Monday, November 21, 2011

An interview with Melanie Spencer

I met Melanie Spencer this year at Baltimore Comic Con. I have been a fan for some time and was finally able to see her in person. She was at the PLB comics table as Cassandra, the character they based on her. Her website is http://melsmodeling.com/ You should ask her what happened when we met. It is hilarious. I was able to catch up with her online for this interview. All the photos (except for her as Cassandra) are courtesy of her.

Me: How are you doing?

photo by Domenic Cicala
M.S.: I'm peachy keen.

Me: You have lived in many different places. Where did you grow up?

M.S.: I grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa... That's where I call home. :):)

Me: What was it like growing up in Johannesburg?

M.S.: Awesome,,,Some of the best times of my life! I was a crazy teen with the best friends a girl could ask for.

Me: What do you mean by crazy?

M.S.: Lol...I lived like I was invincible. I'll leave it at that. ;);)
I don't kiss and tell... lol
Me: What made you decide to leave Johannesburg?

M.S.: Well, I came over here to go to college. After college, I was thinking about either moving back home or to NYC and my boyfriend at that time proposed to me... so I stayed in MD.

Me: So you came for the schools and stayed for love?

M.S.: Lol...Something like that. When you say it like that way it reads like a sappy movie.
Me: When did you become a model?

M.S.: I started modeling when I was 13 or 14... It was a really long time ago so I don't remember my exact age. 

photo by Domenic Cicala
Me: What got you started in modelling? Is there a particular moment you remember?

M.S.: Well I had always wanted to be an actress and modeling was easier to break in to. I remember bothering my mom about it (my parents were heavy Christians and not too keen on the idea), but finally she gave in and took me to a modeling school behind my father's back. The modeling school sucked because it was mostly for fashion models (which I am not), but I did get to learn how to do my own make up and that has helped me a lot throughout the years. Then I started to freelance with an agency and started getting work. I got my first national campaign when I was barely 17. It was awesome!
Me: What was the national campaign?

M.S.: It was an Oxy Facial Wash ad, the first one ever shot in Africa.

Me: So you came to America for the schools. What did you go to school for?

M.S.: I got scholarships to study Fashion Design in South Africa, but blew it joyriding in Europe (I missed too much time and almost got kicked out of the program)... So I came to the USA where I studied Fashion Merchandising and minored in Fine Art in Maryland. I studied the same thing at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC.

Me: Were you able to start a career in fashion?

M.S.:Not really. The place I live is not conducive to fashion. I was a department manager at a retail chain until the economy went under and I decided I needed to do something else.

Me: You posted that one of your current classes is extremely hard. What degree are you pursuing now?

M.S.: I'm studying counseling. I want to be able to use alternative means of therapy with recovering addicts and the at risk population.

Me: How much time do you model?

M.S.: I've modelled for 18 years. Wow, that makes me sound so old!

Me: What inspires you to say yes to an offer to model?

M.S.: It has to be something that interests, inspires or challenges me. Or I can be bought for the right amount of money. :)
Me: What inspires or interests you?

M.S.: Oh man... so much... a plethora... enough to fill an ocean: controversy, sexuality, the rugged outdoors, music, the ocean, beauty, being able to become someone else.

Me: What is modelling to you besides a paycheck? Is it a way to express yourself that you normally cannot. Is it an escape from the ordinary?

M.S.: Yes, it is all that. I love it. Being able to become someone else, discover and invent new parts of  yourself. It is fun and I have met some of the coolest people, made some amazing friends.

photo by Domenic Cicala
Me: You have a profile on Model Mayhem under Lady Dark Dragon(http://www.modelmayhem.com/1181985). How did you choose that name?

M.S.: Lady Dark Dragon is my alter ego. She is the bad girl, lol. I've always loved dragons. They are a mythical creature representing power and mystery. If I were any type of animal that is what I would want to be. I have two dragons tattooed on my back.

Me: You are also listed as a mentor on Model Mayhem. Have you mentored many people on MM?

M.S.: Well, I have been on there for a while. As for mentoring, I have not, per say, met with many people face to face and walked hand in hand through the park to talk about modeling, but I have had many newcomers contact me (both photographers and models), asking questions and bouncing ideas off me.
Me: So I was a fan of your work when I saw you were going to appear at Baltimore Comic Con as Cassandra for PLB comics (http://www.plbcomics.com/ ). Cassandra was based on you. How did that come about?

M.S.: Cassandra is the villain from the Gideon and Sebastian book by PLB Comics, which is the brain child of my better half, his brother, and some friends. She is the ultimate bad ass, evil sexy, whatever - half demon half vampire who is the good guy's nemesis. I do a lot of modeling for them (PLB) if they need a certain look for a character or whatever, but Cassandra is so much fun. I think they were just looking for a female to add in the story because sex sells.
To be perfectly honest, I don't really know. I don't think that originally she was supposed to be me. It just happened. They were doing a con, and I said I would come help them sell, and then someone thought I should dress up, and it morphed from there.

Me: Your husband, his brother and  your friends made you into the ultimate bad ass. Is that how they see you--a kick butt chick, a take no prisoners kind of woman?

M.S.: Lol. I doubt that... I'm a pussycat. ;);)
I won't admit to anything. Lol. You would have to ask them what they think,

Me: Have you done many cons as a booth babe?
M.S.: I have done a couple. We started doing cons in 2005 (I think). I have been promoting with them at quite a few. We only do Philly and Baltimore though. We'd like to branch out but between cost and sales, it is not economical to do more.
Me: Have you portrayed any other characters besides Cassandra?
M.S.: Nope, just her.

Me: Are t here other characters you would like to portray?

M.S.: I've told Peter Stiegerwald from Aspen (http://www.aspencomics.com/) that if they need someone to dress up like Grace from Soulfire, I would do it. Billy Tucci (http://www.crusadefinearts.com/) said he wants to draw me as Catwoman and I have said yes to that. I have been Vampirella for the digital artist Timothy Lantz (http://www.stygiandarkness.com/ ).

