Our second Game of Theories video is live! Come with us North of the Wall to continue with the story HBO’s Game of Thrones forgot! Bran Stark is a major character in A Song of Ice and Fire, and we’ve given him some well deserved spotlight this week. Is he destined to become a gnarled old tree or are there more possibilities for the heir to Winterfell and the North? In Bran’s segment we’ll be discussing the Children of the Forrest, The Land of Always Winter, and the story of the Last (Action) Hero.
We’d like to thank everyone who shared and gave us feedback for our first segment on the little lost lordling, Rickon Stark. We are trying to produce the best content possible with the highest quality, and the community has been amazingly supportive so far. Next up is the pouty bastard of the North, Jon Snow. Be sure to subscribe to SubCultured’s YouTube channel for more of your favorite characters to love and hate from A Song of Ice and Fire!
Keep up with the discussion on Twitter with the hashtag #GameOfTheories!
In case you haven’t gathered yet, conventions are kind of my thing. From small local anime conventions to the pop culture monster that is SDCC, I enjoy the huge variety of media and programming that conventions offer.
Last year, in 2014, I heard about STAPLE!, a local Austin expo which bills itself as an “independent media expo.” After winning some passes through The Austinot, we headed over to check it out and were pleasantly surprised.
I’ve attended many conventions, but STAPLE! is unique — the artists and independent creators are the focus. Where a lot of conventions have artist alleys that can feel like an afterthought, that is the primary draw of STAPLE! I’ve been to conventions where the media itself, the celebrities, or the fandom is the focus, but STAPLE! is the first that truly felt like a celebration of the creators — a refreshing change of pace.
In 2015, STAPLE! upped the ante with an all-female headlining guests. I caught the “Life in Panels: Autobio Comics” panel, the “Hire This Woman” panel (featuring my friend Jamie Kinosian), and the Q&A with Babs Tarr, Brooke Allen, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters. I didn’t catch any panels the previous year, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.
With an all-star indie comics lineup like that, it’s no surprise that each panel was a delight! From discussing artistic process to breaking into the industry, every panel taught me something new about the comics industry. They each felt very intimate, too — smaller crowds offer more room for connection than panel rooms stuffed to capacity.
The other main draw of the expo is the massive exhibitor area. (Seriously, look at this list!) With everything from vegan cookbooks to popular indie comics and self-published mini-comics and zines, there are all kinds of unique works of art that I haven’t seen at other events. Supporting an artist in person gives you warm fuzzies — plus you can compliment them on their work directly. If you’re an artist, I imagine that STAPLE! is an excellent place to meet others in your field.
Overall, I truly enjoyed my time at STAPLE! Independent Media Expo and I can only hope that they continue to improve year after year. If you’re in Texas, I would recommend the day trip to visit this expo if you’re into indie comics, artists, or learning about the process behind comics.
Have you ever been to an independent media expo?
The crossover between movie and musical has been strong in the last few years. Every genre, it seems, is getting a Broadway adaptation, from comedies like Legally Blonde and Bring it On to Spiderman, Shrek, and Heathers…even Silence of the Lambs and Ghost have stage adaptations now. Of course this crossover trend is neither new nor a one-way street, as popular musicals like RENT, Chicago and Into the Woods have been adapted for the big screen. Major changes are frequently made in both directions, in order for the story to fit the new form.
This was a trend that had barely begun while I was in graduate school, earning my M.A. in theatre studies. Now it’s three years since I finished my degree and I can’t stop thinking about this trend in adaptation. With all this in mind, I am starting a feature called “Musical Or Movie”, where I compare the two versions and let you know whether one is truly better than the other. Some results may surprise you.
To kick off the series I’ll be writing about Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which is currently surpassing all expectations with a wildly popular Broadway debut*. Hedwig premiered off-Broadway in 1998, and lasted for two years before closing. This production did win both the Obie and Outer Critics Circle awards, but did not transfer to Broadway. Creator and star John Cameron Mitchell made a film version along with composer Stephen Trask, and Hedwig’s popularity soared.
The show is now something of a cult-classic, with a vibe that reeks of Rocky Horror—but the similarity ends at the aesthetic. The story follows East-German born Hedwig Robinson, born Hansel Schmidt, a young boy obsessed with rock and roll in the 80s. Hedwig’s life story is told in a series of restaurant gigs where she delivers flashbacks in between songs with her backup band, The Angry Inch.
