Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday Linking and a Quick Review

The WolfmanAs mentioned in yesterday's (fake) post, I finally got around to seeing the recent remake of Universal horror film classic, The Wolf Man, starring Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins.

And, despite the fact that we were yet to pull into the parking lot just five minutes before the previews started rolling, we somehow managed to make it before the lights went down.

Looking back on it now, maybe it wouldn't have been so bad had we been fashionably late, though. There weren't many people in the theater since the movie's a few weeks old at this point, but that didn't stop the absolute assault of commercials and previews. And the commercials--you know, the regular television commercials that we now get to see at movie theaters, too--played for quite a while before we sat down.

Think of them as previews before the previews.

And speaking of previews. For an almost month-old film, we got five of them--previews, I mean. Five. And one was for the Kevin Smith-directed Cop Out, which opened on Friday and was competing with the movie we were sitting down to watch.

Now, yesterday I mentioned that I'd only been to the movies twice since The Dark Knight came out a couple of summers ago. I was thinking about it on the way to The Wolfman, and I realized I was wrong.

I've actually been to three movies since The Dark Knight--Watchmen, Sherlock Holmes, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox.

So I guess I'm just reminded of how awful the current movie-going experience is. These days, we get bombarded with ads before we get bombarded with more ads, and then, after over half an hour of self promotion, the theater allows us to watch the movie that we paid our $10.00 for.

Which is nice of them.

I guess I just don't enjoy the movies like I used to. I'm spoiled by a big screen and a blu-ray player, and I'll take my couch over a movie theater seat any day of the week. Worse than that, though, is the fact that I kinda despise the whole, communal aspect of theaters thing.

The decades-old complaints about the movie-going public are still painfully true today. There's the guy who sits next to you and doesn't stop crinkling his bag of who knows what. Or the kid who has to go to the bathroom ten times during the first half of the movie. Or the parents who very clearly made a poor parental choice in taking their too-young child to see, I dunno, Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

The last time I truly enjoyed the communal aspect of a movie theater was back in the late 90s, when The Blair Witch Project came out. It was cool to listen to other people's reactions to that flick, and to watch half the crowd gasp at the ending as the other half scratched their heads and complained about the very same ending.

That was pretty unique.

But today? Forget it. And that's not to mention the fact that, because of the Internet, we all know pretty much everything about the movie before we even buy the tickets.

Anyway. That's a whole lot of complaining for another day. For now, let's focus on the movie of the moment. When I first heard that Universal was re-making The Wolf Man, I was a little eh about it.

When it was announced that Anthony Hopkins and Benicio Del Toro would be in it, I was relieved and kind of excited for the flick. When I saw the trailer, I was impressed with the footage, and I really wanted to go see it.

And then I read the reviews.

And I'm not talking about the reviews from the "professional" critics here. I'm talking about the reviews on blogs and Twitter pages from authors and artists that I admire. And after poking around a bit online, I became hesitant about seeing the movie.

But last week, I was talked into seeing the film by a guy at my LCS who loved the movie. He's a big horror buff, and his in-store recommendations are usually dead on, so I decided to trust his judgement and see the film.

And I'm glad I did.

This was an easy movie to screw up. Lots of makeup, lots of foggy shots of the English countryside, lots of close-ups of the full moon. All that stuff can come off as cheesy if done wrong, and boy, have we seen them done wrong in the past.

While some of the shots of the full moon may have been overkill, I think this latest incarnation of The Wolfman was treated exactly in the right way. The cinematography established the movie in a Gothic setting--with big houses and long staircases and everything--and I was immersed in the world of the film from the very beginning.

Actually, my favorite thing about the film is that it was truly a Gothic movie--something that's been sorely lacking in Hollywood ever since vampires started to glitter. Or whatever.

The acting was top notch, and that's to be expected from the likes of Anthony Hopkins and Del Toro, and Hugo Weaving's turn as a Scotland Yard investigator was right on. Emily Blunt, the film's romantic lead, was great and she did a fine job playing a role in which she could have very easily been reduced to scenery.

Hopkins and Del Toro deliver solid performances, and Del Toro handles the classic character with care. This movie was made with love for the original and the filmmakers were sure to tread lightly in all the right places.

For fans of the original, there's plenty to like, with the make-up being the most obvious homage to that film. Similar in look to the 1941 Wolf Man starring Lon Chaney, Jr., the make-up in the remake stands out and will likely be recognized come Oscar time.

The biggest difference in the two films is the level of violence portrayed onscreen in the new version, which is in stark contrast to the strangle-happy Wolf Man of the 40's. But, really, if you're gonna get killed by a werewolf, it's not going to be because he choked you to death.

I mean, how would the villager with no lines even know how you were killed when he trips over your body in the woods the morning after?

Sure, some of the violence is over the top in Del Toro's version, but we are watching a movie about a man who turns into a wolf, so elements of the fantastic aren't necessarily out of place in the world of the film.

Some have complained that it's too gory, while hardcore horror fans have complained that it's not scary. And I think that's one of the best points that the film has going for it. It sits somewhere in between a true horror picture in the vein of An American Werewolf in London, and a more mainstream, toned-down offering, such as the Scream movies.

As a sort of in between movie, I think The Wolfman can play well to a pretty wide audience, though the violence is going to be a bit much for younger viewers (and Nathaniel).

Usually, I'm of the mind that a film should be all one thing, or all another. Either go full-on horror, or make a PG-13 creepfest. Don't try to meet halfway. But, somehow, I felt like The Wolfman managed to pull this off quite well.

And it did so with unsettling imagery in the form of flashbacks and fever dreams. Some of the best, jump-worthy spots in the film come during those scenes, and don't even involve werewolf-ing. They're just creepy and atmospheric and dead on.

Wrapping this up, I'll say the following--I liked the movie, and it'll be a blu-ray sitting in my collection, for sure. I think horror fans can find a lot to love about this film, and I think even the squeamish will enjoy big chunks of the movie.

It really is a (bloody) heartfelt homage to the original, and we get a much needed update to a classic story.

-- -- --

And now for today's link. As mentioned a couple of days ago, this past week has seen a mainstream interest in the vintage comic book market. Earlier in the week, a copy of Action Comics, issue one, featuring the first appearance of Superman, sold for just over a million dollars.

Well, on Friday, it was announced that the highest-graded copy of Detective Comics, issue 27, featuring the first Batman, sold in auction for one million, seventy five thousand dollars (including auction fees). The book was professionally graded as an 8.0 out of 10, which is ridiculous when you take into consideration the fact that the comic came out in the 1930s.Detective Comics #27 coverI have no idea if this book would have had the same final bid had the Action not sold for what it did earlier this week. But the thing about a niche market like vintage comics is that, because of the rarity of the product, the last sale typically sets the market value.

Who knows how this all will affect other Golden Age comics, and who knows if Silver Age books will see an increase in price, too. Here's the link to MTV's Splash Page coverage of it all, so check it out for yourself.

It's been cool to see the coverage in the mainstream press, I have to say. Though, there was one anchorman who, after a reporter talked about the fact that people feel safer putting their money in tangible goods than they do in the stock market (and according to the report, comics are at the top of that list when it comes to collectibles), had to go ahead and add his own snide remark about the buyer doing so anonymously because of the "shame" in spending any money on a comic book.

Ah, well.

We can't win all of them over to our side, I guess.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Wolf Man Saturday

Welcome to a very special, "Whoops, I Thought Nathaniel was Posting Today" edition of Exfanding Your Horizons. I have very little to say this afternoon, which is shocking because that's just never the case with me.

Add to that the fact that I have one foot out the door as I need to get on my way in order to catch the showing of The Wolfman, and you can bet your stack of worthless variants that I'm going to make this quick and (hopefully) painless.

Since I'm off to the movies for just the second time since Dark Knight came out (seriously, I never go the movies anymore), it got me thinking. Which always spells trouble. Nathaniel and I had to flip schedules around and meet almost fortuitously this morning in order to hang out for, oh, all of about an hour and a half.