Me: What have been some of your favorite model jobs?
M.S.: Oh, man, there have been so many. My best friend, Kira Bucca (http://kirabucca.com/), is a fashion photographer in NYC, but before that she was really into abandonment... I always loved shooting with her in some run down place where you might get tetanus just from looking at the floorboards.
Of course, the ones that pay well rock too!

Me: I have seen your IMDB profile and it says you won Best Lead Actress for "Even Steven". Tell us about the movies you have been in.

photo by Domenic Cicala
M.S.: Ah yes... the IMDB profile (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2673624/resume). I forgot about it. I'm sure it needs some serious updating.
Nothing huge. I did some TV commercials in South Africa then I came here and most of what I have done has been independent film. I did the "LumberJack of all Trades" (I was barely in it) that got picked up by Troma.

Then I did "Even Steven"... that was fun - I played a psychopath that seduces this wealthy man and keeps him hostage in his home.

Then I did a film called "Scarred" where I die.

Me: So "Even Steven" prepared you to play Cassandra?

M.S.: Lol... I guess you could say that.

Me: Are there any more acting jobs coming up?

M.S.: Not right now. School is hectic but I graduate in May and then we'll see. :):)

Me: Is there anything else coming up in the future we should look out for?

M.S.: Unfortunately, it's quiet right now. "Gideon and Sebastian" 2 will be out this Spring. I'll be there as Cassandra.

Me: Which cons do you plan to attend next year?

M.S.: I'll be out in full force next May after I graduate so watch out world... Here I come!
Next year we will do Philly and Baltimore, Maybe NY but that one is really tough to get in to...
The PLB boys are putting on a con called FanCon (http://www.easternshorefancon.com/ ). It will be at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in Princess Anne, MD.
Me: What is the focus of Fan Con going to be?

M.S.: It is mostly indie companies and comic book sellers.

Me: What do you do for fun?

photo by Domenic Cicala
M.S.: I like to model and act... that is my release. I also like to ride horses, shoot guns, drink whiskey and watch movies and I love my friends. I like hanging out with them... talking crap and serious stuffs too

Me: You can take the woman out of the wild but you cannot take the wild out of the woman.

M.S.: Lol. This is true, I concur.

Me: Thank you for talking with me today,

M.S.: Thank you.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mel-Spencer-Model-Actress-Muse-Comic-Book-Babe-Artist/353370173792




:)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fringe events

After "Farscape" came to an end I was devastated. Nothing could console me. Nothing could fill the void left when it went off the air. Sure, I could buy all the DVDs and toys (You get one guess whether I did or not) to keep the series going but it would not take the place of new episodes. Fortunately I was saved by "Fringe" which was a new sci-fi show about a FBI agent who is trying to solve scientific crimes. Olivia Dunham is the FBI agent and Walter is the mad scientist. Broyles is Olivia's boss and Astrid is another FBI agent who assists Walter. Rounding out the cast is Peter who is Walter's son from another reality.

I have followed "Fringe" from the beginning and should be watching it when it comes to a close. I enjoy the plots and all the fringe events on the show. The creation of Fauxlivia and Walternate was original and made for a fun storyline. Alternate realities are always fun to watch especially when the new characters differ wildly from the characters we have gotten to know.

This season is remarkably sad since Peter is now lost. He knows where he is but now no one knows who he is (due to the Watchers interfering with his life). It must be hard to be around the man you call father,  the woman you love and all your friends when they have no idea who you are. Peter seems to be dealing with it but it is obvious he is lonely. One has to give Joshua Jackson credit for not overplaying this tragedy.

Anna Torv gets credit as well as she gets to play a wide variety of Olivias. First we saw normal Olivia, then Fauxlivia, Olivia possessed by William Bell and now Peter-less Olivia. That is a lot of characters to play on this show.

Walter is not your typical mad scientist. He and his partner, William Bell, were ahead of their time with all the scientific creations and this is coming back to haunt him. People are using many of his theories to commit crimes and he feels responsible.

A recent episode involved time travel and the idea of a time bubble was mentioned. Cool since this is a key object in the series "Legion of Superheroes". This team has been using that object for some time to come from their time in the future to the present day where they could interact with Superman. The item has not been used much recently but I am glad to see "Fringe" keeping it alive. Yes, I know the show and the comic used both differently. It amuses me that both used time bubble.

"Fringe" needs to get a toy line going. I would be all over that. You could have the Broyles and Astrid figures but Broyles only has one facial expression so it would not be hard to figure out which one to use. There could be the Walter figure with cow accessory. Joshua Jackson could pose for the Pacey, I mean the Peter figure. Lastly could be the Olivia Dunham figure as well as the variant figure Fauxlivia. It would hurt my wallet but I would have to catch them all.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Lia Habel

