The Ladies of Comicazi Convention Survival Guide

Despite that stunt Mother Nature pulled with snow on the first day of spring, I’m calling it: winter has passed.  It’s now time for us to get back into the world, mixing and mingling with like minded folk to celebrate stuff you love.  And thus, convention and show season is upon us!  The Boston area has already seen PAX, one of the bigger conventions for this area, and more are coming up fast and furious.  I haven’t been to a ton of conventions…thought I did survive the most recent RI Comic Con and many years ago, made it to the mega convention – San Diego Comic Con.  I love the excitement of conventions but do not love the crowds, nor the crowd related byproducts.  So, I’ve come up habits that help me to have fun, stay sane, and get what I want out of attending conventions.

Here goes……

  • Nourishment
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    This is what people brought for Con lunch in colonial times. These days I would recommend PB&J, or maybe some ham.

    • Food is fuel and you’ve got a long day ahead of you, so have a good breakfast, especially if you are going to be lining up outside for some time before you even get to the convention floor.
    • Many Cons have food.  Super bad for you, super overpriced food.  Your hard-earned cash can be spent on something much better, so go old school and pack a brown bag lunch. Consider something simple and light like a sandwich and an apple. (Apples are durable, provide liquid and fiber and they are good for you.)
  • Hydrate!
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    Unicorn tears are the ultimate in hydration, but can be quite a trial to obtain. Regular water works too, and is a bit more accessible.

    • Hydrate, you guys.  Finding the restroom may be a pain, but it’s better than the alternative which can leave you hot, dry, and possibly even lead to medical issues.
  • Know your crowd limits
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    Crowds are tough on small people. You won’t like us when we are angry.

    • There are a lot of people (with varying hygiene levels) crammed into convention hall.  Hopefully you are somewhere that is aware of fire codes, but those may be a bit more generous than your personal limits.  When you feel the internal patience bar start to red-line, make your exit to a place where you can rest, regroup and get back to your personal space comfort zone.
  • Set a meeting place
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    The one time I went to San Diego Comic Con, this Hellboy bust was the meeting place for me and and my pal J.

    • Going to cons with your friends is great fun!  Trying to move around a con as a large group with varying interests and priorities is an absolute nightmare.  So, when you arrive, set a meeting space and a time so you can split up.  Maybe check in every few hours or so.
    • Yes, we all have cell phones, but you can’t always rely on them then you are in a convention center with tons of other people also trying to find people via text.  In person check-ins also allow for better communication about a cool thing the others might not have seen yet.
  • Plan your day

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    I love it when a plan comes together.

    • You don’t need to live and die by your plans, but if you put a little thought into it the more likely you will be to get to do everything you want. So, what panels do you want to attend? Who do you want to see?  If you are planning on attending a popular panel, get in line early!
    • If you have books to be signed maybe do that early if the option exists. The lines may be shorter.
  • Don’t over bundle…lots of people equals warmth, and lots of funk.
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    Note to self: Do not cosplay the Tiny Doom winter variant at an August convention.

    • I don’t think this needs explanation.  But if it does, think layers.
  • Gather your gear
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    • Don’t forget the important stuff- phones, chargers, stuff you want signed, convention sketchbook, snacks, and cash.  Some of the longest convention lines I have ever seen are for the ATM.
    • Get a good bag, something that fits all your stuff but is not too bulky.  You don’t want to be smacking other attendees with your giant bag…or worse, knocking over merchandise that is now yours due to a “you broke it you bought it” policy.  I like messenger style bags.

So, there you have it.  Some tips to help you be ready to get the most out of your convention attending.  Hope it helps, and happy conning! I mean good con, er, convention attending!

Honorary Lady of Comicazi: Kelly Link

Kelly Link writes the kind of short stories I wish I could – little gems of speculative fiction in which movie stars are haunted by demon lovers, rabbits aren’t to be trusted, and superheroes share convention space with dentists. They’re dark and funny and sad and weird and they do what all of the best fiction does – they reveal who we are as humans to ourselves, unearthing all of the creepy secrets we’d rather keep hidden and the everyday miracles we’re all capable of. I’m not the only one to think so – the New York Times agrees with me and Neil Gaiman thinks she should be declared a national treasure. And yet, I feel like only a few folks in my circle have read her work.

"Kellylink1b". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikipedia.

This is due in part, no doubt, to the fact that she exclusively writes short stories and we are culturally weird about short stories as an art form (Link herself alluded to this at a recent reading I attended.) We don’t seem to credit short fiction nearly as much as novels – no one declares their intention to write the Great American Short Story at dinner parties. Then, too, there’s the content of these stories – too fantastical for the realistic fiction set, with their ghost boyfriends and fairy-tale themes – yet with too many elements of real life for the hardcore sci-fi and fantasy contingent. However I do think we’re entering an era where more of these sorts of stories are becoming popular, and I’m  hoping to see Link’s star continue to rise with that shift.

