Con Review: Garden State Comic Fest 2014

ComicFestby KT Pinto

 

Garden State Comic Fest
August 23, 2014
Morristown, New Jersey
http://www.gardenstatecomicfest.com

Here’s a quick bullet review of the show (with the knowledge that this is only the second GSCF ever, and in the same year):

  • The layout of the festival was pretty bad. I know a lot of the logistics is based on the availability of the hotel, but the wandering maze to get from one part of the festival to the other was a little tedious.
  • It was very wise of GSCF to put the Mandalorians in the first room attendees see when they arrive. Their presence not only let people know they were in the right place, but also set the fun, creative tone for the Festival.
  • No map/schedule. This is a mistake I notice that many new conventions/shows make. A schedule and map—even for a small event—is vital so attendees can plan their day and participate in favored events.
  • Great security! They were obviously present, but unobtrusive. There were big, burly guys, for obvious reasons, as well as wiry young men, which for a festival whose big concern would be snatch-and-runs are logical people to have on the security team. There were also two young women at the door to the vendors’ room, who made sure that everyone had an attendee badge before they were allowed in.
  • Great vendors’ room layout. The layout was convenient for people to find one particular vendor or to browse all the tables. Again though, a map of the room would have been a big help.
  • The programming was sparse, but for such a newly established show, not that bad.
  • The autograph table was in an odd location. Again, logistics tend to develop over time.
  • Pre-show promotions were very impressive!
  • They gave out goodie bags with your badge! I haven’t seen a goodie bag in AGES!
  • They validated your parking! It would be nice if some established shows I could mention followed their lead.

Overall, I think this event has done a lot in a very short time, and I look forward to seeing what they do in the future!

 

Comic Review: Batwoman, vol. 1

Batwomanby KT Pinto

 

Batwoman, Vol. 1: Hydrology
by J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman
DC Comics

A friend bought me this graphic novel; he bought it from my wish list on Amazon, and I couldn’t remember for the life of me why I had requested it. Then I remembered that this was DC Comic’s lesbian superhero, and I had wanted to see how the fan-characterized straight-laced company was going to handle this type of character.

I had high hopes for this book because it was put out in Batman’s little corner of the DC ’verse. Never much a fan of DC in general, I always liked everything about Gotham: the villains, the heroes, the story lines, the artwork, the darkness… it was always the nice, twisted dark that I like. So I was all set for Kate Kane to wow me.

Sadly, she didn’t. Putting the amazing artwork aside—and the artwork was amazing—the story line and character were both lacking. Here’s a quick list of the “meh”:

  • What color is her skin? That bothered me throughout the book. Was she actually white like paper, as shown in some panels, or does she have a pale Irish skin tone like other panels showed? If she was really white-white, then why was it so difficult for Batman to figure out who the very pale woman with red hair (there were times she wasn’t in costume but still that albino white) and with enough money to be Batwoman was? And why did she keep changing skin tone throughout the book?
  • Where’s the bad guy? One of the things that I really like about the “Gotham-verse” is the twistedly insane bad guys that constantly spill out of Arkham Asylum. This story had a supernatural water-demon character that made no sense, especially since this is supposed to be part of the “New 52” reboot to make the plots and characters more understandable to fans. And then there was a super-organization that is either out to take Batwoman down, or use her as a hook to get Batman… I couldn’t tell which. But either way, none if it seemed to fit into the Gotham-verse that I was used to and liked.
  • Why is Kate Kane such a bitch? Of all the characters I’ve read and disliked, I think Kate Kane takes the cake. Spoiled, bitter, nasty… this wealthy party girl lives in a penthouse apartment (and I see so many things wrong with that gigantic tree…) and is angry with her father about the death of her mother and sister. She seems to be horrid with everyone unless she’s trying to hook up with them, and the nasty way she treated her cousin Bette—burning her Flamebird costume, calling her Plebe, dropping her without any explanation—was so blatant a set up to make Bette a victim for the bad guys. Kate even calls herself a bitch in one panel, and I can’t work up any sympathy for her at all.
  • Finally, what did she have against Batman? If you don’t want to be a part of his world, then come up with your own alternate personality instead of mooching off of his fame.

My friend had bought me Volume 2: To Drown the World as well. I will probably read it, but I’m not looking forward to it.