Lia Habel is the author of Dearly, Departed and the upcoming release Dearly, Beloved. An ardent supporter of Zombie rights, she wanted to create a story about a romance between the living and a zombie. She has been attending comic conventions for many years and came to New York Comic Con this year to sign copies of her novel.
Copyright
WinterWolf Studios
Al: How are you?
LH: I’m tired. I love cons, especially the big ones like San Diego which I have been to several times. It is the third day where I need to pick myself up several times.
Al: This is your first time at NYCC?
LH: Yes, It’s my first NYCC and I’m loving it.
Al: What do you like about it?
LH: There is a slightly smaller atmosphere which is great. You can actually move around the floor. It is the point now at San Diego where you are pressed in with everybody. There is a little more room here and there are so many things to do.
Al: Tell us about your book.
LH: My book is what I like to describe as a cyber Victorian, futuristic Steampunk. It takes place a couple hundred years in the future. The world has been monumentally altered by time and climate change. It focuses on two tribes that have adopted a Neo-Victorian aesthetic, sense of morality and society. The tribes are New Victorians (I am so creative with the name) and the Punks. I throw some zombies in this and my zombies manage to keep a hold of themselves after death. They control their urges, understand what has happened to them and accept or deny it. They have a couple of years before they become the typical cannibalistic zombies. I have a hetero-mortal relationship going on between an undead army captain and a living girl named Nora Dearly.
Me: The book has a whole history between now and the time in the novel. Are you going to go into more detail about what happens to make things turn out this way?
LH: You will probably get a little more detail but not a whole lot. The book is meant for a young adult audience. I would like to do that and have, in previous drafts, written vast tracts of words that explain how this came to be. I agree with my editors that we should stay in the moment and focus on the characters as they currently are. I was encouraged at one point to incorporate a school story so we could get some more foundational details like that but I would rather stay away from that. There are a lot of school stories out there and the others are doing a more awesome job than I ever could.  I am trying to focus more on the action and the characters themselves.
Me: What inspired the book?
LH: It is a long story but I was unemployed and broke in 2008. I decided to use what little money I have left to go to a New Victorian event, Dances with Vice. I got on a $30 bus ride to New York and had the idea along the way. I decided someone should do a zombie romance and make it really out there. When I got back home, I sat down and started writing about 10,000 words a day.
Al: Why zombies? Why not werewolves or Frankenstein’s Monster?
LH: (Laughs) I love all of those! I love monsters. I have since I was a little girl. I look at Jason Voorhees and see a tragic character. I don’t see him as perfectly evil. I’m just that way. I look at things other people find scary or creepy and there is something that in endearing and attractive to me.
I decided to go with zombies because I wanted to play around with a humanoid monster that wasn’t too weird but one you wouldn’t expect to be the romantic hero. A lot of times, especially in modern fiction, you get monsters that are very handsome, attractive and cool. I wanted to get away from that and use characters that look like they are dead. They are amazing characters in spite of that.
Al: Why do you think there has been a recent spike in zombie popularity?   
LH: I think it goes in waves. You will get vampires for a while and then zombies for a while. Then you will get werewolves. I think the celebration of small press has brought out many things like werewolves and mermaids. I think once one type has reached its peak there will be a backlash against it and we want something new. I think we are seeing this with vampires a little bit. Now they are trying out zombies and I am really grateful since I love zombies.
Me: This is a romantic novel. Are you a romantic person?
LH: No, not really. I’ve never picked up a Nicholas Sparks book in my life and don’t plan to start. I’m just not. I don’t watch romantic comedies. I stay away from that stuff all together.  I really respond to it when passion and romance form a bigger part of the plot. As long as there are things blowing up every three minutes or so, as long as there are big guns attached to arms and C4 is being distributed liberally, I’m happy.
Me: You’re not a romantic. Are you a Victorian?
LH: Yes, I am definitely a New Victorian at heart and I have always been attracted to the era. When I was a little girl I made bustle skirts out of my mom’s bed sheets. I am really inspires by that era such as all the characters I ended up loving and the opera. I really love the science fiction and pulp fiction. When I sit down it is really natural for me go in that direction.
Me: What did you go through to get published?

LH: I went to agentquery.com where they explained the whole process and I made a list of agents to solicit. You can find out a lot about these agents. Then the query letter is basically three paragraphs where you introduce yourself and use 50 words to tell about your book. That’s what you have to do to sell yourself and it is the hardest thing I’ve had to do. If the agent is intrigued they may ask you for a longer summary to a couple of chapters or even see the whole thing. I went to the whole thing right off the bat. It depends on whether the agent thinks they can market it and represent you well.
Me: When will the sequel be coming out?
LH: It will come out next year. They are going to be releasing them one year apart.
Me: What did you do when you got the deal?
LH: I went to the store to get some champagne and got arrested by a skull shaped bottle of vodka. I got the vodka instead. I used it to toast my book deal and ordered a pizza. It was all very fancy. I will probably do that again next time.
Me: Several authors put themselves in the protagonist. Do you find parts of yourself in Nora?
LH: A couple, probably. I think her mix of femininity and yet being kind of kick ass and kind of bucking against trend probably comes from me. I think much more of me can be found in my male character, Bram. I think he really comes from a part of me that just keeps going and going. I’ve had a lot of bad stuff in my life and I keep going. That is what I love about zombies. There is room for that kind of story in there.
Me: He had a rough start in the prologue. He is getting torn to pieces.
LH: Exactly. He just picks himself up and he keeps barreling ahead. He will until he falls to pieces. I think that comes from a part of me. I’m not one of those authors who think s their characters are independent people. They are creations I control and I use to tell a story.
Me: Who are your literary influences?
LH: All of them are dead; Gaston LeRoux, Lovecraft, Poe, Kipling and Arthur Conan Doyle.   I love writing young adult but I want to write about adults too. I really like writing the big, sweeping stories.
Me: Do you blame your parents for your taste in movies?
LH: I don’t blame them. I love them for it. My mom never censored what she watched. She had the revolutionary idea that if a kid was scared, the kid could leave the room. I ended up watching Freddy, Jason and Vincent Price. Vincent Price is the love of my life. All these old horror movies, pulp movies, and action movies. We watch “Terminator 2” on Christmas Eve one year and started a tradition that lasts today. We watch “Saw”, “Hostel” and “P2” every Christmas. I just really got into it with her and my dad. He’s a big action film fan and he is a big gamer. That carved out my landscape growing  up.
Me: What is the first movie you ever saw?
LH: I have pre-verbal memories of “Poltergeist”. I have never actually sat down and watched that film. I have no concrete memories of it but I have scenes of it in my head. I asked my mother when she saw “Poltergeist” and she watched it when I was about two. I was sitting on the floor playing with my toys and I absorbed scenes from “Poltergeist”.
Me: What are your favorite horror movies?
LH: I love “Day of the Dead” and Dawn of the Dead”. The first 2 Freddy movies are great. He is one of my favorite characters (the original, not the reboot). The reboot makes Freddy an unsympathetic character. I love the first incarnation of Nancy since she is a kick ass kind of girl. She took Freddy on and she was my hero. I love anything with Vincent Price like “Masque of the Red Death”. That movie is still something I put on. Most of the ones I like are things that incorporate monsters in different ways like “Creature from the Black Lagoon”.
Me: Besides romantic comedies, what else do you try to avoid?
LH: Probably comedies that try to be really mature, serious and highbrow. I’m not highbrow at all. I am unapologetically lowbrow.
Me; You like Adam Sandler?
LH: No, I don’t like those either. I don’t like things that take themselves too seriously. My book is very self-referential and tongue-in-cheek. I think nothing good ever came from taking things way too seriously. We have far too much of that in this world. I like things that are jokey and play with convention.
Me: You have a degree in literature and museum studies. Why did you choose those majors?
LH: I went to college and knew I was good at academic writing so I decided to go to English and stay there until I figure out that I want to do. I got so engrossed by English that I stayed there and got my degree.  I thought about becoming a teacher but I never did. I went on to get my M.A. in Museum Studies and that was solely because I like older stuff. Unfortunately I could never ding a long term job in that field. I like books and old things so I studied books and older things.
Me:  You like to collect things like ballgowns and wigs. What else do you collect?
LH:  Books and certain action figures. I just got a figure of Adam Jensen. I love video games. My dad is a gamer. I read, play video games and write. I occasionally go to an all night Steampunk ball.

