Mortal Kombat X Review

Mortal Kombat X Review

Genre: Fighter

Released for/Reviewed on: Released on PS4/XBO & reviewed on PS4

Publisher/Developer: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (every DC Comics game)/NetherRealm Studios (2011’s Mortal KombatInjustice)

Notable Voice Actors or Writers: Ed Boon, co-creator, remains the creative director

Alluring Element: Mortal Kombat on steroids, unleashing the tower of the PS4 with new characters and variable play

Check it out if you liked: Mortal Kombat series

Rated: M for Mature

 

SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):

Storyline – 9
Gameplay – 9
Animation – 8
Replay Value – 10
Entertainment Value – 10
Captivity – 8
Variety – 9
Originality/Creativity – 10
Soundtrack – 8
Overall awesomeness – 9

Any time a new Mortal Kombat game comes out, a sense of overwhelming nostalgia and excitement fills gamer’s faces. It’s safe to say that the majority of MK‘s fan-base has been down since the beginning, and similar to Smash Bros. or Street Fighter fans, they will go out of their way to learn and perfect each new iteration. All the developers have to do is give the next new thing enough depth and variation to satisfy hardcore and casual gamers alike. Unlike Street Fighter, which has put out multiple iterations of the same game (Super SF IVSuper SF IV 3DUltra SF IV), Mortal Kombat has taken the Season Pass approach to keep players engaged. You could throw around the SF vs. MK battle all day long, and nobody would win. What is undeniable, is that while CAPCOM’s target has been a more inclusive audience, something to hand down to the next generation of gamers, it’s quite clear that Netherrealm is going for an adults-only experience. It’s like they still want their now grown up fanbase hiding the game from their parents AND their children.

Mortal Kombat X is disturbingly realistic, perfect for this generation of desensitized knuckleheads. The game is beautifully rendered; there is a realistic approach to the graphics, as opposed to the cartoonish look that 2011 Mortal Kombat reboot had. There is a much higher level of detail put in to not only the character models, but the environments which they fight in. The interactable stage objects from Injustice are back in a big way, and can make a big difference when players’ backs are against the wall. Another noticeable improvement visually is the lack of fanboy fantasy characters. You may remember the hidden Mileena costume from MK9? This time around, all the female characters are highly-detailed works of art, and have some of the best move sets in the game.

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Technically, the game plays very well. There is a hierarchy for each skill level of player when it comes to playing the game, but the subtleties are what really set apart the good from the great. Before I started really diving into MKX, phrases like “punishable attacks,” “footsies game,” and “zoning” were completely foreign to me, but they became necessary to learn and master in order to beat any of the online bullies that troll the network, looking to embarrass their opponents. While players with limited fighting know-how can enjoy the game by button-mashing, the good times are short-lived once you level up to a certain point; this means that once you put in enough time, you will be forced to play against opponents much more adept at the game than you. You can try to get into a room with some less-experienced players – if they let you – or you can spend hours in Practice Mode to evolve your Squirtle-like skills into Blastoise-caliber play.

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Online play is the main focus of Mortal Kombat X, and it’s been very good at building a community of players, but there is so much else to do when your crappy lagging connection ruins the fun online. Factions, which group you belong to, will grant you perks and quick Faction Kills upon progress. Performing daily tasks (ie – Perform 5 Uppercuts in one round, etc) and battling against “Invading” AI will add to the overall progress of your Faction, and give you Koins to spend in the Krypt. This time around, the Krypt is a labyrinth of unlockable items and puzzles to complete – or you can be a pansy and just pay $20 to unlock items like: music, brutalities, fatalities, concept art, and match modifiers.

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Brutalities add a whole new dimension to finishing moves.

