Sunday, June 26, 2011

My adventures at Supanova '11

What a weekend!

This year was quite different for me. I never made an official announcement on my blog, but I'm an intern at Gestalt Publishing, so this year I was on the booth for most of the con. It was lovely and tiring! But I'm getting ahead of myself now.

Friday was the preview night, I unfortunately didn't get to see any previews. I arrived at the station in the midst of a giant storm - lightning, thunder, crazy winds and a giant downpour. I spent about 20 minutes in the dubious shelter of a canvas overhang, waiting for it to calm down so I could get across to the building where the con was being held. I met one of the guys from Siren Visual and we had a nice chat while we waited for the weather to calm down. The poor dude hadn't eaten so I shared my Tiny Teddies with him. Eventually we decided to make a break for it, even though it was still raining. My umbrella made it to the doors before it broke in half. I got my staff badge from the front desk and wandered around Artist's Alley for a while. The stalls all looked wonderful. I wasn't there for very long before I decided I might as well head home and get changed into dry clothes. One of the Gestalt guys drove myself and one of the Perth-based artists home, which was lovely.

There was some seriously awesome cosplay this year! It was actually easier for me to see stuff from the safety of the booth. Some of my favourites include:

  • Deadpool
  • Lady Deadpool
  • Zatanna 
  • Lots of HP 
  • Robot Unicorn girl
  • Lots of Firefly including some adorable Kaylees
  • A few Dr. Horribles, including one bad Dr. Horrible in his red outfit!
Speaking of cosplay, Emily K. Smith promised to slap some sense into me if I ever had the inkling to dress as a generic sexy schoolgirl for anything. We then discussed various animals that it might be difficult to dress 'sexy' as. We decided it might be fun to see someone attempt a sexy rhino or giraffe.

Crowds were thick for most of the day. I attended Amy Acker's panel, but sadly missed out on the other sessions I would have liked - Sean Maher, David Gareth-Lloyd and Corin Nemec. I spent most of the day watching Emily draw things (and resolving never to try and draw things myself), and being slightly awed by Ben Templesmith and Tom Taylor. Also I was resisting the urge to tell Justin Randall to "hurry up!" I'm a huge Changing Ways fan (I'll put my review on this blog soon) and having him RIGHT THERE working on Book 2 was delightful and also agonising.

I was really happy when I got the chance to run over to the Monster + Robot Industries stall where I met Suzanne and Luke in person! I bought some comics which were promptly signed. The Sexy Virus had me in stitches so I ran back the next day to get the two-part sequel.

Whilst on the booth I saw Sean Maher wandering around the floor with his handler. I actually squeaked, which my boss thought was hilarious. "Run after him!" he said. "No, he's walking around! I'd feel awful if I interrupted his 'being normal' time," I said. That and I didn't have anything for him to sign...

Saturday night was of course the James Marsters concert, which my boyfriend graciously allowed himself to be dragged along to. It was brilliant. James is such a lovely guy and really knows how to charm an audience. He played a nice mix of songs from his solo albums, one Ghost of the Robot song, and some new tunes. I was really stoked when he said the band were getting back together and that there'd be a new album by the end of the year. I'll admit they're not the greatest songwriters but they have such a heartfelt energy about them. James also revealed some of the subtext of his songs - let me tell you, it was VERY INTERESTING!

Having settled into the routine of booth-handling, Sunday was a bit more laid-back than Saturday. I have to thank Emily K. Smith again, for taking the booth so I could go to the James Marsters Q&A - it was amazing. I really hope that the next time I'm at a con with James I can get a photo or an autograph with him. All the chatter I overheard was praising his friendliness and the amazingly personal way he interacts with his fans. Unfortunately the lines for autograph/photo tickets for all the Supa-Stars was so bloody long, I didn't get the chance to even THINK about doing either. I got my Tides of Hope anthology signed by the cover artist though, and he thanked me for buying it :)

In the afternoon I wandered over to the Siren Visual stand, where I was given a copy of Perfect Blue "for the tiny teddies". Feeling much abashed I chased down Tom Taylor and got him to sign a copy of The Example for my new friend. That reminds me, I should review that. It's such a difficult comic to review, though! The concept sounds so simple but the comic itself is utterly mind-blowing. I think everyone should read it. Tom writes something different for each autograph, which I think is awesome.

