Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween 2011!

Hallowe'en in a Suburb
By HP Lovecraft

The steeples are white in the wild moonlight,
And the trees have a silver glare;
Past the chimneys high see the vampires fly,
And the harpies of upper air,
That flutter and laugh and stare.

For the village dead to the moon outspread
Never shone in the sunset's gleam,
But grew out of the deep that the dead years keep
Where the rivers of madness stream
Down the gulfs to a pit of dream.

A chill wind weaves through the rows of sheaves
In the meadows that shimmer pale,
And comes to twine where the headstones shine
And the ghouls of the churchyard wail
For harvests that fly and fail.

Not a breath of the strange grey gods of change
That tore from the past its own
Can quicken this hour, when a spectral power
Spreads sleep o'er the cosmic throne,
And looses the vast unknown.

So here again stretch the vale and plain
That moons long-forgotten saw,
And the dead leap gay in the pallid ray,
Sprung out of the tomb's black maw
To shake all the world with awe.

And all that the morn shall greet forlorn,
The ugliness and the pest
Of rows where thick rise the stones and brick,
Shall some day be with the rest,
And brood with the shades unblest.

Then wild in the dark let the lemurs bark,
And the leprous spires ascend;
For new and old alike in the fold
Of horror and death are penned,
For the hounds of Time to rend.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Now THIS is Halloween!

I tell ya. If I had the talent, the time, the patience, the talent, the vision, and/or the talent to do something like this? I still probably wouldn't do it because of how...ridiculously difficult it must have been to accomplish.

Take a look at this video of a Halloween lights display synched up to the theme song from The Nightmare Before Christmas. It's probably the coolest thing I've seen all Halloween season.

And be sure to check out the designer's YouTube channel for more incredible displays.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

That is not artisan.

Every once in a while I'll see articles on taste tests evaluating new fast food concoctions and comparing various brands of ketchup, and I'll stop to read through them. Though I don't write about it as often as I could, I'm a fan of food, and I'm often curious to hear someone's objective analysis (or highly opinionated ranting) about food.

I noticed a trend starting a few months ago where a surprising number of restaurant menus and grocery store shelves started toting items labeled as "artisan." The fact that I write for a blog is no indication that I necessarily know anything about words, but I was fairly certain that "artisan" was a poor descriptor for mass-produced, out-of-a-can whatsits. Even if it was the proper term, bandying it about at every opportunity was bound to destroy any sense of real significance the word ever had--much like what happened with the term "epic."

It turns out I'm not the only one to have observed the overuse and abuse of the word "artisan." If you shake your head or raise an eyebrow every time you come across an artisan meat rub, then this blog's for you: That is not artisan. Beware: If your sense of humor is anything like mine, there are some gut-busting laughs on the level of Axe Cop ahead of you (and there's some infrequent strong language, in case you have sensitive artisan eyes).

Friday, October 28, 2011

Horrible at Halloween...Again

I still don't have a pumpkin.

It was the one thing on my Halloween 2011 must-do list that I figured would be easiest. And yet here we are on October 28, and I still don't have a pumpkin. With my schedule, I usually have a hard time keeping up with personal Halloween traditions that I've developed through the years, but you'd think that making a quick stop at any one of the multitude of pumpkin-selling places on my way to work would be something I could have managed.

But no. Well, not yet, anyway. Maybe I'll pick one up tonight or tomorrow.

As mentioned right around this time last year, I'm developing a bit of a track record when it comes to being bad at Halloween. And I can't have that.

The toughest things on my Halloween must-do list to keep up with are the books/comics I'd like to read throughout October, like Ray Bradbury's The Halloween Tree and Something Wicked This Way Comes, and the excellent Halloween: Nightdance comic series put out by the now-defunct Devil's Due Press.

Finding time to read in my spare time is always a little tough, but it's been especially so lately. So sitting down and watching a two-hour film can prove to be even harder to do (especially during an incredible World Series this year).

Still, so far I've managed to sneak in a few holiday classics--The Lost Boys, Halloween 2 and 4, and the Disney adaptation of Something Wicked--so that's something, at least.

Halloween falls on a Monday this year, much to the chagrin of kids (little and big) around the country. But that also means that a late-night movie fest is out of the question on the holiday itself.

The plan right now is to carve out (get it?) a chunk of time on Sunday to watch my personal favorite Halloween movie, John Carpenter's original Halloween. If I plan it just right, it will directly precede this week's new episode of The Walking Dead.

Not exactly a mirror of perfect Halloweens past, but for this year at least, it'll do.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

For Today's Post... will get nothing and like it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 3, Issue 43

Welcome to a bit of an awkward Waiting for this week. Let me explain what I mean.

Maybe you've noticed that, lately, I haven't really recommended many Marvel titles. For good reason, I think. I'm just not enjoying much of their line right now, which is fine. Comics are cyclical, and from my experience I think it's pretty normal for there to be Marvel and DC swings with readers. Right now, I'm definitely on a DC swing.

A lot of this has to do with my complete ambivalence towards Marvel's big summer event, Fear Itself. I gave it a shot and didn't like it. I think I stopped liking it at issue two, but out of...I don't know, loyalty? Obsessive compulsive disorder?...I kept buying the book until issue four.

And then I read about halfway through that issue, closed the book, and pretty much stopped buying all things Marvel.

It just wasn't my cuppa, if you know what I mean.

And, unfortunately, the nature of mainstream comics makes it very difficult to enjoy anything from one publisher while they're in the middle of a line-wide event.

Fear Itself is certainly a line-wide event, complete with cross-overs, tie-ins, (useless) "point-one" issues, and now a 12-issue weekly postscript called Fear Itself: The Fearless. (Seriously? A 12-issue aftermath to an event that seemingly took all year to "finish"? Ugh. No, thanks.)

But this week there are a number of Marvel books launching that I have a genuine interest in. Pretty cool, right? Back on the Marvel bandwagon and all that? Well, no. Not really. See, last week Marvel laid off 12 people on their editorial and production staffs.

And this annoyed me greatly.

As someone working in publishing today--and as someone who has been through staff reductions, salary freezes, and layoffs--I take things like this personally. Obviously I have no affiliation with Marvel and I don't know any of the people who were laid off.

But I do know what it's like to be a victim of such nonsense and I definitely feel for those laid off.

