Thursday, April 30, 2009

Comic Book Weekend

Chances are good that anybody who's gonna participate in the following activities already knows about them, but we'll do our part here and publicize them anyway:

First! X-Men Origins: Wolverine opens tomorrow, but consider reading the reviews before you spend your dubiously earned money on a ticket.

Second! Saturday is Free Comic Book Day! That's right: participating comics shops are giving away a free comic book to each customer! Just remember to check whether or not the store you visit is actually participating before walking away with Skaar, or else you might end up walking away with a scar.

[Image from]

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Waiting for Wednesday, Issue 10

And Lo, 'tis time for this week's Waiting for Wednesday. Despite the fact that I am not feeling 100% this week, the show, as they say, goes on. Actually, I've felt pretty lousy since early last week, but deadlines at work meant that I had no choice in the matter.

And, no, it's NOT that pig thing what's being talked about on the TV.

I mean, yes, I was kinda paranoid about that for a day or two. And it's been fun being told by everyone I know that, most likely, I have Swine Flu and should stop moving immediately. But, according to a doctor (a medical professional, and not the guy that lives down the block and calls himself "Dr. Strange") I do not have the Swine Thingy, but I should take things easy.

And my first question back to the doctor was, "'easy,' as in I shouldn't go out Wednesday?" His answer was, "Wednesday? I'm not sure I underst--" "Wednesday, Doc. Give it to me straight up--can I or can I not go out on Wednesday?"

"Um," he started, a bit confused and a bit frightened, "I'd say it's safe to go out on Wednesday, Alex. Just don't do anyth--"

But by that point I was gone. There was an Alex-shaped hole in the waiting room wall, and I was content. Utterly, stupidly content.

And so, today, when I make my way to the comics shop, I will be buying the following:

First up, we have Marvel's Dark Avengers series, written by Exfanding favorite Brian Bendis and illustrated by the incomparable Mike Deodato. Here's the cover to this week's issue four:

And, yes, that "Iron Man" on the cover is Norman Osborn (you know, the Green Goblin). Yep, after the events of Secret Invasion, ol' Normie is the new Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and he has turned his (evil) Thunderbolts team into "The Avengers."

So, everyone out in the Marvel U thinks those guys and gals flying around and punching stuff are the true-blue Avengers team...but, um...they're not.

Because they're evil. And stuff.

Now, this book has been a great read so far, and I fully expect big and scary things to continue as the series progresses. I've said it many times before, but Bendis is my favorite writer (and that's pretty much why I haven't had many--if any--of his books on the list for any previous Waiting for), but I'm digging this book so much that I had to put it up for today.

Check out Marvel's solicit info for the issue:

The Dark Avengers’ first mission shows Norman Osborn all the pluses and minuses of the choices he has made for his team. So changes must be made. Some come, some go, and not everyone is happy about it. Also, the Cabal reunites for the first time since the Dark Reign began, and they are REALLY not happy.


Okay, moving on, next up, we have issue four of the latest effort from Bone creator Jeff Smith. This series, entitled RASL, is one of the more intriguing books to hit the market in some time.

Here's the publisher's overview blurb for the series:

Cartoon Books proudly presents Jeff Smith's new adventure series, RASL - a stark, sci-fi series about a dimension-jumping art thief, a man unplugged from the world who races through space and time searching for his next big score - and trying to escape his past.

In this first of three graphic novels, Rasl faces an assassin's bullet and stumbles across a mystery that not only threatens to expose his own illicit activities, but could also uncover one of the world's most dangerous and sought after secrets!

As the above suggests, the first three issues of the book are already collected in trade, and readily available, so catching up should be easy to do. And, while I can't find a cover image for this month's issue, here's the cover to the first trade:

And here's the solicit info for today's issue:

RASL's world is closing in around him and the only way to regain control is to leave it! The multi-dimensional art thief returns to the parallel universe where Dylan isn't Dylan, where he makes startling discoveries about his past -and about the nature of reality itself!

Rasl and the lizard-faced killer battle it out as the the origins of the science behind Rasl's inter-dimensional engines are revealed. Rasl himself is faced with a choice: surrender his secrets or spend eternity chasing the lizard-faced assassin through parallel worlds trying to save the people he loves.

I was a big fan of Smith's Bone series, a whimsical, Lord of the Rings-type epic that was all-ages friendly (and you should go read it!). While RASL is decidedly more mature than Bone, there's still a sense a wonder in the art and the epic nature of the story.

Smith's art is similar in some ways to Terry Moore's, as both artists are masters of white space and clean lines. If you liked my recommendation for Moore's Echo series, then I think you'll like this book, as well.

And, finally, we have an interesting book from Dynamite Entertainment, written by Leah Moore and John Reppion, with art by Aaron Campbell (or Douglass, as both names are listed on the site!), and covers by John Cassaday. Sherlock Holmes, issue one hits stand today, and other than some promotional material I've read in the comics press, I don't know a whole lot about the book.

But, Dynamite has put out some really stellar product (The Boys, Red Sonja) and I've become a fan of their work. They've also had some nice runs with licensed properties (Zorro, The Man With No Name), so I have faith that this book will be of the highest quality.

Here's the publisher's blurb:

Continuing their new exploration of literary icons, DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT presents the ultimate mystery as they unveil Sherlock Holmes!

Issue #1 begins the "Trial of Sherlock Holmes" which presents the great detective with an all-too personal quandary and explores the nature of the man and his world with a mix of refined ambiance, carefully crafted mystery and chilling suspense!

And here's the amazing Cassaday cover:

So, go check it out if you're a Holmes fan!

And that's all there is for today. Enjoy New Comics Day, everyone!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Why I Don't Write About Anime

I am an anime fan. I'm not what you'd call an otaku--I do not eat, drink, breathe, or bathe in anime--but I enjoy me a good anime series or movie from time to time. However, as was discussed in my introduction to anime post and in the comments section there, it can be difficult and expensive to get a hold of anime if you don't have an otaku friend handy. The reason I don't watch a whole lot of anime today is, simply put, I just don't have the money to afford an otaku friend.

My first exposures to anime were almost certainly Speed Racer and Sailor Moon, long before I had any idea that Americans weren't the only ones who drew cartoons. I liked them well enough, but not as anything more than something to watch when there was nothing else on.

That's how things remained until college, the formative time of my life where tens of thousands of dollars were spent on giving me an education in all the fandoms I had been missing out on up to that point.

Seriously, I could have gotten a degree in Dungeons & Dragons.

Alright, so of course I did more than just play videogames and DM and watch anime (seriously, Mom and Dad), but college was great because of the geek organizations I was able to be a part of; specifically, in this case, an Anime Society (because "Anime Club" implies far more dancing and karaoke than was actually a part of our nightlife).

As any good anime organization should, twice a week the Anime Society took over one of the smaller campus auditoriums and played about five consecutive episodes of an anime series on the big projector screen there. Eventually I found it was easier for me to watch anime on my own time than try to work my busy schedule around the weekly meetings, but while I was an active member, I got to see a decent variety of anime, and I discovered a previously unrealized fandom.