During the afternoon the documentary crew blocked me off from the booth (the camera was set up in the only gap between them) so I went for a bit of a wander. It was slightly less crowded, which was nice. I visited the Comic Zone (my LCS) booth and picked up a.50c comic whilst chatting to my favourite staff member, Jay.

The Dymocks booth was over the other side of the room to ours, and Marianne de Pierres was unable to make it to Perth, so I didn't do my author stalking for the con. However, Emily's artistic talents landed me in the prescence of Bevan Mcguinness and Alison Goodman! They have both requested that she do some character artwork for them. I tried not to be too fannish, though I was feeling incredibly star-struck. God help me if Kylie Chan ever comes to Perth...

I had planned to maybe attend the Tom Felton session if we weren't too busy on the booth, however people starting queuing for Tom nearly three hours before his session. So when I went for a drinks/lunch run at 2pm, a poor volunteer was standing halfway down the floor with a sign that said "End of Tom Felton line". As in they weren't letting any more people line up because no more people would fit in the Q&A room. I saw some girls crying because they wouldn't be able to go in to see Tom. It was a bit crazy.

Supanova, though incredibly awesome, needs to rethink their choice of venue and do a bit better in organising fan interactions with their Supa Stars.

All in all, I had a fabulous time this year, though I wished I had been able to go to more things. I didn't actually realise how tired I was until I sat down on the train! Maybe next year I can wheedle a day off from my boss-man?

My weekend haul. And my dingy rug.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Review: Stargate Vala mal Doran #1

Originally posted July 1, 2010

As an avid SG-1 fan, I was delighted to spot this in my local shop, and I snatched it up immediately. I hadn't heard a single thing about it on official channels, but I'm way out of the loop, so it's totally understandable that I missed out on all the hype. Here is the Gateworld announcement from March this year, and the Comic Book Resources article slash interview.

Vala's a hoot, and I figured that any glimpse at her history would be interesting and funny. I was sort of right. I experieced a bit of disappointment pulling the comic out of the bag to read. The cover art is delightfully video-game reminiscent, and a little dark.

(Image taken from Gateworld, a really informative Stargate news and general info site)
However, the art inside is just traditional, good but unremarkable comic-book-style art.

Vala's character seems pretty true to form; she's witty, devious, unscrupulous and a little bit silly. I didn't recognise the writer's name - Brandon Jerwa - so I did a bit of snooping via Google. Turns out he pretty much specialises in tie-in comics, so I am fairly confident he'll do a good job adding to the Stargate world and accurately portraying the loveable scamp Vala.

The first page provides a bit of info on timelines - this adventure takes place sometime after Vala had been taken over by Qetesh, but before she falls in with the SG-1 crew. We see Val has - as per usual - gotten herself in over her head and is attempting to turn things around through lying her leather-clad butt off. In the interview with CBR, Jerwa says that the SG-1 crew will be appearing later in the series, as the timeline movies into more current territory.

This issue is filled with a very colourful array of aliens, a hearty dash of intergalactic politics, cool gadgets and Vala's signature close escapes. I wouldn't call this a vital piece of the Stargate pie, and of course it'll appeal mostly to the SG-1 fans. From the comments on the Gateworld announcement, I saw a few disparaging remarks directed at the fact no 'official' Stargate writers are affiliated with the project.

I myself won't be following this series avidly; I'll probably wait a few months and pick up a bunch of issues at once. There is a bit of a rumour going around that Stargate SG-1 will have a season 11 in comics, a la Angel and Buffy. If this goes ahead, my wallet will cry and I will have to sit down and watch seasons 9 and 10 all the way through. After season 8, I sort of got distracted by Firefly.

2011 edit: I really lost interest with this series, but since it only went for 5 issues, I'll probably collect the rest. And the re-watch the end of the TV series. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Review: The Guild miniseries

Originally posted at my other blog on 21/6/2010

General info
The Guild is an internet webseries written by Felicia Day, who also directs and stars in it. Those of you who've read the archives of this blog would know she is one of my icons. I will attempt to keep the gushing to a minimum - suffice to say that Felicia is extremely talented and I admire her greatly. She is an avid convention attendee, and I have my fingers crossed she'll come to Australia next year (she was supposed to be at Supanova this year, but had to pull out due to starting work on The Guild season 4).