I’m starting with this show for two reasons: one, I’ve been obsessed with Hedwig for years and I love her, and this show, to death. Two: Hedwig on Broadway has made some diverse casting choices in the last few months, first by replacing Lena Hall with Rebecca Naomi Jones, and most recently with the announcement that Taye Diggs will take over as Hedwig in July. Jones and Diggs will be the first people of color to play these roles on Broadway–and two of very few people of color in lead roles on Broadway (The Lion King is the only notable exception.)
*Two of the five actors in the titular role have extended their runs so far.
**Add a double asterisk and add thank you to some of our readers who kindly informed me that Taye Diggs will be the second person of color to play Hedwig, as Darren Criss, currently in the role, is half Filipino.
Hedwig tells the tale of how Hansel grew up on the wrong side of the wall and fell in love with an American G.I. named Luther Robinson. Robinson woos Hansel with promises of freedom in Junction City, Kansas, but in order to get out of Germany, Hedwig will need a sex change operation.
Fast forward and Hedwig finds herself the victim of a botched operation (hence the Angry Inch), living in a trailer park with Luther until he dumps her for a younger more-anatomically-correct boy. In what I think is one of the most tragic moments of the story, Hedwig reflects on her life while a news report lauds the patience of the German race. She watches the Berlin wall torn down live from what feels once more like the wrong side of things.
The crux of the story is in the next man to enter Hedwig’s life—though she has no idea when she meets him. Tommy Speck is barely a teenager when Hedwig meets him while babysitting for him and his younger sibling. By the time she’s done with him he’s Tommy Gnosis: rock star, and he’s learned more tricks than Hedwig could possibly teach. He steals her best writing and hits the road without her—leaving her alone one final time to determine what she’s worth without all the men that have left her behind—from the young boy Hansel, to Tommy himself.
This is a lot to take in, I know, and I already feel like I’m leaving tons out (which I am; pick up the movie or go see the show, seriously), but that leaves us with the most important question of all: “Musical Or Movie?”
Since the musical came first, we’ll start there. The musical obviously has live performance as an advantage over film. The stage format also allows Hedwig’s story to unfold in real time, giving the performance more immediacy and allowing the audience some personal stake in the matter. No matter where the musical is performed, the surroundings are integrated into the story–further driving it home that, as an audience member, you’re really witnessing something special take place before you. On Broadway, Hedwig gets the royal treatment, with laser lights and a mega powerful sound system, dynamic performers and a magical use of projection. All these elements combine to create an experience rather than a show–something you can’t help but take part in at multiple points throughout the performance. Hedwig runs through the audience, even planting a few lap dances and the occasional impromptu kiss as she goes.
Costume and makeup changes also happen in real time–with no intermission break in the middle of the show. Some changes happen right on stage and some are so complete that they are truly transformations. Hedwig’s name was chosen with care–and she lives up to it by changing her carefully coiffed hairpieces with almost every musical number. As they change a different element of her comes alive and takes center stage, and when she passes off the spectacle of costume and hair she does so with heavy meaning behind the gesture.
One major difference between the musical and the film is the number of actors present. On stage the cast is four or five members strong: Hedwig plays every character from the sordid tales of her past, including Luther, her mother, and Tommy himself. Watching her story unfold this way adds something profound that is lost in the film, when each character is played by a different actor with fully dressed sets and little left to the imagination.
Don’t misunderstand–the movie is worth your attention as well. Creator John Cameron Mitchell plays an electric Hedwig who still crackles almost twenty years after the film premiered. A character who appears in the film but not the stage show is Hedwig’s manager, Phyllis Stein (Andrea Martin). Martin’s performance is also on point throughout, and while she provides structure to the “traveling” act of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, it’s easy to see how she wouldn’t have a place on stage. In the movie, the musical act is on the road, shadowing Tommy’s performances across America. While Tommy plays to sold-out stadiums, however, Hedwig and her lovable but barely-able-to-speak-English band bounce from skanky bar to skanky bar. At one point the audience is so fed up with Hedwig’s tasteless backstory that they begin shouting slurs, and Hedwig stage dives into them.
