Friday, October 2, 2015

Mystery Babylon 3 - 4

So... the apocalypse is happening. Well, the Final Apocalypse. One apocalypse already happened and at some point the demons of Hell were sealed up in the Pit by Kick Girl. Her psycho ex, Kill Boy, kinda got sealed up in there too. Things were supposed to stay that way. Kick's biggest problem should have been living anonymously for the rest of eternity. But of course there had to be a prophesy that she would open the pit and there has to be a weird cult that wanted her to do it. And as much as she wanted to keep things all sealed up nice and neat... Well it's not her fault the Final Apocalypse has begun.

Needless to say, the forces of good are taken by surprise and don't quite have a good handle on the situation. Kick girl finds herself still stuck with Zero, the priest who is still way out of his league out in the world who manages to get by because Red, an angel of Heaven, seems to like him. Kick also now has the company of Delilah, former leader of the cult who wanted Kick to open the pit. Now that the Pit is open, the Final Apocalypse isn't exactly turning out how Delilah thought it would. There is also the not so minor problem that Kill Boy is out of the Pit as well and is on a Terminator like mission to kill Kick.

The fun still hasn't stopped in the pages of Mystery Babylon. Val Hochberg (Val Brazier now actually) has stayed consistent in this post-post-apocalyptic tale of Kick Girl, which is very loosely inspired by the Mystery Babylon in the Book of Revelation. It doesn't seem like the most likely place of inspiration for an anime style comic wit a lot of humor, but it works.

As luck would have it, Val attended Alamo City Comic Con again where I picked up chapters 3 and four of the web series. I enjoyed the first two chapters and  was looking forward to collecting the next two. I'm kind of old school, I like holding paper in my hands. Despite the ominous inspiration for the series, it is essentially a humorous buddy cop/road trip kind of story. No, Kick and Zero are not cops. But the story has that element of two people from different backgrounds with different personalities being forced to work together and eventually they will be best buds..... Or at least Kick is developing some sort of reluctant grudging respect for Zero. Zero just sees her as his best friend because that's how Zero is. We're also getting more flashes of Kick Girl's back story and what life was like before The Pit got sealed. The time between the Apocalypse and the Final Apocalypse seemed to settle down and get pretty normal. There was enough time for society to bounce back. The picture of what happened before Kick's story pick up in Chapter 1 one keeps getting be filled in as the series continues. In Chapter 4 we even get to see Kick's old place.

While there is an over all arc to the story, it seems as though at best this is possibly the beginning of the midway point. Maybe. But I'd bet on the series continuing for quite a while. Val has said before that there is no exact timeline for how things will happen. Besides, there is still a lot of good stuff going on right now. Look for the pages of Chapter 5 online as they are released on

Read my review of chapters 1 and 2 HERE

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

ACCC 2015 Con Stuff

This year in addition to my normal convention review, I’m going to highlight various things my wife and I purchased from artist and vendors. We don’t always buy things at conventions, but I thought it would be good to show off what some people have to offer. Some vendors and artists can be found touring pretty regularly at many conventions while others stay pretty close to home. Each convention will have its own mix of local and national people selling things.

Digital Art Tree
Jamie Owen specializes in art and calligraphy on pages from books and newsprint. It gives the art a very unique look.
Facebook: Digital-Art-Tree

Jessica Von Braun
We’ve bought prints from Jessica before at other conventions. She covers a lot of different fandoms and genres with her unique style. Some prints can be found at every con she attends and some are limited editions.
Etsy: Solocosmo
Tumblr: Solocosmo
DeviantArt: Solocosmo
Twitter: @solocosmo

Marcus Rocco
We bought three small cards, but Marcus has plenty of larger prints. We'll probably be buying more form him in the future.
Twitter: @marcusrocco
Instagram: @marcusrocco

Val Hochberg
Val is an artist and writer. We’ve bought her prints before and I’ve been reviewing her web series. Mystery Babylon. This is just one print of many she has done covering various series, shows, and movies.
Twitter: @kickgirl
Tumblr: Kick-Girl

Gifts and Blessings
Though we only bought a crochet owl from Jed Marshall (made by his wife ), there are a lot more mand made and crafted items that can be purchased from Gifts and Blessings.

