Crying Bravo for ‘Cry Havoc’

Hanging on the window of my local comic store is a dark blue poster with the tagline, “It’s not about a lesbian werewolf going to war, except it kind of is.” The moment I saw it, Cry Havoc had my attention.

I’m still fairly new to reading comics, having only picked up my first book a couple years ago, so I am still trying to determine what it is that I like and what I do not. But, in my experience, if it is published by Image, I am likely to enjoy it, and this book is no exception.

Cry Havoc is like no book I’ve read before. Split into three different time periods – differentiated by color and colorist – the book tells the story of our protagonist Louise Canton from the beginning (blue), the middle (tan), and the end (red), jumping fluidly between the eras in each book. Though, regardless of how the scenes in the red part of the book are labeled, the twists at the end of each of the two books published show that something much deeper is going on than we have seen far and it only leaves me wanting more. Continue reading Crying Bravo for ‘Cry Havoc’

Comics Club-4-Kidz (February): Kid Tested, Kid Approved

Comics Club-4-Kids is a monthly club exploring comic books for a variety of  age ranges. Since some families have multiple age ranges, Comics Club-4-Kidz helps parents by finding similar themes across varying content so that families can have conversations together. Our intent is to approach literary analysis and information literacy through the use of comics. Character, narrative structure, problem solving/plot development, and visual text were chosen as the focus discussion points to help mirror what our kids are learning in school. Our goal is to help kids in schools or kids homeschooling find new ways to approach literacy.

This month’s theme: gender.

This month’s comics:  Power UP, Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur, and Superman/Wonder Woman.

Continue reading Comics Club-4-Kidz (February): Kid Tested, Kid Approved

Gather ‘Round Padawans (Part 11): The Vision

It’s interesting, considering the medium of choice, that all the Gather ‘Round Padawans have, thus far, dealt with human characters. Superhumans (Spider-Woman), Inhumans (Ms. Marvel), and formerly human (The Spectre) perhaps but all, at their core, humans.

Time to remedy that.

This time, I’m delving into the world of synthezoids or, rather, one synthezoid in particular. One who wants nothing more than to be human. To be one of us. To feel what we feel, to form the bonds we form, to connect to that greater thing we apes have by privilege rather than by right (and which a good many of the ants in the colony really don’t deserve): the human race.

In this, the eleventh Padawans, I want to focus on The Vision. Continue reading Gather ‘Round Padawans (Part 11): The Vision

Geeky Valentine’s Day DIY Gifts

Want to give your sweetheart something totally awesome, unique, and affordable? Check out these do-it-yourself geeky valentine’s gifts! From cards to decor, there’s a project for everyone!

Continue reading Geeky Valentine’s Day DIY Gifts

“Comics” Doesn’t Always Equal Kid Friendly. And That’s Okay.

(Herein lies some disturbing imagery. It is intended to make a point. I tried to keep the grosser stuff to comic panels that aren’t terribly realistic and toward the bottom. You have been warned.)

Continue reading “Comics” Doesn’t Always Equal Kid Friendly. And That’s Okay.

Literary Empathy, or How Spider-Woman Made Me Okay With Men Who Write Women

In recent years, some of my favorite female heroes have found themselves with their own titles. Women such as Princess Leia, Black Widow, and Spider-Woman leap off the page showing that women are just as hard core as their male counterparts. In every single one of these cases, I have only one slight disappointment and this is that the author was male. Every time, despite my excitement and adoration of the character and story, my heart sank a bit. Why, I asked myself, aren’t there women writing our stories? These are our heroes. Men have enough heroes of their own. Why can’t they stick to writing their heroes and give us a chance to write our own?

On the most logical level, I hate myself for asking these questions. I am a woman who defines herself more in terms of gender equality than the “women for women” feminism. These concerns are therefore causing an existential crisis. This gut reaction makes me feel sexist because I question men’s ability to write the female experience.

Continue reading Literary Empathy, or How Spider-Woman Made Me Okay With Men Who Write Women

Gather ‘Round Padawans (Part Eight): Ms. Marvel II

Who among us has never dreamed of being a superhero? If you clicked the link to this article, I imagine you have done so at least once in your life. I have done so many a time. I am thirty-seven and I still do it. I even wrote a superhero novel because if I can’t do it, my imaginary friends can.

When you envision yourself as part of the cape and tights brigade, are you being you or are you someone else? In fantasy land, I’m usually at least three inches taller and definitely fifty pounds thinner, I have ringlets instead of barely tamable frizz, a much cuter nose, and I can run in heels while brandishing my rapier wit. And a katana.

Continue reading Gather ‘Round Padawans (Part Eight): Ms. Marvel II

Gather ‘Round Padawans (Part Seven): Sam Wilson: Captain America

Captain America. The quintessential all-American hero. Nice Brooklyn boy willing to subject his body to medical experimentation to win the opportunity to fight for the little guy, freedom, and your grandma. Always has been. Still is even though someone else has taken up the title, the mantle, and the shield.

Steve’s thoughts on his chosen successor? “When I handed that shield over to Sam, it didn’t come with a rule book. I trust him to do what he thinks is best for our country.”

A large sector of the population, however, isn’t willing to accept the new Cap as “their” Cap despite Steve’s endorsement. Why? A questionable past? Does he booze it up with Stark? Go on shooting rampages? Run people down with his car on the sidewalk in Vegas? Sell drugs? Do drugs? Embezzle SHIELD funds? Play his music too loud? Kick puppies?


Sam Wilson is daring, daring, to Cap while African American.

Continue reading Gather ‘Round Padawans (Part Seven): Sam Wilson: Captain America

GeekMom Holiday Gift Guide #4: Toys and Lego!

Now that we’re in the second half of November, I know I’m not the only one starting to really flesh out my holiday shopping lists. Toys are almost always on kids’ wish lists (and many adults’ lists, as well!), so here are some of our favorite toys that we (or our kids) are wanting this year.

Continue reading GeekMom Holiday Gift Guide #4: Toys and Lego!

Why I Gave My Nephew Spider-Man

In our house, we limit screen time, maybe an hour a day. For the first two years, we capped TV watching at an hour a week.

We also tend away from the licensed products.

You know the ones I am talking about, the Elsa socks, Batman toothbrushes, or Elmo dolls. So imagine my husband’s surprise when I announced we were giving our two-year-old nephew Spider-Man for Christmas.

It all started with a sentence:

“I’m going to lose!”

Continue reading Why I Gave My Nephew Spider-Man

Archie Comics… On Broadway?

Photo via

If you thought that Archie’s new look was a wild, new approach to the classic comic book character, get ready to see him burst into song. Archie, Jughead, Veronica, and Betty will soon be like you’ve never seen them before, live and on Broadway!

Adam McKay, the writer/director behind Anchorman and The Other Guys, is working on the project with Archie Comics and Funny Or Die. Yes, I thought this had to be a Funny Or Die sketch at first. However, it turns out that the Riverdale gang is indeed packing up and heading for The Great White Way.

“Archie represents a bygone era of America. And like all bygone eras, there are elements we miss and elements that should be bygone,” said McKay. “This will be a musical that deals with both those realities in a bright, colorful, and slightly demented way.”

McKay is writing the book for the new show. The rest of the creative team and a start date will be announced at a later date.

A New Comic That Is Out of This World!

Image: Alex Kane, used with permission
Image: Alex Kane and Gale Galligan, used with permission

Kickstarter campaigns can attract a lot of attention, and often it can be hard to tell which ones are truly something special. But when one is featured on the Onion’s AV Club, and is publicly backed and tweeted about by Neil Gaiman, and becomes a Kickstarter staff pick, it becomes pretty clear that something spectacular is going on. I took a few minutes to catch up with the writer of Asphodel: A Mythic Space Opera, Alex Kane!

GeekMom Mel: Welcome, Alex! Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?

Alex Kane: Thank you for having me! I guess I’m mostly a short-story writer whose work falls under the broader category of science fiction, with a bit of fantasy and horror thrown in when the mood strikes. I’m also the managing editor of The Critical Press, where I copyedit and typeset books of film criticism and cultural commentary, as well as a submissions editor for Uncanny Magazine and an executive producer on the Star Wars documentary The Prequels Strike Back.

GMM: How did you get into writing? What has your path looked like so far?

AK: In college, I discovered there was a whole world of science fiction beyond movies, games, and media tie-ins—Star Wars novels were an early gateway drug for me—and also started collecting comics, like the Dark Horse Knights of the Old Republic series by John Jackson Miller. A few years later, working full-time as a retail banker, comics would become my salvation. But it was the discovery of voices like Philip K. Dick, Ursula Le Guin, Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Tobias Buckell, and books like King’s On Writing, that led me to try my hand at getting some short fiction published.