And recent reports have shown that maybe Marvel/Disney hasn't treated their employees that well over the past couple of years. Lots of news has come out about how cost cutting and nickel and diming is the way they do business. Just read that article I linked to above, and try not to let your blood pressure go up too much.

But that's stuff that doesn't directly involve the whole behind the scenes publishing process. I know a bit about that scene--not at Marvel, but at other publishers.

Most (read: all) publishing companies today have done a few things to attempt to counter the declining book sales of the past few years. First, they cut staff. Second, they cut the amount of money they'll spend on projects. And third, they cut the turnaround time for said projects.

From experience, I can tell you that a lot of companies take a very corporate stance on how to handle editorial. "If 10 people can do the job, I bet if we cut down to eight people, the work will still get done." And when those eight people show that they can, in fact, do the job (albeit with many more hours and much more stress), certain people start to wonder if they might be able to get by with six people on staff.

Now, before I continue on my tirade here, please remember that Marvel is owned by Disney. They're not exactly some little start-up looking for funding. Please also remember that Marvel has continually ignored market demands for lower-priced comics.

This last point is the one I'd like to focus on because man, does that get me angry.

It's so typical in publishing that, when things go wrong--for a number of reasons beyond the control of editorial (like, say, price point!)--layoffs come to the folks who work the hardest and are in the weeds with these books, day in and day out.

While DC has adjusted the price on the majority of their line to $2.99, Marvel has kept the bulk of their comics at $3.99 and above. They've even had the nerve to state in interviews that $3.99 is the price that consumers want based on the fact that their books were selling quite well.

Makes sense, right?

Well, kind of. Look at it another way, though. If you want to read the Spider-Man book or the Avengers title, you have to pick up the ones being produced by Marvel and being sold for $3.99. There's just no way around that; no other option other than waiting on the trade and buying at a discounted rate on Amazon.

Lots of comics fans don't want to wait six to twelve months before getting their hands on a book--especially when it comes to event books. And, frankly, they shouldn't have to wait. if you're going to sell single issues, you should do everything possible to make sure the largest number of consumers buy them.

So when Marvel says things like, "the marketplace has shown that $3.99 is an acceptable price point," they're being a bit dodgy because they're the only game in town when it comes to Spider-Man and the Avengers.

When Marvel dominated the market share (which they've done for the better part of the past decade, up until a month or two ago), there really wasn't much arguing with them. People are buying the $3.99 books, so let's keep 'em coming.

Well, now DC has wrestled away a nice chunk of that leading market share thanks to their New 52. Oh. And the price on those books? Yeah, it's $2.99. So now how does Marvel justify their pricing? Do they make an attempt to lower the prices on books like Spider-Man and The Avengers?

Nope, they just fire staff.

So, here's the part that's a bit awkward for me. I don't want to advertise Marvel books this week, even though I'm buying a couple of them, excitedly, today. Now, I have no delusions of grandeur--I understand full well that I have ZERO effect on Marvel's sales.

I also understand hypocrisy, and it's a bit hypocritical for me to go out and purchase books from Marvel after my ranting today. It's also detrimental to the hardworking folks at Marvel for me to say things like, "don't buy their stuff." So I won't say that.

I just won't talk about what I think are some interesting books coming their way today.

-- -- -- --

I will say to go out and buy a book (or two) from a publisher or from a creative team that you've never heard of. As mentioned last week, Flesh and Blood, Book One, comes out today from Monsterverse Entertainment and I think it's a book to watch. There's also Li'l Depressed Boy, issue seven, from Image. And I've talked about how great that book is every time it ships to stores.

So go out and buy comics. Buy whatever you like, or whatever you think you might like. Try something new. Stick with something old. Grab a horror book for this week leading up to Halloween. Buy a kid's book and give it to a niece or nephew. Just go buy some comics.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

2,500 Subscribers

I started my personal YouTube channel at the end of February 2009, with the intent to give a dedicated home to the Mega Man videos that first appeared on GCDotNet, the official YouTube channel of Once you've waded through all the hyperlinks, join me in the next paragraph.

As I've discussed before (and I'll spare you the hyperlinks to the specific articles), I've become a minor Internet celebrity. I have my own viewer-created Facebook page and fan forum (oops--hyperlinks), and a few of my viewers have referenced me or even borrowed my own footage/sound clips for their own Let's Play/tribute/shout-out videos. I'm flattered, honored, and really quite surprised.

This past week, I reached 2,500 subscribers. On average, that's something like 2-3 new subscribers per day since I started releasing these videos. Considering I went from uploading a new video every 1-3 weeks to uploading a video every 1-3 months, 2,500 subscribers is impressive to me. Of the 48 videos I've uploaded (a throwaway April Fools' video notwithstanding), only 4 of them came out this year...and one of them was a public service announcement telling everybody to chill out. (Okay, fine, it's a hyperlink.)

So, a total of 3 real videos in the past 10 months. I've had one or two people tell me that they had forgotten I existed when one of my new videos appeared on their subscriptions list. Still, I'm receiving notifications of new subscribers every day. Once again: flattered, honored, and really quite surprised.

I'm not in it for the numbers, but it's nice to have a gauge of my popularity, or lack thereof. That's why I value the view counts and video ratings as well--I get plenty of feedback through channel and video comments, but the numbers offer a broader view of where I stand in relation to anyone or anything else on the Internet.

As long as it's fun, and as long as there's evidence that people are watching and enjoying my videos, I'm likely to keep making them. It just might take an awfully long time, and I'm bound to surprise at least a few more people in the coming months as I suddenly remind them I exist.

So, here's to 2,500 subscribers! And hey, if you're one of them, feel free to stick around here and/or on GameCola until (and after) the next video goes up. You wouldn't believe how much easier it is to produce pages and pages of text than 10 minutes of video commentary.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Also, There Were Zombies

As has become an October tradition, last night was spent watching the latest episode of AMC's excellent adaptation of Rober Kirkman's wildly popular comic series, The Walking Dead. A new fall staple on Sunday nights, the TV version of Kirkman's post-zombie apocalypse epic is a must-watch for fans of the comic or for fans of zombie films in general.

As I've always said when talking about the series, The Walking Dead is the story of the people--the survivors of the zombie plague--and their day to day struggles in a landscape that has changed into something foreign and horrific.

In that world, there just happen to be hordes of zombies roaming the country, looking for flesh to devour.

