Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

Darkness and light

Here’s a nice wrap-up to what’s been a super-busy and ultra-Star Wars-related week: I received a very kind email this morning from an attendee at last month’s Pittsburgh Comicon who had taken home the copy of Collect All 21 which I gave away at the end of my presentation.

The note mentioned, in part, the “Dark Times” chapter of the book, which deals with my early 20s and a couple particularly rough years during which my Dad passed away and I alienated just about everybody who mattered to me. This chapter was difficult to write, not just because of the subject matter, but from the standpoint of striking the right tone to fit with the rest of the book without losing the weight and impact of those years. (I really owe my editor Adam for helping me find that balance.)

No other single section of the book has gotten me as much feedback as this chapter, and that means a lot, because it means I succeeded at least a little bit in getting across the idea that Collect All 21 is about more than just Star Wars as a movie series or toy line.

This note came on the heels of the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back – clearly, the saga’s own darkest-of-dark times, and a movie that’s about way more than spaceships and robots. Thirty years ago this week, my favorite Star Wars era began, and I celebrated the hell out of it: Over at GeekDad, I compiled a list of “Thirty Reasons the Empire Still Rules”; I contributed “A Saga’s Golden Age” to CNN’s iReport and added a couple photo sets; and then Henry Hanks interviewed me for his CNN report on Empire‘s lasting impact.

I also really liked Marc Bernardin’s take on ESB over at i09, and Bonnie Burton’s StarWars.com collection of memories which includes this quote from Sean Lennon: “The scene where Yoda describes the Force to Luke is the closest thing I can remember to a religious experience in my childhood.”

These last few weeks have felt almost overwhelmingly busy at times, but I feel like I managed to get a lot of things done and take some important steps forward, and getting that note this morning just helped pull into focus a sense of optimism and energy and excitement for what lies ahead.

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May 22, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, 1990s, Books, Current Affairs, eighties, Fiction, Film, geek, Ohio, science fiction, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pittsburgh Comicon Road Trip

Saturday’s road trip with Adam to the Pittsburgh Comicon made for a long day that left me both physically exhausted and mentally worn out from a kind of roller-coaster day.

I’ll get the low point out of the way first: I didn’t sell a single copy of Collect All 21, which is a first since I’ve started actively attending conventions and promoting the book, and this really bummed me out, especially since this was the biggest convention I’ve been a part of so far. I absolutely love doing readings and going to cons anyway, so I was really excited at JediCon WV last August when I met Christine from the Science Fiction Alliance of Pittsburgh and she invited me to give a presentation at this spring’s show. And as the date drew nearer and I saw the scope of Star Wars-related guests and the impressive slate of comic creators who’d be on hand, I just got even more psyched.

I also have to admit it was neat seeing my name in the program book and a description of the panel along with a logo of the book’s title. And I was glad to see Christine again and meet some people from the group who I’d only met online.

About a dozen people showed up for my reading – I spent a good 10 minutes before 1 p.m. talking Star Wars with a very nice couple in the front row – and that number was absolutely fine with me, seeing as how, through no one’s fault, I was scheduled at the same time as the Legends of the Marvel Heyday panel, meaning guys like Roy Thomas and Joe Sinnot were right next door. I made sure to thank everyone who came, and though things got off to a rough start when the video clips I had prepared wouldn’t play, I felt like I was hitting some of the right chords in the right places as I read different excerpts from the book and moved through the saga.

I gave away a copy of the book as a door prize afterward, and I was glad that the recipient was one of the audience members who had seemed to be enjoying the reading the most, judging from smiles and laughter and nods of recognition or shared experiences. That was the only copy of the book which left that room in hands other than mine, though.

After a short break, Adam and I sat on a panel (again, thanks to the Sci-Fi Pittsburgh folks!) where we talked about our thoughts on and experiences with self-publishing.

