Gaming Unplugged: Steam Park

So it turns out the robots love amusement parks. In the board game Steam Park, it’s your job to provide fun rides and handy stands to give these robots the best time of their lives. Steam Park is a fun and innovative game from Iello games, the publisher of the very popular Kings of Tokyo.

Steam Park is a management game where each player decides how to build, expand and maintain their theme park to attract robot patrons. I realize it sounds a little odd but trust me Steam Park is a great little strategy party game. The game mechanics use strategic planning and speed to move the game along really make it interesting.

One of Steam Park’s high points is the art direction of the game. There is a very whimsical and fantastic feel to all of the rides and stands that the players use to build up their parks. The illustrations are fun and very appealing to the eye. The art direction is very creative and I feel has hints of a Miyazaki movie built into it, especially the rides.

steam park

The game play is a good mixture of speed, planning and sacrifice. The object of the game is to collect money and improve your park while trying to keep on park maintenance. This is all done with rolls of the dice. Each player will try to build the biggest and best theme park to attract the most attendees. Players can build rides that come in different sizes or stands that have strategic use. Each stand has its own special ability. Instead of taking individual turns like in other management games, like Stone Age, Steam Park adds a twist of simultaneous play with benefits for being faster than the other players.  Steam Park also is a game designed to be played quickly.  After six rounds the game is over and the player with the most money wins.

Each round starts with all of the players rolling six dice simultaneously. This adds a layer of excitement not normally seen in a management style game. The players are rolling dice looking for specific results. Each side of the dice represents a different aspect of managing the parks. If a player wants to build rides they’ll be trying to get a different dice face to show up as compared to if they wanted to build stands or attract customers.  With everyone rolling at once the board can get a little hectic, but fun.

The rolling phase does come with extra attributes. This phase is all about speed. Players can re roll any number of their dice. But if a player is too slow getting the dice roll that they like it could affect their park in a negative way. There are bonuses for getting the dice roll you need first also. Players must also lock their dice once they’ve decided what actions they are looking to complete. If one of your dice flips over after it’s been locked, that’s really unfortunate for you. You suck it up and deal with it. I did when it happened to me.

Next, depending on how fast you were at rolling your dice players take turns spending their dice to either, build rides, build stands, clean dirt, draw robots or expand their park. Different dice faces allow the players to do these different actions. Rides entice robots to visit your park and stands give you special abilities. All the things you want for your park come at a price. Most of them will also make you take on more dirt in your park. The more dirt you have the more dice you have to sacrifice in later rounds to remove it.  You’re dice choices are the largest part of the strategy to the game.

Building rides is where the money is. Without rides you can’t get robots, without robots you can’t gain money, and without money why are you playing this game? All of the rides are these fantastic Studio Ghibli looking wonder buildings. There are six different rides with three different sizes. The larger the ride the more dice you must spend to build them. You’re welcome to build multiple rides per turn but never the same sized ones. So if you roll four ride dice you can build a size three and size one but not two size two rides. Also when placing your rides in your park there are different placement rules everyone must follow. With the limited amount of space that the players start with you need to realize what you’re building and where you’re putting it during while you’re rolling. You can expand your park also, but again that will cost you dice.

rides

Stands are your other building choice. There are different types of stands that allow you to improve your dice rolls and assist in your robot picks. I think the most helpful stands to have in your park are the Direction stands, covered in arrows, and the Toilets. Direction stands allow you to temporarily use robots of the wrong color for your rides and the toilets double the amount of dirt that can be removed per die. There are also Security, Promotional and Casino stands, all with their own bonuses. Build them and use them wisely.

I know you’ve seen me mention “dirt” a lot through this article. Dirt is bad. The more dirt your park has at the end of the game the more money you lose at the end of the game. You can actually have so much dirt that you automatically lose.  Dirt piles up with everything you build and every robot you have in your park. Robots are the key to winning but they do come with that one drawback. The more robots you have making you money, the more dirt they leave behind every turn. You can roll shovels with our die and each shovel roll allows you to remove one dirt and if you’re fast in your rolling you can remove extra dirt. If you’re too slow in your rolls though you will gain extra dirt. So again….dirt bad.

steam park 2

There is one last element to Steam Park that could change your strategy. Everyone always has at least three bonus cards. You can choose to ignore these cards altogether or you can use them to gain extra money. All of the cards have different ways to earn money. Some will give you money for stands, some will give you money for even the dice you roll. There are many different ways to use these. But again if you want to use a bonus card you have to roll a die for it, so they take away from your ability to perform other tasks.

I realize that this must be the longest board game review I’ve written and if you’re still with me, bully for you! Steam Park may seem like an overly complicated nonsense game, but it’s not, I promise. The game is simple, fun and fast paced. It’s also short. There are only six rounds per game. It’s an excellent strategy party game. I would like it better if it supported more than four players but you can’t have everything. I like Steam Park because it’s really different than other management style games and a lot easier to jump into. It’s definitely one of my new favorites.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 Review

Genre – Sci-Fi Dystopian/Book Adaptation
Director – Francis Lawrence (Catching Fire)
Cast – Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Phillip Seymour Hoffman (RIP), Julianne Moore, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson
Alluring element – S*** finally gets real in the Hunger Games saga!
Check it out if you liked –  The Hunger Games franchise, other young adult lit turned film
Plot – 8
Acting – 8
Representation of Genre – 8  
Cinematography – 9
Effects/Environment – 9
Captivity – 9
Logical Consistency – 8
Originality/Creativity – 8
Soundtrack/Music – 8
Overall Awesomeness – 8

When Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games adaptation came to the big screen, I was ecstatic. Me, who had been a literary disaster since choosing to go to an engineering college after high school, who had not read a book without pictures in it since Huckleberry FinnThe Hunger Games was the first story where I felt fully immersed in the world I was reading about.So far, the movies have been pretty great at capturing that same fire (heh) and excitement that I had when I read the books for the first time. Heck, we gave Catching Fire a 91%. Only a year has passed since the second installment came out, but so much has happened since.

