Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Anime Fargo This Weekend! - Fargo, ND



We're guests at Anime Fargo!

Neither of us have ever been to Fargo before and we can't wait to see everyone!  We'll have a table in the vendor hall and I believe we're also doing some panels, which will be listed in the program book. We'll have our prints, costumes and books as always.  So come stop by and say hi!

As always, if you can't make it to Anime Fargo, you can always support us through our Etsy and on Patreon!  And if you want to see us at your local con, don't forget to mention us to your local convention!


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Events This Weekend! - Minnesota

It's a busy weekend coming up and I'll be at two events! Something new on each day!



September 15th (Saturday) - 
The Wolf House
This is a reading specifically for The Subverted Fairy Project - an anthology series I'm working on with a group of local Minnesota authors combining our own art and stories inspired by slang terms across Britain. The book isn't out yet, but this is your change to get an idea of what's in store!

You can pick up tickets here and be sure to join us - but pick them up quick, as seating is limited!


A popup books store with several different authors selling their works and willing to talk over drinks. I'll have our normal books and prints, stickers and everything else, just a bit smaller of a display then usual as it's just me.  Still, I hope to see lots of faces!

I will be both of these without the wifey, as she's got other projects to work on, but I'll still have her stuff from magnifiqueNOIR just in case people are looking or it. 

Hope to see people there!

As always if you can't make it, you can always pick up any of our works and books from our Etsy and please consider supporting us on Patreon for sneak peaks to what we're working on next!



Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Castle Rock - A Twist on the Expanded Universe


Upfront I'll admit, I love expanded universes.  Comics, manga (Japanese comic books), movies, novels, fairy tales, all of it.  I love when you can pick up a story and realize there are these threads that spread out to other stories. I am completely caught by an expanding narrative that allows me to catch all the small threads, as if I were catching the tail end of a very long inside joke. It keeps my little geek heart happy.

Some do it better then others.  The early days of the MCU with little teasers at the end were cute, but nothing compared to the layered worlds of  CLAMP manga. The difference being that one was a set up from the beginning, while the latter was pieced together part by part, the connections added in with each new story. Now there are pluses and minuses for each, but my heart lies in the ones that aren't so obvious and don't use the intertwining as a crutch - looking at you MCU.

That paired with the fact that I am a Stephen King fan.  I grew up stealing his adult books from my mother's reading shelf in the spare bedroom, hanging on the retellings by my best friend when I wasn't brave enough to finish them myself.  I knew he always crafted his stories to connect and when I found CLAMP did the same thing in my college years, I'm reasonably sure it's part of the reason they were one of my favorite manga creators.

Flash forward to today, while working on other things I decided to press play on Castle Rock.  A new series by Hulu, Castle Rock bills itself as Stephen King told ala Once Upon a Time. In other words you may recognize the place, you may recognize the characters, but this is a new tale, and that really intrigued me. Because by now I've read even more of his books and seen quite a few of his movies.  Beyond that I admire him as a writer - though some of his tropes irk me - and dream of having a library of my own works as numerous as his one day.

So what exactly is Castle Rock?  Well, for those
familiar, Castle Rock is the fictional town that a
good number of Stephen King's stories take place in.  It's situated in Maine and is a small town, complete with all the downsides of such a place - ie small town secrets, old notions and strange but protected ways. The townsfolk aren't evil, of course, they're just set in their ways and when something new comes up or something tries to rustle their way of life well, there's no having that.

As a series, Castle Rock weaves together a unique story with countless points of entry. For those who aren't familiar with Stephen King, you'll find here an intriguing story about the source of evil buried in a small town.  For those familiar with the author you'll find the same... and so much more. Littered throughout the storytelling are nods and hints to all of his books. Some are obvious - like the infamous Shawshank Prison - while others are ever so slight - the mention of a rabid dog that one year.  Hints abound, you can barely blink while watching, because you'll miss one.

The nice thing is, even with these easter eggs scattered across the path, unless you're familiar you wouldn't know and it doesn't hurt the story if that's the case.  At the time of writing this, I've seen five episodes in the series and they all come together with a complete tale that doesn't leave the viewer out in the cold. At no point am I told 'oh, that's from Needful Things, read that for more' nor does a character subtly drop a list of the other movies you should add to your queue.  Nope, it's all an inside joke that isn't required to watch the show and enjoy it.

