COMPLETE MAJOR BUMMER

THE COMPLETE MAJOR BUMMER
Written by John Arcudi and Drawn by Doug Mahnke
Published by Dark Horse


Reviewed by Marc Mason

Back in the mid-to-late 90s, DC Comics published a number of titles that found spectacularly loyal (but small) audiences. I was partial to YOUNG HEROES IN LOVE and SCARE TACTICS myself, and never wound up sampling MAJOR BUMMER. Having read this massive collection, I can now see that was a mistake on my part. This book is right up my alley.

Lou Martin is a lazy, useless slacker, but in a (stupid) twist of fate, he gets a package in the mail that gives him super powers. He grows to 8-feet tall, gains super strength, and when he concentrates, his intelligence grows. While this gives him massive potential to do something good for the world, that never actually happens, because Lou lacks the drive or caring to get off the couch and stop playing video games.

A number of others are transformed as well, and they’re just as pathetic as Lou. This all begins to make sense when we discover that they have all been given this power by alien college students who were particularly stupid in choosing which earthlings to experiment upon.

Needless to say, MAJOR BUMMER is an absurdist comedy, a comic in which the standard genre tropes don’t exist, unless Arcudi is taking a moment to satirize them. Lou bounces from bad job to bad job, the rest of the cast only gets more insane as the book goes along… when you add the Nazi dinosaur and alien cold virus that comes to life, it’s just gravy. It doesn’t always make sense, and it has one of the most plot-inactive protagonists in the history of comics… how many more ways can I say I liked it? Recommended.

STAN LEES HOW TO WRITE COMICS

STAN LEE’S HOW TO WRITE COMICS
Written by Stan Lee and Bob Greenberger
Published by Watson-Guptill


Reviewed by Marc Mason

Sometimes you can just look at a book and say “Yep- that’s going to be a massively popular Christmas gift,” and this is one of those times. STAN LEE’S HOW TO WRITE COMICS benefits from having a huge name behind it, some excellent production design, and some good advice that people can use, making it an easy winner for someone looking to buy something cool for a young writer this holiday season.

When the book is at its best is when it is truly focusing on the mechanics of story structure and script writing. The discussion of writing in the classic Marvel plot-first style versus doing full script is excellent, and the examples the book gives do a nice job of showing precisely how things work. The material on character creation is also handled really well- things like motivation can occasionally get lost by writers who more focused on making something “kewl” to stand out for readers. The book offers up a nice reminder that you have to take care of the basics first before you can start adding flourishes. There’s also a large chunk of the book that focuses on actual storytelling that contains a number of concepts that young writers need to know about. All of this material is essential, and the book does an outstanding job in how it presents it to readers.

Some of the material in the book is extraneous and not really compelling, though. The section on comics history is unneeded, and covering genres didn’t really do a whole lot for the book, either. But overall, those are minor quibbles. Ultimately, this is an attractive package, and one that has a hungry audience waiting to read it.

METAMAUS

METAMAUS
By Art Spiegelman
Published by Pantheon


Reviewed by Marc Mason

What do you get for the classic graphic novel that has everything? METAMAUS is the answer, although I’m not sure how many people will have asked the question. The comics art form was rocked by the release of Art Spiegelman’s MAUS back in the 80s- no one had ever seen anything quite like it, and it displayed the power of sequential art to an audience that reached beyond comics shops. Based upon interviews the author had done with his father about living through the Holocaust, the book’s depiction of Jews as mice and Nazis as cats captured readers’ imaginations and gave them a new way of understanding and interpreting one of the most horrific events in the planet’s history. Spiegelman took home a Pulitzer prize for his work, and the notoriety of the book has stayed with him since. In a sense, METAMAUS is a way for him to work out some lingering questions, offer some answers to questions he has been getting for decades, and deal with personal issues surrounding it all in a public forum.

Certainly, the book is impressive. A large chunk of it consists of Spiegelman being interviewed by Professor Hillary Chute, and her questions do a nice job of leading the author into places where he can really spew his thoughts out and get emotions into the open. It also grants us an interesting historical look at the genesis of the work and the struggle to get it a major publisher- one fascinating two-page spread shows a number of rejection letters from publishers that didn’t get the work or that didn’t think they could sell it, a reminder that greatness takes its time in finding a place to appear.

