This Week in Geekdom

Sorry for the mini-gap in posts this week guys. The GIR and I are enjoying a post-convention respite and are aiming to make the most of the summer before it comes to its unofficial end tomorrow. Ugh, that last clause was so disheartening to write. How is the summer over already? Anyhow, there's plenty in the way of geeky news to distract ourselves with, so let's get down to it.

Comics

In news that makes my inner 5-year-old squeal: in celebration of her 30th anniversary, She-Ra will be returning to the world of comics. The Princess of Power will be joining the ranks of the Masters of the Universe this October.
Grayskull is about to get a bit more badass
After 75 years of playing the love interest to the Man of Steel, Lois Lane is getting her own moment in the proverbial sun. Next January the intrepid reporter will star in her own young adult novel (which is already available for pre-order on Amazon). 

Games

The past two weeks have not been at all accommodating for proponents of equality in video games. Editor of Games.On.Net Tim Colwill composed this excellent breakdown of the events and his edict for readers of the site.

In an effort to combat the ubiquitous misogyny, racism, and bullying that has defined it's player community, Riot is in the process of rolling out an insta-ban system for League of Legends. The feature will premiere on the game's European servers first to allow Riot to discern if the system causes the desired effect. 

Team Meat, the 2-person studio behind the infamously difficult semi-eponymous platformer Super Meat Boy has decided that enhancements to their trademark game, namely bringing it to mobile gaming platforms, will be their focus for the short-to-medium term. This is sad news for those of us who'd been waiting for their absurdist mad science cat-breeding sim Mew-Genics. While Team Meat was quick to assure their fans that Mew-Genics has not been cancelled, it'll be a while before we can create ourselves the perfect diabolical feline companion.

Not-entirely-surprising: a career in eSports can pay more than an entry-level finance job.

TV/Movies

Add the Tick to the growing roster of prematurely cancelled TV series given new life by digital streaming platforms. Amazon confirmed on Friday that they will be producing and hosting a fresh season of the cult-hit superhero parody and that original lead Patrick Warburton will reprise his starring role. 

It was a busy week for Amazon. The online mega-retailer pounced on the game-streaming site Twitch after Google balked at purchasing the service.

While one show gets new life, another is sent off to the great database in the sky. Wil Wheaton and the Syfy Network have both confirmed that the Wil Wheaton Project has been cancelled after a 12-episode run. The Syfy Network has yet to state which show will fill Wheaton's time slot.

A cadre of Star Trek cast members were on hand at last week's Wizard World Chicago Comic Con and they took advantage of their communal attendance with this group picture:
Science/Technology

There's no question that the runaway star of this summer's biggest movie is a miniature Ent with a vocabulary only slightly more nuanced than that of Hodor. Groot is beloved, imitated, and replicated as an adorable desk toy, but is it possible for this sentient flora to exist beyond the confines of our communal creative processes? Daniel Chemovitz of the Manna Center for Plant Biosciences aims to find out.

The interwebs have given us countless ways to interact, express ourselves, and even make a living. Check out these internet-based careers that you may not have known existed. 

Samsung is desperate to escape the vast reach of the Google ecosystem. Ars Technica details exactly how difficult such an endeavor has become.

It's a question that scientists have grappled with for decades and have met with sometimes contradicting conclusions. Is alcohol consumption actually good for you?

While we're on the subject of ingestible molecules with surprising health benefits, scientists at the UA Steele Children's Research Center believe that you should add curcumin to that roster. Their research indicates that curcumin, one of the components of the cooking spice tumeric, may play an important role in hindering the development of colon cancer.

The latest issue of Nature details the efforts of researchers at the Riken-MIT Center for Neural Circuits have found a way to alter memories in mice, changing previously traumatic or otherwise bad recollections to good, happy ones. 
Image by PsyOrg

Superradiance is a well-known effect in quantum mechanics, but the forthcoming edition of Nature Communications provides what may be the first demonstrable evidence of the limits of its counterpart, superabsorption. 

ALS has its Ice Bucket Challenge. Now Michael J. Fox and Intel introduce these Pebble Watches in an effort to increase awareness of Parkinson's Disease.

The science behind scientific assumptions.

Voyager 2 has provided us with this amazing footage of its flyby of Neptune's largest moon, Triton.

What does the moon smell like? The crew of the Apollo missions has an answer for that.

General Awesomeness/Feats of Nerdery

Dave MacLean of the Center of Geographic Sciences has put together this interactive map that lets users browse through over 650 photographs taken by astronauts on the International Space Station.

It's not quite R2-D2, but it's likely to be the closest we get in the foreseeable future. Meet the robo-caddy.

Did you ever want a jet fighter cockpit in your living room? If you answered 'yes', Lukas Homola has a Kickstarter that is definitely relevant to your interests.

A cafe in Bristol, UK has gone to impressive lengths to attract fans of Dr. Who. The cafe features this replica TARDIS as its restroom.

Behold these incredibly mesmerizing GIFs that each demonstrate a fundamental mathematical concept.

