Rogue Element #125: C2E2 2015

By Avril Brown

After a long, cold year, the sun has finally arisen once more. The warm, encompassing rays of light have ensconced us within their welcoming embrace, and we are, at long last, home again. No one is left out in the bleak; all are included in this bosom of love and acceptance, for we are family. We are nerd culture, and Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo is our mecca.

That’s right, Chicago nerds and a fair amount of determined out-of-towners gathered en masse to celebrate the sixth annual C2E2, the comic and pop culture convention sensation that is sweeping the nation. Every year the size and scope of C2E2 is swelling, and every year brings a slightly different experience I simply love being a part of.

As per my typical Con schedule, Friday was spent in plain yet nerdy clothes walking the floor and getting a lay of the land. One of the many signs I married into the right family: I wore a t-shirt I received from my mother-in-law for Christmas which depicted a Dalek, an Ood, a Weeping Angel and The Silence walking out of a blue box across a striped road. Who has two thumbs and the coolest Doctor Who/Beatles t-shirt ever? This gal! (Speaking of t-shirts, one of the best I saw all weekend proudly declared in bold black letters: ‘Basic bitches buy Marvel.’ You know it.)

The very first order of business was attending the Chicago Swordplay Guild demo. Eleven AM on the first day of the Con is an unfortunate time slot if one is looking to garner a fair amount of attention, but there were still a couple dozen curious individuals who turned out to see how true medieval knight fights went down. One of the main points stressed during this demo was as cool as they look on TV, broadsword fights typically didn’t carry on for the full five minute brawls we see in fantasy shows. If you get cut with one of these big ass swords, odds are it’s not just a flesh wound. Also, as Guild founder and Dean Greg Mele stated: “If you could afford armor, you WEAR armor.” Makes sense.

Everyone seemed to be in a positive mood on Friday. I overheard a gentleman talking to someone on the phone trying to find a place to meet up and he remained in good humor, despite slight miscommunications: “I’m coming right at you; trust me, you’ll see me. I’m a fat guy in a red hat….and he hung up on me.” The feel-good vibes carried on through the rest of the weekend as Saturday started out with a laugh: Avoiding the exorbitant parking fee we found a spot on the street and had to walk through the entirety of McCormick Place to reach the West building. During our journey we passed by a group of people waiting for Starbucks who clearly were there to attend the automotive convention as one man blatantly took photos of everyone exiting the elevator (which including a Megaman and a ‘Dragonball Z’ cosplayer), while another simply stood there gawking, mouth agape, brain clearly unable to process what he was seeing. I found great amusement in his expression, though a part of my heart broke for his stunted awareness of such a beautiful and fun culture.

However, the merriment continued with a band greeting the Saturday morning Con goers with acoustic renditions of classic nerdy music, including ‘Star Wars’ themes and the intro song to ‘Game of Thrones.’ There were some great panels (see my column C2E2: The Panels!), marvelous costumes and a variety of vendors. Several fit ladies in cosplay spent a significant amount of time twirling about a large, elevated golden hoop, showing off some serious core strength, and there was an exceedingly tall gentleman who was a dead ringer for Leonard Nimoy asking for donations for ALS research. Knives, swords and trinkets of all sorts were on display, and of course, the magnificence of talent that is Artist’s Alley, which was bigger and better than ever.

By the time Sunday came around I was elated but exhausted, despite being a hermit all weekend (apparently I now have a low tolerance for dehydration), yet I still managed to muster up the strength to walk Artist’s Alley for the nth time and do some shopping. I found a ‘Doctor Who’/’Nightmare Before Christmas’ mash up sticker for my dad, as we share a love of both fandoms. My brother-in-law received several bacon-related items (his love for bacon runs deep; he mentioned it in his speech at my wedding), while my sister-in-law was thrilled with her Minion Kitty button. I even found a Mother of Dragons pocket mirror for my mostly non-nerdy sister. Good haul, great weekend, unforgettable times, as always.


The cosplayers were out in full force, seemingly determined to make Chicago’s Con a central hub of jaw-dropping geeky garb. There were more Harley Quinn’s than you could swing a mallet at, as well as a plethora of Jokers and Doctors, as per usual. I always try to focus on the unusual, obscure or particularly well-done costumes, and the only disappointing aspect of this year’s contenders was I did not see them all. I always feel this way, and this feeling will continue to fester with the number of attendees at C2E2, but thank heavens social media is there to showcase what we missed.

1) Best cross-gender cosplay: A woman cosplaying as Lucian from ‘Underworld: Rise of the Lycans.’ She was neck-to-toe brown scrappy leather, complete with werewolf-proof, spike-lined slave collar. I’m still kicking myself I didn’t run back and get a photo.

2) Best cosplay I witnessed via Facebook: Every year there’s some costume so BIG I’m shocked I missed it, and this year it was someone dressed up as the Infinitely Gauntlet. This dude was walking around dressed as a large, puffy, golden glove, studded with the Infinite gems, with his head poking out as the middle finger. The gauntlet must’ve been at least four feet wide and as tall as he was. Seriously impressive, and creative, commitment.

3) Best cosplay overall: I saw this guy and his adorable progeny an aisle over and road runner-ed over there to get a photo. If there was an old lady in my way, I would’ve knocked her aside. Not only was this fine gentleman rocking the bestest David Bowie as the Goblin King wig I’ve ever seen, his baby ‘Toby’ was just too squishy and ovary-exploding for words. Such excellent ‘Labyrinth’ cosplay will always be noteworthy.


4) Best cosplay quote: “I’m so happy to be wearing underwear today.” Costumers don’t mess around, yo; and it makes us appreciate the little things.

5) Best simple action made more difficult, but not impossible, by cosplay: I saw a guy using his nose to swype-text someone on his phone so he didn’t have to take off his gloves. Win.

Then there was moi in my first cross-gender cosplay.


As expressed in my rather glowing review, I am a big fan of the Marvel/Netlflix ‘Daredevil’ series, and almost as soon as I started watching it I decided this year I would become Daredevil for C2E2. In the show he sports a slowing evolving set of threads, but the universal component for nearly the entirety is full body black. Yeah well, that doesn’t do it for me as I tend to take my clothes off every cosplay chance I get, so I went with a ‘sexy fem-Daredevil’ incarnation. That didn’t mean I wasn’t as close to the ‘real’ thing as possible (I do enjoy looking authentic, after all): gym shoes, black cargo pants, demi-black shirt (that’s ‘half’ in French, as in only half a shirt), arm guards, hard knuckle tactical gloves, a semi-see through black head scarf and wooden batons (excellent for posing menacingly). I covered enough skin to be recognizably Deardevil (though there was one guy who kept bowing at me saying, “As you wish”) but bared enough for me to show off some of my hard work. I’ve been hitting the weights like I mean it, and it feels good to be strong. I may not be as skinny as I was when I was Red Sonja, but for the first time in, well, ever, I consider that to be a good thing. While I always cosplay for me more than anyone, this year I felt like I was doing it for my health, and it felt empowering.

