Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween 2010!

Holy Tree House of Horror, Batman! It's that time again! Get your candy bowls ready and your Michael Myers masks out of the closet--it's Halloween! Throw on a scary movie or ten, sit down with something by Richard Matheson or Ray Bradbury, and enjoy the day (and night)!

I need one more sentence that ends in an exclamation mark! There it is!

Before you go about your merry way and do whatever it is you do on Halloween, check out this year's Halloween-themed comics gallery:

Happy (and safe) Halloween, everyone!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Halloween That Almost Wasn't...and Still Kind of Isn't

So, Thursday night, I had a brilliant idea.

Since I'm pretty much on another planet this whole weekend, and since I've been almost entirely unavailable this whole month, Nathaniel and I never actually got around to watching the horror movie(s) I was going to introduce him to.

You know, for Halloween.

He's (somehow) managed to live into adulthood without ever seeing John Carpenter's seminal October classic, Halloween, and that was to be one of the films I would exfand upon him. The others in the running were The Shining, the Evil Dead movies, and Bubba Ho-Tep.

Bubba Ho-Tep, of course, was there as a come-down from whatever terrifying flick I was to first subject him to.

I told Nathaniel that, since he's a newbie to horror films, I wouldn't subject him to The Exorcist just yet, since that would most likely end up being the last horror flick he'd ever see. It tends to have that kind of effect on people. Still, The Exorcist is a movie that--in a weird way--I love.
Writing that last line, I have to admit--it's hard to say you "love" The Exorcist. It's a film that's very difficult to actually sit through, and the book is even tougher to read. But at its core, that story is the oldest one ever told--it's good versus evil for the life of an innocent child.

And yet the ending is one of the most controversial in recent film history. Who won in that last scene? It's all a matter of perception, I guess. But that's what makes the story so great, and so easy to love.

As a film, The Exorcist is stunning. A good chunk of the movie is shot indoors, in a single room. And yet the film captivates the audience. The filmmakers dare the audience not to turn away.

And that's tough.

There are parts of that film that I've tried to forget, but know I never will. But it's not done for shock value or for cheap screams. The horror in The Exorcist is real. When you watch that flick, you're in that room. You're there. Everything is happening to you, and you are every character.

Because you can relate to every character in that movie. And that's terrifying.

But I'm getting off topic. I was talking about my brilliant idea on Thursday night. We needed to do something Halloween-ish, and Thursday looked like the one sliver in our schedules that would allow a few minutes of stupid fun.

There's a new, seasonal Halloween shop that opened up not far from Exfanding HQ, so I emailed Nathaniel on Wednesday and asked if he'd like to meet me at the store Thursday night. Despite his utter detestation of the holiday, Nathaniel agreed.

Mostly, I think, to humor me.

I love costume shops. And magic shops. And especially seasonal Halloween stores. I love all that cheap, cheap merchandise, and the guy behind the counter who somehow manages to be a mix between Comic Book Guy and Jimmy, the guy at my old office whose job it was to remove the asbestos.

So I was excited about heading to the store. I figured we'd get there, and I'd drag Nathaniel around and show him all sorts of weird stuff that no one in his or her right mind would or should enjoy.

What I didn't expect was to find the worst seasonal Halloween store that ever was.

Seriously. The worst. Instead of laughing at the weird and cheap plastic spiders and fog machines and things, we were struck by how...sad...the store seemed. Even though it was packed (lots of last-minute shoppers who didn't want to brave the lines of the Party City across the street), the store itself was so bad at being a seasonal Halloween store that I left feeling a little bummed out.

But then Nathaniel realized that he needed to buy milk. So we went to the grocery store. And that last event made this--officially--the best worst Halloween week ever.

-- -- -- --

Oh, and brownie points to whoever gets the title reference.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Alien: Science-Fearction

The reason I don't do horror movies has little to do with being scared and everything to do with the content and presentation. It doesn't take a lot of blood to make me queasy. Sharp objects make me nervous. Zombies gross me out; vampires make me cringe; werewolves...I guess I'm okay with werewolves.

Aliens, though...

If you ever want me to watch a horror flick with you, the part where it's a horror flick needs to be tacked on at the end, after you've already sold me. Tell me it's about aliens or something:

"You gotta watch this movie. There's a very cool alien styled by H. R. Geiger. The film's an American classic. IN SPACE. It's been referenced in geek culture ever since it came out. It's actually pretty plausible sci-fi. It's dark and suspenseful. There's some great action. It's awesome."


"...Oh, and by the way, it's also the most terrifying movie known to man."




...Still sold.

This is effectively how I found myself watching the sci-fi horror classic Alien, a movie which spawned a long-lived (longer than most of the movie's characters, anyhow) line of feature films, novels, comic books, video games, creepy action figures, and...PEZ dispensers?

A truly comprehensive discussion of the Alien franchise would require an entire week of posts, but Alien doesn't strike me as the kind of franchise where an in-depth look at all the media and merchandise is necessary to cultivate a greater appreciation for the property.

In contrast to many other fandoms, you can be a bona-fide Alien fan by watching just one movie. The aliens are the main attraction; story continuity is more of an excuse to make another film, and most of the spinoffs are self-contained adventures that provide variations on the concepts of the films. In other words, one exposure to an installment of the Alien franchise gives you almost everything you need to know.

Compare this to the vast expanded universe of Star Wars, where watching all six films barely qualifies you to be in the same room as a guy wearing handmade Boba Fett underpants.

That being said, an overview of the Alien movies should prove to be ample introduction to the fandom. Enough exposition already; let's get face-hugging!

Alien (1979)

"In space no one can hear you scream." Though the movie's tagline has become one of the biggest clich├ęs in cinema, it's a dead-on description for the film.

Alien takes place on a commercial freighter ship, the Nostromo, in a part of space far, far removed from any trace of civilization. The crew awakens from stasis to answer a distress signal (which is, admittedly, a sign of civilization), and what they find could cost their company a fortune in worker's comp fees...

Alien is frequently cited as one of the best horror and/or science fiction films of all time because it succeeds on so many levels. Cinematically, the pacing is perfect and the tension and fear build at all the right times and in all the right ways. Cerebrally, it's got enough symbolism and Big Questions to keep the critics and philosophers thinking. Everything works, from the script to the acting to the music.

Alien's greatest strength is the ability to leave just enough unsaid or unseen, allowing the viewer to stay suspended in mystery and to fill in the blanks with the most terrifying things their imagination can produce. Even the fact that the alien is just called "alien" is creepy; refraining from naming the species makes the alien that much more of a faceless terror...

