It’s become a growing practice to create a special edition of popular new releases specifically for Sony and Nintendo’s handhelds, more suited to the system’s differing strengths. When [[[Batman: Arkham Origins]]] was released recently, both systems got their own side adventure, obliquely connected to the main game, but unique in features and content. Thanks to the popularity of the series, the handheld game has been expanded and made available for all major systems, console and handheld.
Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate Deluxe Edition is set three months after the events of Arkham Origins. An explosion at Blackgate prison results in a chaotic takeover of the facility, headed by The Penguin and Black Mask. Things get more serious when it’s learned that the Joker has also joined the incarcerated internecine warfare. The game has some limited free play options – you can battle the three bosses and their associated campaigns in any order, and the end game finale differs based on who you chose to fight last. The movement is largely a 2-D left-to-right progression, with jumps to other angles for certain puzzles and boss fights.
The gameplay is similar enough to the main line of games that it’s easy enough to pick up with little trouble. Enhanced to HD-quality, the game is still based on a design for smaller, slightly less powerful handheld devices, so it’s not as huge and expansive as the primary title. The Deluxe Edition upgrade adds new characters, levels and unlockables – there’s 10 special costumes to seek out, from DC stories like Zero year, the Batman 66 costume, and the Blackest Night costume which makes you impervious to damage.
The game is fun and entertaining in their own right, good for filling the time between DLC releases of the main games. Likely not worth a repurchase if you got the original for the handhelds, but at this price, it’s a good addition to the series, and certainly easier to see on a bigger screen.
Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate Deluxe Edition is available via download for most console and handheld systems now, including Steam, and coming soon on the WiiU .
Well, actually, he’s a lot of animals. From Perry the Platypus on Phineas and Ferb to Appa and Momo on Avatar: The Last Airbender, voice actor Dee Bradley Baker is the man behind a whole slew of animal and creature sounds you might not even guess could come from a human being. Of course, he also voices awesome speaking characters, such as all of the clones on Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and Klaus the German fish on American Dad! And then there are all of those video games he’s provided voices or sounds for, like the Halo series, Portal 2, Gears of War 1 – 3, Diablo III, Left 4 Dead 2, the Ben 10 video games, and several Marvel and DC games, including Batman: Arkham City. In fact, if you look over his ridiculously long IMDB page (329 titles!) I think you’ll find that even if you are not a heavy consumer of entertainment, you’ve heard Dee’s voice somewhere and probably didn’t even know it. And that’s the way he likes it.
I had a chance to sit down with Dee at the San Diego Comic-Con and talk about his amazing talents, examples of which you can listen to here, and his experiences as a voice actor (and for those who are interested in getting into voice acting, I recommend Dee’s site, I Want to Be a Voice Actor, as a great resource). It was an awesome interview, which you can watch in its entirety here. Or, read on for the transcript!
You’ve worked on a number of things that are being featured here at SDCC, so please tell me about those.
My first day was a panel for I Know That Voice, which the great John DiMaggio, the voice of Bender and a ton of other voices, is overseeing; and it basically chronicles the history of voice acting and who’s working in voice acting right now – most all of the A-listers – and it also speaks a lot about Comic-Con as well. He just kind of assembled some Avengers of Voice Acting on that panel, and we had a really fun panel. I also did one for Phineas and Ferb, and that went beautifully. I’m Perry the Platypus on Phineas and Ferb (demonstrates Perry). That’s a great and creative show; and I really love that show as a dad, because that’s one you can watch over and over and over again, which is what kids like to do; so that was spectacular. Yesterday we had a big panel in the gigantic hall for American Dad!, which was also a lot of fun. (In character) I’m Klaus the fish on American Dad! And I am in a little bowl.
And what was it that Rob Paulsen said about that voice on the I Know That Voice panel?
It just makes him happy. It makes him happy to hear me speak with a German accent. Or to speak in German, which I will do for him.
It was funny to see the reactions on that panel when you started doing Klaus. I think everybody loves that.
Yes; well, I have a real fondness for the German language. I speak it, and I spent a year in school there, and I studied German writers and philosophers. And it’s just kind of a forgotten language in this country basically since the 20th century, and it’s a fun little thing to pop out and show everyone.
With the German language thing; when you go in and a director says they’re looking for a German voice do you ever do German and they say, “that’s too authentic, we want something hammy”?
No; if they want me to dial down the accent, I’ll do that; but I’ve never gotten that request. I understand what you’re asking; but actually, for me, it usually works out – what’s sometimes difficult for me is if I go in to do a dog or a cat, and they want something that doesn’t sound like a dog or a cat. They want something that’s goofy; or that’s more human. So I have to make myself bend away from something that’s authentic into something that expresses it with the tone that they want.
When you’re doing that process, do you just sit there and try a bunch of noises?
Can you give an example?
Well, if you want, like, a dog bark (demonstrates different dog barks) you can humanize it. You can make it more Scooby, or more like a dog. And then you can dial in whether it’s small or big or whatever. But it’s a little different for every show, and that’s kind of what I do as a voice actor.
That’s great. Now you mentioned philosophy – did you study philosophy?
Yes, I was a philosophy major in college, with practically a minor in German.
So how did you go from philosophy and German to voice acting?
Both coexisted fine, really. I’ve done performing all of my life, and had a lot of fun doing everything from plays and operas and stand-up and children’s theater and improv, to singing telegrams, summer stock, Shakespeare-
Singing telegrams, really? Where do you even find that job?
Oh, just look in the Yellow Pages! Or whatever exists now. You can get money to do a live singing telegram.
Did you have to dance, too?