But the problems and social interactions that the characters face are, essentially, everyday human situations. They're not busy trying to construct some unstoppable, impossibly fortified school bus/zombie rammer as we've seen in so many zombie movies of the past.

They're busy dealing with things like love triangles and finding food and members of their group getting older and getting sick and making sure that the kids are spending time reading when they can.

The folks on the TV writing staff have done an amazing job translating this to the show. Yes, AMC's whole marketing campaign for the show is centered around the zombies. Duh. People like zombies, and it's Halloween Season.

But the show itself is so much more than the typical, "run from zombies, kill a few, hide and run some more, kill a bunch, find a good place to hole up until the sequel" zombie film that we've seen over and over.

The Walking Dead somehow manages to put viewers--me, at least--in the shoes of these people, more than any zombie film I've seen and probably better than any general horror movie save The Exorcist.

Take the season two premiere, which aired a couple of weeks ago. The opening--which I won't give away--literally had me on the edge of my seat, wondering not only what might happen to the people on screen (people, I have to add, that I've grown to care about as the show has progressed), but also what I would do in that seemingly possible situation.

That, I think, is the mark of the very finest horror.

So few horror movies do this. Even some of the best have elements and plot points so far out there that the suspension of disbelief can only take you so far. With Walking Dead, though, because the zombies are essentially reduced to background noise, this never happens.

I should also add that the term "zombie" is never used. They're referred to as "walkers" most of the time--a nice touch that furthers the real world feel of the show.

John Carpenter's Halloween worked in a very similar way. In that seminal horror film, the director put the boogeyman in your neighborhood, in your house. And it was incredibly effective; sure there were moments that made you jump, but the feel of the film was also creepy and unsettling because the way in which the killer goes about his business--with a simple kitchen knife--is real and something everyone can relate to in terms of fearing.

We see stabbings on the news every single night but somehow Carpenter manages to make Michael Myers more real than what we see on TV. An impressive trick, that.

Walking Dead works in much the same way; the crew assembled by AMC gets the source material. They understand that the shock value horror is not what people are going to stick around for--some may come for that, okay, but the long-term viewer will need more.

And just going by the numbers for the season two premiers--over 7 million people tuned in--this show not only has the all-important, up-to-the-second buzz, but it also has legs.

For me, it's something to look forward to on Sunday nights though I spend much of the hour cringing, just waiting for something bad to happen on screen.

With or without the zombies.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Coming Off a Konami Kick

If you've been following the blog for the past month or two, you know I've been writing excessively about Konami games. Well, yesterday marked the finale of our two weeks of Comic-Con buzz, so it's only fitting that I take today to wrap up my two months of playing almost nothing but Castlevania and Gradius.

If you're just jumping on board and have no idea what either of these games is, here's a quick overview: In Castlevania, you fly around in a spaceship, shooting up hordes of demons and undead on a quest to blow up Dracula. In Gradius, you run around a castle, knocking spaceships out of the sky with your whip.

Or something like that.

I'd previously had some exposure to these games--I grew up with the original Gradius for the NES, I'd played through all of Castlevania (also NES) and I'd had a fair amount of exposure to Castlevania II (NES) and Super Castlevania IV (SNES)--but I was completely out of touch with the last two decades of sequels and spinoffs.

I already owned a few Castlevania games that I was curious about but had never gotten around to trying, and I vaguely remembered playing through Nemesis, a Gradius mashup along the same lines as the first few Mega Man Game Boy games.

Once I started on Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance and found inspiration to get back into Gradius, it looked like nothing could stop the momentum of my Konami kick.

I was excited to get caught up on 20 years of popular gaming history; many more games were at my fingertips thanks to an gift certificate and the Wii Virtual Console; and most importantly, these games were just plain fun. Especially after slogging through a series of secret-filled RPGs requiring 40-80 hours of commitment, it was like a vacation to sit down with a game that'd take either 2-3 weeks or just a single evening to complete.

In the last two months, I've made excellent progress through my backlog by finishing off two new Castlevania games and six (!) different Gradius sequels and spinoffs. Let me tell you a little bit about each one:

Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance (GBA)
I appreciated the potential of the original Castlevania with its challenging gameplay and fine assortment of weapons, but the sluggish hero and the extreme penalty for failure (losing all your powerups) ruined the fun for me. HoD won me over by sanding off the rough edges of its predecessor's gameplay while still retaining the distinctive game mechanics. I realize there were several games before HoD that did this as well--Super Castlevania IV, for instance--but putting these game mechanics in a more Metroid-esque context of exploration made for a refreshing experience with a learning curve I could handle.

With its well-crafted atmosphere, creative enemies, and wide array of weapons and equipment, HoD was quickly shaping up to be, indisputably, my favorite Castlevania game (which is an odd statement in and of itself, considering how little I enjoy demons and the undead in my books and movies). Unfortunately, some serious repetition and backtracking come into play later in the game--even more so if you're trying to collect 100% of the items--which reminded me a bit too much of the RPGs I'd been playing. I ultimately decided to pass up 100% completion in favor of moving on to something more fun, but I enjoyed (the majority of) the time I spent on HoD.

Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (GBA)
Just as Mega Man 5 and 6 attempt to refine and build on the formula established in Mega Man 4, so does Aria of Sorrow attempt to streamline and develop the gameplay and ideas of Harmony of Dissonance. The RPG elements and menu system have been cleaned up considerably, and backtracking through the castle is seldom a chore thanks to a convenient teleportation system.

There's more of a plot this time around, though I've got mixed feelings about it. It's nice to have a bit more depth to the characters and their motives, but a few lines here and there seem like they don't entirely capture the gist of the original Japanese dialogue, and there's just a smidge too much standing around and talking for my taste. Still, the huge variety of weapons and special attacks you can steal from enemies makes this Mega Man and Muramasa fan quite happy.

Gradius II: Gofer no Yabō (TurboGrafx-16)
Now here's a sequel that improves on its predecessor in every possible way (except for the music, which is equally as catchy). The graphics are more detailed; your ship's arsenal is more customizable; the scenery, challenges, bosses, and enemies types are more numerous and varied; and the difficulty can now be adjusted for veterans and newcomers alike. It's a perfect example of what a sequel should be.