Aliens (1986)

The series goes plural. Alien features exactly what its title advertises--one alien. The sequel has scads of 'em. Somebody had the bright idea to build a colony on the alien homeworld of LV-426. I think you can guess what happens from there. I think you can also guess what happens to the team sent to investigate the suspiciously silent colony.

Aliens is definitely more action-oriented than its predecessor, having switched directorial hands from Ridley Scott to JAMES CAMERON. In most cases, a distinct shift in feel from one installment to the next can cause a ruckus amongst fans, but both films are handled so well that I find myself genuinely unable to decide which one I prefer.

The first movie conjured up scares because the alien is a total unknown--the viewer and the characters are learning for the first time what the alien can do and how ineffective any attempts to stop it are. With the sequel, the alien is a known quantity. A scary quantity. Attacking in droves. You know what they're going to do, but the characters don't, and that can be just as scary.

Aliens succeeds because it radically builds on its source material in a meaningful and eye-popping way, while still maintaining the essence of what made the original so interesting to watch.

Alien³ (1992)

There's an alien on the loose in an industrial prison colony. And oops, the prisoners aren't allowed to carry weapons. Poor planning on the part of the wardens, I guess.

Alien³ is unquestionably the Rocky V of the Alien series. Everything The basic premise is something of a rehash of the first movie, but real surprises are few and far between.

The tense, creepy atmosphere has been replaced by a dark, uncomfortable air of religious obstinance mixed with the stink of grungy prisoners. Worse yet, the film effectively throws away anything it had to work with from Aliens, further separating it from the greatness of the first two films.

It's not entirely Alien³'s fault. As I understand it, the entire production was a mess, with directors switching at the drop of a hat, scripts being tossed out left and right, and filming occurring before the actors had a finalized script! The movie still has a great deal of character and its fair share of scares, but most fans of the series will likely find this one unpalatable.

Alien Resurrection (1997)

A scientific experiment gone wrong leaves aliens running amok aboard a research vessel. Mankind's only hope is a ragtag band of cannon fodder led by a genetically altered clone who has more than a little in common with the aliens...

Alien Resurrection is generally considered to be marginally better than Alien³, but still atrocious. In truth, the best way to approach Alien Resurrection is to ignore the Alien legacy and judge the film on its own merits. In other words, look at it as any ol' sci-fi survival thriller. You'll enjoy it more.

The acting may not be as convincing, the special effects might look cheesier, and the plot might be a little iffy at times, but there are a number of memorable moments that make Alien Resurrection worth watching, especially if you suffered through Alien³ to get here.

The creepiness comes less from the ambiance and more from spending any length of time thinking about the ideas the movie raises. The clone premise allows for some interesting character development possibilities, as well. Even when there's no violence, some of the visuals in the film are downright disgusting, and yet somehow compellingly weird. Even if the execution isn't as wonderful as the previous films, there are still some neat ideas.

Alien vs. Predator (2004)

We've officially crossed the line from sci-fi horror to mindless sci-fi action. The whole notion of aliens fighting the titluar characters from the Predator movies comes from a scene in Predator II where an Alien skull can be seen in a sort of Predator trophy room; this rivalry has been a popular premise for more than one video game, and more than one feature film (for better or for worse).

Taking place in modern-day Antarctica, AvP is a prequel where a group of human explorers gets caught up in a showdown between Aliens and Predators. It's harmless fun with a few cool scenes, but ultimately only necessary if you're a completionist or not yet at a point in your life where you could stomach/appreciate the other films in the series.

Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)

We've officially crossed the line from mindless sci-fi action to brutal slasher flick. A lone Predator travels to modern-day Earth in response to a distress signal from another Predator ship that crashed into Colorado thanks to those meddling Aliens. EVERYTHING DIES. In the most gruesome ways possible.

I'm going to use capital letters again. NOTHING IS SACRED. The movie goes out of its way to brutalize and mutilate someone from every demographic, and I'm not just talking about race. AvP:R is unsettling and disturbing. At least some of the action sequences are cool. Also, a bonus point for the best cheap scare in the entire series.

But mostly, I felt sick to my stomach and had to look away from the screen every 20 minutes.

It's improbable that any given person will like every entry in the Alien series, but there's enough of a mix that sci-fi junkies, horror fans, and mindless action aficionados will all find something to like. If you're a fan of Metroid, you'll like the Alien franchise--and you'll also notice some striking similarities. (Spoilers!)

In short, watch Alien, and see what happens from there.

If nothing else, it's not as scary as E.T.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

On Halloween and The Walking Dead

As I sit down to write this, it's a perfectly bleak October day. Gray sky, leaves scritching across the pavement, just enough of a chill in the air.

:sigh: Fine.

That's not exactly true. You see, we're experiencing an unseasonably warm week here at Exfanding HQ, and the sun is shining, and last night's rain has made sure that not even a single felled leaf is capable of "scritching across the pavement."

And, even though we're expecting a cold weekend, and with it a cold Halloween night, it's utterly appropriate that things are unseasonable. Because, as much as I love Halloween, I've just had no time to enjoy the season.

And this weekend won't get any better.

I'll be lucky if I mix in my annual Halloween day viewing of John Carpenter's classic film, or if I manage to crack open my copy of Ray Bradbury's timeless, Something Wicked This Way Comes.
(It might be the night he came home, but it'll be the day I do yard work.)

I just haven't had time to enjoy my October. And I really do feel like this month is mine. Obviously, as longtime readers know, I love horror books and movies, and my comics reading almost always slants towards the scary.

Call my crazy, but I'm a fan of the creepy. Always have been, and I'd imagine, always will be.

There's just nothing better than a dark, atmospheric, Gothic novel, or a comic book that actually makes me wince before turning the next page. Like Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead--quite possibly the best horror comic the medium has ever seen.

Most comics people are aware of Kirkman's zombie apocalypse masterwork, and many weekly LCS shoppers have this book on their pull list--either month-to-month in the single issues, or by trade or hardcover. I like the hardcovers, because you get 12 issues at a clip. Plus, they look cool on the shelf.

But, come Sunday night, when AMC debuts their television adaptation of Kirkman's series, methinks there will be a whole new legion of readers looking for the trades. And, while I don't think they'll go to comics shops to find them, I do think the big chain bookstores needs to stock up, and stock up fast.
I like the idea of the series debuting on Halloween night--it's appropriate, certainly. But I think the network--and the book--may have been better served had they debuted last week, so stores had the full Halloween week to move product.

From all accounts, the show seems like it'll be a hit, and AMC has already picked up a second season.

Like Watchmen, Walking Dead (the comics series, I mean) will feel the impact of the new show, and I expect the book to move record numbers of a black and white indie.

Which is great for comics, for a couple of reasons.