The DVD attached to the book has the COMPLETE MAUS on it, along with the ability to access audio files of the author discussing particular pages, sketches of early drafts of the pages, and more. It’s an amazing package, one certainly worthy of awards consideration.

Yet, ironically, I have to wonder who the audience is for the book. MAUS isn’t exactly a “fun” book, nor is it something that inspires a great deal of re-reading. It sticks with you quite well on its own. People that own the book already don’t need the DVD, and those that do might find the amount of information contained here rather overwhelming. Thus, I can’t help but feel like the primary audience for this book is academics- professors teaching the work in their classes. That’s not exactly a large demo to target. That’s not a reflection on the work itself, which is extraordinary- but I see this collecting a lot of dust in comic shops.

ROGUE ELEMENT 88

Rogue Element #88: New York Comic Convention 2011 aka Best. Weekend. EVER.


By Avril Brown

Last week I was making preparations for my triumphant return to New York City and my first attendance of the New York Comic Convention. This week I am finally recovering from that whirlwind long weekend of comics, cool people (both familiar and fresh), consumables and constant movement.

Honestly I was slightly concerned over my distinct lack of solid plans (besides having a press badge to the Con and a place to hang my hat), but the past weekend could not have been any more of a rocktastic good time than if I had the Italian Job crew sketch out my entire itinerary. From the bountiful beginning to the exhausting end, there was not a single moment that sucked (apart from most of my MTA time, a transit system I now have more rage towards than the CTA, and that’s saying a lot). So allow me to take you on a tour of a young, vibrant, evolving Comic Convention in one of the greatest cities in the States.

Thursday: Thanks to a generous boyfriend who happens to work in the sticks, I arrived at O’Hare for my early morning flight with oodles of time to spare. Praise be to the stand-by gods who allowed me access to the 7AM flight, ensuring I landed at LaGuardia and began my weekend nice and early. After acquiring keys from my college friend Katie, whose apartment in Brooklyn was to be my domicile for the next five days, I took the subway with ease (nights and weekends are the primary times when the MTA acts like a baby brat without a bottle) to her pretty cherry pad in Brooklyn. Freshening up was in order, as was a trip to the grocery store (Avi’s tip of having a nice cheap Con: get portable, energizing snackies from a normal grocery and not an overpriced convention center) before I hitched up my nerdy socks and headed on over to the Con being held at the Javits Convention Center.

Even if the Javits Center wasn’t laid out like it was designed by M.C. Escher on a bad ‘shroom trip, navigating the Con would have been a chore regardless. Though the showroom areas were open with brilliantly high ceilings, the layout of vendors, artists and publishing companies was poorly organized, making walking the Con floor a bit confusing. However, the show itself was enormous and nearly twice the size it was two years ago, according to artist and recurring NYCC attendee Jenny Frisson (be sure and check out my video interview with the lovely Miss Frisson, coming soon!), which bodes well for this and other budding Cons. There was plenty to see, and the diversity of artists, vendors, gamers and other nerd-centric medium was rather impressive, and I nearly blew a gasket when I saw two gentlemen dressed as Ruby Rod and Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg from ‘The Fifth Element.’ They were totally super green. Needless to say, my first thoughts of the New York Comic Con were of the warm, fuzzy and tingling variety.

An exciting first day was capped off with an excellent first night, complete with food, drink, laughs a plenty and the making of new friends. Dinner at an adorable Italian bistro with several new faces was bolstered by delicious freebies in the form of cheesy flatbread and Limoncello, all thanks to a member of our party who also happens to work at that lovely little restaurant. Drinks followed as fellow podcaster Molly Jane and I, along with artiste extraordinaire and previous Comics Slumber Party interviewee Ben Templesmith and his friend Jen Timms (a gorgeous magenta-haired Aussie gamer/podcaster/fellow cosplayer; more on that later) relocated to a bar where a Drink and Draw was supposedly occurring. Turns out there was plenty of the former and nil of the later, which worked out just fine as knowing people continued to pay off: a slightly inebriated but extremely generous fan of Mr. Templesmith bought us all a round.

Being closer to thirty than the party-stamina age of twenty, we all decided to call it an early night. As it turns out the MTA had other plans for me that evening which delayed my return to Brooklyn until 2:30 in the morning…but I’d rather not talk about that.

