Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Drawmelting Extreme Cosplayers

Drawmelty Goodness
In extolling the many virtues of the singularly outstanding Meltdown Comics to a coworker who recently moved from Indiana and shares my enthusiasm for comic books, I discovered they have a regularly scheduled life drawing class. The class, called "Drawmelt" (drawing at meltdown comics...get it?) is offered every Monday from 7PM to 10PM. They bill it as "extreme cosplay life drawing" which immediately got my attention. How do you define extreme cosplay? Do they dress up as JRPG characters then hop on a skateboard and throw bitchin' tricks on a half-pipe?

As it turns out? No. They don't. The event is extremely chill with a model doing poses that range from five minutes up to twenty minutes. In most life drawing classes the models are nude. This is to help the artists learn anatomy and the contours of the body. That's great, but most of us who don't live in a nudist colony or who care about municipal codes against indecent exposure wear clothes. This is true in most actual illustration jobs, too, unless you're lucky (unlucky?) enough to have spent your entire education drawing nudes, and end up in a career illustrating sex manuals.

What I was really looking for was the opportunity to draw figures from live models, but I'm also keenly aware that I need a lot of practice in drawing fabric and how it drapes over the body. We've all seen illustrations or sculpture of a nude model with a sheet draped casually over a shoulder, brazenly exposing one plump breast. That's great...but who in the hell goes grocery shopping less than half dressed in a goddamn sheet? Traditional life drawing is great, but it helps if you can draw people wearing actual clothes from time to time, too.

I've been to two Drawmelt events, and both were great experiences that have already had an impact on my abilities as an illustrator (I'm really reluctant to apply the label "artist" to what I do). At the most recent event the model was dressed in what I'm calling a modern take on Alice from Alice in Wonderland. Below are a number of my drawings from the evening.

If you are an artist or illustrator living in the L.A. area I recommend checking it out.

The first drawings of the evening are fairly rough, as the model only holds these poses for five minutes. It's kind of like the artist's version of stretching before a workout.

After that the poses are held for ten minutes which is like a balance between a warm up and the actual workout. It's like calisthenics for your drawing muscles. The first of these is may favorite from the evening. Though it has to be said that even my favorite drawing of the evening does not do the lovely model justice. She had the most amazing and expressive eyes, and she seemed to be telling a story with each pose.

After that the poses are held for fifteen minutes. This is where you can really spend some time on details, playing with style, maybe doing a quick gesture drawing as practice before doing a more complete drawing. This is where the workout really starts.

The last couple of poses are held for twenty minutes. By this time I've been drawing for a while so I'm in a funny place where my hand is starting to get sore, but my drawing muscles are loose.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Geek Speaking Overworked Dragon Savages

Geek Speaking: The Overworked Edition

I've had days like this. I've seen other people have days like this, too. In general they go on a a long lunch break with an HR "specialist" and are never heard from again.

Look, ma! I'm drawing backgrounds! Try to ignore the fact that "Fred" seems to have the longest right arm in human history.

The idea for this came from a former coworker. We'd had a particularly difficult morning, and I think both of us were a little loopy from sleep deprivation. It must have been a Wednesday. Things always get a little Flerpy on Wednesday. Around this time I'd started drawing more of these cartoons and he would send me chat messages with possible dialogue for strips. This is one that's stood the test of time, and I'm finally (more or less) equal to the task of drawing it. BEHOLD!

Comic Book Review: The Savage Dragon
Publisher: Image Comics
Issue: 1
Price: $1.95 (original) $3.00 (value after 20 years...yeah...my daughter will probably not be going to college on the proceeds from selling my comic books).
Recommendation: Get off your ass and go out right now and buy every trade paperback edition you can find starting with volume 1. Why are you still reading, I said GO BUY IT!

The Savage Dragon Issue 1
In 1992 a number of creators including Erik Larsen, Todd McFarlane, Marc Silvestri, Jim Lee, and Rob Liefeld broke away from "the Big Two" who dominated the world of comic book publishing.  Their split allowed them to release their own titles without fear of censorship from the still-somewhat-relevant Comics Code Authority, or losing control of their intellectual property to the publishing giants who controlled (and still control) the majority of mainstream titles.

The Savage Dragon by Erik Larsen was one of the flagship titles released by these creators under the "Image Comics" label. Larsen's book was released around the same time as Youngblood, WildC.A.T.S., and arguably the most well-known book, Spawn. Of the four original titles the only ones still in publication today are Spawn and The Savage Dragon and Larsen is the only one of the creators who founded Image Comics to still be writing and drawing his own book. He gets mad props for that.

Larsen's distinction of having the longest run as artist and writer on any American comic book, ever notwithstanding, he deserves mad props for another reason. This book, in its entirety, is (and you'll pardon me, I don't do this very often) fucking awesome.

In this first issue it helps if you've read the three issue mini-series that preceded it, but the story provides enough exposition to get you caught up on what's going on and who the characters are that you can get up to speed fairly quickly. The story takes place in Chicago which is being overrun by super-powered criminal "freaks" when the titular character is discovered in a burning field. He has no memory of who is or where he came from, but has full knowledge of the world and current events. He's even able to answer questions about obscure sports trivia. He has an unknown type of amnesia.

The man who discovered him, Frank Darling, is a lieutenant with the Chicago P.D. and is desperate to get the Dragon's help. By making a shady deal with underworld forces he's able to make that happen (I'm not going to say exactly how), and this super-powered amnesiac joins the Chicago police force and becomes known as Officer Dragon. Using his powers of strength, advanced healing (think Wolverine in is prime), and near invulnerability (think Mr. Incredible; he can be hurt but it takes a shitload of punishment to do it) he takes the fight to the freaks.

The story is over the top violent with a campy, tongue-in-cheek cop show mentality. It's also important to keep in mind as you read it that it's something of a send-up of the entire world of superhero comic books. That was actually a problem I had with the book originally. At the tender age of fifteen I really, really didn't understand the humor. My palate for satire wasn't sophisticated enough to appreciate the really subtle (and not-so-subtle) jabs at the comic book industry. When I came to it again in my twenties with fresh eyes, a more developed sense of humor, and a little bit of cynicism it was like reading it for the first time. I got it, and it was great.

If nothing else, I recommend reading this as a landmark achievement in comics, but it is also consistently very, very well done.

Note: The cover image above is used without permission. If you would like to support the title or acquire a copy of the book please purchase it from the online comic store, Heavy Ink (linked from the image). Better yet, get out of the house and go to a local comic store and support them by picking up one of the trade editions.