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Yes, I did get her to sign and personalize my book at the reading. We talked about comics and Steve Almond.

Being an Honorary Lady of Comicazi, however, is about more than simply creating great works – our Honorary Ladies must promote the empowerment of women, which Link does in spades – her female characters are complicated and often a bit damaged but they are real, and they stand up for themselves. A great example is the story “Travels with the Snow Queen” which you can read here. But one of the things I like best about Kelly Link, and a way in which I think she empowers all sorts of people, has nothing to do with her own writing – it’s the way she promotes and makes a space for others to tell their stories. You see, when she isn’t busy being a national treasure, Link, along with her husband Gavin Grant, publishes the work of other writers of weird, wonderful stories that don’t quite fit into neat genre categories. The couple put out a truly fantastic literary journal, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet (I get the subscription that comes with fancy chocolate and YES THAT IS A REAL THING) and they also publish books as Small Beer Press, including The Liminal People, a book I’ve told you to go read before.  (And now I’ve told you again, and you’d better hurry, there’s a sequel coming.)

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Small Beer is publishing speculative fiction from all sorts of voices – women, certainly, but also many people of color, folks with many different experiences and backgrounds, and I think that this is really important work. Some might say it’s just science fiction – but think of how much of our modern lives are influenced by the crazy stories that people wrote years ago – what technology and innovations were inspired by Wells and Verne, what social change has been brought about through the cautionary tales of Orwell and Bradbury. By bringing diverse voices to the world of fantasy and science fiction, Link, Gavin, and Small Beer Press help to ensure that our ideas of the future are more diverse, too.

I’m pleased to name Kelly Link the latest Honorary Lady of Comicazi, and hope that many of you will check out her work and the work published by Small Beer Press.  If you’re already a fan, tell me about your favorite stories in the comments! My essential five Kelly Link stories are:

1. The aforementioned “Travels with The Snow Queen” from Stranger Things Happen. I’m generally a sucker for a fairy-tale retelling but this one is exceptional.

2. “The Specialist’s Hat,” also from Stranger Things Happen. Never has a nursery rhyme about a hat been so terrifying.

3. “Stone Animals” from Magic for Beginners. Don’t turn your back on the rabbits.

4. “Origin Story” from Get in Trouble. This is everything I love in one story – superheroes, heartache, imaginary games, and dentists. Okay, I’m not really into dentist stories, but this isn’t really a dentist story anyway. Just read it.

5. “The New Boyfriend” from Get in Trouble. This story is actually too genius to even describe to you, because I don’t want to spoil any of it. Let’s just say that by the end, the entire idea you have of the story and the protagonist will change.

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This is a wee little chapbook of this story with illustrations by various illustrious people (some of whom are more known for their drawing skills than others).

BONUS SHORT STORY FANATIC PS: My dear friend Nandi recently turned me on to the New Yorker Fiction Podcast. The concept is simple – writers pick stories from the New Yorker archive, then read them and talk about them. It’s as if your lit class in college was full of totally brilliant, excellent readers. No Kelly Link here but Gary Shteyngart reading Lorrie Moore’s “Paper Losses” gives me a lot of the same feelings.

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Outlander: This is how an obsession begins…

I was against this from the start.  Not because I thought for a moment that I wouldn’t like Outlander, but because I knew that once I went down the rabbit hole, I wasn’t going to want to come out.  And boy if I wasn’t right.

I’m not sure if I should be thanking or yelling at my friends as I spend each morning looking for Outlander blogs and taking advantage of the sweet deal Amazon is running on the kindle version of the book, but I have fallen, and hard.  I also kinda don’t care.  After a winter of horrible cold and ice, I needed this.  So if you are looking for a little something to pull you through that home stretch, I would like to share with you a quick introduction to the fandom of Outlander.

For those who might not be that familiar with the premise of the show, here is a quick synopsis.  Claire, a nurse who cared for soldiers on the front lines during the second world war, finds herself reunited with her husband who is pretty much a wet blanket.  While they travel to Scotland on a second honeymoon, Claire is transported back to the 1743 where she meets a dishy guy in a kilt named Jaime.  Let the steamy, meaningful looks begin!  That’s right people, let’s all swoon as Jamie’s eyes stare into the depths of Claire’s very soul! *sigh

This show is heavy on the romance, and as a result it probably isn’t a great match for everyone.  The good news is that in the episodes I have seen so far, there is also violence, politics, family feuds, oh and that guy in the kilt I mentioned earlier.  Something tells me that a lot of people might just be watching just for him.

When we are talking about a show that takes place in two historical time periods (the 1940 and 1740s), there is a lot of fodder for some great fandom.  So, make some bannocks, brew a cup of thistle tea, and let’s talk about the ways we can take an example from other Outlander fans who are both showing their love and adding even more to the experience of  watching the show and reading the books.

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See? Handsome Jaime isn’t the only thing worth looking at.

