Shameless Friend-Promotion

One of the excellent friends I made in Toronto is Kari Maaren.  A bunch of cool stuff has happened to her recently that I feel compelled to share.  (This is internal compulsion, not from her—she might be appalled/embarrassed that I’m doing this, if she notices.)

First of all, some of my few readers may be familiar with her because she has been writing the West of Bathurst webcomic (linked from my sidebar) for the last seven years or so.  In the midst of recent server troubles which eventually saw me helping her migrate the site hosting, she/the comic got nominated for an award!  Specificially, the Aurora Award, for “Best Graphic Novel – English”.

If you happened to click through on that link to the Aurora nominees, you might have noticed that her name appears a second time!  (Cue dramatic music.)

Yes, she was also nominated for “Best Fan Filk”.  (That’s a kind of music.)  Kari writes and performs geeky songs, and has finally actually recorded some and released some of her stuff on not one but TWO albums!  (Okay, so the first album, Pirate Elves in Space, is a collaboration, but it has 3 of her songs on it.)  Her album Beowulf Pulled My Arm Off even got a mention on SF Signal, a popular science fiction/fantasy/horror blog.

You can listen to her stuff at those Bandcamp links, or find her YouTube channel.  If you enjoy nerdy folk music—or think you might—you should definitely check out Kari’s work.

Anyway, that’s about it for my shameless friend-promotion.  I will endeavour to check in again soon with another movie update—we’ve started the summer season.

Neat Idea: Gotham High

While perusing SF Signal as I am wont to do, I found a link to this post by Jeff Thomas and Celeste Green, showcasing some development work they did for DC called Gotham High—essentially Batman in high school.  The project didn’t go anywhere, but they have a number of drawings that are vastly amusing.

(I know this would violate Batman canon—inasmuch as one exists—but I would assume that it was intended to be a non-canonical offshoot.)

Check it out, just to look at the pictures!

Fan Expo Canada 2010

Thanks to the generosity of my good friend Jenn, last weekend I attended Fan Expo.  She gave me the passes as an early Christmas/Birthday/Next Christmas present, and was in no way motivated by a desire to have company for her Fan Expo adventure or avoid thinking up other presents for me.

We met for lunch before heading over on Friday, August 27th at around 3 pm.  We thought this would be an easy task, as doors had opened for Deluxe attendees like ourselves an hour earlier, but alas, the line stretched around the entire north and east sides of the building when we arrived, and before long it was wrapping around the south side of the building as well.

Two hours later we finally got in and presented our tickets, at which time we were rewarded with wristbands, and that was it.  No swag bag or anything.  I think I’ve been spoiled by my experiences with Ad Astra and Worldcon.  I put the wristband on, not realizing that it was the sort designed not to come of without being cut, and so I was less than impressed at having to wear the damn thing when I went to the bathroom, showered, and ran errands outside of the convention centre.  Jenn had been clever enough to leave hers loose so she could slip it off.

We started on the exhibition floor, which was insanely crowded.  This was wear tons of booths were set up selling all the things I ever wanted.  GI Joe toys, classic Transformers, endless shelves of DVDs, and comics, and Star Wars everything.  And I had no money to spare.  Alack!  Alas!  But probably for the best.

We wandered over to the celebrity signing area, and were sort of appalled at the cost of autographs.  I mean, I appreciate the need for these people to make attendance worthwhile, and since the lines were quite large I guess they didn’t need to worry about demand, but still… I would have liked an Adam West autograph, or James Marsters, or Tahmoh Penikett, or Michael Dorn, but I could barely afford one, much less all of them.

I did spring for a Guild photo signed by Felicia Day and Amy Okuda, since I enjoy their work and—like many people of the male nerd persuasion—I have a somewhat mild desire to groom Felicia, albeit in a totally non-creepy way.  Really.  And Jenn and I split a photo opportunity with Summer Glau, scheduled for Saturday at 6 pm.  After that we went and got some of Jenn’s books signed by Kelley Armstrong.

At this point, we’d been on our feet for quite a while, so we wandered the floor some more before leaving a bit early.  We were rather frustrated by the poor organization for getting us in, and for controlling the flow of people.