Of Savages and Dragons, and a Version of Me that's 20 Years Younger
I think I've been waiting the last twenty years to write this review. Which is funny because twenty years ago anyone walking around talking about their blog would probably have been handed a paper cup full of Thorazine and told to lie down. Not so today. Now I get to write about a truly amazing comic book and have my comments read by tens of people! The glory of the Internet!

I've owned these comics for decades, and for the last several years they've been sitting in storage in my families home in Aurora, CO. Major thanks are due to my mom and brother who held onto them despite offers to take them off of their hands, and even made sure they were undamaged when the house's pipes leaked through the floor. Some of the boxes I'd used to organize and store my comics were destroyed, but the comics themselves remained intact inside their comic sleeves and backboards.

I actually got a small, personal, nostalgic thrill when this box arrived from Aurora and I opened it to find Issue number 1 of my all-time favorite comic safely in its bag and in the same condition as the day I first brought it home. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Randomly Posting the Fury of Nick

Random Thoughts

You know how I know deep down inside I'm really still a twelve year old boy? I think this is hilarious:

69, DUDE! (har har har)

Tiny Heroes: The Fury of Nick!

This time I wanted to try a hero who is a little more challenging. The latest incarnation of Nick Fury is awesome, but he's just a guy. Kind of like Batman (without the obsessive tendencies or sadistic neat to beat pure snatchers to pulp) all of his heroics come from his toys, his grit, and the twelve pound brass ones he hauls around between his legs. He's not really my favorite hero in the Marvel universe, but I've started enjoying him more since Marvel (rightly) updated him for the Ultimates.

Before the one-eyed super-spy in blue tights (seriously, what military would ever issue a uniform that consisted of anything you would call "tights") was given a cool make over as a love letter to Samuel L. Jackson, he was this middle-aged white guy with dashing (smug) white hair at his temples. He looked kind of like a muscly Hugh Hefner with guns. He was perpetually chewing on a cigar and glaring at people.

The original concept of for this character was a dated archetype more fitting the period post WWII or post Korean War. He was visibly better suited to fighting "commies" than dealing with the modern "war on terror" world we live in today.

As much as I love Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, I've never thought of Nick Fury as one of their best. The original character was so lame that in a made for TV movie that was ultimately (so to speak) released directly to DVD he was played by David Hasselhoff.

The reboot of the character shed the campiness that had followed him from his debut in the '60s. In the Ultimates, and eventually in the more "mainstream" Marvel titles, he's been given some gravitas and infused with an uncompromising nature that makes him feel like the crazy-dangerous super-spy he's supposed to be.

All of that said, it's fun to draw a little one-eyed guy holding improbably enormous guns.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Geek Speaking of Enormous Pecs on Nerd Girls

Random Thoughts
Have you ever signed on to the computer to do something specific? Signed on with a mission and you're going to get shit done, damn it! Then have you ever come out of a daze and realized you've been scrolling through your facebook news feed for four hours and you can't remember what it was you signed on to the computer to do in the first place? I hate that.

Books are the original touch based interface.

I can't wait to see how much traffic the title of this post brings me.

Geek Speak: Meet Sam!
This cartoon introduces some people who are going to be recurring characters in Geek Speak. I've worked in tech for most of my adult life, and there is a certain stereotype of guys who work in the industry that is sometimes, not always, but sometimes supported by actual living archetypes. The idea of a couple of insular tech nerds who wouldn't recognize a woman if she were standing on them seemed to have some funny potential, so I drew this comic.

The interesting thing about this comic is its one I've had in the queue for a long, long time. Long enough that my drawing style has changed considerably. Just for grins I scanned the O.G. "Look at those Pecs" strip. Here it is in a nearly unaltered state; all I've done to modify this version is add the panel boxes. It does mean that you'll be exposed to my handwriting in its raw state. Sorry.

Same basic idea, even largely the same character design, but hugely different execution.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Geek Speaking Primary Background Checks

Geek Speak: Don't Primary Me, Bro!
In what I can only characterize as a sickening turn of events a law that would have expanded background checks to include gun shows and private sales was defeated by Senate Republicans. The problem, as I and many others see it, is thus:
None of the items addressed in the background check proposal are particularly objectionable. There's no creation of a national registry, there is no ban in the language of the background check proposal (the proposal to ban combat arms and high-capacity magazines is a different bill), and there's nothing in the language that remotely suggests weapons be taken away from lawful owners.

Here are the main bullet points from the proposal to strengthen the background check system:

  • Require criminal background checks for all gun sales. This includes sales between private individuals, pawn shops, and guns hows. This provision includes exemptions for sale between family members and for transfers for sporting or hunting. 
  • Executive action directing the ATF to send a letter to licensed dealers encouraging them to assist private sellers with running background checks when selling their guns (seriously...a letter...oh, the fascism of it all!)
  • Prevent states from using HIPAA protections as an excuse for withholding information about people who are barred from owning a firearm due to mental illness. This is something they do now. You know all that talk about improvements to mental health care? Even if advocates for this somehow found a way to pay for it, some states would refuse to release information about people deemed unfit to own a gun by the medical community due to mental illness, to protect their privacy.
  • Provides monetary incentives for states to share information with the background check system. Seriously. This is a bill that essentially says, "here's millions of dollars for the people of your state, please tell us about violent offenders and those diagnosed as mentally ill so we can add them to the background check system."
  • A directive from the president to the attorney general to examine the laws we have in place and make recommendations for legislative and executive actions that might prevent dangerous people from buying guns. That's it. The president tells Eric Holder, "Go look into this and tell me what you think." Nothing else. There are professors requiring students to write college papers that are more demanding than this. 
That's it. Those are all the bullet points. No confiscation. No jack-booted thugs kicking in your door and taking away the "twenty-two" you use in marksmanship competitions at (highly ironic) gunpoint. Money for states, restrictions on the use of HIPAA exceptions, mandatory criminal background checks for all gun sales, and a couple of letters. The average person has to deal with more bullshit at the DMV than what this proposal would have put in place to buy a gun.

The main objection appears to be that expanding background checks to be an argument that it places an unnecessary burden on law abiding citizens who wish to own a firearm. How so? In an age when you can run a background check using an iPhone app there's no reason not to. Thirty years ago when it took a week to run a background check because the results came in the mail? Yeah, I can see that being annoying. Today, at worst, someone might have to wait an extra day to get their gun. Oh darn.