As always, I hope you all have an excellent week ahead and best wishes for a happy con to those presently attending Dragon*Con and PAX Prime!
Read More

This Week in Geekdom

Woo for a return to a normal publishing schedule! Part of me refuses to believe that it's already been a week since Gen Con 2014 drew to a close, but the rest of me is quick to point out just how exhausted the GIR and I were and how it's taken the better part of the past seven days to get our HP and Mana levels back to full. Now that the con-inspired sleep deprivation has been rectified, we can tuck into the backlog left by the Steam Summer Sale as well as the fresh-from-the-con board game purchases. <<pats poor bedraggled wallet>>

Also, in a bout of what I'm going to call euphoric madness left over from the Gen Con cloud of woot, I've actually started to lay out concrete plans for next year's costumes. It wouldn't be the first time that the con-happy has inspired productivity. No, I haven't started construction just yet, but plans are definitely in the works. Future posts will give all the pertinent details but, if this comes together as I hope it will, I'll need all the time I can get. In the interim, let's get down to the Week in Geekdom.

Comics

The week is probably one that Marvel would like to take a mulligan on. On Monday, the publisher released the art for the November primary and variant covers of several series. One such variant cover was the now-infamous Spider-Woman #1. Marvel has since responded to the outcry that sprang up almost the instant the cover art went public and, I gotta say, it's not too reassuring.

Have you ever tried to recall the point at which a superhero leaped from the pages of his or her comic book and onto the big screen? Well, this extremely detailed infographic will give you an answer to your powered up pondering.

Games

On Thursday, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) released its annual report on user demographics for computer and video games. For the first time since the ESA started compiling this data, adult women outranked boys under the age of 18 as the largest demographic among gamers. While this seems like it would be a truly groundbreaking finding, the methodology used in the survey is not the most precise (e.g. it counts 7 different expansions of the Sims 3 as 7 different games and doesn't count download purchases, like those via Steam, at all). In short, you'll see a lot of this report being bandied about, but it doesn't begin to provide an accurate illustration of the gaming community.

Xbox One Gold users will get 24 hours of free play time on select games. 

Speaking of next generation consoles, the PS4 is somehow selling quite well, but Sony has no idea why.

This technically happened last week, but it was too important to not include in this post. Sega Genesis turned 25 years old and here are some of the many reasons why it shaped our gaming careers.

Blizzard has confirmed that there will be a multifaceted NPC coded into the upcoming World of Warcraft expansion, Warlords of Draenor, that will be an active tribute to the late Robin Williams. One of the models associated with this NPC is rumored to be a djinn and...man it's dusty in here...

Movies/TV

We got a full-on look at Superman's suit for the upcoming Batman vs Superman movie!

In celebration of the 12-day Simpons marathon on the FXX network, here is a compilation of all the greatest lines from every character that's ever appeared in the ultra-long-running series.

Science/Technology

It is a chair. No, it's an exoskeleton. No, no! It's the Chairolution!

They may not be a hoverboard, but Action RocketSkates might be the closest we get to futuristic self-contained transport anytime soon.
They look so rocket-y
Or we could trade our dreams of a hoverboard in for a hoverbike

Feats of Nerdery/General Awesomeness

A Californian 7th grader is being lauded as having discovered that part of the premise of The Happening is, in fact, real. The findings by the budding infectious disease researcher can be found here.

It's standard procedure to keep a patient awake during brain surgery. It's certainly less common for a patient to play the violin and entertain his surgeons during the procedure.

Steampunk Lego AT-AT. That is all.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
Read More

Round Up: Gen Con 2014

And we’re back! By all accounts Gen Con was a solid all-around experience. Demos were played, tournament spoils were won, friends were made, dungeons were conquered, and costumes were on display at just about every turn. There were a few bumps, which we’ll get to in a bit, but by and large it was a wonderful con. In keeping with all the other convention round-ups featured on the blog, I’ll tackle the goings-on at Gen Con by publisher, then give overarching feedback on the con as a whole. So, without further ado…
Fantasy Flight Games (FFG)

Powerhouse publisher Fantasy Flight adopted what I’ll term the PAX East methodology and released a series of major announcements in the days immediately preceding Gen Con. Arguably the most sensational of these press snippets was news that FFG would have a playable demo of XCOM: the Board Game in Indy. Unsurprisingly, the wait times to get in on such a demo stretched over multiple hours, but I was finally able to snag a seat on Sunday. So, does it live up to the hype?
Abso-friggin-lutely.

Never in my life has a board game elicited such an intense, visceral reaction just from what are ostensibly its standard mechanics. While the iconography used on the board and the various components are directly ported from XCOM: Enemy Unknown, the actual gameplay and resulting player engagement feels like it was wrought from X-COM: UFO Defense. Players assume one of four available roles to govern a specific aspect of either base management or XCOM relations with external factions. The order and degree to which these roles influence play is guided and dictated by the free downloadable companion app which provides both structure and anxiety. Only the base commander has access to the app and must relay the information it provides to his or her fellow players. This most commonly takes the form of a countdown. It’ll be, “Chief Scientist, you have 15 seconds to act…10…5…0. Squad Leader, you have 60 seconds to assign soldiers to missions and base defense.” 

It will get your heart pounding while simultaneously breaking it in a way that’s all too familiar to players of the source games. XCOM: the Board Game accommodates 1-4 players and is scheduled to be available in the fourth quarter of this year.

