With E3 2015 wrapping up a couple days ago, we’ve been seeing some pretty cool announcements coming from the electronic world over the past week. Some fantastic-looking new games, new systems, new gadgets. Nerdy fun to be had by all.
Just before E3, however, I got to have a bit of that fun for myself. Recently, Overkill Software had an event they called the Hype Train for their game, PayDay 2. This happened back in February/March, but you can still see some of the info from it here. This event effectively solidified Overkill/Starbreeze as my favorite gaming company around today. While studios like Electronic Arts are nickel-and-diming us gamers with in-game purchases, and a studio like Gearbox is suspected of plagiarism, it’s getting hard to tell who the good guys are in gaming. Overkill made that a little easier with the Hype Train. Here are the basics: Overkill set a list of goals to reach with corresponding PayDay-themed prizes. These goals were met by fans purchasing the game, DLCs, characters packs, etc. Anything at all PayDay-related that was purchased from their official outlets in this time period went toward the Hype Train. As prizes were unlocked, anyone with the game got access to these prizes. So even if you just had the base game, but didn’t or couldn’t buy anything during that time, you still got the Car Shop Heist and the Hoxton Revenge Heist. The way they went about this event was very cool in that it was obviously for the fans. Instead of just being out to make a quick buck, they promoted the game and the additions in a way that engaged the community, and rewarded fans. I’ve seen a few cynical groups of fans criticize the gaming company for involving money in the event at all, but that criticism seems extremely short-sighted. Of course a business has to make money in order to continue releasing their brand of awesome. At least in Overkill’s case, they did it in a way that really gave back to their fans and their community – and not just the factions that could pay for it at that particular time.
One of the prizes released during the Hype Train affected me, directly. There was a possibility that a prize would be unlocked where Overkill would fly 10 heisters to L.A. for a Pre-E3 event. I’ll be honest – the details were incredibly vague at the time, and whether it would even happen or not had not even been announced yet by the time you had to enter to win this prize. However, to enter, all you had to do was send Overkill a tweet during a certain time frame. What does one tweet cost you? Nothing. Nothing at all. I sent my tweet back in March, went about my life, and actually forgot about it.
That is until early June when I started getting messages from Overkill on twitter. When they first started trying to get my attention, they hadn’t yet told me I won the trip. I was mid-sentence in a conversation with my husband, and checked a notification on my phone. I trailed off in conversation, and my eyes got very big. My husband asked what was going on, and I responded with “SOMETHING IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW.” A few minutes later, Almir Listo, producer of the PayDay franchise, let me know I had won, and asked if I’d be available to fly to L.A. in exactly one week. Naturally, I freaked out, put everything in life on hold, and went. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’ve been a big fan of the PayDay games for a while at this point, but even bigger, I have grown to respect and love Overkill as a gaming company. PC Gaming is one of my biggest hobbies in life these days, and these guys were doing it right. I absolutely jumped at the chance to fly across the country and meet with them in person.
The following week was a blur of sustained excitement, and early on the Saturday morning following the announcement, I was on a plane. I arrived at the same time as several other heisters, and we instantly bonded. Everyone invited along, and everyone who met up with us from the studio were amazingly friendly and welcoming. We were all extremely excited.
We got to the hotel Overkill had us staying in – the Grafton on Sunset BLVD in West Hollywood. A beautiful hotel that was rock-themed, newly renovated, and in a great location. I walked with some of the other heisters to a nearby burger place, and had lunch. Afterwards, we were all in need of a nap – each of us had been traveling since early that morning, and were in for a long night ahead of us.
A few hours later, we were picked up in a limo, and given a tour of Hollywood before being dropped off at the event.
The party was at the Hollywood House of Blues. Technically, it was only half a block from our hotel, and we easily could have walked, but the limo ride was fun either way. There were 3 floors of drinks, food, music, fun people, games, and announcements. It was crazy. Immediately upon walking into the gate, I met Damion Poitier – the voice of Chains in the PayDay games. He was incredibly nice, and all for hanging with the fans. He also made the absolute best faces in all the pictures that were taken of him that night (see his twitter feed for more of these amazing faces). We also chatted with Eric Etebari, the voice of Dallas, throughout the night as well. In fact, every time we turned around, there was either Damion or Eric. I’m pretty sure they wanted to be BFFs, but were too shy to say so (right? RIGHT??).
We were also greeted by shambling zombies everywhere. Since this event was the launch party for Overkill’s The Walking Dead, they made a point to really put you in the mindset of hanging with zombies. Now – I organized a large-scale Zombie Walk for years. We had some incredible zombies over the years, but none with the constitution of these Walkers. Never once did I see a single zombie break character, even for a second. One in particular made a point to sneak up behind various party people, waiting just inches from the back of their heads to notice him. The reactions were priceless.
Overkill’s The Walking Dead was obviously a huge one. There are a couple other TWD games out right now, but they’re both completely story-driven, not shooters. Since the Left 4 Dead franchise, I think we here in the gaming community have been itching for an awesome, new zombie-themed shooter. We saw a bit of the gameplay and graphics from the new TWD game, and it’s looking pretty badass. And it looks like there will also be a little crossover from the PayDay franchise. The game doesn’t come out until next year, but I’m already psyched for it. You can watch the trailer for it, and find out more details here.
Next was the announcement of PayDay 2 coming to consoles. In fact, they had several machines set up with PayDay 2 loaded up to try it out. I’m not a big console person, myself, so I asked some of the other folks in my group how it held up in terms of a console shooter. Since they were all fans of the PayDay franchise on PC previously, they were able to definitely say that the translation from PC to console was very well done. The controls are intuitive, and the game played just as well on console. So if you’ve been wanting to play PayDay 2, but just aren’t into keyboards and mice, look forward to that release.
