March 4, 2015

Star Wars Rebels Loth-cat Plush

The first season of Star Wars Rebels came to an end on Monday night. I wasn't ready for the season to be over, but after watching the incredible events that unfolded in "Fire Across the Galaxy" (read my review at Nerdist), I'm really not ready to wait and wait. Of course, as long as I can get in the room to see the season two premiere at Celebration Anaheim, I won't have to wait too long.

Anyway, as I thought about the Rebels season finale last Sunday I decided I wanted to make something to commemorate the occasion. I thought about characters and symbols I love in the series and considered the supplies I had on hand and the answer was obvious: a Loth-cat plush! Loth-cats have shown up on Lothal a handful of times in the series, and they've sort of played a role in Ezra's Jedi training. And? They're rather adorable even when they're being vicious.

Image via

Gif via Tumblr

The Loth-cat is part of the tooka family. We saw actual tookas - felines like Loth-cats but with more purple-ish markings - in Coruscant at the end of season five of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. But long before that, we saw a plush tooka doll. A little Twi'lek named Numa had a tooka doll in the first season episode of The Clone Wars called  "Innocents of Ryloth." It became part of the story as Waxer found the doll after Numa lost it and gave it back to her. Awww.

Bonnie Burton made a version of the tooka doll and included it in The Star Wars Craft Book. Since tookas and loth-cats are from the same family of creatures, I decided to take the pattern and use different colors of felt to make a Loth-cat plush!

I added some extra felt to give my plush a tummy and added some patches, stripes, and a tail.

I am really, really slow at sewing by hand (plus I screwed up once or twice) so making this little guy took most of Sunday evening. I stayed up until waaay past my bedtime to finish him because I knew if I didn't get it done before Monday that it would have to be set aside for days and I needed a Loth-cat to cuddle during the season finale. And cuddle him I did. I also maybe cried on him a little.

I have a couple more Star Wars Rebels craft projects on my list for this weekend (I only have two more weekends at home before Celebration, yikes!). I'm making a Hera t-shirt and maybe a Chopper wearable of some kind using this template I made for a trick-or-treat bag.

March 2, 2015

Kickstarter Campaign Tips from a Frequent Backer

Kickstarter, for the most part, is a fantastic idea. Creators can use the crowdfunding service to launch campaigns for products, films, books, tech - almost everything. Interested parties can support those campaigns at various dollar amounts and get rewards. Sometimes the reward is a simple "Thank you" from the creator, sometimes it's a product (Kickstarter is often used as a pre-order system), and sometimes it's a packed combination of products, meetings, and in-person events. Pretty straightforward, right? It sure seems like it from both creator and backer perspectives. However, there are often many moving parts and some of them are out of the creator's hands. But as the person responsible for a Kickstarter campaign, there are steps you can and should take to keep the people supporting you with their hard earned cash informed and happy.

I've backed 56 projects on Kickstarter. Of those, 49 were successful. Of those 49, I've received rewards in the timeframe promised about ten percent of the time. I've frequently had to send messages to check on my rewards after all rewards were supposedly shipped. I'm currently trying to figure out what happened to a reward from a project I backed in 2012. And there are a few projects that never went through and never offered refunds.

Backing Kickstarters is a risk. I get it. Over the years I've become more selective about which projects I support. I research the creators. I do back projects because I want to offer support, but if I pay for a product of some kind, I expect to get it. These days I'm more likely to just give money and select no reward because I don't want to set reminders and remember to follow up to make sure I receive what I'm supposed to. It's just as rewarding, gives the creator funds with no work attached, and it's off my radar. Done and done.

Not everyone wants to do that though and not even I always want to do that. As a person running a Kickstarter campaign, you should think and overthink about every step of the campaign and every reward before you launch. Some tips for Kickstarter creators from someone who wants to give you money:

- Talk to other creators who have successfully managed a Kickstarter campaign and delivered rewards on time or in a timely manner.

- About those rewards: Pad the estimated delivery date for each reward like crazy. Account for errors in production and shipping and then build in time for a natural disaster. I won't start worrying about where my reward is until the estimated delivery date. If date is upfront - even if it's way in the future - when I back the project, I'm in the know and cool until that date. And then if I get it early? I am much more likely to back your projects in the future because getting a Kickstarter reward early is amazing. Heck, it's nice to get one on time.

- If you miss your estimated delivery date on any reward, post an update as soon as you can. Don't wait until you have time to sit down and write a novella about the problem. Get to the point. Be honest about what the hold up is whether it's that you've been too busy with other work or you've experienced a production delay. The more you communicate, the less people you will tick off and the less messages/comments/emails/tweets you will get from people wondering where their rewards are. Be proactive. If this means you have to post several updates, do it. I'd rather be informed (even with bad news) than feel like you've dropped off the face of the earth with the money I gave you.

