25 May 2011

springcon 2011

Midwest Comic Book Association knows how to celebrate. This past Saturday and Sunday, MCBA and volunteers played generous hosts to a gamut of comix fans, creators and vendors alike at the 24th annual SpringCon in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Despite severe weather, fun appeared to be had by all. I know I had a great time.

As a guest creator, I premiered -- and sold out of (!) -- my ROBOT MARX book. (Always in-stock and available for purchase online, BTW.) It was a real pleasure to chat with fellow fans and other interested individuals about ROBOTECH, sociological theories, and the publishing process. It was also a real pleasure to visit with my tablemates, Jennifer "Inkbunny Diaries" Young and her husband Jason "Straight Line Stitch" White. We talked about life, religion and family between lulls, and managed the table for one another when the other was away. (Jenny's books are available here; learn about Jason's band here.)

In addition to connecting with Jenny and Jason, it was a treat to reconnect with a few other old friends too. Friend-of-a-friend and fellow Central Wisconsin native, Robb Wadzinski was my first customer; the last time we saw each other was at Wizard World Chicago 2008... now he's married. Old-school ROBOTECH fan and someone I indirectly dedicated ROBOT MARX to ("AX Robotech Fans, Class of 2006"), Chad "Marshall" VanVorst was busy masquerading as Darth Vader with con attraction Star Wars' 501st Legion - Central Garrison, but managed to swing by my table -- in and out of costume -- to chat regularly; we geeked out about our favorite cult cartoon (naturally) and made plans to meet up for a drink at the next MCBA show. And what would a MCBA show be without good ol' Michael "MetroMed" Hutchison? I met "The Hutch" at WWC08, found out he used to live in my hometown (Wausau, WI) in the '90s, and hosted him as a guest-of-honor in 2009 at the comix/sci-fi convention I used to organize. Mike's one of the nicest guys in the industry with a sincere, endearing love for the superhero genre and superhero comix; even though we're polar opposites in many ways, visiting with him is always a joy. (His book is available to preview and buy here.)

As a fan, I had three objectives: Buy Ryan Kelly's FUNRAMA #2 preview-zine. Meet Noah Van Sciver and buy an issue of BLAMMO. And meet Trina Robbins and ask her to autograph my ROBOTECH: ART 2 hardcover.

Between freelance work and parenting, Ryan Kelly has been slowly-but-surely rolling out his creator-owned FUNRAMA PRESENTS comix series. It's always inspiring to see creators dedicated to their own ideas, so I was quick to purchase Issue One ("The Mutant Punks") last year. Issue Two ("Raccoon") is still in-progress, but Kelly did prepare an eight-page "MN SpringCon Preview" zine for the show. I thoroughly enjoyed the peek, and look forward to reading the full issue whenever it becomes available.

I recently became intrigued with Noah Van Sciver and his work following a series of podcast interviews. Between his public front (self-deprecating), his comix ideology ('80s/'90s indie) and his stories (Juggalo love; Joseph Smith bio; kooky chickens), I knew I had to meet him. It took me forever to find his table, but when I finally did... well, Noah is awesome. We shared our run-ins with and admiration for Harvey Pekar; we compared experiences growing up in religious-minority low-income families; and Noah showed me stunning original art pages from his in-progress "Young Abraham Lincoln" masterwork, THE HYPO. I ended up walking away with signed copies of BLAMMO Number Six and Seven, and I promptly poured myself into them. BLAMMO is now my favorite floppy. If you're a comix enthusiast and haven't already, do yourself a favor and buy them. Van Sciver is a talent to watch.

And then there was Trina Robbins. It was a genuine honor to meet and talk with one of comix foremost historians, creators and trailblazers. And contemporary paper-doll creators. In 1987, Robbins contributed four paper-doll compositions to ROBOTECH: ART 2. In 1987, my father bought said book for me as a gift; I've regularly perused its contents ever since. Trina was kind enough to autograph all four selections and her bio/photo in the back. (She was also thrilled to hear my story about how I made my dad photocopy her ART 2 paper-doll pages so I could cut out and play with them as an 11 year-old boy... ROBOTECH is wonderfully subversive that way.) Meeting Robbins provided me a meaningful way to connect both my guest and fan SpringCon 2011 experiences.

