So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #014:  Con-Job!

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #014: Con-Job!

Unshaven Comics — the studio that houses myself and my brothers-from-other-mothers — participated in our final conventions for 2018. While other comic cons are going to be running through the end of the year… for us, the year is over. And what an interesting experience we as a company had in our final pair of shows. It seemed we forgot how calendars operate, and wound up double-booking ourselves. The newly minted Ace Universe show in Chicago welcomed us (and our money) the very same weekend we’d committed (as always) to the Kokomo Comic Con, in Kokomo, Indiana. Luckily for us, there are 3 Unshaven Lads, and Kokomo was only a one-day shindig — allowing us to divide and conquer. With that being said… there is a lot to unpack regarding the size, scope, and relative success my motley crew saw across the pair of shows.

Ace Universe is a hot new contender in the pop culture convention space. As brought to the geek kingdom by way of the Shamus empire — formerly of Wizard World fame. Ace’s calling card is top tier talent specifically in the autograph / photo-op space. Specific to the Ace Universe Chicago show we tabled at? Chris Evans, Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Olsen, Karen Gillan, Zazie Beetz, Matt Smith, and a litany of WWE Stars all took center stage. The show itself was held at Chicago’s Navy Pier — which by most fans we spoke to, was not the easiest or accommodating commute to take. The convention hall was a single large open room, with the autograph/photo-op area dead center, artists and vendors around its periphery, with a “main stage” set in the tail-end of the space.

As an artist tabling at the show, we found almost immediately that our success would be wholly achieved through the grind; as most of the attendees came strictly to collect their photos and signatures. These “celebrity experiences” were costly endeavors — with VIP packages starting in the mid $200 range. Keeping that in mind? It became apparent that we lowly vendors and artists were there strictly to act as window dressing and distractions for the already wallet-light fans milling about. Friday itself was the most-rough day of the weekend, with the after-work crowds all dawdling in with little desire to buy. Saturday and Sunday saw larger and more amicable fans pursuing the aisles (all 4 of them) with only slightly more desire to hear about new and wonderful independent publications (such as “The Samurnauts” or “Toolbox”). Given a relatively tame tabling fee, Unshaven Comics left Navy Pier on Sunday night a little above break-even; once the $30 per-car per-day parking snapped the top off our coffers.

In contrast, the Kokomo Comic Con was a single day, single community affair in the wonderfully proud 13th largest city in Indiana. Here in its 9th year, Kokomo Con is a show Unshaven makes the trek out for regardless of specific sales goals. As denoted this year even more than the last, with little new to showcase at our table, most of my interactions throughout the day really were with well-wishers who already owned all that I came to promote. Anchored by stalwart Indiana-based comic bookers like guest-of-honor Stuart Sayger, always amicable Gavin Smith, and a handful of other fantastic independent artists and vendors… the show seats itself in the wide-eyed, big-smiled hearts of those who know what comic conventions of yesteryear looked like. With costume contests, light-hearted announcements over the PA, and a little over 1000 fans from around the city and beyond milling about, it was as far removed from Ace as one might get.  Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #014: Con-Job!”

Working Title #005: My Own Private Film Fest

Working Title #005: My Own Private Film Fest

It’s starting to get chilly outside which makes it a good time to stay indoors, get cozy, and watch movies. Sometimes – usually by accident – I find I’ve created my own personal mini movie festival around a theme or a certain actor or genre. I have a Christmas mini festival and Mary is putting together a Halloween one.

I did it recently around a specific time and place; Britain just before or early in the Second World War. All the films were, in one way or another, historical movies. Some characters are repeated in more than one film although in different interpretations and, of course, the events overlap but without being repetitive. I wanted all four films to be of recent manufacture; time lends some perspective. However, we also have to remember that we as viewers know how the overall story turns out. When you’re a participant in the middle of it, you don’t, and that causes some anxiety. For example, we — at this time — don’t know how the story of the American adventure with the Trump Presidency is going to turn out and that is causing some anxiety.  Continue reading “Working Title #005: My Own Private Film Fest”

Brainiac On Banjo #016: Is Batman Damned, Or Are We All?

Brainiac On Banjo #016: Is Batman Damned, Or Are We All?

Yup. This is another one of those pieces about how the controversy surrounding Batman Damned #1 is no big deal.

Except… According to everybody’s pal Rich Johnston, still columning for Bleeding Cool, there was a CGC-rated 10.0 copy of the first issue that sold for big bucks on eBay. So much money, in fact, that I figure Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark got into a bidding war.

Yes, dear friends, Batman Damned #1 CGC 10.0 sold to Florida’s Blaze PC Collectables for $1800.00.

Go back and read that again. It is not a typo, but it should be. There are a number of reasons why this is absolutely ridiculous. There’s a point where real-world values should exceed comic book values. Puerto Rico is still bleeding, undreamed of hurricanes are continuing to wreak damage and kill people, there are more worthy and needy causes than there are grains of sand in the Sahara, and we’ve got the biggest fight in American history coming up in a mere three weeks and if you’re interested in not seeing the United States of America turn into 1941 Belgium I’ll bet there’s a worthy candidate not far from you who can use a contribution.

