Saturday, April 30, 2011

Exfanding Review: Green Arrow/Black Canary: The Wedding Album

As mentioned way back in Monday's post, I did some serious comics-centric reading this past weekend. And, almost to the book, everything I read was good.

Surprisingly good, in some cases.

And I feel like, with all of the gloom and doom talk about the comics industry these past couple of months ("Sales are down!" "Prices are too high!" "Digital will doom us all!" "Print will doom us all!" "Comic books have writers?"), comics needs some positive talk.

Fortunately, I can provide the Internet with just that today. See? I do serve a purpose.

Recently, I've been on a bit of a Judd Winick kick. I've always been a fan of his writing, but ever since the excellent, direct-to-DVD Under the Red Hood came out last fall from DC Entertainment, I've made an effort to seek out books with Winick's name on them.

Like Power Girl, for instance.

Not in a hundred years would I think I'd ever buy a Power Girl book on a monthly basis. More than that, though, I'd never imagine caring about Power Girl as a character. But the recent Winick-written series is...well.

It's flat-out good, is what it is.

So, while on one of my frequent visits to a comics shop, I decided to pick up a series I remember thinking looked pretty good when it came out in single issues.

Written by Winick and drawn by the immensely talented Amanda Conner and Cliff Chiang, Green Arrow/Black Canary: The Wedding Album, proved to be exactly what I've come to expect from a Judd Winick comic.

Fast-paced, but with good emotional and character beats, and it doesn't take itself too seriously. There are some truly funny lines here--something Winick excels at (just read Barry Ween)--and, even better, the book serves as an easy-to-jump-into story for just about anyone who wants to read it.

Going in, all you need to know is that Green Arrow and Black Canary have been in a long-term, tumultuous, passionate, up and down relationship over the past couple of (real time) decades, and that GA has a son, Conner. Oh and that Roy Harper used to be GA's teenage sidekick, Speedy.

That's literally about all you need.

The Wedding Album deals with the marriage of the two iconic DC characters, and then the immediate fallout. And oh boy, is there fallout.

I won't spoil anything here, so you'll have to read the book to find out what causes all of that fallout. And I've officially used "fallout" too many times in one post.


Right. So, back to the book.

Winick has a unique and wonderful take on all of these big DC characters, including Batman and Superman, who make brief but memorable appearances. Superman, particularly, is handled in a way I've not seen before, and there's a page with Green Arrow and Big Blue that honestly made my eyes water up, just a little bit.

Seriously, folks. I do have feelings and emotions. It's not all hard, bitter chocolate shell. There is some nougat in there.

The story is a fun romp, almost silly at just the right places, and dead serious at others. A perfect blend of what a super hero comic should be, I think. And the art. Well, the art is great.

Amanda Conner, as always, is the queen of "acting" in comics; the facial expressions on her characters are spot-on, and instead of the typical, blank, stoic look we're so used to seeing on these characters' faces, Conner's players emote, and their facial ticks correspond to what is happening in the book.

And Cliff Chiang's art, as always, is worth the price of admission alone.

Now, I did have a problem with the book--not the story, mind you, but the book itself. I picked up the hardcover version (they just look better on the shelf, don't they?), which came out before the softcover.

And I'm willing to bet that I have the first print of a hardcover that DC wanted very badly to reprint quickly. And not just because reprints mean the first printing sold through.

You see, there are a lot of grammatical errors in this collection.

I hesitate to bring this up, being an editor myself and knowing exactly how many things have to happen just to ensure that a book makes its deadline. And, normally, I would never bring it up, but I feel like this is a special case.

I can live with typos (though improper use of "its" and "it's" and people who don't use running commas drive me INSANE), and typically a typo in a book or comic won't even register enough for them to be an issue.

But here, I was actually taken out of the story, completely, on the first page of three or four of the issues that are collected.

And, since a collected edition is, by nature, a repurposed product, there really shouldn't be many errors. Sure, here or there a typo is fine--you'd be surprised at what's caught by someone in the very last read through of a book.

But this was excessive.

I'm assuming it was fixed in a later printing of the hardcover, and most certainly in the softcover trades.

Sorry. That's the editor nerd in me.

And I don't want that last bit to dissuade anyone from picking up the book. Because it's very good, and very much worth your time. Check it out, and tell them Exfanding sent you.

Tell who? I have no idea. Them. Tell them. Just do it.

-- -- -- --

Enjoy your Saturdays, Exfanders.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Listening to the World Through the Headphones of a Child

I try to be a frugal kind of guy, so when I needed a pair of headphones so I could unobtrusively listen to music when my college roommate was working, I went for the cheapest option: blue plastic with small-ish faux leather ear cushions and a thin adjustable headband. These headphones served me well for many years, surviving several college move-ins and move-outs, home relocations, and new jobs.

Then, a few days ago, they broke. Part of the headband snapped in such a way that, even when taped together, it fit awkwardly on my already awkward head. With tears in my eyes, I headed off to Best Buy to find another place that would sell something comparable to what I had been using all these years.

You know those movies where some schmoe travels into the future by accident or wakes up after being in stasis for a few decades, only to find that everything is hilariously different from the world he remembers? Well, if you subtract the hilarious bit, I felt like that kind of schmoe.

First of all, my local Best Buy has headphones in about five different locations across the store, no doubt because they believe you'll buy whichever one you happen to see first. Second of all, after doing a complete sweep of the store (though I didn't check the bathroom for headphones), I discovered that there are two options anymore: ghastly expensive state-of-the-art noise-cancelling headsets in a size reserved for the people who wave sticks at airplanes, and teensy foreign objects that you shove into your ear. This would not do.

Wal-Mart had a better selection of merchandise priced for a guy who just wants to listen to music without blaring the speakers and subjecting his coworkers to Swedish death metal and Dan Fogelberg. Turning up the volume on the headphones is noise cancellation enough for me.

After a few minutes of examining the nicely organized shelf, I picked out the only option that wasn't the price of a small goat, designed like a piece of rejected Borg technology, or a choking hazard for my ears: I bought children's headphones.

Nearly identical to the broken pair I owned (except black, with foam ear cushions, and not broken), I was now set for the next 5-7 years or so, at which point they'll be streaming music directly into our brains or shoving speakers up our noses. As you may note from the package illustration above, these lovely headphones turn boys into raucous headbangers (judging from the music notes above his head, I'd say he's listening to Handel), and the girls into puppets. I kid; it's a cute illustration. The best part is where the package designer mistook "lowers volume" to mean "makes everything five times as loud as it's supposed to be," because David Bowie was almost the last thing I ever heard when the headphones roared to life on their maiden voyage.

Once I fixed the volume and cleared the stardust from my ears, I discovered something I didn't realize I had been missing: sound quality. Whether by superior craftsmanship or some arcane mystery, I was hearing music with a clarity and richness I have rarely experienced. I've always been more concerned with the content than the physical presentation of my audio and video; big-screen televisions are nice, and huge surround sound speakers are fun, but as long as it gets the job done, I'm usually pretty satisfied. But now I was hearing things I'm not sure I ever noticed, or fully appreciated. It's as though the guy from Blue Öyster Cult was sitting on my desk, playing cowbell right in front of me.

I need to get out more often.

Now I get a full bass sound, crisper vocals, and cushier ear cushions. Aside from a Pandora playlist that doesn't insist on bringing Gary Numan back for 1-2 encores after every song he performs, what more could a guy ask for?

Don't answer that; I already know. I shoulda sprung for the pink headphones.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Hm. It's 3 AM.

Note to self: Write tomorrow's blog post before sitting down to play Portal 2 and responding verbosely and philosophically to lengthy blog comments.

Uh...go take a nap or something. We'll see you tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 3, Issue 17

In this very special, No Air Conditioning in the Office Edition of Waiting for Wednesday, Alex sweats angrily and, depending on his mood as the morning progresses, may or may not talk about new comics.

Mostly because it's hot and I'm tired and there's a lot of work to do. Did I mention that it's hot in the office today?

It's okay, though, because the wall air conditioner units are blowing hot air. Yep. So that helps with the alleviation of the hotness. On top of that, I have a stack of too-hot-to-read-pages for three separate books that need my editing wizardry done by sometime this week.

Possibly tomorrow. Or Friday. Maybe this afternoon. I forget.

Anyway, looking through the list of new comics out this week, I've come to the conclusion that IT'S HOT IN HERE.