Lastly, and possibly most importantly, we were surprised with the announcement of the StarVR system. This entire thing looks amazing. The StarVR system is Starbreeze’s answer to the recent Virtual Reality craze. It’s a headset that’s lighter than the Oculus, and instead of smaller circles to look through that are straight-ahead, the StarVR system has a wide screen that allows for peripheral vision. This may sound like a small difference in systems, but in reality, the way the StarVR is laid out allows you to really, and truly immerse yourself into the game much more than most other VR systems that are announced right now. Granted – the StarVR is still in process, as are many other virtual reality systems, and some changes and competitors may still arise. At the moment, though, it looks like Starbreeze is on the right path with this one. Here’s a Hands-on view from the E3 conference:
Overall, there were a ton of unexpected, and fantastic surprises at the Pre-E3 party. Friendships were forged, and a ridiculous amount of fun was had.
The next day, we had dinner plans with the Overkill gang, but were free until then. Some heisters explored Hollywood, some hung out at the hotel and gamed a bit. I had some friends in town, so I joined them for a killer waffle brunch. Then we were all given an address to meet up at.
The address led us to the historic Chinese Theater in Hollywood, and the shopping center behind it. It was a little bit confusing to know where we were going at first, but once we saw that there was a Dave & Busters, we all thought ‘of course they’re going to take a bunch of video game nerds to the gaming place.’ We were right – and thrilled to be.
We were joined by Almir Listo, Simon Viklund (who composes all of the music in the PayDay games), and Karl Lakner (art director for Overkill). A relaxing dinner with great conversation was followed by a lot of selfies and group pics. We all got the chance to really talk with these accomplished fellows one-on-one, and ask any burning, heisting questions we may have had.
However, at the end of it, not all of us were ready to call it quits. Almir had to leave us, but Simon and Karl were dead-set on seeing a movie. We walked over the Chinese Theater, and all grabbed tickets for Jurassic World, but still had a couple hours to kill, so we went back to D&B’s to play some games. I got to shoot ridiculous amounts of aliens and terminator-bots with Karl, and then even more dinosaurs with Simon. A few of the other Overkill guys joined us for the movie – and were more than happy to talk about the weapons, explosions, and landscapes they designed for the PayDay games, and what went into them. The gentlemen we got to meet from Overkill were easily some of the nicest, friendliest, and most welcoming people I’ve met in a long time.
The next morning, I flew the 7 hours back to my usual side of the country.
It was a crazy, jam-packed, exciting, whirlwind of a weekend that I never expected to happen.
I cannot thank the guys at Overkill, and especially Almir and Karl (who were both incredibly friendly and accommodating) enough for the experience. You guys made 10 little heisters’ lives incredibly bright for that weekend.
Her Universe, Hot Topic and Nerdist Industries put on their very first “Geek Couture” fashion show last night at SDCC and it was fantastic. The Hyatt Ballroom was packed, the designers came up with some beautiful and unique nerdy outfits, and Her Universe’s very own Ashley Eckstein looked beautiful in a Totoro inspired couture dress, mainly because she was excited to announce that Her Universe has acquired licensing rights for Studio Ghibli merch to be sold at Hot Topic this fall! Yes, I’m just as excited as you!
My personal favorite designs of the night were Lauren Bregman’s “Effie’s Trinkets” worn by stunning model Adrianne Curry, and Andrew MacLaine’s “Regina’s Curse” which literally wowed the crowd. Regina herself, Lana Parrilla, even tweeted about it.
Hopefully this will become an annual event, so you nerds can attend next time. And props to DJ Amanda for playing some sweet 80s jams during the Back to the Future and Metroid inspired portion of the night.
For more information on the event and where to buy cool geek fashion visit http://www.heruniverse.com/
It’s almost time for San Diego Comic-Con 2014 and, like all of you nerds, I’m trying to figure out what I really want to spend my money on because, holy crap, there are always so many cool toys there! So, in my quest to find all the must-have releases this year, I decided to interview one of my friends and favorite toy designers, Nathan Hamill. I already own most of his figures, and since he keeps coming up with even cooler ones every year, I’m very much looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next. So, if you’re one of the many lucky nerds attending the convention this year, make sure you don’t miss out on his awesome SDCC releases. Photos and info on where to buy below!
1) Most of us know you’re a ginormous nerd with a pretty solid toy collection that I often want to steal from, but how did you end up becoming a toy designer? What was your motivation to release Boris, your first vinyl figure?
I started with Boris when Patrick Geologo, who I once worked with at Toy Planet when I was in high school, was looking for artists to work with as U1Toy Arts was just starting out. Boris was originally a design for a cartoon called Animal Bandits. He’s a surly, suspicious little guy with a Napoleon complex. Like a Joe Pesci of the forest. And thanks for not stealing my toys. I know it can be hard not to.
2) What toys did you cherish most as a child? What are some of your favorite figures that you own now?
I carried a Darth Vader 3 3/4″ Kenner figure with me wherever I went. I had a vice like grip on that one. And currently it is Lavabear: Classic Ed., which I took all around Disney World on a recent trip. Some things never change.
3) You have some really cool releases coming up for SDCC. In particular, I’m excited about Lavabear and can’t wait to get one. What’s his story? Where did you get the inspiration to create him?
His backstory is inspired somewhat by the Gollum of Jewish lore and even a little by Tik-Tok of Oz, who was a protector of sorts too. There are obvious pop culture elements in the design but there are some that are more subtle and some that were subconsciously incorporated. I have no control of my pop culture soaked brain.
4) What about Octopup? How did you decide on all the different colorways? Were you trying to make me angry because I gotta catch them all?
Making you angry is always just a happy accident. As my first sofubi, I just chose color ways that would really pop. Stay tuned for some custom pieces from others artists soon.
5) You also collaborated with Flat Bonnie and came up with a rad and squishy Octoplush version. Any future collaborations with her or other artists?
