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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My Experiences as a Member of the Camarilla/Mind's Eye Society (UPDATE)

As of right now, I am no longer a member of the Mind's Eye Society. I have allowed my membership to lapse and began to focus on other things in life for a few reasons that I feel I can now express without fear of retaliation:


  • As much as I enjoy playing the game and being the one in charge, I can't do it alone. While, in some instances, I had the support of a handful of members in the Domain... in most, I received little to no feedback. I can't function that way.

  • In the end, the Domain had only a handful of active members. This, along with the fact that no one could or would accept the role of Domain Coordinator when I stepped down, led to the Domain having to close. I wish things had been different.

  • When I came to the decision of leaving the MES and stepping down in my role as Domain Coordinator, I realized how much of a mess I had let myself become. Without going into too many details, my health is not what it used to or should be. This is no fault of the organization or the company I kept, but rather my decisions to "deal" with anxiety I felt.

  • When I came into the organization, I entered just for the gaming. As time went by, I grew to enjoy the community service aspect of things. Over the past year of being DC, it seemed like the members of the Domain were there only for the game and were less interested in getting involved in food drives or other works of charity. This saddened me greatly.

  • While I am not entirely opposed to change, I don't like change for the sake of change. I prefer to live by the saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." With the updated rules earlier this year, I felt like they were trying to fix something that was working well. Through this, I continued to become disillusioned with the organization.


I'll miss the good times and the enjoyable storylines. Many of the people I want to keep in touch with are connected with me via Facebook. I'm sorry that the Salem Domain's ship had to sink one final time.



Sunday, July 28, 2013

Ultimate Daredevil & Elektra Vol. 1





Title:
Ultimate Daredevil & Elektra Vol. 1





ISBN:
0785110763


Price:
$11.99


Publisher/Year:
Marvel, 2003


Artist: Salvador Larroca, Joe Quesada


Writer:
Greg Rucka, David Mack


Collects:
Ultimate Daredevil & Elektra #1-4,
Daredevil #9





Rating:
3/5





Elektra
Natchios is 17 and arriving at Colombia University for her freshman year of
college. Her father is a businessman who owns a small dry cleaning chain in
Queens; her mother died of breast cancer when she was young. Elektra's a normal
girl in all but one respect: she's been extensively trained in martial arts,
and she can defend herself quite well if need be--which is a good thing,
considering the events of the year to come.





There's
good and there's bad: good, she hits it off with Phoebe, her roommate, and a
fellow student, Melissa. Bad, Melissa has attracted the negative attention of
Calvin Langstrom the Third, known around campus as "Trey." Good,
Elektra's set her sights on Matt Murdock, an attractive pre-law student whose
physical abilities rival her own, and who also happens to be blind. Bad... Trey
rapes Melissa. Even more bad: the police won't take action, due to Trey's
family's status. Elektra might have to take matters into her own hands--except
that Matt, who has a secret or two of his own, might not let her get away with
it.





I
really like the conceit behind Ultimate Marvel--younger, more contemporary reimagining’s
of Marvel heroes and heroines. This is my first acquaintance with the line, and
I'm definitely curious now to try more--I like that the line reworks characters
and storylines from the originals and doesn't try to confuse new readers with
the complex history of the original imprint. I know just enough of the original
Daredevil and Elektra characters to make sense of what's been changed here:
Elektra's family is more middle-class, rather than rich; Elektra's mother's
death was pinned down to a specific cause rather than left negligible; Matt and
Elektra meet in college, instead of when they're older. I liked this idea of
Matt and Elektra as college students: reading about kids my age, in an
environment like the one I live in now, made this story easy to relate to,
current, and compelling.





