Introduction to comics (when you are intimidated by them!) Part 1

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Are you are intimidated by comics? Don't worry, so am I! Although I am much better now than I used to be, skirting around Forbidden Planet with eyes to the floor, I still get moments of 'imposter syndrome' where it just makes the experience more uncomfortable than it needs to be. So what should you do? This is part one of a two part blog post helping you to get started with comics. This week will be general tips on finding what you might like and how to combat that feeling of 'I shouldn't be doing this/I shouldn't be here'. Next week is a selection of comics that are perfect introductions. Justing putting it out there, I am by no means an expert and I have found my usual taste in comics; but hopefully the little things I have found helpful may be helpful to you too :).

Firstly, let's begin by becoming more familiar with some common terminology; knowing what you are asking or looking for can make all the difference!

Comics or comic books generally cover all genres and styles. The thinner styles are individual issues and are released most commonly as weekly, fortnightly or monthly publications. When the story is wrapped up in a standalone issue, this is a one shot. Multiple issues are called a series and often collected together in trade paperbacks as a cost and space effective option. These trade paperbacks are often in volumes and series may have multiple volumes. Think of these like your bonus DVD, they will often come with extras such as concept art, stories of development and a collection of cover art. It'll be easy to spot as they are all numbered with each volume following a story arc. The story arc is simple, it is the whole narrative tale that spans multiple individual issues. When multiple volumes are collected together, these are called a compendium. These weighty tomes are often quite expensive and sometimes includes pages printed in black and white when they were originally in colour. When a story is published in a book style first, this is a graphic novel (e.g. Scott Pilgrim) and can be stand alone or be part of a series. Many people now are turning to comics in a digital manner using sites such as comixology and humble bundle that can be read on e-reader devices. This is a great idea as a cost effective option, to collect a long running series or for when you are travelling. 
Comiconverse
Manga reflects the Asian style in art, publication and narrative style; often from Japan, Korea and China. The Golden Age of comics is the time between 1930/1940s. The Silver Age of comics are those published between 1950s/1960s. The Bronze Age are those from 1970-1985. Those from 1985 onward are called the Modern Age. These ages are good to know as they impact what kind of comics you are looking for and which bags and boards you need. Comic bags and boards are used to keep individual comics clean and protected. To further protect comics they can be placed in comic boxes.

Publishers:

The Big 6: Marvel, DC, Top Cow, Image, Dark Horse and MAD.

Those outside the big 6 are deemed independent titles.

If you need a further breakdown (especially with roles within comic production, see this post by Free Comic Book Day Website)

Finding Comics:

Geek and Sundry
So now you know a little bit of the lingo and how publishers are split, let's take a look how to find something you may enjoy.

1. Go to your local library

Yes, if you are not aware, in the UK libraries often now have a good selection of comics, especially main community libraries, and have a digital database for a larger selection of digital titles. I read the whole series of Fables like this and it is good to have a browse in an environment that may not feel as intimidating as a comic book shop or stall. It is perfect to find out what you might like without having to invest money.

2. Start with films, TV shows and games that you enjoy

Series that link with films, TV and games are a good way to feel like you are not a complete newbie. You will already be familiar with the world and characters so reading the story should be easier than trying to get to grips with a whole new world. Examples include Star Wars, Tomb Raider, Mass Effect and James Bond 007. Often, these are published by Dark Horse but can be with others. From here, you can find artists and writers that you like and find out what other publications they have contributed towards.

For the biggies of Marvel and DC, if you enjoy Thor or Wonder Woman, have a Google to see which series are recommended (and check that you are able to read them as a stand alone without feeling like you have missed out on too much) or take the latest complete series of that title. Especially for long running titles, there are often multi-verses and spinoffs and can be overwhelming. Sometimes the historical content can be a little hard to get into, so at the start stick to the latest ones unless a particular series is highly rated.
Polygon
3. Ask friends, YouTube and/or Twitter

If you have friends who are even mildly into comics, ask them what did they start with and any that they recommend. Also follow comic readers on twitter, they'll frequently tweet out what they are reading or recently bought and you can add them to your list. Very often for me, I'll get attracted by the cover art and want to know more about it. I found out about Monstress this way, a title I would have never seen unless I was just flicking though my wonderful twitter timeline of geekness! Another good source is YouTube with channel highlights such as comicstorian, comics explained and comicgirl19 who will do reviews and in regard to comicstorian, summarise whole series. So if you are struggling a story or not sure you'd like it, you can check it out first! If you are getting lost in a timeline, comics explained is your man.

4. Use your hobbies and interests as a starting point

Here comes almighty Google, just type in something you are interested in and 'comic' and see what comes up. Some might be hit or miss, but you'll get a feel for what is out there based upon themes and issues you are interested in.

5. Buck up the courage and ask.

If you are particularly nervous, go by the few tips mentioned previously. Once you have a feel of what comics are and what is available, you should find it easier to ask the person behind the counter what they'd recommend based on x,y,z that you have enjoyed or to have a browse in boxes at comic con. Sometimes, a personal recommendation is one of the best and at the end of the day, a good fan wants others to enjoy the same thing. Not to circle it off in an elitist manner.