  

Amber Love

I came across Amber Love's website, www. amberunmasked.com, some time ago. I became a fan of her writing and checked for updates on a regular basis. I met her at Baltimore Comic Con this year when she came as Rogue. Imagine my thrill upon meeting her. She graciously agreed to speak to me at New York Comic Con. All the photos below came from her and the credits are listed under the photo.

AB: I’m here with Amber-Love who is a writer, blogger, cosplayer and model but not in that order. How are you doing?
Amber Love: I’m doing good. I’m tired, it’s Comic Con.
AB: You have stated on your Facebook page that Amber Benson and Bettie Page are influences. How have they influenced you?
AL: Amber Benson influences me because she started off modeling and being an actress and migrated into directing, writing movie scripts as well as writing comics and novels. She literally has done every sort of entertainment thing a person can do. She is still quite young and moving along at a great pace. She works really hard at what she does.
Bettie Page is just a pioneer so you can’t really beat someone like that. Someone who was willing to stand up to a court system and the social community around her and do what she ended up doing.
Photo by John Hudson
AB: What are your favorite costumes so far?
AL: My favorites are based on different reasons. My Fantastic Four suit is very comfortable and I love wearing it. It has been signed by Joe Sinnott and George Perez. It is hard sometimes to be the Invisible Woman when you are not with a group of the Fantastic Four so Wonder Woman is always my favorite to wear because people know Wonder Woman. I love my other characters like Rogue, Firestar and Modesty Blaise.
AB: With the Invisible Woman outfit there is a video where you said you were going to sell it but since you had it signed you were going to keep it. What happened with it?
AL: It’s in my closet. I won’t wear it very much now because it has been signed.
AB: What do you do with your older costumes?
AL: I sell as many as I can. Others are in my closet like the Invisible Woman and are semi-retired. I will bring it out if I know a signing is going on someplace. I’ll actually put it on for that. I don’t really want it to be too worn.
AB: How did you get into cosplay?
AL: Because there was a TV show called “Who wants to be a Superhero?”  which was created by Stan Lee for the Syfy (called the Sci-Fi channel back then) and I wanted to audition the first year. The auditions were in person only in L.A. and you could send in a video tape audition but I really didn’t feel comfortable doing that. Then I went and developed the character Amber the Superhero Stylist which I also created a facsimile of. I designed it, made it and got it ready for the show and even though season 2 had local auditions in Philadelphia I still chickened out only because I knew how many people were going to the audition. So I didn’t do it.
AB: What cosplays do you have coming up?
AL: I’m working on a version of the new Wonder Woman but it’s not going to be exactly like it because I don’t want to spend any money on the outfit. So I’m pulling it together from things that are already in my studio and I’ve managed to make the bodice piece already. For the leggings I’m just going to use regular leggings. I don’t like the black boots they have given her so I am just going to use my regular red and white boots but I’m working on the accessories.
AB: You have a degree in communications. How did you get into blogging?
AL: Well, I’ve always run my own website since 1996. I started with a book on how to write HTML and I’ve been responsible for my website. Blogging was just… I kind of like and don’t like it. It is kind of bastardized journalism so I try to make things clearer. I still consider myself a journalist because I know what journalist’s ethical responsibilities are.
AB: What do you mean by bastardized?
AL: People throw stuff up all the time because they can. There’s Wordpress, Blogspot and Facebook. It doesn’t mean bloggers are fact checking. It doesn’t mean they are interviewing anybody. I would love to be the next Oprah Winfrey. I think blogging is, very often, not thought out.
AB: So you think bloggers need more integrity and more responsibility?
AL: Basically. Sometimes it’s great because I use Twitter to get my news. It’s there and fast and immediate. I see it before CNN and ABC because those places are checking facts, doing what they can but they have to move so much faster now because of things like Twitter.  Things are now reported by bloggers when they are just not true. They are taken out of context.
Guns of Shadow Valley by John Hudson
AB: Going back to cosplay, what was your first job as a booth babe?
AL: I guess technically it was for Dave Wachter who is the creator of “Guns of Shadow Valley” and he has done some other work for IDW. That was a slightly different situation. We had a relationship and I got to know him since I was a fan so it just fit very well. I love western comics and we had a great photographer in Pittsburgh that helped us do promotional shoots for t-shirts and other things. Dave and I did a lot of shoots together.
I love being a booth babe. I want to do that as much as I can. At least until I get my own booth. Who knows that that will be. I don’t have that kind of money.
AB: What are you going to do work toward getting your own booth?
AL: I need to get more material out as far as my comics are concerned. It costs a lot of money to make comics and I don’t have the money to pay artists a fair market rate so right now my comics that are out there are being made on very discounted rates by guys I happen to be friends with.
AB: Tell me about your comics.
AL: My books are pretty different. The short story is a format I feel comfortable with through comic workshops. I like the short story format and the first one I did was a five-page story called “HOLYOAK”. It was based on a character that is very much an older version of “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” and her name is Vivian. She comes from a family of witches. I tried to make it a little bit humorous and not too serious.
My second story is a ten-page story in the Creative Compassion: Shelter (note: the proceeds from this book go towards http://www.foodonfoot.com/) which is an anthology for a homeless charity. It works towards helping Food on Foot and that is my “Tori Brin Teen Detective” story. I really enjoyed creating it and the characters I came up with. When I can, I write other short stories of “Tori Brin, Teen Detective”.
To learn more about Creative Compassion you can visit their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Creative-Compassion/225194234203291.
Photo by PortraitsPlus
AB: Your website has a lot of charity and philanthropy work. How did you get involved in these charities?
