Monday, October 29, 2018

LA Comic Con Photo Dump!

It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I love Comic Cons  The big one is the International Comic Con in San Diego, which I've attended three or four times, but the truth is, it's gotten so crowded that I no longer really enjoy it.

No, my favorite Con is the Los Angeles Comic Con, which is convenient for me, an Angelino.

If you've never been to a comic convention, the major selling points are the panels, the vendor hall, and the people-watching.

A schedule on the site has a list of panels, up to six every hour, on the hour; because these are in rooms, seating is limited, and many require you to wait in line.  If you can get into two or three panels in a day, consider yourself lucky.

The vendor hall is a huge area that has every geeky product imaginable.  Comics reign supreme, but so does any merch even vaguely related to comics.

Finally, there's the people-watching.  The reason I love LA Comic Con is because it's a very cosplay-heavy event.  Dressing up as a superhero and then going into a magical space where superheroes are everywhere is a total rush for me.  There's a costume contest with a grand prize of about ten thousand, and there are plenty of professionals who come out to show off their skills.  Even if a person isn't into comics, I would say the experience of going to a convention and being around enthusiastic, talented, and passionate people is well worth it.

Without further ado, here are photos and my commentary on one of the best weekends of the years: LA Comic Con, 2018!

Preparation, the night before. 

The crew!

Andrew: US Agent
Jack: Hawkeye (Matt Fraction version)
Me: Squirrel Girl (Erica Henderson version)

This is the first year I didn't go as Tony Stark.

A big part of Cons is selfies, not gonna lie.

The election is a week away and Andrew, being Andrew, took every opportunity to give people info on voting. 

This is what the lobby looked like.

 Despite the crowds, break-dancing Spider-man is a staple of most Comic Cons.
People always make room for break-dancing Spider-man.

 I loved this Collector!  
My favorite cosplayers are ones who embrace and play up their character, 
and this Collector was hilariously on point.

Another view of the crowd.

 Day 2 preparations.  
I remembered to wear my ears.


 This Groot costume is a great example of the level of craftsmanship that goes into some people's work.

 We met up with our friend Joe from D&D.

 The Hulkbuster armor has been to most LA Comic Cons.
It is a major photo op.

 Look at the expression on Wasp's face!  
That kid means BUSINESS!

 Hawkeye reppin'.

 It's always a joy to meet your character being cosplayed by another person.

 This Hela was one of the best costumes.  

 The first appearance of Squirrel Girl was actually in an Iron Man story!

 Iron Man with Iron Man.

 Lapis, from the TV Show "Steven Universe."
Although ostensibly a "Comic" Con, every fandom gets represented.

If there's a fandom, you'll find cosplayers at LA Comic Con!

 A LEGO Avengers tower.

 Waiting in line for a panel.  Deadpool The Musical 2.

 Clint and Natasha: the original dream team!

 So here's a panel I was on.  It was the Marvel Movie Bracket panel.
Getting to tell a group of people why Iron Man 1 is the best of all Marvel movies was a dream come true. 
Also I got to show off my Iron Man tattoo.

 I managed to find this (much better and closer) picture on Instagram.

 Rocket Raccoon statue.
In the vendor hall are various props and art pieces,
including (but not limited to) the Ghostbusters car.

 Remember how I said every fandom got represented?
You don't even need a fandom.
Just dress up however the hell you want.
Here's a satyr.

 SHIELD agents just hanging out.

 Is it just me, or is Tony Stark trying to get all those Spidermen to kiss his ring?!

 I believe I met 4 or 5 other Squirrel Girls.  
This kid was my favorite, though!

 My utility belt was filled with nuts.  
Anytime anyone said, "Oh, it's Squirrel Girl!" I would offer them a nut.  

 I believe having a gimmick is an important part of cosplay. 
Don't just look like the character; BE the character!
Most people took a nut when offered.

 Side note: when entering, they check weapons to make sure they're safe.
When I went in, the security guard asked me if I had anything in my belt.
"Nuts?" I said.
"...anything other weapons?"
"Um, the power of squirrels?"
"...I'm gonna keep my eye on you."

 Hey look, it's a pleTHORa of Asgardians!

 I like how characters tend to cluster together.  
Every Tony I saw was usually within hollering distance of another Tony.

By the end of the second day we were exhausted and finding quiet places to rest and just watch the Con go by.