Honestly, I wish all expanded universes were like this and I do miss it. I realize that Marvel and DC have movies to sell and Once Upon a Time had fan favorites they wanted to show Disney fans front and center, but Castle Rock shows what can happen when those wishes aren't focused on.  And in the end this series is masterfully unfolding and I'm so ready to see where it goes.  Then, once it's done, I know I'll be revisiting other favorite movies and novels of Stephen Kings, to relive those worlds all over again and even try a few other new ones.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Review: Sunstone (Comic)



Sunstone is the ongoing comic by Stjepan Sejic (and sometimes his wife) delving into the world of BDSM and the relationships that exist within.  This is not your "50 Shades of Gray" in comic form.  This is the actual portrayal of a healthy relationship between two women and the others they interact with in the BDSM scene. It's very pretty, it's very hot, but it's also really well written with three dimensional characters and a beautiful story. And it's adult, so be warned.


What's it about?


Lisa is a freelance writer, more then often dabbling in erotica when she can and mostly keeps her submissive side hidden.  Meanwhile Ally is a successful business woman with more then enough money to burn - and burn it she does on elaborate props and setups for the perfect submissive she's hoping to one day finds. The comic follows their meeting and relationship together as they explore their own preferred taboos and figure how to blend their worlds of 'love' and 'submissive and dominant' together. There's also spin off series concerning the others characters introduced, such as Sunstone: Mercy and Sunstone: Jasper.




Art by Luis Royo

Thoughts:


As I mentioned, if you were looking for a healthy alternative to the more well known '50 Shades' relationship, here is a perfect example.  The series was recommended to me by a good friend and it does not disappoint in story, heat meter or art.  Basically, we have a healthy relationship here that is arguably better then the damaging fantasy of the previously mentioned Gray series.

Backing up a bit, ever since my teens I've had a love for art in this style.  It can hardly be called pornographic, because it's not just about the boobs and flesh shown off, though there is plenty of that. Growing up I found myself drawn to the art of Luis Royo which easily mixed sexuality and art, and now I have a deep love for doujinshi and fanart that do the same thing. Basically this is a story that doesn't shy away from showing skin when the plot requires it, but does so in a tasteful way that can easily still be called art.

If you're not familiar with the kinky world of the characters, that's not a problem.  The comic obviously understands that the world is full of a variety of people with a variety of experience and kinks so it gives enough information for a foundation without shaming the reader in anyway.  It's easy to get into and easy to love the characters - especially when they refer to themselves as sexual nerds, who just happen to like sex the way most others would describe their love of comics or movies. It's descriptions like this that make the world and story especially easy to step into and explore across the pages.


Added to this, the story is told from Lisa's POV and as a newbie on the BDSM scene, she's serves as a perfect bridge into the story and niche culture without dumping a load of exposition or terms on the reader. It also gives the comic an almost voyeuristic style, letting the reader peak into the naughty secrets of what the main characters do behind closed doors.


Having read a variety of books, novels and comics before, I would have to say the main thing that grabs me and keeps a hold of me about this series is how much history the characters seem to ooze with each action.  This isn't just the normal author goal of creating 3 dimensional characters, no I would venture to say the creators of this series have gone beyond that with their writing, illustration and even the perfect little details of how Lisa bites the side of her lower lip.  It feels like I've met these characters.  With each new volume and page it feels like I'm checking in with close friends and hearing about their lives. The storytelling is personal and vivid in a way that few stories manage to be.

Final Thoughts:


It's really common in our world to just pair men and women together if they share a certain amount of screen time. It's quite rare for media - especially certain movies - to show us the depths of a relationship and how it grows, twists, turns and flourishes over time. This is even more rare when talking about queer couples or couples with niche sexual interests.  First and foremost this series communicates that sexuality is a spectrum of desires and needs - with every person having needs they not only struggle to understand, but also have to find another who can meet them.

What I'm trying to say is that you do not have to be part of the BDSM scene to enjoy these stories.  Because these comics are about people, who are as real as a comic page can portray.

Where can I find it?


The collected volumes can be found at most local comic stores and are published by Image and Top Cow. Support your local comic book store!

You can also find them on Amazon.

You can also check out the creator's Deviantart page.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Where To Find Us This Weekend: 2DCon in Minnesota!

We have another convention coming up this weekend in Minnesota and we're guests!  Come join us at 2DCon!  We'll have a table as always and Briana will also be showing off the amazing Nintendo dress Jessica made for the DesignICON show.  Now's your time to see it in person and catch all the details!

Don't forget to pick up Little Creepers - our newest release - and any of our other books and prints you may have missed.  See you there!



Other events coming up soon:
San Japan in the end of August!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Books to Check Out: Making Friends in the Afterlife by H. Jonathan Goltz


At first glance, this doesn't exactly look like it's for kids.  But lets be honest, some kids like a little creepy and that doesn't mean there isn't an important message mixed in with the oddly cute illustrations.  I know I would have loved this book as a kid simply because of how unique, cute and sweet it is.