As mentioned at the outset, SpringCon's organizers are generous -- hearty grab bags and fun attractions for attendees, free tables and full catering for creators, and affordable space and an open mind for a variety of dealers. Without a doubt, MCBA went out of their way to make it a "Comic Book Celebration." I'm already anticipating their FallCon in October...

18 May 2011

robot marx, the book

Robot Marx - Robotech®, Patriarchy, and Kids' Culture: A Conflict Theory Perspective is now available as a book. I'll be premiering it this weekend at Saint Paul, Minnesota's SpringCon.

Robot Marx -- "The Collected Essays from AmericanNarada.blogspot.com" -- is a 5-inches wide x 7.5-inches tall, square-bound, full-color, 38-page paperback. Sold at-cost, this "Not-for-profit Academic Scholarship intended for Education" publication is available for $5.00 U.S. From the back cover:

When ROBOTECH -- the classic 85-episode "sci-fi soap opera" cartoon that introduced a generation of American kids to Japanese animation -- premiered in 1985, it stood out from its contemporaries. Unlike iconically similar G.I. JOE and TRANSFORMERS, ROBOTECH's characters lived and died, met and fell in love, and expressed real emotions and evolved as individuals. The program spawned toys, comix, role-playing games, novels, and other pop-cultural artifacts. From the Conflict-Marxist assumption that America is a patriarchal society, ROBOTECH is a fascinating case study: it featured women heroes in leadership positions, a cross-dressing male hero, and an essentially anti-war message, among other subversive elements. ROBOT MARX critiques ROBOTECH, its marketing, and its fandom from this perspective, in the process discussing concepts such as gender representation, diva citizenship, and archetypes. An enjoyable academic expression of fandom.

The book was born from a number of influences. First, last month's "remastered" ROBOT MARX project* re-sparked my latent ROBOTECH fandom. From 2001 to 2004, I edited and published the "official" unofficial ROBOTECH fanzine, Emissaries; Robot Marx was an excuse to indulge in that fandom while being able to provide something new for my fellow fans again. Second, I was inspired after reading Stephen Bissette's Teen Angels & New Mutants to do something similar; I wanted to do for ROBOTECH what he did for Rick Veitch's BRAT PACK. In an admittedly limited way, Robot Marx fit the bill. And third, pulling the book together allowed me to flex my publishing muscles (I have an Associate's degree in Printing & Publishing) in preparation for the forthcoming American Narada: India 1 reflections and comix collection. Using nothing but freeware, Robot Marx was a fun DIY exercise.

Midwest Comic Book Association's SpringCon "Comic Book Celebration" is held at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds' Grandstand from 10 AM to 5 PM on both Saturday and Sunday (May 21 & 22); with a canned-food donation, admission is only $10 for the weekend. I'll be tabling alongside friend and uber talented tattoo-artist/cartoonist/designer, Jennifer "Inkbunny Diaries" Young. If you're in the region, I encourage you to attend. MCBA puts on a great show. I'd love to meet AMERICAN NARADA's readers and my fellow ROBOTECH and comix fans, so, please -- if you do attend -- stop by my table and say "Hi!"

Robot Marx will be available for purchase there. The book is also available online via IndyPlanet.

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* ROBOTECH ® and all associated concepts, names, designs, and images are trademark and copyright Harmony Gold USA, Inc. 1985-2011. Application of such for the ROBOT MARX project by Evan Harrison Cass is based on the U.S. Copyright principle of Fair Use for not-for-profit "criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research." No infringement of Harmony Gold USA, Inc.'s or associated companies' and individuals' rights is intended.

07 May 2011

crime thwarted by friendly neighborhood cass-man

"I was preparing my whole life for this," says area man

RIVER FALLS -- Yesterday, an area man's life forever changed when he caught a would-be thief attempting to break into his neighbors' apartment. The man's amateur sleuthing and gutsy actions have his neighbors christening him a neighborhood hero.

Evan Cass, 34, was reading a comic book Friday afternoon in his Town of River Falls apartment when he heard his neighbors' dogs barking. "It was 4:30. I looked outside and saw that [neighbors] Dustin and Chelsea weren't home. It was go time -- I grabbed my notepad, a pencil and my camera, and headed outside. It was the moment I'd been waiting for."