My favorite part of the game has to be the amount of modifiers included in it. Returning is the Test Your Luck, slot machine type matches, but there is also Kustom Kombat, where you and a friend can choose which modifiers to use in a match. It can lead to a very interesting match. Also returning to the franchise are Brutalities, a way to finish off your opponent in quick, sometimes unexpected ways that are even more satisfying to pull off than Fatalities. Living Towers, a spin on the classic arcade mode, add a bit of variety to the gameplay, as well – and are always changing. Mortal Kombat X has succeeded the most in making this a game that is constantly engaging players. Playing by yourself is fun, but there is always a reason to keep playing, keep progressing, and keep getting better. Even mastering a character isn’t as easy as it used to be.

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New to the game are the character variations; each character has three different “versions” that accentuate certain special abilities and combos for that character. It can be annoying to certain players that depend on a breadth of moves for characters, but it helps even up the match-ups a bit, adding a new level of strategy. Variations aside, the fresh faces in the character selection screen are not just there for novelty. Each of the eight new characters (not including the three new ones in the Kombat Pack) brings something new and unique to the table; they aren’t just there as novelty to fill up space. The game’s clever idea of progressing the storyline forward in time 25 years. The game becomes a more fluid addition to a franchise, and not simply an updated version of the same game. This allows the creators to create, evolve, kill off or completely change characters in the name of continuity.

Concept art for Takeda, unlocked in the Krypt.
Concept art for Takeda, unlocked in the Krypt.

Mortal Kombat X will immediately be recognizable to long-time fans of the franchise. There are so many new odds and ends to learn about both how the game plays and content to keep players engaged that the replayability on this is basically “until you break your controller in anger.” Sure, the game’s poor matching system online can make for some flat-out un-fun experiences, but you either learn to improve your skills or enjoy the game in other ways, killing your friends in new, grotesque ways that have become a benchmark in video game history. If MKX could find a way to become a more well-rounded game, not so geared towards elitist players (not to mention the gore porn), then it may have one of the longest lifespans of the entire franchise.

All media credited to Warner Bros. Entertainment and Netherrealm Studios

LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham Review

LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham Review

Genre: Open world exploration, Multi-player Co-op,

Released for/Reviewed on: Released on PS4/X-Box One, PS3/XB360, Vita/3DS, WiiU, iOS, Mac/PC & reviewed on PS4

Publisher/Developer: Warnes Bros Interactive Entertainment (Mortal Kombat franchise, Batman: Arkham series, Scribblenauts franchise)/Traveller’s Tales (LEGO… everything)

Notable Voice Actors or Writers: Troy Baker (The Joker in Arkham Origins, Delsin Rowe in inFamous: Second Son), Travis Willingham (Reggie Rowe in inFamous: Second Son), Nolan North (Deadpool in Deadpool, Cole McGrath in inFamous, Pagan Min in Far Cry 4), tons of celebrity guest spots like: Kevin Smith (Clerks), Adam West, Conan O’Brien, Gilbert Gottfried, Geoff Johns and Stephen Amell (DLC coming soon)

Alluring Element: The winning formula of a LEGO game, this time expanded to include the scope of the entire DCU

Check it out if you liked: LEGO BatmanLEGO anything

Rated: RP/E

 

SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):

Storyline – 7
Gameplay – 8
Animation – 9
Replay Value – 9
Entertainment Value – 9
Captivity – 7
Variety – 6
Originality/Creativity – 9
Soundtrack – 8
Overall awesomeness – 7

When it comes to games that the whole family can enjoy, there’s nothing quite on the level of LEGO games. From Star WarsHarry Potter and Lord of the Rings to the recently-released Marvel title, there isn’t any fandom that Telltate won’t touch. Where the franchise has succeeded is in its ability to bridge adults and children together. While the games and their mechanics are fairly simple – two attack buttons, a jump button and two character/costume changes, there is an undeniable level of complexity to the completion of the highly detailed levels. There are tons of characters to unlock, and with a ludicrous amount of goodies to uncover, you’ll find yourself smushing your child in the face to push them out of the way and complete the game 100%. Unlike traditional kids game, there is an added effort in trying to appease to the hardcore fan-base. If you are trying to brainwash your kid into getting into comic books, or you yourself enjoys a thorough Easter Egg hunt, this is the game for you. If you don’t git into either category, though, you might be hard-pressed to find a reason to drop cash on this game. It’s the type of game that really depends on who you play with, or the type of gamer you are altogether. LEGO games are ideal for the treasure-hunting, methodical players who take their time and enjoy unearthing all the well-thought secrets that go into the game. If replaying a game five times over doesn’t appeal to you, then the price of admission isn’t really justifiable. Luckily, as somebody who is still just levels into Diablo III with his loving wife, I am all about 100% completion on my games.

