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?


Favorite magical creature?


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.

Early comic book forays inspire filmmaker to honor women’s legacy

As a girl, filmmaker Marisa Stotter followed her older brother into the local comic book shop for a Magic: The Gathering tournament, and found herself browsing the shelves, igniting a spark that would grow into a full-fledged comic book habit in high school.

Years later, she would illuminate the hidden history of women’s contributions to the industry in the empowering documentary “She Makes Comics.” (Read a review here.)

The film sheds light on the achievements — not to mention the discrimination faced by — female writers, artists, fans, and creators. It also features interviews with power players in the comic book world, including Kelly Sue DeConnick, Gail Simone, Jenette Kahn, and Karen Berger.

After touring film festivals and other events around the world and winning a major award at San Diego Comic-Con, “She Makes Comics” recently made its debut on Netflix. (If you haven’t seen it yet, you should remedy that immediately. You can also view it on Amazon and iTunes.)

As a fan, I’m ecstatic that Marisa graciously agreed to  discuss the making of her documentary, along with other fun and geeky subjects, including her history with Dungeons & Dragons, the “Wonder Woman” movie, her “Doctor Who”-themed short film, and “Stranger Things.” 

“She Makes Comics” director Marisa Stotter and producer Patrick Meaney with the logo for their documentary.

What sparked the idea for the documentary “She Makes Comics”?

I was working with Patrick Meaney and Jordan Rennert of Respect! Films on a couple of comics-related documentaries, one on Chris Claremont and one on Image Comics. As those projects started to wind down, we discussed what to focus on next.

At the time (fall 2013), the Internet was abuzz with discussions about sexual harassment, discrimination, and other issues facing women in the industry. Against this background, it seemed like the right time to produce a documentary celebrating women in the comic book industry, although we also wanted to touch upon the discrimination that they face.

The seeds for the project were sewn when you were an English major at Wesleyan University. First of all, English majors rock. Second, tell me how the documentary began to take shape during this time.

I think my English education provided me with a great advantage going into the project. Although I did not specifically study comics as part of the English department’s curriculum, the critical reading and analytical skills I honed at Wesleyan proved to be useful as we studied the history of women’s contributions to comics and used that research to flesh out the arc of the documentary.

You were first introduced to the mysteries of the comic book shop by your brother, but it took you a while to jump into buying and reading comics. Tell me more about that.

Like most younger sisters, I wanted to do everything that my older brother did, and that included playing Magic: The Gathering, the card game, as a kid. A local comic book shop in my hometown hosted tournaments on Saturdays that my brother and I would participate in. I wasn’t very good at the game so I’d lose early on and kill time until my brother was ready to leave by browsing the comics rack. That’s when I first became interested in comics — I think one of the first that I picked up was a “Simpsons” comic since I recognized the characters.

What were some of your formative titles as a young girl?

I didn’t read a ton of comics as a kid, just the occasional “Simpsons” or “Archie” comics and some kid-oriented Batman comics. It was in high school that I began to read comics more regularly and developed my own personal tastes. As a freshman in high school, I read “Persepolis” and “Maus,” which really blew me away. They showed me that the medium could tell any kind of story, and they were particularly appealing to me as a student of literature. I did also get into superhero comics, but those graphic novels broadened my understanding of comic storytelling.

Are you still a comic book reader? If so, what titles are you into now?

I do still read comics, although I don’t have the time to read as much as I’d like to. I’m in a catch-up period reading some comics I missed in the past few months. I’ve been catching up on “Paper Girls” by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang, which I absolutely love. And I’m catching up on Kelly Sue DeConnick’s “Bitch Planet.”

DC Comics editor Shelly Bond in her New York office in a scene from “She Makes Comics.”

What sort of research did you do before you began production on “She Makes Comics”? How much did you already know about the subject?

We were fortunate enough to have on board our creative team Karen Green, the curator of comics and graphic novels at Columbia University’s Robert Butler Memorial Library. She is incredibly knowledgeable about the medium. Karen was enormously helpful as we began researching for the project, suggesting interview subjects and particular works for us to focus on. I was already familiar with some of the people we were planning to interview, but I learned plenty more as we conducted our research.

Why aren’t people generally familiar with much of the history of women in comics presented in your doc?

Women’s contributions to comics aren’t as well-known as those of such legends as Stan Lee and Will Eisner. I think there are a lot of elements that factor into that, but perhaps the biggest reason is that comics has long been considered a medium for male readers, so it is assumed that men are the main creative forces behind them.

How did you go about making your list of interviewees? Was it a challenge to land any of the interviews for the film?

We initially had a very long “wish list” of interviewees that we then narrowed down as the film took shape. Patrick and Jordan had existing relationships with some of the people we wanted to interview from working on their previous documentaries, and Karen personally knew a number of people and facilitated getting in touch with them. We were fortunate that just about every person we contacted was interested in and excited by the project. In some cases we couldn’t overcome logistical obstacles, but we certainly made every effort to get the interviews that we felt were important for the film.

Marisa and “Captain Marvel” writer Kelly Sue DeConnick doing DeConnick’s specialty, the “duck-face selfie.”

Was there one interview in particular you geeked out over?

I’m a huge fan of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s work, and she’s a pretty big superstar in the comics world, so having the opportunity to interview her was really special. I was fortunate enough to get a duck-face photo with her, too!

You funded the film via Kickstarter. What was your crowd-funding experience like?

The “She Makes Comics” campaign was my very first experience with Kickstarter, and it was quite the wild ride. It was equal parts thrilling and stressful, given that we had a 30-day window in which to achieve our goal. I honestly had no idea what to expect at first — I wasn’t sure if the project would strike a chord with potential backers, or if there would be a backlash given the subject matter.

Fortunately, we received very positive feedback early on, and as the press began to cover the project, we saw an incredible outpouring of support. Managing the campaign, however, was a full-time job in itself. We constantly updated the campaign page with new rewards and communicated with backers on a daily basis, while we continued to spread the word about the campaign via press coverage, fan sites, and social media. I was on edge until we reached our goal, which was both an exhilarating moment and quite the relief.

You also worked with the Sequart Organization. Tell me about that organization and how were they involved with the film.

Sequart is an organization promoting comics literacy and the study of comics in academia, so it was a natural partnership given the nature of our project. Sequart had previously been involved in Respect’s other comic-related documentaries, so Patrick and Jordan had an existing relationship and had no trouble getting them on board with “She Makes Comics.”

Readers browse in a local comic book shop in a scene from “She Makes Comics.”

Let’s talk about the actual documentary shoot. What were the biggest challenges you faced?

Our biggest challenge was coordinating the logistics of the interviews, since the people we wanted to interview lived all over the world. We attended several comic conventions where we were able to conduct a number of interviews in one location, but even then it was difficult to coordinate with many creators’ busy schedules.

What did you enjoy most about the shoot?

I think I had the most fun shooting at comic conventions. I love to wander around the exhibition floor at a convention and just take in the sights, particularly the creative cosplay. We shot a lot of b-roll footage of amazing female cosplayers, and I was especially excited whenever we met a young girl in a great get-up.

I love the film’s logo! Tell me about how it was created.

Our logo is courtesy of the talented Courtney Wirth, who designed it for us. We wanted the logo to evoke one of the most iconic symbols of female empowerment, Rosie the Riveter, while remaining specific to the subject of “She Makes Comics.” We loved what Courtney came up with, and in fact, I have the original artwork hanging in my apartment!