There's also the argument this law is the first step on the road to a national registry of gun owners. First of all, no it's not. Second of all, so what? For anybody over the age of eighteen chances are they're already a registered car owner. Any time someone uses a credit card someone is tracking their purchases. If we're generally ok with these where's the harm in registering with another regulatory body who's purpose is to keep track of the number and type of firearms a person owns? If the ballistics profile and serial numbers are registered as well it creates a tidy paper in the event a weapon is stolen and used in a crime.

Another popular argument is, "it won't stop criminals from stealing guns." Yes. It's true. Criminals steal guns. But we still have laws against stealing stuff, don't we? Just that a criminal element will break a law is not reason enough to not have the law in the first place.

The most popular argument is that it won't prevent another Sandy Hook or Aurora. Well, no. It won't. To that I say, nothing will. I don't think it's a good idea to take away the right to own a firearm entirely, and that is what we'd have to do to ensure there's never another mass shooting. That said just because a law won't prevent another tragedy is no reason to do nothing at all. Laws were created to require car manufacturers to install seatbelts. People do still die in car accidents, even people wearing seatbelts driving cars equipped with airbags, but it's a hell of a lot less than before the laws were created.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Tiny Heroes Doing What They Have To

Tiny Heroes: Batman and Robin
Every so often I end up on a conference call or in a meeting where the purpose of the meeting or the issues being discussed have little to do with me, or leave me limited room to contribute. If that sounds like it might be boring, let me tell you it absolutely is every bit as dull as it sounds. That said it's also an opportunity. On those occasions when I'm in a meeting or on a call where I don't need to be very involved I pull out my notebook and pencil and draw whatever comes to mind. Today this is what came of listening to one of the developers on my team walk a client through a fairly technical process.

I've always thought it was odd that Batman is dressed in head-to-toe black, with a cape to break up the contours of his body and a mask that covers his entire face, but Robin jumping around in brightly colored underroos was hilariously unfair. I have to assume this conversation was a fairly regular thing, especially when Dick Grasyon was younger. 

Is this Selling Out, Giving Up, or Moving On?
To understand where this post is coming from it's necessary to have the proper context. The picture on the right should pretty clearly sum up my motivation for the decisions I've made in the last couple of weeks.

This is a sonogram image of the baby my wife and I are expecting in October. We found out Mildly Sensational is pregnant at the end of January. As soon as we found out she was pregnant I started giving some serious thought to my priorities and what they should be. 
For a while now some of the people in the company I work for have made it clear that my pursuit of some kind of acting career outside the boundaries of their organization wasn't working for them. It wouldn't be untrue to say there were some very oblique threats to my job related to the time I sometimes had to take for auditions. 

Right now my job is the only income, and my insurance is the only thing guaranteeing that my wife can work with the awesome obstetrician who delivered our first. After many years of struggling I had to put responsibility and ambition on the scales opposing each other. Responsibility far out-weighted my ambition. 

Almost two weeks ago I contacted my manager, my commercial agent, and my theatrical agent and asked them to remove me from their rosters. In essence I took any hope of an acting career and set it aside. 

This has been the most difficult two weeks I've had in a while. Acting is something I've wanted to do for a long, long time, and I'd had some minor successes. Nothing that would propel me into being able to do it full-time, but some positive steps. But I recognized that it was time to, as my Granddad Randels would put it, "do what I have to."

It's been painful. I can't watch Actor's Studio and listen to great actors talk about what a wonderful thing it is that they get to act for a living. There's a pang in my heart when I drive past trucks lined up on the side of the road and lights and "flags" have been set up for a film shoot. There's a little piece of my mind that says, "this is the closest I'm ever going to get; staring wistfully at a film crew at work as I drive by." 

It has to be done. It's the right decision, for right now. Maybe it's something I'll be able to get back to. For now I'm grateful that I have this as an outlet for my creativity. I'm grateful for my wife and our daughter who give me all the reason I need to say I'm doing the right thing. I'm grateful for my friends who support me. 

For now I just hang on, do what I have to, and hope there are bigger and better things on the horizon. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Geek Speaking Gesundheit Arts

Geek Speak: Gesundheit
I don't remember what prompted this strip. It's one I did a while ago, and I think I was in the middle of dealing with a cold at the time. Nothing more to it than that, I'm afraid.

This actually reminds me of a collection of Bloom County cartoons I've had for most of my life. In the collection Berke Breathed included an illustration he'd done for an art class when he was a kid. It was of an astronaut sneezing mid-EVA and accidentally ripping out the hose that provides his suit with its atmosphere. Of course the astronaut's head is exploding, an effect he achieved by filling his mouth with red paint and blowing it onto the paper. His teacher, according to the anecdote, took one look at it and said, "It's awful. You're going to be rich." In his case it turned out to be true. Maybe I'll catch the same lightning with this.

Arts Education: Where Do the Oddballs Go from Here?
One of my oldest friends is a drama teacher in Colorado Springs. He recently put up a post expressing frustration with the state of his chosen vocation and lamenting that it gets harder for him every year especially when teaching an "arbitrary," "untested," and "useless," art. I don't know if the quotes he used were pulled from the article he was referencing, or things he'd heard from parents who don't approve of their kids getting involved in the theater, but it does reverberate with the rhetoric of current educational policy.

For most of my life it seems as though the rich, (predominately) white, (mostly) men who serve as our elected officials have been crying about the state of education. The remedy has ranged from shouting from the hilltops about the "three Rs" (anybody remember those? only one actually started with an R) to "no child left behind."

The trademark of legislative activity in education has been a stalwart focus, a zealous commitment to promoting education in math and science above all else. The way a co-worker jokingly put it recently was, "we're not going to beat the Chinese with art."

Arts education is something that is near to my heart. My dad was an art teacher, my friend is a drama teacher, and I took several art classes in high school and eventually went on to major in Theatre. Art is a diversion, a hobby, an avocation, but for me it goes beyond that. Creativity and the being engaged in a creative pursuit, be that writing, or cartooning, or acting, is the thing that pushes blood through my heart and fills my lungs with oxygen.

Arts education is more important even than that. Not all of us are meant to be programmers, or business leaders, or politicians, or accountants, or scientists, or mathematicians when we grow up. There are the oddballs, and I count myself in with this group, who see the world a little differently. The oddballs who place value on intangibles instead of material gain. The screwballs who see accumulating wealth as a means to an end, not the end itself. In a culture that values only how well you score in math and science, where do these people fit in?

The arts gives the oddballs, the misfits, the people who don't fit a place to go; a refuge. The world can be unkind to people who see it differently. I know I wouldn't be the person I am today were it not for the shelter provided by the theatre group in high school or the catharsis I find in writing and drawing.

