Mulling It Over

Thoughts on Dragon*Con

I am certain I have liberally thrown around the term “adventure” when talking about our con trips. Ah, but never has the word been more appropriate than in reference to Dragon*Con.

The eight hour drive passed quickly. Sure – because I wasn’t driving & the magic of portable DVD has made thinking autonomously unnecessary. Yeah, I’m a punk – I’ll admit I had it easy.

We drove in Thursday because my traveling companion, David & his friend Andie had been invited to Adam Hughes & Allison Sohn’s second annual house warming party. After a quick shower at the hotel & swinging by to pick up Andie we were off.

Allison was the perfect hostess & really outdid herself on the food – it was all fabulous. Next to the bar you also had the opportunity to spin the wheel of drinks & take your chance on what you got from the bartender. I played it safe & opted to try a highly recommended “Pineapple Upside-Down Cake” & was not disappointed.

Many had gathered in the living room to play an X-box game that involved creating a car crash. The bigger the pile-ups, destruction & mayhem caused – the bigger the score. It was hysterical to watch them play.

After the real gamers had taken their turns even I tried it out. This is where you must know an important fact – the last game I had any mastery of was Centipede, so we are looking at a near 20 year gap in my gaming experience. Plus I’ve never even held an X-box controller. As you might well image I sucked in epic proportions. It didn’t diminish my fun though.

But mostly I engaged in my favorite party activity – I met and chatted with lots of very friendly folks. I had a great time & I’m sure I could go on – but I’m here to talk about Dragon Con, so I’d better get right to it.

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Day One

We arrived early – David was hell-bent on meeting the cast of Serenity. After making the rounds to offer warm hellos to some of the vendors with whom I’ve become acquainted we went to wait for Serenity cast members to arrive.

I’d call myself a Firefly fan (and a Joss Whedon Freak), but in general I’m not a wait-in-line-$20-a-signature fan. I can’t explain it, but the comic book artists (and creators) just get me more fluttery than the actors do.

For all the crush of people we made it through very quickly. I snapped digital pictures of David with the stars which we would later print out & bring back for signing. Of all the cast – meeting Ron Glass had to have been the most enjoyable.

He was so pleasant. I passed by his table repeatedly throughout the weekend & he always looked relaxed & happy. He took his time with everyone & seemed very down-to-earth.

After the Serenity tables, we proceeded on to the Star Trek row because David wanted to get his picture with the guy who plays Tripp on Star Trek: Enterprise. Again, I’m a Star Trek fan, but I never got into Enterprise, so I stayed on the periphery.

Okay, pausing for evil, snarky girl moment. Down the row Marina Sirtis (Troi from ST:TNG) was setting up her table. The top she was wearing was so wide open in the front David & I both Literally jumped when she turned around. But that’s not the snarky part. Disclaimer: This is pure gossip & I should be ashamed of myself. I have nothing more to base this on other than the fact I am a large busted woman over the age of 30. But believe me when I tell you – those are new. ‘Nuff said.

Finally I had a chance to roam around & check out all the tables. There was so much cool stuff for sale.

For the uninitiated (which up until a week ago included me) Dragon*con is an enormous con that takes place in three adjacent hotels. It is not so much a “comic book” convention. In fact I remember thinking as I drifted off to sleep after the first day that I needed to check to see if there were even any vendors selling comics, because I didn’t remember specifically seeing any. (I did find a few tables on Saturday.)

I’m not sure I’d label it Sci-fi either – maybe “Fantasy” is the right word. There were comic books, science fiction stars, a teeny-tiny artist’s alley & role playing card games, but the vendors were heavy on costuming.

And costumes were the big thing. Not only were there an abundance of fictional characters being portrayed by con guests, but I have never in my life seen more corsets & bustiers in one place at one time.

Sidebar – just so you fellas know; pulling that off all day is no picnic. A tight bustier is difficult enough to manage, but those lace-up corsets – yeesh! Who wants to breathe or digest food anyway? I overhead a corset wearing gal in the bathroom groaning that the salad she had just eaten was about to cripple her. All right, back on topic…

The costumes cut a wide swath across genres, media & personal proclivities. There were superheroes, movie & television characters, literary characters, period costumes, fairies & fantasy – I could go on all day. It’s practically useless to describe – it’s something you need to see. I hope Jeff will be able to post some of the pictures we brought back.

At the end of the day Friday we stayed in the lobby & took pictures of the endless parade of costumed & otherwise lavishing dressed (& undressed) con patrons. We re-grouped later with a bunch of friends in the hotel restaurant. We commandeered a large corner table overlooking the lobby where costumed con attendees had gathered. We ate, drank, talked & watched the parade pass by. I am a people watching junkie. It was nearly 1 am when we left but the throng of people in the lobby still packed the area end to end.

Day Two

We got a later start on Saturday. After getting nice 8×10 glossies of yesterday’s photos printed we returned to the con. I left David on his own to get his signatures. The area where they had the celebrity signings was a zoo. It was packed, movement was limited & it was HOT. I preferred to get out & prowl around on my own.

The dealers were amazing. I was fascinated with all the headdresses, jewelry, cloaks, ornate dresses, replicas of TV & movie costumes, etc. I’m telling you if I had money to set on fire I would have been coming home with bags of that stuff. A lot of it was hand crafted & the workmanship was exquisite.

I got to spend more time in artist’s alley too. I said “hi” to Adam & offered him a granola bar. He’s always working so hard I think he doesn’t get to eat sometimes – it makes me go maternal. Then I headed around the corner. They had Andy Lee, Stuart Sayger & David Mack all lined up in a row. All that cuteness, all in one spot – it’s almost more than a poor fan-girl can take.

Oh & I picked up Stuart’s new sketchbook that weekend too. I love it! My gosh, he is so good! Great news too – my Wolverine is in this edition. I never got it into the scanner before I got it framed. Now those who possess the sketchbook can all reflect back to my earlier essay about my love affair with this picture & see how completely right I was.

The rest of the day passed in a nanosecond. Suddenly we were out to dinner with one of David’s friends, and then it was party time. This seems to be another proud Dragon*con tradition – there is a heck of a night life attached to this con.

The first party had kind of a weird vibe. It was an invitation only suite party. They had the door roped off & bouncers & everything – I know, could I possibly sound like more of a yokel? I didn’t know a soul there, but I’m pretty gregarious so I did make an effort to communicate but it was challenging.