The
art was really excellent; I think this is the most impressed I've been with any
of the Marvel comics I've read so far. Sometimes Marvel women--even women like
Aunt May!--look too much like supermodels for me to take them seriously, but
Elektra, Phoebe, and Mel looked like normal girls, the type of girls I would
see around my campus. Elektra's outfit was made into something more practical,
the type of thing that a teenage girl--yes, even a teenage girl taking up
secret vigilante work--would wear. Same with Matt's costume, although like many
reviewers, yes, I did find it hard to believe that all Matt needed was a strip
of cloth over his eyes and the top of his head to keep Elektra and others from
realizing it was him.





Matt
and Elektra's romance is intertwined with the vigilante subplot, and although
it moves a bit too fast, I blame that on the arc only being four issues. The
story skips ahead months at a time, at least in the beginning. It basically
ends up being love after a few dates, which I'm never too fond of in fiction.
But I liked their dynamic nonetheless. Matt tries desperately to keep Elektra
from heading down the dark path of revenge and even murder. Elektra gets the
feeling she doesn't know quite as much about him as she thought she did.
Despite all the deceit and desperation, Matt and Elektra are still, when it
comes down to it, a teenage couple--they get physical at some slightly
inappropriate times, Elektra dishes with Phoebe once the date ends, and so on.
The romance was fairly light compared to the darker themes of sexual crimes and
dirty politics, and provided a nice contrast. I do think that the story could
have been expanded and fleshed out--we don't get to see much of Matt outside
his scenes with Elektra, and his backstory is left out entirely--but
nonetheless, I enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to checking out the sequel,
Ultimate Elektra: Devil's Due.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns – Part 2





Title: Batman: The
Dark Knight Returns – Part 2




Rating: PG-13

MSRP: $19.98 DVD, $24.98 Blu-Ray

Production Company/Year: Warner
Premiere
, DC Entertainment,
Warner Bros. Animation,
2013

Director: Jay Oliva

Writer: Bob Goodman (Screenplay), Bob Kane (Characters), Frank Miller (Comic
Book)

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2166834/




Rating: 4/5





The Dark Knight along with new sidekick Robin have finally
reclaimed Gotham City and allowed a ray of hope to penetrate the reign of
terror that The Mutants had cast upon his city. With Batman back in the
spotlight the extended media coverage has awoken a far worse evil at Arkham
Asylum the Joker! Forever destined to be mortal enemies The Joker has a
diabolical scheme that may pull Batman down to the darkest levels of insanity.
While on the horizon a global catastrophe races towards Gotham and with it
comes a familiar face The Man of Steel though this time he has Batman in his
sights. Witness as the aging Dark Knight wages a tireless war against crime
while proving that courage and will are indeed timeless.





Taking up right where the last release left off, this one
picks up in the wake of Batman’s defeat of the Mutant gang which terrorized
Gotham citizens. Many of the youngsters have now taken to preying on criminals,
often in a harsh and fatal manner, and calling themselves “The Sons of Batman.”
The movie opens with Galaxy Communications President Lana Lang debating the virtues
of Batman’s return on a live talk show, which is being viewed at Arkham Asylum
by The Joker, who’s found a reason to smile after several years in a catatonic
coma. Joker laments to his psychiatrist Dr. Wolper (Michael McKean) about not
really having a chance to tell his side of the story regarding Batman, so the
Doc decides to book Joker on the David Endocrine show.





Right about the same time, a ceremony takes place where Jim
Gordon (David Selby) officially retires as police commissioner and passes the
position to Ellen Yindel (Maria Canals-Barrera), who makes her first act to
issue an arrest warrant for Batman on criminal charges. Meanwhile, in
Washington DC, The President speaks to Superman (AKA Agent Kent) about bringing
in Batman since all superhero activity is now banned in the U.S. Superman (Mark
Valley) says he’ll do his best.





Eventually, Clark Kent meets up with Bruce Wayne to discuss
Batman’s retirement, how and how someone will likely order Superman to finally
take down Batman once and for all. Bruce simply says when that happens, “May
the best man win.” Clark flies off as he’s called to help American forces fight
Soviets invading the South American island called Corto Maltese.





