Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cheap, Original, Last Minute Comic Book Related Hallowe'en Costumes

Guys. Ladies. It's October 28th. Hallowe'en is on Sunday. And Hallowe'en Parties start tomorrow night! And you're a nerd with no costume. Obviously you could go to the store and buy an Iron Man Costume, or a Slave Leia costume, but everybody's going as Iron Man and Slave Leia. You want to do something cheap, and original. So here goes:

Matt Murdock-

That's right. Not Daredevil. Matt Murdock. Did you know that when he's not beating up the Kingpin, Daredevil is a lawyer named Matt Murdock? It's true. For this costume, all you'll need is a suit, a pair of red glasses, and a cane (Matt Murdock is blind). Get rid of the cane, and the costume doubles as a Scott Summers (Cyclops from the X-Men) costume.

The Thing (after being temporarily turned back into a regular person)

So, Benjamin Grimm has never really liked being the Thing. I mean, would you want to go through life as a rock-covered monster? Frequently, the Thing gets temporarily cured, but then turns back into the Thing (usually willingly) because he needs his superstrength to save the day. To dress as regular human Thing, all you need is a pair of blue underwear and a look of surprise.

Captain Boomerang, Jr.

Despite (to my knowledge) never serving in the military, the second Captain Boomerang chose to go by his dad's old moniker anyway. All you need for this costume is a leather jacket, a blue scarf with little boomerangs painted on it, and some cardboard boomerangs.

Lex Luthor (Post-Crisis)

Before Crisis on Infinite Earth's Lex Luthor used to wear some pretty out there stuff. Post-Crisis, all you need to be Lex is a bald cap, a nice suit, and a desire to do evil.

Storm (Late 80's)

Dye your hair white and shave it into a mohawk, get a jacket with no sleeves, a choker, and a black tank top, and voila! You're late 80's Storm. Oh! And carry around some knives- late 80's Storm lost her powers.

NFL Superpro

NFL Superpro is, amongst other things, my favorite bad superhero of all time. I'm waiting for some comic creator out there to do a gritty, modern take on him, but until then, you can be him for Hallowe'en! Just take that old football equipment in your garage, and paint it a patriotic red, white, and blue.

Power Girl

Everybody loves Super Girl. And everybody dresses as Super Girl. But you know who's way more badass than Super Girl? That's right, her otherdimensional counterpart Power Girl. And you know who has a way simpler costume than Super Girl? Oh yeah, it's Power Girl. All you need is a blonde wig, a red cape, a white leotard and some blue gloves and boots, and a Power Girling you can go.


What's that you say? Dracula isn't a comic book character? You are so wrong, my friend. As a character in the public domain, Dracula is ALL OVER comic books. In fact, if you picked up X-MEN this month, you'd see Dracula fighting with the X-Men against an army of other vampires. And did you see Blade III? Because Dracula was totally in it. Dracula- classic movie monster, modern comic supervillain.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Horror Wuss

Since childhood, I have been blessed and cursed with an extremely overactive imagination. It's helpful with creative projects and such, but with other things, not so much. I've been afraid of the dark for as long as I can remember, convinced that there actually are things that go bump in the night. For years, no matter what the temperature, I slept with the blankets tucked snug under my chin for protection. And I had a night light.

I do not think I saw a legitimate horror movie until I was in the 6th grade. We watched "Sleep Away Camp" during a sleep over, twice, and both times I barely saw a thing because I had my eyes covered. I saw "Nightmare on Elm Street" at my cousin's house a year or so later and after trying to get to sleep (IN A WATERBED!?!?), I begged my Uncle Rob to drive me home. Not my best moment. I continued to get myself into these situations where I knew I shouldn't watch a movie, but I did anyway, because I found it fascinating. And each and every time, I ended the experience jumpy and shaking, having turned on every single light I could find.

Years later, I'm still cautious about all things horror. I watch scary films, but almost always in the daytime (often around 2pm on a Sunday). Recently, I watched Paranormal Activity, and even though the sun was shining, I was still freaked out enough to turn on all the lights in the shadowy rooms.

