Quick Announcement

One of my goals at New York Comic Con this year was to network and hope that something good came out of it. So I talked to people standing next to me in line, people sitting next to me at panels, and everyone sitting behind the tables, making friends and getting advice on how to Make It. I met a lot of awesome people and had a lot of awesome conversations, and yes, something good did come out of it. As I was camping out for the Mark Hamill Spotlight panel in the MTV Theater, somehow a conversation started with the group of people sitting around me, including two people with press passes. To make a long story short, [insert geek here] now counts me as their newest contributor! I’ll be writing under the nickname ‘Teacup,’ a moniker given to me by one of my oldest friends. Make sure you go check them out at their site and follow them on Twitter. They seem like a great group of people, and I’m honored to be writing for them!

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Artist Appreciation: Emanuela Lupacchino

If you’ve been paying attention to my Twitter feed and to previous posts on Fannish Potpourri, you’ll know that Marvel’s X-Factor is one of my favorite comics right now. It’s hilariously funny, it draws upon the grandest soap opera tropes which the X-Men are best known for, and it’s written by the masterful Peter David, a long time veteran of the comic universe.

Something X-Factor is  known for, and something I feel is one of the strengths of the series, is the relatively quick turnover of artists. Some fans have a problem with it, but I enjoy seeing new and different artists’ take on the characters. With one exception, and I won’t name names, there hasn’t been an artist on the title I’ve hated. Each artist rises to the challenge of portraying the noir sensibilities of this mutant detective agency while at the same time bringing their own style to the book and handling all of the quirks of the Marvel Universe. It’s a lot to juggle, and not many would be up to the task. While I’ve enjoyed most of the artists on the title, I have to point out the incredible talents of one of the newest members of the X-Factor family.

Emanuela Lupacchino started penciling duties on the title with issue #208, which also happened to be one of my favorite titles of X-Factor after being renumbered to fit with a previous run. (Marvel does that a lot. Just roll with me here.)  Since then, she’s penciled a number of issues, and all of them have been fantastic. She’s faced a number of challenges, including Asgardian zombies, potential harbingers of the Apocalypse, and were-creatures of every sort, not to mention the eccentric and unique members of the X-Factor cast, but she makes it look easy. Her art is cartoony, yet realistic. Her artwork is full of emotion and movement, two things I find integral for someone drawing for a script written by Peter David.

Check out this video of her sketching a dangerously sexy Harley Quinn.

You can see Emanuela’s other work on Deviantart, or follow her on her newly created Twitter account. Also, check out her choice of inker Guillermo Ortego on the same sites: DeviantArt and Twitter.

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NYCC ’11 – Mark Hamill Spotlight

When I first met Mark Hamill, he stood about four inches tall, lived on a desert planet with two suns, and spoke in a high pitched voice some people might call whiny. I was nine years old and my best friend had brought over the entire original Star Wars trilogy for a day long marathon to introduce me to the series. By the time the credits rolled on Return of the Jedi, I was hooked.

Redesigned movie posters for the original Star Wars series

Olly Moss redesigned posters for the original Star Wars series. Aren't they gorgeous?

The Star Wars trilogy, as one of the most popular sci-fi creations of the past fifty years, is a gateway series into science fiction and geekery for many young people. I attribute those three films as my first steps on the way to becoming the geek I am today, as well as the series responsible for my first celebrity crush. Mark Hamill was not unattractive during the time the movies were filmed, even with the minor surgery he received between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back to correct damage done in a car crash. While the crush has since faded (except in a nostalgic way), my appreciation for Mark as an actor has not. So when the fine folks at NYCC announced the man himself would be attending New York Comic Con as a guest this year, I was overjoyed.

Luke Skywalker on Tatooine

One handsome man

Needless to say, the Spotlight panel focusing on him on Saturday night did not disappoint. He spoke almost the entire time, telling anecdotes about his life, his time on the set of Star Wars, and his voice acting roles on shows such as Avatar: The Last Airbender, Regular Show, and, most famously, the Joker for DC’s numerous cartoons and video games.
Highlights of the panel were:

