September 28, 2012

This I'm not Daredevil t-shirt is awesome

Daredevil #7 by Mark Waid and Paolo Rivera may be my favorite single issue of a comic ever. It's full of memorable moments, and one of them is Matt Murdock showing up to a Christmas party in a bright red sweater that proclaims he's not Daredevil (he was recently outed but is denying it and is tired of trying to convince everyone he's not the superhero). It shows his flippant, somewhat smart-aleck nature, and cracks me up.

I was tickled when I learned that WeLoveFine has a "I'm Not Daredevil" t-shirt that captures the moment: 
Buy it at WeLoveFine!

Five R2-D2 Accessories

I know that I'm more attuned to Star Wars because I love it. I feel like I can spot anything related to the galaxy from miles away, and I feel like it involves R2-D2 more often than not. Fans can't get enough of the little droid.

I get it. He's friendly, he makes funny and cute noises, he's occasionally a smart ass, he's got a great color palette, and he's recognizable even to people who don't know Star Wars. Artoo is more lovable than many of the human characters in the saga. His pattern is printed on t-shirts, bathing suits, skirts, luggage - freaking everything. Here are five accessories featuring the astromech:

This roomy shoulder bag has the R2-D2 design digitally printed onto its surface, but it still looks classy to me.
Look no further for an awesome apron! This works as protection from flying flour or a quick and easy costume. I seriously want to see a pinafore cosplay group next year at SDCC.
I have to include a crochet R2-D2 beanie; it's classic. This adorable hat will keep your head warm and be a beacon calling Star Wars fans to you. You have to provide the beeping noises though.
R2-D2 shoes are a subtle way to wear your favorite droid. I mean, the pattern isn't subtle but they are on your feet and it takes a while for people to notice them in my experience. You can buy them or make your own.
Add a little Artoo to your hair with a handmade felt clip!

Check out more editions of Friday Five!

September 27, 2012

Collecting toys makes me happy

I'm a sporadic collector. I like toys, comics, books, and DVDs, but I rarely feel compelled to complete a set of anything. I just buy what I like. It's a random mishmash of Star Wars toys, LEGO sets, Firefly maquettes, Battlestar Galactica ships, busts, Doctor Who and Nightmare Before Christmas toys, trade paperbacks, and TV series on DVDs. If I have an entire set of something it's more likely to be because I enjoy it rather than a need to just have all of it. But why do I collect anything at all? Why do I purchase figures and objects that require dusting and sometimes gluing and mostly sit on a shelf?

I was searching for a deep answer, one that made me feel less attached to material objects that according to "them," should be meaningless. I came up empty though. In the end, it just makes me happy.

And that's okay.

It pleases me to look around my house or my desk at the office and see that I'm surrounded by stories and franchises I love. I like pointing my favorite figures out to friends who are visiting for the first time and tell stories of why I got them and how. Each piece has a memory that goes with it.

This Star Wars LEGO set was the first such set I put together. I received it from a friend for Christmas, and I put it together when I was sick a few days later... and then I sent my boyfriend at the time out to Target to bring me more LEGO sets because it was distracting, a bit addicting, and a lot fun. Now I've had to stop purchasing them because I just don't have the space to display them.

This Boba Fett helmet was on crazy sale at the shop, and I've used it at a few events to put names in for raffle drawings.

(I clearly need to dust.)

This Coraline figure was my first Comic-Con exclusive purchase and is one of my favorite toys.

I doubt I remember the story for every item on my shelves and some of them are as simple as "I adore this character and must have this toy," but for the most part, they all have a history.

I buy what I like. It means I have action figures from different generations, different styles, and a lot of random pieces. I don't purchase items because I'm thinking about how much they will be worth later (just not my thing, I know it can work out well for others with a lot more patience and capital than me). Most of my toys are out of the box and on display because I'm not concerned about resale and I want them to be seen. The ones that are still in boxes just have really cooling packaging (like my Polly Pockets from San Diego Comic-Con).

The show Collector's Intervention made me think about these collecting habits. Though I don't have a collection that's anywhere close to those seen on the show, it wasn't bad to stop and think about why I buy what I buy. Even if you are far from needing an intervention, it's good to take a look around your house and think about your possessions and why you have them. There's definitely a line, but I think it's different for everyone.

Do you have any collections? Tell me about it or even better, share photos!

September 26, 2012

Review: Knightingail

I came across Knightingail by Wayne Gardiner at WonderCon earlier this year (yes, sometimes it does take me that long to get around to reading and writing about comics I pick up), and it's one of those comics that catches your eye immediately. I'd spotted it as I walked down the aisles of small press on the first day and made a note to come back - then the next day I saw a cosplayer with a fantastic costume near the same aisle. It turns out she was dressed up as the main character from the series. I immediately walked over to check it out.

The main character is a female who can kick butt when she needs to, the story takes place in a fantasy setting, and the art and colors are beautiful. How could I not check it out? It's also all ages and an adventure.

