Nathan's (Friday) Laserium: Comics 101 - Star Wars

A little VampireNomad apology before you start reading about the amazingness of Star Wars: I completely neglected to get this post ready for Nathan's usual Thursday Laserium spot. Laserium fans, that's on me! I'm very sorry. But now you get a totally thrilling Laserium post for Friday and what better way to end the week, honestly?


2015 is the Year of Star Wars. I suppose every year since 1977 could be called the Year of Star Wars. Well, except for 1986. 1986 was when Marvel Comics cancelled Star Wars at issue 107, and Starlog declared Star Wars fandom dead. 12-year-old me protested loudly and vigorously, but since there was no internet, nobody heard. And even if there had been internet, nobody would have cared. Star Wars was over.

Dark Horse Comics acquired the licence in 1991 and published many, many Star Wars comics over the years. Some of them were very good. Some of them were very bad.

Now that Disney owns both Marvel Comics and Star Wars, it just made sense for them to give the comic rights back to Marvel. Last week Marvel rolled out Star Wars #1, written by Jason Aaron and illustrated by John Cassaday. It's good! Lots of fun. Pro tip- cue up your Empire Strikes Back OST (not A New Hope, it's gotta be Empire even though Star Wars #1 takes place after ANH but before ESB), crack open to page 1, press play, read and enjoy.

Added bonus for Comixology users- Star Wars comics were never available on their app since Dark Horse has its own digital comics app. Which I never bothered registering for. Who can keep track of all their accounts and what comics they have digitally or physically or I don’t know, I am bad at that. Anyway you can now get the Marvel Rerelease of the Dark Horse Omnibus Reprint of the Original Marvel Star Wars series! Hopefully these will be made available as individual issues soon, as well. Because they are awesome, goofy, nostalgic fun.

Who can get forget Jaxxon? Well, George Lucas did when he chose to make up a stupid character like JarJar Binks instead of going with the way more awesome 6-foot-tall green talking bunny! Perhaps Jason Aaron has plans to bring him back, hopefully as a Dark Lord of the Sith.

Fun fact- the movie adaptation was done by the Marvel bullpen before they had seen the movie, in order for it to precede the movie’s release by some months. So there are a few adorable misinterpretations of the still photos they were provided with- namely that they thought R2-D2 walked on his legs rather than rolled. And they thought Darth Vader was a 6-foot-tall green bunny rabbit.

I tease, but those early comics weren’t only silly, they also had some great stories, and some truly fantastic Carmine Infantino art, one of comicdom’s true legends. His Chewbacca and Leia are still my headcanon versions, as far as I'm concerned.

Speaking of head cannons, there were a series of done-in-one stories shortly after the release of The Empire Strikes Back that I return to over and over. Each issue more or less starred one or two of the heroes (sans Han Solo, of course, who was frozen in Carbonite). One was called Droid World! (issue 47) and featured Artoo and Threepio trying to secure a warbot with a cannon for a head. They had to go to this station that was all droids no people allowed. They almost died! But they didn't.

I'm tempted to describe in great detail each subsequent issue. I won't, but I want to. Well, there is this one arc worth mentioning. In the issues between Empire and Return of the Jedi they introduced a love interest for Luke, a hotshot pilot named Shira Brie. She was awesome. They had some adventures together and everyone loved her. Then they went into battle against the Empire and Luke, trusting the Force, shot Shira's ship down. The cover of issue 62 is still cited as a classic, for its stark simplicity. Monotone blood-red, a closeup shot of Luke's anguished face with the caption "Luke Skywalker: Pariah". I didn't know what a pariah was but I knew it was bad news. He killed Shira Brie!

Years later, post-ROTJ, a new villain was introduced, kind of a second-rate Darth Vader lookalike named Lumiya. She had a funny triangular robot head that didn't really inspire terror. Luckily Leia shot it up a bit and when she returned to menace Luke Skywalker, she had a way more cool cyborg/scarf/purple-eyes thing going on.