Well, it depends on the character. On what they want the character to do. Whether it’s like a nerd strip-a-gram, or…there are just various characters that they hand you, with this horrible script, and then you have to walk into a situation where either they’re delighted or they’re just completely mortified, and it’s really uncomfortable. And then you have to try to get them to pay you your money, because the company that hires you is not going to help you with that. It’s actually a fairly unpleasant job for me to do. So I didn’t do that for very long; but I did it for a while. But you know, it’s either that, or work in an office; and I don’t want to work in an office. So – I like performing, and I’m happy to try something stupid in front of people. I always have been, and that’s how I earn my living; is basically that.
And you’re fantastic at it, so that’s great! Now, I looked at your IMDB page. With voice actors, it’s impossible to even remotely cover everything, because you all are so versatile, and you do everything.
Yeah, a lot of us are very versatile, and do a lot of different kinds of voices; we do impressions; you know, I specialize in sounds; some are women who do little boy voices; some are known for the sexy; some are known for the powerful, or the evil, or the big; or maybe they can do them all. So yeah, a lot of us have a lot of different shows that we do. That’s how you earn a living as a voice actor, is to do a lot of shows; as opposed to on-camera, where you’re pretty much just doing one show at a time.
And as I was looking through your IMDB, I never actually got down to the bottom of your very first gig. I was scrolling, and I was like, “I’m never going to get there,” so I’ll just ask: what was your first gig, and also, what was your first experience performing in front of people, like as a child or whatever.
My first performing-in-front-of-people experience was I think in first grade, when they asked me to present flowers at the University of Northern Colorado homecoming queen beauty pageant, and I had to present flowers to the gal who was one of the homecoming queen candidates at the university. My second performance was the lead as Oliver in the play Oliver at my school, which was a K through 12 school in Greeley, Colorado, and that was my first really acting/performing gig, was starring in Oliver. I was in second grade, so about eight years old. My first professional gig, being paid, would be performing Oliver, again, at the Chuckwagon Dinner Playhouse in Greeley, Colorado. They paid me something like thirteen bucks a night to be Oliver. I was probably ten or eleven. I did Oliver in Greeley three times! I did it once at my school, once at the university, which was not paid, and then once for the Chuckwagon Dinner Playhouse, which was paid. And that was my first paying gig.
But when I was a kid, you know, I did ventriloquism; I did plays; they’d bring me over as the boy soprano at the university for Bernstein’s Mass or various productions. That was not paid; that was just for fun. That’s how I came to become enamored of acting and performing, was just doing it for fun.
So what was your first voice acting gig that was professional?
My first paid voice acting gig was doing a non-union commercial in Colorado Springs for Mexicana Airlines, in a horrible Spanish accent. That was my first voiceover gig, if I remember correctly. It was terrible. It was truly terrible, but I got paid to do not-my-voice in a commercial.
And it’s all experience, whether you’re paid or not. That’s the best teacher; that’s what you want. You need experience. Not necessarily classroom study, although that can be a very good thing. But you’ve got to get in front of an audience, and you’ve got to convince people to give you money to do what you like to do.
Now you were saying that you’re known for creatures, which I of course knew and appreciate-
(Dee does animal noises!)
So can I ask you, how do you do…
(Dee does crickets!)
…that. How do you do the crickets? I love the crickets!
(Demonstrating) The crickets are done with the back of the tongue against the soft palate, like you’re gargling; it’s very relaxed back there. You can do it other ways too, actually. You can do it in the front of the mouth. But I do it in the back of the mouth; and then while I’m whistling, I dial in the uvula; and then I whistle with an inhale, which is a higher whistle for me; and then I just do it in reverse. So that’s what you do. But you can do that! You can practice that and you can do that. I’ve shown people how to do it.
I believe you! And I love the crickets.
Everybody loves the crickets. Except for a writer. A writer doesn’t like the crickets. Because you insert the crickets when there’s a pause or when the joke falls flat. So writers don’t like the crickets; that’s one thing I’ve learned.
That makes sense. Now you do tons and tons of creatures. Have you had any particular ones that have been really difficult to come up with, or that really stressed your voice?
Well roaring and screaming like you often do in video games can be really taxing on the voice. But I try to do it in a way that doesn’t tear up my voice. That’s done by relying on – not the voice. By relying on the throat. (demonstrates) Like that – where I’m using not just my voice but other things to make the sound or the effort. It also helps too to use it on an inhale sometimes, because that can get you a lot of sound but is not as hard on the voice. It’s taxing on the voice, but not terribly so.
When you do that in public and people smile like I’m smiling now, do you get a big kick out of that?
I don’t do it in public, and when I do they don’t smile! Well, they do here! It’s gotta be set up right, otherwise, there’s something wrong. There’s something obviously wrong, and they don’t smile.
Well, I was going to ask, also, because a lot of voice actors are known for the voices that they do, what is it like being the creature guy; being a voice actor who’s most known for animal and creature sounds?
I love that. I’m happy not to be known for anything. I don’t need to be known at all; it’s not really on my agenda. It doesn’t serve my life to be known; other than professionally, in professional circles, for people to know that I do creature and animal sounds. But that’s part of the appeal of a voice acting career, is that you’re not saddled with fame. You can live a relatively normal life and have normal relationships, and have to deal with your own human limitations in a more immediate way than you do in the sort of mediated, buffered world that a famous person has to cope with. So that’s part of why I like voice acting and was drawn to it, is that in particular.
Has that changed any for you since YouTube and having voice actors at cons and things are more prevalent now?
I can still go shopping at a grocery store and nobody knows who the heck I am, so no. But! There are a couple more people at a convention that recognize me; that’s fine. But for the most part, they don’t. And that’s okay.
