Warning: Contains spoilers!

Second Warning: You will cry.

Third Warning: I’m not messin’ around! For realsies, you’re going to cry like a baby and the unstoppable river flowing from your eyes will create a pristine lake of tears. Children will water ski in your tears while their mom watches from the shore and dad drinks a beer as he drives the boat!heartbox

Sure, I’m having a bit of fun with the emotional outpour that will result in reading Heart in a Box, but it comes from a place of truth. I tend to put a lot of distance between myself and the media I consume. I’ve been that way since I was a kid and it’s never really gone away. Don’t get me wrong, I connect with a lot of books, movies, television, etc. but the impact never feels as strong as that of others when they react to the same thing. Heart in a Box, written by Kelly Thompson (Jem and the Holograms, Captain Marvel & The Carol Corps) with art by Meredith McClaren (Hinges), did its best to pierce my comfort bubble and succeeded with flying colors. I laughed, I cried, I wanted to throw things – basically this book ran me through the emotional gamut and I’m all the happier for it. Thompson and McClaren never shy away from the heightened intensity that comes from affairs of the heart. Instead, they use a fantastical premise to facilitate an honest and, at times, brutal look at a young woman’s journey towards emotional maturity.

The plot goeth thusly: After an extremely harsh breakup, Emma, embittered and frustrated with the lingering feelings she has for her ex, wishes her heart away with the “help” of a mysterious stranger she calls Bob. Realizing she can’t live without her heart, Emma embarks upon a cross-country quest to regain the seven pieces needed to make her heart whole again.
hiab-page-3-panel-excerptAs lead characters go, Emma is a refreshingly honest look at the flawed female protagonist. It’s been coming up a lot more as new writers and artists inject comic books with characters devoid of decades worth of continuity but heavy on presence and personality. And thanks to Thompson’s superb grasp of voice and McClaren’s expressive art, Emma feels real. She’s by no means a terrible person, just emotionally immature, but as the story unfolds we learn the reasons behind Emma’s actions and we gain new insight about the wide spectrum of love through her journey. Emma’s struggle and eventual redemption act as metaphorical explorations of the many ways in which love is given and taken. Each interaction she has produces a different display of love, but those interactions also come with the added baggage of rage, regret, loneliness, and hope tied up in a knot of confusion and occasional clarity. Nothing is simply done or explained in Heart in a Box because the book’s greatest strength is in its complex and nuanced portrayal of people.

Whether it was intended or not, Heart in a Box has shades of the hero’s journey in its plot and structure. Emma’s call to adventure starts with her desire to put her heart back together. Bob, acting as mentor and helper, gives her the box that will mend her heart physically and each person or animal in possession of a piece presents a challenge or temptation. Emma’s turning point comes when she ends up as caretaker to a crotchety old man and, upon his death, digs up his grave to get her piece back (trust me, it makes sense in context). Her need to complete the quest drives her forward but it’s only after she receives her final gift from an unexpected source that she feels whole and healed again. It doesn’t match entirely, but the elements are definitely there.HIABOX_WM-108

As I said before, Kelly Thompson has an amazing gift for voice and character. Her sense of humor comes through repeatedly but it never steals the book away from the dramatic moments. Instead, Thompson finds a lovely balance between comedy and drama in just about every part of the book. Characters like Bob and Mr. Jamison, who would typically be used as comic foils for Emma in other works, do just as much heavy lifting within the narrative. Bob may be totally evil (possibly) but he’s often the only person she can talk to and he respects her emotional needs even if Emma isn’t aware of what she wants. Mr. Jamison, a bitter old man, isn’t just reduced to flinging insults at Emma. He has his own story to tell and how it reflects on Emma is brilliant storytelling on Thompson’s part. Seriously, from a character and narrative perspective, Emma and Mr. Jamison’s time together is the cornerstone of Heart in a Box.

Which brings us to Meredith McClaren and her beautiful illustrative work. Like Thompson, McClaren brings personality to the art, which is a necessity given the range of emotions Emma goes through. There’s an open quality to the art that deftly draws you in and holds your attention. The line work is simple, and by that I mean it isn’t busy or unnecessarily detailed. She knows exactly 20150915_202243how much to show so that we keep our focus on the characters and she really knows how to throw a punch to the gut when it comes to Emma’s state of mind. McClaren also handles coloring duty and it goes without saying that there is some fantastic color work happening in this book. Once Emma wishes her heart away, she becomes grey and flat but with each piece returned her coloring brightens a little more as she’s infused with more memories and feelings. When I talked with Kelly on the podcast, she was very open about how crucial the coloring was in conveying Emma’s emotional status in the story. She and McClaren went back and forth on the desaturation and their hard work shows. I’m an especially big fan of Emma’s fusion moments with the pieces of her heart. It’s so raw and I love how McClaren turns the memories into different forms depending on what she gets back. Also, I’m a sucker for a sweet tattoo on a character and Emma has one awesome octopus tat!

So, if you’re looking for a good cry or just a nuanced and honest look at human emotion, go pick up Heart in a Box at your local comic book store or go online through Amazon, comixology, or Dark Horse. It’s definitely worth your time.

