Saturday, May 30, 2009

Month in Review: May 2009

May was the chattiest, least-Exfandingy month we've ever had, with a few of our longest posts ever. Lots of stories and reviews and not as much explanation and introduction as usual. As if to counteract the variety of April's posts, May focused heavily on comics (which is fairly standard), video games, and sci-fi. Not that this is a bad thing, but we were certainly more conversational than usual (you know, like a normal blog).

Here's where our blabbering took us:

- A summary of the incredible amount of participation I had in the May issue of GameCola, and links to all my work

- Reflections on comics, baseball, and how a fandom can improve your life

- A links post with info about X-Men Origins: Wolverine, i-Phone apps, author Peter David, and more.

- A teaser for Legends of Steel Creek, a comic set in the Old West

- Our weekly comics news feature, Waiting for Wednesday, Issues eleven, twelve, thirteen, and fourteen

- A review of X-Men Origins: Wolverine and musings on the state of modern cinema

- A review of Grailpages, a book that takes an in-depth look at original comic art

- A downright Brobdingnagian post introducing and explaining Star Trek in its many forms

- A dedicated fan's reactions to the new Star Trek movie, Part One (pre-movie) and Part Two (post-movie)

- A post that covers Alex's personal projects, the works of Robert E. Howard, and the existence of Hobbits

- Lamentations about the control scheme of Metroid Prime III: Corruption

- Food for thought about different fandoms, comparing baseball to comics

- A scattershot geek news update, including the latest scoop on the upcoming Thor movie, the restoration of Len Wein's comics collection, and Kevin Smith's Batman and Green Lantern projects

- A brief introduction to Taskbar Shuffle, a tiny utility that should have come standard with every Windows operating system

- My philosophy on why blogging is hard

- Thoughts and stories about being a crazy comics collector and the perils of Collector's Mentality

- An introduction to the Metroid series of sci-fi video games

- A moment of reflection for Memorial Day

- My review of the funny sci-fi PC adventure game Space Quest V: The Next Mutation

- Thoughts about working at something you love

- A links post covering more geek news, including a Die Hard comics series, the San Diego Comic Con, a tricky court case about the legality of owning certain kinds of artwork, and more

Friday, May 29, 2009

Odds and Ends

Some Friday morning linkage is in order, I'd say, especially after I read this over at Comic Book Resources.

A Die Hard comics series? Awesome. Chronicling John McClane's "Year One"? Awesome-er. Written by Howard Chaykin? Oh, man.

I, like many in my particular demographic, feel that the original Die Hard is one of--if not the--greatest action flicks of all time. And a comic series about the man himself? Please. I am so there. BOOM! Studios will be publishing the title, and it looks like it'll be out in stores sometime in August.

--Moving on, we have some expected news from the San Diego Comic Con. All four days of the show are completely and officially sold out. Now, while it's true that this happens every year, it's startling how early the show sold out this time around. Some sites are reporting that the Big Con sold out one week before the event last year.

Recession? What recession?

Anyway, I will one summer make the trek out to the Motherland. Just not this summer. And probably not next summer. Or the one after that.

--Next, I found this while scouring the Internet, not doing work. It's a bit of a tricky situation, and I'm sure most comics fans are aware of it. [Nathaniel's note: It's news pertaining to a court case concerning "obscene visual representations," in case you were wondering.] Read this, over at The Beat, then read this, over at the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. [Nathaniel's other note: No, you cant read them anymore. Those links are broken. Now you have no idea what we're talking about.]

I've followed this case, and I agree with the stance taken by the CBLDF--this is a slippery slope, and in order to protect free speech, you need to protect it in all cases. [See what I mean?]

--Today is the start of BookExpo America. Yours Truly will (hopefully) be there, peddling his wares. (More on that Monday.)

--And, finally today, a reminder about the Josh Medors original art auction, which ends today. As mentioned previously on this blog, comic artist Josh Medors is battling a terminal form of cancer, and is seeking alternative treatment methods. The benefits from this auction will go towards helping Mr. Medors out on that front.

You can check the auction out right here. Some amazing artists have provided art for the auction, and prices range from very high to unbelievably reasonable.

That's all for today. Happy Friday, everyone, and enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"Comes a Time, When You're Drifting..."

I can't tell you how many times, since I graduated from college a few years ago, that someone has come up to me with a pat on the shoulder, a smile on his or her face, and said, "Do what you love." For a living, that is. Good advice, right? Well, sure, until you actually enter into the real world and you find that it's not all pixie dust and Splash Mountain.

Still, "do what you love" is the kind of thing that I look at as a goal in life, more than real, practical advice for a working professional. I mean, think about the one thing in life that you love to do more than anything else.

And then think about that thing being your job. Your profession. The thing what pays them bills.

And that's pretty cool, and nice, and whatever, but (at least for me, at this moment in my life) it's pretty much a pastoral poem, if you know what I mean. It's idyllic and wonderful and it's...well, it's just a long ways off, is all.

And I guess that's fine and I can deal with it for now, but only if every day (Every. Single. Day.) I keep in mind that there's Something Else in the distance. There's a publishing house with my name on it, or a comic book with my name on it, or well, anything besides a police report, with my name on it.

That keeps me going, it really does. With this economy, everything's pretty scary right now. And I know it's (finally) showing signs of turning a corner, but I dunno about you, I haven't seen anything even resembling something better at this point.

Having said that, a few months ago I decided to start a business. Yep, I am a small business owner in America. The company is incorporated, and everything! And truth be told, getting it that way was pretty easy. The planning and organizing and putting the business model into practice...yeah, that's been the tough part. But, slowly and steadily, the company has launched, and we have actual, real life clients.

And we're always looking for more, we're always pushing to get our name out there, we're always looking to keep moving forward.

Which is why my posts lately may seem a bit scatter-brained. In addition to my regular job, this new company is keeping me up and about at all hours. I don't have much time to do the things I really enjoy doing, such as talk to friends, or go out ("go out" as in doing something other than a company function, that is), or even reading as much as I'd like to.

When the day job's done, the second job begins, and it lasts until I fall asleep. I get phone calls that last for hours--sometimes right smack in the middle of the day, sometimes right when I'm about to go to bed for the night. Weekends are the same way. Always promoting, always working, always trying to get ahead.

Actually, my one saving grace during the week is that hour-long visit to my LCS, where I really do just disappear into the funny books.

And that's fine. I'm one of those people who has to keep doing stuff because I get bored so incredibly quickly.

But the point I'm trying to make is, this new company is a step towards doing what I love. This new company involves something I love, but it's not comics. And for this moment, for right now, I think that's OK. Because I'm learning how to do things I never even knew had to be done.

And that can only help me when it comes time to open that publishing house down the road.

But for now, I will happily toil on (and try not to go bankrupt in the process).

(Oh, and bonus points for anyone who gets where the title of this post comes from.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Waiting for Wednes--er--Thursday!

So, every now and again a national holiday pops up on a Monday, and Diamond's shipping schedule gets adjusted, and new comics ship later than usual. With this past weekend's Memorial Day holiday, that's exactly what's up, and it's why if you walk into your comics shop today, there will be no new comics.

And you'll probably get laughed at.

New books will be on store shelves tomorrow (Thursday), but since I like tradition, I figured I'd go ahead and do a Waiting for today. It's a pretty heavy week, what with it being the end of the month and all, so be prepared to spend some dough tomorrow.

Here's what I'll be buying:

First up we have a book that I'm pretty stoked about. Do the kids still say "stoked"? Anyone know? Anyway, the book is called Spider-Man: The Short Halloween, and it's written by comedians Bill Hader (Saturday Night Live, Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and Seth Meyers (SNL)!

Hader and Myers are both unabashed comic book fans (Hader claims he can do a dead-on Neil Gaiman impersonation) and I really can't think of a better character for these two comedians to write. On art chores is the great Kevin Maguire, whose ability to draw facial expressions is unmatched in comics.

I think this is a great team, and from all accounts, this book should be hilarious. Here's the cover:

Spider-Man: The Short Halloween coverAnd here's the blurb from Marvel:

Two stars of Saturday Night Live make their Marvel debut with an all-new story set right on the bustling, hot dog juice covered streets of New York City. Halloween is coming early this year as Spidey is knocked out during the Greenwich Village costume parade and an intoxicated reveler in a Spidey costume takes his place.

