Sunday, December 7, 2014

Review: Genghis Con Cleveland

On November 30th I attended my first Genghis Con in Lakewood, Ohio. The small press/independent comics show is a one-day event near Cleveland.  I was a bit concerned about how turnout would be because even though this is not the first year for the con, it was at a new site.  The site, known as the Screw Factory may not look like much on the outside, but the space inside was very nice for the participants and there were plenty of attendees circulating around the artist tables.  I had a great time, sold some stuff, and met Tom Orzechowski.  Tom is a famous comic book letter artist whose work I have admired for decades!

I’d like to thank everyone who stopped by, talked to me, bought or traded stuff with me, or even those who came by and I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting. I plan to be back next year!

I don’t have any pictures of the event, so I’ll just post some statues I’ve made recently.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Review: Groo vs Conan

Groo vs. Conan is, simply put, the best comic I’ve read all year!  I just have to write a bit about the characters, creators, and how much I enjoyed the series. If you know of them and this series, it will be a lot of stuff you know, but please be patient.  I am writing this in the hopes that someone out there who never has before might just give Groo a chance!

Sergio Arangones is probably the best funny-style cartoonist ever!  He’s been doing doodles and cartoons for Mad magazine for decades and he just seems to fit more in a page that is physically possible.

Mark Evanier write Groo and is also known for writing a bunch of Garfield cartoons (My wife is a huge fan and we own them all on DVD). 

Somehow Mark and Sergio got together and created Groo the Wanderer, the funniest barbarian ever! Groo is also the best.  At what he does best, that is.  By which I mean kill people and act without intelligence. He also likes cheese dip. I don’t know why I’m mentioning that now except it’s funny.
Thomas Yeates is a great artist who draws some very serious Conan comics.  This somehow makes him perfect to bring Conan into the world of Groo.  Seriously.  This guy is very good!

Conan the Barbarian, if you don’t know, is the creation of Robert E. Howard and was first published, in prose not comic form, in the 1930s.  There have been many adaptations including movies and TV series, as well as the current Dark Horse comics and a long run of comics at Marvel.  Conan is big and strong and clever, and has defeated many a foe.  Not a foe as dumb as Groo though.  Of course, no one is as dumb as Groo. So Conan is facing his greatest opponent: A killing machine with no brain. Sounds like fun!

Groo vs Conan mixes the grim and gritty world of Conan with the strange and whimsical world of Groo in a fashion that reminds me of the old Disney movies when they would combine (2-D) animation and live action footage. But the story really revolves around events that occur in the real world.  Or at least, the real world as depicted by Sergio.  The whole crossover results because of Mark and Sergio trying to save a comic-book shop that is going to be leveled to make way for a shopping center.  This somehow leads to Sergio being injured, and getting lots of strange medication that make him feverishly imagine that he is Conan and is on a quest that involves Groo. It doesn’t sound funny at all when I type it, but it’s extremely hilarious when you read it! Really!!

On the Groo side of the tale,   the wanderer is hired to destroy a bakery loved by the locals to make way for a castle. Conan is tasked with stopping the simple-minded one from wreaking havoc.  And the local villagers hilariously observe, comment, and get all messed up in the whole thing! Of course, we get to see the inevitable showdown between swordsmen.  The battle of the century!  The war to end all wars! (Wait, that was WWI…) Anyway, I just can’t describe it without totally spoiling the whole thing. So I suggest you go buy it. I bet you can still order the individual comics, which are cool because they include letters pages. Or I guess there’ll be a collection soon.  But I wouldn’t wait if I were you!

You need to read this series now before the next Groo series starts.  After all, you don’t want to have the next death spoiled before you read it!  And with Groo around, there are a lot of deaths!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Review: OWD 3.19 "Vanessa meets Sera"

Now is the time to discuss episode 3.19 of Out With Dad, “Vanessa Meets Sera”.  This episode continues the spin-off series Vanessa’s story with a rather different setting as Vanessa discusses her life and current predicament with her brother’s friend Sera.  There two non-story related things in this episode that are interesting.  First, this episode is the first cross-over of Out With Dad, as the character of Sera is the star of another Toronto webseries called “LESlieVILLE”.  Also, this episode was filmed in an interesting location, a solarium overlooking a Toronto street.  This caused some technical difficulties, but the final product looks very nice.

As for the story, this episode is almost entirely a conversation between the two characters.  Sera has come to give Vanessa some perspective about accepting herself.  It is, as Vanessa asks, a conversation about “gay things”, but it is also about labels and belonging to a group.

Sera begins with a story about High School, Xena, and labels.  When Sera found an online group of lesbian fans of Xena, she found comfort in knowing there were other people like her, and they all fell under the “lesbian” label.  This is an interesting perspective, because knowing there are people who are like you provides you with people you can identify with. The problem Vanessa has with this is that she doesn’t really see herself as belonging to a group, or having a label.  Vanessa’s attraction to Rose has not become an attraction to girls as opposed to boys.  But Vanessa does seem most likely to think of herself as bisexual. Despite her insistence that there’s only been one girl, she was at least somewhat interested in the girl at the flop house.