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All that in mind, I still want to enjoy the game as I endogenously play through it, and LEGO Batman 3 is noticeably less entertaining than the game that came before it. LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes was great in the sense that the story (stopping Lex and Joker from taking over the world) was so dynamic that WB actually re-purposed the cut scenes into a full-length animated movie that was released separately on DVD. LEGO Batman 3, however, did not impress me – and my standards are pretty low as far as LEGO-inspired entertainment goes. The plot, which was some kind of convoluted version of Geoff John’s Brainiac and Green Lantern: Blackest Night, took Batman and Co. around the galaxy to… actually, I have no idea what the purpose was, I just knew that early on, I figured out that I had to travel to each Lantern planet and do stuff before defeating Brainiac with feelings. Yes, the thing that Batman hates more than Robin’s Superman pajamas. It’s a large scope to tackle, and this being a next-gen game, it was expected that we would see an expanded DCU, but I can’t help but feel like time would have been better spent coming up with a more creative way to incorporate different characters into the game. Instead of just boasting a cast of over 150 characters (it will take a WHILE to unlock them all), it would have been nice to actually give each of them a little more attention instead of just skin swaps. Really, only the core cast of Batman, Robin, Cyborg, Lex Luthor and The Joker have multiple uses.

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That being said, the fine-tuned attention to detail is as impressive as it is heartwarming. The Danny Elfman-inspired Bat-tunes are still there, and the custom sound bytes add a bit of flavor to each character’s situation. For example, when entering the character selection screen, hovering over certain characters spawn their very own Batman theme song – Na na na na na na na na, CYBORG! Can you guess which hero this one belongs to: Na na na na na na na na, MEEE! Also, along with Superman’s John Williams theme during flight, Wonder Woman also has her classic Linda Carter theme play while she flies. All the way to down to the most obscure characters in the DC Universe , the sheer amount of geek packed into one game is extraordinary, and will keep dedicated fans combing through each level with increased vigor to unlock all their secrets. You can even mix and match parts and powers to create your own weird-looking LEGO superhero. On the other side of the coin, the allure of having Conan O’Brien, the friendly janitor, tour you around the Justice League Watchtower or saving a pleading Adam West is really fun the first time, but can get severely grating after they repeatedly chime in with the same monologue until you run away screaming or mute the television.

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With all the high performance games out there, expectations for a LEGO game can be a little skewed. Make no mistake, LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham is just as much fun as Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed, but just like those games, need to be enjoyed by the right person. You can choose to spend hours teaching your kids about each hero’s powers (or learning them yourself), or you can go all Orange Lantern on this bad boy and reap all the buried treasure within the levels. The gameplay won’t blow you away, but it’s as complex as it needs to be, and makes the game accessible for all ages of gamers. The story isn’t all that spectacular, but at the very least, it is a love letter to DC fans; you can really tell that Traveller’s Tales put a lot of thought and research into this game, making it one of the most thoughtful Batman experiences I’ve had in a video game.

 

 

All media credited to Sony Entertainment and Sucker Punch Productions

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!

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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.

