Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
The title comes from the fact I was watching a documentary on Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. There is no actual fear and or loathing involved in this post.
I wasn’t going to the Rose City Comicon. It just came up on me to fast this year and the Orc Dave, Cosplay outfit I was going to make never got made. And the big blow was that work wouldn’t give me the first day of the two day event off. And I wasn’t sure I just wanted to go for one day only.
There had been a brush fire about six miles from where I lived. We were never in any danger but the town was covered with ash and smoke and we had triple the number of goats on the farm, taking care of the animals whose owners lived closer to the fire. It was a draining week.
Sunday rolled around and I was up at seven AM, and I looked at my to do list and said. “Crap I need a break I am going to comicon.” So I showered threw on my “Come to the dark side we have cookies.” T-shirt and my backpack then headed out to Portland.
Now if you haven’t been to a con then your idea of what one is like is probably based on the massive San Diego Comicon. This is a behemoth of the entertainment industry that takes place every summer in San Diego (Duh) but it has long out gowned its original comic book origins. It is the go to place to find cutting edge info on shows like Breaking Bad, Orange is the New Black, and Arrested Development. Now I am not saying those aren’t great shows but they have almost nothing to do with comic books.
Rose City is the smaller of Portland’s two annual comicons. But in ways it is the one that is most focused on comic books. Unlike winter’s Wizard World it doesn’t grab the A list celebrities like Stan Lee, William Shatner or that Arrow dude, but must content itself with celebrity guests from a lesser galaxy like, Ernie Hudson, Wes Studi and Nicholas Brendon (If you had to Goggle more than one of those names don’t feel bad.) But it does get some brighter stars in comic books like Greg Rucka, Gale Simone, Brian Michael Bendis, Ethan Nicholle and Dustin Nyguen.
As I headed up towards the Clackamas transportation center, four large green forestry trucks passed me on the other lane. They are bringing exhausted fire fighters back from the line. I pull off the road and salute them as they go by. Hey a fun day of escapism is one thing. But these guy worked over a week on a 3,000 acre fire and never lost a single home. Yes there are real superheroes.
Due to a misunderstanding on my part over the difference between when you can buy tickets and the gate opening time, I ended up waiting forty-five minutes before I can get in. So I sat outside the closed exhibit floor doors with a thousand or so other nerds.
The best way to describe a con is think of it as Disneyland, move it to Hollywood, subtract the rides and turn it into the world’s greatest second hand store, oh and it’s Holloween. Everyone is there to see the celebs, the people in costumes and find a deal on that perfect piece of geek chotsky.
This past week the wife of a famous comic book author on her blog went on a rant how cosplayers where killing the business. Latter she explained what she meant was that most comic book artist don’t make the big bucks, and cons are a huge supplement to their income, and now a days the big cons are more about the entertainment industry rather than comic books. The independent artist just aren’t getting the fan money they used to. Attendees, she insisted, are more interested social aspect and let the commercial parts go, to the detriment of the artist.
Personly as much as I want to see Rucka and Simone, seeing people like me dressed up in costumes is one of the biggest draws to the con. A con is much more a social event than a commercial one to me, but that is mainly because I am poor. And Rose City is much more an old school classic grass roots event than say Wizard World or SDCC. Still I see how draining it is in the vendors and the guests face at the end of the day. Who knew that being an artist was basically a customer service job?
My first stop is at the 501st booth. For those of you who do not know the 501st is a nationwide group of Star Wars cosplayers, who dress up from everything from Jedi, to storm troopers, to slave Leias to Wokkies. It’s five bucks to get your picture with them, but the money goes to The Make a Wish Foundation, and honestly I would probably dropped a five in if they just had a big bucket for donations. I do this early because around noon they will just be staffed with a storm trooper scout and a clone trooper might as well get the shot when they are at full strength. I also get my first free swag of the day. Darth and R2 coloring pictures for my niece and nephew.
Let’s face facts it is all about the swag. On my shoulder I have a red and black bag, the mission is to fill it up with freebies and reasonably priced treasures then take it home to my niece and nephew and we pour it out on the kitchen table and divide it among us three.