Okay; now with The Clone Wars, you were saying the other day that it’s strange for you to be doing a normal voice. Can you talk about that experience?
Yes, well, when you’re establishing your career in whatever you’re doing, you kind of start with your default strength, and that for me tended to be more (in character) wacky or comedic character roles, that were more broad or cartoony. And I still have that in my wheelhouse. But when I auditioned for and got on Clone Wars, (in character) it is a straight-ahead soldier; I mean that is a normal human being that is as straight-ahead as you can imagine. There’s nothing bizarre or strange about a clone. They are a soldier, and a human, and that is what is interesting about them.
And so I would never have cast myself in doing that kind of a role at that time. That was kind of a mental limitation I had imposed upon myself, just because of what I’d been doing and what worked. But that kind of opened up for me the realization that I can do normal! That I can do normal and variations of normal; and the acting challenge of applying the gradation of character to the clones really opened up my mind in terms of what I can do and how I look at what I can do. So from that, I will occasionally get a villain character. For instance, Tarrlok, in Legend of Korra. (in character) Tarrlok, he speaks mostly as I do. But he is a character who is duplicitous, and you’re not always sure what he’s going to do; if he’s friendly, or if he’s evil…or what’s up with him. And that was another just straight-ahead character; who was kind of unsavory in a lot of ways. But again, I got to do that. Or Ra’s al Ghul in the Batman: Arkham City video game. I mean, that’s a straight-ahead villain. That’s a heavy. And I booked that, whereas I think a decade ago or so, I don’t think I would have even auditioned for it. No one would have thought to, and I wouldn’t have thought to. I would have said, “Nah, that’s not really what I do.”
You’ve worked a lot in both video games and animation. What’s the difference in experiences there? Do you prefer one?
I like video games in general because I think it’s not just an art form, but an evolution in how humans communicate, and what they do. I don’t think normal society really understands that. The sort of established, grown-up society; I don’t think they understand the profundity of what that means in terms of connecting with millions of other people in different countries and doing something together. Like, with World of Warcraft, or on Xbox or something like that, you’re literally playing against the rest of the planet, or you’re playing with them, as you play against them. It’s competitive but at the same time it’s cooperative. And I don’t know what else we’re doing as nations and countries that is like that. I think it’s a really positive and necessary thing, that has the potential to lead to kind of benevolent connections among societies; that we need, as the world seems to be falling apart. I think it’s a thing that brings large groups of people together, who don’t even necessarily speak the same language. And that’s something; that’s unique.
It also brings in a lot of different art forms in addition to writing and acting. It also puts music into the ear of young people who probably aren’t getting that; because arts and other essential education in this country are being cut, because education is not a priority in this country, sadly. Tragically. And so I like that it brings music into the mind and into the ear; as many of the projects that we have here at Comic-Con do. Whether it’s the X-Men feature film, or a Halo game, the music that you’re hearing, this sort of nineteenth century programmatic music, is really marvelous. It’s a marvelous form of expression. We should know it and appreciate it and cultivate that in our world, I think.
I agree. Now speaking of the con again, were you also doing Wolves?
Yes, I did! I was doing wolf sounds for Wolves. I don’t know what I am allowed to tell about it, but it’s David Hayter’s project, and he’s got a great werewolf-type project, and they brought me in to do some wolves. (demonstrates)
That’s fantastic. Are there any other new projects we should be keeping an eye out for?
I wish there were more that I could talk about. I continue to do a lot of stuff for Disney, and for Phineas and Ferb, and Jake and the Never Land Pirates, and lots of shows that kids really like. For Jake and the Never Land Pirates, I’m the Croc, and – I’m pretty much the animals in that; whether it’s a bee or a plant or a lizard or a bug or whatever it is, they call me in to do that.
What does it make you feel like if you’re watching a show that you’ve done, and there are people talking, and you are all of the background noises or whatever?
I like that. I mean, it’s fun! It’s fun to be in there, and I like it best if people don’t realize that that’s what that is; that there is a human doing that. The goal would be for it to sound natural and seamless and invisible, sort of like a special effect. You don’t want an audience member to think about a special effect. You want them to experience the scene more accurately to what your vision is as a creator. And that’s what I want to be as a voice actor who adds the weird or the animal or the alien, is to make it feel like this is an organic part of what the story is. Not, “Oh, who’s that guy, doing that sound?” That’s what I don’t want.
I think you succeed very well, because I would never know.
• • • • •
Dee is a such pleasure to talk with, and I had a fantastic time interviewing him! And, of course, I asked Dee to do a shout-out for ComicMix, which he was kind enough to do. Don’t miss it at the end of the video!
And until next time, Servo Lectio!
TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis Goes Super Nigga!
So Microsoft debuted the XBOX One this week and the video game fanboys dropped trou and prayed to Lord Gates. With it, the next generation of consoles are all spec’ed out, and being built by poor children of other countries. Err, I mean by robots. Yes. Souless, never-hungry robots. Perhaps it’s a sign of the times, or just the fact that I’m getting older and crankier by the day (something I may attribute to being in proximity of several fine folks on this very site), but I’m finding it harder and harder to care.
My generation was gleefully known as the ‘Nintendo Generation. When the original NES debuted, I was at the perfect age. With careful prodding, pleading, and sad-face-making, my parents dropped the $100 (a veritable fortune at the time for a lowly birthday / Chanukah gift) for the system. Elation, kiddos. Elation. Flash forward sometime later, and I was able to finagle the Super Nintendo when it debuted. I remember with near photographic memory the reflection of my beardless cherubic face in the glossy UV coating on the box… declaring all the amazing new games debuting with the console –none of which were included, save for Super Mario World.
