Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Best of 2013 Comics - Collected Editions

No notes this time, because there's just too many and I ran out of time. But here's a list of 25:

1. Daredevil Vol 1 HC
2. Hawkeye HC
3. Black Beetle Vol 1 HC
4. Saga Vol 2 TP
5. Sixth Gun Deluxe HC
6. Absolute Top 10
7. Solo HC
8. Chew Omnivore Vol 3 HC
9. Thor The Mighty Avenger Complete TP
10. Complete RASL
11. Revival Vol 1 HC
12. Hellboy Library Vol 6 HC
13. Avatar Last Airbender The Promise Library Edition
14. Marshal Law Deluxe HC
15. Scott Pilgrim Vol 3-4 HC
16. Courtney Crumrin Vol 3-4 HC
17. Daredevil Vol 4-6 HC
18. Oz Road to Oz HC
19. Mind Mgmt Vol 2 HC
20. One Trick Ripoff HC
21. Godzilla Half Century War TP
22. Star Wars Agent of the Empire Hard Targets TP
23. Uzumaki HC
24. Planetoid TP
25. Superman Family Adventures Vol 1 TP

The New Year's Resolutions Post 2013-2014 edition

It's that time of year. In a couple hours, I'll be having dinner with my wife and several friends, a couple hours after that I'll be at a party with another group of friends and an hour after that I'll be singing karaoke with another group of friends. And the next day, I'll be having lunch and playing boardgames with yet another group of friends. And in the course of all that, there will still be people I love that I don't get to see until the New Year. I'm spoiled rotten in terms of the number of friends and loved ones I've got surrounding me.

2013 was a really shitty year in some ways (surgical recovery is no fun, and involved many trips to the hospital where I started to wonder if I'd ever feel well again, and finding out that the cancer was still there after the surgery is a pretty giant bummer) and a really great one in others (finally did recover enough to feel more like myself, made new friends, saw a few friends get into great new relationships, had a really good year for the store, spent a lot of time with friends and family, played a lot of great games, read a lot of great comics, watched a lot of great TV and ate a lot of great food). On balance, even with cancer having sort of a heavy thumb on the negative side of the scale, I'd have to say this was a pretty good year.

Last year's resolutions:

1. Don't get any major diseases - Whoops. But the cancer is technically a resurgence, not a new disease, so maybe I get credit there?

2. Recover from the surgery - More or less. Still occasional pain, and parts of me just won't ever work the same or have been actually removed, but I'm in much better shape now than I was in January 2013.

So... resolutions to make 2014 even better? Here we go:

1. Don't die. It's clear that "not getting sick" isn't really in my wheelhouse now. So I'm gonna lower the bar a bit.

2. If I do die, regenerate as a ginger. Wait... that's actually from The Doctor's resolutions list. Scratch that.

3. Learn Spanish. This is the outlier, I'm not sure I actually have the inclination/time to pull this off, but I want to try maybe some sort of audiobook-in-car type program or something. One, because there's a fair amount of Spanish spoken in Texas and it could be handy. Two, because I'd like to visit Spain and it'd be a hell of a lot easier if I spoke Spanish. Three, if I can show my kids that even after forty you can learn a new language, maybe it'll encourage them... I sure wish I'd learned other languages when I was younger and it was theoretically easier.

4. Read at least 12 books. Book books, without pictures. One book a month. I can do that. It's kinda sad that I haven't been able to do it in the last couple years.

5. Be 10% less of an asshole. We all have our moments. I'll hope to have fewer of them.

6. Spend time with as many of my friends as possible, as much as possible. I've been doing this one, actually, but more of it. More lunches, more movie nights, more game nights, just more time with the people I love.

7. Play at least 12 new board/card games this year. For someone who owns a game store, I play woefully few new games each year. I think this year I tried out Legendary, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game and Carcassonne South Seas, the latter really being more of a variation on one I already played. One new game a month seems doable.

8. Stay under 200 lbs. Actually, if possible I'd like to get back down to 170 or so, but with my weight creeping up to 195 lbs., it's time to start seriously cutting back on snacks and exercising more. After how much weight I lost when I was sick, it's good to be back to something more normalish, but I don't want to have to buy bigger size shorts, jeans, t-shirts, etc.

9. Go bike riding with my kids. Both my kids got bikes for Christmas. I really need to get mine fixed up (or get a new one) and go out on rides with them.

10. Travel. I've been too sick to go anywhere for a couple years now. We've got a little money, and so I want to take a trip this year. Maybe for our 15th wedding anniversary in May, maybe to a comic convention I haven't attended, maybe out of the country, maybe all three. New Orleans, Denver, Disney, Spain, Italy, France, Heroes Con, Emerald City Con,one of the cons in Toronto, these are all possible destinations.

