Saturday, January 31, 2009

3000 Hits!

As you may recall, Alex and I had a running bet that if our humble little blog got 1000 visitors by December 31, 2008, Alex would have to watch the Star Wars movies, which he had never seen before. If we fell short of this number, I would have to read the entire run of The Goon.

I won. In fact, I won twice--we got 2000 hits before the end of the year. For me, this was good enough to make Alex watch all the Star Wars movies twice: once in English, and once in the original Wookieespeak. Plans for that were scrapped when I discovered Star Wars is only available with Wookieespeak subtitles in the US.

Star Wars with Wookiee subtitlesAnygizmo, with our popularity thusly secured, we determined that our next 1000 hits would be a question of when, not if. Rather than holding bets, we established that we would begin exposing one another to a new hobby or fandom with every 1000 hits. So, when we did reach 2000 hits, I started reading The Goon anyhow.

But there was something we didn't count on: the unstoppable legions of Exfanding fans (read: about 10 people). We've now reached 3000 hits, and I'm not even halfway through The Goon, and Alex only just watched Empire Strikes Back this past weekend. How could we possibly add something more to the mix?

That's why we've made some adjustments to the arrangement: now, with every 5000 hits, one of us will force the other into a new hobby or fandom. At 5000 it's my turn, and at 10,000 it's Alex's turn, and so on. And, so help me, if Alex hasn't finished the original Star Wars trilogy by then, I'm feeding him to a Sarlaac. And then I'll make him watch Return of the Jedi. And then he'll understand what the Sarlaac is that ate him.

You can expect reviews of Empire Strikes Back and the first half of The Goon before too terribly long. Just... you know... don't get so caught up in waiting here that you forget to shower.

[Screen capture from Translation: "Hello! I am well, thank you!"]

Friday, January 30, 2009

Lazy Friday "Blogging"

Fridays are always good for a smattering of topics and news bits and links and such, so let's get right to it:

-Diamond Comics Distributors recently changed their policies regarding what comics they'll carry. The great comics news blog The Beat has been all over the story, and you can read it here. The Cliffs Notes version of the policy is that, if Diamond does not get at least $2,500 in orders on a particular book from retailers, they will no longer carry that book.

This new price is raised from the previous policy tag of $1,500. This move is expected to hurt many small press publishers, and kill others outright. The blogosphere reacted strongly this week, and here are two interesting (and scary) takes on the issue: from Rich Johnston at Comic Book Resources; and from The New York Times.

As someone who hopes to release a graphic novel on a small scale in the very near future, this one hits close to home for yours truly. It's scary, but then again, everything is scary these days. Diamond was forced to lay off workers last week, and now the company is doing what it sees best allows them to weather this economic storm.

Now, because I don't know enough about the situation to start ranting and raving about how unfair the new policy is, I'll just shut up now. But it is.

Unfair, I mean.

-Should have mentioned this the other day, but then it would have been too relevant, I guess. Anyway, it's certainly more fun than the previous item! Comics fans should enjoy this article, from The Onion about President Obama and some Conan the Barbarian comics.

-Earlier this week, Neil Gaiman's latest offering, The Graveyard Book, won the prestigious Newbery Medal. You can read Gaiman's account of being told about it here. Good news, and congrats to the author!

-And, finally, we'll end on a happy note for all the uber-dorky comics/cartoon fans out there. Disney has announced that, after many years, the much-loved Fox animated X-Men series that ran in the 90s will be coming to DVD. You can read all about it at Newsarama.

Well, that's all she wrote for today, folks. Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Event Fatigue

A public service announcement from everyone here at Exfanding Your Horizons:

Do you find yourself confused by the gaps in logic and story when reading your comics?

Do you have trouble keeping money in your wallet?

Do you sometimes wake up in the middle of the night thinking about things like, why no one noticed the Skrull invasion years ago?

Do you walk into your LCS every Wednesday asking if the latest issue of Final Crisis is out, only to find, it isn't?

Well, if you've said yes to any or all of these symptoms, then you dear reader, may be suffering from "Event Fatigue." It's a common medical problem this time of year, when the major comics crossovers are "ending" and the hype machine for the "next biggest thing ever in the history of everything" is just beginning.

So, we here at Exfanding would like to remind you that, "Yes, Virginia, it is OK to NOT read every single issue of a comics event/crossover."

Seriously, it's not that big a deal. And yes, I understand that comics readers have a bit of an obsessive compulsion to buy...well, everything...but fight it people. Read the books you like from the big companies, and don't get suckered into buying 50 books a week, all with the same characters doing the same things!

Unless, of course, you truly enjoy all of them. If that's the case, then by all means carry on.

But, if you're just reading a title out of habit, or because the Leading Comics Magazine tells you the book is "hot," then we need to intervene. Because Event Fatigue is dangerous, and we care about you all.

So, in order to combat this vicious (and expensive!) disease, we suggest the following: Replace two to five of your regular, mainstream, event-y books with independent comics that you've never read before. Read the indie books,and trust us--you'll feel better in the morning.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What's in a name?

On a whim, I decided to Google my name. Frankly, I was surprised by the diversity and absurdity of some of the results. For your entertainment, I have collected some of my favorite search results:

Nathaniel Hoover Painting (Single location) - 5506 Henderson Oaks ...

Information on Nathaniel Hoover at Public Background Checks

Pennsylvania in the Civil War, Output Nathaniel Hoover, 55, H, Private, Died at Beaufort, S. C. on March 30, 1864. John Moyer, 55, H, Private, Died on December 10, 1863 - burial record, ...

Nathan: League of Nathans I'm Nathan Shedroff, but there are many other Nathans on the net. Here are just a few: .... Nathan Hoover · Nathan Hope · Nathan Hopkins Nathan Horak ...

US v. Hoover - U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Cir. - August 21 ...NATHANIEL HOOVER, Defendant - Appellant. Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western Dis-. trict of North Carolina, at Charlotte. ...

Juggling Videos - Nathan Hoover The Internet Juggling Database (IJDb) is a resource centre for jugglers. It provides discussion forums, event and club listings, a comprehensive video ...

Bhutan: Nathan Hoover Photos pictures from extreme sports photos ...

Nathan Hoover | Mennonite Disaster Service :: Movies and Photos Into the Thunder Dragon is the story of extreme mountain unicyclists Kris Holm and Nathan Hoover's wild journey across the remote Himalayan kingdom of ...

Hoover Cloth Bags || Jesus starts to hoover up the ants and also gets Sir Nathaniel. Hoover Type Y " ALLERGEN PERFORMANCE" Hoover vacuum cleaner bags By DVC with cloth like fiber ...