To my friend I would say this:
Art, any art, is not useless or arbitrary, it is essential. You never know what a person educated in the arts is going to go on to become, be it CEO of a world changing software company or being elected president. For the sake of the oddballs, the misfits, and those like you and me who don't fit anywhere else you have to hang tough. Give those of us with nowhere else to go that place of refuge, a place where to belong.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Doodling Tiny Heroes

Doodles: Tiny Super Heroes
At some point in the not too distant past I got the idea to try and draw tiny, cute versions of Marvel superheroes. I think we were probably watching the animated series adaptation of Marvel's Avengers at the time. Whatever the reason I took up my pencil, turned to a blank page and drew a picture of tiny spiderman...that looks like someone put him together from spare parts. Undaunted I tried Wolverine, and ended up with something that looks like he's up and trying to walk around without the advantage of a skeleton.

Finally I had the bright idea to draw Thor. Not sure why that seemed like a good idea at the time, given that he's not exactly easy with the helmet, and the armor, and the hammer, and the long flowing locks of blond hair. Maybe I just found the right groove for drawing tiny heroes or maybe the challenge of drawing all those details made me focus in a different way, but I managed a tiny version of the mighty thunderer that is almost...cute.

After Thor I tried my hand at the wasp and came up with something that I like, but it turned out more realistic and less cartoony than Thor...Is it weird that I think the Wasp is hot?
Since then I've drawn a few more. Honestly, it's a lot of fun drawing tiny versions of these characters.
This one of Catwoman was done in about ten minutes while sitting in my car before work
Green Lantern is a character I've only recently started to appreciate. I really like the idea of these heroes drawing their powers from the elemental force of Will itself. This one was drawn at my desk at work between calls, meetings, and when I could grab five seconds to add a line here or there. Even so, I caught a couple of dark looks from a manager who I think doesn't like me drawing at my desk.
It seems like it must be some kind of rite of passage that all comic book geeks, artists, and even humble cartoonists must draw Wolverine at some point. It's like someone is going to come and snip off the parts of you that make you a comic book geek if you don't. I think that's why Wolverine has something 10,000 monthly titles and appears in all of the other comic books. I don't mean Marvel comics. I mean Wolverine is in every comic book ever created. As ridiculously overused as I think Wolverine really is, this was a lot of fun to draw. It's another that was done in about ten minutes in my car before work.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Geek Speaking of things to do with Frozen Gogurt

I'll keep this short. My thoughts are with the people who were injured, and the families of those killed in today's violence. It's my hope that most of us can and will say the same thing, at least for today. Tomorrow or the day after the pundits and bottom-feeding politicians will angle to use today's tragedy to generate political capital. Until then, in this moment, I'll direct my thoughts to the speedy recovery of those who were wounded, and swift, decisive justice in the name of those who were lost.

Geek Speaking: Now with More Frozen Gogurt

A while ago I posted a random thought that frozen "Gogurt" was, "not as good as advertised." That only came up because a former co-worker recommended freezing one of the Gogurt packages we keep in the office. He made the final product sound like it was made of the distilled laughter of angels and strawberry. When I tried it I found the consistency to be a little strange, which I attribute to the "slurpable," nominally healthy snack meant for desperate parents to toss into a lunch bag as the kids are running out the door having a higher water content than normal yogurt.

The second coming of frozen yogurt it was not, but it did have particular shape that was...amusing. It was sort of long, and rounded, and pink. My only excuse is I was twelve once, and in some forgotten corner of my being I think I still am. Whatever the reason, the notion of someone walking through a "professional" environment using a Gogurt in a novel way to...lower his core temperature...popped into my head. Almost as soon as it did I started giggling uncontrollably.

I didn't have to argue too much for leaving early to "take a mental health day."

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Pin Up Anatomy in Six Cups of Fried Rice

Doodling: The Pin Up Edition
As much as I like drawing cartoons and take joy from taking human and animal forms and making them simpler and expressive, the challenge is being proficient enough in the basic anatomy to do it well. To sharpen my skills and try new ways of doing things I try to delve into "real" art as often as I can find the time. For the most part I use DeviantArt.com as a resource for photo references I can use to challenge myself creatively. In one recent foray into the Deviant Art photos I decided I'd like to try doing something different, something I've never tried before, and try my hand at drawing a "pin-up." Here is the result:

For some reason when I look at this now I hear Etta James singing "you can leave your hat on" over and over again. This was a handy exercise in drawing a figure that includes a little foreshortening, and where you can't see all of the features. 

On another occasion I happened to be drawing from a photo on Deviant Art around the time that a friend of my wife's was staying with us. That night I had decided to try working on the male anatomy. So I drew this:

Which I didn't think anything of doing at the time. Our friend was reading on the couch, and I was drawing t the computer while we waited for a mutual friend who also lives in California to pick her up. When I look back I probably should have known better. If there is shit to be given she is one of those friends who just the friend to do it. At some point she looked up and said, "Why are you drawing pictures of oiled, (the guy in the photo was pretty...glossy) nubile young men? Is there something you want to share?"

I thought for a moment, then scanned through the photos until I found one I liked and drew this in response.
When it was done I showed it to her and said, "Nothing you don't already know." 

Home cooking - The Fried Rice Edition
Somewhere between a few weeks and a couple of months ago Mildly Sensational and I took our daughter, A Little Amazing, out to eat at a dumpling house called Din Tai Fung. The food there was incredible, easily the best Chinese food we'd ever had. They also served the largest portions we had ever seen, but what surprised us the most was watching our daughter tuck into a bowl of steamed bok choy and fried rice. 

After that experience it occurred to us that fried rice would be something relatively simple we could make at home and feed to our daughter. As anyone with kids will attest, when you find something your little one enjoys eating that's not made of sugar and something from a vat marked "edible," it's cause for celebration and your first instinct is to make it right away. Which is what I tried to do. 

We decided to try her with homemade fried rice one night, and I would also make egg drop soup for her mother and me. I found a recipe and bought the ingredients and got started. Partway into cooking dinner I realized I may have misread the instructions in the recipe. When I double-checked it I found to my great dismay that it called for "6 cups of cooked rice," and was not instructing me to "cook 6 cups of rice." Feeling somewhat abashed I looked at my stove with two pots full to overflowing with rice as they bubbled away and said simply, "whoops." 

On a positive note, the fried rice was delicious. On an equally positive note, Mildly Sensational discovered a recipe for rice pudding that uses leftover, precooked rice. Angels sang in our kitchen when she made it, the pudding was that delicious.

