Thursday, September 30, 2010

Exfanding Review: Metroid: Other M

There's two ways I can go with this review of Metroid: Other M. The first way is to describe the game from the ground up, going into exhaustive detail about every little thing I have any kind of opinion on. This is time-consuming. The second way is to just plow through like I'm doing a speed run.

I'm naturally verbose, so it'll be a terrible speed run. Here we go. If you follow along, that's fantastic. If not, at least I get to sort out for myself why I feel like I've just watched Star Trek 2009 for the first time again.

I've looked over a few reviews of Other M, and the fans are divided. Purists blast the emphasis on story and lack of emphasis on exploration. More than one sympathizer has stated that the people who hate Other M "just don't get it."

At the risk of sounding arrogant and closed-minded, that's a pretty arrogant and close-minded thing to say. I've been a Metroid fan for over a decade. I've played every Metroid game to 100% completion and gotten the best ending for each. I'm a purist, but I recognize that the series needs change and innovation to survive. I understand that Nintendo and Team Ninja were going for a cinematic experience with Other M that gave fans what they wanted.

I get it.

I also get that Zero Punctuation has already summed up 95% of everything I want to say, in a much more concise and humorous fashion, no doubt. (Some parental guidance suggested.)

Right. There you have it. There's my review. The short version, anyhow. This game has been reviewed to death, and I doubt there's much I could talk about that hasn't already been covered by dozens of people, but I am actually upset about this game, and I demand to know why.

Yes, Other M is pretty, and the cutscenes blend seamlessly with the gameplay. There are some clever secrets--one time I even used a walkthrough. I'm not great at this style of action (I.e. I died about ten seconds into every single boss/miniboss battle), but it's solid.

But the voice acting and writing/localization are appallingly mediocre for such a high-profile production. This isn't a matter of the characters not sounding the way I think they should. By and large, the actors sound like their lines were recorded in the middle of the second rehearsal, using a script that wasn't even a final draft.

Perhaps I've been spoiled by LucasArts, BioWare, Valve, Activision--heck, anyone who's made a voiced game you've ever heard of--but there is a distinct difference in quality that is inexcusable for a big-name franchise...especially when this installment is so focused on telling a huge, backstory-heavy tale.

Plus, you know that something's off when the minor characters have longer resumes than the major characters--and by longer resumes, I mean that they were in Mario Kart or Nancy Drew that one time.

Despite all the talking, too much of the game is silent. When there is music, it lacks the atmosphere of the Prime series and the catchiness of the 2-D games. Or, worse yet, it beats you over the head with melodrama. The music (or lack thereof) isn't a game-breaker, but it's disappointing.

What's also disappointing is that there is ONE new item that has never been seen before in a Metroid game. Even that item, a wall of destruction when you charge up and fire, was touched on in Metroid Prime 2. All the best stuff is suddenly obtained at once in the last hour or two, so I slogged on for several hours relying on everything but great music and well-paced and creative new abilities--hallmarks of the Metroid series--to entertain me.

Locking on to specific objects requires far more pinpoint precision than necessary, especially when I physically cannot identify what it is I'm locking on to. The game is excessively dark in some places, and there's no option to adjust the brightness--or anything else, for that matter. Hampering my view of the screen even further were the in-game mini-map and obtrusive text popups about restoring my health or pulling off a special attack. Half the time I just couldn't see.

The occasional over-the-shoulder third-person perspective didn't help. And it wasn't always clear whether my weapons are effective against an enemy (and I didn't discover that locking on to a boss revealed a health bar until the end of the game). The map accessible from the menu screen was almost useless because it never resembled the in-game minimap. When I can't see the screen and get little or no feedback about my actions, I get cranky.

For the first few hours of the game, I seriously believed I was in an introductory stage, like the derelict freighter at the beginning of Metroid Prime. I kept looking at the generic surroundings, thinking how nice it would be to move on to the real game. But it never came. And then I entered Snow Land and Lava World for the umpteenth time, and realized just how stale the hot/cold level trope had become.

There were some great underwater sections, and places where I could see out into the beauty of outer space, and a creative heavy-gravity section, and an awesome hallway where the lights spookily turned on one by one as I ran through it. But no matter how pretty they were, so many places looked the same, or were pale recreations of better places from other games.

There was fanservice. There were throwbacks to almost every other game in the series. Much light was shed on Samus' mysterious past. Ostensibly, Other M gave the fans what they wanted. So why did it feel like the developers derived their inspiration from screenshots and plot synopses instead of from what they experienced by playing the games?

What gets me is the lack of logic in the design. Okay, so you decide that Samus was really just an insecure girl in a suit all this time, not the strong-willed adult with the troubled past that steeled her resolve to be awesome. Enough fans are angry about her portrayal that, obviously, Samus' reasons for, say, FLIPPING OUT when Ridley appears YET AGAIN were never explained very well.

That goes for virtually all of the major plot points: it's as though the developers brainstormed and said, "Oh, and we want this to happen! And then this will happen! And we want things to be like this!" which works great if you, the player, want to see these things happen, or don't have any expectations to the contrary.

The issue here is that so many people have a different vision of what the Metroid universe should be, and the developers were negligent in providing sufficient explanation about why expectation and reality don't match up for those who don't share their vision. Instead of sighing and saying, "Well, I don't like the direction the series took after Sequel X," the fans are getting up in arms because, evidently, someone assumed their vision of Metroid was so in line with what fans desired that Other M became focused on what was going to happen, not why or how.

Let's use an awkward food analogy. Metroid: Other M prepares a delicious steak--the kind of recipe you've always wanted to try--by slaughtering your beloved pet cow. Think about that one for a while.

Other M
makes me angry because, no matter your opinion on the game, there is somebody who doesn't "get it." If Other M is awful, the developers didn't "get" what a Metroid game should be. If Other M is fantastic, the haters don't "get" what Team Ninja was going for.

You know what I liked most about Other M?

The time when that hallway started shooting energy donuts at me like in Mother Brain's chamber in the original Metroid.

The time when I first got the Space Jump and started flying around the room like I was back in the spacious caverns of Metroid II.

Listening to the loading music that was taken straight from Super Metroid.

Getting a chance to fight one of the most memorable bosses from Metroid 3-D.

Racing against the clock in an escape sequence clearly influenced by Metroid: Zero Mission.

Being able to identify anything in my overly dark surroundings by scanning destructable grates and hatches the way I could in Metroid Prime.

Performing a multiple lock-on with my missiles like I was back in Metroid Prime 2.

Looking at those flying security robots and thinking fondly of SkyTown in Metroid Prime 3.

Want to hear my honest, thorough review? Metroid: Other M was at its best when it was not Metroid: Other M. Despite whatever detailed praise or criticism I could muster, that's all there is to it. Time to move on to something else.

Unless, of course, I go back and play the game on Hard Mode. But after reading that Hard Mode entails stronger enemies and absolutely no missile or health upgrades and that the already disappointing ending is absolutely the same, I've had it. I'M DONE PLAYING YOUR GAME, TEAM NINJA.

I want to mark Other M on my Backloggery as Complete, because I beat every boss, saw every cutscene, and collected every item. But, technically, according to the rules, I can't. Not if I've only beaten it on Normal Mode. Yet I will not play Hard Mode, and no matter what the nagging Metroid fanboy inside me is saying, I'm not missing anything because of it.

Good day, Other M. The fun barely balanced out the frustration, disappointment, and tedium the first time around--in other words, you burned my fabulous steak. I'm not playing your movie again until I've cleansed my palate with every other game to come before you.

