Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Orleans:
I'm honestly feeling sort of emotionally numb in regards to the New Orleans hurricane. It hasn't affected me personally (I was happy to learn that my friends and their family got out and are staying with friends in Houston), but just seeing the devastation and hearing about what's going on out there... it's just hard to comprehend.

Which isn't to say that I'm wandering about depressed or lost, or that I can't think about anything else, but what's going on there is sort of always in the back of my thoughts. I've made my donation to the Red Cross, and would definitely suggest that anyone who can manage it do the same. They're set up for credit card donations on the Internet, so it's remarkably easy and painless if you can spare the money. Newsarama has an article on the many ways that folks can help out.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Just a warning... this is a lame post, made mostly to keep the "daily" thing going.

International House of Pancakes is, oddly enough, one of my favorite restaurants. Depending on the criteria you use. I mean, I don't go there for special occasions, I don't head there when I'm hungry for dinner and haven't got anything prepared. But I probably go there once every couple weeks, because it is the ideal late night place to eat. For somewhere between $11-12 (including tip), I get eggs, hash browns, some kind of meat (sometimes one kind, sometimes three) and some kind of dessert-y breakfast item (I'm partial to the stuffed french toast, although the funnel cakes and just plain pancakes are good too). It's a great meal to have after pulling comics until midnight on Tuesdays, which is when I usually venture down there with my co-worker Dave.

That's it... just a little appreciation for the wonder of late-night IHOP.

Monday, August 29, 2005

If You're in New York:
Or if you're going to be on Sept. 9-10, you might check out Semi-Permanent05 NYC ( It's a two-day design conference where 12 speakers, representing the tops of their fields, gather to present their work and their views on design. This year, in addition to architects and graphic designers, the organizers have invited comic-book artist (and artistic genius, btw) Paul Pope to be one of the speakers. So, if you're a Paul Pope fan and you're in the area, you might check out the website and see what's what.
The Hurricane:
OK, yeah, I'm not as up on my news as I should be. So it was that while making my last round of reading of Boing-Boing and various other blogs on my RSS feeds that I discovered that Hurricane Katrina was headed for New Orleans and things were going to get ugly.

I have some friends in New Orleans, most notably the publisher of Antigravity, a free monthly magazine about local music that happens to run Snap Judgments as a syndicated column. I went down there to the N.O.D.I.Y. show that Leo runs and had a great time, and I've since seen him and his girlfriend Michelle and some of their other friends when they visited Austin for STAPLE. I was planning on making another trip down to New Orleans in October to see an event with Keith Knight, although now I'm not sure if that's going to go off or not. Anyway, all of this is just to indicate that my worries for New Orleans are not primarily whether or not my favorite cajun restaurant or the place that serves killer muffelattas will survive.

But I'm worried about that too. I went to New Orleans for my honeymoon, so I've got some memories attached to the place. And now it seems like the place I remember, the place that a lot of people live in, may be undergoing some serious fucking renovations courtesy of Mother Nature.

My hopes (I'd say prayers, but I don't pray and clearly God, if he exists, is on the other side of this one) and thoughts are with my friends and with all the other people living in New Orleans whom I've crossed paths with, knowingly or unknowingly, at some point.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Mighty Ducks:
Just last week, I posted a review of The Life & Times of Uncle Scrooge, which was really my first exposure to the Disney comics of Don Rosa (and by association, sort of, the work of Carl Barks.)

On an average review, I tend to get between 0 and 2 pieces of email. Maybe something from the creator or a devoted fan, but I really only get more than about a half-dozen emails if I write something that strikes a nerve (like my early reviews of Identity Crisis) or if I make some glaring error that twelve people instantly write in to correct me on. :)

On the Ducks review, I have received over a half-dozen emails, all with more info on where to find more Barks/Rosa duck stories, what the good ones are, etc. That is one fanatical fanbase, and I have to admit, the enthusiasm is definitely infectious.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Spycraft 2.0 in review:
Last night was the first night of the new Spycraft campaign I'm running for my gaming group, so I thought I'd write a quick post-mortem of how the new game plays for anyone reading my blog who is interested in RPG stuff.

My overall impression is favorable, and I think that in most respects, Spycraft 2.0 is an improvement over Spycraft 1.0, which is a game that I really liked. I still had to house rule grenades and automatic weapons fire to account for my tastes, but the necessary modifications to Gearing Up, Mission Design and the Chase rules were made to improve all of these good but in need of improvement sections. The skills and classes probably didn't strictly need all the tinkering that was done, but the game in the end benefits from the changes, I think.

My largest complaint is that, despite actually having an index this time, the book still shows all the signs of not having been properly playtested or copy-edited with an eye towards game useability instead of readability. There are any number of very important rules that are mentioned once, in the midst of another block of text with no highlighting, and never again. The tables and charts are vastly out of control, and probably what should have been done is either find a way to make some smaller charts with all the key information in one place or, if that was impossible, to put all the charts into one "chart" chapter. Gearing up, running a combat, checking what skills are needed, all of these things take a lot more page flipping than they should, and it's very frustrating when you realize that, say, Damage Saves for NPCs isn't covered under the NPC rules, but instead under the Damage Save for equipment in the Gear rules, several hundred pages earlier. A little more repetition of key game mechanics, several flowcharts of combat, chases, etc. and a good number more examples would have made the book a lot more uesable right off the bat.

As is, Spycraft 2.0 is a game that is more complex than Spycraft 1.0, and it's going to take a bit of a learning curve for the GM and players to get used to it. I think the learning curve is worth it, and my complaints about parts of the game are mostly overshadowed by my general enjoyment of the game's simulation of action movie/TV espionage, but I do think that the game could have (and should have) been reworked and rewritten to be more user-friendly on a casual basis.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Weekly Comics to Come - August 31, 2005:
Captain America #9 (The "Winter Soldier" stuff is killing my interest, but otherwise, this book has regained my attention. Some great action this issue as Cap, Sharon Carter, Nick Fury and a SHIELD team launch a covert attack on Russian badguy Lukin)
Runaways #7 (Great issue of Runaways, with guest art by Takeshi Miyazawa. A couple big subplots have big turning points, the cliffhanger ending promises a really fun story and I love any book that can make such great use of C-level villains as Swarm)
Slop Anacleta Tp (Gorgeous and quirky piece by Dave Crosland and Debbie. Review HERE)
Smoke & Guns Gn (Insanely fun and beautifully drawn, definitely one of the top picks of the week. Review hopefully up by Monday.)
Wha Huh (Half self-congratulatory stupid, half actually funny, with a couple pages that are really, really funny, all with great art by Jim Mahfood)
Young Avengers #6 (A great (if unfortunately late) ending to the first story arc. Six issues is a long time for setup, but I love a lot of things about this book, and I'd almost buy it just to piss off the homophobic shitheads polluting the letter columns with their "I'm droppin' the books 'cause I don't like gays in my comics" bullshit)

