Megabrain Comics in Rhinebeck may be the best-kept secret that only your kids are in on. Opened last December by Jean David and Alexandra Michel, the small shop on Garden Street is a magnet for avid followers of all Marvel/DC productions, and it attracts players of Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder and other roleplaying games (RPGs) as well. The 700-plus-square-foot space is packed with reading material – comics and graphic novels for every age group – and has a gaming room in back where you can walk in and join the fun. Traditional board games, cards and rousing fantasy tournaments entice young and old to put down their devices and engage.
Megabrain is Jean David Michel’s first brick-and-mortar business. He has worked in graphic design and for various startups in the past. “When my wife had this idea, I immediately thought it was a good one,” he says. “As a kid, I hoped I would open the door and see something like this. Nobody ever did it. So, I made the comic-book store that I always wanted when I was a kid.”
He notes the colorful displays of theme toys and collectibles and says that their function in the shop is basically eye candy. “The kids go right for it. Their parents say, ‘No, you have plenty of toys. We’re buying stuff you can read.’ I think it’s cool that parents are viewing comic books that way now. They didn’t for a long time.”
Associate Nick Giandelia adds that there are already regulars who come in to hang out after school – “like one boy whose rule is that he has to read 20 minutes a day, so he comes here and does his reading. Comics and graphic novels: It’s more than just fantasy. The young reader genre has exploded into slice-of-life tales, like Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novels Smile, Sisters and Drama.” The attraction for young readers is a mixture of escapism and being introduced to characters who aren’t that different from them, their superhero talents aside.
“Whether it’s actual fantasy or science fiction or superhero stuff, it’s the way the stories are told today: a lot of them made for grownups. But there are stories being written about teenage superheroes who are struggling with the same problems that all kids have. So they get to escape into this intergalactic adventure, and at the same time it’s about how so-and-so is really freaked out because their parents aren’t allowing them the freedom to go hang out with their friends.”
Giandelia talks about young readers being able to identify with a superhero. “Marvel’s Kamala Khan is the first Muslim superhero, who has strict-but-loving parents. She’s a giant nerd. Or there’s the Champions [a team of teenage superheroes], which just did an issue about school shootings. In it, they don’t save the day, and they have to deal with the grief over not being able to stop the tragedy. This is the power of what you can do with superhero comics: to explore all those things kids might not talk about with their parents or teachers.”
“Comics have been doing that for years,” says Michel. “There have been countless touchstones throughout comic-book history, like Tony Stark dealing with alcoholism or DC’s Speedy, Green Arrow’s sidekick, with a heroin addiction.”
Giandelia adds, “Comics are a great unifier. They’ve always been about people on the fringe of society. That was the whole point of X-Men: characters persecuted for being different. You could identify with it.”
Megabrain is a true mom-and-pop business. The Michels are parents to a 12-year-old and are expecting two more boys in January. Jean says that, at this point, he can’t separate his work life from his family. “One affects the other; it’s all connected because of the type of business that it is. I tried to create a family-friendly place. In this town we have restaurants and bars and antique shops, but there aren’t many corners for kids to call their own. This is a safe neighborhood. Not a lot of traffic; they can ride their bikes here.”
The established rule is that parents not leave their eight- or nine-year-olds alone in the shop, but the regulars know how to behave and feel comfortable. The store layout gives patrons a clear delineation between reading material that’s safe for children, stuff good for teens and a grownup section. The game room is for everyone.
Organized activities, scheduled regularly, also reflect age-appropriateness. “We’re expanding our events calendar and have book clubs,” says Michel. “We have trivia nights, and I’m hoping to start doing creator panels with a theme for three or four writers and a Q & A. We have a ton of amazing local writers and artists – independent creators and some who work for Marvel and DC. The Hudson Valley is lousy with comic-book creators.”
Plus, Michel and Giandelia have teamed up with Colin Felece to produce The Reality Bomb Comicast, a podcast recorded in-store that can be found on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify and Podbean. “We’ve interviewed comic writers and artists,” says Michel. “We do themes, like women creators in comics and other comic-related news. Nick does comic-book reviews. We just sit in these chairs and talk. Colin sets the whole production up. We even have tee-shirts. It weirds me out that people want to wear my face on their chest.”
That’s one indication that he has reached a sort of superhero status himself. “It’s one of the benefits of being in a small town,” says Michel. “Even the local businesses support us. Oblong Books has been one of our biggest supporters. We cross-pollinate. In my mind, Rhinebeck is kind of a Norman Rockwell town. I really like being in a village: the best of both worlds between the city and the country.”
Megabrain Comics is located at 20 Garden Street in Rhinebeck. Hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. It’s closed on Mondays. For more info, call (845) 516-4168 or visit www.megabraincomics.com.