Except Hunters. For the sake of my wrist, I might let that one slide.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 2, Issue 39

Today's Waiting for is going to be on the short side, mostly because it's 10:30 on Wednesday morning, and I have very little to write about. So, to start things off, here's a smattering of random, general thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head lately.

--Advances in technology and print books. Those two things seemingly have no business in the same (semi-) sentence, and yet, if the two don’t find a way to mesh in some logical methodology, the latter will almost certainly be in (more) trouble in the coming years.

And in the marriage of the two media lies the salvation of print--and, in my opinion, not in a complete switch to digital.

How's that for generalities??

--DC's big move to the West. Film headquarters for DC Entertainment out in L.A. makes sense, folding the Wildstorm imprint is a real shame, and cutting jobs is a flat-out crime. I feel sorry for those that won't be able to relocate (you know, because they have families and such), and I hate that another publisher is taking steps to downsize its workforce.

--New York Comic Con 2010 is fast approaching, and the list of guests, panels, and retailers has been made final. This one's looking to be the biggest yet, and I think it'll be set in stone as the sister show to San Diego.

I'm very excited for this show, as it'll be my last con until (hopefully) Baltimore next summer. Check out the NYCC website for details.

-- -- --

Just one recommendation for today, and in the spirit of the smaller press, it's from Top Cow, a company that has got my attention with a string of excellent titles.
And today sees the release of issue two of the big, honking Top Cow Universe event book, Artifacts, written by Ron Marz.

This book meshes characters from all of Top Cow's books, but does so in an introductory way that is easy to follow for the new reader. I'd stopped reading Top Cow books for several years, but Artifacts, issue one, hooked me right back in.

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

"The Event FIVE Years in the Making! Thirteen mystical Artifacts will guide the fate of the world. Thirteen Artifacts will destroy the world. A mysterious being has taken Hope, the daughter of Sara Pezzini, the Witchblade bearer, and Jackie Estacado, the Darkness bearer; but his intent remains in shadow.

As the two frantic parents search for their missing child, other players including Dani Baptiste, the Angelus bearer, Tom Judge, Magdalena and others are brought onto the board.

From Top Cow Universe architect Ron Marz (Witchblade, Angelus) and Top Cow superstar artist Michael Broussard (The Darkness) comes an event series, which will literally shake the Top Cow Universe to its foundation.

Each issue will also feature a Top Cow Origin backup written by Marz and drawn by a superstar collection of artists."

Sounds like a lot is going on, but the book is written with new readers in mind, and the "Origin" back-ups help fill in any gaps. I'm big on this book for several reasons--the writing and art are top notch, and the story's pacing is perfect--but the biggest reason is that it's an "event" that is strictly limited to one book.

Sure, it's 12 issues long, but you don't have to follow anything else--at all--to enjoy the book fully. And in today's comics landscape, that's truly unique, and it's a much-needed breath of fresh air.

On that note, I'm out. Sorry for the short post today--I promise I'll make it up next week. For now, though, what are you Waiting for?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Foiled Again by Other M

Everything has come to a halt until I finish Metroid: Other M.

Oh, I've beaten the game. But now I'm embarking on the Second Great Item Cleanup to round up the last of the hidden items. My first sweep was largely successful, but there were certain places that were completely inaccessible. All of this is irrelevant, however, because you came here for a real post, no doubt.

I wanted to have a review for you by now, but I won't write one unless I've completed the game 100%. I'm thorough, I am. Yet Other M is the kind of game that deserves a written review and an agitated conversation. Fans love it. Fans hate it. It's the game every Metroid fan wanted. It's the game fans hoped they'd never see.

Well, it's about the only thing I've seen every night for a week.

It's not an obsession, and it's not a passion. I'm a dedicated Metroid fan, yes, but this almost feels like keeping up with politics in the last few days before an election, for those who are into such things--I want to know where one of my favorite video game series is and is headed.

You know something's wrong when you start comparing Metroid to politics. Then again, there is a lot of talking...see for yourself:

Monday, September 27, 2010

An Ode to Bruce Campbell (Though, Really, It’s Not Actually An Ode)

Mondays are fun, aren’t they? Sure they are. To add to the singular joy that is Monday morning, let’s talk a bit about Bruce Campbell, shall we? Sure we will.

I’ve been a Bruce Campbell fan for a while, and I’ve seen a good amount of his work. I’ve even sat through (and kinda enjoyed) the 1990s vampire "classic," Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat.

But only because Bruce is in it.

Although, truth be told, there is a line reading late in that film that cracks me up to no end. The head vampire/bad guy in the film is played by David Carradine. The bad guys are getting ready to go out on a killing spree, and one of Carradine’s henchmen--whose name I’ve forgotten--asks, so ham-handedly that it’s simply hilarious, “Master?” (Longer-than-should-be pause, seemingly while the actor tries to remember his next line.) “Shall I get (another pause) the cross-bows?”

It gets me every time. (Which is to say, it got me that one time I watched the movie.)

Right. In any case, I’ve talked about Bruce Campbell before, but I’ve been on a bit of Bruce bender lately; buying up shiny, new Blu-Rays of Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, and Army of Darkness, and reading his first book, If Chins Could Kill. I’m working on his follow-up to that wondrous and funny tome, Make Love! The Bruce Campbell Way, right now.

And I’ve developed a new appreciation for an actor who I already respected a great deal.

In his autobiography, it becomes increasingly clear that Bruce is as he appears to be in interviews and commentaries--unassuming, witty, and not one to take himself seriously. What also becomes apparent is just how dedicated Bruce is to the craft of acting, and how much he appreciates the success he’s had in film and TV.

While he doesn’t take himself very seriously at all, he certainly takes his roles seriously, and it’s no mystery why he’s been such a workhorse for so many films, TV shows, commercials, etc., throughout his career.

If you’re a fan of his work, I’d highly suggest checking out the first book, If Chins Could Kill, which is as much a field guide for getting into independent films (as an actor, director, producer, or crew member) as it is a recounting of Campbell’s career.

I recently re-watched the original Evil Dead, and I was just as shocked by it as the first time I saw it. For me, it’s a film very much like The Exorcist, in that one viewing every few years is plenty.

Not because they’re bad films--quite the opposite, actually.

As far as horror on film goes, you’d be hard-pressed to find two better, scarier movies. What both films do in terms of building and maintaining suspense is nothing short of masterful, and there’s a reason they shine so brightly in the pantheon of great horror films. I rank them in the top three in the history of the genre, with John Carpenter’s original Halloween earning a place between them.

While the acting in Evil Dead can be rough around the edges at times--think certain performances in Kevin Smith's Clerks--there are definitely moments where you can see true talent developing as the shoot continues.

Once you get to Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness, though, Bruce has figured it out. And his performances are classic. Watch Evil Dead II and AoD, check out Bruce’s facial expressions during the flicks, and try telling me that Jim Carey doesn’t owe Campbell some royalty checks...
There are other cult favorites, of course. The film adaptation of Joe Landsdale's short story, Bubba-Ho Tep, is waaay up there on my list of near and dear movies, with Bruce playing a very alive (though elderly) Elvis, and the recent My Name is Bruce immediately earned a spot on the DVD shelf with its self-aware hilarity.

These days, Campbell can be seen on the network show, Burn Notice, and he’s also scheduled to appear at the quickly approaching New York Comic Con, which is pretty cool. I’m sure his line will be long, but I think I might just give it a try.

I actually already own a Campbell-autographed book--I found it for $3 at a local library’s monthly used book sale a year or two back, and its inscription reads, "To Andrew, Shop Smart!"--but I’d love to get a DVD or a comic signed. Um, to me, I mean. That would be cool.