30 Days Of Night Bloodsuckers Tales Vol 1 Tp (Need to check this out if only because Matt Fraction comics work is all too rare)
Astonishing X-Men #12 (Whedon and Cassaday conclude their first arc. I confess that I've lost a fair amount of interest, but I'm still curious to see how they wrap it up. I'm guessing there will be a huge gap between arc one and arc two to give Whedon and Cassaday time to get ahead again)
Astro City The Dark Age #3 (I'm enjoying this look at the darker side of Astro City, although I confess that I'd almost rather have it as the bright spot against the modern grim 'n gritty, the way it was a bright side to the late '90s grim 'n gritty)
Bprd The Black Flame #1 (Hooray! The previous two miniseries by this team were fantastic, and more Guy Davis artwork is always a good thing, especially when it comes with Dave Stewart colors)
Death Jr #3 (The conclusion to this surprisingly fun story of Death's son. Given the quality of story and art, you'd never guess that it was a videogame tie-in)
Desperadoes Banners Of Gold Tp (I lost track of this around issue two or three, so I need to catch up and read the whole thing)
Emily The Strange #1 (This is sitting in my stack waiting to be read. Looks goth-y)
Ex Machina #14 (Seems like it's been a while since the last issue of Ex Machina... maybe it's just that the cliffhanger had me chomping at the bit to see more)
Expatriate #3 (Going to give this one about a guy on the run from the CIA another shot and give it another chance to win me over)
Flash #225 (The last Geoff Johns Flash. Truthfully, ever since Kolins left the book (and even slightly before), the stories sort of went off in a direction I wasn't as interested in, but I'll still be reading to see Johns give a farewell to a book he really put a personal stamp on)
Green Lantern #4 (Another one, only two weeks later? Guest artist? At any rate, so far this is mostly Infinite Crisis-free, and last issue's showdown between Hal and two Manhunters was great superhero stuff)
Hero Camp #4 (The last issue of one of the more enjoyable miniseries I've read this year. Definitely hoping to see more of this series and its creators)
Hero Squared #2 (I liked the first issue quite a bit, curious to see where it all goes. Since I have this sitting in my "to read" stack as well, I guess I'll find out when I get home)
Losers #27 (The penultimate arc, I believe. This book really hasn't missed a step since the beginning. I'm glad to see it getting a definitive end, as that's sort of key to a great Vertigo book, but I'll be sorry to see it go.)
Love As A Foreign Language #3 (Another chapter in the entertaining saga of Joel, English teacher who hates the country he's stuck in but might stick around for a girl he's got a crush on. Beautiful art on this one from Eric Kim)
Seven Soldiers Shining Knight #4 (And the first Seven Soldiers mini concludes. Curious to see this, if only to see if it's a definitive ending, or more of a "Read the rest of Seven Soldiers to find out!" kind of thing. I'm guessing the former, although issue three of all the series did bring a little bit more crossover between all of them)
Silent Dragon #2 (The first issue was a little weak, storywise, but it looked beautiful, and Diggle's work on Losers and Adam Strange earns him at least two or three issues worth of chances from me)
Solo #6 (Of all the books I wish I'd gotten to read in the DC Preview Pack (which I didn't get this week), this is the one I miss the most. The first four pages, previewed over at Mile High Comics, look great. This book is a DC treasure that far too many people haven't discovered yet)
Usagi Yojimbo #86 (More of the latest Usagi epic, which has thus far featured some really great samurai action and new revelations about supporting cast members like Tomoe and Motokazu)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The podcast I had casually mentioned as a possibility seems like a pretty likely prospect at this point. I was talking it over with Dave, who will probably co-cast with me, and we came up with a loose theme that we think could work and ideas for about a half-dozen shows or more. I'm planning on this being a monthly thing, although if time permits, we might also do a monthly "Previews highlights" type podcast... but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

First, I need to install Audacity (done), figure out how to use it (sort of done) and buy a microphone (on my to-do list, maybe tomorrow after work). Then I've got to find out if the bandwidth required for podcasting is within the limits of my current provider (should be, but I'm not sure) and get all the other tech details worked out.

Ideally? First podcast in September. Realistically? Late, late September. :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I can't decide what's cooler: That this link exists, a (and I need to look into this, flickr seems to be to images what blogger and livejournal were to blogs) gallery of the famous Isotope Comics artist toilet seat museum or the fact that I found out about it because it was high-profile enough to get blogged on Boing-Boing.
Some Thoughts on Comics Sales:
I've already mentioned how the July sales affected by Metti-Publisher ranking (I've since changed up my creator line-up quite a bit, from my ideal that I started with to something with a bit more of a realistic eye towards the market. I felt dirty doing it, even in make-believe, because it meant that I could say I understood how the market pressures lead to same 'ol, same 'ol marketing and editorial decisions), but The Pulse has now posted their analysis of Marvel and DC sales and I had some thoughts on sales as a result. Some of these are more or less responsive to comments or questions raised by the articles, and I recommend reading them at any rate.

1. The bump on sales from House of M, especially Hulk, has me wondering... what if Marvel were to just ditch continuity entirely, and have each, say, 4-6 months as an alternate reality that spins out of one or two writers' visions and the other writers would be encouraged to play in that playground? I mean, yes, mostly it would be an awful mess (kind of like House of M *rimshot*), but I wonder what the sales would look like? How long before the novelty of constant events won the war with fanboys missing their continuity?

2. "Ultimate Starts" month didn't do much for Ultimate sales. However, at least anecdotally, in my store, the Ultimate annuals have blown out the doors. I wonder if, rather than jumping-on points to new stories, the self-contained nature of those books might have encouraged people to jump back onboard books they had left behind. I haven't read any of the annuals, but I did give a skim-read to Ultimate Spider-Man Annual and found it to be the best issue of the book that I've read in quite some time. I'm not ready to jump back on the book, because the intriguing start to the MJ/Peter romance has now bogged down in typical "break up/make up" crap that might be realistic for a high school romance but which is kinda boring to read about, but it's a good start to a new relationship that could only take place in the Ultimate universe. Of course, I haven't read Ultimate Spider-Man since before the "Hobgoblin" arc, so I'm judging against word-of-mouth from customers and friends who read to keep up more than actual experience.

3. Runaways selling just inside the Top 75 I can deal with, although not happily. But selling less than the purposeless spin-off title Marvel Knights 4? OK, maybe it's time for Wolverine or Spider-Man to guest star... just to get the bump back to the 40K level that the book earned with the relaunch. It deserves higher than that, but it should at least be selling in the Top 50.

4. Marvel Team-Up, despite low sales and losing the big artistic draw of Scott Kolins (OK, he's not a mainstream draw, but he was one of the big reasons *I* was interested), gets a two-year commitment, which is cool for Robert Kirkman. Curious to see how this will do with the Spidey/Invincible issue, and this idea has spun off into the possible first podcast by me and Dave Farabee, possibly coming (if all technical details, like buying a microphone or two and figuring out bandwidth issues, go smoothly) early September.

5. New Warriors selling at 122, and it's one of the most interesting and unusual books Marvel is publishing. And Gravity, another of Marvel's new and interesting characters, sells lower than that. And Livewires, one of the best and freshest books Marvel has published in the last three years, sells lower than both of them. This kind of thing just pisses me off and depresses me.

6. Marc Oliver Frisch has this to say about top-selling All-Star Batman and Robin: "Of course, the book came with two different covers, but so did most of the titles listed above. For now, it seems unlikely that this number is going to be surpassed by anything anytime soon. If INFINITE CRISIS or ALL STAR SUPERMAN manage it, just pretend you never read that. I'd be surprised if they do, though -- for all intents and purposes, I suspect "Batman by Frank Miller and Jim Lee" exhausts all the potential the direct market is able to muster at this point."

From a retailer standpoint (again, anecdotal and based on gut feeling), I'm betting that INFINITE CRISIS will outsell it. I know that at my store, despite a higher price tag for IC than ASB&RTBW (I just wanted to abbreviate it), we ordered almost 40% higher (three digits instead of two), and that's just for my location, the smallest of the three stores in the chain. I'm also curious to see how the sales maintain on All-Star now that the reaction has been more akin to the response to Dark Knight Strikes Again than, say, Hush. Of course, Dark Knight Strikes Again sold gangbusters as well, but it only had to maintain for three issues, not twelve or more.