Saturday, we arrived a bit after 11 to find a line wrapped around the building once again.  Thankfully, that line was not ours, but for people looking to buy a single day pass.  We were able to walk past them and in to the reentry doors with no problem.  There was nothing scheduled that early that interested us, so we went straight to line up for the Tron Legacy presentation to ensure we got seats.  This was, admittedly, more my interest than Jenn’s, on account of Bruce Boxleitner—Tron himself, though I better know him as Captain Sheridan from Babylon 5—being a part of the presentation.

They started letting us in early, after security confiscated all our phones and cameras, and we got some decent seats.  The presentation itself was kind of exciting.  It was hosted by Ajay Fry and Teddy Wilson from the Space channel, and first there was one of the tie-in game developers to show off the game.  Then, they brought out Tron Bruce and talked a bit before showing us the trailer and 7 minutes of footage from the movie itself—in 3D!  I don’t actually care for 3D that much, but I appreciated the effort to make the presentation seem special.  There was a Q&A thereafter, and then we were free!

To line up to get our stuff back, which Jenn did while I went to the can.  So, line up to get in, line up to get out, all sort of poorly organized.  By the time we were sorted out, it was already 1:20, so we decided to take in Tahmoh Penikett’s spotlight panel though it had already started.  Apparently it had started late though, because it didn’t seem like we had missed much.  He gave a pretty interesting talk about his work on Battlestar and Dollhouse, and seemed like a nice guy.

After that, I left Jenn to watch Felicia Day while I headed back up to the exhibition floor to try and get a free autograph from Boxleitner, as Babylon 5 is one of my favourite things ever.  I had to line up to take the escalator, because they were controlling how many people were allowed on the exhibition floor.  Rumors were circulating that even people with the 3-day pass weren’t being let in to the building because it was so crowded.

After visiting the Pure Pwnage booth to say hi to the guys (who have a Gemini nomination, by the way), I got to the Tron booth a bit after 2 pm.  He was scheduled to be there at 2:30, and I thought I was in luck—there was hardly anyone there!  Then I asked, as was told the line was around the back of the booth.  And across the aisle.  And around the back of the Marvel comics booth, and along one side.

On the upside, from my spot in the line, I had a good view of the Hasbro booth, which had some pretty sweet Star Wars displays, and I could watch the Marvel preview videos.  Eventually, Jenn showed up and joined me, flitting in and out to keep me and herself entertained.  As we neared the front of the line, she decided she was in the line, too, and so we both got free Tron Legacy posters signed by Bruce Boxleitner.  Sadly, he didn’t have time to personalize them, but I’m not complaining about free.

We figured the James Marsters session would be full, so we sought out food instead.  (We later found out we could have gotten in—oh well.)  Food turned out to be another lengthy lineup.  And then we went to line up for the Summer Glau discussion session.  She seemed quite shy, but had a few good stories to tell from being on set for her various science fictional shows and movies.

Guess what?  After that we went to line up AGAIN for our photo op.  The line went all the way down one hallway and across another, and continued to grow behind us.  But our line was dwarfed by the Stan Lee line, which I don’t think was pre-paid like ours.  And once the line started moving, they were able to process us quite quickly.  Our photo op was at 6 pm, and we were done by 6:30.  I look forward to seeing the resulting photo.

And that was the end of that.

Sunday morning we met at 11 (after I had a Cinnabon for breakfast).  This time there was a significant line of people with armbands waiting to get in, so Jenn and I took a spot in the shade and waited for the end of the line to reach us.  (It is possible that we may have filled in a large gap instead, but I fell no guilt about that.

We decided to stay away from the exhibition floor, and went on the spur of the moment to a Space panel with Ajay Fry, Teddy Wilson, and Natasha Eloi, along with two surprise guests: David Blue from Stargate Universe and Ryan Robbins from Sanctuary.  They were quite funny playing off each other, had incredibly hard questions for their giveaways, and ended the event with David Blue signing Ryan Robbins’ ass.  It was an unexpectedly fun time.

