GeekMom Smart. Savvy. Social. Fri, 21 Aug 2015 17:14:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Dear Ashley Eckstein, Thank you. Again. Fri, 21 Aug 2015 14:00:50 +0000 Read what Ashley Eckstein had to say about Dakster's open letter to her this week. Get the tissues ready.

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Her Universe Response \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

Her Universe Response \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

This week, I had one of those moments that as a writer I cherish. I sat down, started writing from the heart and didn’t stop until my heart said it was time. The end result was a letter to Ashley Eckstein, the voice of Ahsoka Tano on Star Wars Rebels, thanking her for her help in making me realize that things are not always as bad as anxiety makes it out to seem.

I shared the post on Twitter and Facebook hoping someone would see it and it help them learn the same lesson that I was fortunate to learn.

The day after the post went live, I was sitting at my desk at work and my phone dinged. “Her Universe favorited your tweet.” My heart skipped a beat. She had seen it.


“Her Universe retweeted your tweet.”

Heart started beating a little faster.


“Her Universe responded to your tweet.”

My heart stopped beating.

Glancing at my phone at the notification, I saw a link and when I clicked on it, my day was made. Not only did I get a response from Ashley, but it was a response that showed she took time out to read my post and thoughtfully respond to it.

Now, for those of you not on Twitter, you are only allowed 140 characters per tweet. If you want to post more, you have to do it in multiple tweets. The other option is what Ashley did. You can take the time to type it up, screen grab it, save it as an image, and then post it in a tweet.

The few extra minutes she took to not only respond, but respond thoughtfully and whole-heartedly was more than I could have asked for.

The touching thing about her response, as my husband pointed out, was with all the people she meets in a year at conventions, Star Wars Weekends, Star Wars Celebration, and out and about, she remembered the situation. She remembered ME.

As a fan, you don’t think the people whom you admire will remember you when you leave the table and the next person steps up. This wasn’t the case. She remembered and it showed in her response.

I’ll admit, I thought I was going to have a panic attack from the acknowledgment. My husband reminded me that sometimes positive excitement can be mistaken for anxiety and I realized that I was having a rare, happy anxious moment.

Something more than just a conversation between a fan and a celebrity happened here.

By responding to my tweet, Ashley brought attention to my post which in turn brought attention to anxiety and depression. With over 21,600 followers, one of them was bound to read my post and hopefully learn something about anxiety/depression or know someone whom they can share it with and it help them.

So, while the response from Ashley was beyond amazing, knowing that someone with her influence shared a post that I wrote that might help someone else, was the highlight of the experience.

Once again Ashley, you rock. Thank you.

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Whoops! Inappropriate Old Movie Fri, 21 Aug 2015 13:00:01 +0000 Films we remember fondly but incompletely, only noticing they're not child-friendly as we're letting our kids watch them.

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Whoops, inappropriate movie.

That’s a whole different sort of entertainment. (CC 2.0 by Nadia Hatoum)

When my husband and I were first dating, we loved broad parodies like Blazing Saddles, Sleeper, and Airplane! We used movie lines as code between us (hardly the first teenagers to do so) and, a decade or so later, I had the lame-brained inspiration to revisit those movies with our kids.

It’s not till I watched these old favorites with a 6-year-old and an 8-year-old that I realized, to my surprise, they weren’t entirely kid-friendly. Racist jokes meant to lampoon racism? Jokes about sex-and-drug-crazed pilots and stewardesses, not to mention plane crash jokes? The Orgasmatron? Yeah, my kids haven’t let me forget.

In my defense, old movies (as well as old books) can be great conversation starters. True, sometimes these are conversations you weren’t ready to have just yet. But it’s downright fascinating to get a kid’s perspective on outdated social mores, especially asking where they draw the line between what’s funny and what is demeaning.

Apparently, I’m not the only parent whose judgment is memory-impaired when it comes to movies. My fellow GeekMoms have done the same thing.

We tried showing our then 5-year-old Home Alone over Christmas—it was definitely a different experience! We didn’t make it far. I was allowed to watch whatever I wanted when I was a kid (Blues Brothers was often on repeat), but I don’t think I have the same philosophy as a parent now!—Kelly

There was that one time when I let my eldest son, then nine, watch The Terminator with me when it was on regular cable. He wanted the DVD and I bought it for him. I totally spaced on the nudity that had been cut from the television version we watched. Oops.—Corrina

I think I watched a ton of inappropriate movies because a) I had an older brother by seven years, and b) we watched most of them edited for television, with commercials. As I got older, I could see how awkward and terrible the edited versions were, but when you’re small you’re oblivious. Here are the movie mistakes we’ve made with kids: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Beverly Hills Cop, Romancing the Stone, Ghostbusters (I think I was 30 before I realized what that ghost was doing to sleeping Dan Aykroyd).—Jackie

My sons are 10 and 12, so we’re slowly dipping our toes into that zone. I just had a conversation about how PG in the early 80s (before the invention of the PG-13 rating) isn’t the same as PG now. This discussion came up while we were watching Romancing the Stone the other night. It had come up during National Lampoon’s Vacation (the 1983 version) too.

Right now, we’re on the Christopher Guest and company comedies. Our sons are *barely* old enough to handle the humor. We just finished Best in Show (full of innuendo!), and just started For Your Consideration. I want to show them A Mighty Wind most of all (they’d get a kick out of the music), and maybe This is Spinal Tap soon. We have yet to watch Blazing Saddles in front of the kids. Call me lazy, but we don’t feel like saying “Don’t repeat that” over and over and over.—Patricia

My kids, at 5 and 8 or so, really wanted to watch Mamma Mia, and they did indeed love it. But at the end, I was really glad nobody asked why she doesn’t know who her daddy is or what “dot dot dot” in the diary reading implied.—Ruth

Monty Python and the Holy Grail… my favorite comedy of all time… went do share with my oldest… totally forgot   “and then comes the oral sex.” Aye, aye, aye… oops.

My dad’s the most conservative of all of us and makes fun of me when I get embarrassed around him. The first time I saw Slapshot unedited, I was so embarrassed to be watching it with him while he’s cracking up at me. I totally forget about a few of those scenes. I mentioned in my Top Gear post having my then five-year-old ask what a bellend was… right in front of Grandpa. Three generations of awkward, but now it’s a running gag at our house.

We all love the Hanson Brothers, though. I’ve had to learn the hard way when you see a movie on TV the first time, make sure it hasn’t been too edited before sitting down to the full version with your kids. Of course, they all got treated to the Jackman butt in that last X-Men, but they’re at the state where butts are just plain funny, even Wolverine’s.—Lisa

We sat down to watch Ghostbusters with my son recently. I love this movie and was thrilled that he was really into it. Well, until it got to that part where Dan Aykroyd is having the… ahem… erotic dream. Hey, everyone… who wants popcorn??

Also, this wasn’t something we sat to watch, but the topic reminded me… one holiday season, my husband and son were out and I was watching Love Actually. They came in, so I changed it. My husband hit “return channel” button right to the scenes with Martin Freeman going through his “lines” to that girl… with all of the various porno scenes. Thank goodness my son’s back was to the screen at the time. (That actually made it funnier.) I was like… “change it back!!”—Rachel

Or maybe we’re overreacting.

Samantha says,  “Huh. I have or would let my kids watch any of these.”

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‘Minecraft’ Server Design From Youth Digital Fri, 21 Aug 2015 12:00:44 +0000 The author describes his experience learning how to code 'Minecraft' servers with his son through Youth Digital's new class 'Minecraft' Server Design.

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Youth Digital is an online classroom dedicated to teaching kids how to do a number of things including Game Design, Animation, and Minecraft Server Design. GeekMom Jenny wrote about the Minecraft Mod Design course a while back, but today I’ll be discussing my favorite course: Minecraft Server Design.

Image: Youth Digital

Image: Youth Digital

Minecraft, of course, is the second-most sold PC game of all time, surpassing World of Warcraft, Half-Life 2, and The Sims 3. With over 60 million players on all platforms, it’s no surprise that players of every age group want more and more from this celebrated sandbox game. After all, what’s better than a sandbox game with millions of custom mods, settings, and maps? Not much, I tell you. Not much.

Youth Digital’s Server Design Course allows players (particularly kids) to design servers that will let them define the rules of their Minecraft experience from the ground up. Our family was getting a little overwhelmed with commercialism on normal servers, and it was really making us wary of playing on servers. This sucks, because so many of the best mini games out there are designed to work on their signature servers. But paying for mini games, perks, and maps can get expensive.

When I started doing the YD course with our son, it was a great opportunity to decide which mini games we wanted to pursue. We both love PVP and parkour, so we agreed to design a map that provides plenty of both.

The class started off with some server basics: how to launch your server, setting yourself up as the moderator, and white-listing your friends. After the basics were set up, we explored the map. We had three choices, and decided to go with the map that had the most interesting features for us, the City map.

Image: Rory Bristol

Choose your team! Image: Rory Bristol

We discovered skyscrapers, cranes, helipads, and glass domed buildings. We found hidden parkour and interesting hiding places. It was a great canvas on which to paint our server. After checking everything out, we decided that Red v. Blue felt just a little stale. We switched to Green v. Red, which just felt more like “us.”

Read the rest of this article on our sibling site:

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GeekMom Call For New Contributors! Thu, 20 Aug 2015 15:00:59 +0000 Do you want to join us at GeekMom?

