June 28, 2012

My Little Pony And Doctor Who

Remember when I mentioned that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic had some geeky tie-ins? Well, there's a male pony who has appeared in the background repeatedly and had one speaking part in the series who happens to have an hourglass as his cutie mark (that's the symbol on every pony's flank). He also has spiky hair that's reminiscent of a certain Doctor. Thusly, fans have dubbed him Doctor Whooves. Yes, David Tennant can be a pony. Why not?

Like any good name, it stuck. The crew started calling the Earth pony by that name and Hasbro even featured the character in its 2011 promotional poster for Comic-Con. And because fans are fans and we tend to be hardcore (you've probably noticed), people go gaga over the character. Doctor Who fans check out the animated series just to spot the Time Lord in his equestrian form. As you can imagine, there is a veritable ton of fan art of this pony and even a comic strip.

Even cooler than that? Ocarinaplaya has made two episodes of an animated cartoon called Doctor Whooves and Assistant starring the time traveling pony and a companion. It's adorable and fun and worth watching (even if you just like Doctor Who and not ponies or vice versa):








(source: The Mary Sue)



Her Universe Goes Trek


Her Universe, the awesome clothing company that makes geek chic tees for ladies, has been announcing new designs and franchises right and left. There have been fantastic BSG designs, all sorts of Doctor Who options, and now Star Trek. I adore the Uhura tee design pictured above!

It makes me so happy to see this company grow year after year. You can of course still get tees directly from the HU website, but now you can also find them in Hot Topic stores (and online) and also on ThinkGeek. That means these lady-sized shirts are reaching new eyes and customers. Continued support of the line means it can just keep growing, and geek girls benefit.

I love having Her Universe shirts in my drawers because they are more than a plain t-shirt. They fit in a way that flatters my body, they're soft and comfy, and they look stylish. In other words, they're perfect. If you're going to throw your support behind an apparel company, choose this one. I admire what Her Universe does.

Be sure to visit their site to check out the rest of the Star Trek designs! They'll all be available on July 11th!



June 27, 2012

This Archery Business Is Fun

It was just a matter of time before I got myself to an archery range. After learning about the Pasadena Roving Archers club (thanks GeekDad and Jim MacQuarrie!) and their free Saturday morning classes and finding a willing friend, I had to check it out. I was curious about the sport, and honestly? I'm cosplaying as Merida later this year and I wanted to make sure I at least knew how to hold a bow properly. I didn't know what to expect, as mentioned, I was just curious - but I left the class on such a high. 

The club's website cautions that The Hunger Games effect meant the line for the 8:30am class was long even at 7:30. We tried to get there at 7 (I actually didn't mind getting up at 6am on a Saturday for a reason like this), but thanks to traffic ended up in line around 7:20. There were already 30 or so people in front of us. I completely lost track of time after this. We signed in and before long we were taken off in groups to go through an assembly line of sorts to get us info and equipment for the day. Even with tons of people - including the inevitable few or many who didn't listen - the club was very organized.

Getting fitted with finger and arm guards
First, we signed the obligatory waiver. Then a coach determined which eye was dominant and each person was given a white or red poker chip. You'd think your dominant eye would match your dominant hand, but that's not necessarily the case. Mine happened to, so I was given a red chip... which I managed to break in less than a minute. Yeah, that wasn't embarrassing. I didn't squeeze it or anything though! After being ribbed about whether I should be given any more equipment, I got a replacement chip. 

Then we lined up with our chips and were fitted with finger and arm guards. The hand and arm they went on depended on the color chip you had. Next, we got a quiver and arrows and finally a recurve bow. The arrows had different colored "feathers" so you could memorize and identify your arrows when you had to pull them from a target later. The bow was numbered so you could remember which one was yours for the morning. And I think it's important to note that all the equipment was in fantastic shape. Impressive considering how many newbies are handling that stuff each weekend.