However, it's not just a matter of more--the changes and additions are often quite clever, and I found myself frequently laughing out loud at the surprises and sneaky tricks the game pulled that were unheard-of in the NES Gradius. Between bosses flying in from unexpected directions, an insane boss gauntlet, and a wickedly fast level that finally makes it worthwhile to overdose on Speed Up upgrades, Gradius II expands the boundaries of what to expect from the series while still staying very true to its roots.

Gradius III (SNES)
I'd been wanting to play this one since I first read about it in Nintendo Power magazine all those years ago, and I am disappointed to report that it did not live up to my expectations--and Gradius II is partially to blame. Gradius II set the bar for a sequel quite high, and Gradius III let me down by relying too heavily on rehashed challenges from previous games. It's one thing to bring back the Moai again and again but add laser beam eyes or rotating walls of stone heads; it's another thing to spend an entire level bursting bubbles that behave suspiciously like the crystal asteroids you were breaking up throughout an entire level in the last game.

To its credit, Gradius III offers a tremendous amount of customizability for your ship's armaments, but that's really the only part of the game I truly love. I've come to expect a tough challenge from Gradius games, but there's something about the enemy placement or the level designs that makes even the lower difficulty settings a little more tedious and frustrating than usual. The music also didn't leave much of an impression on me--with the exception of one or two songs, the soundtrack isn't all that memorable for some reason (perhaps because the difficulty overshadows the atmosphere, as was the case with Mega Man 10). Bummer.

Life Force (NES)
Technically an adaptation of the Gradius spinoff Salamander, Life Force does very little to encourage me to play any other spinoffs. While the mechanics and powerups are all comfortably familiar, there are three critical differences: first, the levels alternate between sidescrolling shooter and top-down shooter; second, there's a considerably larger focus on dodging obstacles than on shooting enemies; third, instead of restarting at a checkpoint when you die, you continue immediately where you left off. I don't mind the first difference; it gives the game character and opens up new level possibilities. It's the second and third difference that bother me.

At first, I liked the thought of being able to seamlessly press on through a stage after dying, instead of going back and redoing a section after losing all of your powerups. However, this frequently leads to respawning in places where your newly de-powered ship is completely incapable of defending itself properly, leading to another quick death. The game quickly becomes a matter of how many ships you can slam against a wall until you get back to an area with some powerups. But even then, the abundance of indestructible obstacles frequently makes the risk of going after powerups to strengthen your vessel a pointless one--all the firepower in the galaxy won't make a difference if you can't weave through those incoming asteroids.

Nemesis (Game Boy)
I first played this one years ago, but I had difficulty remembering anything about it. So, into the lineup it went. I'm willing to cut it some slack because it's a Game Boy interpretation of the Gradius games that came before it and not a true sequel, but it's about on the same level as Gradius III as far as reused challenges go. It's still fun, though by no means novel.

There are plenty of game options (including increasing your starting total to as many as 99 lives!), but the smaller playing field of the Game Boy screen makes for a few sections that require extreme precision and allow for little or no improvisation. This is the only game where I ever willingly utilize the Double shot option throughout a stage, as there's hardly any room to maneuver into a position where you can shoot anything above you before colliding with it.

Gradius: The Interstellar Assault (Game Boy)
I was overwhelmingly impressed by the quality of this game. The music is some of the best I've ever heard come out of a Game Boy speaker, the graphics are clearer and the gameplay smoother than in Nemesis (though still a bit choppy by console standards), and the stages feature the same fast-paced Gradius action I know and love...without falling back on any of the established conventions.

There's no boss gauntlet. No mountainy volcano stage. No Moai. The final boss fights back. While Gradius II proves that you can bring back old ideas without being repetitive, The Interstellar Assault proves that you don't have to bring back old ideas at all to have a solid Gradius game. The intro stage alone is worth the price of admission--outrunning an enormous mothership bearing down on you at high speed. Add in some cutscenes that give neat transitions from one stage to the next, and you've got one of the best (and most unexpected) games in the series, as far as I'm concerned.

Gradius ReBirth (WiiWare)
Speaking of unexpected...I had no idea they'd made a brand-new Gradius game for a system I owned. The title is highly suggestive of the content--it's a revival of all the familiar conventions of the series, blended together in such a way that it feels more like a tribute than a rehash.

This is the first time I've seen the plot discussed outside of the instruction manual; the graphics are about as pretty as they come; there's finally a snow level (which makes me happy); and some of my favorite bosses in the series appear in this game. While it may not be the most innovative or substantial entry in the series, it's still good fun, and I find it to be the most accessible and replayable one in the bunch.


I've officially run out of Gradius games for systems I own, and I've had my fill of whipping succubi for a while, so I can safely declare that my Konami kick has ended. The past two months have been the most fun I've had gaming in ages, and beyond that, I've determined that (a) I'm better at space shooters than I give myself credit for, and (b) I would do well to keep a steady supply of shorter games in my playing queue.

I think I might dive into one of the games I picked up at Comic-Con next, or maybe something like Sparkster or Jolly Rover that I received as a gift and haven't tried out yet, or...

...wait a minute...

I forgot a GBA game.

...I could play Gradius Galaxies.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

New York Comic-Con / Anime Festival 2011 Recap: Part Two

Hey! You made it back for part two! Good for you! If you have no idea what I'm talking about, please refer to yesterday's post where we began this (epic, sprawling, and only a little whiny) recap of New York Comic-Con 2011.

Yesterday we covered Big Ideas, like how the layout of the convention was a bit offputting and how it really isn't a comic book convention anymore. Today we talk about the Good Stuff, like who we saw, what we bought, and what our favorite aspects of this absolutely massive show were.

Finally, without further preamble, here's part two. We dive right into the good stuff, so enjoy! And leave comments--we know some of you guys were there!


Alex: So, since we're talking about positive things. For me, the biggest positive? Hands-down it was Artist Alley (the comics version, I mean). The sheer number of quality creators at this show was staggering and impressive.

I've never been, but I can only surmise that NYCC's Artist Alley is comparable only to San Diego in terms of numbers and quality. You had the top artists in all of comics, all literally lined up in (several) rows.

While commission lists filled up at a ridiculous pace--some artists had over 60 names on their lists before Friday morning!--there were plenty of opportunities to say hello to people, get autographs, and to purchase prints, original art, or pre-prepared artwork.