- The other merited-hours-of-wait-time-for-the-demo title was Star Wars: Imperial Assault. Think the best parts of Star Wars: Epic Duels made both broader and deeper. 2-5 players find themselves in the midst of a series of skirmishes directly tied to the events immediately following the Battle of Yavin. Each player takes on a specific role either as part of the Rebel Alliance or the Imperial forces threatening to annihilate them. The game can also be played Epic Duels style with two players going head-to-head. The game itself is entirely self-contained, with both the campaign and duel modes included in the base set, and is slated to arrive in your local game store in early 2015.

- The addictive spacefaring adventure Star Wars: X-Wing Minis is getting even more robust with the addition of a new faction: bounty hunters. Five new ships (in addition to the capital-class Slave I) make up the Scum and Villainy set of expansions. The Most Wanted expansion includes three new ships (one is a basic Y-Wing with a custom paint job) while the remaining entrants in the Scum and Villainy lineup are one-off, self-contained sets. All of the ships will be available for purchase in the fourth quarter of this year. As a related aside on capital-class ships, I got a chance to play with a full contingent of them during one of my X-Wing tournaments and can confidently say that they add a whole new dimension to the base game.
- While we're on the subject of capital-class ships, get ready for many more of those as they are the focal point for Star Wars: Armada. It's effectively the next evolutionary step for X-Wing, adding a number of enhancements to a now-familiar set of base mechanics. While the two games are not inherently compatible, it's fairly easy for an X-Wing player to pick up the jist of Armada. Additionally, you can add individual capital-class ships to your X-Wing game using the latter's Epic Rules. This two-player tactical title is scheduled for a release date in early 2015.

- The beta for the third and final installment of FFG’s gargantuan Star Wars RPG system, Force and Destiny, will be open in the very near future. Click here to check out the rulebook for the beta and sign up to submit your feedback. The other two thirds of the system (Edge of the Empire and Age of Rebellion) will be getting new fully scoped campaign sets.

- Eldrich Horror, Netrunner, Warhammer 40K: Conquest, and Cosmic Encounter will be getting expansion sets between the last quarter of 2014 and the first quarter of 2015. 

- FFG's Warhammer RPG system now has a full FAQ and a compilation of all errata from the first edition of the GM's manual. 

- FFG is beginning its foray into digital gaming with BattleLore: Command. The tactical combat game is designed primarily for mobile use (on both Android and iOS), but can be played on a PC as well. It will be available for download in the fourth quarter of this year.

Paizo

The maker of Pathfinder seemed keen to participate in what was definitely the overarching trend of the con: melding digital and tabletop gaming. Just hours before doors opened, Paizo announced that it would be partnering with Obsidian Entertainment (the guys behind Fallout: New Vegas and Pillars of Eternity) and that the latter party would be producing several all-electronic versions of Paizo’s titles. First on the docket will be a mobile-based version of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. While there was an early prototype of the game on hand at the extremely crowded Paizo booth, no release date has been assigned to the project.

In what was certainly no surprise to those familiar with Pathfinder, Paizo took home a sizable number of Ennie Awards during the con including Best Interior Art, Best Cover Art, Best Cartography, Best Free Product, Best Minis, Best Monster/Adversary, Best RPG, and Best Supplement.

Wizards of the Coast (WotC)

For Wizards, the con was pretty much all 5th Edition all the time. That’s not to say that the proverbial staples of Neverwinter and Magic: the Gathering were absent, far from it, just that 5th Edition predictably took center stage. Fans of Neverwinter were rewarded with the news of a new expansion, Tyranny of Dragons

In addition to what seemed like dozens of panels expounding upon the new, highly streamlined (to use their words) rule set, WotC displayed examples from their new line of minis and touched upon the Player’s Handbook for 5th Edition, which just came out today. The guys over at i09 have already put together this helpful breakdown of the Handbook.

Additionally, as part of the celebrations surrounding the 40th birthday of Dungeons & Dragons, WotC released details concerning the D&D anniversary tribute audiobook. Said book, The Legend of Drizzt, is a compilation of 12 stories about, you guessed it, the life and times of everyone’s favorite drow. Longtime Forgotten Realms author R.A. Salvatore provides the text while a cadre of celebrities lend their voices to the project. The book is available for free download here on Audible until September 20th.

Mayfair Games

As the leading sponsor of the con, Mayfair was just about everywhere you turned. Its logo was draped over doorways, its sheep loomed large over the demo hall, and its van was a fixture amongst the food trucks parked just outside. While it certainly commanded attention simply by virtue of those things, Mayfair went the extra mile and hosted what was arguably the most talked about event of the convention by taking the once entirely fictional euro-parody Cones of Dunshire from the NBC show Parks and Recreation (which is set in Indiana) and making it real. The event allegedly sold out in mere seconds and garnered over $20,000 USD, which Mayfair then donated to Gleaner’s Food Bank, the official charity partner of Gen Con.

Asmadi Games

Asmadi had a considerable presence at Gen Con derived more than a little bit from their very own room located directly across from the dealer hall. Said room was the site of many a demo, but also an equal number of absurd and hilarious events including We Didn't Playtest This Resistance Movement At All and the Ridiculympics. The Playtest mashup actually came in several different flavors and met with rave reviews. We also got to see the newest incarnation of Consequential, which has been a long time in the making and looks better than ever

Flying Frog Productions

Flying Frog made sure to put one of the most highly anticipated Kickstarters of 2013 front and center in their booth. Shadows of Brimstone seemed to live up to every ounce of the hype surrounding it, successfully combining the feel of Eldrich Horror with a distinctly western air. 

