Three representatives from Stack Exchange (Abby, Katey and myself (Brett)) traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina this past weekend to participate in HeroesCon. HeroesCon has a reputation for being one of the friendliest and most fun comic conventions in the United States. We were pleased to find out that the reputation was an understatement! The creators in attendance were all super psyched to be there and the floor was gently packed with enthusiastic and outgoing fans of all ages and fandoms. Even Saturday, usually the biggest day of any convention, managed to feel vibrant, crowded and alive without approaching the mosh-pit levels of closeness that the bigger conventions lean towards.
Stack Exchange’s adventure in Charlotte began on the Thursday night before the convention with a SciFi.SE-sponsored pre-party held at local comics shop, Spandex City. This event saw the debut of the now-infamous Stack Exchange Spinning Wheel. How infamous is it? I’ll be getting to that in a bit, but if you went to HeroesCon, odds are you saw (and probably spun) the wheel. While some of the store’s regulars enjoyed some righteous barbecue (from Charlotte’s own Lancaster’s BBQ), the Stack crew asked people questions from our site about their favorite science fiction and fantasy franchises. Game of Thrones? Harry Potter? Legend of Korra? Batman? Questions about all of these and many more were asked that night and throughout the weekend. An answer (note that we did not say right answer) allowed the participant to spin the wheel and win a prize. There was a healthy assortment of SciFi.SE bags, shirts and stickers there for all the winners; some lucky people even won 3-day passes to HeroesCon and comics. Spandex City was super generous with their time and space and we were incredibly thankful for that. The pre-party event went over well thanks to Spandex City’s great environment. If you’re in the Charlotte area, do yourself a favor and check them out! You can watch a video about the event here.
The big event itself started on Friday and lasted until Sunday. We expected that our table, located at the far end of the convention center floor on the edge of the artists’ space, would get some foot traffic. We really expected to spend the entire weekend shooting video content for our YouTube channel (StackHQ) with one person left behind to work the spinning wheel. That…didn’t exactly happen. Little did we know, but people love spinning wheels. And I don’t mean a passive love, I mean an all-consuming and incredibly active love. The kind of love that leads to repeat visits and waiting in long lines. Because we had long lines. For the better part of two days.
HeroesCon was our test run into exhibiting at a convention, so we didn’t quite prepare for the massive crowds we received. We had to ration our t-shirts and bags so as to not run out on Friday, although by Sunday all the t-shirts were gone. The same was true for the stock of comics we brought to give out alongside our stickers. Three trips had to be made to the show floor to find more comics for the prize wheel. Thankfully that wasn’t a big problem, although getting receipts from vendors at a comic convention proved more entertaining than I could have predicted. We did learn a few things from working the wheel nonstop for two days:
- People love spinning wheels (this cannot be reiterated enough)
- Regardless of the answer given, the spinning wheel is a fun introduction to our site that leads to many smiles and much swag
- Give away most of the bags and shirts on Friday so that people will be using them all weekend long; by Sunday we became known as the “bag people” because of the high number of our bags on the show floor
- It takes 3 people to man the booth; 2 to ask questions and 1 to wrangle the wheel’s line
- People care way more about trivia than swag, although swag is super awesome too; people came back multiple times JUST to be asked more questions
- Ask kids softball questions and be super awesome to them; they have parents attached to them who will probably like the site if the site’s representatives make their kids happy
- We need some banners: one that clearly states that the table is a SciFi.SE jam, and another that features a call to action about the spinning wheel (“Can you answer our questions?!” or something)
Since we didn’t get a chance to leave the table for the first two days of the con, we decided to shut down the spinning wheel and make video content our main priority for Sunday. My main goal with HeroesCon was to create video content that could live on the internet forever and reach a wider audience due to having informative content with creators that people care about. The success of the spinning wheel got a bit in the way of that, and led us to learn a few facts about creating video content at a convention:
- Try to bring enough people to a convention so that 2-3 can work the table and another 2-3 can hit the floor to get video content. If only 2-3 people can go to a con, set up a spinning wheel schedule so that all 3 days are relatively equal parts table-sitting and video production.
- Schedule interviews ahead of time! I had gotten permission from a few comic creators before the con to interview them, but the fluidity of our agreed-upon time led us to spinning a wheel for two days straight. Approaching all your people on Sunday? Not the best idea.
- Don’t bank on Sunday. Creators are tired by the last day of the con!
- Joe Quinones & Maris Wicks: In this interview, we asked the interviewees what their favorite sci-fi or fantasy property was and then centered the interview around discussing that question.