Friday: Bright and early-ish I woke in the morning with an eager attitude, my homicidal thoughts towards the MTA pushed to the back of my brain. No time for fretting about bad commutes, there was a Con to be had! Armed with a box full of Peter Pan donuts (that shop is a fucking revelation, I swear to donut-loving Jeebus) I arrived at Javits ready to soak up more of the show. The hours simply flew by as I walked the floor, chatted with new friends and old, did a few video interviews here and there and acquired a couple new buttons, including Rosie the Riveter on a Pride background and a Buffy and Spike pin, one of the hottest bottle blond duos in television history. I also took a turn about the rooms with a Chicago friend and artist Kyle Bice, followed by a constitutional with the finest Poison Ivy to grace that shedding red carpet: Ms. Jen Timms, who was frequently paused for photo ops. Another fantastic cosplay I was tickled pink to witness were two people dressed as Lana and Cyril from ‘Archer,’ an animated FX program that is pee-your-pants, why-aren’t-you-watching-this-show hysterical.

By the end of the Friday Con day I was laden with acquisitions, including prints from artists Dennis Calero and Jon Hughes (be sure and check out their video interviews; stay tuned!), so it was back to Brooklyn for a shower, new wardrobe and less accessories before I returned to Manhattan for drinks with my friend Joe who is singlehandedly responsible for some of my most unforgettable moments at a variety of Comic Cons, this one included. Joe also happens to be one of the editors of one of my favorite writers, a lovely Irish chap by the name of Garth Ennis (I may have mentioned him before), and I was allowed to join his Friday night group at HIS table in a Manhattan tavern. The urge to go all fangirl was tempered by the fervent desire to remain cool in the face of awesomeness (the creative mind behind some of the most violent, sexually explicit and bloody brilliant books I’ve ever read is also one of the most down-to-earth men I’ve ever met), not to mention the fact he was surrounded by actual friends and I had catching up with Joe to do. Plus, another individual at the table named Dan was intrigued by my love of the X gene and opened the floodgates when he asked me to bring him up to speed on the X-Men Universe (I’ll talk comics pretty much non-stop when someone encourages me, and that’s without several pints of malted liquid in my belly). The MTA and I were back on speaking terms by 1:30 on this Friday night, but I still felt I was floating back to Brooklyn on the high of a second straight night of massively good times in the city that never sleeps.

Saturday: Day three of the Con roused me from my air mattress in a timely manner (thankfully Katie is a running addict and was actually awake and functional before I was) and it was Javits time again, this time with more stuff to carry to and from the Con. I adore simply walking the floor, absorbing all the colorful details that a Con has to offer and getting my Press on, but going in cosplay, if only for a few hours, is starting to become as much of a Con experience as chatting with friends and shopping for comics. Therefore, after a couple more interviews and a morning spent as a ‘normal’ Con goer, I took off my clothes and, for the last time in 2011, donned my Leeloo costume. Walking solo in cosplay is slightly intimidating and occasionally lonely, and walking with my Korben was awfully fun, a wee bit romantic and filled with photo requests. The few hours I spent walking around half-naked with a gorgeous woman at New York Comic Con, however, may have garnered more attention than a full day of cosplay in Chicago. People enjoyed the randomness of a DC villainess posing with a ‘90s action heroine, not to mention the intricacy of Jen’s costume and the lack of intricacy of mine, and we were even interviewed a couple of times. An elaborate promotional stage for ‘The Survivor Code’ game was set up right outside the entrance and we were encouraged to pose for a picture. The center of the stage was elevated so we walked the few steps up…where we both almost ate shit as the photographers neglected to tell us the floor was covered in ball bearings. Jen’s spike-heeled boots were not faring well on such unstable material, and my bare knees sported numerous indentations for at least an hour afterwards (we took the picture posing on our knees…you pervs).

