Saturday, April 28, 2012

Fans and followers, may I direct you to...

I'm very pleased to announce that I will now be a regular contributor for the (much larger) blog, This means UFN will be closing, but that I can still provide the same top-quality content with far less effort. Why? Because instead of being a writer, editor, graphic artist, chief cook and bottle washer, I can let all the other stuff drop and just focus on what matters most: Solid articles about the latest in science fiction. They get an experienced writer, I get a bigger audience... it's completely win/win for everybody.

So please follow me on over to the slick and groovy SciFi4Me where I will be doing my usual reviews and news, as well as live reporting from such events as Free Comic Book Day. Up, up and away!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Witchblade Rebirth: Jump in now!

Based on the artwork and reviews I've seen of Witchblade in the past, it seemed like little more than an excuse for a nearly-naked hot woman to be grasped in all her most intimate areas by some kind of arcane creature while they slice people up together, so I hadn't been interested in reading it at all.

So when I was at the Image show in February, I asked this question at the Top Cow booth: "What do you have that's urban fantasy but without blood and guts everywhere?" He handed me Witchblade: Unbalanced Pieces. The look on my face must have made my doubt clear, because he immediately started trying to sell me on it.

It worked.

It wasn't blood and guts, and it wasn't nearly as tawdry as I'd thought it was. Just as important, the "Top Cow Rebirth" series does not require readers to know the entire backstory and all the events of the main character's past. He described it as a jumping off point for new readers, and as a completely new reader to the series, I'd have to say that it works perfectly.

Mention is made of Sara Pezzini's past as a cop, which does come into play during the story arc a number of times. There's some violence and death, but it's not intestines for two pages followed by decapitations and assorted maimings. There's some hot scenes with a bit of fondling, but it's not Batman and Catwoman screwing on a rooftop. The amount of skin actually makes sense considering the circumstances, and Sara does make sure to mention that she's not thrilled about it.

Here we have a heroic, strong female character who's working hard to do the right thing. There's a lack of gratuitous evisceration, for which I'm very grateful. There's more skin than I would like (there's that male 18 to 30 demographic again), but it's not just for the sake of being slutty. There's a timeline at the back in case you want more information about the major events, and a little character "diary" for even more details.

If you've been thinking about giving Witchblade a try, this is the time to do it, starting with Unbalanced Pieces. From there, you can keep reading the new material as it comes out, and get some of the backlist as well if you choose. Overall, a good read with solid writing by Tim Seeley and beautiful art by Diego Bernard. Well done, Top Cow.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Adventure Time comic gets lost in translation

I'm a huge Adventure Time fan. It's a fantastic mashup between Where the Wild Things Are, Ren & Stimpy, Pee-Wee's Playhouse and Spongebob Squarepants with a little bit of adult suggestiveness thrown in. How they're getting away with saying things like "nobody's going to sack my nut palace" on what's supposedly a kid's show is beyond me. Which makes it three times as awesome at least.

I saw the comic at the Kaboom! Studios booth at WonderCon and knew I had to review it. My whole family loves the show, including my husband and 15-year old son. The comic, however, didn't work for me.

The faces people make, the body movements, the random things that happen, the little looks people give each other... the comedic timing is a lot of what makes the Adventure Time show work so well, and unfortunately there isn't much of it present in the comic simply because of the format. Comics are a static art form where a story is told in sequential panels without movement, or with implied movement only.

The comic does maintain much of the show's humor, including sight gags and the level of weirdness as far as things like people drinking other peoples' sweat unknowingly and undead snails. There are tiny little text gags in the margins that you have to hunt for and might miss the first time or two, which are awesome. The fact remains, however, that a huge amount of what I love about Adventure Time can only be found in a moving animated version with sound effects and vocal inflections. A static paper comic can't ever do all that.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Wendy and Lisa TOUCH a new wave of viewers

Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman, the dynamic duo of television scoring, were recently part of the "Famous TV Theme Music" panel at WonderCon. Prior to the event, White Bear PR admitted a limited number of press to some roundtable interviews with the panelists, and UFN was part of that opportunity.

Here's a partial transcript from the roundtable (we didn't include the section about their work with Prince, which they get asked about every single time). Unfortunately we didn't catch the name of the gentleman who asked about Heroes -- sorry about that, whoever you are, it was a good question!