Don’t get me wrong: It was fantastic to be invited and to take part, and I remain very grateful for the opportunity. And I know that from a logical standpoint, my presentation didn’t reach nearly as many people as if I’d had a table, but failing through my reading to convince a single person to buy my book really did hit me hard.

The thing is: I still had an absolutely frakking great day. We got there around 10:30 a.m. and within about 20 minutesof our arrival, I met and chatted with Roy Thomas, whose Star Wars comics work absolutely enthralled me when I was little. He was incredibly polite and generous with his time, and when I mentioned I had been much more into Star Wars than comics, he launched into a few minutes about what it was like working on the original movie adaptation and then being among the first writers to work in what has since been labeled “expanded universe” territory.

Roy Thomas, Marvel Comics legend

Roy Thomas, original writer & editor of Marvel Star Wars.

Adam introduced me to Dave Wachter, who did the cover of Deus Ex Comica, and I bought a long-overdue convention preview edition of The Guns of Shadow Valleywhich, by the way, is a-freaking-mazing and wholly deserving of its 2010 Eisner Awards nomination. And Dave put this nice sketch on the back, too:

Go read The Guns of Shadow Valley.

Normally, I'd say his guns ain't for hire.

Walking past one of the tables, my 1980s video-gaming eye was caught by this piece –

I got all the patterns down, up until the ninth key.

Scott Derby's "Inky"

– and of course I had to stop, which is how I met Scott Derby. This is actually one of a three-piece series, and I had a blast talking to Scott about this sort of pop-culture stuff, and we got on the topic of original-era Star Wars because a) I was wearing my Kenner shirt, and b) he was sharing a table with Dave Perillo, whose retro-advertising-look pieces included this one –

Dave Perillo's Wretched Hive

Dave Perillo - "Mos Eisley Cantina"

– about which, naturally, I was also crazy. (He also had this Sgt. Pepper’s print, which, given Jenn’s reaction to the Star Wars art above, pretty much makes my next gift buy for her a no-brainer.)

Since I was still lugging around copies of my book after Adam and I did our panels, I went back to Dave and Scott’s table and we talked a bit more, and both of them were receptive to my books-for-signed-prints trade proposal, which was very much appreciated – they seemed exactly like the kind of readers who’ll enjoy it, and I sincerely hope they do. (Both of them were also familiar with Kirk Demarais‘ work from a couple Gallery 1988 shows, so it was cool to be able to share the book cover – and they picked up on one of my favorite bits: The slightly offset color register of the proof-of-purchase-inspired title logo.)

We paid a visit to Bryan J.L. Glass – yet another super-nice guy – whom Adam had gotten to know at the first Screaming Tiki Con. The three of us chatted for awhile and I bought a copy of his collaborated take on Quixote.

My only other purchase was a hardcover edition of Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft, which I picked up because it was cheap, and I’ve heard good things about Joe Hill’s writing.

We left at about 5:30 or so, I think, and Adam had a craving for Red Robin, so we found one in the general direction we were headed and had dinner in Homestead, Pa. (Which I just learned was the home of the Grays, whom I know because my brother gave me a great book a few years back about Josh Gibson). The place was packed, but there were plenty of open seats in the bar, so we enjoyed a few burgers and then headed west again.

Driving through Pittsburgh and toward eastern Ohio, Adam and I got into this great debate over the use of 3-D in movies – unnecessary gimmick or the next logical evolution in cinema? – that lasted us awhile. It was one of those really fun, engrossing, being-adamant-but-not-an-asshole conversations with well-stated points and nicely-supported counterpoints and analogies and examples, and it carried us for at least the better part of an hour – and it ended up on a note about boobies. So, win.

We kept talking the whole way back about all sorts of stuff, and it really reminded me of our junior and senior years of high school, when we regularly would just get together on Sunday nights after dinner and just hang out and BS, and it was something Adam and I haven’t done in a long time. I mean, if we had planned something like this – you know, a “Hey, the wives are out of town, let’s grab some beer and shoot the shit,” it would have somehow had a different feel than this trip did. Or as Adam put it, when we’ve taken road trips to Bowling Green, we have had similar lengthy conversations, but those, by nature of the trip, have always come with an expectation of back-in-the-day talk.