  • Mark talked about how he learned that infamous plot twist from George Lucas on set moments before filming the scene and how he’d been instructed to keep it a secret. The story had been told in several interviews before and I’d heard it at least twice, but it was nice to hear Mark himself talk about the experience. One tidbit I hadn’t heard before was the addition of Harrison Ford’s “How come you didn’t tell me?” at the premiere.
  • Mr. Hamill seemed bemused when it came to the rabidity of fans when it came to knowledge of the entire Star Wars universe. There were several moments throughout the panel in which someone in the audience shouts out the name of some alien or planet in the Star Wars universe that Mark didn’t know. At one point of the show, he mentions that many of the androids, creatures, and space ships were only given names when the toy companies wanted to copyright them for production. The first part of this anecdote is merely amusing, but the second half says a lot about the business side of the franchise.
  • He performed many impressions of his numerous roles throughout the show without requests or, including many lines of the Joker and an improvised monologue in the voice of Skips, his character in Regular Show. This was the part that impressed me the most. I’d known he was a great voice actor, but that knowledge had not sunk in until I’d heard his skills as a voice actor in the flesh.
  • A fan requested to hear Mark speak the famous line “Why So Serious?” from Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight in his ‘Joker’ voice, and he obliged. He then proceeded to sing a slightly modified version of ‘Happy Birthday’ to an audience member, ending the song and the evening with a different, saltier version of the last line.
  • Hamill’s overall enthusiasm and eagerness to talk about topics probably well worn out at this point of his career made the entire panel a very enjoyable experience. He mentioned many times over the course of the hour that he was a big geek as well, having a keen interest in old-time radio drama and a comic book collector since childhood.

When you meet a celebrity you look up to, you run the risk of having your image of this person tarnished by the person they really are. Luckily, this was not the case for any of the people attending the panel on Saturday night.  Mark was a great speaker and hopefully his first visit to New York Comic Con will not be his last.

Mark Hamill at NYCC 2011

Still lookin' good. Mark moved around twice to let people sitting behind the poorly placed column in the room see him.

Have you ever met someone famous that you looked up to? Were you disappointed with what you found, or were they just as you imagined?

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“I poisoned my dog so he can’t keep chasing that baby giraffe.”

Check out Bad Lip Readings “Russian Unicorn”! Such a great idea, and perfectly executed. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

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Five Geeky Things I’m Excited For

I’ve got a decent post in the works for the next week for so. Meanwhile, here’s a quick list of some  geeky things I’m excited for within the next year

  • X-Factor #222 – This series has it all: laughs, heartbreak, intrigue. Now, it’s adding a touch of the Supernatural as the battle for Rahne Sinclair’s half-mutant, half-Wolf God baby begins. This is the series that got me into comics, and for me, there’ll never be an issue not worth reading. The art for the past couple issues hasn’t been the best. X-Factor tends to rotate between one artist penciling for a decent amount of issues, and filler artists. I miss Emanuela Lupacchino’s openly emotional faces and distinctive pencils, but I’m looking forward to Leonard Kirk’s upcoming run. Marvel said he’ll be sharing art duties with Emanuela, so bring on issue #225! (Coincidentally, issue #225 is when the effects of Avengers: Children’s Crusade start to affect the characters of X-Factor, so I’m doubly pumped for that issue as well!)

 

  • Avengers: Children’s Crusade #7 – Let’s continue on the comic tangent for a while. Avengers: Children’s Crusade, except for the bimonthly schedule, has been a great series so far. It’s fun, it’s wrapping up a loose plot point from a series six years old, and have you seen that artwork? Jim Cheung’s pencils, along with Mark Morales on inks and Justin Ponsor on colors, are amazing. His splash pages especially are dynamic and fully detailed. Anyway, Tom Brevoort has been promising A:CC and Schism will be intertwined, and with the end of issue #6, the seeds are definitely sewn for that clash. Magneto, Wolverine, and the Avengers against Cyclops and the X-Men? With all the baggage they have under the bridge concerning Wanda, this is not going to be an easy fight, but it’ll sure be interesting to see the outcome. Personally, I don’t think Wanda’s going to be able to repower the mutants. I think something’s going to prevent her from doing that, but whether it’s Doom, the X-Men, or even Wanda or her son Billy themselves, I don’t know how it’s going to come about.

 

  • The Captain America movie and The Avengers movie- Marvel’s been on a role with their home grown feature films lately, and I’m excited to see if Captain America and The Avengers hold with Marvel’s previous successes. Not to mention the Marvel geek inside me can’t wait to see all of her favorite characters on screen.
  • New York Comic Con –  Nowadays, a ‘comic con’ is not just for comics. It’s a haven for geeks and nerds to let their fannish glee free, to interact with the people creating your favorite shows, comics, or books, and to meet people who share the same interests as you. It’s still three months away, and yet I’m already counting down the days. 91 and counting!
  • The next nine episodes of Torchwood: Miracle Day. I still miss the oftentimes unintentionally hilarious show that Torchwood used to be, but the show that it’s grown into is no less entertaining. The first episode of this season was perfectly back on form, and the rest of the season sounds like it’ll be just as good. John Barrowman, Eve Myles, and Kai Owen and joined by some great American actors (Bill Pullman, Mekhi Phifer, Alexa Havins, Dichen Lachman, as well as numerous others.) I am especially happy to see Tom Price back and P.C. Andy. I’ve had a soft spot for the character ever since he first showed up in the first series, and I’m surprised the character’s made it this far, with the show’s propensity to kill off every character it can.