This year's Artist Alley was a whole lot easier to navigate than was last year's, and walking around never felt too crowded. Which is a good thing when you're babbling on to Stéphane Roux about how big a fan of his you are.

I was (for once) smart enough to get on pre-convention commission lists and I made out like a bandit. Take, for example, this Victorian Huntress commission by artist Mike Dooney.

He had a long, long list of pre-show commissions which he opened up over a month before the first day of the con. On the other side of that particular coin, Marvel artist Ryan Stegman opened his commission list the weekend before the show started. And, I was told, I managed to be the first one on that list!

As I do at all cons, I added to my Death gallery (yes, yes, I know, very morbid), starting with this moody image by Mr. Stegman:

I was also fortunate in that an exhibitor's badge and a buddy who got in Thursday night allowed for me to get on commission lists at the show. So I managed to get on Supergirl artist Mahmud Asrar's list--one that grew exponentially throughout the weekend. I think I was number five on that one.

I was pretty much blown away with what he came up with, especially considering the amount of work he had to tackle over the span of four days. I know a lot of people give artists grief--"What do you mean you won't get to my sketch today?!?!"--but let me tell you something:

They work their butts off at these cons.

And a whole lot of them do so in an attempt just to cover their traveling expenses. I think people tend to forget that their art is their life, and even though it's someone the vast majority of us wishes we could do for a's still work.

And it's hard work.

My last addition to my Death Miscellany was by Matthew Clark, the fantastic DC artist on books like Doom Patrol and Superman/Batman. I've been a fan of his work for a while and I was thrilled to be able to get a sketch. And, really, "sketch" doesn't do this piece justice.

What can I say? I love Neil Gaiman's Sandman, and as endearing as Morpheus might be, I think it's safe to say that Death is everyone's favorite character from that seminal work.

But enough about Death. Let's move on to The Batman. Now, as with all of these pieces, I really do need to actually scan them and not just use my phone to snap quick photos of them.

But it's late, I'm tired, and at some point Nathaniel needs to add his bit to this here post. So, rounding things out, here's The Dark Knight in all his creepy, moody glory.

This one is by Stuart Sayger, who may be the nicest person in all of comics. And after this weekend I can safely say that there are a lot of nice people in comics.

I spent most of the con in Artist Alley, obviously, and with that lineup, why would I go anywhere else? I love original art, but there's something really special about commissioning a favorite artist to do a drawing just for you.

Nathaniel: Hey, I got some fancy doodles, too. I just can't talk about them until after Christmas. Wouldn't want to ruin the surprise.

[Checks calendar. Definitely after Christmas now. Venture Bros. fans might enjoy these sketches I commissioned for the two friends who introduced me to the show. The first is by storyboard artist Jon Roscetti; the second is by background artist Denny Fincke, whom I had the pleasure of chatting with for a bit. From both, I had asked for a character they haven't been asked to draw much of. Incredibly, without prompting, they both came up with Henchman 21.]

Actually, I can talk about my fiancée's sketchbook. After having spent two-and-a-half days marching around Comic-Con in costume, she wanted nothing more than to take a break on Sunday afternoon and sit in line anywhere just to get off her feet for a while...and she left me her sketchbook to get a few doodles from the attending artists.

Normally, I just gawk at art and then move on to the t-shirts and action figures that I understand. Buying prints I can do, but talking to...people? Convincing them to scribble something artistic in a little notebook?

Surprisingly fun.

Systematically working my way up one aisle and down the next, I passed by every artist in the comics alley, and later, the anime alley. Most of the doodles I got were from people I'd never heard of, which became overwhelmingly obvious when I started inadvertently soliciting colorists and artists' assistants for professional sketches. One person drew a shoe. Another drew a turret from Portal.

This is where my convention experience began to pick up: I was conventioning with a purpose again. "Show up and have fun" only works when you have no idea what you're getting into; this time around, I knew exactly who and what I wasn't willing to wait in line for 2+ hours to see, and I'd already done about all the shopping I could afford to do. Collecting pictures for my gal gave me a direction, and it got me to thinking about some doodle projects of my own...

I met an an artist whose work I'd seen and whose name I forget, complimenting him on the cool and unusual Blackest Night cover that was featured in an old Waiting for Wednesday post, which always catches my attention when the image shows up among the posts spotlighted in the LinkWithin widget at the bottom of each post we write.

I met up with my brother-in-law a few times, who was also collecting scribbles. While he was getting his first sketch of the day (I'm awful at names, so I don't recall who this person was, either), I stood nearby and perused the merchandise on the artist's table. I walked away with $3 worth of Chris Wnuk: Secret Jew comics (click to make the funny bigger).

One of the highlights of the afternoon was meeting C. Martin Croker. Now, I wouldn't have immediately recognized the name, either, but a helpful handmade sign behind him covered all the basics: this was the animation director for Space Ghost Coast to Coast, who also voiced Zorak and Moltar.

Fantastic! This is why I go to conventions.

We had a nice little chat about Space Ghost, and I mentioned how my gal and I enjoy it the most when we're deliriously tired--the show suddenly becomes obscenely hysterical. He followed up with a story about how he and the people with him at the time, when the nonstop news coverage became too overwhelmingly depressing to bear, sat down to Space Ghost in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. Wow.

After our conversation, I asked if he'd mind doing a quick sketch for my fiancée (I had to bribe him, as per the pricing guide on his sign), and he drew a partial Zorak, providing running commentary in his authentic Zorak voice the whole time. Once again, fantastic.

I actually covered a tremendous amount of ground at the convention--between Saturday and Sunday, I combed the entire Artist Alley for comics, the entire Artist Alley for anime, every corner of the Dealers' Room, the Autograph Room (once just about everybody had packed up and left) and most importantly, the food court. A few highlights of my wanderings:

- Star Trek action figures I'd never seen before. And I was a pretty avid collector when the Playmates line of TNG figures was out, tapering off (but still paying attention) shortly after the DS9 figures showed up. Remember Lt. Carey on VOY? No? Well, Playmates didn't forget.

- A t-shirt with the following wonderful (horrible) logo on it:

- The DeLorean from Back to the Future, the Michael Keatmobile, and the Adam Westmobile. Yes, the DeLorean is that blurry in real life.

- Lots of Mega Man costumes. Hey, they had a panel on Mega Man comics--these are totally valid costumes for this convention.