Urban Fantasy News: Trio of questions for you, all kind of inter-related. What is your process when you get a new show, when you get a new assignment?

Wendy: Process? The script first, then call the producer, set up a meeting, talk about what they have in mind and then the two of us go in with a whole bunch of ideas after that initial meeting.

Lisa: Usually in reading the script you might get an idea in your mind about what might be a good sound, or instruments to use in that particular script or story, depending on what it is. Then you bring that with you to the meeting and compare that to what maybe they were thinking because they usually have their ideas. And if they line up somewhat, or if they’re convinced that your idea’s really cool, they either say “great,” or “can you demo it for us.”

Wendy: I think the magic in that dynamic between us grabbing a script, coming up with an idea, and going and having that meeting is figuring out before we go ahead and blurt out what our idea is, is to just gently test the water to find out what ideas of theirs will work with the ideas we have, and then play off the things we know will work. The reason why we do that is because if it’s a project we want, that’s the important thing to try and hook in. If it’s a project we’re not crazy about, I don’t think we’re as invested in finding out what the exact overarching idea for them is. So that’s how the process begins, and then we have to take it away and hopefully we have more than a few days to come up with an idea.

UFN: Getting a little more specific, you’ve done music for Heroes, phenomenal job on that, by the way...

Wendy: Thank you.

UFN: I hear that you’ve just joined up with Touch, Tim Kring’s new show. How did you get involved with Touch?

Lisa: (laughter)

Wendy: We’ve done every Tim Kring show, so we’re sort of hooked up with him. So we’re kind of his musical mouthpiece, I guess you could say. For “go-to.”

Lisa: Luckily, and thankfully. When he first wrote the script he actually called us and said, “I have something that I want to send you, would you be interested?” Which was really funny...

Wendy: Ha ha.

Lisa: ...Of him to ask, because we’re like, “Of course!” So he sent us the script, and it was the pilot script, and it was so beautiful and amazing. The script itself, if you ever get a chance to just read it, besides seeing the actual show. The show was executed really well too, but...

Wendy: ...But the page was really great to read, and that’s why Kiefer Sutherland actually took the gig, was based on that script and how beautiful the read was.

Lisa: It’s a beautiful story and so amazing. And of course we really get along with Tim, and see things the same way as far as being experimental and trying to break molds and trying different things and still wanting it to be successful. So he’s a good guy to...

(Other interviewer): Speaking of Tim, I wanted to touch on Heroes. I wanted to go back in time here a little bit. How did you approach Heroes, because it’s more or less a superhero series. What was your approach and what was the musical statement you were trying to make with the show, if any?

Lisa: It’s a thing with Tim of not doing a typical... bumbumbum baaaaa... (sings the Superman theme)

Wendy: Action!

Lisa: Which is great, and I love those kinds of action movies and everything, but... also, the way Tim writes is so emotionally-based.

Wendy: There’s a lot of more subjective text.

Lisa: Yeah, these humans who are figuring out or finding out... discovering these powers they had. So it was more like... let’s take a look at how that might be hard for some people, not necessarily a heroic adventure that they go on, but more of a strange sort of... “oh no, I don’t know that I’m okay with this.” And Claire... in a way it was teenage suicides over and over, which is really kind of strange if you think about it. She’s jumping off bridges and catching on fire and it’s like... why are you doing this to yourself? So we just approached the score completely opposite. We had that one cue – we used to do interviews about this a lot – the "Fire and Regeneration" cue that ended up being a template for the show because it went the opposite direction. Super languid and beautiful. So when you came to these action moments and put that up against it, it changed your experience.

Wendy: Your orientation of it.

Lisa: Yeah, it became more subjective as opposed to visceral and adrenaline. It was more like in your mind, a dream experience. That was the approach with that.

UFN: Since we’re still on Heroes for a bit, could you give us a comparison for what it’s like to work on Heroes versus Touch. They both have similar “we’re all connected” and international themes, but at the same time Heroes has a much larger cast and more mythical superpower stuff. Touch is a much smaller intimate cast...

Wendy: Yes!

UFN: ...And you have to stay away from that sound, you can’t just do Heroes all over again.