Once we were fully armed, my friend and I happened to hear an instructor taking a group of ten to one of the many targets on the range and we jumped in. Charlie broke down the basics on safety, form, technique, and aiming and was very nice and helpful. When people didn't listen, he helped with humor rather than yelling or seeming annoyed. You'd think all of that would be obvious, but I've had instructors for other activities who don't give beginners any slack and make the learning experience unpleasant.
Not the case here. Charlie was patient, and I got the same vibe from other instructors around the range. Once we went through the basics, our group lined up in front of our target and each of us shot our four arrows. When everyone was done and we got the signal, we'd pull them out of the target. Rinse and repeat for I think about an hour? I was having too much fun to notice. I was surprised at the strength it takes to pull back the string. I only had a 15lb bow, and it took a little effort. I was also surprised at how far you pull the string back. Once you get all your muscles where they should be though, it just clicks.


At the end of the class, we walked back over to the main target area with all the other groups. We all squished onto the line and fired. Then they hung up balloons on the target and split us into two groups so we'd have room to comfortable stand on the line. The first person to hit a balloon on one of the targets received a prize. I fitted my arrow as quickly as I could, tried to aim, and managed to hit a balloon. It was pure luck. I won this:
As I mentioned, the first class is free. You can go back again for a suggested $5 donation and eventually, if you love it and an instructor approves, you can sign up for a seven week course. I'm hooked and had such a great time, I'll definitely go back to play again on a Saturday morning soon.

And let me tell you: if I can do it, you can do it. I'm not very sporty, and I'm incredibly clumsy. I still managed to not suck (that is until after I left the range and got in my friend's car. I managed to hit my forehead with the corner of the SUV's door. Yeah, it's an attractive bruise). Just listen and follow your instructor's guidance, and you can shoot arrows safely, too. If you're at all curious about archery, check it out. You may have a club nearby or a friend who's into the sport but just hasn't talked much about it. Ask around. I bet you'll have a blast.

June 26, 2012

Merida's crazy hair

Merida's hair is more than just amazing, it was quite the feat for artists and animators. Think back to the days of The Incredibles in 2004. It was Pixar's first all human cast, and they were nervous about doing the hair. You need the right software and tools to make hair appear realistic, and they went for the gold with Merida's wild mane.

An article on FX Guide (thanks to Phil Nolan for the link!) goes over the incredible amount of work necessary to make the heroine's hair look just right. There are 1,500 individual curls on Merida's head. 1,500! Each one had to manipulated just so. The hairs had to move with the character and look natural. I knew it was a difficult task but until I read details, I had no idea what it took to make that much animated hair look right and beautiful.


It goes into great depth about construction, styling, and movement and is full of information such as this:
“Over the course of doing her hair,” comments Pixar simulation supervisor Claudia Chung, “one thing we noticed was that the idea of weight of curly hair defies logic. If you took a curly hair and weighted it and then one took straight hair and weighted it, with the same weight in mass, the way each would react to gravity is quite different.”
And some videos, including this one showing how the layers of hair build up:



Again, you can read more at FX Guide. Do not read if you haven't seen the movie yet though; there are lots of plot spoilers in that article. 



My Little Pony Meets Star Wars

I've recently fallen in love with My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. How could I resist it? I'll talk more about my adoration for ponies next week, but for now, I wanted to make sure everyone has seen this MLP and Star Wars homage:



I think it's fabulous.

The MLP scenes are pulled from the end of season 2, episode 2. And this is far from the only scene where MLP references geeky films. I'll keep sharing these as I find them.


June 25, 2012

Spoiler Free Review: Brave - A Delightful Folktale About Family

I made a mistake before seeing Brave: my expectations were very, very high. I've been looking forward to this movie, and I already thought Merida was amazing from the trailers. To the point of buying a Merida pin at Disneyland and perhaps ordering a Merida costume. Ahem. I couldn't help myself! Finally, a Pixar / Disney movie about a girl taking charge and absolutely no prince or love story?! This film was long overdue. I'm happy to report that it delivered in every possible way.