– Ann Hutton
Hudson Valley Railroad Society Expo
On Sunday, November 11 from 10 to 3 p.m., the Hudson Valley Railroad Society (HVRRS) hosts its 47th annual Railroad Exposition at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center. On display at the expo, you’ll see 20,000 square feet of operating scale-model train layouts, ranging from the tiny Z to the big 1½ inch-scale that kids love to sit in to have their picture taken. Also on view are N, HO, O and G scales, Lionel, trolleys, slot-car tracks, railroad clinics, film screenings, a flea market…and, of course, Thomas.
Tickets cost $6 for adults, $3 for ages 11 and under at the door. All proceeds benefit the ongoing restoration and operation of the 1914 Hyde Park Railroad Station Museum, which has National Historical designation and turns 104 years old this year. For more info, visit the HVRRS website at www.hydeparkstation.com/hvrsshow.html or call (845) 518-0635.
Hudson Valley Railroad Society Railroad Exposition, Sunday, Nov. 11, 10-3 p.m., $6/$3, Mid-Hudson Civic Center, 14 Civic Center Plaza, Poughkeepsie, (845) 518-0635, https://bit.ly/2Sx5GBZ
Puppy Day at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck
Oblong Books & Music in Rhinebeck hosts Puppy Day on Saturday, November 17. Dogs are welcome all day for canine special events. At noon, celebrated New Yorker cartoonist Liza Donnelly, author of Be the Person Your Dog Thinks You Are, appears in the store. At 4 p.m., Ken Foster, author of City of Dogs: New York Dogs, Their Neighborhoods and the People Who Love Them, will present his heartfelt, funny and inspiring collection of photos and stories that maps the relationship between canine New Yorkers and their human counterparts. Representatives (both canine and human) from the Animal Farm Foundation and the New York City Department of Corrections will be on hand to show how they work together to make a positive impact in the lives of dogs and people through the PAWS of Purpose program at Rikers Island.
Puppy Day, Saturday, Nov. 17, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Oblong Books & Music, 6422 Montgomery St. (Route 9), Rhinebeck, (845) 876-0500, www.oblongbooks.com
Millicent Young sculpture at Cross Contemporary Art
Cross Contemporary Art in Saugerties presents “Of This,” an installation of sculpture by Millicent Young, curated by Melinda Stickney-Gibson and Jen Dragon. Millicent Young received her MFA from James Madison University and two Professional Fellowship Awards from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Her work has been recognized by curators and directors from institutions including DIA, the Hirschhorn, the New Museum, the Guggenheim Museum and the Whitney Museum. Young’s work received a top award at the 2005 Biennale in Florence, Italy. “Of This” is on display through December 9. Young will appear in conversation with poet and artist George Quasha on Sunday, November 11.
Sunday, Nov. 11
Cross Contemporary Art
99 Partition St.
Cronin Gallery in New Paltz hosts reading with Rhiannon Navin
In a program dedicated to conversations about gun violence in schools, the Cronin Gallery in the Water Street Market in New Paltz hosts acclaimed author Rhiannon Navin to read from her book Only Child. The book has received national and international attention and is the perfect piece to use as a springboard to engage in conversation about gun violence. Joy Dryer, PhD, will moderate the evening. Cronin Gallery has produced the evening in partnership with New Yorkers against Gun Violence and Inquiring Minds Bookstore.
Friday, Nov. 9, 7 p.m.
Water Street Market
10 Main St., New Paltz
Todd Samara paintings auctioned this Sunday in Kingston
An auction of more than 300 paintings by Kingston painter Todd Samara will take place on Sunday, November 11. For over 30 years, Samara lived and painted in Kingston’s Rondout neighborhood, translating its hilly streets, tight rows of 19th-century gable-roofed houses, bridges and panoramic river views into poetic visions characterized by simplified, textured forms and rich, glowing color. Last year, after being diagnosed with dementia, Samara was placed in long-term care. All proceeds from the sale of these works will go into a fund administered by the Midtown Arts District to benefit the arts in Kingston.
There will be a review party with refreshments on Friday, November 9 from 5 to 9 p.m. Registration and auction catalogues will be available. An Open House and preview will continue Saturday from 1 to 6 p.m. To view the entire collection, visit www.thestorefrontgallery.com.
Sunday, Nov. 11
153 Sawkill Road
Kingston Pop Museum opens show of Antonio Lopez illustrations
As part of the Grand Opening Gala of the newly founded Community Arts Space in Kingston, the Kingston Pop Museum (KPM) will host a private viewing of perhaps the largest signed collection of Antonio Lopez illustrations in existence on November 8. The opening reception will feature works never before seen by the public that will remain permanently at the KPM. Lopez’s work is the most frequently requested artist by students at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology and remains a go-to inspiration for aspiring artists and visionaries in the fashion world. The works exhibited belong to private KPM founder John Stavros, to whom they were given by the artist himself.
The museum will be open to the public for viewing of “The Antonio Lopez Illustrations” beginning November 9. Museum hours are Thursday through Saturday from 4 to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.