And, because of that, I will make this short and sweet and to the point.

Two books on the WfW watch this week (alliteration!), and they're both from DC. Well, one's technically from DC/Vertigo, but who's keeping score, right?

First up, we have the big, honkin' mainstream title of the week, Action Comics, issue 900. As they do with most anniversary issues in comics, Action 900 will feature a slew of top-name creators including Paul Cornell (current writer of Action Comics, MI: 13), Richard Donner (little film called Superman), David Goyer (little film called Batman Begins), and Damon Lindelof (little show called Lost).
And it features a number of covers, including that beautiful David Finch one, above. Now, cards on the table time here--I haven't read Action in a good long while. Superman hasn't been in the book (he's been off walking the earth, in case you're wondering), and even though Cornell's Lex Luthor-centric story has received rave reviews, I'm trade-waiting the title.

And, no, I haven't followed any of Superman's epic cross-country walk-a-thon, either.

So I'm a bit out of the loop when it comes to Big Blue, but I'm looking forward to jumping aboard for this issue, and possibly sticking around for a little while afterwards.

Here's the solicitation information for number 900:

Superman returns to ACTION COMICS just in time for the title's historic 900th issue, which clocks in at 100 pages! Everything Paul Cornell and Pete Woods have been building to over the last year culminates here in the ultimate Superman vs. Lex Luthor battle! But that's not all - this story will lay the grounds for an insanely epic story coming out this summer in the pages of ACTION!

Plus, an incredible roster of guest talent help us celebrate this landmark issue, including the screenwriter of The Dark Knight, David Goyer; famed Superman: The Movie director Richard Donner; the co-creator of Lost, Damon Lindelof; and the creative team behind the hit DC UNIVERSE ONLINE game!

Because it's an extra-size issue, the price goes up accordingly, and we have one of those wonderful $5.99 books that everyone says will destroy the industry. We'll see if that pans out, but I'm willing to bet this book will sell well.

It's an anniversary issue, after all, and both old and new comics fans tend to pick them up, just because. Let's hope DC delivers with an impactful story to herald the return of their biggest character.

Next, we have a book that's in my top five for current series in comics. From Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly, The New York Five, issue four, ships today, and marks the conclusion of this excellent coming-of-age in New York City mini-series.
Obviously, since this is the last issue of the story, I wouldn't recommend that you jump on here. If you're reading this book, you know just how good it is.

If you haven't been reading, do yourself a favor and go out and buy The New York Four, which is in trade now, and is the first part of this two-series book. And be sure to look for the collected New York Five in a couple of months.

Right. Time to go. It's hot. I'm swamped. See you all tomorrow.

Oh...almost forgot. Before I head out, what are you Waiting for?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Drudging Up the Past

Here's a question for the audience: How often do you go digging back through the archives of your favorite blog or website?

As for me, I'm a chronologist and completionist. If I'm more than casually interested in some form of entertainment, I like to go through whatever it is from the beginning, or at least fill in as many gaps in my education as I can. That's part of why I can't watch television except on DVD--unless we're talking about something essentially continuity-free like Most Extreme Elimination Challenge, I either pick up whatever random episode happens to be on, or I need to watch 'em all. Augh, I blame it on that time I owned a Pokémon game for two months.

I ask my question because I'm considering adapting our Month in Review feature for GameCola, the videogame humor website for which I am a staff writer (for those of you just tuning in). Perhaps this comes from being close with my grandparents or just from the way I smile when Stargate makes a tiny reference to something that happened several seasons ago, but I strongly feel that we get more out of our fandoms and our lives when we recognize what came before and keep the memory of the past alive in a meaningful way. The trick is, with GameCola, this would need to be both meaningful and funny.

GC has grown and changed over the years, but it all began with a newsletter with no pictures, no colorful background...a one-page scroll-wheeling extravaganza of high schoolers writing about video games. Some, if not most, of the material from the early years of GC doesn't begin to compare to the quality and comedy of what we've been putting out the past few years, but it's all still there in the archives, waiting.

Waiting for what? Surely not for someone to come digging through the archives to rescue them.

I think about my video playthrough of Mega Man 3, and how much I'd like to go back and re-record most of the whiny commentary if given the chance. Yet, I still get more views every day, I still get comments, and I still get people pointing out the parts that made the videos worth watching. I've found ways to incorporate references the game and my commentary for it in more recent videos. Despite whatever flaws and shortcomings it may have, it's still a part of my legacy.

With GameCola, it's easy enough to link back to old, good articles from the days of yore when the situation calls for it. Is it really necessary, then, to dedicate an entire post to the good, the bad, and the ugly of the past? It could spark an interest in long-forgotten posts, and easily connect the readers with close to a decade of GameCola history, but it could be a major turnoff to readers who see it as nothing more than lazy filler content, spotlighting so much dull, juvenile, sloppily written content that their opinion of the site suffers for it?

I'll turn it back to you: How good or bad an idea is this? Is it worth it to dust off the long, primitive history of a website you like, or is the past best left in the past? If you had to choose, is it better to have a boring article that links to great material, or a great article that links to boring material? Any insight is good insight here, as this could be a great way to encourage people to be more active on the site, or it could be a terrible waste of time that puts a bad taste in everyone's mouth, or it could be completely ignored and have no impact whatsoever.

What do you think?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Weekend Reading, and a Review

Despite the fact that this turned out to be quite the busy holiday weekend, I did manage to sit down on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon to read some comics. Which is something I really, really needed to do, because I was starting to feel a little burnt out.

And when I call it a "holiday" weekend, I don't mean that to sound like I wasn't at work for a good portion of it. Because I was.

At work, I mean.

Anyway, I did get to read some comics, and for the most part, I was very happy with what I read. There are a few nagging things that continuously annoy me about mainstream super hero comics, though, and such things tend to get in the way of my enjoyment of a character or a title.

You know, things like comic book "events" that never seem to actually start, and instead remain in a "prelude" for 8 months, despite the fact that the company keeps hitting us over the head with copy such as, "This is it!" and "Event Name Begins Right Here!"

Those kinds of things are, well, they're annoying. I can't put it any clearer than that.

And, yes, I know that in most cases, such things happen because of delays on certain books that are crucial to the actual event. Publishing is publishing, after all, and things like missed deadlines are just a part of the game.

Though, if they were to happen in my corner of the publishing world at a rate anywhere near that of comics, I would know a lot less people in publishing, if you catch my drift.

Sure you do.

But back to the books that didn't annoy me. Like Zatanna, issue 12, by Matt Sturges and Stephane Roux. This is one of those comics that I'd recommend to a non-comics-reading friend, or to a friend who reads comics, but isn't big on the capes and tights.
Sturges, who is the writer of my favorite DC/Vertigo book, House of Mystery, is perfectly suited to tell this story, which follows DC's backwards-talking magician, Zatanna.

And, for those not in the know, Zatanna is an incredibly powerful character in the DCU, as she possesses the ability to do pretty much anything, as long as she commands it to happen.

The catch is that she must issue those commands backwards.

Which can get pretty complicated, as you might imagine. It's a cool conceit for a super hero, but it's one that has felt tired and overused in the past. In an attempt to rectify this, DC's current Zatanna ongoing, normally written by Paul Dini, has gone a long way towards making the character relevant again in the DCU.

Dini has been the main architect of the modern Zatanna, first writing her into a number of memorable Batman: The Animated Series episodes, and then breathing new life into her comics counterpart with the wonderful original graphic novel, Everyday Magic.

Dini is always a tough act to follow, but last week's issue 12 proved that it can be done, and done well. Sturges' one-shot (presumably a filler issue to give Dini a breather) is a perfect place for new readers to give the book a chance.

All you need to know going in is that Zatanna is a magician/super hero who utters commands backwards. That's it. In 22 short pages, Sturges manages to give us a nice character study while delivering an action-filled issue.

He even mixes in concepts previously unused in a Zatanna book, and they go a long way in developing the character beyond the whole, "magician" "speaks backwards" thing.

For example, as the issue opens, we see Zatanna in her dressing room (she's a stage magician, by the way), using flash cards to practice saying words and phrases backwards.

While it works well as a cute aside, the scene actually goes much further than that in terms of answering questions about who Zatanna is. I'll admit that I kinda just assumed she was fluent in backwards speak, and anything she could think of--"!gip a otni mih nrut"--shed's just be able to say, without thinking too hard about it.

