Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 2, Issue 26

Holy cats!

We've reached the half-year marker! When did that happen?! Twenty six weeks into 2010, and so far, this year's off to a better start than last year. I'm certainly in a much better place professionally now as compared to this time last year.

Plus, I'm happier and more pleasant. Just ask Nathaniel how much I've improved in the pleasantness department. There's decidedly 12% more pleasantness emanating from me these days.

I swear.

Comics-wise, much has changed in the past six months. What a weird sentence. I just went back to read it, and it just sounds funny. And fluffy. "...much has changed..." Sounds like a bad voiceover for a late-80s cartoon remake of something.

"Since King Harold's evil brother Willem took control of the realm, much has changed...MUCH HAS CHANGED, INDEED."

What? Stop pretending that you don't know what I'm talking about. It's true, though. That much has changed, comics-wise, in the past six months. Marvel and DC both have dedicated digital storefronts, the iPad launched and showed us all the future, and Bruce Wayne returned!

Okay, well, maybe that last part hasn't happened yet. But it's about to happen. You can tell. And, uh, I think he's a pirate now. I forget.

Anyway, so, yeah, big goings-on in the world of capes, tights, and crossover event thingies. The biggest--aside from the surge of digital distribution, I mean--is the new paradigm shift in the pricing of print comics.

Which, I think, has quite a lot to do with the surge of digital distribution, actually.

Most books today are %3.99--it's a fact, and there's no way we're ever going to see comics under $2.50 again. Heck, $2.99 is pretty far back in the rear view at this point.

We're also seeing many more $4.99 books, and as sales figures have shown, fans are still buying the books.

I think we've all said the following (or we've all heard someone else say it)--"If you had told me X years ago that a comic book would be $4.99, I'd say you're nuts and the industry must be just as nutty."

Well, sir.

$4.99 is the new $2.99, and "dollar books" are as anachronistic as Dick Tracy in the Sunday paper. And that's about as anachronistic as they come, folks.

Still, the publishers know that fans will pay the price, and the fact that we now have more options than ever when it comes to owning these stories--single issues, trades, hardcovers, deluxe hardcovers, digital versions, etc.--is obviously a factor when it comes to pricing single issues.

A floppy comic is essentially dead after six days.

If it sits on a retailer's shelf through the weekend, he or she might as well use it as kindling. We all know that's just the way of things in comics; no need to scream about it here.

Still, there's plenty of good stuff out there, and I have to admit that it's frustrating not being able to buy everything I'd like to read. Sure, I do okay and I purchase WAY too many comics each month, but there's still plenty that I'd like to read.

Ah, well.

That's a topic for another day, I suppose. For now, let's talk about this latest batch of comic-y goodness, set to ship to stores today. It's a light week--probably because of the coming US holiday--but I still managed to find something to buy.

I have an eclectic mix today, so let's get right to it. First up, we have the Deluxe Edition of one of DC's very best comics of the past year. From writer Greg Rucka and artists JH Williams III, Batwoman: Elegy ships today.
The art is stunning--unlike anything else in mainstream comics over the last decade, and Rucka's story is solid and entertaining.

It's up for Eisner Awards, critics have fallen in love, and--I'm proud to say--we were one of the first blogs to jump on the bandwagon for this book. There's no chance I won't be picking this up today. Or whenever my shop actually gets the book.

My store has had some problems lately with hardcovers shipping past their solicited date for some reason. Anyway, if you like comics, please buy this. Here's the blurb from DC:

In her first hardcover, collecting tales from DETECTIVE COMICS #854-860, Batwoman battles a madwoman known only as Alice, inspired by Alice in Wonderland, who sees her life as a fairy tale and everyone around her as expendable! Batwoman must stop Alice from unleashing a toxic death cloud over all of Gotham City — but Alice has more up her sleeve than just poison, and Batwoman's life will never ever be the same.

Next up, we have a book I know nothing about, save for what Marvel's website has told me. The Death of Dracula, issue one, comes out today,'m assuming it has Dracula in it.


Now, I do know that Marvel has some major plans for a whole, vampires vs. the Marvel Universe thing coming up soon, so this might be a prelude to that. Either way, it's Dracula, so I'm gonna give it a shot.
Here's the pun-tastic blurb from Marvel:

He is the legendary Lord of the Vampires. Dracula. Who would dare attempt to overthrow him? Only Dracula's son Xarus, a ruthless and clever upstart with the bold ambition to unite all the world's vampire sects under one flag.

But Xarus's older brother Janus isn't sure he likes the idea of a new regime and seeks allies to oppose Xarus. The ultimate battle to control Earth's Creatures of the Night unfolds, with the future of the vampire race – and possibly the Marvel Universe – at stake."

And, finally today, we have a bit of an odd choice. I've talked about my (some would call it strange) loyalty to Wizard magazine before. While it's true that I tend to read indy books, I still like a healthy helping of mainstream-y super hero stuff, and Wizard hits that nerve quite well.
More than that, though, is the fact that when I first started reading comics, I stumbled across the big "zero issue" of Wizard magazine, and being a newbie, it was just this treasure trove of new and wonderful. So you can say I have a soft spot for the mag, despite its tendency towards potty humor.

Anyway, today's issue 228 is a bit of a special edition, as Marvel writer/comics superstar/movie god Mark Millar will be guest editing the book. I like Millar's writing, I think he's funny, and I'm interested in what's gonna happen with this book.

So, there. Here's the blurb from Wizard:

Superstar writer Mark Millar takes over Wizard Magazine! The best-selling Scottish scribe behind Ultimates, Wolverine: Old Man Logan, Civil War and Kick-Ass comes on board as guest editor—and brings a host of his fan-favorite A-list creators along with him!

Millar will interview ""Green Hornet"" star Seth Rogen, answer your fan mail and serve up an exclusive preview of his brand-new creator-owned project from Marvel/Icon...and that's just for starters!

Don't miss out on this must-have Millarverse collectible ish with appearances and interviews with the biggest comic book and Hollywood stars around today!

Like I said, I'm interested.

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

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tell 'Em!

As I've mentioned before, I've become something of a podcast fanatic. Since I'm in the car for around two hours every day, and I work out in the mornings and/or evenings, I have plenty of time to listen to as many podcasts as I can find during a given week.

My podcast exploration has taken me from some downright terrible wastes of time to shows that I listen to on a regular basis. But, recently, I started listening to one that's quickly become my favorite digital broadcast out there.

And, yes, "digital broadcast" is the new term for podcast. Look it up.

If you're a fan of writer/director Kevin Smith, as I am, then you're utterly familiar with a great many of his characters. Even the ancillary ones.

As it happens more often than not, it's those smaller parts that tend to stick with people, for one reason or another. Such is the case with Smith's infamous Fanboy and Steve-Dave, two rabid comics fans who just seem...angry.

They appear in several of Smith's New Jersey films, and most prominently in Mallrats, where Fanboy (Walt Flanagan) yells, "Tell 'em, Steve-Dave!" to his comics fan/rabble-rouser buddy, Steve-Dave (Bryan Johnson).

And now, from their humble beginnings as bit players in a cult classic film, Flanagan and Johnson get to shine on their own in the 15-week-old digital broadcast, "Tell 'Em Steve-Dave!"
I'm a fan of Kevin Smith and (Clerks, 'Rats, Dogma, Jay and Bob Strike Back producer) Scott Mosier's "Smodcast" podcast, and I check that show out every week, as well.

But I found myself much more interested in "Smodcast" when Smith and Mosier would have longtime friends Johnson and Flanagan on the show. I think these two guys are really interesting, incredibly funny, and Johnson especially has a satiric, acidic tongue.

Joining Fanboy and Steve-Dave is "tech guy" Brian Quinn, who, while he doesn't say much, always brings the funny and is a great addition to the crew.

The show, which typically runs just under two hours each Friday, is lewd and inappropriate, and the topics discussed range from current events to strange encounters from the hosts' pasts.

There was even a two-part episode in which the guys ventured out to a flea market in New Jersey and interviewed some of the retailers there. If that doesn't sound interesting on the surface, just check out the show. Somehow, those two episodes featured captivating discussions with some very interesting people.

You can check out episodes of "Steve-Dave!" here, and on iTunes, and I have to say.

If you're looking for a laugh, do check it out.