- Question in Conference Room B with Dean Trippe: This is pretty much the same as what we did with Maris and Joe, except with all of the fun dressings of our web series. Plus the more conversational nature of QiCRB allows the conversation to go in different places. This isn’t just a question-answer interview, it’s a discussion.
- Kelly Sue DeConnick: This is the main type of interview I want to do. I want to find the writers and ask them questions about the work they have created. Kelly Sue DeConnick is about to take over writing Ms. Marvel (now Captain Marvel), so who better to ask the one Ms. Marvel question on the site? Stack Exchange prides itself on getting expert-level answers, and in sci-fi and fantasy it doesn’t get more expert than the writers themselves.
By the end of the show we made a lot of new friends, came up with a lot of ideas to improve our future con presence, gave a few hundred people hands-on, in-depth experience with SciFi.SE, and created internet content that can be shared and enjoyed until the internet cracks in half. It was a lot of fun! For more photos from HeroesCon, visit the SciFi.SE Facebook page, or keep an eye on our Flickr.
Thanks to Dean Trippe, The Nerdy Show and Flame On! podcasts, Scott C., Kelly Sue DeConnick, Joe Quinones, Maris Wicks, Spandex City, Whitney Cogar and HeroesCon for a great weekend. See you next year!
The dust hasn’t settled on Marvel’s Avengers vs. X-Men mini-series just yet (in fact, it’s just now getting kicked up; #2 came out on Wednesday), but the rumble hosted on Stack Exchange has come to a decisive end. After two weeks of competition, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange has declared the X-Men the winner of the AvX Stack Showdown. Now take it easy, Avengers fans; we’re not saying that Colossus could best the Hulk or that Cyclops is a better tactician than Captain America. The X-Men defeated the Avengers in a basic numbers game; the questions asked on our site in the past two weeks with the tag “x-men” simply got more views than those tagged “avengers.”
The Avengers were off to a strong start initially, with questions like Is Thor the only Avenger that can’t die? getting attention from many users. But once the X-Men pulled ahead in the number of questions asked, there was no stopping them. More questions asked meant more views total, and with questions generating thousands of views on their own, the X-Men had no problem taking and keeping the lead. In the end, the X-Men trounced the Avengers in page views, coming in with 15,642 compared to the Avengers’ 5,315.
Users old and new created a lot of great content about these two teams, but only a few exemplary questions and answers can be awarded with prizes. They are:
- Top X-Men Question: DavRob60 for “How to kill Wolverine?” (score: 23)
- Top Avengers Question: Bridget Fitzgerald for “Is Thor the only Avenger that can’t die?” (score: 25)
- Top X-Men Answer: Ian Pugsley for the answer to “How to kill Wolverine?” (score: 21)
- Top Avengers Answer: Thaddeus Howze for the answer to “Is Thor the only Avenger that can’t die?” (score: 37)
And since the X-Men emerged as the victor, one user was drawn randomly from the pool of everyone who participated in that tag, and will be rewarded with their choice of one of three grand prizes.
- Grand Prize Winner: chcuk
Thanks to everyone who participated in the event. Marvel Comics’ Avengers vs. X-Men is in stores both physical and digital now. It’s an event years in the making and the comic book event of the summer. You cannot miss it! You can also check out all of the AvX videos we made for the event. They’re timeless classics. Just because our event is over doesn’t mean you should stop reading the series and asking questions. The battle still continues!
If you’ve taken a gander at the Sci-Fi & Fantasy site today, odds are you’ve noticed a lot of questions about the Avengers or X-Men. Why is that? Well, it’s because the site is in the throes of its first big event!
This event is closely modeled on the Skyrim vs. MW3 event that Gaming held last Fall, but modified for maximized, ultimate comic book goodness. Thanks to designer Jin Yang, developer Emmett Nicholas for getting the site up, and Tim Dillon and Ryan Penagos from Marvel for providing us with awesome art.
The event was inspired by Marvel Comics’ own Avengers vs. X-Men event, which just launched today. Avengers vs. X-Men is a 12 issue mini-series, coming out biweekly, pitting two of Marvel’s premier superteams in battle over an Earth-changing event. With the biggest names in comics on the creative team, this is shaping up to be 2012′s big blockbuster for comics. Be sure to check out the event by hopping by your local comic book shop, or checking out the issue on the Marvel App or at ComiXology.
So how does this translate to the Sci-Fi & Fantasy Stack Exchange site? Glad you asked that, me. We’re putting our Avengers questions against our X-Men questions, in a battle for views! Fans are encouraged to ask the questions that have been burning up inside them ever since they first held a comic, and then share that question so they can both get an awesome answer, and ALSO ensure that their side (Avengers or X-Men) gets the views they need to pull ahead. So far today, the X-Men’s early lead has given way to the Avengers, who are now winning. Come on, X-Men!