Here, we see that's not the case.

Instead, Z has to practice and ultimately choose which phrases to attempt to use in battle. Words that prove too difficult to memorize have to be scrapped for shorter, simpler ones, and sometimes this can have an effect on just what Zatanna is capable of.

Very cool scene, and one that's been picked up on quite a bit this week.

The story itself follows a new villain, Backslash, who has captured a fairy and managed to steal a sword that cuts backwards through time. Another great concept, and one that can certainly wreak havoc in the wrong hands.

Backslash, of course, is the wrong hands. know what I mean.

Every attack by Zatanna is easily countered by Backslash, and in order to even up the fight, Z has to come up with something exceedingly clever. And, no, I won't spoil it here, because it is so clever. You'll just have to see for yourselves. And at $2.99, I think DC has the perfect jumping-on issue for anyone interested.

In his first crack at the character, Sturges hits a home run, and I for one hope to see him on this book again.

Oh--and the art!

Stephane Roux, who drew the first arc of the series and has since turned in some stunning covers for the book, returns for this issue. And his work, as always, is great. His style is perfect for the character--think European Adam Hughes--and, as the owner of the original art of one of those aforementioned covers, I can tell you honestly that his line work is incredible.

Zatanna, issue 12, is one of those rare books that you could justify buying for the art alone, or for the writing alone. Luckily, both are spot-on. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

-- -- -- --

I read a whole lot more this weekend, and while I was planning on doing a quick hits type of review for today, I enjoyed going a little more in depth. So, instead, I think what I'll do is review a book or two a day, because I read some really high-quality stuff.


So, this will be continued. Promise.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Trying Not to Think with Portals

Now is the time to bury my head in the sand. Portal 2 is out, and I preordered a copy on Amazon at a nice discount, but the package won't arrive for another few days. Until then, everyone and everything is poised to spoil my experience of the game--YouTube comments, other blogs, even billboards and television, which I'm pleased to say are advertising a video game, which is something I haven't seen since the golden days of the Game Boy Advance.

Sure, I could download Portal 2 and play it right now, but I'm the same way with my video games that Alex is about his comic books--there's something special about having something tangible. So, I shall wait.

I'm generally very anti-spoiler to begin with, but this is a special case. I knew absolutely nothing about the original Portal when I first played it. As I recall, it was just another game packaged in The Orange Box alongside the Half-Life games I was interested in playing. Portal was one of the most perfect gaming experiences I've ever had, and it would have taken something significant away from the experience to have heard all the jokes in advance or be forewarned about some insane puzzles. And so it is with Portal 2, except it's already difficult enough to repress whatever expectations I might have for the game.

I know that the sequel can't possibly be as perfect as the original. The tiny bit that I've seen leads me to believe that there will be teamwork, or escort quests, or something else involving other characters that no FPS has ever done right. Beyond that, Portal's popularity has become almost unmanageable. We were all surprised by the innovation and absurdity that characterized one of the most polished and carefully thought-out games of all time. Fan will demand nothing short of double perfection. Bigger, better, more creative, funnier, and still exactly the same as before. How could anyone hope to pull that off?

So I'm keeping my head buried in the sand for a little while. Hide me from the excitement and the disappointment and the madness. Let me have my experience in the best vacuum I can muster, and then we'll see what the world has to say.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Best Thing I've Read in a Long Time

I'm at the office on this rainy, dreary, and altogether wonderful Saturday (late) morning, so no real post from me today. However, I did want to share a link to a story I read that's managed to stay with me for a few days.

It comes from the blog of Derek Sivers, the founder of the revolutionary CD Baby back in the 1990s.

The story I'd like to direct you all to is retold on Sivers' blog, and it tells about the meeting between two very important men. One, a writer, the other, well, you'll see.

It's about much more than that, of course, and if you are a music lover, I think you'll really find something magical here. So, if you have a couple of minutes, check out this link.

I promise it'll be worth it.

Friday, April 22, 2011

*Blink* *Blink* Is That the Sun?

As I get older, I'm starting to realize a couple of things. Mostly, it's realizations of annoyance, which, I'm pretty sure, is a good sign that I am, indeed, getting older.

It's a rite of passage, after all, after a certain point in life, to start hating things, and to be totally justified in doing so.

Or so I'm told.

Anyway, one of the things that I hate--one of the things that annoys me quite a bit in my old age--is when I'm unable to get to the comics shop on Wednesdays. I know it's a little thing--an insignificant thing, even--but it's something that I enjoy doing.

I like comic shops.

And, I think, it's good for my mental health to get away from the desk for half an hour, go out into the world (with its shining sun and fluffy clouds and traffic and bicyclists who take up more of the road than they should), and not think about anything other than whether or not I should pick up the latest issue of Zatanna.

By the way, this week's Zatanna, issue 12, is written by Matt Sturges (House of Mystery) and drawn by the ridiculously talented Stephane Roux. So, yeah, when I eventually get to the shop this week or next, I will absolutely be purchasing the latest issue of Zatanna.

But anyway, back to me being annoyed at things.

This Wednesday, I didn't leave work until five minutes before my local shop closes. And my local shop is about an hour away from my office.

So, yeah. No new comics for Alex. Annoyance level? Six. Maybe seven.

I'm hoping to get to the shop sometime this weekend, but I'll be at the office Saturday, and I have no idea how long I'll actually be there. Some of that depends on my schedule today, the rest on my schedule for Monday.

That's okay, though, because I can find stuff to annoy me once I get to the comics shop, as well. Things like comic book universe rules and comic book universe continuity.

You know, the Important Stuff in life.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Joy of Writing

I've rediscovered the joy of writing. I enjoy writing, and I like keeping up with this blog, but with everything else I'm up to these days, I don't always have the time to explore the lengthier topics I want to, and our regular posting schedule often requires me to fall back on familiar topics or fluff that may or may not have any real oomph to them when forced into a post. But I've been working on a post I've been meaning to write for a while now, and it's the most pure fun I've had on this blog since...I actually can't remember when.

As I said, I like keeping up with this blog--both in writing new material and in reading what Alex has to offer. It's just that many of the posts I've written in the past few months have required more thinking and revising than usual, and while I'm satisfied with the end results, there's something magnificent about effortlessly writing a post that is equally satisfying.

I've been focusing more on perceptions of fandoms and specific situations involving fandoms lately, and the posts that write themselves are the ones about the fandoms themselves. I didn't realize until just now how much I miss those posts.

My introduction to the Alien movies was a successful attempt to recapture the pure joy of sharing my favorite fandoms with others. My explanation of the basics of roleplaying was a fun chance to ramble about a topic I don't discuss as often as I should, for as long as I had the words to fuel myself. Our joint review of the movie Fanboys was a hoot, and the review was already there in our heads; we just needed to pour it all onto paper (or what passes for paper 'round these parts). My scathing review of the film Sunshine was great to write, because in sorting out my strong opinions toward the film, I discovered an entire post that was trying to claw its way out of my fingertips. It's a wake-up call to me that I had to go as far back as March 2009 to find just four good examples of posts that were pure fun.

The post I'm working on now has reinforced two important maxims: write what you know, and write what you love. I've been writing what I know, perhaps a little too much. [Insert obligatory Mega Man reference here.] Even when I've been writing what I love, I've been writing about the fandoms I love, but I haven't been writing what I love--that is, the kind of posts I love to write: the excessively in-depth introductions; the opinionated gut reactions; the philosophizing about the nature of fandoms; the fake elections...I haven't been embracing what I love in the way I would love to.

Looking back through some of those old posts, I also wonder where my sense of silliness went. Just skimming through the posts, a few phrases here and there caught my eye, and I chuckled. Laughed, at my own material, which I had forgotten. I seem to have lost some of the optimism, lightheartedness, and enthusiasm I once had, and I'm now determined to get it back.

When this blog started out, figuring out a topic was daunting, but once I knew where I was going, the writing was a blast. Now it's relatively easy to come up with a topic, and I've at least gotten better about cranking out a post in less than three hours, but the writing isn't necessarily "a blast." Enjoyable, satisfying, enriching, etc., but once again, I'm missing that element of pure fun. It doesn't need to be there all the time, but I shouldn't have to go as far back as March 2009 to realize it's missing.