So, knowing all this, I still decided to accompany a group of friends to a haunted house (Asylum Xperiment in Villa Park, IL) for a birthday on Saturday evening. The last haunted house I went to was in high school and I knew all the actors, which helped immensely. Needless to say, I was super anxious about the whole thing, but I like my friends enough to celebrate their birthdays in a manner I'd usually shy away from.

We arrived at the "Asylum," which was a giant convention center in a warehouse district. I was shaking from the moment we stepped inside. I'm sure many in our group thought I was going to scream and run away before entering, but they were very supportive and offered to hold my hand and to keep me in the middle of the group when possible, etc. We waited for a good hour to get into the actual haunted house. I had moments where I totally forgot about the haunted house and just had fun. Other times, I was quiet and hiding my shaking hands. And then, it was time. I grabbed hands, huddled in the middle, took a deep breath and we entered...In the dark...Near-pitch dark. I immediately latched onto my friend Mel like a vice. You wouldn't have been able to slip a piece of paper between us. Once the pitch dark part ended we began entering themed rooms. It was some of the most creative set dressing I have ever seen. I was honestly really impressed. And I learned to enter a room and look for the following: a) the way out b) any container/door/wall that seemed like it could hold either a human or an animations that would jump out at us. I held onto Mel for dear life. I screamed like a mad lady. I whimpered. And finally, hoarse and shaking, we emerged...and I was happy! I was ecstatic! Not only had I survived, but I actually kind of enjoyed myself. It was delightful. And you know what? I'd do it again!


Sorry for our paucity in posting, oh ye readers of Frakking Shiny. Chelsea and I have both been fairly busy.

Something I've been busy with:


In the last few weeks, I've been a guest on two different podcasts

Podcast the First:

Top 3 with Adal Rifai

Adal's podcast features different guest every week listing, and discussing their top 3 something or another. Jason Chin, Jorin Garguilo and I sat in and discussed our top 3 comic books.

Podcast the Second

Stupid Nerd with Arnie Niekamp

Arnie does a podcast where he interviews nerds about nerdy things that he doesn't have a great body of knowledge of. He talked to myself, and Jorin about Superman.

Podcast the Third

Whaaaaaaa? There isn't a podcast the 3rd....yet. But there may be soon. And it might be Star Trek related. Stay Tuned!

Friday, October 15, 2010


It shames me to say that I am not the geekiest geek on the planet. Oh sure, I look the part with my glasses, and my inhaler, and I love comics, and sci-fi and what not. And I do improv- the nerdiest form of all theater, but in some nerd realms, I am sorely lacking. They are as follows:

1. Math- I am terrible at it. I had kind of a crummy foundation in that I had a bad algebra teacher my freshmen year of high school and I never really recovered from that. With that said, I'm pretty good with statistics and I've managed to figure out how to get spreadsheets to do most of my other math for me.

2. Dungeons and Dragons- I have NEVER played Dungeons and Dragons. I played Magic: the Gathering once, but I've never rolled a 16 sided dice, or referred to myself as a "Dungeonmaster."

3. Working out- I do it- alot. Specifically, I lift weights five days a week and have for the last few years. I know more about the right and wrong ways to build muscle. I also tend to eat fairly healthily, so the Mountain Dew and Dorito's stereotype doesn't really apply to me. My build is best described as "Athletic."

4. MMORPG's- Speaking of Dungeons and Dragons, I've never played an MMORPG like World of Warcraft, or Everquest. I've played tons of classic RPGs in the Final Fantasy/ Dragon Quest mold, but no MMORPG's.

5. I like sports. Well, okay, I hate football. And basketball. But I love hockey, baseball and the Olympics.

6. Apple products- I know as a nerd, I'm supposed to shun Apple stuff in that you can play cooler games and do crazy programming stuff on PC's, but I'm not that much of a programming type, so I find the simplicity of Apple interfaces to be pretty awesome.

7. I hate first person shooters. Hate them. Halo? Hate it. Call of Duty? Hate it. Doom? Hate it. If I can't see my video game guy or girl on the screen, then chances are, I won't play the game.

8. I'm not crazy about hilarious t-shirts. I know self expression via t-shirt is a big thing nowadays, but I've just never been that big on t-shirts that quote Monty Python, or declare for the world that I do what the voices in my head tell me to.