If you want a really laid back, quirky, and open introduction to what comic book conventions should and can be, look no further than good old Portland and its offering of Rose City Comic Con (RCCC) to draw you in and make you a fan for life. Going strong in its fourth year, RCCC has a small yet plucky vibe that permeates the Oregon Convention Center with an inviting nature that’s sure to put any first-time or seasoned veteran at ease. The offerings of Media Rose-City-Comic-ConGuests, Exhibitors, Panels, and Artist Alley are no different than your typical con, but when these familiar staples are mixed in with a Retro Arcade (complete with old furniture and TV for your Nintendo Entertainment System needs), replicas of the Delorean and 60’s Batmobile, and elaborate spaces celebrating the University of Oregon’s football team you get the sense that Portland is injecting itself right into the heart of geek culture and we’re all better off for it.

For me, the floor of the con and its smattering of artists, writers, and talented craft-makers is the heart and soul of the two-day event. Admittedly, I’ve fallen off of waiting in line for panels mostly because I always feel like I’m missing something amid the exhibitors and artists. I like walking around and exploring the layout of the convention center. Undoubtedly, I always find something new – an artist, a writer, a comic, a thing – and I’d rather spend my time on the discovery instead of waiting in line. But that’s my preference. RCCC offered an amazing spread of panels this year that highlighted the history of comic books, representation in comics, geek culture, and spotlight celebrations of some kick-ass creative teams pushing the comic book industry forward. The panel schedule, however, was still light in comparison to other conventions, which allowed people the luxury of walking the floor (should the fancy strike them) with the chance of making those same discoveries.

This year, I had a lot of conversations with first or second-time exhibitors and it really started to hit home how important smaller conventions like RCCC are to creators trying to find an audience or in bolstering the confidence of artists struggling with the decision to pursue their art full time. It’s incredibly important to foster not just new fans but new creators to fill in the ranks for the next generation. And as vital as the internet and social media have 20150919_100558[2]become in distributing new voices, conventions are just as important in emphasizing the personal relationships built over love of a shared thing. Getting to meet your favorite artist, writer, actor, etc. and actually tell them, in person, is an incredible experience that allows us to put faces to names we only ever see on the cover of a book or the occasional article. It’s one of my favorite things to do at a con, talk to people who make the things I like. Granted, I’ve gotten a lot better at it over the years but I’ve found that a lot of writers and artists are just as open and nervous as I am, though the Artist Alley section felt suspiciously easy-going this time around. Probably because a majority of the people there were from the greater Portland area, taking the travel stress levels down immensely.

But I digress, I could wax poetic about the significance of conventions and their importance to fandoms for a lot longer than anyone would want to read about so here’s a quick list of highlights from the show!

Artist Alley – Like I said, this is where I spend most of my time at any con, but it was great getting to reconnect with people I’ve become friendly with via the website and podcast while meeting a lot of new artists as well. See the gallery below for websites and examples of their work!20150919_103752[1]

Retrocade – This made my little retro-gamer heart soar! I swear they pilfered the television and couch from my grandparents’ basement! I had a lot of childhood memories rushing back! The wide array of pinball machines brought me back to those days hanging out in the local pizzeria with my cousins begging for quarters.

Costume Contest and Concert – While I understand putting the two together, it might be best to separate them in the future. I say this with a lot of love and respect for The Slants and Kirby Krackle because Lord knows the energy levels they want for their performances weren’t exactly being returned by the tired masses of geeks who just wanted to sit and look at some costumes. That said, wonderful performances all around! As for the costume contest it’s always a highlight of a con to see so much love and support given to people who put a lot of time and effort into expressing their love for a character or a particular fandom. Plus, I’m a sucker for fun, whimsy, and surprised faces on winners.

Media Guests – Carrie Fisher! Carrie Fisher! Carrie Fisher! Take the journey with me people! Friggin’ Princess Leia was right there! SQUEEEE! Ahem…moving on…(Carrie Fisher!)

Gallery – Gaze at the wonder of the art I procured!


"Doctors" by Chris Anderson

“Doctors” by Chris Anderson


"Monica" by Andy Fisher

“Monica” by Andy Fisher


“Big Barda” by Mike Henderson

20150928_173558[1]“Spider-Gwen” by Rico Renzi


“Persephone” by Sara Talmadge


“Luci” by Robert Wilson IV


“Coffee Owl” by Jillian Lambert


“Judgement/Disappointment Owl”

by Jillian Lambert


“Delirium” by Chris Anderson


“Cowgirl” by Alisa Bishop

“Mie” by Emi Lenox

In honor of this year’s Batman Day, I thought I’d repurpose an article from my NoiseSharkMedia days, which you can read the original version here. Suffice it to say, my opinions on some things have changes, but my love for Batman remains true.

With that mini-intro out of the way, we begin our journey with Batman’s original medium, comic books. Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger in 1939 (but let’s be honest, it was mostly Bill Finger) and making his first appearance in Detective Comics #27, Batman is arguably DC Comics most popular character (Batman vs. Superman argument commence!) As such, he has a very long history and a cast of supporting characters that have become as ingrained in pop culture as The Dark Knight himself. And with every new generation of comic book readers, there’s always an attempt to reinvent Batman for the new age despite the fact that there are some things you just can’t change.

It’s said that every comic book writer has a Batman story to tell and with that in mind, let’s take a look at the versatile nature of the Caped Crusader.