Jennifer Lawrence’s off-screen drama has been a severe distraction (not her fault, but a reality nevertheless), and the thought of a grown and sexy JLaw (ala American Hustle) was just too awkward when you consider she is playing a 17 year old Katniss Everdeen. The negative reception that the film has received since its release was disheartening. Going in, all this movie had to do to impress us was, quite blatantly, not suck. The result was one of mixed feelings; this film far from sucked, but from the start, we definitely felt that Mockingjay did not need to be split into two films – something that really has, or ever will, only worked for Harry Potter. The final movie in the trilogy had the potential to be the heart-pounding finale that we all deserved, but instead, the heart-wrenching powerful moments were broken up by a casually-paced and matter-of-fact story progression.

Natalie Dormer, winner of the Most Badass Looking Character Who Never Does Anything Badass Award
Natalie Dormer, winner of the Most Badass Looking Character Who Never Does Anything Badass Award

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let me tell you how much I genuinely enjoyed Mockingjay. The arena has always been one of the more interesting aspects of the books, and so by actually pulling our heads out of the District 12 sandbox we’ve had our heads in this whole time, we are able to connect to the other Districts. That connection is really what drives the film until the end. From Katniss’ guest appearance in District 8 to District 5’s courageous effort at the dam, you understand that everybody is fighting against a common goal. Katniss, the Mockingjay, is at the center of all this, but while it might seem like she is the spark of hope, she is turned into nothing short of a puppet, a symbol for hope, by District 13 President Coin. It actually reminded me of the way Captain America was used to punch fake Hitlers and rile up the crowd when he had a perfectly adequate skills for actually taking on the enemy. And like Captain America, Katniss pushes herself right into harms way to get her point across.

How F'ing fascinating. Please, tell us more.
How F’ing fascinating. Please, tell us more.

Another big theme here is propaganda, or propos as Heavensbee would like to to call them. Basically spitting back out the same strategies that the Capitol is using against them, District 13 sends their camera crew to follow Katniss and get usable footage for these advertisements is really no better than your local Congressmen’s ads that run during Scandal. The only reason I can forgive it from 13 is that they have Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones) on the mic. But seriously, taking advantage of Katniss’ vulnerability (and, in the process, turning Jennifer Lawrence into a pop star!) during her “Hanging Tree” performance is really just as despicable as the Capitol using Peeta against her. It’s a topic I wish the film would have dove in on, especially since it had two hours to do so. Katniss is just a tool, and will be treated with such revery only as long as it serves District 13’s purpose.

On the bright side, we get a noticeable decline in both Blair Witch camera and Jennifer Lawrence cry face – a repeat offender in the first couple films. The supporting cast this time around was much stronger, too. Julianne Moore and Phillip Seymour Hoffman (RIP) play a perfect President Coin and Plutarch Heavensbee, and on the other side of the mirror, Donald Sutherland is even more frightening than before as President Snow. Jeffrey Wright also makes his return as the genius Beetee, who is finally realized as the vital character that always has been. It’s also nice to see him back to being a good guy after his villainous stint in Boardwalk Empire. The old gang also makes a return, with a made-down Effie Trinket and sober Haymitch rounding out the cast with Gale, ever-ready to play soldier and submit himself to the cause.

Mockingjay P1 Effie
Effie be like #IWokeUpLikeThis #PleaseKillMe

 

At some point in the movie, the revolution turned into a love story. I know this is a movie aimed at teenagers, but it can get eye-rolling at the fact that, in a middle of a rebellion, with so many other brave and adult decisions being made, a young woman’s sole interest is not overthrowing the government, but saving her boyfriend. I’ve read that Jennifer Lawrence once tried out for Bella in Twilight; well, it looks like she won’t have to be in a sucky vampire movie to play the role of Bumbling Idiot in a Love Triangle; she has that already. This is not a love story, and it doesn’t need to be a love story to keep teenage girls interested.

That new Tracker Jacket weight-loss program is paying off!
That new Tracker Jacket weight-loss program is really paying off!

Overall, I really enjoyed Mockingjay: Part 1. There are many things happening and in an entirely new environment – enough to keep me engaged the entire time (and I am notorious for falling asleep through movies). That being said, I’m still convinced that a single movie to encompass the third book should have been in order. For its own two-hour block, it would have nice to touch over the more subtle themes of the book – especially the propaganda. If they were going to use it in the promotional materials, why not discuss it in the movie? There is simply too much exposition for this film to catch fire like its predecessor did. However, with the finale guaranteed to break hearts and box office records, there’s still a lot to look forward to when the finale rolls around next November.

All pictures belong to Lionsgate production company.

Denver Comic Con 2014

Get your best People’s Eyebrow on, because finally, Hush Comics has come back… to Denver. It was just one year ago that we stepped in the Colorado Convention Center for the Second Annual Denver Comic Con and our eyes were open to what Hush could do. After the local convention blew us away, we started venturing to other conventions around the country – well, as much as our budget allows. This year, we were a well-oiled machine. We were handing out cards and stickers (hit us up if you want one because we have a few extras!), mingling with fellow con-goers and doing almost everything there was to be done. We took a bunch of pictures of cosplayers, attended a bunch of panels and even got to interview some of the hottest artists at the convention, all of which you can find at the links below.

In this article, you will find one of the most complete Denver Comic Con 2014 experiences on the web, all of which came from a diverse team (see Special Thanks To at the end of the article) of nerds that we have the pleasure of calling our own.

See also:

Denver Comic Con 2014 Cosplay articles

Denver Comic Con 2014 Panel articles

Denver Comic Con 2014 Interviews

Spotlights on 30 of our favorite DCC 2014 guests

Click on the link to take you to all of our Denver Comic Con 2014 articles

The City

The Mile High City is home to the fastest-growing city of nerds in the country. In only its third year, the estimated attendance of nearly 75,000 people has sky-rocketed it to the fourth-largest comic book convention in the WORLD, right behind San Diego, New York City and Toronto – cities with at least four times the population than that of Denver. Google “Nerdiest cities in America,” and there’s a good chance you’ll find Denver on any given list.

