San Diego Comic-Con 2014 Artist Roundup

SDCC 2014: GeekMom Artist Roundup. Image credit: Ariane Coffin.
SDCC 2014: GeekMom Artist Roundup. Image credit: Ariane Coffin.

Sure, the star-studded panels of San Diego Comic-Con get a lot of press, but my favorite part of SDCC is shopping the Artists’ Alley, Web Comics, and Small Press sections. The endless rows are filled with so much creativity, it is staggering and humbling. Artist after artist were present with their portfolios and prints for sale, most at very reasonable rates, all extremely different in style. You can find everything from superheroes to sexy elves, cute animals to steampunk cityscapes. I bought quite a few prints—fewer than I would have liked, more than I had room for! Because I couldn’t buy it all, I did the next best thing and compiled a list of my favorite artists I found at SDCC 2014 to share with you (in no particular order). Enjoy!

Chris Appalhans

Image credit: Chris Appelhans, used with permission.
Image credit: Chris Appelhans, used with permission.

Chris Appelhans makes such wonderful pieces that capture sweet, quiet moments. It’s never too busy or too loud; the focus is on just the right thing. I usually prefer obnoxiously colorful art, but I’m in love with the peaceful stillness of Chris’ paintings.

Kazu Kibuishi

Jellyfish Canyon. Image credit: Kazu Kibuishi
Jellyfish Canyon. Image credit: Kazu Kibuishi, used with permission.

Kazu Kibuishi is the writer and illustrator of the best-selling YA graphic novel Amulet. We had purchased the first book of the series at last year’s SDCC and returned this year to purchase the next four. The story gets dark and scary at times, but that doesn’t seem to deter our 4-year-old. We’ve read our way through three of them already since the weekend, as a read-aloud at bedtime. The art of Amulet is beautiful, dark, and epic, and Kibuishi’s other illustrations reflect that style as well.

Cari Corene

Umbrella Totoro and Secret of Kells Pangur Ban. Image credit: Cari Corene.
Umbrella Totoro and Angry Pangur Ban in a Puddle. Image credit: Cari Corene, used with permission.

Cari Corene does watercolors inspired by geek pop-culture icons such as Totoro, Pokemon, and My Little Pony. Her Etsy shop not only offers her art as prints, but also as zipper pouches, messenger bags, charms, and scarfs. Beautiful and practical!

Armand Baltazar

The Collidescape Chronicles. Image credit: Armand Baltazar, used with permission.
The Collidescape Chronicles. Image credit: Armand Baltazar, used with permission.

Armand Baltazar is a formally-trained artist who has worked at many of the major animation film studios like DreamWorks, Disney, and Pixar. As you can see from the example above, his art reflects a geeky twist on a more classical painting style. It’s detailed and exquisite.

Eunjung June Kim

Image credit: Eunjung June Kim
Image credit: Eunjung June Kim, used with permission.

Eunjung June Kim‘s art is so cute, I want it all over my walls! Out of all of her prints, I purchased the one above because I love the colors. Don’t get me wrong; the subject matter is great too, but the color palette is the reason I couldn’t put it down. Such a happy contrast!

Pascal Campion

Image credit: Pascal Campion
Image credit: Pascal Campion, used with permission.

Pascal Campion is probably the most prolific artist I’ve met. Some artists had many copies of a few pieces, Pascal had boxes and boxes full of prints and I could hardly find any repeats. In 2006, he began the habit of starting off every day drawing a “Sketch of the Day,” which now totals nearly 3,000 sketches! He is a father of three and many of his pieces are inspired by his family life. He seems to perfectly capture the greatest moments of parenthood.

Chris Ayers

Content Kitty. Image credit: Chris Ayers, used with permission.
Content Kitty. Image credit: Chris Ayers, used with permission.

Chris Ayers was a successful artist working in the film industry when he was diagnosed with leukemia. To help motivate himself through his battle against cancer, he started a sketchbook, drawing one animal per day for one year. The sketchbook resulted into a book, The Daily Zoo. The image of the Content Kitty featured here is one of my favorites. My husband and I purchased it at SDCC last year, framed it, and hung it in our daughter’s room. It still makes me smile every time I see it. I love the bright contrasting colors and, of course, the attitude! Such contentment, indeed.

Chris Uminga

TMNT. Image credit: Chris Uminga, used with permission.
TMNT. Image credit: Chris Uminga, used with permission.

Here’s another Chris, the third one on this list. I swear I didn’t pick these artists based on name alone! Chris Uminga is a recurring favorite of mine. I bought a piece from him last year and started following him on Instagram, so by the time I got to SDCC this year, I already knew what piece I wanted to buy from him… this Ninja Turtles print, of course!

Jackie Huang

Ice & Fire. Image credit: Jackie Huang, used with permission.
Ice & Fire. Image credit: Jackie Huang, used with permission.

Jackie Huang does beautiful illustrations, but even more amazing things with paper. Her originals will set you back a bit, but she has fantastic pop-up cards on for sale on Etsy. I’m flabbergasted by the details of her paper constructions. How can anyone do that? Incredible!

How about you, readers? If you have attended SDCC this year—or any other con for that matter—and found great new art and artists, please do tell!

GeekMom: Comic Book Corner — Batman is 75 and Cars Turn Into Monsters!

Image copyright DC Comics

Happy Comic Release Day and a special, “Happy Birthday!” to Batman, who is 75 this week. This week, we’ll take a look at Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years, the finale of the Batman: Year Zero saga, plus cars that become monsters, a new zombie book from DC, and Archie #656, which introduces Veronica’s fashion designer cousin who happens to need a wheelchair.

And if you’ve ever wanted to make a comic, we have a Tumblr just for you.