The Golden Age (1930s-1940s)


The Golden Age version of Batman is, at times, radically different from the one we recognize today yet completely similar. Inspired by pulp heroes such as Zorro and Doc Savage, Batman was a powerless hero who donned cape and cowl to scare the ever loving minds out of the criminal element of Gotham City. Without the super-human abilities of his colleague in Metropolis, Batman was shown to be a brilliant mind, Sherlock Holmes being yet another inspiration for the character, with a utility belt of gadgets and a Bat-cave of wonders that allowed him to solve crimes and cruise around Gotham. The pulp influence is especially present in Batman’s attitude towards crime-fighting since he started as a remorseless vigilante whose brand of justice included killing and maiming criminals. Creators since have made various attempts to distinguish the line Batman precariously walks between hero and villain, usually relying on his strict “no killing” policy as his own personal Rubicon. The 30s and 40s, however, were a different time when our heroes had no qualms about letting a guy fall to his death if he didn’t play ball.

Batman’s darker approach to crime-fighting may have had something to do with his even darker origin story, which wasn’t even introduced until Detective Comics #33 wherein we learn of young Bruce Wayne, the victim of a terrible crime as he watches his mother and father gunned down by a petty thief. In comparison to Superman’s story (also technically an orphan), Bruce’s origin is especially brutal, but given the rise of organized crime in the 1930s, making the Waynes victims of such a terrible crime gives us a reason to sympathize and encourage his decision to become Batman. It further articulated the point that not even the rich could escape the reach of criminals. In order to lighten things up a bit and give the kids a character they could vicariously live through and provide Batman with a Watson to his Holmes, Bill Finger created Dick Grayson, a.k.a. Robin, the Boy Wonder, as Batman’s kid sidekick.



The Silver Age (1950s-1960s)


Post World War II was an interesting era that saw the changing dynamics of the household set against the tumultuous political divisions building around the Vietnam War and the burgeoning counter culture movement. This was also the age that gave us the atom bomb, creating a new world of possibilities that were both awe-inspiring and devastatingly horrific. To capitalize on the science-fiction genre, Batman interacted with more aliens and used technology never before seen. This is the age in comics that gave us the more whack-a-doodle storylines, which geeks still have a soft spot for since campiness never really goes away. Sci-fi ultimately proved that even a character like Batman could be adapted to fit the prevailing culture…sort of.

That’s not to say Batman was without his share of controversy at the time. Thanks to that feel-good piece Seduction of the Innocent by Fredric Wertham, Batman and Robin were basically called out as homosexuals since they didn’t interact with girls enough for Mr. Wertham’s liking. Like Wonder Woman’s lesbian fetishisms and the schadenfreude caused by violence within comics, Batman and Robin were warping the fragile little minds of the youths. In response, DC Comics introduced Batwoman (Kathy Kane) and Bat-girl (Bette Kane) to counteract the accusations. Later on, Batwoman would go on to become one of the most prominent lesbian characters in comics, so go figure!



The Bronze Age (1970’s to 1980’s)


This is where the eras start to get a little murky, but I’ll stick with it as it kinda helps with the organization. Dennis “Denny” O’Neil did for Batman in the 70s what Frank Miller did for Batman in the late 80s, which is make him relevant and badass. O’Neil especially wanted to put some distance between the comic book character and the campy tv show. He envisioned bringing Batman back to the dark roots that had made him so popular to begin with and he did so along with artist Neal Adams. They sought to make Batman the brooding detective, a man tortured by the death of his parents whose only solace was in dedicating his life to fighting crime so that no one else should suffer the same fate. During his run, O’Neil made the call to give Batman an aversion to guns that’s been a part of Batman’s psyche ever since. O’Neil also returned the Joker to his more primal and psychotic state, making him a less predictable foil and greater challenge for the Dark Knight to combat. If you want more proof of O’Neil’s contributions to the Batman mythos, then look no further than Ra’s al-Ghul and his daughter, Talia, both created by O’Neil with assists from Neal Adams on Ra’s and Bob Brown on Talia. The introductory storyline involves international puzzles, forbidden romance, the Lazarus Pit, and Batman and Ra’s sword fighting in the desert! Of course, O’Neil is also the guy who introduced and subsequently killed Robin II, Jason Todd, so it’s not all rainbows and gumdrops.

Despite attempts to revitalize the character, it wasn’t until Frank Miller’s two groundbreaking works, Batman: Year One (1987) and The Dark Knight Returns (1986), that interest in the character skyrocketed. DKR told the story of an older Bruce Wayne, a man forced into retirement by old age yet drawn back into fighting crime as the moral fabric of Gotham declines further and further. This is where the truly obsessed Batman emerges, a man forever driven by his mission no matter what the cost. In contrast, what’s amazing about Year One is that, though it did redefine the Batman origin story (think Martha Wayne’s pearls), it’s not really as much about Batman as it is about the rise of Jim Gordon. Written in the noir style that Miller loves so much, Year One juxtaposes Batman’s attempt to fight crime and corruption outside the law with Gordon as he tries to make change from the inside by refusing to give in to the rampant corruption infecting the GCPD. But Gordon isn’t without his own foibles as the obsession to change Gotham ultimately leads him down a rocky path that makes him question his own moral compass.

The unfortunate aftermath of Miller’s relationship with comic books and the industry as a whole lead him to create two very cynical and almost hateful depictions of not only Batman, but superheroes in general with The Dark Knight Strikes Again (2002) and All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder (2005). Though All-Star is beautifully drawn by Jim Lee and Scott Williams, that’s about all you can say for the book, except that it originates the very popular line, “I’m the Goddam Batman!”

Then we have Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke (1989). Though the story is ostensibly about Joker’s attempt to drive Jim Gordon insane, the overall narrative is about the fall of decent men. Though it’s Gordon that The Joker torments, his idea that even the most pure of heart and purpose can be corrupted because of “one bad day” equally applies to Batman. The very crime that created Batman could be argued as proof of Joker’s point, which Joker makes reference to at the story’s climax. It’s a fascinating psychological piece as it poses the question, “Is Batman as crazy as his foes?”