That's it. Happy New Year to everybody, I'll hopefully be checking in monthly on progress of the books/games resolutions and on the other ones as well.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Best of 2013 Comics - Original Graphic Novels

1. Bandette Vol 1 HC
OK, maybe this is cheating, because it was digital first, and technically could be called a collection, but... it's my list, and I'm cheating. Bandette is a fantastic new tale of a young thief with a European flair, with elements of Tin Tin in the mix, really fun and light and inventive. Gorgeous art by Colleen Coover, who I've always liked but who has done some really amazing stuff with her colors here in particular, and she and her husband Paul Tobin have created a super-fun cast of characters in Bandette, her urchins, rival thieves, gangs of assassins and so much more.

2. Bad Houses
Sara Ryan has not written a lot of comics, but I've loved every one she has written, so I hope that changes in the near future. Some of the best characters in the business with intricate, well thought-out plots about the simple (and not-so-simple) interactions of human lives along with fascinating settings, from a high school drama department (in her mini Me & Edith Head) to a small Oregon town and the business of estate sales. Mix with art from unsung Indy art hero Carla Speed McNeil, whose epic Sci-Fi/fantasy series Finder I sorely miss, and you've got one of the best graphic novels of 2013

3. Monster on the Hill
1860s England, each town has their own monster, and the folks at Stoker-on-Avon are not super-keen on theirs. But when they draw the attention of a really dangerous monster, a young boy needs to convince the monster to show a little pride and defend his town. All-ages fun with fantastic art by newcomer Rob Harrell, this was a big surprise for me this year.

4. Parker: Slayground
Darwyn Cooke's adaptation of Richard Stark's novels are always favorite reads of mine. This one is a smaller story than the previous ones, with master thief Parker stuck in a closed amusement park with the take from an armored car heist and some corrupt cops and crooks ready to come in and take it from him. The smaller scale doesn't really hurt it, and there's some really nifty elements here, like a full map of the park and some inventive traps from Parker. It's like Home Alone, but with a hardened criminal instead of... no, I guess it's just like Home Alone.

5. We Can Fix It
Jess Fink's smutty steampunk tale Chester 5000 was one of my favorites, and her follow-up, a "time travel" memoir that answers the question we've all theoretically asked ourselves, "What mistakes would I try to fix that young me made if I had a time machine?" Sexy and funny with great cartooning, it's a joy to read and I can't wait to see what Fink does next.

6. DC Super-Pets Encyclopedia
Did you know that Captain Boomerang has a pet koala? How about Solomon Grundy's Pogo-inspired swamp crew? That is only a few of the characters covered in this super cheap ($8 for a big 'ol color book) of Super Pets, which ranges from the familiar (Comet, Beppo) to the invented, all courtesy of Tiny Titans co-creator Art Baltazar. This one should go in every kids' stocking at Christmas this year.

7. Boxers & Saints
Gene Luen Yang's two volume tale of the Boxer Rebellion is a historical period I didn't know much about, told in a unique way with each volume being a different perspective, and some interesting magical realism, particularly in the Boxers volume. I've enjoyed a lot of Yang's work, and this one, a mix of history, fantasy, interesting characters and pretty uncompromising storytelling, is no exception.

8. Battling Boy
A great read, reminiscent of Grant Morrison or Alan Moore's ABC work, with Pope doing amazing art as usual and some fun world building to boot. It's only the first chapter in a longer work, which may turn out fine but given how long this took, I'm not sure when we'll see volume two or if we'll ever see an ending. If this is chapter one of a superhero masterpiece, that'll be great. If it's the teaser for an unfinished tale with more questions and potential than answers and resolution, it'll have to settle for merely "really damn good."

9. Heck
10. Crater XV
These two were the tales from awesome digital collection Double Barrel, one a sequel to Kevin Cannon's tale of Canadian seafaring arctic adventure (you heard me!) and the other a story of a guy who can go into Hell on business for clients, this time an ex-girlfriend who wants to communicate with her dead husband, by Zander Cannon. Great cartooning, unusual premises and lots of twists and turns in the stories, plus the usual strong Top Shelf production values.

Just outside the top 10 list are a new volume of Fred Chao's Johnny Hiro Skills to Pay the Bills and the colorful pulpy adventure Delilah Durk and the Turkish Lieutenant from First Second.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Best of 2013 Comics - Ongoing Series

I could only put together a top 8 of ongoing series for 2013. Part of this is that a lot of my reading has switched to collected editions, so I'm not really keeping up with, say, Sixth Gun or Hellboy. Part of it is that a lot of the single issue series I read this issue were new, and are covered on my Best New Series list. And part of it is that a lot of what DC and Marvel publish just doesn't interest me these days. There are certainly other books I read, and even like, but not enough to consider them "Best Of" material.

