Tangled Web — The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review

www.hypergeeky.comThe problem with every Spider-Man movie thus far has been the constant rinse and repeat plot points that relentlessly drive home the point that Peter Parker has real-life problems. He’s an orphan, living a lower-middle-class life with his loving and better-life-deserving Aunt May. Bitten by a radioactive spider, the brainiac Parker creates an alter-ego and adopts New York City as his charge while juggling a romance with Gwen Stacy. Issues like these make for compelling story elements, but they’re tied like cinder blocks — ironically, because they’re meant as foundations — to the movie’s ankles, dragging it down and eventually burying it.

It’s very clear early on that the relationship between Peter (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen (Emma Stone) is the focal point. Anyone familiar with the comic books knew what to expect — Stacy’s graduation speech throws an ominous and predictable cloud on the entire movie. Out of college and out of his relationship — visions of Captain George Stacy (Denis Leary) haunt Spider-Man even in the midst of battle — Parker catches up with Harry Osborne (Dane DeHaan) after the younger Osborne inherits Oscorp from his dead father. Things take a turn when Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) becomes the poster child for workman’s comp and turns into Marvel Universe’s version of the Emperor from Star Wars landing him in a secret research facility as another rat for the company’s clandestine Secret Projects (seriously?) department. Adding to the convoluted script is another plot twist when Harry asks Parker for a very special favor — get blood from Spider-Man.

If you like your movies bloated and overwhelmed with characters, plot threads, and character development without having the real estate of time or the precise script to do them justice, then Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the ultimate textbook example of what not to do in a superhero movie. Neither the Rhino (Paul Giamatti), Electro (Foxx), or the Green Goblin (DeHaan) are more than a sum of their parts though we’re constantly told that we should care. And don’t get me started on the needle in a hay stack plot developments that string along all of the various scenes forming a Frankenstein’s monster that lacks the energy, urgency, or drive worthy of the lifeless body left in Peter’s arms. Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a means to an end, but everything is so casually swept under the rug at every turn that the movie does the one thing it shouldn’t do — break its own rules. We can believe a man can have the aspects of a spider and that villains can rise to challenge his goodness, but I can’t stand it when a movie twists and turns to setup flimsy storylines that don’t stay the course — Peter’s parents become a non-issue after a visit to a ridiculously elaborate secret lab built in an abandoned train tunnel that’s so un-abandoned it still gets inspected. The first part of the movie worked incredibly well, and Garfield, Stone, and Fields are wonderful in their roles — DeHaan not so much as if he’s been told to act like a cardboard cutout in cringe-worthy scenes that make Hemlock Grove seem like Shakespeare. It’s tragic to see the movie slowly lose life over the course of the movie until it crawls to its finish at which point they cue the traditional Aunt May speech and show us what villains we’re supposed to expect in the next movie. If they stay the course, The Amazing Spider-Man 3 will be another lifeless exercise in the Spider-Man cycle as Parker struggles with the power and responsibility, falls in love with Mary Jane — Shailene Woodley was mercifully cutout of this movie — and then breaks up with her only to fall back in love after he saves her from some precarious position dangling from a strand of webbing. Just please don’t screw up Venom.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Directed by: Marc Webb
Written by: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Jeff Pinkner
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, and Jamie Foxx


An Interview with Bridgett Spicer

I conducted a live interview with cartoonist Bridgett Spicer last year only to sit on it as she went through major professional changes. After her hometown newspaper, the Monterey County Herald, decided to drop her Squid Row comic strip — a move that prompted an angry response from members in the community — Spicer began work on two major projects in addition to keeping Squid Row on the Internet.

It didn’t feel right to put up an old interview, and seeing as how Bridgett’s weeks away from officially releasing her new compilation Down But Not Out, it seemed like a good idea to talk about what’s happened, what’s going on now, and what’s to be.

You can check out Squid Row at www.squidrowcomics.com.


First off, what’s it like working as an independent cartoonist these days?

It’s challenging. You have to be really creative. If it is your full-time job and livelihood, you need to be tenacious and find ways to gather support.

What methods have you been using to gather support?

I correspond with my readers. I make sure that I respond to their comments online. To me that’s just courtesy, but also it opens up dialogue. I have some great fans that have been super at buying my books, art, and stuff. Another way is I look for ways to cross pollinate. If there is a program I believe in, I write them into the strip, or I donate some art or something. It’s a way to give them a nod and sometimes they nod back, then we hug, and all is groovy.