Life's tough for little Amnio. His parents are the reason why all the creatures called "humans" disappeared before he was born, and now everybody left in the Afterworld is afraid of him! How's a kid supposed to find any friends around here? "Making Friends in the Afterworld" contains three short, fully-illustrated tales of gas-masked kid Amnio's search for companionship in the seemingly gloomy Afterworld. Along the way, he'll meet an unlucky headless chicken named Nugget, several former imaginary friends, and Mr. Pudge, a dog so loyal that even radiation poisoning can't keep him down for long. Best summarized as "like 'Dick and Jane' after the apocalypse," this title has a heart of gold within its dark-humor exterior, and is perfect for kids (and grown-ups!) who prefer some 'creepy' mixed in with their 'cute.'

You can get your copy here on Amazon!


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Where To Find Us This Weekend: Pride St Charles!

This weekend is going to be awesome!  For Saturday we'll have a table at Pride St Charles with our books, new costumes and an awesome new rainbow pixel quilt! If you're in the area, come say hi and check out our queer magical girls!

Also we have new stickers specifically for the event!

See you there!!



Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Pride Month and Where I Fit (or don't) Within My Family

Photo by Ekyse Lavonne

So, its Pride month. That time in our lives when we’re supposed to celebrate how queer
we are and remind the world we exist, before the month is over and a large number of them
can go back to pretending we don’t. There is a portion of my family who are included in
that group and, with recent things that have happened, I needed to write the below and get
on with my life. This is super personal, but honestly I do hope it helps others, or at least will
help explain what happened recently and why I’m 10000% done with this bullshit.
My grandmother passed away recently and, as most families do, my family and their friends
gathered together to talk about her and attempt to lay her to rest. However, in the world of
passive aggressive Minnesota, it’s not really that simple. Let me back up. Once upon a time, back in middle school, I told my parents I thought I was gay. I came
prepared, I had the proof. A close attractive female friend, check. The desire to only
sketch beautiful women because curves were easier and prettier, check. My complete
lack of a dating life in any shape or form in spite of having several male friends who
shared my interests, check. I was positive. I knew what the word meant and it fit me,
I was so sure. What else could it all mean? “No. You’re not.” my dad said and that was that. I was told to never talk about it again. Once upon a time, fresh out of college, I moved back in with my parents. I was an adult.
I had a full time job, a handle on my bills and was ready to strike out on my own. Oh and
I had a girlfriend. One I met in college over the internet and spent nearly all my free time
online with. We were in love, I even bought her a ring. Eventually I gathered up the courage
to tell them that, once again, I liked girls. This time my proof was indisputable. I had a
girlfriend, a lover of the female persuasion. Surely this would be enough. They refused to say her name. When my mom mentioned her it was always as my
roommate and nothing more. My mother even took the time to gaslighting me,
accusing me of being the problem for being so concerned with ‘labels.’ I skipped
Christmas that year, instead we went and got a cat, trying to fill the gaping hole. This is how it went, on and off for years. Briana’s a part of my life and when my
parents called she would come up in conversation. There was some headway,
here and there, with time passing and small comments. They started to say her
name, my dad even referred to her as my partner once in front of others. I wasn’t
crazy, they were getting it. Surely it would eventually be enough kind words,
comments of understanding, I’m not insane really, I’m still your daughter I’m
just in love. But each time, even when there seemed to be progress, that brick
wall came crashing down to remind me that no, I was wrong. It was never outright hate, my parents don’t do that. Instead it was small things,
like ignoring her until I brought her up. Gifts purchased from the clearance rack
with the sticker still left in place, just so they had something to wrap. Complete
silence at the mention of a wedding, especially when they had mentioned paying
for when there was a hint of my being straight. My parents became masters of
microaggressions that I could never bring up, because I’d be gaslit into confusion
and silence, somehow never able to communicate to them why it hurt so much. Which brings me to the funeral with the eulogy written by my own mother’s hand
and my complete and utter rage during what should have been a time to mourn
a loved family member. Sitting there, in the pew, with my ever supportive wifey of 16+ years, I sat looking
at a lovely one sheet of paper about my grandmother. She was a sweet woman
who had mothered a large family and lived on a farm for most of her life. She
loved animals and taught her daughters to sew, spending all the time she could
with her grandchildren and great grandchildren. She was survived by an entire
family… a family which included her children and their loved ones. My parents
and their children. My brother and his wife of less than a year. And me. Just me.
Partnerless. Sitting there, in that funeral home, the person next to me was reduced to
invisibility yet again and I felt like a piece of me was cut away, not suitable for
public consumption. She wasn’t good enough. I wasn't good enough. And in
spite of my continued efforts, we never would be. So it was time to stop trying. There’s this nice little fantasy that’s passed around, that family is the
foundation you build your life on and that one safe place you can always
return to when times are hard. This is a truth that so many people cling to
and write their lives on that when you realize your family doesn’t fit this mold
there’s a sense of panic. Children like me run forward and try to pretend it’s
ok, burying the painful truth so deep that it’s continually forgotten and denied.
We try so damn hard. Just one more chance and they’ll get it. Just one more look,
one more phone call, one more conversation. One more awkward get together
and it’ll all turn out ok. The fantasy says if it doesn’t work it’s our fault. Our
family isn’t to blame because they’re still there and still a strong foundation -
instead we’re the odd piece out that doesn’t fit and we did something wrong. It’s
our fault that we’re different, because we don’t fit.