I won't give away any of the plot because I feel the element of surprise is key to this movie. Not that you'd love it less if you knew what was going to happen, but it's so unexpected that I don't want to take away that moment away from you. The basics, as pretty much outlined in the trailers: Merida is being groomed by her mother, Queen Elinor, to be the perfect princess. However, Merida would much rather be controlling her own fate rather than playing by traditional rules. It all comes to a head when her mother summons the clans to compete for Merida's hand. Then... things happen. Magical, wonderful, and sometimes scary things.

This movie is about Merida's journey and then Merida and the relationship with her mother. Overall, it is about the bonds of family. I don't understand why some folks are saying the story isn't about Merida. We follow her throughout - her problems, her trials, her outward and inward struggles, and her resolution. The rest of the film pushes in and leads to her, and her actions influence everyone else's. Completely about her.

And she is quite the role model to look up to. Sure, she makes a few rash decisions. What teenager doesn't? But she also has a take charge attitude and is not only brave in action but also in spirit. She definitely doesn't need any prince to rescue her either. While I love the classic Disney princess stories, to have a movie without a love story where a princess just takes care of herself? It was refreshing and needed.

The movie presents all of the above as a folktale, and the story it weaves is so natural and so right that I've overheard people (on Twitter and in real life) discussing which story the movie is pulling from. It just feels like a tale you know and have heard for ages. Not in the unoriginal way, but in the "this has always been here" way. One friend didn't believe me when I said it was an original story. I take that as a mark of success.


I see some people who are saying Brave is just mediocre and not Pixar's best. I have a couple of thoughts about that. Brave is Pixar's first fairy tale. I felt that was pretty clear going in even though I didn't know the story specifics. Perhaps some people were disappointed by that direction and felt like it's just been done too much. I've read some reviews where people claim to dislike it because it's "small" for a Pixar story. I don't get that at all. The story is universal and has such heart; the struggles of growing up, balancing responsibilities with desire, and squishing that all together with family... well, can't most of us relate to that? And just from the physical location, I'd say this movie is huge in scope. We explore vast swaths of Scotland, and the landscapes aren't like anything you've seen before in a Pixar movie.

And really, at this point isn't a movie that's not among Pixar's best still one of the better movies out there?

It certainly packed the emotional punch we've all come to expect from Pixar. I laughed, I cried not a tiny amount, and this grown-up felt genuinely scared to the point of shrinking in my seat a couple of times. I mean, I'm a complete wimp, but I still think it says a lot when animated characters make me want to hide behind my purse. 

I was also completely blown away by the visual aspects of Brave. Scotland and its forests and rocks and weather were practically a character in this movie. The landscapes are almost photo realistic but still retain that stylized, amazing look. As usual with Pixar, no detail is overlooked. They used a new version of their animating system on Pixar, and it is very apparent right down to the fibers of the kilts to every strand of Merida's wild hair. Every artist who worked on this film should be incredibly proud of the world they built and the characters they put in it.

Brave, I adore you. I can't wait to see you again.

Remember to arrive early to ensure you see Pixar's charming new short, La Luna, and don't forget to stay after the credits for a quick but funny scene!

June 24, 2012

Stuff I've Written Lately

Yes, that is Spidey stealing McDonald's.
Here are some articles I've written elsewhere over the internet over the past two weeks:
Spider-Man, Love, And What Makes Him Tick - Reading about Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy finally made him "click" for me. And it made me cry.

Game Of Thrones Season Two Review [Features] - My review and wrap-up of season two of the most amazing show on television.

How To Make Your Own Geeky Hair Accessories [Feature] - Some friends and I got together to craft hair clips, headbands, and barrettes recently. Since we're all geeks, we made things like a Teen Titans headband, Mockingjay hair clips, and more. Read the article to learn how to make your own!