LA Comic Con is one of my favorite events and this year was a particularly awesome one.  It's only one weekend and always a bit of a whirlwind.  For another view of my experience, check out Jack's blog where he, too, has a photo dump from Comic Con weekend.  The pictures can't capture the child-like wonder and positive energy of this event, but I hope they at least suggest it.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Reno/Tahoe Vacation Photo Dump

I just got back from a three-day turn-and-burn vacation in Reno, so this post will largely be pictures, not jokes.  Sorry, folks.

Why Reno, you ask?

Back in February, Andrew and I went to an annual convention in Las Vegas, where, every year, we have taught a class or two on roleplay.  Roleplay, character acting, and writing are things I am passionate about and would humbly argue that I excel at.  These classes have given me and Andrew an excuse to go to Vegas; we were depressed last year when the convention refused to comp us for our room, considering that we are long-standing contributors.  (We were also not asked back this year, which we were surprised by; we hope it's only because the convention wants some new blood.  Our classes have always been favorably reviewed.)

This year, we had someone attend a class and come to us afterwards to ask us to attend a similar convention in Reno and teach the class there.  I agreed because I've never been to Reno.  My only real knowledge of it is what I've gleaned from Reno 911 and from the terrible Reno ads on the radio here in Los Angeles.

Reno's economy seems largely driven by a tourist economy, which is weird because Reno is basically a tinier Vegas.  Trying to compete with Vegas (which is more or less equidistant from Los Angeles) is like Miracle Whip trying to compete with Hellman's mayo, and like Miracle Whip, Reno ads are desperately trying to appeal to millenials.  (Actual Reno ad quote: "This is not your basic vacation destination. Reno Tahoe is a collision of contrasts. This is where majestic mountains converge on high desert. Where wildlife meets urban grit. You can snowboard all day and crowd surf all night. Support a start-up and down a craft brew.  Sleep 'til dusk and hustle 'til dawn.  Reno: we're just as good as Vegas.")  (I made up the last sentence.)

Anywho, we went to Reno, mostly so I could get a photo op in front of the humorously named Dog Town memorial.

Reno earned its moniker "The Biggest Little City" because it really is a strangely small town but with all the staples of a much bigger one.  Like Vegas, there's a central strip, covered with casinos.  We stayed at Circus Circus, which was another reason I had agreed to go, because I love Circus Circus, which includes a fairway with carnival games and free circus acts in the middle of it.

I won a frog!

Because it was the end of October, everyone was in costume, which added to the surreal, timeless feel of being in a casino.  (This was also nice because I spent a large portion of the conference dressed as the Winter Soldier, and with Halloween festivities happening all around us, no one even blinked an eye.)  Zombies, superheroes, and the ubiquitous sexy black cat wandered around in drunken, smoky crowds while bells went off periodically, signalling that somewhere, someone was Winning Big, and hey, maybe you could be next!

We spent our off time in Reno wandering through the Silver Mine casino, trying out restaurants and bars, eyeing all the colors and lights, every element of the environment, which was designed to part tourists with their money.

The convention was a mild disappointment.  The keynote speaker was magnificent.  However, there were no printed programs and the app for scheduling was down.  Andrew and I were teaching classes scheduled for 9 am and let me tell you something about casinos on the weekend: no one there is awake at 9 am.  I stayed up late and woke up early, only to end up in a classroom with less than five people.

Most of our positive experiences occurred outside of the casino.  Andrew asked to choose an activity and chose the National Auto Museum, which I can honestly say was one of the best curated museums I've ever been to and served as a hell of a source of inspiration for some of my writing.

Appropriately, within walking distance was See See Motor Coffee Co., a small motorcycle-themed coffee shop.  Casino restaurants and coffee shops have notoriously bad service, because they are catering to a transient clientele.  People are only visiting and there's no expectations for "loyal" customers.  See See Motor Coffee was a real business that was actively trying to build up a customer base and therefore had outstanding food and service.

By the time the weekend was over, I was exhausted from the convention, disoriented and stressed; the casino environment had taken its toll, as had the inevitable drinking.

I felt a little sick but Andrew asked to go to see Lake Tahoe. 

I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Like the National Auto Museum, Andrew's suggestion to go to the lake turned out to be one of the best parts of the trip.  It was a breath of fresh air.

I left Reno with a mild sense of disappointment.  It had been more or less what I expected: a sadder version of Vegas.  Reno emphasized the casinos, a frantic get-up-and-go energy that left me wrung out and unsettled.  But what Reno should have emphasized was their lake, their museum, and their small businesses.  Reno has a lot to offer, but it's all off of the beaten path.  Ironically, the ads do emphasize this, but the city itself doesn't.  It's not Vegas, and it should stop trying to be.