So, to recap, after the League of Nathans came to my defense in court against the lies claimed in my public background check, I, Sir Private Output Nathaniel Hoover, rode a unicycle across a Himalayan kingdom while juggling paintbrushes (a popular extreme sport), but my life was cut short when Jesus, who was fighting for the Confederates in Beaufort, South Carolina at the time, activated his soldier-issue dog vacuum and hoovered me up, killing me and the disaster-stricken Mennonite ants I was attending to in Bhutan.

The end.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Space Quest: Funny adventures...IN SPACE!!!

A device with the power to destroy entire planets has fallen into the hands of evil aliens. A vengeful scientist is plotting unspeakable revenge against a planet of peace, and will soon seek to dominate them. A sinister company is holding hostages and forcing them to do their bidding. A gang of deranged mutants is on the loose and threatens to mutate the entire galaxy. Someone is poised to kill anyone necessary to achieve immortality.

The fate of the entire universe will rest in the hands of one soon as he puts down his broom. That man is the clumsy space janitor and airheaded accidental hero Roger Wilco!

...Pack your bags, kids. It's time to move to another universe.

I am, of course, talking about the Space Quest computer games from 1986-1995. Space Quest is a sci-fi adventure game series in the same vein as the King's Quest and Police Quest games, but with much more humor.

Throughout the plentiful puzzles and surprisingly engaging storyline, you'll encounter ridiculous situations, clever sight gags, humorous references, silly parodies, and a multitude of creative ways to die. Each Space Quest game is different, from the challenges to the graphics and sound to even the interface. 

Space Quest I-III were created in the era of text parsers, requiring the player to type in such commands as OPEN DOOR, PUNCH BARTENDER, and EAT LITTLE ALIEN to interact with anything, while Space Quest IV-6 (yes, "6," not "VI") instead use a point-and-click interface so that you can easily look at, pick up, and run your tongue over everything in sight.

As technology improved, so did the graphics and sound. You'll note a continual improvement in sound quality and visuals from SQI-III. SQIV-V and the VGA remake of SQI represent the apex of the Space Quest sensory experience, varying more in terms of style than anything else. SQ6 is different in that it includes some 3-D graphics but a cast of cartoonish characters that look like they belong more in MS Paint than anywhere else.

And let's not forget about the inclusion of voice acting in SQIV and SQ6, with the renowned Gary Owens as the narrator (who was the voice of the original Space Ghost and the announcer on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, Garfield and Friends, and far too many other shows to list here).

As for the music, Space Quest's tunes can be forever memorable, instantly forgettable, swellingly epic, totally atmospheric, weird, ridiculous, upbeat, tense, and downright creepy. As far as I'm concerned, the main Space Quest theme is one of the greatest video game themes of all time; listen to it here, and if you don't like it, I'm donating your body to science. While you're still alive.

The challenges vary from game to game: Depending on which game you play, you might find yourself using inventory items creatively to safely traverse a trap-filled cave, navigating a dark and seemingly endless maze, outrunning an invisible assassin droid, assembling burgers on a conveyor belt, piloting a tiny ship with limited fuel and oxygen reserves, or solving a technology-themed logic puzzle.

The Space Quest games usually require a mix of exploration, quick reflexes, cunning, problem-solving, and whatever else the designers decide to require of you. The price for failure (or just plain stupidity) is most often a sadistically amusing death. Whether Roger gets vaporized, devoured, blown up, melted, sucked out an airlock, or trapped in green Jell-O, sarcastic postmortem commentary from the game usually adds that little bit of comedic punch that makes you simultaneously chuckle and feel like a moron for dying in such a foolish way.

Though Space Quest is hypothetically a series of "family" games, a few of the deaths here and there can be a little gruesome and pretty disturbing--Space Quest still gives me nightmares on rare occasion, and no amount of Animal Crossing will make them go away.

Still, if you enjoy a good laugh, enjoy adventure games, dig science fiction, like a good story, and don't mind the slight possibility of being scarred for life, Space Quest is worth your time.

Perhaps the best way to play them nowadays is to pick up Vivendi Universal's Space Quest Collection, which contains SQI (VGA), II, III, IV, V, and 6. There are a number of older compilations out there, but this one is the most complete and user-friendly for modern computers. Good luck finding a standalone copy of the original EGA version of SQI anywhere other than the Internet, though.

(Obviously, the biggest difference between these versions of SQI is Roger's hair color.)

If you can't get your hands on the original games, or if you've played them all and still want more, you're in luck. The faithful fan community has released a number of fangames that (in most cases) are of equal or near-equal quality to the official games. Happily, these games are free-for-download, allowing you to use your hard-earned buckazoids elsewhere.

While not necessarily comprehensive (as fangames can so easily be developed under everyone's nose), this list should be more than sufficient to satisfy your adventure gaming appetite:

- Space Quest 0: Replicated, a prequel to the series

- Space Quest II: Vohaul's Revenge (VGA), a VGA remake of SQII (as the name would suggest)

- Space Quest for Glory: Trial by Plunger, a simple combat minigame released during the development of SQII VGA to give fans something to do during the wait

- Space Quest: The Lost Chapter, an interquel set between SQII-III

- Space Quest IV.5: The Voyage Home, an interquel set between--you guessed it--SQIV-V

- Space Quest: Vohaul Strikes Back, a proper sequel to SQ6

Space Quest: Incinerations, a more action-oriented game set in an alternate future following SQ:VSB

If you're more interested in reading about the games than playing them right now, check out my reviews of SQ1, SQ2, SQ:TLC, SQ3, SQ4, SQ5, and SQ6. Also, be sure to check out these great resources:

- SpaceQuest.Net offers more info than anybody ever needed to know about the entire Space Quest series.

- The Space Quest Omnipedia is a comprehensive-yet-incomplete wiki of everything both officially and unofficially Space Quest. Good for most anything SpaceQuest.Net doesn't give you, which, admittedly, isn't much.

- Roger Wilco's Virtual Broomcloset tends a little more toward sheer entertainment than the previous two sites, and it's the place to go for quizzes, fan fiction, interviews, and more.

- The Many Deaths of Roger Wilco is exactly what it sounds like--a complete guide to virtually every death in SQI-6, plus the VGA remake of SQI and SQ:TLC. With pictures. Sicko.

[My challenge to you: Count how many times "Space Quest" or "SQ" appear in this post. You'll go dizzy.]

Monday, January 26, 2009

Uh-Ohs, and Other Monday Happiness

Last week was a tough week for comics, and for monthly publications in general. Amid layoffs at DC Comics and Diamond Distributors, and the news that the long-running and much-beloved Mad Magazine will be changing its distribution schedule from a monthly product to a quarterly one, I guess it's safe to say that the recession has officially hit the comics industry.

Now, by all accounts, Marvel seems to be doing pretty well, but the news out of DC and Mad (both owned by Warner Bros.) is troubling. Among the people let go at DC was long-time Batman editor Bob Schreck, who has overseen some of the company's biggest-selling (and best) books, including, most recently, All-Star Superman and All-Star Batman and Robin.

