Blast from the Past: C!TB’s 2014 (Yes, 2014) Calgary Expo Cosplay Spectacular

[Ed. Note: Okay guys, cards on the table: I totally goofed on this when Ryan sent it to us last year and didn’t get it up promptly… or at all.  In fact, this is probably the latest actual time this could go up, since it’s the actual weekend of the 2015 Calgary Expo, and Ryan will have a whole other batch of coverage for us very, very soon.  So without dragging out this embarrassment any further, enjoy some great photos of talented people that we should have posted 11 months ago.]

The 2014 Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo was held this past weekend and, as is becoming tradition, I was asked by my good friends James and Brandon from Comics! The Blog to take a press pass and “do whatever.”

For the first time, this year’s event was spread over 4 days, but sadly we could not attend until the weekend. (as we live in a different city, and enjoy keeping our day jobs that actually pay us.) Our first day was slightly dampened by the not-unexpected-because-we-live-in-Canada-but-still-saddening snow which decided to fall all day on Saturday. Although this did allow me the opportunity to showcase my Macguyver-esque umbrella construction from jackets and hoodies in order to safely get my camera equipment between buildings!

The event started out surprisingly well, as when we went to pick up our press passes we were greeted with our first ever ‘Maybe’ for a real live celebrity interview. This was a first ever for us, and we got pretty excited at the idea that there was an actual chance we could interview none other than Mr. Giancarlo Esposito (everyone’s favourite chicken restaurant manager/meth distributor from AMC’s Breaking Bad.) As excited as we were, we also instantly became super nervous at the thought that we would have to actually think up REAL questions and conduct a REAL interview…luckily we never heard back from the PR folks and got to do our annual “Favourite Cosplayers” photo extravaganza instead!

Given basically no instruction from C!TB on what exactly they want, other than James telling me he wanted more of something called ‘ Heterosexual Female Gaze’ [Ed. Note: Read: Man candy], we hit the show floor with our eyes peeled for the latest and greatest costumed attendees.

As usual, we never rank our favourite costumes that we see during the Expo, however this year for the first time ever, we actually crowned our favourite! (Note to the Editors – we sort of promised this person that you would send them some sort of prize or crown or something, FYI.) [Ed. Note: No.]

Without further adieu, here is part ONE of this year’s C!TB’s Favourite Cosplayers of the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo!

Fast and Fury-ous: C!TB rewatches MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS

[After the “noted” “success” of our LOST rewatch two years ago, James and Scott are back to prepare for the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron the only way they know how: by going through the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, movie by movie.  We are not very imaginative.  Check in every week as we go into way too much detail about pop entertainment and frequently say people are wrong about things.]

Scott: The time has come.

James: I have honestly been dreading it. The past few weeks I’ve been behind with my watching and catching up while we recap, but due to poor scheduling. This week, I’ve actively been putting it off.

Scott: Yeah, let’s just talk about WrestleMania instead. Maybe Brock Lesnar will retain now that he’s re-signed!

James: I am genuinely tempted. Because, really, the movie we’re about to discuss is one I’ve come completely around on since I loved it in the theatre.

Scott: My feelings aren’t quite that extreme, but as far as the Marvel movies go, I agree it’s the dud. It might not be as much of a drag as INCREDIBLE HULK, but considering its reputation far exceeds IH, there’s a bigger disparity between perception and reality. That said, if you asked me to list something I liked about this movie, I’d say that I really like Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner.

James: We are, of course, talking about THE AVENGERS!

This Column Has Seven Days #052 // Featuring The Inevitable Daredevil Review

If I were really planning ahead, I would have made column no. 52 an all-DC-Comics spectacular, but I didn’t, because I am not a great person at planning ahead. Including one DC book will make up for it though, right? Right.

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Terra Firma

Cover to Terra by Amanda Conner & Paul Mounts.
Cover to Terra by Amanda Conner & Paul Mounts.

Most of my comic-book reading lately has involved pulling mediocre books off my shelf that have just been taking up space and finally reading them before moving them out of the apartment. This week I read eight different nearly acceptable books, including Superman: New Krypton volumes one and two, X-Men: Mutant Massacre, Grant Morrison and Mark Millar’s run on The Flash, and a few that were so bad I won’t mention them here at the risk of triggering a rant. However, there was one I liked enough that I am keeping it around for at least one more read. That book is Terra by writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Grey, artist Amanda Conner, and colourist Paul Mounts. It’s a book with more than its own fair share of cheesecake, but I have always had a soft spot for Amanda Conner’s art.

