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AwesomeCon 2017

When Tales of the Con was still just an idea being diagrammed on a whiteboard in the Chief’s living room, I remember my name being jokingly scribbled next to the phrase “18+ panels.” The joke, however, was based on a story that came from my first 18+ panel during my very first convention the year before. I wrote extensively about that experience in my When Nerdy Gets Dirty article. Scribbling names next to phrases like this was our informal way of assigning topic areas for the team to cover at every convention. Everyone’s name was scribbled somewhere on that whiteboard and our roles in the company were roughly set out for the future. For the most part, those early scribblings have maintained their integrity throughout our progression as a media platform. When we started, we were just a ragtag group of directionless nerds with a vague idea for a company who stood around smoking cigarettes, drinking beers, and brainstorming in front of a whiteboard. Today, we have become a well-functioning team that, while still smoking and drinking beers, professionally produces weekly podcasts, YouTube series, photo albums, written content, and regularly attends conventions. All the while, staying true to that original whiteboard.

As we’ve grown as a company and we’ve all grown into our roles, I have come to enjoy my topic area quite thoroughly. Not in a perverted way. Definitely not in a “I might see nerdy boobies” kind of way. But instead, in a truly appreciative way towards what I see as value in the after-dark 18+ panel. The value, in my opinion, is in giving people the opportunity to be themselves. To be open. To be vulnerable. To be accepted. 18+ panels give people the safety and the confidence to venture outside of their comfort zone to be the most authentic versions of themselves. The folks who find themselves particularly drawn to certain 18+ panels, like last year’s after-dark 18+ “Intermediate Rope bondage” panel, leave feeling fulfilled in ways they wouldn’t normally feel fulfilled outside of the convention setting. It’s one thing to enjoy bondage in the privacy of your own home but it’s an entirely different thing to experience and discuss the joy of bondage with a room full of people who enjoy it just as much as you do. It gives you the unique opportunity to honestly open yourself up to other people. It empowers you. And when you leave you feel euphoric and you chatter with everyone else as you file out of the room. You may even create friendships with people through those shared interests.

Now, I am absolutely not saying that Comic Conventions need to be the place or the platform to explore one’s kinks or sexuality or even a place to allow vulgarity or anything sordid. But, what I
am saying is that, after attending many conventions and other nerdy events, I’ve noticed that the comics and kinks often overlap. And sometimes in a very big way and, in my opinion, the
inclusion of these types of panels is important for both the success of a Con and the satisfaction of many Con-Goers. With that said, I’d like to talk about this year’s AwesomeCon.

To be frank, this article is a little overdue. This should have been written about three weeks ago… Better late than never though, right? (editors note: Due to an email snafu the article is now months late!.. oops.) On June 17, 2017, I attended AwesomeCon in Washington, D.C. as a representative of TalesoftheCon.com. The lateness of this article is a direct result of my dissatisfaction and lack of enthusiasm towards this year’s AwesomeCon panels. As noted above, I cover 18+ panels. In this respect, AwesomeCon was a major let down. Besides the endless number of Sci-fi Speed Dating sessions and games of Cards Against Humanity, this year’s AwesomeCon offered an overwhelmingly disappointing number of 18+ panels. If you want to get technical, there were exactly three others. The first, entitled Super Art Fight Unleashed, was on Friday, June 16. The other two, Creating Powerful Females in Fantasy Worlds and Comics Made Me Gay, were both on Saturday, June 17. Now, to be fair, I did not attend any of these panels because they sounded wildly unappealing and far from what I have come to expect from the after-dark 18+ panels. And again, to be fair, for all I know these three panels could have been thoroughly impressive and could have made for outstanding topics to report on. But, I didn’t go. I think Comics Made Me Gay would have been particularly interesting and I did fully intend on going but, for reasons beyond my control, I couldn’t make it to the 8:30pm timeslot.

At Cons I’ve attended in the past, the variety of 18+ panels one might choose attend over the course of the weekend was overwhelming. This year it was simply disappointing… there were literally three. Thankfully though, the saving grace for AwesomeCon 2017 was the outstanding incorporation of FutureCon.

FutureCon was like a Con within a Con and it was exceptional. FutureCon took science fiction and turned it into science fact and turned fantasy into reality. I explored several FutureCon booths and was extremely impressed by the level of effort and involvement that was put forth by organizations like NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Obviously, these are all national heavy weights in the realm of real world hard science. To see them seamlessly draw the connection between comics, sci-fi, and real world science was, for me, what made AwesomeCon 2017 a success.

Though I attended many panels throughout the day on June 17, spent way too much money on the exhibition floor, and took a tremendous number of photos; what I am most interested in talking about here is FutureCon and two panels in particular. The first being “Alien Climates on Planets Near and Far” and the second “Frozen Fossils: Dinosaurs of the Antarctic.”