First, maybe some folks will wander in an actual comics shop when Amazon inevitably sells out of the books, and when Borders only has volumes 2, 7, and 9. It's a long shot, but hey, I'm a dreamer.

Second, and more important for the medium, is that The Walking Dead--more than even Watchmen, I'd argue--can show people what comics are capable of.

Now, let's be clear here. I am by no means comparing the two books. Watchmen is superior to anything else this medium has produced, period. I honestly believe that. But, with Watchmen comes exactly that tag line--"the best graphic novel of all time."

People read it, go WOW!, and then stop because they've read the best the medium has to offer. I have several non-comics friends who have read Watchmen, loved it, but refuse to read anything else--even if it's another Alan Moore book!

Which is tragic, but true.

Watchmen is self-contained. You buy the graphic novel, read it, and it's done. With something like The Walking Dead, a book that is ongoing and has trades that ship every couple of months, new readers get to experience the waiting game that all comics fans go through month to month.
And I think that will add to the experience, and to the anxiety that builds over the course of the series. In many ways, Kirkman's series is the perfect TV show--tension builds from issue to issue of the comic, and unlike most mainstream comics today, there are real and lasting changes to the core group of characters.

No one is safe in a Kirkman book, and mainstream TV fans are going to learn the hard way that they better not get too attached to anyone in the series.

That's the other thing about Walking Dead--it's a comic book that prominently features death. Death literally stalks these characters, and while the zombies are the Big Bad, it's the emotional toll of isolation and the constant fear of their new surroundings that makes Walking Dead such a mesmerizing read.

So get ready, everyone, because this Sunday might just be the beginning of a Very Good Time to be a comics fan.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 2, Issue 43

Well, it's Halloween week here at Exfanding, though no one would know it. Usually I'm the King of Halloween, but this year, travel, work, and uh, work, have kept me from carrying out my kingly Halloween duties.

Which kinda stinks, because I really do love Halloween.

Aside from Christmas, it's my favorite holiday of the year. And actually, I think I get more giddy pleasure out of Halloween than I do out of Christmas. Like Christmas, I consider Halloween more of a season than a single day, and as such, my Octobers are typically spent reading scary stories and watching horror movies.

Especially horrible horror movies.

Because there's just nothing quite like sitting down on a breezy fall afternoon to watch a bad horror flick.

This year, though, I've only had the chance to pick up and read (the excellent and new in mass market paperback) Dark Harvest, by Norman Partridge. And I did that while on a plane, trying to forget about how terrified I was. (Of the plane, I mean. Sure, the book was creepy as all get-out, but nothing can compare to the sheer horror of flying.)
Partridge's story about a skin-crawling Halloween night tradition in a rural American town reads at a fever pitch, and it definitely put in the mood for more Halloween fare.

Anyway, more on Halloween tomorrow. For now, I'm on deadline, and I need to hurry this along. I have two season-appropriate books for this week, and I think they're both titles a lot of our readers will enjoy.

First up, from Dark Horse, the Beasts of Burden/Hellboy one-shot arrives in stores today, featuring fully painted art by the amazing Jill Thompson, and an all-new story by Evan Dorkin and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola.
I've talked about how great the first series of this title was, and believe me, this is one of the true gems in the industry today. Here's the solicitation information from Dark Horse:

The paranormal activity in the outwardly charming town of Burden Hill has gone from bad to worse, as seen in Dorkin and Thompson's hardcover graphic novel Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites.

Now the occult-investigating team of dogs (and one cat) need some serious help. Contact with the Wise Dog Society has broken off, leaving the team on its own, as a series of unexplained animal slayings have begun to occur. But magic can work in surprising ways, and help is brought to the team with the unexpected arrival of the World's Greatest Paranormal Detective.

Evan Dorkin (Milk and Cheese, Bizarro World) and Jill Thompson (Scary Godmother, Magic Trixie) join forces with Mike Mignola (Hellboy, B.P.R.D., Witchfinder, Baltimore) in an amazing one-shot bringing their supernatural worlds together!

Mike Mignola's Hellboy joins the animals of Burden Hill!

You can check out a free preview right here, and as you'll see, the art is beautiful. This series has gotten a ton of critical acclaim over the past year or two, and I'm proud of the fact that we here at Exfanding recognized its greatness early on.

What's it get us, you might ask? Well, nothing, besides good comics. And I'm fine with that.

Next up, we have a very cool (but expensive) offering from IDW. In their continued efforts to relaunch the much-beloved Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, issue number 252 ships to stores today.
The first issue was jam-packed with remembrances of the legendary creator of the magazine, Forrest Ackerman, who passed away in 2008.

There were mixed reviews about that first issue (issue 251 for those keeping score), but overall I really enjoyed the book. The big turn-off here is the price point--at $13, this really isn't a book someone will buy on a whim at the comics shop.

But it's a big, full-color mag, and it's loaded with photos and interviews with horror writers and filmakers. If your store ordered a copy, do yourself a favor and flip through it today. See if it's your thing.

Unfortunately, my thing right now is that I need to go. But I'll be back tomorrow with something Halloween related. I promise. For now, though--what are you Waiting for?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kick Me, It's Halloween

My lunch break is a sacred time where I can fall out of the time stream and indulge in a bit of geekery during the work day. Sometimes I write for Exfanding or GameCola, but most of the time it's an opportunity to catch up with YouTube comments on my Mega Man videos. However, there's another lunchtime activity I've let slip, and that's reading other peoples' blogs.

When we first started Exfanding, catching up on other blogs was a daily routine for me. I felt more a part of a greater blogging community, and keeping myself immersed in a culture of reading and writing made it easier for me to blog.

Regular visits to other blogs provided inspiration for content, as well as layout and design. I'm no web designer, but I'm good at teaching myself how to accomplish something I've seen other people do. Beyond that, constantly looking at other, prettier blogs drove me to make Exfanding Your Horizons look as pretty as I could make it without paying anyone or formally learning the craft of coding.

Honestly, I think we've done pretty well. We're not the flashiest blog on the Internet, nor are we the most profound, but it's home for us. Judging from the numbers, it's home for some of you, too. Well, it's at least that monumental ball of yarn you pass by on your trips down the Information Superhighway.

That's been our problem the past few weeks: we haven't been home. We come here to crash after a long day of work, or we pop in to hastily tidy up before heading elsewhere. We spent more than a week talking about a convention we attended for a day. We made excuses for having to make excuses.

Halloween is less than a week away! Alex should be writting about vampire novels and horror movies. I should be whining and complaining about how much I hate candy, pumpkins, and fun. So far, one post this month has had anything whatsoever to do with Halloween, and that's only because the comics that Alex normally buys happened to have a Halloween theme that week.