I’d written a really awful novel at thirteen, and had generally thought of myself as a writer for years, churning out attempts at a sequel and a number of embarrassing short stories, but by the time I was nineteen it had grown into an obsession. I made my first professional sale to Digital Science Fiction in 2011, while I was still in college, and soon thereafter earned a finalist status in the Writers of the Future contest, attended the 2013 Clarion West Writers Workshop, and made a handful of additional pro fiction sales, all the while putting pressure on myself to get better.

GMM: You have a new comic, Asphodel, up for funding on Kickstarter. What made you decide to make Asphodel a comic rather than a regular story?

AK: After Clarion West, the world started to look a lot different. I saw that a career in publishing meant making sacrifices, leaping at the first sign of an opportunity, and having the courage to really give it your absolute best shot—something that just isn’t possible when you’re working a job you hate, getting bullied by micromanaging coworkers over the phone, and having to smile through the abuse of yet another rightfully angry customer whom you can’t possibly satisfy.

That year of soul-scarring limbo saw the loss of both my paternal grandparents, a few months apart from one another, and almost zero fiction writing, despite all I’d learned at Clarion West the prior summer. But for one miserable year, I glimpsed the power of the comics medium with maximum clarity: Every day at work, even when management informed us that we were understaffed and not allowed to leave the building during lunch breaks, comic books allowed me ten to twenty minutes of blissful, absolute escape—physically, I was stuck in the break room, phones ringing all around me, but mentally? I was in the world of Eric Powell’s The Goon, or Gotham City, or some galaxy far, far away, immune to the horrors of the inevitable adulthood that lay ahead of me.

The day I put in my two weeks’ notice, I felt like Andy Dufresne crawling out the other side and getting baptized in the rain of renewed possibility. Comics had saved my life, far as I could tell, and I figured I owed it to myself, creatively, to try my hand at writing in the medium myself.

Image: Alex Kane, used with permission
Image: Alex Kane and Gale Galligan, used with permission

GMM: Did you know New Horizons would be reaching Pluto right during your Kickstarter? How does it feel to have a new vision of a place that you have written about?

AK: I had no idea. The story that became issue one of Asphodel began life at Clarion West in summer 2013, as a sketch I turned in for critique by Samuel R. Delany and my seventeen brilliant classmates, and I spent a year revising it in prose form, trying to get it to work—but ultimately it’s a story too big for just a short story. A novel series, or creator-owned comic, is really the best way to do justice to all the big ideas and worldbuilding.

Since it’s sort of the “crowd favorite” among the manuscripts I wrote at the workshop, I’ve made up my mind that it’s a story that deserves to be finished and done proper justice. The New Horizons images, and the incredible timing of that mission with our Kickstarter campaign, feels like only one more reason to get excited about this story I’ve spent more than a year turning into a comic book. It’ll be really useful for researching later issues, if and when the time comes.

GMM: Can you give us a quick overview of Asphodel?

AK: Asphodel is an underworld myth for space opera fans. Whenever you see a “god” of some sort in the realm of science fiction, it’s often in the form of a technologically advanced alien race, or an A.I., and I wanted to play with the concepts in Michio Kaku’s books, giving humanity a shot at godhood for once. But the characters are the real focus, and I think that really comes across well in Gale’s art style, which more closely resembles the work of cartoonists like Bryan O’Malley and Genndy Tartakovsky than mainstream comics artists. The result feels quiet and intimate, despite the galactic scope of the worldbuilding and the postwar aftermath that Vic and Sedna are caught up in.

GMM: What was it like to work with an artist? How well did she capture your vision?

AK: Gale Galligan contacted me after I posted a call for artists on a Facebook group for comics creators, and it was clear right away that she stood out for both the distinctive, professional artwork in her portfolio and her enthusiasm for the project. She really understands the kind of story I’ve wanted to tell for two years, and she’s a fantastic collaborator. It’s been amazing.

GMM: Neil Freaking Gaiman backed your Kickstarter, and then tweeted about it. That must have felt awesome.

AK: Neil’s so cool! He was my teacher during the second week of Clarion West two years ago, and he’s been an incredible source of inspiration and support. He was, by the way, not the easiest teacher to please—he really tore apart my writing piece by piece, and stitching it back together has proved to be one of the most crucial stages of my development as an artist. He really, really knows his stuff, and while I wouldn’t recommend being Neil Gaiman’s “teaching moment” to anyone looking to have their ego massaged, I will say that my writing’s benefited enormously from it. Having Neil on board with the Kickstarter and helping get the word out has really given me a nice boost in visibility, and I just love the guy. No one understands stories like he does.

Image: Twitter (public Twitter quote from @neilhimself)
Image: Twitter (public Twitter quote from @neilhimself)

GMM: What are some of your other interests? Tell us about your geek cred ;).

AK: I’m a huge Star Wars nerd, in case there was any doubt, and I play a lot of videogames. I’ve literally logged about a thousand hours in Bungie’s shared-world FPS, Destiny, and I tend to watch just about every Marvel, DC, and sci-fi movie that comes to theaters. I’m that guy who’s destroying pop culture—though I also voice my criticisms about science fiction and film pretty frequently, which I think makes up for it a little. At the end of the day, I always feel like there are too many comics in my stack, too many books on my shelf, too many movies I haven’t see and games I haven’t played yet. There’s no right or wrong way to be a geek—said the guy who’s never seen an episode of Doctor Who or Firefly—but there’s really a lot of great art being made, despite what jaded cynics on the Internet would have us all believe. Feel free to dismiss all my opinions on this if you must, though: I am one of the guys behind The Prequels Strike Back.

GMM: What were some of your inspirations growing up? Do you see ways these are reflected in your work now?

AK: The Empire Strikes Back, Attack of the Clones, Knights of the Old Republic. Halo 2! Really, I think most of my work reflects my love for all these flawed but richly drawn universes. I grew up watching space opera and playing videogames with spaceships and robots in them, so my most fruitful creative periods are usually spent developing worlds that feel a little like George Lucas’s, though mine tend to be a lot darker—more Blade Runner-meets-Alien in tone and feel. I’ll never forget the first time I read 2001: A Space Odyssey, or playing Halo 2 on day one.

Every time I move away from the genre, it’s not long before a book like Leviathan Wakes or Dark Orbit, or a movie like Guardians of the Galaxy, comes along to remind me how much life’s really left in it. Space opera has begun to grow up a little, thanks to some of the great SF writers of today. John Scalzi in particular has done a great service in making it more accessible.

GMM: So what’s up next for you? Any big plans in the works?

AK: I’ve gotten a little bit too comfortable with short fiction, and I think I’m at risk of repeating myself if I don’t take a bit of a break from it, so the next thing is either a novel or continuing the story of Asphodel with a limited series. Certainly the world of Asphodel is my focus for the foreseeable future. I have a horror novel I’m also working on, but you can never tell what’s going to happen with a particular project. If sales don’t lead to further issues of the comic book, the most likely course of action will be to write a novel set in that universe. I’ve pitched a nonfiction book on my favorite videogame, as well, and I’m still waiting to hear back from the publisher. It’s been a busy year, but I hope next year will be a whole lot busier.

GMM: Anything else you’d like to add?

AK: I’d love for anyone reading this to take a look at the Kickstarter and leave comments with any questions or feedback they might have about the comic. Asphodel represents two years’ worth of work, and it’s a real passion project for me. It has been so heartwarming and inspiring to see the reception the Kickstarter has gotten, but it’d be great if more people could share the project, and this interview, and help to get the word out—we’ve still got a long ways to go to reach our minimum funding goal, and the comic simply won’t happen if we don’t hit it.

GMM: Thanks so much for spending time with us, Alex, and best of luck with your Kickstarter!

Alex Kane is the managing editor of The Critical Press, a publisher of books on film and culture, as well as an executive producer of the Star Wars documentary The Prequels Strike Back. He also serves as a first reader for Uncanny Magazine and works full-time as a freelance copyeditor. A graduate of the 2013 Clarion West Writers Workshop, his fiction has appeared in more than a dozen venues, including the Exigencies anthology from Curbside Splendor’s Dark House imprint, edited by Richard Thomas, and he is the writer of the creator-owned comic Asphodel. His reviews and criticism have been published in Foundation, The New York Review of Science Fiction, SF Signal, and Omni, among other places. He lives in west-central Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @alexjkane.

Celebrate the History of ‘Peanuts’ with National Franklin Day

Photo: 20th Century Fox.

With the fifth full-length Peanuts film right around the corner (and the first in 35 years), now would be a great time to introduce your kids to the works of Charles M. Schulz.

And today, especially—it’s National Franklin Day! I’m not sure who came up with this “holiday,” but around my house, we love celebrating all things Peanuts just about every single day, which includes the franchise’s first African-American character.

In fact, we have been big fans of Franklin, Charlie Brown, and the rest of the gang for years. I’ve told my son on numerous occasions that he will be required to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas with me every year until he turns 18. (Sweetly, he tells me he’s willing to go beyond that age.) We watch all of the specials, have several DVDs, and even read the comics. Needless to say, we are pretty psyched for the new movie.

