This article is dedicated to the coolest of the cool things you can collect. This month isn’t really about something you can collect but of someone you can become. I had the privilege to speak with Robert Schumann, the founder and event coordinator, of a very special group of folks.
There’s people who wear costumes, there’s people who cosplay and then there’s the Umbrella Corp of Denver group. A couple times a year around Denver you will see a troupe all dressed in black and tactical gear. All their gear goes together and they are all wearing the same Umbrella Corp insignia. Their presence is menacing but their attitude is awesome! They are some of the most friendly people you will meet at Denver Comic Con or the Denver Zombie crawl.
They were founded in 2011. They do charity events and make any happening into a seriously awesome event. A couple of events they do throughout the year are…
To invite the Umbrella Corp Denver car or team to your event please contact Robert Schuman via firstname.lastname@example.org
Umbrella Corp tactical outfit
What it is:
One of the coolest cosplay outfits out there and if you are lucky enough and put in the effort, you might become part of the group!
How Much it Costs:
Costs vary depending on what gear you get but here’s an example of how much and where you can purchase such an outfit. (Read at the end of this article for Umbrella Corps of Denver Official list of gear). All prices are close estimates based on internet sites:
511 Black tactical pants: $50
Tactical knee pads $20
Tactical boots $75-130
Airsoft replica AR-15 $60-150
Tactical gloves with knuckle protection $40-60
Tactical elbow pads $20
511 tactical shirt $25
Tactical vest with MOLLE/loop platform $100-180
Sling for rifle: $20
Painters mask: $31
Tactical helmet: Replica $30/Real deal – $400-900
Is It Worth It?:
You can put together a similar outfit on a budget. Shop at Goodwill or Ross and you will find many bargains for this stuff:
Black shirt, long sleeve: $5
Black pants: $5
Find the best looking toy military style rifle at Target or goodwill(Might need some black paint): $10
Homemade insignia: Free
Cool sunglasses.: $5
Black surgical mask or bandana: $5-15
Goodwill black shoes or boots: $20
Prices are approximate but pretty close based on my own experience shopping at Goodwill. I shop at Goodwill a lot. 🙂
I can tell being in such an outfit would make you feel like a rockstar. So yeah it’s worth it.
What I though was really cool was how they are all treated like celebrities. Dozens of people coming up to get pictures. Every once and a while it’s exciting to feel important and like a celeb.
We use S10 gas masks or North Safety 7700 Series Half-Face Mask Respirator with North+ P100 Filter Cartridge
All other gear and equipment can either be found on the websites listed above, online, or at your local Army Surplus stores.
Umbrella corp Denver is a cosplay for charity group. Our mission is to support our local community and military veterans by providing costumed appearances at events, raising donation and volunteering for charity – and to have fun doing it.
Fresh from Denver Comic Con, we met up with Denver comic book artist Zak Kinsella about his work, what inspired him as a kid, his views on how Denver is changing, and what’s next for him. Artist and writer on books like Midspace,” King Maul, and Outré Veil, Kinsella’s wit, expression and honesty is what draws readers to his work. He has also worked for the Westword and The New York Times and has some exciting news about where he might be headed next.
Hush Comics: What made you want to be an artist?
Zak Kinsella: I think it really popped into me in junior high. I was always drawing beforehand. My mom’s an artist… Mostly it was just getting back into comics when I was in junior high, like X-Men. That really popped for me. I thought, “I’m going to start drawing these things. These comic books.”
HC: Did you start with drawing those characters?
ZK: Yeah. I had been used to drawing before so drawing outside in the real world, like life drawing, [I thought] “well, let’s try drawing some muscly dudes.” And then I realized I love it.
HC: How did you get started doing that professionally?
ZK: I decided I wanted to. I started putting out my own books and before I was an illustrator— a pretty successful one, too— and I’m a pretty successful one right now, too, but you get to a point in the road where you think, “Man, illustration’s really cool and I’ve done cool work but it’s still not comic books.” They have this really weird grasp on you. They’re really the road less taken and they’re way more fun than drawing for Men’s Health or something like that or even New York Times, which I’ve done before. I mean, that’s big name stuff but it’s still not [as] fun [as] comics. I didn’t want to be one of those people that was stuck in what they hated doing.
HC: What about comics inspires you most? What about X-Men inspired you as a kid?
ZK: I moved around a lot as a kid, but we grew up in Texas and I don’t like football, I don’t play sports [except for] swim team… so that’s kind of like the outcast. If you’re not playing football, you’re not accepted. [Reading] the X-Men as a kid it was like, “These guys are always getting crapped on while they’re trying to do a good job at something.” And that was like, “I’m on the swim team!” “Oh, great job. You don’t play football. Let’s punch you…” A lot of those themes are repeated throughout the X-Men, plus, with those comics they’re exciting because they’re not like a lot of the other mainstream comics. They deal with a lot of progressive feminism and acceptance and love and stuff that’s just really cool while all at the same time [there’s] dudes in tights punching each other. It made progressive-ism accessible to a young man. It’s not your typical power struggle fantasy. It straddles those boundaries but if you look at their best character Storm. I mean, she was punk rock Storm.
HC: Is she your favorite character?
ZK: No, I was actually more of a Nightcrawler [fan] and more than anything else I was a Cyclops fan. Everyone’s like, “Okaaaay,” but I love that guy. He gets the job done. Everyone thinks he’s a tool but tools get the job done.
HC: You seem to illustrate for a lot of projects in the science fiction vein. What do you like most about that genre that keeps you coming back for more?