Diving into Scotland and its history:  What is great about a show like Outlander is just how much Scotland and Scottish culture are as important to the story as the actions of the characters themselves. You cannot imagine a story like this being told anywhere else, and the highlands themselves create a world that is both lush and beautiful…hard and cruel.  It makes sense that the people of this land are fiercely proud of their home and traditions.  The use of Scottish Gaelic without providing subtitles takes you even deeper into the world.  And for those of you who have an interest in the Jacobite Risings, Claire has found herself a mere two years away from the rising of 1745, which would result in defeat for the Scottish Jacobites and cause the Scottish Lords to lose their heritable jurisdictions.

Looking for a place to start to learn a bit more?  Diane Gabaldon wrote an interesting article featuring her take on her series and the issue of Scottish Independence.  Or if you are more into the locations themselves, VisitScotland.com has created an interactive map allowing fans to quite literally follow in their favorite character’s footsteps.

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“This booze tastes like dawn on the glen as the spring heather begins to bloom.”

Recreating the Food and 18th Century Life: I know that St. Patrick’s Day is coming up and I should be figuring out what I am bringing to the potluck party I am attending this weekend, but I keep finding myself more interested in Scottish cuisine.  There are a lot of great resources out there if your idea of a good time is nibbling on some traditional oatcakes with fresh butter while you watch your favorite characters do the same.  Following in the same vein as blog favorite Inn at the Crossroads, Outlander Kitchen provides dishes from the show and books as well as recipes inspired by the characters themselves.  And for those who really want to get recipes that are a bit more accurate, Outlander Adventures (probably my favorite of the lot) takes the time to share a lot of details and history regarding the recipes posted.  As an added bonus, you can also find other 18th century information and projects including soap, gardening, and knits. And speaking of knits…

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Accurate, schmaccurate. These castles are freezing!

Creating the Clothes and Knits:  Remember what I said about two historical periods?  That means not just one set of period fashions, but two.  TWO AWESOME ONES.  To those who know a lot about historically accurate clothes, I must put in a wee bit of a warning here.  Exceptions have been made (see the pic above), but the team behind the costumes has admitted as much.  But accurate or not, the 18th Century costumes look amazing.  Best of all, some of the more modern elements make it easier for the fans to create little pieces of the costumes for themselves.  Fans have been spending a lot of time focusing on the knits in the show.  Who cares that chunky knit cowls weren’t all the rage in 1743, they just look so good.  If you want to dig in a little more Terry Dresbach, creator of costumes for the show, has a blog filled with pictures and details from her work, life, and the show.  Still looking for more?  This Buzzfeed article can point you towards not only project patterns, but places where you can buy knits made by other fans.  And because I wouldn’t be myself without a nod to those who are more interested in creating knits accurate to the 18th century, here’s a good place to start researching that as well.

So, now that you know how I will be spending my time in between episode viewings, care to share what you are up to?  Are you picking out yarn for your own cowl?  Planning a trip to Scotland to see the scenery with your own eyes?  Let us know in the comments below!

Leonard Nimoy and the animated “Star Trek”

I am not the person to eulogize Leonard Nimoy. In just about any group of people I choose to be with, I am never the biggest Star Trek  fan. There are gaps in my viewing of the original series that would horrify a true Trekkie. I hadn’t even seen The Wrath of Khan until a few years ago. (The good news is that it holds up extremely well.) So if you want a knowledgeable appreciation of Nimoy’s life, his career in general, or his time as Spock in particular, the rest of the internet will be more than willing to help.

And yet, there is one Leonard Nimoy story that hasn’t been told much, even as just about every well deserved kind word that can be said about the man is being said. It’s a story takes place as the starship Enterprise was about to head off into the animated frontier.

Star Trek animated series title card

The animated version of Star Trek, called “Star Trek: The Animated Series” by fans to distinguish it from the live action series, came about in response to the growing popularity of the original show. Through syndication, Star Trek was gaining a bigger fanbase. Filmation’s animated version of the show was an early attempt to capitalize on the series’ growing popularity. But the animated Enterprise nearly took off without two of its regular crew members.

Filmation’s original plan was to exclude George Takei and Nichelle Nichols from the voice cast. I’m not sure exactly what their  reasoning was. The expense of hiring so many live action performers to do voice work may have been a factor. Cost concerns ultimately kept Walter Koenig from joining his fellow Trek alums in the voice cast, though he later penned an episode. Other Filmation animated shows feature very small voice casts, with each actor playing multiple roles. Though why Takei and Nichols were considered less necessary than the other actors is not clear. Another possibility is that Filmation wasn’t on board with the idea of a racially diverse starship crew. However, Wikipedia states that the original intention was to have James Doohan voice Sulu and Majel Barrett play Uhura. Whatever the reason, Nichols and Takei were going to be left out and may well have been if not for Leonard Nimoy.

Nimoy was aware that some of his fellow actors were having a rough time financially in the years before they could look forward to big movie roles and substantial appearance fees from conventions. He also believed that Sulu and Uhura were an important part of the show and of series creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a future where people of different races working together was just business as usual.

