Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Waiting for Wednesday, Issue 31

I'm writing this week's edition of Waiting for on Tuesday afternoon, so forgive me if Disney decides to buy Marvel again on Wednesday morning and we don't have an up-to-the-minute post to go along with the news. That probably won't happen, though. But it's comics, and one just never knows anymore.

This week looks to be a pretty big shipping week, but my list is trimmed and lean and ready for a featherweight bout. But I think I have some good stuff budgeted for my reading pleasure, and I think I might even have a hidden gem recommendation that some of you will enjoy.

But first, a word about the price of comics.

I know, I know. Fanpeople have talked about this endlessly here on Ye Old Internets, and I've even complained about it a time or two in the past. But last week, there were five books (Five. Books) on my list that cost $5.00.

Even with my math deficient brain, I know that's way too much money to spend on five floppy, under-25-page, comic books. They are, of course, disposable paper that will (one day soon) be collected into a trade paperback. Well, okay, fine, the issues will be first collected into a $20 to $25 hardcover, and then collected into a more affordable paperback.

Six months or so later.

The price of paper has skyrocketed, sure. The cost of production has gone up, fine. The number of comics people buy has declined since the heyday of the 1990s, I'll grant you that. But with the onslaught of new media, the comics industry needs to wake up. They cannot produce a Spider-Woman motion comic and then expect retailers to sell record amounts of the floppy issue adaptation of said motion comic almost a month after the motion comic debuts.

Heck, we've seen the first three motion comics launch online, and the first issue (which takes us to about where the first online episode ended) shipped just last week.

People are not going to buy something twice before they buy it a third time in trade. And that not-buying hurts the retailers. But that's okay, because the economy is booming like Hellboy and comics shops will always be recession-proof.

Oh, sarcasm, how I missed thee.

The industry needs to change. Now. Tomorrow. Yesterday. Either go completely digital and tell the shops they're dead, or cut out the floppies and go to an all graphic novel format. Seriously. The time has come, the time has passed, the time is now.

Do it.

And give the comics shops first crack at selling the trades. Give them a two or four week lead time before the national chain bookstores get the product. Comics shops will thrive, selling the same amount of product (maybe more) each month. Sure, there will be some lean weeks, but I'm willing to bet the monthly returns will be higher, right off the bat.

All signs point towards the Death of the Floppy, so why are we letting him hang around, pointlessly, while every other industry has figured this out? There are no more music albums in the classical sense--there are digital file collections sold via iTunes. It stinks for record hounds like myself, but I understand the shift. The quality of the digital file is just better and cleaner than the sound of a CD, and when it comes to storage--there is none. Digital files don't take up any physical space.

The mainstream book market has also shifted towards digital, with devices like Kindle and the Sony reader. Sure, I hate them, but again, I understand the need/demand for them. I have books all over the place, and limiting the number of them on my floor without having to get rid of them for good would be great.

Now, would I hate to see comics go all-digital? Absolutely. Personally, I like the floppies, I like the serialized nature of the books I buy every month, and I like the whole comics buying experience.

But I think, for the first time since I've been reading these things, I might be in the minority amongst comics fans. I think now the paradigm has shifted so far that either an all-digital comics industry or an all-trade comics industry would be met with more cheers than boos.

It'll be interesting to see how Marvel proceeds with their Motion Comics. I think, if they continue with an onslaught of new material, the move to digital will happen much quicker than I would have thought at the start of the year.

Of course, as with most things, I could be completely and utterly off the mark on all this. I'd love to see the sales numbers for Spider-Woman, issue 1. If they maintain Bendis-level sales, then I'm wrong, and the floppy is still breathing and relevant. If they dip under that magical 85,000-100,000 mark (a range that Bendis has owned the past five years), then I think I might be onto something here.

But for now, let's stop all this ranting and get to this week's new comics! (And, yes, there are a few floppies in here that I'm going to mention--hypocrisy thy name is Alex.)

First up, we have the fifth volume of Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer from Dark Horse Comics, entitled "Predators and Prey." If you were a fan of the TV series, then I hope (I hope!) you've been following the comics series. They collect the issues in trade very soon after each arc wraps, and volumes one through four can be found in comics shops and bookstores now.

Obviously, I'd reccomend going back and reading trades one through four before picking up this latest offering. This volume includes stories written by some of the best writers of the show, including (obviously) Whedon and Jane Espenson. The characters "sound" like the characters in the TV show, and the art in this volume is spot-on.

Here's the description from Dark Horse:

Buffy's world goes awry when former-classmate-turned-vampire Harmony Kendall lands her own reality TV show, Harmony Bites, bolstering bloodsucking fiends in the mainstream. Humans line up to have their blood consumed, and Slayers, through a series of missteps, misfortunes, and anti-Slayer propaganda driven by the mysterious Twilight, are forced into hiding.

In Germany, Faith and Giles discover a town where Slayers retreat from a world that has turned against them, only to find themselves in the arms of something far worse. A rogue-Slayer faction displaces an entire Italian village, living up to their tarnished reputation as power-hungry thieves. And finally, with the help of a would-be demon lover, Dawn addresses her unfaltering insecurities.

Check it out!

Next up we have Green Lantern, issue 46, a Blackest Night tie-in. Written by Geoff Johns and with art by Doug Mahnke, this is the only real "need to buy" tie-in to go along with the main Blackest Night event. Sure, the other titles (such as Blackest Night: Batman and Blackest Night: Superman) are of high quality and worth checking out, but Green Lantern Lantern, and it's written by the event's mastermind.

So, yeah, it'll be a good read. Here's the blurb, followed by this week's cover image.

BLACKEST NIGHT continues! For months, Mongul has wrested control of the Sinestro Corps. Now Sinestro wants a word with him. And Hal wants a word with Sinestro. But in the midst of BLACKEST NIGHT, they'll all become the hunted as the fallen Sinestro Corps members rise. What will happen? Here's a hint: Sinestro gets some serious payback.
Blackest NightAnd, last but not least, a hidden gem. A hidden, expensive gem. Remember when I was yelling and screaming about the $5 price point for so many comics these days? Sure you do. Well, this book definitely does not have a $5 price point. No, sir.

It has a $6 price point.

BUT, there's many more pages than would normally be found in your typical single issue and each page features more panels (and more words) than you might be accustomed to. From Marvel, Spin Angels, issue 2 hits stands this week. Now, this is an imported book, from French creators. If you know anything about the French and their comics...well...the French have incredible comics.

And this is no different. Angels tells the story of secret Vatican operatives, working undercover to protect the secrets of the Church. If you like stuff on the Knights Templar and weird, supernatural stories with religious overtones, then this should be right up your alley. Here's the blurb from Marvel.

Cardinal Marchesi’s cell of secret Vatican operatives is about to obtain a document that could shake the very foundation of the Catholic Church. The mission turns into a massacre and investigator Sofia d’Agostino and her bodyguard, an aging mafia hit man, find themselves face to face with a commando linked to an occult branch of the Vatican.

They’ve unwittingly joined the thousand-year-old fight to save Faith — a war that has been on hold since the disappearance of the Order of the Temple ... Until now.

And here's the cover for issue two.
Spin Angels #2 CoverWith that, I need to get going. This post became a Beast very quickly, and, frankly, my hands hurt. So, all that's left is to ask: What are you Waiting for?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Quick Hello

Ah, posting on a morning when I need to be out the door in five minutes or so. This should be fun.

Now, I could throw together a ranty-type post about the fact that the Spider-Woman motion comic is being printed and sold in stores as single issues...for $4.00...even though the content of the issue--and not to mention the content of issues 2 and 3--have already hit iTunes, for a cheaper price tag.

I mean, sure, I could go on about how my local comics shop has a big 'ol stack of Spider-Woman #1's, just sitting there on the shelf, despite the fact that it is created by the can't-miss creative team of Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev. Bendis books are sales juggernauts, and they never, ever just sit there.

