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1. Her Universe and Ours

image 158x300 Her Universe and OursSigns aren’t the only thing greeting attendees at the entrance to New York Comicon. Amidst the registration booths and all too quickly emptied bins for lanyards ReedPOP has its own boutique, featuring the geek-chic fashion of Ashley Eckstein’s Her Universe line.

Her Universe has become a significant presence at both the San Diego and New York conventions, which in turn reflects as place as a market leader in pop-culture inspired fashion. I had the pleasure of speaking at length with Ashley back at SDCC after her successful geek couture fashion show, and as an attorney I have to say that she is a role model for anyone who wants to incorporate copyrighted and trademarked material in their line. In a world where “it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission” has led any number of creators astray, she has from the outset been conscientious (and ambitious!) in licensing characters for Her Universe clothes.

But that’s not the only way in which Her Universe reflects the better angels of geek community’s nature. Besides integrating the participatory spirit of comics-related media discussed in my last post, Ashley has also been a prominent advocate of geek fashion’s capacity to empower those who wear it, both through her clothes and her anti-bullying activism. Create, speak, show others who you are with fear – where the less imaginative may just see licensed properties, her community sees freedom woven into her designs.

Which brings us to the future of geek couture and its role in the community’s future. Walk around San Diego and New York Comic-Cons and you’ll see expressive fashion everywhere, from handcrafted TARDIS earrings and comic-related t-shirts carried in the ubiquitous TARDIS bag to sophisticated cosplay and brands such as Her Universe itself. As the Her Universe show embodied back at San Diego, the key to the future is to go beyond prints and other reproductions of licensed material to transformative geek-inspired design – in fact, for a useful indication of where things are going, watch the development of the co-branded Marvel line announced last July.

As I discuss in my Fashion Ethics, Sustainability and Development class for the Fashion Law Institute, when we wear clothes we wear ourselves – our values, our aspirations, our communities.* It should, then, come as no surprise that when we look at geek couture, we see the future.


*Check out Professor Susan Scafidi’s “Fashion as Information Technology” for more on this.

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2. On The Scene with Comics At Columbia: Past, Present, Future

1408635840295 On The Scene with Comics At Columbia: Past, Present, FutureIf Karen Green wasn’t a rock star comics librarian before last night’s opening gala, she is now!

So: the gist:
A few years ago, 2005 to be exact, the Ancient & Medieval History and Religion Librarian at Columbia University noticed a need for graphic novels to support the faculty and curriculum of the University. She began to systematically meet the needs of her patrons, while also selecting texts for the general collection.  (She says the collection started with 3 volumes.)

Then, in 2011, Chris Claremont donated his archives to the University.
This was followed by gifts from:

…among others.

But… Columbia has been in existence since 1754. What else might exist buried deep in the archives? In the rare books collection? Elsewhere in the University?

Well, quite a bit!

This exhibit collects an amazing assortment of items…  Lots of original art, rare books, correspondence… and ephemera as well.  (Yes, you not only see Wendy Pini’s Red Sonja costume, but her meticulous sketches and planning!)

Some highlights:

  • correspondence from Stan Lee to Denis Kitchen
  • a comics script from Jerry Robinson
  • original editorial cartoons from the Pulitzer Prize committee
  • the sketches and final art from the Al Jaffee fold-in Batman variant
  • the original art from Wendy Pini’s appearance in Elfquest (wow… the screens!)
  • Chris Claremont’s notebooks
  • The first page of the script to “Days of Future Past” (which includes some backstory I never considered before…)
  • an entire display of “proto comics”, including Ward, Töpffer, and Busch
  • William Moulton Marston’s contract for when he was a professor at Columbia
  • comics produced by recent students and alumni (WOW)

The highlight for me?  An “underground” comic (featured on the exhibition poster) from 1766, libeling a Kings College professor.  The plot?  He gets a female student drunk on spruce beer (yes, pine tree beer!), gets her pregnant, then pays for her abortion!  The comic was confiscated, and used as evidence in the college’s disciplinary action against the students!  You can read the sordid tale here.  (SFW)

The exhibition opened Monday, with a reception last night.  Here are some photos taken from the cheap seats, with a bit of commentary:

2014 10 07 17.59.04 On The Scene with Comics At Columbia: Past, Present, FutureChris Claremont, Karen Green, and Sean Quimby chat before festivities begin.  Mr. Quimby,  is “fresh off the bus” from Syracuse University, having just been appointed Director of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library.  He gave his bona fides as a long-time comics fan, holding up a much-loved copy of the X-Men graphic album “God Loves, Man Kills”.  (Syracuse itself has a decent archive of comics artists!)

2014 10 07 18.18.14 On The Scene with Comics At Columbia: Past, Present, FutureChris Claremont gets the ball rolling, as each participant was given two slides and five minutes to speak.

2014 10 07 18.24.55 On The Scene with Comics At Columbia: Past, Present, FutureWendy and Richard Pini.

2014 10 07 18.29.32 On The Scene with Comics At Columbia: Past, Present, FutureAndrea Tsurumi

2014 10 07 18.32.09 On The Scene with Comics At Columbia: Past, Present, FutureAlexander Rothman, creator of poetry comics

2014 10 07 18.35.36 On The Scene with Comics At Columbia: Past, Present, FuturePeter Kuper.

2014 10 07 18.39.17 On The Scene with Comics At Columbia: Past, Present, FutureGregory Benton.

2014 10 07 18.41.41 On The Scene with Comics At Columbia: Past, Present, FutureSophia Wiedeman

2014 10 07 18.43.40 On The Scene with Comics At Columbia: Past, Present, FutureForsyth Harmon.  This is a boxed set of comics titled “Broken Up”, produced while she was a student at the Leroy Nieman Center for Print Studies at Columbia.  As at other art schools, comics storytelling is cross-pollinating with art techniques at Columbia to produce new and interesting work!

2014 10 07 18.46.33 On The Scene with Comics At Columbia: Past, Present, FutureTom Motley.  With Al Jaffee in the audience, Motley teased a double fold-in.

2014 10 07 18.49.57 On The Scene with Comics At Columbia: Past, Present, FutureRiaki Enyama.  Yes, that is her comic!  Using the Japanese Emakimono storytelling scroll tradition, she chronicled her experience as a foreign student at Columbia.

2014 10 07 18.56.42 On The Scene with Comics At Columbia: Past, Present, FuturePaul Levitz.  The Jimmy Olsen of comics professionals!

2014 10 07 19.00.30 On The Scene with Comics At Columbia: Past, Present, Future…and, a teaser from Karen Green, of a forgotten cartoonist: Amram Scheinfeld.  What’s his story?  Visit the exhibition and find out more!

The event was recorded, and should be available online soon!

2 Comments on On The Scene with Comics At Columbia: Past, Present, Future, last added: 10/9/2014
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3. Death by Dessert, or How to Watch the World Cup On the Border


We became pretty solid soccer fans while living in Germany, especially around World Cup time, so on our recent return trip, we were psyched to watch games with our German friends.

For the U.S. v. Germany game, though, we were on our own in France. We planned the whole evening around the game, which aired at 6 p.m. in that time zone.

It was also the only night we could eat at the local Michelin-starred restaurant—and the night they serve a very reasonable prix-fixe menu. So we made a late reservation to fit in both, planning to watch the game at our B & B.

Gourmet Salad

We’d biked 15 miles that day (a lot for us), and I planned to take a shower during half time.

One big problem. After the pre-game commentator chatter, the screen went blank with a message that said something like: “This game is not authorized to be shown in this region.” We flipped around, hoping another station would carry it, but the only game on was the other World Cup match happening at the same time.

Luckily, we were staying right near the German border, so I took a 3 minute shower, hopped into a dress, and we loaded up and drove to the ferry to cross the Rhine. On the other side, my husband knocked on restaurant doors until we found one with public viewing in its little bar area.

The one long table was full of retiree-aged tennis table club members, and the only free seats were at the front with a mustachioed man who’d already had a few too many beers.

He was friendly, though, and when he found out we were American, he told us over and over how much he loved Americans and how the best possible outcome for the game would be a 1-1 tie. He reminded us many times (a few too many) that the German coach and the American team coach (also German) were best friends and how they would both want this.

If you were watching, too, you know the Americans actually lost 0-1. We were disappointed, but after the game, everyone (except the kids) was treated to house-made pear Schnapps while the table tennis team sang the German victory song (is there a name for this?). Everyone was very friendly, and when it was over, we thanked our hosts and dashed back across the river to make our 8:30 reservation.

The restaurant was lovely, with a view to a garden and a stream. The noise level was nearly silent, but our kids were completely awesome and went with the flow.

We opted for the prix-fixe menu and added on the “Festival of Desserts,” which sounded perfect. We envisioned a dessert sampler.

First course (salad above) was great, second course (some kind of meat pie) was amazing. Meanwhile the service was first-rate. Our hostess made sure to graciously inform us when we were missing something, i.e. “You can actually eat those flowers,” and, “Those table decorations are actually pretzels” (in the first photo, the rock-looking things behind the ceramic elves).

Here’s the cheese table, from which we could choose what we liked.

Cheese Course

And then the desserts started. First, a platter of teeny tiny cookies of many kinds. Then, a pastry with gelato. Another pastry with gelato. Another….we were losing count.

French dessert

Surely the cookies had counted as dessert #1. There were supposed to be five desserts in total. Surely the gelato counted for one and the pastry counted for another, right? Wrong. The desserts kept coming, and we slowed down so much that we started getting two at once. The cookies hadn’t even counted as part of the five.

Gourmet dessert

Not only that, but the kids had gotten (included) a dessert of their own, so they couldn’t help us out so much. Still, we were determined to do our duty and eat every bite. On top of the five desserts + cookies + cheese course, there was a tiny truffle course where we could choose our own adventure. How could we say no?

At one point I said, “If they bring another dessert, I’m going to cry,” and we all started laughing, on the verge of breaking the Code of Near-Silence.

Finally we ate our way through the last plate, now having finished enough dessert for about ten people. The last plate was probably my favorite, some kind of cherry cake (pictured above). We rolled out, giggling to ourselves.

My son said the other day, “Let’s never take the circus of desserts next time.” Amen. Maybe just 1/10 of it.

Below is a picture of one of the children’s desserts.

Ice Cream Rabbit

And in case you’re wondering yes, I threw the whole gluten-free eating thing out the window that week. I paid for it the next week, but it was well worth it!



4 Comments on Death by Dessert, or How to Watch the World Cup On the Border, last added: 8/8/2014
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4. The Beat Podcasts! – Looking Back at Comic-Con 2014

logo-pod-more-to-come-1400.pngRecorded at Publishers Weekly, it’s More To Come, the weekly podcast of comics news, interviews and discussion with Calvin Reid, Kate Fitzsimons and The Beat’s own Heidi MacDonald.

In this week’s episode,  the More to Come Crew discuss 2014′s San Diego Comic-Con including the long-awaited Eisner award vindication of Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez, Image Expo and indie comics, a slightly smaller presence for offsite TV and video game hoopla, digital comics, the con experience and convention safety concerns.

Download this episode direct here, listen to it in streaming here and catch up with our previous podcasts on the Publishers Weekly website, or subscribe to More To Come on iTunes

1 Comments on The Beat Podcasts! – Looking Back at Comic-Con 2014, last added: 8/4/2014
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5. Interview: Rick Geary on Kickstarter, Murder, and Billy the Kid

Anybody who has read any amount of my writing, either here and elsewhere, will probably know who my favourite comics writer is*. But I also have a favourite comics artist, whose work is a constant delight to me, and by whom I have pretty much everything I can get my hands on. It’s Rick Geary. He mostly works in black & white, has almost never done any work for The Big Two, and you could just about be forgiven for not having heard of him, but he’s been making his living as a cartoonist and comics artist for nearly forty years now, and is, for me, the comics artist whose work I cherish the most.

He worked on all sorts of things for Dark Horse Comics, and many others, over a number of years, much of which has been collected, and on a shelf right beside me, as I write. In 1987 he started work on a series called A Treasury of Victorian Murder for NBM Publishing, which now stands at eight volumes of true murder tales, which has since been joined by A Treasury of XXth Century Murder, which is up to six volumes, both of which feel like his true life’s work. I’ve always been a fan of true crime stories anyway, and to have them drawn in Geary’s gorgeous black line work is wonderful. If you want to try one – and you should – they’re all available on his Author Page at NBM. It’s not for nothing that Our Glorious Leader, Ms H. MacDonald, said ‘

No season would be complete without the latest in Rick Geary’s ongoing series of 20th-century murders: with elegant, unsettling penwork, Madison Square Tragedy: The Murder of Stanford White tells the notorious story of architect Stanford White, who was murdered by a jealous husband in a theater atop the original Madison Square Garden.

As well as his ongoing work with NBM, Rick Geary has recently taken to selling books through a series of Kickstarter campaigns, with the most recent, for The True Death of Billy the Kid, still running, until Monday the 11th of August, a week from today. It’s going to be a 60-page black-and-white hardcover graphic novel, and I can pretty much guarantee it’ll turn up right on time, too, because I’ve backed his other two projects, and they did – which is more than can be said for other fundraisers I’ve ante-ed up for, but that is something I’ll wait to address here another day, in the not too distant future.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s a quick interview with Rick Geary, which I was thrilled to be given the chance to do…

Billy the Kid

Pádraig Ó Méalóid: This is your third Kickstarter campaign, at this stage. First of all, what made you decide to try out fundraising like this as a way to get your work out there?
[Link to The True Death of Billy the Kid Kickstarter.]