-- -- -- --

Oh, and as a nice aside to this post, Exfanding Friend Gary has posted up a review of Kevin Smith's New Jersey comic shop (which is managed by the Fanboy himself, Walt Flanagan), complete with photos. Check it out!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Mega Weekend Plans

I've been busy. Working late. Out of the house for more consecutive weekends than I can remember. Packing up the house and moving to a new place. Unpacking the house. Attending to all the little things that go along with moving, such as changing my address with the Post Office. Things are finally beginning to settle down, though, and every day this week will bring me one day closer to The Day.

My day off. My honest-to-goodness I-don't-have-to-go-anywhere-or-do-anything day off. No more ferrying straggling boxes from the old place to the new one; no road trips; no excursions to Wal-Mart to buy home essentials that I've suddenly discovered I don't have. With the potential for leaving work early on Friday and the prospect of a three-day weekend ahead of me, I have high hopes of finally having a day off. A true day off. Zero plans.

Well, not Zero plans, but that's close...Mega Man plans.

Some time ago, I ran a few marathons with my friends--all three Lord of the Rings movies, extended editions, in one day; Star Wars, episodes I-VI, back-to-back in a single day; etc.--and I found that I rather enjoy marathons. I'm not as keen on TV show marathons, unless it's an anime series that can be wrapped up nicely in 26 episodes or less. More importantly, however, I am keen on the Mega Man games.

This weekend, I'm going to go for broke on one of the most insane plans I've hatched in a while: I intend to play Mega Man 1-10, one after the other, breaking only briefly for whatever out-of-a-can lunch and dinner I have on hand. Better yet, I might start the can opener as the end credits commence for one game and continue eating until the opening cutscene finishes for the next game. Either way, I'm going to need to plan this out carefully.

I figure it'll have to work out this way: Go to bed at a reasonable hour on Friday night. Get up around 7-8 AM on Saturday, and kick off with MM1 no later than 9 AM. Depending on how much the inevitable fatigue affects my gameplay, and depending on how long of a break I take between games, I'm estimating this Mega Man Marathon will require 13-16 hours. That means I'll finish somewhere between 10 PM and 1 AM.

That's a lot of Mega Man.

I will be exhausted.

I'll miss the morning church service on Sunday, but there's one at 5:30 PM I can attend, which works out perfectly with my Marathon Sleeping Session I have planned for the day. Because it's a holiday weekend and I'll have off work on Monday, I'll still have more of a do-nothing weekend than I've had since one of those months that ends with "arch."

Of course, now that I've formally made these plans, they're all going to fall apart. I've learned this about my life: nothing ever goes according to plan. I've been watching too much Firefly; Captain Reynolds' bad luck must have rubbed off a bit.

I'll be sure to turn the marathon into a mini blogging event, relaying to you a scientific study of the long-term effects of sustained Mega Man on a human being.

Because clearly, I am insane.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday Brain Eating

Another wonderful weekend wink post.

Uh...I mean, link post. Sorry about that. It's been a long six days. But here we are--Sunday morning--and all is well. Once again, courtesy of an Exfanding reader, I present to you this week's ridiculous (but awesome) link.

If you like (or hate!) zombie movies/comics/books/cereal, then make sure you check out this site.

Because it is awesome.

This one's NSFW, though, so if you happen to stumble across this post on Monday morning, be thee fairly warned.

That's enough out of me for today--it's Sunday! Go enjoy Sunday! See you all during the week.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Week That Was

I have to admit--I’ve been kinda out of it lately.

This week has been a very busy one; what with a goodly amount of work at the office, a trip into New York City on Thursday (along with which came almost three hours of sitting in traffic), and a few ancillary things going on after work keeping me good and sleepless.

So, in my craziness, I managed to miss DC Comics’ announcement about their launching of a digital comics vendor on iTunes.
Which, if you haven’t figured out, is kind of a big, honking deal. In addition to a couple of new books, much of DC's backlist will be featured for sale on the site, meaning that...well, I don't know what it means, actually.

DC has always had a wonderful backlist of titles, going back to the mid-to-late-80s, and sparked (and sustained, really) by Neil Gaiman's Sandman volumes, which are once again going back to press with new cover art.

DC understood early on the importance of collecting old issues in trades, and in that regard, they were always ahead of Marvel. With digital distribution, however, DC waited.

And waited. And waited.

And they unveiled this huge initiative almost under the cover of darkness. Marvel's big iPad app launched months ago, and Comixology and other online readers had prepared for their launches for many months.

DC, though, hung back and--one can assume--didn't panic. So what if Marvel beats us to the punch? The company didn't rush into action, and instead ended up beating Marvel to the date-of-sale punch.

From the Newsarama piece:

Justice League: Generation Lost will hit digital stores every two weeks at the same time as its print version hits stores, beginning with today's Issue #4. The digital version will be $2.99, the same price as its print version, although the first three already-released issues are $1.99.

A pretty big, revolutionary move on the part of DC. And, while the Internet didn't break in half over the announcement--one that was just as inevitable as that big hunk of rock that brained T-Rex--there have been some interesting discussions online.

Here's the best in my opinion, since it's from the point(s) of view of several comics retailers.

I'd love to hear what everyone thinks of this, and what you all think the future (um, present?) may hold.

Happy Saturday, everyone!

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Good, the Bad, and the Melty: An Arbitrary Romp through Art History

Exfanded by Neko-chan

How many people today could identify the work of a famous artist without needing to phone a friend or check Wikipedia? Sadly, I fear, relatively few. Sure, most people can recognize a melting clock as the handiwork of Salvador Dali, and many Americans can see The Saturday Evening Post and think of Norman Rockwell, but several influential artists fall by the wayside and credit is not given where it is due.

Therefore, to rectify the gross injustice of under-education, I present you with “Neko-chan’s Completely Biased Guide to Art History for Saavy People.” I am not including names I think everyone knows, such as Van Gogh, Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, or the rest of the TMNT, instead choosing to focus on artists who are less-often publicized.

1. Botticelli (1445-1510) Italian Renaissance
Best known for: Painting Venus on the half shell
Example work:The Birth of Venus

2. Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) Northern Renaissance
Best known for: Biblical paintings and one very bold rhinoceros
Example work:Rhinoceras

3. El Greco (1541-1614) Mannerism
Best known for: Making all the subjects of his art appear plasticized
Example work:View of Toledo

4. Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) Baroque
Best known for: His appreciation of curves (hence the term “Rubenesque”)
Example work:Infante Isabella Clara Eugenia

5. Rembrandt (1606 – 1669) Dutch Golden Age
Best known for: Single-handedly creating the Dutch Golden Age
Example work:Belshazzar’s Feast

6. Jan Vermeer (1632-1675) Baroque
Best known for: Girls with pearls
Example work:The Girl with a Pearl Earring

7. Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) Ukiyo-e
Best known for: Bridges over troubled water
Example work:One Hundred Famous views of Edo: 58

8. Dante Gabriel Rosseti (1828-1882) Pre-Raphaelite
Best known for: Being on the cover of every modern historical fiction novel
Example work:Proserpine

9. Arthur Hughes (1832-1915) Pre-Raphaelite
Best known for: His paintings of Ophelia
Example work:Ophelia and He Will Not Come Again

10. Edgar Degas (1834-1917) Impressionism
Best known for: Ballerinas and backstage passes
Example work:Das Ballett

11. Winslow Homer (1836-1910) Realism
Best known for: Calming the angry sea
Example work:Sunlight on the Coast

12. Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) Impressionism
Best known for: Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Example work:The Swing

13. Emile Galle (1846-1904) Art Nouveau
Best known for: Putting flowers outside of vases
Example work:Assorted Vases

14. Georges Seurat (1859-1891) Neo-Impressionist Chromoluminarism
Best known for: Original pixel art
Example work:Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte

15. Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939) Art Nouveau
Best known for: Being in every calendar
Example work:The Seasons

16. Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) Symbolism / Art Nouveau
Best known for: Adding the Midas touch
Example work:Adele Bloch-Bauer's Portrait

17. Edvard Munch (1863-1944) Expressionism
Best known for: Inspiring a horror movie franchise
Example work:The Scream

18. Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) De Stijl / Neo-Plasticism
Best known for: Laying the foundations of 1960’s fashion
Example work:Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow

19. Charles Demuth (1883-1935) Precisionism
Best known for: Making Lancaster look trendy
Example work:The Figure 5 in Gold

20. Wassily Kandinsky (1886 – 1944) Abstract
Best known for: Being the father of musical abstraction
Example work:On White II

21. Georgia O’Keefe (1887-1986) American Modernist
Best known for: Using more flowers and skulls than a rockstar tattoo
Example work:Ram's Head White Hollyhock and Little Hills

22. Joan Miro (1893-1983) Surrealism
Best known for: Assassinating painting
Example work:La Leçon de Ski

23. Alexander Calder (1898-1976) Surrealism
Best known for: Mobiles for adults
Example work:Crinkly avec disc rouge

24. Louise Nevelson (1899-1988) Abstract Expressionist
Best known for: Monochrome fixed-installation garage sales
Example work:Untitled (1968)

25. Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) Surrealism
Best known for: Eyebrows that rival Dr. Wily’s
Example work:Self-Portrait with Necklace

26. Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) Abstract Expressionist
Best known for: Making splatter-paint a viable art form
Example work:No. 5, 1948

27. Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) Dynamic Cubism
Best known for: Putting Harlem on canvas
Example work:Bar-b-que

28. Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) American Pop Art
Best known for: Making comic art mainstream
Example work:Whaam!