Dakster Sullivan — Monster Motors #1 written by Brian Lynch and art by Nick Roche, Leonard O’Grady, and Tom B. Long

Monster Motors \ Image: IDW Publishing
Monster Motors \ Image: IDW Publishing

What do you get when you mix Pixar’s Cars, the story of Dracula, and Frankenstein? Monster Motors of course.

Victor Franke is a new college graduate who makes the mistake of buying a Transylvania junkyard off eBay. Victor intends on turning the junkyard into a car repair shop, but his dreams are fraught with nightmares when Cadillacula comes to suck the gas and life out of all the cars.

Victor is determined to not let this freak of motor nature destroy his new life and builds his own monster motor to stop Cadillacula. Guess what he calls his creation? Frankenride!

At the risk of spoiling anything for you, I’m going to stop here. Let’s just say I’m excited to see how the rest of the monster world is portrayed and who takes Frankenride’s side and who joins up with Cadillacula.

I hesitate to recommend this title for anyone under the age of 8 years old, as the subject matter might freak out younger children.

Curious to know what I’m pulling this week? Check out my pull list on Comixology.

Kelly Knox — The Comics Survival Kit from Gail Simone

If you’ve ever wanted to be a professional in the comic book industry, the Comics Survival Kit should be your first and best resource for getting started. Created by veteran writer Gail Simone, the Tumblr is designed to give advice from other pros with quick, short tips.

Gail Simone
Gail Simone Spotlight at SDCC 2009. Photo by Loren Javier, Licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

In the Kit you’ll find tips for writers and artists alike, from how to get your book stocked in stores to what editors look for in artist portfolios. Upcoming plans for the site include:

I will be adding a couple mini-tips articles from all over the industry ever couple days. I have, with permission, used some great stuff I have found on the web, but the vast majority of mini-lessons will be new, from colorists, retailers, writers, artists, editors, and lots more. People like Greg Pak, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Jim Zub, Adam Hughes, Pia Guerra, some of the best people in the industry.

Follow Comics Survival Kit to get some of the best comic book advice out there, and maybe you’ll see yourself on GeekMom’s Comic Book Corner someday!

Corrina Lawson  — Batman: A Celebration of 75 years, various writers and artists  

This thick hardcover featuring a cover illustration by Jim Lee is the best of DC’s 75th Anniversary books so far.  Superman’s book was fine, Lois Lane’s celebration left something to be desired, but this one works in every way. It hits all eras of Batman, from the pulp beginnings to the trippy era of the 1960s and then onto the glory days of Batman stories, beginning in the 1970s with Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams. I was pleased with all the creators that are represented.

Writers include Mike Barr, Steve Englehart, Archie Goodwin, Dennis O’Neil, John Broome, Edmond Hamilton, Bill Finger, Various, Scott Snyder, Paul Dini, Chuck Dixon, Greg Rucka, and Doug Moench. I was particular happy to see the highly underrated Moench in this volume.  No Alan Brennert but I’ll give them a pass on that, as the stories in this collection are uniformly excellent.

Then there’s the art. This 1970s diehard Adams fangirl is disappointed that Jim Lee gets the cover, but given Lee is recognized as the best Batman artist of the present day, I can’t complain. Also included is art by the late, great Marshall Rogers who did far too little Batman work, and, of course, Bill Finger, who is widely believed to deserve at least half of the credit for creating Batman that goes instead in full to Bob Kane. Other artists are Greg Capullo, J.H. Williams, III, Jim Aparo, Alan Davis, Michael Golden, Frank Miller, Alex Toth, Carmine Infantino, Dick Sprang, and Bob Kane, truly an all-star lineup.

This is a great book to introduce someone to Batman or for to a long-time fan who wants to revisit their favorite stories.

Age recommendation: All ages, but watch those more recent stories.

Batman #33 by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and Mike Plascencia

The long running Zero Year arc concludes this issue with Batman’s final confrontation with the Riddler and with Lucius Fox and Jim Gordon helping to save Gotham. This hasn’t been my favorite storyline, as it contains fantastical elements that strain my suspension of disbelief, but it all looks amazing, thanks to the art team.

But what I want to talk about are the last few pages, which feature a flashback of Bruce Wayne confessing that, when he was a teenager, he tried to get his mind-wiped via electronic shock treatment because he couldn’t stand the pain of his life. Bruce tells Alfred that he must be Batman or risk not being able to handle his life at all. The last few pages show Alfred flashing forward to what Bruce’s life might have been without Batman and concludes with Alfred telling potential love interests that Bruce is “already taken,” meaning by Gotham or Batman.

I feel like Scott Snyder and I need to sit down over a cup of coffee and talk about who Batman really is, because his view of Batman seems to be as a mentally unbalanced person who has to dress up like a Bat and fight crime to stay sane. Whereas I’m far more of the Denny O’Neil version of Batman: The driven but sane Guardian of Gotham who fights crime because someone needs to bring justice to a broken system and prevent another child from being orphaned like he was.

And these two versions of Batman aren’t the same. At all. Snyder has some evidence on his side, like the version of Batman written by Frank Miller in The Dark Knight Returns, but I’ll just point to the movie Batman Begins, which is clearly of the “Gotham’s Guardian” version.

Age recommendation: 10+

Star-Spangled War Stories Featuring G.I. Zombie by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Scott Hampton

This is more sick and twisted fun than it has any right to be for a zombie story. To talk about the plot would give away some of the best parts but, essentially, there’s a zombie, he eats brains, and he’s kinda trying to do the right thing. It’s very violent and gory, as befits a zombie comic, but I also laughed at a couple of spots. Hampton has some great zombie facial expressions. If you like zombies or like Palmiotti/Gray, then you need to buy this comic.