Marisa and producer Patrick Meaney answer audience questions during a panel at the Vegas Valley Comic Book Festival in Las Vegas, Nev.

“She Makes Comics” screened at a lot of film festivals and events. Were you able to attend many of them?

I attended quite a few screenings, mostly here on the West Coast. The movie has screened all over the world, including in South Korea, Australia, and the U.K. It’s really amazing to me how She Makes Comics has managed to resonate with audiences across the globe.

What was the response to the film? Have a lot of women approached you wanting to talk about it?

The response to “She Makes Comics” was wonderfully positive and affirming. I was nervous sending the film out into the world, and I was particularly worried about our Kickstarter backers who had pledged to the project and would now be seeing the product of their support. Fortunately, I heard positive feedback from our backers as well as others who discovered the film. I was approached by many women for whom “She Makes Comics” struck a personal chord. I’m glad that the film opened up the conversation about women in the comic book industry even further.

What about the reaction from men? I was disappointed to see some pretty clueless comments from men on the IMDb website.

I’ve spoken with a lot of men who were fascinated by the documentary and came away having learned something new about the medium and its history. There will always be anonymous trolls trying to tear down a project like this, but I received very positive responses from male viewers, some of whom are fathers and art teachers trying to nurture young talent at home and in the classroom.

“She Makes Comics” won the best documentary prize at the 2015 Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival. That’s quite an achievement. How did that feel?

It was wonderful to receive recognition at such an iconic convention, and it was fitting given that so many of the stories in “She Makes Comics” have some connection to San Diego Comic-Con.

How did you land a distribution deal with Netflix? That must have been exciting. How has that changed the doc’s reception and prospects?

We initially made a distribution deal with XLRator, and they handled the rest. It’s an enormous milestone to have “She Makes Comics” available on services like Amazon, iTunes, and Netflix because the film will reach a whole new audience. We’ve seen a renewed interest in the film thanks to that exposure.

What would you ultimately like to achieve with “She Makes Comics”? 

What I’m proudest of with “She Makes Comics” is that the film has become a source of inspiration for young girls whose artistic talent is emerging. I think it’s vital for them to see role models, to see the women who have come before them, so they know that creating comics is something that they can do when they grow up. That, I think, is the project’s legacy beyond telling the story of women in the comic book industry.

Filmmaking and acting troupe Team Unicorn in a scene from “She Makes Comics.”

You also made a short film, “Tenspotting,” which is set in the “Doctor Who” fandom. That sounds amazing. Where can we see it?

You can watch “Tenspotting” on Vimeo!

Tell me more about the inspiration and making of the short.

“Tenspotting” was a fun one because it started as a joke! I was at Comic-Con the previous year having drinks at the Hyatt bar with two writer friends of mine, Emily Blake and Michael Patrick Sullivan. We kept noticing lots of “Tens” and were having a lot of fun counting them, and thus began the germ of “Tenspotting.”

Emily and Michael went on to write the script somewhat as a joke, but I told them I was interested in producing it — seriously! — and I brought it to Patrick and Jordan, who thought it would be a fun project to take on.

I’m assuming you’re a Whovian. How did you get into the series?

I’m actually not a Whovian, although I’ve seen a number of episodes. Don’t revoke my geek card!

Who’s your Doctor?

Although I’m not a big Doctor Who fan, I’m super excited about Jodie Whittaker’s casting as the next Doctor, and I plan to tune in when she debuts. I really like her as an actress, and I’m excited to see the first female Doctor.

What are your other personal fandoms? How do they manifest themselves in your life?

I’m such an equal opportunity fan — I get invested in almost everything I read or watch, but sadly I don’t have the time to be as involved in fandom as I used to. The Harry Potter fandom will always hold a special place in my heart, and I still have some great Potter fan fiction bookmarked from over a decade ago.

Is it true that while you were at Wesleyan, you were part of a secret group that played “Dungeons & Dragons”?

I wouldn’t say we were a “secret” group, but I did learn how to play D&D in college with a great group of friends. I absolutely loved it, although I think our Dungeon Master got tired of our antics derailing our progress. I’ve been meaning to join a campaign since I recently got the itch to get back into D&D.

“Stranger Things” is packed with “D&D” references. Are you a fan?

I am a big fan of “Stranger Things.” I had the greatest experience watching it for the first time. I didn’t know much about it except that it was set in the ‘80s and starred Winona Ryder. I was totally hooked on the first season, and the second season was just as good, if not better. Along with “Freaks & Geeks,” “Stranger Things” features one of my favorite portrayals of D&D campaigns in television.

I’ve heard you also really like board games. What are some of your faves?

I love Settlers of Catan, although I tend to get fairly competitive with that one. I’m also a big fan of card games like Munchkin and Bang. There are some really innovative games raising funds on Kickstarter, so I often get brand new games to test out with my friends.

Marisa is joined by several of the film’s interviewees for a Q&A following the premiere of “She Makes Comics” at Brave New World in Newhall, Calif.

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

I think it all boils down to inclusivity and respect. There is a gatekeeper mentality in some fandoms, based on this idea that you can only be a “true fan” if you have an encyclopedic knowledge of the work and have been a fan since “before it was cool.” I’m of the opinion that we should encourage new, enthusiastic fans to become involved in fandom.

I think a number of fan communities would benefit from a change in attitude towards new fans, because ultimately, we are all involved because we love the thing that is bringing us together. It doesn’t matter if you have been reading Marvel comics since the 1970s or if you started after the “Avengers” movie — we all approach fandom in different ways and from different perspectives, and to me, that is what makes these fan communities so enriching and fun to be part of.

Do you have thoughts and/or opinions on the recent success of the “Wonder Woman” movie? 

I really loved “Wonder Woman” on its own, and I appreciate how it seems to have touched a whole new generation of women (and men) who are excited about the character and what she symbolizes. I think the film is a much-needed reprieve from the chaos that is 2017. It has clearly inspired and empowered women in a way that no superhero film has done in the past few years. The “no man’s land” scene in Wonder Woman was perhaps my favorite movie moment of the year; it was so breathtaking and personally gave me goosebumps.

What’s on your career bucket list? Would you like to make more documentaries and films or go in another direction?

I loved the experience of making “She Makes Comics,” but I’ve found my calling, career-wise, to be in television. As I pursue my goals in that part of the industry, I’m bringing along with me a lot of what I learned working on “She Makes Comics,” as well as my lifelong passion for inclusivity and diversity. My ultimate goal is to develop and produce television that depicts stories we don’t ordinarily see on TV, from storytellers with varied backgrounds and perspectives.

What advice would you offer to women who still may be intimidated to go into their local comic book store?

Arm yourself with knowledge! Engage with the fan community online and get some recommendations for titles you may like based on the kinds of books, movies, and TV shows you enjoy. Fortunately, there are more and more comic book shops that are warm and welcoming to new readers and want to help you find your new favorite book. Don’t be afraid to take the plunge and ask an employee to recommend some comics. It’s such an exciting world to explore!


‘Tis the Season for Geeky Gifting: A Holiday Guide

Most of the geeks I know are easy to shop for.

Almost too easy, in fact. The sheer amount of merchandise tied to any one fandom these days can be mindbogglingly disorienting. And when it comes to fandoms, most geeks are into more than one.

Would she like a Tardis backpack or Matt Smith socks? “Game of Thrones” coasters or a Hogwarts house mug? BB-8 cookie jar or R2-D2 cardigan? Wonder Woman cellphone case or “Nightmare Before Christmas” throw?