One of the greatest qualities of the nerds here in Denver is how diverse they are, making comic cons here a hotbed for the Mile High community. A hardcore Star Wars fan might know all there is to know about but know nothing of Doctor Who and comic books, or vice versa. This diversity usually leads to tons of pocketed groups, meaning that there is always somebody that you can strike up a conversation with pretty much anybody at any time about anything. Most convention goers I have spoken with are nice enough to tell you about their respective fandoms.

The city of Denver isn’t actually all that big, but several large suburbs make up a fair percentage of the land and population. Thanks to years of construction projects, navigating the city from any particular section is fairly early when taking the RTD Light Rail system. The best part was boarding the train with a ton of cosplayers, decked out in their extravagant costumes, sitting right next to people who had no idea Comic Con was even going on. Also, if you wanted to drive, you don’t have to roll the dice on a spot downtown or settle for an expensive lot; there were plenty of parking spots across the street from the Colorado Convention Center at Metro State University.

If you’re staying downtown, there is plenty to do on the weekends. One of the nerdiest attractions is the 1UP bar, a full-service bar that has a plethora of old-school arcade games like Mortal Kombat IITron and Paperboy – even a real-life giant game of Jenga with 2 x 4 blocks of wood. The Pavilion area on 16th street is also quite the fantastical place, full of street performers, eateries and shops to pass the time. Theater nerds can geek out at the Denver Center of Performing Arts, which hosts a variety of plays and events all year long.

There are multiple comic book stores in the metro area, and additional ones in surrounding suburbs. Each shop offers a different experience and has a specialty of sorts. All C’s Collectibles in Aurora is a great place to find sports cards, coin collections and back issues. The shop has been in business for over 25 years and is the go-to spot when I’m on that side of town. I Want More Comics is an up and coming store in Northglenn (about 10-15 minutes of highway North of downtown) that has a lot of trade paperbacks and unique collectibles. It’s hard to spend less than an hour per visit there. The store we go to for books is Mile High Comics, which has four locations in the metro area. Their Glendale store on Colorado Blvd is pretty much home to me, where Aaron and Jay always hook us up with our weekly books and specialty figures. Mile High’s Jason St. warehouse is just that – a warehouse, and the biggest comic book emporium in the world. Whether it’s a rare back-issue, an out-of-print trade or a toy you didn’t know you needed, you can find just about anything in the world of nerd at that warehouse.

Denver is a city that makes itself very accessible to nerds, and is very accepting of the culture, in general. It’s one of the contributing factors that makes it one of the best cities in the country for young professionals, hipsters, and relocation. The continued diversity of people Denver gets only adds to the attraction of events like Comic Con. The best part is that the event hasn’t even been saturated; there are still thousands of people who either couldn’t go or need to be converted. Denver is a nerd gold mine right now, and it’s great to see how many people are striking big in the Mile High City.

How Denver Comic Con Works:

Let’s be honest; last year’s Denver Comic Con was poorly organized. It wasn’t DCC’s fault, either. There was just no way to prepare for the explosion of attendance that happened between the inaugural year, which saw a modest 28,000 people attend, and 2013, where attendance ballooned to 63,000 people – making it the fifth largest convention in the world after only two years. The problems were more logistical than anything, and this year was a great reaction to the issues that plagued the previous convention. The entire exhibitor’s hall was organized in a much more logical fashion, volunteers were actually informed of what was happening, and people were actually let in the doors when the Con opened.

This year, DCC saw a reported 75,000 attendees flood the convention center. Some were looking for autographs and art sketches, some were looking to go to panels and look at cosplayers, and some were just so absolutely lost in the chaos that they walked the exhibitor’s hall like a group of Amish at Best Buy. I would venture to say that a majority of the attendees knew what they wanted to do and how to get there. Artists and creators were located at the back of the hall, while retail shops and displays took up most of the front. Off to the side was the celebrity signing booths, where various celebs took to signing for large blocks of time. Meanwhile, panel rooms were sprawled out on the first floor. Convention food could be found in multiple places, and aside from the $4 bottles of water, it was reasonably priced and tasted delicious.

Due to the fact that we had a team of BAMFs (Nightcrawler or Pulp Fiction – either analogy works) networking, attending panels, and taking some great cosplay pics, we were free to do so much more than before at a convention. For others, it was a bit more difficult. Due to the small size of the Main Even and Mini Main Event panel rooms, it wasn’t uncommon to wait for an hour just to get a seat in a panel. We noticed the same thing when it came to getting a sketch from an artist or an autograph from a celebrity. At that point, it’s all a matter of prioritization. There were definitely things we didn’t get to do or see over the weekend, but I feel like had they been our top priorities, they would have gotten done.

There is so much cosplay going on at the Denver Comic Con that it punches you right in the face as you walk in the doors. The sheer volume was amazing. I’d guess that I saw more people dressed as Harley Quinn here than I did people dressed up altogether at Houston’s Comicpalooza. From Dragonball Z to Dark Crystal, the diverse crowd really made for a thoroughly entertaining game of Guess Who? People we talked to said they came to DCC specifically for the cosplay, and the hard work put into their costumes proved their validity – especially in the contest winning Mr. Freeze. The dedication didn’t just stop at costumes. Colorado Movie Cars had a fleet of nerd-inspired vehicles for attendees to look at, including the Ghostbusters‘ Ecto-1, Knight Rider‘s K.I.T.T., Bumblebee’s Camaro, Herbie and the TMNT Party Wagon, which it has become my new goal in life to build. There were also two Batmobiles in the house (Burton and West) and the Umbrella Corps Dodge Magnum.

This year also brought in some big name guests. Since the convention was created to promote Comic Book Classroom, a lot of the guests are people that we grew up idolizing as kids, like: Kevin Conroy (the voice of Batman in Batman: The Animated Series), Jim Cummings (the voice of Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, and Darkwing Duck), Adam West and LeVar Burton. We were all there to see somebody different, and our varying experiences were all equally cherished. The love didn’t stop there, though, as we were able to get some astonishing artwork and keepsakes from our favorite people in the nerd world.

 

 

Meet the Press!