Rick Geary: The first time I tried fundraising on Kickstarter was about a year ago, simply out of curiosity as to how it works and to see how well I would do. I thought I should start out with the kind of true crime graphic novel I’m known for. This was The Elwell Enigma, and it succeeded beyond my wildest imagination. After that, I thought I’d try something different. A is for Anti-Christ: Obama’s Conspiracy Alphabet, a kind of satirical children’s book, was a bit of a harder and slower process, but it finally came through. At last, I thought I’d use Kickstarter to fund the kind of historical and non-fiction subjects that fascinate me but which aren’t precisely murder cases. The True Death of Billy the Kid comes out of my life here in Lincoln County, and has now exceeded my funding goal with several more weeks to go. So I have to say I’m very happy with my Kickstarter experience. I also must say that the experience has been made as smooth as possible by my friend and agent and production genius Mark Rosenbohm, who has managed all three campaigns.

PÓM: Yes, I’d noticed that all your campaigns were under Mark’s name. So, is he effectively acting as your publisher on these, or is that the wrong way to look at it?

RG: I suppose he could be technically called my publisher, although I like to think of these books as self-published. They all have come out under my little imprint, Home Town Press.

PÓM: What led you to want to try out an internet fundraiser like this in the first place, and why did you choose Kickstarter to do it on?

RG: There are certain projects in my mind that I know would never be taken on by a mainstream publisher. The Obama Alphabet was certainly one of them. I began my career publishing my own work and I’ve always believed in it. Why Kickstarter? At the time, it seemed to be the only one out there.

PÓM: Are there any drawbacks to using Kickstarter, do you find?

RG: The hardest part of a Kickstarter campaign, though I’d hate to call it a drawback, is the work that comes on the back end. I try to be very conscientious about packaging the books and other premiums and sending them out in a timely manner. Almost 200 mailings for my first project. It’s all well worth it, though.

PÓM: Are you still producing work through more conventional means, like with NBM, for instance? I know they published your Madison Square Tragedy – The Murder of Stanford White around December 2013, so is there anything more scheduled from them?

RG: Yes, I’m still producing murder stories for NBM. I’m currently in the midst of a project that’s a bit of a departure from the true-life cases. Louise Brooks: Detective is a fictional mystery featuring the actress Louise Brooks solving a murder in 1940′s Kansas. After that I plan to return to non-fiction with the story of the Black Dahlia murder.

PÓM: Am I right in thinking you’re somehow related to Louise Brooks?

RG: She was my mother’s second cousin. Though they never met, they grew up in the same area of southeastern Kansas. Brooks was my mother’s maiden name (and my middle name). My mother was born and grew up in the tiny town of Burden, Kansas, as did both of Louise’s parents. The graphic novel I’m working on, Louise Brooks: Detective, takes place during the brief time (1940-42) that she returned to Kansas after her Hollywood career collapsed. The action unfolds in Wichita and Burden.

PÓM: What is it that draws you towards these murder stories, do you think?

RG: It’s become kind of a cliché, but for as long as I can remember, I’ve been attracted to the dark side of human nature. Perhaps because I have such a light and sunny nature myself. Stories of anti-social behavior have the most drama and excitement. And the unsolved cases are the best of all, for the mystery they embody and the speculation they engender. I’m a big proponent of the essential unknowability of things.

PÓM: With the unsolved cases, do you have opinions of your own on who might have done them, or does that not matter to you? With things like Jack the Ripper, for instance, which has virtually mutated into fiction, do you have any ‘favourite’ suspects?

RG: In most cases my goal is to keep a journalistic detachment and not express opinions of my own. Some of the unsolved murders have, as you say, mutated into fiction, but I try to give equal weight to all the theories out there, no matter how ludicrous. Jack the Ripper is the perfect example. The endless speculation linking him to the royal family or other well-known people is pretty flimsy, though entertaining. My belief is that the Ripper had to be some faceless, anonymous East End resident, someone you wouldn’t even notice on the street.

PÓM: What is it about Billy the Kid, that made you want to do this particular book?

Billy 21 (1)

RG: Upon moving to Lincoln County, New Mexico, seven years ago, I found that the Kid is a very big deal here. The town of Lincoln, where he spent much of his brief life, is a perfectly preserved little western settlement, and the local historical society is very protective of his story. Accuracy is the top priority. I noticed that no graphic novel has been published that told his true story, and it seemed a natural for my next project on Kickstarter.

Billy 22 (1)

PÓM: How much research goes into doing one of these books?

RG: I do as much as I can and still fit within the deadline. I start by reading as many books with as many different points of view on the subject as I can find, and take copious notes. I fill this out with online sources, but what I find there is usually not as detailed as the information contained in books. Then I condense all the material into what I hope is a clear and compelling narrative structure. As for picture reference for period costumes, interiors etc, I usually rely on my extensive personal library. But I can also find pretty much anything I want online.

Billy 23 (1)

PÓM: Have you any plans to do more ‘Wild West’ based stories, or is Billy the Kid a one-off?

RG: Nothing specific on the horizon, but I wouldn’t rule anything out.

PÓM: What’s your feeling about fundraisers like Kickstarter, now that you’ve been through it three times? Is it the future of comics publishing, or just an interesting sideline, for you?

RG: I can’t speak for others, but my own experience with Kickstarter has been nothing but positive thus far. I don’t know if it’s the future of comics publishing, but it’s certainly my future. I plan to use it, perhaps once a year, for graphic novel projects that treat broader historical subjects and wouldn’t overlap with the murder stories I do for NBM.

PÓM: Will this, and your previous Kickstarter projects, be available for the general public to buy later on, or is this the only way to get hold of them?

RG: All of my Kickstarter books are, for the moment, sold personally by me at the SD Comic-Con and at APE, or else are available via the “RG Store” on my Website. I’ve also been selling them, on consignment, through a retail outlet in my tiny burg of Carrizozo. Whether they will eventually gain a wider distribution remains to be seen.

PÓM: Thanks very much for taking the time to do this interview, Rick.

RG: Entirely my pleasure, Pádraig. Thanks for everything.

Some Links:
The True Death of Billy the Kid Kickstarter page
Rick Geary’s own Website
Rick Geary’s Author Page at NBM
Rick Geary’s Facebook Page


[*It’s Alan Moore, in case there was any doubt.]

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6. The Hermit of Shooters Hill – An Interview with Steve Moore, Part 4

Here’s the fourth part of my interview with the late Steve Moore, with more to follow. The first, second, and third parts are already online, along with some explanation of how the interview came about.

Steve apologizes CU

PÓM: You mentioned that you worked with Dez Skinn at Fleetway House. How did you get on with him?

SM: It was okay at the time, though I’ve never really got on that well with men from the north of England. I’ve generally found them opinionated, pig-headed and sexist; on the other hand, I know they tend to think of us southerners as over-intellectual wimps. Both of these are completely clichéd generalisations, and I’m sure the first is no more true of all northern men than the second is of all southerners, but in my experience there seems to be a bit of a gulf in attitudes. So at Fleetway, relations with Dez were generally cordial, though occasionally a little caustic, and we weren’t actually working on the same magazine which meant we didn’t spend the whole day together. He was never someone I really wanted to actually socialise with, though. I tended to hang out with Steve Parkhouse and left all thoughts of Dez behind when I left the office.

On the other hand, my professional relationship with Dez, between writer and editor, was very close for several years and generally problem-free, and we worked together on House of Hammer, Starburst, Hulk Comic, Dr Who Weekly and, eventually, Warrior. At that point things started to go wrong, but until then he was another editor who’d accept everything I gave him with virtually no changes and we did a lot of stuff together, some of which, I like to think, was pretty good.

->PÓM: Didn’t you end up working for Dez as a freelancer, later on?

SM: Yes, I did work for Dez, but I can’t honestly remember how it came about. I’m pretty sure the first thing was House of Hammer, which was published by Thorpe & Porter (otherwise known as General Book Distribution or Top Sellers; the same outfit seems to have had a multitude of names and, as I mentioned, they’d also picked up the Brown, Watson name too). John Barraclough had ended up there after Target folded, and it’s possible he may have mentioned that he’d worked with me to Dez; but if not that it’s probable that Dez knew that both Steve Parkhouse (who also worked on HoH) and I were now freelance and, of course, we all knew each other from our days at IPC. So if Dez was looking for contributors, we would have been a natural choice. And as Dez moved on to other jobs, he just kept on offering work to the same stable of contributors, both writers and artists, that he already knew and had worked with.

–>The first issue of HoH was dated October 1976, so I’d guess we started working on it in the summer, or maybe a bit earlier. Looking back, I see that John Barraclough and Chris Lowder were mentioned as associate editors on the early issues, so it’s the same little clique that had first got together at IPC again.<--

I wrote a number of features in the early issues, despite the fact that there were far more competent film-journalists also working for the magazine, and Dez and I also took a day-trip to Elstree when Hammer were shooting To the Devil a Daughter, which meant another feature I got to write up, in issue 2. We did actually get on the set briefly, while they were filming (I only got round to watching it recently – dreadful movie), but we spent most of the time talking to special effects man Les Bowie, who took great delight in showing us how gory effects could be got with latex skin and artificial blood. A charming man who really seemed to enjoy his work.

The articles had my name on, but they weren’t so good at crediting the comic-strips, at least early on. I did quite a number of movie adaptations, where we were generally working from copies of the original scripts, plus photos; and also some of the short stories, ‘Van Helsing’s Terror Tales’.

Despite not having my name on it, I wrote the adaptation for Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires in issue 4, which, being a Hammer/Shaw Brothers co-production and a Dracula/kung fu mash-up, was an obvious one for me. It had some lovely artwork by Brian Lewis, who I was delighted to be working with, but it seemed the feeling wasn’t all that mutual: the single time I met him, he immediately complained that my scripts gave him too much to draw!

Issue 8 saw my first ‘Father Shandor, Demon Stalker’ solo story, with John Bolton artwork. Shandor had first appeared in Dracula Prince of Darkness, which we’d adapted in issue 6, though Donne Avenell wrote that (John had been the artist on that as well). I think Dez suggested the idea as a way of stretching the material, though obviously it would have been quite a while before we ran through all of Hammer’s horror films. He told me we could do the strip because, unlike in the Dracula movie where the name of the character was given in the credits as ‘Sandor’ (the correct Hungarian spelling), we’d be spelling it phonetically as ‘Shandor’, and that would make it okay. I took his word for this, though I never actually discovered what Hammer’s feelings on the matter might have been. The second story, again with John, appeared in issue 16, and a third in issue 21 … and, of course, we revived the character later for Warrior.

Other adaptations I did included Curse of the Werewolf (issue 10), Plague of the Zombies (13), One Million Years B.C. (14), The Reptile (19), Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter (20, with Steve Parkhouse doing the artwork, which was nice), The Mummy (22) and Brides of Dracula (27-28). From this level of detail, you’ll gather that my copies of HoH were actually accessible! I know I did a few of the ‘Terror Tales’, but these were frequently uncredited, so it’s a bit hard for me to remember which were by me. I think I wrote three or four of those.

I’m not quite sure why the title changed from House of Hammer to House of Horror with issue 19, and then to Halls of Horror with 21, but I suspect this may have been something to do with the contract with Hammer. Effectively, the magazine folded in August 1978 with issue 23, though Dez revived it as a ‘Quality’ publication in 1982, as a companion to Warrior. By then I was no longer writing for it, though, and the Brides of Dracula adaptation was a left-over script from the original series. The magazine finally folded for the second time in 1984.

I had a fair amount of fun on HoH, as well as getting a reasonable amount of work out of it. I found script adaptation really quite easy, and we had a good bunch of artists and writers, including John Bolton, Brian Lewis, Steve Parkhouse, David Jackson and Chris Lowder, as well as some more ‘old school’ writers like Donne Avenell and Scott Goodall. And that basically set me up as one of Dez’s main writers, when he moved on to Marvel UK.<-

PÓM: Did you find it easier working on your writing away from home, or did it make any difference?

SM: Frankly, this is a question I’ve never really had cause to think about before, and since 1973 I’ve pretty much done all my writing at home anyway. And when I still had family here, they always understood that I needed to work and left me alone. So, I think the first answer would be no, it wasn’t easier working away from home. But whether it was harder I’m not really sure. When you’re 23/24 and just starting out, you’re full of energy and enthusiasm, and that carries you through an awful lot … including, I suspect, having to deal with customers while you’re typing.

PÓM: Who else did you end up writing for at this time?

SM: Actually, my memory of the period around 1973/4 is a bit fuzzy. I suspect after Target folded may have been the period when I was writing for Mirabelle, and I’m not sure how long I continued writing Tarzan for Sweden. If I’d known I was going to end up doing this interview, I would have kept all those old account books!

The next major thing to come up was the first Kung Fu Annual, based on the TV series starring David Carradine. At the time there was a big Christmas market for hardback annuals, both things like the Beano Annual and books based on popular TV shows. I got the job on the recommendation of John Barraclough, who both knew of my interest in martial arts movies and my capabilities as a writer. I don’t remember who the editor on that first book was, but the publisher was Brown, Watson Ltd., which I rather liked, because formerly they’d been behind the Digit line of paperbacks that published a lot of the SF adventures I’d read in the early 1960s, though by now the company name had been bought up and was just part of the larger Thorpe & Porter conglomerate. That first Kung Fu annual appeared in the autumn of 1974, so I would have written it in the winter of 1973/1974, as there was always a fairly large lead-up time. It was 64 pages, with comic strips, text stories and features, and I wrote the whole book for a flat fee of £200. I was told later it sold a quarter of a million copies, and there was a Dutch edition as well. Of course, no one even thought of royalties in those days, but I did get my name on the book! It was the only annual I ever did get a credit for.