This cycle continued all throughout high school: the SNES begat the Sega Saturn (don’t judge me). The Saturn begat the Dreamcast (continue to hold that tongue). The Dreamcast gave way to the original XBOX. And I remember it so well; plunking down my shiny new credit card for the $650 charge (the system, a game, and the extra controller, don’t-cha-know), and then holing up at a friend’s apartment for what would end up being one of very few all-night gaming sessions. See, even in my early twenties I was a budding old man. But I digress.
The newest line of video game consoles continue the trend to move away from entertainment add-on devices to full on hubs of all things do-and-watchable. Literal, visceral computers minus a keyboard and mouse. They’re WiFi-enabled, app-store-shoppable, and motion-sensitive. The XBOX One will apparently be ‘on’ all the time, and be able to take voice commands at will. XBOX, turn on. Bring up Netflix. Order me a pizza. Raise me my child. They’ve even showed a possible add-on that will project environmental graphics onto the walls and surfaces of your media room. I’ve seen the future folks… and I can’t wait to tell my son about how in my day our graphics were crappy and damn-it we liked it that way.
So why all the hatespew, you ask? All allusions to getting older aside, it’s frankly a matter of taste. The commitment of time a child (or teen, or adult for that matter) can sink into a video game is mind-numbing. Pun intended. Games today simply try too hard to be immersive. One simply doesn’t turn on the game, play a level or two, and call it a night. Suffice to say, that is what Angry Birds was designed to do. With the next generation of systems on their way, this is the trend that will continue. The phone will be my Nintendo. The XBOX will demand I plotz for 90 minutes if I intend to game.
The late Roger Ebert was adamant that even the best games were hardly art, I’ve never subscribed to that point of view. While Halo won’t sit on my shelf next to Inglorious Basterds, it certainly provided more smiles and provoked more thoughts than Kung Pow: Enter the Fist. But therein lies the blessing and the curse of modern gaming. The more video games mimic real life / real cinema / long-format stories, the more time and energy will be required of the player. Who here would watch The Godfather trilogy in 20-minute chunks?
And while yes, this doesn’t include Madden, fighting games, or arcade games… even there Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft are subtly demanding more and more of us as players – both in our time, and from our bank account). Madden may have that quick game, but the appeal (for those not online) is in the franchise mode-built for hours-long tweaking, prodding, and finessing. Fighting games demand the completest beat the game with every fighter to unlock a plethora of add-ons. And even the arcade games of my youth, repackaged and resold to me through countless app stores, stack themselves in such a manner that pleads I play it… remember how much I loved it… beat it… and buy the next one.
As it stands today I play only two games on my XBOX. Batman: Arkham City and WWE ‘13. Both provide me enough fun in what brief times I pull myself away from all my grown-up responsibilities. I assume in a year’s time, my stone facade will crack under the pressure of the pretty new graphics and promises of full-on entertainment media-center domination. But until that time, I’ll happily clutch my XBOX 360 like the old fart I’m becoming… and relish my memories of the simpler times. When up-up down-down left-right left-right B-A Start meant I could beat Contra, and head outside. When a round-robin tourney of Virtual On or Mario Kart meant bragging rights for the week to come. When the game manual delivered all the story I’d need in three paragraphs or less.
Clancy Brown, the quintessential voice of Lex Luthor, will walk the red carpet and take part in the post-screening panel discussion when Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and The Paley Center for Media present the World Premiere of LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Superheroes Unite in New York on February 11, 2013.
Brown set the benchmark for all Lex Luthor voices with his iteration of the role for Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League/Justice League Unlimited, and he has reprised the voice in several TV series episodes as well as the DC Universe Animated Original Movie, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, and now for LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Superheroes Unite.
The World Premiere will include red carpet media interviews starting at 5:15 p.m. and the first-ever public screening of the film at 6:30 p.m. Following the screening, cast and filmmakers will discuss the movie. Joining Brown on the panel will be TT Animation’s award-winning director/producer Jon Burton and director of photography Jeremy Pardon, and renowned videogame/animation actors Troy Baker (Bioshock Infinite, Batman: Arkham City) as Batman and Travis Willingham (Avengers Assemble, The Super Hero Squad Show) as Superman.
LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Superheroes Unite, an all-new film from TT Animation based on its popular video game, finds Lex Luthor taking jealousy to new heights when fellow billionaire Bruce Wayne wins the Man of the Year Award. To top Wayne’s accomplishment, Lex begins a campaign for President – and to create the atmosphere for his type of fear-based politics, he recruits the Joker to perfect a Black LEGO Destructor Ray. While wreaking havoc on Gotham, Lex successfully destroys Batman’s technology – forcing the Caped Crusader to reluctantly turn to Superman for help.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has set May 21, 2013 as its release date for LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Superheroes Unite on Blu-ray and DVD.
Brown made his very first theatrical appearance opposite Sean Penn in Bad Boys, and then forever sealed his place in fantasy villainy as The Kurgan in Highlander. Before playing an immortal, though, Brown etched his name in cult classic history as Rawhide in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Brown is regularly recognized from his standout performance as Captain Hadley in The Shawshank Redemption, as the centerpiece of HBO’s Carnivale as Brother Justin Crowe, and to fanboys across the planet as gung-ho Sgt. Zim in Starship Troopers.