Age recommendation: Teen+

Archie #656 by Dan Parent, story and pencils, and Rich Koslowski, inks

“Here Comes Harper” is the introduction of Veronica’s cousin, a fun-loving fashion designer who is also confined to a wheelchair. At first, I was worried the story would be sacrificed to the message (though it is a good one), but after a few pages of explanation about who Harper is and why she’s visiting, we movie into typical Archie territory with Harper and the whole gang attending a party and then slapstick and fun ensue.

Age recommendation: All ages.

Looking for something else, readers? Check out this week’s listed books:

DC-Comics-Old.jpg marvel-logo1.jpg

All-Star Western #33
Aquaman #33
Batman #33
Batman ’66 #13
Batman And Robin #33
Batman Beyond Universe #12
Batman Black And White Vol. 4 HC
Batman Eternal #16
Catwoman #33
Dead Boy Detectives #7
Detective Comics #27 (Special Edition)
Flash #33
He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe #15
Injustice Gods Among Us Year Two #8
Justice League Dark #33
Justice League Of America’s Vibe Vol. 1 Breach TP
New 52 Futures End #12
Red Lanterns #33
Secret Origins #4
Star-Spangled War Stories Featuring G.I. Zombie #1
Superman #33
Superman Action Comics Vol. 3 At The End Of Days TP
Superman Action Comics Vol. 4 Hybrid HC
Swamp Thing By Brian K. Vaughan Vol. 2 TP
Trinity Of Sin Pandora #13
Unwritten Vol. 2 Apocalypse #7
Unwritten Vol. 9 The Unwritten Fables TP
Wonder Woman #33
100th Anniversary Special Avengers #1
All-New Doop #4 (Of 5)
All-New Invaders #8
All-New Ultimates #5
Amazing Spider-Man #4 New Series GeekMom Recommended
Avengers Vol. 5 Adapt Or Die HC (Premiere Edition)
Captain America Vol. 2 Castaway In Dimension Z Book 2 TP
Daredevil #6 GeekMom Recommended
Deadpool #32
Deadpool Dracula’s Gauntlet #3 (Of 7)
Deadpool Vol. 5 Wedding Of Deadpool TP
Deadpool Vs X-Force #2 (Of 4)
Disney Kingdoms Seekers Of The Weird HC
Fantastic Four Epic Collection Vol. 20 Into The Timestream TP
George Romero’s Empire Of The Dead Act One TP
Guardians Of The Galaxy By Abnett And Lanning The Complete Collection Vol. 1 TP
Hulk #4 New Series
Loki Agent Of Asgard #2 New Series
Marvel Previews #132 (August 2014 For Products On-Sale October 2014)
Marvel Universe Ultimate Spider-Man #28 Kid Friendly
Mighty Avengers #12
Original Sin #5.2
Original Sins #4 (Of 5)
Storm #1 New Series
Thunderbolts Vol. 4 No Mercy TP
War Of Kings TP (New Printing)
Wolverine #8
Wolverine And The X-Men #6
Wolverine By Jason Aaron The Complete Collection Vol. 3 TP
Wolverine Origin II HC
Wolverine Vol. 1 Three Months To Die TP
idw-logo.jpg Dark-Horse-Logo-2.jpg

Godzilla Rulers Of Earth #14
Kill Shakespeare The Mask Of Night #2 (Of 4)
Memory Collectors HC
Mike Mignola’s Hellboy Artist’s Edition HC
Monster Motors #1 New Kid Friendly Series
My Little Pony Friends Forever #7 Kid Friendly
Popeye Classics #24 Kid Friendly
Ragnarok #1
Star Trek Harlan Ellison’s The City On The Edge Of Forever The Original Teleplay #2 (Of 5)
Super Secret Crisis War Johnny Bravo #1 Kid Friendly
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Heroes Collection Oversized HC
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles New Animated Adventures #13 Kid Friendly GeekMom Recommended
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Turtles In Time #2 (Of 4)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Utrom Empire TP
Transformers Classics Vol. 7 TP
Transformers Vs G.I. JOE #1
Transformers Windblade #4 (Of 4) Final Issue
Wild Blue Yonder #5 (Of 6)
Winterworld #2 New Series
X-Files Season 10 #14 Trigger Sensitive 
Axe Cop The American Choppers #3 (Of 3) Final Issue
Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 10 #5
Conan The Avenger #4 New Series
Dragon Girl And Monkey King The Art Of Katsuya Terada HC
Dream Thief Escape #2 (Of 4)
Elfquest The Final Quest #4 New Series
Gantz Vol. 32 TP
Goon Occasion Of Revenge #1 (Of 4) New Mini-Series
Groo Vs Conan #1 (Of 4) New Mini-Series
Halo Escalation #8
Mass Effect Foundation #13
MPD-Psycho Vol. 11 TP
Sakai Project Artists Celebrate Thirty Years Of Usagi Yojimbo HC
Star Wars Legacy II #17
Star Wars The Lucas Draft HC
Star Wars The Lucas Draft TP
Tomb Raider #6

Acronym Key: VC = Variant Cover / HC = Hard Cover / TP = Trade Paperback

Get Ready For Geek-Inspired Couture In The Her Universe Fashion Show at SDCC

Her Universe founder Ashley Eckstein in a Darth Vader inspired look, photo credit Kelsey Edwards Photography

If you love TARDIS gowns and gender-bending Loki cosplay, you’re going to love to see what Her Universe brings to San Diego Comic-Con. If you like to design those things, you’re going to want to participate. Her Universe will be presenting a “geek couture” fashion show and design competition, and the grand prize is your own fashion collection for Hot Topic.

This isn’t a cosplay competition. It’s a fashion design contest. They can be couture-style or ready-to-wear. (See below for a few sample idea sketches.) And you don’t have to be a professional to enter–call it your own at-home, geeked-up version of Project Runway. (You’ll have to furnish your own Tim Gunn telling you to, “Make it work!”) Two grand prize winners will get that chance to co-design a collection for Hot Topic with Her Universe’s founder Ashley Eckstein.