Hush Comics was lucky enough to receive media passes to DCC, and we felt like we were treated with great respect. Not only were we able to get priority seating for the popular panels, but we were also granted access to the exhibitor’s hall before the doors opened. Both days we snuck in early, we were there to interview artists. We were able to sit down for an extended amount of time and speak with Georges Jeanty, who just ended his run on Serenity: Leaves on the Wind, and Yanick Paquette, who’s currently working on Wonder Woman: Earth One. Both were complete gentlemen, and the formal interview quickly turned into a completely casual back and forth. We were even able to request a commission from each of them of our favorite characters making a hushing gesture and they turned out amazing! Check them out below:

 

Like at Comicpalooza, we were lucky enough to give away a couple of 3-Day passes to a lucky Facebook fan by the name of Jumoke Emery, who is a great guy getting to enjoy his first Comic Con. Here’s his account of the weekend:

So I have a confession to make: This was my very first Comic Con experience. Mostly I spent it wandering around starry-eyed, high-fiving awesome cosplays while not the least bit tipsy off of Brews Wayne. I was most excited for the panels, yet managed to miss every single panel that I stood in line for (P.S. Comic-con lines for panels can be ridiculous, and I’ve decided that the fire marshal and I aren’t friends). However, I still had a blast! Being among my fellow geeks feels like home, now the only debate is whether I’m John Stewart or Power Man for next year’s Con. Shout outs to Hush Comics for helping me have an amazing Father’s Day weekend!

IMG_0699-1

 

Aside from the great interactions we had with people, it was such a joy to be able to tell people what we’ve built over the past year. It’s not the shiniest website on the web, but the hard work and hours of writing feels validated when we get such great feedback from people we randomly meet and strike up conversations with. I can only expect that we will continue to grow, adding more quality writers and covering more ground than we do now. Thanks to everybody that made this a fun and fruitful experience. See you next year!

 

Special Thanks to:

Jacob Robinson: You may have seen him dressed as Ash Bender at DCC, or just noticed his stylish mustache and dreads. Jacob wrote multiple panel articles and

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Jené Conrad: Although Jené had to leave for the weekend to attend a friend’s wedding, she was an integral part of getting set up for the convention, and was not shy at all about networking with others on Hush’s behalf.

Robert Michael: Most of the photography of the convention you see was taken by either Adrian or Robert. He also wrote a few of the big panels, like The Oatmeal and Arrow. Robert was the utmost professional and we are lucky to have him on the team

Robert LOVES reading
Robert LOVES reading

 

Alyssa Mitchell: This girl is a machine! She came to the convention after pulling night shifts, and was an absolute pleasure to be around. She’s Robert’s girlfriend, so it makes sense she was always at work – whether it be pushing the Hush name, taking media duties or helping us plan out the day.

Charlotte Renken: Our newest writer is a straight-up prodigy. We sawn her passion for cosplay inspire others in real time, and we’re lucky her unique voice has found a home at Hush Comics.

charlotte newmar

Lewis Brown: This phenomenal artist is one of our favorites in Denver. Check out his Facebook page. He’s extremely humble and personable, and he spent a lot of his time at the con doing free work for the non-profit Aurora Rise. Definitely make yourself familiar with his work, so that one day, you can tell people you knew who Lewis Brown was before he made it.

Lewis Brown Sketch 1

Scott McCauliffe: Scott has had the most unique experience at DCC among us; he has been an artist at the con, a patron, and this year, a member of the press. He was able to make it for Father’s Day, and his article on his experience is one worth reading.

John Layman

Evan Lowe: Evan couldn’t be here in person this year. He was busy completing a rigorous course to get his Master’s Degree in Social Work! The only thing he requested was a picture of Lou Ferrigno. I’d like to think we delivered. Now that his courseload has slowed down, expect more from him soon.

Lou Ferrigno Evan

Sherif and Adrian: We had to throw a little love our way… mostly so I could post these pictures of us.

 

Tips for Future DCC-ers:

  • Buy your passes early. Even if you end up not going, you can definitely sell the passes on Craigslist or at the door. When we originally bought 3-Day passes a few months in advance, we paid $55/pass. Compare that to the daily rates of $40/day they were charging the week of the con, and you’ll be face-palming yourself for not capitalizing on the situation earlier.
  • Before the convention starts, make a list of things you want to do, and plan it out according to which days things are happening. If you plan things out, there’s a good chance you can get to it all.
  • Cosplaying is amazing, but what’s even better is wearing comfortable shoes. You will spend hours walking, standing, rinsing, repeating. On a similar note, please do shower and wear deodorant. Yes, people will know it’s you, and they will judge you for it. DCC even put on a satirical PSA about “Con Funk” to reiterate the dangers of not valuing personal hygiene.
  • If you get cold often, bring a sweatshirt in the convention center; it might be 90 outside, but it’s likely refrigerated inside.
  • Know where the Guiry’s booth is. Grab any sleeves for prints/pictures you need to avoid getting them all smashed up.
  • Come prepared to buy stuff: artists prints, doo-hickies, collectibles, and of course, comic books. Also know that you will be having to bring or send this stuff back home with you. Some of the best things to prepare are:
    • Comic book portfolio: holds approximately ten issues for signing and collecting.
    • Poster tube or picture hard-sleeve: don’t let those prints/signatures get bent. Trust me, hiding it in a book will not cut it.
    • Know where a nearby FedEx is to ship back the really valuable stuff
  • Take a fair amount of cash with you. A lot of the booths and special events only accept cash – not to mention cash only parking lots in the surrounding area – so avoid getting caught cashless when a good opportunity arises. There are ATMs available around the convention center.
  • If you have time to leave the convention center, there are a lot of great, relatively inexpensive places to chow down nearby. Some of our favorites are: Cheba Hut, Snarf’s and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. (kinda pricey, but worth it if you’ve never been).
  • Over-estimate the time it takes to get anywhere. Denver is largely a commuter city, so plan accordingly.
  • Prior to going to the convention center, make a to-do list of what you want to accomplish and decide what is realistic.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. Ever.

Comicpalooza 2014

Memorial Day weekend was crazy for Hush Comics. We made the drip down South to check out the Houston Comicpalooza, where we met up with Hush family member Taylor Lowe. This was another milestone convention for us, where we got the opportunity to go as press for the first time – which was a real pleasure. The experience of Comicpalooza this year was one of the best we’ve had, and we would love to share it with you! This article is our way of giving you OUR experience.  Since there were four of us, we were able to cover a lot more ground, so here is the most complete description we could give you of Comicpalooza 2014.