But, because Marvel decided to release the motion comic well in advance of the actual issues shipping to comics shops (you know, the whole "lifeblood" of this industry), my LCS will be stuck with a pile of paper.

I could also talk about the fact that the stars of SyFy's hit series, Ghost Hunters, have released a new book, detailing the early cases in their careers and it hits shelves today. This show is my guilty television pleasure every Wednesday night, and I am very much looking forward to reading these stories. They're the cases the two leads, Jay and Grant, have talked about in the past, but have never completely revealed.

I read an excerpt from the book (which is called Seeking Spirits: The Lost Cases of The Atlantic Paranormal Society), and there's some creepy, wonderful stuff in it. And I think it'll be a fun, just-before-October read.

I could also talk about how STUPID it is that the Sci-Fi Network is now called, simply, SyFy. With "y's" instead of, um, "i's." Is it because you can't brand and copyright and trademark "Sci-Fi," or is it because some executives had too much time on their hands? I'll let you decide, since, as I said, I'm running late.

I could go off on a tangent about how annoying it is to be on hold with insurance companies all day long, or scheduling interviews with people at places I have no interest in working for, or how I'm starting to develop an unhealthy gameshow habit.

I could also remind you all that the latest DC Comics direct-to-DVD animated feature comes out today, called Superman/Batman, and that it's based on the fun Jeph Loeb run on the comic title. And that the DVD should be great.

But I won't don any of those things. Because I'm running later than a white rabbit and I need to go.

What I will do is leave you all with a fully colored page from my upcoming comic, due out from the publisher I helped launch. We already have two entire issues of two new series in the can, and my book (the third of our launch titles) should be done by next week.

So, here's a page. I like it. And I am becoming exceedingly giddy about the prospect of writing, editing, and selling my own comics.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Exfanding Review: District 9

District 9 posterDistrict 9 is probably the closest Hollywood has ever come to depicting what would really happen if aliens were to ever come to Earth.

No huge floating discs that block out the sun and blow up all our cultural landmarks for the shock value; no lone Martian who can turn invisible and, aside from the antennae, looks like a regular human and tries to blend in with society; and no pyramid deep below the planet's surface where aliens are hunted by other aliens as a right of passage.

Nope; if there are aliens out there (if we haven't unwittingly encountered them already!), chances are good that they won't have a hidden agenda to conquer everything, and they'll show up in some part of the world that is not New York City, they'll end up staying on Earth a little longer than expected, and then humans won't know what to do with them, so they'll set the aliens up in temporary shelters that quickly degrade into a slum.

Also, the aliens will look like humanoid bugs.

District 9 alienDistrict 9 explores what the world would be like if aliens existed among humans, no different than any other ethnic group, except that they're not from this planet. There's an incredible amount of social and political commentary packed into District 9, but it's never preachy enough to take you out of the film.

In fact, District 9 is so engaging and believable (as far as sci-fi goes) that I'd almost classify it as an expierience rather than a film. District 9 starts off in the style of a documentary and then seamlessly transitions into the traditional movie format that follows around the main characters wherever they go; I was so sucked into the film that I honestly did not realize they had abandoned the documentary style until several minutes afterwards.

District 9 is more than just an exploration of what life might be like if aliens lived among us; throughout the entire documentary portion, the film slowly sheds light on the characters who are central to the struggles that are to come. District 9 goes beyond how humanity as a whole would react to the presence of aliens; the film hones in on individuals, both human and alien, whose circumstances suddenly change so that they have a little too much in common. It isn't long before they find themselves in conflict with... well, just about everybody.

When there's conflict in a movie with aliens, there's usually some cool technology and nifty action sequences, and District 9 doesn't disappoint. District 9 hardly qualifies as an action movie, however; there's character development woven into almost every death and explosion--even mindless violence has an impact on the characters, one way or another--and there's plenty of time when District 9 is more like a drama or a thriller.

District 9 human/alien displayFor my part, I thought District 9 was done extremely well: the pacing was excellent; the premise, characters, and setting all felt pretty realistic (the fact that I didn't recognize any of the actors helped a lot); and some of the action sequences made me grin and possibly chuckle or mutter, "COOL." Still, while I generally enjoyed the flick, the middle portion of the movie was much harder for me to enjoy than the beginning and end.

District 9 was difficult to watch sometimes, both because of bad things happening to people and because of some of the grossness that goes along with surgery, biological weirdness, trying to cut off somebody's arm, etc. The unpleasant stuff was concentrated in the middle of the movie, and though all the disgusting visuals and unhappy events made perfect sense in terms of the plot, that didn't make it any easier to watch.

The other qualm I had was with the film's "deus ex machina" complex; there were no fewer than four times when someone was conveniently rescued from a terrible situation that was really dragged out a little too long. Allow me to quote directly from the script here:

Bad Guy: Ha! I finally have you, and I intend to kill you swiftly!
Good Guy: Please, stop!
Bad Guy: No, I won't stop! I'm going to kill you, and you can't stop me!
Good Guy: Fine, then. Let's just get this over with, then.
Bad Guy: I will! Because at this very moment I am preparing to kill you! You'll get no mercy from me!
Good Guy: Jeez, why haven't you killed me yet?
Bad Guy: I am on the verge of killing you! Stop talking; it just makes me want to kill you more! Now, brace yourself, as I veeeerrry sloooowwwly line myself up for the kill....
Deus Ex Machina: Hang on; I'll be right there.
Bad Guy: I am about to be killing you now, right this instant! Ha ha!
Deus Ex Machina: Blam! Kaboom! Distraction! Rescue effort! I have saved the day!
Bad Guy: Nooooo! Curse your impossibly precise timing!

Four times. Alright, so I guess the sudden-but-completely-anticipated rescues took me out of the movie a little bit, but I only harp on them because they're the only real blemish on the tight storytelling of the film. Truth be told, even though I didn't like the whole thing, District 9 is one of the best movies I've seen all year. The "deus ex machina" moments didn't destroy the movie; my squeamishness didn't diminish the excellence of District 9, only my enjoyment of it.

District 9 alien shipIf you're looking for a surprisingly deep sci-fi flick that's accessible to the masses, and if you've got the stomach for a bit of gore (or if you're really good at looking away from the screen), go watch District 9. When the aliens come to visit for real, you'll know pretty much exactly how it'll all turn out.

Especially the part where they're bug-people.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Saturday Blogtastic

As that number on the right side of this page (the Feed Reader number, I mean) grows at an alarming rate, I find myself thinking more and more about Dave Chapelle. (And for those who got that joke, I hope you laughed. For those who didn't, don't worry, it's not important and will in no way impact your enjoyment of today's post.)


So, onto today's post. Erm...yeah...about that. Y'see, typically I have a plan for what I want to write about, and typically, I stick to that plan pretty closely. Sure, I'll veer off into different directions and segue into (sometimes baffling) digressions that will, I'm sure, one day be used against me in a court of law.

But, still. At least there's a plan. Or a semblance of one. Or even just an idea of what I want to talk about. Today, though. Sheesh. Lemme tell ya--today, I got nothin.

Maybe it's the week I'm having, maybe it's (as a former fellow employee said to me yesterday) "the gut punch after gut punch" that I've been taking without being able to fight back. Maybe it's that chicken burrito I ate for lunch two days ago, trying to reintroduce itself to me this morning. (I bet it's that.)

Whatever the case may be, I have nothing to write about today. And, I have to admit, I lied a bit earlier when I said this has never happened before. It has happened, though, luckily, pretty rarely, in the past.

But, during those times when the words don't want to come, I'd usually just forge ahead with a link dump post or ask Nathaniel to cover for me. One time I told him that I can't post today have family coming over. Yeah...that's it. Family. And I have to make sure I don't burn the know, so as not to ruin the family get-together...