So Nimoy informed Filmation that if they were going to replace or recast Sulu and Uhura, they would have to recast Spock as well. Filmation relented and Nichols and Takei were added to the voice cast.

Spock with his younger self in "Yesteryear"

This was obviously an important event for Takei and Nichols, but it was also of great benefit to the show and fandom. Because when it’s at its best, the animated series really does feel like a legitimate continuation of the live action one. Yes the animation can be stiff and there’s a lot of recycled animation. And yes, the stories are sometimes very, very silly, though you could easily say the same thing of the live-action Trek. But the show’s best episodes hold up shockingly well. If you’ve never seen any animated Trek, do yourself a favor and go watch the episode “Yesteryear” on Netflix. It’s easily one of the best of the series, it’s written by perennial Trek scribe and pioneering lady science fiction writer D.C. Fontana, and – luckily enough – it’s all about Spock traveling to the past to save and guide his younger self. Elements from “Yesteryear,” as well as a few other episodes of the animated series, have even made their way into other Trek TV shows and movies.

There’s a quote from “Yesteryear” which I think is just as appropriate for reflecting on Nimoy’s passing as anything from The Wrath of Khan:

“Every life comes to an end when time demands it. Loss of life is to be mourned but only if the life was wasted. [His} was not” – Spock.

If you have a favorite memory of Star Trek, Spock, or Leonard Nimoy, please share it in the comments.

Netflix Hidden Gem- Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

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Does Downton Abbey have you hungry for more period drama?  Do you wish it had more murder, perhaps a little less polish, and a lot more sass?  Are you crazy about Agent Carter, but wish it had a bit more sex-appeal?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, now is the time to use your winter-imposed inside time to check out Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.

This Australian television series is actually based on a book series by Australian author Kerry Greenwood.  Admittedly I haven’t read the series, so I can’t speak directly on whether the television series holds up to the books.  But in researching more about this show I have read that it does and that the book’s author is very pleased with the adaptation.  So if you like the show, maybe file the book info away for future beach reads (despite the current frozen tundra we all live in, I am assuming summer will happen).

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Set in 1920’s Melbourne, Phryne Fisher is a single female detective whose fashion is as sharp as her wit (and mine…ho ho!).  It’s like Murder, She Wrote and Downton Abbey had a rambunctious teenage daughter who not only wears pants and drives her own car, but also carries a pearl handled pistol and collects male admirers like they are the finest of hats.  It’s that second point that has raised the hackles of some Netflix reviewers.  According to these folks because she is a sexually active single woman, Miss Fisher is a tramp.  This consequently ruins their enjoyment of the show.  Since I am recommending this show to you, I had no such experience (I also think that’s a ridiculous assessment).  Miss Fisher owns her behavior, she’s clever, hardworking, caring, and hot.  Why should she have to behave like a nun to be taken seriously as a detective or even be considered likable?

Like many mystery based shows the episode structure is largely “murder of the week” type stuff, with Miss Fisher either stumbling across crimes, or being brought in as a consultant, like a more carefree and socially savvy Sherlock Holmes.  While she doesn’t really have a “Watson” per se, she does have a team of trusted colleagues who help in investigations.  She also habitually partners with restrained police Detective Jack Robinson on most if not all of her cases, and oh the sexual tension!  Note, this doesn’t stop dear Phryne from having other romantic partners, a point that those in the “Miss Fisher is a Tramp” camp gleefully point out.  Despite the time period it’s set in, this show is rather progressive in its relationships, if not still lacking in racial diversity.  Miss Fisher’s best friend is a female physician, who is also a lesbian.  And I’m not really sure about the relationship between Cec and Burt (two taxi drivers who are often called in on some of the more unsavory aspects of Phryne’s investigations) , but they are rarely seen apart from each other.  This makes for a fun cast of supporting characters, but Miss Fisher is still the shiniest of the bunch.

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Miss Fisher and Dr. Mac

The first two series (seasons) of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries are available on Netflix and a third is currently being worked on.


Fun Fact:  Miss Fisher is played by Essie Davis, who also played the haggard mother in the Australian horror movie, The Babadook.  If you like horror, The Babadook is a film worth checking out.

The Red Menace Reads: The Flash

Long-time readers of this blog may remember that a little while back I wrote a little essay on my favorite superhero, The Flash. Specifically, Wally West, the third Flash. (I have not yet watched the new tv show, which is about the second Flash, Barry Allen. I’m sure I’ll get around to it eventually, I just don’t watch much tv in general.) My love of Wally, as I explain in more detail in the earlier piece, was formed from how he’s portrayed in the Justice League cartoons and continued based on reading Geoff Johns’ run on the comic, circa 2000. So it’s a pretty modern, recent version of his character. Flash My dear Mr. Menace has helped to round out the picture I have of Wally since then – he has been painstakingly assembling the entirety of The Flash, Volume 2, (Barry’s adventures are Volume 1 – the first Flash, Jay Garrick, was in a title called “Flash Comics.” Oh these subtle differences.) The series started in 1987, after the death of Barry Allen in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Up until that point, Wally had been Kid Flash, Barry’s sidekick – the new series would explore him taking up the mantle of The Flash and what it truly meant. My run is complete up to #86, so I thought I’d do a periodic series on my reading – will it change how I see my favorite character, or will it make me love him all the more?