All because we haven't been home.

Alex has been traveling and working extra hours at the office. I've been relentlessly focused on Mega Man and GameCola. But there's more to it than that. We've drifted away from our ties to the rest of the blogosphere.

We used to spend entire lunch breaks catching up on reading blog posts. We used to swap links with other bloggers. Blogging was once a project; now it's a routine, but that isn't an inherently bad thing. It just means we're more prone to letting our lives outside of the blog directly influence its content and structure. Life has been a strong influence this month, and as a result, there's been more fluff and more excuses than usual.

It's not a matter of quality; it's a matter of focus. Our strongest posts these past few weeks have been the ones that have aligned with this blog's mission: to introduce, explain, discuss, and demystify various hobbies and fandoms to promote an understanding between geeks and to spark an interest in the things that interest us.

Sometimes we need a swift kick in the digital pants to get us back on track. A little bit of quality time with the blogs I've been neglecting provided the perspective I needed.

I've liked everything we've written this month. It's just that we're making good filler episodes instead of continuing the ongoing story arc. We're not blogging about our lives--we're blogging around our lives.

Sounds like it's time for a lunch break.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Collector's Mentality

For me, the difference between being a collector and being a pack rat is how long I originally intend to hold on to something.

Six-year-old me didn't plan to keep a half-used Super Mario Bros. coloring book in a toy chest for nearly two decades, but the me of today has to deal with the potential pack-rat consequences of possessing such an object. However, if the me of today had gone out and bought the exact same coloring book, it would be a deliberate addition to my collection.

If you've ever seen my Backloggery, you know that I own a fairly impressive number of video games, yet I've never even played a significant percentage of them. My DVD shelf is much the same way, though to a considerably lesser degree.

I've picked up things such as the inexpensive Sonic Gems Collection and the bargain-bin Warner Bros. Batman film quadrilogy (or tetralogy, if you prefer) with still-unfulfilled grand plans of someday at least opening the package.

I rarely buy anything at full price or when it first comes out, so it's not like I'm jumping on the bandwagon with every new release and then forgetting about what I've purchased. Most things I buy are things I've been considering for a while, or else they're dirt-cheap bargain-bin finds that seem more valuable than the few bucks I have in my wallet at the time.

Still, it's a comfort to have these things on the shelf, and for two reasons.

The first is that house guests are fickle and may at any point suddenly develp a craving for the 1980s Flash Gordon TV series.

The second is that certain items are far more expensive and difficult to find once they've left the shelves of brick-and-mortar stores. Plus, there's a certain joy in picking up the original Dark Forces or Dragon's Lair I & II in an actual store; grabbing them online because you passed up the opportunity the first time feels a bit disappointing.

In the case of Star Trek, my continuing mission is to collect every season of every series. Unlike StarFox Assault, which may or may not ever grace my GameCube, I know that I will eventually watch every episode of every Star Trek there is (fan projects notwithstanding).

Furthermore, I know that I will want to show Star Trek to my children and anyone else in need of some exfanding, so it's an investment for the future. Also, that much Trek looks is lookin' better on my shelf all the time.

There's a fine line between pack rat and collector, but I think this collector's mentality has all but replaced my pack rat mentality. No more compulsive hoarding for me. If I hang on to something, it's because I know or suspect it's a good investment.

After all, why else would I, on three separate occasions, pass up paying less than $10 for the new 2009 Star Trek reboot?

Oh, snap.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

'Cola Overdrive

Michael Gray,'s most prolific writer (most likely), recently announced his departure from the staff. In the meantime, the editors have been publishing any articles waiting to be reviewed almost as soon as they're ready. Until the past week or so, GameCola typically had 3-6 articles in reserve at all times, but I don't think I need to tell you how recent events have affected that.

This isn't a rant or a prediction of doom and gloom. On the contrary, it's a good thing that we've been releasing new material at a faster pace; more articles means more for our fans to read, and a greater chance that we'll be found on a random web search. And though we miss Michael, devoting less time to GameCola is giving him a chance to pursue Important Life Things.

I bring this up at all because I've spent this week writing material for GameCola as though it's my responsibility to fill our article reserve back up. Between regular blogging, releasing my first Mega Man 6 video, and focusing more on GameCola, there's been this sense of urgency and timing that's been largely absent from my life outside of work.

It's exciting, in a way; it gives my creative endeavors a little more meaning, knowing that people are counting on me to deliver something enjoyable in a timely manner. I think it's helping to improve my writing/commentary skills as well, that whole "learning to work creatively under pressure" thing. It hasn't been a burden, and I've still been taking time to myself where I need it.

It also helps a great deal that, when I do take some "Me Time" to play video games, I'm not getting frustrated by the game that's supposedly helping me unwind. My track record over the past year and a half has been pretty poor in terms of finding games that are fun, relaxing, and worthwhile all around, but I've picked up Dragon Warrior IV for the NES, and it's the perfect combination of familiarity, simplicity, discovery, challenge, and mindlessness for my needs.

It's funny how much I complain about the random battles in Final Fantasy, yet don't mind grinding just as much (if not more) to survive any given Dragon Warrior game. I believe that's due to the fact that I much prefer the designs of the Dragon Warrior enemies, and also the fact that each and every battle in Dragon Warrior could seriously be your last. Every hit point counts, and strategy matters. Not always the case in Final Fantasy.

I'm in a sort of creative Nirvana right now: a reason and drive to pursue blogging, videogame humor, and commentary recording, with the perfect game to refresh me when the creative well runs dry, and time enough to do everything. All is well.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Why We Love Stan Lee

Everybody knows Stan Lee. Your mom, your little sister, your grandfather. Everybody knows Stan Lee. It's just a fact of life. And, even though there are those with differing opinions about The Man, everyone reserves a special place for Stan in their hearts.


Well, that's easy. It's because he still puts up with stuff like this:
Do yourself a favor and head on over to Comics Alliance for the full photo rundown of Stan posing with cosplayers at Dragon Con. I promise it'll be worth your time. As usual, this ridiculous links post is brought to you by Exfanding reader Dr. Nick Riviera.

At some point, I will get him to write an actual post, but for now Dr. Nick, keep sending the funny.

Happy Saturday, everyone!

Friday, October 22, 2010

On Why I Would Make a Horrible Superman

I can't stand stand to fly.

That's not a cute attempt to quote a way over-quoted song, either. That's just the simple truth. I can't stand to fly. I don't much like traveling in general, and I specifically don't like flying anywhere.

Which is somewhat odd, because I used to fly a lot. As a kid, we went down to Disney World several times, and when I played baseball, we flew to all sorts of places. Heck, I even flew to Italy and to the UK (on separate occasions); two flights that are not short.