Wendy: No. And we’re not. Absolutely not. I’ll tell you what, we were asked the same question just the other day, and I think they’re approached completely different. Heroes was much more languid and pad-oriented and evocative and ethereal. Not a lot of time signature stuff except for the Hiro and Ando characters, that was the only thing that had a lot of time signature stuff to it. Touch, because of what the story is about, it’s about communicating through numbers and theories and...

Lisa: Connectivity through patterns.

Wendy: Right. We use time signatures, and a lot of time signatures in the score on this. So if you listen carefully enough, you’ll hear that difference. The shows are so different, and the ways they’re being done are so different, it’s not hard to kind of conform to what it needs. I don’t see it as “how do we not do that again?” I don’t see it as being a problem. It’s made itself really clear what we need to do to it. And we’re only four episodes into composing so it still has legs to find.

Lisa: The thing is that it’s being told initially through the kid who doesn’t speak, so it’s his internal voice, so we try to make the sounds really small, but not cute. In fact, there’s been a conscious effort even with some of the shots that were done in the show. There was one scene that Tim just told us about with a dog in one of the episodes and the dog just went up to the kid actor as they were shooting and sniffed at the kid, and the kid petted the dog, and they were like “That’s great! What a great shot!” But they ended up cutting that, because it was cute. Too cute. And the show can’t go there, because it’ll tip it into a place it doesn’t belong. So with the score, even though we’re using small sounds and even bells and things like that, we’re making it really small and super rhythmic, not too pretty or emotional, even though there are beautiful moments. You have to see it, because hopefully we’re finessing it just so, so that it’s interesting and personal without being cute.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Batman, Superman and other Hollywood Legends up for sale

Ever feel the need to own the original Batman Returns costume from the 1992 movie, featuring Michael Keaton? How about an authentic, screen worn Superman IV costume worn by Christopher Reeve? The latest offers from Julien's Auctions includes both these iconic items and a lot more.

This huge "Hollywood Legends" auction, being held March 31 and April 1, is so massive that the catalog is over 400 pages long, and the sale is broken into multiple sessions. Julien's, located in Beverly Hills, is the same auction house that recently handled the Michael Jackson personal effects sale, and are known for their famous lots of this nature, including the dresses of Princess Diana, photographs and personal effects of Marilyn Monroe, and the ephemera of the rich and famous.

I've personally purchased items from Julien's, and the staff is absolutely professional and pleasant. They will hold oversized items for pickup as well, should you decide to buy one of the life-sized mannequins or oversized props in this sale.

Another major section of this sale are props and costumes from the perennial favorite TV show Eureka. The catalog includes 83 lots, such as an electronic cast worn by Wil Wheaton (it lights up!), petrified character statues, and enough electronic devices to start your own freaky research lab.

Maybe you're more of a film history buff? No problem. Bid on Charlie Chaplin's bowler hat and bamboo cane, the screen-used Ten Commandments tablets, Clark Gable's Gone With the Wind riding jacket, Abbott and Costello's arctic parkas from their 1952 film Lost in Alaska, Jor-El's robe from Superman: The Movie, Princess Leia's wig, Morpheus' dojo jacket from the Matrix, and far too much more to list here.

Feeling more fashionable? Julien's is also offering dresses from Whitney Houston and Princess Diana, as well as a large number of dresses and other personal effects from Rue McClanahan. Or, pick up some furniture from the Puerto Vallarta home of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

If you just want to ogle, there's a free public exhibition of many items starting Monday, March 19 at their Wilshire Blvd. address. For complete information and an online clickable catalog, visit their website, What's your favorite item?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Last of the Greats is pretty great

One of the great things about going to a show like the Image Comic Expo is that you get to see a lot of truly new, different and creative comics. Somehow, somewhere, I got handed issue #1 of Last of the Greats, and am I glad that happened. This one’s a keeper that I need to see the rest of.

It’s often difficult to review a comic and let you know why it’s so good without giving away the surprises. In Last of the Greats, there are a lot of them in these beautiful, ad-free, 32 pages. There’s not a lot of action, but the twists and turns and reversals of what you think is going to happen continually shock and amaze. The first issue sets up all the back story without making readers go through seeing every detail of the back story, making for an interesting setup.