Some ode, huh?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

On the Verge of a Gaming Revolution

Something's about to give. I can feel it. After all my blathering about remakes, the difference between modern and retro games, and franchises that last too long, I think we might finally be on the verge of an era I can be proud to support.

I recently read two angry reviews on GameCola, one for Rocket Knight and one for Metroid: Other M, both of which are continuations of very solid, respectible video game franchises.

Both of which ruin the integrity of the entire franchise. Or so say the reviewers, who are big enough fans of the series to have enough ammo to support that sentiment.

What stands out about both reviews is that neither game is an awful, horrible, avoid-at-all-costs type of game simply on its own merits (or lack thereof). It's what the games stand for that makes them so egregious. It's the complete disregard for history that warrants such ire.

I recognize that these are but two peoples' opinions, and shouldn't be taken to represent the opinions of the masses. But they're not the only naysaying GameCola staff members. There are multiple people who are concerned about an upcoming Back to the Future game. And I've heard plenty of discontent over major sequels to games people loved, not just from GameCola but from all over.

There will always be whiners and complainers, and there will always be bad sequels. The real issue is that I'm hearing about fewer and fewer games where there's a consensus among fans about the greatness of a game. Chalk it up to diversifying tastes, if you will, but I think it's suspicious that fans who can agree about the merits of earlier installments in a franchise can become so divided over literally everything new that comes out.

I look at Mega Man Universe and Mega Man Online, and I shudder. My heart sinks a little every time I sit down to play a game that requires touch-sensitive or motion controls. And I know I'm not alone. But I also know there are people who are rabid for more.

That's why I think we're on the verge of a revolution: Many of the people of my generation grew up on what is now considered to be retro. The video games of our childhood have shaped our preferences and opinions on modern gaming. We have strong memories of the games we loved and hated. We retro-influenced gamers can't help but compare now to then, if only at a subconscious level.

As members of the gaming community, we show our support and disapproval of the latest trends with our wallets. We write reviews and make videos that make some kind of impact, large or small, on anyone exposed to them. We use social networking to express our glee and disdain at whatever we play or hear about. As a group, we have a real sway over the future and legacy of any given game.

Some of us retro-influenced gamers hold jobs and companies that design and produce video games and game-related technology. Over the next few years, several such people will rise to positions where their opinions and decisions have some actual clout, if they're not there already. That's when we'll look at the gaming landscape as it is today, think about what's possible, get filled with nostalgia for what we grew up on, and return to our roots while taking full advantage of the knowledge and technology at hand.

We're already at the point where the motion control craze is wearing off, its must-have novelty being transformed into an option that developers can take or leave. So many of our favorite franchises have just been rebooted, remade, rereleased, or ruined, and the potential for quality innovation and expert continuation has seldom been greater.

Modern gaming is becoming progressively more disappointing and distateful to me. I'm holding out for post-modern gaming. Fingers crossed.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Lazy Onion Saturday

Perhaps you've read The Onion, or at least recall me talking about it from way long ago. Well, it's Lazy Random Link Saturday, and I've decided to share with you a few of my favorite food-related Onion articles. Sadly, there are no onion-related food articles. Nonetheless, enjoy!

- Wendy's To Phase Out Unpopular Hamburger Sandwich

- Pudding-Factory Disaster Brings Slow, Creamy Death To Town Below

- Man At Very Top Of Food Chain Chooses Bugles

Friday, September 24, 2010

Opinions, Please

On my way in to work yesterday, I was listening to one of my favorite comics-centric podcasts--the wonderful 11 O'Clock Comics Podcast--and they had a really interesting dialogue going. And, since I'm very unoriginal, I'd like to completely steal their topic of discussion.

The question that spurred the show's premise is as follows: What comic would you recommend to a new reader?

A seemingly simple question. Until, of course, you start to think about it. Where do you start? With superhero comics? With alternative comics? Surely, it depends on the person and his or her tastes. Or does it rely more on your own, personal tastes?

Do you hand over a familiar, licensed property, like Stephen King's Dark Tower series at Marvel or IDW's GI Joe books? Certainly, one can't go wrong with Frank Miller's run on Daredevil or Batman: Year One.
And then there's Watchmen--the best of the best. But do you really want to give a newbie such a dense, intricate comics story?

Clearly, I don't have the right answers (in general, but specifically to this question). Personally, I've given new readers a wide range of books, and more often than not, I stray away from the capes initially. One Father's Day, I gave my dad a nice hardcover collection of Billy Tucci's recent Sgt. Rock story, The Lost Battalion.
But I've also given friends copies of Batman: Hush and The Dark Knight Returns. I have a couple copies of Watchmen, one for me and one to lend to others. Obviously, I've tried pushing The Goon on everyone I've ever met.

Walking Dead went over big with Exfanding reader Dr. Nick Riviera, and I got my brother to read and to love Mark Millar's Wolverine opus, Old Man Logan. When I'm trying to introduce a fan of genre TV shows or books to comics, I like to use Grant Morrison's All Star Superman. That usually does the trick.

Marvel's Ultimate line is a nice starting point for new readers, and so are some of DC's self-contained graphic novels, like the gritty Joker. Fellow horror fans will find plenty to like over at Vertigo, and Sandman is a great series to introduce to girlfriends or wives.

There's so much out there--Bone for the younger readers, The Invisibles for that eccentric friend, anything by Alan Moore...

So, in the spirit of completely ripping this off from 11 O'Clock Comics, I ask all of you--if you had to recommend just one comic book/comic series to a new reader, what would it be?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Please hold... Samus Aran is on the line.

I've got a few side projects going right now--a video runthrough of Mega Man 6 for YouTube; a few articles for; two walkthroughs for GameFAQs that have been on hiatus forever; a homebrew Super Mario World that I owe to a few incomprehensibly patient beta testers--but I'm putting that all on hold to play video games.

It's been months since the last time I played a game that kept drawing me back in every single night of the week. It's been months since I've wanted to play a single-player game for the sake of playing it, and not just because I'd started it and wanted to finish it so I could move on to something else.

Even games I greatly enjoy such as Muramasa: The Demon Blade started to wear on me after trying to go for 100% completion, viewing all the endings and generally seeing all there is to see. The chronic problem I've been experiencing in every new game I've played for a year, almost without exception, is that they're all too long, too repetitive, or both.

Legacy of the Wizard. Tales of Symphonia. Final Fantasy II. Final Fantasy VIII. Mighty Bomb Jack. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. These are just a few of the games I've played over the past year or so that have, at some point or another, dragged on. There were a few games, such as Mega Man V for Game Boy, that were so short by comparison that I almost forgot I'd played them.

I also started a number of games--Solar Jetman, Time Lord, and Flashback: The Quest for Identity, to name a few--that I put down just because I'd never have the time to finish the longer games otherwise. As I've mentioned before, comics took the place of video games for a time as my preferred method of geeky relaxation, but I was determined to find something I was both consistently excited about, something that maintained a good pace and didn't go on for too long.

Imagine my surprise when I started playing Metroid: Other M to the near-exclusion of even Mega Man 6. The Metroid series is only a little bit behind Mega Man on my scale of favorite video game franchises, but after spending the first 30 minutes of "gameplay" watching the Final Fantasy-esque cutscenes, and then being thrust into an action-heavy 2-D/3-D gauntlet of enemies, I was pretty certain this would be another game that would become unpleasant to play after too long.