AL: The charity work really helped propel the costuming because when I heard about Wonder Woman day I worked out of a comic shop, Comics Fusion, in Flemington, NJ. I went to the owner, Stacy, and said we need to get involved. We immediately got on the ball and started organizing with Portland. That was really my first foray into charity work. From there I have done smaller things like Superheroes for Hayley (You can read more about the event here http://www.hometownclub-nj.com/ and send donations to the address listed). She is a girl from Flemington who has cancer and her bills are piling up. 30 of us managed to gather in different costumes and help raise money for her and her family. There is always something like that.  It’s something that makes me feel better.
AB: Let’s talk about your pumpkin work. You did one for cosplayer Han Pan. How do you start with a design?
AL: The pumpkins I started back in 2004 and basically it was something I saw on TV. My first year was doing real pumpkins and later I switched to foam pumpkins. You can get a brand call Funkins online or bauy foam pumpkins at Michael’s craft stores. When it comes to content I sometime ask people what my next carving should be. It will be based on an image or a character that I think will work really well on a pumpkin because one of the things about the images is they need to be really high contrast. I’ll find a piece of art that I like and take it to a photo imaging program such as GIMP and really play with the contrast. I’ll posterize (a term for reducing colors) it down to three colors which are black, grey and white. From there I’ll print it and I usually have to do some handwork with a sharpie because you can’t have pieces that float. You need to figure out how everything will connect so it won’t fall apart. From there I carve it.
AB:  You have done several interviews with writers and models. How has being an interviewer changed you?
AL: That all became part of my life during college because I had taken journalism. I didn’t know how to interview people. I majored in broadcasting. We had a phenomenal radio program at my school so I had to take things like public speaking and I had my own show from the day I walked in the door because they needed students to run the station. I was on the radio the whole time I was at college. I went from being a disc jockey to other production work and helping other people with their shows and then running the station but I liked doing the interviews best.
AB: Have the interviews caused you to change the way you see things?
AL: I don’t know if it’s changed me other than this is who I am now. I mean it’s made me more comfortable talking to people. I was a really shy kid. I never left my mother’s side ever. I mean if she dropped me off somewhere I would freak out and scream and cry. My first day at kindergarten was traumatic. I cried for hours. I was quite a late bloomer. My body bloomed by 12 but I didn’t feel comfortable doing anything on my own until after college.
AB: A lot of people are talking about girl geek cred now.
AL: I just think it is a buzz topic. Like Catwoman’s boobs are a buzz topic right now. I think people latch onto something they want to complain about and I usually take the stance that I will make one public announcement that these are my feelings on this topic and move on. People don’t really ask me my opinion but they will ask me on Twitter “What did you think?” and I love Catwoman. I think the issue is great. They are bringing in a mafia story. Not a single person talked about it. All they talked about are her boobs.
AB: People need to realize there is a story here.
AL: Yeah, there is more to it. People need to realize there is more to the story. All it takes is a snapshot for something to be pulled out of context. Nobody ever said Catwoman was going to be for kids so the person handed that Starfire or Red Hood comic to their seven year old displays bad parenting skills. I can’t believe that person showed that comic to a seven year old. That was always explicitly stated that it is not a kid comic
Rockabilly by Jay Fife
AB: What are you reading now?
AL: I’m really loving indie books and I like stuff with a noir twist to it. “Tiny Titans” is my favorite go to joy thing because life pretty much sucks and so when I get “Tiny Titans” in my box, I’m pretty happy. If I’m having a bad day and “Love and Capes” is in my box, I’m happy. I like hard core stuff. I just started reading Richard Starks; the second book that was adapted by Darwyn Cooke called “The Outfit”. I read “The Hunter” last year and I really loved it. I just started reading “The Outfit” recently. I usually go for stuff like that. It is more noir type, crime-ish. I love “Green Hornet”. I do love “Lone Ranger”. It’s not noir but it is pulp.
AB: Any last thoughts?
AL: Yeah, if anyone is interested, a lot of people ask me how I got started in comics writing. It is because of guys like Rob Anderson. We were part of or a workshop for Comics Experience and I recommend it.
AB: Can anyone join or do you have to be invited?
AL: You don’t have to be invited but it is a membership type of thing. You pay because you are learning. It has active professionals who critique each other. We are at different levels and have different goals. There are artist, letterers, and writers
AB: Is this a good way to make connections? What is the web address for them?
AL: It’s http://comicsexperience.com/. If you can’t find the connection you need for your work that way, we do, usually within the workshop every couple months, bring the subject back up because there are new people in the workshop and we will talk about it again. We discuss how to meet artists and letterers and we go over all the websites that are out there. I mean the number one answer is to go to a convention and find someone whose work you like and talk to them. That is always going to be the number one top answer for how to meet people.
AB: Thank you, Amber-Love.
AL: You’re welcome.
You can read her blog and keep up with everything she is doing at http://www.amberunmasked.com/.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Virginia Comic Con

Last weekend I attended my last comic/anime convention of the year when I went to Virginia Comic Con. I did not even know this convention existed until Carolyn Belefski and Joe Carabeo mentioned it at NYCC. It is the smallest one I have attended this year. It was in Richmond and situated in two small rooms as the Crowne Plaza West. The size was good and bad. There were fewer guests and vendors there as well as being fewer fans attending. The last part was an advantage as well since it meant there was less shoving, groping and touching in places where it usually costs money for that kind of physical contact.