By the following year, John Barraclough had taken over as editor of Brown, Watson’s annuals, working from offices in Wardour Street, and that started an association that went on until 1986. After a few years, the Babani brothers, Brian and Peter, bought out the annual department from Thorpe & Porter and set themselves up as Grandreams Ltd., with offices in Kentish Town, but John continued as editor, I continued as main writer, and the annuals continued to look exactly the same.

That was pretty much my winter work taken care of, over those dozen years, though obviously I’d frequently be writing for weeklies at the same time. I’d get a call from John around September, and he’d tell me what we were going to be doing that year for publication the following autumn, and I’d generally get between four and six annuals to do, which would keep me busy until the spring. Sometimes I wrote the entire book. I’d nearly always write all the strips and text stories, while sometimes I’d do the features, and sometimes someone else would. If he wanted to include things like puzzle pages, they were definitely by someone else! In the end, I wrote 69 annuals for John, in whole or in part, doing things like Kung Fu, Planet of the Apes, The Bionic Woman, The Fall Guy, Knightrider, Dick Turpin, Sherlock Holmes, The Dukes of Hazzard, Battlestar Galactica and even some dreadful old rubbish like Supergran.

Usually for each annual I’d be writing three 8-page scripts and three or four 2,500 word text stories, though sometimes I’d link things up as serials, and do the strip as, say four chapters of six pages each, or link the text stories. By now, John just trusted me to give him what he wanted, so I pretty much handled things the way I liked. I remember by the time we got to the fourth Kung Fu annual he called me and said something like: ‘We’ve got to do it again, but we haven’t got the budget to include any comic-strips this time, so you can just fill up the 64 pages with whatever you like.’ Like I said, John wasn’t exactly a control freak.

The money wasn’t all that great (I think it was about £10 a page for strips, though by the time it got to the 1980s, I told John I couldn’t afford to work for that any more, and got an immediate pay-rise to £15), but there was a lot of work there, which made up. Even so, it had to be done quickly to make it economical, so I was often doing a story a day … though a ‘day’ was actually lunchtime to lunchtime. After lunch I’d start thinking about a story, and if it was a strip I’d make sure that by the time I went to bed I’d sorted out the plot, broken it down into frames and usually scribbled out the dialogue; then in the morning I’d type up the script, mail it to John, and then after lunch, start the whole process again. If it was a text story, I’d just sort the plot out in the afternoon, then write the story the next morning, straight onto the typewriter in one draft with no revisions at all. If it looked like I had too much plot, the action would suddenly speed up toward the end; if too little, it’d slow down! But generally, after a couple of years, I’d got things sorted out, and knew pretty well how much plot I needed to write a 2,500 word story.

We had some decent artists on those books, though frequently fairly early in their careers, including Paul Neary, Ian Gibson, David Lloyd, David Jackson and John Hudson. And I talked John into taking some Alan Moore cartoons for the BJ and the Bear annual. Even more unlikely, when it came to the ‘History of Magic’ features for the Mr. Merlin annual, I actually persuaded him to let me illustrate them myself!

If the TV programmes were already showing, I could just watch them, or if we were doing the annuals for the second or third time, there was no problem. More often than not, though, the programmes wouldn’t start showing until after I’d written the book, so then I’d possibly be taken to a little preview theatre in Wardour Street to see an advance showing of the pilot, or sometimes the only reference I’d have to work from would be a script and some publicity photos. Fortunately, though, I seemed to have a knack for picking out the essentials of the characters and what the show was about almost instantly (and perhaps even more fortunately, I had a very easy-going editor!), so I managed to get away with it. Knightrider was one of the shows where I only saw the pilot and, as it happened, I really didn’t like the programme very much, so I couldn’t bring myself to watch it when it started on TV … but I still wrote five annuals for the show, just on the basis of the pilot.

The worst case was writing the strip adaptation of the Roger Moore James Bond movie, Octopussy, which was published as a hardback annual by Grandreams, and as a magazine in the USA by Marvel. As usual with James Bond movies, the film company were incredibly secretive, so they wouldn’t let me have any production photos, and they wouldn’t let me take the script away either. Instead I had to go into their office in central London for three or four days running and sit there alone in a private room with the script, jotting down the essentials of the plot in a notebook. And that was all I had to write the script from … but I still ended up with the film company congratulating me on the job I’d done. Paul Neary drew the strip, and I’m not sure if he got any reference either, but everyone seemed happy, so we just moved on to the next project.

So, like I said, this went on until 1986, and that autumn the phone didn’t ring, and I was busy with other stuff, so I didn’t ring either, and that was the end of it. I never heard from John again, and have no idea what happened to him, though I occasionally think it would be nice to know. But I think the TV-based annuals had pretty much passed their sell-by date by then (the previous year I’d only done one or two), so even if I’d wanted it, there probably wouldn’t have been a great deal of work to be had anyway. At some point I’ll have to read some of that stuff again, just to see if it really was any good (or otherwise) after all.

PÓM: Tell me about those movie scripts you mentioned.

SM: As I said, it came about through my knowing Roy McAree, and I’m guessing it would have been about 1976, as I’d seen a few movies scripts by then, either from adapting them for House of Hammer, which was starting up around then, or from seeing them for reference to the TV-based annuals I was writing by then. The first explosive kung fu boom was starting to blow out by then, and Roy knew what I did for a living when I wasn’t goggling at gorgeous Chinese actresses, so one day I got a call from him telling me he wanted to set up his own production company, and was looking for someone to write a script. The deal was that there’d be no money up front, but if the movie was made I’d be on a percentage and, in terms of usual movie industry rates, quite a large percentage too. As far as I recall, I think he had some sort of basic plot idea or outline, which never actually had a title. It was just referred to as ‘Snutch’, which Roy derived somehow from ‘no such’ movie, as he didn’t want to give anything away in the trade. It was intended to be a vehicle for Wang Yu, which suited me very well as he was one of my favourite Chinese actors, and was going to be set in Iran (this was obviously before the Islamic Revolution of 1979).

There are basically two types of movie script. The first is a ‘first draft’ script, which describes the action and gives the dialogue, and is what most people present when they’re trying to sell something. And then there’s the ‘shooting script’, which has all the camera directions, such as ‘pan left’ or ‘tight close up’, which is usually written much later in the development process. Roy asked me to write ‘Snutch’ as a shooting script, so I said ‘sure’ and went away and wrote it. I’d seen at least one shooting script, and in the same way as with the annuals I seem to have a facility for picking up these sort of things, so I turned it in and Roy’s partner (whose name I forget) said ‘this is great … we can just give this to some monkey and he can get on with it’ (‘some monkey’ giving you some idea of his attitude to directors) and ‘where did you learn to write scripts?’ To which I could only reply: ‘Well, I didn’t …’ They told me to get a passport and prepare to fly out to Iran to check out locations, which frankly made me a little nervous, as it wasn’t quite clear who was supposed to be going with me.

This same partner had also written a script called ‘The New Spartans’, and they then decided to go with that first, with him directing as well. They’d raised money from Germany and elsewhere, and the cast included Wang Yu, Toshiro Mifune, Harry Andrews, Britt Eklund and others of similar calibre. They got a couple of days into shooting when the Germans pulled their money out. In later years, one of my Chinese movie dealer contacts actually managed to get me a DVD of the rushes they’d shot, and frankly they were absolutely appalling, so I’m not surprised the Germans pulled the plug. But that caused the collapse of the entire enterprise, and I think Roy lost quite a lot of money. Eventually he moved to Hong Kong, where I know he produced at least one documentary about kung fu movies, and of course by then I lost contact with him. Shame. Roy was a nice man, and though I never got paid for my work, I never held it against him.

Before he left, though, and some months after ‘Snutch’ went down, he put me in touch with a gent called Paul de Savary and his Chinese partner. They’d acquired the film rights to Dan Dare, and now wanted to do an updated version which basically turned Dan into ‘James Bond in space’. They had a fairly detailed plot outline of about 30 pages, and they wanted me to turn this into a first draft script for a two-hour movie. With this kind of script you usually reckon on one single-spaced page per minute, so they wanted a 120-page script … and they wanted it written in a week. So once again I said ‘sure’ and we actually signed a contract that would give me £1500 for my week’s work, which was an enormous sum to me at the time. So I spent the next seven days doing nothing else but write and sleep, with my Mum bringing me cups of coffee and meals at my desk and, eventually, I turned up at their office on time and script in hand. A couple of days later they phoned me up and said the script was great but they’d changed their minds, and were now going to do a series of 10-minute Dan Dare TV shows instead, and they wanted to pay me £750. As you can imagine, I wasn’t greatly pleased about this, but the best advice I could get (from Roy) was that it wasn’t worth taking them to court, so I’d be better off accepting what they offered.

At some point in all this, though I’m not sure of the exact sequence, another of Roy’s producer friends offered me £200 to revise the script of his Mary Millington soft porn movie into something ‘good’, but I took one look at the script and told him that no one could make that sort of rubbish ‘good’, no matter how much he was paid, and didn’t take the job. And that concluded my involvement with the movie industry, with an understandably sour taste in my mouth. So, essentially, I’ve just refused to have anything to do with movies or TV ever since.

PÓM: Did you ever actually learn Chinese, or go visit the country?

SM: I didn’t learn the language in any formal way, though over the years I’ve come to recognise quite a number of phrases while watching movies, so long as they’re spoken in Mandarin (the national language) rather than Cantonese (the southern dialect they speak in Hong Kong). But I wouldn’t dare try to speak it, as the language is tonal, so words can be pronounced in any of four different tones, and you might have, say, forty different words pronounced ‘ming’, the only way you can tell which is the right one being the tone it’s pronounced in, and the context it appears in; so the possibility of asking for a pint of milk and unintentionally saying something like ‘My postilion has been struck by lightning’ is quite high. Not for nothing did someone once describe Chinese as ‘not so much a language as a disease’!

But I’ve always been more interested in reading the language than speaking it, and while I don’t remember an awful lot of characters, I can often pick my way through a short piece of text with the aid of a dictionary. Mind you, learning how to use a Chinese/English dictionary is a bit of an achievement in itself! Fortunately, there are now computerised dictionary programs that make life rather easier. Even so, sorting out a paragraph of Chinese would still take me quite a long time.

As for the second part of your question, like I said earlier, I’ve never been east of Dover. I’m really not much of a traveller and, while there are obviously historical sites it would be fascinating to see, modern China isn’t really what I’m interested in. What appeals to me is a romanticised, traditional China that no longer exists, if it ever did, because that romanticised version is largely coloured by tales of Daoist magicians and the heroics of wuxia fiction. Better to keep to the China in my head, I think, rather than be confronted by contemporary reality.

To be continued…

[Because the above section is, by my standards, quite short, to allow the next section to start where it needs to, I'm adding on a list of All Steve Moore's Brown Watson / Grandreams Annuals in both alphabetical and chronological order. This list was sent to me by Steve himself, and he told me it was compiled with the help of Steve Holland of Bear Alley Books.]

Brown Watson/ Grandreams Annuals with Work by Steve Moore

C = Cover
F = Features
I = Illustrations
R = Reprint
S = Strips
T = Text Stories
U = Unknown
W = Whole Book

Illustrators named where known


1977 – T?, S? (I must have written something for this, or I wouldn’t have a copy! But a lot of it doesn’t read like me. Maybe one T?) (I – John Bolton)

1978 – T, S (F???) (John Higgins)

1977 – T, S, some F (Ian Gibson)
1978 – T, S (Ian Gibson)

1981 – T, S (cartoons – Alan Moore [here])

1982 – T, S

1979 – T, S (Felix Carrion)
1980 – T, S (Felix Carrion)

1981 – T, S
1982 – T, S (Cartoons – Alan Moore, reprinted from BJ & THE BEAR)

1981 – T, S (David Lloyd)
1982 – T, S (David Lloyd)
1983 – T, S (David Lloyd)

1979 – T, F? (S = R. I – Evi DeBono)
1980 – T (S = R. I – David Lloyd)

1977 – F (S = R. I – John Britton)

1977 – T, S (S, I – Ian Gibson. I – John Bolton)

1980 – S (From synopses by Phil Redmond?) (T by David Angus, from Redmond synopses) (I – John Cooper)

1979 – T, S, F? (John Higgins + R )
1980 – T, S (David Lloyd + R )
1981 – T (S = R. C – Paul Neary, I – David Lloyd)
1982 – T (S = R. C, I – Paul Neary)
1983 – T (S = R. C, I – Paul Neary)
1984 – T (S = R. C – Paul Neary. IU)

1987 – T, S, 1F

1982 – T, S (F???) (David Lloyd)
1983 – T, S (David Lloyd)
1984 – T, S (Jim Eldridge)
1985 – T, S (Jim Eldridge)
1986 – T, S (Jim Eldridge)

1974 – W (S – Desmon Walduck, I – Melvyn Powell)
1975 – W (SU, I – John Bolton)
1976 – W (S – Paul Neary, I – Ian Gibson)
1977 – W (I – John Britton, John Bolton?)