Indie Pubishers

We talked earlier about the meshing of digital and physical components to create new gaming experiences, but World of Yo-Ho by Volumique sought to take that combination in the most literal way possible. In this fantasy turn-based pirate-themed game your phone is both a source of information and your pawn. The fast-paced play can be modified into either a one-shot experience or an ongoing campaign. Keep an eye out for their Kickstarter, which is set to open in October. 

Gen Con 2014 saw the fruition of several Kickstarter projects we've featured on the blog over the past few years. Thrash-Car made its official debut just a few weeks after going through the final stages of production and Call of Catthulhu was one of the more talked about titles out of the indie publishers.
One of the runaway hits of Gen Con was a nondescript little table off to the side of the Mayfair portion of the demo hall. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes was an ingenious use of the geeky love of solving puzzles, teamwork, and an Oculus Rift. One or more team members sat across from their compatriot wearing a set of Oculus goggles. The be-goggled individual then had a number of minutes (usually 5-6) to describe the components of a bomb depicted by the Rift. Those teammates outside the Rift were left to frantically page through a binder of decryptions and walk their colleague through the process of defusing the bomb.

We also did two separate True Dungeon runs (surviving one and literally crashing and burning in the other). While the monsters were no more or less impressive than in previous years, the props and effects used in some of the puzzles were jaw-dropping. One puzzle involved motion projection onto a table filled with kinetic sand while the intricacies of a steampunk 'fueling tower' had us shaking our heads as we guessed how long it must have taken to build.

While the overall experience was wonderful, the huge draw of Gen Con was palpable. The official attendance number was listed at 56,614, which is an increase of 15.4% year-over-year. There was talk that the convention could expand into the adjoining Lucas Oil Stadium to accommodate future conventions, but what will need to take precedence is the provision of more housing. Though it was often extremely crowded, it appeared as though local businesses were prepared for the nerdy onslaught. So there were lines aplenty, but little danger of not finding something great at the other end.

Finally, all the costumes turned out as well as I could have hoped they would. The last few days leading up to the con were far more stressful than they should have been after the artist I'd commissioned my trident from overreached on the scope of our project and almost didn't finish it. After a flurry of very late night emails and a lot of crossed fingers, the trident arrived with only hours to spare. While it turned out beautifully, I can't say that I'd use that artist again.

The costumes themselves were very well received. There was some minor difficulty getting the GIR's wings to behave and stiletto heels are always a challenge to walk in, but the experience was very positive. All three outfits even made it onto io9! For more pictures, check out our social media pages. Until next time Indy!


Read More

Cosplay: I'm Not That Kind of Doctor

We’re only a few days out from the trek to Indianapolis and the preparations are in full swing. Bags are being packed, wings are being shipped, and dice are itching to be rolled. It’s a whole lot of hurry up and wait in conjunction with periodically reassuring myself that no, there isn’t more work to be done on a costume. It somehow manages to be both anxiety and relief simultaneously. This feeling is also probably due to the fact that, as we've mentioned before, Murphy's Law tends to be on in full force when it comes to cosplay.

The very minute that the GIR and I decided to do a Venture Bros. tribute cosplay there was no doubt in my mind as to which character I’d be dressing as. I’ve always found villainesses to be more interesting and engaging than their female protagonist counterparts. They always seemed to have the best set of powers, were usually smart/ambitious, and exuded confidence. Plus they tended to have minions! Who wouldn’t want minions? Needless to say, more than one adult found my childhood adoration for Maleficent to be a bit off putting. Given that, and my obsession affection for the Venture Bros., Sheila was a shoe-in. Her Dr. Mrs. the Monarch outfit is my personal favorite of the various iterations of Sheila and the thought was that costume would coordinate well with the GIR’s.  
The Dr. Mrs. the Monarch outfit was fun to make but, though it’s pretty straightforward from a construction standpoint, I’ll admit that it was the first costume I underestimated. A large chunk of the difficulties I experienced stemmed directly from my inability to draw. Seriously, I have absolutely zero abilities when it comes to drawing and any related field. The rest of my troubles were derived from certain fabrics and certain paints not wanting to play nicely together, which I didn’t realize until it came time to introduce them to one another. We’ll get to all this in a minute though (so hopefully you can avoid these issues). Despite this, my difficulties were ultimately minor and they definitely shouldn’t scare you off of this project, which is very approachable even for neophyte cosplayers.

Dr. Mrs. the Monarch wears a black leotard with a very distinctive neckline, long yellow gloves, thigh-high yellow boots, a geometric choker style necklace, and a little 4-pronged crown (sometimes 5-pronged depending on the episode). Each of the elements in that list is pretty simple in terms of the execution, minus the painting part (if you’re artistically illiterate like me). Let’s look at each of these components.