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“Leiht euer Ohr einer Legende”: The Wait Is Over

I wrote this in December 2010 after fulfilling one of my lifelong goals: attending a Rammstein concert. The fact that it was their first concert in the United States in ten years at Madison Square Garden made the event so much sweeter. I’m posting this here because it completely summarizes my feelings about the band.
“You would never be able to tell on first glance, but Rammstein is one of my favorite musical groups. I love the heavy and fast songs which made them famous. I love their slower ballads, overlooked by press and fans alike but are no less spellbinding. I love their ambiguity. On the outside they look very superficial with their flamethrowers and silly costumes, and a lot of their songs sound the same if you’re not listening with the ears of a longtime fan, but their lyrics are so powerful and poetic. Till Lindemann writes gorgeous lyrics, full of wordplay and imagery. They may be about some very dark topics, but they cover a lot of things most artists avoid. You can read translations of most of their lyrics at Herzeleid.com, including several notations of the biggest  instances of wordplay.

My neck is killing me, I can barely talk, and I’ve gotten about 8 hours of sleep total in the past 3 days, but you know what? It was worth it.  Each time the band releases an album, their interviews are filled with comments about how tough it was, how much they fought, and how this might be the last one. Each time I worried they would break up, that I would never get to see them perform live. I love their albums, but every fan knows that this band is not one to to be heard on a iPod’s headphones, a computer’s speakers, or even a Due to their pyrotechnics, immense sound, and general antics on stage, their stage show is often referred to by metal fans everywhere as a ‘must-see’ performance, even if you’re not a big fan of them. I’ve been a fan of them ever since my later years of middle school. During all those years, I thought, barring a trip overseas, I would never ever get to see them live. When this one date at Madison Square Garden was announced, I was over the moon. And now it’s happened, over and done with, and I don’t quite believe I actually was there.

The boys (although they’re really grown men: Till, the vocalist, is the oldest at 47, Ollie, the bass player, is the youngest at 39) did such an amazing job. Even though I was pretty far back (section 302), I could still tell the emotions and intent between every movement made, which is saying something in a large arena. I could also feel the heat from the flamethrowers. If I was that far back and could feel it, just imagine what the people in standing room felt!

The songs were perfect; Till was note on and in full booming sub-bass form. The stage show, flames and antics and flaming antics, was entertaining but didn’t overshadow the instruments at all. There were some problems with Till’s mic, but the audience knew the words anyway and sung along, so nothing was lost. Some of the most incredible moments, peppered through the entire show, happened when the audience’s words overcame the stage performances. It’s so amazing to hear 20,000 Americans singing German lyrics, lyrics which the group as a whole probably doesn’t understand 97% of what they’re singing.

And what really amazed me was the amount of respect and gratitude which came off of them in waves, much the the heat from the flames bursting off the stage in tightly choreographed patterns. In recent interviews, the whole band has talked about how it’s been their dream to play Madison Square Garden, but they’d been told it wasn’t a possibility because they weren’t popular enough in the US. After the entire show sold out in 30 minutes (which is 20,000 seats, if you were wondering), I think that proved the naysayers wrong. Hopefully it was enough to warrant a tour in the upcoming year.

When they’d finished their final encore (Engel) and took their final bows, they were so reverent and so grateful. They genuinely seemed like they were having a good time up there, hugging one another, laughing and joking, which is a big thing because they are known for being very grumpy and taciturn. This was truly a once in a lifetime experience, for both the audience and the band, and I’m honored to have been a part of it.”

Set List
Rammlied*
B********
Waidmanns Heil
Keine Lust
Weißes Fleisch*
Feuer frei!
Wiener Blut
Frühling in Paris*
Ich tu dir Weh
Du Riechst So Gut*
Benzin
Links 2-3-4
Du Hast
Pussy*

Sonne*
Haifisch
Ich will*

Engel*

* indicate my favorite performances of the night

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Two Years Later – My Thoughts on Torchwood: Children of Earth

I watched the last episode of the five day Torchwood miniseries Children of Earth after waiting nearly two years from when it originally aired, and because it gave me a bunch of feelings, I decided to write up my final thoughts on the series. There will be spoilers, so proceed with caution and please don’t complain to me if you read something you didn’t want to.