The past year has been a big one for you in terms of business decisions being made. Can you give us a quick recap and tell us where you’re at now?

Yah. It’s kinda funny. So I’d been in The Monterey Herald for four years. And suddenly, the editor dropped the bomb in the paper that they were no longer going to carry my comic (they were adopting a pre-fab page o’comics that all their papers would share) so as of Jan. 1, no more locally run comic. It was pretty devastating the way it went down, but in a way, it was a blessing. I’d been pondering “What next,” and so this happening sort of took care of that for me. I decided to take the opportunity to 1: Put out a compilation book (WAY overdue) and 2: Start a graphic novel. What this required was me cutting the comic strip back to three days a week from a daily.

Did you cut down in order to work on the other two big projects?

Yes. While The Herald wasn’t the only paper I was running in, it was the only daily (besides online) and so I decided to give my readers something else. Sadly, it meant applying the bunny-hop maneuver.

As for the two projects, where are you at with them now?

I was able to get the compilation book off the ground pretty fast. I hit the ground running on that the finished product “Down But Not Out on Squid Row” literally showed up within this passed week. The graphic novel is a much slower process. So, that I will give myself much more time to work on this will be my first graphic novel and I really want it to sparkle in a big way.

Let’s talk about the compilation. How would you describe the Squid Row title?

Meaning the actual title of the book?

The characters and story.

Ah. Well, Squid Row follows Randie Springlemeyer, a quirky coffee-addicted artist, who with her bohemian pals lives in a touristy seaside community. Randie is often short on cash-flow (but somehow has enough for a cuppa joe), and the comic mostly revolves around her. However, she has these pals who are always helping her out — Ryan, a writer who is her platonic boyfriend who is LIKE a boyfriend but not, and her Art-o-rama Mama pals who are artists, themselves. Throw in some tourists, a mangy cat, and a maladjusted barista and you’ve got some silly going down.

How much of the stories are based on personal experiences? And are the characters based on your own persona and personalities of your friends/associates/acquaintances?

I would say that a good lot of the strip is based on something that either happened to me or is happening or maybe bothering me. I find that most of my inspiration comes from real life which is a bunch of stories waiting to be written. I used to work in an art store, and so Randie, of course, works in an art store. I mine old pain for that. When I go traveling, I will often write something into the strip about it. I’ve written about Portland and Paris. As far as personalities …

I tend to sort of take qualities from a person and work them in to a character. Enid’s cookie-making skills and wise sage-ness is pulled from my partner Judy (who makes excellent cookies and gives really good advice). Enid wants to save the world starting with locally made batches of cookies. She has a good heart but tends to overdo it at times. Randie, as you might guess is a lot like me. But I do throw in a lot of artistic license Randie loves horror films, but I do not. She is also a slob!

There are a few characters that are based on real people. Spill and Fred. Spill is an artist who is a good pal of mine! I should add that Fred is a friend of mine I used to work with in my art supply store days. There’s a reason I made him into a barista in the strip. He used to drink triple espressos at work!

There’s a coffee shop in town that was getting vandalized. You wrote that into your stories, and you also created a positive out of a negative on that one.

Yes. Like I said earlier, I nod at some businesses. One is Rollick’s (my very local — across the street from my office — coffee shop). I call it Rollicker’s Coffee in the strip. Last year, they had their large window broken, then fixed, then broken again. It was becoming a regular thing, so they just left the plywood temporary fix up. Seeing this empty canvas, I and a local Hartnell art teacher offered to do something with the space. So we teamed up, Trish Sullivan’s art students and I, to mural the plywood. It put a positive spin on a bad thing. I used that in the comic. I wanted to bring that story out.

I find that, if anything, the comic has a positive message folded in the story lines. That’s a conscious effort.

It sounds like community is very important to you.

It’s funny. As a cartoonist, I spend a lot of time doing cartooning indoors behind my office door. So sometimes, I feel like I’m not as involved as I would like to be. But yes, it’s important.

Let’s talk about the graphic novel. Why that format, and what should fans of Squid Row expect?

I feel like Squid Row is much deeper than 4 or 5 panels a strip allows it. I think that the dialogue I want to engage in is bigger than a strip every other day. I feel that I can tell a bigger story (within a story) in that format. Also, Randie is an artist. it’s hard to show her art in teeny tiny panels. Squid fans can expect a longer story with issues that are somewhat familiar to Squid Row, and they can expect to see a more art feel to the G-novel. It is my intention to make it a work of art, so to speak.


