James Marsters at Boston Comic Con

I’m usually able to separate actors from their roles. I know that James Marsters isn’t Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and is a only guy doing a job well and getting paid for it.

But I still felt a little thrill sitting in the front row of his Q&A panel at Boston Comic Con last weekend. In a fifty-minute session, Marsters talked his role as Spike, working on Torchwood, his love for the Dresden Files series, and how he was a geek growing up.

It was clear Marsters had done this type of panel many times. He was relaxed and mellow but professional, deftly turning questions like, “Who was the better kisser, Sarah Michelle Geller or John Barrowman?” into talking about what it’s like to be working on a set.

“When kissing for film, it’s a very technical thing,” he said. “You have to avoid getting into each other’s light, for one. And usually, the more glamourous the image, the more work and the more technical it gets.”

Marsters did allow that his scenes with Barrowman taught him one thing: “Shave, because stubble is bad.”

He was excited at being asked if he’d like to play Harry Dresden in a film. “Duh,” he said, to applause. (Marsters reads the audio books of Jim Butcher’s popular urban fantasy series.)

And he was grateful for the circumstances that led him to be well-known enough to have panels at a comic con. “Getting famous as an artist is like going to Vegas. Talent and hard work will get you in the door but then you have to get lucky enough to hit the jackpot. I’m here because I got lucky.”

James Marstars during his panel at Boston Comic Con
Marsters at his Boston Comic Con panel. Photo by Corrina Lawson

Asked about the favorite thing he ever did on Buffy, he said it was the time he literally set himself on fire. There was a scene where Spike hands his hand over a candle and Marstars had a type of goo on his hands to prevent himself from being burned but was told it would be gone in four seconds. He thought it would be more authentic to hold it longer and held it for eight seconds. “I burned the heck out of my hand.”

He added, in response to another question, that his work on Buffy and Angel felt like working on the same show, because the writers were the same, the crew members were the same, and many of the actors were the same. And, in both shows, he did what he liked to do most, have his character “mess with the lead.”

The fifty minutes ended quickly and clearly Marsters had as much appreciation for his audience as they had for him, because he was part of fandom growing up. “I was the kid who painted big ears on himself to be Spock with “a big blond Afro,” he said.

I was able to tape a short segment where he sung a quick bit from his second album, so with apologies for not-so-great acoustics (this is from my iPhone 4s in a panel room), it’s definitely worth a listen.


A Meditation on Heroes: One Mom’s Journey to Artesia, New Mexico

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Photo used with permission.

“The thing about a hero, is even when it doesn’t look like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, he’s going to keep digging, he’s going to keep trying to do right and make up for what’s gone before, just because that’s who he is.” ~ Joss Whedon

Stephanie Izaguirre practices immigration law in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She’s worked for the State Department and USCIS (formerly INS) before going into private practice. Stephanie’s also a friend of mine, and we share a longtime love of certain shows, like Buffy and Firefly. When I saw her most recent Facebook updates, I knew GeekMom would want to meet her.

You see, I’ve seen news footage about the growing number of kids and families being housed in detention centers near the U.S. border, and I’ve wished I could do something. Stephanie?

Stephanie got in her car and drove to Artesia, New Mexico, to help.

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Photo courtesy Stephanie Izaguirre.

GeekMom: Why did you decide to travel to Artesia? 

Stephanie Izaguirre: Kids have always been my soft spot.  When Hurricane Katrina happened, my oldest child was just a few weeks old.  I saw pictures and heard stories of moms sending their babies out of New Orleans with family members to keep them safe. At the time, I remember thinking “I would never do that! What’s wrong with those moms? Why didn’t they plan better?” and then over time I realized that all moms love their children. We all make the best decisions with the knowledge and resources we have.

These moms locked up in Artesia—because the detention center in Artesia is just moms and kids—all made the best decision they could with what they had available and what they knew. Because of my work in immigration, I know the kinds of things that happen to immigrants in their journey here and women and children are among the most vulnerable. I have exactly the education and experience needed at this moment, I didn’t have a boss I needed to ask for permission, and the detention center was a day’s drive from my house. I was reading a report from another lawyer down there one evening and I just knew I had to go.