29. Claes Oldenburg (1929-Present) Pop Art
Best known for: Giant squishable food
Example work:Floor Cake

30. Christo (1935-Present) Nouveau Réalisme
Best known for: Wrapping obscenely large things in fabric
Example work:Wrapped Coast

31. Keith Haring (1958-1990) American Pop Art / Graffiti Art
Best known for: Rainbow-variety Mr. Game and Watch
Example work:Joy and Movements

“And why,” you might ask, “would I ever need to know such artistic trivia?” Well not only will it make you a more cultured and well-rounded intellectual, but you can further enjoy geekery such as this: Wolverine Fine Art Variant Covers.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Blog Days of Summer

It's summer. That time of year when people go...outside.

Did you know that for the first few days after moving into my new place, I found myself battling a constant headache due to--get this--the fact that my new place has large windows that allow for an abundance of sunlight.

I'm apparently part troglodyte.

Yet this sunshine has helped to keep me energetic, and my eyes have finally adapted to the unprecedented brightness, so the headaches have dissipated. It's pleasant just to exist in my new pad, to soak up the sunlight and enjoy doing nothing.

That's the best job there is, as my grandfather used to say.

Though my side projects have come to a screeching halt, and though my personal grooming is in a state of steady decline until I can find the box where I packed my razor, I've been happy.


I've locked myself into a routine: go to work, return to the old house to pick up more of my stuff that didn't get transported over on Moving Day, relocate that stuff into my new place, eat dinner, watch an episode of Star Trek, unpack a box, play some Legend of Zelda: Link Rides a Choo-Choo Train (A.K.A. Spirit Tracks), and go to sleep. Rinse (gotta shower, you know) and repeat.

I'm a creature of habit. I like routines. The part where I have to move boxes in the warm weather is welcome to change any time, but otherwise, I've been content to slowly transition into my new life.

Though, really, it's not that new at all. Just a new base of operations, and a newfound independence. The abundance of sunlight just makes this transition a brighter one, both literally and figuratively. I'm busy and I'm working almost around the clock in some form or another, but I'm happy. Despite everything, I can afford to take a few minutes to sit and appreciate everything I have and everything that lies ahead. I have a new place to deck out as I see fit, and the sun itself is encouraging me to keep moving.

Even though it's dark outside as I'm writing this, there's enough of a breeze coming in through the window to keep me loose enough for the words to flow into this post. A single post could take me as long as three hours to hammer out from my poorly illuminated and poorly ventilated former room, and I'm convinced that it wasn't just Writer's Block(TM).

My other grandfather once said that he felt most in touch with God when he was working outside, surrounded by nature. Though my interests are predominantly indoor-centric, I've found such clarity, peace, and joy by having such a simple thing as a big window that allows for a nice breeze in my living room. I'm staying inside but bringing nature in with me (without all the yucky dirt and bugs), and for the first time I can remember, I'm starting to like summer.


I like winter. I also like fall and can deal with spring, but summer is not the season I am configured to like. Surely there must be some mistake.

Or perhaps, after a long, manly day of lugging around heavy objects with my friends, and after more than a week of short trips between my old place and my new place, I'm finally beginning to appreciate being outside. Summer is an active season for active people, and as I'm getting off my duff to lug boxes about, I feel like I finally fit in.

But mostly, it's the sunshine. Not the Sunshine, mind you, but nature's desk lamp.

I think it'll be a good summer.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 2, Issue 25

Welcome to a (kind of) indy-rific edition of Waiting for Wednesday! I've been reading a lot of comics lately, and not too many of them have been "mainstream" books. So, very little capes and punching for me.

Which is a good thing.

Not that I'm down on the mainstream books, though. It's just that I'm really high on the not-so-mainstream books. I just finished re-reading (for the sixth or seventh time) Richard Moore's excellent Boneyard series, which is collected in trades by NBM Publishing.

And, while that book certainly doesn't fall under anyone's definition of mainstream, I decided to pick up some of the newer trades of a character who has slowly but surely moved his way into the mainstream.

Mike Mignola's creator-owned Hellboy comic has long been one of the jewels of the comics world. And the two most recent trades--The Wild Hunt and The Crooked Man--are among the finest work of Mignola's storied career.

The Wild Hunt combines ancient myths with Arthurian legend while The Crooked Man is a backwoods America folktale. Mignola has made a career of drawing from myths both famous and obscure, and in these two volumes, he delivers with compelling (and frightening) stories that add to the growing Hellboy canon.

Particularly with The Wild Hunt, longtime Hellboy fans will feel that, while many questions are answered, the answers bring more questions. And, of course, great anticipation for the next story.

After reading my Hellboy stash, I turned to a collected edition of--in my opinion, at least--one of the very best ongoing series in all of comics. From the fantastic Peter David and (the equally fantastic) IDW, Fallen Angel is a book that needs to be on more readers' radars.

Which leads me nicely into one of this week's two picks.

David's Fallen Angel began as a not-so-indy DC Comics book that more than alluded to the fact that the main character was actually Supergirl. However, DC cancelled the series (presumably because there was no time traveling, confusing narrative, and/or event tie-ins) after an amazing 20-some-odd issue run.
And, while the first dozen stories were collected in trade, the remainder of the DC run has been lost to the annals

Not so anymore, however, as IDW has brilliantly decided to pick up those issues and collect them all in one big, honking omnibus, which goes on sale today. (See? Told ya I'd tie that in nicely.)

Here's the solicitation information from IDW, which does a nice job in summing things up:

The complete original DC Comics run of Fallen Angel, created by Peter David and David Lopez, is collected in this massive omnibus! Collecting issues #1-21, experience the first chapters of this tale chronicling the sordid, shadowy world of Bete Noire, and its most recent inhabitant and apparent protector-Liandra, the Fallen Angel.

After the DC series was cancelled, David took it over to IDW, and started a whole new run of fantastic, gothic stories. Laden with heavy religious overtones, Fallen Angel is a compelling, interesting read, and it receives the Official Exfanding Stamp of Approval. And there's no better way to delve into the world of the series than by grabbing this omnibus edition.

Seriously. Go. Buy.

Next up (by which I mean, last up), we have another not-so-indy, indy book. From Dark Horse, Beasts of Burden, volume one, ships today in a beautiful hardcover collection.
I was able to flip through this book at BookExpo, If you trade-waited on this bad boy, nice job, because for $19.99, you really can't find a better package in comics.

A great supernatural, talking animal story from Evan Dorkin combined with stunning painted pages by the great Jill Thompson equals one of the very best comics series of the past year.

And, since they're no dummies, Dark Horse realizes just what they have on their hands with this property. Get a load of this solicit info--it's by far the longest I've ever seen:

Welcome to Burden Hill -- a picturesque little town adorned with white picket fences and green, green grass, home to a unique team of paranormal investigators. Beneath this shiny exterior, Burden Hill harbors dark and sinister secrets, and it’s up to a heroic gang of dogs -- and one cat -- to protect the town from the evil forces at work.

These are the Beasts of Burden Hill -- Pugs, Ace, Jack, Whitey, Red and the Orphan -- whose early experiences with the paranormal (including a haunted doghouse, a witches’ coven, and a pack of canine zombies) have led them to become members of the Wise Dog Society, official animal agents sworn to protect their town from evil.

This turns out to be no easy task, as they soon encounter demonic cannibal frogs, tortured spirits, a secret rat society, and a bizarre and deadly resurrection in the Burden Hill cemetery -- events which lead to fear and heartbreak as our four-legged heroes discover that the evil within Burden Hill is growing and on the move.