And I was okay with them.

And then, at some point, I decided that I very much do not like to fly. In a conversation with a good friend last night, I came to realize that I witnessed a pretty horrible occurrence at an airport once, and it's likely that has something to do with my (now 7-year-old) fear of flying.

And "fear" is the absolute right word.

I don't like saying I'm afraid of anything, but the truth is, there are things that scare us all and are very rational fears--like losing our jobs, or a family member passing away--and then there are fears specific to each of us.

For me, that list includes tight spaces, spiders, and flying. So I could never be Peter Parker or Clark Kent. Or Batman. Or Daredevil. Or, come to think of it, Stilt-Man.

I think the thing that gets me is the fact that, no matter what, I can't get out of that plane until it (hopefully) lands. On my flight home, I forced myself to look out the window--something I never do on planes.

It was just clouds, and while I could appreciate the fact that I was in a flying machine, soaring through the clouds, I couldn't help but think it wasn't right. It just wasn't meant to be. Men weren't meant to fly, with clouds between their knees.

Anyway. Like the title says, I would make a horrible Superman.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

More Excuses, Fewer Promises

Well, I've finished my run of Mega Man 6. The video part, anyhow. Once again I'm doing audio commentary, and once again I've grossly underestimated how long it takes to get a coherent and enjoyable finished product. Once again, everyone (including myself) must wait longer than promised.

That's it! No more promises!

I promise.

If you want a real post today, check out this wonderful article about the 25th anniversary of A-ha's rise to the top with "Take on Me."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 2, Issue 42

Hi and welcome to a very special Smoky Mountains Edition of Waiting for Wednesday. I'm down South on business this week, and while I won't be able to grab my comics from the old LCS until Thursday or Friday, I'm more than happy to run down what's actually on that list.

And, as far as milestones go, last week the Exfanding crew attended its very first comics convention, and this week we have our very first "Sitting at the Gate in the Airport, Hoping My Flight's Not Cancelled Because of the Rain" post.

Very exciting.

Now, I'm not what you'd call a good flier, and as such, I've been up for several hours already, imagining all of the Bad Things that can happen to a person on an airplane.

The scenarios I've drawn up in my writer-y head are bad enough, but then throw in the fact that I'm obsessive and a little bit paranoid, and you can imagine that I have a long day ahead of me.

So to keep my mind off all that for the moment, let's talk comics. It's a good week for comics, actually, with quite a bit of new and interesting product on its way from Diamond.

The excellent Brian Wood/Rebekah Isaacs series, Dv8, sees it penultimate issue ship today, and the latest issue of Grant Morrison's Batman and Robin will be on shelves in a few short hours. There's also issue three of the creepy and increasingly intriguing Morning Glories from Image and the first issue of Mark Millar's Kick-Ass Volume 2.

But my real treat this week comes from DC in the form of their annual DCU Halloween Special, a book that is always a guilty pleasure of mine. Sure, some of the stories fall flat, but the great part about the anthology style of the book is that there's always going to be something to love.
And, yes, the stories skew towards the corny, but I think that's what I like about it. Halloween is a fun, corny holiday anyway, so it's a good fit. Here's the solicitation information from DC:

The annual event you've been dying to read is here! The DCU HALLOWEEN SPECIAL returns with a bang, featuring all-star talent and all of your favorite characters! What happens when the DC Universe's premier heroes are thrown together with some of the spookiest heroes and villains? Scares are sure to ensue!

Don't expect to find anything groundbreaking here, but if you're in the mood for a fun, quick book to read while you're sitting on the couch waiting for trick or treaters, this is your best bet.

If you're looking for genuine horror for Halloween, well, I'll run down a list of the best comics and things out there sometime in the next week.

But for today, let's keep going because my battery is dying...

Speaking of horror, the next book on my list comes from Vertigo, and it's the first in their line of "Resurrected" titles. I don't know too much about this book other than what the blurb below says, and the fact that it's listed at a robust $7.99.

Here's what Vertigo has to say about it:

"Shoot," Warren Ellis's much-talked about, but never published story, involving schoolyard killings leads this mega-sized VERTIGO RESURRECTION Special. Also included are rarely seen tales exploring the disturbing depths of horror, war, romance and science fiction by Brian Azzarello, Brian Bolland, Garth Ennis,
Grant Morrison, Jim Lee, Peter Milligan, Bill Willingham, Bernie Wrighston and more!

"Rarely seen" is usually a pretty good synonym for "reprinted material," but in the case of Vertigo especially, "rarely seen" means just that. I don't expect to find anything I've read before in this collection, so I'll be picking it up.
The roster of creators alone makes the book worth my time, and I'm very interested in reading Warren Ellis' story. Of course, this book is certainly not for the kiddies, so be warned that there will likely be some nasty bits. And I mean that in every imaginable way.

Okay, sorry to do this, but I need to cut things short. My anxiety level is increasing--did I mention that I'm a bad flier?--and my battery is about to go. I apologize if this was an incomprehensible mess, but hey, think of it as an episode of In Treatment, and feel free to mock my (crippling) fear of flying (and airports) in the comments.

Before I go on my crazy way, though, one question--what are you Waiting for?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

An Effective Waste of Time

My time is very precious to me, which is why I'm so careful about how I sqander it. I don't have cable TV (or satellite, or even an antenna) because I feel that television is not the most effective use of my time.

Yet I waste whole evenings doing "research" on arguably worthless Flash games for my "Flash Flood" column on I'll throw away hours upon hours in search of one last monster for my Final Fantasy II Bestiary. When it comes to video games, I can excuse almost anything pointless by claiming it's "progress." One step closer to being a know-it-all gaming master. One step closer to completing my Backloggery.

Television, in most cases, doesn't feel like progress to me. In the time it takes to watch a single season of a one-hour show, I could have played through and beaten more than ten Mega Man games. Reading every single fiction novel ever penned by Michael Crichton would take roughly the same amount of time as watching half of Law & Order.

When I think of television this way, it truly feels like an ineffective use of time. An entire series is just one item off my life's to-do list. How many more fandoms could I experience by watching movies, reading comics, watching plays, and attending concerts during that same amount of time? If television is just a form of entertainment, then surely there are many other ways of being entertained for much less of a time commitment (assuming you're a completionist like I am).

That's why, if I watch television at all, it's something like Jeopardy! or Most Extreme Elimination Challenge that has no real continuity and requires no previous knowledge to enjoy. More importantly--and these two shows are prime examples--television needs to be something that makes me think or makes me laugh. Futuristic technology and cool explosions also help.