C2E2 is, and hopefully always will be, a weekend filled with some of my favorite things and people. I get to hang with oodles of fun folk, see a bunch of nerdy stuff, play dress up and listen to people speak about a job they love, whether it is writing, drawing, acting or other. Every single person who shows up at a Con WANTS to be there, making it one of the happiest places on Earth. So cheers, C2E2, and see you next year!


Rogue Element #124: Avengers: Age of Ultron

By Avril Brown

Most of the nerdy world has been looking forward to this movie since its predecessor blew our minds three years ago. While Marvel had been putting out damn decent superhero flicks for a few years by this point, ‘The Avengers’ reached a new echelon of cool. ‘Avengers’ was smart, funny, explosive, addictive and unique. It managed to pull together several strong leading characters and not only give them all their own five minutes of film, but turn them into a cohesive team and give that its chance to shine. ‘Avengers’ set the bar so high, not even its sequel could quite reach it…but then again, how could it?

‘Age of Ultron’ is a super fun movie, filled with snappy one liners, a great running gag (“Language!”), oodles of blow ‘em up action sequences, James freaking Spader voicing the villain (his vocal timbers are straight up sex, even as a psychopathic murder-bot) and most excellent special effects. There’s a lot to love about this movie, and I do love it, but I cannot quite sing its praises like I did ‘The Avengers.’

However, comparing the two is like apples and oranges. Quite frankly pitting any two films in the same franchise against one another is an exercise in futility as they are telling different types of stories. All one can critique is whether or not the movie as a whole had a greater coherency, pacing and general storytelling. ‘Ultron’ certainly clipped along and took the time to explore the individual characters as well, but it wasn’t quite enough to feel complete.

While ‘Avengers’ took a handful of heroes, each with their own specialized baggage, and turned them into a team, ‘Ultron’ had to take this established team, rattle their cages, spilt them up, then bring then back together to save the world. Again. That’s quite the tall order in a short time frame. Personally, I’d spend half the day in front of the big screen if it meant I got a fully fleshed out superhero story (as long as there was an in-theater bathroom so I wouldn’t miss a minute), but I get that timing is an issue, particularly with a movie that is kid-friendly. So that means scenes get cut and certain aspects of what was originally a completed story get left out, leaving fans with what the production company, director, and test audiences could agree on.

One of the stories that broke after the release of ‘Ultron’ was director Joss Whedon coming forward with a broken record tale: he had one idea, the ‘money’ had another, and the project suffered. This is not Joss’s first rodeo with this particular heap of horseshit, and it really needs to be shoveled. ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer,’ the movie, was originally scheduled for a fall release, but the Powers that Be wanted a summer blockbuster, so the film ended up being a mish-mash mess (albeit still an entertaining one with a cult following). When you watch it you can actually see where there should have been a systematic story but instead was chopped up and tossed together. ‘Firefly’ STILL has rabid, frothing-at-the-mouth fans hoping (in vain) for a resurrection of this epic sci-fi/space cowboy masterpiece, yet Fox aired the second episode as the premiere, leaving potential new viewers confused as to who and what the hell was going on. If they had originally dropped the two-hour pilot as the premiere, they may have gotten a strong surge of new viewers ever so eager to board Serenity.

Joss had to fight to include the farmhouse scene in ‘Ultron,’ where we glimpse Hawkeye’s secret life. This is one of the most human scenes in the movie and acts as a grounding point for all of the costumed, powered up super people. It is real and gives everyone, most particularly the viewers, chance to take a breath. Not even comic book movies can be non-stop action with no true emotional elements. The most gripping superhero stories are the ones which focus on the humanity of the superhuman, giving the person with powers a flaw, wound, weakness, or whatever which is relatable to everyone.

Some folks complained about the Black Widow’s portrayal in the movie, which I simply do not get. She can fly a plane, rock a motorcycle through busy city streets, tame a Hulk, help deliver a package from one aerial conveyance to another AND win the hearts of children. Yeah, she gets captured (IN FLIGHT) by a flying robot, but what does she do? Secretly make contact with the Avengers to pass along her coordinates. Boom. My only objection to her love story angle with Bruce Banner was the lack of chemistry during a key moment. The flirting was hot, the sharing was touching and added a true human aspect to her character, but the much anticipated final kiss lacked the fire to make a fan jump on that ‘ship. Yet all in all the Black Widow got much love, and respect.

Not surprising the story got a bit cheesy here and there, but let me reiterate a key point: This is a SUPERHERO COMIC BOOK MOVIE. Cheese is a given, it’s a taken, it’s seeped into your overpriced movie ticket. Also, not all cheese is bad; when done properly, as was more often than not in ‘Ultron,’ it makes you want to cheer. Go Team Avengers, GO!

Some scenes do feel repetitive, or simply there for the wow-factor. As the trailers clearly indicated, at one point Tony Stark dons the ‘Hulkbuster’ armor (aka ‘Veronica’) to help subdue a tweaked-out Hulk. Been there, done that, watched Fury have an aneurism over the heli-carrier repair bill. The armor was nifty and there was one definite laugh out loud line which made the new ‘take down tweaked-out Hulk’ scene bearable, but for the most part it was the same ol’, same ol.’

The movie on the whole, however, was tons of fun. I saw it twice in the same weekend, making sure to attend a screening at the Webster Theater with its deluxe reclining seats for a more relaxed second screening. I internally cheered at the mid-credits scene (another Thanos teaser!) and audibly sighed at the lack of end-credits scene (I wanted more shawarma!). While I’m not clamoring for a third screening quite yet, I did enjoy myself immensely, and that is what really matters. That, and the rumored extended director’s cut set to be released probably around Christmas. Oh what a present that shall be!

My final thoughts on ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ are simple: See it, enjoy it for what it is and don’t over think it. It is in essence a comic book movie, and in that aspect it does not disappoint. For two-plus hours ‘Ultron’ will take you to a world where superheroes are real, they kick ass and they are shiny. What more are you really looking for?


Rogue Element #123: Daredevil, The Series Without Suck

By Avril Brown

Marvel Comics’ Matt Murdock aka Daredevil, or The Man Without Fear, has been through the ringer. Unarguably a fascinating character with a nifty power set (blind, but with senses heightened to the point where they more than compensate for the lack of vision), excellent fighting skills (complete with cool toys; in the comics he uses a multi-purpose billy club/baton set) and some amazing stories written by a variety of talent over the years, Daredevil has also been portrayed here and there as a bit of a misogynistic dick with a sizable ego. I have almost zero knowledge of most of his history and major story arcs, though from what I read of him I greatly enjoyed, but as with any other character who has been around for a while, he has more than a few unfavorable skeletons in his closet.