So I hope this has been a good read for you, if you have any more tips or suggestions, please leave them below in the comments or tweet me @Lady_Scion. Coming up next is a selection of my favorite comics and suggestions on titles to start with.



   

CosDown 4: Falling Out of Love with Cosplay

Nina, aka Mango Sirene, released a video this week titled "Let's Talk about Cosplay (and the reason why I left). If you haven't watched it yet you can find it HERE, it is a much watch for any cosplayer; in particular those who are making money from the hobby. It is done in a podcast style format and it almost three hours long with a few technical issues; however it is well worth a listen (set speed to 1.25 to help with lag).

Nina is one of my favourite cosplayers, one that helped me through periods of unemployment, sadness and low motivation. I won't lie, just by watching the videos I wished I could be as organised as she was and attend all the wonderful looking US conventions. I looked forward to the con vlogs and still believe it is the best all round entertainment cosplay channel. Yet as the recent video discussed, beneath everything Nina had some serious mental health issues complete with feelings of failure and guilt. She had fallen out of love with not just with cosplay, but also with life.

Tharja/Mango Sirene/J Wai Design
I think this feeling, to varying degrees, is something every cosplayer will face during their time creating. I know I certainly have many times. Life often becomes a priority, rightfully so, and knowing when to cut back is as important as know when to push yourself. Of course I'd love to have a new costume for every con, do loads of photoshoots and run a YouTube channel; but I just don't have the time. As I cosplay mainly video game characters, I often feel the need to complete the game I'm cosplaying because shock, horror, what if someone quizzes me on the convention floor? What if they find out I'm a 'fake'? However, a lot of the time it is either a. play the game or b. make some of the costume during my free time. Running an Etsy store also means sometimes I don't feel like working on my own costumes because my free time is helping other people create theirs! Which is lovely, but not good for your own development when you get burned out before you get to personal projects.

So what do you do when you fall out of love with cosplay? I don't need to describe what it feels like, as well as being personal, you'll know when you hit that plateau. Also do not feel guilty or shameful if you need to take a break or quit altogether. For most of us, it is a hobby, and you need to put yourself as a person first. Hobbies are supposed to be enjoyable, sometimes challenging of course, but activities where you can foster personal interests no matter how niche or strange. Here are a few tips that may help:

1. Change how you work.

Nina mention how she has given up con crunch, if a costume isn't finished for a convention then so be it. I too have adopted this thought for a few years now because I'd rather just enjoy making the costume rather than doing a half-arsed job just so it is finished for a con. Changing how you work may mean re-wearing more costumes or scheduling in a few chunks of the week where you can work on your costumes guilt free. Remember you control your hobby, not the hobby controlling you.

2. Take a break but stay creative

If everything feels overwhelming. Do not feel guilty for taking a break for a week, a month or even years. Focus on something else; play some games that are in your backlog, write that book you always wanted to or maybe paint. Sometimes being creative in a different way helps you to get over an overall flop.

3. Switch off social media

The internet is great for cosplay, seeing what other people have made is such great inspiration in addition to tutorials and CMVs. However, there also comes the drama and pressure to live up to everyone else on the social media feeds. So switch off and ignore what others are doing for a while. Not only will you be avoiding some toxic vibes but also might be able to focus and enjoy your own creations because you are not comparing your progress to everyone else.

Do you have any more tips when someone falls out of love with cosplay? Leave them in the comments below or tweet me!


My Mum Passed Away

I'm sat here, thinking, why the hell am I writing this on my blog? This blog is filled with cosplay, gaming and generally fun stuff. As the title gives the topic away, yes, I have lost my Mum, on Saturday 22nd 2017 aged 60. A Mum who meant the world to me, who has been my carer when I was little and as the years went by I became her carer. I'm writing this here, because as a previous avid diarist (my whole teenage and early twenties are documented, not sure if that is a positive thing!) writing things out is damn cathartic and I have mentioned in passing my Mum, and my role as a carer via social media. It was how I got into cosplay in the first place because it was a creative outlay and a break away from caring. My Mum was also so proud of my costumes and loved seeing them, as best she could. She was registered blind, I'm not sure how much she actually saw, but I gave her props to feel and she used to always say it looked nice before realising yet another costume was covered in blood! Along with my Nana, she taught me the joys of creating, from fabric to wood; my Mum was the person in the household with a toolbox! So, why not write a little bit here? Maybe a fellow cosplayer, gamer or carer who lost their Mum might find some comfort in this post; if that happens then that is more than I can ask for. For now, I just want to write.

My Mum wasn't always so ill, although she had medical issues from as far back as I can remember. Undergoing a triple heart bypass in 2002, I became used to my Mum attending and staying in hospital. She also never hid death from me and much to some people's dismay, we would have some pretty morbid conversations! However I did always tell her off for keeping a spare sympathy card alongside the birthday cards! This attitude has helped immensely, even though it is still so hard right now. For me, it is the half eaten things, the half used shower gels, the bag just dropped on the floor, the single mini tin of beans that I had to buy because she refused to eat Heinz beans like every one else. The house feels paused, it is hard to know what to do with 'things'.