 

Faces of Fandom: Dave O’Hare

Dave & Sal

Garden State Comic Fest co-founders Dave O’Hare (left) and Sal Zurzolo (right). Photo by The Daily Record.

by KT Pinto

 

I spoke with co-founder Dave O’Hare about the Garden State Comic Fest, a comic book fan event that took place at the Morristown Hyatt in New Jersey on Saturday, August 23rd, to find out a little more about one of the newest events on the comic fan scene.

KT Pinto: Can you give me a little history on the festival?

Dave O’Hare: Being a fan of comics and comic art, I founded this show and partnered up with Sal Zurzolo to put together a show for all. This show has been developed as a way for fans, like-minded individuals, and people that are just getting into the culture to come together and have a great time to celebrate their comic book heroes.

We try to put together a show that has something for everyone—from the serious collector to the casual fan.

KT: What spurred the festival committee to have a comic event so close (in location as well as time of year) to New York Comic Con?

Dave: NYCC is one of the biggest shows on the planet and my personal favorite show to go to. But New York is New York; I was born in Manhattan. But New Jersey is a great state unto itself; it has its own culture and such great people and fans. Other shows have been organized in New Jersey over the years (Asbury, NJCC) but none had ever been held in the northeast part of the state of this caliber. So we said why not? And we couldn’t find a reason, so here we are.

As for the time of year, well the convention schedule has been getting very busy over the years and we figured a month and a half before NYCC would be fine this year. It would give people a chance to have some fun as summer ends.

KT: I noticed that this is a festival rather than a convention. What differentiates the two?

Dave: Well, I look at a convention as an entity that has 5000+ attendees and goes on for days. A show is a couple hundred that is there for one thing (comics, toys, art) but a festival is something that combines it all like a convention on a smaller scale and [is] a lot less stressful. We want people to have a good time and be able to enjoy every aspect of the event without tripping over others, buying merchandise without having to be crammed and actually be able to talk to their favorite artists, creators, and guests to learn more from them. To get great pictures and really just celebrate the world of comics, stress free!

ComicFestKT: Has the festival grown in attendance?

Dave: Our first show was in January of 2014 during a snow storm and a week before the Super Bowl. It was put together in a little over two months and drew over 500 people. GSCF II, our official attendance was just over 1000. All in one year. We hope to have this continue as the word spreads.

KT: Where do you see the festival in five years? Ten?

Dave: We will never be NYCC size nor do we want to be. We want to establish ourselves as one of the best events around where everyone wants to attend, especially creators and guests. We never want to become an autograph show as many are now doing. We want to keep it real and just go for the ride for however long we can. We will continue to grow but will never lose the idea of what this is truly about: comics, people, and fun!

 

Con Review: Arisia 2014

arisiaby KT Pinto

 

Arisia 2014
January 17–20, 2014
Boston, Massachusetts
http://2014.arisia.org

I’m going to start with the obvious: Arisia’s hotel is mad expensive. Parking alone was $90 a night! Granted, the hotel is in Boston, but it’s not within walking distance of anything, with a garage that couldn’t hold all the guests’ cars. The opulence of the lobby is amazing, but the set-up of the hotel makes things difficult to get to because of the distance and various levels.

Beyond the cost, Arisia was pretty good. From before the con even started, Arisia was efficient, well managed, and participant friendly. Pre-programming as usual was a dream; Arisia used Zambia, which is a perfect program to organize your schedule and choose panels from their huge selection. This year’s Guests of Honor were Tanya Huff (Author) and Lubov (Artist).

Registration was amazing. There were almost a dozen people behind the registration table, plus a separate group that handled the badges, and their efficiency made a long line move like a breeze. Security had a presence at the convention, but wasn’t a hindrance to the attendees. The convention even arranged for food trucks to be there (although they weren’t prepared for the high demand) to compensate for the fact that the hotel wasn’t near anything.

But, there was something missing. It took me a little while to figure out that it was the same thing that had been occurring at smaller cons: harassment-phobia. It seemed that everything was low-key and people were walking on eggshells, even to the point of worrying about using the wrong pronoun when speaking to someone. It is a concern to me that Arisia—which always seemed to maintain a perfect balance of naughty and nice—turned suspiciously low key.