In terms of cinematic history, the 2003 ‘Daredevil’ film starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner is one seriously ugly skeleton. This movie was such a huge steaming pile of suck no one could say ‘Daredevil’ without wincing for years. From the cheesy ass dialogue to the overblown characters, pointless story and lame rippling blue screen effect used to display how Daredevil could ‘see,’ the whole production was painful.

dd pic

Enter a Marvel/Netflix partnership. With a dozen years separating the last attempt at a live action Daredevil story, this new series had the advantage of ensnaring new, unaware viewers with an addiction to binge-watching, as well as resurrecting older viewers who just shrugged their shoulders and muttered, “Well, it can’t be any worse than the movie.” Thankfully, ‘Daredevil’ the series was so much more than simply being better than that craptastic failure of a film. It was superb television and superhero storytelling.

The Story ‘Daredevil’ is dark, gritty, tragic, kick-ass, clever, sexy, surprising, well-written, beautifully shot and many more adjectives I’ll save for later. This show has everything a superhero story should have in a gorgeous package and great talent. The story is gripping and fast-paced without giving away too much too soon. It’s perfect for marathoning as you’re left on the edge of your seat at the end of nearly every episode, yet you want to take it slow, watch only a couple episodes at a time, to draw it out and enjoy the story to its fullest. You want to know more about the characters, ALL of the characters, their history and what comes next. You want more fights but you want more non-violent connections as well. Unexpected twists are always waiting in the wings. Bad guys do terrible things and good people die, but there is a still an undercurrent of hope that good will triumph, in one way or another.

The Hero An introduction story to a new title character should be as short as it is powerful. We already know he is going to have abilities so ‘How Matt Murdock Got His Superpowers’ should not be the sole focus of the tale. ‘Daredevil’ delivers one of the most complete and exciting introductory scenes to a superhero story; the first five minutes tell you everything you need to know about the core of who Matt Murdock is, who he wants to be and who he’s afraid of becoming. The first episode opens on the aftermath: a brave kid pushed an old man out of the way of a car accident and gets doused with an unknown chemical, blinding him. His father, who obviously loves him dearly, fights his way through the crowd and ends up clutching his panicked son. The lack of musical score accents the terror of a young child who did something heroic and suffered for it. Cut to the next scene where an adult Matt sits confession and talks about his old man, who despite not having a stellar track record in the ring, could occasionally unleash a fury no man could withstand. Matt apologizes not for sins past but for those forthcoming, revealing a heart filled with equal compassion and rage residing inside a man who just wants to make things better without losing himself in the process.

The Villain For every hero there must be a villain, and for every truly excellent tale starring a flawed protagonist, there should be a villain who is just as flawed, making him hard to hate. Wilson Fisk, like Matt Murdock, grew up in Hell’s Kitchen, and like our largely untested masked hero, Fisk wants to make the city a better place. Both men’s pasts helped shape who they are today, and how they intend to create a better tomorrow. All of this is doled out in tiny, tantalizing increments (you don’t even meet Fisk until the end of the third episode), slowly creating a more vivid picture of both sides of this war for the soul and safety of Hell’s Kitchen. Fisk is undeniably a terrible person with rage issues big enough to rival the Hulk’s, but he’s also a man capable of deep love, for the people close to him, and his city. He is a product of nature and nurture and it is understandable how he got to this point.

The Action Naturally every comic book story has to boast a variety of violence, and ho boy does ‘Daredevil’ deliver. I live with a man who has spent more than half his life studying, practicing and teaching a wide range of fighting arts, and even he was impressed with the choreography, execution and (for the most part) realism of the scraps Daredevil got into. Yes, he has supernatural senses which allow him to ‘see’ despite his blindness, but the flips and twists, punches, kicks and overall badassery are all on a level a well-trained, naturally skilled and dedicated fighter can achieve. At the end of the second episode an exhausted, battered and sliced up Murdock decides to finish what he started and save a kidnapped boy. He enters a dimly lit hallway, the wire he used earlier to string up a bad guy for some pretty harsh questioning wrapped around his forearms. He takes a sensory stock of the guards surrounding the boy’s room, at least six in total. Then, he proceeds to beat the crap out of them while getting pretty thoroughly whooped himself, almost drunkenly stumbling about as uses his last bit of strength to take them out. With a final punch to the final goon, Matt and his foe collapse together off screen, but only a half-conscious yet still victorious masked man emerges to bring a frightened boy back to his father.

This show has a story build which is rarely witnessed in superhero television. Every episode brings something special to the story and each character is given his or her chance to shine. Though the end game is clear the viewer is enjoying the ride more than anything. The superpowers aspect is present yet understated, and while a supernatural theme is referenced it is also subtle, adding just a dash of flavorful curiosity. The final showdown does become ever so slightly cornball by the end of it, but hey, it IS a comic book story. Marvel recruited most excellent talent in the form of Drew Goddard (collaborator on several of Joss Whedon’s most creative and well-received projects) and all involved obviously took the time needed to insure a solid story was being told. The effort has clearly paid off. ‘Daredevil’ is no longer a name whispered in shame, but a title that has become the standard to which all comic book television should aspire.


Rogue Element #122: The Conundrum of Controversy

By Avril Brown

The hot topic in the comic book world the last week has been a DC Batgirl variant cover which was revealed and then recalled, at the request of the artist, due to the veritable shit storm of agitation that burst forth from its appearance. I have read a dozen articles regarding this frenzy and the time has come to contribute my two cents. To clarify for those unaware, allow me to dictate the history tying into this latest squabble.

Alan Moore wrote a Batman story entitled ‘The Killing Joke’ in the late ‘80s which was met with critical acclaim and became an iconic Batman tale for multiple reasons, one of which was Barbara Gordon’s resulting paralysis. ‘Killing Joke’ is largely an origin story of the Joker, the most infamous Batman villain, formerly an ordinary and loving family man who suffered a series of unfortunate events, eventually leading him to fall in with some criminals before falling into a vast of toxic waste, altering his appearance and sanity, thus transforming him into the Joker. The story alternates between Joker’s flashbacks and his current mad scheme, which involves attempting to drive Commissioner Jim Gordon insane by shooting his daughter Barbara (hence the paralysis) and taunting a kidnapped Gordon with enormous photographs of his child naked, bleeding and suffering at the hands of his foe. In the end, the Joker loses: Gordon retains his mind and his morals, and asks Batman to take him in alive. Joker tells Batman a joke, and Batman laughs. The end.

In case my sarcasm was too subtle, I didn’t care for ‘The Killing Joke,’ and I’m pretty much the only person I know who feels as such. Yes, it is a powerful story well-scripted and attractively told via Brian Bolland’s talented pencils. The colors are vibrant and add a tangible dimension to this dark tale. However, I find the story way too disturbing for a superhero comic. First off, the ending. The Joker attacks and violates two people whom are extremely important to Bruce Wayne, and his laughs at his joke? I work in an animal shelter where dead dogs and cats are a daily given so trust me, I get the need for gallows humor as an outlet for dealing with distressing shit, but if someone had fucked with people I cared about, there is no joke in the world that could break through my rage.