GM: What have you experienced in your time at Artesia?

SI: This is a hard question to answer. The women I met there are all fighters. They took incredible risks and traveled a huge distance with their children in tow in an effort to try to find a safe place for their children. They aren’t just looking for a better life; they are fleeing violence. Almost all of the women I met have a close friend or family member who has been killed. Almost all of them have received death threats—either to themselves or their children. Many of them were threatened by gangs in their country that if they didn’t pay extortion money to the gangs, one of their children would be killed. So they are scared. They don’t really know where they are. Artesia is a barren desert. There are no trees and no grass where they are being held. Most of the kids are sick with some sort of cough and at the moment there is a chicken pox outbreak. Many of the kids, especially the toddlers and younger kids, have diarrhea and aren’t really eating.

Trying to do legal work in this environment is a real challenge. There’s no daycare or school so the kids must be supervised by their moms at all times. This means that women are trying to talk to both lawyers, asylum officers, and judges with their kids in their arms or in the same room. Many women were breast-feeding their children and simultaneously trying to process complicated information that will change their lives. I’m actually a huge advocate of normalizing breastfeeding, but I also think that I might prefer to have someone else watch my infant while trying to explain a complicated story to the man whose decision will determine whether I get deported or not.

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Photo courtesy Stephanie Izaguirre.

Beyond the situation with the kids, things are happening so fast that there is no time to prepare. The lawyers get almost no notice of asylum or court hearings. I think the government is not doing that intentionally, but things are so happening so fast that there is just no time to prepare. Due process is a fancy legal term, but what it really means is fairness. Was the proceeding fair? Did you know what was going on and did you have time to prepare? When the answer is no, then that is a violation of due process, one of the most fundamental aspects of the legal system here.

GM: How do you think individuals can make a difference in the lives of others there and elsewhere?

SI: Sadly, there’s not much opportunity to make donations, either money or items. I think the best thing people can do now is talk about what is going on and make sure people know what is happening. This isn’t really an immigration problem, it’s a refugee problem. Most of these people came here because they know someone here but they left their countries because of violence.

GM: Do you plan to return?

SI: Yes. I don’t know when exactly but I’m already planning on going back.

GM: To me, what you’re doing is one kind of heroic act—stepping outside your life in order to help others, even when that’s not the easiest thing to do. I think everyone wants to be a hero in their own lives, and you’ve up and done it. Does it feel weird that I’m saying that? 

SI: I certainly don’t think of myself as a hero. I had the skill and resources to do it. Having said that, I don’t think anyone ever thinks of themselves as a hero (LOL, Buffy). Sometimes you are just in a particular place and the way forward is clear.

GM: You are a lawyer-warrior with a family—do your kids know how awesome their mom is?

SI: My daughter is 9, and my sons are 6 and 2. I’ve actually never met a child who understands immigration or why we deport people when their families live here. Having said that, my older two know I go to court to try to help people stay with their families. I told them that I was going to be gone for a few days to go help some moms and kids who were running away from people trying to hurt them. I think they understand that part. My kids have a pretty protected and privileged life and it’s important to me that they understand that they have an obligation to give back.

So yeah, I want them to live in a world where they know that they aren’t their things and they aren’t the privilege they have. They, and I, started from a pretty good place in life and that comes with an obligation to give back. It doesn’t have to be in the work of immigration but I want their lives to be about more than just themselves. Having said that, I also want them to live in a world where we don’t arbitrarily separate families because of borders. I’m actually not a policy person—I’m not sure where to draw the line of who we let in and who we keep out. But I do think that parents of U.S. citizens should be allowed to stay with their kids.

GM: Tell us a little about your own heroes (from media and real life).

BtVS, Season 2.