If you want to get your wee ones ahead of the game, the TV specials and comics are a perfect way to start. More specifically, you can talk to them about the impact of Franklin on the Peanuts franchise and comics in general.

Forty-seven years ago today, Franklin made his first appearance in Peanuts comics. He was actually inspired by a letter Schulz received from Harriet Glickman. Following the death of Martin Luther King, the school teacher urged the cartoonist to add an African-American character to the lineup. On July 31, 1968, Franklin Armstrong made his debut.

According to the people at Fox, Franklin is actually Charlie Brown’s best friend. Funny, I always thought it was Linus! A few other fun facts:

  • Franklin has been voiced by 19 actors over the years.
  • His favorite sport is ice hockey.
  • The Peanuts Movie will mark Franklin’s first appearance on-screen since 1999.

Check out a peek at Franklin’s upcoming film appearance in the trailer below. The Peanuts Movie will hit theaters on November 6, 2015.

Marvel Offers Unlimited Comics for 1 Cent

The Marvel Unlimited promotion is valid through July 27, 2015. Photo: Marvel.

Remember when you used to be able to get comics for just a few cents? Well, Marvel is making comics available for a penny—about 17,000 of them.

The company just announced plans to offer its Marvel Unlimited service for the introductory price of 1 cent. As part of the San Diego Comic-Con festivities, this deal will only be offered to new subscribers and only for the first month.

However, that’s an awful lot of eye candy for the price of well… penny candy. The collection features 75 years of Marvel Comics, which includes The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, Daredevil, Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, and so much more. If it seems really overwhelming (in a good way, of course), click over to the Discover section, which allows users to search by storylines, characters, or creators.

To get the discounted goods, you will need to use the promo code PENNY during your checkout process. Just know that this offer is only good through July 20, 2015. (Editor’s Note: The offer has been extended through July 27!) There are a few other restrictions as well. Like, don’t expect to cancel your current subscription to get the discount; the offer is only open to new and former (now-cancelled) members who have not subscribed with a promotional offer in the last 6 months. It also doesn’t work on gift subscriptions, Annual, or Annual Plus memberships. Make sure to read the fine print!

The Marvel Unlimited app is available on the iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. After the 1-cent promotional period is up, expect to pay $9.99 per month. However, that fee ensures that you’ll always have plenty to read, since both classic and new issues are being added on a weekly basis.

GeekMom Approved Reads for Surviving a ‘Sleepy Hollow’ Hiatus

Sleepy Hollow © Boom Studios
Sleepy Hollow © Boom Studios

It’s been six weeks since the Sleepy Hollow hiatus began, and if you’re anything like me you’re really starting to miss the weekly adventures of Abbie, Ichabod, Jenny, Frank, and the other inhabitants of the little New York town. I’ve been reading my way through the various Sleepy Hollow publications on offer to see which are worth reading over the summer. Continue reading GeekMom Approved Reads for Surviving a ‘Sleepy Hollow’ Hiatus

An Interview With Comic Book Artist and Writer Katie Cook!

Image: Action Lab Comics/Katie Cook

I recently had a chance to interview Katie Cook! Who is Katie Cook? Well, she is a comic book writer and artist, and has done licensed work for tiny franchises such as DC Comics, Marvel, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. She also frequents conventions and paints the most adorable little images, from video game characters to Star Wars to Harry Potter—and she takes requests! In a couple weeks, her webcomic, Gronk: A Monster’s Story, is going to be released into print by Action Lab Comics. I asked her a few questions about life around her corner of the nerdiverse.

GeekMom Mel: Hi Katie Cook! Welcome to GeekMom and thanks for doing this interview!

Katie Cook: Thanks for interviewing me!

GMM: How did you decide to become an artist? And did you always want to do comics, or did that come along later?

KC: I don’t know if I “decided” it… I’ve just never really wanted to be anything else! I really wanted to draw a newspaper comic strip… drawing longer form comics just kind of came from that (and I loved reading comics anyway… natural fit!).

GMM: I met you at Boston Comic Con, where I could barely get close to your table because of little geeklings (including mine!) crowding around to see your work. What’s that like for you? What’s it like by the end of the con?

KC: I LOVE kids. LOVE THEM. I have 2 of my own… knowing that my work is something that kids enjoy reading is amazing to me. And spending a convention weekend interacting with kid after kid after kid is just hysterical. I have the best conversations and I’m just beaming by the end of Sunday.

GMM: What is the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you at a con? Has anyone ever asked you to draw something particularly strange?

KC: I have many stories… many, many bizarre stories. I have an entire panel discussion at Emerald City Comic Con just to tell stories from my 10 years in the comic convention trenches. I can’t even begin to poke that iceberg now.

Image: Action Lab Comics/Katie Cook

GMM: I received Gronk: A Monster’s Story from Action Lab for review, and it is so utterly adorable and funny (“But this is the KITTY bath!”). Could you tell our readers a little about your process in making Gronk? What was the inspiration behind him?

KC: Gronk began as a character I designed back in college (so, so long ago, siiiiiiigh). She was actually a project about what *I* would look like as a monster! Since beginning the comic, I’ve since had kids. Gronk has evolved into the embodiment of my oldest daughter. (Fitting, no?)

GMM: You have many projects, from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic to F*ck You, Box (and other observations of my cat’s inner dialogue) to cute sketch cards and banners of movies and characters done in your own style. Do you have a favorite thing to work on?

KC: I like to draw cats. Caaaaaaaats! And Star Wars. If Star Wars cats were a comic, I’d want to work on it.

GMM: Rebels or Empire? Or…something else?

KC: Jedi! I can’t be the bad guy… my family roots are tied too closely with Canada.

GMM: How has parenthood changed your experience being a geek?

KC: I guess it’s made it more exciting? I have a whole flurry of things I can’t wait to share with my kids when they are old enough.

GMM: I’ll assume you, like many of us, had geeky leanings since your youth, and you remember what it was like growing up. What do you think is the best way a non-geeky parent can support their young nerdlings?

KC: Don’t discourage it! IF your kids likes comics… buy them comics (it’s reading!). If your kid likes Star Wars, don’t tell them it’s silly! I’ve seen parents tell their kids that it’s “ridiculous” to like superheroes and whatnot. What if you just turned who COULD have been the next George Lucas into an accountant with those words?!

GMM: What is your favorite part about being a mom?

KC: The absolute adoring look in my daughter’s eyes when they see me… they haven’t figured out what a dork I am yet.

Thank you so much for doing this interview, Katie! And you, people out there, be sure to check out Katie’s website where you can see all kinds of goodies as well as find out more about her new comic Gronk: A Monster’s Story, coming out March 24! You can also hear her chat about all manner of geekiness on episode 59 of the Once and Future Podcast (you might want to block the kids’ ears a bit for that one, though). I hope you enjoy her work as much as I do!

Passion and History in ‘She Makes Comics’

Image by Respect! Films

Being a geek is becoming more and more mainstream. Yet there are still stereotypes of what makes a geek a “geek.” Being a comic book fan is a quintessential sign, and often linked to the old-school idea of socially-inept, single guys. For women who proclaim their love of comics (like me), it’s just…strange.

But that is changing. I was just invited to a Fan Girls Night Out at my local comic store by another mom who is also into comics. There are more of us than you realize. And although it may seem new to the mainstream world, it is far from abnormal. The history of women in comics as both fans and within the industry stretches back to the beginning.

The new documentary She Makes Comics is an eye-opening and heartfelt look at women within the history of comics, and I highly recommend watching it. The film is directed by Marisa Stotter and produced by Patrick Meaney and Jordan Rennert of Respect!Films. It is executive produced by Sequart’s Julian Darius and Mike Phillips and by Columbia University comics librarian Karen Green. It is a series of interwoven interviews of passionate people with different roles and points of view. My teenage son and I watched it together, finding it informative and entertaining.

Did you know that women and men made up equal numbers of comic book readership before the 1950s? American comics were about many topics, had various settings, and reflected every possible interest. By the ’70s, women readers started to drop off dramatically, partly due to the focus on male superheroes as the best-seller comic book theme, as well as the feminist movement awakening a generation of women who were tired of the same “wedding bliss” ending. An underground women’s comic movement began, and it was fascinating listening to the creators talk about it on camera: both the excitement and the fears.

Several women really changed the comic book world, from Wendy Pini, the original chain-mail bikini awesome cosplayer who then created ElfQuest, to Janette Kahn, former publisher of DC who broke the glass ceiling, to Gail Simone, notable comic writer, and author of Women in Refrigerators, an unapologetic look at how female characters are unfairly treated in comic stories, to Kelly Sue DeConnick, the creator of the hugely popular female Captain Marvel, and many more.