Heck, a few of my friends started doing anime showings of their own, and the school library had a pretty beefy library of anime titles, so I had more than enough opportunities to get my fix.

As for post-college? Fuhgeddaboudit. With only my girlfriend's modest collection of not-usually-up-my-alley anime, the two series I actually plunked down money on at Otakon (specifically, Neon Genesis Evangelion and Panda-Z), a handful of Lupin III DVDs for cheap from the bargain bin at FYE, and a fairly recent gift of the first season of Black Lagoon to keep me going, I haven't been watching nearly as much anime as I used to.

That's alright, though; as a casual anime fan, it's been enough for me to get my fix, and not constantly having an anime series going helps me to focus on other fandom-related endeavors. Such as sleeping.

Hey, if I can be a fan of sleeping on Facebook, then it's a legitimate fandom, right?

I suppose the entire point of this journal entry that I'm trying to pass off as a blog post is that, although I'm an anime fan, there's not a whole lot of anime-related material on this blog because everything I'd like to write about I watched too many years ago to remember fully, and most of the things I've watched recently either aren't things I care to write about, or else I'm not a big enough fan to do a post that'll do the anime justice.

Because you know, as soon as I write about any anime I'm not a diehard fan of, a diehard fan will swoop in and lay the smack down about how I don't really understand the anime and how I totally failed to mention its sequel and the movie and the line of fully poseable action figures and the mail-order glow-in-the-dark spoon set. This will happen. But, hey, at least it'll get people commenting on the blog, so maybe I'll risk it one of these days and write about, oh, Evangelion. It'll be like explaining quantum physics with sock puppets.

[Images from Volunteering to be my otaku friend counts as community service, so be sure to ask your parole officer about it.]

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Perils of Comic Book Decadence

So, today's post was supposed to be called, "An Exfanding Guide to Organizing Your Collection," but as you'll see...I am in no position to give anyone advice on anything relating to such a topic.

What I wanted to do was spend a nice, quiet Sunday putting my own (unwieldy) comics collection into some kind of sensible order, and make it easy to extract specific issues without much hassle. Then, I figured I'd write about the experience and use my expert's knowledge on the matter to Exfand the Horizons of our legions (editor's note: he means "dozens") of fans.

To do this, I went to Ye Olde Comics Shoppe and bought several short boxes and even some protective bags and boards. And, yes, I know I've said in the past that I wanted to do away with bags and boards completely, but I figured, a nice, organized collection would be...well...nice and organized.

And that would be the polar opposite of what my collection usually looks like--namely, a post-Skrull battle splash page from Marvel's Secret Invasion mini-series.

And that, I thought, would be a nice change of pace.

Well, all I can really say is, now, after "organizing" my collection, I have once and for all, finally and utterly sworn off of (and at--oh, how I've sworn at) bags and boards. And boxes. And "organizing" things, in general.

And I am going to buy trade paperbacks, from now on--that is, if I don't just stop reading comics for good.

Exaggeration aside, my attempts at organizing my books did not go well, in the classical sense of the word. I did, however, realize a few things. First, I have way too many comics. And, more than that, I have way too many comics that I will never pick up to re-read.

Now, I've noticed that many of these books were purchased three years ago and earlier, and for the most part, my recent buying habits have yielded many more "good" books. And by "good" I mean books that I'd like to read again at some point. The most obvious cases of buying books that I will simply never return to can be summed up in a single sentence--in those instances, I bought into the hype.

What I mean is, if there was a line-wide crossover "event," I ended up buying pretty much everything, line-wide. And even though I don't want to pick on one company over another, I'm going to use DC as my example for today. See, I bought everything (every, single thing) that DC put out leading up to and after Geoff Johns' Infinite Crisis series came out.

I was buying all of the Crisis tie-ins, and then I bought every single first and second issue of the "One Year Later" titles. I was buying books that I had never before read, such as Hawkgirl and Nightwing and Aquaman and a book about space wars on Thanagar, despite my unrelenting fear and/or hatred of space and...well, you get the idea.

And I did this, according to the multitude of issues scattered about my home, for the better part of two years. Two. Years. And, today, you know what DCU books I read every month? Batman. And just recently, JLA.

Now, that's not to say the comics DC was putting out weren't good--they just weren't books that I had any interest in. I mean, I have no interest in many of the characters featured in the "One Year Later" books today, and I'm 100% sure I didn't have much interest in them three or four years ago.

And yet, I still bought them, mostly because the comics magazines said to buy them, and because the Internet said they'd be "hot" because of the little "One Year Later" heading on the cover. And I put them in nice little bags to protect them as the future investment they surely would be. And today?

Well, today they got recycled--either literally put into a blue recycling bin, or stacked in a brown box ready to be given to my LCS for their back issue bins.

So, while my plan was to learn a thing or two about organizing a comics collection, instead I learned a thing or two about buying comics. And I realized that (thankfully) I've been much, much better these past couple of years with buying only what I like, or what I think I'll like, and I'm so happy I have ventured further out into the world of indie comics.

Don't get me wrong, I still loves me some good super hero comics (just check out any Waiting for Wednesday post, and you can clearly see that) but now I don't buy into the Internet hype, or the Wizard hype, or the publisher-generated hype. If I like the book, I buy the book.

And that's it.

Now, that revelation did not help clean up the stacks and stacks of comics that were slowly becoming hazardous (both in the sense that they presented a problem because they are made of paper, which is flammable of course, and in the sense that they were starting to physically overtake one room in my home to the point that emerging without losing one's sanity was starting to be a problem).

But, after I waded through some of the "gems" of my collection, including books that were cancelled at issue two, and others that have long since outlived realized that I really didn't care how they are to be stored, as long as they are in boxes in a closet and as long as it wouldn't take me an entire Sunday to achieve this. I'd keep only the books I could see returning to, and get rid of everything else.

So, now I have a few boxes that I'll bring down to my LCS to give away as filler, and some I can give to the library, and some that will be much better served as recycled paper. Who knows, maybe they'll be recycled into better comics.

And, with those important objectives in mind, "organizing" things became very, very easy.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Holy Coherent Storytelling, Batman!...I Think

A couple of warnings before I launch into this weekend's post.

First, just so you're all aware, today's venture into the world of comics might take a hard left turn at one point into the Kingdom of Rant, so please don't think any less of me when it's all over. And second, there are spoilers throughout concerning DC's event comic, Batman: RIP.

Now, granted, the story wrapped up a few months back, and the hardcover collection has been available on stands for quite some time now, but I figure better safe than sorry, right? So, if you haven't yet read the book and you plan to, I'd recommend skipping this post.

Oh, and here's a third caveat.

That second warning? About spoilers and things? Yeah, that's probably not actually true. See, this post is going to be what I think RIP was about, and my interpretation of the book might very well's say...completely not right, or even close to what (writer) Grant Morrison and (artist) Tony Daniel were going for.