Katie Cook
Katie is the writer and artist of the comic Goonk. We bought these two small cards at the con, but she has larger prints, posters, as well as her comic for sale.
Twitter: @katiecandraw

Literary Alterations
There was a lot of things to look at. Jewelry, boxes... a lot. More custom work can be found on their site.

The Wolf and The Dragonfly
JR Warren and Meredith Voghtman specialize in custom jewelry and designs. These pendants were made using vintage stamps from around the world.

Each person or store had more things available. These are just the items we purchased at this convention. Check out their sites and visit their booths to see more.

Alamo City Comic Con AAR

2015 is the third year of the Alamo City Comic Con. The Con has maintained the momentum of the first two years with celebrity guests and artists. Attendance was high again and the amount of cosplay has been stepped up yet again. Not everything was smooth though. Over all, it was still a good con. More peole showed up in cosplay and the crowd seemed to be bigger than previous years. Also the layout of the floor was better, making navigating the con easier. Now let’s start with the panels. Unfortunately with most big conventions, you can’t sit in on every panel you want to see.



There are three big reasons why I have to respect Kristen Passmore. One, she cosplays. Two, she is a teenager hosting her own panel at a large convention. Three, she is treating her disability as a tool to spread understanding and give courage to other people with disabilities. With the assistance of her father and cousin, she talks about how she and her family turned a wheel chair into an opportunity to make some great cosplay. At ACCC, her was made up to look like the chair of Davros, the creator of the Daleks in Doctor Who.


Claudia Wells, the original Jennifer Parker in Back to the Future, and James Tolkan, Principal Stricklend, spoke about their experiences making the Back to the Future films and answered audience questions. Tolkan had some difficulty hearing some questions, but took the time to stand up and make a more personal approach at addressing questions direct towards him. He enjoyed talking about Back to the Future, Top Gun, and even Problem Child 2. Though Wells was only in the first film of the franchise, she enjoyed the panel and had fun with the audience, answering questions and not so subtly plugging her website and men’s store, Armani Wells in Studio City, CA.


Billy Boyd (Merry Brandybuck) and John Noble (Lord Denathor) were joined by Manu Bennet (Azog The Defiler). All three had fun in the panel. Boyed had to keep dodging requests to sing as he didn’t remember lyrics enough to do the songs justice. He was still appreciative of the questions though. Noble tends to look serious, but he has a good sense of humor and has fun with his costars. Bennet is a fan of his fans an enjoyed talking about how a lot of his work on The Hobbit was mostly doing motion capture in front of a green screen.


Kristain Nairn (Hodor) spoke about Game of Thrones and his music. Nairn was asked a lot about Game of Thrones. Unfortunately a lot of the questions were about future episodes which he didn’t know anything about and/or could not answer. He also spoke about his primary career as a DJ and about his other great obsession, the game Warhammer.



Lawrence Gillard (Bob) spoke for most of the panel and was joined later by Jon Bernthal (Shane) and Michael Rooker (Merle). Gillard spoke a lot about his time on the show and about his role on The Wire. Bernthall and Rooker showed up close to the end of the panel. But they showed up with enough time to have fun. Bernthal went along with one woman’s request for a hug. Rooker then brought her back up on stage to get hugged by him and Gillard.


Pro Cosplayers Ivy Doom Kitty, AniMia, and Leeana Vamp answered questions and spoke about their experiences in cosplay. The fielded questions about technical aspects of cosplaying such as tips and techniques for constructing costumes and about body positivity. Each spoke personally about how they started in cosplay and both the negative and positive experiences they have had.


One of the big events of any con is the costume contest. It was hosted by Comic Book Men’s, Ming Chen, and cosplayer, Leeana Vamp. The judges were Ivy Doom Kitty, AniMia, and Krystal Starr. Prior to the contest start, the Trident Award was presented to the San Antonio local chapters of the 501st Legion and Rebel Alliance. The Trident award is in honor of San Antonio cosplayer, Jonathon “Aquman” Vela, who was dedicated to community service visiting patients in hospitals. The cosplayers showed up for fun and upped the effort in skill and craftsmanship. First place went to a huge Chaos Space Marine.