1. Saga (#9-17)
Saga's second year is just as successful as its first. The second story arc fleshed out more of the early days of Alana and Marko while developing Marko's parents into very interesting supporting cast members, not to mention further expanding on their nemeses The Will and Prince Robot IV and introducing new supporting character Oswald Heist. The third story arc, which won't wrap until 2014, is a quieter story, letting the main characters catch their breath and talk about their pasts a bit  more while their enemies face their own difficulties and continue to close in on them. Saga continues to be a rich, expansive world with some of the best characters in comics.

2. Daredevil (#22-33)
Kicking off the year with a great use of Superior Spider-Man, and then leads into the culmination of everything Waid has been building to with new foe Ikari and the revelation of who's behind both him and indeed much of what's been going on for the first 25 issues of the run. After that, the story adds in a new Sons of the Serpent tale, a really fun one-shot with Silver Surfer, and continues to deal with Foggy's cancer. Chris Samnee's art is as terrific as always, and as the book goes into what we now know will be a close and relaunch, it's easy to rank this with the great runs of Bendis, Brubaker and Miller.

3. Hawkeye (#7-14)
Matt Fraction was on fire with this book, and the fantastic artwork by David Aja was supplemented by issues from Javier Pulido and Francesco Francavilla. There's the continuing story of Hawkeye vs. the Russian mobsters, and there are also a ton of great standalones, from the New York hurricane issue to the story of the harlequin-styled assassin to the experimental and awesome Pizza Dog issue. There was an unfortunate delay in the middle of the year, but it came back strong with a two-parter focusing on Kate Bishop's adventures in L.A.

4. Chew (#31-38)
After the death of a major character, Chew's "Bad Apples" story finds Tony Chu in a vendetta kind of mood, and it's a different side of the character that I liked a lot. The second part of the year finds us halfway through "Family Recipe," which continues to shed light on the expansive Chu clan. As always, the book is weird, beautiful to look at and always a lot of fun, but there's a really interesting underlying plot and serious character work going on as well.

5. Fatale (#13-18)
Fatale, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' noir/horror book, opened 2013 with one of my favorite issues of the run, a flashback to the lead character in the old west, followed by a World War II flashback, before returning to a modern-day story that deals heavily with bank-robbing musicians at the height of '90s grunge. It's got some labyrthine plotting and characters who could probably stand to pop a little more in each issue, such that I really prefer it in chunks of trade paperback storytelling, but it's always a great read.

6. Revival (#6-16)
I really enjoyed Revival from the outset, but this year the book got its hooks deeper into me, as Seeley and Norton further develop their cast and start shedding a little more light on the "ghosts" haunting the town, all while moving forward the various stories of the Revived characters we know and mixing in some real suspense with a group of criminal lowlives, a paranoid survivalist and lots more. Like Fatale and Manhattan Projects on this list, it's best enjoyed in trade paperbacks, but it's good stuff that I keep up with monthly as well.

7. Indestructible Hulk (#3-15)
Waid's take on Hulk is not as amazing as his run on Daredevil, but it's a solid premise (Banner joins SHIELD as a science advisor/WMD) and this year's run has taken the book to some interesting places. Most notably a time travel trip to Asgard with art by Walt Simonson, which was the best arc of the book so far. It suffers a bit from not having the same caliber of artists as Daredevil, with Leinil Francis Yu being a little hard-to-read and Matteo Scalera being solid but not much more, but it's full of great ideas, from the aforementioned Asgard arc to the extended time travel story that took up most of the year.

8. Manhattan Projects (#7-16)
To be honest, I have almost moved to reading this one in trade, because it's gotten so dense in its second year that I'm having trouble remembering all the characters and plotlines on an issue-per-issue basis. But Hickman's sheer level of wacky insanity using famous scientists and Nick Pitara's detailed, beautiful artwork make it a favorite of mine. It's got Hickman's usual scope with a more playful and less serious tone.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Best of 2013 Comics: Best New Series

It was a damn good year for new comics, especially Image Comics, which has a full half of the top 10 this year.

1. Sex Criminals #1-3 (Image Comics)
Not only is this my favorite new series of the year, nothing else really even comes close. Black Beetle and Afterlife with Archie (the next two in line) both have Francesco Francavilla art, which is awesome, but neither is as inventive, as crazy weird and as much damn fun as Sex Criminals. And given that those two books feature pure perfect pulp and a zombie apocalypse in Riverdale, that is saying something. Fraction has unleashed the dirtiest part of his mind and Chip Zdarsky sort of lives in that headspace, and the result is this book about two young lovers who can stop time when they have orgasms and naturally decide to rob banks. That's all we know from there, there have only been three issues, but c'mon... isn't that enough? No? How about almost an entire issue devoted to an inventive and hilarious karaoke rendition of Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls?" How about it's so dirty iTunes banned it, and it's so popular it's in multiple printings? I love, love, love this book so much.