Then I paid the Angels and they left to make the game where they got their asses kicked by the Dodgers.  

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Geek Speaking Random Erotic Vampires

Random Thoughts
Homo-erotic or hetero-erotic doesn't matter, in the end all erotic fiction is auto-erotic.

Geek Speaking: The Vampire Edition
Vampires are everywhere. A handful of the major networks and a couple of cable networks have shows dedicated to bloodsuckers of one type or another. One of the most successful movie franchises in the history of film is based on a work of uncomfortably sensual vampire fiction for young readers. It seems like the more exposure that vampires get the more their mythos gets watered down. It's been diluted to the point that an entire generation thinks this sparkly bullshit is what vampires are all about. There's an animated crow from Don Bluth's catalog of awesome kids movies that won't leave Edward alone.

It occurred to me at some point that a hierarchy of vampires exists in entertainment. Creators kind of take what everyone knows about vampires and do their own things with them, to greater or lesser degrees of making these fearsome monsters who've haunted human imagination look badass. Some are more successful than others. Joss Whedon did a good job of making some monstrous blood suckers in Buffy and Angel. The graphic novel American Vampire brings us something relatively new and terrifying. Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker's Dracula is freaking iconic.

Then there's Twilight, which just makes me sad.

I thought the idea of species of vampires had some potential for a funny comic. Here you go. Bon Apetit. I recommend enjoying it with a nice red wine. Unless, of course, you never drink...wine.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Daddy Does Drawings

One of the joys of being a dad I'm finding is that I get to do creative things for my daughter. For about a week now I've been hard at work on some cartoons. Between the cartoons I draw other things, and one night I decided I'd do something special for my little girl; I'd do something that was just for her. She, like many a toddler, I'm sure, loves Finding Nemo, especially the scene with the whale. She goes nuts when it's time for the whale. I'm not kidding. She turns into a squirming, thrashing, squealing pile of crazy. It seemed like a natural choice for something to draw for her, and this is what I made.

When she got up in the morning I showed it to her. She took one sleepy look at it, then her eyes snapped open, she beamed her brightest little girl smile and yelled "oooh a whale!" Deep inside my heart my own inner child did a cartwheel. At some point during the same day my daughter was bouncing around the house and being generally disruptive because we'd run out of things for her to do, until I put the picture of the whale down on the scanner and printed out a copy. I handed her the image I copied from my sketchbook and a couple of crayons. She beamed that smile at me again and some secret little part of my soul where I keep my store of happy did a backflip. 

She took those crayons and the printed whale and did this:

I don't know if it's fridge worthy, but overall I'm pretty proud of it. 

After I'd drawn the whale it opened up a range of possibilities and sometime later that weekend, maybe the next morning, I was drawing a cartoon when my daughter crawled up into my lap to see what I was doing. The cartoon I was working on was a little more complicated than I could manage with a toddler all up in my business. I asked her if she would like daddy to draw an elephant. I don't know if she understood more than "daddy," "elephant," and that I was asking her a question, but she said, "yeah" and that was all I needed. I drew this for her in about ten minutes. 

Those of you who have toddlers or have had toddlers will understand that ten minutes is really the threshold for how long they can pay attention to anything, but I managed to get an excited exclamation of "ELEPHANT" before she scampered off to destroy something in her bedroom. 

Since then I've gone on to do a few more drawings for her in the same vein. Here they are. 
I really enjoy these, and more importantly my little girl really seems to like them as well. It's something I hope she doesn't grow out of too quickly, because I would like to go on making little cartoons for her. 

Monday, April 08, 2013

Geek Speaking of the Wealthy

Geek Speak: I Don't Pity the Rich

Which side of this do you come down on?

From the tone of the thing it should be pretty clear where I come down. I don't pity the "rich." To be fair, the few genuinely wealthy people I know don't want pity, and don't need it. They're doing fine without it. The point here is the wealthy of our country can take care of themselves. Public policy doesn't need to shelter them because they don't need government protection or special political consideration. They can take care of themselves. So, when I see wealthy people crying about the unfairness of "tax hikes," I don't feel anything but contempt for their naked selfishness. They should be asked to contribute to the system which has been manipulated to support their affluence and excess for the last thirty years.

The cartoon is in response to this photo which has been making the rounds on facebook. I've seen it posted by otherwise reasonable, rational, compassionate peole. This sentiment, however, is none of those things. To state that an entire group of people are less fortunate because of a shared characteristic or failing is not advocating a cause, it is trading in misinformation and prejudice and engaging in nothing less than bigotry.

For the idea on this man's poster board to be true demands that you accept the notion that people who aren't doing as well as someone who is wealthy, must not be doing well because they don't work as hard. This would be vastly untrue if the animosity aimed at those in this country who are struggling stopped there.

For the last several years corporations, the very wealthy, and the lobbyists they pay to influence public policy have been changing the conversation about income inequality and how most of us, but particularly those on the right, think and talk about the poor.

It makes me sick to listen to it, because it is no less than the language of hate. This kind of naked contempt didn't exist when I was growing up, and there has certainly been a division between the haves and the have-nots for longer than I've been around.

I was going to write a long vitriolic post on what I think of this, when I stumbled across this article on the Webcomics Overlook. The article itself is good, and I'd encourage anyone to read it, especially if they're interested in webcomics. For the purposes of this post I've taken the most relevant part and included it below:

5. Anyone can do it or Just put in lots of hard work and you’ll be successful.The latter first. If you truly believe that, then how come Tim Buckley makes way more money than David Willis? How come Chris Hazelton needs to run a kickstarter in order to do his comics full time after nearly ten years? As for the former, if that were true than we would have tens of thousands more people making a living off of their work. 
I tend to be optimistic but ‘just work hard’ is some of the most naive bullshit I have ever heard and it just pisses me off when pros out there imply others aren’t working as hard as they are.
As for anyone can do it, no. Not everyone has the ability to connect with an audience like some other creators. Rich Burlew isn’t your average writer. Jim Lee isn’t your average artist. They made better products than many of us could ever hope to and that is why people are willing to give them their money. Most creators are not interchangeable.
With apologies to the author I've included the full text of the excerpt so that no one can accuse me of doctoring his words to make my point. Yes, this is about webcomics, but the reasoning applies to any industry. The CEO of a corporation doesn't work any harder than the Spanish speaking woman on a work visa he pays to clean the office and bathroom. In fact she probably works harder keeping everything clean and scrubbing piss out of bathroom tiles than the CEO works all week. If all that was required to be successful was "to work harder" the CEO would be working for the janitor.