The first was both thoroughly informative and equal parts fantasy and reality. This panel was comprised of four NASA scientists (Giada Arney, Hannah Wakeford, Ravi Kopparapu, Conor
Nixon) who went into great detail about the habitability of planets from an actual science perspective. Among other things, they gave very well informed presentation on the “habitable zone” and

Giada Arney, Hannah Wakeford, Ravi Kopparapu, Conor Nixon from the Panel “Alien Climates on Planets Near and Far”

what it would take to reasonably support life on other planets. Much of this conversation, though it was a bit over my head at times, was incredibly interesting to listen to. From there they launched into a discussion of some of their favorite sci-fi planets, whether or not those planets were scientifically plausible, and the viability of each planet as a habitable planet. During this discussion Pandora from Avatar and Tatooine from the Star Wars were hot topics. And, as confirmed by NASA scientists, Tatooine is apparently a decently thought through sci-fi planet that could work in reality. It was interesting to learn that, like Tatooine, planets with binary suns are fairly common in the universe and a handful of the planets we’ve discovered orbiting binary suns are within the “habitable zone.” This roughly means that those planets have enough atmospheric pressure and orbit their suns at an appropriate enough distance to support liquid water on the surface of the planet. Pandora, on the other hand, is based on very sketchy science and in a lot of ways just throws science fact out the window entirely. Apparently, giant floating islands are not scientifically possible. Who would have guessed?

The second panel, Frozen Fossils: Dinosaurs of the Antarctic, was a mostly science fact based conversation. The panel was comprised of National Science Foundation researchers, Nate (Nathan) Smith, David Clark, Tom Skwerski, who, as you may have guessed, work to unearth fossils in antarctica. What was interesting about this panel though was the way in which they took the audience through the journey of bringing fossils back to life (kinda). They weren’t talking about Jurassic Park. Instead they discussed the process of unearthing fossils and then bringing them to “life” in museums and computer generated models. The life that is brought to fossils in museums is something we have all probably seen and can appreciate on a basic level. We can all go to a museum of natural history and see the T-Rex skeleton towering over us and appreciate the ferocity of such a beast. What we don’t normally do or appreciate is the science that goes into figuring out the locomotion of that beast, or the texture of its skin, or the sound of its roar. When I think about dinosaurs my mind immediately jumps to fairly basic thoughts of earthy toned, giant, scaly, lizard-type creatures and I think most other people think the same. But what I was thrilled to learn during this panel was that the evolutionary advent of feathers took place in dinosaurs an incredibly long time ago and many of our favorite childhood dinosaur toys may be better representations of reality if they had a few feathery tufts. But, in terms of science fiction versus fact, the world of dinosaurs as depicted in most of the movies we’ve seen is fairly close to science fact. When devising science fiction built around dinosaurs, the creatives lean a lot more heavily on the true science community for guidance than do the creatives building sci-fi settings in space. Apparently, it’s a lot easier to take creative liberties when we imaginatively explore the vast unknowns of space than it is to bluff the science behind dinosaurs.

At the end of the day, I did truly enjoy every minute of my time at AwesomeCon 2017. While the lack of 18+ panels was a touch disappointing on a personal level, I completely understand the difficulty in arranging events of this size. Accommodating the masses with content viewable by the most people possible obviously takes precedent over carving out a space for nerds to talk about hentai, Bronyism, nerdlesque, bondage, or which superhero would be best in bed. When I return for AwesomeCon 2018, I would be overjoyed to see more after-dark 18+ panels on the schedule. But, if I don’t, I would be just as thrilled to see an expansion of FutureCon.

-David in Legal

Evil’s Unlikely Assassin – Red’s Reads

Evil’s Unlikely Assassin  By Jenn Windrow

Review by Red


When I first heard of Evil’s ​Unlikely Assassin, the synopsis sounded interesting. I have always had a soft spot for dark urban fantasy novels with tough, dramatic humanity back. She is contracted by an angel for fifty years to go out and kill other “things that go heroines. I tend to think of them as guilty pleasures. And while many in this genre are plagued with predictable tropes, I thought it sounded fun enough to give it a read-through.  

The story of Evil’s Unlikely Assassin is that of a vampire, named Alexis, who wants to get her humanity back. She is offered a contract where she has to hunt things that “bump in the night” for 50 years. This must be done every night or she dies. She agrees to the contract, begrudgingly, but doesn’t know that with the contract also comes a human sidekick, who cannot stand anything that has fangs, and the spirit of another vampire inhabiting her head who occasionally is able to take control of her body.

Two years into her contract, vampires in Chicago (which is the setting of the story) are starting to become a major problem. They are mass feeding, not cleaning up the dead bodies, and obviously thinking they are the superior race and humans should take a back seat. Until this point, the vampire population has been kept on a tight leash with feedings and cleanup to not incur the wrath of humans or have the newly developed VAU, or Vampire Apprehension Unit, sent after them.  To solve the new vampire horde dilemma Alexis, our unlikely heroine, must get to the root of the problem, kill all the evil she can, and not lose herself in the process.

I was a little disappointed in the book that Alexis didn’t seem to develop beyond the badass, overly sarcastic, hunter. Many of the other characters had interesting personal developments. The only development that seemed to happen to Alexis was very early on in the story and didn’t really add much depth to her character. And while there are great characters and action-packed parts, it was slightly on the predictable side with many characters not wanting to be supernatural beings or even just the bad guy not being who you thought. With that said, supernatural beings hiding or running from who they truly are seems to be a favorite of the author, as it becomes a recurring theme in the story.

