The PoP! Fangirl of the Month – June 2009

The PoP! Stars scour all of teh internetz in search of the most Fabulous Females of Fandom. Please keep it in your pants.

This month’s offering to the interwebz gods is Meagan VanBurkleo, and there’s not much she DOESN’T dabble in. Read on.

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zatanna-3Name: Meagan VanBurkleo

AKA: VirtualGirl

Birthday: June 13, 1985

Location: Minneapolis, MN

Marital Status: Married

Favorite Movies: What Dreams May Come, Short Circuit, Batman TDK, Iron Man, The Emperors New Groove, Interview with a Vampire, Back to the Future and Grandma’s Boy.

Favorite TV Shows: Battlestar Galactica, Dollhouse, Buffy, Ghost Hunters, Arrested Development, Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia and America’s Next Top Model

Favorite Video Games: Fatal Frame III, Resident Evil 5, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, God of War, Beyond Good and Evil, Tomb Raider (all of them), Final Fantasy VII & VIII, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Kingdom Hearts, Gears of War 2, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and many more!

Favorite Music: I usually listen to books on tape (currently working through the Wheel of Time series) or video-game soundtracks. I love anything by Nobuo Uematsu. Otherwise I listen to Cake, Weezer, My Chemical Romance, Enya, Enigma, Delirium and a ton of other random stuff.

Favorite Comics: I am a bit of a Top Cow and Aspen fangirl. My monthly pulls include Witchblade, The Darkness, all the Soulfire books, Executive Assistant Iris and Shrugged. Additionally I pick up anything with Aphrodite IX or the Magdalena in it. I also am a fan of Wildstorm and Vertigo and am currently catching up on some Gen13 and The Authority. My Vertigo books include Air, Fables, House of Mystery and Unknown Soldier. I am also a fan of the Anita Blake books, Mercy Sparks, Scott Pilgram, Wanted, The Umbrella Academy, Demo and Buffy. Oh, and anything by the Luna Brothers.

Favorite Books: I am a huge fan of vampire novels and high-fantasy books. I will read anything starring Anita Blake. Additionally I love The Wheel of Time books, Harry Potter, The Black Jewel Trilogy, Angels and Demons and The Historian.

Turn-Ons: A good sense of humor, which is why I fell for my husband! That and he is a gamer. I could never be with a non-gamer.

Turn-Offs: Arrogance and narrow-mindedness. I can’t stand people who only see the world from their particular perspective.

aphrodite-ixPoP!: Your website has a TON of stuff on it. You do a little bit of everything don’t you? The graphic design, the sketches, the sculpture, the cosplay… Where did all of that come from? What was the impetus for all of that? Basically, what started you down the path to geekdom?

Meagan: Yeah, I consider myself a geek of all flavors and don’t ever try to hide that side of me. More than anything the majority of it stems from my love for the aesthetic in life. I always knew that art would have to be a part of my life in some way, shape, or form. The biggest struggle growing up was figuring out how to make a living with my creative side. I considered going into comics for some time, but I’m not the best traditional artist in the world – as in pencil on paper. But still, the passion was there. I also enjoy photography, sculpture, and obviously cosplay/modeling, which I see as a form of artistic expression.

But going back a bit, as to how I began my path to geekdom, I am really lucky to have grown up with two brothers and a dad that’s an engineer. Don’t get me wrong, I am a geek by my own accord, but having a family that enjoyed the same things helped foster it into a passion. I started playing video games when my dad brought home an NES. He wasn’t really interested in it as a gaming system, but wanted to see how it worked and played. My brothers and I played the thing to death. When my dad brought home the original PlayStation, everything changed. He also brought home Tomb Raider. My brothers were at an age where they didn’t really see the merits of playing as a hot chick, so I swooped in and took over in their stead. I was addicted pretty quickly. After that my brothers had to fight to get the controller out of my hands. It snowballed from there and I began to be the one buying the newest gaming systems, with my brothers hunkered down in my room after dark watching me play. Those are still some of the best memories I have with them.

As for comics, I have to thank my brothers and Lara again. My older brother was big into collectible card games like Magic and Star Trek growing up, so we were always going to hobby shops to pick up booster packs for him. One day while wondering the isles I saw a Michael Turner Tomb Raider cover… and I was sold. I started collecting anything with Lady Lara in it (ask my brothers, I had a shrine at one point) and that evolved into collecting anything that Michael Tuner illustrated. When I was old enough to appreciate more than just the art, I expanded my horizons to all Top Cow properties. Nowadays I am big into Top Cow, Aspen, Wildstorm and Vertigo books.