Then he had to head off and I had to head off, and now we're trying to advance plan for the next twenty-five minute visit. Which might not happen for a few weeks.

Which is bizarre, since when you look at things on the surface, we both alternate between being unemployed and under-employed. But then there are those patches of employment that consume entire weeks, and in my most recent predicament, possibly much longer than that.

And neither one of us is ever free when the other has some free time.

It's weird. We have the schedules of guys who drive those big, almost offensive Mercedes(es?) with the number seven on it, and Yeah, we're not that. At all.

Life's just funny that way, I suppose.

There's no point to any of this, really, but now I'm officially late, and I need to get in the (non-Mercedes) car and drive to see what will hopefully be a not-very-cringe-worthy remake of an original film that I adore.

Maybe I'll even review it this week.

Either way, tomorrow I'll be back with a regular post, at our regular 11:00 time slot. Until then, enjoy your Saturday!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday Fun

Snowy daysIt's Thursday night, and currently, we here at Exfanding Headquarters are hunkering down for yet another major winter storm. My drive home tonight was, let's say...different. There weren't many cars out on the highway, but the roads alternated between nightmarish and just plain wet.

I'd drive a couple miles in the driving rain, then I'd hit a section of white, fluffy snow, then I'd cycle back into a wind tunnel of freezing rain and nice, big chunks of ice. And the last weather report I heard said, and I'm quoting here, "the snow will start up sometime after 6:00 and will continue for the next 18 hours."

Which is encouraging.

I can hear the ice pelting against my window as I type, and...wait. I just turned on the outside light, and it's snowing. Yikes. Officially.

As Nathaniel so eloquently alluded to last week, it's funny how our opinion of snow changes as we get older. As a kid, snow means a day off from school, an afternoon spent throwing things at each other, and hot chocolate.

And that lasts pretty much up through college, since most universities now close at the drop of a flake. (Except NYU, which never closes. Except that one time, my Junior year, when everyone referred to that day as, "the one time.")

Being a grown-up turns snow days into "dangerous driving conditions" days, which are only about half as much fun as building a snowman on the front lawn. (Or, hilariously, in the middle of the street. And, no, I won't tell you about that time.)

But, like it is with any other rule in life, there are always exceptions. And, typically, 8-to-14 inches of snow means we can all work from home. Now, as mentioned, I'm writing this Thursday night. So, if all us East Coasters wake up (today), look outside, and see nothing but green grass, then I was The Jinx.

And I apologize for that.

But if I am, indeed, completely snowed in today (remember, I'm writing from the not-so-distant past here), and I do get to work from home, I fully intend to throw in some comics reading time at some point.

I've been buying more trades lately than Renfield had flies, and they're just piling on up in a corner, begging to be read. Hopefully I can sit down and enjoy one or two of them tomorrow. I mean, today. Right.

This weekend, I plan to (at least attempt to) catch up on all of my single issues. I've made a huge dent in that stack recently, and I'm almost there. Of course, just last night I started reading my old, beaten up copy of Daredevil: Yellow, by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, and now I'm going back and re-reading the rest of their Marvel "color" books--Hulk: Grey and Spider-Man: Blue.

And after reading Yellow, I really want to go back and read more Daredevil. I'm thinking I'll start with Frank Miller's run on the title, then go to Kevin Smith's, then read the entirety of Brian Bendis' 12 volumes.

That's the problem with comics, you see. But that's also the best thing about comics.

Like when you try to "organize" your collection, and instead you pick up and open every single book on the floor, or in the closet, or in that big, stinky box in the basement, and you flip through the pages, look at the pictures like a little kid, and read bits and pieces of dialogue.

Comics are a continuous form of entertainment. Spider-Man is going to get himself into some impossible death trap once a month, every month, like clockwork. And, most times, he'll escape the deathtrap and save the day.

But we all know the story (especially in super hero comics) isn't about beginnings and endings. It's about how we get there.

And luckily for us, the stories of how they got there will always be there. No matter what your favorite character is doing in his or her current incarnation, your favorite stories will always be around, just waiting for you to come back to them.

Now, I can hear you asking--what does this have to do with snow? That's easy. Absolutely nothing. But, like snow days, it's not the comics that change. It's us--our age, our situations in life.

But the stories stay the same, and when you need them--they'll be there.

I have a strange, cool little tradition that I always, always take part in whenever there's a moment of...oh, I don't know what to call it. Doubt? Fear? Anxiety? Maybe anxiety.

Anyway, there's an issue of Justice League of America that always gets me right in the gut. It doesn't matter what the issue number is, really, ( but since we're all obsessive compulsive comics fans, I'll tell you that it's issue zero from Brad Meltzer's run.)

It's a story about Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman getting together after a year away to choose a new roster for the JLA. But before that happens, Meltzer tells the story of the history of the League through the eyes of each character. We see moments from the past and moments from the possible future.

We watch as Clark Kent buries the man who adopted him and we see Batman and Wonder Woman cry when they hear the news that Superman has died.

We experience the joy and anxiety in Batman's voice when he first agrees to be a part of the League, and we take a peak into the moments after he lays Guy Gardner out with one punch.

And even if you didn't read comics (or, more likely, weren't even alive) when the JLA fought their first battle, or were turned into diamonds, or even when the Dark Knight returned, it just doesn't matter.

Meltzer paints life--even for super heroes--as the up and down roller coaster that it is. And I dunno, it just makes me feel better knowing that somewhere, there's this fictional guy running around in a cape who has gone through way worse than I can ever imagine, and he made it through the storm to fight another day.

Sure, it's unrealistic and kinda stupid, but it's how I feel. We all read the things we read for our own reasons. Sometimes, I just want to see some dude punch another dude in the mouth. Sometimes, I want to read about a group of aimless twenty-somethings, trying to find their way in life.

Comics are a big tent. They allow room for all kinds of stories, and that's why, despite all of my frustrations with the mendium over the past year, I just can't put them down. I just can't give them up.

I might be a grown up now, and I might have one heck of a commute waiting for me in a little while, but there's 12 inches of (possibly metaphorical) snow on the ground, and darn it, I'm building a snowman in the middle of the street.

You know, it's times like these when I wish I were a better writer, because then I'd be able to tie all of these thoughts together into something coherent and touching.

Sorry, folks. You get what you pay for.

-- -- --

And with that, Happy Friday, everyone, and enjoy your weekend! And read comics!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bringing Balance to the Fourth

For the past few months, I've been devoting virtually all of my free time alone to four different endeavors: (1) creating Mega Man 5 videos for my YouTube channel; (2) keeping up with everything I do for; (3) relaxing by playing video games and reading comic books; and (4) updating this blog. I've been doing pretty well with the first three, but that fourth endeavor has been slipping.

Mega Man was my primary focus for some time, but now that I'm recording audio commentary for the otherwise completed videos, I find that it's no longer possible for MM5 to be my primary focus. Conditions must be up to snuff for me to consider recording: I need to feel energetic and healthy enough to record at all, I need to have a solid chunk of time to work, it needs to be quiet around the house, and I need to record at a time when I won't disturb others and they won't disturb me. Compare this to the other three endeavors, which I can basically do at any time.

Essentially, the very nature of recording audio commentary is forcing me to spend my free time in other ways, which is actually very refreshing. Everything I do for GameCola makes me feel productive, and it also helps me to stay in the right kind of mindset for recording commentary. Taking some time for pure relaxation helps to keep me from getting burned out. Writing for this blog is always enjoyable and often cathartic, but I find that I keep gravitating toward the same topics and kinds of posts nowadays, and that bugs me a bit.

Fortunately, the situation now isn't anything like the situation I was in while recording my run of Mega Man 4, but there's a situation nonetheless. Maybe it's just my perception of things, but I feel like my posts have gotten lazier and less interesting over the past, say, two months.

