July 14, 2015

Spending San Diego Comic-Con with Fandango

Another San Diego Comic-Con has come and gone. The four day convention requires so much preparation and planning that I swear it's been affecting my schedule for at least a month, but it speeds by in the blink of an eye. The big highlights of this year's convention according to the scientific data that is my Twitter feed were Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn for Justice, the teaser for the Suicide Squad, and the panel for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2. Those panels all invaded the biggest panel room at the San Diego Convention Center: Hall H. I wonder what historians will make of the hours and hours attendees spend waiting and sleeping in line to get into Hall H.

I didn't catch those panels, but I did explore a whole lot of the convention center and the surrounding area. If you've never been to Comic-Con, you might not realize the exhibits and displays spill well out of the convention center into San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter, onto the lawn between the convention center and hotels, and beyond. It's hard to escape the convention unless you stay far away. FX set up buildings and a giant snow globe near the Hilton to promote shows such as American Horror Story: Hotel and Fargo. Ubisoft brought back a parkour/obstacle course for Assassin's Creed. Fox built a carnival ride to promote Scream Queens. Those are just a few examples of the outdoor activities.

I wondered around several of outdoor displays and inside the exhibit hall with Fandango on Thursday. Using the magic of Periscope, I tried my best to bring the Comic-Con experience to those who couldn't make it. Because really, it's not like any other convention. It's giant in a way that's hard to wrap your head around, and though photos nearly do the event justice, they don't capture the crush of the crowds and how much you get jostled around -- there is oh so much jostling.

We had people tune into watch the Periscope stream from all over the world. We took questions about the convention and tried our best to take requests from viewers about what they wanted to see. The Walking Dead was a popular choice. As scared as I am of zombies, I can't deny that AMC does a bang-up job of making their booth amazing and terrifying every year... but I didn't like to linger near it.

Later in the day, we decided to get outside to move away from the crowds (yes, the aisles in the exhibit hall were packed already, even on Thursday) so I could show off how much of Comic-Con overflows outside the walls. We saw the FX displays mentioned above, the pop-up carnival set up by Adult Swim – a character from Rick and Morty danced for us and I'm still a little scarred – and wandered across the pedestrian bridge into a corner with the Scream Queens ride, a Point Break display, and ice cream (also to promote Scream Queens). Ending with ice cream seemed like a perfect time to wrap the day's streaming.

It was fun to play the Comic-Con tour guide to the internet. I'm always happy to talk about experiences and fandoms I love, and I liked sharing that with viewers.

I'm still in Comic-Con recovery mode, but every step taken at the convention was worth it. I've been catching up on all the news that dropped during the convention, and if, like me, you missed the news and trailers that came from panels because you were at the convention or if you're just feeling out of the loop, you can sit down and catch up with the new Fandango MovieClips app (available for iOS and Android). The new trailer section has made it easy for me to see everything I missed without having to spend forever searching for the highest quality videos on YouTube.

To stay in the loop about future Periscope videos from Fandango – they film at red carpets and all sorts of events – follow Fandango on Twitter.

This post was sponsored by Fandango.

July 3, 2015

San Diego Comic-Con 2015 Schedule

Guys. It's that time of year. San Diego Comic-Con is next week - July 8 through July 12. It's arriving earlier than usual, and my body/soul/heart/etc is not quite ready. The truth is I wouldn't be quite ready regardless of the dates. It's impossible. You prepare as much as you can and it's stressful and tiring, but then you dive in and run on adrenaline, caffeine, unsatisfying and unfulfilling snacks, water, and more caffeine for four and a half days and it's fine. Fun, even. 

Comic-Con seems to get busier for me every year - this is my tenth year attending the convention, by the way - and in addition to covering panels and press lines for places like IGN, Nerdist, and Fandango (this is what it's like to cover Comic-Con as press), I'll be on three panels and moderating one and I'd love to see you at them! Here's my schedule:

Level-Up Your Style with Geek Fashion
Thursday, July 9, 1:00pm-2:00pm - Room 14A
Geek Fashion saw unprecedented growth in the past year, and with more choices comes more opportunities to make these clothes fit your own unique geek. This will be a hands-on panel that will talk about how to express your own unique style with geek clothing and accessories, classic layering pieces, hair/makeup, nails, and more. The panel will also highlight their favorite designers, retailers, and trends and discuss where they would all like to see geek fashion go in the future. Join moderator Dina Kampmeyer (fashion judge, The Geekie Awards) and panelists Amy Ratcliffe (Nerdist, Star Wars online), Anastasia Washington (Fashionably Nerdy), Josephine Moss (Geekosphere community analyst), Katie Elspeth (theatre costumer), Stephanie Bray (Subtle Fashion Geek), and Stephanie Pressman (Fashionably Nerdy) and learn how to shop and style smart, the geek way.