Ray Park has been good in every panel he has taken part. Even though there was not enough room for him to show off some moves (which if you have seen him at cons you know he like to show off some moves), he was still entertaining talking about Darth Maul and his other roles outside of Star Wars.


Meeting him in person is intimidating. But during his panel, Edward James Olmos was comfortable and very relaxed answering audience questions. He showed his fondness for his fans and spoke highly of not just Battlestar Galactica, but also of a film held in high regard to San Antonio and South Texas, Selina, and also about his activism. You can also quote him that Jennifer Lopez's breakout performance in Selina was her best performance in all her movies.


Hosted by Krystal Starr, the kids costume contest was judged by Kaylin Syren and Cup Kate. The kids costumes have been getting more detailed just like those of the adults. And the performances have gotten better. First place went to Foxy from Five Nights at Freddy’s.

I wish I could have gone to more panels. Maybe if even media had not been cleared out of the ballroom every time, I could have. I wasn't the only person with a Media Pass that was frustrated by this. Generally though, ACCC was a good experience. Unfortunately, there still seems to be some coordination and communication issues within the con staff. Especially with regards to organizing the lines for Ballroom B panels. Another issue was rules for lining up seemed to change day by day. Not by a lot, but enough to cause confusion. Also, The Lila Cockrell Theater was no longer being used for panels as it is now home for the Alamo City Film Festival. To me, losing use of the theater took away from the con. There also could have been more smaller panels, which I was hoping for after last year. There is a wealth of people and topics that can be sources of excellent panels that can be entertaining and/or educational. It's my hope that as ACCC continues, it will expand it's panel offerings. I do appreciate the difficulty and complexity of running such a large event. I know I would not want to be responsible for one. One other important note, however. It was noticed that stages and panel rooms were not wheelchair friendly. Chairs had t be moved during panels to accommodate and there was no ramps for wheelchairs to get on stages. This left some cosplayers in the Kids Costume Contest to be stuck moving in front of the stage, out of sight of a lot of the audience. Hopefully next year these issues will be solved. And all things considered, this is a fantastic convention. I can't wait to see what is in store next year.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

ACCC 2015 Preview

Alamo City Comic Con’s second year was a great success. Year three will establish it as one of the go to comic and pop culture conventions of the year. In addition to the return of the legendary Stan Lee, AMC’s Comic Book Men (Ming Chen, Mike Zapcic, and Bryan Johnson) will make a return. There will also be another strong showing of The Walking Dead past and present cast members. You will also be seeing a big cast presence for Sons Of Anarchy. Speaking of Sons Of Anarchy, Ron Pearlman (Hellboy himself) will be in attendance. And if The Right Hand of Doom was not enough, an acting legend who made his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in Agents of S.H.I.L.D, Admiral Adama, Commander of the Battlestar Galactica, Edward James Olmos is coming to ACCC. Oh, and so is Ming Na. But it doesn’t stop there. Fringe fans be prepared for John Noble.

And Alamo City Comic Con is not complete with another of its unique traditions, what you could call nostalgia panels. The stars of Flash Gordon, Sam Jones and Melody Anderson will be in attendance along with James Tolkan and Claudia Wells from Back to the Future. There is also the wrestling tradition at this con. This year’s group features legends “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair and Jerry “The King” Lawler. Cosplay will also be represented with Ivy Doomkitty and Lena Vamp, among others. And of course no con is complete without comics, there is another strong list of artists and writers including Scott Lobdell, Larry Hama, and Billy Tucci.

New this year is the Alamo City Film Festival.

The film festival is a separate event that is being held in conjunction with ACCC. It will showcase feature films, short films and documentaries from around the world. It will also host the Texas Premier of the indie fan film, Star Trek: Renegades which stars Walter Koenig, Sean Young, and Adrienne Wilkinson.

More celebrity and artist talent is on hand and the commitment to artists remains with a large artists ally. Alamo City Comic Con remains con you should put on your list. ACCC takes place Friday, Sep. 11th through Sunday, Sep. 13. Thursday night, Sep. 10th, the floor will be open to VIPs.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


Si vis pacem, para bellum
“If you want peace, prepare for war.”

