The Best Things We Read In 2016

This year has had its ups and downs, the downs being more recent in our memories, but there were also a multitude of excellent stories told this year. We’ve read a number of articles, books, magazines, etc. this year and have compiled a list of some of the best this year had to offer. There were stories that took us to a galaxy far, far away and stories that hit close to home and helped us connect with ourselves and the ever-changing world around us.

What I Know

Rosanna Tasker – Lenny Letter

In March, New York Times best-selling author Jessica Knoll shared the story of the real rape informing her debut novel Luckiest Girl Alive (which is also one of the best thing’s I’ve read this year).  Her essay is real, powerful, and necessary. I don’t think a line of text has ever resonated with me more than the final line of her piece: “I’m not fine. It’s not fine. But it’s finally the truth, it’s what I know, and that’s a start.” 



Star Wars: Ahsoka

 

Star Wars: Ahsoka is one of the newest  Star Wars texts this year and is the first book in the canon to feature the former Jedi apprentice to Anakin Skywalker. The story, written by E.K. Johnston, focuses on Ahsoka’s time after the fall of the Republic.  For any fan of Star Wars Rebels or Star Wars: The Clone Wars, this book shares the story of how our favorite padawan became Fulcrum, the informant for the Resistance. 

Scrappy Little Nobody

Anna Kendrick’s collection of essays, Scrappy Little Nobody, was released in November of this year. It is a hilarious and charming account of her time in the business so far. She has written this book in the same authentic and candid voice that can be found on her Twitter. It was a joy to read!




The Princess Diarist 

The final memoir written by the late Carrie Fisher is by far one of my favorites from 2016.  The entire text focuses on Carrie’s reflections on and personal diaries surrounding her time filming the original Star Wars film, now known as A New Hope. She also speaks about bringing her iconic role back to the big screen in The Force Awakens.  Ms. Fisher, in her outstanding way, maintains her usual frank, witty humor throughout the text.  Many times, I found myself hearing her voice in my mind telling the story (Of course, you can actually hear her tell the story through the audiobook). – Sarah

Marcia Clark is Redeemed

via: NY Mag

The People v. O.J. Simpson was one of the biggest television events of the season and has garnered high critical praise and industry awards for best television mini-series and its leading actors.  The major appeal of the show was the sensational nature of O.J. Simpson’s trial and one of the best performances of the television season was Sarah Paulson’s portrayal of Marcia Clark.  I loved reading Rebecca Traister’s piece detailing how the show has helped the “90’s bogeywoman… become a feminist icon.”

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Star Wars from Marvel: A New Series for Comic-lovers

At San Diego Comic Con last year, fans of Star Wars saw the announcement of three new series from Marvel, all of them focusing on our favorite characters from a galaxy far, far away.

Today, fans across the U.S. celebrated the release of series 1, issue 001. 
                           

The issue is written by Jason Aaron, drawn by John Cassaday, colored by Laura Martin, and lettered by Chris Eliopoulos. And the team has created something truly incredible for the future of the Star Wars saga! (Note: we are spoiler-free here!)
Along with the cover above, there are dozens of variant covers that have been illustrated by some of the best artists in the business.  To get an idea of some of the variants, check this out.
The series is highly anticipated, most comic shops selling out before the day began. Don’t worry, the comics can be found online at eBay (for print copies), Marvel (for digital copies and directions to a local store for print copies), and online stores like Mile High Comics (for print copies of variant covers).
This series marks the return of the Star Wars saga to Marvel, who published Comics for the series from 1977-1987.  Dark Horse Comics took over as the publisher of Star Wars comics in 1991.  Once Disney bought Lucasfilm, it was only a matter of time before the transition was made.  Now, every comic that has been released before 2015, whether Marvel or Dark Horse, is considered to be part of the Legends Universe in the Star Wars realm.  Today’s comic is the first comic that is officially in the Star Wars canon.  
In February and March of this year, Star Wars fans can expect two more series focusing on two specific characters: Darth Vader and Princess Leia.  In the new issue (out today), fans can catch a brief glimpse of the two upcoming series. 

For more info on Star Wars, be sure to check out their website, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

Be sure to check out Marvel’s website for official news on Marvel tv shows, comics and movies.

NC Comicon with John and Carole Barrowman

November 15 & 16, at the Carolina Theatre in downtown Durham, NC, hundreds of fans gathered together to celebrate a universal love of comics, tv shows, movies, and more at NC Comicon!  We were among those hundreds and we loved every minute of our time there!

This year, the featured guests were none other than John Barrowman (Doctor Who, Arrow, Torchwood) and his sister, Carole (author, with her brother, of Bone Quill, and Hollow Earth among others).  Saturday of the con began with a Q&A with John Barrowman.  He was filming in Vancouver the night before up until the time of his flight and arrived at the convention center just in time to start the session.  Dashing out onto the stage with luggage in tow, he began a hilarious and sincere hour of question and answer with fans.  He answered questions from his favorite color (asked by a 3 year old girl; it’s Blue) to his advice for aspiring actors (don’t do it unless your serious about it, and be trained in your craft). He didn’t uphold his tradition of the pants drop (remember he was fresh off the plane) but he followed through and did the deed at his Sunday session, and upon request we got to hear his Scottish accent.  At the Sunday session we also learned who were the biggest stars they had in their cell phone which led to John ringing David Tennant. He’s quite an entertainer!

He did a picture session with fans who had purchased tickets and he and Carole did autograph signings multiple times throughout the weekend.  They are both so gracious and great people! At one point during the photo session John whistled to quite down the crowd and asked people to please organize themselves in a better manner to avoid traffic jams in the hallway.  He had a conversation with everyone who came up to get an autograph and it didn’t feel as rushed as many convention lines can.