ZK: It’s what I grew up on. X-Files was a big thing for me, but also growing up as a kid I used to read these things called, Time Life’s Mysteries of the Unknown. They were just these dumb books about the outer limits. Twilight Zone was a big thing [for me and so was] In Search Of with Leonard Nimoy. All those things and then, a healthy dose of British science fiction on PBS. I lot of these things came from my mom, honestly. We’d watch Doctor Who thirty years before anyone followed it. [We thought,] “Oh, Doctor Who sounds pretty cool.” [I also liked] the obvious stuff like Star Wars. A lot of that stuff is influential. Science Fiction does such a great job of critiquing humanity while being like, “Hey, this takes places with robots in outer space.” It’s just cool.
I feel like [in my own work] I feel like I have much more of a creative license. I can make stuff up. “I have no idea what this planet would look like. Let’s just make it up. What the hell.” I also find space to be a very romantic backdrop. Like in The Final Frontier, there is so much space unexplored. You can’t even believe what we’re going to run into out there and that leaves infinite possibilities for storytelling.
HC: What’s it like working with a comic book writer? Can you explain that collaborative dynamic?
ZK: I’ve had a couple of good experiences and a couple of bad experiences. Sometimes their excitement can bleed into anxiousness and then they’re always bugging you…
HC: Kind of feels like they’re nagging you?
ZK: Yeah. I mean, it’s exciting and it’s something we’re both stoked to work on together, but I have to balance the book I’m working on right now with freelance work… But it has to be a collaboration or that sort of thing just sort of starts to grow like a cancer in a friendship and kills it. I had a really trying experience with that last year. I had to walk off a book, and I have no regrets about that. It was just too much for me.
HC: It’s a lot to deal with. You both are sort of demanding on each other.
ZK: Well, yeah because you want it to be the best and put your best foot forward, otherwise what’s the point? But, you have to set boundaries. I’ve left a couple of books like that where I’ve said, “Look, this isn’t working unless we figure this stuff out. We gotta put our big boy pants on and deal with this.” I generally like working with writers, but I’ve also come to realize that I’m pretty good at writing myself, so that’s why I’ve started branching out. I wouldn’t not recommend [working with a writer.] “Never work with a writer,” that’s dumb!
HC: What’s your favorite type of collaboration? What dynamic do you prefer?
ZK: Last year when I worked on King Maul I worked with a guy who used to be an editor for Marvel and it was a great experience because he knew when to lay off and when to put the pressure on… Someone who knows what they want to do and is free to let me experiment a little and find my own voice in the mix [is what I prefer] because I find that if it starts off as collaboration and then ends up with me just getting told what to do then it’s like, “Well this kind of sucks. I don’t have control over how the story’s going to look. I’m not trying to change plot parts of it really, but I like to have some sort of input into where it’s going.” That’s really the best part of it. If you’re just going to be a gun for hire, then I don’t see the point. You need to have room to spread your wings. I’ve known a lot of guys who get in there and do big books for big companies and it just leaves them emotionally drained and they’re like, ‘I want time to do my own book but I can’t afford that,’ so they kind of paint themselves into a corner. But it’s changing, so that’s good.
HC: How do you feel like it’s changing?
ZK: I can kind of trace it to Image [Comics], really. All that Walking Dead money? They’re like, “Yeah, let’s put out some cool stuff and get some real big creators in to do it.”
HC: They do a lot of indie stuff.
ZK: [Laughing] But not like “sad-bastard-depressed indie.” To put it subtly. That kind of indie is good too, but… They’re like a television station that’s not like Syfy… You’ve got a variety of things.
HC: There’s an Image comic for everyone.
ZK: I’d say so.
HC: You say on your website that you sketch and ink by hand and color digitally. Why do you prefer that method?
ZK: I like to make a mess. No Wacom stylus is ever going to give me the same feeling that a brush does. Really with art, whatever tool works for you, good, you know? If you’re going to use Manga Studios to make your comics, cool. That’s awesome. It’s just not for me… I use a lead holder and that helps give me brush lines with my pencil. My pencils aren’t too tight anymore, either. The brushes do the heavy lifting. I would have to change my pencil style if I ever got an inker. I just love the feel of the brush. That’s honestly all it is. With coloring digitally, I’ve been using a lot of watercolor lately and ink wash and graphite. You can manipulate those in different ways to get different types of texture with your digital coloring as well… Digital also allows me a physical piece I can sell to someone afterwards and I do sell a pretty decent amount of work at conventions and online.
HC: I love your “Disappearing Denver” piece. What struck you personally about Five Points that inspired you to draw that?
ZK: When I first moved there a couple of years ago it was still pretty grim and gritty, if I can relate it to comic book terminology. But the thing about that place is it had so much class. A lot of the buildings are just beautiful. It reminded me a living in the South.
HC: How so?
ZK: Just the architecture style and the fact that’s it’s not all white washed [but] now it’s becoming gentrified.
HC: I really hate a lot of modern architecture.
ZK: I do as well. I find it to be absolutely ugly, lego, Chipotle architecture with only mutual colors. I think a bigger part of it is people come in and they don’t respect the culture of the area. I chose that neighborhood because the rent wasn’t too expensive at the time and… I used to go to a lot of warehouse shows and Larimer Lounge shows. Monkey Mania was over there. That place was cool. I was so sick of being in Highlands Ranch or Littleton and the only person of color you’d see if mowing a lawn, you know? It’s like, “Dude this place f***ing sucks, man.”
Now…it’s just a breeding ground for violence with people coming out of the Rockies games drunk… My neighbor’s been there since 1942. His family has been in that house next door and some of the stories he has of the neighborhood changing over the last 60 years is just gonzo. So, you start to lose that sense of history and love and culture. That’s what brought it around for me. I just thought it was sad… And that’s the cool part about comics is that I can make a comic about that and have it speak as loud as anything else out there… Art should be a pipe bomb… A lot of people who complimented that strip said, “Wow, this is what’s going on. This is exactly what’s going on.”