Can our heroes overcome these supernatural menaces? Can evil be bested by a paranormal team that doesn’t have hands? And even more importantly, will Pugs ever shut the hell up?

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

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

Those first tales are collected here, along with the comic series Beasts of Burden issues #1–#4.

Even if I wanted to, I couldn't add anything useful to that! So, I won't! Instead, I'll leave you all with a comment, and a question.

First--please, please, please support the smaller press books. And second, what are you Waiting for?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

In lieu, a haiku

Though I officially moved into my new place this past Saturday, I'm still as busy as ever with "housekeeping," if you will. In lieu of an actual post, allow me to leave you with a haiku:

Too many boxes
More seem to appear each day
When will moving end?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Monday, Monday

Just a quick little link post this early Monday morning, mostly because I haven’t had a second to sit down since last Tuesday-ish. And it doesn't look like I'll have much time to do anything until, oh, let's say Wednesday-ish.

So instead of rushing to squeeze in something forced and contrived, I'll instead post up a link to an interview that has kept me glued to my iPod over the past several weeks.

I've mentioned John Siuntres' excellent comics-centric interview podcast, Word Balloon, before, but his latest series of interviews with Marvel scribe Brian Michael Bendis is exceptional.

Dubbed "The Bendis Tapes," there are currently four parts to this intensive interview posted to the Word Balloon site and up on iTunes.

As I’ve mentioned before on the blog, I’ve written a couple of comics scripts, and certainly have more than a passing interest in seeing how real writers get their work done.

I love reading/listening to creators (especially writers) talk shop--to me, there's nothing more fascinating. So, if you're at all interested in a discussion on craft, or if you just want to get some inside info on Marvel's current projects, I'd suggest giving these interviews a listen.

Just a head's up, though, that listening to the show with young kids in the car may not be the best idea, since there's some cursing and things. These interviews are very much conversational, and it's really just two guys talking comics, movies, TV, and whatever else pops into their heads.

Give it a listen!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday Morning Tunes

I've talked about music a few times before here on the blog, but certainly not as often as I would like, since I'm a bit of a record hound. But after my impromptu music-y "post" on Friday, I thought I'd talk briefly about another band on my mind lately.

This past Tuesday, the latest album from New Jersey rockers The Gaslight Anthem hit shelves (and, uh digital shelves on iTunes, of course) and in my opinion, the album marks one of the most significant releases of 2010. Titled "American Slang," the 10-track record is a powerhouse from start to finish, featuring emotionally charged, socially relevant lyrics, and driving chords.

Reminiscent of early, amazing Bruce Springsteen, Gaslight Anthem is an impressive band, and "American Slang," I think, will be seen as a classic album. As my brother echoed when he told me he'd listened to the record, there's nothing out there today like this band. They're different, they're unique, and they're flat-out talented.

Now, I have a tendency to become obsessed with bands, you see, and that's happened with Gaslight Anthem. The album has been playing in my car non-stop, and I plan on buying it on vinyl when that's released in a couple of weeks.

And, since it's Sunday and we like posting up links and things, below is a live, acoustic performance of the title track from an appearance on Sirius Radio a couple of weeks back. Give it a listen, and if you haven't already hopped on the bandwagon, hopefully this will win you over.

Happy Sunday, everyone!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Moving Day




I've been sitting here for five minutes trying to figure out something meaningful to write, something worth posting to commemmorate the day I officially move into my own place, but you know what?

It was nice to sit here for five minutes and not think about packing boxes.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Hello. Posting. Me. Now. Uhhh...Sure.

We're gonna try something new today--an Exfanding first, if you will.

I'm going to write a post for today, in real time (sorta, since it's, like, 11:20, and I am SLAMMED with work at the ol' office). So, yeah. You all get to see what happens when Alex has five minutes with which to think, write, and click that orange "publish" button down at the bottom of the Internet.

I, uh, wish you all well. Truly, I do.

Hmmm...lessee. What to write, what to write? I don't want to write about comics, since I think I've gone there plenty in the years.

Am I angry at anything today? Nah, nothing big. Oh, actually! I know exactly what to write about.

Driving to work today, I played an album (remember those, kiddies?) of a band that I discovered in high school, and have come back to several times over the (too many) years since, just not for any considerable length of time.

But, as I was driving to the music of Dispatch, looking out at a glorious (almost) summer day, I couldn't help but think of my senior year in high school, playing baseball and hanging out at night with friends long since forgotten.

We'd play the Dispatch album, Bang Bang, pretty much non-stop.

So as I listened to that album (well, okay, its i-Tunes doppelganer), it just took me back. And I figured I'd share that little story, and the band, with you all. Check out their Web site, and give them a listen.

They describe themselves as a "funk and reggae packed rock band," and I think that's utterly appropriate. Their songs just make me...happy...and I hope they do the same for you.

Especially great are "The General," "Bang Bang," and "Two Coins." I hope you guys dig them as much as I do.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

All the World in One Room

For a short time, the entire contents of my life were crammed into a single room.

It's always been the case that my stuff was necessarily scattered about my house, or even located in multiple states. I was never allowed to have a TV in my room, so my Nintendo was always hooked up in the playroom. When I left for college, I left my posters and more irreplaceable geek stuff in my room at home, and took with me enough of my other possessions to get by on. Even after moving back in with my family, my Star Trek mug stayed out in the kitchen, and my little Mega Man figure guarded over my desk at work.

But, as soon as my family moved out, everything of mine that had been scattered about the house was suddenly in a pile on my coffee table and my couch, along with hand-me-downs that weren't going to move with my family, basic essentials such as Scrubbing Bubbles and marshmallow fluff. Granted, there were a few objects left behind in other rooms, and I still had my impressive secret snack stash at work, but the snacks aren't meant to last and the objects left behind were just that--left behind. I'd have to be a scavenger and drag them to my new apartment before they would be mine.

There are three things you may notice when your entire life is effectively jammed into one room. First, you have little or no space to sit down and watch Deep Space Nine, let alone have an unobstructed view of the television screen. Second, it dawns on you just how easy it would be for a natural disaster, however small, to completely wipe out every trace of your personal possessions. Third, everything you've been working toward owning your whole life--whether it's a complete collection of every DC comic ever created or cardboard cutouts of the Pirates of the Caribbean cast--seems a lot smaller than you remember.

You spend your whole life scouring conventions for Dragon Ball Z merchandise or working a job to fund your Warhammer hobby, and yet you've still got the space to fit your entire bed... and sleep on it without bumping into an oversized Skeletor plushie. Where did all that time and money go?

Perhaps that time and money went into things you can't move across town in a truck.

If the sum of my life is simply what's in my room right now, then I've squandered my time on this earth. My room is a sanctuary, a comfort after a difficult day, a place to share time with friends... but it's the time spent there that makes the difference, not the stuff. And it's how the stuff enables me to connect with people around the world or escape from the world to recharge for a while that matters more than what I have.

Here's to a life that outlasts my stuff.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 2, Issue 24

Another week, another Wednesday, another Waiting for.

And with all the talk lately about digital comics, it'll be good to get back to old fashioned paper for a while and talk about real, live books.

And not their digital doppelgangers.

Just as last week was hectic and only a little crazy, this week is full blown with the crazy, so no lengthy preamble from me today. And there aren't a whole lot of books that I want to talk about today.

I mean, sure, there are some major books coming out this week, but I feel like that's all the more reason to focus on some smaller titles. I think everyone heading to the stores today is well aware of Marvel's re-launch of their hugely popular New Avengers series by Brian Bendis and Stuart Immonen.
I'll certainly be on board for issue one of that book, and I'll follow the series for as long as Bendis is on the book.

I really enjoyed his previous New Avengers series, and since I started reading comics not too long before he took over the Avengers titles, Bendis' version of the team is the one I'm most familiar with.

And, yeah, so I'm not a huge fan of relaunches, but hey. It's comics, and that's just part of the game. From what I’ve read of the post-Siege books, Marvel is going in some new and interesting directions and certainly Bendis is a main player in the shaping of the universe.

Like all of Bendis’ books, though, there will be people who love New Avengers, and there’ll be people who will be very vocal about not loving it.

I think that, especially on a book like the Avengers, fans tend to gravitate towards a very specific lineup and time period, if not necessarily a specific creative team. With Batman, for instance, many fans have one, “true” version of that character that resonates with them.