Will I go back? I’m not really sure. This time around, Arisia didn’t leave me wanting more and, with the high expense and distance, I may have to put this one on the back burner for a while…

 

Con Review: MystiCon 2014

mysticonby KT Pinto

 

MystiCon 2014
February 21–23, 2014
Roanoke, Virginia
http://mysticon-va.com

When I heard who the GoH was this year (first Marina Sirtis, then John DeLancie, both from Star Trek: The Next Generation), I was a little worried about MystiCon. Could a medium-sized convention take on the responsibilities that go along with a crowd-drawing star?

I had no reason for concern. MystiCon had amazing security, crowd control (even with the con being at capacity), and time management. They also made sure not to forget all their other guests, which is something that happens when a con is not used to a mainstream media guest. Their Author GoH, Todd McCaffrey, was a good draw as well, and was extremely outgoing and personable.

Pre-programming was a simple process and there was a huge variety of choices. The layout of the hotel is simple and the rooms are easy to find. One concern of mine was that the readings seemed like they were being held on a separate floor from the rest of the programming, but MystiCon had it on the floor with the con suite, and had planned other programming around it, so it wasn’t in no-man’s land, and it was possible to pull in passers-by.

The one problem I did notice with the convention was something I’m starting to see at other conventions as well: poor moderation on panels. Some moderators I experienced were amazing—like on the Delphic Oracle and the ghost panels—but some moderators were so ineffective, other panelists took over the reins. I’m not sure if it was because of inexperience or just personality issues (like for example, I know I am not moderator material), but no matter what the reason, a bad moderator makes the experience not as much fun for the panel or the audience.

All in all, MystiCon was great! Some concern was mentioned about how they will survive without a mega-media guest, but I have gone to this convention in the past, and I don’t think they will have any problems in 2015.

 

Con Review: Lunacon 2014

 Lunacon2014by KT Pinto

 

Lunacon 2014
March 14–16, 2014
Rye Brook, New York
http://2014.lunacon.org

I usually don’t like going to Lunacon because of the layout of the hotel. Jokingly called the Escher hotel because of the confusing and inconvenient design, the convention has not seemed to create a rhythm to its programming that is conducive to a fun experience for the attendees.

This year was no exception, and even worse. The hotel was doing construction on two floors in the convention wing, so most people’s rooms were far away from the activities. To start off the weekend of issues, the convention had problems with registration, so they just let people into convention areas, which made me seriously question their security set up.

The programming staff tried their best to have new, exciting events throughout the weekend, but the vibe of the con was tired annoyance as they tried to get around the maze of a hotel (and the two inconvenient fire alarms didn’t help), and many programming events were under attended. It wasn’t all bad though, there were some upsides: the parties were well attended, the programming head was readily available and tried her best to make sure things ran well, and the dealer’s room had a great selection of vendors.

One really big bummer: no chocolate fountain at the meet and greet this year.

 

Con Review: RavenCon 9

RavenCon2014by KT Pinto

 

RavenCon 9
April 25–27, 2014
Richmond, Virginia
http://www.ravencon.com

Just in case the staff at RavenCon hadn’t proven in the past that they go above and beyond to make a memorable and fun con for their attendees and participants, fate threw a couple of hurdles in their way to prove themselves this year.

RavenCon did not disappoint.

The weekend started with a three-fold situation: the fire alarm went off at the same time as it was rumored that lightning struck the hotel. As the hotel staff worked with the con staff to get attendees out of the hotel and (unfortunately) into a torrential downpour, they were given word that there was a tornado warning for right where the hotel was located. People could not stay outside.

In this type of insane situation, most people would panic and add to the problems. The RavenCon staff was calm, organized, informative and all accessible. The fire alarm was false, and the con staff helped get the attendees out of the weather (and the glass-ceilinged lobby) and all into interior rooms, where security (obviously present and organized) kept people from leaving until they were given the “all clear”.

If nothing else, this situation alone would show the professional nature of the staff. But they weren’t done. On top of this occurrence, one of a more personal nature happened during the weekend that needed delicate handling on the part of the staff. They fixed the situation for all involved with what seemed like no embarrassment to or gossip from any attendees.

This year’s guests of honor were Elizabeth Bear (author) and Ed Beard (artist).

