From the 13th Doctor to Black Panther’s Shuri, these geeky costumes put a spell on you

Halloween is two weeks away, geek girls. Have you sorted out what you’re going to wear yet?

Whether you’re searching for that perfect ensemble, totally stuck, or seeking inspiration, don’t panic. There’s still time to order something awesome or, if you’re feeling ambitious and creative, put an outfit together yourself.

To help, we’ve assembled a list of killer costume ideas based on the latest trends in pop culture and fandoms.

But first … ladies, this is what some major retailers think you should be stepping out in this Halloween:

What Mandalorian mischief is this? A sexy Boba Fett costume? We’d rather be swallowed by the Sarlacc than be caught dead in this monstrosity …

… Or this “sexy” goldfish costume. What even is this?

… Or the “Riveting Rosie.” No, I am not making this up. You can actually buy this from Target. Rosie’s rolling in her grave.

Seriously, though, you don’t have to go to the Halloween party or take your kid trick or treating dressed as a sexy water-dwelling pet or a tarted-up mockery of an American history icon.

If you really want to get your geek on this All Hallow’s Eve — and keep your dignity intact — read on for some wicked dress-up ideas.

The 13th Doctor of BBC’s beloved Doctor Who series recently made her American television debut. Even before that, however, she was shattering glass ceilings and making fashion statements. Star Jodie Whittaker’s wardrobe has caused quite a stir. It’s sure to be many a geek girl’s go-to costume this year.

Fortunately, Her Universe has already done the work of putting this timey-wimey ensemble together for you. You can find No. 13’s signature rainbow T-shirt, trench coat, and high-waist pants here.

A certain trio of witchy sisters were on our list last year, but we had to resurrect them because the 1993 Disney movie Hocus Pocus has been getting a whole lot of love in 2018 with fresh merchandising campaigns, film screenings, and rumors of a sequel. Whether you go as Winifred, Sarah, or Mary Sanderson, you’re sure to cast the right spell.

Another spooky 1993 Disney classic is enjoying an outpouring of fan appreciation as it celebrates its 25th anniversary. The Nightmare Before Christmas continues to enchant moviegoers with its macabre charm.

This Jack Skellington Blazer and Sally Sweater Dress make the perfect pairing for a couple’s costume. Let’s be real, ladies. You know you could rock either or both of these looks.

Our collective pop cultural imagination continues to be captivated by superheroes, which means we’re going to be seeing many, many spandex bodysuits, capes, masks, and generally badass comic book-inspired get-ups again this Halloween.

If you’re still riding the girl-power high of the Captain Marvel trailer, you may want to suit up as Carol Danvers, the first Marvel superheroine to get her very own movie.

Or keep it casual with this stunning jacket modeled on Princess Sparklefist’s dramatic red, blue, and gold look.

If we were running a popularity contest for superheroes, Wakandan tech genius/princess Shuri would win, hands-down. We’re going to be seeing a lot of little — and not-so-little — Shuris strutting their stuff come Halloween night.

He snapped his fingers and dusted half our favorite residents of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but for some reason fans are weirdly into Thanos, the purple, mass-murdering villain of Avengers: Infinity War. Thanos may be a dude, but we’d like to see some Lady Thanoses don the Infinity Gauntlet and bask in its ultimate power, too.

Ryan Reynolds may be the star of Deadpool 2, but Zazie Beetz practically stole the movie out from under the Merc with the Mouth, as lady luck herself. If you’re looking to buy a Domino costume, sadly, there’s not much out there that’s affordable.

Why not embrace a challenge and put her black-leathered-up look together yourself? (Bonus points if you go as the Domino, pictured below, of Marvel’s recent comic book run penned by Gail Simone.)

Everybody’s favorite family of supers returned to the big screen this year in Incredibles 2. Elastigirl, Mr. Incredible, Violet, Dash, Jack-Jack … any member of the clan would make for excellent, spandex-clad costuming options. Personally, we’d go with irresistible fashion maven Edna Mode. Don’t make us beg, dahling.

Jack Rowand/The CW

If you’re more of a DC girl than Marvel or Disney, The CW’s Arrowverse is a good place to start when looking for superheroic costume inspiration. We’re partial to Black Canary .

Try as you might, it’s probably pointless to fight that insatiable urge you’re feeling to dress up as one of Disney’s countless adored characters. After all, it’s Walt’s world and we’re just living in it.

With Mary Poppins Returns headed to theaters in December, starring Emily Blunt, looking practically perfect in every way, it’s the perfect time to don this perennial costume favorite. You could go classic or put together you’re own ensemble inspired by Blunt’s smart new update.

For no-fuss princess looks that mean you won’t have to stumble over a mountain of petticoats all night, look no further than Her Universe’s new Destination Disney Collection and its adorable takes on Jasmine, Rapunzel, Tiana, Ariel, Mulan, and Moana.

Maybe forget princesses, though. Disney villains, like Malificent and Ursula, are the folks who are really having a moment.

And it wouldn’t be Halloween without Star Wars, but if you’re looking for an alternative to the typical generic Jedi, Darth Vader, and Kylo Ren duds, here are two more playful options:

This Lando Calrissian cape may be designed for men, but there’s no reason the ladies can’t rock the smooth-talking smuggler’s fabulous style.

We’re also loving this understated but amazing Clone Wars Ahsoka Tano Dress. The matching scarf appears to be sold out, which is too bad because it’s the perfect finishing touch.

If you’re a gamer, you’ll want to slip into the skin of one of your favorite digital avatars.

There’s always Fortnite’s oh-so-pink Cuddle Team Leader or Mercy from Overwatch.

If Fallout’s your game of choice, a Vault Suit’s a safe bet, while fans of the new Shadow of the Tomb Raider can easily assemble their own ensemble from the versatile pieces in Her Universe’s tie-in fashion collection.

If you’re creating a costume based on your favorite fandom, you might want to check out Elhoffer Design. The online geek fashion business specializes in well-crafted pieces you can mix and match to recreate pop culture-inspired looks, from Star Wars, to Game of Thrones, to Marvel, to Harry Potter, and more.

Elhoffer’s Magical Midi Wrap Dress, pictured above, comes in several colors and is the perfect jumping-off point for whipping up characters from princesses to wizards and beyond. Check out the website for more ideas.

Another great source for crafting your own costume — especially a Harry Potter-themed outfit or witchy dress-up — is the Magically Made for Couture for Every Body line from Pinup Girl Clothing. The skirts, capelets, and dresses could have been made for a moonlit night at Hogwarts.

Show off your Halloween style! Send us photos of yourself in your geeky Halloween costume and we might post them on social media. Email pics to lavendervroman@gmail.com. 

Photos: Target, Amazon, Her Universe, Spirit Halloween, skycostume.com, Marvel, Disney, halloweencostumes.com, Party City, Elhoffer Design, Pinup Girl Clothing.

Health coach, educator empowers geek girls to bond and tackle fitness goals

When confronted with the tasks of going to the gym regularly, eating right, or setting fitness goals, most of us aren’t exactly enthusiastic.

But imagine if you were guided in your quest by an experienced health coach and trainer who could talk comics, geek fashion, Doctor Who, and the MCU, provide fun opportunities to bond with other geek girls, cultivate an atmosphere of belonging and inclusiveness, and maybe throw in a little pole dancing, all while helping you focus on changing your lifestyle and supporting your mental health.

Believe it or not, this unapologetically nerdy fitness superhero does exist. She’s New York City’s Robyn Warren, founder of wellness community Geek Girl Strong, which offers a variety of individual and group programs tailored for women who love fandoms, with an emphasis on empowerment, self-care, and mental health.

After growing up straddling the line between the stereotypes of “the athlete” and “the nerd” — she was into cheerleading, video gaming, and watching Pokemon and Buffy the Vampire Slayer — Robyn forged a career teaching health and physical education in the New York public school system.

She eventually decided to broaden her mission with Geek Girl Strong, using the program to spread a message of feminism, empowerment, and the importance of representation while promoting healthy lifestyle habits and choices.

Whether cosplaying, leading a #concrunch at New York Comic Con, collaborating with geek fashion company Jordandene, modeling for RockLove Jewelry’s Black Panther collection, or appearing on the cover of The Sartorial Geek magazine, Robyn has become something of a legend in the geek community. 

You can learn more about Geek Girl Strong here, and follow Robyn on Instagram and Twitter

You’re a health educator, certified health coach, trainer, and founder of the wellness community Geek Girl Strong, which caters to women who are into fandoms. This sounds like the best idea ever. What was your inspiration for catering to this demographic?

It was first my former students during my time as a Physical Education teacher. I saw that many of my female students were uncomfortable with the idea of physical activity, for many reasons. We ended up having a lot of conversations about how I was into reading comic books, watching anime, and lifting weights.

Around this time, I began attending Geek Girl Brunch events and had a lot of Brunchettes asking if I also trained adults and telling me that if I was their PE teacher they might have actually enjoyed it!

There’s a stereotype that geeks are just sitting around in their parents’ basement playing video games, watching Netflix, reading comic books, writing fanfic, and eating Flaming Hot Cheetos. Basically, the preconception is that they’re not interested in physical activity at all. From your experience, what’s your take on this?

I’d say that the stereotype comes from someone where I’m not really sure if the chicken or the egg came first.

I believe that learning styles can have a huge influence on what subjects we enjoy during childhood. I am a kinesthetic learner, meaning that I best (not only) learn during hands-on activities. It makes sense to me that PE would end up being my favorite subject.

Then there is encouragement and support. If someone cannot remember having successful experiences with physical activity, they are less likely to enjoy or continue it.

The current state of physical education in the U.S. is rough. There are many conversations on the lack of respect for teachers here. Well, for PE teachers it is even worse. They many times get the least amount of respect in the field of education and receive very little support if any at all.

When I was a PE teacher in the NYC public school system, the student to teacher ratio was (and still is) 50: 1. 50 kids and one adult. How could that adult even truly attempt to give each one of those students a positive experience? Many times less skilled or inclined students will begin to be overlooked.

I could go on, but let’s just say that I have a lot of feelings on the topic and think it is a vicious cycle that I never personally experienced but I was also affected by it as I didn’t fit into either the “jock” or “nerd” box neatly.

What did you learn during your time teaching health and physical education in the New York public school system? Do you incorporate that into what you do now?

In addition to everything aforementioned, I learned to work a room. If you can win over a room of 50 pre-teen and teenagers, you can win over ALMOST anyone.

Tell me your geek origin story. How did you discover this part of your identity?

As a kid, I really loved watching Pokemon, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, playing video games, including The Sims, Mario Kart, and Crash Bandicoot … but I didn’t really know that being a geek was actually a thing. I thought it was solely a TV and move trope. As I got older and began expressing all my interests, no matter who I was around or with, the title grew on me.

On your blog, you say that “no one should have to choose between being the athlete and the nerd.” You revealed that as a teen you refused to make this choice but it was “at times far from easy.” Would you talk more about that experience and how it shaped you?

Well, in addition to what I just said, I guess it was just loving being a cheerleader but also running home to watch cartoons, staying inside to play The Sims … and not really talking about it to my really close friends. Some of the other kids at school knew but I was picking and choosing who I shared which experiences and interests with. Not exactly out of fear or ridicule, but I was definitely living a double and maybe even triple life at times, haha.

One of the Geek Girl Strong slogans is, “Ready to save yourself princess?,” which I love. Your program isn’t just about physical health, it’s about mental health, self-care, and empowerment. Why is this focus important to you?

I’ve struggled with my mental health for most of my life and have experienced firsthand that nothing else matters as much as taking care of yourself mentally. I believe it is the foundation for everything else. For me, it just so happens that physical activity is a “treatment” of sorts for my mental illness. It’s not unusual by any means but I am really happy I figured it out sooner than later!

Do you find that geeky women have specific challenges or obstacles they face when it comes to health and fitness?

Many times, it is the fact that they feel like a misfit, which, until recently with “geek” not being such a dirty word, was usually true.

Also, I find more and more that a lot of folks who enjoy fictional worlds, enjoye them for a reason. Whether that was due to escaping those around them or maybe even just losing themselves in it. A lot geeky women I know also never felt completely at home even in the geek sphere.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has changed a lot, along with shows like Game of Thrones and Stranger Things … but sometimes when I leave my bubble I realize how little has actually changed. Especially in the health and fitness field. It can be very elitist and scare folks away. Especially those with the kinds of experiences I mentioned before.

Do you find that geeky women are motivated by different things than non-geeks, or is it pretty much the same?

I would say it is pretty much the same. We are ALL geeky about something. Even sports fans are nerds about their favorite team.

Tell me about some of the different programs and services you offer and how they are tailored specifically to geek girls. 

Sometimes when I list these out I feel like, WHOA, there’s a lot here, Robyn, but I think it makes sense for who I am and who belongs to our community.

There’s health coaching, which confuses people as it is not a well-known profession yet (like personal training or pole dancing, which I also do/teach). I help people with not only physical activity but also changing their lifestyle.

I believe that health has too many facets to limit it to just “you have to exercise.” So with health coaching, we also have 30-minute talk sessions where we speak about a person’s goals and how they can get there in terms of physical activity, eating habits, and taking care of their mental health.

We also have the Power Program, which is a semi-private health coaching group of up to 5 women, femmes, and nonbinary folks.

Then there’s Fangirl Health Club, which meets just about every month and always has a geeky theme, such as “Infinity War,” where the workout included a game of “Thanos in the Middle” where attendants have to keep different colored balls away from the person in the middle (think Monkey in the Middle).

Anything and everything can be made geeky but I also think the difference is in having a trainer/coach that can relate to different interests and get references. Like instead of trying to simply teach hammer curls with dumbbells, relating it to Thor and his arms!

Programs like Fangirl Health Club are about bonding time with other geek girls, as well as meeting physical, mental, and nutritional health goals. Do you think geeky women are hungry for this kind of personal connection?

Most definitely. It is pretty wild now that I can see that many of the people in this community come to events as a way to see friends. The workout, etc., is just a plus! For all the reasons I’ve mentioned before, connecting with other folks who seem to just get “it,” can be more important than anything else we do together.

Your programs are very inclusive and you’ve intentionally created a health coaching community that targets “people who do not fit into any one box.” Why is that important to you?

Well, I think humans try too hard to fit everything into boxes and life just doesn’t actually work that way. Humans are just a complex as life is. I think it only makes sense to take that into consideration when working with people on areas of their life that can be really sensitive and go into every interaction open to taking people for exactly who they are.

The geek community hasn’t always done well when it comes to encouraging body positivity. Do you think that’s changing and, in your opinion, what else needs to change in this area?

UGH. No, it’s not changing, yet. I feel those pressures, too. Not only because the fitness field can be brutal to trainers but also because cosplaying can too. I do a #concrunch before New York Comic Con every year. I usually have more defined muscles around that time of year, but a big reason is because it is what makes me feel good.

A lot of people don’t know that I was a very small kid and I want to take up as much space as possible with my muscles to go against what many girls are taught while growing up.

It can be tough to see a lot of cosplay make the rounds, being it is a classically attractive person wearing. Meanwhile, someone who is plus-sized and has cosplay that is just as good does not receive the same amount of attention. It makes me really angry and makes no sense to me personally.

I think it changes if we all keep cosplaying and supporting one another. Then kids will grow up seeing all sorts of body types in all kinds of cosplay and know that they can do it too. I’m a really big believer in the idea that representation matters.

You mentioned that you also teach pole dancing. How did you learn it and come to teach it and also is it as scary as it sounds?

Haha, pole dancing can be scary. It’s a part of what I love about it. I started doing it just out of curiosity and someone telling me that there was a studio near me. That was about 5 years ago now. I kept doing it because of how difficult it is. I practice less than I used to but it still means a lot to me in terms of working out, self-expression, and self-esteem.

You were featured on the back cover of the comic Bitch Planet. Tell me all about that!

That was all such a whirlwind! My friend Chavon and I tried to get a group together but were the only ones to cosplay it, then we had our friend Pamela take our picture. The picture somehow got in front of Kelly Sue (DeConnick) on Twitter and we were contacted for permission to use the image!

That’s crazy, especially since you’re an avid comic book reader. When and how were you introduced to comics?