I think I was talking to Peter David & I think I unwittingly referred to someone who may have been related to him as surly. Yeah, that got things off on the right foot. It was definitely an interesting setting but as soon as we felt safe that our next party was underway we moved on.

Next was the Linsner post-Dawn Contest party. We hooked back up with a couple more friends & took a lovely white-knuckled glass elevator ride way, WAY up to his suite. I’m not that bad with heights, but boy did we have a bunch of people crammed into that little elevator.

This was much more relaxed & social party. I still didn’t know anyone other than the folks I came with, but this time I had no trouble finding interesting conversation (which is the equivalent of Nirvana to me). This again reaffirms my belief that the creator & con community is very friendly as a whole. Plus I think you have to be a little brighter than average to appreciate comic books – but that’s a whole different essay.

We headed back to the hotel late & left early the next day.

Overall Impressions

In a nutshell – Dragon*con is a blast, a non-stop, free-spirited party. The convention itself has more to look at & do that you can get to in a weekend. I could see attending all three days & not getting bored. If I’d had more time or had gone on my own I may have sought out more panels. They had quite a few that looked interesting. I hear the “Buffy Track” had speed dating – how cool is that? Oh & there was music too & I missed out on all of that, maybe next year.

What set this con apart for me is the social scene. The only things I bought were Stuart’s sketchbook & a couple souvenirs for my kids & my Dad – everything else was about people. It doesn’t end when the exhibitors’ doors close for the day. There are things do around the clock.

This gets a big recommendation from me – pffft! Like anybody cares what I think. *laughing*

My plans for Baltimore fell through so my next convention will be Mid-Ohio – back to where it all started. So I’ve been on the con circuit almost a year now & every trip I learn new stuff. Maybe after that show I’ll take a minute & figure out just what it is I learned. Until then – thanks for listening!


Thoughts on Wizard World Chicago

We’re back from the Windy City & I must say I’m still reeling from my fist time at an industrial sized gi-norm-i-con. I’ve made a pledge to use this forum to talk about things I like, but this might be a mixed bag. Not that I see this taking a negative turn, but my experiences there have provided quite a bit of fodder for rumination.

The trip begins

Jeff, Sarah & I arrived Friday night so we could join David (who had been there since Thursday) for an early start on Saturday. Sarah opted to yield to siren song of the Ikea store, so Jeff, David, the very charming Andie & I strolled through the doors around 8:30. Even during this “quiet” pre-opening time it was still bustling.

The DC booth was is the supreme attention grabbing spot – it was the first thing you saw the minute you entered & impossible to miss. “Booth” is an understatement too. Let’s call it the DC industrial complex. There were MANY tables & stations with different themes, give-a-ways & promotional events.

The front section near the door was devoted to several of these oversized corporate booths. Past them were the normal sized retailer & publisher booths. Then, over hill & dale, artist’s alley was all the way in the back.

Everyone drifted in separate directions. I thought I’d do a quick lap to get my bearings before the crowd descended. It was a good thing I said “hi” to some people early because I never found their tables again. That is either a comment on how Habi-trail like it was in there or on what a wretched sense of direction I have.

The announcement was made that the con was open for business and, in a flash, a jaw dropping mass of people flooded the hall & quickly formed a line of which I could see neither the beginning nor the end. This was the start of a game I played all day – “What’s everybody lined up for?”

Taking it all in

As a newbie tourist to the whole con scene this was a fascinating phenomenon to me. I imagine this was what it must have been like in the Communism’s heyday. People wandering around asking people in line what they were waiting for & hoping the end of the wait held that for which they were looking.

Seriously, I can’t imagine how anybody figured out how to get ANYTHING at this con. Here’s my first bit of commentary. This is only based on this one experience mind you – but WW Chicago overall seemed hopelessly disorganized. Oh, there were pockets of organization. There were several gentlemen at the DC booth who were consistently helpful, but overall I don’t know how the average visitor would have any idea when & where con events were occurring.

Thank goodness for David. He’s been to so many of these things he knows how to find out where to be & what the drill is. I feel sorry for anyone who goes to an event like this for the first time without a tour guide. I’m certain I would have missed out on all the signings without his guidance. At least at the smaller cons I found information easier to come by, event times & locations better marked & the staff much more informative & helpful.

Okay that was too close to negative for my tastes – let’s get back to the fun, cool stuff that happened. J. Scott Campbell…Eeeeeeee! That was my girl-squeal of excitement that I got to meet him.

My first ventures into buying comics were utterly random. J. Scott’s work was the first that I could actually pick out over other artists (no big surprise that Jim Lee was next) & awakened me to the idea of appreciating the individual creators. So meeting him was a huge deal for me.

The morning passed quickly with the majority of activity centered on getting to meet J. Scott. First we got wristbands that permitted us to line up to meet him. Yes, we waited in one line for the privilege of waiting in a second line – another big-con concept that was lost on me. I get that it keeps things orderly, but it was still weird.

We were close to the front of the second line so we got there fairly quickly. I gushed about how fabulous he was & asked him to sign two Danger Girls issues & a copy of his sketchbook that David had miraculously procured for me. The sketchbook was AWSOME! I read the thing like it was a novel – pouring over every page. It was a great experience. Good gosh I love his work!

As excited as I was it was nearly as much fun to step back & watch Jeff take his turn. Jeff can be an enigma. He’s a big goofy kid when you get to know him – but it takes some time & effort to get past his “coolness”. It was DELIGHTFUL to see him chatting so animatedly with this guy whose work we both admire. I got to witness a Jeff fan-boy moment – priceless.

How the time flies

Meeting J. Scott was truly about the only thing we accomplished before noon. David & Andie went to procure lunch & left Jeff & me to wander aimlessly – and that is a pretty accurate description of what I did. The sensory overload was mind numbing.

Even when I made my way out of the retail areas & to artist’s alley I had trouble finding folks because there was so much to see. I visited with some of my favorite guys.

Now hold onto you hats – I’m going to go all subjective here.

I got the feeling that a lot of these artists were as worn-out & (for lack of a better word) “shell-shocked” as I was. Take for example – I stopped by to chat with Stuart Sayger (Shiver in the Dark), Art Balthazar (Patrick the Wolfboy) & Bill Wilkison (Wha? & S.O.S). (Go give them money – they are marvelous!)