1978 – T, S (David Lloyd)

1984 – T, S, 1F (John Higgins)

1986 – T (S = R )
1987 – T (S = R)

1981 – T, S

1980 – T, S (John Higgins)

1982 – T, S, some F (Mick Austin. 2F, I – Steve Moore)

1977 – 1 S, some F (John Bolton)
1978 – 2 T, 1 F (John Bolton + U )

OCTOPUSSY (James Bond movie adaptation)
1983 – S (Paul Neary)

1975 – T, S , F (S = U. I – John Bolton)
1976 – T, S (S = John Bolton + Oliver Frey. I = John Bolton + U )
1977 – T, S (John Bolton)

1977 – T?, S? (I must have written something for this, or I wouldn’t have a copy! But a lot of it doesn’t read like me.) (I – Edmond Ripoll)

1979 – T, S (Carlos Cruz)

1979 – T, F? (S = R. I – Evi DeBono)
1980 – T (S = R. I – David Lloyd)
1981 – T (S = R. C – Paul Neary. I – David Lloyd)
1982 – T (S = R. C – Paul Neary. I – Paul Neary + Mick Austin)
1983 – T (S = R. C, I – Paul Neary)
1984 – T (S = R. C, IU )
1985 – T (S = R. C, IU )

1983 – T (S = R. I – Leigh Baulch + Jerry Paris?)

1979 – F (S = R)

1978 – F (S = R)

1985 – S

1978 – F (S = R)

1976 – T (S = R. I – John Bolton)
1977 – T (S = R. I – John Britton, John Bolton)

1983 – T, S (John Higgins)

1982 – T, S (David Jackson)

1976 – T (S = R. I – John Bolton)
1977 – T (S = R. I – John Bolton)

1983 – T, S (John Higgins)

1979 – T, S


1974 (1)

1975 (2)

1976 (4)

1977 (10)

1978 (6)

1979 (7)

1980 (6)

1981 (6)

1982 (8)

1983 (8)

1984 (4)

1985 (3)

1986 (2)

1987 (2)

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7. The Odyssey in culture, ancient and modern

Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey recounts the 10-year journey of Odysseus from the fall of Troy to his return home to Ithaca. The story has continued to draw people in since its beginning in an oral tradition, through the first Greek writing and integration into the ancient education system, the numerous translations over the ages, and modern retellings. It has also been adapted to different artistic mediums from depictions on pottery, to scenes in mosaic, to film. We spoke with Barry B. Powell, author of a new free verse translation of The Odyssey, about how the story was embedded into ancient Greek life, why it continues to resonate today, and what translations capture about their contemporary cultures.

Visual representations of The Odyssey and understanding ancient Greek history

Click here to view the embedded video.

Why is The Odyssey still relevant in our modern culture?

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On the over 130 translations of The Odyssey into English

Click here to view the embedded video.

Barry B. Powell is Halls-Bascom Professor of Classics Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His new free verse translation of The Odyssey was published by Oxford University Press in 2014. His translation of The Iliad was published by Oxford University Press in 2013. See previous blog posts from Barry B. Powell.

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8. SDCC ’14: Fashion Shows on Trend

imageThis year there are several high-profile fashion-related events and product launches at Comic-Con, which at the very least reflects how much the comics industry’s awareness of fashion has grown since the days when Batgirl was baffled by hemlines.

As some of you may know, part of my work as an attorney involves assisting fashion businesses, from emerging designers to multinational companies, and I also work with the pioneering Fashion Law Institute at Fordham Law School. Cosplay and such branded merch as t-shirts have long been part of the Comic-Con scene, but in recent years we’ve seen intriguing growth in geek-and-nerd couture. With that, of course, comes a host of legal concerns, including copyright, trademark and depending on the garment or beauty product, even design and utility patents.

Tonight I’m looking forward to attending the first Her Universe Geek Couture Fashion Show, which starts at 6pm at the Manchester Grand Hyatt. The show, which is co-sponsored by Hot Topic and Nerdist Industries, will feature the work of 36 designers, two of whom will be selected to design a special Her Universe fashion collection. The founder of Her Universe, Ashley Eckstein, has brought on board an impressive array of licensed properties for her line, including Doctor Who, Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica and The Walking Dead.

Tomorrow night brings another much anticipated show: the launch of the co-branded collection by GeekNation and COZDAY Clothing. COZDAY, by Leetal Platt Designs, features work inspired by pop culture, and GeekNation is the burgeoning media empire founded by actress Clare Kramer and producer Brian Keathley.

The Saturday-night Masquerade has been an established part of SDCC for years, and I’ll be covering that in more detail in a future post — for now, I’ll just note that one of the things that I’ve found particularly interesting about cosplay culture in San Diego is that for a number of cosplayers it as been a springboard for their careers, including movie makeup, film prosthetics and costume design.

The above list is hardly exhaustive. The Marge Simpsons MAC cosmetic line, the DC Comics x Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star Fall 2014 line, roughly a bazillion TARDIS products: Comic Con is looking to be a productive platform for the fashion community — and, of course, its lawyers.

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9. Comic Con: Beyond the Panels

By Hannah Lodge

For some, the real glamour of San Diego Comic Con lies beyond the confines of the convention center. For four days, the Gaslamp quarter is transformed into an outdoor festival, with parties, guest appearances, live music, free food, and entertainment happening in parallel of the announcements and panels held behind closed doors. Here’s our line-up of unofficial events happening outside of the convention center halls.


Thursday and/or ongoing

Gotham Zip lining: From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday until Sunday, fans will have the opportunity to channel their inner batman and zip line (130 feet long, 30 feet high) through Gotham-esque landscape. Souvenir photos will also be available, and the event will take place between the convention center and the Hilton Bayfront. If the experience leaves you too exhausted to walk home, Uber will also be featuring Gotham-themed cars to pick passengers up for free rides. To hitch a ride, select the Gotham PD under the Uber slider in the app or follow uber_sd on twitter.

Nintendo Gaming Lounge: From 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, the Marriott Marquis and Marina Ballroom will feature the Nintendo Gaming Lounge. Featured games include 3DS features like Super Smash Bros, Sonic Book and Siesta Fiesta and Wii U titles like Mario Kart 8, Captain Toad, Sonic Book and Skylanders Trap Team. Admission is free and no badge is required.

BioWare Development Team & Dragon Age Inquisition: From 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. Thursday, Felicia Day’s Geek & Sundry Lounge at 379 4th Ave (Jolt N’ Joes) will host coffee & donuts with the BioWare Development team and will demo the newest installment in the Dragon Age Series, Inquisition, which releases this fall. Demos will continue throughout the weekend. Admission is free and no badge is required.

Borderlands Laser Tag: From 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Nerdist and 2K Games team up to bring Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel laser tag to Petco Park. The event will also feature an oxygen bar and live events. Admission is free and no badge is required.

Adult Swim Fun House & Dome Experience: Starting 3 p.m. – 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Adult Swim will feature interactive experiences at Petco Park parking lot. The Fun House is a giant castle that will force guests to crawl, side, and sing their way through. The Meatwad Dome Experience features a two-story, 40-foot Meatwad planetarium with animated content that requires a “this event has loud music, flashing lights, and  images that could trigger seizures” caution on the label. Admission is free and no badge is required.

Jay & Silent Bob Podcast: At 5 p.m. Thursday, Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes will perform a live podcast to celebrate the release of their new book. The event takes place at the American Comedy Co. at 818 B 6th Ave. Tickets are $35 and include a signed copy of the book.

MTV Fan Fest & Fandom Awards: At 5 p.m. Thursday, Linkin Park will perform at Petco Park for MTV’s Fandom Awards. Entrance is free but requires a Comic Con badge.

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Welcome Party: From 8 -11 p.m. Thursday, the CBLDF party will feature exclusive comics and a chance to mingle with creators like Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples, Scott Snyder, Chris Burnham, Nick Dragotta, Nick Pitarra. The party will also feature original artwork and an alchemy/fragrance lab from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. Suggested donations of $10-$20 at the door.

NerdHQ Fan Party: Starting at 9 p.m., the annual Nerd HQ will kick off with a fan party at Petco Park. Admission is free and no badge is required.


Cape/Cowl/Create: From 12 -7 p.m. Friday, Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment and DC Entertainment will celebrate Batman’s 75th anniversary with an art exhibit at the Hard Rock Hotel. The exhibit will include the unveiling of life-size recreations of The Dark Knight’s cowl headpiece and cape from the upcoming video game as well as talent appearances, including Zack Snyder, Will Arnett, Mister Cartoon, and Buff Monster.  Some of the art pieces will be auctioned for charity. Admission is free and no badge is required.

Boxtrolls Food Truck: Though the truck will be available throughout the Con, at 1 p.m. the truck will be at the Petco Park Interactive Zone to feature Bug Chef David George Gordon, who will demonstrate his edible insect creations. Event is free and no badge is required.

Appleseed Alpha Screening: At 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sony will screen the animated movie Appleseed Alpha, from the author Masamune Shirow (creator of Ghost in the Shell). The event is free but first-come-first-serve (RSVP on EventBrite recommended) and will take place at Reading Cinemas.

Danny Elfman Concert: At 8 p.m. Friday, composer Danny Elfman will perform in a concert featuring the scores from Tim Burton movies. Highlights include Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Batman, Big Fish, and The Corpse Bride. Tickets are between $28 – $90 and the event takes place at the Embarcadero Marina, directly behind the convention center.

Adam Savage Incognito: At 9 p.m. Friday, Tested.com is throwing a celebration for cosplayers, featuring Mythbusters star Adam Savage. Savage will demonstrate some of his most memorable cosplay and will reveal a meticulous replica of one of his favorite movie props of all time.  The event is 21+ and will be held at Side Bar, 536 Market St.

Tim & Eric’s Bedtime Jammy Party: Adult Swim’s Tim & Eric will feature a first look at their new series, Tim & Eric’s Bedtime Stories, from 11 pm – midnight on Friday. The screening will take place at Petco Park’s parking lot (at the bottom of the pedestrian bridge) and requires pajamas and a free RSVP (RSVP on Adult Swim’s Comic Con page).



Enhance Cosplay with Greg Nicotero: From 12 to 2 p.m. Saturday, Walking Dead special FX designer Greg Nicotero will demonstrate custom make-up designs for fans at the Super Hero HQ cosplay lab, located at the Courtyard by Marriott (100 Park Blvd). Free make-up touch-ups will also be available through the convention at the lab.  The event is free and open to the public.

George R.R. Martin Q&A: From 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, George R.R. Martin will conduct a public Q&A at the Super Hero HQ at the Courtyard by Marriott. The event is free and open to the public.

Heroes Brew Craft Beer Festival: From 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday, beer aficionados will gather at the Embarcadero Marina Park North to sample from more than 40 breweries. The event will also feature food trucks, a costume contest and live music. Tickets are $45 ($20 for designated drivers).

ZombieWalk: Returning for its 8th year at Comic Con, the Zombiewalk will begin at 5 p.m. Saturday and starts at Children’s Park (corner of Island & 1st Ave). The event is free and open to the public.

Norma Reedus Q&A: From 6 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Norma Reedus (a.k.a. Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead) will do a live Q&A at Super Hero HQ in the Courtyard by Marriott. Reedus will also judge cosplay costumes and select and crown the King and Queen of Cosplay.  The event is free and open to the public.

The Walking Dead Escape: From 6 p.m. to midnight Saturday, Walking Dead fans can purchase tickets for the survival-driven event, which forces Survivors and Walkers to climb, crawl, slide and hide through brutal scenarios, to either live or become infected.  Tickets are $95 or walkers and $50 for survivors and the event takes place at Petco Park.

Doctor Who Comic Creators Signing: From 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, writer Nick Abadzis, artist Elena Casagrande, cover artist Alice X Zhang and editor Andrew James will be on-hand at the Comickaze store, 5517 AB Clairemont Mesa Blvd. In addition to signings, the event will feature quizzes and a Doctor Who costume contest.

Thrilling Adventure Hour & Welcome to Night Vale Cross-Over Show: TAH & Welcome to Night Vale will be teaming up at 8 p.m. Saturday at Spreckels Theatre, 121 Broadway. The event will feature Marc Evan Jackson, Craig Cackowski, Hal Lublin, Mark Gagliardi, and show creators Ben Blacker & Ben Acker. Tickets range from $24 – $122.

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10. Between Two Worlds, by Katherine Kirkpatrick | Book Review

Travel back in time to the year 1900, and place yourself in the shoes of sixteen-year-old Billy Bah, who lives in the unrelenting wintry land of northern Itta, Greenland.

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11. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at fifty

Happy fiftieth birthday to Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which was originally published in 1964. To celebrate, Penguin has a new paperback edition plus a golden ticket sweepstakes.

It's hard to imagine a book that was more influential for me than Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and all of Roald Dahl's books for that matter, which were so powerful with their combination of humor, heart, but with a very sinister underpinning that perfectly captures what it's like to be 10-12 years old. The world at the age is amazing and funny and wondrous, but also a little scary.

Happy birthday to one of the greatest children's books of all time. While many people's memories of the book are shaped by the equally indelible film version Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (and to a lesser extent the Johnny Depp/Tim Burton version), some of us remember that Veruca Salt wanted a squirrel and not a golden goose, Mike Teavee was overly stretched to ten feet tall, and a vermicious knid is an alien, not a dangerous creature on Loopaland.

What's your memory of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?

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12. If You Were Me and Lived in … Portugal: An Introduction to Learning About Other Cultures | Dedicated Review

Discover the western European country of Portugal with award-winning author and former social studies teacher Carole P. Roman.