Sera seems to convince Vanessa that loving someone doesn’t have to depend of gender, and that Vanessa’s parents really do care about her, they just can’t accept her being anything but heterosexual. I think we’re seeing Vanessa finally get some of the support she needs to deal with things in her life.  There are far too many situations that end tragically because people are kept from the support they need. And having someone, especially a close friend, can help you get through almost anything.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Review: Out With Dad 3.18 "Out with PFLAG, part IV

And now we pick up where we left off reviewing the final block of episodes of the award-winning and totally terrific webseries, Out With Dad!  My last review covered Out with PFLAG, part III, so now it’s time to take a look at episode3.18, Out with PFLAG, part IV. The story picks up with a conversation between Rose, Nathan, Claire’s Mother, and Robin (the PFLAG sharing leader).  In this conversation, Rose and her dad finally open up and come clean about everything that’s been happening at school with the changing room, Brittany, and the gym teacher.  Rose is finally convinced that she cannot keep quiet and she must tell all about the situation to the principal.  The most interesting thing about this conversation, to me, is Rose’s statement that she is herself in the wrong.  It implies that she still feels guilt about being a christian and being homosexual.

The next segment has Claire, Alicia, and Nomee discussing starting a Gay/Straight Alliance at their school.  The conversation includes facts about GSAs and how some religious schools do not allow them.  Fortunately, Alicia steps up and shows her willingness to begin an organization no matter what, and Claire is thrilled to have Alicia as an ally. 

The episode ends with an emotional conversation between Rose and Nathan.  They talk of what’s been happening at school, and not keeping secrets from each other.  It’s great to see Rose realizing that despite her wanting to stay away from the spotlight, she has to stick up for herself.  And she has to tell people when something bad, especially something physically harmful, happens to her.  The conversation gets a little lighter as they discuss Rose’s upcoming birthday.  But it ends on a dark note as Rose realizes Vanessa will be absent at her party this year.

Or will she?  We’ll check in on Vanessa next time, and maybe get a hint.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Guardians (sculptures) of the Galaxy

I thought I'd take a break from writing long reviews this week to show off the other stuff I've been spending a lot of time doing lately.
"I am Groot!"

Disclaimer: statue does not dance

Rocket is ready for action!

Close up of his gun.
Of course, statues, including custom works, are for sale!  E-mail me at for details!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Review: OWD 3.17: Out with PFLAG, part III

Out With Dad, episode 3.17 is called Out With PFLAG part III.  If you’re wondering how that title follows the previous episode, you are forgetting that part I and II of PFLAG occurred last season when Rose and Nathan attended their first PFLAG meetings. It was the first episode of OWD I wrote a real review of, which you can read here.

This is very long episode, coming in at over 20 minutes including credits.  But with so much happening this time, it certainly doesn’t seem long!  This episode begins with Rose and Nathan entering and greeting Claire and her Mom.  This is a good nod to the first PFLAG episode, where Rose is surprised to see “the girl from the washroom”.  But there is a surprise attendee, and it’s Alicia, coming along to learn what she can do to be a “straight ally” to her friends who identify otherwise.  I can relate to her feelings, but more on this later.

After the girls greet each other, the meat of the story begins as new leader Robin initiates the sharing with the story of his cousin.  Said cousin was excommunicated by his family after coming out, even when he was dying of cancer.  This story reminds me a little too much of Vanessa’s family.  Not only because of their unacceptance of Vanessa’s sexuality, but of the way they abandoned their eldest son when he married outside of his faith. I can’t imagine anything short of a major crime would make me cut off communication with one of my children. Robin also comments on how attending the sharing meetings, listening and sharing, makes him feel better about things.

Morgan comes next.  I have a small problem with the presentation of Morgan’s story, and it has everything to do with continuity.  Morgan implies that he was quiet and looked very bad during the last meeting.  By this, he is referring to PFLAG meeting from last season.  But that would, in OWD time have been months ago (last school year).  Therefore, either this is a stretch by Jason to help us remember Morgan, or PFLAG only meets every few months.  Which I guess is possible.  It just seems unlikely.  Anyway, that’s way too much time to discuss such a trivial matter that doesn’t affect the plot at all.  Morgan identifies himself as trans and tells of begin raped and beaten by a bunch of drunk guys.  It’s a horrible story, and difficult to listen to.  But it’s well written and told.

Sam’s tale of literally being in the closet is much lighter than Morgan’s but also rather tragic.  Though no physical harm was done to her, having to hide her true self from her girlfriend’s family has left her with some mental problems.  What if Vanessa had chosen to sneak around with Rose while hiding the relationship from her family?  I don’t think Rose could have handled such an arrangement.  I also think this type of relationship is rather common, and I have heard first-person accounts of such.