There are so many parts to the story that I found refreshing. A rather imaginative setup was the vampire hierarchy. Similar enough to other versions of Vampire mythos, but different enough to catch my attention. Many other vampire stories have either a coven who make the rules or a royal family to which everyone answers. This version uses a combination of the two. It sticks with Vlad the Impaler being the start of the vampire line and royalty, which I actually prefer to having it be a virus or mutation.  The Vampires have a royal line, but then there is a governing council who decide how to manage the race as a whole. Much like the British royal family and the Parliament. Another favorite part and a highlight was finding out who the spirit in Alexis’s head actually is. The knowledge was dropped so suddenly it made me pause before nodding at the choice. I would not have guessed the person, but it’s a perfect counterpart to the heroine. Then there is another character named Nathan. Oh Nathan, my favorite of the whole story. Without giving spoilers, I’m hoping he’ll get his own book. Nathan has the most unpredictable story arc in the whole book. For such a small self sacrificing start to his role in the book, he had the biggest impact and the most memorable personality.

I would like to add this is probably not a book to read if you can get easily embarrassed. There is a very descriptive sex scene in the second half that I was not expecting. Not entirely out of place for the characters or situation, but far more detailed than I would have expected.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book for the straightforward dark urban fantasy that it is. I’m looking forward to a sequel, but I hope it can avoid some of the more predictable (and overused) tropes of the genre.

 

Visit the author’s website and grab a copy!  http://www.jennwindrow.com/

Drawing the Dragon – Red’s reads

Drawing the Dragon  By April Adams

Review by Red


     This was possibly one of the most interesting and complex books I’ve read in a long time. Without using any spoilers, it is difficult to summarize the book in detail. Best said, it is the start of a war, the start of characters questioning all they’ve known, heartache on so many levels, and the start of a bond deeper than space and time. And with it all in this amazing sci-fi/futuristic/fantasy setting, none of that really makes a lot of sense until you read the book.

     The main storyline of this book revolves around a set of three pilots. Their official rank is Jordan, or dragon pilot. This gives them a highly specialized rank in the military, and grants the ability to give themselves new names. Our Jordans named Blue, Scarlett, and Jade go through an interesting set of challenges and dilemmas throughout the entirety of the book. Scarlett, who has worked extra hard to become a Jordan, projects a tough exterior with a chip on her shoulder when others seem to do well. Blue is trying to escape her family’s history of helping to start the Chimerian War. Jade searches for his purpose, though it doesn’t turn out to be what he expected. The story also involves the Chimera, who are constructs, or androids, and are starting a war against the galactic counsel.

     There are multiple secondary storylines. One of the secondary storylines helps to tell the history of how this universe came to be the way it is. Another secondary storyline talks through the Jordan training program. All of the secondary storylines end up merging into the main one helping to create a wonderfully well-rounded universe and setting for the books.

     My initial reaction after hearing about the book was excitement. I loved the idea of the story. I’ve always been a dragon fan and merging them into cyber organic starships, adding a Sci-Fi flare to everything really peaked my interest. I was only further intrigued by the adding in of the android/construct aspect of the Chimera. The book reads as a definite Sci-Fi book more than fantasy. There are fantasy parts but they are not the main genre. It works very well and blends seamlessly.

     As I began to read Drawing the Dragon, I initially was concerned because it is a very “hard start”. It drops you into what seems to be the middle of the story. The story starts to clear and, looking back on it, the “hard start” is a fitting beginning. Though, I did have a hard time keeping track of the different story lines at first. The point of view tends to change quite a bit and until you get a little more familiar with the characters it’s hard to keep track of things as they’re progressing. And there is a large cast of characters. You have the Jordans, their support personnel, the characters from the secondary storylines, and of course the dragons. But then you end up becoming so involved with what’s going on with all these characters that it becomes very easy to tell who is in what storyline and that’s easier to keep straight. About one-third to halfway through the book everything started to make total sense and was easy to follow along with.  

     I did like how the story lines all ended up merging together into the main storyline and completing the story, finishing thoughts and answering questions that I had had while I was reading. I was also really really intrigued by how some of the characters interacted with each other almost like siblings but not liking each other at all. The character development and stories that happen are well done. A few took turns I was NOT expecting. Another part I enjoyed was the concept for the book being so spectacularly original. I’ve never heard of anybody else having an idea for this style of universe or even just taking elves and dragons and putting them with humans in a futuristic setting making it sci-fi heavily influenced by fantasy depictions.

     To give you an idea of how well this book works I’m going to give you a summarization of part of the book that really made me love the storyline. It sticks out because while it is at a climactic part of story, it is a very introspective look at the relationships of the Jordans.  You have Scarlett in her Dragon, Fledge, with her friend Calyph, who is an engineer on the main dragon. They are looking for Blue and Jade. Calyph asks Scarlett “How will you find them?” “I can feel them,” Scarlett​ tells him. “I guess I always could. I just never realized it, like how I never think of my toes unless my boots are too tight. Then I am painfully aware of them. Does that make any sense?” Calyph says, “A little.” Then he asks, “And you never noticed this before?” Scarlett​ shakes her head and replies, “How much do you notice the bone in your ankle? Even though it sticks out from the bottom of your leg, you probably don’t notice it until something goes wrong.”