How do women get into comics in the first place? Better comics. The consensus of the interviewees was: Give us a variety of women featured, complex characters, and in-depth storytelling. As an X-Men fan, it was cool to know how many other women in this film cited that series as their turn-on to the whole genre. The fact that the male creator of the series had two female editors makes sense. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman was another “gateway” comic, again, with a female editor. In fact, that editor, Karen Berger, is credited with developing the talents of some of the biggest names in comics for the past several decades.

I personally got into comics in the 1990s, and was quite alone. I took my two young children to the comic book store and was the only female there, let alone a mother. I found it interesting to hear about that time period. The film talked about how more women were getting into the creative side of comics then, but still not equally represented by a long-shot. The industry was not welcome to women or women-centered stories, but also, women are not as confidant in promoting themselves.

Comics used to be sold in supermarkets and bookstores, but then only in specific comic stores that were (and mostly still are) very much a bachelor den of boob posters and all-male staff who assume a girl is only there because she is dating a comic book fan. In 1994, a support organization for women in comics was created called Friends of Lulu which put out a book helping comic book stores understand how to attract more females to their stores—why shut out the biggest consumers in the country? The internet ushered in a huge change. This has given women a place to connect, collaborate, and share their love of comics. The film also mentions the influence of the manga craze during that time as well, with comics targeted to girls.

There is so much to this film, but what stood out to me most was the passion of the people interviewed, and the range of ages. I loved hearing from the elder pioneers in the industry, as well as the younger talents of today. Inspiring the next generation of comic creators came up a lot, and is something I support wholeheartedly. Everyone should be able to express themselves in whatever medium suits them best, boys and girls. Check out the film!

She Makes Comics is now available to order on DVD and as a digital download at

GeekMom received a copy for review purposes.

Wonder Woman’s Backstory Comes to Your Coffee Table

Wonder Woman: The Complete Newspaper Comics. Cover image: IDW Publishing.

Every superhero has an origin story. Hollywood can’t seem to get it together when it comes to putting Wonder Woman’s tale up on the big screen. (Sorry, but I’m not counting her appearance in 2016’s Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The Amazon Princess deserves her own movie! Here’s hoping the announced one actually is made.)

Until that moment happens, fans can indulge in a bit of her backstory with Wonder Woman: The Complete Newspaper Comics.

IDW Publishing worked with DC Entertainment and the Library of American Comics to produce this gorgeous coffee table book, which focuses on the world’s first and most kick-ass female superhero. This is the kind of thing you’d put out for guests that you’d actually want to stay for a little while. Captivating and entertaining, the book’s 196 pages features Wonder Woman’s entire newspaper run—the whole darn thing.

The Library of American Comics’ Bruce Canwell kicks off the book with an excellent essay, which includes a little backstory about the comic and the character, as well as a peek at some promotional materials, original sketches, and other tidbits. It’s just a few pages, so don’t expect anything comprehensive, but it’s an awesome few pages.

From there, the rest of the book has all of the black-and-white comics that ran in newspapers from May 1, 1943 until December 1, 1944. It ran six days a week, so there’s a ton of material and characters to comb through. Steve Trevor, Etta Candy, Cheetah, and many more are all represented here. There’s info on Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth, her bracelets, and even the Invisible Plane. Some of the storylines may seem a little very familiar and some is a bit dated, but this is part of comics (and superhero) history. It’s also really cool. The imagery is insanely detailed, which is especially awesome, because you have to remember that this is the first time that these particular comics have been printed since their original run.

The $49.99 price tag may seem a little steep, but this book is well worth the cost. The material created by writer William Moulton Marston and artist Harry G. Peters is something to experience. And this is one good looking collection that will certainly warrant repeat reading. If you are a fan or have a Wonder Woman fan in your life, it would be hard to find a better gift than Wonder Woman: The Complete Newspaper Comics. Consider your holiday shopping complete!

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Comics: A Candy Alternative for Halloween

Boom Studios Comics for Halloween
Boom Studios Comics for Halloween

Halloween is definitely the sweetest of holidays and, with the overwhelming amount of candy given out, it’s nice to have an alternative to the sugar frenzy. Why not be the coolest house on the block and hand out comic books?

This year Boom Studios will be offering a KaBOOM! Trick or Treat Pack, a pack of 50 assorted all-ages-friendly comics for a special discounted price of just $19.99, available from their online store. It’s an amazing package that’s over $200 in value and includes favorite titles like Adventure Time, Regular Show, Peanuts, and Garfield.

Handing out issues of popular comics promotes reading, creativity, and is a healthy alternative to seasonal candy!

Note: This offer is for a limited time and packs may contain duplicate issues, individual comics will not be placed in bags and boards. All orders must be placed by Oct. 22nd to be received by Halloween.

Pirate Day Book Review: Scott Chantler’s Pirates of the Silver Coast

Image courtesy of Scott Chantler.

Abandon yer landlubber ways and set sail with the Cutlass: Read Pirates of the Silver Coast, an all-ages fantasy adventure graphic novel by Canadian cartoonist Scott Chantler. It features a feisty, adventurous girl seeking her lost brother in a fantasy medieval setting. In this fifth story in the Three Thieves series, former circus acrobat Dessa is seeking her kidnapped twin brother Jared, along with her two companions, Fisk and Topper.

At the opening of the book, Dessa is waiting for a broken leg to heal and hiding with her two companions. Topper is a small blue being, who is quick-thinking and loves a good risk. Fisk, on the other hand, is a quiet, huge and gentle creature, who has been outcast from his tribe. To proceed with their mission, the three need funds. Raising funds and seeking Dessa’s brother while under pursuit by the evil queen’s guard, using the highly sought-after map to a mysterious island that Dessa acquired in the previous issue, gets this tale off to an in-your-face start.

Image courtesy of Scott Chantler.

Once the trio have purchased safe passage on the Cutlass, they get to mix it up with pirates—several times. Some people are surprisingly piratical, some pirates are surprisingly human, and our friends require bravery, trickery, feats of strength, or leaps of faith to continue the journey without piratical penalties. At the end of the book, I wanted to keep reading to find out the resolution to all of the dangling questions and intriguing situations. I would love to read this book with youngsters in my life.

Since I have not yet read the preceding volumes in the series, I did not have a strong sense of the characters’ history or personalities. Dessa and Topper tell us who they are quickly through their actions, but Fisk is so quiet that his other characteristics are hard to discern. There is a sense in this story of payoff from earlier story investments, as if the series is a big Jenga tower and this episode is the point where we start worrying about each move we make.

Chantler’s art and writing move the story along briskly and convey the plot clearly. I did not have to study panels to figure out what was happening, but sometimes I studied a panel just for the fun of it. The art style is uncluttered and direct with clean lines, a somewhat painterly style, and the pages vary between bright primary colors and more muted, neutral palettes, depending on the atmosphere. My favorite line was, “By the great mermaid’s clamshells!” and my favorite image was of Fisk gliding through the air with his head up and his arms wide. Not because it is particularly artsy or beautiful, but because it looks both fun and serene—and it’s effective, in story terms. Images like this make it easy to hope to see this story as an animated or live-action film.

Image (c) Scott Chantler Image (c) Scott Chantler

Q&A With Scott Chantler

GeekMom: Did you have any particular inspiration or goal in designing your main characters? We love strong female protagonists at GeekMom, but Dessa’s posse is interesting too.

Scott Chantler: Topper and Fisk are characters I’ve been kicking around since university. There’s an old drawing of them in one of my sketchbooks from probably 1993. So those are characters who have been with me a while, just waiting to pop up as sidekicks somewhere.

Dessa herself came much later. My original 2006 concept for Three Thieves had a boy lead. Before actually pitching it, I changed it to a girl. It just felt a little less cliché, and maybe made her seem a little bit more vulnerable out there in that pseudo-Medieval man’s world. You’re seeing a lot more female heroes in comics lately, especially in all-ages books. In fact, a lot of them are using “strong female characters!” as a sort of feminist marketing hook. Which is fine, but Kids Can has never publicized the Three Thieves books that way, which I’m happy about. That Dessa is a girl has never been a big deal (Pirates is the first book in the series to reference to it as a plot point.) Because it shouldn’t be. I certainly wasn’t trying to force some kind of social justice agenda. The themes of the series are more universal than that.

GM: Without serious spoilers, what was your favorite part of creating Pirates of the Silver Coast and/or the Three Thieves series?

SC: The entire series is just a blast to work on. But Book Four (The King’s Dragon) was pretty dark, so I purposefully wanted to make this one light and fun. Of the five books so far, it was the easiest to write. It’s a little shorter than the others, so that helped. But it also ends with a couple of big twists that I’ve been working toward for years now, so I always knew exactly where I was going. Finally arriving at those scenes was really satisfying.

GM: Who did you read as a child and who do you read now?