So, while there will be (very) basic plot spoilers, there's also the (very) real possibility that, if you read this post and then go read the book, you'll see that the things I "spoil" the book.


So now that I've scared away a good portion of our readership, that just leaves me and you to discuss the...curiosities...of Morrison's story. So, let's get to it, shall we?

Now, I've talked about my problems with stories weighted down in years of continuity before on this blog, but it bears repeating since this post will focus quite a bit on the issue. Obviously, continuity pertains mostly to the Big Two publishers, namely Marvel and DC, since they have years and years of books and characters and stories. And each book and character has years and years of history and stories and friends and lovers and, well you get the idea.

And that's great, and it's obviously a big part of what makes reading comics so much fun--the medium is designed to tell a never-ending string of stories with characters who don't age. Or, if and when they do, it happens very slowly.

Like, Bart and Lisa slowly.

As I've said, I started reading comics about six years back, so I'm just not familiar with many ancillary characters, even those that appear in major titles such as Batman or The Avengers. And I guess because of this, I have a very firm belief that, while continuity is fun and all, stories should never be restricted by continuity.

If you have a great story to tell about Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson, then by all means tell the story, even if current events do not recognize MJ and Peter's marriage anymore. And you can tell that story "out of continuity," as a separate mini-series or something (like Loeb and Sale's Batman: The Long Halloween, for example).

Conversely, I also feel that continuity can be fun--as long as knowledge (or lack thereof) of previous events in a character's life doesn't act as a hindrance to reading and understanding a book that's currently being printed. Shout outs to previous runs on titles are always kinda cool, as long as the writer doesn't go overboard.

But it's when, for example, you need to know 20-plus years of X-Men continuity just to have a clue as to who the heck the characters talking and punching things are that I draw the line.

(Alex pauses to take a breather)

(Okay, he's back)

With that lengthy (and don't you dare forget crazy) preamble out of the way, let's get on to RIP, then.After reading the first part of the story in the comic as it came out, I began a mantra that I would repeat often during the course of the event:

"It will read better in trade. It will read better in trade."

And yet, there I was each month, buying issue after issue of RIP, hoping that things would get better. And as all get-out. And each month, I'd read the book and go, "Um...I'm confused as all get-out."

But I stuck with things, and held fast to the notion that this story in particular is one that will read better once it's collected. So I read the arc until its completion and pretended to be hip enough to understand and get Grant Morrison's trippy story that called forth decades-spanning continuity knowledge.

There were several, "um...what just happened?" moments along the way and I have to say, I had a hard time figuring out what in the heck was going on as the books shipped. This led to my getting kinda disappointed by the story. But, like any good, Crazy Comics Person would do, I bought the Deluxe Edition Hardcover about a month after the final issue wrapped to re-read and try to figure things out.

Before I jumped back into the story, though, I wanted to forget as much of what I had previously read as was possible (this came pretty easily, actually). So I let the book sit on my shelf, still in the cellophane wrap from the comics shop, for another couple of weeks before finally breaking the seal and cracking it open.

I also decided to read the trade in two sittings--half and half. That way, I could stay on top of plot twists and references to earlier issues. This helped immensely. But, the thing that really made my most recent reading such a different, and dare I say, utterly enjoyable experience, was that I read a quote from Morrison in the latest issue of Wizard Magazine.

In the article, which serves as a director's commentary-type look at the mini-series, Morrison clears up a few things that had me at a loss. The most important of which being the villains in the series are not a group of old and forgotten Bat-foes, but new characters created by Morrison.

When I first read the story, I thought they were already existing entities, and as such, "true" Bat-fans would immediately recognize them. Apparently, no. So right away I felt a bit better about my lack of Batman continuity knowledge. And for whatever reason, this took away that feeling (though it was misplaced) of being lost from the beginning and it helped me as I continued through the book.Reading Morrison's commentary about each issue after reading each issue also helped, and I found myself starting to agree with something the writer kept repeating in the interview.

Stories don't have to answer all of the questions that they generate.

Especially a story such as RIP, that puts the reader into the "mind frame" of a main character who has, apparently, gone insane. In RIP, we witness (through his eyes) the tearing down of the previously unshakable mental resolve of Batman. We see what happens when a group of villains--a group of villains who not even Batman knew existed, let alone the reader--finds a way to break Bruce Wayne's mind.

And we get to see how Bruce Wayne/Batman deals with such an attack.

And, while the great Mystery of the story was always "who is the masked man that concocted such a diabolical plot?" maybe it's not the most important aspect of the story. I mean, we're reading the book through the (broken) prism of a man gone crazy. So any plot holes or misdirection...kind of make sense within the framework of this particular story.

Now I think this is something that can be misconstrued as a case of, "just because the writer knew what he was doing does not excuse poor writing." And that's the thing. Say whatever you will about Morrison and RIP, but you cannot say that it was a case of poor writing.

Confusing at times? Sure.

But what I really came to love about Morrison's take on the character is the notion that the different eras of Batman stories all represent a small span of time in Batman's life, and even the most bizarre stories have a sort of place in the character's past.

And, since this is a story about a man losing his mind, and being confused by/with memories of events that he may or may not have actually experienced...well, Morrison's take on continuity makes sense.

And this is where I stand on RIP--I think it makes quite a bit more sense than anyone is willing to give Morrison credit for. While things aren't resolved completely, and plot threads still dangle at the conclusion of the story, Morrison is coming back to the Batman books later this year. Which brings this (incredibly long-winded) rant full circle:

The medium is designed to tell a never-ending string of stories, remember?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Zophar's Domain: One-stop shopping for (most of) your emulation needs

Wanna play the original Mega Man on your computer? Or perhaps you'd like to listen to the music from Sonic the Hedgehog any time you please? Maybe you'd like to play a much harder version of Chrono Trigger? Perhaps you'd like to create your own version of Pokémon Red? Could it be that you can't beat Rampart and just wanna skip to the end? Or how about playing Bubble Bobble on your digital camera?

If none of these sounded interesting at all, you've probably mistaken us for some other blog. BUT! If any of these piqued your interest, check out Zophar's Domain.

Zophar's Domain is a great video game resource that belongs right up there with GameFAQs, VGMaps, and replacementdocs: you can find emulators for over a dozen different platforms, programs to hack and edit video game ROMs, game music and a variety of ways to listen to it, savestates, cheats, English translations of games only released in Japan, movies of people running through different games... just about anything you could need, except for the ROMs themselves, which you'll need to poke around for on the Internet; the legality surrounding the use and distribution of ROMs has always been a touchy subject, so Zophar's Domain plays it safe and only offers ROMs that are public domain.

'Nuff said. Take a look at Zophar's Domain; bonus points to anybody who can locate my lone contribution to the site (I'll be listed as Flashman85).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Fluxx: Don't like the rules? Wait a minute; they'll change.

Fluxx, by Looney Labs, is a quirky little card game for 2-6 players that is rather difficult to describe because (a) no two games are ever the same; and (2) there are so many different versions.

