Bone Deep Heat, Cool Wet Skies, and No-Bake Cookies

I find myself at that point in the ongoing adventure that is relocating to Portland where things are beginning to feel more normal, and yet it’s hard to shake the sense of elation at being in a new place where things are so much better.  The other day, Rachael and I had the urge to make cookies, and we realized with some consternation that we were missing a few key ingredients.  Because the local climate doesn’t necessitate central cooling, we’ve found ourselves trying to be more mindful of how and when we produce excess heat inside our apartment.  Running the oven was out of the question, so we resolved to do some stovetop no-bake cookies (the ones that are basically peanut butter chocolate fudge held together by oats) in the hopes of not making it too hot inside.

Still, we lacked a few core things, and we were faced with the prospect of choosing between having cookies and staying inside (anyone who has had a long, exhausting day at work will likely understand the dilemma here).  Ultimately the desire for cookies won out, and so I volunteered to go to the store to get ingredients.

Back in Georgia, this errand would be the sort of thing that requires getting in the car and driving at least five minutes to the store, parking, locating everything on the list, and then doing it all in reverse.  It’s not necessarily a terrible errand, but it’s an involved one with lots of steps in the process that just aren’t much fun to do when you’re tired and just want some fudging cookies.

In Portland, you just walk to the store.

I mean, it is slightly more involved than that; the nearest store is a high end organic place (sort of like Whole Foods, but not a huge national chain) which doesn’t receive our regular business because that stuff is expensive.  Still, it’s the most convenient place, being located only three blocks away (for comparison, our regular grocery store is about ten blocks away), so I set out on the errand.

The good news of this is that I genuinely enjoy walking in our neighborhood.  It’s a pleasant part of town with lots of activity at any time of day or night, and the novelty of just stepping outside and going is still really magical to me.  Where Georgia is still experiencing temperatures in the high 80s as autumn officially gets underway, Oregon has had the first hints of its long, cool, rainy season.  We’ve been getting precipitation in various levels of intensity all week, and the night I went for cookie ingredients was no different.  It was extremely overcast, and there was more than a little bit of rain falling as I took my stroll.

Yes, the lighting’s terrible, but I don’t care; this was one of those rare moments where I thought taking a picture of myself was worth the effort because it was awesome outside.

The thing about this sort of dreary weather is that it doesn’t seem to hold much enchantment for the locals.  All my coworkers, when they’ve mentioned the weather this week, have been sort of down on it.  I get that.  When the local climate is cold and wet for most of the year, you probably don’t care much for the end of summer.  Of course, I’m from Georgia, and in Georgia it only gets cold and wet for about a month and a half in late winter when the holidays have passed and you have nothing to look forward to because spring will be a brief, miserable explosion of pollen before summer sets in and bakes everything until the end of October.

That is to say, I love this rainy weather.  The climate in Georgia was one of my biggest complaints for a long time; the state’s located at a miserable latitude and climate change has only made it worse as I’ve gotten older.  Being in Oregon, I can’t help feeling giddy when the sky is gray and rain’s steadily falling (I’ve not yet seen any sort of rainy weather to compare with the South’s sudden, intense thunderstorms that dare you to set foot outside).  I feel like a little bit of a freak about it, because I think my excitement over the weather is the most non-local thing about me (folks who find out I’m from Georgia are continually amazed that I don’t have an accent–which is silly, because I do, only not in the stereotypical ways that pop culture leads you to believe Southern accents manifest), but I still remember the bone heat you get in Georgia when you step outside and start sweating within five minutes without ever drying out.  That was the reality of my summers for thirty-one years, and I don’t think that’s a feeling I’ll ever forget.  Consequently, I can’t help associating the cold and the damp with a sense of relief.

So I walked to the store, and I got cocoa powder to make no-bake cookies.  It was a twenty minute errand.  It was also undeniably one of the coolest experiences I’ve had in Portland yet.

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Reading “Generation Why (4 of 4)”

Okay, for that actual arc finale this week, we get a bunch of Kamala learning valuable hero lessons while deliberately trying to use her powers in a way that she’s not used them before.

If the last issue was about Wilson laying out the general theme and (for lack of a better word) moral of this story–that younger generations shouldn’t be judged unfairly by older ones, especially when older humans have a horrible track record of leaving social messes for their kids to clean up–then this one serves primarily to give the necessary heroic resolution.  The Inventor gets his comeuppance after being Kamala’s primary antagonist for nearly a year’s worth of issues, and we see Kamala have another epiphany about what it means to be a hero.