I think I am an Amanda Conner fan because she’s got a real eye for variety — yes, she draws beautiful women in skin-tight and sometimes-skimpy outfits, but they’re not all bending over at the waist and looking over their shoulder in every panel like the work of some other mainstream superhero comics artists. There are also beefcake guys (though, admittedly, the ratio is skewed), as well as supporting characters with a variety of body types, most of who come off as beautiful in their own distinct way because of the line and attention Conner brings to them. The characters always have body language and facial expression appropriate to the situation, whether that be intimidating, humorous, frustrated, powerful, happy — the list goes on. In fact, my favourite thing about Conner’s art is that she’s an amazing director of emotion and body language in comics. There is never any doubt in my mind what any of her characters are thinking, whether they’re the people in the foreground with the dialogue balloons or a random person in a crowd.

The ideas collected in the Terra TPB could have been an interesting addition to the DC Universe — multiple alien civilizations living underneath the Earth’s crust are under the protection of a 16-year-old hybrid superhero — but with at least one line-wide reboot wiping that out of existence, whether or not the story “matters” is beside the point. Palmiotti and Grey write a young woman who is trying to find her place between two worlds; she wants to leave home and explore the outside world but not entirely sure how to go about it. It relies on character and ideas more than an intricately plotted story, which is fine by me as the characters and ideas are definitely strong enough to stand on their own. Terra is fun and adventurous and extremely well-drawn, and I am very pleased to say that I misjudged the book by just looking at its cover. If only there was a proverb that warned against that kind of behaviour.

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That’s not all, folks. There were a couple other things that caught my attention this week. I’ll get the most obvious mention out of the way first.

Television: I am a giant comics nerd so of course I watched Daredevil this week. I took the full seven days to watch all 13 episodes though, because as much as I wanted to just binge and get through them as quickly as I could, I also wanted to savour the story and draw it out. Also affecting my movement through the series is that the show is shockingly violent. The episodes can get pretty intense and I didn’t want the shocking moments to lose their impact just because I had watched seven or eight episodes in a row. Overall, it’s a really great series; I found a couple of episodes dragged a little but that’s only in comparison to the rest of the Daredevil series. Compared to nearly all of the other comics-based television shows out there, Daredevil stands tall and proud. Yes, it’s vicious. Yes, it gets a little bleak and dark at times. But the cast is phenomenal, especially Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk and Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better Foggy Nelson, who I think is the most important Daredevil character other than The Man Without Fear himself. The fight scenes are tremendous, the tone and visual style is consistent throughout the series, and though the whole series felt like a battle, the final two episodes really hit me like a knife in the gut. In a good way. Daredevil wears a lot of hats — crime series, action-adventure serial, courtroom thriller, superhero adaptation — and it wears them all really well. This sets the bar really high for the rest of the Marvel Netflix shows to come, but it’s also giving me hope that they can pull this off. (Especially the Iron Fist series; the fight choreography in Daredevil is so good that I can’t wait to see what they do with Iron Fist.)

Books: At first I thought Kate Atkinson’s 2013 novel Life After Life was too clever for its own good. In the first chapter of the novel, the main character Ursula Todd dies stillborn in the winter of 1910, the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. The second chapter retells the story of her birth, but this time the local doctor makes it to her home in time to save her and she lives through her first day on Earth, until another calamity befalls her and she dies again. The first hundred or so pages explores many of young Ursula’s lives and deaths, nearly all of them starting over in the winter of 1910, which I found made for a slightly maddening experience. No stranger to the concept of multiple lives and multiple timelines — I am a comic book reader, after all — I wasn’t put off by this tactic, but rather confused about whether the book would finally start gaining momentum before Atkinson cut the story off at the knees again. Thankfully, once Ursula makes it to her 16th birthday, the stories available to her become more expansive and Atkinson is able to explore concepts such as the role of British women in the early 20th century, the effects of the Second World War on multiple European countries, and universal themes of love and family and devotion. Once the initial hiccups were over, I rather enjoyed the ability to look at multiple aspects of this era of British life through the eyes of the same character, who gains different perspectives on life with a few alterations to her timeline with every new life. Fans of hard sci-fi might find the book a little free and easy with the timeline-hopping, and there were a few times where even I thought that Atkinson might not have thought out the logistics of her gimmick well enough. However, once it gets out of its own way, Life After Life has a group of interesting stories to tell and a character who is worth sticking around for, in nearly every iteration.

