Category Archives: First Issue

Trails

I woke up last night at 3:30 AM and could no longer sleep. Sometimes, my brain does this: it suddenly has a question, and its curiosity must be appeased before anything else happens.

In this case, the question is one that had already been bugging me for a few days: when did I actually meet Marcus Almand for the first time? In my remembrance of him, I noted that I remembered meeting him in the autumn several years ago, either during Diversicon weekend or Arcana weekend. It bothered me that I couldn’t exactly remember when that was. Evidently, it bothered me enough that it woke me up at 3:30 AM two days later.

So there I was, digging around in my social media trails at 3:30 AM. Livejournal had the answer.

I met Marcus on Friday, October 17th, 2008. It was Arcana weekend.

Marcus passed away on Sunday night, which was October 20th, 2013. Also Arcana weekend. I’d known him for almost exactly five years.


I remember a quote from the painter Francis Bacon: “I would like my pictures to look as if a human being had passed between them, like a snail leaving its trail of the human presence… as a snail leaves its slime.”

I realize it’s a bit gross to bring up snail mucus at this point, but that quote has been rolling around in my head this week. People leave their imprint long after they are gone.

Marcus spent a lot of time at my home over the last five years. Right now, just seeing my own furniture brings up his memory. I’d been hoping to get rid of my threadbare floral print couch for months, but now all I see is him sitting on it during our First Issue episodes. At Movie Night this week, Will asked if we should leave his spot on the futon open, and the room fell quiet as the feeling of loss ran deep.

Likewise, I can dig online, like I just did, to turn up a myriad of memories. I know that on October 17, 2008, I introduced Marcus to Bryan Thao Worra, and they became friends. It was the same day I met F. Paul Wilson for the first time. It was the same day I ran into Bob Subiaga for the first time in six years.

Or I can look online at Marcus’ own social media entries, and read his own words like he were still here. Or I can see him, living and breathing, in all those First Issue videos.


Perhaps the strangest thing at the moment is that Fes Works hasn’t yet edited and posted all of the First Issue episodes yet. There are still four episodes we did with Marcus that are not yet online. It’s like the inertia of Marcus’ world has not yet stopped, even though Marcus himself is now gone.

Farewell, Marcus.

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Marcus Almand, Fes Works, and myself during an outtake on First Issue.

It is with great sadness that I type these words: my friend Marcus lost a battle with cancer on Sunday night.

I met Marcus a few years ago. We were both on a comics panel at the St. Paul Public Library along with several other local comics folk. I remember it was a rainy autumn weekend, and we were all huddled together in the dry, bright light of the library while the gloom outside made it feel much later in the day. I remember that the panel was fun, and Marcus and I struck up a conversation afterward. I said I was headed to a small geek convention in St. Paul (I can’t remember if it was Diversicon or Arcana). He thought it sounded fun, so he tagged along.

Ever since, Marcus was a frequent guest in my home. He’d wander over for bi-weekly movie nights, art nights, and various other gatherings. One of my fondest memories with him was when he was the only person to show up for a double-feature of Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo and Les Blank’s Burden of Dreams, two films that neither of us had seen before. Our laughter and squeals of disbelief echoed through my apartment building.

Marcus was a comics writer. During social gatherings, he’d often sit on my couch with a notebook, scribbling down ideas and writing scripts. Over the years, we had many long conversations about how the comics industry treated non-white, non-male, and non-straight folks, both inside the funnybooks and inside the business.

Marcus was fun and funny. He’d easily get so excited about stuff that he’d trip over words, like the ideas were spilling out faster than he could talk.

FirstIssueIn 2011, Fes Works hatched an idea, and approached the two of us. He wanted to do a video podcast called First Issue, where the three of us would review the first issue releases of comics. The project had an interesting dynamic for a review show: one non-white comics professional (Marcus), one female comics professional (myself), and one person who had never read comic books before (Fes). I’m not sure if the final result was as interesting as that premise, as we are all really awkward human beings on camera. However, we had a lot of fun making the videos, and we ate a lot of good pizza after.

Marcus learned he had cancer during the run of the videos. You can see his body transform in the later episodes.

After Marcus recovered from his first operation, Fes and I took him out to the movies. Both The Avengers and Cabin in the Woods had been released while he was in the hospital, so we had a grand ol’ Joss Whedon binge. That day was a lot of fun.

He seemed to be in pretty good shape after that. He was walking around, attending movie nights, traveling, laughing, and pretty much enjoying life as normal. He didn’t eat the same, and he seemed a little more tired than usual, but that was to be expected.

That changed a few weeks ago. He’d gone to New York to try an experimental operation of some sort. Whatever happened out there did not go well. He walked into New York City. He couldn’t walk on his own anymore when he left.

I visited him in the hospital several times over the last two weeks. I was there almost every other day, and the change in his health each time was dramatic. I’ve lost several family members to cancer, and I’ve seen it before: suddenly, there’s just an internal cascade, and the body starts shutting down. By the last time I saw him, he could barely talk; he just asked me to babble at him and distract him, and babbling is what I did. I feel bad that the last time I saw him was filled with minutiae of my own life.

His dad tells me that he kept his sense of humor right up to the very end, though. I’ll always remember his humor and vitality.

Today, I’m finding comfort in the blooper reels from First Issue. They’re just video of Marcus, Fes, and me laughing at ourselves for being clumsy, awkward dorks. #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6

I’ll miss you, Marcus.

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Thank You, CONvergence

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Last weekend was bonkers.