For those who just want to see the results, The Her Universe Fashion Show will be held July 24th during SDCC at the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel (near the San Diego Convention Center where Comic-Con is held). Entry will be first come-first served and admission is free with a San Diego Comic-Con 2014 badge.

“Fangirls are already using the halls of San Diego Comic-Con International as their runway to showcase custom fashions. We wanted to give these designers a bigger stage to share their talent and also provide an educational experience in the fashion industry,” said Eckstein.

Only 30 people will be chosen to show their designs at SDCC, so get to work! The deadline is April 4. Enter at You can also watch Eckstein rocking a handcrafted leather ensemble designed by Doug Dunnam in this video:

Bumblee-inspired look, credit Her Universe
A frock to make even Captain Kirk jealous, credit Her Universe
Lookin’ like Loki, credit Her Universe
Try to look a little livelier than Lori’s Ghost, credit Her Universe
TARDIS dress not actually bigger on the inside, credit Her Universe


Congratulations to our Hallmark Giveaway Winner!

TIE Interceptor, Image: Hallmark

We had quite a few entries in our Hallmark Keepsake Ornament, Recordable Storybook, and Text Band Giveaway, but there can only be one winner. Congratulations to Eric K. who picked out the TIE Interceptor and You’re A Hero! All the Ways You Save the Day recordable storybook.

Thank you to everyone who entered the contest and to the folks over at Hallmark for making this contest possible!

SDCC Firefly Panel: Prepare to Bawl

Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion
Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion cheering the crowd as the crowd cheers them. Image source: YouTube screen shot.

San Diego Comic-Con was a blur of awesome, as usual. Now that it’s over, I’m glad to sit back, rest my weary feet, and enjoy what was arguably the most awesome event of all: the Firefly reunion panel. I missed it in real life: couldn’t devote a whole day to standing in the thousands-deep line for Hall H. Hooray for YouTube. I made it about forty-five seconds into this video (“He wanted to be introduced as a bounty hunter and sandwich maker, but you know him best as a leaf on the wind”) before I teared up. How about you?

See 47:33 for a truly heartwarming moment: Joss Whedon (and much of the cast) getting choked up at the question, “What do the fans mean to you?” Nathan Fillion leads the panel in a standing ovation of the audience — a poignant tribute to the devotion of the fans, and a testament to the reciprocity of the relationship between Firefly‘s creators and its deeply loyal viewers.

“When I see you guys,” said Joss Whedon, “I don’t think the show’s off the air. I don’t think there’s a show. I think that’s what the world is like.”

Yep, I wept.

No Strollers In Panel Rooms At Comic-Con 2012

Sorry, Stormtrooper family. This is not the stroller-friendly con you’re looking for. Image credit: Kalexanderson

Comic-Con starts in two days (preview night is tomorrow), and the following information was just announced:

NEW FOR 2012:

For safety reasons, the Fire Marshall will not be allowing strollers inside the programming rooms. This includes rooms 2, 4, 5AB, 6A, 6BCF, 6DE, 7AB, 8, 11AB, 23ABC, 24ABC, 25ABC, 26AB, 28E, 32AB, Ballroom 20, and Hall H.

Stroller parking areas can be found throughout the Convention Center. Parking will be free of charge and provided on a first-come, first-serve basis. Please note: Comic-Con will not provide security or check-in/check-out for the strollers.

Although the decision follows in the footsteps of several other large cons in the last year or so, the moms of the Internet are understandably upset at the timing of the announcement.

If you’ve been planning to navigate the crowded con world with a stroller, it’s time to figure out plan B. I recommend a really great carrier–I’m a fan of the mei tai style. If your kids are too big for that now, I recommend a good nap time in the middle of the day, because their little legs are going to need it. If you do decide to bring the stroller along, note that there are no jogging strollers allowed at all, and although there will be stroller parking, don’t leave anything in it, because there’s no security.

Pace yourselves, spend some time at the Children’s Film Festival. Don’t worry about the strollers. You can do it!


Giveaway: Hallmark Keepsake Ornament, Recordable Storybook and Text Bands!

TIE Interceptor, Image: Hallmark

Once again Hallmark is debuting some fantastic new Keepsake ornaments at San Diego Comic-Con from July 11th-15th in San Diego, California.

This year they’ll have three very limited edition ornaments for sale at the convention. If you’re lucky enough to attend, then you’ll have a chance at 4-LOM and Zuckuss (Star Wars), A Human Hero (The Dark Knight Rises) and Cylon Centurion (Battlestar Galactica). The runs of each are limited 1000, 875 and 750 with prices from $25 to $35 so if you want these you better head to their booth in the Lucasfilm Pavilion first thing.

While you’re there, you’ll also get a sneak peek at some of the ornaments planned for 2013, get free autographs from one of the artists behind 4-LOM and Zuckuss and meet Bob Holt, the creator of hoops&yoyo. Can’t make it to San Diego Comic-Con? All is not lost. Hallmark is offering a special Comic-Con Gift Pack to one lucky GeekMom reader who will get a pair of the new Hallmark Text Bands and their choice of one Keepsake Ornament and one Recordable Storybook from a select list.

Continue reading Giveaway: Hallmark Keepsake Ornament, Recordable Storybook and Text Bands!

Deadpool Corps — Fear the Mighty … Squirrelpool??

SquirrelPool Image: Marvel Comics
SDCC Exclusive - SquirrelPool Image: Marvel Comics

When the news came across my RSS feeds the other day of a new Gentle Giant DeadPool Corps set, I had to do a double take. Not because I’m a Deadpool fan, but because of a little guy included in the set …  Squirrelpool. I don’t know much about the character, but the fact that he’s a squirrel and dressed as a member of the Deadpool Corps was enough for me to investigate further.