Luckily, Nathaniel is fairly gullible when it comes to such things.

Though, I have to admit, he did sound a bit skeptical that time I told him about the runaway orangutan in my neighborhood and the posse that I was charged with leading to ensure its capture and safe return to the traveling Gypsy caravan that was camping out on my street.

"I didn't think traveling Gypsy caravans came this far north," Nathaniel said, and added, "Were they by chance performing Shakespeare?"

"At night, yes," I replied.

And that was that. Case closed.

But, today. Well, let's just say that I've run out of excuses to get myself out of a weekend post. So, instead, you all get to sit through my nonsense. That's OK, though, because luckily, as I was stalling up top there (that whole orangutan thing, while totally true, was something I'd sworn a long time ago never to repeat), I managed to think of something to write about.

And I have to say, I like it.

What I think I'll do for this Very Special Writer's Block Edition of EyH is to adapt a sort of Quick Hits format, where I'll run down a few of the recent (dorky) things that I love, and hate. And then I'll give a one or two line explanation of why I love or hate each thing. And, yes, before you ask, the one or two line explanations will be snarky and witty.

Let's right to it, then...

The restructuring of DC Comics into DC Entertainment A reactionary move on DC's part to that whole Disney buying Marvel thing, for sure, but one that might benefit everyone involved--including you and me. (But not Nathaniel.) As a prominent comics writer put it on a recent podcast, this is a very good time to be a creator for either company, and it's a very good time to be a fan of either company.

There will be renewed interest on the part of Warners in DC Comics' properties, and hopefully the DC Comics people will be the ones in charge of writing and creating these new films. Geoff Johns on the Flash film, for example. A Very Good Thing.

Speaking of podcasts...

Word Balloon, The Comic Book Conversation Show is a must-listen for any fan of the medium. John Siuntres, the host, lines up the best in comics personalities, from editors and writers and artists to journalists and actors. His interviews are always in-depth, and while they are in the question and answer format, they do feel much more like two people talking about comics than a run of the mill interview.

Siuntres is the Charlie Rose of the comics world, and his show deserves wider attention. Check out his Web site, and give a listen to a few of his interviews. They are all backlogged on the site, and available for free download on iTunes.

Just this week, he has over-an-hour-long talks with Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, and Rick Remender.

The Comixology Comics App for the iPhone This one I have some mixed feelings about. Basically, this is an app that allows the user to read a downloaded comic on the iPhone (or other mobile device). It's MUCH better than any other mobile comics reader out there, as there is a nice synergy between the player and the comic art itself.

Instead of presenting full pages, each screen is a single panel, and you can move to the next panel by touching the phone's screen. The player doesn't simply click to the next panel, though, it moves as if your eyes were following the page in a printed comic.

It's cool, and the prices for the downloads are always under $2.00. Plus, there are a bunch of free previews available for immediate download every day. BUT, I'm just not yet sold on the whole digital reader thing. I don't much like the Kindle from Amazon, and while I realize that paper is dying and the future (the present, really) is the digital file...

I just can't let go of paper, man.

Not to mention that the comics retailers can''s the downloads. Which leaves them where, exactly? The comics shop is my escape from the world, and I really do not want to see them going the way of a mid-80s Jean Grey. Or a mid-90s Jean Grey. Or a mid-2000s--you get the idea.

But make up your own mind by checking out their Web site at I will say that their Comixology app, which provides users with a constantly updating list of newly shipping product, is an invaluable tool for the discerning comics crazy person. Like me. So check that out, too.

OK, well, this isn't exactly "Quick"'s almost over, though--I promise. Let's go one line responses to the last few items. Yeah, that sounds like a plan.

Neil Gaiman filming a movie? I'm so there.

Batman: Arkham Asylum video game official Exfanding Review? I am Batman. And so can you!

The surprise Image Comics smash hit Chew? One of the weirdest, funniest, best books in comics today. (But good luck finding the single issues at retail prices--wait for the soon-to-be-released trade!)

Annnd...that's all she wrote for today.

Enjoy the weekend, everyone, and I apologize for the insanity (and inanity!) of this post.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Don't Let Entertainment Get in the Way of Having Fun

When did fun transform into work?

Once, video games were always, without question, a fun diversion. Sure, I'd run into frustration sometimes with an aggravating boss or a task with unclear objectives (still talking about video games here, not work), but there was always this unspoken guarantee that every video game I played was unequivocably fun and worth the effort to play.

When did that change?

Atari joystickIn retrospect, I may have been spoiled by some truly outstanding games during my childhood. My first exposure to video games was on an Atari 2600 with some classic games such as Frogger and Combat, and things only got better from there.

I grew up with some of the best RPGs ever made--Chrono Trigger, Super Mario RPG, and EarthBound. I honed my platforming skills on Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Metroid, Donkey Kong Country, and the best of the classic Mega Man games. For over a decade, there were no bad games in my library, except for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, which I assure you was not my decision to buy.

That's not to say that I never played a bad game. I tried out plenty of video games at other peoples' houses, and I borrowed or rented a few from time to time. However, at the time, it was very easy to identify a game I didn't like. If I wasn't having fun in the first five or ten minutes, I gave it up. If I got halfway through the game and found that it became far too difficult or ceased to offer anything new, I would simply stop playing without a second thought.

If a game wasn't fun, I'd switch to another game. Plain and simple.

Not so plain and simple now, though.

Perhaps there's a glossy sheen of nostalgia that coats all my childhood memories, but I'm fairly certain that, until around the the turn of the century, video games (and movies, for that matter) were either good or bad. Either you liked them or you didn't; the most complicated things ever got was when you kinda liked them or kinda disliked them.

Name any video game or movie made before, say, 1998, and I can give you a one-sentence summary of my feelings toward it. Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Interesting, but it lost my attention because it went on longer than necessary and didn't have enough music. Bionic Commando? Extremely fun... if you can get over the extreme difficulty.

See? Easy. Modern movies and video games, however, aren't as easily classified. To summarize my feelings toward Final Fantasy VIII, for example, I'd need at least a paragraph to cover the most fundamental details. Even then, I couldn't flat-out say that I liked or disliked the game. Heck, I couldn't even declare indifference, because some parts I really enjoyed, and other parts were really atrocious, and those two don't cancel each other out to equal indifference.

Final Fantasy 8 - Squall is indifferentSame deal with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull; I have strong feelings both positive and negative toward the film, but I can't condense them into a single sentence and still feel satisfied that the full essence of my opinion has been expressed.

"I enjoyed parts of the film, but too many scenes were too preposterous to believe, even for an Indiana Jones movie, and the ending didn't feel quite right, and the whole deal with the aliens that weren't really aliens was never developed well enough and raised more questions than it answered, and I feel like Last Crusade was the perfect place to end the series, and this one just..."

Do you see what I mean? To say that I enjoyed the film but thought a few scenes were far too absurd sums up a lot of my feelings, but simply leaving it there makes it sound like I just winced a few times but otherwise had no other problems with the movie, which is clearly not the case.

With both movies and video games, I have witnessed a trend that has complicated my ability to decide whether or not I like what I watch or play. No matter how wonderful a modern game or movie may be, it's almost a guarantee that I will have far too many caveats to say that I loved or hated it, period.

That's why fun has become work. I can't just give up on "bad" movies because there's always something worthwhile amidst all the badness, so I force myself to watch the whole thing. I can't give glowing recommendations for "good" games because the designers made some majorly boneheaded decisions here and there, so I struggle through the lousy parts so I can experience the great parts.

I blame this phenomenon on an increased emphasis on the visuals, which sometimes draws the focus and the budget away from other important areas, and on efforts to create something fresh, which often involves taking a risk on unproven game mechanics or blurring the lines between genres or breaking tradition in unwelcome ways.