Live-Streaming on Periscope with Fandango
Thursday, July 9, 9:30am-10:30am and 4:00pm-5:00pm
Hang out with me while I take Fandango around the exhibit hall and around the Gaslamp. It will be like getting a taste of the Comic-Con experience without being there. I'll answer questions, ramble, etc. Get the link by following Fandango on Twitter.

Geek Wars: The Nerds Awaken
Friday, July 10, 10:00am-11:00am, Room 14A
Professional nerds square off in an epic trivia battle for the ages, all while discussing the hottest pop culture topics, including racial stereotyping, objectification, online bullying, casting decisions, and more. Spanning comics, TV, film, and the web, this discussion will be hilarious, outrageous, and challenge your perspective on culture. Moderated by Tony B Kim (Crazy 4 Comic Con), this super-powered team will be joined by Chris Gore (comedian), Amy Ratcliffe (writer), Andre Meadows (comedian), Ivy Doom Kitty (pro cosplayer), Sam Maggs (writer), and Ali Mattu (clinical psychologist).

Building the Modern (Super)Heroine
Friday, July 10, 6:30pm-7:30pm, Room 26AB
More and more, heroines are being positioned front and center on the page and screen-Katniss, Agent Carter, Tris, Furiosa, Wonder Woman, and Captain Marvel, just to name a few. What do creators and fans want out of a powerful female protagonist? How can you pay tribute to the heroines of the past while still looking toward the future? What's the difference between writing established heroines and creating your own? And how can one best position and support these characters to usher in a whole new era of totally bad ass (super)heroines across all platforms? This dynamic group of creators and expert commentators will discuss the challenges of building modern heroines in a variety of mediums. With Cecil Castellucci (Stone in the Sky), Sarah Kuhn (Heroine Complex), Andrea Letamendi (psychologist, Arkham Sessions), Jose Molina (Agent Carter), and Babs Tarr (Batgirl). Moderated by Amy Ratcliffe (Star Wars online).

The Psychology of Star Trek vs. Star Wars: Episode V
Saturday, July 11, 7:30pm-8:30pm, Room 24ABC
Geeky psychologists Dr. Andrea Letamendi (The Arkham Sessions) and Dr. Ali Mattu (The Psych Show) step into the pop culture ring to debate the psychology of teamwork, rebellion, and galactic war. Panelists include Robert Meyer Burnett (Free Enterprise), Thom Zahler (Love and Capes), Consetta Parker (Rancho Obi-Wan), and Amy Ratcliffe (Star Wars Insider). Join a side, but remember: phasers and lightsabers are no match for this battle of wits! Refereed by Brian Ward (Comics, Assembled!)

June 12, 2015

Ahsoka Lives!

Star Wars Celebration Anaheim was the best Celebration experience I've had so far. The gathering of Star Wars fans continues to be so much more than just a convention - it's a meaningful experience where I connect with so many friends and fans. I walked around for four days with the biggest grin on my face. That doesn't happen at any other convention because tiredness eventually defeats me. But not at Celebration.

One of the highlights of the event was #AhsokaLives DayJohnamarie Macias and I organized the Ahsoka Tano appreciation event because we were (and are!) excited about the return of the character in Star Wars Rebels. She really grew up over the course of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and I'm delighted we get to see more of her story. With the Season 2 premiere of Star Wars Rebels approaching (it's on June 20), it seemed like a good time to share group photos from Ahsoka Lives Day. All of these can be clicked to enlarge:

photo by Brian Larsen

photo by Brian Larsen

Johna, Ashley, me, and Dave - photo by Jenn Fujikawa
I'm thrilled so many fans showed up and suffered in the sun (I picked the worst time of day for the group photo) for the event. As you can see, we had participants of all ages and genders and they wore everything from custom shirts to full Ahsoka costumes. Other than the obnoxious guy who jumped in the front of the picture to take pictures of Dave (or maybe selfies with him), the event was a smashing success. And oh yeah, by the way, Ashley Eckstein and Dave Filoni kindly took time from their busy schedule to join us.

Many fans joined in from afar as well. Here's an attempt at a photo mosaic of everyone who posted images to social media on April 17 with the #AhsokaLives hashtag:

And you can see a glimpse of the Ahsoka Lives group at 3:11 in the below video from Lucasfilm about the return of Ahsoka:

This is a tradition I hope to continue at each Celebration.

You can see more photos from Ahsoka Lives Day at Flickr.