Quick Blurbs
Dice You Can Actually Throw At Your GM
You Can Finally Get a Joss Whedon Action Figure
New SyFy Shirts From Her Universe
This Knitted Borg Hat Is Creepy And Cute
Harley Quinn, Wonder Woman, Star
Trek And Other Delightfully Geeky Bags
The Justice League With Some Pixar Flair [Art]
Westeros Takes On Political Attack Ads [Video]

June 21, 2012

Archers and arrows everywhere

I don't know if 2012 is really the year of the archer at the movies, but it feels like it because films featuring bows and arrows have been released one right after another. Since March, archers have been prominent characters in The Hunger Games, The Avengers, Snow White and The Huntsman, and in the upcoming Brave. You've got Katniss Everdeen, Hawkeye, William, and Merida. It's more than that these are characters who just happen to own bow and arrows - being talented at archery is an integral part of who they are and their skills are showcased in their respective films.

So many bowmen/women/people on the big screen seems to be a weird coincidence (or maybe not, it could be a conspiracy planned by some archery supply corporation), and as a result, archery is currently one of the hottest sports around. I like seeing a centuries old activity in the spotlight. So much so that even Louis Vuitton incorporated arrows into a recent window display. Crazy.

After The Hunger Games swept the nation, archery clubs reported a marked increase in interest and membership. A Los Angeles area club, the Pasadena Roving Archers, has even had to turn people away. They have the following note posted on their website regarding their free Saturday morning beginner classes:
"Due to the release of the Hunger Games movie we are experiencing a dramatic increase in the numbers of people wanting to take archery lessons. We normally recommend people be at the range by 7:45 am to ensure a place in a class. That is not working at the moment - by the time we arrive at the range at 7:30 am to prepare for classes there is already a long line of people waiting to register and so we can not reliably recommend a time to arrive at the range.
Sales on equipment have gone up, too. I can only imagine the effect The Avengers had on the number of people interested in archery. Brave will be out next weekend, and I hope it encourages a flood of young girls to ask their parents to go to the nearest archery range. Well, boys too, but I'm especially excited about Merida being a great role model for little ladies.

She certainly has good shooting form. An archery coach, Jim MacQuarrie, posted about Merida, Hawkeye, and Katniss over on Geek Dad. He observed their shooting methods in the trailers, and Merida and Katniss come out on top. Hawkeye gets less than great marks. The articles are fun and educational reads; you can find them in this list.

Will you be trying out archery because of any of these films? Are you already an archer?


Two Years Ago
Stormtroopers 365
One Year Ago
Game of Thrones Finale Feast

June 18, 2012

What's in a renfaire

I like going to renaissance faires. It's a point of pride, happiness, something to me that I've attended at least one faire at least once a year for 15 years. Even when I attend the same ones year after year, it never gets old. I look forward to eating my favorite meat pies, to shopping with the same vendors to see what new offerings they have, and to seeing my favorite acts. Sometimes the performances have the same script, but the audience is always different and that variable makes it fun.

Since I've lived in Los Angeles, the Southern California Renaissance Pleasure Faire has become my go-to faire. I didn't realize until after I'd attended for a couple of years that this faire is the first modern faire of its kind. I know! It's been operating since 1962. It takes place in the spring and like most faires, it always seems to be ridiculously hot. The grounds are pretty big, and it's easy to spend a day there because there are so many shops and performances. I enjoy going, but I don't love it in the same way that I did with the renfaire in Ohio. I think that one has a special place simply because it was the first one I attended. Who knows.

Anyways, when a friend of mine offered to take me to a different renfaire this spring, I jumped at the chance. It turns out the Koroneburg Old World Festival was just an hour and a half or so drive away and had plenty of fun stuff to do. I had just gone to the SoCal faire two weeks prior, but can you really ever attend too many renfaires in one month? I don't think so.