The Modern Era (1990’s to 2000’s)



Aren’t labels fun? Anyway, the 90s, though defined by outrageous artwork and a sudden freedom to do whatever the fuck-all you wanted story-wise, saw some notable turns for Batman in the form of Knightfall and The Long Halloween. A brilliant idea that ended on a kind of eh? note, Knightfall (1993) was the book that introduced us to Bane, the South American venom addict who’s most famous for breaking the Bat’s back. With an entire team of writers including Denny O’Neil and Chuck Dixon, Knightfall was as much a character piece for Bruce Wayne as a story asking questions such as, “What makes Batman Batman?” and “Does being Batman mean to be forever alone?” Paralyzed by Bane, Bruce must rebuild his broken body, submitting himself to rigorous physical therapy in order to overcome the psychological damage of being broken and exhausted in his mission as Batman. Whilst recovering, he asks Jean-Paul Valley, a.k.a. Azrael, to take over as Batman, but the overly zealous and increasingly paranoid young man takes his duties to the extreme, tarnishing Batman’s relationship with Gotham and the GCPD. Once recovered through a supernatural deus ex machina, Bruce returns to his duties as Batman and begins to rebuild the relationships sorely neglected by his drive and obsession: his family.

The Long Halloween (1996-97) was written by Jeff Loeb as a follow-up to Miller’s Year One. Utilizing that same noir style, Loeb crafted a thrilling mystery surrounding a villain nicknamed “The Holiday Killer” who, you guessed it, only kills on holidays. The deaths, however, all appear to be specific attacks on the Falcone crime family, with all signs pointing to Bruce Wayne as the killer. The book brilliantly built upon Miller’s foundation, bringing Batman’s rogues gallery in for quick introductions while setting up the fall of Harvey Dent and the rise of Two-Face. The resolution is a disturbing look at the lengths people will go to for what they believe, so it’s no surprise that Christopher Nolan drew heavily from this story when crafting The Dark Knight.

The New Millenia at DC Comics brought about some of the most engaging and somewhat controversial works published prior to the 2011 reboot. One of my all-time favorites was Hush (2003), written by Jeff Loeb with the gorgeous art of Jim Lee. Like all great Batman stories, there’s a mystery to be solved, and this one revolves around Gotham’s latest villain, Hush. The book also explores the themes of family and trust as Bruce willfully reveals his secret identity to Selina Kyle (Catwoman) and comes to terms with the possible return of Jason Todd from the dead. The resolution is brilliant and I dare not spoil it for you. A follow-up that deserves some mention is Under The Hood by Judd Winnick that takes the supposed return of Jason Todd and makes it a reality – because reality got punched in the FACE!!! (For reals, go check out Infinite Crisis) The death of Jason has always been one of Batman’s greatest failures and a huge source of guilt, which Jason exploits through most of the book as he takes revenge upon the Joker for killing him and Batman for not saving him. One could argue that it’s just Jason continuing to be a whiny shit even after his resurrection, but it’s still an interesting concept.

Closing out the pre-52 era is the magnum opus that is the work of Grant Morrison. Starting with the introduction of everybody’s favorite homicidal ten-year-old, Damian Wayne, Morrison embarked on an epic exploration of the Batman mythos culminating in his “death” in Final Crisis (2005-06). A self-proclaimed scholar of myth, legend, and probably made of magic, Morrison took Batman to new levels of ridiculous awesomeness that invited you to journey down the rabbit hole. Whether or not you agree with his treatment of the character, Morrison strongly tied the origins of Bruce Wayne, Gotham, and Batman into a Gordion Knot of mythological and symbolic history. The foundations of Gotham and the foundations of Batman are one and the same, permeating the very buildings that pierce the skyline. Morrison also established through his run on Batman and Robin that Batman and Gotham share yet another connection, that of legacy. Though Gotham is a city that appears to stand alone, it is built upon the legacies of the families who gave birth to her in concept and design. And though we often depict Batman as a solitary hero, he is the progenitor of a powerful legacy of heroes, which results in his desire to “share the wealth” as it were in Batman, Inc.


The New 52 – Present


Though this was prior to the 2011 “reboot,” when Scott Snyder took over writing duties on the main Batman title post-Morrison, he carried over the concept of Gotham as its own living, breathing entity, a reflective surface prepared to bring out the ugly darkness from within, no matter the hero who calls him or herself a protector of the city. As a lover of comics I recommend that you pick up The Black Mirror as fast as you can. It is, by far, one of the best Batman stories written prior to The Court of Owls storyline. Through the eyes of Dick Grayson as the new Batman in Bruce’s absence, Snyder turned the tables on Gotham’s most reluctantly heroic son, showing Dick that, though he’s always tried to run away from the legacy of his adopted family, his roots are as much a part of the city as Bruce’s. For Dick, Gotham may bring out the worst aspects of the human soul, but that only makes him strive to fight the good fight more.