- Prepare a team before the campaign launches. Depending on what's involved with your Kickstarter, you're probably going to need more than a single person behind the scenes. If you are creating something, you can't be creating and answering backer emails and questions at the same time. Recruit a friend or a few friends and assign roles before you launch the Kickstarter. Overkill? Maybe, but hey, being overprepared is neat.

- In that overprepared vein, really consider the rewards and how many vendors, etc. you'll have to rely on to complete them. If you're offering tangible products, have a vendor and a back-up vendor in place. Think about what kind of rewards you're combining and if they'll ship at the same time or separately and what sort of costs that will add. Are they cool enough to be worth the cost and to ask for more money?

- Offer rewards at at least a few different price points.

- Don't ask for shipping addresses until it's almost time to ship. If you ask for them super early and end up shipping your rewards later than you expected, give people the chance to change the address before you start getting packages in the mail.

- Before you press that launch button, think about what system you will use to ensure you deliver every item to all of your backers. I'm surprised by how often campaigns seemingly do not have systems. If you start getting more money than you ever anticipated, look into third party fulfillment options. It seems like many Kickstarter campaigns run into trouble once they exceed their goal and add stretch rewards.

- Did I mention that overcommunication part? I would rank that as one of the most important parts of running a Kickstarter campaign.

Do you back Kickstarter projects? What advice would you offer to those who want to launch Kickstarter campaigns as a backer?

February 26, 2015

Cats as Superheroes Miniature Plushies

It's a bird... it's a plane... it's cats!

I am what you would call a cat enthusiast. This is also sometimes known as being a crazy cat lady. I'm okay with this label. I embrace it - just like I want to embrace every feline that I encounter. I don't quite go full on Elmyra from Animaniacs, but it's close. I'm not quite as intense as her. Anyway, when I see merchandise featuring kitties I always have to stop and give it a second look. If said cat merchandise is mixed up with geeky franchises like these miniature superhero cat plushies by TuriTuturi? Forget about it.

These felt toys are handmade and only a few inches tall. Each one would fit in the palm of your hand. The tiny cats are dressed up like different superheroes such as Captain America, Batman, and Spider-Man, and I bet they're brilliant in any situation that involves tracking down food or ribbons. They'd be called upon for a limited set of emergencies. Mostly, they'd just sit on a shelf and look adorable. See:

Shop for tiny felt superhero cats at Turi Tuturi on Etsy. And yes, they accept custom orders. I want to order an army of them and create the world's first cat superhero team. It would also probably be the world's last superhero cat team because as much as I love cats, they're easily distracted. They probably would forget what they were doing while in the middle of saving the day.

February 20, 2015

Review: Gamora Sixth Scale Figure by Hot Toys

My home is now 200% safer because Gamora is standing guard. I'm pretty sure the most dangerous woman in the galaxy could take down anyone who steps out of line with an intense glare, and the Gamora Sixth Scale Figure from Hot Toys has that. This figure practically radiates attitude. It's modeled after Zoe Saldana as the character in Guardians of the Galaxy and the likeness is so spot on that Sideshow Collectibles made a quiz that lets you guess whether a photo is the actual Zoe Saldana or the figure. Try taking it - choosing isn't as easy as you would think.

Besides looking badass, this Gamora figure is important because Hot Toys announced it and Sideshow Collectibles made it available for pre-order in a time when few licensees were selling merchandise with Gamora. That hasn't really changed. Gamora is excluded from merch that features the rest of the Guardians far too often but not here. She got a fancy figure just like other characters in the film. Let's take a closer look:

Packaging: The outer box is so pretty. It features Gamora layered on top of a neon pink letter "G" and I want it on a t-shirt so badly. The sides of the box match the background of the police lineup in the movie. Once you get past the lovely outside, the figure is securely packaged in plastic. Everything has a place, and small pieces of plastic are over her hair (which is not sculpted!) and in between parts that might rub against each other and cause scuffs. Hot Toys is always very careful about that.

Sculpt/likeness/paint: I've already touched on how much this figure looks like Zoe Saldana. It's uncanny and weirdly enough, pictures make the figure look more like her - whether you use a flash or not. The sculptors at Hot Toys continue to impress me by capturing a character's likeness and infusing a static sculpt with so much emotion. She looks fierce and you can amp that up by swapping out her hands so she can hold weapons.

I really like how the joints work on this figure. The elbow joints aren't visible - and by that I mean the ball joint isn't bare. Instead, her arms are covered with a flexible material that makes them look natural whether they're straight or bent. Seamless! That's the word I'm going for. It's a small touch but I LOVE it. You can swap out her hands and those joints are covered by her wraps/bracers. That aspect of her costume works perfectly for this purpose.