That fantasy is a lie. It's not our fault. It never was. What I failed to realize is that this wasn’t my job. I could twist and turn all I
wanted, but it wouldn’t matter until my family actually made a space for me
to fit into. I would never be able to fit into something that wasn’t there to begin
with. Pretending to be something I wasn’t to fit their tiny little space - or worse,
amputating a part of myself just to be around them - wasn’t helping anyone. It
was hurting me. A lot. And I couldn’t do it anymore. That day, on the way back from the funeral home, we ranted and I cried. A lot.
No part of that night was about my grandma, as it should have been. I’d come
to terms with my grandma’s death before the funeral, honestly, that part I’d
already worked through. Instead I was angry and I was in pain because of the
family it was killing me to hang onto, and I needed to let them go. It would never
matter how much I tried or how many chances I gave them. The ball was in their
court and it always had been. There was nothing I could do until they actually
picked it up and moved on. No amount of me trying was going to force their
hands, no matter how much I wanted it to. ‘Coming out’ is the moment in a queer person’s life where they step out through
a closet door and finally show the world who they are. I’ve come out, many times
since middle school. I haven’t always been accepted, but it’s always felt like some
sort of progress was made - except with my family. Somehow, there, my queer
self was revealed only to be shoved back in the closet and hidden away with
every other dark denied secret. It didn’t matter how many times I pulled it out, it
was always pushed right back in, ready to be ignored for another day. I think, sometimes, ‘coming out’ is simply a door. A door to leave behind yourself
and the others who won’t accept you. In this case it was leaving my parents’
house and walking down the street to join my partner in the home we’ve created
with my friends and chosen loved ones. From the outside I can see how damaged
and condemned that old family house is. I can also see that I’m not the one doing
the damage and it’s not my job to fix it - because that’s not where I live anymore. I’ve built for myself a life and a home that’s much more stable. One where I fit in
and don’t have to explain myself to anyone and pray that they somehow still
remember what I said. There’s a stable family inside, but they’re one I’ve built
and they accept me for who I am. I moved away and made a place for myself.
It still has a phone to get those calls and a door to be knocked on, but for the
first time, I’m done being the person who needs to initiate that contact. Beyond that, there’s another piece that’s just as important. I don’t need a reply.
At this point, whether they come knocking or not, it doesn’t matter. My identity
doesn’t include them, and I’m no longer me: whether they like it or not. Instead
I’m just my queer ass self, living here with my partner and our three cats. No
part of that identity is theirs, acknowledged or denied. I’m just me. Period. Happy Pride.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Books You Should Check Out: Lovesick Titans by Amanda Meuwissen

I love it when friends release their own books. There's something about knowing the author that makes reading their stories and exploring their worlds that much more interesting.  So you should check out this one:



Lovesick Titans


Not even a Titan can always stand up to a God.
Malcom Cho is in over his head, wrapped up in a love affair with his superhero nemesis Zeus, who most people in Olympus City only know as Detective Danny Grant.
Lovesick Titans begins where Lovesick Gods left off, after a heist gone wrong that ended with a museum guard dead and Mal and Danny beaten and exhausted from their fight with the new threat in town, Cassidy Ludgate—Hades.
Unaware that Ludgate’s true motivation is revenge for the death of his father at Zeus’s hands, Mal wants only to keep Danny close, while Danny races to solve the cases surrounding Ludgate to stop him from whatever he has planned for them next.
What Mal doesn’t know is that Danny didn’t pursue him with the purest of intentions but sought to break his heart in retaliation for not being there when he needed him in the fight against Thanatos. Even though Danny no longer seeks that end, the lies between them loom like a shadow about to descend upon them both.
And Hades has only begun to toy with them…

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Lovesick-Titans-2-Amanda-Meuwissen/dp/1732299706/ 


Haven't heard of this series before?  That's easy, you can get the first book here:








Amanda Meuwissen has been writing and posting online for many years, including maintaining the website and blog for the software company Outsell. She is an avid writer and consumer of fiction through film, prose, and video games, and is the author of the paranormal romance trilogy The Incubus Saga and young adult novel Life as a Teenage Vampire. Amanda lives in Minneapolis, MN, with her husband, John, and their two cats.


