Review: Agents of the Realm

LadiesCon 2016 may be over, but we’re still thinking about what made it such a great time. One of the things that I was really excited about was the opportunity to speak directly to so many creators and artists about their original works. One of the creators I was most excited about was Mildred Louis, who writes and draws a comic called Agents of the Realm. I hadn’t heard of her work before the con, but when she contacted us about having a table, I looked at her work and knew I’d be paying her a visit. I had the supreme good fortune (thanks to a huge assist from Smalerie) of snagging the last copy of her book, which collects the first volume of an ambitious work which, luckily for me, continues online.

Transformation

Transformation

 

The premise is a twist on the classic magical girl genre of manga (see Crystal Cadets for a more standard version): five young women discover that they are the protectors of our world, which is being threatened by strange beasts entering our realm from a sister dimension. In the classic magical girl style, Norah, Adele, Kendall, Paige, and Jordan have special brooches that transform them into uniform-wearing warriors, each with her own weapon, powers, and attendant element. Through the magic of the brooches, they find each other and begin to learn about their powers, the other realm, and why and how they were chosen to protect the world.

The twist comes in from the fact that in standard magical girl stories, there is an emphasis on girl – the protagonists are typically tweens or young teenagers, and part of the transformation is that they become an adult version of themselves. They’re all Mary Marvel, if her posse were other girls instead of two boys and talking tiger. The Agents are all adults already – young adults, to be fair, but in college and of legal age. This immediately has different implications about how they make the choice to accept their roles and for how Louis is able to explore the relationships between the characters and the problems that they face. When you’re watching or reading Sailor Moon, you know that while Sailor Moon is presented as an adult, Usagi Tsukino is really still a kid, and her concerns when she isn’t saving the planet are appropriately childish. The Agents, on the other hand, are young adults, and they have concerns that an adult can relate to, in addition to fighting off giant spirit birds.

Another thing that makes the series great is the level of representation of both people of color and of LBGTQ folks. Most of the characters, including 4 of the 5 Agents, are not white. They also have a wide range of body types  – and they keep them after they transform. They do not become “idealized” versions of themselves. This is a powerful message delivered with subtlety – that they are already good enough, already powerful just as they are. They are also beautiful, and feminine, without needing to all fit into the white, western ideal shape.

The team.

The orientations of the various characters are handled with that same grace – we’re shown characters who have loving relationships of all types, completely integrated into the story. It doesn’t feel like anything that’s being called attention to, a lesson we’re meant to learn – these are just people, and people have many different approaches to sex and love and romance.

Norah, Adele, Kendall, Paige, and Jordan feel like real people – they have strengths, but also flaws – and not just “oh, she’s such a klutz.” It’s apparent even in the first issue that Norah struggles with social anxiety. Paige is driven and ambitious to the point of being rude at times. Kendall is a peacemaker. It’s refreshing to see the trope of the “chosen ones” applied to characters who feel like more than a cardboard cutout.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the art. As you can see from the pictures here, it’s gorgeous and dynamic. There’s a clear progression as Louis’ style evolves – I think that she continually improves her panel layout and visual storytelling  – but the technical excellence is on display from the beginning.

Do you read Agents of the Realm? Tell me what you think in the comments!

Kickass Ladies, for sure.

Recommended age: Teen to adult. The content is far from racy, but the website does have a trigger warning that suggests that not all of it might be suitable for younger readers.

You might like it if: You like realistic ladies kicking fantastical butt.

Bonus features: If you’re local, Mildred Louis will be at MICE!  So if you missed getting a physical book at LadiesCon, you might have another shot.

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LadiesCon 2016: The Aftermath

 

I had mixed feelings when I discovered that I would be the one scheduled to post after our inaugural LadiesCon.  There is just so much to say, so many lessons learned, so many wonderful people, and so much magic that organizing my thoughts seems like an almost impossible task.  Do I give a blow-by-blow of the day?  Do I just do the highlights?  How could I possibly thank everyone we want to thank?  Well, if I learned anything this weekend, it’s that you need to move forward and at least try your best if you are going to get anything done.  So in that spirit, let’s give this a shot.