As I mentioned earlier, the Gamora figure comes with actual hair. It already comes with some product it in, but instructions state you can add gel to the hair in order to style it. It's black and pink just like in the movie. This is the first Hot Toys figure I've handled that doesn't have sculpted hair, and it makes a big difference. The texture is a little rough and the out of the box style isn't my favorite (I arranged with my hands in these pictures), but I bet if I used a fine tooth comb I could whip it into shape and make it look more tidy and lush. I'd much rather have actual faux hair (it's fabric hair) than sculpted stuff. This approach would have worked well for the Winter Soldier figure.

Clothes: I liked Gamora's outfit before but seeing it close-up, albeit in miniature, makes me want to cosplay as her. The fabric is stretchy enough to accommodate all kinds of poses - I bent every point of articulation I could find - but plenty sturdy. There are different textures to break up the black jumpsuit: metal studs are around the collar, there's the netting on the front of the top, chunky bracers, and holsters and belts. The holster on the right thigh slides down when you pose Gamora, but it can be moved back into place with no trouble. I adore the way the blue highlights on the jumpsuit look; there's some coordinating blue pieces in the bracers that I didn't notice until taking a closer look. The blue, black, and silver come together nicely.

The boots don't look comfortable to me, but they do match what we see Gamora wear and they appear well made. I appreciate how all the interchangeable hands are adorned with her many rings. It's all in the details, kids.

Accessories: Gamora is not a character of many accessories. I would have liked to have another head with a different expression (maybe the raised eyebrow?) what's included with this figure is solid. She comes with three total pairs of hands that are easy to switch out, an extended sword, and a folded up one. The folded sword snaps into her holster, and the extended sword can be used with a couple different hands. The swords are covered with engravings to match what we see on screen.

Gamora also comes with a stand. That's the only part of the figure I didn't love. Assembling the two pieces of the stand took some elbow grease, but it did snap together and served its purpose. Taking it apart again was no problem. 

You can purchase a sixth scale Gamora at Sideshow Collectibles for $199.99. If that's too much at once, you can break it up into a payment plan. The figure is currently expected to ship in April.

Here are the technical details/what comes with the figure:
Black and purplish-red real fabric hair implantation
Green-colored face and body with over 28 points of articulations
Approximately 28 cm tall
Three (3) pairs of interchangeable palms including: 
- One (1) pair of fists 
- One (1) pair of palms for holding a sword 
- One (1) pair of relaxed palms
One (1) fully extended sword
One (1) folded up sword
Figure stand with Gamora nameplate and the movie logo

Need to see more pictures of Gamora? I have some at Flickr, and Sideshow Collectibles has plenty of images that are much more beautifully lit and posed.

Full disclosure: Gamora was provided by Sideshow Collectibles for review purposes. This did not affect my review of the product.

February 17, 2015

Hasbro Feels They've Released "Plenty of Female Characters" In Star Wars Rebels Line - I Do Not Think That Word Means What You Think It Means - Updated

Toy Fair is happening in New York, and there's been some disheartening news from Hasbro. Getting figures depicting female characters is an ongoing challenge, and that's especially true with Star Wars Rebels. Hera Syndulla and Sabine Wren are equal members of the primary cast in the animated series, yet they weren't part of the first wave of Rebels toys (that was a point of contention at last year's Toy Fair) and even now there's only a single Hera figure and a single Sabine figure. Nevermind that multiple versions of figures have already been released for Ezra, Kanan, and the Inquisitor.

But, Hasbro doesn't see a problem. Paul of the Jedi Temple Archives attended the Hasbro Q&A and besides discussing the challeges of getting the Rebels toys to stores (it's been near impossible to find any of the 3.75" Rebels toys), Paul asked about the presence of female figures from Rebels and also from Star Wars as a whole:
Q: Where are the action figures for the female characters from Rebels, like Hera, Sabine, or Maketh Tua? Male characters like Ezra and Kanan have been released multiple times already in many formats and scales, yet the best we've seen on shelves so far is a single Sabine with a non-removable helmet and a yet-to-be-released Hera, both of whom are packed with re-released Stormtroopers. Female characters have always played an integral role in the Star Wars saga, from Leia in the original trilogy to Padme in the prequels to Ahsoka and Asaaj in The Clone Wars and have always been among the first characters released in figure form, yet for this new chapter in the Saga, they've barely been a blip on the radar.
A: Hasbro feels they have released plenty of female characters in the line.
PLENTY? TWO figures is PLENTY?!

I am so disappointed and frustrated by this statement. And insulted.

And let's back up to look at the representation of figures for Ahsoka Tano and Padmé Amidala. Yes, I counted. As of 2012, Hasbro had released 7 3.75" Ahsoka Tano figures as compared to 14 of Anakin Skywalker and 13 of Obi-Wan Kenobi. They released 26 Padmé Amidala figures as compared to 61 for Anakin Skywalker and 58 for Obi-Wan Kenobi. Both Ahsoka and Padmé  were primary, lead characters. Does "plenty" mean all we can hope for is half or less than half of the figures made for male characters?