What kind of questions are welcome? You are really full of questions, me, but I’ll answer them. Any questions about anything X-Men or Avengers are welcome. All of the activity is being measured through the use of tags, so as long as your question falls within the scope of the Avengers or X-Men tag, it’s fair game! So far today, some of the leading questions are:
- Is Thor the only Avenger that can’t die?
- Why doesn’t Cyclops’ optic blast subject him to recoil?
- How did Captain America survive freezing?
- Is Wolverine an alcoholic?
- Why is the Hulk’s skin green?
- Did Nightcrawler ever get to be a priest?
Like those questions? Upvote and share them! Have a better answer? Post it! Get involved because there are prizes to be won.
Oh, did I forget to mention prizes?
At the end of the contest’s run (April 19th, specifics here), the winning side will be chosen and one lucky participant from that side will win our grand prize! On top of that, the users that have the top question and answer for both sides will win prizes. Lots to win!
So what are you waiting for? Avengers assemble! X-Men…x-trapolate? X-travaganza? The X-Men don’t have a rallying cry, but rally X-Men fans, rally! For more info on the contest, please check out the official rules and prizes page, as well as the Meta post!
Stack Exchange is giving away 2 Blu-Ray sets and 3 DVD sets of Game of Thrones: Season 1. Huzzah! They say that in Game of Thrones, right? Of course they do. Here’s what you have to do to enter the giveaway:
- Find your favorite Game of Thrones question at SciFi.SE and share it using the site’s handy sharing tools (see right). And if you get inspired to ask your own Game of Thrones question, do it! And share it! When you share a question, make sure to…
- Use the hashtag #SEthronesDVD or #SEthronesBlu, depending on whether or not you want to be eligible to receive a Blu-Ray or DVD of Game of Thrones: Season 1. Only questions shared via Twitter with either the hashtag #SEthronesDVD or #SEthronesBlu are valid entries into the giveaway. You may tweet as many questions as you like; each tweet acts as an entry to the contest BUT only 1 set will be awarded per user.
- The names of 2 people using the hashtag #SEthronesBlu, and 3 people using the hashtag #SEthronesDVD will be drawn at random. So yes, the more questions you tweet the higher your chances, but you cannot win more than 1 set.
- The winners will be notified via StackHQ and will have to provide a mailing address via direct message that we can send the set to. Winners will have 48 hours from being contacted to provide a mailing address before a new winner is drawn.
The deadline for entry is Wednesday, March 14th at 3:00 PM EST.
Also, due to the regional limitations of the sets as well as shipping costs, only applicants in the United States are eligible.
And that’s it! We hope everyone has fun checking out the awesome Game of Thrones content on SciFi.SE and tweeting their questions. Just make sure you aren’t spamming your followers with a bunch of questions (ultimately, you know what your followers want; operate under the “be cool about it” rule).
Stack Exchange is only responsible for the sets and are not providing Blu-Ray players or DVD players along with the sets.
UPDATE: The contest has concluded and winners have been announced via @StackHQ. Thanks to all who participated, and be sure to ask questions about Game of Thrones here on SciFi.SE when season 2 starts up in April!
A hurricane of nerdery made landfall in New York City from October 14th to 16th, and Stack Exchange was in the thick of it. For readers who have not experienced the pop culture colossus that is New York City Comic Con, I’ll do my best to explain it. The con (colloquially referred to as NYCC) is where the past (yesterday’s coolest trinkets and treasures), present (big celebrities, writers and artists) and future (upcoming films, games and TV shows preview here) of a mess of genres and mediums (sci-fi, fantasy, horror and action comic books, novels, television shows, films and video games among other things) come together in a huge building to entertain over 100,000 people. It’s big, crowded and full of enough people in costume to populate a hundred Party Cities. Stack Exchange’s CHAOS team (which, full disclosure, I am a part of) made New York Comic Con its first foray into the epic world of comic conventions. And we came prepared.
Bubbles, the Stack Exchange mascot, has been spotted in the wild before (most notably on the video feed of a Stack Exchange podcast or two), but she made her big debut alongside thousands of people dressed as their favorite sci-fi/gaming/anime characters (and at least a hundred Matt Smith Doctors). For more about Bubbles big outing, and to see the awesome swag created just for New York Comic Con, check out this Blog Overflow post.