The Metroid Prime trilogy perfectly illustrates the progression of this trend:

Metroid Prime title screenI really liked Metroid Prime, released in 2000 for the GameCube; I feel that it was a fantastic transition from 2-D to 3-D, even if it wasn't nearly as dark and creepy as the Metroid games before it.

I liked Metroid Prime 2: Echoes even more, but the level design was often too dark to see and occasionally a little too complicated, too much time was spent recovering your health after wandering through the caustic atmosphere of Dark Aether, and a few sections were way too hard and ruined the fun. The game came out in 2004 for the GameCube.

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption was released in 2007 for the Wii; I didn't like the new controls as much as the old ones, many challenges were much too simple, there was a lot of missed potential in terms of referencing other Metroid games and using all the special abilities to their fullest extent, it was surprisingly unclear how to go about fighting several of the bosses, the ending was weak and cheesy, and a lot of the music felt out of place, but a lot of the music was fantastic, there were some extremely cool and fun and memorable moments, I loved that you were able to use your ship for more than saving, and the game managed to recapture that atmospheric and creepy Metroid feel that many of the more recent games lacked.

Is there more I can say about the first two games? Of course. Did those things affect my enjoyment of the games as much as the music or the cheesy ending of the third game? No. And I can't begin to tell you whether I liked or disliked Metroid Prime 3.

What I can tell you is that, even if I loved it, too much of it felt like work.

Are modern games and movies worthwhile? I'd say so. I just wish it didn't require so much effort to have fun nowadays.

And that's how comics replaced video games as my preferred method of relaxation.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Winds of Change

I've noticed a difference in my comics buying habits lately. I know, not exactly CNN Headline News. But, I have to say, it's pretty surprising. The difference in my comics buying habit, I mean.

And, no, it's not just the fact that now I need to be a little choosing which books I read every week. It's actually something wholly unexpected, especially with my track record when it comes to buying certain books from certain publishers.

Now, I've talked about my problems with DC Comics in the past--you know, the whole "impenetrable wall of decades-old continuity" thing and the fact that they do things like--oh I don't know--"kill" Batman (and other heroes) on a monthly basis.

And I've mentioned how DC's event books, like Final Crisis let's say, tend to incorporate ideas and story points (and washed-up characters) from many years ago, thus leaving newer readers baffled and ostensibly killing any hope we have at drawing in non-comics reading "civilians" to our hobby (read: obsession).

Still, I love DC's Vertigo imprint, and I think the current line of Vertigo titles is as strong as any lineup they've had since the glory days of Sandman. And that's saying something.

But, as I said, my main problems with DC lie within the DC Universe proper, where C- and D-list characters inhabit (and star in) flagship titles. I'm all for new and different storytelling, but when I buy an event book over at Marvel, I know for sure that Spidey is going to show up and be funny. And kick bad guys in the head.

I say that with a hint of irony, of course, as anyone who has been with the blog for a while knows that action and head-kicking are not the most important things I look for in a comic. But, when I buy a Marvel or a DC comic, action and head kicking are something that I expect.

I read all of my weird little black and white indies and offbeat horror titles and whatever to fill the void of emotional drama that's left by superhero comics. I read Deadpool to watch the main character slice and dice his way through an army of bad guys.

Now, this isn't to say that mainstream superhero comics shouldn't have pathos and real, human drama. They should. Of course they should. But, superhero comics should also include a requisite amount of head kicking.

So, less with the talky. More with the punchy.

(Except if the book is written by Brian Bendis. Then, the New Avengers can sit around a TV and talk about what they're watching on the TV and somehow, it's still interesting.)

But DC's books have been plagued by lots of exposition, lots of weird space/time travel, and lots of sprawling and head-trippy concepts that leave me wanting nothing more than to see Batman punch a band robber in the head.

However, even with all of this (rambling and barely coherent) preamble about the problems at DC (or, more accurately, the problems this semi-sane blog writer thinks DC has), I'm going to praise DC up and down for their most recent output.

The last three weeks, my stack of new comics has been skewed towards the DC side of the fence--something that hasn't happened in over five years. And it's not just that DC has a one or two book advantage over Marvel. Quite the opposite, really. For every one Marvel comic, I'm buying three DC comics.

I know. The End Times must be near.

But the ever-cliched (in comics, at least) "event fatigue" is beginning to set in with me when it comes to Marvel and their Dark Reign tie-ins and cross-overs.

On top of the seemingly endless stream of Dark Reign titles being published each week, as Dark Reign winds down, the latest event, The List, is beginning, and it just feels like Marvel is in a never ending loop of Secret Invasion fallout stories.

And if you're new to comics and have no idea what the words I used in the above paragraph are, then you have helped me prove my point. It was Stan Lee who said (paraphrasing Joe DiMaggio) that "every comic is someone's first." Well, if a NOOB were to pick up a Marvel book right now, he or she would probably feel a lot like I did by issue three of Final Crisis.

Confused, frustrated, and gassy.

This isn't to say that the Marvel books aren't good. Because, across the board, Marvel's writers and artists are writing the heck out of their titles. But (much like this post), there's just no end in sight to these current stories.

Over at DC, Geoff Johns' Blackest Night is accessible, fun, and engaging.

Just like Secret Invasion was when it started out, now over a year ago.

The DCU lost me as a regular reader around the time of their One Year Later event, which left me wanting more and less at the same time. More stories like 52, and less stories like everything else.

But, so far at least, Blackest Night is fairly self-contained and one can follow the story pretty well by reading the main book alone. That said, there are still a handful of tie-ins, and the main Green Lantern book is pretty essential to understanding everything.

Here's hoping that DC won't inundate the market like they did with Final Crisis. I know, I know. There will always be events, and the two publishers will always flood the shelves with tie-ins.

That's just the way of comics right now.

But I find it interesting that DC and Marvel are flipping roles here. An identity crisis, if you will. While DC seems to be scaling back on the number of "essential" tie-ins, Marvel, the company that showed the industry how to do the modern, line-wide crossover a couple of years ago, is pumping out more and more books every week.

How long will this trend continue? And, as always with DC, when will they shoot themselves in the foot? We'll just have to wait and see.


What do you guys think about the current state of the event book? Which event are you all enjoying more--Dark Reign or Blackest Night?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Waiting for Wednesday, Issue 30

Captain's Log
Wednesday morning, around 6:00 am.

I'm up early this morning. Too early. The alarm clock went off, so I woke up, got out of bed, and dragged a comb across my head. I went downstairs and drank a cup...

And then I looked at the clock, and it was 5:30. It was supposed to be 7:30. Must be a time/space rift, I thought, and decided to go check with my handheld communicator device (iPhone 3G).

Communicator read the same. 5:30.

Stupid, stupid, chronal shifts. Stupid, stupid inability to set an alarm clock properly.

With over three hours to go before the initiation of the day's mission, I decided to watch TV. Realizing that there's nothing on at such an hour, I decided to instead start typing this week's Waiting for Wednesday.

So, groggily, and angrily, I type and--HOLY TONY SHALHOUB! Does that Feed Reader say 34?!?
Feedburner feed reader count
You like really like us...


This week features many of the Usual Suspects; the books that I've been praising month in and month out. Such as Madame Xanadu, issue 15 and Detective Comics, issue 857. Both of these titles are favorites of mine, and I do hope that I've been able to persuade some of you to at least pick them up and flip through them in the store.

Madame Xanadu has been a consistently high quality title, with solid writing and beautiful art. It's a time-jumping story about a magical, immortal woman who tries to help mankind through the ages. Currently, the good Madame is in turn of the century New York City, and she is hunting a brutal killer.