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13. If You Were Me and Lived in Russia, by Carole P. Roman | Dedicated Review

If You Were Me and Lived in Russia is the latest installment to a great picture book series that showcases diversity and encourages children to explore the world.

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14. Abuelo: Arthur Dorros & Raul Colon

Book: Abuelo
Author: Arthur Dorros
Illustrator: Raul Colon
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8

Abuelo by Arthur Dorros, illustrated by Raul Colon, is a quiet picture book about the relationship between a boy and his grandfather. They live somewhere in the country, where they ride horses, camp, and encounter wildlife. Later, the boy and his parents move to the city, leaving Abuelo behind. However, the skills that Abuelo has taught the boy (such as standing his ground) come in handy in his new life, too. 

Dorros blends English and Spanish words in the text, including translations for key words and phrases. Like this:

"We would ride into the clouds,
with the sky, "el cielo,"
wrapped around us."

and this:

At night, we could see forever.
"Mira", look, he would tell me,
reaching his hands to the stars."

Even after the boy moves to the city, he still includes the Spanish translations for the things that he sees, though he perhaps does this a bit less. 

Colon's watercolor and colored pencil illustrations are warm and deeply textured, cast in desert palettes of browns, grays, and sage green. There's a nostalgic feel to the pictures - this is a book that could be set now or 40 years ago. My favorite illustration is that one at the end of the book. The boy rides a bike, with the shadow of his Abuelo riding alongside him. I can't describe it, but Colon captured this perfectly. 

Abuelo is about family and culture, moving away and growing up. It's a book that introduces readers to a different environment, while touching on universal truths (the fear of getting lost, the need to stand up to bullies). Abuelo is well worth a look, particularly for library purchase. 

Publisher: HarperCollins (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: April 22, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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15. Is the Clickhole Calvin and Hobbes Cartoon Illegal Child Porn?

Clickhole, the Onion’s answer to Buzzfeed and Clickhole, has posted an audacious NSFW video parody, “If You Grew Up With ‘Calvin and Hobbes,’ You Need to Watch This Now.” Spoilers below for those of you who aren’t already in custody haven’t seen it yet:

Clickhole’s video of Calvin and Hobbes having sex pretty much nukes anything an art critic has ever described as transgressive, but in so doing it also raises a serious legal concern. As you may recall, under 18 U.S. Code Sec. 1466A, U.S. law banning child pornography is not limited to visual depictions of real children.  This has already led to prosecutions for possession of comics or cartoons – in fact, animated child sex is reportedly being used as, well, clickbait by law enforcement.

Could watching the Clickhole Calvin and Hobbes video get you sent to jail?

Let’s go exploring!

One key aspect of current U.S. law — setting aside other countries that may have more expansive prohibitions – is that it reflects an adaptive response to the Supreme Court’s conclusion that earlier versions were too broad in ways that violated the First Amendment. As a result Section 1466A only bans non-realistic visual depictions such as the Calvin and Hobbes video if they are obscene or lack serious artistic, literary, political or scientific value.

Here, in brief, is why Congress went with that language. In a series of decisions several decades ago, the Supreme Court came up with a standard for obscenity that, it believes, passes constitutional muster. The standard is known as the Miller test for determining obscenity, and it has three key components: the material appeals to prurient interest, is patently offensive and lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. By echoing this language, Congress hoped – and so far has mostly succeeded – in establishing a standard for visual depictions of minors in drawings, cartoons, sculptures or paintings that would survive a constitutional challenge.

1466A(a)(2) and (b)(2) ban, among other things, graphic images of a minor engaging in actual or simulated bestiality that lack serious artistic, literary, political or scientific value. Before we get to the question of value, it’s worth noting that the statute goes on to define “graphic” to refer to images in which “a viewer can observe any part of the genitals or pubic area of any depicted person or animal.” In essence, these sections take a shortcut past the prurient and patently offensive elements of the obscenity test, which are determined by community standards, by providing an absolute bright-line standard.

Watch the Clickhole Calvin and Hobbes video carefully and you’ll see that it arguably does not portray the genitals or pubic area of either character – the very sort of thing that a strategic company lawyer might tell a company producing such a video to do if it was determined to post it. That’s not a slam-dunk conclusion, though. Calvin is drawn in a way that resembles the iconic “Love Is …” one-panel cartoon, the product of a time before contemporary anti-child-porn laws as well as a strip that does not depict minors in sexual situations, at least in authorized versions.

Section 1466A(a)(1) and (b)(1) are somewhat more expansive. These provisions prohibit an obscene depiction of sexually explicit conduct, which extends to simulated bestiality and other sexual activity whether or not the genitals or pubic area appear.

What makes determining whether material is obscene particularly hard to determine is that the test looks to community standards – technically in regard to determining whether material appeals to the prurient interest or is patently offensive, but the community sensibility also tends to come into play in assessing whether a reasonable person would find that the material lacks socially redeeming value. This applies not only to a federal statute such as Section 1466A, but any state anti-obscenity or anti-child pornography laws under which the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon could be assessed.

This reliance on community standards has had the effect of balkanizing U.S. obscenity law. What is obscene in one jurisdiction can be perfectly legal in another. Case in point: the Christopher Handley case, which involved a manga collector. The Iowa district judge in that case concluded that 1466(a)(2) and (b)(2) are unconstitutional, but the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which covers Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, expressly disagreed.

In short, if the science of law is, to quote Oliver Wendell Holmes, an art of prediction, the current constitutional definition of obscenity is a Magic 8 Ball.

Which also brings us to 18 USC 2252C, a related provision that prohibits knowingly embedding words or digital images into the source code of a website with the intent (a) to deceive a person into viewing material constituting obscenity or (b) to deceive a minor into viewing material harmful to minors on the Internet. If one is dealing with a judge or jury likely to conclude that the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon is obscene, there is an equally significant risk of being found guilty of using misleading words (the clickbait headline) and images (the still frame before playing) to trick either an adult or a minor into clicking play.

So to answer the question of whether Clickhole’s Calvin and Hobbes Cartoon is illegal, I’d have to say it depends – on the jurisdiction, on the prosecutor, the judge, the jury and the case presented by the defendant’s lawyers. And again, the rest of the world is not bound by our First Amendment jurisprudence and its definition of obscene, so there could be a greater risk elsewhere. There’s a substantial possibility, of course, that nothing will ever happen to Clickhole or any viewers of this video, but it’s not a risk that many lawyers would want their clients to take.

11 Comments on Is the Clickhole Calvin and Hobbes Cartoon Illegal Child Porn?, last added: 6/19/2014
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16. Electricomics: Alan Moore Reinvents Comics. Again.

Electricomics Leah and Alan CU
Alan Moore, Writer, along with Leah Moore, Editor

Anything that has the tagline ‘Not so much pushing the envelope of comicbook storytelling as folding it up to make a nice hat‘ just shouts Alan Moore, doesn’t it? But there’s no point my trying to tell you what it’s all about where there’s a handy press release to do just that for me, so…

——————————Press Release——————————
Alan Moore creates digital app

The most famous modern comic book writer in the world, Alan Moore, is leading a research and development project to create an app enabling digital comics to be made by anyone.

Already known for revolutionising the comic book industry in the 1980s, Moore is pushing boundaries again with Electricomics – an app that is both a comic book and an easy-to-use open source toolkit. Being open source and free, the app has wide potential not just for industry professionals, but also businesses, arts organisations and of course comic fans and creators everywhere.

Electricomics Logo Victorian

Personally, I can’t wait,” said Moore. “With Electricomics, we are hoping to address the possibilities of comic strips in this exciting new medium, in a way that they have never been addressed before.

“Rather than simply transferring comic narrative from the page to the screen, we intend to craft stories expressly devised to test the storytelling limits of this unprecedented technology. To this end we are assembling teams of the most cutting edge creators in the industry and then allowing them input into the technical processes in order to create a new capacity for telling comic book stories.

“It will then be made freely available to all of the exciting emergent talent that is no doubt out there, just waiting to be given access to the technical toolkit that will enable them to create the comics of the future


Electricomics will be a 32-page showcase with four very different original titles:

Big Nemo – set in the 1930s, Alan Moore revisits Winsor McCay’s most popular hero;

Cabaret Amygdala – modernist horror from writer Peter Hogan (Terra Obscura);

Red Horse – on the anniversary of the beginning of World War One, Garth Ennis (Preacher, The Boys) and Danish artist Peter Snejbjerg (World War X) take us back to the trenches;

Sway – a slick new time travel science fiction story from Leah Moore and John Reppion (Sherlock Holmes – The Liverpool Demon, 2000 AD).

Electricomics will be self -published by Moore and long-time collaborator Mitch Jenkins as Orphans of the Storm, and funded by the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts. As a publicly funded research and development project, Electricomics will be free to explore the possibilities of the comic medium, without the constraints of the industry.

The app will be built by Ocasta Studios, under the guidance of Ed Moore (no relation). Ocasta create apps for the likes of Virgin Media, Vodafone, Harveys and The Register. They are excited to be making their first foray into the world of comics.

The research team will be led by Dr Alison Gazzard, who has published widely on space, time and play in interactive media, and is a Lecturer in Media Arts at the London Knowledge Lab, Institute of Education. Joining her, Daniel Merlin Goodbrey is a pioneer in the field of experimental digital comics and senior lecturer at The University of Hertfordshire.

Moore’s daughter Leah will edit the project, having created the 150 page digital comic The Thrill Electric for C4 Education in 2011.

About the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts

The Digital R&D fund for the Arts is a £7 million fund to support collaboration between organisations with arts projects, technology providers, and researchers. It is a partnership between Arts Council England, Arts and Humanities Research Council and Nesta.

We want to see projects that use digital technology to enhance audience reach and/or develop new business models for the arts sector. With a dedicated researcher or research team as part of the three-way collaboration, learning from the project can be captured and disseminated to the wider arts sector.

Every project needs to identify a particular question or problem that can be tested. Importantly this question needs to generate knowledge for other arts organisations that they can apply to their own digital strategies.

——————————Press Release Ends——————————

You can find Electricomics on Facebook and on Twitter.

Not only that, but I believe this is what’s going to be on the Electricomics website, once it’s properly up and running…


Welcome to… Electricomics.

Almost three years ago, Alan Moore had an Idea.

Whilst working with director Mitch Jenkins on The Show, an eerie film and TV concept which seemed to have a life of its own, he imagined the children in the background of a scene reading comics on transparent flexible scrolls called Spindles.

The comics, he idly supposed, would be Electricomics, and would be yet another facet of the multi-nuanced and multimedia world of The Show.

So far so dull right? Big Idea Man has yet another idea.


Alan Moore ideas have an uncanny habit of inveigling themselves into reality, by fair means or foul, they emerge somewhere and demand to be taken seriously.

Almost a year on, when the small film project had inflated in the manner of an airbag deployed in case of cultural stupor, to become not just one but several films, not just one story but dozens of them woven together into a huge billowing cloud of wonder. It was then, that a colleague of theirs happened to chat to a friend and mention that scrappy little idea, Electricomics.

That was all the chance it needed, and before you could say ‘Hold on is this wise?’ or ‘Don’t we all have other jobs to do?’ there was a meeting and a pitch and a funding application to the Digital Research & Development fund for the Arts. The path was not straight or quick, but in the end it arrived here, in this website, in this project, before your very eyes.

The team that was assembled then could not be more delighted, and more than a little surprised, to find themselves here and now in this position.

They have been charged with the task of producing new comics for the digital age.

They must attempt new storytelling techniques, create and use new comic making tools which they must then make freely available to everyone.

This large and somewhat daunting burden will be shared with them, by such mighty talents as Garth Ennis, Nicola Scott, Jose Villarrubia, Pete Hogan, Peter Snejbjerg, and Todd Klein.

The stories produced will not only showcase what is possible but also hopefully inspire others to do the same.

The Electricomics toolkit would give users the power to create their own Electricomics.

Different, better comics, completely new and fresh comics in every way.

Right now, as this project launches, Electricomics is still an idea up in the ether, a hope and a plan before it becomes a reality, but like I said, Alan Moore ideas usually find a way to get through.


Coming soon.

Electricomics Logo Square

So now you know. Alan Moore is going to reinvent comics, again. Considering that the last time he did that, back when he did Watchmen in the mid-eighties, he gave the comics industry material that they continue to exploit even now, I can’t wait to see what he comes up with this time.

And, if I may make a personal observation, it’s great to see him coming back to dabble in a medium that has not always given him back as much as he has given it.

10 Comments on Electricomics: Alan Moore Reinvents Comics. Again., last added: 5/29/2014
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17. Another Armed, Angry White Man

At the Daily Beast, Cliff Schechter has a piece titled "How the NRA Enables Massacres", which, despite some hyperbolic language, is worth reading for the general information, as is his piece on a visit to the recent NRA convention. Schechter isn't reporting anything new, and the pieces are superficial compared to some earlier writings on all this, but it's always worth reminding ourselves that gun massacres in the US are part of a culture that has been carefully manufactured, protected, nurtured, enflamed.

I've written a lot about guns and gun culture here over the past few years. Writing those posts from scratch now, I would change occasional wording in some of them, clarify a few points, etc. (the hazards of writing on the fly), but you could take almost anything I've written previously and apply it to the latest massacre.

The place of hegemonic masculinity in this type of event is especially clear this time, but it's been present before and is a common component to why this sort of thing happens. It's a racialized hegemonic masculinity, too, the deadly scream of the angry white man — a sense of entitlement thwarted. In the book Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era, Michael Kimmel writes: "As men experience it, masculinity may not be the experience of power. But it is the experience of entitlement to power" (185).