I've been playing about an hour a day for a week, and I have no intention of breaking that trend any time soon. Even though the longwinded and clumsily executed cutscenes are degrading the integrity of the series. Even though virtually every boss and miniboss battle has resulted in a Game Over after 10-15 seconds of trying to be Metroid-Prime-style creative, when I should really just shoot shoot shoot and then dodge a projectile before repeating.

Despite my issues with the game, I'm still having enough fun to carry on, and there's enough variety and speculation about where the game will take me next to warrant this daily interest in playing more. It used to be that way for almost every game I played. I miss that feeling. I also miss not having to roll my eyes or let out a heavy, frustrated sigh every 10-20 minutes, but I'll take what I can get.

And hey, maybe once I'm finished with Other M I'll luck out and find that same kind of enthusiasm for Nightshade, Sam & Max: Season Two, or Flashback, just some of the games I've been meaning to try out/get back into. Plus, The End Day is just around the corner, and I'm fixin' to play the Game Boy Color version of Crystalis for the first time... Well, I've heard it was a terrible port, but I'm playing it anyhow.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 2, Issue 38

It’s been a blur of a week so far, but there’s lots of work on the horizon for tomorrow and Friday, so I have a feeling I’ll be limping to the weekend. I didn’t get much sleep while I was away this past weekend, and I decided to drive back home at an unreasonably early hour Sunday morning.

Plus, last night I went to dinner with friends I haven’t seen in far too long a time--the three of us actually hadn’t been in the same room together in just about five years--and I got home way too late for someone who wakes up at 5:00 AM.

So, to continue the trend of this week, today, I am tired.

But there are new comic books just sitting on a shelf somewhere, waiting for me to buy them. And that makes me a little happier, though admittedly, not even a little less tired. Before we get to all that, though, I wanted to talk briefly about the rise (yet again) of speculation in Modern Age comics.

I’ve written about the latest Image hit, Morning Glories, and I mentioned on release day that I just had a feeling about the book. A feeling that, if you wanted to actually read a copy, you’d have to jump on it quickly because I thought it would sell out pretty quickly.

Well, less than a month later, Image is rushing out a fourth printing of that first issue and prices of first (and even second and third) printings of issue one have gone crazy on eBay. What’s more, prices for issue 2--which came out last week, mind you--were selling for $15 on the day of release, and are now commanding even higher prices.

Overlooked somewhat in all of this, last week, a book called Kodiak came out from IDW. I had read absolutely zero in terms of promotion for the book, and it was not on my list of things to buy.
But, when I walked into my local comics shop, I noticed that the book was written by Joe Hill, author of Locke & Key and the (almost-instant classic) short story collection, 20th Century Ghosts, among other things.

I bought it immediately. Kodiak, I mean.

And now, lo and behold, I find out over at Bleeding Cool that there was some sort of printing error with the book. So, in addition to the fact that IDW’s print runs aren’t very large at all, now apparently, the first print run of this book was much, much smaller.

Speculators, start your engines.

What, you might ask, does telling you about long sold out books have to do with anything? Ah, well, see, there are people out there who are starting to take note of these smaller press titles and their increasing profitability.

And, as is the only logical progression in this wonderful hobby of mine, a book from Image this week is already selling on eBay for $20.

It’s in your stores now. Or, more accurately, it will be in your stores in a little while. Since it’s early, and most stores haven’t yet opened. And yet, there are online retailers selling this book for $20.

This makes me angry, in general.

But, I’m specifically angry because this book is one that I planned on writing about here in this week’s Waiting for, because it sounds like a new and interesting title and one with some legs.

Plus, it has an awesome cover.
Skullkickers, issue one, ships today, and it looks promising. Check out the solicitation information, straight from Image Comics:

No one knows where these two warriors came from. The only thing that's clear is that they're two of most ornery, trouble-making $%@# that have ever lived.

SKULLKICKERS is a fantasy action-comedy: Two mercenaries are entangled in a high-class assassination plot and nothing—werewolves, skeletons or black magic—will stop them from getting paid. If you love tabletop fantasy RPGs or movies like Army of Darkness, SKULLKICKERS is waiting for you!

See? Told you it sounds awesome. Plus, it has some cross-entertainment appeal, which is always a good thing. Hopefully I’ll be able to get my hands on a copy of the book. I don’t mind buying second or even third prints, but that means I’d have to wait a few weeks to read the book.

And, since books are ordered months in advance, I’d like to know if I like issue one before I order issue two. Know what I’m saying?

Now, this trend of instant (and in the case of Skullkickers and Morning Glories, pre-release) sellouts has both its positives and negatives. It’s good for small-press creators. It helps get their names and work out there, and on the comics news sites and on Super Powerful and Awesome Blogs, like this one.

But it’s bad because these books tend to become more associated with their "hot" factor--that is, people know their names because they know the early issues are worth money. So they pick them up, throw them in plastic, and/or sell them online.

And the books never get read. Which defeats the entire purpose of writing a book.

But this is Waiting for Wednesday, on a very pro-reading, anti-collecting blog. So hopefully some of you give the book a shot, read it, and enjoy the heck out of it.

And with that, I'll end this not-so-typical edition with a very typical question. What are you Waiting for?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Putting the Cap on the Recap

As promised yesterday (and to the three people who might be even a little bit interested), today I wanted to finish off my little Baltimore trip recap.

While most of my weekend trip to Baltimore revolved around watching the Yankees play (and beat!) the Orioles and eating seafood, I did manage to squeeze in some geeky endeavors, as well. And I figured it would make sense to report back on some such endeavors.

I made my way to two of Baltimore's several comics shops, and I was impressed with both places. The first store I hit was Alliance Comics, a pretty good-sized store with an exceptional selection of trades and hardcovers to go along with a comprehensive new books shipment. The owner was friendly and helpful, and the variety of trades available was eclectic and wonderful.
Located a few blocks over from the tourist-heavy Inner Harbor, Alliance is situated on a quaint street littered with nice brownstone buildings and shops. After about half an hour of browsing, I picked up a few Warren Ellis trades that I'd been looking for, so I walked away very happy.

The second store I visited was in nearby Fells Point, and it was not a store that was on my radar before visiting one of its neighbors a couple of streets down. The Graphic Novelty is a small, hip store in the heart of the trendy Fells Point area of Baltimore.

They have a great selection of new books and trades, and it warmed my heart to see so many Indy titles for sale. I didn't buy anything, mostly because I was in for a long day of walking and didn't want to carry too much stuff around with me. TGN is another top-notch store, though, with a friendly staff.

The biggest surprise of the trip, however, came in the guise of an honest-to-goodness record store, a few blocks down from The Graphic Novelty. The Sound Garden is a huge store filled to capacity with vinyl, CDs, DVDs, Blu-Rays, video games, posters, and plenty more.

For an old record hound like myself, entering the store left me speechless.

The amount of quality stuff--at low prices--was astounding. This store put Amazon's stock to shame.

To. Shame.

Actually, it was just named by Rolling Stone as one of the 25 best record stores in the United States.

I'll vouch for this assessment.

While there, I picked up a few things , most notably a very cheap collection of Blu-Rays (Evil Dead II, Army of Darkness, Pale Rider, Dog Day Afternoon (!!), and the first two Underworld films) all for under a hundred bucks.

If you're ever in Baltimore, be sure to check this place out.

And, finally today, a couple of photos from breakfast/lunch at a place I saw on television a little while back. The Blue Moon Cafe is a very classic, tiny restaurant with only eight tables or so and a constant line out the door.