It’s bonkers every year for me, because CONvergence always happens on/near the 4th of July weekend each year. As I’ve described previously in this blog, CONvergence is a sci-fi/fantasy smorgasbord convention that erupts yearly in Minneapolis, MN. This year was the convention’s 15th iteration, and it was packed to the gills with somewhere between 6,000 and 7,000 colorful, fun, creative, silly, smart, and otherwise awesome people.

This was also the 15th year I’ve been involved with the convention at some level. Every year, it finds new ways to surprise me. The reason the convention continues to grow is because of the amazing people who make it happen and who make it fun. I am only a tiny cog in this network; CONvergence is a true testament to what can be accomplished by a few hundred creative people who want to host a really rippin’ great event.

I was on twenty panels in four days. I could never have survived such a thing without the help of a lot of people.

Buckle up, kids, this will be a long ride.

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CONvergence Is Imminent!

CVG2013logoOne of the things consuming my life lately is CONvergence 2013, which will invade on July 4th and then continue through the weekend. CONvergence is the 800-pound gorilla of Minnesota conventions, where an expected 7,000 people will show up and proceed to nerd out, dress up, and boogie down until the whole thing vanishes again like Brigadoon.

CONvergence is my “home” convention. I started attending sci-fi conventions back in the early 1990s with Minicon, which back then was the equivalent 800-pound Minnesotan gorilla. I did some volunteering with Minicon, but it wasn’t until CONvergence started up and inherited the giant-convention mantle from Minicon in 1999 where I really started spending time contributing to the community. I’ve spent a lot of time making tiny segments of CONvergence go, in various capacities: party host, co-head of parties, video team lackey, publications minion, badger, panelist, money counter, general gadfly.

These days, I’m mostly just a panelist. But oh, do they ever put me to work!

Last year, I broke the CONvergence record by sitting on 20 panels in one year. This year, I said I was going to take it easy, so I wound up cutting my schedule down from 22 panels back down to 20. Ah, the easy life!

Thus, if you spend any time in a random panel room at CONvergence next week, there is something like a 5% overall chance I’ll be talking at you for an hour. It seems like a 20-panel slate would make for a larger percentage, but that’s just a testament to just how much amazing stuff happens at CONvergence every year. And that’s just panels. That doesn’t count the parties and the dances and the dealers room and the art show and Paul Cornell teaching everyone in the parking lot how to play cricket. (Okay, the Paul Cornell thing actually is on the panel schedule, but I think you get my point.)

Anyway, if you actually want to catch me at CONvergence and say hello (and you should!), here’s where you can find me:

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Accumulation of Activities

I have been ridiculously busy as of late. In a nutshell, here’s what I’ve been up to:

webcomic_341The Webcomic Beacon: A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to lend my film expertise to a recording of The Webcomic Beacon podcast about James Bond. The episode also features comic artist Rich Morris, who does webcomics about gaming, Dr. Who, and now James Bond.
kongAnimation Aficionados: I was also asked to lend my film expertise to the Animation Aficionados podcast about the original 1933 version of King Kong. The episode was recorded about a week before Ray Harryhausen passed away, so I unfortunately spend part of the episode waxing poetic about the fact that he was still alive. Still, that shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying giant stop-motion gorillas.
TGL LogoThe Geek Life: The Geek Life podcast is nearing its 200th episode! A few weeks ago, we also started recording the show live online, via Google Hangouts. If you are free on Tuesday nights around 8:00pm Central Time, you can watch us nerd-out in live video. Just watch the show’s Twitter feed or Google+ page for the weekly link. If you want to comment at us while we are recording, use the #thegeeklifetv hashtag on Twitter. You can also see us live — as in, live live — at CONvergence.
Drinking with GeeksDrinking with Geeks: The new Drinking with Geeks podcast is now running full-steam ahead! Four episodes are up, and more are on their way. If you are a Twin Cities local and want to join in the Drinking with Geeks social hour and see the podcast recorded live, simply show up at the Bryant Lake Bowl at the appointed time. (Watch the web site for dates and times.) Also, if you are attending CONvergence this 4th of July weekend, you will be able to see the usual gladiatorial Drinking with Geeks panel, followed by a brand-new experiment called Hungover with Geeks.
KillerBsThe Killer B’s Improv Movie Show: The Killer B’s show will also be back at CONvergence this year! Once again, you will be able to watch in awe as improv comedians, musicians, and a sound effects artist create a brand-new live soundtrack for films they have never seen before.
PowerPoint KaraokePowerPoint Karaoke: This PowerPoint Karaoke season is wrapping up! Our last Bryant Lake Bowl show until the autumn will be on Thursday, May 30th. After that, we will be returning to CONvergence to use up all the slides that are simply too nerdy for a general audience. Show up at either venue to watch improv comedians give PowerPoint presentations about slides they have never seen before.
FirstIssueFirst Issue: The First Issue video podcast continues to chug along, and more updates are on their way. You will also be able to see the show recorded live at CONvergence, as we interview Mark Stegbauer about his work and take a look at his very first comics inking gig.
CVG2013logoCONvergence: Speaking of CONvergence, it looks like I will be on around 20 panels again this year. Madness! Once the schedule is firmed up, I will make a separate post of what is going on and where.
soundandfoleyThe Sound and the Foley: My new blogging endeavor, The Sound and the Foley, is up and running strong! It seems that other folks are as fascinated by memetic sound as I am. I have a list of blog post ideas as long as my arm, so it seems I will have no shortage of material to write about.
CollegeOfCuriosityThe College of Curiosity Conference: Finally, I will be speaking at the Conference of Curiosity in Chicago, IL on May 25th, on the subject of The Sound and the Foley project. The other speakers are folks like Hal Bidlack and magician Dennis Watkins, so if you’re in the Chicago area, you should feed your curiosity and join us!