It was a blissfully cool day and that automatically and maybe unfairly gave Koroneburg points. This may sound silly, but it is so nice to attend a faire and not spend the whole day sweating and feeling uncomfortable. The festival didn't seem to be terribly busy either, and it made for nice and lazy meandering. Since I spent most of the day running through comparisons to the SoCal faire in the back of my head, I thought I'd share them with you guys in case you plan to attend either faire next year.

Koroneburg Old World Festival
Pros:

  • Free general parking (you can pay for closer parking, but it's not a far walk to the free stuff).
  • Their coffee stand was set up like a little coffee shop by the jousting arena. It looked cute and comfy, and the iced mocha I got there was tasty.
  • Less commercial atmosphere, felt more relaxed.
  • You could get up close and personal to the joust.
  • Great location with plenty of shade.
  • Thomas Wood, the Pyro-Juggler, was hilarious.
  • They had a fencing lesson place, and though I didn't participate, I observed and they spent a lot of time with anyone who stepped in (that may be different when the faire is busier).
  • Rat petting. I know how that sounds, but I got to pet a rat and feed him Cheerios (rat donuts!) and it was fun.
  • Admission is something like $8 or more cheaper than the Pleasure Faire.
  • More attendees in costume than at the other faire.

Cons:

  • It was a bit on the small side. I think it would be hard to spend a full day there.
  • The food I tried - a pita - was just mediocre.
  • The shops were fun and offered great merchandise, but there wasn't a huge variety.

Southern California Renaissance Pleasure Faire
Pros:

  • They offer several options for food, and I've never eaten anything that wasn't delicious. It was weird to see food trucks there this year, but eh.
  • Again, also a lot of choices for shopping. They have multiple vendors selling mugs, clothes, jewelry, weaponry, leather goods, shoes, and on and on. 
  • The location is bigger with lots of open spaces.
  • Plenty of stages with entertainers all day long. I love to go there to just to see performers like Broon, Moonie, and the Merry Wives of Windsor among many others.
  • It's easy to spend a full 8+ hour day at this faire.

Cons:

  • You pay for parking (I think $10? Maybe $5), and admission is higher than Koroneburg (but referenced the pros above).
  • It feels more commercial. People aren't in your face selling items exactly, but it's just a general vibe. The people working the games are a bit too hard-sell for me.
  • There is some shade but not enough. If it's a hot day, the Irwindale Dam recreation are is not a fun place to be.

In the end, each place has perks. I like both, but I'd go to them for different reasons. If I'm all about shopping and food, I'll go to the SoCal faire. They also have some high quality entertainment. If I want an experience that feels less commercial, I'll go to Koroneburg.

What are some of the things you like best about your local faire?

June 14, 2012

So I adore Kitty Pryde & Colossus

Last month was X-Men month at Blastoff Comics. Because of that, I got to know Kitty Pryde and Colossus. As far as superhero couples go, they're fabulous. I know they aren't always together, but in the stories I read, they were just figuring out their feelings. Between Peter's blushing to the moments when Kitty attempts to be straightforward but just ends up stammering - I can't get enough of them. Thusly, I wanted to share some Kitty Pryde and Colossus art that makes me smile.

By John Cassaday


By Mike Maihack


By Thom Zahler


By Cassandra James


By Jaimito


By Rogan Josh

June 12, 2012

Cars Land Is So Worth Checking Out

Disney's California Adventure always seemed a bit like the red-headed stepchild of Disneyland to me. I'd only cross the plaza between the two parks one out of five or so trips to Disneyland and mostly just so I could get an adult beverage. Over the past few years though, California Adventure has become a place to visit. The soon to be opened Cars Land is downright impressive, and I bet it will draw in tons of new visitors to the languishing theme park.