So here's my plan: My plan is pure fun. I've been holding myself back from writing about certain fandoms because I'm not yet enough of an expert to do a properly comprehensive introduction--forget it; I'm writing about them. I've been constructing arguments instead of bluntly expressing opinions--forget it; if you wanna argue about my opinions, that's why the comments are open to everybody. I've set out on a writing road trip and am stuck in video game traffic on the sci-fi highway (the sci-fiway?); forget it--I'm getting out and walking, preferably to a place that sells better metaphors.

I'm back, whatever that means. Maybe I was here all along; maybe I lost myself; maybe I wasn't here at all. One need only look at the Month in Review posts we've written in the last several months to see how pleased we've both been with the content here on Exfanding Your Horizons, so it's not like I want to abandon the good thing we feel we have going. But I want to reclaim that feeling of pure joy I had when writing about Firefly, and the excitement I had for writing about my lesser-publicized fandoms and hobbies, such as collecting Dungeons & Dragons miniatures.

The difference between a franchise reboot and a revitalizing sequel is how much of the present is retained in the voyage back to one's roots. I have no intention of J.J. Abramsing this blog. I like the feel and continuity of the present just fine; I miss the joy of writing those big, creative posts that draw from my exposures to all different fandoms. Let's see if there's room for a little more of the past in the present, or a little room for the present in the past.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 3, Issue 16

Another week, another Waiting for. Welcome to this year's 16th edition of WFW, the Internet's least-read weekly feature on new comic titles! That's okay, though, because if I wasn't yelling about comics here on the blog, I'd be doing so on a street corner.

Which, I'm told, makes one look crazy.

So I'll keep my crazy to the Internet, and, in a minute, I'll run down the list of new books that I'm looking forward to checking out today from my local comics shop.

But first, an admission.

I haven't watched MTV since, oh, say, 1999, but Monday I happened to pass by the channel, and I caught a glimpse of a guy getting punched in the groin by the hidden, mechanical arm of an ATM machine.
The show, I'd find out at the commercial break, is called Silent Library. And, despite my utter despise of what MTV has become...I think I love this idiotic series.

Yes, I'd much prefer it if MTV actually played music (you know, by real bands, and not "singers" who use synthesizers and voice adjusters, whatever that is). But, if MTV has to still exist, I'd much rather watch some guy get punched in the groin than, say, The Jersey Shore.

Though, I guess the two are similar in theme.

Anyway, figured I'd mention the show here, first because it is a truly weird thing to turn on MTV after a decade-plus of avoiding it like the plague. And second, because it's been a long week, and watching a guy get punched made me laugh.

Right. So. On to the books, then. Well, book, actually.

From Dark Horse, today marks the return of a much-loved anthology series! Dark Horse Presents relaunches with a new number one and with all-new stories from some of comics' greatest creators.
Included in the 80-page first issue are Frank Miller, Harlan Ellison, Howard Chaykin, Neal Adams, Richard Corben, Carla Speed McNeil, Michael T. Gilbert, Randy Stradley, Paul Chadwick, David Chelsea, and Patrick Alexander.

Now that's a lineup!

I'm a sucker for anthologies, and Dark Horse Presents is another example of a book that I completely missed because I wasn't yet into comics when the original series came out. I've since gone back and bought individual issues from that first volume, and what I've found are high quality stories by some of my favorite comics people.

Presents, or DHP for short, is the anthology that gave us Frank Miller's Sin City, and Paul Chadwick's Concrete. DHP also launched Buffy and Aliens in comics, and introduced the first mainstream Goon story by Eric Powell.

For this new iteration, expectations are high. Issues in this new volume will carry a price point of $7.99, but you get a lot for the money.
Issue one ships with two covers, both of which I've included here. Check out the solicitation information from Dark Horse:

The legendary, premiere anthology is back! The 80-page spectacular, Dark Horse Presents returns with all-new stories by Neal Adams, Howard Chaykin, and Richard Corben; a new Concrete story by Paul Chadwick, a new Crimson Empire story from the Star Wars universe, and an exclusive sneak peek of Frank Miller’s highly-anticipated prequel to 300, Xerxes!

The celebration continues with a brand-new, all-color Finder story by Carla Speed McNeil, a prose piece from science fiction legend Harlan Ellison, the return of Michael T. Gilbert’s Mr. Monster, and much, much more!

* 80 pages of original content with no ads.

So much good stuff here, that it's really a no-brainer for me. I even pre-ordered the book, thinking that the (relatively) high price tag might scare off some retailers.

Check it out--there's bound to be something that you're going to like. And with that, I must say so long. But before I go, what are you Waiting for?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Expect Delays

I did a lot of driving in the past few days, and it got to the point where I was ready to throttle the next sign that said, "EXPECT DELAYS." I realize the futility of such an act, but it's not like anybody was going to mind me leaving my car parked in the middle of the highway--it's not like we were going anywhere.

I think of how much time we as a society have wasted on sitting in traffic; how much we've polluted our atmosphere; how much gas and maintenance money we've burned. Unless you're listening to a book on tape, having a deep conversation with a passenger, or engaging in some other fulfilling and productive activity, you're unlikely to do anything more worthwhile than flipping between five stations playing the same three AC/DC songs you can't listen to more than once a month.

I said this in 2000 and I said it again in 2010: Dude, where's my flying car? Where's our advanced city planning and our superior mass-transportation system? When will we be able to beam from Ohio to Wyoming? When will drivers on the George Washington Bridge look at a map before cutting across two lanes of traffic to reach the exit that caught them by surprise?

Heck, I'd even settle for an E-ZPass in every car, or artificially intelligent cars that ejected the driver and drove off on their own if they detected any hint of rubbernecking. There are so many factors that contribute to bad traffic, yet it doesn't feel like we're making any progress on any front. I waited years for construction to conclude on a small, simple stretch of highway I traveled on a monthly basis; what hope do complicated, crisscrossing roadways in and around cities have?

We widen the lanes, but we get bigger vehicles. We add more lanes, but we get more vehicles. We introduce alternate routes and quick-pay tolls, but we can't force people to use them. My view on traffic is the same view I have on parenting and medicine: The solution isn't to slap a band-aid on the problem; it's to fix the cause of the problem. Obvious, perhaps, and easier said than done in many cases, but I can't tell whether we're even trying.

People accept that traffic is bad in certain areas or at certain times of day. The band-aid solution is to avoid those areas and driving at those times of day. The lasting solution is one that can hardly be coordinated as easily: Teach your children not to drive like morons.

I drove behind two vehicles that seemed to be playing cat-and-mouse with each other through heavy traffic in an area where the "EXPECT DELAYS" signs had all but replaced the mile markers. The front car had a rear windshield that lifted open, and someone sitting in the back was tossing food or maybe rocks into the open windows of the car in pursuit, weaving back and forth across three lanes of traffic in this manner for--no exaggeration--at least half an hour. All in good fun? Sure, if you ignore the well-being and sanity of every other driver on the road.

There were times when I felt like I was driving a car in the background of an action movie, where nobody cares about all the cars that putter along and explode in the midst of a wild car chase. I might add that this was a movie whose chase scene I didn't care to watch, and that it already took way too much focus to keep my own car a safe distance away from all the other stopping and starting vehicles while simultaneously trying to find something other than "Highway to Hell" on the radio.

The layout of the roads is minor compared to the driving habits of the people using them. Too often we drive around like we're the stars of our own movies, ignoring that the other cars aren't just obstacles, but the method by which real people are just trying to get home. Just as we have unreasonable expectations for the creators of our favorite fandoms, we have unreasonable expectations that our fellow drivers should indulge us in all we do. We don't need to think about how our rubbernecking is slowing everyone down, because everybody else can wait a few seconds for us to see what horrible carnage has occurred. Yeah, but if everybody in all the cars around you starts thinking that, those seconds quickly turn into minutes and hours for anybody who's not at the front of the line.

Courtesy is contagious on the road, as are aggression and stupidity. I find people behaving differently on the road than they would if they were marching in a big line with the drivers of those other cars (say, at a convention), but the reactions to courtesy, aggression, and stupidity are much the same. The difference is that our vehicles frequently act as a fortress of solitude that shields us from the reactions of the people around us.