Thanks, Hasbro, for making me feel like female fans and female characters don't matter to you... again.

UPDATE #1, 2/18/15: Hasbro asked Jedi Temple Archives to revise their response to the question to the following:
"Hasbro actually has some great new characters from Rebels hitting shelves now such as Sabine and Hera and have recently been releasing more females within our Black Series and Saga Legends line such as Mara Jade, Toryn Farr, Bastila Shan, Luminara Unduli, Padma Amidala (Geonosis), and a number of great Leia’s such as Ep IV, Endor, and the awesome Boushh disguise that was revealed at NYCC."

UPDATE #2, 2/18/15: Hasbro reached out to me to let me know the interview posted by Jedi Temple Archives was not recorded and that what Jedi Temple Archives posted was paraphrased.

Huh. I can almost hear them backpedaling. Also Hasbro, it's Padmé not Padma.

h/t Club Jade

February 12, 2015

Wookiee Cookies for Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is almost here! While I don't really celebrate the holiday or even pay much attention to it, I do like the idea of themed treats. If I come across heart-shaped anything on Saturday, I likely won't turn my nose up at it. In fact, I'm considering making these delicious looking Wookiee Cookies by justJENN. The brown sugar cookies are decorated with chocolate frosting, brown sprinkles, and little tiny hearts. If Chewbacca could bake without getting his fur into everything, I bet he'd make a batch of these cookies for Han Solo.

Get the recipe for heart-shaped Wookiee Cookies at Fandango. Not into Wookiees? Jenn has a recipe for  heart-shaped Death Star cookies up at Nerdist. Happy baking!

February 10, 2015

Princess Leia #1 Variant Covers Might Turn Me Into a Collector

Marvel's Princess Leia #1 will be here on March 4, 2015. She's been present in many Star Wars comics of yore, but here, she's taking the spotlight. Writer Mark Waid and artist Terry Dodson will focus on Leia Organa between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. This is a women who is a leader in the Rebel Alliance but also lost her entire planet. Imagine losing your home, your culture, and everyone and everything you ever knew. It's a crippling blow, yet Leia pushes forward. 

For those of us who have been curious to know how she made it through, this comic will be fascinating. Waid explained in an interview on in July:

" does she really cope with losing her entire world once the events around that loss have calmed down somewhat? Does she choose to be the princess of nothing—or does she set out to rebuild her heritage and her civilization? You can probably guess the answer."

I'm looking forward to the comic (maybe I'm drooling), but until I can get my greedy hands on it, I'll gaze at the many beautiful variant covers. I'm not anywhere close to a serious collector of variants, but that's probably going to change with Princess Leia #1. Why? See for yourself:

Regular cover by Terry Dodson

Variant by Mark Brooks (I think this one is my favorite)

Variant by J. Scott Campbell

Teaser variant by John Cassaday

Action figure variant by John Tyler Christopher

Variant by Butch Guice

Movie variant

Variant by Alex Ross

Variant by Skottie Young

And why not look at some interior pages before you go?

I barely have words to express how excited I am to read this comic.

February 9, 2015

The Fashion of Marvel's Agent Carter

Marvel's Agent Carter has captured my heart in so many ways. Peggy Carter is indeed the superhero I've been waiting for, and besides her and Hayley Atwell's superb performance, I'm impressed by the dialogue, the characters, and that elegant 1940s setting. The styles of each character are distinct and stunning; costume designer Gigi Ottobre-Melton has done impressive work so far. I spoke with Melton for a new column at Nerdist titled Behind the Costumes, and we talked about the setting, the challenges, and the use of vintage clothing vs. making replica pieces.

I'm particularly enchanted by Peggy's wardrobe. She has to play a part with her role in the SSR, and she is always dressed for that part and put together. She wears tailored dresses, jackets, and skirts and mixes and matches her outfits - her closet isn't endless. Peggy's hair is on point, and her makeup (read about Peggy Carter's preferred makeup brands) is flawless. She has fabulous accessories like these sunglasses:

While I'm not sure about the specific brand, you can achieve the Agent Carter sunglasses look with a pair of cat eye sunglasses like these from Forever 21:

How about her memorable red hat?

gif via Tumblr
You can purchase a similar design from the Beau Chapeau hat shop for $89.

Peggy's rocked a couple of different plaid blazers - navy blue and red.


This design from Farfetch isn't an exact match, but it's close:

I could go on and on. Which outfits of Peggy Carter's are your favorites?

You can read my reviews of Agent Carter at Nerdist. Be sure to read ABC's posts each week as they discuss the fashion of each episode with Melton.

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