We’ll start with the first two years, Flash #1-26, “Happy Birthday, Wally!” -“Beware the Porcupine Man!” Mike Baron wrote the first 14 storylines, with William Messner-Loebs taking over on Volume 15. One thing to note about superhero comics from this time period is that they’re in this weird middle ground, storytelling-wise, between the one shot story lines of the early days of comics the long-form, tradepaperback-ready stories of today. Most of the plots in these 26 issues seem to run for about 2-3 issues, with some key points that carry through or are periodically revisited. That means a LOT happened in these 26 issues, but I’m not going to give a play-by-play; these are more my general impressions. If the public clamors for recaps, I’ll consider it.

The story opens with Wally’s 20th birthday party – quite fittingly, he’s truly no longer a teen just in time for him to leave the Teen Titans and set off on his own as The Flash. From the beginning we see that Wally is struggling a bit – he hasn’t been able to get up the speed he did before Barry died, and he’s worried about money. Still, his friends are around him and he’s ready for his new beginning. The birthday party doesn’t last long, though, as Wally is asked to make an emergency cross-country delivery for a heart transplant, and along the way runs afoul of one of Barry’s most dangerous enemies, Vandal Savage. Wally at the outset of the series is frankly a bit of a jerk – he has a chip on his shoulder about his former Kid Flash status. He’s a lady-killer, going through countless flirtations and at least three serious girlfriends in these issues, including a protracted affair with an older, married woman named Tina McGee. (To be fair, her husband had turned himself into a steroid-fueled monster, and Wally seemed pretty torn about it at first.) Wally’s even a bit of a misogynist – he seems to think that women are helpless and need to be cared for, even though many of the women in his life are quite capable (including Tina McGee, who is a scientist studying Wally’s speed powers.) There were several times I wanted to reach into the book and smack him. Flash And yet – there are glimmers of the hero he’ll eventually become. For one thing, the stories are told in such a way that it’s clear that the writers are not condoning his bad behavior, nor do they seem to share his sentiments. They’re showing us your average callous 20 year old if he’d also had unbelievable powers since he was just a kid. That’s bound to affect anyone’s judgment. Wally is also trying to make his way in the world in the absence of both his mentor, Barry, and his team – Wally was a founding member of the Teen Titans. Not only has he never really been on his own before, but he suddenly has to worry about things like money. Can he afford proper health care? What about liability insurance? And then, of course, there’s his enormous appetite – Wally’s powers come with a metabolic limitation, so his speed requires massive amounts of energy to maintain. Flash Glimpses of “my” Wally, as I think of him, are also present in how he treats the people in his life, especially his villains. For every careless moment or insensitive comment, there are plenty of moments that help you understand that underneath it all, Wally really wants to help people. I mentioned earlier that Tina McGee’s husband had become a rage monster – well, Wally runs into Soviet Russia to extract the only man who can help him recover. Later, Wally meets The Chunk, a massive misfit with a literal black hole inside of him. Wally helps him learn to use those powers for good and even becomes friends with him – they bond over the immense quantities of food they both need to consume. Flash In a way, the fact that he’s sometimes a pill makes me love Wally all the more. He’s a real person who makes mistakes, despite his powers. In true 80’s fashion, these lessons are sometimes a bit heavy-handed – the issue where he learns that anyone can become homeless – even heroes! – was a bit eye-roll inducing for sure (plus it turned out that Wally’s financial woes were alien-induced, and led him to meeting Fidel Castro in Cuba. O-KAY). There’s also timely mentions of drug use, “yuppie flu,” and some terrible clothes. But there’s a heart there, the core of the Wally I love. Flash Overall, the series is off to a good start, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Wally progresses in the next set of issues. As a fun lady bonus, a good chunk of this run was edited by Barbara Kesel, who broke into comics by writing a letter to Dick Giordano, DC’s editor in chief at the time, about the portrayal of women in comics. So change can happen!

Have you ever done a deep dive or gone all the way back to the beginning on a character or title you love? What happened as a result?

Part 2 – Mokey “Great Scott” Von Barkenberg: An Adoption story

This is part 2 of a two part post about the adoption of my dog and mascot, Mokey.  If you’d like to read part one, you can find it here.

Part 2: Adaptation

When we left off, The Boy had found “his dog.”  I feel the need to stress just how important this moment was to Tikki’s life because to this day The Boy likes to remind me of how his intuition was superior to my own.  I was cold, wet, hungry, a little terrified at the same time.  The Boy needed to push me to commit to adopting Tikki.  I’m glad he did, but I’m afraid I will never live it down.