For SDCC, Flat Bonnie and I will have 3 Octoplush: Aquapup Ed. mini plushes as giveaways at the 3DRetro booth #5049. There will be 3 “Golden” tickets hidden inside the header cards of the Octopup: Octocrush Ed. sofubis. If you get a ticket, present it to 3DRetro and take home a free Octoplush.
6) Your toys are awesome, but you’ve also released some fantastic art. What artists do you admire? Is there anything in particular you think influences your style?
There are too many to list if we’re talking about admiration and even influence whether big or small. But I think artists like Kozik, John K., Tim Burton and others that juxtapose cartoons with darker themes or underlying messages probably influenced me the most. I like taking a cute, large character and adding something subtly sinister or off to them. A friend once called my style “cute macabre”, and I’ll happily take that description.
7) “My Father, My Lord” might be my favorite print of yours because I’m a dark, emo nerd. For those of us who can’t even draw stick figures, can you talk about the process of coming up with a piece like this? Is this how you usually work?
I don’t ever really work the same way from one piece to the next. It really depends on what it calls for and the mood I’m in. This one in particular came together really quickly. Once I had the concept, the rough was finished surprisingly fast. It’s something very dear to my heart, so it just came naturally. Then, it was just adding bits here and there and refining the whole thing.
8) Out of all the characters you’ve created, which one are you the most proud of?
Lavabear is my favorite hands down. It contains many elements that I’ve found myself using in other toys and resins. In addition to that, there are a few pop culture references too, one obvious and the rest were subconsciously incorporated. Bubbling up from my nerdy pop culture ladened brain.
9) What other exciting things can fans and collectors expect from Nathan Hamill in the future? Can you give us any spoilers?
2015 will be a great one. Lots to look forward to, but the one I’m most excited about will be very appropriate for the year. And, no, it’s not Star Wars!
Thanks, Nathan! And I’m totally getting one of your MimoPowerTubes while I’m at the con. So rad looking and practical!
Visit www.nathanhamill.com for the latest news on his current and future releases.
MORE THAN 5,000 FANS EXPECTED AT SIXTH ANNUAL LEAKYCON FOR
ONE OF FANDOM’S LARGEST CELEBRATIONS OF EVERYTHING GEEKY
Fantasy film, television and book convention to be held July 30-August 3 in Orlando
If you know how to destroy a horcrux, what to do with a TARDIS and who Sam, Dean and Castiel are, then chances are you are headed to Orlando this summer for the sixth annual LeakyCon, one of the largest and most recognized conventions for fans of fantasy films, television shows and books. LeakyCon will be held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida July 30-August 3. Tickets are on sale now at www.LeakyCon.com.
Attendees can participate in programming that caters specifically to them and meet a community of like-minded enthusiasts. LeakyCon includes a wide array of special events, panel discussions, Q&A sessions, workshops, live performances, music concerts, celebrity meet-and-greets and a marketplace with a variety of vendors. Attendees will get a chance to meet their favorite authors, take pictures with celebrities from film and television and have 5 days of nerdy fun.
This year’s LeakyCon will also feature a special private event at the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando. The new attraction will be closed to the general public and available only to LeakyCon attendees, who will have an exclusive opportunity to see the Harry Potter-themed park.
In addition to the main convention, LeakyCon offers a special literary track with programming focused on books, featuring hands-on sessions and events with some of today’s most popular authors for teens and young adults.
Special guests to-date for this year’s event include: Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima (Mina Lima), graphic designers responsible for the visual look of the Harry Potter films; John Green, author (“Looking For Alaska,” “The Fault in our Stars”); Scarlett Byrne, actress (Pansy Parkinson in three Harry Potter films; Jon Cozart, YouTube sensation; Joe Moses, actor (“A
Very Potter Musical”); Tessa Netting, Broadway performer (“Billy Elliott”) and creator of popular YouTube parody videos (“HELLO-Harry Potter Book of Mormon”); Laurie Halse Anderson, author (“Speak,” “Prom,” “Wintergirls”); Holly Black, author (“The Spiderwick Chronicles”); Rainbow Rowell, author (“Eleanor & Park,” “Fangirl”). Musical acts scheduled to appear include Alex Carpenter and Harry and the Potters (Paul and Joe DeGeorge). Additional special guests and musical acts will be announced regularly leading up to the event.
“LeakyCon creates memorable crossroads between stories, those who love them and those who create them,” said Melissa Anelli, co-founder and director of LeakyCon. “This is all about being a fan and celebrating being nerdy and geeky in a fun, positive environment; it’s the ultimate outlet for fans to embrace their passions.”
Past events have included special guests from the Harry Potter films, “The Hunger Games,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries,” “Glee,” “Supernatural,” “Doctor Who,” “Sherlock,” “Sinbad,” “How I Met Your Mother” and many more films and television shows as well as authors of some of the top young adult books.
Attendees can choose between four different types of tickets. General admission tickets are available for $175 and include access to most of the events at the convention; general admission plus literary tickets are available for $275 and include general admission access plus special literary track programming; Rockstar tickets are sold for $375 and include preferred access to all events including literary track programming; and literary focus tickets are available for $125 and include access to literary track programming only. Tickets can be purchased online at www.LeakyCon.com.
LeakyCon is one of the largest and most recognized annual fandom conventions in the world and is attended every year by thousands of fantasy film, television and book fans. The event was started in 2009 as a conference for Harry Potter fans and has since grown to include fans of some of the most popular films, television shows and books in the genre such as “Doctor Who,” “Game of Thrones,” “The Hunger Games,” “Supernatural” and “Firefly.” Past events have been held in Boston, Orlando, Chicago, Portland and London. More information is available at www.LeakyCon.com.
This is a follow-up post about how female geeks are making comic conventions their own in different ways. Obviously SDCC has been over for awhile, but there are still plenty of other conventions coming up this year (NYCC!) and these women can serve as inspirations for what can be done within geek and pop culture by individuals. In this post I talk with Jenn from justJENN Designs & Recipes. If you haven’t had the pleasure of visiting her table at SDCC or don’t follow her on twitter, you should!… but in the meantime the links to her websites are listed below.