June 10, 2015

Review: Licensed Replicas from Skelton Crew Studio

As much as I love lining my shelves with toys and statues from giant franchises like Star Wars and Marvel, I also like finding treasures from indie and/or creator-owned franchises too. In fact, it's more rewarding to me to find something like a replica of a shield from Mouse Guard or a plush Chog from Chew because I wouldn't expect those products to exist like I do with a replica of Captain America's shield. But exist they do, and they're made by Skelton Crew Studio.

Founded by Israel Skelton, Skelton Crew Studio makes officially licensed, high quality replicas. It started with keys for IDW's Locke and Key. The replicas aren't quite toys; that's not the right word. Not even for the plushes. They're collectibles. I took a close look at a handful of Skelton Crew products and was impressed with the attention given not only to the products but to the packaging and tags. They've managed to make the mere act of opening a box or bag an immersive experience that throws you into a fictional world.

Let's take a closer look!

From David Petersen's Eisner and Harvey award winning Mouse Guard, Skelton Crew has made axes, a shield, and plush. They all are, of course, mouse-sized versions. Skelton worked with Petersen to create the replicas and the plush of Saxon, and I love being able to have a piece of Mouse Guard on my shelf. Mouse Guard Fall 1152 was one of the first graphic novels I read - I remember finding it at Barnes and Noble and being enthralled. But, I digress.

The plush captures the character from the comics, is sturdy, and manufactured well - for example, the butt is weighted so Saxon sits up properly rather than falling off your shelf.

Rand's Shield is a thing of beauty. The front is engraved and weathered with care, and it looks like it's seen plenty of action in the course of Guardmouse duties. And though you won't see the back of the shield often, there are little leather straps. That's an area where they could have slacked off but nope.

I've never been so excited about a nail. The Bog Roosh's Nail is a replica from Mike Mignola's Hellboy and has my favorite packaging of maybe any product ever. It comes in a sealed B.P.R.D. box and is cataloged like a proper artifact. Busting open the "do not tamper" seal made me feel like I was breaking some sort of law, but I did it anyway. The nail itself is solid, made of quality material - you know, not flimsy plastic. It's made from pewter. This is a replica that's built to last.

If you've heard of Skelton Crew, you've probably heard of their collectible keys from Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez's Locke and Key. They've crafted more than 20 replica keys from the series since 2009, each of them unique and gorgeous. I received the Head Key and the Grindhouse Key. I love the design of this line. They're right out of the pages of comics. Again, they're made from pewter and could be used as weapons in a pinch. Their size makes them ideal for shadow box style displays - they would look amazing in a museum display case.

These two keys in particular really show off Skelton's range. They vary wildly in style and color but are beautifully crafted and evoke different emotions. Bonus: they also make lovely pieces even if you're not familiar with the source material.

John Layman and Rob Guillory's Chew continually makes me laugh. The quirky story and characters are fun, and I don't see myself forgetting about Chogs anytime soon. And Skelton Crew has brought them to life. This plush Chog is so cute and huggable that I can totally forget it's a genetically engineered creature. He (it just seems like a he to me) needs to be leaned against something to stay upright, but he's super soft and looks like he just walked out of the pages of the comic. And again with the packaging! The Chog comes in a Sushi Ono takeout carton that's so funny you'll be displaying it right alongside the Chog.

You can see more photos of the replicas and all the wonderful packaging at Flickr. All of these items are available for purchase from Skelton Crew Studio.

Full disclosure: The items featured in this post were provided by Skelton Crew Studio for review purposes. This did not affect my review of the products.

June 9, 2015

Read Dune with me!

We all have books we've been meaning to read. My list of books like that is long. Too long. But I'm slowly chipping away at it. Last summer, I finally read J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion because I tackled it for Nerdist Book Club (and I'm so glad I did). This summer, it's all about Dune. I've actually read Frank Herbert's sci-fi classic at least twice, but I've learned it's one of those "I'll read it one day" books on several other people's list. So, I chose it for the subject of the next Nerdist Book Club!

If you want to join me and read along as I go through Dune with weekly posts and discussions, head over to Nerdist and take a look at the schedule. The first discussion takes place on June 22. I'm breaking Dune down into 12 parts/weeks because there's so much to explore. Details on how to participate are at Nerdist.

May 27, 2015

Awesome Con Schedule

It's almost time for Awesome Con! This will be my first time attending the convention in Washington D.C. It takes place from May 29-May 31, 2015. I'll be appearing on a couple of panels on Sunday, May 31 (listed below) but otherwise wandering around the convention center and the city. There's too much stuff for an out-of-town visitor like me to see so I don't want to spend the entire time inside the convention center. Anyway! Please come to my panels if you feel so inclined and say hello!