For some it’s Frank Miller’s Dark Knight, for others it’s the Jeph Loeb/Jim Lee Hush storyline, and for others it’s the classic Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams run on the character that embodies who Batman is/should be.

With the Avengers, while there have been great creators on the title, I honestly believe people read the book because of the team, and if the team isn’t just the way they’d like it, they might be less likely to pick the book up.

Anyway, for me, Bendis is The Guy on the Avengers, and I’ll happily follow this series wherever it goes. Here's the solicit information from Marvel:

The Story: Find out who the New Avengers are, where they call home (gotta see it to believe it!), which Dark Avenger has joined their ranks, and just who the interdimensional demonic threat to our existence is!

These heroes have gathered to take on the threats too dark, too dangerous, and too bizarre for any other team of heroes. The New Avengers are back!! And Bendis & Immonen are back with the Siege & Secret Invasion colorista Laura Martin!! You didn't really think Marvel was going to cancel their number one ongoing title did you? Heck no!!

Backup feature: Another brand new oral history of the Avengers chapter by Bendis!

Right. So, now that I "didn't" talk about the week's biggest release, let's get to some of today's lesser-publicized books. We'll start with issue three of the Wildstorm sleeper hit, DV8: Gods and Monsters, from the fantastic creative team of Brian Wood and Rebekah Isaacs.
This is truly one of the best superhero books on the market today, and we're only three issues in. Do yourself a favor--run out and find issues one and two and find out what you've been missing.

Here's the blurb from Wildstorm/DC:

In "Chemical Chords" part 3 of 8, the superhuman Hector (a.k.a. Powerhaus) is found sprawled across the floor of a primitive hut in the throes of some pretty serious herbal hallucinogens.

It's not shocking, though, as his power is one that converts ambient emotion into mass – but now it's overloading his system! When the others seek him out, they find that Hector's got some serious demons he's trying to block out in this tragic tale of misuse – and overuse – of power.

This is--finally--a mature (as in, "grown-up" and not "dirty"), intelligent book about people with powers. Wood is one of comics' best writers, and his talent shines in this series.

And, finally, since I really need to get going, we have The Goon: Fancy Pants Edition, Volume 3 from Dark Horse.
Clearly, I'm buying this. Collecting the first half of last year's major "Goon Year" story, this big, honkin' hardcover follows two other volumes in the "Fancy Pants" series.

The production value is second-to-none with these books, and having Eric Powell's art at a larger size and on premium paper is worth the $35 price tag alone. Throw in the fact that these babies are super-limited and signed by the creator...and, yeah, you have Alex's money.

Volume One now goes for stupid money if you can find on online, and I was lucky enough to grab a copy on the day of its release. I have Volume Two, as well, so there's really no way I won't be getting this today.

Here's the blurb from Dark Horse:

The town on the edge of Horse-Eater's Wood is permeated by all manner of dark things -- hatred, fear, unhappiness, demons, and the undead (to name a few) -- brought on by a curse that has festered within the forest for many years.

The death of one of the Goon's closest allies is revealed as the work of the dead mobster Labrazio, returned to wreak havoc and destruction upon the Goon and those who stand by him. The Goon and Franky must fight back against Labrazio's undead hordes in this touching story of demonic kitties, zombie burlesque, and animal love (there's a sentence you never thought you'd read).

* Copies of The Goon: Fancy Pants Vol. 3 hardcover will be printed to initial orders and are exclusive to the direct market.

* This edition also includes an exclusive Eric Powell illustration, individually signed by Powell!

* Collects The Goon #20-#31.

* Perfect jumping-on point for new readers.

* Look for an all-new spin off series coming soon!

And with that, I so need to run. Before I go, though--what are you Waiting for?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Goin' Digital

Tuesday morning, and here we all are, spending our time at Exfanding. It was a fun filled weekend, but now it’s back to work. And if you’re wondering why you’ve had to sit through an awful lot of my posts lately...well, let’s just say Nathaniel’s been a little...insane...these past few days.

What with the working and the moving and the traveling to weddings, I honestly don’t know how he manages.

He should be back to full time blogging soon, though, so in the meantime let’s you and I talk. I’ve been thinking an awful lot about digital comics since my post on Saturday, and I think it’s with good reason.

I think the comics community really is on the brink of something revolutionary--if not something revolutionary that will take place overnight.

I had a talk with a buddy of mine on Friday, and he cajoled me off the ledge a bit, and made me realize that, while Marvel has made great strides in pushing digital distribution forward, the Big Change really can’t happen right away.

Though I tend to believe it'll happen quicker than most people I've spoken to.

Now, I might not love the fact that the industry is (eventually) going digital, but I have to admit that I understand it from multiple perspectives. Today, though, I’d like to talk about the retailers, because, while A Couple of Years In the Future Alex won’t be thrilled with having to read all of his comics on a screen, I also won’t be put out of business by it.

(That already happened once--what’s the likelihood that it’ll happen again, right? Right?...Bueller?)

In this case, there are plenty of people who will be affected by the coming of digital distribution. Of course, I’m talking about the comics retailers--the men and women we’ve all relied upon for a break in our weeks, for good reads, and for fun conversation.

And, sometimes, for some not so fun conversations.

In my comics shop hanging out heyday, I saw some things, let me tell you. Like how a comics retailer is also very much like a bartender, always listening to the problems and victories of a hundred different people.

Only, ya know, with more talk about things like Galactus and Skrulls.

I’ve certainly been guilty of laying into my own comics retailer with more than a few stories of pity and woe. He listened, of course, and even offered some advice. Or told a joke. Or he politely asked me to leave if I wasn't going to be buying anything. (Okay, not really.)

Either way, though, it was always worth the trip down to the store.

But if comics do go all (or even mostly) digital in the next, let’s say, five years (though I belive it'll be within two), what the heck happens to the Wednesday Ritual?

I honestly look forward to taking a ride down to the shop on Wednesday evenings, and sometimes there’s just nothing better than hopping in the car and driving to a store a bit out of the way on weekends.

Sometimes with friends, sometimes with a car full of nothing but music and the wind.

I don't have too many havens left. The neighborhood bookshops have all but vanished, good luck trying to find a music/record store, and the little coffee shops have been replaced with Starbucks and their legions of screenwriters and guys who like to talk business, loudly, on their cell phone earpiece.

Let's hope the comics shops don't go that way, too.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Your Cloak of Resistance Is Futile

After an impromptu Dungeons & Dragons session this weekend that was 0% dungeon and 100% spaceship (though there were indeed space dragons), I began to actively long for a sci-fi tabletop RPG that I could get into as much as I get into D&D. Now, I know that there's Star Wars RPG, Shadowrun, and something called Dark Heresy (which, admittedly, I know virtually nothing about, but it sounds kinda dark and heretical), and I'm itching to try out the Serenity RPG as soon as a certain blogging buddy is fully initiated as a Browncoat... But these are not exactly my kind of sci-fi, at least for an RPG.

I'll admit up front that my tabletop RPG knowledge is almost entirely limited to D&D, but it seems like the sci-fi options I'm aware of are too gritty, dystopian, low-tech, heavy on fantasy elements, and light on space travel for my taste.

I like Star Wars, but the universe is too huge and history-rich for a casual fan like me to swoop in and start creating adventures, especially when my likeliest players would be calling me out on everything that inadvertently goes against canon. Plus, Star Wars feels like equal parts fantasy and sci-fi at times, what with the Force and the I-can't-believe-it's-not-magic special abilities of some of the alien races. Nothing wrong with that, but I'm in the market for something different.

I can't really talk about Shadowrun and Dark Heresy, as I've neither played them nor heard/read too much about them, but I'm just not getting the vibe that they're entirely up my alley. I could explain myself, but if you've followed the blog for any length of time, you probably don't need much of an explanation. (And if you're just joining us here on Exfanding Your Horizons, there's a whole archive to explore! Shameless plug!)

Firefly/Serenity is my second-favorite sci-fi series, but the characters, storytelling, and fine fusion of western and science fiction are the main attractions for me--it's wonderful to watch, but I'm more interested in watching than actually being there.

Star Trek, on the other hand... I'd love to live Star Trek.

Visiting Star Trek: The Exhibition allowed me to fulfill one of my lifelong dreams: I got to be on Star Trek. Or, as close as I'll probably ever get--a replica of the bridge of the Enterprise-D, complete with sound effects and stars flying by on the viewscreen.