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cropped-cropped-geek-mom-transparent.pngGeeky parents of the Internet, GeekMom wants you!

GeekMom has been an active community blog for nearly 5 years now, and we have a dedicated group of people who participate and enjoy sharing their experiences as geeks and as parents. We want to grow and bring some new energy into the family; and that means finding new geeky parents to join our ranks.

There are two levels of participation at GeekMom.

There are our regular contributors who are simply requested to post to the blog at minimum once per month. Everyone starts out as at this level so that you have time to learn our mysterious ways (like our style guide, the ins-and-outs of our WordPress CMS, and all the other peculiarities of being a community blogger). There is no compensation, but you will get the chance to reach hundreds of thousands of readers each month, and perhaps pick up some PR contacts. Also, you will be able to represent yourself as a GeekMom writer when you go visit that local con, and that often leads to connections and networking.

The second level of participation at GeekMom is the Core Contributors. If you show energy, dedication, and quality writing, you may be asked to join the Core team of writers. Cores are requested to post at least once a week. Cores also get the prime opportunities for review samples of products and services that come our way, and will have the chance to do Sponsored Content projects, and earn compensation from that work. But writing for GeekMom isn’t about the money.

GeekMom is not some faceless company looking to make money off the backs of our writers. We are just a bunch of geeky parents, and we’re doing this because it’s fun, and because it brings us some awesome perks (like hosting panels at PAX and other conventions, interviewing awesome people, seeing press screenings of movies) that we’d never get otherwise. You will retain copyright to all your posts.

So who are we looking for?

You are a geek, and you are a parent. While this is GeekMom, we are taking applications for those who are gender-fluid or who don’t subscribe to gender norms, and we want to give as many diverse voices a forum as possible.

You must like to write, and have things you want to write about, like projects you build with your kids, or books, movies, TV shows, tabletop games, video games, gadgets you want to review. Maybe you want to share how you wired your house for gaming, or show off the robot you built.

If it interests you as a geek and as a parent, we want you to write about it.

Some key considerations:

– We are heavily supportive of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education; actually, we are supportive of STEAM education—we love the arts as well, and want them incorporated in our kids’ lives whenever possible.

– The blog as a whole is political on one issue: that all deserve equal rights.

This means that we will take feminist stands, stands against racism, and write in support of LGBTQ rights.

– We are very interested in finding people who want to write about things that we aren’t covering on a regular basis.

– We are also interested in finding writers in the New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles areas, as we often have chances for events in these areas that cannot always be covered.

– You absolutely don’t have to be a professional writer, but if you are, you’re welcome as well.

We are enthusiastically inclusive; there are so many different kinds of geeks out there—gaming geeks, car geeks, knitting geeks, sports geeks, electronics geeks, movie geeks, drone geeks, 3D printing geeks, sci-fi/fantasy geeks… you get the idea.

If this feels like something you could get into, please fill out the Google writer application form, and let us know a bit about you. We’re going to keep this call open until September 15 to give folks time to think about it (and give us the time to deal with all the applications).

Here’s hoping we’ll see you on the list!

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Fund This! One Campaign to Rule Them All! Thu, 20 Aug 2015 14:00:41 +0000 GeekMom Samantha finds the one campaign to rule them all in this special edition of Fund This!

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This special edition of Fund This features what very well may be the most epic geek campaign ever. A group of architects has launched Realise Minas Tirith, a crowdfunding venture to raise the equivalent of almost $3 billion to build a functional, livable Minas Tirith in the south of England.

Minas Tirith, of course, was the capital city of Gondor. It was also called “The White City” as its courtyard held The White Tree. The city was featured heavily in The Lord of the Rings trilogy film The Return of the King for the final battle against the forces of Mordor and the coronation of Aragorn.

The campaign’s leader, Jonathan Wilson, states on the campaign page:

“We are a team of Tolkien fans who are passionate about creating a beautiful, inspirational and fully-functioning replica of Peter Jackson’s depiction of Minas Tirith, as seen in his Lord of the Rings films. We all share a love of Tolkien’s work, and a desire to challenge the common perception of community and architecture. We believe that, in realising Minas Tirith, we could create not only the most remarkable tourist attraction on the planet, but also a wonderfully unique place to live and work.”


Image courtesy of lotr.wikia.

They had me at Tolkien. I would give up every vacation ever to own a little flat in this gorgeous city. This is what gorgeous architecture and a deep and abiding love of story will get you, my friends. So far, the campaign has raised just over $127,000 and has 43 days left.

Of course, there is already a campaign to Destroy Minas Tirith because Orcs are jerks, but no one is backing it. Stick that in yer eye, Sauron.

Oh my fellowship of geeks, wouldn’t it be amazing if this campaign succeeded? Even Wilson admits there is little chance of funding the project, citing they will refund every cent donated if their goal is not met, but I love that they were willing to put this dream out there. To even think it out and begin design work in a way that it could actually be realized if it had a backing. Maybe the fans will show enough interest that an investor will come along and provide the rest? If it does happen, I’m in. Even though I really belong in Rivendell, I’d still embrace this amazing city of men and women.

Happy Funding!

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Our Adventures in Outer and Inner Space Thu, 20 Aug 2015 12:00:26 +0000 Go from outer space to 700 feet below the Earth's surface in one weekend.

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The close proximity between Roswell and Carlsbad, New Mexico, makes for a vacation of otherworldly proportions. Images: Rick Tate.

In the midst of a busy summer, we managed to get away for a short three-day vacation. We didn’t realize at the time what a diverse range of experiences we were in store for in that short time span that would take us from beyond the stars to deep beneath the Earth’s surface.

The New Mexico cities of Carlsbad and Roswell are just a quick hour-and-a-half drive from each other, but they managed to create quite the journey. Roswell, being a three-hour drive from our home, seemed a fun destination that wouldn’t take too much car-trip time, but still seemed far enough away to feel like an actual getaway. Plus, as long as I’ve lived in the area and heard about the infamous “crash site,” I’ve never ventured to see the place myself.

Well, this year, we decided to get our Mulder and Scully sensibilities together and make this quirky little trip just for the sake of enjoying one of the weirder chapters of American history… or folklore.

Although our destination was a look at extraterrestrial pop culture, our trip took us through the town of Alamogordo, home to the New Mexico Museum of Space History and International Space Hall of Fame. The museum not only educates visitors in the history, science, and technology of space, it shows the State of New Mexico’s significant role in the development of the United States Space Program. There are plenty of interactive exhibits to keep busy hands as entertained as busy minds, including astronaut dress-up areas, a shuttle landing game (don’t ask how we did on that), and a platform to feel the vibrations created from different modes of space travel.


The New Mexico Museum of Space History offers plenty of educational and some interactive exhibits. Images: Rick Tate.

Our favorite, however, was the outside exhibits at the John P. Stapp Air & Space Park, which was named for the aeromedical pioneer. It features several full-sized artifacts celebrating the milestones in space exploration. Most impressive was the 86-foot Little Joe II rocket, which tested the Apollo Launch Escape System. Outside also has the final resting place of “Ham the Astrochimp,” the first primate to visit space.

There is no charge to visit the outside exhibits, but there is a separate charge for both the museum and IMAX. A package for both the museum and theater is also offered.

Take a look at Rick’s 360-degree panoramic view of the “Space Park” and the museum’s beautiful exterior on

The route from Alamogordo to Roswell includes its share of interesting stopping points, including the burial place of another four-legged icon, Smokey Bear, and the well-preserved historic community of Lincoln, the focal point of the infamous Lincoln County Wars for western history buffs.

Then, we hit Roswell!

For those unfamiliar with the “Roswell Incident,” an unidentified flying object crashed in a ranch near Roswell in July of 1947. Long story short, several details turned up, including three small “child-size” decomposing bodies, revealing it may have been an alien spacecraft. In true X-Files form, the government stepped in to say it was actually some experimental Air Force aircraft, and therein lays the continuing controversy. What was it?

What it was was the start of a thriving tourism industry, the now go-to look for aliens (almond eyes, large head, spindly limbs), and the spark that lit the imagination of everyone from stargazers to science-fiction writers.

Nearly 60 years later, that incident provoked a worldwide following of believers and skeptics, comic books, cartoons, novels, documentaries, motion pictures, and television series. It has also brought in millions of visitors and a substantial amount of tourism-based profits to local merchants.

My brother told me when we first mentioned visiting, “If you really want to believe, don’t look too close.” He had great point there. However, we learned fast it isn’t so much about believing whether the incident is true or not, it’s about celebrating the search of the unknown beyond the stars.

ufo museum

The International UFO Museum in Roswell includes a peek at the extraterrestrial presence in fiction and history. Don’t forget your foil hat. Images: Rick Tate.

The best place to decide for yourself is the International UFO Museum and Research Center. The museum has information on the Roswell Incident, as well as other UFO sightings and history, with photos, documents, artifacts and artwork, and even a sightings log to add your own close encounter to alien lore.

The center’s alien-landing diorama was the most photographed scene, but it really was the museum’s visitors who made it fun. One grandmother was entertaining her grandson with stories of her own recollections of the event. She had a “perfectly normal nurse friend” who was witness to the autopsy, so she said. There was also a group of visitors wearing homemade aluminum foil hats, and having a ball. One even looked like those stylish swan take-out designs they use in fancy restaurants. The whole experience was a blast, and worth the $5 admission ($2 for kids).