Bodysuit

We can’t be 100% sure that the foundation for Dr. Mrs.’ costume is a leotard versus a bodysuit, so you’re probably still within canon if you choose either one of those, as long as you select a garment that is jet black. Black leotards are generally pretty inexpensive and can be found in both sporting goods stores as well as major online retailers like Amazon. Alternatively, you could make a custom leotard/bodysuit using a pattern like this or this (4-way stretch fabric is highly recommended!).

I was operating under the idea that the leotard should have a bit of sheen to it and not just be a standard matte fabric. This isn’t required by any means though, so don’t feel as if you need to limit yourself to PVC or a ‘wet look’ vinyl. After a bit of research, I patterned a bodysuit on this. I really liked the functionality that a bodysuit offered and recommend going that route if you’re planning on being in costume for more than 4-5 hours at a time.

As mentioned above, the neckline on the bodysuit is…unorthodox. It plunges into a deep V in the front (ending a few finger widths above the bellybutton) and dips into a softer, but still substantial scoop in the back (ending just below the bottom of where the band of your bra usually falls). Since you’re almost certainly working with stretchy fabric, you need to work on the bodysuit using the dimensions that it will be when it’s on your body, which are usually quite different than those when it’s lying about. To ensure accurate cuts, I put on the bodysuit and drew the desired termination points in chalk. Chalk shows up beautifully on black fabric, but is easily washed or dabbed away when you don't need it anymore. After that, it was a matter of sketching out the cuts using my t-square and more chalk, then cutting along the lines.
Once the neckline had been shaped, I put the bodysuit on my dress form and applied a stencil I’d made using an exacto knife and a blown up printout of this image of the Monarch logo. Hopefully helpful hint: before the bodysuit, I put a bra on my dress form and padded the bra out so it’d hold the shape of what my curves would look like as I intended them to appear in costume (since the dress form doesn’t have much in that department). Again, this is about making sure that what you cut and paint will look exactly as you intend it to when you’re wearing it.

Here’s where things ended up taking more time than I’d planned; the fabric I used for the bodysuit didn’t take paint very well. The component of the cloth that gave it such a nice, subtle sheen also formed a barrier against paint, so I ended up having to go over the logo several times in order to obtain solid, even color throughout.  I repeated the same basic process with a different fabric for the design on the back. Despite this, I do recommend using fabric paint for the emblems rather than colored tape or fabric. Paint gives you quite a bit more leeway (when compared to tape or fabric) in terms of how it can be shaped on a stretchy surface. Just give yourself a few days of buffer when you start the painting process in case you run into similar difficulties.
The stencil
First pass with the fabric paint (you can see how unevenly it took)
Six coats of paint later and the logo looked solid.
After the designs had been painted, I edged the entire neckline with thin strips of this yellow PVC fabric. The PVC is great in that it tends to stretch well, but can be tricky to work with as it’s prone to curling in on itself. Some patience and a good rotary blade go a long way in taming the PVC.

The only thing remaining at this point were the ‘wings’. Dr. Mrs. the Monarch sports a pair of flowy, transparent orange wings on the back of her bodysuit that drape down her back and trail behind her like a train. To achieve the same look, I folded this chiffon (in ‘flame’) in half and carefully cut long strips that expanded out to an oblong-ish shape at the ends. Since chiffon made from synthetic fabric has a bad habit of fraying, I coated the edges of the wings with clear nail polish. While a French seam would have been a better solution, I found that a second layer of the chiffon added too much weight and opacity, so I kept the wings to a single layer and used the polish.

The wings hang almost on the vertical part of the back portion of the neckline right at the shoulders. First I tacked them to both the bodysuit and the PVC lining with fabric glue, then added a few reinforcing stiches at the corners and the center. Whether the wings actually reach the floor behind you is a personal choice. Canonically, they act like a train so I had them trail a few inches behind me. Of course, there are a number of problems associated with having what is functionally a train at a convention, so you may decide it’s just not worth the potential headache to make the wings quite so long.
Crown/Necklace/Earrings

Both the crown and the choker necklace can be made very easily. I ended up making both from bits of craft foam that had originally been sold as other items: the necklace began its life as a visor and the crown was, at one point, a little pail. While you can definitely use standard sheets of craft foam to make these, I found it to be easier and actually cheaper to re-shape the two items. I removed the head strap from the visor, then trimmed the foam down until it took on that pointy triangular shape that’s depicted in the show. The pail got squished in half, then I traced half-circles at intervals on the foam using the bottom of a coffee mug as a stencil. A few cuts along the traced lines and viola, perfectly symmetrical crown-like tines. I affixed a single 3/8” (0.95cm) round wooden bead to the peaks of each of the tines with some hot glue, then reinforced the tines with some mid-gauge floral wire.
After all that shaping, it was time for some paint. Some standard yellow spray paint left the two accessories a uniform color and a coat of spray varnish lent everything a bit of polish. Finally, I cut out a portion of the bottom of the once-pail-now-crown and added a small lattice made from pieces of floral wire embedded in the foam and reinforced with hot glue (which you can see in the third picture down in the above sequence). The idea behind the lattice was to give bobby pins and other wig/hair clips somewhere to grip on to.

As for the earrings, Dr. Mrs. wears simple round yellow studs in each ear, so I picked up a cheap pair in a hue similar to the spray paint from a local Claire’s.