Based on past interaction, these three in particular are exceptionally funny, dynamic & I’d even go for flat out charming. All of them seemed more subdued than I recall and they weren’t alone. A lot of the creators had the whole penned veal aura about them.

And this is absolutely no reflection on the talented artists who were there – it seemed like a WW phenomenon. Here’s what a gleaned from my table to table chit chatting.

The atmosphere was the cause for many social behaviors

First, people were not spending. I can back that up. For me – it was a simple matter of it being back-to-school time so I brought almost nothing to spend. But that didn’t account for everyone. The crowded, cluttered environment was not at all conducive to shopping and browsing.

Case in point – Jeff was off agonizing about getting a fair trade on the books he brought so I told him I was going across the aisle to look at toys. That lasted all of ten seconds. The sizeable crowd made it difficult to navigate toward the booth. Then when I did make it near, the swirling sea of humanity that continued to ebb & flow on all sides made it nearly impossible to hold ground long enough to examine anything.

And if the experience of other attendees was similar to mine – I lost the whole morning to meeting one (fabulous, incredible) guy. That doesn’t leave much time for perusing.

The second hurdle for the artists was what appeared to be utter apathy from WW about taking care of them. I’m puzzling how to do this without sounding gossipy. The two common themes I heard were – disorganized & unhelpful.

It seems as though lack of information from WW made it difficult to find the right table in some cases. People were in the wrong spot, double booked or just giving up & setting up randomly. And without going into too much detail – WW’s treatment of Adam Hughes was nothing short of disgraceful.

The final drawback was competition for attention – there was so much to see that conversely there was so much to overlook. It was inadvertent, of course. I consider myself to be very disciplined, but even I felt all ADD. I couldn’t make it continuously down any aisle in a straight line, so I am certain there were many things I missed.

Continuing with the day

Well, enough of that – this grows over-long; let me round out the day. I stopped by the Desperado booth several times to visit their ever delightful creative director, April Doster. I also picked up the second issue of “The Atheist” which was probably my favorite title that I initially picked up from Desperado in Charlotte .

This book is penciled by John McCrea & written by the incomparable Phil Hestor. The writing in this is phenomenal. I’m already totally intrigued with the titular character. The story is smart & engaging. Oh & I can’t wait for issue two of Stardust Kid – another Desperado title that caught my interest.

Later in the afternoon we managed to snag wristbands that allowed us to stand in line to meet Alex Ross. I was completely unprepared too! I didn’t expect to have the opportunity to meet him. David came to the rescue once again with a cool Alex Ross postcard for him to sign. Mr. Ross was the perfect gentleman – very polite & gracious. I’m so glad we had the opportunity to meet him.

Then a mere 15 minutes before we were about to leave I ran across Eric Adams’ table – proving once again how crazy it was in there. I probably walked by that same space countless time & didn’t even notice his prominent banners until the crowd thinned a bit. But now I have issues 2 and 3 of “Lackluster World” – Yeah! I love the bold artwork & the cutting satire. I can’t wait for issue 4.

We rounded out the day with a leisurely dinner at a steakhouse across the street. It was nice to unwind after a packed day of activity.

So – overall impressions…

In retrospect, I can see that one day is probably not enough to see everything I wanted to see at a con this size. Next time I’d be curious to see if attending two or three days would dilute the feeling of being overwhelmed & the nagging sensation that I didn’t accomplish much of anything.

I think the keys words though are “next time”. I guess there will be a next time. Even though the smaller cons attract guys I idolize, I must reluctantly concede that playing on Wizard’s turf still may be the only venue I have for seeing some of the big name “stars” of the industry.

So I’m not totally keen on the idea – but I believe I will give it another go before I completely pass judgment. After all it WAS a comic convention – how can you not have some fun. It’s always a pleasure to have an opportunity to make new friends and interact with the nice folks we’ve already met.

It was so much easier to write about other cons I’ve attended this year. I cannot WAIT to go back to Mid-Ohio or Heroes con! But I think a little Wizard World is going to go a long way for me.

Maybe I’m biased too – I’m always rooting for the little guy. So I’ll probably be saving my time & money to support them over them over this leviathan of a con.

Thanks for listening!

Adventures In Charlotte

Boy did we EVER have a good time at Heroes Con! Jeff, David & I went on a perilous journey where we made new friends & learned valuable
lessons – no wait that’s a Disney film. It applies to all Disney films, just pick one.

But I guess we DID we did meet great people. And we now know to never, NEVER visit a motel where most of the people staying there consider it their primary residence and the clerk is missing several fingers (though in no discernable pattern). So maybe it was a bit Disney-esque.

That’s how it all began

We drove through the night, only to discover that our room at the Westin wasn’t available – EEK! It was still only 4 am & I wasn’t going anywhere without a shower, so we drove until we found the nearest motel. AMAZINGLY they had a vacancy. Maybe we should have driven in the opposite direction.

We only stayed in the room long enough to clean up. The guys actually crashed for a couple hours – I couldn’t bring myself to do it. It was the nastiest place I can remember being & you are talking to a girl who put herself through college staying in a variety of $100 a month cockroach infested one room apartments. If you don’t believe – Jeff took pictures.

I cleaned up the best I could – (the entire fixture from the bathroom sink came off in my hand) and sat at the desk and did a crossword until the boys roused themselves.

On to the Con

It was all worth it though – we got to the con good and early & proceeded to have a GREAT time! I got in line to get a Phil Noto Sketch & David lined up for a chance to get on Tony Harris’ sketch list. In between his wanderings trying to find out where the heck James Jean was, Jeff dutifully split his time keeping us company while we waited.

Sitting there waiting for Noto I had an excellent opportunity to chat the uber-cool guys from Gaijin Studios. I know I’m still new to the con thing, but I’m fortunate enough to be able to say that I have not yet encountered anything other then people being friendly. Jeff says that is because I have breasts *laughing*, but I think the creator community as a whole is genuinely good people.

Later, I got J. O’Barr to sign my copy of The Crow – now NO ONE is allowed to borrow it. Oh, & we were first in line to meet John Cassaday. He did a neat-o Superman head sketch for David & signed my Astonishing # 1.

It KILLS me though – by the time he got there for the signing I was soooo hungry (and remember I’d been up most the night) that I was feeling a little faint. This prohibited me from being the all out gushing fan-girl that I might have been.