There is a secret world wide military organization covertly preparing Earth’s population for an alien invasion. It has been doing this for decades through books, comics, television, movies, and video games. No, really. And a teenager is about to become the tip of humanities desperate spear of survival. With a little help from his friends.

Zachary Ulysses Lightman thinks he is going crazy when he sees an alien fighter from is favorite game, Armada,  hovering outside his high school. Specifically a Glaive drone fighter of the Sobrukai, residents of Jupiter’s moon, Europa. Why might he be going crazy? Zach’s father went mad writing a rambling journal about a government conspiracy before being killed in an industrial accident. So Zack can’t be too sure of his sanity either. Fortunately for Zach, he isn't insane. Well, more like  unfortunately as it were for Zach and all of humanity actually because there is in fact a massive alien fleet that is preparing to perform genocide on Earths dominate species.

Ernest Cline’s second novel has a huge gaming element. Like his first novel, Ready Player One, a young hero’s gaming obsession becomes his salvation. Armada is a cross between The Last Starfighter and Ender’s Game with tons of nerd and pop culture references. Cline uses those elements to build the story and make it seem pretty plausible. Well, about as plausible as any sci-fi or fantasy story. And it is a great story. The pace and suspense build as the story progresses. You also get a feel for the sense of urgency as the story takes place only in a few days. He also takes care to question a big flaw in the logic of alien invasion fiction in movies, TV, and games, making said flaw a major piece of the story.

The cast of characters is very colorful and entertaining. And yes, there is a girl. Which brings me to my only real problem with Armada. and it’s not a problem with the girl. It’s that we don’t get to know her as much as I would have liked. One of the great things about Ready Player One is that the supporting cast was pretty well fleshed out. Parzival (the boy) was pretty established being the protagonist and all. And we got to know Art3mis (the girl) and Aech (the BFF) pretty well. And even though Daito and Shoto (the last two in Parzival's group) were not in the story as much, we got to know enough about them to care. In Armada, I didn’t get the sense of getting to know the people in Zach’s world as much. The girl, Alexis Larkin, is a hard core tattooed bad ass with killer gaming skills and even better skills when it comes to coding and hacking. She is a sci-fi nerd that Zack falls for like a bolt of lightning to the head. We do get to get a feel of how they are together, but there is no time to get into her back story and how she came about who she is. We also don’t get a really get to know Zach’s best friends, Diehl and Cruz, all that well. We do get a good sense of them and who they are, enough to like them. But like Alexis, we don’t learn all that much about their worlds. At least that is how I felt. Fleshing out their characters also could have slowed down the story. This is Zach's story after all. It's also a war story with impending doom on the horizon. And as a wise person once said, "Hey, Dr. Jones, no time for love."

In the end, this one minor issue does nothing to diminish my enjoyment of Armada. It's a great take and re-imagining of a classic sci-fi tale that pays homage to literally everything that came before it. If not in direct reference, then at least in spirit. It's a big risk that could have fallen flat with the fickle nerd crowd. But to quote Pvt. Vasquez's body armor in Aliens, "El riesgo siempre vive." The risk always lives. And Ernest Cline's second novel is fantastic.

Read my review of Cline's first novel, Ready Player One, HERE.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

They Live

The passing of wrestling legend "Rowdy" Roddy Piper prompted me to go back and watch a film that has stayed in the collective background noise of my childhood memories. They Live is an essential cult classic science fiction film that you have to watch at least once in your lifetime. It is a cheesy 80s action flick with a pro wrestler as the lead that is based on a short story by Ray Nelson called Eight O'Clock in the Morning. But watching it again it's hard not to see how Director John Carpenter's film is still relevant for modern times.

Roddy Piper is a drifter named Nada. He arrives in Los Angeles with the simple hope of finding some work while waiting for the world to give him his chance at a better life. He finds a job in construction and befriends Frank, a construction worker played by Keith David. While living in a shanty town, Nada's curiosity gets the best of him and he stumbles upon a group of freedom fighters who have discovered that Earth has been invaded by an alien race that maintains control of humanity through a subliminal signal. This signal masks the messages that humanity is fed every day without their knowledge. CONFORM, CONSUME, BUY, OBEY, etc.