7. JLA - Again, anecdotally, we've sold out or damn close to it with all the issues of the Heinberg/Johns arc, so I doubt that retailers are sitting on much unsold stock.

8. Frisch points out the numerical possibility of Liefeld dropping the sales on Teen Titans, rather than giving the expected bump, and I can only hope that's true. Not because I wish Liefeld any harm, but because I've seen the issue, and good God that art is actually just as bad as or worse than some of Liefeld's most egregious stuff. The bendy Wonder Girl and immensely-thighed bad guy at the end are two of the more notable art gaffes, but Robin's "here's my crotch!" opening leap is pretty bad too. (Note: This is as close to a review as I'm going to do of this issue of Teen Titans, because those are the only three pages I've seen and they made my eyes bleed a little.)

9. Another sanguine point from Frisch: "Still, this may be one of the downsides of the company's current direction at display: If you emphasize continuity and "event-driven" storytelling over individual titles and creative voices, those stories which don't participate in the big thing of the minute will have an increasingly hard time fending for the audience's attention." This in relation to the slightly dipping (but still healthy, I hasten to add) sales of Legion of Super-Heroes. I think he's dead-on, and I'm not sure DC cares, with all the money being made on the lazy cash-in... excuse me, crossover books.

10. Y: The Last Man sells at 81. You'd think I'd be outraged, given that these sales numerically are about 1,000 copies below Runaways, but I'm not, because Vertigo is a different game, and seeing Y outselling a Batman title (even if it's Legends of the Dark Knight) warms my cynical black heart.

11. Also promising, albeit maybe too little too late: Gotham Central, at chart position #116, is *climbing* in sales. Nothing climbs in sales in comics anymore, doesn't it? It's a slow slide into cancellation, right? (Unless you're John Byrne's more rabid fans, in which case it's a vast conspiracy designed to deprive your, favorite artist... of work) The Goon, at position #151, is also climbing, and about to get a bump from the 25 cent issue, and Invincible, in position #173, is climbing as well. This may mostly be because the sales are low enough that buzz and a few new readers can actually affect chart position at this level, because the gains are usually between 100-400 readers at best.

12. Hellboy: The Island was about 5K higher than the last Hellboy miniseries. Does this mean that the Hellboy movie netted 5,000 more comics fans for the title? I can't decide if that's really low or a pretty decent gain. Probably both.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Infernal Affairs:
After having this from Netflix for a week or so, I decided I was more in the mood to watch it than Donnie Darko, and popped it in the DVD player last night. I don't watch a lot of foreign film, but the buzz on this one had been great, and the buzz wasn't wrong.

The basic high concept is that a young cop goes undercover in the mob, and a young mobster goes undercover in the cops. This is all set up in a great montage/clipped storytelling style in the first eight minutes, and we're into the movie. It is not an action movie, despite fitting nicely into the "Hong Kong" sensibilities of something like Hard Boiled or The Killer. Instead, it's more of a suspense/psychological thriller, with a strong noir tone. The difficulties of going undercover, the questions of identity and loyalty, are all dealt with very well, and there are several nice twists and turns as the story progresses to its reasonably unpredictable, bittersweet ending. Fans of Sleeper especially should check out Infernal Affairs, as there's some definite commonality of theme, tone and even some of the common story elements of an undercover tale.

I know that they're working on an American remake of this movie, and I hope that they go the route of something like The Italian Job, taking the premise only and making a completely different film, because it's hard to imagine most American film stars and directors getting this story in quite the same way.

Now I'm sort of in the mood to finally see Donnie Brasco, and Infernal Affairs also inspired some ideas for the new Spycraft 2.0 campaign I'm starting soon.

Monday, August 22, 2005

My Future in Manga:
I've gotten a few manga recommendations from my readers in response to my most recent Monitor Duty column (but not a lot, leading me to believe that a lot more folks read my reviews and Down the Line than anything else I write... which is perfectly cool by me), and I think I've mapped out some of the manga I want to try out in the coming months.

1. Blame by Tsutomu Nihei (Wolverine: Snikt). Love his art, although the story didn't instantly grab me when I flipped through the early pages. Also hasn't sold a single copy at my store yet, leading me to believe my taste in manga is going to be just as off-the-popular track as my taste in comics, movie, TV and seemingly everything else these days.

2. Saikano - I've had two recommendations on this one, which is about, according to one reader, "a high school student and his girlfriend, who becomes the Army's ultimate weapon." Sounds interesting.

3. Peacemaker - Same reader recommended this as a "historically-based samurai drama" that deals with the beginning of the westernization of Japan. That sounds like fascinating subject matter.

4. Planetes - I've heard nothing but good about this story of space-age debris removal specialists (space garbagemen and women), and it's relatively short, so I'll definitely be giving it a shot.

5. Yotsuba! by Kiyohiko Azuma - Heard good things about this one as well, although I confess I don't know exactly what it's about.

6. Cromartie High School - No readers recommended this one, but two of my friends read and love it, and I'll probably check it out to see if it's as funny as I've been told.

7. Monster - Looks awesome, and I can't wait to read it. I covered this one in a recent Down the Line column.

8. Battle Royale - Honestly, I've already read a volume of this, but having seen the addiction that overcame my friends and how they've had to wait for the later volumes, I'm gonna wait out the last couple of volumes showing up so I can read the whole thing in one shot.

That's not all, and it will definitely depend on what I'm in the mood to read as to when I get to these, but that's at least a snapshot of some of the manga I want to try out.

Oh, and in the meaningless anniversary department, yesterday marks a whole month of me doing daily blog updates. So maybe I actually am going to be able to keep up with that schedule after all.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A Somewhat Odd Weekend Schedule:
We did ordering of comics for the month at the store today, which always throws my schedule off a bit. It was off even more this week, since we were short-handed (one of the employees is at GenCon) so I didn't get my usual tradeoff day off (Thursday for Sunday), but I did get some overtime pay (a rarity), which isn't a bad tradeoff.

At any rate, I'm always ready to get out of the store on Saturday night, but I'm especially ready when I have to close the store at 9:00 and then get up the next morning at 8:30 to go to ordering. So last night, the store got unusually busy from 8:30 to 9:00, and then literally one minute before the store closed, a guy came in, went to the bathroom and was in there for ten minutes after I closed and shooed everyone else out. A regular also showed up a little after 9:00 and asked if he could buy his week's comics, and he's a good customer, so of course I let him do that. So I was running about 15 minutes behind when I finally got everyone out and got the door locked.

While counting down the register, I got a phone call from one of these Internet relay places. They're a great idea, in theory, that a deaf person or someone who can't use the phone for whatever reason uses a relay to type messages which are then relayed to me, and they then type messages back. Like I said, it's a great tool... but this method of communication takes a lot more time, and when this was the phone call I got at 9:15 and I hadn't finished shutting the register down yet, I was mildly annoyed.

I became greatly annoyed when it became clear that the phone call was either a scam or a prank. The conversation went like this, once the relay was established. Imagine a two or three minute delay between each question and answer. It was also clear that whoever was typing was either not a native English speaker or a very slow typist. "Do you carry toys and games?" "Yes, we carry some toys and games." "Do you carry PS/2 and Game Boy Advance games and teddy bears?" "No, we mostly carry board and card games. No teddy bears." "Can you give me some brand names?" "I'm not sure I can help you. I should mention that I'm closed right now." "I need to buy some games and toys and have them shipped for my client in Nigeria. We will pay for them." Warning bells going off at this point. "We don't do shipping. I don't really think I can help you. Goodbye." Three minute wait, followed by me asking the relay person "Are we done, I really need to get my store closed down?" After a minute, she responded that the other end had said "OK, goodbye. Thank you!"