Having lent his voice to nearly 600 animated episodes and films, Brown is also widely known as Mr. Krabs in SpongeBob SquarePants. His voice credits, to list just a few, include roles in The Batman, The Spectacular Spider-Man, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Jackie Chan Adventures, Wolverine and the X-Men,Phineaus and Ferb, Ben 10: Alien Force, Kim Possible, Duck Dodgers, Teen Titans, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command and Gargoyles.
The Paley Center in New York City is located at 25 West 52nd Street. There is no attached parking, however there is ample parking in numerous structures surrounding the Paley Center.
Dragon*Con is right around the corner, and if you’re going and you like to costume at cons, that means you’re probably scrambling to finish up your costume(s). Well, okay, that’s true if you’re me, at least. See, I’d like to plan really far ahead, but Life just doesn’t make that possible sometimes, which is how I often find myself finishing a costume’s jewelry the same morning I’m putting on the costume; attempting to dye corsets to their “authentic movie costume color” at 3 a.m. in hotel bathtubs (in a leak proof plastic bag; don’t worry, hotels); begging people to lend me last minute bits and pieces; and occasionally even enlisting roommates to help me make things when really they should be downstairs eating the complimentary hotel breakfast (bless you, Erica).
In June I wrote a column on women and costuming, in which I made the point that there are numerous reasons women costume (as opposed to the often-posited-by-men-reason of costuming to attract a man’s attention). For me, the actual making or putting together of the costume, as complicated and time-consuming as it can sometimes be, is a main reason why I costume. I like the challenge of making something coherent and recognizable and as authentic or creative as possible out of bits and pieces of craft supplies and found items and regular store-bought items that I can adapt.
As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, recently there’s been a great deal of talk about women and costuming from other quarters, including from people in the fandom who honestly ought to know better than to attack women about how they choose to celebrate their geekdom at a con, and whether they have the right to dress as they please without checking in with menfolk first (hint: the answer is yes). I don’t know why some geek men think they have some sort of prerogative to dictate these things, as if they were somehow “there” first, planting a flag on top of Geek Mountain and thus earning the right to lay out the rules and whine about people who don’t meet their “standards” of who should be allowed at a con or accepted as a geek; but it’s patently ridiculous.
Regardless, that kerfuffle was far from the first time the suggestion that women costume only to attract male geeks and get sexual attention reared its silly head. And both to further illustrate that suggesting this is pretty silly (because putting together a costume is a lot of work, and most women undoubtedly have to enjoy actually doing it, or they wouldn’t bother just for the minimal (supposed) payout of some random dude hitting on them at a con) and because I like talking about making things, let’s explore the process of producing a convention costume, and how I go about it.
The first thing I do with any costume is decide exactly how I want it to look. In some cases, some of the look is up to my imagination, because I’m going as a literary character who has a basic description but no picture (see: the young Duchess of Quirm), or a mythical character who’s already been interpreted in umpteen different ways (see: the Absinthe Fairy); but when I work from a character who’s been visualized, I like to try to stick to the image and get the details right. Therefore, for Harley Quinn, I spent, oh, countless hours on Google searching for every picture I’d need to get an accurate costume supply list. In Harley’s case, this turned out to be seventeen pictures from all angles and with close-ups for detail; and about thirty pictures of how other people were interpreting the outfit as a costume, to give me construction ideas. Then I study the collection and list out the individual costume pieces needed and each detail of how they are made, including for accessories and make-up. For the Harley costume, this list totaled approximately twenty-seven items, several of which are very unique – a fairly complicated costume.
Step 2: The Hunt
Once I have my list, I need to make or find every item. Sometimes it’s easy – like buying white make-up, which is in every costume store. Sometimes it’s super-hard – like Harley Quinn’s complicated corset, which is hard to make and not similar to something you’d find anywhere else. Here’s how my quest for Harley’s bits and bobs is going:
The make-up is easy, and I’m about 2/3 finished with acquiring it. Since you can get all of it in places like Sephora or costume stores, I usually don’t worry about it first. The hair color and tattoos on the costume are harder; I’ve had to special-order colored hair spray, and am going to attempt to recreate the tattoos with a combination of rose temporary tattoos and face paint (since I couldn’t find any Joker temp tattoos that would work).
Harley’s clothes are pretty complicated. I knew from the start that the corset was beyond my skill to master in the time I had to try making it, so as soon as I settled on the costume, I searched around and found someone to custom make it – though I try to avoid that generally, because it can be pricey. As time went on I searched online for boots that matched the general cut of Harley’s and acquired them in black; to be adapted. I found a bra with the proper eyelet lace at yet another online store and speedily acquired it as well. For her pants and cropped top, I first thought to make them from whole cloth; then decided it would be easier to adapt ready-made clothes, and headed over to my favorite basic costuming bits store, American Apparel. There I acquired red and black tank tops and black leggings; to be adapted. I needed to get both shirt and pants from one store so the reds would be the same shade. Tragically, my local shop was out of the correct red pants. “No worries!” I thought. “I’ll just order them from the online store. Tragically again, though, the online store only had XS; which would be a pretty tight fit for me. Therefore it was back to the internets! until I managed to find what was apparently the one remaining pair in the proper size that would ship in time. Whew!
Harley’s accessories are a mix and match of easy and hard to gather. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t find leather cuffs with the correct pyramid studs; so I had to acquire the cuffs and studs separately. The gloves would be impossible to find ready-made, so instead I made a pilgrimage to JoAnn Fabrics, where I acquired bolts of the red and black pleather material from which the corset was made. The hair-ties will also be made from that. The buckled choker was found after much searching on Amazon, and had to be ordered twice after they ran out the first time. The belt chain was acquired at the craft store; and as I was writing this column I realized I hadn’t yet ordered the belt (oops!) and so went on over to get that (costume-making in real time!). Glad I’m writing this, or I might have left that bit until too late!