Boots/Gloves

If I hadn’t come across an amazing sale on these, I would have made both the gloves and the boots (or at least covers approximating the look of boots) from a 4-way stretch fabric. But Milanoo.com was offering their own version of yellow PVC boots for an absurdly low price, so I snapped up a pair of those and a set of matching shoulder-length PVC gloves which the site no longer carries.

If you decide to make your own (which honestly tends to look better since they’ll fit closer to your skin), this is a phenomenal guide for making ‘boots’ and this is a great tutorial for making gloves. Also, Amazon offers these, which work very well for this costume.

Post Construction update: Remember my earlier mention of Murphy's Law? Well, Murphy took the form of some very hot summer days and acted out against my poor PVC gloves. I'd stored them next to the wet look fabric that I'd used for the bodysuit and apparently the heat was enough to fuse the two together, leaving black streaks all over the gloves that not even a Magic Eraser could tackle. I ended up ordering the shiny satin opera gloves from Amazon and painted the PVC boots a lighter shade of yellow to match. In case you go a similar route for whatever reason, PVC takes acrylic paint extremely well!

Wig

Unless you happen to have short black hair, you’re probably going to need a wig to emulate Sheila’s curled bob. I went with this, then shaped it using a comb, this hair wax, and this hair gel. Since the wig was designed to curl at the ends, it was pretty easy to coax it into the canonical hairdo.

Since the length of the wig is quite short, a wig cap is a necessity (check out this post on wigs for more information on caps and why they’re good to use).

Defying Gravity (all the underthings)

Ok, so it’s no secret that one of the most eye-catching features of Dr. Mrs. the Monarch is her prominent, seemingly physics-defying d├ęcolletage. For a non-animated human subjected to things like gravity, it can be very tricky to attain the same look. The angle and extent of the V-shaped neckline precludes the wearing of most standard undergarments (since they’d be readily visible). There are a couple of ways to negotiate this somewhat awkward situation.

Option 1 is to go the route pioneered by professional cosplayer and Heroes of Cosplay alumnus Riki LeCotey and make a custom bodice from plastic or a similarly rigid material. Unless you’re proficient at plastic or resin casting, the easiest way to make this is to purchase a torso mannequin like this one and, using a plastics saw or very sharp utility knife, carefully cut out the desired shape.

If you’d rather not cast a piece or re-shape a mannequin, there’s always Option 2. Option 2 involves stick on lingerie like this. I was going to attempt Option 1, but came across a set of adhesive silicone cups while at a craft store and, with the help of some double-sided fashion tape, found that they performed surprisingly well. As with anything else that goes on your skin, it’s always a good idea to test the adhesives on the cups/tape about two weeks or more before the convention.
And that completes the costume trousseau for Gen Con 2014. Adieu for now guys; see you in a week or so when I’m back from Indy!

Post-Con Breakdown: I'll probably wear this costume again, but will start over with a new leotard as the fabric not only didn't play nicely with the fabric paint, but also didn't like to stay put against my skin. The wings, boots, and props held up extremely well and can be re-used with minimal touch ups.
The finished products for both the GIR and I
 
Read More

This Week in Geekdom

Hope everyone's having a great weekend thus far. You can probably guess that the past week has been chock-full of costume construction. Fortunately, all that is now 100% complete so I can get down to packing and studying up on the Epic rules for Star Wars: the X-Wing Miniatures Game. I've got two miniatures tourneys on the Gen Con schedule and need to fit all the practice I can into the next 2-3 days. In the meantime, let's get down to the Week in Geekdom.

Movies

Revisiting franchises is the name of the cinematic game as of late, but one property that hasn't gotten the reboot treatment is Galaxy Quest. Turns out, that might not be true forever. Earlier this week it was confirmed that a script for a sequel does exist.

While we're talking about reboots, let's chat for a minute about the fact that J. Michael Straczynski, creator of the cult TV series Babylon 5, is personally leading the charge to turn his brainchild into a major motion picture.

It's a question that has been bandied about since the publication of the Lord of the Rings trilogy: Why didn't the members of the Fellowship just fly to Mount Doom on the giant eagles? This amusingly illustrated fan theory seeks to provide a definitive answer.

In an act of what's most likely too little, too late, DC released their distinctly Marvel-esque release schedule spanning until 2020.

Back in February of this year, economics blog the Motley Fool penned this piece about how the Guardians of the Galaxy would flop. Yeah. About that.

Conversely, Comics Alliance has a slightly different take on Marvel's movie business model.

Comics

Darkchylde artist Randy Queen has been on a personal quest to stamp out all criticism of his work from all corners of the internet.

Science/Technology

It's estimated that we humans have yet to understand approximately 95% of the universe. Does this translate into a weaker case for the Big Bang Theory?

The latest edition of Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society contains this research that appears to have found the origins of the 'lonliest supernovae in the universe.'
Image courtesy of Nature Communications.
Add to the list of things that we, as a species, found perplexing but are now beginning to comprehend the fact that electrons often exhibit odd quantum behavior when they pass through a magnetic field.

Ever wonder why you seem to get your best ideas while you're in the shower? Here comes the science.

Honda's humanoid robot Asimo has added two new skills to its digital resume: bar tending and taking penalty kicks.