A lot of things are set up here. If you’re a fan of the
original graphic novel, you’ll likely enjoy this movie despite some of the
changes. The Joker’s escape is handled in a rather shocking and creepy manner.
TV host David Endocrine was originally done up as an obvious parody of David
Letterman, but here he’s drawn more like Conan O’brien, who voices the role
here. Michael Emerson (Person of Interest) does The Joker with a subtle nastiness.
I know many of you will be likely comparing him to Mark Hamill’s performance
over the years. Emerson sounds like a subdued killer clown (compared to
Hamill’s rendition) who’s been wanting a reason to feel alive again and you see
this in full during his battle with Batman. Peter Weller meanwhile, plays off
him and everyone else well as Batman, who comes off nastier than ever even as
Bruce Wayne. The only time his voice doesn’t quite perform well is during an
address to The Sons of Batman at one point, but he’s still pretty good.





Another performance that’s fun to hear is Jim Meskimen as
The U.S. President. If you read the comic, it’s rather obvious he’s drawn up to
be a parody of President Reagan, and Meskimen plays this aspect up perfectly.
It’s weird not to see this performance listed on IMDB.com, but he’s definitely
a highlight here. Actually, everyone does pretty well here thanks to voice
director Andrea Romano, but these voices were the ones who stood out most.





There’s also the overall direction here. I felt the pacing
for Part Two (covering issues 3 & 4 of the comic series) wasn’t quite as
good as for Part one, but the big events that are iconic to this story do play
out with style. The eventual battle between Batman and Superman is truly epic.
Director Jay Oliva takes advantage of the fact he’s got the two biggest heroes
in comic history going  at it and he
makes the most of this opportunity, making the action an all-out slugfest, more
devastating than the comic could depict. In this and other action scenes, Oliva
delivers handily.





So we come to the end of waiting for this mythos-changing
series to be adapted. As with any other production, there are some changes but
the story is still effective and worth purchasing. The DVD & Blu ray will
contains some cool extras like a look at Batman and Superman’s relationship,
and a decent selection of episodes from the Batman animated series. Very hapy
to see this includes “Legends of The Dark Knight” which shows the first
animated version of The Dark Knight Returns. There’s also a preview of
Superman: Unbound which adapts a Geoff Johns / Gary Frank comic about Superman
and Supergirl’s first encounter with Braniac.





To anyone who reads this wanting to see a complete ending to
Batman’s career, you could read the comic or buy this movie (and the first part
of course). Either way, you’re in for a pretty good time.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Character Generation

I know there are so many different systems that have various methods of generating characters. Since I originally was brought into RPG's using Dungeons & Dragons, I've always been accustomed to a 4d6 method of generating your characters attributes. For those who don't know what I'm talking about, you roll 4d6, remove the lowest single result, and that's your stat score. (i.e. 4d6 rolls 4, 5, 6 & 2 so your total would be 15.) When I joined the Pathfinder game I'm currently in, I was finally introduced to a point-buy system of stat generation.



I recently found a post entitled The Ultimate Question – Roll or Point Buy? and it got me thinking. While I understand the fairness of a point buy to all players, I feel that this doesn't allow for much creativity for the players. In the day's of Gygax, Perren & Arneson, dice were the method of character creation. Why change? For some people, it make character creation a little more difficult. I was able to adapt, but I went down that path kicking and screaming. (Figuratively speaking, or I doubt the group I'm gaming with would have let me stay.)



We have dice for a reason. For me, character generation has always been a time where I get my dice rolling out of my system. (For reference: I'm usually relegated to playing the supportive spellcaster, and don't make too many rolls in combat situations.) This is why I have dice and this is why I purchased them. Granted, one of my favorite systems (White Wolf's classic World of Darkness) is a point buy system... but when I play D20, I prefer to roll my stats and let fate step in.



