Monday, May 18, 2020

Comic Art Collection 12: Champions

Champions #25, page 23. Art by Max Dunbar.

So, let's keep it rolling, shall we?

The page above is from an issue of Champions and, among other characters, features Amak Aliyah who is an Inuk super hero called Snowguard. The reason I'm writing about it now is there was a little social media blip about her recently, courtesy of this tweet:

Anna Lambe is a promising young actress who starred in the made-in-Nunavut movie The Grizzlies and a lot of people think would be a good fit for the new Avatar, the Last Airbender series that is gearing up on Netflix. I don't know much about that franchise, so I can't say one way or another if she would be. But she would make a great Snowguard. I'm not the only one who thinks so, based on the number of reactions that tweet got. Including from Snowguard's creators Jim Zub, Nyla Innuksuk, and Sean Iszaake.

However, up until recently I would have said the odds of Snowguard making the leap from pages to the screen was small. She is still a new character with maybe 2 dozen appearances. But Simu Liu was politely teasing Marvel about casting him as Shang Chi, which they then did. Plus, Disney/Marvel clearly have plans for their younger heroes on the Disney+ streaming service. There's a Ms. Marvel show debuting next year and rumours exploded a couple of weeks ago that there's an Ironheart show in the work on the service. That's a chunk of the Champions team right there. So who knows? Maybe she gets a call from Marvel. I certainly hope so.

As for this page, ever since Snowguard debuted I'd been looking to get a page of art with her on it. Just one problem. A lot of the artists on the book during that first year were working digitally. I would have bought a page from her first story arc, but Sean is a digital artist. There was an annual featuring Snowguard returning to Pangnirtung by Toronto artist Marcus To. Except he also switched from pencil to digital a few years ago.

However, last year (or possibly 10 years ago. Time is fluid) when I was at Emerald City Comic Con I got the chance to meet Jim Zub and get a bunch of books signed, including a over a dozen copies of the Champions annual signed and personalized for Cathy's Grade 5 class that year (I just found out via Twitter it's also Jim's birthday today, so this is good timing. And Happy Birthday). Sitting next to him was BC-based artist Max Dunbar. Jim and Max share a massive love of all things Dungeons & Dragons and the previous year there was a Champions story arc where the characters get thrown into an alternate dimension (it happens) where they also change personalities and become people who closely resemble the type of characters you might play in Dungeons & Dragons.

It's a fun story arc, but what caught my eye was Max Dunbar. It was the kind of art that makes you wonder who the hell is this guy and where did he come from. Great detail, lots of energy, not afraid of big, complex action sequences and putting ridiculous effort into splash pages. I knew he was going to be at the con, and that he would have pages for sale. It took me all of about 30 seconds to settle on this page. Amak with a big ass hammer, a cool looking Ms. was a no brainer.

I don't pretend to know Max well, but he appears very generous with his art. I remember he gifted Jim with a stunning two-page spread from that Champions run. He recently gave away a stunning piece of Marvel mash-up art....all you had to do was prove you donated to a charity or that you were a first responder for a chance to enter the contest. 

Seriously, just look at this thing....

He quoted me a price for that page that was more than fair, and then added "But if you think that's too much, I can come down a bit." Jim and his partner Stacy were at the table next to him. I swear one of them was going to go over and shake him before I said "I don't haggle with artists. That's a great price."

I actually own another piece of Max's art, but that's for another day. That Champions page currently is hanging near my cubicle at work.

Last Five
1. Meeting in the aisle - Radiohead
2. Blue skies over bad lands - Matthew Good
3. While we were hunting rabbits - Matthew Good*
4. Restless - Alison Krauss and Union Station
5. My time is coming - The Hives

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Bubbles within bubbles

Two months ago today Cathy and I were just starting to walk to work because our car was not behaving and couldn't be trusted. I felt my work phone buzz and was told my manager to turn around, head home and send a message out to all the staff. The office was now closed. All staff were to work from home.

There have been two things I've tried not to keep track of over the last couple of months. The first, oddly enough, is how long the self-quarantine has been going on, but it kind of leaped out at me a couple of days ago. But as a rule, I haven't been paying attention. I don't think it'll do my head any good.

The other is the death toll and infection rates. Again, I don't think it does my head any good to dwell on those numbers. Also, I don't think they accurately reflect the reality. I think the infection rates, especially in the United States, are grossly underreported. The same with death rates. And as I've read, the other effects of the disease is also underreported and terrifying.

It's a fine line to walk between being informed enough to protect yourself and not wanting to curl up in a ball in your closet for the next two years. For the most part, I think Cathy and I have managed. So, what's been happening the last two months?