We were there on behalf of Stack Exchange in general, and the Gaming and Science Fiction & Fantasy sites in particular. Attendees who ran across some of the Stack Exchange agents received swag, some of which were exclusive to the con. Yep, the Sci-Fi site (currently still in Beta and sans design) debuted a design (possibly the design) at the con on two pieces of merch: a sticker and a t-shirt. These items were limited to the convention (note how they say “NYCC-SE-2011″ on them, which stands for New York Comic Con – Stack Exchange) and are now totally gone. Limited editions are the best editions!
Overall we had a blast at the con and were successful in spreading the good word of the Stack. Our involvement in New York Comic Con was a test run for the future. We hope to go to as many gaming and sci-fi cons as we can, mostly because Bubbles loves to travel (even though we have to buy her three airplane seats) and also because I have to complete my run of Uncanny X-Men somehow.
Creating comic books is hard work. No, not Deadliest Catch-level hard, but still no easy task. And the end product of said hard work (a comic book) is even more fulfilling than Alaskan king crab. Before this metaphor gets out of control (Davy Jones’ Locker! Starboard bow! Stop me!), let’s dive into (that one was purely accidental) an interview I conducted with Jim Gibbons, an Assistant Editor at Dark Horse Comics. Dark Horse publishes great comics every month, including Star Wars, Hellboy and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Below, Jim tells us a what it takes to make comics a reality and also gives us a glimpse into the projects he’s working on. Read on, landlubbers! And that’s the end of the water-metaphors, I swear.
Can you tell me about what you do as an Assistant Editor? What’s an average day like?
JIM GIBBONS: My responsibilities are divided into two types of work: managerial-style paper work and creative work. The “paper work” side of being an assistant editor is in no way glamorous, but it’s a necessary part of the process. A lot of this work is essential for taking the beautiful artwork and clever scripts our creators provide us with and making them into actual comic books. Pick any part of a comic that seems extraneous to readers and that’s a task an assistant editor will often tackle. I reformat scripts so the letterer knows exactly who says what and when. I compile letters for letter columns. I write work orders for our design department with instructions on what’s needed to create our inside front covers, cover designs, and logos, which include items like the proper names for the credits and the “last issue” text. I also help lay out bookmaps for our comics, which maps which pages fall where and where ads go. All of this, of course, needs final approval from the book’s head editor, who also assigns me these jobs. Just to clarify, I call this the non-glamorous part and I call it grunt work, but I’m not complaining. Every job requires a bit of grunt work and, at the end of the day, my grunt work is part of making comics for a living. It’s much, much better than filling out TPS reports a la Office Space. Much, much better.
As a detail nerd, I have to say that the “paper work” side of your job fascinates me almost as much as the creative side. It still sounds a lot more interesting than average office work.
Oh yeah, paper work that leads to the existence comic books is far preferable to your average, everyday office job’s monotony. And yet, it’s paper work all the same. You might have the world’s best-looking male pattern baldness (The Picard, let’s call it.), but you’re still bald, ya know?
The creative side of the job is the really fun part. This aspect of the gig includes everything from brainstorming artists and writers we want to hire for particular projects, providing notes on scripts, looking over art and making sure it jibes with the story and script, helping provide notes to our writers and artists, coming up with cover art concepts, and much, much more. Much like the grunt work, all of this work must go through my head editor for final approval, but this is the part where I actually get a chance to provide a few creative nuggets that—hopefully—end up improving the final product. These can be anything from little suggestions that might be incorporated into the work and make me go, “Holy shit! That’s my tiny suggested tweak in the corner of that cover!” It’s a lot of fact checking, as well. “That character should be wearing red. The source material says her hair is blonde.” Sometimes it’s bigger stuff than that, but in the end, I’m a pretty small cog in the big machine that puts together the comic books that readers eventually see on shelves.
Thankfully, I’m fortunate enough to be working on some pretty big upcoming books with very collaborative editors that not only allow the low man on the totem pole (me!) to chime in incessantly, but they also listen to what I have to say. That doesn’t mean they think every suggestion I make is a good one, of course, but that’s part of the fun of working for smart people with a lot of experience—you learn a lot! I consider myself very lucky to be working on comics with editors Sierra Hahn (Angel & Faith, Green River Killer) and, from time to time, Scott Allie (Hellboy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer). They’ve both been kind enough to make me a big part of the books I am currently working on, specifically Ms. Hahn, who I work with on the vast majority of my current work load. The two of them shepherded me into the editorial department from my old job in the publicity department and they have spent a lot of time teaching me the ropes. I owe them a lot when it comes to getting to work day in and day out on something I love: Comics!
Comic book gigs don’t seem to come along often, especially in this economic climate. How did you luck out and what led to your to working at Dark Horse?