Madame XanaduThe art by comics legend Michael Kaluta is perfect for the macabre storyline, and while this issue is the final in the "Exodus Noir" arc, these recent issues will likely be collected in the near future. So, trade wait if you haven't jumped on board yet, but do give this series a try in some capacity.

And then there's Detective Comics, written by Greg Rucka and with mind bending art by J.H. Williams. Seriously, folks. This is the best drawn comic on the stands today, and the praise it's received from all corners is certainly well deserved.

This is the Batwoman story that Rucka's been waiting to tell for almost three years now, and he is delivering a compelling, creepy tale with a brand new villain. And did I mention the art? The fully painted, double page-spanning art? Sure I did. But, c'mon--just look at the cover to this week's issue:

Detective ComicsGo. Buy. Now.

Okay, so, there's my little tirade about the two titles that I've begged you to buy, over and over again. Now onto the new stuff. From my favorite DC writer, Geoff Johns, comes a brand new mini series that will retell the origin of Superman. And it's in-continuity, and official, for people who care about such things.

Cleverly titled Superman: Secret Origin, this highly anticipated story will be drawn by Gary Frank, and the first issue will be oversized, clocking in at 48 pages. Here's the blurb from DC:

Hot on the heels of their acclaimed run on ACTION COMICS, superstars Geoff Johns and Gary Frank reunite to present a 6-issue event that spells out the definitive origin of Superman for the 21st century – and it all starts with a gigantic 48-page issue!

Chronicling Clark Kent's journey from the cornfields of Smallville to the skyscrapers of Metropolis, you'll witness a whole new look at the beginnings of Lex Luthor, the Legion of Super-Heroes, Lois Lane, Metallo, Jimmy Olsen, the Parasite and more! It's a look at the mythic past of the Man of Steel with an eye toward the future!

While Johns is a master at mapping out and delivering some of the best action sequences in comics today, I feel his greatest asset as a writer is in his ability to tell an accessible story. DC, especially over the past few years, has told these big, sweeping, universe-encompassing stories that, frankly, one needs a PhD in DCU Lore to appreciate.

Superman: Secret OriginAnd, while Johns' stories are most definitely steeped in DCU history, he writes them in a way that someone (like me, for example) can pick up a Green Lantern story and give a hoot about the characters involved.

So, yeah, I'll be on board during his Superman run, and I recommend this title to anyone who has been thinking about dipping the toe into the DCU, but has been hesitant because of the giant ball of continuity that needs to be unraveled. This mini will be (should be, anyway) a no strings attached, pick it up and enjoy kinda deal.

Heck, this is the book I'd give to a non-comics reading buddy, since the combination of writer, artist, and format is perfect for someone new to the game.

And finally, we end this 30th edition of Waiting for with some (awesome) Goon-related news. Today sees the release of the most current trade paperback volume of The Goon, which collects the third and final part of the Goon Year saga.

The Goon: A Calamity of ConscienceEntitled "A Calamity of Conscience," this trade features the latest Goon issues released. So, if you've been reading the series via trade, once you reach the end of this one, you are all caught up. (Yes, Nathaniel, you can borrow this when I'm done. Sheesh...some people...)

I have Exfanded upon this title ad nauseam on the blog, so I'll make it brief today. The Goon rules. You should read The Goon.


Oh! And one more thing. As of Sunday night, Eric Powell finished off the final pages of his Goon movie script. He reported on his Twitter page that the guys at the movie studio (Blur) loved it. So, The Goon is now one step closer to being up on the big screen.

And, possibly, mainstream.

For me, seeing Goon and his maniacal pal Franky (what with his knife-weilding and unspeakable late night antics) up on the big screen is something I can't even fathom, as it's been this little thing that I've loved for a long time and no one else even cared about. It's too cool for words.

Right. So, that's it from me today. What are you Waiting for?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Philosophy of Stuff

Plenty of philosophies and religions out there are against the accumulation of stuff. Go sell all your possessions, they say. Materialism doesn't lead to happiness, they say. Stuff just gets in the way of things that are truly important.

To a certain extent, I agree. The money I spend on the latest Mega Man game is money that could buy food for a starving child somewhere. The time I spend on eBay fiercely bidding on a superfluous D&D rulebook is time I could have spent volunteering for someone in need. I look around my room and see a cluttered pile of music CDs and a row of Star Wars Pez dispensers, and sometimes it's difficult to justify the money and time that were devoted to attaining them. (Though, in my defense, I got most of the Pez dispensers as gifts. But still.)

Star Wars PEZ dispensersThe craziest part? I still want more. There are anime series I'd like to own and comics I want on my shelf. I plan on getting more geeky posters to put up on my wall. I've got cosplay ideas for future fan conventions, and I assure you they'll require plenty of time and money to assemble.

How could anyone be a fanboy/fangirl and adhere to any of the philosophies and religions that eschew having and collecting stuff? Forget lying and murdering; Warhammer is a real sin.

As I see it, it's impossible to be an honest-to-goodness fan of anything without collecting at least a little bit of fandom-related stuff. Clearly, some fandoms such as Magic: The Gathering and even socially acceptable hobbies such as cycling and sailing require stuff. Sure, you can argue that a few hobbies and fandoms require no stuff whatsoever--swimming doesn't technically require a bathing suit, after all--but by and large, there's always a thing you need, however small or inexpensive, to be a fan or hobbyist.

Even if you're fully convinced that having and pursuing stuff is wrong or a hindrance of some sort, the positive impact of stuff cannot be ignored. I've made friends as a result of playing Magic: The Gathering. Are friends also stuff and subject to the same reprehension? Cycling is an excellent way to stay in shape; is being healthy against the rules, too? Plenty of people feel that being alone in nature is the perfect way to connect with divinity or one's spirituality; is sailing away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life truly a bad thing?

Perhaps a certain degree of stuff is acceptable. Maybe it's the overaccumulation of stuff that's harmful. One or two lightsabers can be fun, but do I really need enough to spell out the acronym for the name of this blog?

Exfanding Your Horizons logo in lightsabersI rationalize it thusly: I don't need all the geek stuff I have. Truth be told, I don't really need any of the geek stuff I have. But I like my stuff. Geek stuff makes me happy. It allows me to de-stress and maintain my sanity in a stressful time of unemployment; it's art that brightens up my room; it's a source of creative inspiration; it's a way for me to bond with friends and family; it's a constant reminder of how fortunate I am that I can afford so much stuff--in some strange way, having an overabundance of stuff keeps me from taking it all for granted.

Maybe I would be a better person if I sold every nonessential thing I owned and gave the money to people in dire need. Maybe I'd be happier if I parted with everything locking me into a materialistic mindset. Maybe. My goal is to find a good balance, to enjoy stuff but be able to live without it if tragedy strikes, and to collect only what I truly want and will use.

Stuff is a part of who we are, no matter how large or how small. As long as our stuff is only a mere part of who we are, and not our whole being, I think it's entirely possible to have stuff and be completely productive and content with our lives.

Honestly, I'm just trying to justify spending $12 this weekend on a LEGO Indiana Jones set that I don't really need.

Lego Indiana Jones: Ambush in Cairo

Monday, September 21, 2009

Quick Update

Who knew unemployment could be this time consuming? Between freelance work that I started last week and the (two!) scripts that I need to hammer out by the end of this week, I feel like I'm right back to my crazy work hours.

I'm definitely not complaining about the freelance work, though--believe you me, that's a nice little way to pay for this week's comics. But, that freelance work will dry up by next week, and then I'll be truly and unequivocally unemployed.

My mind tends to wander easily, so not having a steady gig is tough on me. I was unemployed for over a year after I graduated from college, but I filled the time by taking a bunch of post grad classes.

Come next Monday, though, that'll be the Big Test. I mean, I was technically unemployed last Monday through Wednesday, but I had a feeling I'd be asked to do some freelance work fairly quickly. Still, that Monday and Tuesday proved to be filled with enough paper pushing and job applying that I managed to stay (relatively) sane.

