November 27, 2012

Review: City in the Desert

Monsters, mythology, a creation story, action, treachery - Moro Rogers' City in the Desert: The Monster Problem has it all.

The gist is that the world is riddled with monsters, but the brave and enterprising can pay their bills by hunting the creatures and selling them for their scales and various parts. Irro and his assistant Hari prowl the desert outside their city's walls looking for monsters to take down and bring back to merchants. You can tell they've been following that path a while; they're comfortable together and have the easy back and forth teasing and conversation of people who've spent time together and risked their lives together.

Their routine is jarred when a stranger comes into town claiming he can solve the monster problem by doing one simple thing. Just like any sales pitch that sounds too good to be true, it is. His actions make the residents of the city act bizarre - except for a select few. Irro's exempt and it seems like Hari might be. It's up to them save the day.

Rogers has a background as a storyboard and concept artist, and City in the Desert is her first graphic novel. I wouldn't have guessed it - she doesn't stumble at all. The story flows along in such a way that you just want to get to the next page but at the same time, you don't want to rush it. Though the art follows a manga style and seems to minimize lines, there's plenty to absorb in each panel.

Though I enjoyed getting to know Irro and Hari (they are fun to watch), my favorite part is the creation myth prologue. It reminds me of a Native American story and effectively sucks you into this different, fascinating world. And it's a small thing, but it fits that the art would change from black and white to the desert hues once Irro and Hari's story begins.

Overall, it's an engaging adventure that you can get wrapped up in because of Rogers' impressive world-building skills. My only real disappointment with the book is that it ends. I missed that it was the first volume in a series and almost released a Vader "Noooooooo" when I reached the last page.

Get Archaia's City in the Desert at your local comic book shop or order it online!

November 13, 2012

I hope I never have to hear the phrase "fake geek girl" again

I've been meaning to post about this ad that is appearing in DC Comics for almost a month:
From Club Jade
Here's the full comic as seen on College Humor:

Do you hear that sound? That's my head hitting the desk.
Granted, College Humor doesn't just pick on girls. There are comics for several stereotypes. I don't find any of them particularly funny, but The Imposter one got under my skin. Just the clothing choice alone! I love Star Wars. I like Hunger Games. This girl could be me.

I saw it online and then a few days later, I spotted it in the back of a DC Comic. Specifically, in the back of a Wonder Woman comic. After reading about a strong heroine, this ad felt like a slap in the face.

I know it's a parody. I know it's meant to be amusing, but the "fake geek girl" joke isn't funny anymore. This ad sends the message that girls aren't wanted. I feel it also perpetuates the belief that we must question geek girls. If you want to be really extreme, you could say this comic encourages people to stop girls who are wearing Star Wars shirts and quiz them about the movies to ensure they've earned the right to wear it.

This shouldn't be a thing. But it is. This very discussion comes up semi-regularly, and it's disheartening. It seems that there are still enough people whose knee jerk reaction to meeting a geek girl is to question her "cred." I experienced a couple of instances this summer that speak to that.

At Star Wars Celebration VI, I rushed into a screening of the season five premiere of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. I was covering the red carpet and sent my boyfriend in early and asked him to save me a seat. That seat ended up being beside a guy who looked at the Rebel Alliance tattoo on my shoulder and asked if I got it because of my boyfriend. He wasn't kidding. He wasn't being mean, he was really just that clueless. I set him straight, but he didn't seem to get a hint. Even after I had to inform him which characters the voice actors on stage were, he made comments as we were leaving about how it was nice for me to come to the convention for my boyfriend. I looked at him and in a not polite tone of voice said, "Actually, he's here because of me. Not the other way around."

Then at Baltimore Comic Con, my boyfriend was introducing me to another male creator - the guy said hello, looked at my Avengers t-shirt, and asked if my boyfriend made me wear it.

He was joking, but I wasn't laughing.

It gets old. I know male geeks have their own stereotypes to deal with, but I don't think they are made to feel unwelcome or excluded on a regular basis.

Along that line, female cosplayers have had to put up with a few ridiculous situations in the past month. MONTH. Not weeks, not years - four discussions in a month. First, Mandy Caruso detailed how she was harassed by press at New York Comic Con. She was wearing a Black Cat costume that revealed cleavage, and the male interviewer asked her to spank him and asked what her cup size was. Then, cosplayer Molly McIsaac posted about how people wearing costumes doesn't mean you can treat them like pieces of walking meat. And finally, just over the weekend, there was arguing about a faux nerd girl meme that used the word "whore." Intense discussion surrounded all of these posts - from all sides.