A few downsides:

The con suite. I think it was a hotel decision and not the con’s, but the con suite used to be in the middle of the programming floor, where it was easy to grab a snack on the way to the next panel. But this year it was on the top floor of the hotel; rather inconvenient with the slow elevators. The food was good though…

The signing table was in the middle of the lobby. Possibly a logistics problem with no solution except this, but authors sometimes get better sales from passers-by. No one passed accidentally by the table in the lobby in its out of the way location.

Programming. Planning and scheduling of programming seemed a little unorganized. There were three or four adult/late-night (themed, not time-scheduled) panels but they were all single-presenter panels so I had no opportunity to sign up for adult programming.

Moderators. RavenCon, like other conventions, was also the victim of bad moderators all weekend. Not being able to move conversation along when there was a lull, not giving others on the panel a chance to talk… even one where they let a member of the audience basically take over the panel first from her seat, and then by joining the panel, much to the insult of the other panelists. I’m not sure what could be done about this issue, but it seems to be a growing problem on the convention circuit.

These were minor problems in the grand scheme of the weekend. As usual, RavenCon was a great convention and a fun weekend, tornado warning and all!

 

Comic Review: Fables, vol. 1

fablesLIEby KT Pinto

 

Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile
by Bill Willingham
Vertigo, 144 pp.

I am a huge fan of fairy tales, myths, and legends. So, when I heard through the grapevine about Vertigo’s Fables—I know, I’m a little behind, since this is the 10th anniversary of the graphic novel—I had to get a copy.

I wasn’t disappointed. At first I thought this would be just a fairy-tale-characters-meet-modern-day-NYC-type story, and that could go really well, or really poorly. But this story went way beyond the basics. There was murder, political intrigue, war, romance, secrets, comedy, and characters from all different fable worlds (with a legitimate reason why they are all there).

The characters who are able to blend in with the “mundys” live in a building called the Woodland, a building symbolizing where they originally came from, with Tardis-like rooms and dead-end hallways and a caste system like the kingdoms in which they once lived.

But then there are the twists; modern-day spins on princes, real boys, animals, and beasts. The dynamics of the characters who may have barely acknowledged each other in the fairy lands now thrown together by tragedy and need are a fascinating way to look at human interaction… so to speak.

From the author’s forward: “You are about to meet some old friends that you haven’t seen in a while. You already know their first stories—their adventurous tales from long ago. Now you get to find out what they’ve been up to lately. Some you can trust. Others you should never turn your back on. But isn’t that always the way of things?”

A great read! I can’t wait to get the next one!

 

Comic Review: Shadoboxxer #2

Shadoboxxer2by KT Pinto

 

Shadoboxxer: The One Man Riot #2
Victor James Toro
Toro Comics

 

Everyone’s favorite damn sexy ninja is back in the latest installment of The One Man Riot. This is not only a continuation of the vampire story from Issue #1, but also gives the backstory of Shado and his best friend Kim, a techie-genius.

The artwork was once again incredible, with images that jump off of the page. The storyline is simple, but engaging, and I was sorry when I came to the end so quickly.

Two things I liked about this issue: first, the fan art in the back. I think it’s great that Toro shows support for his fellow artists. Second, the image of Kim and Shado, showing how much taller she is than he. It’s a startling contrast, but relays how well her femininity is portrayed throughout the rest of the story.

Great issue!

 

Faces of Fandom: Craig McPherson

CraigMcPherson

Photo by Craig McPherson

by KT Pinto

 

EL-who?

I have been able to witness firsthand the evolution of ELPunk from basically a one-man show with TRON-like gear to a rather large, organized costuming movement along the east coast. Which is why I was very excited to be able to score an interview with the somewhat elusive founder of ELPunk, Craig McPherson. That’s Craig in the photo above, modelling an ELPunk helmet of his own design.

KT Pinto: Please tell us in layman’s terms what Electroluminescent (EL, pronounced ee-ell) Punk is.

Craig McPherson: Electroluminescent Punk, ELPunk as it is more widely known, is a term coined by NYC costumer and event promoter Craig McPherson—me—to describe any costume, artwork, prop, or device which incorporates the use of electrically powered lighting. This lighting effect is often seen as a highlight or accent system to add color to these common items.

KTP: How did you get started in this hobby?

CM: During my stint in the nightclub scene of NYC (circa 1994–2014) I often received requests for presentations or commissions for science-fiction costumes and props. Be they movie replicas or unique devices, I took an interest in lighting systems for these items as it would always grab the attention and wonder of viewers. From the very first build I knew there was a great potential to show off one’s creativity with the careful application of light to mundane things.