I tried to get into comic as a kid but it didn’t really stick. Just a few pickups here and there. Then when I was in a college, my boyfriend at the time introduced me to more Marvel titles and I was hooked ever since. Deep diving into all sorts of titles and graphic novels like Watchmen, Sin City, V for Vendetta, and comics like The Walking Dead, 100 Bullets … good times.

As a first generation American whose mother is from Jamaica, it seems to me that you’re doing a lot in your life to advance representation for people of color. What are your thoughts about this?

I just want to make sure that kids never have to grow up searching for representation where it isn’t, like my friends and I had to. A character doesn’t always have to look like you for you to see yourself in them but the fact that characters that look like me and my family were and still are hard to find means that kids who look like us don’t get to see what is possible. If you never see it, you don’t know you can be it.

You’re a pretty hardcore video gamer. (Your gamer tag is Stormy Riot.) How were you introduced to gaming?

I grew up around them. My dad had gaming systems from when I was an infant! There’s a picture somewhere of my first X-mas where my mom is holding me, and my dad is holding my mom while also holding an Atari gun to my head. So I guess I had no choice.

Your personal fandoms include Harry Potter, Doctor Who, and Marvel. So … what’s your Hogwarts house?

I’m a Gryffindor.

Who’s your Doctor?

Easy, 10.

Any thoughts on the upcoming new season of Doctor Who, starring Jodie Whittaker?

I’m really excited! David was the best ever, Matt was cute, Peter really grew on me and I’ll miss him. I’ve got a good feeling about Jodie. I think she is going to catch the most flack out of any Doctor ever but I think I’m going to love it.

Who are your absolute favorite Marvel characters?

Storm, Misty Knight, Wolverine.

You have a tattoo of Storm from X-Men, in her “Punk Storm” incarnation, somewhere on your body. That sounds amazing. Tell me more about this, please. 

She lives on the inside of my arm. I got her instead of another tattoo I was thinking of and I’m really glad that I did. Storm is a native New Yorker (like me), a black woman who has faced a lot of adversity, which I believe was best shown when she lost her powers. That tattoo is my nod to woman empowerment.

What are some of your future goals and dreams for Geek Girl Strong?

I would love to be able to do more workshops. I am looking into working with schools and workplaces to bring Geek Girl Strong to everyone.

If readers want to join the Geek Girl Strong community, how would they go about it?

There are a few ways.

One is to work with me in person with you live in the NYC area.

Another is to work with me online privately, or join our online challenges, like the Annual 1up Challenge that happens at the beginning of each year and/or the #GGSSelfCareChallenge, which will be happening again in August 2019.

There are also options to buy Geek Girl Strong-themed merch and workout videos over at GeekGirlStrong.com.

 

Blogger, cosplay photographer turns fangirling into fun career (and family time)

If you’re part of the online geek community, chances are you’ve come across the work of Monica Duarte.

Whether it’s her exuberant professional cosplay photos,  her posts on geek fashion, Doctor Who, cosplay, and other fun topics for Temple of Geek, or one of her stints as a podcast host, Monica has become as ubiquitous on the geek scene as everyone’s favorite Marvel or Star Wars characters.

This blogger, photographer, cosplayer, geek fashion expert, and creative director of celebrated pop culture website Temple of Geek describes herself as a “professional geek,” and she’s not joking.

A visit to WonderCon in 2013 with her family sparked a passion for all things related to fandom. Armed with a desire to share that enthusiasm with others, self-taught photo skills, and a voluminous knowledge of geek events, she eventually spun her freelance coverage of these happenings into a gig with Temple of Geek.

With her camera and a notebook full of ideas in hand, Monica produces a dizzying amount of geek content. She recently covered the Her Universe fashion show and her photos have appeared in geek magazines. She and her family can be found rocking Whovian outfits of her partner Nathaniel’s design at conventions all over Southern California and beyond.

Thankfully she wasn’t too busy to chat with me about her supportive geek family, why there’s plenty of room for more women cosplay photographers, why representation matters, how her childhood experiences shaped her passion for geek fashion, and that time she lost her “professional cool” while photographing 13th Doctor Jodie Whittaker.

You describe yourself as a “professional geek,” which seems pretty accurate considering everything you do. Tell me a little bit about how geeking out became your profession.

It really started with just being a big fan. Wanting to be at all the geeky events in my area. Making connections with people in the industry and a huge desire to share my passion with others. I love sharing.

You’re the creative director of the website Temple of Geek. What does that entail?

I work alongside Danniel Slade, the founder of Temple Of Geek. We work together to come up with content and a schedule for the site. I help recruit writers, photographers, and other talent. I also handle some of the social media and branding for our site.

When and how did you become involved with this pop cultural phenomenon?

I love that you call it a pop cultural phenomenon. That just made my year. I got involved with Temple of Geek just over a year ago. I had interacted with them on social media for years prior to that. I started by covering a few geeky events for them in Los Angeles. But I just really fell in love with the atmosphere.

Danniel and the creative director at the time, Dave Hisaka, were insanely supportive of my ideas. Anytime I suggested anything, they would respond with, “How can we help?” I eventually joined the Temple of Geek Podcast team, started covering geek fashion, and got really involved in the everyday behind the scenes stuff for the site.

When you’re in an environment that nurtures, supports and encourages you, it’s easy to get carried away with your passions. And that is what I did. I got carried away, started working hard.

Could you give us a sense of what a typical day of work looks like for you?

Typical work day starts with checking in with our team. Doing what I can to help them move along with their projects. I work on my projects, which usually include reaching out to geeky fashion vendors. Scheduling photo shoots. I check the stats for the site and our different social media platforms and work with Danniel to build those numbers up. I also schedule and organize event coverage for our Southern California Team. Every once in a while, I get to host a podcast episode. Those are always a lot of fun!

Tell me your geek origin story. How did you first discover this side of yourself?

My earliest geek memories are from about 30 years ago. I was a young kid and I remember seeing Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989 and Ninja Turtles in 1990 in theaters. I think that is when it all started. At the time, I had older cousins who collected comic books. I remember sitting in their bedroom reading all of their Wolverine and X-men comic books. Everything was one geeky blur after that. My dad was a big geek himself. He took my brothers and me to a lot of geeky movies.

You’re also a convention and cosplay photographer, which I’m excited about because I’ve never interviewed one before. What’s your photography background?

None. I have none. Not any kind of a formal background at least. I took some photography classes in high school and in college (over 20 years ago). Back then digital cameras weren’t really a thing. We were learning how to develop film in a dark room. Most of what I learned in class is not really relevant anymore.

I just really love taking photos. I have always been the type to document everything with photos. Almost everything I have learned about photography has come from other photographer friends and from YouTube videos. YouTube has been an essential tool in my learning.

Monica dressed as a Slytherin Dalek.

How did you come to specialize in cosplay, cons, and other geeky events?

It all started with WonderCon 2013. WonderCon is a convention that goes on every year around Easter in Southern California. It was my very first convention. I went with my family (my partner and our two children). The minute we walked onto the convention floor, we knew we were home.

Going to that convention was the beginning of my journey. I was so inspired by everything that I saw. So fascinated by the cosplay, the exhibitors, and the guests. I just started snapping photos on my cell phone of all the cosplayers I saw. That is how it started. I started posting those photos on my Instagram page and started my first blog.

My family and I started to hit all the conventions that we could. Luckily, in California there is no shortage of geeky events. I took more and more photos. Met cosplayers, cosplayed, and eventually upgraded from cell phone photos to a DSLR camera. I created an Instagram page just to showcase cosplayers.

Cosplay exposed me to other geeky events outside of conventions. I felt like there was this huge geek world out here that I had never know before. I thought that there might be others, who like me, may want to know about these events too. On an old blog of mine I started a calendar listing of all the geeky events in and around Southern California. Because of that calendar, Michelle Jensen of Nerd Out App contacted me and hired me to add geeky events to her app for the entire country.

Working for Nerd Out put me in contact with people from all aspects of the geek community. I eventually started to do some freelance photography for different websites. Recently, I had some of my photos published in Doctor Who Magazine and SFX Magazine.

What are some of the more memorable conventions or events you’ve photographed?

Thanks to the kindness of the team at Her Universe, I was allowed to be one of the press photographers at the Her Universe Fashion Show at San Diego Comic-Con this year. It is by far the most memorable event I have been allowed to photograph. I am a giant Doctor Who fan. This year the big surprise at the fashion show was that they had the new 13th Doctor walk the runway.

I just about lost all my professional cool when I saw the 13th Doctor. Getting to photograph Jodie Whittaker was a dream come true. I was fan girling and screaming as I focused in on her through the lens. I was so shook from the event that my hands were shaking. That’s just the level of fangirl I am for Doctor Who. It was perfect. What an honor it is to have the Doctor herself in my camera lens.

Do there tend to be many women doing this type of photography?

There are not a lot. There is a huge opportunity for more female cosplay photographers. In the Southern California area I can only name two consistent female photographers ( https://www.instagram.com/katiebe_photography/ and https://www.instagram.com/conwomanphotography/) other than myself. There might be more out there. But whenever I look out over the landscape of a convention floor or at cosplay meetups, I rarely see any female photographers. The need is great and I encourage female photographers to come and join us!

What’s the secret to taking a really great cosplay photo?

I think taking great cosplay photos starts with appreciating the cosplayer and all the work they put into their costume. Paying tribute to the detail they put into their costumes. Not trying too hard to re-create movie or television scenes. Just having fun with it. And you want to watch for framing and for posture. Those are the main things I try to remember.

You are also a cosplayer. How’d you get into that?

WonderCon 2013. My family and I thought it would be fun to wear our Doctor Who-themed Halloween costumes to the convention. We didn’t even know cosplay was a thing. We fell in love with all the different cosplays that were out there. It started as something we could do together as a family and it still is.

What are some of your favorite cosplays that you’ve done so far?

Almost all my cosplay is Doctor Who related. I have done so many Doctor Who cosplays that I have lost count. I am guessing it’s upward of 20 Doctor Who cosplays. It is a little easier to do Doctor Who cosplay because they wear modern styles on the television series. Finding the screen-accurate cosplays for Doctor Who can sometimes be as easy as walking into an Urban Outfitters.

But I have three cosplays that really stand out for me as my favorites. My all-time favorite would probably have to be my Linda from Bob’s Burgers. It was comfortable and fun. Linda is my spirit animal. I have been compared to her so often and I love it.

The second is my River Song costume from Doctor Who. It is from the Christmas Episode called “The Husbands of River Song.” The first time I saw the v-neck black and gold dress on actress Alex Kingston, I died. I said, “I want it.” A few weeks later, the dress showed up at my door. A surprise gift from my significant other. It is the most beautiful piece of clothing I own.

Last but certainly not least, I love my Doctor Who/Harry Potter mashup cosplay. My friends and I each dressed up as a Dalek from Doctor Who. We each designed our Dalek cosplay in the style of a Hogwarts House. I was Slytherin.

Monica in her River Song cosplay. Below, Alex Kingston as River Song.

Do you tend to put together your own outfits?

I rely a lot on my significant other, Nathaniel, for my cosplay. He is a master of hunting down Doctor Who cosplay and building cosplays for our family. He enjoys it. I enjoy his work. So he handles the cosplay building and I handle the cosplay photography.

Why does cosplay appeal to you?

IT IS FUN! Halloween was always my favorite holiday. I lived for Halloween and dressing up. Cosplay is a way to extend that all year long. It’s something my children enjoy. It’s just fun!

Monica and Dee Sorto, aka the ConMadres.

You’re also one half of The ConMadres, aka Convention Moms. Tell me about the other half of this dynamic vlogging duo and how you came up with the idea for this. 

Through cosplay and conventions I met a really great woman named Dee Sorto. We met at a cosplay event. We started to talk and it turned out we were neighbors. She lives walking distance from my house. We both love going to conventions (Con) and we are both moms (Madres).

At the time, we were both stay-at-home moms. We would meet up on Monday mornings after dropping off our kids at school and we would discuss the latest episodes of Game of Thrones and Doctor Who. We could talk for hours and hours about all kinds of geek stuff. We both had so much in common and cosplay was a big part of both our lives.

We decided to start vlogging about our mommy and geeky adventures. We made a few DIY videos with our kids for fun. We really were just trying to reach out and share our experiences with other moms. We hope to build a community where geek moms can find one another, help one another,and inspire each other.

The family that waits in line for Hall H together, stays together.

Your family is really involved in your geek life. Tell me about some of your shared and individual pop culture interests. 

Doctor Who really is the glue that binds us. Our biggest shared interest is Doctor Who. Cosplaying and conventions is where we have met so many friends and built so many relationships. My kids are growing up alongside other cosplay kids and it is pretty great. We hang out in line for Hall H together and we cosplay together. We watch geeky programming and movies together. Geek is part of our everyday lives.

My kids accompany me to cosplay and fashion shoots sometimes. My oldest teaches me about what the latest trends in gaming and memes are. When my children were younger, it was more about costumes and playing dress up. But as my kids are getting older, conventions have been more about learning what goes on in the industry.

My oldest son is really into video games and movies. This year at San Diego Comic-Con, he had no desire to cosplay. He was more interested in all the gaming panels and movie panels. I hope that one day his passion for gaming and the experiences of going to convention will lead him into a career path that will make him happy. But if it doesn’t, I hope it provides for some really unique and special family memories.

For Nate and I, geek is our date night. It is our bond. He is also far more into gaming and anime than I will ever be. He has introduced me to the world of Star Trek and Voltron. He is supportive of my crazy geeky endeavors and I am supportive of his.

Why is including your family in this part of your life important to you?

Family is everything. They come first. Always. I truly believe that I am able to indulge in all my geek because they allow me to be myself. I don’t have to hide my crazy from them. They love my geekiness. It is something that would not be as fun or fulfilling if I wasn’t sharing it with them.

Monica and her family, at left, ready for the Avengers movie in 2012, and at the theater for Avengers: Infinity War in 2018.

Let’s talk about some of your fandoms. You are clearly very, very obsessed with Doctor Who. What was your introduction to the series?

It started about six or seven years ago. My brother and Nathaniel would sit around and binge-watch it. Eventually, my son joined them. I was baffled as to what was so appealing about a British TV show with horrible special effects. It looked really cheesy.

Then one day I sat down and watched one episode. That is all it took. I watched Matt Smith’s first episode as the Doctor and I was hooked! I binge-watched Matt Smith’s run. Went back and caught up on the 9th and 10th Doctor. I was hooked.

Who’s your Doctor?

Is it too soon to say 13? I really don’t know. I have a special place in my heart for the 11th Doctor because he was my first Doctor. But all the Doctors have been so amazing. I can’t pick. But if I had to, out of loyalty I would say the 11th Doctor.

Monica’s family with Jodie Whittaker at San Diego Comic-Con.

You’re a big fan of new Doctor Jodie Whittaker. Did you get to see her this summer at San Diego Comic-Con?

YES! I was at the Doctor Who panel in Hall H. I briefly said hello to her at the BBC America Booth. Nate and the kids got to have their photo taken with her. She was so kind and sweet to my kids. And as I mentioned earlier, I had the pleasure of photographing her at the Her Universe Fashion Show.

Do you have big plans for the season debut in October?

Yes! We will most likely host a watching party. I made a party guide for Temple Of Geek. It is basically ideas on how to throw a Doctor Who themed party.

What do you think of some of the initial negative reactions to Whittaker’s casting?

I am saddened by it. Initially, I too was skeptical of the idea of a female Doctor. The rumors had been floating around for a bit. I had romanticized the idea of the Doctor. And I didn’t know if I would be happy with a female Doctor.

Well, I was wrong. I am more than happy! The moment the reveal happened, I was on board. I didn’t know how desperately I needed a girl Doctor. I was way more excited about Jodie than I could have imagined. I remember thinking, wow, I can be the Doctor now. Not a gender-bent Doctor Who cosplayer. I can be her!

I understand fans being scared that their favorite TV show is now ruined. I understand that there is some negativity with every regeneration. I am just disappointed in the amount of hate and trolling that has come with it. Especially from fans of a TV show that preaches kindness, empathy, and civility. I hope it changes when they see her in action!

Monica in a group Harry Potter/Dalek cosplay.

What are some of your other major fandoms?

