Thursday, December 29, 2016

Comics Return to Maui

So, I recently learned some Hawaii factoids: there are nine comics shops on Oahu, three on the Big Island, and just one on Maui. That shop used to be Compleat Comics, which I visited in its temporary digs in 2007 shortly before it closed for good. But after almost ten years of no comic shop on the island, a new Maui institution has arisen in its place:   

Maui Comics and Collectibles fills a small storefront in the same open-air mall that the Compleat Comics stall was in; I spent some time there on the way back to the Kahalui Airport at the end of my recent trip.

The storefront is a bit unassuming  - it's difficult to see the posters and such because the windows are tinted.

(If you were to print out this panorama and wrap it into a ring, you could get a VR scene of the store: essentially one small room that effectively maximizes the display space. )

The space is very welcoming despite its size: Maui Comics is one of the most fun shops I have been in. It has a large selection of new titles and a surprisingly extensive range of back issues. My particular interest lay in the local Hawaiian comics scene - I had read some articles about good homegrown stuff coming out of the islands. I had a great conversation with the young man running the shop, who filled me in on the latest news, recommended a few titles, and commiserated with me that back issues were not available because of the short print runs. I wound up taking home issue #3 of 'Aumakua and issue #1 of Native Sons (about which more in a future post).

And this is perhaps the most appealing aspect of Maui Comics: it's clear from the staff and the time they spend with the customers, from the store itself, and from its social media presence that Maui Comics exists not just make money or even fill a niche, but to promote and foster the love of comics on the island.

The in-store materials reflect this, with a mixture of standard industry posters and pieces by and about local artists on the walls:

The store was also the impetus behind Maui's first-ever Comic Con - which I missed by about eight weeks!

All in all, I can't say enough good things about Maui Comics and Collectibles. If you make a trip to the island, be sure to include a stop here on your itinerary. It's well worth it.

Oh, and there's this: I visited Maui Comics and Collectibles two years to the day after I made my visit to see Mike Sterling at Sterling Silver Comics in California. How comic-bookally coincidental!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Cosplayus Obscuras

So,  yesterday was the observance of Halloween, as least for adult costume parties, at least in these parts. Last year, being new to the City of Subdued Excitement, we had a quiet night at home; this year, we were invited to two parties. Yay, burgeoning social circle! We were told by friends that costumes should demonstrate some intentionality; the impression I got was that no one would be openly mocked but perhaps silently judged. We tried to rise to the task.

I put together a recreation of old, one-armed Oliver Queen from Dark Knight Returns, complete with synthetic kryptonite arrow.

The clothes were easy, and it all fell into place when I figured out how to use a pirate beard backwards for the hair. I even added the gunshot wound to the right thigh.

Unfortunately, we didn't get a lot of pictures, so here's the best of bad lot, from before I really figured out how hide my not-missing arm:

I am considering this practice for cosplay at a comic con somewhere. No one at either party had the slightest idea who I was; I figure at a con, maybe 1% will get it.

And just to show that the family that geeks together squeaks together (?), Wonder Wife came as a 5th level Cleric of Ehlanna from D&D 3.5.

 Happy Halloween!

Monday, July 25, 2016


So, is there a word for "that was fun but I am glad it's over"?

The Outside Comic Con adventure is over and the main feeling is that of exhaustion. I am sure the unusually high heat and humidity in San Diego contributed to this response, but in any case Comic Con is a lot of work when you're not attending;  I can't imagine how much work it is when you are attending. Just having to deal with crowds and lines at every step of day, for things like eating and traveling as well as any events, gets tiring pretty quickly, at least for this silverback geek. I'm pretty sure I would demur even if offered an all event-badge and free condo in the neighborhood. I like the celebration of pop culture and all the previews and the special events, but two things (besides the muss and fuss of lines and crowds) give me pause.