General Awesomeness/Feats of Nerdery

Are you a lover of both coffee and steampunk? Well, if you also happen to have 4,200 GBP lying around you can be the proud owner of this incredibly complex and lovely coffee machine.

Designer Michael Tyznik hopes you'll be able to better navigate the geography of the continents in the Song of Ice and Fire series with the help of these subway maps he drew up.

Have you ever wanted to run your own particle accelerator? This simple-but-addictive click game from the gaming lab at CERN can help assuage your cravings for atom smashing. (In other news, there is a gaming studio at CERN.)

As always, best wishes for an awesome week ahead!
Read More

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

As fun as costume construction is, at this point near the very end it can be nice to fit in a few breaks from the sewing, painting, and continuous battles with the hot glue gun. There are few better respites from nerdy crafting, or just from the daily grind, than the latest cinematic offering from Marvel.  
Yeah, I heard Guardians of the Galaxy was completely crazy. Is it actually as nuts as people say it is?

Definitely, but in the best possible way (if that even makes sense). Guardians of the Galaxy is fundamentally insane, completely absurd, and a raucously good time filled with plenty of moments that will likely have you laughing out loud. It’s so entirely out there in both the premise and the execution that you can’t help but admire Marvel for actually making it happen. In a world where major studios balk at the idea of making a superhero movie with a female lead because it’s ‘too tricky’, Marvel looked through its roster, saw a property starring an anthropomorphic raccoon and tree, and said, ‘why not?’ You can almost picture Marvel looking over at DC with a smirk that says, “Look at all the fun they’re having; see how much they love this. Good luck with your faux-Nolan unrelenting grimness thing.”

And having fun is definitely the end-goal with Guardians. To use the same description I ascribed to Pacific Rim, it’s what Saturday morning cartoons wish they would grow up to be. To that effect, your best bet is to go into the theater with the expectation that Guardians will be all the best parts of popcorn fodder: explosions, extended combat sequences, stunning backdrops, high-speed chases, and snarky one-liners by the bucket load.
   
Given that description, you can probably garner that Guardians isn’t exactly masterful in the realms of exposition or logical consistency. A significant part of that is due to the labyrinth that is the source material, specifically the long and often convoluted backstory of Star-Lord/Peter Quill. It can be difficult to distill a comic narrative that features a large ensemble cast and spans forty-five years down into something that can be readily consumed in a scant two hours. This shows in the threadbare introductions that we get to some of the characters and locations. Additionally, the frantic pace of the film forces a number of ‘convenient’ outcomes, occurrences, and conclusions in order to maintain momentum. While these are numerous, they definitely don’t detract from the overall experience and are no more egregious than what you’d expect in a summer blockbuster. There’s also at least one instance where this works in the film’s favor, leaving the audience to be as suspicious of the character Gamora as her new compatriots initially find her to be.

The story is drawn from the 2008 relaunch of the Guardians of the Galaxy comic arc, but adds in a handful of characters from earlier editions and other incarnations of the series. It boils down to a standard ‘hero finds powerful ancient artifact; villains want said artifact; the fate of the universe lies with the outcome of the resulting conflict.’ Nothing revolutionary in terms of narrative, but the tale is maybe a tertiary consideration when you’re watching the movie. Maybe. The cast and the chemistry between them more than atone for any lapses in the telling of their adventures. Also, despite the lackluster exposition, the audience finally gets a cursory education in the Infinity Gems (Stones in the movie), which we've seen a lot of throughout the cinematic Marvelverse but haven't been any definitive clues as to what they are. The fact that Guardians manages to provide effective cliff notes for a concept as complex as the Infinity Gems and how they tie in to the other Marvel movies is a small feat in itself.

The characters themselves are all well portrayed by the actors that play them, but some roles have noticeably more substance than others. Chris Pratt is, effectively, Peter-Quill-Trying-To-Be-Star-Lord. His effortless brand of devil-may-care charm makes him immediately likeable and a spot on match for his two-dimensional counterpart. More than one outlet makes the comparison between Quill and a certain other smuggler with a heart of gold. Those comparisons are not far from the mark.
Do not mess with a raccoon and his Groot

The two computer-generated Guardians, ostensibly the hardest sells of the cast, are both beautifully rendered and surprisingly robust. Rocket Raccoon’s fur is lush and his swagger is amusingly detailed while the space Ent Groot alternates between Wookie-esque ferocity and moments of tenderness that will draw sighs of empathy from the audience (which the film knowingly exploits for excellent comic effect). Groot may have but a single line of dialogue, but he does more with that one declaration than other characters have emoted through entire movies. It’s no surprise that cottage industries based entirely on the creation of miniature Groots have already popped up all over the internet.

David Bautista capably provides both the physical and emotional heft behind Drax the Destroyer, but the character, as it’s written in the film, ends up being largely shunted to the background. His comic counterpart is almost larger than life, famous for single-handedly taking down Thanos (literally), but movie Drax is a taciturn second-string tank. Since a sequel has already been green-lit and is slated to hit theaters in 2017, perhaps we can see more comic-style Drax in the successor volume.