The NRA and the gun manufacturers have become experts at stoking that sense of entitlement and profiting off of it. At every possible moment, the NRA, the manufacturers, and their minions point out as many threats to power as they can imagine, and then they offer their commodities as tools for stabilizing and strengthening that power.

The patterns have been in play at least since the 1980s. James William Gibson's Warrior Dreams: Paramilitary Culture in Post-Vietnam America was published 20 years ago, but it's at least as relevant today as it was then. Consider, for instance, his discussion of mass murderers:
Although several of these paramilitary killers went after former co-workers and bosses, and some even killed their families, most targeted a distinct social group... Thus, Huberty seems to have considered the Latinos at the San Ysidro McDonald's to be Vietnamese. Patrick Purdy was found to have been a white supremacist; his choice of Asian schoolchildren was not an accident. Canadian Marc Lepine shot only women. (237)
Gibson's chapter "Bad Men and Bad Guns: The Symbolic Politics of Gun Control" is useful reading for these conversations, and reminds us of the deep history here. Most importantly, it helps show why so many past efforts have been ineffective (though profitable for both the NRA and the gun control organizations). What would have stopped the mass shootings? he wonders. Most of the proposed and enacted legislation would not have. A more accessible and effective mental health system might have helped in some cases. But:
Most of all, stopping the madmen would have required understanding that they were not isolated "deviants" who simply invented their mayhem out of thin air and looked and acted completely differently from the "ordinary" people in the mainstream of American culture. On the contrary, in their killings they gave expression to some of the most basic cultural dynamics of the decade — in the face of either real or imaginary problems, declare an enemy responsible and go to war....

To argue, then, that many of these murderers could have been stopped solely by increased gun control is to pretend that the social and political crises of post-Vietnam America never occurred and that the New War did not develop as the major way of overcoming those disasters. Paramilitary culture made military-style rifles desirable, and legislation cannot ban a culture. The gun-control debate was but the worst kind of fetishism, in which focusing on a part of the dreadful reality of the decade — combat weapons — became a substitute for confronting what America had become. (263-264)
A year after Gibson's book was published, Timothy McVeigh drove to Oklahoma City and showed exactly what the angry white male paramilitary culture stood for.

Siege imagery pervades and energizes that culture, as demonstrated with the Cliven Bundy affair.  One shift it has taken after the end of the Cold War is toward a more general apocalypticism. Instead of yearning for war with the Russians, now the paramilitarists yearn for the breakdown of contemporary society. Like the world's most overzealous Boy Scouts, they are prepared. This is a power fantasy and a religious fantasy: all the "bad" people will be wiped from the Earth, and the "good" people (prepared, armed, ready) will inherit it and thrive. Or something. The details of eschatology don't matter as much as the process of preparation, because that process is a way of reclaiming some sense of power and protecting a feeling of entitlement: I will survive because I deserve to. There's also a sense of revenge in apocalyptic yearning, too: Once the apocalypse comes, you'll no longer be able to laugh at me, dismiss me, devalue me. You'll need me, because I will be ready and you will be miserable.

What's really under siege is the sense of entitlement. That sense is part of a mythology, one killers feed on. Here's part of a conversation between Bill Moyers and the historian Richard Slotkin, whose work has done a lot to delineate the history of the murderous mythology:
RICHARD SLOTKIN: We produce the lone killer. That is to say the lone killer is trying to validate himself or herself in terms of the, I would call the historical mythology, of our society, wants to place himself in relation to meaningful events in the past that lead up to the present.
BILL MOYERS: You say “or her”, but the fact of the matter is all of these killers lately have been males.
RICHARD SLOTKIN: Yes, yeah, pretty much always are.
BILL MOYERS: And most of them white?
RICHARD SLOTKIN: Yeah. Yeah, I think, again this is because each case is different, but the tendency that you've pointed out is true and I've always felt that it has something to do, in many cases, with a sense of lost privilege, that men and white men in the society feel their position to be imperiled and their status called into question. And one way to deal with an attack on your status in our society is to strike out violently.
American gun culture has always been racialized and gendered. From later in the conversation with Slotkin:
RICHARD SLOTKIN: ...And Colt-- one of Colt's original marketing ploys was to market it to slave owners. Here you are, a lone white man, overseer or slave owner, surrounded by black people. Suppose your slaves should rise up against you. Well, if you've got a pair of Colt's pistols in your pocket, you are equal to twelve slaves. And that's “The Equalizer,” that it's not all men are created equal by their nature. It's that I am more equal than others because I've got extra shots in my gun.
BILL MOYERS: But you write about something you call “the equalizer fallacy.”
RICHARD SLOTKIN: Yes, the equalizer doesn't produce equality. What it produces is privilege. If I have six shots in my gun and you've got one, I can outvote you by five shots. Any man better armed than his neighbors is a majority of one.
And that's the equalizer fallacy. It goes to this notion that the gun is the guarantor of our liberties. We're a nation of laws, laws are the guarantors of our liberties. If your rights depend on your possession of a firearm, then your rights end when you meet somebody with more bullets or who's a better shot or is meaner than you are.
BILL MOYERS: And yet the myth holds--
BILL MOYERS: --stronger than the reality?
RICHARD SLOTKIN: Well, yes, the myth holds. And it is stronger than the reality. Because those guns, particularly the Colt is associated with one of the most active phases and most interesting phases of expansion. And therefore it has the magic of the tool, the gun that won the west, the gun that equalized, the whites and the Indians, the guns that created the American democracy and made equality possible.
The angry white men may be a minority of gun owners, and just one of the audiences for the NRA and the manufacturers, but they are the audience most valued, because they are the people who will keep buying no matter what, the people who will, from fear and anger, amass a hoard of deadly tools. The NRA and the manufacturers have cultivated that audience, have encouraged that fear and anger, and have profited greatly from the murders. We should give no credence to their crocodile tears; every massacre means they can return to their favorite profit lines: Now the liberals and feminists and Obama-lovers will come for your guns. Now you will lose your power. Now you will be robbed of what you deserve. Stock up. Prepare. Defend yourself. Be a man. Ready — aim — fire—

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18. Interview: Hayley Campbell on Her New Neil Gaiman Book and the Strange Things in His Attic


On Tuesday the 20th of May Harper Design publish The Art of Neil Gaiman, written by Hayley Campbell. (The book was originally commissioned by Ilex Press on this side of the Atlantic, but we won’t see it until July, not that we’re in any way bitter, you understand.) Effectively, this is a companion volume to their recent – well, 2011 – Alan Moore: Storyteller by Gary Spencer Millidge, which you should all have by now. Anyhow, when I heard that Hayley was doing the book, I decided that nothing would do me but to interview her, if I could.

Now, full disclosure: I love Hayley Campbell. She’s one of the most amazing people I know. She’s absolutely fearless, and says what she thinks, regardless of the consequences. And she’s epitomises the notion that we’re only here the once, so we might as well try your hand at whatever takes your fancy. And she writes like an angel – occasionally a very foul-mouthed angel, but I suppose we’ll have to blame the Australian upbringing for that. Go have a look at her website and read something, just at random.

[That photo is by Ellen Rogers, and used with her permission.]

Perhaps more interestingly, Hayley is someone who has literally come alive off the pages of comics. Her father, Eddie Campbell, produced a vast body of work these past many years, much of it autobiographical, which by default contains all sorts of stories about his family. So we got to see Hayley growing up in the pages of his books, before she actually appeared fully grown in London, writing not only her own blog, but for the New Statesman, McSweeney’s, The Guardian, The Comics Journal, and various others.

And, most importantly, at least to me, she is my friend. We got to meet a few times, once when she was working in Gosh! Comics in London, and later on at An Evening with Alan Moore, the event to publicise Lance Parkin’s Magic Words: The Extraordinary Life of Alan Moore, where we got to hang around afterwards, while Alan signed everything for everyone. The plan was for everyone to go to dinner, but the signing overran so long that we were all just fit for our beds by the end of it. But, for the time it lasted, there was probably a greater concentration of cool comics folk hanging around there than I’ll ever meet again in this lifetime. That’s Hayley and me, up there, and I can assure you I was much happier on the inside than you’d think, looking at it.

Anyway, that’s enough from me and, finally, and without any further ado, here’s that interview…
Pádraig Ó Méalóid: How did you end up writing a book about Neil Gaiman?

Hayley Campbell: Partly breeding, partly luck. I moved to London from Australia in August, 2006, when I was 20, and had no money and didn’t know anyone. My Dad’s Eddie Campbell so I was using his book How To Be An Artist as a guide to the city as much as I was using the A-Z, so I ended up hanging out with all the comics people. I was their old pal’s kid and I think they were freaked out about the fact that I was now a full-grown human instead of some baby in a comic. I think they’re still a little weirded out.

PÓM: Why did you decide to move to London?

HC: Because that’s what Australian people do, especially ones who live in Brisbane. There’s even a film called All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane. I think it’s because you’re living on an isolated (albeit huge) island so far away from everything that the idea of living in a country that’s about an hour away from another country instead of dozens is slightly unbelievable. ‘I’ll be able to pop over to France,’ you think. Then you don’t because you get to London and find out you have no money. Australian women tend to hang around long enough to find a British guy then drag him back home where they clump together like molten metal and hang around in faux-Irish pubs looking awkward in shorts.

Plus I was born here and the photo in my British passport is so much better than the horror in my Australian passport.

PÓM: Have you ever had the urge to move back to Australia, or are you up this side for good now?

HC: Every February when I want to kill myself. I don’t think any humans should live in England in February. (This past one was okay because I got a SAD lamp and a cat on the same day. Now that I’ve got the cat I’m here for as long as he is. [Ned, pictured over there --->])

PÓM: You know I’m going to have to ask you for scans of both of those passport photos, right?

HC: They’re ‘government secrets classified.’ You can have my railcard though. I look hot like Ulrike Meinhof.

Ulrike MeinhofRailcardJoan JettGaye Advert
[Only one of these is Hayley Campbell. The others are Ulrike Meinhof, Joan Jett, and the divine Gaye Advert, which is who I think she looks most like.]

Here it is, featuring the last haircut I was given before leaving Australia. In Australia you see haircuts you don’t get anywhere else in the world because they are too terrible to export. This is one of them. Also, related (people think I’m being offensive when I say this but it’s true): in Australia people with Down syndrome all have identical haircuts. So much so that it looks like it’s government-issued (it’s still quite a racist country so it’s kind of an extension of that, only with haircuts, probably). One of the things that blew my mind when I moved to London was seeing a whole group of Down syndrome guys with a variety of haircuts. Any haircut they liked. One had a wee mohawk. I did a proper Keanu ‘Woah.’

So anyway, one of the first jobs I got right after being fired from a restaurant in Mayfair was writing website stuff for Forbidden Planet. While I spent much of that time doing what I was paid to do I’m just going to come clean (hi Nick Landau) and say that I spent most of my time on the internal instant messenger to Titan editor Nick Jones. When he up and moved to Ilex Press (who published Gary Spencer Millidge’s Alan Moore: Storyteller) it was his idea to give the Gaiman book to me.

PÓM: Can I ask why you got fired from the restaurant?

HC: Uh. Because I refused to go and buy cigarettes for a rude businessman who tugged on my apron. Because I got stuck in the stairwell with three plates of venison and could not go forward or back without throwing the venison in the air so I chose to wait and be stuck for about ten minutes until someone found me, by which point everything was cold anyway. Because I hid and cried in the fridge on a regular basis while eating olives straight from the massive jar. Because I accidentally tipped the massive jar of olives over and a thousand olives tumbled down the stairwell I’d recently got stuck in. Because I got drunk and embarrassing while hosting a wine tasting and kissed the chef.

Any number of reasons. All of the reasons. I would have fired me, I was a fucking shitty waitress.

PÓM: Speaking of food, is it true that you’ve a great fondness for Hummus? [See here for irrefutable proof.]

HC: I’m about 98% chickpea.

PÓM: Was it not Tim Pilcher who commissioned the book while he was at Ilex Press?

HC: Yeah, Tim phoned me up while I was on lunch at Gosh! (the London comic shop I worked in for five years) in March 2010. I thought he was nuts and spent the rest of the afternoon being talked into it and out of it by various people. My dad just bombed my inbox with emails about how much of an idiot I’d be not to do it. I was iffy because I thought it would be a bit weird to do since I was so close to Neil — which is exactly why Tim thought it was a good idea, but it was also why I thought it might be a bad one. In the end I just emailed Neil that night and said ‘I know this is weird, but will you be my Duran Duran?’ He said no, but he’d be my Douglas Adams (as long as I came out to America for a week to go through his attic and walk the dogs). If anyone else had asked to do the book I think he would have said no.

Between doing the plan for the London Book Fair and actually writing it was about two years, I think, because of publishing and contractual-sorting-out reasons (it’s co-published in the States by Harper Design). Then there was a year and a half between me finishing writing it and a copy arriving in the post. I had a day job while I wrote it at nights and on weekends so I barely saw anyone for about six months. I wore one particular cardigan until it died and I got a bit fat.

PÓM: You knew Neil Gaiman from before you came to London, though, didn’t you?

HC: Yup. I first met Neil when I was about seven. I was already a fan of his work by this point because Dad had given me a Sandman comic simply because it had cats in it, and he’d read to me doing the voices of all the different cats. I read it myself over and over until it fell apart and had to be stuck back together with sellotape. I still have it. It looks like a piece of shit. A much-loved one.