SC: When I was very young, I was all about superhero comics. When I hit my teens, it was more about fantasy comics and fantasy novels. Conan the Barbarian, DC’s Warlord, Terry Brooks’s Sword of Shannara, etc., Tolkien of course. A lot of that stuff ended up in forming the Three Thieves books.

As an adult, I’ll read pretty much anything. Fiction, non-fiction, genre stuff or “literary” stuff, comics, or prose… I just like to read. Prose-wise, I’m finishing up Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter’s The Monuments Men. Comics-wise, I’m re-reading the ‘90s Vertigo classic Sandman Mystery Theatre.

GM: Do you prefer writing or art? Do you ever wish you were collaborating on the book creation?

SC: Cartoonists get this question a lot, and it’s always puzzling to us, because in comics the art is the writing. Most of us don’t think of them as two separate things. We’re people who “write” with pictures. That said, the script stage goes faster than the drawing does. But it’s also less satisfying than looking at the giant pile of art boards you’ve got when you’re finished. So it’s a toss-up.

And no, I don’t wish for a collaboration. We can all name some successful writer/artist teams who seem to share a vision, but that seems to be the exception rather than the rule. I think a true synthesis between word and image is best achieved when those two things are married inside a single creator.

GM: What is the hardest part of the process of creating your comics?

SC: The drawing stage takes a long time—longer than I’m sure most people would imagine. Drawing comics is more fun than digging ditches for sure, but sometimes when you’re several months (or years, in some artists’ cases) into the process, it’s hard to remember that. Many of us also work in isolation, which makes it tough, too. There’s no one around to give you a pep talk when you need one.

GM: Any tips for kids or adults interested in pursuing comics?

SC: Drawing skills are important, of course, but I would stress to them that comics aren’t simply heavily-illustrated books, but a unique storytelling language. And mastering that language involves so much more than drawing. You need to think about what to draw, not just how to draw, and that means studying drama, studying film, studying movement, studying iconography, studying anything that helps get ideas across to readers, visually. Creating comics isn’t about picture-making; it’s about communication. The best cartoonists aren’t the ones who draw the coolest-looking stuff. They’re the ones who can translate their ideas most effectively into simple, clear, dramatic imagery.

(GM: Amen, brother!)

Thanks to Scott for that insight into the life of an artist and writer. You can see the trailer for Pirates of the Silver Coast and buy the book at Scott’s website. Pirates of the Silver Coast is 96 pages from Kids Can Press. It sells for $8.06 and is suggested for ages 8-10.

Halloween ComicFest Brings Free, Fun Comics to Halloween

Halloween ComicFest offers mini-comic book bundles for Halloween. Image: HCF Facebook page.

What’s better than Free Comic Book Day? Two Free Comic Book Days each year!

Good news for all of our comic book lovers: Another fun day offering free comic books is heading your way: Halloween ComicFest, featuring Halloween-themed comics. While most shops will celebrate on the designated date of Saturday, October 25, some shops are planning to go all out on Halloween or accommodate other dates. Check with your local shop for their date.

Halloween ComicFest is a single-day event when local comic shops offer free comics with a Halloween theme. Many shops also plan fun activities such as costume contests, giveaways, sales, guest appearances by comic artists and celebrities, and more. Starting October 1, some shops will have packs of 20 mini-comics for sale for $4.99, so you can hand them out to trick-or-treaters or use them as party favors. Over 1,500 shops are participating in HCF, so remember to check in with your shop!

The 19 free comics come in two sizes: 12 full-size and 7 mini-comics.

  • Full-size comic examples include Rachel Rising #1, Scooby Doo Team Up #1 Featuring Batman, Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #1, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and Afterlife with Archie, which got tons of positive talk this past season. Additionally, who can resist Hero Cats/Princeless or Fathom: The Adventures of Ernie, featuring an adorable seahorse in a lovely aquatic world on the cover?
  • Mini-comics include Vamplets: The Undead Pet Society, Angry Birds, Betty and Veronica, Plants vs. Zombies: Timepocalypse, and more.

When you get one of the free comics, you are eligible for the “Greatest Halloween Contest Ever.” Just take a picture in costume while holding a HCF2014 comic and submit the photo to HCF at Watch the HCF Facebook page or follow them on Twitter at @halloweencomic to avoid scary developments!

HCF mini comics. Screencap from HCF website.
HCF full-size comics. Screencap from HCF website.

Everstar: From EarthGirl to Spaceship Captain

Page from Everstar, courtesy Thrillbent.

What happens when a rambunctious eleven-year-old girl becomes the captain of her very own spaceship?


Everstar, a new webseries created by Rebecca Tinker, written by Tinker and drawn by Joie Brown, will be released Friday, August 8, at and through Thrillbent’s free app. Thrillbent offered me an advance look at the first two installments and, if the rest is anything like the first two, this creative team has hit the mark perfectly.

Ainslie Wickett is an 11-year-old girl growing up on the New England coast. Left alone atop a lighthouse with electronic signaling devices, Ainslie can’t resist the temptation to try them out. But instead of communicating with ships at sea, she accidentally sends out an intergalactic SOS. Oops.

Her call is answered by a rogue spaceship and they take Ainslie and her best friend George on board. The creators promise encounters with pirates, malfunctioning robots, and space battles galore. It’s a given that Ainslie retains her ability to get both in and out of trouble.

The spaceship Everstar. Image courtesy Thrillbent.

“I’m a huge SF fan but there’s not a lot of SF comic out there for young girls, particularly going on a grand adventure in a wild environment,” Tinker said in an interview last week. She said her influences were superhero comics, Sailor Moon, and that “Tamora Pierce was my absolute favorite.”

I asked her about a sequence that particularly struck me, in which Ainslie and George surf the waves on a sailboat. “I was a sailor for a long time as a kid and I’m pulling from exactly the kind of things I did as a kid. I wanted to have that backdrop to start the series.”

Tinker , a graduate of Emerson College and an Executive Assistant at Thrillbent co-founder John Rogers’ television production company, originally developed this concept for television. “I showed it to him and he thought it would make a good script.”

The next step was finding an artist to make the vision become real. Tinker spotted Brown’s artwork originally at WonderCon.

“She specifically pointed to a couple of pieces in my portfolio,” Brown said. A few art exchanges later, and the match was sealed. Brown said her artwork reflects a mix of influences: manga, favorite children’s books, and a little bit of Adventure Time. Brown allowed that there’s one other influence: Sonic the Hedgehog. “I was wild for it growing up and if you look closely at my work, you can see the influences.”

Page from Everstar, courtesy

She said she was thrilled to be working on Everstar.  “I was just over the moon about the story. It feels like something I would have come up with,” Brown said. “Everything just clicked for us.” Tinker said the artwork turned out “better than I could have imagined.”

Mark Waid, co-founder of Thrillbent, said the site decided on Everstar specifically because it is aimed at a demographic that they don’t currently serve.

“We’re really excited to be doing this because it’s a really good comic and the bonus is that it reaches a different audience,” Waid said.

Everstar will update weekly on Wednesday. The first installment up today is free. Later installments will be available via the $3.99 subscription price for the site, which features more than a dozen webcomics and eight short stories.

Guardians of the Galaxy is as Good as You’ve Heard

© Marvel Comics
Image provided by Disney.

When a film gets such nearly universal glowing praise as Guardians of the Galaxy has, all those accolades can inflate expectations to such a degree that nothing could ever live up to them. So I realize that I’m only adding to the hype here when I say that Guardians of the Galaxy is every bit as epic, irreverent and plain old fun as you could hope it to be. But that’s just the way it is.

Director and co-writer James Gunn and co-writer Nicole Perlman, who is rumored to also have a script for a Black Widow floating out there (ohpleasemakethishappen), expertly traverse a diverse color palette of tones, always keeping that core of lighthearted mischief at the center. If you’ve seen the trailers, you should already have a good idea of what you’re in for, but rest assured that there are so many fantastic moments you haven’t seen yet, and they’re not all jokes.

Take the first five minutes, which punch you in the gut with a heart-wrenching death scene and then immediately whisk you away to the far reaches of the cosmos for a goofy solo dance number. You might think this would give the viewer a kind of emotional whiplash, and it does, but it also serves to establish a range right off the bat, to let you know that despite the jokes there are actual, emotional stakes here.

That sequence also does a great job introducing us to the film’s lead character, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), or as he likes to call himself, Star-Lord. Abducted from Earth as a boy, he was raised by a group of intergalactic outlaws known as Ravagers. Pratt infuses the character with his personal charm and unassuming heroism, and damn near carries the movie on his broad shoulders alone.

When Peter steals a mysterious orb and attempts to double cross the Ravagers by attempting to fence it himself, he becomes the target of a number of unsavory operators. Among them is the deadly assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the adopted daughter of powerful supervillain Thanos (who is mentioned more than he is seen, but is played by Josh Brolin in the quick glimpses we do get). She is sent to retrieve the orb by genocidal buzzkill Ronan (Lee Pace), who is in league with Thanos and becomes the de facto antagonist of the film. But Gamora has her own ideas, and her motives line up more closely with Peter’s than either of the big baddies.