This is one city that has embraced its biggest tourist draw. Roswell aliens are represented everywhere, and in some of the most creative ways, ranging from delightfully kitschy storefronts to beautifully rendered works of art. Main Street alone, in the vicinity of the UFO Museum, is lined with gift shops, cafes, book stores, arcades, and other businesses taking advantage of the little fluorescent green men (who we learned weren’t really green, but who cares), with murals and window paintings of alien mariachi, ninjas, jazz musicians, and, of course, stoners. There were wooden aliens, inflatable aliens, and alien-faced street lamps. Even the McDonald’s is shaped like a flying saucer.

One shop which embodied this roadside attraction image best, was the Alien Zone and Area 51. The front part of the store housed a typical black-light gift shop, but for a nominal fee, you can visit its “Area 51,”which is filled with alien-centric photo areas, including a mock-up of a flying saucer crash landing.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 11.55.55 PM

Don’t pass up the chance to get some fantastically goofy photo ops, like these at Alien Zone and Area 51. Images: Rick Tate.

Some of these little setups look a little worse for wear, but it isn’t due to lack of business. We had to share the space with at least two other groups taking their pictures with alien bartenders, giant bugs, and little alien grill masters. It was amazingly cheesy, not to mention the fact that the real Area 51 is actually located in Nevada. However, these photos were some of our favorite, most personalized souvenirs of the entire trip.

The lady who worked the counter said you can’t even get near the place on July 4th weekend, when the UFO Festival takes place. She said thousands of people flock to the city for parades, lectures, book signings, alien cosplay contests, and everything in between. We were glad we visited on a non-festival week.

The alien crash may be the city’s most noticeable marking point, but Roswell was also home to another pioneer in space history: Robert H Goddard. Goddard, who felt as early as 1919 that it was possible to construct rockets for space travel, experimented with gasoline and liquid oxygen fuels, eventually launching his first liquid propellant rocket in 1926 in Massachusetts. It was the ideal year-round climate of New Mexico that drew him to Roswell, and in his 12 years living there, he conducted 56 rocket flights, 17 of which reached altitudes of more than 1,000 feet. Pretty impressive, considering many of these took place in the 1930s.


The Roswell Museum and Art Center includes a wonderful homage to rocketry pioneer Robert H. Goddard, including a replica of his workshop and his actual rocket launchpad. Images: Rick Tate.

The Roswell Museum and Art Center, a free museum, includes a recreation of Goddard’s workshop as it was circa 1936. Set in the middle of a pristine art museum with white, sterile walls, you can walk into this dusty-looking workshop, lined with walls of tools and rockets in progress. From the musty smells to the muted light and vintage calendar on the wall, this little detailed trip back in time to the height of Goddard’s innovation was so thorough, I felt like I was back in my grandfather’s tool shed or dad’s garage. It took a lot of self-control not to cross under the barrier ropes, grab a wrench off the wall, and start tinkering with one of the random rocket parts laid out on one of the work benches.

Aliens may or may not have landed in Roswell, but Goddard reached the stars from there.

The next day, we came down from the stars to visit Carlsbad Caverns National Monument, 700 feet below the Earth’s surface. The caverns are actually located outside of Carlsbad in a tiny town known as White City, about a 27-mile drive.

carlsbad caverns

Carlsbad Caverns National Monument is one destination that should be on everyone’s road trip list. Images: Rick Tate.

Everything about these caverns impresses me. The formations are gorgeous and varied, and the walkway is well laid out to not only cover the most sights, but to blend with the landscape.

There is an option to take the elevator down to the “Big Room,” an 8.2-acre cavern you could plausibly fit six football fields in, if you were so inclined. However, if you are physically able, the natural entrance down to this room is the best way to go. There’s something both eerie and beautiful about twisting down the descending switchbacks from daylight to darkness, past the black abyss where the bats sleep away their summer days, and into a world where the temperature never changes. Once way from the entrance, only strategically-placed lights help guide the way. There are additional tours of other cavern areas available, as there have so far been 119 caves discovered. However, the main room is impressive on its own, with its the Bottomless Pit and Giant Dome.

It is a pretty good-sized walk, as the natural entrance trail is around 750-feet-long, with another mile around the perimeter of the Big Room. Get there early in the day, bring water (only water, as no other food or drink is permitted in the caverns), and be prepared to take a few breaks if traveling with younger kids.

One of the holdovers from the cavern’s mid-century days is the remnants of its lunch room. You can purchase a sandwich, pick up a souvenir, and mail a postcard from the bottom of the cavern. Yes, there are bathroom facilities in that location as well.

This is one of the most fascinating and surreal natural wonders around. It also has one thing in common with Roswell: visitors from all parts of the globe. This was probably the site everyone in the family got the most out of, and since it is part of the National Park Service, a Junior Ranger program is available for kids to earn a site-specific patch or junior badge after completing age-appropriate content in an easy workbook.

Since we were there during the “Bat Season,” we stuck around for the evening bat flight. This occurs at dusk each evening from around mid-May through October, when the summering Mexican (also called Brazilian) Free-tailed Bats descend from the cave’s natural entrance for an evening of feeding and revelry.

This is a free program, even if you haven’t visited the caverns, and it is just amazing. After the park ranger gave us a laundry list of rules for not disturbing the bats, she entertained questions until the light sun was almost set, and the cave swallows, who swoop around the cave entrance most of the day, almost instantly disappeared. Then, very quietly, wave upon wave of bats began to pour out and fly overhead, some so close you could feel them brush past. If you’re not squeamish about bats, this is an awesome experience. Unfortunately, there are no cameras or any electronic devices allowed, so you’ll have to see this peaceful spectacle for yourself. Early risers can also see them return to the cave at dawn. We did not, since we headed back home that night.

We may have only been away from home for three days, but we returned with heads filled with knowledge, 800 pictures on the old digital camera, some very tired feet, one little green hand-carved wooden alien tiki statue, some new insights in the world and universe around us (not to mention beneath us), and most importantly, some great laughs and memories.

As for the Roswell incident, the validity of the UFO crash is still a matter of opinion, but the adventure and fun is 100 percent legit.

roslwell aliens

Roswell’s aliens are everywhere from street lights to storefronts. Images: Rick Tate.

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DC Comics This Week: ‘Secret Six’ Is A Slam Dunk Thu, 20 Aug 2015 01:30:11 +0000 I may break out the champagne and dance on the grave of Identity Crisis. Find out why.

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Welcome to our capsule reviews of this week’s DC comics releases. Ray Goldfield is the long-time DC reader and I’m more the cynic. I might have faith in nothing but quality. I also look at these issues with an eye for a new reader. If it’s impenetrable to all but the most diehard of DC fans, I won’t recommend it.

This week, we have our biggest disagreements yet but we’re both happy to recommend Secret Six #5, which zips along dropping all kinds of revelations on the reader while it rights a serious comic book wrong.

The rest? Ray loves his Robin, Son of Batman. I’m already a tired of the pre-adolescent, arrogant assassin. But I highly recommend Martian Manhunter, which is an imaginative take on that a classic SF story, an alien invasion.

On the bad side, we’re waiting for the day we can announce the cancellation of Doomed and the ill-conceived Superman/Wonder Woman title.

Warning: total spoilers abound.

The opening panel Ray mentioned from Secret Six #5. copyright DC Comics

The opening panel Ray mentioned from Secret Six #5. copyright DC Comics

Book of the Week:

Secret Six #5 -writer, Gail Simone, Dale Eaglesham and Tom Derenick, artists

Ray: 9.5/10

Corrina: Buy It

Ray: The first two issues of this new run didn’t quite feel like the Six, from the claustrophobic tone to the dark art by Ken Lashley. However, since the Convergence break, the return of original artist Eaglesham, and the shift in tone have made this a fantastic return to form.
For the last few issues, the team has been laying low at the home of widowed shape-shifting private investigator Big Shot, resulting in all sorts of hilarious domestic antics such as the laugh-out-loud opening page of this issue, as well as some surprisingly touching bonding scenes. We’ve also been reintroduced to the missing members of the Six – Scandal, Jeanette, and Ragdoll – working as agents for the evil Mockingbird, and we’ve gotten the dual reveal that not only is Mockingbird Riddler, but Big Shot is actually Ralph Dibny and working for him.
That all comes out in a huge way in this fast-paced issue, as a chance view of the picture of Big Shot’s late wife reveals to Catman that she’s the woman who kept him alive in captivity. He confronts Big Shot, and Ralph reveals the entire story, which all ties back to an aborted jewel heist over a year ago aboard the Riddler’s yacht, where every member of the Six was somehow involved. Riddler’s obsession with revenge of the loss of a diamond of his, as well as his infatuation with Sue Dibny – who is revealed to be alive here – has motivated his deeply involved campaign against the Six, and Ralph is torn between his loyalty to his bizarre new family and his chance to see his wife again.  There’s a ton of story in this issue, as well as some really nice low-key moments involving the team’s youngest members, Strix and Black Alice.
If I have one complaint with this series at a whole, it’s that Ventriloquist just doesn’t work. She barely appears, and when she does it’s to make a non-sequiter creepy comment that emphasizes just how out of place she is. I’d love to see her replaced with one of the many great characters roaming around the fringes of this book. But overall, this title is like having a weird old friend back. No title’s benefited more from the months off.
Corrina: The Secret Six is that group you want to succeed but know that’s not going to happen because their worst natures inevitably take over. Knowing that adds a tragic edge to any story involving them, especially as Simone knows how to make readers fall in love with these misfits anyway. The first few issues of this reboot set up several story questions that desperately needed answers: Who locked the Six in a box at the bottom of the ocean? Who was the woman who saved Catman’s sanity during his year of solitary? What bound them together?
The answers came faster and more furious than I expected in this issue. It also supplied an answer I never expected: the Dibnys.
Why is that important? Because Sue Dibny was murdered and retroactively raped (long story) in a major DC event that represented all the problems I had with DC Comics: Identity Crisis. A comic which also made sure Sue was pregnant when killed to add extra angst to all the male Justice Leaguers. A comic that kicked off years of heroes behaving worse than villains.
But Sue’s back, very much alive, and very much with Ralph, though they’re in quite a mess at the end of this issue, as is proper in superhero comics.
I may break out the champagne and dance on the grave of Identity Crisis. Good riddance.
Martian Manhunter #3 -Rob Williams, writer, Eddy Barrows, pencils, Eber Ferreira, inks.
Ray: 8.5/10
Corrina: Buy It!
Ray: This creative team is committed to giving us a Martian Manhunter comic unlike any we’ve seen before, and so far they’re succeeding – much to the detriment of my ability to sleep. This comic is freaky, borrowing many of its themes from works of alien horror like John Carpenter’s The Thing.
When we last left off, alien sleeper cells from Mars had pulled off countless attacks on Earth, leaving the world in a state of terror as it was revealed that J’onn J’onnz was not the last martian. Determined to keep from being used as a weapon, he chose to destroy himself using a powerful weapon – and the opening pages seem to show that happening. J’onn’s archenemies, the martian sorcerer Ma’alefa’ak, is revealed to be behind the attacks along with an army of white martians, and he fuses his minions together into a horrific martian blob to hunt down J’onn.
The story then shifts to a human doctor who is in charge of a patient, an insane boy who killed his mother while claiming she was a martian. The hospital comes under attack from the white martians, and the two of them barely escape with their lives. Cornered by the white martians, they’re rescued by the odd Mr. Biscuits and his friend. When the doctor questions Mr. Biscuits about who he is, he reveals that he’s a malformed, disfigured version of J’onn J’onnz – and apparently, so is the doctor? We’re into some pretty fascinating sci-fi stuff here, with many mysteries still to be explained. This comic may not be for everyone, but I highly recommend it.
Corrina: Hey, it’s not that freaky! I love this comic because the mystery of the multiple-seemingly-friendly but odd Martians on Earth is solved: they’re all J’onn! The original Martian Manhunter destroyed one body but essentially sent his consciousness out to duplicates of himself all over the globe. Since none of them have a, uh, full dose of faculties, their story to survive becomes even more fascinating.
In one particularly poignant moment, one “J’onn” realizes his whole life has been a construct. No time to worry about that, however, as the white Martians are tracking everyone down to kill them. It’s as if The Boy Who Lived had been split into different horcruxes, each of whom had a slightly different personality. But to win, they’re all going to have to combine into a whole.
Those who love a great SF story are going to want the collected edition of this book.
Black Canary #3 -Brenden Fletcher, writer, Annie Wu, artist
Ray: 8/10
Corrina: Buy It!
Black Canary #3 cover, copyright DC Comics

Black Canary #3 cover, copyright DC Comics

Ray: “The DCU’s craziest road trip” is a title that can apply to more than one comic this week, and I love that.

This book continues to be an excellent fusion of road trip adventure and superhero book. The starring attraction for me is Annie Wu’s incredibly kinetic art, although I wonder if she’ll be staying on the title now that she’s been announced as the second artist on the Archie reboot.
When we last left off, the band was battling both mysterious shadow demons and government agents to protect their mute child bass player Ditto. However, one of the government agents was revealed to be Dinah’s husband Kurt Lance, and that’s the key conflict this issue. While it would have been easy to make Kurt the villain here, he explains that he’s been trying to protect both of them from their mysterious enemies.
The title doesn’t throw out the estrangement that happened at the end of Birds of Prey when Kurt lost his memories, but he’s a lot more developed than he was in that book. The reveal that Ditto’s connection to sound may be the source of Dinah’s canary cry, though…that’s going to be controversial and I can’t really judge it fully until I see the next issue. However, the cliffhanger has Ditto kidnapped by the band’s shady former singer, Maeve, as she plans to steal Ditto’s powers for herself. The book’s a little slight and a very fast read, but it’s never anything but entertaining.
Corrina: No need to worry about Wu yet, Ray, as in an interview, she said she’s on board for at least several more issues. The art also takes some risks, with quick cuts between the battle between the bandmates and those stalking Ditto, and the band’s appearance at a music festival. Risky, because it could be confusing, but it pays off beautifully. For a comic with so much action, it also manages to nail characterization.
I was thinking back to that interview mentioned above for another reason: the creative team said they wanted to create an iconic Black Canary and I suspect that starts here, as they begin to weave a good deal of her past into her present situation.
There’s no character who was changed more in the new 52 reboot than Dinah and all to the bad to my mind. But this comic started off with a Dinah who *emotionally* resembled the previous version. In this comic, we do see some of her “new 52″ origin with the inclusion of Kurt Lance. But he bothers me much less in this story, perhaps because he’s more complex. Dinah, too, is less strident than in that book. I side-eye the revelation that Dinah’s sonic cry is due to Ditto but it has possibilities and this creative team has done well so far.
This is one is one of those comics that should cross over to mainstream awareness just for the art but will keep readers for the story and characters.
Doctor Fate #3 -Paul Levitz & Sonny Liew, storytellers
Ray: 7.5/10
Corrina: Buy It
Ray: DC’s made some big strides with diversity in recent months, but I don’t think they’re nearly as good at promoting it as the competition. Hence why titles like Midnighter and this book – featuring a biracial lead of Egyptian Muslim heritage – have slipped below the radar.
It’s one of two books this week dealing with a biracial college student getting new and hard-to-control powers, and undoubtedly the better of the two. The apocalyptic vibe of the title continues, as the city is threatened by a flood of biblical proportions and the mad God Anubis continues his war against his rival Bastet. Meanwhile, Khalid struggles to gain control of the Helmet of Nabu and harness his powers to help people in the middle of the disaster. Meanwhile, his father lies blind in a hospital, as he begins to spout prophecies about something old and evil coming for them. The introduction of a potential romantic rival for Khalid’s affections fell flat, as she came off very unlikable in her intro scene even as it was hinted that his family might favor her. The material involving Khalid’s powers is strong and he’s a likable lead, but I can’t help but wish we had gotten to know him and his family for an issue or so before disaster hit.
This title is so consumed by the threat at hand that character development suffers a bit in the process. Still, very much worth sticking around and seeing how it develops.
Corrina: Yes, this comic could use a serious marketing push from DC.
Aside from reinventing a Golden Age favorite with a great, modern twist, it also features, like Black Canary, art from someone who is clearly going to be a star. Khalid’s job as a medical student also adds to his role as the eventual Doctor Fate. In many ways, the helmet of Fate is the antagonist in these three issues, rather than the god Bastet.
However, I agree with Ray that the plot seems to have stalled a bit this issue. It’s not the disaster for me but that the last two issues have had no real forward momentum to the story. We know Bastet is flooding this area of New York City, that Khalid’s loved ones are in trouble, and that the god inside the Helmet of Fate is kinda a jerk.
What’s holding this down is a new page in that story. Hopefully, next issue will see forward momentum.
Robin, Son of Batman #3 -Patrick Gleason, script and pencils, Mick Gray, inks.
Ray: 9/10
Corrina: Only for Damian Wayne fans.