The Con Itself

Those of you who were able to join us this weekend learned exactly what we meant when we kept saying that our con would be “small and intimate.”  The unique space donated by Canopy City was fresh and inviting.  It also provided some exciting and unexpected extras like an additional screen for the Boston Roller Derby ladies to show off their games, a central desk in the middle of the action to use as our own Mission Control center, and a layout that I couldn’t help calling the “Gauntlet of Awesome.”

We wanted to keep the focus on local and unique talent and we were able to do just that.  I know that we have already featured a bunch of our vendors on our Facebook Page, but we have also updated our Con Info page to include a full list of our vendors who participated..  This way if you regret any items left behind, you will have a second chance to get it.

Here’s a little slide show of the calm before the storm:

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The VIP Lunch and After Party

In addition to our Con Floor, we also offered two additional LadiesCon events.  The first was our “Lunch with the Ladies.”  This event got you early access to our vendors and guests (as well as their commission spots), a tasty lunch, and a nice swag bag to carry your goodies around in.  It was a great and relaxed way to start the day.

A quick search on social media regarding the con and you are probably going to see pictures of our after party.  Guys….  THIS. PARTY.  Envisioned as a social experiment to see what would happen if you gathered a bunch of creative people together with a choice of several fun activities, this event went off the rails in the best possible way.  Matt (Co-Founder and Managing Director at Canopy City), not only gave our guests the freedom to cover one of his dry erase walls with art,  but he was so pleased with the results that he told everyone to keep on going!

The result is inspiring and just a gorgeous tribute to the event and the community spirit.  Those of us on the LadiesCon staff have been using the word “magical” a lot to describe this event.  But really, I don’t think there is a better word for it.  Thanks to Bill Imbrogna for the photos below.  If you want to see more, check out his facebook page:

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The Ladies have been trying over and over again to properly thank everyone who made our dream possible.  At this point it’s almost overwhelming to try to express how we feel about our supporters and friends.  Instead, once again, I will say a simple thank you.  Thank you to our hosts, guests, vendors, panelists, and volunteers.  Without you, this simply would not have been possible.  And to all of you who joined us for our first ever LadiesCon, thank you for proving that there’s a place and a desire in the Boston area for a con like this one.  We are a mighty city indeed.

I wanted to end this post answering a question we received several times on Saturday – Will there be a LadiesCon 2017?  YES and we have so much more planned.  So please, stick around and see what we come up with next!

 

Did you attend LadiesCon 2016?  If so, share your experience below.

Let’s Get Ready for LadiesCon!

The Ladies are still hard at work making sure that our very first LadiesCon is an amazing experience for everyone. But we still wanted to take a little time out to tell you, our devoted readers, how you can prepare for the event and be ready to get the most out of LadiesCon.

Jackalope by Erica Henderson, from Cartoon Sara’s convention sktechbook

Get Your Tickets!

This is the most important step in your pre-LadiesCon preparation. Although general admission to the con is FREE, we are still using tickets to keep track of our attendees and ensure that we don’t let in more people than the building can handle at once. There are not many general admission tickets left, so if you plan to attend, reserve yours now.

We also have two special events that require additional paid tickets. Lunch with the Ladies takes place before the convention and gives attendees the opportunity to get into the con early, chat with the Ladies and our convention guests, and enjoy a tasty catered lunch from Daddy’s Bonetown Burgers. Making Masterpieces: The LadiesCon After Party is a post-con art event where attendees can get a lesson in comics coloring, decorate cookies, draw, craft, or just chat and sample light snacks. Tickets for both events are limited, so be sure to purchase yours now.

Check Out the Panels

The panels at LadiesCon will all be held at Comicazi, a short five minute walk from our main convention space. We have ladies talking about gaming, cosplay, fan fiction, and more. Planning your day is an important part of preparation for any con and that includes deciding which panels to attend. Look over the panels we have to offer and see what note rests you. You can then plan to visit the convention floor beforehand, after the panel, or both.

Investigate the Area

If you’re a Comicazi regular, you probably know what there is to see and do in Davis Square. But if you haven’t visited often or ever, then now is an excellent time to learn what the Square has to offer. Of course you’ll want to check out the convention floor and the panels, but since we’re a small convention, you’ll likely have time to check out the surrounding area. You could just wander around the day of and stop in anyplace that looks interesting. But if you’d prefer to plan your day more, you can do some research online to investigate local shops, places to eat, or simply spots where you can sit and people watch for a bit. We’ll also be offering a program with a map of local restaurants, shops, and even a few PokeStops.