     There is one point in the book that, while not wanting to give things away, I feel does need to get brought up. It is a war situation in the book so things are not always friendly. There is a slight amount of described torture. I feel this needs to be brought up because it was described very well. It was something that I cringed at while reading. It didn’t detract from the story, it did make me pause for a moment and let it sink in.

     As this is only book one of an eight-part series, the book does leave a lot of open-ended questions. The author has already written five of the books so I’m sure there will be answers to come and more questions to be answered. But the author seems to want people to think about their existence, their choices, and their intentions, and this does get brought up in various places within the book itself.

     Overall I am delighted I read this book, I have every intention of finishing the series. I will be reviewing the other books soon — and quite happily.

💃🏻

 

Be sure to visit the Author’s website and grab yourself a copy! http://apriladams.me/

Florida Game Night w/ Samantha

The head of our Florida division Samantha (aka @queenbeeoftotc) attended Game Night at Venom’s Back Room Bar & Grill. She wrote in about her experience.

 

Let me start off by saying I had no idea what to expect out of game night, considering it was hosted at a bar (Venoms back room bar and grill) that’s infamous for hosting metal shows on a weekly basis.

Arriving at Venoms, I met my newly hired intern and longtime friend Cody Eddins. Cody helps me cover events and holds his own online interactive D&D campaign called Epic Interactions. He and I have a long history over the years of playing video games daily till we lose track of time. As per usual we exchanged sarcastic insults to each other before heading inside. As soon as we entered the doors we were greeted by Anthony Marra (the man that put the whole event together with his company Nocturnal Productions and Frank Wood, who used to host a gamer night at another place called Insomniacs).

Anthony is a good friend of mine who is also a lead vocalist in the metal band, Made From Stars. His vision for game night was to see a revival of the gamer community in his area and bring all his gamer friends together under one roof. Although our friendship is still pretty fresh we both have bonded through the mutual love of metal, Cons, games, and comic book heroes. His company, Nocturnal Productions, is based around art and entertainment, mainly music, concerts, and night life. They specialize in working with bands to help promote them, help with booking, merchandizing, and graphic design. I thoroughly enjoy all of their clothing and wire wrapped crystals that they make from hand (I had put in a little help making necklaces).

Anthony led Cody and I over to where all of the game consoles were hooked up, and holy shit was it a sight. A row of 6 flat screen TVs, each hooked up to a different gaming system. They had Nintendo 64, PlayStation 3, NES, Sega, and my own personal PlayStation 4. When we first walked in there was only abut 11 people but later grew to be what seemed like 50. As soon as we got my PlayStation hooked up, Anthony walked over with a couple games, the first one I noticed was Injustice 2 and I grabbed that shit so fast The Flash would have been impressed. We popped that sucker in and went to work. I personally was so excited about Injustice 2 not only because it just came out but because it was tradition to play Injustice every year at Phoenix Comic Con with the TOTC crew. After moving to Florida (AKA Gods blind spot) back in late October, and with Comic Con going on back in Arizona, I was feeling extremely homesick and really missed my nerd herd. So, this made me feel a little less left out and almost like I was back home. After unlocking a few maps, I decided to let Cody have a go so I could grab us a couple of beers. I headed to the bar and asked the oh so lovely bartender Sam for a couple bottles of Yuengling and went back to my spot where Cody was waiting patiently to kick my ass in a quick round. After I got my ass handed to me, I ventured over to see what other games I could get into. They had Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Super Mario, Super Smash Bros, Mortal Combat, Call of Duty, and of course Injustice 2.

For most of the night everyone in the bar took turns rotating between consoles until it was time for the beer pong competition. Cody and I grabbed a pitcher of Shocktop and greeted our opponents who were a lovely couple that ultimately ended up beating us and moving forward for the cash prize. The round lasted about half an hour because all of us, except Cody, sucked at beer pong but somehow, we lost anyway. It was still a fun time nonetheless and Cody ended up leaving right after that and I stayed to see the rest of the night through, even though it was only about an hour.

I really gotta say game night turned out fantastically and I am very much looking forward to the next one. It was good to see so many people nerding out together and bonding through the art of gaming. I could tell people definitely enjoyed their nights as well, so well I basically had to pry some guy off of my PlayStation when it was time to wrap it all up. Anthony and Nocturnal Productions did a great job bringing out everyone’s inner nerd and I hope one day in the near future TOTC can collaborate with them to do something truly incredible for the nerd community.

🐝

Other side of the mic – A submission

Kris Swett attended the recording our podcast with Gerimi Burleigh at Phoenix Comicon.  He used our Submit page to send along this write-up and photos he took. Thank you so much Kris!