Comedy is instant payoff--life is better when you laugh. Television that raises thought-provoking questions is equally meaningful, if not more so--even when a single story takes ten seasons to tell, there's a payoff in every episode when you're prompted to think about questions that are even bigger than the show.

There's nothing wrong with television. It just needs to be exceptionally thinky, funny, or explodey for me to give up breeding Chocobos until the end of time.

Monday, October 18, 2010

So Close...

My run of Mega Man 6 is on the verge of completion. One more stage. A paltry six screens of virtually nothing, followed by the second-easiest final boss in the history of the series.

Yes, there will be audio recording to follow, but that'll only take a day or two (or three) per video, which means the satisfaction of having a finished product of some sort after nearly every session. The video recording is the biggest part of the whole endeavor, and once that's done, the rest is just gravy, as they say.

Here's the trouble: With such a dull final stage, I really need to go out of my way to show off. Avoiding damage isn't terribly impressive here, because there's hardly anything to get hit by. Speedrunning is no good, either; there's barely anything there to rush through.

I need to intentionally put myself into undue peril, or else I need to do creative things with my weapons and abilities--a difficult feat, given that I've already been going out of my way to make the game more interesting. It's one of the easiest games in the series with some of the most straightforward challenges the Blue Bomber has ever faced, so the game is inherently less interesting to watch, in my opinion, though it's still fun to play. I'm just out of ideas.

With any luck, I'll come up with something entertaining. Doesn't need to be knock-your-socks-off creative, but something worth watching, at least. If all else fails, I'll just have to do a reeeeally great job with the audio commentary. Wish me luck.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

New York Comic-Con Recap: Part Two

Grrr, bub! Look at us! We promised a part two, and here it is!

Go read Part One, or you'll be confused!

-- -- -- --

The artists and art vendors were out in force on Saturday, with more than a quarter of the floor space being dedicated to tables displaying original comics art as well as unoriginal comics art. How derivative. From posters to commissioned sketches, there was almost no end to the amount of visual art standing between me and the celebrity guests who were signing autographs.

The best part about going into a convention completely blind is that the surprise is even greater when you discover something or someone cool is going to be there. Example: I got to meet Christopher Judge of Stargate fame, shake his hand despite feeling sickly at the time, get an autograph for the friend who introduced me to the show, and ask the one question I've always wanted to ask:

Actually, I had no idea what I wanted to ask him. So I inquired as to whether there was any question fans never asked him, but he'd love to answer. "Yes," he responded. After a moment of expectant silence, he looked at me and said something to the effect of, "Oh, you want me to answer that, too?" I chuckled and nodded. With a warm, pensive smile, he looked off into space and said, "Are Jolene Blalock's lips real?" And after a thoughtful pause..."Yes." With a bigger grin than before. What a guy.

Being the huge Star Trek fan that I am, because I love space, I was excited to discover that Michelle Forbes would be signing autographs. You may recall Ms. Forbes from such roles as Ensign Ro Laren, the sassy Bajoran from Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Dr. Judith Mossman from Half-Life 2.

Considering how quickly my money had been evaporating just by looking at all there was to buy, I decided I actually didn't need to pay $30 or $40 for a signature, or $10 more for a photo. A brief moment to say hello and ask a question or two would be sufficient for me.

Lesson learned: Having a celebrity sign their autograph buys you valuable time that will allow you to construct a longer sentence than, "Hello, I'm a big fan of your--oomph!" before getting muscled out by the next person in line.

See, the person in front of me had an Ensign Ro action figure to be signed--brilliant, by the way--which gave me a good intro line to get warmed up. "So, how does it feel to have an action figure of yourself?" I asked. Not as clever as, "I don't mean to alarm you, but you've got Wil Wheatons on your shirt," but it'd do.

"Two, actually," she responded, starting to look behind me. What could possibly be behind me that was possibly more interesting than where this line of conversation was headed? Sensing my time was short, I quickly recited the generic "Hello, I'm a big fan of your work" line (with my own personal twist on it, of course). That's all I had time to say before the people behind me struck up a conversation with Ms. Forbes, who appeared to be an acquaintance of theirs.

Well, at least I only had to wait ten or fifteen minutes for that.

I got the distinct vibe that Ms. Forbes is a career actress, that it's more of a job for her. I'm okay with that, if it is indeed the case, but it certainly didn't leave me with the warm fuzzy feeling I got from purchasing a palm-sized model of the Enterprise NX-01.

But that's really where the joy of Comic-Con was: in the shopping, and in the ogling. It wasn't even a matter of greed, so much as it was a matter of awe and wonder. Miniature power lanterns in every color of the DC spectrum. Body pillows with pictures of anime girls on them. Space-efficient comics cabinets with laser etchings of anything you want on the front. Who comes up with these things?

I'm not sure. But I know who buys them.

Of course, you could just as easily find all these things online. The other half of the joy of Comic-Con comes from being able to share all this with friends.

We spent half the day as a party of four, having coordinated with another out-of-towner to join us whenever he wasn't together with his friends. We met up during lunch with another friend who wasn't even attending the convention. We may have even gotten most of our Christmas shopping done, so that we can share our experience with others a few months from now. Most surprisingly of all, I ran into a friend from middle school--sitting behind a table for InterVerse Comics, the company he co-owns.

Honestly, it's the most social I've been in weeks. I seriously thought I'd be doing less socializing and way more conventioning, but this was a different (and positive!) twist on the convention scene for me.

I managed to run into several people I know--and a couple of people that I hadn't seen in a year or more, from other conventions. Which is pretty cool, and honestly, something I never thought I'd say. You know, because of that whole fear of giant crowds thing. But I'm at that point now where I've been to enough shows to recognize faces, and I've hung out with people from all over the country. Like I said--pretty cool.

Oh, and speaking of giant crowds...

I have a method to my madness at conventions. Go in, look around, buy something. Repeat. Because I tend to be a little obsessive compulsive, I'm constantly passing things up because I know--I just know--that I'll find That One Thing later on in the show, and if I spend my money too soon, That One Thing will never be mine.

This works in theory. My thinking is that I can always come back to something I passed by, liked, but wanted to hold off on in favor of checking out other things before laying down my cash.

And, usually, as a convention stretches on, the chances improve for dealers to drop their prices.

However, at this particular show, with its tens of thousands of people--seriously, the range I've heard/read about this week estimate 100,000 on the low end and, at the high end, 125,000 with possibly over 50,000 just on Saturday alone(!)--finding your way back to a booth you passed hours or even minutes before proved difficult.

Sometimes you just had to stand around, watching other people play Starcraft II until your friends were physically capable of meeting back up with you.