Jenn has been blogging about her family’s adventures in Los Angeles for 10 years, creating unique family dinners and geeky baking for her food blog www.justjennrecipes.com. She recently launched www.homegeekonomics.com where she features crafters and creators, bringing the best of geek to home and everyday life. She was Her Universe’s fangirl of the day and her award winning recipes have been featured on StarWars.com, LATimes online, The Today Show blog and most recently the cover of Food Network Magazine.
A contributor for Geek Mom, King’s Hawaiian and First5LA, she also has been a guest panelist at San Diego Comic Con, WonderCon and Geek Girl Con.
1) First thing’s first, tell me about JustJenn Designs and JustJenn Recipes and your career in the geek world.
I started justJENN designs on the side when I was working at an architecture firm. I was working 60-80 hour weeks and while it was killing me I still wanted something that was all my own. So I thought an online business was a good idea because then I could just fill orders from home.Years later I had my kids and I was suddenly compelled to make sure they only ate healthy food and I wanted to make everything from scratch. I started creating recipes and putting them online so that I could access them at all times without dragging recipes with me or having to turn my computer on. Smart phones and my own website made keeping track of my recipes much easier.
2) The combination of foodies and geek culture makes perfect sense and you do an amazing job combining the two. I love your Ultimate Star Wars party! Where did get your initial inspiration to combine the two?
Food and geek recipes came together again, because of my kids. As they grew up they started having fandom fascinations with things that I loved as well. Everything old was new again…to them! So Star Wars, Transformers all the things I grew up with and loved they were taking an interest in and I love the idea of encouraging fandom in kids. I think it opens them up to creative thinking. I decided to incorporate that into our meals just for fun. When I posted the party and recipes I didn’t think anything of it until I started getting a lot of adults saying how great it was and then I realized it wasn’t just me that loved all that geek culture reinterpreted, everyone wanted to recreate their childhood fandom in an updated way!
3) When was your first SDCC? Can you tell me a bit about your history with the convention (ie did you start off in Small Press or as an attendee, etc)?
My first SDCC was a long time ago as an attendee. I can’t even remember the year but I can tell you I got into Hall H easily if that means anything. Years later when I had the online stationery biz I thought, ‘how great would it be to be here as a fan, but also sell my creations to people as well?’ Small Press seemed like a good first step and I honestly haven’t moved from there in the past 6 years.
4) This year you were able to participate in the first major panel for foodies at SDCC, “A Feast For Your Eyes: Creativity In Comics and Cuisine.” What was that panel like? What were some of the highlights?
I was very excited to participate in the ‘food and comics’ panel since they are two things that I love and incorporate into my art as well. It was great to see a whole room filled with people who love those things too. Food and comics are very connected and we talked a lot about our inspiration and how we came into fields that we made uniquely our own through food.
The highlight of the panel for me was the other panelists! Everyone had unique food stories. I am a big fan of Food TV and watched both Brian Malarkey (@BrianMalarkey) and Justin Warner (@eatfellowhumans) on their shows. I have been ‘twitter friends’ with C.B. Cebulski for a long time and his posts about food and travels always make my day. I learned a lot from Amy Chu (@AmyChu) and Nacho Cervantes (@pizzaportbeer) about their inspirations. And I felt like Rosanna Pansino (@RosannaPansino) had a real geek girl connection, which is always cool when you meet someone who had the same interests as you and is a great person.
5) Do you think this panel signals the growth of foodie-related geekdom at SDCC? Other than the panel, what were some other geeky food-related fun stuff that you saw at SDCC this year (including your own activities)?
I think food and geekdom go hand in hand, both can be creative and inspirational. There is definitely a growth in this field, you can see it in the new food centric graphic novels that are coming out, but honestly it’s been around for a long time. As a kid I always felt connected to the comics I read that featured families cooking, or food somewhere in the comic. It made it relative and made me happy. I think that’s why food tv and food graphic novels are so popular now, because people like that familiar connection that food gives them.
6) I know you recently published a Mochi cookbook. I just got my copy and I’m really excited to try making some! What are some future projects you have coming up?
The mochi cookbook was fun because it updated old traditional recipes that didn’t think it was possible to modernize. My comic cookbook that I drew about my Grandma’s family recipes is still popular and I would like to do another one of those and delve into more of our family recipes, with humor of course.
7) Finally, silly question. I know you’re a huge Wolverine fan. If you had unlimited resources and were hired to throw a surprise party for Wolvie himself, what would some of the dishes be?
If could throw a Wolverine party I would make a lot of things on skewers and probably incorporate Canadian Bacon and Maple syrup to give props to his homeland. Basically whatever you ate would make you live forever, obvs.
Heroes of Cosplay is the SyFy channel’s new series about cosplay competitions at conventions. The show follows a select few cosplayers behind the scenes of the competition into their homes, studios and their creative processes. Each episode centers on a different convention, and the cosplayers must create a new look for each competition. Cosplay, for those who might not be familiar, is short for “costume play” and it is the act of wearing a costume to portray a character from a work of fiction. These costumes are often hand made and they can cost hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars and hours to create. Some cosplayers like to get into character by acting like the character they’re representing. Other cosplayers merely create and wear the costumes. Either way, the cosplayers are judged on “presentation” during the competition, as well as detail and craftsmanship.