See also:

Stan Lee panel

Buffyverse panel

Greg Capullo interview

Nicholas Brendon panel

Comicpalooza Cosplay!

Click on the link to take you to all of our Comicpalooza articles
Click on the link to take you to all of our Comicpalooza 2014 articles

The City

Houston, Texas – it’s not exactly the nerdiest city in the world. There were a lot of people dressed up in the convention, but I felt a bit odd for wearing nerd shirts outside of the convention. It’s not that Houstanians are judgmental or anything, but it’s just not that kind of a city (compared to Seattle and Denver, which both consistently rank in the top ten of most “Nerdiest Cities in America” lists). Just because there might not be as many nerds per capita doesn’t mean there aren’t just as many socially awkward weirdos as we have at home. It’s not a stretch to say that the quality of weirdo is just as high as at the bigger conventions we’ve been to.

I suppose that’s comparatively speaking though, because Houston is a very big city. Unlike San Diego and New York (home to the two biggest cons in similarly huge cities), Houston’s downtown area surrounding the convention center is full of corporate office buildings with not a lot of “fun stuff” to do. The George R Brown Convention Center is right in between Minute Maid Stadium (home to the Houston Astros, consistently baseball’s saddest team) and the Toyota Center (where the NBA Houston Rockets play), but other than that, there isn’t a whole lot to do in the surrounding areas like there are in the aforementioned cities. Houston is full of big-time oil & gas companies, and it’s something the city is very proud of, making this much more of a business. Outside George R Brown, however, was this beautiful sprawling green space, as well as an outdoor area for kids to play, that made this an ideal picnic spot or place to take the kids if the convention gets overwhelming.

Being a huge business focal point in America, there are plenty of hotels nearby, and they’re all reasonably priced. Unfortunately, if you’re looking to do anything fun downtown that doesn’t include bar-hopping, you’ll need a car to get around the city. And because the city and its suburbs are massive, that means lots of traffic and at least 30-45 minutes to get anywhere. Public transportation in Houston is actually pretty extensive, so you can catch a ride to the museum district pretty easily, but for after-con adventures, The Woodlands were the spot for us – where we watched X-Men: Days of Future Past (movie review here), and we ate (and ate and ate). I’d suggest at least venturing over there for some TexMex – by far the best food in Houston. Some of our favorites were: Berry Hill Baja GrillSpring Creek BBQ, and Lupe Tortilla.

As far as the weather, Houston is humid and hot almost all year-round, which can make dressing up in face make-up a nightmare. We saw numerous people who cosplayed in facepaint that were just dripping down their faces it was so hot outside. Also, everywhere you go in Houston, the air conditioning is full-blast, which led to us bringing jackets to the con in 90 degree weather. Our search for the indoors, as well as a free day to peruse local shops, led us to three unique and awesome comic book shops around the city.

The first of which was Third Planet, the aptly-described Sci-Fi Super-Store. There’s practically no way to peruse the store without picking up something out of nostalgia or avarice. Old Batman and X-Men animated series’ toys? Check. Enough Funko product to resurrect James Brown? Yes. I’d say the specialty here is novelty items – statues, replicas, and other awesome stuff that you can spend your cash on. It is a ginormous store that doesn’t feel overwhelming or impersonal. The selection of trade paperbacks is probably the highest of any store in the city. However, there wasn’t a great selection of back-issues, but we got the impression that single issues aren’t in high demand in Houston. This is a guaranteed stop for me anytime I come to town.

The next stop was to Fat Ogre Games and Comics, where Taylor Lowe gets his weekly fix from. This was a smaller shop that specializes in table-top gaming. It was full of like-minded nerds who were crushing each other in HeroClix, a popular superhero themed game. Fat Ogre had a great community feel and quite a few cool collectibles to add to the stacks of graphic novels on the shelf. Gamers will feel right at home here.

Our favorite shop was Space Cadets. Tucked away in cozy shopping center, Space Cadets had one of the most complete stores we’ve ever seen. My sister geeked out at the Pokémon cards while Taylor raided the shelves for Star Wars toys. Adrian took a trip back in time with their retro toys and I scanned the premium figures and statues. Any person of any nerd interest would find something to geek out here. While a lot of the back-issues weren’t in great condition, I saw a lot that were – from packaged collections of George Pérez and Marv Wolfman’s All New Teen Titans to signed copies of Jim Lee’s Superman: For Tomorrow. And unlike the other shops, there was a definite realization that Comicpalooza was that weekend, meaning spotlighted issues for: Neal Adams, Stan Lee, Greg Capullo and more. These guys were in touch with the community, a big plus for us. We even stopped by before leaving town for an impromptu game of chess. The people there are great, too, with a pretty deep selection of table-top gaming themselves, and a warm mom & pop attitude we couldn’t find anywhere else.

How Comicpalooza Works

Alright, it’s coming – that Texas “big” cliché. You didn’t think you could read an article on the biggest comic book convention in the state and not see the words “it’s bigger in Texas,” did you? Comicpalooza has found its home in the George R Brown Convention Center (which isn’t the first Brown building I’ve been in; as an Engineer at Colorado School of Mines, a majority of my classes were held in the George R Brown Hall. Crazy, right?!). This massive convention center is much larger (Exhibitors Hall, anyway) than anything we’ve been in at all, let alone for a convention. The exhibitor’s hall of Brown is bigger than at SDCC – the largest con in the freakin’ world. Here’s how it stacks up against other convention centers’ exhibit hall:

  • George R Brown Convention Center = 853,500 square feet
  • (San Diego Comic Con) San Diego Convention Center = 615,700 square feet
  • (Denver Comic Con) Colorado Convention Center = 584,000 square feet
  • (Emerald City Comic Con)Washington State Convention Center = 205,700 square feet (misleading since the con had two ex. halls)

* This data might seem daunting but it is via wikipedia; what the hell do they know?