The rules constantly change over the course of a game of Fluxx, which could last as long as 30 minutes or as few as 2--you're just as likely to win by strategy as you are by dumb luck, and the incredibly random nature of the game means that you could win the game at any moment and not even realize it.

Fluxx starts out with barely any rules at all: On your turn, you may draw one card and play one card. Simple. Boring. But not for long.

As soon as people start putting cards into play, the rules and victory conditions are subject to change at the drop of a hat (or, rather, the drop of a card). All of a sudden, you might be able to draw two cards on your turn, do a one-time hand swap with another player (exchanging cards, not appendages), or establish that all a player needs to do to win is make chocolate milk.

Huh? Chocolate... milk? I'm confused.

Allow me to explain: In addition to New Rule cards, Action cards (such as swapping hands with another player), and Goal cards that determine what you must do in order to win, there are Keeper cards that depict random objects and concepts such as Love, Bread, Time, Money, Dreams, Death, Cookies, Chocolate, and Milk.

See where I'm going with this? Keeper cards are essential to victory: the Chocolate Milk Goal card says that if you have both the Chocolate Keeper card and the Milk Keeper card in play, then you win!

Of course, that goal could change at any moment. Next turn, it could be decided that All You Need Is Love. Or, someone might steal your Chocolate from you and never give it back. Or, maybe the rules will suddenly change so that you can only have one card in your hand at a time, meaning you need to dump the Milk you just drew. Or, perhaps you'll pick up another type of card called a Creeper that prohibits you from winning while you hold it... Anything can happen!

Once you've gotten a feel for the basic game, there are many more versions of Fluxx you can try. Options include the colorful and super-kid-friendly Family Fluxx, the nature-themed EcoFluxx, the self-explanatory Zombie Fluxx and Monty Python Fluxx, and the marajuana-themed Stoner Fluxx, which I am totally not making up.

Of course, that's to say nothing about the special-offer bonus cards, such as the Time Travel Goal card that was only available at Gen Con in 2001, and the expansion packs, such as Jewish Fluxx and Christian Fluxx. If English isn't your preferred tongue or if you're looking to add a new game to your foreign language class, Fluxx is also available in Spanish, German, Dutch, and Japanese. No word yet on an Esperanto release.

As if that isn't enough, Looney Labs continues to work on new and updated editions of Fluxx--version 4.0 of the original Fluxx debuted at the end of 2008 (D&D did it; why not Fluxx?), and the sci-fi-themed Martian Fluxx is rumored to have a Fall 2009 debut date.

If you're looking for a fairly inexpensive, totally random, and utterly outrageous card game that requires no skill whatsoever to play, check out Fluxx here.

Images from and From personal experience, you either love Fluxx or you hate it, so don't blame me if your best friend doesn't talk to you for a week after you play.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Waiting for Wednesday, Issue 9

Welcome to the Very Special Earth Day Edition of Waiting for Wednesday! On today's show, we'll feature an all-new,, we won't. Hmmm...maybe we should do something for Earth Day--like a paperless edition of Waiting for! That would be a great idea.

Unfortunately, I don't really read that many Web comics. I know, I know. For shame.

But, hang on a sec--we've already covered the topic of online comics in a post from WAY back in the early days of Exfanding (last September), and you can check that out right here. A little nostalgia for all your paperless, Earth Day needs.

Anyway, on to this week's (paper-rific) Waiting for!

First up is Detective Comics, issue 853. I know what you're thinking--yeahbuhwha?! Is Alex actually endorsing a mainstream DC book? Yes. Yes, I am. And with good reason, too. This issue contains part two of Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert's highly anticipated (and, sadly, delayed by a month or two) "final" Batman story. Oh, and just as a warning, the following contains some minor spoilers.

This two-issue arc, entitled "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?" is supposed to put a nice little bow on the Batman of the Modern Age. Which is pretty cool, since that Batman...uhm..."died" a few months back. Here's DC's solicitation blurb for the issue:

This second part of Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert's special collaboration is sure to be a BATMAN story for the ages. This extraordinary tale, told as only Gaiman and Kubert can, explores the intricate relationships between Bruce Wayne and his friends and adversaries and builds toward an exciting and unexpected climax. It's a classic in the making.

Uhm...okay, well, despite DC's all-caps BATMAN and a painfully vague...uhm...let's call it a "preview"...of the story, this book is certainly worth your time and your hard-earned pocket change. Even if it's not exactly "pocket change" anymore.

I loved the first issue of this story, which saw Batman's friends and enemies line up at the Dark Knight's funeral. Now, I don't want to say much else about it, because I really think you should check this book out, if you even have a passing interest in the Batman mythos. But I will give you this much...Gorgeous Kubert cover?

And, of course, it's written by Neil Gaiman, so the story is entertaining and mysterious and thought-provoking. So, check it out, and if you missed the first issue, DC went back to press with it, so there should be plenty of copies available at your LCS.

Moving on, here's Shocker Number Two for today. The second book on my List o' Things To Buy is...wait for it...another DC book! And, it's very, very mainstream-y. Like, as mainstream as comics can get. That's right, next up we have Justice League of America, issue 32. Just look at the mainstream-y goodness of the cover:
Now, the reason I am recommending this book is mostly because of how great the previous issue of this series was. Honestly, the Justice League runs hot and cold with me--I have no burning desire to read stories concerning the entire line-up of characters, as I'm partial to Batman and...well, Batman. So, it's more about the creative team on the book that determines whether I'll pick up an issue or not.

Every once in a while, I'll buy the book if the cover looks good, or if the story seems intriguing. I read (and loved) many of the issues written by Brad Meltzer and drawn by Ed Benes a couple of years ago, but I fell off the JLA wagon after they left the book. I have read a few of the Dwayne McDuffie issues, and I'm a fan of his writing and of his work on the title. Like I said, though, a JLA issue just has to grab me before I'll take a chance on it.

That said, I bought last month's issue number 31 mostly because of the cover art. Here it is:
I just find that image to be flat-out striking, so I threw the book onto my pile and geared up for a good League story. When I read the issue, I was pleasantly surprised to find not only a good JLA tale, but a great one.

Writer Dwayne McDuffie and artist Shane Davis really delivered the goods here. Last issue saw the team dealing with the fallout of DC's mega-event, Final Crisis. After that mini, things just aren't the same for the Justice League, as Green Lantern has set out to start his own team, while Black Canary is still trying to run the "main" team.


As I've said, I need to go back and re-read Final Crisis to figure out what actually happened.

Still, all you'll need to know going into issue 31 is that the League is experiencing division in its ranks. And McDuffie and Davis give you everything else. Last issue had GREAT characterization and just a really interesting story about what the League will do when faced with these current challenges.

This week's issue 32 will likely be more of the same. Here's DC's blurb about it:

While the team struggles with the aftermath of dissolution, the cosmic force known as Starbreaker sets out to ravage the earth for a hidden source of unimaginable power. But with the team facing its own crisis, who will stand in his way?

