By Mandy McGee
I have finally caught up with Vicki of Museum of Robots in between conventions to chat. Museum of Robots designs and manufactures retro-futuristic housewares, home and personal accessories. The center of their design philosophy is that they are fans first: they go to sci-fi conventions and fine art museums, vintage car shows and sci-fi movies, science exhibits and toy shows.
(Richard and Vicki; photo by Frank Pryor Photography)
Mandy: Who are the humans behind Museum of Robots?
Museum of Robots: We’re Vicki Küng and Richard Küng. Richard has been collecting robots for 25 years; Vicki is a lifelong science fiction fan who got her first robot at age 6. We are designers by training and profession, and the line is what happened when we decided to create things we’d like in our own home.
Mandy: Why did you start the site?
Museum of Robots: We started the company 5 years ago. We’re both designers and we wanted to move from design consulting to developing our own line of products. We began selling at large wholesale shows, and immediately had a great response from museum and design stores, so that really inspired us to keep going. We found that it was important to get the products in front of the actual consumer, so we started selling at conventions. It was exactly the right move.
And to clarify - there is not a real Museum of Robots. Someday, we hope. We’ve started with the gift store and we’ll bootstrap a museum you can visit from there.
Mandy: Do you design the items in your store or do you out source?
Museum of Robots: Our work is original design, and we work with manufacturers to produce the products. We use a range of manufacturing methods, from traditional to digital, from sand-cast to 3D printing. When possible, we manufacture in the USA; when we utilize foreign manufacturing, it is with producers of high-quality goods who understand our creative and company vision, working responsibly with materials and processes. We also license art from artists we like, and use that on some of the products we make.
Mandy: Why did you choose the style of steampunk/vintage?
Museum of Robots: We don’t really think of the line as steampunk, or even vintage. Retro-future seems to sum it up better - it gives us a range of design influences to work with, although we do sort of fall into a something-punk arena: atom punk, steampunk, diesel punk, cyber-punk. But our influences come from everywhere. We love toy robots and mid-century modern chairs, and urban vinyl, and Italian design. Add a love of technology, sci-fi books and movies, vintage cars, modern design, Googie architecture and Disneyland, and the resulting mash up is Museum of Robots.
Mandy: What is your most popular item?
Museum of Robots: The Rocket Salt & Pepper continues to be our strongest seller, although the rocket and raygun jewelry are catching up. We find the most popular items are rockets, rayguns, and robots. We’re apparently good at things that start with R.
Mandy: How well do you do selling at conventions vs the web site?
Museum of Robots: Conventions and the web site are two different selling venues, although some customers do both. At the conventions, it gives us a chance to see how people respond to the products, and our designs and products are constantly improved by what we hear from people. Not everything goes online - there are new products and limited production items that are show-only. Online is more of the core line, and we are so fortunate in our customers - they are from across the US, and work at some of the most amazing and innovative technology and science companies.
Mandy: Do you enjoy conventions?
Museum of Robots: Love, love love conventions. We started out on the fan side of the aisle, and I truly can’t think of anything more fun than days spent at a con, marinating in convention culture. As exhibitors, we think it’s our job to be a part of convention fun, so we really focus on having a nice booth and product offering. It is hard to miss a good panel, and we are generally too tired to take in much of the evening activities, but these are small things compared to how much fun the conventions are.
Mandy: What is your favourite convention?
Museum of Robots: That’s like trying to pick a favorite robot! Our favorite shows are the ones with a good vibe - happy attendees, nice people, and management that understands why we are there. Not every convention gets it. The ones that do are the happiest places on earth.
(Me and Vicki at Emerald City Comic Con last March)
Mandy: Do you have any plans to expand the site to a physical store?
Museum of Robots: We’d love to experiment with a pop-up or two as way to dip our toe into a retail presence. No immediate plans for a physical store, but yes, we’d love to have one when the time is right.
Mandy: Are you going to get more merch on the site this year?