And that was my major quip with the show--there was a sea of people, and after lunchtime on Saturday, walking around got to be pretty difficult. When we returned from lunch--which was the perfect way to recharge and get off the con floor for an hour or two--the convention had changed dramatically. And that change was evident immediately.

There were just way more people there. The aisles were clogged and I got bumped into a lot more. From things I've read from dealers and creators online, NYCC has been likened to San Diego in terms of how dense the floor was. Certainly, there weren't nearly as many people there, but the traffic jams from booth to booth were excessive.

Still, what the con lacked in...let's call it more than made up for in terms of guests.

Artists' Alley alone was a site to behold--hundreds of artists from both the big publishers and the small press were there, drawing and signing and talking to fans. The comics art dealers were out in force, and the selection of things available was amazing. Certainly the best spread I've ever seen at a con.

I picked up some nice pieces, and I met my goals of buying Chandra Free's The God Machine hardcover (which I really look forward to reading when I have a few minutes), and an original drawing by the amazingly talented Rebekah Isaacs (of Neil Gaiman's character, Death, below), and a Wonder Woman pin-up by DC artist Mahmud Asrar.

As cool as it was to actually go into a con (and one as big as NYCC) with a list and to actually check off the major things on said list, you're always likely to literally walk into something you could never have expected.

I scream about the Vertigo series, House of Mystery, almost on a monthly basis, and it's probably my favorite current series behind Dark Horse's The Goon. When I look for pages of original art to buy, the first thing I take into consideration is how I feel about the book from which the art came. I prefer to buy pages from books I love and from stories I love, but that proves very difficult as there's only one of each page in any given issue.

Because House of Mystery ranks so high on my favorite list, and because I feel like there's a strong emotional connection to the title, I've been on the lookout for a page for a couple of years. The problem with that has been that the artist--Luca Rossi--lives in Italy and does not sell his original art.

Which is a problem when you're specifically looking to buy a page of original art by Luca Rossi.

When it comes to original art, any collector will tell you that the hunt is never really hopeless, but I had long since put the possibility of buying a House page out of my head. And then I ran into the table of inker Jose Marzan. I looked down at the stack of pages sitting in front of him, and guess what stared back at me?

Countless House of Mystery pages. From some of my favorite issues. Awesome! And so I bought two of them.

But enough about Artists' Alley. Let's get back to the convention proper, and our hilarious attempts at some kind of planning in a chaotic scene. Or maybe not; we'll see.

We kept making these grand plans of splitting up to go shopping and then meeting up in half an hour, but no matter how many times we did this, it never sank in that half an hour was the amount of time we'd need to wade through the crowds enough to be split up. This convention was not designed for a drop-in/drop-out cooperative multiplayer experience.

However, this was a day trip. Under normal conventioning circumstances, we would've picked separate days to seek out the table with the Darkwing Duck comics, sift through the discount anime, and debate about whether we wanted the poster from over here or the wall scroll from over there more.

We also might've stood in line a little longer for a shot at playing a demo of Mega Man Universe. After the post where I talked about potentially having to give up on Mega Man(!), I was determined to at least watch this game that would either cause me to run in terror or run to the store to buy a new gaming system that would play it.

Ten or fifteen minutes of watching decent to pretty good Mega Man players try out Mega Man Universe was all I needed. Something finally clicked. It wasn't the game itself that concerned me--after all, the gameplay looked as solid as ever, and it was basically Mega Man 2 changed around by a level editor. No, it was what the game represented that bothered me.

As mentioned in my Mega Man Marathon reflection, it has been fifteen years since the last original series Mega Man game made a meaningful, lasting impact on the franchise's continuity. Mega Man Universe doesn't look like a bad game, but it doesn't look like a professional, meaningful entry in the canon or the series at large. What I've seen so far suggests, "Mega Man level editor in the style of a Flash game," which pretty much indicates to me that Capcom is done with plot development and innovative gameplay indefinitely.

Imagine your favorite TV show suddenly stopping in the middle of a story arc and producing nothing but filler episodes until it gets cancelled. That's what I feel has happened with Mega Man, and--oh, right, Comic-Con.

No, no. I think we've talked about the con enough for one weekend. Time to wrap this bad boy up.

At the end of the day, we were tired and hungry and a little less inclined to be in a room with more than a dozen or so people, but we were happy. The show was fun and productive and we all bought cool stuff, sure, but hanging out with friends old and new made the day a special one, and we look forward to the next time.

Aw, now that warm, fuzzy feeling is coming back again. Way to go.

In conclusion...Nick Fury and Black Widow.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

New York Comic-Con Recap: Part One

As we've been talking about for well over an entire week now, the Exfanding Crew made a limited engagement, one-day-only appearance at New York Comic-Con 2010.

Whether you've been eagerly awaiting the tales we have to tell, or you've been counting down the days until we start talking about baseball and obscure music again, the saga ends here.

Unless, of course, we see fit to talk about it again later.

Here's a surprise: Instead of doing our typical back-and-forth commentary (as we've done with Fanboys, Watchmen, Seven Samurai, etc.) we've seamlessly smashed together my recap and Alex's recap. See if you can tell the difference. (You totally can, by the way.)

-- -- -- --

For certain people, there's a time in the day that is close to sacred. Just before the sun comes up, usually around 5:00 AM or so, the world is peaceful and quiet and calm. Especially on a Saturday morning, a man could lose himself in the quiet, in the solitude, in the majesty of the mostly sleeping world around him.

A quiet so profound that he can hear the leaves falling from trees and the music of the birds chirping high above in the tree tops, the footsteps of the occassional deer running through the woods and the sound of two fanboys next door, fighting over a broadsword.

5:00 AM means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For some, from Monday through Friday, 5:00 AM means it's time to wake up. For others, 5:00 AM means it's time to not be bothered by any living soul--on punishment of death--for at least another couple of hours before the start of the workday.

But on Saturdays, it's almost universally recognized that most everyone should be in bed, asleep and snoring, with visions of a day off, at 5:00 AM.

Unless, of course, there's a convention in town.

Such was the case last Saturday, as the Javits Center in New York City played host to the 2010 edition of the New York Comic-Con, a show that has become the second-largest comics gathering on the planet.

For the Exfanding crew--as you may have guessed--the day started early. I was up at 5:00 because I needed to pack a few more things before leaving--see my (mostly) empty bag, below, with a list of all the people and things I wanted to see and buy--and Nathaniel was up at 5:30. Which, if you know him, is monumental in and of itself.

When he showed up at my house at a quarter to seven, I probably should have called it quits and not pushed my luck any further. We should have gone to breakfast, and then back home.

But I didn't, and we didn't, and instead we piled into my car and set sail for NYC.