Now, I don't know who Starbreaker is, but hopefully that won't matter. Also, this issue is not drawn by Shane Davis, but it's Federico Dallocchio. I'm not familiar with his work, so I look forward to checking it out, and here's hoping that JLA will be a regular monthly purchase for me from now on.

Well sir or madam, that's it for me today--just two books and neither are from Marvel...or from some indie publisher no one's ever heard of. So, from this day forth, it can never be said that I don't have love for DC!

Now on to the important question: what are you Waiting for?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Len Wein

Any true four color comics fan immediately knows the name Len Wein, and is aware of the vast contributions the writer has made to comicdom. And, even if you're not King Dork, as I am (actually, I wrested the title from Nathaniel just last week), I'd bet you know many of the characters Len Wein helped to create.

Wein is the co-creator of Wolverine, who is of course, the most popular Modern Age comic character, and one of the most popular properties of all time. He (Len Wein, not Wolverine) is also the co-creator of fellow X-Men Storm, Nightcrawler, and Colossus. Additionally, Wein is the co-creator of DC's Swamp Thing.

Pretty impressive, huh?

Oh, and he was the editor on a little indie thing that no one read, called Watchmen. Or something like that. I forget the name, as it is now pretty much lost to the annals of history...

So, by now I'm sure you're asking why I've decided to bring all this up. Well, unfortunately, Len Wein and his family suffered a pretty horrible day a couple of weeks back, when their home burned to the ground in a fire. While everyone in the family got out unharmed, their beloved dog was lost in the fire.

Wein also lost many pieces of a collection that spanned the course of his illustrious career in comics. Original art pages from the first appearance of Wolverine were engulfed by flames, along with countless copies of books Wein worked on. Now, while it will be impossible to replace everything (especially since Wein had many, many one-of-a-kind pieces and awards in his home office), it is possible to replace some things.

And Wein's friends are helping Wein's fans do just that. Head on over to the blog of comics writer Mark Evanier, where he has set up a page and a system for fans and friends to donate any and all comics Wein personally worked on to the man himself. You can get all of the necessary information right here.

If you've been reading comics for more than a year, there's a pretty good chance you have a few that are written by Mr. Wein, so take a look. And, if you find that there are a few copies of Wein books in those long boxes in the closet that you'd like to send, be sure to read Evanier's instructions about how to do so.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mega Man 3: YouTube Edition

What? No post all weekend? Well, I'm here to fix that.

...There's technically 41 minutes of weekend left according to my clock, so this totally counts.

After lots of setbacks, I am proud to finally present my video review/walkthrough/showoff video of Mega Man 3! Hear what all the critics are saying about it:

Haha, you're a really funny person, I'm going to watch all parts! --TowbexD

You can watch everything on my YouTube channel or right here in this very blog! As always, please remember to fiddle with the video quality settings for the optimal viewing experience. Enjoy!

P.S.: Like before, I played Mega Man 9's Endless Attack mode to pass the time while the videos were uploading. 592 screens, baby. Gettin' better every time.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Exfanding Review: On Writing

As promised earlier in the week, today I'd like to briefly talk about a book that has been recommended to me several times in the past but for whatever reasons, I managed to not pick up until very recently. The book is by horror icon Stephen King, and it is called On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

Before I get into my review of the book, I'd like to mention that Stephen King is the author of one of my favorite short stories--actually, it's a novella--"Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption." And, while I truly love this story (collected in King's Different Seasons) and the movie that was made, I don't love the entirety of King's bibliography. What I mean is, I guess I'm not what you'd call a die-hard.

That said, there are several of his works that I like, and that I return to every now and then, such as The Green Mile. And, more recently, I've become a fan of King's Dark Tower series.

So, it's safe to say that, while I might not be intimately familiar with his work, I have read a fair amount of King's writing. With my pretty recent discovery of the Dark Tower books, I finally decided to listen to the advice of writer friends and buy a copy of On Writing a couple of weeks ago.

And, I have to say, I am very glad I did.

Now, I have several books about writing at home, but other than a handful of the absolute necessities (Story, by McKee and Screenwriting , by Syd Field as well as The Writer's Journey, by Vogler) most of the other books about writing are sitting on a shelf, collecting dust. And I guess that's why I always approached the King book with some trepidation.

I just don't like reading about writing. I'd much rather just sit down and write. King's book opens with some autobiographical anecdotes and it's here that King shows just how competent a storyteller he is. I blew through this first bit in one sitting. The stories he tells about his youth and about the stack of rejection letters he kept in his room are entertaining and utterly appropriate to the overreaching subject matter of the book.

In the second part, King gets into the nitty-gritty, down and dirty writing advice. He often quotes from Strunk and White's The Elements of Style and, as any good editor will tell you, this is pretty much the greatest and most useful book ever written! So, the editor in me gave King major points there.

King opens this section by going over flat-out grammatical rules and continues on with story, characters, and plot. As King says repeatedly, everything stems from story--story is the thing. He covers dialogue and gives many examples of what he's talking about throughout. King even gives a "homework assignment" of sorts, and encourages readers to send him the results. This section ends with advice on finding an agent, among other incredibly practical advice for starting writers. All very interesting, all very useful.

King writes with not even a hint of pretension in his tone, something that is a far cry from the style of many other books on the subject, as many are simply caked in layer upon layer of pretentiousness. In my mind, it's King's down to Earth style that makes this book more of a conversation with someone who's been there, done that many times over, and as such, it is the single most helpful book I've read about writing.

The final section of the book--I'm about fifteen pages from the end, actually--talks about the horrific accident that nearly killed the author in the late 1990s. While out for his daily walk one day, King is struck--hard--by a large blue van. King describes the moments following the impact, and the subsequent recovery with vivid imagery and unreal clarity for someone who lived through an actual horror story.

It's moving and terrifying, and that's really all there is to say.

In conclusion (ooh, just like a book report!) I'd recommend this book to any newbie (or, like me--wannabe!) writer out there who can't stomach the textbook-like tomes about writing that glut the market. If writing is even just a time-passing hobby of yours, check this out. I think it'll be quite helpful.

And, if you're a fan of King, but have no desire to write, then pick this up for the personal anecdotes contained within.

Welp, that's all for today. Happy Friday, everyone!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Belated Tribute

Way too much geek news goes on every day to even consider reporting it all on this humble little blog, especially given our modest allotment of time in which to write. We tend not to report the super-big news that's being publicized everywhere unless it affects us personally or pertains directly to one of our favorite fandoms, so the only recognition major news often gets on this blog is in the sidebar as the Link of the Week.

That's why we've written about Nintendo's "kind code," layoffs in the publishing industry, and the deaths of Ricardo Montalban and Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, but not the Large Hadron Collider or the next Harry Potter movie or the loss of Bobby Fischer and George Carlin. Just because we don't write about them doesn't mean we don't care; sometimes we feel that other news sources have done a fine job reporting everything, and sometimes we simply can't find anything more profound to say than what others have already said.

Keeping all of that in mind, I'd like to make this post into a belated tribute to two men whom I should have recognized long ago, as I am in their debt for the countless hours of entertainment (and evasion of schoolwork) I have enjoyed, as well as the friendships I have made, as a result of their creation.