Museum of Robots: We’ve got new items that we introduced at San Diego Comic-Con this year, and we are busy getting those on the site. We really listen to comments from people at the cons we attend and use that information to tweak and improve the entire product line. The result is what goes on the web site.
Mandy: Do you take commissions?
Museum of Robots: We’ve done a number of custom projects and are always interested in collaborations. We created a special exhibit t-shirt for the Shelburne Museum’s Steampunk show last year, and a custom product for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Mandy: If you had a superpower what would it be?
Museum of Robots: There is a rumor that my superpower is weaponized sarcasm, but I think something involving flying would be more useful. Although with all the lifting and toting of things we do going to conventions, I think that the ability to pack up all our stuff and smallerize it so that it fits in a pocket would be the holy grail of superpowers for the convention circuit. I always wish we could just pop things back into a virtual inventory like we used to do when Museum of Robots was in Second Life. Then fly home without a plane.
Mandy: Do you have any hidden talents?
Museum of Robots: I make great orange marmalade, and it won a blue ribbon at the county fair one year. I think it was the single malt scotch in the mix that tipped the balance in my favor.
Mandy: Do you have any plans to do anything else creative besides museum of robots like a different kind of design or a different creative area all together?
Museum of Robots: We are both designers by training, so we use those skills - graphics, 3D, exhibit design, fashion design, digital design - on all aspects of Museum of Robots. We have individual projects and clients in addition to Museum of Robots, so we keep our skills and design brains current.
By Morgue Anne
Hello, internet users! Unless you have been living under a rock or been stuck in MySpace, there’s this wonderful thing called Kickstarter that is helping a lot of fantastic artists accomplish their dreams in a way otherwise impossible before the internet. Through the magic of crowdsourcing, these phenomenal creators are working their tushes off to make their wildest fantasies of art a reality. How does it work? Easy! You (yes you) throw in what you can afford to projects that you think should exist in our world, tell all your friends about it by hitting the share buttons (this is very important), and once everyone has done their part, we have all been a piece of something larger than all of us!
Got it? Great! Here’s some projects that could use your skipping a trip to Starbucks to help fund.
Have you ever played Cards Against Humanity? That was a small kickstarter that became a huge phenomenon and is now a common name amongst almost all drinking human beings in the United States. Games are probably about as expensive to make as they are fun to play, and that’s why Liz Spain needs your help to bring this deck of cards she has been play testing for years into the public spectrum.
Yes, they have already reached their goal. This means that you can expect Incredible Expeditions to become a reality soon, but they have set stretch goals so that you can still get one of the first copies of the game and participate in it’s wonderful storytelling with your friends! Imagine hanging out and being the first of your friends to have this game, to be able to say “Oh, you can’t get it in stores yet, I only got a copy because I helped make it”. Feels pretty good, doesn’t it? $40 good? Because that’s all it costs to get the game.
Then again, Liz Spain has been cool enough to put up the .pdfs so you can print it from home to play. But you should at least throw in a couple bucks for karma points. Also Extollere’s very own Mandy McGee did the portraits for the game.
… And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead
Ready to go international? Support some music that will rock your face off? While this isn’t set up on kickstarter proper, Trail of Dead is utilizing pledgemusic.com for their similar formatting to let people pre-order their newest album as a way to ensure it gets made. They have set up their campaign to be the absolute minimum amount they need to make “Tao Part III” a reality and are so close to their goal they can almost taste it! Many of the larger-ticket items have already ‘sold out’ in a sense, but you can still pre-order the album, a signed copy, or even a vinyl version for whatever the exchange rate of pounds to dollars is (1 pound = 1.56 American Dollars). Support some cool music or even a private concert! Only 20 days left on this, go get it while there’s still stuff to grab!