So many! Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Game of Thrones are the big ones. I also love the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Netflix shows. I try to keep up with the DC television shows on the CW. But it is hard to stay consistent. This is why the human race does not advance faster. Too much good programming on TV.

As a woman, is there anything in the world of fandoms or geek culture you’d like to see change?

As a woman, as a mother, as a Mexican American, I would like to see more strong female characters and more characters of color in the world of geek. I want to see it in movies, in television, and in comics. My sons have grown up in a world where Hermione Granger, Pepper Potts, Black Widow, Wonder Woman, a female Doctor Who, and an all-female Ghostbusters cast is normal. At least to them it is. To them a female CEO of Stark Industries or a female superhero is normal. I want more of that.

But I would also like them to see that women of color can be superheroes as well. I would like to see Miles Morales’ Spiderman, Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel, or America Chavez’s Miss America on the big screen. Seeing Pixar’s Coco in theaters last year was so important for us. To see our culture beautifully translated without stereotypes or lame taco jokes was so refreshing. For my sons and for me to see Diego Luna in a lead role in a Star Wars movie, with his Mexican accent, was amazing.

Representation matters. Hearing a movie hero speak with the same accent that your grandfather has or that your father has is so important. I want that for every culture. For every sexual orientation. For people of all abilities. It feels amazing. I want more of that. I want that to be normal in the world my children and grandchildren grow up in.

Monica in a Star Wars sweater by Mustardbrand.

 You also have a passion for geek fashion and cover that subject a lot for Temple of Geek. What do you love about this particular niche of the fashion industry?

I love that it exists! Geek fashion helps me feel empowered. I love that there are so many forms of geek fashion out there. From the high-end geek couture that you see at fashion shows to the more casual everyday wear, I love it all.

I am so happy to be able to wear geek fashion that isn’t just a graphic tee. Don’t get me wrong, I have a large assortment of graphic tees in my wardrobe. But I am a huge geek and I want to wear my fandoms with me at all time. And sometimes a graphic tee isn’t appropriate for certain situations. I struggled with this a lot growing up. I wanted to wear modern trendy styles but I wanted them to have some geek flair. That just wasn’t an option when I was younger.

Growing up I was labeled a “tomboy” because I loved Batman, Ghostbusters, and Wolverine. I wanted to wear my Batman shirt all the time. I believed I was a tomboy because I liked something that only boys seemed to like. I believed it because even though I enjoyed trendy clothing, I wasn’t as in love with it as much as I was my comic book shirts.

In retrospect, I know that wasn’t an accurate description of who I was. I just liked superheroes and I just happened to be a girl. At that time superhero themed clothing wasn’t available to girls. I was teased, not in a mean way, about wanting to wear comic book character clothing. In an effort to fit in, I suppressed my inclinations to wear my fandoms.

At that time and in my world it was considered very dorky. I was never treated badly over it. People just didn’t seem to understand my obsession. But now I am so excited about the fact that there are people out there making clothing for fangirls like me. Styles that are in line with modern trends. Styles with geek flair. ACTUAL FASHION.

I am pretty sure that there are a lot of women out there that experienced the same. But unlike me, not everyone has the opportunity to go to comic book conventions and find these geeky brands. Not everyone has a place in their area where geek clothing is readily available. Temple Of Geek offers me the chance to tell the world about the amazing geek fashion that is out there. It allows me to help spread the word about brands that cater to fans like me. My goal is to show that geek fashion can be a part of your everyday fashion. That it is something that can go beyond the convention floor.

What brands and styles do you most like to wear?

You will most often find me wearing a top from Jordandene or an outfit from Her Universe. Those have been the two brands that I tend to spend the most on. But two other brands that really stand out for me right now are Hero Within and Elhoffer Design. There is something about their trendy and subtle styles that really hits home for me.

Overall and in general, you create and produce a dizzying amount of geeky content. What’s your secret to doing it all?

I try to do only the things that I am passionate about. I tried writing and covering events for genres that I wasn’t a huge fan of and I got tired of it quickly. I had no motivation to write. I had no ideas about how to showcase what I wasn’t truly in love with. I am just a fangirl. I fangirl hard.

When I am writing about something that I love, it is all so easy. I get ideas, I get passionate. I even have a 5 subject notebook by my desk or in my purse (my purses are huge) that I write in constantly. I can’t always execute all the ideas I have, but I write them down in case someday I can. I try to stick to a few things that I can be consistent with. Sometimes I start projects and they don’t always work out. But that’s ok. I tell myself that maybe right now is not the time for that. I move on to the next project and maybe later on I can return to those projects when I am better at what I am doing.

You’ve already accomplished so much, personally and professionally. Is there anything still left on your geek bucket list?

I really just want to grow as a person, as a photographer, and as a professional in general. There is so much to learn. The geek world is huge and vast. I want to share more stories, showcase new artist, visit more conventions. I hope to one day be producing videos that are more than just vlogs. But I still have a lot to learn. I have a lot of goals and they all revolve around getting better at what I do and sharing more geeky fun stuff.

 

From women of Star Wars to Doctor Who, let’s celebrate victories big and small

As women who are deeply invested in the male-dominated worlds of fandom and geek culture, we’re forced to take hope, heart, and inspiration wherever we can find them, which is why we should celebrate all kinds of victories, big and small.

This is especially true in a disheartening summer that’s included the terrible, Weinsteiny revelations about CBS CEO Les Moonves; the return of Chris Hardwick, accompanied by the sadistic glee of his army of toxic minions, er, fans; Superman himself, Henry Cavill, subtly undermining the #MeToo movement by declaring he’s afraid of being labelled a “rapist” if he so much as flirts with a girl; and a certain gang of ridiculous Star Wars podcasters going into troll mode because of a three-year-old photo of a coffee mug.

At this point, I’m so tired of ranting and despairing and so desperately in need of motivation, I’ve decided it’s time to focus on the positive. In the spirit of looking up and moving forward, here are some remarkable recent achievements by women who deserve all the recognition we can give them.

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“Star Wars: Episode IX” began production Aug. 1 to much fanfare and, even more wonderfully, recent casting announcements reveal it to be the most female-centric installment of the franchise yet.

Director J.J. Abrams kicked off the shoot by paying homage to absent star Carrie Fisher, who will return to help wrap up the trilogy through the use of previously unreleased footage and good, old movie magic. The cast also includes Daisy Ridley, of course, but also the return of Kelly Marie Tran and Lupita Nyong’o, and possibly a beefed-up role for Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd.

Exciting new additions to the roster include Keri Russell in a mysterious role and newcomer Naomi Ackie, who previously appeared in an episode of “Doctor Who.” I’m sure all this female representation and diversity will be the cause of many fanboy tears. Quick, let me get my mug.

OFFICIAL FIRST LOOK AT THE WOMEN OF THE NEW Terminator 6: Natalia Reyes, Mackenzie Davis and Linda Hamilton

Speaking of casting that affirms strong women: We got our first glimpse of the new “Terminator” movie last week. An image posted on Twitter from the sixth entry in the sci-fi franchise shows off a lean, mean, totally badass Linda Hamilton as gun-toting Sarah Connor, accompanied by co-stars Natalia Reyes and Mackenzie Davis.

The return of Hamilton as one of sci-fi’s toughest heroines is a welcome sight. Davis is best known for the TV series “Halt and Catch Fire” and Reyes has appeared in several Colombian productions. This trio has us asking, “Schwarzenegger who?”

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Although the cast of DC’s much anticipated “Birds of Prey” movie hasn’t yet been revealed – rumors are swirling though – a recent announcement detailing which characters will appear in the film generated controversy amongst comic book fans.

The movie will feature such familiar figures as Black Canary, Huntress, Cassandra Cain, and Renee Montoya. While many fans are upset Barbara Gordon won’t appear as Batgirl in this film, the “Birds of Prey” roster bodes well for a strong, diverse cast.

Directed by Cathy Yan and written by Christina Hodson, “Birds of Prey” is shaping up to be the first major superhero movie to feature a formidable female ensemble.

In July, it was also announced that Cate Shortland will direct Marvel’s long-awaited Black Widow spinoff, starring Scarlett Johansson. Shortland previously helmed the movies “Lore” and “The Berlin Syndrome.” The script for the film was also written by a woman, Jac Schaeffer.

In another major comic book movie breakthrough, the genre welcomes its first female composer, Pinar Toprak, who will score Marvel’s upcoming “Captain Marvel.” Toprak has written music for the TV series “Krypton” and DC’s “Justice League.”

Here’s looking forward to the day when we won’t have to make such a big deal about women being assigned significant roles in Hollywood because it will just be so humdrum and commonplace.

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Ground was broken in the comic book industry itself last month when the Eisner Awards – think of them as the Oscars of comics – turned into a long overdue celebration of women creators.

Marjorie Liu, co-creator of Image Comics’ “Monstress,” became the first woman to win the best writer honor, while her series snagged five total awards.

The ceremony, which took place at San Diego Comic-Con, also recognized artist Emil Ferris and graphic memoirist Tillie Walden.

Previously uncredited Wonder Woman comics contributor Joye Murchison Kelly and late DC Comics writer-editor Dorothy Roubicek Woolfolk were the first women to claim the Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing, while many other women were inducted into the Eisner Hall of Fame.

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Is it just me or did San Diego Comic-Con seem unusually female-friendly this year? I wasn’t there, so I’m just going by what I observed from afar. Maybe those of you who actually attended can confirm or deny this.

After enduring a nasty misogynist backlash when it was announced she’d be the first woman to regenerate into the titular role of the BBC’s “Doctor Who,” 13th Doctor Jodie Whittaker was greeted with warm enthusiasm by fans during a Hall H panel and a surprise appearance at the Her Universe Fashion Show.

I’m not even a Whovian, but I found this extremely refreshing. I hope she’ll be just as affectionately received when “Doctor Who” returns to BBC America in the fall.

Image result for clone wars saved san diego comic con

Another highlight of Comic-Con was the shocking announcement that beloved animated Star Wars series “The Clone Wars” – now celebrating its 10th anniversary — will return for another season. Many fans were moved to tears when they heard this news, but the resurrection of the series is also significant because it heralds the return of strong, groundbreaking female characters like Padme Amidala and Ahsoka Tano.

Other recent announcements that brought joy to geek girls’ hearts include Marvel’s plan to finally debut a comic book series starring “Black Panther” favorite Shuri and the introduction of the new animated franchise “Marvel Rising,” which will feature female comic book heroes with diverse backgrounds and body types, including Ghost Spider, Quake, Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, and Iron Patriot.

And while fans of the original “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” TV series may not be thrilled with the idea of a planned reboot, or sequel, or whatever it is, it’s worth noting the show will be shepherded by Monica Owusu-Breen, a die-hard “Buffy” fan who also happens to be a woman of color.

Hopefully, Joss Whedon will have as little to do with it as possible.

Photos: StarWars.com, 20th Century Fox, ComicBook.com.

For crafter/gamer, geek culture provides creative outlet, bonding time with sons

One of the most perfect gifts I’ve ever received is a custom-made Star Wars diaper bag that is a rare combination of adorable, totally geeky, and not-too-girly. My daughter is now 4 years old and this amazing bag still hangs in my hall closet, where I often gaze at it wistfully. I don’t think I’ll ever part with it.

As a matter of fact, I’ve been wanting to introduce you to the creator of this best diaper bag of all the best diaper bags ever. Her name is Sarah Vroman and she’s a dazzlingly versatile crafter, artist, photographer, video gamer, burgeoning musician, and mom to three wonderful geek boys (who also happen to be my nephews).

Her geeky wares have included a series of striking bags, influenced by everything from “Sherlock” to Pac-Man, as well as jewelry, pillows and home decor items, cross stitch and, most recently, sweaters inspired by knitting maven and “Jessica Jones” star Krysten Ritter. 

Raised in New York as part of a family that prized a love of science, technology, art, and imagination, Sarah was introduced to the exciting world of geeky entertainment options when she first read Douglas Adams.

The Atari and Legend of Zelda ushered her into the endless possibilities of gaming, a passion that grew after she began playing Borderlands and personal favorite Fallout with her sons. The family also enjoys cosplaying, going to comic cons, and trying out new hobbies.

Below, Sarah chats about how gaming has changed for girls, her favorite Batman, tips for taking kids to cons, why she’s a music geek first, what it’s like to love “dead” fandoms, and why she’s just not into Star Wars.

Pssst … If you’re really nice to her, maybe you can talk her into making you a Star Wars diaper bag, too. 

You’re a geeky crafter and video gamer who is raising three geek boys. When would you say your life as a geeky truly began?

When I was a preteen in the early ’90s, my interests were so very typical: I listened to New Kids on the Block, watched “Saved By the Bell,” and read “The Babysitters Club” books. It took some time but my dad and brother convinced me to try something new — reading “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

Up until that point, I don’t think I had any idea that entertainment could actually be entertaining. This moment changed everything for me. From then on I read everything my brother recommended: “Jane Eyre,” “King Lear,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “I, Robot.” This was also the time frame that Tim Burton’s “Batman” and the original “Jurassic Park” were in the theater, and Pearl Jam and Nirvana were on MTV. What a time to be alive!

You come from a family of techies. Does this have something to do with your geekier tendencies?

I have a love of science and technology. The world is still struggling to convince girls that it’s not only ok but awesome for them to love these things. When I was a kid I was definitely a weirdo to some for embracing tech.

In New York, when you’re on the honors track you get to choose which school you go to and apply to them starting in junior high. It was decided for me that I should be applying to the schools specializing in honors level general ed or the one specializing in art. Nobody within the educational system was happy when I chose the school specializing in technology.

But in my house, technology was always celebrated in a way that made it  obvious how important it was. It was accessible and made the whole world accessible. It was the future — which is why that particular school was aptly named “School of the Future.”

All of science begins with imagination. And science fiction takes science beyond what is currently possible to inspire advancement and make the impossible possible.

You once made me the most perfect, most awesome Star Wars diaper bag as a baby shower gift — I still have it! — and you created and sold geek-themed bags on Etsy. How did you begin doing that?

I started selling bags on Etsy because I had more designs in my head than I had room for in my own closet. For the most part, when I had an idea for what I or a loved one wanted, I would make two or three and sell the superfluous ones on Etsy.

I got this cheesy idea to name my bags after favorite literary characters or places. My first bag was named “The Baker Street Bag,” then I had “The Prefect Tote,” and “The Emma Bag.” But actually designing for geeks was because of that amazing Star Wars bag I made for you! I made two extras to sell and they were both gone in 24 hours. To this day, it’s my most popular pin on Pinterest and I still get requests to make them again.

Tell me about some of the other bags you made.

My favorite bag that I made for myself was a “Sherlock”-inspired bag. It was a small messenger bag. For the flap, I used fabric that was identical to the wallpaper Sherlock drew the happy face on. I remember being terrified putting the happy face on the fabric because after all the work of making the bag I was about to risk destroying it if something went wrong with the fabric paint I was using. But it came out perfect.

Another of my favorites was a large messenger I designed for my son. I found a great Pac Man fabric and appliqued a Pac Man onto the flap.

How did you learn to sew and what sparked your interest in crafting?

I grew up in a house where art was encouraged. At first, I thought artistic ability was something that had skipped me because my brothers were so naturally inclined. But I watched my mom doing cross stitch and thought I could do at least that. I now have a belief, using myself as evidence, that artistic ability is something that can be learned.

I learned to draw and paint well enough to be sent on scholarship to the children’s program at Pratt Art Institute. I now have it set in my mind that anything I want to do is something that I can absolutely do! So, over the years I’ve indulged in SO many arts/crafts — yarn, sewing, scrapbooking, watercolor and — most surprising to me — guitar and ukulele.

When I got married, my mom gave me her old sewing machine. At the time I would joke, “But I can’t even sew a straight line.” That machine sat in my closet for probably five years before I discovered “Project Runway.” In the early years of the show they focused more on the artistry and technique than on the drama. I watched as the designers would design patterns by putting red tape on mannequins representing where seams should be. Seeing the deconstructed process suddenly gave me this thought — I can do that.