SI: I gotta talk about Buffy here for a moment. I’m about to out myself as a serious geek here. At the end of season 2, there’s a moment where Angel is telling her that she’s all alone—no one is coming to help her (I don’t remember the exact quote and I’m in the middle of nowhere to check), but he asks her what’s left and she takes her hands and stops the sword right in front of her face. What’s left? Me. That’s how I feel a lot in this job. What’s left to stop this person from being deported? Me. I often walk in to court scared and nervous. The stakes are really high and sometimes I wish I’d taken a job as a greeter at Walmart. But the client is depending on me and I take that very seriously. There’s a woman in Artesia now. She barely knows me and can’t really talk to me, but I will do everything I can to make sure she and her children aren’t deported.

Zoe from Firefly is another media hero—she’s a strong woman doesn’t take shit from anyone. And when I was a kid, Batman was my hero because he was just a regular guy who decided to make a difference.

In real life, one of my current heroes is Elizabeth Warren—she speaks the truth in the face of strong opposition and I like that.

GM: Know what else is amazing about Stephanie? Here’s what she says about her office: 

SI: My office is staffed by four amazing moms and myself. I mention that we are all moms because part of the reason I opened my own law firm was to work in a place where the work we did was important but that also respected the important role we as moms have.

The Albuquerque Journal has more information about the lawyers volunteering in Artesia, New Mexico.

V-Day Blues? Here Are Seven NON-Romantic Relationships You’ll Love

Only a tiny percentage of your meaningful relationships are likely to be romantic © Caden Crawford via Flickr
Only a tiny percentage of your meaningful relationships are likely to be romantic © Caden Crawford via Flickr

Valentine’s Day can make anyone not in a couple feel somewhat left out. If much popular media is to be believed then romantic relationships are the pinnacle of the connections we can share with other human beings. Forging a romantic pairing is often shown as one of the most important goals we can strive for in life; however for most of us these relationships form only a tiny fraction of the meaningful connections we will enjoy throughout our lives.

We form deep, meaningful bonds with our parents, siblings, teachers, colleagues, and friends that are every bit as powerful and rewarding as those we share with our partners—sometimes more so. We are starting to see more varied relationships on screen lately such as Frozen’s Anna and Elsa so I wanted to look at a variety of different relationships and how they are portrayed.

Sisters: Anna & Elsa (Frozen)
Without going too far into spoiler territory for those who haven’t yet seen Frozen, the relationship between royal sisters Elsa and Anna is something truly special. As young children they were as close as sisters could be, but after a near-tragic accident forces Elsa to pull away for reasons Anna can’t know, they must grow up estranged. Anna never stops hoping for reconciliation though, and even after she finds romantic love she seeks Elsa’s approval. What happens next sets off a series of catastrophic events, but sisterly love trumps all in this story and turns out to be the key to saving an entire kingdom.
Important Quote: “Do you want to build a snowman? Come on, let’s go and play. I never see you anymore. Come out the door. It’s like you’ve gone away.”

Sam & Dean Winchester in Supernatural © Warner Brothers
Sam & Dean Winchester in Supernatural © Warner Brothers

Brothers: Sam & Dean Winchester (Supernatural)
They say that blood is thicker than water and we’ve certainly seen enough of it spilled from Sam and Dean Winchester. The pair are so utterly committed to one another that they risk everything to save each other, including casting themselves into the fiery pits of Hell for all eternity. While I’m not advocating making deals with crossroads demons to keep your siblings safe, it’s a strong reminder of just how strong family ties can really be.
Important Quote: “All I’m saying, Sammy, all I’m saying, is that you’re my weak spot. You are, and I’m yours.”

Father/Daughter: Richard and Alexis Castle (Castle)
Watching your kids grow up is hard for every parent, but there’s something especially difficult about the single father/daughter dynamic. Alexis was 14 when Castle first began airing and since that day we’ve all watched her grow up as she progressed through high school, found and lost love, graduated, and moved on to college. Castle himself has watched these events too, often unsure of exactly how to help out whilst still allowing her to navigate her own path—especially difficult when his daughter was frequently the more mature one of the pair. However the two have always been there for one another to offer support and advice.
Important Quote: Alexis: “How come we never had a nanny?” Castle: “Well, your mother and I decided if someone was going to screw you up, we wanted it to be me.”