2. Black Beetle #1-4 (Dark Horse Comics)
Black Beetle is technically a miniseries, beginning in Dark Horse Presents and continuing in this four issue miniseries, but since the next mini, Necrologue, is hitting next year, I'm inclined to call it an ongoing. The biggest thing Black Beetle has going for it is Francesco Francavilla's inky, gorgeous artwork and stunning Eisner-esque layouts. But it's also a brand new pulp character that feels like he could fit right alongside The Shadow, Green Hornet and the rest. While Dynamite is producing solid but largely unremarkable new tales of the pulp icons, Francavilla has nailed the exact tone and style of those characters with his new creation.

3. Afterlife with Archie #1-2 (Archie Comics)
What could easily have been a dumb gimmick has, at least so far, been a dark, moody zombie apocalypse that gets bonus points for using the extensive Riverdale cast and locale. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is not a writer I've been a huge fan of, but his history with Archie (he had a play, Archie's Weird Fantasy, which depicted Riverdale's most famous resident coming out of the closet and moving to New York, before Archie Comics shut it down) shows through here, as he subverts the original characters while simultaneously getting to the heart of their concept, and Francesco Francavilla delivers spooky, beautiful artwork that accentuates the iconic nature of the cast and the horrific nature of the zombie apocalypse.

4. Superior Foes of Spider-Man #1-6 (Marvel Comics)
Honestly, I'd have given this one a spot just for a welcome monthly dose of Steve Lieber's artwork, but even better, Superior Foes is the sad sack loser supervillain flipside to Marvel's Hawkeye series. Nick Spencer occasionally verges on too-snarky for me, but it's hard to complain about Boomerang, Speed Demon and the rest being portrayed as kinda losers. It's sort of an Elmore Leonard take on supervillains, and it really is must-reading for those enjoying Hawkeye and Daredevil at Marvel.

5. Velvet #1-2  (Image Comics)
Too early to really tell the future for this one, but this '60s espionage piece by the Captain America creative team of Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting is off to a strong start, with great action and conspiracy plotting plus gorgeous, gorgeous artwork.

6. Lazarus #1-5  (Image Comics)
I occasionally feel like I'm getting lost in the depth of Greg Rucka's politically-aware sci-fi world, as he's taking a William Gibson-esque "throw you in the deep end" approach, but there's no denying that the near-future world of Lazarus is smart, compelling and a little too plausible for comfort. Michael Lark is a terrific talent whose realistic style complements Rucka's down-to-earth narrative (if you can call a book about an unkillable corporate soldier down-to-earth, and I can, it's my list) and I feel like at five issues, we've just barely dipped our toe into the water here.

7. Injustice Gods Among Us #1-11 (DC Comics)
This one is a surprise. It starts with Joker murdering Lois Lane along with a lot of Metropolis and Superman retaliating by killing the Joker. It's dark, based on the ugly-as-hell designs of the Injustice video game and seems like the kind of thing that, tonally, would not be up my alley. But Tom Taylor's moment-to-moment writing, especially on one of my favorite characters, Green Arrow, gets the DC Universe in a way that not even a single New 52 creator has, and this Elseworlds tale of what happens when Superman and Batman are pushed to far reminds me of everything I liked about Kingdom Come. I wish the art was stronger and more consistent and not married to some really awful designs, but I can forgive a lot, especially when you've got the weirdly perfect and unexpected relationship of Green Arrow and Harley Quinn. Check out the annual, where Harley Quinn and Lobo go head-to-head (in another unexpectedly perfect pairing), to get a sense of the series at its best.

8. Alex + Ada #1-2  (Image Comics)
Another new series that could peter out before it earns it's top 10 spot, but the first two issues, featuring art by Jonathan Luna and co-writing from Sara Vaughn, are really intriguing stuff. A future with telepathic instant messaging and companion robots and a young man who finds himself dealing with both bits of technology leads to a strong, character-driven story with plenty of neat things to say about what it means to be human in a world where technology is blurring the lines.

9. Superior Spider-Man #1-24 (Marvel Comics)
I know a few of my friends might disown me after seeing this on my top 10, but despite the godawful premise (Doctor Octopus takes over Peter Parker's body), the frustrating defensive arrogance that Dan Slott keeps showing online (although after you get a few death threats, I think you can forgive being a bit prickly about fan reaction) and the constantly-changing art team, there's more here I like than don't. A new relationship between Spidey and Jonah, a reinvented Peter Parker (and Spider-Man), a guest turn by Spider-Man 2099, a gang of Goblins both Green and Hob... every issue there's something that makes me groan, but there's also something that I think is interesting or cool. Like pretty much everyone else, I'm marking time until we get the real Spider-Man back, but honestly, I'm kind of enjoying this as a temporary diversion.

10. East of West #1-7 (Image Comics)
This one almost doesn't make the list because I'm starting to feel the same spinning out of plot that has happened with all of Jonathan Hickman's work for me, but... the premise and world is so interesting, the art is so good that even if I wind up losing track before the end, I'm always going to love the promise that this post-apocalyptic western about the Four Horsemen had at the start.