After walking up the set of stairs that leads to the front door, I gave my name and then nodded when I was told the wait would be around an hour. When we finally sat down, the wait was absolutely worth it.
The eggs, the omelettes, the Cinnamon buns--everything--were great. But the coup de grâce was the restaurant's specialty, the Cap'n Crunch French Toast.

I'll leave you with the following.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Quick Story for Today (To Be Followed Later in the Week with More Stories...and Photos)

As mentioned last week, I spent this past weekend in Baltimore, Maryland, catching a couple of baseball games and filling the rest of the hours by walking around the Inner Harbor and Fells Point, eating crab as often as possible, and checking out anything that seemed even remotely cool.

And I had a really nice time. Sure, it's not exactly a trip to Paris, but Baltimore is a great town, and it was interesting to watch my favorite team play a pair of away games.

The New York Yankees were in town for the weekend, and while I had tickets for Saturday night's game, the beautiful weather on Friday (and the fact that my hotel was literally across the street from the stadium) led me to walk up to the ticket booth in an attempt to buy tickets for a game that was to start in a couple of hours.

In New York, doing so would be pretty much a lost cause.

Still, I decided to make the across-the-street journey just to see what might happen. "Hello, sir," the man in the ticket window said. "What can I do for you?"

"Well," I answered, rubbing the back of my neck. "I was kinda hoping there might be some tickets still available for tonight's game." Figuring the next words out of the man's mouth would be, "Ah, sorry, sir. You do know the game starts in, like, an hour?" I was already prepared with a standard, "Eh, that's OK, I was just wondering."

Instead of that dreamed-up conversation, however, the man behind the counter said, "Sure. Where do you want to sit?"

"Uh, well...I guess best available."

"OK, hang on a sec," was the response, and the man in the ticket booth starting typing away.

"Oh," I spoke up again, "I'm sorry--I'll need four seats together, please."

Well, that was it. The straw that broke the camel's back. No way would there be--

"How about 15 rows behind the first base dugout?"

Awkward silence.


"Oh, uh, yeah. I mean, you have four seats--together--behind the dugout? For tonight?"

"Yep, you want 'em?"



"Um, well, I'm kinda afraid to ask, but--uh--how much?"

"It'll be 90 a ticket, so--"

"Ugh. That's gonna be--wait, what? $90 bucks? Nine-zero?"


"I'll take four."

"I know, sir. You mentioned that."

As I was walking back towards the hotel with four tickets--behind the first base dugout--to a game that was to start in a couple of hours, all I could think was, if this was Yankee Stadium, I wouldn't have even been able to bribe an usher for $90 bucks.

Um. Not that I'd ever do that, of course...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

International Talk Like a Pirate Day 2010

Yarr! Ahoy! Grog! 'Tis International Talk Like a Pirate Day, and I be talkin' like a pirate, yo.

Ugh. I am, without a doubt, the worst pirate you have ever heard of.

Perhaps you'll fare better if you visit the official website of International Talk Like a Pirate Day and brush up on the pirate lexicon.

There's also swag, songs, a pirate advice column, pirate name generators, and more. It's considerably more interesting than this post, anyhow, so go visit the site before I make you walk the link. Um, the plink? The plank. That's it.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Cape

Very rarely do I come across songs by mainstream--or even kind of mainstream--artists that have shoutouts to geek culture. And I listen to a whole lot of music. But I was listening to my Sirius Satelite Radio in the car the other day, and this song started playing.

About a boy and a cape and his desire to fly.

Guy Clark wrote it, many years ago, but the song is covered by Eric Bibb on his latest album.

Anyway, take a look, have a listen. I think you'll like it.

So, yeah, Exfanders. Spread your arms and hold your breath and always trust your cape.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Super Hits Triple Feature: Blue Öyster Cult, Toto, Men at Work

In an ongoing quest to discover music that can become a staple of my car's CD player, I've picked up a few dirt-cheap compilation discs from the bargain bin of my Local Music Store over the years. I've listened to countless "Best Of..." collections in my time, but Sony BMG's Super Hits line is quickly becoming my favorite for three reasons:

(1) the price is unbeatable--maybe I've had good luck with sales, but I've never seen a Super Hits CD sell for more than $10;

(2) I get every single song I've ever heard on the radio from groups whose two or three identifiable songs are normally found on completely different (and more expensive!) albums; and

(3) while virtually every other "Best Of..." compilation is the only disc I'll ever need for anyone other than my absolute favorite artists, every Super Hits CD I've listened to has piqued my curiosity enough to consider buying the artists' original albums.

I only have one criterion for purchasing a CD: it's gotta have at least three songs I recognize and like enough to own. The Super Hits collections of Blue Öyster Cult, Toto, and Men at Work found their way into my collection because they met this requirement, and because I'm a chronic shoplifter they were cheap.

I followed Blue Öyster Cult because of "(Don't Fear) The Reaper," "Godzilla," and "Burnin' for You," which I didn't even realize was their song until reading the back of the CD case.

The thing that really nudged toward picking up this CD was how the group was described to me as "the Tally Hall of classic rock," or something to that effect. I'm not sure how much I agree with that sentiment based on the songs in this collection, but I'm willing to look into more of their music to see just how varied their songs can be.

What struck me most about Blue Öyster Cult, or at least the way they're represented on this CD, is how their songs are about as trancelike as guitar-heavy rock can get. Between cryptic poetry and repetition that actually sounds like the proverbial broken record at times, Blue Öyster Cult is likely to either annoy the heck out of you, blend into the background innocuously, or take you to a higher plane of existence.

Also, that "Ö" in their name is mesmerizing.

Toto, in contrast, is much more straightforward in their pop/rock presentation, providing highly singable songs with lyrics that paint a picture of a band that has absolutely no luck with women, or one guy that had really bad luck with just one woman and never got over it.

Most people would recognize Toto for their songs "Hold the Line," "Rosanna," and "Africa" (which is even grander in the full-length album cut that's seldom played on the radio), but the other songs on the CD are every bit as upbeat and almost as catchy. You can tell there's a story behind every song, including the few that have nothing to do the lost woman/women the band seems to miss so much. Plain and simple, Toto is a solid band that's fun and easy to listen to.

Men at Work is the group that took me by surprise. "Who Can It Be Now?" and especially "Land Down Under" are songs I grew up with, but an intriguing acoustic version of "Overkill" had recently come up unprompted on my Pandora playlist. I put Men at Work to work in my CD player, and it was three months before their first vacation. If anybody here was like Tally Hall, at least in that respect, it was Men at Work.

Let me make this clear: unless it's video game music (which is designed to repeat itself), I do not listen to the same songs over and over. To listen to the same CD twice in the same month is something I avoid, let alone more than once in the same week.

Tally Hall was lodged in my CD player for the better part of a year because of all the variety, layers, and subtle things that I'm still hearing for the first time whenever I give the disc a spin. Men at Work, on the other hand, was employed in my car for so long because the songs resonated with me, translating into music the way I was feeling on a personal level.

Being told "it's a mistake" repeatedly in song also helped me to make a lot of important decisions those three months.

You can tell that Men at Work's music is rooted in the '80s if you listen closely enough, but the inclusion of more instruments than just guitars, drums, and synthesizers helps the music to fit in with any decade thereafter. Though the songs range from reflective to borderline silly, there's an underlying energy that maintains an important level of optimism and motion.

The lyrics are largely atypical, favoring quirky topics such as paranoia, insomnia, and Australia over more prevalent topics such as love, drugs, and dudes named Alejandro. Even the songs that deal with more popular themes are presented in a creative, often tongue-in-cheek way. If nothing else, the Men at Work have had better luck with women than Toto. Really, I see a lot of myself in the music of Men at Work.