We took Tikki home that very night and changed her name to Mokey, and if it wasn’t for that Pomeranian we were pet sitting at the same time, I think we might have forgotten that Tikki was around.  She was quiet.  She liked to hide.  And due to her having just been treated for fleas, we we were advised to keep her and the pom separate.

Adopting an adult dog wasn’t quite what cartoons and movies would have you believe.  Tikki wasn’t Annie’s Sandy or even Hawkeye’s Pizza Dog.  Good intentions did not instantly translate into a dog’s devotion.  There was A LOT of trust that needed to be developed, especially when even the sounds of an electric razor would end in her hiding under a chair for at least 15 minutes.  I began to worry that I wasn’t smart enough to figure out how to help her adapt to her new home.  I was really concerned that I wasn’t going to be able to do right by her during those first few months.  Then, after what we thought would be a routine appointment, the vet called us with some tough news.

Mokey had tested positive for heartworm.

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This is pretty much how Mokey spends her days now. I remain insanely jealous.

This was by no means a death sentence, but it was difficult and potentially expensive news.  Due to how uncommon cases of heartworm are up in New England, our vet had never treated heartworm before and the treatment alone would cost almost $1,000.  During the treatment and for the months after, Mokey would need to be kept calm and as still as possible to prevent the dying worms from blocking her pulmonary vessels. The Boy and I were stunned and ill-prepared.  But while we tried to figure out our best plan of action, I contacted the rescue where we got Mokey so that they could get their other dogs tested.  When the head of the rescue called me the next day, she made me an offer I was really tempted to refuse.

The new plan of action that was presented to us was pretty simple.  The rescue would arrange for Mokey to be picked up after their next adoption event.  She would be brought back to the woman who ran the rescue and she would oversee Mokey’s treatment herself.  Rescue Lady spent a lot of time providing us with reassurances and promising that Mokey would have someone watching her, keeping her calm, and taking great care of her until she was well enough to be dropped off home again.  It was simple.  It was something they did all the time for their rescued dogs.  And lastly, since Mokey would be sharing the treatment with other small dogs who needed small doses, the whole thing wouldn’t cost us a penny.  Rescue Lady even offered to email regular updates and pictures to make me feel better.

The Boy and I talked about it for a long time.  About a week later, I stood at my front door and cried for almost a full half hour after the rescue picked her up.  Mokey had immediately recognized the rescue worker and panicked when she saw him.  She pulled, tried to hide behind me, and for the first time made me realize just how deeply I had fallen in love with this little dog.  It was horrible, and the worst thing about it was that there was a part of me that was convinced I would never see Mokey again.

The next two months were horrible for The Boy and I.  We had only had Mokey for a few months, but we felt her absence.  Friends excused our irritable behavior by sharing Mokey’s story.  I began to formulate horrible scenarios in my mind about what was really happening with our dog.  The one that I really couldn’t let go of was the belief that Mokey was part of some scam where they adopt heartworm-positive dogs out to poor unsuspecting people only to collect the adoption fee, then take back the dog for “treatment” before trying to adopt it out again in hopes of receiving another fee.  While I had all this time to fret and second guess our choice, I received only two emails from Rescue Lady about Mokey.  The first one confirmed her treatment, and the second came over a month later letting me know when Mokey would be returned.   As much as I hated Rescue Lady for not providing me the communication I was promised, this was the best news I ever got.  Mokey would be home before Christmas.

Even the day that Mokey came back to us was marred by poor communication.  Running late and with several dogs to drop off, I received a text letting me know that the driver needed to sleep and wouldn’t be stopping by until sometime the next day.  I think if I had been some horrible 1990s anime/manga character, I would have turned Super Saiyan and used the power of my own annoyance to fly to NH to get my dog.  Sadly, I was still myself and did my best to sleep through another night of anticipation and worry.

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When Mokey isn’t sleeping, she is running out to various social engagements. Here she is all ready to head out to her first pool party.

The happy ending to this story did eventually come that next day.  As soon as Mokey saw me through the van window, she began to squirm and paw at the door.  She jumped out of the van and immediately came over to me and scratched at my legs until I picked her up.  The little dog who had been so timid and cautious with her affection before licked my face and sat in my lap until The Boy came home from work.  As soon as he walked in the door, the three of us sat on the kitchen floor together – The Boy and I giving her scratches and cooing over her like a couple of weirdos.  And Mokey’s response? She rolled on her back, nuzzled her face into our sides, and for the first time since we had adopted her in early summer, she whined and cried and begged for more attention.  Mokey had finally found her voice, just in time to let us know how much she missed us.

Notes: I have had people ask me for the name of the rescue where we got Mokey.  I do not give out their name because shortly after we got Mokey back, we were told that the rescue had lost its license to adopt out in NH.  A round of googling would then let me know that Rescue Lady had been brought up on animal cruelty charges and the rescue’s Petfinder listings and homepage quickly disappeared.  Further proof of how lucky The Boy and I were to find Mokey.