Issue 96, easily one of my top ten comics of all-time. Written by (Mary) Jo Duffy, pencilled by Cynthia Martin, colored by Glynis Oliver and edited by Ann Nocenti, it is a tour de force. The first seven pages are a dialogue-free fight scene in which Lumiya kicks Luke's ass. Later on he figured out how to beat her. Spoiler alert- Lumiya is Shira Brie, agent of the empire. The Force wasn't lying to Luke when it told him to shoot her down! The artwork, the storytelling, the call back to a story from years before that I actually knew, they made a huge impression on me.

This is pure Nerd Nostalgia for me. I reread those old comics so many times. Not to beat a dead tauntaun but we didn't have any way to watch the movies whenever we wanted back in those days. Comics and action figures and playing outside pretending to be Han and Luke were our only ways of engaging in our fandom.  

In fact, easily the nerdiest thing I have ever done is attempt to recreate that epic battle scene in action figure form. I even cut out bristol board mountains to emulate the backgrounds as exactly as I could. See?

So happy Year of the Force! Or whatever you want to call it. In addition to the Star Wars ongoing series, Marvel has announced two other series: Star Wars Darth Vader, and Star Wars Princess Leia, both with solid creative teams.

Marvel, if you’re listening, I could totally write you a Star Wars Lumiya comic. Tweet me!

- Nathan Waddell




School, in this case, refers to the fact that I have dawdled, photographed, runwayed, latexed, collaborated, and otherwise spent my year of school time doing everything but school. (I have clearly also been working on introducing new words to the already-overcrowded English language.) I have been in makeup school ostensibly since the end of February 2014. There are four modules to the online program and to date I have completed one. Yes, one of four. One quarter. That's good math, you're all stars! The deadline for completion is drawing near, however, and now it's crunch time. I have until February 23rd to complete three modules of school. YOU GUYS I CAN TOTALLY DO THIS! *pumps self up* But in order to do it I am going to have to eat, sleep, and breathe makeup in all hours that I'm not at work. My contributions here may suffer from a sort of sporadic silence. I apologize in advance. I love you all and have ensured that you are in excellent hands with Alan and Nathan who will continue to bring the brilliance they always do. I will write as I can, I can't leave words alone for long, there's too much in my imagination to explore.

In the meantime, I'll visually share some of what I've been up to recently:

That's my friend and model Meagan Schirrmacher (who, if you visit my portfolio over on Palette's side of the site, you'll see a lot of) sitting for a pink-themed beauty look.

And that is my roommate (you may know her from live blogs as Ginger) sporting a stylized comic-style Lois Lane look. This was an homage to a brilliant MUA I follow on instagram: @argenapeede. Do check out his profile, it's amazing.

And now, the plunge. Into the school assignment abyss I go. Wish me luck!


Corinne Simpson

Pick of the Week – January 19-25, 2015

Most of the books I read bounce between sci-fi novels and non-fiction books in the areas of science or filmmaking. A few years ago, though, I saw a few mentions online of a book called The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, which is my pick for this week.  The book follows the story of the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago and the story of H.H. Holmes, who was one of the country’s first known serial killers. I thought I was going to be more interested in the Holmes story, since I’d never heard of him. Holmes, who was by all accounts an exceptionally charming man, constructed a building in Chicago specially designed to allow him to kill people and dispose of the bodies. And the fact that he was able to kill as many people as he did without anyone suspecting him is just insane.

I found, however, that by the end of the book I was far more interested in the Columbian Exposition, nicknamed “The White City” by some. In less than three years, the group behind the expo were able to basically build an entire city, which included the world’s first Ferris wheel. It was never meant to last, and it’s all gone now except for one building, the Palace of Fine Arts, which is now the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. Some of the pictures are amazing, though:

I can’t say exactly what it is about the exposition that has me so fascinated, but I find myself really wishing that I could have seen this thing. I don’t seem to be alone in that, though. I’ve run across similar sentiments on various websites, and the Urban Simulation Team at UCLA is in the process of creating a 3-D model of the entire exposition grounds.  They have not updated the site in a couple of years now, but the pictures and videos they have are quite impressive.