I e-mailed Gentle Giant about the little guy and to my surprise, he has some interesting history attached to him. According to Gregory Crafts, Marketing Coordinator at Gentle Giant:

Originally, the character was designed as an April Fool’s joke. He popped up on, then later on a variant cover to an issue of Thor. He was an unnamed character and wasn’t meant to be taken seriously. However, one of our product development managers happens to be obsessed with squirrels and saw the Thor cover. So, she contacted Marvel with a pitch to do a bust of the character. They came back to us and said, “Great! We love this. So, what do you want to call him?”

We dubbed him Squirrelpool and he was a surprise SDCC exclusive last year. He was a huge hit, so we decided to make a paint variant version available in the Deadpool Corps boxed set.

I don’t see how this cute little guy could be “undoubtedly the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rodent you ever set eyes on,” but then again, looks can be deceiving. Any squirrel that can wield a sword will get respect from me. Needless to say I REALLY want this piece for my office desk. I mean, how much cooler can you get than a squirrel that carries two swords on his back right?

Pre-orders for the set have already started, so what are you waiting for? You know you want the Deadpool family in your living room.

Almost Time for Dragon*Con!

Me at Dragon*Con 2008 when I was 8 months pregnant

If you listened to the latest GeekMom podcast, you will have heard that I’m very excited for Dragon*Con. There is less than two weeks left until the con, so my mind is focused on getting ready for the most fun weekend of the year for me.

Because I’m a mom of a toddler, my Dragon*Con experience is a little different than most. My husband and I stay off site at a relative’s house, who watch our daughter while my husband and I are at the con.

We take MARTA, which is the train and bus system in Atlanta, because it is so easy as there is a stop right outside of the con. This does mean that we can’t do a lot of late night stuff because the train stops running at 1 am, but staying off site makes Dragon*Con very affordable for us.

Dragon*Con is one of the biggest conventions in the US. I think only San Diego Comic Con is bigger. But this is my 5th year attending, so I’m pretty well versed on how to get the most out of my Dragon*Con experience. There are some things that are just happening this year that I’m excited for.

On Friday night, there is going to be a Masked Ball in honor of the fact that this is the 25th year of Dragon*Con. Then on Sunday is the wrap party for Browncoats: Redemption, which is a fan film based in the Firefly universe. I’m pretty excited for both of these events.

Who else is going to Dragon*Con?


SDCC: The Writers’ Turn: More Teen Comics

Something that jumped out at me at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con was the abundance of panels that focused on comics and graphic novels for teens—so many YA-centered panels I wasn’t able to attend them all. But I did make it to two of them: Comics for Teens and the art-focused Teen Comics Workshop I wrote about yesterday. Despite the similar titles, these were radically different panels, each lively and fascinating and full of awesome.

Comics for Teens was all about the writers. The panelists were Cecil Castellucci (Plain Janes), Hope Larson (Mercury), Gene Luen Yang (Level Up), and Nate Powell (Swallow Me Whole),  and the moderator was prolific YA author Scott Westerfeld (Leviathan). These are authors whose books I have enjoyed immensely—especially Gene Yang’s American Born Chinese and Level Up.

Castellucci, Larson, Yang, Powell, and Westerfeld

The authors spoke movingly about the readers they write for: teens, who lead, as Scott Westerfeld put it, “intense lives” and have intense responses to what they read.

Westerfeld asked each of the panelists to begin by sharing a letter from a reader in response to one of their books. Cecil Castellucci read a really moving epistle by a teenager who described herself, with vivid examples, as a worrier—and said that reading The Plain Janes was a transforming experience for her, and helped her battle her anxiety. Gene Yang told the audience about a long and earnest letter he received from a boy who had disliked certain aspects of American Born Chinese; the reader felt Gene had “harped on differences” too much. What touched Gene was the time and thought this reader had put into the letter; it meant a lot to him, as a writer, to have someone engage so deeply with the work.

What struck me about each of the letters (some were read aloud, others paraphrased) was that the readers had made such deep connections with the characters in these books—sometimes positive connections, and in the case of Gene’s reader, a critical one—but all of them personal and vivid.

The panelists spoke also about boundaries in YA fiction. Scott Westerfeld sees YA as having fewer boundaries in regard to genre and form: “All my YA can be shelved together,” he pointed out—the realistic fiction right beside the fantasy.

But Hope Larson spoke of language and content boundaries. She used the word “bitch” in her middle-grade graphic novel, Chiggers, which means some school librarians will not put it on the shelves.

Cecil broached the issue of moral lessons in YA: “Just because a book is written for youth,” she said, “doesn’t mean it needs to teach a lesson. Teens can smell a moral a mile away.”

Hope said that with her book Mercury, the editor asked for the villain to get his comeuppance—not just get away. “Is the world moral or chaotic?” she mused, suggesting that in books for kids, people want to see a moral landscape in which good prevails over evil.

Nate Powell, too, had an editor who wanted certain characters in his book “brought to justice.” There seems to be a sense (among readers? librarians? publishers?) that in YA and children’s books, people should not “get away with doing terrible things.”

The panel also discussed the particular challenges of writing graphic novels and comics vs. writing prose novels, and how the illustrations carry narrative responsibility. Cecil felt that her work for Minx, the now-defunct DC Comics imprint aimed at girls, was part of a frontier effort, venturing into new territory. She drew a parallel between Minx and early wagon-train pioneers, who sometimes didn’t survive their journey but helped blaze a trail for later settlers. This made me think of some of the very strong female characters we’ve seen in graphic novels of the last two or three years; Vera Brosgol’s stunning Anya’s Ghost and Raina Telgemeier’s Smile (which won this year’s Eisner Award for Best Teen Publication) come to mind.

There was a strong sense among the panelists that the demand for teen comics and GNs is very high, although parents and librarians don’t always embrace this medium. (This posed an interesting contrast to the Comics in the Library panel I attended the next day, at which several enthusiastic comics-loving librarians shared their strategies for building graphic novel collections in their respective library systems.)