Granted, I've been pouring most of my creativity and humor into Mega Man and GameCola, but that's because those projects are more likely to fail without the right kind of energy behind them. I can get away with a serious, ranty, or not-particularly-funny post on Exfanding, but dull babbling can ruin a video, and there's no sense going to a video game humor website if there's no humor involved.

Long story short, blogging has been more of a routine and less of a passion as of late, and I think it's showing. Many of my posts have been unusually short, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it's a sign that I've either been lazy or too preoccupied with my other projects to dedicate enough time to a longer post. I haven't bothered searching the archives for links that are clearly related to the content of my posts. I've been skimping on pictures, like in my noticeably naked Chick Flicks for Guys post. Uh... make sure you don't read that last sentence the wrong way.

It really sank in this week that I've been dedicating the minimum amount of time possible to meeting that self-imposed 11 AM deadline each day, and what really hammered it home is that Alex has been writing some beefy, well-thought-out posts despite the fact that he now has roughly 17 minutes of available blogging time per day.

If I take an extra day or two to release a new YouTube video, my fans get a little antsy. If I don't write anything new for GameCola this week, other staff writers will fill the void. If I don't get a chance to play Monkey Island tonight, I'll end up doing something else enjoyable. If I slack off around the blog, I'm letting down my friend.

It's impossible for me to devote an equal amount of time to all my side projects, but I can at least try to juggle all four balls at once, rather than juggling three balls and leaving the fourth one to roll around in a sombrero I'm wearing so that it sorta kinda maybe looks like there's another ball in the air.

I began making amends this week by responding to about a dozen comments on posts dating as far back as the beginning of January. I fiddled around with our sidebar and FINALLY created an About Us page, a Contact Us page with our shiny new e-mail addresses, plus a page with links to our other, non-blog projects. It was a genuine joy to spend some quality time with this blog again, and I didn't realize how much I missed having Exfanding as such a central part of my free time.

There'll be more tweaks and additions in the near future, but I'm open to suggestions if there's something in particular you'd like to see (or not see, for that matter).

It's good to be back.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 2, Issue 8

This morning, as I ran (slowly and laboriously) on the treadmill and listened to a podcast (the excellent 11 O'Clock Comics Podcast, that is), I was struck by a revelation. An honest-to-goodness thunderbolt from Odin hit me right between the eyes.

[Editor's Note: While it may very well be possible that the mythic god, Odin, struck me with a bolt of lightning somewhere in the vicinity of my forehead, it's probably a safer bet to assume that it was just the shock of running a mile at 5:30 in the morning that did it. Either way, a revelation I did have.]

Remembering that last year's Waiting for Wednesday feature didn't end with Issue 52, I tried to think back to when, exactly, WfW began. But because my memory is about as bad as Stan Lee's on a good day, I decided to do a little research on the blog.

And guess what I found out?

Only the greatest news ever, and certainly the most momentous comics-related news of the entire day, that's what.

This week marks the one year anniversary of this column. Yep. One year old. To be precise, February 25th is the exact day that all the madness (and copy/paste-ing from various publisher's Web sites) began, and you can go back and read that first post right here.

You know, for its historical significance.

So to mark this momentous occasion in fandom, I'd like to take a moment and reflect on the year that was, and to relive my own glory.

Okay. Done.

Oh, and remember that whole bit about this being the "most momentous comics-related news of the entire day"? Yeah, no. It's not. This morning, many news organizations (including my local NBC affiliate!) are reporting that a copy of Action Comics, issue 1, featuring the very first appearance of Superman, has sold for the record-smashing price of $1 million.

You can read a bit about it from the LA Times if you don't believe me.

Now, this particular sale is important for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because, well, it's Action 1. And secondly, because the previous record for this book was somewhere in the $300,000 range. I have no idea what condition this latest copy is in, but I have to imagine it's similar to that of previous copies that have come to market.

Thirdly, there is an auction starting Thursday of this week at Heritage Auctions, featuring a high-mid grade Detective Comics, issue 27 (the first appearance of Batman). It's been widely reported within the industry that this book, because of its condition, was expected to sell for well over the previous record of $300,000 for Action 1.

With the news of the $1 million Action 1 breaking today, though, I have no idea how that Detective will be affected. Batman is arguably (read: he is) more popular than Superman, but Action 1 is the Holy Grail of comics.

So, what will the most expensive comic of all time be? It's kind of a cool little horse race we've got going now. Will the Detective come close to that magical million dollar mark?

Well, the auction ends Sunday night, so I plan to post the final bid price sometime next week.

On to this week's books, though. Oh! Actually, ya know what might be a good idea, and something I probably should have weeks ago? If you go to Diamond's Previews World homepage, then click on the "New Releases" link on the bottom right of the screen, you'll come to the official shipping list for comics shops.

Like I said, probably should have brought that up a while ago.

Diamond's list is finalized every Monday afternoon, so what you see on the site Monday evenings (Tuesdays when there's a federal holiday) is what will be at your store come Wednesday.

Just so you know.

Speaking of books, there are quite a few good ones shipping today. Not nearly as many as last week, thankfully, as last week's shipment featured a stupid number of new hard covers from Marvel. Which was a major head-scratcher for me.

The point of putting out collections is to get those who may not follow the books issue-to-issue to pick up the full story instead, yes?


And why don't those fans follow the books issue-to-issue? Because it tends to get very expensive, week after week. So, let's release five hard covers on the same day. Yeah, no, that won't discourage the trade waiters.

Anyway, that whole tangent aside, this week's first, and biggest, title is DC's Blackest Night, issue 7. In this, the penultimate part of Geoff Johns' epic, I'm gonna go ahead and assume that something penultimate-y is going to happen.
Blackest Night #7This book has been the DC title of the past seven months, and Johns has steered the DC ship for the past year-plus. If you're not reading it, it's because of one of two reasons--either you're waiting for the trade, or you just don't like the DC Universe at all.

I love this book and everything about it, and I love the fact that I have seen (seriously, I have) people walking around town with different lantern color t-shirts. And I'm not talking about, around town during a convention. I'm talking, Tuesday afternoon, at the deli counter.

Anyway, here's the blurb from DC:

As Nekron continues to wage war on life throughout the universe, Hal Jordan discovers the grim, true mission behind the villain's return. But the truth is so cosmically abysmal that it threatens to expose a secret that could tear the very universe asunder. You can't miss this stunning, penultimate issue to the year's biggest event!

See what I mean about the penultimate? And anything with the words, "cosmically" and "abysmal" in its description has to be good, right?

Next up we have Ultimate Enemy, issue 2, from Marvel. I'm really, really enjoying the whole Ultimate line relaunch, and I enjoyed the first issue of this series. If you missed it, there'll likely still be some copies of issue one sitting on your store's shelves, so do yourself a favor and grab one.
Ultimate EnemyWritten by Brian Bendis and with art by Rafa Sandoval, Enemy is just a good, fun comic book with things exploding, and the Thing punching things. Really can't go wrong with any of that.

Here's the solicit info from Marvel:

The explosive new mini-series continues!! The super hero survivors of the mysterious attacks on the Ultimate Universe are forced to deal with the damage dropped at their doorstep. But who is behind it all? There's one person who has had just about enough with pain and suffering in life and isn't going to take it anymore.

That person is Susan Storm, the Invisible Woman...and she is going to kick somebody's @$#. Join fan-favorite BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS (ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN) and rising super-star, RAFA SANDOVAL (AVENGERS: INITIATIVE) as they bring you the next mind-blowing chapter!

Check it out, because it's good.

And, since it's just about time to wrap this anniversary edition up, I'll just quickly mention a few of the books I feel like I constantly promote on the blog. I love Vertigo's Madame Xanadu series and issue 20 ships today, which is a terrific accomplishment for a book with very little hype.

I'm enjoying Marvel's latest Stephen King mini-series, The Dark Tower: The Battle of Jericho Hill (all of these mini-series read GREAT in trade), and anyone with even a little bit of an interest in the prose work should be buying these books.