Prom Queen: Midnight Veil
Alright, this one is pretty fucking cool. Prom Queen (band) wants to take the idea of the concept album to a whole new level. They are raising money to make music videos for every single one of the album’s songs to create a work of art you can watch as a film or in individual pieces. Kind of mind blowing, right? This could very well be this generation’s ‘The Wall’ in it’s own right. The great thing is that they have all of experience necessary, it’s all ready to go, all they need is…the money to do it. So close yet so far, Prom Queen has 24 more days to raise $12,000. The album itself is only $10 and the completed DVD is available for $50! That is an amazing dream that is right outside of someone’s grasp and YOU can help put it in their hands. Then again, you could spend that $10 on one more pack of cigarettes (or whatever your vice is). In case I’m not being clear: Go support this kickstarter.
Seattle Geekly Podcast
Back in my early podcasting days, the Seattle Geekly were some of the first podcasts I ever got into. Our paths crossed several times over the years, and I was genuinely sad when I heard they were shutting down their operation. Fortunately, they are so very close to reaching their goal to get the money together for a year of podcast episodes. For only $3,000 they can promise 48 episodes ranging from 45-90 minutes of pure Seattle Geeky goodness. They have only 7 days remaining on their kickstarter, but just over $500 to go! All it takes is for you to give up one trip to the coffee shop and you can have a set of buttons that you get to wear forever and show off how you brought this piece of Seattle culture back to life.
By Jason ‘Kantrip’ Calhoun
Westward #1 & 2
Writer: Ken Krekeler
Artist: Ken Krekeler
Westward is a unique comic that combines elements of science-fiction with modern politics and CW network style drama, cast in a Steampunk world that is mired in pulp-y shadows. If that first sentence read weird, I apologize, but that’s about as simple as I can describe the first 2 issues of Westward.
Westward is the story of Victor West, a wealthy LA-Style playboy, who awakes after a 10 year coma following a devastating accident. He has no memory of his previous life beyond what he is being told by his handlers and family and to make things even more confusing, he’s been informed that only his brain survived the accident and that his body is mostly artificial. The organization that rebuilt Victor seems keen to kick him out into his family’s care as soon as possible, a transition that becomes even more traumatic for our protagonist, when his father dies of a heart attack upon seeing his recovered son. After his father’s death and release back into the world, Victor discovers even more secrets about his new body, his family’s company, and his own past.
Ken Krekler does a great job building Victor’s world in the first 2 issues of this series. Issue 1 establishes the political and technological climate of the world, while issue 2 goes further into the life of the Victor West and his supporting cast. In two issues Krekeler does a better job of cementing the reader into this reality, than the Big 2 (DC and Marvel) does in six issues of their regular books. I was initially critical of the Steampunk setting of Westward, but the creator utilizes these elements in the least obnoxious way possible. He makes them background noise. Like with movies such as Blade Runner, Alien, or Moon, the audience is made to assume all these amazing buildings and gadgets are as commonplace as cellphones and hybrid cars are today. We don’t question the details, because the human characters are what the story is about. Victor’s fall from grace feels almost like a dark wish come true for anyone who has watched Reality TV centered around the wealthy and famous. Past Victor is cast as an arrogant, selfish, hedonist who uses his excesses and superficial lifestyle to hide from his own inadequacies. It is not the most original concept for a protagonist, but knowing Victor’s tragic future makes his past feel sad and hollow. Every time he talks about getting high or sleeping with a random groupie, it comes across as a cry for help, and not some jackass douchebag abusing his station in life.
Krekeler also builds in elements of the Occupy Movement and cyber-activist groups like Anonymous, with the threat of class-warfare in Westward. When the focus isn’t on Victor, the reader is teased with news about protests and threats of cyber-terrorism on large corporations. The West Corporation is the main target of these organizations, and Issue 1 not so subtly hints that Victor’s accident may be linked to an attack by the unruly elements. While I initially found the political unrest a bit too in-your-face initially, as I read through the two issues, I noticed that the mystery that Krekeler was building had a reason for making them annoying. The story tries to make you see things from the position of one of the social elite and not the Civil League of Anti-Worship, at least for now.