Also, this happens. This panel makes the whole issue worthwhile. (Artwork by Adrian Alphona, colors by Ian Herring, letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna)

To cover the relatively mundane stuff first, Kamala confronts the Inventor, who has kidnapped most of her classmates, including Nakia, and plugged them into his giant power grid for megalomaniacal reasons.  Because it’s been thoroughly established by this point that the Inventor knows Kamala’s major weakness (she can’t shape shift immediately after she’s been electrocuted), Kamala finds herself in a series of tight spots where she has to rely on the help of the teens she rescued from the Inventor’s safe house in the previous issue, Lockjaw, and ultimately Bruno and the police.  Given that the arc of Kamala’s first year of stories has been all about her growing into her Ms. Marvel identity and contemplating what it means to be a hero, this last lesson that she doesn’t have to save the day all by herself is a nice one.  Being okay with relying on your support network is a good skill to develop even outside superheroics, and given the generally positive worldview of the book, it makes sense with Kamala’s character that she would embrace this community oriented vision of doing good.

In a small parallel to that, it’s nice to see this last issue of the arc feature Bruno finally being included in Kamala’s plans.  Many issues ago the two of them established a code for how Kamala can call for help, and up to this point she’s not really made use of it.  Combined with Bruno’s small complaints about how Kamala gets to go do all the exciting stuff, it’s pleasant to see him finally being able to do the job he’s been trying to do for a while.  Maybe he’ll finally stop running headlong into danger to try to protect Kamala (yeah right).

Pictured: Lockjaw being adorable (also Vick helping save Kamala). (Artwork by Adrian Alphona, colors by Ian Herring, letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna)

One other good bit of character development comes from Vick.  Bruno’s screw up brother has been Kamala’s sort of mascot through most of her adventures up to this point (even more so than Lockjaw; at least the dog actually does useful stuff in action situations).  He’s a bit of comic relief, often getting into trouble that requires Kamala to rescue him.  In this issue Vick comes into his own as the de facto leader of the teens while Kamala is busy fighting the Inventor’s machines.  He distracts the big robot of the issue for a while so Kamala is able to save Nakia from the Grid tubes, and then when Kamala needs to call for backup, it’s Vick who goes to get Lockjaw to bust her out.  He’s still a pretty big doofus, but Vick grows on me in this issue.

Like with other climax issues, I’m not super excited about everything that’s going on here.  What’s appealing about Ms. Marvel as a book are the character dynamics and Kamala’s growth as a hero.  She grows a little bit here, which is fantastic, but it’s a very brief part of a twenty-something page issue.

Wise words, teenager. (Artwork by Adrian Alphona, colors by Ian Herring, letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna)

ABC’s

  • Coin slot on the Inventor’s Grid tending robots
  • Dude wrapped head to toe in bandages
  • Skeleton with umbrella
  • “Dropkick Enthusiast”
  • “Bears Do It Too”
  • “Kamala is a calling”
  • “Bigfoot: Ghost Hunter”
  • “Top Dropkicks of 2014”
  • “Introducing: The Bangladeshi Nut Blaster”
  • “Dropkick a Bison in 3 Steps”
  • “School of Kung Fu Treachery”
  • “Roundhouse Cola”
  • The big splash page of Kamala winding through the robot gears is inverted
  • “Sal’s Used Cheese”
  • “Radoslav’s Soul Food”
  • “Bobby Beisbol”
  • Pixel Art Ms. Marvel inside the robot button label
  • “Nuke it”
  • Girl with hammers excitedly showing her hammers to the police

On Self Care

The purpose of this post is mostly to expand on things that I found interesting in the panel “Beyond Escapism: Geek Self Care” at Rose City Comic Con.  As I was writing up a summary of all the panels last week, I realized that there was still a lot of stuff that I didn’t fit into that general post.

To reiterate, the concept of self care comes into discourse from Black feminism.  It’s based on the familiar idea that we all come across during those safety tutorials at the beginning of flights where you’re instructed to put your own breathing mask on before you help anyone else with theirs.  You can’t very well be of help to anyone else if you’re in danger of passing out yourself.  The reason this idea emerged so prominently from Black feminism should be obvious when you consider that metaphor.  Black women are doubly targeted by the oppressive systems of patriarchy and white supremacy, and so their wellbeing is consistently under direct threat from multiple directions.  If you belonged to a group that had to deal with constant assault to its humanity, you would probably promote an ethos of self care too.