Robin Son of Batman #3, cover copyright DC Comics

Robin Son of Batman #3, cover copyright DC Comics

Ray: Gleason has taken the writing baton on the title he’s been drawing for the last few years and looks to be giving Damian Wayne a solo run worth looking forward to every month. The title has one of the best hooks I’ve seen in a while – Damian atoning for the crimes he committed during a year-long training regimen with the League of Assassins, while accompanied by the daughter of one of his victims. It’s kind of like a violent superhero version of My Name is Earl.
The issue opens with a flashback to Damian preparing for his mission during the Year of Blood, and then throws us right into the action as he and the teenage Nobody try to complete their latest mission – restoring a crystal to seal up a cave containing countless monsters that he opened. The action can get a tiny bit confusing at times, but it’s certainly nice to look at.
The real star attraction in this title is the developing friendship between Damian and Nobody, aka Maya Ducard. Gleason does a great job at keeping in mind that these are kids. Damian is 12 at most – as we’re reminded in a hilarious scene involving his baby teeth – and Maya isn’t that much older, definitely younger than the Teen Titans. That adds a really fun dynamic to the book, and I’m hoping we’ll see both Damian and Maya showing up in other Bat-books down the line.
Where the title isn’t quite as strong is every time these two are off screen. I’m glad to see Talia Al Ghul back among the living, mainly because it means Morrison’s horrible dragon lady portrayal of her will soon be a thing of the past, but the scenes of her having her memories restored by the mysterious cultists that found her drag a bit. Next issue has Damian and Maya facing off against a former associate of her father’s – Deathstroke. Looking forward to it, as well as to seeing Damian and his mother reunited.
Corrina: This is my big disagreement with Ray this week. The first issue is that I find the art more than a tiny bit confusing: I often had to stop reading this issue and ponder whether I was in Damian’s past or his present. Unlike the panels that jump back and forth in Black Canary, these cuts between past and present meld together. That’s the major problem I have with the storytelling. I only wish it was as coherent as My Name is Earl.
The other issue is that while Damian is bent on atoning for his Year of Blood, outwardly, he’s hardly changed at all. He’s an arrogant snot. That is half the appeal of this character and it works well when he bounces off someone more centered, like Dick Grayson. But with Maya Ducard, who’s only marginally more mature than he is, it’s an extra dose of snotty kids being snotty to each other, which I don’t find interesting at all. Normally, in a redemption story, the current character has mannerisms or patterns that they’re consciously trying to break. Not here which, I admit, is hard to do with an 11-year-old, but the only difference is that now Damian is fighting for good guys, rather than bad guys. He knows what he did is wrong but I, as a reader, don’t feel it.
Hard to bond to the comic without that.
Justice League #43 -Geoff Johns, writer, Jason Fabok, artist
Ray: 8.5/10
Corrina: Meh. Only if you want another “world-ending” Darkseid story. 
Ray: The most action-packed comic in DC’s stable right now, Justice League is delivering on its promise to be an event comic confined to one title (although that’s not quite true anymore, as it’s getting a series of spin-offs released in October and November). When we last left off, the armies of the Anti-Monitor – led by Darkseid’s daughter Grail – had invaded Earth. Superman and Luthor, betrayed by Luthor’s sister, found themselves abandoned on Apokalips. And Batman stole the power of the Mobius Chair, seemingly becoming a God himself.
As Darkseid’s army prepares to attack Earth, Superman soon finds out that the lack of sun on Apokalips is sapping his strength fast, leaving him near-powerless (sound familiar?) with only his arch-enemy to rely on against the armies of Apokalips. There’s a really fun “Enemy Mine” dynamic going on here between the two old rivals, as Luthor’s mercenary attitudes clash with Superman’s idealism. Meanwhile, Scott Free escapes the clutches of Grail’s mother, the Amazon Myrina Black, to warn the League of what’s coming.
This issue overall seems like the calm before the storm, as Apokalips’ army only arrives in the ending, and Luthor tries a risky move to power Superman up that may just turn him into a bigger threat than Apokalips. I did like how much of the issue takes place from Wonder Woman’s perspective, giving her the narration. We’ve been promised that this will be a WW-centric event, and I’m hopeful it’ll deliver. The event may have lost a step from the first two issues, but that’s not uncommon in the middle chapters. I’m still stoked to see what comes next.
Corrina: Most action-packed? I disagree, as Black Canary this week is basically all action. Also, this book begins with another signature Johns gore moment, this time with a dog being eviscerated. (The Apokolips version of a dog, anyway.) Hey, comics are fun, kids! I point to another comic, Martian Manhunter, for how to raise the stakes without resorting to gore.  As for it being a Wonder Woman-centric comic, I guess it can be, if only to have her fight yet another evil Amazon. Yawn.
But my main problem with this whole storyline is I’ve seen it before. Darkseid is evil with evil minions. Earth is in peril! We don’t know who to trust. Lather, rinse, repeat. I guess the best that can be said of this is that it’s a traditional DC slugfest with the world at stake.
But that’s also the worst that can be said of this comic.
Bizarro #3 -Heath Corson, writer, Gustavo Duarte, artist
Ray: 8/10
Corrina: Buy It
Ray: Another crazy road trip!
Jimmy and Bizarro’s travels through middle america have taken them to a ghost town. Not the tourist town – an actual Western town populated almost entirely by ghosts. They run into Chastity Hex, the descendant of Jonah, who’s on the trail of a notorious bandit and doesn’t really have the patience for these guys getting in her way. There’s a lot of great gags early on about Jimmy and Bizarro interacting with ghosts and not really getting it, but the issue doesn’t fully pick up until the ghost bandits show up, and one of them possesses Bizarro.
For the first time, the fact that Bizarro is basically Superman comes into play as he becomes a much bigger threat than has been present in this book so far, although it’s all played mostly for laughs. The presence of ghost bandits, however, opens the door for a fantastic cameo – Jonah Hex, making his first appearance since his title ended last year. Just based on that alone, I recommend this book. The issue has the tone of a really well-written Scooby Doo episode, only packed with DC references and some great visuals. This is definitely the one of the new all-ages miniseries that I’m enjoying more, and it’s a smart move keeping the stories mostly stand-alone. I’m hoping Corson and Duarte come back for a second round on this title after this mini concludes.
Corrina: Me am hate this comic, Me am tell you not to read.
That’s the longest I can keep Bizarro-speak going. I’ve no idea how Corson manages a whole issue of it but he does.
The previous villain bored me a bit but this story is a great single-issue humor comic, and features one of my favorite type of SF/horror stories, the literal ghost town. Yes, it’s cool to see a Superman-level powered person take on the spirit realm and here’s it played for laughs, even to the parrot that sits on the raider’s shoulder. However, I was a concerned that the stylistic art depicting El Papagayo, the villain, veered into what could be considered a racial caricature. Not good.
But I loved the conceit that the ghosts viewed actual humans as the interlopers and the threat, rather than the reverse.
Batman: Arkham Knight #7 -Peter J. Tomasi, story and words, Victor Bogdanovic, Art Thibert, inks
Ray: 7.5/10
Corrina: Only for Batman completists
Ray: There have been a few comics based on the Arkham series of video games, and this is easily the best of them. By bringing in Pete Tomasi, one of the best modern Batman writers, we get a much more involved picture of this world than a mere video game tie-in. The opening story this issue is probably the best of the series as Batman, injured and dazed from his fight with Bane, is rescued by an old Gotham resident who gives him shelter and tells him about his past in Gotham even as local thugs come to shake him down for rent money.
One of the biggest problems people have with Batman is that he doesn’t keep in touch with the common people, and this issue addresses that nightly. The next twenty pages are a mix of stories, as Bruce, Tim and Barbara help Jim Gordon prepare for his run for Mayor. Gordon is written very well here, but the potential romantic pairing of Tim and Barbara that’s being teased is just odd on a number of levels. Meanwhile, Harley teams up with Captain Boomerang and Deadshot in a new Suicide Squad as they plot to assassinate Bruce Wayne. Even if you haven’t played the games, this is a solid read.
Corrina: A solid read is the best I can give this comic. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it. I like Batman being cared for by the elderly resident, and I like Jim Gordon’s mock debate practice. There’s also nothing that stands out, either, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m bored with Harley Quinn and her fifty million appearances right now.
Perhaps I’m a little spoiled from the terrific work going on in the current Batman comics or perhaps it’s because I don’t play this game, but nothing here has such a unique twist that it should be required reading except for Batman collectors.
 Green Lantern: The Lost Army #3 -writer, Cullen Bunn, Artists, Jesus Saiz and Cliff Richards
Ray: 7.5
Corrina: Don’t Buy It. 
Ray: Three issues in, the strange new status quo for the Lanterns is becoming clear with the arrival of their former nemesis Relic. Here a humble explorer and still at human size, Relic’s presence makes clear that they’re not simply in space – they’re out of time, trapped so far back in the past that they’re in the universe that existed before this one. That’s a pretty strong hook for a sci-fi comic, and I’m hopeful that Cullen Bunn and Jesus Saiz will be able to spin some interesting plots out of it.
Bunn’s writing of John Stewart is very strong, tying his decisions as Corps leader back into hard calls he had to make as a Marine Sgt. However, that sometimes involves choosing the lesser of two evils, which he does when he deceives Relic, making him think they’re there to help him save his universe. It’s a necessary lie to keep a powerful enemy pacified, but one that seems to cause the beginnings of a rift between John and Guy. Any debate has to wait as the ship comes under assault from the Light Pirates, voracious scavengers whose weapons can drain the rings. It’s a fast-paced issue with some great visuals, but I must say, if the death at the end of the issue sticks (and I doubt it will), my opinion of this issue will go down a lot. If I had one recommendation, I’d like to see more development for the Lanterns trapped with the lead characters. A lot of them are sort of blank slates, but there’s still time for that.
Corrina: ::cracks knuckles before getting started::
You are all no doubt aware that “women in refrigerators” was coined because of a Green Lantern comic in which the GL’s girlfriend was, quite literally, stuffed in a refrigerator to provide angst for our hero.
It’s not quite the same situation at the end of this issue, where a female Green Lantern seemingly chokes to death. However, the splash page last panel of her death makes maximum use of the face that, hey, look, the sexy girl is dying.
Look at that cleavage while she chokes tragically.
Ugh. Just ugh.
I want to like a comic that features a John Stewart close to the Justice League animated version, a former military officer hardened by war. But there’s something about the storytelling that turns me off. I’ve liked some books by Cullen Bunn, such as Fearless Defenders, but between this and his Lobo, I’m beginning to dislike the nasty edge to his writing.
Justice League: Gods and Monsters #2 -story by J.M. DeMatteis and Bruce Timm, art by Thony Silas
Ray: 7/10
Corrina: Don’t Buy It, Watch the Movie
Ray: Now that the team is assembled, the main narrative of this darker take on the Justice League is in full swing. Last issue, Superman decided to undergo the Forever People process, but it was incompatible with his alien DNA and left him weakened. As he struggles to recover with Wonder Woman’s help, the narrative shifts in the beginning of the issue to my favorite of the three heroes, Kirk Langstrom. His relationship with his old mentor Lex Luthor is explored here, and he becomes the most skeptical of the heroes when it comes to Alpert’s experiments.
Of course, as we now know, Alpert is none other than Wonder Woman’s old nemesis Doctor Psycho, who has refined his experiments since the time at the commune. After a showdown with Alpert and his enhanced monsters, the focus shifts to a new threat – the Forever People, who have begun the process of taking over the world. Their leader, Big Bear, sets up headquarters in India, which soon draws the League to him. When diplomacy fails, things soon descend into a massive slugfest. The ending has Psycho return in a new body, now calling himself Imperiex. After a fascinating start, this series is threatening to descend into another fight comic, but so far the strong characterization and Lois Lane’s narration help keep it above par.
Corrina: This is already another fight comic, which is disappointing. In a way, it’s paced too fast. The Forever People take over the Earth in one and a half pages, a development that seems to only set up another battle, rather than play out the implications on the rest of humanity. Maybe that’s why everyone saying “you have too much power, it’s scary” to Superman and Wonder Woman falls flat. We keep hearing it’s bad, we see metahumans take over the Earth, but we don’t see the results of all that, beyond Luthor being annoyed.
I’m glad, however, for the Lois Lane narration, and this is an improvement over the first issue.
Wonder Woman #43 -Meredith Finch, writer, Ian Churchill, penciller
Ray: 6.5/10
Corrina: Don’t Buy It
Ray: This title has been much improved after its horrible first arc, as Meredith Finch works to dig out from under the massive character assassination of Donna Troy, and introduce some interesting new villains. The bulk of the issue is Donna’s story this month, as she escapes from her Amazon prison to seek out the Fates in London. She wants them to cut her thread and end her life as penance for her crimes, but it’s soon revealed that they don’t have her thread, because they can’t see how she was created. So it seems there’s going to be some big reveal yet about her origins, maybe in Titans Hunt.
I must say, she’s getting a bit more likable, definitely more so than the current Wonder Girl, but damn, is it hard to forget that she’s a mass murderer! Diana, trailing her, enlists the help of her half-brother Milan, and soon finds the Fates murdered – which she assumes Donna did, but that’s not the case. After foiling a teenage girl who attempts to pickpocket her lasso (this girl’s appearance is given a lot of time, which makes me wonder if she’s being set up for something), they come under attack by the villain Aegeus, who shoots Diana with a poisoned arrow to end the issue. The book’s still got a lot of rough edges, but it’s developing some intriguing qualities. Biggest weak point this month? Ian Churchill’s guest art, which feels really rushed. Kind of inevitable with David Finch, though.
Corrina: I thought Churchill’s art was a distinct improvement over David Finch. The faces looked better overall, for one. And Wonder Woman looked less like a baby doll.
I agree, Finch’s storytelling has improved from awful to passable. That doesn’t mean I’m interested in murderous Donna Troy or this new scion of Olympus who’s become Wonder Woman’s new foe and doesn’t seem to do much except yell at everyone and brag. Not an interesting villain and I still don’t buy that Wonder Woman has a problem beating him.
Donna Troy’s return has been a horrible mess and the fact that Diana thought tossing her into solitary confinement would help her reform is simply ridiculous. Not to mention she’s now been given Wonder Woman’s old origin involving clay except with a murderous twist. This run can’t end too soon for me.
Injustice: Gods Among Us Year Four #8 -written by Brian Buccellato, art by Mike S. Miller
Ray: 5/10
Corrina: Don’t Buy It.
Ray: I’ve talked a bit about my problems with the direction this title is taking, in that it’s mainly become a generic fight comic with new and bigger threats being introduced all the time to no real effect. Well, it doesn’t get much bigger than Zeus himself.
After the death of Hercules, the king of the Greek Gods has come to Earth to deal with Superman himself. He strips Shazam of his powers, forces Superman’s surrender, and kills Harley Quinn in what is probably the biggest loss to this title yet. She’s been the fan favorite for this entire run, and she’s disposed of in one panel. Zeus then begins his occupation of Earth, declaring that he is the one true God and should be worshiped. Superman has a secret weapon in his corner, though – Zeus’ estranged son, Ares. The stronger half of the issue is the second, as we get a look at Ares’ origin and what drives him to try to undermine his father’s rule. There could be some promise in this conflict, but it seems like the main thrust of the series has faded away in the wake of new threats emerging.
Corrina: The premise of the comic always seemed like one big fight comic. This one, however, is full of heroes posturing and yelling and whatnot and it’s unpleasant and uninteresting save for the moments of humor. Why anyone can get invested in this story is beyond me.
I predict next issue will have more fighting, more deaths, and definitely more yelling.
How can you not laugh at Vartox's costume? image copyright DC Comics