As a lover of pop culture, I also happen to be a Barbie collector. The season that thought occurred to me happened to be the one that Robert Best was on. He’s a renowned Barbie designer. This gave me the idea that sewing for Barbie was a great place to start. And I started without patterns. I often work backward in art. I just start with no research or education, then gather the information on an as-needed basis. It’s not how I teach my kids to learn because it makes it more difficult, but it seems to work for me.

What other geeky craft items have you created in the past and what do you enjoy about this creative outlet?

For a minute I got into jewelry making. I made TARDIS necklaces and had plans for “Sherlock”-inspired wearable crafts. My favorite recent geek crafts are my Legend of Zelda Wi-Fi passcode cross stitch and pillows made from geek shirts that were either the wrong sizes or thought to be destroyed. I’ve come to the conclusion that as someone who doesn’t wear jewelry, jewelry making is not for me. But making items to add geeky touches to my home are right up my alley.

I understand that, like many crafters, you left Etsy after a policy change that made operating a small shop difficult. How did that experience affect you?

My store was never doing great volume. I’m only one person with only so much time in the day for hobbies. At any given time I would have maybe ten items in my store. But those items sold quickly. I knew it was going to be bad news for small sellers the minute Etsy started trading publicly. It was really fast that they changed their policy to allow large manufacturers to sell on the site designed for homemade wares like an online craft fair.

The impact on my store was instant. The new algorithm favored stores with large inventories. My items were buried under high quantity, lower quality, less expensive, not handmade items. Suddenly, all of my items were just sitting there while I was still paying listing fees. It was disheartening and eventually I made the decision let my store go.

Are you currently doing any geeky crafting?

At this moment I’m busy knitting sweaters. I was inspired by my favorite on-screen badass, Krysten Ritter, to give it a try. I learned to knit about ten years ago but have been avoiding garments because it’s a whole lot of time and work to make something only to discover it doesn’t fit or doesn’t look good. But if Jessica Jones can do it, so can I.

You introduced me to the wonders of the geek-themed fabric aisle at a certain craft store. Could you describe it for those who may not be aware of this wondrous realm?

-When I was first making geek-themed items, that aisle wasn’t so great. I got fabrics from online stores, one in particular that is user generated designs. But now, the licensing for the brick and mortar store is out of this world. My most recent purchase from that aisle was Zelda fabric. When I bought it, the sales woman asked what I was making, to which I answered, “I have no idea, I just need it.”

It ended up becoming a quilt for my 7-year-old that he and I sewed together. I honestly have no idea how they got ahold of the Nintendo license because by all accounts it’s impossible to get. Of course, the Disney licensed fabrics is what takes up most of the aisle — Star Wars, Marvel, Princess … it’s a beautiful thing to behold.

For several years, you worked as a professional photographer. Does this job intersect at all with your geek interests?

It actually has! I really enjoy toy photography. As with sewing, I started with Barbie. She’s an excellent model. One of my favorite series of photographs happened when I took Lego Indiana Jones and Marion to Yosemite and Monterey for my husband’s and my tenth anniversary trip. Indy hiked Vernal Falls with us and saw the Lone Cyprus on the 17 Mile Drive.

What’s it like being mom to three geeky boys? What are some of your shared and individual interests and activities?

Like my parents did for myself and my brothers, I try to encourage any interests that my boys happen to have. My oldest is a (video) gamer and piano player, my middle one is a gregarious skateboarder who has fallen in love with RPGs like Mouse Guard and D&D. And the 7-year-old has a love of board games, Batman, and punk music.

We have a lot of crossover in all areas of pop culture and entertainment but I certainly can’t keep up with all of it. So, they are part of communities online and otherwise that share their interests. For instance, my 13-year-old is currently doing a D&D campaign with his uncle and three cousins via text message.

Your family has attended the Los Angeles ComicCon (which recently changed its name to Beyond Fest Expo LA). What are some of your favorite memories from that event?

I love the shopping. But the great moments were in who we saw and who we met. I love making friends while waiting for the doors to open. I follow some of them on Instagram and get to see their cosplays year round.

But the two moments that stand out: In 2016, I was able to see Gerard Way do an interview concerning the new Young Animal comic book series he had just released. It could get long winded if I talked about every reason being in the same room with him meant so much to me.

The other great moment was meeting Dameon Clarke, the voice of Handsome Jack in the Borderlands series. Because of how much we bond over this game, the boys and I were over the moon to get to have a conversation with him. He’s just as sarcastic in real life, which made the meet ‘n’ greet even more perfect.

Did you cosplay when you went this year? Tell me about that. 

I kinda did. My oldest went as Dirk Gently from the BBC series and I made for myself a Mexican Funeral T-shirt as a nod to Tod from the same series. The year before we did something similar when he went as a Fallout 4 vault dweller and I gave my nod to the series as a Nuka Cola girl with accessories that I made. Also, I have to mention my adorable 7-year-old and his bestie who have gone together as Link and Zelda, and then as Dipper and Mable Pines. They were a huge hit.

What do you enjoy about conventioning as a family? Do you have any tips for people who might be wary of attending with children?

We don’t just go as a family, we go with our long time family friends. We coordinate and work on costumes together for months. We bond over our fandoms, learn more about our kid’s fandoms and, most fun of all, it gives us an excuse to get together to craft, fabricate, drink tea and talk. Then the day comes and we love seeing all the kids together excited and happy. It’s just pure unadulterated fun.

L.A. Comic Con is really family friendly and takes place the last weekend of October, which means costumes are a must. I would say that with littles at any convention, going on Saturday is tough. I had high anxiety the whole time that we’d get separated. But at this one in particular, on Sunday they have a kids costume contest and trick-or-treating, which makes Sunday the perfect day to go. Also, make sure everyone is clear on a meeting place if you get separated.

How long have you been a gamer? Is this something you do with your boys?

My family got the Atari when I was 2, so video games have always been part of my life. But the progression from passive to obsessed started with The Legend of Zelda. My brother entered a contest and won a Nintendo from the exchange on the base we lived at. It came with four games, one of which was Zelda. It was so good!

The next game that struck me as a total game changer was Tomb Raider. Twice in my life, I have rushed out and bought a whole new console just to play a Tomb Raider game. The idea of girls in video games was finally on track to being normalized.

The boys and I game together when we can. Our favorite game to play together is Borderlands 2. It’s split screen co-op for up to four people so I’m able to play with both of my teens at once. We laugh, we first bump … it’s just a fantastic time spent together, and occasionally one of the boys’ friends will join us via online multiplayer.

Right now, we’re passively playing Stardew Valley together, but I get the feeling they’re just humoring their mom and would rather be playing games that include gunfire. Even when we aren’t campaigning together, we will share tips, and more than a few times I’ve had to have my oldest help me when I get stuck in a game.

You’re very enthusiastic about the Fallout franchise. How did you discover it and what do you love about it?

The year Fallout 4 came out, I dutifully purchased the game for my oldest as his only requested Christmas gift. I had no idea what it was. I was first struck by the fact that I could play as a female. I don’t mind playing games as a male, I love many games that don’t give this option, but since these are RPG video games it’s nice to actually see myself in the character.

But then the storyline unfolded. It’s brilliant. I think for me, first and foremost for all of the pop culture entertainment that I respond to, it has to have a great storyline.  And the Fallout games take it a step farther by peppering in Easter eggs throughout the whole world of individual stories. The lore and connections are so detailed; it’s masterful. Then, much like table top RPGs, there are a lot of decisions to be made that have consequences in the game and shape or show off your character. You truly become part of the game.

What are your expectations for Fallout 76?

It’s not going to be a main Fallout game; it’s not Fallout 5. So, my expectations are mitigated. They have promised that storyline and Easter eggs will be there, but being online multiplayer makes for a whole new dynamic where maybe storyline isn’t the most important thing. My teenagers and I are already trying to plan out how we could play together as a team but this conversation is difficult at the moment as the question still looms as to whether it will be cross-platform or not.

What’s your experience been like as a woman who games?

It’s one of those whispered things that most women still aren’t comfortable admitting to in their real lives. Last year, on the first day of the Bible study that I attend, I was asked to be the first to introduce myself. Going off the cuff, not remembering what info I was supposed to actually give (social awkwardness at its best), I included that I love going to concerts and playing video games.

Then this amazing thing happened where at least two other women got excited and seemed thrilled to admit that they too were gamer moms! There’s still this stereotype that comes in different arguments from men and women — some moms think it’s selfish and a waste of time that you could use being busy at literally anything else. And then there are the men within the community who believe women can’t bring the same level of aggression and strategy that men can.

You’re a Douglas Adams fan. What’s your absolute favorite “Hitchhiker’s Guide” quote and/or moment?

The discussion of an S.E.P. As a classic overthinker, it really spoke to me that one could just declare something to be an S.E.P. (Somebody Else’s Problem). “Any object around which an S.E.P. is applied will cease to be noticed, because any problems one may have understanding it (and therefore accepting its existence) become Somebody Else’s Problem.”

You mentioned the “Maze Runner” series. How did you discover the books and why do you like them?

This is another instance of my boys telling me about something and me having no clue what they were talking about. When I finally agreed to rent the first movie on iTunes, I was hooked. One of the things I like about dystopian stories is that it always seems to bring up thoughts and conversations as to how one would respond to the same situation. The world has gone haywire — how would you propose to fix it? It tends to flip values and morality on its head to make you think about what might really be important.

How would you say the movies compare to the novels?

The first movie follows the book pretty well but by the second movie it moves away from the books quite a bit. I’ve come to not mind film adaptations making this decision. First of all, it’s necessary. You can’t take 10 to 20 hours of a book and shrink it to fit a two-hour timeframe without massive tweaking. But I’ve also come to see that the changes make it easier to get excited about both the book and the movie in their own right.

A great example of this is “Ready Player One,” where the author helped make all new experiences and puzzles to solve for the movie. The storyline stayed the same but the details changes enough to engage the viewer in trying to solve the new riddles the same way we did in the book. Being two different experiences makes the movie and book individually fantastic.

You also describe yourself as a “huge Batman fan.” What’s the appeal of this character for you?

I think I have a taste for the darker side of the superhero genre. I love the mystery, the crazy villains and, of course, “all those wonderful toys.”

Like many people, you didn’t appreciate “the abomination that is Batfleck.” Who’s your favorite movie Dark Knight then?

I fell in love with Batman when Michael Keaton was in the role. His Batman will always be the top of my list. He did a great job of portraying the Batman as just a man concerned with doing right at all cost, who also happens to have ninja level skills and a massive amount of money to subsidize his vigilantism. I’m also really enjoying watching David Mazouz grow into the character of the Dark Knight on “Gotham.” That show has been a ridiculously fun and wild ride.

Any thoughts on what DC should do to get the Bat movies back on track?

I think they may be stuck with the track they’re on. My oldest son and I discuss often the mistakes that were made and the biggest one to me is that, following the example of the MCU, they tried to make it family friendly. Batman as a kids cartoon works. Batman with an R rating works. But when they tried to combine the two, what they ended up with is really just a kid’s movie that they tried to sell to adults.

Another reason it stands out as particularly bad is that there are other movies to compare it to. Ironman, Captain America, and Thor didn’t have that problem. When we already had Michael Keaton and Christian Bale give such stellar performances in this role, it was always going to be a tough act to follow.

Now, I have to admit to “Suicide Squad” being one of my guilty pleasures. I love the Joker more than I probably should admit. After seeing the movie in the theater, I wasn’t a fan BUT in the small screen cut there’s even more Joker. I’m almost optimistic about a Joker movie with Jared Leto, though I probably shouldn’t mention it on social media and risk getting roasted.

You’re not really into Star Wars though. I don’t know if some people realize that a) not all geeks are into Star Wars and (b that’s totally okay. What are your thoughts about this? 

At times it feels like I’m missing out on the community features like being able to engage in conversations with loved ones concerning the thing they love the most. And I have experienced someone taking it as a personal offence that I wouldn’t love that most beloved and treasured series. But I’m just not into it.

Star Wars has been such a constant in my personal universe for my whole life to the point that for a while I actually thought I must like it. It was about a year after I was married that my husband sat down to watch one of the movies and I finally said what I’d been pondering on for a while, “I don’t like this.” I have respect for the franchise and its fandom, which includes my husband and two of my boys.

When it comes to TV fandoms, you’re into “Wholock,” although you’ve labeled “Sherlock” and “Doctor Who” “dead fandoms.” Is it tough being a fan of these shows when new episodes are scarce?

I started watching “Doctor Who” in the ‘80s with my dad when Tom Baker was the Doctor. It’s safe to say that I’ll always be a fan. During David Tennant and Matt Smith’s reigns as the Doctor, the fandom was super active. I remember convincing my bestie to watch it “because the crafting alone is worth it.” It was exciting to be part of the community. With the lag time in the last few series of the show it’s been hard for anyone to keep up the enthusiasm.

“Sherlock” is another story all together. I kind of wish there were a fandom that encompassed every iteration of the Sherlock archetype – “Psych,” “Rizzoli and Isles,” “Monk.” There’s always a Sherlock to be excited about it, though admittedly, there’s only one Benedict Cumberbatch.

What’s your gut instinct about the new Doctor, Jodie Whittaker?

I’m remaining optimistic about her. I loved her in “Broadchurch.” The thing that gives me pause is that the concept of a female Doctor seems forced. They just finished an arch where the Master became female and the character of Missy was indeed masterful. It was done in such a way that it wasn’t some big political statement, which is what this feels like. Doctor Who has a history of taking on social issues in respectful ways without becoming too preachy. I really hope the new writers are able to strike the same chord.

You’re also a fan of “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” and “The 100.” I confess I haven’t tried either of those shows. Pitch them to me!

“Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” began as a script for “Doctor Who,” written by Douglas Adams. When it wasn’t made, he turned it into a whole new novel. The book is the epitome of Adams’ work with that quick British wit and the highly detailed twists and turns of Adams’ imagination. The show captures this perfectly. It’s brilliantly confusing and hilarious.

Dirk is a hapless detective who gathers cases, friends, and enemies according to whichever the universe sends him at the time. It’s something worth experiencing.

“The 100” is a show my 13-year-old and I discovered and binge-watched the first several seasons on Netflix. It’s a rare treat to find TV shows that he and I can watch together. This one is a sci-fi dystopian soap opera. It’s a bloody good time.

You describe yourself as a “music geek first.” That’s not something we’ve discussed much on the blog. How would you say music fandom compares to other fandoms, like movies or comic books? How does this interest manifest itself in your life?

It doesn’t matter what art a person responds to, it’s equally important and equally exciting to the person in love with it. But music in particular transects all other art forms. When I’m editing photos or painting, it’s with my headphones on. Look what James Gunn did with “Guardians of the Galaxy,” it wouldn’t be the same movie without that amazing soundtrack.

Bethesda and Apple are both major companies who put high premiums on music; the first in their video games and the latter began the smart phone revolution with a personal MP3 player. Music is definitely something worth geeking out over.

I immerse myself in an artist’s work. Like a true geek, I want to know every song, the members of the band, the instruments used. I want to know every lyric and theorize on the intent and meaning.

I’m not the most emotional person and often don’t understand my own emotions. Music says the things that I’m feeling in a way that I can’t.

One of my favorite cinematic moments is at the beginning of “Almost Famous” when Zooey Deschanel’s character puts on an album and informs her mom that while she can’t explain her life decisions, the song playing can. There are huge communities of fans out there who experience music in similar and very personal ways. The fans are engaged very much the same as any other. They’re on Twitter, instagram, and Pinterest (and, of course, the places teenagers hang out like Tumbler and Snapchat).

What geeky collectibles have you amassed so far?

My house is littered with Funko Pops from just about every fandom my boys and I take part in. Some of my favorites are my Pop Rocks of Kurt Cobain and Gerard Way. But my newest and top-of-my-list favorite is my Deadpool as Bob Ross. He sits with my art supplies. I also have some art from vendors at comic con. My favorite is a watercolor Batman by Levi Craig.

What’s left on your geek bucket list?

In books: finishing “Differently Mophous” by Yahtzee Croshaw, which I’m listening to with the boys on audible. Btw, I highly recommend his other book, “Will Save the Galaxy for Food.” It’s a riot.

In movies: I still haven’t seen “Infinity War” (I know, gasp). My husband and boys went but I couldn’t make it.