Carried over, post-reboot, The Court of Owls arc takes Batman and Gotham’s intertwining legacies and turns it into an all out brawl for the soul of the city. Batman once again, Bruce is pushed to his absolute breaking point by the Court of Owls, a secret society ensconced in Gotham society’s upper echelons. Working behind the scenes, the Court manipulates and murders in order to retain power, using the immortal assassins, the Talons, to do their bidding. As he investigates them further, Bruce finds that one of his most trusted companions may be connected to the Court and their deadly machinations. The crux of the story continues to be that of family and legacy. Pulling in the entire Bat Family, Snyder cracks the foundations in order to make them stronger than ever before. Of course, this was before we knew what he and artist Greg Capullo had in store for the Batman and the Bat-Family in Death of the Family, Zero Year, Endgame, and the current arc. The final issue of Court of Owls, however, features a beautiful scene between Bruce and Dick that gives the original dynamic duo a quiet moment of repose and reflection before Gotham inevitably needs them again. As the arc ends, we the readers understand that Snyder is himself a part of a long legacy of Batman creators, molding his own vision of the Dark Knight and the world he inhabits. And if you need a reminder of just how much Batman and Gotham are tied together go read Batman #44 by Snyder, co-writer Brian Azzarello, and artist Jock and prepare to be amazed.


Why eight questions? Because I had more than five and less than ten! Actually, there are more than eight because of grouping the questions by subject but – and you probably don’t care about any explanation I provide.

Moving on!

Over the summer I started reading more prose fiction to shake things up between comic book trades and I was fortunate to come across a spectacular, mostly coming-of-age, story of magic, music, and the harsh reality of growing up: Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Set in Mexico City and jumping between 1988 and 2009, Signal to Noise follows Mercedes “Meche” Vega who discovers her love of music, and the right vinyl, can cast magic spells. Roping in her friends Sebastian silviaand Daniela, the trio use magic to change their lives for the better, but the consequences of their actions result in a decades long estrangement.

The book comes highly recommended by io9’s Charlie Jane Anders and I couldn’t agree with her more. Signal to Noise is an intimate look at a young woman searching for a solid foundation, something she can believe in, trust in, but always comes up short. Meche’s exterior and interior turmoil makes for a complex and nuanced protagonist who is as frustrating as she is sympathetic.

In light of my new found book to gush over, I reached out to Silvia Moreno-Garcia and she was kind enough to answer several questions, via email, about Signal to Noise and her forth-coming anthology, She Walks in Shadows, which looks at the works of H.P. Lovecraft through his female characters – or lack thereof.


Maniacal Geek (MG): Though Signal to Noise is a coming-of-age story, the magical elements are secondary, acting more as a catalyst than being a consistently present force. Is this how you perceive the role of magic in urban fantasy or did it just serve this specific story?

Silvia Moreno-Garcia (SMG): For many Anglo writers and readers magic must work as a system, a kind of D&D system. I wanted to play with this notion, with how much you can systematize magic, versus the magicwhich appears in Latin American fiction which works in a completely different matter. So that the result is this is not quite magic realism and not quite urban fantasy.

MG: Meches grandmother doesnt mind telling stories about magic but shes reluctant to use it and only does so to save Sebastian from Meches recklessness. In your opinion, is magic the folly of youth?

SMG: I leave it up to the reader to figure that out.

MG: Music is the connective tissue that keeps Meche tied to her father and becomes her means of casting spells. What is your relationship with music and how did it influence Signal to Noise?

SMG: My parents both worked in radio stations. Thats the kind of environment I grew up in. We had a lot of albums stacked around the house. I used my fathers professional tape recorder to make mixtapes. That kind of thing. My son now has a portable record player. My grandfather was also a radio announcer so the fear is its genetic.

MG: (Silly question alert!) Which album would be your object of power?JoshJoplinGroup-UsefulMusic

SMG: Josh Joplins Useful Music.

MG: Coming from a comic book background myself, theres been an ongoing discussion about the flawed female protagonist, which Meche definitely fits. Were you worried that people might not be able to relate to Meche? Do we have to relate to a character like Meche? How do you feel Meche has grown as a character by the end of the book?

SMG: Ugh. Relatable, likeable characters, eh? There are so many famous characters in books you cant relate to and the books do just fine. You have criminals like Tom Ripley and Dexter in multiple novels. And in the romance novel the brooding hero is a staple. I dont find Heathcliff or Mr. Rochester to be relatable since Im not a white billionaire living in the age of carriages. Theyre not super likeable either, mad wife in attic and all. But women. Ah, we are much harder on women. Women better be fucking perfect and relatable.

Look, Im Mexican, I grew up without a lot of the bells and whistles Americans take for granted. Theres not a lot of people I can relate to in books. Not Holden from Catcher in the Rye, not Bella in Twilight. So *I* can relate to Meche.

So no, I didnt worry that Meche was likeable or relatable, although Ive heard from many people that they can relate to her.  If people find her interesting enough to follow her through the book I think thats enough.

As to how shes grown, I went to visit my friend who is now living in NY this year and I hadnt been there in about 14 years. At one point he said something which sounds pretty accurate. He said: Silvia, we are older but not more mature.Ill leave it at that.

MG: Do you believe Mexico has a greater cultural connection to magic? To music?

SMG: I grew up with a lot of folklore in my life and folk magic, but I believe this is unusual and certainly much more unusual for people younger than me. But you do see magic more openly, there is a witchs market in Mexico City where you can buy ingredients, there was an esoteric plazain a shopping mall near my home, and theres the witches in Catemaco who are quite famous. Some people still might visit the curandero, the healer, or believe in the evil eye. Things like that. But the influence of Anglo culture is erasing a lot of that.