Can you describe the transition from working on comic strips which are contained in a short set of panels and a graphic novel which is larger in scope?

Well, I’m still in the writing phase. I had a particular story that I wanted to tell. The only problem is, I didn’t know the scope — is this a larger story with maybe three medium-sized books in a series, kind of like a Scott Pilgrim model, or is it one big book like Craig Thompson’s Blankets? It was feeling really overwhelming. So, I just started writing. At first I tried to put the story in some sort of outline but found that it isn’t how I like to write. I tend to write my storylines in the comic strip with sort of an idea, and then the story writes itself. This requires a bit of faith that it’ll work out — kinda like real life, I guess — but so, I just started writing and seeing where it goes. So, that’s not too unlike what I do in the comic strip. My characters are familiar to me, so I know how they’ll interact with one another. But I’m finding that I can write them deeper. But certainly, the G-Novel feels big to me.

Should readers expect the same tone as the strips, or are you going for a more realistic and heavier tone as graphic novels tend to do when they take an existing characters and transport them into larger stories?

I’ve noticed a darker tone to the writing. It’s a lot heavier in its subject matter, but I expect to go back and add an element of lightness. I don’t want to alienate the readers who like the comic’s lightheartedness, and really, I’m not someone who can write darkly. I’ve been told that I’m cheerful in my comic so … but I will be changing up my style for the graphic novel. I plan on loosening up my line and adopting more of a sketchy quality. I don’t want it to read like the comic strip  or really look like the comic strip. I like the idea of changing things up.

Why did you choose to use your existing characters rather than create new ones?

I really feel like there is so much more I want to explore with Squid Row. I don’t feel that the stories are used up or that there isn’t anything left. I really like my characters, and I think that the graphic novel will put them in front of a new audience.

Do you have release dates for the two projects?

I just finished up my pre-orders for the compilation book (Down/Out), and I am lining up some book signings, so while it’s not been officially announced as out, it’s here. I will post something on my site making it official now that the pre-order is done. The graphic novel — well, I’m not sure. It won’t be out in the next year, that’s for sure. It may even be three years, but I hope not.

WonderCon 2014 Cosplayer Gallery

The cosplayers at WonderCon were a force to be reckoned with this year, and I had the opportunity to snap a few pictures while I traversed the crowded halls of the Anaheim Convention Center.

Friday was a bit slow, but Saturday brought out hundreds if not thousands of talented cosplayers.

Here are a few pictures of the great cosplay costumes being shown off, and it’s just a small sampling of the great costumes and personalities in attendance.

Kicking it off this gallery is a photo of artist extraordinaire Anthony Castillo who sketched me a Spider-Man.


House of the Dead — Witcher #1 Review

Dark Horse

Based on the video game of the same name — which itself was based on a series of novels — the Witcher comic series follows Geralt of Rivia, a monster hunter with special abilities.

The Witcher is set in a fictional and medieval world where magic and monsters are commonplace, and previous stories involved a lot of swordplay, political drama, and an ambitious amount of backstory that created a large and dynamic world in the vein of Tolkien’s masterpieces.

We’re first introduced to Jakob the hunter, a lonely man fishing for food who ends up befriending a tired and bedraggled Geralt who hasn’t seen anyone for days. The two strike up an unlikely friendship with campfire tales and life stories after Geralt takes down a drowner stalking Jakob from the fishing hole.

As they share deeper stories, Geralt learns about Jakob’s wife, a woman taken by the Bruxae Vampires and turned into one of their own. Since then, Marta has watched over Jakob from a distance which has kept Jakob in place until he chooses to move and follow the Witcher for an adventure.

Dark Horse

The two travel through the ominously named Black Forest where they encounter a grave hag that warns them of “the house.” Dangerous encounters spur them forward, and the pair eventually arrive at a mysterious location — a place that could give Jakob the closure he wants while giving Geralt the action his sword craves.

Dark Horse

The Witcher #1 is a solid entry to the series and a decent introduction for readers entering Angren for the first time. Jakob functions well as the reader’s eyes, and we’re with him on his journey as he gets to know the Witcher and his fantastic world.