Maybe we can't redesign all the roads in New Jersey. Maybe we don't have to. A little encouragement to drive like we're surrounded by real people could go a long way. It won't make a difference overnight, but when we're already waiting a few years to get tiny stretches of highway's okay to expect delays.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Summer Movies (That I Might Actually See)

Yesterday (or maybe it was Saturday--I don't remember), I fell asleep on the couch and woke up to one of those inane early evening Hollywood gossip shows. Just as I was about to turn the channel, however, there was a video montage featuring, among other interesting characters, the God of Thunder.

Yep, it's summer movie time, and with that first Saturday in May right around the corner now, comic book fans know what's about to happen.

For a few weeks at least, people from all walks of life will flock to movie theaters to watch the likes of Thor, Captain America, the X-Men, and Green Lantern up on the big screen.

And, while it still might not be "cool" to actually stop into a comics shop and buy books featuring those characters, it is definitely cool to drop cash on the comic book movie experience.

Even though, to me at least, that experience features such Wonderful as a crowded theater filled with too-loud people, and, somehow, a crying baby sitting next to me. Most times with parents blissfully ambivalent to their child's screaming.

But $8.00 popcorn and wailing children aside, I do think it's pretty awesome that people still dig the comic book movie.

Despite Hollywood's best attempts to ruin that particular genre, it seems that most people are willing to forgive (or ignore, completely) films like The Spirit, The Green Hornet, Daredevil, and any non-Thomas Jane Punisher flick.

We want to be entertained, and on a hot summer day, sometimes there's just nothing more entertaining than watching Superman punch something. Which, if you're wondering, is why Zack Snyder will be directing the relaunch of that series. But that's still a ways off.

This year's crop of comic movies is a good one, and with each flick comes high, big-money expectations.

Thor leads things off, opening on May 6, and as such, becomes the big Free Comic Book Day movie event for 2011. Free Comic Book Day, which is Saturday, May 7, this year, always coincides with a big movie release, usually by Marvel.

I think it's a safe bet that a great many geeks have a similar tradition on that day--pick up your books at either one or a variety of local shops, then head out to the theater.

And, for one day a year at least, we're not the only ones talking about Captain America and Hal Jordan. And that's pretty cool.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Irony Comes to the Walking Dead

Now, I know corporate advertisers aren't normally the most conscientious bunch, but this...well. This is in really poor taste, I'd say.
Hilarious? Absolutely. So much so, in fact, that you have to figure they did it on purpose, right?


Sure they did. Anyway, this excuse to not post anything longer than a few sentences is brought to us by Exfanding regular Dr. Nick Riviera. Thanks, Dr. Nick, for the head's up on today's inanity.

And to everyone else out there, Happy Sunday. We'll see you all tomorrow.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

World's Biggest Pac-Man

I never much enjoyed Pac-Man--something about overeating while running around in circles never appealed to me. Now, if you expanded Pac-Man to a sprawling world of interconnected levels created by designers from around the world...

World's Biggest Pac-Man does just that, and it's the first time I've found myself eagerly playing Pac-Man when there is anything else in the room that I can be doing for entertainment. It's a little reminiscent of Eggerland: Meikyuu no Fukkatsu, which no one else has ever played but me.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Musings

Not much doing here on the ol' blog today. We did want to catch you all up on a lingering issue, though. And, since it's a work-filled Friday for me, I'll be brief for once in my life.

Nathaniel and I are still dealing with the Blog Thief, who continues to illegally post our copyrighted written material to his site.

We're working on it, though, so hopefully we'll have some good news to report in the coming days. Might be longer, actually, as we're taking great pains to do everything by the book here.

Too many times, content thieves are allowed to continue stealing material, simply because the originator(s) of said material either don't know how to take action against copyright infringement, or they just don't want to go through the process.

We here at know both exactly how to deal with this stuff (like I said, I've been there before), and we will not stop until our content is removed from the site in question.

Still and all, this whole situation has me incredibly annoyed. As someone in publishing, and as someone who has gone through a whole legal battle over copyrights in the past, this issue hits me right where it hurts.

And, honestly, I'm tired of being annoyed and frustrated at things.

So I'm focusing all of my annoyance and frustration on this issue, and I'm making sure that the Thief is shut down. For good, this time.

Other than Blog Thieves and the like, though, here's to a good, relaxing weekend. Happy Friday, everyone!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Unreasonable Expectations

It's easy to forget sometimes that there's a real person behind every original creation. Art museums don't spontaneously spawn paintings. Books don't magically turn into movies of their own accord. Music doesn't come into being of its own volition. Yet we fans are often so fixated on the creative content of our favorite fandoms that we have certain expectations of the creators that would be unreasonable to apply to anyone we know personally.

Example: I make videos for YouTube at a pace that is intolerably slow by Internet standards. While others churn out videos on a weekly or daily basis, I can barely produce ten minutes of footage in a month anymore. My subscribers frequently comment on the high quality of my work, and many say each video is worth the wait, so evidently the wait time between videos is not the most important factor in one's enjoyment of what I do. However, occasional comments lead me to believe that some people view me as a fountain of entertainment, and that there must be something drastically wrong with someone who requires 700+ hours to record ten minutes of video.

Obviously, I'm not spending every hour of every month working on video recording (I also write for this blog, you know). Yet, because many of my viewers know of me only as a guy who makes videos, it might be easy for them to think that my sole purpose in life--at least, as I relate to them--is to make videos. For them.

Equally unreasonable is the expectation that a creator must replicate his or her most successful work with each new offering, as though his or her best work is the only work worth sharing. This is especially true with certain video game sequels, as I wrote about last month in my extensive examination and deconstruction of the idea that Mega Man 2 is the greatest Mega Man game of all time. It's difficult to appreciate a creator's creativity and vision if you are unsatisfied with anything less than that one amazing thing they did, that one time.

I think of how our perceptions of our favorite fandoms might be different if we knew the creators personally, or at least knew enough about them to keep our expectations in check. I imagine we'd be a much happier lot if we as fans could see George Lucas as the person behind one of the most influential fandoms of all time, instead of as "that guy who made Star Wars and then ruined my childhood." People can make all sorts of mistakes and disappoint you in all sorts of ways, but I'd wager that very few of them want to ruin your childhood.

I also think of how our friends and family might respond to us if we openly criticized them the way we criticize the creators whose creative works fail to meet our expectations. If the vitriol that spews from the mouths and keyboards of some comics fans were to be directed at their parents, siblings, spouses, or roommates for last night's dinner, I'd expect to see a lot of comics fans spewing out their teeth after getting punched in the face and tossed out to the curb. We excuse ourselves from behaving like human beings when our fandoms' creators only exist to create what we demand to see.

It's easy to forget sometimes that there's a real person behind every original creation. How much happier we are and how much more rational we appear when our expectations of our fandoms are based on the people who create for them, and not the other way around.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 3, Issue 15

Some days you just wake up on the wrong side of the bed. And some nights, you go to bed on the wrong side of the bed. Both things happened to me in the last 12 hours or so, and as such, I'm in a pretty lousy, pretty anxious mood today.

Between the continuing problem of the Blog Thief (who has now officially made me Angry), and some other fun stuff swirling around my head today (and for the remainder of this week, most likely), I'm probably not the most pleasant human being to be around this morning.

Plus, it's raining.

Now, I should just go right into the comics (considering how annoyed I am, and all), but I wanted to mention some more unhappy news first. Just that kind of day, I guess.

It was reported last night that Dark Horse Comics have laid off a number of employees. Included among the layoff are editorial staff.

This hits close to home for me, and I know what those folks are going through today. I'm really sorry to hear that the publisher needed to make these cuts, and I hope everyone manages to land on their feet soon, because the the work they've done at Dark Horse has been great.

Right. Enough with the unhappy. Let's get to the new books.

Following up on an Image-heavy week last time around, this week looks like the publishers were shipping product made specifically for me. First off, today's the day I get my Goon shirt from Dark Horse.
So that's something, at least.

On top of that, though, there's an absolute barrage of quality titles from Image, including issue three of what is my early favorite for series of the year, Li'l Depressed Boy.
The first printing of issue one is long sold out, but there's a second print that you might still be able to find at your local comics shop. If not, though, several online stores are carrying this title.

I talked at length about the series here, and I suggest you check out that post and see if this book is something that should be on your radar. The book has some good press going for it, and there's a nice little buzz building about the series, and about the first trade that will ship in the coming months.