A Fancy Bunny by Ming Doyle

Stuff to Bring

  • Cash – While the miracles of modern phone peripherals mean that more convention vendors can accept credit or debit cards, not all of them do. Get your cash at your local bank ahead of time or stop by one of the ATMs in Davis Square. How much you want to spend is up to you, but having it on hand means you don’t have to worry about whether the vendor can take your cards or not.
  • Books for signing – Our guests will have their work available for sale, but if you already have something they’ve worked on, you can bring single issue comics or collected editions for our guests to sign. Consider bagging and boarding issues to keep them safe. You can bring a bag to carry your items to be signed or purchase a LadiesCon tote bag from us at the front desk. We ask that you respect any policies our guests may have on what they’ll sign, how many items, and anything else related to their time and work.
  • Convention Sketchbook – Artists bring their own supplies to cons, so if you’re looking to get a commission piece, you only need to worry about how to pay for it. But if you’ve got a convention sketchbook or are looking to start one, you’ll want to bring it with you. If you’re starting a new convention sketchbook – and with art from any or all of our special guests, you’ll be off to an amazing start, purchase a wire bound sketchbook with pages that can stand up to inks and watercolors. For more info on starting your own convention sketchbook, check out my post on the subject. Again, we ask that you respect our guests’ policies regarding what they’ll draw, what they’ll draw on, pricing, and anything else related to creating artwork.

Getting Here

We strongly recommend that you take public transportation. The Davis Red Line stop is mere steps away from Comicazi and the convention itself. It also spares you from having to plan you day around feeding parking meters, if you can even find an open spot.

If you are going to drive here, allow yourself plenty of time to find a space. We don’t want anyone missing an exciting panel while searching for parking. Most spaces around Davis can take cards, but having quarters on hand just in case is a good idea. You’ll also want to budget a little walking time, just in case the space you find is farther away than you expected.

A Linda Medley rabbit. All of our guests draw plenty of things that aren’t bunnies, we promise.

Above all, prepare for fun!

Our hope is that LadiesCon will be a wonderful day for all our guests, vendors, and attendees. If anything interferes with your enjoyment of LadiesCon, if you have a question, or if you just want to tell someone what a great time you’re having, feel free to speak to one of us or one of our volunteers in the LadiesCon staff shirts. We’re looking forward to seeing a lot of old friends, meeting some new ones, and putting on a great show for all of you!

LadiesCon Guest Spotlight: Linda Medley

Hopefully by now you have heard about LadiesCon and acquainted yourselves with 2 of our special guests, Erica Henderson and Ming Doyle.  Let me help you get acquainted with the third. All the way from the Pacific Northwest we are delighted to bring independent comics creator Linda Medley to LadiesCon!
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You likely are familiar with Linda’s work, but if not, let me bring you up to speed.  This lady has done it all, she’s had work published by Golden Books, Grosset and Dunlap, DC Comics, Image Comics and many others.  During her time as a freelance artist she’s been a inker, penciler, colorist, and is the creator of her own independent graphic novel series Castle Waiting.  

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LadiesCon Guest Spotlight: Ming Doyle

As LadiesCon draws ever-closer, we here at the Ladies are working to find ways to make an enjoyable experience for everyone involved. We’ve split up into two locations – vendors and guests at 212 Elm Street, and panels and programs at Comicazi. (They’re  only a 5 minute walk away from each other, never fear!) We’ve added pre-event lunches and after parties. And of course, we’ve been working on these posts to showcase our exceptional inaugural guests! This week we’re featuring multi-talented Ming Doyle.

Menace and magic.

Menace and magic.

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LadiesCon Guest Spotlight: Erica Henderson

The word is out about LadiesCon and the buzz around this little event is deafening.  Happily, we have our amazing guests to thank for a large part of that.  This week, I am not only hoping to keep the momentum going, but to also take the chance to highlight one of guests – The Unbeatable Erica Henderson.

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Nowadays Erica’s name is pretty much synonymous with Squirrel Girl.