HC: I read an article in Westword that mentioned your involvement with a comedy show called “Picture This.” Can you talk a little bit about that collaboration?
ZK: It was really cool. They’re a touring comedy troupe. They’ll do a set of standup comedians and have an artist pair up with each of them and they animate their set live. I did really quick sketches. I had the opportunity to work with Adam Cayton-Holland… I love standup. It’s awesome. I think comic book artists and comedians share some of the same— not saying great qualities but— we love this and it doesn’t pay a lot… but it’s what we’re going to do… A comedian has a totally different set of tools [than I do] and they have to be up in front of people doing it, which is…[ He shakes his head, his eyes wide with faux fear.] Nope, nope, nope…. Adam did like ten minutes of standup while I was drawing right behind him to kind of mimic that. We were rifting off each other. It was pretty cool. We have very similar senses of humor and tastes…
HC: Was that nerve-racking to be in front of people?
ZK: No, I was off in the corner. He would point out to me and he’d ask me [something] and I’d draw in response. It’s so cool because [Holland] has a TV show on True TV now… and he’s from here. It’s freaking awesome… That was a lot of fun. I can’t wait to do it again, actually. It was a little nerve-racking but at the same time it was pretty cool. I just worked at Rock Comic Con drawing live in front of crowds so that doesn’t bother me anymore. [It’s the] same thing with conventions. I’ll do commissions while talking to people. I have no problem drawing anywhere at any time anymore.
HC: Why do you think most of your audience is female?
ZK: I’m not afraid to talk to people without that judgmental tone, like “You haven’t read Superman #238 where he rides a robot?” Like, who cares?
HC: I feel like a lot of nerds try to play gatekeeper. Like, “shut up. There was a time when you didn’t know anything about this, that or the other thing.”
ZK: Right, and that’s the thing with gatekeepers… [There was] that kid who had [a] Doctor Strange thing who was saying, ‘Oh man! They’re making a Doctor Strange movie! Awesome!’ and the dealer kicked him out of his booth because he didn’t know anything. Like, what kind of a short sighted dipshit are you to say [that?] Instead, “Oh, you want to know more about him? I’ve got 40,000 books about Doctor Strange. Dip in on this, bro.” [He said something like,] “Ugh. Get out of my booth you unworthy maggot!”… If I was at that convention I would have gone and taken a dump in that guy’s booth. “F*** your elitism.” Right? I won’t deal with it.
HC: I’ve been told you have some exciting news. What’s next for you?
ZK: [He hesitates.]
HC: Are you not allowed to give away any big news yet?
ZK: I guess I can talk about my experiences with what I’m working on right now. I went to Emerald City Comic Con and Vertigo was giving out appointment times. They were like, “Hey, come pitch to us. We’re looking for new people,” basically. I got one by the end of the show and at the end of the show I went there and I pitched something that I’m working on right now called Outré Veil… and they liked it a lot so they gave me their card to follow up with them. For the last three months you can go through a workshop process with the pitch. Ends up Vertigo decided not to do Science Fiction. They were like, “We’re going to pass on this. However, we might want to use you as an artist here soon, and we’re open to more ideas from you.” So I’m working on another one with them right now. But I’ve got some buddies who want to do some books for me as well, too so I’m working on a pitch for another company right now and that one I definitely can’t talk about. That one’s pretty exciting. It’s going to be really cool.
I just want to get Outré Veil done and I’m working on a book about my uncle, too… I had never done comics [that are] autobiographical because I was like, “This is a bunch of sad sack of shit.” I respect it, but it’s not for me. And then I went through- it wasn’t a bad breakup but it was really tough because it kind of came out of nowhere. I was like, “This sucks.” So, I started going to Denver Drink and Draw and one of my buddies there was like, “Why don’t you make a comic out of this?” and it just came out of [that.] I love that group because we challenge each other. And it’s always an open environment. There’s no real shaming [or] judging… So I put out a short comic just trying to work out my feelings and it went over really well. If you think putting your artwork out there that’s about chimpanzees in space… it’s nothing compared to putting something out about someone you have a breakup with… It was a huge, huge thing to do. But when I put it out, I got a lot of, “Wow, this is awesome. What’s next?”
And then it just kind of hit me, “Man, I should make a book about [my uncle] Dan.” You’re just trying to suss out your feelings about things. Growing up, he had a lot of issues like ADHD and drug addiction, you know? And finally, as he was cleaning up his life- spoiler alert- he dies in a motorcycle accident. He died instantly, which was kind of nice. I always decided to do it in a sketchbook format. It’s tiny. I come here [to City ‘o City] and I work with Noah Van Sciver a lot. He’s been doing all his comics that size so I thought, ‘Why don’t I do them like that?’ It’s been really good.
HC: I feel like creative non-fiction affords a lot to both the author and the reader.
ZK: Yeah. I’ve been thinking of doing more personal ones not so much about death as well but dating right now is such a shit show with all the apps and being broken up with over text and stuff like that. Are you all just devolving? What’s going on? I’m trying to make it so it’s not whiney and awful.
HC: Honest but not “Woe is me!”
ZK: Right, because you read so many comics that are like that on the alternative press. It would be nice to have something that’s indicative of the times right now that someone can look at 50 or 40 years back and think “Alright. That’s how it was.” Separating the ego from the artist can be an uphill battle. It’s like reading a Hemingway novel. It can be like walking through mud, reading that guy’s prose. It’s just tough.