I know I can go on and on about this, and I know that many of my readers have opinions on the subject. I would welcome you to leave comments about which system of character generation you prefer and why.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns – Part 1




Title: Batman: The
Dark Knight Returns – Part 1




Rating: PG-13

MSRP: $19.98 DVD, $24.98 Blu-Ray

Production Company/Year: Warner
Premiere
, DC Entertainment,
Warner Bros. Animation,
2012

Director: Jay Oliva

Writer: Bob Goodman (Screenplay), Bob Kane (Characters), Frank Miller (Comic
Book)

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2313197/




Rating: 4/5





For my regular readers, you know that I don't generally offer reviews of movies. When I watched this, I couldn't help but express an opinion.





For a few decades, the character of Batman create by Bob
Kane was seen as a gallant, crime fighting avenger and brilliant detective,
ready to take down criminals across Gotham and keep citizens safe from the
violence which claimed his parents’ lives. Along the way, the
billionaire-turned-superhero became also seen as a big brother / father figure to
young men such as Dick Grayson and Jason Todd, who also lost parents to
violence and subsequently became Robin: The Boy Wonder who would help Batman
and sometimes save him if need be.





In 1986, DC Comics released the 4 issue limited edition
mini-series Batman: The Dark Knight Returns in a special prestige format. It
wasn’t one you could pick up at the comic shops initially but instead available
through mail order. After rocking the world of Marvel’s superhero Daredevil,
writer-artist Frank Miller teamed with inker Klaus Janson and colorist Lynn
Varley to tell the story of a burned out retired vigilante who lives in his
large empty manor as a shell of a man who fears what the world has become and
can’t get past the fact his first assistant no longer speaks to him, as he
obsesses over the fate of his second. This depiction of Batman’s psyche at the
end of his career gave fans and media a brand new darker perspective into what
Bruce Wayne’s life would be like in a realistic world, deconstructing his
status as a super hero much like Alan Moore would later write about similar
characters in Watchmen.





The reaction from media and comic fans would prompt future
writers to adapt the darker elements of the Batman mythos into their works,
trending away from the somewhat optimistic view depicted in cartoons like The
Super Friends or early 80s comics. Filmmakers Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan
showed the influence of The Dark Knight Returns in their films as did animation
producer Bruce Timm in Batman: The Animated Series. For over two decades, fans
of this mini-series (later collected as graphic novel) would speculate could it
ever be adapted fully as a movie (live or animated) and who could portray Batman
faithfully.





This question has finally been answered with the release of
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns – Part 1. This animated movie adapts materials
from the first two issues of the min-series and starts with Bruce being
somewhat suicidal, driving in a formula-1 race and nearly being killed in the
process. He’s 55 years old, having been retired for ten years from being
Batman, whom most kids don’t believe ever existed. Though it’s never stated
exactly why, the retirement appears connected to the death of Jason Todd.


Meanwhile, Commissioner Jim Gordon is a few weeks from
retirement and has to death with a particularly murderous street gang called
The Mutants, led by the mysterious psychopath known simply as The Mutant
Leader. Various news interviews move the story along as we see one of Batman’s
most dangerous foes, Two-Face, finally getting surgery to repair his
half-scarred face after years of treatment and ready to return to society as
Harvey Dent.





Harvey’s near immediate disappearance following his first
public press conference as a reformed man triggers a return to the cape and
cowl that Bruce has been fighting off mentally for some time. He can’t hold
back what’s been building within him, which in some ways mirrors Harvey’s
struggle with his personal demon. A brutal thunderstorm sets the perfect
atmosphere that night as folks begin to see crimes foiled by ‘a huge man
dressed like Dracula’. Batman emerges to face this new world but even with his
manhunter instincts, incredible arsenal and a new Robin (a young girl named
Carrie Kelly) who joins him along the way, there is one enemy that may
ultimately thwart his comeback… namely, time.





With so much regard given to the original comic, it was hard
to imagine anyone doing an adaptation worthy of the material. Fortunately,
Bruce Timm’s production team gave the reins to director Jay Oliva and the
results are very good. He’d worked as storyboard artist on several of the WB’s
DC Universe movies and directed Doctor Strange as well as one of the segments of
(the underrated) Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, so he had some good experience
heading into this. It seems though he took his overall animation and art style
from the Spawn animated series from HBO in the 90s. Many scenes here
(especially ones taking place in dark or nighttime settings) have similar
movements to that show.