Mal and Zoe from Firefly © Fox
Mal and Zoe from Firefly © Fox

Friendship: Malcolm Reynolds and Zoe Washburne (Firefly)
Friendships formed in the armed forces can be some of the most long-lasting and powerful bonds you will form. There’s nothing like suffering a harrowing experience to really bring people together. Mal Reynolds served with Zoe Washburne (then Alleyne) during the Unification War and together they survived the devastating Battle of Serenity Valley, the only two in their platoon to make it out. After a brief stint with a “terrorist” group, Zoe joined up with Mal to serve aboard his new ship Serenity where the pair worked together so well that it caused occasional jealousy between Mal and Zoe’s eventual husband Wash.
Important Quote: “I wouldn’t stand for it anyway, Captain, jealous man like me.”

Bromance: Tony Stark and Bruce Banner (Marvel Universe)
Iron Man and The Hulk are two of the most layered characters in the Marvel universe; both have an outward image that masks the flawed, even damaged, men underneath it. By the beginning of The Avengers Bruce Banner has become so disenchanted with people’s reactions to him that he has effectively hidden himself away from the world. He instantly senses the fears of everyone involved when he is finally ousted from his private world. Tony Stark is the only person who doesn’t react that way and is simply delighted to meet him, even thrilled at Banner’s reputation, a reaction that genuinely surprises Bruce and sparks their friendship.
Important Quote: It’s good to meet you, Dr. Banner. Your work on anti-electron collisions is unparalleled. And I’m a huge fan of the way you lose control and turn into an enormous green rage monster.

Womance: Dana Scully & Monica Reyes (The X-Files)
A lot is made of the so-called “bromance” but little is ever said about its female counterpart. According to Urban Dictionary the word for this relationship is a “womance” but it is certainly not as commonplace. Monica Reyes’ character wasn’t introduced on The X-Files until season eight and didn’t become recurrent until season nine but this does not diminish the importance of her relationship with Agent Scully.

The relationship is best understood when considered within the context of the death of Scully’s only sister Melissa at the end of season three. Melissa was the polar opposite of her sister, a flighty spiritualist prone to taking off suddenly on journeys of self-discovery. However, the few scenes we saw of the pair together showed how close they were. Melissa’s death was a huge blow to Scully and left her with seemingly no close female friends excluding her mother for the several years until Monica’s appearance. Despite her initial wariness (trust no one after all) Scully became close friends with Monica who clearly began to fill the hole left by Melissa. As the show’s ninth and final season drew to a close they were clearly portrayed as close female friends, one of the relationships the show had yet to explore with Scully.
Important Quote:  “I was thinking that you reminded me of someone that I was close to—my sister.”

Buffy and Giles from Buffy The Vampire Slayer © Fox
Buffy and Giles from Buffy The Vampire Slayer © Fox

Mentor/Student: Buffy Summers and Rupert Giles (Buffy The Vampire Slayer)
The mentor/student relationship is most commonly seen between characters where the younger individual is lacking a parent and the older individual ends up filling that role to a greater or lesser extent. Giles took on a fatherly role to the entire Scooby Gang but mostly to Buffy, a relationship that far surpassed even the often intense bond between Watcher and Slayer. He not only supported her through her progression as a Slayer but personally too, a role that increased over the years especially after the sudden death of Buffy’s mother.
Important Quote: “If it’s guilt you’re looking for, Buffy, I’m not your man. All you will get from me is my support. And my respect.”

Colleagues: Dale Cooper and Harry Truman (Twin Peaks)
Dale Cooper’s approach to solving a case couldn’t really be more different from Harry Truman’s but together the pair began a partnership that was every bit as complimentary as Holmes and Watson. The relationship between the two is deeply rooted in respect and despite Truman having countless opportunities to ridicule Cooper, he never takes them up. Cooper and Truman are the perfect example of a yin and yang relationship where two wildly different types of people can work together perfectly to solve impossibly difficult problems.
Important Quote: “Agent Cooper is the finest lawman I’ve ever known. I’ve had nothing but respect for him since he arrived in Twin Peaks.”

This list is by no means comprehensive, I had to cut out more than I left in, so I’d love to hear about the relationships you love that have nothing to do with romance. Let me know your favorites.