What I enjoyed most about this excellent panel was how smart and thoughtful and fired up these writers are, all of them: they love their audience, they are clearly burning to tell the stories they are telling, and they are crazy about the medium—so rich and full of possibilities. Cecil spoke with passion about connecting with YA readers because teens are at a time of their lives when they are “experiencing things for the first time”—everything is dramatic and fraught with meaning and (as Scott Westerfeld put it) intense. Hope Larson said she writes the books she would have liked to read as a kid. I had the sense that this was true for all the panelists.

Something else that struck me about this panel—an observation reinforced by four days of exploring publishers’ booths in the hall—is how few of these really wonderful YA comics and graphic novels are coming out of traditional comics publishers. Chiggers and Mercury are published by Simon & Schuster/Atheneum. Gene Yang publishes with First Second, a Macmillan imprint; Anya’s Ghost is also a First Second book. Nate Powell’s Swallow Me Whole is published by Top Shelf Productions. Raina Telgemeier’s Smile is a Scholastic book. Cecil Castellucci is, as far as I know, the only one of the panelists to have published a YA with one of the Big Two comics publishers—the aforementioned, now non-existent DC Comics imprint, Minx.

DC and Marvel may be missing the boat when it comes to the YA boom, but the breadth of talent on this panel makes it clear that there will be no shortage of smart, funny, compelling, and truth-speaking comics and graphic novels in the months to come.

SDCC: Top of the Cosplayers

Well – at least IMO. This is one of the most beautiful costumes I have ever seen.


Tiptoe... through the Meanies...

Fellow Geek Mom, Melissa over at Bonny Glen, was there with me to witness it – and when she posted a picture of it on her blog, she got a response from one of the women who worked on it. Kudos to you, Lynette – this is exquisite.

In fact, one of the many marvbelous things about Comic-Con is the abundance of creativity when it comes to cosplay. I got into the elevator at my hotel with a girl who was wearing a gorgeous gothic milkmaid costume. It looked like the kind they sell in Harajuku on Takeshita street, very ornate and detailed and lovely. I complimented her on it and she said she got the dress at Forever 21 and altered it.  Another girl who I failed to take a picture of was wearing a skin tight dress that she – or someone – had painstakingly painted a Pac-Man board all over. There went Inky & Blinky chasing the little yellow guy all around her hips.

This guy used a LOT of tin foil. And who knows how much of Rose’s DNA?


Wonderful! Wonderful!

Teen Comics Workshop at SDCC

My sixteen-year-old daughter was keen to attend a manga-drawing workshop at SDCC. We arrived at the appointed room nearly an hour early, having been unable to get into the Jim Henson panel I had hoped to see. Our disappointment quickly turned to delight when we discovered that the panel before the manga one was a Teen Comics Workshop featuring several author/illustrators both Jane and I love.

As if getting to hear Gene Luen Yang, Dave Roman, Vera Brosgol, and Thien Pham speak about their work isn’t awesome enough, this happened to be an art workshop, in which these incredibly talented artists were showcasing their tools and techniques before our eyes.

Dave Roman shows the tools he used to draw Astronaut Academy

When we came in, the panelists seemed to be wrapping up a discussion of the penciling stage—I caught something about Bristol board—and moving on to inks. Gene Yang said he’s a convert to Japanese brush pens and wondered where they’d been all his life. Dave Roman told the crowd of riveted kids and teens about how his wife, Smile author/illustrator and brand-new Eisner Award winner Raina Telgemeier, convinced him to try inking with a brush instead of a pen—perhaps because he had a habit of shattering pen nibs and “sending tiny metal shards flying,” Dave said.

To his surprise, he discovered that he much prefers inking with a brush; he likes the range of thicknesses, and the look reminds him of Bill Watterson and other artists he admires.

Dave Roman’s slide demonstrating brush inking

At this point, the panelists decided to skim past the “how to get published” section of their talk because they wanted to get the audience drawing. There commenced a very lively and laughter-filled comics-creation tutorial. Vera Brosgol—whose recent graphic novel, Anya’s Ghost, knocked my socks off—took up her pen and sat ready to sketch, awaiting direction from the eager young audience members. The panelists explained that we would start by creating a character, and they asked the kids to name three physical attributes for this person or creature. The only one I remember is “fast”—I had hopped up to grab paper and pencil from a table in the front of the room, and (perhaps because I was wearing a Smile t-shirt in honor of Raina’s Eisner win) other people in the audience thought I was an official helper and waved me over to deliver drawing supplies to new arrivals. This left a gap in my panel notes but was a ton of fun.

Vera, having received her three physical characteristics from the crowd, produced this delightful character sketch.

Even her hair is fast!

Next in the spotlight was Dave Roman, who took three more suggestions from the crowd (horns was one).

Those are some mighty fine horns

Now it was the audience’s turn to draw. The panelists instructed the kids (and several eager adults, I noticed) to put the characters into a situation filled with trouble—danger, a tight spot, a bad turn of events. The room grew busy; hands flew over paper. Thien Pham worked on his own mini-comic featuring our two characters, a scenario that got a big laugh from the crowd.

So much fun to see Thien’s take on the characters

The artists encouraged kids in the audience to come forward and share their drawings with the room. You can barely make out the charming pencil sketch of one young boy under Thien’s drawing. The kids’ sketches were delightful, with calamities ranging from head-eating dragons to fierce clashes between the fast-haired girl and her ox-horned nemesis, Franq.