One element that was difficult to picture in animation was
the comic art style of Miller and Janson, which had a lot of heavy details and
sketch lines. For this piece though, character designer Jay Suzuki cleaned up
the designs well, while retaining the unique look of Batman (who looks rather
blocky and bigger than in most works) for this movie. Between Suzuki and
Oliva’s efforts, the iconic imagery and mood of the comic is translated very
well in this presentation. The 80’s style music by Christopher Drake combining
electronic synthesizer pieces with hard rock backgrounds came handy as well,
especially during the action scenes.





There are other considerations to discuss however, most notably
the screenplay by Bob Goodman. In watching this movie, it occurred to me there
was one element I’d taken for granted while reading the Dark knight Returns
comics. Throughout much of the story, there are many internal monologues that
provide entertaining insight to Batman’s methods. (Fans of the TV series Burn
Notice may relate here when thinking of Michael Weston’s voiceovers.) Those
monologues are not present here but are used for exposition to help describe
events half the time; the other times they’re simply omitted and are missed
initially. Likewise, the appearances of the U.S. President (who in the comic is
drawn and written almost exactly like President Reagan) are also missed.





These absences were hardly noticed the second time I watched
this movie though. The story still held up well and had a couple minor
improvements such as extended confrontations between Batman and The Mutants as
well as a tense scene with a despondent army general. Other cool bits include
seeing Robin awkwardly try to help Batman at one point as well as seeing Bats
trying to climb a rope after years of little practice. Also, it was good to see
the action start off straightaway with no opening sequence. You know why you’re
there; the movie knows why you’re there. No need for delay here. Compared to
the very faithful but somewhat lifeless animated adaptation of Batman: Year One
(based on yet another influential comic by Frank Miller), the screenplay makes
very good changes necessary for a film.





Now we come to the voice acting. In an era when Kevin Conroy
has (deservedly) become the most recognized and admired Batman voice actor for
animation (and some live action) fans, and Bruce Greenwood is carving a niche
for himself in portraying him in Under The Red Hood and Young Justice, how
would screen actor Peter Weller fare behind the microphone? When the project
was first announced, many were hoping Conroy would return or that perhaps actor
Michael Ironside would reprise the role as he did when a segment of The Dark
Knight Returns was adapted in an episode of the Batman Animated Series entitled
‘Legends of the Dark Knight.’





It might be best to compare Weller’s performance to Ironside
since both did the most similar takes on Batman. Ironside was grizzled and no
nonsense. Weller though is grizzled, cold and… creepy. He’s a bit monotone for
Bruce but when Batman comes out he is truly frightening to listen to at times,
because you know this old man is going to kick your butt and there’s probably
very little you can do about it. This quality honestly makes him more perfect
to portray Batman at this stage of his life, and as usual voice director Andrea
Romano manages to bring these aural nuances out to impeccable quality. There’s
also one amusing part where he calls out from the Batmobile through an
electronic speaker and you’ll likely get a Robocop flashback, something I’m
certain was not lost on this production team.





All in all, the movie is really good. I had trepidation
going into this even with Warner Animation’s track record for delivering high
quality comic-based releases. I do wish the extras were more substantial like
they have been on other releases. The only ones worth mentioning here are the
two-part episode of the Batman Animated series showing Two-Face’s origin and a
brief set of clips and storyboards from The Dark Knight Returns Part 2. The
rest of the extras are average at best. Still, the movie is the main point of
this review and it was very enjoyable and worthy of recommendation to any
Batman (or just plain action) fan.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Fairest: Wide Awake




Title: Fairest: Wide
Awake




ISBN: 9781401235505

Price: $14.99

Publisher/Year: Vertigo, 2012

Artist: Phil Jimenez, Andy Lanning, Steve Sadowski, Mark Farmer, Andrew Pepoy,
Shawn McManus