In broad strokes, the story follows the path of Eloa as she learns about her family's past and becomes Knightingail. She has a close friend named Kaeli, and their relationship reminds me of the one between Xena and Gabrielle. Together, they travel and discover who they really are. Their strength, battle skills, and friendship is put to the test.

I've read up to issue 6 (that's all of the story for now) and I've enjoyed it so far. It's easy to read and flow from one issue to the next. It manages to cover a lot of ground but also to leave a lot of room for more story in the future. It sets up a vast world full of creatures and problems and a rich history. Seriously, A+ on world building. The art really compliments Gardiner's writing, too. It matches the tone of the storytelling and is really just lovely.

I only have two nitpicks with the story. Why is Knightingail wearing high heeled boots? She's running around the forest, give her practical footwear! Some of her language occasionally takes me out of the story, too. She'll say something like "nopers," and though it fits with her spunky personality, it doesn't mesh with the setting. Still, those are very minor notes in a fun series that I would truly recommend for all ages - particularly young girls.

To learn more about the series and purchase issues, visit the Knightingail website.

September 25, 2012

Geeky destinations: HMS Surprise

"The Surprise is not old; no one would call her old. She has a bluff bow, lovely lines. She's a fine seabird: weatherly, stiff and fast... very fast, if she's well handled. No, she's not old; she's in her prime." 
Jack Aubrey

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World completely sucked me in. I liked the characters and the stories, sure, but mostly? The magnificence of the ship captured my imagination. To use the word majestic to describe the HMS Surprise is an understatement but also a perfect description. This vessel - and others like it - bear a special kind of magnificence. Part of it is beauty and a lot of it is the skill, daring, intelligence, and sheer manpower it took to keep a ship this size afloat and on course.

I won't pretend that I remember much of what I've read about tall ships. I am horrible at retaining facts and history (you should hear me try to relate an anecdote, it's amusing and sad all at the same time), but I don't need to be able to tell you the name of every sail nor know every nautical term to know that I admire and respect them.

Seeing the film made me interested in the Patrick O'Brian series on which the movie is based. I listened to some of them and read others, and I think I've only got to about the tenth book so far. I'll eventually read all of them. The friendship between Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin is one of my favorites in fiction, and Maturin is one of the most complex and well written characters I've had the pleasure of reading.

But, I digress - a little.

A few years ago I went to the Festival of Sail in San Diego. Tall ships from all over paraded into port and anchored for a few days. Visitors could wander on board and explore, and crew members for each ship were around to answer any questions. Some of the ships made excursions out into the bay for cannon battles. After arriving to the festival, I soon learned that the HMS Surprise's permanent home was the San Diego Maritime Museum! I was delighted.

The ship used in Master and Commander moved to the museum back in 2004. The ship was born in 1970; it was a replica of the frigate known as the Rose. Filmmakers purchased the replica and took painstaking efforts to recreate a 24 gun frigate to match the time period from the books (during Nelson's time in the Royal Navy).

Though it's fully rigged, it has engines now to assist in getting around. Putting 200 souls on board isn't the most practical solution these days. It's open to the public as a museum, and if you enjoyed the movie, well, you sort of freak right out about being aboard a piece of not only film history but history. I was practically jumping up and down with excitement, but since I figured that might get me a quick ticket off the ship, I restrained myself and just giggled like a little kid instead. I'd drive down to San Diego in a heartbeat just to explore it again.

Tickets for the museum (including the historic ships, exhibits, and more) are $15. More information here.

September 24, 2012

Mmm, Butterbeer Latte

Click To Enlarge
This recipe graphic has been around for about a year (you know, forever in internet time), but I recently spotted it on Pinterest for the first time. It looks appealing and sounds perfect and seemed like it would turn out better than my attempts at making cold butterbeer (which I can't figure out).

I'm pleased to report that the end result is sweet but not overly cloying, tastes lightly of butterscotch, and is a pleasant treat. I made and drank this on a hot night, and I'm already thinking about how satisfying it will be when the weather gets colder.

Just a couple of notes to keep in mind: when you melt the butter and brown sugar together in the beginning, don't let them caramelize too long - just long enough for them to mix and taste a little like butterscotch. Once you've added the milk be sure to stir it thoroughly and bring the mixture to boil over low heat. Milk foams when it boils, and it will boil over in a second so pay close attention.

Drink it as hot as you can stand it!


September 21, 2012

Five Household Uses for a TARDIS

The internet keeps showing me that it is practical to own a TARDIS. I'm using that as rationalization to eventually build one of my own. It might be miniature or made of LEGO bricks, but it still counts. I could get ambitious though - well, ambitious and a lot more adept with power tools and building stuff - and make a full size TARDIS to use for storage. I've seen people do creative things with blue boxes of all sizes and shapes. Here are five of my favorites:

Yes, that is an outdoor TARDIS shower. I don't know if I'd build one for myself, but I can tell you that if I were looking to book a cabin or house rental that I'd be instantly sold if the property came with one of these. Read all about the progress from the designer and builder at

This miniature TARDIS chocolate or trinket box is way too cute. The impressive part to me is that it's made almost completely from paper materials. The crafter used cardboard, cereal boxes, card stock, etc to create this mini space ship that actually is bigger on the inside. Read more about it here.