Also on Peter’s tail are a pair of scrappy bounty hunters: Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a wisecracking genetic anomaly who also happens to be a brilliant escape artist; and Groot, a sentient tree-man whose vocabulary is limited to the words “I am Groot,” exclusively in that order (those three words are given proper weight by Vin Diesel). These two are so good together they could support their own spinoff film, or an HBO series. If it weren’t for the inherent likability of Pratt and the formidable screen presence of Saldana, they would steal every scene out from under them.

The four come to blows and land in prison, where they add one final member to the team, Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), a muscle-bound brawler craving vengeance against Ronan for the death of his wife and child. He joins up with Peter, Gamora, Rocket, and Groot when he finds out that their mission intersects with his own and may bring him closer to the subject of his wrath. To his, and everyone’s, surprise, he finds himself coming to respect and even trust his new companions as they work together toward a common goal.

Guardians of the Galaxy Image Marvel Studios
Image provided by Disney.

The impact this film will have on different audiences is bound to vary, depending on their familiarity with the source material and the Marvel universe. For those who know the Guardians of the Galaxy comics, the changes in many of the origin stories may be disconcerting at first, but it’s not hard to see why Gunn and Perlman made those choices.

As if to make up for that, there are some Easter eggs thrown in that only those fans will get. If you only know the Marvel movie universe, there are a few morsels thrown your way too, though some of them won’t pay off until far down the road in future films. And if you have no familiarity with any of those things, you’ll still have a great time discovering these characters and this world.

Be warned that the introductions fly by almost too fast, though. If there’s one issue I have with the film (and it’s a minuscule one compared to all the other great stuff), it’s that it moves at such a brisk pace there’s hardly any time to absorb all the new features of this cosmos before we’re thrown hurtling through it. Those familiar with the outskirts of the Marvel universe probably won’t be thrown off by the references to things like the Nova Corps, Xandar, and the Kree race, but everyone else may find themselves playing a bit of catch-up during the first act. Of course, that won’t be as much of a problem the second time you see it. Or the third. Or the fourth.

It’s also important to note the essential role that the soundtrack plays in Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s not just background music; it’s a part of the story. Peter’s Walkman and mixtape, which he had with him the night of his abduction from Earth, are his prized possessions and his only connection to his home planet and long-lost mother. The filmmakers took great care in selecting each ’70s track not just for its sound but for its thematic relevance to the story. From the catchy “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Swede to the Jackson 5’s groovy “I Want You Back” to Redbone’s soulful “Come and Get Your Love” to the punky “Cherry Bomb” by The Runaways, these songs are the film’s beating heart.

For those who keep track of these things, Guardians of the Galaxy does pass the Bechdel test, but only just barely. There are a few quick exchanges between Gamora and her half-sister Nebula (Karen Gillen) during a pretty awesome fight sequence that hint at a much deeper story for both of them. Gillen looks amazing in her blue makeup and prosthetics, but Nebula amounts to little more than a one-note henchwoman for Ronan. The film doesn’t have the time to go into the relationship or history between these two fascinating female characters, which I would have loved to have seen.

In an era where sequels dominate the box office, it’s wonderful to see a giddy, visually spectacular, original film (at least, original in the sense that the title doesn’t have a Roman numeral after it) like Guardians of the Galaxy emerge from the pack to become the must-see movie of the summer.

And make no mistake, if you like science-fiction, comedy, action, or things that are good in general, you must see this movie.

Gene Luen Yang Talks About The Shadow Hero

Image by First Second.

I hope everyone has picked up a copy of The Shadow Hero for you and your kids’ summer reading. If not, read my review on why you should! Plus, here’s an interview with the writer, Gene Luen Yang:

GeekMom: How was the story and art divided between you and Sonny Liew? What is your creative process?

Gene Luen Yang: I did the writing and Sonny did the art. There was some overlap, of course. Comic books by their very nature demand that the text and the visuals interact, so the writer and the artist have to interact.

I wrote the book as thumbnail sketches—rough sketches of what each page should look like. Sonny reframed the panels that weren’t working. He did all the character designs. He also did extensive visual research on the time period to give the book the proper look and feel.

GM: Who found out about The Green Turtle comic? And how?

GLM: My friend and fellow cartoonist Derek Kirk Kim first pointed it out to me. (If you’re unfamiliar with Derek’s work, I highly recommend it. His latest, Tune, is a wonderful sci-fi rom-com graphic novel series.) Derek had read about the character on Pappy’s Golden Age Blogzine, a blog about obscure Golden Age superheroes.

As soon as I learned the rumors surrounding The Green Turtle’s creation, I became fascinated with him. Was he a Chinese American or wasn’t he? Chu Hing, his creator, never gives his reader a definitive answer. I really wanted that definitive answer, so I teamed up with Sonny Liew to provide one.

GM: I like The Shadow Hero a lot because it has a great blend of action, character, good plot, and humor. The mother is very funny! How did her character come to be?

GLM: Thank you! Hank’s mother was inspired by a few of the ladies at my home church. I grew up in a Chinese American Catholic community. Many of the “aunties” were very much like Hank’s mom. They were well-meaning, but also very… opinionated. Their hearts were always in the right place.

GM: I am currently running an Asian cultural studies camp for teens, and we talked about old stereotypes of Asians in the media (film, tv, comics, etc.). The kids were totally baffled at the caricatures depicted from the turn of the previous century and early decades. What would you like my students to know about Asian stereotypes in today’s media?

GLM: I think that’s great! I’m glad today’s kids are baffled by the caricatures from a century ago. It means things are different now. It means we’re growing in our understanding of culture.

At the same time, stereotypes of Asians and Asian-Americans still pervade today’s media. An Asian or Asian-American character’s ethnicity can sometimes be used as a lazy way of flattening her, of sidestepping her humanness. Pay attention and you’ll see it. The long-term solution—or at least one of the long-term solutions—is to tell better stories about Asian-Americans.

GM: The Shadow Hero certainly sets things up for more adventures. Are you planning on telling more?

GLM: I have vague notions of doing two more Shadow Hero books: One about the relationship between early Chinatown and early Japantown, another about The Green Turtle in post-World-War-II China. Nothing’s set, though. We’ll see how this first book does.

A big thank you to Gene for taking the time to answer my questions! Here’s to more of The Shadow Hero.

Everyone Should Meet The Shadow Hero

Image By First Second

“Look at this.” I showed page twenty-nine of The Shadow Hero to my daughter, who has been taking a comics and cartooning class. “You see how your eye flows around the page, the action and reaction shots branch out in all direction, yet clear storytelling and speech bubbles properly placed—brilliant comic montage! And check out this completely different take on page 105, artistically reflective of the spinning barrel of a gun as the panels…”

I’m not an artist, but wow, do I appreciate a good one. First Second has put out a superhero graphic novel with ties to the history of comics, racism, and the duality of first generation Americans, in an entertaining format that young YA and up will enjoy.

Gene Luen Yang, creator of award winning American Born Chinese, and Sonny Liew, who recently did a graphic adaptation of Sense & Sensibility, have come together to introduce The Shadow Hero. It is the origin story for a long-forgotten comic superhero from the 1940s: The Green Turtle. As a history geek, I was curious to hear there was an Asian-American comic so long ago, since mainstream comics are amazingly white and male. Yang explains that in 1944, Blazing Comics asked Chu Hing to create an original superhero for them. Hing came up with The Green Turtle, but not everything is clear about this superhero during his brief run.

Yang and Liew have filled in the past with The Shadow Hero. Yang is a powerhouse in the graphic novel world, and does not disappoint. The story takes place in West Coast Chinatown during the early twentieth century. Hank is a young, handsome, nice guy, whose only goal in life is to be just like his father: an honest grocer. But then his mother decides her son should become a superhero, and since his father has an ancient Chinese spirit residing in his shadow, fate leads Hank to become more than he had planned.

Although Hank is our hero, his mother, Hua, is my favorite character. Starting with her resignation of the drabness of American life, to her being flattered that another superhero was checking out her “bosom” (really a hidden pork bun), to her inability to keep her son’s dual identity a secret, this lady made me laugh.

Speaking of women, although there is a kick-ass, sexy romantic interest here, she isn’t the only girl around. Not only is the mother a big role, but there are two other dangerous women introduced. Yay!

The plot is fast-paced, the dialogue true, and the artwork brings a likable personality to the world. Besides page 29, there is creative use of the comic format throughout, especially during the action scenes. I really liked the ending (defeat by the clever use of words!), and hope there is more to come.

The Shadow Hero comes out in July. GeekMom received a copy for review purposes.