For those not as dorkily tuned into such things as I am, Schreck, a Senior Editor at the company, is a big name in the business, so his departure is a pretty huge deal. And the decision to make Mad a quarterly book, while upsetting, I'm sure, to its fans, is probably a really smart move.

Now, we've all heard it before: Print media has been dying a slow death over the past five or six years, so news like this shouldn't come as such a shock. But that does nothing to diminish the sadness I feel whenever I hear about something like this.

I'm an editor by trade, so print media means a lot to me personally. I think, like anything else, publishers need to adapt or die. Unfortunately, many are just too stubborn to acknowledge this fact. What's worse, these publishers should have acknowledged the fact five years ago.

I think a big step in the right direction, for comics at least, would be to start testing the direct-to-trade approach within the direct market (comics shops). This means that, instead of having the comics publishers bombard shops with enormous numbers of single issue comics (or floppies) every Wednesday (and take up an incredible amount of room when they don't sell), I think the publishers should start printing completed stories, in trade paperback form.

As I've said in the past, I think there's a large enough (and willing enough) fan base for such material that DC and Marvel should start doing this sooner rather than later.

Let me be clear, though--I'm not saying I think the floppies should just cease to be, but I think the number of single issues released each week should be cut in half. Now, that in no way means that I think the titles and stories should stop. I'm just saying that, instead of releasing a four-issue mini-series over the course of four or five months, just release the complete story, collected in trade.

I dunno. That's just the way I see it. Anyway, this stuff's depressing.

All that good news, and this weekend I managed to get a flat tire. Well, "flat" isn't the right word, since it was more like an explosion. I got an exploded tire, is what actually happened. And let's just say that the price for the new tire (because the old one had exploded, mind you) was equivalent to...well, at least a few copies of the Barack Obama/Spider-Man crossover comic from Marvel.

Oh, but hey, at least it's Monday, right?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Newgrounds: Everything, by everyone

Newgrounds logoIf you're ever hopelessly bored, there's one place on the Internet that's sure to keep you busy for a while: Newgrounds is a sprawling online mecca of user-created videos, games, and music with something to offer to virtually everyone--and something to offend virtually everyone, as well.

Vampires? Check. Harry Potter? Check. Golf, goths, Jesus, Sonic, horse racing, old folks, noir, Naruto, Stephen Hawking, tentacle monsters, kangaroos, Hanukka, and Bomberman? Check check check check check check check check check yikes check check check.

Just about every genre conceivable is represented in some form at Newgrounds, along with (if you haven't guessed it yet) nearly the entire range of questionable content available. You'll find violence, nudity, foul language, sex, gore, scatological references, political incorrectness, and offensive insensitivity.

Just to name a few.

Fortunately, descriptions and content warnings are given that are (sometimes) accurate, so you'll usually have some warning before watching something that will scar you for life. But sometimes you get blindsided by copulating stick figures. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Newgrounds is a true grab-bag. For everything that is hilarious, there's something nauseatingly unfunny. For everything beautifully created, there's an ugly piece of junk that got slapped together in three minutes. Newgrounds is truly everything, by everyone.

Me? I like it for the video-game-related stuff. Here are just a few of my favorites to get you started:

Dodge Flash game- Dodge. (fast-paced arcade game where you dodge projectiles and turn them against your enemies to survive)

Final Fantasy: About Random Battles Flash video- Final Fantasy: About Random Battles (funny video)

Mega Man vs. Ghosts 'n Goblins Flash game- Megaman vs. Ghosts 'n Goblins (crossover game)

Mega Man vs. Metroid Flash game- Megaman vs. Metroid (crossover game to settle the "Who would win in a fight: Mega Man or Samus?" debate)

Schfifty Five Flash video- Schfifty Five (illogically catchy music video)

Shift Flash game- Shift (Wickedly clever puzzle/platformer game and its sequel--in the same vein as Portal)

Rise of the Mushroom Kingdom Flash game- Super Mario: Rise of the Mushroom Kingdom (epic tragicomedy, episodes One, Two, Three, and Four)

There are so many more. You can blame me if you don't get any work done today.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly) and his brothers + Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser, How I Met Your Mother) + Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Desperate Housewives) + Felicia Day (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Guild) + Simon Helberg (Big Bang Theory, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) + other people you probably won't recognize + singing and humor - Big Hollywood Budget = Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.

Who says math is bad?

Dr. Horrible came along as an answer to the Writer's Strike of 2007-2008, as a production with a humble budget, developed and carried out by a bunch of Joss's friends and family members. It's a supervillain tragicomedy musical (I know; not another one, right?) about the rivalry between the villainous and angsty Dr. Horrible (Harris) and his excessively macho arch-nemesis, Captain Hammer (Fillion), and the girl whose affections they both seek (Day).

As the title suggests, the film is presented in a sort of video blog format with lots and lots of singing. The songs are catchy, and I was actually surprised by everybody's vocal performance--who knew theatre people could sing? The writing, acting, and humor are all top-notch (unless you don't like a bit of dirty humor every now and again), and it's virtually impossible to tell that this isn't a Hollywood production.

The movie was originally presented in three parts, which are now available all in one nice 42-minute-long Hulu video right here. Both the movie and the soundtrack are available on iTunes and Amazon (Region-free! Hee hee!). Felicia Day, however, is not available, so don't ask.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

These and Those

A hodgepodge of random dorky goodness today. (And, in case you're wondering, that's only the fourth time in my life I've ever typed the word "hodgepodge"). Anywho, on to it then.

-First up, I'd like to mention an interview that our buddy Kevin did over on Comics Bulletin with Marvel writer Mike Benson. You can check the interview out right here. Benson is the current writer on Moon Knight, which is a book I follow regularly and is consistently a great read.

-Next, it's Iron Man vs. the Joker! Well, OK, not really, but Robert Downey, Jr. and the late Heath ledger are both up for Best Supporting Actor, as the 2009 Oscar nominations were announced today. Downey is up for his role in Tropic Thunder, and Ledger, of course, is up for his darkly brilliant turn as the Joker in The Dark Knight.

Mickey Rourke attempts to make the ultimate comeback, as he's up for Best Actor thanks to a stellar performance in The Wrestler. You can check out the entire list right here.

-The film adaptation of Neil Gaiman's young adult novel Coraline opens in theaters on February 6, and you can check out trailers, and other things, here. I read Coraline about a year ago, and I found myself thinking, "kids find this fun and adventurous?" Because I found it to be plain, old creepy. But a great read, and I have high hopes for the film.

-Our buddy Gary pointed out some YouTube videos of a low budget, 1990s Canadian Public Broadcasting television show called Prisoners of Gravity. The show was a much-loved speculative fiction discussion and interview program, and it continues to have a fan base today.

Go to YouTube, and search for "Prisoners of Gravity," and you'll find a ton of shows, included among them an interview with Alan Moore!