As always, New Avengers will be on my list today, with issue 62 shipping. It's a Siege tie-in, so there'll be some good stuff happening there. And, finally, because they put the price guide back in, I'll give a shout out to Wizard Magazine, issue 223, which features a cover story on the comic-to-film adaptation of Mark Millar's Kick-Ass.

And that's all she wrote for today.

Thanks, everyone, for reading my nonsense every week. For someone who is as verbose as I tend to be, I am truly at a loss for words when it comes to expressing my gratitude to you all for reading this column, and this blog. I have a blast writing for the site, and I look forward to the next 52 weeks!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Because, Apparently, I'm Cool

Indiana JonesSo I was reading the latest issue of Esquire magazine this morning--you know, because I'm hip and chic and I like to keep up with trends such as what the latest $800 Ferragamo's look like.

Well, that, or maybe because this weekend I really needed change for a $50 bill and Esquire was the closest thing to me that didn't have a Jonas Brother on its cover.

Either way you look at it (and just so we're clear on this--in my head, I look like Indiana Jones and I'm a professional wrestler in my spare time), I found myself hopelessly trying to find an article--nay, a single word--in the entire magazine.

Seriously, this thing is all ads.

It's all ads of people who look nothing like me (since I look like an early-1980s Harrison Ford, mind you), wearing ridiculous and expensive hats and collars and pointy, uncomfortable-looking leather things on their feet. (Unlike me, since I'm wearing a timeless brown fedora, and pulling it off flawlessly.)

But when I did find an actual article, I was immediately struck by how big of a dork I actually am. The only thing in the whole magazine that caught my eye was the answer to some inane poll's inane questioning about what women will put up with when it comes to their men.

Of course, the question that got my attention had to do with comics.

And it went something like this: "Do my comic books count toward my knowledge of art and culture?" And the results were as follows: 57% said, "Yes, it's like understanding another universe."

And, no, that's not me trying to be funny. That was the actual answer. And, no, the important part of that question was not the favorable-towards-comics answer. The important part of that question was the question itself, and its existence in a magazine with an ad for a $550 duffel bag.

You know, for your $300 socks.

If Esquire is acknowledging the fact that comics aren't this strange thing that only fringe members of society read and enjoy and leave scattered about an apartment, then we as a fan base are really making strides.

Yes, of course comics rule the day at the box office, but that doesn't necessarily mean that people are reading the actual books. But this tiny little blip of a question and answer in Esquire, and I don't know about you, but I feel a little bit cooler already.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Exfanding Review: Mega Man Official Complete Works

I'm a bit Mega Man-crazy these days thanks to roughly two full months of dedicating a large portion of my free time to recording and responding to comments on Mega Man videos for my YouTube channel. I promise I do talk about other fandoms...I just seem to have forgotten which fandoms those are.

Mega Man X Official Complete Works coverAnybuster, I've made a few Mega Man-related purchases recently that have proven to be wonderful investments. Capcom has been releasing some very pretty books showcasing the art of some of their most popular properties, such as Phoenix Wright and Mega Man, and being the irrepressible fanboy that I am, I absolutely could not pass up a chance to own Mega Man and Mega Man X Official Complete Works.

These two books, along with Mega Man Zero Complete Works (which seems to be on backorder everywhere right now), collect two decades of Mega Man artwork--design sketches, box art, instruction manual illustrations, and elaborate art pieces for special occasions. The art in and of itself is very attractive (well, as attractive as Toad Man can be, anyhow), and it's fascinating to see how the look of the characters has evolved over time and in the hands of different artists.

Toad Man artMega Man has been a most prolific series, and chances are good that you'll see art from at least one game you've never even heard of. Beyond that, Mega Man and company have made several appearances in magazines, manga, and other non-video game formats, and these books collect a healthy number of samples from those as well. From illustrations that every fan has seen to rare artwork that you couldn't even find on the Internet before these books were published, Mega Man Official Complete Works and its counterparts have it all.

Alongside the pictures are insightful blurbs from the artists, which grant a behind-the-scenes look at the process that went into creating these characters, share some interesting anecdotes, and give the opinions of the artists on the illustrations and the games. Each picture is identified, as well--finally, you can learn the often-unusual names of every single stage enemy you've ever fought. Artwork is divided by game, and each game has a little "stat block" that covers basic info about the game, such as release date and number of robot master idea submissions--did you know that 220,000 people sent in ideas for bosses to include in Mega Man 7?

Mega Man Zero Official Complete Works sampleThese books are an absolute treasure trove for Mega Man fans, and if the sold-out Mega Man Zero book's ridiculously high used sale price is any indication, these books are true collector's items. If you're even remotely interested in a Complete Works book, grab it while you've still got the chance. And... um... if you see a Mega Man Zero, be sure to pick up an extra for me, please.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Poetry: Way more awesome than you remember

[Exfanded by Neko-chan]

If you have ever taken an English class, chances are at some point a teacher either subjected you to, or assaulted you with, poetry. Almost everyone has suffered through a Shakespeare sonnet, or been plagued with Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” The general consensus? No I shall NOT compare thee, and why the heck are we still standing outside this farmhouse?

Most people are turned off to poetry at an early age. They are exposed to the same few poems over and over again, and never get to experience the rich variety of forms, styles, and subjects that abound. Poetry is not the scary, boring, sissy monster we make it out to be. It is merely a way to use language creatively in order to layer meaning and image, on par with any other form of art. So never fear, loyal exfanders! This post will explore some of the basic types of poetry that are out there, and also highlight some writers who are outside the conventional box.

The Ode
This is the form favoured by people who want to argue with themselves. The first section is the strophe, in which you present one view of a situation, the second section is the antistrophe, in which you argue against what you have just stated. The conclusion is the epode, where you completely change your rhyme scheme and meter, and then solve your dilemma with a deus ex machina-style revelation. It is reserved mainly for serious subjects, such as questions of love, or whether to buy Star Trek on DVD or Blu-ray.

The Epic
This is when you tell a very long rambling story about some guy who is super-strong or super-smart who goes on crazy adventures, meets gods, gets waylaid by voluptuous women, and manages to hack apart millions of villains and supernatural beasties along the way. Comic books are merely a modern extension of this fine tradition.

The Haiku
Developed in Japan (as many awesome things are) this is a very short, unrhymed poem, mainly used to capture a thought or commemorate a special moment. Western haiku consist of 17 syllables, broken into three lines (following the pattern 5-7-5). Traditionally, haiku contain at least one word that relates to a season, although modern versions forgo this practice. What does this mean? It is the easiest poem to write. Ever. Write haiku on the fly for instant bonus points with the ladies.

The Sonnet
This form was created to make people learn the words iambic pentameter. It consists of 14 lines, each containing 10 syllables. Every other line must rhyme, except for the last two, which must be a couplet. I think long division is also required. This form also makes the poet sound intrinsically British.

The Limerick
This poem has the catchiest rhythm known to humankind. Once you hear a limerick, you will never forget how to write one. Limericks also have the distinction of being written entirely for comedy, often leaping over the societal boundary into bawdiness and downright lewdness. While they are almost as easy to compose as haiku, limericks will rarely earn you bonus points with the ladies.

Poetry Slam
A form of poetry meant to be performed. It is part oratory, part theatre, and part lyric. It often relies on clever turns-of-phrase and precise timing to enhance, and add emphasis to, the meaning of the base written word.

Poets who rock, and who you’ve probably never heard of:

Catullus – A lecherous and curmudgeonly 1st century Roman poet who wrote about love and friendship in a bitter, neurotic sort of way.

Why he rocks: He had a blue-collar sense of humor, and wasn’t afraid to tell things as they were, exploring life in all its grisly, non-p.c. detail. The ancient equivalent of Kevin Smith.

e. e. cummings – america’s favourite unconventional-wonderful p o e t
writingwordstogether, mispelling words, and grammar rearranging often prone to.

Why he rocks: During an era of formality and tradition, he made a career out of confusing people and intentionally abusing the English language… and won awards for it.

Mary Karr – A no-nonsense modern poet / author who utilizes the tools of her craft to tell truths about life and faith.