So Neil came to stay and I got kicked out of my bedroom so he had somewhere to sleep. He read me the first draft of The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish off his laptop and I thought he was the greatest thing in the world. I see him talking to kids now and I know exactly what’s going on in their tiny heads. Neil doesn’t talk to kids like they’re stupid or too young or whatever — he gives them his absolutely undivided attention in the middle of the clusterfuck that is a Neil Gaiman signing and he talks to them like they’re adults, like he is genuinely interested in what they have to say (because he is). I’ve never seen a kid being shy around Neil. Adults, yes — thousands of adults — but not kids. Kids know. Alan Moore has this too, and having been a kid around Alan Moore I get why. In the middle of a crammed signing I have seen Alan spend ten whole minutes talking to a five-year-old about whether custard creams are better than bourbons or not. The guys with the suitcases of Swamp Things are always audibly pissed off by this which is partly why those suitcase dudes are cunts and why Alan Moore will always be one of my favourite people in the world. That kid will remember this huge hairy wizard with the biscuits for the rest of his life versus some guy sticking something on eBay for twenty quid.

Then Neil kicked me out of my bedroom again when I was about 12. In exchange he let me wear his jacket for a bit. It’s what Neil does. He kicks children out of their bedrooms and placates them with stories and leather jackets they drown in.

PÓM: I’m pretty sure I’ve seen at least some of that in one of your father’s books, at some point. Which is a thing I wanted to ask you about: seeing as Eddie was chronicling his own life as he was going along, it meant he was by extension chronicling your life, as well. Do you have any strong feeling about that, these days, now that you’re grown up?

HC: I remember hanging out in the Top Shelf booth at San Diego Comic-Con when I was a teenager and seeing how Dad sold the books. If there was anyone vaguely female hanging about he’d point at the Alec books and say, ‘There’s a picture of Neil Gaiman’s bum in that one.’ Worked a treat.

[It's actually in Bacchus Book Nine: King Bacchus, or you can click on the image for a larger version.]

I love the autobiographical stuff. There were moments as a kid when I didn’t — if you were about to do something bad the threat was never ‘you’ll be grounded’ or ‘there’ll be no telly for a week’ it was ‘if you do that I’ll put it in a comic’.

Now I’m grown up I can’t see any reason why I wouldn’t like it. Other people have dads that were never around — mine was the opposite. He was paying attention to tiny details and recording things we barely noticed were happening. He was always there. Well, physically. But you’d be able to tell when he’d mentally left the room. You still can.

[A panel from the Angry Cook strip in The Fate of the Artist.]

PÓM: You’re very close, you and your dad, aren’t you?

HC: I’m a daddy’s girl, always have been (or at least that’s what gets shouted at me if I take his side in an argument which is mostly). When I was really little he was at home all day drawing From Hell and Mum was out doing a real job and making actual money so that we had stuff to eat and didn’t die, etc. We’d go and meet her at the train station at the end of the day, both of us having spent the day drawing comics.

Also our brains are similar. Well, until recently. He thinks Two and a Half Men is a good TV show.

PÓM: How about Neil? He’s your godfather, isn’t he? How do you get on with him?

HC: Neil’s not technically my godfather but it’s that kind of relationship. When I first got to London he would turn up and make sure I was eating my greens, report back to my parents that I was not yet dead, and introduce me to a bunch of new people. I got to tag along to things in different cities like I was his Doctor Who girl (now that job has been handed over to the very funny Polly Adams). ‘Godfather’ is easier than saying ‘I met him when I was six and we’ve been friends ever since’ and has less of a Humbert Humbert vibe. And the French didn’t really know what to do with that longer explanation apart from not believe it. I think Neil started saying ‘godfather’ when we were in Paris, they thought we were definitely sleeping together to the point where they ignored his request for two hotel rooms and he had to be awkward and English and say ‘No, really’ and ‘No, seriously’ a lot.

I love Neil. He’s been one of my favourite people in the world since I met him.

PÓM: I know that while Eddie was drawing From Hell, you were drawing your own book, which there’s a few pages from in the From Hell Companion. How did you end up doing this, and are we ever going to see it in print in its own right?

HC: I ended up doing it because that’s what I thought you were supposed to do: sit at home all day drawing horrific pictures of people being cut up while they’re sleeping. I didn’t have anything else to go on. Dad did it first.

I’d love to get it printed. Unfortunately that involves getting something organised and sending it to a place and it might even involve going to the post office which is something I strive to avoid.

PÓM: When you say you were his Doctor Who girl, does that mean you went off on adventures through space and time with him? Or just that you were his feisty young female companion?

HC: I wouldn’t say I’m feisty. More looming. I loomed next to him in various cities on earth including ones In Europe which is basically all of time and space when you’re talking to someone who grew up in Australia, which I think is technically light-years away from any other country in terms of time spent on planes.

My favourite Doctor is a toss up between Tom Baker and Neil Gaiman. Neil’s winning because he fed me.

He’s got a new companion now.

PÓM: You mentioned it was Polly Adams, who is Douglas Adams’s daughter, isn’t she? Do you all have some sort of Daughters’ Club, that you all hang around in? I know you shared a flat with one of Neil’s daughters, and that you’re friends with Leah and Amber Moore, Alan’s daughters, so the evidence is starting to mount up, to be honest.

HC: Polly is my replacement. I was all ready to hate her and then I ended up loving her to bits which really scuppered my plans to be jealous and brooding. Plus also Polly has saved my arse so many times she’s due a free punch in the direction of my face.

I think the Daughters’ Club only exists on the internet. I met Amber when I was tiny, and I met Leah a few months ago. There’s a picture of us together where we look like different species.

PÓM: Can you give us examples of how Polly Adams saved your arse, all those times?

HC: There was an incident with a drunk person who may or may not have been me, who lost her jacket at a wedding and then shouted at the groom because ‘all of his guests [were] thieves’. Polly may have taken this drunk person and locked her in a tiny museum of wartime army uniforms until she calmed down. For example. The jacket was on the back of a chair.

PÓM: You’re on the Great Wall of Vagina. Why did you decide to do this? It is, after all, a very public thing to do with a very private part of yourself.

HC: I only did it to be polite after I was kind of rude to the sculptor at dinner by being a dick about vaginas. He said he was doing this great thing about female body image and acceptance and blah blah blah and I was all: yeah but have you heard this one in Roger’s Profanisaurus?

(It was ‘Attenborough’s Passport: fanny like, sim. Descriptive of a lady’s bodily treasure which is distinctly dog-eared and well-thumbed in the style, one would imagine, of the erstwhile globe-hopping naturalist’s travel documents. “Christ almighty, I knew she’d been round the block a few times, but when I got down there she had a fanny like Attenborough’s passport“.’)

Anyway, I learned two things: 1) it turns out Viz lied, you absolutely cannot tell what a woman’s been up to just by how flappy her bits are, and 2) trying to find your own vagina in a wall of 360 plaster vaginas is hard. I narrowed it down to about five.

PÓM: How did you actually do the research for the book about Neil? Did you just follow him around exotic foreign locations, taking down bon mots, like a Boswell to his Johnson, or was there a more organised research process?

[Neil and Hayley, hard at work on the book in Scotland.]

HC: After his 50th birthday party in New Orleans we went to his house in Wisconsin and I sat up in his attic going through boxes and boxes of stuff. Old scripts and notebooks and pages of ’80s porn magazines that had hairy vaginas on one side and Neil interviews on the other. We went walking with the dogs in the woods and I’d regret not bringing my dictaphone. Interviews are better in the woods with dogs.

And then in the summer of 2012 we went to middle-of-nowhere Scotland and did a week of interviews by the fire. We went walking over fields and craggy mountainy bits and I had the same regret about the dictaphone.

PÓM: You mentioned that you came across Neil’s porn stash while you were ‘researching’?

HC: Neil used to slice all his interviews out of Knave and file them away in a folder. His work tended to immediately follow the centrefold, so frequently only included the bottom half of the lady on the back of the page. If someone else found it and thought it was purely a porn collection they’d think it was a very specific one. Just dozens of big hairy ’80s bushes.

PÓM: Were there any places when you were interviewing Neil, where you were trying to get something out of him, but he wasn’t giving you the answers you wanted? I know, from occasional interviews with him myself, that he’s very good at gently moving things along and you finding that he has avoided the question. So, I was just wondering if that happened to you too, or if he was more forthcoming seeing it was for a proper book.

HC: He would give me all the answers I wanted plus loads of things that were entirely irrelevant because it was just me and him talking in a room and we do that all the time. It was a weird interview to do. I only noticed this was happening when I had to transcribe 17 hours of it back in London, and sat there listening to us trying to save a bumblebee who’d got caught in the fireplace. For half an hour. ‘Ooh he’s got soot on him. Look at his giant cardigan. Shall we put him outside on a flower?

Honestly I think I have to burn the tapes.

PÓM: I’m guessing this isn’t going to be your one and only book…?

HC: I’m working on a novel. And I’m collecting a bunch of essays together. Hopefully one or both of these will turn into a real life thing very soon (or four years from now if The Art of Neil Gaiman is anything to go by).

PÓM: Do you want to tell us any more about those two books? I know you’ve done a lot of writing for various publications, and online, so can we expect to see some of that in the book of essays?

HC: Yep, plus stuff I’ve read live but never put online. I’m saving them for the book.

PÓM: Am I right in thinking you once did a stint at the Edinburgh Festival, about doing the book with Neil?

HC: No, you made that up. But I will be interviewing him on stage at the Barbican in July and then following him up to Edinburgh to do the same. I’ll come on after he reads The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains.

PÓM: Fair enough. A man can’t remember everything correctly! [This is what I was thinking of, it turns out.] The Truth… is a thing he’s done with your father Eddie, right?

HC: Neil reads the story live accompanied by a string quartet called Fourplay who are excellent, and Dad’s paintings are projected behind him. They did it at the Sydney Opera House back in 2010 first but I missed it because I was in the wrong bit of the world. They’re taking it to Carnegie Hall in July. When I see it at the Barbican it’ll be for the first time. The book of it (available June) is beautiful and craggy and Scottish.

PÓM: And that more or less brings us all the way around to where we started. Or at least it does in my head. Hayley, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. It has been a pleasure.

HC: No problem. Thank you for convincing The Beat it would be a good idea.

Neil Gaiman, Hayley Campbell, and the book

The Art of Neil Gaiman is published by Harper Design in the US on the 20th of May 2014, and can be bought on Amazon.com or through you local comic or book shop. It will be published in the UK by Ilex Press on the 16th of July 2014, and can be pre-ordered from Amazon.co.uk, or from your local comic or book shop. And, if you don’t already have it, you could buy yourself Gary Spencer Millidge‘s Alan Moore: Storyteller as well. You’ll never regret it!

9 Comments on Interview: Hayley Campbell on Her New Neil Gaiman Book and the Strange Things in His Attic, last added: 5/23/2014
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19. Politics to reconnect communities

OUP-Blogger-Header-V2 Flinders

By Matthew Flinders

Why does art and culture matter in the twenty-first century? What does it actually deliver in terms of social benefits? An innovative new participatory arts project in South Yorkshire is examining the ‘politics of art’ and the ‘art of politics’ from a number of new angles.

“The general value of arts and culture to society has long been assumed,” a recent report from the Arts Council acknowledges, “while the specifics have just as long been debated.” It is this focus on ‘the specifics’ that is most interesting because in times of relative prosperity there was little pressure from neither public nor private funders to demonstrate the broader social impact or relevance of the arts. In times of austerity, however, the situation is very different. A focus on the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) risks eviscerating the funding for the arts and humanities unless these more creative and less tangible intellectual pursuits can demonstrate their clear social value. The vocabulary of ‘social return’, ‘intellectual productive capacity’, ‘economic generation’ may well grate against the traditional values and assumptions of the arts and culture community but it is a shadow that cannot be ignored.

The publication of The Impact of the Social Sciences (Sage, 2014) provides more than a sophisticated analysis of the value of the social sciences across a range of economic, cultural, and civic dimensions. It provides a political treatise and a strategic piece of evidence-based leverage that may play an important role in future debates over the distribution of diminishing public funds. I have no doubt that the impact of the arts and humanities is equally significant. But the problem is that the systematic creation of an evidence base remains embryonic. My personal belief that the arts and humanities are educationally critical is, in many quarters, meaningless without demonstrable evidence to support these beliefs. The methodological and epistemological challenges of delivering that research are clearly significant but as the Arts Council emphasizes ‘it is something that arts and culture organizations will have to do in order to secure funding from both public and private sources’.

As a political scientist I have always been fascinated with the relationship between art and politics. Though heretical to suggest to the arts community, I have often thought that the role of the professional politician and the professional artist (indeed, with the amateur politician and the amateur artist) were more similar than was often acknowledged. Both seek to express values and visions, to inspire hope and disgust, and both wish to present a message. It is only the medium through which that message is presented that differs (and relationships of co-option, patronage, and dependency are common between these professions). But having (crudely) established a relationship between art and politics, could it be that the true value of the arts lies not in how it responds to the needs of the economy but in how it responds to the rise of ‘disaffected democrats’ and the constellation of concerns that come together in the ‘why we hate politics’ narrative?


In a time of increasing social anomie and political disengagement, especially amongst the young and the poor, can participatory arts projects provide a way of reconnecting communities?