The cosplayers the series follows are mostly professional and semi-professional costumers. Chief among them is the well-known costumer Yaya Han, who appears as a guest judge at each of the competitions in the series. She is introduced by her self-chosen title, “the Ambassador of Cosplay”, and she often shows up to give our cosplayers some (seemingly unsolicited?) advice, like a costumed fairy godmother. When I spoke with Yaya at SDCC, she stressed that the competitions were not rigged in any way to favor the competitors. Indeed, in the past two episodes, only one award has been given to any of the show’s stars (it was to Holly and Jessica for “best team” for their Dungeons and Dragons costumes). We see some of the creative process, though a lot less than I had hoped. There were some cool shots of Jesse vacuum forming his Steampunk Stormtrooper helmet, and a harrowing scene where Holly makes a head cast of Jessica to help sculpt her Tiefling horns. Most of the show focuses on (surprise) the drama and stress that goes into creating something on a too-short deadline for a competition.
The show has stirred up controversy in the cosplay community. The initial excitement for a reality show based on cosplay and featuring some of the cosplay community’s most talented names has faded since the show first aired and has been replaced with… resentment, mostly. It’s what happens whenever an unelected elite minority is chosen to represent a population: rebellion. The show was marketed as a documentary style, and it does catalog events and interviews like a documentary, but it is basically another competition reality TV show. It was not made for cosplayers, it was made for the large, existing reality television audience. From what I have seen so far, it’s modeled pretty closely after TLC’s Toddlers and Tiaras. This isn’t a bonehead move for SyFy, since Toddlers and Tiaras is a massively popular show. It’s also not a show that was made for its subjects. I don’t know how the child-beauty-pageant-going community reacted to Toddlers and Tiaras, but I bet it wasn’t all positive.
The strange thing for me is that this is the first time I have been familiar with the work of reality TV stars before the show aired. I know some of these people, or have met them at conventions. I follow them on Twitter and Facebook. I know what some of them are really like. Watching their personalities edited to fit the reality TV model is totally fascinating. To say that the drama is all manufactured is as ridiculous as saying that everything on the show happened exactly as it seems. There is inherently drama that surrounds competitions, and cosplayers are no different. However, some of the perceived cattiness is definitely a result of editing out of context remarks together. Most of the time it’s pretty transparent.
I don’t identify as a cosplayer, but I do consider myself part of the community. The cosplay community I know is mostly a welcoming, largely inclusive bunch that will tell you to wear whoever you want as long as you’re having fun. Cosplay competition is a very small part of the activity. You definitely do not have to have ever been judged in a competition to be considered a cosplayer. That the show is focusing on competition just makes it easy to package and market, and makes more relatable for those unfamiliar with the hobby. It kind of explains to the layman why anyone would spend the kind of time and money that our cosplayers spend creating a costume. I will tell you a secret (spoiler alert: not actually a secret), you don’t spend hundreds or thousands of dollars and hours creating something for a cash reward that might very well be less than the total cost of your costume and trip to the con. You do it because you love how you feel when you dress up as a favorite character: powerful, sexy, magical. It’s the process and the reward of a job well done. It’s the attention from children who believe you’re actually who you’re dressed up as and the “May I take a picture with you?” from excited fanboy/girls. Sadly, this is what the show is lacking so far.
We still have more to see from Heroes of Cosplay. Perhaps there are some redeeming surprises in store. The second episode aired recently and featured a couple of new faces. Heroes of Cosplay is on at 10pm on Syfy. You can find them on Facebook at (www.facebook.com/HeroesofCosplay) and on Twitter at (twitter.com/HeroesofCosplay).
San Diego Comic Con International 2013 has been over for a few weeks now. Attendees have finally recuperated from the chaos and excitement that is SDCC. As exhausting and chaotic as the pop culture convention is, the experience is also an extremely rewarding one for many. One of my favorite aspects of SDCC is the sense that not only are you part of a massive geek/nerd community, but you can also create your own world within that community. Whether you love steampunk cosplay or consider yourself the ultimate TV geek, there are different experiences for any fan at SDCC, you just have to make it. This is the first post in what I hope to be a couple of interviews with women who helped create their own personalized mini-universe within the zeitgeist that is SDCC.
Lady Steam (aka Dina Kampmeyer) is a co-founder of the League of Extraordinary Ladies and a self-described steampunk aficionado. This year Dina moderated two panels on steampunk at SDCC, The Witty Women of Steampunk and Steampunk 101, in addition to cosplaying as a steampunk Luke Skywalker. If you are interested in hearing more about Dina’s involvement with the League of Extraordinary Ladies, you can read her thoughts in a previous interview NiB had with her (and other LxLers).
1) How did you first get interested/involved in steampunk?
Dina Kampmeyer (DK): I started dating someone that was a steampunk and I had absolutely no idea what it is, but I was instantly drawn to the aesthetic. I jumped in with both feet and wanted to meet other people in LA that were into the same thing. The community was a bit disorganized, so I started volunteering my time to start planning occasional events and moderate the two FB pages that were already up and running.
2) What was your first steampunk costume?
DK: It was a pseudo-military look. I bought this great jacket online and went crazy modifying it. I cut off the sleeves, laced up the sides and added a ton of trim, buttons, epilets, etc. Then I added a bunch of ruching to this old skirt I had from college. Added a straw hat from the Renaissance Faire and boom, (not so) instant steampunk.
3) One thing I particularly love about SDCC is the feeling of belonging while at the same time creating your own reality/dream. Steampunk seems to fit into this idea perfectly. Why do you think steampunk has gained so much interest/traction at SDCC and other conventions?
DK: I think there are a lot of reasons why steampunk has become so popular in general, but in terms of conventions, I would say people just love the aesthetic. It’s so playful and it really allows costumers and cosplays a degree of freedom that they don’t usually have in other areas. Most cosplayers are looking to recreate an exact costume, but with steampunk, you don’t do that. You’re not dressing up as someone else’s character (in general), but rather creating a brand-new work of art. I think more people are getting into the genre now through this new trend of steampunking out existing pop culture characters. This is an easier way for them to explore steampunk while working with an existing product, but with an amazing degree of
creativity and freedom.
4) What kind of advice can you give someone who is looking to create their first steampunk cosplay costume?