As a carer, my life became woven with my Mum's and suddenly being broken out of that routine is quite strange. Only now do I realise how many times I wrote essays and fan fiction, read journal articles and drank coffees during hospital appointments and stays. Gaming and the internet became not only an escape, but also became a way where I could build skills while still staying within a space where if I were needed, I could be there. I wrote a blog post over " Liverpool Girl Geeks" that showed how I did that. My Mum never really got gaming, but she would always try to understand what was going on, as long as there wasn't too much shooting! Very often, once I finished a game, I would tell her what the story was, she was particularly interested in Life is Strange and they were nice moments we shared. She also introduced me to Pokémon because she saw all the other kids playing with Gameboys and talking about the anime. Though she probably didn't expect to still be buying me Pokémon games for Christmas almost 20 years later! 

What I have noticed quite prominently is how people grieve differently; and how different styles of grieving can clash. All I can say on that is try to be away of other people and try to not enforce your style upon others. I felt terrible that although my Mum only passed away a week ago, that I still wanted to go to Manchester MCM Comic Con. I just wanted to work on costumes and do my PhD annual progress meeting. For me, I felt I should stay at home, but I knew that wasn't what I wanted to do and I know my Mum would have been mad if I didn't go! So yes, I did go to comic con on Saturday and had a lovely day alongside fellow cosplayers and meeting up with people I only see a few times a year. On the Sunday, I stayed with my Dad; we both appreciated how each other grieved and worked it out so we could both get what we wanted. This made is much easier to deal with.

So what now? Of course, a 'new normal' is now starting to emerge. But I am also appreciating the amount of experiences and things to look forward to, even if I don't know what they are yet. My Mum taught me to find pleasure in the small things, so I am going to sign off this post with the wise words of Albus Dumbledore:


Thank you :) and I'll be writing again soon x

CosDown 3: Creating Your Cosplay Handle



I'm sure you have seen around the internet the handles of fellow cosplayers; whether that be '[blank] cosplay', [blank's] closet or any other amalgamation of cosplays and fandoms! But why do cosplayers have them? And how do you create one of your own?

First of all, you do not need a cosplay handle if you do not want one. Especially if your cosplay exploits are kept strictly to conventions with no interest in sharing. Also if you want to use your real name, then that too is completely fine; many people do.

So why have a cosplay handle?

1. They have become part of the community and one of the first questions someone may have while at a convention is 'how can I find you online? or 'how can I tag you in pictures'? So you are not sharing out personal accounts, a cosplay handle with a related social media account helps to get your pictures back to you and helps for arranging photoshoots and meet ups.

2. Privacy. Using a cosplay handle means you never need to provide your full name. Even in competitions, you can ask for your cosplay handle to be announced rather than your name. If you are sharing photos, in particular if you have a professional job, it keeps everything separated. Sure people can piece together accounts, but it makes it just that little bit harder.

3. It helps you to stand out and create a brand if you are pursuing cosplay as a way to bring in an income. I'm not even talking about full-time cosplay here; even if you plan on creating cosplay YouTube videos, having a cosplay handle aids your visibility on the web for your costumes.

4. They are quite fun! They can also hint at the kind of cosplays you do or what fandoms you associate with.

So how do you make one?

There are no hard and fast rules to creating a cosplay handle. I came up with 'Lady Scion' from using Tomb Raider as my inspiration (as that is my main cosplay fandom) so Scion comes from Tomb Raider 1. The Lady part comes from being inspired by 'Lady Noctis' who was one of the first cosplayers I followed on social media and from Lara being a Lady herself. So double the Tomb Raider! My aim was to hint, but not be obviously linked to Tomb Raider because I knew I'd be doing other cosplays and didn't want to pigeonhole myself. So no 'Crofts'! This is a good thing to keep in mind when creating your handle, you may be obssessed with 'Undertale' for example, but will you still be doing this as your main cosplay in two, three years? Here are a couple of points to keep in mind if you are stuck while creating your cosplay handle:

1. Keep it fairly neutral, it is better to hint at an association rather than directly link.  

2. Take inspiration from what you like in everyday life, mash words together, see what works! 

3. Write many names down, you'll know when one just stands out from the rest.

4. Spend some time looking at other cosplayer names, how they are formed and how it works on social media platforms. 

5. Make sure it is pronounceable and easy to spell. I've only just found out the multiple ways of saying 'Scion'. Don't make my mistake! But at least reading you can say it however you like!

6. Don't panic if you feel like nothing fits. It will come in time!

7. Once you have found a name you like, Google to make sure that it hasn't already been taken or links to something unsavory that you wouldn't like to appear when people may be searching for your cosplay. 

8. Likewise, avoid trademarks and copyrighted names. Just in case!  

9. Finally, make sure you like it. Seems simple to say but this is something that attaches to you and your work. So make it something that is special to you.

Finally, MangoSirene also has a fantastic video about cosplay handles that is well worth a watch :)
 
And you are done! Hopefully this has helped and I look forward to seeing all you fabulous cosplayers with your fabulous handles on social media :)! You can find me on Twitter @Lady_Scion if you have any questions.