Does Hand-Drawn Animation Need Saving?

If you know me at all, you know that the future of hand-drawn animation is a topic that is very important to me. Hand-drawn animation (more commonly referred to as 2D animation, though I prefer the more descriptive term “hand-drawn”) is an art form that I have long loved. Unfortunately, much of the conventional wisdom about hand-drawn animation over the past few decades has been forecasting its impending demise. From clueless entertainment writers who deem the medium irrelevant in the age of computer animation to more thoughtful commentators who recognize that there’s a space for different styles of animation but that the market for hand-drawn movies seems to be drying up, nearly everyone seems convinced that hand-drawn is not long for this world.

So I was pleasantly surprised, if a bit skeptical, to come across a blog post entitled
“It’s Time To Admit That 2-D Animation Does Not Need ‘Saving'”
, penned by my animation blogger colleague Charles Kenny. After so many years of gloom and doom predictions for the medium I love, a bit of positivity was a welcome change. But is there truly good news for hand-drawn animation and its fans or merely wishful thinking?

Television: Savior of the Medium?

One of the article’s first arguments for hand-drawn animation being alive and well is the medium’s success on television. Computer animation may be dominant in theaters, but hand-drawn still accounts for the majority of animated TV shows.

I agree that television plays a big role in maintaining a place for hand-drawn animation. For the lower television production budget, hand-drawn remains a better bargain than computer animation. With more shows and smaller budgets, television also allows for more visual experimentation than the more conservative world of movie production. Novel ideas like Adventure Time‘s special “guest animator” episodes are a step in the right direction.

I disagree that television animation is a substitute for feature film animation. While television animation can be as amazing and riveting as any movie, there are some ideas and techniques that require the time and money that only film production can provide. There’s also the issue of where this animation is being done. In pursuit of the cheapest way to get a show through production, U.S. TV animation studios traditionally send large portions of their workloads overseas. It’s great for their bottom line, but not so great for training up the next generation of U.S. hand-drawn animators. As the cost for producing animation overseas rise, more aspects of production are starting to creep back into the States. But whether any of this is an adequate substitute for a robust hand-drawn film industry is uncertain.

Web Animation Picks up the Slack

Another common argument is that the internet is becoming the new home of hand-drawn animation. With outlets ranging from YouTube to creator’s own websites, it’s becoming ever easier for creators to bring their animation to the masses.

I agree that the internet has given a wide variety of creators an audience. We’ve come a long way from the early days of crude Flash animations that took ages to download. Budding animators’ student films can now be seen by everyone with internet access rather than a select few who seek out the animation festivals touring near them – if there are any. Creators aren’t beholden to big studios and networks to get their work out into the world anymore. The internet gives creators the opportunity to bring their animation directly to their potential audiences.

I disagree that animation on the internet is a full-fledged industry. While there are success stories in the world of animation on the internet, they are still few and far between. Some of this is no doubt due to only a small percentage of what’s available on the internet being quality product, but there’s also the issue of how to monetize animation on the web. Many of the biggest success stories for hand-drawn animation produced for the internet involve previously established, big-name creators who have already enjoyed success in other media. If animation for the internet doesn’t become a way to make a reasonable profit, it will quickly become the domain of casual hobbyists rather than a new option for career animators.

A Smaller, More Versatile Hand-Drawn Animation Industry

Rather than the last remnants of a dying art form, the post puts forth the argument that today’s hand-drawn animation studios are more creative and more capable of pushing the boundaries of animation than ever before.

I agree that hand-drawn animated features are taking more risks with story and visuals than their computer-animated counterparts. Now that computer animation is the norm and big movie studios hope to make millions from a computer animated feature, a kind of sameness has been creeping into the big studios’ output, particularly the visuals. Not so with hand-drawn. Freed from the pressure to copy the successful Disney formula of the 90s, hand-drawn animation has been experimenting with much more varied styles and narratives than the animated offerings from the major studios.

I disagree that this is what a healthy industry looks like. Hand-drawn features may have become a haven for creativity in the days of cookie cutter computer animated films. But the new hand-drawn feature studios have yet to prove that they have what it takes to stick around for the long term. Japanese animation powerhouse Studio Ghibli is closing its doors. Many of the small studios that sprung up in the wake of Disney’s closing disappeared before producing anything. With so few studios that have more than a handful of feature credits to their name, the future of hand-drawn feature animation is anything but certain.