I love the work Cassaday is doing on Astonishing right now. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve turned the page & had a goosebump moment. Plus he is so GOSHDARN cute. If only I had found the strength to fawn more *laughing*

Other than that, Friday was pretty uneventful – it was all about “the sketch”. After David & I successfully made it onto our respective sketch lists, we were able to breathe a sigh of relief & just wander.

Anyone who reads this junk knows I am ALL about the independents. I spent time Friday & Saturday at the Desperado Publishing booth talking with creative Director, April Doster & Publisher, Joe Pruett.

April & I hit it off famously. She was so bright & bubbly & enthusiastic – it was contagious. I picked up a handful of books from them – Beyond Avalon, The Atheist, The Stradust Kid & the re-launch of The Flaming Carrot.

I am kicking myself for not getting more of their books. I enjoyed everything I read. In fact, I enjoyed them so much it might warrant further discussion in another review.

We were very grateful to crash at the hotel that night. Sometimes I have trouble sleeping out on the road, but the Westin has a better bed & shower than I do. I swear if I could, I would have slept standing up in that fabulous shower. What? Horses do it.

Saturday – Back To The Action

Feeling refreshed & perky once again I headed back to the con with Jeff & David. I was able to pick up my Noto sketch that day. I asked for a Rogue & Gambit. I could not have been more excited when I picked it up.

My face HURT from smiling so big – I was just so happy. I immediately ran over to show it to April (it is SO nice to meet another normal gal who appreciates comics) & anyone else who would look.

I stumbled across Phil Noto’s work in the Danger Girl. I loved the series & was tickled to see “Hawaiian Punch” on the shelf at the comic shop. It had a J. Scott Campbell cover & I wasn’t paying the slightest bit of attention when I bought it, so I was surprised (&, frankly, a little annoyed) when I opened the book & didn’t find J. Scott artwork.

By the end of the book though – I thought hey this is REALLY neat! Then by the time I got to the end of “Viva las Danger” it was more like – J. Scott who? I was officially a fan.

It was delightful to meet Phil Noto. He was kind & gracious. And he created an original piece of artwork that I can treasure. It hardly gets better. The sketch is posted for all to enjoy.

The other noteworthy thing about Saturday was meeting David Mack. Well, okay I’d met him before, but this time I was ready. I have a stunning limited edition hardback version of Kabuki: Circle of Blood.

The way the chapters are laid out created one blank page between the end of one section & the beginning of the next. I asked if he would do a sketch on that page & I trusted that he would know what belonged there.

He was only at the con for a very limited time yet he made time to do a brush & ink Kabuki portrait on the page. Wow! What a nice guy for doing it for starters & if you could see how perfectly it harmonizes with the facing page – it looks like it always should have been there. Pure magic…

Overall Impressions

Let me take the time to re-iterate – I have NO idea what I am talking about when I recap our trips to conventions – I’m still learning. So keep in mind I write with limited knowledge but vast enthusiasm. But I have to say – I LIKE these small/medium & medium/large sized cons.

I have yet to attend a huge Wizard con & while I’m sure I will enjoy myself (because I enjoy myself where ever I go), I am quickly developing a fondness for the intimacy of the smaller venues.

What a pleasure it is as a fan to not just meet a creator that you admire, but to talk with them & perhaps have the opportunity to take home a sketch. It feels like a relatively relaxed atmosphere.

Again I could be TOTALLY making this up, but Heroes Con seemed like a comic book “purist” convention. There were lots of artists & creators & not so many TV/Movie “stars” & gamer stuff. Even the vendors were heavy on the books & light on the toys.

Deals abounded too. David, determined to share Captain America with me, picked up hefty run of Cap books for next to nothing to share with me. This was a super place to shop for back issues.

Heading For Home

We got up Sunday & headed for home. It’s a shame we had jobs & lives to which we were required to return. It would have been nice to stay one more day. I had a very enjoyable experience at my first Heroes Con. This is definitely one I will mark for a return visit.

Now if I have the opportunity I will regale you with tales of praise of the books I picked up from Desperado Publishing. So until then – keep reading!


Thoughts On “The Crow”

When I got home all jazzed about the Pittsburg trip I went to check out the guest list for our next confirmed journey – Heroes Con in Charlotte. One of the names that jumped out at me was J. O’Barr. The Crow was a big impact book for me.

Something compels me to want to write about this book before I meet him. I’m pretty sure it probably won’t have any bearing on the way I feel about the book, but I can’t be positive.

Only a foolish person is unaware that the experiences we have color & shape us. Only by recognizing & admitting that experience affects us can we hope to begin to exert any control over that influence.

So just to be PERFECTLY safe – let’s talk about The Crow now before anything else comes to bear on my opinion.

Pausing for a disclaimer before we continue – these reviews are as much about me as they are about the books. *smile* So if you want something more straight up & less fluffy go online & read the Comicqueen or SimplyJD. But if you want the skinny with a little more flavor – press on.

I’ve read this book at LEAST four times that I can recall. I read it once after my divorce, once again after the “Big Love” walked out and once in between those two times. Then for good measure I read it right before I wrote this just to refresh on the details.

And what has that got to do with anything? Well, everything…

It’s happened to everyone – a song comes on the radio & just strikes you a certain way. Every word applies to what’s going on in your life
that day; that week, that YEAR. Every chord washes over you with meaning – it tears you up.

Then time goes by – you hear the song again. You remember that song & how much it meant to you. You may even still get that nostalgic rush.
But if sufficient time has passed you might not have such ready access to the exact feelings that imbued it with meaning the first time.

Or, if you’re screwed – you might be having the kind of day where this song puts you EXACTLY back in the place where you were when you first heard it.

That’s what The Crow was like for me. Even on a good day it’s an emotionally gut-wrenching tale. Heck, I’m feeling GREAT right now, but last night when I read it – I still had to set it down at least once & take a minute to regain my composure.

So I’ve read it twice at a time of stability in my life (that would include, ahem – NOW) & twice at a time of upheaval. When things are straight up normal it’s a GREAT book. But, when coping with grief, loss or a sense of abandonment, this is a freaking masterpiece. So that’s where I’m coming from when I’m writing about it.

We’ve wallowed in personal subjectivity long enough – let’s talk about the book. (Or Jeff is NEVER going to let me write for his blog again! *laughing*)

Maybe I went off on that long tangent because I’m a little daunted by writing about the “plot”. How do you describe the plot of a symphony? Where to you start untangling this beautiful fusion of art & prose & poetry.