As for cosplay, that was a natural evolution of the gaming and comic hobbies. I started two or three years ago and haven’t looked back since. I was doing regular modeling work at the time and was getting bored with it, as I had no incentive to make it a job – I just wanted to make cool images. Cosplay got me excited again and I already had all the fantastic local contacts to set up shoots for my new costumes. I am also getting into anime and manga, which I have a girlfriend to thank for that. The only geeky thing I think I don’t indulge in at the moment is table-top games, but I am sure I will cave at some point in time.

PoP!: What’s your favorite art project?

Meagan: Well, I have done quite a few over the past few years, but I would have to say my Mario Bros. Tribute sculpture. That was quite a bit of work, but it helped me realize how much I love sculpture and welding. Seriously, if I had the money I would put a welding machine in my garage and work with sheet metal all day.

Meagan's sculpted tribute to everyone's favorite plumber.

Meagan's sculpted tribute to everyone's favorite plumber.

The piece took quite a while to make, and required me to murder six NES controllers in the process, but it was all for the sake of art so I don’t feel so bad. The hardest part was working with the rhinestones to achieve the pixel look. I used larger dark green stones on the tubes to allude to the 8-bit origins of the sculpture, and mini red rhinestones on the NES controller buttons and to blanket the red area on the piranha plant.

The worst part of that process was using the super glue. By the end of the weekend I could no longer feel the tips of my fingers…or my tongue. I licked the tip of my finger in order to pick up the gems, and sometimes I would not realize I had touched a bit of superglue before I attempted to get another stone. That was not fun. But it was all worth it in the end, because it turned out pretty well in my opinion. Others must think so too as they keep sending me offers to buy it. But until I have the means to make another one, it’s staying in my game room!

PoP!: What led to the Game Informer gig?

Meagan: I have a bit of a strange story when it comes to how I ended up with a job in the gaming industry. In high school, when I found out that GI was published in Minnesota (my home state), I made my mind up that I would work for them in the future. Video games have always been an interest to me, but when I entered college they became my passion – the industry fascinated me and I knew that I needed to be a part of it. I am an artist by nature, and so I decided to go into graphic design with the hope of someday working as a designer for Game Informer. I also pursued a minor in Journalism, hoping to expand my options for working in the industry. If that did not work out, I made up my mind that I would move to California and try to get work as a UI (user interface) designer at a development studio.

choco-mog-sculptureEven though I did not know where I was going to work specifically, I dedicated every single project I could to video-games in college. I made a Chocobo sculpture and a Super Mario tribute in my metal-working class, did my senior ethics project on restrictive video game legislation and developed a history of Nintendo timeline for a branding class. I knew that even if I ended up with a journalism position, my graphic design portfolio would reflect how much I loved video games – and passion goes a long way in this industry.

I applied at Game Informer my sophomore year in college. I made friends with one of the editors online via Myspace, and he told me they had a position open. I stayed up all night reviewing a game and submitted my application and writing example the next day. A few days later, Andy McNamara called me and told me that he could not be responsible for taking me out of school so close to graduation, and to apply again when I finished school. I was devastated, but I waited another two years, worked my ass off in school and kept working on my portfolio.

In the meantime I joined a small blog – then called the Girl Gaming Network – and used it as a way to hone my writing skills. Journalism school can teach you a ton, but nothing beats actual writing experience. The site has evolved since then, and is now called the Girls Entertainment Network.  I do both feature and news work for them. I think working with GEN was one of the more influential things that helped me to get a job. I paid a ton of money out of my own pocket to travel to events for GEN, and got experience interviewing and spent a ton of time networking.

As soon as I graduated, I had a full portfolio of both video-game design projects and video-game writing pieces. I applied again at Game Informer the day after I graduated. When I finally got Andy on the phone he told me that they had no positions open at the moment, but I asked if it was possible for me to stop in anyway. Andy agreed to meet with me, and I went in for an interview the next day. I applied for both a graphic design position and an editor position. They had me mock up some pages for the magazine, and took my writing samples. The interview went very well, but I still did not hear something back for several weeks. Eventually – two months after I graduated – I called Andy and left a message saying I was going to actively start pursuing a job in California through a career center at the Game Developers Conference I was attending the next week. I got a call from Andy a few hours later with an offer to hire me. I guess the long and short is that it wasn’t easy, but it was well worth the time it took to secure the job!

