A Walk Around Wizard World Des Moines 2018 - With Cosplay & Convention Gallery

Photography by Maia Parish


Wizard World Comic Con Des Moines 2018 took place June 1 - 3, and Nerd Team 30 was there to cover it! In a collaboration with the Mother F**ker In A Cape podcast and Parish Media LLC, we sent R. Alan Brooks and Maia Parish to Iowa for the weekend to see what they would think of their first Wizard World convention. They came back with a bunch of photos and reported that the convention - while on the smaller side - still managed to spotlight comics, creators, cosplay, and art. Be on the lookout for interviews from Mr. Brooks with Nichelle Nichols, Charisma Carpenter, Lisa Berry, Papa Bear Cosplay and more in the coming weeks.

Below are two galleries of pictures taken at Wizard World Comic Con Des Moines 2018. The first is a walk around the convention - showcasing some of the vendors, creators, and other sights around the con floor. The second is a collection of some of the amazing cosplay that was on display during the weekend.

A Walk Around the Convention

The HyVee Hall, home of Wizard World Des Moines 2018.

R. Alan Brooks, covering the convention for Nerd Team 30!

Mike Watson stands with Vigilance at Wizard World Des Moines 2018.

HotShot comics by Mike Watson.

Vigilance & Mike Watson at WWDM 2018.


Brad Jones showing off his latest movie, Jesus, Bro! at WWDM 2018.

Brad Jones (aka the Cinema Snob) at Wizard World Des Moines 2018.


Lloyd: Case Files From Season 1 - a cartoon based on Brad's cat.

Ren McKinzie at Wizard World Des Moines 2018.

Artist Ren McKinzie at WWDM 2018.

We asked if we could take this photo. I swear. The art of Ren McKinzie.

Zac Atkinson at Wizard World Des Moines 2018.


Zac Atkinson standing with his art at WWDM 2018.

The Teen Titans drawn by Zac Atkinson.

Chris Holmes (aka Inner Demon) at Wizard World Des Moines 2018 (1).


Some of the art from Inner Demon at WWDM 2018.

The art of Chris Holmes (Inner Demon) at WWDM 2018

Chris Holmes (aka Inner Demon) at Wizard World Des Moines 2018 (3).

Chris Holmes (aka Inner Demon) at Wizard World Des Moines 2018 (2).


Some more of the art from Inner Demon at WWDM 2018.

The Wizard World Des Moines 2018 VIP bag.

I think the pink one in the middle is dead...

Cosplay Photos

Remember, Cosplay is Not Consent.

Cosplay at Phoenix Comic Fest 2018 - Over 150 Photos

Written by Neil Greenaway

The Phoenix Convention Center.

Nerd Team 30 was able to attend Phoenix Comic Fest 2018 - and the Phoenix cosplay community was out in full display! With a combination of the security threats last year at Phoenix Comic Con 2017, the steep ticket price increase at the re-branded Phoenix Comic Fest 2018, and the ever-present Phoenix heat, I had worried that the turnout this year might be a little lacking in terms of cosplayers - but I was wrong. The costumes being worn were no less interesting, imaginative, or intricate than they have been in years past. There were some changes to what was worn, most notably the lack of prop guns or military characters. This must have affected the Arizona chapters of the 501st and the Mandalorian Mercs, neither of whom had their normal large presence at the show. While the big Star Wars cosplay groups were definitely missed, their absence did allow more of the singular characters a chance to shine. So take a stroll through the convention with us as we present a gallery of over 150 cosplay photos from the Phoenix Comic Fest 2018!

All photos taken by Neil Greenaway, Roberto Martinez, & Todd Jones.

 Phoenix Comic Fest will be back in 2019 as Phoenix Fan Fusion!

Phoenix Comic Fest will be back in 2019 as Phoenix Fan Fusion!

Victim Blaming for Fun and Profit - Cosplay & DCC

 The line to enter Denver Comic Con 2017.

The line to enter Denver Comic Con 2017.

            Hi, I’m Roberto. I helped create the Denver Comic Con. I worked with its founders shortly after its conception in 2010. In the years leading up to the convention I helped create fundraisers for the Comic Book Classroom (a charity associated with the con, since renamed the Pop Culture Classroom) and assisted in the creation of the convention’s ever-awesome Team Cosplay. All of this culminated in my serving on the now-defunct steering committee in the con’s second year. During this time the national comics convention scene was being rocked by a precursor to the #MeToo movement in the form of a community-wide backlash against harassment.


            Before I go further let me paint the scene for 2013: stories of harassment went viral and people in power were being held accountable for failing to institute appropriate measures to protect patrons. Or worse, covering up for known predators. Or worse still, being outed as predators themselves. Sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, just like in Hollywood and Washington in the years that followed, con harassment had been going on for ages before it was finally addressed. In response, we (Team Cosplay) insisted that Denver Comic Con institute an anti-harassment policy.  I wrote the document with assistance from the rest of the steering committee and approval from Team Cosplay.

            In the intervening five years, the comic convention community has done good work fighting harassment; but going by the numbers there’s still a lot of work to be done. An alarming amount of horror stories still go viral every con season. I think of the widely-reported ones in the same way I think of cockroaches: for every one you see there are a multitude that go unnoticed. As stated by Andrea Ayres in the linked Comics Beat article, “Abusers hide in plain sight. Harassers rely on the silence of those around them and societies prevailing sexist attitudes. They take advantage of weak reporting mechanisms and the culture of shame and fear that surrounds sexual abuse.”  In response more cons are embracing anti-harassment policies, more people are speaking up about what they’ve encountered, and reporting mechanisms are getting stronger and stronger as a result.

            Working on DCC’s anti-harassment policy, I ran into some problems when trying to deal with the steering committee’s prevailing attitudes. It wasn’t just sexism that was a problem (though that’s a huge component), but also an attitude that harassment is sometimes justified. The problem stemmed from some of the older staff who did not understand costuming, cosplayers, or the culture that had made them a force in the geek world.  For the most part this didn’t create much friction because they accepted that they just didn’t understand that part of geek culture – and besides, we had an entire team dedicated to handling the cosplay aspect of DCC, so they didn’t have to give it much thought.

            These same people were on board when we wrote protections against catcalling, groping, and lewd advances; they all agreed these actions were wrong. They wanted to make sure our patrons knew we stood against this behavior and would protect them as best we could. But when we got to the specifics of what we considered harassment, some of the more ugly attitudes accompanying their lack of understanding with cosplay showed up. At one point a person in the upper echelons of convention management laid down their feelings to me on the subject in writing:

People suck and say mean things, and everyone knows this; from the schoolyard to the grave, we have to cope with assholes. Do I like the fact that this is the world we live in? Nope, but I also don't squeeze my fat ass into spandex and walk around a massive convention; if I did, I would expect ridicule because I'm inviting it. And if I chose to do it anyway, I'd have the thick skin necessary to shoulder the criticism. When you dress in a costume, whether it be skimpy or not, you are asking for the attention of everyone around you and implicitly asking the question about how you look. When you ask such questions, you should not expect to hear only answers you like. If you don't want commentary on your body, then don't welcome commentary. Have the backbone to take whatever the assholes will say or wear a tee shirt and jeans and shut up about it.

            There are going to be some of you who ask, “What’s wrong with this statement?” So I’m going to tackle this one piece at a time.  First and foremost, when you wear anything, regardless of its being skimpy, eye-catching, good looking, bad looking, a costume, or normal everyday clothing, etc., the only time you’re asking for a commentary is when you’re actively saying, “Hey, what do you think of my outfit?”  This applies at all times, even if a person is wearing something to get attention. For instance, if you were attending Swan Lake would you yell “That tutu makes you look fat” from the audience? If you went to Cats would you yell “F**kin’ fake cat-guys, I bet they’re just pretending to like felines to get instagram followers” to the performers?  (If the answer to either of these questions is “yes,” please take a good hard look at your life and the choices you have made up to this point.) Obviously performance and cosplay are different[*] but the basic idea applies equally to both art forms: just because someone is in an eye-catching outfit/costume doesn’t mean they’re inviting commentary.

[*] In costume contests the two definitely overlap.  Also, trivia, the term "cosplay" was created by Nov Takahashi and does not involve skits, just dressing up in costume. (Special Thanks to Becca Feiner for that)

            This doesn’t mean that commentary is universally frowned on, of course. Overall I’ve found cosplayers love to talk about their costumes, the characters they’re choosing to embody, and every minute detail of what went into the blood, sweat, and tears of crafting.  If you want to talk to them about that, strike up a conversation by all means. But if you want to say something remotely negative about the costume, it damn well better be polite and constructive -- and I’d still say think thrice before you open your mouth. The only valid excuse I can think of to say something negative without reservation is when someone is literally dressed up as a Nazi or something similarly stupid and/or evil.

            Barring that, if you feel the need to voice your discontent with their costume or with the way it looks on the person wearing it, my big question is why? These costumes are labors of love that the crafter, regardless of skill level, probably put countless hours into. You don’t have to laud praise on a person just because they’re in costume, but please keep quiet if you’re not into it.


            Going back to the fat aspect, please apply the same logic to commenting on fat people’s appearance both in and out of costumes. If you feel the need to comment on a fat person’s appearance relating to how you think they ought to lose weight, be ashamed, or wear a more modest outfit, kindly keep that shit to yourself and consider that this too is none of your damn business. Additionally, as a fat dude, I’ve got to say that wearing a t-shirt and jeans has never shielded me from unwelcome comments on my body, so I’m not sure why that’s supposed to be a valid solution to dealing with negative commentary. So, with all due respect, I’d like to invite the assholes who are actually the problem to stop vomiting their running commentary on all that they see 24/7 like snot-nosed toddlers who have no concept of what rude is.[**]

[**] You’re not “just being honest” when you just say random hurtful shit to strangers. You’re bullying.

            I hate the idea of someone with these attitudes dictating the con’s policy. I trust damn near everyone at the ground level of DCC to do their best to defend the con’s patrons and deal with any gross behavior they might encounter. But were any incident to require someone higher up the chain of command to pass judgment, I shudder to think what verdict they might render.

            It’s been five years since I received the email I quoted above. I hope that in the intervening time the author has changed their opinions and views on the subject; but I’m not optimistic.  We need to demand better from our leadership in every aspect of American society from top to bottom, in geek life, politics, the entertainment industry, the service industry, the custodians union, the chicken-plucker’s guild, everything. And if the current leadership isn’t willing to learn, change, and do better - then I hope they have the good grace to move aside so we can continue down the roads they’ve blocked for too long.


Roberto Martinez

Roberto Martinez was born and raised in the city of Denver, Colorado. He writes in a variety of forms including comic scripts, screen plays, stage plays , nonfiction, fiction,  and poetry. He worked to help create the Denver Comic Con and continues to contribute to the Denver Independent Comics and Art Expo.  He’s been active in the industry for eight years, starting with a supernatural western called Boot Hill.  More recently he was in the anthologies Dinopocalypse and  Cryptids and Cogs.  In 2016 he won Sigma Tau Delta’s award for Best Short Play submission for A Quarterlife Crisis Inspired by Connery and Lennon and went on to stage three short plays called Life Lessons which can be viewed on YouTube.

Bottoms Up: True Tales of Hitting Rock-Bottom - An Anthology About Our Darkest Hours

Written by Neil Greenaway & Cachet Whitman

Bottoms Up: True Tales of Hitting Rock-Bottom (2017), front cover by Ben Passmore.

Bottoms Up: True Tales of Hitting Rock-Bottom (2017), back cover by Danny Hellman.

"I've lost some close friends and family to addiction. Watching them lose the struggle has made me feel frustrated, impotent, anxious, angry and depressed, so I can only imagine how they felt. "Bottoms Up" is my attempt to humanize addiction through real stories told by actual addicts."
J.T. Yost in "A Word From the Editor"

In May of 2017, Birdcage Bottom Books (an independent publisher out of New York)  held a Kickstarter for a new anthology graphic novel called "Bottoms Up - True Tales of Hitting Rock-Bottom". The campaign described the book as:

"...an anthology collecting real stories of bottoming out from alcoholism, drug dependency, sex addiction, body dysmorphia, pornography addiction and more. These stories have been adapted into comics by a team of incredibly talented and diverse cartoonists."