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That’ll do it for me this week. Until next time, clear a few things out of your life that you no longer need and take time to savour something instead of gorging on it. I’ll see you in seven days.

Podcast! The Comics, Episode 163 – Sunshine State

Contains the last ever Cougar Town content on the show!

This episode is brought to you by [YOUR BUSINESS HERE]!  Our previous sponsorship arrangement has ended, and we’re looking for news ways to pay the (modest) bills.  If you’d like to pay us to say nice things about you or your business, or simply not insult you on-air, or maybe to repeatedly insult someone else, let us know!  I’m sure we can come to an agreement.

This Column Has Seven Days #051 // Escape From Spring Break

Hello! I am back from Winnipeg and from the mystical recesses of the spring break holiday, and it feels good to be back. This week I’ll be taking on a few shorter recommendations as I shake the rust off, but I truly believe these are three great selections well worth anyone’s time.

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Deadly Class: High School is Murder

Deadly Class Volume 1 cover by Wes Craig & Lee Loughridge.
Deadly Class Volume 1 cover by Wes Craig & Lee Loughridge.

I’d heard plenty of good things about Deadly Class since it was first published in early 2014, but it was often pitched as “The Breakfast Club meets Kill Bill,” and as that is a terrible pitch for someone like me, I figured I’d probably get around to reading it eventually. It wasn’t until last week, when I was killing some time in the Winnipeg Public Library, that I picked up the first volume and gave it a solid read. I am saying right now, for the record, that a year was entirely too long to wait. Written by Rick Remender with art by Wes Craig and colours by Lee Loughridge, Deadly Class Volume 1: Reagan Youth shows that this has the potential to be a monster of a series.

It’s set in 1987 at Kings Dominion School Of The Deadly Arts, a boarding school for the world’s greatest assassins-in-training. Marcus Lopez, the school’s newest student, is trying to make his way in this new environment. For the past year, he’s been living on the street and on the run from the law, having left the group home he went to after his parents died in front of him. Just like in non-assassin high school, Marcus has to deal with inter-student politics, brutal teachers, and awful homework assignments, except the cliques are all children of gangsters and political dictators, the teachers can execute you for failing, and the assignments are attempted homicides.

Remender amps up the “high school as gladiator arena” tone by mixing in a little of his own apparently horrific childhood (part of the reason that the series is set in 1987), but the real reason this book is a must-read is Craig and Loughridge’s art. I lost count of how many times I turned the page and was startled by the fluidity and power of the comic page. Craig’s layouts are phenomenal; he’s got a real knack for giving characters personality through posture and facial expression alone, but he also pushes the storytelling by breaking through or layering or sequencing panels in such a way that the attentive reader is guided through the book at just the right pace. Loughridge is always someone I am happy to see as part of a creative team, and his colours perfectly accent each scene, never seeming out of place or garish (except when necessity calls for it, as is the case in the greatest acid trip I’ve ever seen in a comic). Deadly Class could have been little more than a high-concept elevator pitch with an empty soul, but with these talented creators behind the helm, there is so much more to it, and I am counting down the days until my budget resets and I can buy the second volume.

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It wasn’t all adolescent assassins for the past two weeks, though. There are a couple more things that I want to shine a little love on.

Podcasts: A little over two years ago saw the release of the final episode of the Pod F. Tompkast. Hosted by the famous comedian, Paul F. Tompkins, the show was a hilarious combination of improvised monologues, interviews, sketches, and segments from his live show, with musical accompaniment from longtime Tompkins collaborator Eban Schletter. It was a great show that apparently was a monster to produce, hence its demise two years ago. But Tompkins and Schletter are back with a new podcast, Spontaneanation, which takes some of the best parts of the old show and adds an improv twist. Each episode of Spontaneanation starts with a monologue from Tompkins, a stream-of-consciousness, free-association ramble full of bizarre tangents and off-the-cuff rants. That quickly transitions into an unscripted interview with the episode’s special guest, sparked by a question from the previous episode’s guest. Finally, Tompkins and three guest improvisors perform a long-form improv sketch for the last half of the show, based on a location suggested by the interviewee as well as anything touched on in the interview or monologue segments.

After the first two episodes I’m happy to say that Spontaneanation is a worthy successor to the Pod F. Tompkast; it’s loose and silly without being foolish, and it makes me laugh extra hard to hear the other performers enjoying themselves and being delighted by their own ridiculousness. It’s also wonderful to have Schletter scoring the improv scenes in real time with the performers, as well as his patented back and forth with Tompkins during the opening monologues. It’s fast and loose and full of whimsy and I wish there were more episodes so I could listen to three or four in a row. I suppose I will just have to wait a few more weeks and then do a marathon re-listen.