If you can't use a TARDIS to travel through time, you can use it for storage. When you use it to hold books, well, you can travel to other worlds and time periods through those books - so it's perfect! I've seen many iterations of the blue box as a bookshelf, but I dig this design with five shelves.

I had to include the TARDIS bathroom of The Way Station Bar in Brooklyn. You may not think there's a reason to have one of these in your house, but it could fit right in. Alternatively, you could just remodel your current bathroom.

Confession: I don't like complete darkness and use a nightlight. I think this handmade TARDIS nightlight would emit a soft and cozy glow and make me feel safe. The Etsy seller seems to be sold out of them right now, but keep an eye on his shop in case they come back.

Finally, if it's time to add a little TARDIS into your life, here's a detailed tutorial on making a small TARDIS bookshelf.

September 20, 2012

Who will we lose in season five of The Clone Wars?

(click to embiggen)
Season five from The Clone Wars is upon us, and the situation is dire. Sith wannabes run amok (yep, I just typed that sentence), and Palpatine has decided it's time to take action and remind everyone about the rule of two. The war is raging, unlikely alliances are being formed, and some will pay the ultimate price.

In my idealistic world, no one dies. However, that would be lazy and unimpressive storytelling. It's a war. Both sides lose people. Anything else wouldn't be believable. Anyone who isn't around at the end of the prequels could face the guillotine. I'm just guessing, but I wouldn't be surprised if we see Satine go this season. And maybe Savage.

And as far as Ahsoka's fate, well, make sure you wait and see. On the red carpet for the premiere at Celebration VI, Ashley Eckstein said to watch until the very last moment this season... so make sure you use the restroom and have all your snacks ready before you sit down to watch the finale.

Who do you think will fall in season five?

Star Wars in Gilmore Girls

Star Wars shows up in pop culture all the time. Television shows constantly make references to the saga, it makes appearances in comics, in books, everywhere again and again. I'm still surprised by just how many times I come across references though; especially when Revenge of the Sith talk popped up in one of my favorite series - Gilmore Girls. And Luke makes a completely valid point about the high ground.

Watch the clip.

This is the dialogue:
LUKE: And they have those flashlight thingies.

LORELAI: Yeah. That’s the right name for those. Flashlight thingies.

LUKE: And Jedi powers of mind control, they can move things, so they’re telekinetic, and they hover their jet saucers over molten lava, and they jump and fly around like they’re in Cirque du Soleil.

LORELAI: Oh. Coffee, please.

LUKE: But what gives one Jedi knight the edge over the other, huh? The ultimate advantage? They stand on a mound of dirt and declare, “You can’t win. I’ve got the high ground.”

LORELAI: Dude, if he said it, that’s the way it is. It’s a fictional world.

LUKE: He’s four feet up a little slope! And that wipes out all the other guy’s powers? The fly, jump around, move things with his brain, use the little flashlight thingy?

LORELAI: You have got to learn the right term for that flashlight thingy.

LUKE: This has been bugging me.

LORELAI: For months! We saw that movie months ago! You’ve got to let it go!

LUKE: I can’t!

LORELAI: George Lucas owns San Francisco now. That’s a city. You can’t argue with a man who owns a city.

LUKE: All the other guy has to do is scurry on to land and run up the hill a bit, and then he has the high ground. I mean, they can fly jet pods, but they can’t scurry?

LORELAI: Go on a website or something, okay? ‘Cause there are thousands - no, millions of your kind out there debating all the minutiae of not just this Star Wars movie, but every Star Wars movie.

September 19, 2012

The Thing Drinks Coffee

In The Fantastic Four #5 the F.F. encounter Doctor Doom for the first time. Thing also drinks coffee:

See previous installments of superheroes drinking coffee here.

The new trailer for The Hobbit is glorious

Though I loved - and I mean watched repeatedly for days and on a regular basis - the first trailer for The Hobbit, I might adore the second one even more. It doesn't have a chilling song, but it does show off the lighter side of the story. The Hobbit is an adventure tale. It has scary and dark moments, but the tone isn't the same as the darker Lord of the Rings trilogy. The first trailer only showed a peek of the humorous moments, but this one has made me even more confident that I will be happy with Peter Jackson's interpretation.

That said... I'm still not the biggest fan of splitting it into three films.

If you haven't watched it yet:

There are so many moments to be happy about. Radagast with the hedgehogs darn near made me tear up. Bilbo running out of the Shire with his map flailing in the wind made me smile. Gollum is funny and creepy; man, I've missed Andy Serkis. Trolls. Galadriel. And mostly: hearing Gandalf explain why he asked Bilbo to join their party.

On top of all of that: Middle Earth is just beautiful. I continue to be amazed at the ability of Jackson and his crew to turn a place from our planet into an otherworldly place that should only exist in fiction.

Oh, and this phrase from Gandalf caught my ears: "Home is now behind you, and the world ahead." It's a piece of the song Pippin sings for Denethor in the Return of the King. It was penned Bilbo and appeared in the book version of Fellowship; I think it's a nice a touch.