In music: two years ago we missed the “Blurry Face” tour. My littlest and myself were so sad that we made a pact to have it be his first concert when Twenty One Pilots tours again … but then they disappeared! I, along with everyone else in the fandom are getting pretty impatient for their return.

In games: I’m really hyped about Fallout 76 and waiting impatiently for Borderlands 3 to be announced. I’m also pretty excited to make it to year two in Stardew Valley, but that goal shouldn’t take too long.

 

A panel to teach fanboys how not to be creepers? (And other thoughts on WonderCon)

Photos by FAWN KEMBLE

I’ve resurfaced from a day of deep immersion in WonderCon, which, in case you’re not familiar, is the nerdiest of all nerd weekends in Southern California. I spent the day before at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter so, yeah, it was basically the most epically geeky two days ever.

WonderCon is organized by the people who put on the insanely popular and notoriously unnavigable San Diego Comic-Con. It consists of fanboys and fangirls overrunning the Anaheim Convention Center for three wonderful, exhausting days of cosplay, panels, screenings, promotional events, gaming, signings, meetups, mutual admiration, and shopping for collectibles, T-shirts, and merch, even though we don’t have any more room for them in our houses.

From what I observed, this year’s con was pleasantly well-organized. Mailing out badges in advance and scanning them at various points of entry was a great idea. I particularly enjoyed the sight of a dude in a giant cardboard Lego Legolas costume trying to reach his badge while simultaneously squeezing through the narrow scanner gate.

From a feminist perspective, I was happy to see many panels geared toward women and women’s issue on the schedule, including “Entrepreneurial Women,” “Cospositive: Cosplay with Confidence,” “Comics and Women,” “WonderCon Women of Pop Culture,” and a Friday night panel exploring how the #TimesUp movement applies to the comic book industry.

As my sister and I walked the Exhibit Hall, we were pleased to see many more women artists, writers, entrepreneurs, and vendors than in previous years. (There were still a whole lot of men, but it’s progress.) I was able to collect more than 50 business cards from women you might read about soon in No Man’s Land’s weekly Geek Goddess interview series.

I purchased a Captain Marvel T-shirt and a signed illustration of Wonder Woman by artist Leanne Huynh. I also bought my first comic book from one of the convention booths. In the past, I’ve been too intimidated to do that, so that’s progress for me personally.

We chatted with artists and exhibitors — at WonderCon you’re guaranteed to run across at least one person you’ve always wanted to meet or talk to — and spent so much time on the floor, where the air is clammy and thin, that we forgot all sense of time, not to mention basic necessities like snacking, hydrating, or taking bathroom breaks.

Eventually, we did fortify ourselves with greasy food truck fare in front of the convention center, surrounded by gender-bending Harley Quinns, twin Kylo Rens, Daeneryses, and Demigorgons.

My sister, who wore an adorable blue Tardis dress, only had to deal with two awkward and unwanted encounters with guys who lingered too long or insisted on mansplaining the finer points of “Doctor Who.”

Here’s an idea, WonderCon organizers: How about a panel titled “How Not to Be a Creeper” featuring so many geeky celebrities that fanboys won’t be able to resist attending?

Lavender Vroman, Gail Simone, and Fawn Kemble at WonderCon 2018.

For me, the highlight of this year’s event was a panel featuring Gail Simone, writer of Birds of Prey, Wonder Woman, and “Clean Room,” and the most recognizable woman in comics, who I Twitter stalk almost daily. Simone has worked hard to cultivate and encourage inclusiveness and representation in the industry.

Her origin story is legend. A comic book fan since childhood, she was working as a hairdresser when she began writing columns critiquing the industry, especially on its more misogynistic tropes. She was eventually approached to write for comics and the rest is history.

During the panel, Simone talked about her first job writing for “The Simpsons” comic book and how scared and inexperienced she felt. She recounted emailing her comic writer friends for advice on basic things like formats and style and how terrified she was that her employer would discover she didn’t know what she was doing.

I found this deeply encouraging because, so many of us — especially women who write or create — struggle with feeling strong enough, or smart enough, or confident enough, or adequate enough to tackle those scary new opportunities that could lead to something bigger. The fear of failure is a supervillain just waiting to deliver a demoralizing monologue.

Even sitting down to write a simple blog post some days can take a surprising amount of courage. I’m sure it’s the same for those of you who sit down to paint, or write fiction or poetry or a screenplay, or simply take some time away from daily responsibilities to do something that makes you feel fulfilled and inspired.

Gail’s advice: If you’re scared, it’s a good thing. Do it anyway. That’s when you’re going to create your best work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love of sci-fi, fantasy leads avid reader, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ fan to live best geek life

When I first met Erin Gardner, I had no idea what deep and delicious layers of geekiness lurked beneath her deceptively placid demeanor.

Since then, Erin has become one of my very favorite geeks, a fellow bibliophile and lover of Ray Bradbury, and someone you can easily get lost in nerdy conversation with for hours about everything from “Beauty and the Beast,” to “Doctor Who,” to Harry Potter, to comic books, to conventions, to anime.

Nintendo and Disney were her gateway drugs into the world of fandoms and pop culture. A love of fairy tales and literature, particularly the genres of science fiction and fantasy, led her down the wonderful, winding paths of Narnia and Middle-earth, as well as the worlds of “Howl’s Moving Castle” and classics like “Fahrenheit 451” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

In this interview, she reminisces about the time she realized she had gone “full nerd” on a solo trip to the Wizarding World in Orlando, Florida. She also chats about her dream Disney wedding, her budding love of anime, her ample Funko Pop! collection, her “Battletoads” obsession, and her adorable dog Falkor.

As a bonus, Erin reveals the hidden treasure that is Phoenix Comic Fest and what the sweetest revenge is when you’re a girl gamer.

To those who don’t know you, you can seem kinda quiet, so I think people don’t always realize the ever deeper levels of geekiness that exist within you. Are people sometimes surprised when they figure this out about you?

I am a pretty shy person for the most part so, yes, most people are very surprised. My favorite surprise story is when I first started dating my husband and he had a picture of Deadpool as his phone’s background, and I saw it and said, “Oh, cool, Deadpool.” His jaw hit the floor. Since then it has been a wonderful geek-filled relationship.

Were you a geek child? How did you first become interested in nerd stuff?

I wouldn’t say that I was. I must have been about 7 when my grandma bought us our first Nintendo, and I loved playing it. That was definitely the gateway into me being a nerd. But I wasn’t quite as obsessed as I am now.

So, first off, I must ask you about your love of late science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury because that’s something we share. How were you introduced to Bradbury’s writing and why do you enjoy it?

It is such an off-the-wall story. I was a member of paperbackswap.com, a website where you post books you are willing to “swap” with other people. All I had to do was pay the shipping cost. Then I could request a book from someone else and they would send it to me. So I would go to the library book sales, where I could get a bag of old books for $1, then post them on the website.

One of the books I grabbed was “S is for Space,” a collection of his short stories. It sat on the shelf forever, and now I am glad that no one wanted it. Then one day, my mom said something about it being a Bradbury book, and that he was a pretty well-known author. So I picked it up and started reading.

I started with the introduction: “Jules Verne was my father, H.G. Wells was my wise uncle, Edgar Allen Poe was the bat winged cousin we kept high in the back attic room. Flash Gordon and Buck Rodgers were my brothers and friends. Adding, of course, that in all probability Mary Shelley was my mother. With a family like that, how else could I have turned out as I did; a writer of fantasy and most curious tales of science fiction.” — Ray Bradbury

I was hooked after that. I never thought of myself as someone into weird and unsettling stories, but I just loved every word of every story. It was so different from my normal young adult fantasy stories I was currently reading. You have also been a big influence in my love for Bradbury, like showing me his favorite booth at Clifton’s, and lending me the Bradbury books I have yet to read.

Erin, center, and fellow book lovers Lavender Vroman and Christy Rooney, sitting in the Bradbury booth at Clifton’s in Los Angeles.

Do you have a favorite Bradbury book or short story?

This is such a hard question! I loved “The Halloween Tree.” “Fahrenheit 451” was great, too. I would have to say my favorite was still my first book of his, “S is for Space.” My favorite short story from “S is for Space” would be “Come into my Cellar,” a story about children growing mushrooms in the cellar, but these mushrooms aren’t just normal mushrooms …

Erin visiting the Halloween Tree dedicated to Ray Bradbury in Disneyland.

Do you have any thoughts on HBO’s upcoming adaptation of “Fahrenheit 451”?

I have unrealistic expectations when it comes to my favorite books being made into movies. I would love it to be the exact same as the book. Which is impossible, I know. After “Ella Enchanted” was made into such a terrible movie adaptation, I am a little hand shy about this one. I still plan to see it though. I’m sure you will be one of the first to hear from me when I do.

Judging by your email address, you’re also a fan of C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia.” When and how did you discover the series?

My mom had her set from junior high on the shelf, right below “S is for Space,” funny enough. I was first drawn to them because of the fantastic illustrations on the book jackets. I started reading them in Junior high, as well, also on my mother’s suggestion.

What makes it special to you?

I love that it is a fantasy-style story of the Gospel of Jesus, a retelling of how Jesus died for me because of his great love. It will always be something quite special to me.

Which is your favorite book in the series?

“The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” has always been my favorite! “The Silver Chair” is a close second though. Who doesn’t love Puddleglum?

Who’s your favorite Narnian inhabitant?

There are so many good ones to choose from, Reepicheep, Eustace Scrubb (who you hate at first, but then you grow to love), and Mr. Tumnus, the first Narnian inhabitant I met. However, Aslan has always been my favorite. His presence is so comforting, not to mention he is the creator of Narnia.

You’re also a fan of Lewis’ BFF, J.R.R. Tolkien. Are you more into the books or more into the movies?

For “The Hobbit,” I am more into the book. Why the heck is Legolas even in the movie? For “Lord of the Rings,” I am into both.

I saw the movies first, but I will only watch the extended editions. I read the books after, and as always, the books are better. I am part of the group of salty people who wanted Tom Bombadil in the movie, because he is so awesome. I love both the movies and the books though. They are each good in their own way.

Who’s your favorite resident of Middle-Earth and why?

My favorite in both the book and the movie is the Mouth of Sauron, (cue my love for the creepy I didn’t know I had until Bradbury brought it out). He has been Suaron’ s mouthpiece for some 60 years, learning great sorcery, and his name is remembered in no tale. He has such a small part in the story, and he is so mysterious and very creepy. So, of course, he is my favorite.

Erin’s husband, Tim, proposed to her at Snow White’s Wishing Well in Disneyland.

You’re quite the Disney fan, as well. This might be a difficult question, but do you remember your first Disney experience?

Disney movies started coming out more frequently when I was born and I grew up watching them, so I think my love for Disney came gradually. I think the movies were where it started. My brothers and I watched them over and over again. “Beauty and the Beast” was my go-to movie. Disney was such a big part of my childhood (and everyone else’s) that it is nostalgic to me.

Even the parks, my first trip was when I was 2, and I walked the whole day. When I was a little older, I once got lost at the park and thought I would never see my family again, but I didn’t mind the idea of living in Disneyland if I had to. I have spent every birthday at Disneyland since I was 15. My husband asked me to marry him at the wishing well. So many of my memories are at Disneyland or have to do with Disney.

You are specifically very into “Beauty and the Beast.” How old were you when you first saw it? What impression did it make on you?

It came out the year before I was born, but I couldn’t tell when the first time was. When I was tiny I am sure.

I related to Belle the most, she is still the only brunette princess, too, I think. She loves to read like me. She also feels like an outsider, which everyone relates to in some aspect. There are places where we feel we don’t fit in. The biggest one though, is don’t judge a book by its cover. Someone might look scary on the outside, but be a great person, while others might look very attractive on the outside, but a real jerk on the inside. Ahem. Gaston …

Can you sing all the words to all the songs?

I can! For the original, the Broadway version, and the remake.

Are you a fan of the live-action remake?

I am a fan of it! They incorporated aspects from the original story written by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, like when she asked her father to bring her back a rose (which made my bookworm self very happy). The song the Beast sings at the end is so good, and I am a fan of her new dress. I got to see it at the El Capitan Theatre (in Hollywood).

I understand you have quite a collection of “Beauty and the Beast” merchandise. Tell me about some of the prized items you’ve amassed. 

I do have a lot of things. Many are gifts from family and friends. My favorite things would be my Jim Shore figures, a life-size set of Lumiere and Cogsworth, a hand-painted sign that my brother and sister-in-law got Tim and I for our wedding. My most favorite, however, was an outfit I had growing up. It was a purple shirt with belle on it. I wore it when it was almost dress length to when it was a pretty short shirt length. I would still wear it if I could. I still have it too.

Erin in her favorite childhood “Beauty and the Beast” shirt.

You and your husband, Tim, had an adorable Disney-themed wedding. Please tell me all about it.

It was the best day ever, obviously. I got to wear a Disney Alfred Angelo ballgown dress covered in sparkles. Surprisingly enough, I wore a dress styled after Cinderella. The Belle-style dresses just looked weird on me. All my bridesmaids were dressed like other princesses and their bouquets were made specially to match their princess.

Each table at our reception was decorated after a Disney ride. The Jungle Cruise table even had a pop gun to scare away renegade hippos. Our candy table had a Monorail driving around the edge, our cake had the rose from “Beauty and the Beast” on top, with Iron Man hiding among the rose petals falling down the side of the cake.

A bridesmaid carries a “Brave”-themed bouquet.

The men all had action figures for their boutonnieres, and a matching shirt with their superhero’s logo under their suits. Our ring bearer was Thor and the pillow with the rings was shaped like Thor’s hammer.

We had so many people help out to make the day so amazing and I am still so thankful to all of them.

Why did you choose that as the theme for your big day?

I always wanted to get married at Disneyland. My sister-in-law, Caitlin, and I once planned our perfect Disney wedding on their website, and then cried when we saw the price for the most basic wedding package. So the next best thing was having a wedding themed after one of Tim’s and my favorite places.

Caitlin Hawkins, left, and Erin at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Hollywood.

Harry Potter is another of your major fandoms. How did you discover J.K. Rowling’s series?

There was the crazy girl I met in junior high, who was a bigger reader then I was, and she was so in love with Harry Potter that she would wait hours outside the theater on opening night to see the newest Harry Potter movie coming out. I went with her to see one of the movies, I can’t even remember which one it was, but after that I was hooked, I went home and started reading all the books. That crazy girl, Caitlin, is now my sister-in-law and my very best friend. We still geek out over Harry Potter all the time. I love sharing that with her.

What’s your Hogwarts house?

I am a proud Slytherin! I got sorted in high school on a field trip to Warner Bros. Studios. I got to sit on the same stool from the movie, then they put the hat on my head, the hat started yelling at me because he said I thought he was ugly, then put me in Slytherin. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I recently took Tim to Warner Bros. so he could be sorted. He was put into Ravenclaw.

You actually once went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando by yourself, just ‘cause you had the opportunity. That’s so awesome! How did that happen? Tell me all about that visit.

My best friend Kristy lives out in Florida. She moved there when we were very little and it broke my heart. She is also quite the nerd. It was her wedding that weekend, and since I was out there already I stayed an extra day to see Universal, since I had never been there before. Kristy’s uncle works there so he got me a free ticket.

That was when I knew I went full nerd, by myself on the other side of the continent, going to the Wizarding World. It was such a good day, I would do it again in a heartbeat. I sent Snapchat videos to everyone back at home. Being by myself though, I got to go in all the single rider lines, so I rode most of the rides there.

Is the Orlando theme park way better than the Hollywood Wizarding World?

It is SO much better. They have it spread between two parks, so there is a ton more there. Not just Hogsmead, they have the Hogwarts Express you can ride to London, Lavender Brown comes and writes love notes to Ron while you are on the way there. Diagon Alley is so amazing! My favorite part though was when I found a pitch black alleyway. It was Knockturn Alley! I was terrified to go in, and once I went in the smell was horrible! It was so fantastic! I highly suggest going.

You’re a major bookworm in general. Do you have a preference for science fiction and fantasy? If so, why do you think that is?

I do prefer science fiction and fantasy. I think it is because in this genre you can push the limits, it is so different from reality, and that makes a wonderful escape from the real world.