In this post, we endeavor to simplify the geek gift-buying process with a lively curated list of items that should appeal to nerds of all varieties and fandoms. Best of all, you can get started with your shopping immediately by clicking the links accompanying each entry.

Perhaps you’re wondering where all the porgs are? Just you wait, my friend! The 12 Porgs of Christmas are coming. There’s also a Ghost of Christmas Future lurking with an upcoming Comic Book Gift Guide post.

Happy gifting! Your geek of choice will thank you for it.

There’s a Pop! for everyone.

Funko, maker of those cute little, dead-eyed vinyl pop-culture licensed figures, quite literally has something that will please everyone, from the obvious franchises, like Disney, Star Wars, and Marvel, to characters from more obscure properties.

For the old-school “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fan, there’s bad girl Faith from the Pop! Television collection:

For the Disney Princess dreamer, how about this adorable Ariel?

And for the friend who already has more Pops than she has room for, there’s a collection of too-cute mugs, including the Sally Pop! Ceramic Mug. (Other options include Kylo Ren, Snoopy, Hulk, Batman, Chewbacca, and Captain America.)

The year’s geekiest movies.

Give the gift of the year’s fangirliest flicks by choosing one or more of the following.

For your friend who cried during the No Man’s Land scene:

Wonder Woman [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD]

For the anglophile in your life (available Dec. 12):

Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle [Blu-ray]

For the indie movie fan:

Colossal [Blu-ray]

For the Marvel fan who likes it goofy:

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 [Blu-ray]

For the moviegoer whose Spidey senses are tingling:

Spider-Man: Homecoming [Blu-ray]

For the emo X-Men enthusiast:

Logan [Blu-ray]

For your friend who went crazy over “Justice League”:

Exclusive DC 4K Collection: Wonder Woman, Suicide Squad, Man of Steel, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice 4K Ultra HD (4K Blu-ray+Blu-ray+Digital)

For the feminist action movie buff:

Atomic Blonde [Blu-ray]

For the “GoT” fan in mourning until Season 8 (Season 7 is available Dec. 12):

Game of Thrones: The Complete Seventh Season

Socks, they’re not just from your Aunt Betsy anymore.

Here’s a comfy foot-pampering twist on the traditional Christmas countdown. Keep their feet fashionable with “12 Days of Socks” featuring colorful pop culture-themed patterns, like this set:

Other patterns include Harry Potter, Disney Princess, Minecraft, DC Comics, and The Nightmare Before Christmas in varying sizes for men, women, girls, and boys.

For the Lego lover who has everything. 

This year’s Lego must-have is the Women of NASA set, which is, sadly, temporarily out of stock on the official Lego website.

Image result for women of nasa lego set

If you can manage to snag one somewhere, your Lego-obsessed loved one will surely thank you. The set features minifigures of four pioneering women of NASA: astronomer and educator Nancy Grace Roman, computer scientist and entrepreneur Margaret Hamilton, astronaut, physicist and entrepreneur Sally Ride and astronaut, physician and engineer Mae Jemison.

Fortunately, there are lots of other Lego sets available for the brick-inclined, featuring such franchises as Star Wars, DC, Disney, Ghostbusters, Marvel, Minecraft, and NINJAGO.

Deck your geek in tacky sweaters. 

The Ugly Christmas Sweater is back in a big — and, frankly, kinda disturbing way — but what the heck? Why not embrace the trend by picking out a hideously festive top that perfectly expresses your favorite geek’s fandom?

ThinkGeek has an array of eye-straining sweaters to choose from, including:

Star Wars Darth Vader Lack of Cheer Holiday Sweater

The Star Wars Darth Vader I Find Your Lack of Cheer Disturbing Sweater.

Firefly Holiday Sweater

Firefly Holiday Sweater.

Super Mario Bros. Holiday Sweater

Super Mario Bros. Holiday Sweater.

Wonder Woman Silhouette Sweater

Wonder Woman Silhouette Sweater.

And speaking of Wonder Woman …

You can’t go wrong with movie merchandise for anyone whose world was rocked by Patty Jenkins’ record-breaking comic book flick.

Image result for wonder woman bomber jacket

Keep her toasty with the Wonder Woman Movie Ladies Bomber Jacket.

Image result for wonder woman amazon princess handbag

For nights when she leaves the sword of Themyscira at home, there’s the Wonder Woman Movie Amazon Princess Handbag.

Image result for wonder woman the art and making of the film

For reliving the wonder of Jenkins’ epic, give her “Wonder Woman: The Art and Making of the Film” (Hardcover).

On a side note, DC’s official store also has great gifts for fans of  Superman, Batman, Arrow, The Flash, and Harley Quinn.

For seekers of magical creatures.

Harry Potter-philes can possess their very own fantastic beasts — as Hagrid and Newt Scamander will testify, this can be a risky endeavor — with the “Harry Potter Magical Creatures” collection.

Their are many wizardy critters to choose from, including:

Harry Potter Magical Creatures #1 Hedwig

Harry Potter Magical Creatures No. 1 Hedwig.

Harry Potter Magical Creatures No. 2 Dobby.

Niffler Magical Creature No. 1.

Gifting made easy and tropical breezy.

Nerd site extraordinaire ThinkGeek has basically turned your Christmas shopping into a vacation with its irresistibly cute Geeki Tikis collection. Take the guess work out of what to get the thirsty nerd on your list by simply selecting the appropriately themed set.

Among the many available fandoms:

Star Wars Geeki Tikis - Series 1

Star Wars Geeki Tikis — Series 1. 

Guardians of the Galaxy Geeki Tikis - Exclusive

Guardians of the Galaxy Geeki Tikis — Exclusive.

Star Trek: The Original Series Geeki Tikis

Star Trek: The Original Series Geeki Tikis. 

Inspire them to throw away that ratty T-shirt.

If you know geeks, you know they love their nerd shirts. A little too much perhaps. Especially that holey one that’s been in their closet since San Diego Comic-Con 2010.

Maybe it’s time to get them a new shirt to love. Fortunately, TeeTurtle offers a variety of officially licensed, cute and cuddly, original designs from popular fandoms.

For the Disney fan:

Double-Edged Sword T-Shirt Mulan TeeTurtle

For the Star Wars fan:

It's a Trap! T-Shirt Star Wars TeeTurtle

For the Marvel (or Hiddles) fan:

Chaos and Destruction T-Shirt Marvel TeeTurtle

For the geek in need of Demotivation.

If you know one of those people who rolls their eyes at trite, inspirational sayings and cheesy motivational posters, ThinkGeek has just the cynical thing for them.

The website’s annual Despair Wall Calendar features 12 months of demotivating designs and geeky dates — like Talk Like a Pirate Day! — as well as “holidays” submitted by ThinkGeek customers.

2018 ThinkGeek Despair Wall Calendar - Exclusive

And while you’re shopping at ThinkGeek, here’s another items to consider. It might just be the perfect addition to Nana’s cozy miniature Christmas village.

Star Wars Wampa Cave Snow Globe

For the friend who’s looking for something to cuddle. 

I give you … the Funko Stranger Things Supercute Demigorgon Plush.

Dustin would love it.

Funko Stranger Things SuperCute Demogorgon Plush

Too scary? How about Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbor Totoro Dust Bunny Slippers?

The droids your kid is looking for. 

With the littleBits Droid Inventor Kit, kids create their own droid and bring it to life using littleBits electronic blocks. Using the Droid Inventor app, they can give it new abilities and take it on 16-plus missions.