Emerald City Comic Con 2014

Emerald City Comic Con 2014

This weekend marked our first trip not only to Emerald City Comic Con, but our first trek to the wonderful city of Seattle. While ECCC wasn’t our first con, it is the first one we really attended as Hush Comics.  This article is our way of giving you OUR experience.  We don’t want to give you a transcript version of each panel and event because that wouldn’t fully embody our experience Note: The links for transcript versions are provided at the bottom. Instead, we bring you the most complete experience that our tired bodies could muster in a three-day period.

The City

The Emerald City itself is one of the most gorgeous and interesting cities we’ve been in. Seattle is rainy, cloudy and sometimes really windy. We were told that it’s like that for about 9-10 months out of the year. The dreary weather was perfect for deep thinking and it makes the ground lush and green; Seattle’s weather creates a perfect storm of hipsters, coffee shops and grown men in My Little Pony costumes (even outside of the Con, from what I hear). If you think there is a Starbucks on every corner where you live, you haven’t been to Seattle. There was at least one within view of every street corner in downtown Seattle, and at one point, we found three in eyesight of each other in an indoor mini-mall. I don’t know how people there don’t absolutely hate Starbucks by now. The coffee place we really enjoyed was Seattle Coffee Works on 1st and Pike.  They have magnificent mochas, chai tea, and chocolate (cayenne orange white chocolate, mmm). However, coffee wasn’t all there was to offer in Seattle.

Being right next to Puget Sound, we ate nothing but fish the entire time. The first stop we made when we got to town was the Pike Place Market. The market is full of unique shops, restaurants, street performers and a giant wall where people stick their used gum wads on (yes, it’s real, and yes, it’s disgusting). In a way, Pike Place Market, and downtown Seattle in general, reminder us a lot of 16th Street in Denver. We gorged ourselves on Clam Chowder and sushi. Our favorite spot was Blue C Sushi – which was actually right inside our hotel lobby. We had never had anything like this before: the sushi came out on a conveyor belt, an actual Sushi Train! One the blank wall above the Sushi Train, there was a projected video of cameras in Tokyo.  Who knows when they were recorded, but during one of our dinners, we watched a flash mob version of Grease, Tokyo style. It was as confusing as it was enjoyable. There was also La Creperie Voila, which is a mom and pop Creperie directly outside the Washington State Convention Center; we ate there EVERY. DAY (Adrian loved the Lemon one and Sherif had the Dulce de Leche one).

We didn’t just stay at the convention, though. We took the monorail down to the Space Needle area. Aside from the breath-taking view, the surrounding area of the Space Needle was really intriguing. There was a glass museum, The Chihuly, complete with gigantic, singing flowers, and the Pop Culture Museum. The Space Needle looks intimidating from the ground, and the view from the top was amazing. The public transportation in Seattle is so navigable. The bus, monorail and light-rail system are so easy to use; Seattle is built for large conventions. We also stopped by the Museum of Flight on Thursday. We originally went for the Carol Corps Celebration, but we spent most of our time looking at all the badass planes.

By the end of our trip, we were in love with Seattle. The ease of public transportation, the friendly natives (most of the people from the Con were cool, too, but there were plenty of cranky people) and the unique melting pot that it has become, we enjoyed the city equally as much as the convention itself. And as much crap as we got for being from Denver (that whole Super Bowl thing), the two cities are more alike than their affinity for marijuana – which is not exaggerated (Canni-Bus? Really?). I guess it really is the greenest city in America.

How ECCC Works

If you’ve ever been to a comic book convention, then your logic will fail you here. Nothing is set up the way you would think it is. The autograph sessions are set up in entirely separate floors than the photo ops, the panels are immediately before or after the photos and signings – which means it’s practically impossible to do both. The photos are taken professionally, behind walls of security, and ECCC volunteers will tackle you if you take your phone out in the signature hall; yes, those areas are separate. Everywhere you go, you are herded and prodded like cattle. It was often hard to find where a line stopped or started unless you knew where to look and lines to see people were often capped and then un-capped moments later. It wasn’t all bad, though.