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When Mokey finally publishes her memoirs, she has asked that we use this picture of her on the dust jacket. She certainly does look distinguished.

So that’s the story of my little dog and how she became a real part of my family.  I love hearing about how people got their pets and highly recommend that others consider adopting a dog from a rescue.  Even bad experiences can turn out well, and I don’t regret a thing.  Though I do know that next time, there are a few things that I would do differently.  So at this point, I’m sure you all know the drill.  Have a great pet story to tell?  Wanna just post a picture of your pet?  Share in the comment box below and I’ll be sure to tell Mokey you said “hi.”  Unless of course you are The Goog…

Honorary Ladies of Comicazi – Brenda Chapman

Here it is a month into 2015 and I still haven’t picked an Honorary Lady of Comicazi? It’s about time I did something about that.

Without further ado, here’s my addition to the growing list: Brenda Chapman.

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You may not be familiar with Chapman’s name, as is the case with so many people in the world of animation. But you almost certainly know her work. After graduating from the venerable California Institute of the Arts and getting her start working on TV productions like Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats and The Real Ghostbusters, Chapman began working at Disney’s story department. She boarded several notable scenes in Beauty and the Beast and other Disney films before heading up the story department on The Lion King. Chapman left Disney to join the nascent DreamWorks Animation as one of three co-directors of the studio’s first film, The Prince of Egypt. This made her the first woman ever to direct an animated feature film from a major Hollywood studio.

She was most recently in the news for becoming Pixar’s first female director and becoming the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, both for the 2012 film Brave. The achievement was not without controversy, as Pixar had replaced Chapman as the movie’s director two years before its release. This was not the first time that Pixar had removed a director from a film, but a studio that prides itself on making personal films taking its first woman director off a film inspired by her relationship with her daughter was a black mark on Pixar’s usually strong track record of supporting its creators.

Chapman returned to DreamWorks in 2013 and is currently working on an adaptation of a children’s book with a female lead. She’s also working on a children’s book of her own and a memoir. While I doubt you have any doubts about why she’s an ideal choice for an Honorary Lady at this point, she also devotes much of her blog to discussing women’s equality and gender issues.

I’ve talked before about the importance of seeing women working in animation to the animation world in general and me in particular. For decades, American animation studios have largely been worlds of men outside of the ink and paint departments. While that has been changing, the shift is slow. The more women we see working in all aspects of animation, the more young girls will get the message that they too can have this job someday.

Beyond her place in the larger history of women in animation, Chapman is an amazingly talented artist whose work speaks for itself. Though studio animation relies on collaboration, Chapman’s fingerprints are all over some of the best known and best loved animated films of recent years and will hopefully be on future classics. That’s why I’m pleased to add her to the illustrious ranks of the Honorary Ladies of Comicazi.

Review: Lego Ideas- Birds

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Fans of cool things sometimes come up with even cooler things, and not all master builders work for Lego.  This is the concept of Lego Ideas.  Creators can submit projects to Lego for the chance to have them made into purchasable sets, if they get enough interest and votes from the Lego-loving public.  Past sets include The Delorean Time Machine set and the NASA Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover (both of which have taken up residence in New Googington).  Unfortunately I have not been able to get my hands on the coveted Lego Institute set which sold out the moment it became available for purchase.  This is great for showing there is an interest in sets that represent women in science, but less great for me.  That said, this program keeps cranking out interesting sets and the most recent project is great for Lego fans, nature lovers, and bird enthusiasts. The Lego Birds set gives you the opportunity to build 3 realistic birds, a Robin, a Blue Jay, and a Hummingbird with flower.

Bang for your buck: This set retails at $44.99. In Lego world that’s pretty reasonable, especially for what you are getting.  Completing one bird a night gave me 3 days of fun out of this set, which is pretty good if you ask me.  And because these builds are a bit more complicated, for me at least, I felt like I could pace myself a little more easily. Plus there are natural built in stopping places.

What you get: The set comes with all the pieces (and then some) that you need to build your birds, of course.  This includes a different style stand for each bird and little plates with their Latin names.  What’s different about the Ideas sets is that the packing and instruction books are much higher quality.  Each bird has its own bound booklet that contains not only instructions, but also information about the creator of the set and his inspiration. There is also some basic information about the birds themselves.  I think this is a great little extra.
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Building the sets:  The thing I liked best about this set was that each bird was constructed in a different manner, and the direction you are headed is not always apparent.  That said, all these builds are what what I would call “careful builds.”  This means lots of little pieces and details.  But it’s those things that make this set fun.

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The first bird I tackled was the Robin.  All the birds start with making the stand. The bird itself was sort of a bottom up build, that resulted in a very sold, sort of round little bird.  The studs are the most obvious in the robin, which I think gives it a little more of a fluffy textured feeling.  The pole it sits on is a little wiggly, but it also spins for display purposes.