In the end, I suppose it’s appropriate that the expo grabbed my attention. Holmes was a killer, and the world already has far too many of them. His methods and ability to deflect suspicion may have been somewhat unique, but when it comes down to it, all he did was destroy. The people behind the Columbian Exposition, however, were creators, and they created something extraordinary, even if it was all too temporary. Photos and computer models help to give me some idea of what it was like. At some point, though, I want to get to Jackson Park in Chicago and see the place for myself. I know very little is left, but it would be wonderful to walk in the same area that once held the White City.  And after you read The Devil in the White City, you might just want to join me.

- Alan Decker

@CmdrAJD on Twitter

Everything Old is New Again

As we head into January, we are also wading into another killzone in the world of television: the start of the Spring TV season.  This is a time when the networks sweep away the carnage of the Fall (So long, A to Z, Constantine, and such) and bring us shiny new toys to play with!  Or at least watch with something resembling interest (they hope).

The bad news for the networks is that, with one exception, I am not interested in the new series that they are rolling out.  And even that show doesn’t really qualify as new, for reasons I will get into momentarily.

So what will I be watching this Spring?  Aside from the second halves of several of my regular shows from the Fall, the list is almost all returning series.  We’ll start, however, with the one network newbie:

(All premiere date and networks are for the US.  Your mileage may vary.)

Agent Carter (January 6, ABC) As I stated above, I don’t know that this series can really be considered “new.” The Peggy Carter character was first introduced in Captain America, and she has had appearances since then in Captain America: The Winter Solider, a short film on one of the Marvel DVDs, and several appearances in flashbacks on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  This is really a spin-off rather than anything brand new.  As of this writing, three episodes of the eight episode “limited run series” (Network PR speak for “If it bombs, we can say it was only intended for eight episodes, but, if it’s a hit, you can be damn sure it will be back for a second limited run season.”) have aired, and I have to say that I’ve been enjoying it quite a bit.  It helps that we already know a bit about Carter and Howard Stark (Tony “Iron Man” Stark’s father) going in, but the show has does a wonderful job introducing Stark’s butler, Jarvis, who is helping Carter track down the people responsible for stealing technology from Stark.  Also, I’m happy to see Enver Gjokaj, one of my favorite actors from Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse, playing a supporting character.  I’m also a fan of the 1940’s setting, which has been realized quite nicely on a TV budget.  The automat set is particularly well done.

Archer (January 8, FX) – While Archer is entering its 6th season, I’m a newcomer to the series.  I blew through everything on Netflix over the course of a few days last Fall and was able to get caught up before last Thursday’s premiere.  Describing the show is a bit difficult.  It’s a spy comedy, but any espionage is secondary to what’s going on with the characters, as it should be.  I have a friend who watches Archer, who finds that he much prefers the storylines happening back at the office to whatever mission Archer and Lana might be on that week.  I generally agree with him.  HR Director Pam Poovey, voiced by Amber Nash, may be my favorite comic character creation in a long time, with Cheryl Tunt coming in a close second.  Yes, the show can be oh-so-very wrong.  But it is damn funny.

Broadchurch (March 4, BBC America) – Even though Gracepoint, the US adaptation of the BBC’s Broadchurch crashed and burned on FOX last Fall, the original was a huge hit in the UK, prompting a second season.  My first concern was that, since Broadchurch was billed as a limited run series (there’s that term again), that the writer, Chris Chibnall, would have a hard time coming up with a believable and interesting story for a second season.  It appears, however, that season two is going to focus more on the trial of the person arrested for the murder that kicked off season one.  I’m hoping that I will find the new season as engrossing as the first, but David Tennant is in it, so I will be watching no matter what.