Hand-drawn animation isn’t dying; it’s just changing

Despite so many predictions of its impending demise, hand-drawn animation has continued to survive. Rather than a medium that needs saving, this is a medium that is evolving for a new era.

I agree that hand-drawn animation will never completely disappear. Whether it lives on as a visual alternative to computer animation, a less expensive production option (even as computer animation gets cheaper to make), or the passion projects of devoted fans, I believe that it will always be around in some form. While there are areas that computer animation excels in, it is not the next evolutionary stage for all animation and there are some things that it will never do as well as hand-drawn animation.

I disagree that a bright future is assured for hand-drawn animation. Even if the medium isn’t going to completely die out anytime soon, it may still need a kind of saving. Already we’ve seen techniques from the early days of feature animation lost because no one though it was important to write down how it was done or share that knowledge with a younger group of animators. How many more aspects of the craft could be lost if the next generation of animators is off learning how to manipulate polygons instead of wield pencils? What knowledge might be lost if the giants of the medium have no one to pass on their secrets to? Are television and the internet really shielded from an computer animation takeover like the one that hit Hollywood?

So what do you think? Is hand-drawn animation becoming a thing of the past? Or are its best days yet to come?

Five Movies I’ll Always Watch

In a world where fewer and fewer people have cable (or even broadcast) TV, that old rainy day tradition of flipping through the channels to find something, ANYTHING, to watch may be falling to the wayside. Sure you could get up and pop in a DVD or Blu-ray, but that’s not the point.  The point is to lie on the couch and do nothing, including not thinking too hard, so your entertainment should just come to you. Thankfully, The Goog and I still have basic cable, and when I want to veg out I find myself searching the guide for the movie equivalent of comfort food. Yes, I own all of these movies, and could just pop them into the machine…but somehow finding them out there in the ether makes it feel a little more meant to be. Here are five movies that I will always watch.

Jurassic Park- JurassicPark Plot: Eccentric billionaire brings back dinosaurs from DNA extracted from amber encased mosquitoes.  He invites dinosaur experts and his grand-kids to check out the theme park he is building.  Life finds a way. Spoiler-It doesn’t go well.

Why I keep watching:  I know it’s shoddy science.  I don’t care.  I still get the same feeling of excitement at the first big dinosaur reveal as I did when I first saw this in the movie theater.  That John Williams score, the characters’ own astonishment – I’m a young teen at a summer blockbuster all over again.  Also, I always thought Dr. Sattler was kind of a badass and there is a young girl who’s a hacker.

Fun Fact: I recently showed this to Little J.  It still holds up.  I may have told her how jealous I was of her getting to see this for the first time.

Shaun of the Dead- shaun_of_the_dead_ver2 Plot: A zombie outbreak is just the thing Shaun needs to help him sort his life out.  Real proper slow zombies.

Why I keep watching: It’s a fantastic homage to the zombie movie genre and horror-comedy at it’s best.  I still laugh every time I watch this movie, and I’ve seen it a lot!  This is definitely my favorite in the Cornetto Trilogy and an absolute slice of fried gold.

Fun Fact:  When I saw this in the theater I actually heard a woman in the ladies room complaining that she didn’t understand why a zombie movie had to have so many zombies in it.

Starship Troopers- starshiptroopers Plot:  This move is  VERY loosely based on the military science fiction novel of the same name.  After graduating High School, Johnny Rico isn’t much interested in much other than following his friends Dizzy and Carl and his girlfriend Carmen into military service to become a “citizen”.  However once his home, Buenos Aires, is destroyed, his commitment to citizenship, the mobile infantry, and protecting Earth from the bug invasion is renewed.

Why I keep watching:  For me this movie is the perfect example of something that is so awful that it flips back around to being awesome.

Fun Fact: The uniforms for Starship Troopers were last used in Joss Whedon’s Serenity.

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)- WillyWonka Plot- Based on the Roald Dahl book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, an eccentric candy maker holds a contest to invite five children into his secret candy making factory.