My foray into the realm of the Super Hits has been a wonderful success thus far, and both these CD collections and these artists get the Official Exfanding Stamp of Approval. I'd recommend you put Blue Öyster Cult and Men at Work on shuffle, though, because the "feel" of each CD doesn't flow as well as it could if the song orders were rearranged. Just my two cents.

Like everything I write on this blog.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Better Luck Next Decade

I have determined that modern movie and video game sequels have lost sight of what made their predecessors popular. I point fingers in two directions: first, at the time gap between sequels, and second, at the prevailing philosophy that modern trends are more important than fidelity to the source material.

Look at what happened to James Bond, Indiana Jones, Star Trek, Stargate, Mega Man, Metroid, Monkey Island, X-Men, Spider-Man, The Mummy, Ocean's Eleven, Alien and Predator. Compare any pre-2004/2005 installment in any one of those series to anything made since then, and you'll notice a moderate to severe change in the feel and/or quality of the series.

For Indiana Jones and The Mummy, there had been a significant amount of time since the last sequel, and there's a distinct disconnect in the way the films feel. James Bond and Star Trek got the ever-popular Franchise Reboot, throwing out all previous continuity. The third X-Men and Spider-Man movies were incongruously awful installments, say fans and critics alike.

Tales of Monkey Island took some unprecedentedly dark turns in its final episodes, 'cuz the masses love serious and gritty stories. Metroid was swept away by the plot-centric mentality of modern gaming, proving that either Samus was better off as a silent protagonist, or one of Nintendo's most iconic franchises needs better writers. And I really don't need to talk about Mega Man any more than I already have.

Some people love where these franchises have gone. Some would argue that these breaks from tradition and precedent have kept the franchises alive. Some people don't really care. I will admit, there are modern installments of these franchises that have been fun, entertaining, and creative enough to satisfy...but there's always something that wasn't there just a few years ago.

Call me implacable, but everything I've named has gone downhill, seriously annoyed me, and/or started meandering/flying off at warp speed in a direction I'm progressively less interested in following.

Is there no such thing as timeless appeal anymore? Must we reinvent ourselves with each sequel? Must we ignore or rewrite continuity whenever it's more convenient to do so? Is it so difficult to go where the franchise leads us rather than where the technology and audience expect us to be?

Call me an escapist, but I prefer to look at my favorite movies and games as their own worlds, independent of the directors and platforms that shape them. The fewer vestiges of reality I can detect, the more I usually enjoy them.

Modern sequels have too much of the real world imprinted on them for my taste--I can tell that Mega Man 9 was trying so hard to be the universally popular Mega Man 2, and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull really wanted to use computer graphics more than the film actually called for. I can't enjoy myself as much when the creators' intentions bleed through the screen like that.

Clearly, this era is not ideal for my style of entertainment. Maybe I'll have better luck next decade.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 2, Issue 37

Welcome back to a regular Wednesday-shipping edition of Waiting for. I just checked the Diamond ship list for today, and while there appears to be plenty of new product on tap, my list for the week is pretty slim.

Probably a good thing, considering I’m headed out to Baltimore for a long weekend of baseball watching, crab cake eating, and, possibly, comic shop locating. As I’ve done each of the past two Septembers, I’ll be visiting one of my favorite cities to take in an Orioles-Yankees game (or two) and pretty much just hanging out, and enjoying being away for a couple of days.

However (and unfortunately), unlike my previous two trips to the Inner Harbor, this year will not include a stop at the wonderful Baltimore Comic-Con.

Why, you ask? Well, because it happened, like, a month ago. The Baltimore Con, I mean. The classic start-of-fall convention--known for being one of the friendliest and best pure comics shows in the country--was moved to an earlier August date for 2010 because of the influx of big cons on the East Coast in early October.

Which is a shame, because, as I said, the Baltimore show rocks.

I was sad that I couldn’t make it in August, but the summertime is usually pretty difficult for me to get away, even if it's just for a long weekend. Still, I couldn’t go an entire year without visiting the city, so I’m driving down on Friday morning and, hopefully, I’ll be eating lobster by mid-afternoon.

While there’s plenty to do in town for the weekend, I also decided to check out some of the area’s comics shops online, none of which I’ve ever visited before, and collect addresses and opening and closing times. So it’ll be cool to check out new stores in a (kind of) new place.

If there’s anyone reading from Baltimore, please fill me in on quality shops (or, really, anything in the area) that I should check out!

So, yeah. I’m off in a couple of days.

But for today, lets get to the new comics. Like I said, there’s not a whole lot that’s got me excited, but there’s certainly some quality stuff coming out. And there's one book in particular that I'd like to focus on today.

Morning Glories, issue two, ships to stores and brings with it a whole boatload of hype. This is the latest hit series from Image Comics--and one that I’ve talked about in the past.

Issue one went kinda nutty, selling out immediately from the publisher. Then, when Image rushed out a second printing of that issue, it also sold out on the day of release.
So today, in addition to issue two, Image is shipping out a third printing of issue one for anyone who may have missed the boat on the first two printings. And, apparently, that’s a whole lot of people.

Image typically has a very small print run--especially for new series--so the fact that they sold out of an issue one is not much of a surprise. But the fact that the second printing sold out immediately is significant, and it means that there’s a growing fanbase for this book.

Other Image books, Walking Dead and Chew, experienced similar reactions, and both those titles are runaway successes for the publisher, and in the case of Walking Dead, it's become a phenomenon.

Morning Glories, though still in its infancy as a series, is being compared to those two books, which probably isn’t fair. Still, the publisher has long-term plans for the series, and critical response has been overwhelmingly positive.

My fear with this title is that many people are jumping on board because of the hype surrounding the first printing of issue one (and its increasing secondary market value), and they're not actually reading the book.

They're buying the issue to flip it on eBay.

But the book itself is quite good--think of it as a dark, twisted take on the X-Men and Xavier's Academy--and I think the series has some serious legs. Here’s the solicitation information from Image for the series, followed by the info for issue two.

Issue One:

The most anticipated new series of the year starts here! Morning Glory Academy is one of the most prestigious prep schools in the country...But behind it's hallowed doors something sinister and deadly lurks.

When six brilliant but troubled new students arrive, they find themselves trapped and desperately seeking answers in a place where nothing is what it seems to be!

Issue Two:

It's the Glories' first day of school, and they've already landed themselves in detention! Now, anywhere else that might just mean the start of a bad year, but they're about to find out when you're enrolled at Morning Glory Academy, corporal punishment takes on a whole new—and deadly—meaning!

The most hotly anticipated new series of the summer continues! It's RUNAWAYS meets LOST from the writer of FORGETLESS and SHUDDERTOWN!

Image's initial solicitation for issue one is a bit weird, especially considering just how much the book exploded, but I guess it's their job to hype up their product. This series is good, though, and issue one leaves off on a great cliffhanger with many possibilities for a nice, long run on the book.

Check it out--it's a new series with (obviously) no prior continuity to know about. And, well, I think I've gone on long enough for today. So I leave you with this--what are you Waiting for?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Quick Poll: Fave Dessert?

Everybody likes dessert. I can't see how this could possibly be false. Though it may not always be wise or appealing to have dessert, anybody who's got a definition of the word most likely enjoys at least one kind of dessert.

Over to you, folks. What's your favorite dessert? Surprise me.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Because It's Funny

No matter what you do today, no matter who you hang out with, or what you watch on television, I promise you...this will be the funniest video of a catapult malfunction that you will see.