Diversity in Pop Culture
Sunday, 11:00am - 12:00pm, 145B
Pop culture is overflowing with our favorite franchises, but can everyone relate to them? Diversity and fair representation continues to be a struggle. Join the panelists as they discuss recent issues and what we can do to make a difference.

State of the Galaxy
Sunday, 3:30pm - 4:30pm, 156
Join us in a galaxy far far away as panelists John Morton, Amy Ratcliffe, Anna Mitchell, Jay Shah and Bria LaVorgna talk everything Star Wars. From Episode VII to Rebels to the Expanded Universe, they’ll cover it all along and even delve into what the future might hold.

See you there?

May 26, 2015

Star Wars Weekends Character Meet and Greets (I traded with a Jawa!)

Is it OK with everyone if I just keep talking about Star Wars Weekends forever? I had the best time at the event at Disney's Hollywood Studios a couple of weekends ago. So many factors contributed to it being the memorable experience that it was including the desserts and drinks I've already mentioned, the Rebel Hangar lounge experience, the parade, fireworks, the merch, and meeting characters. Disney brings out all the big guns for Star Wars Weekends: Star Wars Disney characters like Jedi Mickey, villains like Aurra Sing and Boba Fett, heroes like Ahsoka Tano and Mace Windu, and basically everyone in between. They wander around Hollywood Studios, appear at two character dining events (Star Wars Dine-In Galactic Breakfast and Jedi Mickey's Star Wars Dine at Hollywood and Vine), and are set up at various backdrops around the park like Tantive IV and Coruscant.

I took pictures with a few characters, and each time I met a character, I found myself reverting to a 5-year-old. I got so excited - it was a struggle to stop myself from hugging everyone. Here are a handful of the characters I spotted:

Aurra Sing - It was hilarious to watch her interact with everyone. The cast member didn't break character until a little boy came up and nuzzled into her side. It was the cutest.

Captain Rex

Meeting a hero of the Clone Wars (hey, clone troopers were pretty great until the whole Order 66 thing).

Darth Maul avoiding getting cut in half.

Minnie dressed as Princess Leia was possibly the absolute best thing ever. I practically squee'd.

Did you know you can trade with Jawas at Hollywood Studios? Tricia of the Fangirl Blog gave me a stormtrooper action figure to trade. The Jawa tried to give me a tube of travel-size lotion first but I passed, and then he (or she) offered an Ursula pin. Once I accepted, an "Utini!" was in order:

Shaak Ti complimented the tiny droids attached to my ears (my R2-D2 earrings) and suggested to Kit Fisto that they tell Anakin about this method since he's always losing Artoo. Then they taught me the ultimate wise Jedi pose.

Queen Padmé Amidala in Naboo

The members of the Modal Nodes wandered around the Rebel Lounge and even pulled up a seat to join us for a moment.

This Rodian at the Rebel Hangar was energetic and funny.

On my next visit to Star Wars Weekends, I plan to make an autograph book and meet all the characters I can.

May 25, 2015

The Drinks of Star Wars Weekends

It gets hot in Florida - aren't you glad I'm here to share surprising facts like these? Heat and humidity are two elements of Star Wars Weekends that must be reckoned with, and one way you can battle them is with a variety of chilled and fruity Star Wars themed beverages and cocktails. Bonus: you can also get glow cubes shaped like the Death Star, the Millennium Falcon, or an X-wing! The galactic drinks were another unexpected-yet-awesome part of Star Wars Weekends, right up there with all the miniature desserts. Here's a look at them:

The Tatooine Sunset - Stoli Vanilla Vodka, Parrot Bay Coconut Rum, Pineapple Juice, and Grenadine

The Rebel Red - Grey Goose Vodka, Chambord, Sweet and Sour, and Grenadine

Imperial Blue - Maker's Mark Bourbon, Cointreau, Blue Curacao, Sweet and Sour, topped with Sprite

These drinks are available near Star Tours and the Star Wars Weekends event stage.

Drinks available inside Darth's Mall

Drinks available inside the Rebel Hangar - this is the only place the X-wing glow cube is available.

Blue milk was available in non-alcoholic form at the Rebel Hangar and in non-alcoholic and alcoholic forms at the Star Wars Dine-In Galactic Breakfast.

Of the drinks I sampled, all were very sweet and sugary and went down very easily. On that note remember that it is, of course, important to accompany the consumption of these drinks with lots of water. Proper hydration is important to surviving heat. And one more note: the glow cubes make up about $4-5 of the price of the drinks so if you don't want them, ask if you can get the drinks without them. You can definitely go glow cube-less at the Rebel Hangar.
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