HC: A lot of literature romanticizes pain. A lot of authors don’t have a bullshit detector. That’s why I like stuff like The Fault in Our Stars or Juno. It talks about heavy stuff but it doesn’t romanticize it.
ZK: There’s nothing romantic about this. It just kind of sucks. How do you make this point of “this is hurting. This sucks,” but also to be optimistic? To be like, “Look, it’s not always like this,” and I’m having a lot of fun [drawing about pain] but holy shit, this can be draining. And that’s how comics are. This is tough, man.
Topic: How to survive Denver Comic Con with children in tow.
This is my fourth time at Denver Comic Con, and each year has been a different experience for me. This year it was as a full-time parent. That’s not to say I haven’t gone previous years as parent, heck three of the four years have been with at least one child. This year, my oldest son was two years old his first convention was at one month old, because my wife and I are awesome parents. Every year has been a different trial with bringing children and in these early years it’s a different experience. It can be difficult with young kids to see everything you want. Essentially, your con experience is never the same again. It’s better.
With kids under one year old, you have a pretty easy lifesaver – the baby bjorn, or any tiny human carrier. Strap one of these on, plop your bundle of joy in the front, face them forward if you can, and you’re on your way. Now with kids in this age you’re going to have to stop a little more than you want to. Feedings can eat up some time, if you’re lucky, though, you can actually feed and walk at the same time. Granted, if your little one is a little younger than most this isn’t going to be an option. Just understand that your baby comes first, when they’re hungry they’re hungry and you’ll have to take a break.
Around the six-month mark you have to look out for “stranger danger syndrome”. With the big crowds, and especially if you’re cosplaying, you’re going to get people up close and personal and this can be a lot for kids that age. Prepare for a little unhappiness from your little one. Also, diapers; no one wants to smell like…well you know. Young kids need changing, so don’t just bring a big stink around with you everywhere you go. That’s unpleasant for everyone involved.
My third year at DCC was my oldest sons’ second convention, and he was only one year old. This was an fun year, DCC fixed everything that wasn’t right the year before and my wife and I could much more easily move around with our son. For a kid this age, you’re probably out of luck on the front pack, it’s hard enough on your legs with a kid half the age, and weight. The big thing here is they’ll be close to walking, or just walking altogether. Your kid’s probably much more inquisitive and want to see everything. This can lead to some fantastic family pictures. We have awesome photos of our son in love with a full size skeksis and being really terrified of an ewok, fantastic.
You’ll probably be doing a lot of moving from the stroller to walking, and it can be tiresome. Now, there are a lot of people at a convention and one year-olds don’t move very quickly, so if you’re going to let you children out of a stroller to walk around it’s just the best thing for everyone to do it out of the way of the main thoroughfare and pull off to the side. Around this age, your kids, or at least mine, have really started to open up and they want to see anything and everything the con really starts to become fun for them, too, at this point.
This year my a family had another addition. So, we had a two year old and an eight month old in tow. Our youngest was pretty easy, a little baby bjorn action lasted us six hours without any issue. Two kids means you better have back up. It’s not a requirement, but it helps a lot. It can be a task to have a small child strapped to your chest while pushing a stroller that holds a slightly larger small child. We lucked out that our oldest was rather content just being pushed around for the day. Most other times this would not be the case.
With a child around two we have a lot of success with pairing up with parents that have kids around the same age. Having someone there on their level is usually a tremendous help. I understand that this may not be an option for most. Always make sure to bring toys and snacks. The better you can help your little one stay happy the better experience you’ll both have. This time around, if your tike wants to walk around it’s much easier going. They’re faster and hopefully they’ll hold your hand with no problems. As most everyone knows, though, you could have full-on meltdowns throughout the day. Dealing with a meltdown at a con is a lot like dealing with an accident on the highway, move it off the main road and take care of things as best as you can.
Above anything else to be prepared for a convention with young children is patience. Things are not going to go perfectly, kids have problems and they will let you know all about them. The crowds can and will be hectic and with a crying toddler or infant it can make things exponentially more stressful. Oh, and panels, probably not going to work that well if you have very young kids like us. It’s common courtesy to let the panel hosts talk without interruptions, a thing we learned the hard way. You just can’t sit in a panel trying to get you children to calm down. Get up go outside and get things handled, if you’re lucky you can go back in. Don’t expect it, though.
Here are some essentials to keep in mind.
Baby carrier is a lifesaver with very young children
Keep moving, children have shorter attention spans than millennials if stay put to long things can go bad
Be knowledgeable of your surroundings, head on swivel people
You’re kid can break at any moment, be courteous to everyone around you
You might have to forget about panels
Bring distractions, they’ll help keep yours and their sanity
Don’t be afraid to use that stroller as a battering ram, people will move.
For any new or expecting parents I hope this will be helpful guide to your next convention. Like anything you do with you children it’s going to be really tough at some points but those special moments, even if they are few and far between, make it all worth it. I can’t wait until next year’s adventure.
Images were taken by Scott McCauliffe and Keriann McNamera of Hush Comics. Please ask permission before reposting.
Topic: Our time with the contestants of King of the Nerds.