These two men are Dungeons & Dragons co-creators Gary Gygax, who passed away in March of 2008, and Dave Arneson, who passed away only a week ago. For D&D, and for helping to shape the direction of over three decades of roleplaying games, thank you, Mr. Gygax and Mr. Arneson. In remembrance and appreciation, I raise my silver chalice with lapis lazuli gems to you.

[Images from and]

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Waiting for Wednesday, Issue 8

Welcome to the eight week anniversary of Waiting for Wednesday! This is a pretty big day for us here, since--according to (very, very reliable and not at all made up by me) statistics--most inane (and self-serving!) lists of things that bloggers enjoy typically only last one or two weeks before disappearing forever into the ether.

So, yay.

Looking over my list o' comics for this week, one thing jumps right out at me--there aren't many comics on the list! Which is actually not the worst thing in the world, especially given that I spent a little too much money at my LCS this past weekend during their sale. (Buy four graphic novels at 30% off, get one free! Who could blame me? Certainly not you, Dear Reader.)

That said, there are still a couple of books (and I do mean "a couple" quite literally, as you'll see) that I think are worth mentioning here. So, as They say--on to Ye Olde List of Things to Buy Today, yeah?

First up we have an EXCELLENT book from Marvel's Icon line of comics. For those not as hip as I (and for those too lazy to click the link earlier in this paragraph), the Icon line of books is basically creator-owned material published through Marvel and written by top talent, such as Brian Bendis and J. Michael Straczynski.

This week's Icon offering, Incognito, issue three, written by crime-master Ed Brubaker with art by Mr. Noir Himself, Sean Phillips, is one of the best mainstream comics on the stands today. And, while I wish that I had mentioned this book when issue one shipped in December...well...Waiting for didn't yet exist. But, issues one and two are readily available at your LCS (issue one having gone back to press with a second printing), so catching up will be a breeze.

The basic story of the series is that a former super-villain goes into witness protection and ends up as an everyday schlub working a nine-to-five in a cubicle. Bored with his new life, the ex-baddie decides to suit up and hit the streets at night as a vigilante, taking out bad guys.

For further clarification, here's Marvel's solicit info and introduction to the series:

From the creators of Criminal and Sleeper comes the most insane and evil super-villain comic you’ve ever read!

What if you were an ex-super villain hiding out in Witness Protection...but all you could think about were the days when the rules didn’t apply to you? Could you stand the toil of an average life after years of leaving destruction in your wake? And what if you couldn’t stand it? What would you do then?

INCOGNITO--a twisted mash-up of noir and super-heroics--by best-selling creators Ed Brubaker (The Death of Captain America) and Sean Phillips(Marvel Zombies) with Val Staples on colors.

And continuing Criminal’s single issue tradition, each issue of Incognito has more pages of story content, as well as articles on pulp and noir and behind the scenes looks!

To help you locate it in stores, here's the cover to the second printing of issue one:

Now, the first two issues of this series have been great, with a well-paced story and intriguing ideas and conflicts. Issue three will likely offer more of the same, and here's Marvel's blurb for today's book:

Her name is Ava Destruction, and she's the most "live fast, die young, leave a good-looking corpse" kind of girl you've ever met. Ava, one of the Black Death's top enforcers, and a woman who's perpetually 16 on the outside, is sent into Witness Protection after our hero and while she may be pretty...what she leaves in her wake is anything but.

And here's the cover to today's issue:

Next up, I'd like to reiterate a recommendation I made back in Waiting for, issue four. After reading the first issue of Image's Lillim, I am officially on board with this series. Issue one follows Loki--a viking god--who, after killing Odin and Thor and destroying his home world, wakes up on a hospital gurney on Earth and is treated by a doctor named Bridget, who has more than a passing resemblance to Loki's former lover.

Here's Image's solicit info for this week's issue two:

As Bridget becomes familiar with Loki, the enigmatic patient who saved her life from thugs, he is haunted by visions of his cataclysmic battle with Odin and Thor and the slaughter of his family by his own hand.

Bridget pulls Loki from his past with an introduction to her world and the two find themselves drawn to each other passionately. Bliss is short-lived as Loki is awakened to the fact that his brother Odin is still alive. Loki knows that he must face his brother and prepares himself, but is forced to deal with Bridget’s past first.

The art on this book is slick, and the story is interesting and well-written. I'm looking forward to seeing where the creators (writers Shaun Lapacek and Ian Keiser and artist Matrix) take the series, and if you're a fan of myths and legends, I'd absolutely recommend checking it out. Here's the cover:

And that brings us to the conclusion of this week's Waiting for. I know, I know. Where does the time go? And, hey, even though it's a small shipping week, I will take quality over quantity every time.

That's it for me, but what are you Waiting for?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

D&D: 3.5 vs. 4e

I had the opportunity this weekend to play in a Dungeons & Dragons campaign using the newer 4th edition rules. Now, I've played a few hours' worth of 2nd edition, about a month of 3rd edition, and an unspeakable amount of version 3.5, which I know and love. Considering that all news and discussion about 3.5 came to an immediate end the day 4th edition was released (all the 3.5 book literally disappeared forever from the shelves of my local Borders that same day), I figured I would eventually have to play with the new rules to see what all the hubub was about.

Although I didn't play long enough to get a complete grasp of all the differences, I've at least played enough to say with great certainty that 4th edition is not, in fact, 3.5. Don't worry; there's plenty more insight where that came from.

So, this is for anyone who still hasn't tried out 4e, or who's never played 3.5, or who has no idea what the heck I'm talking about at all (in which case you should first check out a vintage post describing and demystifying Dungeons & Dragons, but you still might be a little lost here; sorry). Here's my take on 3.5 vs. 4e:
General Impressions

From what I can tell, Wizards of the Coast took the 3.5 rules and streamlined them by driving over them with a steamroller for 4e. Everything that was once complex has been simplified, and anything that was potentially unfair has been massively overhauled or removed altogether. There seems to be an emphasis in 4e on a more balanced and player-friendly experience that also requires less effort and rules memorization to enjoy. To borrow the sentiments of someone else, D&D 4e is to the roleplaying community what the Nintendo Wii is to the video game community.

Character Creation

D&D characters are highly customizable, and one could spend hours building the perfect gnome wizard or halfling ninja or dwarf shadowdancer and still have just as much fun as if he or she were actually playing the game--I can certainly vouch for this. While there are definite limitations on what 3.5 characters can do and be, there are enough options so that any two generic elven rangers (for example) could have almost nothing in common by the time they reach level 20; 4e seems to have taken a great deal of oomph out of the character creation process.

For starters, there are fewer character alignments to choose from. In 3.5, your character's behavior is goverened by his tendency toward good or evil and his tendency toward chaos or order. 4e simplifies this to just five categories that act more as guidelines: Good, Lawful Good, Evil, Chaotic Evil, and Unaligned. Somehow, "Batman" is still not an alignment in this edition. I'm sure there are all sorts of subtleties about 4e alignments, but right now I'm looking at them as having fewer options, so there.