If there was any doubt about the message that the rich and corporations prey on the poor and middle class, the hidden message on the money in the film says it pretty clearly.

The signal also works as a cloaking device for the aliens who are a part of the every day life on earth.

Now, I'm not a conspiracy theorist and I'm not going to go and say that there is an outright master plan by the elite to subdue the poor and middle class. But you have to admit that our appetite for buying things and worshiping the superficial has created opportunity to give away our freedom and future. Mass entertainment media does cloud our perception and knowledge of the very real problems going on in the world. It was the case when Carpenter made this film and sadly, it is still the case. But while there is a heavy message beneath this alien invasion sci-fi action thriller, it does not get preachy. Well, there is a street preacher yelling in this, but that's not the point. They live remains fun and entertaining. It is a unique concept in it's story and the way the invasion took place. The aliens did not come in guns blazing. They slipped right into society and essentially planned to let humanity dig it's own grave with a little help. "They're free-enterprisers. The earth is just another developing planet. Their third world." As noted in the film, a lot of humans went right along with it because when recruited to the alien cause, you got rich and enjoyed the good life. Why rebel if you are being treated well. Just don't rock the boat and leave the rest of the world to destroy itself. "They are dismantling the middle class. More and more people are becoming poor. We are their cattle. We are being bred for slavery." Did I mention that this is a fun cheesy movie? Anyway.... Lets not forget They Live has a fight scene that is regarded as one of the best in cinema. And it's all over getting a guy to put on sunglasses.

It also launched one of the most quoted lines of all times thanks to Piper's Nada. "I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass... And I'm all out of bubblegum."

This film was always special to me because it's one of those that was always on TV from time to time way back when. It is also special because Roddy Piper was so perfect for the role and did a brilliant job. As the end of They Live is bitter sweet, so is watching it and remembering a great entertainer. RIP Piper. You are missed.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


A Goonies style supernatural adventure at a summer camp is what you will find in the pages of the first volume of Lumberjanes. The girls in Roanoke Cabin have a bad habit of sneaking out at night and finding trouble in the woods. Jo (learder of the group and most analytical/puzzle solving type of the group), April (most dramatic of the group, like to take notes and surprisingly good armwrestler), Molly (skilled archer, wears a racconskin hat), Mal (punk girl who is the most cautious member of the group who likes to plan and  watches WAY to much Discovery Channel), and Ripley (most childlike in the group and most prone to charge into danger) are Lumberjane Scouts at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types.

(Jo, April, Molly, Ripley, Mal)
Jen (Roanoke Cabin’s scout-leader) has the joy of trying to keep the girls in her weirdo cabin in order, or at least alive and unharmed until the end of the summer. Taking that internship with the space program would have been less of a headache. But she had to stick it out with the girls. Unfortunately for her, camp scout-master Rosie does not seem too keen on backing up Jen’s concerns about the girls and knows a lot more of what is going on in the woods than she lets on.

As the series open, the girls fight a pack of supernatural three eyes foxes and get their first clue to something strange going on in the woods. In defeat the foxes howl, “Beware the Kitten Holy.” To quote Mal, “What the junk?” The adventure leads them to river monsters, secret caves, mysterious puzzles, possessed boy scouts, and even yetis.

Though intended as a limited series, it has caught on with fans and is continuing to who knows where. The humble beginnings started with Boom! Studios editor Shannon Watters hoping to create a girl centric comic series. With the help of writer Grace Ellis, co-writer Noel Stevenson and artist Brooke Allen were added to a team that created some magic. Magic that caught the attention of 20th Century Fox who optioned the property and brought in Will Widger to write a screenplay. The series also brought in two Eisner Awards at San Diego Comic-Con 2015, Best New Series and Best Series for Teens (ages 13 - 17). It's a fun lighthearted series that teens, children, and even adults can enjoy. Volume 1 (collecting issues 1-4) is currently on sale. Vol. 2 will be available on October 20, 2015.