Why I keep watching:  Admittedly this movie is a little slow to start, it doesn’t really pick up until the height of the contest and getting to the factory itself.  Gene Wilder is amazing as Wonka, both sinister and avuncular; despite being a kids movie, there is never a feeling of safety.  Plus, I still lose my mind about The Chocolate Room.  I have been forever searching for a candy store that evokes the same feeling.

Fun Fact: I love candy.  A few weeks ago, The Goog and  I went to a candy store at Hampton Beach and we got a 2 foot gummy snake.

The Shawshank Redemption- Shawshank Plot: This movie is based on the Stephen King short story “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption”. Set in the 1940’s, Andy Dufresne is imprisoned at Shawshank for the murder of his wife and her lover.  Andy faces many hardships, but his brain, his hope, and his friends help him find redemption.

Why I keep watching:  This isn’t a mindless movie, and there are some difficult scenes, ones that still make me sad even after multiple viewings.  But it’s also a story of the triumph of the human spirit and a reminder of what a person can accomplish.

Fun Fact: While Shawshank isn’t a real prison, it is mentioned in many of Stephen King’s works.

Honorable Mention-  Any of the 3 Indiana Jones movies.  And yes.  THERE ARE ONLY THREE. Raiders_of_the_Lost_Ark I could not leave these movies off the list because they are such an integral part of my life.

Plot: Archaeologist-adventurer Indiana Jones travels the world collecting artifacts that belong in museums.

Why I keep watching:  I went through a phase in my tweens of only watching these movies for a few months.  Just kept rotating the tapes in the VCR.  For me, these are the quintessential action adventure movies.  Fun, exciting, and with a hero I wanted to grow up to be.  Of the 3 films, my order of favorites is Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Last Crusade, and Temple of Doom.

Fun Fact:  I was about seven when Temple of Doom came out and I begged my dad to let me go with him to the movie theater to see it.  He said no, because it was too scary.  People eat bugs, chilled monkey brains, and you see some guy’s heart get pulled right out of his body.  I accused him of lying.  There was no way that kind of stuff would be in a movie!  It wasn’t possible, it was too crazy!  A few years later I was forced to apologize. Well, that was agonizing, but ultimately I think I’m happy with this list.  What’s yours?

We Don’t Need Another Hero

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Tina can take care of herself.

Let’s open with a question: How many of you are following us on Facebook right now? I ask because some seriously cool conversations have been happening over there lately. The page is a great place for us to share links and other passing pop cultural ephemera and hear what other people think about it. One of those links, posted by Honorary Lady The Goog, was IO9’s critique of that Milo Manara Spider-Woman cover that’s been making the rounds (no, not the creepy 3D rendering follow up.) One of the participants in the discussion asked a question that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. Friend of Tiny Doom Geoff asked, “Have you ladies done an article not just about what you’d like to see in a female hero but also how it differs from the typical guy power fantasy?”

Well, we hadn’t, Geoff, but we’re gonna today. Or at least, I’m gonna. Geoff’s comment went on to clarify that he didn’t expect us to speak for all women, which is great, because I’m super unqualified to do that – just our personal takes on what makes a great super-powered lady and how that is or isn’t reflected in mainstream comics. So here are the five major traits, in order from most to least important to me, I’d like to see in my ideal comic-book heroine and how I think it stacks up to the typical male hero. For the purposes of this piece, the “typical” male hero is able-bodied, straight, white, and super-powered. Yes,  there are many heroes who don’t fit this bill, especially these days, but we’re talking about archetypes, here. After each one I’ll give an example of a character who I think embodies that trait.

1. Brains

I know, I know, you’re rolling your eyes right now, but my power fantasy really does start with the smarts. Even when I was a little girl, I was far more attracted to clever, smart-mouthed heroines than I was to the ones who were super pretty or even particularly strong. I like puzzles and mysteries and clever twists, and my ideal lady does too. I think a big part of it is that it feels like being smart is similar to being bullet-proof – if you’re in a jam, you should be able to come up a way to get yourself out of it, even if you’re hurt or backed into a corner. Strength and beauty fade, but a good education is forever. I feel like in the traditional male power fantasies, brains are an afterthought. They’re implied by the fact that a character is perfect – but most of the time, they aren’t the first thing people think of when discussing characters like Superman or Wolverine. The one exception might be Batman, whose intellect is at least regularly discussed by other characters, but when your average person lists his strengths, they’re going to go with tough and rich first.