By the time we were back home, the low points of the day seemed a long way behind me.

April 25, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Books, eighties, Fiction, Film, geek, science fiction, Travel, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

As seen on TV

I’ll be on the highway soon for Pittsburgh Comicon, so in the event that I don’t feel like sitting back down at the computer when I get home tonight, today’s brief post celebrates two things that go over big in the Booth house: 1) The dolts who do things “wrong” in gadget commercials. My daughter and I have, of late, been especially amused by the EZ (egg) Cracker spots; and 2) The Beatles.

Enjoy this special limited-time offer.

April 24, 2010 Posted by | geek | , , | Leave a comment

Star Wars: Marveling

Vader levitating himself a coffee = priceless.The day has just flown by, and I’m still not entirely ready for tomorrow’s day trip to Pittsburgh Comicon, but I thought this would make for an appropriate pre-convention entry.

This is my original beat-to-hell paperback Marvel Edition of Star Wars, which you can tell I read one or two or four hundred and sixty-eight times. I received this in a shrink-wrapped bundle for either Christmas or my birthday, packaged with the Star Wars novelization and Splinter of the Mind’s Eye.

I’m hoping to meet Roy Thomas tomorrow, since he’s the writer and editor behind these – the only comic books I collected, however briefly, when I was little. Some relevant excerpts from Collect All 21!

I saw this (paperback) version before I saw the actual comic books themselves and I was stunned when, at my friend Trevor’s birthday party, I saw the explosion of colors – particularly in the two-thirds-page illustration of the Falcon’s jump to hyperspace – in the giant-sized Marvel color edition he’d gotten.

The comic books did make it into our house eventually, because I think Dad bought a bagged set of them, maybe in a couple three-packs. The taffy-pulled interpretation of Ben Kenobi’s death by lightsaber kind of weirded me out, like the one I had in a Spider-Man Read-Along-Record book where the villain is transforming from a human to a lizard and there’s a portrait where he’s got a human face, but he’s green and yellow.

I was never a comics kid except for Star Wars and even that didn’t last very long. I had the next six issues, I think, that continued the heroes’ stories beyond the original movie, but really wasn’t in for the long haul.

I do remember an issue starring Han and Chewbacca and a rabbit-alien and a guy named Don Wan Kihotay (imagine my astonishment in high school at realizing this had been a literary reference). And there were others with a red-bearded space pirate and a girl pirate named Jolli, who lives in my brain in a flashback sequence showing her as a little girl watching her father leave his family behind, and then in her death scene, when Han plants a kiss on her cold lips.

I took these comics on a family vacation to Myrtle Beach, I think, and read them in the back seat of the car during the drive down. I was reading that bit about Jolli when my aunt – the same one who’d given me the paperbacks – asked my if I ever read any “regular” comics. Like, you know, “Archie.” I did have a couple of those little volumes of Archie and Jughead, but Star Wars had its hooks in me pretty damn deep by this point and was first choice from here on out.

I’m sure I read those Star Wars comic books into dust, but I’m glad I still have this crumbling-glued, brittle-taped paperback around.

April 23, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Books, eighties, Fiction, Film, geek, science fiction, writing | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pittsburgh Comicon: Enough Star Wars to fill a space cruiser

Pittsburgh Comicon 2010

I’ll be nerding out ’77-’83 style for good portions of today and tomorrow, getting my Collect All 21 reading/presentation/Time Travel Belt ready for the Pittsburgh Comicon this weekend.

Star Wars looks to be well-represented at the show, with a dozen saga-related guests and artists. The biggie on the comics side is, of course, original Marvel Star Wars writer Roy Thomas – yes, he’s way more than that in the comic world, what with being Stan Lee’s successor as editor-in-chief and all, but for me he’ll always be the guy behind the only comic books I owned as a kid.