Next, the panelists encouraged the audience to draw a page two—a solution to the problem they’d created on page one. Again, kids, teens, and even some grownups came forward to share their masterpieces with the rest of us. I loved the air of excitement and possibility; these four talented artists spoke to the kids as equals, exhorting them to take chances, be inventive, and have fun. It was a wonderfully inspiring and informative experience. My daughter and I wound up being glad the Henson panel (which I’m sure was terrific) was too full to hold us. Jane stuck around for the manga panel, and as for me? I left the Teen Comics Workshop kind of itching to try out one of those cool Japanese brush pens myself.

Post SDCC Exhaustion

Well, hi. I’m the OTHER geek mom who went to SDCC this year and I guess you can call me “the quiet one.” I couldn’t write a post to save my life. That’s because Comic-Con, as a stand alone event,  is already a whirlwind of awesome and adrenaline WITHOUT a 22 month old in tow. Sunday night, after the whole thing was over, I swear to you that I had nightmares about Daleks with the heads of Lee Iacocca. What the wha?????

Add to that a trip to Legoland on Monday and you have a geek mom who is burnt to a crisp. I’m off to bed, with promises to talk a little bit more about the whole shebang later –  but I couldn’t just head off to bed without sharing my very favorite picture of the weekend with you.

Flash + Segue = Pure Awesome

I mean, come ON.



The Streets of San Diego Comic-Con

One thing that struck my kids about San Diego Comic-Con was how much the convention spills out into the streets. The crowds engulf the entire Gaslamp District, packing its sidewalks, restaurants, and hotels. When my twelve-year-old, ten-year-old, and I left the convention center to meet GeekMom Kristen and my little goddaughter for lunch, my girls found just as much to gawk at on the streets as they had at SDCC itself.

Even the buildings dress up for Comic-Con.

My ten-year-old was both grossed out and amused by AMC’s Walking Dead truck, which meandered through the streets all week, displaying an assortment of bloody zombie limbs sticking out from the back. (I’ll save that photo for the bottom of this post under a gore warning.)

I always think it’s even more fun to encounter cosplayers outside, away from the con’s lavishly decorated booths. Shreck-green paint really stands out under the blue San Diego sky.

Even barbarians have to stop and take a call sometimes.

As you make your way through the crowded streets, you’re as likely to bump into a celebrity as a Stormtrooper. We looked out our van window on the way to the con one morning and spotted actress Claudia Wells, best known for her role as Jennifer in Back to the Future, traveling to the con by pedicab. (In SDCC traffic, that’s faster than a DeLorean.)

I have to admit those pedicabs start to look pretty tempting after four full days of hoofing it from one end of the convention center to the other. By the end of the week, my limbs felt fit for the back of that Walking Dead truck. (Here’s that gore warning!)

San Diego Comic-Con: Things My Kids Can’t Wait to See

Friday was another day of fantastic costumes, stimulating panel discussions, and total sensory overload at San Diego Comic-Con.

Today I’m taking two of my kids in for the fun—it’ll be the first comics convention for my ten- and twelve-year-old daughters. They’re especially excited to meet author/illustrator Raina Telgemeier, whose wonderful middle-grade graphic novel, Smile, won the Eisner Award for Best Publication for Teens last night. Smile is the funny, touching, wryly honest story of Raina’s own orthodontic nightmare during her middle-school years. My girls have read the book at least a half-dozen times each, and they are beside themselves at the prospect of seeing Raina in person this afternoon.

We might have to stop by the Random House booth and enjoy an old-school game of Joust. My husband I and both had a giant squee moment when we saw this blast from the past yesterday. It’s a promotion for the book Ready Player One, which I am dying to read.

I’m guessing my kids’ll also enjoy the toy vendors. I fell in love with these little “Marshall” dolls yesterday at the Squibbles Ink & Rotofugi booth and couldn’t resist bringing a pink Marshall home to the gang. And his little dog, Gumdrop, too…

I’m betting my girls will flip over the Tintin and Bone displays.

But I suspect it’ll be the Uglydoll booth that breaks my checking account.

Of course the best parts of Comic-Con are the surprises. My girls are raring to go, so we’re heading downtown now to see what SDCC has in store for us today!

SDCC: Chomping At The Bit!

Showdown at the Cantina

So, I’m not heading down to Comic-Con until early, EARLY tomorrow morning.  Seriously early.  Gotta beat traffic and get there in time for the Attack of the Show! panel at 10 a.m.! That’s how I’m kicking off SDCC 2011 this year – but back here in L.A., I’m already so excited  and jazzed up for it. Been watching everyone on twitter who’s already there talk about what they’re buying and what people are cosplaying as. My husband has been torturing me with pictures of collectibles from the show floor – all I had to do was copy and paste the word “WANT” and just keep texting that back to him.  And then today, a package arrived on my doorstep from the folks at Hallmark – this year’s collectible Christmas Ornament is — are you ready for this? Showdown at the Cantina. I KNOW, RIGHT!??! The controversial scene where, in the original, Han Solo shoots Greedo first – and was later changed to Greedo shooting first so that Han could claim “self-defense.”

It came with batteries, so I popped them in and — Greedo said “Oota Goota, Solo?” — so that made me laugh really hard.  And THEN I discovered that if you keep pushing the button, it PLAYS THE WHOLE SCENE.  Because nothing sums up the spirit of Christmas more than murdering a bounty hunter! It’s magical. I love it so hard. I don’t know why, out of all the scenes in the six films, they chose this one, but I’m so glad they did.  The Lucasfilm pavilion is always a must-stop for me, but now I have to earmark some cash to buy these for presents and find the rep who sent this to me so I can thank her personally.  

SDCC Costume of the Day

I’m writing in the brief lull between Crazy Thursday at Comic-Con and Even Crazier Friday at Comic-Con. Yesterday was a perfect day at the con—the crowd-size was respectable but not overwhelming, the panels I attended were terrifically interesting (more about those in a future post), and there were plenty of costumes worth swooning over.

This was one the swooniest, by a mile.