DK: Try not to be intimidated. I hear so many people who are interested in steampunk worry that they don’t have the “right”
clothing or accessories. There is very little right and wrong in steampunk and we LOVE to help out new people, give them advice and heck, even loan them clothes. Come to steampunk events even if you’re just starting out, take a look at outfits that you like, and ask people how they created things. Go to local thriftshops and try and use your imagination. You’ll be surprised at how much you can create with an old dress and a sewing machine (or some safety pins and tape if you don’t sew).
5) You recently moderated a panel at SDCC called “The Witty Women of Steampunk.” Can you give a general synopsis of the panel for those who were unable to attend SDCC (or the panel)? What was your favorite moment of the panel?
DK: I was very lucky to have this panel accepted by the lovely folks at SDCC for the 2nd year in a row. Basically, I put together an incredible group of female creators and just let them talk about why they love steampunk and what about the genre appeals to them as a creator. We talked comics, alternate history, video games, costuming, multiculturalism and more.
6) Why “Witty Women” of Steampunk?
DK: Part of what is so appealing about steampunk is a return to the Victorian ideals of the pursuit of knowledge and civility. People were very interested in improving both themselves and the world around them. I think we all long to return to a time when wit was a prized possession and my panelists all fit that bill.
7) You also moderated a panel entitled, “Steampunk 101.” Based on discussions at that panel (and of course your own thoughts), what do see for the future of steampunk in popular culture?
DK: Excellent question. The popularity of steampunk has positively exploded over the past couple of years and we expect to see more and more of it in popular culture. It’s been huge amongst the convention crowd for a long time, but Hollywood is slowly starting to take notice. Fox just gleenlit a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen TV-pilot, so we’ll see if we finally get a big steampunk series. There has yet to be a big steampunk movie and the panelists (and audience) were all interested in seeing one. Steampunk-literature is popping up all over the NY Times bestseller chart, so I think it’s only a matter of time before we see a big film coming out. Until then, we can keep ourselves occupied with all the fantastic literature and webseries that have directly explored the genre.
8) This year you cosplayed as Steampunk Luke Skywalker. What prompted you to do a gender-swap steampunk cosplay?
DK: Well, I have wanted to do a steampunk Star Wars group for several years and I finally managed to do it. I always intended to be R2D2, but time snuck up on me and we were missing a Luke from our core group, so I thought, why not? He was quite a challenge to find a way to make him distinctive since his outfit isn’t that unique and I was already going to confuse people by crossplaying. I hope that I succeeded and we’ll be building up this group for future conventions and adding some new characters.
Chrissy Lynn is a CA native who began costuming at a very young age. With a major interest in comics and scifi growing up she attended her first comic convention in 2004. She’s always had a passion for the arts; be it charcoal, make-up, costume design or music. She’s used her talents and skills to help fundraise for many non-profit charity organizations and enjoys cosplaying, especially her signature cosplay, Catwoman. Since her first Cosplay at Comicon in 2010 she’s been involved in 6 Cosplay groups, two of which she organized including the DC Steampunk group which debuted at SDCC in 2012. She was introduced to Steampunk in 2007, being a fan of HG Wells, Jules Verne and other scifi authors during the turn of the century she adopted the Victorian science fiction motif and made it apart of her daily style and Cosplay medium of choice. This year at San Diego Comicon she was invited by a good friend to join a Steampunk Star Wars group which turned out to be a hit and will be back at this year’s Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo.
1) Your DC Steampunk cosplay group is amazing! How did that come together?
Chrissy Lynn (CL): It all started with having a passion for both the DC Comics universe and Steampunk Culture. I simply started piecing together the idea shortly after Comicon 2011 and thats when I called upon my very good friend Johnny Bias (Steampunk Riddler), from there we reached out to our close friends who we knew would be interested,and could all work together to make these costumes cohesive and photograph well. We all have a hand in something on everyone’s costumes, it’s a team effort that has grown into a family, some cosplayers retire their character and are replaced with other awesome cosplayers. I couldn’t be more proud of this group, we all did this together.
2) Did you all work together on your costumes? If so, which costume did you find the most challenging to put together?
CL: We all came from different skill sets, some of us are tailors and seamstresses, leather workers and some of us are FX and prop fabricators, or geniuses with industrial glue guns. So far what characters you haven’t seen in the group yet are our most challenging. But I’d say, my occasional challenge is doing our Two Face’s makeup because he is unfortunately allergic to latex, so next time I may need to work with silicone!
3) If you had unlimited resources, what would be your ultimate steampunk cosplay (group or individual)?
CL: I’ve been in talks with several individuals who want to do Disney Steampunk, I was honored to recently be a part of this year’s Star Wars Steampunk group with Dina, and I have to say I’d stick with the DC group, only make it BIGGER. 😉 However I wouldn’t mind doing a Steampunk X-men group, just sayin’!
4) Any advice to anyone else trying to put together a cosplay group (steampunk or otherwise) for a convention?
CL: YouTube is filled to the brim on HOW-TO’s and DIY videos, if you are a visual learner check those out, otherwise do what we all have done, trial and error. If I knew 5 years ago what I know now with today’s skill set I would have made ALL the things, at least better. But like any other trade it can take years to master, you don’t always need a sewing machine or unlimited funds, I have a gift for deconstructing pre-existing materials into other objects to fit my cosplay needs. So I encourage everyone to try and remember cosplay is just that, it’s costume play, so play and have fun no matter what!
DC Steampunk Photos by Mike Rollerson
Star Wars Steampunk Photo by Jerry Abuan
Steampunk Malificent Photo by Justin Davidson
This past weekend marked the first year of GaymerX, previously Gaymercon: “the first LGBT gaming convention focused on the queer geek culture” (http://gaymerconnect.com/). The con took over Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco’s Japantown for the weekend. There were some great special guests as well as several really fun activities, including a room full of every kind of gaming console available for con-goers to play. Having recently come back from SDCC, I was still kind of in that mode. However, I was pleased to find out that I could just decide spontaneously to attend GaymerX and that I could register at the door. The full-schedule of panels was accessible to both the hardcore fans and the casually curious. The floor was populated with artists peddling their creations, giveaways and demos.