Well, that's all I've got for today. We'll be back tomorrow with something of greater substance.

I promise.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Exfanding Review: The Wrestler

The Wrestler movie posterA quick review today, about one of the most talked-about films of the past year, Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler. Now, right off the bat let's just warn everyone that this is a hard R-Rated flick, so definitely don't bring the kiddies.

I should also preface the review with the fact that I've followed Professional Wrestling on and off pretty much my entire life, but the story of this film is a universal one, and knowledge of wrestling is pretty irrelevant to one's being able to understand or follow the movie.

Now, the first thing that jumps right at you when the film opens and we see our first glimpse of Mickey Rourke as aging 80s superstar Randy "The Ram" Robinson, is that this part was written specifically for Rourke.

This movie is, in some ways, analogous to Rourke's own career path, and Rourke embodies the broken-down Ram, perfectly capturing the essence of the character. Simply put, Rourke's performance as the once-great Madison Square Garden headliner is pretty stunning. As is Marissa Tomei's in her role as the complicated and eminently interesting love interest.

The film opens with a wrestling match featuring The Ram against a young wrestler trying to make his way to the big time. And when I say "wrestling match," I mean just that. This opening scene goes a long way in cementing the believability of the movie, and of Rourke as the title character. Not only does he look the part, but he can play the part.

Rourke is in the ring, performing the various moves, and looking more than capable as a pro wrestler. And this is very important, since the film requires the character to partake in some pretty brutal wrestling action (including a bloody "hardcore" match featuring tables, and chairs, and ladders, and glass, and staples, and...well, you get the idea).

Really from the moment the film begins, the viewer is completely immersed in this guy's world. And, as the film progresses, the audience alternately loves the character, and despises him, and fears him, and fears for him, and it is this cycle of emotions that make this movie stay with the viewer hours, and even days, after seeing it.

I won't give a plot summary here, for two reasons. First, because I'm no good at it, but mostly because I felt the script was utterly predictable. At various points in the film, before events happened on screen, I knew they were going to happen. And, usually, something like that would completely ruin a movie for me, or anyone I guess.

But, despite this fact that I was watching a story where I knew what was going to happen at each turn, I found myself glued to the flick, unable to turn away, and disappointed when it ended.

And, I suppose, that's a hallmark of good film-making, and certainly a credit to the actors and their performances.

So, I'll end with this. The Wrestler is the story of a beaten down, broken, has-been trying to rectify the sins of his past. The story is utterly human, and recognizable. If you go see it, you'll find yourself rooting for The Ram, and rooting against him, and you'll leave the theater still thinking about him.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

On This Day...

As anyone who has read this blog over its short (but epic!) life online knows, we tend to stay away from politics and "real," serious news, and instead we focus on fan culture and the like. We see this blog as a nice little escape for people; be it a quick read during a lunch break, or a nice sit down with a cup of coffee in the morning.

Either way, we want this blog to be fun, and entertaining, and a cool way to stay in tune with all the dorky goodness out there. But today is a different day than any other, and we thought we would be remiss not to mention the historic nature of Inauguration Day 2009.

No matter what your politics are, I think everyone can agree that today marks a unique moment in history; today brings with it the culmination of years and years of struggle and the scene in Washington, DC, this morning is a testament to just that.

Today, our country takes a great leap forward as the Reality of America does its best to catch up with the Promise of America.

So, tomorrow we'll be back with the usual, dorky wonderful that is the nature of this blog, but for now we'd like to leave you with the following:

Yesterday, we celebrated the life and teachings of a great, peaceful man. And today our country will swear in its first African American President. So, on this day in history, we encourage all of our readers to take a moment to think about where we are now, how far we've come, and what is left to be accomplished. you watch the inauguration right here, streaming live from

Monday, January 19, 2009

CommentLuv: Free blog advertising

CommentLuv logoCommentLuv is a dandy site that I came across via Musings of the Chatty DM. Here's how it works: If you've registered your blog with CommentLuv, anyone who leaves a comment has the option to easily include a link to their most recent blog post.

Registering and installing the widget on your blog is straightforward and takes all of 5 minutes. This allows you to choose which blog post to display when commenting on a blog that has the CommentLuv service; otherwise, your options are extremely limited.

Doing a full configuration to actually use CommentLuv on your site takes about 10-20 minutes and a little bit of tech savvy, which you probably already have if you're attempting this in the first place. Either that, or you've got a highly trained HTML monkey in the back who you keep fed with Spam and occasionally reward with cookies. ::groan::

If this sounds interesting to you, give it a shot at Just don't be a dweeb and post comments haphazardly for the sole purpose of advertising your blog. That's my job.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Flight of the Conchords: New Zealand's fourth most popular folk parody duo

Flight of the ConchordsIt's better to experience Flight of the Conchords by just listening to them rather than listening to somebody explain them, but I'm gonna throw caution to the wind here and tell you a bit about them anyhow.

Flight of the Conchords (or FotC, for short) is a musical comedy duo from New Zealand with songs that are every bit as funny and clever as "Weird Al" Yankovic's but tend a little more toward the "adult" more than the sophomoric and are generally not nearly as weird, absurd, or parodical. (Yes, "parodical." It's a real word.)

The band is comprised of Jemaine Clement, who (sadly) no American had ever heard of before FotC, and Bret McKenzie, who some people might recognize as the elf Figwit from the Lord of the Rings movies.

"Wait, did he just say Figwit?" Yes, he did. But that's a story for another time.

Flight of the Conchords also has a TV show on HBO. See it on Sunday nights at 10 PM EST. (A new season starts this Sunday, so now's a perfect time to start watching.) The humor is a bit of an acquired taste, so it's quite possible you may love the music but can't tolerate the show.

Now, enough talk. More rock! If you're not in love with FotC after watching those videos, go back and watch them again. I'm not letting you leave here until a see a smile on your face. Language/content warnings all around, but here are three videos that'll give you a good sampling of the group:

"Business Time":

"Frodo" (as it appeared on the TV show), which, as you can guess, has to do with The Lord of the Rings:

"Robots," A.K.A. "The Humans Are Dead":

"Please! I beg you!" you may say. "Where can I find more of this Conchordy goodness?" Well, there are plenty more FoTC videos on YouTube, for starters. And there's What the Folk!, an outstanding fansite that features Conchords news, merchandise, FREE downloadable songs, and so very much more. And for those of you actually interested in supporting the band, their CDs and the DVD of the first season of the TV show are in real stores, possibly near you!

[Image from, the self-proclaimed 4th best unofficial fansite on the 'net.]

Friday, January 16, 2009

Spider-Man's Secret Identity Is... Abe Lincoln?

A while back I wrote a post about Virsona, a website that allows you to speak with artificially intelligent representations of regular people such as Your Annoying Little Sister Who Found Virsona Before You Did, historical figures such as Marilyn Monroe, and now, allegedly, fictional characters such as Spider-Man.