Paul Tobin’s scripts are most excellent in the dialogue — the budding friendship between Jakob and Geralt feels natural and paced. The lore is also strong, and the premise carries weight.

Tobin’s scripting gets bogged down are the forest scenes — we get way too much explication of and wandering that gets a little repetitive. It feels a lot like setup which ultimately makes what comes at the end of the story a little predictable.

On the visual front, Joe Querio’s artwork coupled with Carlos Badilla’s colors give The Witcher #1 a great sense of tone. The mood is somber when it needs to be, and the action sequences ramp up with a good sense of speed and movement.

Anyone looking for a fantasy comic might find exactly what they’re looking for in Witcher #1. It’s not the strongest start, but the elements are there pointing to everything genre fans want and desire. If it’s anything like the video games, expect an immense world filled with history that’s constantly shifting and building. Issue #1 scratches the surface, and if the subsequent issues dig further, fans can expect something pretty amazing.

The Witcher #1 (2014)
Dark Horse
Words: Paul Tobin
Art: Joe Querio
Colors: Carlos Badilla
Letters: Nate Piekos

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The Greatest Avenger — Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review


Captain America’s first movie had him playing up the role of public servant, popular/populist hero boosting America’s morale during a major World War.

Unfortunately, the movie played itself, churning out montages, a half-baked second half, and an anti-climactic battle with archvillain Red Skull that, altogether, ultimately served the purpose of delivering the Captain to the modern age just in time for the Avengers movie.

The good ol’ Captain deserved more — so much more — and it’s finally here.

The sequel, Winter Soldier, leaves no room for doubting Captain America’s inclusion alongside superheroes Iron Man, Thor, and the Hulk in the star-studded and powerful Avengers. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo have elevated Steve Rogers’ status far above just being an embodiment of ideals or a symbolic figurehead.

In this, the greatest of Marvel movies, Captain America shines thanks to a relevant plot, intelligent scripting, and adept direction that doesn’t settle for your standard summer blockbuster.

Coming to terms with the modern world, Captain America still holds fast to the ideals and beliefs of yesteryear. As a member of the Greatest Generation, Rogers (Chris Evans) is man enough to admit mistakes were made, but the quest was for freedom — not fear — which becomes an issue when he sees to what lengths America will go to protect itself.

An attempt on S.H.I.E.L.D. honcho Nick Fury’s (Samuel L. Jackson) life upends everything and causes Rogers, the Black Widow Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), and newcomer Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) to join forces to take on a familiar enemy embedded deep within Fury’s organization.

The fight becomes especially personal for Rogers when he goes toe to toe with another super soldier — a metal-armed assassin known as the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).

Fighting for country without knowing who to trust proves difficult, and there’s a lot of twists and turns as secret identities are revealed, affiliations are chosen, and new villains are introduced. Through it all, the plot stays the course with brilliant action choreography, tense sequences that increase the drama, and great character development that brings some of Rogers’ history full-circle.

Captain America: Winter Soldier is a comic book movie done right, and what the film team has done is build up Captain America’s battle prowess by letting him loose. The parkour sequences with shield tossing don’t feel routine, and the plethora of melee combat scenes never feel stale. A movie like this should be taught to all aspiring filmmakers hoping to take comics from page to silver screen — it builds on the essence of popular characters, brings them into a world worth inhabiting, and unleashes them for full effect without dumbing it down.

It’s a movie that makes you want to believe in superheroes, and then you realize it’s not the shield or the serum that counts. It’s the length we’ll go to protect our friends.

That’s the kind of thing you’d find in a comic, and this is the kind of movie that will bring geeks and movie-goers together in harmony.

Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014)
Directed by: Anthony and Joe Russo
Written by: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
Starring: Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Redford, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Maximiliano Hernandez, Emily VanCamp, Hayley Atwell, Toby Jones, Stan Lee, Callan Mulvey, and Jenny Agutter

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Primer — Uncanny X-Men #19.NOW Review


The plot thickens in Uncanny X-Men #19.NOW — S.H.I.E.L.D. infiltrates a former X-Man’s house for interrogation, Mystique and Sabertooth are up to something, an advanced Sentinel attacks, and Cyclops declares war!

If you feel a strong sense of deja vu, you’re not alone. Bringing back plot points that have been on the backburner for months, Uncanny X-Men #19.NOW — more like a revisiting than a retread — reminds us what we’ve been waiting for.