We Love Fine “Carol Corps” Shirts Now Available For Kids

We Love Fine
Image: We Love Fine

We Love Fine features a great line of shirts by artist Kelly Sue DeConnick, who writes the Captain Marvel and Avengers Assemble series for Marvel Comics. The only problem is that they haven’t had them available in kids’ sizes, so her littlest fans have been left out of the fun—until now.

Wee Love Fine Princess Sparklefists
Image: We love Fine

The “Princess Sparklefists” and “Carol Corps” designs are now available in both toddler and youth sizes! They’ve also introduced a gorgeous brand new design called “Every Little Girl Flies” that’s available in men’s, women’s, and kids’ sizes in your choice of several colors.

We Love Fine Girl Flies
Image: We Love Fine

DeConnick didn’t just specially designed these shirts; she is also doing some good by donating her curation commission to the Girls Leadership Institute. This non-profit organization aims to educate and empower girls through a variety of programs designed to help them become leaders who know they can change the world.

We Love Fine Carol Corps
Image: We Love Fine

Check out all of the designs and pick up some great T-shirts for summer while helping a worthy cause.

Lumberjanes #1: Friendship to the Max!

Lumberjanes cover
Image by Boom! Studios

Lumberjanes is the new all-ages comic from Boom! Studios, and given that it’s girl/women/Hardcore Lady Types centric, it makes for a spectacular good time for everyone from kids to adults.

Created for Boom! Box by Grace Ellis and Boom! Senior Editor Shannon Watters, the series is written by Noelle Stevenson and Ellis, and illustrated by Brooke Allen, with fabulous exclusive covers available at various comic cons. Boom! bills it as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Gravity Falls,” and you don’t have to tell me twice, that combination sounds amazing. I’ve already seen a ton of cosplay online, pretty good for a book that’s just been released!

The comic centers around five scout pals, Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley. If you can’t see yourself in one of the characters, there’s a good chance you’ll see yourself in all of them. The girls are at a summer camp like no other, with freaky crazed creatures and, of course, kittens.

Lumberjanes is more than just entertaining adventures and fighting mysterious creatures. Those two things together are already satisfying, but there’s a great underlying story of friendship, or “Friendship to the Max!” as they say in the book. That friendship is going to get them through all the weirdness that is sure to come their way in future issues.

Name dropping great female historical and pop culture role models like Bessie Coleman and Joan Jett should tell you this comic is all about female empowerment mixed in with a whole lot of fun. I can’t wait to see what other adventures and terrors the girls come across in the future. For now let’s all commit the Lumberjanes pledge to memory, and go find some plaid shirts.

Buffy’s Back! Complete Recap for Newbies and Returning Fans

Buffy the Vampire Slayer © Dark Horse
Buffy the Vampire Slayer © Dark Horse

Since its premiere in 1997, Buffy the Vampire Slayer has established itself as a perennial favorite both to a core of die-hard Whedonites and to a broader mainstream audience. The show wrapped in 2003 after seven seasons on television but returned for an eighth in 2007, this time as a comic series from Dark Horse. The series was so popular that the initial 25-issue run was expanded out to 40. In 2011 the series returned for Season Nine wrapping at the end of last year, and this week the tenth season has begun.

The beginning of a new season is a great jumping on point for anyone interested in joining the Buffy-verse for the first time, or for those returning after an absence. However with nine seasons of backstory there’s now a lot of history to get through. All seven seasons of the TV show are currently available on Netflix and Amazon Instant Video but that’s a whole lot to sit through even for those with a lot of spare time, and that’s before you get to the comics. So for those of you interested in diving headlong into the show again, here’s a (mostly) spoiler-free recap of the road so far.

Buffy Season One (Giles, Buffy, Xander and Willow) © Fox
Buffy Season One (Giles, Buffy, Xander, and Willow) © Fox

Season One
After being expelled from school, 16-year-old Buffy Summers and her mother move to Sunnydale, California, in the hopes of starting afresh. Secretly Buffy hopes to leave behind her life as a vampire slayer but life isn’t that simple and within her first day at Sunnydale High the supernatural is already closing in on her. Soon she teams up with fellow students Willow Rosenberg and Xander Harris who, along with Watcher/school librarian Rupert Giles, form the Scoobies – a team who will go on to fight evil in countless forms over the coming years.

Season Two
The relationships established in season one increase in complexity during the show’s second outing. Xander hooks up with school top dog Cordelia and Willow with Oz, a guitar player with a canine secret of his own. Even Giles gets in on the action by establishing a relationship with computer science teacher Jenny. However these relationships and the issues they encounter pale in comparison to Buffy’s own relationship with Angel which will irrevocably affect everyone around them.

Season Three
Buffy returns to Sunnydale after unsuccessfully attempting to start a new life in LA and she’s not the only person arriving in town. The Watcher’s council send in Wesley Price to replace Giles, fearing that he has become too emotionally attached to Buffy, and a second slayer named Faith also arrives. Throughout the season, which marks Buffy’s final year of high school, the Scoobies work against the town Mayor who is planning to make their graduation more memorable than any before and for all the wrong reasons.

Expanded cast of Season Four (Oz, Giles, Xander, Riley, Buffy, Spike, & Willow) © Fox
Expanded cast of Season Four (Oz, Giles, Xander, Riley, Buffy, Spike, & Willow) © Fox

Season Four
Buffy and Willow enroll at the University of California: Sunnydale where each begins a new romantic relationship; Buffy with graduate student Riley and Willow with Tara—a witch like herself. The vampire Spike returns but soon finds himself at the mercy of The Initiative, a secret military organization based beneath the campus but with many links above ground. Eventually Spike teams up with the Scoobies and together they fight against the latest monster to be unleashed on the unsuspecting town.

Season Five
We are shocked to be introduced to Buffy’s younger sister Dawn, and even more surprised when every character acts as if they have known her from the beginning. Buffy meets the season’s key “Big Bad”, an exiled Hell God named Glory who is looking for her way back downstairs through the use of a key which will open the door between Hell and Earth. As the season progresses Buffy’s family life is shattered, and when Glory kidnaps Dawn she has to decide whether or not to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Season Six
A contender for the show’s darkest era, not one character escapes from season six unscathed. Buffy falls into a deep depression and begins a mutually abusive relationship with the one person you would never expect. Concerned about her reliance on him, Giles leaves for England, and Xander’s forthcoming wedding is ruined by a last minute decision. Even Dawn begins suffering from kleptomania and Willow’s addiction to magic continues to grow. When a fight between Buffy and season Big Bad Warren Mears results in an accidental death, Willow’s powers turn dark forcing the Scoobies to fight against her.

Buffy Finale (Giles, Dawn, Faith, Buffy, Willow & Xander) © Fox
Buffy Finale (Giles, Dawn, Faith, Buffy, Willow & Xander) © Fox

Season Seven
The final television season introduces the First Evil, an incorporeal power that is killing off all potential slayers and raising an army of ancient vampires. Giles gathers a number of potentials who seek refuge at Buffy’s house as the First Evil and the preacher Caleb work against them and cause activity around the Hellmouth to increase. Soon most of the population of Sunnydale has fled. Several characters return for the finale with Willow activating all potential slayers for an almighty showdown. Not everyone makes it out and the town of Sunnydale is destroyed completely but the show ends on a positive note regardless.

Season Eight
One year after the destruction of Sunnydale, Buffy and the Scoobies have set up a military-like approach to slaying. Now based in Scotland the Scoobies organize over 500 slayers in squads around the world, however they are seen by the US government as international terrorists and many groups are actively working against them. Soon a new pro-vampire world order is established and the groups are forced into hiding as relationships between them grow more complex. When the true identity of the season’s Big Bad—Twilight—is revealed, things become even more intense. After the death of someone close, a distraught Buffy destroys a powerful artifact which subsequently removes all magic from the universe and leaves Buffy as a pariah.

Buffy Season Nine © Dark Horse
Buffy Season Nine © Dark Horse

Season Nine
Buffy and most of her friends are now living in San Francisco. Buffy works in a traditional slayer role as Willow departs on a quest to restore magic and a new team slowly begin to come together. Because magic is now gone from the world Dawn begins to fade from existence, devastating Xander who has now formed a relationship with her. He is approached by the demon Severin who wants to restore magic and the two begin secretly trading information. Buffy and the Scoobies travel to the Cotswolds in an attempt to save Dawn, eventually facing off against Severin. Magic is restored and the season ends with the revelation of an entirely new form of vampire, however Watcher’s Council is destroyed and the pages of their primary research book now blank.

The Buffy-verse is one of the most complex out there and this recap only begins to scratch at its surface. Alongside the primary Buffy TV series there was the Angel spin-off which itself has transitioned into multiple comic series—Angel at IDW and the more recent Angel and Faith through Dark Horse. Dark Horse also produced a 63 issue run that ran alongside Buffy on television prior to Season Eight. Joss Whedon produced the Fray mini-series about a future slayer, and of course there are dozens of novels and collected short stories—not to mention the original 1992 film. For anyone entering the fandom, the sheer volume of material can be a little overwhelming.