The art reminds me heavily of Phil Noto’s. The characters are attractive but not fake. Everyone has an aura of originality to them that makes them recognizable from the other cast members. Emotions are muted in the face, but the characters’ body language tells the reader volumes. Rather than focusing on word balloons and faces I was forced to take in the whole panel. How everyone was positioned? Why did he say that while facing away from her? Why was she so relaxed 2 panels before but now sitting so stiffly? These small elements help to build up the air of mystery and suspense in the book, which is critical since about 90% of this series so far has been talking heads set to a backdrop of High-Steam Technology.
My only complaint with this series is the inking. I understand that a black and white format with heavy shadows helps to build up the noir elements of the story, but Krekeler’s inking is so thick that some of the panels come off as muddy. It also doesn’t help show off the complex nature of the technology that Westward is built upon. When Victor discovers his artificial nature at the end of issue 1, the effect came off as just a mess of gears and pistons flying around with no real connection. In Issue 2 another jumble of parts spring out of Victor’s arm and some how assemble a gun. There are also moments where some technology has a beautiful level of detail, but in other panels the parts all look like rushed sketches. Specifically, Victor’s public reveal in issue 2. The gears and chains in his abdomen have an almost photo-realistic quality to them, but his arms look like rough line work with no shading. I’m not looking for perfect engineering with the Steam-tech in Westward, but maybe some more subtle shading and consistency on the level of detail.
Overall Westward is a good series. Upon first read I felt overwhelmed. Mystery. Social Drama. Politics. Steampunk. Too many ideas and concepts introduced at once to make this seem like a good read, but after I got over the culture-shock and settled into the book everything comes together nicely. For new readers there is a collection of the first three issues available through Kinetic press, or you can contact your local comic book shop and try to order the individual issues. Either way if you want a complex mystery with a dense sci-fi setting, look Westward.
The Massive #11
Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: Declan Shalvey
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Month after month I have raved about The Massive, and for good reason. Its post-apocalypse done right. Brian Wood uses a very subtle but realistic Eco-disaster approach to upending the modern world, and rather than giving the reader the perspective of a plucky and eclectic group of survivors, he sits them on the deck of the one group of people who would be the most lost in the event of complete environmental collapse. Activists.
Of all the issues so far, Issue 11 is my favorite by far. Part 2 of the 3 part Polaris story, Megalodon is a Mary-centric issue that reveals some of Mary’s motivations, but mostly shows us just how connected with nature this character is.
The issue starts out with Wood educating the reader on the Farallones, a group of islands and sea stacks about 30 miles off the coast of California where Great White Sharks gather to feed on the Gulls and Sea Lions once a year. As it has in the past, The Massive focuses the greater part of the issue on explaining the impact that The Crash has had on the planet. We’ve mostly learned about political or geographic impacts, but this is the first time we’ve really had a detailed look on how animal life has been affected. We learn how the Great Whites have been driven into deeper waters and that some of their more ancient cousins have woken up. The issue then shifts back to the Kapital where the ship is still reeling from the events of issue 10. Despite the mass-exodus of crew the boat is still able to operate. 9th Wave’s determination is apparent by the fact that they are still able to continue hunting for The Massive, but morale continues to drop. Mary takes the lead in this issue finally revealing she knows about Callum’s cancer, and starts recruiting a new captain to continue Cal’s legacy. Wood also hints at a schism between her and Mag, who has been rather silent since the events of Subcontinental. Mary and the ship’s pilot take off after yet another “so close, too far” signal ping from their sister ship, and find themselves crashed on the Farallones during the shark migration season.