In 2009, I got let go from my job as an associate editor for Wizard magazine. It turned out to be some very fortuitously timed bad news, as it happened just a few days before an open PR position at Dark Horse stopped accepting applications. Josh Wigler, current MTV Movies Blog and MTV Splash Page editor extraordinaire, very good friend, and former Wizard co-worker, was actually the guy who alerted me about the opening. I essentially owe him a beer every time I see him for that! I sent in my resume and crossed my fingers. Thankfully, as anyone getting let go from Wizard was kind of newsworthy back in 2009, a lot of people knew I was looking for a new job and a bunch of amazing folks, including DC‘s Brian Cunningham and Archaia‘s Mel Caylo to name a few, got in touch with Dark Horse’s Director of Public Relations, Jeremy Atkins, and put in a good word for me. Having just written a “Book of the Month” feature in Wizard about how much I loved Dark Horse’s Conan the Cimmerian didn’t hurt either, I’m sure. Anywho, a few weeks and a few phone interviews later, Jeremy called up to offer me the job of Publicity Coordinator. I packed up all my stuff in a U-Haul, drove from Jersey to Portland, and began working at DH.
How did you transition out of the publicity department and into editorial?
At a certain point, six to eight months in or so, Señor Atkins and a few other folks I was working with regularly in PR, specifically Scott Allie, took notice of my passion for comics and asked if I had any interest in moving over to the editorial department at some point. I was floored. I’d wanted to work on comics, not just around comics, since college, but figured I’d need to pay my dues for a long time before the possibility arose. I, of course, told them I’d be very interested and basically got a “That’s what we thought. Great! Sit tight and we’ll see what happens.” There wasn’t a place in editorial for me at the time, nor was there someone to take my place in PR, but it was rad to know some people had taken notice of my hard work and my passion for Dark Horse and basically approached me about my dream job.
I worked in the PR department for about another year, small conversations about transitioning me over to editorial happening here and there, the ball slowly continuing to roll, and at a certain point the stars aligned. Sierra Hahn, who works closely with Scott Allie and co-edits Buffy and Angel & Faith with him, was adding a number of big new projects to her already hefty workload and needed someone to help with that. Thankfully, they chose me to be that guy and brought me over to the editorial department! So, to be working as an assistant editor at Dark Horse Comics at age 27… yeah, it’s a thrill!
Can you tell me a little about the books you are currently working on: Orchid, The Strain and House of Night?
Orchid is a full-on science-fiction/fantasy epic. It takes place in a dystopian future where corporate greed has ravaged the world so completely that Mother Earth has essentially hit the reset button. Human outposts and cities are surrounded by a dangerous wild full of beastly mutated creatures. These creatures cannot be domesticated, so slavery been reinstituted as the major means with which the wealthy further their agendas. As Orchid creator Tom Morello (Best known for his musical career in some small indie outfits called Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave—Maybe you’ve heard of them?—and more recently The Nightwatchman.) puts it, it’s not a tale of the “haves” and the “have nots,” it’s a story about the “have everythings” and the “have nothings.” Orchid is Morello’s brainchild, and Tom’s—who’s been an activist for years and years—really brought an interesting take to the dystopian future story. This is oversimplifying it, but it’s kind of a class warfare-informed take on fantasy/sci-fi action sagas like Lord of the Rings and Star Wars.
The story begins with Orchid, a tough young prostitute with an overabundance of street smarts, and Simon, a socially awkward genius and former slave who’s the resident wisecrack artist for a small revolutionary force known as the Shadow Rebels. Circumstance throws them together and their combined resourcefulness keeps them alive until, well… you’ll have to read the book to find out, but it’s going to be fun. That’s a guarantee! Artist Scott Hepburn has worked closely with Tom to develop a very interesting visual world for this book, as well. Hepburn has put a lot of effort into giving this book a very distinct look and lots of personality. He adds plenty of artistic flair to some really compelling action sequences. Orchid is, quite simply, the complete package. It’s out in October and will run for 12 issues when all’s said and done.
The Strain is more of a classic horror comic. We’re adapting Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan‘s trilogy of vampire novels beginning with—logically—the first book: The Strain. David Lapham (Silverfish, Stray Bullets, Young Liars) will be scripting the series with art by Mike Huddleston (Butcher Baker, The Coffin), and these guys are really knocking it out of the park. If you’ve ever seen a candid interview or Comic-Con panel with Guillermo del Toro, you’ll know that when he likes something, he excitedly and enthusiastically uses a great deal of profanity to show his approval. If you could read his emails after seeing David and Mike’s work, you’d see a similar stream of caps-locked and extremely excited f-bomb-heavy compliments. Head Strain editor Sierra Hahn and I just end up cheerfully high-fiving every time we hear from Guillermo! It’s been great! He’s excited! We’re excited. You should be excited, too!