I accidentally stumble across Gail Simone’s table. We have a two minute discussion about how I can’t play video games and I make the people walk into walls. You probably don’t know who gale Simone is, but she is one of my heroes. She is the only female “A” lister comic book writer. The reason we talk about my inability to play video games is she currently head the new Tomb Raider title. when she ask me if I am familiar with who Laura Croft is? Iconfess that I have all fifty of the original Top Cow run, of the Tomb raider comics.
I’ve been a big fan of Simone since her Birds of Prey days. But more important than her work (which is brilliant) is how she broke the glass ceiling that existed in the comic book industry. And how she fought for strong well written female characters. And how she helped to lift comic books out of the cesspool of misogyny that it sometimes wallows in. The line grows behind me so we limit our chat to two minutes.
There is a lot of talk about how female nerds are being harassed now a days. When a female programmer dared to call out misogyny in gaming she got death threats. So let me say this right of the top. If someone threatens to kill someone for any reason the authorities need to investigate it and if a crime was committed the offenders need to be prosecute to the full extent of the law. Bullies need to be either ignored or confronted depending on which is the most effective action in a peculiar case.
That said I am lucky enough that neither me nor my friends are engaging in such harassing behavior. When my female nerd friends told me how they were being treated by nerds wanting to keep geekdome an all-boys club, I was shocked. I suppose I live in a naive world where I was oblivious to what was happening outside my circle of friends.
It was kind of like when my daughter was nine and we were in church and she looked up at me and asked “Dad are we white or are we black?” And I knew that I had done something right with my life.
I end up at the Boom Studios table. I had heard a lot of good things about their title Lumber Janes. Several people have told me that since I like The Rat Queens I would like this all girl team. I ask Letter Aubrey Aiese about the title. She tells me I will love it but admits she may not be partial about the subject. She describes it as a group of girls at the summer camp I wish I could have gone to full of magic and mythical beings. Honestly she had me at mystical summer camp. I buy a special edition first issue which she agrees to sign for me and allows me to photograph her while she is signing it.
I snap the picture put down my camera phone and she looks up with the most amazing smile I had ever seen. I have really done you an injustice not capturing that smile for all posterity. So I am going to write an entire paragraph about how amazing Aubrey Aiese’s smile is.
Aubrey Aiese’s smile raises good cholesterol and lowers bad cholesterol. Aubrey Aiese’s smile is Portland’s number one reusable energy source. Chuck Norris realized he could never smile as brightly as Aubrey Aiese and cried a single manly tear. Aubrey Aiese’s smile is more effective than crosses at repelling vampires. The only thing conservatives and liberals agree on is Aubrey Aiese’s smile rocks! Aubrey Aiese’s smile gives Hamlet a happy ending. Star Wars fans wear T-shirts that say come to the light side we have Aubrey Aiese’s smile. I could go on, but you get the point.
Later that day I drop in on the Double Click’s booth. They are local sisters who have several albums of geek-centric music out. I ask them about one of their songs I wanted to get a copy of. It turns out it is called Can’t You See the World is Ending, and is on their Lasers and Feelings CD. They agree to let their picture be taken with them. When I confess that I don’t think that I take a good picture they guarantee that it will turn out good if they are in it with me and you know what they were right.
I then avail myself to a few prime photo ops like the Batmobile, the Tardis, a life sized Modock with AIM troopers and the Back to the Future Delorean. As well as get a shot of steam punk Tinkerbell, a MYST3K Dr. Foster cosplayer and Star Lord with a plant and a raccoon puppet. Then head out to the only panel I planned on attending. The Showing of Dark Dungeons.
I had heard about Dark Dungeons, the movie, about a month ago. It origins is a religious tract by Jack Chick. Chick makes comic book like religious tracts that are basically against things. He has written tracts that are anti-Muslims, anti-Mormon, anti-Catholic, anti-homosexuality. anti-evolution And in one case he even wrote a tract denying the existence of gluons and the strong nuclear force, saying it is God who holds the universe together. Personally I don’t see why God can’t use Gluons. In this case he is against role playing games.