Why she rocks: Her poetry is raw, gritty, and realistic. She is against sugar-coating and obfuscation, instead using focused imagery like a precisely-timed hammer. Her poems are both haunting and all-too-familiar at the same time, such as this one.

Shopliftwindchimes – Better known as Rives, he is one of the premier slam poets of our era.

Why he rocks: He compared a girl to a vivid video game” in a love poem. He also wrote a hilarious poem about a hobo in a comic strip who finds true love because of pie. How much more Exfanding-worthy can you get?

To conclude, poetry is not the lame drivel you think it is. It is a rich, vibrant form of writing and art. It can be funny, coarse, dark, sassy, bitter, angry, and geeky. The key is to find a poet whose writing style and subject matter resonate with you.

What you can do:

- Take books of poetry out of the library. It’s not embarrassing, it’s cultured.
- Go to a poetry reading. Most cafes and libraries will host these. It is a great way to learn about up-and-coming artists, and to hear the inflections and true meaning intended by the author.
- Attend a poetry slam. Slam poetry can only be heard or experienced. It is the most lively and in-your-face style of poetry, and it can be highly controversial or issue-charged. If you still think poetry is as lame as Plant Man, prepare to have your socks knocked off.
- Write your own poems, covering the themes you want, in the style you want. An ode to Exfanding? A Batwoman limerick? An epic ballad of Goon vs Zombies? The possibilities are endless.

Animated Wood Man
Haiku for Wood Man
I see him waiting
Leaf shield spinning in the wind
A wooden robot?

(a fine example of poetree)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Saturday Linking (And Some Thoughts)

A quick post today about a major shake-up in DC Comics' editorial offices. It happened earlier this week, but I honestly didn't hear about the news until yesterday, mostly because I've been sequestered in an office with a pretty strict, no Internet policy.

Which is fine, because there's a ton of work that needs to be done (and not to mention, there's a ton of things I need to learn how to do), and the days manage to fly by on their own.

But, when one has a comics- and geek-related blog that needs to be updated on a daily basis...well, not going on the Internet much during the week works in opposition to said blog and all the necessary updating.

And that's my way of "apologizing" (Tiger Woods-style) for missing the news this week that DC has named Jim Lee and Dan DiDio Co-Publishers of DC Comics and writer Geoff Johns is now the comics division's Chief Creative Officer.

You can read all about it on DC's blog, where they issued the following press release. There are also follow-up posts by Diane Nelson (head of DC Entertainment), Jim Lee and Dan DiDio, and Geoff Johns.

But by far the coolest link today is from the New York Times , and their story from yesterday about the shift at the company.

So, what's my take on the matter? (Because, really, we're way more important than the Times!) Well, my initial reaction brought to mind an old baseball saying--a "bullpen by committee" is a euphemism for "you have a bad bullpen."

So the whole, "Co-Publisher" thing rubbed me the wrong way. I took it as DC higher-ups basically saying to Dan DiDio, "listen, we appreciate your services here, and we acknowledge some of your more successful ideas, but, really, we think you need help."

Fans have grown increasingly tired of DiDio recently, and as comics fans tend to do, some have gone overboard--online and even at conventions--in expressing their displeasure.

I'm the first to admit that there's a huge amount of DC stuff over the past five years that I have either no zero interest in, or I tried and flat-out hated. But there are certainly things that worked, and generated huge sums of money for the company.

I think the best way to summarize DiDio's years as Executive Editor is to bring up his proposal for the All Star line, which resulted in what can basically be seen as a microcosm of DC's efforts over the past half-decade or so.

When the All Star line was announced by DiDio, fans were promised fresh takes on major characters by the very best creators in the business, without the chains of continuity to bond their stories. And what did it quickly turn in to?

All-Star Batman and Robin.

Which, while it sold incredibly well, and generated tons of heat early on in its run--thanks a great deal to Frank Miller's insane take on Batman--the book has completely fallen off the tracks, and we haven't seen a new issue in well over a year. I think it's actually closer to two years, now.

And, unfortunately for everyone involved, it's become a running joke in the comics industry.

On the other hand, the All-Star line spawned arguably the best Superman story of the past couple of decades in Grant Morrison's brilliant and thoughtful All-Star Superman . That book won Eisner Awards, thrilled fans old and new, and sold by the boatload.

As with most things at DC over DiDio's time in charge, the All-Star line was hit-or-miss--literally--and, while it brought great acclaim, it also brought unending mockery from fans.

Only DC can live within such a strange dichotomy.

But, after reading up on this whole restructuring thing, it appears that DiDio will remain in charge of print media, while Jim Lee will be at the helm of DC's digital future. And that makes sense, since Lee is the chief player involved in DC's huge online role-playing game, which is highly anticipated in the comics and gaming communities.

Of course, that game seems to be in perpetual delay mode, but hey, that's DC for ya.

The biggest and most comforting move in this whole thing is the bump-up given to Geoff Johns--the man who has steered the DC ship recently and elevated the publisher in the eyes of many to an actual competitor of Marvel's (you know, one capable of fighting back), and not just the "number two" entity in the industry.

Many fans online (and in stores) have made the comment that they wish Johns was bumped up to Editor in Chief, and put in charge of all the books.

And my answer to that has been, if he does that, he won't be able to write as many books. And that would be a crime, because, man, does this guy know how to do super hero comics.

Also, I think that, if Johns wants the Big Chair some time down the road, it's his. It'll be a matter of whether he wants to deal with everything that comes along with the title, though. After a career of writing comics and dealing with fans and the weirdness of a weird industry, who knows if he'll want that.

For now, I think this is all very positive stuff for DC. I feel bad for Paul Levitz (the former publisher), because he seems like a genuinely good guy who just loves the medium, but I'm glad that DC realized a change was in order.

Comics are moving forward on a daily basis--both in content and in distribution--and DC has lagged behind Marvel when it comes to change in their line on both fronts. Keeping DiDio is a sign that DC likes what's come before, but bumping Johns up and handing over the digital reins to Jim Lee show that the company is now looking to the future.

And that's a good thing.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Hack Attack

There's a new, wonderful trend going around that's really starting to get on my nerves. Well, okay, chances are it's not new. And it's certainly not wonderful, but you knew that.

But it is a trend, and it is getting on my nerves.

I'm hearing the word, "hack" thrown about quite a bit recently, mostly pertaining to one of my favorite comics writers, Jeph Loeb. And this annoys me. Loeb's books (Batman: The Long Halloween, Batman: Hush, and the Marvel "color" books, especially) are very much responsible for my love of the comics medium.
Batman: Hush coverI've talked many times about how an issue of Hush, and later, the trade of The Long Halloween were some of the first books I ever bought, read, and fell in love with. And for that, I'll always follow Loeb's work, and I'll always appreciate what his writing did for me.

So, sure, I'm biased when it comes to such things. Sue me. Everyone else seems to be.

Cryptic jokes aside, obviously, Jeph Loeb does not need little ol' me to defend his abilities to anyone else. He's a critically acclaimed writer and producer, and he's had great success across different media.

And, if you wanna just look at cold, hard facts--forget the "critically acclaimed" tag, is what I'm sayin' here--just look at the sales figures on Loeb's comics. They always crack the top ten, and they often bust the top five.

He consistently works with the very best artists in the business, and before you say, "uh, Alex, that's why the books are in the top five all the time," hear me out. Only the best writers--and by "best" I mean the best craftsmen as well as the best to work with--get to work with the top artists in comics.

There's a reason Loeb only works with the likes of Jim Lee and Tim Sale. It's because he knows how to make great comics, and he knows how to sell great comics.

Now, this isn't to say that I love everything Loeb has ever written. That's never the case with a comics writer. Even the hardest of the hardcore Alan Moore or Grant Morrison readers have books they wouldn't have purchased had their favorite writer not been attached to the project.

And that's how I am with Loeb.