I know Guillermo described The Strain as CSI with vampires when they marketed the novel, but I like to describe it in nerdier terms as Fringe meets the first two Blade movies. It’s an action-packed, science-filled, and very realistic (as much as so as you can be with blood-sucking fictional beasts) take on vampirism as an epidemic. The main protagonist, Dr Ephraim Goodweather, works for an elite team at the Center for Disease Control, so it’s a very logic-driven take on how to deal with these monsters. And it’s not just burly bad asses staking vamps, it’s survival horror that you can apply to the real world starring real people not action heroes. Add Lapham’s amazing pacing and storytelling to this horror book, plus Huddleston’s brilliant take on del Toro-style beasties and it’s a “retelling” that offers an entirely different experience to the novels. If you’ve never read a horror comic or vampire story, I think the grounded nature of this book makes the entire premise easy to latch on to and enjoy. And if you’ve read every vampire book under the sun, or rather hidden from it, you’ll see and appreciate a lot of brilliant twists on classic vampire lore. It’s out in December and will be followed up by adaptations of the next two novels, The Fall and The Night Eternal.
House of Night is an entirely different type of comic from the other two. Based on P.C. and Kristin Cast’s best-selling series of novels, House of Night focuses on a group of teens going through the change from humans to full-blown vampyres (spelled with a “y” in this series) as they learn about the challenges facing modern day vampyres via historical tales about famous historical bloodsuckers. The House of Night is a vampyre boarding school, so describing it as Harry Potter meets Twilight is the easy description. As a comic fan, I definitely thought of it as the Xavier Institute meets Gossip Girl with some bloodsucking on the side! Sexy vampyres, magic, and period piece historical action? What’s not to love?!
The series is written by Cast-approved script writer Kent Dalian and each issue is split into two parts: The first focuses on a narrative starring protagonist Zoey Redbird and her friends, and the other part revolves around short stories starring vampyres from the past like Cleopatra and Circe. Joelle Jones (Troublemaker, Spell Checkers) tackles the present day stuff and we’ll have rotating guest artists on the historical narratives, beginning with Karl Kerschl (The Abominable Charles Christopher) and then Joshua Covey and others. The fun part about this book is that it’s one of the first visual interpretations of this expansive fictional universe, one that has millions of pre-existing fans. We asked fans to write us some letters to use for issue #1’s letter column and have been overwhelmed by the response. So far, PC and Kent are thrilled and the fan letters have raved about Jenny Frison’s beautiful covers for the series, so I think we’re on the right track. This art is eye-bogglingly, knock-your-socks-off good. It’s one great-lookin’ comic! It premieres in November, by the way, and runs for five issues.
Since you frequently work with writers and artists, what advice can you give creative types hoping to create sci-fi and fantasy for a living?
- Practice! Learning by doing is key, so keep on exercising your “do” muscles! If you ever think you have nothing else to learn about whatever creative outlet you’re pursuing, whether it’s writing, drawing, sculpting, you should quit now.
- You have to learn how to/be ready to take criticism and accept suggestions. In fact, seek those out! I don’t think there’s much room for people in commercially creative industries who are overly precious with their ideas, especially when they’re trying to break in to those industries. If you have a good idea and some talent and you can present those two things properly and get them in front of the right people, chances are good things will happen at some point. But part of that process is being flexible in the early-going. Find some smart people you trust and show them your work. Get feedback and improve. Then try and get some professional advice. Take that, apply it to your work, and improve. And if you get a job in the creative field you’re shooting for, you’ve essentially just earned your best learning experience to date. Don’t shut down those critique receptors! Keep absorbing all that feedback, learning from it, and improving!
- Do the work! If you can put together a great 8-page short story and get an editor’s eyes on it, you’re likely not going to have that story picked up as the next Walking Dead, but you may just have an editor say, “I like it. Show me more!” It seems to me that a lot of people think, “This is the next big thing! If only I could get the right person to see it!” Maybe, from seldom time to even rarer time, that is the case. But, if you look at the folks who have “made it,” their first work usually isn’t their best. The real talented folks don’t skip the first few rungs of the ladder, they gain every bit of experience they can from each of those rungs. I’m not saying, “go pay an artist $5,000 bucks to draw your resume comic because that’s how you prove your genius idea is genius,” I’m just saying—if you’ll allow me an analogy here—you don’t become a pro basketball player without playing a lot of basketball, so don’t expect to become a professional creator of any sort without doing a lot of writing, drawing, creating. It’s not a lottery. It’s not dumb luck. It’s work. Do the work.