Still, every round depression, every ache in my calf from those damn supportless sandals was all worth it for one singular moment: James Marsters checked out my ass. Once again, knowing people reared its totally awesome head when Jen mentioned she knew Mr. Marsters (aka Spike from ‘Buffy’ and Captain John Hart from ‘Torchwood,’ among other hottie characters) from a previous project they had worked on and we should pop in his line and say hello. Being a hardcore Spike-a-licious fangirl I was all for this plan, so we sidled on over. Jen and James caught up for a moment before I introduced myself with a witty opening line, followed by a well-deserved compliment on his intensely hot guy-on-guy make out scene he shared with John Barrowman on an episode of ‘Torchwood.’ “You’ve got good taste, I see,” he replied. “I’d like to think so,” I said, coy and cool as I turned to begin my exit. Wearing his signature smirk that can set panties afire and with his eyes ON MY ASS, James added, “And you really pull off that outfit.” I swear the wattage of my resulting smile could have lit up half of New York. “Thanks,” I think I said as I walked away, feeling my inner ears bleed out from the sheer volume of my internal girly happy noises. So what if I’m in love and James is married and well accustomed to pleasing his fans? James Marsters, the face and body of Spike, the sexiest vampire ever brought to fictional life, gave me an up-down gander. My joy knows no bounds.

Soon enough it was time once more to put my clothes back on and rejoin the rest of the Comic Con society, and evening fell faster than a nerd’s bank account bringing about the end of my last full day at the Con and another round robin trip from Javits to Brooklyn and back to Manhattan for drinks with Chicago buds and new friends. Sure it was seven bucks a pint, but it was a tasty pint and the Half King bar was presenting some vintage tunes (aw yeah, rocking out to ‘Gansta’s Paradise’ with Molly Jane). Sharing a brew and more than a few laughs with some damn decent people is a fine way to spend an evening, especially a post-Con one in New York City, and there was plenty of people watching to be had on the walk/train ride back to Brooklyn.

Sunday: For the first time all weekend, I was early. Wanting to squeeze in a couple more hours of Comic Con before hitting other items on my NYC agenda, I arrived at Javits bright and early before the Con floor even opened. Armed with some age-old advice (if in doubt, act like you own the joint) I walked right past the cantankerous volunteers and headed onto the empty floor, enjoying the quiet before the calm and discovering new tables despite this being my fourth day at the Con. Last tours were taken, goodbyes were said and gifts were gotten (like I could resist getting a R2D2 and a Han Solo frozen in carbonite ice cube tray for the nerdy men in my life?) before it was time to bid goodbye to the New York Comic Convention and enjoy the Indian summer in NYC.

Times Square was too crowded for my tastes so I abandoned it as quickly as possible for Central Park, where I got to briefly see my Wombie (college gal pal; she and I must have been womb-mates ‘cause we speak the same movie-quote language) before diving into the greenest part of Manhattan. A sunny October Sunday afternoon with the temp teetering at sixty-five degrees meant people were everywhere, perched like gargoyles on every available rock face, frolicking along the many pathways, climbing all over the Balto statue and trying to get into the Central Park Zoo. Naturally I got lost trying to find my way back out of that lovely Labyrinth, but I managed to find the number three train in time to join some other college friends for drinks at an Irish bar. Ain’t nothing like a mini D5 reunion (Donlan dormitory, fifth floor) as we all caught each other up on life, and there was no question in my mind that this trip was never solely about a comic convention or kicking back in New York, but also spending time with people I adore.

Dinner followed drinks which included a burrito bigger than my head (thanks again, E-dogg!) before Brooklyn was calling my name in a painful tone that belied the strain of the weekend on my fragile frame. Still, there was enough time for a minor fashion show as Katie let me dip into a pile of clothing from a swap she and friends recently participated in. Various outfits were either greeted with enthusiasm by my audience (which included her roommate) or an immediate request to take off the offending garments and never don them again. Several pieces of clothing richer meant a fat suitcase and a happy, spoiled Avi.

Monday: I managed to cross two items off my NYC to-do list on my last day, procuring a heavenly black and white cookie from Peter Pan’s (I think I was entertaining my train-mates as I consumed my delectable breakfast, unable to contain my happy grunting noises and literally bouncing in my seat in sugary happiness) before meeting my mother’s cousin in Coney Island to explore a new-to-me area of New York. “Avi!,” Liz called to me as we spotted each other on the Brighton Ave. boardwalk, “You skinny bitch!” “Good to see you too, Liz!” I replied with genuine affection, thinking how much I’ve missed this woman. My toes tasted the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in years as we walked along the beach, carefully sidestepping crab corpses and hypodermic needles while chatting about life and other details. Lunch and people watching followed the beach walk (retired Russian mobsters, ancient Orthodox Jews and women who look like European supermodels dominated the landscape), in addition to a couple of trips to local Brighton Ave. shops (Liz was hunting for persimmons) rounded out our reunion.