The idea behind the book was simple: addicts from all walks of life were asked to contribute stories of the time that they hit rock bottom. The stories could be credited or anonymous (at the authors discretion). These were then handed off to different artists who added pictures to the words and created a "graphic story". I hesitate to say comic - as not everything in this anthology is necessarily a comic, but they are all powerful examples of graphic storytelling.

The list of artists involved with the project includes several stars of the indie comic scene as well as several people that I had never heard of (but was glad to discover). Some of the artists to participate were:

- Josh Bayer

- Haleigh Buck

- Kevin Budnik

- Josh Burggraf

- Max Clotfelter

- Peter S. Conrad

- Nate Doyle

- Rachel Dukes

- Chad Essley

- Mike Freiheit

- Tatiana Gill

- Danny Hellman (back cover)

- Jordan Jeffries

- Gideon Kendall

- Victor Kerlow

- Brendan Kiefer

- Karl Christian Krumpholz

- Sara Lautman

- Lizz Lunney

- Daniel McCloskey

- Chris Monday

- Fred Noland

- Adam Pasion

- Ben Passmore (front cover)

- Simon Petersen

- Summer Pierre

- John Porcellino

- Gillian Rhodes

- Matt Rota

- Kevin Scalzo

- Holly Simple

- Karl Stevens

- Michael Sweater

- Meghan Turbitt

- Noah Van Sciver

- Elaine M. Will

- Jess Worby

- George Wylesol

- Adam Yeater

- J.T. Yost

Sweaty Booze Husk pg3, drawn by Jordan Jeffries

That Summer, Way Back pg1, drawn by Matt Rota

The crowdfunding was successful and ended up earning $3,075 more than the intended goal. My copy arrived in early October.

Also from the kickstarter campaign:

I won't sugar-coat it: There are a lot of harrowing stories included in BOTTOMS UP!, but I've tried to balance it out with some levity (every addict has got at least one funny story). Both the story-tellers and the cartoonists adapting their stories are a diverse group, so there is a natural variance in both tone and style.

The Big Chicken pg2, drawn by Max Clotfelter.

I have never dealt with REAL addiction. I have seen it in my family members and my friends - bosses and co-workers - but it was always several steps removed from me. I toyed with hard drugs for a while after high school, but got out before there was any real damage done (I heard a comedian recently call this being "White-Boy Addicted"). So when it came time for me to discuss Bottoms Up: True Tales of Hitting Rock-Bottom, I found myself lost when looking for the right words to use. These stories are powerful, beautiful, and graphic - but they also touch on pieces of the human experience that can be uncomfortable to talk about even for those who have lived them. And for those who have never found the bottom as it is described here, such depths can seem unreachable.

In an effort to see the feelings behind these stories a bit more clearly, I reached out to five of the creators who worked on the anthology: two who had adapted an anonymous story (Karl Christian Krumpholz and J.T. Yost) and three who had chosen to illustrate stories from their own lowest points (Adam Yeater, John Porcellino, and Noah Van Sciver). I asked all five of them the same two questions:

1. How did you come to be a part of the anthology?


2. Why is the subject of addiction important to you?

After I spoke to the creators, I reached out to my friend Cachet Whitman - an amazing artist who has been very open about her own struggles with addiction - to see what she thought. Here is what they had to say.

Adam Yeater

1. I harassed J.T. enough so that he finally said he would put me in. I also bribed him with kickstarter giveaways.

2. I have battled with addiction in some form or another my whole life. Whether it be food, drugs, love, collecting junk or even making art. We are all junkies for something.

Adam wrote and drew the story "Gateway Drugs" in the anthology. You can see more of his work on SmackJeeves, Facebook, or the One Last Day store.

A few panels from Gateway Drugs, written & drawn by Adam Yeater.

Noah Van Sciver

1. J.T. Yost asked me if I had any comics or a story about the worst time of my life. I immediately thought of 2012 when my life fell apart and I had to move in with my mom and her cat Marigold. It was the end of a 6 year relationship and all I could do was think of suicide.

My comic is about a night in particular during that period when I had lost my mind and went to a club to see a local band play their farewell show just hoping to see my ex there but instead feeling like everyone hated me.

2. Doesn't really apply to me since addiction wasn't a part of my story.

Noah wrote and drew the story "Marigold" in the anthology. You can see more of his work at his blog or at Kilgore Books & Comics.

Marigold pg1, written & drawn by Noah Van Sciver.

John Porcellino

1. J.T. asked to me to be a part of it, he needed a few pages to fill it out, and I suddenly had a quick one pager spring to mind, so I whipped it up for him. I don't often contribute to anthologies.

2. My comic is not about addiction, just about the lowest point of my life, which I documented in my recent comic "South Beloit Journal" from Uncivilized Books. I was twice divorced, heartbroken, alone, and living in winter poverty in a gritty small town in Northern Illinois. It seemed an appropriate memory to serve up for J.T.'s anthology.

John wrote and drew the story "Imaginary Cat" in the anthology. You can see more of his work at his Patreon page or at Spit and a Half.

A few panels from Imaginary Cat, written & drawn by John Porcellino.

Karl Christian Krumpholz

A few panels from 86'ed: His Last Drink, drawn by Karl Christian Krumpholz.

1. I first found out about the anthology through Kickstarter. Since the subject matter about addiction, drinking, etc sometimes plays a part in my own comics, I was interested in the project and donated to the Kickstarter fund. There was already a list of cartoonists that were to be a part of the anthology, so I had thought that the book was complete. It was only when J.T. (the editor) announced that additional artists had joined the anthology that I reached out to him to ask to be included. 'An Introduction to Alcohol' (my latest comic) had just come out, Birdcage Bottom Books was carrying it, so J.T. already knew my work and how I dealt with the subject matter. When I reached out, he was literally putting together the TOC. My addition to the collection got in just under the wire. I am very happy to be included.

2. Well, the idea of addiction, especially alcoholism, does seem to creep into my work. It was one of the driving forces in my relationship with my father, which I explored with 'An Introduction to Alcohol'. Also, it's a fact of life about living in the city, which I deal with in my weekly '30 Miles of Crazy!' comic. A lot of my stories do start in bars, and like most things in life, there is a dark side of the culture. I see it all the time: people not knowing where the line is, starting some sort of obnoxious drama, and getting tossed out. The story that I did for Bottoms Up! is a true story that I literally saw played out before me over months. I know the guy in the comic and one of my bartender friends described the situation perfectly. These characters on the street are also often our friends and sometimes, you have to know when to step in and cut them off for their own good.

Karl drew the story "86'ed: His Last Drink" in the anthology. You can see more of his work on Twitter, Instagram, or his website - KarlChristianKrumpholz.com.

J.T. Yost

Shot Thru the Heart pg4, drawn by J.T. Yost

I think I can combine both of those questions, if that's ok:

Although I am not an addict myself, I do have family members and close friends who suffer from various addictions. I have lost both family and friends to drugs and alcohol. I see Trump and the current administration paying no more than lip service to a serious epidemic of addiction in the U.S., and I think it's a subject that needs to be addressed.

Although there is less of a stigma attached to addiction than there was in the '30s when Alcoholics Anonymous was founded, I think it's safe to say the majority of those fighting addiction still feel a certain amount of shame in admitting to their struggles. After being moved by hearing countless stories of hitting rock-bottom by my friends and family, I thought comics would be a perfect medium to tell these stories and humanize what addicts go through in coming to terms with their addictions and, hopefully, keeping them in check. I collected stories in several ways: I asked friends & family to share their stories with me, I solicited through social media, and I set up a website to which people could anonymously send in their stories. Once I'd collected and transcribed these stories, I reached out to a curated list of cartoonists and asked them to pick a story that resonated with them to adapt. The cartoonists were also free to tell their own stories if they were themselves addicts. I asked that the writers remain anonymous (even if the artist was also the writer) to ensure there would be no repercussions, and so they would feel free to be honest and forthcoming.

J.T. drew the stories "Shot Thru The Heart" and "Down The Hatch" in the anthology as well as putting the project together and editing the final book. You can see more of his work at Birdcage Bottom Books, Facebook, or Tumblr.

Cachet Whitman

Rock bottom is a place that, for several years, I became very intimate with. I was a heroin and meth addict. However, it neither started nor ended there, and there are often other variables that can bring a person to rock bottom. I had a boyfriend for a while, to whom I later lost my virginity, and we stayed together for just over three years. I was too naive to notice that he had an agenda for my life: to control every aspect of it. Over time he groomed and manipulated me, and all the common things that come with psychological abuse. Being with him was my first introduction to any drug. While he convinced me that marijuana and psychedelics are generally harmless, he was able to get me hooked on hard drugs, and heroin quickly became our top priority.

Rock Bottom pg2, drawn by Lizz Lunney.

Through heroin, he lost a lot of his inhibitions and became much more violent and psychologically abusive. During the latter half of our relationship I was beaten, raped, literally brainwashed, forced to do horrible things against my will, driven to ruining my business and subsequently destroying my online reputation, and cut off from all contact with the outside world. I was essentially held captive. The worst of it happened when we were homeless, after we had drained all of our money on drugs and got evicted from our home. When I miraculously escaped from him later on, I finally weaned myself off of heroin, but went straight to meth full-time. I went through nine living situations and street-homelessness twice in just two years. Not a single one of those situations was safe. I endured constant emotional and physical abuse just to keep a roof over my head. Most of the people who let me stay with them were older men, and every time it was a case of biding my time until they were fed up with me and gave me an ultimatum: sex or the streets. I chose the streets each time (although I would not blame anyone for choosing the former). Through being so broke and homeless I had no choice but to quit meth. I had to focus on surviving. Fortunately, as I distanced myself away from drugs, the living situations I found myself in became less and less terrible and I landed myself where I am now -- a place I couldn’t imagine being any better, despite living with Complex PTSD.

This book touched a really deep part of me, and from the moment I started reading I simply couldn’t put it down. I can’t express how much it means to me that there is a book dedicated to the experiences of reaching absolute lows and suffering at the hands of addiction. These are difficult topics to discuss, and these are the things that have a difficult time reaching conversation. I’ve always felt a bit silenced because these sorts of things are deemed too “uncomfortable” to talk about. They may be disturbing, but the dark world of addictions and suffering is happening constantly around us, whether we like it or not. This book made me feel so validated and I’m utterly grateful for it. I hope it can make others who have experienced or are experiencing similar predicaments remember that they are not alone, and perhaps it can give hope and understanding to those who are less familiar with these topics.

Cachet is an artist working out of Denver, CO. To see some of her work, you can look to her Tumblr or her DeviantArt page.

This book will obviously mean different things to different people. I saw this as a powerful collection of cautionary tales - warning of the possible wrong turns a life can make. On the other hand, Cachet saw this book as a light at the end of a dark tunnel - recognition that the path she traveled was taken by others. The fact that we came away from the book with different takes on the meaning started a conversation between us that might not have happened otherwise.

The original printing of "Bottoms Up" has long been sold out at this point. However, after winning Best Anthology at the Denver Independent Comic & Art Expo's annual Dinky Awards - the book is headed back into print. You can pre-order a new printing of "Bottoms Up: True Tales of Hitting Rock-Bottom" on the Birdcage Bottom Books website, with new copies expected to ship out in August of 2018.

Whiskey-A-No-Go pg2, drawn by Gideon Kendall.

The 2018 DiNKy Award for Best Anthology/Collection goes to Bottoms Up!

Tearing Yourself Down pg2, drawn by Kevin Budnik.


Cachet Whitman

Cachet Whitman grew up in California, but now happily resides in Colorado. She started doing freelance illustration at sixteen and has been making a living out of it ever since, but wants to spread her horizons in comics and other professional avenues.  Hardworking and efficient, she has done artwork for hundreds of clients all over the world. Having worked with so many different clients, she specializes in variety and will draw just about anything you throw at her. She just really, really loves to make art.