Featured Guests: Colby Burnett, Amanda Liston, Ben Tully, Heather Wensler, Jacob Rubin, Jonathan Adler, Kaitlin Spak, Lily Rutledge-Ellison, Ori Peri, Thomas Vollum, Todd Landree
One Mile High and over Memorial Day weekend, the nerds of the nation gathered to revel in collective and shared passions of the nerdverse in the glorious city of Denver, Colorado. The fourth annual Denver Comic Con (DCC) hosted a slew of stars and celebrities. If you were in Denver last weekend you had the chance to meet the original Hulk, Lou Ferrigno, witness Alan Tudyk autograph and give away random crap he had in his satchel, and maybe even snag a picture drooling next to Gwendoline Christie. What was probably not too high on anybody’s radar (including mine) was that a majority of the cast from the most recent season of King of the Nerds would also be in attendance. They came to host a variety of panels and partake in some interactive sessions with the con-goers. Being a fan of the show I thought, “Oh cool. It’ll be neat to see ‘the nerds’ up close.” And that was it. The thought passed as quick as it came. So you might find it surprising to know that by the end of DCC, my personal highlight was the interaction I had with “the nerds.” Beyond just generally being awesome, I found there was a deeper meaning in having the nerds present. Yeah, that’s right – I’m gonna get poetic and shit. But first!… Let’s talk about how cool being a nerd really is.
“We’re Going to a Van”
My experience with the nerds culminated to a series of encounters with various cast members at different moments of the con. The first was with Colby. And the experience was actually that of my brother. We both are fans of the show and we both rooted pretty damn hard for Colby throughout. It took me by surprise when Evan (my bro-ham) darted across the trade floor screaming Colby’s name. I followed while Evan screamed at me, “GET YOUR CAMERA READY!!” Colby and some of the other fellow nerds had just finished up a nerd war session with the con-goers and were now transporting boxes of what I assume were either weapons of mass nerd-struction or severed heads of fallen nerd enemies. Nearly grabbing Colby by his whole body, Evan asks, “Can I take a picture with you?!” Somewhat offput and maybe a bit frightened by the grown ass man that just came charging his way Colby says, “Uhh… We’re going to a van…” Evan returns with, “Can I walk with you?!” Colby smiles, shrugs and says, “Sure!” As I fumble with my phone camera like a paparazzi newb, Evan awkwardly walks next to Colby and his box of heads just smiling, waiting for me to click a few pics. Colby took it like a champ. We get the photos and Colby and the nerds move on.
Your Mom Watches Jeopardy
The next interaction was with a big group of the nerds. I was standing in line with Hush Comic creator/owner power duo, keeping them company while they were waiting to get Amy Acker’s autograph. I was busy staring and drooling (mostly drooling) at Gwendoline Christie who was signing autographs in the next line, when Adrian – the main reason we were in line in the first place – bolts out from the filing stack of people and heads towards the end of the line. It takes me and Sherif a minute to realize she’s spotted Colby not too far away. Here’s a fun fact about Adrian. She loves Jeopardy. Maybe more than your mom loves you. She’d been following Colby since his Jeopardy days. His role on King of the Nerds was just extra sauce for her. I watched from afar as Adrian drew information from Colby about his glory run on Jeopardy, picking up pointers on how she too could land a spot on the trivia show. I think she tried Vulcan mind melding with him at one point. It was hard to tell from so far away. Off to the side of the brain session happening were a collection of some of my favorite nerds! Thomas, Todd, Brian (from season 2), a cardboard cut out of Raychell and (my super favorite) Katie. They took pictures with everyone from the Hush team. All of them were incredibly friendly and approachable. So approachable in fact, that I may have asked Katie to marry me. As weirded out as she was, she didn’t outright say “no.” Yeahhh…I think I still have a chance ***Walks away in cool slo-mo but trips on incredibly flat surface anyway*** Point is – these nerds just kept getting cooler.
It’s half-way into day two of the con and my legs don’t like me very much at this point. I reluctantly succumb to their sissy fits and take a seat against a wall in one of the panel halls. After a few moments I spy two more of “the nerds” walking down the hall. Like a fifth grader with a crush on his math teacher, I shoot my hand in the air, waving. Followed up with a “Hi nerds!” once they were in ear shot, I was really surprised when Heather and Jonathan both looked at me, stopped, and proceeded to address me. THE presiding King of the Nerds stopped to talk to me, one of his underlings! I don’t even remember what it was was we talked about, but it was magical and awesome!! They then invited us to attend the Family Feud-style panel session they were having later that day. They also told us there were more nerds from the show down the hall. I thought, “Cool! I’ll go say hi when the whole feet throbbing thing dies down.” To my continued surprise, Jonathan and Heather RETURNED with said other nerds. WHAT?!? Like… don’t you have important, kingly nerd duties to attend to?!? In that moment I actually debated on whether or not to bow to Jonathan. How cool are these nerds that they’re willing to gather for a simple group of fans that enjoyed the show?! But wait people, it gets better.
The other nerds that returned with the King and Heather were Lily and Amanda from this season. Both of these awesome ladies ranked among my favorites of the season (if not, then of all time) and it was so freaking cool to meet them! But let’s talk about Amanda for a bit… You know when you start watching a new show (i.e. King of the Nerds) and how it takes a while to learn everyone’s name? We’ve all been there. Well, my brother – the same one that practically attacked Colby – had a nickname for Amanda before he learned her name. It was simply “the hot one.” It didn’t take more than halfway through episode 2 for that name to transform into “Hot Amanda.” After telling Amanda this story and then asking to for a photograph of me hugging her for the sole purpose of making my brother jealous, she one-upped me and suggested that the impact would be much greater if it were a cheek kiss instead of hug. Done and done. When I showed Evan the picture I thought he might actually slug me. Evan and I attended the Family Feud knock off game show event where we and a bunch of other nerd fans got to laugh and learn more about our nerd royalty. At the end of the event, Evan goes charging through the crowd again (Evan’s good a charging) right at Amanda, desperate for a picture. After two-hand shoving an old lady and punting a little nerd boy out of the way he reached “hot Amanda.” As I snap a pic, Amanda recognized me, looks at Evan and asks, “Is this the guy?!?” Evan answers with, “YES! I’M HOT AMANDA!!” It didn’t make sense, but we all got it and Evan ended up with his own cheek kiss.