What are some of your favorite sci-fi and fantasy stories?
That’s a tough question, man! Growing up, I was an insanely devoted Star Wars fan. I think that’s where my career as a sci-fi nerd began, as it did for many of us, I’m sure! In recent years, my sci-fi fandom has been more focused on Doctor Who and—thanks to Netflix—Star Trek. Fringe is, of course, a more recent favorite, as well. I’m a massive fan of the Buffy, Angel, and Firefly/Serenity TV series as well as the comics. As a Midwesterner with a brother, I have a soft spot and severe appreciation for, as well as an odd kinship to, Supernatural. When it comes to fantasy, Robert E. Howard’s Conan and Kull, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy are all among my favorites. Certainly, Orchid, House of Night, and The Strain should be added to the mix…wink, wink, nudge, nudge…
And, while I’m on the subject of shameless plugging, I’ll be assisting on The Massive by Brian Wood and Kristian Donaldson, which will come out in Dark Horse Presents #8, #9, and #10. It’s awesome, and that’s all you need to know right now. Make a note. Come 2012, pick it up!
If you had to recommend one comic book to science-fiction and fantasy fans, what would it be?
I’d chose Mike Mignola and John Arcudi’s B.P.R.D. Spinning out of Hellboy and following Abe Sapien, Liz Sherman, Johann Kraus, and the rest of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, B.P.R.D. is straight-up my favorite comic. It’s got fantasy, sci-fi, mythology, politics, monsters, horror… it’s the whole shebang. Everyone should read it. ‘Nuff said!
Stack Exchange is giving away 10 3-day passes to New York Comic Con. This is exciting! You’re excited, right? That’s what I thought. Here’s what you have to do to enter the giveaway:
- Follow the @StackHQ Twitter account. Only followers of this Twitter account are eligible.
Find your favorite question at the Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange and share it using the site’s handy dandy sharing tools (see right). Be it Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, DC Comics, Harry Potter or Transformers, if it’s Sci Fi or Fantasy, we probably have it. If we don’t, ask it! When you share your question, make sure to…
Use the hashtag #nyccse. Only questions shared by @StackHQ followers via Twitter with the hashtag #nyccse are valid entries into the giveaway. You may tweet as many questions as you like; each tweet acts as an entry to the contest BUT only 1 3-day pass will be awarded per user.
The names of 10 people will be drawn at random. So yes, the more questions you tweet the higher your chances, but you cannot win more than 1 3-day pass.
The winners will be notified via Direct Message and will have to provide a mailing address that we can send the 3-day pass to.
The deadline for entry is Wednesday, October 5th at 3:00 PM EST/19:00 UTC.
Also, only enter if you are 100% able to go to New York Comic Con. We want to make sure that the passes go to people that are excited to take in the spectacular spectacle that is NYCC.
And that’s it! New York Comic Con is an awesome experience and we hope everyone has fun tweeting their questions. Just make sure you aren’t spamming your followers with a bunch of the same question (ultimately, you know what your followers want, just operate under the “be cool about it” rule).
Stack Exchange is only responsible for the 3-day passes. The winners must provide their own transportation and lodging arrangements because, again, you are only getting a 3-day pass to New York Comic Con out of this.
A story broke last week that spread across the internet, shocking everyone that read it. As STL Today reported, Mike Meyer, who has been on Social Security for a mental disability for over half of his life, was robbed of his nearly all of his enormous collection of Superman memorabilia. Six decades worth of comic books and items ranging from old-time radio and a television bearing Superman’s likeness, were all stolen by a former co-worker of Mike’s. After this news broke, it traveled faster than a locomotive to comic book news sites, among them Comic Book Resources and Comics Alliance, where the outreach to help Meyer replace his stolen collection has been truly heroic.
After Stack Exchange’s CHAOS team was made aware of the “replace-the-collection” campaign, we decided to act. Thor Parker, Midtown Comics’ Marketing and Events Coordinator, directed me to this post on the Midtown Comics blog which contains an address where replacement Superman items can be sent. Midtown themselves have been champions of this cause, donating some choice Superman items to Mike (including a copy of Justice League #1 signed by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee at a recent Midtown Comics event). Inspired by their act of generosity, the Stack Exchange CHAOS team took a field trip to Midtown Comics.
The store always has exciting sales going on, and this unofficial company trip was in the middle of a 40% off back issues sale. To the back issue bins! We picked out a healthy stack of Action Comics and Superman back issues as well as current Superman adventures published monthly by DC Comics. CHAOS agents Katey and Aarthi picked out some cool items (wall decorations, hats and magnets!), but we all had our eye on one thing…statues.