The opening mantra may be a good place as any start:

“A year ago…a cold October night…

A broken down car on a dirt road…

A man…a girl…madness…pain…and the shadows…

My God, the shadows…”

A year prior to the beginning of the story our main character, Eric, was murdered. Before he died, he witnessed the brutal rape & murder of his fiancé, Shelly. Fiancé is an understatement though. This was his soul-mate – the love of a lifetime.

There is dead and not quite so dead. The loss, the grief – the need to answer to the unanswerable question “Why?” was not extinguished with the death of his body. The compulsion – the obligation – to bring whatever justice he can binds Eric to the mortal world.

Half shade – half man, he hunts down the crime’s perpetrators one by one. I’ve been using a lot of flowery girlie-words to describe this book, but make no mistake – this is a violent book. There are grisly demises aplenty.

Though Eric spends a good deal of time killing, he also is capable of great compassion. He shows kindness to a sad & terribly neglected little girl. He even cares for a stray cat during his stay in the world. And, remarkably, he takes time to make sure each will be provided for after he is gone.

The titular Crow accompanies Eric on his quest. He serves many purposes – observer, counselor, narrator, guide and many other things that I’m sure I’m not smart enough to think of. The Crow is witness to Eric’s suffering – there to talk him through painful reminiscences of his lost love.

That is one of the greatest things about the artwork in this book. The stylistic changes in the art help convey the feeling of different episodes. There is such a sharp contrast to the soft, clean images of the time when Eric and Shelly were in love and the dark, gritty scenes of vengeance.

And, yet, I hate to use a word like vengeance. That’s not really what I get from this story. It’s not so much about revenge & murder – it’s a howl of pain. I’m not denying that there is rage & anger but it is fueled by the anguish & the blackness of loss. I never felt like Eric was “avenging” Shelly as much as he was honoring, with absolute devotion, her & the memory of the time they had.

I know, I know – could I BE more melodramatic?

This is also one of the few books where I esteem the art & the words equally – which is RARE for me. For example, when I first read “Shiver in the Dark” – I kept forgetting there were words to the story because I was so captivated with the artwork. But when I was reading “Superman: Red Son” – well, I think that book had pictures, but I don’t really distinctly remember.

In The Crow there was no such separation for me. Words & art seamlessly tell the story. On one page it might be a snippet of poetry that cuts to the heart. On another page it might be a breathtaking picture. Or, more frequently, the combination creates the perfect tone & mood – one would not be the same without the other.

Now I’ve know some people who’ve had a “Meh” kind of reaction to the story. I’m not saying you’ve had to experience some tragedy in life to totally get this tale, but it speaks with honesty to those who’ve seen dark places in their lives.

And, heck, in this shallow, “hook-up” culture to which we seem to be inexorably gravitating this story shines like a diamond. It seems everywhere you look there is an absence of conviction – nobody knows what they believe in anymore. So presented with a story of passion, devotion & eternal loyalty – well, for a girlie-girl like me, it hardly gets any better than that.

I don’t know what just happened there but we suddenly moved from review to lament. *smile* I think that’s my cue to exit.

Can you tell how much I like this book? I’ve probably way over-praised here, but if you’re going to call yourself a fan of the graphic novel, you should read this. I think it’s a classic of the form.

I’d lend you my copy but somebody’s already snatched it off my desk. That makes me happy though. We can always use a few more converts now can’t we?

Thanks for listening.


Superman: Red Son

I’m FINALLY getting around to writing something for the blog that’s not about a road trip! It’s been so beautiful outside it’s hard to want to sit at a computer. But that’s all about to change – MWHAHAHA! (That’s my best evil laugh.)

I now possess a LAPTOP! Excuse me a minute while a do a little “happy dance”. All I need is to set up a wireless connection & tonight we take over the world! Whoops – I was channeling the Brain there for a minute. See what happens when you capriciously use the evil villain laugh?

I’m going to write about Superman today – which is just nuts because Superman does nothing for me. I get easily bored with stories that are nothing but “I’m very strong so I stopped a bad thing from happening.”

However there is one thing about Superman that I find endlessly interesting. Superman: Red Son is an entire book is devoted to the exploration of this certain idea, so it got all the synapses in my brain fired up. I just LOVE that! That’s still the best part of reading comics for me – when you find a story that makes you think.

So, what’s this notion to which I’ve alluded? I like stories when Superman struggles with the concept of being god, or even a Christ-like figure, if you prefer. In his heart he just wants to “save” people. The interesting part lies in the struggle to decide by what means you choose to achieve it.

You have all this strength & power, so do you help those you love more by a life of service? Or do you better protect them by using this power to control the best possible outcomes because you are clearly best suited for the task?

Red Son explores this idea in a “what if” tale. I know – don’t balk yet. I have also read some SUPREMELY sucky “what if” stories, but I really dug this one. Mark Millar provides us an interesting premise: What if Jor-L had launched his son at a slightly different time & the rocket crashed in Russia instead of the US-of-A?

So we take all that earnest desire to help mankind & bring it up in a Russian farming collective. Neat, huh?

This book juxtaposes our familiar heroes with real historical characters & events. It does a great job of showing how this change affects not only the fictional characters that populate the story, but also how it might have affected the world.

Everybody’s there too. Even though the characters take different paths – they are still true to the essence of the characters we’ve come to know.

Superman needs his foil – so a tragic loss in the life of a young boy in Russia leads to the creation of a Soviet version of Batman. Wonder Woman joins Superman for a while and then begins to wonder if the Batman was right to question his benevolent domination.

Metropolis still has its Daily Planet, but Jimmy Olson has moved on to other things. Lois is, OF COURSE, there (and so is the chemistry!), but this Lois is married to Lex Luthor. The Luthor in this world devotes his life to putting his not nearly so evil genius to work to find a way to bring down Superman.

However, this time it’s not so much for personal gain, power or vengeance but rather for the preservation of ideological principles. Lex & Superman serve as opposing answers to the question of “How do you go about saving the world”?

Jeff and I talked about this a little at lunch one day. He asked me what the big deal was. What difference could landing in Russia make? I think I had a moment of clarity on the matter so let’s see if I can recreate, eh?