Today's incident takes the prize though. Artist Tony Harris (Ex Machina, Starman) posted the following on his Facebook page:

Click to Enlarge -  image from Jill Pantozzi
Once you've digested that  rant and the usage of the word "yer", take a look at the comments.
This is one of my favorites:

Apparently men know everything and don't have to take the exam. Nope, just us ladies are the ones who have to prove our knowledge and our geekdom. Oh, and we wear costumes to taunt men. Yep. We just pander. Don't mind me, I'm over here dressing like Amethyst and pandering.
Harris isn't calling out all women cosplayers, but I feel like he's saying the majority of cosplayers are fakers.

I know people - men and women - who have dressed up as characters they didn't know inside and out so that they could participate in a group cosplay. Does it matter? No. If anyone is cosplaying a character just because he or she likes the outfit design, that doesn't matter either. I don't get how that harms anyone. Poison Ivy was the first costume I wore at a convention. I mostly knew her from cartoons, television, and movies and not so much from the comics. I liked her attitude and style. And thankfully no one stopped me to past judgment. If anyone would have, I might have been put off cosplaying. I have a thicker skin now, but back then, it wouldn't have taken much to discourage me from playing dress up at conventions.

And it would be bad enough if this was just about cosplayers in general, but no - he targets women in the tackiest possible fashion. It's a difficult conversation and point to make, sure. But approaching it in such a vitriolic manner is not the way. It just pisses people off. He's commented on the post since and said that he should have included men in his statement. Uh-huh.

It's all exhausting. I don't want to fight hard. I like stuff. I love stuff. It'd be cool if I could carry on without being questioned or having people think I'm doing it for the boys.

Side note:
A positive thing has come from the Tony Harris business. Gail Simone started a #CosplayAppreciationDay tag on Twitter, and it's trending right now. A lot of us take pride in what we do and looking at that feed will make you smile - which you probably need after reading the above.

November 9, 2012

Five Animals From Fiction I'd Love To Own

In real life, I might be a crazy cat lady. Even if I don't own dozens and dozens of them, the lifestyle just suits my personality. Few things can pull me out of a bad day faster than cuddling with one of my cats or playing with a friend's dog. That effect is maximized if there are kittens or puppies involved - I make high pitched noises and flail. This tends to happen whether I see them in real life or on the printed page or on screen on the television or internet. I like animals, okay?!

So after recently finishing my first viewing of Avatar: The Last Airbender (SO GOOD) and falling for Appa and crying repeatedly during the episodes when he was lost, I got to thinking about which other critters from fictional series and books I'd like to call my friends - I don't know if pet is exactly the right word for any of these guys.

Besides being impossibly cute and sweet, Appa is loyal and saves the day repeatedly. Aang and company would be screwed repeatedly if they didn't have the air bison to hop upon and fly away. Appa hauls them all over the nations! He's key to battle, too, and the series would have been entirely different without him.

I happen to adore Kitty Pryde, but even if I didn't, I'd still love her companion. The cat-sized creature is part of a dragon-like extraterrestrial race. Duh. He flies, breathes fire, and can understand human speech. He's saved Kitty's life a few times and has been her companion for years. What's not to love about a miniature almost-dragon? See more great pictures of Lockheed here.

As much as I respected owls, I was mostly scared of the birds of prey until I got to know Hedwig. I'm still a little frightened by them, but Harry Potter's pet, protector, and messenger at least allowed me to relate to them differently. She is fierce, and you get the impression she always knows exactly what is being asked of her. I'd never feel like I had an important enough task to give her.
Random fact: she was actually portrayed by male birds in the films because female snowy owls aren't completely white.

Just because K-9 was built instead of born doesn't make him any less awesome. He's smart, has an incredibly handy laser weapon, and can get into small places. He might require some regular maintenance, but he doesn't require walks - yay minimal clean-up! He's pretty much the perfect animal - er, animal-like - pal.

I can't pick just one of the Starks' direwolves - they have all shown their faithfulness and ferocity. It has to be traits of the species. Grey Wind, Summer, and Ghost have saved the lives of their humans. I can't think of a better protector. If I were going to be walking alone on the King's Road in a world like Westeros, I'd want one of these animals at my side.

Which animals from fiction do you want to bring home?