To be Nerd is to be King
Here’s where I try to bring this somewhat aimless collection of stories a degree of significance. Upon reflecting on my DCC journey this year, I can honestly say that the interactions I had with “the nerds” was the best part. Better than telling ALL the artists and collectors to shut up and take my money, better than being close enough to Gwendoline Christie to pass her a basketball (or my beating heart), better than enjoying the phenomenal cosplayers – the highlight of my convention was unequivocally to the King of the Nerds contestants. That might sound weird, especially since I only had a few encounters with “the nerds” and they probably had no idea I was paying such close attention. But think of it this way: how often do you get to hug and talk to famous people (FOR FREE)?! Some might argue that this group of nerds aren’t “famous,” but that’s not the point! Here’s a bunch of individuals, that felt so strongly and passionately about being a nerd and loving a thing that they were brave enough to share it with the world from behind a camera and then do it some more in the mile high city for three days. Not only did they share, but they cared!! A Care Bear just earned its wings (don’t correct me… just let me have this one). What I mean by that is in every interaction we had with “the nerds” it always felt sincere. It felt real! To think that this band of uber-nerds, who were undoubtedly flocked and charged at all weekend long took time to interact, talk and even kiss fellow nerds is amazing! The theme of “be nerd, be who you are, be proud” was heavy and apparent in more than one panel session or con-event. It’s a theme so appropriate for DCC (for any con really). The King of the Nerds team that visited Denver this year embodied that better than ANY celebrity, movie star or illustrious writer or artist I’ve ever come in contact with. Granted, that list isn’t too long, but the impression left on me by “the nerds” was in no way, insignificant. Nerds! I pledge my aligence to thee!… To thine? To thone? to… Oh whatever. You guys rock. Thanks for making DCC great! Oh… And Katie, if you’re reading this, know that my marriage offer still stands. Ohhh yeah! *** Slo-mo, trip, uncontrollably careen down flight of stairs***
Topic: An hour with four women who have all worked with Joss Whedon.
Featured Guests: Jewel Staite (Kaylee in Firefly), Emma Caulfield (Anya in Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Amy Acker (Fred in Angel, Whiskey in Dollhouse, Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, and Lin in The Cabin in the Woods) and moderated by Clare Kramer (Glory in Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
Between the four women, Denver was treated with a group of talent who have been a part of every single Whedon’s creator owned projects. Most of them have never worked together (Kramer and Caulfield rarely had scenes together in their time on Buffy), but their connection is strong; once you are part of Joss Whedon’s world, you will always be part of that world, and you will always have an amazingly strong and ever-growing fan base.
Most of the panel revolved around memories of being on set. Pranks weren’t really a thing; there wasn’t time for it. It was a relief for Firefly to be cancelled considering how FOX treated the show. Joss took Amy to coffee to tell her Fred would die and Illyria, the demon goddess, would be born. There was a lot of reminiscing about practicing Shakespeare in Whedon’s kitchen and how spoiled all of them were to be part of his world.
The mood was broken when a fan asked how they felt about the betrayal women in Avengers: Age of Ultron. The question caused four sets of furrowed brows on the stage. None of the women jumped at the chance to answer the question, but Kramer, Acker, and Staite all jumped at the chance to defend the writer.
“As far as Joss’ portrayal, you can’t look at what he did with the character and put all the fault and blame on him. He was responding to the MCU.”
“He writes really great women characters. You never know what parts were left out. I think there was a lot more of that movie than what we all got to see. I would like to see his full version.”
“Just because you are the writer/director of a movie, of a franchise, does not mean you have complete creative control. You have to keep in mind that Joss has a ton of people behind him giving him a million opinions and telling him exactly what they want to see and what they want in the script, and he is trying like hell to please everybody, including you. That’s an impossible task. I think he has proven himself to be an incredibly intelligent writer who writes beautiful, strong, interesting, multilayered characters for women, and nothing drives me more crazy than people sitting behind their computer screens and thinking they can say whatever the fuck they want.” … “It’s not freedom of speech; it is bullying. It’s not fair to anybody, I don’t care who you are, it’s not fair.” … “I think it’s gross human behavior and there is no room for it. And for whatever reason he decided to leave Twitter, I very passionately defend him. And I think that all of his work seems to have completely gone away because of this. And we have to remember what he is known for and what he stands for and that is the characters he has written. I love him.”
Staite’s passionate speech about Whedon had many responses, but all of them ended in an ovation and whoops from the audience.
Image was taken by Adrian Puryear of Hush Comics. Please ask permission before reposting.
Topic: Shadowcasters silently act out Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s “Once More With Feeling” and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog while it plays in the background (similar to Rocky Horror Picture Show).
Featured Guest: The Rocky Mountain Whedon Shadowcasters.
Members of The Rocky Mountain Whedon Shadowcasters hit the Main Events stage at Denver Comic Con 2015 May 23rd for the first time this year. While the troupe has performed at other Denver pop culture conventions such as Starfest, this show was by far the its biggest. Its double feature shadowcast of Doctor Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog followed by Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s musical episode Once More With Feeling is always a big hit at Starfest. It was no surprise when the turnout for the show was large at DCC.