What are some of your favorite book titles?

“Howls Moving Castle” By Diana Wynne Jones. “The Hunchback Of Notre Dame” by Victor Hugo. “Dracula” by Bram Stoker. “The Great Good Thing” by Roderick Townley. All the Gail Carson Levine books. I could list so many more, but these are few of my favorites.

Do you have a bajillion books in your house?

I do. Haha. I just counted, I have 245 books throughout my house.

You work for a travel agent. This may be a stretch, but does this job ever intersect at all with your geek lifestyle?

It does in one way. My boss has the most amazing collection of Disney figurines. They are so beautiful. I couldn’t tell who made them though.

A couple of your other fandoms are “Doctor Who” and Star Trek. Who’s your Doctor and why?

Nine. I love Ten and Eleven, too, but Nine is my doctor. He was the one that got it started again, and he was more serious than the others and also had a dryer humor, which is my favorite humor. My favorite way to put it is like this: Nine is a tiger, serious and strong, always in charge of things. Ten is like Tigger, cute and silly, bouncing around but still getting things done. Eleven is a house cat that knocks over a vase and pretends he planned to do that all along.

Which incarnation of Star Trek is your favorite?

The Original Series, but Picard is my favorite captain. The new movies are a close second though. Anton Yelchin was my favorite in the movies, so I am so sad about his unexpected death.

You’ve recently gotten into the “Flash” TV series. What do you like about it?

The Flash is my favorite superhero out of both the Marvel and DC universes. The show just sucked me right in! I love all the characters, the writing is good too. Tim and I have tried to get into the other CW shows but they just aren’t as good. I still want Barry Allen and Felicity Smoak to be together. Even though I know that will never happen. I have even started reading The Flash comic books.

Erin and Tim at one of Erin’s favorite attractions, Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission Breakout at Disney’s California Adventure.

In other comic book related news, it seems you’re pretty obsessed with “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” right now. What’s that about?

I seriously don’t know, I just love everything about it! The soundtrack is amazing and all I have been listening to recently. Baby Groot is just so cute! The chemistry between Peter Quill and Drax is so funny to me. It also has my new favorite actress, Elizabeth Debicki, who is covered in gold. This is a spoiler, but I love the redemption story arc of Yondu. I hated him in the first movie, and in this one he becomes pretty awesome.

I was also super unhappy that they changed Tower of Terror to a Guardians of the Galaxy ride, but now I can’t get enough of it! It one of my favorite rides!

You’re currently wading into the wonderful waters of anime. What shows have you been watching?

I have only watched two so far, “Death Note” and “Full Metal Alchemist.”

What’s intriguing you so far about this genre of animation?

The story of these shows are so elaborate! It keeps me interested, and it is fun to see how their culture and how they tell stories are so different from how things are done here. The different mythology is really cool to me. Like learning about Shinigamis and how they work. It’s really cool.

You have an impressive collection of Funko Pops. How many do you own?

I have 161, as of right now, but that is always changing.

What are some of your favorites?

I have a Rose Tyler Pop! signed by Billie Piper, a 2015 San Diego Comic-Con Unmasked Barry Allen limited edition, worth about $170. I am pretty picky when it comes to the ones I get, so all of them are my favorite.

Where do you keep them all?

I have an Ikea cabinet that I have most of mine in, but I am in desperate need of another, they have already out grown it. The cabinet is in the room we call the Nerd Cave, where we keep most of our nerd memorabilia.

Do you collect anything else?

Just books and Pop! figures, I don’t really have space to collect anything else.

You’re also an avid video gamer. How did you get into gaming?

It started with our first Nintendo, and I just kept playing games. It helps that all my brothers were into gaming, and as the only girl in the family, spending time with my brothers meant playing video games, so I always thought it was normal for girls to play video games. I learned later that I was more of an anomaly.

What’s your experience as a girl gamer been like?

It has been good for most part. I think gaming does come more naturally to guys, so I have always had to work hard at keeping up with them. Playing online is where things are different. If I have a mic in and am talking to the other people playing, most of them think I am a 12-year-old boy, and when they do find out I am a girl some of them can get pretty vulgar. Then I beat them, and that is pretty satisfying.

I made some pretty good friends too, though, and that was fun. Now though, I play mostly with my husband, my brother Sam and his wife Caitlin, and my brother-in-law Brian. It has been fun to see more girls get into gaming now though. It has been such a guy-dominated hobby, but not anymore.

I understand you own an old-school Nintendo console just for your favorite video game of all-time, “Battletoads.” What is it about that game?

This game has been named the hardest game of all time. I have only ever made it past level three once, you literally have to memorize the entire game to beat it. My brothers and I spent hours playing it, it is a nice piece of nostalgia for me. I also love the idea of toads being totally B.A. It is such a different kind of game to play.

You’re also a big fan of the Lego games. What do you like about those?

They are just so fun! They have a mice mix of action, puzzle solving, and humor. The Harry Potter ones are my favorite, I have played them through a couple of times.

How good are you at “Call of Duty”?

Not to toot my own horn, but I am pretty good. I used to stay up till three in the morning playing it, so I have had a lot of practice.

How many hours have you spent playing “Overwatch”?

61 hours so far. We actually haven’t played much lately.

How crazy are you about “Portal”?

So crazy! The first time I played it, I put it in the console, and then emerged three days later, having beaten the game. I couldn’t stop playing it. I heard they were talking of making a movie, which would be fun to see I think. I have played it through several times since then.

You’ve discovered the joys of the Phoenix Comic-Con (now called Phoenix Comic Fest). What’s the advantage of immersing yourself in one of the smaller fan conventions?

We went in 2016. It isn’t affiliated with (San Diego) Comic-Con. So all the guests they have there aren’t contracted to be there. They come because they want to, which makes the atmosphere more comfortable I think. It wasn’t as crowded as some of bigger cons. It is in Phoenix, but the heat isn’t a problem because it is in the downtown convention center, which is huge! So everything is inside.

Tim and Erin with Billie Piper at Phoenix Comic-Con.

What were some of the highlights of your con experience?

Meeting so many “Doctor Who” actors! Billie Piper, Alex Kingston, Dan Starkey. We also got to meet Timothy Odmunson and Oded Fher, who thought he knew Tim from somewhere. Alex Kingston was my favorite to meet though, she is seriously the nicest person.

The selection of Pops there was also astounding! I found so many exclusives I was looking for, and they were cheaper then Amazon!

The best part though was when we stumbled upon an Aquaman panel. The one guy on the panel casually dropped that he was a writer for the show “Scream,” which Caitlin and I were currently obsessed with. I about died! So I found his booth the next day and got to talk to him about the show and what theories we had! It was one of the best parts of the whole weekend!

Erin with “Scream” TV series writer Heath Corson at Phoenix Comic-Con.

Are you planning to go back?

I would go back every year if I could. I really hope we can make it this year. The cast from “Guardians of the Galaxy” will be there, also Paige O’Hara! Plus William Shatner and Tim Curry. I would love to cosplay this time too.

What’s left on your geek bucket list?

To go to Disneyland in Paris! Maybe to go to San Diego Comic Con once. To start getting into cosplay.

Falkor

To close, I must mention your adorable doggy, Falkor, just so we can include a photo of him. Tell me a little bit about this lovable real-life luck dragon. 

He is crazy sometimes, but since we got our cat, Tonks, he has become the mature one. They are the best of friends. He is such a smart dog too! When he is outside and wants to come in, he knocks on the door. We didn’t teach him that, he just started doing it on his own! We just love him to pieces. I didn’t know his ears would stand up, otherwise we might have named him Ghost.

 

 

The geek fashion industry has a size problem: An open letter to Ashley Eckstein

Dear Ashley Eckstein,

To begin, I’d like to thank you for giving women a voice to express their love of fandoms through fashion. I remember all too well the days when we had to make due with ill-fitting Star Wars T-shirts from the men’s section, or the thrift store, or our boyfriends’ closets.

Because of Her Universe and the geek fashion empire you’ve created, women have so many more options for self-expression and have been inspired to boldly and unashamedly celebrate their love of Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, Marvel, Studio Ghibli, and many other fandoms and franchises.

Your pioneering work in the geek fashion industry and your partnerships with Disney and Hot Topic place you in a unique position to create positive change, which is why I’m writing to you about a specific, industry-wide problem that geek fashion designers, manufacturers, and retailers need to address.

I’m talking about the fashion industry’s size problem, which makes shopping for clothes a source of frustration and discouragement for any woman who doesn’t happen to have the body of a teenager. (I’d say that’s most of us.)

Inconsistent sizing, lack of availability of plus-size products, higher prices for plus-size clothing, flimsy and unflattering fabrics and materials, and other related issues often combine to make shopping for geek clothes a fangirl’s worst nightmare.

Clearly, addressing and resolving these issues isn’t just Her Universe’s responsibility. I’m writing to you, Ms. Eckstein, because Her Universe markets itself as an inclusive fangirl fashion company and lifestyle brand that caters to a diverse spectrum of women.

Your brand prides itself on catering to women and girls of all shapes, sizes, and styles, from plus-size shoppers to kids. The company’s motto is “Fashion for Every Fangirl.” Too often, though, it seems the brand’s actual target demographic is an extremely narrow one, namely young women and juniors with a very specific body type.

My friends who wear plus-size clothing have been talking to me about their concerns for years. This Christmas, however, I had my first personal experience with the geek fashion size problem when my husband gifted me with Her Universe’s adorable, vintage-style Star Wars Endor Landscape Dress.

Since the picture of the model wearing the dress on the Her Universe website screamed “teen heroin chic” more than “40-year-old lady in a cosplay dress,” I probably should have been prepared for the fact that I couldn’t even get the zipper to close halfway on my medium-sized frock.

Now, I comfortably take a medium in every item of clothing I purchase, from T-shirts, to blouses, to dresses, so I was surprised, even shocked, and saddened that I wouldn’t be able to wear the dress to WonderCon as planned.

Around the same time, I was shopping on the Her Universe website for a gift for a family member. I found several plus-size dresses I knew she would adore, including designs from Doctor Who and Star Wars. Every time I clicked on a dress, however, I found that her specific size was out of stock. This happened over and over again, until I eventually gave up and went to another retailer’s site to find what I needed.

Now, it’s entirely possible the Endor Landscape Dress was designed for a younger, slimmer gal than me and I just didn’t realize it. And it seems geek fashion retailers have an ongoing problem with maintaining their plus-size stock, for whatever reason, be it demand or lack of supply.

But if the issue is that companies like Her Universe don’t in reality cater to a demographic of average-size women and plus-size fangirls, then the company needs to be transparent about that.

I polled my friends about their experiences shopping for geek fashion items and they all seemed to have disheartening stories that suggest this particular niche market is just as focused on youth and twiggy, anorexic beauty as the rest of the fashion industry.

By far, the biggest complaint I heard was about inconsistent sizing and labeling.

“I shouldn’t be a 3XL in a dress when I’m a large in a shirt from the same company,” said one of my friends.

Her solution? Switching from companies like Her Universe and We Love Fine to smaller outlets, like Elhoffer Design, that she feels care about her and her body.

Another friend who wears plus-size clothing recounted three failed attempts to purchase items from Her Universe, which culminated in a frustrating and overlong return process. She now has resolved to buy only shoes from the company.

Those I spoke to also described a constant struggle with thin, clingy fabrics and form-fitting cuts that are unflattering to their body types.

“See-through is not what I’m going for,” one of my friends said. “Also, I don’t want form-fitting. My fix for this is wearing men’s T-shirts instead. But it would be nice to have better options.”

Another major pain point for plus-size shoppers is the unavailability of desired clothing items, which always seem to be sold out or out of stock when they go to click and buy them.

“I think most times that I think to myself, maybe I’ll buy that, it’s sold out already,” a fellow geek shopper said.

Then there’s the fact that plus-size dresses and other clothing items tend to cost more than smaller-size items, which is just patently unfair and discriminatory. A quick glance at the Her Universe website reveals the cost of a plus-size dress can run about $10 to $15 more than the equivalent outfit in a smaller size.

The friends I polled mentioned lots of other things they’d like to see change in the geek fashion world, as well, including more dress-length options for taller fangirls and less gender-stereotyping when it comes to designs, like the over-feminized, flowery fashions that tend to be marketed to women and the edgier, artsier fashions targeted at men, for example. Why not make a wider variety of designs available to both genders and let fans decide for themselves what they want to wear?

I realize the problems I’m presenting to you won’t necessarily be easy to solve. Fangirls come in all ages, shapes, and sizes, and have lots of strong opinions. However, the fact that a large percentage of the female geek population isn’t being represented by companies that claim to represent them is a serious concern.

Ms. Eckstein, you’re at the forefront of the geek fashion world. If anyone can raise awareness and begin to address these issues, it’s you.

Thanks for your attention and consideration.

Sincerely,

Lavender Vroman

 

 

Geekdom is one big adventure for traveler, Disney theme park connoisseur

Many geeks use their passion for fandoms as a jumping off point for adventure.

This is certainly true of anglophile, Marvel movie enthusiast, dedicated con-goer, obsessive Disney visitor, and fearless traveler Christy Rooney.

I’ll admit it. This interview got a little bit long. Well, ok, a lot long. But only because I can’t resist vicariously going along on the epic adventures Christy has experienced, solo and with friends and family, while wholeheartedly pursuing her geekier interests and inclinations.

Yes, she’s visited every Disney theme park in the world … except one! Don’t worry. She’ll fill you in on all the juicy details below. Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Walt’s spin-offs in Paris, Asia, and elsewhere.

She’s also made several other geeky pilgrimages abroad, instilling a healthy love of travel in her young daughter and son. She happens to be a patron saint of sorts to her friends who need cheering up in the form of photos of dreamy British men. And she’s one heck of a celebrity spotter, bumping into famous folks everywhere from the airport to IKEA.

Let’s join her — shall we? — on an adventure of a lifetime.

Christy Rooney poses for a “Sherlock”-themed photo shoot.

It seems to me that you embraced your geek identity a bit later in life, and by that I mean like in your 20s. Is that accurate? 

I was in my 20s when I openly started showing my geeky side! But honestly I’ve always been a fangirl! (Cough. N’SYNC. Cough.)

How did you discover your geekier side?

As I mentioned, I’ve always been a fangirl, first with boy bands, but I’d say that my first true geek love (other than my lifelong Disney obsession) was J.R R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. After “Fellowship of the Ring” came out, I fell in love! I saw that movie in theaters seven times, and the others several times as well.

It was then that my room went from having NSYNC posters to a LOTR vibe. My dad had managed to bring home a poster big enough to cover my full-sized bed (which ended up attached to my ceiling because there was nowhere else to put it!) and I started filling my bookshelves with the trivia books, behind-the-scenes books, the movie soundtracks, and even a Galadriel doll.

It’s all been a big snowball since then, when Marvel started releasing their superhero films, I fell in love all over again! Iron Man, Loki, and Dr. Strange are some of my favorites.

So, you are a super Disney freak. I mean that in a nice way, of course. Going to the parks is a tradition for your immediate and extended family. How did that start?

I remember going to the parks once a year as a child. My entire family would pick a day and head over! This included grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins! We’re a fairly large group, but we made it happen! Now, several (at least 20) of us have season passes and go multiple times a month!

Christy’s son Gavin and daughter Gwenyth, Disneybounding at Disneyland.

Tell me about the epic Disneyland trips you do.

Back in November, about 19 of us decided to try our hands at Disneybounding! My mom and cousin got the ball rolling, and we ended up having a great time finding our outfit pieces, and my mom made several pairs of custom ears to go with them! With that many people, we were thankful for my cousin, Cami, a school teacher, who can be decisive and get the group making plans and making them happen!

Even as I type this, we are headed to Disney tomorrow with a group of seven, which for most people may seem big, but for us is a small/normal size!

And next week, nine of us are headed to the park Disneybounding again, but all of us dressing specifically from “Tangled.” My mom is handcrafting new ears for ALL of us, and they are looking spectacular!

Christy with Gwenyth, Gavin, and husband Owen at Walt Disney World.

You’ve actually achieved the feat of visiting every Disney theme park in the world, except Shanghai. Tell me how that happened.