November 7, 2012

Peter Parker Drinks Tea With Aunt May

No, it's not quite coffee but it is a hot caffeinated beverage!

See previous installments of superheroes drinking coffee here.

November 6, 2012

Why I'm looking forward to Brian Wood's Star Wars comic

Do you see Leia looking completely badass in the flight suit on this cover?
Yeah, that reason above all else is why I can't wait to read Brian Wood's upcoming Star Wars series.
Star Wars #2 Cover by Alex Ross
If you haven't heard about the series, it's coming out in January and it's simply known as Star Wars. The basic premise of the story is to continue events from A New Hope assuming none of the other movies were ever made. It leaves a whole lot of fresh canvas; you can read more details here.

As I highlighted above, one of the awesome things we know about the series is that Leia is an X-wing pilot. In the handful of Expanded Universe stories I've read around the original trilogy timeline, Leia is mostly a diplomat. She's fantastic at playing that role - just like her mother - but it does make you miss her take charge, take blaster attitude from A New Hope. It looks like we'll see that side in the Star Wars comics. Woods tweeted a bit of the script recently that made me smile:

Hell. yes.

And I know the future of Star Wars comics is up in the air after the news last week, but Wood tweeted on Sunday that as far as he knows nothing has changed. Thankfully. I want to read this story, and I'd be willing to kick a mouse if it got in the way.

November 5, 2012

Mickey's Halloween Party at Disneyland Was So Worth The Price of Admission

Confession: even though I go to Disneyland as often as I can tolerate the traffic on the drive down, I get stuck in ruts. I go on my favorite rides, eat my favorite foods, and generally follow the patterns that I know make me happy. I've been trying to do at least one new thing on each visit and I've been making it a point to check out special events. This year it was finally time to see what Mickey's Halloween Party was all about.

I was worried about it not being worth the cost of admission, but I'd definitely go again. The event started at 7pm and went until midnight and only guests with tickets for the party were allowed in the park. Everyone with those tickets had wristbands, and somehow the cast members managed to get everyone else out of the park. This meant much clearer walkways and a very short wait for rides like the Haunted Mansion and Star Tours. To be honest, I'd probably fork over extra money once in a while just to enjoy the park with minimal crowds (if I didn't have a job I'd be there on winter weekdays all the time).

That was one of the main perks of the Halloween Party, but there was more! These events are pretty much the only time that adults are allowed to wear costumes within the park. Kids can dress up any time, but it's more limited for grown-ups. Disney villains were stationed in several places for photographs and they closed the night with a farewell song by the train station on Main Street! I see the Evil Queen and Cruella de Vil around the park regularly, but they were joined by other villains I'd never spotted like Frollo from Hunchback of Notre Dame and Cinderella's Evil Stepmother and Stepsisters. So. cool.

And let's not forget the candy. Holy cow there was a lot of it. Trick or treat trails dotted the park, and each was marked with a giant ghost Mickey that you could spot and dash towards. They gave you a bag upon entering and mine was stuffed by the time I left. You received a handful of candy at every station and sometimes you got stuck with apples or carrots. The lines were all manageable and moved quick, and it was hilarious to see the kids get hopped up on all the sugar and come crashing down as it got closer to midnight.

I don't even want to think about how many candy wrappers the maintenance crew has to pick up after the Halloween parties. Yipes.

There were other little things too: the cast members who weren't operating rides had special Halloween uniforms, the Rivers of America were covered with fog, eerie lighting was rigged throughout the park, the castle was cast in a creepy light and had projections going across the surface, and there was a fantastic group that sang Halloween tunes while floating on a raft in front of Tom Sawyer's Island.

It was a blast.

I haven't trick or treated in at least fifteen years, and I had so much fun acting like a kid - more than I normally do. Other adults must get that kick out of it too because there were a lot of other childless ones there. And the cosplayer in me was impressed by the sheer number of people who arrived dressed for the occasion. I saw a few Doctors, lots of Star Wars and Avengers costumes - and I can't remember the others. Too much was happening for me to retain everything I saw.

I know it's too late for this year, but if you've ever considered going to the Halloween Party or will be in the area next fall: do it - it's a wonderful time!

November 1, 2012

The next episode of The Clone Wars explores just how lightsabers are built

The Clone Wars episode airing this Saturday, 11/3, is going to reveal some secrets of the lightsaber building ritual - with adorable Younglings. Pardon me while I go watch these previews repeatedly:

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