Also in contention: Image's Burn The Orphanage #1-2 is a fun take on videogame tropes, Trillium #1-5 is a strange experiment in sci-fi comics from Jeff Lemire and Vertigo, Rat Queens #1-3 is a fun D&D-esque fantasy tale from Kurtis Wiebe and Roc Upchurch, and Itty Bitty Hellboy #1-3 is the Hellboy universe from Tiny Titans and Aw Yeah! creators Franco and Art Baltazar. All just narrowly missed the top 10.

Monday, October 14, 2013

I'm Baaacckk

I stopped numbering the posts. I'm posting so infrequently that it seems silly to keep track.

This post is to serve three purposes. First, since this has become my cancer blog, it's an update on the status of my cancer. Second, it's to actually remind people that yes, I occasionally post here. And third, and most importantly, it's to tell people where I am active since I'm so rarely using this blog.

So first things first... last time I posted I was almost done with chemo and feeling frustrated and tired. Good news is, I'm done with chemo, much less frustrated and tired. I still have a little pain and discomfort that's probably gonna be a lifelong companion at this point, but I was able to do two long days at Disneyland with my daughter in August, walking around in the hot sun and going on rides, and I've been walking/jogging two-three times a week to try and lose some of the weight that came back (last time I measured I was 184, which is about 35 lbs. heavier than I was at the height of my cancer). And the tests after chemo showed no residual cancer in my body.

Flash forward to a couple weeks ago, my first 3-month follow-up CT scan, and they found a little nodule on my lung. Too small to biopsy, so we did a PET scan. Turns out, it's cancer. Again. Small, much earlier than we caught it last time, but cancer. So starting in November, I get another port put in and we're doing three cycles of chemo to try and put it back into remission. With any luck I'll be cancer-free again by Christmas.

I'm hoping and expecting that since I'm not in any pain or showing any symptoms, that this will be a relatively much easier time with chemo. I expect my Mondays and Tuesdays will again be lost to sleep and fatigue on chemo weeks, but otherwise hope to keep up my normal routine.

That'll probably be the only post I make here for a while, not because I don't want to keep up with the blog but because I'm really bad at it. In the meantime, here's where you can find me.

Facebook - Unless I think you're spam, I almost always accept friend requests, and my updates are public so people can follow me. Be warned that it's mostly me posting about comics, politics (if you're not liberal-leaning it'll probably make you angry), TV and whatever random links/images I find. This is where I post most frequently, always daily and usually several times a day. I also have a Twitter feed, but I update it about as frequently as this blog.

Roguecast - I do a weekly podcast for my store, Rogues Gallery Comics & Games, that focuses on comics, games, TV and movies. http://roguesgallerytx.com/roguecast/

TV Dudes - Me and three friends podcast about a variety of TV topics on a weekly basis. http://www.loungegeeks.com/shows/tvdudes/

Loose Canon - Me and three friends podcast about comic books on a weekly basis. http://www.loungegeeks.com/shows/loose-canon-comics/

I think that's it, as far as regular stuff goes.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

6. The Finish Line

It's been a while since I've updated this blog with any cancer news. That's not because there hasn't been any, it's just that all my energy has been focused on these last few miles in the marathon that is fighting cancer.

As I write this, I have one more chemo appointment scheduled. On May 10, in theory, if nothing else goes wrong (more on that in a second), I will have my pump disconnected for the last time. And then it's recovery and vigilance, watching for (and hoping against) a return and getting back into the shape after the beating that chemo has administered to me, body and spirit.

I thought that the surgery was going to be the worst of it, and in many ways, it was. It was the most pain, the longest recovery, the most frustration and certainly the most permanent damage. While I got used to having a colostomy faster than I thought I would, there isn't a day that goes by that I don't notice I have the damn thing and hate it. It's a permanent change to my body that is always going to bother me. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Better than being dead, but really pretty awful. And I've still got plenty of residual pain from the surgery, which I hope will eventually go away... it's been over six months, and thanks to all the radiation and chemo, I haven't fully healed up. Not to be too indelicate, but it still hurts to sit for any decent amount of time, and I still feel pain in my rear whenever I walk or stand around for too long. I hope that eventually that goes away... I honestly don't know if it will.

But the chemo follow-up after the surgery has been super hard. My immune system has more or less given up on me. I've been in the hospital numerous times. Once with a 105 degree fever which turned out to be a blood/urinary tract infection. Again about a month later with less fever, but a return of the blood/urinary tract infection that came with acute kidney failure. Acute being the key word, they're restoring to normalish now. Once for a planned blood transfusion because chemo was/is making me anemic. Once when I started bleeding from (again, not to be indelicate) my ass and it didn't stop, but that thankfully turned out to be a minor blood blister thing. Still, you don't want to feel like you're re-enacting The Shining hallway scene in you bathroom one Wednesday morning. Especially when that Wednesday morning is your daughter's birthday.