For the fashionista who’s one with The Force.

Her Universe recently unveiled its new Star Wars collection, which features whimsical, Lucasfilm-inspired designs, including this amazing Star Wars BB-8 Retro Skirt.

The best “Stranger Things” shirt ever?

No Christmas list would be compete without this awesome “Stranger Things”-inspired tee.

The Babysitters Club - Steve's Scary Situation Classic T-Shirt Front

And no T-shirt sums up the way we’re feeling about 2017 better than this one:

Star Trek Picard Facepalm T-Shirt

These are the geeky Halloween costumes you’re looking for!

We’ve closed the books on another Halloween and, already, retailers would have us thinking about putting up the Christmas tree and getting started on shopping for stocking stuffers.

But before we plunge into the thick of holiday madness, let’s pause a moment and reflect on Halloween 2017 in all its geeky glory.

For me, the celebrating included the annual party thrown by my family and a dear friend — it started out as an adult soiree and eventually morphed into kid-friendly pandemonium, but the costumes are still out of this world — and my church’s “trunk or treat” event, where I always end up eating way too much candy.

I hope your All Hallow’s Eve shenanigans were just as much fun and left you with less of a tummy ache.

This year, I was heartened to see quite a few Wonder Women, girls dressed as comic book supervillains, and a surprising amount of female Ghostbusters among the usual throngs of Disney princesses, fairies, and witches. (Hey, I’m not knocking that. My daughter dressed as Mulan.)

There’s nothing like the girl-power a favorite geeky Halloween costume can bring to the wearer, along with the enjoyment it brings to everyone else.

In that spirit, No Man’s Land readers submitted photos of their fandom-themed Halloween finery. (I also requested photos of some of the costumes I liked best.)

They’re displayed below to help you hang on to that Halloween glow for just a few minutes longer (and maybe help you get some ideas for next year’s costume).

Shawna, of, models her elf costume, completely with pointy ears, at a local trick-or-treating event for families. Below, you can better see those ears, which apparently were the trickiest part of her outfit.

Kirsten Kerr and her daughter, Lyla, are an adorable Disney-inspired pair, dressed as sea witch Ursula and her “Descendants” progeny, Uma.

Bethany Samuel channels “Doctor Who” companion Amy Pond, with her husband, Aamod, as Rory, and son Levi as the cutest little Yoda.

Mai Kemble, as Coraline,” from the animated movie based on the Neil Gaiman book, and sister Mei Stewart as classic “Addam’s Family” character Wednesday.

Rachel Luevano decided to dress as classic Batman villain The Penguin after friends told her she couldn’t because she’s a girl. She was part of a themed group that included superheroes and supervillains and created their own cardboard Gotham City skyline backdrop.

By day, Fawn Kemble went to work as “provincial” Belle, of “Beauty and the Beast” fame, complete with a light-up Lumiere prop from Disneyland.

By night, Fawn was a smokey-eyed, fascinator-rocking TARDIS at a family party.

Ellen Grimm wears the Gryffindor house uniform as Hermione. (Psssst, she’s really a Ravenclaw!)

Nathan and Sonia Whitehead gave the couple’s costume the Studio Ghibli treatment as Howl Jenkins Pendragon and Sophie Hatter of “Howl’s Moving Castle.” They decorated their trunk for a trunk-or-treat event with Soot Sprites, Calcifer, and a giant painted Totoro.

The Hobart family — which includes six girls — represent all the nations (air, earth, fire, and water) of the animated series “Avatar: The Last Airbender” with wonderfully elaborate costumes they put together themselves. Mom Dina, center, is the driving force behind their amazing annual costume creations.

The Rivas family represent some of their favorite comic book heroes at a Haunted Mansion-themed party in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel. From left, Noah as Star-Lord, David as Peter Parker, Kristy as Iron Man, and Audrey as Wonder Woman.

Amber Hoffman set phasers to stun with her tribute to Star Trek and Zachary Quinto’s Spock.

Chris and Lisa took DisneyBounding to adorable new levels, as Roger and Anita of “101 Dalmations,” accompanied by their two irresistible spotted pups.

Stephanie Patterson and her husband, Jacob, threw a jaw-droppingly detailed “Stranger Things” party to which Stephanie wore this Eleven-inspired outfit, complete with electrodes and bloody nose.

Stephanie also donned this fun and spooky nod to Disney’s Haunted Mansion for another event.

As an extra Halloween treat, below are some more detailed, closeup shots of the Hobart family in their “Avatar: The Last Airbender” costumes.

Cambrya Hobart as Avatar Aang.

Caylen Hobart as Katara.

Adalyn Hobart as Toph.

Brynna Hobart as Prince Zuko.

Brylee Hobart as Uncle Iroh.

Ambrey Hobart as Princess Azula.

Dina Hobart as Suki.

The group with Dad Dale Hobart as Sokka.

Thank you to everyone who sent in pics and gave permission. You are my absolute favorite geek goddesses. 

Empowering documentary ‘She Makes Comics’ explores industry’s hidden history

If you subscribe to Netflix, I know what you’re doing this weekend.

The entire second season of ‘80s throwback horror series “Stranger Things” dropped Friday, so you’ll be holed up on the couch, plowing your way through all nine episodes while subsisting on nothing but Eggos and chocolate pudding.

Is there some spooky holiday happening soon? What World Series?

I totally get it. You desperately need to know what’s going to happen to poor slug-vomiting Will, scary-but-lovable Elle, sneaking-around-in-the-woods Sheriff Hopper, crazy-eyed supermom Joyce Byers, preppy girl-turned-gun-toting-bad-ass Nancy, and irresistible Goonies-wannabes Dustin, Lucas, and Mike.

I realize you’ll be too preoccupied to focus on anything else until you’ve watched every last horrifying, hilarious, and wildly entertaining second of “Stranger Things.”

But once that’s done and you’ve come up for air, there’s something really important and awesome you’re going to want to check out, and it also happens to be on Netflix.

The 2016 documentary “She Makes Comics” became available this month on the streaming service, and it deserves a place on your queue. (You can also view the film on Amazon and iTunes.)

The thesis of “She Makes Comics” is simple: Women write comics. Women draw comics. Women publish comics. Women read comics.

This might sound obvious, but in a world where comic books are still seen as a predominantly male pastime, it really isn’t, which is why director Marisa Stotter’s film is fascinating and necessary.

If the necessity of it is in doubt, by the way, look no further than the virtually complete lack of reviews of this film online — and that includes Rotten Tomatoes –and at the sexist, clueless remarks of male commentators on the movie’s IMDb page.

“She Makes Comics” may be modest and low budget, but it confidently delves into the secret history of women in the comics industry, revealing female contributions that most people, even comic book readers, may not be aware of.

In a refreshing twist, the doc features little to no male talking heads, but relies on the stories of the participants themselves, including comics journalists, historians, writers, artists, shop owners, publishers, and executives, along with such comic-making icons as Gail Simone, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Jenette Kahn, and Karen Berger.

Stotter begins with the origins of comic strips and the comic book industry, which originally featured varied content that appealed just as much to girls as to boys.

Cartoonist Jackie Ormes.

With the arrival of the censoring Comics Code in 1954, sanitized superhero stories began to dominate the industry, along with stereotypical, one-note romances marketed to girls. The result was a steep drop in female readership that would continue for decades. In short measure, the industry lost half the population of potential consumers.