As a side note, I have to emphasize that I’m speaking as a non-expert on this subject.  I am probably overlooking certain elements of nuance and context that are invisible to me because of my identity.  Any corrective feedback is welcome.

The concept of self care is a radical one in progressive circles because its purpose is to carve out space for personal wellbeing in an ideological framework that is overwhelmingly skewed towards emphasizing collective wellbeing.  The wonderful thing about progressive ideologies is how they envision communities where everyone’s effort enriches the whole.  The drawback is that this focus on the community over the individual can lead to overcommitment and exhaustion of persons.  Enacting progressive visions is hard work, and much of that work also meets with active, hostile resistance from regressive actors.  It’s no secret that many of the people who benefit most from the status quo would rather people fighting to have equitable treatment remain invisible, and a substantial subset of those people are willing to do violence to the persons of oppressed groups.  So there are two major forces acting upon people in progressive communities that necessitate self care: the exhaustion that comes from doing vision work and the harm that comes from hostile resistors of that same work.  With these drains on personal resources in mind, it becomes more easily apparent why self care matters.

What I find appealing about self care is how it operates as a way to open up conversations about mental health in spaces where the subject is overly fraught with stigma.  If you happen to be someone who has a chronic mental illness like depression or anxiety, it can be challenging to speak frankly about your needs in groups that are not educated about what those conditions mean in a realistic, non-sensationalized context.  As a society, we have had a tendency for a long time to erase mental health by equating legitimate mental illness with less severe experiences that fall within the typical range of healthy human experience (my personal favorite example is peoples’ use of obsessive-compulsive disorder as shorthand for being uptight; this usage completely erases the fact that OCD is an anxiety disorder, reducing it to a common manifestation as just preoccupation with rituals of cleanliness).  The schema that self care provides is a useful way for sidestepping the stigma when getting into conversations about mental health.

There are caveats that come with employing self care.  The big one to be mindful of is the fact that because self care is about, y’know, taking care of yourself, it’s easily co-opted by consumerist impulses.  Withdrawing from the arena of social issues to recharge and reorganize yourself runs very close to shutting out external problems completely and retreating to complacence.  Probably the best example in recent memory that I can think of for this phenomenon is the Tina Fey sheetcaking sketch.  Most of that sketch is designed to express the general distress that large swaths of the American public feel about the emboldened actions of white supremacist groups following 2016’s presidential election.  It’s an effective sketch that resonated for good reason despite its missteps with humor that target marginalized groups (Fey’s record on this count is unsurprising; all of her high profile projects of the last decade have been insensitive to communities of color and other marginalized groups).  The sheetcaking joke is an absurdist representation of self care that still conveys its purpose clearly: you back off from things that drain you in order to survive.  Where the sketch misses is in its final moments when Fey calls for people to not show up to respond to white supremacists.  Her message for dealing with social distress is to withdraw for healing, and then to just stay away.  Self care becomes indefinite sequestration, which benefits no one but the individual (and even that is arguable).

The most salient hazard in engaging is self care is defaulting to isolation.  Introversion is an extremely common trait in nerd circles, and the introvert pattern is to withdraw because being near people is draining.  What the panel discussed to some degree was how self care looks not just like taking time to pursue your own interests, but also like regularly staying in touch with other people that you trust to help you stay grounded.  We are social animals, and even if our individual personalities may incline us towards solitary activities when we need to recharge, it’s vital that we maintain some sort of community.  You need people you can check in with regularly to help you get an outside perspective on how you’re doing.

I’m sure there’s a ton of stuff that I’ve overlooked here and forgotten from the panel, but I hope this post provides a little bit of clarity on how I understand self care at this point.  It’s a vital component to maintaining mental health while doing difficult work, and it’s something that more people need to understand.

Rose City Comic Con Panels

I mentioned on Monday that I attended a bunch of panels at Rose City Comic Con, and I figured I should actually put down some thoughts on them for posterity.  First, let’s just get them listed out before I go into detail about each one:

  • “Feeling Super!: The Representation of Mental Health in Pop Culture”
  • “Folklore in Comics”
  • “Beyond Escapism: Geek Self Care”
  • “Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men Present: This is the Mutant Revolution”
  • “Understanding the Mythology of Fairies and Witches”
  • “Adaptation Versus Appropriation: How to Borrow Respectfully From Other Cultures in Fiction”
  • “The Devil’s in the Details”

When you look at them all laid out there it really does seem like a lot, right?