At first my intention when creating this Spotlight Post was to provide as much information I could find about the woman herself.  I would write about how she grew up in New York, attended RISD, and was pretty much destined for greatness.  The problem is that I kept getting distracted.  I found myself poring through her Tumblr and Twitter posts just taking in her art as much as possible.  You see, I’m not much of an artist myself.  So when I try to explain how incredible it is to have Erica as a guest at LadiesCon, it is not because I can tell you that her style is influenced by this or that artist or that her line work is a marvel.  Instead, I can tell you that I am sitting at my kitchen table, literally surrounded by my own collection of her books, and damn…it has been quite a year for her –  drawing Squirrel Girl and Jughead, attending San Diego Comicon, receiving an Eisner Nomination, curating an astounding collection of squirrel-related collectibles, and even dead lifting over 175 lbs.  Erica Henderson is a star. Continue reading

Food and Fandom Follow-Up

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The Ladies- and our food puns – at Boston ComicCon. Photo credit: Eric Yu.

Did you catch the Ladies’ first panel at Boston ComicCon this year? We had a great time discussing how food is one of the newest way that peopl are expressing their fandom. Judging from the turnout and reaction, convention-goers enjoyed hearing what we had to say too.  We’d like to thank everyone who came for all the support and the great questions.

But maybe you didn’t make it to Boston ComicCon. Maybe you were there, but scheduling conflicts kept you from coming to see us. Or maybe you did go and our discussion got you excited about the possibilities of creating food based on your favorite films, TV shows, books, comics, or other fictions. If you were at the panel, you know we promised you a post with some helpful links to get you started on your own food and fandom journey. So here we go! Continue reading

Boston Comic Con: Food and Fandom with the Ladies of Comicazi

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If you’ve enjoyed dining on delicious snacks at our events, thrilled to our tales of the super hero cookbooks of yore, or enjoyed any of our posts on how geekiness makes its way into the kitchen, you’ll want to check out our Food and Fandom panel at Boston ComicConJoin us tomorrow, August 14 at 1PM as we discuss how we and other fans have brought the fiction we love to the dining table.

Ghostbusters 2016- Here’s what I thought

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A few weeks ago, amidst scrutiny, criticism, excitement, and in some cases, actual fear, the 2016 all-female Ghostbusters movie came out. And the world still spins.  I am also going to assume childhoods remain intact, but if yours was in fact ruined, please accept my sincere apologies.  So, was it the best movie I have seen this year? Nah. Will it stand the test of time in the way the original does? Who knows.  But did I have fun watching it in the movie theater?  You betcha.

I processed this as neither a sequel nor even a reboot.  Frankly, I’m tired of the reboot term.  I don’t even know what it means anymore, and the implication that it overwrites the original source material is a big reason that we get into so much of the angst about ruined childhoods and into internet flame wars.  I saw this as more AU story with callbacks to the source material, and that’s how I liked imagining it.

While I wish there was a bit more character development (and I almost always wish that), I felt like generally, the lazy go-to tropes that are used to establish women characters were avoided.  I say “generally” because I got a little twitchy at the ladies dance scene that happens, but frankly, lady impromptu dance parties are not made up.  Plus in this one stuff gets lit on fire so it felt a little less Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (disclosure: I have not seen that movie and never will, but it feels like the kind of movie that would have a scene like that, and if I’m wrong feel free to tell me off).

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Yes, you can get that necklace on Esty

The Ghostbusters themselves seem to follow a more amped-up characterization of the source material.  A dreamer, a realist, and a “local expert.” Though for sure Patty’s historical expertise could have been explored much more.  And then there is Dr. Jillian Holtzmann, who besides being the fashion icon we deserve (this move is second to Fury Road in goggles-chic), is hilariously weird.  Like a real lady.  Yes, ladies are hilariously weird.  I am, lots of other ladies I know are.  It’s nice to see a lady being portrayed as weird without her being the subject of a Pygmalion-like plot to change her.  She’s just weird, and sort of sexually aggressive towards science, and smart, and all that has value, rather than it being the plot point to change her or make her attractive to a guy looking to get his quirk on.  Brava.