Secondly, and most importantly, it has long been inferred, though not explicitly stated, that Barbara Gordon was also sexually assaulted at the hands of the Joker. Taking pictures of her naked and bleeding out is a violation unto itself, but throw in the possibility of rape and I immediately shut down. I have an intense aversion to rape. Not in the sense where I bury my head in the sand and pretend it isn’t there, but that I am almost overcome with a blindingly and nauseating fury. Rapists and molesters are not human, they are fleshbags of concentrated evil who need to be punished. While I acknowledge this horrible and soulless act occurs, it is my preference to have it nowhere near my stories. The curse of being a hypersensitive individual is I cannot unsee the things that disturb me and they continue to plague my brain long after I close my eyes. Hell, I watched the trailer for ‘Max,’ the story of a military dog who bonds to his dead owner’s brother, and I couldn’t stop crying for ten minutes. Dead veteran + mourning canine and sibling = uncontrollable waterworks.

Back to the cover. Rafael Albuquerque illustrated this piece and meant it as an homage to ‘The Killing Joke,’ as a gun-wielding Joker has his arm draped around a clearly terrified Batgirl (Barbara Gordon became un-paralyzed when DC revamped its titles…don’t ask), her face smeared with red paint in a Joker smile, tears welling up in her eyes, the gun dangling in front of her chest. As far as artistic nods go, this one is pretty solid. However, it is also creepy as hell, and the internet has been blowing up ever since.

People complained, the complainers received death/assault threats, the artist, taken aback by critics of his art being threatened, asked for his work to not be released. Censor-sensitive individuals are in uproar and everyone has an opinion. Here’s mine. THIS is the best statement regarding this cover I have seen:


Boom. A slight tweak of the facial features and it’s a whole other ballgame. Should the heroine be frightened at the hands of her assailant? Hell yeah, she’s human after all, and this man hurt her more deeply than any villain she has encountered. Should fear be her predominant emotion? Hell NO. ANGER should be her driving force. This man is crazier than a shithouse rat, he has damaged her, people she loves and hundreds more besides. As a warrior for the light, she should be pissed this scum has dared to lay hands on her again. She should be gearing up for a fight, not urinating in her Kevlar.

Everyone is entitled to their own emotions, and there have been quite a few vented over the ether the last few days, but for me it boils down to power. I like my heroes like I like my tea: strong, with a hint of sweetness. Fighters should feel fear, but what makes them strong enough to confront their enemy in battle is choosing to use that fear to fuel their fire. Batgirl deserves better. ALL women deserve better. Face your fear, OWN your fear, then go out and shove that fear down your opponent’s throat.


Rogue Element #121: 14 Seconds or Less

By Avril Brown

On Saturday February 28, 2015, Ultimate Fighting Championship fans geared up for the latest bantamweight title fight between the undefeated defending champion and all-around beast Ronda ‘Rowdy’ Rousey and (at the time) also undefeated challenger Cat Zingano. The bell rang, the fighters came out, and in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment Rowdy had her opponent submitting to her infamous deadly armbar. Fourteen seconds into the first round and Rowdy continues to reign supreme.

Some people were pissed at how quickly it was all over. This was supposed to be a drag out fight between two of the most famous female names in the mixed martial arts world, and fans were hoping for a least one solid round. Not to mention, Pay Per View is expensive, and even if you caught the game at a bar (which one waitress informed us costs the establishment at least $800 to air the fights) drinks are expensive. Who doesn’t want a little more for their money?

On the other side, if one is truly badass, the fight shouldn’t take long. To be fair, Cat came out hot and made a rookie mistake trying to knee Rowdy and take her to the floor. This woman is known throughout the community for her grappling skills and has won most of her fights via armbar submission, even once breaking an opponent’s arm. Once they were on the floor Rowdy was all business, flipping Cat and herself over until she maneuvered herself into position for a behind the arm lock. Done and done.

Love her or hate her, there’s no denying Rowdy’s got skills. So in honor of her quickest kill to date, here are some of my favorite fast finish fights in fantasy.

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

This already amazing movie boasts a fan favorite scene which also happens to be one of the most famous unscripted moments in an iconic movie. While Indy is racing through the streets of Cairo in search of his kidnapped love, he is confronted by an enormous man wielding a curved blade the size of an Ark. The set up screams ‘epic showdown,’ as did the script, but star Harrison Ford was suffering from food poisoning that day of filming and could barely stand, let alone engage in a mock battle. So instead of fighting the man-golem, Indy pulls out his revolver and shoots him once in the chest. The move is so Indy people can scarce believe it’s not butter, but really, why fight a man with a big ass sword when you don’t have to?

Angel Season 5 Series Finale

As with its ‘parent’ show ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer,’ there are way too many fight scenes to count, and most of them rock. In this particular series, none rock harder in the ‘fourteen seconds or less’ division than Illyria’s final on-screen punch. Winifred Burkle, an adorable pixie genius and the heart of the show, was killed when an Old One, an ancient god-like creature, infected and took over her body, thus becoming Illyria but maintaining a semblance of Fred’s looks. One of Illyria’s many powers (in addition to her immense strength) is the ability to mask her demonic physical aspects (ice-blue eyes and partial skin tone, blue hair highlights) and look just like Fred. When she discovered Wesley, Fred’s love, dying after an encounter with another warlock, she ‘becomes’ Fred to ease his passing. After he’s gone his foe walks up to her, mocks her for mourning his loss and tells her, “C’mon girlie, give me your best shot.” And so she does. As Fred swivels around to give him what he asked for, she morphs back into Illyria on the fly and delivers a punch to the face worthy of an Old One who is really, REALLY pissed off. Now every time I hear Pat Benatar’s catchy hook I think of Illyria’s right one, and the face of a wizened old evil shit crumbling into dust under her fist.


Pulled from different realities, mutant heroes from different worlds are banded together to form the Exiles, whom travel to alternate Earths to fix whatever went wrong. For the first couple years run this book was one of the best on the Marvel market; any hero, dead or alive, was fair game, as was any environment or scenario the creative team could come up with, making for some very intriguing and heart-wrenching story arcs. In one world the Exiles found themselves in an alien-occupied, world-dominating boxing ring where superhumans were pitted against each other in televised fights to please the masses. One of the Exiles team members, Calvin Rankin aka Mimic, had been caught early on and forced into the games. He fought for his survival, and the chance to escape, but he always tried to go easy on his opponents…save one. In this dog-eat-dog world, Steve Rogers never had the chance to truly become Captain America, and instead evolved into a cold-hearted bully, and the champion of the games. During what was to be the ‘championship’ bout between the Cap and Cal, everyone was expecting a bloody brawl, but Cal swiftly put an end to that. His mutant power was to mimic the powers of those he was near, and he had permanently absorbed the original five X-Men’s powers was he was younger, if to a lesser degree. He’d showcased almost all of these powers during his fights, but saved the best for last. While the crowd worked themselves up into a bloodthirsty lather as the Cap and Cal faced off, Cal simply blasted the bastardized American hero into the wall with his borrowed optic blasts, flipped the crowd the bird, and walked right back into his cell. He was their prisoner, but damn it all if Calvin refused to be their bitch.