It was all a little genial to be a prank, and I suppose it's possible it was legitimate, but I think I basically endured the equivalent of voice spam. Which would have been annoying enough, but I was ready to leave anyway.

When I got home, as usual, I stayed up way too late (around 3:00, watching Arrested Development on Tivo, reading the Adam Strange: Planet Heist TPB, etc.) and had about five hours of sleep. So when I got home at around 4:30, I basically sat in the chair and fell asleep at around 5:30 and drifted in and out until, well, around now. Most likely I'll be up a while tonight as well, since my schedule is just bizarrely thrown off at this point. Tomorrow is errand day, though... need to take the car back to the mechanic (the low radiator fluid light is still blinking, even after the radiator flush), mow the lawn (it's about two weeks overdue), pay some bills and get some more reviews done.

For those of you who come here from Fourth Rail and just waded through this exceptionally boring personal story consisting mostly of whining and bitching, I'm sorry. The relevant portion is that because of my weird schedule, I haven't gotten many reviews done... a half-dozen Snapshots (which I traditionally hold for Thursday's update), a review of Tokyopop's MBQ Vol. 1 and half a review of The Life & Times of Scrooge McDuck. Don is out of town, so we'll have a Tuesday update instead of a Monday this week, and quite possibly nothing from me. I may instead save everything I've got to run on Thursday.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

I Am a Bad Friend:
Despite the frequent ads in Speakeasy and having talked to him about it before it launched, I realize now that I have never actually linked over to Buzzscope, a comics/games/pop culture site that is run and supported by a number of friends past and present. Jon Haehnle is their producer/designer, and Joe Doughrity their senior comics editor, and I worked with both those guys during my time at Psycomic, and the site is sponsored by Midtown Comics, which was my comics shop for the six months I lived in New York. (I love Midtown Comics. I miss Midtown Comics.)

It's also worth noting that Joe just won Best Documentary at the San Diego Comicon's International Film Festival for his movie "Seven Days in Japan." You can catch the trailer HERE and see more about the movie and buy it online (only $10 plus shipping) HERE.
Metti-Publisher Round 1:
Wow, did I get a butt-kicking. Ranked 235 out of 290 players. Simone was definitely my top player, earning places for Villains United, Action Comics and Birds of Prey, with Peter David delivering three for Hulk (two issues) and Hulk: Destruction. Once some of his new stuff, like X-Factor and Fallen Angel, starts coming out that'll help. Most of the rest of my players had two books, many of them fairly low on the sales charts. No surprise, there... most of my favorite books are low on the sales charts.

However, I did beat out Augie by one place and I spotted Nate two places below him. So I take some solace in that. I take less solace in barely beating out folks whose entire teams were on the bench. *sigh* Guess I need to do some trading/moving around/thinking about this stuff.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Weekly Comics to Come - Aug. 24, 2005
Battle Pope Color #2 (More Battle Pope! In color!)
Catwoman Wild Ride Tp (The final Brubaker/Stewart Catwoman, which includes the "Road Trip" arc and the Captain Cold issue, one of my favorite issues of the entire run)
Daredevil #76 (I've been off this for a long time, and mostly I still am, but the early stuff in this issue between Urich and the Kingpin is really, really good)
Giffens What Were They Thinking One Shot (Keith Giffen re-dialogues old war comics. I've only skimmed it so far, but what I've read is exceptionally funny)
Girls #4 (This may be the most bizarre horror story I've ever read. The attack of the hot naked chicks?! Bizarre, but entertaining, and getting better with each issue)
Godland #2 (More cosmic style adventure by Casey and Scioli)

1000 Deaths Of Baron Von Donut #1 (I can't remember what this is, but the title means I'll at least look)
Banana Sundays #2 (One of my favorite comics of the last month returns with a second issue. Might be my most anticipated read of the week)
Grounded #2 (Enjoyed the first issue of this unusual superhero story, looking forward to reading more)
Hank Ketchams Complete Dennis The Menace 1951-1952 Hc (Still surprised to be buying this, but the sample strips looked genuinely funny)
History Of Violence Tp (Might check this out now, if only because the other Paradox stuff has been pretty good and the premise, now that I know it, sounds interesting as well)
Invincible #25 (Yay! Big Invincible anniversary issue! Plus Science Dog!)
Jack Cross #1 (Looks like Warren Ellis's take on 24's Jack Bauer, with of course the usual touch of cynical detachment and some gorgeous art by Gary Erskine)
JSA Classified #2 (Part two of Power Girl's origin, and I'm still curious, although it looks like it's going to tie into Infinite Crisis, so I'm getting less so)
Little Star #4 (Issue three finally hooked me, so I'm eagerly anticipating more of Andi Watson's story of the trials of parenthood)
Monkey In A Wagon Vs Lemur On A Big Wheel #1 (What I saw of this strange book in San Diego was just ridiculously funny)
Mutation #2 (First issue of this had fantastic art and great fights, but no plot to speak of. Curious to see what the second issue will bring)
Previews #25.9 (Down the Line coming next week)
Queen & Country Declassified Vol 2 #2 (This is the one by Greg Rucka and Rick Burchett about Tom Wallace. It's late, but good)
Queen & Country Declassified Vol 3 #3 (This is the one by Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten about Nick Poole. It's on time, and also good)
Robot (Digital Manga mostly does yaoi, but this looks like something different, a full-color manga anthology possibly along the lines of Flight)
Sesame Street Cinemanga Vol 1 Elmo & Zoe Fly A Kite (Probably buying this, and the other one, Happy Healthy Monster, for my daughter. She loves Elmo, Zoe and Sesame Street in general)
Smoke #3 (One of my favorite comic series of the year comes to a close. Amazing Igor Kordey art on this one, and De Campi's writing debut is also just exceptionally strong)
Spike Old Times One Shot (Not much of a Spike fan, but I do like Peter David... might give this one a look)
Walking Dead #21 (One of my favorite comics running right now)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Found on Boing Boing:
New Cyberpunk comic that you can view online or download for your PSP. I managed to avoid the PSP's siren's call, but if they can actually turn it into a device for viewing comics on the go and it really works for that, I may not be strong enough to resist entirely.

Update: Five minutes later, after having read the first chapter... it's really damn good. Free, excellent cyberpunk comics on the web? Maybe the 21st century isn't all bad after all.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Actually, it really is cool:
I know a lot of folks have some sort of beef with Ain't It Cool News, but I'm a supporter, partly because I live in Austin and so I feel like it's a local site, partly because I have a friend who writes comic reviews for the site and partly because, from time to time, the geeky style of the site hits me just right.

Which isn't to say that AICN doesn't occasionally annoy the shit out of me, or that the Talkbacks aren't some of the more diseased message boards on the Internet. But all that sort of fades away when you see Harry posting with sympathetic glee about a 12-year-old film-loving girl in Austin who just got a $1000 grant to do her first zombie movie. 12. Years. Old.

I don't care who you are, if that story doesn't make you smile, then you have no heart.
Fanboy Rampage:
I don't generally read Fanboy Rampage, because I'm roughly a year behind on catching up on who's who and what's what in the Blogosphere. But I do read The Beat, who linked to Fanboy Rampage and the enormous clusterfuck of a thread reacting to Paul O'Brien's Ninth Art column, which I also linked to a few days back.

It's funny, because I agree with almost everyone in the thread on some points, but it does seem like a lot of people are willfully missing the point. Some of them doing it in a way that has them acting quite a bit like assholes. I was gonna chime in, but really, I don't read the blog, I'm not a community member, I didn't want to crash such a lovely party and it was all pretty much over by the time I read it. So, this being the 21st century, I figured I'd do what everyone else is doing... type my thoughts on my blog.