A Walk Around the Denver Independent Comic & Art Expo (DINK!) 2018 - With Over 100 Photos!

Written by Neil Greenaway

The weekend of April 14 & 15 marked the celebration of the third annual Denver Independent Comic & Art Expo (or DINK! for short) - and I was once again reminded why this is my favorite convention to attend every year. The meeting of minds between so many different facets of comic creation is an awesome and inspiring sight. There were long-time creators that have dedicated their careers to independent characters. There were members of the early underground comix movement. There were creators who work steadily for the Big Two comic companies, but whose roots in (and love for) independent comics are obvious. And mixed in among them were creators and artists from every walk of life, with diversity and representation clearly being on the forefront of the show-runners' minds.

Joe Kelly at the Alamo Drafthouse.

The show started for me on the evening of Friday the 13th - always a good night for a movie. DINK had brought out Joe Kelly as a guest of the show, and the Alamo Drafthouse was hosting a viewing of his new movie I Kill Giants with an audience Q&A afterwards. I grabbed my complimentary bunny ears and movie poster and headed in to the theater to find my seat. The film was touching and weird, with an emotional ending. When Joe took the stage, he seemed genuinely pleased to be there - and the audience was enthusiastic to speak with him. I will have a full review of that evening up soon.

The McNichols Civic Center.

The actual convention started on Saturday morning with everyone setting up at the McNichols Civic Center, located right in the middle of downtown Denver. The expansion that the show has undergone in the past year was evident from the first steps in the door. The aisles were a bit tighter than last year, and the whole place looked a little more crowded - but the show has grown to include over 250 exhibitors spread across the three floors of the building. That number is up almost 100 tables from last year.

Here is a gallery showcasing just a sample of the many creators who were on display and representing independent comics!

Erin Nations was there with the four issue series Gumballs from Top Shelf. Meanwhile, half a table away, David Espy & Alex Delia of Puncture Press show off copies of their comic - Eyesis the Untouchable. Also, they are clearly plotting something...

Erin Nations hides while David Espy & Alex Delia pose at DINK 2018.

Eyesis #5 from Alex Delia & David Espy.

Gumballs #1, #2, #3, &#4 from Erin Nations.

Be Kind, Rewind from Ron Ruelle - front cover.


Ron Ruelle at DINK 2018.

Be Kind, Rewind from Ron Ruelle - back cover.

Bob Conway, a Denver local comic book printer known for his quality printing and quick turnaround, was selling mini-comics and indie books that his company has printed through the years.

Bob Conway at DINK 2018.

Independent and Mini comics from Bob Conway.

Bob Conway at DINK 2018.

Artist Gerhard Kaaihue had a table displaying his comics and art, as well as a new project combining the talents of several Denver local artists and the dancers of the Clocktower Cabaret Burlesque.

Gerhard Kaaihue at DINK 2018.

The Clocktower Cabaret Burlesque project, with a cover by Gerhard Kaaihue.


Gerard and author Todd Jones engage in... we'll call it lively debate.

I stopped to talk with the folks at the FIne Ok Press table, who were there with their book Arro. Jay Peteranetz is a staple of the convention scene here in Denver, and he introduced me to his tablemate - Ms. Reilly Leeds. Both of them have books out now from Action Lab. Kenton Visser was looking tired set up next to Mark Stack (who may very well be hiding under the table).

The ladies of Fine Ok Press at DINK 2018.

Jay Peteranetz & Reilly Leeds share a table at DINK 2018.

Kenton Visser shares a table with Mark Stack (who is not in the photo).

Josh Trujillo was set up selling his new hardcover Love Machines and issues of the Dodge City series, but I walked away with a copy of his graphic novel looking at Adventure Gaming - Death Saves.

Josh Trujillo at DINK 2018.

John Hopkins and Red Team Go Colorado were on hand selling their books, while Jerianne Fulton had her enchanting dark arts on full display.

John Hopkins at DINK 2018.

Colton Muheim, Wynn Green, & Terry Schayes of Red Team Go! CO.

Jerianne Fulton at DINK 2018.

CreepHouse Comics was set up with Kevin Gentilcore manning the table. This was the first show in a while where Kevin had left prints out entirely and only sold books, and he was pleased with the results.

Kevin Gentilcore of CreepHouse Comics at DINK 2018.

CreepHouse Comics Stickers!

Krush McNulty from CreepHouse Comics.

Kaitlin Ziesmer, Mallory Hart (malloryhartart.com), and Aubrie Van Zandt (Van Zayton Arts) were all set up to sell for the weekend.

Kaitlin Ziesmer at DINK 2018.

Mallory Hart Art at DINK 2018.

Aubrie Van Zandt of Van Zayton Arts at DINK 2018.

Oil Can Drive and Exit 6 creator Sean Tiffany had his books in both trade paperback and single issue formats.

Sean Tiffany at DINK 2018.

Oil Can Drive trade paperback and sketchbook, by Sean Tiffany.

Daniel Crosier had an assortment of his original art (drawn on blocks of wood) for sale along with his comics. Terry Schayes and Colton Muheim were promoting their new indie comic distribution company - Comics Conglomerate. Jay Sternitzky & Mateo Cantu were both representing Paper Dreams Productions this year with art and books for sale.

Daniel Crosier at DINK 2018.

Wynn Green (of RTG!CO) stands with Terry Schayes and Colton Muheim at DINK 2018.

Jay Sternitzky & Mateo Cantu at DINK 2018.

Phil Buck & Tim Santos were behind the Those Shadow People table selling copies of the Those Shadow People comics as well as vinyl from their band Fresh Hats Tight Beats.

So Many Things from Fresh Hats Tight Beats.

Phil Buck & Tim Santos of Those Shadow People at DINK 2018.

The Thread from Fresh Hats Tight Beats.

Just because a convention specializes in independent comics does not mean that there is no place for comic vendors. A handful of Denver local comic shops - like I Want More Comics - were present to make sure back issues of our favorite indie books were available.

Sean Anderson of I Want More Comics at DINK 2018.

Hardcovers from I Want More Comics.

Back issues at DINK 2018, including a Shannon Wheeler mini-comic.

Back issues at DINK 2018, including early Jules Feiffer books.

Stevie Rae Drawn and Jacquelyn B.  Moore had their art out on display, while Thea Jovie Hunt was celebrating the release of her first comic book - Amelia! (it sold out by the end of the show).

Jacquelyn B Moore & Thea Jovie Hunt at DINK 2018.

Amelia! from Thea Jovie Hunt.

Stevie Rae Drawn at DINK 2018.

James O'Barr, the creator of The Crow, had a table where he was selling his prints and original art. The best deal at the booth were the stories of his time in the industry, though. And those were free.

James O'Barr at DINK 2018.

A commission from James O'Barr done for me at DINK 2018.

Good Chemistry is a dispensary in Denver that teamed up with DINK to provide a weed tour for VIP ticket holders. They also had a booth giving away free lighters with painters creating a marijuana themed mural on a large canvas.

The Good Chemistry booth at DINK 2018.

Good Chemistry was giving out free lighters and S.T.A.T.S. books.

The Good Chemistry painting at DINK 2018.

Rafael & Kristina Maldonado-Bad Hand had a table with their partner Kevin Butcher. Rafael had a new issue of his book Pilla, Kristina was selling her Lakota playing cards, and the baby made sure that things stayed cute.

Kevin Butcher with Kristina, Koda, and Rafael Maldonado-Bad Hand at DINK 2018.

Pilla from Rafael Maldonado-Bad Hand.

Some of the card designs for the Lakota Playing Cards, from Kristina Maldonado-Bad Hand.

Ztoical had prints and art out for people to browse through, while Laurissa HughesAmanda McManaman, & Alex Lupp all had books on display for the attendees to see. 

Laurissa Hughes & Amanda McManamanat DINK 2018.

Ztoical at DINK 2018.

Alex Lupp at DINK 2018.

Laser Party had a table where they were busy selling comics, t-shirts, and pins - but I was taken in by the original art of Joe Oliver off to the side. I bought a whole bunch of it.

A Witchy Lady from Joe Oliver.


Joe Oliver, Elijah Taylor, Sam Grinberg at DINK 2018.

A zombie head from Joe Oliver.

As a long-time artist for the groundbreaking Cerebus series, Gerhard was one of the most talked about guests at the convention. Both he and his wife greeted everyone who stopped by the table with a smile, and they were generous with their time and their stories. I hope to see them out here again.

Gerhard and his lovely wife at DINK 2018.

A commission of Cerebus from Gerhard.

Matt Kindt had some serious aviator shades to go with his booth full of comic goodies, Bryan Irwin was set up at a table demonstrating his new video game, and Jesse Dubin was out representing his company - 8th Wonder Press

Matt Kindt at DINK 2018.

Bryan Irwin at DINK 2018.

Andrew Middleton & Jesse Dubin at DINK 2018.

Carolyn & Chaz Kemp were set up at a table and selling his art and copies of her books (which he also illustrated).

Carolyn & Chaz Kemp at DINK 2018.

The art of Chaz Kemp.

Neil Ewing can always be counted upon to have some weird mini-comics on hand, but at this show he had also printed out the various layers of a photoshop file onto acetate - letting you really see and study how he used each layer to build the whole. I had never seen a book quite like it.

Neil Ewing's trading card stand's in for an actual photo of the man.

PeaceWays Returns from Neil Ewing.

A physical photoshop file, from Neil Ewing.

Microcosm Publishing had their full spread of books available, the Denver Public Library had a table set up to make custom buttons for kids, and Matt Verges had unique skate decks bearing his art for sale.

Microcosm Publishing at DINK 2018.

The Denver Public Library at DINK 2018.

Matt Verges at DINK 2018.

Amber Padilla had new mini-comics available for the show, the Art Order was selling copies of their graphic novels, and Jeremy Lawson & Jen Hickman were looking fabulous (did they really need to be doing anything else?). 

Amber Padilla at DINK 2018.

The Art Order at DINK 2018.

Jeremy Lawson & Jen Hickman strike a pose at DINK 2018.

Pepper & Bill DeLuca of Peppercopia Publishing were debuting the newest issue of there series - Side Stories of Camp Lake Kikipapi.

Pepper & Bill DeLuca at DINK 2018.

Campfire Stories of Lake Kikipapi #1 & the new issue Side Stories of Camp Lake Kikipapi from Bill & Pepper DeLuca.

Pidge had a table covered in issues of her series - Infinite Wheat Paste, the Talbot-Heindl Experience had several issues of their Bitchin' Kitsch 'zine for sale, and is Press had a full spread of 'zines and artbooks available.

Pidge at DINK 2018.

The Talbot-Heindl Experience at DINK 2018.

is Press at DINK 2018.

Creating both the badge art and the program art for DINK this year, Heather Mahler had a large display selling her art, prints, and stickers.

Heather Mahler at DINK 2018.

DINK 2018 program with art from Heather Mahler.

DINK 2018 media badges with art from Heather Mahler.

The ladies of Vagabond Comics displayed several issues from their namesake series, while Bob Parks and Cachet Whitman both had their art for sale - but Cachet was also premiering her first artbook. 

Vagabond Comics at DINK 2018.

Art Summary 2017 from Cachet Whitman.

Cachet Whitman & Bob Parks at DINK 2018.

White Stag Productions and West of Oz creators Sean Benner & Nick Winand were able to premiere two new issues of their series as well as a new trade paperback for the DINK show. Watch Nerd Team 30 for a full interview with this team coming up soon.

Sean Benner & Nick Winand at DINK 2018.

West of Oz TPB by Sean Benner and Nick Winand.

Howard Cruse and Denis Kitchen sat side-by-side at tables selling collections of their underground comix and offering some of the best stories in the industry.

Howard Cruse at DINK 2018.

"Bad Temper on the Book Tour", original art from Howard Cruse.

Howard Cruse & Denis Kitchen at DINK 2018.