In the discussion of income inequality we need to accept that wealthy people and corporations in our country are doing fine. Corporate profits are at record highs. Income growth over the last three years has broken double digits for the top income "eaerners." We also have to accept that income for the middle and lower income brackets has not grown at the same pace. Income for those in the middle class has grown less than three percent and for those in the lowest income group the news is even worse. Their pay has actually contracted. 

The conversation needs to change again. Instead of allowing Washington to wrap its arms around the wealthy and corporations, we need to acknowledge those groups are doing fine. They don't need anyone's protection, and they can take care of themselves. Where we need to focus our efforts is on those working hard to provide for their families who don't pull down paychecks in the six (or seven, or ten) digits.

Will that mean ending some subsidies, closing tax loopholes, and taking away incentives like those that encourage American companies to outsource jobs overseas? Yes. Will that be painful for these corporations? Yes. But, and to end on a geeky note, in the words of Star Trek II: the Wrath of Kahn, "The good of the many outweighs the good of the few..."

Saturday, April 06, 2013

There's no getting Away from Blue

Blues Clues: No Escape
My wife and I now have a two year old in the house, which is both fun and challenging. The big reason this age is referred to as the "terrible twos" comes from the child's tendency to test you...on everything. Here are some phrases you'll hear in the house throughout the day:
"Don't draw on the walls."
"I mean it don't draw on the walls."
"Do you want a time out?"
"No! I said no!"
"Don't play in the blinds."
"Don't balance vases on your head."
"The kitchen torch is not for little girls!"

One of the challenges of having a toddler in the house is keeping her engaged in something. We try not to be the parents who sit our kid down in front of the TV and let her zone out to inane programming full of garish colors and grating music, but every now and then you find yourself dangling from the fraying edges of the end of your rope and there's nothing to do but switch the idiot box over to something she wants to watch.

It is due mainly to that last part that Mildly Sensational and I have watched a lot of Blue's Clues. When I say a lot I mean that if someone mentions the show I immediately get the title song stuck in my head and it plays on an endless loop.

After watching so much of the show it occurred to me that you really should feel sorry for the main character, Steve (seriously, the first actor to star in the show's name was Steve). He appears to be trapped in a house that is seriously haunted, and the restless spirits have taken in on themselves to torment him by taking the forms of cartoon animals and household objects and force him to sing and play children's games.

I wondered what it would look like if Steve ever tried to reach out to the world for help. That led me to doing a rare full-color cartoon that turns some of the most beloved characters in the history of children's programming into evil, sadistic beings bent on tormenting an innocent captive. I can be a bad, bad man.

As grating as it can be after the hundredth time you've had to endure it, the show is very well done. It also seems to be good for our daughter, or so I tell myself to salve my conscience when I occasionally do break down and let her zone out in front of the azure puppy and the man in the verdant shirt.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Pineapples for Jim Lee and the Conning of Wonder Part Three

Geek Speak: Enhanced Groping from the TSA
A long while back there was a lot of fuss and bother in the media about the TSA conducting what it called "enhanced patdowns." These were essentially full-body searches in which TSA agents put their hands in some very intimate places. The whole thing was touched off by some guy who recorded an argument with a TSA agent, and at one point you can hear him say, "if you touch my junk, I'm going to have you arrested." I thought the whole thing was pretty ridiculous. Anyway, something about the whole idea of an "enhanced patdown" tickled me so I picked up my pencil and this is what came out of it.

WonderCon Anaheim 2013 Day 2
I will try to keep this shorter than my last couple of posts (and fail miserably), but I can't make any guarantees. On Saturday, day two of WonderCon Weekend I wasn't going to be meeting anyone there, and checking the schedule didn't show any panels in the morning that I was dying to get to. The earliest panel I wanted to see was a spotlight on Jim Lee that somewhat later in the morning. I figured I could take my time a little bit, make breakfast, and be generally more leisurely about it. At one point I started to second guess myself but shook it off. As it turns out I should have followed that instinct.

By the time I hit the road I'm pretty sure it was already about 10:30. I figured I was giving myself an hour and I'd probably have plenty of time and no problem finding parking. Its difficult to write this when I have this overwhelming desire to either slap myself or stand up and kick my own ass. Somehow I'd managed to forget that I live in Southern California and getting to Anaheim meant driving through downtown Los Angeles on "The Five."

Those who live here will understand the egregious lapse in judgement, for those who don't let's try a little exercise. Close your eyes and imagine a friend who lives in the same city you do, but at the other end of it. Now imagine that you have to get there in a bumper car and there are ten-thousand other people trying to get to the same place (your buddy is a popular guy). Now imagine the roads are made of graham cracker and paved with peanut butter and you start to understand (how much I need a snack apparently) how slowly traffic can move on a weekend heading to the city where people go to visit Disneyland. Actually, the Magic Kingdom is just down the street from the convention center.

In the end I didn't make it in time for the spotlight on Jim Lee, and I had to park in the Disney lot and walk to the convention center. Anyone not living here will scoff and say, "so you had to walk a little, big effing deal." Scoff all you like, but live here for seven years and then talk to me about walking...anywhere. There's a reason that movies joke about people getting in their cars to go to the end of the driveway just to get the mail. People really do crazy shit like that out here.

I had also forgotten my good camera, so I was stuck with whatever I could get on my phone. That's not a terrible limitation because it has an eight megapixel camera, but the lens is tiny, and the shutter is slow, and the camera app eats my battery like honey badger in an ant colony. When I realized I'd forgotten it I had already passed the point where I felt like turning around was even feasible, much less a good idea. Who wants to drive a bumper car over roads like a toddler's snack more than once on a given morning?

Since I hadn't made it in time for the spotlight on Jim Lee I walked around the floor for a little bit, waiting until one-o-clock so I could go to the Live Art Jam. The Live Art Jam was what it sounds like, there's a panel of artists, each one is given a challenge, and they take turns drawing on an overhead projector and talking about their craft. For this panel the artists were Terry More, Philip Tan, Frank Cho, and freaking Jim Lee. Yes, that, Jim Lee. The heavens parted and the choirs sang hosannas. There was an extra twist on the event in the form of an auction where those attending the panel would have the chance to bid on the pieces created by the panelists. More on that in a minute.

All of the artists on this panel were amazing. I was only really familiar with the work of Frank and Jim because they are two of the best known creators in the industry. I was in for a treat.

Terry was given the challenge of drawing Wonder Woman on her day off. He drew here with the magic lasso holding her iPad from the ceiling so she could watch her stories. She was drinking a beer, eating chips, and still wearing the tiara and bracers. Meanwhile outside is chaos and people are screaming for help, but, fuck 'em, Diana's taking the day off.