What's interesting is that everyone (including Heidi) is offering up: "How can you be bored? Look how many indy comics are great this year!" And I think what everyone is missing, or maybe this isn't the point and I'm just off my rocker, is that these indy comics aren't selling anywhere near where they should be. That maybe Paul is bored because the boring shit is winning. It's all anyone talks about, and, if you look at the Diamond Top 100, it's all that sells.

Now again, maybe that wasn't Paul's point... but I think that's where the common ground is to be found. Or maybe there's a different emotion going on here with me, not boredom but frustration, that the things a great deal of us find so boring or reminiscent of comics we read 10-20 years ago, are pretty much dominating the top 50 or so of the mainstream comics market right now, and there's not enough rewards to go around for the really great stuff. I know that that's where I keyed into Paul's column, not "Gee, I wish the X-books were better," which is what some people seem to be taking away from it. Personally, I could give a shit whether the X-Books are even published anymore, but I *still* got what Paul was saying.

OK, I probably shouldn't post this, because God knows I don't want to get into the middle of the Internet infighting that I've tried really hard to stay away from in recent years, but... Jesus. That thread was one ginormous clusterfuck of misguided indy rage, with a few calm heads (including, as always, the well-spoken (well-typed?) Kurt Busiek) making sense above all the noise.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

I rented the first season of Entourage when it came out on DVD and really enjoyed it. The story of a young hot superstar actor on the rise and his hangers-on, agent and business manager could have been just ridiculously dull or hard to buy into, but I really enjoyed it and found it really funny. With all the buzz about season two involving Vince (the superstar) lining up to play Aquaman, it's been getting bigger play than usual in the geek sector, and so I've been hearing more and more about it.

So, finally, I broke down and decided I couldn't wait for season two on DVD, and went to my friend with HBO and Tivo and caught the first six episodes. And the second season is even better. It's funny, but I'm also just wrapped up in these characters' lives and their ridiculous problems, like whether they're going to get a multimillion dollar movie deal so they can keep their 4 million dollar house or who Eric, the manager of Vince and probably my second-favorite character, will wind up with after he's lost his girlfriend and had to settle for a one night stand with a Perfect 10 model.

I say second favorite character because, really, nobody can top Ari Gold, the super-arrogant, manic, insanely funny super-agent played by Jeremy Piven. I've always been a Piven fan, but Ari Gold is probably the best character he's ever played.

So, in short... Entourage. Really good. Sex and the City, but for guys. Together with Curb Your Enthusiasm and Deadwood, very much wearing down my resolve *not* to spend the extra money on HBO every month. The Fall season of network TV better be good, or I may have to break down and order the HBO.
Stumptown Comics Fest in Portland:
My buddy Chris (who put on a similar show here in Austin last year called STAPLE) is taking the trip up to Portland in October to go to the second Stumptown Comics Fest, which looks like a blast. I'm extremely jealous, and if I could manage the flight/hotel expenses, I'd be going too.

I really want to visit Portland at some point, and this would be a great excuse. Maybe next year. If any of you are in the Portland area, this looks like a great comics festival.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Car Update:
Went to my local oil change/tune-up place today, and they discovered that the antifreeze needed to be flushed, as it wasn't getting to the engine. That, and an oil change and a much-needed swap out of the windshield wiper blades, took care of the problems I've been having, and at just over $100, that's not too bad for routine maintenance. Nice when things aren't as expensive or catastrophic as you expect.
Car Trouble:
I'm pretty good about taking my car in to get the oil changed, every 3,000 miles or so. But the car is getting older, and seems to be developing some... well, let's call them quirks. Twice in the last half-dozen oil changes, the mechanic has told me that the oil was either or basically gone, despite the fact that I hadn't waited any longer than usual to bring it in. The other four times, it was fine.

A few months ago, I started getting warnings from my car that the antifreeze was low. So, after much delay, I finally went out, bought some antifreeze and distilled water, and refilled the thing according to the owner's manual. Worked fine, but then last week, it started giving me the same warning. Seemed odd, but I refilled it again. And then, yesterday, not even a week later, it started warning me again. So I go to check the oil and find that it is very, very low again.

Guess it's oil change time today, a little ahead of schedule. The 90,000 mile checkup is coming, and I'm guessing that they're going to find something expensive when they do that check. Jeez. Maintenance, inspection, gas prices at 2.30 and rising... when is someone going to invent my water-powered flying car, already?

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Another Excellent Analysis of the Industry by Paul O'Brien:
Article 10: The Year Of Living Aimlessly is a brutally honest look at the trends that are driving the industry right now. The sad thing is, any number of people are saying what is wrong with the industry, but those voices are drowned out by the cha-ching of cash registers and the numerous people who are eating up the crossover/event marketing with a spoon.

Kind of like the '90s, really, except without the huge paychecks that at least allowed some of the creators to get rich off the crumbling of the American comics industry.
Captain Boomerang:
How cool is this? When I got my mail yesterday upon coming home from a really rotten day at work, there was an envelope in it from Jim DiBartolo. Jim is the upcoming artist on Rex Mundi, and one of my Netflix friends, and we've talked about TV, movies, comics, etc. via email. When I saw him in San Diego, I asked if he was sketching and he said that he'd rather do something at home and send it to me. I asked about Captain Boomerang, and though he hadn't read Suicide Squad, he went and did some research and absolutely nailed the character in the picture you see below.

The scan really doesn't completely do it justice. It's terrific.

Of all the things I hated about Identity Crisis, I think the thing that most irked me personally was that Meltzer killed off Captain Boomerang. I know, it sounds stupid, but Boomerang was one of the coolest parts of one of my favorite comics, John Ostrander's Suicide Squad, and now he died like a punk, written by someone who clearly didn't get the character.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Cool as Hell Comic Shops:
I'm proud of my store, don't get me wrong, but good lord, the new comics shops opening in New York just look so damn cool.

Rocketship is one, and Riot is the other. Go look at the design of these stores... they're just amazing.
Just because I haven't mentioned it lately, I have to once again say how much I love Netflix. I wasn't sure when I first joined, a couple years ago, that it would be worth it. $20 a month for as many DVDs as I could rent sounded good in theory, but would I really watch enough to make it worth it? As it turned out, the answer was a very loud yes.

In recent weeks, I've caught the entirety of The Job, the series that Dennis Leary and Peter Tolan created before Rescue Me. I like Rescue Me a lot, and I think the second season has been even better than the first, but I think I liked The Job more. I really wanted to know what was going to happen to those characters, and while Leary's character in The Job was a jerk, I think Tommy Gavin (from Rescue Me) is more damaged. I've actually come to hate the character and start rooting against him at times. He's still interesting as hell to watch, but he crossed past likeable and sympathetic about four episodes ago.

This weekend, I've got a potpourri of indie or foreign films to watch. Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut (a cult flick I've never seen), Criminal (on a Maggie Gyllenhall kick after seeing her on The Daily Show, which began with a rental of Secretary) and Infernal Affairs (the Hong Kong flick about a cop undercover in the mob and a mobster undercover in the cops, which I've heard great stuff about.)