MG: Youve edited several anthologies with horror themes with many specifically focused on H.P. Lovecrafts mythos. What attracts you to Lovecraft and the horror genre? Do you have a favorite Lovecraft story?she walks in shadows

SMG: “The Colour out of Space.My thesis work focuses on Lovecraft, eugenics and women so Im interested in him on an academic level and at a visceral one. I like all kinds of genres and read indiscriminately, from cheap, old pulp crime novels to modern dramatic lit. As a writer, horror is just one tool I can employ. As a reader, Ive always had a basic interest in terrible things.

MG: The latest anthology, She Walks in Shadows, explores Lovecraft through the feminine perspective and the explicit or ambiguously defined female characters. In your opinion does Lovecraft have an inherent feminist slant or did you see his writings as a challenge, something to meet head on for the anthology?

SMG: He barely has any women in his stories, so its a challenge. The writers are all showing a variety of visions of Lovecraftian characters, Weird fiction, and women. Women for Lovecraft exist as an absence, an unnamed presence, they are the lurking fear of his stories and we are bringing them to the forefront.


If you’d like to get your grubby mits on all of Silvia’s work currently available for purchase:

Signal to Noise: http://www.silviamoreno-garcia.com/blog/books/signal-to-noise/

Love and Other Poisons: http://www.silviamoreno-garcia.com/blog/bibliography/love-other-poisons/

You can also pre-order She Walks in Shadows and follow Silvia on Twitter!

The road back home never runs smooth and for the Rat Queens there are a lot of unresolved issues hanging over the heads of our fearless women warriors. Still in the town of Dunlas outside of Hannah’s alma mater, Mage University, the Queens’ night of revelry turns bittersweet. Violet thwarts an assassination attempt on Betty by another Smidgen RatQueens_12-1but the group’s resident thief and Mistress of Good Times isn’t surprised by the attack, only disheartened that part of her past might be revealed to her friends. And unbeknownst to the party, Dee takes a brief walk between dimensional portals to check in on the family she left behind. Pressing further towards Mage U, the girls are caught in a freak snowstorm and are forced to seek shelter in the aptly named Dank Cave where Hannah’s past and present collide, putting her friends in danger.

Though we’re only two issues into the new arc, the recent changes that surround Rat Queens feel more pronounced both in the book and behind-the-scenes. In the previous review I praised the new art team of Tess Fowler and Tamra Bonvillain and I’m happy to report that they’re keeping the momentum strong on their second issue. I’m particularly tickled by the amount of joy Fowler adds to the art. Unless they’re given a specific emotion in the script, Fowler easily brings the happy to characters with an overall cynical bent. I’m talking about you, Hannah! Once the Queens are holed up in the Dank Cave, Hannah proceeds to regale her friends with more stories while bragging about her fairly memorable legacy as a student. It’s not hard for the others to believe her since the writing is literally on the wall. Hannah’s face is priceless throughout the whole sequence and the cartoonish way she stares doe-eyed at a skull she once used in a prank demonstrates Fowler’s ability to alter her style to fit the emotions of the character.

Bonvillain’s colors are, of course, a beautiful display of just how vibrant the Rat Queens’ world is regardless of the setting. The greens and purples of Dee’s home-commune evoke a pastoral serenity that seems antithetical to the chthonic god they serve considering the most recent world-shattering encounter. Later, when Hannah runs into, let’s say, an “old friend” in the cave, the darkness surrounding the two has more shades of purple and grey contrasting RatQueensCavewith the brighter reds that Hannah wears and her not-so-boon companion emits.

One of the highlights of getting into stories spun by Kurtis J. Wiebe is the setup. Taking the girls beyond the walls of Palisade is already doing half the job. Without the supporting cast of familiar faces (Sawyer, Braga, Tizzie, even fucking Gary), Wiebe puts the reader in the position of relying solely on the Rat Queens to carry us through the new terrain despite the fact that he’s already laying the foundation for a number of revelations that threaten the strength of the Queens’ friendship. As our leads, we’re accustomed to a certain amount of infighting and bickering that’s ultimately resolved by story’s end, but I’m curious to see how far Wiebe wants to go, especially with Hannah. Given the amount of backstory that been carefully strewn about we could be looking at an even greater world-shattering event on the horizon. Plus, maybe the end of the world. However things go down, I’m intrigued and excited to follow the Rat Queens team down the rabbit hole.


P.S. That tunic Violet’s wearing had better end up in the Rat Queens store, or so help me Bilford Bogin…


Violet tunic

As Labor Day comes to a close, I thought I’d recommend a movie that’s been one of my favorites for quite some time that deals with the highly appropriate themes of worker’s rights, unions, and freedom of expression. I’m talking cradle boxabout 1999’s Cradle Will Rock. Written, directed, and produced by Tim Robbins, Cradle Will Rock is set during the Great Depression, spanning the inception of the eponymous musical to its unorthodox opening performance after budget cuts to the Federal Theater Project (FTP), a branch of President Roosevelt’s Works Projects Administration (WPA), shut down all new productions. Surrounding the main story of the musical’s highs and lows are several interconnecting storylines that flesh out life in the Depression-Era America, including several well-known cultural icons and figures of note.

The movie itself is a semi-fictionalized account of The Cradle Will Rock‘s (Robbins dropped the The) original production and what blows my mind about this movie is the truth embedded in every point of connection. The Cradle Will Rock was a real musical, produced by Orson Welles and John Houseman, that was originally performed by the main cast from the audience of the theater when the show’s writer and composer, Marc Blitzstein, provided 00348w9gnarration and musical accompaniment on stage to sidestep union rules that forbid the actors to participate. Clearly it was a play that the cast and crew believed in, one that was unabashedly pro-union in a time when labor unions were the bane of industrialists looking to capitalize on cheap and disposable labor.