The twist ending of issue #1 is perfect. It turns a completely hateable character (even, perhaps, a heartless monster) into someone completely different, and one you really want to know more about when it’s done. Grab this Image limited series while you can.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Marineman: Good clean fun for everyone

I liked Marineman a lot more than I thought I would, to be honest. The cover looks like your classic old-school superhero comic book, and a little part of me went “yeah, so what?” But I’m glad I cracked this Eisner-nominated title open, because there’s a lot more there than meets the eye.

The characters are likeable, even the bad guys, who aren’t entirely bad guys. It has a feel-good vibe throughout, including the classic style of the art, which is enhanced with excellent color work and modern coated printed pages.

The basic premise is, “What if a television naturalist, like Steve Irwin, could secretly breathe underwater?” So basically we’ve got a very charismatic Aquaman meets Captain America meets Steve Irwin, with some very interesting elements thrown in to spin a tale that left me wanting more. The six-issue arc ends with someone saying, “At last, finally... phase two can begin!” I found myself saying aloud, “Phase two? What happens next?!”

I sincerely hope there is a Volume Two to this enjoyable comic that’s rated E for Everyone. You don’t need tons of violence and sex to have a wonderful comic for the masses. It's about the people, not the powers, and creator Ian Churchill gets it. Clearly the Eisner Awards committee agrees.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Feeling Lucid? I am!

“What if Harry Potter grew up and became a secret government agent?”

That was the pitch I got last year from creator Michael McMillian when Lucid was first coming out, and I’ve been sold ever since. Yes, I would like to see such a story please, and this book delivers wonderfully.

First, let me get my issues with it out of the way. The hardback trade is 10% smaller than the original 6.5” x 10” (approximately) of a typical comic book page, and it’s unfortunate. It’s probably my age and my need to finally cave in and get bifocals, but I found myself squinting at everything. 10% doesn’t sound like much, but for a book of this type which focuses heavily on the artwork and its detail, it’s a noticeable reduction.

But, typical of the top quality of everything Archaia puts out, the book is gorgeous. The well-designed dust jacket is a mix of subtly-embossed gloss and matte inks. I can’t stop touching it. The interior is just as lovely, and the binding will last forever.

I’m sure everybody is going to disagree with me on this, but the artwork style by Anna Wieszczyk is not my favorite. It’s personal preference, I know, but the gangly “Cowboy Bebop” anime style is not my thing. However, the skillful use of painterly color and sequential storytelling do work beautifully. The lush pages look good enough to eat. Expressions and gestures are subtle and the occult mood of the overall work are convincing and draw the reader in.

The story, scripted by True Blood’s Michael McMillian, is a fascinating arc between the four issues contained in this volume, with more to come in this limited series. Readers are thrust into the middle of this world that is both familiar and foreign, where magic is one of the most important weapons in the hidden chess game between nations.

The main character, Matthew Dee, is a direct descendant of 16th century mystic and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I, John Dee (look this guy up on Wikipedia), which enables him to wield magic and be the “Protector of the Realm” for the United States. I won’t reveal why, but I absolutely love how Ariah turns out to be a key part of it all, including the reason that Dee is “lucid” and able to tap into his gift in the first place.

Details and back-story are revealed as the tale unfolds, which is mostly successful, but I couldn’t help but think that I’d somehow come into the middle of the movie. More about the origins of how this all came to be would have been helpful for this first volume. At the back of the trade is a sigil guide, all four beautiful covers as they appeared, and a sketchbook which does explain some details.

The world of Lucid is rich and intricate, and I look forward to learning more about how it all works. Maybe we can convince McMillian to make the series open ended?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Image Comic Expo: A lot to love in this little show

I managed to wrest a day away from the clutches of my writing schedule and my boring mundane stuff to get myself over to the Image Comic Expo, held at the Oakland Convention Center this past weekend, February 24 - 26. I'm extremely glad I did, as this show netted a lot of great people, new contacts, and what must be 25 pounds of comics to review. More about that at the end.

Billed as "A 3-day celebration of creator-owned comics," it was primarily put on by Image, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and most of the signings and panels were focused on their titles, and a lot of that was focused on Walking Dead, which didn't interest me personally as I'm suffering from complete horror fatigue in my choices of entertainment. However, some of the other panels featured topics such as "Womanthology" which discussed not only women in the field of comics, but diversity in general, and "Pro Tips with Todd McFarlane" which offered insights into his creative process.

