Thursday, March 30, 2017


For years when the knowledge of my geekery and love of comic books come up I will inevitably be asked who my favourite super hero is. And for years I downplayed it because I thought I really didn't have one. I follow creators these days. So if Warren Ellis, Greg Rucka or Ed Brubaker is writing it, odds are I'm going to buy it.

And yet a quick glance at my bookshelf shows I seem to have an awful lot of Batgirl graphic novels (14) by a lot of different creators. Also, as I seem to currently own 9 Batgirl toys/figurines and several pieces of original art. So yeah, if I had to pick one, I think I'd pick Batgirl.
A painting of Batgirl by Mike Maihack
that I bought.

Why her over, say, Batman? Because he's been such an unrelenting grim character for so long. Batgirl at least has moments of joy. I just like the compassion in the character. Batman can occasionally feel like a very masochistic read. I haven't felt that way very often reading Batgirl.

So that why when news broke over geek sites that there was going to be a Batgirl movie being written, directed and produced by Joss freakin' Whedon I was pretty damn happy about that. One of my favourite creators on one of my favourite characters. Sign me up.

It's always interesting to watch the reaction to this kind of news as it shakes out. With all the Buffy 20th anniversary stories in the media lately, Joss has certainly seen a bump in his profile and there's huge swaths of affection for him. Honestly, after the first Avengers movie I'll forgive him a wide variety of cinematic sins. I like Avengers: Age of Ultron a lot more than others. It's not perfect, but it's still pretty good.

On the other side are some that take exception to Joss's feminism (they really don't like the Black Widow story in Age of Ultron, which I can understand) and their wish that a woman either direct or write the movie.

And I can understand that, although I'm getting to the point where I'd just like to see more not white guys directing any super hero/sci fi/fantasy movie they want. Sure it'd be nice to have a woman direct Batgirl, but if it means that Kathryn Bigelow directs the next Captain America movie (we should be so lucky) or Rachel Talalay wants to do Justice League Dark, bring it on. We slowly have to start moving beyond women only being able to direct female lead super hero movies and just having more of them direct, period.

If that starts to happen, then I think you can forgive Whedon for moving all the levers on a Batgirl movie.

No, my concern comes from reports that the movie will draw inspiration from Gail Simone's "New 52" version of the character. Understand, I love her writing. I got to meet her in Seattle, get a bunch of books signed and babbled for several minutes how much I not only enjoy her writing, but what I learn from her online presence, where she's one of the most open and positive people you could hope for, but also has a zero tolerance for assholes.

Having said that, it's not some of her best writing. I think she was pretty hamstrung at the time. She had an editor that wanted to keep the darker, more trouble Barbara Gordon, who was suffering PTSD after being crippled/sexually assaulted by the Joker (the controversial and, in my opinion, the badly aging The Killing Joke book) when Simone was ready to move on to more positive and upbeat stories.

Also, I think she struggled a bit with people who simply didn't want Barbara Gordon back as Batgirl. They wanted her Oracle, another popular character who was an inspiration to a lot of disabled people. She was essentially wiped away when DC did their disastrous "New 52" reboot.

So we'll see. The news is about 12 hours old. It could all still fall apart. DC/Warner is throwing everything and the kitchen sink out there with super heroes, hoping some movie will hit (God help us all, but Zach Snyder's Justice League trailer looked dreary and it's apparently three hours long). And I can't see Whedon going for Zach Snyder's vision of things. But dare to dream.

In case you were wondering what some Batgirl books are good for catching up on, try these:

Gail Simone's run
Vol. 1 - The Darkest Reflection
Vol. 2 - Knightfall Descends
Vol. 3 - Death of the Family
Vol. 4 - Wanted
Vol. 5 - Deadline

After Simone left, began the Batgirl of Burnside run, featuring a slightly more fun loving Barbara Gordon. It also featured a costume redesign that is beloved by cosplayers everywhere. By Cameron Steward, Brenden Fletcher and Babs Tarr
Vol. 1 -  Batgirl of Burnside
Vol. 2 - Family Business
Vol. 3 - Mindfields

Before Barbara Gordon came back, Batgirl was a character called Stephanie Brown. The run, written by Brian Q. Miller, is one of my favourites of any super hero series this century. It is staggeringly good fun and died well before its time. The original trades are hard to find, but they're reprinting the series this summer. No kidding, the issue where she teams up with Supergirl to fight holographic Draculas (yes, plural) is why you make super hero comics.

Batgirl: Stephanie Brown - Vol. 1

And prior to Stephanie Brown, there was another Batgirl called Cassandra Cain. Former assassin turned good. They've also recently started reprinting the series with three trades out so far. I have the first two and I'm quite enjoying them.

Vol. 1 - Silent Knight
Vol. 2 - To the Death
Vol. 3 - Point Blank

And barring all that you could also pick-up Batgirl/Robin: Year One, a fun retelling of both character's origins. Probably most noteworthy for Marcos Martin's stunning artwork.