Anyway, here's the solicitation information from Image:

“YOU'RE NO ROCK N' ROLL FUN” The Li'l Depressed Boy takes a trip with his dream girl to the local thrift store, where he is thrust both into dead people's clothes and a forthcoming birthday party. Can he find the perfect gift in time? Guest-starring Los Angeles indie songstresses The Like!

Please do give this series a read.

Next up, we have Carbon Grey, issue 2, from Image. Another series that was mentioned here before, Carbon Grey featured a solid first issue, with well-paced writing and some stunning art.
It's an interesting title with a good premise and new, head-turning creative team. If you did steampunk fiction, you should give this series a shot.

Here's the blurb for today's issue two:

The General moves to arrest the sisters, as the twins turn to their mentors. The Baron has a hand in Pepper and Dina’s escape, and Howard is convinced he is blessed. As the Greys search for Giselle, Eva becomes concerned about her sister’s allegiances. Who is manipulating the Kaiser’s legacy?

Two other Image books worth noting are Butcher Baker, issue two, and Infinite Vacation, issue two. Both books were featured on previous WfWs, and both books are definitely worth your time.

Butcher sees a second issue right on the heels of the sold-out first issue, so the buzz for that title should continue. Infinite Vacation, meanwhile, suffered a looong delays between issues, so interest might have waned a bit.

Hopefully retailers upped their orders from issue one, though, because writer Nick Spencer has something good going with this book.

But since I'm running late (and still annoyed with things), let's jump now to Marvel, and to their latest news makers, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, issue 157, and the tie-in book, Ultimate Comics Avengers Vs New Ultimates, issue 3, both of which carry the tag line, "Death of Spider-Man."
Too-long titles aside, these two books are making some Big News today with regard to everyone's favorite (Ultimate) webslinger.
Even though this stuff isn't happening in the Marvel Universe Proper, Brian Bendis' Ultimate version of Spidey is a much-loved character in the Marvel mythos. And people are going to care if he gets offed today.

From the sound of it, something big happens today, and the endings of both books feature the same scene.

Here's the blurb from Marvel:

The Story: (hide) It is the shot heard around the world. Witness the issue comic fans be talking about all year. leave your cynicism at the door... this is the real deal. The Death of Spider-Man. Bendis and Bagley reunite for this historic Spider-Man event a decade in the making.

Should be interesting, that's for sure. Ultimate Spider-Man has been a constant in my comics reading the past decade, and I hold it up there with the very best super hero stories ever told.

We'll see what happens.

And with that, I'm out of here. Before I stop typing, though, what are you Waiting for?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Selling Out

So, just to reiterate how right we always are on this blog, Image Comics has announced that they've sold out of the following five titles in the past week: issue one of Nonplayer, Blue Estate, Green Wake, and Undying Love, and the second printing of Infinite Vacation, issue one.

All five of those books, I'll add, just to drive the point home, were featured at one point on Waiting for Wednesday.

Thank you, thank you, I am humbled by your applause.

If you didn't listen to us about the quality of each of these books when we were proselytizing about them, however, don't fret, because Image is going back to press on them all. They've also rushed out a second printing of Butcher Baker, issue one, another featured series on WfW.

So, what's the point of this post, today? Obviously, it's to gloat. But it's also to point out a few things about the absolute ABSURDITY of the comic book direct market.

You know, the direct market wherein customers (and retailers) have to order their books THREE MONTHS in advance of the products being on sale. Imagine that being the case, at, say, Home Depot.

Or, really, anywhere else.

Only in comics must retailers blindly order books, sit back, and hope they can sell their copies. Or, in the case of a book like Nonplayer, many retailers found themselves in a strange position.

Lots and lots of people wanted this book last week. Many more potential customers than there were copies available, it turned out, as the hype started after Diamond's cut-off date for ordering the title and retailers were unable to bump up their orders.

The Internet fueled this interest--which is exactly what the Internet should do--and tons of people who previously didn't know this book existed all of a sudden wanted it.

I talked to a couple of shop owners, and they both fielded calls throughout the day about the book. Unfortunately, neither had any available, as only a few customers pre-ordered it.

Unhappy customers means unhappy retailers.

Of course, as it always happens with these things, sellers on eBay are taking advantage of people who missed the boat. Nonplayer, especially, is going for some absurd Buy it Nows on the 'Bay.
It's a gorgeous book. That much I could tell just by looking at a few preview pages. But this weekend I got around to reading the issue, and boy, does it live up to the hype.

Probably the best first issue of a series I've read since Chew, and I've been all about that book ever since.

Which, while great for the creator and for Image, makes it all the more painful for readers who still don't have a copy, and retailers who missed out on huge sales numbers.

So, what to do?

It's not a new theory that the direct market is flawed, and needs to change. But when it comes down to it, comics publishers and retailers are about as open to change as is the average comics fan.

And until someone, somewhere, steps up and develops a better distribution process, we're stuck with what we have. And retailers are stuck with either too many books, or too few.

Monday, April 11, 2011

(Re)Star(t) Trek

As you may recall, I discovered a blog at the end of March that had a huge series of posts dedicated to reviewing Star Trek by the minute. I have now read through the entire series, which has helped me to reach the decision that I am not a sane individual.

For one thing, I read through the entire series of 117 full-length reviews of each minute of a film that bothered me severely. For another thing, this nonstop bashing of the movie for its inconsistencies, errors, and illogic has finally convinced me that I want to watch the film again.


I will reiterate that I found the movie to be very entertaining--neat action sequences, great special effects, terrific music, occasional humor--but not at all the Star Trek I know and love. Continuity was thrown out the airlock (even more so than usual with Star Trek), a few key characters felt "off," and the whole production felt geared toward attracting a totally different crowd of viewers than the ones who had supported the franchise enough to keep it thriving for over forty years. I was annoyed, and I had no intention of watching the film for a second time unless the inevitable sequel redeemed the damage done to my favorite franchise.

By the time I reached the end of "Star Trek by the Minute," I had purchased and read through the Star Trek: Nero comic (which I swore I wouldn't do) in order to see if any of the gaping plot holes in the film were explained (which they were). Though this series of posts caused me to look at the comic with a more critical eye than I normally would have, I still enjoyed it enough to be reminded of what I had liked about the new movie, and that at least a few people involved with the project still care about making nuTrek connect with Classic Trek.

Still, I'm not convinced that a reboot was necessary, or that the franchise is headed in the right direction. But if there's anything that 117 nit-picky-to-the-extreme posts have taught me, it's that I would be perfectly justified in rejecting this film as canon, or at least in rejecting this film's assertion that certain characters ended up traveling back in time, instead believing that they had slipped into an alternate dimension that's not exactly the Star Trek we remember.

Maybe I'd be deluding myself, but these possibilities have allowed me, for the first time ever, to accept the film for whatever it may be, and to have any interest whatsoever in owning it on DVD.

Assuming I can buy a used copy for under $5 that wouldn't give J.J. Abrams a penny of the money I'd rather be spending on a Star Trek film I didn't have to delude myself into accepting.

It's a fun movie, and it's a pretty movie, but it's not the movie I wanted. That's two out of three, and in this case, I just might be happier if I paid attention to the majority for once.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Requited Freedom

As a follow-up to Thursday's post, I'd like to announce that things are already better. The sun is shining (possibly, depending on when you read this), and I've been taking great strides in completing or moving forward on things I've been meaning to do. I even got the tax forms I needed, that's almost as good as having done my taxes. In a parallel universe somewhere.

If you'll excuse me, I have Exciting Things to do.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Something Cool

So, after Friday's not very happy post, I figured I should post something cool today. Remember that bit about the commission I recieved from artist Joëlle Jones?

Well, apparently lots of people liked that wonderful piece of art, as it's popped up on both The Comics Reporter and Comic Book Resources!

Now, how cool is that?

I know, I know. It's super cool. And so am I. And, for that matter, so are you. And because we're all so cool, here's the commission, one more time.
Enjoy your weekends, everyone, and we'll be back here tomorrow.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Return of the Blog Thief

Nathaniel alluded to it yesterday, and, unfortunately, the Blog Thief is back, and he's at it again. This time on another ridiculous "blog," wherein he is stealing, among other things, EyH posts and posts from a blog written by a woman detailing her life with breast cancer.

Which, obviously, is wrong on many levels.