Karl Christian Krumpholz premiered the first 6 issues of his 30 Miles of Crazy series. Having always been released in book format, this is the first time that Karl has tried the single issue format for the title. Holding the new issues in my hand, the binding feels solid and permanent, and the materials are obviously high quality. Like Mr. Krumpholz himself, they are elegant.

30 Miles of Crazy #1-3 by Karl Christian Krumpholz, premiering at DINK 2018.

Kelly Bearden and Karl Christian Krumpholz at DINK 2018.

30 Miles of Crazy #4-6 by Karl Christian Krumpholz, premiering at DINK 2018.

Lonnie Allen was there, with his comics and art - and of course, free copies of Suspect Press (for which he is the art director).

Lonnie Allen at DINK 2018.

The Spring 2018 edition of Suspect Press.

Deliniate from Lonnie Allen - a 2017 Dinky Award winner.

R Alan Brooks, Matt Strackbein, & Jolyon Yates proudly show off the new prints that they had made for their book - The Burning Metronome, while Jake Fairly raises a spiked glove in the name of his book - This is Heavy Metal.

R Alan Brooks, Matt Strackbein, & Jolyon Yates at DINK 2018.

Jake Fairly at DINK 2018.

Joe Kelly and his self-described partner in crime, Steven T. Seagle were both happy to tell their stories of working in comics and their translations to film - and both still seemed genuinely happy to meet so many fans.

Joe Kelly & Steven T. Seagle at DINK 2018.

An I Kill Giants movie poster, signed by Joe Kelly.

... and that covers less than half of the exhibitors that were tabling at the show! DINK is growing by leaps and bounds every year, and it just keeps getting better every time that they have one. With a real focus on independent creators, this is my favorite show for finding new comics. In fact, DINK is my favorite comic convention, period. It has become a celebration of everything indie comics has to offer, and that is a celebration that I am happy to attend. Keep an eye peeled here at NerdTeam30.com as we will have articles and interviews from DINK 2018 coming out for the next week. 

MotherF*cker In A Cape Talks Sexual Harassment In Upcoming Episodes

Written by Neil Greenaway

The Mother F*cker In A Cape podcast has a trio of new episodes planned for the end of April, and they touch on some fairly uncomfortable subjects. While the podcast normally focuses on marginalized figures in the comics community, these three episodes want to directly address the #metoo movement by tackling the topic of harassment and breaking it into its baser parts.

The first episode sees the creator of the podcast, R. Alan Brooks, speaking with Sarah J. Berg - the anti-harassment trainer at University of Colorado-Denver, who provides a legal definition of sexual harassment and some strategies for addressing it.

R. Alan Brooks recording the MotherF*cker In A Cape podcast.

The second episode hears stories of harassment from the women who have experienced them, touching on the very real damage that can be caused by predatory sexuality.

The third episode cuts to the heart of the problem by speaking with men who have admitted to practicing harassing and abusive behavior. These men discuss their thinking and motives at the time of the harassment, how they learned that their actions were wrong, and what they've done to change their views on women since.

Brooks admits that this topic is a bit outside the purview of what he normally features: "I typically focus on marginalized people in the geek world: disabled geeks, a sex worker who makes comics; that kind of thing. But I think sexual harassment needs to be addressed directly by men, and this is the forum that I have, so I'm using it."

The first of these three episodes will premiere on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, and Podcastland on April 30, 2018, which is the last day of Sexual Assault Awareness Month - with the next two episodes following weekly after that.

DINK 2018 Is Coming: Celebrate Independent Comix with O'Barr, Gerhard, Kindt & Cruse

Written by Neil Greenaway

This weekend (April 14&15, 2018) the McNichols Civic Center Building in Downtown Denver will once again play host to the Denver Independent Comics & Art Expo (DINK!). Now entering its third year, the DINK convention has quickly become a favorite for both fans and creators of independent comics - even winning the Best Comic Con award from Westword Magazine. Show runner Charlie LaGreca has proven before that DINK can pull in big-name guests without compromising his staunch support of independent comics and art, and this year proves it again. With headliners that include James O'Barr (The Crow, Pink Dust), Matt Kindt (Dept. H, Mind MGMT), Jeff Lemire (Sweet Tooth, Essex County), Howard Cruse (Gay Comix, Wendel), and Gerhard (Cerebus) this year's lineup has plenty of star power - and that is only the tip of the iceberg with nearly 200 different artists and exhibitors planning to attend.

This year sees the introduction of a few new features as well, and they start right at the front door. DINK has partnered with Meow Wolf to create an "immersive entry experience" that will have ticket holders make their way through a series of comic worlds created by local Denver artists Barry Brown, Lonnie Allen, and Brian Essig-Peppard.

The next big change this year is that the convention will host it's first celebrity guest -  John Leguizamo be there supporting his graphic novel Ghetto Klown and his new comic series Freak. DINK is offering ticket upgrades that include the graphic novels, single issues, signatures & selfies from Mr. Leguizamo.

Guests at DINK 2018!

Ghetto Klown

A Promo poster for DINK 2018.

Of course the Cannabis & Comix tour returns for its third year as well. This year DINK has teamed up with Good Chemistry to provide a 2-hour weed tour bus excursion with an open bar. Entrance to the Cannabis & Comix Tour also includes VIP tickets to the convention and access to a Cannabis & Comix panel with Denis Kitchen & Howard Cruse.

DINK will also be hosting a viewing of the new movie I Kill Giants with Joe Kelly (author of the series) at the Alamo Drafthouse. The show begins at 7:45 on Friday the 13th and will also include the short animated film Your Black Friend by DiNKy Award Winner Ben Passmore, Alex Krokus & Krystal Downs. Attendees will receive a free I Kill Giants poster that they can have Joe sign at the convention!

In addition to all the big names and events, DINK 2018 will also be bringing together an amazing collection of the best and brightest creators that independent comics have to offer - including a huge selection of Colorado-based talent. Influential Denver locals like Kevin Gentilcore, Daniel Crosier, R. Alan Brooks, J James McFarland, Mister V, Karl Christian Krumpholz, and Red Team Go CO will all have tables - there are too many others to list and they are all worth stopping and talking to.

All of this, plus: a full schedule of panels, a dog cosplay contest, the DiNKy awards, Sunday morning cereal & cartoons, food trucks, & much more. Tickets are still available, but they are selling out fast. You can buy yours HERE.

Black Panther: Y’all #TeamKillmonger Cats is On Some Bullshit

Written by R. Alan Brooks

Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger.

Hey, so listen: for the fifteen of y’all in the world who haven’t seen the Black Panther movie yet, you should just roll on, because this article has spoilers. That’s your warning. Fall back, now.

Black Panther is an audacious movie that takes viewers on multiple adventures, while blazing new trails in silver screen depictions of Africans, women, and frankly, superheroes.

One of the shining stars of the film is its villain, Erik Killmonger. Michael B. Jordan’s capacity for bringing complex and charismatic humanity to this character’s struggle is compelling. (And if you don’t think I used enough “c” words in that last sentence, I concur).

Killmonger is a great villain, because he’s a well-written antagonist that we can empathize with. As a testament to the strength of the film’s storytelling, Killmonger makes some valid and relatable points, we understand his pain, and we know why he came to be the person that he is. This is to writer and director Ryan Coogler’s credit as much as it is to Michael B. Jordan’s. Honestly, they should both be proud of this accomplishment.

T'Challa battles Erik Killmonger.

But some of y’all are trying to hold Killmonger out as a hero, like he’s some admirable beacon of The Revolution; some example that we should follow. Sure, in some ways, he was more likable than Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa. He was more devilishly charming, he had more passion, and he had credible reasons to be so angry.

But damn, y’all, just because he said some true things, that doesn’t make him the one for you to follow. (And MAN, he said some true things. That last line of his? That was everything.)

But let’s look at this brother’s actions. I’m just gonna pick three disturbing things that he did.

  • He murdered his girlfriend, who was loyally helping him on his mission. We don’t learn how long they’d been together, but it was definitely serious enough between them for her to risk her life and break the law to help him accomplish his objective. But as soon as she wasn’t useful to him, Killmonger murdered her. That’s your hero? You must be part of that, “I’m still riding with Magneto even though he abandoned Mystique as soon as she lost her powers” camp. Boo!

  • He choked an old woman in Wakanda for not obeying him quickly enough. He choked a defenseless old woman. He choked her. Y’all want this dude around your aunties? You’re probably waiting for the Wakanda edition of Logan’s Run, then. Double Boo!

  • He burned all of the heart-shaped herbs, so no one else could be king after him. Ok, so his mission was to bring some liberation to all of the world’s oppressed African people. Good. But why burn the herbs? So no one else could ever have the power of the Black Panther? More likely, it’s so no one could ever challenge him. Does that sound like a liberator or a dictator?

I know some of y’all want to argue that leaders don’t have to be perfect. After all, MLK was known for infidelity, Jesse Jackson jealously announced he wanted to “cut off” Obama’s nuts, and well, I won’t even speak on Bill Cosby.

Erik Killmonger contemplates a new mask.

So we’re left with this fictional character who is reacting to very real cruelties, like oppression, slavery, murder, and rape - specific, inhumane crimes that people of African descent have endured for centuries.

But, to take it a step further; to look at this character, and to see him as a hero - a champion worthy to right these wrongs - that’s just out of hand.

Killmonger treats women’s lives as worthless. He has no love or respect for the elders around him. And he wants to destroy the possibility of a kingdom existing after him.

These things make sense to his character. It’s part of what makes him a great villain. As a viewer, I absolutely understand why he does them.

But it doesn’t make sense for you to aspire to them.

Y’all might need to rethink yourselves.

R. Alan Brooks is a writer, musician and host of the popular “Mother F**ker In A Capecomics podcast, which interviews marginalized members of the geek world. Alan writes educational children’s comics and “The Adventures of Captain Colorado” for Pop Culture Classroom (the non-profit that stages Denver Comic Con). He is the writer and creator of “The Burning Metronome, a supernatural murder mystery graphic novel.

R. Alan Brooks

Raised in Atlanta and now a Denver resident, Alan is a writer, musician and host of the popular “Mother F**ker In A Cape” comics podcast, which interviews marginalized members of the geek world. Alan writes educational children’s comics and “The Adventures of Captain Colorado” for Pop Culture Classroom (the non-profit that stages Denver Comic Con). He is the writer and creator of “The Burning Metronome”, a supernatural murder mystery graphic novel.

Free Comic Book Day 2018 - Full List Of Titles With Covers and Previews

Written by Neil Greenaway


May 5th, 2018 will mark the seventeenth annual celebration of Free Comic Book Day - a day when local comic shops across the country will host events handing out free comics. Many events also feature cosplay contests, artists and authors selling their comics, gaming tournaments, and steep discounts off of the regular store merchandise. With some of the larger celebrations starting to resemble small comic conventions, FCBD has become one of the most hotly anticipated dates on the comic calendar. Below we have put together a sneak peek at more than 50 of the free books to be offered this year (plus the Michael Allred t-shirt!). Click on a cover to be taken to a more in depth look at the issue including the cover image, a brief synopsis of the story, and some of the creative teams


If you see the orange banner, you can preview actual pages of the comic!


  FCBD 2018 2000AD Regened (Rebellion)

FCBD 2018 2000AD Regened (Rebellion)

  FCBD 2018 Avengers #1 (Marvel)

FCBD 2018 Avengers #1 (Marvel)

  FCBD 2018 Barrier (Image)

FCBD 2018 Barrier (Image)

  FCBD 2018 Berlin by Jason Lutes (Drawn & Quarterly)

FCBD 2018 Berlin by Jason Lutes (Drawn & Quarterly)

  FCBD 2018 Bob’s Burgers (Dynamite)

FCBD 2018 Bob’s Burgers (Dynamite)

  FCBD 2018 Bongo Comics Free-For-All (Bongo)

FCBD 2018 Bongo Comics Free-For-All (Bongo)

  FCBD 2018 BOOM Adventure Time: Fionna & Cake Special (BOOM!)

FCBD 2018 BOOM Adventure Time: Fionna & Cake Special (BOOM!)