Nowadays especially we tend to remember things that are loud, violent and brief, so the shorter the fight the more details we can commit to memory, but the truth is all fights leave a scar, be it physically, mentally or emotionally. Short fights do not mean shallow cuts; one painful word from a loved one can leave lasting consequences. However, fights that get right to the meat of the matter, the ones that aim a sharp jab right to the core, are the ones more quickly over with and resolved. Don’t drag out the fight; revel in the healing.


Rogue Element #120: The Nerdgasm (or How Marvel Learned to Break the Internet)

By Avril Brown

Unless you are a member of the alleged uncontacted Amazon tribes, you have likely at least heard of the recent release of the ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ trailer, if not seen said trailer multiple times. Leaked almost one full week before it was scheduled to be aired during an episode of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D,’ the preview for Marvel’s latest installment in their massive movie franchise almost blew up the internet, and therefore the world.

Let us put this in a bit more ‘old school’ perspective. Remember when the only time you got to see a preview for an upcoming movie was by watching a movie in the theaters? I used to be so uptight about getting to the theaters on time in order to see every single precious preview. Screw the popcorn man, all I wanted was a taste of what was to come. Now a trailer for a movie slated for release seven months from now has billions of people in the throes of a nerdgasm so tantalizing the aftershocks aren’t wearing off for a week.

Holy jeebus Marvel, where’d you learn moves like that?

The trailer provided plenty of footage for nerds and newbies alike to salivate over, as well as several nuggets to kick off rounds of discussion and speculation. There were scenes of camaraderie and infighting, shit got blown up real good, unfamiliar faces were introduced and most dramatically of all, the villain made his debut complete with ominous monologuing and creepy kids music overlaying the destruction. Not to mention: James. Freaking. Spader. The movie hasn’t even come out yet and he’s already made his mark as one of the most memorable voiceover villains in cinematic history. Darth Vader IS James Earl Jones. HAL 2000 IS Douglas Rain. And Ultron IS James Freaking Spader.

Who is the mysterious woman standing amongst the Avengers and former S.H.I.E.L.D personnel in the Avengers tower when Ultron comes hobbling out? Is that man with the Bible beard a character from Black Panther, and if so, does that mean King T’Challa will be getting his own movie? What happened to turn Quicksilver’s hair from brown to blonde, and why are he and Scarlet Witch standing with Ultron? Why is the Hulk battling Iron Man in HULKBUSTER armor? How did Cap’s shield get broken? What happened to Thor to get him shirtless and soaking wet, and what can we do to make it happen again?

There is so much win all over this two minutes and fifteen seconds, I can’t even. Marvel even handled the leak like champ, simply posting one singular sentence on Twitter: “Dammit, Hydra.” ABC had to be pissed as hell considering it was their network that was to host the debut of the trailer next Tuesday, but no one can deny that response is funny as hell. Plus, recent reports state there will be even MORE footage aired during next episode of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ on October 28th so it looks like ABC will still see a spectacular spike in their viewership. (Talk about a win-win; viewers will not be disappointed. ‘Agents’ has really hit its stride and has been putting out consistently excellent episodes all season)

Fact is, Marvel has got it, and they are flaunting it. They have realized this resplendent golden egg they have laid needs particular, and pricey, care, and they are sparing no expensive. They let Joss Whedon do his thing the first time around and it worked, so Marvel did what they needed to do to get him and the rest of the crew back on board. The creative teams, both in front of and behind the camera, the special effects, the marketing; they are all centered around a (hopefully) great story, and with their powers combined, Marvel will continue taking the world by storm.


Rogue Element 119: The Alpha Theory Atrocity or What Went Wrong in ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’

Written by Avril Brown

I adored the first ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ film and literally squealed in the theater months back when the teaser trailer for the sequel showed up on the big screen. Hiccup and Toothless back in action with more gadgets and fancy flying? Sold! The original movie was such a breath of fresh, adorable air, I couldn’t imagine how more of this amazing cast of characters would be anything less than incredible.

Silly me.

That is not to say the movie wasn’t entertaining, for it certainly was. The animation in the sequel is still jaw-dropping and vibrant. All of the dragons, old and new, are bright and unique. There are moments of brilliance which raised the bar from the first movie, such as the Quidditch-like game played on dragonback using terrified, catapulted sheep to score points. Overall, however, the story simply felt like a different spin on the original with a few more disturbing scenes tossed in the mix. ‘Dragon’ went to a Joss Whedon-esque dark place, which didn’t score it any points in my happy ending-loving book. The original was cheerful and good for all ages; a smart and heartwarming tale about friendship, family and bravery. The sequel was clearly trying to be a coming of age story as Hiccup the man attempts to figure out his place among his people with his bestest dragon buddy at his side, but it came off so heavy-handed and trite.

My other main point of contention with the movie was the use of the ‘alpha dog theory.’ Background check: I work as an Animal Behavior Specialist at a Chicago animal shelter, which means it’s my job to know and understand dog and cat body language and behavior. I believe in positive reinforcement, reward-based training methods and treating a pet like a member of the family. Know what I don’t believe in? Cesar friggin’ Milan. I HATE Cesar Milan. Seriously, HATE. Like with the passion of a thousand dying suns. He is largely responsible for resurrecting the antiquated, and often cruel, training methods and philosophies of the ‘alpha dog theory,’ which in summation states you should be the ‘alpha’ in your pack and your dog should submit to you, and often advocates the use of physical force to ensure this happens. This theory is founded on how wolves function in their pack, with an alpha male and female essentially running the pack and getting all the good stuff first, while everyone else has to wait their turn and take care of the kids. The core problem with this theory is simple: dogs are not wolves. They haven’t been for at least ten thousand years. We have taken over their evolution and molded it to our lives and purposes. Yes, there are still plenty of similarities, but now canis familiaris is no more canis lupus than homo sapiens is homo neanderthalensis.

I do not believe in ‘dominance’ and ‘submission’ (feel free to make a BDSM joke in your head as you read that); in fact, I’ve developed a slight eye twitch every time someone tells me their dog is ‘dominant’ and ‘clearly wants to be the alpha.’ So you can imagine my disappointment, and the staggering number of eye twitches I suffered, when the alpha dragon was introduced in ‘Dragon 2.’ As those who saw the previews already know, Hiccup is reunited with his mother whom everyone believed to be dead some twenty years, after being carried off by a dragon when Hiccup was a baby. Turns out the young hero inherited a lot from his mother, including her skills with the beasts. She has spent the last two decades living on a dragon island, learning all about their habits and physiology, and rescuing injured dragons from trappers. Valka introduces Hiccup to the ‘alpha’ dragon who is ginormous, possesses artic breath that can trap anything in solid crystals of ice (which was pretty damn cool), and who can control all the other dragons. As in complete control; he twitches his whiskers and he can get any dragon to do anything he wants. Valka mentions that while “most dragon nests have a queen, the alpha is KING!”