Really, we don’t want to say more than that. Trust us, with comic book legend Kevin Maguire (JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL) along for the ride, this’ll be more exciting than putting a president on a comic book cover!

As all of us big dorks know, the title is a play on Jeph Loeb and Time Sale's famous Batman story, The Long Halloween. Now, beyond that, I don't know much about the project. But I'm a fan of Hader and Meyers, and certainly Maguire, so this is a must buy for me.

Next up, we have another one of those books that I've talked about in the past but feel compelled to mention the title again. Simply because it's just that good a book. Tomorrow sees issue 11 of Vertigo's classic-in-the-making Madame Xanadu series, written by Matt Wagner.

For fans of books like Neil Gaiman's Sandman, Madame Xanadu is must-read comics goodness. And, as a special bonus, this month's issue is drawn by legendary artist Michael William Kaluta! Here's the cover:

Madame Xanadu coverAnd here's the solicit info for the issue:

Master illustrator Michael Wm. Kaluta jumps onboard for a 5-issue story with the seductive sorceress he first brought to life 30 years ago. Kaluta joins series scribe Matt Wagner to weave a mystery that jumps between the Spanish Inquisition and 1940s New York City.

Long-buried secrets come back to life as Madame Xanadu investigates a murder 500 years in the making. Featuring colors by Eisner Award-winner Dave Stewart.

If you're a fan of fantasy or magic, or history, this book should be atop your reading pile. It's a centuries-spanning tale that jumps from important historical event to important historical event, and it's just a flat-out well-written and beautifully drawn comic book. Go! Buy!

Finally, we have two recommendations in one! First, we have the long-delayed, and highly-anticipated, conclusion to David Petersen's epic Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 mini-series. The second volume of Petersen's Mouse books, Winter delivers another beautifully drawn, satisfying read that mixes high action with deep emotional responses.

Here's the cover:

Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 coverAnd here's the solicit blurb:

With the food and medicine shortage still unresolved, hares and riders depart from Lockhaven, but not to redistribute food throughout the territories; instead they ride on a desperate search and rescue mission for Celanawe and Lieam, still unaccounted-for.

A dramatic climax as this final chapter of Winter 1152 sees the mice honoring the death of one of their own.

Now, this is the final issue of the mini, and if you haven't read any of the previous issues, I'd wait for the trade. Further, if you haven't read Petersen's award-winning first volume, entitled Mouse Guard: Fall 1152, I suggest you run out (right now!) and buy it. Seriously, it's that good.

And, if you don't believe me, check out the cover of the trade:

Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 coverAnd here's a balanced Publisher's Weekly review of the series:

Here's a distinct comic book image: mice with capes and swords defending themselves against their predators as if they were the Knights of the Round Table. It's a gimmick, but one that Petersen plays completely straight. His art is a perfect mix of the realistic and the fantastic: the mice and other animals always look realistic no matter how adventurous the situations get, including facing snakes and crabs in the first two chapters.

Petersen doesn't let things get overly cute, either. These mice are fierce, dedicated fighters, and the violence their job entails is not forgotten. While the book always looks good, the story is pretty thin. The action is never boring but in the beginning it never moves the plot forward. Soon a plot about a traitor in the guard kicks in, leading to some exciting moments covered too briefly, and the character development is thin as well.

Luckily, the art makes up for the storytelling shortcomings—Petersen's character designs are enormously appealing, and the book is hard to put down for that reason. The story is suitable for all ages, and kids in particular should enjoy this adventure.

And, while I don't agree with the entirety of that review, I do heartily recommend this series as a great way to get younger readers into comics. It's more violent than, say, Jeff Smith's Bone series, so be careful on that front, but if you have kids in the family, do yourself a favor and check this book out.

I have the first volume in hardcover, and with the incredibly long delays (due to problems with the publisher) on this current series, I will be picking up the Winter trade when it ships. Check it out--I think you'll enjoy it.

And that's all I've got today. How 'bout you--what are you Waiting for?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Review: Space Quest V: The Next Mutation

Space Quest V screenshot: Kiz Urazgubi log bridgeAfter a long absence, I've resumed my mission to provide a detailed review of any game I've played that doesn't have enough review coverage on This time I'm continuing with my coverage of the Space Quest series of humorous sci-fi adventure games; in case you missed them, you can read my introduction to Space Quest, and you can read all my GameFAQs reviews, including the ones of the various Space Quest games.

Anywidget, without further ado, I present to you my review of Space Quest V: The Next Mutation. Go read it!

Space Quest V screenshot: WD-40 threatens the Eureka

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

World's Finest Comics #5 patriotic cover"Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of free and undivided republic."
-- General John Logan, General Order No. 11, 5 May 1868

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Metroid: Platforming, Puzzles, Powerups, and Pirates

Metroid NES title screenEerie caverns. Grotesque monsters. Secrets around every corner. Tricky jumping puzzles. Laser beams. Futuristic suits of armor. Space Pirates. A girl in a bikini.

Welcome to Metroid.

Metroid artToday, Metroid is known as one of Nintendo's most popular and successful video game series, spanning several different systems and appearing in both 2-D and 3-D format. The games' hero, the bounty hunter Samus Aran, is renowned as one of the strongest (and, for a time, one of the only) female protagonists in video game history. Even gamers who have never played a Metroid game are likely to identify iconic enemies such as Ridley the space dragon, the cranium-in-a-tank known as Mother Brain, and the jellyfish-esque, energy-sucking Metroids themselves.

Back in 1986, however, Metroid was but a single game, an action-packed 2-D platformer shrouded in mystery. Nobody knew what a Metroid was until one was clamped onto their face, and legions of gamers gasped in surprise at the end of the game when it was revealed that the hero they had been playing as was not actually a tough cyborg, but a woman in a space suit.

Metroid NES endingOf course, not everybody discovered this on their first time through the game. The Metroid games hold many secrets, and a hallmark of every game is the existence of multiple endings; which one you see depends on your performance.

In the 2-D Metroid games, you see progressively better endings as you beat the game in shorter amounts of time. In this case, "progressively better" equates out to "Samus wears less clothing." Because loading times are a factor in the 3-D Metroid games that can throw off speedrunning, the ending you receive is instead determined by the percentage of item pickups you collected throughout the game. The Metroid series is rife with hidden and hard-to-get-to powerups, and in fact the later 2-D games consider both completion time and item collection when determining which ending you get to see.

Screw Attack artAmong these powerups are an ice beam that can freeze an enemy solid, the ability to morph into a ball (fittingly, the "Morph Ball") and roll into narrow spaces you couldn't otherwise fit into, an x-ray visor that lets you see through walls, power bombs that can blast right through certain floors, a suit that allows you to survive in even the hottest temperatures, a missile laucher that can lock onto multiple targets at once, a grapple beam that allows you grab onto some kinds of objects and swing across long gaps, and the Screw Attack, which lets you spin-jump into enemies and tear them apart like a buzzsaw.

Despite being around as long as Mega Man, Metroid has not been nearly as prolific... but, perhaps as a result, the relatively few games that have been released are generally of good quality, if not spectacular quality. Here's the rundown of the Metroid games that have been released so far (fans of the Alien movie series should notice some striking similarities with the first few games, and I assure you it's no coincidence):

2-D Sidescrolling Games:

Metroid (NES, 1987): Space pirates have captured a number of newly discovered (and highly dangerous) creatures called "Metroids" and are planning to use them in a scheme to conquer the galaxy. Samus plumbs the depths of the planet Zebes on a mission to eliminate the Metroids and defeat the powerful Space Pirates Kraid, Ridley, and Mother Brain.

Metroid (NES) screenshot: Battle with Mother BrainThis is easily one of the most challenging Metroid games thanks to the confusing labyrinth of nearly identical tunnels and vertical shafts, and the game's unforgiving nature doesn't help matters (collecting enough powerups to return to full health is both overly hazardous and interminable). The graphics may not be much to look at by today's standards, but they and the music create the perfect atmosphere, and the game as a whole sets the tone and the precedents for the entire series.