Okay, let’s go in chronological order (which is, conveniently, precisely how they’re listed).

“Feeling Super!” – The description for this panel suggested that it would delve into issues of representation of mental health across a bunch of different pop culture media, but the primary focus ended up being live action television and movies.  The hosts of the panel were a pair of licensed social workers (this was Friday evening, so I didn’t yet have the wherewithal to note somewhere who they were) who have run this specific panel at other conventions in the past.  It was pretty interesting, though honestly most of what they discussed were things that I already understood to be unrealistic portrayals of mental health treatments (probably as a result of all that time I’ve spent listening to The Arkham Sessions).  Much of the discussion revolved around debunking pop culture portrayals of therapists engaging in gross ethical violations with their clients, which was fun but felt like a bit of overkill.  I was really disappointed that the conversation didn’t spend much time exploring how representation of mental health issues has improved in pop culture.

“Folklore in Comics” – I’ve recently started listening to the podcast Myths & Legends where the host Jason Weiser retells old myths, legends, and fairytales with modern commentary thrown in for entertainment.  It’s a fun podcast, and Weiser does a good job of discussing the weirdness of all this old folklore.  Given that, I thought I’d check out a couple of panels related to the subject since folklore is a massive resource in constructing stories in modern popular culture.  This panel touched on things like the weirdness of how vampires are a super common mythical creature across cultures, but the sexy variety only entered the popular conscious with the advent of modern storytelling.  They also discussed how having access to a wealth of folklore can sometimes be restricting, as it invites the temptation to delve into deep research on a thing in a story that could really just be made up.  There was some discussion of the need for cultural sensitivity in pulling from these resources (one of the panelists, Chris Robeson, pointed out that he treads very carefully as a white dude mining other cultures for monsters in the Hellboy comic that he writes).  Other points of interest were a brief discussion on the nature of myth versus religion (most of the panelists agreed that myth is just religious beliefs that no one subscribes to anymore, but one panelist thankfully pushed back and pointed out that myth’s purpose is generally a method by which humans explain the world, and so it’s probably more correct to say that religion is a subset of myth without making judgments on the trueness of any particular belief) and the question of why Japan’s folklore is so radically different from anything you find in other cultures (the answer: Japan self-isolated for nearly three hundred years so there was no cross-pollination of folk stories during that time).

“Beyond Escapism” – I enjoyed the first two panels that I attended, but this one was exceptionally good.  Because the topic was self care, the panel consisted primarily of Black and female panelists.  There was some really good discussion of how self care as a concept emerged from Black feminism, where it’s generally employed as a survival strategy; Western culture is highly antagonistic towards Black people, and the principle of self care operates to give people trying to navigate that toxic environment permission to preserve their personal resources for their own survival.  It’s a difficult premise to enact when you’re pushing hard towards a more communal social model (the panel talked extensively about differences between the dominant American model of “rugged individualism” and a collectivist model that’s more popular in other parts of the world).  The ubiquitous social virtue of self sacrifice lends itself to personal exhaustion and depletion to the point of inefficacy.  It’s all of this stuff that provides the context for why self care is important.  Beyond that, the panel also discussed in depth the dangers of self care being co-opted by capitalist systems as both a way to further distract otherwise engaged people from doing progressive work and a method for advancing the ever expanding cause of consumerism.  It’s a really complex subject, and this panel was amazing in the things that it discussed.  Other things of note, in relation to issues of mental health, was discussion of the acronym SPEAK (I wish I had taken notes on what it stands for; I must see if I can find more information on it).  There’s a lot more to this panel that I wish I could go in depth on; the topic probably deserves its own post some time in the future.