I had never been to a convention’s first year, and it was really interesting. The programming declared that the convention knew who it was, and the vibe was all welcoming community and excitement. The staff members and volunteers were impressively organized. If there were any snafus, I never noticed one. It was small, but I think that “intimate” is the more appropriate word. You’re not going to get the big Hollywood exclusives at a small con like GaymerX, but that’s not why it exists. It has a higher purpose: starting a dialogue and connecting members of a community. When I got back from SDCC, I stated that it was powerful to be around hundreds of thousands of people that I had at least one thing in common with. That feeling was amplified at GaymerX because despite, or perhaps because of its smaller population, the whole experience is tailored more specifically. In this case, it was tailored to queer gaming geeks and allies.
I was impressed at the intellectual level of the programming (http://gaymerconnect.com/
David Gaider spoke on navigating gender and sexuality in video game characters. Dragon Age 2 is notable for having every follower be a romance option for the player character regardless of gender and sexual orientation. Bioware is consciously expanding the world of video game heroes to more than just straight white men. Mr. Gaider discussed how some of those strides are still difficult, and some are surprisingly easy. With him at the “Meet Bioware” panel was Bioware community manager Jessica Merizan, who spoke about what Bioware is doing to create a more inclusive and welcoming gaming community. That Bioware is aware and doing anything at all to combat the vocal minority of ignorant haters on the internet is both hopeful and encouraging.
Having spent Saturday having meaningful conversation and amusing interactions, I am home now and incredibly inspired. I had only been aware of the Gaymer community, but now I feel a part of it. Not only do I want to find more niche conventions, but I look forward to attending GaymerX again next year. Hopefully it only gets bigger!
July 26-28, 2013 marked an awesome time for many Star Wars fans in Europe. It happened right in the center of Europe, in Germany’s Ruhr valley, in Essen, the European Cultural Capital of 2010. Fans from around the globe gathered to celebrate a unifying cultural and intergalactic phenomenon: Star Wars.
Three days after the con and I am still on adrenaline. Surely many convention attendees know this feeling, the mix of exhilaration and exhaustion that follows you around for days after an amazing con. I was lucky to be there as a fan, a stormtrooper and a crew volunteer. My ‘work’ started on Thursday: before any visitors had the chance to even see the exhibition halls, I was able to take a first look, and I was speechless, blown away, stunned. This was going to be awesome. Apart from loads of merchandise, the Celebration Stage, the Autograph hall, and other show and exhibition locations, there were many fan-built props and sets, like Jabba’s Palace, Vader’s TIE fighter, a part of the Millennium Falcon, a huge AT-AT, the Endor Bunker with a Speeder Biker to climb on, and the part of the Cantina where Han shot first (yes, I know). I spent my first day just walking around, gazing in awe at all the amazing things I was going to see.
I guess a lot of people, celebrities and exhibitors included, hadn’t had the slightest idea how much the people of Europe, and Germany in particular, love Star Wars. I helped with line management for the main stage and it was amazing to see the vastly different people who attended. We were an international team, and we had international, and probably intergalactic, visitors to deal with. I was glad to be able to communicate in various languages and happy that my still-not-fluent Klingon wasn’t needed.
Most Main Stage events were hosted by Warwick Davis, and I had the chance to see him preparing for the shows. A perfectionist, he is smart, witty and nice. His ‘assistant’ was an R4 unit built by Dan Sczudlik, one of the R2 Builders.
All the panels had a lot of spectators but there were of course some highlights. The first one was Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, who announced that legendary composer John Williams will return to score the highly-anticipated Star Wars: Episode VII.
Ian McDiarmid (Palpatine/The Emperor) was surprisingly funny on stage. During the panel, which was more of a talk show, Warwick Davis – aka Wicket – and McDiarmid re-enacted the fight between Yoda and Sidious. Guess who played Yoda! It was hilarious, and could have been entitled “Sidious vs. Yoda and the vicious swivel chair”. McDiarmid even mentioned that Seth Green wasn’t exaggerating when he staged the swivel chair scene in Robot Chicken. The panel ended with a lot of, perhaps evil, laughter.
Anthony Daniels was great too, as was Carrie Fisher. Dave Filoni, the Executive Producer of Star Wars Rebels, talked about the genesis of the upcoming animated series and a lot of young German fans loved to see him, though there was no interpreter helping those who got lost in translation. Overall, I don’t think there was any panel that wasn’t worth visiting.
My personal favorite panel was Mark Hamill’s, who took the stage on Sunday. He was very relaxed and talkative and his imitation of Harrison Ford was really funny. He told a lot of stories from behind the scenes and enjoyed the cheering crowd in the almost packed hall of nearly 7,700 superfans.
In the end though, the Celebration Stage was just one part of the whole Celebration experience and I must admit that even though it was great to see and meet the celebrity Star Wars heroes, my true heroes were to be found among the fans, fan groups, staff and crew – all the people who made this happen and put a lot of energy and time into this event. It was great to see the 501st Legion in attendance, with garrisons from various countries, and so many ‘bad guys doing good’. It was also fun to see all the cosplayers and the kids admiring them. It was awesome to be a part of such a great event and meeting many wonderful and awesome people from all over the world.
If you want to have a look at more of what CEII offered, go to the official webpage (http://www.starwarscelebration.eu/Home/) or check out #starwarscelebration on Twitter.
Hope to see you at Star Wars Celebration VII in Anaheim, CA in 2015.
May the Force be with you, always!