I hope that this recap gives you a taste of the series and allows you to step into this brilliant world. I’m reading to dive back in and so we say, “Once More with Feeling!”

Viking Fun

"Vikings didn't really have horns on their helmets, but I liked to use them as decoration to make my art look pretty." By Lilianna Maxwell Age 7
“Vikings didn’t really have horns on their helmets, but I liked to use them as decoration to make my art look pretty.” By Lilianna Maxwell Age 7

“Swords were used in Viking battles. They were made of iron. They were decorated on the hilt. Swords and battle axes were used in different ways. You could throw an axe, but you always hold a sword.”

Proper use of weaponry was an important part of my daughter’s education. This is a quote from my daughter’s Viking project she did for 4H when she was seven years old. It goes on for awhile. She made the above picture, plus another one, plus a shadow box with a popsicle stick ship, cloth sails, and clay Vikings off on a painted sea background.

She was really, really into Vikings that year. We took out every Viking fact book from our library. I enjoyed it!

Image By Dutton Juvenile Books

Here’s a book about a girl obsessed with Vikings by Judy Schachner. Yo, Vikings!

Apparently, 2014 big year for Vikings with the whole Viking Apocalypse. That I missed. Darn it. One of my music students mentioned it, after it already happened. No matter, there is always fun to be had with Vikings with your kids, or on your own:

Make some runes, the Viking writing system. There are several versions and it can get as complicated as your kid is interested. Here’s a site with how the runes sound, rather than trying to replace English letters with Viking ones directly. Writing secret messages in runes is fun, but carving messages in clay is way cooler. We made some clay necklaces too.

The middle one is supposed to say, “Kiss Me I’m Viking.” Image By Rebecca Angel

Thor’s hammer is always a conversation starter. I have a friend (yes, an adult) that always wears a pewter version. But you can make your own. After the clay dried, we just colored it with a silver marker. Unfortunately, the marker would come off on our skin. If I were to do this again, I would use silver paint instead.

Speaking of Thor: Norse mythology has the best stories! Just ask your friendly librarian to recommend books that are age appropriate for your child.

Image By Rebecca Angel

What about the Thor movies? Eh…not particularly true to the myths, but a good way to get your kid interested in the topic. For myself, I’m a Loki fan, so I never mind watching them with children. :)

Of course Thor is part of the comic book world too. But like the movies, this is more of a jumping off point to then find out the actual myths. Teens and up might enjoy a new comic: Loki: Agent of Asgard. My fifteen-year-old son enjoyed it, and I did as well. But I’ll admit, I stared at the pictures longer. It starts off with Loki (looking a lot like Tom Hiddleson) in the shower, which my friend Karen says,”Finally, Marvel is realizing women read comics!”

Any other Viking projects? Books? Movies? Has anyone else or their children become obsessed over Vikings?

You Are Not Alone: Kids Overcoming Obstacles

Used with permission from GrayHaven Comics

After the Sandy Hook tragedy in December of 2012, many of us were left wondering, “Why? How?”

The same questions were being discussed among the editors of GrayHaven Comics, a small independent publisher that strives to give new writers a voice and forum. Many of their editors are parents of young children themselves, and while discussing the tragic events with their colleagues they realized that two issues were “at the core” of the trend of violent tragedies in this country; bullying and violence.

Rather than sit idly, the group decided to reach out to kids that are victims of abuse, bullying, racism, homophobia, mental illness, and poverty. The editors and staff at GrayHaven wanted to create a way to let kids struggling with these issues to know that they are not alone, and more importantly, that violence is not the answer.

GrayHaven has created an almost 200 page book with vivid and intense stories covering difficult topics such as depression, bullying, and gun violence. The art work of the stories highlights the emotions and struggles of victims, and depicts how kids can help each other. Interspersed between chapters are resource pages with links and numbers for victims to find help. The message that kids are not alone no matter what they are going through is powerfully woven into each story. While the topics are intense and powerful, over all the book is hopeful. The books are available for free to school and organizations nationwide and The goal is to get it into the hands of as many kids as possible.

The response to You Are Not Alone has been so positive, that the editors are working on expanding the project and opening it to new stories and topics. To help them, check out their KickStarter, also to request a copy of the book for your school, youth group, or homeschool co-op, you can email Andrew Goletz : GrayHaven Publisher & Editor in Chief – Get one, the kids in your community will thank you.

I had the opportunity to see a preview copy of the book, and to speak with one of the editors, Marc Lombardi, about the project. Here are some highlights from our conversation.

GeekMom: In all honesty, this book is the one of the most intense and realistic looks at abuse, bullying, and homophobia that I have ever seen. Did you all know that the use of comics would be such an effective means of communicating these issues to young people?

GrayHaven: That was our hope. We all grew up in the age of after school specials and those horrible videos you would watch in Health Ed class. The subject matter was always important and the intent was always genuine, but the result was quite often off the mark. We realized that comics were a much more accessible way for getting a message out to people of all ages, but especially younger readers. Even though some of the topics are a little more mature in nature, the ideas that people who are suffering through these issues can find hope is something that is more universal across all age groups.

We knew that doing something like this book would make the message more available, make it easier to understand, and hopefully something that is more sustainable.

GM:The thing that really strikes me, along with the text, is the art. The art really conveys the pain that victims of abuse and bullying feel. I think that it is easy to read an article online, or listen to a talk in an assembly about these topics but not really internalize the issues. The pictures in these stories draw you in and don’t give any option to run away from the issue. Can you comment on the process of matching the art to these stories?

GH: Matching artists to the stories is something I always loved doing, but for this book it was fellow editor Glenn Matchett who took those reigns and he did a really masterful job.  Some of the stories, when they were pitched, already had artists attached to them that the writers brought into the projects.  Others, as the editors read them, just yelled out certain artists who were already in our stable of regulars. You know how when you read a book and you can picture a particular actor or actress being perfect for the role of one of the characters? That’s how it is sometimes. The wrong art for the story can really take you out of it, so it was very important that we put a lot of care into the pairings that were made, and I think Glenn was really amazing in what he did.

Used with permission from GrayHaven Comics.

GM: I really loved the Silent Story by Ken Godberson III and Brent Peeples. As I was reading it, I thought, “Here we go, his best friend is going to turn on him.” But that isn’t what happened. Do you think we are reaching a place where this will be more common? Kids sticking with their friends through the “coming out” years of high school and college?

GH: I sure hope so. I mean, in this day and age so many things that were previously taboo are almost commonplace, but society just hasn’t caught up with this yet. Kids are going to be cruel — that’s just something that doesn’t seem to change over time — but I think that kids are also more likely to be the ones who change their minds about what to be cruel about. They’re less likely to have a problem with people that are gay than our parents did. You would hope that as the years go on and the laws change and everyone is given the same sort of rights regardless of who they are sexually attracted to that you will see less and less of a big deal made about it.

Used with permission from GrayHaven Comics.

GM: The bullying section was intense and I have read it multiple times. Back to an earlier comment, the art work was spot on. It showed that bullying really and truly hurts it’s victims. In the story “Letting It Go” by Thacher Cleveland, the Dad tells his son in great detail how much the bullying affected him. In “Your Secret, My Secret” the bullying victim is clearly distressed. I think a lot of folks in our society brush bullying off as “just part of life”, almost as necessary for development. From this book, and the accompanying art, is it safe to say that you and GrayHaven Comics disagree with that adage?

Used with permission from GrayHaven Comics.

GH: We absolutely disagree with it, and it’s really the main reason we created this book. Bullying, no matter the reason, is unacceptable. It shouldn’t be “just a part of growing up” any more than physical abuse should be tolerated. Mental abuse has a long-lasting affect for people on both sides; those who are bullied and the bullies themselves.  And that’s something else we considered. We were hoping to not only reach out and give a little bit of solace to people who read these stories with the experience of being in those same situations, but we also wanted to maybe catch the eye of some of the people who are bullying others and give them the perspective from the other side. I think — hope — that someone who is bullying someone else could pick up this book, read it, and realize that what they are doing is wrong. So if this book gives one bully a different outlook on what they’re doing then I think we did something good.

GM:I like that your stories show kids helping other kids. That’s a great message. Care to elaborate on that part of the stories?

GH: That was another big message for us to get through to people in the book…that help and hope can come from anyone. The earlier that you realize that you can make a difference the better it is. I mentioned earlier that kids can be cruel, and while that can be true, kids can also be resilient and remarkable in the way that they reach out to others in need. We wanted to reach out to the target audience, give them hope, give them the resources they need to get help if that’s the case, and educate them in (hopefully) an entertaining way to being a better person.

I think the reason that so many different writers all had the same idea to make the kids the heroes just as often as we make them the victims is because, in reality, that’s often the case. In my own struggles with bullying it was more often my friends, not teachers or other adults, who came to my aid.