Circling The Cradle Will Rock are a number of stories containing their own measures of truth and fiction. These stories include the notorious Diego Rivera painting, Man at the Crossroads, commissioned by Nelson Rockefeller for the lobby of the Rockefeller Center (recently featured in the Netflix series Sense8), the House Committee on Un-American Activities’ investigation into the FTP, and the complicity of American industrialists in providing funds to dictators like Hitler and Mussolini. All of it is tied together through the common themes of censorship in and of the arts, labor issues, immigration, and the disparity between the wealthy and the poor that does more to fully realize life in America than a typical event-based movie. Though Tim Robbins took some liberties with the various stories, the political and philosophical underpinnings of the script are fully justified by the characters and their actions.

The cast is a veritable who’s-who of character actors who, by now, are most well-known actors in their own right. At the time, though, many members of the cast were still operating below Hollywood’s radar. The cast includes Hank Azaria as Marc Blitzstein, Emily Watson as The Cradle Will Rock actress and singer Olive Stanton, John Cusack as cradle will rockNelson Rockefeller, Angus Macfadyen as Orson Welles, Cary Elwes as John Houseman, Ruben Blades as Diego Rivera, John Turturro as fictional actor Aldo Silvano, and Cherry Jones as FTP producer, director, and playwright Hallie Flanagan. Filling out the cast are Billy Murray, Joan Cusack, Vanessa Redgrave, Paul Giamatti, Jack Black, Kyle Gass, Susan Sarandon, and Philip Baker Hall. Robbins also rounded out the cast with veteran Broadway performers for much of the musical scenes as well as minor roles for still-living members of The Cradle Will Rock‘s original cast. With such a massive ensemble it’s amazing that no single member of the company is given an elevated status that might signal them as the main character. Robbins as a writer and director is generous yet fair with the amount of time each character has to shine, assuring us that there are no favorites and that the story is properly served.

If you have the time and have an interest in this time in America’s history, or you’re looking for a good discussion about art and politics, Cradle Will Rock will most definitely give you something to talk about by the film’s end. And you get some pretty sweet Broadway songs to tap your feet to.




Sam talks with Kelly Sue DeConnick about ALL THE THINGS! Specifically Bitch Planet, Pretty Deadly, and Captain Marvel but there’s always plenty of awesome when Kelly Sue is around!

Intro: “The Captain” by Adam WarRock 


Sam and Tiff talk about everything and nothing as friends are want to do.



Sixteen years never felt so short, but it’s with a heavy heart that we say so long and farewell to Jon Stewart as he sits behind the desk as The Daily Show‘s host one last time on Thursday August 6th, 2015. It’s bittersweet, for many reasons, chief among them the notion that though Stewart will no doubt go forth and create something of substance we’ll flock back to, but the familiarity and seeming ubiquitousness of The Daily Show with Jon at the helm will be sorely missed. Even when Jon took personal time jon stewartaway from the program, whether it was vacation or to direct a film (go see Rosewater!), and one of the correspondents took over hosting duties there was still this “gentleman’s agreement” between the audience and the show that Jon was coming back. We got to see the proto-hosting abilities of Stephen Colbert and John Oliver emerge but there was always this sense that The Daily Show wasn’t really The Daily Show until Jon returned.

Of course that wasn’t always the case.

While we see The Daily Show as a satirical powerhouse, the original concept of the show was much more in line with Saturday Night Live‘s Weekend Update – news with punchlines – combined with a Tonight Show celebrity interview segment. Even when Jon took over hosting duties from Craig Kilborn in 1999, The Daily Show didn’t carve out its place as cable’s most trusted news show until the clusterfuck that was the 2000 Presidential Election. The insane yet hilarious coverage and commentary provided by Jon and his team of correspondents featuring Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Vance DeGeneres, Nancy Walls, and Mo Rocca set the new tone for the show and propelled it into the politically-apathetic hearts and mind of a new generation of high school and college students in need of their own Walter Cronkite.

jon stephen star warsThat’s not me being hyperbolic, by the way. Jon Stewart is to my generation what Walter Cronkite was to my parents’ generation. It would have been so easy for Jon to treat the hosting gig as just that and keep it in line with most comedy shows, but whether through his own desires or the demands of an audience in need of an iota of honesty, he and the show’s writers and producers turned it into something more. As the political and media landscape turned dark and ugly, Jon was there to offer a comedic palate cleanser that didn’t resort to condescension or fear-mongering to manipulate the audience. Jon did something news channels like CNN, FOX, and MSNBC didn’t – he treated us like we were intelligent, he respected the viewers as people and respected his position as the jester poking fun at royalty.

I was in high school when Jon started hosting The Daily Show and I can say without any hesitation that, to this day, he’s still my most trusted source for objective discussion of the news and media. Yes, he has his own agenda and his own biases but what I’ve always respected about Jon is his desire for discourse. Some news outlets bring people on their shows to yell at them and attempt to dominate the conversation; Jon Stewart brought people on to talk to them. For him it was about looking at both sides and finding common ground or, at the very least, understand where the other side was coming from. His friendly olive branch, dailyshow_middlehowever, didn’t stop him from turning it into a sharpened spear when certain guests underestimated his intellect and his ability to work the room in his favor.