The chance to chat with Spider-Man on Virsona was too good to pass up. So I clicked on Spidey... and got redirected to Abe Lincoln?

"The Community Virsona that you selected will be available towards the end of 2008. Please enjoy a conversation with Abraham Lincoln..."

2008? Something was fishy. And, doggone it, I wanted to talk to Spider-Man! But then I thought: What if Abe Lincoln is really Spider-Man, and just didn't have time to put on the costume before I arrived?

Alex and I both sat down for a little chat with the suspicious emancipator. We were determined to make him slip up and reveal his true identity. Edited down for the sake of interest, here's what transpired:

Abraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln: Hello, let's talk.
Nathaniel: No, let's not talk.
Abraham Lincoln: Yes, let's talk.
Nathaniel: I said no, and I mean it. I clicked on Spider-Man, and you are not he.
Abraham Lincoln: The word Corban means gift devoted to God. oh thank you.
Nathaniel: Do not change the subject. Where is Spider-Man?
Abraham Lincoln: Well, you're entitled to your opinion. Gettysburg is in Pennsylvania. The Gettysburg Battlefield was the site of the Battle of Gettysburg, fought July 1 to July 3, 1863, in and around the borough of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the county seat of Adams County.
Nathaniel: Where is Spider-Man???
Abraham Lincoln: In the German speaking part of Switzerland.
Nathaniel: What is he doing there?
Abraham Lincoln: English.
Nathaniel: Huh. When will he return?
Abraham Lincoln: I'm sorry but I don't know what you mean. I returned to politics in response to the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854), which… [217 words later] …I was instrumental in forming the new Republican Party.
Nathaniel: Filibustering will get you nowhere.
Abraham Lincoln: Get with it.
Nathaniel: Me? You're the one who needs to get with it!
Abraham Lincoln: I see. I was married too Marry Todd.
Nathaniel: Yes, that does explain a lot.
Abraham Lincoln: The Emancipation Proclamation, announced on September 22 and put into effect… [84 words later] …abolish slavery throughout the nation.
Nathaniel: No, no. I didn't say, "Explain a lot."
Abraham Lincoln: See you later Friend. The Emancipation Proclamation, announced on September 22 and put into effect… [same 84 words later] …abolish slavery throughout the nation.
Nathaniel: Fine. But I'll be back later for Spider-Man.
Abraham Lincoln: Pleased to hear it. See you later!
Nathaniel: Meanie.
Abraham Lincoln: Sorry, I don't understand.
Nathaniel: You wouldn't. Bye.
Abraham Lincoln: I would defend my country. Bye bye.
Alex: So, what are you doing today? Important President-y stuff?
Abraham Lincoln: thinking about the issue of slavery. I was the first president to be assassinated.
Alex: What a coincidence. i was the first Virsona user to be assassinated.
Abraham Lincoln: While I maintain that the abolition of slavery was the primary issue behind the Civil War, some say related and intertwined secondary issues also fueled the dispute. These secondary differences (real or perceived) included tariffs, agrarianism vs. industrialization, and states' rights.
Alex: Did you know President-Elect Obama met Spider-Man yesterday?
Abraham Lincoln: To think that would be incredibly self-centered. I think he had his reasons but I'm almost certain they had nothing to do with me.
Alex: Did you ever meet Spider-Man?
Abraham Lincoln: Mary Todd...I ended up marrying her.
Alex: Waittaminute. Are you Spider-Man?
Abraham Lincoln: I'm White.
Alex: It's always the race thing with you, huh?
Abraham Lincoln: I would say that sustaining the Union was one of the most important things I worked on as President.
Alex: I see your game, lincoln. Changing the subject so I don't suspect anything about you actually being Spider-man. Smart, Lincoln. Very smart.
Abraham Lincoln: I had an older sister, Sarah Lincoln, and a younger brother, Thomas Lincoln… [91 words later] …who both did not live to see me become president. Thank you, I try my best.
Alex: deter suspicion? Hmm...
Abraham Lincoln: Hmm. I'm trying to understand what you're saying, but I'm not quite getting it. Hmm.
Alex: New topic, then. During the run-up to the inevitable war between the North and South, did you ever have moments of doubt and the direction of the--ARE YOU SPIDER-MAN??!!
Abraham Lincoln: Green is my favorite color. By the time I took office, the Confederacy was an established fact, and no leaders of the insurrection proposed rejoining the Union on any terms. No compromise was found because a compromise was deemed virtually impossible.
Alex: You win this round, lincoln, but we shall meet again.
Abraham Lincoln: My son, Robert Todd Lincoln arrived too late to stop three separate presidential assassinations. He arrived at the theatre after John Wilkes Booth had fired the shot. He went to a Washington train station to meet President Garfield, arriving only minutes after he was shot. And, he traveled to Buffalo, New York to meet President McKinley, but got there after the fatal shot had already been fired.
Alex: Wait, are you saying your son is the biggest Presidential curse since Linda Tripp?
Abraham Lincoln: Robert Lincoln arrived the Peterson Boarding House after John Wilkes Booth had fired the shot. Later, He went to a Washington train station to meet President Garfield, arriving only minutes after he was shot. And unfortunately he traveled to Buffalo, New York to meet President McKinley, but arrived after the fatal shot had already been fired.
Alex: Talk about throwing your own kid under the bus. That's low, Lincoln. If I had a rubber hose...
Abraham Lincoln: Bye bye. I'm quite fond on neckties. Do you like it? I think you are really a unknown.
Alex: Did you just go all "Mary Todd" on me, Lincoln?
Abraham Lincoln: My wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, died July 16, 1882, at the age of 63, 17 years after my death. She is buried beside me in the Lincoln Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield.
Alex: Curses--always one step ahead of my questions! We'll continue this in the future. I'll be back, Lincoln. I swear it.
Abraham Lincoln: Ok.
Nathaniel: Hey, Spider-Man?
Abraham Lincoln: Hello Citizen.
Nathaniel: Gotcha!
Abraham Lincoln is Spider-Man and wears his tall top hat[Lincoln image from Spidey from; hat from Hooray once more for MS Paint.]

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Alex Discovers Podcasts

Word Balloon with John Siuntres logoA quick post today, since yesterday was just too big and exhaustive of a comic book "event" day for us fanpeople. Seriously, I need a breather, so no rants from Alex today. Promise.

Instead, I'd like to talk about a new discovery that I have dis...covered. You see, recently, I got one of them iPod whatsits, and have since started listening to podcasts.

Yes, I know. I'm old and irrelevant.

But, today I wanted to, as the kids say, give a shout out to my very favorite among the litany of comic book-related podcasts out there. It's called Word Balloon, and it is the product of Chicago radio host John Siuntres, who conducts the podcast.