Step 3: Crafting
As you might guess, much of the above needs to be worked with or adapted to match Harley’s look. The pants and shirt are going to be hacked, slashed, and Frankensteined via experimentation into black/red combos; buttons from JoAnn’s will be added to the shirt, and the pants need diamonds, and have an additional weird brown belt-sort-of-thing that needs to be sewn on as well. The bra needs to be covered with the red and black pleather and stitched to match the image. The boots will be painted with fabric paint to match the color and design of Harley’s boots. Extra holes need to be added to the choker for proper fit. The pyramid-stud cuffs need to be assembled; and the gloves and hair-ties will be made entirely from scratch using the red and black pleather and elastic. In short – it’s a lot of work (but it will get done in time. I hope).
Step 4: Troubleshooting
It’s always a good idea to try on the whole shebang before a con. Inevitably, something will not fit right, or won’t look right, or the make-up won’t be the right color after all, or something will fall off, or…who-even-knows what. I always try on the whole costume when I’m done, and things still sometimes go screwy on the morning of a con. So it’s really good to try to prevent what you can with a pre-con trial run.
Step 5: VICTORY!
I shall wear my awesome costume to a con and be so proud. Woo-hoo!
Well! As can be seen from the above, costume-making can be fun, but is also time-consuming and complicated. The more I do it, the more I realize there are things I can still learn about how to do it better. I hope some of you other costume-y folks out there liked hearing about my process, and I’m always interested in learning how other people make their costumes, or any tips and tricks they may have. Feel free to share in the comments.
And as for those (frequently men) who’ve raised the argument about women costuming for sexual attention in the past, or still believe that it’s a single motivator for women who costume; read the above again, think about how much time and effort people put into making their costumes, and instead of assuming you know everything about everything or it’s All About You, have a little respect for their hard work, skills, and creativity.
Until next time: Servo Lectio!
TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis’s Milestones
WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold – Joe Kubert, Personally
I came at fandom costuming (or cosplay, or whatever term you want to go by) from a pretty sideways angle. The entire purpose of the first set of convention costumes I ever wore was to advertise, for three days straight, the first North American Discworld Convention, of which I was a co-founder, and which took place back in 2009.
(Side note: registration for NADWCon2013 is now open. Discworld fans: come to Baltimore next year and join the fun!)
All three of us co-founders were attending the 2008 UK Discworld Con, both to get an idea of how they ran their con (for the two of us who hadn’t been to a Discworld Con before) and to spread the word about our new con. The one co-founder who had been to the UK Con before happened to be a talented costumer – I mean the kind who can actually sew together outfits from scratch – and she convinced me that I should costume too, to call attention to our con and encourage UK attendees.
In the Discworld there’s a character named Moist von Lipwig (pronounced LipVIG, of course, for any ignorant heathens out there), and he wears a brilliant cloth-of-gold suit, both to look flash and get attention, and to represent, in the minds of the people of Ankh-Morpork (main city of Discworld) the avatar of the failing post office as he tries to pull it from the ruins of neglect and make it successful again. Therefore, my co-founder had decided that for maximum attention she should do a female version of this – an amazing cloth-of-gold-looking Victorian walking suit, patterned with the turtles I had designed for our convention symbol. She looked freakin’ amazing. As for me, I was, well, shall we say, a bit more lazy.
Nevertheless, at her prompting I decided to do something in gold to match her and garner us more attention as we walked around together, but to stay a little more within my costuming skill set (which was almost zero at that point). Think of something I could cobble together by just buying a bunch of stuff that somehow coordinated into a “costume.” Between the two of us we came up with the idea of me going around as a flashy “Band With Rocks In” groupie (a band featured in Soul Music, the first Discworld book I ever read); with a t-shirt of the Band that advertised their “North American Discworld Convention” world tour. This is how I ended up wearing gold go-go boots, gold fishnets, and a ridiculously short and tight gold miniskirt all over a convention for three days. Also gold leather jewelry. And a gold bag shaped like a guitar. Rock!
So, you know: the first time I ever costumed at a con I was flashy and I wore a tiny miniskirt and that was solely to get attention. For a convention, not for myself, but still. Why am I talking about this now? Because there have been, and continue to be, a lot of interesting discussions about women and costuming at comic cons and related geeky cons, and why we wear what we wear, and whether it’s for the love of the fandom, or the love of putting together awesome outfits, or to get attention for our skills, or to get attention as sex objects (the most prominent theory and/or wish fulfillment thought in circulation). And after reading this blog post and a number of related ones that discuss primarily the “sex object” angle, I feel this merits further discussion.
That so many people seem to think women have only one motivation for wearing convention costumes that happen to be “skimpy” or “sexy” or whatever bothers me and implies some pretty negative things about the way women are viewed in comics and geek fandom. Women are more complex than that, y’all. Really we are. We have many motivations for what we do, and they don’t all boil down to “trying to get some dude’s attention.” Assuming that the purpose of a woman wearing an attractive costume is solely to garner attention as a sex object also removes those women, in the minds of those making the assumption, from the general group of fans who are at the convention to geek out with other fans and have fun, and places them in another, dehumanizing category – things there just to be looked at. And sometimes, as geek gals just wanting to have awesome geek conversations with other fans, that really spoils our fun.
While I certainly don’t take issue with women who do wear skimpy outfits for male attention, or deny that as one motivation for such convention wear, I have great concern about the attitude, particularly in the already heavily male-centric comics fandom, that the purpose and/or function of women in costume is just to look hot for all the random dudes in the crowd.