Our American Superman is a product of a culture that prizes individuality. Any time Clark stops to consider the notion that maybe he should just take over – he remembers why he loves humanity so much. It’s in large part due to their free will & indomitable independence.

An American upbringing provides him with a context for understanding that if you kill free will you crush the thing you love. It’s worth preserving that even if you are forced to occasionally let others make bad choices.

Now take that same Boy Scout heartfelt desire to help, and then raise it in a society where control is the norm & collective thinking your daily bread.

The Man of Steele grew up in Stalin’s heyday in Red Son. He was reared in an environment where the government assured you they had everything under control & would take care of all the citizens.

It’s only natural that this cultivated feelings that the best way to protect the world was to “take care” of it. Unfortunately the cost of Superman’s Utopia is free will.

It’s this realization that allows Lex to finally defeat Superman in the end. The final standoff between this alternate reality pair and Lex’s delivery of the ultimate checkmate should not be missed.

I can only WISH that I was clever enough to come up with such an engaging tale. Thank God there are people out there providing thes great stories for us. Treat yourself to a copy of this book. Heck – you can borrow mine!

More half baked opinions coming soon…thanks for reading!!


On the Road – Pittsburg Comicon

Well thank goodness for procrastination! I was in the middle of writing about Superman Red Son for my April posting when I was whisked away to the Pittsburgh Comicon. The old boy scout is going to have to wait until May, because we’ve got con to dish!

It all came together SO fast. My good buddy David Wray only brought it up on Wednesday. He said if I was free this weekend he would be kidnapping me & taking me to Pittsburgh.

I initially declined because it was my daughter’s birthday that weekend & I certainly wasn’t going to be away for that. David countered with an offer of bringing the kids along. Well, I had to think about it….FOR ABOUT 2 SECONDS!

So big milestone weekend – my daughters attended their first Comic Book Convention. EEK! They had been begging to go but I was concerned they might get bored too quickly. I was wrong – they took to it like ducks to water. (That was my Hoosier cliché moment for the day.) We all enjoyed ourselves immensely. Here’s the low down…

Getting there is half the fun

We left Indianapolis around 9:15 and drove through the night. Well, David drove & I tried to snooze. I got a few 15 minute snatches of sleep before I decided to quit. Plus David was very tired so I stayed up to talk to him for the last stretch. Thankfully the kids totally conked out under a mountain of pillows in the back seat.

We got to the hotel at dawn, but our room wasn’t ready – ACK! We all attempted to snooze a little more, but everyone was pretty tired of being in the car. It was COLD too. I suggested a change in venue & we headed down to McD’s for munchies & loitering.

It finally became a decent enough hour in the A.M. for David to call two of his friends who were also in town. They were gracious enough to let us come over & change clothes & get ready for the con in their hotel. It was of the extreme nice, because there is nothing more awkward than going up to a complete stranger’s room & just totally invading.

Russ Anderson & Tamas Jakab were great! They were there for Frontier Publishing. I am issuing a silent prayer that I got their names & company right. They were nice to me – give them money! Or at least look them up on the web – www.frontierpublishing.net.

While we were there, our hotel called to say our room was ready. At that point everyone had the opportunity to change & tidy up, except – guess who? Yes, me – the one who needs the most sandblasting.

Yet another jaunt back to our hotel & a hasty 15 minute slap-dash spruce up for me (I hope that explains a LOT to anyone who saw me that day) – and we were off to the Expomart for a day of fun!!

Pittsburgh Comicon Day 1

With all our morning misadventures we arrived not 20 minutes before the con opened. David led us to the ticket counter then assumed his alternate identity of “Mr. Connected” & disappeared inside. He was on the hunt for a Scott McDaniel sketch.

The wait was short & the line moved swiftly – Yeah! At first I tried to play hostess to my girls & show them around & explain the set up. It became evident though that I was holding them back. *laughing* So I gave them one of our cells phones & a check in time & location – and they were OFF! I was tickled that they so swiftly got the hang of things.

Now it was my turn to prowl.

Terry Moore Nirvana

As usual I went to the con very UN-goal oriented. (Heck, with 48 hours notice, who can come up with goals anyway!) All I really wanted to do was meet Terry Moore, shake his hand & thank him for existing & for spending part of that existence creating the marvelous Strangers in Paradise.

SIP is freaking brilliant! I will, at some point, devote an entire essay to explaining exactly why everyone should read this book, but today is not that day.

I got my wish & THEN some! Sure I did get to meet him – what a great guy! He signed one of my volumes of SIP & chatted for a few minutes. But that is not the best part. I got a sketch! Not just “A” sketch, but THE sketch. The perfect right sketch for me. I know – I’m such a girl about my emotional attachment to art work.

I talked to his wife Robyn in the morning before Terry arrived. She was so personable – very upbeat & easy to talk to. I was astonished to find out I could get on the sketch list. I have to pause for a minute & thank David. I wasn’t even going to ask, but he literally pulled a page from his sketch book & put it in my hands. Then he (figuratively) kicked me in the butt & told me to get over there & ask. I am SO grateful!

I didn’t even have any idea what to ask for – I could no sooner pick a favorite character from SIP than I could pick a favorite child. With that – I said he could surprise me. When Terry countered with the fact that he could surprise me with a cow – I refined my request to any pretty girl. I figured I’d let him pick the character.

I’m so glad I did. I ended up with a bust shot of Katchoo in profile. It was one of those love-at-first-sight moments for me. I could not have asked for something to make me happier.

Later in the afternoon, the girls joined me for Terry’s informal talk. They were exhausted by that point & were grateful to have an hour just to sit. Anna even dozed off on my shoulder for a bit.

Terry was just as articulate & intelligent as the book he produced. Low-key dry wit punctuated the entire talk. Even my 10 & 12 year old daughters were engaged by the end – listening & laughing. It was a pleasure to at last find admirable the PERSON whose WORK I have always found to be such. It was the perfect Terry Moore experience.

Independent Excellence

If you’ve read any of this junk I post, you may see that I have a big admiration for folks who get out & self-publish. Believing in yourself enough to put your art & words out there for all to see takes a lot of courage & determination. I’m always stumbling across gems.

Our first discovery was an artist named Nate Melton. I knew Anna wanted something Elektra so I was browsing different artists’ interpretation of the character looking for something to suggest to her. I stopped dead when I saw the prints he had out for sale. His work was really beautiful – especially the water colors.