There's something wholly satisfying about connecting with your favorite fandom in a tangible way, but Star Trek is more than a fandom; it's the kind of future that I hope is in store for humanity. Sure, I could do without Borg invasions and transporter accidents combining my DNA with the guy beaming up with me, but the notion that humanity can overcome poverty and injustice and fly around the galaxy in sleek spaceships is one that I wholeheartedly embrace.

Thus, I'd love to live Star Trek.

Seems like the perfect RPG for me--a world I'd like to be a part of, plenty of options for characters and adventures, and a history and mindset that I've been in touch with since I was a kid. I know there's a Star Trek RPG that came out in the early 2000s, but sourcebooks cost money. There's also the question of availability, and the risk associated with buying used books from people you've never met. I don't deal with bootleg PDFs--I want hardcopy sourcebooks.

The other option seems to be a GURPS adaptation of Star Trek--people keep talking about this GURPS thing, you know--but the preliminary research I've done makes it look like GURPS only offers an alternate reality of the Kirk-era Star Trek. I could certainly work with that, but then I wouldn't get to ride in the Delta Flyer or stage an unlikely encounter between the Crystalline Entity and the Jem'Hadar.

For a while there, I was thinking about making my own Star Trek RPG. I've always wanted to design an RPG. How hard could it possibly be? How much time could it possibly take? How much research and playtesting could possibly be necessary to assemble a completely functional game?

I hope you can smell the "rhetorical" emanating from that last paragraph.

There's Star Trek Online, but I have issues with the very nature of MMORPGs. I have no doubt that there are other possibilities... but I'm looking for something that'll require some combination of time, effort, and almost certainly money to acquire.

For now, perhaps, I'll stick with my space dragons.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday, Funny Sunday

Ah, yes. The weekly funny link post. My favorite post of the entire week, and this just might be my favorite link post ever.

I know, I know. That's a lot of hype to live up to. But I dare ya to find a better link. Go on. Try. If you wanna laugh, head on over to this site, where you can generate your own (hilarious) Batman comic panel.

And to make sure we give credit where it's due, the site was brought to my attention by an intrepid Exfanding fan.

And as for what we've managed to come up with on the site?

Well, that same intrepid Exfanding reader sent me the following:
Which is really one of the best things ever on this blog. So go ahead, take your own shot at it, and feel free to send your creations our way. Hey, maybe we'll even make a contest out of it.

Nathaniel? Thoughts?

See? Told ya this was the best link we've ever had. Oh, actually. I also recieved this link from a friend of mine. It's all about Neil Gaiman's hair.

So, yeah. Maybe that's the best link we've ever had...

With that, I say, enjoy your Sunday, everyone!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Inevitability and Comics

I’d like to talk about an important--and potentially game-changing--decision made by Marvel this past week concerning digital distribution. In terms of the comics landscape, this decision could be the first blow in what will surely be a one-sided war against comic book retail stores.

Overly dramatic?

Well, I certainly have a flair for hyperbole, so usually, I’d say to take everything I say with a grain (read: pound) of salt. But this time--this time--I think I might actually be understating things.

In the past, Marvel has offered digital downloads of previously released comics. These stories have tended to be big sellers with big name creators attached to them. Makes sense, yes? Sure it does.

Price wise, these offerings have undercut single issue (and, therefore, collection) prices, something that has certainly cut into retailers’ back stock sales. But probably not to the extent that they’ve needed to board up the windows and start selling their wares at flea markets.

This week, however, Marvel announced that they would be releasing both the print (to shops) and digital versions of a new book--Invincible Iron Man Annual #1 by Matt Fraction--on the same day.

On the same day.

Marvel hasn’t yet announced the price point for the digital release--which tells me that it’s going to undercut the print release (which is $4.99) by at least buck or two--but retailers are now spending their time alternating between bracing for bad news and hoping for good news.

But a digital release at the same price point as a print release is…well…stupid. I mean, what’s the selling point then, right?

So, the Big Question is, what happens when Marvel moves more of the digital product than they do of the print product? What happens when Marvel gets the final numbers, and they realize--holy cats!--people want digital. And what happens if more people want digital than they do print?

You know there’s going to be a huge promotional push (and not just in comics shops) for the Iron Man digital product, so there’s the very real chance that the digital release significantly cuts into (and possibly devours) the print product.

Look at what happened with Brian Bendis’ Spider-Woman motion comic that also released to stores as a printed version.

A great creative team--one of the premiere creative teams of the last decade, actually--on a popular character. The book was cancelled after seven issues. Bendis says it was because of artist Alex Maleev’s workload doing both the print and the motion comic, which, despite Internet moaning about the reasons given, is likely true.

But the numbers don’t lie, and sales declined with each issue. And that’s something that never happens with a Bendis book. It just doesn’t. But, when you have a motion comic (of the same exact material) selling incredibly well on iTunes (literally topping their TV charts!), is it really a surprise that the one cannibalizes the other?

And I think there’s the very likely possibility that this exact scenario plays out with Fraction’s Iron Man book. If I’m wrong this time, though, I think I’ll eventually be right.

Which is really my point in all this.

Eventually, digital will trump print in the comics industry. It’ll take a lot longer for it to happen with books--book readers skew older than comics readers and the number of book devotees far surpasses the 200,000 or so monthly comics readers.

Yep, I said 200,000.

That’s the entirety of our hobby. Think about it--today’s best selling comics (and I mean, the crème de la crème from the Big Two) sell near that number in stores in North America. Sure, there’s a contingent of comics fans that wait for the trade to ship, and taking them into consideration, I’ll even bump that number up to 250,000.

Ya know what? Let’s make it something insane, like 300,000.

Say there are 300,000 people in America that read comics week to week. Heck, let’s call it 500,000. Still a tiny number of people. No? Atlanta has over 400,000 people. A city. So let’s make it a million, you say? Sure thing! Let’s make it a million, even.

My state has three times that many people in it. And I live in a small state.

So there are two ways to look at it all.

On the one hand we have the publishers tailoring their entire product lines to Diamond and to shops who serve a miniscule fan base. From the publishers’ perspective, it makes absolutely zero sense to continue on in this way.

Zero. None. Zip.

They have their million (well, really 250,000) weekly readers. They’ll never not have them. These are the fans that stuck with (or came back to) comics after the disasters of the 1990s and these are the new fans of the 2000s (like me!) who just want to read good comics and could care less about things like continuity.

We’re already their core market. They don’t have to aggressively go out and get us.

But the comics industry has sought for decades a way to expand their readership. And the iPad literally dropped into its collective lap. For so long in comics, we’ve heard the “old” adage, “one day the whole hobby will be digital, you’ll see.”

I guess none of us ever really thought we’d live through that “one day.”

But here we are. And here is the comics industry--at the crossroads. To the left looks back in time. To the right, the future.

One way guarantees the same profit margins as the past several years, and one way potentially taps into a brand new and enormous market with little risk involved. Every business on Earth would go right.

Comics will, too.

And that brings me to the other side of the coin. Comics retailers are going to be in some trouble, very soon. Ain’t no way around it, Bucky. Is what it is.

I’ve talked to a couple of shop owners about the ascension of the machine--er. Sorry, I mean, the advancement of digital distribution. And I’ve gotten pretty much the same answer from them all.

“When that happens, I’m done.”

Digital means cheaper, faster, higher quality, and not having to drive to a brick and mortar shop every week. Digital means never having to order books online because a local retailer didn’t get them in. Or because Diamond messed up an order, and you don’t want to wait a month to get a book that your shop did order.

Digital means instant and easily accessed backlogs without having to pay back issue or trade prices. Digital means no more storing hundreds (or thousands) of issues in boxes in a closet. Digital means zero printing fees, which means higher profit margins for the publishers.

Digital means an end to the poisonous collector’s mentality, and to variant covers, and to bagging and boarding.

Digital means there are no negatives.

Except, of course, the whole death of the direct market thing.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Last Red Dinosaur

As you may know, I write a column for GameCola called "Flash Flood," in which I review Flash games and videogame-related Flash animations. I'm long overdue for the next installment, but that's beside the point. I decided it would be a fun follow-up to my column to make videos of me playing and talking about the games I've reviewed, like I do with Mega Man.

From what I can tell by doing no research whatsoever, not many people bother to review Flash games, nor are there a terrible lot of videos of Flash games. So, maybe this'll bring a little novelty into your day. My two latest installments are embedded below; there's a full Flash Flood playlist on the GameCola YouTube channel if you'd like to see more. Engage! I mean, uh, enjoy.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Big Life Stuff

There's two things you can pretty much count on from me: One, that I'll avoid talking too much about non-geeky personal stuff on this blog, and two, that I consider all the angles and think things through very thoroughly before making a major life decision.