Community (March 17, Yahoo! Screen) – Also entering its sixth season, Community, which was cancelled by NBC at the end of Season 5, rises again like a phoenix online at Yahoo! Screen.  As I stated in THIS Pick of the Week, the series “…has a reputation for being a bit off-kilter…and that may be a huge understatement. While the show is ostensibly about a group of people attending a community college, uninitiated viewers flipping to the show for the first time may find themselves confronted by parallel universes, stop-motion animation in the style of Rankin-Bass’ Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer television special, or a dead-on parody of Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary this time covering a war between forces supporting blanket forts versus pillow fortsSeries creator Dan Harmon has promised that the new season, while will premiere one episode a week unlike Netflix’s drop the whole season online at once model, will harken back to the feel of Community’s first season.  I’ll just be happy to be back hanging out with the study group again.

Daredevil (April 10, Netflix) – Yes, this is also a new series, but it’s not airing on any network.  Daredevil is the first of four Marvel Cinematic Universe series (soon to be followed by Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist) leading up to a Defenders mini-series.  We know very little about Daredevil  so far.  There have a been a couple of publicity photos, but no trailer.  I know very little about Charlie Cox, who has been cast as Matt Murdoch.  I did like Deborah Ann Woll on True Blood, and Vincent D’Onofrio is fantastic casting for the Kingpin.  Since this is part of the MCU, we could see appearances from or references to other MCU properties, such as S.H.I.E.L.D., but, again, nothing had been revealed.  Out of everything I’m watching this Spring, Daredevil is the biggest unknown.

Game of Thrones (April 12, HBO) – I don’t know what more there is to say about Game of Thrones, which is entering its fifth season.  It’s one of the most popular shows in the world as well as the most pirated series on the planet.  If you aren’t on board by now, starting with Season 5 is a terrible idea.  Go back and start from the beginning.  I haven’t read the original novels, but this is what I know about the new season.  First, Alexander Siddig (Dr. Bashir from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) is joining the cast.  Second, this season is likely to cover the last two novels that have been published and may involve a lot of material created for the show.  In other words, the show’s creators have reached the end of what has been published, so Write Like the Wind, George R.R. Martin!

House of Cards (February 27, Netflix) – All of the third season will hit at once, which means that you may have trouble reaching your friends that weekend.  At the end of the second season, Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood was starting a new job that should stretch his abilities to manipulate and control situations to their breaking point.  Having not read or watched the original British version of the material, I have no idea if the US version will be following the original storylines or going off in its own direction.  It is, however, just a joy to watch Spacey work as Underwood, and it puts me in a strange position as a viewer.  Underwood is not a good guy.  He’s done terrible things, but he’s just so entertaining that I want him to get away with it. 

Mythbusters (January 10, Discovery) – Mythbusters has been on the air for twelve years now, but in many ways this season is a brand new show.  Last season ended with the unexpected and oddly abrupt announcement that Kari Byron, Grant Imahara, and Tori Belleci would no longer be appearing on the show.  Regardless of what actually happened behind the scenes (the most likely culprit is money), Mythbusters is now back to just Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, and the pair have been touting this season’s new-found focus on the science and build process (For more on this season’s changes, read THIS.).  Based on the first episode of the new look show, which covered two myths from The Simpsons, we are indeed getting just that.  I like the new pop-up text and graphics that help explain what we’re seeing.  I’m less fond of the new opening music.  Can we bring back the original theme tune?  Please???

Orphan Black (April 18, BBC America) – Let’s get something out of the way right from the start: Tatiana Maslany is absolutely amazing.  She has managed to play multiple clones and make them all distinct from each other without giving any of them a bizarre affectation or seeming forced in her performance.  Sarah, Cosima, Helena, Alison, and Rachel all feel like completely different people, and many times while watching her act against herself (thanks to the magic of special effects, I didn’t even think about the fact that I was seeing the same actress in both roles.  And watching her act as one clone pretending to be one of the others is astounding.  I’ll say it again a different way: Maslany is incredible.  But I’ll admit that I found my attention drifting a bit during the show’s second season.  The “Kira is in danger” card was played too many times, and episodes seemed to be lacking in forward momentum (Was there a point to the Tony episode?).  That said, we had what appeared to be a major clearing of the decks and turn of the story at the end of Season Two, and I am interested to see where Season Three is headed.