But here's the most relevant thing, and, with regards to written material, the most important thing. This guy is stealing. Ain't no two ways about it, Bucky.

He's not breaking into our homes and physically taking our things. But he is stealing.

Now, I get it. We have a blog. We get a few hits, and we have some regular readers. We're not exactly Newsarama, and no one at Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, or Image cares even a little bit about what we write.

But we still write.

Never with any intention to take the blog to higher places, as it were. We just write because we enjoy doing it. And because, now, we actually do have some regular readers.

Not that it makes what the Thief is doing any better or any worse, as stealing is stealing is stealing. But I figured I'd throw that out there.

I'm going to put up a little something about this new mess on Twitter this weekend, and hopefully someone will take note. I plan to launch a mini Twitter campaign, actually, and reach out to other writers to see if this has happened to them, and to ask for any advice.

We'll see how that goes.

In the meantime, though, just to repeat this for the hundredth time. The stuff on this blog is copyrighted, and Nathaniel and I own it, and we have proof of ownership. And we're kind of sick of reading our posts on someone else's "blog."

So, if you're reading this anywhere other than, you are reading a blog that's in violation of copyright law. The [I'm not sure what to call him, actually] of said "blog" is taking other people's words and making them his own.

If the same thing were to happen to, say, Neil Gaiman or Joe Hill or Harlan Ellison, it would be called plagiarism, and the offender would be in Big Time Trouble.

Fortunately, the law can be a wonderful thing sometimes. You see, that same law that protects the works of Neil Gaiman and Joe Hill and Harlan Ellison? Yeah, that same law also protects the works of no-name bloggers like Nathaniel and me.

So. What to do?

Currently, we're busy contacting other bloggers from whom the Thief has taken posts, and some of them have started responding, either to the Thief directly, or on their own blogs, alerting their readers to what's happening.

At this point, Nathaniel and I have a plan, and we're following it. We'll keep you posted on how this whole thing ends up.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Unrequited Freedom

Now that I've completed another installment in my video playthrough of Mega Man 6, I feel this refreshing sensation of freedom...and I don't know what to do with myself.

With the intangible deadlines of an in-progress video hanging over me, I can always feel like I'm making progress whenever I do some recording, and I can always feel like I've got a project to go back to. Once a video is finished, I allow myself a little time to get caught up on all the other projects and housekeeping that've been on hold, except this time, I'm turning into a lazy pile of goo who doesn't much feel like doing anything.

Maybe it's a form of recovery from everything I've been doing the past two months. Maybe it's a way to avoid thinking about doing my taxes, which will be due in about a week. Maybe my other side projects aren't as relaxing or exciting as usual. Maybe my schedule has been in too much of a state of flux, and I don't always adapt well to sudden change. Maybe I'm just worn out from some of the discussions I've been having online, and from having to deal with the serious implications of our blog posts once again being stolen. Whatever the case, it's been taking a lot of effort to avoid coming in the door from work and sleeping right through dinner the past two weeks or so, and that in itself is making me more exhausted.

I think I'm also ready for a change of season. I like winter, but this was a very harsh and very long winter, and I have never wanted sunshine and warm weather so badly. It could be my imagination, but it feels like every time I look outside, it's dark, or it's raining. Oh, look, it's dark and damp again today.

Then there's the building pressure to plan a wedding, and everything that goes along with that major life change. That alone is good enough for its own paragraph.

I suppose I'm waiting for things to feel "normal" again, to have a more predictable routine with a to-do list of things that are all fun, or at least therapeutically necessary around the house; nothing requiring total alteration of plans at the last minute, or expending vast amounts of focus or brainpower. I may be free from the self-imposed demands of releasing new videos in a timely fashion, but my freedom is compromised by too many things I should be doing.

This, too, shall pass. It'll just be a while.

However, I'm not content to wait until the circumstances change. This is my freedom, doggone it, and I'm not going to waste it on sleeping away the hours until things are better. I will do the writing I've been looking forward to. I will sit my butt down and play more Dragon Warrior IV. I will get back into reading on a regular basis and start making a dent in my literary backlog. I will eat dinner, and I will revel in the time spent preparing it (except I forgot to get out the chicken to thaw, so it looks like Spaghetti-O's again tonight).

...Just as soon as my taxes are out of the way.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 3, Issue 14

Holy cats! It's a HUGE comic book Wednesday, and from the looks of the ol' shipping list, Yours Truly is in for some serious spending today. We get some major titles from DC and Marvel, and Image has three--count 'em, three!--big books shipping this week.

And one of them sold out over two weeks ago.

Which is what I want to talk about, briefly (or, I should say, as briefly as I can manage), before launching into this week's new swag.

Go on eBay and do a search for Nonplayer. Go ahead, I'll wait.

It's a comic put out by Image, and written and illustrated (beautifully, stunningly, even, might I add) by Nate Simpson. You can check out a free preview of the book over on Simpson's website, and you can buy it toda--oh, wait.

That's right.

Remember that suggestion to search for the title on eBay, just up the page a little bit? Yeah, I almost forgot. The book has completely sold out from the distributor, which is a Good Thing.
The Bad Thing? It's likely that your local comics shop either grossly under ordered the issue, or they didn't order it at all.

I don't know what makes me more upset, the fact that this beautiful, interesting book will be tragically under ordered (and thus under-read), or the fact that someone out there is charging upwards of $50 bucks for a copy...on its DAY OF RELEASE.

Makes you want to throw up in your mouth a little, doesn't it? Is there anything that could possibly turn off potential readers more than that kind of mark up??

I mean, sure, this is great for creator-owned comics in that there's this huge interest around a smaller press title. And believe me, I love seeing a smaller book go off like this--just go back and read some of my earlier posts on books like Chew, and Morning Glories, and The Goon.

But does anybody out there remember the 1990s? Or, for that matter, last week?

Anyway, here's hoping that your local retailer ordered plenty of these--and isn't selling them for $50. And here's the solicitation information for Nonplayer, issue one, which, in case I haven't made it clear in this post, I am uber excited about:

The future kind of sucks, and that goes double for Dana Stevens — she's stuck in a dead-end tamale delivery job, and she's way too old to be living with her mom. But in the online fantasy world of Jarvath, she's an elite warrior. When she slays the wife of celebrity game character King Heremoth, her fame seems all but guaranteed — that is, until the game spins totally out of control.

I just think this book is going to be incredible, and I hope enough people will be able to get their hands on it.

Speaking of Image books that have sold out...

The next two books are looking to follow in Nonplayer's shoes, and they both ship today. First up, we have Green Wake, issue one, written by Kurtis J. Wiebe and with art by Riley Rossmo.

When I saw this in previews, I figured I'd take a chance on it. I'm a sucker for new horror books, and the preview art I've seen looks great.

Here's the blurb from Image:

A riveting tale of loss and horror. In the forgotten town of Green Wake, a string of grisly mutilations leads Morley Mack on the trail of a young woman named Ariel, who is the prime suspect. But when a stranger with startling connections to Ariel arrives under mysterious circumstances, Morley unravels a dark plot with a shocking link to his past.

Definitely looking forward to giving this book a chance, and here's hoping that I'll have a new, monthly horror book to buy.

The third soon-to-be-sold out book from Image is another intriguing title, Blue Estate, from writer Viktor Kalvachev and a slew of others. Again, the preview art sold me on the title, and I've since heard some very positive reviews of the book.
So far, all of my "hunches" on new Image number ones have been correct--I've liked all of the Image books I've tried in the past few months (Butcher Baker was a fantastic, over-the-top read last week).

Unfortunately, I've also been right about their inevitable after-market value increases, which while not necessarily a bad thing, is another argument for comics to come out as long-form graphic novels, as opposed to monthly issues.

We want stories, not collectibles.

Anyway, here's the solicit information from Image for Blue Estate, issue one:

A powerhouse team of Hollywood and comic book veterans (along with special guest artists) presents a fast, funny, 100% cool new series for readers of all stripes. On the mean streets of Los Angeles, an alcoholic hit man and a desperate starlet dodge Russian mobsters, Italian gangsters, ninjas, hippies and the L.A.P.D. in a scheme to steal millions from a psychotic action movie hero. F

eaturing art by VIKTOR KALVACHEV (PHERONE, DMZ, The Incredibles), NATHAN FOX (Invincible Iron Man, Pigeons From Hell), TOBY CYPRESS (Batman/Nightwing), ROBERT VALLEY (Gorillaz, Tron), and written by Emmy Award winning screenwriter ANDREW OSBORNE.