Far too soon the time came to bid farewell to east coast cousins, college friends, new buds, a brand new Con and my second favorite city in the whole wide world. Sleep deprivation and broken bank accounts be damned, I will never forget, nor regret, one single moment I spent in New York last weekend. Although my wallet is weeping and it took my body nearly three full days to stop feeling like a zombie’s main course, life is short and I am fiercely determined to go about living mine to the absolute fullest. Thanks to everyone who helped this past weekend be the best it could possibly be, and I am counting the days and dollars until the next time the stars align in my favor for another Comic Con/vacation out east.

And did I mention James Marsters checked out my ass?

THE CAPTAINS

THE CAPTAINS
Written and Directed by William Shatner
Available from Entertainment One


Reviewed by Marc Mason

On a personal quest to understand his life in relation to his work in playing Captain James Tiberius Kirk in multiple incarnations of STAR TREK, William Shatner flies across the world and sits down with the members of one of the most exclusive clubs in human history: actors who have assumed command of the captain’s chair on a TREK TV show or film. Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew, Scott Bakula, and Chris Pine all chat with the man who started it all, giving Shatner a look inside the minds of this small band of actors and granting him an insight about their choices and what they have in common.

THE CAPTAINS is an interesting film, if a slightly odd one. On the one hand, much of it is fascinating- Shatner picks interesting places to do his interviews, and it helps to relax his subjects. Mulgrew he meets up with on an empty stage on Broadway, while he beards Stewart in the den of his own home. Bakula catches up with Shatner at the beach. Amusingly, he initially meets Pine on a public street corner in front of Paramount Studios, challenging him to arm wrestle in front of passing crowds. Most of the time with Brooks is spent sitting at a piano, allowing DS9’s captain to free associate his interview in jazz fashion, tinkling away at the keyboard. It gives the film a look and feel that you don’t expect going into it, hooking the audience as well as the actors. Shatner also does a decent job of asking questions- the best part of the film, unquestionably, comes when he talks to each of them about the toll that acting in general and playing on TREK had on their families. Suffice it to say, none of them (save Pine, who didn’t face this line of inquiry) has joyous or happy things to share on this topic, reminding you of the personal toll that comes behind the scenes of producing entertainment.

The gist, as we get to the end of the film, is that Shatner still struggles with being known as Kirk and whether or not he should be embarrassed by it or embrace it. Through his talks with the others, you see his emotional landscape shifting, giving the movie a narrative through-line. It’s almost unnecessary- the pieces of the film and the interviews would hold up nicely without it. Nothing in this documentary is going to shake the world to its core- that’s what all of those TREK shows and movie have already done. But it does entertain and grant some insight, and that’s more than good enough.

XENOHOLICS-HEART

XENOHOLICS/HEART
Written by Joshua Williamson and Blair Butler
Drawn by Seth Damoose and Kevin Mellon
Published by Image Comics


Reviewed by Marc Mason

Two new series rolling out from Image…

XENOHOLICS #1 is an absolutely terrific debut issue, pretty much exactly what you want from a new comic series. Writer Joshua Williamson introduces his premise- a new alien abductee joins a therapy group comprised of others with similar experiences- and absolutely runs with it. We find out what happened to Bob (our lead), meet the supporting cast and get a good sense of who they are and how mentally unwell they are, dive into a mystery, set up a couple of mysteries, engage a status quo… and all within the space of one issue. Thanks to artist Seth Damoose, it never comes close to feeling crowded. The book is very funny, has some touching moments, and creates a genuine sense of intrigue along with asking you to think about the clichés we know about abduction stories and then tosses them on their ear. I was also impressed by some of the storytelling choices- on one page, Damoose draws fifteen separate panels, yet it keeps the story moving instead of grinding it to a halt. By the time you put the book down you really feel like you have gotten a huge chunk of story, which is rare these days. Excellent stuff, and I’m looking forward to more.