In the 1970s, the inception of the underground comic scene seemed to signal the possibility of more original, groundbreaking, controversial stories and subject matter.

However, as cartoonists Joyce Farmer and Lyn Chevli (who sadly passed away in 2016) soon discovered, the movement was a boys’ club, glibly churning out misogynistic images of rape and sexual harassment.

Farmer and Chevli responded with their own feminist publication — written, drawn, and published by women — an empowering but also terrifying experience, considering the violent, negative reaction to their work.

These pioneering cartoonists paved the way for powerful women to enter the industry, including DC Comics president Jenette Kahn, who during her 26 years with the company championed the telling of more diverse, progressive, and thought-provoking stories.

Kahn oversaw the launch of the groundbreaking Vertigo Comics imprint with executive editor Karen Berger, who nurtured the careers of some of the comic world’s most impressive talents, including Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Frank Miller.

Berger was also involved with Friends of Lulu, an organization co-founded by cartoonist Trina Robbins to promote female comic book readership and roles for women in the industry.

While there are more women writers, artists, and creators than ever in the mainstream comic book industry today, Stotter points out that female comic book makers tend to flourish in the alternative, underground, and web comic scenes, where audiences who crave more than just superhero stories tend to be found.

“She Makes Comics” also explores the world of cosplay, where women are sometimes shamed for their participation; comic book shops, which are often off-putting spaces for women; and conventions, like San Diego Comic-Con, which have a dark history of harassment and misogyny, but are becoming more inclusive.

The doc ends on a hopeful note, showcasing such figures as DeConnick, a prolific, outspoken scribe known for her “Captain Marvel” runs, and Simone, a writer who broke into the industry after critiquing it with the website “Women in Refrigerators,” which listed the many female comic book characters killed or brutalized in the service of male storylines.

As a bonus for SoCal residents, “She Makes Comics” features Newhall comic book shop Brave New World and its former owners, Autumn Glading and Portlyn Polston, who welcomed girls to the store and organized events and programs designed to encourage female comic book readership.

Stotter concludes that the recent and growing popularity of geek-related culture and entertainment is a good development for women, allowing them to participate more freely in fandoms and be part of positive, accepting communities of like-minded creators and readers.

Watching “She Makes Comics” was an eye-opening experience for me. Though I write about the comic industry, I wasn’t aware of many of the facts it presents.

I hope the film finds a wider audience and brings awareness to the continuing saga of women who joyfully, boldly, and unashamedly create and consume comic books.

Photos: “She Makes Comics.”

Take your jack-o-lantern game from basic to geek-tastic with tips from master carver

“Beetlejuice” jack-o-lanterns carved by Stephanie Patterson.

There’s a jack-o-lantern in your future.

Have you settled on a strategy for carving it yet?

This Halloween, will you be playing it safe with the classic triangle eyes and nose, or getting fancy and tackling a design that’s a little more artistic and challenging?

If you’re up for trying something new, a Halloween pumpkin can be an ideal blank canvas upon which to express your enthusiasm for your favorite fandom, whatever that may be.

With a little practice, your geeky designs could elevate the basic grade-school gourd to a pop culture masterpiece.

To help you figure out where to begin, I spoke with master pumpkin carver Stephanie Patterson.

With a little help from her husband, Stephanie specializes in whittling out geeky pumpkin patterns that dazzle in the dark, from “Supernatural” to “Stranger Things.”

After a decade of honing her skills, doing carving demonstrations, and displaying her jack ‘o’ lanterns at an annual event, Stephanie went pro this year, accepting commissions from clients.

Apparently, the secret to carving awesomely nerdy pumpkins is to find just the right image to use as your pattern, start small and simple, use the proper tools, and practice until you perfect your technique.

A resident of Gig Harbor, Wash., Stephanie began carving about 10 years ago after her friend, Delia, introduced her to “more complicated designs than the standard jack-o-lantern.”

“I was so excited to see the vast array of patterns available,” she said. “My love of carving took off from there.”

Stephanie discovered pumpkin carving went “hand in hand” with her love for many fandoms, including Star Wars, Harry Potter, and the films of Tim Burton.

Among the favorite designs she’s carved are a “Stranger Things” pumpkin created last year, a pair of Han Solo and Princess Leia pumpkins, and a jack-o-lantern emblazoned with the logo for Disney’s “Haunted Mansion.”

These pumpkin creations are unique because they are based on patterns custom-designed by Stephanie’s husband, Jake. His designs tend to be her favorite, she said.

Stephanie began carving on real pumpkins, but quickly switched over to the foam versions you can find at craft and hobby stores.

Those were a “game changer,” she said.

“I hated spending so many hours carving just to see the designs wither and die after a few days.”

As her skills developed, Stephanie’s parents suggested she display her pumpkins at the family’s lavender farm during the annual Key Peninsula Farm Tour event in October.

An impressive array of Stephanie’s clever, carved designs were displayed on shelves inside the barn.

“It was so much fun to display them for a far larger crowd than I was used to,” she said. “I also did live carving during the event.  I got to do that for four years and I absolutely miss it.”

Stephanie Patterson does some live carving during the annual Key Peninsula Farm Tour on her family’s lavender farm in Washington.

Sadly, the lavender farm closed last October and Stephanie found she missed her pumpkin displays.

She and Jake devised a solution, cutting her pumpkins in half to be displayed on their apartment wall, plaque-style, and increasing Stephanie’s carving capacity.

“Jake rigged up a vinyl lattice and stapled white Christmas lights to the back,” she said.

“We then hung up the pumpkin halves on screws attached to the lattice and hung the whole setup on the wall. I can display up to 16 pumpkins at a time on the wall in our apartment now!”

Before you can dream of creating your own stunning jack-o-lantern display, however, you have to carve something worth displaying.

Stephanie said she and Jake begin the carving process with a Google image search for whatever design “strikes our fancy at the time.”

“Sometimes we find patterns, other times we find pictures of other pumpkins and adjust them.”

The Pattersons also frequent websites that offer patterns. A few of the sites are free. Others offer subscriptions, or you can pay per pattern.

Among their favorites are Zombie Pumpkins JP’s Jammin Pumpkins, Pumpkin Glow, StoneyKins, Orange and Black Pumpkins, and The Custom Punkin Stencil Company.

“There are so many cool geeky patterns out there, basically representing anything and everything you might be into,” Stephanie said.

Once you’ve settled on a pattern, whether it be Dobby the House Elf or the Tardis, it’s time to gather the necessary carving equipment.

Stephanie favors carving on foam pumpkins from Michaels.

For the task of carving, she uses a wood-burning tool with an Exacto knife attachment, specifically the Walnut Hollow brand, which can be found at Michaels or Hobby Lobby.

“The hot knife cuts like butter through the foam pumpkins,” she said.

“If you’re carving on a real pumpkin, obviously, the standard pumpkin carving saws are the way to go.”

Stephanie also uses a mini screwdriver to poke out foam pieces as she carves.

When it comes to transferring a design onto the pumpkin, Stephanie said she “doesn’t bother with the normal method of poking holes to transfer like the Pumpkin Masters kits suggest.

“For foam pumpkins, I print out the pattern and tape it to the pumpkin, cutting to fit as necessary. I just cut right through the paper with the hot knife and it works like a charm.

“Up until this year, I used a great product called Stick N’ Carve, which you can buy online or at Joann (craft stores). You print the pattern out on the paper and then peel and stick on the pumpkin. After you’re done, you just wash off the remainder of the material.