“This is the Mutant Revolution” – Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men tries really hard to avoid discussing current politics as a matter of course.  It’s not that Jay and Miles don’t share their politics on their show; they’re very open about being far left of center and don’t shy away from that position coloring how they read the comics that they cover.  Typically they’re very forthright about engaging with the historical and social context of what was happening contemporaneously with the comics they read; if there’s a specific issue of the day that a certain arc examines, they tackle that head on.  The main reason they’ve given for staying out of current politics has largely been because they don’t want to alienate listeners who might not agree with them.  All of that went out the window with this panel (which is also an episode on the podcast).  Because of Jay’s specific position as a trans man in a new marriage that may or may not be recognized in a given state based on a complex array of factors, the policies of the current administration have been personally disastrous and anxiety producing.  The purpose of this panel was to highlight how the X-Men operate as a particularly powerful political vehicle, especially as a way of exploring strategic modes of resistance in the face of highly oppressive systems.  It was a chance for people who think we made a huge mistake in November 2016 and who also like the X-Men to come together in a communal space  and see each other.  As far as panels go, it was probably the highlight of the con for me.

“Understanding the Mythology of Fairies and Witches” – This panel had a really promising premise, but it ended up disappointing me.  The presenter was a folklorist who specializes in studying stories of fairies, but he struck me as someone who is more accustomed to lecturing in an academic setting rather than at a fan convention.  He didn’t begin with any introductory material, leaving the audience with huge gaps in understanding what creatures he was particularly discussing at any given moment.  After about ten minutes of lecture, several folks in the audience had to interrupt him to ask for clarification of what he was talking about.  Everyone seemed to be acting in good faith here; they wanted to hear what he had to say.  For my part, I ended up ducking out of the panel after only twenty minutes.  It was late on Saturday and I had a set time I wanted to get home by, and leaving that panel gave me time to do a little bit more shopping and costume viewing before I had to catch the bus home.

“Adaptation versus Appropriation” – This panel was a nice follow up to the earlier panel on folklore in comics.  Much of the discussion revolved around what sort of work creators have to do in order to respectfully pull ideas and inspiration from cultures that aren’t their own, and there was a pretty frank discussion of the fact that anytime you do borrow, you absolutely must be willing to accept that someone is probably going to be hurt by what you’ve done.

“The Devil’s in the Details” – This was another panel that was run partly by Jay and Miles (I admit it, most of the activities I did over the weekend revolved around seeing them; I am a fanboy), but also featured the hosts of the other comics-explainer podcast, Titan up the Defense.  I’m not a big DC fan so I don’t have any context for their work with the ’70s era Teen Titans, and I completely missed the Defenders as a Marvel super team, so this is not a podcast that I’ve listened to at all.  I hear that it’s fun and funny, and after having one of the guys recite lyrics to a song by Macho Man Randy Savage as a lead in to his analogy for what the podcast’s premise is like, I can see the appeal.  Where most of the other panels I went to were about issues in comics and pop culture related to intersectional feminism, this panel was about being a goofy comics continuity nerd.  I answered an obscure trivia question and won a sticker and a free button from Jay and Miles (the button is a picture of Dust, an X-Men character who hasn’t appeared nearly often enough, particularly given current political contexts, and the sticker features Jay’s impeccable handwriting saying, “You are a winner”), and there was much laughter over the fact that ’70s comics are just weird.  It was a good note on which to end the convention.

Reading “Generation Why (3 of 4)”

So, I’ve been operating under the impression for the last few months that “Generation Why” was a three part story (moving will generally discombobulate anyone), and after reading this week’s issue, I realized that I was mistaken.  It’s totally a four part story, and nothing is resolved in the issue we’re covering today.

Like seriously, the entire purpose of this issue is to reveal the villain’s heinous plan and move Ms. Marvel into position where she can fight the Inventor in one last major showdown.  Perhaps I was so convinced this was a three parter because it has an issue that’s really thin on meaty plot bites.

That’s a total Charlie Brown face on Kamala. Also, go figure that it’s dog-stealing which turns the teens against their cult leader. (Artwork by Adrian Alphona, colors by Ian Herring, letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna)

The basic plot of this issue is that after rescuing the teens and discovering that they’ve been brainwashed to believe they have nothing of value to offer society besides their body heat, Ms. Marvel and Lockjaw get into another giant robot fight, and Lockjaw is kidnapped, prompting Ms. Marvel to persuade the just-released teens to help her beat the Inventor once and for all.

What we do get is a decently lengthy discourse from Kamala about how absurd it is to be down on a younger generation before they’ve had a chance to do anything.  There’s some rousing inspirational patter about how kids’ minor hobbies and talents now will eventually grow into super important jobs and skills in the future (and there’s a bit about how the ever shiftless Vick will someday be POTUS, which, let’s face it, is a wonderfully prescient dig at the current national embarrassment a full two years before he entered office), but the big takeaway is that you should not trust adults who steal dogs and try to make the youth clean up messes that they made (G Willow Wilson leans hard on climate change as an example of just such a mess, and considering the recent spate of hurricanes and wildfires, it’s really easy to see what she’s getting at).  This is the thesis statement of the story arc.  Every generation is terrible at judging the one that comes after it, often because the adult generation never considers how its own mistakes make life harder for its children.