One is the sheer magnitude of the amount of resources thrown at this thing: as I do with political campaigns, all I can think sometimes is the better uses we could put all this money, time, energy, and inventiveness toward. The other is the classism present in the event. The image of black SUVs with sullen drivers and smoked windows having a path cleared by private security was not a rarity: at Comic Con, as in many places, there were the Important People, who don't stand in lines or crowds and who are handled and managed to avoid inconvenience. A glimpse of these folks on a balcony interview elicits oohs and ahs from the throng and a brief wave is the reward to the masses. I can't imagine Jack Kirby participating that way. Ah, well.

We spent the last day of the weekend on the Embarcadero; close enough to see one of the giant building signs for a new TV series, but far enough away that Comic Con might as well have been a rumor, but for the signs on restaurants and shops advertising discounts for badge holders.

Karminator confounded me by easily reading the word NAVY on the building with the curved roof. Her perception score is through the roof and with her new glasses she always rolls high.

The Midway, a carrier-turned-museum, the model for the Battlestar Galactica.

 Not so much a Sinatra impersonator, but more a Sinatra evoker. Like a lot of casual cosplay.

Lots of Tall Ships in San Diego Harbor - here's just one.

I can't close out the album without mentioning what a great traveling companion Karminator is. We first met through a D&D Meetup event, gamed together, and became friends. She is smart and geeky, a great gamer and role-player, and even had us over just so Wonder Wife could hug her chickens. On this trip, she was so easygoing, flexible, and generous of spirit in everything from eating, to scheduling, to changing travel plans at the last minute - not to mention going to Comic Con even though the promised badges never materialized without a complaint. Thanks, K.

And of course, the best part of the trip was getting home to Wonder Wife and Bully Boy the Wonder Cat, who had had their own adventures while I was gone.

Now, I have to go to work today, so if you'll excuse me...

Sunday, July 24, 2016


So, let me just say for the record that it turned out to be a good thing that I didn't get San Diego Comic Con badges: it is clear that we would not have survived. While I have always know it intellectually, this weekend in Outside Comic Con has driven home viscerally that Comic Con is about two things: lines and crowds. Three exhibits:

Exhibit A:

See those tents outside the Convention Center? Those aren't exhibits: they are shade protection for the lines that form outside the center. What lines for what, you ask?

Exhibit B:

This is Brittany. We met Brittany at about 2 pm on Saturday. She was in the line designated for "Everything but Hall H" because she wanted to get in first in Sunday. Yes, she'd be camping there the the rest of the day and all night. And this is after she had been in the same line Friday ti get in early n Saturday, but when she had finally gotten in she way 'way to the back" and it wasn't worth staying.

Exhibit C:

This is the crowd that was perpetually gathered around the door of the Hard Rock Cafe, which was totally dedicated to the new Suicide Squad movie. As we wandered around the neighborhood, we had to go past this throng several times. All these people are waiting for a glimpse of a movie star walking from the exit of the club to a vehicle - that is, from that beige pillar on the right side of the photo to just past that traffic sign on the left side of the photo. This crowd never dispersed.

So, as we tried to make a day in this madness, here's how it went:

  • We went to an activation* for Thunderbirds Are Go!, the Amazon series. (An activation is a trailer with props, interactive events, and some more-or-less immersive experiences.)
  • We had brunch.
  • We went to an art gallery featuring a show of fifty artists celebrating Star Trek.
  • We toured Camp Conival, a mock nerd summer camp on the mezzanine of Petco Stadium.
  • We tried to find Gam3r Con, a small gaming convention that happens the same weekend, but it turned out to be really small and hard to find, and ultimately not worth the price if admission for the time we had to spend. We did get a nice walk in.
  • We hung out at a small cosplay photo shoot on top of the Convention Center.
  • We had a late lunch.
  • We went to an activation for Timeless, a new TV series.
  • We went to a Wonder Woman cosplay gathering.

We stood in line for about ten minutes and 25 minutes for the two activations, and had to shuffle through a security checkpoint to get into Petco Stadium, but otherwise no lines. Nonetheless, we were exhausted and called it a day by about 6:00 pm when our feet could take no more.

Here are some highlights.

Con-ish stuff:

My favorite part of the Thunderbirds activation was a display if the miniatures used in production, like this little city.

Free photo from the interactive portion of the activation.

The Star Trek art show was in a real gallery and had some nice pieces.