Two Star Wars actors –  Dermot Crowley (General Madine from Return of the Jedi) and Nalini Krishan (Jedi Knight Barriss Offee from the prequels) – are supposed to be there, too.

Artist-wise, you’re looking at a long list of varied names and their visions of the saga:

David Michael BeckStar Wars: Republic and Star Wars: Empire comics

DaxiongStar Wars Adventures: Luke Skywalker and the Treasure of the Dragonsnakes

Sean Forney – Very nice guy who I run into a couple times a year; designed these T-shirts for 2009 Star Wars Weekends.

Ron Frenz – Another respected Marvel veteran with a ton of cool credits, he worked on Star Wars later in its Marvel run.

John Haun, Brian Kong, Mike Lilly, Monte Moore and Tod Allen Smith have all done impressive pieces for lines like Topps Star Wars Galaxy, Heritage, Clone Wars and Empire Strikes Back as well as sketch cards and prints – and yes, they’re all scheduled to be in Pittsburgh this weekend, too.

So, yes, that’s a lot of Star Wars to run around and take in over the three-day stretch (to say nothing of all the rest of the stuff going on), so may I suggest that on Saturday afternoon, if you’re at the show, why not give your feet a break and join me at 1 p.m. for a trip down vintage Star Wars memory lane and into the prequel era and fandom from a Dad perspective. Naturally, I’d also suggest that you should also stick around for the 2 p.m. book publishing panel Deus Ex Comica author Adam Besenyodi and I are sharing with Paul Anderson. Thanks to the Science Fiction Alliance of Pittsburgh for the invite!

Come on out and say hello!

April 22, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Books, eighties, Film, geek, science fiction, Travel, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Road trips, readings, cons and prose

My calendar checked itself out this morning and honestly seemed a little surprised: “You know,” it said, “I don’t look half-bad the next eight weekends.”

“Don’t sell yourself short,” I said. “Four of those weekends look fantastic.” I did my best Peter Venkman (which isn’t very good) and added, “I love this plan! I’m excited to be a part of it! Let’s do it!”

First, there’s this coming weekend, which begins for me on Thursday with a road trip to kick off PAX East, and while there’s no direct Collect All 21! tie-in, the topic of growing up on Star Wars and sharing it with the next generation seems awfully likely to come up on the GeekDad panel (Friday night – 7 p.m.!) which I’m lucky enough to be a part of. To say nothing of the rest of the weekend. Can you tell I’m a wee bit thrilled about all this?

Then I’ve got three weekends off to get ready for April 23-25 and the Pittsburgh Comicon, where I’m doing two panels thanks to the members of the Science Fiction Alliance of Pittsburgh: First up is a Collect All 21! presentation/reading, Super Deluxe Special But-Han-Still-Shoots-First Extended Edition, and that’s followed by a publishing panel which also includes my friend and Deus Ex Comica author Adam Besenyodi, and writer Paul Anderson, too.

Bonus Points: Adam went to last fall’s Pittsburgh con and met Stan Lee, so for me, the incredible thing about this edition of the con is that Roy Thomas is going to be there – and while I didn’t grow up a comic-book addict, I most certainly did read and re-read and re-re-read the early-run Marvel Star Wars comics. (And I don’t care what anybody says, Roy, JAXXON RULES!)

The weekend after that includes Saturday, May 1, which is Free Comic Book Day, and I should be spending the day alongside Stormtroopers and the Batmobile and a bunch of other pop-culture coolness at The Toys Time Forgot in Canal Fulton, Ohio.

Finally, on May 15 I’ll be at the Fairlawn-Bath branch of the Akron-Summit County Public Library to celebrate the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back with a 1 p.m. presentation, Memories of an Empire: Reminiscing and Readings from Collect All 21!

So, to sum up: Eight weeks. Four weekends of gaming, comics, toys and Star Wars. I like those numbers.

March 23, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Books, Current Affairs, eighties, Film, Games, geek, Ohio, science fiction, Travel, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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