Music: I discovered singer-songwriter Allison Weiss when she guested on a recent episode of the improv4humans podcast. The songs she performed on that episode were really striking, so the following day I started listening to her 2013 album Say What You Mean and have not stopped. I was a sucker for a good break-up album long before I’d actually been broken up with, and Say What You Mean is a killer break-up album. Full of happy-sounding sad songs boasting a variety of musical influences — country, punk, folk, rock — this is a highly accessible pop album that comes on strong with a solid punch to the heart. Weiss has the capacity to craft songs with simple but powerful lyrics, and half of the album’s songs could be breakout radio hits if given half a chance. There are sweet break-up songs like the acoustic “Wait for Me” and aggressive ones like the highly amplified and vicious “Hole in Your Heart” (my favourite on the album, for the record). Weiss has a delicate voice that sometimes cracks when she might not want it to, but she generally uses it to add a layer of heartbreak and pathos to a song, as in the way she falls apart at the end of “How to Be Alone.” I would also recommend her 2014 EP Remember When. Though it’s not as sweeping or as raw as Say What You Mean, it’s a little more polished, plus it features a cover of Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend.” If there was anything that would seal the deal on my love of Allison Weiss, it would be a cover of my favourite Swedish pop sensation.

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That’ll do it for me this week. Until next time, spend some time listening to your favourite break-up album with teenage assassins, if that seems like a fun Friday night to you. I’ll see you in seven days.

Fast and Fury-ous: C!TB rewatches CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER

[After the “noted” “success” of our LOST rewatch two years ago, James and Scott are back to prepare for the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron the only way they know how: by going through the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, movie by movie.  We are not very imaginative.  Check in every week as we go into way too much detail about pop entertainment and frequently say people are wrong about things.]

Scott: Welcome back readers to our always-insightful and totally important Marvel Cinematic Universe Rewatch! Last week we covered THOR, possibly my favourite outing in the first spate of films, and this week we’re looking at CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGERs movie to have a subtitle.

show us them buns, hun

Podcast! The Comics, Episode 162 – Continuity Talk with Kieran Shiach

Contains friendship!

This episode is brought to you by [YOUR BUSINESS HERE]!  Our previous sponsorship arrangement has ended, and we’re looking for news ways to pay the (modest) bills.  If you’d like to pay us to say nice things about you or your business, or simply not insult you on-air, or maybe to repeatedly insult someone else, let us know!  I’m sure we can come to an agreement.

Podcast! The Comics, Episode 161 – The WrestleMania 31 special, feat. Scott Williams

You’ve already skipped this episode, haven’t you?

This episode is brought to you by [YOUR BUSINESS HERE]!  Our previous sponsorship arrangement has ended, and we’re looking for news ways to pay the (modest) bills.  If you’d like to pay us to say nice things about you or your business, or simply not insult you on-air, or maybe to repeatedly insult someone else, let us know!  I’m sure we can come to an agreement.

This Column Has Seven Days 050 // Every Time I See You Falling, I Get Down On My Knees and Pray

As of the time this column is published (a couple days late because of terrible internet problems and also losing my iPad) it is spring break, baby! I know that doesn’t mean a lot to most people, but to me, someone who is employed by the public school system, that means I have a week to relax, visit friends, and have some extra time to enjoy some books, movies, comics, and so on. (It does not mean a week of debauchery, sadly, because I’m over 24 and that time in my life has passed.) Before getting ready to enjoy a break from my routine in beautiful, sunny Winnipeg, I wanted to quickly wrap up some of my favourite pop culture offerings of the week.

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Podcast! The Comics, Episode 160 – Grandma Bait

Contains Cougar Town, at last!

This week’s episode is brought to you by Goodwill Industry of Alberta’s Comic Book Fair!  This Saturday and Sunday (March 28th & 29th), stop by 8759-51st Avenue NW rom 9am to 6pm and check out all the comics they have!  Throughout the year, Goodwill collects comics, graphic novels and memorabilia, and this weekend they’re all on sale!  Check out the Fair’s Facebook page for more information and head over the weekend for fun and comics, two things we here at C!TB are definitely behind.

Contact us if you’re interested in your business, event or petty feud sponsoring the show!