Just...go. Click here, from

(And for those of you out there with souls/hearts...she was fine. Which is part of what makes it so funny. The other part of what makes it so funny is that, unlike every other week when I rely on someone else to find a funny video link, this week...I found it myself.

Sure, it was on Geekologie, so technically, they found it, but still. I thought I was actually at the forefront of an Internet sensation. And then I emailed the link to a couple of people at work. And they'd already seen the video.

And then, on Friday, I was watching Attack of the Show, and guess what was their number one video of the week. Yeah. So maybe I'm not at the forefront of sharing this video. I'm very rarely at the forefront of anything. But hopefully someone out there hadn't seen it until coming here.

One person. That's all I ask.)

-- -- -- --

Happy Monday, everyone!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Dark Tower to Film and TV!

Stephen King's The Dark Tower book series is one of the most beloved genre works in literature. Spanning seven books (and an eighth on the way), many King fans consider this series the writer's master work.

And, for as long as such things have been relevant, there have been rumors about the series' adaptation to film or television.

Well, according to a number of sources, the encompassing story of The Dark Tower might be adapted as both! From a recent article at

The plan, as revealed by Deadline, is to adapt the series as a combination of feature films and TV seasons. Basically, what they'll be doing is kicking things off with a feature film, which will be followed by a season on television that will bridge the gap to the second film.

They'll then repeat the process, creating a second TV show to bridge the gaps from the second film to its final film. So for a quick recap: the creative trio masterminding it think it's going to take (at least) three films and two seasons of television to properly tell the story of Roland the Gunslinger.

The first film and the first TV season will be directed by Ron Howard (!) and Stephen King will be a producer throughout the entire course of the story. The films and television series will include direct adaptations from the novels as well as expanded stories dealing with Roland's childhood--taken from the excellent Marvel comics series.

I'm currently on Book Four of the novels, and I'm all caught up with the comics series, and I have to say, as a fan of the series...this looks good. Very good. I like that King is being kept very much in the loop, and Ron Howard has a good track record with, well, pretty much everything he's done.

How 'bout you guys? Any thoughts on the series being adapted? Any casting calls?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Something to Consider

Pursue something you love today.

There is a time to mourn, a time to be angry, a time to debate, and a time to plan for the future. There is reason enough in this world to be bitter, frustrated, anxious, and devastated.

Pursue something you love today.

Friday, September 10, 2010

2010: A Baseball Oddity

I’ve been watching baseball for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been watching baseball seriously--and with a discerning eye--for the past decade or so. And in that time, I don’t recall any season in which professional umpires have made so many errant calls.

Sure, bad calls are very much a part of the game (and therefore I am absolutely against instant replay in any fashion) but this year’s list of blown calls seems excessive.

The biggest (and worst) such call so far this season cost a young pitcher a perfect game, and it seems like not a week goes by without some controversy or another concerning a close call, or an umpire, or both.

Interestingly enough, a pattern formed early on in the year that should have clued us all into what was to come.

At the start of the season, umpire Joe West criticized the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox--Major League Baseball’s two biggest moneymakers, mind you--for taking too long to play a game. Actually, West said this about the two teams:

"They're two of the best teams in baseball. Why are they playing the slowest?...It's pathetic and embarrassing. They take too long to play."

Too long to play? A baseball game? I’m sure his employers at MLB loved that. A three-plus hour game between the two biggest rivals in all of sports? Yeah, I bet the league did pretty well with advertising during that game.

Of course, it’s not about the money--for me, anyway.

Baseball is a game with no time limits; no restrictions on the offensive team other than the three outs allotted per inning. Before those three outs are recorded, well, whatever happens happens. A team could score 10 runs and cause their opponents to use 5 different pitchers in the same inning. Or a team could swing at three pitches and hit three groundballs to the shortstop.

That’s part of the beauty of baseball--there are no shot clocks or two minute warnings, no TV timeouts or halftimes. The game continues on until one team scores more runs than the other team, and gets 27 outs.

Joe West was wrong in his comments, and, frankly, pretty stupid in saying what he said. But he sure did a fine job of foreshadowing a long, bad season for MLB umpires.

And, because we haven’t had a controversial call since the weekend, an umpire Tuesday night gave us something new to talk about. In a game that featured three ejections and closer Trevor Hoffman’s record 600th career save, Tuesday night’s game between the Brewers and the Cardinals will be remembered for the following.

In the 7th inning, home plate umpire Bob Davidson turned to the stands directly behind home plate...and he threw a fan out of the game.

Yep. A fan. Someone who was watching a game that he paid primo money for, and heckling an opposing player.

Listen, I’m the number one proponent of "Don’t be that Guy," but c'mon. You can’t throw a fan out for heckling a player. The players make a whole lot of money--they can take the heckling.

And if they can't? Then find a new job. Maybe one that doesn’t pay a league-minimum of $400,000 a year.

Now, let’s step back a moment. Say a fan becomes overly rowdy at a game, and he or she (probably he) starts to annoy people around him. And he disrupts other paying customers from enjoying the game.

Then he should go. Absolutely. Throw him out.

BUT, security should throw him out. NOT the home plate umpire.

There’s a line, and in my opinion, the umpire crossed it. It’s the running joke of the 2010 season that umpires are, more and more, injecting themselves into the game. As if they want people to talk about them at the bar after the last out is recorded, instead of Alex Rodriguez or Albert Pujols.

But an umpire--a good one, anyway--should be invisible. A backdrop. Like a great safety or cornerback in football, a baseball umpire should not have his name called during a game. That’s how you know he’s doing a good job. Because nobody’s said a word about him.

But this year...I dunno. There must be something in the Gatorade.

-- -- -- --

In an update to this story (I wrote this post on Wednesday, before the umpire in question was interviewed by the media), take a look at this article from ABC Sports, where home plate umpire Bob Davidson says that the fan (a 44-year old male) used a homophobic slur, and that's what prompted his ejection.

Claiming that he feared retaliation from St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (to whom the heckling and slur were directed), Davidson stepped in and threw the fan out.

Now, obviously, I don't side with the fan. He's an idiot, and I don't get guys who heckle players. But, since he paid for his ticket, he's allowed to heckle. Yes, the slur was clearly over the line, but I still don't think it warranted an ejection from the umpire.

The fan was drunk--very drunk, according to Brewers players--and as such, he should have been escorted out by security. But, for whatever reason, security didn't think it was neccessary to throw the guy out.

And their job is to know when to throw a guy out.

Just to be clear--the guy's an idiot. What he allegedly said is disgusting and primitive, and I in no way agree with fans who heckle and carry on. I mean, I'm the guy who hates the guy who asks writers/artists to sign more than a couple of comic books at a convention.

Go to a game, sit there, have a beer, enjoy life.

But leave security to the security folks. Umpires have done enough this year to make themselves way, way too noticable during Major league Baseball games. So, in conclusion--everyone please just chill out.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Retro Curmudgeon

If there's one thing I've learned from modern gaming, it is that I am expressly not a modern gamer. While dozens--nay, millions--of people might go wild over motion-sensitive controls, stunning 3-D graphics, and online multiplayer with huge groups of people from around the world, I don't see myself ever being a proponent of "the next big thing in gaming."

Truth be told, I'm not bothered by the fact that the games are modern. I don't automatically reject a game because it was made after a certain date, or because it has stunning 3-D graphics, online multiplayer, motion-sensitive controls, achievements, downloadable content, a $60 price tag, etc. I cling to my retro games because of the differing philosophy with which many modern games seem to be designed.