And did you see this shot of Thorin Oakenshield?
I know that he probably shouldn't be so... pretty? But I don't care.

For added fun, you can watch five different endings at The Hobbit's official website!

September 18, 2012

Free Cosplay Photography Book by Kevin Knight

Los Angeles based photographer and geek Kevin Knight is a talented guy. He's taken dozens of cosplay portraits, and he's selected over 100 of them to feature in his first book. The coolest part? He's making the ebook available through iBooks for absolutely free. You get to see great photos, drool over costumes, and if you attend any conventions in the L.A. area, you'll probably see some familiar faces!

Download it here.

Behind the Scenes of ParaNorman: Interview with 2D FX Animator Susanna Luck

Credit: LAIKA, Inc.
When I see a movie like ParaNorman I spend a fair portion of it thinking about the insane amount of work and dedication that goes into creating all the characters and scenes. It's simply a stunning film. Animation - be it regular or stop-motion - has always fascinated me. It's so hard for someone like me (I have no patience) to understand what is involved to make a character take a tiny action. Having an animated character wave a hand requires an immense amount of work. To get an idea of what happens to create an animated film, I talked with animator Susanna Luck via email. She and her team at LAIKA put a great deal of sweat and love into ParaNorman, and she shared some of her experiences with me!

Warning: there are minor spoilers below for those of you who haven't seen the movie yet.

Tell me about the work you did on ParaNorman.
Susanna: I was the 2d FX Animator, so I hand drew effects animation in traditional, old-school style (one drawing for each 24th of a second). In this case it was smoke, like the smoke on the zombies when they rise from their graves, fire, lots of lightning and a lot of the reveals where reality peels away to show us Norman's visions, among other things. Though I was hand drawing it, I did that on a Cintiq, making the drawings digital files, which we then composited with the puppet animation, the sets, the backgrounds, green screen and CG FX to create the world in which Norman lives.

There was a lot of attention to design and having the shapes and movement of the FX work with the style of ParaNorman, which was very asymmetrical, sort of jaggedy and a bit off-balance, so all of my shapes - even ones that might normally be very curved in another situation (like the shapes of fire, for instance) had to work within that style. But it helped to have my hand drawn stuff in there so that the FX had that element of the hand-made in them, which is really key to Laika's work. A lot of my FX design was based on the original character design work, which had a lot of scratchy, angry looking ink lines and then some of the gorgeous art that came from the art department, where they were developing the look of the movie.

At one point I was asked to animate the lightning that makes up Aggie's hair and dress and the notes from the directors were 'it's like ink blowing and bleeding across a surface but it's also lightning'. And I sat down with that and thought "Woah, how am I going to pull this off? Those are two totally different types of action!" But I love animation challenges like that and I think the way she turned out - after pretty much the entire, 68 person VFX department had had a hand in her creation - it was a hugely collaborative process - looked amazing in the end.

One of my favourite scenes to work on was the flaming teddy bear. I saw that in the storyboards early on and thought: "I hope I get to work on that!" So I was really excited when it ended up on my desk and I kind of went overboard with it at first. Chris and Sam (the directors) had to ask me to pull it back a bit! I think the words 'raging inferno' and 'not' might have been used together in the same sentence..

As you developed the film did you become attached to any character in particular?
Susanna: Yes. I LOVE Norman. I got quite attached to him. I would see him in the dailies every week and would want to give him a hug. The poor kid has a really hard time of it at some points, and he's just so stoic. There were some scenes where I was animating the lightning Aggie throws at him, and it was almost painful to keep watching him get struck over and over. Which sounds odd to say, cause he's really only a puppet, but that's part of the magic of stop-motion to me: the animators make those puppets come alive and they're so totally believable as real people for a while.

I also have a soft spot for Neil - I think we all did. His little monologue about why he gets bullied so much always makes me laugh "and I have a lunch-box with a kitten on it."

I really miss seeing those guys every day now that I've moved on from ParaNorman.

Credit: LAIKA, Inc.
What are the most rewarding parts of working on a stop motion film?
Susanna: Well for me, since I have worked my whole professional life in traditional FX animation, mostly on paper and then digitally (I worked at DreamWorks on movies like 'The Prince of Egypt' through 'Sinbad' and then freelance on things like 'Curious George' and 'Enchanted'), being able to go over to the workshops and stages and see things that actually exist in the real world, that you could touch (if you were allowed to!), was just wonderful. The attention to detail on the sets and the puppets never ceases to amaze me. I even love just looking at the ways the buildings are constructed - because some of them, especially on ParaNorman had very few, if any, right angles or plumb lines and it amazes me that they get them to stand up. So coming from a world where nothing really exists until you draw it, to a world where you build it, paint it, print it, sew or knit it first and then animate it is really cool.