The day consisted of many wonderful panels including how comics are conceptualized and brought to life, artist roundtables, and our personal favorite, a writing workshop with Carole Barrowman.   She gave an excellent 45 minute workshop about how to improve your writing, and it was a privilege to learn from her.  She made some excellent points, the main takeaway of which was to make sure that your writing has energy. She made the workshop interactive and captivating. We wish Carole was our English professor!

The dealer’s room was filled with stalls of comic books, action figures, drawings, posters, and anything else you’d want or expect to see at a comic book convention.  We really enjoyed that the focus was actually on comic books, as some conventions have a poor selection of vendors and focus on other aspects than comics. Towards the end of the day Saturday evening  John and Carole came into the dealer’s room to shop for comics.

Carole and John shopping for Comic Books

Throughout the entire weekend, Artist’s Alley was filled with amazingly talented people selling prints, hairbands, jewelry boxes, drawstring bags, exclusive comic books, and so much more.  We had the pleasure of meeting Chris McJunkin, a freelance illustrator who is currently working on Zero’s Heroes for New Haven Comics.  He had some amazing pieces for sale, including some Doctor Who and Star Wars pieces.  We also had a chance to speak with Kelly Yates, an artist best known for his work on Doctor Who comics at IDW.  He told an awesome story about one particular piece he did featuring the Eleventh Doctor and Amy and Rory.  The goal of the piece was to combine all the Doctors in one image; BBC was concerned about doing so, but they loved his piece so much that they approved it the minute they saw it.  


                                    

 

One of the greatest things about being a part of this amazing community of fans is that giving back is a big part of who we are and what we do.  Throughout the weekend, we encountered many artists who were giving some of their proceeds to charities.  The 501st Legion had a raffle to raise money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation.  The grand prize included books, shirts, artwork, comics, action figures, and few other Star Wars trinkets.  Many vendors were donating a portion of their profits to charities of their choice, including one vendor who donated half of his proceeds to Wounded Warrior Project.  He had many tin signs, featuring some favorite comic book heroes.  
Comic conventions are one of the best places to see cosplayers, including many quality costumes. Throughout the entire weekend, we saw many Doctors, several Jack Harknesses, a bunch of Wonder Women, a baby Spider-Man, and Belle from Beauty and the Beast. We even saw the Tenth Doctor walking K-9!
The Doctor walking K-9!
                                        
Overall, NC Comicon was a terrific weekend!  As mentioned before, this was a comicon that truly focused on the comics, with a splash of television and film.  With a unique collection of venders, artists, guests, cosplayers, and visitors, it’s no wonder that NC Comicon is one of the best in the state.  If you are ever given the opportunity to go, you will not be sorry.
NC Comicon: Facebook | Twitter | Website
John Barrowman: Facebook | Twitter | Website 

Heart of an Empire – ConCarolinas 2014

In the mid-1990s, one man’s idea launched a group that has become an international force for good in the community. At Cons, charity events and public events, stormtroopers, Darth Vaders, and other imperial officers can be seen in full costume – seeming to have come directly from the movies.

Fans of Star Wars have been collecting props, action figures, comics and other paraphernalia for many decades.  Albin Johnson, as mentioned in the film Heart of an Empire, had an idea that he wanted to dress up as a stormtrooper.  With support of his friends and fellow Star Wars fans, Albin’s dream has become a reality.  Chapters of the 501st Legion can be found all over the world, which is more than Albin could have dreamed of.  
                                               

                       
This past weekend, Albin’s dream-turned-reality made its way into my line of sight.  At ConCarolinas in Charlotte, North Carolina, I was formally introduced to the Carolina Garrison of the 501st and the whole 501st through Jay Thompson’s documentary, Heart of an Empire.  Don’t get me wrong, I had heard of the group before, but I had no idea just how big and well-known the group is.  
And let me tell you, as a life-long fan of the Star Wars trilogies and EU (Expanded Universe), the fact that the 501st group exists excites me.
Not only are these groups active fans of the franchise, they are also active in their communities as individuals that want to have a positive influence on the people around them.  In fact, Heart of an Empire focuses on the influence these men and women have had on other people.  
                                       
I refuse to give anything away…so, PLEASE watch the film! It will change your life with its beautiful story.
   

In addition to seeing the film, I was able to sit in on an interesting panel on Saturday morning at ConCarolinas: Star Wars.
      
One thing that I knew would be discussed is the fact that Disney now owns LucasFilm and what that will entail for the upcoming sequel trilogies.  Just among the four panelists, the tension was running high.  They even went into the lengthy argument over the prequel trilogies and whether or not they are good or necessary for the Star Wars saga.
Now, say what you will, but I loved the prequel trilogy, but because I was a kid and saw the appeal.  I was a member of the generation that saw the release of these films, and that is part of my individual experience with Star Wars.  I, now, believe that the original films (without the additional edits that were made in the 1990s and 2000s) are far superior (Am I getting the Star Wars stamp of approval, now?)

However, I believe that the most important point from the panel is that the upcoming trilogy should not be judged harshly before it is released.  I believe fans of the saga should take the “innocent until proven guilty” approach.  Be excited for the films! Be hopeful that the stories will be great! Have faith that JJ Abrams and the entire cast and crew will do well with the films!
Now, if the films come out and are a success, YAY!!!! You had faith and you are being rewarded accordingly.   If the films are terrible, well that’s okay too. Once that happens, go to town criticizing and analyzing and complaining – you deserve to.  But we should not set ourselves up with great expectations of what the films will be when we have no true idea of what is coming! That’s just my simple opinion.
For more info on Star Wars, check them out on twitter, Facebook, tumblr and the official website.
For more information about the amazing Con that is ConCarolinas, check out their website!
Photos courtesy of the official websites of the 501st Legion, Star Wars, and ConCarolinas.