Kingston Pop Museum
“Bethlehem Steel” opens this Sunday at Gardiner Library
The Gardiner Library presents “Bethlehem Steel,” an exhibition of photographs by Jack Murphy, the artist and curator behind the recent run of “Golden Age of New Paltz” retrospectives in the last several years. The exhibited photographs are part of an ongoing series about the growth of the US during the 19th century onward, as influenced by the Industrial Revolution and the development of the country’s transportation systems.
“Easy day trips from Ulster County,” the artist writes, “can take you to textile milltowns all over New England, to lumbermills in New York, papermills in Connecticut, to stone quarries in Vermont, iron mines and early blast furnaces in the Hudson Valley, the cement mines of the Rosendale, New York area, coal mines in Pennsylvania and to early industrial centers like Danbury, Naugatuck and Waterbury, Connecticut, Schenectady, Amsterdam, Utica and Little Falls, New York and North Adams, Massachusetts. I have made about 30 of these day trips, exploring the towns, cities and countryside that are within approximately 150 miles of New Paltz. I have been photographing these trips and documenting the industries, which were the economic engines of the last 200 years.”
The opening reception takes place on Sunday, November 11.
Sunday, Nov. 11
133 Farmers’ Turnpike
Love at the edge of reason at Hudson Hall
A big part of the excitement over Midtown Kingston’s transformation into an arts hub over the past couple of years has hinged on the redevelopment of the former MetLife building on Greenkill Avenue into a film production and postproduction facility, “makerspace” and vocational training center called Stockade Works. The brains behind Stockade Works are actor/directors Mary Stuart Masterson and Jeremy Davidson. Busy as that project has been keeping them, the couple have somehow managed to continue developing new stagework via their Storyhorse Documentary Theater. Recent projects have included celebrating family farmers in Good Dirt in 2016 and unraveling a true-life local murder mystery in The Curious Murder of Frank L. Teal this past spring.
Storyhorse’s latest effort is a cluster of three new one-act documentary plays about love at the edge of reason, inspired by real conversations with Hudson Valley residents, collectively titled The Face of It. The three playlets are The Call of the Sasquatch, based on recorded Sasquatch hunts with Gayle Beatty and psychic medium Johnny Angel; In Her Shoes, in which Ulster County BOCES principal Gary Suraci and Genna Suraci visit their mother Lena in a Poughkeepsie nursing home and step into a new stage of life together; and The Weight, wherein a young woman from Ballston Lake is forced to make an impossible choice that challenges her relationship to God and family. Mary Louise Wilson (Tony Award for Grey Gardens), Denny Dillon (Tony nominee for My One and Only, Saturday Night Live cast member) and Tim Guinee (Homeland, Hell on Wheels, Elementary) and Samantha Mathis are among the cast members.
The Face of It will be performed at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, November 9 and 10 and at 3 p.m. on Sunday, November 11 at Hudson Hall, located in the Hudson Opera House at 327 Warren Street in Hudson. Tickets cost $25 in advance, $30 at the door and can be purchased at https://hudsonhall.org or by phone at (518) 822-1438.
The Face of It
Friday/Saturday, Nov. 9/10, 7 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 11, 3 p.m.
Hudson Hall, 327 Warren St., Hudson
(518) 822-1438, https://hudsonhall.org
Learn about first woman to obtain a doctorate
In 1678 in the Hudson Valley, Huguenot refugees settled the community that would come to be known as New Paltz. So busy were they clearing land, building houses and trying to patch up relations with the indigenous people with whom they’d recently been at war that they failed to notice a scandalous development that was happening back across the Pond: For the first time in history, a woman was winning her doctoral degree. On June 25, Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia, scion of a Venetian patrician family, brilliantly defended her dissertation in front of university professors, political dignitaries and common folks. This milestone has been immortalized in the central stained-glass window of the Frederick Ferris Thompson Memorial Library at Vassar College.
On Friday, November 9, Vassar will celebrate the 340th anniversary of Cornaro Piscopia’s achievement in the same library with a lecture and theatrical performance dedicated to her life. Professor Patrizia Bettella of the University of Alberta, an expert on female academicians of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, will give a talk based on her research about Cornaro Piscopia at 5:30 p.m. in the Class of 1951 Reading Room. At 7:30 p.m., the Cornaro Room will host a performance of The Most Learned Woman, an original theater piece in spoken word and music that was developed by Laura Caparrotti, artistic director of the Kairos Italy Theater. Both events are free and open to the public. To reserve tickets, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://vassarpresents.tix.com.
The Most Learned Woman, Friday, Nov. 9, 5:30 p.m. lecture, 7:30 performance, Free (by reservation), Thompson Memorial Library, Vassar College, 124 Raymond Avenue, Poughkeepsie, (845) 437-5370, email@example.com, www.vassar.edu, https://vassarpresents.tix.com