I’m not pulling this attitude out of thin air. I’ve encountered it personally, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. For example, after telling a very nice guy friend (i.e. not a sexist jerk or something) that I was working on some costumes for the next con I attend, I was reminded that “sexy is popular.” When I joked that just for that comment, I was going to go dressed as a down comforter, he responded that this would be a waste for “all those guys looking at” me. But…see, awesome as my friend is, he was missing the point. I am not primarily costuming for “all those guys looking at me” (at least, not in that sense. I always like people appreciating the effort I put into a costume, of course). Nor is that something I should be required to do for my costume to be admired at a comic/fandom con. I mean, sure, I like my costumes to look attractive – I always like to look nice. And I’m not going to faint in shock if I’m walking around in a miniskirt and guys happen to approve. It’s a miniskirt. They’re guys. There’s a Pavlovian response at work there, and I’m not naïve about it.
Obviously I don’t want people to think I’m unattractive – who would? But my point is that when I sit down to create a costume, I’m not thinking, “…and then I’ll wear the short skirt, because guys think that’s hot.” No, if I wear the short skirt, it’s because, say, the skirt is authentic to the costume. Or it calls to mind the stereotype of a band groupie at a rock concert. Or it’s floofy, and I just love wearing floofy things. And that’s as it should be.
I can’t speak for the motivations of every female costumer out there, but just for kicks and education, let’s look briefly at the motivations behind a few of the costumes I’ve worn or will be wearing to cons that someone out there might assume I’m just wearing to get a guy’s attention. In numbered list format, because Deadpool approves of numbered lists.
1) Black Canary: I’ve worn a Black Canary costume for Halloween and Dragon*Con. If you’re somehow not familiar with Black Canary, her costume could certainly be stereotyped as something worn to get attention. I mean, for one thing, she doesn’t wear pants. Add to that a leotard, high-heeled black boots, and fishnets, and, yeah, I’d guess this counts as a “sexy” outfit. Why did I wear it? Simply put, I had two weeks to come up with something to wear for Halloween and I like Black Canary and suddenly realized I already owned 90% of what I’d need to be her. I’m lazy and cheap but I still like to costume Geek, even for Halloween. So I rounded up the stuff I already owned, bought a cheap cropped leather jacket and, voila! Instant costume.
2) The Absinthe Fairy: This isn’t a comics costume, but I’ve worn it for Discworld and Dragon*Con, and I love it to death. It features a lacy corset, a short floofy skirt, and bright green five inch platform heels. It’s inspired in vague part by the absinthe fairy in Moulin Rouge. Why did I wear it? Because I love that color of bright green, which prompted me to buy the bright green corset (curse my magpie reaction to pretty things!), which inspired me to come up with a costume for it, which had to be of the right period to fit with Discworld (think burlesque, not proper parlors). And I like fairy wings, because who doesn’t like fairy wings? Even the five inch heels were motivated by something other than wanting attention – they match the corset perfectly, and nothing else looked even remotely right.
3) Deadpool Cheerleader: This is one I’m putting together for an upcoming con. It will feature a very short cheerleading dress, because that is what cheerleaders wear. Not to wear something like that would negate the point of the costume. Why am I wearing it? A large number of people have suggested to me at various times that I costume as Deadpool, but I have zero desire to actually dress as the character. I’ve never wanted to be Deadpool – I just like to write him. However, after the umpteenth time someone suggested this to me, I thought about how I spend a lot of my comics-discussion-time as Deadpool’s unofficial cheerleader, and, well – sometimes I have a pretty simple sense of humor. So. Yeah.
4) Arkham City Harley Quinn: I’ve seen a lot of women complain that this version of Harley was designed solely to pander to the fanboys. She’s wearing leather pants, you can see her bra, she wears a belly-baring corset, etc., etc. I’m currently working on putting this costume together for a con. Why am I wearing it? Because Arkham City Harley Quinn looks like a badass punk who just doesn’t give a damn, yo. She looks pissed at the world and ready to do something about it. And if I could dress however I wanted to with no consequences (like totally getting fired), not gonna lie, sometimes I’d want to get up in the morning, put on studded wrist-cuffs and leather pants, and go out into the world angry and ready to kick some ass. Wouldn’t you?
Like I said, I don’t know what every costuming woman’s motivations might be. But take a look at the above, and I think you get my point. Behind every woman in costume, there could be any number of motivations for what she’s wearing, and they’re probably much more interesting than “looking hot.” So let’s discard the assumption that women in costume are just there to be ogled or looking for male attention and move on to the part where we’re all well-rounded personalities with many facets who like to have geek fun together, shall we? I think that’s an excellent plan.
It’s been almost twenty years since Batman: The Animated Series hit the airwaves and kicked off the doors of what could be done with the character and with animation in general and television animation in particular, in the wake of the successful Michael Keaton movies.
Ever wonder what it might be like if they made The Animated Series today, in the wake of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight? Perhaps it would be something like this…
Are you shopping for gamers this holiday season? If so, there are a lot of great comics based on some of today’s most popular video games. Here’s just a few comic gift ideas that are perfect for gamers:
BATMAN: ARKHAM UNHINGED — Go deeper into the world of ARKHAM CITY with BATMAN: ARKHAM UNHINGED. A weekly, original digital series based on the video games BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM and [[[BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY]]], each 10-page chapter ties directly in to the continuity of the game and follows your favorite characters through the bedlam. And don’t forget that the first ARKHAM digital comic series –BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY – is now available as a collected hard cover.