Petra B. Schubert
I just got back from the busy, insane, stressful, mind blowing, amazing, expensive anti-vacation that is San Diego Comic Con International and it was absolutely wonderful. Since coming back from my trip, a lot of people have asked me, “How was Comic Con?”. It’s almost impossible to answer that in short form. My initial response is usually either a one-worded “amazing” or “tiring”, but then throughout the day, I’ll supplement that with “Oh, I saw so-and-so. S/he was RIGHT NEXT TO ME OH MY GOD”. That’s kind of how it is: it all happens so fast and then you gradually process how awesome it was. In a week’s time you can turn to your friend and say something like, “remember that time we saw Spiderman and Deadpool talking smack about Superman’s costumes in the middle of the DC booth?” and then your friend will go, “Yeah,” and then with satisfied grins you will both kick off your shoes and enjoy a couple of cold ones.
There were panels and lines and celebrities. Panels full of celebrities and lines for the panels. Exclusive parties, impromptu parties, line parties, and booth parties. There were toys, games, cards, prints, t-shirts, and of course: costumes. There were plenty of polished costumes that clearly cost a lot of time and money. I have a thing for the costumes made of bed sheets and duct tape, the costumes that announce, “I don’t really art, but I just really love this character and I’m super excited to be here.” Walking around on the convention floor, I heard nothing but positive comments from con-goers to cosplayers. I love watching a cosplayer strike a pose when asked for a photo. That’s when the costume turns into a persona and it’s fascinating. I wanted to make it to the Masquerade this year, but like a lot of the plans I made prior to getting to SDCC this year, that fell through. Plans have a way of doing that at SDCC, but between backup plans and spur-of-the-moment adventures, fun has a way of happening anyway. I was thrilled to meet the well-known cosplayer Yaya Han (http://www.yayahan.com/), who was very friendly and gracious about signing prints and posing for photos. She was excited to talk about the upcoming SyFy series “Heroes of Cosplay” in which she is one of the judges. I got the chance to talk to reps from the Star Wars Rebel Legion (http://www.rebellegion.com/)
I’m still getting the hang of panels. This is my second SDCC, and my first year with a 4-day pass. It’s easy to get intimidated by the sheer volume of people and the ever-present long lines. It’s like Disneyland for nerds, but without the rides. Unless you count the shuttles from the convention center to the hotels. My friends and I put together the most intense, detailed, hour-by-hour spreadsheet of all the panels and events we were interested in doing. I think I actually got to maybe 10% of them. We didn’t factor in the travel time, which turns out is a factor even when the panels are on the same side of the convention center. We had this idea that we would get in the famed and feared Hall H line on Saturday at 3am to see the back-to-back Supernatural, Breaking Bad, Doctor Who, and Community panels. That idea seems more adorable than practical now. I talked to someone in the Hall H line who said they lined up for Sunday’s Hall H programs at 1:30pm on Saturday. I stumbled into a panel discussing the upcoming Ray Bradbury documentary “Live Forever.” The clips from the film and the crew’s experiences with Ray Bradbury were great to hear, and bonus: Edward James Olmos walked in right behind me and I totally played it cool. I saw the first US screening of an upcoming anime series called Star Blazers 2199. I am new to the world of anime, but this show was hitting all the right notes for me: spaceships, alien war, and apocalyptic science fiction. The Nerd HQ is a great alternative option for panels. Organized by Zachary Zevi (the star of Chuck), Nerd HQ sports a lounge full of game demos, couches, phone chargers, and an intimate 250 person panel space. I attended the “Mystery Panel” which included Zachary Levi, Rob Kazinsky (Pacific Rim), Nathan Fillion (Dracula 2000) and Alan Tudyk (A Knight’s Tale). This year’s lineup also boasted Joss Whedon, Doctor Who, Supernatural, Sherlock, and Tom Hiddleston among others. This year the “Conversations for a Cause” cost $22, all of which goes to help Operation Smile: a charity that provides surgeries to children suffering from cleft palates.
Celebrities are everywhere at Comic Con. Like, you really don’t need to worry about whether or not you’ll see anyone famous, because while you’re worrying about that, Nathan Fillion will make out with Zachary Levi and then hand him a $50 bill when you’re not looking (true story). I suppose there are varying degrees of “celebrity,” but I find it thrilling to see the people whose work I enjoy on a daily basis nerding out about the same things I do. I saw Steven Moffatt walking the exhibit hall floor and then I proceeded to flip out. Adam Savage is known to walk the exhibit hall floor in full costume, giving out prizes to those who guess his identity. Comic book and webcomic authors and artists were abound, signing prints and merch. I love seeing my favorite web artists booths get busy. It’s like, yeah, the big movie panels are pretty cool, but I just talked to Brandon Bird (http://brandonbird.com/) about his artistic process, so I win. At one point I looked to my left and I saw Edward James Olmos for a second time and still totally kept it together, by the way. Then, I walked around the Quantum Mechanix booth, looked again, and I saw John Barrowman. That’s when I totally lost it. Oh, the best thing that’s ever happened to me happened this weekend at Wil Wheaton’s w00tstock. I walked in expecting the usual lineup of Wil Wheaton, Adam Savage, and Paul and Storm with maybe some special guests thrown in because we were at SDCC. Honestly, I was expecting Felicia Day and that’s pretty much it. Well, Felicia didn’t turn up, but while I was waiting in line, George R.R. Martin passed directly in front of me, which caused me to simultaneously squeal and spurt things like “THAT’S THE GUY” and “THRONES” until my friends understood what I was talking about. Once the show started, this happened: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?
I’m already planning for next year. SDCC is a thing I simply have to go to now every year for the forseeable future. It’s like a condition. It’s why the convention gets bigger every year. Sure, the crowds can be a pain, but it’s an amazing feeling to be among literally hundreds of thousands of people who have at least one thing in common with me. It’s a rare thing for us nerds/geeks/whatevers to have an in-person community, and I think that’s a big part of the magic of the con. The rest of the magic comes from booze-filled Camelbacks. See you next year at SDCC!