Lastly--and there are plenty of other tales and mini-tales to tell, but I'll close with this one--my brother-in-law, my wife-to-be, and I were headed out on Saturday evening as the Artist Alley was closing down when we ran into a table we were not expecting to see. Not, like, turned a corner too fast and toppled over a table; what I mean is that we were surprised to find a table showcasing my fiancée's all-time favorite episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation: "The Inner Light."

I prod my gal, gesturing toward the table, and she rushes over with mouth agape at the stack of scripts and photos of "The Inner Light" (along with scripts of "Starship Mine" and pictures from the DS9 episode "Armageddon Game")...and for-sale replicas of Picard's iconic flute from the episode--the one that sold for $40,000 at auction. This is an episode that is incredibly dear to the Star Trek fan community.

Meanwhile, my brother-in-law was saying, "Wait, what's 'The Inner Light'?"

While my fiancée recoiled in shock, I responded plainly and informatively, "It's one of the most popular episodes of Star Trek." Morgan Gendel, The bespectacled, respectably graying gentleman behind the table responded with what sounded like genuine, humble gratitude: "Thank you."

I turned to him, paused for a second, and asked, "You wrote the episode?" Indeed he had. At last, this table started to make sense. We didn't have much time to chat, as the convention volunteers were already shooing everyone off the floor, but I made a mental note to stop by the next day. I also reminded my fiancée to bring her copy of "The Inner Light"--just that individual episode on VHS--for a signature. We split up the next day and she went to see Morgan separately, but he apparently expressed surprise that such a VHS existed in the first place. Now it's a collector's item, for sure.

My brother-in-law and I stopped by first thing in the morning on Sunday to say hello, and a conversation ensued about pitching the script for "The Inner Light" multiple times before it was accepted, differences in opinion on the Captain America film (which I still haven't seen--gotta catch up!), and how obnoxious it is for Morgan's family to watch movies with him, a scriptwriter with a penchant for picking everything apart. We agreed that modern movies tend to have too big a focus on the special effects and not enough care put into the scripts...which led me to the Big Question.

"I assume you've seen the newest Star Trek movie?"

As you may recall, I was not the biggest fan of the newest Star Trek movie, yet anything I've ever heard from the casts and crews of the various Star Treks about the 2009 film has been nothing but positive. It revitalized the franchise, it made the series relevant again, it would've done creator Gene Roddenberry proud, etc.

"It had a lousy script." I don't believe those were Morgan's exact words, but the sentiment was the same. Begin spoilers.

Writers Orci and Kurtzman were determined to shoehorn in Leonard Nimoy as Spock, to reassure people that he was, is, and forever will be Spock (no matter who else after him wears those ears), and as a result, they couldn't just tell a good story--they had to work their story around Spock Prime. The new Spock, played by Zachary Quinto, could certainly pull of the role skillfully...but his romantic relationship and emotional outbursts drew his character in a different direction than the classic Spock he could have played so well.

I also brought up the lack of carefully crafted situations that organically created emotional responses from the audience. I used the example of Spock's mother, Amanda--oh she's falling, she's falling, we should probably grab her, she's falling, she's falling, oh she's dead. Now we've manipulated the audience's emotions and needlessly scarred one of the main characters for life. Paraphrasing Morgan: "Right. If you want to get an emotional response, just push a character off a cliff."

End spoilers.

After two years of being in the minority amongst fans and Trek actors alike, it was refreshing to find another writer (in addition to the author of Star Trek by the Minute) with an eye on the script who ended up with some of the same misgivings I did. Perhaps I'm more of a critical moviegoer and less of a curmudgeonly traditionalist fan than I once thought.

But hey, you probably didn't come here to read so much about Star Trek. Let's conclude with Chewbacca playing Pac-Man, some actual props and costumes used in the movie Iron Man 2 (which we jointly reviewed last year), more convention costumes (sorry to say, I missed my fleeting chance to snap a picture of Axe Cop), The Goon on wheels, and the most elaborate free sketch I could have hoped for (note the coffee cup).

Friday, October 21, 2011

New York Comic-Con / Anime Festival 2011 Recap: Part One

As we've been talking about for over a week, the Exfanding Crew once again made the Great Geek Pilgrimage to New York City for Comic-Con, the pop culture convention that tries reaaaallly hard to convince you it's actually a comics convention. As has become an Exfanding tradition, Alex and I have collaborated on a joint recap of the festivities.

Fair warning: This first part is where we wax philosophical about the convention itself. If that's not your cup of...wax...we invite you to join us tomorrow for Part Two instead. There will be stories. There will be pictures. There will be...time to talk about that at the end of the post.


Nathaniel: Writing about this year's convention is like trying to explain the plot of a sandbox game such as SimCity. Though you can describe a general sequence of events--dealing with rowdy mobs in the street, then getting yourself a statue, then burrowing yourself into horrible debt--the real story comes from looking at the finished product and examining how your choices and circumstances influenced the final result.

So, let's skip to the end: I walked (or, rather, limped) away from Comic-Con with an empty wallet, a small pile of video games, a handful of books, and a fifth of the things I had wanted to bring back for other people. I had gotten into one anime screening, met a number of people who make a living off of their creativity, and snapped a few pictures of neat costumes and famous cars. I had spent some quality time with friends and family, and I did genuinely enjoy myself, but the sense of wonder and surprise that permeated my experience last year had all but evaporated, condensing into a cloud of disappointment and cynicism that trailed me at a respectable distance until I finally figured out what I and the convention planners had been doing wrong since PAX East.

Alex: Well, that's all, folks! Thanks for reading!

Just kidding. Despite Nathaniel's "cloud of disappointment and cynicism" (which he should really think about getting checked out by a doctor), there's plenty to talk about when it comes to this year's NYCC.

First off, Nathaniel's right that this year's show just had a different feel than last year's. Maybe it was because NYCC 2010 was Nathaniel's first comics convention and my first NYCC since the inagural one several years before.

Maybe it was because everything seemed so much more expensive at NYCC 2011, from parking to artists' commissions to comics, trades, and toys at dealers' booths. Maybe it was the fact that there seemed to be more people, somehow, than last year.

Maybe it's just that we're both a year older and a year wiser.

Clearly it's not that last one. So, just what was it that made this show so...strange? Because that's what it was to me, at least--strange. And that's how I've described it to people who couldn't make the trip in for the con. And, not surprisingly, that's how people I've spoken to after the show described their feelings about the con.