Camp Conival was kind of  hot mess - a ballpark does not have the best acoustics for podcast panels:

There were lots of goofy fun things, though.

The Timeless activation included Hindenburg zeppelin stuff, so of course I was interested.

Elvis impersonators on stilts promoting the newest Sharknado movie with the slogan "Viva Sharknado." I have no idea why.


Too much to record; here's just a few.

Enthusiastic Robin.

Passing alien.

Excellent Zena and Gabrielle.

Wonder Woman, Bombshell version.

Wonder Woman, classic Lynda Carter version.

Karminator's Wonder Woman cazh-play with free cardboard bracelets.

Random stuff:

We stopped in the Central Library and this art piece hung on the wall.

These trucks used to cruise Brooklyn when I was a kid - I hadn't seen this logo in a long time!

Very cool, if you ask me.

It had great wall art, too.

Don't know if this was directed at the nerd crowd or it it was just coincidental.

 Some things never get old: the crowd roared when this came by.


Hot tub + feet = ahhhh.

Fireworks from the area of the Con seen from the hotel balcony as we called it day.

Our flight back leaves tonight. Not sure how much energy either of us has for today.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

La Jolla Joliday

So, yesterday we did Comic Con in the lowest stress way possible: we went to the beach in La Jolla for a guided sea kayaking tour of the Underwater Park.

The morning paddlers.


Taking a beautiful trolley-then-bus ride out along the coast. Eating a wonderful brunch at an outdoor table in nice little restaurant. Taking a somewhat despairing walk along the beach trying to assess the thick mist/fog that seemed to be hugging the shoreline. Buying a cool pair of flip-up sunglasses and an ice cream cone as the mist cleared to a beautiful blue sky. Putting on sunscreen. Checking in with the tour company and renting what turned out to be the world's crappiest waterproof digital camera.


Discovering how crappy the digital camera was. Listening to instructions from the tour guide. Discovering that I could still paddle strong. Listening to not-bad patter from the tour guide. Discovering that I am still prone to occasional seasickness. Seeing sea lions up close. Discovering how hot it is on the open water during a heat wave in California. Getting caught in a six-kayak traffic jam inside a sea cave. Having a good time anyway. Making it back.


Crashing with dehydration, overheating, and hunger. Being semi-conscious all the way back to the hotel and then taking a nap. Having dinner in the room.  Realizing I like to eat more than twice a day. Eschewing any Comic Con activities in the evening for another nap and a tabletop game in the room. Realizing again how easy-going the Karminator is.  Watching San Diego public television coverage of Comic Con before going to sleep. Realizing that I didn't sunscreen my head and that the kayaking helmet slots left little sunburn streaks.

Post Script: 

Today we go into the belly of the beast! Well, not the belly, since we don't have badges, but maybe the  throat, or even just the lips. Outside Comic Con, here we come!

Just let me have breakfast first.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Not quite at Comic Con... or, we don't need no stinkin' badges.

So, here's how it happened. I'm sitting at my desk on campus the day the San Diego Comic Con badge purchase process (AKA The Hunger Games) opens and casually mention to my admin, Crazy Face, that I have never gone to Comic Con and didn't ever expect to, partly because the process to obtain a badge is so onerous and partly because I'm not really sure I could even handle the Con itself.

Crazy Face mentions that her previous employer, a specialty printing company, used to print the Comic Con badges and that they always got freebies and she could probably hook me up. I told her to go for it.

A few days later, she texts me to say she has made a connection for two badges, but that her buddy will have to mail them up from San Diego so it will be a few more days. We finalize things and I give her a check to pass along.

The deal is done -  I hook up with my gaming pal Karminator (Wonder Wife would have a meltdown ten minutes into something like Comic Con). She seizes the bull by the horns and gets us a flight to San Diego and accommodation 25 minutes away from the Convention Center on the Green Line Trolley. It's looking good.

A few days after that, Crazy Face texts me to say that my badges have arrived and sends me a photo of the two badges. To Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle.

Talk about the mother of miscommunications. All this time, Crazy Face is thinking I am talking about Emerald City; the San Diego element in the conversation is just a coincidence that reinforces my own presumptions. There was never any connection for San Diego Comic Con tickets at all.