For me, the real highlight was not the TV stars or the signings, but the people and the tone of this show in comparison to others. Comic-Con San Diego is no longer a place for fans and industry professionals to gather and talk about what they love, it's an epic 50-ring circus where you have to shout to be heard and you risk being crushed in the wall of humanity trying to occupy a finite space. The Alternative Press Expo (APE) show in San Francisco is interesting, but it goes beyond traditional comic books and encompasses art projects, cartoon art, and what used to be called "underground" comics, still done as folded and stapled printouts. Which I respect, but it's not what I'm after.

I was surprised by the high level of participant quality at this show, considering its relatively small size. Image was there, of course, but so was Archaia, IDW, Top Cow, Comicraft and a number of excellent vendors. Artist's Alley was impressively skilled and the level of creativity in the new projects I saw was encouraging. Sure, the usual "show artist" was there, cranking out fan art sketches for the money, as well as the occasional "are they at the right show?" type of vendor, but the Image Comic Expo hit all the right notes for me, the right middle ground which is the current vibrant heart of the comic book industry.

It's about the people who are in this because they love it, not to be part of some mega-corporation who lost touch with what real people want ages ago. Archaia and Top Cow and Image get it. The people who run them understand that not everybody is the same, not everybody wants spandex... but some people do, and that's fine too. These companies at this show understand that talent can be found when you stop to listen and look at what's around you. They're not writing just to the 18-30 year old male demographic as discussed in the previous article. They write for everybody.

This show is inclusive. That makes all the difference in the world.

While there, I met up with old friends, made some new ones, and walked up to booths and said "Talk to me about your best titles." This is because the show is on a human scale, and you can actually talk to people instead of trying to shout at each other for 30 seconds before giving up and rushing off to another panel, signing or party. I never got the vibe of "buy something or get out of the way" as I have at other shows. As a result, I have never walked away with so many fantastic books as I did at this show.

Upcoming reviews will include (in no particular order): Lucid, A Tale of Sand, Elephantmen Volume 4, Invincible Ultimate Collection 1, Locke & Key, The Power Within, Witchblade Rebirth, Silver, Hello My Name Is Asshole, Vescell, Flying Sparks, The Last of the Greats, The Mark of Aeacus, Marineman, and The Pound.

I hope Image does this show every year, because I will be there. I can see it being perhaps twice as large, but no more than that or it'll lose the reason to go and become just another comic book convention. Well done, Image. As my father used to say, "And a good time was had by all."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Why the comics industry is continuing to crash

Comic book sales are down. Way, way down. And it's a total head-scratching mystery as to why this is happening.

Except to people like myself, a 45-year-old woman who grew up with a house full of comic books. I used to buy them. My grandfather used to buy them for me. Notice I said "used to."

Check out Little Red Boobinghood here that popped out of my email inbox this morning.


In comic books, in 2012, female characters are still just boobs with legs, or worse. DC's Starfire, an innocent and gentle alien superhero I remember from the 1980s, has been turned into an overt slut, soliciting men for sex. It's sickening.

I thought we were past this, everybody.

Nearly everything is now written for what the industry perceives as their core demographic, men 18 -30, and they wonder why comics have slumped drastically from their peak. Guys, it's because they're full of graphic violence and overt sex, so you've lost the younger readers and a lot of the women. My son is 15 and I don't want him reading some of that stuff. Gone are the days when it was safe to let your kid buy comic books off the rack at the store.

You've turned what used to be a fun diversion into an NC-17 bloodbath with porn stars.

Okay, industry leaders. C'mere. Closer. No, my eyes are up here. Okay, are you listening? Really listening? Okay, here's why your industry is failing.

There are other people in the world besides penises, aged 18 - 30. Kids, women, seniors... a lot of people  like to read about superheroes doing exciting things. Think back to the silver age of comics. Think back to the beginnings of Spider-Man and Wonder Woman and X-Men and Superman and all the other classic characters who continue to excite readers world-wide. There's a reason why they're still around. That reason is not men age 18 - 30.