Metroid II: Return of Samus (GB, 1991): Samus is sent to the Metroids' home planet, SR-388, to eradicate the threat of Metroids once and for all. There she encounters never-before-seen breeds of Metroids and the Metroid queen. Samus slays every last Metroid except for one, a hatchling that she takes back to be studied by the Galactic Federation that sent her on this mission.

Metroid II screenshot: Item RoomIt may not be the most diverse Metroid game ever, but with the minimalistic soundtrack, sudden Metroid attacks, and some very large, ominously empty areas, Metroid II has "sci-fi survival horror" written all over it, and that's a very good thing.

Super Metroid (SNES, 1995): Shortly after the baby Metroid is handed over for scientific study, it is stolen by the resurrected Space Pirate Ridley. Samus returns to Zebes to search for the infant, facing off against a host of new enemies and a few familiar foes from her past.

Super Metroid screenshot: First battle with RidleySuper Metroid is widely considered to be the greatest game in the Metroid series, and many consider it to be the greatest game ever made (or, at least, the greatest game ever to grace the SNES). The game oozes atmosphere: the detailed graphics push the limits of the SNES, the soundtrack is incredibly tense, creepy, and heroic in all the right places, and the abilities Samus gains and the challenges she faces are thoroughly fun.

Metroid Fusion (GBA, 2002): After the events of Super Metroid, Samus returns to SR-388 to assist with a scientific expedition, but she becomes infected by something called an "X" parasite, which can copy the form of its host. Samus soon discovers that the research station orbiting SR-388 has been overrun by the X, and it is her job to stop the X from spreading beyond the station, which might not be so bad... except an intelligent copy of her is on the loose inside the station as well, and it will do everything in its power to stop the real Samus from succeeding.

Metroid Fusion screenshot: Climbing over electrified waterMetroid Fusion is more linear and plot-driven than any other 2-D Metroid game, which has its ups and downs. Fusion is a very solid game with a lot of creativity and some extremely tense moments, but the truth is that Super Metroid is a very, very hard act to follow.

Metroid: Zero Mission (GBA, 2004): This is a retelling of the original Metroid that incorporates many of the abilities and powerups introduced in the later games and adds several new sections and more plot (and, of course, the graphics and music have been modernized). Though several of the areas are the same as in the original, enough has been changed so that Metroid and Metroid: Zero Mission are two totally different gaming experiences.

Metroid: Zero Mission screenshot: Battle with Kraid

3-D First-Person Games:

Metroid Prime (GC, 2002):
Taking place between Metroid and Metroid II, this game sends Samus on a mission to track down resurrected Space Pirate Ridley (are you sensing a pattern here yet?) and discover what nefarious operations the Space Pirates have in the works on planet Tallon IV. Of course, there are Metroids involved, but a radioactive substance, "Phazon," comes into play as well. As it turns out, bad guys get bigger and badder when exposed to Phazon...

Metroid Prime screenshot: Derelict space station hallwayAlthough not all fans of the 2-D Metroid games enjoy or are able to comfortably play the 3-D Metroid Prime series, Metroid Prime is about the best 2-D-to-3-D transition one could hope for. The feel of the game might not be as dark and creepy as some of the other games, but, comfortingly, there are plenty of hidden items and classic powerups and huge boss battles, the attention to detail is great (for example, water runs down Samus' visor after jumping out of a lake, and her blaster starts smoking after being fired too much), and the music is the right balance of atmospheric and energetic.

Metroid Prime Hunters (DS, 2006): Taking place between Metroid Prime 1 and 2, Samus races against six other bounty hunters to discover the secret of "Ultimate Power" hidden in the Alimbic Cluster, a place where a great evil has been sealed away... Samus uses her ship to travel to different locations within the Alimbic Cluster and frequently runs into the other bounty hunters, who she must defeat in order to secure this "Ultimate Power" for the Galactic Federation.

Metroid Prime Hunters multiplayer screenshotHunters has been described as a "love-it-or-hate-it" kind of game. Given that Hunters is a first-person shooter on a portable system without a mouse or joystick, aiming is performed using the stylus on the touch screen (unless you can aim well enough using the control pad to avoid the stylus, which seems unlikely), and many gamers (such as myself) find this to be highly uncomfortable. Others, however, have praised the precision of the control, so you'll just need to see for yourself how you'll fare.

The primary focus of Hunters is really its multiplayer mode, which allows you to play as Samus and her six rival bounty hunters with their unique abilities. Multiplayer mode is generally looked upon quite favorably, but feelings about single player aren't as positive: level designs and boss battles are often repetitious, and--unlike in virtually any other Metroid game--there are multiple locations where you can die instantly. Once again, either you'll love it or hate it.

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (GC, 2004): Following the events of the original Metroid Prime, Samus is now dispatched to the planet Aether, which has been split into a "Light World" and a "Dark World." Samus fights the Ing, an alien race capable of possessing creatures (as in a ghost possessing a host), and she faces off against Dark Samus, her evil doppelganger.

Metroid Prime 2 screenshot: Battle with IngConsiderably darker (both visually and conceptually) than Metroid Prime, this sequel is up there with the original Metroid as one of the most difficult games in the series. Jumping between Light Aether and Dark Aether to access new locations and find powerups can be confusing, and the very air of Dark Aether constantly chips away at your health. However, MP2 offers some of the most innovative ideas to come along in a while in a Metroid game, and it's probably the most frequently creepy Metroid game since Metroid II, though your results may vary.

MP2 also features a multiplayer mode that isn't terribly different from the single-player experience; it probably won't keep you busy for too terribly long, but it can be fun to compete against others to see who's the master of the game.

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (Wii, 2007): Planets throughout the galaxy are being overrun with Phazon, and both creatures and landscapes are becoming hostile due to Phazon corruption. Working alongside the Galactic Federation, Samus must battle the Phazon-mad Space Pirates and travel from planet to planet to stop the corruption from spreading.

Metroid Prime 3 screenshot: Samus' gunship in SkyTownMP3 takes a chance on full voice acting (the first instance of this in the series), which is surprisingly well-done (and yes, aside from a few grunts of pain, Samus remains a silent protagonist). In a way, Hunters feels like a necessary precursor to this game: the motion-sensitive Wii controls are well-executed and seem to have received far fewer complaints than the stylus for the DS, and the use of Samus' gunship to fly from planet to planet has been expanded into a more integral part of the game. There are more than a few throwbacks to previous Metroid games, as well, but also more than a few boss battles that are all too reminiscent of Metroid Prime in particular.

is a good, solid conclusion to the Prime series, but there's enough unrealized potential and a few flaws here and there that hold it back from being the incredible game it could have been.


Metroid Prime Pinball (DS, 2005): As you might guess from the title, this game features Samus in Morph Ball mode as the pinball on a series of pinball tables inspired by various locations and boss battles from the original Metroid Prime. There's a limited multiplayer mode, but the real fun of the game is found in the single-player mode, where you can ram into a giant rock monster or go bowling for Space Pirates.

Metroid Prime Pinball screenshot: Phazon Mines
Metroid Dread
Perhaps you have heard rumors of a game called Metroid Dread, a nonexistent game people have been buzzing about for years. Whether it was just a rumor to begin with or an intentional hoax, Metroid Dread doesn't exist; don't worry your pretty little helmet off.

Outside of the Metroid games, Samus appears in all three Super Smash Bros. video games, and you can see cameos by both Samus and a Metroid or two in games such as Kid Icarus, Wario Land II, Super Mario RPG, and others. (There's a full list of cameos at the Metroid Database.)

Metroid has changed and evolved over the years, but at it's heart, Metroid is a game of exploration, platforming, powerups, creative boss battles, quick thinking, and quick shooting; in a way, it's a little like the sci-fi counterpart of The Legend of Zelda, but with some of the creepiest monsters and locations you can have in a game that technically isn't of the "horror" genre.

If you've missed out on Metroid, there are plenty of opportunities to play the games. The original Metroid is an unlockable bonus in Metroid Prime; it was also re-released for the GBA in 2004, and it became available on the Wii's Virtual Console in 2007, along with Super Metroid. Metroid II is still a fairly common find anywhere old Game Boy games are sold. The other games in the series are modern enough that you're likely to find at least a few of them in your local video game store. And, while there may not be any new Metroid games coming out right now, I think it's safe to say we haven't seen the last of Samus Aran.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Of First Appearances and Madness

This post might only resonate with a small portion of our readership, but for those of you who know what I'm talking about, I think it'll really strike a chord. Yes, folks, today I'd like to talk about an insidious disease that plagues our little hobby plague.

