The customers are awesome, most of them are now friends and we get new ones weekly. Even though we know we will never get rich at this, this has been the most satisfying experience thus far in our lives. We are continuing to make friends with people in the industry who truly understand our dream and are helping where they can. We had artists at the New York Comic Con this weekend helping to promote our fundraising page and spreading the word about our dream. Everyone has to start somewhere. It took us many years to get our dream going but there is no letting up on it now.

MS: What is the big difference between your store and others?
CS: Bill and I have both been in positions over our work histories where we ended up working for some terrible employers and bosses. And we remember this every day as a way not to treat others. Customer service is a huge part of this business. You get one chance to make a first impression and you better make the most of it, because the customer can make you or break you in an instant. If you are having a bad day, the customer had better never know it. If the customer is having a bad day, you better do everything in your power to make it better for them. My Grandmother helped raise me and she instilled in me at a very young age that every single person you meet and have contact with each and every day, make them smile, no matter what, you have no idea what is going on in their lives at that moment and that one simple gesture, like a simple smile, could change their lives. Does that make us qualified to own a store? Who knows? But the customers love it and if they are happy, we are happy. As we say “Come find your Happy Place at My Happy Place Comics!”

To make a donation or to find out more information about the Go Fund Me campaign, click here

Blu-ray Review “Saving Mr. Banks”

Actors: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman
Directors: John Lee Hancock
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Release Date: March 18, 2014
Run Time: 120 minutes

Film: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2.5 out of 5 stars

When I originally heard about “Saving Mr. Banks” and it has Tom Hanks playing the legendary Walt Disney, I couldn’t be more thrilled. I love the film “Mary Poppins” and I thought it was going to be a great film. After watching it originally, I was a little disappointed to see that Hanks’ portrayal of the man behind Mickey Mouse was very supporting and the focus was on Emma Thompson role of Mary Poppins” author P.L. Travers and her life growing up. In fact, I really only enjoyed the parts in the film focusing on Walt Disney. Disney hardcore fans will enjoy. I will most likely not watch this again in the foreseable future.

Official Premise: Determined to fulfill a promise to his daughters, Walt Disney (Hanks) works for twenty years to secure the rights to author P.L. Travers’ (Thompson) beloved book. Armed with his iconic creative vision, Walt pulls out all the stops, but the uncompromising Travers won’t budge. Only when he reaches into his own complicated childhood does Walt discover the truth about the ghosts that haunt Travers, and together, the set Mary Poppins free.

Disney delivered “Saving Mr. Banks” with a Blu-ray combo pack including a Digital HD Ultraviolet copy. The 1080p transfer looks quite sharp. The colors are very vibrant especially the flashback scenes. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track works well with the film’s beautiful score and music. In terms of special features this some decent extras but nothing amazing. “Walt Disney Studios: From Poppins to Present” is a tour of the Disney Studios lot with director Join Hancock. “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” has the cast and crew singing along on the last day of filming. Lastly there are three short deleted scenes included.

Film Review “Saving Mr. Banks”

Starring: Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson and Paul Giamatti
Directed by: John Lee Hancock
Rated: PG
Running time: 2 hours 5 mins
Walt Disney Pictures

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

It’s hard to believe that one of the most beloved films of all time, “Mary Poppins,” almost wasn’t made. It took 20 years of convincing by Walt Disney himself until author P.L. Travers agreed to consider the project. Of course, she had some ideas of her own. No animation. No music (“Mary Poppins does NOT sing”) And no way on that dreadful Dick Van Dyke. History, of course, tells us that these fears were unnecessary. “Saving Mr. Banks” does the same, but with a little help from the players involved.

Told in current period time and, too often, in flashbacks, “Saving Mr. Banks” is a fine film when the subject of “Mary Poppins” is being discussed. The flashback scenes, of the author as a young girl in Australia and her alcoholic father (Colin Farrell), are too often just there to interject something familiar into the story. Yes, I understand. Mother used to say “spit-spot” just like Mary Poppins does. These scenes actually slow the film down. It’s the magic of films that Walt Disney was known for and when “Saving Mr. Banks” addresses that process the film begins to soar.

The film is well cast. Who better than Tom Hanks, arguably his generations Jimmy Stewart, with a little Henry Fonda added for good measure, to play “Uncle” Walt? Hanks’ performance is just right, capturing the filmmaker as those of us who used to watch him every Sunday night remember him. As Travers, Thompson has created the perfect snob. She is never happy with anything, be it her stuffed animal filled hotel room to the poor grammar included in the script. You can imagine her reaction when she first hears “Supercalifragilisticexpealadocious!” The supporting cast is equally strong. B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman play the musical Sherman brothers, Bradley Whitford is screenwriter Don DaGradi and Giamatti is the always cheerful limo driver who finally helps melt Travers’ icy persona.