On the whole, I liked it. As a piece of television, without any of the baggage I carry from previous seasons of Torchwood, I liked it. It’s dramatic, it makes very interesting points, and it’s very beautifully shot, edited, and scored. I love the build up between the five days; it almost feels Shakespearean to me, which is a topic I definitely want to explore on another day. I love how each episode represents one day in the series and the series aired five days in a row, making it feel like it’s happening in real time. As a writer myself, I’m drawn to pieces of work that both play with and adhere to our own perception of time, which is exactly what this series does. I love how every one of our main characters gets a chance to be brave and badass and amazing. The scenes with the British government and the American liason are chilling because I can actually picture something like that happening in our world right now, and it’s terrifying. I think that’s exactly what RTD was going for and it absolutely worked.
I love that Rhys joined the remaining team and helped them out in their time of need. I love Rhys and Gwen together, now that they’ve worked out all of their drama, and how their relationship is going to work now that Rhys knows that Gwen works for Torchwood. It’s one of my favorite things to see a couple work as a team and love each other despite any outside issues that may try to force them apart. I love Ianto and Jack tiptoeing around their relationship, trying to figure out exactly what they are to each other. I love Ianto’s sister and brother-in-law. Seeing the little hint of his relationship with his family, and seeing that Ianto is, even after his death, still as much of a mystery as he was when we were first introduced to him is heartbreaking but very fitting. He is, after all, the character who lied his way into Torchwood in the first place. I loved the little nod toward Tosh and Owen in the beginning and at the end; I didn’t mind at all that they’d been killed off then and after watching Children of Earth I still didn’t mind. I liked the reminder that the lives of Torchwood agents are often short and their deaths are brutal. In the very first series we are told this, and yet not one of our main cast dies. The ending of the second series brings it home, and the end to Children of Earth helps to reinforce it.

The acting was phenomenal. The main cast was at the top of their game, especially John Barrowman. He’s notorious for overacting due to his theatre roots, but Euros Lyn manages to channel his over the top tendencies into great performances. Eve Myles is gorgeous and beautiful and perfection, and Gareth does very well with all the material he’s been given (which just about equals everything he’d been given in the previous two seasons if you take out Cyberwoman and the ghost movies episode). The guest stars were also brilliant. I can’t pick just one to single out, they all were fantastic, but if I had to pick one, I would have to say that Peter Capaldi nailed it the whole way through; when he went home on Day Five, it was perfect. His look of resignation, his body language, they were perfect.

However, as an episode of Torchwood, the Torchwood of the first two seasons, I don’t like it. The first season was a mix of awful and wonderful, and I love how over the top it was, how much heart and spunk it had. It certainly wasn’t the best season of television ever written, but it had potential. The second season… well, you know how people say they have ‘their doctor?’ Well, I have seasons, and the second season of Torchwood is mine. It’s the perfect mixture of crack, fun, and seriousness, with enough room for fandom to fill in the blanks. Children of Earth turns that all on its head. There are some funny moments, but they’re overshadowed by the gloom and despair that the whole series ends on. So, I can value it as general good storytelling, but overall it’s not what I look for when I watch Torchwood.

I HATE that Ianto had to die. I loved his death scene itself, because how romantic and touching could you have asked for and oh Ianto you poor brave misunderstood lying soul! It’s no wonder that the whole fandom fell in love with you. How could you ask for anything more if your couple were to have a death scene? I can’t say, however, that I loved the fact that Ianto died. As much as RTD wants to explain it away, he still killed one half of the most interesting queer couples on television. He’s obviously a fan of the Joss Whedon School of Relationships Where No One Can Ever Be Happy and the only way to cause drama and pain in a character’s life is to kill them off. That’s bad enough when it’s applied to a heterosexual couple, but when it’s applied to a queer couple? Not cool. I am not a fan of Joss Whedon’s idea of adding drama to a series because it’s bad writing, and yet it’s used in so many forms of entertainment. That, however, is a rant for another day.

Jack Harkness is the Character Who Must Not Be Happy Ever plus the Character Who Cannot Be Tied Down Ever, but does that mean we have to kill off everyone he loves? Evidently it does, and that’s just what Children of Earth accomplishes, except perhaps for Gwen. The ending was completely in character for Jack and for what we’ve seen him do, but the way it was written, it feels like it was done solely to shock the viewers. It happened so abruptly for such a long, drawn out series, and Jack’s daughter and grandson seemed to be added for this sole ending, this deus ex machina of Jack using his grandson to push the 456 off the planet at the cost of his grandson’s life, that it feels like it’s just for the emotional manipulation of the audience and of Jack Harkness himself.

Despite all of these problems, I do like the series and I’m excited to see the fourth season entitled Torchwood: Miracle Day, the first episode of which airs on the Starz network on July 8th, 2011. I’m just going to view it as an alternate universe, which shouldn’t be a problem. Alternate universes are just another day for the denizens of the Whoniverse, after all, and perhaps one day we’ll see Toshiko, Owen, and Ianto back on our screens.

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