9. Oh, and speaking of Monty Python- I've never found them all that funny. Actually, as a general rule, I'm not a huge fan of British humor (noted exceptions include Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead).

Saturday, October 9, 2010

How to Trick Your Girlfriend/Wife/Fiance into Reading Comics

While there are certainly women in the world who read comics, the vast majority of comic readers are male. Most comics feature superheroes, and superheroes are mostly adolescent male power fantasies.

Wimpy Clark Kent is actually the insanely powerful Superman!

Nerdy Peter Parker is actually the web-slinging Spider Man!

Sickly Bruce Banner, when he gets angry, turns into the impossibly strong Incredible Hulk!

and so on.

Most female characters in comics play into those adolescent fantasies- Mary Jane Parker is Peter Parker's insanely hot girlfriend for example. You don't have alot of "scrawny Sally Samuels is secretly Mighty Lass!" So, between all of the images of male power, and women as eye-candy, traditional comics didn't really offer a whole lot for the average female reader.

Notice I said "traditional comics." In recent years (the last 2 decades or so) more and more comics have been released that have appeal beyond the traditional base of teen boys. So, if you are a dude who loves comics, and you have a girlfriend/fiance/wife who you would like to get into comics as well, here are some titles I would recommend:


Fables is a series from DC's Vertigo imprint by Bill Willingham. It doesn't feature any superheroes, so if your SO (significant other) is averse to capes, this is a great place to start. The story features characters from fairy tales who secretly live on a block in New York City. So, there's a reference point there- everyone knows Big Bad Wolf, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, etc. The story kind of turns all of those characters on their heads by putting them into a modern, real world setting, and features a plot that starts out as a murder mystery, but gets increasingly more complex, and epic as it goes along. Tell your SO it features Cinderella as a badass spy if the previous description isn't enough to entice her.

Anything by Gail Simone

If your SO isn't averse to capes, try handing her Birds of Prey, Secret Six, Wonder Woman, or anything else by Gail Simone. Gail Simone is a great comic book writer who happens to be a lady. She first came to prominence through her website "Women in Refrigerators" which directly took on the way superhero comics tend to portray women as weak, and as victims. Every book she writes features incredibly strong female characters who kick just as much butt as their male compatriots, but who also have human flaws and frailties. On top of that, her comics tend to read like the funniest, darkest, goriest Quentin Tarantino movie that you've ever seen.

Anything by Joss Whedon:

If you have a geek girl SO, there's a very real chance that she loves Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and Dollhouse, all of which are, of course, creations of one Mr. Joss Whedon. Oh, and Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog too. Anyway, Joss Whedon is probably the most prominent creator of TV shows that girl geeks love. But did you know he sometimes writes comics? It's true! He wrote, amongst other things, a pretty stellar run on Astonishing X-Men. Hand your SO the Astonishing X-Men graphic novel "Gifted," and when she says "I don't really care for the X-Men" tell her, "But Joss Whedon wrote it" and she will finish it within a day.

Neil Gaiman's Sandman:

Another one for the non-cape loving set. Sandman is one of the great works of comics literature, and it's also beloved by goths, and lady nerds the world over. Sandman is the story of Dream, who is one of the Endless- a family of living concepts- and deals with the subject of dreams, and storytelling in general.

Anything Good:

Look, the truth of the matter is, there aren't girl comics, or guy comics. There are just comics. Comics are a storytelling medium. As I said earlier, they were traditionally written in a way that was kind of off-putting to your average geek girl, but really, chances are, if you hand your SO something that's really good, she'll enjoy it. So give her Invincible, Watchmen, Invincible Iron Man, Iron Fist, or whatever else you really love. Chances are, she'll really enjoy it.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Frakking A! Cool Stuff from Around the Interwebs- #2

1. Street Fighter! A rap

2. Chelsea and I love owls. This is one of the funnier owl related things I've seen on the interweb.

3. Nerd Burlesque is sweeping the nation!

4. They re-made Independence Day! No wait... this is a different movie called "Skyline"

5. Epic Mickey!

6. They found an Earth-like planet in outerspace! Now we just need to figure out interstellar travel and we can start terraforming, and colonizing this thing.