The name of the disease is Collector's Mentality, and I am ashamed to say, I was recently stricken with a particularly nasty bout of CM and it was a long, hard road to recovery. (And, just to return to reality for a moment, if there's actually some affliction out there that's referred to as CM, I apologize for making light of it here. Seriously, I apologize.)

Collector's Mentality, as some of you may know, has several (horrible) symptoms. They include: sleepless nights, strange urges to buy pieces of paper that are stapled together for no logical reason that's apparent to denizens of the "real" world, and the worst symptom, very light wallets.

Now, I do not consider myself a crazy collector. (And, yes, I am fully aware that denial is Stage One in properly diagnosing CM.) I have tons of comics, yes, and some fairly pricey (not by market standards, but by my own) original art.

But, in my defense, I'll state the following. I did just leave a box of unwanted comics at my LCS (gratis) and I've donated many books to libraries. I don't use bags and boards unless a book is over a certain amount of money (and a certain age), and I haven't bought back issues in nearly a year and a half.

Not counting my lapse into a rather nutty bought of CM earlier this week, of course.

But for the most part, I'm more concerned with trades and hardcover collections of story lines that I enjoy than I am in having all of the issues. With the original art, it's a bit different, but I've only bought three minor pieces of art since the end of last year.

All of that being said, this week I found out about a little-known, but (apparently) much-speculated upon first appearance "controversy" of a character that I love. I won't say who the character is (though steady readers will know who I'm talking about), and I won't say what the name of the "controversial" book is (mostly because there are still fans of this series that are now scrambling for this near-impossible to acquire book and I don't want to make things even harder on them).

Now, I had known that the traditionally understood "First Appearance" of this character (the first time he appeared in comics, duh!) itself was a difficult book to find. Heck, it took me nearly two years to track one down! But, I have to say, the chase for that book was all kinds of fun, as I ended up completing a full run of the other issues as I searched!

And I had also known that there were some collectors out there who had suspicions that this book was not actually the first appearance of this character. How did I know this? Well, way back during the first NYCC (I think it was four years ago), I met a (comics) dealer who had some issues that I was missing of this particular character.

And I bought a couple of books from him, and asked if he might have the first appearance book (the one that everyone knew about) back at his store. The dealer said, and I swear this is true, "I don't have that book. But I DO have the actual first appearance book."

To which I replied, "Um...what?"

"Yep," said the dealer with a nice, arrogant air about him,"But I won't tell you what the book is."

To which I replied, "But I'll buy it from you. money."

"You see," Mr. Dealer of Comics said on that day, "This book that no one but me knows about is so rare and hard to find that, once this series really takes off, this book will be worth a fortune."

"Well, what do you think it'll be worth in a couple of years? I'll happily pay fair--" I started, but was interrupted.

"No, no," said he, "There's just no telling how high the value of this book will soar, and I don't want the market knowing about it just yet."

And that was that.

Well, until about a week ago. As I mentioned, since I started on my quest for all the issues with this character, I did pretty well, managing to complete a full run--the only full run in my collection, and the only full run I'll EVER have in my collection.

Then, a week ago, the cat was let out of the bag and the name of this ultra-rare book was released. And, while it's still up for dispute as to whether this book includes the character's first appearance or not, I found myself compelled to own it.

So, I went out and made that happen.

And now I feel better. Well, other than the guilt factor, that is.

I don't want to have a Collector's Mentality--I literally can't afford to. But I guess I'll just have to face the fact that I'll always have CM when it comes to this character. It's just strange, is all. I mean, I am by no means a completest, and my "collection" of comics is so out of order and messy and...

Oh, well. At least I have the book. And I didn't spend an untold fortune to get it. Truthfully, there wasn't much fun in it this time around. No real "search" to speak of. No hopping from LCS to LCS, digging through bins. I Just hopped online, dished out a couple bucks, and the book is on its way.

And that's how it is. And now I am cured of my affliction. That is, of course, until the next hard-to-find book comes out with this character in it.


Anyway, enjoy the holiday weekend, everyone, and as always--thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Why Blogging Is Hard

Blogging is hard.

Alright, so normal people just write about things that flow easily, such as their feelings and exciting news and their reactions to whatever popular new TV show they watched last night. (Charmed? Maybe Seinfeld? ...T.J. Hooker?)

Obviously, we are not normal people.

Of course, we blog about these "normal" things from time to time, but I prefer to write posts that (to quote our mission statement from the sidebar) "introduce, explain, discuss, and demystify various hobbies and fandoms to promote an understanding between geeks and to spark an interest in the things that interest us."

...Which is why it's been so difficult to blog lately.

When it comes time for me to post these days, I don't have the focus or the energy to write a true Exfanding post that introduces a fandom and provides eye-catching pictures and possibly more researched information than I'd care to deal with. I'd much rather just sprawl out on the couch and play video games (even if I can't actually play lying down).

If you think about it, I've been in creative overdrive for the past month and a half or so: between making YouTube videos of my run through Mega Man 3, contributing an absurd amount to the May issue of GameCola, maintaining GameCola's busy YouTube channel, adding to my walkthrough for the game Jetpack on GameFAQs, writing three big posts about Star Trek, and who knows what else, I'm more than ready to let my creative battery recharge. And that's to say nothing of the job searching or volunteer work I've been doing (and the cooking and the housework and the... yes, I do other things, too).

Oh, I've still got some creative ideas up my sleeves. There's an in-depth Exfanding post I'm looking forward to for this weekend. And I've already started working on recording a run of Mega Man 4 (playing it is the easy part; it's the audio commentary that takes the most effort). But for right now, as I'm still recharging, you can probably expect a few more short, lazy, off-topic, or non-diverse (read: sci-fi and video game) posts from me in the near future.

You know what the funny part is? I think some people might actually prefer it that way. Go figure.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Waiting for Wednesday, Issue 13

Ahhh Wednesday. The best day of any week (save Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, of course). Still, Wednesdays are a little bit of Christmas wedged in between Tuesdays and Thursdays. And, oh, how I hate Tuesdays...and Thursdays, come to think of it.

Now, this Wednesday is a special one for all of us at Exfanding Your Horizons, mostly because it marks the 13 Week Anniversary of Waiting for Wednesday! 'Tis truly a momentous occasion and I will celebrate it later tonight with a feast of Chinese food from my favorite take-out place. And I will reflect on all of the good times we've had thus far.

Back to "reality," though. This week features a number of books that I'm excited about, and unfortunately, will have to pay (with money!) for in order to enjoy them. So here's what I'll be throwing my (somewhat) hard-earned pay at later this afternoon:

First up, we have a book that is near and dear to my heart. Mostly because it makes me laugh my ass off. It's the long-awaited trade paperback release of The Goon, Volume 7: A Place of Heartache and Grief!

This trade marks the first collected part of Goon Year (2008) and comprises ESSENTIAL reading for any and all Goon fans out there. Just look on ye cover, and tremble:

The Goon: A Place of Heartache and Grief coverNow, this volume is for the Goon fans out there, and I would not recommend it as a jumping-on point for new readers. The events in this story arc serve as huge pay-offs for longtime Goon readers, and as such, they absolutely deliver.

Having said that, as anyone who reads this blog on a somewhat regular basis knows, The Goon is my hands-down favorite comic book and if you haven't yet jumped aboard the bandwagon, I would urge you to do so. Start with Volume One, and see if you dig it. Everything is collected in trades, so you can get all caught up in no time.

Anyway, here's Dark Horse's solicitation info on the Volume Seven trade, shipping today:

An ancient curse spreads hatred, fear, and violence, drawing the most powerful and vile creatures to a town with only one hope for protection -- the Goon.

Even the Goon's lifelong deadly foe, the zombie priest, is running scared. But he has to remain, forced into submission by a power greater than his own, to keep an eye on Goon and his violent sidekick, Franky.

The death of one of the Goon's closest allies reveals an enemy thought long gone, returned to wreak havoc and destruction upon the Goon and those who stand by him.