This issue is my favorite for several reasons. First off Wood establishes that while the world is trying to recover from an ecological disaster, humanity is still causing irreparable damage to it, without even trying. This doesn’t come off as preachy though. The story makes it clear that just the mere act of being in the water causes ripple effects through sea life. Mary is very aware of this fact which makes her actions in this issue, and previous ones carry a lot of weight. On a boat full of environmentalists, she is the one completely aware of how one person can affect the world. There is also a beautiful moment between her and the Megalodon shark at the end, that challenges a lot of preconceived notions about sharks. #11 also brings the helmsman Lars further into the center of the story, which I’m not complaining about one bit. Lars has always been one of my favorite supporting characters. Someone who doesn’t have any upfront complexity to him, but when he springs into action, you know there is more to his story that he lets on. It also felt great to have that mystery of Callum’s illness lifted. Not everyone on the Kapital knows, but the fact that Mary and Lars are working to hold 9th Wave together imparts a new surge of hope into their mission. For new readers, this is an okay issue to jump in with. While the story centered around the Kapital may lose some of new readers, Mary’s encounter with the Megalodon is the real focus of the book. This issue is a great way to introduce new readers to this complex character and really establish how dangerous the world has become Post-Crash, aside from human threats that is.
Taking over pencils this month is Declan Shalvey (Venom, 28 Days Later, Sweeny Todd). Shalvey’s art is a nice shift from Gary Erskine. While not as detailed and somber as Gaary Brown’s art, Shalvey really nails the jagged and scarred nature of the Farallones and their shark inhabitants. His pencils also convey the hopeful and enlightened atmosphere of the story as well. Mary’s face isn’t as severe, and Lars is given his own identity rather than looking like Callum without glasses and beard. Then there’s the 2 page spread with Mary and the Megalodon. I’m only able to describe it as awe-inspiring and humbling. I doubt any other artist could have pulled off these pages as well as Declan Shelvey did. Jordie Bellaire returns as colorist, and its a joy to see her work acting as a unifying element between Erskine’s style and Shalvey’s. The change in art from last month to this was not jarring, and I lay that accomplishment squarely on Bellaire’s shoulders. My only complaint with the issue is that Mary’s eyes turned into cartoony black dots on one page towards the end. Considering the amazing facial detail that Shalvey did through out the book this one panel stuck out like a sore thumb. It did convey Mary’s shock at being surrounded by sharks but broke the mood for only a moment.
It’s not often that I find myself gripping a comic book tightly, and savoring each page, and that’s one reason why Massive #11 found a very special place in my heart and comic collection this month. When you read the issue through quickly, its just another adventure of the Kapital. If you read it through again, and take in all the information about sharks, and The Farallones, and look at all the detail in the pencils and colors you find not just a comic book but a fuck-ton of research. A lot of very detailed research. I have to applaud the entire creative team this month for a stellar entry to an already fantastic series. It was the total package. Major advancement of the plot, a supporting character getting a bigger role, educational facts about sharks, and great artwork. I’m curious to see how this arc closes out with the next issue, Polaris: “Nunatak”.
Overall Rating: 5 of 5
New Reader Rating: 4 of 5
By Mandy McGee
I launched Extollere into universe (or just here on Tumblr) in February 2012. It has been a great year for us full of wonderful reviews, random articles and interviews. I had the pleasure of bringing on two wonderful writers to help me start this project, Grace Ibrahim and Morgue Anne. I owe them a huge thanks for writing amazing things. Also to the few guest contributors over the past year, THANKYOUTHANKYOU!!!
I complied the 15 most popular posts for 2012 by the number of views, not likes or comments. I have my favourites but the readers have spoke.
15. Pride Celebration with Anime! Our writer Grace Ibrahim loves anime and for Pride month found the gayest anime out there to review for you. Read the full review.
14. The handsome, talented and handsome Steampunk maker, Jake von Slatt makes it on the list. Check out some of the new things he has made and the things he has to say on his site. Read the interview.
13. Seattle erotic and fashion photographer, Gabino Mabablay has been up to amazing things since we last talked to him. Follow his tumblr for the most recent updates on his photo projects. He has had very sexy shoots (as usual) and just as beautiful as ever. I had him show his work at a club I curate art at and he (at no surprise) sold half the show with in the first week of it being up. Read the interview.