First off, how misogynistic is that? What, are you saying that queens are inferior to kings? Try repeating that to Catherine the Great and see how long you keep your head. Also, flashing my animal-loving nerd card here, but in most species on this planet, the female is deadlier than the male. Amongst hive species (such as bees, ants and naked mole rats), the queens run the joint, no ifs ands nor buts. Typically they are the biggest, they do all the reproducing (must be exhausting) and they create their own successor; there are no challenges to the throne.

In addition, the first ‘Dragon’ film kind of already covered this. The queen dragon had the ability to call the dragons to her so they could feed her fat lazy ass, but when she lost her temper and broke out of her cavernous nest, the other dragons scattered. I can’t help but feel the writers for ‘Dragon 2’ just figured they’d take the queen, make her an alpha male and turn him into an even bigger dick than she was by giving him the power of mind control.

The Big Bad in ‘Dragon 2’ is technically not an evil alpha, but an evil guy controlling the evil alpha. Drago Bloodfist is an angry man with some serious control issues, and who likes to break dragons into submission by stepping on their faces and taunting them. Guess that works for a dragon with a face you can step on, but what about the massive mountain that is an alpha? They never explain how he gained control over that beast; he just waves a stick around and hollers like a gorilla in heat.

The central theme is obviously favoring a more positive, love and loyalty based relationship with the dragons, and though they still have an alpha by the end, it is a more willing acknowledgment of a proven leader, akin to a Viking clan having a worthy chief. Transparently so, in fact. Quite frankly I just wish they found an original idea that didn’t come with such an abused vocabulary word.

‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’ is still super pretty and great fun more often than not, at least in the first half. All of your favorite characters get some screen time and a few witty lines (just not of the same caliber and frequency as the original). I’m more than a little pissed the writers felt someone needed to die for Hiccup to finally figure himself out, but again, I have issues with non-happy endings. All in all, ‘Dragon 2’ left me wanting to sit down and watch the original for the millionth time. Not a universally terrible sequel, but not a fantastic one either.

And dog owners, for the love of God, turn OFF Cesar Milan, turn ON Victoria Stillwell, and never use the word ‘dominant’ ever again…unless you’re with another consenting adult and a safe word has been clarified.


Rogue Element #118: Damn it feels good to be a biker.

By Avril Brown

I’d almost forgotten how amazing it feels to ride a bike. Due to this freakishly long and uncomfortable winter, it has been many moons since I’ve plopped my ass down on a bike seat and propelled myself from point A to point B using only the power of my body and simple engineering. Truth be told, I could’ve ridden in the recent forty to fifty degree weather we’ve been having the last few weeks, but quite frankly I’ve gotten a bit lazy…and addicted to playing Candy Crush and reading comics on my morning CTA commute.

Now the well of excuses has run dry and I am back in the game, feeling the wind in my face and the aching bruise on my pelvic box as I break it back in. I can take the lakefront and revel in the beauty of my city, the sunlight sparkling off the waters of Lake Michigan, or if I’m in a hurry I can take the city streets, constantly alert for the multitude of dangers lurking on every square inch of asphalt. Brushing sweaty elbows with death for a solid twenty minutes is more jarring than a gallon of espresso.

Unfortunately, I am not exaggerating. Just stepping out of your door there are a dozen different ways to die before you get to work, but if you jump on a bike and brave the streets, you best multiply that number by ten. There are the CTA bus drivers whom are either extremely conscientious of the bike lane they must constantly cross in order to do their jobs, or they are blatantly attempting to outrun bikers just to cut them off at a bus stop. Regular drivers are also a factor, particularly those with a huge chip on their shoulder when it comes to bikers. Either they are not paying attention or they have piss-poor peripheral vision. Let’s not forget the reckless bikers who give good bikers a bad name. I’ll admit, I’ve ran a red light/stop sign here and there, but only when I’ve slowed and double checked there is no oncoming traffic. I have seen dumbasses just roll through the Belmont/Clark intersection like they have a right to be there, despite the obvious red light.

Then there is dooring. For those not hip to the lingo, dooring is when someone in a parked car neglects to check their mirrors and opens their door into a biker. Spoiler alert: this is very dangerous. Best case scenario: biker misses door, has a mini heart attack and gets really pissed off. Worst case: biker dies. I had my first dooring last spring and thankfully emerged relatively unscathed. I had enough time to register the fact there was now a door in my rapid bike path and managed to turn my bike just enough to catch it on my right side rather than ride headlong into the steel door. All told I had a bruised knuckle on my right hand, one hell of a bloomer on my right arm and an even prettier one on my left hip where I’m pretty sure I bruised the bone, most of the skin flayed off my left elbow, a swollen left knee and a pattern of bruises up and down my right leg. I was pretty damn lucky. My luck extended to being doored by an actually decent human being, one who was not only apologetic, but also offered to drive me to the ER if need be and pay for the damages to my ride.

There are people every day who are seriously injured and/or receive no such courteous attention, but they soldier on. Bloodied, battered and bruised, but still alive…and a little bit badass. Let’s face it: people love a scrappy survivor. The one who emerges from the battleground suffering from gaping wounds, yet still rallies and takes down the bad guy. A true ‘good vs. evil’ story isn’t the same if the hero remains completely unscathed; the whole point is that war is hard, painful and scary, but one can persevere, and win.

In the ‘Codex Alera’ series by ‘Dresden Files’ author Jim Butcher, a small battalion of soldiers find themselves facing off against a horde of Canim, rather large, vicious and battle-hardened wolf-like beasts. Though the Alerans themselves are no pushovers with their elemental powers and training, the Canim warriors have strength, experience and numbers, making this a dire situation for the Alerans. However, their captain Tavi has a few tricks up his sleeve, one of which being he knows the Canim culture and how to exploit the weakness amongst the ranks. He rides out to face their leader, makes him look like an ass, gets attacked but gives a lot back which includes smacking Sarl, the religious leader, on the muzzle with his standard before escaping. When his advisor offers to at least replace the pole, Tavi refuses, saying Sarl’s blood is on the original, which will do. “Bloodied, dirty and unbroken,” Magnus says. “Just like us,” Tavi agreed. I’ve read it a million times and that scene still makes me cheer.

I know I’ve talked about this scene in ‘Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’ several times before, and that is because it is awesome. In the final climatic battle sequence Frodo has decided to leave the Fellowship due to the corrupting power of the one Ring, and Aragorn tries to buy him some time by taking on the entire oncoming army of Orcs. If that wasn’t hot enough, we’ve got Boromir trying to regain his honor by charging forth and protecting the remaining Hobbits. Alas, he is pierced by big ass arrows from the Uruk-hai leader, not once, not twice, but three times. He kept fighting after the first two, a surge of strength and anger bursting forth to fell his enemies. Thankfully Aragorn arrives before the Uruk-hai can plant a final arrow into Boromir’s skull, and the Ranger from the North, the Leader of Men, shows the overly muscled, growly hybrid that it takes more than strength to fell a worthy foe. Aragorn takes some hard knocks from the beast, but he easily bested him in combat, lobbing off the Uruk-hai’s head directly after he tried to be all ‘I’m so impervious to pain I’m just gonna pull this sword even further into my belly.’ Aragorn showed him.

‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ is oozing with great smack down scenes; Buffy almost always gets a least a little bloodied during her encounters with the undead and various other demons. Occasionally, she dies, but even that’s not enough to keep this Slayer down. In Season Seven she faces off against an ancient, primal vampire who promptly wipes the floor with her, leaving our heroine in a world of hurt. She knows she’s losing the faith and trust of the young Slayer wannabes that are currently squatting in her home, so she deliberately baits this Uber-vamp and takes him out in front of the entire class. Oh she gets beat up quite thoroughly, but in the end it’s Buffy with a garrote for the beheading win. “Here endeth the lesson,” she tells the gobsmacked gals and walks away, with blood on her face and dust on her hands. You go, girl.

While I was lying there dazed and confused in the middle of Franklin Street, there were many things that crossed my mind. Am I alive? Is anything broken? Is my bike ok? Did I break my helmet? Never ONCE did it occur to me to quit biking. Yeah, I was scared. I was hurt, I knew I came within inches of being dangerously injured, but it never occurred to me to give up biking. I thought I might have to CTA my commute for a bit to heal and get my ride in order, but I knew I was getting back on the bike. Riding on the streets was a bit more nerve-wracking after that, but I took that lesson and learned from it. I take the lakefront as often as possible. I seek out routes that have buffered bikes lanes. I’m constantly on the alert, scanning drivers seats for any sign someone is not as aware of me as I am of them. When I first started driving my mother told me: “Drive defensively. Always assume the other person is not paying as much attention as you.” Sound advice, plus some for biking.

It is not the scars you receive that matter (though chicks dig scars), it is how you bounce back from them. Never let a bad experience spoil you from eating the entire barrel of apples. Sometimes you just have to pick yourself up, brush that shoulder off and show the world that you are, in fact, unbreakable.


Rogue Element #117: C2E2 2014: The Panels

By Avril Brown

As always, the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo was host to three days’ worth of a variety of panels. I cherish my time on the con floor so intensely it takes a lot to get me away from the hustle n bustle, but C2E2 has a lot to offer. The following caught my eye and I was drawn in, like a comic nerd on free comic book day.

Fierce Females in Comics
Comic writer and vastly entertaining personality Jimmy Palmiotti moderated this panel spotlighting some of the biggest female names in comics, focusing on their work and what it means to be a woman in the comic book industry. Here is some great news: nothing! That is to say, all the women on this panel, which included Jill Thompson (‘Scary Godmother’ and ‘Beasts of Burden’), Amanda Conner (‘Archie’ and various DC and Marvel titles), Jenny Frisson (coveted cover artist) and more, agreed that it is their work that gets scrutinized, and not their gender. “It’s come down to the talent, and that’s the way it should be.” Amen, miladies. The questions for this vast pool of talent then shifted to the next natural inquiry: how the artists feel about characters like Power Girl, who has a rack so ginormous it’s a wonder she can stand up straight. As Conner put it: “Power Girl has big boobs. Acknowledge it, move on and tell a story.” While Frisson noted she wouldn’t draw any character, male or female, in overly provocative poses, such as with their legs completely spread, the ladies also agreed that this is comics, and some comprise is expected, for both genders. Most men are not as tightly ripped as Hawkeye or Batman, with a broad, muscled chest tapering off into a perfect six pack, just as most women are not as stacked as Power Girl while still sporting a teeny waist. It’s comics, man, and it’s (mostly) supposed to be fun. Conner shared a great story of attempting to draw Vampirella on the toilet with her costume half-off the only way the artist pictured it coming off: awkwardly. She also gave her the interesting tan line such a bizarre strap of fabric would produce. Each woman had her own personal artist influences, most you wouldn’t have guessed (several mentioned Mooka art and Norman Rockwell paintings, and someone mentioned old Disney animation; Thompson sees art in garbage and utilizes the textures she witnesses in her Photoshop projects). All of these women clearly enjoyed sharing their experiences and inspirations, not solely as women in comics, but as people in comics, and that is inspiring indeed.

Knight for a Day: Chicago Swordplay Guild
Returning for their second year of demos, the Chicago Swordplay Guild had twice as much time to offer their intrigued audience. With two hours to showcase their knowledge and talents, senior Guild members and students took to the floor to show C2E2 how people really used to swing a sword back in the fourteenth century. Roughly two hundred souls showed up to witness the Guild in action, and there plenty of it to behold. A basic drill kicked it off, followed with some mild, minimal contact bouts. Then the gloves came off (actually they stayed on; safety reasons and all that). Senior Guild instructor and author of several books on Western martial arts Greg Mele narrated the entire demo, educating the audience on various techniques and the culture during that time period. He also knows how to work a crowd and got them all fired up for the first full contact longsword fight. The room was divided down the middle and instructed to cheer on their champion, and cheer we did. While Team Adam raised their voices in encouragement, Team Jesse ended up with the most hits (a moot point, Mele acknowledged, since Adam landed the first blow and therefore would’ve won the fight had they been battling for real), and the most enthusiastic supporters. There was a kid on Team Jesse’s side who took his duties very seriously, screaming Jesse’s name whilst telling his swordfighter to “Finish him!” Ah, youth. Several more fights followed pitting a variety of weapons against one another, including the sword and buckler and spear. Names were gathered for the raffle prize: a real sharp, shiny sword, and people were encouraged to examine the armor and weapons and stick around to participate in an introductory class. I was not there to witness the occurrence, but word has it that sparks literally flew in the Sunday demo, adding a nice bit of fiery flare to an already fascinating exposition of swords, fighting and medieval history.

Stan ‘The Man’ Lee!
Stan Lee was at my comic con. STAN LEE. The man partially responsible for some of the biggest and best characters in comics. The man who helped revolutionize the comics industry and bring more powerful stories and relatable heroes to the world of animated fiction. The man who has been around for seventy years of comics and cameos. They don’t call him ‘The Man’ for nothing, folks; this nonagenarian has got it going on, and he knows it, in a darling, fake-arrogant way. I’ve never heard anyone make so many references to how awesome they are in such a short period of time, yet still come off as everyone’s favorite goofy great uncle. He’s cheekily full on himself and still so transparently humble. He’s high on life but remarkably grounded. He’s old as dirt and not afraid to call himself on it, but his sense of humor and appreciation for his fans remain rock solid. He’s Stan Lee, and he’s one of kind.

Moderator Elliott Serrano (whom I work with and feel like stabbing more often than usual now) kicked off the panel by informing Mr. Lee that he was more nervous meeting him than he would the pope, making Stan his ‘personal pope.’ “Well I admire your taste,” he replied. Adorable. Stan only needed the slightest of nudges to get him started on a story, of which he has oodles. From turning down a lordship in England ‘cause he had comics to do, to helping change the name of Atlas Comics to Marvel (and ripping on DC’s boring-ass name to boot), Stan is a relative treasure trove of lovable one-liners.