Alicia speaks next, and sound just like I would if I were to go to a PFLAG meeting, I think.  Though I try to be an ally of the LGBT community in my words and deeds, I’m sure I would be at a loss for words in a meeting centering on the experiences of people who are not straight.
Claire mostly recaps recent events at school as well as expressing how nice it is to share such things with people who will listen and support her.  This is the first that Rose hears of being banned from the changing room, however. Rose continues this discussion of the difference between how non-heterosexual students are treated at school-especially Catholic School- compared to the friendly atmosphere of the sharing meeting.

Claire’s mom discusses learning about her daughter and how she isn’t allowing her husband to wreck things, even if he isn’t as receptive as she is.  This is eerily different from Vanessa’s father going along with his wife, when he seems more open to wanting to be supportive.  Nathan discusses the unfairness of how Rose and Claire are treated compared with the other students.  This is important.  I think it’s important, for instance, to speak not of “gay marriage” but of “marriage equality”.  Because that’s what it’s really about, right?  Everyone should be treated fairly, no matter what.  It sounds like Ontario, Canada is ahead of the USA in making sure people are treated equally, even in a religious institution.  Religion has repeatedly been an excuse for bigotry here in the United States, including in my state, which isn’t even close to the south.  Heck, I’m just a boat ride from Canadian soil!  Anyway, this discussion of the school and changing room will lead us into next episode.

By the way, Rose referred to herself as a lesbian!  Good for her!  The “L” word was one of the most interesting parts in the “lost episode” I got to transform into a comic.  Though the whole comic is up on the web, I thought I’d quickly mention I’m starting to post some extra art and pages on the comic fury site.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Review: Out With Dad 3.16: Stressing Out

This week I look at episode 3.16 of Out With Dad, my favorite webseries if which I’ve discussed here in depth a lot in previous posts. “Stressing Out” involves mostly Rose’s school. This episode hits me rather hard because I am a teacher in real life, though I work in a public school that is not subject to some of the prejudices as Rose’s school environment.  Granted, some of the views in this story do crop up in all schools, but not in the particular area where I work.

The episode begins with a conversation between Rose and her dad.  He knows something is bothering her and tries to figure out what.  Rise attempts to skirt the issues, but reveals a bit too much in the process.  The first thing Rose talks about is the dance tickets Claire tried to buy for them.  Rose insists things between her and Claire are fine, though the attempt to buy the tickets does bring up a thought to me.  Rose and Claire make such a nice couple, in part, because of how the complement each other.  Claire is more vocal and out, while Rose is quiet and shy.  However, this has caused some friction already, and could signal trouble in the long term.  It depends on how much Rose can come out of her shell.

Anyway, Nathan wants desperately to help Rose, but she doesn’t want to be the center of attention at school, so she’d rather put up with the discrimination hoping people will eventually forget about it.  At school, we find Rose is afraid to enter the changing room before gym, and would rather be late for class than face the homophobia of Brittney.

Then Nathan gets THE PHONE CALL.  The gym teacher is calling concerning parents not wanting their daughters changing in front of Rose.  The teacher’s idiotic solution is for her to use the staff change room.  Nathan is understandably incensed.  The solution hits me this way: in order to have equal access to the education of heterosexuals, it is necessary to have homosexuals separated.  You know, because separate but equal works so well. Nathan demands action, but wants to keep things from Rose.  Certainly so as not to upset her and so that she won’t be getting the extra attention she doesn’t want.

The final scene includes the wonderful return of Alicia.  Okay, she hasn’t really been gone, but she hasn’t done much this season…so far.  But I like the interaction between her and Rose.  Rose had mentioned in a video diary that she thought Alicia was a bit stuck up and kept Rose from spending time with Kenny.  At first, Rose seems rather cold towards Alicia here, but when Alicia asks about Vanessa and offers to put up posters about her, Rose sees to thaw. Then, when Claire arrives and the Fall Formal comes up in conversation, Alicia offers to boycott as a sign of solidarity.  Finally, Alicia asks about PFLAG.  She really is quite a sweet girl, that Alicia.

By the way, Rose tries to get Claire to go to the dance without her, but Claire will have none of it.  Kenny is all for skipping the dance also.  These people really care about Rose, but I don’t think she’s reacting well. In fact, Alicia, Kenny, Claire, and Nathan all seem to have the right ideas throughout the episode. Rose, however, has not responded to her difficulties well.  Ignoring a problem and hoping it will go away, plus refusing the help of others?  Not very good, Rose.  I know it may be hard to be in the spotlight, but I think you have to do better.  Would you want the next girl to come out to be treated like you have been?

Finally, the episode ends with Claire giving Alicia her MOST ADORABLE LOOK YET!  I love this show!