What are the most tedious parts of working on a stop motion film?
Susanna: I can't speak for the stop-mo character animators (except to say that they're a breed unto themselves and even though I've been in the business of animation more than 16 years now, and I'm pretty familiar with painstaking attention to detail and working at 24 frames per second, their work never ceases to amaze me). But I suppose it's probably having to go back and do the same scene over again until you've got it right. This project was a huge collaboration of so many different, incredibly talented people and some of the scenes took months and months to get right. The directors would have a very specific idea of how they wanted something to look - I'm thinking in particular of the huge cloud that forms when Aggie first starts to wake up, when Norman and Alvin are in the graveyard - and it took so many iterations from almost everyone in the department, each person adding a piece of the puzzle until we had the final look. Sometimes going back to the same thing over and over can be tedious but any job has some tedious aspect to it and when you do finally see what we all made, it's pretty satisfying.

Which artists inspire you and have influenced your work?
Susanna: Well, I trained as an illustrator and I went to a school (the Academy of Art in San Francisco) that really valued traditional skills, so I got to know and love a lot of the illustrators from America's Golden Age of Illustration, like NC Wyeth and Howard Pyle - and I just love their skill of storytelling through composition and colour. As far as movies go, Spielberg's work really influenced me growing up in England. It seemed like the quintessential American work and I was always very drawn to that for some reason. Although he produced rather than directed it, 'Back to the Future' was the first movie I saw that made me think: I want to be involved in that world somehow. I saw that film a ridiculous number of times when it came out (like 5 times in the theatre - which I had to travel 12 miles on a train and walk the final mile to get to, mind you! And maybe 25 once it was out on video). I still remember how magical the colour and sound and looping story seemed to me then. I found out that Industrial Light and Magic did the FX and that was a big part of my wanting to go to school in San Francisco because the Academy had pretty strong ties to the movie industry and ILM is right there in the Bay Area, too.

These days though, I think what inspires me most is work that I stumble across online; artists all over the world doing all sorts of amazingly innovative things with storytelling and technology and traditional skills, from street art to maker faires, to tiny, independent animation productions, to amazing sculpture installations, to people crafting beautiful stuff and selling it on Etsy. And I live in Portland, Oregon, which is a pretty vibrant little city, art-wise. I'm always seeing something on the street somewhere - a mural, or art opening, food cart or garden even and I get a little influenced by all or it. I don't know if nature can be said to be an artist, but it's also certainly a big inspiration of mine and the Pacific Northwest is a great place to live if you like being surrounded by gorgeous nature. As an FX animator I'm always fascinated by the way clouds move, the way smoke forms and dissipates, the way water flows and I'm always paying attention to that too.
Inspiration is everywhere.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Susanna, and thank you for your amazing work!

September 17, 2012

DIY: Cute Felt Star Wars Pins

I never make as much time for crafting as I should, but when I saw @AMANDAJEANN wearing these adorable felt pins at Celebration VI I knew I had to attempt to make them:

Someone gave them to her, and a Max Rebo pin joined the collection later in the weekend. I decided to try the concept out, and while I don't think my pins are as cool, they're a little cute. They're addicting and extra fun because they don't require a huge list of supplies and they're sort of free form. You can capture a character mostly with the colors of felt you use; the shapes can be pretty loose. Aside from the hot glue, this is a fun craft for kids too.

You'll need the following:
- Felt (colors depends on the characters you want to make)
- Scissors
- Googly eyes or black beads
- Hot glue
- Sharpie
- Maybe markers
- Needle and embroidery floss
- Pin backs

I decided to start with a Wampa and an Ewok. I pulled up some reference photos and then started with white felt for the Wampa. The bottom of a shot glass was the perfect size for a mini-Wampa head; I also made sure the pin back would fit on the circle.

I cut tiny, curved horns from black felt and attached them with hot glue. I tried to sew the eyes and mouth before I put on the craft fur, but that didn't work out. It was too hard to place fur around them. I cut the craft fur (which I'm convinced I did wrong because it went everywhere) and had it ready to pull from. I covered the white felt with a thin layer of hot glue and pressed fur onto it in a completely unorganized and messy fashion. I let it dry and I repeated the process.

Once the glue was completely dry, I trimmed the fur that was overhanging the Wampa's head and tada! Cute  'lil monster face!

I decided some googly eyes I had were the right size, but I didn't like the way they looked. They didn't fit. So, I colored them in with a black Sharpie. I made small marks for where I wanted them on the fur and hot glued them on. I used a fine tip Sharpie to draw a light line for the mouth, and then I added some bloodstains with a red Crayola marker.

Once everything was dry on the front, I turned it over and attached the pin back with hot glue... Yes, this is how I make new friends.

I followed a similar process for an Ewok:

I have plans to make Greedo and a tauntaun next!

If you want to give the pins a little more substance, you can cut two of the primary shape, stitch them together, and stuff them with a tiny bit of filling.

September 14, 2012

Cool new show: Keen Halloween

What are you doing September 29? Can you get to Tempe, Arizona? Do you like Halloween?

Okay. I know, enough questions already. What is this event that's happening in two weeks? It's Keen Halloween, and I have a hunch it's going to be amazing, inspiring, and altogether awesome.