Everybody was generally helpful when we asked questions. The convention is mostly a local one more than an international one (like San Diego) from what we saw, so people are more likely to give you honest and positive advice when asking for directions or opinions, both in and out of the con. Like most things comic book related, ECCC has exploded within the past few years, so it’s only natural that there are some growing pains. I can understand the need for a tight system to keep things moving, but the whole ordeal feels disconnected and impersonal. Denver Comic Con (DCC) did a much better job of letting patrons interact with the very people that attracted them to the convention in the first place.

The layout of the convention’s exhibition hall was pretty straight-forward – it consisted of two big rooms separated by a sky-bridge. Where previous cons we had gone to, like SDCC, have been geared towards retail and pushing big brand names, ECCC is largely focused on independent artists and writers. You’ll have a guy who does beautiful air-brush paintings that he did in his garage in a booth right next to Dustin Nguyen, renowned Batman artist. We saw a bunch of our favorite comic book people just hangin’ out at their booths, giving free autographs and telling stories. The fan interaction is what makes people go to these conventions in the first place, and unless you’re looking for somebody ridiculously big in comics right now, you don’t have to stand in line for more than 10-20 minutes to do it.

Overall, the convention is fairly well organized, but it takes a good day or so to understand how things work. These two newbies were able to attend all the big panels we wanted to, get all the signatures and photos we wanted, plus meet a whole bunch of cool people along the way – but we were exhausted, every day. The convention could serve itself well by having a preview night similar to San Diego Comic-Con; it’s just getting that big. There are so many celebrities, both in TV/movies and comic books that they may need it. It would also benefit them to send in the programs along with the badges next year before the show.

They’re Just Geeks, Too!

Forget the exclusives, the big-shot comic book companies and their fancy doo-dads; why do you go to a comic book convention? More than any convention we’ve been to, we were reminded that conventions are run by nerds, with nerds, for nerds. The insane amount of comic book artists, writers and inspired product-makers made for a great opportunity to interact with people who we admire and look up to. When they’re all just hanging out at a booth, signing comics, posing for pictures and telling stories, it’s easier to erase the celebrity we’ve given them. In many ways, they’re nerdier than we are.

IMG_4243

One of the best times I had on the floor was meeting Matt Fraction (who writes Hawkeye and Sex Criminals) and Kelly Sue DeConnick (who writes Pretty Deadly and Captain Marvel). This married couple are like the Jay-Z and Beyoncé of comic books. Both were very receptive to comic books, and despite the line, were very willing to answer questions. Along with Chip Zdarsky, who does the art for Sex Criminals, they were quite possibly also the most entertaining group there. At one point, Matt had told people that one copy of their Sex Criminals hardcover had been blessed with Chip’s semen; which one? Who knows? Other notable creators we were fortunate enough to meet were Dustin Nguyen (Lil Gotham), Scott Synder (BatmanAmerican VampireThe Wake), Ed McGuinness (Superman/BatmanNovaAmazing X-Men), Gail Simone (BatgirlTomb RaiderRed Sonja) and G Willow Wilson (Ms. MarvelCairo).

The Hollywood celebs who drew us to the con in the first place are pretty nerdy, too.  Chad L. Coleman, of The Walking Dead and The Wire, geeked out when we met him at his photo-op when he saw Sherif’s “Omar Comin’, Yo!” t-shirt.  During his TWD panel with co-star Emily Kinney, he talked extensively about what the show means to him and was very deep about his feelings regarding the story and his character, noting that Tyreese does not think of Carol as a monster and that Tyreese is not a one-dimensional character.  He kidded Emily about how she reacted to Hershel’s death.  Oh, and for all you Bethyl haters out there, Emily approves.  Emily Kinney loves Bethyl.  Ok, that is out of our system, now.