Cyclops’ Uncanny X-Men squad is the alpha team — the team with the heaviest hitters which is one significant member down since Magneto decided to go off in search of himself. Still, there’s been plenty of growth from even the youngbloods, and Cyclops looks more formidable than ever as a man on fire.


So while new readers jump on for Uncanny X-Men and get acclimated — after Cyclops’ team deals with the Sentinel threat, we’re reminded once again how people feel about mutants — steady readers won’t get much new this issue except for more teasing on what happened to Eva Bell in Uncanny X-Men #17 when she disappeared then returned a bit older.

Emma Frost knows enough about Bell to warrant a “You have to tell him” after Cyclops compliments Eva. There’s a suggestion of romance here, and it’s either a one-sided thing, or perhaps Bell saw something in her time displacement that’s so important, Scott Summers has to know.

As far as scripting goes, Brian Michael Bendis gets a good back and forth between S.H.I.E.L.D. director Maria Hill and Bond. Hill is written exceptionally well — she’s manipulative to a point, but she’s still well-meaning, if a bit threatening. As condescending as she gets with Bond this issue, it’s apparent she’s willing to do what it takes to save the world without crossing the line into supervillain territory.


The curtain on what happened to Dazzler is raised, and we see something a bit startling here as Mystique reveals where she gets her Mutant Growth Hormone. The visuals are played up with Mystique storing the illegally obtained substance in a Louis Vuitton bag which shows how far she’ll go to get what she wants.

Chris Bachalo’s pencils are fantastic this issue, though not without flaw. In one panel showing Eva, Emma, and two of the Stepford Cuckoos — all the women have the same face with only their hair and uniforms to differentiate them. Not that it looks bad — Bachalo’s attention to detail and backgrounds helps create some very dynamic panels with devastating spells and destructive explosions opening it up for how epic these battles can be.

And if I can say one thing about the costumes — Goldballs’ retro look  is at the same time hilarious and a hot mess. I’m not sure if he’s a parody of something else — maybe on DC as a whole — but he’s basically the team’s de facto comic relief now.

Everything else about this issue is pretty pitch perfect — the inkers’ squad has another member this issue bringing the count to five. Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Jaime Mendoza, Mark Irwin, and Victor Olazaba all contribute on bringing those penciled sketches to bear with clean lines, dramatic shadows, and darkly dark backgrounds.


In terms of color, Bachalo handled 100% of the work before, but this time we get a few pages by Jose Villarrubia that are reminiscent of Frazer Irving’s filtered green textures. Seeing Villarrubia’s colors — if just for a page or two — on Bachalo’s work makes me wonder what kind of tone an issue would take if someone else was brought in for color. I’m still not totally keen on Bachalo’s choice of hues, but to each their own.

And while I’m not the best at judging at a letterer’s work — Joe Caramagna should be commended for his work this issue. Explosions, laser blasts, and power beams get their own personalities, and it makes the battle sequences feel very epic.


The previous issues with their character sketches were a good detour, but it’s time for the Uncanny X-Men to get back on track. While new readers joining the rest of us will benefit the most this issue, it’s a good reminder for the pull-list subscribers of the particular threads left untied and loose. For some, it’s an “about time” moment when the story they’ve waited patiently (or not) for is finally getting its round.

And while the training is never over — at least from Cyclops’ perspective — it’s time for these kids to use what they’ve practiced. The threat is there, whether it’s S.H.I.E.L.D., the mysterious Sentinel builder, or both, and these X-Men have proven themselves to be more than apt for the task.

Uncanny X-Men #19.NOW (2013)
Words: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Chris Bachalo
Inks: Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Jaime Mendoza, Mark Irwin, and Victor Olazaba
Colors: Chris Bachalo and Jose Villarrubia
Letters: Joe Caramagna

Previous Issue: Uncanny X-Men #18 Review
Next Issue: Uncanny X-Men #20 Review

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Day Three — Wizard World Sacramento Comic-Con 2014

Stan Lee was sick and didn’t make any appearances Friday or Saturday, so Sunday was the day to get an autograph.

I didn’t expect the Sacramento Convention Center to be as packed as it was, but with the perfect storm of Stan Lee and Chris Hemsworth appearing on the same day — just getting to the Desert Wind Comics booth was an ordeal.