Well, almost. First we needed to stop for money and food--in that order. But then--oh, yes, then--we set sail. At 7:15. For a show that was to open its doors at 10:00. To a place about 45 minutes away.

Because I have visions of New York traffic that go back to my college days (and by "visions," I mean, "nightmares"), I always plan to leave two hours before I need to be anywhere in the city. And then I tack on an extra hour for good insanity. Um. I mean, measure.

For good measure.

As is the case with most delusions, though, my worries about a parking lot on the West Side Highway at 7:30 on a Saturday morning were all for naught, and we made it to the convention center sometime around 8:00. We parked, walked over to the Javits, got our lanyards and checked in, and we were then escorted to the end of a line of people somewhere underneath and outside the building.

As we passed the people we would soon be behind in line, I couldn't help but notice that there were only about a hundred of them. People in line, I mean. We were nearly at the begninning of the line--something that I've never managed to pull off at all the conventions I've attended.

"Huh," I said, without a hint of irony. "Maybe we could have left a little later."

Nathaniel--displaying the very same restraint that he showed when he finally acquiesced to leaving his broadsword at home only an hour earlier--said nothing. And we walked on.

Finally, we reached our spot in line, and oh, what a glorious spot it was! There was a wall and a pillar (and a pillar!) against which to lean, something that would come in handy during the next two hours of waiting.

After a little while of making polite small talk with people around us, Nathaniel buried himself in the convention guide and I stared blankly ahead. Exfanding friend Gary showed up a little while later, and then the three of us stood (well, leaned) and waited.

After about an hour and a half of this--think Disney World, but without the payoff of the ride at the end--Nathaniel sat on the floor, leaned against that (glorious) pillar, and closed his eyes. Which, apparently, was a flare signal for a con staffer to yell, "Okay, everyone, let's start moving!"

So we did.

We followed a nice lady who said we could get into the show a little early. She pulled us off the line--the one we were up at 5:00 to be on, mind you--and proceeded to walk us towards a huge theater. With chairs to sit in instead of pillars to lean on. Well, Nathaniel was sold.

Gary and I, however, were skeptical.

From past experiences at these things, I know that "nice" usually goes well with "doesn't have a clue" when it comes to convention staffers. They mean well, but ultimately, they don't really care if you miss your chance to see Boba Fett's brother-in-law.

"Ma'am?" I asked, all polite-like. "Just wanted to make sure--we can walk right into the show from here, correct?"


"Excellent--that's great. Thanks for this."

"No problem. And, hey, there won't even be a line at 11:00, so there's that, too."

"No, there sure won't be a--wait. What? The show opens at ten, not eleven."

And then, in a moment only a true dork could find some geeky pleasure in, her response was--and I'm not kidding--"But this panel goes to eleven."

If I knew what an emoticon was/how to use one, mine would have been a representation of a shocked face.

"But--uh. We were here so early. And up so early. And it was dark. And we disturbed the guy next door with the nature..."


"I mean--um. I don't--we don't--uh--we don't want to see whatever show is in there. (What show is in there, by the way?")

"Something about films and the essence of--"

"Yeah, we don't want to see that. Can we get back in line?"

" But if you just wait here, you can walk right in at 10:00."

"And cut the line?"

" You'll have to go on the queue."

"The queue?"

"The queue. For the show."

"'Queue'" is just British for 'line,' no?"

"I don't know, sir. But here, it's the thing that gets you into the show."

"Right, but, we were just on the line--uh, queue--right?"

"No, that was the preliminary line. The queue is downstairs."


And then I walked away, grabbed Gary and Nathaniel, and went searching for the mysterious downstairs queue. (Which, come to think of it, may have been the plot of an episode of Dr. Who last season.) Eventually, we found it. And, well, it was quite a queue.

We were herded--yep, herded--onto the downstairs floor of the Javits, in the same room in which the very first NYCC was held. So it was a big room. And there were barriers that kept us all in huge rows, and directed us to our final destination.

Like I said--herded. Just like cattle. After the herding, though, the waiting was over.

At last, we had reached the convention floor. Booth upon kiosk upon hut of geek swag. Walls of t-shirts. Sculptures, busts, models, and busty models--there were a lot of people in costume roaming the crowded pathways, including the ubiquitous Slave Leia, the ubiquitous Boba Fett, ubiquitous Stormtroopers, and the ubiquitous Wait, I Thought This Was A Comics Convention.

Indeed, this was more of a general dorkfest with an emphasis on comics than a true Comic-Con. That may be a point of annoyance for convention purists, but it ended up being an opportunity for different geeks to receive at least a passing exposure to one another's fandoms (which is what this blog is all about!). Take into consideration the New York Anime Festival, which shared the same space as Comic-Con this year, and you've got a geek mecca that appeals to a wide range of fans...and a wide range of wallets.

There were trade paperbacks at ridiculously low and discounted prices. ("How are these so cheap?" I asked one vendor selling 5 trades for $25. "We're in the Mafia," he responded. Then the convention cut to black.) There were Serenity posters, Star Trek action figures, and Star Wars photographs signed by all the cast members, selling for more money than actually exists on this planet. One place even sold stickers!

Compared to the one big line that was PAX East, Comic-Con was really just a huge shopping trip with friends.

And 100,000 other people. Still, the first few hours of NYCC 2010 were about as perfect as a convention could be. We were with friends, we were all digging different, awesome things, and we were having a blast.

The setup of the con floor was unique. Because the organizers had the entire Javits to play with (save for a section of the center that was under construction), they split the con(s) up. The main hall housed the main floor for the comic show--publishers and retailers mostly set up here.

In an adjoining room, they set up a giant Artist Alley, which featured an all-star lineup of the very best creators in comics. On another floor, the Anime convention and its Artists Alley were set up, and while I only passed through once by accident (I got a little turned around at one point in the show), the floor looked great.

When we walked into the main floor, the plan was to spend a good amount of time figuring out the lay of the land. But then I bought something, about five minutes after I walked onto the floor.

It was something stupid, useless, and it featured Batman, and I was happy and the (buying) ice was broken.

Things went nutty from there, and wallets went dry.

I was impressed at the amount of stuff that was on display--the range of fandoms was staggering. Actually, the very first thing I ran into was a table featuring portfolios filled with the amazing art of the late Michael Turner, who is truly one of my favorite artists.
The best part about getting to the show early on Saturday morning was that we beat the crowds. For a little while, at least, the aisles were open and spacious and wonderful, and one could walk around, look at things, and be comfortable.

That would all change after lunch, though, but we'll get to that in a bit.

-- -- -- --


A cliffhanger!

Come on back here tomorrow for Part Two--and, yes, there are only two parts to this. We promise. Plus, there's a surprise twist ending. (There's not.)