 

Stephen Amell aka Oliver Queen aka The Arrow aka the best abs on the CW was fresh off a shoot that started at 3 am in Canada.  He almost wore his Arrow costume and fans of the main hall were let down to know this was even a possibility.  Amell talked a lot about how he shoots his bow (he doesn’t and there is in fact no safe way to shoot one on set), how he is trained by a professional archer on how to hold his bow and how his hair is “grippy” enough to hold that hood on as he runs.   He was also equally excited as the fans were that in the Suicide Squad episode that Harley was alluded to and was voiced by Tara Strong (pretty much any Batman animated series ever, My Little Pony, and my god, every cartoon ever).  Stephen showed his soft side by talking about his experience in helping out the BatKid story, making women in the audience sigh.  And he won a place in Sherif’s heart forever by rating The Dark Knight a “10”.  We both agree that Stephen Amell is one of the most down-to-earth stars and clearly loves his job.

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Eliza Dushku wooed the audience within about 1.5 seconds of her entrance, even though she was almost 10 minutes late.  She is so cool and so sexy; she can just flip her hair (apparently her hair is her comfort zone) and everyone will swoon.  But don’t take her looks or demeanor for granted.  Eliza is very aware of herself and her projects. She pitched her new project Gable 5 several times during her panel.  And yes, she takes Faith very seriously.  She was quick to correct anyone who dared misspeak anything about the other Vampire Slayer.  One fan asked her what “five by five” meant and another nervously said “Want. Need. Have.”  Miss Dushku was quick to correct her with “Want. Take. Have.”  Very Faith.  She told us she didn’t know what Boyd’s fate would be in Dollhouse and that she broke her elbow while filming the last episode.  She seems to be very used to male fans asking her semi-inappropriate questions, handling them all very well.  She even indulged some by sensually feeding them her Turkish Apricots.  Yeah, she fed people.  Notably, she talked about how she loves all the characters she has played, but that Faith is eternal.  Our favorite part of her panel was when she talked about how Buffy fans are intense; popping out of a bush and asking who she thinks she is.  Hmmmm… Buffy fans would do that.  At her signing, we picked a still of her from Buffy.  She got very nerdy and crossed out Buffy’s name and wrote over it “FAITH” in all capitals.  It was precious, and so is she.

And then there was Alan.  Alan Tudyk, Joss’s gift to Firefly and Serenity.  Not only was he hilarious during his photo-ops, but pretty much all the time.  After picking up a baby during his pictures, he offered to pick Adrian up the same way.  She missed her chance.  During his panel, he talked a lot about how Wash had the biggest part of Joss in the character.  Alan also broke it to fans and all that fan-fiction that Wash is really dead.  “It sucks, but he’s dead.”  Apparently Nathan Fillion thinks its funny that Wash died, and Summer is glad because she gets to fly the ship.  His response to Summer?  “Boppity Boppity Boo… You’re craaaazzzzzyyy!”   He also discussed that the Firefly Christmas party became the cancellation party.  Joss said he wasn’t done and Alan said every one else said, “That’s so sad.  He thinks he can do it…”  Alan really knows how to tell stories geared towards his audience.  He also revealed that he is writing something to be hopefully released very soon… maybe.  It was all very cryptic and ended with him just saying, “Yup.”  Geeks will have to wait to see what that is.  Every fan who asked a question during the panel got to hear, “Get some shit.”  This was his endearing way of pulling out random crap from his bag, autographing it, and handing it to adorers.  The best fan question was from a kid dressed as Wash complete with his toy dinosaurs.  He was taken on stage and got to act the infamous inevitable betrayal scene, but rather that get some shit, the kid got his dinosaurs signed.  How priceless is that?  That kid and everyone in the main hall adored Alan Tudyk just a little more.

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One of the most personal connections we made at ECCC was with an independent artist from Portland named Ibrahim Moustafa. He draws a book titled High Crimes, a ComiXology exclusive book (that we have since read and plan to review soon!). Just like Sherif, he is a half-Egyptian nerd who doesn’t take himself too seriously. Just like it’s great to identify with characters in the industry, meeting people who work in the industry you can relate to is just as important. We talked a lot, and it was really cool to meet someone that gifted who was willing to shoot the breeze with us. He was so cool, he even commissioned a drawing of our logo. We hope to keep in touch with Ibrahim, it not for his amazing art, then his hilarity.