7. Remember how excited we all were when we found out that Joss Whedon was going to direct the Avengers movie? Well, the opposite of that is how I feel about the guy who made "Ally McBeal" (aka Single Female Lawyer) doing Wonder Woman. I guess this qualifies as something uncool from the interweb. We'll let it slide this once.

8. Get inspired!

9. It was Banned Books Week last....week. Learn more about Banned Books Week here.

10. Mick Foley loves Tori Amos.

Friday, October 1, 2010

It's Still a Jock's World (and Nerds Are Just Living In It)

For the better part of our existence, humans have exalted physical prowess and social grace over intellect and social awkwardness.

Or, put in another way jocks have always been cooler than nerds.

Recently, there has been an impression that with the growing importance of technology in our lives, geeks have gained a certain social cache that has never been afforded to them (us) before. There's even a term for it, "geek chic." Usually used as evidence of geek dominance of the cultural landscape- the popularity of geek movies like "Iron Man", "Harry Potter," and "the Lord of the Rings," the dominance of geek creations like iPods, and the Internet, and a sub-culture - hipsters - who try to purposefully emanate the social awkwardness that is an inherent part of the geek biological make up.

It's enough to make a nerd feel, well, kind of great! Like we're an accepted part of this big thing called "society"! I mean, it's like, everybody's geeking out about geeks! We even elected our first nerd president (Barack Obama and I are going to have a long conversation about Thulsa Doom at some point...)

Unfortunately, alot of this social acceptance is really just smoke and mirrors. It is true that there are alot more things out there for nerds. There are more nerd TV shows, nerd movies, nerd t-shirts, and nerd stuffed animals than ever before. But, does this mean that society, as a whole, has really come to accept nerds? Or does it mean that advertisers, and marketing folk have realized that we are a VERY lucrative demographic.

I'd say it's more of the latter.

Here is my test that I use to determine if I have been accepted, as a grown male nerd, into society. There's a street in Chicago called Clark. At the corner of Clark and Addison is Wrigley Field- one of the greatest jock landmarks on Earth. In Wrigley's shadow, there are countless enormous sports bars that are frequented by the grown up versions of popular kids from high school. When I walk down Clark Street on a Saturday night in my Green Lantern hoodie with a bag of comics, what sort of reaction do you think I get? Do you think I get alot of high fives? Or "Hey I can't wait till that movie comes out next year"s? Or "did you think Blackest Night lived up to Sinestro Corps War"s? No. I mostly get dirty looks. The popped-collared ones, at best, ignore, and at worst, try to make fun of me- usually for my shirt and (because apparently we're all still in 1st grade) for being 5'7"- a full inch and a half shorter than average. Let's forget for a moment that I could probably outbench most of these dudes; my shirt, glasses, and diminutive stature mark me as a social untouchable, and so I get made fun of.

I mean, I can take it. I can even dish back. My point here is that these folks (cool kids) still don't accept me, or any of my other nerdy brethren. And while they're extreme outliers (huge jerks) your average American human still aspires to jockhood more than nerdhood.

Seriously- go find a kid. Ask that kid what he wants to be when he or she grows up. Do they want to be a biologist? Or a mathematician? Or a comic book artist? No. They want to be soldiers, firefighters, or most often, sports superstars. Lebron James will always be more loved than Steve Jobs. Always.

Even Barack Obama, the first nerd president, got to where he is by tricking America into thinking he wasn't a nerd. How often did he talk about Spider Man on the campaign trail. Almost never. How often did you see him playing one-on-one basketball? Constantly.

What has happened, as I said, is that business folks have realized that many nerds have a good amount of income (computer engineers, rocket scientists, fantasy authors) and they like spending it. To fill that niche, they have flooded the market with toys, gadgets, books, and movies that nerds like.

It looks like acceptance, but it's really just advertising.

I mean, there is more acceptance. People realize that nerds build the Internet that supply them with endless fantasy sports, and pornography. They know that a nerd designed their iPod and their Call of Duty games. They know these things, and so maybe we won't get sand kicked in our face quite as much or as often as we did in the 50's, but it's not like we're being invited over for beers and brats either.

But none of that means that we shouldn't be proud of who we are. Nerds have, over the last 60 years, built a culture that is uniquely our own. We may not be accepted by the muggles, but we are accepted by each other. And some of the nicer muggles.