Holidays seem to have it in for me. I spent my birthday in the hospital again this year. Hopefully my cancer doesn't recognize the impending Free Comic Book Day as a holiday, because I sure as hell don't want to miss that. I already spent STAPLE! in the hospital this year, the first time I've ever missed that show.

I've been told by my oncologist that the infection could return, because my immune system is so busted. So we're keeping an eye out for fevers, hopefully I'll get through all this without one or two more hospital stays, but I wouldn't be shocked if that isn't the case.

Fighting this thing has been the hardest thing I've ever had to do, and every time I think I've turned a corner, a new wrinkle develops. Like this week. I've been having trouble with my port, which was installed in my chest back in May, for the last month or two, basically ever since the hospital stay in March. It was hurting me, and causing me pain in my shoulder. This week, before administering the chemo, the nurse decided I should get a dye test to see if the line was broken. Guess what? It was. So despite being only two more treatments from the finish line, I had to have a Picc line put in through my arm to get the rest of the chemo. And my surgeon, the one who put it in, called me up on Friday worried that I should get it taken out sooner rather than later. But he's always been a bit alarmist, and he's the one who put it in (possibly not entirely correctly) in the first place, and he's not a specialist in that area (he's a colo-rectal guy), so I'm planning on having someone else take it out.

At any rate, though, for the next two weeks I've got a line in my arm. The good news is, it works, my shoulder doesn't hurt, and it'll give blood, something my port gave up on months ago, so that means no more sticking needles in me twice a week. The bad news is, it's kind of uncomfortable, and I'm not allowed to get it wet, so I have to wrap my arm in plastic wrap and be real careful taking showers, which is another fun inconvenience.

Even once the chemo is over, there's still some healing to be done from the surgery to get me back to relatively normal. Like I said, I'm hoping to eventually be able to sit and walk around without pain, and I'd sure like it if the various peeing issues I've been having would resolve. What is it they say about bladder control? You don't miss it until it's gone? Something like that.

I'm tired. I'm frustrated. I'm ready to be done. Two weeks might as well be two months, it's been so long struggling with this. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I'm looking forward to a summer of healing. With any luck, by the time we're taking the family trip in August, I'll be feeling much stronger and more like myself. Hell, I'm hoping to be more or less on my feet and ready to have fun in late June for the All-Ages Awesomeness event.

Then it's just a matter of the fear of it coming back. That's going to take me years to get over. But we'll watch and hopefully catch any return early, and not have to do anything quite so strenuous to get rid of the cancer if it tries to come back.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

5. 30 Rock Re-Watch: Season One, Episodes 6-8

Episode Six:
This is the first episode that really feels like what 30 Rock would become. Dennis is less cartoonish than he eventually will be, but Tracy and Jenna are both ramping up the crazy nicely. Rachel Dratch's Liz Taylor beating the crap out of Josh is the kind of twisted pop culture riffing the show does well, and there seems to be a general increase in the frequency of jokes.

Not coincidentally, the writers aren't in this episode much. While Toofer, Frank, Lutz and the rest are good in small doses, they're probably among the weaker elements of the show. But Jenna's obsession with age, Tracy's obsession with being weird and Liz's inability to manage her life are comedy gold mines that 30 Rock will return to again and again.

Episode Seven:
The show has found its footing at this point, and this was another strong and very funny episode. The first time we hear the names Grizz and Dot Com, the introduction of Chris Parnell's hilarious Doctor Spaceman and some terrific stuff with Conan O'Brien.

I wonder if the "I am a stabbing robot" bit was a nod to Crispin Glover's famous face kick on David Letterman. Either way, that and Tracy's extended dance were hilarious.

The Dennis/Liz relationship is a great source of comedy, and they seem to have settled into the dynamic for Liz and Jack as well. Pete's story, like all too many of the Scott Adsit stories, is a little sparse, but he's great in it. And a little Kenneth is just the right amount of Kenneth.

Episode Eight:
And so the Liz/Dennis relationship comes to a close for the first, but not the last time, thanks to timely intervention by Chris Hansen.

Tracy/Toofer turns out to be a pairing with a lot of story potential, but unless I've just forgotten, I don't believe they return to that well very often.

Jack dating Condi Rice is one of many funny uses of Jack's Republicanism and place in high society. Seeing him threaten to knock Putin's teeth in cracked me the hell up.

Not as full of rapid fire jokes as the previous episode, but a good use of several cast members and a very funny episode.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

4. 30 Rock Re-Watch: Season One, Episodes 1-5

Episode One:
I know common wisdom has it that the pilot of 30 Rock is weak, and it's not as good as the show would become, but it's got plenty of funny in there, and several characters, notably Jack and Jenna, are pretty much right on from the start.