Writer: Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges

Collects: Fairest #1-7




Rating: 4/5





The whole Fablesverse is one that I truly do adore and love
reading through and the opening issue to this series definitely captured my
attention, especially since it didn’t even really have any of what you’d called
the fairest in it for more than a panel or two. Thankfully, between the slick
writing of Bill Willingham and the gorgeous art from Phil Jimenez, Fairest is
able to pull it all off beautifully and give us a first volume that’s filled
with stories, action, beauties and some great twists and turns that helps to
build the larger lore, even as it comes off of quite a lot of existing
material.





Fairest is actually in a bit of a difficult spot at first as
it deals with some of the fallout from the end of the great war that ran
through the Fables series. In this, we’re introduced to Ali Baba as he
continues to do what he now does best in that thieving is his main focus.
Fortunately or unfortunately for him, he’s thought that he found what he needs
to score big in finding a magic lamp/bottle, but it turns out to just be a
bottle imp inside named Jonah. And Jonah’s not the type to do wishes since
that’s beyond his power. But what he does have is a lot of information gathering
and knowledge skills, something that was highly useful during the war, but now
he’s ended up stuck in Ali Baba’s service since he’s claimed the bottle. It’s
an awkward relationship to be sure, especially since Jonah is all about stories
and has a lot of modern American slang about him due to that being his field of
study during the war.





But he’s also a conniving little imp that’s looking out for
himself, something that you can say of anyone, but definitely more so of those
that are magically restricted to being in service to others once freed. Jonah’s
story may not seem like the main driver of the book, but it really is as he’s
setting things in motion that will serve him the best. The first being that he
sets Ali Baba up to acquire some real wealth in the midst of a goblin camp,
which turns out to have two beautiful women that are magically asleep. True
Love’s kiss and all is what’s needed to wake them and he’s more than game to do
it, though they’re not quite the treasure he expected or really wanted. There’s
a neat trick to this early stage that sets up a lot of things, but the main
thrust is that he awakens not only Briar Rose, who served in a big way during
the war against the enemy of Fabletown, but also the Snow Queen that had fallen
with her during Rose’s particular attack. Suffice to say, there is no love lost
between the two and their sleep time likely hasn’t changed that.





Which makes their post-revival period quite awkward, since
the Snow Queen intends vengeance on her, has little care for Ali Baba and is
only staved off by the quick work of Jonah as he gets all of them captured by
the Snow Queen for several weeks. The structure is a little odd at times when
it comes to the passage of time, but it allows for a leisurely experience in a
way as Jonah begins to regal the Snow Queen with stories, something that we
know from her past is what she truly lives for most of the time, before her
being drawn into service of Gepetto in the war. Though some little nuggets are
brought out here and there, the main story that we see told to her is that of
Briar Rose herself, showing what happened to her as a newborn baby that caused
so many of her problems in the years going on from there, which in turn offers
us some of her history in a fresh and new light. I’ve always liked Rose from
the main series and what we knew of her, but this tweaks the angle just
slightly and really expand son it in a great way.





Her past is also what’s pretty important in the present,
though the Snow Queen has little real interest in it. Revealing how the various
Fairy Godmothers imbued her with so many special abilities, we also see the
truth about how the slighted fairy, Hadeon the Destroyer, forced her into the
situation and placed the real curse on Rose when she was but a babe. This
expands on it all well and is a common refrain in the story that Jonah tells.
And as we know from a lot of powerful magics in this universe, the more you
name someone, the more they become aware of it. And Hadeon has not gotten nicer
over the centuries, nor does she have anything positive to say about the Snow
Queen with how she gave herself over to Gepetto’s service. It’s like seeing two
very powerful and key people finally meet in full and go at it with all they
have. It’s not played out fully on the page, but the moments are strong and it
sets the tone well as we see just what Hadeon is capable of.