Of course, all the travel arrangements are non-changeable and non-refundable.

I must say that the Karminator is the best person in the world with whom to encounter this kind of fubar. Her first response when I tell her about it is not to get pissed off but to remark that there are so many cons now that it would be very easy for someone to get confused. Talk about easy-going! So we cave to inevitable: either kiss off the cash or take a vacation to San Diego anyway. We opt for the vacation.
 Lemons and lemonade
A little research tells us that we were in good company: there's a whole deal known as Outside the Con - I find a couple of websites about it. The Comic Con such a big deal for the City of San Diego that there are plenty of people without Con credentials who can still be swept up into pop culture events and cosplay events and movie launches and star visits and suchlike (and separated from their simoleons at many of them).

So that's how we found ourselves on a flight south from Seattle yesterday and then throwing ourselves in the throng of Deadpools and Daleks and Lolitas on the Green Line. We are booked into a huge hotel resort - our building is a five minute walk from the trolley stop, although the lobby is about thirty miles away on the other end of the complex, so that we had quite the warm walk to check in. But now it's easy to get into the Convention Center/Gaslamp area to sample what the Con has to offer.

Happy Con attendees on the Green Line

We did just that last night, to get a late supper after a long travel day.  We walked through the crowds, under a five-story image of Keifer Sutherland on the side of hotel, past a Batmobile and a 20-foot statue of Superman in the park, watching the cars and cabs and tricycle rickshaws slowly make their way through the crowded streets. In the Gaslamp, we ate at a restaurant that was totally themed for Incorporated, a new SyFy TV series.

Our server, Patty, told us that the place was usually Maryjane's, an affiliate of the Hard Rock Cafe, but that every year the SyFy channel comes in and completely re-skins the place for whatever show they are promoting the most at the Con: new wallpaper, new table covers, the host counter, the bar, the insignia on the back of seats, window treatments, menus - even the receipt printed out by the POS system is reprogrammed.

Patty's pen: I wasn't kidding about the completeness of the re-skinning.

It's incredible how much money is flowing through this event: it's truly a spectacle. We hung around until travel-tiredness took hold, and then caught the trolley back to the hotel.

Today, we're going to do something way outside the Con: kayaking in La Jolla. But that's another story.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

5 x 5 Movie review: Ghostbusters

1. So, I came of age with the classic 1973 Richard Lester film version of The Three Musketeers, which I thought was a close to perfect as a movie adaptation could get to Dumas's vision. When the Brat Pack made their version twenty years later, my first response was "Why? The Lester version is close to perfect!" The I realized that my love for my version ignored many prior films that other people no doubt had a soft spot for and that every generation can have its own version of whatever story the public cares about and wants to see again. This new film is Ghostbusters for 2016; the earlier versions just don't matter when we look at it, and they're still there if you want to watch them.

2. That said, I think I liked this movie better than I liked the original. Memory dims with time, of course, but the resonance from the first film that sticks with me the most was that Peter Venkman was kind of a dick. On the other hand, this movie positively echoes with teamwork and relationships throughout, along with all the ass-kicking action (and there's plenty of that, with all sorts of cool ghost-getting gear). I liked all the characters, I laughed out loud several times, I had fun: what else is a summer blockbuster movie for?

3. Not that it is a close-to-perfect movie: there are some real problems with pacing and editing, and the plot doesn't hold up to close scrutiny. But, hey, the performances by four very funny women - Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones - and a tour de force turn by a surprising hilarious Chris Hemsworth more than make up for any flaws.

4. The movie does make a few nods to the original film - some of them clever, some of them forced and awkward - and takes a few cool in-story swipes at the anti-woman, you-destroyed-my-childhood hysteria that rose from the asshat brigade during the making and marketing of the film. The cameos by the original cast seemed wasted; only Ernie Hudson seemed to have any ethos and Bill Murray in particular seemed to be having flashbacks to his early days a sketch comedian.

5. Of course, like the rest of the planet, I am totally crushing on Jillian Holtzmann.