Last Five
1. The diner/the slant (live) - Ani DiFranco
2. Windowsill - Arcard Fire
3. Hard time - Seinabo Sey*
4. It's only me - Barenaked Ladies
5. Walk on - Corinne Bailey Rae

Monday, March 13, 2017

Emerald City Comic Con

When I walked out of the New York Comic Con in October 2015, I was sad. It went beyond the usual "Awwww, the Con is over", because I also knew I wouldn't be going back to NYCC anytime in the near future. When I went to my first NYCC in 2008 the attendance was around 70,000. In 2015 it was 168,000. In 2016, when I didn't go, it was 180,000.

It should be noted that the Javits Center has not expanded to keep pace. So while it is a con I have great memories of, it's simply too crowded. They're talking about expanding the Center, but that's not likely to be completed to the early 2020s.

So yes, a touch depressed.

But that's when Cathy stepped in with one of her ideas that she later has cause to regret. There's been a series of these. They include such highlights as:
-    If you give up single issues of comic books you can buy all the trade paperbacks you want.
-    Hey, let's wander into this toy store.
-    I bought you Lego for Christmas. You do like Lego, right?

To that list we now add "you should just find a Con in the middle of winter. It'll give you a nice break."

Which took as permission to go to another Con. Which I just did.

The Emerald City Comic Con hit every note I want for a con. First, it's in a new city, which is always a good chance to explore. Seattle is pretty awesome and a lot of comic creators are now located in the Pacific Northwest, which means you get some pretty cool writers and artists in attendance. It also has a reputation of focusing more on creators than celebrity guests. It's over four days and last year the attendance was just shy of 100,000. So perfect all the way around.

So while Cathy goes to Florida for a week to sit on a beach and read in April (which I would suck at. It takes me a week of moving before I can settle into doing nothing), I spent the first week of March in Seattle and at the con.

Alas, I didn't see as much of Seattle as I would have liked. I underestimated distance and was desperately trying to save my feet. I nearly amputated my feet after the last NYCC and you do a lot of walking at cons. I did walk around Pike's Market. I also had some truly excellent pizza, thank god.

As for the con, it may be the best organized one I've ever been to. I can nitpick at stuff. Cell service was shit, but that might have just been T-Mobile sucking. Also, the escalators kept breaking, which I actually found slightly amusing, recalling this article from a few weeks ago.

But the organizers did a phenomenal job of utilizing space. For one thing, they moved all celebrity autographs and photo ops to the hotel next door, clearing out a ton of space. There was a floor dedicated for gaming. A floor for cosplayers, especially if you needed to repair your outfit. Most of the 6th floor was dedicated to Artist Alley. It's the nicest one I've ever seen. Huge number of artists there, lots of space for getting around, carpet on the floor so your feet aren't being murdered....

They had family rooms and quiet spaces in case you need some privacy to chill because you're overwhelmed. Cosplay is not consent signs were all over the place and I didn't see any bad behaviour to speak of.

In fact everyone I spoke to was friendly and I had a lot of great conversations just waiting in line for something to be signed. An Australian and I bonded over the fact that we could finally talk the metric system when describing temperatures instead of having to mentally convert to Imperial. Discussions about cosplay. Bantering with a Darth Vader.

One of the other cool things ECCC does is a limited edition book. Each year they do an art book called Monsters and Dames. I'm normally leery of these kinds of books because they can be hit and miss. But it was overwhelmingly hit. And then you go on a treasure hunt - walking around the alley trying to get each page signed by the artist.

It's time consuming, but it is fun and you talk to artists you might ordinarily walk past. And you pick up some information on their projects.

Everybody has their own thing at these events. I didn't spend five minutes on the gaming floors, but I prowled artist alley and the main show floor. I bought a bunch of books (rules: the creative team must be there to sign it, or it's on sale). I hit the Funko booth, god help me. I sat in on a few panels as well.

So yes, just a blast. Tons of space to move around, places to sit, friendly atmosphere. It's in the middle of downtown so there are lots of places to eat after the con (for that matter, there were lots of places to eat on site and the mark-up was only annoying as opposed to horrific and the lines were reasonable.) I caught a late show of Logan a couple of blocks away. Hell, I even managed to find a hotel a few blocks from the convention center and it was clean, reasonably priced and gave away free craft beer every 5:30.

So yeah, I quite liked this con. I'd go back in a heartbeat. And rather than try to mix pics in with the text, here are a few favourites from the show...

Pickachus. Lots of them

Ursula. She was terrifying and futhermore,
she knew it.

Captain and Ms. Marvel

Barry Kitson drawing Delirium in my
sketchbook at the Hero Initiative booth

A young Predator

I love Yip Yips.

R2D2 has been hitting the juice

My main goal was to get a sketch from
Terry Dodson. And I did. He's showing
the spectacular Princess Leia he drew
for me.

Oh yeah, and I got my picture taken with this guy.