 

Tips for Future ECCC-ers:

  • Avoid a taxi at all costs. Public transportation is the way to go. It’s cheap, takes credit cards (except for the bus), and is actually pretty quick.
  • Get yourself a hotel near the convention. When we went to SDCC, we “saved money” and stayed further away and took a shuttle. Long story short, it sucked. Staying near the convention center will get you much needed sleep and peace of mind. Also, if possible, avoid any of the Con-sponsored hotels. They might sell it as savings, but really, they’re paid a crap-ton of money to promote each other.
  • If you’re not going to sit down and enjoy a meal, don’t spend a bunch of money on it. Food is one of the biggest small-time expenses that can be limited, so why spend $30 on sandwiches when you could spend $10 and put the extra towards an artist sketch?
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Make a few game plans of when EVERYTHING you want to do is. Always give yourself 30-45 minutes before each show or panel to make sure you’ll get in. Depending on the popularity and room size of the event, it will be more/less likely you’ll get to see what you want. The main hall always seems to have room since it’s like 10x the size of the rest of the rooms.
  • Always ask questions. And just like with your parents: if you don’t like the answer you get, ask somebody else. When all is said and done, the volunteers have no real authority, so if you can get what you want without throwing a tantrum, go for it.
  • The photo-ops are super quick and impersonal, but the signatures allow you to take more time and converse with the celebs a bit more. This really only applies to the TV/movie celebs and the comic book creators with huge lines. Most other creators, you can spend as long as you want talking to them.

 

Amell panel: http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=51826

Dushku panel: http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=51822

DC All Access: http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=51792

Marvel – Breaking into the Business: http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=51825

DC Batman Eternal: http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=51790

Written by Adrian Puryear and Sherif Elkhatib

inFamous: Second Son Review

inFamous: Second Son Review

Genre: TPS (Third-Person Shooter), Open world exploration, super-powers

Released for/Reviewed on: Released & reviewed on PS4

Publisher/Developer: Sony Computer Entertainment (all the Playstation exclusives)/Sucker Punch Productions (inFamous 1 & 2Sly Cooper)

Notable Voice Actors or Writers: Troy Baker (Joel in The Last of Us, The Joker in Arkham Origins, Ocelot in MGS5, Batman in LEGO Batman 2)

Alluring Element: Super powers in an open world with the freedom to choose how to use them

Check it out if you liked: inFamous series, Prototype

Rated: 16+

 

SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):

Storyline – 7
Gameplay – 10
Animation – 9
Replay Value – 8
Entertainment Value – 9
Captivity – 9
Variety – 8
Originality/Creativity – 10
Soundtrack – 9
Overall awesomeness – 9

inFamous has been slated as the PS4’s first killer game of this generation, and it did not disappoint. The visuals on this game are so far only rivaled by other big name games like Metal Gear Solid and maybe Titanfall. What is truly impressive is that they were able to keep this level of detail and graphics so high despite the large and intricate world they have created. The game is set in Seattle – and it is spot on. The dreary weather, Puget Sound, the ridiculous amount of seagulls and hipsters carrying coffee cups – it’s all there and gorgeously textured.

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The premise of the game itself is pretty standard if you have played either of the previous inFamous games – or any type of open world game that involves free-roaming with powers (such as the old Spider-Man or Prince of Persia titles). The game picks up seven years after the events of inFamous 2 and with a majority of the conduits wiped out; the remaining conduits have been labeled as bio-terrorists. This is where are story begins – with leading man, Delsin Rowe. During a prison transport gone wrong Delsin finds out that he is a conduit with the ability to absorb powers from other conduits. The government agency in charge of controlling conduits (D.U.P.)shows up and wreaks havoc on the town while endangering the lives of the town. Without giving too much away, Delsin is forced to go after the head of this government agency in order to steal powers that will help him save his town.