Now I get to do an array of stuff every day. I play and preview games, write news stories, cover events, conduct interviews and get to travel. That is probably the best part. I was able to attend the E3 and the Tokyo Game Show last year, which was a major highlight for me.

PoP!: What else can you tell us about the Girls Entertainment Network?

Meagan: Like I said, the Girls Entertainment Network evolved from the Girl Gaming Network. It started as a gaming-specific blog but turned into something that caters to all forms of geekdom. Currently we cover video games, comics, cosplay, anime, manga, gadgets and the collectable toy culture. I now cover comics since I get tired of writing about video games all day! Nearly all of our writers are female, as are half of our readers. Not having many female friends growing up that understood my hobbies I find the website a bit of a refuge. I love being able to talk about the new Star Trek movie, then transition into makeup tips without a second thought. But don’t think that we are segregating ourselves from the males. Both genders are welcome to join and enjoy GEN!

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PoP!: We, of course, have to talk about the cosplay. There are a lot of cosplay models out there, but your stuff looks really great. You clearly work with talented photographers. What goes in to setting up a shoot and how long do they normally take from conception to completion?

Meagan: I think the reason I have a bit of an edge to my work is due to my history in modeling. Unlike some other cosplayers who only take snapshots at events, I put an equal effort into documenting my costumes as I do creating them. I am not satisfied simply wearing them to conventions, although that is a ton of fun. After all the work I try my best to channel the character through a careful selection of a shoot location, makeup and hair artist and photographer. Sometimes these shoots are planned months in advance, but the result is well worth it. Luckily, my modeling work in the past left me with tons of good contacts for my cosplay work. As it turns out, Minneapolis isn’t the fashion capital of the world and many local photographers are looking to work on something edgy or different. So I usually have plenty of people willing to work with me. The end result is always much better when everyone involved is excited about the project.

PoP!: What’s your favorite shoot so far?

Meagan: My favorite shoot so far would have to be a tie between Zatanna and Aetheria Earhart, the original aviator cosplay I created. However, both shoots were on the same day so I think I can get away with not choosing one. We started the morning with Zatanna and found the perfect location for the shoot. It cost $100 to rent, but was well worth it. The place was a real magician’s theater above a costume shop. It had everything you could imagine, the red velvet curtains, large chests filled with props – even a cut-the-woman-in-half setup. I was able to grab stuff as I needed them, including cards, a skull, flowers, and an assortment of other tricks. It also helped that I was working with one of my favorite photographers, Scott Miron, who also shot my infamous Catwoman cover.

catwomanzatanna-1

After finishing Zatanna, we drove for an hour out to a small airport in the suburbs of Minneapolis. The airport has an aviation museum on the premise, which we took full advantage of. Amazingly enough, the day of our shoot was also the day of an aviation festival, which worked out well for the staff there. Everyone just thought I was part of the festivities. The best part was that the staff was amazingly accommodating. They helped me up and inside several old planes, even removing barriers so that they didn’t end up in the shot. The icing on the cake was getting to pose with one of Amelia Earhart’s own planes, which was fantastic because my character was supposed to be her daughter in an alternative universe.

PoP!: There’s certainly a recurring theme in Michael Turner. You’ve done his Wonder Woman, Witchblade and Grace from Soulfire. What is it that draws you to his art and his characters?

Meagan: I have and always will have a strong affinity for any characters Michael Turner illustrated. As I said before, Turner was my catalyst into the comic world. His work never ceased to amaze me, nor his story of personal strength and determination. He had the amazing ability to make his female leads, which I dubbed “Turner’s Girls,” strong and feminine at the same time. While Alex Ross and Adam Hughes do a fantastic job of bringing Diana Prince (or whoever is currently filing Wonder Woman’s shoes) to life, Turner sold me on the idea that even an Amazon could be feminine. Wonder Woman is usually portrayed with hulking shoulders, a square jaw and hard face. Turner brought pulled her back a bit and instead brought out her strength and fight in her eyes, her determination and in her poise. This is common among all of his female leads and I loved and looked up to that. Losing Michael was tragic. It was tragic for his family, tragic for his coworkers, tragic for the comic book industry and tragic for his fans. The comic industry won’t be the same without him, but at least he inspired the next generation of talent in his short years.

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PoP!: What are your current Fangirl obsessions?

Meagan: Cosplay for starters, which is slowly but surely making me broke. I can’t comprehend why I love it so much, but it makes me happy so I am going to keep doing it for now! I am also getting a bit obsessed with tracking down Top Cow merchandise, particularly Witchblade, AIX and Magdalena figures and statues. I wish I had less expensive obsessions!