Now all I have to do is work about four more hours and I can get home and watch one or two of those movies.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Weekly Comics to Come:
For the week of August 17, 2005

Batman Journey Into Knight #1 (I stopped reading when Batman explained to a thug that he was wearing a kevlar vest. Looks pretty dull, and the art by Tan Eng Huat is disappointing compared to his previous work as well.)
Birds Of Prey #85 (One of the few DC titles I'm still reading, and it continues to be great. I'm a little wary of the surprise on the last page, but I have enough faith in Simone to keep reading anyway. Solid martial arts action in this issue as well, although the two pencillers/two inkers thing hurts the artwork a little.)
Fragile Prophet #1 (Intriguing story about a young man and his little brother, who may have a psychic gift)
GI Spy #1 (Fun spy action book in World War II. Review HERE)
Hunger #3 (Really enjoying this one, an unusual zombie tale where the zombie is the protagonist, coming out from Speakeasy)
Livewires #6 (Good ending to a great miniseries, plenty of imaginative action and humor)
Noble Causes Vol 4 Blood & Water Tp (I think these are the stories where I started to be won back over to Noble Causes again, as it went back to full color and longer stories)
Runners Bad Goods Tp (Very entertaining spacefaring adventure. Review HERE)
Seven Soldiers Klarion The Witch Boy #3 (I'm starting to lose the plot a little, but there are still enough weird ideas and gorgeous art in the Seven Soldiers books to keep me reading)
Top Ten Beyond The Farthest Precinct #1 (I didn't have much faith in a non-Alan Moore Top 10 book, and this one didn't do anything to give me faith. If it weren't Top 10, one of my favorite books with all kinds of potential, I'd say it was just mediocre superheroics. As is, I'll say that it's pretty terrible.)

Dragonlance Chronicles #1 (I read and enjoyed the Dragonlance trilogy when I was in high school. Not sure if my interest in the characters and story remains. Guess we'll see.)
GI Joe Snake-Eyes Declassified #1 (My GI Joe fandom has pretty well died out beyond nostalgia for the Marvel stuff, but they sent me a preview copy, so I'll at least take a look.)
Godland #2 (First issue was cosmic adventure fun with terrific artwork, looking forward to seeing the confrontation between hero and villain in issue two)
Maxx Book Five Tp (I think this is the final Maxx trade. At any rate, I've been picking all of them up, and though the story gets just bizarre as it goes on, the whole thing remains enjoyable and looks great.)
Of Bitter Souls #1 (New Speakeasy series with art by Norm Breyfogle, a favorite of mine from the '90s)
Queen Bee Sc (Really looking forward to Scholastic's offering from Chynna Clugston, about warring teenage girls with telekinetic powers)
Rex Libris #1 (The tale of an intergalactic librarian from Slave Labor Graphics. Could be fun.)
Rocketo #1 (I've read issue zero of this, and it was a little scattered storywise but gorgeous to look at, so I'll keep up for at least an issue or two)
Small Gods #10 (Start of a new story arc in the sci-fi/psychic/cop/crime book from Image. I missed the second arc for the most part, but the first trade and the Small Gods special were top notch.)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Thursday night:
Almost lost the daily posting thing only a couple weeks in, but I got in just in time for a quick note about tonight's activities. My buddy Chris Nicholas is having a birthday tomorrow, and a party tomorrow, but tonight he went with a few friends who couldn't make the party to a Korean restaurant here in town.

I haven't had Korean food since I lived in New York, but I liked it then and I still like it now. We went to Korea House and had a great meal of duck, bacon, beef, pork and chicken bul gogi, which means it's cooked on the grill in the center of the table. There's also an assortment of veggie dishes, my favorite of which were the potatoes in sugar and of course the kimchee. Really good food, and I'll definitely go back.

After that, we retired to the nearby coffehouse Texspresso to grab a little dessert and chat for several hours about movies, books, politics, all the sorts of stuff that people talk about. An enjoyable evening with friends old and new.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Want to be in a book?:
Neil Gaiman has the info on bidding to be in books by Gaiman, Michael Chabon, Stephen King, Lemony Snicket and Jonathan Lethem.
Fantasy Football - but with comics:
I probably should have posted this *before* the draft, since I now think it's basically closed until the next "season," but I followed a link a week or two back to Metti Publisher, a fantasy football style thing for comics.

For those who don't know fantasy football, basically you pick real players, add them to your fake teams and then your fake team performance is judged by the real stats that the players rack up during the season. With Metti Publisher, you "draft" a handful of writers and artists, put them into positions and then your score is judged by the position those writers/artists (and more importantly, the titles they work on) rank in the top 100.

It was an interesting challenge, because most of the writers and artists I really like aren't super-popular and the industry does tend to reward characters over creators, so the safe bet is to pick whoever is on Infinite Crisis, Superman, Spider-Man, etc. My inclination if I'm playing a "fantasy" league, though, is to pick the writers and artists I would actually employ if I had my own publisher, and could let them create their own titles from their own imaginations.

I think I hit a pretty good balance, though. My draft came through today and I've got a pretty decent bench: Gail Simone and Robert Kirkman (my Monthly Writers), Dan Slott and Peter David (my Special Writers), Andy Diggle and Sean McKeever (temporarily on my bench) are on the writing side. Pascal Ferry and Michael Lark (my Monthly Artists), Phil Hester and Scott Kolins (my Special Artists), Cameron Stewart and Cliff Chiang (Cover Artists) and Mike Huddleston, Frazer Irving and Darwyn Cooke (temporarily on my bench).

As you can see, it's definitely not my ideal real world publishing plan. In truth, if I wasn't judging on whether they're prolific and successful enough to be in the top 100 more often, I'd be putting all the guys on my bench into the field, and I'd probably have both Darwyn Cooke and Phil Hester on the writing staff as well. But it's not supposed to be an ideal representation of publishing, just kind of a fun game that plays using some of the numbers in the industry. I'm curious to see how I do, but given that my emphasis these days is on books that are mostly selling outside the top 100, I'm betting I won't place too well. I did get some of the buzz and up and coming creators, though, so that may pay off for me.

I was kind of amused to see that I knew a lot of the names in the game, but not necessarily in my league. Steve Rolston happens to be in my league, which is cool, but my local friend Nate Southard is playing and I found out not from talking to him on Friday or Saturday but by seeing his name in one of the other leagues. The strange wonders of the Internet at work.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Comic Book Magazines:
Coming off a weak Chicago Con scheduled too close to San Diego and of course the Atlanta/Heroes Con fiasco, I'm sensing the backlash against the premier offline comics magazine Wizard. You can get a sense of it in Heidi's report and Augie's report, to name two sources.

Which got me thinking, maybe it's time for someone to launch a new comics magazine. Wizard has been under assault for years now because they basically represent the industry to a lot of folks (the monthly sales at one time were higher than any monthly comic, and anecdotal evidence from my experience in retail shows that a lot of readers are still taking their cues from Wizard and little else), and the face they put on the industry is one that is maybe a little childish, certainly driven more by hype and "hotness" than quality and artistic achievement.

That's to be expected, really. Why have so many comics magazines (Hero, Combo, etc.) fallen by the wayside when Wizard survived and thrived? It's because Wizard has something that Spider-Man, X-Men, Superman and the rest have... they're established. Familiar. Comfortable. They got established by riding one of the last waves of new stuff that broke through to the general public, the emergence of Valiant and Image publishers.

In other words, they rode to prominence during the speculator age. Speculation and hype and style over substance is coded into Wiard's DNA. Sadly, it also seems to be present in the DNA of a lot of comics readers these days, and so there's a vicious cycle of Wizard hyping the stuff that's already popular, people buying the stuff that is popular, and Wizard reports on what people are buying. You can't really fault Wizard for being what they are, just as you can't fault a lot of folks for being frustrated that the primary face of our industry represents some of the worst aspects of it.