Your readers include that demographic, they are not solely that demographic. By writing only to them, you exclude everyone else. I don't want to see people being literally ripped in half with their intestines flying everywhere, and I don't want my son reading that either. He doesn't need to see Batman and Catwoman screwing on a rooftop.

This is why comic books are dying. You are killing them.

How do you fix it? Hire new writers, preferably a lot more women. Stop excluding everyone but who you perceive as the core demographic. It's become a self-fulfilling prophecy: If you write only for men 18 - 30, your entire market shrinks to become that. If you're more inclusive, your market share will increase to meet it. You'll get the kids and the women again, such as myself and my son, who are eager potential buyers, if only the comics spoke our language. Right now, most of them don't.

Is this true of all comics? Of course not. Look at the Eisner-winning Mouse Guard from Archaia. Look at the top-selling B.P.R.D. from Dark Horse that's getting rave reviews, including right here on UFN. You don't need guts and sex in order to have a well-made successful comic book.

Is anything going to change, or were you just staring at my chest?

All we're asking is for our superheroes to act more heroic, like they did before. All we want is decent entertainment for the masses. All I'm saying is that if you continue to limit your audience, your audience will continue to shrink. It's not that hard to figure out once you talk to people in the real world about what they want out of a comic book. It's not about competition with new media or whatever straw man you want to throw out there, it's about creating something people want to buy.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Axe Cop: The funniest comic ever made

I was reading through the latest Dark Horse upcoming release email when something odd caught my eye.

"Axe Cop returns with a collection of new, exciting, and unpredictable stories! Written by the endlessly inventive six-year-old Malachai Nicolle and drawn by his Eisner Award–nominated thirty-year-old brother Ethan Nicolle, Axe Cop joins his comrades Uni-baby, Bat Warthog Man, and Dinosaur Soldier to fight bad guys and restore justice for kids--and grownups--everywhere!"

Is this for real, I wondered to myself? How good could it be? Curious, I downloaded the preview, and laughed myself sick. Having a son myself, I'm somewhat familiar with how a six-year-old boy's brain works, and this is the fantastically creative result: A world full of crazy heroes and villains, where all girls are on the Dumb list (except the best fairy ever), and the obvious solution to getting Bat Warthog Man's friends back is to buy a chemist and dinosaurs. Well, duh.

"All right, we just need some dinosaurs, and we'll be set."

"But why dinosaurs?"

"Because I don't know what's on Invisible Bad Guy King Planet 2, but whatever it is, I'm sure it can't beat dinosaurs."

The art compliments the content perfectly. It never takes itself too seriously, but it's not too goofy and cartoonish either. It's almost, but not quite, a noir style, which adds the needed weight to make this a perfect balance of story and art for all ages. My own son, who is fifteen now, found it hilarious too. I'm going to be buying these for sure, and probably getting some as gifts. Good clean head-chopping fun with monster trucks and robots. And, of course, dinosaurs in space.

"Well, Axe Cop, I've got my own missions to get back to. I have to fight a king who rides a dirt bike."

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hellboy summer camp with telepathy and potions training. No, really.

Do you or someone you know have a penchant for the supernatural? Do you like spending time in the great outdoors? Are you between the ages of 9 and 17? Will you be in Portland, Oregon, from July 16 to July 20? If so, Trackers Earth has the ultimate summer-camp experience for you!

Dark Horse Comics proudly announced a partnership with Trackers Earth offering officially licensed B.P.R.D. and Hellboy camps, made possible through the generous permission of Mike Mignola, creator of B.P.R.D. and Hellboy.

“Trackers Earth is part of what makes Portland such an interesting place to live, and the most fun place in the country to raise a kid. This year my 6-year-old did Trackers camps focusing on forest ninja skills and stealth archery, and attended a school of magic. I wish he were old enough for B.P.R.D. camp, and I can’t wait to participate myself,” said B.P.R.D. editor Scott Allie.

Trackers Earth is looking for a few good recruits that have got what it takes to join an elite team of paranormal investigators combating the forces of darkness from all across the globe. They immerse you in tactical training of all forms, including survival skills in any environment (both earthly and non), martial arts and self-defense specific to preternatural entities, hand-to-hand weaponry (foam swords, bows, and more) and forensic investigation. All these are key skills that every agent must have; plus, you will be steeped in the history of the Bureau and the legacy of paranormal research.