NYCC 2011 felt at times like a small comics show--especially early on Friday at Artists' Alley--and then at other times there were so many people that moving around was almost impossible. Getting in was a lot easier than last year--I came a little after the show opened and was able to walk right through the doors--exhibitor's badge or not.

Once inside, though, the show just...I don't know. it felt different, is all.

The pricing certainly had something to do with this feeling. Because the convention cost so much (and I know this for a fact) for a retailer, artist, or small press publisher to set up at, prices needed to be altered accordingly.

There were items on sale for multiples of actual cost, and it seemed like all "name" artists started their show commissions at $100 to cover flights, hotels, and NYC living for a couple of days.

But I don't think the cost was the biggest reason why this con felt different from last year's show.

I think this year it became abundantly clear that the organizers--and the big exhibitors like Marvel and DC--wanted NYCC to become, essentially, San Diego. And not "San Diego Light," as it's been referred to in the past.

That's the big take-away for me from NYCC 2011.

This show has grown tremendously and from all accounts it seems like it will continue to grow. It wants to be everything San Diego is, but it's tough to do all that in a space as confining as the Javits Center.

And before you go all nutty on me--I realize that the Javits is a big convention center. But its area is not great (it's right off the Westside Highway) and it has limited access to restaurants and places outside of the con to hang out.

Sure, I know enough to head over to 7th Ave for some good places to eat, but for the most part people tended to congregate inside and directly outside the show. Which made for a lot of people standing around, let me tell you.

More than that, though, the Javits is not laid out for one big convention. Rather, it's set up for several smaller shows. And that makes traversing the corners and hallways of a massive con like NYCC rather difficult as many more people than should the spaces allow try to cram through hallways from one exhibit floor to another.

Nathaniel: Compounding the issue is that the Javits Center wasn't just hosting Comic-Con; the New York Anime Festival was there, a part of Comic-Con. But not as a part of Comic-Con. Let me get this out of my system, and then we'll move on to the happy stuff.

First, let's look at the floor plan for this convention (click to enlarge):

There were two Artist Alleys in completely separate locations--one for comics and one for anime--yet all the panels and screenings for both conventions were in the same area downstairs, and all the anime and manga vendors were strewn about the Dealers' Room (or the "Show Floor") alongside all the other vendors. It's no wonder the halls were so crowded--the Anime Festival alone was so disjointed that people who came exclusively for that convention had no choice but to push through 3/4 of the convention center any time they wanted to go from one place to the other.

The convention organizers made an obvious attempt to change the location and layout of certain areas that suffered from excessively heavy traffic last year, but I'm not sure that traffic flow improved at all...and the lines just got worse.

I remember how annoyed I was at PAX East for having to wait in line at least 30 minutes to get into any panels or presentations. Aside from a screening of Fate/zero, the prequel to an anime series I saw in college and liked well enough, I missed everything I had any interest in attending. Unless you were in line two hours in advance, there was no guarantee you'd get in--and even that wasn't enough time for some panels.

The panel on the upcoming Avengers film was, unsurprisingly, the entire reason some people came to the convention. Never-before-seen footage and special guests such as the dude who played Captain America? What comics fan wouldn't want to go? Certainly not my brother-in-law, who arrived at the queue for the panel some three hours before it was scheduled to begin...only to find that the line had reached maximum capacity some 4 hours before he got there.

I've heard of people waiting in line overnight to see the latest Star Wars movie, so perhaps this shouldn't surprise me. Seven hours, though? Possibly as many as 12 hours or more for the people who got there first? That's not right. If rabid fanboyism or convention overcrowding were entirely to blame, I could more easily shrug it off, but look at just a few of the other panels and events competing with The Avengers:

- A SyFy Channel original movie about zombies
- A panel concerning an anime I've never heard of called Fairy Tail
- A talk with the developers of the Dragon Age video game series
- A conference on social realism in Spanish comics
- A pizza party

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. At least the Dragon Age panel had the sense to tout actress Felicia Day as a reason to attend, but still, I saw no place any mainstream comics fan would rather be. As was the case with Wil Wheaton's keynote speech at PAX East, there was no overflow room with a video screen set up so that latecomers could at least watch a live broadcast of this huge panel they couldn't get into.

It doesn't annoy me that there were crowds and lines. It annoys me that they so easily could have been thinned out. Without the use of flamethrowers.

Alex: But, surely, there was something positive about the show, right? Well, sure. As long as you didn't mind enormous crowds--rumor has it there were 85,000 people Saturday alone--and you saved up some serious cash to get a fraction of the cool things that were available for sale.

And, also, for lunch.

I'm exaggerating (a little), and I really do want to focus on the positive aspects of NYCC 2011. But let's just finish this bit off, shall we? I think, when it comes down to it, New York Comic-Con has become something else entirely.

It's stopped being a comics convention (if it ever really was one in the first place) and it's become a pop culture event. Like San Diego or the Super Bowl, NYCC is mainstream news and it attracts true celebrity to its geeky, geeky halls.

And I'm not just talking Lou Ferrigno and Elvira. I'm talking major Holywood players--like Robert Downey, Jr. and Scarlett Johansson. And I'm not picking on Lou and Elvira--they're conventions mainstays and have a definite place in comic con history.

But when you start talking about people like the entire casts of both The Walking Dead and The Avengers in the same room in back-to-back panels? That's just...that's just an entirely different level, man.

With all that to distract people from the real star of the show--you know, the comics--you'd think that retailers took a hit. It's interesting, though. I've read some accounts online that say retailers did exceedingly well this year.
Which is great, and now that I think about it, that makes sense. Retailer booths were pretty much jammed throughout the show--sometimes to the point where even if you wanted to check out someone's wares you couldn't because of the row of people standing in front of them.

The wares, I mean.



That's a reasonable place to break, right? We'll pick up again tomorrow with Part Two, and we promise we'll jump straight into the action. There will be stories. There will be pictures. There will be...time to talk about that all tomorrow.

Oh. And also. Floating car:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

We've been teasing it all week, and now we are but one day away from Nathaniel and Alex's Epic NYCC 2011 Recap©. We'll kick things off tomorrow with a (lengthy and somewhat rambling) part one, and then wrap it up over the weekend.

But since that's taken us a bit of time to compile, today I have something much shorter but (I think, anyway) just as interesting.