Social Links:





Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Review: The Magicians (Season 1)



What's it about?

Quentin has reached a plateau with his life, though one could argue that he's never really been headed anywhere in the first place. He just doesn't seem to fit in the normal world and he's never understood why. All he has is his favorite childhood book Fillory and Further and his magic tricks. However there is one entrance exam he tries and passes and it turns out he has now been admitted into a magical college where magic is real and maybe he does actually fit in after all. 

Thoughts?


Growing up in the age of Hogwarts and Harry Potter, I originally passed up this series as another imitator bent on catching some of the hype. However after a recommendation from a good friend, I gave it a shot and was quite pleased. 

The series is from the Syfy channel, so admittedly low budget as recent TV shows go. The first episode in particular is a rocky start to the series with no seemingly likable characters save for the small story in the background. However what they may not have in effects they make up for in plot and character chemistry and the characters quickly start to grow on you, showing likable characteristics and suddenly you're invested.  I will admit that the Fillory books caught me from the get go and from there I learned to love the characters and the quirky plot. 

Bearing a striking resemblance to the Narnia series by CS Lewis (which was apparently intentional) Fillory is a world made of magic that Quentin and his friends have dreamed of for almost all their lives. It made them all very easy for me to connect to on a personal level. Also, while I wasn't too wild about the college setting for training the Magicians, I had to admire that the school tried to take a non-sided approach to teaching magic, no matter how much that caused them to crash and burn. Like any college, the school just lets you know how to use your powers, it doesn't tell you to use them in a specific way. Well, until the world starts to collapse, then some professors are forced to take a position and stand.

A word to the wise, the show has quite a few triggers throughout the episodes and isn't for the squeamish. From animal mutilations, to lobotomy, to mind control and violence when certain characters are attacked or killed. With the lack of budget compared to other high profile shows, these moments are still given quite a bit of care so they don't come off as cheesy or pointless.  Each time they were used they seemed to help the narrative or at least be needed and not pointless gore padding. 

The show also does a good job of kicking some very well know tropes out the window. The nerdy sidekick girl is not the virgin to be won, the main characters don't all make it into the school and even the seemingly brainless and conceded upperclassmen end up making you fall in love with them. I didn't expect to like these characters as much as I did. And, without revealing too much, I am quite happy about where the end of the first season put Quentin. It's not often that male heroes are allowed to still remind children of wonder with some of their innocence in tact. 

While this school doesn't have the pomp and circumstance of Hogwarts, it still has its own distinct flavor and it's a place I think I'd actually be more comfortable in. A frat/dorm system set up based on abilities rather then the houses format of Hogwarts seems a little more inviting. And there is some competition between the groups, but not to a huge degree. 

Final thoughts:

Overall I fell in love with this series, but I don't think I would have had I just sat down to watch it without getting the recommendation first. So if you like the world of urban fantasy and you have always wanted to cast magic, try this. You may end up falling in love with it just like a good book. 

Now I need to go find season 2 and I need to check out the series of books it's based on. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Convention This Weekend: MSPComiCon in Minnesota!

This weekend, on Saturday and Sunday, you'll be able to find us at MSP ComiCon 2018 at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds!

Come stop by our table in the dealer's room and check out our books and costumes.  Also don't forget to explore the whole place with lots of artists, comic book creators and even more nerdy fun! There's even a couple panels this year!  We'll have our books, as always, plus preorders for my newest book Little Creepers (which is so close to being done!), prints, buttons and more. It's going to be a lot of fun and we hope to see you there!



If for some reason you can't make it, remember you can always check out our Etsy store year round for items, and to get some things we generally don't sell at cons - like hats and plushies.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Review: Odd Thomas (Book)



What's it about?

Odd is exactly that, odd. What else would you call someone who can regularly see the dead and other not so human creatures? In his small western town he's mostly accepted as himself and allowed to exist, work at a local diner, even fall in love.  Still something is brewing along the seams, in ways that only he can see. So he must choose if his oddness is something he can use to his advantage and stop whatever is coming.


Thoughts?


Full disclosure: Dean Koontz is an interesting author, and not generally my cup of tea, as he tends to wade into areas of horror that are less then interesting to me.  Though I will admit a certain love for a couple of his books and the ideas he weaves within. This book (and series) falls squarely within the Urban Fantasy genre, rather then horror, and thanks to it having a great movie tie in and even a manga series, I'll admit, I was curious.  For those who care, yes I've seen the movie and I really loved it. 