Kamala still has Charlie Brown face, but she’s striking a delightfully classic-looking superhero pose. (Artwork by Adrian Alphona, colors by Ian Herring, letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna)

There’s not much to add to this point, really.  I think Wilson’s totally right in her assessment (I’ve argued the same thing regarding certain real world events in the past with a lot less levity), and she nails the tone that the story needs: somewhere between irritation that older folk are so full of themselves and firmly founded optimism that young people can and will make the world better given the opportunity.  This is an all-ages book, after all, so let’s leave the crippling cynicism out of it.

Beyond the core message, this is a light issue.  Adrian Alphona’s art is still delightful in all the ways that I find it delightful, but there’s virtually nothing of interest happening in the background (most of the events in this issue take place in a junkyard full of smoke following a big explosion, so backgrounds are pretty samey).  The big artistic draws are a few excellent panels where you get to see Kamala being heroic and Lockjaw being adorable and goofy.  I don’t think I can stress enough how well Alphona makes Lockjaw’s participation in the action sequences serve as a fine complement to Kamala’s heroics and still be adorably funny.  It’s a lighthearted book, and even while Kamala’s discussing the sad state of the world in the early twenty-first century, Alphona throws in silly touches like the bowler hat and the feet with sideways balancing prongs on the Inventors battle robot.

The best Lockjaw panel. (Artwork by Adrian Alphona, colors by Ian Herring, letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna)

The (actual) last issue of this arc should pack a little bit more punch than this one does.  I’m beginning to wonder, based on this arc and the first one of the series, if it’s just going to be expected that the penultimate issue in any long story arc will be a little less interesting than what pops up around it.

ABC’s

  • A goldfish caught in an explosion
  • A jackelope
  • A skull with aviator’s cap and goggles
  • SHIELD emblem on helicopter debris
  • “Mum”
  • A Virtual Boy by the Inventor’s chair
  • “Birdy Num Nums”
  • “Robomaker 3000”
  • “Choose Parts”
  • “Press to add love”
  • “Thomas Edison: Inventions and Fight Tips”
  • “Forward by Joe Louis”
  • “New Years ’89”

I Went to a Con! And I Didn’t Hate It!

Okay, so in case anyone’s coming to the ongoing saga of my relationship with conventions fresh, I’ll refer you back to my write up of my experiences at DragonCon last year (the short version is that it was okay, but I really am not good with huge crowd situations).  This year, since we moved to Portland and I have heard that Portland has its own local fan convention, I decided that I would give it a try.  Many people who regularly attend cons that are not the unholy shambling behemoth that is DragonCon have told me in the past that the Atlanta convention really is in a category all its own, and other cons tend to be much more fun and friendly.  Since most of my previous experience was specifically with DragonCon (I went to Anime Weekend Atlanta a couple times way back in college and had a blast then, but haven’t been back since I moved out of my hardcore anime fan phase), I figured that I absolutely needed a new data point to help unskew my view of conventions.

I can say unreservedly that going to Rose City Comic Con was the best experience I’ve had with a convention.

There were some necessary hurdles to jump with my going.  By habit I am not a socially outgoing person, and attending a major event like this would typically be something I’d try to plan with friends.  That couldn’t happen this year because RCCC is very much a comics convention, and the small group of friends that I have in Portland don’t share my enthusiasm for the medium.  Absent that support, I still knew that I wanted to go enjoy the thing, so I resolved to go enjoy the thing alone.

Oh my gosh, was that a big step for me to take.

As someone who is fairly independently minded when it comes to his hobbies, I don’t have a problem with just deciding to do something that I want to do for fun.  The thing is that my idea of fun is usually catching up on TV, playing some video games, reading comics, or working on my blog.  These are all activities that are very well suited to solitude.  As I have ruminated many times in public internet spaces, I am a person who infinitely prefers the distance of a screen to meat space interactions except in the case of my most intimate friends.  Going to a convention, alone, and actually having to figure out how to socialize with strangers is more than a little stressful.