The show had a very casual feel. It was all about having fun with the fans. While many actors have their lip-syncing down to a science, others simply mimed the actions of their on screen counterparts. The costumes were more approximate than dead-on and some of the entrances and exits were a little too late, but regardless of the less-than-perfect nature of the show, it is extremely fun to watch. The best performance was given by Michael Jasper in the role of Dr. Horrible whose lip-syncing was indistinguishable from the actual audio. It took audience members a few minutes to realize he was just mouthing the words. Close to follow his performance was Karl Brevik as Spike who not only embodies the character flawlessly in both his lip-syncing and movement, but is also actually British. That’s something even James Marsters can’t say! Josh Whitby also had amazing energy as both Captain Hammer and Xander and Genae Gerardi made a wonderful Buffy. Overall, the performance was a lot of fun for any fan. There were even a few jokes for those unfamiliar with the two productions, such as an appearance by Game of Thrones’ Jon Snow as Dr. Horrible sang the lyrics “It’s not a death ray or an icebeam / That’s all Johnny Snow.”
RMWS first performed at StarFest 2009, a little less than a year after Doctor Horrible first came out. Originally organized by Michael Newman, the show started as a small panel room production without the inclusion of Once More With Feeling. “I was dressed as ‘Dead Penny’,” says now director Erin Card who met her husband through the show. “[he] was one of the Doctor Horribles… and [the other cast members] were like, ‘Hey, Penny, come on down. Act this out!’ ” The first production had only five cast members. From there, Card became an integral part of the production, the role of director being past down to her. Later on, the cast would come to Card asking to add Once More With Feeling to the show. Having never seen BTVS at the time, Card was hesitant to include what would become the second half of the show, but ultimately decided to give it the go ahead.
“I like performing in plays, but that can be really nerve-wracking to remember your lines and blocking and to have people only watching you,” says Lara Griffith who plays Willow in Once More With Feeling. “When you are doing a performance of something you love and know by heart and the audience knows by heart and it’s playing in the background so you aren’t the only thing people are watching, it makes it more fun and easy.Plus everyone is incredibly nice and accepting.We’re all there to just have a good time.” And it shows. The cast of this show is from all over Colorado, which makes rehearsing difficult. This means the entire production has to come together in what is essentially one rehearsal. Card hopes to make the show even more professional as the years go on, adding more than one rehearsal into the mix and detailed choreography. She says they are always looking for new cast members, but as of now the main cast is made up of veterans of the show. There’s a general consensus that if one actor has a lead in one part of the show, they’ll have a minor role in the next. For example, Griffith plays Willow in Once More With Feeling but in Doctor Horrible plays the small role of a news anchor.
If you haven’t seen this performance, it is likely they will be back at DCC next year, or you can always catch them at Starfest at their midnight showing in Main Events. This is one of those fan productions you definitely have to see if you’re a Whedon fan. Despite its low budget look, it’s an incredible hour and a half of fun.
Topic: An hour with actress Jewel Staite moderated by Garrett Wang.
Featured Guest: Jewel Staite, known for her roles on Firefly, Stargate, and Space Cases.
It was the Canadian actress’s first time in Denver, but Jewel Staite is no stranger to comic cons. Staite, most famous for her role in Joss Whedon’s Firefly as ship mechanic Kaylee, has been doing cons for a long time. She will let you know very quickly that she isn’t a great liar; you are only going to get the truth with her. Her slightly sardonic personality is not that of the upbeat Kaylee, but her humor and laugh make her just as likeable. So much so, it is easy to walk out of her panel and think, “she could be my best friend!” Maybe that was just me.
Staite may go to a lot of cons, but that does not impede on her ever-growing resume. Fans are always sure to bring up her stints on Space Cases, Higher Ground, and Stargate. Recently, she filmed three movies back-to-back where she was the lead in all three films. Personal Effects is a “smart crime thriller”, 40 Below and Falling is a 3-D love story, and How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town speaks for itself, really. Fans Staite should keep on the look out for these films due out soon.
Some of her best stories, which were mostly spawned from fan questions, were about Nathan Fillion starting the “flip-off” game with her. They both went a little overboard with flipping each other off. It does seem as though Staite won the game because she was able to get 5,000 people at Dragon Con to flip him off. It was a day he “so clearly lost.” She also talked about the roles she lost, namely Claudia in Interview with the Vampire, Judy in Jumanji, and Amy in Little Women. The actress (who I won’t name, and neither will Staite) also dated Staite’s first boyfriend. “She’s dead to me” quipped Staite, to audience applause and laughter. Staite also talked about her favorite book, Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. If Hollywood is going to make a movie, please cast Jewel in a role!
Staite has a great acting career, but her personal life is more of an interest to her. She prides herself on being down-to-Earth. She is certainly not a diva. She talked about doing her own laundry and walking the dogs. Most importantly, she is now engaged. I’m sure that it is a relief that most people will be respectful enough to not propose marriage to her at cons, something that is common for her. After the con, Staite announced via Instagram that she and her fiancé are expecting a baby. We congratulate her on her happy life!
When asked about her thoughts on Kaylee’s innocence, Staite had an incredibly eloquent answer, and one I will end on: “There is something very human about not being heroic, and that’s O.K.” I couldn’t have said it better.
Image was taken by Adrian Puryear of Hush Comics. Please ask permission before reposting.
Topic: Five women who work in the field of Geek discuss their various positions and how they broke into the industry.
Featured Guests: Bonnie Burton, Jen Timms, Taffeta Darling, Tiffany Wangerin, and Maureen Elsberry with moderation by Kirei.