  FCBD 2018 BOOM Mighty Morphin’ Power Ranger Special (BOOM!)

FCBD 2018 BOOM Mighty Morphin’ Power Ranger Special (BOOM!)

  FCBD 2018 Brief History of Tank Girl (Titan Comics)

FCBD 2018 Brief History of Tank Girl (Titan Comics)

  FCBD 2018 Comics Friends Forever (First Second)

FCBD 2018 Comics Friends Forever (First Second)

  FCBD 2018 Crush (Yen Press)

FCBD 2018 Crush (Yen Press)

  FCBD 2018 Overwatch & Black Hammer (Dark Horse)

FCBD 2018 Overwatch & Black Hammer (Dark Horse)

  FCBD 2018 DC Super Hero Girls #1 (DC Comics)

FCBD 2018 DC Super Hero Girls #1 (DC Comics)



  FCBD 2018 Defend Comics (Comic Book Legal Defense Fund)

FCBD 2018 Defend Comics (Comic Book Legal Defense Fund)

  FCBD 2018 Die Kitty Die: I Love You To Death (Chapterhouse)

FCBD 2018 Die Kitty Die: I Love You To Death (Chapterhouse)

  FCBD 2018 Disney Princess Ariel Spotlight (Joe Books LTD)

FCBD 2018 Disney Princess Ariel Spotlight (Joe Books LTD)

  FCBD 2018 Doctor Who #0 (Titan Comics)

FCBD 2018 Doctor Who #0 (Titan Comics)

  FCBD 2018 Worlds Greatest Cartoonists (Fantagraphics)

FCBD 2018 Worlds Greatest Cartoonists (Fantagraphics)

  FCBD 2018 Ghost In the Shell:  Global Neural Network (Kodansha Comics)

FCBD 2018 Ghost In the Shell:  Global Neural Network (Kodansha Comics)

  FCBD 2018 Graphix Spotlight: Sparks (Scholastic/Graphix)

FCBD 2018 Graphix Spotlight: Sparks (Scholastic/Graphix)

  FCBD 2018 Howard Lovecraft’s Big Book of Summer Fun (Arcana)

FCBD 2018 Howard Lovecraft’s Big Book of Summer Fun (Arcana)

  FCBD 2018 Infinity Watch / Amazing Spider-Man (Marvel)

FCBD 2018 Infinity Watch / Amazing Spider-Man (Marvel)

  FCBD 2018 Invader Zim: Floopsy Bloops Shmoopsy (Oni Press)

FCBD 2018 Invader Zim: Floopsy Bloops Shmoopsy (Oni Press)

  FCBD 2018 Invasion (Chapterhouse)

FCBD 2018 Invasion (Chapterhouse)

  FCBD 2018 James Bond: Vargar (Dynamite)

FCBD 2018 James Bond: Vargar (Dynamite)

  FCBD 2018 Lady Mechanika (Benitez Productions)

FCBD 2018 Lady Mechanika (Benitez Productions)

  FCBD 2018 Legend of Korra & Nintendo Arms (Dark Horse)

FCBD 2018 Legend of Korra & Nintendo Arms (Dark Horse)

  FCBD 2018 Malika – Creed & Fury (YouNeek Studios)

FCBD 2018 Malika – Creed & Fury (YouNeek Studios)

  FCBD 2018 Maxwell’s Demons #1 (Vault)

FCBD 2018 Maxwell’s Demons #1 (Vault)

  FCBD 2018 Metabaron: Meta-Guardianess and Techno-Baron (Humanoids)

FCBD 2018 Metabaron: Meta-Guardianess and Techno-Baron (Humanoids)

  FCBD 2018 Miraculous Adventures (Action Lab)

FCBD 2018 Miraculous Adventures (Action Lab)

  FCBD 2018 Nightmare Before Christmas: Zero’s Journey #0 (Tokyo Pop)

FCBD 2018 Nightmare Before Christmas: Zero’s Journey #0 (Tokyo Pop)

  FCBD 2018 Only Living Boy (Papercutz)

FCBD 2018 Only Living Boy (Papercutz)

  FCBD 2018 Overstreet Guide To Collecting (Gemstone)

FCBD 2018 Overstreet Guide To Collecting (Gemstone)

  FCBD 2018 Pokemon Sun & Moon & Horizon (Viz Media)

FCBD 2018 Pokemon Sun & Moon & Horizon (Viz Media)

  FCBD 2018 Relay #0 (AfterShock)

FCBD 2018 Relay #0 (AfterShock)

  FCBD 2018 Riverdale (Archie)

FCBD 2018 Riverdale (Archie)

  FCBD 2018 Scout Comics Presents: The Mall (Scout Comics)

FCBD 2018 Scout Comics Presents: The Mall (Scout Comics)

  FCBD 2018 Shadow Roads #1 (Oni Press)

FCBD 2018 Shadow Roads #1 (Oni Press)

  FCBD 2018 Shadowman Special (Valiant)

FCBD 2018 Shadowman Special (Valiant)

  FCBD 2018 Silver (Dark Planet)

FCBD 2018 Silver (Dark Planet)

  FCBD 2018 SpongeBob Freestyle Funnies (United Plankton Pictures)

FCBD 2018 SpongeBob Freestyle Funnies (United Plankton Pictures)

  FCBD 2018 Star Wars Adventures (IDW)

FCBD 2018 Star Wars Adventures (IDW)

  FCBD 2018 Starburns Presents #1 (SBI Press)

FCBD 2018 Starburns Presents #1 (SBI Press)

  FCBD 2018 Strangers In Paradise XXV #1 (Abstract Studio)

FCBD 2018 Strangers In Paradise XXV #1 (Abstract Studio)

  FCBD 2018 Street Angel’s Dog (Image)

FCBD 2018 Street Angel’s Dog (Image)

  FCBD 2018 Tick 2018 Free Comic Book Day (NEC)

FCBD 2018 Tick 2018 Free Comic Book Day (NEC)

  FCBD 2018 Transformers: Unicron #0 (IDW)

FCBD 2018 Transformers: Unicron #0 (IDW)

  FCBD 2018 Ultra Street Fighter II #1 (UDON)

FCBD 2018 Ultra Street Fighter II #1 (UDON)

  FCBD 2018 My Hero Academia & RWBY (Viz Media)

FCBD 2018 My Hero Academia & RWBY (Viz Media)

  FCBD 2018 Worlds of Aspen Anniversary Edition (Aspen)

FCBD 2018 Worlds of Aspen Anniversary Edition (Aspen)

  FCBD 2018 Worm World Saga (Lion Forge)

FCBD 2018 Worm World Saga (Lion Forge)

  FCBD 2018 Michael Allred "Madman" T-Shirt

FCBD 2018 Michael Allred "Madman" T-Shirt

A Walk Around the Landmark Comic Book Club Mini Con 2018

Written by Neil Greenaway

On Saturday, January 27th, the Landmark Academy in Commerce City, CO once again opened its doors to the Landmark Comic Book Club Mini Con. This was the club's second annual mini-convention and several local Colorado creators came out to help them celebrate. Belying the "Mini" in their name the day-long event featured several panels, a Pokemon tournament, a Kid's Cosplay Contest, and a full table of prizes to be raffled away through the afternoon. Offered below is a gallery featuring some of the creators that were set up and selling their wares at the show.

The Landmark Academy at Reunion - in Commerce City Colorado hosted the Mini-Con.

The Landmark Academy at Reunion

Almost immediately inside the front door, I found Patricia Krmpotich and Dan Conner with the full spread of their My Gal the Zombie comics.

To see more from Dan & Patricia you can check out:  mygalthezombie.com, crazygoodcomics.comFacebook, Youtube, Instagram (Dan), Twitter (Dan), Instagram (Patricia), Twitter (Patricia).

Patricia Krmpotich and Dan Conner sit at their table with Dan's daughter.

My Gal the Zombie: The Delusional Life - by Dan Conner & Patricia Krmpotich.


A page of My Gal the Zombie cards for Valentine's Day.

The folks at Game Face Photography and Printing were there with a variety of prints. Their table also featured information and a sign-up sheet for the Monster Rangers (from Steam Crow)! It is great to see the Rangers starting to spread and grow.

To see more from Game Face Printing and Photography you can check out: GameFacePP.com, Facebook, Instagram, or Etsy.

To see more from the Monster Rangers you can check out: MonsterScouts.com, SteamCrow.com, or Facebook.

At the Game Face Photography and Printing table, with the Monster Rangers sign-up.


Game Face Photography and Printing

Monster Ranger info.

Moriah Hummer had the first three issues of her comic - Flat Track Furies at her table. Her book is about a Roller Derby team, which is something Moriah knows about - she plays with the Denver Roller Dolls

To see more from Moriah you can check out: FlatTrackFuries.com, Twitter, Facebook, or her personal blog.

Moriah Hummer and her Flat Track Furies - providing both substanse and style.

Flat Track Furies stickers!

  Flat Track Furies  issues #1, #2, & #3 - from  Moriah Hummer .

Flat Track Furies issues #1, #2, & #3 - from Moriah Hummer.

Colton Muheim, Andrew Mark, & Terry Schayes were on hand to represent Red Team Go Colorado and - as always - sketches for children were free. With this event taking place in a school, these guys were busy all day.

To see more from Red Team Go Colorado you can check out:   www.redteamgocolorado.com or their Facebook.

Terry Schayes with Colton Muheim at the Red Team Go Colorado table.

Andrew Mark drawing free sketches for the kids at the mini-con.

The comics of Red Team Go Colorado.

Andrew Mark of Red Team Go Colorado dispensing knowledge (and art) to the children.

Cryptids & Cogs Volume 2 - from Red Team Go Colorado!

Gerhard Kaaihue was set up with copies of his book Elilani: The Art of G. Kaaihue and several prints, stickers, and original art pieces.

To see more from G. Kaaihue you can check out:  gkaaihue.com, his store, or his Facebook.

Gerhard Kaaihue sketching at the mini-con.


Falling Deep #1 - from R. Alan Brooks & Gerhard Kaaihue.

Elilani: The Art of G. Kaaihue


William DeLuca and his husband Craig "Pepper" DeLuca had a table at the mini-con where they were selling copies of Campfire Stories of Lake KikiPapi - the comic that they create together. They also had a coloring sheet for children (which my son thoroughly enjoyed).

To see more from William & Pepper you can check out:  Comixology or the Peppercopia Publishing Facebook page.

William & Craig "Pepper" DeLuca at the mini-con.

Campfire Stories of Lake KikiPapi #1 - written by William DeLuca with art by Craig "Pepper" DeLuca.

A coloring sheet featuring the cover to the next issue of Campfire Stories of Lake KikiPapi - art by Craig "Pepper" DeLuca

Lonnie Allen was there with his art and copies of the latest issue of Suspect Press - a Denver magazine where he is the Art Director/Comix Editor. 

To see more from Lonnie you can check out:  lonniemfallen.com or suspectpress.online.

Lonnie Allen with the latest issue of Suspect Press.

Suspect Press #16, cover by Lonnie Allen.

The latest issue, Suspect Press #17.

Danielle Hines, Sean Benner, and Jeremy Taveras were all on hand to represent White Stag Productions and Sean's book - West of Oz.

To see more from West of Oz you can check out: Twitter or the White Stag Productions Facebook.

  Danielle Hines ,  Sean Benner , and  Jeremy Taveras  at the mini-con.

Danielle Hines, Sean Benner, and Jeremy Taveras at the mini-con.

West of Oz #1 - written by Sean Benner with art from Nicholas Winand.


West of Oz posters - art by Nicholas Winand

Jay Peteranetz was there selling his comics, prints, original art, Magicians Must Die (MMD) cards - a comic book printed on a deck of playing cards.

To see more from Jay you can check out:  jnoblepeteranetz.com, DeviantArt, Twitter, or Instagram.

Jay Peteranetz drawing at the mini-con.

Action Lab: Dog of Wonder #6, cover by Jay Peteranetz.

Magicians Must Die (MMD) issue #3, art by Jay Peteranetz.