Yesterday, the New York Times did a piece on the battle between Barnes & Noble and DC Comics. I talked about the issue about a week ago, but the gist of it is this.

DC has gone exclusive with 100 of their top-selling graphic novels (including The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, and the entire Sandman library), giving the digital rights to Amazon and their new Kindle Fire.

This angered Barnes & Noble, as they also have a digital reader. And while the nook probably won't be able to compete with the Fire in the long term (or even the short term, if you ask me), B&N was justifiably annoyed with DC's move.

You see, DC had been in negotiations with B&N about getting their books on the nook. Those talks had started and stopped a few times and DC wisely jumped on a much bigger, better horse with the Fire.

The problem?

Barnes & Noble responded by yanking all 100 of the DC/Fire exclusives from their brick and mortar stores, thus delivering a major blow to DC's ability to sell outside of comics shops.

What makes this move so significant--other than the fact that you won't be able to buy a huge chunk of Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, and Alan Moore's work at bookstores--is the fact that exclusivity between publishers and distributors (and, really, folks, they're both retailers as well) has become the hot button issue in publishing.

So much so that, as I mentioned, the New York Times weighed in on the matter.

Sure, they might be a whole week behind Exfanding in terms of picking up on the story, but we won't hold that against them. So go ahead--have a read. It's fascinating stuff.

Back tomorrow with the Recap to End All Recaps.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 3, Issue 42

Okay, so it's official. I officially have the Official Con Plague. Officially. Just to be clear, I'm talking about the New York Comic Con Exclusive Con Plague here. Not very limited in production, and not at all sought after by collectors.

It took a couple of days to foment--the Plague, I mean--but today I woke up with what can only be described as zombie-like symptoms.

Putting two and two together, I came to the conclusion that, after being exposed to 85,000 people with various airborne bacteria in a hot, open space, I am the latest victim of the dreaded Con Plague that has befallen so many convention-goers over the years.

Nay, decades.

At last year's NYCC, for example, Nathaniel broke all known contraction records as he developed symptoms of the plague during the car ride home from the show. Here's what happened. We left the convention and headed out to grab some dinner. We ate, chatted a bit, and all seemed fine. We then got back in the car and headed home.

It was at that point that things started going wonky, and I knew something was wrong. Nathaniel completely shut down--like a lamp being switched off, he was out cold in the passenger seat and I was doing my best to keep my head out the window as I drove, trying not to breathe in any of whatever the heck he had.

This year it seems that I'm the latest victim of Con Plague and as such I really wish I didn't have a deadline at the office today. It's hard enough to meet those things on a normal day, but when you feel like Ash after a weekend getaway to a cabin in the woods, it's doubly so.

Still, I guess the thing I'm most annoyed about is the fact that I actually managed to catch anything at all. You see, I take lots of precautions before entering any con I attend (a list that has managed to whittle down to NYCC, by the way).

I load up on vitamins, drink plenty of water, and always always always carry--and use--hand sanitizer. I'm a bit of a germaphobe by nature, and conventions are a major trigger for such obsessive compulsive acts as excessive hand washing and showering.

In fact, I often say that my favorite part of any convention is the shower I take when I get home. And not the first shower. No, no; that one's done to decontaminate. No fun in that.

It's the second shower that's the best part.

And with that somewhat awkward statement, let's get into this week's books, shall we? There's been lots of talk on this here blog about DC's relaunched titles--and for good reason. Overall, the new numbers 1's have been quite good, and I've enjoyed exploring my way through this new DC Universe.

There's more good stuff out today, including Wonder Woman, issue two, and Justice League, issue two, but I want to focus on an independent book this week. You know, just to get out of the mainstream a bit and to get back to my indy roots.

From Monsterverse Entertainment, Flesh and Blood, book one, ships today--or, at least, it's supposed to. The publisher's website says it's today, but for some reason it's not on Diamond's shipping list.

So I got in contact with the nice folks over at Monsterverse (now there's a strange sentence) and they gave me the scoop. There was a delay on Diamond's end, so the book will be in stores next week, for sure. So this week's Waiting for really lives up to its name.
Anyway, Flesh and Blood is a full-length graphic novel by writer Robert Tinnell and artist Neil Vokes and it's the first volume in a four-book set.

I've read--and loved--previous work by these creators, especially the excellent Black Forest. These guys live for classic monsters and in Flesh and Blood, it looks like there will be a mix of the classic universal-style horror movies with the bloodier, gorier, (dare I say) sexier Hammer-style films.

Vokes' art, especially, is a draw for me. He works in a classic horror style that's full of wonderful shadows. Like the late, great Gene Colan, I feel that Vokes' use of black on the page is masterful. Take a look at a commission drawing by Vokes of a character from The Black Forest (which I was lucky enough to snag off eBay earlier this year):
See what I mean? And Tinnell writes the heck out of a horror story and he plays perfectly into Vokes' strong suits. Here's the description of Flesh and Blood, book one, from Monsterverse:

Unleashed to comic shops and bookstores this Halloween!

This story for mature readers is the horror movie that you always wished to see but never knew it until this graphic novel was created! It ties all the terrifying action and Gothic erotic romance that genre fans love about literature's iconic horror characters into one truly epic graphic novel series.

FLESH AND BLOOD Volume One begins with the bloody destruction of the legendary vampire, the darkly seductive Carmilla. Her death ignites an epic firestorm of events that draws the greatest icons of Gothic horror into battle across the lush backdrop of 19th century Europe.

At the center of this ghastly conflict Baron Victor Frankenstein is forced to merge his diabolical scientific prowess with the black arts of a terrifying supernatural world. This unholy war between light and darkness will not be measured in months or years but across centuries of horror and devastation until one force reigns triumphant. Vampires, werewolves and scientific monsters are unleashed like nothing seen before in film, comics or literature.

As Amicus, Hammer, AIP and other studios enlarged upon the Universal horror canon bringing a sexier maturity to the world's most terrifying monsters along with a more realistic savagery to the violent action, FLESH AND BLOOD brings a modern update to these classic creatures.

Obviously, this one's not for the kiddies. But it does seem perfect for Halloween, and I've already ordered a copy from my LCS. I'm really looking forward to picking this up, even if I have to wait an extra week.

And that's all I've got for today. How about you guys--what are you Waiting for?