How can you not laugh at Vartox’s costume? image copyright DC Comics

Harley Quinn/Power Girl #3 -Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, writers, Stephane Roux, Moritat, Elliot Fernandez, artists

Ray: 5/10
Corrina: Harley Quinn fans will enjoy
Ray: The comedy in both this and the parent title tends to be sort of hit and miss, and after two hits in a row, this issue is definitely a miss. There’s a few good bits, such as the garden of giant sexy sculptures that Vartox carved during his “Celibacy trials”, but too much of the issue is devoted to Harley and Power Girl traveling through space chatting with Groovicus Mellow about the weird world they’re on, and engaging in generic space battles.
The drug bender they go on midway through the issue has some cool visuals as they find themselves in the middle of a strange 60’s road trip pastiche, but it doesn’t really add anything to the story besides filling space. Then Vartox shows up, brainwashed by the villain and stripped of all the fun personality traits he’s known for, and the issue turns into a generic slugfest where he makes threats and Power Girl and Harley try to knock him out. Very little of note happens that isn’t revealed on the cover. Hopefully next issue will be funnier.
Corrina: I’ve no idea why Ray is such a hard grader on this comic when he’s giving out better grades to the Wonder Woman and Green Lantern titles this week. I agree that this isn’t as funny as some past Harley stories and relies too much on the big space battles. But, still, enjoyable.
Or perhaps I just find Vartox’s costume infinitely more amusing than Ray does.
Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #13 -written by Barbara Randall Kesel, art by Irene Koh, Wendy Broome, Emma Vieceli, Kelly Fitzpatrick, Laura Braga, and Carrie Strachan
Ray: 4.5/10
Corrina: For Wonder Woman fans
Ray: A full-length story this month by Barbara Kesel, with the very strange decision to have three different artists draw the three segments. There’s no storytelling reason for this, and the artists aren’t extremely different, just different enough to be slightly distracting from the story.
The story starts with Wonder Woman encountering a group of college students running and giving pointers to the fastest on how she can improve. One of the other girls objects to this, and they have a lively debate until Superwoman, freshly escaped from prison, attacks. This is in present continuity, so Superwoman is pregnant and Diana is hesitant to attack her because of this. Superwoman really isn’t a very interesting or dynamic villain, and her dialogue towards WW is a bit raw for what I’d expect from this title. There’s a few decent scenes involving one of the girls’ heroism in the middle of the battle, and Wonder Woman is written fairly well, but overall this story is sort of stiff and feels like it could have been tied up in less than 30 pages. Not the worst anthology story I’ve read, but there isn’t much to recommend here unless you’re a die-hard WW fan.
Corrina: “Wonder Woman is written fairly well.”
There you go. That’s why I like this comic. I also like how the focus is on the aspirational nature of Wonder Woman. The discussion about how to be “the best” goes on a bit long and I was glad to see Superwoman show up to break it up. It’s interesting in that the story plays to the perception that Wonder Woman is arrogant. It is one of those comics that would produce a discussion among friends about the nature of heroes and what we should take from them.
So, yes, if you’re into Wonder Woman, you want this. And I have no idea how Ray can give this issue a lower grade than he did the current Wonder Woman comic.
P.S. I suspect the different art teams, which are all female, was to showcase female artists.
Superman/Wonder Woman #20 -Peter J. Tomasi, story and words, Doug Mahnke, pencils
Ray: 3/10
Corrina: Don’t Buy It
Ray: Jumping in from last issue’s cliffhanger of Superman breaking in to see the President, we quickly see that it wasn’t the President waiting for him, but rather Steve Trevor, who knew he was coming. ARGUS has taken just about everyone Superman loves captive and is interrogating them about what they knew about Superman’s secret. Most of the issue is just Superman arguing with Steve while his friends are asked questions in their cells, and eventually Wonder Woman – whose role in this issue is minimal – shows up to break out his friends and spirit them away to safety. Superman, meanwhile, eventually gets to meet the President when Obama defies protocol and the Secret Service.
One of the reasons I dislike having real life Presidents in the comics is because they’re forced to serve the plot, and here it seems like the fact that it’s Obama in the role is making the authors write him almost separate from the plot. The President as written here is kind and reasonable, but it’s still his government treating Superman like a criminal. Then Parasite attacks, released as a test for Superman and Superman beats him, only to leave after assuring Obama that he’s still on the side of the angels. This issue just doesn’t really have much going for it, seeming more like a refugee from the Marvel Universe’s cynical approach to superheroes.
Corrina: I have no idea why anyone would think Superman is dangerous when he flies into the White House, knocks a bunch of Secret Service agents unconscious and demands to speak to the President. Who knew people would object to that?
Given, Superman has good reason because all of Smallville is basically being interrogated by the government. But I find both situations as ridiculous as the Superman/Wonder Woman relationship which has never, ever worked.
Oh, and Wonder Woman seems to be interrogating Lois Lane with her Golden Lasso. Well, isn’t that special. Ugh.
Doomed #3 -written by Scott Lobdell, art by Javier Fernandez
Ray: 2/10
Corrina: Don’t Buy It
Ray: Hands down the weirdest comic DC is currently putting out, and that’s not a compliment. We open with Reiser’s roommate Roman a few years ago, in the middle of a terror attack where his boyfriend is murdered, getting powers from an ancient roman cloth that he uses as a tourniquet, turning him into Alpha Centurion. The concept of two roommates each with their own bizarre secret has promise, but it’s not really explored well at all.
Meanwhile, in the present day, Reiser and Roman take Aunt Belle’s dog Oui-Oui for a walk, as Reiser meets with his partner from that fateful night at STAR Labs to ask her help to figure out what happened to him.
Then the dog disappears, and Reiser tries to track it down and encounters the weird child assassin from last issue. He transforms into a monster again, and the kid tries to kill him, only to stop when he realizes that he’s a human, not an alien. These are all plot elements that could work, if the story didn’t feel like it was cobbled together from bits and pieces of dozens of other stories, and if the dialogue was less over the top. The ending brings in the Teen Titans to help STAR Labs track down the creature, and I’m not looking forward to having those characters back in Lobdell’s hands. Of all the titles DC green-lit in the new wave, this is the biggest head-scratcher.
Corrina: Hey, it’s not the most gross. There. I said something positive about this book. Otherwise, I can’t get past the “I worked my whole life to be a S.T.A.R. intern and I’ll violate 50 different procedures on my first day anyway.”
This kid is so stupid he deserves to be an alien shape-shifter with no life. Also, I was kinda worried about the dog, too, worried this would be the second comic this week that would feature a doggie’s death. Whew. Dodged that one.
Look, I said two nice things about the comic.
Ray Goldfield is a writer/editor for Grayhaven Comics, as well as the author of two novels currently in editing. He’s a comic fan for over 20 years, particularly of DC and Superman, Batman, and the Teen Titans in particular. Now that Cassandra Cain is coming back, he will not rest until DC greenlights a Young Justice: Season Three comic.