Frank is currently writing and drawing Savage Wolverine for Marvel so he drew a picture of Wolverine fighting Venom. Which is great because I really only know his work drawing busty, curvaceous women and from the comic Liberty Meadows. Listening to him talk was fun in a way because he doesn't moderate his speech at all and has no qualms about calling something "gay" or "retarded." The shock in the room was palpable and adults were giggling like middle-schoolers, which I'm pretty sure was the reaction he wanted. When he wasn't being offensive he really had some good insights into the craft of creating comics and the process. The most interesting thing he said was, "don't go to art school, it's a waste of money. I went to school to be a nurse, but I was always drawing and now I do it for a living."

Philip Tan was clearly the new guy on the block relative to his fellow artists on the panel. What he may lack in celebrity, he more than makes up for in raw ability. More on that when I talk about the auction. Philip was given the task of drawing Batgirl inside somewhere, and he chose to draw her out in the city at night.

Which brings me to Jim Lee. What can I say about Jim Lee? In five words, "the man is a genius." He would be drawing and taking questions from the audience and would stop what he was doing to answer a question about the best way to approach drawing the human form foreshortened. The way he answered it was to explain how anatomy breaks down to basic shapes, and then he took a brush with ink on it and held a piece of paper in his hand and drew out the concept, with the brush, in paper he was holding in his other hand, while looking at it backwards and upside down. In explaining that concept and in touching on three-point perspective he broke the ideas down in such a way that novices who've never been exposed to it could grasp it, but more experienced people could still benefit. He actually reminded me a lot of my dad who was an artist and teacher and had the same kind of ability to break things down.

Jim was given the challenge of drawing Catwoman in a litter box. Hilarious right? I think he was third to the podium with its microphone and by the time he got there he was done except for finishing touches. In the time it had taken two other people to draw and talk, and even with taking the time to answer audience questions, he had finished a fabulous drawing of catwoman lying in kitty litter tracing an outline that looks like Batman. The expression on her face was knowing and seductive, and Jim Lee finished it so quickly that the moderator asked him to do another drawing. This one of the "new 52" Superman.

As I said, at the end of the panel the artists' work was auctioned to the audience. Here's how it broke down:

Terry Moore - Wonder Woman on her day off with the added bonus that Terry himself would add the snack food item of the winner's choice to the drawing - sold for $700. Respectable, right?

Philip Tan - Batgirl. This was the only piece that when the finished work was placed on the overhead projector caused the audience to gasp. There were oohs and aahs and people whispering. Philip's work was print-ready stuff. It was this moody, lustrous drawing of Batgirl in the city at night, swinging on a rope and looking serious, and easily the most gorgeous piece presented at the end of the Live Art Jam. It sold for a mere $800.

Frank Cho - Savage Wolverine fighting Venom - sold for $1,100. Wow, right?

Wait for it.

Jim Lee - Catwoman in kitty litter - sold for $1,600. Holy flaming balls!

Wait for it

Superman by Jim Lee - sold for $1,700, and it took him probably ten minutes to draw it.

After that the panel session was over and people started filing out. As he was leaving I managed to catch Jim Lee and get this picture on my phone.
If I look less than enthusiastic, it's because it was well after noon and I was absolutely starving. I must have sounded a little off kilter to Jim, too, because I tend to run at the mouth when I get really hungry. Sorry, Jim. Still, as odd, or as fan-boy-ish, as I must have sounded, he was incredibly cool. I didn't know what to expect when I got the chance to meet him. I just hoped he wasn't going to be a dick. He was the furthest thing from it. He was clearly trying to rush off to another event, or a meeting, or to the batcave, but he took the time to talk with fans, take pictures, and to seem like he was genuinely having a great time. I'm glad that I got to meet him for the little while I did, and recommend that anyone who can get the chance to hear him talk should go. It's worth it, especially if you're the least bit interested in comic books or the comic book industry or the art of comics.

This is going long so I'm going to wrap it up. The rest of the day I more or less spent wandering the exhibit floor, especially in artist's alley. I picked up four prints. Three for me and Mildly Sensational, and one for our daughter. I talked with some amazing artists and attended a the Spotlight on Jeff Smith panel, where he talked about creating Bone, his most recent project RASL, and announced his upcoming project Tuki which he is planning to do as a free webcomic. I'm reading Bone right now. If you haven't picked it up, do so. It's technically geared toward younger readers, but it's an amazing read and Jeff's artwork is worth the price of the big, one volume tome that collects all nine books of Bone.

Right near the end of the day I managed to track down Philip Tan at his booth in artist's alley. He was very cool when I asked him if he could do a quick drawing for me, and asked me to come back in an hour so he could finish up a commission he was working on. When I got back I asked him if he could do a quick drawing of my daughter from a photo reference. He was very humble and self-effacing and insisted that he really wasn't very good at portrait or caricature. I told him not to worry because I didn't want either of those things, I brought that image to him because I wanted Philip Tan's version. He was still very humble and said he would do the best he can. In minutes he threw down a drawing of my daughter that I wish I could do with careful planning and an afternoon. 

Here is the original.
Here's the Philip Tan
For all his hemming and hawing, and all his self deprecating talk, the man did an amazing job. I'm really glad to have this and it's going to be something that is always really special to me.

This concludes my entries on WonderCon. I'm sure there is much rejoicing in the lands (plural as it seems there are people in Turkey and the UK who are reading this, leave me a comment I'd like to hear from you).  

WonderCon left me with a feeling that can be described as "uplifting" if you're given to understatement. I told a friend today that I think I found myself at WonderCon. I'm going to try to run with that. 

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Doodling Flerpy Woops and More Conning Wonder

Work Doodle: Must be Wednesday
A couple of weeks ago I had a rough day at work. Between being antagonized by our company's CTO and issues with a fairly large development project, my Wednesday was not going well. In the middle of everything I sketched out a quick doodle that pretty much summed up the entire day.

Close Quarters Eskrima
I don't like using this space to brag, but, darn it, sometimes (and I mean sometimes) I can be pretty badass:

WonderCon Anaheim 2013 - Day1 - Part 2
When last we left our heroes, or in this case Benni and me, we were finishing up with lunch and ready to go tackle the convention floor. The exhibit hall was spectacular. It was a maze fitting Greek mythology, and I think there was even someone wandering around dressed as the Minotaur. The pathways of the labyrinth were constructed of booths and vendors selling comic book related merch ranging from t-shirts, to miniatures, to posters, to collectible mugs. Even the Christian Comic Arts society was manning a booth, though they must have felt like missionaries in Gomorrah. 