1. Still zero cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut. We had one scare a few weeks back, but it was a false positive. The Government of Nunavut is going to roll out it's plan to reduce self-isolation rules next week, which should be fascinating. I titled this post 'Bubbles within bubbles" because that's where Cathy and I are. Canada is a bubble (except for Quebec) when compared to the madness that is the US. Nunavut is in the fortunate position of having no cases. In Iqaluit, social distancing has best. Downtown Iqaluit....not so much, except at places where it's enforced like stores or the post office. But we live away from downtown, so other than people walking their dogs, we hardly see anyone.

We've been sticking to our house pretty closely. Once a week, maybe twice, I'll head out and get groceries and pick up the mail. That's about it.

2. Like everyone, there have been scrapping of plans. I had planned to take a couple of months off this summer and travel. That plan has absolutely been scrapped. The fallback was that we would go out for two weeks, do a sealift and maybe get back to Newfoundland and see some family. That plan is about 95% scrapped as well.

I've been saying that anyone who thinks they can predict what's going to happen over the next two years is basically writing fan fiction. No one knows what's going to happen next. There's too many balls in the air. I've been mentally bracing myself for things getting back to a semblance of safe ("normal" is something else entirely) in 2022. But I absolutely will not be surprised if Nunavut keeps its quarantine rules in place indefinitely, meaning you can certainly leave, but you have to self-isolate for two weeks in Ottawa or other centres first.

Why would they lift it? They know the effect COVID-19 will have on Nunavut communities. They got phenomenally lucky that no cases came in before they restricted travel. The territory is being resupplied with only some hiccups. I'm sure some might grumble about not being able to travel back and forth with ease, but welcome to the new reality. Nothing is easy.

I'm also not blowing two weeks vacation so I can sit in a hotel room in Ottawa. So yeah, I think we're going to be in Iqaluit for quite awhile.

3. I'm continuing to work, which is good. Work is not discussed on this blog, but it keeps me busy for several hours a day, which is good. Cathy has done as much as she can with the school at this point. It's cancelled until September. So she's trying to keep busy as best she can.

Honestly, we're well built mentally to handle this kind of thing. We don't have kids (cranky old dogs don't count), we're introverts and we genuinely like each other's company. We wouldn't want to do this for years, but we haven't been fighting or snapping at each other over the last couple of months. We're handling it well.

We had a small bit of drama the week when a culvert got blocked up on the street behind our house. The water found an alternative route that involved coming down the hill and pouring down under our house.  It's Iqaluit, so the house is on pylons. But it was washing out our driveway and making a mess of things. So we had an hour or so of fun trying to find ways to divert the water around our house while waiting for city council workers to deal with the situation.

That's literally been the most excitement we've had the last two months.

4. If there's been one source of stress it's been our car. Our good and faithful Equinox, which we've had for nine years, had a very bad start to this year, making some weird noses. This was attributed to the block heater not working, which we overpaid for and replaced at garage #1. After that the car was still having problems and no longer trusting Garage #1, we made an appointment at Garage #2, which we had to wait two weeks for.

Then the pandemic hit, so the parts they needed took a month to get here.

When we finally got her back on Tuesday, and after spending another couple of thousand dollars, we found out that basically the engine had been significantly damaged and was going to stop working.....soonish. Could be a couple of weeks, could be a year. But it was coming. The car also acquired a delightful rattle, meaning that even if I wanted to be an unethical dick and sell it, she makes so much noise that no one in their right mind would buy it. It's basically good for parts at this point.

Which means a new car.

We had planned to get a new one next year. We really wanted one more year for the Equinox. Fortunately, as we're not travelling anywhere, all that money we had budgeted for vacation can now go towards the car! Yay!


The mildly frustrating thing is that I was looking forward to properly shopping for a new car. I've never really done it before. I've had used cars, and one on a lease. Cathy bought one 20 years ago which involved walking onto a dealership lot and saying "give me that one." So yeah, I wanted to hit a few dealerships. Test drive a few cars. See what the best deal was going to be.

Instead, we contacted Subaru and said "give us that one" and we now have a new Subaru CrossTrek en route to us. The dealership dropped it off to our shipping company last week. They'll transport it to Montreal. And assuming all goes well, sometime in mid-July we should have our new car.

Mildly anti-climatic. Here's hoping she works out because ideally we'd like her to last until we leave in about 10 years time. Guess we'll see.

And that's it. Tune in next month for another update.

Last Five
1. Elephant (live) - Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit*
2. Picadilly sand farewell - Ron Hynes
3. Songs for teenagers - Gaslight Anthem
4. Spark man - Mark Bragg
5. In California (live) - Neko Case