Furthermore, all the customizable aspects--special attacks, feats, and magical weapons and armor--are severely limited in how they can be used in 4e. Additional rulebooks may open up more possibilities, but in the basic Player's Handbook, I lost cound of how many feats required you to be of a certain race or worship a specific deity, and how many magical effects could only be applied to a handful of specific weapons or armors. Maybe it's because I was only a level 5 fighter, but I just didn't feel as though there were many different ways I could go with my character.

I liked most of the playable races, though; the demonic-heritaged tieflings are cool (and much easier to create than the ones in 3.5), the magical and elegant eladrin are interesting but not so much my style, and I ended up playing a goliath from the Player's Handbook 2, which is a pretty good choice for a sturdy bruiser. Gnomes were demoted from playable characters to monsters, but found their way into the PHB2 for the sake of me and the four other people in the world who love gnomes.

Game Mechanics

There's a lot to say about the variations in game mechanics, so I'll try to keep things concise here and point out some of the biggest highlights.

4e appears to be far more forgiving to players, allowing them to roll saving throws more often to negate unpleasant effects such as blindness and poison, and eliminating any live-or-die dice rolls where a single botched roll means instant death.

Actually, as far as dice are concerned, there's much less rolling involved in 4e: you gain the same amount of hit points each time you level up, and all your saving throws have been transformed into a different kind of armor class where the enemy rolls to see whether or not they penetrated your Fortitude, Reflex, or Will defense.

Spells and attacks function a bit differently as well: Instead of attacking with a regular weapon most of the time and occasionally unleashing a fireball or using a special attack such as cleaving from one enemy into the next, you use your special attacks most of the time and resort to just a regular weapon attack when nothing else you can do will work.

There's also an emphasis on special powers that can only be used once per day or once per battle, so much so that it's difficult to find any abilities beyond the basic ones that are constantly active or usable all the time.

On the one hand, this has the potential to make encounters more dynamic and prevents spellcasters from becoming worthless walking tissue paper once their spells are depleted; now, they've always got something to fall back on.

The constant need for a healer and/or healing potions from 3.5 has also been addressed; each character now has "healing surges" that can be used inbetween battles to recover hit points, so your cleric can now spend her time doing something more productive, like anything other than healing you all the time.

Player's Handbook

At first I was pretty impressed with the new main sourcebook: everything seems to be located a little more logically than some things are in 3.5 (for one thing, the complete rules for fighting with one weapon in each hand are located in pieces scattered throughout the entire manual), there are a few organized and extremely helpful tables that cleared up all sorts of confusion, and the pictures are very, very pretty.

Unfortunately, I ran into two critical problems when I needed to look things up on the fly during the game session: first, the index apparently doesn't even hint at where to find such important things as status effects and what happens when you drop below 0 HP (and the handy glossary of terms is completely absent); second, many of the explanations were rather vague--by simplifying some of the explanations to avoid player confusion, they introduced more questions for people who, for example, actually care about whether or not you can attack a foe who has immobilized you and is choking you to death.


Ultimately, the things that I like about 4th edition are mostly the ones that fix problems I have with 3.5: having a healer in the party is no longer a necessity; a character can more easily use all the skills he's supposedly proficient in, even with lousy ability scores; multiple options are given for the way that certain scores and modifiers are calculated so that no ability score is universally important; and spellcasters can't run out of ammo. Still, despite my heavy monetary investment in 3.5 materials, I don't see myself ever converting to 4e.

3.5 has its flaws, but many of them can be modified and house-ruled out, such as what Pathfinder is doing. I love the customizability and mechanical complexity that 3.5 offers, and 4e is simply too streamlined and, dare I say it, player-friendly for my tastes. From what I've seen, 3.5 rewards the players who are creative, experienced, and perhaps a little bit lucky, while 4e rewards everyone equally so as not to create an uneven playing experience across the group.

Basically, 3.5 is for capitalists, and 4e is for communists. There, I've said it.

Alright, alright, that's not really how it is. At least, I haven't played 4e enough to know for sure. Wait--no; I mean, that's not really how it is. Some people will like one version better than the other, and some people still swear by 2nd edition. It's all up to personal preference, and I don't mind as long as we can still geek out about D&D together. But I'm still playing 3.5, thanks.

[Images from]

Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday Morning Stuff

As I sit here at my desk and wonder where in the world my weekend vanished to and I stare hopelessly at a stack of papers that needs to day this week...I have slowly come to a realization of great importance. And I'd like to share that realization with you now.

This blog goes a long way in keeping me sane. (Well, passably sane, anyway)

I really enjoy coming to this page and writing about the dorky things that I love, and EYH gives me a nice little escape--even if it's only for a relatively small chunk of my day--from reality and paperwork and rain and pirates kidnapping ship captains.

And I hope that you guys get a little bit of that same feeling when you come here and read one of our posts, or check out one of our links, or laugh at what unbelievably big nerds we are.

And I know that fandoms take a lot of heat from "civilians," but I have to say that comics have given me a whole heck of a lot of enjoyment in the past few years, and I am so glad that I stumbled upon that comics shop in Greenwich Village, oh, about six years ago now.

And as I write this, that pile on my desk is, somehow, growing and threatening to take over the office, and then the entire world. So I'll hurry things up a bit.

While many look at comics, or anime, or whatever fandom, as grown-ups trying in vain to recapture some of their youth, I really don't--and can't--view them as such.

I mean, I never even read a comic book until this decade, so what, exactly, would I be recapturing? I read comics for the same reasons I read books (sans pictures) and for the same reasons I go to the movies.

I want to be entertained. And I want to not think about my Friday deadline. Or the economy. Or the bills I need to pay each month. And comics, and anime, and fandom, in general, all do the same thing.

They let us escape. And I love them for that. And I think I'll always love them for that.

Now, just an aside--this post was supposed to be about the book I'm currently reading, On Writing, by Stephen King. But I felt like I needed to vent, so that's what I did instead. I'll probably post my review of the King book--which I am thoroughly enjoying--by week's end.

And before I let you escape from this post, I wanted to give you all a head's up about a great site dedicated to convention information. It's called Convention Fans, and you can (and should!) [and used to be able to] check it out right here.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

50 Things to Do This Weekend

Bored? Burned out? Sick of your routine? Here's a list of 50 things you might do this weekend to shake things up. Don't blame us if you don't like the consequences; it's your choice to do any of these things, and we take no responsibility for the consequences (unless they're happy consequences that garner us fame and fortune). Brace yourself, 'cuz here they are:

1. Go back to playing a video game you never managed to finish.

2. Buy and read the most obscure-looking comic you can find at your LCS.

3. Cook dinner. Like, with real ingredients. I.e. not Easy Mac.

4. Call up one of your relatives just for the heck of it.

5. Invent a theme song for yourself and hum it every time you go outside.

6. Draw a picture of the most awesome weapon you can think of. Bonus points for ASCII art.

7. Teach yourself a totally pointless party trick.

8. Imagine that somebody is going to make a movie about your life and write up a list of which actors you would want them to cast for all the most important roles.