From there, we went to see William Shatner speak, and not in just as he was starting.  He was in the largest panel room, so we were able to get seats, albeit far from the front.  Shatner was… funny.  Really funny.  He had tons of funny and interesting stories to tell, poked fun at his cohosts and the audience, and worked the crowd well.  This was also an unexpected delight.  However, I was not crazy enough to try for an autograph after the fact.

From there we switched rooms to see Sendil Ramamurthy of Heroes fame/infamy.  He played Mohinder on that show, one of my favouite characters of the first season, who the writers made progressively more ridiculous as the series wore on.  He had a lot of interesting observations about his time on the show, and working as an Indian actor in general.

After his show, we were pushed out of the room to line up to come back in for the Michael Dorn panel.  I went to this mostly out of curiosity, to see just how geeky a Star Trek panel could be.  It was pretty geeky, but Dorn worked the crowd well, was happy to play to his Star Trek fans and discuss Worf in detail, and had funny stories to tell from the set and the things he’s managed to do as a result of his fame—specifically, riding in a lot of military aircraft.

By this point is was 4 pm, and our day was winding down.  Jenn left at this point to do some other shopping, and I wandered the exhibition floor one last time before heading home.

Overall, it was a fun experience wrapped in boredom and frustration.  It had an extremely commercial vibe about it, unlike Ad Astra or Worldcon or other book-oriented events, and all our 3-day pass guaranteed was getting to the exhibition floor—everything else we had to pay extra for or line up for.  As a result, there were a number of panels that we missed because we were lining up for something we wanted more.  I’m not sure I’d go back again, unless one of the following comes to pass: a) they have a guest that was a must-see for me, b) they seriously improve their crowd control and access issues so I don’t spend half my time in lines, or c) I have a ton of money to blow on the exhibitors.  If I can optimize the fun stuff though, then maybe….

Toronto Comic Arts Festival 2009

In the last issue of The House Always Wins

The intrepid investigator House had scoped out the Pulp Show and Sale, but that was not the only mission that lay before him.  After completing his search there, he set out to the Toronto Reference Library, to battle the faceless hordes of the 2009 Toronto Comic Arts Festival.

Lighthouse Comics presents…

The House Always Wins #54: “Ask Not For Whom the Bell Tolls…”

Scene: Outside the Toronto Reference Library, 4:15 PM, Saturday, 09 May 2009.

House (monologue): Time is running out.  Hiding from the weather and investigating the Pulp Show set me back more than I had anticipated.  But that didn’t matter.  I had a mission, and I’m the best there is at what I do.  And what I do is buy webcomic merchandise.

Scene: Lobby of the Toronto Reference Library, beyond which the main exhibition area can be seen, filled with people and exhibits.

House: I hadn’t anticipated so many people.  The place was crowded.  Too crowded.  If a fight broke out, there’d be trouble.  The main show area was six of seven floors high; why couldn’t flight be one of my powers?  But no, I had to fight my way through the crowds.  I’m good at that, too.

People are going every which way around me; I have no idea where anything is, and nothing I see looks familiar.  I push my way through to the back, where, out of the corner of my eye, I see a sign directing me to the webcomics pavilion.  Bingo.

This room is much smaller, with the exhibitors set up around the edges, leaving the middle free.  From the middle, I’m able to scan each of the tables.  I see Bryan Lee O’Malley, behind stacks of Scott Pilgrim books, signing away, and this confuses me—that’s no webcomic.  I feel a flash of regret, not having brought any of my Pilgrim stuff to be signed, but that’s not why I’m here.

I finally see my target: Chris Hastings, of Dr. McNinja fame.  I recognize him by all the merch in front of him.  I buy two shirts, though in one size smaller than I’d prefer, and a poster and a book, which he very coolly sketched and signed.

House: “I’m a big fan of the comic.”

Hastings: “Yeah, I can tell.”

House: “I even went as the Doctor for Halloween a couple of years ago.”

Hastings: “Nice.”

House: “Keep up the good work.”  I’m a man of few words.  And my mission was accomplished.  I got out with ten minutes to spare, because I’m the best there is at what I do.

Scene: Toronto Reference Library, 1:15 PM, Sunday, 10 May 2009.