Besides, I started buying comic books when they were a dime. I wince at today’s $4.00 cover price (admittedly, ten cents in 1960 would be worth… well, 84¢ today – and don’t get me started on explaining William M. Gaines’ hot dog index!). But $1800.00 is just a bit egregious.  Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #016: Is Batman Damned, Or Are We All?”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #013: Sell Out!

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #013: Sell Out!

It’s been rattling around my brain for too long; this endless debate that begs a simple question: What makes one a sellout?

The term itself is often overused. It’s shorthand for labeling creators as lesser for any number of reasons — typically revolving around the notion that a creator acquiesces to changes in their work as demanded by a corporate entity to ultimately shave the edges from their output so-as to allow the end product be more appealing to a broader audience.  We also label those artists who choose to license their original work for use in commercials and other sundry productions with the same term… but in the specific case of my thoughts this week, we’re focusing on the former, not the latter.

When I’d heard the term bandied about through my youth, I immediately jump to a pair of performers in the music space; Jason Newsted of Metallica (at the time), and the entirety of 3rd wave ska band, Reel Big Fish. When asked if Metallica sold out, Newsted slyly smiled as he stared down the lens of the camera. “Of course we sell out — (he waits a solid and bitterly pregnant pause) — every seat in every arena we play!” And of course, Aaron Barret and his motley crew of California skankers received their first taste of widespread radio play with their hit Sell Out, wherein they joke about how “the record company’s gonna give me lots of money and everything’s gonna be alright.”

Upon hearing declarations like this, I’d felt an immediate kinship with those that ironically scoffed at the notion. That reaching a wider audience to seek better fiscal gains by way of a reduction of harder-to-understand nuances wasn’t inherently sinful. It was merely means to an end. And as an adolescent, my heroes all seemed to live and thrive living right in that sweet spot. Their work somehow seemed above completely shameless schlock, where the slick shine of heavily edited production and marketing did its job to make Enter Sandman or The Mask palatable to both me (suburban metal-tyke / comic-book-smart fan) and someone ten to twenty years my senior. And why would that be so bad, damnit?  Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #013: Sell Out!”

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #015: “Oh, Little Girl, Cathartic Reaction”

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #015: “Oh, Little Girl, Cathartic Reaction”

Hey! Guess what? We just finished the Second American Revolution! No kidding! The bad news is, we lost. The America we were taught in school, to the extent it was ever around, is now completely gone. Maybe forever, if you don’t do something about it.

Warning To The Public: The next person who tells me they’re not going to vote because “all politicians are the same” is going to get punched square in the jaw. And the next person who says people of conscience should not step up to the plate because they risk “energizing Trump’s base” is going to get punched square in the jaw as well.

Do you know how embarrassing it would be to get punched out by a geriatric cripple? Some asshole might find out. But, to be fair, I will respect my victim for having the courage to confront me directly, as opposed to the millions of spineless cowards who lack the courage of their National Socialist convictions by hiding behind the internet’s anonymity as they try to shove their monstrous gibberish down the throats of people with reason.  Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #015: “Oh, Little Girl, Cathartic Reaction””

Spotlight Interview: Talking Web Comics and the Red Hook with Dean Haspiel

Spotlight Interview: Talking Web Comics and the Red Hook with Dean Haspiel

At Baltimore Comic-Con this year, we were able to catch up with comic artist and writer Dean Haspiel. Dean, a New York City native,  grew up in the comic industry working with luminaries such as Howard Chaykin and Harvey Pekar. He has produced award winning work in both television and web comic media. He is know for works such as Billy Dogma, The Quitter, American Splendor, Beef with Tomato, Bored to Death, The Alcoholic, The Fox, and his current epic saga, The Red Hook.

The Red Hook is a webcomic that was original released on the LINE WEBTOON platform and won the 2017 inaugural Ringo Award for Best Webcomic. It was released this year in a collected print format by Image Comics.

The second season of the Red Hook was released as War Cry, also on LINE WEBTOON in 2018. It was also nominated for a Ringo Award.  The third season titled StarCross is expected to be released early 2019.


Webcomics: You can’t avoid it. You can’t deny it. Start to embrace it!

PopCultureSquad: Hi Dean. Thanks for doing this. Let’s start with, “When are we going to get to see StarCross, the third volume of the Red Hook saga?”

Dean Haspiel: The initial date that we decided on was Valentine’s Day 2019. It is a very ambitious project for me. Ideally, I would like to have about sixteen chapters in the can before we launch. I hope to have that done by mid-February. If not, then we may push it until March or April, and then it will run for about five and a half months consecutively.

PCS: There are times when things get announced on LINE WEBTOON as “Coming Soon”, and then it takes quite awhile before we get to see them. Continue reading “Spotlight Interview: Talking Web Comics and the Red Hook with Dean Haspiel”

With Further Ado #010: Don’t Belittle Others; “Be-Big” Them

With Further Ado #010: Don’t Belittle Others; “Be-Big” Them

A planned trip to the drive-in sparked an idea for one of these columns.  A few weeks ago, one of the summer superhero movies, Ant-Man and Wasp, was playing at the local drive-in theater. This was an astonishing fact to me.  Longtime Marvel fans know that Ant-Man was never very popular.