 

The spacious floors lead to TONS of room to do whatever you want. It allowed exhibitors ample spacing between booths and cosplayers the freedom to stop mid-stride to take pictures without being trampled to death. At one point, I started spinning around in circles like a farmer who had just seen rain for the first time all year. One of the biggest turn-offs of any type of convention is the ridiculous crowd. Here, we were able stroll at our leisure without worrying about being in somebody’s way.

The layout of the convention was really simple. There were no hidden floors, or panels you had to be at another building to attend – something that really annoyed us about Emerald City. We were a little lost at first, but quickly found our way around once we knew where to look. Everything was made easier with the Comicpalooza mobile app. Trying to boot everybody into the smartphone era, Comicpalooza all but did away with paper programming and went completely digital, although you could buy a “collector’s” program for ten bucks. The app itself was amazing; it constantly updated with scheduling changes, information on photo ops and signings, and a slew of other useful options. You can even add some customizable touches by creating a To-do list or a personalized schedule to avoid thumbing through all the events. We’ve used comic con apps before, but this one was completely reliable (even in airplane mode) and user-friendly. That is unless, of course, you don’t have a smart phone, which could make it quite a pain to find out where you need to go. It also won’t help carrying around a packet with times and locations of panels when schedule changes occurred – and they occurred fairly frequently. Overall, the app is genius, and I can only hope that other conventions follow suit.

Froggy’s Photos took up professional photography duties again, but this time, everything made much more sense and felt a lot more personal. There was more than sufficient time to get all the autographs and photo ops we wanted, with practically no wait time to meet people that we had been geeking out over since we were children. Due to the size of the convention, and the number of people attending, Comicpalooza felt much more intimate than others we’ve been to. We got to shake hands with Stan Lee, Spike and just chit chat with the same celebrities that, just a couple months earlier at ECCC, we weren’t even allowed to make eye contact with unless we’d been in line for an hour or paid for a professional shot.

The other added bonus of a smaller convention is that we got to do pretty much everything that we wanted to: panels, exhibitor’s hall, autographs and photos. There weren’t nearly as many volunteers here, and that’s a good thing. The logical layout of the convention center, in addition to the accessibility (nothing was really off-limits), meant that you didn’t need to be constantly asking for help. The volunteers at Comicpalooza were some of the nicest, most helpful individuals we’ve come across. Maybe it’s the high stress of the other conventions, but everything about Comicpalooza felt casual and fun. There were no worries if so-and-so would run out of prints, or if the panel you wanted to go to would be capped. Couple that with the plentiful free space to just sit down and hang out when you feel tired or need to formulate a game plan, and you have a stress-free experience.

Houston may not be the nerdiest city in the world, but the nerds that show up are nerds through and through. Because Seattle is such a hipster community, and Denver’s con is so new, it attracts a butt-load of intrigued yet uninformed people that wander aimlessly, standing in lines for people they don’t know and taking up seats in a Panel Room because lots of other people are doing the same thing – and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it was refreshing to see so many passionate fans. I mean, we saw live action Pokémon battles, guys. Upstairs were old-school arcade games and table-top figure painting, while downstairs held more of the extra-curricular events.

Houston is one of the most technologically-driven cities in the world; from Oil & Gas to Space technology, there is a strong emphasis on the science in science fiction, and it was definitely prevalent at Comicpalooza. There was a separate section of the con devoted to: robotics, computer gaming and (my personal favorite) 3D printing. It was refreshing to know that nerds can be evil scientists in real life, too.

When it all comes down to it, Hush Comics had an exceptionally fun time at this convention. There weren’t a large amount of comic book creators, but that led us to mingle with more independent people. The star power, on the other hand, was ridiculous, and was enough to get us down to Houston even before we heard about Stan Lee. The only thing I wish I would have seen more of is back-issues and comic book selection, but this is a feeling I had of every store we visited in the city. The seventh year of Comicpalooza brought a lot order to a massive convention, with optimal fun and minimal stress. Whether you’re a hardcore geek or just passing by to check out a celebrity, Comicpalooza should be a mandatory visit.

After-Hours Specials

What really set Comicpalooza apart from any other convention was the amount of extra stuff to do there. If we really wanted to, we could have been there from 10AM – 10PM every day. Every niche nerd thing had events going on after and throughout the panels. We didn’t get to do it all, but we sure tried. Adjacent to the enormous exhibitor’s hall were a series of large performance stages, where a bunch of the interactive stuff went down.

Every day, Geeks Who Drink had a quiz competition in one of the ballrooms. Adrian and I have done a couple of the themed ones in Denver. One with Breaking Bad, where we kicked ass on placed in the top ten out of over fifty teams, and a Community themed one that we absolutely bombed. The quizzes were structured and prizes are given out for placing high, but not as nerdy as I would have expected, but we still had a fun time.

Elsewhere, LARPing was in full effect. In one section, there were trained swordsmen teaching noobs like us how to correctly wield a wooden blade. There was actually a separate area you could go to watch people go rounds and battle each other. We sat down and watched one of these intense bouts and became enthralled, giving the fighters nicknames, origin stories and grew quite attached. While there were plenty of big kids that took to the death-match with the gravity of real combat, we saw everyone from grown men and women to adorable little girls. Weird? Hell yeah. But these people were being themselves, letting go of the cultural boundaries they came here to escape, and they were entertaining themselves and others. You literally can’t ask for anything more.

Next up were the Quidditch matches. That’s right, the Harry Potter game is a real thing. Outside of Hogwartz, it’s referred to as Muggle Quidditch. It plays like a mixture of lacrosse, dodge-ball and flag football. I was confused by the rules, but after an hour or so of watching, I was pretty eager to try it out. I became so enthralled that I didn’t even notice how ridiculous(ly awesome!) all the players looked with pseudo-broomsticks in between their legs.When it comes down to it, there’s nothing cooler than playing a fun sport with a bunch of people who are used to getting picked last.

Our favorite post-con event had to be the James Marsters concert. James Marsters is better known as Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where he crooned for fans in the musical episode, “Once More With Feeling.” Before the spin-off show, Angel, had ended in 2004, Marsters was already selling out gigs at LA clubs as a solo singer, and as the lead singer to his band Ghost of the Robot. That was all a round-about way of saying that the man knows how to woo a crowd. For nearly an hour, Marsters swooned the crowd with lovely acoustic songs. It was one of the coolest things you can find at a comic book convention.