And oh yes, there was socialization.  I knew about RCCC before we moved to Portland because the hosts of probably my favorite podcast, Jay and Miles X-Plain the X-Men, used to be based out of Portland (Miles still is, but Jay relocated to New York over this past summer), and they’ve been regular attendees of the show for the past few years.  Because freaking out last year about being in the general vicinity of Peter David wasn’t enough for my social anxiety, I made plans to not only attend all three days of the con but to check out Jay and Miles’s fan party a little ways from RCCC on Friday night.

Yes, that’s right.  I went to a party where I knew no one to hang out for two hours.  I questioned my judgment about this decision the entire time I was there.  Fortunately the entertainment was good (Kid Apocalypse, a nerd hip hop artist, performed, and while I have weird feelings about the unrelenting whiteness of much of nerd culture co-opting a Black art form like hip hop, he was a lot of fun), and I got to meet Jay and Miles in person.  They are delightful people, and did not at all make me feel like the weirdo I clearly and most assuredly must have been in their presence.  The crowd at the party turned out to be a bit much for me by the end of the night, and I ducked out about half an hour before everyone closed up shop.  Still, I managed to carry on a conversation with creators whose work I really like, which was a vast improvement over the whole Peter David incident where he confused me for some other white guy with glasses and I stood there dumbly because it’s Peter effing David and after Chris Claremont’s stuff on New Mutants his work with X-Factor is some of my favorite bits from the X-Men universe.

Anyway.

Following Friday and my obvious social ineptitude that wasn’t quite as bad as it could have been, Saturday was a lot of fun.  There was still a hefty bit of social anxiety, but being at the con on my own meant that I was free to schedule my day as I liked.  I planned to go to a few panels, and most of them were good (the last one of the day, unfortunately, wasn’t that interesting, and I ducked out after twenty minutes in favor of a bit more cosplay watching), and in between I was able to just walk the floor of the convention, take in everyone’s costumes, and do some shopping.

Being an adult with actual disposable income at a convention is hella cool by the way.

I wanted to find stuff to decorate my classroom a little bit, which might have been a tad ambitious in the end.  So much of fan art is skewed towards an adult audience in ways that make it uncomfortable to display in spaces that will be occupied primarily by children (even teenagers), and the range of subjects that would fit thematically in a classroom is relatively limited.  I did pick up a few things that will be useful in my room (I got a pixel-art Squirtle that I’m totally going to turn into my restroom pass), but most of what I bought was stuff for my personal enjoyment.  I got some comics (there’s an anthology of comics by queer people of color that I can’t wait to get into) and a lot of personal merch.  Seriously, this was the con where I discovered buttons.

In between all of the shopping and the paneling, I took pictures of folks’ cosplay.  This was another area where I was kind of skittish about participating (I mean, you gotta actually ask people to pose while you take a picture of them), but I felt like I needed to make an effort because I promised my students that I would show them pictures from the con.  That was another area where I feel like I experienced a lot of personal growth over the weekend.  On Saturday, most of my pictures of cosplayers were taken in tandem with other groups of photographers; I waited for folks to strike poses for others and then grab a picture as part of the crowd.  This is cool for those costumes that are really popular and draw a lot of attention, but it leaves you to miss out on some other stuff (while walking the con floor on Saturday I crossed paths with a cosplayer who was dressed as the Stalk from Saga and didn’t think to take her picture even though her costume was really good).  By Sunday morning, when I spotted a cosplayer dressed as Chloe Price from Life is Strange, I realized I needed to bite the bullet and ask some strangers for pictures.  It still felt awkward, but as I talked with more people and complimented their costumes, the more comfortable it felt having that interaction.  As a result, I got a lot more pictures on Sunday of cosplays of characters that I personally think are really cool.

I haven’t even gotten into any of the stuff that was discussed at the panels I attended (they ranged from the highly informative to the emotionally supportive to the incredibly silly), so I guess there will be another post discussing Rose City Comic Con coming up in the future.  For now, to finish off the post, a small gallery of some of the niftiest cosplays I got pictures of.

Max and Chloe from that teenage girl simulator that I kind of like a lot.

The only thing missing is that he has all of his left index finger.

I saw a Zero Suit Samus as well, but c’mon. This is clearly a far superior costume.

There were a lot of Batmans, but there was only one Adam West-in-swim-trunks-with-a-surfboard Batman.

 

Howl’s Moving Castle does not get enough love.