Felicia's work, summed up, would read like this:

  • Guest-starred in Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a 'potential' named Vi.
  • Has done guest roles on TV shows such as Lie To Me, House, Monk, and of course Dollhouse.
  • Pioneered the internet webseries genre by starting The Guild, now in its fourth season, and currently sponsored by Microsoft to preserve its free viewing status.
  • Furthered the internet webseries genre by co-starring in Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog, and appearing in series such as The Legend of Neil and The Jace Hall Show.
  • Starring in the upcoming SciFi Channel movie Red.
Actual review!
This three-issue miniseries, written from the point of view of Felicia's character Cyd Sherman, is a prequel to the series. It explains Cyd's background, her plethora of neuroses, and explains how and why she got to be the obsessive, addict-type gamer we get to know and love in the webseries. It follows the format of the series, with Cyd interacting 'with' the reader/audience via a webcam, which she uses like a diary. This sequences tie up the episodes' content and give the reader/audience an insight into Cyd's thoughts and feelings. You don't necessarily have to have watched the series before you read the comics, but it does help, and I'm sure there have been a few 'new' fans since the comics' publication.

When the comic starts, Cyd has a boyfriend, a therapist and a job. When the webseries starts, she only has one of these things (which she loses in the first episode). Poor Cyd has a lot of issues, which her faceless therapist (humorously, if a little stereotypically drawn as the back of an enormous leather armchair and a pair of feet) doesn't seem to be helping her through. Cyd's job playing a violin in an orchestra is more or less ok, if a bit dead-end. It's her disgustingly egotistical boyfriend who's causing her the most problems. They met in the orchestra (he plays cello) but he dropped it for a band called 'The Shredders'. Cyd has been conned into writing all the music, taking tickets, putting up fliers, and basically doing all the roadie's jobs, getting zero credit and as much respect from her boyfriend, Trevor. One day, Cyd walks into a gaming shop, entranced by a poster in the window inviting her to "escape into a fantasy". She buys the advertised game, in exchange for being allowed to put up one of the band's fliers. That night, after a gig, her boyfriend abandons her to go out drinking with his bandmates. A dejected Cyd goes home, and loses herself in the game. The comic series trace her progress through the game and the people she meets on it, her rapidly deteriorating relationship with her increasingly manipulative boyfriend, and her own emotional journey as she is tugged between real life and the game world.

Cyd is just as neurotic and down-trodden in the comic as she is in the series. The other in-game characters' somewhat larger-than-life personalities are hinted at in their rather brief appearances. Trevor, Cyd's boyfriend, is also a cartoonish figure - selfish, ungracious, unfaithful and an all-around douchebag. The band-mates have no dialogue at all. In fact, the only other 'new' characters who exceed 1-D status (albeit barely) are the orchestra conductor Gunther and Cyd's fellow violinist Mrs. Bogeman. Their existance is limited entirely to the comics, and Cyd's interpretation of them. Maybe it's because of the short length of the series, or the narrow point of view that first-person affords, but the comic characterisation is a little shallow outside of Cyd herself.

Felicia Day readily admits that she knows the addictive capabilities of gaming firsthand. However, it is not always the negative thing usually portrayed by media. Also, 'nerds' and 'geeks' aren't always the antisocial misfits they're made out to be (Cyd Sherman being a good example of both, notwithstanding). Felicia aimed to show the positive impacts gaming can have on an individual's life, if used in moderation. Cyd demonstrates both the positives and the negatives, in the comics and series. By showing the characters in and out of the games, Felicia establishes and plays with the balance of the two. The comics are about Cyd's world and relationships both in and out of the game, and the firm line between. The series demolishes this line, to hilarious results.