As soon as the panel began and this group of lively outspoken women started joking about who’d been drinking wine, who’d been drinking whiskey, and whether or not the panel would be at its best if the imbibing continued I knew I was at home. The jokes continued on for a few minutes before introductions came, and when they did I was kind of blown away at these women’s amazing resumes. First off, there was Bonnie Burton. She worked for LucasFilm on various Star Wars projects until the Disney take over a few years back. Now she is mostly a freelance writer and author, and she hosts the Vaginal Fantasy Book Club. Second was Maureen Elsbury, who is a professional UFO and paranormal researcher as well as a journalist on the subject, and the co-host of Spacing Out. Third was Taffeta Darling, a professional cosplayer and producer and host of The Fangirls of Dallas. Fourth was Jen Timms, a video game producer for United Front and Games, and fifth was Tiffany Wangerin, a professional cosplayer and co-host of the Sheekery Podcast with panel moderator Kirei.
Once introductions were out of the way the main focus in the panel was the various fields you can get into in the geek industry and how accessible that dream is for women these days. It’s not specifically that the dream is easier for women (I’ll get to that later) but breaking into the geek industry is so much more possible now because of the popularity in do-it-yourself mediums. Bonnie said that one of the best ways to start a career is to be a freelance writer. Anyone is capable of staring a blog at this day and age, and if you work at it and focus and promote yourself appropriately, people will start to take notice. You can go from having your one blog to being a contributing writer for other sites and blogs and really just launch from there. Tafetta touched on how anyone can make a podcast these days. You can do it yourself or with a few friends, but all that matters is that the chance to get your voice and opinions out there is within all of our grasps. The most important part in getting out there these days is the confidence to just do it.
However, women are more welcome in the geek industry now, but there is still a long road ahead. Geek is still a male dominated field. For example, Maureen made a point to acknowledge that she is the only female host on the show Spacing Out. There is no road paved in gold for women in any industry, and the geek one is no different. All of these women found success because they are strong, intelligent, and refused to be put down in a male dominated field.
One of the most incredible parts of this panel was the camaraderie between these women. Even though only two of them worked together and they mostly did not know one another there was an undeniable feeling that they were all in this together. There was something so incredibly empowering about being able to sit in on this panel and I walked out of it with a super feminist high. I am so glad I was able to attend the Women in the Geek Industry panel; it was so inspiring. It was wonderful to see how many other people attended as well, both men and women. All five women were so badass, smart, and funny that I wanted to be just like them. And wasn’t that ultimately the goal of their panel? It wasn’t necessarily supposed to be super educational and a how-to on success. It was supposed to help women of all ages find confidence in their goals and dreams so they could leave the room thinking “I want to be just like them, and I will be.”
Topic: Tudyk spoke about his upcoming web series Con Man as well as his past roles in projects such as Firefly, Serenity, Dollhouse, and Death at a Funeral
Featured Guest: Comedic genius, Alan Tudyk. Moderation by Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Clare Kramer.
“Ladies and Gentlemen! Alan Tudyk!” Acting moderator Clare Kramer announced at a morning panel May 23 at Denver Comic Con 2015. The man of the hour stepped excitedly up onto the stage, a big bag of goodies over his shoulder. He grasped his mic and raised it to his lips, only to find— in true Tudyk fashion— he was holding it upside down.
“Not a bit. That actually just happened,” he said with an embarrassed laugh. Before Kramer opened the panel to audience questions, there was a lot of talk about Tudyk’s upcoming project Con Man. “My experiences is where it started. My first convention in England… I went with Nathan [Fillion] and there was a guy taking photographs who stuck his hand in a bucket of ice and said ‘I’m sorry. I’m going to need twenty minutes,’ so I was thinking, ‘This is bizarre.’ ” Tudyk said. Before attending his first convention, Tudyk says the only sci-fic he was familiar with was Star Wars and Star Trek: The Next Generation. “I was experiencing [the convention] as an outsider looking in and that’s where the craziness was taking place.” That craziness is what inspired the script for Tudyk’s web series. “I just don’t think there’s another place like this,” Tudky said of pop culture conventions. “I don’t know where this is that people are so accepting of one another and supportive of one another and encouraging of one another,” Tudyk said. “I created this character Wray who’s a buffoon… He’s lost in his life and he doesn’t get how great he has it quite yet.” Tudyk described Wray as a character who doesn’t understand conventions. He will be the lens that convention culture is explored through.
“…We all had high hopes while we were doing [Firefly] because we loved it…We got it. Fox didn’t get it,” Tudyk jabbed about his time on the short-lived science fiction series. A series of boos filled the room with an added, “Too soon!” shouted from someone in the back. This “not getting it” is what led Tudyk to put the wellbeing of his new project into the hands of his fans. He didn’t want to risk a network not understanding the world he was writing and canceling it without further thought. If there’s one thing Tudyk doesn’t need more of, it’s a canceled television show.
Kramer then opened the panel up for audience questions. Tudyk beamed onstage, pulling his bag closer to him. “I have stuff for people who ask questions,” he said excitedly. These incentives ranged from prints of the spaceship featured in Con Man to smaller, bizarre gifts such as a signed, empty deodorant package that one “lucky” fan received. “You can put anything in that!” Tudyk joked as the fan walked away with their new prize. Tudyk got the idea to bring gifts for his fans from his Firefly co-star Nathan Fillion, who brings watches engraved with his signature. “That’s what happens when you’re Nathan Fillion,” Tudyk said with a laugh.
One fan asked what advice he had for creators interested in making their own web series. “Make it yourself,” he said. “Television is changing, obviously… Network TV is kind of on the decline because of Netflix and Amazon Prime. Vimeo, where we’re showing Con Man, is also getting into the game. They’re starting to produce their own shows and I think YouTube is going to take a bigger hand as well…that’s the place to go. Web series is the way to go.” The fan went away with a signed bottle of Scope mouthwash.
The panel ended with Tudyk giving away one last gift, a signed cover sheet for the first episode script of Con Man. Tudyk’s web series is still in production but is slated to be released on Vimeo this Fall.