Haha! Owen and I were just talking about this. We’ve had passes for years, which took care of Disneyland. Then, in  February of 2015, Owen had a work conference in Orlando at one of the Disney resorts. We decided that for this trip, the kids and I would join him! The timing was pretty great, because Gavin was still 2, which meant he was free.

In 2016, we had made plans to visit Owen’s Irish side of the family. And since Paris is such a short flight away, we decided to spend about four days in Paris itself before jumping over to Disneyland Paris! We had a blast!

Christy and Owen at Disneyland Paris.

My in-laws currently live in Japan (though they’re moving soon) and we decided to visit them over the holidays in 2017. We flew into Japan on December 22, and headed to Tokyo on the 26th. We were able to spend one day at Tokyo Disney Sea, and one day in Tokyo Disneyland.

A few days into the new year, Owen, the kids and I jumped on a plane from Tokyo to Hong Kong (because it was just SO CLOSE) and we were able to experience their park as well!

Would you briefly compare and contrast the various parks for us?

Each park is set up differently. It throws me every time!

Disney World was actually the most overwhelming for me. (It may have something to do with the fact that our kids were 2 and 4 at the time). It is MASSIVE. Everything is spread out, and it was the first time in decades that I’d needed to use a map in a Disney park. And, honestly, I hadn’t done the research I should have for the dining, Magic Bands, and a few other little aspects.

Gavin and Gwenyth at Disneyland Paris.

Paris’ Magic Kingdom was laid out quite a bit like ours, which was nice, and it was smaller than our park. Their second park, Walt Disney Studios, is close in proximity (like ours is) but doesn’t have as many rides or attractions. The big ride in that park is their “Ratatouille” ride. As soon as the park opened, everyone (literally everyone) rushed to get in line or try to score fast passes. Within half an hour of park opening, the line had already hit the three-hour wait time.

Tickets to Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea.

Tokyo’s Magic Kingdom was interesting. Instead of going through the gates and walking down Main Street, you walk through a covered … pavilion? It was almost a Main Street, but the whole thing is covered.

The day we went, it was pretty crowded, so we didn’t get to do all of the rides, but we spent a good portion of time in Fantasyland. Theirs is more condensed, while their Tomorrowland makes ours feel like a sardine can! We did get to see the Country Bear Jamboree there! And their Pirates of the Caribbean.

It’s fun to see what is consistent, and what they change on the rides. Their Teacups spin more easily, which makes for great spinning speeds! And the Haunted Mansion was great! It was still Christmas decorations, so Gavin was super happy about seeing all of his favorite “Nightmare Before Christmas” characters, but in different places, and I got asked about the various differences the WHOLE ride.

Tokyo Disney Sea was a whole different ballpark. I could not figure out its layout! It seemed to have shortcuts, big loops, and tunnels. Some of our favorite rides were Journey to the Center of the Earth, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Aquatopia (think Autopia, but with raft-like things) and their Nemo ride. Gavin was ecstatic to find that they had an entire Atlantis area. He loved the entire area.

Tickets to Hong Kong Disneyland.

Hong Kong only has one park, but the shuttle bus ride into it made us feel like we were headed into Jurassic Park. It was built into an isolated area that is surrounded by greenery of all kinds that grows super tall and lush.

Hong Kong is by far the smallest of the Magic Kingdom parks. It is laid out quite a bit like ours, but condensed. I think the strangest thing about that park was how empty it was! We walked onto the Iron Man Experience ride, which is exclusive to Hong Kong, and enjoyed being able to meander the parks without bumping into big crowds.

They also had a beautiful princess garden that has themed areas for different princesses that include large moving dioramas. All four of us loved their Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars (similar to Thunder Mountain), their Lion King Show, and Mystic Manor (our equivalent would be Haunted Mansion).

What are some of your favorite international Disney theme park memories?

Riding Teacups! That may seem like an odd favorite memory, but it is the one ride that we have ridden in every Magic Kingdom thus far. It’s a Small World and Pirates were in the running, but both Small Worlds were shut down for refurbishment, much to Gavin’s dismay, and Hong Kong doesn’t have a Pirate ride.

We’ve also enjoyed just spending time together doing something we all love. And the kids love to point out the differences in the parks. Gavin has asked several times why we don’t visit the dragon anymore, and i have to remind him that the dragon lives under the Paris Castle, and not our own. Another special memory is taking the time to take a family picture in front of the different castles. They are all different, and beautiful in their own right.

Which of all the parks is your favorite?

Oh, man! I would say that Disneyland is my favorite! It’s the original Disney park, and the one I know like the back of my hand. Our park may be little compared to some of the others, but for me it truly is one of my happiest places on earth.

Which park was the most challenging to get to or visit?

I still would say that Disney World was hard, simply because of the sheer size of the parks. And the parks weren’t super close to each other, the resorts, or their Downtown Disney area. But there was some minor difficulties in the Asia parks because we don’t speak the languages and the cultures are different. But I think the great thing about the Disney parks is the fact that even when you are completely lost, there’s a friendly cast member that can help.

Which attraction is your favorite?

Ugh, so many hard questions, Lavender! My favorite ride is Peter Pan. My favorite nighttime attraction is the Electrical Parade. We were able to do both of those in the Tokyo park and I adored them! There are some differences, but let me say, their Electrical Parade was amazing. And Peter Pan was such fun! We still soar over London (which is my favorite part of the ride) and help Peter fight Hook.

Which park has the best food?

Ohhhh, that’s tough. In Tokyo we ate at The Queen of Hearts’ Banquet Hall. They had various salads, chicken dishes and some awesome desserts. In Hong Kong, they have an entire restaurant that’s all Iron Man focused. Those meals were really good too! But I think my favorite places to eat are the Blue Bayou and Rancho del Zocalo in our own Disneyland!

Gavin with a Hank hat found in Tokyo.

Which park has the best merch?

In Tokyo, it’s SO strange! It’s as though Mickey has taken a backseat … . He may be in a different car altogether! Instead of Mickey ears, backpacks, shirts, etc., they have Duffy Bear. Mickey’s face may be on the sign, but Duffy rules inside the parks. I saw purses, backpacks, popcorn holders, ears, headbands, shirts, lanyards, hats, and stuffed animals everywhere. Mickey and his gang were spotted, but those sightings were few and far between.

I think I’m drawn more to our merchandise here in the states. We have so many stores inside and throughout the parks (instead of just near the gates) and our World of Disney shop has such a varying selection. The Tokyo Disney Store outside the park was about 85% Duffy merch, which, if you’re a Duffy fan, would be awesome. But all I wanted was a Disney shirt that said “Tokyo” and they were nowhere to be found inside or out of the park.

Which park is the weirdest?

I vote Disney Sea as the weirdest. We all loved it, but it was such an odd place. They have a volcano that “erupts” at night, they have an entire East Coast lobster village in one area, and rides that have nothing to do with Disney (like Venetian Gondolas, and Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage).

So when are you going to Shanghai?

Ahhh, the elusive Shanghai. We tried to see if we could add it to our trip, but it would’ve been too hard. Not to mention the added cost of visas. We are hoping to visit the Shanghai park if we visit Owen’s parents when they move to Taiwan. So if it were to happen, it would be sometime in 2019-2020.

You and your family are avid travelers. Have you visited any other famous geek spots in your many travels?

We have! In 2014, I dragged my poor husband all over London finding places related to the BBC show “Sherlock.” We ate at Speedy’s (the restaurant right next door to the famous 221B in the show), found the hospital where he jumped off the roof, and went to the real 221B on Baker Street.

On our Ireland trip, we did a day tour that took us up into Belfast, and the bus took us to The Dark Hedges (featured on “Game of Thrones”), a very famous road that looks absolutely forbidding even in daylight!

On your very recent trip to Tokyo, you visited the Studio Ghibli store. Please tell all.

In Tokyo, Studio Ghibli is huge. I mean … HUGE. While we didn’t get to go to the museum, there was a fabulous shop near where my in-laws live. I’ve just recently been introduced to this portion of the geek world, so I’m sure a true fan would’ve appreciated it far more than I did. But there were playing cards, blankets, bath mats, stuffed toys of all shapes and sizes, luggage, finger puppets, coin banks, key chains, and so much more! It was probably what a non-Disney person feels like when they walk into World of Disney for the first time. There was a lot to take in and see.

I think it’s really cool you’re teaching your kids to be travelers at such a young age. Do they share your geek interests? What are some of your mutual and individual nerdy fascinations and activities?

My kids love traveling! They definitely share my love of all things Disney, and are excited when we get to do something new. Disney is our biggest shared interest. Gwennie has her own love of My Little Pony, and Gavin has started taking an interest in DC villains (namely ClayFace and Mr Freeze). Someday, I’ll be dragging them to conventions with me, I’m sure!

You’ve enjoyed a career as a sign language interpreter. This may be a stretch, but has that work intersected with your geek life at all?

Interpreting hasn’t really intersected with my geek life. I’ve often enjoyed watching interpreters at both conventions and Disneyland alike. I’m always in awe of them, as a lot of random topics are brought up at conventions and the panels are sometimes insane!

Christy and actor Kevin McKidd at IKEA.

You are a dedicated and very successful “stalker” of celebrities (not in an illegal way). Tell me about some of your top celeb encounters.

Hahaha! I’m definitely the type of person that likes to know what is happening in my nearby environment. I think because of that, I’m a people watcher, and I’m just constantly skimming over what or who is nearby.

I’ve run into George Newbern at The Grove in L.A., Kevin McKidd at IKEA, and saw a few celebs at Disneyland before I was brave enough to approach them.

I have also gone to a play to see James Marsters and do the meet and greet, and I’ve asked questions of several people at WonderCon: Richard Armitage (swoon) Chris Hardwick, the guys from the cast of “Orphan Black” (along with a meet and greet a different year) and a meet and greet with the several “Once Upon a Time” cast members.

Christy with Sean Maguire.

I’ve also been lucky when wandering at some cons. My friend Jenna and I snagged pictures with Sean Maguire for “Once Upon a Time”, and I waited patiently at D23 to get a rushed selfie with Colin O’Donoghue.

But one of my favorites was when Owen and I went to New York and saw “She Loves Me,” starring Zachary Levi. He was awesome and came out after the show to sign autographs and take pictures. I had platinum and purple hair at the time, and he told me he liked it! (It may still give me warm fuzzies just thinking about it!)

My biggest celeb failing though … Colin Farrell. I saw him at the airport when we were headed to Ireland, but Owen convinced me it wasn’t him … until it was time to board and Owen realized I was right!

I have also discovered that a great way to see celebs up close is to go to show tapings.

Christy with Zachary Levi.

Tell me about some of your favorite tapings.

I’ve found that getting tickets to “The Late Late Show with James Corden” and “Jimmy Kimmel” are great ways of seeing some pretty awesome people. I’ve seen Gary Oldman, Matt Smith, Michael Fassbender, Zoe Saldana, Kat Dennings, Beth Behrs, Jason Alexander, and several others.

You’ve slept outside at a convention before. Tell me about that experience. Was it worth it?

Oh, man. I was not prepared for that adventure!

My cousins and I were enjoying the D23 convention, and noticed (on Friday) that several people were already in the queue for events on Saturday. Now, one of my biggest obsessions is Marvel, and they were set to have a time slot in the big Live Action panel at D23. As the day went one, my cousins and I got more worried about the line, and after dinner we made the decision to swing by Target for some blankets, then our hotel room for some overnight necessities, and head back to the convention center.

By the time we got there, there were already tons of people in line (far more prepared than we were!), and the line twisted and turned around the outside of the convention center. We were fortunate in that they let us into one of the underground halls to stay the night (I think it had something to do with crowd control).

Let me tell you, concrete is HARD … and COLD. Because we were so woefully unprepared for this, all we really had was our blankets, while people around us had chairs, blow-up pool floats, mattresses and several other things that would have made that night more palatable.

It was an odd experience, because even when 90% of the people were sleeping, the lights were all on, and Disney movies were playing on several TVs throughout the room. I remember waking up in a panic and discovering that the explosions that woke me up weren’t real, but that the movie had switched from “Moana” to a Star Wars movie while I slept.  I think I counted four to five different movies that night.

In some ways, yes, it was worth it. I think D23 has grown considerably, so to see these big panels with all my favorite people it was something I had to do. And this year’s Marvel presence was EPIC! So many stars (including Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey Jr.) graced the stage. My poor cousin probably ended up with bruises from me slapping at her in excitement.

Christy and Ashley Eckstein of Her Universe.

As a woman, is there anything you’d like to see change about the world of geek culture or fandoms?

I would love to see more merchandise made by women and for women! I have a hard time finding things I can wear because I’m taller than what people assume geek girls are, so dresses tend to be on the short side.

And I’d love a bigger selection! I love what Her Universe has accomplished, but we need more. Hot Topic is great, but only if you fall into certain fandoms. Costumes need to be made more realistic for women.

And I think we need more movies like “Wonder Woman.” While I love all my Marvel boys, I want to see a movie about Black Widow, I want more of Scarlet Witch. I’m excited about Captain Marvel!

Amongst your friends, you’re known as a sort of patron saint of dreamy British guys who might send a few pics of Hiddles or Richard Armitage to cheer someone up or wish them well. How did that start? What is it about British dudes?

I admit I have a slight (or embarrassingly large) obsession with the Brits. I’ve always loved all things British. “Pride and Prejudice” has been my favorite book for as long as I can remember. And I absolutely adore British accents.

I have just stumbled upon more and more handsome men in all of my fandoms! I think I started sending them as a joke, and it became a thing. I enjoy picking one … or several Brits to send to people on their birthdays, or just for fun, or if someone is feeling down. Sometimes I’ll send them just to see what their response will be. Your husband has been on the receiving end of a birthday collage a time or two, though this year I took it easy on him.

Since you’re a serious anglophile, I have to ask: Why are so many geeks also anglophiles?

I think geeks are also anglophiles because so many geeky characters are either portrayed as British or are portrayed by British actors. “Doctor Who” is one of the most iconic examples I think. A madman in a box, constantly saving the world, yet oddly centralized in London. Captain Picard on “Star Trek: Enterprise,” also a British actor.

And we’ve had an influx of Brits playing our superheroes. Superman, Loki, Dr. Strange, Spider-Man, to name just a few. I think in the geek world, we also like to know about the people playing our favorite characters, so I tend to dive into Google to see where people are from, etc.

Wholock is one of your major obsessions. How did you discover “Doctor Who,” and what do you like about it?

Ahhhh, “Doctor Who”! I honestly can’t remember who introduced me to “Doctor Who. But I love it! It has the same kind of “out there” feel as “Buffy (the Vampire Slayer)”, another of my favorites, but takes it a step further. It’s set mostly in or around the UK, which makes me supremely happy, and I like the story of a lone Time Lord traveling through space and time to save the world over and over. I think it would be awesome to be one of his traveling companions (Rose is the best, always).

Who’s your Doctor?

The Tenth Doctor is absolutely my Doctor. David Tennant is amazing in that role, and his regeneration just about killed me.

Christy in front of St. Bartholomew’s hospital in London, where Benedict Cumberbatch’s “Sherlock” famously jumped from the roof in an episode of the series.

What about “Sherlock”? Benedict Cumberbatch is obviously a favorite of yours.

I have a very strong love/hate relationship with BBC’s Sherlock. I adore the show, I love the characters, and how they interact. I LOATHE that each series is only three episodes. And I HATE that it is so long between each series (generally around two years). With the main actors becoming a bigger presence in Hollywood … Marvel, I love you, but you’re making it hard for Benedict and Martin to have time for Sherlock!

I do love Benedict Cumberbatch! I stumbled across “Sherlock” on Netflix, during the hiatus between series 1 and 2. I’m fairly certain I binged the first three episodes, then threw a mental fit when I realized there weren’t any more. Not just the “Oh, I have to wait for Netflix to get the second series,” but the “WAIT, why isn’t it showing up as having a second series? HOLD ON A MINUTE! THEY HAVEN’T EVEN BEGUN FILMING?!?!?!?” kind of mental fit.