Recruits get actual field time during the entire camp. Learning is hands-on, with essential survival skills such as shelter building, stealth, and tactical and martial-arts training.

Younger Recruits, ages 9–10: Younger recruits train in survival and field skills in local green spaces. They also spend their day investigating the haunted history of our city, piecing together the larger mystery revolving around the legend of Adolph Aschoff.

Older Recruits, ages 11–13 and 14–17: Older recruits also investigate nearby “haunts,” then finally travel to Camp Trackers near Sandy, Oregon, to investigate reports of dark figures and strange happenings at the remnants of the old, defunct town of Marmot. Here they search for a legendary and lost pioneer cemetery (true story) to ask local specters and spirits about the town’s history and the legend of Adolph Aschoff, the man who is said to have sealed away an ancient evil upon the founding of the town.

Wednesday–Friday Overnight: Older recruits culminate their week with a two-night stay at Camp Trackers’ outdoor wilderness site in Sandy, Oregon. This is the perfect opportunity to focus on many of the skills taught at the camp.

The B.P.R.D. Training Camp includes:

• Tactical training
• Survival in any environment
• Martial arts and self-defense specific to preternatural entities
• Hand-to-hand weaponry (foam swords, bows, and more)
• Investigation and forensics
• Folklore and mythology
• Potions and charms 101
• Telepathy training
• Gadgets of the occult: EMF detectors, polarized lenses, and other paranormal investigative gear
• Comparative analogy and physiology of monsters
• Construction of your own quality foam swords and training weapons
• Meeting with the artists of the comic book that documents the adventures of the B.P.R.D.
• Bureau history and paranormal research

To find out more about B.P.R.D. Camp (AKA Hellboy Camp), head over to the official website.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Review: THE KINGDOM, by John R. Mabry

First, let me say that this book is very gay. Very, very gay. A large percentage of the characters are gay and some scenes take place in a gay bathhouse named “The Jizz Factory.” If you’re uncomfortable with that, read something else. If you don’t mind it, then please read on.

The Kingdom is an odd tale of blasphemous priests, likable demons, self-loathing, death and humor, all taking place in the San Francisco Bay Area. The characters are unique and interesting, as are the events, which had me engrossed from beginning to end. As the story moves forward, the stakes continue to rise, and not everyone makes it out alive or unchanged. In fact, the fate of Richard, one of the main protagonists, angered me, and I hope that future volumes rectifies what I feel was an unfair end, even if I completely understand what Mabry did and why. Maybe it hits too close to home for me personally, but it really bothers me a lot.

But it says something that I would feel this way at the end of this book. If it was bad, or boring, or if I simply didn’t care about Richard or any of the other characters, obviously I wouldn’t be upset. That’s my issue with the book, along with the strong Christian message and difficult-to-read phonetic Southern accent of one of the other characters, but otherwise it’s a well-written and intricate tale involving the hazards of arrogance, abuse, and summoning demons.

It’s difficult to explain why the book is so engaging without giving too much away about the plot, characters, artifacts and situations, but by the end, I found myself wanting to see what would happen next. I believe there are going to be more volumes forthcoming about the Berkeley Blackfriars, the strange group of misfit religionists who find themselves saving the world with the help of strange bedfellows.

Mabry must have some very interesting occult and arcane knowledge to be able to pull off this tale in a realistic manner. And, as long as he fixes what happened with Richard, I’ll be reading future Berkeley Blackfriar novels.

Gearing up for WonderCon

Just a quick update, today we received renewing press pass information for WonderCon, the sister show to Comic-Con San Diego, which is normally held in San Francisco. Due to rennovations to the Moscone Center, however, WonderCon is being held in Anaheim this year, March 16-18.

Some special guests have been announced, including Marv Wolfman, J. Michael Straczynski, Mike Mignola and Wil Wheaton, but Programming, Exhibitors, Autographs, and other scheduling has yet to be confirmed. We expect to start receiving convention-related press releases and press opportunities now that our registration is in, so keep an eye out here for updates regarding potential interviews and events we may be doing (did somebody say League of Extraordinary Ladies?). And, as always, the popular Where's Peter? segment will be a part of our WonderCon coverage too. Keep an eye on the official WonderCon website for current information. This is a great show, don't miss it!