Liz's obsession with food and fairness shows up in the first scene, with her buying out all the hot dogs so the guy who tried to start his own line couldn't have any.

It's weird to hear people calling it "The Girlie Show" instead of "TGS."

"Five inches, but it's thick." Fun one-liner from Jack, who gets the first big laugh of the episode.

Jack comes out pretty fully formed, pegging Liz right off the bat and spitting out silly business jargon like it's nothing.

"When I played that lady rapist on Law & Order..." -Jenna Maroney is also dead-on from the start, pretty much

Wow, Tracy Morgan is thin. And that "I Am A Jedi!" bit is the first laugh I remember getting out of 30 Rock.

Two-fer is trying to hard to be nerdy and uptight this early on.

Tracy Jordan is actually somewhat restrained and less cartoonish than he will become later on. But still one of the funnier parts of the pilot.

Weirdly, Liz Lemon is playing straight woman far too much early on. It's one of the earliest weaknesses of the show, that Tina Fey is giving all the material away, rather than letting herself act and play comedy a bit more.

Pete Hornberger is also much more subtle and human this early on. Pete getting fired in later seasons would have launched into some kind of truly bizarre reaction.

Episode Two:
While the pilot is by no means perfect, it's much stronger than the second episode, which is really pretty weak and forgettable.

Funny to hear Jack referencing his father... they didn't know yet what they were going to do with his mother character at this point.

Again, Tracy comes off as much less cartoonish and more balanced in this one. It's not until he goes off the deep end that the show gets funnier.

Jenna's insecurities have been the source of great comedy later on, but it's mostly shrill and unpleasant early on.

The "mic is on, monitor is on" stuff is hack and routine. 30 Rock didn't come into it's own until it embraced the crazy, this early on it's just doing sitcom standards, complete with physical comedy schtick that doesn't quite work.

"The ice cream bar was my idea." Again, Liz Lemon's love of food is already well-established.

Episode Three:
Probably stronger than both the pilot and the second episode, largely on the strength of Jack and Kenneth.

The first of Liz Lemon's troubles with men introduced here. Again, pretty low-key and non-cartoonish, given the direction her romantic disasters will eventually go.

Dennis is referenced, however, so the romantic disaster potential is there. And Dennis played Halo under the name "Slutbanger," so they had some idea who he was. Also, the first reference to her dating Conan O'Brien.

The notion of Liz being set up with Tom Delay is the first overt reference to Jack's increasingly amusing Republicanism.

The beginning of the Jack/Liz mentoring relationship starts here, and it's something that could have been insulting, if, say, Aaron Sorkin had written it, but Jack really does know best, Liz really is a mess, and when it comes to the actual work, Liz is the one who knows what she's doing, so it works.

Liz almost choking isn't particularly funny. Tina Fey is good at physical comedy, but they haven't found it yet.

The first indication that Kenneth is going to be more of a character comes here at the poker game, and it's funny that in the third episode, they're predicting the eventual finale.

The first flashback! And it's funny, with the Liz Lemon being mistaken for a lesbian, and Liz's high school perm hair is always funny.

Episode Four:
Still figuring things out, slowly getting funnier in places, but 30 Rock still isn't 30 Rock yet.

Jack would never, ever care about what Liz Lemon thought of him this early in their relationship. It's an unfortunate misfire, especially since so far, they had figured the character out pretty well.

Wow, I'd forgotten that Six Sigma, the management technique which returns in the final episodes, was referenced this early.

Jack Donaghy delivering ridiculous catchphrases, though? Funny.

Afraid of one of his kids ("so strong"), desperately needs Cerie to keep dressing sexy? Yep, there's the pathetic Pete Hornberger we all know and love.

Tracy and Kenneth together is always pretty funny. The weird errands here aren't quite weird enough, and there are only a few great lines ("Work the V-jay-jay"), but it's a start of something fun.

What the what?! That's not Mrs. Jordan!

Episode Five:
The Jack Donaghy mis-characterization is a problem, but otherwise this is a pretty solid episode. There are a lot of funny runners, and plenty of great gags in the speaker announcements in the background. "Jenna, Ghostface Killah and Yo-Yo Ma to the stage."

The product integration gag with Snapple killed me the first time I saw it, and did it again this time around.

Gaybraham Lincoln. Funnier than TGS usually is, and yet in keeping with its intended low-brow hackiness.

Twofer and Frank messing with Jenna is another important bit that will play out over many seasons.

Liz Lemon, uninformed but enraged liberal. Lots of important character stuff developing in this episode.

Jack being unable to act is out-of-character, just like his friendship stuff with Liz in the previous episode. Jack not being confident in his ability to do anything, in fact, seems weird.

The Tracy faking illiteracy gag runs too long, but it pays off nicely in the "Smallest Penis in Show Business" poster and "Hot Lesbian Auditions."