"Go time" was a month in the making. Cass, who lives upstairs in the eight-apartment complex located on 920th Street, had been monitoring suspicious activity at the apartment below his own for weeks. "Every once in a while, when my neighbors weren't home, their dogs would go crazy. And just like that -- they'd stop. Something was up." Last week, after being awakened from yet another nap, he decided to take the law into his own hands. Next to his gliding rocking chair, Cass placed a notepad, a pencil and a digital camera at-the-ready. The same notepad, pencil and camera he was clutching in that fateful moment.

When Cass looked down from his balcony at Dustin and Chelsea's doorway, he witnessed an adult male trying to jimmy the door with a credit card. "It was green." In addition to the card's color, Cass also recognized the culprit, but needed photographic evidence. So Cass daringly leaned over the balcony railing with his camera and took a picture. What he saw in the picture did not surprise him. "He's a bum. A mooch. He doesn't even put his shoes on properly. So when I saw that first picture, I knew I had my man -- James." The picture shows James' feet and trademark shoe-wearing style.

The 54 year-old James, a creepy hypochondriac who lives in the apartment building's basement, tried befriending Cass in August 2010 when Cass first moved to the 920th Street address. Cass did not reciprocate. "I didn't like him. I had no desire to get to know him better. He made my 'spider sense' tingle, if you know what I mean. I was right." Unfortunately, the photo was not conclusive; it did not display James' face. Fortunately, James continued to try to break in for the next two hours. "It was unbelievable. He'd leave, then he'd come back. He kept trying and I kept taking pictures." Cass eventually got the conclusive photos he was hoping for from his precarious position overhead.

But it was not easy. Events took a dangerous turn when James tried to strong-arm his way through the door with a four-foot crowbar. Asked if he was scared, Cass said: "I'm a lover, not a fighter. That said, I was prepared to kick someone down a flight of stairs if I had to." James made his last failed break-in attempt at 6 PM.

Dustin and Chelsea returned home at 9 PM. Cass promptly paid them a neighborly visit to share with them the criminal timeline that he had recorded in his notepad and the incriminating photographs on his camera. "They were friendly with James," said Cass, "they were the real victims. I wanted them to be the ones to decide what we should do with James. It was the fair and right thing to do." Cass's neighbors ended up called the landlord, Harmon Properties.

"It's a relief," said Dustin. "It answers a lot of questions. We're glad to have a neighbor like him [Cass]. He was all, like, Mission Impossible hanging off that balcony taking pictures."

"Or like Spider-Man in that movie," said Chelsea, "where he hangs upside down and kisses that girl."

"It was awesome. We're going to Target as soon as possible. We want a new lock."

"And I need to replace a month's worth of stolen underwear."

Cass was asked to reflect on recent events in the context of his almost 35 years of existence. What did it all mean to him? He was quiet for a solid minute, then said: "When I was a kid, I was a big fan of [the cartoon] A Pup Named Scooby-Doo and [the children's book series] Encyclopedia Brown. I used to wear Superman Underoos too. So, yeah, I guess I was preparing my whole life for this."

Cass was also asked about his history as a costumed avenger. Did he see himself donning the cape and cowl again in line with the real-life superhero fad sweeping the globe? "It is true that I used to wear a costume. But that was for a public access TV show a lifetime ago. My hometown, Wausau, has its own superhero -- The Boss -- a special-needs kid who patrols the neighborhood by the airport on his bike. But 'real life' superheroes are freaks. I have a reputation to uphold."

Chelsea's comment about Spider-Man was mentioned to Cass. He laughed. "Spider-Man, huh? Well, he was a photographer. And I wouldn't say 'no' if a pretty girl wanted to kiss me. But, nah -- I'm just a guy who caught one of my neighbors trying to break into my other neighbors' apartment. The only reward that I can ask for is that people remember to lock their doors and that justice is served."

Harmon Properties "served" James an eviction notice early this morning.

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CORRECTION, 9 May 2011: Victimized neighbor Dustin was misidentified as Kevin. The online version has been changed. AMERICAN NARADA regrets the error.