KTP: Is it an expensive activity, or are there different levels of monetary participation?

CM: As with most things dealing with costumes, art, or props, cost can vary in the extreme. From simple ELWire outlines on a picture frame to add a glow effect to the picture (a few dollars in price) all the way up to ELLED and ELPlasma systems wired throughout 12-foot tall robotic suits (cost can range into the thousands)… Cost tends to increase with complexity.

KTP: How is this different from what cosplayers and ravers do in their costuming?

CM: With cosplayers you tend to find people building costumes with a focus on screen-accurate replication or personal builder creativity. EL effects can be added to those costumes in accordance with set style requirements or personal taste, but these effects will almost always be electrically powered in some way.

Ravers will normally incorporate glowing effects into their costuming using electrical, chemical (glow sticks), or phosphorescent (reflective or light-reactive paint) sources.

KTP: Do you think the geek/fan world is ready for another “punk”? Steampunk is still going strong; cyberpunk is hanging on by a thread; slashpunk is almost non-existent… Where would ELPunk fit in?

CM: A “punk” in the geek universe tends to refer to a genre or style which adheres to certain limitations and points of interest. Cyberpunk refers to the use or incorporation of cybernetic and computerized enhancements into the human body, clothing, or cyberspace as a reality. This also happens to touch on the idea of ELPunk as it refers to the use of real/fantasy lighting effects to enhance and highlight certain aspects of the subject. While ELPunk may reach into other genres and concepts, it is itself a powerful term used to easily describe a very commonly seen effect in science fiction and fantasy settings.

KTP: Are there certain sites/artists that you like working with to get EL parts? And why these over others?

CM: When purchasing large volumes of ELWire, ELLEDs and other lighting parts I will often do business with companies online, such as ELWirePros and CoolNeon. These companies will sell ELWire, ELLEDs and the systems for powering them at bulk pricing, with prices dropping drastically for large volume orders.

KTP: Are there any movies or TV shows that you recommend to get inspiration for ELPunk costuming?

CM: ELPunk examples can readily be found in many common science fiction and fantasy films or TV series. TRON, Star Wars, Star Trek are just a few very well-known examples which show costumes, weapons, and even individuals enhanced or covered with ELPunk devices.

KTP: What suggestion would you give for a basic, inexpensive ELPunk costume?

CM: Some creative people, who are easy to find online, in video or “how-to” formats, have created internet and world-wide sensations with builds such as Baby Stick Figure (a very cost-effective costume using a simple ELWire strand) or the dance troupe iLuminate currently slated for a run in NYC (off Broadway).

KTP: Does ELPunk have a following yet?

CM: ELPunk has thousands of fans, many from the east coast of the USA, who have seen EL costumes built by me. Some have been lucky enough to catch a New York Comic Con appearance, complete with Daft Punk musical soundtrack and sound-reactive EL lighting system incorporated into his costumes, or seen work-in-progress videos on his and other builder’s YouTube pages. There is also a growing FaceBook group, by the name Electroluminescent (EL) Punk, which boasts hundreds of members. There they post images, videos, suggestions, construction methods, and discuss the history and validity for various ELPunk costumes and devices.

KTP: Are there any upcoming events where people would be able to find you or your group?

CM: Currently, in the NYC area, ELPunk.com is slated to attend the Staten Island annual Art & Light Festival, LUMEN 2014 and the annual New York Comic Con 2014 shows.

KTP: E-mail/website/social media?

CM: To contact us at ELPunk, please feel free to email us at: avatar@ELPunk.com or find our group on FaceBook at: Electroluminescent (EL) Punk.

KTP: Anything else you’d like to add?

CM: ELPunk is a very wide-open term when it comes to your imagination. The options, styles, variations, and choices are nearly endless. From simple toy lightsabers, as seen in Star Wars, to the complex suits worn by characters in the TRON movie and TV series, ELPunk lighting is a great way to express individual creativity and catch the notice of fans, passers-by, the media, and other costumers. ELPunk is about personal style. Make it yours.

ELbasket

Watermelon-shaped picnic basket enhanced with LED wire for an ELPunk effect. Photo by Craig McPherson.