michael nagle/getty images


Mandy Lui of Toronto poses with a larger-than-life cutout of The Simpsons character Apu at a 7-11 store in New York City that has been converted into a Kwik-E-Mart.


THANK YOU, COME AGAIN: Converting a handful of 7-11 stores into Kwik-E-Marts to publicize the release of the Simpsons movie was probably one of the smartest marketing campaigns I’ve heard in years, but according to a Los Angeles Times story, it’s proved to be a bigger success than anyone anticipated, in at least one strategically located store.

The 7-11 in Burbank is just one of the dozen stores given a makeover, but it’s conveniently close to the homes of many of the Simpsons’ artists and voiceover actors. Artists from the show have left drawings of characters on the bulletin board in the store, and one of them even contributed some Bart Simpson-style graffiti to the walls outside, but even that doesn’t account for the 57,510 “Sprinklicious” donuts sold at the Burbank store, or the 300 per cent increase in business.

The First Bank Of Springfield sign on the ATM has been stolen, and Store owner Swarn Sahni has sold 3,000 hot dogs a week since the Kwik-E-Mart transformation, up from just 800, not all of them to Simpsons artists. As I said in this column when the campaign was announced months ago, this would be a great opportunity for 7-11 to re-brand itself. When I was a hardcore punk fan in the early-‘80s, the chain had a dystopic charm that was enhanced by its appearance, slightly disguised, in the film Repo Man, and a backhanded unofficial endorsement by Henry Rollins, nowadays a steel-haired cable talk show host, then the lead singer of Black Flag.

That was a generation ago, and I’ve seen more 7-11s close than open in the last few years – now would be the time for a re-branding, and what better way than a stealthy, overnight transformation of the entire chain into Kwik-E-Marts, while the buzz from the Simpson film is still ringing in our ears like the aftermath of a Black Flag gig in some dingy basement club. Once again – am I the only one who comes up with these awesome ideas?

GEEK ALERT! This summer’s TV critics’ press tour is apparently still swinging away in Los Angeles, and the highlight of every newspaper TV scribe’s blog yesterday was a visit to the set of Heroes, with all of its tantalizing hints of where the series is heading next season. According to Rob Owen of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the late Isaac Mendez’ apartment is still in use, rented by a character who’s set up a lab where the canvases used to be, the Bennets have moved into a luxurious new house, and some considerable part of the season will take place in Ireland, to be represented by the main street of some town and the interior of a pub.

The cumulative tone of the various stories filed after the set visit can best be described as breathless, like finding the A.V. club kids at the head cheerleader’s grad party, and it looks like we can probably expect more of the same when the San Diego Comic-Con kicks off today, with its unprecedented focus on new shows with sci-fi or comic book themes, all of which are being promoted with lavish booths and special events – shows like the Shaun Of The Dead-styled comedy Reaper, Journeyman, Chuck, Moonlight, Pushing Daisies and returning shows like Heroes, Jericho and The 4400. As Variety pointed out, having a hit at Comic-Con is no guarantee of a hit – Invasion and Threshold made splashes at last year’s event, but fizzled when they aired; of course, this might be somewhat inevitable when you’re talking about a convention centre packed with several thousand version of the Comic Book Guy.