It’s been really fun watching the actors grow and change. Benedict looks like a baby in series 1! But watching him portray Sherlock got me hooked and I spent a long time seeing what else he’d been in, and seeing if I could find a way to watch them. I also spent a lot of time forcing my friends and family to watch, just so I’d have people who could commiserate with me during the hiatus (and maybe so I could discuss each and every little thing about the show … ).

Christy with her favorite Marvel supervillain, Loki, and the kids (oh, and Thor, too) at Disneyland.

Tom Hiddleston is another favorite of yours. You’re particularly fond of Loki. You have three sentences in which to defend the Asgardian villain. Go.

Hiddles is adorable. I need more than three sentences!

Okay, Loki has been raised by Odin to be a king, though Odin had no intention of ever letting him near the throne. Odin also made Loki’s life one big lie, when Odin stole him from his home planet and never told him he was a frost giant, which, incidentally, is the big scary monstrous villain in Asgard’s bedtime stories. All Loki wanted was some attention and approval from his father and brother, but was always cast aside in favor of Thor (when it came to Odin) and the Warriors Three (when it came to Thor). In short, everything Loki did was Odin’s fault.

I’d also better make it clear that my Loki knowledge is based on the MCU, not the comic books! That’s my disclaimer!

Are you a big fan of the Marvel movies? What do you like about them?

The Marvel movies are some of my absolute favorites. I’ve always been a fan of action movies, and I’ve liked Robert Downey Jr. since “U.S. Marshals” (a random movie, I know). When Iron Man came out, I was enthralled. It was epic. And each movie has been adding to the original story ever since. This is the MCU’s 10th anniversary, and it’s shaping up to be mind-blowing.

I have loved getting to meet new characters, seeing their backstories and struggles as they try to find their places in the wonderful and scary world of superheroes. The movies are really what opened my mind to the comic part of the geek world, and I’ve loved every minute of it. This year at D23, I was so excited to see 15 of the MCU’s stars grace the stage before seeing the first clips of the “Avengers: Infinity War” trailer.

Christy with James Marsters, aka Spike, of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

You’re also a fan of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and you’ve met some of the cast. How did you discover the series? What’s the attraction?

“Buffy” may have been my first non-movie geek venture. I started watching it when my older brother did (based on his college friends’ suggestion.) I quickly became addicted!

“Buffy” is awesome because we follow Buffy, a high school girl with a calling to rid the world of vampires and demons, go through her life trying to be as normal as possible, all while battling various creatures. Vampires have always been an interesting topic for me. (Yes, I did go through a “Twilight” phase) But hands down, the Buffy vampires are way better.

Spike is my absolute favorite vampire. EVER. He’s British (Surprise! another British character!), sarcastic, and treats Buffy as his equal. He’s really the only male character in the show (in my opinion) that never underestimates what Buffy is capable of doing. Angel, Giles, and Xander constantly doubt her, which drives me nuts.

I was able to see James Marsters (Spike) in a play a few years ago! I paid extra for the meet and greet/Q&A session, and loved every minute of it. The play was supposed to also star Juliet Landau (another leading vamp on “Buffy”) but she had a scheduling conflict and wasn’t there the night my friends and I went. But we did see one of Buffy’s college roommates in the play also. It was a really fun night, and I’m pretty sure those memories are going to stick with me.

Christy and Owen at a Halloween party, dressed as Maggie and Glenn from “The Walking Dead.”

What other fandoms are you into?

I think we’ve covered all of my major fandoms, but I do have TV shows that would fall into fandom category. “Orphan Black” was a big one! It just ended last year, wrapping up a great series. I cried during the last episode (because it was super touching, and because I always mourn when my people won’t be returning).

“Grey’s Anatomy” is another one, though that is still ongoing. “The Walking Dead” is another fandom I love! We look forward to seeing Rick’s group struggle to survive every week.

Do you collect anything?

I have an ever-growing collection of Funko Pop! figures. I need shelves, desperately. And my drawers are full of geek shirts that are so numerous, I need more space.

What’s left on your geek bucket list?

I’d love to go to Prince Edward Island and see where Anne of Green Gables grew up. I long for the Lake District in England where Elizabeth stood regally looking at the scenery. I want to see Pemberley, and Cardiff, and Stratford-Upon-Avon. I want to wing my way to New Zealand and walk where the Hobbits, and wizards, elves and men came together to form the Fellowship.

What’s your next geeky travel destination?

Our next trip takes us to Alaska, and I know movies like “White Fang” and “The Proposal” were filmed there. I’m not sure if those count. But Shanghai’s Disney park is another option that could happen in the foreseeable future.

Will you send me some pics of hot British guys? I need some cheering up. Thanks.

I will always send you texts of British guys!

(And she did!)

 

Instagram artist nails it, celebrates fandoms with polish

Delia Wenzel has always been a little obsessive when it comes to the pop culture things that she loves.

As a child, she immersed herself in the toys of the ’80s. As a grown-up, she’s wrapped herself up in J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world and the creepy thrills of Halloween and horror movies. She has also discovered a true talent for creating vibrant, meticulously detailed, geek-tastic nail art.

You’re going to want to check out some of her amazing designs below, inspired by fandoms such as Doctor Who, Star Wars, Stephen King’s “It,” and “The Walking Dead,” along with other passions, like bibliophilia and science.

You can see even more of her stunning nail art on her Instagram account, @iamdeliasnailswhere she’s captured the attention of more than 9,000 followers.

Read on to learn more about Delia’s creative inspirations, her most unusual obsession (hint: he wore a stovepipe hat), her fondest fantasy (hint: it involves custom bookshelves), as well as the other impressive hobby that keeps her busy around Halloween time.

Delia Wenzel, center, at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Hollywood.

Your Instagram page, @iamdeliasnails, has more than 9,000 followers and features your nail designs, including many wonderfully geeky styles. How and when did you begin doing nail designs?

I think I’ve always loved painting my nails and I credit it with helping me quit biting them as a child but I didn’t really get into creating nail art until about four years ago.

Did you have any professional training or are you self-taught?

I’m completely self-taught. It’s all trial and error, mostly error.

Nails by Delia, inspired by “Twin Peaks.”

What specifically prompted you to tackle some of the geekier designs, like those inspired by Harry Potter, Star Wars, Disney, and various horror franchises?

I guess being into geeky and literary things, it was just a natural progression to want those things represented on my nails. Some of my most favorite designs have been fandom designs and it’s so fun to express my love of certain fandoms on my nails!

What do you enjoy about this geeky form of self-expression?

I enjoy being creative and have always had to have creative outlets to express myself, such as cross stitching, fluid painting, and pumpkin carving, but I love nail art because I get ten mini canvases to design and it brings my love of writing, photography, art and geekiness all together in one place. They’re great conversation starters!

What are some of your favorite designs so far?

Some my favorite designs so far have been my Patronus nails, book nails, and Tardis in space, galaxy nails.

Where do you get your inspiration and design ideas?

Most times I have no idea where my ideas come from! They just pop into my head, usually right when I’m falling asleep, ha. I have an entire wall of polish right next to my bed so that may be why. Usually when I look at a polish bottle it just tells me what it wants to be. I also gets tons of inspiration from fellow nail artists on Instagram.

What materials/equipment do you use in creating your designs?

Aside from polish, my main tools are stamping plates and a silicone mat. The stamping plates are metal plates with images engraved on them for stamping images onto the nail and the silicone mat allows me to create designs and then apply them to my nails at a later time. It’s extremely helpful for reverse stamping and messier forms of nail art such as fluid painting and drip marble designs.

Do you design professionally or just for fun?

It’s just for fun!

You have a lot of Instagram followers! How have people reacted to your designs?

The nail art community on Instagram is so collaborative and supportive! I’ve made so many amazing friends because of it. Fandom-inspired manis definitely seem to get a bigger reaction but the overall response has been incredibly positive.

You’re a huge Harry Potter fan. How did you discover J.K. Rowling’s novels?

I discovered Harry Potter almost at the beginning. The second book had already come out and there was a huge buzz about them. I didn’t pay that much attention because I thought they were “kid’s books” and being 21 or 22 and in the military at the time I didn’t picture myself reading kid’s books but an Army friend adamantly recommended them so I bought the first book and the rest is history!

 What do you love about them?

Everything! That’s such a tough question because it’s hard to put into words but I think what it comes down to is friendship and good triumphing over evil. And of course magic, definitely magic!

Delia at the Wizarding World.

How does your love of Harry Potter manifest itself in your life?

I guess my tendency to wear Harry Potter-themed clothing is an outward manifestation of my love for Harry Potter and specifically Ravenclaw house. I sometimes support Hufflepuff, as well.

It looks as if you spend a fair amount of time at the Wizarding World in Hollywood.

Yes! I call it my home away from home. I have had passes ever since it opened so I can go as often as possible.

You’ve described yourself as “bookish.” When and how did your love of reading develop?

My love of reading started very early. As soon as I learned to read, it’s been my number one past time. There’s nothing better than getting lost in a good book.

What are some of your favorite genres and titles?

I read a lot of YA, but I’d say my favorite genres are fantasy and mystery. My favorite series is probably the Unwind series by Neal Shusterman. I also really loved The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. Of course, Harry Potter is a big one, as well as The Vampire Chronicles and Mayfair Witches by Anne Rice. I’m also a huge fan of Jane Austen.

Do you hoard books? If so, where do you keep them all?

I do hoard books! I have to buy all my books because I can’t bear to part with them after I’ve read them and I keep them anywhere I find room. It’s my dream to have a full floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall personal library in my home, preferably hidden behind a secret door.

What about your interest in geeky things in general? When and how did that begin?

I think I’ve always geeked out about things even as a child. I blame my obsessive tendencies. As a kid if I really liked something I became obsessed with it, watching a movie over and over again (I still do that) and collecting things. I loved to collect My Little Ponies, Strawberry Shortcakes, Barbies, Garbage Pail Kids and those plastic charm necklaces, especially.

Like so many book nerds, you’re also into Doctor Who. What do you enjoy about the series?

Aside from the Doctor himself, the idea of time travel has always captivated me. I can trace that directly back to seeing “Back to the Future” when I was a kid. I was obsessed. But the fact that the Doctor is always trying to help people is something I connect with as well.

Who’s your Doctor?

Definitely the eleventh!

Did you watch the Christmas special? What did you think?

I did. It was excellent but it’s always hard to say goodbye to the Doctor.

Are you looking forward to the new season?

Yes! As hard as it is to say goodbye to the Doctor, it’s always exciting to say hello to a new Doctor. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the first female Doctor.

Tesla-inspired nail art by Delia Wenzel.

You’re also a ‘Stranger Things’ fan. What are your thoughts on Season 2? (SPOILER ALERT!)

I absolutely loved season 2! Most especially because seeing my dreams of Jancy become a reality was so fulfilling. I shipped Jonathan and Nancy from the very beginning. It was nice to see the dynamic between Hopper and Eleven. I really enjoyed that.

Who’s your favorite ‘Stranger Things’ character?

Oh, I’m Team Jonathan all the way!

Tell me all your thoughts on Barb.

Justice for Barb!



You seem to like the horror genre a lot. Why?

Hmm, why? I don’t know, I guess it’s just really fun to be scared!

What are some of your favorite horror films/franchises?

The Friday the 13th series and the Scream series are my all-time favorites and I really loved two new horror movies that came out last year, “It” and “Happy Deathday.” Both were just fantastic.

Tell me more about what you thought of the “It” remake?

I loved it so much, I saw it three times in the theater. It was the perfect mix of horror and heart. I even did “It” nails!

With your interest in horror, it follows naturally that you’re also one of those fascinating people who loves Halloween. Do you go all out to celebrate this best of all holidays?

I try to! I decorate fully inside and outside and usually have my costume planned out several months in advance. I’ll watch horror/Halloween movies exclusively in October and paint only Halloween-themed nails as well, but pumpkin carving is probably my favorite Halloween activity.

 You’re a masterful carver of geeky jack ‘o’ lanterns. How and when did you discover this art form?

Well, carving pumpkins was always something I looked forward to as a kid, even just those triangle eyes and a smile were so exciting to me. As a teen, I discovered those pattern books you could buy at the store and I started collecting them and it really ignited my passion for carving and I started doing a pumpkin carving party every year.

I would carve between seven and 10 fresh pumpkins every year and would keep them in the bathtub full of water and in the fridge to keep them fresh for as long as possible. When I discovered foam carvable pumpkins, it changed my life. I no longer had to worry about my pumpkins rotting and could start my carving much earlier and keep them indefinitely.

Around that time I also discovered online pattern sites through my friend and fellow pumpkin carver Stephanie Patterson. There are so many sites with patterns to represent nearly every fandom.

What do you enjoy about carving? Has this become an annual tradition for you?

There’s something so satisfying about it. It’s a very zen place for me. I enjoy the act of carving as much as displaying the finished product. It’s been an annual tradition for as long as I can remember.

What are some of your favorite designs that you’ve carved so far?

That’s hard because they’re all my favorite! I’ve done a Harry Potter series, Tim Burton, classic movie monsters, Doctor Who, and so many more. I don’t think I can pick a favorite.

What materials/equipment do you use for your carvings?

Aside from the pumpkins and patterns themselves, I just use some tiny little hand saws that I’ve had since the beginning. Stephanie recommended a hot knife and that has become a big time saver but I find it difficult for small details, so I only use it for larger straight areas and stick to my saws for the details.

Tell me about the elaborate displays/display walls you’ve created over the years.

It started off so small and cute and with a different theme each year — pirates, hayride, etc., but it was always my dream to create an entire wall of pumpkins. I finally achieved that goal a few years ago. Each year it grows some more as I’m always adding more pumpkins and it brings me such joy to see them all up on display.

How do the neighbors react when they see your pumpkins all lit up?

I think they enjoy it! Most have told me they look forward to seeing it and we get a lot of drive-bys and people taking pictures so I think others enjoy it as well.

What are some of your other fandoms?

I’m not sure I’d call this a fandom but I’m obsessed with Abraham Lincoln.



Does your family share your love of “geek culture?” If so, what are some of your shared and individual interests and activities?

Yes! My kids especially share my love of geek culture and we share a love of Harry Potter, Doctor Who, “Stranger Things,” Star Wars, Tim Burton, Jim Henson and horror movies. It’s so amazing to be able to share my geekdom with my kids.

Do you collect anything?

I collect too many things. Action figures, snow globes, Halloween villages, Lincoln memorabilia, Elvis memorabilia, anything Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Day of the Dead, and Frida Kahlo. Of course, I collect books and nails polish (I have nearly 1,000 bottles) and have started on that downward spiral that is collecting Pop! figures.

Delia’s nail polish collection.

As a woman, is there anything you’d like to see change about the world of fandoms and geekdoms?

I guess seeing more female representation would be good. We need more woman creating content. More women directors, too!

Nail art by Delia, inspired by Stephen Hawking.

Is there anything else we should know about you (life, work, hobbies, etc.)?

I was a journalist/photojournalist in the Army Reserve, I’m a crazy cat lady and I’ve been a lifelong vegetarian.

What’s the next big release you’re looking forward to (movies, TV, books, etc.)?

For movies, I’m most excited for the next “Fantastic Beasts” movie and “Avengers: Infinity War.” For TV, I’ll be eagerly awaiting the return of “Stranger Things” and “Game of Thrones.” My “to-read” list is incredibly long but I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in The Casquette series by Alys Arden and the next Cormoran Strike novel.

Let’s close with some favorite Harry Potter questions:

Hogwarts house?

Ravenclaw with a side of Hufflepuff.

Favorite character?

Sirius Black.

Favorite book?

“Prisoner of Azkaban.”

Worst movie?

“Half-Blood Prince.”

Most devastating character death?

Sirius Black, but I’m still not over Tonks and Lupin, Fred, or Dobby.

Wizarding subject you’d most like to study?

Potions.

Favorite magical creature?

Crookshanks.

Favorite Harry Potter item you own?

Probably my street sign from Grimmauld Place, but my wand collection and Horcrux collection are way up there, too.

Are you excited about “Fantastic Beasts 2”?

Oh yes! I’m counting the days! I cannot wait!

What’s on your Harry Potter bucket list?

Definitely to visit the studios in London, Kings Cross, Platform 9¾, and anywhere else associated with the movies and Jo’s writing spot. I definitely want to go back to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando because I haven’t been since they expanded it.