I brought the girls back to his table & they had an equally strong reaction. He might have been their favorite artist for the day – they each bought several prints from him. I sent Jeff some scans of his work – hopefully they will get posted with this. Check out the Scarlett Witch – that was our hands down favorite.

We talked to Nate a bit – he’s got a couple credits with Moonstone books & this was his FIRST con. I hope he sticks with it – I really liked what I saw.

I’d also like to give a shout out (though I am not cool enough to say that) to the bright energetic group of creators at the Midgard Comics table. They were promoting Johnnie Zombie & Stiletto Heights.

I had run into Jennifer Gordon (writer for Stiletto Heights) at a previous con in Indy & I didn’t realize she had her own book. She said there was a free sketch from the artist, Ian Nichols, with the purchase of their Stiletto Heights convention special. I thought that was quite a deal so I picked up a copy & said I’d drop by later for the sketch.

Boy was I in for a treat when I went back to pick it up! I just thought it was going to be a little quickie sketch of one of the book’s characters – not this cool complete picture I got. It was very attractive & appealing. It’s a little on the big side for my little scanner, but I am still going to try to scan it to post with this essay, so everybody can see. Neat surprise!

I read Stiletto Heights on the way home and enjoyed that too. I liked the page layout. I like the prose interspersed with the dialogue. But mostly, I liked that it’s a story about people, relationships & conversation. Jennifer is really good with relationship subtext in this issue.

As you can tell from above I’m a big SIP fan. A lot of that is based on the complex relationships of the characters & the meaty dialogue. We need more of that! I’m glad to see a book that’s got a lot of good human interaction. Keep up the good work Midgard – I’m glad you are out there!

Lackluster World

This last book, Lackluster World, was probably my favorite independent title I picked up this weekend. It is written & Illustrated by Eric Adams. And I am KICKING myself for not paying better attention when I bought it. It was another case of head turning artwork giving me pause. I liked the cat on the book – what can I say? (Mr. Mittens – what a great name.)

I don’t remember what we were doing, but we were on our way somewhere – so I bought issue one dropped it in my bag & kept moving. I didn’t have the pleasure of reading about a day in the life of Fahrenheit Monahan until the drive home. This, of course, made it impossible to get my hands IMMEDEATELY on Issue 2 & 3 (which I now must have).

Now, I’d like to think of myself as a (trying to be) good Christian girl & religion takes an absolute pummeling in this book – but it didn’t so much bother me. I actually found the whole thing incredibly witty from start to finish.

Eric’s characterizations are so deft & observations so astute – I can’t fault him. I’ve got a low tolerance for anyone who tries to bludgeon me with their belief system, no matter what point of view they are trying to sell.

Religion isn’t the only whipping boy either. The book takes a shot at self-absorbed parents, out of control consumerism, macho BS, auto racing as a “sport”, corporate cube life, even clowns. Every observation was executed with surgically precise satire. I loved it! Can’t wait to read more – I’m lending it to Jeff as soon as I see him.

Day 2 – Scott McDaniel

After a delicious dinner at Outback with Russ & Tom (Frontier Publications – give them money they are hardworking & talented! And nice – did I mention nice?) & a DESPARATELY needed good night sleep; we headed back to the Expomart for a few more hours before hitting the road.

The only significant thing that happened that day was working with David to get a Scott McDaniel Sketch for Jeff – which I’m glad we did. I think it was more fun for me to have the opportunity to talk with Scott & his charming mother, Delores, than it was getting the sketch.

We got there early. Anna & Liz – being old pros at this now – told me when & where they would meet me & set out to explore some more. David & I headed back to the table & had the good fortune of being first in line. Scott was running a bit late, which was fine by me. It gave us the opportunity to talk for a while with Delores. She is very sweet (and we are both Diet Coke fans!). I look forward to running into her again.

Scott arrived & I requested a Batman with Batgirl for Jeff. Now as much as I love to watch the artist work – I’ve got to say – I was really was enjoying the conversation. He told me that the proceeds would be going to support a summer youth program at his church. So we got to talking about my home church & picking the right church & how important leadership was.

Here’s the killer part though – anyone who hangs out with me for any period of time knows one thing – I CAN TALK! I was feeling torn – I was ready to launch into my philosophical viewpoint over each & every topic that came up, but I didn’t want to be a distraction from his sketching & there were SO many other people waiting. So I tried to restrain myself.

He seemed like a very intelligent & well grounded guy. I have such respect for people who are secure in their belief systems. Who knows maybe another con, another city – there might be time for full blown conversation. That would be cool.

We took home a GREAT sketch for Jeff – I love the perspective of the sketch – the positioning of the characters is so dynamic. I see why people line up for Scott’s work – I was very impressed. I hope Jeff likes it.

The Road Home

We didn’t rush going home and made it in the door around 7 pm. We were all tired but happy.

I’m glad I could share something I enjoy so much with the kids. It made a big impression on them

Both of the girls pulled out old, long forgotten sketch books & began dreaming up what THEIR comic should be about. They are thinking about a town where all the characters are letters of the alphabet & the letter “S” would be the town superhero. *smile*

Who knows – we’ve all seen stranger things on the shelves….

I should have some thoughts on Superman posted soon & our next big PLANNED trip is Charlotte Heroes Con. Thanks for reading – more soon….


Chicago Comic-Fest

New Recommendations:

Patrick the Wolfboy & Footman 15

Boy we had a good time last weekend! David, the Mighty Rothes & I took a day trip to Chicago for a little comic con fun. Well – Sarah brought a bag of things so she could have “quite reading fun” while Jeff, David & I had comic book fun – she’s such a good sport.

I’m going to limit the amount of time I regale you with tales of our adventures because I’m excited about a couple new things I read that I got there & want to talk about that – so here are the highlights.

I think Jeff & David spent more time in the dealer room than I did. David cleaned up on a boatload of statues & Jeff did some trading & wrangled up some issues he was looking for. Meanwhile – I talked. Hey you’ve got to stick with your strengths!

I met Billy Tucci & had him sign one of my copies of Shi. What a pretty book that was! He was very personable & easy to talk to. So many people I encounter have no clue what they believe in or stand for so it was kind of refreshing to see someone who’s not shy about putting his faith & values securely all out there.