The costume and makeup in the film is beyond what would be possible on stage–with close-ups of Hedwig et al, every sparkle on her lips gets a moment in the limelight. There’s also a sense of intimacy injected to scenes between Hedwig and Tommy, in early days, and Hedwig and her “husband” Yitzhak, in the present. Yitzhak has a complex backstory that intertwines with Hedwig’s development as the events of present day unfold parallel to flashbacks. Audience members get to watch as Hedwig’s style and confidence explode and then deflate with nothing less than dramatic flair. Mitchell is jubilant, depressed, excited, confident, overwhelmed, confused–and it all comes across on his near flawless performance. I watched Hedwig on film long before finding her on stage, and didn’t know what I was missing from the live performance until having experienced both. If you can’t make your way to the Belasco, or Hedwig hasn’t hit your town yet, definitely cut your teeth with the movie.
So Which is It? Musical or Movie?
Hedwig is perfection no matter where she’s performing, but now having seen both I prefer the musical. While the film tells the story well enough and the film’s soundtrack is nothing short of magical, the musical has multiple layers that would be impossible on screen.
Watching Hedwig live is an experience unparalleled on stage today. It’s like going to a rock concert and having a heart-to-heart with the headliner. It’s huge and intense, and intimate and sweet. It’s irreverent and serious and beautiful. I dare you to see Hedwig tell her tale and not walk away feeling something new.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is available to stream or purchase on Amazon.
You can purchase or stream the Original Cast soundtrack also on Amazon, or the Broadway Revival Cast Recording (feat. Neil Patrick Harris as Hedwig) from the “Hedwig on Broadway” website.
We are too thrilled to finally share our first Game of Theories video, where we will discuss popular three fan theories from the A Song of Ice and Fire community. It has been a labor of love and we’re happy to start off this new project with an in-depth analysis of the future of the littlest lordling, Rickon Stark. Over the next several weeks we’ll be posting our first series on our youtube channel, while continuing up the Stark family tree with Bran this week. Be sure to subscribe to our channel to get updates as soon as new content is published!
Join in the conversation on Twitter @sub_cultured with the hashtag #GameOfTheories!
Blizzard’s latest installment in the demon-slaying action RPG series turned 3 this past weekend, and they decided to do something a little special for D3 players by addressing all things bovine and the secret cow level.
The cow level was mostly a running gag by Blizzard that began back in the first game in the Diablo series. If you clicked one of the cows in Tristram enough times, instead of the requisite “moo” the player’s character would break the fourth wall and talk to the player – telling us either “Yup that’s a cow alright!” and reminding us that “Hey, I am no milkmaid!” As we clicked more, the game cycled through more of these quips from our character. This little easter egg was what prompted the rumor of a secret cow level, which as legend has it, stated a portal to it could be opened if a player clicked a cow enough times. It’s alright, I clicked the hell out of those cows too – it was such a ridiculous thing that I had to see for myself.
Of course while taking the official stance that there is no cow level, they fed the rumor machine by making “thereisnocowlevel” a cheat code in Starcraft.
Diablo II took that rumor and ran with it, creating a cow level that could be accessed combining a tome of town portal and Wirt’s leg in your Horadric cube. It eventually became a popular place for players to grind experience and culminated in a battle with the Cow King.
Diablo III, I suppose sort of in that vein, replaced some treasure goblins with treasure bovines instead. And much like the rainbow goblins open up a portal to Whimsyshire, these treasure cows open up a red portal described as the following:
Leads to a place that does not exist. The Burning Hells are not responsible for events that transpire there. If you claim to have been to this place, you will be called a liar. Void where prohibited.
The cow level NOT the cow level is filled with shrines that you will need because of the mad quantity of mad cows coming to get you. I was playing on Master difficulty with a 40-something monk and those shrines and sweeping wind were my best friends for the next few minutes. Scattered around are farmers, no doubt slain by the new bovine masters, dropping tons of gold on top of the already ridiculous number of chests on the map. I had to make 2 trips to town for salvage to actually collect all the loot.
There are gags harkening back to Diablo II, like a quest from the ghost of the then-slain Cow King, who wryly quips that these cows must have some sort of beef with you on a quest called “Tipping Point.” And if you take a look at the pictures, that’s right, some health globes are actually steaks.