Example: Oracle

When Barbara Gordon was shot and paralyzed by the Joker, she could have hung up her Batgirl costume for good and retired from crime fighting forever. Instead, using her amazing library science skills and tech-savvy to become Oracle, she provides intel and espionage for the rest of the DC heroes. She’s brilliant and she’s got a will of steel – how can you not love that?

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Smart and a fellow red head!

 

2. Fighting Ability

Okay, brains are great, but let’s get real – if you’re going to be off fighting the forces of evil or what have you, it’s equally important to be able to be able to defend yourself. And frankly, I think this ranks so high on my list because when I think about my fantasy self, (because that’s what superheroes are) she’s someone who never has to be afraid walking down the street late at night. Whenever I think about physically dominating someone, it’s always in reaction to something, how I would protect myself from a threat – I’m never the aggressor. But in those fantasies, once threatened, I make sure the imaginary attackers rue the day they messed with me.

Clearly, physical power is also an important aspect of the masculine fantasy – even the smarty-pants heroes like Hank Pym and Tony Stark use their scientific prowess to improve their physical abilities. Typical male heroes have 12-pack abs and massive biceps, and often punch their way out of situations.

Example: Black Canary

More than just a pretty face, sonic scream and fishnets, Black Canary is one of the most proficient hand-to-hand fighters in the DC universe. Trained by the best and with lightning-fast reflexes, this is one tough lady.

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Those hands are deadly weapons.

 

3. Integrity

Whoops, that should probably come a little higher up on the list, huh? Top three ain’t so bad, though. What I mean by “integrity” is that I feel like the ideal woman needs to stand for something – she’s not just fighting for it’s own sake, but has a cause that she believes in. Everything she does is to advance that greater good. This gives meaning to her story and a reason for us to want to read it.

Many of the traditional male heroes have this quality as well, though it’s mostly found in older heroes. Superman, Captain America, Batman, Spiderman – they all have a code to follow, one that defines them and dictates their actions.

Example: Wonder Woman

How could it be anyone else? Diana has a mandate from her mother to bring peace and justice to Man’s World. Wonder Woman at her best exemplifies duty and honor.

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My favorite Wonder Woman.

 

4. Unflappability

Oh, to have nerves of steel and skin like titanium! Not literally – I think robots are cool, but they’re not really my ideal ladies, since they don’t even really have concepts of gender as far as I know. But it would be nice to feel calm, cool, and collected at all times, to be able to face danger (or even just uncomfortable social situations) with a stone face and a cold heart.

Much like brains, this seems to be a trait that is taken for granted in male characters – probably because there’s an expectation that men are like this in real life, too, whether or not that’s true or fair.

Example: Mina Harker
The team leader of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has faced down both Dracula and Mr. Hyde, defeated Martians, and defied the British government, all while looking like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.

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You HAVE to be unflappable to fight aliens in that dress.

 

5. Dignity

The final piece to my ideal lady is that she commands the respect of people around her, not by being aggressive and abrasive, but simply because she is worthy of it. She has a grace and charm and calm acceptance of the world and situations in front of her, and she meets them head on, unflinchingly.

In the traditional male fantasy, I think this is more framed as bravery or courage – fighting the good fight even though you might perish in the attempt. But there’s an aggression to the idea of bravery that doesn’t sit as well with me.

Example: Toni Chu

If you aren’t caught up on Chew, I don’t want to spoil anything for you. But Antonelle, the main character Tony’s twin sister, faces an incredibly difficult moment with as much grace as I can imagine. It’s made all the better by the fact that overall she isn’t a terribly serious character; she’s goofy and funny and she loves her crazy family – but in the end, those are the things that help her face down her demons.

toni

Such dignity.

So how does this list match up with yours? Do you agree or disagree with my choices? Who is your ideal heroine? Tell me all about it in the comments!