9. Shave.

10. Start with reading one random Wikipedia article and keep following links until you end up at the article about Kevin Bacon. In theory, this should take no more than six clicks, but some people may never get there.

11. Pick out three words from the dictionary and find every excuse to use them as often as possible this weekend.

12. Write a computer program that tells you you're awesome.

13. Peruse our sidebar and click on one of the links you've never visited before. This includes checking out the profile of any one of our Loyal Minions (thank you, Loyal Minions, for being loyal and miniony).

14. Become one of our loyal minions and join our Facebook group.

15. Give a dollar to the first person you see after reading this post. Or a quarter, if you're cheap.

16. Read The Time Traveler's Wife. Alternately, buy a box of tissues and then read The Time Traveler's Wife.

18. Watch a movie you know and love in a different language than usual.

19. Create blueprints for your ideal home/villain's lair.

20. Listen to all the tracks of a CD you like in reverse order.

21. Check the oil and other important fluid levels in your car. If you don't have a car, check someone else's. With permission, of course.

22. Start up a blog.

23. Leave a coherent and relevant comment on any of the posts we've ever done. Coherent is key, as is relevant.

24. Spend your entire day impersonating other people when you speak, changing voices whenever you get tired of the one you're using.

25. Arrange all the silverware you own to spell out a message--but you have to use everything.

26. Attend some event happening in your community, such as a school play or a local band's performance at a nearby coffee house.

27. Using nametag stickers or whatever else strikes your fancy, create medals of achievement for yourself every time you do something remotely productive ("I took a shower!") and wear them proudly around the house.

28. Write the ugliest poem you can possibly come up with.

29. Hold a staring contest with an object of your choice.

30. Gather a group of friends for a big lightsaber battle.

31. Do a marathon of some kind--watch an entire movie trilogy back-to-back; try to play through a whole video game series in a day; read every book an author of your choice has ever written, in sequential order; etc.

32. Enter a submission for a contest or two. Or three!

33. Create something with the sole purpose of destroying it. Lego kits and SimCities come recommended. Romantic relationships are discouraged here.

34. Try out a new hobby or learn a new skill, such as gardening, sewing, or responding to e-mails in a timely fashion.

35. Whether it's from a religious service, a podcast, a news article, a conversation, or other source, pick out one meaningful message you hear this weekend and find a way to apply it to your life this week. We're not picky--"Be excellent to each other" is just fine, as is "For the love of Wesley Snipes, do your taxes already!"

36. Spend at least 15 minutes listening to a genre of music that you never listen to. Don't hesitate to do something else while you're listening.

37. Invent a joke, and tell it to somebody.

38. Keep a tally of how many times you hear anybody say the word "um," including yourself.

39. The next time you need to go somewhere, take a totally different route. (Note: Getting to the bathroom by breaking down the wall doesn't count, Hulk.)

40. Find any sort of "100 Things To Do Before You Die" list and do one that you've never done before.

41. Go online and discover the price of the single most expensive piece of geek memorabilia you can find. Calculate how long it would take you to save up enough money to buy it. Cry.

42. Figure out what happened to #17.

43. Strike up a conversation with a waitress, bus driver, cashier, bank teller, or anybody else with whom you aren't obligated to converse.

44. Without the aid of any outside help, complete a crossword puzzle/beat an adventure game/solve a Rubik's Cube/etc.

45. Make a video recording of something and put it online. Adding audio commentary couldn't hurt; all the cool people are doing it.

46. Write a letter expressing some kind of appreciation to a person or organization you appreciate. Seriously, it's amazing how much of an impact a kind letter can make, and who knows? Maybe a company will send you free stuff for being an appreciative consumer.

47. Read Watchmen. Or reread Watchmen. Or rereread Watchmen.

48. Recreate a notable historical event using a creative medium: an origami Battle of Gettysburg, or the Apollo 11 moon landing made out of pancakes and maple syrup. Okay, so maybe origami is a stretch.

49. Catch up on all of our blog posts that you've missed.

50. Accept that it's 2:52 AM and realize that you should stop blogging and go to sleep.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Comments on a Manifesto

Earlier in the week, Exfanding friend Kevin wrote a heartfelt post on his blog, Creator Owned. In the post (which, clearly, you should go read right now if you haven't already!) Kevin touches upon many issues that cut straight to the heart of what I like to call the plight of the comics writer.

You see, if you want to write comic books for a living, and you can't draw worth a nickel, then you have, what we like to call 'round these parts--a big, stupid problem on your hands. Publishers won't look at unsolicited writing samples or pitches (Marvel was the last remaining bastion of allowing this policy, but sadly, that practice came to an end in recent days) and it seems like the old adage, "you have to be published in order to get published" is, as always, appropriate.

And depressing.

But, as it does with so many other things these days, the Internet is available as the easiest, and quickest, way to get "published." The problem with Internet "publishing" (did ya notice the quotes there?) is that literally anyone can do it. I mean, look at me! I'm "publishing" this post right now.

So why the heck won't DC sign me on now as the writer of Batman?

Yes, it was rhetorical, Bucky, but thanks for all the snarky thoughts. (As an aside, my own snarky response was, "because I like to tell linear stories.")

Now, I have to admit that, while I don't agree with everything Kevin wrote, I think there's something there that cuts right to the most fundamental point of breaking into comics.

Wanting to create comics should be about making something from nothing, about writing a story and creating a world with characters that didn't exist before they manifested in your head.

And, yes, I understand (believe me, I understand!) that everyone wants to be paid for their work--here's where Kevin and I disagree, actually. I'm not in love with back-end payment deals, for many reasons, and he and I have spoken at length about the issue.

But, lemme give you a fer example by asking you to imagine the following for a moment.

Let's say an artist approaches me with an idea for a story and characters and he has all these designs and I like what he has in mind. Now let's say that the artist then says, "but Alex, I can't write worth a nickel, and I'd like you to take a shot at making this into something at least read-able by others."

Already, I can tell you, my curiosity would be piqued.

Then, the artist-who-can't-write says to me, "and Alex, I don't have very much money, but I'll give you what I can for an issue's script--let's say fifty bucks--and then we can work something out after the book is drawn, and if you and I are still on the same page with all this."

Now, let me ask you--do you read that and think, boy, the artist is taking unfair advantage of that poor writer? I don't know about you, but I'd jump at something like that. And I mean, head first through a hoop of fire, jump at it.

And I get that drawing 22 pages takes WAY longer than writing 22 pages, so if the tables were turned, let's say the writer offers $300 to the artist for the first issue, with the promise of more to come. Is that writer taking advantage of that artist?

I dunno. In my (crazy) head, I'd think not.

Anyway, sorry to go all insane on a Friday, but even if you want to punch me right now, please do read Kevin's post. It's thought-provoking and Jerry Maguire-esque.

That's it from me for today. Happy Friday, everyone!