From LARPing and hardcore Quidditch matches to roller derby and professional wrestling, there was always something going on in the convention. Nobody acted “too cool” to join in the fun. If you’re willing to let yourself just enjoy the show, there’s no way you won’t have a blast.

 

Meet the Press!

If you haven’t heard us freak out about it yet, I’ll fill you in. Comicpalooza is the first convention that Hush Comics has been to as “Press.” What does that mean, you ask? Not as much as you would think. We did get some pretty sweet zombie Deadpool badges, and some special treatment as far as getting ushered to the front of a few of the more-crowded panels. Also, it meant that our passes were paid for. This allowed us to give away all the passes that Taylor bought us for Christmas, which we did through Facebook. One of our winners was able to attend her very first con, which made us feel pretty darn cool! Here’s her account of the weekend:

Greetings Fellow Comic-conians!!

A huge thanks to HushComics for giving me the chance to experience my very first Comic-con. (Comicpalooza) Yes the cherry has been popped and I’m coming back for more. What a blast to see such amazing art pieces, crafts, actors and let’s not forget the cosplay. I’m very inspired and ready to participate in cosplay for next year. May the Comic-God’s smile upon you.”

Peace and Love,

Bettie Skellington

Mage Pena

Our first con was mind-blowing, so we’re glad that we were able to help somebody else get to experience that as well.

Perhaps the coolest thing about going as press was the opportunity to interview comic book creators. Comicpalooza didn’t have a whole lot of creators, but we knew of one that we absolutely had to sit down with. His name is Greg Capullo, and he has been the artist on Batman for nearly three years. We figured that, because he’s such a big deal in comic books, we wouldn’t be able to get a spot with him. After a little persistence and a lot of help from the media manager at CP, Rosario Perez (you’re the best!), we were able to get in contact with Greg’s wife and set up an interview. It was terrifying to say the least, but we were able to pull off something cohesive enough. Crazy story, while we were sitting down to talk with Mr. Capullo in this back-room break area for celebs, Stan Lee comes casually strolling across the room, sits down, and takes a power nap that only the 91 year-old Godfather of comic books could do – great ice breaker.

Tips for Future CP-ers:

  • Before the convention starts, make a list of things you want to do, and plan it out according to which days things are happening. If you plan things out, there’s a good chance you can get to it all.
  • Cosplaying is amazing, but what’s even better is wearing comfortable shoes. You will spend hours walking, standing, rinsing, repeating. On a similar note, please do shower and wear deodorant. Yes, people will know it’s you, and they will judge you for it. The dreaded “con smell” is ten times worse with the humidity.
  • Far be it for me to tell you how to cosplay, but avoid paints and makeup that will melt easily.
  • If you get cold often, bring a sweatshirt in the convention center; it might be 90 outside, but it’s likely refrigerated inside.
  • Know where the art supply booth is. Grab any sleeves for prints/pictures you need to avoid getting them all smashed up.
  • Come prepared to buy stuff: artists prints, doo-hickies, collectibles, and of course, comic books. Also know that you will be having to bring or send this stuff back home with you. Some of the best things to prepare are:
    • Comic book portfolio: holds approx ten issues for signing and collecting.
    • Poster tube or picture hard-sleeve: don’t let those prints/signatures get bent. Trust me, hiding it in a book will not cut it.
    • Know where a nearby FedEx is to ship back the really valuable stuff
  • Take a fair amount of cash with you. A lot of the booths and special events only accept cash – not to mention cash only parking lots in the surrounding area – so avoid getting caught cashless when a good opportunity arises. There are multiple ATMs but they are total leeches, only allowing you to pull out $100 per transaction with a $5 fine attached to it. Bleh.
  • There is so much food in Houston. Don’t waste your appetite on $10 cheapo food in the convention center. Instead, bring snacks and gorge later.
  • Avoid the creepy 4th floor at George R Brown. It will be your doom.
  • Use the app as often as you can; hopefully, next year’s app will be just as helpful.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. Ever.

So Far this Week… March 5, 2014

With the expansion of Hush Comics, we have decided to give bi-weekly news updates.  Anything we find news-worthy will be posted here bi-weekly.  Have anything to add?  Post it in the comments!

Those sneaky bastards at Rocksteady took a year off (Arkham Origins was developed by WB Montreal) so they could work on Batman: Arkham Knight, the finale to the Arkham trilogy. Coming out this year for next-gen consoles, my mind is exploding with excitement. I mean, just look at the trailer:

Norman Reedus, Daryl Dixon himself, will be joining Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show in just a few hours. I can’t wait to see what kind of shenanigans they pull tonight. Just a couple days ago, Fallon, The Roots and Idina Menzel did a back-stage performance of “Let it Go” from Frozen.

People got legitimately upset when Tony Hawk and Funny or Die duped everybody into thinking hover boards had finally arrived.

The Iron Throne meets the wheelz of steel! HBO has gathered a bunch of rappers to create their very own Game of Thrones mixtape. It should give us enough material for our “Diggin’ Through the Crates” article for months. It’s expected to drop on Friday.

It’s about to go down in Arrow. Ollie may be fancied a hero in Starling City, but he’s made plenty of enemies – namely Suicide Squad and Deathstroke.

It’s been quite some time since Michael Bay has blown some shit up. A full-length trailer of Transformers 4 has been released, and, sad to say, I don’t really care what it’s about; I just wanna see Optimus Prime pimp-slap a Dinobot.

More casting for DC television shows Constantine and Gotham, among them being Harold Perrineau Jr. (one of my favorites on HBO’s Oz), who will play an angel who looks over Constantine.

To promote their upcoming Original Sin event, Marvel will be supplying the retailers willing to put up the big bucks with eyeballs. Awesome…Your move, DC.

As Deadpool has been fighting with and against everything in the Marvel universe, it was only time until he took on one of the symbiotes. Deadpool vs. Carnage comes out within the month.

He might be a nice guy in real life, but Joseph Gordon-Levitt is looking mean in the brand new teaser for Sin City 2.