The first six issues of the book does a great job of telling
the story that involves these characters, though as said, it feels more like
Jonah’s story and a sendoff tale for Rose. But even as that goes on, everyone
has strong stories throughout it and it’s very much an ensemble piece which
helps. Bill Willingham continues to come across as someone who can write
dialogue and scenes in this world with ease, providing it all with a great flow
and engaging characters. And it’s all brought to more life in a fantastic way
through Phil Jimenez’s artwork, which often feels like every panel should be a
poster that deserves to be on a wall. The artwork in the Fables universe has
always been great and varied, but Jimenez was the ideal person to kick off this
series with and how he brings it all together. Be it men or women, everyone
looks great and really has some striking moments while never feeling like it’s
pure fan service or overt sexual poses.





Fairest had me intrigued with the first issue, but in
reading the first story arc in full here it becomes apparent just how engaging
and fascinating the storyline is. Rose may be the weaker of characters here
overall in terms of story, but there’s a lot of exploration of her whole True
Love’s angle that’s well done. Everyone has a storyline of importance here and
they all blend together well into a narrative that compels you to move to the
next page quickly, but with artwork that makes you linger over it as long as
you can. With the conclusion of this arc, we also get a one shot story that’s
fun, a Beauty and the Beast piece taking place in the 40′s, which shows that
there should be some good standalone works in this series as well. There’s a
lot to love here and even if future volumes pale in comparison, this is a must
own piece right here.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Support Your LCS

Local Comic Shop (LCS)



In these times, many are turning to digital comics to read. Sure, these are often cheaper than what you could find in stores, but there are so many reasons not to turn entirely to digital:


  1. Buying from your LCS means supporting your community and small business owners. Yes, I know there are several bigger stores like Lone Star Comics (which, yes, I do support), Midtown Comics and Mile High Comics that have a brick and mortar store, but they also have a HUGE online presence. While I do not discourage going to these other less small business stores, I actively support the smaller businesses.

  2. Supporting you LCS also means helping out those who need it the most. There are some, like my LCS (Tony's Kingdom of Comics), that actively support local charities. I don't think that Comixology is holding FCBD events to help support your local food share or children's hospital.

  3. I don't think that digital comic retailers will have physical issues of comics for you to have your favorite writers or artists sign for your collection. This is another way to separate the readers from the collectors.

  4. At your LCS, you can have meaningful conversation when you go in to pick-up your comics. What do you get when you retrieve your digital comics? Download time.

  5. Customer service. I don't think I need to go into that.

  6. Diversity in selection of products. Yes, Comixology will have your latest issues available for purchase, but what if I want to find an issue you remember from your childhood that hasn't been brought to digital world? Also, perhaps you're also a collector of action figures, CCG cards, Heroclix or statues. Are you going to download those for your collection?


Don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan of computers and what they can do. I don't believe that you should put all your eggs (comics) in one basket (digital). Go find your LCS and buy some comics.






Aging Gamers

More and more I find myself saying (or at least thinking as to not suffer a slight amount of embarrassment) "When I was your age..." towards many of today's gamers.



When I say Dungeons & Dragons, younger gamers are more likely to relate to 3.5 or 4th edition. My first D&D characters were generated using books from a red or blue or blue box... well before Wizards of the Coast got their hands on it.







Of course, gamers who have been around longer than myself also give me a funny look since they cut their collective teeth on a wood-colored or white box.







While many things change as we get older, it seems like gamers feel the effects more viscerally than the average person. In my youth I would turn a 3-day weekend into a 72-hour role playing session. These days I'm finding it difficult stay awake past 10pm. Ah, the glory days!



In the mid to late 90's, I started LARPing in The Camarilla. These games would typically run from 7pm to midnight, and (in the spring and summer months) often actually end between 1-2am... after which we would depart to the local 24-hour restaurant for "Afters" until who-knows-when. Back then, I could do all that on a Wednesday or Thursday night, and still be able to catch my ride to work for an 8am start.