By far my favorite place on the exhibit floor, and where I spent the majority of my time, was artist alley. Each booth presented very different artists with very different styles. Most of it was right up my alley (so to speak) some of it not my cup of tea. The most exciting thing about wandering artist alley for me was the opportunity to meet one or two of the artists I regularly follow on Deviantart. Both of whom were insanely cool, and as the day went on they got to be insanely busy. I think Dark Kenjie might still be icing a hand-cramp. 

We wandered for a bit, right up until it was time to go to the first panel even I attended over the weekend, Quick Draw! This was kind of "Who's Line is it Anyway" meets "Pictionary" for cartoonists. The panel included three cartoonists who would take suggestions from the moderator and from the audience and do a quick drawing of whatever was thrown at them; hilarity ensued. The artists on the panel I attended were Jeff Smith, Scott Shaw, and Bobby London. I took a few pictures.

The first challenge was "draw the best possible version of yourself, draw yourself as you wish you could be." Jeff Smith drew himself with a mustache ala Sergio Aragones, Bobby London drew himself with Popeye arms and great hair. Scott Shaw's idealized self-portrait was...different...He promised that if you stopped by his booth later he would show you what was behind the black bars. My morbid curiosity was screaming about how awesome that would be, but my desire to leave without having to tear my eyes out eventually won the day. 
The next challenges was something I'm pretty sure I've seen on "Who's Line is it Anyway?" The challenge was "If they Did 'It.'" The idea is what if these two cartoon characters, one male and one female, got together and had offspring, what would they look like.

My favorite was Bobby London's who took "Olive Oil" and "Batman." There's a broody little girl who randomly will start singing "Gotham needs me, it needs me, it needs me..."
The next challenge was for the cartoonists to draw what they think is the biggest misconception about being a cartoonist. My favorite from this group was Jeff Smith, in no small part because he worked his most well known character, Bone, into the joke. The highlight of this challenge for me was turning to Benni and saying, "One of them is going to draw a giant dollar sign," I then pointed out Bobby London, "and it will probably be that guy." Sure enough he drew a giant "money bag" with a little doodle of himself looking all happy at the riches being a cartoonist has blessed him with (which it really hasn't). 
The next challenge, and the last one I'll put here, was "what would controversy in Popeye's life look like." The clear audience favorite here, even for all the groans it solicited, was Bobby London's. To be fair, he did draw the regular Popeye comic strip for a number of years. He was apparently fired from that position, which I didn't know until he quipped, "and now you can see why I was fired."
Still, this is hilarious, and as my wife says, "they are an older couple."

It bears mentioning that when Quick Draw! was over Benni and I left the panel room and took an escalator down where we immediately ran into this. The only thing I can say about it is this is categorically something you don't see every day. What this had to do with comic books, I don't know, but it was a fun, surprising thing to walk into. 

After the Quick Draw panel Benni and I left and hit the floor to go buy stuff, and there was lots of it to be bought. At one point we ended up at a booth selling half price trades and I bought a stack of trade paper backs. 

I had a lot of fun taking several more photos of costumes, and for the most part the cosplayers had fun getting their pictures taken. The best cosplayers had obviously invested a lot of time, passion, and money into their outfits, and they were thrilled when people showed an interest.

One of the first cosplayers I photographed once we were inside was this woman in a classic Jean Gray costume. This is old-school Uncanny X-Men from back in the 60's, long before she was called "The Phoenix" and was dying ever other issue.
 There were a lot of Whovians present, myself among them. Where I was wearing a shirt bearing an image of the TARDIS and the words "You never forget your first Doctor," this woman actually dressed up as the TARDIS. There were a couple of other TARDIS costumes wandering around, but I was only able to get the one. When the TARDIS is in human form I believe she prefers to go by "Sexy."
Who doesn't love LeeLoo? Seriously? Not only is this one of my all-time favorite science fiction characters, but the woman wearing her outfit from early in the movie freaking nailed it. The best part was when the guy sitting next to her at the booth started complaining about how all she does is talk about how great chicken is and how much she looooves her multi-pass. Always nice to meet someone who's a fan of the same things you are. 
Let's get this out of the way now; yes, her boobs are epic. Now I've said what everyone's thinking and I can talk about the photo. There were other women dressed as Power Girl wandering around the Con, and all of them were profoundly...endowed...to one extent or another, but this woman's costume really caught my eye. Power Girl is supposed to be Kryptonian from an alternate earth with all of the powers of Superman, and of all the women dressed up as Power Girl that first day, the one seen here was the only one with the physique to really pull it off. Also her costume was spot. on. I asked her about it and she made everything herself. My favorite part about this photo is something I didn't see right away. The cosplayer is standing behind a drawing of Power Girl in the same pose she's striking, which is propped up over a photo of her in the Power Girl costume. Overall it's a very cool effect. 

There were a few guys on the floor dressed as Ghostbusters. The guy pictured here was the first one I ran into. Like all of them the proton pack was something he made himself, and it featured blinking lights and LEDs that made it feel really authentic. He was really funny and when I asked him how long it took him to build the proton pack he said, "not counting the years of my childhood spent wishing I could build one?"

Another pair of classic costumes. This time it's Rogue and Psylocke, two of the all-time-great female heroes in the Marvel Universe. 

Not everyone was faithful to the comic books. Some, like the two women pictured here, put their own spin on classic characters. There were other "girl Loki" costumes on the floor, but this one was by far the best, and "girl Thor" was hilarious. 

This may have been my favorite costume all day. This photo doesn't really do her outfit justice, and I'll get to the reason why in a bit, but everything she was wearing was handmade, even the goggles. Most of her costume was leather and lace, both of which are tricky things to work with. She was even carrying a modified Nerf gun made to look like a steampunk revolver. The thing that caught me, though, were her eyes. The contacts really made her stand out, so much so that I first noticed here eating lunch when Benni and I went to grab a cup of coffee. I didn't want to bother her at lunch so I just kept an eye open for her the rest of the day and finally managed to catch her just before the convention staff kicked everyone out for the night. 

That was the end of my first day at Con. I left feeling tired, sore, and definitely lighter in the pocket book, but better than I've felt in a long time. Being in that environment with people who share my interests, passions, and who want the same things I do was a profoundly emotional experience. I left feeling truly, deeply happy for the first time I can remember in a long time, and with an overwhelming sense of belonging. These are my people, and I wish I could spend every day around others just like them.