James O'Barr and several other creators attended and it was easy to get to see them without being jostled. This convention allowed me to see people I have met this year again. Joe Carabeo and Carolyn Belefski were in attendance (see previous posts). This is the third time I have met them this year. They must be thinking I am following them at this point.I eagerly await seeing the nest issue of "Kid Roxy" to see how she makes the transition to world's greatest criminal. Also, I bought the flip book of Carolyn's webcomic "Curls" and it is hilarious. It has been a week and I am still laughing over some of the strips.


Tiffany Perry was there (see previous posts) both days and she wore a different costume each day. I am not that familiar with Sirkka but I do know Dumb Bunny. She was concerned that many would not recognize DB but I am betting more knew that costume than Sirkka. On Sunday I took several photos of Tiffany as DB and as I started to walk away a gentleman stopped me and asked if he could take a picture of Tiffany. Apparently I was her handler that day.







Tiffany also knows about my obsession with Zatanna and helped me meet Deanna Danger. She told Deanna that I wanted to meet Deanna as Zatanna which helped with Deanna allowing me to get some pictures.Deanna was part of Dr. Sketchy which had several Gotham characters coming for a showdown. The other characters included Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn.







Cherrie Canary

Binky Daze












Sunday brought a lot more cosplayers as this was the day of the costume contest. I was able to see another Zatanna, this time portrayed by Kitten Grey (She actually came both days as Z).








Sunday also let me meet Suny Stoudemire again. I met her at Baltimore Comic Con this year and she has a whole fairy tale set of costumes. I have seen her as Alice and Little Red Riding Hood. This time she was Alice. It turns out we have similar tastes in movies. Ask her about the movie "Bitch Slap". Yes, that is a real movie. Suny (and all the other people I mention in these comic/anime posts) prove that you can meet some of the greatest people at these events.





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There were many other costumes on parade this weekend.



David Klempa as the Scarecrow and Izzy Klempa as Catwoman.
Where else but a comic convention can you see "Sucker Punch" meets "Kill Bill". Ashleigh Davis as Baby Doll and Kristin Revelo as Gogo.




Miss Betrippin is above as Lara Croft, Tomb Raider. One of my favorite moments is when a guy asks to take her picture and after doing so, asks her who she is supposed to be. That just seems liks a question you ask first or don't ask at all.

The Riddler jacket required some work and time as the question marks had to be stenciled on. Doug Fields was the Riddler and Michelle Snutt was Batgirl.

Babylon 5 was represented as this con. Tory Pendleton did the honors of coming as Delenn

Krystal Lovelace was one of the finalists in the costume contest.

Rachel Thomas as Poison Ivy with Krystal's Harley Quinn

The actual winner of the costume contest. They called him Werewolf by Night. I say he was the Big Bad Wolf, Either way, he walked away with the prize.

Krystal and Tiffany glamming it up after the contest. So many people wanted to take a picture of this that Krystal and Tiffany had to say "Last shot!"

Friday, November 4, 2011

Echo Chernik interview

 Echo Chernik is a graphic artist who has been showing her work at conventions for several years. I met her at Baltimore Comic Con this year and she agreed to this interview at New York Comic Con. Her work draws a lot of attention from fans and other professionals during the conventions. Several models asked me to give their cards to Echo since they liked her work and want to model for her. Her website is http://www.echo-x.com/. She recently won a silver award for a Shadownrun illustration. All of the illustrations below are courtesy of Echo and Lazarus Chernik.

Me: When did you start showing at comic conventions?
Echo: I started doing comic conventions about 3 years ago. This is my second time at NYCC.
Me: What other conventions do you go to?
Echo: The first one I ever did was MegaCon in Orlando and this past year I did MegaCon, Wizards, Chicago Comic Con, Otakon, Origins, Gen Con, San Diego Comic Con, Fan Expo Toronto, Dragon Con in Atlanta and Baltimore Comic Con.
Me: What is you favorite convention to go to?
Echo: Oh, they’re all different. I like MegaCon. I do that one a lot. That is my home show and it is the closest to where I live now. Toronto is awesome. I went to Calgary last year as well. New York is another one I like. San Diego is a beast in itself.
Me: Why did you move into comic conventions to market your art?
Echo: I primarily do illustrations and Art Nouveau in order to be a successful advertising illustrator. The economy goes up and down. Either you get a lot of work and you don’t see your kids and then it will slow down a little bit. The first time it slowed down was after 9/11 and I started teaching to supplement my income. I still had advertising work but I started teaching. Then it picked back up. It slowed down a second time after the market crashed and I figured I could either take a lower level drop or change things up a little bit and start to travel. I wanted to travel with my children and it allowed me a chance to do my own personal pieces as well as the pieces I got from clients. I did this while travelling and a lot of my influences are comic book artists. I started off in role playing games.
Me: You taught at Pratt Institute. What was that like?
Echo: Teaching at Pratt was great. I taught at Pratt and Manhattan for a while. I went to Pratt and I taught illustration and graphic design there. I love teaching. I still teach and still do interviews with people.
Me: Like this?
Echo: Like this, exactly. I wrote my book specifically for students. The book talks about being an illustrator and the industry which carries over into teaching.
Me: Do role playing games and comics have a large influence on what you put out?
Echo: It’s funny because I have a lot of the Art Nouveau pieces and I have a growing number of pieces for Shadowrun. When I started to do RPG work I did a lot of work for White Wolf. I didn’t get to do any Shadowrun pieces for 17 years so when I got a chance to do those pieces I jumped on it. I split the art pieces and the Shadowrun pieces but the fans don’t seem to care. They like both.
Me: You use a lot of models. How do you choose which model to use?

Echo: I use some professional models and I sometimes use a model off of Model Mayhem. A lot of times I find people at conventions. Sometimes they are models and sometimes they are fans. The model for “Cupcake Cthulhu” is Elena Artimovich who is actually a geneticist and a gamer. She is not even a model. I met her at Otakon. I use some cosplay models. Marie-Claude Bourbonnais and Yaya Han are cosplay models I have used. 
Me: What inspires you? What make you want to create?
Echo: For individual pieces, a lot of it comes from a basic idea. That is what I like about illustration versus fine art. It is like a problem to solve. I will get a theme or an idea for personal pieces. I didn’t do any personal pieces until three years ago. It takes a while for the inspiration to fully develop. Some pieces, like “Tiger, Tiger”, require three years. It takes awhile for the inspiration to fully develop.  I guess that is the creative process.