The author's writing style in the book caught me off guard. It's not so much writing as a long rambling conversation. This means we get to see into Odd's thoughts in a very personal way, but it also lends to a lot of tangents and a lot of pages where the story seems to take forever to actually go somewhere.  It makes the novel easy to read, but also very easy to put down because you just want the main character to get on with it!

I do love how the dead can't speak.  Not to Odd, not to anyone, but rather exist in silence around him. It adds an interesting touch and makes them easy to ignore, or hilarious to watch.  In the movie this trick was used masterfully, though in the book it was a bit easier to tell who was dead and who wasn't.  Still, additions of certain silent characters made for some great reading. 

Specifically Elvis.  Yep, Elvis is a main character in this book and seems to be one of Odd's best friends, in spite of the fact that he's dead. The idea of Elvis being a main character is a great touch and reminds me a lot of Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse books, where he's also a regular. I think, if I had to choose, I'd say this book did a better job of using him. Having a regular dead character show up gave a sense of normalcy to Odd's strange world and very quickly communicated the limits of what the dead could do. 

The story line itself has some great twists and turns, and even plays with some ideas of fate, thanks to Odd trying to discover and stop whatever is building up around him. Though at times the story is predictable (the ending very much so) it's still a solid start to a series. My only regret is that the main actor in the movie died and no sequels seem to be forth coming, so if I want to read more, I'll have to deal with the long winded narrative.

Final Thoughts?


Overall I liked the story and the series is quite good.  I just really wish I could enjoy it without the endless tangents in the narrative.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Anime St Louis This Weekend!

I've been falling really far behind on telling people with my blog when we'll be at conventions, I should get back on that...

So we'll be at Anime St Louis this weekend as cosplay guests!  We have several panels, and of course will have a table in the dealer's room sell our books plus some new prints!  Come stop by and say hi!



Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Important Queer Couples: Billy and Teddy - Marvel's Young Avengers




This entry was born out of our latest obsession: Young Avengers.  More specifically Billy (Wiccan) and Teddy (Hulkling).  My partner and I have been in a process of hunting down nearly every comic we can with them in it and it's been quite a ride and usually out of order.  Oops.  Originally I was going to do a review for each of these comics, but there's so many and comics are hard to track... so I'm going to combine them instead and hopefully make it easy to follow.

What Do I Need To Know?

Lets be honest, the world of comics is confusing and for those who are thinking of wading into the worlds of Batman, Ironman, Captain America, Superman or any other comic creation, there's a lot.  This makes it really hard to follow just one character without knowing about others.  So here's a quick break down, without spoilers, you'll need to know to look into Billy and Teddy.

Billy - Originally a Marvel fanboy he may or may not be the reincarnation of one of Scarlet Witch's children. He has the power to do basically anything by repeating his intention over and over until it happens. He also happens to be Jewish and Queer and those are central parts of his identity.  He also originally went by the name of Asgardian.

Teddy - While initally named after and resembling the Incredible Hulk, Teddy is actually a shapeshifter with connections to both the Skrull and Kree. He is fiercely loyal to his boyfriend, Billy, and serves as a sort of grounding force when Billy drops too far into his own brain and not so safe ideas.

Why Should I Be Paying Attention to Them?

In the world of queer fiction, there are a lot of tropes that we're all used to seeing.  I'm happy to say that this couple subverts most of those. While Billy and Teddy have their own issues, they are always portrayed as a loving couple who will endlessly risk life and limb for each other and don't get caught up in the oh so boring and standard 'who is he sleeping with this week?' plot lines.  What angst does come up never seems to be from their relationship, but rather from their powers and the world they live in. Because of this, they become each other's firm ground to stand on and it's refreshing to read.  Yes, sometimes the comics use the 'love conquers all' fix at the end of plot lines, but trust me when I say that their relationship in this case makes all the difference.  It's so rare that the love between two queer individuals is the life saving force everyone ends up needing and it's a welcome change that I can't get enough of.

So Where Can I Find Them?

Hopefully soon in the Marvel Extended Universe - like seriously, there are some things that NEED to happen in Infinity War and Avengers 4 that could lead to this. Signed, sincerely, a fangirl who needs this.

In all seriousness, we're still looking for all the comics.  Below are the ones we've located and read so far. Plus in order.  They are best when read in order, but we understand not wanting to wait.  I know I'm missing some here and these aren't full reviews, they're just summaries of the plots so you know what's going on if you can't find them or need an idea of where to start.

Young Avengers Collected - Allan Heinberg, Jim Cheung, Andrea DiVito
This is the beginning.  With the actual Avengers out of commission, these new teenage heroes show up and cause a ruckas even if they're trying to help.  So Captain America decides to put a stop to it and tell... their parents?