There's some funny stuff, too!

Next up we have another of my favorite series currently on the market. I've mentioned this IDW series in the past on Waiting for, but it's so good that it deserves another shout-out.

Joe Hill's Locke & Key stories have been consistently atop my reading pile since he started the series about a year ago. The first mini-series (entitled Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft) is collected in a beautiful (and affordable!) hardcover and I highly recommend checking it out. This latest mini, entitled Locke & Key: Head Games, is the follow-up story arc, and it continues the high quality writing (by Hill) and art (by the sensational Gabriel Rodriguez) from the first series.

Here's IDW's blurb about this week's issue:

Checkmate: Dodge's surreal head games come to their shattering conclusion... with one troublesome player removed from the board. Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez continue the head games!

And here's the creepy cover:

Locke & Key coverNow, according to the blurb, it would appear that this is the final issue of this mini. If that is, indeed, the case, you may want to trade-wait this bad boy. If you're a fan of the series, though, expect some big pay-offs in today's book.

Next, we have an interesting title from Dynamite Entertainment. Last week, I told you about the company's Sherlock Holmes adaptation. This week, Dynamite releases the first issue of The Complete Dracula.

Here's the amazing John Cassady cover:

The Complete Dracula coverAnd here's the solicit info from the publisher:

"As the Count leaned over me and his hands touched me...a horrible feeling of nausea came over me, which, do what I would, I could not conceal."
-- Bram Stoker's

Dynamite presents an unprecedented comic book series that tells the complete story of the Lord of the Undead--Dracula! For the first time in 112 years the tale that Bram Stoker intended to tell is told (including "Dracula's Guest"!).

If you thought you knew how it began or how it ends, you were wrong! Writers John Reppion and Leah Moore are joined by painter Colton Worley for a 5 issue odyssey of life, death, and the blood that flows within us all!

This fully painted series features a massive 32 pages of story and art per issue, each page fully-painted in a rich, moody style by Worley, all under covers by modern master John Cassaday! Moore and Reppion also provide bonus material such as script pages, annotations and samplings of the original text by Bram Stoker!

Was everyone sure to note that it's 40 pages? Good. Because it was capped and everything. Anyway, any Stoker fan worth his or her weight read Dracula's Guest, the story before the story, if you will. Still, it is admirable that Dynamite will attempt to tell the whole story in graphic form, as it's something never before done.

Surely there will be some abridgment from the novel, but I am looking forward to checking out this adaptation and seeing just how close it is to the source material.

And, finally this week, we have two new book releases (like, without the pretty pictures) that will likely be of some interest to readers of this blog. First is a book that came recommended to me by Exfanding friend Gary, and it's called Was Superman A Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed. I picked this up on Monday, and I haven't yet cracked the spine, but I can tell that it's going to be a fast favorite of mine.

Here's the description from the publisher:

Was Superman a Spy? demystifies all of the interesting stories, unbelievable anecdotes, wacky rumors, and persistent myths that have piled up like priceless back issues in the seventy-plus years of the comic book industry, including:

· Elvis Presley’s trademark hairstyle was based on a comic book character (True)
· Stan Lee featured a gay character in one of Marvel’s 1960s war comics (False)
· Wolverine of the X-Men was originally meant to be an actual wolverine! (True)
· What would have been DC’s first black superhero was changed at the last moment to a white hero (True)
· A Dutch inventor was blocked from getting a patent on a process because it had been used previously in a Donald Duck comic book (True)

With many more legends resolved,
Was Superman a Spy? is a must-have for the legions of comic book fans and all seekers of “truth, justice, and the American way.”

Here's the cover:

Was Superman a Spy? coverThe next book that came out this week is called Enemies & Allies: A Novel, and it's about the first meeting of Batman and Superman. Actually, it appears that the sub-title is "The Dark Knight meets the Man of Steel." I saw this at the bookshop this week, but didn't pick it up. It seems interesting, though, and I'm sure someone reading this will want to grab it.

Here's the description:

As America and the Soviet Union race to build their nuclear stockpiles, two extraordinary heroes must form an uneasy alliance. These studies in opposites—shadow and light—must overcome their distrust of each other to battle evil and injustice.

Sputnik silently circles in the skies above the fabled cities of the United States as danger lurks in the Earth's darkest corners.

In Gotham, the shadowy vigilante known as the Batman haunts Gotham's streets . . . and the police are just as afraid of this Dark Knight as the city's criminals are.

In Metropolis, the notorious Lex Luthor is leveraging international tensions to build LuthorCorp into a military-industrial empire, competing against his business rival Wayne Industries, which is run by Gotham's enigmatic millionaire, Bruce Wayne. Luthor's activities have raised the interest of Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane, who is beginning to realize that Luthor may stop at nothing to achieve success.

At the same time, Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen are investigating the rumored crash of a flying saucer. Clark is desperate to know if there may be other lost interplanetary visitors on Earth secretly living among them—visitors like himself.

When Batman's and Superman's paths cross, their lives change, and history will never be the same.

And here's the cover:

Enemies & Allies coverIf anyone's read Enemies, please do drop a line and let us know how it was. And I'll be sure to write a review for Spy when I finish reading it.

And that's all for this week. So, what are you Waiting for?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Taskbar Shuffle: Making life just a little easier

Sometimes the simplest, most obvious things are overlooked.

Any Windows user who's ever had way too many applications running at once can probably tell you how nice it would be if it were possible to rearrange the buttons on the taskbar. Even obsessively organized people such as myself are bothered when there are only two applications running, but they're listed in the wrong order on the taskbar. (It's Thunderbird first, then Winamp!)

Hooray for Taskbar Shuffle, then.

Taskbar Shuffle screenshotTaskbar Shuffle is about as simple a utility as they come: Taskbar Shuffle allows you to rearrange everything on your taskbar by dragging and dropping buttons and tray icons where you please.

Interested? Take a look at Taskbar Shuffle here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Those and These

A few quick news bits for today, since it's Monday and I was half an hour late to work. But it wasn't my fault. Wait, actually it was. You see, I made the trip to the office this morning, prepped to be in right on time, when it struck me.

I had left pretty much everything I need for the day at home. On a table. In my bag.

So I turned around and, at first anyway, went all Speed Racer on the local streets, doing my best to avoid traffic and old ladies. Then, when I realized that, even if I had the Fantasticar, I'd still be late for work, I actually said, "meh" out loud.

And I hate the "word" meh.

Not the greatest way to start a new week, but it certainly could have been worse. Anywho, let's to the news, yes?

--First up, it looks like Marvel Studios has their Thunder God. Check out this article from Variety , which has Chris Hemsworth hand-picked by Marvel as who they want to play Thor.

There's an expected release date of May 20, 2011 for the Thor flick, and if Hemsworth does indeed sign on, he'll also play the God of Thunder in the planned 2012 Avengers movie.

Now, I don't really know who Chris Hemsworth is, but he was in Star Trek, I've learned, and he's in Joss Whedon's highly anticipated horror movie, The Cabin in the Woods, which opens in theaters next year.

And if he's good enough for Joss Whedon, then he's good enough for me.

--Next we have an update on the status of the "Let's Rebuild Len Wein's Comic Book Collection" Project, over on Mark Evanier's site. If you remember, we posted here a few weeks back that comic great Len Wein (creator of Wolverine and a host of others) lost his home--and much of his personal collection--in a horrible fire.

You can read that post right here, and you can read Mr. Evanier's latest update on the project right here.

Who says comics fans are stingy?

--And finally today we have a pretty cool story over at Entertainment Weekly for all you Kevin Smith fans out there. The writer/director will be taking a big part in some upcoming comics series, namely grabbing the reigns on writing duties for a newly-launched Green Hornet ongoing from Dynamite Entertainment and a stint on a new Batman mini-series for DC.

In the Batman series, entitled "The Widening Gyre," Smith will introduce a new hero to the DCU. The series will be 12 issues in two parts, each part spanning 6 issues with a six month break between parts. The artist will be Smith friend and penciller on the recently-wrapped Cacophony three-issue series, Walt Flanagan. After "Gyre" wraps, Smith will take helm of a new ongoing series featuring the new hero introduced in the mini.
Batman: Cacophony coverAs Smith fans know, the director was tapped to write and direct a Green Hornet film at one point, but dropped out. So Smith knows these characters well. I've never read any Green Hornet stuff previously, but Smith's a favorite of mine, and I'll be picking this up.