But could a new magazine knock Wizard off the perch? Offer up a slightly more adult viewpoint, without becoming too dry, too old school or too snobby? I'm gonna go out on a limb and say: Nope. The place once held by print has been subsumed to a great deal by online media, and it would be damn near impossible (if not actually impossible) for a print source to compete with what's being done by literally hundreds of people whose turnaround time from source to print is minutes or hours and whose geographical spread means that it's essentially a 24 hour news cycle. It might be different if these folks were all amateurs, but most of them (or, more immodestly, us) have been at this for years, and many come from a background with ties to the published world of comics.

Better yet, the Internet comics journalism world is free. So a new magazine would have to be so good as to overwhelm not only the longstanding stranglehold Wizard has on that segment of the market, but to make consumers think "even though I can get the same news, interviews and reviews online, this has *something* worth paying for in it." It's not an impossible task, but it's definitely an uphill one.

Sorry if that was all a bit scattered. Just some thoughts I was having. And I didn't even touch on Comic Buyer's Guide, The Comics Journal or any of the other magazines that are also covering the industry these days, or my thoughts on the downsides of the free Internet economy for those who are actually providing the news, interviews and reviews.

Monday, August 08, 2005

My Weekend:
This was a relatively busy weekend for me. My wife and I drove down (along with my buddy Nate) to Beerland at around 9:30, 10:00 on Saturday to go and see The Blue Flames open for The Flametrick Subs. The Flames were good, but the Flametrick Subs (and Satan's Cheerleaders) were, as always, great. It was a late night, and by the time Suzanne and I got home, it was about 2:15 and we were exhausted, but it was a lot of fun.

Sunday I slept in, but then went out with my friend Chris to meet Andrew Boyd and his girlfriend Robyn (whose name I hope I didn't misspell) for the Texas Rollergirls Roller Derby championship. I'd never been out to Roller Derby, but I'll definitely go again, as it was a lot of fun. I regretted sitting on the floor for the first half, as my legs were killing me, but Chris and I stood for the second half and had a good time. I think by the end we'd almost figured out how the game was played!

Today, I slept in (again... my weekend routine is to catch up on sleep) and then mostly bummed around. Put more antifreeze in the car (I think it needs a tune-up, but I'm holding out because there's only about 500 miles until the next oil change, which is close enough to just go ahead and to the 90,000 mile service), played with Katy, cooked up some teriyaki chicken on the grill (good) with a cheesy potatoes and broccoli packaged thing I got at HEB (not so good) and then installed Thunderbird to replace Outlook Express. After a few false starts with password stuff, I'm enjoying it as much as I enjoyed the changeover from Internet Explorer to Firefox... love the RSS reader capabilities. I thought I was enjoying RSS links in Firefox, but having the content "pushed" to my email reader is even better.

And now... I go to forage for snacks, play some more Burnout 3 on the PS/2, watch more of The Job: The Complete Series (currently rented from Netflix) and maybe even get something productive done like taking some pictures for my upcoming next round of eBay auctions.

(Hey, don't look at me... I said right upfront that daily updates meant they'd often be more boring than usual. ;)

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Wizard World Chicago - That's it?:
While I was in San Diego, like most folks, I missed what was actually announced at San Diego. Came home to a veritable deluge of news from the major and minor publishers, which took me a few days to really catch up on. Since I wasn't going to Chicago, I figured I'd be able to read the news as it came in and keep up better. And I was able to do that... but that had a lot to do with the trickle of actual news.

Now granted, some of the big announcements mean little or nothing to me. I'm no fan of Michael Turner's work, so I couldn't care less about whether he's doing all his company-owned stuff at Marvel or DC, and I'm no big fan of Joe Mad's stuff either, although I do think the drubbing he's likely to take from Battle Chasers fans about finishing the work he started is well-deserved. Jeph Loeb at Marvel is mildly interesting, as I always like his stuff with Sale a little bit better at Marvel, but given that I'm off most of the big books at Marvel and DC, it hardly matters to me who is writing them, because I'm not likely to be reading or enjoying them. And Brubaker/Lark on Daredevil is the worst kept secret in comics, so that hardly counts as a major announcement... more like an expected and overdue confirmation.

No, mostly it seemed to be the companies patting themselves on the back over how great their comics are. Ultimate Universe - The Gold Standard. Odd, then, that the sales and buzz on those titles is slipping, isn't it? Crisis Counseling. Yes, we get it, Infinite Crisis is going to infect (excuse me, affect) every single book in the DC Universe. Things aren't going to be cheery and light in the wake of House of M? Well, gee, given how the new "grim 'n gritty" is selling, that's a shocker. Wizard's reputation for hyping stuff that's already popular ought to get a boost out of this Con, since that's pretty much what seemed to be going on.

You'll all have to pardon me for being a killjoy... but my vague feelings that the worst of the '90s has made a return in a newer, tougher-to-kill form were just strengthened by all the hype (excuse me, news) coming out of Chicago.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

So this is what Saturday morning looks like:
I must say, I don't care for it. Sure, it's pretty, sun is shining, birds are singing, but it's just so damn early! As a result of one person being on vacation this week and my desire to get off early to go to the Flametrick Subs show tonight, I volunteered to switch shifts with the other manager and get up at 8:00 on Saturday to work the 9-5 shift. Fortunately, gaming didn't go as long as it usually does (usually around 2 or 3, last night it was more like 10:30), although I stupidly went home and watched TV until around 1:30 anyway. I'm a night person, and just have trouble sleeping until it's gotten past midnight by an hour or two.

Fortunately, there is caffeine. And caffeine is good.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Weekly Comics to Come:
For the week of August 10, 2005

Action Comics #830 (Still the best Superman title, but the Infinite Crisis tie-ins are weakening my interest, and villain of choice in this issue gets on my nerves fast)
Adam Strange Planet Heist Tp (Fantastic action adventure with gorgeous artwork. Given that I'm enjoying Rann-Thanagar War, the follow-up, for the most part, I'll almost certainly pick this up)
Box Office Poison Complete New Edition Tp (Good to see this back in print. Review HERE)
Captain America #8 (Not crazy about the whole Winter Soldier plot, but Brubaker does a good job of selling the explanation in this issue and has some nice action as depicted by Epting)
Fables #40 (The Adversary revealed! Maybe? It's a fun issue with some great revelations, and Little Boy Blue continues to be an unexpectedly great badass action hero)
Gravity #3 (Continues to be one of Marvel's best books, with an old school Spider-Man vibe and a story you couldn't really do with Spider-Man)
Incredible Hulk #85 (Tied with House of M: Fantastic Four for the best thing to come out of the House of M. Peter David is making great use of the new Scorpion and her backstory for this story, and it's sort of off to the side of the House of M story, so you can enjoy it as just an alternate history tale)
Mage Vol 2 The Hero Defined Hc (First hardcover was terrific, second story is even better, been waiting for this. Hope there are no (or at least fewer) typos in this deluxe hardcover, though)
New Warriors #3 (So much fun. The secret origin of Microbe, the team deals with a flat tire and we see their producer's pitch meeting with the network for the Warriors reality show, which is hysterical. Also, the best art of Skottie Young's career so far)
Runaways Vol 1 Hc (The whole first volume in one giant hardcover. If not for the Top Shelf releases, would probably be my favorite read of the week)
Spiral Bound Gn (Review coming soon, but this all-ages treat about secret newspapers, a monster in the park, sculpting classes and a variety of other things is a great read)
The King Gn (Really terrific story based on the myth of the living Elvis. Review HERE)
Tricked Gn (Alex Robinson's new graphic novel, an ensemble piece about fame, secrets from the past and romance, among other things. Review HERE)