I had somewhat mixed feelings about HEART #1 from writer Blair Butler and artist Kevin Mellon, an MMA-flavored book about a young man rescuing his life from the doldrums by learning to fight. Certainly the book looks fantastic- Mellon is a terrific talent, and between this and LOVESTRUCK he should be in massive demand for the next few years at this point. His shadowy line work and gift for presenting kinetic motion give HEART some absolutely stunning pages for the reader to ogle. He’s certainly a good choice for a writer making their comics debut as Butler is. On the writing side, Butler avoids a common mistake for comics writers- she doesn’t overwrite the book. The text and the dialogue are pretty spare, as they particularly should be in a book focused on guys beating the shit out of each other. No emoting required. So what kept me from fully embracing HEART? Partially it’s that it doesn’t feel as substantial as it should. There isn’t a lot of actual story here, and what is here passes by very quickly. Am I expecting too much from a book about fighting? Perhaps, but these creators don’t give any indication that says they can’t provide it. Hopefully the final three issues will grow in strength.

COFFEE AND BEER MONEY

FRENCH TOAST COMIX #6: COFFEE AND BEER MONEY
Written and Drawn by Becky Hawkins
Published by Fremch Toast Comix


Reviewed by Marc Mason

Anyone who has read my reviews over the years knows I’m a sucker for a good minicomic. Often they represent comics in their purest form- artists and writers getting down and dirty with their work, busting their asses to make a print run, spending the night stapling them together before a convention… you can see and feel the effort in minis in ways you can’t from some superhero comic from one of the Big Two. I was introduced the work of folks like Raina Telgemeier, Dave Roman, and Paul Horn via their minicomics, and I’m happy to report that after reading COFFEE AND BEER MONEY I’ll be keeping an eye out for Becky Hawkins at cons and picking up any new work she has to offer.

BEER MONEY contains a number of autobiographical short stories ranging from amusing to downright ludicrous. In one story we follow Hawkins on a cruise vacation, in another we see her head out for live band karaoke, and in the best of the set, we find out what happens when one of her exes calls in an attempt to get her involved in a multi-level marketing scheme. In each of them, Hawkins does a deft job of not only telling us the story, but also telling the reader about who she is. There’s a nice balance in the storytelling approach that shows what a confident cartoonist she is, and it makes you want to continue reading her stuff.

Hawkins also shows solid skill at shifting her artistic style. For one single-page gag she does her impression of Frank Miller, and she pulls it off pretty well. Her lines are clean and simple, and she doesn’t skimp on the backgrounds and details where they’re necessary to carry the story. With material this good, I hope Hawkins is thinking about collecting her work in trade paperback sometime soon- the time feels right.

STARGAZING DOG

STARGAZING DOG
Written and Drawn by Takashi Murakami
Published by NBM


Reviewed by Marc Mason

A man known only to us as Daddy is down and out. His wife wants a divorce, his daughter is a rebel who hates him, and his job is no more. All he has left in his life is the dog that his family bought and he didn’t want. But as he piles what little belongings he has left into the car, he and the dog will form a bond that he could have never foreseen, and their journey will take them places that surprise and break your heart.

STARGAZING DOG sold 560K copies in its Japanese debut, and an English translation was long overdue. As with other mangas such as TRAIN MAN, this one captured the imagination of its home nation in an unusual, broad-spectrum way. Reading the book, it isn’t difficult to see why. A combination of two factors that speak to the wider population are at play here; one, we have a dog story (and a very good one) about the bond between a man and the one creature that sticks by him through his worst times, and two, we have a tale about a man whose life is partially destroyed by the collapse of the world economy. These are themes and ideas that grab people right now. If you live in any decent-sized city, you probably see those effects every time you walk down a street.

Murakami’s story and art are outstanding. In the beginning, I didn’t like Daddy very much, but as the story moved forward, I found myself more and more invested in his plight. No coincidence, I think, because my appreciation of him grew as his bond with the dog grew. I was surprised, really, at how much I got sucked in by this book, especially because I’m a cat person. But the universality of Daddy and the dog’s tale works no matter who you are. Recommended.

ROGUE ELEMENT 87

Rogue Element #87: “Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would buy you a bouquet of sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”


By Avril Brown

Actually, experiencing autumn in New York City is something I have had the privilege of enjoying on several occasions, but nary a trip did I purchase school products. I just like the quote (name that movie, ladies and gents!). Have I procured black and white cookies? Definitely. Bags of roasted peanuts? Only a few dozen. Comic books? After this weekend, probably more than I should have.