Crowds will be descending en masse upon California Adventure soon to see the new Cars Land and Buena Vista Street - both new areas and their attractions officially open on June 15. When I received an email advertising ticketed previews for annual passholders I knew this would be my chance to see Radiator Springs before it was overrun with thousands of people. After weighing some pros and cons, I decided it was probably worth it. And boy, was it ever.


I got a ticket for the 8-12pm block on Saturday. I arrived to the park around 7:45, parked and picked up my ticket without any waiting. I barely had to stop on my way to Cars Land. Walking from the Pacific Wharf into Cars Land is like entering another world. The vista of Ornament Valley greets you, and it feels like you're walking into the Painted Desert. Though I like Cars, I LOVE the landscape of places like Zion and Arches National Park, and the designers completely nailed it. I don't know if forced perspective has ever looked so good or been so effective. The view upon strolling in took my breath away.


As you walk in you'll pass the Radiator Springs Racers and before you know it, you're right in the middle of Radiator Springs. The level of detail to which the little town from Cars is re-created is amazing. The only other place I've seen themed so completely is Wizarding World. The Cozy Cone Motel is there, so is Tow Mater's, Ramon's House of Body Art, the Stanley Statue in front of Town Hall, and so much more. It's truly like you're walking right into the movie.



I had four hours to spend in Cars Land and Buena Vista Street, and I tried to squeeze the most out of them. Most everyone in the preview group ran right towards the three rides, so I wandered around absorbing the landscape and taking pictures of absolutely everything. I decided to have breakfast at Flo's V8 Cafe, and the chicken tamale with eggs was sooo good.You could choose from lots of options there, or you could visit the Cozy Cone's snack stalls for even more treats like ice cream, popcorn, fries, and churros. Roving cast members sold cotton candy, popcorn, and beverages throughout Cars Land (I even spotted them in line for the Racers selling goodies).


I finally jumped in the single rider line for the Radiator Springs Racers and waited a short 15 minutes to step inside a car. My initial reaction: wow. The ride has two tracks, and at first, it's a leisurely drive through Ornament Valley. Then you go indoors through Luigi's and Ramon's to prep for the "race" against the car on the other track. It's the fun of the Indiana Jones ride without all the jolting about, and the scenery inside and out is just beautiful. I rode it twice.


I didn't ride Luigi's Flying Tires or Mater's Junkyard Jamboree, but I observed. Luigi's looked less than exciting to me. It's basically the world's biggest air hockey table, and the cars float on the surface along with giant beach balls that you can throw about. People leaned out of their cars at ridiculous angles to try to reach the balls, and the cars didn't seem to move fast and in some cases, not at all. I don't think I'll be waiting in a long line for it anytime soon. Mater's Junkyard Jamboree reminded me of the spinning tea cups but with more whipping around than spinning.


What else? Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater took turns in front of Cozy Cone motel for photo ops. From what I overheard, kids seem to be way more excited about meeting Mater than the race car. I browsed through all three shops and before I left I grabbed a "route" beer float from one of the cones.

I didn't want to leave Cars Land, but I'll go back soon. I'm especially looking forward to seeing all the neon at night.

Between the addition of Cars Land, Buena Vista Street, World of Color, and the Toy Story and Little Mermaid rides, I know that I'll make the drive down to Anaheim only for California Adventure.That's not something I pictured myself saying five years ago.

You can see more photos from my visit to Cars Land here.

(I don't blog about Disney often, but if you didn't know, Disneyland makes me really happy).

June 11, 2012

Stuff I've Written Lately

Here's some stuff I've written that's been published elsewhere on the web over the past couple of weeks:

Game of Thrones Veteran Recap: Blackwater - Relive the Battle of Blackwater Bay in my recap/review of the epic-as-you-can-get-on-a-television-budget-battle!

Game of Thrones Veteran Recap: Valar Morghulis - Season two of Game of Thrones ended with a bang, well horns. Some characters' arcs unfolded nicely, but I was a little disappointed with a couple of points. Check out of my review and recap at The Mary Sue.