Basically, Word balloon is an audio mp3 show that features interviews with top comic book creators. These interviews are usually in-depth, and some even last for several hours. Most prominent among the interview subjects is the long-running "Bendis Tapes" editions, which are hours-long fan Q and A interviews with Marvel Comics writer Brian Michael Bendis.

If you're into finding out about the creative process, or even if you want to get the latest information on your favorite creators, then this is the podcast for you. There are hundreds of back episodes, so there's going to be something for every comics fan out there. I recommend that you all check it out if you can.

All of the latest episodes of the show are up at the Word Balloon blog, which I linked to above. Of course, all the shows are available for free download there, and also over at iTunes.

I dig the show, and I think you will, too.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

More Sad News for Star Trek

I am sorry to report the loss of another member of the Star Trek family.

Ricardo Montalban, who you may know as Khan from Star Trek, Senor Armando from the Planet of the Apes movies, Vincent Ludwig from The Naked Gun, and Mr. Roarke from Fantasy Island, died this morning at the age of 88. No cause of death has been given yet.

Ricardo Montalban as Mr. Roarke from Fantasy IslandI believe the most fitting way a Star Trek fan can mourn his passing is by performing the Klingon Death Ritual, in which you stare into the eyes of the deceased and then shout into the sky. And I think you all know which name to shout:

Ricardo Montalban as Khan from Star Trek II: The Wrath of KhanForgive the levity. Thank you, Ricardo Montalban. You will be missed.

[Images from and]

Obama, Comics, and You

So, I'm sure you've all heard by now that our President-Elect will be making an appearance in the pages (and on some covers) of Amazing Spider-Man. Pretty cool, huh? Pretty savvy move by Marvel, what with the Inauguration coming next week, right? It's going to be a great way to get non-comics readers into comics shops, right? And those people will be forever hooked on our wonderful medium. Right?



Uh, no.

Sure, the demand is going to be crazy--heck, it's been crazy since before this past weekend. And sure, people who wouldn't know the difference between The Outsiders and The Defenders will innocently wander into comics shops all over the country asking for the "Obama Spider-Man for $.50 cents...please."

And retailers, in an effort to capitalize on this opportunity to gain new customers will happily say, "Here you go, as you can see, we have plenty of them in stock so please--"

Wait, wait. That won't happen. Not even close. And, why won't that happen, you ask? Well, let me hit you with some knowledge (he says, as he punches the air next to his computer and brushes off a strange look from a co-worker).

This Marvelous (ha!) stunt, while a brilliant PR move for the company...ends up being kind of...mean to retailers. You see, the "Obama Spidey Book" will ship to retailers with two covers. One cover will feature Obama, and the other will not.

Guess which one all the "civilians" walking into comics shops today will want. Exactly. Now, to complicate things further, the Obama cover is a variant, and is limited in production. So, quick math here--there will be less of the Obama cover than of the regular cover.

And, to make things worse, in order for retailers to get ANY Obama covers, they had to increase their normal orders of Spidey several weeks ago, being told that, if they do so, they'll get more of this (then) secret cover...which would be to ship several weeks into the future.


Confusing? I'd say so. In any case, if you're going to the LCS today thinking you'll walk home with an Obama book, well...most likely you won't. But, hey, at least they are on Ebay for...wait for it...$100 bucks.

Now, so as not to end this thing on a down note, the great comics news blog The Beat has reported that Marvel, in an effort to make up for this retailer slight, will be making the collected graphic novel version of Stephen King's The Stand available only to comics shops, and not to book store chains. You can check out the story here.

Also, for more on the Obama Spidey cover mess, check out Rich Johnston's latest Lying in the Gutters column on Comic Book Resources right here.

And, to all of you planning to venture out to the stores in hopes of attaining an Obama cover, I say to thee good luck. And, if you do manage to get one, please leave us a comment and let us know about it. Also, let us know what the scene at your LCS is like today, since there's likely going to be tons of new foot traffic, what with all the hoopla.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Nintendo's "Kind Code" will play your games so you don't have to

The problem: Some people have trouble playing video games.

Nintendo's latest solution: Design video games that play themselves.

Staples Easy ButtonNintendo has designed a "Kind Code" for future video games that will allow players--while playing a game--bring up a video walkthrough that shows them what to do next; watch the game play itself with the ability to take over at any time; or just skip entire sections of the game.

More information here, and reactions from video game developers here.

Like most everything else Nintendo's been doing these days to make games more accessible to non-gamers, this bothers me. In my day, if a game was too hard, you either:

(1) threw the controller at your TV and gave up;
(2) used cheat codes to win, but had to also face the shame of being a cheater; or
(3) kept trying until you succeeded, thus becoming a better gamer (or just proving that you got lucky).

Implementing this into any game will require time, money, and effort, which should be focused on actually making the game rather than showing people how to play it. Enough video games get rushed out the door without being as polished as they could be, and this is one more factor that can take away from a game that is already hurried or running low on budget or manpower.

I think Jonathan Blow hit the nail on the head:

"The proper solution is to start producing games that don't have this kind of problem — not to create the problem, then band-aid over it and hope people still have a good experience."

How do we produce such games? Learning curves. Multiple difficulty modes. Tutorials. Clever hint systems (see: Metroid: Prime). Unlockable extras such as health regeneration and increased damage (see: LEGO Star Wars). These are features of real games that actually work and fit very logically into the flow of the game.

"As long as a few people can beat it, it's not too difficult" and "We didn't make this game for you, but we want you to play it anyhow" are simply not the philosophies to embrace if you want to appeal to a broad audience.

The only games I've ever seen with an option to skip a scene entirely are adventure games that recognize that the devoted adventure gamer may not have any skill whatsoever at playing action sequences that involve dodging rocks in a landspeeder or playing several games of poker.

I have no problem with that--the developers identified that they were including an element that, for some, was a welcome break from the endless puzzles, and for others, was an abomination that did not belong in that genre.

I do have a problem with Nintendo potentially making this a prominent feature in who-knows-how-many future games (assuming they can get this to work with anything remotely nonlinear). Pretty soon they'll install a ski lift so that everybody can scale Mount Everest. Before you know it, video games will just be Choose Your Own Adventure books in movie format.

Making a video game that is excessively friendly to non-gamers is fine (see: Super Princess Peach). Making a video game with certain aspects that can make the game easier for struggling players is fine. Widespread implementation of an Easy Button is not.

We'll see where Nintendo goes with this. But I've seen them pump out 3-D titles for the N64 when there was no reason for 3-D other than to showcase the technology. I've seen them apply motion-sensitive controls to games not because they were better than a traditional controller but because they could. I have no doubt that they will exploit this Kind Code to its fullest extent, whether it's welcome or not.

Whatever happens, it better not end up like this.