House: Mother’s Day.  I got here too late to get into the panel on Newspapers, Comics, and the Internet, and so I took the time to give my mother a call instead.  That went well enough, but I still had time to kill.  This proved to be mistake—I ended up with Two-Fisted Science and Galaxion, as well as an art book.  Like I’ve said before, I’m the best there is at what I do, and what I do is buy stuff.

Scene: Learning Centre 2, Toronto Reference Library, 2:30 PM.

House: After running into a friend, I took in a panel on Editing in Comics.  This may have been a mistake.  Unfortunately, the venue was not very sound-proof, and the noise from the main exhibition floor readily made its way through the glass walls of the Learning Centre.  Coupled with the low volume of the microphones meaning the panelists couldn’t be heard, it was challenging to pay attention.  Ultimately, the take-away was that comics editing usually amounts to either censorship or selection, and there’s not usually much back-and-forth with creators.

Scene: Main Exhibition Space, Toronto Reference Library, 3:45 PM.

House: My cash was used up, and so was my interest in panels.  Still, the Comic Arts Festival was good.  It was nice to see so many excited people out to a comics event, and it showcased the huge variety of comics that are out there today.  This thing will come around again in another couple of years.  I’d better start saving up….


Doc Bruce Banner, Pelted By Gamma Rays

Sadly, the tune referenced in the title of this post did not appear in the latest adventure of the Hulk on the big screen, that that is perhaps the only reference to a previous incarnation that was not included in The Incredible Hulk .  Despite this tragic shortcoming, it was still a good movie.

This movie — as every press release and preview article is quick to point out — is entirely unrelated to Ang Lee’s 2003 film Hulk , which I thought was just okay.  (In that regard, my sense is that many peoples’ opinions of that movie have degraded since it was first released, but I thought it was okay then much as I do now.)  Thankfully, it doesn’t waste much time rehashing the Hulk’s origin, but instead jumps right into the thick of things.

Those things include some good action sequences, a much better-looking Hulk than the previous version, a coherent storyline, and some decent character development.  The movie is also thankfully angst-free, unlike its predecessor — a movie about the Hulk is not really the place for daddy issues.

Ed Norton does a good job as Banner, and Liv Tyler is effective as Betty Ross, his love interest/conscience.  Tim Roth is particularly entertaining in his portrayal of Emil Blonski, an old soldier who is in the military for the joy of fighting rather than the honour of serving.  Let us say that such things do not end well on that front.

The Incredible Hulk is set in the same universe as the recent Iron Man movie , confirmed by a delightful cameo by Robert Downey Jr.  This is possible since Marvel Studios was the sole producer of both of these movies (having reclaimed the film rights to the Hulk after no sequel was made for Ang Lee’s movie); they have others in the works in the coming years (Thor and Captain America ), and have already announced plans for an Avengers movie that would bring together these heroes in a single movie.  If they can maintain the level of quality of these last two movies, and not go off the rails like the producers of the X-Men and Spider-Man franchises did, then the future looks promising indeed.

So, as you’ve gathered, I liked the movie.  I don’t think it was quite as good as Iron Man , but I was thoroughly entertained, the cast and special effects were good, it was chock full of cameo appearances and set-ups for future developments (new villains and allies, for example),  and it provided a nice blend of well-executed action sequences alongside story and character development.  If you like superhero movies, you’ll like this one, I think.

As a side note, much of this movie was filmed in Toronto last summer, and specifically at the University of Toronto St. Georgee campus and Yonge street — parts of town where I live and work.  (I saw lots of production vehicles set up, but none of the movie stars.)  So it was rather neat seeing places I’m intimately familiar with pop up in a Hollywood blockbuster, and how they made these places appear to be not quite what they are.  Of course, the Sam the Record Man sign cannot be disguised, and you’ll see people running past it several times in the climactic battle scene.

(As another side note, while googling something for reference, I got sucked into reading the Marvel Database , where I’ve spent over an hour reading Marvel comics backstory.)

Glancing back over all of the above, I realize that all I’ve said can be effectively summed up with "I liked it; it was good."  But since I took the time to type out all that, I’ll leave it, and sign off.