 

Tales of the Con Podcast: The other side of the mic

Submitted by Kris Swett

Tales of the Con (TotC), This small pirate crew of nerds that has worked extremely hard over the past couple years to redefine the nerd experience; from providing the highest quality content on their social media and Web page to the connection they strive to maintain to their audience. So needless to say I was more than excited when I was given the opportunity to sit in on of their podcast. Entering the hotel room with Chris, Fred, and Ian accompanied be special guest Gerimi Burleigh. (creator of graphic novel Eye of the Gods) I was immediately impressed by the extent of their studio set up for the event. A small table with four mics and recording equipment displaying the kind of dedication you would expect from a group dedicated to doing anything they can to produce content anywhere they are.

Upon setup the energy in the room remains high and comfortable starting the show with a basic intro in a professional manner. The show quickly turns into a conversion among old friends. A natural feeling that becomes more about capturing a moment with old friends; sharing stories, and nerding out about some of there favorite stories. It was easy to see that Fred had a genuine admiration for his guest Gerimi Burleigh. Chris spent his time making on the fly adjustments and would enjoy the interaction while trying to naturally direct the show. Ian made his way into conversation sharing stories and commentary. With everyone combined an environment was created that made it extremely difficult not to interrupt or participate in similar to talking during a good movie.

After carrying conversation for a time it was decided to take a short break. Normally this would lead to a loss of momentum and energy during a show; in actuality the conversation carried on as normal sharing ideas and inspirations. Returning to the second half of the show the energy had only multiplied now becoming more personal. Sharing stories of there childhood taking a turn from traditional Q/A to sharing some of the youthful high jinks that lead them to be the people they are today. Powering on to light details about some of the future story telling projects between the TotC crew and Gerimi. By the end of the show it truly felt like walking away with friends I had come to know on a more personal level. This wasn’t just a show of faceless crew members but friends who perceive one another as close family members that have struggled to build something that every one of them could be proud of.

Phoenix Comicon 2017 – Day 3 w/ Gerimi Burleigh – Photos by Kris Swett

Article: When Nerdy Gets Dirty

Our Washington DC correspondent David wrote in about 18+ panels, Nerdlesque shows, and the sexy & empowered side of Comic-con culture.  

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When Nerdy Gets Dirty

     Three years ago I attended my first comic convention and, thankfully, had certain aspects of my worldview entirely obliterated. For one, I become acutely aware that nerds, geeks, and fandom freaks aren’t the socially awkward, reclusive, introverts that the vast majority of mainstream mentality assumes them to be. Instead, I discovered that they are a wildly social, inclusive, friendly, and often times incredibly risqué and naughty group of people (when set in the right environment). Three years and many conventions later, I find myself entirely captivated by how dirty nerdy can actually get and how open and accepting this subculture within a subculture really is.

During my first Con, I ventured into an 18+ panel around midnight on my groups second day at the convention. That panel was called the “Anything Goes Dating Show” and by “Anything Goes” they really meant Anything Goes. This panel dramatically changed how I felt about the comic convention scene for a number of reasons and continues to be one of my favorite convention memories. First of all, it made me more comfortable in my own skin and completely dashed out the discomfort I felt by being at a comic convention in the first place (at that time I hadn’t completely embraced my inner nerd). Secondly, it changed my opinion of everyone in the room and of comic convention culture in general. I no longer felt like I was sitting in a room full of introverts and recluses with weird comic obsessions. Instead, I saw this as a room full of incredibly confident extroverts who were amazingly vocal about their many kinks and fetishes. At the time, I found this experience completely shocking. Today, I still find it completely shocking but have a much better understanding that there is a vibrant subculture of dirty nerds within the subculture of traditional nerds (however you want to define traditional) and I find this totally fascinating.

Now, let’s get on to the good stuff. The “Anything Goes Dating Show” was structured exactly like the ABC television show The Dating Game. Three potential suitors were separated from their potential date by a thin visual barrier and were asked a series of questions until the date decided which of the three to meet face-to-face. Now, the difference between ABC’s The Dating Game and the comic convention’s Anything Goes Dating Show was that the questions, as well as the behavior, at the comic convention were excessively dirty. For example, one girl asked her group of suitors “if I were any type of food, what would I be and how would you eat me?” The question alone was obviously met with a roar of laughter from the audience but the answers were even better. One guy said “you would be an ice-cream cone and I would slowly lick you until you started to drip down my chin” and another guy said something disgusting about spaghetti and slurping and sucking until the bed was covered with sauce. Both answers were of course gut wrenchingly hilarious and, for me, entirely unexpected. Keep in mind this was in a room full of cosplaying nerds in the middle of a comic convention. As the show went on, the debauchery went much further than just dirty questions and answers. Eventually, the questions turned to actionable requests which were met, confidently and shamelessly, with actual action. One guy asked his line up of three women “will you strip for me?” and, sure enough, all three said yes. The panel moderators pulled a chair into the center of the room and each woman gave their best lap dance. Charizard was the first to give it a go and within moments she’d taken her top off. Several gyrations and grinds later, she dropped her panties to the floor, did a tushy exposing twirl, and dropped into a full split in the middle of this crowded room. The crowd was roaring. Next up was Michonne from the Walking Dead and again within moments, totally unprovoked, her top came off and the lap dance went on. I can’t remember what the third cosplayer was but I do remember that she too ended up topless and fully committed to giving the sexiest lap dance she could muster…amidst a room full of hooting and hollering nerds.