LeBron James’ 61 point game inspired Marvel to post a drawing of him with a Captain America mask, probably to detract from the Batman comparisons made with the black one.

Lando was one smooth guy in Star Wars, but can Billie Dee Williams still pull off the moves when he joins the cast of Dancing With the Stars?

The Justice League is flying back onto the shelves of your local grocery stores. General Mills cereal boxes with contain comic books starring the DC team of all-stars throughout the month of March.

The conclusion of The Walking Dead: Governor novels is finally here. Released on Tuesday, Fall of the Governor: Part 2 completes a long-winded series of books. We loved the first book, but the rest of them have been so lackluster, we’re debating whether or not to finish it out.

You Nerd Like a Girl

younerdlikeagirl

Hush Comics is proud to present our latest and greatest in reviews and features for the month of March.  After much success with last month’s All Black Everything articles celebrating Black History Month, it only seemed appropriate to celebrate women for Women’s History Month.  We are calling it “You Nerd Like a Girl.”  No, it is not intended to say that girls are bad at being nerds.  Rather, it is celebrating all the wonderful things women have done and will continue to do in the comic book and media industry.

In addition to all our Graphic Novel Reviews and Respect My Craft articles focusing on female characters and creators, this month we will also be unveiling our newest weekly feature (yes, that means it will continue past March), We Can Do It!: Women in Comics, TV, Movies and Beyond.  The feature will focus on important information pertaining to the women who make me the woman I am today.  Are there really that many fictional and real nerdy women who influenced me that much to feature one for every week of the year?  Yes, yes there are.  And Hush Comics cannot wait to share it!

Buffy Summers.  The woman who taught me about life.  Why this random image?  Because I can, that's why.
Buffy Summers. The woman who taught me about life. Why this random image? Because I can, that’s why.

The image used is property of Dark Horse Comics

written by Adrian Puryear

Pompeii Review

Pompeii Review

Genre – Historically-based Fiction, Romance
Director – Paul W.S. Anderson (Mortal Kombat: The MovieDeath Race series, Resident Evil series
Cast – Kit Harington (Jon Snow from Game of Thrones), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (LostOz), Emily Browning (Sucker Punch), Kiefer Sutherland (24), Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix), Jessica Lucas (Evil Dead), Jared Harris (Mad Men)
Alluring element – Jon Snow goes back in time a thousand years or so to rise against Jack Bauer and get the girl! 
Check it out if you liked 300Troy
SCORECARD (each category out of 10):
Plot – 7
Acting – 7
Representation of Genre – 9
Cinematography – 9
Effects/Environment – 9
Captivity – 9
Logical consistency – 8
Originality/Creativity – 7
Soundtrack/Music – 9
Overall awesomeness – 8

hush_rating_82

Pompeii is about Milo (Kit Harington), a Celt whose family and entire people were slaughtered by the Roman senator Corvus, played by Kiefer Sutherland. Milo is enslaved and turned into a gladiator. Eventually, he is taken to Pompeii where he meets the captivating Cassia (Emily Browning) and fellow gladiator-slave Atticus (Akinnuoye-Agbaje). Once Mount Vesuvius erupts, it becomes a race against the clock not only to save Cassia but to seek revenge against the corrupt Crovus. Pompeii is part love story, part political rebellion, and all parts natural disaster.

I am a big fan of ancient historical fiction, and to be honest, I was a bit worried about this film. Many times, films like Pompeii are a bit over-the-top; they are over-acted and rarely historically accurate. To say the least, I was pleasantly surprised with Pompeii. The visual world was captivating and, at first glance, I thought I was working my way through the Pompeii exhibit at the museum. In reality, the volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius kept the town so well preserved that archeologists have been able to replicate the city of Pompeii with detailed accuracy. The movie paid close attention to these details of the city and this was heightened by the use of 3D which really made the world pop down to the street venders. The eruption of the volcano was on point and accurate in sequence. The only inaccuracy were the pyroclastic bombs and the dramatic tsunami which dragged a ship into the city. During the time of the actual eruption, there were warning signs days before the eruption and many people actually left before the volcano erupted.   The film didn’t touch on these facts, but it is forgivable because of the visual effects.

The dynamics of the characters were what I enjoyed most. While the plot was cliché and predictable, the character nuances and subtleties made up for it.  I really liked Cassia. Granted, she was a wealthy elite stereotype, but she also wasn’t totally naive nor a typical damsel in distress. Her parents also were likeable. They were present parents and good people. Her mother Aurelia (Carrie-Anne Moss) was a strong, charismatic woman who worked closely with her husband’s politics as Corvus has come to Pompeii to invest in the construction of a new arena which Severus hopes will continue to brings money into the city. Both Severus and Aurelia genuinely dislike Corvus who later find out he’s also come to Pompeii to scheme for Cassia’s hand in marriage.  The other thing I really have to give the movie props for was a lack violence against women used to garner entertainment. Corvus was creepy and gross without being over-the-top violent.

While there was a love story, Pompeii was more a story between Milo (The Celt) and Atticus, who was one fight away to winning his freedom under Roman law. Both lost their families to the Romans and are trying to maintain their identity while enslaved. The arena becomes their political battlefield as Milo seeks revenge on Corvus and by extension the Roman Empire. Atticus joins Milo as his faith in Roman law is betrayed. I don’t want to give away the rest of the story, but in many ways, this overpowered the love story. It may be unfortunate for the popularity of the film that Pompeii was seemingly marketed as a love story, because the film was prominently a historical and political plot. Though, I’ve been known to read too much into stories and may be reading more into the plot then I need to.

One last note of importance: the soundtrack was fantastic. It was emotional, engaging, and epic. The music enhanced the overall experience of the film and is something I’ll invest in to listen to later. Rotten Tomatoes only gave the film 29% rating, and critics were harsh. I, on the other hand, enjoyed the film. The storyline was simple, engaging, and oddly deep in its subtlety. The 3D didn’t sully the movie but rather enhanced it; I would highly recommend watching this film in 3D.  However, the story is strong enough that it will be worth watching at home if you can’t get to the theater.

Written by Jené Conrad