I would highly recommend going through DWC for a Signature Series grade on a comic signed by Stan Lee. Not only will they stand witness — CGC has a no-wait policy which means you have to send someone to call a witness when you’re close to getting your book signed — they have special arrangements with Mr. Lee’s handlers and the booth. And if you’re not able to get the book signed, they’ll take your book and have it done at another convention for you.

It took a lot of patience and a long while to finally get in contact with one of the DWC staff members with all of the stuff coming back from Mr. Lee’s booth for authentication and certificates. Lines were forming every which way, and when I finally got in contact with a staff member, she took a couple of us to Mr. Lee’s booth where the famed creator, still looking a bit ill, autographed my X-Men #1 (1991) before taking a break.

I carefully put the comic into another Mylites2 bag and decided to have DWC handle the signing of my Greg Horn books. It would be an extra fee, but I didn’t want to wait in anymore lines for a long, long time.

Trying to navigate the main floor wasn’t easy. There were so many people that I decided to hold off on taking pictures of cosplayers because space was limited.

Since I had time to burn, I made my way to Paolo Rivera’s booth for one more try on getting a commission. He looked pretty busy, and I figured I’d at least thank him for being patient with me throughout the weekend. To my surprise, he said a lot of progress was made on the other pieces, and it was very possible he could have mine done by the end of day.

With that, I moved a few over to Ethan Van Sciver’s booth where he handed me a pre-New 52 Batman.

“I colored it,” he said. I was awestruck and fumbled out a “Thank you!” before I rushed over to Hot Flips to get a case for it.

Ethan Van Sciver

There wasn’t much to do except check out panels and shop, so I scheduled a visit to the artists roundtable discussion — a panel with Eric Nguyen, Jimmie Robinson, Paolo Rivera, and Humberto Ramos with Danny Fingeroth moderating. Fingeroth went through slides of artwork for each artist, and then he opened it up for a Q&A at the end. Each of the artists talked about their processes, their current projects, and other pertinent topics.

On Ramos working on the new Amazing Spider-Man title soon to be released, he couldn’t give any details about how Peter Parker returns to the suit.

“Ryan (Stegman) is working on those issues, so I don’t have any idea how Peter Parker comes back,” he said. Ramos said Marvel could have gone with a more famous artist, but he really wanted the project. (Personally, I think it’s a good choice — Ramos has done 25 issues of Spidey, and they’ve been very well received.)

Jimmie Robinson talked about the difference between creator-owned projects and working with publishers on IPs. Though he makes a bit less for his creator-owned properties, he does retain all future rights. Robinson also discussed having to write and draw a comic based around a super-villain (Bomb Queen) who runs her own city — “I have to basically write down all the things I would never do.”

Rivera, having won the Eisner Award for Daredevil, discussed his transition from doing interiors to doing exteriors. The audience got to see a cast poster for Iron Man which was very limited in print and handed out to cast members for the movie. Rivera mentioned the possibility of doing interiors this year, and how his work output increased when he moved over to digital.

Nguyen also discussed doing digital — the benefits of efficiency and speed vs. not having original pages for sale on a secondary market. Nguyen stressed he was more about quality and getting the art done right rather than focusing a little on cashing on art sales. He also said his favorite projects were ones that had no determined look or parameters that left him free to create and define at his own will.

After that panel, I spent the rest of the day shopping. I picked up a graphic novel, a couple of t-shirts, and participated in a raffle for some electronic goodies. At the end of the day, I picked up my Rivera commission, thanked him, then left the convention minutes before the doors would close. It was a productive weekend, and I was eager to get home and get some more commissions on the wall.

Paolo Rivera

Previous Article: Day Two — Wizard World Sacramento Comic-Con 2014


Day Two — Wizard World Sacramento Comic-Con 2014

“The line is over there.”

Where the line ended was out the door, around another building, and spiraling back towards the front of the line.

When the doors opened for day two of the Wizard World Sacramento Comic-Con, a flood of visitors marched into the Sacramento Convention Center proving the Comic-Con a huge success.

I spent the first part of the morning standing in line for a Humberto Ramos commission with a purpose. One of my top priorities at the convention was to get James Hong’s autograph, and since I had nothing to get signed, I thought I’d get something one-of-a-kind.

While I waited, I had a great discussion with the others in line. We shared commissions, stories, some gossip, and I found out Jim Lee took some private commissions a few years back. (There was a screenshot, so there’s proof.) There were also some horror stories — I spoke to at least two fans who had lost their sketchbooks at conventions. One of them got theirs back after a year or so, but with great pain.