I like this story because it shows a completely different side of nerd culture. It shows the unashamed side of cosplay, it shows how comfortable and safe cosplayers can feel amongst their peers. From my point of view this wasn’t a simple peep show full of horny nerds looking to see a pair of breasts. This was direct testament to the culture of safety, understanding, acceptance, and inclusion found at comic conventions. Once you look past the obvious veneer of perversion, you see a celebration of body confidence, a lack of judgment, a total embrace of differences, and a deep respect for personal space and decision making. None of these women were forced to do anything they weren’t comfortable doing. They all chose to participate because they felt comfortable with their body image, they knew they were in a safe space free of judgement and harassment, and they knew at no point would they be putting their safety in jeopardy by engaging in this type of risqué behavior.

To further my point that nerdy can get dirty; we’ll fast forward to a different comic convention roughly a year later. After wandering around all morning, dropping oodles of cash at various vendors, marveling at the artist’s alley, snapping tons of pictures, and bouncing between panel discussions, the day bled into night and the 18+ panels took hold. “Joysticks and Button Mashing: Sex for Geeks” was of course a crowd pleaser but my favorite was “Nerdlesque: Bringing Fandom to the Burlesque Stage.” The nerdlesque panelists ranged from semiprofessionals to total amateurs and were a mix of both male and female. The discussion was incredible. Not only did they discuss the sexy side of nerdy dirty dancing but they all individually explored their reasons for pursuing nerdlesque as a creative outlet. Some discussed their previous body image issues and how nerdlesque helped them overcome those issues, others discussed how free they felt when they could let go of reality for a night and totally take on a character, and one even discussed the sense of community and belonging they found within the nerdlesque scene that they had never experienced anywhere else. Each panelist also discussed how empowering it was to take their favorite comic or fandom character and explore them in an entirely new way. They also all emphasized that to choreograph a burlesque show around a characters persona, ultimately ending with that character wearing nothing but pasties and panties, takes a huge amount of creativity, confidence, and skill to actually bring that show to stage. After going to this panel I was immediately interested in seeing an actual show and I’ve been to two separate nerdlesque shows since. The first was based entirely around Joss Whedon and his various works. It was very interesting to watch Buffy, Spike, Captain America, and Buzz Lightyear all get naked in the same evening. The second came during the height of the Pokémon Go frenzy. So, of course, Pikachu and Venusaur did some dirty dancing, Misty showed her jiggly puffs, and Ash exposed his pokéballs.

My third and final example of dirty nerds comes from my most recent convention. The panel was called “Intermediate Rope Bondage” and the scene was just like all the others. A room filled to the brim with cosplaying nerds all ready to get dirty. This panel, however, was particularly interesting because the panelists took volunteers to either play with some adult toys or be bound by rope. The various kinks in the room became very well-known and I, again, was shocked by the level of confidence and security that these nerds felt amongst their peers. Both men and women were throwing themselves at the opportunity to be bound by rope or teased with an electric sex toy in front of a fairly significant audience. Never in my non-convention life have I heard or seen such cavalier and nonchalant discussions and engagements of nerdy kinks and fetishes… even among my own group of incredibly nerdy and degenerate friends. This, in my opinion, simply goes to show how wonderful an environment a comic-convention actually is.

So, to conclude, I would like to emphasize a few things. (1) Regardless of what you may think, nerds can, and do, get dirty and likely have better sex lives than most “normal” people, (2) cosplay is not consent, obviously nothing you have just read gives you the permission to touch, photograph, speak to, or even look at a cosplayer in an inappropriate or sexual way without their consent, and (3) nerd culture, comic-convention culture, and the dirty nerd subculture are all incredible things. Convention goers, nerds, and dirty nerds know not to disrespect one another, they know not to judge or disparage one another, they openly embrace each other’s creative spin on their particular cosplay, and they often welcome you into their fold if you are legitimately interested in learning and asking questions. I’ve learned a lot about the dirty nerd subculture over the last few years. And I will say that I am in no way confident or comfortable enough with my own body image or sexuality to partake in a nerdlesque show, or openly discuss my kinks and fetishes in a crowded room, but I do truly respect and envoy those who are.

 

– David in legal

 

 

9 LIVES #1 REVIEW – Modesto Con

Out of all of the things that I find particularly enjoyable about going to any con is the fact that when it comes down to it, no amount of preparation can really get you completely ready for one.
As an example: It’s pretty much impossible to be 100% familiar with all of the guests booked for an event like this. No matter how much you know or research the industry there’s always someone who slips by.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d love it if every convention went off perfectly without a hitch and we knew exactly who every creator was and what they’ve been involved with.
Modesto Con was a great deal smaller than Phoenix Comicon (no shit) but there was still people we didn’t know.

9 LIVES, a comic by Preston Tucker & Cassidy Morgan was introduced to me in one of my favorite little moments of Modesto Con. We’d barely slept the night before the convention and rolled out early. At some point the colorful art being held up by wire boxes at the 9 LIVES booth drew out my inner zombie and I shambled over. I like to imagine in this instance that I was all saliva and claws and teeth.