All of these plus the shows I’m already watching means that I have a busy Spring ahead, but on the bright side, the odds of any of them getting canceled mid-run is extremely low.  I can’t say that this bodes well for my free time, though.

Finally, I’ll leave you with THIS COUNTERPOINT to the link from the Game of Thrones entry.

- Alan Decker

@CmdrAJD on Twitter

In which I go on a rant about aging and perception...

Make no mistake, my rants are full of brightly colored language. NSFW words and all that. Do enjoy!

Quite frankly, that just sounds direly exhausting.

Partly because I have an inherent laziness that only actual scheduled events can counteract and partly because I am a natural skeptic, reading this worked on my psyche much like a cheese grater on knuckles. Or, in The Princess Bride parlance, lemon juice on a paper cut.

It isn’t so much that “everyone” commits to such strenuous anti-aging regimes.  It isn’t that women want to appear younger longer.  It isn’t that people choose to spend $300,000 on light treatments and “gentle” injectables to keep their faces fresh.  It’s the entire baseline of such statements full stop.

When exactly did aging become akin to a Faustian deal with He Who Dwells In Fire?  When did aging become both our most constant enemy and favorite obsession?  When did aging become wrong?  For all people but, let’s be strictly and painfully honest, mostly for female people.  Women are not allowed to age.  We must bloom and then constantly re-bloom with the dewy delicacy of the everlasting and continuously-refreshing dawn.  We must be forever new buds opening to the sun.  We, like Britney Spears, must always be “not a girl, not yet a woman” - trapped in the limbo of not child/not old where we are acceptably sexual at all times.  We must be dewy fresh, goddammit, and gorgeously ripe every damn day.  And also delicate.  And sweet.  And whorish.  And virginal.  And sexually provocative.  And never slutty.  And mothers.  And girlfriends.  And hungry.  And never eat.  And beacons of apple-cheeked health.  And career-minded.  And hearth-warmers.  And independent.  And agreeable.  And ambitious.  And submissive.  And thin.  And curvy.  And beautiful.  And above all else YOUTHFUL.

And to that - to your Thermage, your microdermabrasion, your Botox, your LED therapy, your oxygen facials, your Belotero, your no carbs no dairy, your ultrasound treatments, your vampire facials, your liposuction, your photoshop of horrors, all of it - to that I say get fucking bent.  Quite frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.  Hey, I’m a woman and I like to look my best.  I’m a damn makeup artist, for godsakes.  I understand the allure of beauty and skin deep artistry and youth as much as the next person.  And I’ll use the creams and the scrubs and the coverups and the powders and primers and shadows and clever lighting.  I’m human!  I want to look lovely too!  I am not a damn hypocrite!  But I will draw the line in the sand at a regimen that demands more of my time and energy and devotion than boot camp and children.  I will draw the line in the sand when I am considered an old hag at forty without a military schedule of anti-aging battles on my dermatologist’s roster keeping hag-dom at bay.  For fuck sakes, I am a person and people age!  

We grow up and we grow out and we grow old.  We get lines around our mouths from laughing and lines around our eyes from squinting and lines on our necks from bending them and our hands get spots and our noses stay big while our skin shrinks back and our bellies grow while our biceps wilt and our tans get sallow and our eyes water and you know what that really is about?  It’s about LIVING.  It’s about being a living human being who has seen things and been places and done shit and had years pass.  You age because you’re alive.  You know who doesn’t age?  THE DEAD.  So do what is reasonable but do not sacrifice all your living time for youth that is designed to be fleeting.  Youth isn’t wasted on the young, it’s gifted to them.  And you get it and you wear it out and then you take care of what’s left and move the fuck on.  Put on your best red lipstick or jaunty chapeau, smile at yourself in the mirror, and say out loud “I am so much more than the sum of my visible parts.  I am a damn fine person with thoughts to share and places to go and books to read and people to meet and things to accomplish.  Fuck yeah, wrinkles, give me your best shot.  I earned every last one of you.”  And then stride on out into the daylight and live your damn life.

- Corinne Simpson