The classy clockwork couture of steampunk
November 18th, 2011
09:04 AM ET

The classy clockwork couture of steampunk

When people see steampunks wearing one of Rex Norman’s sculpted top hat creations, complete with something that appears to be a coal-burning furnace inside, Norman likes to say that it makes “their face fall off” in utter bewilderment.

Check out our gallery of gorgeous steampunk fashion!

Other designs, like hats and masks that look as though they’ve been welded out of cast iron, tend to have a similar effect. And when Norman isn’t pursuing another stupefying hat design, he modifies thrift clothing into steampunk elegance, in addition to selling coats, epaulets, custom spats and goggles.

By day, Norman is a freelance artist for magazines and newspapers, and he considers his custom steampunk creations to be a fruitful, fun hobby.

From his online store, Kostoom Arts, Norman receives requests for budget-friendly, clockwork “mods” to thrift store finds and custom-made, mind-boggling hats from all over the world. He is just one of many in the online universe, providing a unique service to the steampunk community that he loves.

As the ultimate marriage of historical aesthetics and creative eclecticism, steampunk inspires artists to bend the limits of their imagination in order to create wearable, functional art. FULL POST

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Steampunk powers female characters forward
November 16th, 2011
03:52 PM ET

Steampunk powers female characters forward

Crack open a clockwork tale about a teenage steampunk sweetheart and don’t be surprised if she’s shucking her skirts for pants, piloting air-based contraptions or generally giving all proper Victorian societal conventions a kick in the rear. She might allow the corset to stick around, but only for sartorial reasons.

While not all steampunk heroines are quite this flagrant about defying standards, they are all armed with something wonderfully refreshing amidst the young adult (or YA) paranormal swamp: Moxie. When they can’t wear pants or take the wheel, expect a smart, sassy verbal assault.

The steampunk subgenre may be just initially capturing the attention of mainstream readers, but it’s one authors like Scott Westerfeld, Cherie Priest, Kathryn Smith and Gail Carriger have embraced and fueled the last few years.

For Priest, it all started during her Texas history class in public school. After finishing a novel on the rollicking history of the state, Priest approached her teacher.

“How come there weren’t any women in Texas?” she asked.

“Oh, there were women in Texas, they just weren’t doing anything very interesting or important,” Priest recalls her teacher saying.

But as Priest likes to say, “We were all there.”

“These awesome women who made great contributions kind of got left out of history books,” she said. “Steampunk is a hell of a way to bring that back.”

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Forget books, GoBZRK
November 15th, 2011
11:28 AM ET

Forget books, GoBZRK

When Brandon Trudel first saw mentions of “Nexus Humanus,” an organization that promises to “create sustainable happiness, one life at a time” on Twitter, he had no idea he was about to be pulled deep down inside an alternate reality and the world of BZRK.

Trudel knew it was an Alternate Reality Game (ARG), but he had never seen one styled quite like this. It was only his second ARG experience, but what kept him coming back to this one was “the weirdness.”

A steady stream of YouTube videos, curious clues and puzzles began to feed in from the four different websites: Death or Madness, the Society Twins, Nexus Humanus and GoBZRK.

Trudel spent at least ten hours a day, alongside an online community of friends, helping out the characters that had been brought to life through these sites. They were tasked with solving the riddles presented by BZRK, a nano-guerilla group opposing a power-mad duo intent on using nanotechnology to control humanity.

If this were a novel, Trudel says he wouldn’t be interested.

The 20-year-old computer science major lives on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, not through books. But this universe that author Michael Grant , publisher Egmont and entertainment studio The Shadow Gang have teamed up to create has Trudel excited for “BZRK,” the book that began it all. FULL POST

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Updating classic novels with a comic twist
September 30th, 2011
09:38 AM ET

Updating classic novels with a comic twist

Perusing the comic book and graphic novel offerings at Barnes & Noble, I didn’t expect to see Elizabeth Bennet peeking out at me between the latest issues of Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain America and Spider-Man.

But there she was, one of Jane Austen’s most beloved characters, lovingly sketched on the front of a graphic novel from Marvel. The cover of “Pride and Prejudice” was styled like a teen magazine, suggesting that readers delve inside for Lizzy’s dating advice and curing boy-crazy sisters.

Beyond the intriguing cover, it read like a comic book – that is, if you expect your comic books to contain the Bennets battling for their social status.
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The art of being an orchestra dork
September 29th, 2011
07:26 AM ET

The art of being an orchestra dork

Like any passionate group of people who throw their entire body into what they do, you can tell an “orch dork” by their battle scars.

The imprints of bass, cello, violin or viola strings are almost permanently embedded in their fingertips. Streaks of rosin, used to keep their bows in working condition, end up on their clothing. And always look for that telltale hickey on the left side of a violin or viola player’s neck – the end button gets them every time.

But like a “band geek,” an orchestra dork is branded by association without any firm foundation for the moniker. What makes a person who plays a string instrument a dork … or not a dork?  Is it the classical music? The shyness that evaporates when they perform? The tendency to stick together?
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