“It’s really cool, but it tends to melt and peel away when using the hot knife, making it difficult for me when carving complicated designs. So I’ve gone back to using plain, old computer paper and that works the best for me.”

After attaching and centering the pattern, Stephanie carves a hole in the bottom of the pumpkin to make it easy to clean out extraneous pieces.

“After the pumpkin is carved, I go back over it to clean up the lines a bit,” she said.

When it comes to illuminating your jack-o-lantern, Stephanie recommends white twinkle lights for foam pumpkins, but added there are “a ton of different lighting options like the LED pumpkin lights, strobe lights, colored lights, whatever strikes your fancy. Just remember never to put a candle in a foam pumpkin!”

If you’re carving a real pumpkin, Stephanie suggests scraping the inner wall of the gourd down to about an inch.

“A lot of people make the mistake of not thinning out the carving wall and it ends up looking bad as a result,” she said.

“It also makes it easier to carve when the wall is thinner. The light will show through much better on a thinner pumpkin wall, as well.”

Stephanie’s most important advice for beginners is to “start small.”

“If you’ve never done this kind of pumpkin carving before, you don’t want to be too ambitious. I tried to do a much more advanced design than I was prepared to do at the beginning of my pumpkin journey and royally screwed it up! Start with an easier design and move on from there depending upon your aptitude. You’ll get better as you go along also.”

While she highly recommends foam pumpkins – and using the hot knife to make clean lines as opposed to sawing away on a real pumpkin – she urged beginners to try carving a natural gourd a few times to see which they prefer.

It all depends on “how much time you’re willing to put into it,” she said.

“Most importantly, have fun!”

A “Supernatural”-themed pumpkin carved by Stephanie Patterson.

For Stephanie, the fun of carving elaborately geeky jack-o-lanterns turned into a side hustle this year as she fielded requests for custom pumpkins.

“The commission thing has been so rewarding,” she said.

“It has been so much fun to carve designs that I normally wouldn’t do (and don’t have the space for) and then get to see the joy it brings people in their own homes.

“It’s awesome to carve for money, but honestly, I love it so much I would almost do it for free!”

Photos courtesy of Stephanie Patterson. 

It’s Halloween costume crunch time. Channel your inner Barb, Belle, or BB8!

Earlier this week, we critiqued the annoying and increasingly ridiculous trend of “sexy” Halloween costumes for women.

Now that we’ve explored the outfits many of us don’t want to wear on All Hallows’ Eve, let’s talk about costumes we geeky ladies might actually want to put on.

Whether you’re still figuring out the details of your costume or have no idea what to wear on Halloween, you’ll find plenty of ideas below based on pop cultural trends and tried-and-true geek classics.

I used to spend a lot of time assembling my own costumes, but in recent years I’ve craved convenience over creativity.

One of my new go-to favorites is the pajama costume, or onesie. All you have to do is step into them, zip them up, and they’re warm, cozy, and comfy for a night of trick or treating or a family Halloween party.

Target has an adorable selection of Union Suits pajama costumes, ranging from whimsical animals, like unicorns and dragons, to geeky classics, like Harry Potter and Spider-Man.

One of my favorites is this Princess Leia onesie, complete with hoodie buns:


Before I surrendered to the comfy convenience of a pair of Union Suit PJs (I’ll keep which one I chose a secret), I had big plans to put together my own Antiope costume.

I’m sure I’m not the only fangirl who was so inspired by the kick-ass Amazon warriors of the “Wonder Woman” movie that I wanted to celebrate by getting in on some cosplay action.

After studying Antiope’s amazing leather-and-metal-studded battle armor, however, I decided I didn’t have the money, time, energy, or skills to pull this one off.

DC Extended Universe Wiki

But if one of you, my readers, decides to go for it, like the dedicated cosplayers pictured below, I want to be your best friend forever.

Dowen Creative Studios

Of course, there is at least one packaged costume option when it comes to the Amazons. This “Adult Deluxe Beach Battle Wonder Woman Costume” would do the trick if you’re not too picky about authenticity.


If you’d rather be the Princess of Themyscira herself, a la Gal Gadot, you don’t have to settle for one of those skimpy, less-than-battle-ready “sexy” Wonder Woman costumes.

This one’s not half bad:

Rubie’s Costume Company

I’m partial, however, to a playful homage to the goddess Diana, courtesy of Her Universe’s cosplay-ready Wonder Woman Collection.

All you need is the “DC Comics Wonder Woman Replica Tiara” and the “DC Comics Wonder Woman Reversible Dress” — which you’ll totally wear again.

Hot Topic

If you’ve got cash to burn, complete the look with the proper footwear, “DC Comics Wonder Woman 3-Piece Wedge Boots.”

Also on my wishlist of costumes I’d love to see women rocking on Halloween are the characters that populate the mythical kingdom of Wakanda in the upcoming “Black Panther” movie. Somebody please do this! This group totally pulled it off.

Some of my favorite costumes last year were themed around the Netflix ’80s throwback horror series “Stranger Things.” Never have Halloween revelers been able to create so much impact by throwing a string of Christmas lights around their necks.

From my research, it looks like “Stranger Things” will be a popular theme again this year. The show returns for Season 2 on Oct. 27.

There are many characters to choose from, of course, but none more beloved than cult favorite Barb.

Rock those Coke bottle glasses and mom jeans!

Spirit Halloween

Slap on a blonde wig — or shave your head for bonus points — and smear a little blood under your nose and you’re good to go as paranormally gifted test subject and waffle lover Eleven.

This “Blush Long-Sleeved Babydoll Dress” will be your piece de resistance.

Hot Topic

Except, you’ll also need this amazing Eggo-inspired purse (available at Spirit Halloween).

Spirit Halloween

Judging by the enthusiasm expressed for “The Last Jedi” trailer on social media this week, Star Wars will also remain a popular sartorial choice this Halloween season.

Honor the memory of Carrie Fisher with a classic Leia look:

Her Universe

Or, because there seem to be no porg costumes … yet … show your love for that other adorable sidekick, BB8, with this stunning cosplay dress:

Hot Topic

Or channel your inner rogue smuggler with this “I Am Han Solo Collared Tank-Dress,” which I totally dare you to wear to work the next day, too.


And if you’re a “Clone Wars” fan, you can go all out with this colorful Ahsoka Tano costume, complete with headpiece.

Hot Topic

Thanks to the DisneyBounding craze, you can’t go wrong with a Mouse House-themed costume.

Thanks to the success of the live-action “Beauty and the Beast” film, many Disney fans will be embracing the straight-from-the-film version of the village frock worn by that strange but special bookworm, Belle.


If you’d rather go old-school when it comes to Disney princesses, this Mulan cosplay dress is understated but on-point.

Hot Topic

Superheroes, especially the ones owned by Marvel, are predicted to dominate Halloween again this year.

This cosplay dress is practically dripping with the anticipation of the upcoming “Ms. Marvel” movie starring Brie Larson.

Her Universe

And what fan of Hiddles and Hemsworth wouldn’t have to have this reversible Thor/Loki dress from Her Universe. You can wear it again soon to see “Thor: Ragnarok.”

Her Universe

If you’re more of a Whovian than a Marvel geek, you don’t have to look very far to find duds themed after your favorite Doctor. Or you could just slip into this gorgeous, vintage-looking, timey-wimey Tardis party dress.

Hot Topic

You can always shun the latest trends and go retro with your costume instead, although I fear the three examples I’ve gathered below could actually be quite trendy this year.