GAH! So many good books out this week, and so little time in which to finish this post!

There's issue three of the excellent Image series, Who is Jake Ellis?, issue 18 of the monster-hit that is Chew, the first issue of the latest BPRD mini-series, The Dead Remembered, as well as issue one of Solomon Kane: Red Shadows, both from Dark Horse, the latest issue of one of my personal favorite series ever, House of Mystery, from Vertigo, and, oh yeah!

Marvel's big event for the summer starts today with Fear Itself, issue one, written by Matt Fraction and with art by the awesome Stuart Immonen.
It's Marvel. It's (almost) summer. It's event time. I have managed to not buy the hype for this series thus far, and I've convinced myself that I don't need any of the cross-over titles (we'll see how long that lasts), but I will certainly give issue one a shot.

Here's the blurb from the House of Ideas:

The Story: DO YOU FEAR...TOMORROW? In this time of global anxiety, of economic turmoil and mass hysteria, Sin, the new Red Skull, has made an awesome discovery...a shameful secret that will rock the foundations of the Marvel Universe!

A revelation that will divide father and son, turn friend against friend, and herald the rise of Fear personified. HE IS RETURNING...and the world has nothing to fear but FEAR ITSELF. Matt Fraction and Stuart Immonen bring fans the biggest Marvel the biggest Marvel event since CIVIL WAR!

Sounds cool, and no one does these big events like Marvel. I don't really need to sell anyone on this, so I'll stop right here, and get back to work.

Before I go, though, two things. First, if you're at all interested in any of the three books from Image I mentioned today, be sure to call your shop this morning to reserve a copy. And second...

What are you Waiting for?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Commissioning Artists, Take Two

Just wanted to take today to follow up on my little commissioning artists how-to post from last week. As mentioned, I'm currently on commission lists for two artists.

Well, one of those commissions has come in! Or, at least, I've received an email with an attached image--the real thing is on its way right now. And, as promised, I'd like to show the art here on the old blog.
The piece is by the insanely talented Joëlle Jones, who has worked on critically acclaimed books like 12 Reasons Why I Love Her and You Have Killed Me, from Oni Press, in addition to an amazing stint on the (sadly, now ended) Vertigo book, Madame Xanadu.

The art features two of my favorite comics characters--Madame Xanadu and Death, from Neil Gaiman's Sandman--playing cards on the steps of a brownstone. Joëlle did an incredible job on the art, and I can't wait to frame it and put it up on the wall.

If you haven't read any of the books mentioned above, I suggest you check them out. The first two--12 Reasons and You Have Killed Me--are written by frequent collaborator Jamie S. Rich, and Joëlle's run on Madame Xanadu can be found in the third trade from that wonderful series.

A big thank you to both Jamie and Joëlle for making this commission happen!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Don't Go Breaking My Art

After about two months of travel, time spent with friends and family, unexpected disruptions, and generally being busy, I managed to finish up Part 5 of my video playthrough of Mega Man 6 for YouTube. The only problem? I couldn't watch the video.

Following the fiasco some weeks back where I ended up reinstalling Windows twice in one week, it should not have come as a surprise that my now tried-and-true method of processing videos in Virtualdub and transforming them into neatly compressed .avi files should suddenly break down. I had saved my configuration settings from before the reinstallations, but I hadn't reinstalled all the same video codecs needed to play and record videos. My audio came out perfectly, but the video dragged along at a quarter of the proper speed.

After a bit of examination, I discovered that I hadn't selected a compression method for my video. Whatever Virtualdub's default is, it would never do. Having set up this process almost two years ago and having barely fiddled with any of the settings since, I did not immediately recall that I used ffdshow instead of DivX for video compression. DivX was on the list, but ffdshow was not, and looking at the Properties of the videos I had successfully created in the past, all of them claimed to be produced with the help of DivX. So, I tried to configure the DivX options in Virtualdub, and after far too many failed attempts to produce a video of any quality that Winamp, Windows Media Player, or YouTube would play, it occurred to me why I had given up on DivX and used ffdshow all that time ago.

I downloaded ffdshow, did a quick configuration, and ended up with possibly the prettiest-looking video I've made yet, at least in terms of visual quality if not content.

Is there a lesson in all this? Probably. "Figure out a less convoluted way to record your videos" would be a fine choice, or, "Next time you back up your hard drive before you reinstall Windows, just dump the ENTIRE thing onto an external hard drive if you've got the space, so you can poke around for solutions when something inevitably breaks." At any rate, I've officially had my technological setback for this round of videos two or three times over, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that there will not be any more.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Exfanding How to: Commissioning an Artist

I probably should have named this, "Exfanding How to: Spelling 'Commissioning' Right in Less Than Six Tries." That was...embarrassing. But, eventually, I figured it out. We're good to go.

Right. So, on to the post, then.

As I've been on a bit of an original comics art bender these past few weeks, I thought it fitting to write about my experiences. At this point in the game, I've dealt with nearly all of the various comics art dealers/artist representatives out there, and there's not one I've done business with that I wouldn't whole-heartedly recommend.

Double negatives and poorly constructed sentences aside, however, lately I've been in the mood for something a bit different in my collecting habits.

You see, typically, I focus on nice panel pages, which are, yep, you guessed it--These are pages featuring multiple panels from a particular issue. Usually, I look for good examples of storytelling and/or "acting" on the part of the artist and the characters. Sometimes, I'll buy a page for the conversation that's happening.
Ideally, a nice panel page features some good character studies, a nice story beat, and maybe even some action. Nothing better sometimes than a multiple-panel fight scene.

Then there are splash pages, which feature one big, honkin' image. Ideally, you'd like this to feature a major character from the issue. I own a couple of nice examples, and I was fortunate enough to get them for very reasonable prices.
(I tend to buy art from up-and-comers whose prices are initially pretty low, and by the time they become established and everyone else takes note of their talent, well, I'm usually priced out pretty quickly.)

Very rarely, I'll reach a bit deeper into the pockets to acquire a cover, but doing so usually just is not a reality. That's another corner of the market that I'm priced out of.

But lately, I've felt like doing something different, and so I've started reaching out to artists for commissions, which are pretty much exactly what they sound like. I pick a character and a theme, and I ask the artist if he or she would like to draw said character and/or theme.
I've commissioned artists in the past, but each time I've done so, I've done so at shows or at in-store signings.
Recently, however, I've reached out online and gotten in touch with a couple of artists directly.

The approach for both ways--either in person or online--is pretty much the same, as similar rules apply in both scenarios. First of all, remember that these artists have day jobs. And they have day jobs with very pressing, very public, deadlines.
So don't be too disappointed if your favorite artist has to turn down your request outright. Also keep in mind that the turn-around time on your typical commission from a comics pro is--at the VERY MINIMUM--two months.

Sure, if you're lucky enough to get on an artist's commission list at a con, it's likely you'll be able to walk out of the convention center with a new piece of art. But if you're contacting an artist via his or her email, well. Be prepared to wait a bit.

There are a handful of pros out there that can churn requests out quicker than that two-month minimum, but for the most part you'll find that the vast majority of pros will take longer than that.

Again, they have day jobs. Plus, it's likely that any artist you get in contact with will already have a list of people already signed up, waiting on their own commissions.

Another thing to keep in mind is to always be polite and professional. I know, I know. This is not going to be an issue for Exfanding readers. But, hey, I figured I'd mention it. Sometimes it can be a little intimidating to correspond directly with someone you look up to, but if that's the case, just treat it like any other business transaction.

And, finally, let's talk pricing.

This can range tremendously depending on the artist, obviously. Still, you can pretty much expect to pay anywhere between $50 and $300, depending on artist and complexity of the commission. A black and white head shot or a bust will be on the low end, and a full figure, full color commission will be on the high end.

Yeah, I know. That's not very helpful, but like I said, it'll depend on the artist.

Currently, I'm on two artists' commission lists, and the experiences in both cases have been great. They responded to email quickly, and they worked with me to make the art happen. When they come in, I'll be sure to post them up here. In the meantime, if you have any experiences with artists, I'd love to hear them.

And, if you have any art you'd like to show off, please do so!

Enjoy your Sundays, everyone, and we'll be back, as always, tomorrow.