I got a couple more prints for my girls from Jeff Moy – they were so pleased with what I got them last time. My daughters LOVE the girl superheroes & we all like his take on them. We got on a geek-speak roll about sci-fi shows & cartoons – that was fun! I have to watch myself though I can really talk your ears off about that stuff.

Check these artists out!

Bill Wilkison

There were two guys there that totally cracked me up (sorry, sucky cliché use there). One was Bill Wilkison. He draws sketches of the con attendees & I was one of his victims. You can see the sketch posted under my columns. Everyone who has seen it bursts out into uncontrollable laughter. While this is crippling my ego, I still like it – it makes me smile. Eh, I accept the fact that I’m pretty funny looking, so caricature is really the only way I should ever be depicted.

Anyway, Bill was super nice & his quick wit kept the three of us laughing constantly. If I can be crass for a moment – the con sketches are really a great marketing thing him. It breaks the ice & draws people to his table – then his personality takes care of the rest. I’m already seeing that being (or at least appearing) approachable is half the battle at these things.

I’d encourage you to check out his work at http://homepage.mac.com/bwilkison. Or stop by & talk to him at the next con – I’m sure you’ll find it very entertaining!

Art Baltazar

The other guy who kept us laughing was Art Baltazar. (His superhero crayon sketches are a RIOT!) I was instantly drawn to his bright, colorful artwork – mainly characters from his Patrick the Wolfboy book. Yeah! FINALLY I’m down to one of the new things I read!

One of the million fragments of things that makes me, is that I’m a mom. I’m always looking for something to share with the kids (I’ve got to get them properly “geeked up” you know). Patrick the Wolfboy is delightful! Talk about a character you just want to give a big hug to!

The artwork is crisp, fresh & consistently charming. The book is done in vignettes rather than big stories. I got the first two collected editions & I had a big smile on my face throughout the read. Jeff read them on the trip home & I heard him laugh out loud several times.

Don’t get hung up on the fact that I said it’s a “kid-friendly” book. There is SO much subtext there. I mean c’mon –
there are nods to both Calvin & Hobbs AND the Rocky Horror Picture Show in the first volume alone. The characters really blossom in the second volume; which is an even richer gold-mine of in-jokes.

I can’t wait to buy the next volume. You can sample it for yourself our on Art’s fantastic website – http://www.artbaltazar.com/. And if you’re socks aren’t properly knocked off – you must be made of stone – get therapy – soon.

Footman 15

Now finally, FINALLY I get to talk about my find of the weekend. God-bless the self publishers! I love original artwork, but if it wasn’t for great storytelling I would have lost interest in comics long ago. So here is your GOOD READ ALERT! Do yourself a favor & pick up Footman 15, by Christopher Rich-McKelvey, Bald Guy Studios (http://www.baldguystudios.com).

There is a line between fantasy & reality, and the guardians of that line are the Footmen. Our nameless heroine is the fifteenth generation trained to make sure the fantasy world stays out of our real human lives. Each issue is one self-contained story of her exploits.

The first issue, “Fairy Fire”, has the Footman tracking an elusive mythological creature know only to her as The Beast. Along the way she wipes out a gathering of fairies (which seem to be the equivalent of cockroaches to her kind) & has an awesome knock-down-drag-out with a Dryad possessed oak tree.

The BEST part is when she finally confronts The Beast at the end of the book. I could not possibly spoil the ending for you. But what transpires sets the stage that this is a woman trained to follow orders. Feeling morally convoluted about the life she lives & the tasks she must undertake is a luxury she cannot abide.

I thought the second issue “Therapy” got even more interesting. Told in frame story fashion – she is visiting a therapist & telling him about her missions. I LOVED the one mission she was on where she had to go take care of a child who had been “infected” by a fairy.

But the part that kept me hanging on was WHY in the heck she was telling this guy all this stuff? Was she sick of the business of killing? Maybe she wasn’t as hardened as she seemed – maybe she was looking for answers or validation?

By the end though, her motives are clear. AGAIN – I wouldn’t dream of telling the rest of the story from here & ruining the wicked twist to it all. After issue two she proves once again she is one cool cookie here to do a job.

There is so much to like about this book!

Two things are done well. First is the establishment of the fantasy world. Christopher totally gets it right. I spoke to him a little at the con & he is very interested in the history of fantasy, fairy tale & legend. He has studied the roots of these stories & it is evident in the vividness of detail in both picture & prose.

Secondly – he’s just flat out created an interesting character. (AND she looks hot – love the pixie hair-cut!) Okay we’re
taking a detour for a minute & it’s going to be ALL ABOUT ME for a paragraph or two (Hey it’s my essay!!!) – but I’m building to something about the book, I promise.

I have a great longtime friend who works at a movie theatre. He’s one of the most creative (and analytical) people I know – we could talk anything to death. One evening a few months ago I dropped by his work & we sat bathed in the distant whirr of the projectors & talked about a story idea.

He said he liked what I was saying but pointed out that maybe the EXACT SAME story might be more captivating if told in a different way & we hashed through examples.

I ruminated on what we talked about for a long time until I had an epiphany – my writing style it TOO darned linear! I always want to TELL the story – get to the end – get to the point. Storytelling can be so much more beautiful & riveting when revealed slowly. Take time to build the character…construct the history, the relationships – then the reader will more likely care about the EVENTS.

When we are given the RIGHT pieces of the story – we naturally want more. (Now I’m back to Footman 15 – see it didn’t take long!) For me this is what Christopher has done with this character. I want to know more about her now. Is she really ice cold – or just trained to be cool? Who’s giving her these assignments? What’s the history of her training & the legacy of the other Footmen?

And a good character can’t just hang out & be interesting. With an unlimited number of mythological creatures to confront & exterminate, Footman 15 has the potential for tons of exciting escapades while we learn more about her.

Okay did I gush enough? *laughing* Seriously though – this is a good looking book that already has some captivating tales to tell. Looking forward to more….

I have come to two conclusions about what I put out on the blog.

One – I want to attempt to avoid writing about what EVERYONE else is. (That Astonishing X-men thing was an easy to hammer out “Omigosh I haven’t written anything in February” deal.)

The other conclusion is that I want to write about stuff I like. I get no pleasure at all from ripping up something. Sharing good things is just more enjoyable.

So in the meantime – I’ll be going to “Linear Writers” therapy & I’m going to keep reading. Then when I find something I
like, I’ll try to stop for a minute & tell you why.

See the delusion that I have readers STILL lingers. *smile*