When I rejoined The Camarilla (now known as the Mind's Eye Society) in 2011... after a sabbatical that began in 2004... I was invigorated again. It was like taking a Viagra (I would assume), as I was easily able to keep pace until midnight and stay awake for "Afters". That lasted for a couple of months before I began to feel the weight of my years again.



I recall my junior year of high school where I was working on a campaign for the Champions RPG. As I look back on this time, I remember just how immature I could be. The title of the campaign was to be "The Pervert Campaign". I had created an organization, akin to Cobra from G.I. Joe, that was based around using weapons and vehicles of a XXX variety. Phallic imagery and the copious use of breasts were sources of inspiration for the game. The "evil" organizations name was S.P.E.R.M.I.E.S. I don't quite remember what it stood for, but I remember asking a student teach to help come up with it. This campaign never actually ran. In hindsight, I think that may be for the best.



Another look back at my younger days as a gamer allows me to reflect on the fact that I didn't really become responsible until around 2003. During my earlier days, after high school but before 2003, I was rarely employed and earned money from doing various odd jobs. I made use of this "freedom" by playing and running as many games as I could. As much as I appreciated the games and friends during those times, I now find myself lamenting the choices I made to not be more responsible.To illustrate, I didn't get my driver's license until 2009. Had I been a "normal" teenager and got my license when I was 16, I think my life would have turned out much differently.



The term "gamer" has come to incorporate a larger population than just role players. You have to add MMORPGer's, CCGers and video gamers to the mix as well. Where you were once considered an outsider for playing these types of games, now it has become more mainstream thanks to shows like The Big Bang Theory. Sure, they still poke fun at nerds, gamers and geeks, but these terms have become more a badge of honor than a scarlet letter.



I've found that my standard gamer diet has evolved over the years as well. When once cheap pizza, Funyons, Mt Dew and pizza rolls were key "gamer chow", I find that peppers (yellow, red and orange), vegetable trays, Vitamin Water and sliced apples are more my speed now. Sure, I'll occasionally pick-up a Mt Dew or a bag of chips, but it's not as often as in my youth. I even remember trying a Twinkie-Wiener Sandwich once or twice.



As I sit writing this post, I'm thinking about the latest in changes of my gaming habits.



In 2011, I became the coordinator for the Salem domain of The Camarilla (MES). My duties were to make monthly reports, secure sites for Domain events (games and other meetings), track and be liable for Domain's finances, communicate to the Domain information from a Regional or higher level, and help solve out-of-game disputes. It wasn't a horribly hard task, until I started going back to school in 2012. That's when I realized that I didn't have as much time to devote to the position of coordinator. On June 1, 2013, I officially stepped down from my position as Domain Coordinator. To be honest, a great weight has been lifted from my shoulders by not being responsible for the few remaining members of the Domain.



Younger gamers may not realize it now, but they will one day reflect on their lives much as I am doing now. I hope that they can see more good than bad from their experiences. In the end, it's all about our experiences and those we've shared them with. To all you younger gamers, I hope the best for each one of you.






"Weird Al" Yankovic - When I Was Your Age





Special thanx to my friend Evonne for suggesting this topic.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Fangrabs

When I was first introduced to graphic novels and trades so many years ago, it was as a fortunate find in the local library. This started my hobby which turned into my obsession.



These days, there are not many graphic novels or trades on the shelves of the public library due to either lack of interest from those who hold the purse-strings, to the fact that they are a target item for people to steal. This means that there is a lack of these books available to those who are interested in reading, but may lack the necessary funds to purchase their own copies.



I was recently introduced to a new website that helped with this problem. Fangrabs



Much like the business model original developed by Netflix, Fangrabs allows you to rent and queue graphic novels and trades depending on how many you'd like to have out. And they have a very healthy inventory of titles to chose from.



While this service doesn't meet my personal needs (since I prefer to add to my collection), I feel that there are many people out there who could make some good use out of it.





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