PoP!: What is the most Fangirl-ish thing you’ve ever done?

Meagan: Well, aside from the massive amount of cosplay, I would have to say that I get a bit too excited when I realize that comic icons know I exist. One time for a feature on DC Universe Online I had the opportunity to interview Jim Lee. I guess PR people have a habit of Google-ing interviewers to get a feel for their personality. The guy at DC passed along the link to my MySpace account to Jim, who added me as a friend a day before the interview. And he commented that he really liked my Zatanna cosplay. There is nothing cooler than reading “Jim Lee wants to be your friend.” I had a similar reaction when Adam Hughes commented on my Catwoman cover recreation on Deviant Art. I still get a bit fangirly when amazing talent like the two above take time to chat with me. That might pass as I get to interview more and more people, but I am enjoying the butterflies for now.

PoP!: What has been your biggest Geek-Out Moment?

Meagan: That’s easy because I mortified myself doing it. Back at the 2007 San Diego Comic-Con I was personally introduced to Michael Turner, and while my friend was telling him how much of a fan I was, I started bawling. I still to this day have no idea where it came from – it completely took me off guard. Michael was fantastic and gave me a big hug and told me how flattered he was. I felt like an ass and tried to compose myself, and apologized and told him as calmly as I could how I would have never discovered the world of comics without his amazing talent. Looking back I still feel a bit silly, but I am so grateful I had a chance to meet him before he passed away.

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PoP!: How has being a Fangirl affected other aspects of your life?

Meagan: Being a fangirl and being passionate about the greater geek culture has changed my life. It helped me secure my dream job, meet some of the best friends of my life and allowed me to fulfill goals such as traveling the world at an early age. I can’t complain :)

Meagan’s all over the internet.  Check out her website for links her various goings on at www.meaganvanburkleo.com.

Would you or someone you know like to be a future Fangirl of the Month?  Drop us a line and we’ll make it happen.

– Rodriguez

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Who ARE these people!?

Lee Rodriguez is a co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Panels On Pages. He is also a freelance graphic and web designer, action figure customizer, swell guy, and an awesome dad.

I'm even on Google+... Kind of.

Comments (22)

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  1. Spazzy says:

    Wow!!!!

    All around AMAZING!!!!

    I am a huge Turner fan too. I am totally jealous you got to meet him.
    =^_^=

  2. Jason Knize says:

    1. “The best part was that the staff was amazingly accommodating.”

    2. Why are all these wonderful FanGirls either married, taken, or unable to be located by cyber-stalking?

    3. Outstanding interview, Lee.

  3. Robert Eddleman says:

    That NES piece is awesome.

  4. Peter says:

    Mike does it again with inspiring people. Great interview, really liked the story between her and Turner.

  5. Topcat says:

    It just keeps getting better; she really *does* have it all!
    The most talented, qualified & well-rounded (all puns intended) fangirl so far…

    Nice “work,” Lee!
    ;)

  6. esbat says:

    And for once I thought I’d get through this FanGirl of the Month profile without halting for about 5 minutes to either drool heavily or geek out, then the Catwoman mugshot pic came up and I totally freaked because thats pretty much my all time favorite cosplay photo evar. I’m blushing right now, its so awesome.

  7. The Great Devilicous says:

    The Wonder Woman photo is awesome!

  8. Meagan says:

    Thanks for the support guys! And for the chance to do such a cool interview!

  9. Ric Magnum says:

    Great interview.

  10. Foxy says:

    Ah, I recognize this lovely lady from the Aspen Boards – nice pick guys!

    Meagan, I love that Mario shirt! I’m going to have to go on a hunt for one of my own. :D

  11. Ska says:

    OMG! Beautiful cosplays!!!!!! Every one of them drop dead gorgeous!!! *faints* ^-^

  12. Mama B says:

    Great article, gorgeous talented girl.
    But hey, I’m her Mom, how lucky am I?

    Ruski, u rock!

  13. Meagan says:

    WTF Mom?!? You don’t even check my website and somehow you found this? :)

    @Jason: Sadly, no sisters. But all my girlfriends are nerds!

  14. Anthony Mark says:

    Mama B has to BE very proud of Virtual Gir

  15. Jason Knize says:

    I like to sneak in here and peek at the pics once in a while. ;)

  16. JohnnyZito says:

    Love that Batgirl.

  17. JohnnyZito says:

    *Catwoman.

    I got batgirl on the brain today :)

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