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“Gee whiz Rocky! There’s too many of them!” says Chip Skipper, best pal and lieutenant cheerleader for the plucky crew of the X-1 rocketship. “Easy does it, Chip! We’ll get out of this,” says Rocky. (And they do. They don’t call him Rocky Lazer, Captain of Space for nothin’!)

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What does a world without hope look like? Is it a bleak moonscape — black sky, cold sun, gray hills? Or is it the too perfect world of American suburbia, where the sun — and the smiles — shine a little too bright; where too-green, cultivated lawns lead to soothing interiors, painted in shades named “Ocean Side”, “Interactive Cream”, and “Moderate White”; where real freedom is banished to the gritty, marginal, blind spots of ubiquitous surveillance cameras?

The Realm, running from now until April 18th at The Wild Project in the East Village, is a futuristic dystopia in the tradition of American post-apocalyptic dystopias like Logan’s Run, A Boy and His Dog (remember that one? Don Johnson starred in the movie!), and, closer to our time, Urinetown. The time is the not-too-distant future. After an unnamed cataclysm, humanity has been forced underground. Natural resources are scarce — especially water. Human beings have learned how to live spare, lean lives, stripped of all superfluity — and fun. And, for that matter, freedom. Water is rationed, life is rationed, even words are rationed.

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Saturday, June 7th I went with Ryan Beckwith, my buddy who illustrated our joint effort The War In Heaven, to two comics conventions in Manhattan. The Big Apple ComiCon (a. k. a. the Big Apple Art, Toy, and Sci-Fi Expo) was at the Penn Plaza Pavilion on 7th Ave at 33rd St. It was, in the words of the website, ” A fun day for sure [with] throngs of comic, art, sci-fi, and toy fans, celebrities, artists.” I saw throngs. I also saw Storm Troopers, Jawas, and girls with sexy, skimpy outfits and silicone enhanced breats (both drawn and living).

Obviously guys who read comics also like girls with slim waists, big breasts, and bigger guns. It was definitely a nerd masculinity-fest. And no man-party would be complete without some aging starlets to drool over.

I am sure the relationship is reciprocal. The guys love looking at lady pillows, and the ladies get all the devoted male attention they’ve been starving for since their series was canceled (ten years ago).

(This is the obligatory Facebook photo taken at Big Apple CmC.)

Ryan and I went downtown to the Puck building to check out MoCCA-fest, the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art show. The crowd downtown was decidedly different. In the first place, men with tattoos of Vargas girls were replaced by girls with tattoos of quirky Americana.

The greeters at MoCCA were sweet and deferential, quite a contrast to the Storm Troopers and Jawas who greeted us in Midtown.

Inside, the comic books expressed a different mood.

More honest? Look at it from both perspectives: either the writers/artists in Midtown are proud, meat-eating men who disdain girly books filled with poncy, indecipherable art, or the writers/artists downtown are more sensitive to the fact that being an artist means putting your energies into something other than attracting the right sort of woman. To be fair, downtown artists are interested in slutty girls too. But for them it’s just another genre.

The downtown guys also seem to have a more refined sense of irony vis-a-vis the masculine posturing that seems inherent to comics. For example:

Kidding aside, both conventions were fun and a great opportunity to meet the major players in the graphic arts world.

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