The three most notorious cases were his appearance on the how defunct Crossfire and guests of The Daily Show Jim Cramer, host of the also defunct Mad Money, and Betsy “Death Panels” McCaughey. In the case of Crossfire and Mad Money, both shows took huge dives in ratings after Jon conversed with their respective hosts. And by “converse” I mean “ran circles around them intellectually”, though it became very obvious by the end of his “discussion” with Cramer that Jon was taking very little joy in using clips from the man’s show against him to make his point. Towards the end, Cramer physically sighs after yet another order from Jon to show footage. Betsy McCaughey’s appearance was one of those rare moments in television, other than watching audition tapes for American Idol, where I started to feel sorry for the guest. Brought on the show to talk about the language in the early draft of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act that supposedly mentioned “death panels”, McCaughey brought a large binder containing the bill, but neglected to mark where the language could be found. As she attempted to find it, Jon talked with her but McCaughey tried to ham it up for the audience by diminishing the importance of appearing on a comedy show to talk about an issue concerning the federal government. The audience wasn’t buying it, but Jon showed patience as she continued to thumb through the bill. Eventually, he had to go to commercial and when they returned, McCaughey still hadn’t found the statement that justified her coining the term. Instead, the two talked around the bill as if she’d come on the show prepared for a real discussion.

jon wavingIn all three example, Jon Stewart was underestimated by the “other side” and in all three examples he showed just how much he shouldn’t be underestimated. Yes, he still maintains that his job is about putting comedy first, and there are certainly plenty of moments that prove him right, but the audience is in on the joke. We know where his passion is because he’s not particularly good at hiding his emotions when it comes to certain topics and people. It’s because of Jon Stewart that we’ve been introduced to so many amazing comedic voices. It’s because of Jon Stewart that more veterans have access to medical care. It’s because of Jon Stewart that Jason Jones went to Tehran to talk to the real people of Iran, not just the religious fundamentalists most news outlets were showing as the only representation of the country. It’s because of Jon Stewart that we had at least one place to go where we trusted someone not to lie and manipulate us for the sake of ratings.

When Jon Stewart steps down on Thursday, there’s no telling what the future of The Daily Show will be. We’ve been asked to give incoming host Trevor Noah a fair shot and I’m sure many of us will continue to tune in if only to see how well he fares. That doesn’t mean Jon’s shadow won’t linger. For nearly twenty years he was ours, so getting over his absence might take a while.

But here’s to you, Jon! Looking forward to the next adventure!

And now, your moment of Zen.

How does a team of misfit lady-warriors regroup after saving the world from mind-altering tentacled demons? They go back to school.


Rat Queens is back and writer Kurtis J. Wiebe is joined by Tess Fowler, artist for the Braga solo issue, and colorist Tamra Bonvillain (Wayward, Pisces) as the new permanent team after Stjepan Šejić had to step down due to health issues (feel better Stjepan!) Anyway, with the new team in place, it’s time for these warrior women to start a new chapter of their own as they venture to Hannah’s old stomping grounds at Mage University to find out what happened to Hannah’s father after his row with the university’s Council of Nine. And by row I mean huge freaking battle of epically magical proportions!

Seriously, the first five pages show exactly what Fowler and Bonvillain bring to the table. They come out of the gate with a battle among the student mages that would put Hogwarts to shame. I want to meet all of the students and see all of the magic because some of these people had to survive, right? Right? It’s also a pretty diverse student body, Fowler’s designed, and Bonvillain’s colors always pop, her use of lighting is top notch as well.

The meat of the story, however, concerns Hannah and her relationship with her father and her alma matter. At the conclusion of the second arc we learned that Hannah’s rockabilly hairdo was more utilitarian than stylistic, hiding a pair of horns that have something to do with her necromancer parents. It seems the “demon baby” label may be further connected to her time as a student, which I can’t wait to discover. Wiebe continues to thematically tie his leading ladies with similar stories of absent or failing fathers. From the first arc we’ve known Hannah has a stronger relationship with her mother, not unlike Violet or Dee (Betty’s background…still a mystery), but unlike the traditional rigidity of Daddy Dwarf, Papa Vizari comes across as a man who knows he failed his child and could possibly have a relationship with her if they talked things out. Or magiked them. I don’t know how it works in the Vizari family. At least that’d be my guess as to where the proceedings go. Keep in mind, it’s only based on a few lines of dialogue, but what impresses me most about Wiebe’s writing is his ability to pepper just enough background in his exposition to justify future plot points. Case in point: only a few lines of dialogue spoken by or about Braga made her one-shot feel genuine instead of forced.

RatQueens11_1As always, the humor is a delight from Hannah’s crude yet nonchalant announcements to Betty’s bag of special candy (just don’t eat the green ones). Comic timing is an art I greatly admire in comic books, but Wiebe and Fowler are pros so the girls come off as natural in dialogue and movement. One of the little details I love is Betty’s hair going from braided while she’s “at work” to loose during her down time. It’s small, I know, but it adds to the character. And it’s really in the downtime where Wiebe shines in his writing. Rat Queens, if you’ll recall in a previous interview, is about a family of misfits. Emphasis on the family. When they’re not fighting orc hordes or having wild post-battle parties, the Queens are a rambunctious and raunchy group of friends who would go to hell and back for each other. Their concern and love for one another isn’t just because of their prowess as fighters, mages, or clerics, but from a place of real friendship and love.

Oh and Violet grew her beard again. Yes, she looks hot.

Rat Queens #11 will be out August 19th at your Local Comic Shop and Comixology. Buy it!