The “small hero” had been done so many times before- in everything from Gulliver’s Travels (when he’s amongst the giants in the land of Brobdingnab) to The Incredible Shrinking Man to TV”s Land of the Giants.  And in comics, other diminutive heroes like Doll Man, Doll Girl and the Atom were always fighting fearsome giant threats. Such as… the neighbor’s house cat or toys that came to life.

When I was in fourth grade, my class published a student newspaper and used the proceeds to buy cool stuff.  After we splurged on posters and kickballs, there was just a little bit left over. My teacher, Mrs. Shearer, turned to me and asked if I’d buy some comics for the class with the small amount of leftover change.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #010: Don’t Belittle Others; “Be-Big” Them”

Working Title #004: The Doctor and the Judge

Working Title #004: The Doctor and the Judge

Two big events occurred last weekend: Judge Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed as a Supreme Court judge and the first woman to play Doctor Who (Jodie Whitaker) debuted. One event delighted me and the other appalled me. Can you guess which was which?

There is something that connects the two. Bear with me.

I’m a LONG time fan of the British SF show and this weekend the new season debuted on BBC America (and, indeed, around the globe). Lots of new things – new companions, new composer, new showrunner and chief writer (Chris Chibnall) and, most importantly, a new Doctor. Now, for those of you benighted souls who may not be aware, the show has had a very long run because of a very clever concept. The main character, the Doctor, is an alien, and every so often the Doctor’s body regenerates into a wholly new one with a completely different persona and this has kept the show fresh. This time, the Doctor also changed sex and became a woman, played delightfully by Jodie Whittaker.

Capsule review: I was very pleased. The show had mystery, suspense, humor, darkness, death and a sense of freshness. Mr. Chibnall’s script had a different feel than former showrunner Stephen Moffat that was very welcome and Ms. Whitaker makes a wonderful Doctor.

Not everyone will agree. How do I know? Because some fans were opposed from the moment she was announced, some going so far as to say they will never watch it. This is not altogether unusual; every time someone new steps into the TARDIS, a certain percentage of the fans voice their displeasure and/or anger and vow never to watch it again (their loss).

There was an undercurrent, however, to Ms. Whitaker’s selection and sometimes that current was not so under. It came down to her gender. A certain percentage of that certain percentage of fans said that the Doctor couldn’t be a GIRL. Eeeeuuuhhh!  Continue reading “Working Title #004: The Doctor and the Judge”

Brainiac On Banjo #015: Doctor Who – Without A Punny Headline!

Brainiac On Banjo #015: Doctor Who – Without A Punny Headline!

The Doctor: Why are you calling me Madam?
Yasmin Khan: Because… you’re a woman?
The Doctor: Am I? Does it suit me?
Yasmin Khan: What?
The Doctor: Oh yeah, I remember! Sorry, half an hour ago I was a white-haired Scots man.


Jodie Whittaker/Doctor Who
at Comic Con 2018 Photographed by Andrew H. Walker/Shutterstock for Variety

We don’t know how to handle pronouns these days. That’s a transitional process as we evolve our language to more inclusive and less presumptuous forms. In the case of Doctor Who, that’s not as much of a problem. There have been 13 Doctors thus far — give or take — and the new one is the first to be a woman, at least as a matter of outside packaging. We really don’t know how Gallifreyan genders work, and their men and women alike are mostly brilliant and largely insufferable.

Yesterday, Jodie Whittaker debuted as our current Doctor, and did so pretty much all over the world, at pretty much the same time. Now that’s the way to launch a series. OK, I’m a fanboy and I’ve been watching the show since it first crossed the Atlantic. I haven’t seen an actor turn in a less-than-great performance in the lead role, even in spite of some less-than-great stories. More to the point, I haven’t seen a transitional episode where one Doctor regenerates into another that was less than entertaining by the standards of its time. In these two considerations, Whittaker fits in perfectly.

Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #015: Doctor Who – Without A Punny Headline!”

Everything We Read This Week – 10/03/2018

Everything We Read This Week – 10/03/2018

In this column, we make a quick trip through this week’s pull-list. It features mostly spoiler-free brief analysis and commentary of each book.

There are plenty of good comics out there. There are some great first issues of series this week. Don’t forget to check our hotlist of new books debuting this month over here. You will see books that we were looking forward to with the designation Hot #1 by them.

DISCLAIMER: 

There is a 4 star rating system. It is simple and not to be taken too seriously as everyone gets their own impressions of art. These ratings are just to give our readers an idea of what we thought of the book, and they will be on the generous side normally. So don’t expect to see a lot of 1 Stars. After all, its not often that you have a bad book on your pull-list.

The rating system is as follows:

Great

 Good

 OK

 Not Good

And here are the books we read in alphabetical order:

Continue reading “Everything We Read This Week – 10/03/2018”