Akin to Drax, Gamora gets glossed over in the character development department. We see that she’s an adroit assassin with martial skills to spare and we’re given her direct tie to the Titanian Eternal Thanos, but as Guardians moves into its second and third acts she rapidly loses dimension. This is a woman who is purported to be the most lethal in the galaxy and who not only seduced Tony Stark, but gave him cause to doubt his abilities as a lothario. We get almost none of that in Guardians. Moreover, the Gamora in the film consistently makes numerous tactical errors that would be unheard of for her comic counterpart. It’s not a complete deal breaker, so to speak, just a bit on the disappointing side. As with Drax, we may get a more rounded Gamora in the sequel.

The supporting cast is stocked with a stunning number of big names. You may find yourself going, “Wait, isn’t that…” Yes, yes it is. It is Glenn Close/Djmon Hounsou /John Reilly/ Benicio del Toro, all of whom do not disappoint. Karen Gillian nearly steals the title of lead villain from Lee Pace with her ferocious take on Nebula. Though her delivery borders on shrieky a couple of times, Nebula comes across as the more menacing and threatening force of darkness in the film.
It took 4.5 hours to apply this makeup to Karen Gillian
The visuals are rich with color, a fever dream from the Hubble telescope, which lends a distinctly surreal, comic-style backdrop for the action. Drinking it all in via the big screen is a veritable feast for the eyes. Add to that a solid vintage soundtrack that will elicit instant nostalgia and make even the surliest Zen Whoberi want to sway to the beat.

It all speaks to the skills of director James Gunn, who managed to make this ungainly property an improbably consumable, laugh-inducing good time and it assuredly leaves us wanting more of what Marvel can dish out. Bonus: so so so many easter eggs.

Overall Grade: A-
Read More

This Week in Geekdom

Hi everyone! The countdown to Gen Con now stands in the single digits. Single digits! That fact alone is making me do a little anticipatory dance in my chair as I type this. Alternatively, remembering that the Best Four Days in Gaming begins just over one week from now invariably results in this feeling:


If all goes according to plan, next week should feature at least the tutorial for how to make the Dr. Mrs. the Monarch costume, but there's a decent chance that there will be bonus entries on top of that. Fingers crossed that all the last minute preparations go reasonably well! In the meantime, let's get down to the Week in Geekdom!

Comics

Marvel is trucking along with their campaign of inclusion with the latest edition of Hawkeye which features the titular hero struggling with hearing loss and learning American Sign Language.

The end of this year will also be the end of custody of the Star Wars licenses for long-time publisher Dark Horse. Marvel is already hard at work planning the release of its Star Wars related titles, including this forthcoming Vader-centric release


Do you love Batman? Do you also happen to have a couple hundred thousand USD lying around? If you answered yes to both of those, feel free to participate in this auction of original file copies of the origins of the Dark Knight owned by Batman creator Bob Kane.

The Walking Dead is one of the most popular graphic novels on the market right now, but did the series have a medieval predecessor? The British Library believes it has found the forerunner of Kirkman's blockbuster property.

Hot off the success of last weekend, San Diego Comic Con has declared that there shall be no others to bear that suffix. The mega-convention has served its Rocky Mountain Rival, Salt Lake City Comic Con, with this cease and desist letter.

On a final comic-based note, Happy 40th birthday to Wolverine!

Books

The most recent edition of the Journal of Applied Social Psychology contains this study detailing that participants in said experiment who read the Harry Potter series exhibited reduced levels of hostility and prejudice against historically marginalized groups when compared to their peers who had not read the books. In short, reading Harry Potter apparently makes you a better person.

Movies/TV

This is Tom Hiddleston's email to Joss Whedon immediately after the former read the script for the Avengers for the first time.

There has been a fair amount of buzz surrounding the still-in-production Ant-Man movie. The latest rumor: that Ant-Man's wife, Janet (a.k.a. the Wasp) will not be included in the new Marvel cinematic canon.

While we're on a Marvel movies kick, this is a the Lego-ized version of the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy.

Games

All 30 playable characters in Mario Kart 8, reviewed.

Industry insiders concede that PC games are 'decimating' their console competition. PC gamers are too engrossed to feign surprise.

Science/Technology

The concept of manufacturing a microwave-based drive for spacecraft has long been dismissed by NASA as an impossibility. On Friday, they recanted that stance and confirmed exactly what a microwave drive can potentially do.

What a microwave drive could look like
On Thursday, NASA provided a detailed list of exactly what will be headed up to Mars on the forthcoming Mars 2020 mission. This list gives us public viewers a reasonably good idea of what the priorities are for this next sojourn to the Red Planet.

Tuesday was the 99th birthday of Charles Townes, inventor of the laser. This is what the University of California at Berkeley and the town of Greenville, South Carolina did to honor their Nobel laureate progeny.

Chemical engineers at the University of Tsinghua may have a new offering in the push for renewable energy sources with their lithium-sulfur powered batteries.

Quantum Cheshire cats. Yes, they are real and here they are explained.

From Nature Communications
General Awesomeness/Feats of Nerdery

Some parents build treehouses for their children; other parents build fully interactive space modules in their kids' bedrooms.

Forget tents. Check out these portable shelters inspired by origami.

This intrepid graphic designer has re-imagined the logos of all 30 Major League Baseball teams as Star Wars insignia.

As always, best wishes for an awesome week ahead!
Read More