François Matarasso’s Use or Ornament (1997) provides one of the most systematic explorations of this question and concluded that “one of the most important outcomes of [the public’s] involvement in the arts was finding their own voice, or perhaps, the courage to use it.” More recently, the New Economics Foundation’s report Diversity and Integration (2013) suggested that young people who participated in arts programmes were more likely to see themselves as “holding the potential to do anything I want to do” and being “able to influence a group of people to get things done.” Other studies tentatively offer similarly positive conclusions but with little analytical depth in terms of identifying between political reconnection, civic reconnection or personal reconnection (in terms of personal understanding, confidence and aspiration). To return to the Arts Council’s recent report – The Wider Benefits of Art and Culture to Society – the existing research base is light on ‘the specifics’.

It is for exactly this reason that the Sir Bernard Crick Centre for the Public Understanding of Politics has joined forces with ‘Art in the Park’ as part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s ‘Civic Value’ programme. Young people from all across South Yorkshire will be brought together to participate in an eight week arts project that uses music, film making, dance, writing, painting or whatever medium the young people select to explore social and political issues. Artists are embedded in the research and current and former politicians can be brought into the project to facilitate sessions if that is something the young people request. Surveys, focus groups, and interviews will capture how participating in the project affects political attitudes and understandings – positive, negative, political, civic, or personal – with the aim being able to answer if the arts can breathe life back into politics and reconnect communities. Now that really would be a wider benefit for society.

Flinders author picMatthew Flinders is Founding Director of the Sir Bernard Crick Centre for the Public Understanding of Politics at the University of Sheffield and also Visiting Distinguished Professor in Governance and Public Policy at Murdoch University, Western Australia. He is the author of Defending Politics (2012). He was recently a winner in the ‘This is Democracy’ International Photography Competition – but his wife now claims she took the picture. Malaika Cunningham is the Research Officer for the project discussed in this article.

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Image credit: Parliament at sunset, public domain via WikiCommons.

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20. Class: Education for Ministry (EfM) in Honolulu

Class: Education for Ministry

Education for Ministry (EfM)

Want to Get an In-depth Understanding of Your Christian Faith and Tradition?

Education for Ministry (EfM) is a training program of the Episcopal Church which helps people, especially lay leaders and ministers, to

  • deepen their spirituality through an effective theological reflection process and to
  • bridge the gap between understanding the Bible and dealing with the issues of everyday life.

Each session includes prayer, discussion, and reflection according to a Theological Reflection (TR) process, and may also allow time for refreshments and socializing before or after the class. Reading assignments prepare participants for each session.

Beginning in early September, 2014, St. Mary’s and St. Elizabeth’s will join to offer a year-long class of this four year program for members of their congregations. Participants must be willing to commit to an academic year of training (36 sessions of about 2.5 to 3 hours each). A free session can be given ahead of time for prospective members to see if this is “your cup of tea.” To the degree possible, dates and times of sessions as well as class location will be scheduled after the class is organized to meet the needs of the participants.

Online information is available at http://theology.sewanee.edu/academics/education-for-ministry/.

If interested, and to get more information, please contact Fran Kramer at 457-9753 or fran_kramer@healingdreamgarden.com. Registration needs to be done by late July to place orders for books and to finalize the class preparations.

NOTE:  This course is being announced on this website but does not imply there is a connection to the study of dreams or intuition in the course.  Course content will be determined by Sewanee.

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21. If You Were Me and Lived in … Australia, by Carole P. Roman | Dedicated Review

Here’s a bonza (first-rate) addition to award-winning author Carole P. Roman's fun and informative series, If You Were Me and Lived in …. This time readers are introduced to the sunburned country found down under in the southern hemisphere, Australia.

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22. The Conversation of Literature: What Are They Saying About Your Book?

" Saucy is a real character dealing with real stuff—hard stuff that doesn’t have easy answers, not in real life and not in fairy tales, either. This is a really compelling and ultimately hopeful story. Highly recommended." – Debby Dahl Edwardson, National Book Award finalist and author of My Name is Not Easy Read a sample chapter.

We don’t write in a vacuum. Your story is in the context of the whole of literature, and specifically, the literature of your genre. How does your story add to, change, enhance the conversation?


Superman No. 1, Millennium Edition, a reprint of the first ever Superman Comic.

This question was brought home to me as I picked up my son’s comic book. It’s a reproduction of the original Superman comic book from 1938 (Millennium Edition, Superman 1, December 2000, originally published as Superman No. 1 Summer 1939). Wow! It’s bad. Really.The characterization, the back story, indeed the characters are all pretty stale and cliched. But that’s my evaluation from this time, from 2014.

The reproduction starts with an introduction to the comic:

Until 1938 most comics were usually filled with reprint material spotlighting the more successful newspaper strips of the day. And while ACTION COMICS was one of the first titles filled with original material–created from scratch for less money than it would have cost to reprint existing comic strips–few could have been ready for the sensation its cover-featured star would cause! ACTION #1 spotlighted the debut performance of the world’s first–and still foremost–superhero: SUPERMAN!

This puts the fist story of Superman into context. No wonder there’s no mention of Jor-el and the struggle on Krypton (which is expounded in recent films). Mr. and Mrs. Kent are just described as an elderly couple. Clark’s first exploit is to prevent a lynching, then catch a singer who “rubbed out” her lover for cheating on her, and then to stop an incident of domestic violence. Not the stuff of super-fame. The stakes are low–Superman isn’t saving the world here.

But in the context of comics that just reprinted comic strips from the newspapers, Wow! Again, Wow! This was great stuff.

Two things strike me here: First, Superman had a humble beginning. Too often today, humble beginnings are overlooked or not allowed to even see the light of day. We want a fully developed story, with super-hero characters. But these type characters often need a small beginning. They develop over time as the story becomes part of the culture and join the conversations of our time. If the story captures any part of our imagination, they will become part of the conversation and the characters, the story, the plotlines–everything–will grow and develop. I wish there was a way to let more stories do this, to begin small, to join the conversations and to develop. Witness the Superman legends today, with rich back story on his parents, his struggles to fit into Earth, the dangers from other Kryptonite survivors, his love life with Lois Lane and so on.

Second, Superman was a product of 1938. His story joined the conversation of his time. His first act was to prevent a lynching. Would that speak to today’s audience? No. Domestic violence? Shrug. We’ve seen so many stories that are much better than the nine panels devoted to this small subplot.

How Does Your Story Join the Conversation

Today, werewolves and zombies are having a rich conversation in our culture. You’d have to be an ostrich to know nothing at all of the influx of werewolves stories. Well–if truth be told, I am almost an ostrich on these two subjects. Until I read Red Moon by Benjamin Percy, who brings the werewolf story alive in new ways. (Actually, I’m linking here to the audio version because the author narrates his own story in an impossibly deep voice that is fascinating to listen to.) This is no “Cry Wolf” story, but a fascinating look at how the ancient legend could possibly affect our lives today; and it’s told with impeccable prose that fascinated me with its amazing storytelling.

I shunned the whole zombie thing until my hairdresser raved about “Warm Bodies,” a movie that took Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and updated it with zombies. Really? You could DO that? In other words, zombies were joining the conversation about romance and love. How do the things that separate men and women affect our lives? Can love really change things?

In other words, it’s almost impossible to live in today’s world and not know something about zombies and werewolves. The literary conversation is littered with these conversations that make connections which weave in and out of the canon of English and Western literature.

Saucy and Bubba. A Contemporary Hansel and Gretel Story.

Saucy and Bubba. A Contemporary Hansel and Gretel Story.

I call my recent story, SAUCY AND BUBBA, a contemporary Hansel and Gretel story because it puts it into a certain context: the discussion of step-mothers and how they treat the step-children. Mine is a twist on the old story–of course! In fact, it MUST be a twist on the old story, or it adds nothing to the conversation. Why would you rehash the same thing again. One reviewer said, “When a story can get me to even start to like the antagonist – like Saucy and Bubba does here – I know there’s a good book in my hands.” That’s what I wanted, a more nuanced look at the step-mother. I wanted the reader to have sympathy for her, even as they condemn her actions.

It’s like the original Superman comic: in today’s terms, it’s cliched. But it was hugely original for it’s time. It added to the conversations about justice and law-enforcement in interesting ways. If I simply repeated the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale, it would be a flop. Instead, we must think about how our stories fit into the context of our times. We must strive to join the conversation and to have something to add to the conversation. How can we add something different, interesting, conflicting, nuanced and so on? How are you enriching the conversation? How are you changing the conversation?

How does YOUR story join the conversation of our times?

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23. What Jiro Dreams of Sushi means for writers

Like many people I know, I have been seriously obsessed with the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, which is available for streaming on Netflix and Amazon.

Jiro Ono has been making sushi for over 70 years. His restaurant, a humble space that is literally located in a subway station, has been awarded three Michelin stars. He recently hosted President Obama.

What emerges from the documentary is the passion of one man who has one overarching ambition: to be the best in the world.

He wakes up every day thinking of how he can make better sushi. As the title of the documentary suggests, he dreams of making sushi. He doesn't take days off if he can help it. He doesn't have hobbies. And he is relentless in training his apprentices (including his sons) to be the absolute best they can be as well.

He very famously asked apprentice Daisuke Nakazawa to make tamago over two hundred times before he finally deemed it acceptable.

As a writer, I found this documentary incredibly inspiring. I only wish I had the same single-minded focus on improving my craft, on waking up every single day to think about how to improve my writing, and never wavering from my own vision.

Of course, Jiro Ono also wishes he had more. At one point in the documentary he wonders what would be possible if he had been born with the taste buds of Joel Robuchon.

Have you seen the documentary? What do you think?

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24. The weekend in comics events, San Jose to Minnesota and beyond

Will every single comics creators be at a show this weekend? Since we know comics culture is booming I thought it might be interesting to check out just WHAT is happening around this nation of outs. I got most of these from Convention Scene but it didn’t include the biggest show, Big Wow.

If you’re going to one of these shows, feel free to report back to us here! We’re keen to hear about comics culture around the world.

Big Wow Comic Fest in San Jose, CA

With WonderCon moved south this is the biggest mainstream comics event in the Bay Area now, and I hear good things. Guests include Charlie Adlard, Sergio Aragones, Art Adams and Mike Mignola. If you’re going please let us know how it went.


SpringCon in St, Paul, MN.

This is the show that was encroached by a Wizard event, but based on the comments here it has a loyal following. Over 250 guests including Dan Jurgens, Peter Gross, Ursula Murray Husted and Silver Age artist Liz Berube. The poster promises 100,000 sq ft of extreme comic book action. Oh yeah!


Motor City Comic Con in Detroit, MI

This one runs three days in Novi. Guests include William Shatner, John Barrowman, Jon Bernthal, Milo Ventimiglia, Scott Wilson, Burt Young, Karl Urban, Jason Momoa, Lee Majors, Lindsay Wagner, Chris Claremont, Mark Waid and many more. As you can see it’s become more nerdlebrity focused. Time was when Motor City was one of the marquee events on the comics schedule (it’s been running for 25 years) but it’s way more regional now.


Dallas Comic Conin Dallas, TX
This is run by the same folks who put on the HUUUUGE Fan Expos in Toronto. This company was acquired last year by a larger event company, a change I should have paid more attention to. According to the guest page, William Shatner will also be at THIS show. I guess he likes to travel??? The guest list is all nerdlebrities, but a small pop up tells m that Len Wein will be there for comics types. A believe this show is descended from the old Dallas Fantasy Fair, also a long time comics event classic.


SC Comicon in Greenville, SC

Proving there are enough Nerdlebrities to go around, Lou Ferrigno will hulk out at this show, along with Van Jensen and Robert Venditti and other guests. The show is run by Borderlands Comics & Games, and it’s only $10 to get in for the day.


SuperFan Comic Con in Toronto, ON

It’s Victoria Day Weekend for our friends in the north so this runs Saturday-Monday. Lucky bastards. Guests include Mike Grell and Dyl Klöepfer who is billed as “Young cartoonist from a small town in Canada.” Hugs! And also…LOU FERRIGNO??? Do these nerdlebrities have doppelgangers? Margot Kidder and the guy who played the SOup Nazi will also be on hand. I don’t know much about this show, but Toronto is a crowded market.


  • Nerdlebrities can be in two places at once!
  • Conventions should make sure to put a LOGO or POSTER conveniently located in the PRESS section of their site.
  • Despite what I have posted above, not every single comics creator in North America will be at a show this weekend.

4 Comments on The weekend in comics events, San Jose to Minnesota and beyond, last added: 5/19/2014
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25. For Giger: Against the Gigeresque

For Press Play, I wrote about the late H.R. Giger:
H.R. Giger's imagery so deeply influenced the imaginations of film production designers, tattoo artists, fashionistas, magazine illustrators, skateboard designers, and just about everyone other than My Little Pony animators that at this point it's difficult to separate Giger from the gigeresque. What was once outré, repulsive, and disturbing became the Thomas Kincaid style for the cyber/goth set, a quick kitsch to perform a certain idea of taste. You hang Christmas Cottage in your living room to display your pleasant, unthreatening Christianity; I put a poster of Giger’s Li I on my bedroom wall to show how transgressive I am in my deep, dark soul. Each is a sign that communicates immediately, without any need to look for more than a second, because each communicates not through itself but through all the associations is has accumulated.

Of course, this is not fair to Giger the artist, who was much more than his most popular tropes. But that's about as useful as saying van Gogh is much more than a sunflower, a starry sky, and a bandaged ear: obvious, yes, but also beside the point. Giger is mourned and remembered because of the gigeresque.

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