Magicians Must Die (MMD) issue #3, art by Jay Peteranetz.

Cartoonist and illustrator Ron Ruelle was set up at the mini-con selling collections of his daily comic strip - At The Zü. He also had a whole stack of original art from published strips, and I was lucky enough to get one.

To see more from Ron you can check out:  www.ronruelle.com or Amazon.

Ron Ruelle at the mini-con.

Hey Darwin - At The Zü Daily Strips Vol. 1 by Ron Ruelle.

Non-Human Resources - At The Zü Daily Strips Vol. 2 by Ron Ruelle.

An original At The Zü comic strip from Ron Ruelle.

Stan Yan had a table where he was selling copies of his children's book (There's A Zombie in the Basement) and we were able to talk a bit about his upcoming graphic novel - Regret: A Cancer Survivor's Story. He was also printing out custom Pokemon cards for people (an idea he had with his son).

To see more from Stan you can check out:  zombicatures.com, TheresaZombieintheBasement.comstanyan.me, or read Regret here.

  Stan Yan  and his wife  Erica  at the mini-con.

Stan Yan and his wife Erica at the mini-con.


There's A Zombie in the Basement - a story book by Stan Yan.

Regret: A Cancer Survivor's Story, by Stan Yan.

Jacenta Irlanda of Centalynn Artworks was there selling her fine art prints. Her line of Steampunk Robots is awesome. She was cosplaying as Jubalee from the X-Men, which is also awesome.

To see more from Jacenta you can check out: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Jacenta Irlanda of Centalynn Artworks.

Centalynn Artworks - Fine Artist Jacenta Irlanda

Steve Moore of MacWolf Productions was on hand selling his laser-cut clocks and placards. He had a really impressive display laid out for the show, and it all looked amazing.

To see more from MacWolf Productions you can check out:  www.macwolfpro.com, Facebook, or Twitter.

Steve Moore of MacWolf Productions at the mini-con.

A Metroid clock from MacWolf Productions.


A Weyland-Yutani Corp placard from MacWolf Productions.

Michelle McAveney of Ink Splotch had a table and was selling her comics, prints, stickers, and bookmarks at the mini-con.

To see more from Ink Splotch you can check out:  her website, smackjeeves, Twitter, Facebook, Patreon, or Storenvy.

Michelle McAveney of Ink Splotch.

A mini print from Michelle McAveney.


Spider Wings Vol.1 by Michelle McAveney.

Matt Barclay of Lunch Bag Lab arrived at the mini-con with a plethora of original lunch bag art for sale - and then proceeded to sit down and make a whole bunch more!

To see more from Matt you can check out the Lunch Bag Lab Facebook page.

  Matt Barclay  of  Lunch Bag Lab  at the mini-con.

Matt Barclay of Lunch Bag Lab at the mini-con.

Han & Chewie by Matt Barclay.


Lunch Bag Lab

Snorlax by Matt Barclay.

A Look Inside Ace Comic Con Arizona - A New Kind Of Convention

Written by Emily Davenport

A banner ad for Ace Comic Con Arizona.

The first time I heard of ACE Comic Con was through a sponsored Facebook post I caught while mindlessly scrolling. I thought to myself, “How the heck have I never heard of this before,” and after a few clicks, quickly discovered it was brand spankin’ new. It’s Arizona show already had an A-list roster, and would be ACE’s second ever convention.  I needed to know how it was going to compare to more “established” comic conventions, so my fiancé, Ryan, and I took to the arena floor to find out.

Gila River Arena in Glendale, AZ.

            As we walked up to the arena on the sunny Saturday afternoon, we saw the line for general admission was quite long and wrapped well around a building opposite the arena that divided into smaller lines in front of multiple security checkpoints. Fortunately, the Gila River Arena is used to large crowds, so every checkpoint was armed with several security staff to help the line of attendees enter as quickly and smoothly as possible. Despite the well-organized lines and quick security, some attendees spent almost two hours waiting to get through and grab their passes. ACE had established a separate entrance for its VIP pass holders on the opposite side of the arena, whom were able to enter prior to general admission pass holders. By the time we had arrived on Sunday (two hours after the floor opened), there were no lines of people waiting to enter - which was a stark contrast to other conventions we’ve attended where people have waited multiple hours.

            Inside the arena, ACE had laid out their convention on three different floors; the arena floor, the main concourse, and the upper concourse. The arena floor housed the main-stage panels, second-stage panels, photo-op areas, and a handful of exhibitors. The rest of the exhibitors were spread out between the main and upper concourse, with the creators located on the main concourse. The main concourse also housed the kid’s convention area where little ones were able to enjoy more age appropriate activities. Celebrity guest booths were placed on the upper concourse. Having the three levels made it easier to find what you were looking for, helped to make foot traffic flow freely, and at no point did either of us feel like we were canned sardines shuffling to our next destination.

Watching the panels from the arena seats above the show floor.

The main stage (with a packed-in audience) behind the show floor.

The photo ops section was in a seperate area.

            ACE had introduced a new way of making panels accessible to all guests, regardless of where you were located inside the convention. This was something no other convention we’ve attended has done, and was a huge upsell for us. To view a celebrity panel up close and in person you had to have a pre-purchased ticket. However you were able to view the panels from the upper concourse seats quite easily, from the dozens of television sets scattered throughout the main concourse or the jumbotron located in the exhibitor hall behind the main stage. Gone were the days where you had to rush to one side of the convention center to the other, and stand in a long line hoping you got the opportunity to view the panel before all the seats were taken. It was awesome.

            We were able to see everything that the convention had to offer within two hours due to the quantity and exclusivity of the exhibitors. On the one hand, this was nice because it was easier to plan what you would do. On the other hand, it felt very repetitive because you were frequently walking by the same vendors multiple times a day. Unlike other conventions there were extremely limited workshops or panels that didn’t consist of celebrities. When combined with the exclusivity of exhibitors, this sometimes made us question if the convention was worth paying the high price for a whole weekend (a full weekend pass was $95 if pre-purchased or $100 at the door - ed).

            ACE was focused on bringing the A-list experience to everyone, but felt a little more geared to the mainstream comic fan due it’s focus on exclusivity. It’s best for convention goers who want to see specific celebrities or a have a one-day experience, but it may not satisfy the convention goers who like to explore the many aisles of exhibitors and find new things. It was a new style of comic convention that was fun to attend, and we’re glad to say we were a part of ACE’s infancy. Will we go again? Time will tell, but we are excited to see where the future of ACE Comic Con is headed.

Captain America #695 Ace Comic Con Arizona Exclusive, cover by Billy Martin.

Captain America #695 B&W Ace Comic Con Arizona Exclusive, cover by Billy Martin.

 Many of the creators invited have done amazing work for Marvel, which was the theme of the convention.

Many of the creators invited have done amazing work for Marvel, which was the theme of the convention.

 The Marvel theme of this convention was reflected in the celebrity guests.

The Marvel theme of this convention was reflected in the celebrity guests.

30 Cosplay Photos From Ace Comic Con - Arizona, Day 1

All photos taken by Emily Davenport & Ryan Hall

Ace Comic con - Arizona started on Saturday at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, AZ - and Nerd Team 30 was on hand to get coverage of the new convention. Started by the Shamus Brothers (the pair that created Wizard World), Ace aims to do things differently by setting up in arenas, broadcasting the panels over the Jumbotron, and having a theme for each new convention. Over the next few days our site will be running reactions to the new show layout, photo galleries, and interviews from the con floor. To start us out, here is a look at some of the cosplay at day 1 of Ace Comic Con - Arizona!

About a “Certain Point of View” - Understanding Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Written by J. James McFarland

This is intended as an overview of the central themes and character arcs of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It contains spoilers for the film.

 Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

“The greatest teacher, failure is. Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.”

This is a movie about a certain point of view, the wrong point of view. This is a story about making mistakes, then forgiving yourself and getting on with the task of making up for the errors. Each of our main characters has opportunities in The Last Jedi to make choices which will define the future of the struggle against The First Order. As we are informed in the crawl, the First Order fleet has now been sent out across the known Galaxy after the destruction of The New Republic, and there is no force large enough to stop them.

The movie opens with an evacuation of the base seen in the prior film. The Last Jedi takes place within a very short period of time after the end of The Force Awakens, perhaps hours. A truly ugly First Order ship enters the stage, and “our hero of the Resistance” Poe Dameron confronts this monstrosity himself, without support, in a humble X-Wing. His pal BB-8 tells him it is a bad idea, Leia tells him it is a bad idea, yet Poe puts his ego first.

During this setpiece, we learn a great many things about Poe which were not revealed to us before. His skill as a pilot has made him arrogant and has turned him into a disastrous example of a poor leader. During The Force Awakens we get to know Poe as a somewhat aloof, confident and joyful man. During The Last Jedi we see him descend into paranoia, self-centered arrogance, and a lack of faith in his superiors. He is willing to allow the Resistance to be defeated and his peers to be killed in pointless shows of self-importance. This becomes clear as Poe ignores General Leia’s orders and commits a large portion of the remaining offensive pilots of the Resistance to a desperate gamble. He has noble intentions, but is doing the wrong thing.

Meanwhile, Poe is self-satisfied with taunting General Hux about his parentage. Hux, a proper and straight-laced official who is insecure about being the bastard son from an extramarital affair his father had with a serving woman. This is a pretty sly wink at the audience and certain to go unnoticed by most.

The point of view for much of the movie is that of Poe. Poe FEELS a lot. He's very emotional. We witness him defy orders. Later he will do so again, only worse, which will make him responsible for the end of The Resistance.

 Poe Dameron

Poe Dameron

If Poe had not taken a self-centered stance each time, each time with “noble intentions,” The Resistance would still exist. During the movie we FEEL with him that he's doing the right thing, we're exhilarated at his "success" even as we watch Rose lose her sister Paige, and we sympathize with Rose and Finn as they join in his mutiny - also defying orders - to run off on a hopeless errand.

Our new focal character for the film, Rose Tico, is introduced as Finn has chosen to run away from the Resistance. This is the second time Finn has chosen this course of action also choosing to save himself in The Force Awakens. However, in The Last Jedi we see that Finn has grown to care about one person besides himself, Rey. His decision to run away from the battle in this film can be said to have “noble intentions,” as he intends to put distance between the scenario he fears is about to befall the Resistance and the homing beacon which will bring Rey back there. In reality he is not only depriving the Resistance of Rey, but also unintentionally changing Rey’s goal of bringing Luke back to the Resistance and Leia. The audience may read into the depths of that motivation, but he joins “our hero of the Resistance” Poe in being motivated by folly.

During this sequence in the film we meet Rose Tico, who is mourning the loss of her sister Paige. Paige could be said to be one of the real heroes of the opening sequence, her selfless sacrifice of her life alongside those other pilots and gunners who died having taken down the monstrous First Order gunship. Indeed, General Leia identifies them as the heroes of the battle.  Rose takes the position during this film of being the one character who continues to be heroic throughout the narrative. She is also a teacher to Finn who still has little personal identity outside of his brainwashing as an agent of The First Order.

Rose tells the audience and Finn that he is her hero - though he has let her down and been more legend than hero. This becomes the theme of the film. We have to experience that ourselves with Luke, Rey and Poe. We have to watch our heroes be real people who make mistakes, a hard real-world lesson, and then are rewarded to see them begin becoming what they were meant to be. Rose's hero-worship for Finn is a metaphor for us.

“I’m endangering the mission. I shouldn’t have come.” “It’s your imagination, kid. Come one.”

 Rey trains to be a Jedi.

Rey trains to be a Jedi.

When we catch up with Rey, we find that she has an unknown connection to the tiny island which Luke has been living his humble life upon. She knows this place, she tells us. Rey finds that Luke is desperately sad and even hopeless. Our hero of the original trilogy, “The New Hope,” has become despondent. This places the audience expectations of a super-powered, flying and fireball throwing righteous Luke Skywalker quickly out of reach. We want to continue to see that young optimistic man who would never give up but life has been hard on him. This is our own failure. Since the prior film Luke has been a question mark and we have forgotten who Luke really was. Most of us expected something unrealistic, when what we find is a still-genuine Luke who has grown to be a simple farmer, hunter and gatherer, reflecting his true personality and his roots.