The art in this is brilliant. Jim Rugg certainly showcases his versatility - there are two distinct and very different styles in these comics. One is for 'real life': this has crisp, clean lines and shapes. Shading is minimal, providing depth and dimension only where needed. Otherwise it is comprised of very sharp shapes and colours. This is to contrast with the art 'in-game', which looks like a cross between pencil and watercolour. It's beautiful, with soft lines, rich colours and shading. It is SO different to the 'real life' look, which I appreciate immensely. I like the gritty brashness of the 'real' art, and the 'game' art is really pretty, dreamlike and almost forgiving in comparison. I feel that it really emphasises how Cyd feels about these two areas of her life.

In retrospect, you're probably better off reading this series after you've watched The Guild, otherwise you miss out on a lot of the revelationary aspects, and the unique tones of the characters. This was Felicia's first comic, and as she said, "limitations on how much dialogue you can put into each panel and the idea of visual storytelling was pretty challenging"*. For a first effort, in a style so very different from screen-writing, she gets a big thumbs up from me. I am also very, very stoked by her choice of artist - Rugg did a fantastic job keeping that more-than-real feel of the series, and contrasting it with the 'otherness' of an MMORPG. I also love-love-love the covers, and if I had mone to spare I'd collect the variants for sure. I actually had a lot of trouble getting ahold of these comics - my local store never managed to order enough, and I always had to wait for the second shipment because I was silly and didn't preorder them. If Felicia ever does some more comic adaptations, I'll know better!

Read a great article on The Guild universe, with quotes from an interview with Felicia here at Comic Book Resources.

A preview interview by MTV here: *quote taken from this interview.

Felicia Day's blog.

The Guild official homepage for general information about the webseries, links to episodes, and a store to buy the DVD versions and merch from.

2011 edit: Felicia's rep sheet is quite a bit longer now - check out her site for all the new stuff!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Review: Kill Shakespeare #1

Originally posted 20/4/2010 on my other blog.

I heard about this new series on Comic Vine and was immediately intriuged. Their summary reads: " This dark take on the Bard pits his greatest heroes (Hamlet, Juliet, Othello Falstaff) against his most menacing villains (Richard III, Lady Macbeth, Iago) in an epic adventure to find and kill a reclusive wizard named William Shakespeare." The English student in me gasped delightedly and I pre-ordered it at my local comic shop.

Issue #1 came out last month, so I am a little late in reviwing it, but I wanted to read it a few times and mull it over before reviewing. Here's a link to the original cover. This isn't the one that I have, which is the variant cover. I think I like mine better, it's a little more relevant for me as it has some of the characters on it, and is more true to the art:
 Image from Kill Shakespeare's website, so all rights belong to them, it's nothing to do with me, etc etc.

Artwork: wow! I haven't read a huge variety of comic books, but I'm pretty confident in saying this is very unique artwork. I really like it. The colors are muted, but not in a dull way. It has a very deep, rich palette. The shapes and lines are really strong and bold. The characters have amazing clothing, quite textured and 'heavy'-looking. So, period-appropriate!

As I said, I haven't got a huge range of other comics to compare this to, but the way the panels are laid out in this issue is really different. The frames are thick and lopsided, not the smooth thin-bordered rectangles in most comics. It's not jarring or intrusive, but it definitely lends flair.

Storyline: Honestly, I was expected a big 'amazing race meets survivor' type deal, with all the villains and all the heroes of Shakespeare running around and fighting on this epic quest. Really, it's a bit more like an MMO. Non-spoilery summary: Hamlet, our main character, is exiled for semi-accidentally killing someone, and then Richard III offers him a deal, which involves Hamlet killing the 'dark wizard-god Shakespeare'. There's also a typed version of the prophecy that the series is based around at the back of the issue.

A little slow as first installations go, nevertheless I'll definitely be following this series to the finish. The concept is just awesome and I really think the artwork A) suits it, and B) is gorgeous. The next issue came out yesterday (May 19th) but being in Australia it'll probably be a week or two til I can get my hands on it. I'll probably review the next issue in a few weeks.

2011 edit:
Having read a lot more comic books since picking up Kill Shakespeare #1 last year, I'm still reading this series, I still love the artwork, and I appreciate the solid character construction more than ever. Next month's issue, #12 will be the last of the series, so if you're not into single-issue format, hang out a while and wait for the trade to come out.