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Back To School 2015: Electronics, Gadgets, and Shiny Stuff! Wed, 19 Aug 2015 14:00:36 +0000 It's time to head back to school and in this year's guide, we have a little bit of style, a little bit of gadgets, and a lot of coolness.

The post Back To School 2015: Electronics, Gadgets, and Shiny Stuff! appeared first on GeekMom.

Back to School \ Image: flickr user Jesuscm some rights reserved

Back to School \ Image: Flickr user Jesuscm, some rights reserved.

It’s time to head back to school and in this year’s planning guide, we have a little bit of style, a little bit of gadgets, and a lot of coolness. So let’s get started!

Electronic Accessories
Witti Dotti ($69.99)
This app-controlled pixel light will keep you posted on all of your notifications, with the added bonus of being able to customize the lights to suit your style.

Photo App Keyboards \ Image: Photojojo

Photo App Keyboards \ Image: Photojojo

Keyboard Shortcut Skins ($30)
Keyboard Shortcut Skins by Photojojo are one of my go-to accessories for my MacBook Pro. I have the one for Final Cut Pro and it’s a huge help when trying to learn the program. Shortcut Skins are also available for Photoshop (CS4/CS5/CS6), Aperture (2.0/3.0), Final Cut Pro/Express, or Lightroom (2/3/4/5). The available keyboard models include the MacBook with black or white keys, Macbook Air 13″, Apple Ultra-Thin Keyboard w/o Numeric Keypad, and the Apple Ultra-Thin Keyboard w/Numeric Keypad. Use coupon code: GEEKMOM for $5 off!

Scosche’s freeKEY ($49.99)
For the student on the go, check out this roll-up bBuetooth keyboard.

Ultimate Screen Care Kit by Dust Off ($24.99)
Electronic users should have one of these in every bag they carry. It comes with a bottle of screen cleaner, a cleaning shammy, and a mobile cleaning pad.

Power Tap \ Image courtesy of Thumbs Up UK

Power Tap \ Image courtesy of Thumbs Up UK

Power USB Tap by Thumbs Up UK ($19.71)
The Power Tap is a fun and unique way to “turn on” power to your device for charging. The blue/red light tells you if the device is charging or not and offers a great little nightlight to any room.

Scanmarker ($79.99)
I’m not a fan of highlights in my textbooks because I usually end up typing my notes anyway. With the Scanmarker, I can just scan my notes in directly from my textbook without marking them up (makes for better resale value as well). The Scanmarker lets you capture text and then edit it on your computer.

Gunnar Optiks Gaming/Computer Glasses ($50-150 depending on whether you need a prescription)
These glasses ease eye strain for anyone who spends a lot of time looking at screens (computer or gaming). They really work. It’s not magic; it’s a combination of anti-glare coating and amber tinting.

Nyrius Aries Prime ($199.99)
Apple users have been able to stream their PC to a TV with the help of Apple TV and now Windows users can do the same thing with Nyrius Aries Prime. I use this at home when previewing my slideshows for class and I love it. My son loves it too because he likes to stream his Minecraft games to our TV.

Inateck MP 1300 13.3 Inch Macbook Air Sleave \ Image courtesy of Inateck

Inateck MP 1300 13.3-inch MacBook Air Sleeve \ Image courtesy of Inateck

Inateck MacBook Sleeve ($16.99)
A soft, felted sleeve for your MacBook. This gender neutral case allows you to transport your laptop in your backpack or purse in style.

Lumo Lift Posture and Activity Tracker ($79.99)
Posture is something everyone needs work on here and there. The Lumo Lift will tell you when you are slouching and keep a record of how much time a day you spend in a good posture. It’s a nifty little device for those of us who spend our day sitting at a desk and are not always aware of how we are sitting until it’s too late.

Kinivo BTH220 ($20.99)
I’ve had more than one pair of Kinivo headphones and for the price, they’re pretty good. These are over-the-ear headphones that work via Bluetooth, with buttons to play your music as well as make and receive phone calls.

Audiofly’s AF33 Headphones ($39.99)
If wired headphones are more your thing, check out Audiofly’s AF33. They may be on the pricey side, but they offer noise isolation and are comfy to wear.

Scosche’s goBAT 6000 ($54.99)
I love this little battery charger because it doesn’t require any cables. Just plug it into the wall when the battery dies and wait for the red light to go off. It’s also lightweight compared to other chargers and is small enough to fit into your back pocket.

Coffee Cup Power Inverter V2.0 ($34.99)
When my husband first saw this, he thought it was a mug you can heat up in the car. He was kind of close. It’s a charger that looks like a coffee cup and can accommodate up to two wall chargers and one USB cable. The best part is that it fits in your cup holder so there’s no awkward worrying about where to put it while it’s plugged in. 

Tablift ($59.99)
My brother saw this and thought I would be lazy for using it. He obviously hasn’t tried to lay in bed while watching lectures and taking notes. Not to mention, it’s great for keeping your hands free while watching a movie, so you can eat your snacks. I set it up the other day to hold my iPad to help me follow directions on a sewing pattern. Tablift helped keep it off the floor and out of my pup’s mouth. 

Stress Relievers and Fun

Recess for the Soul \ Image courtesy of

Recess for the Soul \ Image courtesy of

Recess for the Soul by Bernie DeKoven
Meditations on the mind’s “inner playground” are perfect for teachers to practice with kids of all ages. Parents too. Check out the recording Recess for the Soul by Bernie DeKoven to practice exercises for “inner swing set” and “teeter-taughter teachings.” It’s $20 for the CD, $9.99 for the iTunes album, or $0.99 per track.

Oregon Scientific Aroma Diffuser Elite ($99.99)
Who doesn’t want to wake up to the smell of their favorite essential oil? Instead of waking you up with a noise you just hit the snooze on, this alarm clock wakes you up to the essential oil of your choice. If you are not allergic, I suggest starting the day off with peppermint. It’s my favorite.

DreamPad 26 \ Image courtesy of ILS

DreamPad 26 \ Image courtesy of ILS

Integrated Listening System’s Dreampad 26 with Optional Bluetooth Receiver ($209)
Not everyone wants to fall asleep to white noise or music. Integrated Listening System’s Dreampad 26 has a built-in speaker that lets you plug in your device and listen to your heart’s content, while not disturbing those around you. If you want to keep your device charging while you sleep, pick up the optional Bluetooth receiver as well.

Lunch Box Jokes \ Image courtesy of

Lunch Box Jokes \ Image courtesy of

Lunchbox Jokes: 100 Fun Tear-Out Notes for Kids ($7.99)
Add extra humor to cafeteria time with Lunchbox Jokes: 100 Fun Tear-Out Notes for Kids. It’s especially good for 1st to 3rd grades.

Color Me Crazy: Insanely Detailed Creations to Challenge Your Skills and Blow Your
Pick up some colored pencils, make yourself a blanket fort, and color your cares away in this adult coloring book. I enjoy coloring in mine when I have a headache or when I’m anxious and it helps me forget the pain.