Hey, Donald Glover sighting!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

3. Pain

One of the things you notice if you've got a chronic or serious illness and spend some time in hospitals is that you get the same dozen questions or so from literally everyone you meet. Every nurse, assistant or doctor will ask about falls, medicine, allergies, dutifully note it in the computer, and the next person will ask you the same thing. I know it's an insurance and safety issue, planned redundancy, but it becomes either comical or annoying (depending on one's mood) when you get the same questions over and over again.

The one that gets me, though, is that they ask if you're in any pain. Then they ask you to rate it from 1-10. I was constantly under-bidding on mine, until my wife gave me some frame of reference from when she'd seen me in various pains, and I'm better at it now.

What's kind of weird, though, is that usually the person asking can't actually do anything about it. They don't have pain meds handy, and they're not authorized to dispense them if they did. So all they can do if I say I'm at an eight is make sympathetic noises, which isn't particularly helpful.

Fortunately, my "pain management" is more or less OK. I've been in some pain in the 'ol "bathing suit area" since the surgery, and while, even with my Vicodin/Tylenol blend, it was pretty bad throughout November and December, it's starting to get better.

It does sort of suck to be in constant pain, though, even at low levels. I've got a few things wrong with me that I'd like to go ahead and heal up, and the pain going away is a big one. At this point, it's a constant companion, and part of me feels like it'll be there forever. I can't wait until I'm looking back without pain and just remembering that feeling. Maybe by the end of February or March.

Friday, January 18, 2013

2. Best of 2012 Comics

Top 10 Single Issues
1. Daredevil #8-20
2. Saga #1-6
3. Hawkeye #1-6
4. Planetoid #1-4
5. Sixth Gun #18-24
6. Chew #23-29
7. Courtney Crumrin Ongoing #1-6
8. Conan the Barbarian #1-10
9. Godzilla Half Century War #1-3
10. Thief of Thieves #1-6
The Rest
Indestructible Hulk #1-2
Fatale #1-9
Star Wars Agent o/t Empire Iron Eclipse #2-5
Lobster Johnson the Burning Hand #1-4
Manhattan Projects #1-6
Massive #1-6
American Vampire Lord of Nightmares #1-5
Top 10 Graphic Novels
1. Daredevil Vol 1-3 HC
2. Saga Vol 1 TP
3. Wrinkle in Time
4. Scene of the Crime HC
5. Crogans Loyalty HC
6. Scott Pilgrim Color Vol 1-2 HC
7. Severed HC
8. Courtney Crumrin Vol 1-2 HC
9. BPRD Vol 3-4 HC
10. Art of Mass Effect Universe HC

The Rest
Sixth Gun Vol 3 TP
Chew Vol 5-6 TP
Empowered Vol 1-2 HC
Art of Amanda Connor HC
Ozma of Oz TP
Batman vs Black Glove HC
Fatale Vol 1 TP
Sunset HC
Amulet Vol 5
Thief of Thieves Vol 1
Manhattan Projects Vol 1
Incognito Classified Edition HC
American Vampire Vol 4 HC
Criminal Deluxe Vol 2 HC
Star Wars Agent o/t Empire Iron Eclipse TP

Thursday, January 10, 2013

1. The Resolutions Post

So I figured I'd start out with that old chestnut, the New Year's resolution/look back at last year post.

Last year kinda sucked. I spent most of it dealing with cancer. That said, there was also Spill dot Con, our second annual All-Ages Awesomeness at the store, plenty of good times with friends and family, so it wasn't all cancer. It's just that chemo, radiation and surgery does kind of overwhelm everything else.

Last year's resolutions:

1. Post at least weekly on the blog - That's the reason for the numbers on the blog posts. I got to #41, which means I missed posting 52 weekly posts. And since there were sometimes months between posts, I missed that by quite a bit.

2. Watch all the Blurays and DVDs - Well, I didn't watch all of them, but I did watch quite a few. Of course, I also added quite a few, so the stack of stuff to watch remains pretty big. I'm OK with that.

3. Catch up on graphic novels - Same deal here. Read a lot of them, added a lot more. But the amount of stuff I have that's been sitting unread for years is down quite a bit.

4. Catch up on novels - Failed miserably. Need to get better with the prose reading again.

5. Keep my healthy weight and get back to exercising - My weight is pretty good, actually, thanks to cancer and surgery more than exercise.

This year's resolutions:

1. Don't get any major diseases - Should have started with this one last year. Who knew?

2. Recover from the surgery - As I write this, I'm still unable to sit comfortably for more than about half an hour at a time, my "bodily functions" are not really under my control and I'm pretty much a hermit, staying inside and healing. It's slow going, but I'm hoping that the recovery will continue and I'll be back to something resembling normal by the time my birthday rolls around in April.

I do have one more round of chemo which will probably run until June, but I'm hoping I can manage all that and get back to what normal is for me by the middle of summer.

That's it. If I can manage those two, I think I'm doing pretty good in 2013.