Cosplay Ladies of Comicon: Jenifer as Elsa

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The Costume:  Unless you’ve been spending the last year or so in the remote wilds of someplace or other, it is quite impossible not to recognize the lovely Elsa from Disney’s animated feature, Frozen.

Choosing a Character:  It’s really a special thing when you are able to find a character that is not only a lot of fun to dress as, but also resonates with you as a person.  Jenifer chose to dress as Elsa not for all the obvious reasons, but because Elsa was the first character in whom Jenifer was able to see someone who struggles with anxiety and depression but was not the villain of the film.  And for those of us who face challenges like these and more in our daily lives, Elsa is more than just a pretty lady with even more pretty/icy powers.  She is a character to whom we can relate.

Favorite Part of the Costume:  The cape, it makes her feel majestic.  And might I personally add, the loops were a great idea, functional and add a nice bit of drama!

Biggest Cosplay Challenge:  The bodice.  Choosing a multicolored bodice to represent the way ice can reflect the colors that surround it was a really visually striking idea.  Sadly, it was not an easy task.  When Jenifer’s first attempt to make the bodice changed color as a result of some fabric glue she used, she had to regroup and come up with a new plan.

Cosplay Experiences:  Jenifer has been cosplaying since February of 2013 and is happy to say that her experiences have been mostly positive with a few exceptions.  When we chatted, she took a moment to mention what a great time she was having at Boston Comicon.  Truth be told, based on how everyone (especially the younger kids) was reacting to her costume, I can’t say that I was surprised to hear it.

Thoughts on Clown Spiders: Jenifer was gracious and accepted a sticker with our would-be mascot on it, but shared that while a fan of clowns, spiders fell into the category of things she found terrifying.  Sounds like Tiny Doom can add another member to her “Spiders are Horrible” club.

Jenifer, thanks so much for taking time out during your busy day!

And for those of you who want to know more about this cosplaying lady, you can follow her Tumblr.

How To: Celebrate the 45th Anniversary of Disney’s Haunted Mansion

Haunted Mansion.JPG

Greetings, Mortal!

This year marks the 45th anniversary of the opening of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion and Disney (never one to miss a promotional opportunity) has decided to start the party early rather than wait an additional 5 years for the Golden Jubilee. The internet is filled with all sorts of news about new merchandise, a tv special, and a delicious teaser for a new movie. All this can be pretty hard to navigate for some, but for those of us who feel that the Haunted Mansion is quite possibly the greatest ride the parks have ever created, it’s a fine time to once again join the 999 happy haunts and celebrate.

In order to start things off right, I have compiled a guide bursting with spooky goodness and ideas for all levels of Haunted Mansion fans – from the tech buffs to the all out Disney-phile. So hop in your doom buggy, relax, and just make sure you keep an eye out for unwanted hitchhikers.

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Cosplay Ladies of Comicon: Midge Scully

The Boston Comic-Con Cosplay extra-special extra posts continue! Next up is Midge Scully!

 

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Not a lady to mess with.

The Costume: I’m embarrassed to admit that I was sure I already knew what this costume was, and I was wrong. Midge here is not, as one might imagine, a gender-swapped Lobo. She’s cos-playing as Slobo,  Lobo’s teenaged clone from Young Justice #38-55. While you might think the distinction is minute, I felt bad for jumping to conclusions: 1. Because Slobo is a teenager and thus less jacked than regular-sized Lobo, Midge’s costume is even better and 2. Because Midge seemed pretty enthusiastic about the character, and I was ashamed I’d never heard of him. Apparently his only appearance so far is in that short run in 90’s era Young Justice, but still. Midge told us it’s pretty fun and since it’s written by Peter David, who tends be  reliably good, I believe her. So thanks to this conversation, I have a new comic to check out. Hurray!

Favorite costume piece/biggest challenge: The chain with hook and the shoe caps – she put this costume together at the last minute and didn’t think it would come together so fast! Plus the shoe caps are removable, making the boots wearable for multiple costumes. Since having looked at her cos-play page and seen the wide variety of characters Midge has done, that’s just plain sensible.

 

Cosplay experiences: So far, so good! Midge told us that she’s had only positive experiences at this stage. What she likes about cosplay, she said, is that you get to meet people who like what you like, and it’s great to see their excitement when you’re in costume as a character they’re really into.