Scrabble Twist ($19.99)
Scrabble Twist is my newest addiction. It’s small enough to fit into a purse and has multiplayer and solo game features. A single game lasts about a minute, so it offers a quick break from studying. 


Xventure SmartCord Sling bag \ Image courtesy of Brakentron

Xventure SmartCord Sling bag \ Image courtesy of Bracketron

Bracketron: SmartCord Sling Bag ($24.99)
The Braketron: SmartCord Sling Bag will protect your tablet/smartphone and other personal belongings from the weather and has a special holder to make sure your headphones are close by. Great for anyone who has minimal stuff to carry.

Zelda Eject Backpack ($54.99)
My favorite part of this Zelda-themed backpack is not that it’s Zelda, but that the lunch box is on the outside and comes off. If you want to carry just the lunch box, unzip the edges and attach the shoulder strap. Otherwise, you have a cooler and a backpack in one.

Pelican Elite \ Image courtesy of Pelican

Pelican Elite \ Image courtesy of Pelican

Pelican Elite Luggage ($505)
For the students with expensive stuff in their luggage or who plan on taking it white water rafting, check out the Pelican Elite Luggage. I use mine for carrying my costumes to and from events so I don’t arrive with a broken Bat cowl.

Build On Brick Bookends ($19.99)
Build your own bookends with ThinkGeek’s Lego bookends. Lego bricks not included.

Zoku Ice Cream Maker ($25.49) and Zoku Slush & Shake Maker ($17.95)
The Zoku Ice Cream Maker and the Zoku Slush and Shake Maker are a must-have for the dorm room refrigerator. My family loves pouring soda into the slush maker and getting a frosty treat within minutes. And with Pinterest having truckloads of ice cream recipes, it’s hard to pick which one to make first.

AutoSeal Kangaroo Water Bottle with Pocket ($12.18) and Gizmo Sip Kids Water Bottles ($9.81)
Keep your student hydrated with the Kangaroo Water Bottle or the Gizmo. Both have a great seal on them and won’t spill when tossed in your backpack. (I toss mine in with my iPad all the time.) The Kangaroo comes in a variety of colors and holds 24 ounces. The Gizmo model comes in four different colors and holds 14 ounces of your child’s favorite drink. Both are dishwasher-safe. My suggestion is to keep only water in them if your only option is hand-washing.

Slim Sack \ Image courtesy of

Slim Sack \ Image courtesy of

Slim Snack
($13.95 for a four-pack)

Talk about your eco-friendly, multi-purpose product. Slim Snack is it. These leak-proof silicone tubes are perfect for packing fruit, granola, applesauce, veggies, or whatever. When school’s out for the summer, use them to make your own ice pops out of blended fruit or juices. Each one is easy to fill, even for kids, especially if you stand one up in drinking glass.


Toothless Tail Fin Fighter Skirt \ Image courtesy of WeLoveFine

Toothless Tail Fin Fighter Skirt \ Image courtesy of WeLoveFine

WeLoveFine Toothless Tail Fin Skater Skirt ($25)
Get your dragon training on with this skirt inspired by Toothless the dragon.

Avengers Assemble Charm Bead Set – ThinkGeek Exclusive ($119.95)
Assemble the charms!

Rocket Raccon \ Image courtesy of

Rocket Raccon \ Image courtesy of

Rocket Raccoon Hooded Women’s Tank Top w/ Tail ($44.99)
This is one of my favorite pieces from because I get so many compliments on it. I love the fluffy ears and the removable tail.

Superhero Belts from ($17.99)
Keep those pants where they should be with superhero style.

Batgirl Rhinestone Watch ($34.99)
Every superhero needs a watch and this one is sparkly and awesome.

Tote and Scarf \ Image courtesy of Uncommon Goods

Tote and Scarf \ Image courtesy of Uncommon Goods

Library Card Tote Bag and Literary Scarf ($20 for the Tote and $48 for the Scarf)
Uncommon Goods, which specializes in high-quality items from independent makers, offers this pair of stylish accessories for teachers, librarians, or book lovers. The natural cotton tote is printed to look like a vintage library card, instantly noticeable by anyone who has every checked out a book from a library. The silk-screen cotton infinity scarf contains passages from a choice of three timeless classics: Alice in Wonderland, Jane Eyre, or Wuthering Heights. Both products are sold on their own, with the tote made in Brooklyn and the scarf by  Tori Tissell out of Portland, Oregon.

When it comes to back to school, you can never have enough gadgets. What items are in your students’ arsenal for the new school year? Let us know in the comments!

Disclaimer: GeekMom may have received samples of some of these items. 

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Espionage Cosmetics Levels Up With the Geek Boutique Grand Opening Wed, 19 Aug 2015 13:00:19 +0000 Espionage Cosmetics has moved to the next level with two new endeavors: a subscription box service and and a brick and mortar storefront, Geek Boutique.

The post Espionage Cosmetics Levels Up With the Geek Boutique Grand Opening appeared first on GeekMom.

Photo: Kelly Knox

Photo: Kelly Knox

If you’ve been to any of the major comic conventions across the country, chances are you’ve spotted the Espionage Cosmetics booth stocked with makeup inspired by various geeky passions. After successfully running two Kickstarter campaigns for nerdy nail wraps, Espionage has moved to the next level with two new endeavors: a subscription box service and and a brick and mortar storefront, Geek Boutique.

Photo: Kelly Knox

Photo: Kelly Knox

The subscription box, Nerd Makeup, is currently in beta testing and not yet ready for public signup. The box, however, inspired the opening of the retail storefront. In an interview with FanBolt, Espionage Cosmetics CEO Jaimie Cordero explains:

So the brick and mortar store is half production for the subscription boxes and the other portion is what everyone has been begging us to do, which is, “Where can I come and pick up the stuff in person? Where can your artists show me how to use these colors if I can’t make it to a convention, if I can’t get tickets, if I don’t have time? Where can I do that?” That’s what we’re starting here.

Cordero promises a storefront version of Artist Alley, and the new store delivers. Featuring not only your favorite nail wrap designs and geek-inspired makeup collections, at the grand opening, products from Geeky Hostess, Optimystical Studios, Throwboy, and more were on hand.

Photo: Kelly Knox

Photo: Kelly Knox

If you are coming to the Seattle-Tacoma area any time soon and you want to stock up on nail wraps and more, head to 707 Pacific Avenue in Tacoma to visit the new, gloriously geeky Geek Boutique.

Photo: Kelly Knox

Photo: Kelly Knox

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Philly Geek Awards – Best. Party. Ever. Tue, 18 Aug 2015 23:00:21 +0000 What's got 'Back to the Future'-themed awards, ancient dinosaur bones, and more Philadelphia Geeks in black tie than anyone thought possible? It's the annual Philadelphia Geek Awards...

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The Annual Philadelphia Geek Awards were this weekend, and they lived up to their reputation as one of the best parties in Philadelphia.

The Philly Geek Awards Team. Photo by Nathaniel Dobson, permission courtesy of Geekadelphia & Eric Smith.

The Philly Geek Awards Team. Photo by Nathaniel Dobson, permission courtesy of Geekadelphia & Eric Smith.

Hosted by the venerable Geekadelphia, the Philadelphia Geek Awards honor projects in thirteen categories, including: comics, film, artists, games, science, social media, startups, web, events, and more. They culminate with the Geek of the Year award, which this year went to Ather Sharif, founder of the accessibility research lab EvoX.

Read more about the Philly Geek Awards 2015 winners and nominees.

“Planning for the Philly Geek Awards kicks off in the beginning of the year,” says Eric Smith, co-founder of the event, who also announced a $2,000 grant for geeky activities in conjunction with the City of Philadelphia that night. “There’s a lot to plot out. Who will we talk to about sponsors? How many presenters? When do we want to announce nominees? Media partners? Design for the awards? Theme? The list goes on. A lot of time goes into a 4 hour event, but we love it.”

This year’s theme was Back to the Future, and the awards featured a countdown timer, an internal light show, and a hoverboard logo.

Fran Wilde and William Stallwell present the Games Award. Photo Credit Fran Wilde

Fran Wilde and William Stallwell present the Games Award. Photo Credit Fran Wilde

I was honored to be asked to co-present the Games Award with William Stallwood, founder of Cipher Prime. We weren’t as cool as Joel Hodgson (squeeee MST3K4EVA) and his lovely assistant Jason from the Black Tribbles, and we didn’t sing the nominees like the operatic Karina Kacala (seriously, following her was HARD), but we made it through and got to celebrate three great games developed in Philadelphia, including the winner: social meta-card game, Pretense, the mass-transit LARP, Soulfill, and the really-hard-to-say-on-stage-in-public without cursing (and also really fun) ClusterPuck99.

Here are some more photos from the event, brilliantly hosted by the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia! (If you’re in town next year, be sure to get a ticket to next year’s party.)

Philly Geek Awards! Photo Credit Fran Wilde Dino Ataaack! Philly Geek Awards. Photo credit Fran Wilde. Fran Wilde and William Stallwell present the Games Award. Photo Credit Fran Wilde Joel Hodgson (MST3K creator) and Jason Richardson do magic before presenting Geek of the Year. Photo Credit Fran Wilde The Philly Geek Awards Team. Photo by Nathaniel Dobson, permission courtesy of Geekadelphia and Eric Smith.

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