UNCHARTED — The critically acclaimed and best-selling PlayStation 3 video game jumps onto the comic page, featuring an all-new action-packed story written by Joshua Williamson (SUPERMAN/BATMAN) with fantastic covers by the legendary Tony Harris. It’s just in time for the newly released [[[Uncharted #3: Drake’s Deception]]]. (more…)
Every week it’s a visceral war for my attention: between using my time to produce articles, write or draw comics, complete freelance design projects, or be a lazy bastard. Not 12 feet from my Hacktintosh work station is my present to myself. A 46” HDTV, a Sega Saturn, my DVD collection, and an XBox 360. When I moved into my house last year, I put all these amazing toys in said man-cave so I would have a space where I could create, and reward myself when I was finished. Here I sit a year later…clickity-clacking away for you, the fine readers of ComicMix, my entertainment center gathering a thick layer of dust. And it strikes me that I’m toiling away nervously hoping that my words will excite and amaze you when I could be doing something much more important.
I could be saving Gotham City.
Earlier this month, Arkham City, the sequel to the hit video game Arkham Asylum, hit the store shelves. Presumably millions of copies found their way to similar basements as my own. When the game debuted, I decided to be an adult. I abstained. You see, I waited almost a year and a half to buy Arkham Asylum. I’d nabbed it in the used bin at a Gamestop over Hannukah last year. Since, I’d played it handful of times. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Never beat it though. And thus I gave myself every reason with which to remain stoic in my stance. I didn’t need a $60 investment in time wasting. I have articles to write! Comics to draw! A pregnant wife to attend to! A nursery to paint and organize! And I still haven’t beaten the first one!
That Friday, at the weekly Unshaven Comic work-night, my will grew weak. Matt entered my basement with a hearty “Dude, why don’t you have Arkham City yet?” I shook my head in a desperate plea. “Duuuuuuude!” My knees felt weak. Kyle descended into our dank pit of creativity next. “Hey guys. Marc, did you get it yet?” Damnit! I turned to a nearby die. I declared to my cohorts if I rolled a five or a six, I would get up straight away and get the damned thing. I chucked the six-sided keeper of fate to the floor. It skitted around the vinyl tile in a red blur. And there, staring back at our hopeful faces… one lowly dot. Fate, as it were, was giving me a message. “Stay strong.” Screw fate. I rolled it again. Two. Four. One again. Matt and Kyle chortled as lay on the cold floor, forever mocked by my lack of fortune.
The following week, the work-night began as it had the last. “Dude?! Now?!” No, Matt. I had to pay the mortgage and bills. I can’t be tossing away my cash all the time. I bought books this week anyways. Kyle came down, a rustle of plastic tucked between his arm and body. “Well, I got it!” Poop. We worked hard for an hour or so. Set some dates for conventions we’ll attend next year. We bitched to one another about our printer problems. And like a beacon light guiding us away from our duties as creators… Bruce Wayne called out. “My Unshaven Lads! The hammers of justice are yearning to strike down the nails of tyranny. Only you three can unleash my vengeance upon the night! C’mon, just watch the introduction story!”
A hour later we forced the game off. We pried it from my disk tray. We sealed it back inside its plastic Pandora’s box. With the night ending, Kyle whisked the game from my house, and my life. I could always borrow it when he’s finished, I told myself. I’m plenty busy anyways.
That Sunday, Kyle and Matt returned to record our podcast. Kyle entered with a knowing smirk. “Gas pellets, Marc. Gas. Pellets.” No. “Seriously. You get them like right after the part when we turned the game off. You get the gas pellets.” And you can throw them to the ground, and then fire off your grappling gun, and zip away in a puff of smoke? “Oh yeah. And the game is an open world this time, so you could just go around doing that, and beating up thugs for hours.”
Kyle didn’t even get a chance to finish that sentence before the wisps of my Brut aftershave left a Marc-sized silhouette where I was sitting.
And here I am, finishing up this little tale of woe for you. The game sits on the desk next to me, unopened. It’s been sitting there since I brought it home last Sunday. Between interviews for ComicMix, my day job, drawing the next installment of TheSamurnauts and finding time to sleep, I’ve yet to crack it open. The anticipation at this point is unsettling. I’ve considered hugging people with the flu in hopes of having a legitimate reason to call in sick.
But who am I kidding? Even when I’m sick I log on to do my day job out of guilt and fear I’ll be missed. And I love drawing and writing comics. And interviewing Will Meungiot this week? It was like a 60 minute conversation with the friend I wish I’d had years ago. Maybe I’m just a masochist. Like Bruce Wayne. Bruce. … What’s that Bruce? Gotham City is overrun with gangsters, psychopaths, and malevolent psychologists hells bent on overtaking the city and exposing your secret to the world? Only I can help you?
In what may be the really profitable digital strategy for DC, Batman: Arkham City, the critically acclaimed sequel to Batman: Arkham Asylum from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Rocksteady Studios has become the Highest Reviewed Video Game of 2011 on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, and has shipped more than 4.6 million units worldwide since its October 18 launch in North America.
These sales figures are more than double the number of units the previous title sold in the same time period, and has already solidified the games rank as a contender for one of the top-selling titles of this year. Also, the game currently stands as the highest reviewed PS3 and 360 game of this year on Metacritic.com with average scores of 96 and 95 respectively.
Building on the intense atmosphere and story from the original game, Batman: Arkham City drops players into a section of Gotham, shut off from the main city, and over run by the inmates of the former asylum. Gangs wage war against each other and a new threat looms to take over Gotham as a whole. Cameos from Catwoman, Two-Face and more from Batman’s Rogues Gallery litter every single scene in the game, and coupled with the excellent storytelling, make it one of, if not the best superhero game ever. Look for our review in a day or two.