Exclusive print available only at Keen Halloween
Dubbed a "Maker's Faire for Halloween," the first Keen Halloween wants to go back to the roots of the Halloween. Okay, maybe roots is the wrong word, but you know what I mean - making crafts and masks when you were little and enjoying the spooky aspects of the fun holiday. It's becoming a bit like Christmas in that it's terribly commercial. Halloween decor and flimsy costumes flood the markets way earlier than they should, and we rush around buying all the standard accessories without really thinking or caring about them. It's become part of a routine when it should be treated as a special event. Granted, I love Halloween so I have strong feelings about, but I know I'm not alone in the sentiment.

I think it's important to mention that some stupendous and incredibly talented people are organizing Keen Halloween: Daniel and Dawna Davis of Steam Crow. If you've been to WonderCon, SDCC, Phoenix Comicon, Emerald City, or a whole host of other West coast conventions, you've probably seen their colorful table. Besides the fact that they are wonderfully creative, I know that they are organized and dedicated and that they are doing everything in their power to make this event smooth, fun, and educational. They don't do anything half-heartedly.

What can you do at Keen Halloween? Buy from indie crafters and creators at the Monster Market, make costumes, attend workshops, learn how to apply theatrical make-up, and so much more. From the press release:
Costuming is, of course, a large part of the event. Anabel Martinez, a local costuming enthusiast, explains how Keen Halloween works to provide a walk-up “Evil Genius” Costume Bar, a “Scarecrow King” themed photo-booth, and an Iron Skull Costume Challenge. “We wanted to help inspire people who have the next month to plan and make their own costumes,” Anabel explains. “People can walk up and learn how to apply theatrical make-up, build movie-style armor, and learn techniques that can really help them stand out during Halloween parties.”
Workshops are another draw, with “How to host a Halloween party”, “Stylish Zombies 101,” “How-to make a Poison Apple Crate,” and a class on the Dia de Los Muertos style of sugar skull face painting. “We want to help people make their own Halloween better, and be more creative in the process.”
There will even be live music.

I know.
I wish I was free that weekend because I would definitely make the trip from Los Angeles. I hope you attend if you can, and if you do, please come back here and let me know what you thought!

Pre-order tickets today! They're $7 in advance and $10 at the door.

September 10, 2012

welovefine Twitter party!

The awesome t-shirt site welovefine is hosting a Twitter party on Wednesday, September 12! They have licenses for all sorts of awesome properties like Star Wars, Marvel, My Little Pony, and Hello Kitty.

The party starts at 11am PST and will be co-hosted by @justjenndesigns and @welovefinetees. They'll be discussing favorite licenses, characters and products and also tweeting out a bunch of trivia questions for free prizes. Follow them to win and participate by using this hashtag: #welovefineparty.

September 7, 2012

Review: Robyn of Sherwood offers a different spin on the Robin Hood story

If I told you I read a take on the Robin Hood story that I haven't heard before, you probably won't believe me. But it's true. It's not so much an entirely different take either as it is a continuation of the story. In this comic by Paul Storrie, Rob Davis, and Michael Larson, Robin Hood and Maid Marian's daughter carries on their legacy. Robyn is the kind of girl I wanted to be most when I grew up. I had moments of wanting to be a princess (and I don't think anything is wrong with that), but mostly? I wanted to be having the adventures I read about in books. As a kid, I would have idolized Robyn. As an adult, well, it's the same.

The synopsis:
 In the dark years since the death of Robin Hood, the former Prince John has proven himself one of the worst kings that England will ever know. Struggling under the burden of heavy taxes and royal whim, the people speak more and more of days past, when a brave yeoman rose from among them to stand against those who abused power and privilege. Furious that his enemy is remembered still, and fearful of what his example might inspire, King John orders a campaign to extinguish the memory of the Sherwood archer. The first step--to execute the surviving members of Robin's band!
  Now the only hope for the aging outlaws, and for England itself, lies in the shadows of Sherwood Forest, where Robin's legacy of rebellion is reborn in a startling new form...   ...his daughter, Robyn!
I don't have the collected version above, just the individual issues. I sat down intending to read just one of them and then switching to something else in my large stack of things to read. I read all four instead. The story is about Robyn but also about her father and mother and the names you know and revere: Little John, Will Scarlett, the Friar, Prince John (now king), you get the picture. It's not the stories you've heard 5,000 times before. Robin and Marian are gone, King John is a tool (okay, that's the same), and Robyn needs to rally the troops and find a way to inspire and lead just like her father did. She does a fine job of it, too.

I love the story, and I like the art  okay (I think a lot of that is personal taste though). Flashbacks fill in the gaps and show the tragic story of how Robin and Marian were betrayed. Flashbacks are not always my favorite things, but these were not clunky in the least nor did they detract from the flow of the story. Basically it comes down to this: if you like Robin Hood stories and/or tales with strong female leads, I think you'll dig this one. A lot.

You can get your copy of Robyn of Sherwood right here, or you can find Storrie at Baltimore Comic-Con this weekend.