Five Of My Favorite Kitty Pryde Moments - I wrapped up X-Men month at Blastoff with a post on the amazing Kitty Pryde (I pretty much fangirl all over her).

From Zero to Hero… Sort Of - June is Spider-Man month at Blastoff, and I've got a lot to learn about Peter Parker. As with most superhero comics, my only Spidey knowledge comes from the movies. Read my first impressions at the link above.


Quick Blurbs



June 7, 2012

Comics, Previews, & Pre-Ordering: The Rundown

Pre-ordering comics might seem like an obvious thing to some of you but even though I've been buying comics regularly for over a year now, I didn't get on board with the pre-ordering/Previews business until four months ago. I vaguely knew about the system and that there were some kind of special codes, but I didn't know how it worked and I was too shy to ask (no idea why - I go to a wonderful comic book shop staffed with the nicest people). I got over it and finally asked. My eyes were opened.

It's not a flawless system and I actually still ask a question about it almost every month, but in theory, it's simple. Buy Previews catalog, flip through it, order the comics you want, they show up at your local comic book shop, you get them. Huzzah!

As straightforward as that sounds, the first time I was handed a Previews catalog and its accessories, I was a little confused. I understood the gist of how to order, but I had no idea why I required so many pieces of paper to do so. As I mentioned, I'm still fuzzy on some of the finer points, but in general, I feel ridiculous for not using this system sooner.

So, because maybe it will help someone else, here are my whys and very basic hows on pre-ordering comics.

The Why
Remember when you were a kid and stores like Sears and K-Mart would send out hefty Christmas catalogs full of potential presents to drool over? You'd look through that catalog at least three times to make sure you didn't miss anything and to double check that you clearly marked each item you wanted. Perhaps, if you were as thorough as me, you even had a ranking system to illustrate which toys and gadgets you wanted - nay, needed - the most.

Yeah. Going through Previews every month is pretty much just like that. It's a giant catalog full of comics, books, magazines, toys, games, and apparel, for crying out loud! You can dog-ear pages, use Post-It flags, and make a wishlist. I'm almost glad it's not available digitally yet because I enjoy the very much tangible experience of ordering from Previews.

Besides the fact that it's fun, there's an even more important reason to pre-order. It's simple, ready? Your orders determine whether a comic gets published. Your orders help your retailer decide how many issues to order or whether to order an issue at all. This is important for every comic book, but I feel it especially matters for creator-owned comics. Retailers are always going to order some amount of a big two book. That's just business. And it's not good business practice to order a couple of everything.

I mean, check out some of the lists for comics that come out each Wednesday. It's not an insignificant number; retailers can't take a chance on every comic book. They're stuck with what they order, so they have to play it safe to a degree and order comics that they think will sell. Fair or not, this means an indie comic or a creator owned one might not stand a chance unless you pre-order it. Your voice matters.

But how do you know if creators you love have upcoming projects listed in Previews? (Other than diligently going through the pages). Trust me, if you're following them on any sort of social media, they'll let you know. Creators will talk about what they're working on, when you can order it, and many will be kind enough to just provide the Diamond code. Some of them even make it super easy and create downloadable PDFs of what they have available and all you have to do is print their form, enter the quantity you want, and take it to your local comic book store.

One more plus about pre-ordering? My comic book shop pulls each comic I order so I don't have to worry about a popular issue selling out before I can get there on Wednesday. It will be waiting in my folder. (This varies by store).

The How
First things first, you need to buy Diamond's Previews magazine. It comes out on approximately the first Wednesday of the month. I know, you might not love the idea of shelling out $4.50 for what is basically a catalog. Let me help you rationalize: it's 500ish pages, it includes a few interviews with creators or other comics related articles, sometimes it includes full pages or panels from upcoming comics, and if you are a decoupage/craft junkie like me, there's plenty of material to slice and dice after you've ordered. Plus, reference the earlier part in this post about it being fun to shop from a catalog.