In the middle of a week where my family is packing up to move to another state, a week spent catching up on work leftover from the busiest work week I may have ever had, a week that started with a funeral and will be ending with a wedding... in the middle of all this, I handed a total stranger the largest check I've ever written and found myself thinking about how I was ever going to manage to move into a new place to live in less than a week.

Life is moving very quickly right now. Beginnings, endings, transitions, all happening at once. Like looking at an entire history textbook condensed to one page. It feels like fiction, actually. I walked in to see an apartment, and by simply looking at it from the doorway, I knew it was the one. None of the drawbacks mattered--rather than being cons to weigh against the pros, they were simply facts. I'd already decided I wanted to move in. Everything else was just details.

I don't make decisions so spontaneously, so lightly. Yet, at the same time, there was an incredible force propelling me into handing over that check. I felt comfortable, confident, and excited the whole time I was there, but throughout the entire drive home I was equal parts nervous and thrilled, kicking myself for making such a great decision.

At least, I hoped it was a great decision.

I second-guess myself at times, but I also found myself reeling from my uncharacteristic snap decision--who was that guy, anyhow? Yet, it felt right.

Big, scary, exciting Life Stuff.

I have no idea exactly what lies ahead, but my apologies in advance for whatever direction my posts will take until I'm settled in the new place.

To celebrate being completely settled, of course, I'm planning the best housewarming activity imaginable--getting up around 7-8 AM on a Saturday to play through a marathon of Mega Man 1-10.

My house, my rules, right?

Whoa. My house. My rules. Exciting. Scary.

It's almost a little like Quantum Leap, where the main character suddenly finds himself "leaping" into someone else's body at the end of each episode, landing in a different time period, usually in the middle of something big. Maybe it's exciting. Maybe it's scary. Inevitably, just before the credits roll, it dawns on him just who he is, where he is, and what's going on. And it's always the same response:

Oh boy.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 2, Issue 23

Welcome, one and all, to this week’s edition of Waiting for Wednesday! Typically, I start these things off with some filler content, and I go on and on about who-knows-what, mostly because I feel like we need to fill the column with lots and lots of words.

You know, so as to justify writing one up every single week.

But this week, because of a crazy workload at the office and because, mostly, I’m tired and a little lazy, I’m going to forego my usual shtick at the beginning here and get right to the comics.

Many of you will undoubtedly enjoy the fact that I have little to say for once. Don’t get used to it, though, because I can all but guarantee that it won’t last. This time next week, I’ll be going off about some new obsession, or annoyance, or what have you.

But for now, let’s get right into this week’s comics--because, holy jeez--there are a lot of them. (Including a book I’ve been not-so-patiently holding my breath for, from Eric Powell. But we’ll get to that in a bit.)

As the publishers are wont to do, they pick one week per month to load up readers with mountains of product.

And today is one of those weeks. (You know what I mean.)

Marvel and DC have an insane amount of new product coming out today, and the smaller publishers seem to be following suit. Good for the eyeballs, bad for the wallet. I always wonder what comics shops think about weeks like this.

On paper, you’d think it’s a home run. But in reality, more books at one time mean that many costumers will be cutting back on the number of books they buy, simply because they need to not exceed their weekly budget.

Which is tough to do when the publishers group their product like this. Anyway, here’s just a tiny portion of what’s coming out today.

First up, we have the most obvious (and most mainstream) recommendation I can make. From DC, today the historic 700th issue of Batman hits shelves, and it’s over sized, priced at $4.99, and features a stunning cover by artist David Finch.
I have to be honest and say that I really haven’t read the main Bat book in a while (nor have I read much of Detective since Greg Rucka left the book), but I have been following Grant Morrison’s excellent Batman and Robin title.

And if that’s not confusing enough, I think there’s also something out there being written by Paul Dini.

All these Batman books, all without Bruce Wayne.

But this one--number 700, I mean--will feature Bruce Wayne. And, um, lots of other Batmen from different time periods. Written by the man himself (Grant Morrison, not Bruce Wayne), today’s issue also feature art by some of the best in the business, including Frank Quitely and Andy Kubert.

Check out the solicitation information from the publisher:

Grant Morrison returns to BATMAN with this over sized special! And he's brought an all-star roster of artists along with him including Andy Kubert, Tony Daniel and Frank Quitely to celebrate this milestone 700th issue featuring stories spotlighting each of the Batmen from different eras – Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne.

You won't want to miss this blockbuster story that paves the way for the return of Bruce Wayne and sports mind-boggling covers by superstars David Finch (BRIGHTEST DAY) and Mike Mignola (BATMAN: GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT, Hellboy)!

As with any event-y, special edition of a book, there are a couple of variant covers on this issue--a 1 in 25 homage cover by Mike Mignola, and a 1 in 75 black and white version of that cover.

I’ll admit it--I’ve bought into the hype and hoopla surrounding this issue, and I’ll be laying down my five bucks this evening. Though I (probably) won’t be getting the Mignola cover...

It’s Grant Morrison on a major Batman issue during a pretty major run on the character. So check it out!

Next up, we have the complete opposite of a 700th issue from one of the Big Two publishers. From Antarctic Press , Chip, issue two, hits stands today and is written and illustrated by Richard Moore, a personal favorite creator of mine.
Chip tells the story of a minuscule gargoyle trying to learn how to be scary. The writing and art is whimsical and fun, and the book is truly an all-ages affair--something sorely lacking in today’s comics landscape.

Moore has the unique ability to be very funny on the comics page, and I’ve been a follower of his series, Boneyard, for several years now. He continually puts out some of the best comics on the market, but the mainstream seems not to care all that much.

Which is a shame, because we need more books like Chip (and Boneyard, for that matter). Anyway, here’s the blurb from the publisher:

Fan favorite Richard Moore (Boneyard, Far West, Fire and Brimstone) presents a ticklish take on the macabre with this new, ALL-AGES miniseries!
Chip, the 4-inch gargoyle from an upstate New York farm, is determined to prove he can scare with the best of his big-city brethren.

He thinks he's pinned down the problem: location, location, location. So, with the help of his fairy friend Ash (and an over-friendly farm cat), he's made his way into the spookiest spot he can find: a nearby old mansion. But when he faces what's inside, will he prove himself a tiny terror, or just terrified?

If your shop has a copy, do yourself a favor and give it a flip through. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Next up, we have an intriguing new hardcover from Vertigo...and, uh, Neil Young. Based on Young’s album of the same name, Neil Young’s Greendale is a 160 page original graphic novel written by Joshua Dysart and with art by Cliff Chiang.
I’ve read a couple of things about the book online, but really, other than the following (long) solicit information from Vertigo, I’m going into this on faith alone. I mean, Neil Young, comics, and art by the great Cliff Chiang? Looks like it was made with me in mind, actually.

Here’s the blurb from Vertigo:

Legendary singer-songwriter, musician and activist Neil Young brings one of his most personal albums, GREENDALE, to comics. Overseeing the work of acclaimed writer Joshua Dysart (UNKNOWN SOLDIER) and fan-favorite artist Cliff Chiang (HUMAN TARGET), they compose a graphic novel that explores a whole new dimension to the album that Rolling Stone voted as one of the best of its year.

In the Fall of 2003, as the nation gallops into war, a politically active teenage girl named Sun lives, loves and dreams in a small California town named Greendale.

Sun's always been different. There's been talk that the women in her family have all had a preternatural communion with nature. And when a Stranger comes to town – a character whose presence causes Greendale to, well, go to hell – she'll find herself on a journey both mystical and mythical. To face the Stranger, she'll unearth the secrets of her family in a political coming-of-age story infused with its own special magic.

I know we have some Neil Young fans here, so I wanted to be sure I mentioned this one today. Moving along, we have two more offerings for this week, and they’re both from Dark Horse.

First up is the collected edition of Mike Mignola and Richard Corben’s Eisner Award-winning Hellboy story, The Crooked Man.

One of the creepiest stories told in comics in a (very) long time, Crooked Man is Hellboy at its finest. As always, Mignola and Corben are outstanding, and this mini-series further solidified them as one of horror comics’ great teams.
The best part about this story is that you can pick it up and enjoy it even if you haven't read Hellboy since the character's very beginning. Crooked Man is truly a stand-alone tale that will leave an impression on longtime readers and newbies alike.