While I really enjoyed his early work on DC's Superman/Batman title, I thought his run went kinda loopy towards the end there, and the story line got a bit convoluted, and I lost track of the title. It just wasn't my thing. Those books still sold like gangbusters, though, so it was clearly someone's thing.

See? I can be impartial sometimes.

Now, a lot of the (vitriolic) comments I've heard about Loeb recently have to do with his writing on Marvel's Hulk book, which features a Red Hulk and a Red She-Hulk in addition to a huge cast of other, similarly wacky characters.

Hulk purists--apparently that's a thing--are outraged with how the character is being portrayed.

You know, the character known for too-small (are they jean shorts?) and his exclamations of HULK SMASH. Followed up, of course, by things. But, yeah, fine, let's all jump on the Jeph Loeb Killed the Hulk Bandwagon, because it's fun.

See, I really don't mind if you don't like his take on the book--that's a perfectly valid point, and you are entitled to that point. I wasn't nuts about Alan Moore's From Hell, which is a high point in the history of the medium.

Just not my thing, man.

So not liking a book is not what I have a problem with. What I do have a problem with is when commentators--be them on the comics Web sites or on various comics podcasts--use the word, "hack" to describe a writer's output.

Because that is an ugly word.

"Hack" implies that the writer is simply not trying. Instead, he or she is just looking for a paycheck, and couldn't give a Galactus about the work, the characters, the company, or the fans. And that's a heck of a thing to say about a professional person--in any field.
GalactusSo, even though we have a limited audience of readers here (and I know that none of you would ever use such a horrible, mean-spirited word), I hope someone from a Newsarama or CBR or iFanboy reads part of this.

And instead of immediately playing the hack card, let's intelligently break down why we don't like a certain book, or even a certain creator. Listen, creators in the comics business have one of the greatest jobs on the planet--and they put their work out in a public, open forum.

So people not liking their stuff is just part of the game.

But let's move beyond the comics community's version of "you're a big stupid-head" and let's eliminate "hack" from the fan lexicon, shall we?

-- -- --

That's my mad rant for the day. Happy Friday, everyone, and enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Apples to Apples: Ridiculous fun for everyone

Apples to Apples boxIf you're searching for a card game that's simple to learn, wildly replayable, good for groups both large and small, and hilarious fun for the whole family (sorry that all sounds like a generic advertisement on the back of the box), look no further than Apples to Apples.

The gameplay is about as basic as it gets. There are two types of cards: green and red. Green cards have adjectives on them, like "ancient" or "weird" or "fragrant." Red cards have nouns on them, including everything from famous people to just about anything else you can think of. As an added bonus are silly illustrations of anthropomorphic apples by John Kovalic (of Munchkin and Dork Tower fame), plus often-humorous "flavor text" that gives you a little more to read on each card.

One player puts a green card face-up on the table, and the other players all give that player a red card with a noun that most appropriately (or inappropriately) matches that adjective. The recipient selects which card is the best or most entertaining fit, and the player who gave that red card gets to keep the green card for their collection. When one player has acquired a set amount of green cards, the game ends, and everyone gets to see what kinds of absurd adjectives they have accumulated to describe themselves.

Apples to Apples can produce some pretty uproarious situations. Say, for example, the adjective on the table is "elegant," and the red cards in your hand include the likes of Adolf Hitler, Captain Kirk, Hellen Keller, Republicans, and Festering Wounds. Depending on who's judging your response, you may need to be careful about how you answer. Sometimes it doesn't matter, though; there's something inherently funny about elegant festering wounds, no matter how grossed out the recipient may be.

Apples to Apples cardsApples to Apples comes in several different flavors, and all the cards are interchangeable so that you can mix and match to your heart's content. There's a Bible Edition, a Disney Edition, a version specifically for kids (now with 100% less Adolf Hitler!), and many more. Apples to Apples has all sorts of variant rules as well, so don't assume that the way I described is the only way to play. For all I know, my friends might have been making up the rules as they went, so I can't even guarantee we're talking about the same game right now.

Apples to Apples is great for parties, family get-togethers, and squelching those "I've run out of things to do with my friends" blues. It's a great way to subtly get to know people better by watching how they play, and it's a guaranteed laugh riot.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 2, Issue 7

I'm going to apologize in advance if this post seems rushed or more illogical than usual. While I had planned on writing this over the weekend, or Monday, latest, it is now Tuesday night, and my head hurts from a long day of driving in the snow, learning the intricacies of my new (volunteer, for now) job, and then driving back home in the snow.

I'm just trying to absorb as much as is humanly possible about an industry that I know absolutely nothing about, and literally, every time someone shows me the Next Thing that I need to work on, it's brand new and different to me and it needs to be explained.

I tend to be a quick learner, though, so I (hope) I'm not screwing things up too much. The only thing that's been frustrating is the stubbornness of my old, publishing-oriented brain, doing its best to push all the new information out of my head before it has a chance to actually soak in.

I think there's a natural tendency to reject the whole notion of starting over in whatever you do, and all that entails. Learning new stuff--from square one--is never an easy proposition, especially when the stuff you're learning isn't anywhere near your field of interest. So I need to constantly remind myself to keep an open mind and to just absorb everything that I'm being taught.

The nice thing is that the job is very much a learn as you go kinda thing, so instead of listening to someone tell me how to do something, I'm actually doing the thing I need to learn about.

So, yeah. Not much to report on that front other than, I'm trying and I'm hoping things work out for the best.

There's much more to report on the comics front today, though, so let's get right down to it. This week features a stupid amount of new product from Marvel, including some heavy hitters like Captain America, issue 603, and Dark Avengers, issue 14, which is a Siege tie-in.

Both books are can't-miss, and I'll be buying a copy of each. There's also a slew of new hard covers out today, which I always find a bit odd. Firstly, because they're expensive. And secondly, because they're expensive and they come out, like, a month after the series they collect has ended.

Which is too soon.

Such is the case with the Kick-Ass Premiere Edition hard cover, written by Mark Millar and with art by the great John Romita, Jr. This series ended two weeks ago. Two weeks! And the hard cover is shipping today. Sure, I know the movie is due out soon, but...jeez.
Kick-Ass HardcoverWe are at a pretty weird point in the whole, "when will it be collected?" debate, since the gap between the final issue of a given series and the release of the trade varies, depending on the series and how "hot" the book is.

In the case of Kick-Ass, the book is buzzing right now, and with the movie coming, demand is certainly going to increase in the next few weeks. I'm just wondering how many retailers have ponied up and will be carrying this book today.

Anyway, here's the (wonderfully bombastic) description of the series, for anyone who might be on the fence about picking it up:

The greatest super hero comic of all-time is finally here! WOLVERINE: ENEMY OF THE STATE's team of MARK MILLAR (CIVIL WAR) and JOHN ROMITA JR. (WORLD WAR HULK) reunite for the best new book of the 21st century!

Have you ever wanted to be a super hero? Dreamed of donning a mask and just heading outside to some kick-ass? Well, this is the book for you--the comic that starts where other super hero books draw the line.

KICK-ASS is realistic super heroes taken to the next level. Miss out and you're an idiot! Collecting KICK-ASS #1-8. Mature

Sure, there are some grammatical errors in it, but you have to love the hype contained in that promo! And it (the promo, I mean) speaks true--this book is definitely "mature." I wrote about this series and its whacky violence and excessive cursing a bit more in-depth here, so feel free to check that out if you missed it.

I'm pretty much convinced that anyone who had any interest in this title either already bought the single issues, or otherwise, flipped through a couple issues and advance-ordered the trade. It's offensive and garish and incredibly over-the-top. And it's certainly not good, clean fun.

Mind you, it is fun. Just not good and clean.

The amount of cursing and killing is pretty much unrivaled in comics over the past five years or so. And that's saying something, because Garth Ennis (and Mark Millar, for that matter!) have been working in comics over the past five years or so.

Kick-Ass is one of a very few comics that actually managed to impress me with the sheer amount of bad words and So take that how you will, I guess.