[Easy Button from]

Monday, January 12, 2009

Trade Waiting

Before I start in on my regularly scheduled post, I wanted to add a quick (and happy!) addendum to my last post, on collecting original comics art. Towards the end of the post, as those of you who managed to stay awake long enough and/or not go on a killing spree because of my verbosity know, I listed some stores online that I have personally purchased art from in the past.

At the end of the list, I mentioned Space Goat Fine Arts, where I picked up both of my Richard Moore covers, and I noted how they recently closed their doors. Well, as it happens, this weekend I received an email from James Meeley, the guy in charge over at Space Goat, informing everyone that, while Space Goat will unfortunately still close its doors, James will continue to personally sell Richard Moore's artwork in the future, in his Comic Art Fans gallery.

Here's the link to his CAF gallery, with the promise that Richard Moore's art for sale will indeed be up in the future. Also, please note that several of the pieces in that gallery are of an adult nature, so don't go clicking if you're at the office.

Now, that is some very happy news for collectors, and for me personally, since the whimsical, all ages Boneyard series is one of my all time favorite ongoing comics. And, just because it seems appropriate, here's the other Boneyard cover painting I bought from James earlier in the year:

Boneyard cover artWith that said, today I'd like to briefly talk about an issue that's been argued amongst comics fans for nearly as long as "Who's stronger, Hulk or Thing?" Well, OK, maybe not nearly as long as that epic, shining bit of fan insanity, but still. Yes, today's titillating topic: to wait, or not to wait?

For the trade paperback collection of single issues of a comics series, that is.

See, there's a faction of fandom (yes, I know, I'm just in an extremely alliterative mood sue me) that, instead of buying new issues as they come out each month, they wait for story arcs to be collected in the inevitable trade paperback.

Now, not only does this save some money in the long run, but it also eliminates the need to store single issue, floppy comics. Of course, like everything else (especially in the comics hobby) there's a downside to what is commonly referred to as "trade waiting."

And that downside is, Marvel and DC have caught onto the fact that a large number of fans do this, so instead on releasing the trades as softcovers, as they have in the past, with price tags in the $12 to $18 range, both companies have been releasing "Premier Hardcovers" (Marvel) or "Deluxe Editions" (DC), that will run you between $20 and $30 bucks.

Smart for business? Sure. Bad for the fans? Well, maybe. Personally, if it's a series I really like, I don't mind paying the extra $5 bucks or so for a nice hardcover collection with better paper. But, the consumer should have the choice of buying either/or, on the day the collection ships.

As it currently stands, (and Marvel is especially notorious for doing this) the hardcover collection ships many months before the softcover edition. I'm not real big on that.

But, that's a whole 'nother Mylar bag of issues. (HA! It's a pun!) The real question is, should fans read the monthlies as they come out, or should we all just wait for the collected edition to ship?

Here's my take. The monthlies are what drive comic shop sales, and keep your LCS in business. Remember, comic shops buy their books from Diamond Distributors, and need to pay off their weekly (yes, weekly) comics bills within a set amount of time. So, the sale of single issues is key to any shop.

That said, I have to also add that I find there's just something cool--well, OK, not "cool" like the Fonz, but cool like "I have a complete run of Goon comics" "cool"--about reading a book on the day it ships. Not to mention it allows you to avoid all the wonderful Internet spoilers.

But, as I get older, having comics all over the place really doesn't make much sense. A nice, collected edition on the shelf (or on the floor of the closet) is a much neater, *ahem* grown-up way to collect comics, don't you think?

So, to finish off this stream of consciousness mess (with no real answer on my part), I ask you, our loyal readers: what do you guys prefer when it comes to comics--buying issues weekly, or trade waiting?

Leave comments, and let us know!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

An Introduction to Original Comic Art

"Alex," you ask, "Tell me, please. What's WAY more expensive than collecting comics, but brings along with it many of the same obsessive compulsive feelings and hair-pulling quests to find missing links in a collection?"

"Well," I'd say, ignoring the wonderful recession in this country and poo-pooing the insane prices asked (and realized!) for pieces of original, hand-drawn artwork, straight out of the funny books,"Collect original comics art."

Now, before I get into this post, I should say that I am still a novice original comics art (OCA, from now on) collector, and though my collection has grown nicely this past year (my first year of collecting), I am still trying to learn as much about this new (and expensive!) facet of the comics collecting hobby as is possible.

So the crash course goes something like the following: Original comics art is just what it says--the original artwork drawn by the penciller and inker of any given comic book.

So, if the final printed page you see when you break open a comic looks like this (And it goes without saying, that this image is copyright Marvel Comics):

Moon Knight page sampleThen the original art, before the digital coloring is laid on top, looks like this:

Moon Knight original art pageThe above page is pencilled by David Finch and inked by Danny Miki. And, yes, this page is now in my personal collection. And, no, it's not for sale.

(Especially not to you, Nathaniel)

The above page, which is actually page 12 of the first issue of Marvel's Moon Knight relaunch, was one of the first big purchases I made when I started this new, insane hobby.

Since those first few purchases, I've learned a bit about the hobby, and I've scoured the Internet almost daily, on a search for new stores, new Web sites, new anything related to comics art.

So, to start on the course of demystifying this particular fandom for all of our readers, I'll give a few, crucial links to anyone interested in collecting artwork. The first, and most important, is Comic Art Fans. There, you will find hundreds of virtual galleries of collections. Mine, for instance, is right here.

Comic Art Fans is a great place to start, as the site handily (and amazingly, if you ask me) is an emporium of any and all information related to comics art. Besides the hundreds of user galleries, they have a sister site, linked directly from the main site, called Comic Art Shop, which, well, as I'm sure you can guess, is a place for collectors to check out art put up for sale by other collectors, and even by comics industry professionals.

What's more, and this is the really amazing thing, Comic Art Fans provides thumbnail links to every major comics art auction currently going on over at Ebay! So, if you think you might want to start collecting this stuff, Comic Art Fans and Comic Art Shop are really must-visit sites in order to get you going.

Now, as you may have noticed if you've checked out my Comic Art Fans (CAF) gallery, you probably noticed that I tend to have a pretty narrow mindset when it comes to collecting art. And I think that is going to lead me to my biggest pointer for someone who wants to get started in this hobby. And it's a mantra we've all heard before in other fandoms:

Collect what you like.

Especially when it comes to the prices currently being asked for this stuff, it is really imperative that you simply collect the character you love most, or the artist whose work you really enjoy and wouldn't mind staring at on your wall.

The art page, I mean...not the...artist.


Anywhatsit, I basically collect art that falls into one of these three categories: art with Batman in it, Goon/Eric Powell art, and art from comics series that mean something to me, such as this cover from the lesser-known indy comic from NBM Publishing, Boneyard, by Richard Moore:

Boneyard cover artUnlike comics, whose prices rise and fall based on arbitrary (well, I think so, anyway) turns in the market, OCA values have exploded lately and tend to retain their value and actually appreciate as the years pass. Mostly, I think, due to the fact that each page is quite literally one-of-a-kind.