“Everything I say is interesting…to me.”
“If I was a fan, I’d sure as hell want to be a fan of me.”
“I’m sorry I’m not in the audience enjoying this; it looks like so much fun.”

He went onto to (kinda) reveal his cameo in the upcoming ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ movie, which was previously denied by Disney and which almost got Stan lynched by his own agent who kept storming up to the stage every time Stan almost blabbed too much. I doubt he had much to worry about considering this is what he had to say about his appearance: “I did it, but I don’t know what it is or what I’m doing. When you see it, write me a note and explain it to me.” He also talked us through straight up comic lore when he explained the origin of Spider-Man. Thank Galactus for comic readers having better taste than comic publishers, I tell ya.

Everyone in the audience hung on his every joke. Every person was jealous of that kid who got Stan to provide a sound bite for his school PowerPoint presentation. Every Stan Lee superfan chuckled with love in their hearts when he made such a big deal over how amazing the microphones were ‘cause he could hear the latest question, and then promptly forgot the question. Every single individual left that room more in love with Stan Lee than they ever thought possible. Though the techies cut off the microphone as soon as we all gave him a farewell standing ovation, we all heard it when Marvel’s original genius looked out onto the crowd and said, “Excelsior!”

I cannot imagine a better way to wrap up a most excellent nerdy weekend. Thank you C2E2, for Stan, for swords, for proof that talent and passion is stronger than discrimination. Thank you for being there for us all.


Rogue Element #116: C2E2 2014

By Avril Brown

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! With the cosplayers posing and every nerd telling you ‘Han shot first!’ It’s the hap-happiest weekend of all!

Seriously, C2E2 rules.

I swear I felt my blood pressure drop as soon as I hit the convention floor Friday morning. Between the stress of getting my costume finished, hitting the gym like a mad woman and no beer for four weeks, I was more than looking forward to the fruits of my labors come April 24th, and it was all worth it in glorious spades.

There’s something about a comic convention, particularly a young one, that burrows its way into your geeky soul and brings forth a bevy of light, happiness and a love of all things fantasy. Gamers, comic book nerds, cosplayers and newbies all gather under one ginormous roof to celebrate what makes us different and identical at the same time. We are unique and we are one.

And we got our nerd on, hardcore.

As per my usual comic con schedule, Friday was spent in plain clothes as I walked the floor, greeted my out-of-towner fellow con groupies and just soaked up the awesome with a huge grin on my face. One of the many great things about a fledgling con is how it continues to improve with each evolution. The entirety of the vast convention hall was utilized, and smartly so. The booths were well spaced with sizable aisles, Artist’s Alley also boasted plenty of walking room (though the signage could have used an upgrade) and the autograph/celebrity sections were placed against the wall, keeping the long lines out of the way of general foot traffic.

Naturally the cosplay is far and away one of the most entertaining aspects of a comic con. Variety is the spice of life and the beating heart of every great con. Though I made note of every cool costume I was lucky enough to witness I focused my attention on characters, mash-ups and cross-genders I’d never seen before, and seethed with jealousy when I saw pictures of people I missed. I have to say, the guy dressed as the Doctor with a TARDIS present parked on his junk stole the show (for those not in on the joke go watch Justin Timberlake’s ‘Dick in a Box’ SNL skit on YouTube). Bumblebee went all out, and he reportedly spent over twenty grand on his costume (my opinion on blowing that much green on a costume notwithstanding, this dude and I need to hang out). There was a kid dressed as Stan Lee who undoubtedly got more smooches on the cheek that weekend than the real deal. Classic Mach I sentinel, huge Wampa with his sexy female counterpart, Bebop and Rocksteady, the McDonald’s chick from ‘Fifth Element,’ the list goes on and it is epic.

Then there was Savage Land Rogue. After months of working out and hours spent over spandex, the time had come to cosplay as my favorite character in comics: Rogue. Due to the nature of her mutant powers (ability to absorb the powers and life force of anyone she touched; uncontrolled, until recently) Rogue’s uniform typical has her completely covered from neck to toe. However, in the early nineties there was a story arc in which Rogue had temporarily lost her powers and found herself in the Savage Land, a tropical, dinosaur-laden oasis in the middle of Antarctica (‘cause comics), so naturally her clothes fell to pieces. Given my penchant for showing some skin at cons, this shredded, belly-baring, leg-showcasing ensemble was the clear choice for my Rogue cosplay. Jesse and his mother worked diligently on getting the right balance between tight, revealing and accurate, painting a red and black X on the chest and artfully ripping up the edges. I tied some feathers onto a headband, spoke softly and carried a really cool stick. Fabric was draped over the comfiest cosplay shoes ever (thanks for the Toms, Mom!), strategically placed scraps of cloth donned my arms and legs and white hair paint was shellacked to the top of my red-dyed dome, completing the outfit. All in all, I looked kinda awesome.

Though it felt like I popped fewer poses this year (what a difference two less inches of bare ass makes), I definitely received oodles of compliments, not only on the costume’s construction but on my particular choice as well. I dig inside jokes/references, the ones you have to really know in order to appreciate the full scope, so while the yellow and green spandex coupled with a trademark white streak clearly marked me as Rogue to anyone who has peeked at the X-Men show or comics, the folks who nodded appreciatively while they said, “Savage Land Rogue, excellent!” truly warmed my heart. Jim Lee, the illustrator of this story and several years of early nineties X-Men, remains one of my favorite artists, and his version of Rogue and Gambit are forever etched into my brain. ‘Crossroads,’ the compilation of issues with Rogue in the Savage Land and Gambit’s first interstellar adventure with the X-Men, was my first trade paperback purchase. I had little idea of what exactly was going on (I was snatching up everything that had Rogue and Gambit in it at the time trying to collect the entirety of their relationship) but I still enjoyed the story and adored the art.

Though there were not as many panels this year I was interested in attending, the few I did really hit the spot (see my C2E2 2014: The Panels column!). I took pictures, had my picture taken, did a spot of shopping, trolled the Alley and hung out with friends. Essentially, I enjoyed the hell out of my con. C2E2 is swelling with each year, the roster continues to expand and the marketing is evolving. I considered throwing down the cash for the C2E2 exclusive Winter Soldier hoodie, but when I inquired at the store on Sunday I was informed they sold out on Friday before the end of the show. They’re now being hocked on eBay for roughly two hundred dollars.

Over the weekend my head was filled with the sounds of nerdom: people squealing as they point out their favorite cosplayers, admirations of art and more Doctor Who references than you can shake a sonic screwdriver at. Kids posed with Wonder Woman and Captain America and jumped into action stance when they were the ones in front of the camera. I overheard a girl who must’ve been around thirteen or so tell her father she was ready to sit down again. “I’m not!” he cheerily replied. Right on, my nerdy brother. Because that is what we are: one big happy nerdy family, and damn it felt good to be home.