A solid introduction to the team and why these characters have the potential to be their own driving force.





Avengers: The Children's Crusade - Allan Heinberg, Jim Cheung
Wiccan is convinced that Scarlet Witch is his mother and she's not the monster that everyone else is making her out to be after the House of M storyline where she nearly destroyed everything. So he sets out to find her and, in true Billy fashion, finds more then he bargained for.

Because, as you'll learn, that is Billy. He gets into trouble, but he also kicks some major ass and is a lot smarter then the 'adults' give him credit for.




Civil War: Young Avengers & Runaways - Zeb Wells, Stefano Caselli
All the grownups are fighting and even the Young Avengers have been pulled onto Captain America's side and told to hold their ground until needed. But when the Runaways are pulled into the fight, they can't stay and watch, so the two teams end up coming together to save each other from the major conflict.

The nice thing is you don't need to know about the Runaways to read this, the comic does a solid job introducing them very quickly and how well the two teams mesh.




Secret Invasion: Runaways/Young Avengers - Christopher Yost, Takeshi Miyazawa
The two teams come together again this time because the Skrulls are invading and since both teams have a Skrull in their ranks, they're both very involved.

This one is obviously part of a larger storyline and you can tell in the execution. That's really only my one complaint. The anime style of illustration is also a fun aspect.



Young Avengers - Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson
Few things are worse then a space born suburban mother bent on chasing you away from home.  Billy had the best intentions with summoning Mother, but now the team as a whole has to deal with her, along with Kid Loki and America Chavez.

THIS is the arc that hooked us.  I can't really communicate how creepy and effective the villain of Mother is. You kinda just have to read it and you'll get it. Also, Kid Loki steals the entire comic.



I know there are more, we're still looking.  We have two comics on order from our local comic shop and pages are still being scoured for more mentions. Then there's fanfiction to search for, and deviantart pages to favorite and all sorts of things. In a world where queer characters are far too often fetish-ized for the consumption and pleasure of straight fans, it's super refreshing to see a queer couple (and lets be honest, nearly an entire queer team) take center stage and not devolve into the drama and cat calling that the popular media would have you believe we all live. Billy and Teddy are a breath of fresh air and I really hope they have many more stories and adventures to come.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Review: Cardcaptor Sakura Book 1 (Giant Collected Edition Manga)




What's it about:

Part of the magical girl genre, Sakura is a normal young student who accidentally releases the Clow Cards one day while down in her father's office. Now it's her job to collect them again and take control of their magic. Dressed in the cutest of outfits, thanks to her best friend Tomoyo, with Kero - their protector - she's ready to go after the cards and collect them all.

Thoughts:

Ever since my days of drowning in anime - still haven't come up, lets be honest never will - I've had a love for CLAMP's work. As the years have gone on, they've changed their style and I've disliked more then I've liked but I'm still nostalgic for the original CLAMP days when they did what they did best: parody popular anime genres.

Cardcaptor Sakura is one of those parodys, aimed squarely at the 'collect 'em all' genre of Pokemon, Yugioh and the like.  However in that parody they've also created a story about a whole host of characters I love and not to mention a gorgeous set of Tarot cards that I will happily admit to owning. Picking up this volume gave me the chance to get back into that story and read the manga I never got around to reading before. Not to mention enjoy all of their amazing art.

CLAMP has a habit of creating characters that stick with you and this series is no exception. The cute trend of Sakura getting a new outfit with each card she chases - thanks to her friend Tomoyo - is a hilarious edition and serves to highlight the art style I love so much.  Beyond that Sakura and her friends are fleshed out quite well during the battles and cards they have to collect. As usual, as the story goes on, you find out that Sakura isn't exactly normal and has a particular family history that lends to why the cards chose her, but there's only a few threads of that in this volume.  I'll have to get the next ones to learn more and they're already in my cart!

I do love the fun pokes the series takes at well known cliches in their own genres. The underlying queer relationships in magical girl anime are there, along with surprising family connections and rivals that really would get more done if they stopped their pissing contests. The Clow Cards aren't just items to be collected, they are almost characters in their own right, giving the show a unique twist.

A special add on to this large collected volume are the color inserts at the end of all the stunning coverart.  It's like getting your own mini artbook with the manga and I appreciate that.  I only wish I'd had access to this volume earlier and I probably would have read the manga sooner. It also reminds me that I need to finish the anime, so that I can check out the new Clear Card series that's currently running.