During her time on Luke’s island, Rey spends her time experiencing conversations with Kylo Ren, and seeking answers in dark places. Kylo Ren is behaving in the manner of all classic abusers, alternatingly shaming Rey and then being “the only one who understands.”  Rey, like Poe, ignores the orders of her wiser master and continues to allow Ren to manipulate her, like most women in this position. She believes “she can fix him.”

Rey explores the Dark Side in a scene which will be endlessly interpreted. My personal takeaway from her experience underground is one which confirms my views on the Dark Side in general: the person who goes to the Dark Side is one who is self-seeking and self-centered,  putting themselves ahead of everyone else in general. In her vision, there is only Rey, surrounded by Rey, and finally coming face to face with Rey.

In these scenes with Kylo Ren we see a succession of interpretations, flashbacks of an event which led to Luke being so detached from his higher calling. These alternating “he said / he said” interpretations of one moment in time show when Luke momentarily became hopeless over his ability to save Ben Solo, and saw a dark future he had to prevent. A folly of the audience from these scenes is to internalize the second flashback’s shock, when Kylo Ren is relating his false point of view. During this scene, in the same way that director Rian Johnson has connected us to Poe’s emotions and point of view, we are connected to Kylo Ren’s emotions and point of view. However, his views and actions are also wrong, and so again the audience has been put in the position of feeling emotions which support a false view.

We do not know what actions young Ben Solo has been taking. We never get to see how he has behaved, what choices he has made which make Luke fear him so. What was Ben Solo DOING during his time at the academy which made Luke so afraid that he would glimpse into Ben’s sleeping mind? In The Force Awakens, we find out that Leia and Han are familiar with Snoke. Starwars.com specifies that “Snoke seduced young Ben Solo when the Force-sensitive boy desperately needed a teacher. Snoke’s influence would prove critical when Luke Skywalker finally agreed to make Ben one of his new Jedi apprentices.” In The Last Jedi we are told that Luke has been aware of Snoke’s influence on his pupil and he does not seem surprised that other students leave with Ben. Ben slaughters his peers. This is very similar to when Anakin destroyed the Jedi temple, but at a much younger age.

Kylo has shown a very strong inclination towards a pattern of behavior of "no, not the light, anything but the light!" He is choosing to be evil instead of acting out of unconscious behavior, a pattern which Anakin never did. There is no “noble intention” in Kylo Ren, and as the movie progresses we find this truth deepening. The difference between Anakin and Kylo Ren is the big difference between "there is still light in him" and "he refuses the light and intentionally wants to be evil."

“I cannot be betrayed, I cannot be beaten. I see his mind, I see his every intent.”

 Inside Snoke's chambers.

Inside Snoke's chambers.

We are deprived of Snoke’s history in a subverted way. Instead of focusing on the man behind Kylo Ren, we are quickly forced to watch Kylo Ren ascend the throne of The First Order himself. Snoke is only to us what Kylo Ren grows beyond. We do know how Snoke ruined Ben Solo, however. He promised him the same thing all Dark Side Masters promise their pupils. This is the promise that your own self-centered character defects can take focus in your life. We know exactly what drives these sorts of people, it is always the same. Power over others. Self before others. Self-importance. Self-aggrandizement. Ego satisfaction.

We can see that Kylo Ren is a monster who only cares about himself and is willing to let the whole Galaxy suffer to "become what he's supposed to be." Kylo Ren doesn't give a fig about anyone except Kylo Ren. What we learn in this movie is that it started really early. We don't know what he has done by that point in the flashbacks, but whatever Ren has done and the path he started down during those dark times is enough to make Luke lose his hope in the future.

After The Force Awakens, many fans of the Saga were confused about Kylo Ren’s role in the film. At the time my habit was to kindly reinforce that not only were we as the audience mistaken to see him as a strong man, but that he was in fact only a kid wearing a scary mask. However I would point out that he was on par with the Anakin Skywalker we see in Episode II, and that I hoped to see him grow into a monster that might surpass Vader. With The Last Jedi, we see him cross that threshold and become his own man.

Luke spends some time training Rey, and tells us that he has only “seen this power once, and he wasn’t afraid then.” This further solidifies that there was a slow decline of Ben into Kylo Ren, as we see that young Ben Solo’s actions were making Luke fearful. Luke launches into a diatribe of spite at the old Jedi. “The legacy of the Jedi is failure,” whining about hubris, a view that the Jedi led to the creation of Palpatine and of Vader. I see this as Luke summing up the endless negative fan opinions I refute regularly online. I do not believe that this is an accident of the scripting. My belief during this scene is that Luke’s faith has fallen so far that he is actually resonating with the lowered and weakened faith of that segment of the fanbase which continually echoes that the Jedi were corrupt, or that they should have let Anakin do as he wished, or that they deserved to die. Meta!

 Luke Skywalker, Kylo Ren, and Rey.

Luke Skywalker, Kylo Ren, and Rey.

This line of thinking ignites me to such strong views! I do not want to lose focus of the topic at hand by being distracted into a completely different essay, suffice to say that my views on the Jedi and the future importance of the Jedi is so strong that I self-published a printed tract going into these topics. Luke is here expressing a point of view which I believe to be wrong, but his simply saying these things fills me with great hope! In a film whose entire basis is that heroes can be wrong, make mistakes, and then learn to become masters, this indicates to me that the future of the films will not only address the true mistakes of the Jedi, but that Rey will also restart the Jedi from fresh. The films can get into the true failures of the Jedi, which were getting involved in politics, moving from Jedha to Coruscant, then allowing outside opulence to reduce their own strong-points of aloofness and neutrality in The Galaxy.

We see that Luke has reconsidered his stance, reconnected to The Force, and sought his sister Leia. Upon waking Leia, whose own strong connection to The Force has just saved her life, he then quickly rushes to Rey’s hut. In this moment, it is my belief that the Luke we see running down the hillside excitedly is a Luke who will now announce to Rey that he wants to accompany her and join the struggle against The First Order. That was a sense which I cannot justify except in his behaviors, just prior to realizing that Rey is communing with Kylo Ren. I believe this realization has jilted Luke away from his new momentary intentions. I do believe that upon seeing Leia he has changed his mind, but his resolve dissipates quickly during a disagreement with Rey. Luke cannot follow. His submerged X-Wing has been scuttled, the S-Foils aren’t even on the plane any longer. From the paint pattern, we can see that parts of the wing have become the door of his hut.

“Compassion, which I would define as unconditional love, essential to a Jedi's life.”

Making emotional attachments forbidden was something that Anakin completely ignored and considered below him. The Jedi did not have rules about not having emotions, rather they trained their adherents to live in a manner of personal humility and also emotional sobriety. This allows The Force to communicate it's Will, the will and needs of life around them. A Force user who exerts selfish needs is someone who will ignore the needs of other lifeforms and be a taker, not a giver.

The biggest problem the Jedi had to me was getting involved in Galaxy business. Historically separate and apart, they had maintained clarity on Jedha. They were more focused and knew what their role was. They were meant to train young Force users to be mature and emotionally sober adults who wouldn't use their abilities for evil or selfish gain at the expense of others. They were meant to prevent the rise of people like Palpatine or Vader. Moving to Coruscant, being surrounded by politics, tangentially involved with structures of governance, living in a wildly opulent manner, and involving themselves in the business of other people's life is what I see as some of their major failures. They lost their purpose.

By choosing to drag the audience along in the grip of our emotions, by putting us in the position of sympathizing with the wrong choices our heroes are making yet simultaneously making us a participant in the self-righteousness of those characters, The Last Jedi is forcing we the audience down the path of The Dark Side. We participate in Rey’s Dark Side journey and the film allows us to simmer in selfish righteousness during its journey. Is this an intentional effect of the writing and directing? It’s hard for me to say, although if I were to expand on the idea it would be natural to say that this movie is about the Dark Side in the way that Episodes III and V are, however this one compels the audience through their own Dark Side experience. It isn’t pleasant.

“Hope is like the sun. If you only believe in it when you see it, you'll never make it through the night."

  Vice-Admiral Holdo

Vice-Admiral Holdo

Poe was kicked out of the loop of leadership. He was a danger to the others because of his ongoing propensity to ignore orders demonstrating himself as a loose cannon.  Vice-Admiral Holdo had a plan and the other ship captains were aware of it. They were in the middle of pretending to flee aimlessly while preparing a secret secondary mission. This is while executing a secret third mission, which was the cloaked vehicles leaving the abandoned ships with refugees and coming to the capital ship. Nobody had enough time to worry about Poe and his lessening mental state, keeping an eye on his paranoia and behind the scenes plotting.

Holdo is presented to us as a threat, and potentially even a traitor. Sinister music plays in her presence, and we still haven’t had the time to process the mistakes which Poe has already made. I bought in to the myth and hero-worship of Poe. I suspect we all did.

Vice-Admiral Holdo had reason not to trust Poe. Let's look at this more because this is the CENTRAL bait-and-switch of this movie. People wanted an "I am your Father" moment in which the truth of the entire story is flipped upside down, and they expected Rey's parents or Snoke's one-liner history to be that moment. Instead, you get something high concept: like Rose (rose-colored glasses?) we are super proud of our heroes from The Force Awakens. Poe, Rey and Finn are our heroes, we want to watch them rush in, kick ass, and be awesome. Then we see that they have massive character defects because they are human and fallible. Luke then demonstrates this, and Yoda just smiles and laughs and tells us that it's okay! That is how we grow into leaders. Our heroes will be leaders: Poe, Rey, Finn, Rose, Chewie, Nien Nunb... everyone on that little piece of junk life raft.

That is the "I am your Father" moment, not that the bad guy might be redeemed, but the opposite: the good guys might have irredeemable flaws. In real life, admitting that we are wrong verbally to another person is one of the most humbling and difficult things to do. However, actually accepting it and coming to terms with it in these circumstances is far less likely. Self-honesty is nearly impossible for most of us. In the next film, our heroes are freed up now to be epic… they have earned it.

“That’s how we’re going to win. Not fighting what we hate. Saving what we love.”

Rose has lost her sister, been awake for days on guard duty, had her hopes dashed on a failed mission, lost faith in a hero figure she admired, become his teacher, been through an arrest and escape, gone for an aggressive physical ride, watched 99% of the entire Resistance die because of the actions of the man who sent her on a failed mission, and then been promoted to front line combatant because there are no pilots left. Aside from all those things which make Rose one of the only heroes in the Resistance, she saves Finn’s life, interrupting his impossible attempt of being a savior figure. If she had not done so the Rebels in Episode IV would not have Finn to help rebuild the Resistance. During their wild good chase mission she has watched him grow from a self-motivated coward into a self-sacrificing hero. Rose Tico has done the opposite of both of Poe's major boneheaded mistakes which destroyed the Resistance, she saved a part of the Resistance. She didn't let Finn have a Pyrrhic victory. 

Rose begins as a focal character for ourselves, her hero worship analogous for our emotional views of Poe. By the end of the film, she has potentially become one of the three primary leaders of the New Rebellion.

 Finn, Rey, & Rose Tico

Finn, Rey, & Rose Tico

Will Rey join her in that role? It is difficult to say. Like Luke, she may isolate to focus on self-training using the ancient secret Jedi texts which she possesses. Rey's curiosity about her parentage is solved. Rey has now become a hard-reboot on the Jedi Order capable of a fresh start without the baggage of the past which Luke had. She can return to Ahch-To, or find a new place like Jedha to begin again.

Rey spends this movie slowly being drawn into Kylo Ren’s devious emotional web. Like all emotional abusers he confirms her own fears that she comes from nothing. He lets her know that she is not anything special or important, putting her down and then offering her a hope. She’s something to him, he protests, and only with him will she be of any potential value in the future. This is textbook abusive behavior. Kylo Ren is demonstrating behavior closer in nature to The Emperor than he is to Darth Vader during this moment. I do hope that this is followed up in Episode IX.