 

Thoughts on Clown Spiders: We showed her a sticker with the image of Tiny Doom’s nemesis. “I like it!” she declared. “I like spiders, I think they’re cute. Clowns not so much…” We’ll call this one a conditional victory for our mirthful mascot. Thanks for your time, Midge!  (click the link to see more of her work!)

clownspider

This is what one looks like, if you were curious.

How To Start a Convention Sketchbook

Groucho Rabbit by Roger Langridge

Groucho Rabbit by Roger Langridge

Boston Comic Con has come and gone for the year but comic conventions continue to happen all over the country just about year round. Whether you’re a frequent con-goer or you only visit one convention a year, you may be in the market for a souvenir of your time spent at comic cons near and far. If you are, then it’s high time you started a convention sketchbook. A convention sketchbook is convenient, inexpensive, and a great memento of your encounters with famous artists.

Benefits of a Convention Sketchbook

It’s cheap. Though getting the sketches you want can end up costing you (more on that later), the initial cost of starting a convention sketchbook is very low. All you really need is the sketchbook, which isn’t going to cost you much.

It’s portable. Bringing a few issues of comics for your favorite writers or artists to sign is easy. But when you want autographs from several creators in hardcover editions of their works, you’re going to be toting around a heavy load in what is usually a very crowded space. A convention sketchbook allows you to get souvenirs from many artists all in one small, easy to carry book.

It’s unique. It’s highly unlikely that anyone else will ever have a convention sketchbook exactly like yours. It can serve as a journal of your trips, of artist’s changing styles, and even of your personal tastes in comics.

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Cosplay Ladies of Comicon: Myratheon Cosplay

The cosplay of Boston Comic Con 2014 did not disappoint, and we took another opportunity to profile some of the amazing work that was on display.

First up:  Myratheon Cosplay

Costume made by: The lady herself!  This was an original design and which all components of the costume were hand made…even the mask and her hand carved sword!

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So fierce!

 Favorite costume piece/biggest challenge: That mask you guys, this pic, taken in the crowded convention hall does not do it justice, so be sure to check out her facebook page for more pictures.  The Anubis mask is Myratheon Cosplay’s favorite part of the costume (The Red Menace and I felt the same).  It was also her biggest challenge.  In speaking with her you could definitely get a sense of how proud she was of her work…and she should be!

Cosplay experiences: Myratheon, has, for the most part had good experiences with the Cosplay community.  No doubt signs like this help:
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Her hard work has been well received which has helped her gain confidence.  She did however have a tougher experience at Connecticon where she received some negative feedback on her gender-swapped costume of Scar from Disney’s The Lion King.  Some of the organizers felt she was sexualizing a Disney character.  Her response?  “Since when do lions where clothes?”  Check out pics of this costume and decide for yourself…

Thoughts on Clown Spiders:  Here’s a place where Myratheon Cosplay and I differ.  She found our Clown Spider stickers adorable!

 Where will she be next: You can see her next at Rhode Island Comicon!  Maybe you’ll see some of  The Ladies there too…

 

Tiny Doom’s Boston Comic Con round up!

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This year’s Con shirt

After a great experience with a 2-day pass last year, I (and The Goog and The Red Menace) decided to attend all 3 days of Boston Comic Con 2014.  Armed with Ladies SWAG and excited to see friends, cosplayers, and creators, we embarked on our 3-day Con Saga.

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The Red Menace Tells You What to Read Next!

Boston Comic Con is this week, so I thought we were overdue for some comic book reviews. If you’re going to be in town for the con, keep an eye out for us! When we’re not walking around talking to cosplayers and getting tongue-tied in front of our favorite artists, you’ll be able to find us at either the Comicazi  (B605-609) or the Bad Kids Press (C405-409) tables. You might even see us in the audience of the special live Hadron Gospel Hour show!

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Hadron Gospel Hour is a fun comedy-scifi podcast, and they’ll be performing live at 2 pm at The Boston Button Factory as part of Boston Comic Con! Sound like it’s up your alley? You can grab tickets online for just $8 via http://hadrongospelhour.brownpapertickets.com/ or  at the door for $10.

Now that all of that excitement is out of the way, on to the reviews!

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