Next week, though.

I am not looking forward to that. But, because my mind wanders in all different directions, I plan to keep myself busy applying for jobs, (hopefully) interviewing for jobs, and certainly writing and getting things ready for the launch date of my new comic book series.

Yep, it's getting close to the end of production on issue one of my previously mentioned (here and here) Creator Owned title, and as of this morning the artist has all 22 pages pencilled and inked, and the cover is fully colored.

The rest of the colors should be in by the end of next week, and then it's time to A. Give the pages to the letterer, B. Start the promotion machine, and C. Complete the script for issue two and start in on issue three.

Launch Date is fast approaching, so I will have some news in the next few days concerning the project.

That's all for now, though, as I need to get back to freelancing...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Monkey Island: The hilarious adventures of a wannabe pirate

Secret of Monkey Island title screenAvast, me hearties! Plunder the kitchen and grab some grog (or root beer)--'tis International Talk Like a Pirate Day! T' celebrate, I be butchering the conventions o' pirate lingo an' introducin' the greatest (and only) comedic pirate-themed adventure game series ever to set sail--Monkey Island. So, grab yer grog, cinch up your corset, keel a yardarm, and... uh... plunder a bilge rat?

Sorry. I'm celebrating Talk Like a Moron Pirate Day.

Anypegleg, the Monkey Island games feature everything you'd expect from a pirate game--adventure on the high seas, voodoo magic, sea chanteys (yes, I spelled "chanteys" right, thank you), swordfighting, and, most importantly, pirates. The series is primarily a computer game series, but a few Monkey Island games have found their way to consoles such as the PlayStation 2 and the Wii.

Monkey Island 2 - Guybrush confronts zombie LeChuckThe protagonist of these games is Guybrush Threepwood, a mighty pirate. A mighty clueless pirate, that is. Whether trying to prove himself worthy of being a pirate, fighting his nemesis, the dread pirate LeChuck, or trying to woo/rescue the love of his life, Elaine Marley, Guybrush gets into all sorts of trouble, often of his own making.

It's up to you to get Guybrush out of trouble and save the day, but you'll need to be creative and clever (and possibly use a walkthrough). As point-and-click adventure game series, Monkey Island features oodles of puzzles: you'll need to escape from a sealed bank vault, navigate through a baffling forest maze, assemble a voodoo doll using improvised ingredients, and best your enemies in combat with your sharp sword and sharper wit.

Monkey Island pioneered the art of Insult Swordfighting, in which you use your scathing words to destroy the morale of your opponent. Rather than forcing you to learn complex button combos and difficult battle strategies, swordfighting in the Monkey Island games consists of insulting your foes and responding to their taunts with your own witty comebacks; the person with the strongest insults and best comebacks is the winner. If you've ever heard of Monkey Island, you almost certainly know this one:

"You fight like a dairy farmer!"

"How appropriate. You fight like a cow."

Curse of Monkey Island - insult swordfightingMost of the insults and responses are highly amusing; the Monkey Island games in general are known for their humor, and the dialogue is traditionally where the comedy comes through the strongest. There are plenty of sight gags and absurd situations, but the jokes and one-liners alone are worth the price of admission.

Each game in the series has a distinct feel in terms of both style and content--unlike most other series, Monkey Island does a good job of making each game fresh and unique, and anything that's recycled from one game to the next is almost always done for a laugh or for the sake of the plot.

The Monkey Island games are also very forgiving: It is impossible to die (well, unless you really go out of your way to bump off Guybrush, but there's virtually no chance of doing that unintentionally) and you can't accidentally do or say anything that will prevent you from beating the game.

Well, I've spun me yarn about the whole series; now, here's a concise (for me) guide to the individual games in the Monkey Island:

The Secret of Monkey Island:

SoMI is an adventure game classic, sort of like the Monty Python and the Holy Grail of video games. A solid plot, entertaining characters, clever puzzles with funny solutions, and a slew of memorable quotes make this a game a must-play for anyone remotely interested in adventure games.

Secret of Monkey Island - Scumm BarGuybrush Threepwood wants to be a pirate, so he attempts to prove his worth by undertaking three trials given to him by some important-looking pirates who clearly know what it takes to become a pirate. Guybrush soon falls in love with a woman, Governor Elaine Marley, but there's one big problem: the ruthless ghost pirate LeChuck has already vowed to win her hand in marriage, or to take it by force. Before long, LeChuck kidnaps Elaine and it's up to Guybrush to find a ship, assemble a crew, and sail off to a place called Monkey Island to rescue Elaine.

Some things to look forward to: Insult Swordfighting, safecracking, treasure hunting, breaking someone out of prison, escaping from a village of funny cannibals (not scary cannibals, mind you), fun with a rubber chicken, and possibly sinking your own ship if you're not careful with your aim (or if you're too careful... bwahaha!).

SoMI was given updated graphics and audio for The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition, which also features full voice acting and the ability to switch back and forth between the original and updated look and sounds.

Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition - Scumm Bar
Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge

MI2 is generally held in high regard by the gaming community and is just as strong as the original, if not stronger in some respects. However, MI2 isn't as appealing to me as the other games; many of the puzzles feel more like annoying obstacles than fun challenges, the theme and setting are generally darker than in the other games, and while MI2 is certainly funny, the jokes and one-liners from MI2 haven't stood out the way the humor from the other games has.

Monkey Island 2 prisonGuybrush has grown a beard (the mark of a true pirate!) and is now after the greatest treasure of them all--the treasure of Big Whoop. Guybrush scours the Tri-Island Area to reconstruct the map that will take him to the treasure; this is even more imporant to Guybrush than ever when the treasure of Big Whoop is revealed to be the only thing that can stop LeChuck, who has returned as a zombie (and Guybrush is to blame).

Some things to look forward to: a mysterious voodoo hut in a creepy swamp, a graveyard with some very silly tombstones, a spitting contest, an eerie shipwreck at the bottom of the ocean, a deadly and ridiculous Rube Goldberg machine, a fast-talking used coffin salesman, and a monocled cartographer named Wally B. Feed.

The Curse of Monkey Island:

CMI is a well-loved game and often cited as a fan favorite. Actually, it's usually the case that Monkey Island fans will pick one of the first three games as their favorite, as they're all excellent adventure games with good plots and great humor. CoMI sports highly stylized and somewhat cartoony graphics as well as full voice acting from a dynamite cast, and while I prefer the graphical style of the other games, I feel the voice acting is what really makes this game a success. The story is sillier than in the previous two games, and some of the puzzles are pretty out there, but overall it's a very fun experience.

Curse of Monkey Island - ElaineGuybrush rescues Elaine once again from the clutches of LeChuck, who (like any good bad guy) just keeps coming back. Guybrush finally declares his love for Elaine and proposes to her with a ring he looted from the treasure hold of LeChuck's ship... except he doesn't realize the ring is cursed. So Elaine turns into a statue. And is promptly stolen by thieves. Kinda puts a damper on the whole engagement thing. Guybrush must assemble a crew once again and get his hands on the map that will take him to the lost island that holds the secrets of lifting the curse.

Some things to look forward to: Ship-to-ship combat, Insult Swordfighting on the high seas, curing a bartender's hangover, scaring a fear-resistant gravedigger, sneaking into a hoity-toity beach club, a caber tossing contest, and singing barbers.

Escape from Monkey Island:

Though EMI suffers from unintuitive controls and a few outrageously frustrating and tedious puzzles, and though it occasionally loses the feeling of being a Monkey Island game, I still like EMI for its great voice cast, humor, fun characters, diverse and perfectly fitting music, semi-cartoony 3-D graphical style, and some of its interesting locations. EMI might be a fairly weak Monkey Island game, but it's still a pretty decent adventure game.