Watch the original through today’s socio-political lens and there are problems  But frankly, it holds such a special place in so many hearts, my own included, that we are willing to overlook some of the issues by simply saying “it was the 80’s.”  So if anything, this new telling is held to much higher and harsher standard.  Lots of talk about if it’s feminist and blah blah blah.  I’m not sure I feel the need to measure every women lead movie by a feminism standard.  Sometimes we just want to be entertained, in fact, that’s what runs the entertainment industry.  So political statement or not, the better the lady-centric or created movie, or book, the more attention women get.  So on that note, I would love to see more women creators involved in any future Ghostbusters movies.

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So ultimately was this a good movie?  Sure, I would say good, not great.  There were some very genuine laughs.  Many of them coming from Chris Hemsworth’s portrayal of the “himbo” secretary.  Tight clothes, eye candy, there for comedic relief at his expense….Does that make it feminist?  I’m not sure, but it does reverse typical gender roles in a hilarious way.  Will I watch it again when it comes out on DVD/streaming?  Yes.  Will I buy it?  Not sure.  For all the fun, the narrative is a little garbled, it’s a weird combo of assuming you know the background, but also not using it to ground the story.  However  it still assumed you knew the source material enough to get the jokes, callbacks, and the hint to a sequel in the after credit scene.  Here’s hoping the next movie can stand on its own feet with a stronger narrative while creating some lore of its own.

 

Rotten Roots Review & Ladies at Boston Comic Con 2016

Once again the Ladies of Comicazi will be joining the talented crew of Bad Kids Press at their table at Boston Comic Con this year. We’ll be helping to sell books prints, and other fun goodies, so be sure to stop by, say hello, and consider picking up a few excellent independent comics. Not sure what to pick up? Well, they’re all great! We’ve reviewed The Adventures of the GWF  and Rapid City: Below Zero on the site in the past (hint, click the links to refresh your memories), and today I’ll tell you all about Rotten Roots.

I always feel like, somebody's watching me...

I always feel like, somebody’s watching me…

Written by Paul Axel and with art by Renee Majkut, Rotten Roots is the tale of the prominent Wood family of Osprey City, Massachusetts and the tragedy that hangs over them.

Part historical fiction, part police procedural, the story follows Detective Mark Robles, who’s recently transferred to Osprey City from Chicago. He catches a pretty unusual case – Harold Wood, captain of industry and patriarch of one of the founding families of Osprey City, is found dead with rope burns around his neck and the diary of his ancestor, Daniel Wood, open before him. Also found at the scene is a note inscribed “Rotten roots bear rotten fruit.” Robles quickly figures out that someone has it out for the Wood family – and wants to use their shady history to wreak vengeance on the entire extended Wood clan.

The story moves between past and present, weaving the modern mystery deftly into the tales of the Wood family’s historical misdeeds. Along with the main mystery are hints that there are other secrets to uncover in Osprey City: Why did Detective Robles transfer there? What happened to his family? And why does the Lieutenant hate him so much? It’s clear that these other outlying mysteries will come into play as the drama unfolds.

Majkut’s dreamy watercolors suit the story well, particularly in the gorgeous maps of the city found in the backs of each book. The maps progress as the tale does, beginning with the Puritan settlement and presumably moving into the present day. It’s clear that careful thought has been put into the world-building by the creative team. Majkut’s backgrounds and detail work are also top notch, as evidenced by the final shot of book two, a real stunner.

See? Chills.

See? Chills.

My review is of the first 3 books of a planned 6 issue series, and it ended on a major cliffhanger, so I’m looking forward to seeing where it all leads (I have my suspects, of course, as any true mystery fan does.) Overall, this is a strong start to a series, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

Recommended for: History buffs, mystery buffs, anyone who wants to see what comics can do outside of superheroes and sci fi

The majestic osprey himself.

The majestic osprey himself.

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for – a chance to win tickets to Boston Comic Con. The lucky winner will get a pair of day passes – we recommend coming on Sunday, for our panel on Food and Fandom at 1 pm! Whatever day you choose, come find us at the Bad Kids Press tables, E1000-1003 in Artists Alley.

Speaking of Bad Kids Press, take a gander at their shop. Tell us which title you’re most interested in checking out or artist you’d like to meet in the comments below, and we’ll pick our lucky winner. Good luck!

Oh, and hey, are you watching the “Secret Worlds of Boston Comic Con” webseries? It features some familiar faces, places, and a great host in Wes Hazard. Don’t miss it!