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I think this bird has the most interesting details and looks the coolest.  For the build, you start with the bottom and kinda go sideways.  Of all the birds it probably has the most mobility since the wings are on ball joints.  You can’t move them a ton, but the wings can be extended a little bit to give the feeling of “about to take flight.”

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The Hummingbird is the quickest build of the birds. It’s also the only one that comes with a “prop” flower.  I love hummingbirds, so while it’s not the most exciting from a build perspective, I have a soft spot for it.  Also I am beyond charmed by the gear shifts that double as flower stamen and by the use of a clear rod to it feel more like the bird is hovering.  Truth – I got so focused on building that I forgot to take many progress pics….
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Final Verdict:  While there isn’t a lot of “playablility” in this set, it’s still pretty great.  The birds are lovely and fun to make.  They feel a bit more artistic, like something you might see at a Lego exhibit. With the stands and name plates, these birds are a great display item and are a nice change from the licensed property sets.

3 More Webcomics (by ladies!) That The Red Menace is Reading

Since the last time I wrote about this subject, about a year ago, I’ve found even more fabulous webcomics that you really ought to be reading, all of them written and drawn by ladies! All three of these are a little over a year old, which is a great time to get into a series – there’s enough in the archive to sink your teeth into and get a feel for where a story is going, but not quite the overwhelming sprawl that a comic that’s been going on for five or ten years can have.

checkplease Check, Please!  by Ngozi Ukazu

Update schedule: When they’re ready. But there’s plenty for you to read through.

Plot: Check, Please! is the story of Eric “Bitty” Bittle, vlogger, Southerner, and pie baker extraordinaire. When the comic opens, Bitty is a freshman at Samwell University and a member of the men’s hockey team. He’s pretty good, other than one slight problem – his high school club was co-ed and no contact, so Bitty is scared to death of being checked – not so great in the world of college hockey. Can he get over his fear, stay on the team, and maybe even capture the heart of his crush?

Why Read It: Okay. I don’t care about hockey, I’m fifteen years out of college, and I don’t even care that much about romance. And yet, this comic? It’s incredibly compelling. Partly this is due to Ukazu’s art, which is incredibly adorable and expressive. The personality of the characters comes through in their design and facial expressions. Even more so, however, the writing is great – it sucked me right in from the beginning and made me care about all of that stuff – hockey and feelings, to borrow a phrase coined about a book that we read in Comicazi Book Club (and which you should go read right now.)

Bonus: The social media. Ukazu’s world building reaches far outside of the confines of her comic – she has a character who already graduated in the world of comic who “runs” the Facebook page, and Bitty has his own very entertaining Twitter feed. This makes the time between updates fly by – even when there’s no comic update, there’s plenty of content to explore.

so far so good The Last Halloween by Abby Howard

Updates: Wednesdays

Plot: Mona’s not having a great Halloween. Her dad’s ditched her to go a creepy party in her dead mom’s dress. The TV isn’t working properly. And a giant monster is stalking her every move.

In the world of The Last Halloween, monsters are forced to live in the shadows of human beings, dying when they die – unless the monster can kill his or her corresponding human personally. This allows the monster to live forever. When the balance between the monster and human worlds is disrupted, a grumpy young girl named Mona and her ghoulish friends might be the only thing standing in the way of humanity’s end.

Why Read It: Abby Howard’s scratchy black and white drawings, which appear to be the love child of Quentin Blake and Edward Gorey. Her monster designs, in particular, are creepy and inspired, looking just the way a monster from the deepest depths of one’s imagination should. And yet the story is also quite funny, in its dark and grim little way. Mona spends pretty much the entire comic in mortal terror, but you can’t help but laugh at her facial expressions while doing it.

Bonus: Banjo. There’s a were-opossum in this story, for goodness sake. That makes me laugh, anyway.

sixtett Stand Still, Stay Silent by Minna Sundberg

Updates: M-F

Plot: Ninety years ago, the world as we know it ended. Now the greatly reduced global population lives primarily in Iceland, with small enclaves of survivors scattered throughout the other Nordic countries. These survivors must stick to the Known World – the areas that have been made safe for habitation. The rest of the world is the Silent World, a land of trolls, giants, and incredible danger. One small band of explorers has been chosen to be the first venture into the Silent World in 90 years – but are they up to the task?

Why Read It: Part Norse mythology and part zombie horror tale, Sundberg has created a story unlike any I’ve ever read before, full of dark secrets and indescribable horrors – yet incredibly beautiful as well. She works with a distinctive palette of blues, reds, and sepia tones, adding to the old-fashioned fairy tale feel of her futuristic, post-apocalyptic tale.

Bonus: The gorgeous wood-cut style artwork Sundberg uses for all of the maps and propaganda materials in between chapters. Makes me wish I had more room on my walls.

If you decide to give any of these comics a shot, tell me all about it in the comments! Or tell me what you think I need to be reading.