12. The faboulous and beautiful, Andie DeRoux has been up to great things since the interview I did with her. She is still creating amazing art and having art shows. She is still modeling and has now taken to photograph models as well. Watch out for her in 2013. I am sure she has lots of great things in store for us. Read the interview.
11. Steve Schiltz of the bands Longwave and Hurricane Bells has been traveling a lot over the last year. He sometimes tours with Blue October playing guitar and most recently has joined James Iha on stage. Another great and amazingly talented person to watch out for in 2013. Read the interview.
10. 2012 was a good year for the band Caravan of Thieves. They had an album come out, which we reviewed, and toured the country. I didn’t have the chance to see them when they came through Seattle, but I hope to see them in 2013. Check out their music video and review in this post.
9. Actress, Brandy Kopp makes it to number 9. She appeared in the movie “Matt’s Chance” (the one I did still photos on) by Nicholas Geyney and will be in his next movie, “Unknown Son”. Read the interview.
8. The eccentric musician, Annie Hardy from Giant Drag, had a tough year and is slowly coming back out of her shell creatively. She tells all (she can) in the interview I had with her. We have stayed in touch and I will be helping her with her new music label, Full Psycho Records. Stay up to date with what goes on in the Full Psycho clan. Follow Full Psycho on twitter. Read the interview here.
7. Director Nicholas Geyney was great to work with and get to know. I had a blast working on “Matt’s Chance”. I photographed the premiere and I loved the work the crew and cast did. He will be touring with it in 2013 with some of the cast and crew in tow. Look for it in your town as well as “The Unknown Son” when that comes out. Read the interview.
6. I had the pleasure of interviewing Richard Stevens, the creator of Diesel Sweeties and laughed my ass off (a lot). He is great! Read the interview.
5. The Beautiful and talented model and actress, Kelly Polk makes it to number 5 most popular post. She just finished a short called “Honestly, Honestly” and she traveled around at the end of 2012. She is back in LA and I can’t wait to see what she does in 2013. I full recommend keeping up to date with her projects and buy her modeling pictures on her website. Read the interview.
4. One of my favourite interviews of 2012 was with Jenna Busch. She is beautiful, talented and a GEEK! Since our interview she has been involved with a bunch of new projects, one including being the Stan Lee’s co-host on his web show “Cocktails with Stan”. I know she will have amazing things happening in 2013. You better keep up with her! Read the interview.
3. I am so pleased that Professor Elemental is one of the most popular posts on Extollere and it is one of my more recent posts. He was a hoot interviewing him. Definitely an entertainer to keep up to date with. Read the interview.
2. It is no surprise that this article made it to one of the most popular posts of 2012. This was a fantastic post by Morgue Anne. Her letter to Geek men who put down Geek girls is only one of the many out there but it still needs to be read. We all need to speak up about issues such as this or nothing will ever change. I have read and seen tons of videos of responses to the “Fake Geek Girl” buzz. I am glad to have this on my site and be one of the most read. Please pass it around and chat about it. Shit like this needs to be dealt with. Read the article.
1. I am so happy that the most read/watched post is the video interview Morgue Anne and I did with the ladies of Vaginal Fantasy Book Club. Felicia Day started this online book club with her lovely co-hosts (Veronica Belmont, Kiala Kazbee and Bonnie Burton) in January of 2012 and it has been going strong since. We also learned a lot about technology failing you too. This video is better as audio but still a great interview. These ladies also are responsible for bringing fantasy/sci fi smut into my life. Read the post and watch the video.
Thank you for reading Extollere and I (along with my staff writers and contributors) look forward to bring you more articles, reviews and interviews in 2013!
By Mandy McGee
Morrison’s Prophecy’s album is available for free digital download. Go get it!!! Morrison’s Prophecy is a goth electronic band from Seattle.
By Mandy McGee
I discovered this today and had to share it.
Lady has bustle!
Director: Katherine Stewart
DP and Editor: Christopher Sheffield
from an idea by Katherine Stewart and Sue Kaff