Final thoughts:

As a trip down nostalgia lane, this collected edition is perfect.  However, with the large amount of magical girl shows and manga out there now, I don't particularly see this one standing out. More popular shows like Sailor Moon and Madoka will easily overshadow this series and probably push it back out of people's notice.  The charm of CLAMP lies in knowing and following them as artists and knowing that they used to do a really good job at parodying various genres. It gives their series a new spin that others might miss without that knowledge. Still, if you are a fan of CLAMP's work, from any decade, it's a fun read and they're masters at inserting plot threads and callouts to their other series, so it's a can't miss.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Review: Trans Liberty Riot Brigade by L.M. Pierce

What's it about?

Andi's world is very different from our own, right?  Her life consists of hiding from the police, living with a freedom fighting group and trying to keep her head straight between drug fixes. Young and foolish, she is still incredibly loyal to those around her and when a new mission comes up, she'll easily go along and do what needs to be done. Andi's life in the walled up United Free States is a lot of following and doing what she's told and still messing it up. But she's going to have to learn to make decisions on her own, because there aren't always going to be people helping her out of situations.  Eventually she's going to have to help all of them.

Thoughts:

My partner and I picked up this book from the author at a convention in Portland. I would have to say the first thing that caught me was the character's world, and the very specific queer dystopia that made up her life. In her world, which seems so wildly different from ours, there are very real and uncomfortable parallels.  Sure, there's a wall, much like the one that Trump wants to build, but it's so much more then that and the book uses these qualities to suck you in right away.

Andi's voice and slang in the book is striking and takes a bit of time to get used to.  It's so wildly different from what I'm used to reading that it took me some time to get into.  However, the author has obviously paid attention to this because it's very consistent and it's a great tool to suck you into Andi's world whether you want to be or not. Her struggles and trials are that much more sincere and real when you read her expressions and can still understand them even when you aren't given a glossary to explain all the terms.  Nope, not needed, the author has paid enough attention to basically create a whole slang language and it feels real. I really appreciate that.

My only hesitation with the book is that Andi spends most of it as a passive observer. Sure, she's running with the others, on missions and trying to escape. However in that, most of her actions are not taken until someone tells her what to do.  It can be infuriating because the book is told in first person and her 'wants' are quite absent save for general survival and drugs and not being snipped. After a while I wanted to grab Andi and shake her, but I couldn't exactly blame her for acting the way she did, so it ended up not being a bad thing, just a bit frustrating. Someone else's mileage may differ, but that quality stuck out to me.

Final Thoughts:

Overall I ended up loving this book, though it is a gradual love that it built as you read each chapter and the characters burrow more into your head. Getting into the world and the vocabulary takes a bit, but the journey is worth it and I am looking forward to the second volume and how Andi's journey will progress.

Where you can get it:

Ninestar Press
Amazon

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Backseat Gamer: Mirror's Edge Catalyst


Backseat Gamer: Mirror's Edge Catalyst

Ohh, here's a subject I haven't reviewed in a while, a video game!  In case if you've forgotten in that time, the point of this section is for me to review video games that I haven't actually played.  Because I'm more of a video game voyeur then anything else, when a new game comes along I'm usually watching my wifey play it. That's the case with this game, and even though I wasn't the active party, I watched the whole game and loved it!

What's it about?

In the distant future the world is now a utopia of business and clean solid colored walls. Everyone works for one company or another and it's all run by the Conglomerate, enforced by a group called Kruger Sec. Faith is a member of a group of runners, who work as mail deliverers throughout the city and also as a resistance. While making deliveries she must also work to discover the true reason why she was locked up and what happened to her family - more specifically her sister.

Thoughts:

My wifey played through the first Mirror's Edge when it originally came out and we both loved the game.  Not only is the world stunning, but the game play is unique being that it's always in a first person perspective while you're jumping and parkouring through this futuristic landscape.

With the second game, Catalyst, the creative team rebooted the story of the first.  This time the world was a bit different in that it was more clean and more refined, with the plot being told in a slightly more coherent way.  Faith was better defined and the world seemed more open and challenging - especially since you have no option to pick up guns, but you're being chased by people with them on several missions.

That isn't to say there aren't plot holes, mind you.  While Faith's story is told in a better way then the first, there are still noticeable gaps in the storytelling, especially at the end.  Some things are tied up, but it's obvious that the team is expecting to make future games, so there are threads left hanging and there is a noticeable lack of a boss fight all things considered. There's also hints about other characters that make you yearn for DLC with their own side stories.  I know I can't be the only one who wanted to play as Icarus by the end and learn more about Black November and even Bird Man.

In the end it's a great game with a very distinct atmosphere, but it leaves me wanting more.  This can be great if there's going to be another game.  But considering that I know this one wasn't that popular I have a feeling I'm going to be disappointed on that front.

How much did I play?

Ha!  Though I think this game would be stunning in VR, the first person perspective does a great job of getting you as close to that as possible.  I had fun watching her play, but man some of those heights felt way too real.