Sunday, November 6, 2011

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/.

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