Me: Some of your works are, such as “Pie Cthulhu”, based on the work of H.P. Lovecraft. Are you a fan of Lovecraft?
Echo: That actually came to me in a dream. I’m not a huge fan of Lovecraft. I am familiar with his work but I never read the stories. I’m familiar with who he was and I had a dream about a beautiful women being tormented by pie. I thought that’s kind of bizarre. I should at least sketch that out and I sat back and asked myself what am I going to do with that now? I was thinking about how weird it was and I brought it out to a show where people just loved it. It obviously speaks to them. Then I read Lovecraft.
Me: What is coming next?
Echo: I am doing three new Cthulhu themed pieces that will be done next year.  I am actually doing a Kickstarter (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/155549251/we-all-scream-for-ice-cream-cthulhu-mixed-media-tr) campaign. I will spend more time working on it and do pre-orders for some of the more special items. That will be up by November. Disney work pushed it back to November.
Me: Speaking of what you’ve done, you had a picture of Weeping Angels as a profile picture on Facebook. Are you a Doctor Who fan?
Echo: Yes. I love the Weeping Angels. That was actually for the Doctor Who San Diego Comic Con Contest. My agent hired me to do that. It had to be the angels since the angels are awesome.
Me:  Tell me about the “The Courtesan Prince” comic book by Lynda Williams.
Echo: I was hired to do that and it was one of my earliest covers. I was so busy after that one I could not do the later covers. I try to read the books people send me. For that one, the specific art direction was that the character was mixed ethnicity. I was able to find a blended model from different backgrounds and different cultures. It was very important that she looked a little bit Asian, African-American, and white. That was an important concept for the character. They also did a sculpture of this. When I was in Calgary I was next to the sculptor purely by coincidence.
Me: What do you do outside of creating art?
Echo: I do Shadowrun. I have been playing for 17 years. I do that with my husband Friday and Saturday nights. I have two kids who are 9 and 6. I like to bake.
Me: Who are some of your clients?
Echo: Miller Campbell, Corrs, Nascar, Cuervo, the post office, the military, Regal Cinemas, Disney, Rockport Shores, Dave Matthews band and the Connecticut Opera.

Me: Do you take commissions?
Echo: I do about two a year since my pieces take so long. It normally takes me a couple of weeks to do them. I don’t do sketches at shows.
Me: Thank you for your time. More of her work can be seen at http://www.echo-x.com/.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Yuffie Bunny Cosplay

I met with Yuffie Bunny Cosplay, a model, cosplayer, business owner and student, at New York Comic Con. She has been attending anime conventions for some time as a fan and to promote her business. All the photos below are courtesy of her.
Me: How are you doing today?
YBC: I’m good. Tired because the con is overwhelming but that’s good.
Me: How did the triathlon go for you?
YBC: Oh my God, it was so intense. Probably the craziest thing I’ve ever done and even into the first bit, the swimming, I was ready to call if quits. But then I was like ‘No!’ Once you get passed the swimming, which is the hardest part, you just keep going and going. I finished, which is good.
M: That’s an accomplishment.
YBC: Not a lot of people can finish so it was pretty exciting to get passed the finish line. They throw a wet towel on you, give you an orange, bagel, and water, and put the medal around your neck. It was an amazing feeling. I definitely pushed my body but I did it.
 