The witchy 1993 Disney film “Hocus Pocus” is enjoying something of a renaissance lately, which is why I’d highly recommend putting a spell on yourself and going as one of the Sanderson sisters.

Spirit Halloween

Admit it, as much as every goth girl longs to dress up as winsome ragdoll Sally, haven’t you ever wanted to be the Pumpkin King?

Hot Topic

And to channel ultimate ’80s goth girl Lydia Deetz (aka Winona Ryder), all you really need is a clever prop, ThinkGeek’s “Beetlejuice Handbook for the Recently Deceased Journal.”


In conclusion, if you’ve got a party to get to, places to go, or people to see on Halloween, but you’re not feeling the full costume vibe, ModCloth has an eccentric and irresistible collection of vintage-style frocks, blouses, skirts, and other clothes in cute and spooky patterns that demonstrate you’re in the spirit of the evening.

Happy hauntings!



Share Your Halloween Costume!

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Fangirl has got a fever for Pops (and takes us on a tour of Funko headquarters)

Gig Harbor, Wash., resident Stephanie Patterson used to think Funko Pops were weird-looking. Now she has about 70 of the irresistible, little pop culture figures and counting. (And she’s got a great storage solution for her addiction. It involves IKEA.)

A medical transcriptionist who loves Star Wars, Harry Potter, and “Game of Thrones,” Patterson carves amazing pop culture-themed pumpkins every Halloween and is basically living out the ultimate geek romance with her partner in crime, husband Jacob (seriously, they are the cutest).

Stephanie and Jacob recently visited Funko Pop! HQ, a magical, themed retail outlet in Everett, Wash., and agreed to take us on a vicarious tour of the nerd haven, which the rest of us can now put on our bucket lists.

Stephanie Patterson and her husband, Jacob, are seriously one with the Force.

So … you’re kind of obsessed with Funko Pops! How many do you currently have in your collection?

Our official count is 71!

What are some of the fandoms represented in your collection?

A vast majority of our Pops are Star Wars-related (23 of them so far!). I also have a fairly big chunk of Harry Potter figures as well as Disney, “Bob’s Burgers,” “Ghostbusters,” “Stranger Things,” and other miscellaneous things, like Monty Python and “Orange is the New Black.” I have a handful of Christmas pops from “A Christmas Story” and “Christmas Vacation,” as well as Halloween Pops from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

What are some of your favorite individual Pops in your collection?

My favorite Pop! is, coincidentally, the first one I ever got (which is probably one of the reasons I love it so). That would be my Leia in her Boushh disguise. Another one I love is my Harry Potter sitting on a stool with the Sorting Hat on. I love all of them so much, though, it’s hard to choose just two.

How did you begin collecting Pops? Did you intend to amass so many or did it just sort of happen? (I know from experience they can be very addictive.)

It’s funny, I never liked Pops before I started collecting them; I thought they were strange-looking. However, once I found my first one (Leia), I started looking up more of them and realized how many that Funko made that I loved. It just snowballed from there. That Christmas — I think it was two years ago now — I received about seven or eight Pops as gifts from family since they knew I liked them, and that was really the start of my collection. I definitely didn’t intend to have this many, no!

How do you display your Pops?

I have six IKEA shelves on the wall in our bedroom devoted to my Pops, and that has since spilled over onto whatever obliging surface I can find!

Are you running out of room for them yet?

I have definitely run out of room! We’re at critical mass here. I need to make another trip to IKEA for more shelves very soon.

Are there any rare or special Pops you still covet?

There is an old Lando Calrissian Pop that I would dearly love to have, but he is extremely expensive and rare, so that probably won’t happen unless they decide to re-release him!

You and your husband Jacob recently visited Funko Pop! headquarters. I didn’t even know that existed. How did you learn about it? Where is it? Can you just show up and visit?

Yes! It was really cool, a total Pop haven for collectors! It is located in Everett, Wash., about an hour and a half from our house; it’s exciting to live that close to headquarters! It’s been open since the end of August and occupies an old Bon Marche building in town; it’s enormous! Anyone can visit; it’s basically just a huge Pop store with multiple themed areas. They really did an amazing job with the theming too!

Tell me about your experience at the headquarters. What were some of your favorite things you saw there?

When we got there [Funko], we had to wait in a line around the corner to get in, but the line moved quickly and it allowed for a better shopping experience because they only let in a small group of people at a time. I really loved all the themed areas and the detail they put into it.

The Star Wars area was so rad, with a Hoth theme (there was the snow cave with the Wampa and Luke hanging upside down as well as a Snowspeeder and Snowtroopers and Darth Vader up above looking down at everything). They had a Harry Potter area with really great details like the Hogwarts crest on the gate to get in and awesome Pop-ified gargoyles with a huge Hagrid at the entrance.

There is a Gotham/DC area with a Batcave and a Batmobile photo op! There is also an anime/miscellaneous area with a big Pop Godzilla and a little monorail train with Pop figures inside that he is attacking. They really thought of everything, and there were little Easter eggs everywhere that I really loved. There is also a Disney area in the center of the store with Maleficent’s castle and a drawbridge!

The surprising thing is that their prices for Pops are the best I’ve seen anywhere! I was pleasantly surprised that they weren’t gouging their customers. They didn’t really have the biggest selection of Pops overall, however; I think I could have found a larger selection at most other stores. The experience and the atmosphere was obviously the biggest part of it.

You and Jacob are pretty hardcore geeks, if you don’t mind my saying so. Were you always into geeky things, or did that come later in life?

Haha, yeah, we’ve definitely become more hardcore over the years when it comes to Harry Potter and Star Wars especially. I wasn’t a geek as a kid, not at all! All of this has come since I married Jake 15 years ago and he really got me into Star Wars hardcore. We’ve kind of evolved together, and especially since geek culture is everywhere now and so easy to indulge your particular fandom, it’s become more of a thing for us.

I know you’re really into Harry Potter. How did that start?

The Harry Potter thing started back when we saw “Sorceror’s Stone” in the theater.  After that, we started reading the books that were out and really got into them. We eventually found a Harry Potter book club meeting at the Palmdale Barnes & Noble that we started going to, where we met more HP nerds like ourselves and made some amazing friends. That got us into going to events like midnight showings and midnight release parties for the books, and eventually going to Chicago for a HP con, Terminus, with our friend Delia. That was our first con experience and super fun to geek out with thousands of other HP fans!

If I’m not mistaken, you and Jacob were once in a wizard rock band. Tell me about that.

I can’t believe you remember that! Haha! Yes, we were really into the whole Wizard Rock ‘scene’ and decided to start our own band, The Escapators. We never played a show and Jake wrote one song (“My Phoenix Song”) and recorded it, which got played on an HP podcast.  That was as far as it ever went!

You guys are really into Star Wars, too. How does your love of Star Wars manifest itself in your life?

Oh my gosh, Star Wars has invaded every part of our lives imaginable! Every room in our house has at least one (and usually much more) thing that is Star-Wars related in it. We sleep on Star Wars bedding, we’ve got a Star Wars shower curtain in the bathroom, we eat on Star Wars plates and with lightsaber utensils, we’ve got Star Wars figures and toys everywhere in the living room … it’s just everywhere!

We’ve got a Death Star charger in our car and a Millennium Falcon license plate frame and a hanging R2-D2 in the car as well as a couple Star Wars windshield covers. You really can’t go anywhere in our house without seeing it; it’s just so out of hand!