Next up, we have a book that I am so, so happy to have back on my reading list. For the last five issues, Daredevil has kept me on the edge of my seat and wanting more. In a post-Dark Reign Marvel Universe, DD has gone through some major changes, and writer Andy Diggle and artist Roberto De La Torre have just nailed this character and his world.

First off, Roberto De La Torre is one of comics' most underrated artists of the decade. His work on Ms. Marvel with Brian Reed was always top notch, and now he has risen his game to a whole new level with his stunning take on Matt Murdock. De La Torre's Hell's Kitchen is atmospheric and dirty and Daredevil looks mean and frightening and perfect.

And Diggle's story and characterization have been spot-on. I'm begging you guys to run out and find a copy of two books--Daredevil: The List and Daredevil, issue 501, which contain the first parts of Diggle and De La Torre's arc. If you don't fall in love, then there's no hope for you to ever like Ol' Horn Head.

That said, this week sees artist Marco Checcetto come aboard with Diggle for a three-issue arc.
DaredevilI think De La Torre is coming back to the book, but I'm not entirely sure. Whatever the case may be, this book is a quality read, and well worth your time. And, just as a side note.

I've talked at length about how much I loved Brian Bendis' epic run on the character--in my mind, it's the best since Frank Miller, and those two writers will always be the definitive DD authors.

After Bendis left the book, I read and liked Ed Brubaker's take on the character, but I felt it was trying to be a bit too much like Bendis' take on DD. So I stopped reading and just lost touch with the book over time.

Many comics friends have told me how great Brubaker's run was once he got his feet firmly planted underneath himself. So, when (if) my volunteer gig turns into a paying gig, one of the first things I plan on buying is the run of Brubaker's trades.

Anyway, back to today's issue 505. Here's the blurb from Marvel:

The Man Without Fear visits the Land of The Rising Sun! As the new leader of The Hand, Matt Murdock seeks to unite its five continental regions behind his banner and lead the organization to a new future – but when all five “fingers” of The Hand form its mighty fist, you’ll be surprised at who gets hit first! Series writer Andy Diggle welcomes Marco Checchetto (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN) for the Three-Part epic, THE LEFT HAND PATH!

It's good stuff, and like I said, I'm jazzed about this character again. Here's to a long, healthy run on the book by Andy Diggle and company.

Annnd...I'm done. I'm actually falling asleep a little at the keyboard, so I'm gonna call it a night. Happy Wednesday, everyone, and--oh! I almost forgot to ask--what are you Waiting for?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Becoming an Internet Celebrity

The Internet must have some pretty low standards if I'm becoming a celebrity.

Alright, so I'm no Keyboard Cat or Tay Zonday--I mean, I don't even have my own Wikipedia page yet--but it looks like I'm on the way. To being that popular, I mean. I'm not turning into Keyboard Cat or anything. Anytangent, my rising celebrity status is all due to Mega Man.

I've been on YouTube for just about a year now, and I've been posting my video playthroughs of various Mega Man games, with retrospective audio commentary. Lots of people make Mega Man videos, so it's not like this is anything new; I just thought it would be fun. As with this blog, the publicity didn't matter (though I certainly didn't mind it)--my main goal was to have fun.

Mega Man 1-3 went fairly quietly into the public eye. Some people rated my videos, some people left comments, and some people subscribed or requested to become my friend. Then I released a run of Mega Man 4, my all-time favorite Mega Man game. That's where things started to take off.

My enthusiasm for the game was uncontainable. My Mega Man skills were at their finest yet. I followed up with a series of videos for MM1-4 of bloopers, glitches, tricks, and other fun things that didn't make it into my original run for each game. Between the passion-driven MM4 videos and the glitch videos that people might specifically search for on YouTube, I saw a sudden increase in the number of comments, ratings, and views. More people wanted to subscribe or be my friend. I started getting personal messages asking me for gaming advice and wishing my happy holidays.

Before long I was holding back-and-forth conversations and seeing my videos favorited by my viewers. People started clamoring for another Mega Man game, expressing their excitement over whatever was to come next. I started getting requests for all sorts of Mega Man games. Around the time I posted a teaser trailer for my in-progress Mega Man 5 videos, I was spending a good 20 minutes per day reading and responding to everything my viewers wrote.

Allow me to reprint a few of my favorite comments here, from my Mega Man 5 teaser trailer:

"Words cannot describe, how Awesome this is gonna be"

"MAN this wait is killing me..."

"I can not wait! Still, I'm watching your playhtroughs over and over in preparation!"

"Sir Hoover, I recognize your brilliant gaming prowess and showoff-ery. My god, I can't wait for the run of this game!"

Incredible, right? I am perpetually pleased and surprised by the wonderful and ego-boosting comments left by my viewers. Of course, while all this high praise and attention might make me feel a bit like a celebrity, it also sets the bar incredibly high for all my future videos. That's why I've been going above and beyond to polish these videos as much as possible and post them as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, this increased focus on Mega Man has started to interfere with my relationships, my personal projects such as and my own very necessary Me-Time over the past two or three weeks. I at least realize this, and I've been taking steps to keep things balanced, but it's all too easy to let the tide of 214 subscribers and 57 friends wash you away. These are people who've been waiting over half a year for a new set of Mega Man videos; who am I to keep them waiting?

On the other hand, who am I to neglect my friends, family, and ongoing personal projects?

Things have been getting a tad depressing as of late, what with my job search becoming more disparaging by the week; the overwhelmingly positive response of my viewers has been exactly the boost I've needed to keep me motivated. I've been looking for work for just a little longer than I've been on YouTube, and I assure you I haven't had 214 employers express an interest in me and 57 job offers for me to accept. YouTube has been a reminder that it's still possible for me to catch the attention of complete strangers, and compliments will make a person feel good no matter who they're from.

We'll see where this popularity goes. Maybe it's fleeting; maybe it'll linger a while; maybe I'm only just getting started. Wikipedia, here I come!

Monday, February 15, 2010

My Time Away

This week, I start out on a new venture; a new stop along the path in my career trajectory. It's not exactly a stop I had ever really envisioned, or expected, but hey. Sometimes curve balls need to be thrown in order to mix up an otherwise ineffective sequence of pitches.

Clumsy baseball metaphors aside, this week is going to be a bit on the strange side for me. I'm starting a new job in a new field--one that I have absolutely zero familiarity with.

Any port in a storm, though. Right?

I hope to not screw things up too much, and I hope to find my way and figure things out without disrupting too many of the people around me. I'm starting on a trial basis, so there will probably be some give to the rope they hand me, for a little bit, at least.

While I'm happy and incredibly fortunate to be starting a new job (with the potential for it to be a permanent gig), it's obviously not in my desired field, and frankly, I have no idea how I'll be utilized once I get there.

It's kinda cool to think that I'll be leaving my comfort zone of publishing and writing and editing. But at the same time, it's sad. Immensely so, in fact. Things ended just about as badly as they could end at my former employer, but no matter what the outcome, I was always content working there.

Mostly because at the very least I could say that I was in the publishing industry.

I was working with writers (and, later, artists) and I was helping to produce books that you can now buy in stores and online. Granted, I wasn't editing War and Peace (or fiction, at all, for that matter), but still.

I got to work with words, and I could always find solace in that, no matter how frustrating and unfair the situation got to be. Because words, I know. Numbers? Selling? Excel sheets?

Yeah, not so much.

Now that's not to say that I won't be able to do the new tasks that will be asked of me. I'm just saying that, they're not exactly the things that I love. Or like. Or want to do. And that concerns me a little.

Growing up is weird.

We go our whole lives being told that we can do anything we put our minds to. They tell us that, in the end, the good guys always triumph and the bad guys get what they deserve. Of course, in real life, there are times when that stuff just isn't the case.

My former employer, for example, seems to be doing just fine. My bank account? The lawyer fees I needed to pay to protect myself from his not-so-honest intentions? They're another story altogether.

And as much as I wanted and worked to land a job at a company like Marvel or DC or DK or Harpers, I just couldn't get a foot in any of those doors while I was laid off.