Escape from Monkey Island - Guybrush and ElaineGuybrush and Elaine are now married and live together in Elaine's gubernatorial mansion, but a rival politician named Charles L. Charles has come to town, and Elaine is in no position to run against him because she was declared dead in her long absence from office. Guybrush's adventure begins with working out a plan to clear things up, but it's not long before Guybrush gets involved in a race with a greedy Australian for a powerful voodoo talisman known as the Ultimate Insult, which could be used to take over the entire Caribbean if it falls into the wrong hands!

Some things to look forward to: Insult Armwrestling, blowing up a catapult, riding down a river of lava, amassing a small collection of random prostheses, a diving competition, lawyers, and lots of monkeys.

Tales of Monkey Island:

TMI is a departure from the format of the previous four Monkey Island games in that it's episodic, having been released one part at a time over the course of several months. Each of the five episodes is a self-contained adventure that makes up part of a larger story. With a few exceptions, the cast of CMI is back to voice their characters, and there are throwbacks to all the previous Monkey Island games (though it's obvious the writers went out of their way to avoid talking about Escape from Monkey Island).

LeChuck is back this time with yet another crazy scheme to conquer the Caribbean, except when Guybrush's attempt to interfere doesn't go entirely according to plan, a horrible pox is released upon the Carribean, and it's up to Guybrush to clean things up before the pox spreads too far. TMI is the most-plot intensive game in the series, and it raises some very interesting questions about the nature of the main characters and the relationships between them.

Tales of Monkey Island screenshotThe first two episodes are similar to the Monkey Island you've come to know and love, but the third episode goes into territory that's more disgusting, mature, and immature than usual. The last two episodes are darker than anything in MI2--if it weren't for Guybrush's tastefully humorous dialogue in the face of such seriousness, these two episodes would feel like a different series entirely, or at least a very grim and edgy Monkey Island reboot. Maybe it works for you, maybe it doesn't.

Some things to look forward to: Lots of voodoo, the unlikeliest puzzle-solving duo in Monkey Island history, Guybrush defending himself in court, making utterly absurd faces at people, MANATEES!, and clever takes on some of Monkey Island's most iconic and beloved puzzles.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Critical Hit

Over the course of this blog's existence, Nathaniel and I have tried to introduce each other to various fandoms that we enjoy, and in my case, I was able to turn Nathaniel into a (borderline hopeless) comics fan.

I saw his bookshelf the other day, and I can attest to this fact. There are now officially more graphic novels on that shelf than I would have ever guessed he'd assemble.

Actually, with the purchase of another two or three books, Nathaniel will be forced to move a cookbook off the shelf to make some room for the likes of Batman, Superman, and Blue Beetle. So, you know this whole comics thing is getting serious.

Since we started this blog, Nathaniel has gone from, "um, the Goon? You mean the Goonies, right?" to "Alex, seriously, when are you going to (remember to) lend me the last two volumes of the series?"

And that's awesome.

We can now go on day-long quests to comics shops, and we can help each other rationalize completely irrational (and irresponsible!) purchases. So, from my end, this has been a complete mission accomplished.

Now, Nathaniel's also had some success in this whole geekdom-sharing endeavor, as he became the only human on the planet able to get me to sit down and watch (all three!) Star Wars movies.

An epic feat, that.

But, come this past Wednesday, I did something I honestly never imagined myself doing, and I did it of my own free will and volition. Heck, I was the one who asked Nathaniel if he could Exfand me on this thing, so right there you can see the impact this blog has had on my own, personal geekdom.

What was this thing, you ask? Well, it was playing Dungeons & Dragons.

Yep, I partook in a role playing game.

But before we get into the actual game playing, a bit of backstory. Because of my (formerly) crazy work hours, and Nathaniel's often unpredictable schedule, we really haven't been hanging out as much as we'd like to. So, we made rock solid plans to get together on Wednesday for lunch, and just hang out for a while.

Come Tuesday night, Nathaniel emailed to ask if I'd maybe want to watch a movie. I replied that, instead, maybe he'd be willing to walk me through the basics of a game of D&D. After his head exploded, he emailed back, saying only " ... "

I took these ellipses as a sign of his acquiescence, and I prepared myself, mentally, for the day of role playing ahead. By which I mean, I watched TV and fell asleep, upright, on the couch.

The next day dawned (as days tend to do), and I headed out to meet Nathaniel at his place for a day of quesadillas and dungeon crawling. In that order. My first task was to fill out a (very intimidating-looking) Character Record Sheet, with all the characteristics and abilities that my player would have.

I chose a level one human fighter. I named him Wally. Wally (the Warrior).

Once I had rolled the die several times to establish what kinds of abilities brave Sir Wally would have, we were ready to begin.

It was just me and Nathaniel, and he is an expert Dungeon Master (guy what tells the story and gives the players their options), so I set off on my quest alone. I traveled into the quiet little town of Sporkston, and I met the Mayor, who told me that he was having trouble with kobolds.

The Mayor (and Nathaniel) asked me (Wally) if I knew what a kobold was. I answered, "Yes, one ate my baby not long ago."

I accepted the Mayor's proposal and was given some supplies and a hobbit helper named Hob. Before I left to seek out these kobolds, I even managed to remember to ask the Mayor for payment.

See, I have learned something about business over these past few weeks.

From there the journey began, and I ran into all sorts of nasties and I fought and got hit and hit back and found what I was looking for, and I destroyed the kobolds. But that's not the important part.

What I found truly amazing was the amount of work that the DM has to put into each and every quest. Even for this minor, just-about-two hour game, Nathaniel typed up nearly three pages of material. For each quest, the DM has to literally create an intricate story, with twists and turns and traps.

Nathaniel provided detailed scene setting for each new place Wally ventured to, and I have to say, I got wrapped up in the experience. Especially for an old Literature Major such as myself, using my imagination as the DM read off scene descriptions put me right into the game, and the world.

And I can totally see the appeal of a game like D&D.

Will I be a weekend warrior, playing in groups and replacing my comics habit with a gaming one? I dunno. We'll see. Most likely, I'll be adding a gaming habit to my comics habit, if I know myself at all.

But before that happens, I need to play a few more times and get a bit more accustomed to the game. For now, though, I can officially say that, for one day at least, I was a Gamer.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Backloggery: Keeping track of your video games so you don't have to

If you've got a backlog of video games you somehow never get around to playing, or if you have a nasty habit of playing a game almost to the end and then never beating it, or even if you enjoy showing off your large collection of games, then The Backloggery is for you.
The Backloggery is a handy website where you can keep a record of all the games you've ever played and whether or not you've beaten them. There are four main categories for each game: Unfinished, Beaten (meaning you've simply reached the end of the game), Completed (meaning you've beaten it and found all the secrets and easter eggs, etc.), and Mastered (meaning you've gone above and beyond completing the game and now have a real geek claim to fame for it).
Additionally, you can rate the games, keep track of how many achievements you've unlocked (if applicable), and highlight games you're currently playing. There's also a Fortune Cookie option that's great for indecisive gamers--you can let the computer randomly suggest a game off of your list for you to play next.
The Backloggery also gives you a grand total of your overall completion of all the games on your list, which might give you the push you need to play through your backlog when you see the number of Unfinished games far outweighs what you've beaten.

If nothing else, it's fun to see just how many games you've ever played, and how many you've finished. There's the potential for some real gamer cred here.

You can visit The Backloggery here:

And, if you're interested, take a peek at my fairly extensive backloggery:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Waiting for Wednesday, Issue 29

I've said it many times in the past. Every week, once a week, no matter how bad a week you're having...Wednesday is a little slice of nirvana. Because, even if you're strapped for cash (as I will be, soon, I'd imagine), you have an excuse to mosey on down to the local comics shop and browse the shelves.