This fabulous Neo-Victorian Biologist costume was made by a bona fide geek mom. Sara Jones’s background in costume design comes in handy when her daughter Linden Reid needs garb for SDCC. My photo—snapped with a camera that was being obstreperous all day—does not do this amazing creation justice. The detail-work was exquisite, especially on Linden’s butterfly-collector’s backpack.

I have loads of SDCC awesomeness to write about later, but right it’s time to head back into the fray. I’m wishing I had Sara Jones here to liven up my wardrobe a little!

This Week With The GeekMoms

Laura is gleeful that her post was one of those chosen as a 2011 Voice of the Year at BlogHer’11 in the niche category.

Jennifer D. is watching her yard turn to brown death in this heat but refuses to waste water to keep it green. She and her family are headed to a weekend in Kansas City to see the Claude Monet’s Water Lilies Triptych, the KC zoo, and T Rex cafe. She hopes to avoid spontaneous combustion in the process.

Melissa is completing a flurry of important last-minute preparations for San Diego Comic-Con: the pre-con haircut, the pre-con pedicure, and the pre-con badge-printing. She looks forward to the eventual return of her pre-con brain.

Chaos Mandy has finished her summer semester at college and now has nearly a month off before her final semester starts in August. Due to being free from school, she is embarking on a “Clean All The Things” cleaning spree and purge in order to reclaim her spare room.

Jules has had a really busy week. She is busy putting the final touches on the fourth print issue of The Vaccine Times, preparing to interview Mad TV Alum and author of ‘The Brain Eater’s Bible‘, Pat Kilbane, next week on the Geeky Pleasures Radio Show. She is also preparing to interview people, live from San Diego Comic-Con, including GeekMom Nicole Wakelin, tonight during the Geeky Pleasures Radio Show at 7 pm PT/ 10 pm ET.

Corrina finished the final edits on Phoenix Rising, her upcoming superhero novel, and is currently enjoying working on the sequel. She also finally got all four kids to agree on something: they all pronounced Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 2 awesome. Likely there will be ice-skating in hell before they agree on anything again.


San Diego Comic-Con or Bust

San Diego Comic-Con

There are conventions, and then there’s San Diego Comic-Con. We’re talking 4 days (and a preview night) of celebrities, panels, advance screenings, cosplay, parties and everything the geek masses could possibly want all gathered together in one place, along with 130,000 people. I’m making my first trip to SDCC this year, and in between jumping up and down with excitement over finally making the pilgrimage, I’ve been desperately trying not to be overwhelmed by the sheer size of it all.

As soon as they released the schedule I started making a must-see list. Then things got added to the schedule so I revised my list. Then there were parties that aren’t on the official schedule, but that I wanted to attend, so I revised my list again. And then I remembered w00tstock and it was at about this point that I feared my head would explode like an over-ripe melon. I took a deep breath and crumpled up the whole list before downloading the official mobile app and giving it another try.

With just three days before I board a plane I’ve managed to figure out one thing, and that is, I’ve figured out absolutely nothing. Sure, I’ve checked off my favorite events in the handy-dandy mobile app so I’ll have an idea of when things happen, but I know I’m not likely to make even half of the things I’ve checked.

Everyone tells tales about the incredible lines that stretch through the convention center, so short of picking one event and planting myself in that line all day, there will be little to no hope of getting into the room. This means the super-popular panels like The Walking Dead or True Blood or Game of Thrones are right off my list. And you know what? That’s perfectly okay.

There is so much happening at SDCC, that standing in line for hours just to see a panel is not for me. There are are just too many other things I could be checking out. There’s a giant exhibit hall to explore, autographs to score and the artist’s alley to investigate. I’m kind of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my pants girl, so half the fun for me is just wandering around until something catches my eye.

And then there’s  the best part of every con I’ve ever attended. The people. It’s the friends I know who’ve made the trip, the online friends that I’ll meet for the first time and the complete strangers I end up chatting with that make a convention worth attending. I love snapping pictures of the cosplayers who are always happy to pose and listening to random snippets of happy conversation as celebrities chat with their fans. Amid all the booths and panels and parties, it’s the like-minded people that surround me that make conventions so much fun and I can not wait to see them all in San Diego!

(Also, I’m a bit of a  twitter-holic so you can follow me, @nicolewakelin, for updates from SDCC throughout the convention.)

Gearing Up for San Diego Comic-Con

I read something scary on Twitter the other day: words so alarming they actually made me gasp.

Only six weeks until SDCC!

Six weeks until San Diego Comic-Con?! It hardly seems possible! And yet it’s true. Actually, since that tweet was several days ago, there are less than six weeks until the biggest event of my family’s summer: Comic-Con begins on Thursday, July 21.

Time for this con-crazy mother to get her ducks in a row. This will be my fourth time attending SDCC, which is the biggest and most crowded comics convention in the United States. Every year, I’ve shared photos, stories, and panel recaps at my blog. This year, to pile extra fun on top of the Mountain of Fun that is SDCC, I’ll be writing about my con experiences here at GeekMom. I’m super-excited to be here!

As the con countdown commences, I’m keeping a sharp eye on the Comic-Con website for panel and event announcements. This year my husband (a comic book writer and editor) and I are bringing our three oldest kids, so we have a lot of planning to do. Some of my favorite things about comics conventions are the writer and artist discussion panels—I love to hear other creative folks talk about their work. Last year’s panels were amazing, especially the kids’ graphic novels discussion, the epic fantasy panel, and Michael Scott’s interview with Rick Riordan.

It was also pretty exciting when the actor who played Young Benjamin Linus popped up in the audience at the LOST Encyclopedia panel.

Of course the very best part of any comics convention is gawking at the fabulous costumes.

I hear a couple of other GeekMoms will be in attendance, so we’ll have to have a geek meet for sure. If you’re going too, leave a comment and let us know!