I will close by saying this – this place is difficult. On Master difficulty rare spawns showed up with multiple packs of elites (seriously always with fire chains) and my first time through while dealing with them I stumbled upon the map boss, the Cow Queen. She throws so much lightning that I would rank her as more difficult than many of the bosses in the game just based on the sheer damage output she hurls at you, and in my case my gear wasn’t exactly dripping with resistances. This is one of the rare times I died playing with this character so far – she takes very little damage, and there were times when both potions and breath of heaven were on cooldown, leaving my to my doom. But when you’re done with her you do get 4 radiant chests. With a twangy banjo track in the background no less.
Unfortunately no, there were no bovine-themed legendaries, at least none that dropped for me.
The cow level was over on May 21st, but who knows? From the minds of those that came up with both the cow level and Whimsyshire, you never know what’s next in the realms of Sanctuary. Check out some more images in the gallery below:
Sub-Cultured is headed to where all the books go; BookExpo 2015! From Wednesday May 27th to Friday May 29th at Javits Center in NYC, BookExpo brings together all the big (and small) names in publishing and the literary arts industries to showcase what they’re made of (literally!).
I’ll will be flying solo for Sub-Cultured for this year’s Expo, which covers and features all the exciting new forthcoming books and products for the book publishing industry, with a great focus on children’s and YA offerings. Publishing houses and printing presses of all sizes attend from around the world to showcase their services, products and new titles. From classic megaliths like Penguin to smaller niche imprints, BookExpo has lots to offer. Panels, talks, and book-signings with popular adult fiction, children’s, YA, and celebrity authors. Additionally China is this years global market forum guest of honor and many of the spotlight talks will focus on the country.
I will be investigating the booths, seeking out my favorite publishers like NorthSouth, Simply Read, Chronicle Books, Boom!Studios, New York Review Books, Candlewick Press, Nobrow (and Flying Eye Books), Auzou, Minedition, Enchanted Lion Books to name a few (lol) to see what they’ll be offering this year. I will hone in, take pictures and showcase my “show picks” for books and products I think you should look out for or I think will be super special, as well as trying something different and recording interviews with booth representatives and authors.
Above all I will be asking everyone the question “What makes a good book?” and see what people say. To hear or see what kind of books open people up, see how we’re all different, or better yet, a lot more alike than we think, will be very, very cool.
In years past we’ve had rather tight schedules, but our favorite and most rewarding moments of the Expo were when things just happened naturally while walking around with lower key signings, chance meetings and special event invites and parties held by individual booths not BEA. Last year we met Tracy Letts, who wrote the popular play-turned Oscar nominated film, August: Osage County at one of the smaller booths that way as well as signings for children’s book What to Do With An Idea and other interactive on the spot things. That kind of spontaneous fun makes BEA always interesting.
Spotlights, panels and points of interest (just a taste!):
Wed, May 27
BEA Bloggers Conference (many panels) (Requires additional registration)
Blogger Networking Lunch & Raffle
12:00 PM- 1:15 PM | Room 1A06
You will receive your lunch voucher and two additional raffle tickets as you leave the 11:00 am sessions. You may use your voucher in the Javits Food Court so grab your lunch and bring it back to room 1A06 to network with fellow bloggers and be present for the Networking Lunch and Raffle Giveaway. We will be raffling off three $50 American Express Gift Cheques. (You must be present to win.)
Best in Fall 2015 Graphic Novels
| 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM | Uptown Stage
Marvel Presents: Star Wars
| 3:30 PM – 4:30 PM | Downtown Stage
Thursday, May 28th
Consortium’s Best Bets – with Biblioasis, Coffee House Press, Enchanted Lion Books, Flying Eye Books, and Toon Books
| 11:45 AM – 12:15 PM | Uptown Stage
In Search of Diverse Book Buyers
| 12:30 PM – 1:00 PM | Downtown Stage
Friday, May 29th
Children’s Book & Author Breakfast
feat Nathan Lane, Oliver Jeffers, Rainbow Rowell, and James Patterson.
8:00 am – 9:30 am
Wild At Heart: Animal Fantasy in Children’s Books
| 10:45 AM – 11:45 PM | Uptown Stage
- Meet BEA Young Adult Editors’ Buzz Authors
- Meet BEA Middle Grade Editors’ Buzz Authors
This is just a sample of what’s going on, I’d like to be able to see all of it but it’s nearly impossible with how much they have to offer. If you see me or recognize me come say hi! I’d love to chat. But be prepared; I will be asking you “What makes a good book?”