The annual Licensing Show has been in town this week and it’s really the Land of Hopes and Dreams. Vendors large and small, suppliers, merchandisers, intellectual property holders and the like all gather at the Jacob Javits Center to convince buyers that they have the Next Great Thing. The major studios flog their forthcoming releases for 2008 into 2009. People wander the vast hall searching for things that might make great t-shirts or comic books or mugs or calendars and then hope to land a deal before the next guy can beat you to it.I’ve been to the show before and remain dazzled at the depth and breadth of material for every demographic imaginable. This year I was there to browse the aisles for idea that might help Weekly World News and I also was keeping an eye out on pop culture trends to report on over at (a href=http://www.comicmix.com/>Comic Mix.With the latter in mind, I admit it was cool seeing the full-size mock-up of the Mach 5 from next year’s Speed Racer movie and the batcycle from The Dark Knight. On the flip side, Marvel barely let you see anything, unless you had an appointment and even then, there was scant new visuals from next year’s Iron Man or Incredible Hulk. And no, not a single image or design from next year’s reimagined Star Trek (Paramount had a mock TOS Bridge set up and you could pose in the captain’s chair and I admit to being so photographed.) Scholastic and New Line were pushing The Golden Compass very hard and one NL rep mentioned that few arriving had ever heard of the book or forthcoming film so it was a harder than anticipated sell.I realize I am now of an age that what appeals to today’s toddlers and kids is a mystery. Nick Jr. was pushing something called Wubbzy, which I can’t quite make heads or tails out of but I then discovered it was created by the wife of an old pal who I used to compete with in the Fantasy Baseball League – so I wish her well.Did I see anything new or thrilling or gosh-wow enough to make me excited? No, not really. Pick a category and I saw knockoffs. Like girl power? Try Europe’s Totally Spies! : “Hippest spies wear the coolest outfits whilst battling evil. Totally Spies! is a fast paced comedy and high-energy action series, starring 3 Beverly Hills teen girls who unwittingly become secret agents.”Can’t get enough Digimon or Yu-gi-oh? Try Di-Gata Defenders: “an action adventure series which follows the legendary quest of four young heroes entrusted with finding four pure stones and returning order to their world. With the help of the powerful Guardian creatures, the young defenders must learn to harness the energy of the Di-Gata stones before evil villains unlock the Megalith and trigger chaos throughout the realm.”Variations of the anime look and feel included Galacktik Football, a new sport in the future with teen players; and Eyeshield 21, spinning out of Shonen Jump and featuring hi-tech football.If anything, the freshest animated series I saw being flogged probably Little Amadeus, the adventures of young Mozart. Already sold around the country, they’re looking for someone to pick it up domestically.There was a life-size Little Amadeus walking the floor, one of more than a dozen such characters to shake hands or pose for pictures. Sadly, I recognized but a few of them and one confused me entirely. I thought he was a Tarzan knockoff but it was the new style of art for the return of George of the Jungle.Some companies exist to represent brands in case you want to put logos from ice cream chains or candy companies on your product. I thought it interesting that mixed in between Mr. Clean and Mrs. Butterworth were performers Nicollet Sheriden, being sold as a brand. Of course, this being the 30th anniversary of his death, it made sense to have a large presence for Elvis but cooler were the displays for Dean Martin and John Wayne, icons deserving of their own spaces.There were athletes, chefs, ultimate fighters, wrestlers and the like all in attendance. Mort Walker drew Beetle Bailey while we watched. But the people who thrilled me were the former DC and Marvel staffers I saw scattered across the floor and in booths. It was great catching up with many familiar faces.Speaking of comics, it was hard to tell that was the bread and butter for DC and Marvel but Virgin Comics was there and they had tons of comics to read and deals to make. Tucked in another corner was newcomer Praxis Comics, which debuted within the last year. Their sampler had some interesting concepts but the art was weak. In an entirely different corner sat my old pal Matt Haley who was pushing his co-creation, G.I. Spy, published by Boom Studios and that was certainly worth a look.You could graze your way through the building. Sony had cotton candy to push their first all-CGI kids’ film, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Several had candies of all sorts from CBS Consumer Products’ I Love Lucy chocolates to Spam’s spam-sushi. Someone sponsored a constant supply of cookies stationed in the aisles and others had gum or even the marshmellowy Peeps.All in all it was a fun way to spend several hours and I’ll be curious to see if any of this stuff actually catches lightning in a bottle.