Now it is easy to see JR Ralls’ movie based on this tracts as satire. But it is basically an authentic if not over the top rendition of the tract (which is over the top in the first place). Ralls explained how he won the lottery (For only a $1,000) and wrote Chick and said he wanted to use this money as well as a Kickstarter to make a movie and got the movie rights to Dark Dungeon for free.
Dark Dungeons follows two Cristian college girls who are seduced into a life of satanic magic by playing a Dungeons and Dragons like game. One girl kills herself when her chachters was killed and the other finally turns away from D&D and the occult just in the nick of time, right before she nearly summons a sleeping Cthulhu.
On one level the movie is obviously satire. I was in a room full of overweight socially inept gamer nerds and all of us were laughing our heads off about the dreaded RPGers were too popular to be kicked off of the campus. I also recognized the actors playing the hooded evil Satanists are in fact the same ones who played the main chachters in the RPG tribute movie The Gamers: Dorkness Rising.
Still this is fully authorized by Jack Chick (who is a notorious reclose and who has never publicly commented on the movie other than confirm he did give Rall the rights to film it) So Rall felt he had to be true to the Chick-verse in the movie. So when he has a character say that she learned Arabic so she could teach Muslims that “they really worship a moon god.” It is a direct quote form a Chick tract. Basically pro-gamers and anti-gamers could both see their side (though in an over the top way) portrayed in the movie.
During the Q&A session I asked my one and only panel question to JR Rall. “Other than the fact that he‘s cool why did you include Cthulhu?” His answer was downright shocking.
Apparently in the Chick-verse Cthulhu and the Necronomicon are real. There is a post on Chick’s website not written by him but still endorsed by him called “Why Christens Shouldn’t Paly Dungeons and Dragons.” Where it says just that. Rall actually had a minster of staff to make sure that the movie didn’t turn out anti-Christian, and adding Cthulhu was the minister’s biggest objection to the story line. When the minster saw the website about Cthulhu being real, he was speechless, and Cthulhu was kept in the story. This was Rall’s one answer that received applause.
After the DD panel I hit the con for the last hour and ten minutes for any last moment treasures. I stumbled over Rosanna Rocha’s booth. Rosanna is a professional cosplayer, that means her job is to go to cons wearing costumes and she gets paid for it. She was wearing her signature Red Sonja outfit. For a donation one could get their picture taken with her. I tossed in three bucks less than I gave the 501st to get a picture taken with her. Because at the end of the day, I am a stupid Paleolithic man who will pay two dollars to get my picture taken with a cute girl in a red wig and a scale mail bikini’s arm around me. The only condition she had was that since she took off her boots, because they were hurting her feet, I wasn’t supposed to photograph her feet.
Now this leads to RCC’s zero tolerance on harassment policy. They have flyers expalining that cosplay is not consent. To me that is just common sense. Stories of rapes at cons are coming out, where the perpetrator felt they have a right to act in such a heinous way because of the way the woman was dressed. These are troubled and disturb people who more than likely rape outside of cons. And again they need to arrested and tried. And I have no doubt that myself and my friends would defend someone being sexually assaulted with every bit of strength we have.
You have to be really messed up if you think because you write a fan fict where Lara Croft, Bat Girl or Sailor Moon feel in love you, that forcing yourself on a woman dressed up in a convention is OK. These people are sick perverts and do not represent main stream nerds.
At the end of the day I head back to the farm. My back pack is like a bag of holding overflowing with swag to divide up with my niece and nephew. It is full of comic books, bookmarks, buttons, postcards and flyers. It also includes a con tradition of me bring them home some Star Wars figures. With huge smiles they head of to their room with their booty and I retire with my copy of Lumber Janes. I notice that Aubrey Aiese signed it with a heart, just like girls use to sign year books in high school and I disappear into a world of summer camps and mystical beings.
Rossanna Rocha explains why wearing here scale bikini is not being scantily clad
The Double Clicks awesome tribute to MCU character Agent Phil Coulson.
The first ten minutes or so of Dark Dungeons