I also have nine different Star Wars foam pumpkins that I’ve carved and put up from September through October and a bunch of Christmas decorations.

What are your thoughts at this point on “The Last Jedi”?

I’m hopeful! I’m looking forward to seeing what Luke’s been up to since “Return of the Jedi” (a lot of brooding on his failed tutelage of his nephew, from the looks of it) and really hoping we find out who the heck Rey’s parents are! I love the Porgs; they are so adorable! It’s looking a lot like an “Empire Strikes Back”-style movie, which fits the flow of the movies so far (“The Force Awakens” being so similar to “A New Hope”), so I’m hoping there’s all kinds of angst!

What about the Han Solo spin-off?

I wasn’t sure about the Han Solo spinoff (and I’m still not sure if it’ll be good!), but I am so excited about seeing Donald Glover play Lando; that is genius casting as far as I’m concerned! I am really wary of seeing someone try to channel Harrison Ford and attempt to capture even an ounce of what he was able to do as Han Solo, but I’m definitely going to try to be as unbiased as possible!

What other fandoms are you guys into?

We’re really into “Game of Thrones”! When we lived in California and got to go to Disneyland all the time, we collected Disneyland memorabilia.  

Aside from Pops, do you collect any other merch?

Hmmm, well, we do have a ton of Star Wars stuff. We have a pretty decent Harry Potter collection going, too, which we got to add on to when we went to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios (Hollywood); we’d love to go to Orlando and see Diagon Alley!

What do you like about owning these souvenirs from your favorite fandoms?

It’s so much fun to represent our favorite fandoms in a way that goes beyond simply reading/watching. I feel like having those things in our house really just further entrenches them into our lives and makes them a tangible thing.

What do you and Jacob do for a living? Is there anything else we should know about you?

Jake and I both work from home now, which is an amazing blessing, as medical transcriptionists. We basically look at doctor’s notes and transfer relevant information into formatted legal reports for Workers’ Compensation and personal injury cases.

We’ve been married 15 years and we’ve been living in Gig Harbor, Wash., for the past five years after being native Californians living in the Antelope Valley for years before moving.

As for hobbies, Jake is a really talented drummer and plays at church weekly. My biggest hobby would probably be my pumpkin carving. I carve on foam pumpkins with a hot knife and currently have 47 carved designs that spend most of their time in my closet, but some are now out and on display on our living room wall!

I used to have a yearly public display at my family’s lavender farm in the fall, where I did live carving, but last year was the last time I got to do that. I adore carving pumpkins and finding the coolest designs online. My favorite pumpkins, though, are the ones that Jake has designed for me to carve; he’s so good at finding pictures and stencils and translating them into patterns! I also do cross stitching year-round.

Do you have any advice for recovering (or not so recovering) Pops addicts?

It’s hard to give advice when I’m so deep into it! Take them out of the box! We’re not strict collectors in the sense that we leave things in their packaging. I love getting to see them unencumbered by their boxes.

My best advice would be to never start in the first place; it’s a sickness! But if you must, have fun with it, and definitely look into IKEA shelves because you’re gonna need some; it’s inevitable!

Below are some more fun pictures from Stephanie and Jacob’s trip to Funko Pop! HQ.

About the Geek Goddess Interviews:

No Man’s Land chats weekly with a “Geek Goddess” whose devotion to her fandoms manifests itself in unique and inspiring ways. We hope these simple snapshots motivate other women to passionately embrace the fandoms they love and to do so with pride.

I’m always looking for interview subjects, so if you know someone who might be ideal, please respond via the comments, private message, or email,


Welcome to No Man’s Land

Something happened to me in June.

I’m sure certain people will scoff when I say that in June a movie changed my life. Or maybe it didn’t quite change my life, but it changed the way I saw the world and it changed the way I saw myself.

In June, I saw Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman.”

After decades in development limbo, DC’s long-awaited comic book adaptation arrived exactly when I needed it most, after months of demoralizing political and social setbacks for feminism and female wellbeing in general.

Despite what James Cameron says, “Wonder Woman” is a feat of female representation the likes of which Hollywood never seemed capable of delivering before. The fact that it also became the biggest hit of the summer, breaking records left and right, was just icing on the cake.

Left to right, Gal Gadot, director Patty Jenkins, and Chris Pine on the set of “Wonder Woman.”

Sure, “Wonder Woman” is a deftly written, wildly entertaining, gracefully executed, slickly produced big-budget comic book movie. It’s also so much more.

As star Gal Gadot charged into battle, bullets pinging off her silver gauntlets while soldiers cowered in the trenches, for perhaps the first time, little girls did not have to stretch their imaginations far to put themselves in her place. They were finally granted the same delight boys have long enjoyed, watching Indiana Jones, Luke Skywalker, Batman, or any other epic hero on a hero’s journey to save the world.

For grown women, the experience was even more profound.

Starved for female cinematic role models of power, strength, courage, compassion, intelligence, and heroism, the sight of Gadot’s Amazon warrior presiding over kick-ass action, not as a sidekick or sexual object, but as a three-dimensional hero who reflects back to us all that is best about our own humanity, was revelatory and unexpectedly cathartic.

There were tears. I assure you, they were tears of joy.

Gal Gadot greets a young Wonder Woman fan at a signing.

That said, it would be foolish to assume “Wonder Woman” changes everything.

For all we know, Hollywood will  jump on the female-led action movie bandwagon for a couple years before going back to business as usual. The worlds of science fiction, fantasy, videogames, comic books, cosplay, and TV and movie fandoms will likely remain minefields for women to navigate. Girls and women will still have to fight for their voices to be heard, in fictional worlds as well as the real world.

What has changed then?

Personally, I’m feeling more hopeful about the potential for women to step up and take their place at the forefront of geek culture, to blaze trails and envision ourselves in roles we thought we might never assume.

This hope has inspired a new project, a blog dedicated to the voices of women who are passionate about fandoms of all kinds. It’s no coincidence I’m launching this endeavor the day before “Wonder Woman” is released in digital HD.

The title of the blog? No Man’s Land.  Because this project is very much in the spirit of Wonder Woman but is by no means limited to the subject of Wonder Woman.

My intention is that No Man’s Land would be an outlet for the resources and skills I’ve honed during a more than 15-year career as an entertainment editor, film critic, blogger, and freelance writer.

Most of all, though, I want to have fun, and I want you to have fun too. This will most often take the form of shameless and enthusiastic discussion of all our favorite geeky things.

So we’ll be talking about Game of Thrones, and Doctor Who, and Harry Potter, and Stranger Things, and comic books, and anime, and comic book movies, and conventions, and television shows, and books, and collectibles, and cosplay, and whatever other nerdy thing we happen to be obsessed with at the moment.

And Star Wars. Lots of Star Wars. Because it’s Star Wars!

No Man’s Land will also endeavor to highlight the stories of women who are passionate about various fandoms and express this in fascinating ways, in pioneering careers, creative pursuits, unusual hobbies, family activities, and many other avenues.

We won’t shy away from talking about feminism, politics, social issues and perhaps even subjects that are painful, complex, or controversial.

Guys, despite the blog title, this is a space where you are welcome. We’d love your thoughts and contributions because we know so many of you are on our side.

Readers, I’d love it if you would function as my lasso of truth by offering your comments, feedback, suggestions, content ideas, pitches for guest posts, or whatever is on your mind.

Let’s get out of the trenches. I’ll see you on the battlefield.

Photos: Heroic Hollywood, YouTube, CBR, DC Comics.