Oh, and one last note of Smith news--if you check out our Link of the Week to your right, you'll see that the venerable potty-mouth will be playing Carnegie Hall. Yep, that's right. And that's awesome.

Geek Chic, indeed.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Saturday Posting and Yankee Games

So, as you read this, I am off to the Big Ballpark in the Bronx known as (the new) Yankee Stadium. And, before you go all, oohh look at the rich guy, let me say this: the tickets were free. Well, my ticket was free, anyway. And, before I launch into today's regularly scheduled post, I just wanted to vent a little about the Yankees. I promise to keep it to a paragraph (or two).

My rant goes something like this: I've loved the Yankees my whole life, because rooting for them was something that my Dad passed down to me. We're going to the game together today in some (admittedly) not so great seats, mostly because you have to be a pre-Autumn-of-2008-Wall-Street-type to afford any of the good seats in the new Stadium.

And that's wrong.

And it's become entirely pointless to say things like, "But the fans pay the salaries" or ask the ever popular, "Don't they care about the people that root for them?" Because the answer to that is, no. No, they could not care any less about any of that. They will, however, happily take your money. Which is fine, and all capitalistic of them, but the prices at the new Yankee Stadium are so far above and beyond prices anywhere else, it's just plain sickening.

And, yes, I know that you get what you pay for. In my case, since the ticket is free, that seems appropriate.

To be honest, my interest in going to the Stadium lies more in walking around the new ballpark and taking in the sights, and revisiting Yankees teams of the past in the form of the various exhibits and monuments that are set up around the Stadium.

Some friends have gone to the ballpark already this season, and they've all said it's a beautiful place. So, even if I don't really care for this year's club, at least there's that. And spending a day at the ballpark with my Dad has always, and will always, be a Very Good Thing.

And for those of you that are still with me, here's where I seamlessly segue into comics. While our beloved little funny books do, indeed cost money in order for us to take them home from the store, I feel as though we (the fans) get exactly what we pay for.

Yes, I know books are skyrocketing in price, and yes I know that Bowen statue you've been ogling is nearly $200 bucks, but still. Comparatively, comics are still a cheap form of entertainment, and a book or two a week is within the purchasing means of a large majority of people.

And don't forget about the conventions.

Where, for ten to twenty dollars, fans can buy a ticket and meet the people that make the comics. And they can talk to them, and say "thanks," and get their autograph. Or maybe even a drawing.

And that's an experience that is wholly unlike most other fandoms. Imagine walking up to [insert million dollar athlete here] at a signing, and getting a "hello" and an autograph. The autograph will cost you a pretty penny, and believe me, there won't be a "hello."

You'll be lucky if he or she even looks up before signing whatever it is he or she is meant to sign.

But that's not how it is in comics. And that is also a Very Good Thing.

Friday, May 15, 2009

No Rest for the Wii-eary

As I was driving in the car this week, I felt a bit of discomfort. Ever since I let someone borrow the car, I've had trouble getting the seat and steering wheel back into the perfect position, but I had thought that I'd finally fixed the problem and acheived a comfortable setup.

...Yet, why did my wrist hurt so much? Surely the steering wheel was pulled out too far, or something.

Then it occurred to me: All this week I have been playing Metroid Prime 3 for the Wii, my first "real" Wii game that requires full use of the motion-sensitive controls (Mega Man 9 uses a standard controller style, and 20 minutes of Wii Sports hardly counts). After an hour or two a day of grasping the Wiimote (as we affectionately call the controller), pointing it at the screen to aim, and flicking it to make my character jump while in ball form, my wrist was finally starting to feel the strain.

Metroid Prime 3 screenshot: Battle with Steambots in SkyTownThe other night, I was so worn out from a very busy day that I wanted to just slump down into my couch and play video games to unwind. Just as I was finally settled in to play Metroid Prime 3, my Wiimote batteries ran dry. Sighing, I struggled to my feet and spent a few minutes not playing video games to rummage around for some fresh batteries. Then I collapsed once again on the couch and resumed playing.

...And by that point I was so exhausted that I could barely lift the Wiimote to point it at the screen so I could play the game.


Metroid Prime 3 screenshot: Gunship interiorLast night, I had no desire to sit up normally while playing video games. I tried laying sideways on the couch, but I had trouble aiming the Wiimote at the screen. I tried to sit leaning back, controller in my lap, with my leg propped up horizontally across my knee. This didn't work because my leg blocked the signal from the Wiimote, so I couldn't aim at anything on the lower half of the screen.

So... I sat up straight.


Wiimote and NunchukNonetheless, Metroid Prime 3 is very enjoyable. And I'm surprised by how quickly I adapted to the controls and accepted them. Really, I don't usually mind that I'm waving around a little stick with one hand and holding what feels like a detonator in my other hand instead of gripping a regular controller. For the short term, everything is alright.

But I think about the long term. I think about the legions of dead batteries that will clutter our landfills. I think about how the minor wrist discomfort I'm experiencing now might turn into something more serious over time if I keep playing these kinds of games.

Maybe it's a good thing that video games allegedly don't require much thinking.

[Controller image from Game images from]

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Personal Projects, the Works of Robert E. Howard, and the Existence of Hobbits

--There are days when you just know Something Big is going to happen--either in a good way, or in a bad way. I've had a couple of those days recently, and it looks like there's going to be another one towards the end of the week. But, we'll see what happens when the time comes.

And, while that paragraph is all kinds of mysterious and foreboding, I will say this about today: Today is going to be one of those Something Big days for me. Now, in the grand scheme of things, I'm really not worried about which way this Something Big will go--either positive or negative--because it's not one of those life or death Something Big moments. Thank goodness.

Instead, it has to do with the graphic novel project that I've spoken about on this blog in the past. Like I said, not life and death. But, still, I'd say that after putting in over a year's worth of work that completely devoured any and all free moments I've had, this project constitutes a Something Big in my (flailing) "writing" "career."

You see, things at the publisher right now are...well...let's just say they're like they are at every other publishing house (big or small) around the country. Well, okay, Marvel seems to be doing fine. But that's a whole 'nother story.

My publisher is a small one, and in a niche market. And, like most entities of such nature, the publisher is feeling this economy in a big, bad way. And priorities will need to be listed and agreed upon, and projects (and, possibly, people) will be re-evaluated and decisions will be made.

And my little project will likely be one of those things that goes by the wayside. Currently, my artist has completed 21 of the 70-plus pages in the story, and it has taken nearly six months to get to this point. There's still a long, hard ways to go with the book and I just can't imagine the publisher moving forward with it.

And that's likely what my talk with them today will be about.

There'll be other stuff, too, but I'd imagine that'll be the crux of it. And I'm okay with whatever happens, because in my mind people come first, and projects come second. Yes, two people put their hearts and souls into this particular project, but at the end of the day, companies are people and people come first.

So, that's that. I'll probably drop a line here later in the week, or early next week, to give an update on the state of things. Who knows, maybe I'll even post up some of the pages that the artist has completed. It's funny, actually. As I've mentioned in the past, this artists is very slow--but very good.

And, in the last two days, he has managed to send in four pages, completed and ready to be lettered.

Irony is funny when it doesn't happen to you.

--Hello, Mr. Segue?

On a completely separate note, I'd like to make a reading recommendation to any and all comics, Horror, and/or Sci-Fi fans out there. You all know the man's characters, and you have most likely heard the man's name, but there's a fairly good chance that you haven't read the man's work.

Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian, Red Sonja, and Solomon Kane, is one of those literary figures who gets no credit from the literati (or even from your average booksellers, sadly). He's Swords and Sorcery, they say. He's Horror, they say. He's comic book heroes, they say.

Yeah, well, I've read a lot of the books atop the literati's "greatest" lists, and I wish Conan would punch the authors of said books in the mouth. So, there.

I've been reading the (large) tome of Howard's Horror stories, collected and compiled by Del Rey Publishing in a book (appropriately) entitled, The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard, with amazing illustrations by Greg Staples.