Five Stormtroopers who aren't just troopers

Raise your hand if you've seen a Stormtrooper at a geek event! Now raise your hand if you've seen more than one. More than two? I could keep going, but I don't have enough limbs. I am always impressed by the number of people who put incredible amounts of time, energy, and money into creating armor. It's no easy feat to wear it either. Heck, it's hard to even put it on. I borrowed armor once and managed to put most of the pieces on backwards. Yeah.

I respect all the men and women I see in white.

I definitely saw a lot of them at Celebration VI. I believe that several hundred troopers were in the 501st group picture at the convention (please click that - it's an impressive photo). As much as I love seeing troopers (even though I am Light side through and through), I also enjoy seeing the mash-ups and spins people put on the armor. I saw different takes on the traditional trooper costume all over Celebration. Here are five such mash-ups I really liked:

Animal  Trooper! (see more muppets here)

Death Trooper (image by jawajames)

Indiana Jones Trooper (by jawajames)

Kiss Clone Trooper

Minnie Mouse Scout Trooper (by EPBOT)

The creativity. It hurts.

If you can't get enough of mash-ups, Jen at EPBOT rounded up 21 of them at the convention - check it out!

September 6, 2012

Beast Makes Coffee for Captain America

I've been reading a lot of comics for my weekly posts at Blastoff Comics. As I go through them I've seen more than a few instances of superheroes drinking coffee... while in costume. For no real reason other than the fact that I am addicted to coffee and adore superheroes, I try to capture these moments as I come across them. And now, I'm going to share them with you.

In this edition, Beast makes coffee for the Avengers during a stake out and Captain America partakes.

And because I'm silly, I didn't note the issue on these. I'll be doing that in the future!

September 5, 2012

WPLG Local 10 bullies Star Wars fans and it's not okay

Oh, WPLG Local 10 News in South Florida, you're something else. 

Tens of thousands of Star Wars fans attended Celebration VI a couple of weeks ago, and woo boy, did we celebrate. We had a blast sharing our love for the galaxy far, far away. I, for one, ran around like a kid getting my picture taken with replicated movie sets, cosplayers, and a rancor. Those four days were the best ones of my year because Star Wars fans are amazing.

Another reason why Celebration VI is awesome? It's a safe place. Fans of all ages and genders can come covered head to toes in Star Wars, and no one is going to make fun of them. People who are normally shy about their love for sci-fi throw that aside here and wear it on their sleeves. I think kids especially are a little freer because some of them might get picked on at school for liking Star Wars.

That brings to mind Katie the Star Wars girl. She hesitated to carry her Star Wars water bottle to school because other kids gave her a hard time. The community rallied around her, and she and her mother even appeared on an anti-bullying panel with Ashley Eckstein at Celebration VI.

Get it? One of the themes of the convention was acceptance.

I was angered today when I heard of a slideshow that slaps that acceptance in the face. That makes jokes at the expense of cosplayers, fans - even little kids. Ashley pointed out that WPLG Local 10 in South Florida covered the event. Instead of writing up the supportive atmosphere or talking about the costumes or hand-built droids or charity auctions (they did mention the 501st at the end), they went with a lazier route, to the Dark side. They posted a slideshow with incredibly insulting captions. You can check out the slideshow here, just brace yourself first.

Some of the more horrible ones are as follows:
Being a Star Wars geek pretty much means you'll get no lovin'... being a Star Wars geek that wears these pajamas guarantees it.
Someone got lost looking for the AARP convention. 
Does the white flag signify that you finally gave up on your costume? 
Poor kids... they were never given a chance. Geekdom is in their genes. 
Here's a shocker... it's dudes taking pics of the fake Princess Leias. Like they've never seen a woman before. Well, hmmm... 
It's sad when the most "normal" person in this picture is still wearing a lightsaber on her belt. 
Dateless men for as far as they eye can see.
And this near the end:
And in full disclosure... it should be said that the person who put this slideshow together, and wrote ALL the captions, attended Star Wars Celebration VI (their second Celebration event) as a full-paying fan and lover of all-things Star Wars.
You're a fan and you made fun of your own?! I think that's despicable.

The worst of it is - it's okay to make jokes about Star Wars. Fans do it all the time. Some of the jokes in this slideshow were acceptable, but they were ruined by the numerous ones that ran with geek stereotypes (dateless men at a convention? I've never heard that one before) and were just meanspirited. They were pointedly directed at actual people. I wonder if the writer and staff realize that those captions could hurt. I hate when people try to be funny at the expense of others. It makes me turn green with Hulk.Smash anger.

How can we stop bullying when news organizations permit these sorts of posts? I assume these rude captions were written and approved by multiple people. I'd never expect that from a professional outlet, but apparently, WPLG isn't. If you are as annoyed as I am, please take the time to contact WPLG Local 10 and ask them to take the slideshow down.

My Doctor (spoiler: it's the Eleventh Doctor)

"I'll be a story in your head. That's okay. We're all stories in the end. Just make it a good one, eh? 'Cause it was, you know. It was the best. The daft old man who stole a magic box and ran away. Did I ever tell you that I stole it? Well I borrowed it. I was always going to take it back." - The Doctor

I adore Matt Smith as the Doctor. And I mean adore. He wasn't my first Doctor, but he became my Doctor at the end of "The Eleventh Hour." Right about the time of this fantastic speech:

"Hello, I'm the Doctor. Basically, run."