Blu-ray Review “Saving Santa”

Starring: Martin Freeman, Ashley Tisdale, Tim Curry, Joan Collins, Tim Conway
Directed by: Leon Joosen Aaron Seelman
Distributed by: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release Date: November 5th, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 83 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

Halloween is over (who cares about Thanksgiving really!) and we head right to Christmas! “Saving Santa” is a great new holiday film for the whole gamily. It posted a boasts an all-star voice cast including (“The Hobbit”), Noel Clark (“Star Trek Into Darkness”), Tim Conway (“The Carol Burnett Show”), Tim Curry (“The Rocky Horror Picture Show”), Ashley Tisdale (“High School Musical”) and Joan Collins (“Dynasty”). When I was watching I was blown away by the way this animated film look then I realized it was from the award-winning animation studio behind Disney’s “Secret of the Wings”, “Tinker Bell” and “Planes”. Highly recommended.

Official Premise: An upbeat tale of the ultimate holiday rush, “Saving Santa” starts at the top – the top of the North Pole, that is – where Bernard (Freeman), a low-ranking Elf, dreams of one day joining Santa’s elite team of great inventors, the very elves who make the magic of Christmas possible! But when one of Bernard’s wacky inventions accidentally reveals the secret location of Santa’s workshop to an eccentric billionaire scoundrel (Curry), Santa (Conway) and Christmas itself are in jeopardy. It’s up to Bernard to time-travel (again and again) to get Santa home in time for Christmas!

“Saving Santa” is only available at Wal-Mart, which is becoming quite the trend with these animated entries. It is being released as a Blu-ray + DVD combo pack. The 1080p transfer is quite solid and shows off the very impressive visuals from the animation. I think this could have played well as a 3D feature as well. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 works well to deliver the holiday mood and the film’s songs. There is also some decent special features including an animated music video for “Some Kind of Miracle” by Ashley Tisdale, a “behind-the scenes” voice recording sessions with the film’s talent and a special “Why Saving Santa?” featurette.

Ian Somerhalder talks about his foundation and “The Vampire Diaries”

Ian Somerhalder is known best for his television roles on shows like “Lost” and “The Vampire Diaries”.  Ian also spends a lot of his time working with his foundation, Ian Somerhalder Foundation or ISF.  The foundation is participating Best Friends Animal Society’s annual Strut Your Mutt event at Park Sans Souci in Lafayette, Louisiana this year.  Media Mikes had a chance to ask Ian a few questions about his foundation and also about returning to season 4 of “The Vampire Diaries”.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us what made your start your foundation, ISF, and how did you come up with the mission of promoting love and interconnectedness?
Ian Somerhalder: After witnessing the devastation of the Oil spill in the Gulf, I had find a way to utilize my voice to make a change. I was not alone. I witnessed the compassion from others, equally as grief stricken, unite in determination. People of all ages gathered together to make a difference. I soon realized the immediate need for a platform for these amazing people to come together to have their voices heard. This launched the IS Foundation. As we come together more and more from all ages and walks of life, we celebrate our shared passions as well as our differences. With an understanding of the ultimate interconnectedness of the universe, we emphasize the unique strengths in all the different voices that make up the ISF Family.

MG: Tell us about your participation in the Best Friends Animal Society’s annual Strut Your Mutt eventat Park Sans Souci in Lafayette, Louisiana?
IS: ISF has long been a fan and supporter of Best Friends Animal Society and their mission of “No More Homeless Pets”. As we developed the idea for our Animal Sanctuary, we were looking for opportunities to spread the word and raise funds for this ambitious project. The “Strut Your Mutt” event in my home state is a great opportunity to get out and do just that alongside some amazing people and animals. We hope you join us and participate in this fantastic event!

MG: How can people help that cannot attend the event?
IS: Understandably, not everyone will be able to attend. By spreading the work of ISF, especially our plans to build a sustainable animal sanctuary, you are still participating! We are tremendously grateful for donations from ISF family members who want to see this dream come true. If just 1,000 people donated $10 a month for a year, we could achieve our goal!

MG: How do find time to focus on your charity along with starring in the hit CW show “The Vampire Diaries”?
IS: Although it can appear overwhelming at times, it’s necessary. We all lead busy lives, but to see the changes we want for this world we have to make time to stay active with our ideas and continue to collaborate. We can’t do it alone. I wouldn’t be able to accomplish nearly as much as I do without the incredible ISF family. Together our voices weave a tapestry that serves as support for our array of initiatives. ISF has an amazing Executive Director, Kim Klingler, who brings a tremendous amount of passion and knowledge to the table. We are also fortunate to have talented and driven volunteers who commit countless hours contributing their time on projects, content for the website, event planning and much more.

MG: How is filming going so far for the upcoming 4th season?
IS: Great! Coming back for a new season is always reminiscent of the first day of school. The cast and crew are incredibly close, so rekindling bonds and positive energy encompasses the set. And from what we’ve seen so far, this season is bound to be excellent. Things are going to be very interesting for Damon…so I hope you stay tuned to see…

MG: What do you have planned next for ISF and where can people find out more information?
IS: ISF is currently working on several projects and initiatives. We are planning our very own Vampire Diaries Convention to be hosted in Canada early next year. We are also working on a youth development conference to held next year as well. To see information about any of our current projects like the Animal Sanctuary, you can visit and follow us on twitter and facebook.