I've been reading one or three of these short stories each night, for the past several weeks, and there are plenty of gems to speak about. One of my top picks is a story set in an ancient castle where guests by something. One by one.

But my favorite thus far is a story about a boxer, and the ghost of a boxer, and a championship match.

H.P. Lovecraft understood the literary quality of Howard's stories, and so should you!

--And, finally, Nathaniel was right all along. Hobbits do exist.

Hobbit bones

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Waiting for Wednesday, Issue 12

Oh, boy--deadlines at work are going to severely cut into this week's Waiting for. So, no snarky and (I think, anyway) funny little openings this week. Instead, right to the books!

We have two titles up for your (potential) buying pleasure, but as you'll see, I think both will certainly be worth your hard-earned pay.

First up is House of Mystery, issue 13 from Vertigo. I have been a vocal advocate of this book from its start, and I honestly believe that any true horror fan out there needs to be reading this title. Yes, it is that good. Oh, and a guy named NEAL ADAMS is providing the art for this week's issue. So, yeah, there's also that!

Here's Vertigo's description of the week's issue:

For its landmark 13th issue, HOUSE OF MYSTERY presents a special anthology featuring four separate stories written by Matthew Sturges, Bill Willingham and novelist Chris Roberson. This issue features the unique visuals of four artists including Neal Adams, Ralph Reese and Sergio Aragones, as well as a painted tale by Eric Powell (The Goon). Each story pays homage to that unluckiest of numbers...

C'mon, that sounds pretty cool, wouldn't you--wait...did that say Eric Powell? Like, creator of The Goon, Eric Powell? Oh, man, I honestly didn't know he'd be contributing to this book until I copied and pasted that blurb from DC's Web site. I swear.

Man, these Waiting for thingies are awesome...

Anyway, here's the cover:

House of Mystery #13 coverNow, GO! BUY!

Next up we have another Vertigo book, this one a first issue of a new series entitled The Unwritten. Because it's a new book, I don't know much about it other than what I've seen in the comics press and in Previews. But it's written by an old favorite of mine, Mike Carey, who is one of the best pound-for-pound comics writers of the day.

DC's promoting this bad boy pretty heavily (it even graced the cover of Previews a few months back) and to sweeten the pot, they have offered this book at $1.00. And it's 40 pages. Yep, a 40 page comic for a buck. It's like 1970 all over again! (I think...)

Anyway, here's the (lengthy) solicitation info from Vertigo:

Everyone's read the Tommy Taylor books, the popular series of novels turned pop culture phenomenon about a boy wizard's adventures. And everyone knows about Tom Taylor, the boy the novels were based on, whose life was so overshadowed by his Dad's fictional epic that Tom's become a lame Z-level celebrity at best and a human viral marketing tool at worst.

But what if the resemblance goes even deeper? What if Tom is the boy-wizard of the books made flesh? And if that sounds crazy, why is it bringing him into the crosshairs of an ancient faction that has never been named in any book or text?

To discover the truth about himself, Tom must search through all the places in history where fiction and reality have intersected. And in the process, he'll learn more about that unwritten cabal and the plot they're at the center of –– a plot that spans all of literature from the first clay tablets to the gothic castles where Frankenstein was conceived to the self-adjusting stories of the internet.

A conspiracy mystery a la The Da Vinci Code, THE UNWRITTEN is the eagerly anticipated reunion of Mike Carey (X-Men, HELLBLAZER) and Peter Gross (FABLES, Chosen) – the team behind the multiple Eisner-nominated LUCIFER. Acclaimed artist Yuko Shimizu (SANDMAN: DREAM HUNTERS) joins the duo on covers, and the series kicks off with a 4-issue opening storyarc with the extra-sized 40-page debut promo-priced at only $1.00!

And here's the beautiful cover for issue one:

The Unwritten coverSo, for a buck, I really don't think you can go wrong on this one! That's all for this week. I'm back to work, where I'll until Waiting for, Issue 13 comes out next week.

Yay for me.

Anyway, what are you Waiting for?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Star Trek RIP, Part 2

[Narrator:] Last time on Exfanding Your Horizons...

[Begin montage of clips from yesterday's post]

"All the trailers I saw for this new Star Trek movie looked exciting. Everybody who saw them became instantly excited about the impending release of this film....Everybody but me. I was upset. I was nervous and upset."

"'It looks amazing,'" I said, with utter sincerity, 'but it's not Star Trek.'"

"Next Generation defined what Star Trek is for me, and no other fandom--not even Mega Man--is closer to my heart."

"All I asked for was just one more movie--heck, one more episode--that would truly do justice to the Next Generation crew and, for the sake of Worf, bring them the same honor that Kirk and his crew enjoyed."

"Instead....EVERYTHING was thrown out so that James T. Kirk--not Jean-Luc Picard--could have one more adventure with his ship and crew without worrying about pesky things such as logic, continuity, or the age of the actors..."

"They ruined everything....And I really enjoyed the movie."

"I am not....ablaze...."

"The four-issue comic series series Star Trek: Countdown....made everything okay. Well, almost everything."

[End montage]

[Narrator:] And now, the conclusion.

Star Trek: Countdown #2 coverOn a whim, I picked up Star Trek: Countdown. Considering it was the official prequel to the new Star Trek film (from the same people who did the story for the movie, no less), I figured I might eventually get around to reading it if I liked the movie even a smidgen, and the potential explosive popularity of the film meant there was a very good chance I'd never see Countdown on the shelves again (what with those speculators who routinely buy their weight in Obama Spider-Man comics), so it was in my best interest to buy now rather than never.

I put Countdown on my shelf and forgot about it for a little while, but as I kept hearing more of these little tidbits about the new Star Trek movie (unavoidable if you go anywhere near the Internet), it started to sound like the movie would be a flat-out reboot with little or no connection to any other Trek. Yet, Picard and Data and Spock are on the cover of the trade paperback, so there clearly was some connection. I got the distinct feeling I'd be missing something if I went into the movie without reading Countdown first.

I cannot emphasize how critical it was for me to read Star Trek: Countdown before seeing the film. In just under 100 pages, Countdown told a great story that felt like Star Trek; it gave me hope that the writers would handle the new movie with respect; it provided a feasible (as far as Star Trek goes) reason for a franchise reboot that actually fit into Star Trek continuity; it atoned for many of the sins of Nemesis and legitimated the film's existence; and it provided the closure on the Next Generation series that I desperately needed.

At long last, I was at peace.


[Cue main title sequence and theme song. Add "Now celebrating 6000 hits" in smaller font below the Exfanding Your Horizons logo.]

Star Trek: Countdown page sampleCountdown also gave me a sneak peek at some things I might not like about the new movie. If the comic was any indication, the film would probably be a little edger than I'd prefer, there were guaranteed to be one or two catastrophes you could see coming a mile away that would serve only to elicit an emotional reaction; some of the character interactions might feel just a tad off, there might be a push for more "average" characters (you know, like us not-futuristic modern-day folks), and there very well might be a Joss Whedon "WHY JOSS WHY???" moment when you least expect it, if you know what I mean. (That part came incredibly close to ruining Countdown for me.)

Regardless, I had gotten what I needed out of Countdown: finally, Next Generation had received a proper burial, and my fears and misgivings about the new Star Trek had been dulled to the point where I was honestly looking forward to seeing it.

Not bad for some rinky-dink four-issue comic I picked up on a whim.

Countdown also ended up being invaluable in the way that reading Watchmen before watching Watchmen is invaluable: the plot of the new Star Trek film isn't fully explained until about halfway through the movie, and even then there's a lot of basics that, bafflingly, only Countdown covers. To its credit, there is one section in the movie where Spock explains in very plain terms to Kirk (though it's obviously for the benefit of the audience) that everything about the old Star Trek has been thrown out and anything can happen in the new Star Trek because they just rebooted the franchise.

I think Spock's exact quote included the words, "rebooted the franchise," but I'm not sure.

Enterprise leaves spacedockStar Trek already had something very positive going for it: we saw it in IMAX. And let me tell you, when those phasers started blazing and those ships started zooming by, I was in tears. Tears of joy. I was watching Star Trek on the big screen again. The BIG screen. And, for a short while, I was in geek ecstasy. Even when things started happening that were very obviously to elicit an emotional reaction (and you could see them coming from a mile away), I still didn't care: I was watching Star Trek on the big screen again.