In that way, he had me at hello. You know how Amy Pond is looking at him in that moment? That's exactly how I felt. Completely smitten. And I'm not talking about his looks - though I do find him attractive - no, it's the way he plays the character. The way he manages to be youthful and yet so old all at the same time. I see the weariness I would expect to see in the Doctor in his eyes and in his expressions. The Doctor carries hundreds of years of stories and experiences around, and some of it is oh so heavy - I see that in the Eleventh Doctor in the way I didn't see it in Nine or Ten.

It was unexpected, too. I was attached to Christopher Eccleston and even more so to David Tennant. Even though I don't love the way Tennant's run ended, I was terribly sad to see him go. He had so many wonderful moments, and he and Donna Noble were such a fantastic pair. I braced myself to go through the usual Doctor departure mourning period that comes with watching this series. After Eccleston's more serious Doctor, it took me a while to warm up to Tennant. Like, half a season. Then again, the continued presence of Rose didn't really help.

Anyways, I was resistant to Matt Smith. I was prepared to not be happy with this new, young guy coming in but then he charmed me in a way no other Doctor had. He captured the essence of what I know of the Doctor (I started watching with Eccleston and haven't dove back into past episodes much), and I don't find a lot to nitpick. He's emotional, he's fierce, he can be downright intimidating, he has a sense of humor, he possesses curiosity and a sense of wonder, and he has the same soft spot for humanity that all the Doctors before him have had. I hesitate to use the word perfect, but he's close. I haven't been enthusiastic about some of the stories over seasons five and six, but that's normal for any show.

I'm incredibly glad that we get Matt Smith as the Doctor for at least another season. I mean, we could get more moments like this:

Tell me about your Doctor.

September 4, 2012

Hungry? Have a Wampa arm cake

You know what your day needs? A cake that looks like a severed arm. Yep. Don't worry, my incredibly talented pal Jenn has you covered:

Yes, that is a Wampa arm complete with blood. She designed this awesome cake for May the Fourth Be With You and provided very detailed instructions on how to replicate it. It does not involve traveling to Hoth or riding a tauntaun.

Learn how to make the spectacular severed Wampa arm cake!

(While you're visiting her blog, don't forget to read about her Ultimate Star Wars Party.)

Geeky destinations: Vasquez Rocks

If you watch Star Trek then chances are high that you've seen Vasquez Rocks. You may not know it, but it's been in the background of memorable scenes from The Original Series, The Next Generation (for my favorite episode, "Darmok"), Voyager, Enterprise, and even the 2009 film. It's dramatic rocks and backgrounds are irresistible and a long list of television shows and movies have been filmed there. The proximity of the natural area to Los Angeles helps; it's just an hour or so drive north of the city in Agua Dulce. It's one of those set locations that is completely satisfying to visit because you can easily and quickly spot the exact places where Kirk fought the Gorn. Taking reference photos will help of course, but this isn't a place where you need GPS coordinates to know where you are. I love that.

You pull in, drive slowly down a dirt road, and bam. It's like you're on another planet.
The jutting rocks at crazy angles look otherworldly. I'd love to have been there the first time a location scout discovered this area. It had to feel like striking gold.

It's only an accident that this landscape exists. The bizarre formations were pushed from the ground by the San Andreas fault. It made a fantastic place to hide out, and bandits took advantage of that. The park gets its name from one of those bandits, but its much more well known for its on screen appearances. I confess that when I visited I was certainly much more excited about being at a place where multiple Star Trek stories had been filmed and not so much worried about the history.

It happens.

Because look:
Though it's a little painful for me to actually watch the Gorn battle now because of it's slow pace, it happened right there. When I visited that spot with photographer and fan Kyle Cassidy during an iPhonetography classy, he pulled out his Kirk shirt and this happened:
You can see by the profile of the rocks that it's the same place. And finding those places? It's very exciting. I bet it's a lot like finding treasure with a metal detector; it's just that I've never done that and can't make a fair comparison. It's probably a happy feeling, and that's what this is. To stand in the same spot where something you adore was filmed decades ago? Captain Kirk was there for goodness sake. The fact that it's even still there, that some (many) environments stand the test of time and humanity is impressive and definitely gives you the feeling of being oh so small.

I unfortunately couldn't find a solid trail map, but once you enter the park, follow the dirt road and keep heading towards the right and you'll dead end into a dirt parking area. Park, turn around and face the entrance, and you'll start recognizing locations.

Here are some other moments from the Star Trek verse where you can spot Vasquez Rocks:

If you're in the Los Angeles area and you're a Star Trek fan, try to carve out time to visit. You can make the drive and park to take a few photos - you can get to the iconic spots by just taking a few steps from the car - or make a day of it and hike around the area. It's beautiful country. Don't be surprised if you see a few Trek cosplayers getting their photos taken!

Vasquez Rocks is open year round and does not have an admission or parking fee. More information on the park here.
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