I hear someone tell me that I have “really good – awesome hair!”
I’m like “yo what? Uhh.” I look around and realize that the artist on the book is complimenting me. Before we even talk about the comic, we both discuss hair tips which is basically one way of catching my interest immediately because I am vain.
That may not give the best impression towards how I work on the floor, but believe it or not bizarre convention conversations can kill a lot of anxiety exchanged over a booth pretty quick, and just looking at the art the two had on display I was pretty keen about hearing about the comic they made.

I like to think that both of them knew I am exceptionally weak willed when meeting likable creators and that alone is generally enough for me to want to buy whatever comic it is that they’re selling. I walked away from that booth with a copy of the first issue of 9 LIVES signed and packed away in my bag.

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9 LIVES #1 is a Superhero comic. That is the most basic description I can use to let someone who’s never read it before know what kind of storytelling is held between the front and back cover. An origin story through and through, a good chunk of the book is dedicated to setting up the world it takes place in.
When I say that it’s about superheroes though I feel like 9 LIVES just from first impressions has loftier goals than being another indie cape comic book. There’s a sense in the first pages that the creators behind this book have put at least more than cursory thoughts into what kind of effects the people who fly would have on the world beyond simply stopping crime or dealing with supervillains.

We open to the most popular hero in the world being interviewed about his feelings towards having superpowers. The likely lantern-jawed Captain Fantastic lambastes over the airwaves that there’s no room in the world of crime-stopping for those without powers.
Our protagonist is a sort of unassuming and schlubby nerd who’s introduced being broken up with while he clutches a broken action figure. We’re meant to distinctly feel he’s a have-not being left someone that’s more of a have. This is a not a guy who has what it takes to ever be any more than exactly what he looks like at first glance.

Cassidy’s art brings a goofiness and expressiveness to him that other characters lack, though. That’s not a mark against the art – It works because the animated way he uses the protagonist  to  over emote in comparison to the other characters you get introduced to likely means you’ll take an immediate liking to him.
Yes he’s a loser, a slacker – a 100% grade a stereotypical dork but he’s also our surrogate into the world here and it works in a way that using a level-headed every-man probably wouldn’t.
Rounding out the supporting cast is a street samurai, pastel-lolita fashion girl and finally a business-suit wearing, eight foot tall anthropomorphic cat named Mr. Bixby. Sliding slowly into more fantastical elements like that works here because of our anchor to the world being such a dork.

It’s in that way that I’m reminded more reading this of Manga than it does something patterned more off of western superhero comics. A normal dude in the mix with such colorful supporting cast members is a pretty standard element in a lot of Manga and the way the opening narrative arc builds into all-out fantasy is more BLEACH than it is Spider-Man.

That’s not to say that the story arc at work here isn’t predictable. Being predictable isn’t always necessarily a reason all it’s own to dismiss a creative work. You can make up for it sometimes by just being fun to read. Some of the best superhero stories of all time are predictable, but they’re memorable and important because of how they have their own voice even in the midst of that, and I feel like I could say the same thing about 9 LIVES.

Kitschyness isn’t for everybody, and if you’re not the kind of person into a book with characters that are cyber ninjas or bald-headed super villains named Dr. Brain then it’s probably not going to grab you immediately like it would someone who’s waist deep in Squirrel-Girl.
9 LIVES still gets the Tales of the Con recommendation though, not just because I got asked about my hair, but because so many superhero comics these days attempt to be fun and few of them rarely are. Being a delight to read and having a little self-awareness can really go a long way. 



A Contributors First Con – ModestoCon 2016

 

I had heard for many years about the wonder that is Comic Con. Every year loads of my friends attend the Phoenix convention and as well as those in other locations such as San Diego, coming back with spectacular pictures of people in costumes, wild stories of awesome shenanigans or celebrity meetings. Tons of cool merchandise like artwork, stickers and comics.

With so many cool stories and things floating around at these places, who wouldn’t want to check it out for themselves? Thanks to my friend Skuba Steve at Tales of the Con I was able to finally attend one and see what all the talk was really about. Filling in as an independent contributor of coverage for Tales of the Con at ModestoCon, I rode with Tales’s Skuba Steve and Sam Kittrel from sunny Phoenix, Arizona to the sunny but much cooler Modesto, California. After an exhausting 11 hour drive we finally made it to our destination and couldn’t wait to get in.

Upon procuring our press bands and stepping onto the convention floor my head was spinning from the dizzying array of booths and items to gander and drool at. There’s something for everybody with everything from pins to handmade dolls and painted wooden boxes. There was artwork galore, watercolor, digital or pencil drawings, you saw it all. There were boxes and boxes of comic books for sale with titles like the well know Superman and Spiderman as well as the work of emerging artists like Dominic Davi’s “Come Find Me”. There was also a lot of anime, and I spent the entire convention keeping my eyes peeled for Dragon Ball Z merchandise of which I found plenty!