Talk about a limited edition, huh?

As with any other collecting hobby, though, certain pages are worth considerably more than others. Some artists' work, such as Jack Kirby and Jim Steranko's, fetch astronomical amounts. And for good reason, too, as these were two of the true pioneers of comics art in the 1960s and 1970s.

But don't go thinking that it's just the older art that's high-priced. Current artists regularly see their work sold for thousands of dollars, as well. Take Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, for example. His interiors (panel pages from within the comic) fetch in the thousands, while his cover art easily goes for multiples of that.

Not all OCA is gonna cost you an arm and a leg, though. Some interior pages can be purchased for under $100. And, even better than cheap interiors are what we in the business (of ultra-dorky collecting, that is) call pin-ups. These are basically unpublished, single-character drawings by specific artists, usually obtained directly from the artist at a convention.

Here's an example of a Spider-Man pin-up I got from artist Mark Bagley at the New York Comic Con a couple of years ago:

Spider-Man sketch by Mark BagleyAnd here's a Batman pin-up by Ed McGuiness I got through an art dealer:

Batman sketch by Ed McGuinessWhen approaching an artist at a convention with hopes to get a sketch drawn, remember that they are typically not free, especially for more complicated drawings. Many times, though, artists will do quick head sketches for no, or very little charge. Inker Scott Hanna was nice enough to do this Spidey head sketch for free during a signing at my local comics shop:

Spider-Man sketch by Scott HannaRemember that artists make their living by drawing, so you should never go up to a creator simply expecting something for free. That said, let's get back to collecting interior pages for a minute.

Most of my collection is made up of interiors, mostly because of price concerns. If I had Nathaniel money, I would be rolling in Gene Colan and Neal Adams cover work, mind you. So, you may be asking, what do I look for when collecting interiors?

What's that? No one was asking that, you say? And 99% of our readership could care less, you say? Huh. Well, to you 1% of readers who give a hobbit, I go about collecting interiors much like an inebriated man would go about finding a bathroom.

Wait, what? Sorry, I thought that would be funnier...and more...sensical. Anyway, what I do is this. If I read a comic I like, see a page I like, I try to find out where that artists' work might be available for sale, and if it's in a certain price range, then I go for it.

Simple, really.

Take that Moon Knight page from the beginning of this (now) epic post. I'm a big Moon Knight fan, the writer of that series, Charlie Huston, is one of my favorite novelists, and David Finch's art has always blown me away. So, when I found that page available for sale on Comic Art Shop, I jumped at it.

Which takes me to my last point--how to actually acquire art that you are interested in. First, see if the artist has a personal Web site. Sometimes, they'll sell their work directly. In most cases, however, artists have art dealers, who in turn sell tons of art on Web sites. For example, The Artist's Choice is one of the most-visited and well-represented of art dealer sites. I've bought art from them before, and I highly recommend them.

Some other sites I can personally say I've purchased from and was incredibly happy with are Fanfare Sports and Entertainment, Anthony's Collectibles, Ed Benes Art, Dave Finch's personal site, and Will's Comic Art. Sadly, Space Goat Fine Arts, where I purchased my two Richard Moore pieces, has just recently closed its doors.

So, now that you are all experts in OCA, and since I really, really need to wrap this up, I'll say this. If you do decide to start collecting art, start small, check out Comic Art Fans and Ebay to gauge prices for certain artists you're interested in, and collect what you like.

And now I'll leave you with this, one of my very favorite pages, drawn by Ed Benes because, well...I really, really like it!

Batman and Superman original comic art by Ed Benes

(All characters are copyright their respective owners)

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Order of the Griffin: “Weird Science: Fantasy and Microchips...Magic and Technology”*

Today we've got a guest post from devoted reader neko-chan about a website called The Order of the Griffin. Enjoy!

What is better than watching your very own griffin egg hatch? Watching a scientific griffin egg hatch, of course! Following in the footsteps of sites like Dragon Cave and Pure Felinity, The Order of the Griffin is a virtual hatchery site where you can collect eggs, raise griffins, and breed them; all according to actual principles of biology (Don’t worry; this game is G-rated).

The site was created to introduce people to the fundamentals of genetic cross-breeding (genotypes, gametes, and dominant vs. recessive alleles) in a fun and creative format: mythical creatures.

spotted griffin cubBy examining the features of the parent griffins – such as base colour, shading, colour limiters, oil-sheen, breed patterns, and white patches – a player can begin to predict the outcome of the children. Some players try to re-create specific types of griffins, whereas I enjoy trying to create new and exotic-looking offspring by matching up fairly odd parents.

The game also incorporates environmental controls, such as incubation temperature and nest-gems, which can affect the gender and colour of chicks and cubs. To help those of us who slept our way through science class as students, the site has also included handy-dandy punnett squares to help see possible outcomes of certain pairings.

young female griffinUnlike other “virtual pet” sites, this is not a Tamagotchi’s ugly step-sister. You do not have to feed your pet, play with it, clean up after it, hire a babysitter for it, wait for other people to click on it, go on a quest for it, take it to the doctor, build a house for it, enter a competition with it, shake trees to gather bells for it, or generally spend every 5 minutes rooted in front of your computer interacting with your pet until you go insane and chuck the game out the window where it is promptly run over by a 1000 pound truck.

The ultimate goal of the site is simply to watch the eggs hatch and see the various outcomes. There is also a forum where members can talk about the game and get tips, as well as an FAQ for the scientifically challenged.

young male griffinTo get started, players can either rescue eggs from “the wild,” adopt griffins abandoned by other players, or have friends gift them a griffin.

Once you have a pair of adults, you can have them start a nest of eggs. Alternately, you can also lend “studs” to other players, as the ratio of male to female griffins is quite low.

It is a good idea to mix up one’s flock often, as there is a built-in “inbred” meter to stave off the creation of depraved mutant griffins. ::shudder::

The site advises moderation in game-play, limiting the number of griffins you can own, as well as how often you can rescue and breed them.

regal male griffinFor example, members can only own 20 adult griffins at a time, and can only cross-breed once per day. This not only keeps the bunny-effect in check, but encourages players to make wise choices about which griffins they keep in their flock.

If players find a griffin they really like, they can save a rather snazzy certificate of that griffin’s pedigree and picture to their computer.

The Order of the Griffin is currently in the beta-testing stage, so new players have the opportunity to experiment with, comment on, and make suggestions for improvement to the game. Many of the players so far are actual scientists or game designers, and have been working to constantly enhance game-play. I would recommend this site to anyone 10 years or older who cute griffin chickeither has an interest in mythology or genetics, as well as to anyone who has a weakness for all things cute.

*Lyrics copyright of Oingo Boingo and the 80’s