When Ramos’ handler showed up and took down our requests, I let him know mine wasn’t conventional.

“I want a Lo-Pan. Can he do that?”

“Ramos can draw anything. We just need a great reference.”

And it would be the first one that Ramos had ever done.

At 12:15pm, I went over to the film festival to find out when Ghost Light would be screened. Ghost Light’s cinematographer is Tim Kang, a friend of mine who couldn’t make the showing because he’s in Chicago working on a documentary. PJ, the director, and Patrick, production designer, would be there, and they were expecting me.

I also got word that Ghost Light had already been designated best in show — “Don’t make the announcement until the official announcement,” I’d been told — and I wanted to be there to congratulate PJ and Patrick on a job well done.

I got a bit of background from the panel, and I had the opportunity of hanging out with PJ and Patrick for a short while. Ghost Light began as an idea inspired by American folklore from the Midwest. As a fan of Tales From the Crypt, PJ wrote the story with a little bit of horror infused into the short along with some 80s sci-fi influences. The result was a 20-minute short (including credits) about a father and son who encounter a ghost light and end up in a strange diner hidden along Route 66.

We talked about the set — a sudden snowstorm destroyed it forcing PJ to make the decision of bringing in comic-book style transitions — and working with Ahmed Best (Jar Jar Binks) as producer — “I would work with him again,” PJ told me.

PJ and I split at the autograph booth for Billy Dee Williams, and I was off to Ramos’ booth to check in on the Lo-Pan. Another request had been given priority because the one making the request had to leave early. Since mine was a simple black and white, I was told to come back in half an hour.

I circled the floor a few times, then I was off back to Ramos’ table. James Hong was scheduled for autographs at 3:00pm, and I wanted to make sure I got an autograph — Stan Lee was scheduled for Friday and Saturday but fell ill, and I didn’t want to miss my chance, especially with a commission of one of Hong’s most famous characters.

“He’s working on it right now.”

I walked behind the booth and looked over Ramos’ shoulder. While I oogled, Ramos turned around.

“Oh, hey!” he said, recognizing me from Portland. “Is this yours?”

When I came back to pick up the commission, they requested I come back to tell them what Mr. Hong thought about the piece. At the autograph booth, a sign said Mr. Hong would be back in 10 minutes. I decided to wait behind three other women who I assumed were in line, but when I asked them if they knew how long it would be, they turned out to be members of Mr. Hong’s family. I got a quick tour of the booth along with some tidbits of information about Kung Fu Panda and the possibility of a sequel.

When Mr. Hong came back, his family brought me forward, and I handed him a letter I had written — I didn’t want another Adam West geek-out moment so I planned ahead — and he read it on the spot. He signed the Ramos commission — “What color do you want?” he asked, and I chose gold — adding what I’m assuming is his Chinese name down the right side and tagging it “LO PAN” under his signature.


I got a picture with him, thanked him again, and returned to Ramos’ table.

“He loved it,” I told them.


Humberto Ramos and James Hong

With one thing off my list, I worked on the others. I decided to visit Eisner Award winner Paolo Rivera who was trying to fit me into his schedule for a commission. Rivera was busy accommodating visitors who wanted simple sketches and autographs, and he was gracious to me the entire weekend even when I felt I was bugging him a little too much. I think I checked in with him about seven times total, and each time he showed me where he was at with the work that was currently on his plate. I could have just let it go, but Rivera told me he wasn’t planning on anymore conventions in California for the rest of the year.

Once I got the okay to check back in another couple hours, I went to Buzz’s table to see what the status was for a Batman commission I requested earlier in the morning. Buzz was great to talk to, and he told me the most time-consuming part of drawing a commission is finding a composition that he’s happy with.


For the next few hours, I wandered the main floor taking photographs of cosplayers, shopping for comics and collectibles, and waiting for the cosplay contest. I picked up a copy of Watchmen — finally! — and read it while I waited in line to get into the cosplay contest room.

There were over 100 contestants for the contest which was hosted by Eric “The Smoke” Moran and judged by special guests Ivy Doomkitty, Ryan Frye, and Vegas PG. Some of the contest highlights were the Spaceballs group, RoboCop, a duo of Predators, and MechaGodzilla, though every one of the cosplayers deserved recognition.

You can find the gallery here.


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