 

Although I was a little shy about asking people to take pictures of their costumes, I did spend plenty of time admiring them. There were orcs from Warcraft whose costumes were impressive, utilizing real animal furs and bones. There were tons of girls dressed as Suicide Squad’s Harley Quinn, and just as many guys dressed as Deadpool. I saw a stunningly awesome Psylocke from Marvel’s X-Men, as well as Prince, Captain Jack Sparrow and even Barf from Space Balls! There were makeup artists to assist in fantastical transformations and I even saw a group which was volunteering to assist people with last minute emergency costume alterations.

The Mandalorian Mercs organization, whose members dress as bounty hunters from the Star Wars saga also made an appearance at the convention, with a booth where members discussed recruitment information, costume design instruction and the charity work which the group involves itself with in the community.

The energy at the con was very high, so high in fact that it would be hard to imagine that this was Modesto’s first Con. Despite its size it’s readily apparent that this is an event which will continue to grow. We spent two days covering everything and honestly, I don’t think we came close to seeing it all. One of my favorite finds was a kitschy t-shirt with a picture of Rocky Dennis from the movie Mask’s face superimposed onto Rocky Balboas face in a boxing ring.

I sat in on a couple of panels too, when my legs felt the need for a rest. There were professional cosplayer Q&A’s, motivational speeches regarding cosplay and con culture, artist and celebrity Q&A’s, and a costume contest with many great participants, including a father and his very young son dressed as two matching Green Arrow’s

When I was out and about it was quite easy to begin conversing with event attendees, artists and people working merch booths. Everyone was so eager to discuss their shared love of art and comics, or to show off the work they had put in to transform themselves into pop culture icons.

I spoke with a few artists like Christopher Johnson of Out of the Dust Designs, who is based out of Reno, Nevada. I loved his work, which was a decoupage of comic pages with a character theme glued to a board and a portrait of the subject character in the center.

I also had the opportunity to meet the previously mentioned Dominic Davi who is a comic book artist which creates stories of punk rock culture. An interesting side note about Dominic is that he is the bassist for the punk rock band Tsunami Bomb and designs their artwork.
Meeting him was a bit of a blast from the past, he was selling some of their merchandise and informed me that the band had recently reunited and began touring again. I listened to Tsunami Bomb back in high school, having been introduced to them by an ex-girlfriend so it was pretty cool to meet him.

I had an amazing time at ModestoCon and I will definitely be attending other events in the future, though hopefully with a little more money. Who knows, maybe I’ll even dress up one of these times. Maybe I could go as Jon Snow, but much like him I feel I really know nothing, but maybe with some time I could change that. My takeaway from my first convention is one of seeing people come together over their shared love of creativity. Pop culture brought me to my first con, but it was the people behind it that make me want to go to another.

By Jensen Chavez, Guest Contributor

Pokemon Go – Augmented Rural Reality

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         Augmented reality games like Pokemon Go seem to be a new genre that are emerging and taking off. And it seems to be a wonderful thing. Get people up and moving. Maybe those playing a game at the same local landmark strike up a conversation, strangers who find they enjoy the same past times.

But what of those who live in rural or “country” areas? What if your “local” landmarks are a 20-40 minute car ride away and there’s nothing but fields near you?

Having grown up a farm kid and now living in a lower population area, these questions come to mind as Niantic Inc games are becoming a huge deal. Pokemon GO and Ingress are highly played games. And I’m sure if you are in a city, it’s easy to get to landmarks for supplies or battle areas. But for the kids, teens, and young adults who don’t live in highly populated areas this becomes a difficult task.

Growing up my nearest neighbor was a good half mile away, and that was mostly lane just to get from the road to my house. There were no exceptional landmarks or major building, unless you count the local pig farm. Thinking back on my childhood home and the surrounding areas, there’s absolutely no way I could have played an augmented reality game based on how they setup bases for importance. As a teenager, I probably would have been awful when it came to complaining about the lack of things around me. It was bad enough before smartphones with games.

Even as a grown adult, I live in a smaller town and there are few places that help with these games. Those landmark resupply places are few in this area making it harder to keep up with those that frequent areas with more population or more landmarks. So to be able to even continue to play I have had to spend real money to buy PokéCoins, the in game currency, to be able to buy something as simple as Pokéballs, which is needed to catch Pokemon (the whole point of the game). Without being able to catch Pokemon, you can’t level your character. Without being able to level, you don’t get the extra supplies to continue. It becomes a circle of sadness because what could be a great game is stuck until you can make it to a PokéStop and hope it drops things you need. Supposedly you are able to get Pokécoins while walking around. I have yet to see it, not that the amount of the currency it gave you be anywhere near enough what you need to purchase the store items. It’s a rather broken system in that regard. There needs to be better ways to accumulate the PokéCoins for those that cannot invest real money in the game and are not physically able to get to a PokéStop.

Maybe they will figure out someway just to use a pedometer and you can control which way your character goes while you walk on a treadmill or in your own house. That would be handy for those who may not live in areas where wandering around at all hours of the day is feasible. Maybe even team up with companies that already have external pedometer options to make it compatible. It would also give those who live in rural areas to “walk” to landmarks without having to actually walk miles one direction to get to one.

I have hope for augmented reality games. I think the concept is solid, but it needs work. There are a lot of risk factors and not a lot of help to get a reward.

–  Red