100 Bullets #63 (With the war between the Trust and the Minutemen heating up, this book remains one of my must-read titles)
Cast #1-2 (This one was apparently big in the Phillipines, it's about a boy who decides to try out for drama at an all-girl school and features some really nice art)
Concrete Vol 1 Depths Tp (Looking forward to seeing Dark Horse's repackaging of Concrete... especially since I haven't read a lot of the Concrete stories yet)
Ferro City #1 (Very nice looking art on this "robot noir," hoping the story is as good)
Hero At Large #1 (Superhero comedy from Speakeasy)
Mort Grim (Buzz book from San Diego, I have a copy but haven't read it yet)
Rann Thanagar War #4 (A bit sprawling, but kind of fun space opera/action stuff so far)
Seven Soldiers Zatanna #3 (Hooray! More Seven Soldiers! This one has a snarky and fun sense of humor and gorgeous artwork by Ryan Sook)
True Story Swear To God #14 (Always good to see another issue of Tom Beland's autobiographical/romance/humor book)
Villains United #4 (The Suicide Squad vibe and general skill of Gail Simone keeps me hooked into this one despite its deep Infinite Crisis ties, although I do hope that the original artist (Eaglesham) returns for issue four)

Thursday, August 04, 2005

This Just In:
Matt Haley is awesome. Check out these commissions on his site, and keep an eye out for his work on G.I. Spy #1, as well as some sweet-looking covers for Firestorm and Hawkman.

Just happened to be surfing the web and pointed out to his site and figured I'd give other folks a pointer to these cool commission sketches. It's amazing how many cool original pieces of art are out there on these artist's pages... Scott Morse and The Wildstorm guys are two more examples.
More Comics Stuff:
You'll note on the left column of the blog that I've added a couple more comics-related touches. I've got a Current Favorite Monthly Titles, which is my counterpart to Current Favorite TV series, as well as my five favorite first issues of the month and my ten favorite graphic novel reads of the month.

A couple things of note in how I organize these things, for those who care. These listings are alphabetical, not by rank of how much I liked them in comparison. I've narrowed it down to five or ten, beyond that is further narrowing of which one I liked best than I want to do on a monthly basis, at least right now. My criteria for what makes the list is when I read them, not necessarily when they were published. And thirdly, I was pretty strict on the monthly series, in that it has to be a series that is solicited and actually printed monthly, and it has to be either ongoing or a long ongoing (at least 30 issues) instead of a limited series. This is why, for example, The Atheist (bimonthly), True Story Swear to God (bimonthly) and Livewires (limited series) didn't make the list. In each case, I've provided a link for the listing, usually to one of my reviews (for further info on my opinion), but in the case of the monthly books and books I haven't reviewed, I've provided links to official publisher or creator sites or the best source of info I could find relatively easily.

Finally, the updates are for the month of July... August just barely started. So all my favorites will be anywhere from a week to a full month old, but these are meant to be sort of "standing" preferences anyway.

I may, if I feel ambitious enough, start doing a Favorite Miniseries of the month and Favorite Indie Books listing at some point... but not yet. My plan is to update these lists every month, although I reserve the right to do it more frequently or less frequently as the mood strikes me.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Spycraft 2.0:
It's been a little while since I've done a gaming-related post. Yesterday marked the release of Spycraft 2.0 (or at least, my first chance to buy it). I loved the original d20 Spycraft, in large part for the Chase rules that were so innovative in building an exciting mechanic into a relatively non-combat part of the game. I felt it could use some tweaking, and the additional rules being bolted on from the supplements were getting to be too much.

Enter Spycraft 2.0. It's still not perfect (there's a ton of rules here, and I can't help but feel that paring those down would have made it more approachable, and I still hate that a grenade can potentially do basically nothing to someone standing next to it), but it's got a lot of improvements and all that I loved about the original system.

Notable improvements: A speeding-up of the "gearing up" process (which bogged down every Spycraft game I played), introduction of "interrogation, infiltration" and a few other mechanics along the chase lines, a revision of the skills system and an expansion of the core classes without losing all the really good ones.

I'm excited about playing Spycraft again, although I'm curious how my players are going to react when they have to rebuild their characters from the ground up using their original concepts and the 2.0 rules.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Basement Tapes:
If you're not reading Comic Book Resources's The Basement Tapes, a weekly back and forth about various industry topics by Matt Fraction and Joe Casey, you should be. While I don't always agree with them, and in fact sometimes vehemently disagree, this is smart, funny and eloquent discourse on the industry.

Today's topics: Retailers and publishers, and the relationships between them. This gets discussed a lot, usually by folks who don't know their ass from their head, let alone the vagaries of publishing and retailing. Again, there are some things in this column that I think are 100% wrong, but there's a lot of interesting discussion there.

I know Fraction has done his time in retail, and you can tell in the way he talks about the realities of the situation. I'm not sure about Casey, but I'd guess he hasn't, because he does have some ideas about the direct market that haven't been borne out by my five or six years working in that side of the market. For example, the notion that DC or Marvel should send out full copies of their most spoilerific hypefests to every retailer, trusting the retailer not to spoil it for customers, is a remarkably bad idea. For every one or two retailers who would properly use that information to order more efficiently, there are a dozen who would mark it up and sell it to their customers, and the stuff would wind up on Ebay about five minutes after the previews hit the retail level.

Fraction, I think, has some sympathy for the burden on a retailer's time, but he missed a point, I think, in talking about web resources for smaller publishers. These web resources are a fantastic idea, and any retailer worth his salt spends some time on the Internet checking up on the latest in comics news and indie publisher previews, but... there are way too many independent publishers for any retailer to keep up with all of them. No mystery about one reason or another, it's just a matter of time as the resources pile up.

Note that this isn't my column on retailing. These are a couple of the points that came up in my head from reading The Basement Tapes, and this happens every single time I read the column. It always gets me thinking, analyzing, wondering about the industry and the mechanisms that make it work.

Monday, August 01, 2005

A New Job:
No, I don't have one. Truthfully, I suck at looking, I hate looking and I haven't been doing the reading of classified, the constant updating of resumes and the networking required to get one. I enjoy my current job enough that I'm not desperate to get out (as I was when I was working at Austin Community College as a marketing assistant), but I'm also realistic that I don't really want to be managing a comics shop for nine bucks an hour when I'm forty, if I can avoid it. The realization that I probably won't be getting another raise, ever, no matter how well I do my job, hits me every now and then and makes me realize that it's foolish to stay in this job.

Problem, of course, being that I have no idea what else I want to do. I have no real desire to go back to school and learn a new trade, if only because there aren't any trades I'm dying to learn. I have a lot of expertise in customer service, a pretty vast knowledge of comics and other pop culture and a mind with a bent for organizing, but when I combine these traits, what I get is the equation that I'm perfectly suited for... managing a comic book store. And I'm not quite rich or gutsy enough to try opening a new comics shop in a hotly contested area like Austin, and I don't want to move away in the name of opening a new shop in an area I don't know. Truthfully, I don't want to move away at all, but I probably would if I could find a job with some growth potential in an area I liked (such as California or the Pacific Northwest or even New York, now that I've gotten more used to the idea of the city).

So yeah, this is mostly me bitching about job stuff. But y'know, if anybody has any suggestions (or even better, good job opportunities), drop me a line.
New Mini-Comics Review Blog:
Found this link off of The Beat, as Size Matters, a new blog by Shawn Hoke, has been set up to review mini-comics. I'm a big fan of the format, and glad to see these comics (which sometimes are more creatively satisfying than the work that's being professionally produced, and often are a "first look" at creators who will become big talents in the medium) getting a spotlight on a regular basis.