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After some introductory story and gaining a few new powers, the player is given the ability to roam through the city freely while dispensing justice or chaos. There is plenty to do throughout the city and some of the side missions take full advantage of the new capabilities of the DualShock 4 controller. The tagging side missions utilize the features the most as you have to manipulate the controller in many different ways to complete the artwork. The touch screen in the middle is used for absorbing more energy as well as some QTE’s. It is actually a nice inclusion since the system has mainly released ports of games that haven’t made any attempt to include these features. Note: If you’re really into the graffiti missions, there was a PS2 game released in the early 2000’s called Marc Ecko’s Getting Up. where you build your way up to becoming a world famous tagger.

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Free-roaming and combat are pretty standard fare and as are the upgrade trees to both. Throughout the game, the player absorbs new powers that give new combat and travel abilities. I won’t ruin what any of them are, but suffice it to say it is just as much fun acquiring these powers as it is using them. This game does an amazing job of continuously making you feel more and more powerful. Each power has its own strengths and weaknesses and although each upgrade tree is pretty standard, they offers plenty of room for early customization to fit the gaming style of the player (ie – stealth, power-house, run and gun, etc). The melee system is a bit weak, but I think I spent 99% of my time aiming for headshots, anyway, so it didn’t bother me one bit.

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As far as complaints go, I don’t have too many negative things to say – but my biggest gripe would have to be with the way they implemented the switching of powers. You are only able to use one power at a time and have to absorb the energy for the type of power you would like to use at one of the power stations around the city. Finding these power stations is very simple because the whole city is littered with them and they are labeled on the map as well. I personally would have preferred individual power bars that we were able to switch to on-the-fly. This may have made the character more powerful but they could have easily compensated with increased difficulty. My only other gripe with the powers was that the final power you spent the entire time trying to acquire felt like it wasn’t given the same amount of attention compared to the other ones. It isn’t completely developed and you are only given the opportunity to use it on the final boss and end game content. It’s a minor complaint, but I still think that with the lack of multiplayer content, this should have been give more attention. There is the possibility that future DLC can correct both of these complaints as well as add new powers for people to play with.

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The last complaint that I have would be with the length of the story. While it was a solid (albeit simple) and engaging story, I did feel that by just going through the story it was a bit on the short side. It’s not nearly as short as the previously reviewed MGS: Ground Zeroes, but it will only clock you in at around five hours to complete the story and grab all the collectibles, roughly half of what it took for the first two games. Granted, the game is intended to be played twice for both the good and evil choices; once you have done that and completed all the side quests, there is very little left to do until possible future content is released. This is where the compensation comes in: Paper Trail! Paper Trail is one of the most innovative additions to a game I’ve seen. After all is said and done, there are special missions that you actually have to go online and do some detective work to complete. Once you solve the clues online, you unlock missions in the game. I’m not sure how it will work going forward – there are only a couple missions currently unlocked – but I thoroughly enjoyed the ones that were there.

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inFamous: Second Son is not a perfect game, but it is a noticeable improvement of last-gen games – especially the previous two inFamous games, which set the bar very high for PS3. The addition of versatile conduit powers really let you customize the game in terms of how you play it. The side-quests, even though they are short and repetitive, add a new dimension to the game that made the older ones monotonous; coupled with Paper Trail make for some great fun after the story is complete. Most importantly, Delsin Rowe is a hero (or villain) gamers can really relate to. He’s just a normal kid with powers, not the prodigy that Cole McGrath was. His personality also makes players invest more in his cause. I get Delsin in a way I could never understand Cole. Minor complaints aside, this is an amazing game that everyone who owns a PS4 should consider picking up. For anyone wondering what the future console generation was going to look like need look no further than this game. This is but a starting point for what the future of this gaming generation is capable of and the future looks amazing.

All media credited to Sony Entertainment and Sucker Punch Productions