Here's the info from Dark Horse:

The Eisner Award-winning miniseries The Crooked Man, by Mignola and Richard Corben, teams Hellboy with a wandering hillman in a devilish tale of Appalachian witchcraft. This volume also includes the rare "They Who Go Down to the Sea in Ships" by Mignola, Josh Dysart (B.P.R.D.: 1947), and Jason Shawn Alexander (Abe Sapien: The Drowning), never before available for purchase; Mignola and Duncan Fegredo's "The Mole," from Free Comic Book Day 2008; and Mignola's most recent solo outing, "In the Chapel of Moloch."

* Also includes a look into the artists' sketchbooks!

* 2009 Eisner Award winner for Best Limited Series!

This was one of my favorite stories of 2009, and I've been not-so-patiently waiting for Dark Horse to collect the story.

And, finally today, we have a book that fans of Eric Powell’s The Goon have been waiting a long, long time for. Buzzard, issue one, ships today and features one of the Goon universe’s most popular characters--the undead and unnatural sheriff who can’t quite remember his real name, but knows that folks have taken to calling him Buzzard.
For Goon fans, this is one of those stories we'd all hoped Powell would someday get around to. Sure, I miss having the main series come out, but this mini will bridge the gap until Goon proper starts up again.

Here's the blurb from the publisher:

The mysterious man known as Buzzard is lost, wondering what manner of creature he is, following his brutal showdown with the loathsome Zombie Priest in Eric Powell's celebrated Goon Year.

Buzzard leaves home, wandering into the shadowy spirit realm of the forest. A dark path leads to a village living in fear of a bestial race of savages. More animal than man, these creatures hunt the villagers and drag them from their slumber in the depth of night.

As a bonus, readers will delight in the new Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities short stories, which revive 2005 series that paired Eric Powell with artist Kyle Hotz and leads up to the three-issue series launch in September 2010.

* Eric Powell, multiple Eisner Award-winning creator of The Goon, gives one of his most mysterious characters, Buzzard, his own highly anticipated four-issue miniseries.

That back-up, by the way, will be better than most "feature" stories in modern comics. I read the original mini-series when it came out, and loved it.

Anyway, I need to not be doing blog stuff anymore. Lots of work to do today, lots of work. But before I go, what are you Waiting for?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Perfect Game

Today I wanted to follow up a bit on a post from a couple of days ago. As you’ve all likely heard/seen on the news, last week, pitcher Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers came within one out of throwing the 21st perfect game in the history of Major League Baseball.

However, because of a bad call at first base on the potential last out of the game, he instead became the answer to the ultimate trivia question. A couple of them, actually.

How do you record 28 outs in a nine inning baseball game without an error being committed?

Who was the first base umpire responsible for the bad safe call during the infamous "Perfect Game that Wasn't"?

What did Armando Galarraga receive as a gift from the city of Detroit the day after he was robbed of a perfect game?

The answer to that last question is a Corvette, by the way. Useless trivia aside, I'd like to talk about the fallout from the game, and the actions of both the pitcher and the umpire and the reaction from baseball.

The Tigers played a game the next day, and the same umpiring crew was assigned to officiate. The first base umpire from the near perfect game, Jim Joyce, would be behind home plate for the game, which means that each team's manager has to give Joyce their lineup cards before the start of the game.

In a move that was classy and exactly the right thing to do in the situation, Tigers manager Jim Leyland had Galarraga walk out to home plate and hand the Tigers' lineup card to Joyce.
Joyce, who stood up in front of the media prior to the game and admitted that he was wrong and apologized several times, was visibly emotional when the young pitcher walked over to him.

In turn, the Tigers crowd--who just the night before booed the call vehemently--cheered the man prior to the game.

In today's day and age (wow, do I sound like the old man yelling at clouds, or what?), it's all too rare to see classy players, classy fans, and displays of genuine sportsmanship.

The news is filled with athletes doing stupid things, signing ridiculous contracts, and acting in ways not consistent with anyone's ideals for "role models." But then something like this happens, and a young player loses his chance at baseball history.

And he gains the respect of every single person in and around the baseball world.

And, despite the fact that some tried to make the story about renewing talks concerning instituting instant replay in baseball (something I'm very much opposed to, by the way), Galarraga and Joyce were the main story.

Positive, admirable actions--both on and off the field--carried the news for once. And for that, this baseball fan couldn't be more appreciative.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Pointless Achievement Unlocked!

There's been some Big Life Stuff in the works for me recently, and I feel as though there's a tear in the receptacle that holds my free time, and I know it's only a matter of weeks before the whole container is toppled to the side. I'll be able to patch it up and set it upright again and let the free time refill, but for the near future, I can only assume I'll be calculating an ever-increasing loss.

To keep my sanity in check, it's necessary to relax--I've finally returned to reading comics, and I've gotten back into the habit of playing video games strictly for pleasure instead of for GameCola articles and YouTube videos. The only problem is that with my dwindling free time, I'm loath to dig through my impressive Backloggery for a new game--the last thing I need is to become distracted by wanting to keep playing to see what happens next. There's also the issue of taking a risk on an untested game; the last thing I need is to squander my precious little free time on another Mighty Bomb Jack.

Instead of making real progress and playing something I've been waiting to play, I've decided to pursue the achievements and unlockable extras in games I've already played, such as Mario Party 5, Final Fantasy II, and Mega Man 10. Now, Mario Party is a worthwhile endeavor, because Mario Party is the old standby when company comes over, and it's always good to have unlocked a bonus map to play on. As for the other two games... well, you'd think I'd have learned my lesson by now.

I don't think I need to say anything further about Mega Man 10 after my implausibly long review, but Final Fantasy II is further proof that the Final Fantasy series is overhyped / not worth my time. Oh, I bet I made some fans angry with that statement. I'm willing to give the series a few more sequels to change my mind, but so far the enjoyment I've gotten out of most Final Fantasy games is nowhere near equal to the amount of time I've spent getting killed by demonic Imps because every single party member attacks dead last and the "Run Away" command is utterly useless against any foe stronger than a gentle breeze.

Yes, moving us back on topic a bit. So I've been playing Final Fantasy II from Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls, the Game Boy Advance remake, and after suffering through the main game and a "bonus" dungeon, it turns out there are still a few monsters I've never encountered, which means my Bestiary list isn't quite 100% complete.

I find it ironic that the games with the most replay value are the ones I'm least interested in replaying these days.

Frankly, 95% was more than good enough for me, until I concluded that I would play no new games until the Big Life Stuff settled down. I am a completionist, after all--100% was certainly within my reach, though it would take a little time. Hence why I've been wandering through the same floor of a dungeon for hours on end hoping for the one random encounter that will finally check Monster #124 off my stupid, stupid list.

It's not worth it. There are no bragging rights. The little medal of accomplishment on my Backloggery is not worth it.

So I've diversified and started going after more of the challenges in Mega Man 10. Once I was informed that you can get away with using special weapons as long as you don't damage the boss with them, "Defeat a dozen impossible-to-dodge bosses without getting hit and using the weakest weapon in the game" didn't sound so hard. I've made progress--I'm up to 82.5% completion at the time of this post--but I've already identified several challenges that I am physically incapable of surmounting, and even if there's so much as a tiny shred of hope that I might get 100%, no amount of Big Life Stuff could ever make it worth the time I'd need to practice to get it right.

So I diversified to Mega Man 9 as well, with its pointless filler challenges such as, "beat the game without collecing more than 8 energy powerups" and, "beat every boss with just one bar of energy left." This was automatically better than getting my butt handed to me by Hard Sheep Man: I like MM9 way more than MM10, so even piddling around with dorky "challenges" was more fun because I was at least playing a game I genuinely enjoyed.

This whole process is satisfying the completionist in me, but it's been 7 parts drudgery, 2 parts actual fun, and 1 part massive stupidity. How many better ways could I be using my time? And couldn't I at least choose better games to thoroughly finish off?

I look at it this way: Completing MM10's challenges earns me street cred with my YouTube fans. It is highly unlikely that I will ever go back and replay Final Fantasy II, so I might as well lay it to rest as thoroughly as possible if I'm so close to full completion. Having completed barely 50% of the achievements in MM9 makes it look like I just wasn't trying (which I wasn't, but that's beside the point).

Plus, it's not like I'm preventing myself from playing games I want to be playing--that's a separate matter entirely. Even so... I can't help but wonder whether it might be a better use of my time to get more screenshots for Mega Man 10.