I’ve never bought a statue at Midtown comics, but the Superman vs. Bizarro Ultimate Showdown statue was crazy tempting. We had to get it. The Midtown employees were more than happy to track the statue down and even took it out of the box to let me inspect it. They were incredibly friendly and knowledgeable and have probably convinced me that I need to buy a lot more statues for myself.
After finalizing our Superman swag, we checked out, returned to the Stack HQ and shipped the items off to Mike. Stack Exchange was very excited to be able to help out a person in need, and is very thankful to Midtown Comics for making us aware of this initiative, having a great selection of items, and generally being a great store.
UPDATE: Comic Book Resources reported over the weekend that Mike’s collection has been recovered and the criminal caught. A truly happy ending to this tale!
All comic books are tights and fights. That seems to be the immediate assumption people make when they think about the medium. To be fair, the artform’s biggest celebrities (Superman, Spider-Man, Batman) all wear spandex while purposefully throwing their fists into faces. And when a movie not based on superhero comics is released, there always seems to be a level of shock or surprise when the film’s secret origin is revealed (usually the question “Ghost World/Redemption Road/From Hell was a comic?” followed by a brain cave-in). The truth is, comic books are a means of expressing a story and are not confined to the superhero genre. So to those of you reading this who snicker at trailers for films starring grown men wearing bodysuits made of an incomprehensible mix of spandex, leather and rubber, I give you…Y: The Last Man.
The series takes place in the aftermath of a mysterious plague that kills everything with a Y chromosome…except 22-year old amateur escape artist Yorick Brown and his male Capuchin helper monkey, Ampersand. Yes, post-apocalyptic settings and population-destroying plagues are nothing new to science fiction, but that doesn’t mean that Y: The Last Man lacks originality. The complexity of the characters and their continued growth as well as recurring themes and an intricate narrative make this a completely thrilling read. The voice of this series, which mixes political thriller elements with irreverent humor (via Yorick), is so unique that it makes you forget that you have previously read similar tales.
Throughout its 60 issues, writer Brian K. Vaughan weaves a narrative that hops around the globe as much as it does the story’s own timeline. Events unfold chronologically for the most part, but Vaughan intercuts the expertly paced plot with Rashomon-style point-of-view shifts that show you where the different characters were when the plague hit. This nonlinear approach is key to maintaining suspense as the protagonists slowly start to uncover clues about what caused the plague and Yorick and Ampersand’s immunity.
Gender politics probably top the list of Things That Will Never Be Discussed In Comics for many science fiction fans, but Y: The Last Man tackles issues head on. Vaughan uses the setting of a world populated almost exclusively by X chromosomes to make gender equality, sexuality, feminism and women’s historical importance seamless parts of the story. None of these Very Special Topics, which could easily feel lecture-y, feel out of place thanks to Vaughan’s thought-out approach. It’s also of note that the series features a remarkably strong cast of women, all of whom fight off the stereotype that many of the big-buxomed and scantily clad super heroines perpetuate. A few of these women are:
- Agent 355, who is Yorick’s bodyguard on his continent-spanning journey and a member of a mysterious government agency whose origin dates back to the Revolutionary War
- Dr. Allison Mann, an expert geneticist whose recent breakthroughs in human cloning prove to be important in a world with no men
- Hero Brown, Yorick’s older sister and former paramedic
While the global ramifications caused by the death of every male are interesting in their own right, action fans need not fret. The mix of drama and explosions, chases, espionage and intrigue will satisfy anyone who enjoys shows like “Lost” or “Battlestar Galactica.” The world of Y: The Last Man is dangerous and the series truly pulls no punches.You will root for characters who are constantly in peril. Be prepared.
Everything I’ve written so far pertains to the writing, which would be worthless if it wasn’t being illustrated by a true top-notch talent able to convey subtle emotions and complex action sequences. Series co-creator Pia Guerra is just that; she’s top-notch. Her art isn’t overly flashy or stylized. Her people look and move like proportional people. But as a series that is set on portraying what would really happen in the event of a gendercide, Guerra’s art is perfect. It sells the elements that might push probability by portraying them in a grounded fashion, and also makes the intensity of the story hit that much harder because of how familiar it all feels. Her art is so essential to the story that the handful of substitute artists the series employed match up fairly seamlessly with Guerra’s artistic vision.
If you are a fan of science fiction but have yet to take the dive into comic books, then Y: The Last Man is the comic your diving board. It’s an excellent example of the artistic heights that the medium can achieve, as well as a phenomenal serialized story that, in my opinion, nails the landing. Don’t believe me? Check it out. I just finished this series a few days ago and I’m dying to talk to someone about it.