Over that time, I got very tired of having to do things that I didn't want to do. Like making phone calls and sending emails to contacts I once worked with. This was always an especially fun part of the unemployment process, because each time I spoke to an old colleague, I had to relive the events that led to the full staff lay-off at my old company.

And each time, I'd hang up the phone and start to think about all those late nights, alone in the office save for the overnight janitorial crew, all of whom I knew by name. Or that Saturday in the summertime, desperately trying to fact-check the latest chunk of text we received the night previous. Or that Sunday morning, hours before the Super Bowl, when I needed to prep for the onslaught of work waiting for me the following day.

Or the day (it was actually right before our Christmas party) we were told that our salaries would be cut, and that we should be glad it's only that. Or the morning we were told we would be laid off in two days' time, but not to worry--the company would go on.

Over the course of the past four-plus months, I have applied to nearly 170 jobs. I know this because I kept a record of every single one that I applied to. Out of those nearly 170 job applications, I got two interviews, one phone call, and a handful of emails.

The two interviews went well, but in both cases, the jobs were "frozen." Put on hold because of financial restrictions implemented upon the respective company. I got lots of, "oh, man, I wish I could help, but we're making cuts on our end now, too" and "we haven't hired someone new in more than a year."

But now, as I get ready for my new job with its new hours and new work and new whatever, I'm trying to look back at the time I spent without a job. And I'm trying to convince myself that I did something worthwhile with my time.

I did lots of worrying, I know that.

My weekdays were almost always the same exact thing. Wake up at 6:00, drive my brother to work, come home, run on the treadmill, lift weights, eat breakfast, search for jobs. Sometimes the job search would take all day, and bear no potential employment.

Other times, I'd find a flurry of jobs right away, apply to them, and maybe spend some time on the blog, or on some side project or another.

During my time off, I wrote just over a hundred pages of a story that I kinda dig, I got in all 22 pages of art for my comic book that never saw the light of day, and I was offered a couple of business opportunities.

Two of which I am now still considering.

If nothing else came of my time away from work, I was able to find out one thing. I love writing. I love to shut the door, cut off the real world, sit at my keyboard and type, and lose myself in whatever stupid piece of whatever I'm working on.

I didn't get to read as much as I would have liked over that time, though today I finally got around to completely catching up on my Marvel books--all the way up to Siege, issue two. And I'm glad for that, because the most recent books Marvel has put out seem to me a return to what I love most about that publisher.

All the titles are nicely meshing together with the Siege event, and things are happening--fast and interestingly--in the main book by Brian Bendis. Marvel is exciting again, and this latest stuff (especially Siege, issue 2) reminds me of the way I felt when Bendis started on the Avengers, just about seven years ago, and, later, when Civil War was raging through the Marvel U.
Wolverine: Civil WarI wish the whole Dark Reign thing had moved along much more quickly, but this payoff promises to be huge and satisfying. And fun, as the heroes finally band together to confront Norman Osborn.

It looks like it's time for the good guys to start winning again in the Marvel Universe, at least.

During my time off, I also had the chance to buy and to play Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, for the Playstation 3. Sure, I only just bought it last Saturday, and I didn't open the package until two days ago, but it's a ton of fun, and I'm actually enjoying a non-baseball video game.

And I started watching the excellent late-90s Paul Feig/Judd Apatow show, Freaks and Geeks, which has been a constant source of enjoyment for me.
Freaks and GeeksI didn't watch the show when it was on television--it was on Friday nights while I was in high school--but it has stolen a place in my heart through the DVD box set I picked up a while back.

Finally, during my time off, I joined the staff of a nationally distributed magazine, and while that didn't was a good experience, and it kept my mind off of not having a full time job. Sure, it was voluntary, and the magazine was going through horrible financial problems, but I'm glad I did it.

I wish more had come out of it, but this wasn't exactly a year at Disney World, so no harm, no foul.

If this is starting to sound like a, "What I Did Over Summer Vacation" essay, that's probably because that's what it feels like as I'm writing it. Tomorrow morning, very early, I start my new (trial) job. I'm a little nervous, a little bummed that I'm not heading to a publishing house, and a little excited about what the day might bring.

I'm also a little confused as to how I'll be getting my comics, since the job is requires a bit of a drive, and the hours probably won't allow me to get to the store on Wednesdays anymore. Add in the fact that I have a strict No Weekend policy at my LCS, and buying comics becomes a bit of a head-scratcher. But that should be the worst of my troubles.

So, wish me luck, and here's to new beginnings.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Chick Flicks for Guys

It's Valentine's Day. Or, if you prefer, Singles Awareness Day. If you're lucky, you've either got a Special Someone who thinks a romantic date is going on a raid in Northrend, or else you live alone in a cave in the mountains. For everyone else, there's a very high probability that someone is going to demand that you watch a chick flick with them on Valentine's Day.

Traditionally, guys hate chick flicks and girls love chick flicks, but I know people of both genders who defy tradition. I call this post "Chick Flicks for Guys" 'cuz it'll pick up more traffic. I'm sneaky like that.


Regardless of your stance, I've been subjected to enough chick flicks to know that it is indeed possible for almost anyone to tolerate--nay, enjoy--a chick flick... if you pick the right kind of movie. Allow me to draw from my experience and suggest a few ideas for finding chick flicks that might actually please all involved parties.

Here's my chick flick trick: Purge from your mind the notion that the movie you hold in your hand is a chick flick (assuming you've picked one up for consideration). Judge the movie as you would any other movie. Do you like the actors? Can you relate to the characters? Does the premise sound tolerable? Is the setting interesting?

I've sat through a number of chick flicks because I liked the actors. Ewan McGregor, Adam Sandler, and Billy Crystal were major factors in why I liked Down with Love, 50 First Dates, When Harry Met Sally, respectively. Alfred Molina and Dame Judith Dench gave me twice as much reason to like Chocolat.

The actors are especially helpful in determining whether there's going to be any comedy in a so-called "romantic comedy." Robin Williams starred in License to Wed, but there are people who would tell you that he hasn't been funny since the '90s; use your discretion in such a situation.

Being able to relate to the characters is a big help when little else about the movie sounds interesting. A great example of this is the Japanese film Train Man (Densha Otoko), which features a hopelessly geeky guy who finds himself falling for a girl who couldn't possibly be interested in him. Sound familiar, anyone? This ties in with my next point about enjoying the premise.

Say you've never heard of the actors and you have no idea what the characters are like from the description; sometimes the premise is all you need. Forget the mundane situational stuff; the more outlandish the plot, the better. In The Time Traveler's Wife, Rachel McAdams carries on a relationship with Eric Banana, who spontaneously time travels to different periods in both their lives. Mel Gibson can hear what every female on the planet is thinking in What Women Want. Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet... actually, I can't say too much without spoiling the movie; if you're the least bit into science fiction or high-concept films, go watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

The setting can be a persuading factor in choosing a chick flick. I, for example, find it very difficult to sit through most things that take place in the Victorian era, so I avoid chick flicks (and movies in general) that use that setting, unless there's a very compelling reason not to.

If you're feeling creative and happen to know a little bit about the movie you're considering, try planning an activity that relates to the movie in some way, to bring the movie to life. In Chocolat, there's a scene where the characters drink hot chocolate with a dash of cayenne pepper in it; when I first saw the film, we took a break at that point to have our own cayenne-enhanced hot chocolate, which was surprisingly good! It made the movie that much more enjoyable for me.

If all else fails, look into foreign films. That's how I stumbled across Love Stories (Historie miƂosne), a Polish film where one actor plays a priest, a convict, a military officer, and a college professor, all of whom find themselves making interesting decisions between their current way of life and some form of love. Other countries may put a different spin on romantic films, and even if the movie turns out to be atrocious, you can still claim you were having a cultural experience.

Or, if you're really good at compromising, maybe you can convince your Special Someone to watch you play Final Fantasy VIII. Hey, it could work.