Me: Is this a new model thing, marathons and triathlons? It seems several models are now doing these.
YBC: I’m not too sure about models. I know a lot of models have started working out to try to give models a better look like I’m skinny not because I don’t eat but because I take care of myself when I work out. That is what I always tell people. You have to eat healthy but you also have to keep an exercise routine and that is how you stay fit and thin. I definitely noticed triathlons picking up in popularity with a lot of people, not just models. I hear a lot of studios and companies saying ‘Instead of golfing, let’s go do a triathlon or marathon’. So I think it is just the whole healthy attitude that the world is trying to go toward. It’s fun because, unlike other sports, it is not competitive which is nice and I think people are starting to realize that. They realize the only person they are competing against is themselves.
Me: You can only beat yourself?
YBC: You totally could. If I didn’t finish that triathlon I would have lost to myself because I didn’t force myself and push myself as hard as I knew I could go to finish. I would have been extremely upset and pissed off.
Me: When did you begin modeling?
YBC: The very first shoot I did was back in 2002/03 and I think about them now. Definitely nothing like I do now. It was the start of everything.
Me: When did you start cosplay modeling?
YBC: I started cosplay modeling probably at the end of 2003. It started pretty quick after modeling.
Me: Why the switch?
YBC: The regular modeling is picking up more than cosplay stuff. I’ve gotten so busy with modeling gigs that I have no time to make costumes but I switched over because originally I wanted to just cosplay and I loved it. I love dressing up. I love getting g my picture taken and it happens to meld into the modeling perfectly. It all works out.
Me: When it comes to cosplay modeling, what inspires you to make a costume? I have seen you as characters from “Final Fantasy” and “Bible Black”. How do you choose which ones to do?
YBC: I like doing characters I know. I don’t like just seeing a picture and being ‘Oh, I need to cosplay that’. I want to know the character before I cosplay. I want a connection to the character. I want to feel a certain likeness or I want to just be completely drawn into the character like in love with who they are, what they do. I need to know the characters. I’m not one of the cosplayers who can be like ‘I’m going to do this and this and this’ and not get a background or a feel for what the character is like. I have to watch the anime. I have to play the video game. I have to read the manga or the comic. I don’t like just throwing myself at a character and not knowing what it is they do or what they are about.
Me: If you go to conventions in costume and someone asks you a question about your character, you could answer it?
YBC: Totally. I mean when I use to cosplay Rikku, (I use to play her a lot when I started) I got a whole bunch of questions like ‘Do you speak Al Bhed?’
Me: Do you?
YBC: I do. I’ve lost it like any other language. You don’t use it, you lose it. I still remember how to say I love you, not too sure but I use to know how to say Yuffie Bunny in Al Bhed. Pretty sure I have lost that last one.
Me: I am sure it is online somewhere.
YBC:  (Laughs) Yeah, there’s a translator online. That’s how I taught myself.
Me: What are your future cosplays? I love your Rikku by the pool.
YBC: That is probably my most famous shoot. I look at a lot of the happier characters like Rikku or Serena from “Sailor Moon” and you see them being pretty happy but there are other sides to the character like there are other sides to people. I always try to look at that when I cosplay a character. The character might be hyper and happy go lucky in the videogame but it would be nice to portray the somber, more relaxed side of the character too. I always try to do that but it is tiring to run around with a smile always on your face.
Me: Are some of the shoots hard? You were stuffed in a trunk for the Bible Black shoot. That must have been uncomfortable.
YBC: It was the middle of summer and I was stuffed in my friend’s trunk (Laughs). I was tied up and gagged. It was an idea I had. I wanted to go all out for that shoot.
Me: Would you do it again?
YBC: Totally, in a heartbeat. It was one of the funniest shoots I have ever done. It was different and kind of relaxing.  The only thing that bothered me was the ballgag being in for so long.
Me: What are your future cosplays?
YBC: I’m actually working on Sumomo from “Chobits”. That one should be done for Katsucon. I like to take my time with costumes and I am looking forward to putting out another Rikku very soon. I won’t say which one since it is going to be a surprise.
Me: You have been doing a lot of modeling that involved body paint. When you get offered a modeling job what makes you say yes or no?
YBC: If they pay me (Laughs). I have bills to pay and I have my mouth to feed which is the most important mouth of all. I need money like anybody else in this economy right now. I need money so if the job is paying it’s an automatic yes. I’m one of those models that is easy going and laid back I’m okay with any kind of style, any kind of genre no matter how crazy it is. I’m okay with it whether it is jeans and a t-shirt. I will say yes to non paying jobs if it is an amazing opportunity like work with a really amazing designer that has been published in a lot of place. If it gets me something in return other than money, like publicity or the chance to work with someone who is really well known.
If I don’t know who is approaching me and they ask me to model merchandise or clothing I ask to see more work. Let me see your portfolio, let me see your lookbook, let me see your site. Let me see if it worth not getting paid.
Me: Tell me about Head Kandi.
YBC: Head Kandi is my cyberfalls company that I take to conventions all over the east coast. We do everything from the basic pigtail cyberfall to the big headsets that I wear. We are bringing on key chains and other hair accessories and necklaces. It’s expanding and it’s a lot of fun. We sell extensions. We sell online and EBay. It is all very new to me but I am learning as I go which is like any life experience.
Me: Where did the idea for Head Kandi come from?
YBC: I actually just started making them for myself. I love dancing. Dancing is a huge passion for me and when I started to really make an outfit to wear to the raves I realized I needed something for my head too. I wanted to complete it, make it really awesome and stand out from everybody else’s. I started to make them for myself and my friends were like ‘Those are really cool. Can you make one for me?’ and I said ‘Yeah, Throw me a few bucks for materials and I’ll make one for you’. Other people wanted one. My friends told me to go ahead and start this. Lo and behold, a little over a year later, we are going pretty strong and we are decking out lots of people at cons now. It is really awesome for me to see my stuff on other people. To me, that is the biggest thrill. When I go to the rave later and see my headsets on people, I get so excited.
Me: You are currently in school. What are you doing there?
YBC: I am studying graphic design and I am going for my B.F.A. right now. I have a little over a year left and I cannot wait for it to be done. It’s stressful trying to juggle school, the business, modeling, cosplaying and training for more triathlons at the same time. Employers want to see your degree before they spend money on hiring a new person. Stay in school kids (laughs).
Me: A P.S.A. from Yuffie Bunny Cosplay. How did you get the name Bunny?
YBC: I was very hyper and ditzy in high school. I still can be given the right moment. Cons tire me out so not a lot of people see me in that mode but I used to act a lot like Serena from “Sailor Moon” and her Japanese name Usagi translates to bunny. People started calling me Bunny and that was about 7th grade. It kind of stuck since then. I thought the name was cute and I’ve always loved “Sailor Moon” so I was like why get rid of a good nickname that everyone’s calling me.
Me: So your name comes from “Final Fantasy” and “Sailor Moon”?
YBC: Yes. Yuffie is my favorite videogame character. She was the little ninja girl in FF 7.
Me: What has been your favorite photo shoots?

YBC: I love doing (recently) the prosthetic work for Anatomy FX. I love the whole idea of totally becoming something else like…well, you are something else when you get a new costume but the prosthetics are totally different. You really become someone else. It’s awesome. I love creeping people out too.
                           
Me: Some people say girls don’t have the background to be doing this, that girls don’t really follow the material. What do you say?
YBC: I love the girl geek crowd and I think anyone who says girls can’t play videogames or cosplay or read comics should go f*** themselves. I absolutely support girls being into this genre 100%. I’m part of an agency, Charisma+2, which deals with trying to break down the whole idea that girls can’t do this; Girls can’t play video games, read comic books. I am actually into these things and I think girls are stepping it up and taking over the community. Of course, I am seeing a lot of guys here this weekend but I am seeing a lot more females and a lot more females that don’t look like they would be into it but they are. It brings me back to the idea that you can’t judge a book by its cover. 
Me: What are your favorite conventions to do?
YBC: Katsucon, Otakon, Anime Next, Manga Next, Anime USA and NYCC Anime Fest. My favorite is, even though it is smaller, is Anime Next. It is more relaxing and closer to home. I have been going since the first year it started. I feel left out if I don’t make it. I get to see all my friends and I try not to do any work. Katsucon is my birthday convention.
Me: Any last thoughts?
YBC: Visit my website. Support me. Add me on Facebook. Stop by Head Kandi and take photos of me. The support from fans and con goers is what keeps me going. I love meeting new people and seeing old faces.