Then came the fluff.

You know how sometimes the characters in a musical spontaneously start singing something that has nothing whatsoever to do with the plot, and then their song ends and the plot suddenly resumes? That's how it was with Star Trek, except without the singing.

The fun of Star Trek--for me, at least--has always been in the action sequences and the banter between characters and all that good stuff. However, when somebody accidentally got stuck inside a tube filled with fast-moving liquid, or when big monsters appeared out of nowhere and tried to eat someone, there was this tangible sense that it was somebody's job to come up with scenes the masses might consider "fun" and shove them in whenever the talking had been going on too long and the next fight sequence was too far away.

Battle on mining platformNow, I'm torn. I really enjoyed one or two of these "fun" scenes, and even the ones I wasn't as keen on were still tolerable enough... but I couldn't figure out what they were doing in my Star Trek movie. These scenes felt vaguely like the humorous sequences that were forced into the Star Wars prequels (you know; "Meesa Jar-Jar Binks!" Hahaha! This creature is inherently hilarious!), except Star Trek, while still silly, felt like "silliness for all ages" instead of "silliness for kids."

Oh, and as far as Jar-Jar Binks is concerned, there's an incredibly minor character whose only function is to attempt to be weak comic relief (and possibly to demonstrate that very short aliens don't just exist in Star Wars), and this alien is quickly shaping up to be Scotty's sidekick.


I'm not knocking the actor who played the alien, though. In fact, I have mostly positive things to say about all the actors. Now, I could be excruciatingly persnickety and whine that the casting wasn't absolutely perfect for every single character, but when you consider that these young'uns were trying to interpret these characters for themselves while still emulating the actors who are now inseparable from the characters, I think they did a fine job.

For the most part.

New Star Trek movie castOver the course of the film, Chris Pine managed to develop Kirk from a brash and reckless hooligan to a brash and reckless starship captain, and though the difference is subtle, it made the movie that much more enjoyable to watch that development. But as far as characters go, Spock was without a doubt the reason to watch this movie. Regardless of whether or not the events of this new movie resemble the untold backstory of the old Star Trek, watching Spock manage his dual heritage in several different periods of his life was something I had always wished to see more of in TOS, so this movie made Spock that much deeper for me.

I have nothing but praise for Anton Yelchin, who not only looked and acted like a young Chekov but pulled off the accent impeccably. I've heard his accent described as annoying, but consider that Koenig's Chekov rarely had a chance to string more than two sentences together before somebody else had a chance to start talking before the accent could become grating. So there.

I'm now officially a fan of anything Bruce Greenwood does, and I was pleased and surprised to find out that he was not only in this film but also that he was playing Captain Christopher Pike. Brilliant.

Sulu was good (Sulu's probably the hardest character to emulate because he's probably the most average); Scotty was good but just a little more Simon Pegg than Scotty; Karl Urban didn't consistently feel like McCoy to me (mostly because of the sound of his voice, though he nailed the speech patterns), but there were several moments where I swear it was DeForest Kelley speaking. Sarek didn't do much for me, Kirk's father was great, Eric Banana made a good "down-to-earth" villain (although I missed the snotty, posturing Romulan bad guys), and I don't have much to say about anybody else, either way.

Nero broodingExcept for Uhura. The Uhura I remember wasn't such a floozie. She felt more like a Mirror Universe Uhura than a young Uhura whose past theoretically shouldn't have been altered all that much by the events of the film.

Now, let's see... am I forgetting anybody...?

(Yes, of course I am.)

Spock Prime! (As he's referred to in the credits.) Just as McCoy passed the torch to Next Generation in its first episode, just as Kirk passed the torch to Picard in Generations, just as every new Star Trek has had at least one character from a previous Star Trek grant their blessing on the new direction of the franchise, Leonard Nimoy returns as Spock to do the same. I don't know exactly how Nimoy felt about the new actors or the new Star Trek, but it's clear that he enjoys wearing those ears again.

The appearance and significant involvement of the original (and, arguably, the only) Spock was almost as important as Countdown in subduing my fanboy rage. Even if he showed up only to lure longtime fans back to the theater, the illusion that they cared about the integrity of the franchise made a difference to me.

Truthfully, Star Trek made a great deal of effort to honor the original TV show and movies. All the characters' most famous lines and catch phrases are spoken at some point (a few times they feel a little shoehorned in, but you can tell they were trying), and there were references here and there to things that only longtime fans would be able to identify. There's a fine line between honoring the memory of something and pulling in nostalgia to superficially improve the quality of something, and I think Star Trek made its best effort to do the former.

Of course, the original Star Trek got virtually all the attention. Unless I really wasn't watching hard enough. But I guess that was to be expected.

Kirk strikes a pose in the captain's chairAs far as modernizing the look of the Enterprise goes... whatever. It's tough to work around the retro look of the original Enterprise, and there's no reason for them to stick with the old design if they're throwing out continuity anyhow. It looks futuristic enough, but it lacks the same design aesthetic of every Starfleet ship ever made.

And, concerning Kirk driving a vintage car bearing blatant Nokia ad placement: I could have done without that. It was a fluff scene that had already been shown almost in its entirety during the movie trailers, so the surprise of that little rabblerouser at the wheel being James T. Kirk wasn't a surprise at all, and I was able to relate to Kirk just fine before he started driving a car. (Hey! I drive a car, too! Suddenly I can connect with this character!)

I dunno... maybe it was necessary for the uninitiated to learn that Kirk is a bit of a troublemaker, but I already knew the characters well enough that I soon grew weary of the introductions that didn't really add anything new to the characters.

Once it finally got going, Star Trek did have moments that felt like Star Trek. The punchline to Captain Pike's pep talk with Kirk in the bar was thought-provoking (something to the effect of, "Your father was captain of a starship for twelve minutes and he saved forty bajillion lives. Let's see if you can do any better.") and the prejudices of the Vulcans and other "thinky" things were right in line with what I was accustomed to.

The space battles took me back to First Contact and other times where everything was exploding from everywhere. The numerous fistfights felt just like I was watching TOS again. The Romulans and their ship would have fit right into another Next Generation movie. The dialogue had some good humor woven throughout, as well. So much was right with this movie.

Shuttle bayBut so much was different. The "thinkiness" didn't last. That occasional Star Wars vibe that arose with the new aliens and a few of the action sequences and some of the detours into the territory of needless fun. The relationships of some of the characters (all of which have to do with Uhura)... and the total lack of relationships between others. The highly predictable moments of forced emotional reactions. Scotty's new sidekick. The look and feel of the Enterprise. The different brand of villain. And a completely new cast of actors who, as someone pointed out to me, will never need to worry about finding a job again for the rest of their lives.

The verdict? The movie was amazing... but it wasn't Star Trek. Between Countdown, Nimoy, and the references to the old Trek, the movie proved that it still cared about the diehard, traditionalist fans (or was at least trying to appease them a little). Yet, I refuse to believe that this reboot was necessary. They could have hired the exact same cast, given them different names, and kept the fancy-pants ship designs, and it would have worked perfectly in the old Star Trek continuity.

But, no, they've charted a course for mainstream sci-fi, or at the very least, a little more mainstream than Star Trek has ever successfully been. They're free to do whatever they want with the franchise, and you know what?

I don't care what they do with it.

The Star Trek I know has been laid to rest. I watched it slowly die over the past several years, and I had already said my goodbyes. Countdown was the silver lining. Star Trek (the film) is in a different continuity altogether. As a fan of the old continuity, I am under no contractual obligation to like the new continuity, just as I don't need to like Ultimate Spider-Man if I'm a fan of The Amazing Spider-Man.

I'll watch the next Star Trek movie, and I might even enjoy it, but I won't get upset if Scotty turns traitor and blows up the ship, killing Sulu and forcing Kirk and Spock into a romantic love triangle with Uhura. It's an alternate universe, for alternate fans. And it just doesn't have the same appeal to me.

Boldy go, Star Trek. Maybe I'll catch up with you later.

New Enterprise
[Countdown cover from Countdown sample from Overly huge movie stills from]