They told us in The Force Awakens that her parents were gone, in the past, and that she needs to look forward. They said it multiple times. Being an orphan is Rey's thing and it makes her everything that Kylo Ren wishes to be. She's her own person. After The Force Awakens, they continued to push the narrative on social media that her parents were gone, in the past, and that she needs to look forward. Daisy Ridley kept reiterating in interviews that it was very clear in The Force Awakens who her parents were. This should not come as a surprise to anyone.

It could all still be a big reveal, there's an air of mystery around whether Kylo Ren is telling the truth or lying to her. After The Empire Strikes Back came out, people spent years debating whether Vader was lying or not. The truth is that there isn’t reason to revisit this topic. When Rey meets Poe for the first time at the end of the film, she introduces herself and Poe responds “I know!” Rey is already important, somebody of great value to other people and The Galaxy itself. Contrary to Ren’s manipulations, Rey now knows that he is wrong.

“See you around, kid.”

 During this thought process I have tried to adhere to constraints within the boundaries of topics integral to this film specifically when possible. Here I would like to take a moment to “go deep” on Star Wars lore with a concept which occurred to me during the first viewing. Follow with me on this side path for a moment.

In Episode III we learn that Qui-Gon Jinn has transcended death due to his own studies outside of the Jedi Order. His body did not dissipate upon death, however he is able to come back as a voice without a visual body. Later we see that he has attained this mastery as well which occurs in media outside the films. The important part of the narrative is that Revenge of the Sith demonstrates that Qui-Gon is the first to learn of this affect of being One with The Force. He then imparts this knowledge to Yoda, who passes it on to Obi-Wan. These are the first three Jedi in recorded history who we know to have this ability. Obi-Wan has advanced the knowledge to the point where his body dissipates upon death. He also appears first as a voice and later in a visual body.

We find out now that Yoda has also advanced the knowledge. Yoda came back first as a visual body skipping the voice-only form and he can now influence the real physical world. “Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force flow around you. Here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, yes, even between the land and the ship.”

 Rey & Luke Skywalker

Rey & Luke Skywalker

The Last Jedi makes it clear that Yoda and Luke have not communed in a very long time. We are not given specifics, however we know that Luke has learned the secret of dissipation at some point from someone. I posit that he learns it from Yoda in this very movie, right there in front of the burning tree. My personal view is that Luke also improves on it and learns to Force Ghost while still alive, and that this is the nature of the visual projection. We have a precedent example of this sort of visual manifestation carer-of-Snoke earlier in the film, however the behavior of the manifestation is very different. Snoke’s manifestations are limited to the participants in three of the four examples we have. These earlier versions appear to be manipulations of the mind, a talent that Snoke is a master of, and it can be argued that Snoke “lets Luke in on” the final one in order to cause the conflict between Rey and Luke.

My suggestion is that Luke is letting The Force flow so deeply through him that he can project his Force Ghost though living still. Later, after he has been One with The Force in the same way that Obi Wan and Yoda have, we watch him get up from the exertion, sit back down and begin to float meditate. To me this signals us that Luke has not actually succumbed to some unknown Force exertion in the manner which most of the fanbase online seem to believe. Rather I believe that he has been so pleasantly at peace in The Force during the experience that he just allows himself to return to it. This would differ from Obi Wan and Yoda, who needed a push to dissipate, a physical death. My view is that Luke never experienced a physical death, just saw through "this crude matter" and chose to be a luminous being. He chose to peacefully become One with The Force.

“They really hate that ship.”

Rising above our mistakes is the central theme of this movie. Everyone loses, no one wins, and the stakes have never been higher in Star Wars before. Yoda has even told us that we have to let go and be at peace with ourselves.

There is no longer any Resistance against The First Order. The First Order will have complete control potentially on a larger level than The Empire for the next movie, depending upon the time gap. There are only around 25 characters left alive on the lifeboat Millennium Falcon and most of them are leaders.

This film plays with the expectations of the audience masterfully. We get to see Luke become the legend which Rey wants him to be and which The Galaxy needs. All our protagonists are fallible, mistake-making heroes and now they can get on with the business of being “The Salty Twenty-Five” against the entire Galaxy. The Millennium Falcon is now the most important ship in The Galaxy.

The audience has been through our own version of The Dark Side, and now we can get on with discarding it. Yoda is also talking about us, and speaking directly to those of us in the audience who are listening.

 "Page turners, they were not" Luke Skywalker with the sacred Jedi texts.

"Page turners, they were not" Luke Skywalker with the sacred Jedi texts.

Cigarettes & Carrot Juice: 5 Questions With Ash Maczko & Ashley Witter

Written by Neil Greenaway

The Nowhere Girls - the stars of Cigarettes & Carrot Juice.

Ash Maczko and Ashley Witter, the creators of the hit comic book series Squarriors, have created a new story – which they intend to release as a webcomic. Titled Cigarettes & Carrot Juice, the webcomic would focus on the Nowhere Girls – an all-girl gang that rumbles with vampires, witches, and surf-Nazis in 1980’s Santa Cruz. The writer and artist pair (also known as Team Ash) have described the release of their Squarriors books as “painfully slow” and they say that this new comic will feature an intentionally simplistic design that will allow them to regularly release new content, even while they are on the road. There is no need to worry about their flagship title either, as they have assured me that Squarriors will continue on its current schedule.

Cigarettes & Carrot Juice debuts on February 14, 2018 on sites such as Smack JeevesTapas, & Line Webtoon. In anticipation of the release, Ash was kind enough to answer 5 questions I had about the new comic – and Ashley shared a sneak-peek at the Nowhere Girls themselves.

Neil Greenaway:  Can you tell us anything about the ladies in the promo image (names, roles in the gang)? Is the puppy in the story?

Ash Maczko: From left to right we have Jalyn, Rhiannon, Kitty, Jamie, Jack, and Alison. We will be revealing more as we get closer to launch, and during the series itself. I can say, each character adds a very unique, and... supernatural element to the story; including Jack.

NG: Santa Cruz in the '80s is a fairly specific place in both style and time. Is there a reason you chose to tell this story there?

AM:  Santa Cruz was a place I used to fantasize about as a kid. Of course, The Lost Boys had a lot to do with that fantasy. The idea that there was this theme park, on a beach, that was a constant party, it was magical to me. I finally made my way there a few times as an adult, and it was really exciting for me. With Cigarettes & Carrot Juice, Ashley and I wanted to include as many things that we love as we could; Lost Boys-era Santa Cruz made the perfect setting.

NG:  The press release says that this will be like a mix of The Lost Boys, The Warriors, and Riverdale. So we have '70s action, '80s horror comedy, and contemporary drama. Are these elements difficult to blend in one story?

AM:  Cigarettes & Carrot Juice is Team Ash’s playground. This is a place where we can create any kind of stories we want; total freedom to be as weird, or as dark, or as scandalous as we want. I’ve been writing this series without any rules or pretense. I’d say it’s all come pretty easy so far. And you can bet someone is going to be sucked into and arcade game...

NG: Cigarettes & Carrot Juice is a highly evocative phrase. How does it factor into the story?               

AM:  The phrase, “cigarettes & carrot juice” comes from one of my favorite songs, from one of my favorite bands, “Big Dipper” by Cracker. I have been a Cracker fan since the early 90s. I found out fairly recently, that the band was from Santa Cruz, and the song “Big Dipper” was about the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. After doing some research, it turns out that “cigarettes and carrot juice” is some kind of slang/local term for Santa Cruz. This bizarre coincidence only furthered my fascination with Santa Cruz.

NG: The Nowhere Girls pictured all look a little beat up: some cuts and scrapes, a busted lip, a bloody nose. Is it safe to say that they do not always win in their fight against the supernatural?

AM:  These women are fighters. And when you fight, you get hurt. There’s a lot of elements like that in CCJ; fighting for what’s important to you, and accepting the threats and sacrifices that come with it. This series is going to be a lot of fun, but will still have that “Team Ash edge” that readers expect.

If you would like to see more, you can find the full press release for Cigarettes & Carrot Juice here.

 Ashley Witter

Ashley Witter

 Ash Maczko

Ash Maczko

Squarriors’ “Team Ash” to Publish New Webcomic Series: Cigarettes & Carrot Juice

The Nowhere Girls - the stars of Cigarettes & Carrot Juice. Art by Ashley Witter.

An all-girl gang rumbles with vampires, witches, and surf Nazis in 1980’s Santa Cruz.

CHICAGO, IL -- January 8, 2018 From the creators of the hit comic book series, Squarriors , comes a brand new webcomic: Cigarettes & Carrot Juice! Illustrator Ashley M. Witter (Squarriors, Doctor Aphra, Scorch, Interview with a Vampire) and writer Ash Maczko (Squarriors, Squarriors: The Card Game) deliver an intense webcomic lovingly described as “The Lost Boys meets The Warriors meets Riverdale.”

“Over the last year, we have been developing an original project that our friends and fans can follow as they wait for the painfully slow release of the Squarriors comics,” says Maczko, sharing his understanding regarding Squarriors’ delayed release schedule. “Cigarettes & Carrot Juice has an intentionally simplistic design that will allow Ashley and I to regularly release new content, even while we are on the road.”

With the success of Squarriors, Maczko and Witter frequently travel to attend comic conventions and share their projects and love of geek culture with fans. Since Cigarettes & Carrot Juice is a “completely independent project,” Maczko states they, “have the benefit of delivering uncensored, unflinching, and unapologetic content that Team Ash fans want and deserve.”

Cigarettes & Carrot Juice releases Valentine’s Day (2/14/2018) on multiple publishing sites like Smack JeevesTapas, & Line Webtoon! You can also follow the new series on Facebook and Tumblr.

The Premise

In 1980’s Santa Cruz, a gang known as The Nowhere Girls defend their home turf against rival gangs that include vampires, witches, werewolves, zombies, and other manner of supernatural beings. In between rumbles, The Nowhere Girls deal with other day-to-day gang operations like recruitment, making money, and trying to break the dark curse that’s consuming the boardwalk.

If you would like to see more about Cigarettes & Carrot Juice, you can find 5 Questions with Ash Maczko about the new series here.

 About Ashley Witter

Ashley Witter is a talented illustrator at the helm of the Squarriors comic book series, which received an adaptation into Squarriors: The Card Game on Kickstarter in 2017. Witter’s work spans from comic book covers like Harley Quinn, Red Sonja, Star Wars: Doctor Aphra and more. This isn’t Witter’s first experience with a webcomic series, having successfully launched Scorch on Kickstarter with Devil’s Due Entertainment in 2015.

 Ashley Witter

Ashley Witter

 Ash Maczko

Ash Maczko

About Ash Maczko

The writing talent behind the comic book series, Squarriors , is Ash Maczko. Maczko spins a brutal tale of survival and war in this compelling series and is the lead developer behind the conversion of the comic book into a competitive card game. Squarriors: The Card Game showcases the savagery and tactical prowess of war in a tabletop game launched on Kickstarter.

Cards Against Humanity Saves America - Day 6

Day 6 of the Cards Against Humanity Saves America promotion has arrived and brought with it an end to the annual CAH inspired holiday fun. To close out the celebration this year, CAH bought the naming rights to a minor league baseball field and provided us with blueprints of the field and free tickets to any game on the schedule in the upcoming season. They also included a pack of 12 baseball cards (out of 22 in the series) representing the team that will play at The Cards Against Humanity Baseball Place, and - of course - there was a new pack of 6 CAH game cards as well.

From the cardsagainsthumanitysavesbaseball.com website:

Congratulations! America has been saved! Donald Trump is no longer the president, and the Republican Party has retreated to its secret volcano lair. Now it’s time to kick back, crack open a cold one, and enjoy America’s pastime.
For the final day of Cards Against Humanity Saves America, we really “hit it out of the park” by purchasing the naming rights to a minor league baseball stadium in Joliet, Illinois. Kindly remove your caps and stand — no kneeling! — for The Cards Against Humanity Baseball Place, the new home of the Joliet Slammers!