If you're not sold or would rather spend the $4.50 on an actual comic, some - most - comic book stores keep a shop copy they will let you use (in the store) to place your order. Just ask! They're usually pretty accommodating because they like when you use the system.

June Previews, June Marvel Previews,  June Previews order form
When you ask for Previews make sure you get the giant catalog and the order form. Marvel also publishes their own mini-catalog; it's free if you buy Previews but everything listed in the Marvel mini-catalog is also listed in Previews. What I'm trying to say: you don't necessarily need the Marvel one, but it's available. AND if you are all Marvel all the time and don't need to look at Preview, you can just buy the Marvel one for $1.25.

Previews Order Form Example
Look through Previews, flag want you want, and fill out the order form as you go or after you've looked through the catalog a couple of times. It's up to you. As far as filling out the order form, talk to your comic book shop first. Everyone has different rules. Some prefer each column to be filled out, and others are more flexible. Additionally, you'll also find a Short Order Form inside the larger Previews catalog. It looks like this. If you're not ordering a huge stack of comics, you may just want to fill in the items you want rather than looking through the order form that lists every single item in Previews.

My shop accepts orders by email, but since there isn't a digital form* that can be edited (I'd love an editable PDF of the order form), I just send in a table with the item code, qty, title, and cost. (My comic book shop doesn't ask you to pre-pay for what you order. I personally don't know of any shops that do, but that's definitely important to ask).

Please, for the love of Pete and Mike and all those dudes, if you email your order or don't use the order form for some reason, be sure to give your comic book shop the item code for the issue you want. Don't make them dig. It's just polite.

However you turn your order in, get it in by the 18th every month.  Then just wait for the comics or toys to books to arrive.

Ask your comic book shop if they will automatically put the comics you pre-order aside for you. Not every shop will, some have rules about subscriptions. They'll be happy to let you know how things works. And honestly if they're not willing to help you through pre-ordering, it's probably time for a new shop.

Now go forth and pre-order comics!
And if you have any tips I'm missing, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

*You can download a pdf of the order form, but you have to print and fill it out.


June 5, 2012

Game of Thrones season finales mean eating like a King

If you can't win the Iron Throne, you should at least pretend by eating like a King. It's a good rule for life.

I'm lucky enough to watch Game of Thrones with a group of awesome people who enjoy a themed feast. For the second year in a row (cause the show's been around two seasons, see) we decided to celebrate the finale in style. Why not have another reason to look forward to the finale? Our feasts have less blood loss than any meal in Westeros, but we enjoy it just the same. Everyone brings a dish or beverage, and we dine like royalty.

It's surprisingly easy to put a meal together like this when there are six or more people contributing. You just have to be willing to sacrifice and hour or two in the kitchen. Trust me, it's completely worth it. It may seem silly, but if you've never attempted a themed meal - just try it. As far as Game of Thrones, there are plenty of recipes to choose from at The Inn at the Crossroads. Many of them are quite easy to follow and don't differ much from food you'd prep for your standard dinner. Don't be intimidated to experiment... I used to worry over every little detail when I'd have food parties. I still worry more than I should, but mostly I embrace this attitude: if whatever you try to make doesn't turn out, pizza is just a phone call away.

I digress.
The menu for this year's finale feast included: pork pie (holy crow was it delicious), stuffed grape leaves, honey cakes, oat cakes, beer bread, stew, Roman buttered carrots & other vegetables, and green bean, onion, & beet salad. Everything I tried was tasty, and I somehow made room for a little of everything with the exception of the beets. I keep trying them and no matter what sort of sauce they're served with, beets always taste of dirt to me.

We had wine, beer, and assorted beverages with our food and it was all perfect. Eating that hearty is good for the soul. And for me, it puts me in a mood to eat like that all the time. Winter is coming, I should eat all the food I can now before it's gone.

Read about last year's feast here.

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