When the Nintendo 64 came out, everything was in 3-D. Not just the graphics, but the gameplay, too--sidescrolling platformers, my favorite genre of video game, all but disappeared because of this apparent need for total freedom of movement in any direction, regardless of the game.

When the Nintendo DS and Nintendo Wii first came out, everything utilized the funky new touch screen and motion controls, regardless of whether or not the gameplay was enhanced by them. Once again, the guiding philosophy seemed to be, "because we can."

As I play more modern games and expand my collection of older games, I'm finding more and more that the Nintendo GameCube is one of my favorite systems. The need for every game to take maximum advantage of the system's 3-D capabilities subsided after the N64, and so the focus of the developers seems to have returned to a philosophy of, "let's make a game" rather than, "let's show off this new technology with a game."

I grew up on the Atari 2600; I don't need all the bells and whistles to have a good time. If you're going to implement anything--from a fully orchestrated soundtrack to that one button on the controller that nobody uses--it had better be for a darn good reason. I demand gameplay and things that enhance the gameplay, not additions that distract you from the fact that there is no gameplay.

Are all modern games bad? No. Are all retro games good? No. Do I need to wave my arm around every time I want to attack in Twilight Princess? No. Will GoldenEye lose all its charm if it gets a graphical facelift? No. Well, probably not, anyhow.

I'm ready for a new era of gaming. An era where none of the gaming innovations pioneered and popularized in the past 5-10 years are mandatory. Either that, or I need to upgrade to a faster computer that can handle the glut of PC games that have been exempt from all the console-based headaches (and wristaches) of the last decade.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Waiting for Wednesday (Really Thursday), Volume 2, Issue 36

It's another one of those pesky Thursday-shipping weeks thanks to the Labor Day holiday in the U.S., so there are no new comics at your local shop today. Instead, all your weekly comics goodness will arrive to stores tomorrow.

So don't go running out to your shop this afternoon in search of all the wonderful that I'll be talking about in a bit. Because, if you do, you'll just get laughed at.

But before we get to the stuff that you can't buy until tomorrow, I'd like to mention a book that came to an end a little while back, and is now collected in a myriad of different formats.
When I first started reading comics, Warren Ellis' and John Cassaday's Planetary was The Book of the Moment. Everyone was talking about it, and the series was just about at its halfway point*, and it was getting amazing reviews from fans and critics alike.

Billed as a science fiction adventure story following a group of "Archaeologists of the Impossible," Planetary is really a graphic history of the comic-book medium, disguised as an unrelentingly entertaining comic book story.

I picked up a couple of issues of the series back in 2002 or 2003, and, while I liked what I was reading, I didn't really get what I was reading, or why there was so much fuss about the series.

You see, since I had just started reading comics when I picked up my first issues of Planetary, I couldn't understand all of the in-jokes, all of the references, and all of the fun.

Now, though, since I am (embarrassingly) enmeshed in comics culture and history, those same in-jokes work on a number of levels, and as I read the series in its entirety for the first time (I've just finished issue 20), I am thoroughly enjoying the work.

In fact, with the exception of Ellis' Frankenstein's Womb short graphic novel, and his (wacky, but excellent) novel, Crooked Little Vein, Planetary is my favorite work of his thus far.

And, considering the sheer volume of good work he's done in his career, that's saying something.

So, while this is not an Official Exfanding Review, I did want to briefly mention the book, and I wanted to mention that (thanks to steep Amazon discounts), I am reading the series in the oversized, Absolute hardcover editions.

Which are truly the best way to read and digest comics stories and art. These things are stunning. Expensive, sure. But stunning, nonetheless. Comics art is supposed to be seen on big pages--that's why the original art is drawn on 11 X 17 in. art board.

Anyway, so yeah. Planetary is great, and I'll do a proper review when I finish the series. I'm also making my way through Grant Morrison's The Invisibles, and I'm on volume two of that series. Reading both books at the same time is probably not healthy for my brain, but we'll see what happens.

I have my tinfoil hat ready, so I should be fine.

Speaking of fine, there are some fine products coming our way tomorrow--not today, remember--and here are a couple of things that I'm looking forward to.

First up, we have a book that I've been waiting for since the release of the pretty much under-everyone's-radar first series. From Goon creator Eric Powell, Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities and the Ghastly Fiend of London, issue one, ships today.
And it promises to be awesome. Just look at that cover--how could it not be awesome? It can't, I tells ya! It can't not be awesome.

Picking up where the critically acclaimed (if not commercially successful) first series left off, Ghastly Fiend is a perfect jumping-on point for new readers of Powell's Billy the Kid world.

Check out the solicitation information from Dark Horse, below. It does a nice job of setting up the series and its overall premise.

The world believes the notorious outlaw Billy the Kid was killed by Pat Garrett, but in reality the Kid is very much alive, the hired gun of Fineas Sproule's traveling spectacle of biological curiosities--or "freaks," as Billy calls them. In their latest adventure, Billy and crew confront their most vicious challenge yet: Jack the Ripper!

In London to visit a true Elephant Man, Billy, Sproule, and the company learn about the Whitechapel murders and the fact that disfigured people are being blamed for the killings and targeted for mob justice.

As the group applies themselves to the case, Sproule looks for information at every bar in the city, while Billy tags along to drink whisky and flirt with prostitutes at each one-which might be a better way to find the Ripper than he realizes.

* Includes Goon backups by Eric Powell!

See? Told ya it sounds pretty cool and--waittaminute! Did that say Goon backups by Eric Powell? Well, now. Recommended reading has just become required reading, folks. If you're looking to throw your money at something today at the store, throw it at this book.

Next up, we have issue six of the hit Vertigo series, American Vampire. Written and created by Scott Snyder, and with additional stories by Stephen King and outstanding art by Rafael Albuquerque, this series just wrapped up its first story arc.
And, while those first five issues will be collected in a fancy hardcover in the next month or so, now's a great time to jump on board this series. Issue six marks the beginning of an all-new story, so new readers should be able to pick the book up and follow along just fine.

I'd definitely recommend doing just that, and if you like what you read, either try tracking down the first five issues (they should be readily available at your comics shop) or wait on the collection.

I know there's a glut of vampire stuff coming out--they're the new zombies, after all--but American Vampire is something entirely different. Here's the blurb from Vertigo about tomorrow's issue six:

It's Las Vegas circa 1935, and Skinner Sweet and our gal Pearl are about to learn the hard way that the bloodsuckers in Hollywood were nothing compared to what awaits them in Sin City.

In just a few short years, young police Chief Cash McCogan has watched his native city of Las Vegas go from cow-town to wild, glittering boom-town. And when the bodies of prominent businessmen start showing up drained of blood, Chief McCogan finds himself facing a threat much darker and deadlier than anything he could have imagined...and the only sure bet in town is that Skinner and Pearl are right in the thick of it!

So belly up to the bar and lay your chips on the table, because "Devil in the Sand," the next cycle of AMERICAN VAMPIRE, begins now!

This is good, good stuff, and it's one of my favorite new series of 2010. Actually, come to think of it, American Vampire might be my favorite new series of 2010. The writing is great, and Albuquerque's art really shines in this turn-of-the century tale. Definitely check it out if you happen to pass by it on the racks.

And with that, I must leave you. Back to work for me. But before I go, a reminder, and a question. First off, remember, books ship tomorrow, not today. And, secondly, what are you Waiting for?

*Editor's Note: Because of several reasons, including Ellis' health issues and Cassaday's scheduling conflicts, it took the Wildstorm-published series until 2009 to wrap up its 27-issue run.