Starting wicked early on Thursday morning and concluding early Monday evening, I will be once again traveling to New York City, and for the first time ever I will be attending the New York Comic Convention. As massively excited as I am for this trip, I will admit I have been slightly discombobulated over the entire situation for several reasons. Friends, family, free time and rituals have always been what awaited me every time I have visited New York, but this trip will be an almost entirely new event. San Diego Comic Con was a new Con in a new city, but this will be a new Con in a familiar and beloved vacation metropolis.

Several of my favorite and utterly unforgettable memories shared with family were born in New York, like seeing ‘Chicago’ on Broadway fifth row center starring Bebe “Banging Body” Neuwirth, embarrassing the living crap out of my family by freaking out over finding the Balto statue in Central Park, and catching a glimpse of Kevin Bacon walking by the restaurant we were eating in (my father was the only one who believed me and he wasn’t even at the table when I’d seen Kevin Bacon strutting down the sidewalk, but I was vindicated shortly thereafter when a total stranger passed by our table on the way out of the restaurant, leaned over and said, ‘By the way, that really was Kevin Bacon.’ You could hear my gloating in Gloucester).

Attending undergraduate school five hours away from New York provided ample opportunities to pop by the Big Apple with friends, particularly given the ease of transit (three cheers for large buses that smell like disinfectant and port-a-potties) and a nigh guaranteed place to stay (thanks Aunt Paula and Cousin Liz!), so plenty of friend-centric memories have been created as well. The look on Jen’s face as she put her arm around Ed Helms to pose for a picture was classic, as was the look on our faces as we watched a man scoop up a squirrel in a park, put it in his pocket and walk away. Fleet week, a behind the scenes tour of a New York zoo, twirling around Times Square, crying my eyes out after seeing ‘Aida,’ oh the list goes on.

The reasons to visit increased on par with the number of friends who moved into Manhattan after graduation, and by then I’d acquired several habits when it came to New York:

1) Visit with friends and family who live in the city.
2) Walk through Central Park.
3) Explore an area of the city I have yet to see.
4) Purchase and consume a Black and White cookie, preferably from a shop or restaurant I have yet to patron.

5) Purchase, consume and hoard many, many bags of roasted peanuts.
6) Relax, have a great time and soak up the sights.

With a city as large and bustling as New York City, five days is typically barely enough to achieve every item on my ritual list, and now I am adding a Comic Convention to the mix. Previously I have either traveled with friends or family and planned events as a group, or I have flown solo and done whatever the fuck I wanted, but now I have obligations as an attending member of the press as well as those that come with being a colossal nerd who will travel halfway across the country on an extremely limited budget for a comic convention.

I will be staying at a new place in Brooklyn with a college gal pal (thanks little Katie!), an easy MTA distance from the Javitt’s Center, and I will be spending two and a half days at a Comic Convention doing things that are not New York-y, at least as I have experienced the city in the past. This is…confusing for me, in addition to being rather tantalizing on several levels. Seeing New York City from a unique Comic Con perspective is something I am truly looking forward to, and while packing a carry-on suitcase for five days in New York while attempting to bring my fashion A-game is no picnic, the minor stress wrinkle is a small price to pay.

The unplanned nature of this particular vacation throws me as well; I am flying by the seat of my pants on this trip, letting the chips fall where they may in terms of nearly all activities. Too bad I dragged my feet on committing to a Robot Chicken press hour (which is full according to the nice PR lady) where I could’ve been in the same room with Seth Green, thereby greatly increasing my chances of being able to tackle him and pepper his face with kisses. However, there are still oodles of panels and screenings I wish to attend, not to mention the pleasurable act of simply walking the Convention floor, which will have a cosplay flavor to it come Saturday (my last Leeloo appearance of 2011).

New York City and comic books have not fallen in the same sentence for me in the past, but I am breaking all kinds of barriers on this trip, and when I start to get a little jittery I simply remind myself that I always have an amazing time whenever I skip around the Big Apple, and schedule or no schedule, comics or no comics, there truly is nothing like New York City in the fall.