Take a gander at the new books, the new toys, the new whatever that thing is behind the counter with the $300 price tag. Maybe it's a replica alien head from a 1970s TV show you never even knew existed. Still, the simple fact that someone made it, and the fact that, more than likely, it'll be in some nerd's living room by the end of the day has to make even most cynical among us stop and smile.

(And, hey, bonus points to me for using the words "mosey" and "gander" in the same post).

So, yeah, for all those wondering. This week, I am going to spend normally, and buy what I want. Next week? Probably the same deal. The following week? Um, no. Not if I'm still unemployed. So, let's hope I land something before then, because I needs my comics.

Truth be told, the only time that I kept a bit of sanity this past weekend was on Sunday, when I sat down to read my pile of books from weeks (and months) past. I figure, as long as I don't burn through my unread books at too quick a pace, I can buy less and less each week, and still have something to look forward to reading.

That said, this week sees the latest release of DC's big event, Blackest Night, with issue three. As I've said, I never really liked Green Lantern. Hal Jordarn, Jon Stewart, Kyle Who cares? Never me.

But now, with Geoff Johns writing the pants off this title, I am 100% hooked on GL. What a great storyline! I'm a fan of horror, and boviously, superheroes, and this book delivers on both. The interiors by Ivan Reis are some of the best work being done in mainstream comics, and I highly suggest you check this series out.

Here's the blurb for this week's issue:

As the dead attack in full force, Green Lantern is faced with an impossible decision and the scattered remains of the Justice League suffer a terrible loss. Who can stop the Black Lanterns? Why are they rising? And how can the Spectre help?

And the cover:

Blackest NightNext up, we have a book that I ordered from Diamond a couple months back, and I am really looking forward to. From Dark Horse, issue one of Beasts of Burden hits today. As an aside, I have to say that Dark Horse has become, hands down, my favorite comics publisher.

From The Goon to Hellboy to BPRD to Buffy to Witchfinder, Solomon Kane to Conan, and all of the great one-shots and limited series they release, the publisher is just outstanding. Their material is always new, and fresh, and their comics are just flat-out good.

When it comes to the kind of books I like the most, it seems as though Dark Horse has one or two that are right up my alley every week. What I really love about Dark Horse, though, is the fact that you can pick up most any title in their catalogue, read it, understand what the heck's going on, and become a fan of the title.

Their series are all collected in trades that are numbered in a logical (easy-to-follow, numerical) order, and there aren't a million different incarnations of each of their characters. Actually, there's only one version of each character, as each title (except for their Star Wars adaptations) is written by the person who owns those characters.

Powell on Goon, Mignola on Hellboy, Whedon on Buffy, and so on. Dark Horse keeps things simple, and straightforward when it comes to the streamlined nature of their titles. But, they manage to produce some of the highest quality, most thought-provoking books in an industry where "I punch your face!" is all too common.

So it is with that preamble that I say the following. I have every faith that Beasts of Burden, from creators Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson, will be another must-read addition to the Dark Horse catalogue.

Beasts of BurdenWritten by comix legend Dorkin, and beautifully painted by one of the greats in the industry, Jill Thompson, Beasts tells the story of a group of (talking) animals who must investigate the supernatural goings-on in their hometown. These characters have appeared before, but you'll not need any previous knowledge of them going into this series. That's just how Dark Horse rolls.

Anyway, each page is fully painted by Thompson, and the book clocks in with a downright cheap price tag of $2.99. Here's the full blurb from Dark Horse, and be sure to check out the free preview on their site, right here.

When supernatural occurrences sweep the community of Burden Hill, it's up to a heroic gang of cats and dogs to keep residents safe from harm.

A bizarre disturbance leads these four-legged neighbors on a wild-goose chase into the depths of the nearby forest, where loyalties are tested and lives come to an abrupt end.

Award-winning comics creators Evan Dorkin (Milk & Cheese) and Jill Thompson (Scary Godmother) first introduced these heroic characters in the anthologies The Dark Horse Book of Hauntings, Witchcraft, the Dead, and Monsters, for which they won coveted Eisner Awards for Best Short Story and Best Painter.

Adventure, mystery, horror and humor thrive on every page of Beasts of Burden -- a comic-book series that will capture readers' hearts and haunt their dreams.

The Eisner Award-winning story gets its own series!

So, that's what I'm looking forward to today. As mentioned, I probably won't get around to reading these books for a while, but just being in the store will be a nice change of pace from online job searching. Oh, and I might learn how to play D&D this week.

I smell a hilarious post in the future...

Anywho, what are you Waiting for?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Exfanding Review: The Comedians of Comedy

I haven't had much time to think these past few days. With the short notice I was given that our office was going under, getting all my stuff together became a mad dash to finish by Friday afternoon. Cleaning out my computer and my desk, all my drawers, finding all the keys that I had to give back to the right people...

Not fun.

And the contacts--scrambling to get every scrap of information possible on every contact I'd made over the past few years, in the (probably vain) attempt at catching someone at a good moment and getting hired elsewhere, quickly.

Since Friday afternoon, I've applied to over a dozen jobs, and I've sent out five or six inquiry emails. I've yet to start bugging my contacts, but I have a feeling that will be the next move.

So, between all of the moving things from my office, and the (seemingly endless) form-filing and phone calls to the Department of Labor, and (trying to) get some sleep despite my completely obliterated nerves...last night I felt like I needed to laugh.

Just laugh and forget about life for a while.

So I threw in The Comedians of Comedy (flawless segue, no?) on my DVD player, and I did just that.

Laugh, I mean.

Who are the Comedians of Comedy? Patton Oswalt, Brian Posehn, Maria Bamford, and Zach Galifianakis.

If you're familiar with any one of them, then you're likely familiar with this documentary. If the names don't seem familiar at all, there's still a good chance you know Patton and Brian from television. If you hear Brian's voice, then you'll immediately recognize him. Check his Wiki. I'll wait.

Now, if you only know these comedians because of their various TV and movie roles, then you really don't know these comedians. They are, for lack of a better term, the comedic avante garde. They tell Star Wars jokes, and they talk about Nerd Life just ask often as they talk about the mundane and the everyday.

But their sensibilities are far different from those of mainstream entertainers.

They curse and their jokes can be filthy, and they just do not pull punches in their acts. They don't conform, and they refuse to make the stories they tell onstage more "audience friendly," because they do real bits on real people and events.

The Comedians of Comedy DVD follows the four comedians as they travel the country, doing shows at small venues. In 2005, when the documentary was made, all four performers had made their names, and Oswalt and Posehn especially had dedicated fan followings. The idea behind the tour was for the four to play at small venues that traditionally hosted indie rock shows.

The thinking there was that the cover charges at such places are typically much lower than the clubs the comics normally played in, so a wider sampling of their fans could come to see them. They'd also expose themselves to a newer, younger audience, that maybe can't afford going to larger venues.

And the entire tour was filmed, so in addition to the hilarious stand-up material shown in the movie, viewers also get to go on the tour bus with the comics, and watch as they write and practice new jokes, go to an honest-to-goodness arcade, shop at a local comics store, and make fun of each other and the world around them.

Patton Oswalt and Brian Posehn are bona fide geeks, and the movie actually opens in Posehn's home office, where he has his Simpsons action figures and comics on proud display. He and Oswalt are shown hitting up a comics shop on one leg of their tour, and they liken their buying habits to an addiction. In a cool and kind of touching moment, though, Posehn talks about being nearly 40 years old, and still reading something that "nobody else really gets."

In addition to the documentary, there's also an hour-long live show, performed by three of the comics so you can get a longer look at their act.

The Comedians of Comedy is not family-friendly, heartwarming entertainment by any stretch of the imagination, but it is flat-out hysterical. And, as I mentioned, that's exactly what the doctor ordered.